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Empower the People: How St. Luke is Making an Impact in Haiti

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Empower the People: How St. Luke is Making an Impact in Haiti

by Kate Vandeveld

"Don't ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive."

- Howard Thurman

When you meet someone whose work and passions align, their enthusiasm and depth of knowledge is inspiring.

We recently had an opportunity to chat with just such an individual: Wynn Walent, a musician and Assistant National Director at the St. Luke Foundation for Haiti. St. Luke is a volunteer-based and Haitian-led non-profit that provides education, medical care, and vocational training in places that have been underserved by traditional service providers.

Empower the People: How St. Luke is Making an Impact in Haiti -- via WhyWhisper Collective

Wynn does incredibly impactful work in Haiti, and when we connected with him, we couldn’t wait to share his story with you. Here’s what he had to say…

Tell us about your experience in Haiti, and how you got involved with St. Luke.

I went to Haiti for the first time after the earthquake in January 2010. At the time, I was working for St. Luke's partner organization, Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos (NPH) in Peru. St. Luke grew out of the NPH programs, starting about 15 years ago as children in the NPH orphanage grew into adulthood and were seeking a way to transform and improve their communities. When the earthquake happened, I was in Peru working at an orphanage, and intending to go back to New York in a few months. They asked me if I would come to Haiti to help out. I planned to stay for two months, but just kept extending my stay. I stayed there full-time for about two and a half years, and now I go back at least every two months. I still work with St. Luke but I’m now based in the United States, with frequent trips to Haiti.

What is your role in Haiti with St. Luke now?

II do a variety of things, but I focus mainly on communications, fundraising, building awareness, forming partnerships. When I was in Haiti originally, it was very hands on. I worked at the hospitals, and at the cholera center that we started at the end of 2010. Cholera hadn’t been in the country before then, and it came at an extremely vulnerable moment, so I was helping a lot with that. Since then, we’ve seen over 40,000 patients in the cholera center alone.

Now, I support the Haitian leadership at St. Luke’s Hospital, St. Mary’s Hospital and St. Damien’s Hospital, which is part of NPH. There are also two other clinics, including a women’s health clinic, and thirty two schools, including a nursing school, a secondary school, and a number of primary schools. In total, there are 2,000 Haitian employees between NPH and St. Luke together, and every program is Haitian led, which makes all the difference in the world. It's a Haitian organization. Haitian people lead, and foreign friends contribute and help at the service of their vision.

I support by making connections, fundraising, and nurturing relationships with foundations, while also working on grants and communications. I show prospective donors and supporters around. I look for creative ways to engage people in trying to understand the reality in Haiti, both the great need and the great possibility and strength.

Photo by Rebecca Arnold

What would you say makes St. Luke unique from other similar organizations?

St. Luke is unique for a few reasons.

First of all, St. Luke’s founder, Father Rick Frechette, is a really extraordinary man. He’s an American priest and doctor who has been in Haiti for about thirty years now. He's really beyond special.

St. Luke consists of two hospitals, 32 schools a job creation and production center, where we make pasta and bread and cement blocks. There’s also a restaurant, a kitchen and a tilapia farm, agriculture, clean water programs, housing. All of that is the St. Luke Foundation.

St Luke was born when the kids at NPH’s orphanage grew up and wanted to start their own organization. It’s 100% Haitian-led, with important international involvement and partners, but every program is led by a Haitian professional. It’s unique in that there is no real overhead, and resources go directly to the hands of the Haitian people, who know the local people and dynamics in the context of their country. They are so much more than capable, and we just give them the tools and resources they need to make that happen. We’ve been able to make a ton of progress as a result. Haiti is a really challenging place, and there are a lot of complicated reasons why it’s challenging. St. Luke is a great example of what can happen when Haitian people are given the reins, and given resources to make change.

We’ve also been working to integrate social enterprise into our model a bit, to provide a more sustainable income flow to the Foundation. We’re just trying to trim the margins of our budget a bit, not fully fund internally – that likely will never happen. We’re focusing on agriculture, peanuts, peanut butter, mangos, and tilapia. The model differs a bit for each: For tilapia, we sell some to local restaurants and local NGOs and use some to feed orphanages and employees.

