Charity: Make it Your Wedding’s “Something New”

When planning a wedding, online access to friends’ wedding albums, DIY blogs, a parade of competing vendors and a plethora of websites can be inspiring…and overwhelming. In an industry where advice is handed out like candy and society sets expectations for everything from ring size to dress size to guest list, it‘s hard to remember that a wedding is not a competition. (Well, unless you’re on a reality show. But who can keep up with the Kardashians anyway?)

I was in three weddings this past year, each with its own flare. And it’s not the fancy meal, the lighting, or the color of the bouquet ribbons I remember. It’s the personal touches like receiving Save the Date cards on Willy Wonka-inspired golden tickets, watching the bride walk down the isle to Pure Imagination, laughing at the groom’s delivery of a comedy routine before the vows, and being asked to share marital advice using an antique typewriter. (This inspired moments of hilarity from my 20-something peers who had never used such a “high-tech” device. Luckily the parents stood by to help.) Now those were unforgettable moments.

Of course you want your wedding day to be special and express who you are as a couple. And ultimately, when all the elements come together to really capture that spirit, it makes an impression.

What’s trending now?

Many couples are personalizing their weddings by registering for charity and requesting donations for causes they care about. With organizations like I Do Foundation, it’s easy to manage a charity registry online, simple for guests to donate, and convenient to get a ready-made gift list when it’s time to send thank you notes. As a serial bridesmaid, I know anything that makes the after-wedding rituals simpler is appreciated!

For some couples like Annette Toutonghi and Bruce Oberg of Seattle, Washington, registering for charity made perfect sense. “We have everything we really need,” they said. “Physical gifts seemed wasteful. We are passionate about human rights, the environment, and the arts. And have quite a few loved ones who we’ve lost to cancer. What a wonderful gift to feel like our special day could benefit these causes.”

They’re not alone in their thinking. With nearly 70% of couples living together before marriage and many waiting until later in life to get married, home and kitchen items just aren’t needed. They want to make their day about something else. Charity gifts are an inspired, eco-chic option that shares the love in a feel-good and meaningful way.

For other couples, a charity registry offers a chance to give back locally. “We lived for decades in Minneapolis before moving to California just before our wedding, and wanted to benefit a charity that serves that local community,” explains Eric and Becky Bausman of San Mateo. “The notes from our guests reflected the true spirit of our celebration—they completely understood that this was about choosing to celebrate our joy by sharing our blessings with the world around us.”

What a wonderful world

Take a cue from popular wedding songs to personalize the charity choice for your wedding:

  1. Marry Me – The most important part of your day is joining the two of you as a couple. What causes and issues do you and your partner care about individually and together? Charity registries let you select favorite organizations so you can share your love with others.
  2. Celebrate good times – Weddings reunite family and friends and are a time to remember someone special who is not there to celebrate with you. Why not honor them and their health struggle by giving to make a difference for the cause? It’s a great way to include them in your day.
  3. Shout! – Let guests know about your registry by sharing a custom link in an email, on your invitations, and through social media—telling them how their gift to charity will mean the world to you.

“We felt giving our guests the opportunity to donate on our behalf would add to the good energy and feelings of love surrounding our wedding. It can be easy to get caught up in table decorations, favors, or any number of small details,” comments Elizabeth James of Santa Monica, California.

When it comes to starting a marriage off on the right foot and remembering what’s important, I think there’s no better way than to include charity on your special day. When I plan my own ceremony, I know I want to represent who I am and my dedication to charity, and I’m confident my partner will share this passion with me. I would love for my guests to be a part of the causes I hold dear and to leave the wedding feeling like we made a difference together.

Charity makes it easy to celebrate generously and creates not-to-be-forgotten wedding memories.

P.S. Still looking for inspiration? Visit A Soolip Wedding – they’re having events in San Francisco and Los Angeles, offer Ways to be Green, and support conscious vendors (like I Do!).

Check out I Do Foundation on Facebook!


– Michelle Koffler, Marketing Coordinator

Our veterans deserve our thanks and support

According to MilitaryReporter.Net, the United States is home to more than 22 million veterans. This Memorial Day show your support, not only for our military currently fighting overseas and those that gave their lives, but also for our veterans at home as well.

Their changing needs

Nearly one in all 10 veterans has served in our Armed Forces since September 2001, and these veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have different needs than veterans of the wars in Korea and Vietnam. Most are men and women in their 20s and 30s who are just starting families and trying to find employment in a tough economy.

