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What We Learned in 2015

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What We Learned in 2015

What We Learned in 2016 -- WhyWhisper Collective

2015 was an exciting year! We worked to expand access to integrative healthcare for communities in need, designed programs to support new mothers, expanded awareness of clean energy initiatives in New York, and so much more. We connected with inspiring individuals who are working to change the world every day. We made big internal changes (that we’re excited to share with you in 2016!). And, perhaps most importantly, we learned a lot.

Along the way, we’ve been sure to share many of our takeaways with you via our blog. As 2015 comes to a close and you’re kicking of 2016, be sure to check out the posts below to find insights on the subjects (both personal and professional) that are most relevant to you!

Start with Yourself

This year, we learned a lot about the importance of taking time for self-care and self-improvement. The positive effects of taking care of yourself extend to all areas of your life -- from mental health to workplace effectiveness. Self-improvement looks different for each individual, and can encompass anything from taking time off, to making more responsible purchasing decisions, to educating yourself about things that matter to you. To help you get started, here’s some of what we’ve learned:

 

Learn from the Experts

We believe one of the best ways to learn about social impact is by example. This year, we’ve been lucky enough to connect with and learn from innovative and effective leaders from nonprofits, social enterprises, and corporations. Here’s a bit of what we’ve learned:

 

Share Your Message

One of our focus areas at WhyWhisper is helping nonprofits and socially conscious businesses spread the word about their work. From developing voice and messaging guidelines to implementing an effective social media strategy and beyond, there are so many ways you can ensure that people know about the impact you’re making. If you’re looking for tips, start here:

 

Think About Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)

The concept of building social impact into existing business models is on the rise, and we couldn’t be more excited about it. Businesses and corporations can make significant headway in addressing social issues, and we look forward to seeing (and helping) more of you follow suit next year. If you’re interested in learning more about CSR, here’s some of what we’ve shared this past year:

 

Increase Your Impact

We’re constantly exploring ways that organizations and businesses can make internal changes that have a positive effect on their workplaces and on the world. Here’s some of what we’ve learned:

 

Take Action

We’re also always looking for ways to help our community bridge the gap between caring about a particular issue and actually taking action. When you’re short on resources, or don’t really know where to get started, it can be tough to make moves. We’ve put together a number of posts about how you can take action around different issues – and some are as easy as talking about the issues online! Check them out:

 

Words of Wisdom for Freelancers

At WhyWhisper, we set out to build a different kind of work structure. As such, our team is comprised of consultants who work remotely and independently, taking on projects that are personally meaningful with teammates who support and inspire. But freelancing has its own challenges, and we’ve learned a lot along the way:

What’s your biggest learning from 2015? We’d love to hear about it, and share with our community. Here’s how to get in touch:

Happy New Year to our incredible community! We’re so lucky to learn from you every day, and can’t wait for all that we’ll do together this year. Feel free to connect with us anytime – we love to hear from you.

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Just Jump: How Yellow Tractor is Empowering Change Through Gardening

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Just Jump: How Yellow Tractor is Empowering Change Through Gardening

by Kate Vandeveld

When you have an idea that you think could change the world, getting from idea to implementation takes work. And perhaps one of the most difficult decisions to make in that process is what kind of model you want to use to achieve your goals.

Do you want to set up as a non-profit? A social enterprise? As we’ve seen, there are pros and cons to both options. These days, a rising number of impact-driven ventures are opting to operate under a hybrid model. This can be as a non-profit social enterprise, or as a non-profit working in tandem with a for-profit social enterprise.

This is the case for Chicago-based Yellow Tractor Project, a non-profit organization that empowers people to grow their own fresh, healthy, food in an easy and affordable manner, and its affiliated social enterprise, Yellow Tractor LLC. We had the chance to connect with the woman behind it all, Wendy Irwin, about the work they’re doing and how they operate.

YTP.jpg

Here’s what she had to say:

Let’s just talk a little about the non-profit aspect of your model, the Yellow Tractor Project. How did it come to be?

So the Yellow Tractor Project came to be in 2009. I was actually the Grants Chair for an educational foundation in Wilmette, and this grant application came through that was so simple and I thought could have such a profound effect. So, I very unprofessionally picked up the phone and called the grant writer, and she thought I was calling to award her a grant. I felt terrible and tried to explain that we might be interested in piloting it. With her idea, I told her I thought we could change the way America thinks about food in ten years; and change the world in twenty. She was really taken aback – she wanted to do one garden in one building, not change the world.

But we met, and the idea for the Yellow Tractor Project was born. We operated for years without a 501c3, and while we raised money and got all of the logistics in place for the application, I was in testing mode. I had the social enterprise hybrid piece in my head from day one, and I started off by pitching our programs as paid programs to see if they would work.

I went into each meeting with potential partners prepared to ask them for funds from specific budget buckets. I knew they’d go for old school foundation money if I didn’t, which we couldn’t get because we didn’t have 501c3 status.  Without it, we had to think creatively about which buckets to draw from – marketing, advertising, recruitment.

