Use Your Voice this Presidential Election

Written by: Katie Carter, Director of Research, Education & Public Policy for National Safe Place Network

Photo credit:

This week I was tuning into the latest season of “The Voice” right before the Vice Presidential Debates started. For those of you not up on current, televised singing competitions, “The Voice” is in the vein of “American Idol” – singers compete for the winning title and a record deal. The public votes.

The public votes.

It only just occurred to me the parallels between “The Voice” and elections. This is a big election year (some might say HUGE). Two new candidates, no incumbents, and a possible party-change in the United States Senate rest on the outcome of Tuesday, November 8.

You can read a good list here about reasons to vote:

It’s not just the presidential race to consider. There are down-ballot races too (for state representatives, state senators, judges…) where you vote may matter even more.

The first step to voting is to make sure you are registered. If you work with transition-aged young people, you can help them educate themselves and register to vote too. Many states have voter registration deadlines in mid-October. Some as early as this Saturday, October 8 and some as late as early November. You can check your state laws here:

Whatever your party, whatever your vote choice, this is an opportunity to use your voice and vote.

National Suicide Prevention Awareness Week

Written by: Elizabeth Smith Miller, Communications Coordinator, National Safe Place Network

Did you know that millions of Americans are directly affected by more than 37,000 suicides each year?   September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month with this week being National Suicide Prevention Awareness Week.  World Suicide Prevention Day is Saturday, September 10th.  Suicide is the third leading cause of death among young people and your prevention efforts are critical.

Risk Factors

  • Family history of suicide
  • Substance abuse / intoxication
  • Access to lethal means
  • Serious or chronic medical illness
  • Mental disorders – i.e. mood disorders, schizophrenia, anxiety, and certain personality disorders
  • Hopelessness
  • History of trauma or abuse
  • Prolonged stress
  • Lack of support and sense of isolation
  • Lack of health care – i.e. mental health and substance abuse treatment
  • Recent tragedy or loss
  • Agitation and sleep deprivation
  • Impulsive and/or aggressive tendencies
  • Previous suicide attempt
  • Gender (more women attempt suicide; however, men are four times more likely to die by suicide)
  • Age (people under the age of 24 and over 65 are at an increased risk for suicide)

Warning Signs

  • Suicidal ideation – Threats or comments about killing themselves
  • Talking, writing, or thinking about death
  • Increased substance use (drugs/alcohol)
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Social withdrawal
  • Dramatic mood swings
  • Impulsive or reckless behavior

List of risk factors and warning signs obtained from:

What can you do?
Learn about suicide.  Visit and to learn more about suicide.

Educate others.  Take a look at this great Suicide Prevention Month Ideas for Action Resource Guide by the Suicide Prevention Resource Center.

Be prepared for a crisis.

Take action.
If you think your friend or family member will hurt themselves or someone else, call 911.  Here are some additional steps you can take to reduce risk:

  • Remove lethal means (i.e. guns, knives, pills)
  • Calmly ask simple and direct questions. (i.e. What can I do to help? Can I help call your counselor or psychiatrist?)
  • Talk openly and honestly about suicide. (i.e. Are you having thoughts of suicide? Do you have a plan to hurt yourself?) – Make sure only one person is speaking at a time if multiple people are present.
  • Don’t debate if suicide is right or wrong.
  • Don’t argue, threaten, or raise your voice.
  • Assist with calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1.800.273.TALK (8255)
  • View a complete list of these tips here:


Loved one:



Cutting Through the Noise: Advocating for our Kids during the Presidential Election

Written by: Katie Carter, Director of Research, Education & Public Policy, National Safe Place Network

As a political junkie, I love presidential election years. I especially love years like this: where a few months ago there was no incumbent and wide-open races on both sides (depending on who you ask). These campaign cycles can also be incredibly frustrating. Candidates visit small towns where they would never otherwise set foot, eat state fair food, rub elbows with locals, and mug for photos. It all feels inauthentic. Fake. How can a long-serving U.S. senator really speak on behalf of working families? How can a billionaire relate to middle class workers? How can privileged white men and women relate to the plights of runaway youth? How can powerful people understand what it’s like to be homeless when they have never had to worry whether they will have a place to sleep, or a hot meal and shower waiting for them in the morning?

