Helping Others and Feeling Gratitude: Two Simple Ways to Change the World

1 Nov

“If you want to lift yourself up, lift up someone else.” Booker T. Washington


Often, I talk to people who ask me how they can help change the world.  Some of them are the super go-getters, the people who always seem to be doing so much more than we mere mortals can do.  More commonly, though, it’s regular, everyday people who want to help and are wondering how.

Sometimes, questions come from people who are feeling depressed (or are asking for a friend who is) and simply looking for some way to get outside of themselves for long enough to see if things can start making more sense again.

Luckily, helping others is one thing that really can make you feel happier, while also changing the world.  Even science tells us that helping others helps ourselves.

For starters, you are a wonderful person for reading and sharing posts like this to try to learn new ways to help others (while also making yourself feel good). Just doing that is a bonus way to #changetheworld!

You matter.  That fact that you’re reading this says that you care, that you want to make a difference, and that you are one of the people that is changing the world for the better – just by being a good human and by asking what you can do.

So, what can you do?

There are at least three categories of helping that you can choose.

Helping Directly

I can say from personal experience that getting out and helping others made a big difference for me as far as feeling happy and fulfilled – and maybe it can for you.  The interaction with people and immediate feedback gives you the “helper’s high” that can enhance your mood for the better long after the activity is over.

Ways to help directly include:

  • Getting involved and volunteering with an organization with a cause you personally care about
  • Participating in activities and events that interact with people experiencing what you experienced
  • Asking friends and family to join you in these efforts

Helping by Being an Advocate

This type of helping can be as easy as sharing what you love.  Being the “number one fan” of an organization or cause, and being an informal spokesperson for them to your friends, family, and coworkers can really help increase awareness.  Your voice is trusted by people you know, so sharing something that is important to you will probably be interesting to them.

  • Sharing information, events, or activities about the cause, and an organization helping the cause, that you care about on social media
  • Writing an article to share on a guest blog, LinkedIn, Medium, or Facebook
  • Sharing photos and events from an organization you support on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Pinterest
  • Writing to your elected officials and asking them to help support legislation that helps your cause, or prevents harmful laws against your cause

Helping by Donating

Donating might seem obvious, but donations are still the lifeblood of many organizations.  Luckily, it’s easier than ever these days to give online when you feel inspired.

  • Giving a donation in any amount directly to the cause – then share that you did on social media so others see that it matters to you
  • Supporting organizations helping your cause via Kiva, Go Fund Me, Facebook donations, or another fundraising platform
  • Asking your local government officials to help fund your cause via local organizations

While you are thinking about all the ways you might go forth and change the world, it might also be helpful to remember a few other simple things when thinking about being happier:

  • It is completely valid to feel stressed, overwhelmed, or anxious. Most people feel stress, a feeling of being overwhelmed, or some anxiety fairly often.
  • Social media is the “highlight reel” of people’s lives.  It is unfair to compare yourself to others at all, and especially to what you see on social media, because social media is not necessarily day-to-day reality.

When I feel anxious and want to feel better, there’s one more thing important thing I’ve learned to do that really helps me calm down and refocus.

I think about all of the big and small things to be grateful for, and a few ideas are noted below.  Sometimes putting things into perspective and thinking about the positive things to be grateful for helps to reduce anxiety and can make us feel happier.

Things you might choose to be grateful for at this very moment, if they are true for you:

  • You can read
  • You have clean water to drink
  • You live in a free country
  • You do not live in fear daily
  • You have freedom of speech
  • You have shelter
  • You have food
  • You have access to education
  • You can decide most things
  • You have equality
  • You can express your religion
  • You can express your gender
  • You can love who you want
  • You can be healthy
  • You can earn a living wage
  • You can save money
  • You can voice dissent
  • You have your mental faculties
  • You have physical abilities
  • You can change
  • You can love
  • You can create change
  • You have friends
  • You have family
  • You can create peace
  • You can create friendships
  • You have reasons for optimism
  • You help create the world you want to live in

Not everyone has all of these things, even the most basic.  While we can debate the nuances of many of these items, some of you reading this might not have a few of them at all.  There are many countries in the world where some of the items listed above are not reality.  I hope that soon reality will be different in those places and that things can change.

For all of us reading this who might have some or most of the things listed above, it’s worth taking a moment to feel gratitude for that, at least.

The good news is, by helping others, you may be able to also impact creating larger change.

Other people’s ideas about how things should be are pretty unimportant, really, as far as the big picture is concerned.  What truly matters is how we interact with other people, how we make other peoples’ lives better, and what we are doing to really create positive change.

It has become ever more vividly clear to me over the past decade or so that people are the reason it’s all worthwhile.  Helping people.  Appreciating people.  It matters.  And it can make a big difference in how happy we feel.

