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A Community Unites To Make It Possible!

 

describe the imageThe Mountain Ranch Youth Alliance and Resource Center is currently running an online auction with us and has two stays at the Hotel Leger up for bid. The Hotel Leger is a historic hotel located in Mokelumne Hill, CA that will be featured on the Travel Channel’s show, Hotel Impossible.  The show revitalizes hotels that are not reaching their full potential and are in need of some expert help.

Hotel Leger’s revamping was a truly special one as it called for over 200 local volunteers to step in to help. Donna Vial, auction administrator for the Mountain Ranch Youth Alliance and Resource Center, was one of those volunteers. She lent a helping hand by painting for several days for 4-6 hours stretches, and also by answering phones in the hotel's office.  When I spoke with her she described the experience as creating: “A real feeling of community with so many friends and everyone working together with such lighthearted, helping moods.  It was a very uplifting experience. Energy was high. Volunteers worked into the wee hours of the night. Everyone banded together “ Donna was also an especially popular volunteer as she brought beer for the workers! She explained to me that: “Moke Hill (as the locals call it) is a very small community and is known for its cohesiveness. It is really in the spirit of the community to help one another however and whenever they can.”

Hotel Impossible’s Anthony Melchiorri was giving the manager of the hotel guidance on how to revitalize the hotel, but the volunteers were needed to make that vision a reality, and to preserve an important historical landmark that was in financial trouble. With the help of the volunteers the hotel was only closed for a short period of time and business has already improved greatly! Business will no doubt continue to flourish when the Hotel Impossible episode airs in early 2013.

Mountain Ranch Youth Alliance and Resource Center is helping to support a very small, rural community community with a very high unemployment and under employment rate. The Resource Center provides food, clothing, wifi, computers, and classes. Classes range from social media to healthy eating and cooking. They are working to expand the organization to include a community garden of about 5,000 sq ft , and also to have a medical and dental clinic. They offer a number of events ranging from a Holiday Home Tour to a Murder Mystery dinner as well.

So here’s your chance to support a great cause and to win a stay at a hotel that will be featured on the Travel Channel. A fun fact about the hotel is that is believed to be haunted!  If you are a winner of one of these hotel stays you may walk away with your own ghost stories to tell…you’ll also be helping a great organization.

Impossible until it's done

 


I recently had the pleasure of attending an event for Beth Kanters’ new book Measuring The Networked Nonprofit, Using Data to Change the World. If you are a person interested in nonprofits, you have probably heard of Beth, sometimes known as “The Queen of Nonprofits.”

I interact with hundreds of nonprofits a week. A common theme is that they all want to have a bigger positive impact in this world, in one way or another.  Inspired by Beth’s talk and book, I want to share a few thoughts that might inspire you.  One thing she said was that technology changes fast, people change slower, and organizations change at a glacier rate. A funny thought to some, but one that resonated with me very much. I know that when many of us feel stuck in the middle of a project and do not see change or progress happening fast enough, we often want to give up.  Beth and her co-author Katie Paine stress the idea that “incremental success is not failure” and encourage us to “not give up in the middle”. This point was made specifically in regards to social media. Their point is that many nonprofits experiment with this social media, but when they hit an obstacle in the road, the organization often sees it as failure and gives up on the new strategy. They remind us that “everything looks like failure in the middle.”

Does this theme seem familiar to a project or campaign in your organization? Perhaps it hits a nerve for you personally? Has there been an event or campaign that you finished that did not bring you the desired results? I speak to a handful of clients every month that have tried our auction management platform for one year and then, because it did not produce the expected results, the organization decides to call it quits.  Social media and auctions have something in common. The more you share, listen, and build them through small caring steps the more powerful they can become over time.

Beth and Katie would recommend that you should not give up on your next social media campaign at the half-way point if it is not yielding results. I would also encourage you to not give up on your big campaign or personal goals because they have not produced the immediate results you wanted. Be patient, practice, measuring what you can and improve upon it again and again and again. Nelson Mandela said it best "it always seems impossible until it's done."

