Charity Connect

Charity Connect was founded by Cristin Caine to “create lifelong volunteers by personally matching clients with their right fit volunteer opportunity and by providing community service education.” They take the time to really connect with the individuals, youth and adults, who want to volunteer; taking the time to understand what their true passion is and making connections with the appropriate non-profits – setting the stage for a long and enriching relationship for all involved parties!

Who They Are 

Charity Connect currently is just serving Montgomery County, Maryland; building relationships with schools, neighborhoods and non-profits. They are an organization whose core belief is you don’t have to be wealthy to be philanthropic. Charity Connect’s premise is most people want to contribute, but they don’t know how; or they’ve tried and had negative experiences. Their focus is on ensuring everybody has the best opportunity to have a positive and memorable experience possible.

What They Do 

 

Charity Connect takes the time to understand what each prospective volunteer is looking for – not just the type of organization they want to volunteer with; but also what the volunteer’s strengths and passions are – because when these are tapped into it’s more likely the volunteer will enjoy his/her time with the non-profit, and the non-profit will see the best of the volunteer.

Charity Connect works with students, from preschool to college, generating excitement around volunteering and making it more than just being about ensuring you have enough student service learning (SSL) hours. However, it’s not just for youth – adults of all ages are more than welcome to connect and volunteer.

Cristin’s team works with the client (potential volunteer) to “develop and facilitate a comprehensive project including volunteer service, fundraising, and advocacy for special occasion and other in-depth service projects.” This really appeals to me, because too often I’ve seen people volunteer with a non-profit that didn’t really have a clear plan of what to do with them. This led to a less than enjoyable experience for the volunteer, and the non-profit loses a potential resource. Not only that, there’s a chance the individual shares his negative experience, because it’s an unfortunate truth people are more willing to share these than they are to share a positive experience.

What Else Should I Know

Charity Connect can be of service to anybody and everybody, in my humble opinion. If you own a company and you’re looking to build corporate goodwill, Cristin can work with you to match a non-profit with your company’s mission and corporate culture. I think I’ve already shown the benefit available to youth and adults. Non-profits struggle with finding the right types of volunteers, working with Charity Connect could provide a ready, on demand resource. Finally, I think parents and students are burned out on the same old same old when it comes to options to fulfill their SSL requirements. Cristin can offer a fresh perspective, and potentially opportunities you never would’ve considered.

Disclaimer

I am not an employee of Charity Connect and any errors noted are my own. If I have misrepresented, or misstated anything please provide constructive feedback so I may make the appropriate change(s). All opinions and views are my own.

Why I’d Rather Pay

Over the years I’ve been told, by well-meaning people, to trust in my network of friends and family to provide for my son when I’m gone; rather than hiring professionals. I know they mean well, and I will admit to a degree of cynicism; but when I’m gone I have taken measures to ensure my son has enough money to work with professionals for the duration of his life. This is not meant to imply any mistrust or cast doubt upon the capabilities of anyone in my personal sphere of influence – if I count someone as a friend it’s because they have proven time and again they may be relied upon, and I trust them implicitly.

Seems counter-intuitive, doesn’t it? After all – if I trust them, and I do; why would I not rely on them to help my son out? The short answer is they don’t have a stake in the game. I have no doubt they would do what they can for my son, but if push comes to shove they need to (and should) take care of their stuff first. For example, if they have a family emergency, I would not expect them to put it on hold to address the needs of my son.

Another of my considerations is doing what’s in HIS best interest. Again, I think most people mean well; but it can be easy to project one’s desires/interests onto someone else, especially if they do not have an active voice. This wouldn’t be done maliciously, or even consciously; but in my opinion it would eventually happen in more cases than not. Sometimes doing what is in someone else’s best interests requires them being told “No”; and this can be very difficult if  you have a relationship – because you want to keep them happy.

Using a professional significantly reduces these risks. If they are being paid for a service they have incentive to provide the service, and do so at a certain level of quality or they risk losing the contract. There are no feelings to be hurt by my hiring an impartial organization to monitor the delivery of the services I’ve requested. And there are much fewer acceptable reasons to not deliver the service they are being paid for.

