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Author: Eric Porterfield, Sr. Press Officer, American Red Cross
I’ve just returned from a month-long trip from Haiti with the American Red Cross to help document our earthquake relief and recovery work. We’ve all seen the images of rubble and devastation that resulted from the January 12 earthquake that hit Port-au-Prince. Many of the sights and sounds were what I expected – flattened buildings, people living in tents and lots of aid organizations trying to help as much as possible – but there were several things that surprised me about my time there.
Before arriving in Haiti I had preconceived images of what life in camps would be like, but like most preconceived notions, I was totally wrong. I thought I would encounter people begging for food and aid, but instead I saw families doing whatever they could to get back to work and stay dry. While in a camp with American Red Cross health volunteers, I met a young man who opened an internet café in his tent, and another one who opened a barber shop with a line of mostly men waiting to get their hair cut in a desk chair with missing wheels next to a cooler full of cold beverages (for sale of course). I saw countless makeshift beauty salons and restaurants in the camps I visited. It was clearly evident that people were trying their hardest to make the best out of a terrible situation.
Dressed to impress
After meeting and talking to some of our local staff and some of the residents of the camps, I began to notice that everyone was well dressed. Each and every day I would watch as our local staff came to work in neatly pressed business attire and men and women left their tents in professional clothing without wrinkles. After losing so much in the earthquake, it was clear that Haitians have a lot of pride in the way they dress.
Life goes on
I was amazed at the number of people on the street at all hours of the day. In the morning I would see young boys and girls in uniforms walking to school, men jumping in the back of tap-taps (truck-like taxis) to get to work and women carrying rubber buckets full of mangoes on their heads to sell in fruit stands. Even on the weekends families are up and out the door before the sun comes up to go to work selling whatever they can to make money. Their level of drive and determination is uplifting and infectious. A lot of organizations, including the American Red Cross, are putting people to work doing a number of jobs, including rubble removal and disaster mitigation work.
There are endless stories about the amazing people I met and the experiences I had in Haiti, but I think the above capture some of the day-to-day observances most people haven’t heard. The need is still great, but everyone is doing their part to rebuild and recover from this devastating disaster. To learn more about the American Red Cross programs in Haiti, visit www.redcross.org/haiti. Also, check out this video I created about one of the American Red Cross disaster preparedness programs in a camp in Port-au-Prince.
I found this article on the AFP ammado profile while it was featured on the ammado homepage. I thougt it should be prominently displayed to all our nonprofits for a longer period of time, hence replicating it in our blog. It is written by Tom Ahern and displays great common sense; I hope it will be of help to all ammado nonprofits and other organizations who visit the site.
I was asked to speak at a conference of young, grassroots agencies. My topic: donor newsletters.
So what I assumed was this, as I planned what to say: that maybe none of the people attending my workshop have been trained as professional journalists or sales copywriters; or had any other sort of exposure to the black arts of writing to persuade a skeptical, time-challenged, over-solicited, anxious, unsure, compassion-fatigued, modern audience.
Which led me to wonder: How easy can I make all this stuff?
I don't know if the final result was easy easy. But it was by far the simplest description of the secret ingredients of donor newsletters that I've yet managed. And I want to share.
What follows is the checklist I developed for that particular workshop. These are the FEW things you really MUST remember, to make your donor newsletters succeed at: (1) retaining donors and (2) increasing gift revenue.
Thing #1: Donors should feel something as they read your newsletter. Something. Glad, angry, relieved, hopeful, happy, proud, satisfied ... something. Judge everything you put in your newsletter by one standard: Is this news item, anecdote, statistic, or photo likely to make the donor feel something?
Thing #2: Are you marinated in "donor love"? Do you make the donor feel like a VIP? Have you switched from the "donor-negligent" voice ("We did this. We did that. And, oh by the way if you sent a check, thanks!") to the proper "donor-centric" voice ("With your help, we did this and that. And without your help, we can't.") You simply cannot flatter a donor too much. In fact, "flattering donors too much" is right at the top of a fundraiser's job description, in my opinion. Why? Because flattery stimulates more revenue. And it's not a cynical ploy. Donors are never really gulled. They know flattery for what it is. But they don't reject it. Truth? They like the feeling. And, truth, you like the feeling. Fact: we all like the feeling. Flattery reminds us, in case we've forgotten, that we're worth something. That we're important. And that feels really good.
