inspiring non-profits


Thirst Project


I think the saying that you never know who knows who is a theme always present in my life. A few weeks ago I was at a wonderful event where I met and struck up a conversation with a girl named Allie. We talked nonprofit and Allie, in turn, said that I needed to know her friend Seth Maxwell. Seth is the founder of an incredible nonprofit called ThirstProject.  While this may sound like a crazy game of telephone, where that one moment leads to another, it is what ultimately led to my inspiring conversation with Seth and for that I am grateful. It’s not often that 19-year old’s start nonprofits’ but that is what happened in 2008 when Seth and seven college friends who took on an enormous undertaking and over ten years later are literally changing the world one well at a time.

Charity Matters: Tell us a little about what the Thirst Project does?

Seth Maxwell: There are currently 663 million people in the world who do not have access to safe clean drinking water. In developing countries around the world, women and children will walk from their homestead to whatever standing water source is available. Most commonly pond, rivers, swamps and then drinking from those open and unprotected sources that are often shared with animals who defecate in the same water that people drink from causes those people to get really preventable water-borne diseases.  Most people don’t realize that diarrhea and dysentery kill more people every year than HIV and malaria combined.

So we build freshwater wells and washing stations in developing countries to give people clean water. It isn’t super unique, there are a lot of great water organizations in the world but what is unique is that we are the world’s leading youth water activism organization. We have a school tour where we send our youth activists to educate high school and college students about the global water crisis and challenge those students to do something about it. We will have 12 speakers total who will go to about 800 high schools and college campuses across the country. So about 175,000 students will sit and learn about the water crisis and in turn, they will do walks, dances, video game tournaments…all to raise awareness to build water projects around the world.

Since we started we have mobilized a couple of million students who have raised about ten million dollars. We commit to giving 100 percent of funds raised to building water projects and we have a pretty incredible group of donors, lead by our board who pay for our operating expenses. We have given 400, 000 people in 13 countries clean water for the rest of their lives.

Charity Matters: What was the moment that you knew you needed to act and start the Thirst Project?

Seth Maxwell: For me, I couldn’t NOT do something about the water crisis. I think I considered myself, a pretty well educated (then 19 year old) and was just struck by how massive in scale this issue was and the fact that I had never heard about it. for how sweeping the problem was both in terms of the number of people at that point. There were over 1.1 billion people without access to clean drinking water but also how far-reaching the negative impact of the water crisis was on so many issues. Whether it was health or access to education, I was truly struck that this wasn’t something that was on the news every night. 

It was one of those moments when I was swept up and just knew I had to do something about it. I wasn’t sure what one person could do but knew I had to do something. So, I gathered seven of my closest college friends together and we decided to simply tell these people’s stories. We pooled all our money together  ($70) and were able to purchase 1,000 bottles of water from our nearest store. We took to Hollywood Blvd and began giving bottles of water away if people would stop and listen. In one day we spoke to over 1,000 people and were able to turn our $70 into $1,700. and this was used to fund our first freshwater well.

Charity Matters: What are your biggest challenges?

Seth Maxwell: So many people really want to contribute to making an impact and contribute some amount of time and feel like they can walk away knowing they did something that day or at that moment. While this is the least sexy answer but we are pretty limited by the amount of funding we can raise to build our projects. We know how to bring safe water to communities. We know how to build wells and work with local contractors in the communities we serve who in turn get trained on maintenance, repair, sanitation, and hygiene.

This really is a very solvable issue. When we started a decade ago and the number of people who needed clean water was 1.1 billion and today it is down to 663 million people. In just a decade, while the global population has risen the number of people without safe water has literally been cut in half. There will be an end to this issue in our lifetime it is just a question of how quickly we can move this ball down the field.

Our biggest challenge is scale and funding. Especially given our commitment to give one hundred percent of our student donations to our water projects, it makes for some challenges. We are constantly coming up with new and exciting ways to address our challenges and it is an exciting time.

Charity Matters: What fuels you to keep doing this work?

Seth Maxwell: One of two things…first is our students. The work we do with students and young people means there is never a shortage of inspiration. It is easy to keep going when you see a high school student who gives up their birthdays or swims around the Statue of Liberty to draw attention to this issue or raise funds.

