Building a “Beloved Community”

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. raised the conscience of an entire nation; encouraging people to embrace the differences of others, to live in peace, to serve each other and create a “Beloved Community”. His message resonates as strongly today as it did during his lifetime. In honor of his legacy, we celebrate Martin Luther Kind Day as not only a federal holiday but as a National Day of Service.

The federal holiday in honor of the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was legally established in 1983. In 1994, Congress further honored Dr. King by naming the King holiday as the first ever annual national Day of Service. The MLK Day of Service calls upon all Americans on this day to volunteer, to do work to give back to their communities and to band together in acts of service.

The Martin Luther King Day of Service has grown steadily since 1994. The nationwide acts of service on this day not only make a significant impact on needy communities but create solidarity in a movement of volunteerism across America.

The figures of the day are inspiring. The Corporation for National and Community Service quoted the following statistics as early results of the 2014 Day of Service:

• 15,000+ economically disadvantaged people received job placement, financial literacy, and job skill development training

• 38,000+ veterans, military families and active duty military service members received assistance

• 58,000+ children and teens tutored, mentored or otherwise educated

• 100,000+ people received training in disaster preparedness, response and recovery

• 360,000+ received emergency food

YouGiveGoods celebrates the efforts of all those who will take part in the 2015 Day of Service. We're excited and looking forward to all the good deeds, to be embarked on in the name of the great man we honor on January 19.

Five Years for Haiti and a Seed of Hope

On January 12, 2010, a devastating earthquake struck Haiti, taking the lives of an estimated 300,000 people, leaving 1.5 million homeless, and destruction and debris in its wake. Five years later, we reflect on the unfathomable number of lives lost on this tragic day and on a country still working daily to rebound from this disaster.

The milestone of the Haitian earthquake means something a little different to us at YouGiveGoods. The impact of the event and the witnessing of difficulty on such a scale, laid the seeds for the idea that, a year later, would become a means to help charities and the wider community.

In 2010, seeing the devastation in Haiti and moved to help, our founder and president, Lisa Tomasi, like so many others, set out to deliver aid. Given the scope of the disaster and resources needed for recovery, there was an international push to donate funds to networks of agencies and charities.

However, in seeing the dizzying array of organizations involved in Haitian aid and the struggles of the Haitian government with coordination, Lisa questioned the effectiveness of a monetary donation. Instead, she turned her efforts to the donation of items, to put tangible, necessary goods in the hands of those who needed them most in Haiti.

But she found the donation of goods to Haiti to be an arduous task. Upon further research, she was surprised to discover that the donation of goods to the needy within the United States proved to be a difficult process as well. Lisa and her husband, Paul, put their heads together to solve this logistical problem.

A year later, YouGiveGoods.com was created: a platform for those to run drives and crowdfund food and supplies to benefit charities; a way for people to tangibly build up the very institutions that are so crucial to any community.

The Tomasis believe that while many people may hesitate with monetary donations, there is a comfort in knowing exactly what one’s giving. YouGiveGoods’ role is to help community members efficiently provide tangible assistance to charities; and in doing so, to help the needy gain a footing in their lives with necessary items.

As we somberly reflect on the tragedy of January 12, 2010 and keep those lost in our hearts, we are also inspired to celebrate the human spirit that calls so many of us to help our fellow man in times of need.

We are in awe of Haiti’s resilient spirit, and of those who have worked to rebuild their families, their communities, and their country over the past five years. And through our work, we look forward, along with so many others, to a brighter future.

Service, Duty, Compassion: The MLK Way

A Timeless Message

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’”

At YouGiveGoods, we are excited to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service, which falls on January 19 this year.

Nearly half a decade ago, Martin Luther King, Jr. electrified the nation with his message of unity, peace, and love. His vision of an America as one of purposeful freedom for all individuals was transformative, a vision that leapt social barriers such as age, race, and geography.