If my son asks for something outside of the scope of the original agreement, I can build in parameters of what is acceptable – and the agency or individual(s) I’ve hired can use those parameters to make a decision. If it’s not in my son’s best interest, or acceptable within the parameters I’ve set forth; I have complete faith they’ll say “No”.

Are there risks, absolutely. It’s incumbent upon me to leave parameters broad enough to allow them to make the best decision; and I can’t predict every eventuality. There are costs associated, these are professionals and I’m asking them to provide a service – and you get what you pay for. To me, though; the benefits outweigh the costs. Being honest with myself about what I want, I took the time to do the research and get a baseline of what I can expect to pay. From there I worked out what I resources would be available when I’m gone; and purchased enough life insurance to make up the difference.

As is the case for anything else in our lives, this is a personal decision and will vary from individual to individual. In my case, I don’t want to rely on family and friends – for the reasons enumerated above; and I’m able to afford what I need to put this in action when I’m gone. Cost should never be the sole driver, but let’s be real – it will always be a consideration. For me, it means I’ve made some sacrifices over the years to afford the insurance; but in my mind it’s an investment towards my son’s future.

And this is what I think we all need to frame questions like this: Is it a cost, or an investment? If it’s a cost, then it can become very difficult to stick with the plan when you encounter challenges (and you will). But you believe, as I do, providing your child(ren) the opportunities they would be able to get for themselves if they didn’t have their disability is an investment you will let nothing get in your way.

Automate This…

I realize what I’m about to say goes against what I perceive to be “conventional wisdom”. When I was Active Duty I earned my Lean Six Sigma Green Belt and I understand, quite well I think, how to become more efficient and eliminate waste. With this in mind, I’m not a fan of having my clients set their bills up for auto-pay, for a couple reasons.

First, if you’re not monitoring it you can’t manage it. If “extra” credits are added to your bills, or if your spending increases incrementally, you may not notice right away – if at all. This problem is compounded if you’re paying your bills via credit card, because at least you’re checking account will notify you if it’s been over-drafted – assuming you live off a budget and are transferring just what you routinely spend.

I don’t buy into the argument that it’s going to save you a lot time; after all – how much time does it really take to pay your bills every month? Speaking for myself, I like to know where my money is going, and it may take me a whole hour (if I’m distracted for 45 minutes) to login to my bank, review my bills and assign the payments from my checking account.

What I’ve noticed over the years, with clients and seminar attendees across the wealth spectrum, is a rise in individuals who admit they are not sure where all their money is going . Will paying your bills solve this; no, not necessarily. But it will force you to acknowledge, if only for the moment you’re transferring the money or writing the check, how much you have spent.

So next time you hear an efficiency guru recommend automating your life, I recommend thinking twice; and being honest with what it’s really saving you. Because, in my opinion, what you’re being saved isn’t time – it’s the sometimes harsh reality you’re spending much more than you would like to admit; and not saving nearly as much as you know you should be.

So Busy, So What?!

I’ve noticed an disturbing trend lately, the number of people I know feeling they need to share how “busy” they are with me. I’m not sure what reaction they expect from me, but I’m willing to bet it’s not the one I find myself biting my tongue about. What is “busy”? If you tell someone you’re “too busy” or “so busy”, what are you really telling them?

Webster has quite a few definitions: “1. engaged in action; 2. full of activity; 3. foolishly or intrusively active; 4. full of intrusive design.” Conspicuously absent is anything describing what you’ve accomplished; which, in my opinion, is much more important. I have no interest in working unless there I accomplish something. I’ve felt like this since my time in the Navy, when we would be told we had to stay “just in case”, or were given busy work to occupy our time.

