Tag Archives: nonprofit

The volunteering religious (noun)

VolunteersIII stumbled upon this nifty little chart through Andrew Sullivan’s blog at The Atlantic. 63 million people, or 27% of the population, volunteered last year. That’s an incredible statistic. It shows just how involved Americans are in helping their communities/the world.

What’s even more telling is the proportion of volunteers by type of organization. Look at the blue section – Religious - and you’ll notice that just more than 1/3 of ALL volunteers put in their hours at a religious org. Again, an incredible statistic. But this chart is missing an important element: motivation.

How skewed would this chart be if we asked people about their deepest motivations for volunteering? So 34% of people volunteered at “religious” organizations. Let’s look at the next two categories. Education/youth service and community service. Why don’t we actually throw hospitals in there for good measure, since lots of hospitals are started and operated under the auspices of a particular faith group.

Even though community and youth service programs might be secular, there’s a fair chance that a lot of the folks who volunteer their time are religious. I don’t know of a faith tradition that says “Don’t go out and help people, it’s a waste of time.” Of course, this is all conjecture, but as we’ve seen, the most fervent and dedicated volunteers tend to be those who do so from a place of faith.

So next time, let’s measure motivation. The statistics that we uncover might be that much more incredible.

Philanthrocapitalism – The Year of Giving Dangerously

I saw this exciting piece over at Philanthrocapitalism about…philanthrocapitalism, of all things, in 2010. Here’s a super-good thing to put at #3:

3) Malaria will be the cause of the year, centered on the World Cup in South Africa. The Malaria No More campaign, backed by Bill Gates and a bunch of corporate sponsors including Rupert Murdoch’s Newscorp, has been gathering momentum in 2009 and its publicity is due to peak around the global media event of the year in the summer of 2010. With the world focused on Africa, political leaders and the continent’s super-rich will be under pressure to show that they are committed to the fight to stop this preventable disease that kills a million people a year.

via Philanthrocapitalism » The Year of Giving Dangerously.

It’s going to be a good year. :)

Playing with the big dogs, on Twitter and otherwise

Mark and I kicking it in Kibera
Mark and I kicking it in Kibera with some friends

There is no end to blog posts from experts declaring the need to “separate noise from signal” and “engage your community” while getting out there in social web promotion. As nonprofits, we understand this. No joke. We get it.

I spent 13 months with The 1010 Project in Denver, coordinating fundraising and our social web life. In July of 2009, I left The 1010 Project for a job with the Interfaith Youth Core and Tony Blair Faith Foundation. I now do a bit of consulting for The 1010 Project along with the former Director of Communication Mark Mann (now heading up Denvelopers), who handled all the coding and web design and SEO stuff. Since leaving, and with the benefit of distance (physical and otherwise), I have realized what we were really aiming for and accomplishing with our forays into the social web. Three milestones (we’ll use that word for now) have enabled me to take a look back and understand how we made things happen.

1. The 1010 Project came in 1st (disclaimer: it was an alphabetical list! :)) on Lon Cohen‘s list of “26 Charities on Twitter“, which attracted a lot of attention (and followers) on Mashable in April. We were in very, very good company on that list.

2. Follow Fridays have been good to the organization this year. We are regularly grouped into #FF tweets with other luminaries like charity:water, Save the Children, and the National Wildlife Federation.

3. Yasamin Beitollahi, a marketing strategist and Huffington Post blogger, included The 1010 Project in her “Tis the Season for Charitable Giving: 7 Extraordinary Nonprofits on Twitter“. Some of the other luminaries? LIVESTRONG, Habitat for Humanity, and Susan G. Komen For the Cure.

Compared to these other nonprofits, The 1010 Project lags behind in almost every conceivable dimension. Since our founding in 2003, we’ve spent (in total) less than many of these organizations spend in one month. We have (as of December 2009) just shy of 2000 followers on Twitter. How have we managed to play with the big dogs?