The spiritual timelessness of his message is why we celebrate, along with the nation, every third Monday in January, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day; a federal holiday that marks his birthday, and officially observed as the only national day of service.

MLK Day As Catalyst for Action

The day is a call to action that encourages individuals from all backgrounds to work together to solve our nation’s most pressing social problems. As part of United We Serve, the President’s national call to service initiative, the holiday every year moves us closer towards Dr. King’s vision of a “Beloved Community”, one empowering community act at a time.

For Dr. King, the practice of service to one’s community is not a suggestion, but a moral imperative, linked to ideas of justice and duty. His principles of nonviolence were empowered by his belief in human potential; and his conviction that we are all ultimately neighbors, and so, beholden to giving back — to each other, and to the institutions that sustain our larger community.

Service, Our Core Value

Why does this holiday speak especially to us at YouGiveGoods? Service is at the heart of our mission. The idea of duty to and compassion for one’s neighbor is the exact sentiment that inspired the founding of our company years ago.

For us, facilitating the raising and delivery of tangible goods to charities, is about shoring up the heroes of our communities — food pantries, soup kitchens, homeless shelters, animal shelters, and other organizations that support our neediest.

We firmly believe that by strengthening our community’s institutions whose mission is to care for our neediest, we can in turn multiply the reach of their impact.

Increased resources in the form of needed tangible goods, from fresh vegetables to cold-weather items like gloves, means more served; and even one more served makes an impact in the community. Finally, when tangible goods are supplied to the charity, resources are freed up to provide even more services.

Answer the Call to Action

So for MLK Day this January 19th, we invite you to join us and others across America in giving back to a cause closest to your heart. Learn more about the campaign. Use an online drive to guide your giving efforts to a charity, or to supplement your existing activities for MLK Day.

Find a way to serve your community, however small: your neighbors will thank you for it.

Happy Holidays from the YouGiveGoods team!

Happy Holidays from the YouGiveGoods team

A Peek at YouGiveGoods Operations Office and Warehouse

With our excellent food distribution vendor in the Eastern Tri-State area, we looked west to set up a distribution network. Sunny Phoenix was our choice!

Mark, experienced in warehouse and inventory operations, joined YouGiveGoods in November to lead the warehouse crew. Numerous pallets of new toys arrived, and almost as soon as they filled warehouse shelves, flew right out to the drives that ended right after Thanksgiving.

It is fun to see the classics survive! The PlaySkool form-fitter box that entertained my kids is still a toddler's favorite. And we still play the Catch Phrase game with friends and family!

Now that a warehouse has been added to our operations, it is exciting to envision the new types of drives that can be started now. We have already sent out a great round of winter hats!

While our seasonal toys are wrapping up for the holidays, we are adding gloves, mittens, blankets, socks, personal care items to help tide many throughout the cold winter season; and new items (a surprise!) for an upcoming February campaign. Possibilities are endless!

In 1986, I began working at software companies that used a variety of innovative technologies. In a different field now, I find joy in using my past experiences to support YouGiveGoods' platform, and running operations of online drives to help others.

An online drive can do so many things: feed the body, give warmth, nourish the spirit. Our mission is to help others give goods, and in doing so, help others give joy and hope.

Janice Kwiecinski
Director of Operations

Featured Interview: Lisa Tomasi in NJBIZ

Last week, our president Lisa Tomasi was featured in online publication NJBIZ.com to speak on the founding of YouGiveGoods, the importance of work-life balance and to provide a few crucial tips for women at work.

We've highlighted a few key excerpts below:

The best part of working at YouGiveGoods
"No matter what happens in a workday, knowing that later in the week we will be delivering thousands of pounds of food to a food pantry or toys to help children or pet supplies to animal shelters makes my job the best job ever."

The most important takeaway from education
"How to learn, solve problems and manage time in order to accomplish your goals. ..If you can master critical thinking and learn to look at problems and solutions in unique and intelligent ways, successes in and out of the classroom will find you."

