Get a Tax Break, Outsmart the Scammers, Be a force of Good

If one of your 2017 resolutions is to be more giving and make a positive difference this year, but you feel:

  1. Unsure of who to give to

  2. Unsure if the money you are donating is actually being used for the mission

  3. Clueless on how you would get a tax deductible for your donation anyways.

Then this piece of content is here to help. In this post you will learn the fast and easy steps to gather all of the knowledge you need to successfully accomplish your giving resolution this year.

My name is Maria and I’ll be your guide . Here are four pieces of nuggets to get a tax break, outsmart the scammers AND be a force of good.  But before we dive in, imagine...

...Waking up on a sunny, Saturday morning, you reach out for your phone and notice an email that sends a bolting shock through your body and jerks you awake...an email from an organization where you donated to provide transportation for impoverished children to attend school in Peru.

You open the email, inside you find a video and hit play...

The video begins with children happily laughing on their way to school for the first time in a long time, for many it’s their first time.

The vehicle the children are being transported in is running thanks to your contribution. Your help has allowed them to attend school. You feel a warm tingling in your chest, you breathe in deeply and look around your surroundings as you are transported back to your room on this Saturday morning and realize that in this moment, all is right in the world. You feel enormously happy and feel hopeful for the future and in the goodness of humanity.

OR...

You could wake up to an email where you find out that the organization you contributed to is a total scam and you were ripped off. You start breathing faster, your blood pulsating heavy against your veins in extreme anger and disappointment because you were taken for a fool! You begin to think that the entire world is messed up and here is the price you pay for being a good person in world filled with horrible, horrible people.  

We live in a cool place filled with even cooler humans that make amazing contributions in our planet. But, we cannot ignore the other side of the coin. The side where people are malicious and will take advantage of kind hearted folks like you.

You have a huge heart and you are more than willing to give back and help make the world a better place but to really make an impact, your brain is also a required.

Let’s begin with our heart.

#1 Know WHY you are doing this

Find an organization that really and I mean REALLY hits home with you. This is your chance to give to your full blown passion, whether it’s music, the arts, the environment, education, special needs, nutrition, finance, technology etc. There are millions of non-profits out there for almost anything you can imagine. Don’t settle, find an organization that you truly feel for!

Now let’s switch to your brain.

#2 Make sure the organization you are donating to is legit

This is where you place your investigative hat on to find the gems of the non-profit realm and blow the lid off of the scammers.

WARNING: This next section may sound technical and boring, but the brain must learn the rules of the trade to not be fooled (plus its very, very short).

This challenge [The ‘legit organization’ challenge] can be accomplished by asking the right questions, such as :

  1. Can you please forward me proof of your 501(c)(3) status?...This let’s you know that an organization is registered with the IRS and allows you to receive a tax break for your contribution. The proof comes in the form of a letter from the IRS. Or you can find the proof here: IRS Search Organization tool

  2. What is your FED ID number (also can be found on the letter from IRS mentioned above)?

  3. What is your annual overhead cost? Rule of thumb is that at least 75% of all profits should go to the mission and the rest should go to overhead costs (that means that only 25% or less of their total revenue should be used to run the organization).

  4. Where are the majority of your funds coming from? Use the incredible power of Google to further search the legitimacy from whom the the largest portion of funds are coming from, and ask them of any holes or inconsistencies that you may find.

If the organization has been able to go through these hurdles with no problem at all. The odds are heavily in favor that they are in fact, legit! But if you still get a sketchy vibe...here is are some extra ways to filter out any scum.

#3 Watch out for these very common scam efforts

  1. The name sounds very similar to another, more established, organization

  2. They ask for cash donations only

  3. You are asked to wire money

  4. You received a thank you note for a contribution that you have yet to make

If they passed all of these tests, congrats you have found “the one” .

Now to reap the extra benefits of your donation...

#4 Here’s how to include your donation in your taxes

Easy, write your deduction on form 1040, Schedule A of your tax return and that’s it!

