Make an Earth Day Pledge to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint

March 12, 2015 at 12:20pm Leave a Comment

Earth Day is right around the corner.  It’s the perfect time of year to do some spring-cleaning and reduce your carbon footprint.  The Carbonfund.org Foundation recommends making these changes to work toward a carbon neutral lifestyle.

Only 40% of the average American’s carbon footprint is due to their direct energy use. The other 60% comes from the goods and services we buy and use.  The easiest way to minimize waste is to reuse and recycle products whenever possible.  Another way to cut back is by removing your name from junk mailing lists.  41pounds.org calculated that junk mail produces more CO2 than 9 million cars.  That’s why they offer a service to take your name off mailing lists for a nominal fee.  Also buying local and eating less meat can dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  Vegetarians produce 3,000 pounds less CO2 per year than meat eaters.  Eating one vegetarian meal per week is an easy way to make a big impact.

To reduce the carbon footprint of your travel, regular car maintenance is critical.  Keeping your tires properly inflated can save 400-700 pounds of CO2 per year.  Accelerating slowly and smoothly is another effective way to use less gas.  Carpooling or telecommuting once a week will result in a 20% reduction in commuting emissions.

Making your home more energy efficient isn’t just beneficial for the environment; it will save you money in the long run.  Take for example florescent light bulbs that save more than 2/3rds of the energy used by comparable incandescent bulbs.  Changing ordinary habits, such as turning off the faucet when you brush your teeth, can conserve thousands of gallons of water per year.  Unplugging electronics that are not in use will prevent “vampire” energy loss.  Finally, purchasing a programmable thermostat that costs around $50 will save you much more than that in the first year alone.

To get involved with an organization working to combat climate change go to greatnonprofits.org.

Contact:

Brittany Freitas, brittany@greatnonprofits.org

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The Science of Happiness

March 11, 2015 at 08:07am Leave a Comment

What does science tell us about happiness?

What does it mean to be happy? This question has occupied humanity at least since we stumbled out the caves, yet it remains difficult to define. The Greek philosophers pondered happiness 2500 years ago, and it was enshrined in the United States Declaration of Independence in 1776 (history of happiness). Today, entire isles of bookstores are dedicated to the topic. We know through experience that some people are innately happier than others, and that some things promote happiness. But now the nature of happiness isn’t just for the philosophers to debate, it is now a hot area of scientific research. The psychological study of happiness is known as “positive psychology.” The neurologist call their inquiries into pleasure and happiness “hedonics.”

Neuroscientists and psychologists focus on the brain states associated with happiness and then try to map those states with the subjective sense of well-being. While psychologists map its empirical features, neuroscientists look at what the brain does when you experience pleasure, which is one contributor to happiness and is central to our sense of well-being.

Here are a few things neurologists have learned over the last few decades:

  • That the same brain systems are activated for processing fundamental pleasures (food and sex) as in higher-order pleasures (art, music, altruism).
  • There is no “pleasure center” in the brain, but a widely distributed network of pleasure neurons and “hedonic hotspots” in several areas.
  • The brain circuits associated with pleasure overlap with more another brain network that register meaningful social relationships.
  • The brain’s prefrontal cortex can “synthesizes” happiness. This lets you be happy even in less-than ideal circumstances. One researcher named Dan Gilbert explains it this way: “This is the difference between dating and marriage. You go out on a date with a guy, and he picks his nose; you don’t go out on another date. You’re married to a guy and he picks his nose? He has a heart of gold. Don’t touch the fruitcake! You find a way to be happy with what’s happened.

Biologically, happiness is complex. But psychologists have made some surprising discoveries, including:

  • Happiness is infectious (http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/131880.php). People who are surrounded by happy people themselves become happier. A major 20 year study found that happiness does spread, and they were not just seeing that people tend to link up to similarly happy people. This means spending time with happy people will boost your happiness, just as exercise boosts your fitness or going to school boosts your education.
  • About 40% of your happiness comes from your actions, as opposed to your genes (50%) or circumstances (10%). This means that we have enormous control over our own happiness.
  • Cultivating commitment and active participation (to a person, job, or a path through life) leads to happiness, whereas having too many choices that discourage commitment leads to dissatisfaction.

