Wednesday, December 30, 2009
I was reminded of the great work of Best Friends Animal Society while looking for a charity to recommend to my 10-year-old niece. My wife and I bought her a TisBest card for Christmas and wanted to give her a starting point for her search. I thought of her passion for helping animals as I read about the group of animal lovers who founded Best Friends as a small animal sanctuary 25 years ago. Their pilot program rescuing dogs and cats on their way to "E-Day" (euthanasia) led them to build a haven for animals at Angel Canyon in Southern Utah. Today, their 33,000-acre ranch is the nation's largest animal sanctuary for homeless animals.
On any given day, the sanctuary houses about 2,000 dogs, cats, horses, burros, birds, rabbits, and an assortment of other creatures. Most of the animals have special physical or behavioral needs. Through the care of Best Friends' veterinarians, trainers, and caregivers, most of these animals - approximately three out of four - are able to go to good homes after just a few weeks. Animals who are unable to be adopted because of major trauma, age, or chronic illness find a permanent home at the sanctuary.
Best Friends Animal Society has been a leader in the "No More Homeless Pets" campaign: a spay/neuter, adoption, and public awareness program to bring an end to the killing of homeless animals in shelters. They have partnered with organizations across the nation to provide assistance and training to groups looking to create "no-kill" communities. And they are seeing results. According to the website www.utahpets.org, the number of animals euthanized in Utah shelters since 1999 has decreased by 30%.
Best Friends provides a whole host of other services including adoption, spay/neuter, and educational programs; the Best Friends Network; and Best Friends, the nation's largest-interest animal magazine. I encourage you to hop, trot, prance, or strut over to the Best Friends website (www.bestfriends.org) where you'll find incredibly cute pictures of the animals they work with and important information on their work.
We at TisBest congratulate Best Friends Animal Society on 25 years of building a better world through kindness to animals.
Charity & Community Relations Manager
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
The team here at TisBest was ecstatic to see Erik honored with this much deserved award. You can read Gina Peckman's full article and interview with Erik below or click here to be redirected to the original article. Congrats Erik!
TisBest Founder, Erik Marks, Joins 40 Over 40
by Gina Peckman
I had the pleasure of interviewing Erik Marks as our newest member of our 40 over 40 group. It has been an honor getting to know the founder of such a great social enterprise as TisBest. He was a pleasure to speak with, and I hope you’ll enjoy getting to know him as I did.
Erik is a social entrepreneur, who founded TisBest Philanthropy and the TisBest Charity Gift Card — www.tisbest.org— a very timely and useful resource for gifts this time of year. . He is a member of Social Venture Partners, volunteers at his local Union Gospel Mission and supports the Nature Conservancy and Sierra Club.
Erik also serves as general counsel at EDG Commercial Real Estate, a medical real estate services firm.Prior to that, he was a business transactions attorney at Cairncross & Hempelmann and Perkins Coie. He graduated with highest honors from Williams College (Philosophy) and Harvard Law School, and is married living with his wife, 2 stepdaughters, 2 cats and a volatile quantity of fish in West Seattle.
How did you earn your first dollar?
My sister and I ran a lemonade stand. It was a great little business at a dime a cup, until our wholesale supplier (Mom) started invoicing us. Our mom wanted us to learn lessons about business, and we did. Among other things we learned that when marginal income decreases, hours worked also decrease.
What do you appreciate about being over 40?
I think the best thing is a changing perspective on time. I am more willing to take on long term projects. When I was 34, I decided to leave my career as a lawyer. At the time I gave myself 3 years to try out something new. Well, I am still trying something new 8 years later! I have made this interesting and counterintuitive observation: a 70 year old person is more likely to take on a 50-year project than is a 20 year old person.
What or who inspired you to get where you are today?
I had a couple of friends who started very small and grew their own businesses - Chris Martin at CleanScapes and Scott Shapiro at Eagle Rock Ventures. They both worked at large and respected organizations and then made a conscious choice to work for themselves instead. When I made the decision to leave the law practice, these friends counseled me not to just find a “job” but to do what I was passionate about. Today I am thrilled to have spent my time creating and nurturing the TisBest Charity Gift card concept.
What advice do you have for the under 40 crowd?