I will stress again, donate to a cause that you feel real feelings for. That tax-break is much more magical if you care too.

Speaking of magical...You did not think I was going to write this post and not mention the Traveling Unicorn!

The Traveling Unicorn is an organization where young people (or the young at heart) come together to spread the message of world unity by providing transportation for impoverished children in third world countries to encourage education. The TU (traveling unicorn) has been around for 1.5 years and is currently raising funds to fix a broken down van (the only source of transportation) for special needs school in Peru.

The “spread the message of world unity” comes into action in our fundraising events where we partner-up with a local charity that service our nearby community. Our combined forces splits the funds in half. One half goes to a local community charity that serves kids and the other half goes to our current project in another part of the world. You can be a force of good at home and abroad. You don’t have to choose.  

Disclaimer: All of the money that is donated through the website goes to our project. This 50/50 split applies when we throw fundraising events (we can let you know when we throw those too).

Check us out, take a chance, we may be “the one” for you.

Click on this link: The Traveling Unicorn to learn more about us, our mission, be on your way to a tax break and fulfill your 2017 resolution.

Is Giving Back Selfish?

I'l be the first to admit, I always found volunteering to be hella dull. I would only do it to fulfill community service hours.

It wasn't until years later that I experienced an intense surge of all-consuming feel-good moments.

For me, these intense moments were wide and few,

Now, it is likely that they won't happen every time you volunteer (maybe you are lucky and they do). But, if they do, these moments will stay with you.

Let me explain... 

When you accomplish things for yourself, it feels incredible. 

The "king of the world" feeling is undeniable. 

It is a fast, explosive high, but...It disappears as soon as it comes.

You are constantly seeking the "king of the world" effect, again and again. A never ending cycle.

But, when you feel good by doing good, there is a  shift in your reality.  

A gradual high that stays with you, becomes part of you. It's a type of feeling that makes you re-evaluate your existence (It's absolutely bonkers).

This poses an interesting question:

Is giving simply an act for the self?

More on this later...

Now, I wasn't exactly jumping out of my bed with excitement at 7am to help the West Orlando Rotary Club build a ramp for one person. 

In hindsight, I would have been, as it turned out to be one of those moments .

There were moments when we all worked together in silence as we sat in complete concentration, in a trance, lost in our work. A meditative process that allowed our minds to be in the present moment.

We did something that we would have never done otherwise. We created and constructed something with our hands.

In a trance of building with our hands

In a trance of building with our hands

The trance continued..

The trance continued..

Karl and Gary experiencing the trance

Karl and Gary experiencing the trance

Even the 3-year is in a deep trance

Even the 3-year is in a deep trance

1 hour into our work, this tiny human peaks his head through the door. Jeremiah (the curious 3 year old) pops out to ask questions and dance on parts of our ramp.

None us expected to fall in love with him and his adorable lil’ Nikes. Jeremiah looked like he was having the time of his life. Playing outside for hours with constant playmates and attention.

Finally, the moment we had all been working towards. The ramp was complete and now Ms. Lilly could experience a safe exit to the outside world for the first time in years.

Dan helping Ms. Lilly down her new ramp

Dan helping Ms. Lilly down her new ramp

Her expression—a mix of calm-happiness and relief. Peace. 

Ms Lilly could now finally go outside and experience the breeze, the trees and the sky.

Like I said—a memorable day.

Not only did we bond with each other as friends, we also bonded with the older members. Sharing life stories and business advice

We still can’t stop talking about this day! Ms.Lilly and Jeremiah will stay in our brains forever.

That day was extremely memorable for us because it made us feel something. We were making a huge difference, but we also did it because it made us feel amazing.

Now back to the initial question...

Do we only help because it makes us feel good?

Is giving back ultimately an act for the self? 

Leave a comment if you agree or disagree with the question above.