When people ask me how they can change the world, I usually have a pretty simple answer:  Just be a good person, try to help others, and be grateful for the things you do have.  The rest will follow.

Now go do a few simple acts to change the world (feel free to order my book with 500 ways to make a difference if you want some more ideas :).  After all, as Lao Tzu eloquently stated, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

I’d love to hear your favorite world-changing or #gratitude ideas in the comments, and please connect with me @CharityIdeas or Amy Neumann on social media.







Inspiration to #ChangeTheWorld: Quotes for World Changers

30 Sep

Every year when Fall comes around, there’s lots of discussion about whether everyone is voting (in election years like this year!) and/or what we should do to make our city (for me, #ThisIsCLE- go #Cleveland!) better.  The holidays tend to add some additional inspiration, too.  There are lots of creative ideas bandied about.  Sometimes, though, a little bit of added inspiration is what gets people going.  Things like positive quotes might help create that inspiration!

It’s fun to think about changing the world.  In fact, you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who would answer “no” if you asked them, “Would you like to change the world?”

The hard part is knowing how to do that; how, exactly, does one actually “change the world?”

If you want to know what some of the smartest, most ambitious, and most creative people say about any topic, a collection of quotes might just offer some inspiring sparks.

If you have a favorite #worldchanger quote I missed, please share it in the comments or tag me @CharityIdeas.

“The ones who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.” – Steve Jobs  Tweet This

“Let us remember: One book, one pen, one child, and one teacher can change the world.” – Malala Yousafzai Tweet This

“A big idea is great, but putting that big idea into action has the power to change the world.” – Tae Yoo Tweet This

Copy of Copy of Copy of #changetheworld quotes Twitter Tubman

“Every great dream begins with a dreamer.  Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.” – Harriet Tubman Tweet This

“Kids deserve the right to think that they can change the world.” – Lois Lowry Tweet This

“It’s time to stop obsessing about overhead and start focusing on progress. Change charity, and charity can change the world.” – Dan Pallotta Tweet This

“You change the world by being yourself.” – Yoko Ono Tweet This

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead Tweet This

Copy of Copy of #changetheworld quotes Twitter Edelman 2

“You really can change the world if you care enough.” – Marian Wright Edelman Tweet This

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” – Nelson Mandela Tweet This

Everything we do makes a difference.  Even small, simple acts can add up to big change if enough people take action.  If you’re feeling inspired to take action and want some  new ideas, that’s exactly what I set out to help with in my book.

simple-acts-to-change-the-world-9781507208960_lg (2)

“Simple Acts to Change the World: 500 Ways to Make a Difference.”

I’d love to hear your favorite ideas from the book or other inspiration in the comments, and please connect with me @CharityIdeas or Amy Neumann on social media.

“Simple Acts to Change the World” Book

17 Jul

Amy Neumann is a social good fanatic who has been working professionally to help create positive change since 1994. After spending sixteen years in Los Angeles with companies like AT&T and Yahoo and working on national and international nonprofit projects, Amy returned to Cleveland.

She is involved with industrious organizations and individuals daily at Case Western Reserve University’s collaborative First Year Cleveland project to reduce infant mortality, where she leads marketing and communications.  An entrepreneur by nature, Amy also founded a startup nonprofit called Free Tech for Nonprofits in 2017 to help small nonprofits do more of their important work faster through smart technology and communication strategy.

Amy speaks often, at events like Dell’s Social Innovation Conference and ASU’s Sustainability Conference.  She is widely published, including as a contributor to Forbes, an author of PR News’ Crisis Management Guidebook, and a columnist for Huffington Post.  Because she can’t get enough of innovative world-changers, Amy also publishes under her social enterprise consultancy, Good Plus Tech, as well as her passion project,

Amy’s book “Simple Acts to Change the World” – part of the Simple Acts series from Adams Media, an imprint of Simon & Schuster – will be published on October 16, 2018, and is available for pre-order now on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Simple Acts to Change the World Book Cover Amy Neumann

Feeling…Furious? 11 Ways to Channel Anger Into Productive Things

20 Aug

It’s safe to say we’re all feeling a little furious on occasion these days, for whatever reason.

Politics is only one reason we get “up in arms.” So whatever your particular reason is for feeling anxious and wanting to make a change, here are some useful and productive outlets to channel the fury.

Volunteer – Any charity would love to have your passion! Find a local place to spend some time helping at Volunteer Match.

Write – Express your ideas (kindly, please) by sharing them. Beyond Facebook and Twitter, try writing an article on LinkedIn or blogging.

Learn – The world is your oyster! Most universities now have Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) so you can learn almost anything from university professors, for free. Say yes to History!

HelpRandom Acts of Kindness are proven to make you feel better. Try helping a stranger today!

Plan – Whatever amazing things you’ve been wanting to do, start doing it! Plan the first step. Action makes everything better.

