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Interview With Nicole Bouchard Boles

Several weeks ago we gave away several copies of the book How To Be An Everyday Philanthropist. The concept of the book was very interesting to me. The ideas from the book can change your life and those you touch. No matter if those people are family, friends or strangers half way around the world, your taking part makes a big difference. The great thing about the book is, it gives you ideas that you can DO right away!

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We had a chance to sit down with Nicole Bouchard Boles, the author of How To Be An Everyday Philanthropist, and asked her a number of questions.  Here is what we discussed.

What inspired you to write the book?

I wrote this book as a road map for those who'd like to make a difference, but have no idea where to start. I was one of them. Seven years ago, before I started writing How to Be an Everyday Philanthropist, I wanted to make a difference.  But I had the same problem most people face.  I was expecting my first child and wasn't able to volunteer long-term and being a young family just starting out, spare cash was hard to come by.  I didn't think there was much I could do.

Then I came across a magazine article that listed a few ways any person could make a difference with small actions like knitting hats for the homeless and recycling cell phones to help victims of violence.  This style of giving made sense to me and with each "everyday" action I took, I felt empowered and I wanted to do more.  The problem was, I had a hard time finding more of these time and budget-friendly ways to give back.  That's when the inspiration for the book hit me.

I knew I wasn't the only person who lacked the time or money to donate as generously as I would like. And, I wasn't the only person who was spending a lot of time trying to figure out what it was I could do.  I reasoned that if I created a kind of charitable yellow-pages that would take the guesswork out of "giving" more of us would be inclined to participate.

I wanted to make it super-easy and possible for others to see what they could do and to have that information at their fingertips so they could immediately jump into action.

How did you get started in writing?

I spent the better part of the last decade interviewing, researching, working with and understanding how charities work.  And more importantly, how the average person can be of assistance to the causes they care about.  What I learned, is that people do care about the world.  They want to make a difference but they don't know how to go about it.  In my work, I've identified three obstacles to making a difference, almost every person faces; 1.  Time 2.  Money and 3.  Opportunity.

These are the "snags" I set out to solve for the reader in How to Be an Everyday Philanthropist.  My goal for writing this book is to show people exactly how they can make a difference by using the time, talent and treasure that's within reach.  

Where did you come up with all these ideas for the book?

Well, with bank accounts lowering and stress levels rising it's easy to see how we could lose sight of how easy and basic "giving" really is.  So with less cash to spend and more causes in need of support, I spent a great deal of time talking with charitable groups, combing through magazines and newspapers, searching the internet and watching news programs for actions that the everyday person can take to help make the world a better place. I researched over 300 powerful giving strategies that are simple, cash-free and time-flexible for people who want to support the causes they care about.

Have you ever been to NYC?  What is your favorite destination in NYC?

I have to tell you, I'm obsessed with New York City and have been since I was a young girl!  The excitement, the buildings, the cobble stone streets, the culture, the history and of course, the shopping.   I've always been in love with the city and always wanted to go at some point in my life.   I got the chance about seven years ago, when my then-boyfriend gave me trip to NYC for a Christmas present.  I was in heaven.  Our visit to the city was amazing.  All that I'd imagined it to be.  I was like kid in a candy shop!  We went everywhere we could in five days, Empire State Building, Central Park, Grand Central Station, and Rockefeller Center, shopping along Fifth Avenue and dining at Katz Deli.  It was the best trip of my life, and of course, I cannot wait to visit again.  I'll take any excuse to come back to NYC!

My favorite NYC destination?  Hmmm...has to be under the Brooklyn Bridge, where my now-husband, proposed to me (during a Harbour cruise) on that trip!

Do you consider yourself frugal?  In what ways?

I am rather frugal (though not always).  I am one of those people who will spend good money on something I really want but - rather stubbornly - will not pay a cent for purchases I feel are not necessary or of value.  I have gradually learned that being frugal on the smaller things helps me save for the bigger dream-like things.

Do you have a favorite from your book?  Which cause/idea would that be?

I definitely have some favourites from the book; actions that I thought were particularly unique and outstanding in the issues they help mitigate.  One of my faves is donating second hand fur items to the Humane Society's Coats for Cubs program, where it will be used as a sort of surrogate for orphaned wildlife. One rehabilitator related a story about an orphaned bobcat that wouldn't drink from a bottle and was starving.  Once she was given the bottle through a fur blanket, she nestled up to it like a mother and began drinking.  The rehabilitator said that without the fur donation, they surely would have lost the infant bobcat. Coats for Cubs takes an item that people have, but no longer use, and turns it into a source of warmth and comfort for a wild animal that has been orphaned or injured.

Another favourite is breast milk donation - perhaps because of the simplicity and necessity of the donation.  Premature babies and babies whose mothers can't breastfeed can still get breast milk and all the benefits that come from receiving breast milk from a human milk bank (a non-profit agency that collects human breast milk from lactating volunteers in this country and distributes it free of charge here and abroad) Milk banks exist because many babies will not thrive without human milk.  Infants with certain medical conditions may even require real human milk for survival.  Human milk banks accept donations of breast milk from carefully screened donors. If you're a nursing mother with a plethora of breast milk, this is a great way to help in-need infants.

I also love the Internet-related actions.  I spend a great deal of time on my computer, so giving back online really appeals to me.  The Internet has made is so easy to support the causes we care about.  There are thousands of mini "micro actions," we can do online, in the comfort of our own homes that give back. You'd be surprised by the number of organizations that can receive donations just from click-throughs or sent emails.  When you click on web sites like HungryChildren.com or Care2.com or send emails through Hotmail, advertisers donate to charitable causes.  You could even switch to a charitable search engine like Goodsearch.org or Ecosearch.org for your day to day queries, and each time you do a search - you're raising money for nonprofits.  You can use the power of the web to make a real difference - in no time at all!

Who do you think can benefit most from your book?

Every person, from the soccer mom to the CEO, that has the impulse to do good, but doesn't know where to start, who to contact, and what is needed.  How to be an Everyday Philanthropist was written with busy schedules and tough economic times in mind. Many times, people who say they have nothing to give right now or are too busy to give, are just procrastinating as they are not sure what to do or how to get started - even if they are well intentioned. In this book, I show you how to help others on a daily basis - without having to donate millions or become a full-time volunteer. It's so important for us to realize that almost every daily action can result in a deeply meaningful act of giving.

Where can we find more of your writing and ideas?

You can take a look at my website www.nicolebouchardboles.com or my blog FrugalPhilanthropist.blogspot.com for more cash-free, time-friendly ways to give back.

Is there anything else you want to share with the FrugalNYC audience?

Look at the resources you already have or the things you already doing, then look for a need in the community or around the world - and fill it!

Do you have additional questions for Nicole?  Have you read How To Be An Everyday Philanthropist?  What is your favorite charity or cause for giving?  What challenges do you face when looking for a charity to support?

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