Beth Kanter (@kanter) is the author of Beth’s Blog: How Nonprofits Can Use Social Media, one of the longest running and most popular blogs for nonprofits.  She co-authored the book titled “The Networked Nonprofit” with Allison Fine (published in 2010) that received Honorable Mention for the Terry McAdams Award.  Beth has over 30 years experience working in the nonprofit sector in technology, training, capacity building, evaluation, fundraising, and marketing.   Her second book, “Measuring the Networked Nonprofit”,  with co-Author Katie Paine, will be published in October 2012.


How Much is Enough When You're Donating?

 

hurricane sandy cover 2The devastation of Hurricane Sandy and the Super Storm that came with it is truly horrific.  We, on the east coast, have not had to deal with this kind of destruction in a long time.  We watched Hurricane Katrina wreak havoc on New Orleans and the surrounding area.  We witnessed the devastation of the Tsunami in Japan.  Now suddenly a major weather event has affected a huge swath of the east coast and many of our friends and colleagues.  

Tonight  I watched the television special which was about raising money to help  the victims of this horrible event.  Bruce Sprinsteen, Billy Joel, Christina Aguilera, and Steven Tyler along with many other artists and TV personalities participated.   When Matt Lauer and Brian Williams and Al Roker and my hero, John Stewart all appear together, you know this is big stuff.   And I wonder how much is enough?  I did my part.  I tried first to go the Red Cross website which was completely overwhelmed and was not functioning.  I could have texted to the Red Cross but I knew I wanted to give more than $10. I ended up donating on iTunes. How smart that they had multiple partner sites who were accepting donations. 

So here's what I'm pondering?  How much is enough?  Honestly, if I could take a week or two off from my job, I would head down to New York in a heartbeat.  There are elderly people that are stranded in their apartment buildings in NY, with no power, no heat, no water and no elevators.  If I can't show up in person,  what can I give?  How much is enough? 

This is a question that so many of us think about. No matter what your means.  Many of us were brought up to give a portion of what we earn to worthy causes.   Many of us have a list of causes we care about most.  Maybe it's a health cause like cancer or heart disease.  Maybe it's a local church or school.  For me a cause that I care deeply about is the Arts.  It's theaters that do great, compelling work or Young Audiences that brings the arts to schools.  Another cause I care deeply about is my camp which literally changes lives for the kids who are lucky enough to spend their summers there.  I give to the Pan Mass Challenge because of my dear friends ride every year in honor of their loved ones.  I give to the Multiple Schlerosis Society because I have a cousin who is battling this disease.  I give to Public Television and Public Radio.  The list is long and the donations add up.  But then something horrible happens like Hurricane Sandy.  I sit in my warm, cozy farmhouse in VT and i think about the people in NY and New Jersey and elsewhere who are cold and hungry and alone.  So how much is enough?   

What can we as fundraisers do to tell our stories and help people decide how much is enough? One thing is for sure.  Compelling storytellng goes a long way to help people decide to be more generous.   And the other thing I know for sure- if you don't ask, you don't get.  So here's to a swift recovery for all of the people affected by Hurricane Sandy.  And if you're moved to, please give.  www.redcross.org

 

A Badge of Honor

 

JohnFranklinStephens jpgAs a relatively new employee at BiddingForGood, I have been struck by how many of our customers are incredibly passionate about the causes they serve.  Many are committed to helping and empowering people less fortunate.  A story caught my attention last week about a tasteless tweet during one of the presidential debates from social and political commentator Anne Coulter in which she uses the R (Retard) word to refer to the President of the United States.  The most compelling part of this story was how a 30-year-old Special Olympic athlete named John Franklin Stephens responded. He wrote an eloquent response which was downright inspiring to me. 

Rather than focusing on the ignorance and insensitivity of Ms. Coulter’s tweet, his carefully planned response turned a negative and hurtful comment into a positive and inspirational teaching moment for Ms. Coulter and the rest of the world.

