As you gear up to BBQ hop today, spend some time thinking about the brave folks who lost their lives protecting our country. Yes, I am feeling patriotic at the moment. I’m thinking about my grandfathers, both of whom were proud of their military service, my friends who have returned from their fourth and fifth tours, and the recent NPR piece I heard about a couple who deployed to Iraq together but didn’t return that way.
At the wise suggestion of my colleague, Cheryl, we thought we’d observe this holiday of freedom, respect, pride, and appreciation here on the Connection Café blog with a behind the scenes interview. This time, we're behind the scenes at America Supporting Americans (ASA), an organization working to improve the lives of men and women in the military through their three signature programs: Adopt-A-Unit, Foster-A-Unit, and the Youth Civic Action and Awareness Program.
This is where Linda Patterson, the president and founder of ANA, comes in. Linda has been hard at work since the Vietnam War to connect active military servicepeople with supportive organizations back home. She first got involved in this important work while visiting troops in Vietnam in 1968 (where she met and married her husband who was serving as her military escort)!
Here’s her interview with Connection Café:
CC: What’s your elevator pitch about what America Supporting Americans does?
LP: We build strong supportive, sustaining relationships between our military forces and their assigned America Supporting Americans civilian sponsors (cities and youth, athletic groups, private business, and civic organizations). America Supporting Americans has supported and maintained long term relationships with our active military servicemen and women reaching back to the Vietnam War. We’re still in contact with those veterans today!
CC: Of Convio’s online tools, what have you found most useful?
LP: ASA’s online forms are so convenient for troops and sponsors to register with us through our site. The forms are also so easy to use for online donors.
CC: What are you most proud of regarding your use of Convio with your organization?
LP: I think Convio allows us to effectively network and outreach to constituents. I receive tons of positive feedback on the layout of our website, too. We’re a small organization with a very professional web presence because of the Convio tools. I’m always proud of our Adopt-A-Unit events. Here’s a recent article showcasing plans for an event in Kentucky.
CC: If you had advice to share for a new Convio admin, what would it be?
LP: Remember that leading a non-profit organization is a roller coaster ride, but having a vendor like Convio helps you through those low dips with their professional consultation, advice, and supportive staff. Also, communicate to show genuine examples which inspire and motivate others to think outside the box.
CC: Thanks for telling us about your work!
LP: Here’s a photo of our troop support program bringing together our active units of today with their brother warriors of yesterday (the same unit, only 43 years apart, Vietnam veterans, soldiers who served with A Company 1-327th Infantry, 1st Brigade, 101st Airborne Division visit during Week of the Eagles at Fort Campbell, Kentucky 2009).
If I had a nickel for every time I heard a board member say they don’t want to “badger friends for money” or for every time I heard a nonprofiteer talk about their board not bringing in the dollars, I’d be one rich lady.
Often board members are very passionate about your mission (great!) but not very comfortable asking for dough (bummer). But you and I both know that for our board to reach its full potential we need them to help us rake in the cash. (What? Your board members don't know that? Start with our Get Your Board on Board guide to overcome that doozie of a hurdle.)
To get those hesitant board members more engaged with your fundraising efforts, here’s five easy, no-pressure non-ask activities you can ask them to help with.
Now tell your board members to help you make some money. You’ve got a mission to fund!
Hey there, Connection Café buckaroos!
Emily here—with another little glimpse “behind the Convio admin curtain..." (Cue Days of Our Lives theme song.) Today, we’re chatting with Brian Mucha of Children's Memorial Hospital in Chicago. I asked Brian what the elevator pitch for Children’s Memorial was, he said “in actual elevator conversations I don't have to give much of a pitch at all. Just about everyone in the region knows Children’s Memorial, and many - including myself - have had a kid treated here. If you are going to do fundraising, it's hard to find a better cause than helping sick kids.” So, based on that, you can tell Brian is fabulous...
When I first started investigating superstar Convio administrators for the purposes of my Connection Café interviews, Brian’s name was mentioned time and time again. I heard he was a Convio Community guru and was doing great stuff from his perch in the Windy City. When I dug a little further, I was pleased to find out that Brian’s Convio reputation was built on the truth!
I sent Mr. Mucha a series of questions so we could get to know him and his Convio glory a little better. For the next few minutes, you’ll be in the presence of a Convio celebrity…prepare yourself.
Emily for CC: How do you describe your role at CM to friends at parties?
Brian for CMH: The words 'web guy' always seems to do it. Just about everything that has to do with the internet and the foundation comes through me (and until very recently it was just me.) I design, build and maintain all of our sites, TeamRaisers, donation forms, email campaigns and so on. Fundraising for the new hospital has added so many projects that we recently added a second Convio person, and are in the process of adding a third.
Emily for CC: Of Convio’s online resources, what have you found most useful?
Brian for CMH: No question about it, it's the Community, of course. If you have a specific question or problem, the odds are someone has already asked it somewhere. I even find myself going to the Community before the help system sometimes. As a reference it is great, but I also take a few minutes to browse the discussion board roll-up just about every morning. You get insight as to how others are using Convio, and peeks at features you didn't realize existed or haven't had time to consider. The best days are when you get a "Wow! I didn't know you can do THAT! kind of post."
Even contributing to the discussion pays off. I find that thinking about someone else's problem helps keep me sharp on the ins and outs of Convio. Explaining something really makes you organize what you know. If you really want to understand something, teach it to someone else.
