This Year's Foolanthropy Star: You

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Foolanthropy 2006 Donations
Charity Amt. Raised
Co-op America $169,425
NFTE $91,341
Rare Conservation $30,047
Room to Read $25,266
Half the Sky $21,350
TOTAL $337,429
As of January 9, 2007
Foolanthropy 2006
Recent Foolanthropy Articles

By Alyce Lomax
December 21, 2006

Whether or not you think it's silly that Time magazine named you "Person of the Year" in 2006, it's hard to deny that one of the biggest themes this year has been regular people making their voices and opinions heard -- sometimes, really making a difference -- through the power of the Internet. Self-empowerment is in.

The Fool also has a long history of recognizing self-empowerment. We're investors helping investors, after all -- people helping people. And as I pointed out recently, one of our longest running Foolanthropy charities over the years was Grameen Bank, the microcredit organization that won the Nobel Prize this year. It showed the poor can succeed and give back, if given the chance.

Once again, we've chosen five Foolanthropy organizations that help people through Foolish principles, such as providing sustainable solutions to social problems -- offering a hand up, not a handout. These are the types of organizations that strive to change the world for the better, not just provide temporary solutions to problems.

The power of education
It stands to reason that a charitable donation that actually acts a lot like long-term investing would be one that helps young people from disadvantaged backgrounds learn valuable life and career skills. That's why The National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) is one of our five Foolanthropy charities for 2006.

NFTE reaches out to young people in low-income communities to teach them business, academic, and life skills that will help them succeed. Its mission is to "help disadvantaged youth identify their unique talents and interests and learn how to leverage them as assets in the marketplace," and to give them a positive, "yes I can" attitude that many of us know drives success in career and life.

To help a young person identify her talents and begin to think creatively about how to achieve her dreams -- I can think of no greater gift. Reaching out to young people in areas where they otherwise might have no such mentor or support implies a meaningful gift, indeed.

Help a rising star
Many of us believe that capitalism can be a powerful tool for social change and progress as well as financial comfort, even wealth. For every successful entrepreneur who had all life's advantages as a child, there are many who have risen to success despite formidable disadvantages.

Starbucks' (Nasdaq: SBUX) Howard Schultz is a great example of a rags-to-riches story. He grew up in the projects in Brooklyn, and yet was able to go on to pursue his vision to build a caffeinated empire of the once-humble coffee bean.

And take Oprah Winfrey, one of the wealthiest and most influential people out there, not to mention noted philanthropist (and what's-cool guru to some, considering the good will she has sometimes lent to certain products, like Deckers' (Nasdaq: DECK) Uggs and TiVo (Nasdaq: TIVO)). She didn't have a privileged childhood either. In fact, her early years were marred by poverty and abuse.

And for a more recent inspirational story, consider Sony's (NYSE: SNE) new theatrical release The Pursuit of Happyness, starring Will Smith. It's the true story of Chris Gardner, who overcame homelessness to become a stockbroker who made millions. 

Those are high-profile examples; there are many people who overcome difficult circumstances all the time. It stands to reason that an organization like NFTE gives them the tools to help them turn their dreams into reality.

So consider giving now to NFTE -- whatever is within your means. We can all be stars when we help others' stars to rise.  

Starbucks and TiVo are Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendations. Deckers is a Motley Fool Hidden Gems pick.

For more Foolanthropy articles, see "Give a Book, Change the World" and "Go Green with Co-op America."

Alyce Lomax owns shares of Starbucks. The Fool has a disclosure policy.