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Gang violence escalates between Major Gifts and Annual Giving for control of the donation trade

March 19th, 2013 | No Comments | Posted in Fun Stuff
Metro Police say the street violence gripping the city is a war between rival fundraising gangs vying for control of the donation trade.

In the latest act of violence, a group of attackers believed to be members of the Major Gifts Crew wrecked a clubhouse belonging to leaders of the Annual Giving Gang last night. Four people were reported injured and several retail shops were damaged in the altercation. Since the street war between the two fundraising gangs began three months ago, more than 70 people have been hospitalized and 2 have made planned gifts in their wills earlier than they anticipated.

“This is a war. There’s lots of money on the street. And both of these gangs want to control the donation trade. It’s hard to say who will come up on top, but I know that there’ll be more blood on the street before this war is done,” said Police Chief Dibble Brewer.

The two gangs used to be part of the same organization. Rivalries between their leaders over who raised the most donations led to a falling out. The Annual Gifts Gang starting asking for donations of more than $10,000. The Major Gifts Crew countered by asking their larger donors to continue to make yearly donations. Violence soon began as fundraisers on both sides started asking the same people for money.

Both groups briefly united a few weeks ago to drive the Gala Events Tribe out of town. The Tribe’s plans for a mega-fundraising dinner was thwarted after the Crew and the Gang burned their themed-dinner decorations sets and roughed up their volunteer committee.

Metro Police have formed a special “Gangs & Donations” squad to combat the violence. They have begun targeting key leaders on both sides and raiding their headquarters. In the last week, more than 15 top fundraisers from both gangs have been arrested and 13 illegal fundraising operations have been closed. But Brewer says he expects the violence to continue.

Community leaders blame the easy money of fundraising and the glamour of the gang life.

“I know some of these boys and girls. They used to be so nice. They’d help you with your groceries and walk your dog for you,” said long-time community activist Semple Doggonico. “Then they got hooked on fundraising and overnight they turned into the people that only Satan could love. That’s what fundraising does to people.”

“These fundraisers have no decency, no morals. They’ll stop at nothing to get more donations than their rivals. Both sides are well armed with brochures and social media. I don’t see the violence subsiding any time soon,” said the Chief.

Police say the Major Gifts Crew appear to have the upper hand in the street war. The Crew has raised the most money. However, the Annual Giving Gang appears to have the bigger donor network.

Mayor Turner Snidely has called for an end to the violence and has introduced a new anti-fundraising-gang project designed for areas of the inner city. City Council has allocated more than $3.5 million for more athletic programs and pottery classes at local community centres.

“We’re hoping that we can keep these gang members off the streets with programs aimed at keeping them in community centres,” said Mayor Snidely. “We know that the street life of a fundraising gang can be very charming, but we hope they choose to do basket weaving instead. No one gets killed when you create a basket and you can put some real cool things in it.”

Non-Profit Humor

From Seinfeld to Sushi: How to Master Your Domain

March 4th, 2013 | No Comments | Posted in Inspirational

I recently read a great profile in the New York Times about Jerry Seinfeld written by Jonah Weiner (no relation). In addition to providing a view into the life of one of the most successful stand-up comedians of the modern era, the article focuses on the method behind Seinfeld’s observational comic genius, and specifically, the painstaking process he applies to developing a joke.

I always find it valuable when people at the top of their profession provide insight into how they do what they do, but as a long time fan of the comedian and the show (in my opinion, Seinfeld stands alone as the best sitcom of all time), I found this to be a particularly engrossing read.

I was also struck by the number of similarities between Seinfeld’s approach to his craft and that of Jiro Ono, the 86-year old master sushi chef and subject of the highly acclaimed documentary “Jiro Dreams of Sushi.” I strongly recommend the film to anyone interested in watching the pursuit of excellence personified.

Here are my observations regarding five shared practices from two wholly unrelated masters of their domains:

1. Never stop practicing (there is no perfect)

Jiro has been preparing sushi for over 70 years; Seinfeld has been a stand-up comic for over 35 years. Both are widely considered to be among the best in the world at what they do, and yet listening to them, one comes away with the impression they will never be satisfied. They are constantly practicing, honing their work, and seeking to improve.

As Jiro describes it: “All I want to do is make better sushi. I do the same thing over and over, improving bit by bit. There is always a yearning to achieve more. I’ll continue to climb to reach the top but no one knows where the top is.”

Seinfeld explains:

“If I don’t do a set in two weeks, I feel it,” he said. “I read an article a few years ago that said when you practice a sport a lot, you literally become a broadband: the nerve pathway in your brain contains a lot more information. As soon as you stop practicing, the pathway begins shrinking back down. Reading that changed my life. I used to wonder, Why am I doing these sets, getting on a stage? Don’t I know how to do this already? The answer is no. You must keep doing it. The broadband starts to narrow the moment you stop.”