We’ve been genuine. We’ve been honest. The quote that begins this post is not so much something that we learned from other bloggers as it is something that came naturally to us, as a community-benefit organization. We simply translated what we would do face-to-face to what we would do digitally. We had conversations (a staple of successful “How to Tweet” posts), we told friends about other like-minded orgs, and we never for a minute harangued about ROI (return on investment) or anything like that.

As a humanitarian organization, we did what we knew was right. We connected with people, albeit through tweets. And those tweets have landed us friends/followers, digital evangelists, and some money. We played with the big dogs because we knew that digital tools are equalizers, and that having a human behind a URL can make a world of difference. By viewing the web as an extension of real life, we made those relationships work.

My thanks to The 1010 Project

Disclaimer: This post is selfish. It’s about the work I did with The 1010 Project from June 2008 to July 2009. More than that, it’s about the people that made that work beautiful. If you don’t want to hear about them, head to the next post. They are an inspiring bunch. This is something that I have to do.

Seriously, it’s gonna be a looooooooong post.

Like 2000 words long.

The 1010 Project

In June of 2008, I walked up a stairway in the Denver Community Church and into the office of The 1010 Project. I sat with the organization’s Executive Director Adam Delp (newly minted that March) and chit-chatted about what the org. was up to, what its work in Kenya entailed, and how I might best “plug in” to that work. I was pursuing a grantwriting internship. Having already written a (albeit small) grant while at Aurora University, I figured I had an edge. Adam asked me when I could start.

On my one-year anniversary with The 1010 Project, I climbed Mt. Longonot, an extinct volcano in the Great Rift Valley of Kenya. Adam wasn’t with me (he was biking through Hell’s Gate National Park), but I was in the company of other people from The 1010 Project as well as folks from one of our partner churches. As I stood on the rim and looked out across the valley, I thought of the strange constellation of factors that had brought me to Kenya and to my future work as a Faiths Act Fellow with the Interfaith Youth Core.

When I came to The 1010 Project, our office was…unique. An executive transition in March had left things in a slightly-confused mode, but Adam and Mark Mann, the Director of Communications, were doing a great job of rebuilding and strengthening the organization. By the time I came on board, the post-election violence in Kenya had subsided, and we were designing new accountability instruments. I headed a team tasked with producing grant proposals and letters of inquiry. Up to that point, we had never received foundation funding; I was determined to change that. And so it went.

I found myself staying long, long hours at the office, writing, editing, collaborating and finding any other way that I could help the organization’s work. We embarked on an aggressive social media marketing campaign. We rebranded The 1010 Project during winter and produced training documents and continuity papers. By the time February of this year rolled around, I was managing a few interns of my own (I’ve never been comfortable calling myself an intern; I prefer “unpaid staff”). We were enjoying unparalleled success digitally. One of the grant proposals turned into $18775 in the bank. We were thriving.

And in June I headed to Kenya with The 1010 Project to meet the people for whom I had been working for for so long. It was clear to me on the ground that the work we were doing in Denver was having a lasting and positive effect on communities in Kenya. It was an amazing trip. I returned to Denver and began editing and organizing content from the trip and doing what I could to prepare the next group of committed interns to continue my work. My acceptance into the Faiths Act Fellowship was, I am sure, heavily dependent upon my work with The 1010 Project, and I needed to give back to the organization that had “made” me a future nonprofit junkie.

My last day at the office was yesterday, Friday, July 24. I leave in three days for my new job. Part of me wants to look back over the past year at all that I accomplished (usually as part of a team) that has made The 1010 Project shine. But in casting my eye backwards, I don’t see anything but the people who made my time there shine.