Opportunities are like investments - they both grow at a compound rate. We all know what that means for money - life is finite, so invest early. Opportunities follow the same growth curve. If you want to pursue something in your professional life, get started early so that the opportunities in your new field have an opportunity to grow. If you are in a career path that you want to change, change now so that you can start creating opportunities in your new professional field. Waiting to change careers has a major cost because opportunity follows a compound growth curve.
What are you passionate about?
Surfing and fishing. But you probably want a “serious answer.” I get pretty wound up about internal consistency in our legal and moral systems. An example would the state lottery. Supposedly the State regulates gambling because it is not good for people (like illegal drugs and prostitution). And at the same time the State runs the lottery - and not only that the State has now started ADVERTISING the lottery, and the message in the advertising focuses on the value of the winnings!!!! This makes me sick - the government is on the one hand saying that gambling is bad and regulating casinos and on the other hand the government is running its own lottery and ENCOURAGING people to participate. Yea, that gets me passionate.
How do you balance work and life?
Still trying to figure that out! I will go to my grave trying to figure that out! The best avenue is a continuum between your personal life and your work life, combining the two.
What other career would you like to try?
What other person would you like to meet – living or dead?
President Obama – he is intellectually and political honest. Rare in a politician.
What superpower do you want?
The ability to remain calm at all times.
Anything by Hemingway or Steinbeck. I have read For Whom the Bell Tolls at least four times. And East of Eden is a great book - it teaches you to not complain about your life. The closing scene puts tears in my eyes just to think about it.
My gas guzzling camping truck -12 miles to the gallon is pretty hard to justify, so I try to use it only when a regular car will not work. It is set up so I can drive out on any river bar and have everything I need to camp right there with me.
What is your favorite quote?
“Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”
Published by Gina Peckman
Saturday, December 12, 2009
- Why are charity gift cards better than direct donations?
- TisBest has less than 300 charities to choose from, why not thousands or millions?
- How does TisBest find organizations for the list?
- What is the $1.95 transaction fee for?
Friday, December 11, 2009
Yesterday, TheStreet.com named its list of the Five Best Gift Cards in the United States. The best gift cards, by category, are:
Category-Best Gift Card
Bank: American Express
Restaurant: Darden Restaurants (Olive Garden, Red Lobster, Capital Grille)
Charity: TisBest Charity Gift Cards
We’re pleased to be included in such outstanding company. After all, this is only our third holiday season in operation. In that short time we’ve not only been instrumental in creating an entirely new category (charity gift cards) but we’ve been identified by TheStreet.com as being the best in class.
Our dream of replacing gifts of “more stuff” with gifts of “more meaning” is really taking root. We have seen a tremendous increase in demand for our charity gift cards each year – we are tracking at 2.5x as many cards this year over last – and we have every reason to believe that growth will continue for years to come. That bodes well for the charities we support, for the landfills that don’t fill quite as quickly, and for all the important causes that are funded.
Best wishes during this wonderful holiday season,
Jon Siegel, executive director
Thursday, December 10, 2009
People often ask how TisBest produces and sends out hundreds or thousands of charity gift cards each day - each with a different image and code - and each packaged in a greeting card with a unique and personal message. (Our error rate is less than 0.1%)
The answer is elves hard at work.
Seriously though, we do it with hard work, attention to detail and a really cool technology system that we developed. We work in a loft space that Jim Phillips (on our Board of Directors and President at Berschauer Phillips Construction Company) provides to TisBest Philanthropy without charge. Thank you Jim!
The photo above shows our core year-around TisBest team. From left to right are: Erik Marks, Chad Edwards, Breanna Edwards and Jon Siegel. Chad and Breanna are not related - it’s just a really random coincidence that they have the same last name. During the holidays we expand our team a bit, and everyone works around the clock to get the right cards into the right envelopes and ship everything on time. In fact, at this point we have gotten so efficient that about 50% of the Charity Gift Cards ordered are shipping on the same day they are ordered!
If you are one of the wonderful people who have already ordered your TisBest Charity Gift Cards, Thank You! If you haven’t ordered yours yet, what are you waiting for?
Saturday, November 28, 2009
A good friend of mine had twin boys several years ago. Both were good-looking and healthy with one exception: one of the boys had a cleft lip and pallet. A cleft is an opening in the lip, the roof of the mouth or the soft tissue in the back of the mouth. This little guy had all three. It is painful look at and, if untreated, has life-long consequences. Surgery provides excellent results but many of the 200,000+ children born each year with a severe cleft condition live in areas where their parents can’t afford to give them this essential surgery.
