Philanthropic Volunteering: Combining Travel and Altruism

Carl Turnley is both an avid traveler and a proponent of philanthropic involvement. In culmination of the two, Carl hosts blogs on the subjects, covering his philanthropic endeavors, the causes he supports and how he gets involved on; on, he offers advice, insight and paints pictures of the world of travel that he has experienced first-hand.


Now, Carl has decided to outline how these two interests (three, if you count blogging) come together, giving a look into the world of altruistic travel.

carl turnley philanthropy


Combining Travel and Philanthropy | Carl Turnley


Why Volunteer When you Travel?

As someone who is heavily invested in both traveling and getting involved with international causes the importance of combining the two is evident.

We travel for a number of reasons, the last of which is certainly not to explore a new area, open our eyes to new cultures and gain a more worldly perspective. These opportunities–whether they’re focused on business, pleasure, or philanthropy–can help expand our cultural horizons and better understand and empathize with those around us.

The addition of volunteering abroad only does more to improve your stay. You might not have as much time to relax on the beach or dine at upscale establishments, but the reward of knowing you’ve helped those in need far exceeds a day tanning by the water.

How To Get Involved

If you’re an active member of a church or other religious association you’ve more than likely got more than just a few opportunities in front of you. Mission trips organized by religious organizations are a common, year-round expenditure that will allow you to travel at low (or no) cost to countries in need. There, you’ll undertake a number of tasks that typically range from infrastructural improvements, construction of homes, shelters and ministries, and volunteering at local events where needed.

If you’re less religious, other travel-volunteer programs offer the ability to get involved in hands-on manners around the world. Those like Global Vision International  do an incredible job of pairing volunteers with those in need internationally. The possibilities of how you can get involved are nearly endless–for a longer list, check this CNN article.

Where To Travel

The options available to you are extremely far-reaching. Though you may picture building churches in a third-world country as the “typical” volunteer mission trip, if you’re not as physically fit as some volunteers or think that you’re not up for it, other organizations offer the opportunity to teach English, educate locals on how to improve their living conditions, or volunteer on farmland or with endangered animals around the world.

Helping After a Disaster: Why It’s Important to Be Cautionary

Carl Turnley Haiti


In the wake of a disaster, human beings are unique in their desire to help.

Almost as one, we stand up and ask how we can help. Can we send food? Can we send supplies? Can we offer our homes, our money or even words of encouragement to help in times of absolute need?

When Hurricane Matthew swept through the Caribbean it left behind it a path of destruction, death and despair while making its way to the southeast United States. Lacking a solidified government and the advanced infrastructure that nations like the United States or the Bahamas can tout, Haiti was devastated by the severe weather. The death count continues to climb, currently over 1,000 according to the Huffington Post.

Amidst news of death, destroyed infrastructure, displaced people and decimated morale across the small island nation, humans around the world rose to help. In almost a mirror image of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the American Red Cross allowed people to donate money quickly and efficiently to Haiti’s relief efforts simply by texting a number.

But suddenly, things changed abruptly–reports came in that some people were warning Americans not to donate to the American Red Cross for Haiti relief. In fact, it was the Haitians, in large part, who were warning against it. They claimed that the donations in past disaster relief efforts had been largely squandered.

At this point in time, it may be in the best interest to listen to them. Understanding where your donations are going is the single most important part of making a charitable donation. Having the knowledge that your funds are being lost simply lining the pockets of the employees at a nonprofit, being poorly managed, or otherwise being called into question should put a halt in your donations quickly.

You know by now that you should do your due diligence when deciding on a charity to which you’ll donate some money. But sometimes it takes more than a simple Google search to make a conclusion. CharityWatch gives the ARC an A- rating–proof that they can (and often do!) coordinate large scale efforts and help those in need. But foreign relief efforts are often best handed by foreign NGOs, or ones that work closely with foreign governments.

A natural disaster, especially one that has claimed so many lives and devastated entire countries is worthy of an extra charitable look. These people are people–human beings–who need help that they simply cannot provide for themselves. However, times of dire need are not the times to begin throwing caution to the wind. Make sure that the nonprofits that you’re donating to are both legitimate and appropriately use their funds in the most efficient way possible.

