#GivingTuesday Tools & Tips for Nonprofits

Tuesday, December 2, 2014 is the event known as #GivingTuesday, a global day dedicated to giving back. Charities, families, businesses, community centers, and students around the world will come together for one common purpose: to celebrate generosity and to give.

As a nonprofit organization, #GivingTuesday offers you a great opportunity to energize your supporters to participate in a worldwide movement. Lasting just 24 hours, #GivingTuesday creates a sense of urgency, motivating them to give.

We want to make #GivingTuesday as successful as possible for all JustGive’s nonprofit partners (Not a partner yet? Sign up here – it’s free!).

Here are a few tips and tools to help you make the most of #GivingTuesday:

Brand Your JustGive Donation Page With #GivingTuesday        

Help drive donations by customizing your JustGive donation page with #GivingTuesday branding.Upload a logo that incorporates #GivingTuesday, add special, jg_gtsuggested donation amounts like $122.14 (12-2-14), or add a special program designation for #GivingTuesday contributions. The more your donation page and communications leverage the #GivingTuesday campaign, the more inspired your donors are to give.

Get Your Graphics and Links Ready

The #GivingTuesday website has a library of images and graphics you can use on your website, in emails and on social media to drive donations. Just be sure to use your custom JustGive donate page link with the graphics.

Plan Your Communications

#GivingTuesday only lasts 24 hours so it’s important to make the most of your communications that day. Plan how you’ll communicate on social media and by email. gtWe recommend emailing your donors early in the morning on #GivingTuesday, asking them to donate through your JustGive link, and encouraging them to follow your progress on your social media channels.

Then, throughout the day, use social media to update your supporters. Be sure to use the #GivingTuesday hashtag in your communications. Make it easy on yourself and take advantage of ready-to-use materials: visit the #GivingTuesday website for free nonprofit tools, sample messages, logos, and more.

Track Your Donations In Real-Time

Donors love knowing that they’re part of a bigger effort, and nothing motivates giving like seeing others give. Share your #GivingTuesday progress with your supporters throughout the day on Facebook, Twitter and other social networks. To get your real-time donation data, log into your JustGive Nonprofit account to view reports. Then thank your donors for their contribution with a tweet or Facebook post (we recommend first name, last initial to preserve people’s privacy). A post like “Thanks for making a donation this #GivingTuesday, Sarah B.!” makes Sarah feel good, and will inspire others to join in.

To find out more about #GivingTuesday and get even more tips and toolkits, visit http://www.givingtuesday.org/. Here’s to a very successful December 2!

– Sarah Bacon

Director of Product

Get involved in the fight for Alzheimer’s disease

blog_title_image_alzheimersTwo of my good friends have lost their mothers to Alzheimer’s disease. It’s a heartbreaking experience. I watched as the women I knew disappeared into themselves and blankly became someone who didn’t recognize their own child.

One friend described it as losing her mother twice – once to Alzheimer’s and once to death. And it’s the ultimate role reversal: The parent who taught you how to tie your shoes now needs you to do it. That’s true for so many simple, everyday actions.

The sixth leading cause of death in the United States, flickr_ann_gordon_mom_handsAlzheimer’s disease is an irreversible, progressive brain disease that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills. Every 67 seconds, someone in the US develops the disease. Today, more than 5.2 million Americans are living with it.

Recent studies found low Vitamin D can double the risk of Alzheimer’s but didn’t show a direct cause and effect link. Why it strikes older adults is still a mystery, and scientists don’t yet understand what causes the disease. It’s most likely a mix of genetic, environmental and lifestyle factors.

As the number of people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s continues to soar (tripling to 16 million by 2050), it’s maddening there are no clear ways to slow or stop the progression of this life-robbing disease. It’s the only cause of death among the top 10 in America that can’t be cured.

What can we do?

Fund research and advocacy.

Here are three organizations making a difference through research and policy changes:

The Alzheimer’s Association, started in 1980, is the world’s leading voluntary health organization in Alzheimer’s care, support and research. Committed to accelerating the progress of new treatments, preventions and ultimately, finding a cure, the association reaches millions of people affected by the disease across the globe. If you’d like to support Alzheimer’s Association and get some exercise at the same time, join one of the Fall Walks to End Alzheimer’s. Find one in your area here.

