“Tiny grants keep ‘awesome’ ideas coming.” By Billy Baker. Boston Globe. October 10, 2011. It was down to two finalists: a woman who wanted to buy a couple of goats to rent out as urban lawnmowers, and a sculptor who could “no longer make a case’’ for sculpture and instead wanted to buy a portable welder so he could go around and fix his city. They were both awesome ideas, the trustees agreed, but only one of them could win money that month. And so they had to ask the ultimate question: Which idea was more awesome? This is the basic premise behind the Awesome Foundation, which is not an actual foundation. It is more like a support group for good ideas. It began in Cambridge in 2009 when a group of tech-savvy twentysomethings frustrated by the bureaucracy of traditional funding got together and, in essence, said: “You know what would be awesome? If there were an organization that gave you money if you had an awesome idea.’’ Then they became that organization, loosely. It works like this: Ten trustees each kick in $100 a month, and together they review the submissions – the original chapter, now known as the Boston chapter, reviewed more than 130 for August – and the winner is given $1,000 for the project, with no strings attached. The idea is so simple, and so devoid of moving parts, that it has multiplied organically, a new nonprofit model for the crowd-sourcing generation. Today there are 23 chapters around the world, as far away as Australia; the latest is in Detroit. Anyone can start one, and the only real rule is that there is no definition for awesome. That’s for each trustee to decide.
“Healing Through Sailing.” By Mike Vilensky. Wall Street Journal. October 11, 2011. “There’s so much money we all give to research, and that’s fantastic,” explained Ms. Boisvert, 46 years old, the principal of the Gallagher Group and co-founder of Sailing Heals. “But we also want to give good experiences for people to enjoy in the moment.” Ms. Boisvert has been a sailor on and off for years. “We knew a lot of people with beautiful boats interested in sharing the sailing experience,” she explained, of founding the nonprofit. “And what better way to do that than share it with people going through a hard time?” Mr. Forsberg is a competitive racer who encouraged everyone on board to help steer and sail, as the boat circled the Statue of Liberty. “My favorite place to sail is just about anywhere,” he said. “The winds here in the city are fickle! They’re like New York—always changing, unpredictable—which makes it an interesting place to be on the water. It’s as interesting to sail here as it is in Tasmania or Thailand.” Black Watch, Mr. Forsberg explained of the name, once scared off German submarines during World War II. At that time, the boat “had a 50-pound popgun” at its forward, Mr. Forsberg said. (Sans gun, the boat’s been preserved to look largely like it did back in 1938.) Last week, however, the ride certainly wasn’t like “Battleship.” Onboard, Prosecco, crab-cake sandwiches, and mini-cupcakes were served. Ms. Boisvert said the organization now plans to expand to include rides for those living with other diseases as well as war veterans and disadvantaged youth. The next voyage will take place January in Miami. Mr. Terio—referred to by Sailing Heals as a “VIP”—said the water had a calming effect on him. Ms. Boisvert concurred. “This is about giving fears over to the wind,” she said.
“Donor of the Day: Time on the Farm Aids Children With Special Needs.” By Melanie Grayce West. Wall Street Journal. October 12, 2011. Vivian H. Donnelley wants to give children the opportunity to be educated, feel love and experience nature. This is the singular mission of Green Chimneys, a farm, school and residential treatment center for children with special needs. The core of the organization is its facility in Brewster, N.Y., where children participate in animal-assisted and nature-based therapeutic programs. Many of the children have emotional, developmental, behavioral or social difficulties and have been unsuccessful in traditional school environments or at home. Most have experienced emotional trauma or have a mental illness. In spending time in nature and caring for animals—there are some 300 animals on the farm, from horses to cows and geese—children learn responsibility and trust. In nurturing an animal and building productive relationships with peers, the child develops self-esteem, Ms. Donnelley says. A specialized school with small classes and mental health services are part of the Green Chimneys school and wildlife center. Ms. Donnelley has been involved with Green Chimneys for more than 30 years, serving for a time as president of the organization’s board of directors. Her family has made many contributions through the decades, including a recent gift of $50,000 by Ms. Donnelley. The organization, founded in 1947, encompasses 750 acres in Putnam County and serves thousands annually. Green Chimneys programming also includes a New York City division for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning young people, youth shelters and summer camps, among other child and nature programs.
