Motley Fool 1999 Charity Drive Launches!

By Selena Maranjian (TMF Selena)

O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!
-- Lewis Carroll, "Jabberwocky"
(Nov. 23, 1999) -- It's finally happened. After several weeks of Fools nominating charitable organizations near and dear to their hearts, the time came for us on the Foolanthropy committee to buckle down and do what we'd been kind of dreading: choose only five out of the many. Well, after much reading, thinking, head-scratching, soul-searching, and discussion, the decisions have been made. As we expected, it wasn't easy.

Without further ado, here are the selected organizations:

Polycystic Kidney Research Foundation
Make-A-Wish Foundation®
Heifer Project International
Grameen Foundation USA
Foodchain


We hope that everyone out there in Fooldom will be happy with these choices, and will find at least one organization to your liking. But it's probably inevitable that some of you will be disappointed. As much as we wanted to include more organizations, we couldn't.

The Deciding

When deciding, we took into account many factors, such as:
  • How Foolanthropic is each organization?

  • What would be accomplished, partnering with each organization?

  • How big is each organization? We didn't want to only feature extremely large ones, as it can be more effective for us to shine our little light on some less-well-known enterprises.

  • Is there a good mix in our selection, cause-wise? (For example, we didn't want to offer five disease-related organizations.)
Know that any organization that didn't make it is not necessarily out of luck. Just by being nominated (and, often, renominated) on our message boards, they've received a good bit of exposure. In addition, we may highlight some additional organizations after the drive. And finally, there's always next year.

The Giving

So now that we've settled on the five organizations we'll focus on for our 1999 Foolanthropy drive, what's next? Well, the best part! It's time for us all to give. In the past our drives have been very successful, but we hope to see even more participation this year.

We know that giving to charity is probably not a new concept to you. We're not breaking ground in promoting worthy causes. But we are breaking ground in gearing up a large online community to give together. After all, these organizations were nominated by the community. We realize that you probably already have various organizations to which you contribute time and/or money. And you may feel more strongly about them than the ones above. Still, we ask you to consider contributing at least a little -- even just $5 to any one of the above. We want to see how many Fools out there (and here at Fool HQ) will stand up and be counted. So please join us.

You can contribute easily by credit card, check, or by donating stock.

And remember -- through December we're continuing our "Here's My Two Cents" initiative. We'll donate two cents to charity for every post you make on any of our message boards. So this might be a good time to take a plunge into them.

The Organizations

Here's a quick description of the charities we selected this year. In the weeks ahead we'll be offering additional information, but please click over to their websites to read more about the wonderful work they're engaged in. They're quite inspiring.

Polycystic Kidney Research Foundation (http://www.pkdcure.org)

Shhh... it's a secret. It shouldn't be, though. You've probably known of many people who have (and have sometimes died from) "kidney disease." Very often, the culprit is polycystic kidney disease (PKD). Currently 12.5 million people worldwide suffer from PKD, which is more than for all of the following diseases combined: cystic fibrosis, muscular dystrophy, hemophilia, Down's syndrome, and sickle cell anemia.

PKD is an equal opportunity villain. It strikes children at birth, when it's usually fatal, and it strikes in adulthood, too. If you have PKD, your children have roughly a 50% chance of inheriting it. Many thousands of people die from PKD each year. In the U.S., the direct cost of treating PKD by dialysis, transplantation, and related therapies is approximately $2 billion annually. By helping fund research into PKD, we can work toward saving ourselves $2 billion.

If you'd like a rude awakening, click here to see what a kidney with PKD looks like. (If you're squeamish, you should probably pass up this opportunity.) PKD causes fluid-filled cysts to form in the kidneys, disrupting their ability to perform the function of removing harmful toxins from the body. The good news in all this is that scientific progress has been made. The gene linked to PKD has been identified, making a breakthrough in treatment or cure all the closer. Funds are needed, though, to reach it. Many diseases that affect far fewer people garner more attention and funding than PKD. Please join us as we help rectify that situation, in our own small way. (100% of money we donate to PKR Foundation will go toward program work.)

Make-A-Wish Foundation® (http://www.wish.org)

Imagine that a fairy or a genie established an international organization. This is what it might look like. The Make-A-Wish Foundation exists to make dreams come true for children under the age of 18 who have life-threatening illnesses. There are 81 chapters in the U.S. and its territories and 20 affiliates on five continents. Through the generosity of private donors and 18,000 volunteers, 66,000 wishes have been granted, with more than 8,100 in 1999. On average, it takes about $5,000 in cash outlays and in-kind donations to fulfill a wish.

What's a typical wish? They're usually "I want to have...," "I want to go to...," "I want to be...," or "I want to meet...." In 1999, 43% of wishes involved trips to Disney parks, 18% involved computers, 9% were for shopping sprees, 5% were for meeting celebrities, and 12% were for non-Disney travel. If you think about it, all these wishes tie in well to Fooldom, where we like to point out to people that with a little learning, action, and patience, their financial dreams can come true.

