May 21, 2013
The devastation in Oklahoma yesterday has us all stunned and praying for those affected. Here in Alaska, the ice is breaking on our rural rivers and home are flooding in villages behind ice dams.
As we’ve come to expect, first responders are in place and helping people as quickly as possible. And, there is a plethora of requests for aid and ways to give aid. Thankfully most are valid but we’ve also come to expect the scammers in situations such as this. So, I’m reviving parts of posts I wrote more than a year ago about making smart giving choices.
The most important advice is to give to familiar nonprofits. The American Red Cross and Salvation Army already have Oklahoma disaster funds in place. In fact, their people are already in place giving the aid we’ve all come to expect.
- Text REDCROSS to 90999 to give $10 to American Red Cross Disaster Relief, donate online, or donate by phone at 1-800-RED CROSS.
- Donate online or text STORM to 80888 to contribute $10 to the Salvation Army’s relief efforts or make a donation by phone at 1-800-SAL-ARMY.
I’m sure you agree it’s important to know where your hard-earned dollars are going. It’s not that time consuming to make sure the vast majority of your check will go to direct services. Merriam Webster defines these as ”active service on cases and work with patients as distinguished from staff functions.”
While I understand completely the need for administrative costs, it’s important to understand the details behind those numbers and give your dollars where they’ll make the most impact. Guidestar and Charity Navigator both offer services that help you learn about nonprofits. United Way of America is another organization that thoroughly screens their partners before providing them funds.
If you have the time, an organization’s IRS Form 990 is a great source of information. Pay close attention to the percentages of funds that go to “program services” as compared to administrative costs. Program services funds are actually getting to those the organization helps while administrative costs are generally overhead. Personally, organizations I like to support keep their overhead to no more than 10% of expenses.
Whatever you decide to do, please give generously to those in need, hug those you care about and be grateful for what you have.
May 7, 2013
I was taking a break from client work earlier to catch up on items in my newsfeed. A post from Jeff Esposito caught my eye. It’s called “Are you bumping into your coworkers enough?” If you have coworkers you should read it. But I don’t, so why did I?
The same principles apply to those of us who’ve chosen to work independently. To summarize, Jeff says:
- People matter
- Relationships are key
- We need to break silos
As a solo PR person, I often spend my days in front of the computer working, by myself. But I’m really not alone. Facebook and Twitter have made sure that when I need a distraction (or when I don’t need one), they are there to help keep my finger on the pulse on what’s going on around me.
And the Solo PR community is really like having an agency at my fingertips. (Thank you Kellye Crane) If you haven’t, check out the weekly Twitter chat (#solopr) Wednesdays at 1 PM ET. We’ll solve the problems of people world and have a good laugh at the same time. It’s like a virtual coffee break and I try not to miss it.
But I need some “real life” breaks too. I get those by assembling some groups important to me from both my work and personal lives:
First Tuesdays – is a group of past presidents of the local PRSA Chapter. We gather (you guessed it) the first Tuesday of each month for lunch at a casual lunch spot. I send an e-reminder the week before and we promise to talk about those who don’t attend. It’s a great way to hear what’s happening in our community from different perspectives.
Master’s Lunch (okay, this one’s kind of fallen by the wayside) – This is the silo busting group. It’s a PR pro, web designer, strategic consultant and SEO expert who have lunch together once a month. We talk about what’s going on in our business worlds and how we can help each other.
iPad User Group – Yes, we have a group of close friends, all in similar professions, who gather every other Thursday to share new tools we’ve learned on our iPads. Again, I send an e-reminder. This has been a wonderful way for us to talk through tools we’ve found that make our work lives easier. We also talk about tools that don’t work and show each other fixes on our iPads. And, don’t worry…we won’t laugh too hard when we learn you don’t know how to back-up or sync your iTools.
Girlfriends Lunch – About four or five years ago, my best local friends and I decided to give each other the gift of time for Christmas. So, we have lunch the second Wednesday of each month. If it’s your turn to pay it’s also your turn to choose the restaurant. Since we’re also food lovers, we almost always check out new restaurants in town. This lunch is more personal where we talk about our kids – and our husbands – and more personal issues in our lives.
As an independent consultant, I know it’s my responsibility to set up these check-ins that give me a semblance to being in an office. I have to schedule time for them, and organize them because they are important to me. Of course, I also make time for my husband and our two sons, but that’s a completely different post.
What do you do to make sure you’re staying involved and aware of the world beyond your computer?
April 25, 2013
I’m spending the week in Walla Walla after serving on the interview panel for Whitman College’s top scholarship. A group of us (faculty and alumni) spent a day interviewing 25 young people to choose those we believe will be the best leaders at Whitman and in their future lives. It was an incredible experience. Since, I’ve been meeting with a few seniors to discuss post graduation plans, and talking with my son and his friends. Again…incredible.
But back to the high school students we interviewed. If these young people are any indication of the caliber of today’s high school students, we are definitely in good hands. Although the ladies might be a bit uncomfortable in their business clothes and their hands a bit clammy when we shook them, their passion became definite as soon as they started talking. Just for starters…
- Founded a nonprofit so her high school friends began to understand even small contributions make a difference
- Violinist who put together a quartet to play during meals at a homeless shelter
- Faced with prejudice in her high school, she formed a group to speak out about racism
- Grew up in foster homes not allowed to read many books we’ve all seen on the censor shelves…so she brought them into the house under her clothes
- An active Girl Scout leader grateful for the program that helped her learn and grow
All of this is on top of stellar academics and more high school activities than you can imagine. For many, they’ve been working for years to help support their families who are committed to their vision but just can’t do so financially.