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BrightFocus Foundation supports research and provides public education to eradicate brain and eye diseases, including Alzheimer’s. The foundation awards research money annually to fund highly innovative, experimental ideas it believes will lead to revolutionary therapies.

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The Alliance for Aging Research advances scientific and medical discoveries that can maximize healthy aging, independence and quality of life for older Americans. Founded in 1986 in Washington D.C., it has become a valued advocacy organization and a respected influential voice with policymakers. The Alliance believes that research helps people live longer, happier, more productive lives, and reduces health care costs, long term.

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Give to organizations that support caregivers.

Family Caregiver Alliance (FCA) is one of those organizations. Founded in the late 1970s, FCA was the first community-based nonprofit organization in the country to address the needs of families and friends providing long-term care for loved ones at home. The alliance raises awareness about caregivers’ daily challenges, provides the assistance they need and deserve, and helps improve the quality of life for them and those they care for through education, services, research and advocacy.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 15.5 million caregivers provided 17.7 billion hours of unpaid care to those with Alzheimer’s and other dementia in 2013.

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Be there for friends who are caregivers.

Don’t shy away or do nothing when you learn a friend has a family member with Alzheimer’s. Instead of asking them to let you know if they need something–just step in and help: Tell them you’re bringing over dinner on a given night. Or when flickr_Susumu_Komatsu_ALZ_TYyou’re stopping by with groceries. Send them cards of encouragement in the mail.  Call or visit when it’s convenient, and listen while they vent. On any given day, you have no idea how much it can mean to them!

While there is no single answer for tackling Alzheimer’s disease, I know the care I’ve shown and donations I make can help . . . until a cure is found. I challenge you to do the same. Join the fight today.

-Candy Culver

Marketing Consultant

A fond adieu to Kelly after 7 years at JustGive

We have a great crew here at JustGive and many of our team members have been working here for over 5 years.

Today, we said a bittersweet farewell to Kelly, who has worked at JustGive for 7 years. In those 7 years, Kelly has worked or helped out in pretty much every area of the company whether it be marketing, customer service or tech. And she’s always done it with a smile and as we know here in the office, a snazzy ‘do.

Like many JustGive team members, Kelly has a charity registry on our website to help support the organizations that matter most to her.

“I care deeply about bringing awareness to the issue of violence against women —particularly providing services and advocacy for survivors of domestic violence. Check out the inspiring video below and then help me raise money to provide services and advocate for survivors. ”

Kelly, we’ll not only miss your great style, but also your laugh, your big heart, your willingness to help out with anything, your penchant for purple, your inclusion in “dance breaks” and most of all, your dedication to JustGive and what we do.

We will miss you and wish you all the best in your endeavors.

The JustGive team

Help Save Animals—Channel Your Care and Passion into Action.

blog_title_image_animal_cruelty

We have a 2-year old goldendoodle affectionately known as “Sir Riley Flannigan.” Flannigan for his apricot color, Riley’s a mix of poodle and golden retriever that’s taken a place in my life and heart I could never have imagined.

My family had outside cats and dogs when I was growing up on the farm, but until Riley (who doesn’t shed), my allergies kept me from owning an animal as an adult. Now, sharing every day with such a loving, sensitive, energetic, and smart dog that has comforted me through sadness and sickness– I can’t imagine what kind of person could harm or hurt any companion animal.

We know animals love and remember us, and feel pain and fear. Their eyes and expressions tell us what they can’t say. They’re companions who watch over and protect us. Dogs, in particular, give many humans a new “leash” on life—they guide the blind and visually impaired, improve the lives of autistic children, save diabetics, and give independence to people with disabilities and veterans.

There’s no question our pets miss us when we’re gone—watch Bugaboo show and tell his owner, Lieutenant Gary Daughtery, how happy he is to see him after six months overseas:

http://on.aol.com/video/soldier-comes-home-to-warm-welcome-from-dog-517865377

 

Honestly, the many types of animal abuse and cruelty—what we know, see, read and hear about—can be overwhelming. I sometimes turn away from TV ads and scroll quickly past Facebook posts because they get to me. And I feel pretty helpless to stop all the abuse. There are a lot of issues to tackle.

