Sunday, December 30, 2007

Volunteering--a generational mindset?

This recent story from Entrepreneur magazine discusses how corporations are becoming more interested in being seen as valuable contributors to communities and not just profitable, exclusive entities. The article also mentioned several studies showing that a greater share of Generation Y-ers show an interest in a job with companies that incorporate volunteer work and related community values:

"...Research by Deloitte & Touche USA suggests that companies offering volunteer opportunities to employees could have an advantage in recruiting Generation Y talent. In the firm's 2007 Volunteer IMPACT survey, 62 percent of Gen Y respondents said they would prefer to work for companies that give them opportunities to contribute their talents to nonprofit organizations."

While I haven't looked into past years' surveys I think the trend is a result of our hyper-exposure to information, especially global and national news, and the ready access point of the Internet that expanded people's awareness of many different issues and needs. And somewhat naturally from that awareness comes interest and concern and hopefully action.

The speed and reach of new media of course also allowing advocates to reach more people as well. But we all know that we're overexposed to marketing messages and are quite talented now at tuning-out, and I think the sort of inadvertent education that the news could account for this generation's values.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Delayed Gratification

So I was reading another story (I know, Shock, right?), about what the hottest new trends are for 2008. It suggested "Delayed Gratification", or custom made goods which take longer to make as the hot new trend.

I couldn't help but think this is how I feel about volunteering for OYFP. When putting together many of our benefit events, there is so much work that goes into it, that we rarely see the fruits of our labor right away. But then again, I think it makes it more worth while, as the old saying goes, "Good things come to those who wait." I know this year we have helped give our partners much needed exposure to a young professional crowd that perhaps has not heard of them before. Of course the money we raised for them doesn't hurt either.

So, you can get a custom built yacht as the USA Today article suggests, or you can now improve the life of a child, which in my opinion is the ultimate in delayed gratification.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

You Must Remember This

“It was a year of miraculous events. President Bush invited Al Gore to the Oval Office for a friendly chat about global warming. France elected a president who likes and admires Americans. Eliot Spitzer discovered the virtue of humility. In mid-rant, Hugo Ch├ívez was finally told to shut up. The cute little Canadian dollar — the “loonie” — became worth more than a greenback.

People rooted for Kevin Federline to get the kids. After electing 43 consecutive white male presidents, Americans seriously considered a woman, a black man and an Italian-American from New York on his third marriage.”

The section above was pulled the New York Times article:
You Must Remember This. The article goes on to cover other major issues of 2007 that should not be forgotten due to their lasting importance.

On a much smaller scale,
OYFP has some accomplishments in 2007 that are worthy of remembering and are of lasting importance too.

For instance, in March OYFP organized
Salsa for Support, which was a benefit event held at Mojitos Lounge. There was a fire at a neighboring building that night, but it didn't stop our dancers! All the funds generated from this event were donated to Christopher’s Haven.

In April, the group presented at the Volunteer Expo held at the Prudential Center. Also in April, OYFP had an official check presentation benefiting Christopher’s Haven at Massachusetts General Hospital where over $3,000 in donations were presented. The event was covered in the Mass General Newsletter!

Moving into summer: In June, OYFP hosted a Get Your Sox On / Red Sox party at The Greatest Bar. The Get Your Sox On event benefited Mass Mentoring Partnership (MMP), and we know at least one person signed up to be a mentor. Watch for Fred's comments on mentoring in this blog or at one of our events... In August, we held a sold-out wine tasting event at the Howard Yezerski Gallery on Newbury Street, and were graced by the presence of Ms. Yelp-Boston, aka Ligaya T.

In September, OYFP held another wine tasting and apple picking event at the Nashoba Valley Winery. Most recently, the group held the beer tasting event Novemberfest at the Pour House to benefit The Italian Home for Children.

Each year as OYFP continues to grow and advance its mission of engaging people in community service and activism we touch more lives and see them change for the better. With the help of supporters such as you we will continue to see improvements in our communities.

On behalf of the entire OYFP Boston Team I invite you to check out our website and take part in one of our upcoming events in 2008!