We also build our own cement blocks, which is very impactful. This is because people often build in phases in Haiti, which is what made the earthquake even more devastating because homes weren’t complete. In making our own cement blocks, we can sell the blocks wholesale and let people pay us back over time so they’re able to build all at once, which makes a huge difference.

How have these experiences shaped you as a musician? And conversely, how has your music played a role in your work in Haiti? 

When I lived in New York, I was working with kids at a non-profit, but also playing music as much as I could. I had a period of time where I was traveling around, playing a lot of shows. But when I went to Haiti, music was put completely on the back burner, and the burner was turned off. I was just really focused on the work every day. Even now, I’m not actively pursuing music in the same way as before.

That said, my new album is based in the fact that music is such an integral part of my life and the lives of the people in Haiti. There are funerals and mass every day. I don’t really go to mass in the United States, but in Haiti, I go everyday, and it’s because I want to go every day. It’s a lot of community and solidarity, and music is an incredibly powerful part of the experience. I learned all the songs from burying the dead and spending time at the general hospital, and the songs are incredible. They’re spirituals and have a country gospel feel to them. Those melodies became the songs on the record. They’re not direct translations because it wouldn’t make sense, but they’re interpretations of the songs I hear there. I’m in no way an authority on Haitian music, and there are lots of different types of it, but I’m an expert on these ten or twenty songs. I’ve heard them so many times and just love them.

Wynn Walent of St. Luke Foundation Haiti -- via WhyWhisper

Many members of the WhyWhisper community want to use their time and skills for social impact, but sometimes don't know how to get started. Do you have any advice for them?

If the interest is international, you have to go to the country you want to work in. If you want to get involved in the “developing world,” you want to go and spend time in those places so you can see the reality in 3D. You have to link up with local people and link to them for as long as possible, in order to learn how to engage and make an impact a little bit later. But the first step is really just to walk with the people that you want to help. It may sound trite, but it’s really true.

Then I would say to find creative ways to make the people you’re hoping will support the work feel like a part of what you’re doing. Rather than saying “help us make this happen,” you’re saying “you’re a part of this team – how can we make this happen together?” Help them to understand that the link is direct. And I think that the way to do that is to put the resources into the hands of the local folks so that the link actually is direct.

What's the best way for people who want to help in Haiti, or with St. Luke specifically?

A great way to become involved with St. Luke specifically is through our Ambassador Program. Our Ambassadors help us spread the word about the work we’re doing in Haiti.

There are also other things that you can do from the United States. You can host a fundraising party. Last year, there were 32 holiday fundraising parties. Some are large and celebrity-driven, whereas others are small groups of friends having dinner parties to tell people about our work and request support.

We’re always looking for people with different types of skills to get involved in our work in different ways – especially graphic designers and fundraisers, so if you know any of those, send them our way!  You can contact me directly if you want to get involved in any capacity and we will figure out the best way to work together.

 

Wynn is going on tour this summer to promote his new album, which you can download here. All he requests in exchange is a donation of your choice, 100% of which will go to St. Luke. He’ll be in New York on August 5th, joined by friend and colleague, Esther Desir, who manages St. Luke’s morgue. They’ll be singing songs from the album, and weaving in the Haitian spiritual style even further with Esther’s help. According to Wynn, her live performance is not to be missed, so we encourage you to check out the details and get your tickets ASAP.

Wynn is also writing a book about Haiti and his friends there, which will be finished this fall. Stay tuned!

Do you know of someone who is doing something cool in the social impact space? Share with us! We’ll help spread the word. Here’s how:

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Year-End Giving: What You Need to Know

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Year-End Giving: What You Need to Know

by Kate Vandeveld

The end of the year is a big time for giving. In fact, the average person makes 24 percent of his or her donations for the year between Thanksgiving and the New Year. There are many reasons why this is the case: the holidays are a time for gratitude and giving back, holiday bonuses put people in a position to be philanthropic, and people look to find tax-deductible donations before the year concludes. 