How do we move past anger and overwhelm about how animals are treated to help save them? We can start with what we see every day and be their voice—using our passion to take action.

Learn and Recognize Signs of Pet Abuse

Pay attention to the animals around you. Are there any dogs you’ve seen chained up for hours on end? Have you ever walked your dog and witnessed another aggressive, out of control one? Or gone by a house where there are so many animals you worry about their care? These could be signs of neglect or violence.

  • Neglect is denying an animal adequate food, water, shelter (a dog house), medical care (injuries left untreaDogted), clean area, socialization (is the animal aggressive or timid when approached by owner), or chained up in a yard.
  • Violence is deliberately torturing, beating, or mutilating an animal.

Speak Up: Report Abuse

Almost all acts of animal violence or neglect are punishable by law. While animal cruelty laws vary from state to state, 49 states have laws that contain felony provisions. (South Dakota is the only one that doesn’t). Be prepared: Search online at Pets911 or PetFinder’s database to find a local animal control department, animal shelter or humane society in your area—and program the number into your cell phone.

If you suspect abuse or neglect of any animal, report it to your local police department or area animal control agency. If you’re traveling, call the local police department (911).

If you know of dog or cock fighting, call The Humane Society hotline at 1-877-TIP-HSUS and report it.

Donate—Support Organizations Working to Stop the Abuse

According to the ASPCA, every 60 seconds an animal is abused. Put your money where your heart is, and give for the education, protection, and care Stray Kittenof animals. (Consider an ongoing monthly gift.) If you don’t know where to start:

While animal issues may seem staggering and even depressing, you and I can take action to make life better for them—to end suffering and save these amazing creatures, one by one.  And the next time I sit with Riley or get a doggie kiss, I’ll feel good knowing I’m doing something to help precious creatures like him.

-Candy Culver

Marketing Consultant

 

One Million Donations and Counting!

blog_title_image_millionWe reached a major milestone in the history of JustGive last week when we processed the one-millionth donation on our website.

Who was behind this auspicious donation? His name is Al Danish, and he hails from Glen Mills, Pennsylvania.

Al made his donation to PathWays PA, a nonprofit dedicated to helping to keep low-income, vulnerable women together with their children by offering programs and services that help families stabilize their lives.

“If my donation can help in a small way, then that makes me feel good,” Al said about helping PathWays.

Al said his role as a grandfather of two makes PathWays’ mission even more relevant to him. “I liked the idea of making a donation for something specific like a case of diapers for a baby,” Al said.

Pathways PA is also a JustGive nonprofit affiliate. Since 2008, they’ve used our nonprofit services to accept donations through their website.

With just a few clicks, PathWays created a customized donation page, allowing their donors to select from a list of suggested gifts like $25 to “provide basic toiletries to a mom in need,” or to enter in any desired donation amount.

“JustGive is a wonderful avenue for our online donors to give in a quick and easy way,” said Fran Franchi, Director of Development for PathWays. “We are so grateful for supporters like Al Danish. Thank you, Al for your continued support of PathWays PA’s mission and congratulations on being the one-millionth donor.”

Al was gracious about his 15 minutes of online donor fame when we first shared the news, saying, “You made me feel very good about helping out with a donation.”

JustGive was one of the first nonprofit organizations to channel the power of the Internet for online giving. Since 2000, we have sent more than $400 million to over 70,000 charities working throughout the world—and every day, we are inspired by donors like Al Danish to create new ways for people to find, learn about, and support virtually any charity, anytime.

Thank you to Al and PathWays PA for helping us reach this important milestone!

 

—Sarah Bacon, Director of Product

Nonprofits: We Want to Feature Your Organization!

image source: flickr

image source: flickr

One of the things I love most about working for JustGive is learning about new (to me) nonprofits, and seeing the passion behind their work. I can’t wait to tell the world about them.

Introducing donors to the great work that nonprofits do every day is fun and rewarding for me. I love sharing what I learn….which means that I love spreading the word for you!

If you’re a charity that uses our Donate Now button, don’t pass up this chance to connect with more donors who can support your efforts.

Check out the ways we can feature your organization:

JustGive features nonprofits on facebook

Facebook and Social Media

Our Facebook features include a short description of the charity’s mission, along with a large photo (we usually “share” a cover photo) and a link to their donation page.