Thing #3: They want to trust you. They're just not sure they can. We have something like 1.5 million 501(c)(3) nonprofits in the U.S., but almost no regulatory oversight. Charity fraud is common in the news. You need to reassure your readers repeatedly that your organization is business-minded and trustworthy.
Thing #4: Surprise me. This is mere neuroscience: our brains tend to pay more attention to anything new. Even the word "new" excites us. Show me something I haven't seen before. Tell me something I haven't heard before. The rule: do anything but bore me. The reality: 99 out of 100 donor newsletters violate that rule religiously. No wonder your newsletters produce so little.
Thing #5: Prepare to be skimmed. More science: first, we look at all the bigger, bolder, briefer things in a publication, like headlines and photos, before we dig into the articles. And we seldom ever dig into the articles: no more than one in five readers will penetrate the first paragraph of any story. Plus there's the BI vs. AI phenomenon: Before the Internet vs. After the Internet. The Internet tossed a grenade into people's attention spans and blew them all to shards.
Thing #6: If you want response, you need to make offers. It's simple cause and effect. What kinds of offers? Information. Tours. Matching gifts. Special fund drives.
Thing #7: Is it easy to give? Inertia is the real enemy in fundraising, I am totally convinced. Simply getting someone to act (write a check, go online and donate) is hard. Convenience is key. Include a reply envelope. Remind the reader on every page on your newsletter that online donations are fast and safe. And then make sure they are fast and safe. I tried to give $350 online to a favorite charity the other day and their PayPal mechanism required me to set up an account first. No, thank you.
Thing #8: Collect email addresses so you can send e-newsletters. An effective donor communications program will field both (not either) printed newsletters and e-newsletters. Brief emailed updates let you keep your supporters informed at almost no cost. Yet most charities I know have email addresses for no more than 20% of their donor base. Boo hiss.
Thing #9: There are key messages you need to repeat over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and.... Some of those messages will be specific to your charity. Though some are apt for almost all charities, messages like: (1) The success of the mission depends on donors. (2) Your support is vitally important. (3) Nothing feels better than helping your neighbors and your community. (4) The more you give, the more good we can do.
>>> Takeaway>>> A good donor newsletter stirs pleasure in its readers. It reassures them that the mission is still urgent and relevant. And it renews in them the certainty that they are accomplishing something worthwhile by continuing their support.
Tom Ahern of Ahern Communications, Ink. in Foster, R.I. is the author of How to Write Fundraising Materials that Raise More Money and Seeing Through a Donor's Eyes. This article was reprinted, with permission, from www.aherncomm.com.
Published by: ammado
Written by: Jody Monaghan
Well they say all good things come to an end, and so it is, the last week of my internship. I am nearing the six week mark which is where my time with ammado ends. It is incredible how much I have learned in the short time that I have been here and how much I feel I have achieved. I have had my work posted on the ammado homepage which I am really proud of, and seeing how the graphics team have treated my ideas in addition to the short time frame they work to has been really great. I now know for my future career the pressure you must feel to have such a short turnaround and so I’m going to work on that for sure. I have also learned an awful lot about online and digital activity. The workings of the site in addition to the support activity that goes into the maintenance of the facebook and twitter pages requires a lot of effort which is totally worth it. I am hoping to use a lot of what I have learned here in my own blog, I have set up a facebook page purely to support the site, so friends can leave me comments there or ask me questions about my own work or even just have a chat with me there instead of (or hopefully as well as) leaving me feedback on the blog itself. It has also been really nice working on creative projects every day, Christina Carey Shaw was great, each morning I would get a list of things to do, homepage adverts for various causes or other potential projects that may be in the works, though I always felt that I could make my own suggestions too. As a result a few more homepage adverts have been banked; I came up with concepts for Halloween and New Year’s Eve so you may see these appear on the site in the future.