The tech support chat line is also a very useful resource. I'll often go answer someone else's question on the community while I'm waiting for chat support to answer one for me. It's tech support karma! I'd also mention the webinars. Especially the newer training ones geared to Convio users and event leads, such as the TeamRaiser webinar.
Emily for CC: Share an anecdote about a project or specific campaign you worked on through Convio that was particularly exciting or interesting or productive.
Brian for CMH: Redesigning how our TeamRaisers work was fun. Basically our problem was typical; there was so much on the home page that the visitors were overwhelmed. There were so many links that people couldn't find anything. Tons of sponsor logos made everything even more confusing.
And the goals of the site were a little schizophrenic. Depending on the moment, the most important thing would be to encourage donations or (sometimes later in the same conversation) to encourage registrations. Then later it would be to entice corporate sponsorships. So, our redesign uses the home page to introduce the visitor to the event, route them according to their desired role - say, participant or donor - and then afterwards presents only the links relevant to them. (Why show fundraising tips to a donor?)
I like Race for the Kids especially in the way the patient interest story is set up on the home page, and resolved when the visitor follows through to an inner page.
Emily for CC: If you had advice to share for a new Convio admin, what would it be?
Brian for CMH: Get on the community every day, ask questions and be visible. Go to the Summit, which is very inspirational and informative. Read the Session Tags PDF. Learn html and CSS, and turn off the WYSIWYG.
I've recently been thinking about how we should do more with superhero capes. There are even little shops on Etsy that make personalized ones, and Brian is certainly deserving! Thanks for being a Convio Community Hero, Brian. We'll see you at the Summit!
For some specific user tips from Brian, check out the aforementioned Community. We’ve featured some of his tips, complete with code and other juicy info.
Last week was Convio Cares Week, a company-wide volunteer effort where employees have the opportunity to choose a nonprofit to volunteer at for a day. Just another example of why I love this company.
Well, naturally I chose to sign-up for Town Lake Animal Shelter because I have what some of my friends, and now work-colleagues who saw firsthand, that I have a slightly unhealthy obsession with dogs. Throughout the day I wrestled with dogs (yes, wrestled), walked, fetched, cleaned and loved any creature that would have me. By the end of the day I was covered in dog hair, slobber, and dirt. Best. Day. Ever. Clearly seeing the wagging tails all day long was evidence of their appreciation of us being there, but it was really the faces and thanks from the regular volunteers and staff that meant so much. The shelter is at maximum capacity, as it normally is, that most days it seems they never have enough time or people to make sure all the dogs are let out, walked, and given special attention to. There was one particular dog who had visibly had a rough start at life and was absolutely terrified of any human that came close. It broke my heart, so I spent any extra time I had with him reassuring him and socializing him with other humans and other dogs. The regular volunteers were so grateful to have extra help and to see all of us spending quality time with the dogs that would normally not receive the same kind of attention. We gardened, we bundled, we moved, we sweat. The staff was so appreciative of our help, but I was moreso thankful for what they do every day. It's just plain selfless and inspiring. I'll have a dose of that every morning, please.
Convio team members volunteered at over twenty local nonprofits throughout last week from San Francisco to Washington, D.C. Volunteering is such a fulfilling act it’s addictive. And there's nothing wrong with patting yourself on the back and having a good karma moment.
Working with the Town Lake was such a joy it inspired me to become a regular volunteer at the shelter. Whether it’s a small donation or a shift at your local nonprofit, make the difference and help others. Share your favorite volunteering experience!
Don’t tell anyone, but there was a time in my life when I didn’t know what “tabling” was. I was familiar with the idea of kitchen tables (for doing homework, eating dinner), coffee tables (for displaying large books and a few stems of an in-season flower), bed side tables (often crowded with books, to-do lists, glasses of water, and hair things)… but it wasn’t until my entrance into the wonderful world of grassroots organizing that I truly learned “how to table.”
Tabling, as defined by an informal survey of several of my favorite organizing buddies, is the act of standing behind or near a table in a conference setting to distribute branded swag, engage with conference attendees, and gather the names and contact information of constituents.
I learned to table from the best of ‘em… other grassroots organizers that is. I learned all the tricks to make a table popular (candy!) and how to keep passers-by flowing at a good rate so nobody actually monopolized the table’s real estate in a crowded conference setting. And above all else, I learned how to rake in the e-mail addresses so I could follow-up with folks post conference. I pressed all these tabling skills into service over the last two weeks when I attended both the Non-Profit Technology Conference in DC and the Association for Fundraising Professionals Conference in Chicago.
Here are a few rules of the road to follow as you pack up that fancy display, mini Snickers, and tons of branded pens and head to conferences in the future.
Capture Contact Information
Sure, it is fun to talk about the fact that your parents live in the same apartment building as the person who just stopped by your table (side note: this really happened), but getting a name and e-mail address can help turn this new best friend into next year’s top donor.
Once you’ve got the contact info, use it! There’s nothing worse than getting the “thanks for signing up” e-mail months after a conference ends (okay, there are worse things, but this is certainly not a best practice).
And with that, tabling rockstars, I think you’re ready to go! Oh, I almost forgot… don’t forget to wear comfortable shoes and stay hydrated while on your tabling shift, too.
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