JustGive features video from charities

YouTube and Video
We upload video submissions to our YouTube Channel and may also feature them on our homepage, blog, or Facebook page. In fact, we have a video on our homepage right now — check it out to see an example. You don’t have to do any fancy editing for your video; just use your smart phone or mini cam.

Our Blog

We periodically feature nonprofit organizations in blog posts focused on individual causes—promoting a single charity or several like-minded organizations to raise donor awareness. Here are a few examples:

For more information, check out our criteria for being featured.

We’d also love to connect with you on social media: If you are active on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, or Pinterest, please send me an email so we can connect.

We hope to hear from you soon!

—Sara Olsher, Marketing Manager

Our Oceans are in Crisis: An Introduction to Key Problems

Out-of-sight, out-of-mind: it’s human nature. Unless we see a problem right in front of us, it’s hard to keep it in our thoughts.

When we think of problems with the ocean, we usually think of trash seen accumulating on the beach. But the ocean is a big place, covering 70% of the Earth’s surface, and the issues facing it are far more serious and widespread than the debris we see along our coastlines.

We Depend on the Oceans

How do the oceans impact YOU? Even if you live in Middle America, far away from the coastline, you depend on the ocean:

  • The oceans produce at least 50% of all oxygen on the planet.
  • The ocean acts as a “global thermostat,” taking in heat from the sun and keeping our planet’s temperature in relative balance.
  • Seafood is a major source of food around the globe.
  • Ocean-related industry is important for the global economy, providing revenue through fishing, seafood distribution, tourism, recreation and transportation.
  • Biomedical products derived from marine plant and animal sources provide important health benefits.

Unfortunately, our oceans are in crisis, and the problems are so far-reaching and complicated that it was difficult for me to write about this succinctly. The environment is a passion of mine, and my goal with this post is to generally introduce a few major problems facing the ocean, and point you to some nonprofits working to solve them.

Plastic Pollution

The problem of ocean pollution extends much further than what you see on our beaches.

Approximately 90% of ocean waste is plastic, which never decomposes – it just breaks down into smaller and smaller particles, which enter the food chain when they are ingested by sea life. Over 100,000 marine mammals and one million seabirds die each year from ingesting or becoming entangled in plastic.

Enough plastic is thrown away each year to circle the earth four times. This year we will add 14 billion pounds of trash to the ocean.

The good news is it’s really easy to make small changes that make a big impact. If you make one change in your life, please decrease your dependence on single-use plastics. The lid on your Starbucks cup or the plastic grocery bag you used for 15 minutes will never decompose. It will most likely end up in the ocean.

You may think you are doing enough simply by recycling your plastics—but unfortunately, plastic recycling is misleading. That “recycle” symbol on your coffee lid only identifies the type of plastic used and doesn’t indicate that something is recyclable. In fact, coffee lids and straws are usually not recyclable. The best thing you can do for our environment is to reuse: get a reusable coffee mug and water bottle, and carry reusable bags everywhere you go.

Learn more >> Watch the Bag It Documentary (streaming on Netflix!)
Read more >> The Price We Pay for Convenience | My Plastic Free Life
Make a difference >> Reduce your use of plastic
Make a difference >> Donate to Plastic Pollution Coalition
Donate Now

Other Types of Pollution

In addition to plastic pollution, the ocean is affected by air pollution, oil contamination, and human waste.

Over the last 250 years (since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution), oceans have absorbed 530 billion tons of carbon dioxide, generating a 30 percent increase in ocean acidity. A more acidic ocean could wipe out species, disrupt the food chain, and impact fishing, tourism and anything else that relies on the ocean.

Learn more about carbon dioxide >> Natural Resources Defense Council
Learn the effects of oil pollution >> Oceana
Learn about mercury in seafood >> Video – from Source to Seafood
Why you should choose not to cruise >> Cruise ship pollution
Make a difference >> Donate to Oceana
Donate Now

Overfishing & Sharks

“Apex” predators, such as sharks, are extremely sensitive to overfishing: They have few natural predators, are slow to mature, and have very few young. When an animal at the top of the food chain disappears, the rest of the ecosystem often spirals out of control. With declining large shark populations, smaller sharks, skates, and rays increase in numbers and their prey then plummets—eventually causing a collapse of the oceanic ecosystem.