Then I quickly realized: This is so much more than food access. This very simple, easy, turnkey thing is such a solution for job skills training, for employment, for rehab. We wanted to help those who don’t have access to nutrition, and started pilots that targeted senior citizens who live in subsidized housing. They’re the last generation who has knowledge of gardening in their bones, and yet they have no access to it and their nutrition bottoms out as a result. We now have two programs in Evanston, and they’re just knocking it out of the park. One thing we were somewhat surprised to find was that, for them, the gardening was almost as good for their mental wellness as it was for their nutrition, because it built a sense of community. That was really profound for us.

We want to make it easy for people to improve their health, starting with the basics – and do it wherever they need to.

And how does Yellow Tractor, the social enterprise aspect of your model, tie in? How did it develop?

As I thought through how we should develop the social enterprise piece, I realized that rather than starting at schools, we should start with the parents. Teaching kids how to garden will only work in a sustainable way if the parents know how to do it too. We tried at the YMCA at first, but it just became really obvious that we should go for corporate wellness programs. That’s where adults spend the bulk of their lives – at work. We decided it made sense to reach them there. And it was sort of perfect convergence of things: a broken health care system and a loss of any innovation in corporate wellness programs.

And then we just did experiments to see if this would ultimately reduce health care costs. We have a five year pilot here, and for the first time ever – at this global firm we were working with –its over 100 years old – their insurance premium didn’t go up.  So we made sure at the beginning when we were developing the non-profit to build relationships with businesses that might eventually be interested in the social enterprise aspect, and it seems to be paying off so far.

Now, we offer customizable corporate wellness programs that are centered around gardening. If a corporation wants to put in garden beds and have us come in and teach their employees about how to garden, we can do that. If they want us to bring in a chef and show them how to use that healthy food to cook meals, we can do that. But one of our key differentiators is the education that we provide. When you start one of our programs, we look at your climate and location, and put together a newsletter with all of the information that you need to sustain your garden. This would take a ton of research and knowledge on the part of the individual.

Beyond the garden-based wellness programs, we also offer something called “Your Company in the Community,” and this is where CSR comes in. This is where the engagement dollars come in. We’ll take anywhere from 5 employees in a department to the whole company, and we take them out to a local community non-profit – either one that they partner with or one that we know – and take them out to do gardening projects there.

Yellow Tractor on WhyWhisper Collective

And how do they function relative to one another?

It’s sort of a classic non-profit / social enterprise hybrid model. The non-profit preceded the social enterprise, and the whole thing kind of becomes a social enterprise.  They function separately, which is hard for external parties to really understand. Yellow Tractor LLC is focused on corporate wellness programs and providing customizable paid solutions in that sector. The Yellow Tractor Project is focused on donating beds to underserved populations. Both are centered around nutrition and food access, and providing education around those things, but they function separately.

Their connection is financial: Once sales from Yellow Tractor LLC reach a critical mass, a percentage of the revenue flows to the Yellow Tractor Project as one of its diverse revenue streams. On top of that, we still do our traditional fundraising, donor cultivation, all of the things that you do in a traditional non-profit.

What is the key differentiating factor between what you offer and what people could do at home?

When we were figuring it all out, we first decided to learn manufacturing and develop a garden bed that could stand on its own and was as high quality as possible, and we created a kit of sorts that included the soil, the bed, plant sourcing. Those are the main things that have to be right in order for it to work. The wood itself has to be quality, and without it, most gardens go bad. Without good wood, people use railroad ties or anything inexpensive. These are generally treated, which leeches into the soil, which leeches into the food…and we’re right back at square one with bad nutrition. Moreover, it disintegrates in a few years, and then no one wants to do a new one again.  So we put the time into developing this product that is safe and we know will last about fifteen years.

And we use these same high quality beds on the non-profit side. Even though many business advisors have told us it’s a bad model, because they’re too expensive, we refuse to budge on that. We’re not willing to compromise the integrity of the product. When you use lower quality widgets, not only does it have an effect on nutrition, but when they fail, it lowers morality, and detracts from the entire mission.

What’s the biggest challenge that you’ve faced in getting your programming off the ground?

We’ve faced the challenge of getting people to really adopt a new way of thinking, and understand the importance of nutrition. For Toms shoes…no one is going to turn down a free pair of shoes if they need them, or for Warby Parker…no one is going to say “Nah, I don’t need my grandfather to see.” But when it comes to nutrition, people often want to opt for the Cheetos because it’s what they know and can afford. They don’t feel like they need to make the change, and it takes work on their part.

That’s why we’re trying our best to make it easy for them – to provide the beds and materials that they need and supplement that with education.

What is your best advice for someone who wants to start a social impact project?

Don’t look before you jump – everyone’s going to tell you that you need years of research, but that’s not always true. It’s an iterative process and you’ll never learn more than what you get from just trying things and listening to people. Sometimes it will take people awhile to understand what you’re doing, but that’s innovation.


