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Nonprofit Organizations

CSR Spotlight: Ben & Jerry’s + New Belgium Partner for Climate Change

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CSR Spotlight: Ben & Jerry’s + New Belgium Partner for Climate Change

by Kate Vandeveld

The end of the year can be stressful. Between the holidays, wrapping up work for the year, and making plans for the next, there’s a lot going on. So, when you have a chance to relax and indulge a bit, you should take it.

That’s why we were so excited to learn that two of our personal favorite indulgences, ice cream and beer, came together this year in collaboration for environmental impact. Ben & Jerry’s, a company that is well-known for its social and environmental impact, and New Belgium, a Colorado-based brewery, announced their partnership earlier this year.

Ben & Jerry's + New Belgium - Social Impact - WhyWhisper Collective

Both B Corporations, the companies partnered to release a new product for each brand: Salted Caramel Brown-ie Ale ice cream from Ben & Jerry’s, and Salted Caramel Brownie Brown Ale beer from New Belgium. Each are limited releases – three months only! – and are sold in select locations around the country. While both sound delicious, the unique flavor isn’t even the coolest part: A portion of the proceeds from the sales of these two products will be going to climate advocacy group, Protect Our Winters (POW).  

Started in 2007 by pro-snowboarder Jeremy Jones, POW is working to engage and mobilize the snow sports community to raise awareness of and work against climate change. POW is working to use what they call the outdoor community’s “disproportionate influence” for good, through awareness-raising events, fundraising, and advocating for policy reform around environmental issues.

The aim of this partnership in particular is to build awareness of, and inspire action around, the Clean Power Plan, an effort to cut carbon pollution from existing power plants that was passed by President Obama in August 2015. The plan allows each state’s governor to determine how they’ll reduce carbon pollution in the best way for his or her state. So, on top of sales donations, all three entities are encouraging their audiences to take action by contacting their governors to ask them to make a “speedy transition to clean renewable sources of energy that pollute less, protect the environment, create good jobs, and protect the health of all Americans.” Click through here to select your state, and POW will call you back and connect you with your governor directly. It couldn’t be simpler! If you don’t want to call, you can also email or tweet at your governor – they provide you with copy for both.

Perhaps even more important than this particular initiative in and of itself is the example that Ben & Jerry’s and New Belgium are making in integrating impact into their existing business models. This short but effective marketing campaign and corresponding non-profit partnership is allowing both companies to have a positive impact in an area they care about, without having to turn their operations upside down or greatly expand their capacity. And, while we always hope that impact projects aren’t put into place for PR purposes, it looks pretty good for both companies in that respect, too.

Do you know of a company that is running an interesting social impact campaign? Share with us! We love to learn about and share unique and effective efforts to do good. Leave a comment below, or connect on social – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or LinkedIn.

Also, if your company or a company you know about is interested in doing something similar, our team can help you develop an effective and strategic campaign. Get in touch!


Learn more about the collaboration between Ben & Jerry's, New Belgium, and Protect Our Winters here:

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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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Our Holiday Gift Guide: Gifts That Do Good

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Our Holiday Gift Guide: Gifts That Do Good

by Kate Vandeveld

Holiday shopping is a notoriously dread-inducing task for some, but it really doesn’t have to be. In fact, it’s an excellent opportunity for you to make an impact – and you can do a lot of it online (phew).

As you may know by now, we believe in doing well by doing good, and we try to take every opportunity to support businesses that are promoting economic empowerment, equality, health, and sustainability. No matter what the people on your gift list are into, you can find the perfect gift for them and make an impact at the same time.

Here are our ideas for awesome and impactful gifts during this year’s holiday season:

 

The Gift of Empowerment

“How it's made matters. Empower people to rise above poverty through the gifts you give.”                                                                                                                                                                      – 31 Bits

31 bits.png

31 Bits is a social enterprise that uses fashion and design to empower Ugandan women to rise above poverty through a variety of community-based initiatives focusing on financial sustainability, physical and mental wellness, social support, and community impact. One part of their model is that they provide women with the materials that they need to make beautiful pieces of jewelry that 31 Bits then sells internationally on their behalf. Proceeds from sales go back to the women and into their empowerment program.

