By Jordan Lappin
The truth is that the education system in the US is failing its students. Compared to other countries throughout the world, the United States ranks 38th in math and 24th in science out of 71 countries. For students from under-resourced families, the reality is much worse. Black and Hispanic graduation rates lag behind the broader community, and there is a huge achievement gap between students from underprivileged families and those from families with greater resources. And that’s where Durham Nativity School comes into the picture.
In the early 2000’s, Dr. Moylan, a Duke Hospital Trauma Surgeon, was tired of seeing young black men end up in the trauma unit as a result of gang violence on the streets of Durham. And he decided to do something about it. As retirement approached, someone suggested that Dr. Moylan visited the Nativity School in New York City. In Brooklyn NY, the original Nativity School is an extended-day and school-year program designed to prepare middle school students for four-year college preparatory schools, followed by college “to become people for others.” The Moylans visited the New York Nativity School as well as other Nativity schools in Boston and Baltimore. They ultimately concluded that the Nativity Miguel Model of a sustained (rather than a short-term) approach to education would be the most effective in Durham. After a year-long planning process, along with the help of others in the Durham community, the school opened in the fall of 2002.
Today, twenty years later, Durham Nativity School remains a pioneer of change in the US education system. The Mission of Durham Nativity School is to provide an excellent education for young men, empowering them to make a difference in the world. What differentiates Durham Nativity School from other institutions is its twelve-year support system for young men in 5th through 8th grade who have the ability and commitment to achieve, but not the resources for a quality, independent school education. During 8th grade, the Director of Graduate Support guides each student through the high school application process. DNS assists in any gaps in high school scholarship and tuition that the family may be unable to afford. Upon graduation from middle school, DNS helps with the transition to high school, monitors the students progress, and acts as a supportive resource for each student during uncertain times.To date, Durham Nativity School maintains a one hundred percent high school graduation rate, and more than ninety percent of our graduates have attended college.
So how can you volunteer at Durham Nativity School?
1. Become a tutor - commit to coming to the school each week to provide 1 on 1 assistance to the boys who need help in subjects they may struggle with.
2. Donate school supplies and sports equipment - DNS is always appreciative of these kinds of items to make sure the students have everything they need in the classroom and on the sports field.
3. Become a counselor at the Summer Reading Camp - Each summer, DNS holds a summer reading camp to make sure the boys stay caught up to their grade reading level and to provide support to the students' parents who need someone to watch their children as they work.
4. Volunteer as a club mentor - Is there a certain sport or niche that you are passionate about? DNS is looking to grow its selection of extracurricular clubs to enhance the learning experience, so commit to coming once a week to teach the boys.
By Jordan Lappin
This week, we are highlighting A Place at the Table in Raleigh, NC!
A Place at the Table is a pay-what-you-can cafe located in downtown Raleigh--one of 61 cafes across the entire US. A Place at the Table was founded by Maggie Kane in 2013; she grew up volunteering at soup kitchens and began to notice several things as a young and curious child: “One thing that always struck me as strange was why I was the one serving this food across the line to a kid who looked just like me. We would scoop out whatever we had prepared that day, sometimes chicken, sometimes pork, and serve it to a kid that looked just like me.” After graduating from college, Maggie decided to take the nonprofit route where her passion lies.
“One in seven people are food insecure in Raleigh! That’s one in seven people in your row. Think about it that way. One in five children are hungry. That is not okay! Knowing these numbers and getting to know so many incredible people experiencing poverty, I knew I needed to do something about it.”
And Maggie did do something about it. She opened the second pay-what-you-can-cafe in North Carolina. A Place at the Table is an alternative to the standard soup kitchen model. A Place at the Table feels like a real restaurant… because it is a real restaurant. When you walk in you smell fresh baked pastry items and the smell of bacon. You hear music playing. People gather with friends and family and partake in conversation over a quality meal. What makes A Place at the Table Different from other restaurants however, is that once you get up to the register and order your meal, the person working the register says, “your suggested price is…would you like to pay that price, less, or volunteer for your meal?”