Operation Smile touches many of these lives directly by providing free surgeries to repair cleft lip, cleft palate and other facial deformities for children around the globe. And they address a big problem since clefting occurs in approximately 1 per 500-700 births, the ratio varying considerably across geographic areas and ethnic groupings.
Looking through the “before” pictures of these children, it’s easy to imagine the consequences if untreated. Ear disease and dental problems occur frequently, as do problems with proper speech development. Children may have difficulty eating, speaking, socializing, and simply smiling. A child’s very life and livelihood are threatened. They are shunned and rejected. They need help.
Operation Smile is able to perform a 45 minute cleft lip surgery for only $240, saving these innocent children from a lifetime of shame. The Organization has more than 4,000 credentialed medical volunteers who have performed over 135,000 surgeries since 1982.
I believe in the work of Operation Smile-I’ve seen the impact of this condition first hand. My friend’s son endured three difficult surgeries before he was 18 months old. Though these surgeries are tough for both family and child, it’s difficult to imagine what life would have been like without it. We at TisBest support Operation Smile’s work in making this dream a reality for children around the globe.
Manager, Charity and Community Relations
While this is not normally a news site, we’re happy to report that no one was trampled to death during yesterday’s “Black Friday” shopping excesses. Your intrepid TisBest reporters dutifully scoured the newspapers and online sites for pictures of boot prints on faces and blood-drenched T-shirts at Macy’s, but no, there were none to be found. Nobody’s life was squeezed out of them in the pursuit of this year’s ‘gotta-have-it’ electronic item, this month’s “can’t-live-without-it” plush toy, or the decade’s only “shoes-to-die-for.” Perhaps some dignity was lost, but gratefully, not a life.
There was, however, reported shoving, jostling, bumping and pushing at malls and shopping outlets around the country as people queued up to purchase the PERFECT GIFTS that recipients will enjoy for several minutes before pushing them to the bottom of their sock drawers or exiling them to that special storage place in the garage.
DOOT –DOOT - DOOT – DOOT - DOOT
Police say a Wal-mart store in California was closed for several hours before dawn after some Black Friday shoppers began fighting over bargain merchandise. Police herded customers into a parking lot until small groups were released for shopping.
Meanwhile, charities across the U.S. reported zero arrests due to assaults among charity gift card shoppers.
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Yesterday in the New York Times was an article about Kiva and its lending practices. NYT: The Fiction of Kiva's Loans. Kiva is famous for making direct connection between ordinary citizens and recipients of microloans. If I have $30, for example, I can search on Kiva for a needy entrepreneur who can use my $30 to expand her llama wool hat line. However, the article points out that when I make that loan on Kiva to “Maria,” it is not the case that “Maria” actually receives my money; and in fact it is not even the case that “Maria” receives any money at all from Kiva. This is nothing new - it is how Kiva always worked - but after the gig on Oprah, Kiva was so popular that no one wanted to see the truth of it.
Kiva actually runs a great program and raises a lot of money for microfinance. I think Kiva deserves admiration for personalizing the connection between donor and recipient. The personalized philanthropy run by Kiva is good for introducing people to philanthropy. And I hope that donors introduced by Kiva will eventually graduate from Kiva’s personalized direct philanthropy to a more mature organizational-level philanthropy.
Children start out with fairy tales and imaginary friends in order to make sense of the world; later in life the children mature, and while the fairy tales and imaginary friends continue as metaphors for the world, the world itself becomes that which is lived in and understood. Similarly, Kiva provides a fictional connection between giving and creating change in the world. With Kiva, donors can see, feel and appreciate the impact of their giving. But when Kiva donors are ready to mature in their philanthropy, it is time to move beyond the fiction of giving to “Maria” and to give in general - to organizations - based on the leadership, track record and vision of the organizations. Paul Shoemaker makes the point for organizational-level-support well in this post on the Stanford Social Innovation Review.
Kiva should not be criticized because its loans are fictional. The fictional loans of Kiva are good, just as children’s fairy tales are good. Many donors introduced to philanthropy through Kiva will mature and become real philanthropists, supporting the organizations that work hard every day to build a better world. Let’s celebrate Kiva for what it is - a good and powerful portal to philanthropy.
