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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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 How to Take Your Online Fundraising to the Next Level

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How to Take Your Online Fundraising to the Next Level

by Kate Vandeveld

These days, online fundraising is everywhere. And it should be – it’s a powerful tool that allows organizations to easily and efficiently reach a large number of people, securing donations from those who care most about their causes. Last year, online giving increased almost 14% over 2012 and continues to rise, making online fundraising increasingly compelling for a growing number of organizations. 

But because these online fundraising campaigns are so widespread, it’s important for organizations to utilize unique tactics that help them to stand out from the crowd. Here are some impactful ways you can take your online fundraising efforts to the next level:

1. Build a Team of Fundraisers

It is often difficult for individuals to make major gifts to the organizations they stand behind, no matter how passionate they are about the cause. So instead of pushing for large monetary contributions, ask supporters to join your ‘fundraising team’ and start their own personal campaigns. 

As an example, charity: water’s birthday campaigns are extremely successful, with nearly 60,000 people already participating. In these campaigns, individuals ‘donate’ their birthdays to the cause, asking for contributions from friends and family in lieu of presents. To learn more about crowdfunding platforms, and which one is right for you, check out our recent post.

2. Join a Day of Giving Campaign

Another really successful way to raise money for your organization is by participating in a ‘giving day.’ These campaigns are often hosted on crowdfunding platforms and support a group of organizations whose missions are similarly aligned or based in a common area. Because giving days support a number of organizations, they build a significant level of hype around a key issue. This is of great help to smaller organizations that lack marketing resources, as they are no longer solely responsible for spreading the word. Additionally, the fact that they are so short-term creates a sense of urgency that inspires people to donate in the moment instead of waiting until later when the opportunity to participate has passed.

One example of a giving day is the Spring2ACTion campaign hosted by Razoo on April 9th. The 24-hour Spring2ACTion campaign supported a variety of non-profits from the Alexandria area, raising over $1 million from over 7,500 unique donors in just one day. To get involved in a similar event, just search for giving days that are raising funds for organizations in your area or focused on your specific mission. If you’re interested in hosting your own giving day, check out the Knight Foundation’s Giving Day Playbook to get started. 

3. Give People Options 

A great way to maximize participation is to give people multiple ways to get involved. While some people prefer to donate cash, others might not have disposable income. However, most organizations have other needs that their supporters can fulfill without making strictly monetary contributions.

More Than Me, a non-profit organization that supports the education of women and girls in the West Point Slum of Liberia, provides its supporters with multiple ways that they can provide support – donating airline miles and hosting an awareness-raising ‘Promise Party,’ just to name just a few.

4. Develop Partnerships

Sometimes, the best way to get people to donate to your cause is by offering them something in return. This creates a mutually beneficial scenario for all parties: the organization, its partner companies, and its supporters.

goods for good, a non-profit that builds the financial capacity of African communities so they can provide orphan care, partners with outside companies that in turn donate a portion of their proceeds to the cause. For example, if you purchase a specific bottle of wine from a partner company, the company will make a $3 donation to goods for good in your name.

No matter your cause or campaign, there are numerous ways to take your online fundraising efforts to the next level. With a little extra creativity, you can provide people with new options for supporting your organization and ways to make an impact on the world.

What’s one way you’ve seen an organization’s fundraising strategy stand out from the rest? Let us know if the comments below, or post via Facebook and Twitter.

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Effective Email Marketing For Your Cause

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Effective Email Marketing For Your Cause

by Shanley Knox

When setting out to create an effective email marketing campaign, there are many questions you may be asking...

  • What magic subject line will get your subscribers to open your email?
  • How do you get them to click your links? 
  • What is just the right length to get your readers to actually digest your content?
  • How do you get them to share, to buy, or to donate? 

Email marketing presents a significant opportunity for companies and causes to connect directly with an audience that has already exhibited interest. That being said, in order to see a monetary return on your audience's interest, you need to ensure you provide ongoing value. 

Below, our team provides four tried-and-true strategies. Have a tip of your own to add? Comment below or reach out via Facebook and Twitter - we'd love to hear from you!

1. Make a Clear Connection 

Your readers should always be able to tell exactly why you’re emailing them. For example, if their last donation contributed to a fundraising goal, craft a message that ensures they walk away feeling accomplished and part of a community. If you're currently seeking funding, clearly outline the project and the various ways they can help.


2. Give Social Proof

Social proof is a psychological phenomenon that occurs when people assume the actions of others are correct; and subsequently, follow in their footsteps. How do you accomplish this through email marketing? Show how your followers have previously taken part in your cause. This can be done via group photos, social shares, or creative examples of support, such as charity: water’s collage below.

If the purpose of your email is fundraising, personalize your financial ask... How many people have opted in to helping you reach your goal thus far? How much have they donated? How far are you from your goal? What is this dollar amount accomplishing? All of these factors help your readers to feel that your goal is realistic, and encourages them to take action.  Below is an example of how the American Heart Organization employed this strategy to effectively raise money for cardiovascular disease.


3. Personalize 

In this case study, emails with personalized subjects average 26% higher open rates and over 130% higher CTRs than emails without personalized subject lines. Unfortunately, the study also showed that personalized subject lines received increased negative attention if the emails were off target, or recipients did not recognize the sender. We've seen similar results with our clients.  Some tips to ensure you’re positively capitalizing on personalization: 

- Target your messaging to specific groups of followers, rather than sending out one large email across your master list. A/B testing via MailChimp is a great way to better understand (and effectively target your content to) your audience.

- For first time emails to new subscribers or donors, make sure to send an introductory email welcoming them to your cause and letting them know that they are important to you. 


4. Make Donations Easy 

Finding your donation button should be seamless for your email readers. Make sure that it is aesthetically in line with the rest of your email, and placed just prominently enough, but not so obvious that it appears you are begging for help.