To help Haiti with Hurricane Matthew relief, consider donating directly to Doctors Without Borders or Help for Haiti, two relief efforts that are primed to make a difference.

Charities That Fly Under the Radar

Certain charities exist in the U.S. that are nearly universally known. People have heard of these charities, know what they do, and have possibly donated to them in the past. These charities might include Make-A-Wish, Salvation Army, The American Cancer Society, and Goodwill. While these charities do a lot of good and support great causes, there are also many lesser-known charities that also provide awesome services. Here’s a list of smaller charities that have received stellar ratings on Charity Navigator, which evaluates how well a charity uses their finances and how accountable they are with reporting information.


India Development and Relief Fund

This charity is based in Maryland and focuses on providing “support for programs that improve education, healthcare, women empowerment, governance, and eco-friendly livelihoods at grassroots level all across India, and Nepal.” The organization currently focuses on assisting those living in Nepal who were affected by the devastating earthquakes that recently occurred.


Pediatric Cancer Foundation

This foundation runs the Sunshine Project, which allows researchers and doctors to work together with the singular goal of treating childhood cancer, a fairly novel approach. They have been able to develop less toxic drugs that may help children whose treatment wasn’t previously effective. The foundation also funds a lot of research around pediatric cancer.


Puppies Behind Bars

The purpose of this charity is to train wounded veteran and law enforcement service dogs. They accomplish this goal by giving puppies to inmates, who raise and train the dogs from the age of 8 to 24 weeks. The dogs are then placed with wounded veterans at no cost. Around 800 puppies have been trained since 1997.


Alpha House of Tampa

Alpha House assists homeless mothers or pregnant women who are in crisis and do not have much support to care for themselves and their children. The charity offers health care, housing, parenting classes, education, and assistance in developing skills that allow these mothers to be self-sufficient.


Better Basics

Better Basics strives to encourage literacy with at-risk children in the Birmingham, Alabama area. They run intervention and education programs, in addition to handing out free books to local children. Last year, over 80,000 books were donated to schoolchildren. Even though literacy rates in the United States are fairly high, there are still thousands of children who struggle to read.


Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide

The Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide (ELAW) seeks to assist attorneys and researchers on an international level. ELAW provides these people with the resources necessary to protect the environment through passing legislation or upholding that which is already in place. More than 300 scientists and lawyers spread throughout 70 countries are a part of ELAW.

The Unappreciated Philanthropy of Greek Life


Carl Turnley Philanthropy

The word “philanthropy” is, according to Google, derived from the Greek word “philanthropos,” meaning “man-loving.” Man-loving, in this sense, is the focus on feeling compassion and high regard of your fellow man; all of mankind as a whole is deserving of respect, regard, and, of course, assistance when needed. It only makes sense, then, that the connection between a word whose origins can be traced to Greece and college Greek life share such a close connection.

For many people, though, love of your fellow man isn’t what the first thing that comes to mind when they think about college fraternities.


So what is the first thing that comes to mind when I say the phrase “Greek life?” What about “fraternities” or “sororities?” If you pictured wild parties, hazing rituals, red solo cups and togas made of bedsheets, chances are your view of fraternities and sororities are more governed by what you’ve seen in movies and heard about during your time in college. If, on the other hand, you pictured well-organized, philanthropic events, year-round fundraising and a strong sense of compassion and the willingness to help others, you’ve hit the nail on the head.


Depending on where you went to college and your level of involvement in Greek life, you may have a very different opinion of the entire scenario.  While many people who never pledged a fraternity or sorority who attended a larger schools like Arizona State or Penn State may know the groups best for their weekend antics, the foundation of a fraternity isn’t in the parties they throw, it’s in the philanthropy they engage in.


Every fraternity and sorority on just about every campus across America carefully and meticulously plans out a series of fundraising events that benefit a charity–whether it’s local or national. These charities and philanthropic causes become the backbone for the fraternity or sorority’s event planning and fundraising each year. In 2011 at the University of Michigan, the University’s Greek life helped to raise over $75,000 to donate to charities–in a single week.  


