Following the crowd

Did your mother ever tell you just to be yourself? Stand out from the crowd?

Your mother was right, but there are some great times to follow the crowd. Who doesn’t love the thrill of being part of an amazing social movement? It takes a crowd to enact social change in a country that prides itself on individuality and independence.

I find the crowdfunding phenomenon both very exciting and very troubling.

For one, it’s terrific that good causes everywhere, the large and the tiny, all have a new way to reach out to potential supporters.

But there are some downsides too. For example, how do you know that you’re sending your hard-earned dollars to a truly worthy cause? How do you know it will be spent responsibly? How do you decide from among so many causes?

There are several sites that have stepped up to help us out, and they’re terrific. Here are two of my favorites.

One is called www.StartSomeGood.com. This is one my client the Pet Care Trust has used. I like it, because this site reviews potential causes very carefully, and they are careful to note if a cause is backed by a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. So it takes the shady stuff out of giving. (By the way, the campaign is still going–give today and help young people discover the joy of animals.)

Another is called www.Kiva.org . I love this one because it’s not just a donation site–you can become a micro-lender and see even just one loans help people over and over. You make a micro loan (minimum $25) and the recipients use your funds to better themselves, either through entrepreneurship, or schooling, for example. Then, when the loan is paid off, you can simply re-lend it to someone else. It’s so much fun!

I have made three loans to women in South America who are using knitting as their livelihood, and already one has been paid back. I’m ready to lend again! I’ve also used this as a teaching tool for my son. He used his own money to make a loan to a young man in Kyrgyzstan so he can go to school. We sit together and read the student’s updates on how he’s doing.

So join the crowd, and find a cause that makes your heart sing.

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