Wednesday, December 29, 2010

TisBest Expands its Support of Local Charities!

After months of hard work, TisBest is pleased to announce a large expansion of our Local Charity program!  We added four new cities to our Local Charities Tab: Portland-Vancouver, Phoenix, Chicago, and Los Angeles.  And we added five new charities that are located in two cities we already cover: Seattle-Tacoma and Minneapolis-St. Paul.  We hope to move into New York, Dallas-Ft Worth, and other metro areas very soon.

Each of the local organizations listed on TisBest is impressive in its own way.   Click on the links below to learn about the work each charity is doing in its community - it is heartwarming and fascinating. We feel fortunate that we're able to support those doing vital work in their communities, whether they're rescuing animals, bringing food to the hungry, teaching job skills, empowering kids, or creating amazing art.

If you don't see your favorite local charity on the list, send a note to and we'll check out your suggestions. 
Four new Cities have been added to the TisBest Local Charities Tab!

Portland & Vancouver
Children's Book Bank
Columbia Springs
Lifeworks Northwest
Oregon Ballet Theatre
Parks Foundation of Clark County
Project Access NOW
The Pixie Project
Transition Projects

A Stepping Stone Foundation
Arizona’s Children Association
Be A Leader Foundation
Ear Candy
P.O.P.S.I.C.L.E. Center
Peer Solutions
Phoenix Youth at Risk
Valley Youth Theatre


Los Angeles

Five New Charities added in Seattle-Tacoma and Minneapolis-St.Paul!
Emergency Food Network
Seattle Humane - The Humane Society for Seattle/King County
Sno-King Youth Club
Rainier Scholars

Minneapolis-St. Paul
Minnesota Ovarian Cancer Alliance (MOCA)
Happy New Year, and thanks for helping give a better world!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Other Centered

Seattle is a town of restaurants and Canlis is a restaurant fabled among them - expensive, exquisite, an unmatched view, a wine list longer than any other and servers in kimonos.  Certainly not the usual fare for those of us in the nonprofit trenches.  And so we were thrilled when Canlis invited us to join them for a party yesterday evening, to celebrate their 60th anniversary as a restaurant.  We arrived to find a festive crowd of 200 people, all like us - dedicated members of the Seattle nonprofit/social enterprise arena. 

We learned that Canlis is run by close family (all of the Canlis name and all of them present last night) and that they decided to honor all of us with this party.  They explained that they initially wanted to hold a charity event to celebrate the restaurant’s 60th anniversary, but realized that such an event becomes an “ask.”  Instead they wanted to do a “give.” "It's our birthday party, but we'd like to give the present and not receive it," said Mark Canlis.  They identified that what they had to give was food and hospitality, and so give they did.  The food poured from the kitchen all night long, the wine was outstanding and three wonderful musical ensembles kept the music flowing.

Not only was the evening a great time, I think a lot of us felt really great to be honored in this way.  Yes, people tell us all the time that the work we do is valuable, and thank us for our dedication.  But not many people “put the food where their mouth is."  What Canlis did was very Other Centered--that is their term, actually.  Other Centered is one of the three Canlis family/company values.  And they demonstrated it last night in spades.  And so from Jon and Erik at TisBest, and all 200 other invitees, to the Canlis Family - thank you for a wonderful evening.   Seattle is fortunate to have such institutions as your restaurant, your family and your collective heart.  


Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Take the Just 51 Bucks Challenge

According to the National Retail Federation, the average person will spend $510 on holiday gifts this year.  Some of those gifts will be wonderful and thoughtful.  But we’re willing to bet that at least some of them will miss the mark of "meaningful gift."

Many of our charity partners and the populations they serve are in greater need than ever this season.  In light of this, we challenge you to empower your holiday gifts and devote 10% of your gift budget to charity.  If we all dedicate that 10%, or $51, to Charity Gift Cards instead of "more stuff," we will play a vital role in closing the budget gap for organizations that do invaluable work in our communities.  Plus, we're confident that your recipient will appreciate the gift as much as the charities will!