Excuses

You'll have to excuse our holiday absence - we weren't near our computers, and hope you weren't either. However, OYFP is never far from our minds. As I sipped my hot chocolate and gazed at my little bejeweled tree, I started thinking about this blog. Right now, it's about OYFP, non-profits, volunteering, and Boston.

What's OYFP's purpose? To get young people who wouldn't normally volunteer to volunteer and get involved in their communities.

How does this blog help us do that? Well, it doesn't. At least not directly. The goal was to raise our awareness in the non-profit volunteering community, which would in turn help other people outside of the community to learn about us.

How could we do it more directly? Well, by writing about what we know, and what we know other young people aged 18 to 34 are interested in: Boston. Socializing opportunities. Parties. Activities. Work. Relationships. Dogs. Being young in a city, basically.

This is always a struggle when running a non-profit - staying on target. There are so many potential ways of drawing an audience, but we have to make sure we're using our resources in the most effective manner.

What do you think?

Friday, December 21, 2007

'Tis the Season to Change the Present

It's December 21 and there are not a lot of shopping days left in the holiday season! Earlier, Liz highlighted some gift-giving ideas that help make a difference in the Boston community and I wanted to highlight Changing The Present, a nonprofit Web site that offers gifts that makes the world a better place.

Instead of giving a scarf or slippers, you can choose from a variety of causes or search for a nonprofit to make a donation. For example,
You can fill a bookshelf for $50, clothe a girl for $25, adopt a beach for $20 or another cause that the recipient cares about.

Changing The Present also has a variety of tools for
nonprofits, helping nonprofits raise awareness and raise money, including some of the $250 billion that people in this country spend each year on traditional gifts. They also have a Facebook application, allowing friends to purchase $1 virtual gifts that benefit nonprofits.

I did a quick search for Boston nonprofits, but didn't find any that had an account set up.

Changing the world isn’t easy, but this is a great place to start.


Thursday, December 20, 2007

Please shovel your sidewalks

So being that I work for a non-profit, I can not afford the luxury of parking my car in downtown Boston. So I rely on public transportation and good, old-fashioned walking. Normally I love walking around Boston, it is a very walkable city. But let's face it in the winter, it can be quite treacherous walking around in Boston.


That's when I read this story I couldn't be more appalled that a city councilor chose not to shovel his sidewalk in his neighborhood because, "The reality is the cultural practice is not to use the sidewalks even when the snow isn't there". Clearly this councilor has never tried to navigate by foot around Boston. Granted many of the businesses in the Boston area do a good job of shoveling the snow to make it easier for potential clients to come in. However, when walking around various residential neighborhoods, you will slip every which way until at last you fall.


I know I am not the only one in this situation, every winter I see people forced to walk on the street with the cars because it is to dangerous for them to walk on the slippery sidewalks. I even noticed that a little girl had to walk in the street with her mommy, because she was falling all over the place. We all have seen someone fall as the result of a poorly shoveled sidewalk.


I rent and I know it is not my responsibility for our sidewalk to be clear, but I take turns, just like my neighbors to insure that are sidewalk is clear for anyone to walk through. So please on behalf of all the pedestrians in Boston who are trying to walk home, please shovel your sidewalk. Consider it a way to give back to all your neighbors and help out the community around you.

Bigger and Better?

Everyone's always trying to come up with the next big thing. I find this is true even on a small scale - at home, at work, at OYFP, etc. If only this could be bigger or better or different, I could do XYZ. In that struggle to constantly improve ourselves or our work, we may lose sight of an equally valid and perhaps simpler idea: taking away.

Think about a big idea. Now reduce it. Do you have something useful?

Example: Blogger.com is a huge free blogging interface and host. Simplify the blog to 140 words, and you get Twitter. This is what innovator and Blogger and Twitter founder Evan Williams did... and no one can argue with his success. His favorite question is: "What can we take away to create something new?"

Sculpture carving works the same way - you start with a block of wood or rock, and you take away until you have a lovely figurine.

It takes vision - how do you know what to remove? It takes risk - what if you cut off a crucial part, and you have to start over? It takes a willingness to be a little different - don't build up to be bigger, remove to be better. This theme could certainly be applied to OYFP... and perhaps it's time to consider it.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Not me, not now.

