Posts Tagged 'CharityFocus'

Visiting the Forest

On Saturday morning I set an alarm (something I do only rarely), and made the beautiful early-morning drive from Tuolumne Meadows in the Yosemite high country, down Tioga Pass, to the little town of Lee Vining in search of either an internet connection or mobile phone coverage. I had a date. Over my strenuous protest, the ServiceSpace volunteer team known as the Forest Farmers of had scheduled me as the guest on the weekly “Global Forest Call”, an hour-and-a-half of inspirational sharing from the frontlines of generosity.

Those of you who know me will also know that I am an utterly appalling choice for this honor, lacking in both notable accomplishment and the spiritual bonafides most Forest Call participants usually tune-in for. Sure, I can talk a blue-streak; but I even bore myself.

And, in the end, that’s all that was required of me: talk and bore, bore and talk. The session was expertly mediated with questions posed by the always-brilliant Rahul Brown. He asked about the early days of ServiceSpace, my ideas about certain key concepts of service, my staunch atheism, and my feelings about ethics and garbage. When the questions opened-up to the audience, they became more biographical: about my aches and pains, my affection for India, and the like. Talk and bore, bore and talk.

Masochists can find a summary here, written by the irrepressible Audrey Lin, whose optimism and joyful outlook on life certainly color the retelling of the call, as they color so much for all who encounter her.


Understanding the Gift Economy

Iconic Tiffany's Box with Question Mark

I received an interesting assignment a couple weeks ago: write an explanation of the gift economy. Since the request came from my dear friend Nipun Mehta, to whom I can refuse nothing, I agreed; but I knew from the outset how challenging this seemingly straightforward task would be. As U.S. Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart famously observed about pornography, some things are easy to recognize and yet quite difficult to define.

The essay, now completed, is included in a new online reference, The Dictionary of Ethical Politics, a joint project of Resurgence and openDemocracy.

Continue reading ‘Understanding the Gift Economy’

All’s Well in the Kosmos

Kosmos, Fall/Winter 2009

I may have been writing squat on my blog recently, but at least others have been publishing my wheezes. My short (damn 450 word limt!) profile of CharityFocus appears in the Fall/Winter edition of Kosmos, a journal of waviness, crunchiness, and all things in between.

Here’s a PDF of the piece, for those of you who don’t already know the wonders of CF.

Continue reading ‘All’s Well in the Kosmos’

Angels, Past and Present

Charlies Angels Logo (1976)
Charlie’s Angels (1976)

Taz, Guri, and Sujatha (2001)
CharityFocus Service Angels (2001)

Zee TV's Antakshari advertisement (2007)
Antakshari Angels (2007)

In doing my research for the cultural history presented above, I noticed something quite interesting. Google “Charlie’s Angels” for images, and you will find thousands of shots substantially identical to the “Service Angel’s” photo which have made their way to the web: casual snapshots of beautiful women (albeit not quite as beautiful as Guri Mehta, Neeta Verma, and Sujatha Babu) in the “Angels Pose.” The thing is: near as I can tell, Charlie’s Angels themselves never struck the pose – either with Farrah Fawcett or Cheryl Ladd. The poster-image, above, was the nearest I could find; and yet the chicks-with-guns (or fully-loaded fingers) image is indelibly associated with TV’s original jiggle girls.

If anyone can find a source for the Angels Pose more convincing than the poster image, post a comment and let me know. Only if scholars continue to join forces in this kind of crucial research will arts and letters continue to advance.

Help Small Indian NGOs Find an Audience on the Web

If you want inspiration, look no further than India, where thousands-upon-thousands of small NGOs are working to improve the lives of people in small villages and major metros alike. Just don’t expect to find them on the web.

Many of the people doing the most amazing work are doing so in tiny organizations, driven by a passion for service, rather than any great love of actually running an NGO. For these people, admionistration is a necessary burden, not an end-in-itself. Too frequently, they do not have the skills, resources, or understanding to harness the power of the web. The loss is ours, as well as theirs.

But there are solutions — and you can be a part of the process!
Continue reading ‘Help Small Indian NGOs Find an Audience on the Web’

Gandhi Rural Rehabilitation Centre Has a New Website, Courtesy of CharityFocus

Gandhi Rural Rehabilitation Centre, Alampoondi

In December, we spent a few days in the beautiful village of Alampoondi, in rural Tamil Nadu, visiting the Gandhi Rural Rehabilitation Centre. GRRC runs a variety of educational, medical, and livelihood programs for physically and mentally challenged adults and children in the villages near Alampoondi in central Tamil Nadu. They now have a shiny new web presence, thanks to volunteers at CharityFocus!

Visit the new website at

And if you are in the market for excellent handloomed cottons, consider buying from GRRC’s excellent artisans. I just had three great new kurtas made from their wonderful fabrics — you should too!

“Beyond the Call” to Air on PBS

Beyond the Call, a film by Adrian Belic

It gives me immense pleasure to announce that Adrian Belic’s brilliant documentary, Beyond the Call, will air nationwide across the U.S. tonight, 23 January, on the award-winning PBS series “Independent Lens.” Check your local PBS station for the exact time in your area.
Continue reading ‘“Beyond the Call” to Air on PBS’

The Philanthropy Exchange

New York Stock Exchange

Just before heading to India, I stopped in New York to attend the inaugural celebration of something that may well become an important new institution for charitable giving: The Philanthropy Exchange.

The event was held, fittingly, in the magnificent Board Room of the New York Stock Exchange. The worlds largest marketplace was playing host to an exciting new concept in open market structures: nonprofit organizations seeking donor funding, whether in tiny individual contributions or large program-wide sponsorships, could become “listed” on an exchange.
Continue reading ‘The Philanthropy Exchange’

Looking at Service from an Entrepreneur’s Perspective

I spend the day at the TiE.YE ( forum for young entrepreneurs at the Haas School of Business at U.C. Berkeley, a program bringing innovative business people together with a mix of undergraduates, MBA students, and recent graduates to discuss topics on the general subject of entrepreneurism. All the speakers were CEOs of successful, profitable start-ups – all but me. I spoke on behalf of CharityFocus.

Continue reading ‘Looking at Service from an Entrepreneur’s Perspective’

Blasts from the Past

... because the idiocy of manliness is an evergreen topic.


... because Canada and the US will celebrate their Thanksgiving holidays and, regrettably and preventably, not 1-cook-in-10 will serve a decent turkey.


... because everyday is Mother's Day.


... because the American Dream seems but a distant memory, given the country's dominant ethos of small-mindedness.


... to remind us that not every mix of Tibetans and Western spiritual seekers has to be nauseating.


... to celebrate the new edition of Infinite Vision published in India.


... reprised because military strategy seems more cruel and less effective than ever -- and certainly there is a better way.


... because cars are ruining Pondicherry, where I live. How badly are they fucking up your Indian town?


... reprinted because more-and-more people seem want to understand the gift economy. (Yeah!)

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