Funding Missions: Mission Impossible?

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Whether your nonprofit’s mission is helping to eradicate poverty, improve neighborhoods, end human trafficking, provide healthcare or shelter homeless pets, securing funding can seem like an impossible mission in today’s economic environment.

To honor nonprofits and the grant proposal writers who work to fuel the organizations doing vital work around the country and internationally, the Grant Professionals Association is hosting their Third Annual International Grant Professionals Day.

Grant Professionals do more than write – they help fund missions. By researching potential funders, connecting nonprofits with foundation officers, developing compelling stories for grant proposals by showing the impact an organization has on society and finally, helping to manage awarded grants, Grant Professionals work behind the scenes of nonprofits everyday to improve local communities and empower local citizens.

It’s Time to Celebrate YOU!

No, it’s not as self-serving as it sounds. It’s about celebrating YOU – the nonprofit, the volunteer, the individual donor, the family and corporate foundations – and yes, the Grant Writers. Without all of YOU – Funding Missions really would be an impossible mission.

So, if you’re a grant writer too – thank you for all you do. If you work within or volunteer for the nonprofit sector – thank you for all you do.

And if you’ve ever benefited from the work of a nonprofit – thank them this Friday, International Grant Professionals Day, because the service they provided to help you through a difficult time was likely to have been funded in part by a grant!

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Crafting Stories to Engage Donors, Volunteers and Staff

(This post originally appeared on the Foundation Center and GrantSpace blogs.)

 

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In the wake of the recent election one hard learned lesson is clear – the need to understand the perceptions of your constituents and what motivates them. While it will take months, or possibly years, to see how the new administration will impact philanthropy, the issues nonprofits address remain.

Taking the pulse of your constituents, reviewing your mission and engaging volunteers and donors of all ages and backgrounds by effectively communicating your success stories will help align your organization’s communications and development strategies.

Yet creating engaging and ongoing story content can be a real challenge for many nonprofits. You’ve probably heard the content mantra many times – stories focused on those doing the work and those impacted by your organization’s work should illustrate your successes, inspire action by donors and volunteers alike, and reinforce your mission’s value firmly in the reader’s mind.

Storytelling vs. Random Content

Using storytelling methods to curate content helps focus your message to engage your target audience(s). It also means keeping your storyline going. Think of it as a novel. You wouldn’t write just one or two chapters and stop. Your readers want to know what happens next.

Return to the stories you started last week, last month or last year to let your constituents see the progression of each story. Remind them of the importance of your programs and the urgency of your call to action. And in doing so, you’ll give them a reason to remain engaged with your mission.

Storytelling Strategies:

* Let your mission impact inspire your content creation and create a story arc to move your reader over time from beginning to end. Think of a novel’s progression from conflict to climate to resolution.

* Strategy should drive content creation so have a clear outcome or ending in mind. What do you want to achieve – gain attention from major media outlets; increase program attendance; create momentum for an upcoming capital campaign; or tap into potential volunteers?

* Frame your stories to support your staff’s varied goals by creating solid relationships between the program and fundraising staff and your communications staff. Think of your goals, programs and key players, both internal and external to your organization, as material for upcoming chapters.

* Talk with volunteers and donors and let their stories be heard to give you more diverse characters for a more rounded storyline.

* Help your audience connect with the issue(s) your organization addresses by focusing on the people (not the issue) affected by your work. Tell the story of their struggles as well as their successes, so your readers connect with them on a human level much as they would connect with the protagonist of a novel.

* If you have multiple target audiences, create storylines geared for each of them. Science fiction fans don’t necessarily care to read mystery novels, so write for your readers.

* Leave some of your stories as “to be continued” – the child still waiting to be adopted, the puppy still waiting for its forever home, the teenager still looking for a mentor/tutor – to compel readers to resolve the suspense by remaining engaged through volunteering or donating.

* Avoid content creation by committee by letting groups offer ideas, but leave the crafting of stories to your communications staff or person to ensure a unified voice to your messaging. Think how challenging it would be to read a novel written by five different writers, each in their own voice.

* Remember that data conveys information, but infographics tell a more visual story.

* Repurpose content you already know people valued most based on social media engagement and website analytics. (Authors often borrow from real life when writing fiction – it’s their version of repurposing content!)

As we move forward, nonprofits with a solid storytelling strategy will be better positioned to unite their constituents in supporting the work necessary to continue serving the common good.

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Interpreting Art in Turbulent Times

Cleveland Ohio

Thanks to Land Studio, a non-profit in Ohio City that works to connect people with places through public art and Cracking Art, a group of artists based in Milan, Italy, Cleveland has a new elephant just in time for the Republican National Convention. You won’t find him standing around the “Q” awaiting the arrival of politicians, but in the garden space behind the Transformer Station art gallery in Ohio City.

Additional whimsical, colorful creatures made of a plastic-like material have been placed throughout the city. The view from Superior Avenue as you approach the Cleveland Public Library will cause you to do a double take as blue birds reminiscent of the Twitter logo  greet you at the main entrance, while meerkats keep watch from above.