Instead of angrily lashing out at Ms. Coulter, as many people (including me) would be inclined to do, Mr. Stephens made the brave decision to exemplify why using the R-word as an insult is not only offensive and reckless, but also incredibly distorted.  Here is what Mr. Stephens said to her.  

“Well, Ms. Coulter, you, and society, need to learn that being compared to people like me should be considered a badge of honor.”

Mr. Stephens shows us first hand the strength of character one develops through overcoming physical and mental disadvantages.  I find that, despite the adversity he has faced, his ability to maintain an optimistic attitude and display a genuine excitement for life to be truly inspirational.

Since I have begun working for BiddingForGood, I have been pleased to realize there are many people in this world who share Mr. Stephens’ inspirational qualities. So many of our clients have dedicated their lives to aid, support, and empower people facing hardship and adversity. 

Mr. Stephens also reminds us that every individual is responsible for their actions and the mark they leave on society. We can choose to replicate Ms. Coulter’s careless behavior; to ignore the golden rule of “treating others as we would like to be treated.” We can choose to ignore those who are marginalized in this world, or worse, we can choose to disparage them. Or, we can follow Mr. Stephens’  example and use the gifts we are given for the betterment of our lives as well as the lives of others.

I especially loved the way John Franklin Stephens signed his open letter to Ms. Coulter. The letter was signed as  "The Friend You Haven't Met Yet".  Now, that's taking the high road.

Remain vigilant and be prepared!

 

Hurricane SandyResidents of the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic "should remain vigilant and be prepared to take action in the next few days," writes Weather.com.

As the threat of a Super Storm hitting the east coast gets broadcast from all of our favorite weather forecasters, I am pondering the notion of preparedness. Super Storm, you ask? Just in case you are not a weather buff, a Super Storm apparently occurs when three weather events converge.  In this case, it's Hurricane Sandy, swirling towards the Bahamas, an artic blast from up north, and an early winter storm from the west. The weather forecasters are saying we all need to think about preparedness.  Of course we all know that their predictions may or may not come true.  In this case, the models show different possible tracks from the storm.  We've learned this painful lesson over time. Think New Orleans.

I am immediately worried about all of the trick or treaters out there who are already planning or making their costumes, who are dreaming of the haul they're going to bring home that will keep them all sugared-up for days, maybe weeks.  What will happen to their most favorite
halloween cancelled holiday of the year if this Super Storm hits?  Actually, if memory serves,  this very thing happened on the East Coast last year.  There was an early and unexpected snow storm that wreaked havoc, and forced the postponement of Halloween.

Worrying about the weather is just one of the long list of things that event planners and fundraisers need to worry about.  It is always essential to have a Plan B.  Since our world is about online auctions we can't help but feel a bit giddy knowing that an online auction is not susceptible to the vagaries of the weather forecast.  People may be kept at home if they were planning to attend a live event and the roads are flooding or the power lines are down.  But as long as there is power, there is the internet.  Of course, some people may lose power and will not be able to participate in an online auction either.  But the beauty of opening up your fundraising to the internet is that there are bidders all over the country who can be supporting your auction.  If you are running an auction with BiddingForGood and choose to invite our 350,000 cause-minded shoppers to your auction, many of them will be outside of the area that will be hardest hit. That is your insurance policy.  As we often say, more bidders equals more money.

So next time you are planning a fundraising event, consider the benefits of putting it online. And if you are like many weather-obsessed people, get back to http://www.weather.com and work on that plan B.  And who knows, maybe next week will bring balmy and breezy days on the East Coast just like those lucky Californians experience most of the year.  

Baking It Forward

 

doughnutsI love to bake.  On weekends, when I have some free time, I enjoy spending an afternoon baking a new sweet treat, bread, or dessert.   Baking has always interested me because it gives me the chance to learn some new skills and try new foods.  It’s also like a real life math problem or science experiment, but with delicious results! Every time I bake bread, I love to watch the yeast bubble and grow after sprinkling it over some warm (but not too warm) water and sugar.  The fact that the dough doubles after a couple hours of simply sitting in a warm spot blows my mind.