Both experience and scientific studies have found one thing that boosts happiness more than any other single factor: altruism. This includes kindness, generosity, compassion, volunteering, and donating money. Even spontaneous “random acts of kindness” can make you happier. Altruism builds the social connections that give our lives meaning, makes us feel grateful for our good fortune, and raises self-esteem.

Given what scientists have learned about happiness, it’s no surprise that helping others through volunteer work or charitable donation has long been known to boost feelings of well-being and fulfillment. In short, if you want to foster happiness, explore and develop your innate capacity for altruism.

If you want to learn more about positive psychology, the science-based approach to a happy and meaningful life, consider signing up for this free eight-week Science of Happiness course available online at EdX. This post was written by Beth Martin.

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GreatNonprofits Social Media Kit

March 10, 2015 at 04:57pm Leave a Comment

To help you field more reviews, GreatNonprofits is publishing this comprehensive Marketing and Social Media slide presentation. Use this resource to get on the list or spread the word of your nonprofit’s stories of impact. If you prefer word documents, check our slideshare account for this guide.

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New Text Message Review Feature Offers Nonprofits Instant Feedback

March 5, 2015 at 11:37am Leave a Comment

Ninety-eight percent of text messages are read and the majority are opened within three minutes of being sent, according to Techipedia.  In comparison 84% of Facebook news feed stories aren’t viewed, 71% of tweets get ignored and 88% of emails go unopened.  To leverage the power of texting, GreatNonprofits created a new SMS, or “short message service”, review feature.

The new GreatNonprofits’ SMS review feature allows a nonprofit’s clients and volunteers to provide feedback about programs on-demand, and instantaneously.  The text tool is provided free of charge by GreatNonprofits.

“It’s about time that we provide technology that gives people a voice, in their preferred way of communicating,” said Perla Ni, CEO of GreatNonprofits.  “Texting appeals to young people and low income populations in particular, offering them a quick and easy way to provide feedback about services in their community.”

More and more industries are using texting to communicate with low income populations because it is cheap and doesn’t require an Internet connection.  The healthcare industry introduced the  “Text4baby” initiative, a campaign that provides essential health information to pregnant women in high poverty areas.  Txt2stop sends motivational messages to help people quit smoking.

Documentary filmmakers also use SMS to create awareness around an issue.  ‘The Cove’, a documentary film about the slaughter of dolphins in Japan, included a call to action in the closing credits.  Nine percent of moviegoers immediately responded by texting in a code to join a mobile subscriber list and receive updates about the cause.

“No longer do the people we serve have to wait for the annual survey to be able to voice their compliments or concerns,” says Ni.  “Now with SMS reviews, the feedback is nearly instantaneous and can be done by a client served, right after they receive services, from wherever they are.”

To send an SMS review through greatnonprofits.org simply start a new text message to (888) 432-6659.  In the message field, enter the 9-digit EIN of the nonprofit you are writing about.  You will then be prompted to provide feedback by answering three short questions.

Contact

Brittany Freitas, brittany@greatnonprofits.org

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Little Kids Rock

March 5, 2015 at 07:52am Leave a Comment

Little Kids Rock

It started in 1996 with one teacher in one classroom. Frustrated by lack of music education at his school, David Wish offered an afterschool guitar class and Little Kids Rock was born.

During the past 13 years, Little Kids Rock has donated more than 43,000 free instruments and provided music lessons to over 325,000 underprivileged kids in 12 states and Washington, D.C.

Fast-forward to 2014, when Little Kids Rock partnered with Berklee College of Music to launch a three-year roll out of “Amp Up NYC,” an expansion of Little Kids Rock’s Modern Band program. Its goal is to reach 60,000 kids in an additional 600 schools in New York City, the largest school district in the U.S.

Just as important as the reach of the program is its message.

Little Kids Rock is about the kids and not the music. Its Modern Band program is about engaging students and connecting with their creative side. Rather than training kids to read music and learn notes, the teachers focus on teaching songs the kids love and guiding the students as they improvise and compose new tunes. Some kids call the program a “de-rock-racy,” since the students pick the music and choose the instruments they want to play.  Little Kids Rock does more than donate guitars, drums and keyboards; they build programs that endure and bring lasting pleasure to students and teachers alike.