Adam Delp - He’s a Midwestern boy like myself. Early on (during my interview) we had an interesting discussion about the differences between a faith-based humanitarian organization (WorldVision and the like) and a faith-motivated organization (The 1010 Project).  As I came to know Adam personally and professionally, I found that his passion for helping the less fortunate was truly an outgrowth of his religious convictions. Once, after a particularly lengthy strategy meeting, he constructed a “web of reasoning,” an advocacy tool for the different ways in which to make the case for poverty alleviation, e.g. economic, political, human rights, etc. When he came to “Religion,” he explained the Christian basis for helping the poor, but blanked on how the argument could be presented to other religions. In my best “Interfaith Organizer” mode, he and I discussed how faith has often been a driver for positive social change, and how each tradition has its own ideas about why the destitute must be cared for. It was an inspiring discussion. Adam was the best kind of boss – one that trusted me to take initiative without direction and to make things happen, but who still checked in to make sure that I was alright. He didn’t think it was silly to inquire as to his employees’ “persons”. He taught me a lot about administration and international development. Good boss, greater friend.

Mark Mann – Mark runs the communications and marketing side of things, and has been with The 1010 Project for almost as long as Adam. I remember the first time Mark asked me to help write something for the website. He knew I came from a writing and research background – I was a grantwriter – and he thought I might be of use. Thus began my work with content creation and editing. We were a good team: Mark would create a newsletter in the blink of an eye and then let me fine-tune it. At the same time, he was teaching me some small part of his encyclopedic knowledge of PHP, CSS, HTML, and all other web-tools. Mark’s one of those guys that can build a beautiful website in 15 minutes – from scratch. I’m one of those guys who can fill a whole website with stories in 15 minutes. We complemented each other well. I knew that if I needed some crazy banner or some other design-piece, Mark would have it in my inbox before I even finished describing what I wanted. He’s that good. And he didn’t just help me in the office. This blog is a testament to his patience with me. Whenever I’m missing a <head> tag or can’t find a widget, he’s there with the answer. And Mark, too, became something far more than a boss. He’s a great friend and ally. We have inside jokes, some of them about Adam.

Katie Sewell – Katie came on board as our Advocacy and Outreach Coordinator a little while after I joined The 1010 Project. Katie recently completed her Master of Social Work degree at the University of Denver. At the same time, she received her Master of Divinity. Katie is a preacher. I mean that in every possible way. We’ve had a cheerfully antagonistic relationship from the get-go. She thinks I’m a madman, I think she’s too curious. But for all our banter, she’s never been too busy to have “moments” with me outside the regular flow of work to figure out what’s happening in my personal life. And although she has refused, by choice or by chance, to understand Twitter, I know that she understands far more of our work than she lets on. This became clear to me in Kenya. I had never thought Katie was much for the international development side of the work – her focus had always been on networking and advocacy. But on the ground, meeting with out partners, Katie grew wings. She was efficient, thoughtful, and thorough in gathering impact assessments. She understands the power of stories, and never missed a chance to delve a little deeper into some of our friends’ lives. Her questions were always well-appreciated, and the data that she gathered will be immensely helpful for our advocacy work. She lives to empower others. Katie’s a tough kid, and even though I doubt that she’ll read this, I hope she understands how much I’ve valued her time with us.

Ryan Linstrom – Ryan is our video guy. I recall his title as being something like “Design Coordinator”. Although he hasn’t been around lately (he’s currently studying in Jerusalem), he certainly produced some beautiful things for us. Ryan was a student at the Korbel School like me, and his wife works for a local charity. He dresses like a hipster, which we made fun of to no end (note: I secretly wish I could dress like a hipster). For the longest time, I only thought that Ryan produced still images – he made really interesting flyers and had a way with texture-work that I’ve rarely seen repeated. One day, I came into the office and Adam asked me if I wanted to see the new video Ryan had made. I did not expect him to have created something that soon! The video is 1:43 long and features some beautiful music and a bunch of great pictures and video of our Kenyan partners. The message of the video is that it only takes on person [YOU] to break the cycle of poverty. I remember crying at the end of the video and trying to shake a strong body buzz. He had created something powerful that has stuck with me for many, many months. I still get misty when I watch it. Ryan’s also big on stories, and whether he’s telling them in print or in moving pictures, they are amazing. Oh, did I mention he’s also an amazing photographer?