Every morning I cross the Salt and Pepper Bridge during my commute. As the train crests over the bridge Boston is revealed. Watching the city bask in the glow of the morning sunrise rejuvenates me. It’s like a shot in the arm filled with optimism, fortitude and hope.

One reason I volunteer to causes higher than myself is because I believe many small actions can have a much larger impact.

Step out of your comfort zone, do something for someone else, pay it forward.

If not you, then who? If not now, then when?

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Party Like a Rockstar - for the children

A friend of mine's coworker Bill Morris, AKA Cap'n Sunshine of the SS Marshmallow, is playing a charity concert at Harper's Ferry this Saturday, December 22 (which is coincidentally the winter solstice). Bill is a member of one of the four bands taking part in this charity show, with the money raised going to offset the medical expenses, develop learning programs, and support social events for children undergoing long-term rehab at the Franciscan Hospital for Children.

In the past, donations supported programs such as a children's carnival, environmentally controlled trips to Boston, visits to Fenway to meet the Sox, theatrical and musical performances, and more.

This is your chance to help some kids out, and listen to some rockin' music. You can find more information at the Harper's Ferry website. Click on 'Shows', and scroll on down to the 22nd. Hope to see you there!

Gnomes are taking over OYFP!

Warning! Gnomes have taken over the OYFP website! Take cover, snowballs are flying...

Wikipedia and Google's Knol: How to use them for your non-profit's benefit

Google is coming out with its own version of Wikipedia called "Knol." Now not only will Google be searching and saving all the world's information, it will be encouraging users to create profiles and post their own knowledge. Yes, there are privacy concerns (will Google results be biased?). But as a non-profit, Knol will be yet another way for you to get your name out there in the the digital world.

What are the benefits to participating in resources like Wikipedia or Knol? Well, primarily credibility. Yes, anyone can add themselves to Wikipedia, but not anyone will stay - the subject of the entry must be of interest to the general public, and have been covered by other sources.

In addition (and just as importantly), you will likely get a good deal of referrals from your Wikipedia entry (and, I'm assuming, your Knol entry). More traffic = more awareness, which hopefully leads to more volunteers, funds, or beneficiaries.

A few important things to keep in mind as you write your Wikipedia entry:

1. Write the entry in an unbiased tone. Yes, we know your non-profit is the best ever and deserves donations from everyone, but Wikipedia is all about providing accurate information. Your entry will get taken down by ever-vigilant editors if it is not factual.

2. Cite external sources. Again: Cite. External. Sources. Other websites (not your organization's site), press coverage, books, facts/data reports. This is a bit of a catch-22. You may be writing your Wikipedia entry because you want to attract outside interest, but you need outside interest in order to have a Wikipedia entry. You can have a short entry without external sources, but it won't have much credibility with the editors.

3. Edit the post from your home computer or a public computer. You may remember the scandal involving government employees editing entries to favor their own views or the administration. Or perhaps you recall the Diebold employee who deleted paragraphs criticizing the company’s electronic voting machines? Your IP address is being recorded, and the world is watching. Don't give them reason to doubt what may be perfectly valid information.

Don't forget to reference Wikipedia's rules of engagement. Also, including an image or two never hurt.

Privacy may be the one gift Santa won't be bringing this year, but try to use that to your organization's advantage. I know OYFP will be, as soon as we find the time to get the press to write about us to we can have external sources to cite! Sigh. The never-ending battle.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Getting what you need in the nonprofit world

It is very easy to feel like there's a lot of money floating around for nonprofit support, but that it's just very difficult to make the right match with a sponsor. How do you find and filter through all the organizations, people and causes that are out there? How, as a nonprofit, do you make yourself heard?

Enter good2gether, an upcoming company that's still in pre-launch phase. good2gether is the brainchild of a serial social entrepreneur, and hopes to play a big roll in Boston's non-profit and philanthropy scene. It is "a new search and social web service that connects people to causes" and appears, accroding to the sneak-peek info page, to be a free service.

