The following blog post was originally featured on Socialbrite.
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The Global Brigades page on Empowered.org.
Platform offers free fundraising option & other services
Target audience: Nonprofits, cause organizations, social change advocates, foundations, NGOs, social enterprises, educators, community organizations.
Guest post by Christina Hirsch
In the fall of 2010, a group of us launched Empowered.org, a free platform designed to help groups making a social impact. Our platform allows organizations to manage members, fund-raise effectively, recruit volunteers, grow organically and share your successes with their community and the world.
We’re made up of a group of passionate and proven leaders from the nonprofit sector, mostly volunteers, who want to share our knowledge to exponentially grow grassroots organizations using effective online strategies. We support nearly every type of service activity, including international trips, local community projects, run-walks and leadership conferences.
How we help the social good community
The Empowered platform allows organizations to conduct all of their fundraising, volunteer coordination, donor reporting, event planning and chapter management on one platform. The secret to our approach is that the Empowered platform can be integrated into your organization’s own website, allowing you to maintain you own branding and design all at no cost.
We believe that fundraising should be free. Because we work exclusively with social change organizations, we know that money spent on fundraising means less money toward the ground projects that make a difference in the world. We’re proud to be completely free for social good organizations, with custom features available at a low pricing.
Organizations can create activities, surveys and events and manage their volunteers with unlimited free access. Unlike other platforms, we allow for all fees, including merchant fees, to be passed to donors during checkout instead of as an additional cost to participating organizations. This means that not only do we make fundraising free, but organizations can also cover their credit card and merchant processing fees.
How Empowered helped Global Brigades triple its members
Global Brigades, the world’s largest student-led health and development organization, turned to Empowered in 2010 to take over all of their online membership, fundraising and chapter management activities. To date, Empowered has helped Global Brigades to grow its membership by 300 percent!
Most successfully for Global Brigades, Empowered has leveraged social networking to exponentially grow the organization’s volunteer base. Empowered has customized Facebook share options, allowing volunteers to share with their Facebook friends when they have made a donation through direct wall postings and general Open Graph actions. Optimizing social messaging and sharing has resulted in Global Brigades receiving 100 volunteers through Facebook every month and one-third of its donations come through Facebook, all via Empowered’s social share functions.
Global Brigades operates on a chapter model, with hundreds of chapters across North America and Europe, representing thousands of volunteers. Empowered allows organizations to create unlimited “group pages” for their chapters across the world, while all being linked to the organization’s underlying account. This model has allowed Global Brigades to experience viral and decentralized growth with targeted messaging and opportunities to specific chapters and sub groups. Members are able to interact around specific initiatives while still being linked to Global Brigades’ underlying organization account. As a result, Global Brigades has tripled its growth to over 520 chapters with more than 12,000 members – all of whom are connecting, organizing, and fundraising through one centralized and free platform!
Non-profits usually start out with people so committed to their cause they’re willing to donate their time and resources to the organization. However, as the organization grows, there may come a time when it will need to hire one or more employees. Knowing when to hire employees for your non-profit and what kind of employees to hire is key to the future success of your organization.
When To Hire Employees
If one or more of the following statements are true, then chances are the organization needs to hire full or part time employees:
- You have applied for and received tax exemption status.
- You have the possibility to expand your projects but do not have the manpower.
- Dedicated volunteers are unable to continue working for the organization on a non-salaried basis.
- There are job openings in the organization that only a trained professional can handle.
Who to Look For
Most volunteer organizations need a director, a treasurer and a secretary. Because these jobs require a fair bit of work, it can be difficult to find individuals to do them on a volunteer basis. Following are some tips on how to find the right people to handle these positions:
- A treasurer and secretary must have both educational qualifications and experience. If the organization has tax-free status, even small errors can bring about an audit or even more serious consequences.
- In many cases, the founder of the non-profit becomes its director. However, this does not necessarily need to be the case, as the founder may not be the most qualified person for this position. A good director must have organizational and people handling skills. He or she must be able to manage staff and volunteers as well as interact with the public.
What Does Hiring Employees Involve?
A nonprofit organization will probably get a lot of job applications, especially if the position is a full time one. It should expect to interview a number of candidates for any of the available job openings. The best candidate should not only have the appropriate qualifications and experience, but should be able to work well with the rest of the staff and believe in the goals of the organization.