Protest/ Counter-Protest – Google your interest and where and when people are joining the cause. Everyone makes a difference!

Advocate – Even sharing a post on Facebook or Twitter can go a long way, when many people act together. Share your passion with others! It only takes one person to inspire another person.

Harness Energy – If you know people who might feel like you do, ask them to join in your efforts, whatever they may be. Passionate people draw other passionate people. Before you know it, you’ll have a passionate crowd!

Move – Walk, hike, run, kick-box, bike, etc. Get outside (or inside.) But get into The Zone. Whether you like total silence or LOUD music when you want to think, go there. Get space. Space lets your brain create new things, unobstructed.

There’s much more positive in the world than negative.   Channel your energy where it feels good.  Spend your time and energy making a difference.


Listen – Ask other people, ones who agree, and ones who disagree, for their views, and listen.

“When you talk, you are only repeating what you already know. But if you listen, you may learn something new. – Dalai Lama

Network – Find a community of people who care as much about your passion as you do on Meetup or another site. Be careful not to “shout into the wind” and only listen to the same views, but being among other passionate people discussing things and venting can be cathartic.

These may not be easy times, but they can certainly be growth times!

Please share your ideas and thoughts in the comments.  Thanks for being passionate!

If Jeff Bezos Gave You a Billion Dollars, What Would You Do?

18 Jul

It could be Elon Musk, Warren Buffett, Mark Zuckerberg, or another favorite Billionaire. The point of the question is, to ask yourself what you’d do if money and time (and therefore freedom) were unlimited.

If you removed any obstacles from your current thinking – if there were literally no barriers for you do anything you want, forever – what exactly would you do?

I’ve asked hundreds of people this question in some form or another in 20+ years. Often, I am surprised to learn that many people have never thought about what they really want. They haven’t really considered the, “What’s YOUR dream?” question.

If you don’t know the answer, which is OK, then how do you know what you really want? More importantly, how do you know if you already have it? (Which is a fantastic answer, BTW.)

Although I’m not a life coach, I do occasionally play one on TV, as they say. I am genuinely curious about what makes friends, family, and colleagues tick, so I ask them. Often.

Big dreams don’t have to be unrealistic!  First, though, it’s critical to know what your dreams truly are.  Maybe you’re already living them?

After you think about the cool things you would buy for yourself and others, what you would give to charity, and the fabulous trips you would take, what about the rest of your life?

How do your family and friends enter your mind? Often, people say they’d spend most or all of their time with their family. Great! This might mean you’d love more work/life balance. So, things like paying someone to do yard work or housekeeping on occasion to free up an extra weekend day to spend with family might make sense.

Sometimes, people share overarching dreams like “Join the Peace Corps,” “Write a book,” “Get a PhD,” or other similarly BIG things.

We all have a book in us!  Writing a few snippets first is easy.  Add them together for a book!

Happily, pieces of these dreams are often readily, even freely, available to do right now (in a less-dramatic fashion.)

For example:

The Peace Corps is amazing but can be impractical for people with families and jobs.  How about volunteering for a couple hours a month to start?

  • “Write a book” can translate into writing a book that can be self-published and sold on Amazon. Even easier, how about a blog? Easier yet, how about a LinkedIn post?
  • “Get a PhD” can translate into learning something of interest. MIT and other universities offer most of their classes for free online for curious types (not for credit.) You can download apps to learn languages, listen to TED Talks, or download free audio books to listen during your commute. Anything you have an interest in, you can probably learn a PhD-worth, for free.

Do you really want a PhD, or are you simply excited to learn a lot about something interesting?

The goal is, to really ask yourself the question: “What would I do if there were no time or money limitations on my life?”

Because after a little thought, it usually points you to your passion. And once you unearth that gem, everything might get just a little bit more fun.

The biggest hidden treasure might be the answer to what you’d do if you had a billion dollars.

Big dreams start with small steps. So while we are all waiting for those billion-dollar checks, if we know what we really care most passionately about, we can start with a few little steps right now that will help us feel happier and more complete.

I’d love to hear from you about any ideas or insights! Please leave a comment or connect with me @CharityIdeas on Twitter or on LinkedIn.

Know The Risks of Prescription #Opioids: #KnowTheRx

15 Jun

A few years ago, I knew next to nothing about opioids. In fact, the word “opioids” really didn’t connect any dots in my head.  I didn’t connect “opioids” to the rampant “pain medication” overdoses.  If you said “heroin,” I had a vague idea of the topic. Also, the word “heroin” conjured up many outdated and misinformed ideas from movies, and things I read long ago.


In the past couple years, all that changed. A young relative by marriage overdosed on heroin. High school kids whose parents and friends I knew overdosed on prescription pills. I saw the news stories on the tragedies of opioid overdoses, and related horror stories, growing more and more frequent.