Many veteran assistance organizations are struggling to survive when the services they offer aren’t meeting the needs or being used by vets today. Thankfully, some organizations are finding new ways to reach out and assist today’s veterans. Retired U.S. Air Force Major, Dorian de Wind, writes about how the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) organization is responding to the issue in his Huffington Post article:

“VFW posts are often times viewed as smoke-filled ‘watering holes’ where a bunch of old guys sit around drinking beer, playing bingo and telling war stories.” Members of the VFW Post 4443 in Texas want to be “a safe haven for returning veterans…a place where they can enjoy the quiet peace and tranquility needed for them to find themselves…a place where they can bring their families and enjoy the swimming pool, quiet game rooms, picnic and BBQ areas.”

NPR News addressed the same topic with Robert Siegel on All Things Considered. They talked about a relatively new organization located in Milwaukee, Dryhootch, whose motto is “helping the veteran and their family who survived the war, survive the peace.” It started as a coffee house where veterans can re-connect and find the support they need without feeling forced to commit to a VA program or using alcohol or other substances to fill a void. Dryhootch offers peer-to-peer support to veterans of all eras. They also have an online community and resources—offering services in other ways that may make new veterans feel more comfortable receiving help, advice, or counseling.

Organizations helping veterans

There are many great organizations working to provide veterans with the support they need. A few I’d like to mention:

  • The Wounded Warrior Project offers numerous resources for veterans—advocacy, counseling, family support, peer mentoring, and work programs. Their Combat Stress Recovery Program addresses the mental health needs of recently-returned soldiers, providing them with the tools to recognize what they are going through and helping them understand how to deal with it.
  • Soldier Ride gives returned soldiers a way to “reclaim their confidence and strength through the exhilaration of cycling.” The focus of the ride is to give wounded soldiers a way to empower themselves and improve their physical and mental health.
  • The Warriors to Work program helps veterans figure out how to use their military skills to enter the civilian workforce. They also educate employers on the benefits of hiring veterans as well as fight common misconceptions about veterans.

This Memorial Day, why not make it a point to help a veteran’s organization continue to offer necessary services by starting a monthly recurring donation to one of these organizations? We enjoy the freedom they have fought to give us—and they deserve our thanks and support. I think we owe them that.

Do you have a special way to honor and support those who have served? Share it with us on Facebook and let’s get others on board too!

Marketing Assistant, Julia Hughes

Give now to help Japan’s survivors

Living on the West Coast where earthquakes are a normal part of growing up, I imagine what it would be like if the disaster that struck Japan happened here. What if I was separated from my family and had no way to know what’s going on, no way to communicate, and was alone and lost?  As a mother, I immediately know how desperate I’d feel if I was separated from my little girl. How would I find her? How would I know she is ok?

Although we don’t know how many areas have access to the Internet in the coastal areas hit by the tsunami, Google’s Person Finder: 2011 Japan Earthquake is helping find missing people. So is the Family Links website from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

Watching updates from international news programs, I noticed Brazil has the second largest population of Japanese people outside of Japan.  There are thousands of people there without any news or contact from their Japanese friends and family.  So Person Finder and the ICRC site are helping people all over the world – who are relieved to know their loved ones are safe, even if they can’t yet speak or connect in any other way. I’m thankful that technology can at least ease minds across the oceans in its own small way.

Staggering disaster damage

Although Japan was well prepared for an earthquake, there was “next to nothing” the country could do to prepare for the magnitude of destruction this earthquake and tsunami caused.

The number of people affected is hard to fathom. The most recent disaster figures from Reuters say that more than 440,000 people have been evacuated. Over 850,000 households are still without electricity in near-freezing weather—and at least 1.5 million households don’t have running water. According to CNN over 8,200 people are confirmed dead and sadly, at least 13,000 more missing.

The earthquake and tsunami have taken an unknown toll on family pets and animals too – leaving many four-legged friends injured or abandoned who need rescuing.

Rescue and relief help

This is a time when the people of Japan need help from every resource and every donation that we can give. Despite an ever-growing death toll, there is some hope. Teams like the Los Angeles County Fire urban search and rescue teams are in Japan right now offering their skills to find survivors. And the story and photo of this four-month-old girl who had been separated from her parents for three days and was saved by the Japanese Defense Force touches our hearts.

Save the Children estimates at least 100,000 children have been affected by the disasters; many who have suffered profound losses. They are working to bring a sense of normality back into these children’s lives.  Direct Relief International has worked with the Japanese American Citizens League to provided $400,000 that was sent to Association for Aid and Relief Japan (AAR Japan), a 31-year-old leading Japanese nonprofit organization.  This donation allows AAR Japan to continue its relief efforts, which are focused on persons with disabilities and elderly persons affected by the disaster.  They have teams providing essential nonfood and food supplies.