We are constantly given the gift to interact with students who are selfless, innovative and creative. Similarly, they have amazing experiences. I can not tell you the number of times I have had a student writing to us saying, “Thank you so much for starting Thirst Project, if it wasn’t for thirst project I don’t know what the highlight of my Senior year would have been.”  Incredible things.

On the other side, it’s not hard to stay inspired when you look at our impact in the field.  The impact of the water crisis on health, on mortality, when you see a new freshwater project open in a community and have conversations with moms who say they used to have to walk three hours for water. I was worried about getting Collerea or dysentery or diarrhea and now knowing that my baby will never have to make that walk is incredible. These are the kind of things that keep you going when things get tough.

Charity Matters: When do you know that you have made a difference?

Seth Maxwell: It is like the examples I just gave above. When we talk to students who have had an impact because of their service whether it shaped their trajectory for their career, their leadership skills, their social-emotional skills development. It is countless conversations in the field and the idea behind each of those 400, 000 people in the field who now have clean water and the stories of how their lives are changed from clean water. 

Charity Matters: Tell us a little about what success you have had and the impact you have made with the Thirst Project?

Seth Maxwell: Impact for us isn’t measured in the numbers that most people would typically look for; yes it’s meaningful to look at dollars raised or the number of water projects built or the number of people given safe water, those are all good and super meaningful but for us how we measure impact is the implication for each of those numbers.

So for example when we bring safe water to a community, yes we can measure the number of people in that community that now have safe drinking water but what is really more meaningful to us is measuring both before and after. Saying before this project was built there were only 39 of the 200 students in this community enrolled in school, presumably because one of their responsibilities would be collecting water for their family or because they were sick from something that prevented them from going to school. If six months to a year after our project we can report back and say we, measured an increase in school enrollment by fifty percent that is really meaningful to us.

We can measure waterborne disease rates before and after and if we can say that before we built a water project that there was a twenty-nine percent rate of cholera but if after our project, it was reduced to four percent, that is really meaningful to us. It is those kinds of things really that matter to us.

Charity Matters: If you could dream any dream for the Thirst Project what would that be?

Seth Maxwell: To see the end of the global water crisis. We believe in a world where everyone has access to safe clean drinking water and we are running really hard at that goal.

Charity Matters: How has this journey changed you?

Seth Maxwell: I think it has changed me entirely. I think one of the biggest ways it has changed me is how I evaluate problems. think I somewhat struggle to empathize with my friends or family with their problems, which to me sometimes do not feel like an important issue in the context of what I see in our work. I have to literally remind myself to be empathetic. My perspective on life and the world has completely changed. 

Charity Matters: What life lessons have you learned from starting this organization?

Seth Maxwell: It is hard to pick just one life lesson because there are truly too many. For me learning how to build a community of people who are committed to using their gifts and resources and not just sort of throwing those resources but coming together with an intention and a strategy that is effective to make an impact on problems that are really meaningful. It has been incredible to learn that skill and be able to see it in action and amazing that people are willing to trust me with their time, money and gifts to make that impact a reality.

Charity Matters


If you are so inspired feel free to pass this along. Who doesn’t love to hear about all the good in the world? You will make someone’s day!

Copyright © 2019 Charity Matters. This article may not be reproduced without explicit written permission; if you are not reading this in your newsreader, the site you are viewing is illegally infringing our copyright. We would be grateful if you contact us.


The Power of One

“Please believe in the POWER of ONE.

One person can make an enormous difference in the world.

One person-actually, one idea-can start a war or end one or subvert an entire power structure.

One discovery can cure a disease or spawn a new technology to benefit or annihilate the human race.

You as ONE individual can change millions of lives.

Think big.

Do not limit your vision and do not ever compromise your dreams or ideals.”

Iris Chang

Perhaps a big thought for a Monday, post Father’s Day but a great way to begin the week. The Power of One continues to be a driving force in my life, as I seek these incredible people out. On Wednesday, you will meet Norah Miller, one woman on a mission to change the face of homelessness in her community….a woman using her power to help those in need.

It is the Norah’s of the world, that fuel my belief, each of us does contain the Power of One. The real question we should be asking ourselves, is how are we going to use that power?

Charity Matters.

Copyright © 2017 Charity Matters. This article may not be reproduced without explicit written permission; if you are not reading this in your newsreader, the site you are viewing is illegally infringing our copyright. We would be grateful if you contact us.