The Next Big Thing and Why You Should Make It Part of Your Brand Now

 

 

You have noticed the countless social media posts regarding social issues.

Issues such as race, gender norms, diseases, unity ect. The very idea of simply being kind, generous and an all around honest human floods the social media realm.

You have seen thousands of random acts of kindness go VIRAL!

Thanks to the internet, we as global citizens of Earth are no longer subjects to what corporations choose to show us

We can easily share our opinions and what we value thanks to the internet, we can expose and share any wrongful doing, to an extent that can make or break even the most powerful entity.

We as a human population are becoming aware, we as a human population are more informed than ever before.

This awareness, this connectedness is growing, growing so fast that it WILL change how business is and will be conducted forever…

More and more millennials are becoming advocates for social change by voting with their dollars.

Fun Fact: Millennials are the largest generation in human history....They are in the cusp of controlling the world and a majority of its capital.

Millennials are the disrupters, the game-changers... they will change the world and how the world conducts business as we know it.

A new wave of capitalism is about to rise.

Conscious capitalism.

Why?

Because Millennials WANT to see a positive change in the world...we have grown up with instant access to the world’s information and its loud opinion at the palm of their hands...literally.

The internet has allowed us to be more than just connected, it has allowed us to be intimate.

And this real time intimacy constantly inspires this generation to take matters into their own hands and change the world for the better.

And how will they change the world? Through business.

Thinks about this, where do you think top-talent will gravitate towards?...To work in a place just to make money? OR to work in a place where they make money AND are contributing in making the world a better place?

Humans are essentially social. We need to be part of something bigger than ourselves in order to truly self-actualize.

Work is life and we want life to be meaningful.

Where do you think people will spend their money?...Purchasing a product for the benefit it provides? OR purchasing a product for the benefit it provides AND its purchase contributing to making a world a better place?

The “Why” is everything.

People NEED a sense of purpose to feel complete. A sense of community.

To belong.To grow. To contribute. To be connected. To be empowered.

What are the things that people are willing to spend the most on?

Things that are meaningful, emotional and enlightening.

Thanks to technology, innovations and ideas move much faster than we can ever keep up with.

The “Why should I work and/or buy from you? What are you doing to make the world a better place?” demand will only continue to rise as more and more Millennials set their foot in the market (Which is ABOUT to explode).

It has already begun and it’s making waves.

We are working in a time of great disruption. It’s coming.

The world is changing wether you and your business are ready or not. So you can can decide now to be ahead of the curve and come out on top, or stick to your old ways and sink.

Think how much more productive your staff will be knowing that they are helping make the world a better place.

Think how much more passionate, driven and fulfilled you will become knowing that along with making profits, you are making the world a better place.

Every business wants to get ahead of the next big thing. This is it.

Welcome to the new era of business.

Sign up to receive Unicorn Mail to learn more about socially conscious business and learn how it can give your brand an edge.

3 Reasons Why Rotarians Can Win Over the Biggest Emerging Consumer Market in Human History: The Millennials

You, as a Rotarian, have heard a lot about these young 'whipper-snappers,' AKA Millennials.

You have read about them in articles, you have heard countless speeches at the club from an officer telling you that you NEED to recruit these 'youngins' and to have them become active members in your club. 

The pressure to recruit the young crowd is real!

You feel somewhat at a loss. How do you engage and entice a generation that seems so foreign from all of the generations before them? 

Rotary is telling you that you need the youth and that you need them ASAP!

Rotary is right.

You need them.. and here is why.

The first reason is a no brainer (hint: its in the title)

Millennials are the biggest emerging consumers in human history. They are the LARGEST( as in numbers) generation that the world has ever seen

Millennials will spend $200 billion annually by 2017….and $10 trillion in their lifetime... in the U.S. alone. 

Whaaaaat!

This generation is literally about to control the world's biggest chunk of money.

How does this affect Rotary and your business? 

How does it not?

Now you may be asking yourself? "How do I engage them as members and and customers?"