Click here to learn more, and to take the Just 51 Bucks Challenge.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

What's Your Silliest Gift? A Video by Reel Grrls

Our Seattle Local charity partner Reel Grrls made these videos last year on Black Friday.  They braved the cold outside a downtown shopping center and asked passers-by two questions:  What's the silliest gift you've ever received?  Who's hardest to shop for?

And after you've checked out the videos, tell us your answers in the comments: what's the strangest, silliest gift you've ever been given?  Who do you have trouble finding a meaningful gift for?

Cheers to the crew at Reel Grrls, who help guide and empower young women through teaching them the ins and outs of filmmaking.  And thanks as well to the amazing grrls who made the videos!  They do an awesome job--check out their other projects here.

Tisbest: What's the silliest gift you've ever received? from Reel Grrls on Vimeo.

Tisbest: Who's Hardest to Shop For? from Reel Grrls on Vimeo.

Happy Thanksgiving!
the TisBest Team

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Help us Pick a New Christmas Charity Gift Card!

Thanks for voting!  We're eager to see what you pick.  We will announce the winner on Friday, November 26th, just in time for Christmas shopping!

The TisBest Team

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Three New Charities in the TisBest 250

Tomorrow—November 17th—is National Philanthropy Day.  Well, okay, in some places it was celebrated on Monday… and in other places it’s Thursday.  And in more precocious locations, National Philanthropy Day was November 5th.  We figure it’s like the Orthodox calendar, where the dates don’t always line up but the effect is still the same.  Either way, we’re excited to make an announcement:

In honor of National Philanthropy Day(s), TisBest welcomes three new charities to the TisBest 250!

Nurse-Family Partnership is an organization that provides low-income, first-time parents with a relationship they can count on. A trusted, respected, and compassionate public health nurse visits the mom from the beginning of her pregnancy until her child is two years old.  The program has proven results including effective preventative health care, improved childhood development, and better economic self-sufficiency through a mentor-like role that the nurse plays in the mother's life.  Wow... just wow!

Operation Homefront, developed to support the families of deployed military personnel in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, provides emergency assistance to military families in need.  They give everything from food assistance to household appliances, and build a community around those waiting for their soldiers to come home.  They've also created support programs for those wounded in action.  Maybe I'm a crybaby, but the stories on their site always make me well up!

World Concern is a Christian international humanitarian group that does everything.  From microloans to disaster response, from digging wells to fighting human trafficking, World Concern offers life, opportunity and hope in 22 of the most desperate countries on earth.  They're incredibly well-respected, and effective in so many different ways.  A really impressive organization!

Keep an eye on the blog, as we'll be announcing even more new charity partners in the next few weeks.


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

"Black November"?

Does it seem like Christmas has come earlier this year? 

No, we’re not noticing a marked upswing in levels of eggnog-related good cheer.  It is not snowing, nor are we already gathered to spend time with family, reconnect with friends, and gorge on traditional delicacies (like my little sister’s amazing orange-glazed cream cheese cake).  No, the part of Christmas that’s moved way up is the part that gets pretty stressful sometimes: the buying of stuff.

A number of stores started talking up “Black Friday” deals the week before Halloween, a sign that the retail industry is moving towards a “Black November” instead of relying on traditional post-Thanksgiving sales.  Wal-Mart, Loews, BestBuy, and Sears have already launched their Christmas bargains.  And Amazon’s “Black Friday” deals started last Friday, while in 2009 those sales didn’t start until November 23rd.

Sure, this might pump up retail sales in a down economy.  And people will have more time to find good deals on things they might really need (like a new plasma-screen TV—Dexter never looked so good!).  But it’s also likely to result in Christmas burnout much earlier in the season.  What do you think?  Do longer sales mean that people will ultimately spend more on stuff they don’t need, or is this a better idea than stampede-inducing midnight blowouts?

Monday, October 25, 2010


In the lunchroom of the office TisBest shares, I find on the table a cardboard box with a shiny new stainless steel insulated mug inside - no wait - there is a thermos and a mug both!  I want it.  I want the shiny stainless steel with pretty logos and the nice box and the faux-leather carry bag that comes with it.