2. Sweat the details

There is no detail too small. Jiro serves sushi differently to left-handed and right-handed patrons, and once required an apprentice to make egg sushi 200 times before it was deemed acceptable. Seinfeld relentlessly iterates how to word a punchline. As the profile on Seinfeld describes it:

“Seinfeld will nurse a single joke for years, amending, abridging and reworking it incrementally, to get the thing just so. “It’s similar to calligraphy or samurai,” he says. “I want to make cricket cages. You know those Japanese cricket cages? Tiny, with the doors? That’s it for me: solitude and precision, refining a tiny thing for the sake of it.”

In this regard, their approaches are highly reminiscent of Steve Jobs and Jonathan Ive at Apple, where obsessing over the smallest detail is not just part of their design ethos, it’s core to the company’s DNA.

3. Keep chipping away

Michaelanglo once famously described the act of sculpting this way:

“In every block of marble I see a statue as plain as though it stood before me, shaped and perfect in attitude and action. I have only to hew away the rough walls that imprison the lovely apparition to reveal it to the other eyes as mine see it.”

Jiro and Seinfeld appear to be applying a similar sensibility to their work, i.e. constantly removing the superfluous to reduce the object of their attention down to it’s quintissential qualities.

Watch Jiro prepare a piece of sushi, and you aren’t just watching him adding a piece of fish to a mound of rice, but rather the culmination of decades of trial and error, identifying what improves the taste, look, and feel of the dish, and leaving all else behind.

The same holds for Seinfeld’s approach to mastering a joke as illustrated in the following anecdote:

I had a joke: ‘Marriage is a bit of a chess game, except the board is made of flowing water and the pieces are made of smoke,’ ” he said. “This is a good joke, I love it, I’ve spent years on it. There’s a little hitch: ‘The board is made of flowing water.’ I’d always lose the audience there. Flowing water? What does he mean? And repeating ‘made of’ was hurting things. So how can I say ‘the board is made of flowing water’ without saying ‘made of…’

So,” he continued, “I was obsessed with figuring that out. The way I figure it out is I try different things, night after night, and I’ll stumble into it at some point, or not. If I love the joke, I’ll wait. If it takes me three years, I’ll wait…The breakthrough was doing this”— Seinfeld traced a square in the air with his fingers, drawing the board…”Here, I’m doing some of the work for you…They don’t think about it. They just laugh.”

4. Work clean

Both the article and film capture the somewhat non-descript, though Zen-like, environments where the two do their work. Jiro’s restaurant is underground, near a subway stop, and seats only ten; sushi is served on a simple black serving dish. Seinfeld works in an Upper West Side apartment described as “Clean, modern and cozy, it resembled some hip therapist’s office: a high-ceilinged, poured-concrete box with a long plushy couch, a little balcony and a kitchenette.”

In their spaces, both masters operate free from distraction and with complete focus on the job at hand. Jiro prepares each dish and then cleans his workspace the instant it’s completed. In the film, a classical score accompanies his motions — it’s hard to draw a clear distinction between where the food preparation ends and the cleaning begins.

Similarly, Seinfeld has his own specific approach to writing a joke: “Seinfeld…grabs a legal pad and a Bic pen and sits at his desk. No street noise penetrates. The pages of the pad are destined for either a wastebasket or a master file containing Seinfeld’s entire act, handwritten.”

5. Be passionate

It’s hard to imagine a person dedicating their life to a single vocation without having a deep love and passion for what they do. That would certainly appear to the case for both Seinfeld and Jiro. From the Times article:

For Seinfeld, whose worth Forbes estimated in 2010 to be $800 million, his touring regimen is a function not of financial necessity but rather of borderline monomania — a creative itch he can’t scratch. “I like money,” he says, “but it’s never been about the money.”

He told me: “That’s the wiring of a stand-up. This is my best way of functioning…” He compares himself to baseball players — putting spin on the ball as it leaves his fingers, trying to keep his batting average high — and to surfers: “What are they doing that for? It’s just pure.”

Similarly, here’s Jiro responding to a question on retirement: “I’ve never hated this job. I fell in love with my work and gave my life to it. Even though I’m 85, I don’t feel like retiring. That’s just the way I feel.”

One final observation: I’ve found the more I pay attention to the habits of individuals who have reached the pinnacle of their profession, the more I recognize clear patterns between them.

Apparently, I’m not the only one who sees the similarities.

Several weeks before the Times piece was published, I shared the story of Jiro with a few people at a dinner event. A few weeks later, while in the midst of reading the Seinfeld article, I stopped to open an email that had just been sent by one of the dinner’s attendees. The email simply said, “Refreshing last paragraph…your sushi analog in baseball!”

There, in the last paragraph of an article announcing the Yankees had re-signed baseball great Ichiro Suzuki, was a quote from Ichiro that read, “I believe the Yankees organization appreciates that there is a difference between a 39-year-old who has played relying only on talent, and a 39-year-old who has prepared, practiced, and thought thoroughly through many experiences for their craft.”