Easy.

For one, look at their spending habits.

Millennials vote with their dollars. More than 50% of Millennials make an effort to buy form companies that support a cause they care about (thank you forbes). 

What does that mean for your business? It means you better integrate a charitable cause or address a social issue in your business model ASAP!

This generation is more aware of the world around them and all of its social issues and conflicts then previous generations because they have never known the world without the internet. They have grown up with a mobile phone that is smart and being constantly connected through social media, a place where social issues, conflicts and opinions have flooded their brains in real time. 

They are conscious and care about the world becoming a more unified and empowering place, while also protecting mother Earth.

They actually really care (thanks technology).

Secondly, it is typical of Millennials to aspire be their own boss. To become business leaders. They have grown up with role models such as Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg.

Role models that have had the cojones to take on the exciting adventure to follow their passion and make an impact on this planet (ooh, just writing that sentence made me feel some type of way).

Becoming your own boss and building a business has become easier and it will continue to become easier with thanks to...you guessed, technology (Can you tell how much I LOVE technology?).

And thirdly, we ALL know how much the Millennial generation values traveling the world. My GOD. If you don't know, now you now.

Ask any Millennial why he/she wants to be rich and I promise they will ALL include the "traveling the world" bit. 

Let's recap shall we:

  • They deeply care about the social issues in the world, and use their dollars to make it known
  • They aspire to be their own boss and become business leaders
  • They long to travel and experience the world

This is FANTASTIC news for Rotary

Why?

Rotary: BUSINESS LEADERS coming together to solve problems and SOCIAL ISSUES in the community and around the WORLD.

Boom.

C'mon Rotarians your organization is responsible for eradicating Polio from the planet for crying out loud!!!!

That is one of the coolest most bad-a** thing I have ever hear of in my life! (I'm a millennial, and I'm pretty sure my fellow peers would agree). 

But, if the Millennial generation and Rotary are so perfect for each other, why aren't they kicking butt and changing the world already?

An obvious factor is the age gap...and its a pretty significant gap. 

Rotarians have dismissed Millennials in the past based on their overwhelming youth (Most of us were literally teenagers in 2006).

And to this young generation, Rotary has always been a club their grandpa/dad were part of and had zero interest in their dwellings. Not to mention...a large majority of Millennials have no idea what Rotary is and that such an organization even exists. 

But...What if I told you there is a way to bridge this gap?

What if I told you that there is a way to attract these Millennials to Rotary?

What if it told you that it involved a Unicorn...

The Traveling Unicorn, can bridge this age gap. But how?

The Traveling Unicorn is an organization that is FOUNDED and LED by MILLENNIALS to provide AID to people in NEED around the WORLD.

And guess what Rotarians:

The Founding Members of the Traveling Unicorn (yep, Millennials) are also new members of the West Orlando Rotary Club.

The Unicorns have partnered up with West Orlando (represent!!) on their first project: to provide aid to a special-needs school in Peru! 

Are you asking yourself "Will this work? Will this attract younger members?"

Ask your Millennial kid, "Hey Johnny, does traveling the world to help others in need sound like something that would you would be interested in?"

ARE YOU KIDDING ME!

There are companies making sooo much profit from Millennials forking over THOUSANDS of dollars to do just that!!!!!

The Traveling Unicorn + Rotary = a match made in "business-leaders-trying-to-change-the-world" heaven!

Why?

International...check!

Philanthropy...check!

Business leaders (new aaand not-so-new)... check!

The Traveling Unicorn attracts the eyes of the emerging young blooded business leaders (along with their massive social media presence) and Rotary provides the experience and resources to make major impact.

Everyone wins. WINS BIG!

You may be asking? "How do I get the Traveling Unicorn to become involved with my club?"

Easy!