In addition to the overfishing of predators, the seafood trade has led to the decimation of countless fish species. In order to meet the global demand for seafood, the industry is catching fish faster than they can reproduce.

Learn more about sharks >> Why Shark Conservation
Learn more about overfishing >> Greenpeace
Make a Difference >> Donate to Shark Safe (one of COARE’s projects)
Donate Now

Global Warming and Climate Change

Since the rise of the Industrial age, carbon dioxide emissions have increased drastically, resulting in a steady increase of the Earth’s temperature.

With rising temperatures, glaciers have started to melt, causing sea levels to rise; scientists estimate a rise of 4 to 36 inches in the next 100 years. Consider the impact: Worldwide, approximately 100 million people live within 36 inches (three feet) of sea level.

Global Warming also has a devastating effect on wildlife. Polar bears are completely dependent on ice—which they use for hunting and resting—for survival. They are now considered a threatened species, since they have to swim much further distances to find stable ice, and their main source of food (the ringed seal) is disappearing.

Learn More >> Watch the Chasing Ice documentary
Learn More >> How Global Warming Works
Learn more >> Rising sea levels
Make a Difference >> Donate to Polar Bears International
Donate Now

Unfortunately, I’ve only covered a small portion of the problems facing the ocean.  We know less about our oceans than we do about outer space! Consequently, we likely underestimate its value and don’t fully understand the implications of the damage we are doing.

For more information, watch the Death of the Oceans documentary (the full film is online).

Did you learn something new, or have something to add? We’d love to hear your thoughts. Comment below, or join the conversation on Facebook!

—Sara Olsher, Marketing Manager

Help the Homeless: Think Long-Term

Walking to work in San Francisco, I pass by homeless people every day. They are hungry, dirty and—heartbreakingly—ignored by pretty much everyone. I often find myself wondering: “What is the best way to help them?”

As I saw it (and maybe you do to), there were three main ways to help the homeless:

  1. Give cash, straight from my wallet.
  2. Buy them a sandwich, bag of chips, or coffee.
  3. Donate to a local homeless shelter.

But which option is best? As it turns out, there’s a fourth option.

Think Long-Term

These three ideas are short-term solutions. Providing a homeless person with cash or food helps for a couple of hours. A shelter offers a place for them to sleep for a few nights. But beyond that, what can be done to create a better life for a homeless person?

I recently had the opportunity to talk with two people from Delivering Innovation in Supportive Housing (DISH) here in San Francisco. They work very closely with the homeless population here, and have opened my eyes to another way to end homelessness. It involves long-term thinking and systemic changes.

The problem of homelessness comes from, quite simply, a lack of homes. This population faces a lot of challenges, often including substance abuse or mental illness, which make it difficult or impossible to live in traditional housing. Homeless shelters are short-term opportunities, as is transitional housing. And when there’s nowhere to transition a person to, we need to start thinking more long-term: we need permanent, supportive housing solutions.

What is Supportive Housing?

Supportive Housing is more than just affordable housing. DISH works with the Department of Public Health to provide housing with on-site property management, licensed clinical social workers, and case managers. These professionals deliver access to the medical and mental health resources the formerly homeless need, as well as helping them learn to live with other people (after having been isolated for so long). The goal is, quite simply, to get people healthier and provide them with a place to live—permanently.

According to DISH, most of their tenants are successful once they get in the door.  Some eventually do transition out on their own, looking for a more independent living situation, but most stay in Supportive Housing, and off the streets.

