Melinda Gates: Get Involved Now
Get Involved Now
Choose Your Cause
START BY TALKING WITH FRIENDS AND FAMILY."Ask them what they think are important issues, which organizations they know and trust, and which Websites or blogs they turn to for good information," says Fine. Now that the Internet is so prevalent in almost every part of our lives, the way we connect and process information is rapidly changing — even July's presidential debates on CNN drew their questions from YouTube users! — and so your involvement in effecting change must evolve with the times, too. "Check out change.org, a hub of information where you can either type in a specific change — 'equal pay for women' or 'support the troops' — or click on categories such as education and health," says Fine. "Then surf through tons of campaigns to find the one that speaks to you."
Know Your Options
"The most exciting thing about activism in the current information age is that there are a huge number of cool and easy ways to participate," says Fine. She suggests starting small:SIGN AN ONLINE PETITION OR JOIN A DIALOGUE BY COMMENTING ON SOMEONE'S ISSUE-DRIVEN BLOG."You can even start your own blog — log on to wordpress.com to create one and it's as if you've published your own newspaper in five minutes!" says Fine. To get even more involved, host a house party and invite others to discuss the cause that moves or interests you, or log on to social-networking site meetup.com to find a local activist group you can join.
Do Your Research
"When you're looking into joining a specific group,ASK LOTS OF QUESTIONS,"says Fine. "Find out what the group expects of volunteers: Do they want to engage in a conversation with you, or are they just giving orders and demanding donations? Where does the money go? Are they transparent about how they operate and make decisions? Are they sharing your information with third parties? If you had a suggestion, would they be open to it? Try to gauge whether it's a place you'll feel comfortable." For more information on a particular group and to compare it with similar ones, Fine says, check out charitynavigator.org, which uses tax returns to rank organizations based on information like overhead spending and fund-raising efficiency.
Learn About the Issue
TO GET A BROAD UNDERSTANDING OF ANY TOPIC, CHECK OUT THE LEADING ORGANIZATIONS' WEBSITES.If you're interested in the environment, for example, visit sierraclub.org and greenpeace.org. "A great tool for educating yourself on a specific topic is Google Alerts," says Fine. "Log on to google.com/alerts and set it to track key words, such as 'climate change' and 'legislation,' from Websites and blogs. They'll email links to your account at your preferred frequency — daily, weekly, or whenever a story occurs. That way, you'll have the relevant information right at your fingertips." It's worth learning about groups that support alternate views on the issues you care about, too — the Internet is ideal for taking a peek at the opposition without having to commit to anything.
It's more important to find and truly use your voice in one place than to just join a whole slew of groups without getting too involved in any of them. "To avoid spreading yourself too thin,EXPLORE ONE CAUSE AT A TIME BEFORE MOVING ON TO ANOTHER,"advises Fine. "That way, you'll give yourself the time and space to really explore a specific issue and figure out how you can help serve the cause."
Take It a Step Further
"If you've found an organization that feels like a comfortable fit for you and you want to up your level of participation, try taking on a leadership role by self-organizing within your group," says Fine.PLAN A DEMONSTRATION, LEAD A GROUP MEETING, OR WRITE AND CIRCULATE A PETITIONadvocating for the cause. "Of course you can always form your own group and head up your own events," says Fine, "but you can often accomplish your goals as an activist just as effectively by working within an already established organization."
Top 10 Issues that Are Very Important to Women Right Now
In an exclusive Lifetime TV poll, women spoke out on the political issues they care about most.
1.Prevention of violence and sexual assault against women and girls
3.Equal pay for women and men in the workplace
6.Women's health research
7.Financial security for women
10.The war in Iraq
Source: ORC's Caravan Omnibus national telephone survey of 507 women.
Find Your Fit
Looking to get involved? Get your activist feet wet by checking out one of these worthwhile organizations.
This huge hub of opportunities connects those wanting to help with those who need help. Find a volunteer organization, register as a member so that organizations can find you, and share your philanthropic story with a network of do-gooders.
This nonpartisan effort mobilizes moms to fight for family-friendly programs and policies, such as paid maternity leave and flexible work options. Sign up to receive updates and information, share your personal stories on the site, or follow instructions to start a group in your community.
Created as a way to honor the heroes and victims of September 11, this bonanza of good deeds invites you to keep the 9/11 spirit of unity alive by performing small, everyday acts. Scroll through 170,000-plus good deeds for ideas and inspiration, or add your own to the list.
With the goal of enhancing students' educations, this site brings together teachers and their project proposals — "Cooking Across the Curriculum" and "Magical Math Centers," for example — with "citizen philanthropists" like you, who can scroll through projects and pick one to fund.
Created by students at Swarthmore College, GI-Net aims to protect Sudanese civilians from genocide by giving money to peacekeepers in Darfur and lobbying American policy makers to take action. Connect directly with elected officials to speak your mind, or read the congressional scorecard to learn whether your congressperson is working to end genocide.
Here, become a benevolent bank by lending money to a small business in the developing world and helping a business owner achieve economic independence. Pick an entrepreneur, offer a short-term loan (usually six to 12 months), and stay connected with email journal updates from the business.
This group aims to make transparent what's happening in the government with the goals of reducing corruption, ensuring more accountability, and fostering greater public trust in the institutions of democracy. Apply for a "transparency grant" to help further the cause, search Congresspedia to educate yourself about congress members and policies, or contribute an article of your own.
This free, supereasy-to-use e-advocacy service allows you to launch email campaigns for your cause. Use your Web page to organize local events, reach members through forwardable email campaigns, and expand your reach by tracking supporter participation and information.
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