The other thing I love about baking is sharing!  For me, food is even better when it’s enjoyed with others.  Plus, it’s pretty dangerous to hoard 2 dozen pumpkin doughnuts or a chocolate cake at home.  I’d rather my friends or fellow co-workers at BiddingforGood reap the benefits of my baking adventures.  Plus, baking brings me joy and I want it to bring joy to others.

rosemary breadOne of the sites I often look to for baking inspiration is King Arthur Flour.  They have a great blog, full of tips, tricks, and their own baking experiments (sausage and apple pie or maple-glazed bacon doughnuts anyone?).  Recently, they wrote about one of their programs Life Skills Bread Baking Program, which has been going strong since 1992.  For 20 years, Life Skills Bread Baking Program has taught over 200,000 students in grades 4-7 how to bake their own bread.  The program includes a lesson taught by a King Arthur Flour instructor plus the materials to bake two loaves of bread per student.  Why two? One to bring home to enjoy and the other to donate to a local food bank or, in some cases, to give to someone special as a gift!

With this program, not only are students applying concepts they’re already learning in school, such as reading, arithmetic, and following directions, they’re also using their new skill to give back to others in their communities. 

In a recent post, Perry wrote about the concept of “gifting” and bringing your unique gifts to whatever you do.  The Life Skills Bread Baking Program introduces their students to this idea, where with a few humble ingredients students receive a gift that’s not only with them for life, but they can share with others throughout their lives. And that, my friends, is sharing at its finest!

When Generosity Goes Viral

 

arthriticdog

You may have seen this amazing picture online of a man swimming with this arthritic dog. His love for his dog and the kindness of his spirit inspired thousands of dollars in donations to help his dog Schoep receive much needed medical treatment. Not only is John Unger’s dog wagging his tail again because of these tremendous donations, John has used the rest of the donations to start the Schoep Legacy Foundation to help other animals in need. In large part, this has all happened due to the power of the internet. Stories like these travel faster than ever, and allow donations to happen instantaneously with the click of a button. People want to give, they want to help; they just need to know who needs help and how to help them. The internet makes that information infinitely easier to find.

You may remember this story about Karen Klein, the bus monitor, who was bullied terribly. The video of her experience went viral, and people were outraged by what they saw. All it took was one person, Max Sidorov, to decide that this woman deserved the vacation of a lifetime, and $700,000 worth of donations flooded in. His online fundraising campaign’s original goal was only $5.000. From all this generosity, Karen was free to retire and have the vacation of a lifetime for the rest of her life. One could worry that we are living in a time when it seems the internet has taken over our lives. We spend more time on Facebook, Twitter, and email than we do enjoying each other’s company in person. It would seem real human connection is on its way out; that empathy and compassion are things of the past. We’re all too busy staring at screens for that.

As it turns out, nothing could be further than the truth. The internet has given the opportunity to more people, to give more often, and to give more generously. This is how BiddingForGood has helped thousands of organizations raise over $165 million dollars in less than 10 years. Online auctions make it easier to give. All of our non profits are run by people brave enough to ask: “Can you please help us?” and our 350,000 registered bidders have answered with a resounding: “Yes”. I hope that if you are one of our bidders you will continue to give, and if you are a non profit you will join us and grant more people the chance to give to your cause. You might be amazed at the generosity you will see. 

When you were four, you were an artist.. what happened?

 

    
 
describe the image   I feel the need to ask permission to break out a bit. Many of you read this blog looking for tips and tricks for fundraising auctions.  Happily, we have great people at BiddingForGood who are sharing that information every week.  What  inspires me most are ideas and insights that affect us all as people, as employees,  as fellow travellers.  I have written about creativity frequently on this blog but  want to share some of the wonderful insights that I have recently discovered in  Seth Godin's latest book. Linchpin: Are you Indispensable!  Seth Godin, if you  don't know who he is, has written a number of books on marketing and is a very popular and inspiring speaker and thought leader.  I am loving this book and think there are great lessons for all of us.  