Then I realize how bizarre this is.  Here I am at TisBest’s office and I am wanting stuff. My family has more than one thermos and travel mug per person at home.  I have no use for this stuff.  But I nevertheless feel a remarkably strong desire to make it mine. 

I ponder.

I have invested a large part of my life in building TisBest because I want to give people an alternative to gifts of “more stuff.”  And yet this shiny new gift set (that I have no use for) captivates me at a deep level. 

Very odd.  I think about it for a few days, and I don’t have any great answers.  I don’t know why I want to own shiny new things in a box that I have no use for.  Is it hoarding?  Is it the inevitable result of a lifetime consuming Madison Avenue output?  Is it a simple lust for more?  I wish I knew. 

-Erik Marks

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Facebook Causes Hits California Stores

If you live in California, you might find these hanging next to the iTunes gift cards at your local supermarket.  Facebook Causes now allows its users to make a donation through the purchase of a gift card, and direct the funds online via the Causes app.  The limited California launch means that Causes is testing the water to see how popular these gift cards are. 

While I'm excited to see the idea of the charity gift card spreading and charitable gift alternatives becoming more popular, I'm skeptical of the Causes engine.  Don't get me wrong--people talking about the causes they're passionate about gets other people thinking, and sometimes even doing, and that's a great thing. But there's been a lot of debate over whether or not Causes is an effective tool.

The most awesome thing about Facebook Causes is that it's a grassroots tool.  Everyday people are encouraged to start their own Cause, recruit others to it, circulate petitions, and hook their Cause up with a nonprofit that reflects their goals.  Any money raised for the Cause goes to the nonprofit.  If Sally thinks dogfighting is horrible and starts a Cause to end it, she'll create her own messaging, recruit her own friends and acquaintances to join, and connect her Cause to the ASPCA, who campaign against dogfighting as well.  Any donations made will not go to Sally--who doesn't really have the tools to stop dogfighting--but to the ASPCA. Grassroots growth is the future of nonprofit, and Causes is a great tool for that.  So far, so good.  

There's one catch: so far, Causes has not been an effective fundraiser.  Sally's anti-dogfighting Cause might take off and gain 100, 150 members--maybe even a thousand.  But statistically, most of the members will click "join" and promptly move on, wallet firmly shut.  It's too easy to be all talk on Facebook.  If a Cause is going to raise substantial funds for its nonprofit, it's got to have a well-planned, extensive marketing strategy and a tireless, loud-voiced person behind that.  Only a few Causes have managed really successful fundraisers.  Some of these successful Causes are built and operated by the nonprofits they fund, which is fine--but hardly the grassroots movement that Causes was meant to embody.

None of this is really that bad.  Even if Causes isn't a perfect tool, it's a great idea, it does make people aware of organizations and their needs, and there's no saying what it will evolve into in the future. And a Causes gift card is certainly a smarter purchase than Farmville dollars.  


Friday, October 1, 2010

KaBOOM! and Viral Volunteerism

We were excited to hear a story about KaBOOM! on NPR's Morning Edition in the car on the way to work this morning.  KaBOOM does amazing work building playgrounds in under-served neighborhoods--and according to the interview, their volunteers built this entire playground in one day.  

We're always excited to hear when our charities get recognized.  But the coolest thing about KaBOOM! is their focus on fueling volunteerism.  One of their seasoned volunteers made a bet that at least one person from each build will remain an active volunteer:  "It may not be building a playground, but they will have caught this volunteer spirit and go out and do other projects."  

I believe it.  We've watched the non-material gift giving movement spread the same way.  I'm willing to make the same wager that KaBOOM did: If you give a half-dozen Charity Gift Cards, one of those people you gave to will love the idea so much that they turn around and give them to others.  The seed of giving is a powerful little concept, and that kind of organic growth is way more powerful than advertising. 