Also, after your followers click through, it’s important to make the actual donation process an easy one. Not sure where to start? Here’s a list of 5 of the best tools available for accepting donations online.

Don't forget, we love to learn. Have strategies or tips to add? Comment below or reach out via Facebook and Twitter.

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For further reading:

  • Here are helpful step-by-step instructions on how to personalize your emails across several prominent email campaign platforms.
  • And, before you send, triple check to ensure you’ve stayed far away from these five email sins.

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How Successful Nonprofits Secure Corporate Sponsors

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How Successful Nonprofits Secure Corporate Sponsors

by Shanley Knox & Alexandra Ostrow

When it comes to finding corporate sponsors, trends are shifting. Where it once used to be enough to sell companies on supporting a good cause, today, organizations that are successful are structuring sponsorships as a business deal. What does this mean? Success ultimately relies on a perceived return on investment.

Ready to transition from handout to handshake? Here's how to go about it:

Find the Low Hanging Fruit
Your existing network is your best tool for discovering potential partnerships. Once you've identified companies and/or verticals that you feel match well with your organization's goals, check LinkedIn to see who from your network is connected to your targets. The platform makes it easy to request an introduction. Also, put out the word to your everyday contacts. Board members, employees, volunteers, fans on social media -- they're all potential leads to the person (or people) you want to meet. Lastly, when networking, start to expand upon the base of people with whom you regularly interact. Building new relationships can help you gain entry to new potential targets. 

Know Your Competition
Are there other organizations similar to you that are securing corporate sponsorships? Learn more about them. What are their core values? Their key relationships? Marketing tactics? How long do they spend going after donors? How do they target them? Your competition will often provide your best source of market research.

Understand Your Audience
Your potential sponsors are gearing their marketing and advertising efforts towards identified target audiences. To demonstrate relevance, arm yourself with key demographic data about your fan base, donors, and volunteers. Where do they live? What do they do for a living? What do they like to buy? How old are they? By illustrating the opportunity your organization provides to put sponsors in front of their target, you prove that your event provides value beyond your social good. 

Do Your Homework
When approaching a prospective sponsor, make sure you've done your research on them. Where have they donated in the past? What does their CEO stand for? Where does it seem that they're investing their marketing dollars? What philanthropic activities are their competitors taking part in? The more you know, the better equipped you will be to offer them a package of value.

Show the Right Perspective
During your first conversation, make sure to inquire about their current company goals... are they looking for greater brand awareness? Hoping to engage their employees? Looking for a tax write-off? Wishing to reward their board members? Using the insights you gain, you can create a custom sponsorship package that aligns with their overarching goals. As a result, they will walk away with an understanding that sponsorship is a sound investment.

Have tips of your own to add? Tell us in the comments below, or contact us via Facebook, Twitter or Email

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5 Steps to Selling your Cause on Social Media

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5 Steps to Selling your Cause on Social Media

by Shanley Knox

If there is a single key to mastering the art of social media, it lies in building relationships. Whether you are looking to drive donations, draw volunteers, or promote awareness of a social issue, it's critical that your followers and fans feel personally involved in your organizational success.

The secret to beginning this process? Effective, personal engagement with people in your online network.  Here are five steps to guide you in your efforts:

1. Start By Getting Personal

In sales, it is often said that if someone feels that they can relate to you, they are much more likely to purchase. The same is true of causes. Does a follower share a similar love of your favorite book? Are they tweeting about a movie you just saw? Reach out to let them know how you felt about it. Take it a step further... if they tweet about their passion for a cause that relatees to your organization, reach out with a comment about why you care. It may seem like a small gesture to you, but facilitating this personal connection lets your followers (and potential followers) know you’re listening, and will ultimately help to create buy-in.

2. Cultivate a Relationship

Now that you've initiated contact, refrain from immediately selling your cause. Instead, let them know you value their perspective. If they are posting relevant content, retweet it. Answer their questions. Like their photos. Ask about their day. There’s no need to rush. They’ll be more likely to buy or donate once they feel that they can trust you.

Meanwhile, take some time to learn about who you're engaging with. If done properly, this process will produce valuable research for your organization...
     - What type of people follow you and/or respond to your outreach? 
     - What events or hobbies are they interested in?
     - Where do they live? 
     - How old are they?
     - What drives them to speak up? 

3. Address Their Pain Points

When it comes time to directly pitch your organization, think back to your research. Is there some way they personally relate to your cause? Use it to spark the conversation. Are they looking for ways to get involved, but have limited time to give? Present them with volunteer opportunities that require minimal commitment. Do they wonder where donations dollars go? Show them with pictures and stories. Knowing these pain points helps you to send them relevant information (in 140 characters, no less). It will make all the difference.

4. Close the Deal

When it comes time to close the deal, don’t be shy. Many donors or potential volunteers are interested in causes, but forget to follow through, or procrastinate until later (don’t we all?). Don't be afraid to ask for what you want. Sending a friendly reminder such as, “Did you get the link I sent?” or “I’d love to have an offline conversation about our organization, if you’re interested!” will help to put pressure on them to respond, without pushing them to an uncomfortable point.

5. Follow Up

Didn’t get them the first time? Don’t be frustrated. Studies have shown that making a sale can take seven to eleven points of contact. By following up, you can help prospective donors to recognize their value to your organization. By asking for something specific, e.g. “Five minutes of your time?” or, “Think you can join us in volunteering on Saturday?”, you provide them with the opportunity to deliver. 

Beyond all else, be sure to continue using your social channels to engage with your prospects. Show them you care beyond their potential as a donor. It's all about building trust through authentic means of engagement. 

Have tips to add? Tell us in the comments below, or contact us via Facebook, Twitter or Email

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