Cleveland Ohio

Cracking Art has brought its message of social and environmental awareness to over 384 exhibits worldwide, and while I don’t profess to know the artists’ political views, this exhibit seems timely not just in the wake of the RNC, but on a global scale as well. It reminds us of art’s ability to speak to us and how we each bring our own individual life experiences to the process of interpretation.

Birds of a feather do seem to flock together as seen on W. 29th Street in Ohio City, and I couldn’t help but be reminded of Maya Angelou’s autobiography, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, when I saw the scene below.

Cleveland Ohio

The Great Lakes Science Center has been visited by a pack of wolves that can be seen on the lawn area between the Science Center and the Rock Hall of Fame. Children and adults alike will enjoy the whimsical nature of this unlikely scene. Yet as security tightens in Cleveland for the RNC and with tragedies in Baton Rouge, Dallas and France, it can feel like the wolves really are at the door.

Cleveland Ohio

As the world continues its precarious balance between tragedy and hope (often inspired by art)  Aesop’s Fable – The Snail and the Rose-Tree – to this day may still bring cause for hope depending on which voice you choose to follow.

“You have led a very easy life,” remarked the snail.

“Certainly. Everything was given me,” said the rose-tree. “But still more was given to you. Yours is one of those deep-thinking natures, one of those highly gifted minds that astonishes the world.”

“I have not the slightest intention of doing so,” said the snail. “The world is nothing to me. What have I to do with the world? I have enough to do with myself, and enough in myself”

“But must we not all here on earth give up our best parts to others, and offer as much as lies in our power? It is true, I have only given roses. But you – you who are so richly endowed- what have you given to the world? What will you give it?” asked the rose-tree.

“What have I given? What am I going to give? I spit at it; it’s good for nothing, and does not concern me. For my part, you may go on bearing roses; you cannot do anything else.  I have mine in myself. I retire within myself and there I stop. The world is nothing to me.”

WHAT DO YOU HAVE TO GIVE TO THE WORLD – WHAT CONCERNS YOU?

 

Snail Photo © Bob Perkosk

More of this public art exhibit can been seen at the Cleveland Public Library’s Eastman Reading Garden.

Read More @ Colorful Creatures Set to Adorn Cleveland Public Library’s Eastman Reading Garden

Exhibit runs through October 14, 2016

Follow on Twitter:  #flockCLE

Thanks to Land Studio for bringing art to public spaces for all to see.

Art Work © Cracking Art
Snail Photo © Bob Perkosk
All Other Photos © Larry Hamill Photography

 

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Increase Your Grant Writing Success Via Organized Communication

Pulling all the elements of a grant proposal together – budgets, letters of support, program details, projections for sustainability, etc. – often requires the commitment of various departments or staff members within your non-profit.

Effective communications between your staff and grant writer are key to a well thought out and organized proposal. When working with a contracted grant writer (outside your organization), open and frequent communication is critical. Setting and meeting deadlines for delivering requested information to your writer is key to a complete and polished final proposal – and helps ensure you’ll meet the grant application deadline.

Communications between your grant team and the grantor shouldn’t be overlooked. Federal and state RFPs usually provide a contact name for questions regarding all aspects of the grant’s requirements, while foundations will offer guidance to ensure your proposal meets their guidelines. As with other forms of fundraising, sometimes all you have to do is ask!

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Fundraising Millennial Style: Crowdfunding

Due to the overwhelming level of support, online fundraising in the wake of Hurricane Sandy was deemed a watershed moment for nonprofit fundraising efforts. By tapping into technology, nonprofits can capitalize on human emotions and a desire to help in times of tragedy.

With crowdfunding, charities of all sizes can solicit donations from large numbers of people, who in turn can engage their extended network of family members, friends and colleagues, through social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Using websites like Fundly, Indiegogo  and Causevox, nonprofits can reach millennials not already in their donor base and cultivate the next generation of donors.

In an interview with Nightly Business Report, The Chronicle of Philanthropy’s web editor, Cody Switzer, summed up the benefits of crowdfunding – getting donors involved in your cause at that small level is a good way to get them to the next level, and make them lifetime donors, especially those younger donors who have years and years to give.

In 2012, while the holiday fundraising perennial, the Salvation Army, collected $147 million in their ubiquitous red kettles, they also added $2 million in donations through online kettle bell ringers. You could have almost heard coins landing in those virtual buckets.

And that amount of money can buy a lot more than Kibbles ‘n Bits®. The Warrior Canine Connection, a charity that breeds and trains service dogs for wounded veterans, used a live puppy cam to engage potential donors. Co-founder Molly Morelli’s fundraising efforts went viral when a large foundation starting broadcasting the puppy cam feed to their constituents.

Learn more about growing your online fundraising efforts:

You hear lots about crowdfunding, but what is it?