The site will connect nonprofits, volunteers and corporations with each other. But most interestingly, good2gether is also aiming to partner with major media outlets in 10 target cities such as New York, Boston, Houston, etc. My source who recently attended one of good2gether's recent sneakpeek meetings said that the comapny has already sealed a partnership with Boston.com, who will feature good2gether's CPC ads next to relevant content.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Good PR vs. Unnoticed good deeds

I was reading a story the other day that talk show host Ellen DeGeneres is going to help rebuild animal shelters across the US. Some people are claiming it is a way for her to rebuild her image after "Iggy gate.". For those that aren't into celebrity gossip (hey, we all have our guilty pleasures), "Iggy gate" is when Ellen gave her dog to her hairdresser because the dog wasn't a good fit for her household. This action broke the contract Ellen signed with the adoption agency, and the adoption agency took the dog back.

The whole story made me think: Is it a terrible thing if other people/animals benefit from someone who is just trying to build some good PR around themselves? In this case many animals are going to have better homes and lives because Ellen and her partner, Richard Thompson, are building new homes for them.

What about all the people that help out the community through various acts, which go unnoticed by the general public? Since we are all covered in snow in Boston, what about the people that go help shovel out an elderly or disabled person's driveway/sidewalk, or in Casey's post, help her out with her car? I am sure they get a hearty thank you from the individual they are assisting, but besides kudos in our blog, there is no media attention surrounding the good deeds they do.

So I ask: Is it okay to help out the community, even if it is only to gain some positive press? Or should we start giving more attention to the thoughtful acts of individuals whose acts go in general, unnoticed by the general public?

My Knights in Shining Denim

I think that part of OYFP's goal in promoting volunteerism is to encourage a sense of community and a sense of belonging. When you volunteer, you feel connected. When people feel connected and invested in a place, they are kinder to those around them. When people are kinder, we all feel good.

Why this bout of optimism and community-loving? Last night my 15 minute commute turned into a I-can't-get-up-this-hill-to-my-house-so-I-went-the-wrong-way-down-a-one-way-street-and-still-got-stuck-on-a-teeny-hill commute. I'm in the middle of a side road, tires spinning, and no idea how I was going to get myself out of the situation. I called the boyfriend - no dice. I called the best friend - she's downtown. I called the best friend's boyfriend - he doesn't answer.

I tried asking the garage down the street for sand - bad idea. Harry's Automotive in Brighton Center wasn't going to give me a cup of sand out of their hundred gallon drums, no way Jose. They needed every last grain. I think they just wanted me to pay them $100 bucks for a 25 foot tow.

Instead, a kind denim-clad and pierced couple stopped when they saw my tires spinning. Another woman lent me her shovel. They helped push my car up, shovel out a space, and helped push the car again so I could parallel park. I begged them for their address so I could give them some homemade cookies, but they refused. Maybe they're vegan, maybe they're scared that I'll stalk them, or maybe, just maybe, they were being just plain nice.

Whatever the reason for their kind actions, I'd like to think that OYFP's work helps encourage that sense of community, that sense of belonging to a place, where you would help a stranger just because you wanted them to be ok.

When was the last time you helped a stranger?

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Media that makes you think differently

Every morning and evening I listen to WBUR, Boston's NPR station. Lately, it's all been about politics. Which politician is saying what, what each interest group thinks about each politician, who has the most money, who's projected to win, why Hillary is referenced to by her first name and all the other candidates are referred to by their last names, etc.

The stories I find most interesting, however, are those where people are talking about their own opinions on the candidates. Not who they think will win, but why they're backing one candidate or another. Usually they're regurgitating what they've heard from another source, but every once in awhile you get someone who strings a few sentences together and makes me think, "Wow, they have really analyzed who they think will be a good president." We need more of this in our media - people talking about what's important to them and why, and letting us draw our own conclusions about the issue at hand.

Fortunately for us there's a non-profit working to help Bostonites do just that. Project: Think Different is an organization in Boston that (according to their website) teaches people to use public media, video, film and sound technologies to craft their ideas into creative messages that educate and move people." (Clearly they're not too picky about grammar.) They're essentially working to produce and help others produce media with its own unique message, which is often different than the message that mainstream media is pumping out.