It’s magic. And it changes kids’ lives.

 

Nancy’s story

Nancy was quiet for so long. For years, classmates teased and bullied her, making fun of her speech impediment. When she was in the seventh grade, her school began offering the Little Kids Rock’s Modern Band program. Nancy found the opportunity to learn the guitar irresistible (as her dad, who passed away, also played). For Nancy, Writing songs turned out to be the perfect outlet for her pent up feelings. “When I sing,” she says, “I feel like I can be flawless.” Now a senior in high school, Nancy dreams of being a songwriter and recording artist; she continues studying and composing music.

Teachers find a new way to reach kids

It’s about the kids, and helping them use music as a healing force, a refuge, or a means of finding self-worth. And the kids, in turn inspire their teachers. When a group of teachers were asked at a Little Kids Rock Modern Band workshop to name a favorite rock star, one teacher called out the name of her student Lamiya. As a six-grader, Lamiya had been studying the violin, but her heart was in singing and songwriting.  Her teacher in the Little Kids Rock Modern Band program (who also led the school’s traditional concert band) said she would never have truly gotten to know her student in the traditional music class setting. Lamiya helped her young teacher become a wonderful mentor and advocate for Little Kids Rock.

Need more inspiration? Take a look at this video.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8BwxBsjAh7M

As one volunteer, a trained classical musician, stated so eloquently, “My experience as a volunteer at Little Kids Rock brought into focus the dramatic impact music has had on my life and the power of an organization like Little Kids Rock to give the gift of music to so many others, impacting their lives in ways unimaginable.”

It’s no wonder Little Kids Rock was top-rated by GreatNonprofits in 2014.

 

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3 Tips For Responding to Negative Feedback

March 4, 2015 at 08:00am Leave a Comment

This article was originally a post published by Cami Bird on LocalVox’s Blog.  View the original post here.

One of the biggest concerns small businesses have when they start getting reviews online is that they have no control over them. Whether they are negative, positive, indifferent or flat-out incorrect, a small business owner can’t just take them down.

With 79% of consumers trusting online reviews as much as personal recommendations, that concern is quite valid.

But, just because you cannot control what is being written doesn’t mean you can’t control how your business is perceived online.

Don’t be afraid of a negative review; 68% of consumers trust reviews more when there are good and bad ones. People have differing opinions and rating scales. The fact of the matter is your business can never please 100% of your customers and people want to see that, otherwise your reviews seem fake.

Second, when you get a negative review, it’s not the end of the story. The ball is now in your court and you have the opportunity to act.

Responding to Negative Reviews

The key to responding to negative reviews is really just responding. There are ways to effectively respond, but not responding means you aren’t even trying to change your customer’s mind. You’ve worked hard for your business. Don’t let someone tarnish your integrity over something you can fix or reassess.

Additionally, you’ll want to respond quickly and with emotions set aside. This moves into effective responses. While having an ‘epic’ response to a bad review can take your story viral, it doesn’t do much for your actual customers.

3 Steps to Effective Review Responses

Breaking it down to the most basic parts of a response, these three steps keep things terse and on point with the customer’s concern.

1. Acknowledge Their Pain

Start your response by acknowledging your reviewer is upset and apologize for their bad experience.

You want to keep this as short and to the point as possible as to not give your upset customer something else to rage about. Don’t make excuses about their experience, just acknowledge it has happened and you regret it did.

 
2. Take the Conversation Offline

Before writing anymore in your response, end it by asking them to discuss the matter more in private. Not only does this take the chance of further negativity away from the public eye, but it shows that you care about each customer’s experience.

3. Resolve the Issue

Resolving the issue may not end in both parties walking away happy, but it does mean ending the conversation with an understanding.

After following the first two steps you have done more than what is expected to treat your customers well, even those that don’t want to be customer’s anymore.

If they contact you privately, discuss their experience and possibly offer them a discount (if feasible, but shouldn’t be the answer to every negative review) or ask for a second chance. Whether they take you up on the offer or not is irrelevant, the fact that you are addressing their concerns it what matters.

Facebook Issues

On Facebook and Google My Business you can respond to reviews, which is great for your search results and Page ‘Like’s, but, specifically on Facebook, sometimes you cannot actually see all the reviews.

Some people have certain privacy settings that allow only their Facebook friends to see what they have written, making it even more important to monitor and respond to the reviews you can on the network.

While Facebook will hopefully fix this issue soon, it would be wise to have the Contact Form app added to your Page for disgruntled customers to always be able to get in touch with you. Push for those who are not happy with their experience to contact you directly.

Don’t let digital word of mouth hurt your company by not speaking out! By giving your customers a chance to review you on Google and Facebook you not only get feedback on your business, but have the ability to influence how your company is perceived by prospective customers.

Take back some control of your reviews, first by monitoring for them and second by responding to every negative review, as well as occasionally positive and moderate ones.

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Who’s Ready for an Alternative Spring Break?

March 3, 2015 at 08:00am Leave a Comment

 

In the dead of winter, who doesn’t daydream about the upcoming spring break or summer vacation?  Did you ever consider planning an “alternative break,” donating your time and energy to a community needing help while having fun?  To help inspire you we’ve come up with a list of ideas.

 

Check out opportunities through your college or university

Many colleges and universities provide opportunities for their students to spend Spring break volunteering in the local community, across the country, or abroad.

Contact your school’s student affairs office.

For instance, U.C. Berkeley has several new and ongoing volunteer programs for its students. Started in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, 2014-2015 marks the ninth year of a ten-year commitment by the UC Berkeley Public Service Center to work with Gulf Coast Communities. In 2014, students made a winter trip to Los Angeles, centered on the passing of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. In 2015, the university is sponsoring the first Food & Justice Storytelling trip.

Contact charitable organizations

Many large charitable organizations enthusiastically take on student volunteers for short stints.  Take a look at upcoming programs run by the United Way and Habitat for Humanity.

United Way

Since 2006, over 3,500 students have participated in United Way’s Alternative Spring Break in dozens of communities across the country, contributing more than 112,000 hours of volunteer service.

All participant fees cover food, lodging, and ground transportation once you arrive. Participants are also responsible for travel to and from their selected Alternative Spring Break location.

For Spring Break 2015, opportunities are available in these U.S. cities:

  • Baltimore, MD
  • Washington, D.C.
  • New York City, NY
  • Newark, NJ
  • New Orleans, LA
  • Fort Worth, TX
  • Killen/Fort Hood, TX
  • Tucson, AZ
  • San Francisco, CA

Habitat for Humanity

Since 1989, Habitat for Humanity’s Collegiate Challenge has been a year-round alternative break program. Participants apply as a group and have many options of places to volunteer across the U.S.  The building sites range from Breezy Point, Queens, an area hit hard by Hurricane Sandy to a suburb of Atlanta, where volunteers build homes, and provide home repairs for low-income seniors. The details are available here.

Have a Special interest?

If you are passionate about an activity or a cause, you can probably find an opportunity to volunteer your time.  Love to hike? Take a look at the trips organized by the American Hiking Society.  The trips are designed specifically for college student groups (the organization also has programs for individuals). Most of the trips last about a week (with weekends used for group travel).  You spend your days hiking, maintaining trails, exploring, and having fun. These alternative break destinations are scheduled for spring 2015:

  • Crystal River State Park (FL)
  • Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge (FL)
  • Cloudland Canyon (GA)
  • Knob Noster State Park (MO)
  • Trail of Tears State Park (MO)
  • Twin Lakes State Park (VA)

Opportunities abroad

If you are interested in a longer trip, perhaps abroad, you need time to research and raise funds to finance it.  For information about these opportunities, your college’s student affairs office is a great place to start. For an overview of the types of opportunities available and the places you might go, take a look at the articles, ratings, and reviews available on these sites:

  • Go Abroad This site was built as a one-stop information center for students wishing to travel and volunteer abroad. It links prospective travelers with organizations providing international opportunities. GoAbroad has limited advertising, so the site is clean and uncluttered.
  • Go Overseas This small company, with a staff of enthusiastic travelers, goes to the source to get information about international volunteer and education programs and shares inspiring stories.
  • The International Volunteer Programs Association (IVPA) is an association of non-governmental organizations involved in international volunteer work and internship exchanges. IVPA does not organize or run its own volunteer programs.  Instead the website provides details and links to numerous organizations that sponsor volunteer programs abroad.
  • Cross-Cultural Solutions (CSS), top-rated by GreatNonprofits in 2014 is a nonprofit ”… working to address critical global issues by providing meaningful volunteer service to communities abroad and contributing responsibly to local economies.”
  • CSS programs are designed by members of the communities they serve. Volunteers do meaningful work in these areas:
    • Improving education for children
    • Assisting with the care of infants and children
    • Improving health and sense of dignity among the elderly
    • Improving the quality of care for people with disabilities
    • Supporting those affected by HIV/AIDS
    • Enhancing the quality of healthcare

This organization is just one of many open to any college student ready to make his or her mark on the world.

The world is yours to explore and change!

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How to Get Your Press Release Noticed

February 26, 2015 at 04:36pm Leave a Comment

Securing media coverage for your nonprofit organization can be frustrating, especially when you take the time to send a press release and never hear anything back.  But journalists are on a tight deadline and don’t have the time to respond to every pitch.  In order to make your press release stand out, follow these three simple strategies:  pitch a relevant story angle, write like a journalist, and add a personal touch.

The number one question newsroom editors ask before covering a story is “why should I care?”  To make your story matter it needs to have a timely angle or tie into a local/national trend.  For example if you are promoting water conservation, lead in with a startling statistic about California’s drought or an upcoming event like Earth Day.  Another strategy is to pitch a follow-up piece on a story the journalist has covered in the past.  If the reporter did a story about overcrowding at an animal shelter, suggest they meet with your no-kill nonprofit about how to get more cats and dogs adopted.

It is also important to make the information in your release easy to find.  “Put the contact information right up top followed by a sentence or two summarizing what it’s about,” recommends Danny Willis with the Bay Area News Group.  Business jargon or over-the-top statements are red flags for media professionals.  The easier you make it for journalists to cover a story, the more likely your story will be picked up.

Finally when you are ready to submit your release, send it to reporters or producers personally.  Journalists rely on a handful of interview contacts for most stories, so the goal is to get on their short list.  Reporters are always looking for passionate experts locally, who are willing to be interviewed at a moment’s notice.  Build relationships with journalists in your city and then follow-up with them personally after sending a press release.  If a media organization does reach out, never turn down an interview request because as the old adage goes “any publicity is good publicity”.

For other ideas about how to get press coverage visit GreatNonprofits’ Social Media and Marketing Kit at http://goo.gl/z45Qvo.

Brittany Freitas is a media professional, with 5+ years of experience producing and reporting local television news.  You can reach her at brittany@greatnonprofits.org.

 

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A Day in the Life of an Everyday Hero at Muttville Senior Dog Rescue

January 15, 2015 at 03:24pm Leave a Comment

Muttville Founder Sherri Franklin

At the crack of dawn, Sherri Franklin awakens to a household full of old dogs. Franklin is the founder and CEO of San Francisco based Muttville Senior Dog Rescue.   On any given day, she has a dozen grey muzzles of all sizes camping out at her Potrero Hill home. Franklin had always had a passion for animals, dogs in particular, and more specifically, senior dogs.  As a volunteer for the SF/SPCA, she saw too many older dogs get passed over for adoption. One day, she rescued one—saving it from certain euthanasia and finding it a new home. Her ad-hoc rescue work grew, and in 2007 she founded Muttville. (more…)

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GreatNonprofits: 2014 Review and What’s in Store for 2015

January 13, 2015 at 01:26pm Leave a Comment

Find out what we've built and what's in store.

Thank you for using GreatNonprofits. This past year we experienced tremendous traffic growth that allowed us to increase visibility for nonprofits. Here’s a quick overview of what people are saying, new features, and what’s in store for 2015. (more…)

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