Too Many Nonprofits Confusing Donors; Collaboration a Must to Solve Big Problems

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Kay Sprinkel Grace

There are way too many nonprofits.

That was the blunt observation fundraising consultant and best-selling author Kay Sprinkel Grace made to a couple hundred nonprofit leaders and staff people at Nonprofit Boot Camp, last week in Mountain View.

Her point, that donors are confused by the large number of nonprofits surrounding similar issues and challenges. Donors want to know that their money is going toward solutions, not toward supporting an organization’s existence.

The answer, she said, is in collaboration between nonprofits, government, and business.

“Nobody thinks we can do it alone anymore. We’ve got to partner, we’ve got to collaborate,” she said. “One of our problems is—and I’m here to tell you at a Nonprofit Boot Camp—we have way too many nonprofits. Way too many nonprofits, I’m sorry. And I’m not saying that any of you are not of value. But I’m saying that for our donors it is totally confusing, because donors behave in a “both/and” way, not an “either/or.” [Read more…]

Wounded Soldiers Catch Some Waves Thanks to Operation Surf

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Mark Brazwell (front) steadies himself while surfing with Operation Surf in Santa Cruz.

When San Jose native Mark Brazwell  suffered debilitating leg injuries in Afghanistan as part of a U.S. Navy explosives ordinance disposal unit, he had no idea that experience would lead to standing tall while riding the waves in Santa Cruz.

“It’s absolutely amazing; it’s beyond words,” Brazwell said, after a morning of surfing off of Cowell’s Beach near the Santa Cruz Municipal Wharf. After growing up Boogieboarding, bodysurfing, and skateboarding, he always dreamed of actually surfing. Thanks to a nonprofit program called Operation Surf, that dream became a reality last week—despite his injuries.

Brazwell and nine other soldiers—some missing legs, arms, or feet—got a week of surfing April 15-19, thanks to the program coordinated by the nonprofit Amazing Surf Adventures, in conjunction with another nonprofit, Operation Comfort.

“We had no idea it would be this intense, and there would be so much support,” Brazwell said, referring to the dozens of volunteers who made Operation Surf possible.

There were two volunteer surf instructors in the water for every soldier that particular day, with even more on the beach coordinating food, transportation, lodging and anything else the soldiers needed. [Read more…]

Five Ways to be a Good Neighbor in December

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It’s December, which means it’s holiday time, when many people feel that tug to spread good cheer to others. We’ve got five ways you can indulge in the spirit of giving this month. If you’ve got additional ideas, please share in the comments!

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Jacob Goeders, a.k.a the Leukemia Slayer, in December 2011.

1. Give to a Holiday Drive:Some people love the tradition of giving at the holidays, others are looking for an end-of-year tax deduction. Whatever the reason, you can help a lot of people in need have a brighter season by contributing to a holiday drive, either with goods or cash. One of our favorite fundraisers, Jacob Goeders, a.k.a. The Leukemia Slayer, is raising money for the second year in a row for his Santa Slayer Project. This young man uses money donated to the project to buy gifts for other children on the Lucille Packard Children’s Hospital cancer ward, where he himself is being treated for leukemia. But you need to hurry, Jacob needs to finish up shopping soon. Other charities are collecting items like socks, bedding, or coats. Still others could really use gift cards to give to clients, or cash donations to buy what is most needed. Look for food donation barrels at stores and other locations to help local food banks combat hunger at the holidays. Or donate to the Good Neighbor Stories Virtual Food Drive for Second Harvest Food Bank of Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties. Our goal is to raise $1,500 by Jan. 1, 2013.

2. Give the Gift of Time: If you’re low on cash and items to share, consider volunteering your time this month. The United Way of Silicon Valley is looking for volunteers to help spread holiday cheer to the children of East San Jose. Every child at four schools will receive presents from their wish list, along with a book to encourage reading skills. Younger siblings will also receive gifts. Sign up for a shift today before all the spaces are filled. Find more volunteer opportunities at HandsOn Bay Area, and One Brick Silicon Valley.