The Make-A-Wish Foundation is the largest organization in our group. Won't you help us make it larger, so that it can make more dreams come true?

Heifer Project International (http://www.heifer.org/fool)

The Heifer Project is all about gifts and we hope that you'll consider giving to them, so that they can give to others. Of course, Heifer gifts aren't ordinary ones. To their recipients they represent financial self-reliance and economic salvation. Imagine giving a person living in poverty the means to make some money and feed his or her family. That's a huge gift. Much better than a Nintendo Gameboy or a new fax modem.

Heifer Project gifts are also unique because they make funny sounds. Like "mooo..." or "quack" or "buk-buk" or "bzzzzz." Your idea of economic salvation might be a big raise or shares in a Silicon Valley start-up. Well, for many people on Earth, a mere pregnant goat is all they need. It will breed and provide milk -- enough to drink and to sell.

Around the world, Heifer is finding poor people, determining what kind of animal or plant is right for their environment, training them in how to care for and work with the animal, and preparing them for their gift. Some get bees. Some get oxen. Some get ducks or cows or water buffalo. Heifer has helped inner city youth raise fancy fish that they can sell to area restaurants. This provides income for their struggling families and keeps them out of gangs. Organic gardening is also underway in many locales.

Part of the Heifer tradition is the "passing of the gift." Recipients are expected to give an animal to someone else, to help share the wealth. Since 1944, more than 4 million families have been helped in more than 100 countries. More than a million animals have been passed on as gifts by recipients in China alone. Help us expand the impact of Heifer's work. (When donating, you can give a gift in honor of someone for the holidays. 100% of Fool-donated money will be spent on program work, and none on administration.)

Grameen Foundation USA (http://www.grameenfoundation.org)

Imagine a gift that keeps on giving. It's hard, isn't it? Here's a fascinating one for you. Give a little money to the Grameen Foundation USA and they'll lend it out to a woman living in abject poverty. A woman with a business idea but no means to make it happen. A woman who has joined forces with some friends or relatives and has been cleared by Grameen as ready for some seed money. Her idea might be to buy a cow to sell the milk or the raw materials for weaving beautiful intricate stools. Some longtime borrowers are now using their loans to buy cell phones. With a phone, they can act as their village's phone booth, taking messages and permitting people to call for a doctor or to transact business.

Once these loan recipients get their money, they begin turning their lives around -- through their own hard work. They're expected to save part of their earnings. And of course, to pay back the loan. Repayment rates are north of 97%. The group dynamic plays a part here, because if payments aren't made on the loan, others in the group won't get loans.

Money loaned out through Grameen has close to an unlimited return. A $100 donation might be an annual gift of a livelihood for a woman (and survival for her family) -- over and over again. Or it might provide invaluable technical assistance to a "micro-credit" program that wants to serve more borrowers than it presently can.

According to one study, within 4.2 years, 70% of Grameen borrowers are no longer in poverty. And infant mortality among borrowers drops by 34%. The Grameen Foundation USA has teamed with other micro-credit organizations to tackle the most epic of goals: pulling 100 million families out of poverty by the year 2005. With, say, $100,000 from us, they can give annual loans to 200 international borrowers and 30 domestic ones. Each year. Won't you help us help them do it?

Foodchain (http://www.foodchain.org)

Foodchain is a national food rescue operation, specializing in perishable and prepared food. In some 150 cities in America, Foodchain affiliates zip around hotels, restaurants, convention centers, caterers, grocery stores, and more, collecting all kinds of food. They then quickly deliver it to more than 15,000 social service agencies, providing meals or food assistance to the poor, elderly, ill, and homeless. In 1999, Foodchain saved some 300 million pounds of food. With our help, they hope to make it 350 million in 2000.

In addition, Foodchain has set up "community kitchens" in about 20 cities, which makes their work even more effective. Imagine a large roast that's picked up at a restaurant and delivered to a homeless shelter, where several people enjoy servings of pot roast. Well, if that town had a community kitchen, the roast would be taken to it, where people learning the food service profession would transform and stretch it, so that it will now serve dozens of people, maybe in the form of beef stroganoff with noodles. While the food is transformed into nutritious meals, the folks who prepare it are also transformed -- by learning a marketable skill and getting real jobs.

Money that we in Fooldom raise for Foodchain will be used in several ways. We hope to help them start at least 16 new community kitchens (at $5,000 each) and to help them increase the amount of food they save by 50 million pounds. Foodchain can often leverage a $5,000 donation to provide $125,000 of food by signing up additional national food donors. That's some kind of efficiency! The organization does all this with just four full-time staffers at their HQ and less than $1 million in annual revenues. Let's give them a hand, shall we? (Roughly 99% of money donated to Foodchain through the Fool will be spent on program work and not on administration.)

In Summary

So there you have it. What do you think of it all? Please join us on the Foolanthropy message board to discuss the drive in general or to share your thoughts on any of these organizations.

And don't forget to contribute something! It doesn't have to be much, although of course the more the merrier. We'd love to see as many Fools as possible participating as we work together to help these five fine organizations.

Fool on!

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