They do have a concentration on urban youth, with workshops including, "We Interrupt this Message: Hip Hop as Media" and "Images and Stereotypes: Politics in Media Production." However, they encourage anyone who has something to say to participate in their classes. It's an interesting enough concept that even though I don't have a message right now that I urgently need to get out to the public, I might participate in one of their classes or volunteer to help support them.

What message do you want to get out to "everyone," and why?

Rocking Out


Tuesday, December 11, 2007

I am Legend, today.

The hugely anticipated movie I Am Legend, staring the well-known actor Will Smith, premieres today. Blockbuster actor Smith normally plays a legend on the silver screen but here is how you can be one IRL (In Real Life).

Granted, you might not have the same skills as The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, but you can still be a legend. How? Become a mentor. Impactful? For sure. The qualities of a successful mentor include, but are not limited to: being supportive, patient, people-oriented, a good motivator, respectful of others, an effective teacher, and self-confident.

Mentoring makes a measurable difference in both the lives of the mentor and mentee. MassMentors.org says that "all children have the potential to succeed in life and contribute to society. However, not all children get the support they need to thrive. Consider the many benefits mentoring offers, including:
  • Improving self-esteem
  • Keeping young people in school
  • Helping to improve academic skills
  • Leading young people to resources they might not find on their own
  • Providing support for new behaviors, attitudes and ambitions
  • Increasing young people's ability to seek and keep jobs
  • Enhancing parenting skills”

Make your mark on this world, however small, and become someone’s legend.

Big Brothers Big Sisters or Mass Mentoring.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Benefits of Volunteering

Alexdandra Levit at Water Cooler Wisdom recently posted about the different benefits of volunteering outside of the valid, but obvious “to feel good and give back” answers. Two of the reasons that resonate with me are:
    • A say over your destiny and a sense of purpose: So much of what happens in life we can’t control, but volunteering allows us to choose how and where we spend our time and efforts, and allows us to make a tangible difference in the world. This especially comes in handy if you work in a situation where the means in which you help others is a little murky – for example, in a corporate law firm or a consumer goods company.
    • The ability to try out a leadership role: Volunteer organizations need people to coordinate projects, and they usually aren’t picky about how old you are, your background, or your experience. You may find yourself in a position to achieve more than you ever dreamed possible.

Take a look at the rest of the list at Ms. Levit's work and life blog.

OYFP allows me to have a positive impact on the Boston community, whereas at work, it is sometimes hard to see that type of impact. With OYFP, I get to share my knowledge of PR and run with it. Plus, I've meet lots of great people as well! Why do you volunteer?

And for those of you who don’t volunteer, but would like to, as always, OYFP welcomes new members! If OYFP isn't up your alley, here a few places to start to find something that fits your interests and location:

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Weeeeee!

Or rather, Wiiiiiii! That's right - the new Nintendo system that I desperately want (hint hint, boyfriend o' mine). We played until 3 AM at a holiday party this weekend. And it wasn't just the two of us - most members of the party played at some point, or watched for quite awhile. The question is: Why? It's a freaking video game, for goodness sake!

Here's the thing about the Wii - it's engaging. People look like they're actually doing something even though they're just waving white plastic remote around. My favorite moment of the night was boxing a ninja, aka a woman who took karate for years and years and is still a black belt. Boxing her on Wii, I had a fighting chance (heh heh)! But I still lost.

How does this relate to OYFP or v0lunteering? Welllll... this is what OYFP wants to do: ENGAGE people. Engage ourselves. Engage our peers. Engage our partners. And honestly, it's a struggle to continually come up with ideas on how to come up with what often seems like the magic formula that results in engagement.

Of course, it's a little more complicated than just engaging people. We want to engage them in our activities, teach them about our non-profit partners, teach them about OYFP, make sure they have fun, get them to buy raffle tickets, encourage them to volunteer... The list goes on. The blog is one part of our effort to engage all y'all, and ourselves.

Do you have some good ideas for engagement? What has worked for you in the past? Personally, I'm going to pull for a Wii tournament event... though I'm not sure how we'll work that volunteering angle.

