#GivingTuesday™ (#GT) is a movement to create a national day of giving at the start of the annual holiday season, following Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday. This year, #GivingTuesday is on December 3, and we hope you’ll join us in celebrating and participating in charitable activities that support non-profit organizations.
In that spirit, AlleyWatch speaks with Shimmy Mehta, founder of Angelwish, a non-profit whose mission is to provide the public with an easy way to grant wishes to the millions of children who are living with chronic illnesses around the world – and which incorporates an educational component that gives young people a hands-on lesson in philanthropy.
Tell us about Angelwish.
Angelwish is an organization that helps busy people grant birthday and holiday wishes to children living with chronic illnesses such as Asthma, Diabetes, & HIV/AIDS, among many others. The impact that we can have with a simple wish that costs less than $50 on average is amazing.
What inspired you undertake this endeavor?
I worked as a consultant for a Big Four firm during the dot.com boom and saw so many of us working crazy hours because it was fun, and when the dot.com bust came, it was more of the same, just less fun. No dot.com business plan included community service, so I came up with one that was traditional, yet digital.
Tell us how Angelwish works.
It is really simple. Go to nyc.angelwish.org and click on Grant a Wish. Find one of our 125+ locations around the world to support. People often select where they grew up or where they went to school. Find the wish of a child whom you connect with – Maybe its Legos, maybe it’s the price. No wish is greater than $100. Add the items to your cart and check out using Dwolla, Amazon Payments or Paypal, and BAM. You’re done.
On the recipient side, we ship those items within a few days to the overworked hospital social worker who can establish a stronger relationship with the parent, who ultimately is the one who gets to wrap and give the gift to the child.
This feeds into the bigger picture of getting these children healthy and able to manage their illness. Better health means they miss less school and get a better education. That leads to better job prospects and hopefully breaks the poverty cycle for them.
100% of the donations go directly to granting wishes – what supports the organization?
We rely on the support of corporations and individuals who believe in what we do and can see the value it brings to their organization as well as to the recipients. Many companies do toy drives, but don’t realize the true costs or inefficiencies of them.
Time is money. Our process only takes 10 minutes, and we have access to over 125 hospitals. A typical toy drive takes about three hours to complete, if consider that you have to go out to the store, fight holiday traffic, wrap the gift, and bring it to the office, etc,, to put in a box for one organization. It will sit there for at least 3 to 4 weeks, at which time, a nonprofit will have to go and pick those items up and scramble to figure out what is what and try to distribute them efficiently to families who need them. If only Kozmo.com was still around.
We had over 9,000 employees from Goldman Sachs grant wishes to children through Angelwish, which means that we saved them over 27,000 hours of productivity. I’m not exactly sure what the hourly value of a Goldman Sachs person’s time is, but I’m sure that it is significant. At a guesstimate of $100 an hour, we helped save them almost $3M. Who knows how much they were able to make because of that gained time.
The companies we work with also realize the impact of their support downstream. By doing this online, we get gifts into the hands of families three weeks earlier, which means parents are less stressed about the holidays, which has a huge impact on the family in total.
Tell us about the “Learning to Give” program.
The Learning to Give program is something that we have been doing for almost 10 years, but never knew it. After 9/11, a donor made a significant contribution in appreciation of having survived. It meant a lot to us, and we said we would stretch it to have some amazing impact. Instead of me recognizing all of my childhood and some of my adult fantasies of running through a toy store with a blank check, I reached out to a group of girl and boy scouts and asked them to help us pick out the best gifts for children who were sick. Who knows more about what an eight-year-old wants better than another eight-year-old?
The Learning to Give program is a more formal curriculum that we are piloting with JPMorgan Chase, where we take corporate volunteers into the classroom and really go into the meaning of philanthropy. We talk about it as it pertains to history, in literature, and as a part of financial literacy. We then ask the kids to take all that they’ve learned and chaperone some corporate volunteers on a Giving Spree at a toy store. We did a great event with Kyra Sedgwick a few years back in 2008. http://vimeo.com/3111627
It is just amazing to be a part of getting the next generation excited about giving back to others.
It’s #GivingTuesday. Where do people go to donate to Angelwish?
They can go to nyc.angelwish.org – a site that we set up to capture the support of various companies and startups. While its titled Made in NYC – we welcome all startups to participate. We love the concept of a day that is building up momentum and awareness for giving. I hope that it helps people to find a non-profit that they can associate with and work with.
Why did you choose NYC to launch Angelwish?
So many reasons – NYC’s capacity and desire to give is enormous. Whether it is time, talent, or treasure, I’ve found so many amazing people in the startup and business world who were able to channel their inner philanthropist and help me build and scale Angelwish.org. The cultural diversity is another amazing reason. I don’t have to go far to find people who grew up in Oakland, CA or had a connection to Sioux Falls, South Dakota, where we have care centers.