Founder, TisBest Philanthropy
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
We are starting a new series and are really excited to kick it off with a post about the work of one of our national partners: Covenant House.
Covenant House reaches out to a population that, here in Seattle, we most often see in abandoned doorways. Dirty, slumped, sad, cold, wet. And young, really young. They should be playing, learning, figuring out their future, figuring out the world. But they're not. Who knows the reason. Who cares the reason. They are not culpable for being there. They need help.
Covenant House steps up and helps. They focus on homeless kids. They give the kids an ear to talk to, a warm room, a meal, space to think things through. The stories on their website will bring tears to your eyes:
o I'm tired, I'm so tired. I never thought in a million years that this was the way my life was going to be.
o I told my mom we'd still make it, and I took care of her. I stopped going to school so I could help her. I did my best. But it wasn’t enough.
o All I was looking for was a bed, but I found a haven. Covenant House is different than other shelters. It’s like a home. There are lots of ‘parents’ here….
Covenant House runs multiple programs in cities across the US - a crisis hotline, shelters, transitional housing, jobs training - and the Outreach Van, a program that reaches out and offers help where the kids need it, right on the street. Volunteers look for homeless kids, give them a sandwich, offer to talk. It’s so simple and it is exactly what that cold, hungry and scared 15 year old kid needs.
We at TisBest Philanthropy heartily applaud Covenant House for their work and hope you will too. If you give them $20, that can hand out 20 sandwiches to kids on the street. That sandwich is the first step a kid needs to reach shelter, counseling, a future, and maybe even an M.D. like “Joe” did. Simple and high impact. Thank you Covenant House for your work!
-Erik and Chad
Monday, October 19, 2009
What is important to you about gift giving? We'd love your thoughts!
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Here's a little video we made with Re-Vision Labs - enjoy!
(And hey, if you like the video, would you please share it with your friends and families? We're hoping to really spread the idea of charity gift giving this holiday season. Thank you!!)
Friday, October 9, 2009
I saw this truck in the nearby Goodwill parking lot today and I couldn't help myself. I had to take a picture. It struck me as a reminder of just how much stuff we tend to collect. Our family is desperately trying to de-stuffify, but it's a difficult job. We've got excess stuff jammed in every closet, in every nook and cranny, on every garage shelf, and even under a bed or two. And that's after giving bag after bag of stuff to the Goodwill.
One of my favorite items got unearthed a couple of weekends ago as my wife was rearranging a kitchen cabinet. She found a double beer can upright chicken cooker that I received as a birthday present from my younger brother. It was a wonderful gesture, but, sorry Tom, it just isn't gonna get used again. I know what he was thinking: "I'll bet he doesn't have one of these!" Right you are. I didn't. And now I don't once again.
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
The American Indian College Fund (AICF) provides scholarships and other support for American Indian students and tribal colleges. Tribal colleges, the vast majority of which are located on or near reservations, provide opportunity and access to post-secondary education. Offering accredited degrees while keeping Indian culture and tradition at the heart of their curricula, tribal colleges are changing the face of Indian education, one graduate at a time.
The typical AICF student is anything but typical – at least when compared to the populations of most undergraduate colleges or universities. In fact, ninety-one percent of Fund scholarship recipients are "non-traditional" students— they have dependents, are older than 24, work full-time—or a combination of these characteristics.
Shirley Holds the Enemy is a case in point. Raised by her grandparents on the Crow Indian Reservation, Shirley married young and had three children. She struggled in an abusive relationship involving alcohol. The deaths of her grandparents were difficult events for her.
When she turned 30, Shirley says she realized she had to be strong because she has no one else to depend upon. “I am a strong woman who is responsible and has gained independence for myself and for my children…now that my oldest daughter is 14 years old, I believe that I should become a positive role model for her in pursuing my education,” Shirley says.
Shirley is attending Little Big Horn College, where she is studying pre-nursing, and plans to transfer to Salish Kootenai College to earn her bachelor’s degree. Shirley has proven that anything is possible at any stage of life if you are committed to yourself, your family, and your dreams.