Thursday, September 16, 2010

Cute Animal Picture Alert - Seattle Humane Society Visit

Yesterday afternoon we met with the Seattle Humane Society to talk about partnering together.  Each TisBest staff member is a dog, cat, and/or rabbit lover so meeting the animals in the adoption facilities was a blast.  Here a few pictures from our visit:
This lab practices his agility skills in the auditorium.
A warehouse full of donated pet food the SHS collects and delivers to low-income families.
This guy can't wait to find a lap to call his own!
There were several more highlights on our tour of their campus.  Seattle Humane's facilities are clean, cheerful, and have this great, bustling sense of optimism about them. The animals are treated with the greatest care and affection by a passionate and caring staff.  We look forward to serving their worthy cause in the future! Check 'em out at

Chad Edwards
TisBest Charity Gift Cards -

Monday, August 16, 2010

Alexandra's Donor Story: Giving Across Generations

Alexandra shared with us the wonderful story of how she decided to use TisBest Charity Gift Cards to teach her grandkids about giving.  She already sets a positive example for them with her own charitable efforts, but wanted to show them first-hand how great it feels to know you’re doing good for others.

"I was not raised in a family that thought about charity. We were so darn poor growing up, my parents struggled just to put food on the table.  But the older I get the more I realize how blessed I am. Not in material things… but in love and a sense of security because of that love.

"My grandchildren are blessed with a stable loving family and they never want for 'things.' How will they know that there are people in this world who haven’t, for whatever reason, been blessed in that same way?"

Alexandra found TisBest online and says she thinks the gift cards and easy-to-use online database are “brilliant.”  She and her daughter guided the kids through the TisBest website and helped them think through where their gift would go.

"I hope they will carefully look at the charities and see which ones help someone, somewhere, to get a little boost so they can help themselves. 

And here’s the thing. I know right now my grandkids could care less about researching and making an informed decision. But I am planting a seed. It took me a long time to learn the lesson of sharing and the miracle of emptying your cup so it can be filled again. I’m hoping they will learn that lesson a lot earlier.

When I am long gone, I want to think that they will be teaching their grandchildren the fine art of sharing their blessings. Selfishly, that thought brings me great comfort."

Thanks for reading,
The TisBest Team

Friday, July 16, 2010

Giving corporate gifts? Read this amazing post from SkillStorm highlighting their 2009 TisBest Charity Gift Card program

The following is an excerpt from a blog post.

As You Begin to Think About Your Holiday Budget for 2010, Consider the Gift that Keeps on Giving

"'Gifts are a part of business culture, but meaningful gifts aren’t easy to find. That’s where the TisBest Charity Gift Card comes in. It’s a meaningful gift you can give to anybody, anytime.' – TisBest

Although the holiday season is several months away, it’s never too early to start considering your holiday budget. How about sharing the gift that keeps on giving – a Charity Gift Card from TisBest! There are many options out there when considering business gifts, but TisBest Gift Cards are unlike any other. Charity gift cards are gaining popularity in the corporate gift giving world. In fact, 40 percent of the charity gift card sales are to businesses who in turn give them to employees, clients, prospects, etc.

Last holiday season, we partnered with to donate $15,000 to charities chosen by our very own employees. To do this, we first sent a survey out to employees at our organization on whether they wanted to receive employee gifts and parties or instead donate monetary donations to charities across the country. When all was said and done, the decision was unanimous: employees elected to forego expensive holiday parties for the benefit of charity..."  Click here to continue reading.

A big "way to go" to the leadership and staff at SkillStorm for leading and fueling the giving movement!

-The TisBest Staff

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Seattle 2.0 Awards Pictures and Another Honor for TisBest!

The TisBest Team holding the Seattle 2.0 Award for "Best Nonprofit Startup."  The team from right to left: Lorraine Craft, Jim Branch, Jon Siegel, Erik Marks, Jim Phillips, and Chad Edwards

TisBest Founder, Erik Marks, giving a brief acceptance speech at the Seattle 2.0 Awards.  Over 400 people attended the 2nd annual gala honoring the top innovators, entrepreneurs, and investors in the Seattle Startup Community.