Suggested pricing means just that. You can choose to pay that price, pay more, and pay it forward for someone else who can’t afford their meal. You can also pay less if that is all you have. The key feature of A Place at the Table is that you can pay by volunteering. Maggie Kane says that nearly 40 to 60 people per day are signed up to volunteer or are volunteering for their meal. The mission of A Place at the Table is clear: to provide community and good food for all, regardless of means. “We eat together. And we volunteer together.”
By Jordan Lappin
As we begin nearing the holiday season and Giving Tuesday, we are starting a blog series to highlight the incredible organizations that we are partnered with at Triangle Cares. This week, we are highlighting the amazing work that takes place at GiGi’s Playhouse!
Down syndrome remains the most common chromosomal condition diagnosed in the United States. Each year, about 1 in every 700 babies are diagnosed with Down syndrome. Despite these staggering numbers, down syndrome is the least funded chromosomal disability in the United States. GiGi’s playhouse was created by Nancy Gianni in 2003 after her baby was born with down syndrome.
“About an hour after my daughter GiGi was born, the doctors suspected she had Down syndrome. Panic was welling up inside me but I was afraid for anyone to see it. As soon as my husband and I made eye contact I said, “if anyone can handle this we can.” I knew we were going to get through this together. Don’t get me wrong – we were petrified! I can not even begin to tell you the total fear and devastation I felt. Everything they were telling us about Down syndrome was so negative! Suddenly no one had eye contact with me anymore, they kept the door to my room closed and they kept sending in the clergy! If this was happening to us already what was life going to be like for our kids? I was so afraid to bring her home and start this “new” life. I remember when people first came to visit. There were hugs of sympathy not congratulations. They would tip toe towards the bassinet and seemed afraid to look inside to see what she would look like. Then when they finally mustered up the courage to look they saw this beautiful little baby and they were shocked! They always exclaimed “Oh my gosh! She is adorable!”
I really don’t know what they were expecting to see but finally people started to realize she was just a baby. One night when Gigi was a toddler, I made a promise to her that I would change the way the world looked at a person with Down syndrome; that I would help people understand that she and all of her friends were so much more than a diagnosis. With the help of people like you and the Playhouses across the world, that promise is being kept – not just for GiGi but for all our children.”
Thanks to Nancy Gianni, GiGi’s playhouse is the only network of Down Syndrome Achievement Centers with over 56 brick and mortar locations across the United States and Mexico. The mission of GiGi’s playhouse is clear: to change the way the world views Down syndrome and to send a global message of acceptance for all. Every day, GiGi's provides free life-changing therapeutic, educational, and career training programs for 30,000+ individuals of all ages who have down syndrome. These programs include teaching fine motor skills, gross motor skills, social skills and language, and career skills.
By Jordan Lappin
Take a moment and think of the most popular and reputable nonprofit organizations that exist today. Which ones jump to the top of your head? For me, I immediately think of the American Red Cross, Salvation Army, Habitat for Humanity, and St. Jude’s Research Hospital. These organizations collectively bring in billions of dollars each year and make a tremendous impact in local communities and throughout the world. But what is the key that makes these organizations so successful? Branding.
What is branding? The word ‘branding’ can sound like something that’s strictly reserved for large for-profit companies, but branding is as important for nonprofit organizations as it is for businesses. Branding is “the process of researching, developing, and applying a distinctive feature or set of features to your organization so that consumers can begin to associate your brand with your products or services.” More specifically for the nonprofit sector, branding is the experience people have with your organization - your logo, your mission, your values, and the experience of being apart or working with the people in your organization.
As part of the leadership team for your nonprofit organization, you might feel overwhelmed with all of the moving pieces - the fundraising, recruiting volunteers, the operation, and most importantly ensuring that your organization is serving your mission. While all of those pieces are very important, it's critical to not overlook what might be the secret to sustained success: a strong brand.