I smiled to myself at the timing of the email and responded to my friend with a link to the Seinfeld article I was still reading. It wasn’t until a few minutes later that I reached the conclusion of the profile:

The game resumed, and Ichiro Suzuki, the lean Yankees outfielder, approached the plate. “This is the guy I relate to more than any athlete,” Seinfeld said. “His precision, incredible precision. Look at his body type — he’s made the most of what he has. He’s the hardest guy to get out. He’s fast. And he’s old.”

by Jeff Weiner CEO at Linkedin

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Raising Money from Volunteer Grant Programs – Top Seven Questions

March 1st, 2013 | No Comments | Posted in How Not For Profits

At Double the Donation, our mission is to help nonprofits increase fundraising from employee matching gift and volunteer grant programs. When we speak to development officers at nonprofits, they’re often familiar with the intricacies of employee matching gift programs but have questions regarding volunteer grant programs.

We wanted to take a few minutes to share seven of the most frequently asked questions we receive about volunteer grant programs.

Question #1: What are “Volunteer Grant” Programs and are they different from “Dollar for Doer Programs”?

“Dollar for Doer Programs” and “Volunteer Grant Programs” are one and the same. They’re corporate giving programs created by companies to encourage volunteerism in communities where employees live and work. Companies provide a monetary grant to organizations where employees volunteer on a regular basis.

  1. Set $ / hour structure – Companies will provide a set monetary donation  for every hour an employee volunteers. For example, Carmax provides a $10 grant for every hour an employee volunteers up to $10,000 annually.
  2. Thresholds – Companies will provide a monetary donation once an employee volunteers for at least a certain number of hours. For example, 3M offers $250 volunteer grants for nonprofits once an employee volunteers for 20 hours in a year.

If you’d like to learn more, check out our overview on volunteer grant programs.

Question #2: How much money is available from employee volunteer grant programs vs. matching gift programs?

In general matching gift programs are much more prevalent for nonprofits than volunteer grant programs. That being said, no organizations should overlook a source of free grant money that is available based on the work volunteers are already performing. Each grant counts, so make sure you’re maximizing donations from every source of fundraising that’s available to your organization.

Did you know:

Your organization has already done the hardest part which is recruiting volunteers willing to dedicate a significant amount of time to your organization. Make sure to ask them to take an extra 30 seconds to determine if their employer offers a volunteer grant program.

Question #3: How many employers provide volunteer grants?

National employers which offer volunteer grant

Volunteer grant programs are a fairly common program especially at medium to large companies. For instance, 40% of Fortune 500 companies offer volunteer grant programs. While not as high as the 65% of Fortune 500 companies with matching gift programs, they’re still very prevalent.

All of the companies in the image on the right offer both matching gift and volunteer grant programs

Click here for an additional list of some of the largest employers which offer volunteer grants for their employees.

Question #4: Which companies offer exceptional volunteer grant programs?

Double the Donation hasn’t compiled a ranking dedicated exclusively to volunteer grant programs, but you should check out this list of companies who ranked highly in our overall analysis of corporate employee giving programs. For this ranking, we combined information on both volunteer grant and matching gift programs.

That being said, it isn’t too challenging to identify the traits that would make a company’s volunteer grant program stand out. Programs quality can really be judged based on the minimum volunteer hours required, value per hour, and the maximum annual limits.  A few companies with great volunteer grant programs include:

Click here for a list of additional national companies who offer volunteer grant programs.

Question #5: What are the typical restrictions for organizations?

In general companies apply very few restrictions on the types of nonprofits that are eligible to receive volunteer grant programs. Companies typically state that any 501(c)(3) nonprofit or school is eligible.

Normally there are only a few restrictions such as not providing grants to political organizations or religious organizations unless they’re focused on serving the broader community (ex. homeless shelters, food banks, etc.)

The rule that you should be most concerned with is the minimum number of hours. In most cases, companies only provide grants to organizations where employees volunteer on a regular basis. You can expect that most companies require at least 20 hours of volunteerism from a single employee in a calendar year before he or she is eligible to request a volunteer grant.

Question #6: Why are volunteer grants programs underutilized by nonprofits?

Even for organizations who have a large number of individuals who volunteer on a regular basis, there are multiple barriers that make it tough for organizations to tap into volunteer grant dollars. The most common reason is that individual volunteers actually have no idea their company offers a program. The program is often only buried in the employee benefit book that is given out once per a year.

Even if an employee has heard his or her company offers a program, there’s oftentimes a gap in knowledge around the process for submitting a volunteer grant request. Fortunately many companies now offer an electronic submission process so if your organization can communicate out company specific instructions, volunteers would be more likely to submit the grant requests.

Given these challenges, it’s not a surprise that much of the available money goes untapped. If you’re looking to increase revenue from volunteer grant programs, check out Double the Donation’s service. We can help you raise more money from corporate employee matching gift and volunteer grant programs.

Question #7: What steps should organizations take to increase fundraising from dollar for doer programs?

If your organization is lucky enough to have a large number of volunteers, make sure you’re asking them to check if their employer offers a volunteer grant program.

Prompting a volunteer with company specific information is a great way to increase the likelihood they’ll submit a volunteer grant request to their employer. Check out some of these marketing strategies.

If you’ve already done the hard work of organizing a passionate group of volunteers, make sure you’re providing them with the tools they need to submit a grant request to their company. It only takes a few minutes and doesn’t require them to open up their own wallets.

Double the Donation

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