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Posts tagged ‘nonprofits’

Links to my former Patch.com weekly column

The weekly Patch.com column that I was assigned to was on “caregivers,” and the editor and I chose to use that term very broadly. Here are the articles I wrote for that column…

[This column was syndicated throughout several communities in Florida]

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The Poverty Experience: Building Awareness = Compassion = Potential Solutions

My latest Patch.com article: http://palmharbor.patch.com/articles/caregivers-help-communities-understand-the-hardships-of-poverty-723a8df3

More than one in six Floridians are living in poverty — the highest the state poverty rate has been in more than a decade, according to census figures recently released.

Sixteen percent of Floridians were below the poverty level in 2010, up from 14.6 percent in 2009, reflecting a continuation of a steady climb in recent years. Florida’s 2010 rate is the highest it has been since 1995, when it was 16.2 percent. The census data reflect the first full calendar year after the recession of December 2007 to June 2009. (Poverty rates published for local counties in 2009 included: Pinellas County, 13.3 percent; Hillsborough County, 15.2 percent; Pasco County, 13.2 percent; Manatee County, 14.4. percent; Sarasota County, 12.7 percent.)

As for today, October 2011, anecdotal evidence from local social service providers and unemployment statistics paints a picture that is increasingly bleak. This portrait has poverty levels rising even more day by day in response to our country’s current economic recession.

Understanding Leads to Solutions

JWB Children’s Services Council of Pinellas County (JWB) recently partnered with Angelica Norton, founder and CEO of Seed Sowing Sister to create an innovative curriculum, The Poverty Experience. I had the opportunity to participate in The Poverty Experience a few months ago at The Hispanic Leadership Council’s annual conference, and the experience was profound.

The Poverty Experience is a simulation that lasts one hour — 15 minutes equals a day, and families are formed among groups of one to five strangers randomly assigned individual scenarios including age, income and needs of specific family members, rent payments and medical expenses.

Initially, participants are calm, exploring the long lines, politely smiling at one another, moving from station to station to buy food, pay rent, get food stamps, pawn belongings, get to doctor’s offices and buy bus passes.

That’s only for the first 15 minutes. After that, the simulation begins to hit home. People begin to realize they can’t make it. They have not had time and/or money to buy food. They keep getting sent to the back of long lines. They run out of money for transportation. Children wander off in the crowd, and the police remove the children from the families, charging them with abandonment and neglect. People get evicted from their homes because their rent is past due.

The behavior of the crowd changes. They rush from line to line and get annoyed when another person gets a job and they get turned down. Jealousy sinks in. Actual frustration and a sense of urgency take over, and the lightbulb goes off — this is how many of our neighbors live every day.

Core Hardships of Poverty

Five core problems arise when individuals are struggling in poverty. These include:

  1. Affordable housing
  2. Adequate food
  3. Transportation
  4. Affordable child care
  5. Access to communication: phones, addresses, email, Internet, etc.

Without these needs being met consistently, poverty can turn quickly into a downward spiral of progressive illnesses, homelessness and legal issues, including the potential of losing custody of children due to inadequate child care. I have included a video with this article (see above). Benjamin Kirby, communications director of JWB, interviews Jane Walker, executive director of Daystar Life Center, and they discuss many of these issues along with some real solutions.

Bring the Experience to Your Group

The Poverty Experience simulation is available to groups in the Tampa Bay area and throughout the nation. The simulation is designed to help deepen understanding and compassion, which often sparks solution-building.

To bring the simulation to your group, contact Angelica Norton, executive director of Seed Sowing Sister, at seedsowingsister@gmail.com; or Shelba Waldron, training manager of JWB Children’s Services Council of Pinellas County, at swaldron@jwbpinellas.org.

Caregivers Help Homeless Families Regain Independence

Dear All: Here is my latest published article through Patch.com. Please check it out, and feel free to leave a comment on the Patch site–I always respond.

Homelessness among children and families is a growing problem in the Tampa Bay area, and there are many opportunities to help serve this community.

Imagine being a child again. For many, this brings back memories of a simpler time, including days at school, your family home, gatherings with friends and relatives, and exploring the world from your own backyard.

Now, imagine being a child who is homeless, and think about how that picture changes.

In 2010, this was the reality of 49,886 children in Florida. In the Tampa Bay area, the most recent data collected reveal that of the 6,235 individuals who were homeless in Pinellas County, 32 percent were children, and in Hillsborough County, 23 percent of the 17,755 homeless individuals were children.

