Raising the Next Generation of Givers, Doers and Helpers

What if every child realized his/her ability to make the world a better place?

Photo of Beth Nowak
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Founding Story: Share a story about a key experience or spark that helps the network understand why this project got started or a story about how you became inspired about the potential for this project to succeed.

Twenty years ago, I ended up in the wrong place at the wrong time, witnessing a horrifically violent crime where several people attacked one person and, as a young, naive, female teenager far from home, I froze in fear and did nothing to help the victim.

In the years since, I've been haunted by feelings of shame, guilt and regret, often asking myself, "Why didn't you do something...anything?" Trying to cope, I isolated myself from others and self-medicated with drugs, alcohol and academic achievement.

It wasn't until I was hired on as a kindergarten teacher that the feelings of "helplessness" that had been plaguing me for far too long finally began to fade.

Working with young children not only restored my faith in myself however, it restored my faith in humanity as most – if not all – of the children I worked with seemed to have been born with an innate desire to make the world a better place; they were constantly making cards for their friends who were absent due to an illness, picking dandelions for the school secretaries and protecting ants on the sidewalk at recess.

Utilizing my background in early childhood education, I wanted to figure out a way to help families foster their youngest member's soft skills of kindness, compassion and generosity outside the classroom and, as a result, resigned in 2012 to create http://GivingFamilies.com, providing parents with a variety of opportunities to educate, engage and empower their children through shared moments of giving.

Which categories describe you? (the answer will not be public)

  • White (for example: German, Irish, English, Italian, Polish, French, Caucasian)

Website

http://www.givingfamilies.com

Location: Where is your organization headquartered? [State]

  • Kentucky

Location: Where is your organization headquartered? [City]

Park Hills

Location: Where is your project primarily creating impact? [State]

  • Kentucky

Location: Where is your project primarily creating impact? [City]

Nationwide - I have families registered in 43 states and just recently added a few in Australia as well.

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

On the surface, Giving Families is addressing the lack of family-friendly volunteering opportunities available to parents with young children, ages 3-15.

However, the underlying problem we're also addressing is the fact that the CDC now reports 1 in 5 children (ages 3-17) are suffering from mental health disorders, such as depression and anxiety (http://1.usa.gov/1TYfKze), most likely contributing to the fact that suicide is now the 2nd leading cause of death for children between the ages of 10-24 (http://bit.ly/1Y4OYYM).

With a ton of brain research indicating that there are significant social/emotional, mental health and even physical health benefits to helping others in need (http://bit.ly/1r40oig), it stands to reason that helping strengthen the family's bond through shared moments of giving would not only positively impact the child's overall health, but his/her parents as well.

Utilizing my background in early childhood and Montessori education as a kindergarten teacher for twelve years previously, my mission as the founder of Giving Families is to educate, engage and empower the next generation of givers, doers and helpers by providing parents with fun and easy, family-friendly, giveback activities designed to help children feel better about themselves by doing good deeds for others.

Is your model focused on any of the following traditionally underserved communities?

  • No, not explicitly

Does your model work within any of the following sectors?

  • Childcare
  • Child and Family Services
  • Community Development and Empowerment
  • Education
  • Mental Health
  • Other

If you chose "other," please share the sector you work within here:

nonprofits

Year Founded

2012

Project Stage

  • Growth (the pilot has already launched and is starting to expand)

Example: Walk the network through a specific example of what happens when a person or group engages with your solution.

Typically, someone hears about Giving Families through word-of-mouth, and then visits GivingFamilies. to sign on as a member for $24/year. After doing so, they receive an email inviting them to join our closed group on Facebook, as well as their first mailer (via USPS because kids LOVE getting mail:), including a Welcome Letter, a refrigerator magnet, and their first challenge. Families hang the mailer on their fridge, and then complete the activity at their convenience, posting photos of themselves in the closed Facebook page. Families not interested in becoming a member can sign up to receive free emails containing info on the social/emotional benefits of family giving, as well as "like" Giving Families' general Facebook page.

Impact: What was the impact of your work last year? Please also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

After officially launching in December 2015 after NYT bestselling author Rachel Macy Stafford mentioned Giving Families in a blog post, over 400 families throughout the US began completing the monthly challenges. More and more families continue to join each month due to word-of-mouth and, with the proper marketing, I believe we could grow substantially...especially considering there are over 23M families in the US with children in our target age range. Hoping to reach as many of them as possible, I'm also working with a local organization, Children Inc. to pilot the monthly mailers as a social/emotional learning tool that would be distributed through their network of 30+ preschool classrooms, helping to promote parental involvement, civic-engagement and social/emotional growth.