If you’re thinking about delving (or continuing) into the world of philanthropy as the year ends, we want to make sure that you have all of the information that you need to make smart choices. Here are some tips: 

Follow Your Passion

With so many amazing organizations out there – about 1 million charities in the U.S. alone! – just knowing where to start can be a daunting task. Don’t let it hold you back. Start with yourself. Think about what causes are important to you. Is it education, food security, homelessness, cancer treatment, human rights advocacy? Which causes tug at your heart strings, and make you want to contribute to change? If you choose to go with what you care about, you can (almost) never go wrong.

Do Your Research

Once you know what cause areas you’re most interested in, you need to figure out the specific organizations that are most impactful in doing that work. And to make sure your giving is as efficient, ethical, and effective as possible, you have to do your research. According to Charity Navigator, you’ll want to make sure that you’re giving to an organization that meets the following three criteria: 

  • Fiscal Health: Organizations that are in good shape financially have “greater flexibility and freedom to pursue their charitable mission.”
  • Accountable & Transparent: Accountability ensures that organizations and businesses are following good governance practices, meaning that they are less likely to be doing anything unethical. The more transparent an organization’s practices, the more likely it is that they are using donations in the ways they’ve stipulated. This is not to say that these organizations won’t have overhead (salaries, admin costs, operational expenses) – they will and they should. You can learn more about why it’s important that people who are working to address social problems get paid fairly by checking out this amazing TED Talk by Dan Pallotta. As he says, overhead is not an enemy of the cause – it’s part of it, and is actually a huge contributor to organizational growth and impact.

  • Results: Of course, you’ll want to know how successful the organization has been in accomplishing their mission, and the impact they’ve actually had. 

Luckily, sites like Charity Navigator exist to help you determine which organizations meet those criteria, so you can make smart choices about where you’re giving. We suggest that you start there, and then do your own research too. 

Don’t Forget About Taxes

Taxes aren’t on the forefront of everyone’s minds when thinking about year-end giving. But it’s worth it to know the details about tax-deductible donations when you’re deciding where and when to contribute. Here are the basics:

  • Monetary gifts made to non-profits, mileage used to drive to volunteer at non-profits, and partial-value deductions for in-kind donations (contributions of goods that you’ve donated rather than money) are all deductible expenses. Before you donate, be sure that you’ve chosen qualified charitable organizations, as only those will be deductible.
  • Contributions are deductible in the year they are made, so donations made before the end of 2014 count for 2014 (regardless of whether or not you pay your credit card bill this year). Same goes for checks – they just need to be mailed by December 31, 2014, not necessarily cashed.
  • Any cash deductions, regardless of the amount, must be substantiated by a bank record.

These are the most important rules, but we recommend that you take a moment to familiarize yourself with these year-end giving tips from the IRS so that you can make the most of your final contributions of 2014. 

Stay on Top of Your Investment

After you’ve made your donation, we highly encourage you to follow up with their progress afterward. Not only will this be rewarding for you as a contributor, but by sharing their work with your network, you can also help your organizations gain new visibility. It’s people like you that are keeping many of these organizations afloat, and your contributions and support make a huge difference on the level of impact they are able to make. Charity Navigator recommends that you conduct an annual review of your giving portfolio, looking at the progress reports of each organization you’ve supported, and continue to support those who are using your donations properly and taking concrete steps to contribute to meaningful change.

Giving to organizations and businesses that are creating change in the world is SO important, and we hope that you take some time to think about how you can contribute as 2014 comes to a close.

Which organizations will you be contributing to as the year ends? Let us know on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, or in the comments below. We’ll help give them additional visibility!

Happy holidays to you and your loved ones!

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Solving Big Problems: Standbuy Supports the Cancer Community

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Solving Big Problems: Standbuy Supports the Cancer Community

by Kate Vandeveld

Lately, we’ve been focusing on telling the brave and inspiring stories of passionate social entrepreneurs. 