Emily Ruppel – So one day an intern showed up in the office. Her name was Emily, and she had only recently returned to the United States from the Peace Corps…in Kenya. What an asset! She lived for over a year in the very place where we did our poverty-eradication work! Emily seemed to have near perfect knowledge of East Africa. She, too, was a student at the Korbel School. She’s a hard worker, to say the least. When she came in, she decided to reform and renovate our entire data-collection and impact assessment system, as well as streamline our Kenya-to-Denver communication systems. BAM! Just like that. While working on the grant that we ended up winning, she proved invaluable, providing me with lots of data and thoughts from our partners’ proposals. Without her, it wouldn’t have happened. And she became a celebrity during our visit to Kenya, often taking the lead with monetary negotiations, teaching Kiswahili, and helping us to figure out the local culture. Her guidance was invaluable. She stayed in Kenya this summer to work on a massive health project. Someday, when she’s the Director of USAID, I hope she’ll remember the guy at The 1010 Project who had a million questions about foreign aid instruments, Kenyan cuisine, and life.

Jackie - She started out as our Special Events Coordinator. She’s enormously intelligent and gets all the silly jokes that I make about international politics. Oh, she as well is a student at Korbel. Jackie is in Kenya this summer interning for an NGO that works with community-based groups, organizing a massive women’s conference and helping out at a local orphanage. Working alongside her has been an enriching and hilarious experience. Also, she’s my girlfriend. :)

So many more people for whom I cannot continue writing paragraphs! I apologize. Keith, who has done more strategizing than any other human I’ve met. Matt, who co-lead the grantwriting team until his departure to study abroad. Jenny, who balances our books. Fred, who manages our work in-country, and whose house is always open to those in need. Jessie, Betsy, Micah, Jennifer, Erica, the guys at Elias Fund, James, other Mark, Yvonne, Rachel, Megan and everyone else who put up with my outbursts and still sought my advice at the end of the day – thank you.

Oh, here I am, waxing on at just shy of 2000 words about the people who have changed my world for the better. I am reminded of the story behind The 1010 Project’s name. It comes from the Bible, in the Book of John, where Jesus states that people should have life, and have it to the fullest. The work of the organization is guided by the belief that we can help our friends in Kenya, community by community, family by family, and person by person, to live life to the fullest.

My friends and coworkers at The 1010 Project have done that for me – they have helped me to live my life to the fullest extent. You won’t find a more professional or committed team. I cannot thank them enough.

Kenya Series – The Myth of Western Superiority

I’ve been with The 1010 Project for a little over a year. At the same time, I was working my way through graduate school at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver. At the office, I learned about humanitarian work by doing, and through discussions with those who had been with the organization for some time. At school, I learned about international development by reading and listening to others who had been in the field for years. Some of my teachers in both settings were from America, some from Africa, and some from other parts of the world.

I was presented with the argument that “fixing” the problems in the developing world is best left to the “experts” in the West. It is assumed, or “proved” through analysis that the West knows best. While I was presented with evidence both for and against this theory in school, I found my real answer in the work that I was doing with The 1010 Project. The founder of the organization, Andrew Syed, was fond of saying (paraphrased) the following:

People in America have this picture of people in Africa standing there with their hands open, waiting for someone to come and help them, to rescue them. That picture couldn’t be farther from the truth. Africans, as well as the rest of the developing world’s people, are already hard at work in their communities affecting change from the bottom-up.

He’s right. We often say at the office that we don’t provide handouts or a hand-up, but that we extend a helping hand. That means “listening to, learning from, and humbly serving alongside the true experts in the development field – the poor.” On our last visit to Kenya, during one of our various meetings with community-based organizations, I realized (suddenly) that I wasn’t teaching them anything. Our Kenyan partners were explaining everything to us!

Whether it was previously-unknown microfinance instruments, or how to cook building bricks out of mud and rock, or how to provide healthcare and antiretroviral drugs to those with HIV/AIDS, our team was truly learning alongside experts. In fact, they laughed at us when we didn’t understand concepts that to a resident of Kenya might seem laughably simple. And we laughed right along with them, not just because they were right, but because we were friends.