Organization Type

  • for-profit

Annual Budget

  • $10k - $50k

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is your solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

My monthly overhead is $1500/mo, and my monthly printing costs are dependent on the number of members. Currently, even with only 500 members, my profit margin is 50% and will continue to grow as I reach scale. While waiting to achieve scale on the mailers however, I'm pursuing an additional revenue stream - speaking engagements - where I present on the topic of "Raising Kind, Compassionate Kids in a World of Entitlement and Excess."

Unique Value Proposition: How else is this problem being addressed? Are there other organizations working in the same field, and how does your project differ from these other approaches?

There are a few localized nonprofits that host occasional family-friendly volunteering events, but Giving Families' Good Mail Challenges are designed to be non-location specific, enabling people all over the country - and even the world - to be a part of something larger than themselves, which is something lacking from other subscription-based programs such as Highlights magazine or Little Passports who are targeting the same market.

Reflect on the Field and its Future: Stepping outside of your project, what do you see as the most important or promising shifts that can advance children’s wellbeing?

Social/emotional learning tools in the classroom seem to be having a huge impact on children's growth, but the fact that they're implemented in the classroom means that parents are not receiving the same kind of instruction as their children. This program is designed to bridge that gap, actually providing parents with monthly activities and online support materials, gently reminding them that social/emotional learning is something that must be addressed on a regular basis.

Source: How did you hear about the Children’s Wellbeing Challenge? (the answer will not be public)

  • Word of mouth

Evaluation results

8 evaluations so far

1. Relevance: Does this project seem to help children (ages 0 to 12 years) develop a strong sense of self, belonging, and purpose?

5 - Yes, this is great! The project lays out a strong, compelling case for how its model nurtures children’s wellbeing. - 25%

4 - It seems like a good fit, and the model talks explicitly about children’s wellbeing. - 37.5%

3 - I think so. The project seems related to children’s wellbeing, but the logic is vague. - 25%

2 - Not sure. The project doesn’t have much to do with wellbeing, or it doesn’t give enough information. - 12.5%

1 - Nope, this project definitely doesn’t fit the challenge brief (e.g., It doesn’t help kids younger than 12, isn’t in the U.S., etc.) - 0%

2. Innovation: Does this project tackle children’s wellbeing from a new angle?

5 - I loved this! The project describes a novel model that addresses important cultural or systemic barriers. - 12.5%

4 - This is pretty cool. The project is addressing an important problem in a new or compelling way. - 62.5%

3 - I feel like there’s something there, but I want more details about what makes it distinctive. - 12.5%

2 - It’s a good project, but I’ve seen others like it before. - 0%

1 - It was confusing or hard to tell what it made it different. - 12.5%

3. Social Impact: What is this project’s potential for creating positive social impact?

5 - Lots of potential. This project is achieving impressive results, and it’s growing quickly. It could absolutely inspire changes in the ways we approach caring for kids nationally, across sectors (e.g. childcare, healthcare, education). - 37.5%

4 - Pretty good potential. This project demonstrates significant positive impact so far, and it could scale regionally or nationally one day and fundamentally change how a system operates (e.g. childcare, healthcare, education). - 12.5%

3 - Budding potential. This project is creating local impact, but it would take a few adjustments before it could scale. - 12.5%

2 - Some potential. This project demonstrates some initial positive impact, but it would require major changes before it could scale. - 25%

1 - Limited potential. This project has great intentions, but it looks like it does not include key drivers of a shift towards children’s wellbeing. - 12.5%

4. Overall, how do you feel about this idea?

5 - This idea rocked my world. It’s awesome! - 12.5%

4 - This idea seems really exciting. With a little more polishing, it’d be among my favorites. - 25%

3 - I think the idea is great, but it needs some work before it moves onto the next round. - 37.5%

2 - I liked it fine but preferred others. - 12.5%

1 - It didn’t make my heart beat faster. Needs significant revisions. - 12.5%

5. Offer some feedback. Where should this participant spend some time revising?

DEFINING THE PROBLEM. Make sure to articulate the root causes or main barriers of the social issue your project addresses. (Founding Story, Problem, Solution). - 40%

CLARITY OF MODEL. Make sure to mention (a.) the beneficiary, b) the main activities, and c) how those activities drive social impact. Keep it streamlined! - 100%

MARKETPLACE. Make sure to research other players in this space and articulate how this project is different. I didn’t get a complete sense of how this project compares to others. - 60%

IMPACT POTENTIAL. Make sure to use specific numbers to describe what your project has achieved so far! And consider how you might scale the model or its insights, through partnerships, trainings, or franchising. - 80%

WRITING STYLE. Try to stay concise and make it vivid. Avoid jargon. - 0%

Nothing stands out! I thought it was great. - 20%

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Photo of Doug Gould
Team

Your Founding Story is very compelling and the world could definitely benefit from having many more compassionate and charitable people. Have you considered making the Facebook page public so everybody can see how great it is to do things for others? Any plans for evaluating the efficacy of the program? Best of luck with your company!