How You Can End Homelessness

Many of the improvements to homeless programs across the country have come from grassroots efforts. Here’s how you can truly help them:

  1. Get involved in your city. The main obstacle to Supportive Housing is a lack of housing. If there are abandoned buildings in your city, find out what the plan is for them. Repurposing empty buildings for supportive and affordable housing is a great goal; it often improves the value of the surrounding area, as well.
  2. Talk to your elected officials – What are they doing to end homelessness? Are they champions for affordable and supportive housing?
  3. Donate to local or national organizations working to provide supportive housing. Here are three of our favorites:

Delivering Innovation in Supportive Housing (DISH)
DISH is a project through Tides Center, and works with San Francisco’s homeless population. They are dedicated to serving adults with complex health, mental health, and substance use issues through supportive housing. Their goal is to end homelessness in San Francisco.
Donate

Corporation for Supportive Housing
CSH is a national organization that helps communities create permanent housing with services to prevent and end homelessness. Their website is a great source for learning more about Supportive Housing, and their “Resources” section can help you initiate change in your area.
Donate

National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty
The Law Center was created to prevent and end homelessness by serving as the legal arm of the nationwide movement. They work to change policy, which is an important part of the issue.
Donate

I’d like to thank John Mark Johnson and Lauren Hall from DISH for taking the time to talk with me about this issue.

–Sara Olsher, Marketing Manager

Encouraging your child to read

Encouraging your child to read

Source: Sara Olsher

Every night after my daughter and I climb into bed, she picks three books for me to read to her. In the morning, the first thing she does after she opens her eyes is reach for a book to “read” out loud.

Children have a natural curiosity for reading that amazes me. My daughter has gone from literally eating her books at 6 months old to reciting them from memory at 2 years old. She has a veritable library full of board books to choose from, and at the end of most days, they’re scattered all over the living room.

How does the average parent encourage literacy?

If I’m being totally honest, I don’t have a clue what I’m doing when it comes to teaching my daughter (Charlie) to read. We sing the ABC song and we read aloud every day—but is that enough?

The nonprofit Reading is Fundamental (RIF) is an amazing resource for learning more about literacy and teaching your child to read. As it turns out, a big part of early reading is simply learning the joy of storytelling—which means I’m doing all right so far. In addition to reading books, you might try singing, finger plays (like “Itsy Bitsy Spider” and “I’m a Little Teapot”), and nursery rhymes, which are great ways to get small children excited. Toddlers who love for someone to read to them often begin “pre-reading,” which is what Charlie is doing when she tries to recite her books from memory. This is the first step toward literacy.

Reading books out loud helps children understand that letters have meaning, and you can emphasize this by teaching them the ABC song, making letters out of pipe cleaners, letting them play with flash cards, or shaping letters out of play doh. You don’t need to drill your two year-old with flash cards, though—simply making the commitment to read to them every day is the most important thing you can do.

Toddler enjoying books

Source: Sara Olsher

For older children, the goal is to learn to read fluently, not to read every word. This means resisting the urge to jump in every time they skip a word or miss a sound. If your child understands what he or she is reading—that is, the meaning behind the story—they’re on the path to a lifetime of reading. Not sure? Ask detailed questions about the book to encourage comprehension.

Ultimately, children learn by example, so pick up a book and read with your little one. If you enjoy reading, it’s likely your child will want to try it, too.

For fun resources, check out RIF’s Learning to Read section (which is also available in Spanish).  I am madly in love with their “finger plays” page, which teaches all the hand gestures to popular rhymes like Pat-a-Cake.

What about kids who don’t have these resources?

RIF, sharing books with children

Source: RIF

Unfortunately, not every child has a parent with the ability to encourage reading. Did you know that two-thirds of America’s children living in poverty have NO books at home?By the fourth grade, an astonishing forty percent of children do not achieve basic levels of reading proficiency. According to RIF, African American and Hispanic students are, on average, nearly three academic years behind their White peers at this age.

It’s clear that having access to books at home is key for helping children learn to read: fourth graders who reported having 25+ books at home had higher scores on reading tests than children who didn’t have that many books (NCES, 2003).

Organizations like RIF are working to encourage literacy for all children. In addition to the awesome resources I listed above, they have a variety of programs aimed at helping children who don’t have easy access to books. One of their programs is called Books for Ownership, which distributes 15 million new, free books to 4 million children in all US states and territories. Two other programs, Care to Read and Family of Readers, empower childcare staff and parents with the resources they need to encourage reading.

Motivated to help? I am super inspired by Reading is Fundamental (their bumper sticker is now on my car), and I encourage you to support this amazing organization with your donation:

For just $10, you can provide 4 books for children in need.

Donate

For 20 more charities providing valuable educational and reading resources, check out the JustGive Guide. And you could be the difference in a child’s life!