Welfare groups are scrambling to rescue helpless animals. Access to affected areas makes the job more challenging, and it’s another urgent need to help cold, hungry and injured animals or give shelter to those being left behind. Many rescue and animal care organizations are working to make a difference, including: International Fund for Animal Welfare, Inc. and the Humane Society of the United States.   This video from GlobalAnimal.org shows a dog bringing help to an injured friend, a glimpse of compassion in the midst of tragedy.

It is hard to know what you can do to help at a time like this. But thankfully—just like it does for people searches—today’s technology makes it easy to donate and help when the Japan victims need it the most.  And more than ever, I trust organizations that have experience and success in disaster recovery. JustGive has set up a special page that lists relief and aid groups working to help the Japanese people begin the long road to recovery.

Donate now and provide hope to people who have lost everything, including loved ones. Your generosity could mean one more hot meal, one more tent, one more survivor found.

And pass the word along to friends and family so they can give too.

Julia Hughes, Marketing Assistant

Haiti: What a difference a year makes?

Last January 12th, Haiti was devastated by a 7.0 earthquake—killing over 230,000 people and leaving more than 1 million homeless. The magnitude of the catastrophe, and the effort needed to rebuild are sometimes hard for me to grasp.

Just last week, the Huffington Post spoke of the delay in progress to aid survivors and rebuild. The Chronicle of Philanthropy states only 38 percent of the $1.4 billion donated by Americans to help survivors and begin rebuilding has been spent. Compared to Katrina, $3.3 billion was raised with 80 percent spent in the first year.

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Photo Credits: Allison Shelley (All Rights Reserved)

Like many donors who want to know their money is going to good use, my initial reaction was frustration. The recovery process seems stagnant. Why are survivors still living in substandard conditions? The fragile nation was most recently hit by a cholera outbreak. But I know the solutions aren’t simple; rebuilding will take years, likely a decade or more.

The Nonprofit Times interviewed Charlie MacCormack, CEO of Save the Children, who worries “the bulk of funds will be spent on this stabilization. It’s handing the people a fish, instead of teaching them to fish.” Julie Sell of the American Red Cross said they “will remain rebuilding in Haiti until every one of its donated dollars is spent.”

JustGive’s commitment to Haiti

In February 2010, we pledged $25,000 to match your donations for Haiti relief and rebuilding. To restore the country and help empower the Haitian people, we disbursed over $75k to 26 charities, including our partner organizations like Friends of the Children of Haiti, Grace Mission to HaitiHaiti Micah Project, Lamp for Haiti and the Robert Ford Haitian Orphanage and School Foundation.

Our biggest of the smallest, Friends of the Children of Haiti received $3,800 in donations while our largest charity recipients were Hands Together and Partners in Health which received $24K and $17K, respectively.

In the last year, combining these matching donations with the immediate, one-time donations made, JustGive raised and sent $4.6 million to charities helping Haiti.

Your donations at work

American Red Cross has immunized more than 900,000 people, helping minimize the cholera outbreak. They are also providing more than 660,000 gallons of clean water per day.

Save the Children began to meet the basic needs—food, water, sanitation and shelter—immediately after the quake. Now, efforts are shifting to long-term needs such as a safe place for children to play in the tent villages, clean bathroom and shower areas, and sanitary water sources.

Lutheran World Relief contributed 30,000 health and hygiene kits, 25,500 quilts, 35,700 school kits, 17,500 tarps and 39 large tents for temporary schools. An additional 35,000 health kits assembled at Lutheran summer camps this year are expected to be distributed this month.

Students Together Opposing Poverty (STOP)


This last year, we’ve been following the efforts of students at Naples High School (Florida). Their club, Students Together Opposing Poverty (STOP), began collecting donations from fellow students and faculty immediately following the earthquake. Challenged by a promise from their teacher to match funds raised, together, they generated nearly $10,000 in Haitian relief. (Read more about their fundraising efforts, including Concert for a Cause which raised $2,500 in donations.)

Continuing to help
Updates from the media on progress in Haiti, slow as it may be, are reminders that we still have work to do. When Katrina hit home we saw the devastation first hand. Let’s keep working to help our neighbors struggling to rebuild their home. Make a donation to an organization committed to disaster relief in memory of those who lost their lives last year. Continue giving. Then tell someone about it, share your thoughts with us on Facebook, or follow our conversations on Twitter.