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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.
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.
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.
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:
At WhyWhisper, we work to make sure that organizations and businesses that are changing the world are able to spread the word about their work as effectively as possible. And as a widely available, generally unrestricted, and low-cost communication channel, social media is an essential part of any marketing and communications strategy.
But in order to engage the right audiences and enhance your brand, it is crucial to choose the right social platforms. Too often, organizations opt to use too many platforms, and then neglect them or use them ineffectively; or choose the wrong platforms and miss important segments of their audience.
Here’s what you need to consider in order to ensure that you’re utilizing the social media platforms that are best for you:
Who are you trying to reach?
What are the demographics of the people you’re talking to? Think in terms of age, gender, location, education, income level, etc. Also, are you hoping to reach individuals or businesses?
What kind of content do you have to share?
Do you have a lot of original content to share with your followers? How often does your content feature images that you could share on social media?
How much time do you have to stay active?
Think about this in terms of how much time you’ll have to dedicate to social media on a daily or weekly basis.
Once you’ve identified your target audience, reviewed the amount of original content you have to share, and assessed how much time you have to remain active and engaged, you can start to determine which platforms you should be using. Here’s how it breaks down on some of the most widely used social media platforms:
- Audience: Facebook has the largest audience of all of the social media platforms, with little variance between age and gender, though it skews slightly female. Facebook can be used to reach any demographic.
- Content: Consider using Facebook if you have access a good deal of original content. Ideally, you’ll want to use images as much as possible on Facebook, as posts that include images perform much more successfully than those without.
- Time commitment: Facebook requires a lower time commitment, as most posts can be scheduled in advance through the Facebook platform itself, and you won’t need to engage as actively as you would on a more fast-paced platform like Twitter.
- Recommended frequency: 1-2 posts each day (scheduled through Facebook)
- Audience: If you’re trying to reach a younger audience, especially those aged 18-49, consider using Twitter. While Twitter’s audience skews slightly male, you definitely shouldn’t discount it if you are looking to reach a more female audience. Because Twitter’s users are more active than those on other platforms, with 46% logging in on a daily basis, it is ideal for reaching highly engaged individuals who are looking for the latest and greatest information.
- Content: If you are going to use Twitter, you should have access to a large amount of original content or the time and ability to remain consistently active with your followers on a daily basis. Twitter’s interface is such that new posts are only at the top of the queue momentarily, so you have to introduce new content frequently to stay on your audience’s radar.
- Time commitment: As noted, Twitter requires more consistent time commitment for growth and engagement. Though the bulk of your posts can be scheduled in advance through a third party management tool, you will want to be engage with your followers live as much as possible as well.
- Recommended frequency: 4+ posts each day (scheduled through a third party management tool), plus as much live interaction with followers as possible
- Audience: If you are trying to reach the 18-29 age bracket, consider using Instagram. The platform’s users skew slightly female (29% of all internet users versus 22% of men). Instagram’s audience has been steadily on the rise, with 26% of adult internet users now on the platform (up from 17% in 2013), so it’s definitely worth considering if you have access to compelling visual content.
- Content: As Instagram is a primarily visual platform, you should definitely have access to shareable images if you’re considering using Instagram.
- Time commitment: Instagram requires frequent sharing and consistent use for growth and engagement, so keep that in mind when you’re deciding whether or not to use it. Posts can be scheduled in advance through a third party management tool, though on this platform it is more difficult to control the visual outcome of a scheduled post than it is to post live. Because of that, we recommend testing out the management tool to make sure that posts look the way that you want them to before scheduling a large number of them.
- Recommended frequency: Posting 4-7x/week (live or scheduled through a third party management tool), plus as much live interaction with followers as possible
- Audience: If you are trying to reach females aged 18-29 and 50+, you should definitely consider Pinterest. Pinterest skews considerably more female, with 42% of women on the internet are using the platform compared with just 13% of men.
- Content: Pinterest content is focused around images, so definitely consider this platform if your content is image heavy.
- Time commitment: Pinterest requires active sharing and use in order to grow and maintain a following. Like with Instagram, Pinterest posts can be scheduled in advance through a third party management tool, but be sure to test it out to make sure that your posts look like you intend them to before scheduling a large number.
- Recommended frequency: Posting 3-5x/week (live or scheduled through a third party management tool), plus as much live interaction with followers as possible
- Audience: If you are trying to reach employed college graduates aged 30-64, you should consider using LinkedIn. This platform is geared toward professionals, and those who are looking to network on a business level. Because of this, LinkedIn is ideal for B2B companies, and companies with a high level of need for new talent. It's also great for non-profits that are looking to find volunteers and engage with other similar organizations.
- Content: LinkedIn users are looking for industry insights and news about your business or organization. If you have a good amount of that kind of information to share with a young professional audience, definitely consider using LinkedIn. LinkedIn is also a great place for finding volunteers, building professional connections, and finding new talent for your business.
- Time commitment: LinkedIn requires less consistent sharing and use, so it is not nearly as time consuming as some of the more fast-paced platforms. As with Instagram and Pinterest, posts can be scheduled in advance through a third party management tool (like Hootsuite or Sprout Social), but we recommend that you test it out with LinkedIn as well.
- Recommended frequency: Posting 1-2x/week (live or scheduled through a third party management tool), plus some interaction with groups that are relevant to you or your brand
Once you’ve narrowed your options down, we recommend that you get a bit more in-depth with your strategy. Consider the following:
Which platforms are your competitors using, and how are they using them?