Top five things for successful women to master
"Believe in their abilities and intelligence. Lead by example and actions. Be fearless. Know that failures are a part of success. True failure is not learning from the mistakes. Be your own person. Make decisions and take actions that are true to you and your beliefs."

Best advice regarding work/life balance
"The most useful thing to balance the pulls of work and life is fun. To be happy and fulfilled, work-life and life-life has to contain a high degree of enjoyment and satisfaction. If one part of life (or both) does not have the “fun” element, then the balance will fail and personal, financial and business success may be elusive."

Visit the full article at NJBIZ.com.

Our Record of #GivingTuesday's 2014 Moment

2014 was a watershed moment for this big day — the year #GivingTuesday officially moved from campaign to national holiday status: blessings received from The White House; high-fived by a whole line of celebrities and stars, from Hugh Jackman to Yo-Yo Ma to Ellen Degeneres; and championed by no less than 68 countries around the world.

To YouGiveGoods too, this new tradition was important to honor.

We decided to hold a site-wide #GIVE10 event. For two days, on #GivingTuesday, and the day after, we offered to the public a gift code that granted an additional 10% cash donation on top of any donation of $50 or more to any charity drive hosted with us.

The turnout was inspiring. Together, for the two-day event, we raised nearly $20K for charity: in soup kitchen basics, pets supplies, toys and more — pounds of profound impact.

In that spirit of thanks, we're excited to share with you our recap of our #GIVE10 event. View the full list of participating partners and beneficiaries, browse through key highlights from #GivingTuesday conversation, learn a few fun facts (most popular donated toy! The three most popular donated food items!), and top it off with a letter from our president Lisa Tomasi, looking towards #GivingTuesday 2015.

A holiday like #GivingTuesday is a jumpstart of inspiration at the end of the year, to remind us always of our original mission, and to continue into the New Year with open arms hearts and hearts.

Thank you again for your inspiration!

Happy Thanksgiving! And a Toast

Bear with us - it's going to get a little cheesy!

(But that's a requisite for the holidays, no? Cheesy, but in a painfully great way? Like pumpkin-scented candles and really big hugs?)

This year, our team has much to give thanks for. At YouGiveGoods, we're now three years strong and going.

So in the spirit of looking back, and looking forward, we'd like to raise our glass as a team and give a Thanksgiving toast to a few of the best things that have changed us over these three (packed! but amazing) years, since YouGiveGoods' launch.

So cheers! Cheers and toasts to the following:



To the generosity of our partners and volunteers.

Over the years, we've grown, changed, and been impacted irrevocably by the meaningful connections we've made: with our nonprofit and charity partners; numerous teams across companies and schools; as well as individual volunteers.

When it comes to pulling off a successful online drive, from start all the way to delivery, there are a lot of helping hands involved. From running the drive; to mobilizing employees, friends, families to give; to delivering that shipment of goods at drive's end; to the charity then serving their community.

Can we just say: every time we hear news of a shipment's arrival to a charity's doors, it's the best feeling in the world? It never gets old! To us, the arrival of goods celebrates everyone's volunteer efforts at every step to make sure, ultimately, that our most underserved are cared for.

That is no small feat of generosity.



To the power of an item to change a life.

This belief is central to what we do at YouGiveGoods. In many ways, of course, a tangible good is practical and sensible: you get to pick where your money is going; it saves time and hassle for everyone, for coordinators and charity recipients alike.

But let's leave logistics aside for a second. At the heart of this transaction between you, the charity, and the served, is the powerful fact that it can take just one donated item to ease another's suffering. Most of us are very lucky to be gifted with daily comforts.

For most of us, in another context: we wouldn't take a second look at the toothbrush by our sink, a notebook on our desk, a blanket folded on our bed, or a can of food at the back of our kitchen shelves.

It's when we try to imagine a life where we reach out a hand, only to come up empty, that we can come even remotely close to the impact we can make with a tangible good.