This is where we come in. As advocates, youth workers, execs leading youth and family-serving agencies, it’s up to us to make sure the needs of these young people and families are heard. We need to beat the drum to make sure affordable housing, funds for runaway and homeless youth programs, and affordable health care for young people are priorities for elected leaders at all levels of government – from city council to the President of the United States.

Here are some ideas for getting involved this election year:

  1. Host elected officials at your organization or shelter. Show them around and explain how you operate, what you need, and what it means to the young people you serve. This could include your city officials, state senators and representations, or US congress members. If you are in an early caucus or primary state, you may even be able to get a presidential candidate (see above comments).
  2. Write Letters to the Editor of your local papers. Highlight your programs and how proposed legislative changes (at all levels of government), will impact your agencies and the youth you service, for the better or worse.
  3. Communicate with your elected officials. Make phone calls. Email them. National officials track the number of calls and emails they receive on specific issues. State officials often do the same. It may not seems like they are listening, they are tracking!
  4. Encourage your staff to vote. Encourage young people to vote. Take young people to the primaries or election in November. Help them register. It’s their right.

However you get involved, don’t pass up this opportunity to make your voice heard and advocate on behalf of the young people we serve.

August 12 is International Youth Day


The United Nations declared August 12 International Youth Day in 1999, providing an opportunity to celebrate young people around the world. The focus of this year’s International Youth Day is to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. You can read more about the agenda here:

The United Nations has also developed a toolkit with activity ideas to celebrate International Youth Day:

One activity listed in the toolkit is “Advocate.” While the toolkit stresses advocating for celebrating International Youth Day and encouraging youth to make sustainable consumption choices given this year’s focus, an important advocacy activity in the United States is for the ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Every country except the United States has ratified the treaty.

Ratification of the treaty has resulted in greater restrictions on employing children, greater focus on child heath, and a decrease in legal corporal punishment against children. It is past time for the United States to pass this treaty and solidify its commitment to children at home and abroad.

Biking with Ninja Turtles: Exploring Boundaries with Kids

Written by: Lisa Tobe, Executive Director, Wildflower Consulting

I lost my six-year-old son Mateo under a yellow helmet with a face-cover. I could see his little hands and knee knobs stick out from what looked like black Kevlar body armor. My friend, Thea, stood beside him explaining the gears, throttle and brakes on the blue four-wheeler their seven-year-old son Trey rides. Mateo nodded gravely. I watched the side of his helmet bob up and down in slow, short movements. She had his rapt attention, but I wondered if he’d absorbed the directions. I hadn’t.

Instead, I thought, “Oh crap, am I really going to let him ride that four-wheeler by himself?” I’d been flooded with panic about the idea of broken bones, concussions and spinal injuries. Up until then Mateo had only ridden a bike attached to mine, a three-wheeled Green Machine that could do a wicked skid at the bottom of a hill or a red, battery-powered, plastic race car that barely moved across our gravel driveway.

Thea lives outside Nucla, a rough and tumble Colorado outpost with a great view of the LaSal Mountain Range. Kids run around outside unsupervised starting at a young age, the outdoors their only playmate when not in school. Unlike their urban/suburban counter-parts, these children have hayfields instead of soccer leagues and ponds instead of spray parks. When we first arrived, Mateo did not want to ride the four-wheeler period, so Trey proudly walked him around his family’s 22-acre ranch. We told them to be back before dark. By then, Mateo and I were several days into our cross-country trip to Quincy, California, a small town I lived in for almost a decade before returning home to Kentucky. Thea and I hadn’t seen each other since before we became moms. We sat on their porch catching up while the boys explored.