Millennials Want to Donate to Charities, Save the World. Really

The Effect Crowdfunding Has on Venerable Nonprofits Raises Concern

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Lions and Tigers and Added Revenue Streams – Oh My!

Following the opening of the Greater Cleveland Aquarium with its second floor event venue and the Cleveland Museum of Art’s renovation, complete with an open floor atrium also available for event rental, the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo will join a growing number of area attractions that are finding innovative ways to draw visitors, while increasing revenue streams.

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In Spring 2014, the zoo will unveil its recently commissioned carousel.  Located in Mansfield, OH, Carousel Works will create a swirling vision of 64 hand-carved animals mounted on a 54-foot (in diameter) platform. Arranged on the carousel by habitat, the animals will cover a range from the African grasslands to the tropical forests.

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In keeping with the zoo’s mission, the endangered species themed carousel and surrounding area will promote education and conservation. With lion populations in Africa dropping to record lows, educating the next generation about the need for conservation of exotic animals worldwide couldn’t be more timely.

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According to a Cleveland Metroparks Zoo press release, the Cleveland Zoological Society is committed to raising $2 million in private funds to cover the carousel’s construction and installation, as well as site preparation, slated to include a children’s play area. The zoo also hopes to build an event venue near the pavilion that will house the carousel.

To make a donation…

All images photographed by Pamela J. Willits at the Carousel Works. The carousel figures seen here were part of the Smithsonian National Zoo’s carousel, which opened in Washington, D.C. this past November.

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Cleveland GiveCamp: Coding For Charity

Cleveland GiveCamp‘s name alone might draw some confused looks. But with the tag line, Geeks in the Home of Rock and Roll Coding for Charity, it becomes clear that this is a tech event. A tech event whose mission is to pair creative and technology talent with nonprofits in need.

As part of the national GiveCamp movement, Cleveland GiveCamp hosted its third annual event in July. Held along the shores of Lake Erie, at the LeanDog Boat and Burke Lakefront Airport, the event kicked off on a Friday evening and ended late Sunday afternoon, with teams displaying innovative work that took a weekend to create.

The first year brought together more than 100 volunteers with 21 non-profits, and culminated in nearly $250,000 worth of donated tech services. This year, 200 volunteers worked with 25 non-profits to develop websites, mobile apps and data collection applications, donating $625,000 worth of free services.

Mark your calendars for July 2013, as Cleveland GiveCamp returns to help more non-profits achieve their goals.

TO VOLUNTEER OR BECOME A SPONSOR, please visit Cleveland GiveCamp.

NON-PROFITS CAN APPLY TO ATTEND at Cleveland GiveCamp Non-Profits.

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Cleveland’s New Powerhouse Attraction

After reading a Columbus Dispatch review of the Greater Cleveland Aquarium, we decided to test the waters ourselves.

Located in the FirstEnergy Powerhouse, the Greater Cleveland Aquarium has re-purposed this national historic landmark in a way that takes architectural juxtaposition to a new height.

Designed by New Zealand based Marinescape, hard surfaces of exposed brick walls and steel girders contrast with flowing water and the constant movement of its inhabitants. A worm’s-eye view looking up through the massive overhead smokestacks provides a reminder of the building’s original purpose – generating electricity for the city’s 19th century streetcar system.

Nestled in the Cleveland Flats, the aquarium could be viewed as a phoenix risen from the ashes of Cleveland’s industrial past – a positive image for the crooked river that lays to rest Cuyahoga River’s former reputation of the river that once burned.

Read more @ larryhamillphotography.wordpress.com

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All Things Cleveland

As part of a growing trend in cities across the country, I’ve become what’s been coined a Boomerang – one who returns to their hometown for career and family reasons.

Having left in my early 20’s, and given all the changes and growth here in Cleveland, it feels as if I’ve moved to a whole new city. With the help of a great, locally published book entitled, New to Cleveland: A Guide to (Re) Discovering the City, I’m learning my way around – again.  I’m also learning about neighborhoods and attractions that I knew little or nothing of, even before my departure.

I look forward to sharing my thoughts and photography, with hopes that visitors to my site will be inspired to get out and re-discover all that Cleveland has to offer.

 

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E-Mail Blasts: Get Opened – Get Read

Pushing Content

I recently sat in on a Fundraising Success webinar presented by Michael Snusz, Internet Marketing Consultant for Blackbaud Engaging E-Mails: How to Get Past Filters, Get Opened and Get Read provides sound advice on turning your next e-mail blast into a successful fundraising campaign.

Get Your Subject Lines Noticed:                                                                                         

* Pique curiosity with interesting copy

* Convey urgency by including a deadline

* Avoid using special characters (#, &, etc) as these can trigger SPAM filters

* Make subject line mobile friendly – the first 30 characters are key to mobile technology

Generate Concise Content:

* Write short paragraphs

* Use bullet points

* Use bold and colored fonts for important phrases

* Use video screen shot image to increase click through rate – video can increase these rates 2 to 3 times

Personalize Your Content:

* Directly address the percentage of your constituency who attended your previous year’s event to increase click through rates to this year’s event info.

