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Op4G's November Membership Contest: Only a Few Days Left!


4There are only a few days left in Op4G’s November Membership Contest! We are thrilled by how many new members non-profits have added. Remember, the non-profit that adds the most new members by midnight on Saturday will win $250!

As of today, the top 3 leaders are:

  1. 13th Street Cat Rescue (California)
  2. A Kid Again (Ohio)
  3. A Chance for Kids Inc.(Florida)

Now is your final chance! Tell your friends and family to register for Op4G here and help your non-profit!

Flickr Photo Credit: JJ

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Lingering Economic Crisis Causes Drop in International Aid

aidThe developing world has been dealt another blow. According to a 2013 OECD report, official development aid in real terms fell by 4% in 2012 (including a 12.8% drop in aid to the Least Developed Countries). This marks the largest decline since 1997. It is also the first time since 1996-1997 that aid has fallen in successive years, given the 2% drop in 2011.

To account for the decline, experts point to austerity across the developed world, largely in response to the financial and Euro Zone crises. This led to reductions in foreign aid budgets in 21 of the 32 OECD members, including all 5 top donors by volume (the US, UK, Germany, France, and Japan). Not surprisingly, the largest cuts were in countries affected most by the crises: Spain (-49.7%), Italy (-34.7%), Greece (-17.0%), and Portugal (-13.1%).

Such cuts raise questions about the “appropriate” level of development aid. In 1969, the Pearson Commission recommended a target of 0.7% of Gross National Product (GNP). The target was soon adopted by the United Nations (with exceptions like Switzerland and the US) and the OECD’s Development Assistance Committee (DAC).  As of 2012, however, the DAC average was just 0.29% of Gross National Income (roughly equivalent to GNP). The US and Canada came in at 0.19% and 0.32%, respectively.

Oxfam America
So is this target—or any increase in official development aid—feasible in the near future? DAC Chair Erik Solheim states that “Maintaining aid levels is not impossible even in today’s fiscal climate. The UK’s 2013-2014 budget increases its aid to 0.7% of national income, which gives hope that we can reverse the falling trend.” Luxembourg, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and the Netherlands also exceed the 0.7% mark.

But development aid can also come from unofficial (non-government) sources. These include private foundations and charitable organizations. If you want to transform lives in the developing world, please consider donating to UNICEF, Oxfam, or one of our Op4G partners: African Soup, Develop Africa, Education for All Children, Great Good Haiti, Plant a Seed Africa, Viveperu, and World Teach.

Flickr photo credit: rogiro

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Op4G Approaches 50,000 Meals Donated to Partner Food Bank!

holiday mealOver the next few weeks, America will celebrate Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, and Christmas. But not all Americans will enjoy a holiday feast. In fact, around 48 million Americans will have less money available for food costs.

Why? On November 1, the temporary expansion of the Supplementary Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) expired. Passed as part of the 2009 stimulus package, the $45.2 billion expansion raised monthly benefits (a.k.a. food stamps) to an average of $133/person. According to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, these benefits have now dropped by approximately 7% or $10/person.

Furthermore, as noted in a previous blog, congress is finalizing the farm bill. As part of the bill, the Senate has approved a $4.5 billion cut over 10 years to SNAP. The House has gone even further, voting to cut $39 billion over 10 years (primarily by raising qualification criteria). This would eliminate food stamps for 3.8 million Americans.

Second Harvest Food Bank Banner
To counter the cuts to SNAP, many are increasing support to local food banks. Just last week, Op4G sent a check for $4,519 to the Second Harvest Food Bank of Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties. The check raises Op4G’s total donations to the non-profit to $24,544! As each dollar can provide two meals, this equates to nearly 50,000 meals! Second Harvest is moved by the donation and applauds the Op4G model as “one more easy way” for supporters to “provide meals to their neighbors”.