Catch a Fire

rachael chong, catch a fire

Since this week is all about love, it seems only fitting to talk about the newest matchmaker in town.  This isn’t your average speed dating site, but rather a brilliant concept that connects volunteers with non-profits who need help on specific task and its called CatchAFire.

So often when we think about volunteering, we think about stuffing envelopes, collecting trash or the most mundane activities. In 2009, Rachael Chong had an idea to connect professionals and their skill set to non-profit organizations. Rachael had a vision to “forward a cause you believe in” by using your professional skills to help a non-profit organization. So if you are a graphic artist, who is passionate about the environment….Catch a Fire would connect you to an environmental  non-profit that is working on a new logo. You get the idea….

Rachael’s platform CatchAFire.Org is an amazing way to make a difference. She is changing the face of the non-profit workplace, creating a pro-bono movement and making our world better by inspiring people to share their gifts and talents for a greater purpose. I think her bio best sums her up by saying, “Rachael wants to leave this earth known as a leader who empowers others to be better than her.

This Valentines week, I would say Catch A Fire is a match made in heaven and definitely something to love.

Charity Matters.


Copyright © 2015 Charity Matters. This article may not be reproduced without explicit written permission; if you are not reading this in your newsreader, the site you are viewing is illegally infringing our copyright. We would be grateful if you contact us.



Last week I spent two days at a conference for non-profits, called Alchemy. I sat in a room with 70 non-profits from all over Southern California and was fascinated by the diversity of the non-profit organizations. As we all introduced ourselves, I listened to the wide spectrum of services these organizations provided…everthing from promoting horseback riding in Pasadena, projects for the arts, makeover’s for homeless women to employing Veterans.

Some of the organizations were brand new and others had long histories but as I listened to each organization talk about their mission, they all had one thing in common that made them the same. That one thing was passion. Each person was dedicated and passionate about what it was that their organization did to make the world better.

Of course, not all of the causes spoke to me…or did I really understand. But who am I to judge? It was bringing people together who take their gifts (the fashionista who did makeovers on homeless women and the retired recruiter who finds jobs for Veterans) to make another’s life better. A room full of diversity and yet we were all the same….simply trying to share our gifts to make a difference.

Charity Matters.


Copyright © 2015 Charity Matters. This article may not be reproduced without explicit written permission; if you are not reading this in your newsreader, the site you are viewing is illegally infringing our copyright. We would be grateful if you contact us.

More than making the grade..Grades of Green

GradesofGreen+Annual+ClUcYEl7fxYl“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” That infamous Margaret Mead quote is what came to mind after my inspiring conversation with Grades of Green’s Kim Martin

Six and a half years ago, Kim Martin was an environmental attorney with young children in elementary school.  She befriended 3 other like-minded mom’s; Lisa Coppedge, Shaya Kirkpatrick and Suzanne Kretschmer, who had been deeply impacted by Al Gore’s environmental movie, An Inconvenient Truth. The four of them began working together to find creative ways to green their school. Before long, these savvy moms and their school were winning national awards for their efforts and making an amazing impact on their youth, school and community.

They realized that they were truly onto something much bigger as their initial students moved onto middle school and began asking questions about where were the recycling containers and why was the school using styrofoam? Moments like these prompted the four women to take their extraordinary volunteer efforts to the next level and three years ago they founded the non-profit, Grades of Green.

Their mission is simply to inspire and empower kids and the broader school community to care for the environment. The vision of Grades of Green is to make environmental protection second nature in young minds.

Their website breaks down initiatives for individuals and schools to make small and simple changes that have big impacts. Things such as Walk to School Wednesdays, (de)Tox Thursdays, Campus composting and Electricity Challenges. All these activities are free, simple, easy and impact full. The kids learn by doing, not by lecture. The founders’ dream is that this next generation lives in harmony with the earth and that all their decisions big and small reference that point.

What started as a small thoughtful group of committed citizens has already begun to change our world. Today, Grades of Green is in more than 209 schools, in 30 states and has worked with over 130,268 children and counting. That small thoughtful group has become a large one and as their motto says, “Every shade makes a difference.”

Charity Matters.