Towards the end of our stay in Kenya, I was reading an op-ed in Business Daily Africa called “Time to attack myth of Western superiority.” It was written by Eveline Herfkens, the founder of the UN Millennium Campaign and former Dutch Minister for Development Co-operation. She said that in recent years, it was inspiring to see “… Africans stand up against the insulting paternalism of some parts of the international aid community.”

It was a great article, and it reaffirmed my belief in one of her exhortations:

It is high time to attack the underlying myth of Western superiority: we lecture —you listen; we give —you receive; we know—you learn; we take care of things— because you can’t.

If my short time in Kenya taught me anything, it’s that the myth of Western superiority is on the way out. Humanitarian organizations in the West and beyond have learned (most of them), that partnering with social entrepreneurs in the developing world and developing friendships with them can be a powerful way to affect change. I couldn’t agree more.

From: Beth’s Blog: How Nonprofits Can Use Social Media: Frank Barry, Guest Post: 4 Keys to Building a Successful Nonprofit Web Site

I especially liked #4, which is one of the things that I’m proud to have helped The 1010 Project with:

4) Make Yourself Easy to Find on the Social Web

Sites like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube (know about the new nonprofit call to action), LinkedIn and Flickr are becoming exceedingly important to any nonprofits online presence. It’s likely your organization is already using one or more of these social networks to engage with supporters, spread your message or raise money. Chris Brogan likes to call these places “outposts”. Your main website should highlight your presence on these sites so that your readers can connect with you in social ways online – they want to get to know you and they want to see that you are doing creative things in fundraising.

via Beth’s Blog: How Nonprofits Can Use Social Media: Frank Barry, Guest Post: 4 Keys to Building a Successful Nonprofit Web Site.

In my experience, “outposts” can make or break a nonprofit’s web-presence.

Graduate School

A few months back, I read (with a somewhat horrified face) and commented on Penelope Trunk’s Brazen Careerist post “Don’t try to dodge the recession with grad school.” It’s a silly post, really, full of lovely little bits of wisdom like “Law school is a factory for depressives” or “Going to grad school is like going into the military.” I usually enjoy Penelope’s stuff, if for nothing else than her honest, self-effacing style. This post was different.

My comments were less than supportive. Her gist was that graduate degrees require overinvestment of both money and time. Money, being tight in a recession, is pretty important. Time, according to her, can best be spent at other jobs, even those outside one’s experience or comfort level. We are reminded of people who try something different and in doing “figure out what they always wanted to do but didn’t know they wanted to do but can now do with their whole heart.” She recounts working on a French chicken farm and the non-traditional learning that she did while working in the coop. It helped her along her path.

I stand now at the end of two years of graduate school at a prestigious school and an even more prestigious program. I’m dozens of thousands of dollars in the hole. I couldn’t be happier.

When I completed a year-long resident fellowship after finishing my undergraduate work, I knew that my skillsets were incomplete. I needed to know how to do interesting things. I needed to meet interesting people. Something told me that graduate school would guide me. And it did – I’ve made some outstanding connections, professional and nonprofessional, that will serve me very well in the future. I’ve made friends. I coordinate fundraising and social media for a local humanitarian organization (as it turns out, I have a passion for international development). I can write grants and I know the social web pretty well. I have a job waiting for me in San Jose, CA where I’ll be working to eradicate malaria.

Did I spend two years well? Sure! Could I have done so more cheaply and still found my passion(s)? Certainly! Now I refer back to Penelope’s post and think even less of it. Graduate school shouldn’t be for everybody, but to come out and lambaste it (with plenty of support – check the comments) is shortsighted. I don’t know a single person who’s dodged the recession by furthering their education and networking, and I doubt that I ever will.

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Eradicating Malaria With the Tony Blair Faith Foundation

Hello web-friends,

I have been appointed to my dream job and I need your help to make it rock.