After the appropriate employees have been hired, the onboarding and job training process can begin. Onboarding is fairly simple and usually takes only one or two days. Of course, since we live in the 21st century, there is onboarding software available to help facilitate the process. It involves filling a person in on the details of the job, what is expected of them and how the work must be done. Job training is more complex, as it involves teaching a person how to actually do the work. This training is very important, especially if the employee is new to the world of non-profits or needs to learn how to work with a particular computer program or learn how to properly fill out forms, etc.
Not all volunteer organizations need to hire people, but when they do, it is important for the organization to choose the right people for the job at hand. New employees should not only be qualified for their job, but should possess a high level of personal integrity and dedication to the organization’s vision and cause.
Tabitha Baca, a student at Miami Dade College, used Empowered to organize a Food and Wine Festival fundraiser. The event raised over $3,000 in just one night. Tabitha and fellow students will be using these funds to take part in a Medical Brigade trip to Ghana were they will set up mobile medical clinics providing free medical care to rural families.
Last month, our volunteer chapter was faced with a huge fundrasing goal and little time to accomplish it. We decided to organize a Food and Wine Festival with over ten different restaurant vendors in order to fundraise for our Medical Brigades trip. Without Empowered, this event would not have been possible.
We had to sell tickets for the Food and Wine Festival, but we didn’t want to spend money on printing tickets. With Empowered, we were able to create an activity online, share it on Facebook, and have people purchase their tickets directly through Empowered. With this process, we didn’t have to worry about printing tickets and receipts ourselves, as participants automatically received their tickets, receipts, and tax-exempt information via Empowered.
With Empowered, we were able to pull a donation history list of people that had purchased presale tickets. We used this list at the door and were able to take walk-ins paying with a credit card. With Empowered’s help, we were able to raise over $3,000 in just one night! By using Empowered’s Facebook share functions, we were also able to have our volunteers share donation links online and raise additional donations via social media.
Being from Miami, many of our volunteers have family members that live abroad. Through Empowered these family members were able to make donations from all over the world. In total, we have been able to fundaiase over $7,000 with Empowered, and I can’t wait to see what kind of impact our Medical Brigade will make when we arrive in Ghana!
It’s been three years since you started your volunteer organization that connects willing citizens with local senior citizens who need help around their homes. It’s a successful program with solid funding. As the organization leader, you have secured regular donors who are pleased with what they have seen. Word has spread about your program, and how much good it is doing in the community. You think to yourself — maybe it is time to expand? Surely, other communities could benefit from your volunteer service as well.
Expanding your volunteer organization may seem like a daunting task, but keep it simple. Remember, you successfully launched and continued your program for this long. If you’ve done it once, surely, you can do it again. However, there are several logistical steps you need to take if you decide to expand your program to other states, or even to other countries. The following are several tips you can use when you move forward with the expansion.
Figure Out the Logistics
Expanding your organization internationally will require a lot of work, including additional manpower. Consider contacting the top moving companies Ottawa offers for your expansion to the north, or contact professionals who can help you get set up down south in Mexico. By keeping organized with the logistics, the actual expansion of offices will be much less difficult. Remember that when expanding into another country, you may also need to figure out currency exchange rates, local laws and ordinances and also common etiquette used by the local people.
Choose the Best Location
Before you decide to officially make the move and expand your organization, consider all your options for locations. Do research into the communities you are considering, and make sure that your organization is one that is needed in that area. If there are three similar groups that help out senior citizens in one community, consider choosing another location that may not have an organization like yours yet. When your program is needed desperately in the community you are expanding to, you will have a better chance of securing reliable and regular donors. Location is everything when it comes to expansion, and choosing the best location — be it nationally or internationally — is one of the keys to success when it comes to building on to your volunteer organization.
Don’t Forget the Government
Moving a volunteer organization to another state or another country also requires the collaboration of local, state and federal government. Be sure to check with local government agencies to find out what paperwork you need to fill out in order to successfully complete your expansion. When expanding to another state, it is common for an organization to have to register as a foreign corporation. In addition, most organizations need to apply for a Certificate of Authority in order to have an office or location in that state. However, there may be different requirements for an international expansion, so be sure to keep an open line of communication with government agencies and officials.
Growing a volunteer organization and expanding it to a new area is an exciting time, not just for you but also for the community you are entering. While there may be a few hiccups along the way, and certainly some challenges, in the end it likely will be well worth the effort. Some of the tasks may seem tedious and trying, but keep in mind the people who you will be helping once your service is expanded. Without your organization’s expansion, they may not be able to get the help that they need.