Perhaps the biggest and best in Greek life fundraising is the annual event THON, which started at Penn State University in 1973 as a dance marathon to benefit charity. Since its onset, THON has partnered with the Four Diamonds Fund, which supports pediatric cancer research. The partnership, along with increased coverage of the event and a rate of participation from students both in and outside of Greek life has increased its charitable reach to epic proportions, recently raising over $14 million dollars in 2014 and over $9 million in 2016.


It’s time to break the mold of thinking when it comes to Greek life and the “party” culture that surrounds it. Often, Greek like winds up making strong changes of lives in people all over the glove.

Rachael Ray Gives Back

Carl Turnley - Dog BonesMany people know Rachael Ray for her cooking show, but few people are aware of her philanthropic efforts. In addition to being an internationally-recognized business mogul, Ray loves to give back. Her latest efforts to help the community have come through her pet food line, Rachael Ray Nutrish.

Rachael Ray believes in creating a strong business foundation and then giving the profits away to philanthropic efforts. She says that you need to make sure you have the business success before you give money back to the community. And Ray certainly does have the business background. In addition to her Emmy Award-winning daytime television show called “Rachael Ray”, which is produced by CBS, she also has a number of popular Food Network shows. Rachael Ray has a signature line of products including cookware, food ingredients, dinnerware, and knives. She also has a lifestyle magazine called Rachael Ray Every Day.

Rachael Ray’s philanthropic efforts are almost as expansive as her business efforts. In 2007, she launched a nonprofit organization called Yum-o! This organization empowers kids and their families to get into the kitchen and create healthy and delicious family-friendly recipes. Rachael Ray then partners with organizations to feed hungry children.

In 2008, Rachael Ray decided to add helping animals to her philanthropy repertoire. She partnered with pet food experts at Ainsworth Pet Nutrition to create a line of food and treats for dogs called Rachael Ray Nutrish. This company began when Ainsworth Pet Nutrition reached out to Rachael Ray after seeing her and her husband speak passionately about animals and their own Pit Bull.

Nutrish was created to offer a healthy alternative to the other dog foods on the market. This was especially important at the time since there had recently been a string of dog deaths due to food that was made mostly from fillers. Rachael Ray’s Nutrish line is made of simple natural ingredients with real meat. The same year Rachel launched Nutrish, her love of animals led her to start Rachael’s Rescue. Through Rachael’s Rescue, Ray has donated her personal proceeds from her pet food business to no-kill shelters. This money goes to food and medical treatment for animals in need. Rachael’s Rescue has partnered with the ASPCA, Best Friends Animal Society, North Shore Animal League America, and a number of other trusted organizations.

In 2014, Nutrish launched its first ever cat food. It does not contain any artificial preservatives, flavors or poultry by-product meal. This food for cats comes in both wet and dry varieties. Rachael Ray also recently announced the launch of DISH from Rachael Ray Nutrish. This is a new line of super premium dry food for dogs. DISH utilizes U.S. farm-raised beef or chicken as the main ingredients and does not contain corn, soy, wheat, and gluten. The formulas for Ray’s pet food come from her recipes from her own kitchen using carrots, peas, slow-roasted chicken, diced apples or farm-grown potatoes.

Nutrish has become a disruptor in a marketplace that many considered already  saturated. There are many options for pet owners, but Rachael Ray’s is most definitely the highest quality. She even personally taste tests every pet food she creates.

Rachael’s drive to create Nutrish comes from her passion for animals and her passion for health. She has used her business platform not only to provide pet owners with the best products for their pets, but to help other pets in need. Whether she’s helping children or pets, Rachel makes sure to sell amazing products while also providing basic needs to those who are less fortunate.


OKC Thunder and Golden State Warriors Show Down on the Court, but Show Up for Community.

Athletes are pillars in their community. In the early days of American sport, before players received multi-million dollar contracts, endorsements, and TV Shows, it wasn’t terribly uncommon to see one of your heroes out on the town living life just like you. Since the 70’s, though, athletes (especially the best) have risen to a new mythic status. And even though some players may still be living in mansions outside of the cities, many of them have still found a way to give back.

