It's #GivingTuesday. What Are You Doing?

I don't think it's a secret that I'm a big fan of volunteer work and giving back. Maybe it's my age, maybe it's the fact that I feel very blessed, but whatever it is, it's an important part of my life.

Today is GivingTuesday, appropriately following Black Friday and Cyber Monday. has this great image on their Facebook page:

Giving Tuesday. It's easier to take than to give. it's nobler to give than to take. The thrill of taking lasts a day. The thirll of giving lasts a lifetime. ~ Joan Marques. November 27,k 2012. Get involved!

And Mashable has jumped in with a great list of 10 Ways You Can Take Action for #GivingTuesday.

So what am I doing? I made a donation to one of my favorite nonprofits, One Brick, that matches up nonprofits and volunteers to make a difference in local communities.

And I'm part of the Thunderclap going out today. There are some other things I'm doing, but you get the idea.

So what are you doing? :-)

An update on the day after #GivingTuesday.

This image was on the GivingTuesday Facebook page, and I just had to share it!

The 5 Reasons I Volunteer

Updated and reposted from my blog on BlogHer.

Three and a half years ago I decided volunteering and giving back to the community might help me acquire more balance in my often-frantic and frequently unbalanced life of corporate employee, single parent, homeowner, pet guardian and all of the other roles I fulfill.

I signed up with a local volunteer organization, One Brick, and showed up at my first event, helping Sunset, a local magazine with a gorgeous campus (lots of test kitchens and gardens), sell tickets to a tiny home tour. We toured the home and an amazing outdoor kitchen setup for free – while others were paying $10 for the same privilege. It was fun, the people were nice, and it took me out of my own life for a while.

I did a few more events, and then was asked to join the event management team – since the more managers One Brick has, the more non-profits we can help. Without any hesitation I said yes – managing two to three events a month felt doable and I figured it would keep me committed to consistently volunteering.

And I do. My hours vary based on what else is going on in my life, but I’ve done so many different events – just to name a few:
  • Sorting cans and fruit at the food bank
  • A repair a bike workshop for kids in need
  • Fundraiser event support
  • Handing out water for a 5K race
  • Picking up trash along a creek
  • Rose deadheading in a city park
  • My latest favorite – helping to serve the meal at a local soup kitchen that serves a free dinner five nights a week. (I'm now coming up on the end of two years of serving dinner at the soup kitchen once a month, and it's consistently a highlight of my month.)
 And I’m in good company – according The Chronicle for Philanthropy, which cites a report by the Corporation for National and Community Service, 63.4 million adult Americans ­— nearly 27 percent of the population — volunteered to help charitable causes in 2009.

So here are the reasons I volunteer. I hope that some of them resonate with you and will encourage you to volunteer in your community.
  1. While I won’t say that volunteering has perfected my life and smoothed out all of the rough spots, it does help me in my struggle for balance by taking me out of my daily life for a few hours and letting me focus on serving others.
  1. On days when I’m feeling at my most cynical – volunteering helps me feel the buds of hope for our world blooming in my heart, and I can smile.
  1. There’s something about spending several hours with a group of like-minded people – who are working to help others and who want to make the world a better place – that helps you be a better person. At least for part of your day, you’re more forgiving, more accepting, and more grateful for the blessings you do have. Since many people use the Thanksgiving holiday as a way to work on being centered and grateful for their blessings, volunteering is a perfect way to spread the wealth.
  1. Volunteering is good for your health. According to a report from the Corporation for National and Community Service, there is a close relationship between volunteering and health. People who volunteer are found to have lower mortality rates, stronger cognitive ability, and lower rates of depression later in life than those who do not volunteer.
  2.  I'm always working on publicizing our volunteer organization via social media channels (including managing our Facebook page), extending our reach, so even when I'm not doing my social media day job, I'm using my social and marketing skills and knowledge.
I find that when I volunteer and help someone in need, the benefits definitely go both ways, tangible and intangible.