Full story: http://palmharbor.patch.com/articles/caregivers-help-homeless-families-regain-independence-4

Cause Marketing–transformative communicating

As a long-time professional in the nonprofit industry, specifically focusing on substance abuse and mental illness issues, this is a subject I know well–cause marketing. While it is a subject I know well, it’s interesting that I am witness to the fact that few grassroots organizations participate in cause marketing at all. In fact, most of the experience I have acquired in this particular realm of nonprofits was due in great part to my instance that perhaps the organization just try it out. Just consider that it might possibly be helpful to market and that no harm could come of it. Strange, you may think, as all businesses know that marketing is critical to building and sustaining a brand and loyal followers/customers, right? Well, nonprofits are a rare breed of business.

Many nonprofits have become so accustomed to receiving direct referrals from institutions such as courts, jails, prisons, shelters and hospitals that marketing only consisted of maintaining those long-term relationships with a select few funding entities and referral sources. Keeping staff salaries and program expenses covered was a job for grant writers and development and managed care officers. Well, if anyone has been paying attention, there’s not so much money going around in grant land these days, and philanthropy is a dark, dry, empty place. That’s not to say that these resources don’t still exist, but the landscape and substance is changing, making these funding options less lucrative and far more restrictive when the money does arrive. For instance, you might have luck getting your program funded, but good luck repairing that leaky roof or paying for all of the unfunded mandates the grant requires such as tracking and reporting complex outcomes and participant statistics, etc.

Enter the solution of cause marketing! Here’s what marketers for centuries have known:

  1. Develop a quality product and/or service
  2. Wrap around solid and reliable development and delivery methods–make sure your customers can get what they want within reasonable time frames consistently
  3. Make certain there is a method of quality customer service provided to address customer needs and concerns
  4. Ensure that the products and/or services available are of high quality and competitively priced
  5. …and we the marketers will make sure that specific target audiences know the product and/or service is here, that it is valuable to the market and that it solves or changes something for the better–marketers help solidify the branding among target markets and build a culture for customers to walk in the door and keep walking in the door.This str

This formula is no different for nonprofits. Go ahead and market. Pay attention to the unique needs of your target markets and develop services to answer those needs. They will pay for it. That’s how supply and demand works. Go out on a limb and be daring, and go all the way. Don’t hold back, because reservation is the house of failure. It’s okay that you’ve never done it this way before–dream big and charter new grounds. Be the innovators and leaders in your field. Let the public and your target markets know you are here, listening to them,  responsive to them and are committed to answering their needs.

If you’re a nonprofit who serves populations experiencing poverty, then give your philanthropic pleas a face-lift. Remember Twain’s story of  “Tom Sawyer and the White Washed Fence.” Make giving to your cause something special, an honor for philanthropists to be a part of. Stop begging and instead be exactly what they want to support. Find out what your target philanthropists value most, and ensure that you organization mirrors those values. And all the while seek out cues from for-profit businesses to assist in generating income. Create jobs and help develop skills within your service population by developing a business venture. Market the whole package to venture capitalists and to the community, soliciting cash contributions for seed money. Do NOT think outside of the box, whatever that means. Throw the box away and create a real solution, and market that.

Cause marketing should be the new development trend within nonprofits to help them reinvent themselves and transform their services to better meet the needs and changes of the culture here and now.

Daphne’s List of 7: How 2 Hire a Freelancer

From both angles–as a freelancer and someone who needs a freelancer–it’s critical that the working relationship is a good match for both parties. Too often employers have professional needs that fall out of scope of a particular freelancer’s offerings, but they tray to talk them into fulfilling these needs just the same. Likewise, too often freelancers agree to take on projects that fall out of scope of their niche business making for an uncomfortable mix. This is a recipe for disaster. Decide up-front as an employer, what your expectations are from a freelancer. As a freelancer, decide up-front what your menu of professional offerings are so that it’s easy for you to say no when asked to go out-of-bounds of your niche. 

Other potential pitfalls include making sure personalities, work ethic, communication styles and dedication to common goals match. These don’t need to match in a way that mirror the other but in a way that compliments the other. To this end, here are seven tips to help both employers and freelancers decide if there’s a mutually beneficial match before signing that binding contract, committing you together.