“Donor of the Day: Expanding Vision for South Asians.” By Melanie Grayce West. Wall Street Journal. October 14, 2011. Simi Ahuja and Kumar Mahadeva want to create opportunities for young South Asians in the New York area. The couple recently made a gift of $25,000 to South Asian Youth Action, a New York-based youth development organization that exclusively supports low-income South Asian young people. The gift is in support of the organization’s gala to be held Friday in New York. SAYA, founded 15 years ago, provides arts, academic, sports and leadership activities, as well as counseling, through its center in Elmhurst, Queens, and in five public schools throughout Queens. Ms. Ahuja says that while the South Asian community in the U.S. is often held up as a model of success because of the early accomplishments of many of its members, the community now is “relatively diverse and there is incredible need in communities in our own backyard.” The gift from Ms. Ahuja, who owns her own consulting firm, and Mr. Mahadeva, the founder of software company Cognizant Technology Solutions, will specifically support SAYA’s Desi Girls leadership program. The funding will allow the organization to add career-development programming as well as workshops in science, technology, engineering and math to an established program that works with girls to explore issues of body image, discrimination and sexual health, among other subjects. Ms. Ahuja became closely involved with SAYA through another organization, South Asian Women’s Leadership Forum, which she founded some eight years ago. The two organizations worked together on a Take Our Daughters to Work Day and other career-exploration programming that has included field trips to visit women executives at their offices in New York.
“Donor of the Day: A Sister’s Gift Helps Farm Effort for Autism.” By Melanie Grayce West. Wall Street Journal. October 15, 2011. Nelly Bly Arougheti is looking out for her little brother and providing new opportunities for people with special needs. Ms. Arougheti’s brother, Billy, suffered devastating brain injuries during birth that left him legally blind and unable to talk or walk. He has been a resident of the Center for Discovery in Harris, N.Y., for more than 15 years. There, he receives specialized care and opportunities to learn and socialize. “He’s the light of my life,” says Ms. Arougheti. The Center for Discovery supports some 315 residents, children and adults, who have severe disabilities. The center has a growing population of people with autism spectrum disorders. In addition to health and clinical care, there are physical education, music and animal therapy programs. Ms. Arougheti says staff members are always discovering new things for her brother; recently he learned to quilt through a device he can operate. “It’s inspiring,” she says. “They have such an amazing way of caring for children and adults.” Because of the center’s work and the family connection, Ms. Arougheti and her husband, Michael, will announce a challenge gift at the center’s gala on Saturday night. The Aroughetis are giving $250,000 to support the center’s Big Barn Discovery School Initiative, a partnership between the Center for Discovery and research institutions to develop ways to improve lives for children with autism and other disabilities. Ms. Arougheti is a 39-year-old writer and mother of two boys. She serves on the board of the Center for Discovery. The gift will go toward specially designed facilities that will help researchers to study autism in a classroom setting.
“A Billionaire With Distinct Ideas of Philanthropy, and Presidential Politics.” By Kirk Johnson. New York Times. October 15, 2011. Jon M. Huntsman Sr. — billionaire industrialist, father of a presidential hopeful, four-time cancer survivor — has no patience for the Scrooges of the world. Even the philanthropist club of billionaires started by Mr. Huntsman’s friend Warren E. Buffett that is trying to enlist the world’s richest to give away half their wealth seems tight-fisted to him. “I suggested 80 percent,” he said. “A tremendous number of wealthy people haven’t given much of anything.” While protesters from the Occupy Wall Street movement camp out across America, excoriating what they see as the greed of the affluent, and Democrats push the idea of a surtax on millionaires, a voice of soft-spoken but resolute insistence about the obligation to share can be heard here in the West. Mr. Huntsman, the son of a rural school teacher, built the multinational Huntsman Corporation from scratch starting in the 1970s, a chemical company with most of its operations now overseas. He sympathizes with the Wall Street protesters. The political system, he agreed, is broken. Ethics have foundered. But he argues that the rich, if they could be induced to greater generosity — and not simply be more stiffly taxed — could go a long way toward fixing things
“The volatility of modern wealth; Rags to riches to rags to riches; How to write about the financial crisis—and the pitfalls to avoid.” Review of Robert Frank, The High-Beta Rich: How the Manic Wealthy Will Take Us to the Next Boom, Bubble and Bust. The Economist. October 15, 2011. The great bubble—and the financial market meltdown that followed its bursting in September 2008—produced a publishing bubble of its own. Dozens of crisis books have hit the shelves, only for most of them to crash into instant oblivion. A few were page-turners, such as Andrew Ross Sorkin’s 2009 bestseller, “Too Big To Fail”, and Michael Lewis’s “The Big Short”, published the following year. But so many of them were turgid, me-too accounts by self-proclaimed insiders or ignored Cassandras trying to pin the blame on someone, or everyone, else. This was a subprime book market, long on conspiracy theory, short on insight. “The High-Beta Rich” is one that deserves to be read, and not just because it provides the rest of us with a cathartic dose of Schadenfreude at the expense of the super-wealthy. Robert Frank makes a new, contrarian argument with important implications for economic policymaking: modern wealth is a far more volatile substance than is commonly believed. As the wealth correspondent of the Wall Street Journal, Mr Frank has enjoyed a unique vantage point to report on the gilded early 21st century, and its aftermath.