We love that Yellow Tractor and the Yellow Tractor Project are creating change on such a fundamental and crucial level. If you’re interested in their work, stay on top of their initiatives and connect with them here:

Yellow Tractor (Social enterprise)

The Yellow Tractor Project (Non-profit)

Do you know about a social impact venture that is using the hybrid model? We want to learn about them and share their story with the WhyWhisper community. Here’s how you can tell us about them:

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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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Start With Passion: How pilotED is Changing Education in Chicago

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Start With Passion: How pilotED is Changing Education in Chicago

by Kate Vandeveld

We write a lot about social entrepreneurs, people who change the world through revenue-generating business models. But as we well know, there are many who find the nonprofit model to be a better fit for their cause. Here are some of the factors to take into consideration when deciding which option is best for your organization or business.

Non-profits are critical in the world of social impact, and their leaders, like social entrepreneurs, are often passionate, driven individuals who see problems and want to find sustainable ways to fix them.

We recently had a chance to connect with Ben DuCharme, co-founder of Chicago-based non-profit pilotED that is working to provide critical support to at-risk middle school students who want to pursue higher education, but lack the necessary resources and guidance to do so.

Here’s what he has to say about his work and his experience developing and growing a non-profit:

 

Tell us a little bit about your career path, and what led you to start pilotED.

As a senior science major at University of Wisconsin-Madison I found myself disillusioned with the career paths that lay in front of me. Like many other students, I had partially planned on attending medical school, but fell out of love with the idea of working 24-hour shifts in a hospital. I turned instead toward my other potential career path: teaching. Along with other recent college graduates, I joined Teach For America-Chicago, which gave me the opportunity to dive into urban education. Although naive and consistently humbled by my lack of experience, I also quickly came to realize that many of my students, juniors and seniors at Eric Solorio Academy High School, had made their way through years of school with poor skills and worse academic habits. By the time they reached graduation, it was too late to undo years of inconsistent effort, apathy, and poor results. Their trajectory had been set a long time ago.

The idea for pilotED sprung from this realization. Jacob Allen, Marie Dandie, and myself recognized the lack of concerted effort to get at-risk students on track for college graduation early in their educational careers. While there are many great organizations operating in the high school or after school space, there was nothing available to middle school students who hoped to do great things with their lives, but lacked the support to do so. pilotED fills that void by taking cohorts of twenty "C" average 6th graders, and leading them through a four-year curriculum focused on identity and academic growth. Our program culminates in the 9th grade year, once students have established themselves as successful high-schoolers on track for high school, and college, graduation.

How pilotED is Changing Education in Chicago -- via WhyWhisper Collective

What is your role within the organization, and how did you determine your team structure?

My official title is Executive Vice President; however, I focus my time and effort on pilotED's metrics and teacher training. As a young non-profit, the establishment of strong and consistent data is essential to our growth. At first, myself and the two other co-founders made most decisions together. However, that team structure was unwieldy at best, so early on the three of us sat down to map out responsibilities. Although that sounds quite simple, in reality, the release of responsibility can be a difficult step, especially when you are used to having some control over all aspects of the organization. Our team's strong relationship allowed us to see each other's strengths, weaknesses, and passions, which led to a well-reasoned division of roles.

 

What would you say have been the most difficult aspects of developing and sustaining a non-profit?

For a growing non-profit, momentum is key. In order to build momentum, you need to maximize potential opportunities. Whether it is an official pitch or an informal conversation with a key stakeholder, how you present yourself and your non-profit makes all the difference. Each of these opportunities might be the only chance you get to secure a donor or an advocate who wants to open their network to you. As an organization, we found that our passion for our mission and vision quickly developed momentum in the Chicago education community, but sustaining it now that we are a known commodity is our new challenge.

 

What has been the most rewarding part of the experience so far?

As an educational non-profit, I have seen two distinct areas of reward. The first, and the most rewarding, is seeing our young 6th graders excel. Watching young adults learn and grow together and support each other to become better students and people has been quite the experience. Seeing the pride on their faces when they strut around in their pilotED t-shirts is something else.

The other area of reward has been the positive feedback we have received from the Chicago education community. When pilotED was just an idea, we believed that it was absolutely necessary and had the potential to revolutionize students’ lives. But we weren't sure that others would agree with the same level of excitement. Over the past two years we have been rewarded by receiving overwhelmingly positive feedback from other education professionals. Whether in the boardroom or the classroom, people actively reach out to support us, which proves both how generous the Chicago community can be and that our work is valuable. 

How pilotED is Changing Education in Chicago -- via WhyWhisper Collective

How do you envision pilotED growing over the next few years?

During our first few years, pilotED will double in size each academic year. In five years we will be in three cities with similar populations of urban students where the need for pilotED is high. We have already been approached by individuals in other cities about expanding; however, our priority is establishing consistent success before we scale at a rapid pace.

 

What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about starting their own non-profit?

When you build a non-profit from scratch, the founders have to believe wholeheartedly in their mission and vision. Everything that happens to that organization over the first few months and years is tied to your belief in and passion for your work. We started pilotED while the three co-founders were full-time teachers. It would have been easy to want to forgo more meetings after a long day of work. But it didn't feel like work. What we were doing each night was so important that we walked away from our meetings refreshed and reenergized. I could not imagine getting an organization off of the ground without a similar level of passion.