I’m a parent-in-training. I had Mateo when I was forty-one. I have been reading books about parenting since before he was born; books that told me how to be pregnant, how to give birth and how to raise him. They talked about attachment, strong-willed children and the whole-brain approach. The authors provided advice about how I could make Mateo happy, smart and compassionate, among other things. I read these books in what we in the south call ‘fits and starts’ whenever I got overwhelmed with his behavior. I thought if I followed their guidance, Mateo would be this perfect, happy child that turned into an amazing man. But I’m learning that parenting is as individualized as our DNA.

Mateo helmet
Mateo wearing his bike helmet. Photo credit: Melissa Simmons

I raise my son in a little village of helpers, which includes my parents. My dad has much more patience with Mateo than he ever did with his kids and perhaps counter-intuitively seems more afraid of bad things happening to Mateo than he did with us. My brother, Artie, and I grew up in the relative freedom like most children raised in the seventies. We scuttled up trees and scurried around the streets and woods in our neighborhood with impunity. We had few rules:

  • Tell our parents where we were going;
  • Stay within a one-mile radius; and,
  • Return home for dinner, when it got dark or when dad whistled.

My parents warned us about cars but never about people. We biked over a mile to school alone as young as seven, and by eight we were allowed to go on solo hikes around our cabin in Western Kentucky. During these excursions, I imagined being an Indian Princess hunting for food or a race car driver flying around the speedway. I felt fearless.

While my parents follow my lead, we have complex generational and personal differences about raising children. They placed a television in Mateo’s room at their house and give him desert after every dinner, often consisting of ice cream with multiple toppings. Both are remnants of my childhood.

Both my parents and I want Mateo to be independent. We know that everyone thrives in the I-can-do-it moments when Mateo learns sometime new. It’s just that we have differing opinions of independent, which have become increasingly divergent as Mateo gets older.

My parents worry about losing Mateo. They asked me to nail Mateo’s first-floor bedroom windows shut. I let Dad drill holes, but kept the nails on the window sill. I wanted Mateo to feel the breeze moving through his room.

As young as two, I took Mateo traipsing through the creeks by my parent’s house. He loved playing in the water and chasing elusive creatures that squirted past his chubby legs. At first I held his hand, afraid he might drown in the 6 inches of tepid water that made up our latest playground. But eventually I let go, following closely behind as he rambled and fell among the brown and green algae covered rocks. The water splashed around him before soaking through his blue shorts. Mateo cried at first. But when I extended my hand, he let me pull him up and tumbled uncertainly forward trying to offset his waterlogged diaper. When Mom saw our appearance, worry lines deepened around her mouth.

Before our trip, I had started giving Mateo a little more room. I exercised during his swim lessons or went biking during his soccer practices. I’d let him go to public restrooms without supervision. At first I hovered outside the door. Eventually, I had him meet me back on a certain aisle or rejoin me at a restaurant table. I admit that each time I saw him walking back, I felt relieved. I also started feeling less trapped by the crushing public perception that a child always has to be supervised.

Mateo and I have never had a long conversation about physical boundaries, just to stay away from the street and ponds. He also has some natural fears that keep him in our yard. I work at home and can often see him from my office window, where a collection of ramshackle fences border our acre in Louisville. Gaps have begun to emerge in the black wooden fence that folds around the side and back of our yard. Several poles lean in or out pulled off center by time and weather. Some slats, held in place by a stubborn nail or two, scatter at odd angles. A wire fence runs half way up the other side of our yard, separating us from a pond and horses. Cars and trucks rush past on a busy street in front of our house, parents running errands or construction workers expanding a subdivision that used to be woods. I’m told that our eighty-year-old house used to be a school and that the fields that surround it were filled with trees before a new owner decided they would get in the way and cut them down.

I mow about 1/3 of our yard. Tall grasses and wild plants grow in the rest. My mom calls them weeds. Mateo pretends they are a rain forest, although I have to admit he’s hardly ever in that part of the yard. Mostly, he stays around his play set and trampoline, beside the house where the grass is cut. I don’t worry too much when he roams out of sight. Like my outdoor cats, I figure he’s not far.