Copyright © 2013 Charity Matters. This article may not be reproduced without explicit written permission; if you are not reading this in your newsreader, the site you are viewing is illegally infringing our copyright. We would be grateful if you contact us.


Making Recess what it used to be…Playworks

playworks-1The first week of school already found me running to drop off my son’s forgotten notebook. I happened to find myself on campus during middle school recess. Meandering thru hundreds of  thirteen year olds in search of my son, I noticed something strange. No one was “playing.” Recess looked more like a benefit with swarms of clicks talking in large groups. What is happening to these kids? Does anyone play anymore?

Well, it seems that I’m a little late to this idea and that it isn’t just parents worried about play but also teachers and principals. I was thrilled to discover that someone is really doing something about this and her name is Jill Vialet.  In 1996, Jill had a conversation with a haggard looking school principal who launched into a tirade about…recess.

The principal was tired of seeing the same kids in her office every day, for fighting on the playground. She didn’t believe they were bad children but was equally worried about her teachers who were literally hiding, to avoid recess so they wouldn’t have to confront the inevitable outbreak of chaos.

That conversation struck both a chord and action from Jill Vialet, who within the same year founded Sports4Kids, which is now Playworks. Her goal was to transform recess and the school day with safe and healthy play so teachers can teach and kids can learn.


Playworks is the only nonprofit organization in the country providing trained, full-time play coaches focused on recess to hundreds of low-income schools in major urban areas. 85 percent of principals report that students are more engaged in school since having Playworks on site. The safe and healthy play Playworks is bringing to schools is helping students succeed in the classroom and in life.

Today, Playworks brings play and physical activity to more than 130,000 children in 300 schools in 23 US cities and continues to expand. Jill Vialet knows how important play is and her non-profit more than makes it work!

Charity Matters.

Copyright © 2013 Charity Matters. This article may not be reproduced without explicit written permission; if you are not reading this in your newsreader, the site you are viewing is illegally infringing our copyright. We would be grateful if you contact us.


HopeMobWhile I am not the most tech savvy girl around, I do love ways that technology can make a difference in someone’s life. When I come across inspiring ideas, I simply need to share. Since I can’t save the world, but rather make a little difference everyday where I can, I thought this might be something you might enjoy as well.

This new technology is called HopeMob and its  exactly what it sounds like – a mob of people bringing hope.

Just as Flash Mobs dance and bring spontaneous joy and laughter, HopeMob will bring caring strangers together to create sudden, yet organized relief and hope all over the world! HopeMob’s mission is to see a need and swarm it.

The founders are two young guys named Shawn King and Brad Kellough and they are some of the most respected social entrepreneurs and humanitarians in the world. Their social media and web projects have raised over $5,000,000 for charity, received over 100 million web hits, and recently won the Mashable Award for Most Creative Social Good Campaign.

Who knew a mob could be such a great thing? I guess anything that brings hope, is always great.

Charity Matters.

Copyright © 2013 Charity Matters. This article may not be reproduced without explicit written permission; if you are not reading this in your newsreader, the site you are viewing is illegally infringing our copyright. We would be grateful if you contact us.

The Lulu and Leo Fund

LuluandLeoFundI am forever inspired by people’s ability to funnel their pain into good. It’s like being an alchemist, someone who can turn metal to gold. This story is just that. Turning pain into joy.

The Krim family were a happy family  with three young children when tragedy took two of their children away. Lulu (6) and Leo (20 months) were killed by their nanny while their parents were at work. A loss so huge, violent and beyond any comprehension, it seemed beyond unbearable for any parent to survive.

Yet, rather than turn to the sadness, the Krim family has decided to turn towards the light and honor the beautiful lives of their son and daughter by creating the LuluandLeoFund. Their children loved their art classes at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and when the Krim’s realized that many children didn’t have access to such programs they decided to act.

“We created the Lulu & Leo Fund to help more children benefit from these education experiences in art and science. ”

May 28th would have been Lulu’s 7th birthday and the Krim family has just announced that they are expecting a baby boy in the fall. It is pure alchemy. Metal to gold and pain into joy.

Charity Matters.

Copyright © 2013 Charity Matters. This article may not be reproduced without explicit written permission; if you are not reading this in your newsreader, the site you are viewing is illegally infringing our copyright. We would be grateful if you contact us.