3. Consider Giving Alternative Gifts: If you’re scratching your head wondering what to give as gifts this year, consider alternative gifts that both honor those you are giving to, and make a difference in the world. Alternative gifts range from donations made in the recipient’s name, to items purchased from nonprofits and companies focused on social justice. A great place to shop for gifts in person is the Holiday Peace and Social Justice Craft and Info Fair, 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 9, at the First Presbyterian Church of Palo Alto, 1140 Cowper St., Palo Alto (I’ll be there selling the Good Neighbor Stories 2013 Datebook!). Or, “shop” online at Alternative Gifts International, which has been providing gifts of food, shelter, trees, animals, medicine, and more, since 1986. Pick from 30 different projects located all over the world (including the U.S.) to support in honor of your friend or loved one. [Read more…]

You Can Make a Difference—And Your Friends Want to Help

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You have the power to make a difference in the world. And your friends are just waiting for you to ask for their help.

That lesson was driven home for me a few years ago when I accepted a challenge thrown down at a conference. The challenge was to multiply some money to help others within three weeks. I was intimidated at first, but in the end I discovered meeting the challenge was a lot easier than I thought, and I was amazed by how eager my friends wanted to partner with me.

A Daunting Challenge?

The challenge came at a Donald Miller Storyline Conference in Portland, OR., as part of a point about “living a better story”. Audience members were given the opportunity to take envelopes that contained either $5, $10, or $20 bills. The catch was that we had to commit to doing something that would help another person or organization, ideally in a way that multiplied the money.

My envelope had $20 in it. The challenge felt daunting. How would I multiply the money? In such a short period of time, up against an already busy schedule? What if I failed?

As I left the auditorium clutching my envelope, it crossed my mind I could turn around and give it back. Yet beneath the doubt was a sense of excitement. What if I succeeded? What good things could come from a $20 bill? [Read more…]

Master Organizer Puts Tools Into the Hands of Thousands of Volunteers

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Get ready Silicon Valley. You’re about to get a makeover, thanks to more than 100 gallons of paint, 441 pieces of lumber, 113 pounds of nails, and a lot of sweat and elbow grease from thousands of volunteers.

It’s all a part of the large-scale April 21-29 service project called Beautiful Day, coordinated by the nonprofit group that goes by the same name. Organizers are working to recruit up to 6,000 volunteers to refurbish homes, neighborhoods, parks, creeks, freeways, an elementary school, and much more. Most of the projects will take place the final weekend, April 28 and 29.

As the recruitment effort goes on, one team within Beautiful Day is working to put the materials and tools into the hands of the volunteers. The Acquisitions Team is lead by a volunteer affectionately known as the “Master Shopper”, Wendy Laugesen.

Laugesen laughs at the reference, and adds that she likes to call herself the “Master Organizer”.

Master Organizer, indeed, as she and her team pull together more than 600 items on a master inventory list. Each line item may have multiples of each item, translating into thousands of materials and tools needed during the week.

From nametags to napkins, to tanbark and tetherballs, Laugesen has it on her list. [Read more…]

How To Combat Donor Fatigue

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We are four days to Dec. 31, and if you’re like me, the requests for year-end donations are pouring in via Internet and other media, snail mail, and phone. During the holidays even shopping trips Overflowing mailboxare accompanied by ringing bells, giving trees, small donations at the register and donation jars. Admittedly, Good Neighbor Stories is part of the onslaught, with our own virtual food drive.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed in the face of so many requests for help. “Donor fatigue” is a real condition that charities are well aware of. The Mercury News posted a story on Christmas that describes just how worn out people feel this holiday season after hearing so many pleas.

There are ways to cope and not feel so burned out. Here are are few suggestions. Feel free to add your own in the comments section.