So if you are starting a non-profit, I urge you to ask yourself how strongly you believe in the idea and the pragmatic reality of what it will be. If both excite you, then go for it. We need more leaders like you.

 

We’re inspired by the pilotED team’s drive to make a difference in a way that is impactful and sustainable, and look forward to seeing it grow.  Check out the impact that they’re already making here, and then get updates by following them on Twitter and Facebook.  And if you’re interested in supporting their mission, you can make a donation here, or even sponsor a student.

Know of a non-profit leader that is making an impact in an area that’s important to you? Connect with us – we’d love to spread the word. Here’s how you can do it:

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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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How to Achieve the Optimal Client-Freelancer Relationship

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How to Achieve the Optimal Client-Freelancer Relationship

by Kate Vandeveld

The concept of freelance is a beautiful thing. It allows consultants to be selective about the clients with whom they work, choosing organizations they respect and projects they know they can contribute to effectively. At the same time, it allows clients to access talented individuals’ expertise for projects that will benefit from their skillsets.

WhyWhisper is based on this concept. We are all freelancers, each possessing a unique set of skills, interests, and experiences – and we come together in a team structure to best support the companies and causes we care about.

But if we’re being honest…not every client-freelancer relationship is created equal. There are certain things that both parties can do to ensure success and enjoyment during a project. Here they are:

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Communicate Clearly & Effectively

For clients and freelancers to work together effectively, both parties need to be on the same page. Things change, and roadblocks will almost certainly pop up. When a client and freelancer can clearly and effectively communicate their way through these changes, they will be able to overcome obstacles, and develop strategies that lead to the most successful outcomes.

You can avoid miscommunications by:

  1. Setting clearly defined expectations at the onset of any project
  2. Being proactive in your communication, reaching out to get what you need in advance of deadlines
  3. Responding to all outreach in a timely manner
  4. Being clear and direct in your questions and responses
  5. Letting the other party know if and when something comes up that will change the project’s scope
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Be Honest & Straightforward

Honesty and straightforwardness go hand-in-hand with good communication. To develop a strong and effective client-freelancer relationship, both parties need to be as honest as possible with one another, in terms of expectations and abilities. If a client isn’t straightforward about their needs, the freelancer is bound to fall short, and if a freelancer overpromises and under delivers, the client is sure to end up frustrated, and could also be thrown off track.

You can stay direct and upfront by:

  1. Letting the freelancer know if a deliverable isn’t what you were looking for or requires revisions (client)
  2. Keeping the other party informed when you need more assistance or time that you hadn’t anticipated (client and freelancer)
  3. Delivering critical feedback whenever necessary (client and freelancer)
  4. Being realistic about your skills and availability throughout the course of the project (freelancer)
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Show Mutual Respect

Clients and freelancers must have a mutual respect for one another in order for the partnership to be successful. This respect manifests itself in many ways – in how each values the other’s opinions, abilities, and time, to name a few. When client-freelancer teams respect each other, it is much easier for both to communicate effectively and be honest with one another.

You can build respect by:

  1. Taking each other’s ideas and opinions into consideration
  2. Providing thoughtful feedback
  3. Being conscious of tone in communication
  4. Being mindful of each other’s time
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Find a Balance Between Flexibility & Consistency

Sometimes, a project’s timeline can change pretty drastically as it develops. As these changes unfold, two elements are imperative to the client-freelancer relationship: flexibility and consistency. When both parties are able maintain a level of consistency throughout the project, while simultaneously accommodating changes as they arise, the team can develop a smooth and efficient workflow.

You can find this balance by:

  1. Delivering consistently high quality work (reviewing before it goes out!)
  2. Sticking to deadlines
  3. Working together to accommodate changes in schedule
  4. Remaining focused on the outcome of the project, even as changes arise

A positive relationship between a client and freelancer can make all the difference in the level of energy and ultimate success of a project. Client-freelancer teams that communicate effectively, respect each other, and are straightforward, flexible, and consistent will be able to make the most of their time working together, and will even have fun doing it!

What do you think is the most important aspect of a client-freelancer relationship? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below, or message us on Facebook or Twitter. And don’t forget to connect with us on Instagram too!

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No Selfies With Cute Babies: On Finding the Way to Responsible Voluntourism

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No Selfies With Cute Babies: On Finding the Way to Responsible Voluntourism

by Shanley Knox, featuring interview with Kate Otto

Have you ever seen those beautiful photos of volunteers with small, African children wrapped in their arms? At first glance, these photos represent selfless individuals making a difference. But, could there be a deeper issue at stake?

Hashtags like #InstagrammingAfrica #MedicalBrigades, #GlobalHealth, and the nostalgic #TakeMeBack are growing in popularity as students and young professionals experience life changing trips to Africa and beyond. But, research is showing that these trips are not always beneficial to local populations.