Just contact Nick Maharaj, the current president of the West Orlando Rotary Club...If you are a Rotarian, I'm 98% sure you know him (the 6'3 jolly, bearded guy that loves Superman)

Nick's email is nick@nacommercial.com (or call him because you or someone you know has his number...he is a popular guy in the Rotarian realm)

Or me, Maria Saavedra at msaav25@gmail.com (I'm determined to be just as, if not more, popular than Nick)

P.S There is limited time for your club to become involved with the Traveling Unicorn's first project. Deadline is in April!

P.P.S Are you curious about the Traveling Unicorn? Cure that itch by visiting thetravelingunicorn.org 

AND...

Sign up to receive Millennial Unicorn mail! Learn more about Millennials and what makes them tick, along with the Unicorns' journey amidst the Rotarian realm. Come along for the ride.


The 24 year old CEO who is killing the game!

Nick is the CEO of N&A Commercial Cleaning Company, president of the West Orlando Rotary Club,  board member of the Traveling Unicorn, an active member of the Chamber of Commerce, blah blah blah. The point is, he is extremely accomplished for being 24 and we are all jealous (but happy and inspired by him at the same time). Nick is killing the game with his peers being twice his age. When he was named CEO in 2012, he was 21, the company took a bold move and stepped away form a larger corporation's umbrella and went solo. Naturally, revenue suffered dramatically making 2013 a very rough year. But such a bold move paid off, with an astronomical revenue increase of 47% in the last two years, and with numbers still on the rise... Millennial entrepreneurs for the win!

Being a young leader in a world full of, um… older folks, was not without its challenges and criticism. For instance, when Nick was named President of the West Orlando Rotary Club, many ‘boomers’ had a fit! There was a lot of smack said and major shade thrown his way.  There was even an instance when a member withdrew his membership because “he did not want to work under some kid.” The hate was real! Two years later, the ‘boomers’ have nothing but praise for Nick. He has turned the club around and made it what it is today.

 

TU: What is it like working with people a lot older than you, their children and you share the same age?

NM: To me, it is a very natural thing to socialize and network with older folks because my dad took me to networking events since I was 16. My social etiquette and business mindset has been molded by such interactions.

Here is the thing, I see business through their eyes, my own and through the eyes of my generation and I think it gives me a unique perspective of business itself.  Plus, I believe that growing up playing basketball has greatly shaped my leadership skills.

 

TU: What was your motivation for joining the Traveling Unicorn?

NM: I think it is a great model for everyone- to unite for a cause that is for the greater good. To me, that is what the Traveling Unicorn exemplifies- combining old people and young people of diverse backgrounds to come together for the greater good, for humanity.

 

TU: Why do you believe in the Traveling Unicorn?

NM: I believe in the Traveling Unicorn because it combines working alongside your friends to do something you love and changing the world. Why wouldn’t you want to be a part of that?

Read more about Nick under "The Squad" section.

The Traveling Unicorn Goes To Peru

                  The Traveling Unicorn Goes To Peru

We saw one of the seven wonders of the world, we hiked up and down a mountain in the jungle, we ate deliciously fresh, exotic food (I can't describe how amazing unprocessed food tastes like), we met young, wander-lust travelers just like us, who shared stories of incredible adventures both in traveling and business. Let's just say...we had the time of our lives! But, nothing, and I mean nothing compares to our visits to the special needs school in Tarapoto, Peru. That experience alone, has changed my entire perspective of life and has given me a clear sight of who I am as a person, who I want to be, and my purpose as a human being. Here is my story.

Our first presentation/pitch: the good, the bad and the wonderful

The weeks and days leading up to our first presentation for the West Orlando Rotary Club were spent with excitement and confidence. I was presenting my passion, and speaking my truth, I did not a have a nervous bone in my body...that is until the night before the presentation. 

All of the suppressed insecurities that would have normally haunted me days before my speech came to the surface and attacked me with a vengeance.

My mind: "I can't do this"

My body: Breathes heavily

My mind:"Who do I think I am for even attempting this?"