 

 Lemonade Stand Here is one of my favorite passages in the book.  He says that at  age four you were an artist. At age seven you were a poet, at age  12, if you had a lemonade stand, you were an entrepreneur. So  what happened?  He reflects on the state of the workplace today  which is often crushing the creativity of employees.  He challenges  us all to be remarkable, to be indispensable, to be artists at work.  Now this is not always an easy path.  There are plenty of people  who will not choose this path.  There are those who want to show  up every day, keep their heads down, get through the day and not  really be noticed.  But in a world where there is more and more outsourcing for essential functions, and pressure to hire the least expensive resource to get the job done (better yet, get a volunteer), there is more of a need than ever for the fearless innovators to stand up, express their ideas, share their "art". It feels a little risky to do it but the challenge for those of us leading teams and running companies is to create a culture that celebrates Linchpins.  We may not always like what we hear from them, but at least we are hearing new ideas and maybe new truths. 

Another great concept in this book is the notion of "gifting"- of bringing your unique gifts to whatever you do.  This is a tricky concept as not everyone thinks of their skills or contributions as gifts or as "art".  But think again.  More often than not, someone on your team or in your organization really does perceive them as gifts. Certainly the constituents or the customers we serve appreciate and experience these gifts.  

RENO Burning Man Stilts 500x403 There is a wild and crazy event that happens every year in  the  Nevada desert called Burning Man.  It is a week long festival  that attracts 50,000 people who create a community on a  parched piece of earth.  It may suprise you to hear that I have  been to Burning Man several times.  Many people think that the  profile of a "Burner" is someone in their 20's who is looking for  sex, drugs and rock and roll.  Believe it or not, there are alot of  grown-ups like me who come for the community and the art and  the radical self-expression.  One of my favorite things about this  event is that there is a "gifting economy" at the center of the  community.  What does that mean?  It means there is no commerce, nobody sells anything and everyone is asked to bring their gifts.  The gifts might be as simple as a homemade necklace that you share with people, or an afternoon where you make grilled cheese sandwiches to distribute to the throngs.  One year, someone came up to our campfire and asked if anyone was wearing pink.  I happened to have socks on that were pink and so I was presented with a pink etch-a-sketch. One of my favorite experiences at Burning Man is singing in the Playa Choir.  This is a gospel-type choir that rehearses all week long and then does a "performance" just before everyone heads home.  It is the most soulful, rockin, heartfelt group of singers I've ever encountered, led by a wonderful woman who brings the group together in really powerful ways.  There are so many gifts being shared on the day of that service, it is breathtaking. 

Playa Choir 

So I celebrate the notion of a gifting economy.  Whether it is at work, in the desert or within our communities. I celebrate the idea of bringing art to the workplace.  I challenge us all to be Linchpins, wherever we work.  

Stay tuned for more posts on this fabulous book. There is so much to inspire. And maybe I'll break down and keep writing about Burning Man.  It's pretty darn inspirational too. 

 

Get Pinning People!

 

describe the imageA number of months ago on this blog I wrote about a new online phenomenon called Pinterest. This online pinboard has taken the social media world by a storm and has influenced many other sites who are bringing people together around images. 

I was obsessed with Pinterest when I first discovered it.  I still really like it although I confess to visiting slightly less frequently. I find it a fun way to express the things that I am passionate about.  It continues to inspire me with fabulous recipes and travel destinations and gardens and photos of dogs.  (I'm in the market for a dog so am looking around for the perfect "next" dog for me).