Let’s take a look at the NBA. Millions of people are tuning in to what is one of the best conference finals the NBA has seen in years. In the West, the Oklahoma City Thunder are taking on defending champion Golden State. With top flight names going at it night after night, the winner of this series will most likely take on Cleveland in what will be another great NBA Finals matchup. While the on-court action is dominating discussion of these teams, their off the court contributions are just as noteworthy.

In OKC and San Francisco, these players and their clubs are giving back to the kids who adore them so much. In Oklahoma City,  Turkish player Enes Kanter was contacted by an Elementary school teacher (also of Turkish background) and came to the school to introduce the kids to a culture they may have been unfamiliar with. He read a popular Turkish children’s book, and hosted basketball-related activities in the gym. Kanter, the teacher noted, served as a role model for the kids. The influence of athletes is great indeed! Russell Westbrook also got involved with a local school; he also surprised some kids over the PA system with words of encouragement during the last stretch of testing. It’s difficult to quantify what these kinds of encounters can do for kids but you can’t deny there is something special about seeing their faces light up like that.

The team also went out to work on community service projects with the Boys and Girls Club of Oklahoma. Their contributions included painting murals, cleaning up gardens, and fixing up basketball courts. Players let their personalities and comedic sides shine— especially star forward Kevin Durant, who has been nominated as a finalist for the NBA Cares Community Assistance Award.

Up in San Francisco, the Warriors are also getting involved with the surrounding the community. Through their Makin’ Hoops program, the team sponsors the construction of basketball courts in underserved areas of the community— any kid knows how frustrating it is to play on a crumbling court! Through their Share Your Seats initiative, the Warriors donate what would be unused tickets to families that can go to the games.

But the Warriors’ outreach programs don’t just revolve around athletics. Through Scholars of Tomorrow, the organization promotes the importance of higher education and promotes a discussion that some students may not have at home. This past year, Jason Thompson and Assistant Coach Chris DeMarco hosted a “PTA” night, where they encouraged questions about college and professional development.

While there can only be one winner of the series, everyone wins when these local heroes step off of the court.


Tencent is Giving Away More than Ten Cents


Major philanthropic news out of China! Earlier this week, Tencent CEO Pony Ma pledged to donate $2 billion dollars worth of his shares to charity. The generous offering is especially notable considering the visibility and impact that Tencent already has on so many people. It’s a huge technology company that touches everything from internet and online advertising products to entertainment and media services.

In a move similar to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s plan to give away 99% of his shares, Ma will donate his $2 billion’s worth gradually. They will be used to support a new charity that is focused on a number of Chinese causes that include health care and education. The funds will also support international projects for science and technological advancement.

Ma, who is worth close to $20 billion, sees this action as a better way to give back. He’s said that for some time he’s been involved with charitable groups, but giving away shares likes this allows him to stay charitably active with a concrete long term plan.

Pony Ma’s contribution is also the largest charitable donation from a Chinese Business since 2014, when Alibaba’s Jack Ma and Joe Tsai pledged $3 billion worth of shares to two separate charities.

In order to combat the logistical difficulties that seem to plagues generous giving in China, Pony Ma’s fund is being organized by a professional team. While one would reasonably expect charitable contributions to be a large part of Chinese businesses— after all, there are now more billionaires in China than in the United States. But the Chinese nonprofit has suffered from issues such as a lack of transparency that make giving harder than keeping.

A Culture of Giving

I’ve written before about how philanthropic actions should come from within. Helping people feels great, and even if it didn’t, it’s still a wonderful way to connect with other people who may have a need you can provide.

Company’s also understand this, because some are beginning to change the attitude with which they approach philanthropy. For a time, companies would make donations because of the associated tax benefits. But in a 2014 article for Inc., Marla Tabaka examines the giving spirit at other companies, and makes the case for why it’s important to create a culture of philanthropy wherever you are.

One reason she gives, is that charitable action can bring employees together. Sometimes, we rub elbows with our coworkers and bosses in meetings. Or a new employee joins the company, but is a bit slow to catch on to the rest of the culture. Because everything in the office is centered on work, correcting these problems may not come easily. After all, who has time to repair relationships or explore new ideas when that big project is due by the end of the week?

A culture of giving can bring your employees closer together.

A culture of giving can bring your employees closer together.