Here is a concise guide to developing your brand as a nonprofit organization:
1. DIG DEEP INTO YOUR IDENTITY: Arguably the most important step in creating your branding is digging deeper into the core of your organization. How can your branding most accurately reflect your mission statement? How can your branding convey what goals you’re trying to achieve? Who is your audience? How can you use this information to design your branding with them in mind?
2. TELL YOUR STORY: Storytelling is the key to a compelling and successful brand. We are naturally more inclined to listen to and remember stories that pique our interest, so weaving a story through your brand can draw supporters in. A good story can also unlock the emotional appeal that can motivate your supporters to get involved.
3. DETERMINE THE VISUAL ELEMENTS: Stylistic choices can make the difference between a supporter remembering your nonprofit or simply forgetting, so be bold and strategic with your selections. Make sure to carefully consider these visual elements: Colors, Fonts, Logo Variations, Taglines, & Photos.
Lastly, while it's important to commit to these characteristics of your brand to create cohesiveness and consistency, it's important to regularly review your brand strategy! Don’t be afraid to subtly update your strategy over time.
By Jordan Lappin
The nonprofit sector is far less cut throat than the for-profit sector, and for obvious reasons. However, even in the dog-eat-dog for-profit world, we hear about companies merging and partnering with one another as a mutually beneficial relationship. In the nonprofit sector, we almost never hear of organizations partnering together to collaborate to better serve their mission. But why? What are nonprofit organizations competing for?
When talking to the leadership teams at different nonprofits, one of the most common things I hear is that they are afraid of losing donors and volunteers to other organizations. These organizations maintain what has been termed “The Hunger Games mindset”. The “Hunger Games mindset” is the idea that you shouldn’t collaborate with other organizations because you might lose funding; and it’s tempting to get pulled into a mindset of scarcity because you’re afraid there’s not enough donors or dollars to go around. The truth is that this mindset is causing more harm than good for your nonprofit organization, and it’s destructive to the concept of making the world a better place.
I would be lying if I said that stepping outside of this “Hunger Games mindset” is easy! You might have different opinions, competing ideas, and varied operational strategies. So how do you break out of the “Hunger Games mindset”? First, you need to be able to see past the competitiveness and see the value in collaboration. Have you ever heard the quote: “alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.” The secret to success in the nonprofit sector is to seek collaboration rather than be afraid of losing because of it. Non-profit organizations are all on the mission of making the world a better place. So why not work together? Look for natural opportunities to partner with and share resources for the greater good.
Once you break out of this “Hunger Games mindset”, you’ll be surprised at what can happen to your funding. First, you’ll realize that donors and philanthropists don’t normally just give to one organization. Most have a number of different nonprofits that they give their time, money, and resources to on an annual basis. Your donors and volunteers might also be inspired by the idea that your organization is partnering with another because you want to see change made in the community. Also, when you work with other organizations, you open yourself up to the potential of their donor base!
By Jordan Lappin
It seems like everyone is having difficulty finding people who want to work these days. And it doesn’t matter which industry you are in - the labor shortage is affecting everyone. Nonprofits in particular seem to be having trouble finding volunteers (that is why Triangle Cares exists!), but more importantly, retaining these volunteers. Oftentimes, people will volunteer once or twice, and then the organization will never hear from them again. Here’s how you can avoid volunteer turnover as a nonprofit organization:
Everyone in the nonprofit sector knows that good volunteers are the backbone behind any successful organization. At Triangle Cares, we believe in a twofold strategy for limiting volunteer turnover. First, we place a heavy emphasis on recruiting the right volunteers. If you prioritize recruiting the right people to serve your mission, you’re more likely to develop a relationship with these individuals and keep them around for a while. And secondarily, we believe that each nonprofit organization needs to prioritize engagement with their volunteers in order to build these relationships. So here’s where you should start…
Step One: Recruit the Right People to Serve as Volunteers. Like any other industry, the ultimate goal of your recruitment strategy should be to find the most qualified people for the job. And don’t forget this or sell yourself short just because volunteers are not paid employees! Here are a few tools to implement into your recruiting strategy:
Step Two: Increase Volunteer Engagement! After you’ve recruited the right people, the next step is to let these people know that you value their time and effort! Here are a few things you can do to increase engagement with your volunteers:
By Jordan Lappin
Within the last five to ten years, social media has become fully integrated into advertising, marketing strategies, and driving sales. If you read our blog from last week, you now understand the value of social media for your nonprofit organization. Social media is a powerful tool that has the capacity to scale your nonprofit to new heights - and the best part about it is that it’s free! Having a strong social media presence has enabled Triangle Cares to reach over 200% more people each month since our rebranding. This now leads to the question: Who should be in charge of social media at your nonprofit organization?
