Sunday, June 9, 2019

Make Charitable Contributions Safely

When you donate money to a charity, you want to be sure that it ends up furthering the cause you intend to support. Here are six steps to take when donating to ensure the charity delivers on its promises.

1.    For your donation to be tax-deductible in the US, the charity must be a registered, qualified non-profit. Search for the organization’s name in the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) database of tax exempt organizations.

2.    Check out the organization’s website. Look for the organization’s mission statement, then find evidence of outcomes or impact of the organization’s work that align with its mission. Is the information updated and current?

Does the organization publish an annual report or other documentation of its claims of effective use of funds? Read accounts by persons served by the organization, but also look for statistics.

Check the staff’s contact information. Is it possible to identify actual persons you could call or email? Read their biographies to get a feel for the types of people intimately involved in the work of the organization.

3.    How do others feel about this organization? While you do not necessarily have to agree with people who offer either glowing testimonials or scathing negative reviews, it is useful to read both.

The Better Business Bureau (BBB) issues reports based on 20 Standards related to governance, finance, effectiveness, and informational materials about organizations for which they have received complaints. (Charities can also request a BBB evaluation. Those which meet all 20 Standards are then display the BBB National Charity Seal.)

Several independent organizations monitor the spending patterns of charities. It is felt that reasonable organizations spend no more than 30% of their income on running the business (salaries, office expenses, fundraising, and marketing). The charity should put at least 70% of donations toward the organization’s mission. Here are places to check how the charity you plan to donate to will use your dollars.

Charity Navigator shows the percentage of the organization’s budget spent on everything not related to its mission for organizations on their alphabetical listing. The website has a separate list of charities their experts have various levels of concerns about.

Charity Watch is like Charity Navigator but is organized by category rather than alphabetically. This can be helpful if you look for alternatives to the charity you were originally thinking of.

GiveWell is a VERY picky site. They create an annual short list of top global charities in the healthcare and poverty reduction arenas that are evidence-based and under-funded. This is useful if you want to donate where funding would be most effective.

GuideStar is perhaps the best-known source of information about charities. Free registration offers you tons of information on nonprofit organizations.

4.    From your research in steps 2 and 3, write a list of questions you would like answered about the organization.

Charity Navigator has a great list of questions that each organization should be able to answer, either through online documentation or by phone call or email.

5.    Contact a real person by phone or email and get answers to your questions. Follow up if you don’t understand an answer or need more depth.

6.    If you are planning to donate online, take these extra safety precautions.
·         Don’t ever consider giving your financial information through a website unless it is “secured.” You can identify a secured website by the letters in front of its URL. Secured websites begin with “https” where the “s” stands for “secured.”

·         Give directly to your desired charity instead of to a third party who is collecting donations “to be sent to” it.

·         Protect your personal information. Read the website privacy policy. Find out how the charity says it will use the information you provide. They should give you an “opt in” choice to allow them to disclose your information to other organizations. Find out if they place “cookies” on your hard drive.

·         Print out a paper record of the confirmation screen (or confirmation email) that your donation was received. Put this with your tax records.

Most charities are reputable and strive to improve the human condition. Don’t refrain from donating to charities. They need our support. Just be sure you donate safely.

Friday, June 7, 2019

Safe Gardening in June (and Every Other Month)

Gardening is a great hobby if done safely. It can provide both relaxation and exercise. Your garden might make your environment prettier or provide you with veggies and fruits for your meals. But you will want to follow these six tips to be sure that you are safe while working in your garden.

1. Get the best tools for gardening

Back and knee pain is the most common problem caused by gardening, so invest in a garden stool or knee pad to kneel on. If the handles of the tools you have are too short to use without stooping, you can get extensions to lengthen them. Or you can purchase new tools with longer handles with ergonomic easy grips on the ends.