Religious Volunteering: How to Get Started
One of the most satisfying things you can do is volunteer. Volunteering is arguably as rewarding for the volunteer as it is for the beneficiary, and it’s also a great way to become involved in your community. But where do you start?
If you’ve never volunteered before, local religious organizations serve as a great starting point for getting to know your charitable side. Even if you don’t personally consider yourself a religious person, many churches and religious charities would welcome your help in meeting the community’s needs. If you still need some ideas for how your volunteer services could be put to good use, check out the tips below:
Religious organizations often organize community outreach events that are designed to assist the less fortunate in meeting daily needs. If you volunteer with a church, you could help with a community outreach event that provides nearby residents with Bibles, Bible covers and a bag of groceries. Clothing drives are popular at the end of summer when school is about to resume, and you can probably find a food drive to participate in during the holiday season. If you can’t find a charity drive to participate in, consider organizing your own. You could garner the support of multiple religious organizations and non-profits in your area to achieve a common goal.
Many organizations recognize that some people are incapable of preparing a hot meal for themselves – perhaps due to disability or homelessness. Some religious organizations have shelter projects designed to give these people a hot meal every day and a place to stay if needed. You could volunteer your time once or twice a week to serve lunches or dinners at a nearby shelter, or find a mobile meal service to deliver hot food directly to the doorsteps of people in need.
If there’s anything churches, charities and other religious organizations are in need of more than volunteers, it’s money. By volunteering to help raise money, you can help fill two needs at one time. To get started, ask your local church when the next bake sale is, and follow up by donating some fresh homemade cookies or an apple pie.
Do the Heavy Lifting
Community outreach programs and churches enjoy helping other people, but those good deeds don’t come without a great deal of ‘behind-the-scenes’ work. Offer up your own elbow grease by helping with the less glamorous side of charity. Your work pushing papers in the office or cleaning up the parking lot will be much appreciated and is just as important as organizing a big outreach.
Regardless of how you choose to start volunteering in your community, the most important step is getting started. Charity work should never feel like a chore, so be sure not to overwhelm yourself at first. Choose to help in an area that you feel passionate about, and do so according the schedule that works best for you. Remember, it isn’t about your qualifications – it’s about your willingness to serve.
My name is Alana Hartley and I am a student at Oakland University in Rochester, MI. In December 2011 I traveled to Honduras on a Medical Brigade. By using Empowered.org to organize the trip, I was able to raise over $1400 only a few months before embarking on this incredible journey. I was able to send my Empowered.org link to family members who gladly and graciously donated to my cause.
I am very thankful for Empowered.org because it gave me an easy way to spread the word about my trip. It is also a very organized way to collect money (a donation is just a click away!). Empowered.org also made it really easy for my group to organize itself and for everyone to get to know each other a little better before we traveled to Honduras together.
As a result of our efforts with Empowered.org, the group of 34 students that I traveled with raised over $51,000 for the people of Honduras. We were able to help more than 500 patients in the community of Hoya Grande in just three days! We also helped with a Water Brigade in El Cantón by digging trenches and connecting water pipelines to homes.
This trip truly changed my life. I am forever grateful for Global Brigades and Empowered.org for making this brigade possible. Attending this brigade made me much more aware of the health problems that people face in countries like Honduras. I am much more grateful for what I have and motivated to help people in any way I can.
I am returning to Honduras in December 2012 and am excited to utilize Empowered.org for all my fundraising needs. I hope to utilize their social media features and ease of use to let others know how they can help the people of Honduras. With the help of Empowered.org, my goal is to raise as much as I did last year, if not more.
Without Empowered.org, raising the money necessary for my brigades would be impossible. I am grateful for the simplicity of this site and how it has helped me spread the word about a great passion of mine – helping others.
A famous quote, said by Mahatma Gandhi, captures the sentiment I felt after returning from Honduras. “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”
With the help of Global Brigades and Empowered.org, I was able to raise money to travel to Honduras and ended up finding myself through helping others.
Michelle Chen used Empowered to raise over $3,000 to help her and a group of students from the College of William & Mary travel to Honduras to work on medical & development projects in under-resourced communities. Michelle says her trip wouldn’t have been possible without Empowered’s fundraising and social media tools!
This March, we, the College of William & Mary’s Global Medical Brigades went on our first ever brigade to Honduras. During our brigade, we set up a clinic in the rural community of Mata de Platano. We worked stations where we saw patients during triage, consultation, dental, gynecology, pharmacy, and public health charlas (educational talks) for children. It was an amazing, inspirational experience during which, over the course of a week, we saw 900 patients, interacted with community members, got tackled by enthusiastic children who loved stickers, practiced our Spanish skills with amused locals, and experienced the beauty of a different country and culture.