So give it a go – you have nothing to lose and so much to gain. :-)

Infographics: The Graphic Visual Explosion

Top 15 heaviest coffee drinkers. 1. Scientist/Lab Technician 2. Marketing/PR Professional 3. Education Administrator 4. Editor/Writer 5. Healthcare Administrator 6. Physician 7. Food Preparer 8. Professor 9. Social Worker 10. Financial Professional 11. Personal Caretaker 12. Human Resources Benefits Coordinator 13. Nurse 14. Government Professional 15. Skilled Tradesperson  Coffee consumption trends in the workplace 46% of US workers claims that they are less productive without coffee. 61% of the workers who need coffee to get through their day drinks 2 cups or more each day. 49% admits to needing coffee while on the job in the Northeast where the workday coffee ritual is the strongest.  Editors/writers, government professionals, teachers are most likely to add flavor to their coffee. Human resources professionals & Personal caretakers are most liekly to enjoy their coffee with crea and sugar. Judges, attorneys, Hotel workers are most likely to take their coffee black.
The exponential growth of social media channels and the popularity of graphics and visuals on those channels has spawned a new visual format on steroids with a new name: infographics.

Like many social fans and practitioners, I enjoy how clever and informative infographics can be, and try to collect the ones I like on Pinterest. Today's find was this one about which profession drinks the most coffee.  It seemed quite fitting, since
1) I love coffee,
2) I drink a lot of coffee, and
3) my profession overlaps both categories 2 and 4.

Once I started down this blog path, I googled "infographics" to get some sense of how many infographics have been created in the last couple of years and if someone has counted/cataloged them. 14 million results were returned for my search. Yes, 14 million. Seriously? And the quick survey I took of the links showed that some of them were for multiple infographics.

So after Google, my next stop was Wikipedia of course, which included this definition:

Information graphics or infographics are graphic visual representations of information, data or knowledge intended to present complex information quickly and clearly. They can improve cognition by utilizing graphics to enhance the human visual system’s ability to see patterns and trends. The process of creating infographics can be referred to as data visualization, information design and information architecture.

It made me think of a class I took years ago that used two of Edward R. Tufte's books: Envisioning Information and The Visual Display of Quantitative Information. They're beautifully printed books, but they haven't left my bookshelf in years before tonight. (I'm going to look through them this weekend now that they've caught my eye again.)

UX and design practitioners are probably very familiar with his work, but I looked him up and was amazed at his expertise and list of works. (I don't think I appreciated the one-day course I took those many years ago nearly enough.)

I remember very little about the class, but what I remember clearly is the poster we received of Napoleon's March of 1812, a graphic by Charles Joseph Minard, which was published in 1869. I liked it so much that I had it mounted and framed, and still have it hanging on a wall in my house. I pulled it down to take a fresh look at it, and I'm impressed all over again.

Tufte's website states about Minard's work: "Probably the best statistical graphic ever drawn, this map by Charles Joseph Minard portrays the losses suffered by Napoleon's army in the Russian campaign of 1812."

The poster includes this description in the legend: "Six variables are plotted: the size of the army, its location on a two-dimensional surface, direction of the army's movement, and temperature on various dates during the retreat from Moscow."

The alt text field on this blog post software isn't long enough to include the legend on the graphic. so it's at the bottom of the page.
Almost 150 years ago, Menard visualized, and created by hand, a complex visualization that is as compelling today as it was then. I'm a little less impressed by the coffee consumption infographic from this morning, just because it is one-dimensional, and pales in comparison to Menard's masterpiece. I'll continue to be amused by today's infographics, but now that I've revisited this classic, it's going to take a lot more to impress me.

Image 1 source:
Image 2 source:
Alt text for image 2 : <This information is included on the poster>
Napoleon's March to Moscow  The War of 1812
This classic of Charles Joseph Manard (1781 - 1870), the French engineer, shows the terrible fate of Napoleon's army in Russia. Described by E. J. Marey as seeming to defy the pen of the historian by its brutal eloquence, this combination of data map and time-series, drawn in 1861, portrays the devastating losses supffered in Napoleon's Russian campaign of 1812. Beginning at the left on the Polish-Russian border near the Neimen River, the thick band shows the size of the army (422,000 men) as it invaded Russia in June 1812. The width of the band indicates the size of th army at each place on the map. In September, the army reached Moscow, which was by then sacked and deserted, with 100,000 men. The path of Napoleon's retreat from Moscow is depicted by the darker, lower band, which is linked to a temperature scale and dates at the bottom of the chart. It was a bitterly cold winter, and many froze on the march out of Russia. As the graphic shows, the crossing of the Berezina River was a diasaster, and the army finally struggled back into Poland with only 10,000 men remaining. Also shown are the movements of auxiliary troops, as they sought to protect the rear and the flank of th advancing army. Minard's graphic tells a rich, coherent story with its multivariate data, far more enlightening than just a single number bouncing along over time. Six variables are plotted: the size of the army, its location on a two-dimensional surface, direction of the army's movement, and temperature on various dates during the retreat from Moscow