* Create separate paragraphs or sections within your e-mail to address specific audiences or interests of a particular group, be it volunteers or donors.

* As a university making an appeal to parents of students as well as alumni, call out individual benefits for each group.

* As a non-profit handling animal welfare issues, address “cat and dog people” as separate audiences.

Make Your Call To Action Compelling:

* Spell it out for your reader by using the words Take Action

* Create a link that tells them what, why, when or where – not just a generic Click Here link for more info

* Include your Call to Action Link early on and again at the bottom

Test Your E-mail’s Effectiveness:

* Send two different e-mails to 10-20% of your mail list, wait 2-3 days and then review metrics.

* Experiment with subject lines, call to action verbiage and landing pages, to see which yields a higher open and click through rate. Then send the highest response to your remaining list.

* Note which e-mail garners the greatest subscribe or unsubscribe rates.

Lastly, boost your SEO by adding a web-based version of all your e-mail blasts to your website. Search engines favor websites that continuously generate new content.

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Fading Face of Philanthropy

After 60 years of supporting arts, education, health and community services, the Helena Rubinstein Foundation will close its doors by the end of the year, according to a recent press release.

Established in 1953, the Foundation contributed close to $130 million to programs that benefited women, children and disadvantaged communities.   Recipients of the Foundation’s final grants included:

Big Brothers Big Sisters

Food Bank of NYC

Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center

The New York Stem Cell Foundation

At the age of 20, Rubinstein started what would become one of the most successful cosmetic businesses with a single product – face cream. Acknowledging that her fortune came from women, she built her Foundation on the principle that a percentage of her wealth should benefit women and children.

The Foundation was a major beneficiary of Rubinstein’s legacy when she died in 1965, at the age of 94. Over the years, the Foundation’s directors broadened the scope of philanthropic support to reflect the changing needs of society.

Remaining true to Rubinstein’s interest in the arts, final grants were also awarded to:

The Museum of Modern Art

The Shakespeare Society – a Shakespeare in Schools program

Figure Skating in Harlem – an after school sports program for girls

Publicolor – an organization that paints neglected schools and public spaces

While reasons for fading out the Foundation were not given, hers is a face that will be missed within the world of philanthropy.

More on PR Newswire.

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End Polio Now Campaign Spotlighted

Miranova, Columbus, Ohio © Larry Hamill

As a child, I spent summers visiting my grandmother in New Jersey.  She had a life long companion named Tony, a short stocky man with a pronounced wattle to his walk and an underdeveloped arm that he kept tucked against his body like a broken wing.

In my child’s mind, I likened him to a penguin. My grandmother would enlighten me – Tony had polio as a child.  It would have been the early 1900s.

This past week Columbus – among other cities around the world – joined forces with Rotary International to broadcast their END POLIO NOW message by spotlighting the Miranova Building downtown.  Over the past two years, as part of their fight to eradicate polio worldwide, Rotary has been illuminating landmarks including the Sydney Opera House and Chicago’s Wrigley Building.

Sydney Opera House ( Rotary Down Under Photo)

Polio, a disease that paralyzed many and killed others, was eliminated in the United States and most developed countries decades ago. Thanks to mass mobilizations to administer the polio vaccine, other countries followed suit.

Yet in 2009, 10 of the 15 previously polio-free African countries were re-infected. In early 2010, a type-1 outbreak spread from India to Tajikistan, where it has paralyzed 239 children to date.

The effort to raise awareness and money to end polio once and for all also involves those as diverse as Bill Gates and Jane Goodall, whose research with Gombe chimpanzees was once affected by a polio outbreak among the chimps.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation contributes upward of $200 million each year, yet Gates warned in his 2011 annual letter to the foundation that the campaign is still facing a $720 million funding gap for 2011-2012. We are so close, but we have to finish the last leg of the journey writes Gates.

Rotary initially launched its efforts in 1985, a time when 1,000 children were paralyzed by polio every day across 125 countries.  The organization has since contributed more than $900 million to the cause.

Learn more about Rotary and volunteer opportunities by visiting www.rotary.org.

To read more about the Gates Foundation visit www.gatesfoundation.org.

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Aging in the Valley of Longevity

Larry Hamill, a Columbus-based photographer, recently traveled to Ecuador and spent time in the famed Vilcabamba Valley. Located in southern Ecuador, the village of Vilcabamba thrives at the foot of the Mandango mountain.  According to a Wikipedia entry, the area has been referred to as the Playground of the Inca having thought to be a retreat for Incan royalty. The presence of Mandango, the Sleeping Inca, is said to protect the area from earthquakes and other natural disasters.

The spirit of the Sleeping Inca isn’t the only thing unique to this valley. Often called the Valley of Longevity, locals claim it’s not uncommon for inhabitants to live past 100 years of age. The claims are not without scientific fact.  Medicinal qualities have been found in the surrounding plant life. Analysis of fruits, roots and herbs in this equatorial region reveals high levels of anti-oxidants.