The ideal social media manager is multifaceted: creative, a story teller, an excellent writer, video editor, and maybe even a graphic designer. This person also plays an important role as the spokesperson of your nonprofit organization for the digital world. Today, many people use social media as a means of communication through direct messaging. Thus, your social media manager acts as a “facilitator of sales” as they are talking to potential donors and volunteers on your platforms. Your social media manager also acts as a data analyst - this person has to observe social media trends, create content accordingly, and analyze performance data.
Finding an individual that is capable of all of these characteristics can be daunting. And the truth is - you probably are not going to find this seemingly perfect “unicorn”.
Here are three characteristics we think you should hone in on when hiring your next social media manager:
Because most nonprofits operate on a tight budget, many organizations do not have the means to hire someone solely as the social media manager. Tasking the director of outreach or marketing with the role of social media is a great alternative to making sure that you are taking advantage of all that social media has to offer, while also operating within your financial means. (Just make sure that this is not asking too much of them!) Individuals in these roles typically make out as very successful social media managers. However, if your nonprofit does have the means to employ a full-time social media manager, we think this is ideal.
By Jordan Lappin
As a nonprofit network, our goal at Triangle Cares is to connect volunteers with different organizations throughout the greater Raleigh-Durham area. By now, you probably understand the power of social media within our society, and at Triangle Cares we utilize our social media platforms big time! Social media acts as our main form of connection and communication with our volunteer base. These platforms also give us the ability to showcase the different organizations that we have partnered with to an endless audience of potential volunteers.
At the beginning of this summer, our team decided that we needed to rebrand our social media platforms as they were not performing as well as we would like them to. We hired a new intern that specializes in social media and digital marketing which proved to be an excellent investment for Triangle Cares. Since our rebranding, our following and engagement has increased by nearly 200%, but more importantly, our partnerships have strengthened as we’ve brought a significant amount of exposure, volunteers, and excitement to these organizations. We’ve consolidated our knowledge into a simple Social Media Strategy that you can start using today to boost your online presence.
By Jordan Lappin
For years, one of the most effective ways a nonprofit could raise money was through large in-person fundraising events - a fancy gala, a charity luncheon, or a live auction full of desirable memorabilia and a free 7-day trip to the Caribbean. However, fast forward to 2020, when the pandemic literally put the brakes on all large in-person events for nearly a year and a half, many nonprofit organizations had no idea where to turn to raise money when their annual fundraiser was canceled. Today, organizations and institutions across the US are operating business as usual. This now begs the question, are large fundraising events making a comeback? Or are they gone for good?
A few weeks ago, the nonprofit organization that I work at had its first in-person fundraising event since 2019. It was so awesome to have all of the people who make the organization run on a day to day basis - donors, volunteers, families, and friends - in the same room celebrating our mission.
In the months prior, the Head of the Organization, the Director of Development, and I met a number of times to plan this event. The two years without our annual gala gave us an opportunity to take a look at the event we put on in previous years and evaluate it with a fresh set of eyes - do we really like the structure? What about the theme? After some thought, my colleagues and I came to the conclusion that our annual gala was probably dreaded by most of our donors - the classic Friday night event with a subpar chicken dinner and just too much small talk. So we decided to take a new approach and structure an entirely new event. This turned out to be a massive success: we were able to reach our fundraising goal, engage new donors, and reconnect with ones we had lost over the course of the pandemic. The success we had leads me to this conclusion: In person fundraising events are BACK, but now is the time to innovate.