In her recent piece, “#InstagrammingAfrica: The Narcissism of Global Voluntourism,” Lauren Kascak writes that, “Volunteerism is ultimately about the fulfillment of the volunteers themselves, not necessarily what they bring to the communities they visit. In fact, medical volunteerism often breaks down existing local health systems.”

As organizations work to improve the impact of “Voluntourism,” we, at WhyWhisper, took a look into the digital side of sharing these experiences. 

We asked Kate Otto, a World Bank consultant and the founder of Everyday Ambassador, to weigh in with her tips on impactful digital documentation surrounding your volunteer experience. 

Below, her tips for helping, instead of hurting, through your social sharing:

WWCo: How can we do better in digitally sharing our overseas experience?

Kate: The golden rule of sharing your experience overseas on public, digital media: imagine that everything you're posting to your Facebook, Twitter, and blog will be read and observed by everyone who you talk about in those posts (even if you know they don't have accounts on these platforms, or access to Internet). Would they be hurt, insulted, belittled, or disempowered by your comments or photographs? Would they probably think you're misunderstanding them? Then don't post it.

Have the consent of anyone who you're posting a picture of to post it to the world. Basically, even though the people you're working with are different from you on many levels, treat them the way you would like to be treated.

 WWCo: Can posting a certain projection of Africa and other destinations in the Global South be harmful?

 Kate:

1. There’s nothing wrong with taking and posting photos of yourself and the people who you're working and living with abroad; this can be an act that solidifies friendships and documents moments of joy and gratitude in the same way we would do in our 'home' environments. The problem isn't with your action, it's with your approach. There's everything wrong with taking and posting photos of yourself and the people who you're living and working with abroad, if in doing so you present yourself as "saving" or "helping" others, or in any way being "above", "smarter than", "more advanced' than "them".

2. Avoid us/them narratives at all costs. We are we. We are all people. We give and take in our relationships (and if you think you're the only one giving, you're probably not in a relationship), and we are gracious and kind and respectful in our relationships. By doing anything other than treating each other as equals, we are perpetuating systems of oppression. So be cool.

WWCo: What is the way forward toward documenting and sharing our experiences in a more positive way?

 Kate:

1. Honestly, document less and live more. Enjoy your experience without having to document every moment of it. 

2. Question yourself always: are you documenting for yourself, or for others? If it's for others, why? Be honest with yourself about whether you're taking and posting that photo to craft your "image" for others, or because you genuinely want to share a specific, meaningful moment with friends/family who are happy to share in your joys, whether they're your new friends abroad or your 'home' friends.

3. The absolute key part of travel and volunteering/voluntourism is about building meaningful relationships, and it's your responsibility to decide how (over)documenting your experiences will diminish or enhance your capacity for deep, lasting human connection.

To dig a bit deeper on this topic:

For effective ways of writing about your service/voluntourism experiences, check out EA's #WednesdayWisdom blog series 

For a weekly roundup of hot media on the topic of being authentic in a technology-saturated world, check out EA's #WeeklyPassport blog series

Looking for concrete tips about managing your voluntourism experience? Check out EA's recent webinar "No Selfies w/ Cute Babies! And Other Tips for Your Summer Abroad"

Pre-order Kate's book "Everyday Ambassador" to get a deeper analysis of these topics, pub date Jan 2015

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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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Developing a Nonprofit Strategy to Drive Donations

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Developing a Nonprofit Strategy to Drive Donations

by Shanley Knox

At WhyWhisper, we see a common thread among the nonprofit organizations we work with. While driving awareness and consideration is a critical need for nonprofits, the main concern is whether this awareness will drive back to donations. 

That’s always the crux of the social media issue, isn’t it? Organizations want to see direct return on investment in order to feel that their time, energy, and budget is directly growing their capacity for positive impact.

While there is no magic formula for increasing donations, there are elements of social strategy that have been directly tied to increasing donor consideration. Below, we detail out some of our team's favorites:

Get Personal:
It’s been said that your best customer is the customer you already have. The same is true for donors. Every time a donor contributes, you have a direct opportunity to convince them to do it again — not to mention convincing their social followers to do the same. One powerful way to amplify this opportunity is by tweeting links to your donation landing page and letting individual donors know how their contribution has made a difference.

charity:water, a New York-based nonprofit committed to providing clean drinking water across the globe, takes this strategy to the next level by sending donors letters about how their donations have been used, with a link to encourage them to share the difference they’ve made via social media.

Tell a Story:

While Twitter is a powerful platform for sending short bits of information to donors, Facebook is the most effective way to tell a social story.

The more specific a story can be, the more emotionally moving it is for donors to see and relate to. This is evidenced by the success of Make A Wish Foundation's Facebook page , which features pictures, names, ages, and stories of the children whose wishes have been granted through donors' contributions. On these posts, fans regularly share their own stories, illustrating the lasting bond built by the organization. 

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Make a Game of it:

Blood donation shortages have been an issue for years. Red Cross Singapores response? Make a game out of it. 

