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Tim Kunin Interview

December 10, 2010 Written by JP       [Font too small?]

The first thing I do each day when I sit in front of my computer is to visit a specific web site. Based on what you know of me, you might think that destination would have something to do with natural health. In a way, it does. But perhaps not quite the way you’d expect. My homepage is set to The Hunger Site. Recently, I had the opportunity to engage in a Q&A with Tim Kunin, the CEO of the GreaterGood Network. I hope that the information shared will inspire you to “click to give” like thousands of others do on a daily basis. Did I mention that taking part in this worthy endeavor won’t cost you anything at all?

JP - The Hunger Site has been operational since June of 1999. What are some of the highlights of what you’ve accomplished in that time?

Tim Kunin - The biggest milestone was the expansion of the Hunger Site into the GreaterGood Network, which allows people interested in a variety of issues like breast cancer, children’s health, literacy, rainforest preservation, and animal rescue and protection to get involved and click daily. These free clicks take only a few seconds, but they allow people to help strangers get medicine and books and mammograms and food. I am also very interested in selling the products of rural women artisans so they can send their children to school and reduce the chance that their kids grow up impoverished.

JP - My website primarily focuses on health care issues. How do your charitable programs impact the health status of those in need? Does this in turn have other positive implications in terms of disease containment and societal issues?

Tim Kunin - Many of the issues we work on are inter-related. Sick children do not attend school. Poor children often do not get medicine. Hunger is caused by a lack of income, not only by the lack of food. If poor people had money, market forces would provide them with food. Hunger occurs when people cannot grow their food and can’t pay for food grown by someone else. To have real, long-term impacts, you have to attack several issues at the same time: clean water, sanitation, agricultural yields, access to medicine, access to education, and so on. Clearly providing jobs and opportunity and access to markets is a more important way of combating poverty than just providing food assistance.

JP - There are select products available for purchase on your site. Are there any specific criteria you use when choosing which items to offer?

Tim Kunin - We look for products that our customers and clickers will like that can advance the causes we care about. The GreaterGood Network is one of the largest importers of ethically sourced products in the USA. We source products from nonprofit organizations which provide jobs for low income people in the USA as well as directly from artisans and producer groups in over 50 countries.

JP - Have you had the opportunity to visit some of the people who have directly benefited from the donations made possible by visitors to The Hunger Site and your sponsors? If so, what was that experience like?

Tim Kunin - I have visited project partners and artisan suppliers in multiple countries, and have traveled widely over the last ten years. In 2009 I visited Rwanda where I stayed at the home of a supplier and attended her niece’s high-school graduation party, then met with hundreds of women who make woven baskets and ornaments and jewelry for us, (many of whom had also received goats through our Gifts That Give More), and then took a four hour drive to visit the Partners In Health’s (PIH) hospital there, which was both amazing and inspiring!

That same trip I toured some of Garden’s for Health’s plots in Kigali and a huge textile factory which makes wax-cloth, then took the all-day bus to Uganda and passed through the tea plantations near the border. In Uganda I toured the Millennium Promise village for an entire day, as well as the factory that makes the organic jersey cotton used by Global Girlfriend for tee shirts and dresses in Kampala. I also hired a car to drive up North to Gulu where I met the artisans who make One Mango Tree and Global Girlfriend’s bags (some of whom were formerly child soldiers, who have now been retrained as tailors.)

Lastly, on that trip, I took a plane to Kenya where I stayed with suppliers on the edge of the great Rift Valley, saw flamingos and zebras and giraffes up close, was in a minor car accident, and had several hundred women sing and dance to greet us when we arrived in their rural town because we support them through the sale of their sisal baskets.

All together a very memorable trip, which led us to increase our partnership with PIH at The Child Health Site and through the Gifts That Give More program (I visited PIH’s hospital in Haiti later that same year), added Millennium Promise as a Hunger Site partner, expanded our purchases of East African product, and invested in a production facility in Northern Uganda where former abducted children can be trained as seamstresses.

Source: United Nations World Food Programme (link)

JP - One of the first things you notice on your home page is the quote of the day. Do you have a favorite quote that’s been featured there?

Tim Kunin - We have displayed several quotes from Mother Teresa, the Dalai Lama, Norman Borlaug, President Obama, and Hillel which have a lot of meaning to me. My favorite is Hillel’s “If not now, when?”

JP - You’re supporting a non-profit program known as the Millennium Promise. What is its goal?

Tim Kunin - Millennium Promise is Jeff Sach’s group. Their goal is to show how a holistic approach to poverty reduction, combating several issues at the same time, can dramatically increase income across Africa.

JP - What’s next for you? What innovations do you see in store for charitable giving in the coming years?

Tim Kunin - We will be starting a new Click To Give site in 2011.

In closing, I’d like to explain exactly how the GreaterGood Network projects work: When visitors click on a button on these charitable web pages, sponsoring advertisers make a donation. The best part of all is that “A click is always free for visitors and 100% of the sponsoring advertisers’ click donations are given to the GreaterGood Network’s charitable partners”. If you happen to purchase any of the carefully chosen products on the sites as well, up to 30% of the purchase price is donated to charity via the Gifts That Give More program. In 2010, GreaterGood also launched an iPhone app, Touch to Give, that allows user to “tap” on their iPhone to donate. Does this all sound too good to be true? It isn’t according to The Christian Science Monitor and Snopes.com. In fact, over $20 million has been given to charity as of 2010. Now that you know about it, I hope you’ll consider contributing a moment of your time each day to help those in need via this online movement. (1,2,3)

Be well!

JP

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