This week, we spoke with WhyWhisper client, Sashka Rothchild, founder and CEO of Standbuy. Standbuy is an online crowdfunding platform for those who have been diagnosed with cancer. In setting up a profile, those who are battling cancer can connect with friends, family, and others who understand what they’re going through. Having successfully funded cancer treatments, egg preservation, and more, this amazing tool is providing hope, support, and financial options to those who are currently facing a diagnosis.

Here’s what Sashka had to say about her journey as a social entrepreneur: 

Why did you decide to start Standbuy?

I decided to start Standbuy because I couldn’t really find anything else I wanted to do where I could spend as many hours doing it, and still feel passionate. After my mom died when I was in high school, I tried a variety of other things, and I just couldn’t let go of wanting to work in a way that helped people who were going through the things that I had.  Coupled with the fact that we’re in a major healthcare crisis – it just seemed like the right opportunity to try and make something to get people support faster.

Why did you choose the for-profit social enterprise model for your business?

I definitely think there is value in non-profits; there are problems that need to be solved that cannot be solved with for-profit business models. But what I see as problematic about non-profits, is that they work at a different speed, since they have to spend 80% of their time fundraising to try to cover the cost of their admins and programs.

I wanted to be able to do kind of the opposite; I wanted to work on making Standbuy more helpful, and adding more tools and features, to give people better support and enable them to tell their stories in an easier way.  By having a business model that that allows us to be sustainable and scalable, I can do that. I don’t have to spend my days worrying about how we’re going to cover our overhead for the year.

What would you say have been the most difficult aspects of building a social enterprise?

I don’t know where to start! There are so many. There is difficulty in building anything – either a business or a non-profit. And if it’s something that you care about, there is this extra added pressure of really wanting to make sure that you’re doing it right.

For me, because I’ve never built a website before – that was a blessing and a curse. On one hand, I needed to ramp up, so I could feel confident and comfortable making quick decisions about how we would develop, or how we would structure the company. But I think it was also helpful because I wasn’t constrained by past experience, or thinking that it has to go a certain way.

One of the hardest parts is finding the right people to work with, choosing who to hire and how to hire, even if it’s an intern. I think it can be hard as a social enterprise because you do have a double bottom line; you need to think about your people and your mission in conjunction with your profits, and I think that you can get caught in a little bit of a limbo situation. You try and read articles on Fast Company or Inc or HBR, and they’re all insightful and informative, but they’re geared toward people that are just operating with a single bottom line: a goal of making as much money as possible.

And then if you kind of flip to the other side and look for guidance on the non-profit side, you’re even more lost because there’s just no real structure about how to do things. Finding the best way to explain your place in the middle – I think can be hard – whether it’s to freelancers, or partners, or anyone you’re working with.

Sashka

What has been the most rewarding part of your experience as a social entrepreneur?

There’s been so much. When you’re starting a business, you work on it all the time. And I happened to have started a business right when I got pregnant. So the entire time I’ve been working on Standbuy, I was either tired, or nauseous, or nursing, or away from my son. And to be able to work so hard on something and then be able to look at him and say, “Yes, I might be working while I’m nursing, but it’s because people need help right now.” That’s really rewarding and unfortunately uncommon for mothers. 

We’ve seen a lot of different success stories in many different areas with Standbuy. I have frustrations pretty much all day, but it’s peppered with notes from people that are so incredibly grateful, and beautiful, and appreciative.

When I see someone raising $3,000 in a couple days so that they can get help, that’s pretty amazing. So…I’m pretty lucky.

How do you envision Standbuy growing over the next 5 years?

I’ve said before that it will be incredibly disappointing if there is still a need for Standbuy in five years. I really hope that as a country, we can get our shit together enough that when people get sick, they don’t need to fundraise on their own. I hope that insurance companies, healthcare organizations, hospitals, and doctors can all work together to get people the help that they need without people going bankrupt.

That being said, I also think there’s a lot of room for Standbuy to grow and expand without necessarily losing focus on the cancer community: by taking our stance on simplistic and easy-to-use design, and translating it into helping larger organizations tell their stories in a clear and beautiful way while raising money to do the work that they do. There are a lot of people who are doing a lot of good work in the world; and if you’re a non-profit, you have especially limited bandwidth, so I would love to be able to offer our solutions to more people.