As I mentioned before, most nonprofit fundraising events are strikingly similar, and oftentimes dreaded by donors and volunteers alike who attend out of pure obligation. If you are going to bring back these large in-person fundraising events, you should evaluate your previous events with a fresh set of eyes and innovate. The pandemic revealed to most people that as human beings, it is wired into us that we want to gather, be together, and celebrate. Capitalizing on the opportunity to gather again in person gives your organization an opportunity to celebrate your mission, present your dreams for the future, and raise money. Here are two ideas for a new in-person fundraising event:
SPORTING EVENT - Sports bring people together. Instead of the dreaded chicken dinner and guest speaker combination, what about organizing a golf tournament? Or a kick-ball tournament?
PERFORMANCE - People love entertainment. If you plan on having a gala type event, add some entertainment to the nightly program. Perhaps a comedian, a band, a play, or even a trivia night!
During the pandemic, a number of nonprofit organizations created virtual events to try and make up for the absence of their annual in person gala. As we turn back to these in-person events, you might be wondering - should we do away with all virtual fundraising? At Triangle Cares, we believe that you should utilize all resources to maximize your fundraising abilities. While we value connecting with our donors and volunteers face to face, a virtual fundraising event or a Giving Day is a great way to supplement your annual in-person event and raise even more money for your organization.
By Jordan Lappin
As summer is winding down, now is a great time to start planning a Giving Day for your nonprofit organization. Around the holiday season, you have likely received an email from a nonprofit organization to remind you that Giving Tuesday is approaching and that you should consider donating to that organization. However, if you are unfamiliar, Giving Tuesday falls each year on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, and the day has become a national Giving Day throughout the United States. The idea of a “Giving Day” is that if a large number of people all give a little, these small donations can make a massive impact. Some organizations have organized their own Giving Days outside of Giving Tuesday. Many universities and academic institutions have adopted this idea and have a day separate from Giving Tuesday dedicated to raising money for the future of their school.
How does this relate to small nonprofits though? On Giving Tuesday, it seems like all the attention is on bigger organizations who have the means of spending a significant amount marketing for this day. This is why you should consider starting your own Giving Day specifically for your organization. A Giving Day for your nonprofit is a great way to shed light on your organization and leverage your local community for fundraising. So how do you set up a Giving Day?
Choose a date.
When choosing a date for your Giving Day, consider your revenue cycle. Is there a time of year when you are tighter on funds or when you could use more money? Perhaps you should plan your Giving Day in the months prior. Is there a time of year when you are less saturated with work? Maybe then would be a good time. A great strategy for choosing your date is recognizing times of year when you are stretched thin (whether that be financially or with your time) and plan your giving day accordingly. Once you’ve considered a few times of year when you could have a Giving Day, take a look and see if there is already a holiday or significant event that you could tie your mission to.
Create a goal.
Create a goal that is realistic and achievable, but not too easy. For example, if $10,000 is easy for your organization to raise, but $25,000 is overzealous, perhaps $18,000 is a goal that is achievable but will certainly take a lot of generosity from a number of donors. When you are thinking about your goal, the amount of money you are raising is certainly a big piece of it, but you can also consider the number of donors you want to have or to engage a matching donor. Having a specific target number of funds or donors gives the community an incentive to come together and collectively reach the goal.
Making sure that your donor base knows that you are having a Giving Day is key success. You should utilize and prioritize your email communication and social media in order to do so. Here is an effective communication strategy you can use:
In addition to email communication, you should definitely utilize your social media platforms! All of the communication that you make via email can be reconfigured in a creative digital way. Using social media is a great way to remind your donor/volunteer base without flooding their inbox. You also might grab the attention of people in your community that you might not have on your email list.
Jordan Hannan and Jordan Lappin