Community service encourages employees to work side-by-side in an environment where deadlines and the hard and fast rules of office expectations don’t necessarily apply. You and your co-workers will bond and work together on an activity that everyone involved is passionate about.

But how do you make sure everyone is on board to begin with? Involve everyone from the jump. If you’re in a management position, don’t pick an organization or cause at random. Get critical feedback and suggestions from other employees so you can be assured that the projects you pursue and the difference you contribute to won’t feel like just another work day.

Sometimes you may feel you just don’t have the time to help create a culture of giving, but Tabaka encourages you to get creative. She provides an example from the company culture of Zinepak, a Brooklyn-based publishing company. In order to make time, they created a rotating position that is in charge of organizing activities and projects dedicated to the community outside of the workplace.

A Time for Giving

For many, the holidays present a great opportunity for community service and involvement. Probably the first thing that pops into mind is the ubiquitous “toy drive”. And while that’s a pretty worthy cause, there are plenty of other ways to contribute, too! The Huffington Post gives us plenty of suggestions for making the holidays special for a stranger. Check out a few below!

Visit a Senior

For you, the holidays may be a time when the entire family comes together for warm food and warmer laughter. But for some it’s the complete opposite. As people age, sometimes bonds that were once unthinkable begin to fade. Maybe a loved one was lost, or they’ve lost touch with their children. Humans are social creatures, and not having that kind of meaningful interaction can be devastating. Those of us not in that position can only imagine how much worse that feeling is when everyone around you is filled with a certain cheer that comes with seeing family and friends. HuffPost notes that half of seniors living in nursing homes receive no holiday visitors, so it’s not hard to see how much of an impact that kind of act of love can have.


Deliver a meal

Food is such a central part of the holiday season that some people look forward to the table than they do their family! But just because you’re enjoying a delicious spread doesn’t mean everyone else is, too. Hunger still runs rampant, so what better way to spread some cheer and goodwill by giving food to those who need it most? Meals on Wheels has a volunteer program that makes it that much easier to give.


Red Cross

Sometimes the best presents are truly priceless. Each year, the Red Cross helps needy people all over the world by delivering vaccinations or emergency family packages. There are even donations you can give to support workshops that connect veterans with their families.

Tommy Spaulding’s “It’s Not Just Who You Know”

Communication is the most important skill anyone working in the nonprofit sector can have. The funds you raise aren’t for you, they’re for a higher cause. It boils down to your team persuading potential donors to contribute to your cause. So it’s easy to see that, at the end of the day, all you have is your word.It's not just who you know

Many philanthropists, as I’ve noted before, treat everyone the same. By “same” I don’t mean “equal”. Rather, a potential donor or volunteer from one background receives the same information, attention, and communication as someone from a different background. We’re taught as children that each of us is unique, but we seem to lose sight of that as we age. You need to approach your potential game-changers as the individuals they are, not as a singular entity under one roof.

But this can be difficult. We’re conditioned to keeping work conversations in the office, and conversations of personal interest between our closest friends. Is this inherently a bad thing? No! But it is a bit jarring when someone from accounting is suddenly asked to contribute her time or money, when the only words you’ve spoken to her are about the weather and the new office space.

That’s why, I think you should read Tommy Spaulding’s best-seller It’s Not Just Who You Know. It’s simple, and doesn’t lose its message in self-aggrandizing pomp. The anecdotes are down to earth, and prove the power of a single conversation.

Spaulding writes at length about the different levels of interpersonal relationships, and the people we encounter at each one. At the lowest level are those with whom we just discuss news, sports and weather. At the top —the “Penthouse”— are our closest mentors, confidants, and loved ones, whom we serve with no expectation of reciprocity.

You can imagine which relationship is most useful to helping you achieve your goals. Spaulding helps us understand what makes penthouse relationships special, and why it’s possible to take someone we’ve recently met all the way to the top.

Of course, not everyone we meet will enter into penthouse relationship with us. Spaulding understands this, and helps the reader foster relationships at all points along the scale.

After reading it, you will be eager to listen to people and look for ways that you can selflessly help them. Whether they need help refining an idea or just want a shoulder to lean on, these relationships are what we, as humans crave. It’s Not Just Who You Know shows us how to make the most of them.