Thank you very much to Margaret Carter and Samantha Louk from Reading is Fundamental for the images and statistics about this important topic.

—Sara Olsher, Marketing Manager

Protecting our Children from Sexual Abuse

I have a very vivid memory from my childhood: my mother sitting on the couch, tears running down her cheeks. She wasn’t crying about a tragic event or a sad movie. She was crying at—get this—a McDonald’s commercial. My dad and I used to make fun of her mercilessly for crying at the very thought of something bad happening. Now I feel guilty, because I realize (after the birth of my own daughter) that the tears were beyond her control: motherhood did it to her.

Parenthood changes people. Our children bring us more joy than we ever could have imagined . . . and they also bring us fear we never knew. It feels like our hearts are running around outside our bodies, loose from our chests and unprotected. Every sad story is a reminder that we can’t always protect our precious little ones. It’s an awful, awful feeling. That feeling has made me dread writing this blog post.

The horrible truth is that we can’t always protect our children. There are things that are beyond our control, things that we could never predict. So we arm ourselves with information and keep our eyes wide open, hoping our awareness and preparedness will keep our children from becoming a statistic.

Because the statistics are not good. According to Darkness to Light, a quarter of all girls and a sixth of all boys are sexually abused before the age of 18. A staggering 90% of the victims know and trust their abuser. Most children never report the abuse.

How can we protect our children?

As parents, we have a duty to protect our kids, because they can’t protect themselves. While it is important to teach kids how to stay safe, they’re children—imagine how difficult it is for a child to say “no” to someone they trust, like a parent, family friend, teacher, coach or member of the clergy. According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN), there are a lot of steps you can take to protect your kids:

Talk with them about sexuality and sexual abuse in age-appropriate terms.

  • Talking openly teaches your kids they can ask you anything, anytime they have questions.
  • Don’t have one big talk about sexuality—create an ongoing dialogue.
  • Teach your kids the correct names for their body parts, so they have the language to express concerns about them.
  • Teach them that some body parts are private, and others should not touch or look at those parts unless they need to provide care.
  • Tell your children that if someone tries to touch those private parts OR an adult wants them to touch their own private parts . . . to tell you or another trusted adult right away.
  • Let your kids know it’s okay to say “no” if they are uncomfortable with the way someone touches them, and to tell you or another trusted adult right away.
  • Abusers often tell a child that the abuse is a “secret.” If you talk openly with your kids, you teach them it’s okay to talk about sexuality. Tell them they will never get in trouble if they tell you this kind of secret.

Be involved in your child’s life.

  • Learn about your child’s activities, the people they go to school with or play with. Get to know other parents and coaches.
  • Ask your kids what they did during the day.
  • Know the other people your kids might talk to. Sometimes kids don’t feel like they can talk to their parents, but they might feel comfortable talking to other family members or friends.

Be Available.

  • Spend time with your child.
  • Let them know you are always available to talk to, and you’ll never get mad at them for talking about something that makes them uncomfortable.

For more on what you can do, visit RAINN or Darkness to Light, two organizations with a wealth of information about preventing child abuse.

How can we help other children?

Sadly, not every child has a loving family—and even those who do might not be able to talk to their parents. There are many charities working nation- and world-wide to prevent and end child abuse, and to help victims heal. Here are three great organizations:

RAINN

RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) is the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization and was named one of “America’s 100 Best Charities” by Worth magazine. They maintain a national sexual abuse hotline and work to educate people about all types of sexual abuse.


 

Stop the Silence

Stop the Silence calls child sexual abuse “a silent epidemic” because so few children talk about it. They aim to expose child sexual abuse and to help victims heal.

 

National Child Protection Training Center

The NCPTC works to end child abuse through awareness, prevention, and advocacy. NCPTC staff have trained more than 40,000 child protection professionals in all 50 states and 17 countries.


Although it seems as though there are “bad guys” around every corner, waiting to hurt our children, the good news is this: there are now resources for victims as well as parents, educators, churches and anyone who works with children. In years past, there was no help, and even talking about sexual abuse was taboo. We’re taking those hurdles away and shining a brighter light on such an important issue. Please continue the conversation with your family.

–Sara Olsher, Marketing Manager