Tag Archives: nonprofit

Book Review: Make the Impossible Possible

I was finally able to procure a copy, through inter-library loan, of a book I’ve been wanting to read since I first heard Bill Strickland speak at the Housing Colorado NOW! affordable housing conference a few years back. At that time, I heard that he would be retelling his inspiring story about building a craftsman/job training center, Manchester Bidwell, in an upcoming book.

Bill Strickland has to be one of the most innovative social enterprise thinkers working in the non-profit world today. In sum, the book describes one man’s desire to create inspiration in inner-city Pittsburgh through arts, music, and job skills, imbued with personal passion, plenty of high-culture references, and philosophical and practical thoughts, all while relaying his own rise from inner-city single-motherdom to struggling college student to nonprofit founder to pilot to larger-than-life nonprofit celebrity.

For those that have heard Bill Strickland speak, the first chapter will bring back (verbatim) memories of his slides and the stories he tells in an hour-long journey, full of wonder and amazement at how he’s turned job skills training into life-turnaround-experiences.

I was reminded that, for me, there was something almost too good to be true about his inspiration—that perhaps in his passion to provide nourishment for others’ souls, somehow his own has been forgotten along the way. Without a doubt, his ideas about turning abject disappointment into a land of opportunity have been overwhelmingly successful for many participants, and given Manchester/Pittsburg a reason and a place to celebrate.

The economic driver behind many of Manchester Bidwell’s corporate partnerships, are, as Strickland admits, perhaps questionnable to some in the non-profit industry. However, “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” still goes a long way toward making an impact. Mahchester Bidwell seems almost solely built on partnerships with corporations who need specific employees, or on start-up programs that fulfill niche markets–be they orchid-growing or medical paraprofessional training.

This low-tech book is a good reminder to not only go back to the basics, but to really examine the desired end result of a project in order to be sure that you’re not just following the tried-and-true. I’ve in no way done it justice, so I recommend reading Making the Impossible Possible as the best way to be inspired to apply the Manchester Bidwell lessons in your own world.

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Teens & Media

Mobile technologies are a great way to reach teen audiences.
Even if you aren’t pondering a texting campaign, the following provide some pretty good insights to the changing world around us.

See slides of the Nielsen report findings, Kids on the Go: Mobile Usage by U.S. Teens and Tweens is a 2008 report from Nielsen Mobile that finds:
58% of tweens who download or watch TV on their phone do so at home;
64% of tweens who download or play music on their phone do so at home;
56% of tweens who access the Internet on their phone do so at home.

Another excerpt of the report says:
46% of tweens use cell phones.
On average, kids get their own cell phone between the ages of 10 and 11.
55% of tweens who own a cell phone send text messages and 21% download ringtones.

The report itself seems a bit elusive, but Nielsen’s How Teens Use Media (registration required) is from June 2009 and covers a broad spectrum of media, not just cell phones and texting.

Some surprising findings include:
Teens spend less time browsing the internet than adults.
TV watching is NOT being abandoned in favor of new media.
Teens read newspapers and magazines, and are still attracted by ads, and are the largest segment of movie-goers.
The typical U.S. teenager sends and receives nearly 100 text messages a day.
Of course they consume a lot of media–teens are early adopters of all technology, thus the term ‘digital native.’

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It’s Not about Fundraising

I know I said this wasn’t going to be about fundraising, so you’ll be surprised that I’m recommending this book to anyone delving into 2.0 for NPOs:
People to People Fundraising: Social Networking & Web 2.0 for Charities
by Ted Hart, James M. Greelfield, and Sheeraz D. Haji

The first section of the book was so relevant to first forays into the online world. The articles talk about relationship-building, that age-old adage that’s the First Rule of Fundraising. And that’s where social networking comes in–how will you ever be able to fundraise from an online community if you don’t have one?!

The book isn’t a ‘how-to’ but rather presents lots of great examples and ideas, and some simple ‘big picture’ steps to getting started in Web 2.0.

For example,
Are your websites…..?
Usable
Communicating two ways
Responsive to giving, volunteering, and learning needs
Optimized in search engines to locate you
Transparent
Accessible

Interactive websites spur action. You can engage advocates, maybe not in the traditional since of political advocacy, but to market your cause. Here’s how: User-contributed content engages even more people who are interested–it’s the power of the group, and the incentive to be recognized and compete–you’ve seen this happen with forwarding of emails. Well, this is the same concept. Organizations just become the host, who can drive the content but don’t control it. (Take a deep breath…ride the wave…we’re figuring out what message control looks like in Web 2.0 together!)

A tip: Take your content to the people–don’t wait for them to come to your website. What does that mean? Set up a Facebook page, find other sites similar to your mission and engage on them, participate in blogs or groups….don’t worry–the first step is understanding the CONCEPT of not having your website be the end-all-be-all of information.

The internet is here to stay. It’s not a matter of non-profits choosing to get on board with new technologies, it’s a matter of when. Starting something, anything, is good, but there’s also an evolution to be aware of–that supporters who are online at 3AM can also be cultivated, join groups, and even rise to your highest level of engagement via personalized content and a one-to-one (as opposed to the internet’s, and many websites, initial one-to-many) relationship.

Providing multiple ways and portals for people to get involved is important, too. Here’s a good way to know if you’re trying the ‘right’ thing–does it make you say ‘COOL!’?, illustrating that first impressions are still important in the online world.

P.S. For those of you who really did come just for the fundraising info, I’m going to be checking out these ‘social networking fundraising’ portals: FirstGiving, Change.org, JustGiving, and Kintera. Theses site provide online tools that allow your supporters to raise money for you. The catch is that they of course charge for providing you with this opportunity!

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