Thursday, September 27, 2012

3 Ways to Turn Your Non-Profit's Presence Into Presents

I was recently tapped to be a guest blogger for the folks at Benchmark Email, and I'm incredibly proud to be among the contributors they have on their site. (Seriously, to share the same screen as Chris Brogan?!)

My first post is part of Benchmark's "Presence for Non-Profits" series. I'd love for you to check it out and let us know what you think.

Here's the beginning:

When I saw my friend’s text, I immediately went into cruise director mode. (Those of you who are children of the 1980s like me can just call me Julie McCoy for the remainder of this guest post.)

Coming to Pittsburgh next week! Never been. No idea what to see or do.

I was thrilled with the possibility of catching up with my college friend, meeting his partner and showing them the highlights of my new city. Knowing their interests, I sent a Facebook message back with suggestions of places to see – museums, cultural attractions, historical sites.

While looking over my list, I realized that I hadn’t been to any of these places.


So, in making my list for my friends, what was I relying on to try and make sure they would have a great time here? ... continue reading 3 Ways to Turn Your Non-Profit's Presence Into Presents here. 

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Martha, My Dear

Cabrini College, taken by me during Alumni Weekend ~ June 2010

There are, in this world, people who through their work become so connected and so synonymous with a place that after many years (decades even) it becomes impossible to think of one without the other.

We all know just such a person, though, don't we? If you're lucky, like me, maybe a few such gems have fallen like stars into your life.

Martha was one of those gems, one of those shining stars.

* * *
Back in the late '80s, our part-time jobs in the Office of Public Relations at our small Catholic college were to do whatever was needed. And whatever was needed included such glamorous tasks such as typing memos (on actual typewriters!) and stuffing envelopes until our fingers became serrated from paper cuts.

Sometimes we were sent over to Alumni Affairs to help them out if they were busy - which they also often were. This became more than a job, more than busywork, more than a much-needed paycheck for our ... ahem, only-the-good-die-young Catholic college weekend pleasures.

I had no way of knowing it at the time, but the people surrounding my 19-year-old self would become my future references and my touchstones who would keep me personally and professionally grounded.

Martha was all of those.

As the Director of Alumni Affairs of our small Catholic college for nearly 30 years, we kind of knew it was Martha's job to pay attention to us as students (and, later, of course, as alums) but we kind of forgot it was her job. She made it seem easy while making us feel special. Always with a warm smile and an abundance of time for the students, no matter how busy she was, Martha took a genuine interest in our classes and our love interests. She was as much immersed in our lives as if she was our roommate. For years afterward, whenever we met, she would share in our college memories as if she lived them alongside with us.

That's because she did.

Another thing that I had no way of knowing at the time:

I never expected to become a Director of Alumni Affairs of a small Catholic college, one that fiercely competed with my own alma mater, no less. Like many people of my generation who became fundraising professionals, I'm one of those who "fell into" the profession - as if it was something of an accident, as if the job is akin to quicksand, ready to devour you and sink your soul.

In my days as an alumni director, the mid-late '90s in development and fundraising found us all on the cusp of change. We tried making sense of it all. We needed a little help from our friends, as The Beatles famously said - but not just any friends. No. Friends who understood the intricacies and the demands zinging from many, and the long hours and the behind-the-scenes-but-always-on nature of the work. We needed friends who had the same issues, who invented and reinvented all the wheels and who knew the names of every one of the spokes. We needed help flossing through the murk and the ethics and assuaging our personal emotions and profound hurt amidst the hubris of others; we needed to see others who endured, who came out the other side tested, a bit battle-worn but stronger for the fight.

As the seasons shifted on our respective stately, mansioned, and rotunda'ed campuses, we became known as The Catholic 7, representing the alumni directors of seven small Catholic colleges in the Philadelphia suburbs. Ours was a sorority of sorts (with a guy or two thrown in) and our quarterly meetings ones where we gathered for sustenance of every kind - food, laughter, and the comfort of knowing there were people to help us work through our unique professional challenges together.

The Grande Dames of the Catholic 7 were, we all knew, women who had held the role of alumni director at a small, Philadelphia area Catholic college each for decades.




And then me, just a year or two into my job.

Collectively, they had lifetimes of experience on me, yet they welcomed me to the roundtable. My ideas were listened to and in turn, I soaked up their words of advice and wisdom as if it were the Holy Spirit speaking.

They mentored me, taught me all I know about donor relations and stewardship, but no one in the Catholic 7 did this moreso or better than Martha. Of all of them, it was Martha with whom I had the strongest connection, for this once-her-student worker-stuffing-envelopes-now-professional-colleague relationship was a unique concoction. One part bemusement, the other part pride, in that circle I was hers: a graduate of her college, a product of her office. All I wanted to do was to make her look good, to make her proud.