Then there’s the young woman who will graduate in 24 days with a resolute focus on her future in development and nonprofits. She wants to work with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and saw her potential in high school when they named her one of their Millennium Scholars.
My son and his friends are talking about films – classic and current – in a way that is really exhilarating…and at the same time exhausting.
If these kids fulfill even half their plans and dreams, we will be in good hands. But it’s also up to each of us as parents, and as adults who care about society, to help ALL kids succeed. In Alaska, there’s a movement to improve graduation rates and I hope it leads to more students like I’ve seen this week. As adults, we have an obligation to help:
- By talking with kids about their hopes and dreams.
- By helping them map their plans and provide them good input on direction.
- By supporting their goals.
- By caring if they succeed, and listening to their plans.
Young people need adult mentors. I can’t think of much else I do that’s as gratifying.
So, it’s been an inspiring week already. Today my reunion weekend begins so I’m hoping for another kind of incredible.
April 22, 2013
This weekend I’ve been in Walla Walla, Washington interviewing candidates for Whitman’s top scholarship program. More on the absolutely incredible young ladies we met in another post. Today, I want to talk about how a fresh set of eyes can cause you to see things more clearly.
I was enjoying the scrumptious breakfast served at The Maxwell House B&B. I had just taken a picture of my breakfast to share on social media when I started talking with the owner about social media and her website. She’s not comfortable with social media but has been told she needs to do it. So she’s trying but she doesn’t understand why…why she should do it, and what it will get her.
Before she makes any changes, I suggested she answer some questions:
- Why do you want to change your marketing effort?
- What is the primary message you want to convey?
- Who are you talking to?
- What do you want them to do/say after reading?
- How will you know you’ve been successful?
Her website is pretty and succinct but it lacks her personality. We asked her how she happened to open the B&B and our reaction to her story inspired her to look at some changes to her website to better tell her story:
Penny Maxwell Bingham had a dream of one day owning a bed and breakfast in a small college town. It’s really lucky that one day her husband was in Walla Walla when he stumbled upon what is now The Maxwell House B&B. He called her to say he was living her dream. They bought the house without Penny seeing it.
Her husband said there were a few things that needed fixing. That was an understatement as it took Penny nearly a year to bring the house to today’s excellence. She built a front staircase the city and many contractors said wasn’t possible. A 22-year old carpenter showed them all they were wrong.
This is the story of The Maxwell House.
She went on to tell us about the stories she’s heard from her guests. There’s the woman who stayed in the house (before Penny owned it) while her husband was a soldier in Vietnam. She had their first child in the house but he had never seen it. Stories like this will be added to the website as a new tab, instead of as a disconnected blog.
It’s really amazing what a few minutes of time spent focusing on a business with fresh eyes can reveal. It’s also amazing how clearly you can see once you know where you’re going.
Oh, and if you’re ever in Walla Walla, be sure to stay at The Maxwell House B&B. You won’t regret it!
April 19, 2013
It’s no secret that events this week have been amazing, and we’re all reeling from what has happened.
It’s also safe to say that many have also noticed that with social media comes an incredible amount for misinformation and confusion. We may have caused this problem ourselves.
When word first broke of the bombings in Boston, I was astounded to see intelligent people on Twitter demanding to know what was happening now. They seem to feel they have a right to know. And, then those who felt they needed to be first started to talk…and things went downhill quickly.
But what is our responsibility when our desire – I don’t think it’s a right – to know collides with the official investigation. When it interferes with the safety of the first responders and law enforcement officials we’re all, rightfully, lauding. In the New York Times today, Brian Stelter wrote:
“The authorities simultaneously thanked members of the news media for spreading the word that Bostonians should take shelter and remain alert — and cautioned them against repeating secondhand or thinly sourced information.”
Until recently, we waited for investigations to run their course, for the officials to talk with the media and then we heard the story. It’s my opinion, and I believe the facts will show this from this week’s events, we can drastically affect our own safety and that of law enforcement by “needing” so much information…right now.
We should be okay with waiting. In fact, we should be more than okay. It’s the media’s responsibility to research stories and report them to us in a factual matter. This week, many have come to realize the networks still seem to be doing that fairly well, and NPR. Pete Williams, NBC, is being lauded for his caution and professionalism. When media doesn’t have facts, they should be silent. When we don’t have facts we should be silent. The damage done by CNN and Reddit is unconscionable. As Eric Schwartzman said,
“the problem with #crowdsleuthing the #Bostonmarathon on Reddit is no distinction between verification and reporting.”
It was wonderful to see the Boston Police using social media channels to ask for help:
At the same time, it was terrifying to see them ask people to stop giving out information about their locations. It just seems like common sense. We really need to go back to doing what we, as citizens, do best.
It’s law enforcement s responsibility to “get the bad guy” and we expect them to do that. We can also expect them to tell us when they need us to help, and they’ve done that. But we absolutely must stop spreading rumors, using unknown sources, and providing information that will make situations unsafe for law enforcement.
In the end, most of us are going to sources we trust, and likely wait for information we can believe. I hope those who’ve been passing on the innuendos learn from this.
We don’t need to know now…we can wait for the facts. Really. We can.