Jon Siegel talking about TisBest Charity Gift Cards with entrepreneur, Ron Wiener, at the Seattle 2.0 Award Reception.

TisBest Philanthropy received the “Best Non-Profit Start-Up” award at the Seattle 2.0 awards event on Wednesday, May 19. This is a great honor for TisBest, and wonderful recognition of our efforts to connect individuals and businesses to the causes and charities they feel passionate about.

Our founder, Erik Marks, has succeeded in combining technology with the goals of micro philanthropy, and created an entire new category – the charity gift card – in the process.  That the technology hotbed of Seattle recognized the work we do is especially gratifying.

Launched in November of 2007, TisBest truly is a start-up. And TisBest has gone through many (if not all) of the usual challenges faced by new technology ventures. Now a scant 2.5 years later, TisBest has raised over $1 million for charity and created a significant following of people who are looking for a way to give a meaningful gift without giving “more stuff.”

One of the reasons I’m so pleased to receive this award is that it validates my belief that the entire world of giving – of philanthropy – is going through a massive set of changes. Just a few months ago, tens of millions of dollars were raised for Haiti relief using text messaging. That new development has forever changed the way we’ll respond to future catastrophes. New organizations such as Jolkona Foundation ( are springing up, creating imaginative ways for donors to better see the results of their donations. And a new generation is recognizing that one needn’t be rich to be a philanthropist.

TisBest is thrilled to be a significant part of the world of philanthropy. At its most basic level, “philanthropy,” from the Greek, means “loving humankind.” In today’s world, that meaning has broadened to include loving our planet, the plants and animals that live on it, the air we breathe, and even the freedoms we so enjoy.

So thank you to the Seattle Community and our national community of supporters for recognizing TisBest Philanthropy. We think the best is yet to come. Our goal is to create more awareness and open new sources funding for worthy charities in the years to come, and to make gift-giving a more meaningful experience for giver and recipient alike.

Jon Siegel, TisBest Executive Director

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Featured Charity: The Moyer Foundation

If you’ve followed Major League All-Star pitcher Jaime Moyer’s celebrated career, you know that he has been recognized as much for his work off the field as on.  In 2000, Jamie and his wife Karen established The Moyer Foundation.  Since then, the Foundation has raised more than $19 million to provide comfort and support to hundreds of programs that provide direct services and support to children enduring a time of profound physical, emotional, or financial distress. 

Their work strikes a very personal cord for me.  When my wife and her twin sister were 15 years old, they lost their dad to cancer.  Both described feeling isolated and lonely in the years following his death as they struggled to connect to kids their age that had experienced such a deep loss.

Stories like this led The Moyer Foundation to create Camp Erin, a bereavement camp for children and teens who have experienced the death of someone close to them.  I had tears in my eyes as I heard about the comfort and understanding Camp Erin participants find as they build friendships with other children who have gone through a similar season of loss.  You can see a few of these kids in this powerful 60 second video on the foundation’s YouTube page:

The weekend-long Camp Erin experiences are filled with traditional, fun, camp activities combined with grief education and emotional support -- facilitated by grief professionals and trained volunteers. These kids have the opportunity to address their feelings and memorialize their loved ones with other kids just like them.

Incredibly, Camp Erin is free to all campers.  The Moyer Foundation has established 36 of these camps in 23 states making it the largest network of bereavement camps in the United States.  Each Camp Erin is facilitated through a long term partnership with a local bereavement agency.  With the community’s support, The Moyer Foundation intends to raise funds to bring Camp Erin to as many as 60 cities nationwide.

Camp Erin is just one of several unique Moyer Foundation programs.  You can find more inspiring information and ways to support the organization by going to  We at TisBest congratulate The Moyer Foundation on 10 years of bringing comfort and support to children in distress.

Thanks for reading,
Chad Edwards – Charity and Community Relations Manager

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Best Nonprofit Startup! We Need Your Vote!