In addition to Second Harvest, Op4G also donates to the San Francisco Food Bank ($19,856 to date), the Oregon Food Bank, the Vermont Food Bank, OPERATION: Sack Lunch, New Hampshire Catholic Charities, CUMAC and the Friends of Saint Joseph’s Food Pantry. To help reduce hunger this holiday season, please complete Op4G surveys on behalf of these non-profits today!

Flickr Photo Credit

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Pets Pay the Price of the Recession

kittyIn recent months, this blog has covered the effects of the recession on children, the hungry, and the developing world. But there is another—often overlooked—effect. Since the onset of the recession, pet abandonment has risen around the world, forcing countless cats and dogs to “fend for themselves”.

In the United States, the most prominent example is Detroit. The struggling city, which declared bankruptcy in July 2013, has seen a steady increase in pet abandonment over the last several years. Consequently, experts estimate that as many as 50,000 stray dogs now roam the streets. This equates to an astounding 1 dog for every 14 residents, or 360 per square mile.

Internationally, Cyprus has also seen a disturbing rise in pet abandonment. Since the collapse of the country’s banking sector in March 2013, the Nicosia Dog Shelter estimates that strays have tripled in number. Mary Anastasi, President of the Cyprus Voice for Animals, says the “country’s economic woes are a key factor”. Similarly, in the UK, the number of abandoned animals has soared by 65% (to over 40,595) since 2007. The Royal SPCA attributes the rise to “owners struggle[ing] to make ends meet in times of economic hardship”.

detroit dog rescue
To compound the problem of increasing pet abandonment, public sector cutbacks have led to reduced animal control and shelter services. In Detroit, for example, the Animal Control Unit went without a legally required veterinarian for 3 weeks in October and now has only 4 officers (down from 15 in 2008). Furthermore, it has become significantly more difficult to “re-home” abandoned pets. In the UK, only 12,711 dogs found news homes in 2011, compared to 16,659 in 2009.

Solving the problem does not require a complete economic recovery. Many animal non-profits can provide free or subsidized food, medical care, and spaying/neutering, relieving the financial burden on pet owners. Moreover, animal rescue organizations can help “fill the gaps where city services are lacking” by collecting and sheltering stray pets.

But these non-profits can’t do it alone. To lend your support, please donate to Detroit Dog Rescue, Dog Aide, or the following Op4G partners: City Dog Rescue, Austin Humane Society, Central Coast Pug Rescue, and the New Hampshire SPCA.

Flickr photo credit: xiaozhen

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Sweepstakes Winner Member of the Month: Carolyn Horner!

BBBS Lone Star Member of the MonthCarolyn Horner has another reason to smile this month. Her name was randomly selected from our screenout pool, winning $500 for her non-profit, Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) Lone Star!

Carolyn has volunteered for BBBS Lone Star for 3 years. She greatly enjoys spending one-on-one time with the children, helping fulfill their individual needs, and getting to know their families. But in May 2012, she discovered another way to support BBBS Lone Star: Op4G.

Since joining, Carolyn has completed numerous Op4G surveys. As the surveys are “relevant” to her, she has enjoyed every minute. She has also raised approximately $20 for BBBS Lone Star!

Based on this experience, Carolyn has encouraged other non-profits to register for Op4G. In particular, she has reached out to the North Texas Food Bank and the Paralyzed Vets of America, as her father is a veteran.

Congratulations Carolyn Horner and the BBBS Lone Star!

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Military Non-Profit Serves Grieving Families during Shutdown

militaryLosing a loved one in battle is devastating for any military family. But from October 1 to 10, this devastation was magnified by the government shutdown. With no spending authority, the Department of Defense could not pay 29 grieving families the promised death benefits.

Usually disbursed within 24 to 36 hours of a military loss, the benefits include a 12 month housing allowance, burial benefits, and a $100,000 “death gratuity”. The gratuity aims to “help the survivors in their readjustment and aid them in meeting immediate expenses incurred”. It covers travel to receive the casket at Dover Air Force Base, the funeral, and other costs until life insurance payments arrive.