It would be incredibly depressing if this was still the status quo in five years.

Standbuy

Is there anything that you know now that you wish you’d known when you first started Standbuy?

(Laughs) About a thousand things…

I wish I had known that you can really only go as fast as you can go. Someone who I look up to, a woman named Cindy Gallop once told me that there’s no such thing as “should” when you’re building a business. It’s not about how fast you can go, or these pretend masochistic goals you set for yourself. It’s just about putting one foot in front of the other, and continuing.  It doesn’t matter if you don’t do things as fast as you thought you should’ve, because it’s your business, and you can do whatever you want. It’s not anyone else’s project, and it’s not anyone else’s timeline. And I wish I would have remembered that or thought about that more in the beginning.

It’s also hard to try and remember that you do generally know what’s best. Your instincts are generally right. Getting help and input from people is imperative, but you started your own thing for a reason, and you should trust your gut a little more. Otherwise, what’s the point? You might as well be working for someone else.

What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about starting their own social enterprise?

Be sure that you’re solving a real problem. I think that it’s become weirdly popular to want to launch a start-up. And I think that’s awesome, but you have to be scratching an itch, you have to be solving a problem. And nothing matters unless you’re being helpful.

One of the ways that I try to make decisions for Standbuy is just to try to think – is this helpful? Then great, let’s do it. If it’s not, if it’s for some other reason, who cares? What’s the point? I think there are a lot of people doing great stuff, and unless you think you are really addressing a problem, there are people who need help doing the variety of things that are already out there.

Conversely, don’t be afraid. It’s kind of scary if you’ve never launched a company or a business, and particularly if you’re a woman, because with start-ups and social enterprises are incredibly male-dominated industries, especially when it comes to funding. You just kind of have to say fuck it, and go do it.

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We’re inspired – what about you? 

Standbuy is in the middle of fundraising campaign that will allow them to keep their doors open, as well as roll out new features to make fundraising for cancer much more efficient. If you want to help Standbuy support the cancer community, pitch in, or spread the word on Facebook and Twitter with #StandbuyEachother. If you want to know more about the campaign, watch this video.

Are you inspired by a social entrepreneur who you think the world should know about? Tell us about them in the comments below, or make an introduction via email, Facebook or Twitter.

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8 Steps to a Powerful Nonprofit Case Study

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8 Steps to a Powerful Nonprofit Case Study

by Shanley Knox & Alexandra Ostrow

Time and time again, it's been said that individual stories are the single most powerful tool for increasing nonprofit donations. These stories, when coupled with key facts and statistics, make for a very powerful case study. 

It is therefore important to take note of one of the key difficulties encountered when including an individual's life in a case study: publishing personal stories can have ramifications on safety, reputation, confidence levels, and so much more. While you want to demonstrate your impact, you also want to handle a life with the utmost caution and respect. 

Below, we outline a step-by-step process for building a powerful, results-driven case study, while maintaining respect, and also being mindful of safety:

  1. The End Result
    It might sound counter-intuitive, but you need to begin at the end. What does “success” look like for your organization? What are you able to prove? What are donors looking for? Make sure you're being specific about what you’re measuring. 
     
  2. The Person Behind the Story
    Based on the impact you plan to illustrate, identify the person or people whose story would be best to tell. Make sure to think through the personal elements that donors will relate to most, as these will need to be incorporated. 
     
  3. The Written Elements of His or Her Story
    Create a list of questions you would like this person to answer that will help illustrate "The Before", as well as "The After."  
     
  4. The Process
    Where were funds spent? Who was brought in to help? Why were these specific measures taken? Provide clear, concise descriptions of the factors that led to success. 
     
  5. Rich Media Assets
    Think through what assets will best illustrate the story. Get creative... Photos? A video interview? An infographic? You should be prepared to illustrate "The Before", "The Process", and "The After".
     