I could only imagine what my mom would do if she’d been standing there when Mateo got on the four-wheeler. After giving him directions, Thea threw her legs over the seat behind Mateo holding onto the steering wheel. She gently coached him. Then she let him drive alone at the top of her driveway where he hopscotched across the gravel as he got used to the engine and the brakes. After about three wide circles, Mateo stopped in front of us, his learning energy depleted. He wanted Trey to take him on a ride. They headed off in dust covered cloud energy. He came back sweaty and ecstatic.

“Mama, mama,” he said tumbling in the house.
“I’m going to ask Santa for a four-wheeler.”
“Oh?” I grinned. “You’d better tell him to bring 22-acres with him too. There’s nowhere to ride a four-wheeler at our house.”
“OK, I’ll ask.”
“I don’t think it will fit in his bag.”
“But Mama? Maybe Santa can have someone else drop it [the land] off, and then he can bring the four-wheeler.”
“You can always ask.”

More and more lately, I have noticed that Mateo wants both me and his independence, a complex need that we have been sorting out in increments. Still there’s this complicated mix of teaching Mateo to ask for help and letting him just go for it. When we stopped at my friend’s place just off Donner Pass in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, Mateo made himself home in the wood-covered lot. He scrunched himself up the house-sized granite boulders.

“Do you think I can get down that way?” Mateo pointed down what appeared to be the equivalent of a straight-edged cliff.
“I think you might. If you miss, it will hurt. It’s your choice.” This is standard refrain when I’m unsure.

Mateo peered over the granite face before heading back down the same way he’d come up. I never know what he’ll decide. Thus far his biggest injuries have been scratches and bruises. It probably works this way because of two reasons, he actually does have a pretty good handle on his limits and I won’t let him do anything that seems like sure death. I really like this natural check-in process he has developed. I feel safer because of it, so I continually push all our boundaries, the adult comfort and the child’s will. He has done these new things alternating between wild abandon and mild trepidation.

I watched for a few minutes. “Don’t kill yourself,” I told him before I walked into Seth’s house to sort our laundry.

After two weeks, we finally reached Quincy, a town of 6,000. My neighbor offered him the use of any of their bikes, a balance-bike without petals, one with training wheels or a two-wheeled bike. To my surprise, Mateo picked the big-boy bike.

Last year, he’d tried to learn to bike on our gravel driveway in Kentucky. It had been a hot late spring day. Neither of us had any idea what we were doing, me teaching him to learn to ride without training wheels or him learning. I only vaguely remember learning how to do this. I might have been five or six, no helmet, no knee or elbow pads, just a pile of dusty skin and determination. I’m sure my brain had been flooded with all those confusing chemicals that told me to be excited and afraid.  I’m sure there was blood and Band-Aides before the triumph. Mateo wore full riot gear including wrist guards. When he pushed down on the petal, Mateo lurched sideways and threw out his leg to try to catch himself. He missed. I missed. The red bike landed on Mateo. He wailed. I pulled him up.

“Let’s try again.”
“I can’t.” A small sweat droplet slid down the back of his jaw where one day he’ll sprout facial hair.

I’m not sure what had changed since last year, but now Mateo gets up when he crashes. He still blames me for the falls, but I see that as progress. He told me that I’d held on too long or not enough or … Truth be told, I didn’t’ mind, because his words guided me as I tried to help him find his balance.

“You’re pulling me,” Mateo said in a soft, frustrated voice. I had been running beside him in a sports bra, holding onto his bike with one hand and the shirt I’d stripped out of earlier with the other. At the end of the day, I found myself covered in a dust bath and Mateo able to ride a bike. By the second day, he was a pro.

In many ways, this little rite of passage opened up both our worlds. He wanted to ride to the end of our road, so I let him alone. When Mateo came back, Eli, a six-year-old from the corner, tagged behind him riding an oversized pink bike, his fresh crew cut covered by a bright yellow dirt bike helmet. Book-ended by two single mom’s, who live down the street from each other, these two boys disappear for hours now, somewhere in the expanse between our house and Eli’s. My neighbor’s two grandkids, both boys, have recently joined the fray. As I wrote this, I could hear them urgently creating story lines where their bikes become race cars, horses and Ninja Turtle dirt bikes.