I am forever changed by the short amount of time I spent in Honduras – the people I met were optimistic, kind, and beautiful and were appreciative of everything that they had. Their spirit and outlook on life has definitely made me re-evaluate my own and be grateful for how lucky I am to have all that I have been provided with.
To fundraise for our brigade, we used Empowered.org. Through Empowered, we were able to, as a group, raise more than $3,000 over a period of 6 months. With this money, we were able to purchase all of the medications and supplies that we needed in order to serve the people of Mata de Platano. In addition to being able to buy everything that we needed this year, we still have about $2,000 left in our Empowered account that we will use for our brigade next year.
The major benefit of Empowered is that it is one centralized platform that all of our members use; therefore, in addition to seeing just one person’s profile, donors can view other members’ profiles as well as the William & Mary group page. Empowered also connects to social media sites, such as Facebook, that made it easier for us to share our brigade page and information with family and friends. My experience on our brigade was life-changing, and it would not have been possible without Empowered.”
-Michelle Chen, College of William and Mary
Your organization focuses on assisting youth or the elderly at group homes, senior centers or hospitals. You try to do all you can to help these wonderful people get through an illness and feel less alone.
You read to them, play games with them, visit them regularly. You even have handicapped vans to take them out for shopping and other trips. But maybe you’ve overlooked something that has been proven to help with loneliness, depression and even physical ailments.
What Is Pet Therapy?
Simply put, pet therapy is the interaction of animals and humans. This can be through trained therapy animals – often dogs, but sometimes cats – who visit hospitals, nursing homes, senior centers or youth groups. The pet’s handler brings the animal to the location and residents or participants are invited to pet and interact with it. Dogs used in these activities are well-trained, well-groomed and should be certified as a therapy dog.
Another pet therapy program matches seniors living alone with older shelter pets who run the risk of not being adopted because of their age. The pet serves as a constant companion for its elderly owner, the health benefits of which are numerous.
Proven benefits of pet therapy are both physical and emotional.
Benefits For Seniors
1. Having a pet requires seniors to be more active. Daily walks are good for both the pet and its owner. The simple acts of feeding and playing with a dog or cat require more activity than an elderly person may otherwise get.
2. Petting an animal has been shown to lower blood pressure, regulate the heart rate and decrease stress.
3. Seniors living alone or even in an assisted living facility are prone to depression. Regular visits from a therapy dog or a pet of their own are proven to battle loneliness and improve emotional outlook.
4. The elderly sometimes lose self-confidence and withdraw from socializing. A therapy pet helps restore confidence and often gives the senior a trustworthy confidante. This can lead to increased interaction with other people.
5. Seniors who interact with therapy pets have been shown to smile more. Is there anything more beneficial to both the senior and the volunteer than a genuine smile?
6. Therapy pets are a source of unconditional love for seniors, something they may feel they’ve lost when visits from family and friends are fewer and farther between.
If you have a strong passion for helping others and giving back to your community you may want to explore starting your own volunteer organization. In the beginning the organization likely won’t need its own building or office, but as time goes forward and new recruits join you may need to find some land for sale.
If starting your own volunteer organization sounds interesting, but you have no idea how to get started here are a few tips:
- How much do you know?
If you are planning to run an organization you need to have knowledge on the subject. People who decide to join the cause may have questions and look to you for leadership. Unfortunately, if you don’t have any answers you will lose credibility.
- Game plan
Running an organization takes planning. As a leader of an organization you are in charge of others who are freely giving their time. Have a plan or schedule set for the volunteers, so they can plan ahead and decide when they’re available. If you just randomly call people on the day of an event you may discover people are not available.
- Write out goals
It is important to have a clear mission and goals. Putting those in writing can be a good way to keep you accountable. You can use social media by creating a Facebook page and a Twitter account and add the mission statement there. Let people know what you and the organization are about, and what they will be doing if they choose to join.
All of the most successful organizations have people chosen for leadership positions to balance out the responsibility, share ideas and delegate tasks to groups of employees. The same should take place in your volunteer organization. It’s a great idea to have a mix of older individuals and younger people to be able to see things from different viewpoints.
Passion is definitely needed to start a volunteer organization, but it takes more than that to have an impact. You have to plan things out and build a team. If you are able to bring on volunteers who are passionate about the cause; combine that with structure and planning, and your organization will make a difference.