Friday, December 7, 2007

World AIDS Day

There was a World AIDS Day?

World AIDS Day was this past Saturday, December 1st. A number of events happened around the Boston area to help raise awareness of the pandemic, and hopefully you were able to particpate in some of them!

World Vision sponsored the Boston World AIDS Day: 6,000 Campaign at City Hall Plaza. The Global Health Initiative at Boston University partnered with the Longwood Symphony Orchestra for a symposium on campus of music, film, and performance dedicated to spreading awareness.

For-profit organizations were also in the mix – a number of Boston area restaurants designated proceeds from a portion of their menu to the AIDS Action Committee of Massachusetts.

It really is inspiring to see organizations throughout the community come together for a given cause. I just wish their collective voices were louder. World AIDS Day was barely promoted in the Boston area - OYFP Boston didn't know it was going on until it was over! Aside from "Red" Campaign ads plastered in local GAP stores, the issue receives very little media attention in the area. While AIDs and HIV infection rates have decreased in the U.S. and in many countries across the world, about 33 million people worldwide are currently living with HIV/AIDS.*

I think, no -- I know that there is more we can do to spread awareness and to enhance our understanding of what is being done to fight against HIV/AIDS.

An upcoming opportunity to learn about the issue and ways to potentially affect change is a World AIDS Day discussion featuring Diveena Cooppan from South Africa Partners that will take place at the NonProfit Center in Boston on December 13. It's also not too early to sign up for the annual AIDS Walk Boston, scheduled for June 1, 2008. The earlier you sign up, the more time you'll have to raise funds that will go to research, preventing new infections and optimizing the health of those already infected.

What are you waiting for? Get up and go - show HIV/AIDS that the battle will not be over until a cure is found.

*According to the United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS.

You’re young. You want to help. Here is how.


Give the gift of warmth this holiday season by donating a coat or volunteering in a coat drive. St. Paul A.M.E. Church is currently holding a coat drive and will host a coat give away on Saturday December 15, 2007 from 9AM to 6 PM. St. Paul A.M.E. Church is located behind the Harvest Co-Op Market in Central Square.


The hardest part of running successful coat drive is extending the word to those who need to hear it the most. You can help by donating some time to handout flyers, tell friends, and spread the word about this charitable event.


To help please call 617.661.1110 to see if the Church is still accepting donations or needs volunteers.

Get up and do something, no matter how small, get on your feet.

Creative ways to include the holidays

Not only do I volunteer for a non-profit, I work for a non-profit in the Boston area as well. This year my job decided to have a decorating contest amongst the different departments to celebrate the season. Now I know I can be a bit Martha Stewart around the holidays, but I really enjoy this friendly competition. It has been neat to see people collaborating with different ideas to come up with some great decorations, such as Faux Fireplaces, Nutcracker Suite, Ski Lodges, "It's a small world", etc. Even the people who don't think they have creativity, are enjoying the festive offices that are now around the building.

Since everyone has a chance to get involved, it also is a great way of celebrating the diverse amount of holidays that happen during this season. The winners get a pizza party for their office, and naturally bragging rights. Even if you don't win you may get a fun prize for participating, "The Green Award" - the most Eco-friendly design, "Martha Stewart Award"- most homemade crafts, "Charlie Brown Award"- most simplistic design.

So if you're a non-profit looking to incorporate the holidays around the office, I say give this a try - you may be surprised by the enthusiasm of your workers.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Keepin' it Classy

So being on the Bentley campus today has made me think about education. More of it, that is. I've spent this past year learning about my [new] job and industry, but I'm feeling pretty comfortable with it and ready for another outside challenge for this little brain of mine.

The wonderful thing about Boston is its wealth of educational opportunities (geez, now I sound like my mother!). Like those signs on the T used to say, "learn Swahili!" I did take an economics class at Salem State two years ago... though I wouldn't say my brain was stretched by that particular experience. Maybe it's time to learn something new, stretch the ole' noggin.