Nowadays it’s not uncommon for me to have a 4 or 6 hour work day, because if I’ve completed what I set out to accomplish for the day and I don’t have anything else pressing I’ll often just call it quits. By the same token, there will be times when I may put in 12 or 14 hours because I really want to finish what I’ve started. But at no point will I say I’m “too busy” to do something. I will either give a reason for why I will do whatever it is I’m asked to do, or I will propose a time frame I think is reasonable taking into account whatever else I need to accomplish. If it’s a high priority, then I will either move other items or put in the longer day, as required.

When someone tells me “I’m too busy”, what I hear is “I don’t know how to manage my time”. Harsh? Perhaps, but I know many successful people who enjoy a fantastic work-life balance, and do not say they were “too busy”. In my opinion, based upon my personal experience, those who accomplish a lot are the same ones who are able to find the time to take on even more.

The trick, as I see it, is to limit activities to those which add value. For example, how much time do you (the reader) spend on Facebook, checking e-mails and/or shooting the breeze? Unless these are part of your job description, they’re probably not adding value to the work you’re paid to do. Another reason people feel busy, in my experience, is multi-tasking – trying to do several things at once. I’m not saying categorically it’s impossible to be a successful multi-tasker, because I haven’t done any research to back a claim like this up. What I am saying is it’s easy to understand why you would feel like you’re busy or overwhelmed if you have multiple projects open and you’re trying to determine (1) which one to tackle first and (2) how you’re going to get everything you think you need to get done, done.

So next time you feel like telling anyone how busy you are, ask yourself what you’re trying to accomplish. Do you want the other person to understand how much you’re doing? Are you trying to justify why you “can’t” do something? Take a moment to explore this internally, and weigh your options. What do you really need to get done, and what are you doing because it makes  you feel good? What must be done during the work day to accomplish the goals and tasks set for you, and what can you put off until a break or the end of the day? In my opinion, when you stop being “busy” you’ll be amazed at how productive you can be.

What Should I Say?

More often than not the first thing somebody says to me when they find out my son has Autism is “Where is he on the Spectrum” or “Is he high-functioning?” Speaking only for myself, as a parent neither of these questions has an easy, or comfortable answer – and even if they did I don’t believe the individual(s) asking would understand. It’s my belief these questions are asked because people don’t know what else to say, and I’m hoping this will help change that.

Yes, Autism is a disorder that has a “spectrum”; but the DSM-V doesn’t provide a band we can point to and say our son/daughter is here. Often times the diagnosis of Autism comes with accompanying intellectual disabilities, as is the case with my son; or other disorders. The idea of a spectrum is, in my opinion, really only helpful to physicians and insurance companies trying to prescribe and pay for the proper treatments.

Generally, high functioning Autism applies to people with an IQ higher than 75. Using this definition, my answer has to be “no, my son is not high functioning”. However, if you take a more general approach, looking at how self-reliant people with Autism are; then my answer would be “yes”. My son cooks his own dinner, self-regulates all aspects of his personal hygiene, provides me with a weekly grocery list, puts laundry away and makes his bed every morning – to list just a few of his independent living skills. I would argue that at 17 he is much more “high-functioning” than many of his peers without a disability.

So what should people say/do? In short – nothing different than you would if I told you I had a son, period. Speaking for myself, if I disclose my son has Autism I’m not looking for sympathy – rather I’m hoping to explain behaviors that may seem “off” despite my son having no visible disabilities. I will also disclose his diagnosis to help explain why he will not graduate at 18, instead staying in school until 21.

Frankly, I feel the sooner we as a society stop taking special notice (not the same thing as providing accommodations) of individuals with disabilities the better. I acknowledge this is will be a challenge, because despite this being the 21st century race and sex are still an issue for some people. But I’m optimistic – I really believe most of us are trying to do the right thing, and with these particular questions are asking because people are uncomfortable and are trying to fit the information into their available models. With time, patience and education I know our models will expand; in the interim I ask everyone to stop themselves before asking about the disability, and instead focus on the amazing individual him/herself.

I am NOT finding fault or placing blame with anyone. This is not meant to be offensive, and if it makes you uncomfortable or angry; I would ask you to explore the “why”.