In a recent effort to encourage blood donation, the organization created an iOS and Android application that uses social recognition, sharing, and donation push alerts to encourage donors to be actively involved in solving the organizations long-term donation shortage. 

Still not sure you want to get in on the fun? Here are 10 more examples of gamification playing a critical role in generating engagement and donations for social causes around the world.

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Include Digital Advertising: 

Digital advertising - and video advertisement in particular - is extremely successful when it comes to driving donations. According to a July 2013 Google study, 76% of donors research online less than one week after viewing an ad. Additionally, 57% of people make a donation after viewing a video online.

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Go Mobile:

Last, but certainly not least, it’s vital for nonprofits to include mobile optimization in their social strategy, as over 1/3 of people contact nonprofits via mobile devices and 25% complete their donations via their phones.  Additionally, 1 in 4 people find nonprofits of which they were not previously aware, via mobile searches and 40% compare reviews of causes they are interested in on their mobile devices.

Thinking of taking it a step further, and launching a mobile campaign? Here’s a great how-to guide to get you started.

Do you have a favorite social strategy element that you use to increase donations? Be sure to share with us below, or via Facebook and Twitter.

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What My Travels Taught Me About Social Change

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What My Travels Taught Me About Social Change

by Alexandra Ostrow

Last month, my newlywed husband, Ron, and I set off on a three-week adventure to Thailand. With three days in Bangkok, five days by the Ping River in Chiang Mai, and close to two weeks on the beaches of Khao Lak, Koh Lanta, and Railay, we had a chance to experience different climates, ecosystems, accommodations, food, and nightlife. We visited historical temples, bathed elephants, swam in crystal clear blue seas, and walked the colorful streets of crowded night bazaars. And all the while, I couldn't help but take note of the numerous models for impact. 

Now that we're back in New York, I routinely find myself thinking about the organizations that we encountered, and the many ways that their marketing, operations, and infrastructure applies to my client work.

Here are a few examples:

Bangkok

During our first two nights in Thailand, we stayed at The Metropolitan by Como, a luxury boutique hotel with sleek, contemporary designs, an in-house Michelin-starred restaurant, and a beautiful and serene spa. At first glance, there were no readily apparent ties to any philanthropic initiatives.

Later in the trip, I took a better look at the welcome card that they had left for us. On the back, there was a small, but distinct message about their foundation's work in Peru. It struck me as odd that a Thai hotel - even one that's a member of a global boutique operation - would be messaging their work in Peru. Upon further research, I learned that The Como Foundation supports nonprofit organizations working to improve the lives of women and girls in 19 countries worldwide through education, skill development, and income generation. Now, this made a bit more sense.

What to remember:

  • When running a philanthropic arm of a larger corporate entity, it's critical to craft messaging that resonates with the customer. If someone is traveling to Thailand, odds are they will be more interested in what's going on in Thailand than what's going on in Peru. If unable to resonate on a geographical level, approach it from a different angle. Approximately 51% of the world's population is female. Since their mission is directly tied to empowering girls, why not make this the focus of their materials?
     
  • To ensure the ongoing success of any nonprofit initiative, one must ensure continued visibility and interest. The Metropolitan has numerous opportunities to make customers aware of their philanthropic activities. For example, when someone makes a reservation, they could alert them that a portion of the fees are donated to their foundation. When they check in at the front desk, they could provide a card or brochure with instructions on learning more. When they visit their spa, they could feature items produced by the girls the foundation supports, and information on the training they had received. On-site art auctions, Twitter responses to Foursquare check-ins, even including a direct call-to-action on the welcome card -- any of this would have greatly helped to increase the odds that their customers would support their efforts. The lesson? Look for every point of contact with a prospect, and include relevant stories and information. Did I mention that this benefits the corporation as well? In a recent study, 60% of American consumers said that buying goods from socially responsible companies is important to them.

Chiang Mai
In traveling to the northern Province of Chiang Mai, both Ron and I were beyond excited to feed and bathe the elephants. We had extensively researched our options, as we knew from others that there were numerous companies exploiting animals for purposes of tourism. That being said, we never could have imagined the incredible sanctuary we would step into upon visiting The Elephant Nature Park.

Throughout the day, we received quite an education . We  learned of the abuse and traumas faced by the elephants of Thailand, and the ways in which we could affect change. We saw a baby elephant mischievously trying to allude his mom so as to play with the children in our group. We came to understand the importance of adhering to a strict snacking schedule, so as to ensure the elephants still knew to seek their own food sources throughout the day.

The elephants roamed freely amidst dogs, cats, and visitors (note that safety measures were in place), and volunteers ranged from their late teens to their early eighties. Some were clearing elephant dung. Others were carrying countless baskets of bananas, watermelons, and pumpkins. All had paid a fee to take part in these activities. To date, the organization has rescued over 35 elephants from the trekking, logging, and tourism industries, as well as over 400 dogs and cats, and their success is in large part due to their volunteer populations.

What to remember:

  • By offering an experiential volunteer program where people pay for accommodations and hands-on interaction, organizations can build a sustainable financial model that perpetuates change for their communities, while simultaneously minimizing costs around full-time labor.
     