To Inspire You
A few of the lesser known venues for learning:
Spark Crafts
Mudville Pottery
Salsa Dancing or... Pole Fitness Classes?
German Classes
Capoeira (Brazilian martial arts)

The more well known organizations:
Boston Center for Adult Education
Cambridge Center for Adult Education
UMass Boston

If I could take one class, it would be how to weld. I've always wanted to learn to weld. That way I could, well, weld things.

What do you want to learn?

Back to College

Julianne, OYFP's lovely lady of PR, and I spent the afternoon at Bentley college today. Being on a college campus reminded me how fun college was, how social, how the possibilities seemed endless. I wasn't on campus just to be rejuvenated, however.

OYFP-Boston was the subject of a marketing class's final project. A group of four students presented their proposed marketing plan for OYFP, including modifications to the website, a SWOT analysis, press pitch letters, and more. I was quite impressed with our group's professionalism and presenting skills. They had quite a few suggestions, some of which we had thought of, some of which we hadn't.

I think that the real value of participating in the students' project was that we now have a marketing plan in hand. Is it perfect? No. Do we have the resources to implement all the changes they recommended? Not yet. But when is the last time we sat down and wrote 50 pages of suggestions for OYFP's marketing? Oh wait, never. Now we have a compilation of potential action items.

Next steps: prioritizing, and finding the resources to get our website's Content Management Structure (CMS) re-written. Sigh. I'm trying to get rid of the "potluck" resources approach - anyone have someone we should contact regarding our website structure?

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Conscious Gifting

A few years ago, when my brother and I (ostensibly) became grown-ups, our family decided to change the way we’d give gifts during the holiday, just as a way to cut down on all the materialistic crap that we didn’t really need or even want. Instead, we agreed to give “experiential” gifts, like taking each other out to dinner or a show, or buying a service gift certificate, or taking a family vacation.

And it looks like I’m not alone.

So, if you want to give a gift that makes you and the receiver feel good AND avoid the holiday crush at the malls, here are a few gifts that make a positive impact in Boston:

For the Culture-freak – Tickets to Angels in America ($25), produced by Boston Theater Works. This Pulitzer Prize-winning play is an astounding story that weaves together discussions about religion, politics, AIDS and relationships.

For your Mom – Unique (or limited edition) works created by the students and faculty at MassArt, on sale Dec 3-8 at the Annual Holiday Sale. Somehow, it’s not as cute when a 28-year-old presents his mother with his own homemade jewelry box crafted from paperclips.

For the Runner – Donation toward their Santa Speedo Run ($250 registration). A fairly new but already much-cherished Boston tradition, this year’s run benefits the Women’s Lunch Place, a daytime home for homeless women and children. You know you love watching semi-nude bi-gendered Santas run. Imagine if one of those Santas was your loved one.

For the Foodie – A whole season of farm-fresh fruits and veggies, sourced locally by The Food Project ($100-450). Band together with your housemates and look forward to weekly house dinners.

For Everyone – Share goodwill in your community whenever you shop online through iBakeSale. This national organization has a list of branded online retailers who will donate 2-7% of profits from your purchase to a participating, local nonprofit of your choice.

Got any other ideas? Share them here--I'd love to see what's out there

Cookies for Cancer

Cookies for Cancer
No, cookies aren't exactly the magic cure for cancer. Yet. (I have hope that cookies will solve everything from cancer to world peace. Yes, I'm an optimist.) However, you can get your cookie fix and donate to kids fighting cancer, all just with the click of your mouse.

Who's baking the cookies?
The group "Band of Parents" was formed by the parents of children who have a rare and very deadly form of cancer: neuroblastoma. According to their website, neuroblastoma affects approximately 650 children in the U.S. every year, but only about 30% of those diagnosed survive it. Because it's a relatively small population, pharmaceutical companies and government agencies are not funding research for this "orphan disease." That's where Band of Parents is stepping in.

The group provides a support group for one and other, and in addition to helping their own kids battle cancer, they're raising money to fund research on children's cancer at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York. In this case, they're doing something particularily sweet - baking cookies.

Buy. Your. Cookies. Now.
Who do you know who wouldn't love some homemade cookies? Who do you know who would love to help kids fight cancer? It's a win-win situation in this holiday season. Visit http://www.cookiesforkidscancer.org/Pages/Page.aspx for more information and to place your order.