Kids do not have as much freedom to roam today, for a number of reasons. Some families live in areas with high crime rates; schools are farther away; traffic seems more congested and quite frankly our society’s perception of risk does not align with reality. A  University of New Hampshire research center report published in JAMA Pediatrics showed that the rate of crimes against children dropped between 2003 and 2011.[i] As cited in a 2007 Pediatrics’[ii] article, several studies has shown that unsupervised and child-driven play enhances imagination, resiliency and confidence, as well as teaches negotiation and decision making skills.  I can see these things in Mateo. Somehow we have negotiated the boundaries that feel safe to both of us, and this has allowed him to center himself more in this world and himself.

The night Mateo learned to ride his bike, I typed as he related the story to me. He described his fear and new-found confidence.

“I had trouble. Sometimes I couldn’t really start myself. Then my mama helped me, so I thought I could do it and I did. Mama held the back of my seat. Then when I said I was ready, she let go, and I could do it.”

Mateo Bike
Mateo riding his bike.

[i] JAMA Pediatrics. April 2011.Trends in Children’s Exposure to Violence, 2003 to 2011 David Finkelhor, PhD; Anne Shattuck, MA; Heather A. Turner, PhD; Sherry L. Hamby, PhD

[ii] Pediatrics January 2007, VOLUME 119 / ISSUE 1 The Importance of Play in Promoting Healthy Child Development and Maintaining Strong Parent-Child Bonds. Kenneth R. Ginsburg.

How to Talk to Teens About Drugs

Written by: Sonia Tagliareni, writer and researcher for

Adolescence is a period of uncertainty, during which teenagers are not inclined to share anything with their parents. It may be challenging to broach the drug and alcohol conversation. Your teen may try to avoid the conversation, or you may not know how to begin.

The conversation must be rewarding for both of you so it is important that you consider the issues you wish to discuss before the talk. Communities have plenty of substance use prevention resources that can help you. Your teenager will be more receptive if you remain calm and collected during the discussion. Be prepared to address any concerns and questions your child may have after your conversation.

Educate Yourself

Understanding the different types of drugs and their effects on the body will help you answer any technical questions your child may have. It is important to explain to your teenager that addiction is a chronic brain disease and to teach them about the cycle of addiction. You should emphasize that drugs affect a person’s judgment and often land them in trouble.

Don’t Lecture

Anticipate your teen’s possible reactions and you approach the conversation. Talk to your teenager when you are both relaxed and free of distractions. You don’t want them to think that the conversation is a lecture; they will not be receptive to you and may become rebellious.

Establish Expectations

Discuss your expectations about drug and alcohol use and provide sound reasons for avoiding substances. If you adopt a negative and authoritative attitude, your teenager may rebel by consuming alcohol or drugs. Also lead by example; your teenager will more likely take your advice if you lead a healthy lifestyle.

Don’t Interrupt Your Teen

Do not interrupt your teen when they are expressing themselves, even if you disagree with them. A good way to respond to your child when you think they are wrong is to show them the source of your information. If you do not know the answer to a question your teenager asked, you should simply say that you do not know and suggest looking for the answer together.

Create Scenarios

Role-playing with your teenager may be a fun way to teach them strategies for avoiding substance use. Create a few scenarios in which your teen is confronted with the choice of using or not using. If they have trouble saying “no,” teach them other ways in which they can refuse the person offering drugs or alcohol, including suggesting a different activity or simply walking away. Teenagers should know that it is acceptable not to consume alcohol at parties or use drugs with their friends.

Talking about the dangers of substance use multiple times over the course of your child’s adolescence reinforces the message. Your teenager will see you as a concerned parent and will be more likely to come to you for advice when faced with difficult situations. The goal of talking to your children about drugs and alcohol is to provide enough resources for them to make good decisions when you are not around.

Aug 2016 - Monthly Tip - Talk to Teens about DrugsImage credit: 


National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. (2009). Make a difference. Retrieved from

About the author:

Sonia Tagliareni is a writer and researcher for She is passionate about helping people. She started her professional writing career in 2012 and has since written for the finance, engineering, lifestyle and entertainment industry. Sonia holds a bachelor’s degree from the Florida Institute of Technology.