  • While facts and figures are undeniably important, people are much more likely to buy into the mission of an organization when they have an opportunity to see the impact of its work. A great way for an organization to bring its mission to life is through storytelling. Why did the founder first get involved? What is a typical day-in-the-life of a volunteer? How did one elephant's life change after being placed at the Elephant Nature Park? 

Koh Lanta
Just after arriving in Koh Lanta, a district in Krabi Province, Thailand, Ron and I were looking for a beachside cocktail when we stumbled across Time for Lime, a cooking school, restaurant, and bar, that also offers bungalow accommodations. As I read through their cocktail list and innovative tasting menu, something else caught my eye… all profits from Time for Lime go to Lanta Animal Welfare, a rescue committed to the sterilization and care of the island’s neglected animals.

If you know me (or follow me on Twitter and/or Instagram), you are likely aware of my love of animals. For years, I worked at a local NYC animal rescue, not to mention the Rottweiler, Shepherd-Lab mix, and 2 spunky cats living alongside my husband and me in our little East Village apartment. Needless to say, we spent many nights supporting their business and talking to their founder; and we also arranged a daytime motorcycle ride to visit the animal rescue in person.

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What to remember:

  • There are many ways to affect change in a community. By using a beachside business model that easily attracts tourists, Time for Lime was financially able to start and sustain a nonprofit animal rescue. They also increased the visibility of the animals who were up for adoption, and provided employment to locals from the area. Were this to be located in New York, they would likely be certified as a Benefit Corporation (or BCorp). 
     
  • Time for Lime is able to attract a more steady stream of business through partnerships with larger hotels who want to offer their patrons a unique cooking school experience. When running any social change initiative, it's important to build mutually beneficial relationships that ensure support from the larger community.

The organizations I encountered in my recent travels to Thailand helped to remind me of the endless models and opportunities for creating social change in a community. Are there other impactful initiatives you encountered in your travels? I would love to learn about them!

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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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Are You Effectively Supporting Your Nonprofit Event via Social Media?

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Are You Effectively Supporting Your Nonprofit Event via Social Media?

Social media has the power to sell tickets, reach new audiences, and generate conversation. That being said, it involves more than just sharing an update. Here are a few ways to effectively use your channels before, during, and after an event: 

Create a Twitter Hashtag
Creating a unique Twitter hashtag is a great way to get fans to recognize and take part in conversation that pertains specifically to your event. It also provides an efficient way to access an organized feed of all relevant visual and written content, alongside the users who posted it.

Provide Branded Activation
Many event planners are now using tech-savvy ID wristbands for general admission and/or VIP access to their events. These wristbands can be customized for admission, ticketing, social sharing, and more -- all through RFID technology that uses radio waves to automatically identify people and/or objects. If you’re not feeling that tech-savvy just yet, you can create your own version of a branded photo booth. By placing signs or logos in photo backdrops and decorations, you establish a way for attendees to inadvertently promote your brand throughout the night. 

Use an Amplifier
An amplifier is a tool that allows fans to tweet all together at the start of an event. Some examples include Thunderclap, JustCoz and Gaggleamp. Thunderclap, for example, creates an impact through "the power of people speaking together”. If enough people in your network sign up, it blasts out a Facebook Post or Tweet from all your supporters at the exact same time, thereby creating a wave of social media attention. 

Create a TwitterWall
A Twitter wall serves as an ongoing visual reminder for attendees to live tweet throughout your event. Twitterfall and Visible Tweets are excellent for this purpose. People feel validation when seeing their tweets projected live. Meanwhile, your nonprofit gains visibility amongst attendees' online audiences. We've even seen people take online conversations offline after recognizing another's avatar! 

After Story
Once your event is over, follow up with digital participants to ensure that you effectively convert them into fans and donors. One way to continue the conversation is to collect photos with the event hashtag and post them to Facebook and flickr. Additionally, you can use an app like storify to curate tweets, photos, videos, and resources to share with attendees and fans.

Have other ways you like to promote your events? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

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Crowdfunding & Crowd Investing: Which Platform is for You?

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Crowdfunding & Crowd Investing: Which Platform is for You?

It seems that a new crowdfunding or crowd investing platform crops up every few days. With seemingly endless opportunities, it's important to choose a platform that fits your cause, reaches your target audience, and helps you tell the brand story that matters most to you. 

Below are six of the best platforms for finding the funds needed for your particular model: 

1. Looking to raise donations for your nonprofit?

Try Razoo

Who? Anyone can fundraise on Razoo – for a personal cause or for one of the 1 million+ registered US nonprofit organizations.
What? Razoo accepts donations that are received and receipted by Razoo Foundation, a registered 501(c)3 charity that operates a donor-advised fund to fulfill donor advisements. 
What’s the Fee? Razoo Foundation retains a low, flat 4.9% on all donations, one of the lowest transaction rates in the online fundraising industry.
How Will I Process Payments? Razoo partners with U.S. Bank to securely process your donations.
Campaign ideas? Here’s a list of Razoo’s best campaigns.