  1. Discuss specific needs and expectations. As an employer, have a list of the types of services you would like the freelancer to undertake and what types of outcomes you expect. Be clear about these expectations. Also, be open to negotiate on certain services and tasks that the freelancer may not be willing or able to undertake. Understand that you may find a great match from a freelancer who can fulfill a percentage of the needs you’ve outlined and you may either contract elsewhere or agree for the freelancer to subcontract for the additional services required. As a freelancer, be clear, firm and consistent about the menu of services you can provide. Be realistic about your skills, experience and time available, and consider having a network of other specialists you can refer or subcontract with to potentially fulfill other needs a client may have that you don’t offer.
  2. Date before marriage. Try a single project or a small batch of multiple projects prior to committing to a long-term working contract. Think of it like dating before marriage. Employers and freelancers need an opportunity to work together on projects to see if their styles and offering match well. When you begin working on projects, examine aspects of the partnership that will impact future projects if you both decide to move forward in a working relationship. In particular, observe matching or complimentary values such as punctuality and adhering to deadlines, frequency and styles of communication, creativity, problem-solving, innovation, leadership and project management systems, etc. While most people value all of these, many will value some more than others. For instance, perhaps an employer values a freelancer’s leadership and innovation and can deal with flexed internal deadlines once in a while as another employer demands strict adherence to deadlines but is less concerned with creativity. Likewise a freelancer may require a specific communication style and frequency and is less concerned with an employer’s project management system. A trial project will help the employer and freelancer examine if this professional relationship is a good fit and makes parting ways on good terms if things don’t work out well much easier.
  3. The contract. Write it, discuss it in detail, sign it and stick to it. Determine what money is needed upfront with projects to seal the deal. Often freelancers will require up to 50% down, especially at the beginning of a professional relationship. This is important for the freelancer to cover some operating costs while working on projects and to help ensure that the employer/freelancer commitment is firm on a project. It is less likely that an employer will pull the plug on a project if there’s already money invested in it. Also, freelancers tend to be more responsive to employers who have already invested financially in their work. This is especially true at the beginning of the employer/freelancer relationship. Include in the contract items such as ownership of intellectual property and copyrights, confidentiality expectations, deadlines both internal and external, specific pieces of the project that need to be completed to make the whole, what fatal flaws can break the contract from the perspective of the employer and the freelancer. If anything has been promised free of cost or is required free of cost, include it here.
  4. Experience and Inexperience. Check references, portfolios, ask pointed questions to determine experience and knowledge–from both the freelancer and the employer. Employers need to know the credibility and experience of the freelancers they hire, and freelancers need to know the same from employers. It’s perfectly great to work with start-up employers and freelancers who are cutting their teeth. Just know that this is what you’re doing, and do so with the intention of supporting that start-up. Anticipate that some minor mistakes may be made at the start, but know that you can help one another grow together. If you’re working with a start-up from either end of the spectrum, expect that the services will cost a little less. Discounts should be involved to compensate for inevitable missed internal deadlines and struggles with communication, etc. If the mistakes are too frequent or troublesome to overlook, from either the employer or the freelancer, the aforementioned trial project is a good way to check this out and perhaps decide to part ways easily afterwards. If after the trial period the employer who has enjoyed the benefits of discounted quality work wishes to move forward with the start-up freelancer, that employer should expect the rates to raise up to industry standards–if not immediately then in the very near future.
  5. Payment. Both parties need to be specific about terms of payment. Timeframes. Whether this will be based on a retainer, fee for projects, hourly rate, etc., this needs to be pre-determined and honored. Discuss payment for meetings and consultations, phone calls and other forms of communication on project(s) and travel/mileage and other potential expenses such as copying, printing, etc. If terms need to change due to unforseen circumstances, this needs to be communicated immediately, preferably with options that will be beneficial to the party that is NOT changing the terms.
  6. Conflicts of Interest. Discuss and have in the contract anything that would be considered a conflict of interest for both parties. As an employer, you will want to ensure that your freelancer will not utilize any proprietary information you provide to them with your potential competitors. This may include having the freelancer agree to not work with your competitors while under contract with you. As a freelancer, you may need to make it clear to your employer(s) what types of projects you will not be able to undertake due to potential conflicts of interest. This may include developing marketing plans for similar businesses in similar markets simultaneously. Open, honest communication and signed conflict of interest clauses are very helpful to avoid this common pitfall
  7. Parting Ways. Do everything possible to part ways on positive terms. This does not mean avoiding direct communication when things go wrong or communicating any dissatisfaction. What it does mean is to ensure that one is not slandering the other publicly and that communication never turns abusive, harmful or threatening. Do not threaten lawsuits or demand refunds unless the infraction is so significant that these circumstances are unavoidable. Understand that most things go bad due to miscommunication and misunderstandings or even uncontrollable events. This knowledge should bring at least a small sense of compassion that might lend to at least civil and polite communication and the amiacable dissolution of a professional relationship. At all times, remember, your reputation is always on the line each time to speak ill of another.

Daphne Taylor Street’s Resume (2 page visual version)

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