[Already thinking of a tragic example of a friend, relative, coworker, or someone else who has shared a similar sad fate?  Then you are normal.  It’s either directly, or one level removed, impacted nearly everyone.  It’s everywhere.]

Turns out, whatever we thought we knew about opioid and heroin addiction was all wrong.

So I started getting involved in a few organizations aiming to help educate people about the dangers of opioids (heroin is only one form of opiate, and typically the last resort for addicts.)

Currently, I am passionately involved in a collaborative effort across nonprofits, media, government, healthcare, and private citizens in Cleveland: The educational #KnowTheRx campaign – Daily, I am all at once saddened and horrified, and also grateful and hopeful that so many people are trying to help curtail this crisis.

4 of 5 heroin addicts started with opioid prescriptions. #KnowTheRx

A few stats to consider (many more can be found @KnowTheRx and

  • 4 out of 5 heroin users started with prescription opioids

  • 80% of all prescribed opioids on the planet are consumed in the United States (the US has 322 million people out of 7.5 Billion people.)

The opioid crisis, and everything you see about overdoses and Narcan reviving addicts, is not as simple as it appears. Legal prescriptions — over short timeframes — have incredibly high rates of abuse and then addiction for many.

Some people take opioids for short timeframes or even for chronic pain without issues; however that is sadly not the outcome for a huge slice of the population.

The good news is, people are working together to help solve this crisis.  It starts by knowing the risks of a simple opioid prescription and asking questions. #KnowTheRx

Please learn and share more about this, and PLEASE ask questions before you, your kids, your parents, or anyone else you know simply takes an opioid prescription without first learning and knowing the risks.  There are alternatives.

Know the risks. #KnowTheRx

(Photos courtesy of and the KnowTheRx campaign.)

Please share your comments insights and ideas below.


Status Quo: Comfortable, Yet Dangerous. Here’s How to Change It

10 Jun

Time and time again, I see organizations of all kinds, and in particular nonprofits, hoping to recapture results from another time by trying and retrying things that worked then. It’s an honest yet misguided trust in the idea that something known is more real – and better – than something unknown.

Yes, it is true that “back in the day” things were different. (Better, some say, and in some regards, that may be fair.)

Yet, we don’t live “back in the day,” we live now. And whether we love it or hate it, we humans have shifted our behaviors, attitudes, likes, and dislikes as the Now guides us.

To me, this is the definition of Status Quo:

Status Quo, n., Latin, for “We should probably change that.”

Status Quo is a secret traitor.

Status Quo wants you to ignore all signs and just “do what you’ve always done.”

While Status Quo whispers to us to “Keep doing what you’re doing, it’s always been this way,” what it really wants to tell us is different. It wants us to know,

“If you keep listening to me you will get the same results as every person, country, and organization who rested on their laurels — and didn’t listen to the people — did.” Which history tells us, is not what we want.

Status Quo, if it is being truthful, would secretly tell us to “Get out while you’re ahead! Try something new. Please!”

Why does this matter?

The future is made up of everything we do today. The faster we shift to flow and mesh with the people that matter to us and what they want, the more we participate in the future today.

If you look at the left side only, it’s an intriguing photo.  If you look at both sides together, one is much more striking and inspiring. Photo: Status Quo v. Now

Try this.

Ask yourself (and your team, or your board, or your group, or your friends or family) three questions, to follow.

Take the answers, and ask yourself how Status Quo feels about them. Also ask yourself what Status Quo would secretly tell you about them.

Also ask yourself what Sheryl Sandberg, Elon Musk, Richard Branson, Lucy Peng, Jeff Bezos, Angela Merkel, Warren Buffett, Margaret Thatcher, Sergey Brin, Melinda Gates, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Nelson Mandela, Marissa Mayer, Peter Thiel, Ghandi, Ariana Huffington, Xi Jinping, Mary Meeker, DaVinci, Meg Whitman, Jack Ma, Oprah Winfrey, Mary Barra, Stephen Hawking, and your personal favorite hero (from now or the past) from business, nonprofit, or family and friends would say.

The three questions:

  1. If we had a magic wand, what would we make happen immediately?

  2. If we had to determine our future by stopping one thing and starting one thing, what would those be?

  3. If we had unlimited time and money, what would be the main thing we would be doing?

All of these questions get to the heart of what matters; what’s important. None of them allow for Status Quo, because they are all in the future.  Because all are based on nothing we’re doing right now.

What we’re doing right now is getting us what we are getting right now. It cannot get us to the places in these questions, because they are in the future, where Status Quo is not likely to survive.

Questions are the root of all answers.

Ask these questions as a starting point to reflect on what’s possible – and what is very likely not possible with Status Quo, aka what’s happening today.

I’d love to hear from you about any ideas or insights! Please leave a comment or connect with me @CharityIdeas on Twitter or on LinkedIn.








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