An article published by the National Geographic in the early 1970’s gave birth to the idea of Blue Zones.  A name given to places where people live longer, healthier lives, the notion of such zones sparked controversy. Yet, elderly people in Blue Zones around the world are more active, youthful and energetic than those in the U.S. Sorry, no Blue Zones here.

In 1981, the Ecuadorian government hired medical journalist Dr. Morton Walker to further study claims of longevity. His research found the area’s mineral rich water was a key to the Vilcabambans prolonged optimum health.

Wikipedia also notes that retinas of 100 year-old residents of the Valley of Longevity are often comparable with those of 45 year-old city dwellers. What they fail to note is the location of the city dwellers – residents of Quito, Ecuador’s capital or those living in New York City. Factor in work related eye strain and medical researchers might not see eye to eye on this study.

In a post on About.com under Longevity Myths and Longevity Legends, Mark Stibich, Ph.D. sights the Vilcabamba Valley’s extreme inaccessibility as a factor, having protected the inhabitants from many modern influences including prepackaged foods and preservatives.

As the Vilcabambans days are spent hiking up slopes to cultivate and harvest fruits and vegetables and eating fresh picked foods, whole grains, seeds and nuts, with little animal products, it’s a safe bet that exercise, a healthy diet and lack of stress have gone a long way in helping them ward off the effects of aging.

Still, the age old debate over Blue Zones continues. The local government plans to convert the Vilcabamba’s Parador Hotel into a senior citizens center in conjunction with INIGER (National Institute of Gerontology Studies) in order to continue researching the benefits of aging under the ageless presence of the Sleeping Inca.

Read more @ Wikipedia and About.com

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MedFlight Calendar Puts Patients First

Ready to serve night or day, rain or shine, a MedFlight Mobile Intensive Care Unit (MICU), pictured above in Columbus’s Short North district, exemplifies the theme of the 2010 MedFlight calendarPatients First.


As a not-for-profit company, MedFlight maintains a fleet of eight helicopters and four MICUs and covers 10 counties within Ohio, providing transport for the critically ill and injured.

Each year photographing for MedFlight’s calendar brings it own unique challenges, whether it be angling a helicopter just right over snow covered Serpent Mound or being mindful of safety issues like the powerful effect of prop wash.

In addition to transporting over 6,000 patients last year, MedFlight made over 250 community visits, including the Prom Promise drug and alcohol accident simulation event  to help educate teens about the perils of DWI.

Here’s to the pilots, drivers and medical crews who have made an impact in the lives of many, as well as the pilots who make these aerial photographs possible.

Photography provided by Larry Hamill Photography.

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Bombay Gin Mixes With Ohio Produce

© Larry Hamill

In this month’s issue of Gentlemen’s Quarterly, GQ teamed up with Bombay Sapphire to feature the nation’s most inspired bartender search.  Among the 41 bartenders is Zak Renzetti-Voit of Black Olive restaurant, located in the Columbus Short North district.

The magazine insert, printed in blue of course, contains each bartender’s unique recipe and the source of their inspiration.  Zak’s mission was to change people’s perception of gin by showcasing the spirit’s versatility, as well as showcase local Ohio produce.

Read more @ larryhamill.wordpress.com

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Columbus’ Big Helping of Southern Cookin’

Collard Greens

The following is an excerpt from a business profile I wrote some years ago for Business First. I’ve reprinted it here for any foodies out there!

In his book, “Side Orders: Small Helpings of Southern Cookery & Culture,” food writer John Egerton paints Southern cooking with a palette of Creole, Cajun, country and soul. Glory Foods sought to capture the slow-cooked flavors of traditional Southern recipes and serve canned products fully seasoned with onions, garlic, spices and smoked ham flavor. Turnip greens, okra, collard greens, black-eyed peas, green beans and the flavor of smoked ham – “the crown jewels of the Southern kitchen” according to Egerton – are among Glory Foods’ growing line of culinary gems.

Read more @ Glory Foods Business Profile – Business First of Columbus.

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Community Gardens – Growing Hope

Columbus Community Garden © Larry Hamill

Columbus Community Garden © Larry Hamill

An industrial area off W. 5th Ave. seems an unlikely place for a community garden, yet tucked away there lies the East 8th Ave. Faith Mission homeless shelter. Within view of the Rumpke Recycle Center, colorful plastic wading pools dot a small plot of land behind the shelter. Vegetables spring from the soil filled pools – an unexpected use of objects designed for childhood summer fun.

Operated by Lutheran Social Services, the shelter’s garden is overseen by Dr. Job Ebenezer, along with help from church volunteers. The vegetables are planted in pools containing store bought soil, explains Dr. Ebenezer, because of possible ground contamination from nearby industry.