PokeMon Go

Use Pokemon Go to Keep Kids Safe

Written by: Elizabeth Smith Miller, Communications Coordinator, National Safe Place Network

You might have heard of this little monster game called Pokemon Go.  This game is all the rage right now and has been downloaded more than 7.5 million times (and hasn’t even become available everywhere yet!)  You might be asking… “Why is NSPN talking about this?”  The answer is simple… “potential.”  With so much interest and emphasis on mobility, organizations have the potential to use the game to draw community members to them.  When community members come to you, there’s an opportunity to share available youth and family services and resources (including your organization and the local Safe Place program.)

To take advantage of this potential, use the game app to identify PokeStops in your area.  Select one of these stops as a location where you want to set up a table with information and resources.  Since this game draws people to a location, partnering with a business, such as a Safe Place site, provides an easy opportunity to ask the business to donate the money used to purchase Lures.  Whether you ask for a donation or not, please make sure you obtain permission when setting up at a public location.  Learn more about PokeStops here:

After identifying and setting up at your location, it’s time to “lure” community members in.  As explains Pokemon Go offers a range of in-app purchases. The one that is most important for your [organization] is Lures.  Lures increase the rate of Pokemon generation in the area around the PokeStop where they’re placed for one half hour.” also shares the affordability of luring.

“With $100 netting you could purchase 14,500 Pokecoins and an eight-pack of Lures costing 680 Pokecoins:

14,500 Pokecoins / 680 = 21 eight-packs of lures
(21 * 8)/2 = 84 hours
$100/84 hours = $1.19 per hour

Once you send out your Lures, sit back and watch the crowd come in.  While sharing the great resources to community members, it’s a good idea to remind them that anyone can purchase Lures, so safety is key!  Remind youth and family members to not visit secluded areas and don’t adventure out alone.

You can learn more about how to use this game to #KeepKidsSafe and generate awareness about available resources in your community at:

If you don’t play the game, this might all sound crazy.  Here’s a great website you can visit it learn the ins and outs of the game.

It’s also helpful to know what some of the associated lingo is.  Here’s a handy chart:

PokeGlossaryImage credit:

You can also see some tips and tricks about Pokemon Go here:

And, at the end of the day… If you’re not ready to embrace Pokemon Go, it’s still probably beneficial to learn a little about it so you know what folks are talking about.

“Gotta catch ‘em all!” Have fun!

Fundraising Success in Two Little Words

Written by: Freddi Birdwell, CFRE, CEO of Red Bird Consulting

4759535970_3467f04902_oImage created by woodleywonderworks:

Thank you.

Do you say it early and often to your donors? If you don’t, then you may be losing some serious leverage when it comes to building support for your cause.

Considering that about 80 percent of first-time givers never make a second gift, the distinction between givers and donors is an important one! When and how you say “thank you” represents the single greatest opportunity for encouraging second gifts, third and so on. Multiple gifts mean you’ve converted a giver to a donor, a casual contributor to a friend with potential for lifetime involvement.

Every gift, regardless of size, is an opportunity to connect, to deepen engagement, and to create advocates and investors for your organization. In fact, I believe that donor appreciation is the “engine” that drives the development process. All you need to do is add a generous dose of “STP” to get and keep your fundraising engine in race-winning shape!

Specific – amount and purpose

When you are specific in your gift acknowledgement, you demonstrate accountability and respect for your donor’s intent. Not only that, but telling the story of how the gift will be used makes it more tangible, and therefore more meaningful, for the donor.

Be as specific as possible, even if the gift is not restricted or designated to a specific program or purpose. You know what it costs to run your organization or program for a year. Divide that cost by units that make sense, e.g. number of clients, services, bed nights, case management hours, days of operation, etc. This is a real-world figure that represents a per-unit cost for delivering on your mission, and it can be applied to even modest donations.