  6. Consent
    Create a signed release/express permission form that explains exactly what information and assets will be shared. Find creative ways to shield personal details and/or identities for those who could be hurt or embarrassed were their identities or personal details to be revealed. If it's necessary, change their name, and use a small disclaimer such as, “I'll call her Joanne…,” or “John, a pseudonym...” Make sure you've secured explicit written permission before publishing stories or photographs, and when in doubt, don't hesitate to consult a lawyer.
     
  7. Assemble the Pieces
    Because your case study involves a personal story, it can be difficult to isolate the most important information to include. If you’re not careful, you might find yourself incorporating emotional, yet irrelevant, information, which subsequently detracts from key points. When pulling together your case study, make sure that you're still focusing on a single area, for which you're able to measure the results. 
     
  8. Distribute
    Once you’re finished (and you've circulated your case study for feedback), be sure to:
    • Incorporate into fundraising presentations
    • Include in grant proposals
    • Post to your website
    • Send out via e-newsletter
    • Share through your social channels

Don't forget to integrate Calls-to-Action. Readers/viewers have many pieces of content competing for their attention. If they've taken an interest in your case study, you want to convert their interest by telling them what to do next... Donate? Sign up? Contact us? Don't miss your opportunity.  

Is there something we missed? Or, do you have a particularly compelling case study to share? As always, our team would love to hear from you! Post in the comments below, or contact us via Facebook, Twitter or Email

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For further reading: 

  • Click here to hear from other organizations on protecting confidentiality
  • Click here to read Lizbeth Paulat's, "How Not to Be a Jerk While Visiting Africa," a piece about photographing children
  • Click here to hear from FamCare on how to best use case studies for fundraising

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How to Use Social Media for Nonprofit Fundraising and Engagement

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How to Use Social Media for Nonprofit Fundraising and Engagement

In 2012, the nonprofit charity: water raised $8 million through their online fundraising platform. They are, perhaps, one of the more telling examples of the power of digital platforms to grow nonprofit fundraising and engagement. By creating a strong digital story, targeted social content, and participating in regular engagement with fans and potential funders, nonprofit teams have more opportunity than ever before to promote their cause online. 

Here are several ways for your nonprofit to get started: 

Use a virtual help desk

Platforms such as Help Scout provide access to multiple team members, thereby allowing for prompt responses to donor emails. Features include: email integration that allows you to respond from your own inbox; the ability to leave private notes for your team; actionable reporting providing insight on response times and team performance; and real time monitoring that lets you know when someone has accessed or already responded to an email.  

Create advocates out of your donors

Your online platform should give members of your network the ability to engage with your cause and share it with their friends, family and networks. This type of relationship creates efficient opportunities for fan advocacy, and often occurs by giving fans the ability to create their own visual and written content to share with their networks. Here’s a helpful blog explaining several specific ways to encourage brand advocacy. 

Leverage social proof 

Many donors express that their chief concern is that their money is going to nonprofit overhead, rather than projects and individuals being served. One way to increase trust and comfortability is to leverage social proof. Social proof can be described as “informational social influence,” or the positive influence created when one person finds out that someone else they know or relate to is taking part in a campaign. As you provide ways for your donors to publicly share that they have donated to your cause, you will subsequently gain the trust of your donors networks. 

Identify brand evangelists

Is there a leader within your company that has a strong presence on social networks? Their wide reach can be used to elevate and tell the story of your cause. By posting their own unique story of passion for your nonprofit’s mission, perhaps with the history of how they arrived at their commitment, this individual (or several individuals!) can create a corresponding story that communicates the power of your mission and vision, while expanding your reach amongst their networks.

Use powerful storytelling 

Storytelling is perhaps the most effective way to utilize social media. Your organization should seek to tell one overarching story of your mission and cause. Within it, you can present the facets of several different ongoing stories, such as the individual success stories, the fans who donate and volunteer, and the connection between the two. The more personal you can make the story, the more powerful it will become. 

Are there other ways you have used digital media to grow your nonprofit reach? We’d love to hear your feedback in the comments below! 

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