Leaving a legacy

This was the topic of a seminar for lawyers and financial planners held recently in Toronto to raise awareness of the many charitable organizations in the Ukrainian community. Organized by the Ukrainian Catholic Education Foundation and sponsored by Ukrainian Credit Union, I had the distinct pleasure of presenting the Shevchenko Foundation at this event.

When people consider leaving a bequest in their will for charity, more often than not, they want to do more than leave your organization a few dollars. They want to leave a legacy. One of the best ways to do this is to set up a Designated Fund or a Memorial Fund which offers a wonderful opportunity to ensure that a family’s name lives on in perpetuity and that the funds will be spent on a project or activity about which the donor was passionate.

Our challenge, as charities, is to work with donors to ensure that they are aware of the many ways in which they can support our organization. They also need to understand that we are willing to work with them to ensure that their wishes are fulfilled. It’s never easy or pleasant to talk about death, but if we are not speaking to our donors, be assured that someone else undoubtedly is.

The Shevchenko Foundation, a charity which promotes the advancement of Ukrainian culture in Canada, developed a unique program called the Kobzar Fellowship. Individuals who name the Foundation in their will are publicly inducted into the Fellowship, recognized and thanked for their generosity. What a novel concept!

What are you doing to encourage your donors and supporters to leave a legacy?

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The power of ONE

There is no better way to promote your cause than by adding a face to your organization. Individuals respond to other individuals. People need to understand that their support will help other people. That’s the beauty of social media. It helps people connect. We, who spend our days looking at the big picture and trying to impact larger global and social issues, tend to forget that we need to put a human face on our mission. It’s the personal touch that will win us friends and supporters.

I recently read about one woman on a mission. Thanks to social media, her supporters number in the thousands. Hélène Campbell suffers from idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis and is on a wait list for a double lung transplant. As reported by Barbara Turnbull in The Toronto Star (March 21, 2012), Campbell began an awareness campaign to encourage online donor registration – a campaign which has caught the attention of the likes of Justin Bieber and Ellen DeGeneres. Campbell now has her sights on Don Cherry’s Coach’s Corner to reach a national demographic.

Turnbull reported that before Campbell started her campaign there were typically 50 online registrations a day at Ontario’s beadonor.ca. The daily average has risen to 180. Although the province is currently running its own campaign, Campbell’s contribution to the cause and her ability to attract celebrity is undeniably having a greater impact.

Have you been thinking how to boost your awareness campaign? Are potential supporters able to put a face on your cause? Can they empathize with your cause? If finding a spokesperson proves difficult, try finding the right image. The upcoming rollout of the new Facebook Timeline for Pages at the end of the month offers a great opportunity to give some thought to your images. It’s a good place to introduce the faces with the power to propel your campaign to another level.

For some inspiration, check out these and other new facebook pages as highlighted by Heather Mansfield on her blog.

International Rescue Committee :: facebook.com/InternationalRescueCommittee

SOS Children’s Villages :: facebook.com/soschildrensvillages

Survival International :: facebook.com/survival

Offer students a rewarding experience

It’s the familiar age-old question – How do we get more youth involved in our programs?

Unless we have a staff member designated to manage and recruit volunteers, we probably do not devote the necessary time to volunteer recruitment. We dream of engaging more youth to help revitalize our organization, but what are we doing to make it happen?

The high school curricula in some Canadian provinces give this mission a boost by offering students the opportunity to earn credits with volunteer work. The program differs slightly by province, but the goal is the same: getting our youth out into the community to volunteer their time, their skills and expertise for a worthy cause.

What’s in it for the students? For some it’s an opportunity to gain recognition for the volunteer work in which they already engage and the high school credits are a bonus. For others, it provides the motivation to volunteer. It’s that extra push to find volunteer opportunities and this quest makes many give thought to what truly makes them tick. In the best cases, many find more than simply a place to fulfill their required hours. They find an organization that promotes a cause to which they can relate and in which they can find satisfaction in the work they do.

It’s easy to find tasks for students to fulfill, although the easy ones are also usually the menial and mundane. Photocopying comes to mind. We have a limited opportunity with any given student to promote our organization. How do we do this? We need to present them with opportunities to:

  • challenge their minds;
  • inspire their creativity;
  • develop and learn new skills;
  • enhance their resume;
  • network.

Be proactive. Don’t wait for a student to come knocking on your door asking for work. Create the position and promote the benefits. Depending on your target market or geographical limitations, there are web sites on which you can share your opportunities, volunteer centres in your area or simply contact your local schools. By taking the initiative to reach out, you can offer students a rewarding experience.

Make it a priority. Put it on the agenda of your next planning meeting. National Volunteer Week in Canada kicks off on April 15. ChangeTheWorld: Ontarion Youth Volunteer Challenge, a campaign to get high-school students to volunteer in their community, runs from April 15 – May 6. Join the celebration and enrich a student!

Sharing what motivates us

The non-profit world can often be a lonely place. Organizations struggle to be heard above the daily noise. The media has no interest. Fundraising is a chore. Budgets are tight. A volunteer can often feel like a lone person on an island, thinking that no one really cares.

So why do we do it? Why do we devote countless hours of our spare time for the benefit of others? Because it’s fun, because it’s a challenge, because it is for the benefit of others, and let’s not forget, for our benefit as well.

The key to keeping our non-profit involvement fun and interesting is communication. Non-profits need to connect with each other and the world around them to share their success stories and to openly discuss their challenges. Volunteers need to inspire other volunteers. Business needs to engage in partnerships for mutual benefit.

I invite you to contribute to this blog so that we can begin sharing stories about how we, and the terrific people around us, connect, inspire and engage as ambassadors for the causes near and dear to our hearts.

There’s something in it for everyone!