I try to keep my blog posts as relevant to NXT as possible, so I hope you'll forgive me if I go off topic for a few minutes of your time and tell you about an organization that I support and ask you to consider helping. If you're not familiar with Kiva.org, you can visit them at www.kiva.org and learn more about what they do and how they do it.
In a nutshell, though, they take small donations (as little as $25.00) and use the funds to create small "micro-loans" to businesses in poor countries around the world. You make a donation, browse the businesses that are trying to raise funds, and select as many as you want to support. I currently support 5 businesses, and have made donations of anywhere from $25 to $100 to each. Other donors make similar contributions and that's how these small businesses get their loans - usually anywhere from $250 to $5000. Each business is required to make regular payments on their loan and as payments come in, your account is credited back the money that you can either cash out or donate again to more businesses.
As a small business owner myself, I share in this organization's goals and believe that giving someone (or a group) the opportunity to start a business benefits that person, his/her family, and his/her community where the money typically stays in circulation. I'm a HUGE supporter of the "micro" method of raising funds - don't ask 10 people for $5000 each... ask 50,000 for $1.00 each (or in this case, ask 40,000+ blog readers to each contribute $25.00 - that's over 1 MILLION dollars!
Kiva.org is making a difference - they are having SUCH success that they've run into a problem! Six months ago, when I first joined Kiva, they had over 200 small businesses in their database for me to select from... today they have completely funded all their small businesses! That's a GOOD problem to have, right? They're working on adding more businesses to their database and have implemented a new feature - Kiva Teams.
I've created a Kiva Team - The NXT Step Community. The NXT Step currently has over 40,000 visitors each month from around the world, and I'd like to see what this group of NXT fans can do when it comes to fund raising. Every dollar goes to Kiva.org - not to me or to the blog. Your money will be credited back to your account as the loan(s) get paid back and you can choose what businesses to fund with your money. Seriously - if every NXT Step reader opens an account and contributes just $25.00 and not another penny, we will have raised over 1 million dollars. I've started the fund with $100.00 (credit - see image of My Portfolio) and will give periodic updates on how our team is doing.
For now, you can simply signup and join The NXT Step Community team. If you like, once you're logged in, click on your "My Portfolio" button and then click on the link "Add Credit" or wait until a business is accepting funding. Once you fund a business (or 2 or 3 or...) you're donation will show up on the Team Page.
Here are the links you need:
Kiva's homepage: www.kiva.org
The NXT Step Community Team Page: http://www.kiva.org/app.php?page=community&action=viewTeam&team_id=854
Invite your friends and family... ask your employer to make a matching contribution... ask your parents to make a matching contribution... challenge another FLL team to see which team can raise the most funds. (Come to think of it, I'm going to ask LEGO to consider making a matching donation each quarter or each year based on how much we raise! - will keep you informed.)
I want to thank all of The NXT Step readers for your your support of the blog.