Dress for Success: Promoting Economic Independence for Disadvantaged Women

For many women, the biggest hurdle to overcome after being chosen for a job interview is deciding what to wear in order to make a good first impression. However, for some women, this may cause added depression and anxiety due to the lack of financial resources to maintain professional attire. Disadvantage women are constantly left wondering how to get the resources they need in order to pursue employment without having the financial means to look the part. This is where Dress for Success is changing lives in helping women on their path to economic independence.

On November 16, 2013 at 10 AM, Dress for Success will be holding a public event sale at Northgate Mall in Durham, North Carolina. According to the Northgate Mall website, “Fashion conscious women looking for great bargains can take advantage of great deals on women’s clothing and accessories”.  For a $20.00 donation to Dress for Success, shoppers can arrive at 9 AM and enjoy a 1 hour early bird access.

Dress for Success was found in 1997 in New York City, and it has grown to an international nonprofit charity offering services to help clients find and retain employment. The charity has served over 700,000 women around the globe and services approximately 70,000 women per year. Nearly 5,000 organizations around the world refer women to Dress for Success for assistance with gaining employment.

Dress for Success describes its services as:

While we may be best known for providing suits to women, it is our employment retention programs that are the cornerstone of the organization. Soon after Dress for Success was founded we came to recognize that finding work is only one step in a woman’s journey towards economic independence; remaining employed and building a rewarding career are essential if a woman is to become self-sufficient.

To meet the need for services that would help women both find and keep jobs, we established the Professional Women’s Group (PWG) program, which offers women ongoing support as they successfully transition into the workforce, build thriving careers and prosper in the mainstream workplace. Once a woman joins the PWG she is a member for life, able to attend meetings at any affiliate throughout the world, and can benefit from additional employment retention and mentoring programs.

Dress for Success also has developed Career Center, an initiative that promotes confidence and professionalism by providing women career guidance, the chance to acquire technology skills and assistance in their job searches. Read More

For more information, go to http://www.northgatemall.com/event/dress-for-success-of-the-triangle-inventory-excess-sale/. Here is a preview from last year’s event.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AbT_QUvy208[/youtube]

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Dress for Success

Manchester Bidwell Replication Project Serving At Risk Youth

Manchester Bidwell, located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania is a nonprofit center which serves at-risk youth and unemployed, underemployed, and displaced persons. Bill Strickland, MacArthur “Genius” award winner and community leader, established the center.  He believes that environment shapes lives, and the center has thus proven his theory with a beautiful and empowering space to inspire, motivate, and lead those who may feel restricted within the cycle of poverty.

Recent Masters of Social Work Graduate, Josh Nadzam, has been quite busy since his interview with Social Work Helper last spring. Over the summer and into fall, he rallied the community, businesses, and organizations to get involved in innumerable ways to open a replication of the nonprofit Manchester Bidwell center in Lexington, Kentucky. Inspired by Strickland’s 2009 personal growth book “Make the Impossible Possible: One Man’s Crusade to Inspire Others to Dream Bigger and Achieve the Extraordinary,” Josh is well on his way to providing the same opportunity to the disadvantaged population in Lexington. Born into poverty Josh has experienced the lack of basic needs and opportunities similar to those he now hopes to help.

MBRPlogoAccording to the Manchester Bidwell website,

Our philosophy originated when founder Bill Strickland met Pittsburgh Public High School art teacher Frank Ross. Ross mentored Strickland through his teen years, impressing upon him the powers of art, education and community, and helping him obtain entrance to the University of Pittsburgh.

While still in college in 1968, Strickland founded Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild to bring arts education and mentorship to inner city youth in his neighborhood. The MCG Youth & Arts program, as it is now called, serves public school students by offering courses in our ceramics, design, digital and photography studios.

Strickland, who has helped replicate over 8 centers in other cities, visited Lexington recently to speak to many individual donors who have become very interested in this initiative. Through more organized efforts, Josh and a very eager community raised over $18,000 through donations many of which were less than $25 hence embracing the motto, “Every dollar truly counts.”  What started as his own personal dream is now a shared dream amongst over 270 people, including a passionate, selfless steering committee determined to bring this dream to fruition.  Now with the help of so many others in the community, it is no longer about Josh—it is about the movement, the community, and everyone involved.

Some may wonder why Josh wouldn’t replicate Manchester Center where he grew up. When asked why not move back home, he describes what Lexington has became for him: a place of shelter and protection from danger and trouble “a refuge.” The Manchester Bidwell Project just may be his gift — his way of saying thank you to a city that welcomed him with open arms!

Josh continues to accept donations through a wonderful crowd-funding website . Additionally, for more up-to date information on the replication project visit www.mbrplexington.com.

5 Free Ways to Analyze Your Media Impact

It’s not enough to use social media sites as bulletin boards for your agency’s news and events. Engaging with your consumers and supporters means taking their interests and passions and meeting those needs with your content.

They might not want a daily update on the consumers you served, or even a weekly update. Maybe a once a month summary works best. Not every call to action is going to have a buy-in for them, but how do you know what is important to those who follow if you do not analyze your data?

Learning how to target your supporters with messages that are specific to the issues they care about, and are accessible in ways that they are comfortable engaging in is the best way to maximize their buy-in. That means more people showing up to volunteer, more people calling their local government, and more people donating to your holiday appeal. Be intentional in who you target and you will see success.

But, how do you know what content your supporters want to see? How can you learn that information on a shoe-string budget? Easy. The internet is a wealth of resource that many nonprofits fail to tap into. Here are a few options to get you started.

MailChimp

MailChimp is incredibly easy to set up and start using immediately. Most importantly, if you have fewer than 2,000 names on your list of supporters it’s free! If you have a larger number of individuals you want to connect with, the fees are minimal. You can send an unlimited number of emails to 10,000 people for $75 a month.

MailChimp lets you create emails that are fun. No one wants to open an email that has a giant wall of text with a few bolded headings. No one reads those. No one wants to download your newsletter as an attachment. Attachments are generally not mobile-friendly. MailChimp will let you customize an email that contains links to whatever you want. They look really good (as long as you are intentional about your color palette) and come with all sorts of analysis tools for free. You can see who opened your emails, when they opened them, and what they clicked on. Use this information to make your email campaigns better.

Mention

Mention lets you monitor keywords. You can track who/when/where your word or phrase of choice is used, then use this information to respond. Your organization’s name or issues of choice are great places to start. A great way to put this to use would be to take a news report on a local, relevant event and create a YouTube video to share in response. It’s a great way to track what’s happening around you.

Mention is free for fewer than 250 alerts. The ideal package is $20 a month. The pro package includes some great statistical information including referral sources and browsers.

Google Analytics

Google Analytics is free. To set it up, you create a Google Account and generate a bit of code to paste into your website, MailChimp account, blog, etc. If you don’t know how to do that: A) Learn how; take control of your own media. Or B) Have whoever you’re paying to manage your social media presence do it.

Google Analytics tells you who is viewing your content and how they are seeing it. It lets you know the platforms people are using to view your page (mobile, browsers, etc) and their demographics. It also lets you know how they found you and which pages they view, and for how long they looked at your pages. Using this information will let you know if your content is accessible to the public, utilized by speakers of a different language, and viewed on a variety of devices. You can also connect events or press releases to higher page views and conversions.

Google also has a great package of free web apps for Nonprofits. I encourage you to look into them.

Facebook Insights

It is not enough to get people to ‘Like’ your pictures or status updates. A ‘Like’ signifies passive engagement that requires no thought or buy-in. Facebook Insights are something that many people look at, but rarely use. It’s great to see how many people visited your page and that your picture today is doing better than some of the others recently. Putting that information to use requires answering some questions:  Why is that post performing better? What is different about it? Did you post it at a different time of day? Did it include a call to action? Did people comment on or share it? Why?

You will find success when you take ownership of tracking the trends that Facebook Insights provide you with. Passive marketing is bad marketing.

SurveyMonkey

I include SurveyMonkey because a good survey can tell you a lot of information. It’s a bit old fashioned to go out and actually ask people what they think, but the responses are very straightforward. There are drawbacks, of course, that mostly involve accessibility to the internet and the English language, but online surveys can be very useful.

Define exactly what it is that you want to measure and be sure that your questions will help you get those measurements. Have some community partners test out the survey to ensure that the responses are what you’re looking for. Use Excel, SPSS, or some other analysis tool to find trends. Then, put those trends into action.  It’s great to know what people think- but why does that matter to you and what are you going to do about it?

There are many more opportunities to gather and analyze your impact on the social media world. This list is just a place to get started. Being passive in your information gathering and usage will limit your organizations effect on your supporters and community. Take control of your content, make it work for you, and watch the results roll-in.

The Uncharitable World of Policy: Dan Pallotta TED

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One of the biggest threats that all nonprofits face is the injustice and discrimination from our own government. Our current Congress wants nonprofits to survive without government spending at the same time it is creating policies that increase dependency on the services nonprofits provide.

If the government does not want to fund these services, then they must allow these facilities to find innovative ways to fund themselves.  Who or what will pay for these much needed services? Nonprofits are struggling to survive. However, if there were some sort of revenue, benefit to donate to these nonprofits, and a way to market the valuable work they do, they could greatly expand the number of people who are helped.

According to activist and fundraiser Dan Pallotta, everything the donating public has been taught about giving is dysfunctional, and this bleeds into the policy arena as well.  This creates misconceptions and injustice that target vulnerable populations. Dan claims there are a few specific ways that nonprofits are discriminated against in the economic world.

First through compensation, by providing more opportunities for incentives to other businesses instead of finding ways to incentivize people to produce more in the service population.   Secondly, through advertising and marketing, because investors don’t like to see their donations spent on advertising in the non-profit sector. Dan states, “You know, you want to make 50 million dollars selling violent video games to kids, go for it. We’ll put you on the cover of Wired magazine. But you want to make half a million dollars trying to cure kids of malaria, and you’re considered a parasite yourself.” (Dan Pallotta, 2008)

Most nonprofits must get their advertising donated, and this forces them to work at a capacity much lower than their other business counterparts. Thirdly by not allowing nonprofits to try innovative ideas because they are risky. In other profit businesses, taking risks is almost necessary and a loss is expected. However, in the nonprofit sector, these sorts of business risks are not allowed and could even be viewed as failures. Only Dan states when we prohibit failure we also stop innovation. The fourth way is through time limits.

For example, Dan states, that if a nonprofit told investors and donors that for six years no money was going to go to the needy, it was all going to be invested in building their nonprofit they would not be supported. However that is exactly what Amazon did, and they were supported in this by their investors. Most nonprofits have time limits for success and don’t have the opportunity to grow their nonprofit before they must close doors. And lastly being seen as a drain on the community rather than a value. In our society we value independence and vulnerable populations are not seen as worthy, only as unsustainable.

But this idea of individuality is an illusion, we cannot exist without being dependent on several variables. There is so much discrimination against vulnerable populations, it is almost as if it is purposeful and intentional to make it so difficult for the nonprofit sector. As long as we have this belief in our society things will not change. It is disappointing that in our society we value things that hurt us or isolate us however helping members of the community that is struggling is unfavorable.

Top 5 Best Free Website Builders For Your Practice

Frustrated User

I will be discussing my recommendations for the best free website builders to assist you in crafting an online professional image. Whether you are creating an online portfolio or starting a small business, you only have once to make an online impression of yourself with a well planned website.

You could always hire someone to design your website, integrate your social media, provide internet security and IT support. On the other hand, this could be pretty expensive for someone with minimal assets and capital. However, you don’t want potential clients and employers dismissing you based on the look and layout of your website.

Before choosing a website platform, you must first decide whether it will be updated frequently or whether your web content will primarily remain the same. Blog style platforms are great for content that needs to be updated frequently. Static website platforms are primarily for individuals who need their content updated only every few months.

The Top 5 best free website platforms that I recommend are as follows:

Weebly

Weebly’s platform uses a drop and drag type website builder which is very easy to use. It will give you a professional looking website with a wide selection of templates in its free version. For someone with no technical skills, I highly recommend weebly as the best option for the beginner. Advanced features are offered for your weebly site with an upgraded plan.

 Wix

Wix is a great option for someone who needs to display a lot of multi-media such as videos and photos. Wix has recently upgraded it’s technology to HTML5 which now displays on Apple products. Wix also uses a drop and drag website builder platform. The look and feel is geared towards achieving a rich multi-media website.

WordPress.com or WordPress.org

WordPress is the ultimate marriage between static content and frequent updates because it has the ability to do both. WordPress is a free open source platform that will allow you to create with very few limits for a small business owner. WordPress.com is hosted on a wordpress server, and WordPress.org is hosted on a hosting service that you pay for. WordPress is also optimized for mobile site visitors, and it even includes a handy mobile app for on the go posting.

Google Sites

Google sites is the ultimate choice for static websites which includes free hosting courtesy of google. Their sites are fully integratable with a suite of free google products such as google drive, google calendar, gmail, youtube, adsense, and more. Google Sites come with an array of templates that can be modified through widgets for the beginner, but it also give the ability to inject html code and java scripts for the more advanced user. The skill of the user will affect the achievable look and feel of a google site.

Google sites are optimized for mobile site visitors, and it is free to use. Google also offers the ability to purchase your own domain name using Google Apps at a cost ranging between 8 to 12 dollars with privacy options included. For what comes with the purchase of a domain name using Google Apps, I have not found anything better. Google Apps needs a stand alone post by itself which is possible in the near future. Resources will be given below to learn more on these products.

Blogger

Blogger is a Google product that uses a blog style platform. It will provide another alternative for sites needing frequent updates. Blogger has been making strides to improve customization for its users. Most importantly, it is fully integratable with a suite of free Google products, and it’s free to use. However, this option would make a great personal website and your business type would determine whether Blogger is a good fit for you.

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