“Your $25 donation will provide diapers, formula, clothing and comfort items for the next infant brought to us for care.”

“Your generous gift of $75 directly supports infant and newborn education for three of our sponsored families.”

Timely – immediately, if not sooner

The best practices standard for gift acknowledgement is within 48 hours of receipt. Prompt acknowledgement demonstrates your professionalism and tells donors you value their support. Slow or, heaven forbid, no acknowledgement sends the opposite message. Be sure you prepare in advance for heavy donation periods, e.g. a special event, a year-end direct response appeal. Being inundated with donations is a superb problem to have, but it’s no excuse for long lag times in the acknowledgement process.

Personal – the warmer the better

Remember, people give to people, not to organizations. A personal expression of gratitude deepens engagement, invites dialogue and creates relationships. You can’t do all that with a tax receipt. Even a quick handwritten note on a standard acknowledgement letter gets noticed.

Personalizing your response is where involving others in your organization really comes into play, from staff at all levels to board members and potentially even clients. A bonus of getting board members involved in thank-you calls, for example, is that it not only deepens engagement with the donor but boosts the board member’s buy-in as well.

Maximizing Performance
Now that you’ve revved up your fundraising engine, make the most of the opportunities inherent in every check, on-line or in-kind donation.  Be ready to educate newer donors, to invite and connect donors to your mission in meaningful ways, and to reflect in your response the significant interest signaled by your largest investors.

  • Educate: Education tools can include a “welcome kit” for new donors, with a special message, pictures or video links; a copy of your latest newsletter or annual report, accompanied by a handwritten note; or program material with more information on a donor’s area of interest. Keep in mind that storytelling is the most effective means of engagement, using statistics only sparingly. Don’t overwhelm.
  • Invite & Connect: Consider how you can “show” and not just “tell” the story of your organization. Interactive activities invite inquiry, spur dialogue and help your donors develop the emotional connections that motivate giving. Site tours, forums featuring testimonials from community partners or service beneficiaries, a “behind the scenes” discussion with the CEO are just a few ideas for launching such engagement. Be creative, and make sure you invite newer donors (like those first-time givers from your special event) and those who have indicated a deepening interest through multiple donations.
  • Reflect Investment: As your largest investors, your major gift donors or prospects need and deserve more detailed information on your work. Fundraising research tells us that high wealth individuals value impact, as in this 2014 U.S. Trust Study, and want to know how their investment is paying off in community benefit.

Two Words, One Plan
Put the magic of “thank you” to work by making these and other ideas work for your particular organization. Work closely with your finance or accounting staff to establish donation processing procedures. Seamless information flow between finance and development supports both fiscal accountability and effective donor stewardship.

All key stakeholders should be involved in your donor acknowledgement plan, including executive and program leadership, board members and, whenever possible, service beneficiaries. Your plan should reflect giving levels that are appropriate for your organization, what acknowledgement/recognition donors receive at each level and who is involved. Use this handy worksheet to get you started!

Thank you. Into those two little words are packed a multitude of possibilities for your organization and those you serve. What are you waiting for? Start your engines!

Live Life Unfiltered

Written by: Elizabeth Smith Miller, Communications Coordinator, National Safe Place Network

It’s no doubt technology has made life more…let’s say convenient. Technology has provided increased accessibility for education, safety, healthcare, and entertainment. It has also paved a new way to build “social connections”. But, with these new “social connections” – are we really connecting? Technology enables increased efficiency and productivity; however, it has disabled true conversation, connection, and togetherness. Take a moment and watch a powerful video authored by Prince Ea. In this video, he shares a simple message to encourage you to be balanced, mindful, and present.

Some have argued that technology has strengthened communication; however, I believe technology has made communication faster and shorter – not stronger. In fact, I believe communication is strongest when no form of technology is involved at all.