Research where your competitors are on social media, and how successful they are on the platforms they’re using. You’ll likely want to be where your competitors are, and you can use their strategies as a starting point to determine what is working to engage similar audiences (as well as what isn’t!).
How do you or your brand stand out from competitors, and how can you use social media to showcase that?
Think about the things that make you or your brand unique from your competitors, and how you can accentuate that value through social media. For example, if your content features beautiful images, whereas your competitors’ does not, which platforms can you use to best showcase them? This way, you can draw in a different segment of your shared audience.
If used effectively, social media can make a huge difference in helping you achieve your goals, whether you want to increase web traffic, boost donations or revenue, or simply grow your following.
Changemakers come in all shapes and sizes. Some are larger-than-life CEOs of social enterprises, some are fighting for policy change, some are doing on-the-ground work to provide healthcare, and some are just people who got tired of seeing a problem that seems fixable go unfixed. More and more, we’re seeing changemakers in the latter category – people who encounter a problem and just know that there has to be a way to change it.
Here are a couple of those inspiring changemakers:
The Ocean Cleanup
At just 16 years old, Boyan Slat was bothered by something that he encountered on a dive in Greece – everywhere he turned, he saw plastic bags floating around in the water. He was frustrated by the problem, and set out to solve it. During secondary school, he spent a year and a half researching plastic pollution, and learning about the problems associated with cleaning it up. He developed a passive cleaning concept called The Ocean Cleanup that would attach floating barriers to the sea bed that would concentrate plastic before extracting it from the ocean. With this concept, the collection process would be entirely driven by natural winds and currents. The concept also uses solid barriers, rather than nets to avoid capturing sea life. Slat led a team of 100 through a feasibility testing process, and the concept was proven to be likely feasible and financially viable. He then launched a crowdfunding campaign that raised nearly $2.2 million – money that will allow The Ocean Cleanup to begin the pilot phase.
FreshPaper by Fenugreen
When Kavita Shukla drank some tap water while visiting India, her grandmother gave her a mixture of spices to keep her from getting sick. Shukla realized that this same concoction could be used to do something that would help many others. After extensive research and testing, she found that her grandmother’s remedy could also be used to keep food fresh, and she founded Fenugreen. Fenugreen is “addressing the enormous, yet often overlooked global challenge of food spoilage with a simple innovation – FreshPaper.” FreshPaper gives the 1.6 billion people in the world without refrigeration access to fresh food, and prevents food spoilage at food banks and pantries that have otherwise struggled to keep fresh and healthy food. Shukla’s innovative solution to this problem is mitigating the 25% of our global food supply that is lost to spoilage each year.
Or take Sanga Moses, a man who revolutionized the fuel industry in in Uganda because he was frustrated by the fact that his young sister was spending so much of her time tracking down wood for the family’s cooking fuel. At the time, Moses was an accountant in Kampala, the country’s capital, but he promptly quit his job and used his $500 savings to develop a source of affordable and clean cooking fuel. Eventually, Moses came up with a machine that converts charcoal into briquettes that replace the need for wood or other makeshift fuels that have negative effects on the environment and health. Moses developed this concept so that women in his village would no longer have to use their valuable time in search of wood, but the positive effects of the concept actually extend far beyond that. Now, thousands of Ugandan farmers use the system to convert agricultural waste into charcoal, augmenting their incomes and creating jobs for thousands more.
These changemakers didn’t initially set out to change the world, but they saw a problem and were tenacious in their efforts to fix it. And because of that tenacity, people like Boyan Slant, Kavita Shukla, and Sanga Moses are changing the world.
Do you know of an everyday changemaker who is solving a large-scale global issue? Let us know! We would love to write about their accomplishments.
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.
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.
When discussing social media strategies with members of the impact community, we often hear how difficult it can be to find the time to regularly post to social channels. Many people are simultaneously managing fundraising campaigns or exploring brand partnerships and e-commerce strategies-- and while they can remember to post the initial traffic drivers, they forget to maintain their momentum.
Here are three tools we highly recommend, both for content curation, as well as overall community management. Hope you find them helpful!
Best for: Scheduling Content
What you should know:
- By granting Buffer access to all of your social profiles, you can easily schedule the times your posts should go live each day or have Buffer analyze past engagement patterns to choose the right times for you
- Add team members to share responsibility and allow for collaboration
- Access analytics about clicks, retweets, mentions, shares, likes and more
- Use the to Chrome extension to add content to your queue without leaving the article you're reading
- Check out their extras to ensure you can easily share from your phone, news reader, and more
- Remember to pause your Buffer during crises or world disasters, so as to avoid insensitive content going out at such times
Best for: Community Management
What you should know:
- Schedule posts across multiple social networks
- View newsfeeds and interactions via your Hootsuite dashboard
- Keep track of mentions of your brand
- Create streams to track industry keywords, new followers, and more
- Filter search results by language
- Collaborate and assign messages to your team members
- Access data on post engagements and traffic
Best for: Content Discovery
What you should know:
- App available on iPhone, Android, and tablets
- After indicating the topics you're interested in, Zite provides a personal newsfeed that's curated just for you
- Use your Quicklist to take a deeper look at articles falling into one particular category
- As you like and share posts, Zite's algorithm hones in on your preferences
- Block publishers whose content you would prefer not to see
Have other tools you would recommend? We would love for you to note them in the comments below!