Working to help feed the homeless is just one of Dr. Ebenezer’s gardening projects. He also maintains a community garden at his local church on Morse Road.  Through the Helping Hands Clinic, the church offers free vegetables to parishioners in need and then sells any remaining produce to raise money for Ebenezer’s organization, Technology for the Poor.

Based on the philosophy of George Washington Carver, an African American scientist who taught sustainable agriculture to poor farmers, Ebenezer continues to address the needs of the under served through Technology for the Poor.

Pedal Power

One of his inventions converts a standard bicycle into a device that can shell corn and peanuts, thresh rice, cut wood and pump water.  Visit YouTube to see Pedal Power at work.

For more info on Dr. Ebenezer’s work, visit Technology for the Poor.

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COME+TOGETHER Over Hunger

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Macy’s has joined forces with Feeding America to make supporting Hunger Action Month (September) almost as easy as whipping up one of your grandmother’s old Betty Crocker recipes.

Macy’s COME+TOGETHER campaign rallies the public to host private theme dinner parties and asks dinner guests to pledge a donation to Feeding America, in lieu of bringing a host gift. Macy’s will match donations dollar for dollar until their goal of 10 million meals is reached. Every dollar received enables Feeding America to provide seven meals for those facing hunger.

Macy's CT2

Click on the graphic above and follow the three easy steps to launch your own fund raising party.  Once on Macy’s web page, you’ll be able to…

Create a Profile with your own picture or avatar or use one of Macy’s icons.

Create an Invitation complete with Party Name, Theme and Map.

Create your Guest List by adding individual e-mail addresses or importing your contacts from Facebook or e-mail provider.  (Macy’s site sends the invites via e-mail for you.)

You’ll also be asked to enter your fund raising goal and suggested guest donation, so your party goers will know what is expected of them.

All party planning details can be managed from your COME+TOGETHER Dashboard including…

E-mail Notifications: Save the Date, Day Before Reminder & Thank You

Post Party Payment via credit card on a Feeding America secured web    page

Menu planning tips and recipes are also provided by theme:

Cajun by Emeril Lagasse

Mexican by Rick Bayless

Pizza by Wolfgang Puck

And of course, Martha Stewart, among others.

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Feeding America is the nation’s leading hunger-relief charity. It is affiliated with more than 200 food banks, including Columbus’ own Mid-Ohio Foodbank, and supplies food to more than 25 million Americans each year, including 9 million children and 3 million seniors.

Feeding America’s web site also has a link just for kids entitled, Be A Hunger Helper. It includes a video of the Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs film characters and a guideline on How-To Write Your Congressperson to encourage support for fighting hunger in America.

This is Buckeye Country – COME TOGETHER

And turn your next Football Party into a fundraiser!


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Mid-Ohio Foodbank Welcomes Home Gardeners

 Jalapenos © Pamela J. Willits

Jalapenos at Mid-Ohio Foodbank © Pamela J. Willits

Mid-Ohio Foodbank’s This Is Hunger brochure sums it up best – Hunger is not a one-organization issue, it’s a community issue.

As part of the local gardening community, I recently bundled up the surplus from my home garden and delivered it to the Mid-Ohio Foodbank’s warehouse on West Mound street.

There I had the opportunity to spend some time with Christina Christian, MOFB’s digital marketing manager. The Mid-Ohio Foodbank jumped on the social media marketing train long before must of us realized it had already left the station.

With a strong presence on Facebook and Twitter, Christina spends a portion of her day promoting fund raisers and food drives through social media. On-line networking sites have expanded their audience, helping to broadcast their message beyond the reach of their mailing list.

Since the economic downturn, the Mid-Ohio Foodbank has seen a 30% increase in need. Serving as a distribution point, the MOFB supplies food to more than 500 food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters and senior housing sites in central and eastern Ohio.

The statistics are staggering. Forty-four percent of those in need have had to choose between food and heat or electricity, twenty-nine percent have had to choose between food and shelter, thirty-eight percent of all requests involve children and fourteen percent are for senior citizens.

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The good news is that their weighty commitment has them handling over 30 million pounds of food each year. And for every dollar they receive from donors, they distribute $8 worth of groceries. Thanks to the value of their non-profit status buying power, they’ve elevated stretching the dollar to an art form.

Come this October, the Mid-Ohio Foodbank will be stretching those dollars even further as they move into a new LEED certified (environmental friendly) warehouse in Grove City. The move will also triple their storage space.

My Garden Tomatoes © Pamela J. Willits

My Garden Tomatoes © Pamela J. Willits

So, while it’s too late to re-think this year’s backyard garden, it’s never too early to start planning for how you could expand your existing garden to create a surplus to share next summer. And between now and then, the Mid-Ohio Foodbank will still welcome any donation of fresh produce.

For up-to-date info and events, Join their Fan Page on Facebook, Follow them on Twitter @Mid_OHFoodbank or Call 614.274.7770.

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Will Exxon and Tech Start-Ups Battle Over Algae DNA?

Algae Pond © Larry Hamill

Algae Pond © Larry Hamill

In a recent talk before the Columbus Metropolitan Club, Ross Youngs, CEO of Algaeventure Systems, noted that while solar and wind power may have their place, “we’ll will never lift a plane off the ground or drive a truck down the freeway without high energy liquid fuels.”

And to that end, Youngs has been working on developing what may be the next big thing in biofuels – an algae based energy source. Headquartered near Columbus, Ohio – a city sited by Entrepreneur Magazine as one of the best places for tech start-ups – you could say research is blooming at Algaeventure Systems.

However, last week’s announcement that Exxon will invest up to $600 million in research of algae based biofuels brings new competition for a share of the pond.

As part of Exxon’s research strategy, they have enlisted the help of genomics pioneer, Craig Venter. The announcement came on the heels of Dow Chemical declaring that they would be dipping their big toe into the algae pond in pursuit of a potential technology bloom.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Exxon and Venter’s company, Synthetic Genomics, will spend the next five years determining the most suitable strain of algae, as well as figuring out the best way to grow it and how to economically mass produce it.

The Economist noted that Dr. Venter believes it may be possible to produce ten times more fuel per hectare from algae than can be had from corn. An added benefit could be that the exhaust from industrial plants, which are currently powered by conventional fuels, would supply carbon dioxide, the raw material needed for photosynthesis to produce the algae.

However, in a CNN interview with Gillian Madill of Friends of the Earth, Madill warns of a possible monopoly on biofuel. “Many of these oil companies are making steep investments in synthetic biology because they can literally own the very microorganisms that aim to produce fuel because of the current patentability of DNA. If synthetic biology proves successful, ‘Big Oil’ will not only own the fuel itself, but own the very life form that produces it,” said Madill.

Clearly, the stakes are high. According to Chad Hummell, industry and government sales manager for Algaeventure Systems, the United States Air Force is the single largest consumer of fuel in the world. Ironically, some of that fuel is used to protect fuel sources in the Middle East.

While we can hope that competition to own the fuel of the future won’t become reminiscent of the competition for fuel in the Mad Max -The Road Warrior and Beyond Thunderdome movies, you have to wonder about the survival of tech start-ups looking to solve our energy problem.

As biotechnology start-ups continue to pursue venture capital to fund research, will they find that life in a small pond is not sustainable when big fish like Exxon and Dow Chemical hold the lure of deep pockets?

Or will they find themselves bogged down in the murky waters of a legal battle over ownership of DNA, as Madill suggests?

Share your thoughts….

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Can Social Media Save Ohio Libraries?

Governor Strickland has proposed eliminating $200 million from the Public Library Fund over the next two years.

If approved, the proposal would cut the Columbus Metro Library’s state funding by 50%. The results would be devastating: closing branches, halting new books and materials and shutting down programs and services that are vital to our children and community.

ACT NOW – SAVE YOUR LIBRARY!

The Columbus Metropolitan Library encourages you to do the following:

* Post a tweet on Twitter or update your Facebook with the following message:

Our libraries are in jeopardy. I contacted my elected officials to save Ohio libraries. You should too. Find out more: http://bit.ly/B7IJ7
(or use http://www.columbuslibrary.org/save_our_library)

* Change your profile picture on Facebook, Twitter and other social networking sites to the Save Ohio Libraries image below.

Ohio Lib
* E-mail your family, friends, neighbors and colleagues.

* Call the Governor’s office at 614-466-3555 and state your opposition to this proposal.

* Visit the CML website to learn more.

* Visit the Ohio Library Council website for more information.

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Semper Fi: Leave No Woman Behind

AWP Logo 3

AWP Logo

What began as one young woman’s quest to document other young military
widows like herself, turned into a nationwide, non-profit support group called the American Widow Project. After creating a documentary film that tells the stories of six young military widows, AWP co-founder Taryn Davis, whose husband Michael was killed in Baghdad by a roadside bomb, has taken her stories of healing on the road.

If she rolls through your town, she’ll be hard to miss. She’s the 23-year-old
Texan behind the wheel of a black RV, with the names of hundreds of servicemen lost in Iraq and Afghanistan printed on the sides of the bus. You can track her route on the AWP Tour blog, whose tag line reads, “Unifying the New Generation of Military Widows…On Mile at a Time.”

Putting aside political party lines and individual opinions on whether
our involvement in the war was justified, it’s interesting to note
that it’s a young woman from Texas now on a mission to help carry other military widows through a time of great personal loss. “Military widow is an honorable title,” said Davis in a CNN interview last month. “It signifies our husband’s sacrifice.”

The American Widow Project website reminds us that these young women shouldn’t be the only ones to carry the burden of sacrifice. The site’s Help Board notes that anyone can place a yellow ribbon magnet on their car, but it’s the small deeds, like picking up groceries or offering to mow the lawn for a newly widowed, that are most appreciated.

The website also provides a page for women to post their own stories, while a MySpace page and a Twitter feed @americanwp give them a venue to chat. You can also donate through the website by sponsoring a military widow or helping to fund the AWP RV Tour.

Meetup logo
Mix & Mingle for a Cause, a newly formed Meetup group, will host a fundraiser on Friday, June 26 at the Hyatt on Capitol Square to benefit the American Widow Project, as well as the Mid-Ohio Foodbank. During this economic downturn, food banks across the country are striving to meet a growing demand for food assistance. And for military widows struggling to provide for their families, sometimes a little comfort food can go a long way to heal more than hunger.

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Filed under Non-Profit, Social Media

Non-Profits and Social Media – A Cycle for Change

If you’re in the non-profit sector and still aren’t sure how or if your organization can benefit from social media, consider the following story.

In addition to this blog, I also oversee and write content for Larry Hamill Photography’s blog. Last weekend, he photographed ZombieWalk Columbus 2009, as part of his ongoing documentation of Columbus events. Turns out the walk benefited the Mid-Ohio Foodbank, so naturally I linked to the organization in Larry’s blog post about ZombieWalk.

midohiofoodbank-logo

Once on their website, I followed the link to their Twitter feed. There I learned that if you shop at Kroger, you can use your Plus Card to benefit the Mid-Ohio Foodbank.

Scrolling down their list of tweets, I also discovered FOODFIGHT 6.30, a partnership between the Central Ohio Restaurant Association and Mid-Ohio Foodbank’s Operation Feed. It’s a hunger initiative scheduled to take place on Tuesday, June 30. Participating member restaurants will donate 5% of their sales receipts from that day to Operation Feed, a community-wide food and funds drive.

The event is part virtual food drive, so if you can’t visit a participating restaurant on June 30, you can still help by making an online donation. All donations will help provide food for the hungry in central and eastern Ohio.

Lastly, there was a tweet about ZombieWalk. The numbers weren’t in yet, but word on the street, or at least in the ethers, was that it was a great success. I learned quite a bit – all from a blog posting about zombies. Zombies who had their heads on straight when they created a MySpace page titled ZombieWalk, to promote their fund raising event.

When I log off my blog site in the few minutes, I’ll log into my Twitter account to post a tweet of my own about this blog post, completing the cycle social media tools afford us to help spread our messages for social change.

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Will Social Media Save Us?

Driving to WordPress Camp – Columbus, I heard a story on NPR about more victims of the economy. Dan was a L.A. based photographer who hadn’t booked a job since December. His wife, Caitlin Shetterly, was a freelance reporter for public radio. And then there was the baby and the dog.

Caitlin spoke about how they forfeited their apartment, shuttered the business and moved back to Maine, to live with her mother. They crossed the country in a car too small for all their belongs, or at least the ones they hadn’t opted to leave behind. With two adults, a restless baby and one 90lb. dog, her husband had worried that the back end of the car was riding too close to the ground. Arriving safely, they found her mother had decorated the guest bedroom with photographs of Caitlin as a young girl. Her father was just glad to have them home.

As a writer, who also works with photographers, the story hit home.
Given the current economy, I too have considered the possibility of returning home. But for today, I was attending WordPress Camp.

During the first presentation, a woman in the back of the room began calling out comments. As this continued, I began to think of her as the WordPress Camp’s heckler. Any comedian will tell you there’s one in every crowd.

Later that morning, I learned that Lorelle VanFossen was no heckler.
In fact, she was one of the first sixty people to test drive WordPress’ software in early 2000. She’s a walking warehouse of blogging knowledge and had come from Portland, Oregon to share the WordPress love.

As she walked through the audience, microphone in hand, she called out
the question – What has WordPress done for you? I was too busy taking
notes to realize she had zeroed in on me. I looked up to see the mike stuck in my face.

Well, I stumbled, I’ve only been using WordPress since Monday.
She stood over me, her finger pointed down toward my head and yelled –
Virgin! The audience laughed. She had gone from heckler to comedian.

Lorelle moved across the room, placed the mike in front of a man, roughly in his early 50’s and asked – What do you do and what has WordPress done for you? He replied – I used to be a journalist. Used to be? My heart sank. The Columbus Dispatch had recently let go a batch of writers – perhaps he among them. Our used to be journalist was also new to WordPress, and was just hoping to keep his writing skills honed.

Displaced creative types are becoming a theme in my life. A photographer I know was recently shadowed by a high school student wanting to become a photographer himself. The optimism of youth. For those who have spent a lifetime in the creative field, we wonder if there is a future in the wake of this economic downturn, or at best, what that future will look like.

Months before, this same photographer had commented that social media
platforms, like LinkedIn, would become the new marketing forum for photographers. I wonder about the L.A. photographer, now living in Maine. Will social media save his career? Will Caitlin’s blog save hers? Perhaps we’ve all been riding along life’s highway too overloaded and a little too close to the ground.

As we look to a President, who built his campaign on social media, to fix
so much that’s wrong, perhaps like Obama, the best we can do for now is just keep the conversation going in an attempt to keep moving forward.

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