Lastly, to our conviction that giving is at the core of it all.

We're not going to pull out the scholarly studies (and there are plenty of them), but we're confident that, at the end of the day, giving is the habit that makes us happiest.

It's when we attend to our innate compassion, our impulse to make sure our neighbor is as safe, warm, and happy as we are, that we truly recognize the frailty of life, and experience gratitude for our own fortune (but for the grace, and so on - isn't that right?).

To that end, every day (not just the holidays!), our team can't help but feel immensely grateful to be part of a process that recognizes that everyone, regardless of individual history, deserves a dignified and meaningful existence.

And we are grateful that you, too, are a part of it.

Cheers! To the fantastic journey ahead.

Why Donate through our #GivingTuesday Campaign

In many ways, #GivingTuesday can be overwhelming: how will you choose who you support? To help, we present the top 5 reasons you should donate to our #GivingTuesdayCampaign supply and food drives.

5) Your Favorite Nonprofit is hosting a drive: If your favorite nonprofit is asking for presents, you can’t possibly say no! They need these items to make an impact on their communities. Perhaps it’s dog toys, fresh produce or toys for children: every item donated has the ability to change someone’s life.

4) You don’t really know who to support: Perhaps you don’t yet have a favorite, or maybe you’re looking to start supporting someone new. This is a great one stop opportunity to peruse several different organizations, see what they’re doing, and get involved in a tangible way. You don’t have make to make just one donation. You could make several smaller ones to several different organizations. It all adds up!

3) You want to know your donation is making a difference: Cash donations, especially below $100 amounts, are often directed to nonprofit’s annual funds. The annual fund may support programs, operational costs or events. All of these items are needed, but if you really want to know exactly what your funds are buying then giving goods is the best way to go about it. The organization you are supporting receives the item and has very few options but to use it in the manner it was intended.

2) #GivingTuesday was created with the intention of including a worthy cause on your holiday shopping list: Our drives are the very embodiment of holiday shopping. In many ways they’re your nonprofit’s ‘wish list’ as most drives are created with the nonprofit’s input regarding what items they want made available for purchase. In some drives you can even purchase gift boxes that will give your cause a variety of most needed items. What better present is there to give to your nonprofit.

1) Our Community Give Back program: Donate more than $50 worth of goods to any drive on #GivingTuesday, December 2, and be sure to enter in the incentive code in your shopping cart, and we’ll give a financial donation worth 10% of your order to your chosen nonprofit. This way you get to do it all with one donation: give goods and cash!

The Princeton Eating Clubs

The Princeton Eating Clubs Holiday Food & Toy Drive Challenge is underway!

We were delighted to find out we would be working with the Princeton Eating Clubs on their holiday food and toy drive challenge.

You may be wondering: what are the Princeton Eating Clubs? The Princeton Eating Clubs serve as social and dining halls for approximately three-quarters of Princeton’s juniors and seniors. They are private, co-ed clubs located in elegant mansions, which serve as social hubs of the University, and have quite a history.

Eating Clubs at Princeton arose in the mid 19th-century with the first permanent Eating Club, The Ivy Club, officially opening in 1879. Famous Eating Club alumni include F. Scott Fitzgerald and Jimmy Stewart. (Fun fact: Fitzgerald makes the clubs the main setting in one of his major novels. How’s that for a tribute?)

While their history is enchanting, it is the Princeton Eating Clubs’ passionate mission for their food and toy drives that gets us excited. We can’t help but take notice, when college students take the time from their busy schedules to band together, and actively support the most needy in their community.

The Princeton Eating Clubs Holiday Food & Toy Drive Challenge runs now through December 5, benefiting the Mercer Street Friends Center and Food Bank in Ewing, New Jersey.

So, Princeton Eating Clubs, we’d like to say: here’s to you for making a difference today. Thank you for making the holidays brighter for families in need. And, can we come visit?