My body: Breathes heavily

My Mind: "I'm going to fail"

My body: Breathes heavily

My tiny panic attack lasted for 30 minutes. I somehow pulled myself together and moved on.  

The next morning, I watched as the Rotarian Baby Boomers rolled in in their impressive cars, and I had yet another insecure thought, how will I, a young, inexperienced, Hispanic female, possibly convince this older (I repeat, Baby Boomers), experienced, successful, caucasian, male crowd to a partnership. We can't possibly be on the same book, let alone the same page.  It turns out, we had more in common than I thought. 

Stephanie Ibanez and Nadya Sosa went straight to work and began to network ASAP. Homegirls wasted no time. I was so happy and proud while I watched from afar as they spoke about what we were doing with such confidence and passion. 

The Rotarians were so shocked that a group of tweantysomethings were trying to help humanity. Its as if they were seeing a mythical creature before their very eyes.

The Rotary Club's ideal criteria: philanthropy, check; millennials, check; diversity, check; international, check; education, check; special needs, check. We were literally their unicorn project! I can't make this stuff up. This was real life!

I delivered my speech in regards to our organization, how we as Millennials could make a small positive dent in humanity through giving, and Nick Maharaj took it home with his speech regarding our first project; raising funds for a special needs school in Peru.

The Final product: We walked away from that meeting not only with a partnership, but with enough money to fix the children's transportation to school. We were showered with praise, amazement and many handshakes. Their compliments and words of encouragement fed our egos and we were in  a dizzying state of what I call 'happy shock.'

Our next step: traveling to Peru on September 29th to see the school for ourselves, to document all of our findings, to present our case to change this school, and hopefully change the lives of these kids. 

See our 'happy shock' photos below. 

                      Maria Saavedra 

                      Maria Saavedra 

                         Nick Maharaj

                         Nick Maharaj

                            Nadya Sosa

                            Nadya Sosa

                    Stephanie Ibanez

                    Stephanie Ibanez

                                                                        The Millennials

                                                                        The Millennials




 

Special Needs Update

The Special Needs School in Tarapoto, Peru is lacking many amenities. One of those missing amenities is transportation.  Let us take you back to the early 90s to learn the story of the famous Dutch man as told by Gilda Reategui, a former teacher of the school (and also Maria's mother). 

Circa 1990: Gilda Reategui, who was pregnant with Maria at the time, recalls a man from the Netherlands coming to the school to donate anything he could. He would consistently show up with presents for the kids or materials for the teachers to use. Gilda says, that to them, this Dutch man was like an angel. The sheer excitement that they experienced was unparalleled. Even if the Dutch man showed up with tiny trinkets for presents, the excitement and appreciation for him was unreal. His biggest contribution was the donation of a mini van. The school finally had its own means of transportation!

The Dutch man died many moons ago and there has been little to almost no help since.

Present day: This mini van is still the school's only means of official transportation, and it is currently broken down. Which means many of the kids who don't have any means of transportation are not going to school. The school cannot afford to repair their van because the cost exceeds their annual budget of $620. The cost to fix the van is $1,395. 

To donate, click on the Donate tab above. 100% of donations will go to the school. The Traveling Unicorn wants to pick up where the Dutch-man-angel left off! Help us, help them. If you can't donate, spread the word and share this post. 

Cheers Millennials!

Cheers to living in an era and time where we are free to pursue our dreams and to do whatever we want! Through our recent humanitarian research, we have learned that not all have this amazing luxury that we have within reach, the luxury of the freedom to follow our passions, the luxury of all the technology at our fingertips. We are encourage to be innovative, reach out of our bounds. 

We are fortunate enough to live in a time and place where women are encouraged to succeed. As we all know, this is not the case in all countries, actually most countries. Although our country has a long way to go towards true equality, it is still one of the best places to be a woman.

Cheers Millennials, cheers that we have this ever growing technology that will allow us to change and revolutionize the world. To following our passions and living our truths, Cheers!