The news sparked outrage across the United States. Ami Neiberger-Miller of the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors stated that “When the serviceman swears that oath that says ‘I will protect and defend,’ we make a promise back to that person that if they do die in service…we will take care of their family.” Journalist Gayle Lemmon added “Washington seems only to be taking care of itself”.

Follow Fisher House Foundation on Facebook
But one non-profit turned anger into action. The Fisher House Foundation, known for providing housing to families while veterans undergo medical treatment, offered affected families a grant to cover flights, hotels, and other funeral-related costs. According to the Foundation, “our focus is on the families” – they shouldn’t be “bearing the brunt of the government shutdown”.

On October 10, Obama signed a bill into law to restore death benefits payments to families of the fallen. But the generosity and responsiveness of the Fisher House Foundation remains an inspiration. And with the potential for another shutdown in January 2014, the non-profit may soon be needed again.

To support the Fisher House Foundation, please click here. Also, please consider donating to Op4G’s partners:  Give an Hour, Honoring the Path, and Still Serving Veterans.

Flickr photo credit: Bobby Yarbrough

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Op4G Member Payments Have Been Processed

We’d like to remind everyone that all Op4G member payments have been processed for Quarter Number Three. As always, payments from Op4G are sent via Bill.com and will arrive approximately 6 days after processing. Thank you to all our members who have participated throughout the year to support expanded funding to Non-Profits. We value the partnership we have with you and all of our 380+ Non-Profit organizations, as well as this unique model for “giving back”.

As we continue to improve and grow, please send us your comments and feedback.

Thanks again from the Op4G Team.

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Op4G's Non-Profit of the Month: The Animal Rescue League!

3Op4G is excited to announce our newest non-profit of the month: the Animal Rescue League Shelter and Wildlife Center! Founded in 1910, the Animal Rescue League is committed to helping all animals in need, regardless of species or breed.

The non-profit fulfills this commitment in two main ways. Through its shelter, it finds permanent, loving homes for dogs, cats, and other companion animals. In 2012, for example, it re-homed over 6,100 animals. Additionally, through its Wildlife Center, the non-profit rehabilitates native wild animals that have been harmed or displaced by man. In 2012, it treated over 2,000 injured wild animals.

This makes the Animal Rescue League the only shelter in the region that accepts and cares for both wild and companion animals. It is also one of the few Open Door Shelters – it never refuses shelter to any animal.

To learn more about the Animal Rescue League or to support their cause, please click here.

Flickr photo credit: Thomas Hawk

 

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Make the Most of Fall: Visit our Best National Parks!

Looking for ways to spend the early weeks of fall? Why not visit our national parks? The United States boasts 59 national parks across 27 states and two territories. California leads with nine national parks, followed by Alaska (8), Utah (5), and Colorado (4).

America’s national park system began in 1872, when President Grant approved the first national park (Yellowstone). Since then, congress has nominated and authorized parks on the basis of their “natural beauty, unique geological features, unusual ecosystems, and recreational opportunities”. These parks range in size from under 6000 acres (Arkansas’ Hot Springs) to over 8 million acres (Alaska’s Wrangell-St.Elias park).

With such variety, selecting a national park to visit can be a challenge. To help, consider the following. The most visited national park is Tennessee and North Carolina’s Great Smoky Mountains, followed by Arizona’s Grand Canyon. Fourteen US national parks are designated World Heritage Sites, including Florida’s Everglades and Kentucky’s Mammoth Cave. And according to National Geographic, some of the top landmarks fall within California’s Yosemite Park (the Half Dome), Alaska’s Denali Park (Mount McKinley), and Wyoming’s Grand Teton Park (Grand Teton).

Wherever you decide to go, remember the mission of the National Park Service: “to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and wildlife therein, and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for…future generations”. Also, please donate to the Service, as sequestration budget cuts have resulted in layoffs, reduced garbage pick-up, and delayed maintenance at many national parks.

Click here for further information about the US National Parks or to find the right park for you. Please also consider your state parks! To learn more, sign up to benefit our partner, Friends of Moran State Park.

 

Flickr photo credit: Tom Bricker