Not only is 31 Bits making a huge impact in the communities they’re working with, but the pieces that they sell are absolutely beautiful. See for yourself here – you’ll be glad you did.

If you’re looking for other fashionable gifts that empower communities and individuals, check out these other beautiful shops:

  • Sseko Designs: An ethical fashion brand that hires high potential women in Uganda to make sandals to enable them to earn money through dignified employment.
  • Rose & Fitzgerald: Social enterprise that sources handmade products from Ugandan artisans, empowering them by providing consistent business and opportunities for training and growth.

 

The Gift That Gives Back

“[Make] a conscious choice to do good by making not one, but two kids happy.”                                                                                                                                                  – Everything Happy

EverythingHappy

Another way that you can give back with your holiday purchases is by supporting businesses that subscribe to the “buy one, give one” philosophy. For every item that these companies sell, they give a similar item to communities in need. One such company is Everything Happy, a social enterprise that sells blankets, stuffed animals, and other items for babies and children. For each purchase, a similar item is distributed to children in hospitals and orphanages all over the world.

So instead of going to Toys ‘R’ Us to shop for the little ones in your life, you can make two kids happy by shopping at Everything Happy – check them out.

If you’re looking to purchase gifts for a different age bracket, here are some other companies who use the “buy one, give one” model:

  • Sackcloth & Ashes: For each high-quality blanket purchased, they deliver a fleece blanket to your local homeless shelter.
  • LSTN Headphones: Every pair of headphones that they sell helps provide hearing aids to a person in need.

 

The Gift of Health

“Investing in health is one of the smartest placed bets you can make.”                                                                                                                                       – Jenna Tanenbaum, Green Blender Co-Founder

GreenBlender

Making healthy choices is so important, and it can be especially hard to do during the holiday season, when food and fun are at the forefront of our minds. That’s why social enterprises like Green Blender that empower people to take control of their health are so important. If you purchase a weekly Green Blender subscription for someone on your list who lives in the Northeast, they’ll receive five smoothie recipes and the pre-portioned ingredients that they’ll need to make  each week for as long as you’d like. And if that someone lives elsewhere, you can opt for the Green Blender holiday pack, which includes ten holiday smoothie recipes plus a superfood sampler pack.

If you’re interested in giving someone a different kind of healthy gift, try these options:

  • Local CSAs: Deliver local, seasonal, and fresh raw foods to a person’s home or workplace.
  • graze: Delivers healthy snacks delivered to someone’s home or workplace. 

 

The Gift of Sustainability

BikeShare

When you think of eco-friendly gifts, recycled and upcycled goods might come to mind – but those aren’t your only options. One awesome (and different!) sustainable gift option is a local bike share membership. These days, many cities have affordable bike sharing systems for local residents to use to get around. You can purchase an annual subscription for the active city dweller on your list. This way, instead of driving to work or the grocery store, they’ll have the eco-friendly (and healthy!) option of biking, without having to purchase a bike and all of the things that come with it.

Here are just a few of the bike share options available in U.S. cities:

If you’d rather opt for more traditional and tangible eco-friendly gifts, start here:

  • Hipcycle: Upcycled goods that are durable, stylish and priced fairly.
  • eartheasy: Carefully selected gifts with lower environmental impact. 

 

And if you have someone on your list who seems to have everything already, but you still want to get them a meaningful gift, check out DonorsChoose.org gift cards. Here’s how it works: You purchase the gift card (which is 100% tax deductible), and the person you give it to gets to choose a classroom project to support using the funds on the card. In return, that person will receive photos and thank-you notes from the classroom he or she chose to help.

No matter what kind of gifts you’re giving this year, we encourage you to shop small business and look for eco-friendly options whenever possible. Choosing to make a positive impact through our purchases has never been easier, and we promise it will be a huge hit (while also making you feel good).

If you’re looking for even more ways to make an impact this holiday season, we have you covered – check out our suggestions here.

Have other ideas for fun and impactful holiday gifts? Let us know in the comments below, or get in touch on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. We want to hear from you! 

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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. 

Make A Wish.png

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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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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