Q16: And what does MIC plan on doing in the future?
A: What Elyse and I, along with the MIC volunteers, have come to know from dealing with Lewis’s health issues is that time is short, and so you have to make as big a difference as possible in the limited time you have available to you. Soo this year, not only will you see a lot of the favorite events come back for an encore, you’ll see all kinds of new things that I’m too excited to talk about at this time.
Of course, if you’re subscribed to the MIC e-newsletter, you already have an idea what MIC has in store for 2011 to raise awareness of disabilities and funds for non-profit organizations. Always keeping Lewis’ health in mind when planning awareness and fundraising events, we’re going to push even harder to Make It Count.
Q17: What is the most favorite thing you’ve done in the charitable community to date?
A: Well, each opportunity offers its own special awards. I have nothing to do with the Festival of Trees, for which Elyse performs every year. But I love to watch her perform. Funds raised from that event are donated to the local hospital and other health care organizations in the community.
As for direct involvement, I very much enjoyed donating one of my print — Late Night In The Borough – to a fundraiser for the Brock Street Mission that serves those who are homeless in Peterborough (Ontario, Canada). The higher the bid, the more money went to support the mission. I am pleased to announce that 100% of what was bid went directly to support the mission.
Ultimately, the mission stayed open, which I thought was not only great, but important as well.
The event was hosted by a local alderwoman. Elyse did a great job singing at the event (at no cost, of course), and she sold some of her CDs there. A portion of the proceeds from the sales of CDs sold (since a portion of the proceeds was already earmarked for a different non-profit organization) also went to the mission.
And Lewis, who has a heart as big as they get, donated sets of his art cards to sell at the fundraiser as well. And why? Because, in his own words, “It’s the right thing to do. Sometimes I get sad when I think about how it is for homeless people and their kids. We have to help them.”
I cannot tell you what a great feeling it was working with Elyse and Lewis on such a great cause. And that wasn’t the end of it.
Elyse, Lewis and I wrote letters to the Editors of the local regional and city newspapers. Our reason for doing so was to draw attention to the importance of keeping the shelter open for the homeless even in bad economic times. All three of us were published, and not just in one newspaper! You don’t see that happen too often in a community where the potential readership for newspapers collectively is in the hundreds of thousands.
Lewis was pleased to see that he was making a difference in the lives of so many people, so that was an added bonus for myself and for his mother. Being able to mentor to him like that and see him, under his own free will, do something so nice and thoughtful for so many others.
Q18: Which is the best charity to donate to?
A: That’s not for me to say. What you have to do is find the one that best represents the cause or causes you believe in. Then you ought to check up on what percentage of the money they raise actually goes to those who need it.
All non-profits in the US file what’s called a 990 form with the IRS (I understand Canada has similar laws as well). Examine that form and you will be able to see all the cash that’s coming in, all the cash that is going out, what the top executives are being paid and other important details that will help you decide whether to donate to the non-profit. There are places online where you can view these documents as part of the public domain. If you live elsewhere in the world, I am sure there are similar ways to investigate the charity of your choice.
Q19: Which organizations should I NOT donate to?
A: That’s not for me to say either. What you have to do is familiarize yourself with the issues of the segment of the non-profit community within which your charity exists. If you’re looking to support a Multiple Sclerosis organization for example, get to know everything you can on MS. Then ask whether the potential recipient organization of your donation subscribes to the reputable science that you have discovered in your explorations.
Is the organization financially sound?
Does it operate ethically?
Don’t be afraid to ask as many questions as you have to before you feel confident about contributing.
Q20: As MIC expands, will MIC ever leave autism behind?
A: I doubt it. In the congratulatory comments we’ve received on the success of the MIC blog, we’ve been thanked for our contribution to the autism community.
You don’t just invest yourself in a community and then turn your back on it once they recognize you for your efforts.
Once you’ve made a positive difference, you achieve a position where you have the potential to build on those achievements even more. It would be scatter-brained to go from cause to cause like a ball bouncing from place to place.
That’s why Elyse and I along with the MIC volunteers plan to continue building on what we’ve achieved as a group of caring individuals who volunteer our time to make this world a better place for all people. We want to use our experience raising funds and awareness for autism as one of the major cornerstones of MIC.
Just as a person or business can go anywhere when it has a solid foundation upon which to build, so can an initiative that is 100% volunteer run. Personally, I can tell you that remembering where you came from and always keeping in touch with that place also keeps you humble, and it is staying humble that is one of the keys to the collective and individual multiple successes of the MIC volunteers, Lewis, Elyse and myself.
As I said at the beginning of the first part in this 5-part series, from time to time I may revisit this concept and answer other questions I’ve received in my travels.
In the meantime, I’m going to continue to Make It Count as best I can, and so will the Midnight In Chicago Tourism and Culture Initiative.