The Arthritis Foundation asked accessibility experts to test various gardening products. The ones that work the best for persons with physical limitations are given their Ease of Use Commendation logo. Look for that symbol when shopping for gardening tools. Wear gloves to protect your hands and fingers. Any puncture or opening in the skin, no matter how tiny, offers a way for germs to get in and start an infection. Leather gloves will protect you from insect bites, thorns, and poison ivy.

2. Prepare the area where you will grow your garden

Remove all stones, debris, and unwanted plants from the area. You do not want any trip hazards for the gardener and the garden plants do not need competition.

Remember, a garden does not have to be at ground level. You can grow flowers and vegetables in container gardens or large pots, and herbs on the kitchen windowsill. You could make raised bed gardens which are great for gardeners who use wheelchairs and others who have trouble getting down to and up from ground level. It is even possible to garden in hanging baskets or on a vertical frame, if that works better for you.

3. Start small

Choose easy-to-grow plants that won’t need a lot of care. Try to limit the size of your garden to what you can care for in about a half hour, so you don’t expend more energy than you have available. Gardening is one hobby that is easy to make too big to handle!

4. Maintain good posture

Learn the proper technique for using a shovel. Use large muscle groups when possible since they are usually stronger. When lifting, bend your knees, grasp the object, hold it close to your body, and raise up using your leg muscles. Don’t bend over and lift through your back muscles. Get help with really heavy or awkward objects.
Twisting to shovel dirt or pull weeds can lead to problems with the spine and hips. Try to avoid twisting, and hinge straight forward from the hip joints (watch the video to find out what it means to “hinge”!).

5. Alternate activities and take rest breaks as needed

Keep your body safe while gardening. Avoid repetitive motion injuries by switching hands on tools and tasks.

Stretch before and after a gardening session. Stretching is a multi-purpose activity. It acts as a warm up for the muscles prior to a physical activity, a relaxation during the activity, and a cool down afterwards.

Pace yourself. Gardening can be done in short bursts rather than one long session.

Be sure to stay properly hydrated. It is generally recommended to drink a half liter or more of water each hour you work outdoors, but this amount will vary with temperature, activity level, and personal characteristics. Drink again when you are done gardening.

6. Keep your gardening tools clean and sharp

Wipe soil off tools and store them in a dry place to keep them from rusting. When the blades or edges of shovels, trowels and other digging tools get dull, sharpen them carefully or have them professionally sharpened. Sharp garden tools work better and will make your gardening less effortful. Take proper care of garden tools and they will help keep you safe while gardening.

Store garden chemicals like fertilizer and herbicides properly. Read the label and any warnings carefully before safely using these chemicals.

Here are some more tips and suggestions for safe gardening:

National Safety Month

Did you know that June is National Safety Month? This blog will celebrate by sharing tips and articles concerned with safety in all venues: at home, on the road and at work, online, financially, during storms, dealing with medical issues, and of course safety with regard to disabilities. We will share information, suggestions, and resources.

National Safety Month was initiated by the National Safety Council, which works to reduce the leading causes of injury and accidental death. They share many excellent resources on their website:

Join Virtual Ability as we celebrate safety throughout the month of June. We hope our readers will improve their safety year round by being more aware of potential hazards and knowing how to deal with them.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Blogger Meet Up

By Marcel Mosswood, Virtual Ability community member

Writing is so much fun. And getting money from what I like to do is a blessing. That’s the reason why I like blogging. I’ve been blogging since 2007, but I’m not a blogging expert. Why? Because blogging is more than writing and publishing your writing. It is mainly about technology. About how you manage the technology to make your writing published in its best way.

Blogging is also about working together in teamwork. Brainstorming, collaborating, and supporting each other is how we work. We should collaborate with other bloggers to maintain a significant position in the search engine.

Based on this thought, I want to invite bloggers in the SL to brainstorm, collaborate, and support each other to make our blogging activity more fun. The meet up will be on Thursday, May 23, 5 PM SLT and will repeat every month on the 4th Thursday. Here is the SLURL: