Tips On Purpose: Finding the Start of Passion

PED FoundationYou’ve heard the stories before: an inventor and entrepreneur starts a project, working diligently in the wee hours of night — long after logging a full 9 to 5 for the day — to build a new product and launch a company to call their own.

Companies like Apple and Amazon have been said to mark their beginnings like this, building from the ground up in the garage.

If businesses start in the garage, perhaps nonprofits start in the kitchen.

Here I was, in the kitchen, working shortly past midnight to prep for our fundraiser event for the Positive Every Day Cancer Foundation, Inc. (This is a dangerous thing for me to do, by the way. I have a 16-month-old daughter who is often up by 5 a.m.!)

But, it got me to thinking: is this how they all start?

Everyone who is a part of our foundation has a full-time job beyond also juggling other day-to-day aspects of life while launching our organization. Everyone is busy. Busy, busy, busy.

But none of us are too busy to not take care of something that now doesn’t feel like work to us but instead just feels like something that matters.

This must be how many nonprofits start — a group of people, sharing a passion for a cause and a determination to make an impact.

How do you find your passion and your purpose? Ours was dumped on us by my 3-year-old nephew’s diagnosis with Stage 4 Neuroblastoma. Learn more about our start in my original post about our organization. (side note: Raiden, my nephew, recently passed his first 3 month scan with flying colors — still cancer free!)

I’ve talked to others who’ve found themselves inspired similarly: through a personal, traumatic situation that made them want to shape good into the situation for others. Others, simply inspired by a love for something or a strongly felt need for change.

How do you find what fuels you? Here’s 3 tips on purpose to give you some food-for-thought on finding a purpose or passion in your life.

  1. Reflect on the times in your life when you’ve felt energized. At the end of the day, you’re bound to feel exhausted. A lot can happen in our 16-plus hours of being awake. But there are probably certain activities that leave you feeling more relaxed than others, that make you think, “Yeah, I could wake up and do that again.” These are activities that I’d consider energizing, because it’s not something that’s causing you to feel deflated.
  2. Think about the activities you do that you will always find a way to do, no matter what. It’s not about the money and it’s not about the “to-do” list. When it’s something you just do because you want to, it doesn’t have to be done save for the fact that you want it to be done — that you’ll be sad when it isn’t … then it’s something that you really want in your life. It’s a passion.
  3. Get emotional. If it brings you to tears or makes you burst with anger, is it something you want to change? If it makes you smile uncontrollably, is it something you want to fuse into your life every day? Is it a joy you can share with other people? Connecting with the things that fuel your emotions will help you realize possible pockets of personal impact.

A final word of advice

Remember, it’s the little things that count. Not everyone that has a purpose or a passion is going to turn it into a business or nonprofit. Maybe it’s simply sharing this with a single friend or family member. Maybe you’re making sure to include your passion in your life daily, because it inevitably helps you to be a happier person, which is better for all the people around you. Even by finding simple ways to live out your passion, you’re choosing to add purpose to your life.

*** Love the idea of finding your passion?

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Beyond ‘Thank You': How to Make Volunteers, Donors Feel Valued

DonorsValuedYou’ve likely figured out by now that simply saying Thank You isn’t necessarily enough to keep a donor hooked on giving or a volunteer committed to coming back.

While that expression of gratitude is very important, there are other crucial steps to take to make volunteers and donors feel valued by your organization.

Building an ongoing relationship with each individual who is committed to your organization in one way or another is important. While this statement might sound overwhelming (you likely have hundreds — maybe thousands! — of these people on your list) it’s actually quite  doable if you simply turn the below steps into habits with each individual you meet.

So, without further ado, here are my top steps to take to make volunteers and donors feel valued.

Value your time together.

In fact, value it so much that you take time beforehand to to mentally prepare. This might mean adding a 10-minute time slot to your calendar just before the meeting — whatever it takes, make the time to be ready.

What should you do during these 10 minutes?

Create an agenda, whether formally written down or just mentally making notes of the outcome you hope for from this meeting. Also, take some time to think recall recent meetings with this individual, and important talking points from that conversation. Should you touch base on how their granddaughter is doing studying abroad? Maybe it’s a new mom and she was talking about struggles adjusting. Remembering and mentioning these details helps show you are paying attention.

Accept people the way they are.

Appreciate someone for their individuality. When you meet with people, remove judgments and criticism and instead unconditionally accept them as a human being. In doing this, you’re helping that individual to feel comfortable with you and in return happy to support your organization.

But, go beyond simply acceptance — verbalize admirations.

From something as big as recognize extraordinary talent to as little as impressive wardrobe decisions, telling people the positive things you notice about boosts their self-esteem and reinforces their sense of self. Someone who’s happy in their own skin is more likely to have positive energy to commit to your organization.

Be genuine.

Invite people with a welcoming, genuine smile and happy handshake. Offer authentic feedback on your time together, such as, “it was so nice to talk with you,” or “I am so glad we met.” This positive reinforcement on time while spent will linger with an individual long after your meeting, causing them to feel like your time together is certainly inspiring some do-good.

That said, don’t expect every person to be as passionate about your cause as you. While your organization may have a big-picture vision in mind for the change you want to make, individuals may focus on only little pieces of impact as their part of changing the world. Instead of pushing everyone to be an overwhelming change-maker, be excited by the specific pieces of change an individual is looking to make — and leverage that commitment and initiative.

Some practical tips on making these things habits.

  • Take notes about your meeting to help remind yourself about their personal tidbits. One great tool is CamCard, which allows you to take pictures of business cards, add notes on the individuals and categorize those cards into specific groups.
  • Connect on whichever social media platforms you find appropriate – Facebook or LinkedIn, for example. And then interact with that individual’s posts as applicable. This helps bridge the gap of time when it may be several months before you can meet again.
  • Make it part of your routine to ask if you can add them to your e-mail list. Sending regular e-mail communications that share stories of your organizations help remind individuals of the reasons they support your cause. As important as it is to send these newsletters, it’s equally important to continue building that list.

Speaking Of …

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How Well do You Explain Your Cause?

Explain Your Cause
Use a Case for Support as a great guide to consistently explain your cause.

When it comes to talking to your donors about your organization, you’re likely full of stories and examples that showcase your impact and explain your cause.

When another member of your staff or board talks about the organization — I’m certain they’re full of great stories that help explain your cause, too.

But — are you certain you’re explaining your impact in the same way?

Think of it this way: if you did a survey of your donors, would they all be able to offer a relatively consistent answer about what you do?

It’s important that “outsiders” have a clear and consistent vision about your organization in order to fuel their passion to continue supporting your cause. A Case for Support is a great way to lay the foundation for clear, consistent messaging from any support seeking donations your behalf.

What is a Case for Support?

  • It’s a document written with the audience in mind: donors, corporate partners, etc.
  • It explains your organization’s goals & impact.
  • It shows donors the ongoing need, and the specific impact their contribution will make.

A Case for Support is essentially the bible for your nonprofit. Simply put, it explains your organization’s history, mission and community impact so existing and potential donors understand the cause they are supporting.

Read More FAQs about a Case for Support, or get a copy of an example by filling out the form below.

Download a Case for Support example below.

Launching a Nonprofit: A Personal Journey to Benefit Others

PED FoundationMy nonprofit story has two sides to its coin. I work as a professional writer to help nonprofits with fundraising, grant writing and communications.

My second nonprofit “affiliation” is that I am part of one, I am launching a nonprofit with several of my family members. Our organization, Positive Every Day Cancer Foundation, Inc., is inspired by our personal journey through my now 4-year-old nephew’s battle against cancer.

Side note: Currently Raiden (my nephew) is cancer free and just about back to normal life after all of his tubes were finally removed in December. His appetite is skyrocketing and he’s enjoying bonding moments with his younger brother and the rest of us!

PED Foundation has been in the inception stage since early 2015. Off and on, we would chat about how we would like to help other families based on the gaps we saw in our own support.

In August, we bit the bullet and filed the corporation forms for the state of Wisconsin, and obtaining our very EIN number (used essentially for taxes). Applying for 501c3 is our next big adventure. I’m leading the way on the application, 11 sections and some 20 pages total — we’re about 80% there.


Follow Our Journey

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Those are just the formalities of launching a nonprofit — then there’s determining the programming, how to find people to serve, how to find funds to serve, what our future should look like, the events we should host, and so forth. The opportunities are endless, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy!

Since we’ve filed with the state in August, we’ve held two small fundraisers and raised enough to cover the 501c3 application filing fee. We have another fundraiser planned for Jan. 30.

We’ve also received a lot of advice on really narrowing our focus and being specific as we start marketing our organization and offering services.

So, without further ado, I’d like to introduce you to what Positive Every Day Cancer Foundation, Inc. is all about.

Our goal is to help families of pediatric cancer survive together. When a child is diagnosed with cancer, families become split: one parent stays at the hospital, another at home with siblings or off to work. Sometimes, siblings are sent to live with grandparents, or grandparents move in to help where they can.

Wouldn’t it be nice if someone else could help out while there is so much going on? That’s where we come in. PED Foundation exists to help these families in transition.

Our hope is to provide: The tools a primary caretaker needs to be able to stay organized and on top of their child’s care; Paid cleaning service for the patient’s home so family can focus on spending time together instead of time doing chores; Prepared meals delivered to the patient’s home, again to allow family more time together and less worry about how to accomplish the day-to-day.

We hope to later expand our services to also help with financial needs for siblings of children battling cancer.

When a child has cancer — families begin living minute-by-minute, and with the mundane household to-do’s out of the way, individuals can now focus on finding their Positive Every Day.

Are you a founding member of a nonprofit organization? Even if you’re part of an established group, there’s always growth opportunities and hurdles. I’m curious: what advice do you have for someone just starting out?

Stop Soliciting, Start Connecting: How to Improve Donor Communication

Improve Donor Communication
Stop soliciting and start story telling! A well-planned communication strategy will help nurture your supporter relationships.

Communication is defined as a process of expressing and exchanging ideas, thoughts and information in order to create a connection between people.

Think about every communication you have with with your donors and supporters — are you setting it up as a an engaging conversation? It might be time that your organization reassess your strategy and find a way to improve donor communication.

Check out these two examples of social media posts, and how the hook grabs your attention differently.

“We need help reaching our goal! We’d like to raise $30K as part of our annual fundraiser in order to help animals like Spot find furever homes. Donate now!>>website link.<<”

OR

“We are so happy to share that Spot has found such a wonderful furever home! Check out these heart-warming pictures of the Smith family enjoying the company of their new furball. Thanks for sharing the pictures, and thanks to everyone who supports our organization to make this possible. Learn more about adopting and donating here >>website link.<<”

Here’s the difference: the first example is simply a solicitation. You are telling your followers that you need money, and asking them to give — that’s really it. In the second example, your showcasing the impact your organization has had (thanks to your donors) and your creating a place for people to have a conversation. Perhaps someone will jump in on the comments and share how in love they are with their own pet they adopted years back, and then decide to follow your link and donate again. Isn’t this a more valuable donation that a one-time give from someone who simply felt solicited?

There are a number of items to consider when developing a plan to improve donor communication.

If you’re ready to go all-in and create a solid plan for Donor Communication, then check out the FREE guide I have below. If you have any questions about how to improve donor communication, shoot me at e-mail at hello@lyssaschmidt.com.