2. Want to support a charity (your own or someone else’s?)

Try Crowdrise

Who? Anyone raising donations for a charity. 
What? Donations to US-Based 501(c)3 charitable organizations through Crowdrise are 100% tax-deductible. You'll automatically receive an email receipt that meets the IRS requirements for a record of your donation.
What’s the Fee? Crowdrise charges a flat 3 - 5% (depending on your membership level), plus credit card fees.
How will I process payments? Network for Good or Amazon Payments.
Campaign Ideas? Run/WalkDo something Ridiculous or Donate your Birthday, among other things

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3. Need investors for your social enterprise?

Try Return On Change 

Who? Startups in Tech, CleanTech, EdTech, Life Sciences, & Social Enterprises.
What?  This online funding portal seeks to meet all of startup's capital raising needs, as well as providing a place where investors can find socially innovative businesses to invest in. 
What’s the Fee? Return on Change does not charge posting fees. Broker dealers on the Return on Change site charge a 6% fee.
How will I Process Payments? You will need a business bank account to ‘close’ and receive the capital that you raise.
Campaign Ideas? Here’s a list of startups that have been approved.

4.  Looking to run a fundraising campaign?

Try Indiegogo

Who? Anyone looking to fund a creative or cause based project. There is no application process, so anyone can be involved!
What? Indiegogo provides a platform for your family, friends and anyone else you find through digital platforms to donate to your campaign. 
What’s the Fee? When your campaign raises funds, Indiegogo charges a 9.0% fee on the funds you raise. If you reach your goal, you get 5.0% back, for an overall fee of 4.0%.
How will I Process Payments? Visa, MasterCard, and American Express credit or debit cards, or PayPal.
Campaign Ideas? Check out Indiegogo’s recent success story,&nbsp;</span>Occupy Love.

5. Looking to fund a project?

Try Kickstarter 

Who? Creatives looking to fund projects in film, music, art, theater, games, comics, design, photography, and more.
What? Project creators set a funding goal and deadline. If people like a project, they can pledge money to make it happen. Funding on Kickstarter is all-or-nothing — projects must reach their funding goals to receive any money.
What’s the Fee? Kickstarter collects a 5% fee from a project’s funding total if a project is successfully funded. There are no fees if a project is not successfully funded.
How will I Process Payments? Kick Starter uses Amazon Payments.
Campaign Ideas? Check out Kickster’s staff picks.

6. Trying to launch a new product?

Try Crowdfunder

Who? US based businesses with a product or service. 
What? Crowdfunder connects your business to their local networks of 20,000 interested investors.<br>What’s the Fee? 5% if you meet your goals plus payment processing fees.
How will I Process Payments? Crowdfunder uses Amazon Payments.
Campaign Ideas? The most funded project to date is It's For Life, a company producing consumable and convenient health products.

Helpful points to remember: 

1. Posting a project is not a set-it-and-forget-it project. You must use social media to get the word out, and make funds come in.
2. Once you launch your campaign, it can be almost a full-time job to reach your goal. 
3. Individuals and companies with customers, an audience, or a social/professional network that can be converted to “backers” tend to be most successful. 

Have a favorite platform you want to share with us? Leave it in the comments below.

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A Message From WhyWhisper's Founder

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A Message From WhyWhisper's Founder

It would be impossible to count the number of articles and blog posts I've written throughout my career — and even so, I'm having a hard time writing this one. 

WhyWhisper is an incredibly personal venture for me, and for everyone working alongside me. It combines our professional skills and experience with our personal passions. It provides a source of income to freelancers — while also helping to increase the impact of nonprofit organizations and companies for social change. I have so much pride in what we've built, and excitement for the future, that it's difficult to slow down and draft the proper introduction. Let's give it a try.

WhyWhisper Collective is a network of freelance professionals who have come together to provide digital and social media marketing services to nonprofit organizations and impact-focused brands.

According to comScore, social media accounts for 1 of every 5 minutes spent online. This makes it the number one activity on the internet. Additionally 75% of people use social media to find or share information about brands (Mass Relevance). With social media, companies and organizations are presented with an enormous opportunity to drive awareness and convert leads across social platforms. It's no longer optional to build compelling brand stories, and that's where we come in.

Our team members have backgrounds in strategy, design, content marketing, and analytics. We've worked domestically and abroad  for large corporations and advertising agencies, as well as startups, educational institutions, and nonprofit organizations. In leaving the corporate world and venturing out on our own, we've found we are able to work better, more passionately, and to focus in on the clients with whom we would most like to work. 

These clients need access to many skills and services, but not necessarily all at the same time. Our model provides them with flexibility, while never compromising on talent or passion. 

Stories of progress, community, impact... they motivate us. In fact, our name, WhyWhisper, serves as a reminder to speak up for what we believe in, and we believe in our clients' work.

Whether you're interested in our services, would like to join the collective, or just want to chat, we love meeting new people and very much look forward to hearing from you.

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