The Fund disburses approximately 5,000 scholarships annually for American Indian students seeking to better their lives through continued education. As part of its support of the tribal colleges, the Fund also provides support for other needs at the schools ranging from capital support to cultural preservation activities. There are now more than 30 tribal colleges located in 13 states and serving more than 250 American Indian Nations from every geographic region in the United States.
Monday, September 14, 2009
TisBest Philanthropy has been granted Accredited Charity status by the Better Business Bureau. To receive this status, TisBest had to meet the BBB’s 20 Standards of Charity Accountability. Frankly, it was a surprisingly rigorous process. But that’s good news for those of you who are concerned about where your charitable dollars are going . . . and hopefully that’s everybody who ever makes a charitable donation. Not every non-profit organization that applies for this recognition receives it. It requires strict adherence to a set of standards that take considerable effort to meet. But to get the BBB’s “stamp of approval” . . . well, it’s worth it. And if it means greater peace of mind for the many people who give and receive TisBest Charity Gift Cards, we’re thrilled.
Tuesday, September 1, 2009
Monday, August 10, 2009
Jon Siegel, Executive Director
Thursday, July 30, 2009
Young Women's Leadership Network
The YWL Network is at the forefront of the nation’s school reform movement and is one of the most important forces in creating choice for students in urban public school systems.
We partner with school districts, parents and community leaders to create single-gender public schools and college access programs across the country. We are in the business of raising expectations, improving student performance, and inspiring leadership.
Since 1996, we have been opening girls’ public schools that offer single-gender college prep education to inner city students. Our first school, which made history and headlines, is the highly renowned and successful Young Women’s Leadership School of East Harlem in New York City. All of our schools are available to ordinary students who have a desire to achieve.
YWL Network believes that every student deserves the opportunity to build a strong foundation for his or her future. Our vision is to create first rate schools and programs that enable students to reach their fullest potential.
We are the creators of a network of all-girls' public schools and CollegeBound Initiative – a school-based college counseling service. The primary role of YWL Network is to build partnerships and support programs that enhance the educational experience of students.
TisBest Philanthropy is a 501c3 charity. Our purpose is to create and promote gifts of charity rather than gifts of "stuff." We operate www.TisBest.org, from which TisBest Charity Gift Cards may be purchased. Our Charity Gift Cards are fully customizable and elegant gifts that come from the heart, not the store.
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
Saturday, May 23, 2009
It was common to see tears on many cheeks. Several had lost husbands or brothers or cousins in World War II or Korea. Some of the older ones had experienced the losses of World War I. My mother had a difficult time: my oldest brother was in Viet Nam during one of those Decoration Days. My dad, a decorated World War II Marine veteran, had much to remember. He’d seen the horrors of battle up close and been fortunate enough to survive his injuries.
Today, fewer of us Americans are personally touched by war. At no time in our nation’s history has a smaller percentage of Americans lost their lives in armed conflict. I think that’s why many of us don’t give Memorial Day the attention it used to get. Please understand: I’m not implying that war and its results today are less tragic or horrific than they used to be. I’m merely making a statistical observation. Most of us don’t know anybody personally who has died in combat.
That was hardly the case in the beginning. When Decoration Day was first observed just a few years after the conclusion of the Civil War, nearly everybody had lost either a family member or a close friend in the war. In that four year war, 620,000 soldiers were killed, and in a nation of only 31.4 million people. Not wounded or made homeless. Killed. There was indeed much to memorialize, and much to heal.
The vast majority of us today don’t have the same kind of memories as did the families who experienced the Civil War, the World Wars, or even the Vietnam War. But that doesn’t mean we should forget about the needs of the people who serve our country now or who served in the past.
Perhaps we can observe Memorial Day somewhat differently today. I encourage you to check out two of the charitable organizations supported by TisBest Philanthropy. The Paralyzed Veterans of America (www.SupportVeterans.org) provides Veterans suffering spinal cord injuries with advocacy, legal services, healthcare access and recreational activities. Soldiers’ Angels (www.SoldiersAngels.org) provides care packages, outreach and other comfort to active soldiers and military families. Perhaps we can remember and honor our nation’s fallen soldiers by helping today’ soldiers and veterans.
I trust that you’ll have a memorable weekend; and I hope you’ll take the time to reflect on the sacrifices made by so many in the service of this remarkable country.
Jon Siegel, Executive Director