Thanks to Heather Tyree at Epicurious.com for helping get the word out.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Social Media Adoption Higher for Non-Profits

I have a soft spot for the University of Massachusetts, as two of my siblings and I graduated from UMass Amherst and my sister is currently enrolled at UMass Dartmouth. Soft spot aside, a recent study by the Center for Marketing Research at UMass Dartmouth found that non-profits are more likely to use social media than Fortune 500 companies.

In fact, 75% of the surveyed non-profits utilize social media or Web 2.0 strategies to assist their fundraising and/or outreach efforts. And, non-profits are much more likely than Fortune 500 companies to blog!

Maybe it's just me, but I'm not that surprised. Corporate blogging opens up a whole can of worms. Non-profits are often smaller, perhaps with fewer regulations, than Fortune 500 companies... though this study did look at the largest US non-profits. Or, perhaps non-profits are more likely to pursue "free" marketing like social media.

Why do you think non-profits are more likely to use social media than other groups?


Study Details: The Center performed a telephone survey of the 200 non-profits named by Forbes Magazine as the largest US charities in 2006. Over 1/3 answered, which is a great response rate and makes the data statistically significant. More details are available at the Center for Marketing Research website.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Unrelated to everything except Santa Claus

This has nothing to do with non-profits. Or OYFP. Or volunteering. Or blogging. If I stretch it, it might have something to do with non-profits since it's a non-profit web address

Google Earth and NORAD have paired up to allow us to track Santa Claus as he travels around the world on Christmas Eve. Every day until Christmas, the website will feature a different game.

No, OYFP is not affiliated with any religion. But it is pretty cool that two huge organizations have paired up to help kids have a good Christmas (if they happen to celebrate Christmas).

Ho ho ho!

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Reflecting on Ourselves

I read an article today on Boston.com about white space. Basically, the article was pointing out that when we're working, we're doing ten things at once - writing an email, listening to a conference call, responding to our manager's question, thinking about lunch, etc. We don't have time to get our job done, nevermind think about the bigger picture of what we're doing.

I experience this both at work and when working on OYFP. Even now as I write this post, the football game is on, I'm uploading photos, reading an email about a floor hockey game, and I've answered my phone twice. Often I get caught up in the details instead of thinking about the organization as a whole.

So. How to solve this? Well, companies are creating "white space" where employees can think about a problem with no distractions, or maybe think about nothing at all. At my day job, they provide us with a game room. Sometimes the best ideas come in the middle of a ping pong game!

Maybe the time has come to create my own "white space" - I know OYFP would be better for it. Where do you go when you want to clear your mind? Do you have your own white space? Does your company provide white space for you?

Potluck Resources

Last night, OYFP executive board members had its first of what I hope will be an annual potluck. According to Wikipedia, the word potluck is of English in origin, and means roughly, "'whatever food one is lucky enough to find in the pot,' i.e. whatever food happens to be available, especially when offered to a guest." This puts a somewhat negative spin on it - "you're not special enough for me to make something tasty, but here, enjoy what i'm eating.. which happens to be Ramen."

Quite the opposite is true now, however. I specifically went to the store, purchased groceries, and made meatballs just for OYFP. I certainly did not just happen to have meatballs in a pot in my car. I'm sure the same went for everyone else who attended as well.

However. Let's go back to the original potluck theme, which can be more broadly interpreted as,
"whatever is available in a particular circumstance or at a particular time" [Wikipedia]. That sounds a lot like OYFP's MOA.

Yes, we're trying to change the world by getting more young people to volunteer. But in order to do that, we use whatever resources we have at hand. We do approach new vendors when hosting an event, but we have yet to really reach out and wholeheartedly pursue (or "go to the store") other resources, whether it be a non-profit consultant for the board, applying for grants, getting ourselves corporate sponsors, etc. The list goes on. It's hard when you're completely volunteer run, but I've had enough of that excuse.

We're doing great as a potluck organization, but we could be fantastic if we started to "pursue" new resources. What resources should you be pursuing?