  • Decide what causes you are most passionate about. What stirs your heart the most? Children? Hunger? Animals? The environment? A particular part of the world like Africa or Asia? A religious institution? Figure our what you care about and then narrow your giving focus to those specific causes. [Read more…]

Generosity Good, Good For You, According to Research

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On this Christmas Eve when we’re all in a more generous mood, here’s a link to an excellent article in the San Francisco Chronicle about research that shows being generous and volunteering reaps big rewards for the person displaying generosity.

Click for full article here.

Giving and helping others makes us happier than spending money on ourselves, research shows. Although there is a side of doing volunteer work or giving from a purely self-interested point of view: we get more respect in the community, our influence grows, and people will be willing to cooperate with us more. It’s an interesting read.

30 Ways to Be a Good Neighbor This Holiday Season – Part 2

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Yesterday I listed 10 ways to be a good neighbor in your own neighborhood. Today I’m sharing ways to spread holiday cheer into the rest of the surrounding community. In Part 3, I look at ways to be a good neighbor to the world.

  1. With a major recession and chronic joblessness, food banks and social service organizations are hard-pressed to provide for all the needs out there. If you have any resources available, now is the time to share. Money, food, clothing, coats, blankets are all needed. It’s very easy to find places that need your help as early in the season as possible. Do an Internet search for food banks in your community, or check the local newspapers and their websites for links to charities. Don’t have money? How about some time? The same agencies who need donations need volunteers to distribute to needy families.
  2. Shop local. More and more of us are shopping online, but there are small businesses in your town who need their neighbors to stay afloat and keep jobs and sales taxes in your community. Try to do at least some of your holiday shopping at a locally-owned business. And if you’re going out to eat at any point, visit a local establishment, not a chain restaurant.
  3. Thank the people who keep you safe year round. Drop by the local fire station or police station and say “thank you”. Bring a basket of goodies if you’re able. When I say “goodies”, I mean things that are good for you. I used to take cookies to an office each December to thank the workers for their help, until one of them took me aside and said that as much as they appreciated my gesture, everyone there was trying to eat healthier. I wasn’t the only one bringing cookies or candy and the temptation to overeat was great. The next year I brought a basket filled with tangerines, nuts, specialty coffee and tea, and even a little dark chocolate. They loved it!
  4. Attend a community holiday event. Pick something happening in your town, a tree or candle lighting, a community breakfast or services and events at houses of worship. Challenge yourself to introduce yourself to at least one other person and find out a little bit about who that person is. It’s good to get to know a wide variety of people in the community. You may even make a new friend.
  5. Find out if a local school has a wish list. These days there’s no doubt teachers have a long list of needs. Call one of the schools near you and ask.  You can also find worthy projects at edutopia.org, a site created by The George Lucas Education Foundation, or at iloveschools.org.
  6. Recycle your Christmas tree. Most communities have a way to do this, either with curbside pickup or a place to drop-off. Check for requirements; some cities ask you to cut the tree into smaller segments, depending on the tree height. The trees get mulched and help nourish local soil.
  7. Call the nursing home near you and ask if they need volunteers to visit residents. Chances are you would be a welcome sight to many folks.
  8. Take part in a regional campaign to raise awareness about drinking and driving. The weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s are a very deadly time of year with holiday parties happening. Go to www.madd.org to find out if your local Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) chapter is leading an effort, or ask your local law enforcement agencies. (See my recent post where I mentioned MADD as a success story in raising awareness)
  9. Tip your baristas! Do you have a regular spot you go to for coffee or meals? Give the people who serve you year-round a special tip and say “thank you” for doing such a good job of taking care of you.
  10. Resolve to be a better community neighbor in the New Year. Find out when your city council or school board meets and plan on attending at least once. Look into emergency preparedness and discover how you can get involved. Plan on being a positive part of your community!

Have you helped your community during the holidays? Tell us! If you try anything on this list, please let us know how it went. What other ways are there to help the community at this time of year?