Martha died yesterday morning and I felt a part of myself crumble. I was sitting in a hospital as The Husband was undergoing surgery as the news streamed through my cell phone from college friends. I realized again how lucky I was to have known Martha in the different roles I've played - a student worker, an alumni volunteer, a professional peer and colleague. I thought of my days with the formidable women of The Catholic 7 and hoped that their institutions of Catholic higher education, like the one I'm a proud graduate of, realize just how many riches untold and uncounted are owed to their alumni director. They stand today on the seeds sown by these often unsung women.

As we mourn Martha and share our memories and heartbreak, we remember how special she made us feel. And we realize that in our sadness, she has stealthily done it once again. She has made it seem so easy. By connecting us in our grief, she has strengthened our everlasting and unchanging bonds to each other - for in the end, that's all any of us have - while bringing us right back to our roots and to where we spread our wings to fly.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

#givingskivvies Takes More Steps Toward Its Goal

Yesterday I told you about #givingskivvies, the project I became involved with kind of spontaneously through my connection with several Pittsburgh bloggers. Through the power of social media - our blogs, Facebook, Twitter - we're trying to raise $1,000 (or more!) to provide new socks and underwear for the clients at Light of Life Rescue Mission here in Pittsburgh.

The Mission, which offers a variety of life-changing services to people in need, is in desperate need itself of clean socks and underwear for the men, women and children it serves. As of this morning, the bloggers' efforts have raised $710 toward our goal - in just one day!

As a fundraiser, I'm always fascinated to see how organizations handle aspects of their development efforts - and last night, one thing impressed me greatly about Light of Life. (Remember, I didn't know anything about this organization - never heard of it, even - more than 24 hours ago.)

After our day of blogging and tweeting and Facebooking, the above photo arrived on our various feeds. A simple photo, really, of socks.

With this caption:

Just heard from a few of the guys who received new socks and underwear! They wanted to pass on their thanks. One man said, "Under the circumstances we are in, we are grateful there are folks who want to help out with the difficult situation we are going through. We are blessed and grateful." Another said, "It is such a blessing just to have a clean pair of socks to wear!" Thank you, friends, for donating! You make a difference at Light of Life!
Brilliant and perfect. As a participant in this effort, I certainly wasn't looking for any acknowledgement of my effort ... but from a supporter's perspective? That's exactly the kind of spot-on acknowledgement that's needed for social media. This was a campaign that was organized quickly, organically, from the grassroots level, from one person to another. The thank you needed to be a personal one - a recipient to the donor. And Light of Life hit all the marks with that, in just a few lines and in a speedy fashion.

Here's how you can help #givingskivvies (including if you're not in the Pittsburgh area):
  • If you live in the Pittsburgh area, you can drop clean, new, unused socks and/or underwear off at Light of Life. Their address is 10 E. North Ave., Pittsburgh, PA 15212.
  • Yet another option would be to purchase items online at a place like Target or Walmart and have them shipped to Light of Life, 10 E. North Ave., Pittsburgh, PA 15212. (I made it easy for you. The links go right to the underwear pages.)
  • Spread the word to others about this need. Share this info or blog post on Twitter, Facebook, or blog about it yourself. If you share it on Twitter, please use the hashtag #givingskivvies
Thanks for caring.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Giving Skivvies

I have a 10 year old son. Those of you who have kids or relatives or students around this age (or who can remember being around kids this age) know that this is prime-time for bathroom-related talk. High atop that list?


Quite frankly, I never really gave much thought to underwear before my kid started cracking jokes about it and reading the Captain Underpants series of books. Our new hero.

Because, really, we don't think too much about underwear except for when we don't have any, right?

It's one of those things that we tend to take for granted. It's only when the laundry piles up for an extra day or two, or we hope we don't get into an accident because our skivvies are a bit too worn around the edges, that we realize we'd better get ourselves to Target and buy a new pair.

And so we do. Simple as that.

But for the homeless, that's not so easy.

At the Light of Life Rescue Mission on Pittsburgh's North Side, a nonprofit organization that has been offering a variety of services for poor and homeless men, women, and children for the past 60 years, they are in need of new underwear and socks for their clients. Many of the people they serve are in recovery from addition and have mental health issues. They are completely out of underwear and socks and are in desperate need for new underthings.

That's where you and I come in.

I recently became connected via Facebook with several Pittsburgh bloggers who, just this morning, together created #givingskivvies, a campaign to raise $1,000 for Light of Life to purchase new underwear and socks to distribute to their clients in need.

Here's how you can help (including if you're not in the Pittsburgh area):
  • If you live in the Pittsburgh area, you can drop clean, new, unused socks and/or underwear off at Light of Life. Their address is 10 E. North Ave., Pittsburgh, PA 15212.
  • Yet another option would be to purchase items online at a place like Target or Walmart and have them shipped to Light of Life, 10 E. North Ave., Pittsburgh, PA 15212.  (I made it easy for you. The links go right to the underwear pages.)
  • Spread the word to others about this need.  Share this info or blog post on Twitter, Facebook, or blog about it yourself.  If you share it on Twitter, please use the hashtag #givingskivvies
Please consider helping out with this worthy and wonderful cause.  Just one dollar would help buy a pair of socks or underwear for a person in need.

Captain Underpants would be proud.