After I leave the intern blog is going to be continued by my fellow intern Anna Wymes who is doing a press and communications internship here until Christmas. You will be guaranteed an interesting read from a different slant to my blog posts, and I know that I will be following the blog myself from home to keep up to date with what’s going on in the office. Before I sign off I just want to thank everyone in the Dublin office of ammado for being so nice, friendly and helpful during my brief stint here. The ammado team really are passionate about the work that they do and the causes which are voiced on the ammado site. I have had a great time and learned a lot over the past 6 weeks. I also want to thank you all for reading the blog, I will still be using my ammado profile so feel free to add me as a friend there if you would ever like to contact me. Finally good look to Anna in continuing the blog, I’m sure you will do a great job.
Written by: Jody Monaghan
Hello again. Well following the excitement of last week’s site release the office seems to have returned to its normal pace but everyone here is so happy with how smoothly the changes went. I hope you have all had a good nose around the site and tried out some of the new features, personally I think that OpenID is great. I have to say that being here for the site release was a great experience, firstly of seeing how exciting it is when a team works well together, but I also feel that I am learning a lot about online activity and how social networking works. The site is continuously growing so be sure to invite your friends and family on and feel free to add me as a friend, would love to connect with you all.
In other news this week some more of the adverts that I came up with concepts for have started to appear on the homepage and once again I have to say that the graphics team done a brilliant job. I particularly like the first advert for real change, I think it looks fantastic. I wanted to highlight some of the great causes that use ammado so I hope that the advert does that through the inclusion of multiple logos. I am also really delighted to see the great job that the team done on the Christmas adverts. The Christmas concepts were straight forward enough, I wanted to highlight the benefits of giving ammado giving vouchers as Christmas gifts this year. The first advert with the batteries came from when I was younger and I always remember getting great presents but the batteries were never included. You couldn’t enjoy your presents until the shops opened again. Very disappointing. The second Christmas advert works on the idea of a break from tradition; I don’t know about you lot but every year I seem to end up with lots of scratch cards, socks and aftershave for Christmas. Now not to sound ungrateful but those are not very imaginative gifts, I would honestly prefer to receive the less traditional gift of giving vouchers and plan how I could spend them on a worthy cause. It makes far more sense than me never winning anything on a scratch card and having to re-gift my aftershave later in the year. Anyway take a look at the adverts and please let me know what you all think of them, I would love any feedback good or bad...be brutal.
I am still updating the facebook and twitter messages but so far haven’t had much contact with you guys. At the moment these pages are acting more as an update of what’s new or going on with ammado, which is great. But I would also like to take the opportunity to invite you to use the pages to your own advantage too. There are almost 1,500 members on the facebook page so why don’t you guys chat to each other there about the causes that you are passionate about which feature on ammado. If you feel strongly about a cause leave a comment on the facebook page and see how many people get back to you. If you want to bring our attention to any causes which do not yet use ammado, post a link on the page and I will be sure to let you know what we think. The facebook and twitter pages are a great opportunity for you guys to interact with me and the ammado team in addition to making your own connections and really engaging with the causes that you are passionate about so please feel free to join in and start livening things up. Hope to hear more of what you all think over the next week.
Written By Guest Blogger: James "Dewey" Harris
If you're a young person or know a young person with an idea to use a talent to create change Usher's New Look has the money to make it happen. We're looking to award 150 grants before the year is out. Make sure your idea is in the mix! First round applications are due November 6th - that's next Friday! All you have to do is be between the ages 12 and 20, live in one of six communities - Atlanta, Detroit, Los Angeles, Milwaukee, New Orleans and New York - and have a unique idea to change your community.
Just like youth who participate in other Usher's New Look initiatives - youth who receive Powered By Service grants will combine their unique talents with business skills and service to create change in their community. To learn more and apply for a grant go to www.poweredbyservice.org.