I have been selected to join the Faiths Act Fellows, a cadre of 30 young interfaith leaders in the US, UK, and Canada who will spend August 2009-June 2010 working to promote malaria eradication. This is a brand-new program which will operate under the auspices of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation (yes, THAT Tony Blair) and the Interfaith Youth Core. It’s all fantastically exciting! I’ll be traveling to London at the end of July (farewell, Denver) for induction and training. Then it’s off to a malaria hotspot in Africa for on-the-ground work. We finish with training in Chicago. I report for duty to the Islamic Networks Group in San Jose, CA on October 1st. My job will be recruiting faith communities, and especially young people of faith, to work towards malaria eradication. Getting rid of this wicked mosquito-borne sickness can be done!

It goes without saying that I will utilize the fluid world of social media in order to reach these goals. I blog, tweet, and share most things, so this will be no different. I will be relying on my network (all of you) to help me spread the word and find kinds of people who can partner with me to get things done.

I’m short on the finer points and details, and for that I apologize. As a first order of business, I need to know ANYTHING about San Jose. My first ever trip to California is this Saturday when I attend the Nonprofit Technology Conference, so any advice/thoughts are welcome.

Post what you will, and send this one far and wide – the more, the merrier!

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Of Advertising and Return

A little while ago, I caught a tweet from @davewiner pointing out that super web-guy and blog-champ @jasoncalacanis was offering Twitter $10000/month to be on the “Suggested Users” list. I retweeted it and offered Mr. Calacanis $5000/month to relentlessly promote him and his work. I wasn’t entirely serious, and I’m convinced that my response was out of line. But that is neither here nor there.

Calacanis responded to @davewiner, clarifying that the offer was payable in advance for two years’ standing on the “Suggested Users” list. Do the math. That’s $250000 for a presence on a list for a service that hasn’t completely figured itself out (this is largely due to the fact that Twitter morphs on an hourly basis!). Calacanis is entirely justified in wanting a spot – Twitter continues to explode, and as more and more people come to it, they’ll likely check the Suggested list for who to follow.

But I’m not so sure that dumping a quarter of a million dollars on the “Suggested Users” list is the best way to promote his stuff. If Mr. Calacanis was serious about attracting not only regular web-users but also the people new to the social web, he could find better ways to spend the money. Why not “blow” the money on anti-malarial bednets; 25000 bednets is a lot of safe families in the developing world. Such a gift would generate immediate mainstream media attention, and the story would certainly get around on Twitter. $250000 would also start a lot of businesses in the developing world (shameless plug there).

I’m not questioning his methods, and I’m certainly not complaining about his advertising budget. But if he wanted to make a big splash, both in terms of regular and web-media, there are many “Suggested Awesome Things” that he could do instead.

Quick Responses and Warm Bodies

I’m helping to organize some malaria awareness events on campus this quarter and the next, and I had the bright idea to find a real anti-malarial anti-mosquito bednet. Not having any idea where I might find such a thing, I contacted my point-person at the Tony Blair Faith Foundation, who promptly beeped someone at Malaria No More.

When I walked into my apartment this evening, there was a strangely-shaped package waiting for me. It was from the kind folks at Malaria No More. It has been exactly 4.5 days since I inquired as to where I might find a bednet. Note: It is Monday right now.

The package contained not only a real-life anti-malarial bednet (to use in demonstrations on campus), but also a full press/marketing package: postcards, toolkits, promotional materials, sample PRs and sign-ups, and a whole lot more. There was even a copy of last year’s annual report.

What a fantastic experience. It’s not like Malaria No More is working overtime to keep me as a “customer;” they lose nothing if I look for bednets elsewhere. They aren’t counting on me to write a lengthy blog post about how nice they are. They saw a need, a resource gap, and they rushed to fill it, not for personal gain, but to inspire and support an activist who wants to make a difference. I now have far greater capacity to plan for our upcoming events, and I know that I can count on these people.

Awesome.

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