TisBest Philanthropy is honored to be chosen as a finalist in the 2010 edition of the Seattle 2.0 Awards. TisBest was nominated in the Best Nonprofit Startup category. The winner is determined by votes cast, so I encourage you to go to the Seattle 2.0 site and vote for TisBest! The link is

According to Seattle 2.0’s website, “Technology startups have been the birthplace of some of the biggest changes in our way of life this century, from how we buy houses to how we manage our family photos, from how we entertain ourselves on the web to how we run our businesses.”

I’d add, “ . . . to how we give meaningful gifts and how we support important charitable causes.”

As technology continues to become an increasingly important part of our lives, it shouldn’t be a big surprise that technology is also playing an increasingly important role in the world of philanthropy. At TisBest, we see ourselves on the cutting edge of philanthropic giving and donor development.

Our vision is to introduce millions and millions of people to the joy of philanthropic giving – one gift at a time. We do it with the TisBest Charity Gift Card. If you’re reading this blog, it’s very likely that you’re a part of our vision!

We’re pleased and proud that one of the world’s centers of technological innovation – Seattle – recognizes the uniqueness and the value of what we’re doing. We’ll continue to create new ways to introduce people to the many worthy causes and tremendous organizations that exist to meet needs around the world.

Thank you for being a part of our success! (And remember to vote.)

Jon Siegel, Executive Director

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The President’s Donations

President Obama’s announcement that he will donate his Nobel Prize money ($1.4 million) to 10 charities is terrific news. These are important charitable organizations which will use the money well.

We’re especially pleased that of the ten charities identified by the White House, five of them are part of the TisBest Philanthropy 250 charity list. Those are: Central Asia Institute, United Negro College Fund, American Indian College Fund, The Posse Foundation, and College Summit. 

That’s a pretty remarkable correlation, considering there are 1.2 million charitable organizations in the U.S.

To each of these organizations we say, “Congratulations!” You are very deserving.

Jon Siegel

Monday, March 8, 2010

Parade Magazine Survey: Americans giving generously despite recession.

A story in Sunday’s Parade Magazine titled, “Compassion Counts More Than Ever,” reports that even during this economic recession, Americans are giving generously to support the causes that are important to them. In addition, Americans in large numbers are donating their time to a wide variety of worthy causes.

It’s very encouraging to see that in difficult times – when it’s easy to focus on one’s own needs and difficulties –Americans are continuing to make sacrifices to meet great needs that exist in their own communities and around the world.

Parade asked 1,008 Americans what they’d do if given $100,000 to donate to charity. Of the 16 choices, the top five were:
  1. Food and shelter for the needy
  2. Research to cure disease
  3. Disaster relief
  4. Animal welfare
  5. 5. Youth programs
These results correlate very closely to the charities selected by recipients of TisBest Charity Gift Cards.

Thank you for your continued support of TisBest Philanthropy, and the hundreds of charities we work with. This Mother’s Day, I encourage you to consider supplementing those flowers with a gift of charity. Your Mom will love you for it!

If you would like to learn more about the Parade survey, take a few moments to watch this interview with the editor of Parade and two volunteers that aired Monday on the The Morning Show on CBS:

Watch CBS News Videos Online

Thanks for reading,
Jon Siegel, TisBest E.D.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

And yet another earthquake

Several major charities have taken flack in recent weeks for spending less than 100% of the donations they have received for Haiti relief. Yet the recent earthquake in Chile is a grim reminder that financial reserves are essential if we are to be prepared to respond to the next disaster. It appears that keeping some resources in reserve is prudent.

We tend to think that calamitous natural disasters happen every four or five years or so. At that pace, there’s time to breathe between moments of urgent financial need. But this time, we were fooled. The ninth strongest earthquake ever measured struck just weeks after Haiti received a devastating blow. Relief agencies which are already stretched and weary may need to open a second front in what feels like a war against nature.

We encourage you to continue to support the agencies and organizations that provide food, shelter, medical treatment, and other assistance during this difficult time in Haiti and Chile. It takes a steady flow of donations in the quiet times in order to be ready to jump when the next disaster strikes.

Thank you for your selfless support.
Jon Siegel

Image credit: