Archive for April, 2010

Featured Corporate Volunteer Program: Fed Ex

Thursday, April 29th, 2010

FedEx strives to be “a great place to work, a thoughtful steward of the environment, and a caring citizen in the communities where we live and work.” The entire company’s passion for improving the quality of life around the world is evidenced in these programs:

For the Environment: FedEx incorporates responsible environmental practices into daily operations and always looks for ways to increase efficiency while reducing waste. They recently introduced the company’s first all-electric truck.

EarthSmart Outreach directs volunteer efforts in support of environmental challenges that cities face. FedEx is teaming up with the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation to help six non-profits recreate six urban spaces across the U.S. Almost 300 FedEx team members will help out, ensuring that a little more green space can be enjoyed by thousands of their fellow citizens. This month, they’re planting trees in Memphis and Pittsburgh, cleaning the Los Angeles River, helping young people plant a green roof in New York City, and developing an outdoor living classroom in Washington D.C.

For the Needy: Employees all over the world volunteer in their local communities, from teaching children to be safe pedestrians in Korea, to collecting food from restaurants and bakeries to donate to needy people in Germany .

Each fall, FedEx staff members help out the United Way in their local communities during FedEx Cares Week. Last year, days of service held all across the U.S. allowed more than 2,100 FedEx team members to volunteer in their communities. Some of the projects they participated in were organizing local food banks, painting child-care centers, and building playgrounds.

For Education: Trucker Buddies is a pen-pal program that pairs FedEx drivers with kids from grades 2 through 8. Kids love the special attention from these caring adults, which helps them learn while having fun writing back and forth to their buddy. Trucker Buddy International has helped more than 1 million school children.

For Cancer Research: Throughout the month of March, FedEx employees volunteer to help with the American Cancer Society’s Daffodil Days. They pack, sort and deliver millions of daffodils to help in the fight against cancer. Nearly $3 million was raised in 2008 in New England, as FedEx team members delivered more than 400,000 daffodils around Boston.

For Local Non-Profits: FedEx Special Delivery was launched in 2004 to help collect and transport food, clothing, and toys to needy kids and adults throughout the U.S. and Canada. FedEx partners with local non-profit organizations and donates transportation services and manpower to help them serve their clients.

FedEx team members busily volunteer their time throughout the year, helping the environment and their fellow citizens—and they’re supported by their employer, too, because “FedEx believes it is important to give back to the communities we serve.”

How Does your Non Profit Website Rank on Google?

Friday, April 23rd, 2010

How quickly are web searchers finding your Non Profit Organization (NPO)? What terms are they searching under? How does Google rank websites, anyway?

Every one has experienced the frustration of typing in a few key words and not finding the site we were hoping to find. Or, of typing in key words for our own organizations and seeing everyone’s site but ours on Google’s results page.

Google’s algorithms rank websites using all kinds of information; and while there are no magic bullets that will rocket your non profit organization’s site to the top of the rankings, there are easy ways to make it easier for Google’s spiders to find it (spiders are little robots sent out 24/7 to see what’s happening on the web and report back to Google).

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a way of modifying your site to make it more spider-friendly. There are thousands of theories and myths around SEO. There are also a bunch of generally-accepted principles that actually work.

Keywords are extremely important. Keywords are the phrases or single terms that searchers use to find a site. They can be broad or targeted; for example, “women’s services” is broad, while “domestic violence help for women” is more targeted. Type in a typical search for your organization and see how you rank. Add your region, city, or state to further narrow the search to your organization.

Keywords that your targeted audience will likely use to find your organization’s website should be included:

  • In title, keyword, and description tags your web developer can add;
  • In headlines and body copy throughout the site.

Content should be updated regularly. A good way to achieve this is to have a Content Management System (CMS) site. Most new websites are built on this type of platform, which allows site owners or administrators to make simple site changes, based on a template. No more asking your web designer or developer to make all of your changes!

Another way to achieve the goal of fresh content is to incorporate a news page and/or blog into your site. News, photos, and videos of events and other important matters will keep visitors interested and returning to your site. Updated content will also help your Google rankings.

Ask for backlinks, which are links on other sites to yours. The best backlinks include your keywords. For example, a partner agency, like United Way, might include a link to a “domestic violence prevention organization” using that phrase as the link text, rather than the name of the organization. All backlinks are helpful to website rankings, but this type of text link from a respected organization is extremely valuable. So, ask everyone you can to link to your site!

These are just a few easy ways you can help your non profit organization’s website improve its Google rankings. Try them, give the spiders a week or two to find the changes, and see how it ranks. Keep implementing the changes and you should see improvement!

Why Background Screening for Volunteers?

Thursday, April 15th, 2010

While awaiting the economic recovery, many non profit organizations (NPOs) have cut expenses as closely as possible. One area that should not see a budget reduction is background screening of volunteers.

Why is it important for Volunteer Managers to continue screening volunteers?

1. It’s the first defense against fraud. Embezzlement and theft are concerns in both for-profit and non-profit organizations. In hard times, fraud actually increases, so there is no better time than the present to protect your organization from potential losses. Charities nationwide are losing cash and property to unscrupulous volunteers. Don’t let yours be one of them!

2. Appearances are deceiving. Note we didn’t say “appearances can be deceiving;” that’s because they just are. You simply cannot judge a person’s honesty or character based on their level of cleanliness, their jewelry, or the brand of shoes they wear. Gambling addicts sometimes look like your grandmother—and some of them steal money to fuel their habit. Even folks who have never considered stealing fall prey to need—and if that person has access to your NPO’s finances, it’s potentially at risk.

3. As the person in charge of volunteers, you are liable for their actions. Do you want to be safe, or sorry? If the charity you’ve given so much of your time to suffered a financial loss due to theft, fraud, or litigation, how would you feel—especially knowing that a simple and quick background check could help you screen out potential problem volunteers? Don’t take chances—you’ll sleep better at night!

4. What’s more important than keeping volunteers, staff, and clients safe? Most organizations serving vulnerable populations, like the elderly, disabled, and children, routinely screen volunteers for criminal history and sex offender status. But sadly, not every volunteer organization takes this important step. We’ve all heard the stories about volunteers who harm kids or the elderly who should not have been anywhere near them!

There is really no reason not to screen every volunteer applicant. No matter what financial shape your NPO is in, volunteer screening is one area that you really can’t afford to cut the budget!

Background credit screening of volunteers is quick and inexpensive. And the peace of mind it offers is really priceless. Protect your organization, your staff, volunteers, and clients with thorough background screening.

In Non Profit Marketing, Communicate Like Humans Do

Thursday, April 8th, 2010

There is a nonprofit marketing revolution afoot. It’s about ridding marketing communications of robotic jargon and complicated language in favor of engaging in conversations—like humans do.

Take a look at your non profit organization’s marketing materials: from the website and online forms, to the newsletter and email messaging. How many instances of words like “paradigm,” “accountability,” “impact,” “leverage,” “mission-critical,” and “synergy” do you find? Do you ask interested website visitors for their personal information, or do you demand it?

Overused terms like “paradigm” don’t have much meaning when readers just gloss over them. And category-specific jargon might be confusing to some readers—and turn them right off. Real humans don’t talk in jargon—and after all, when you’re promoting your non profit organization, you are talking to real humans.

It’s important to keep marketing content simple and friendly. Pretend that your brochure, website, volunteer application, or newsletter is a person—with a personality, a distinct voice, and a professional, straightforward vocabulary.

Share information as a friendly neighbor would—and keep that “friendly neighbor” tone in mind. Don’t assume your audience knows what your organization does, how long it’s been around, or who is on the executive team and board of directors.

Put a likable face on your non profit organization. Staff, volunteer, and management photos make you look real—and human. And when posing the board of directors for their annual photo shoot, put them outside in more casual outfits instead of around a big table with their hands folded.

Instead of demanding information on your online forms, ask for it. Forms can be friendly! Rather than Name/Address/Phone/Email for registration forms, use language like:

  • Introduce yourself!
  • Where would you like emails sent?
  • Can we call you?
  • Where should we send news?

When you think of your audience as humans, and your marketing materials as people you’re asking to communicate for you, it only makes sense to use human language to do the job!

Count on for your volunteer prescreening services. Protect your staff, clients, and your community with background checks.

Corporate Giving: Are the Purse Strings Loosening?

Thursday, April 1st, 2010

A recent survey of U.S. companies showed that planning for community involvement, including contributions, has “moved out of crisis mode and into a recovery mindset.” In other words, drastic budget cuts in charitable giving have slowed among these companies, and they are again thinking about helping their communities.

What does this mean for non profit organization (NPO) executives and volunteer boards? Perhaps some breathing room. If your NPO made it through 2009 intact, you may see increased corporate support in the rest of 2010.

Still, according to the report, 20% of the 114 companies surveyed in December 2009 and January 2010 are planning on reducing their budgets for charitable giving. But that’s a significant drop from 53% in the same survey taken in 2008-2009.

The good news on the volunteer side is that most of the surveyed companies plan to increase the resources devoted to volunteer programs. Event sponsorship, however, will continue to take a hit. Corporations will want to help with personnel hours instead of dollars. Continue developing relationships with corporate leaders and let them know how their employees can help your organization.

Capital campaigns and arts and culture organizations will continue to be hard hit, since more companies plan to focus resources on education and environmental causes.

But the positive news is that the companies surveyed overwhelmingly say they are less likely to reduce their contributions-related administrative budgets (down from 34% last year), and less likely to cut grant size (8% this year, 21% last year). Another bright spot: only 11% of surveyed companies plan to make fewer grants in 2010, compared to nearly 34% in 2009.

So, while non profits will continue to work hard for contributions, there could be pleasant surprises along the way in 2010!