I am clearly not alone.  The number of users on Pinterest has rocketed to over 23 Million users (according to Comscore).  The really hot topics are food, fashion, travel, pets.   But here's the best part. Those are many of the same topics that are hot within the BiddingForGood marketplace. Fundraising auctions are raising lots of money by auctioning off travel packages, and dining certificates and even fashion and accessories.  So now, and this is the really important thing.  (To coin Bill Clinton)  Listen to me.   Now you can PIN images from your auction onto Pinterest for the world to see.  Why is this important?  Because it is another powerful way to get the word out about your auction and to invite the larger community of cause-minded shoppers to come on in and bid.  

BiddingForGood has some of our own boards on Pinterest on topics like Goodness in Action, Fashion Finds, Things we love and more. 

Pinterest boards

Our clients continue to amaze and impress us with their creativity.  As much as we think we've got the best collection of auction experts around, our clients continue to dream up ideas that we haven't thought of.  They are dreaming up ideas that are helping them run the best, most successful auctions around.  So Pinterest should definitely be added to the bag of tricks that successful fundraisers are using to raise more money.  With 23 million people engaged on Pinterest, there's something exciting going on there.  Why don't you jump in and see what's it about all about.  It really may bring more bidders to your auction and what's not to love about that.  

Here are some of the items that have been "pinned" from BiddingForGood.

describe the imagedescribe the image  And 

And here's where you can find the PIN icon on an item page.  If you are a member of Pinterest, all you have to do is click it and the item image will get posted to Pinterest.  Easy!  And fun! 

Next to Normal pin

Cautionary tale for teenagers that applies to us all

 

iStock 000006051646SmallPURCHASED resized 600
I love it when our customers inspire us.  This is a round-about tale about a speech that Dr. Tim Johnson, Head of School for the Pingree School in Beverly, MA gave in a convocation speech to his students.  It was shared with me over lunch and a Patriots Game by two good friends whose kids go to the school.  Dr. Johnson shared a quote from Jim Rohn, a personal development guru and inspirational speaker who once wrote that “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”  Okay, so for teenagers this is a pretty powerful idea, right? The idea to really think about who you are hanging out with and think about whether they are making you a better person. Any parent knows that this is one of the trickiest things that our kids navigate as they go through life and make choices for themselves.  As a parent, it is clearly part of the responsibility we have to our kids to be one of those people who helps define who they are and what they become.  Dr. Johnson asks the question, "Do the people around you lift you up? Are you surrounded by energy givers or energy takers.  And what do you bring to your daily exchanges and relationships?"

Think about this in your own life.  It's one of the reasons that working with great people is an essential element in terms of where I choose to work and invest so much time.  In our ever busy lives, the people you choose to spend time with should make you feel good about who you are and the life you're living.  When they don't, we often begin to feel drained and uninspired. 

So what does this mean to us and the world of fundraising that we live in?  What does it mean to a fundraising team?  Think about the experience of running a fundraising auction.  When you are in the eye of the storm, the people who you spend the most time with will define how successful you are. My visual, by the way, of the eye of the storm is a maelstrom, or a tornado and what is swirling around you is an array of items and packages and event promotion and table seating and opening bids. You get the picture.  It truly is the eye of the storm.  So what matters when you are in that place?   The people that are helping you.  Your auction co-chair or the members of your auction committee are enormously important.  If you are working with BiddingForGood, your auction expert can be an essential component in your success. They will keep you grounded and focused.  They will help you keep your eyes on the prize.

And here's the really important question that Dr. Johnson posed to those kids.  "What are you doing to the averages of the people with whom you surround yourself?" What are you doing for the important people in your life?  Remember a rising tide lifts all boats. (according to John F. Kennedy)  What contribution are you making to your fundraising team and is it a net positive? Jon Carson, the CEO of BiddingForGood, has a quote on his wall that says- "Stormy waters favor strong swimmers."   While no one ever said that raising lots of money was easy, it sure is easier when you surround yourself with great people while you do it. So I'll close with one of my favorite quotes in business and in life-  "Jump in, the waters warm".


 

 

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