One of Usher's New Look's Moguls In Training, James "Dewey" Harris, successfully completed his Powered By Service project this past weekend. Dewey and fellow members of Urban Republic hosted a concert in Kansas City to raise awareness and funds to prevent malaria in Africa. Usher's New Look is partnering with the Nothing But Nets campaign in an effort to raise 40,000 bednets to cover the refugee camps in Ethiopia.
Dewey's was the first Powered By Service project completed for this campaign and he raised over $500 for the Nothing But Nets campaign. The primary way youth are raising nets is through a mobile texting campaign where individuals can donate $5 by texting "bednets" to 90999.Dewey and members of Urban Republic reflect on their experience below:
Maria Juliet: "First off I would like to thank New Look for helping us with the event. I feel very blessed in having the opportunity to be apart in such a great cause. I've always wanted to reach out and help the community and those in need and also use our talents. The Urban Republic Serve Swagg Fest was exciting; people came out and showed love. We rose over $500 in donations and selling hot dogs. I was happy to see people in the community take time out and support us and show that they cared about the people all the way in Africa. It was a once in a lifetime feeling and I’m looking forward to doing this again. Thank you so much."
Dewey: "This was an experience of a lifetime I enjoyed it; all the grinding trying to get the word out posting flyers, organizing friends in the community and just seeing how everyone came out for one good cause and seeing so much diversity amongst the crowd. It was really moving to start from nothing and raise over $500 I say it was a success.Overall it was fun. I was honored to be a part of this Powered By Service project. Once again thank all of y'all for everything!!!! People are still talking about the event wondering when we are going to do it again!!!
Nova: "The experience I received today was amazing, and I was very glad to be a part of this event. The fact of helping make a difference beyond my city, state, region and even country truly makes this an unforgettable experience. Raising over $500 in donations and hot dogs made me realize that our voice was truly heard and awareness raised with the help of our community. The community made me feel really good that they cared about a cause that was hundreds of miles from their residence. Performing was really fun and using my talents to help a cause was great also. Overall the event was fun and a wonderful experience. I look forward to doing this again and I would like to thank you for providing such a great experience."
Public Allies is changing the face and practice of leadership to meet the demands of new times. Public Allies operates nationally and in 20 communities across America through a 10-month leadership development program, an Alumni network, and The Leadership Practice consulting group. Public Allies' mission is to advance new leadership to strengthen communities, nonprofits and civic participation. Young people who commit to a year of service through Public Allies are truly Powered By Service!
Usher's New Look is fortunate to have three fantastic Public Allies on our team to support youth in three communities plan and implement their Powered By Service projects.
Lila Starbuck is representing New York City. She has been living in New York for a year now and just completed another AmeriCorps program during which she worked with teens in the South Bronx as a Health Educator. Before that, she worked for HIV/AIDS and domestic violence organizations. Her home state is New Jersey and she graduated from Brandeis University '08, with a BA in Psychology. Other passions of hers include community activism, creative arts, and bicycling. Lila is extremely honored to be part of the team and looks forward to an amazing and challenging year to come!
Rachel Neal is bringing it in Milwaukee. Rachel hails from the farmland of the frigid southwest region of Wisconsin. She recently graduated from UW Milwaukee with a Bachelors Degree in Fine Arts. She is the proud mother of a very energetic 4 year old and is looking forward to making Milwaukee a great place for him to grow up in. She is very excited to be working with Usher's New Look and Public Allies.
And, Jay Esquerra is holding it down in Los Angeles. Jay has a background in promoting youth activism and a background in media arts and filmmaking.Like many artists, Jay often work on his art with little to no budget, but still manages to turn the ordinary into the extraordinary.He is serving as a second-year public fellow through Public Allies. He is an alumnus from UCLA where he majored in ethnic studies and was active in student-led retention and outreach projects while in college.
If you are in one of these communities and want to get in touch with our Public Allies send us a shout out on the Powered By Service website www.poweredbyservice.org/contactus.