I have found technology – as wonderful as it is – often times interrupts, rather than improves our lives.  Look around; you’ll begin to notice how society is starting to live through technology instead of taking the brilliant science behind it to meet certain needs. So many moments are being lost because they are being experienced through a (screen) filter. I want to shout – “LIVE IN THE MOMENT!” I mean, don’t you want to experience something you enjoy first hand and not through a screen? I was at a concert one evening and I was recording the song I had been waiting for all day. About half-way through, I realized I was watching it through my screen. With excitement, I had been waiting for that very moment and almost missed the entire thing. I wasn’t allowing myself to experience something joyful. I was watching it with a filter, which I could have just as easily watched on screen from home. It was that moment that I realized the value of just enjoying the in-person experience. When you have a better connection with your phone than a person, you are living life through technology. It’s time to make some changes. Live life unfiltered; live in the moment.

Here are five ways you can start living life unfiltered:

  • Adjust your morning routine.
    • Put your phone out of reach.  Many of us sleep with the phone right beside us and the first thing we do in the morning is check our emails or social media accounts.  Try starting the day off with a nice stretch or meditation instead.
  • Leave home without it.
    • That’s right…leave your phone at home.  Plan a day with the family or by yourself and leave the technology at home.  If you’re concerned about an emergency, let others know where you’ll be and what time you expect to get home.  If there is an actual emergency, they will do what they did before cell phones… they will find you.
  • Eat and be merry.
    • Make your time at the table, chair, or couch technology free.  Simply enjoy your meal and savor each bite.  Not only is it the healthiest option, it’s also a way to actually connect with others – or yourself if you choose to have a bite alone.
  • Don’t drop one piece of technology for another.
    • While smart phones have become a one-stop-shop for all things, technology doesn’t begin and end there.  If you truly want to disconnect for a while – turn the television off too.  Instead, go outside and plant a flower or tree, pull out the big tub of photos (you know – the ones you had to go and get developed to see them.)  Sit down around a table and relive the memories or share those memories with those who weren’t there – especially those who don’t know what life is like without the technology of today.
  • Don’t allow over-stimulation to control your life.

Here’s a fun life-hack where you can make a quick change to help you avoid over-stimulation and potentially reduce the urge to constantly check your smart phone:

Seton Youth Shelters’ Spring Cleaning Campaign

Written by: Karlaa Williams, Public Relations & Donor Associate, Seton Youth Shelters



Seton Youth Shelters has just finished celebrating 30 years of Changing Lives, Building Futures for more than 250,000 teens and their families, free of charge since 1985. With our three main program areas – shelters, mentoring children of prisoners program and street outreach programs – donations are always needed, from bathroom tissue, to non-perishable food items, to hygiene items and household cleaning products.

In this age of social media, online giving sites like GoFundMe, and others, pinpointing a specific audience can be a bit difficult.

Here at Seton Youth Shelters, we attempt to think outside the box and engage the community on a regular basis. Many of our donors are have families with small children and teens, just like many of the youth we serve. The Hampton Roads area is seven cities clustered on the southeastern coast of Virginia. Last year, in celebration of our 30th anniversary, we had a year-long calendar of events from open houses, to a bench dedication in honor of a longtime supporter, to our Spring Cleaning Campaign. We even opened a “Seton Shop” featuring Seton-branded mugs, shirts, caps for those dedicated supporters.

Our favorite and most successful campaign is the Spring Cleaning Campaign. Seton Youth Shelters is the official designee for Thrift Store USA, ranked as one of the nation’s top thrift stores by Lucky Magazine.  A Norfolk stop for all thing vintages, chic and….of course thrifty. This 26,000 sq. feet store has furniture, mattresses, shoes, jewelry and clothes. Many thrift stores are known buy their items from warehouses because of a lack of donations. Not so with Thrift Store USA! They have placed more than 100 donation bins around Hampton Roads. It’s in these distinctive, bright blue bins sporting the Seton Youth Shelters’ logo, on which our donors to place many items to be sold. The Spring Cleaning Campaign directed donors to the bins!

When designing our campaign, we thought of this:

You and your family are cleaning up all the old clothes from last year that you didn’t wear and placing them in these large plastic bags. The house is clean! But where do you put all of these bags?

That is the scenario that I believed many area families and donors were going through. Thrift Store USA’s truck will pick up bulk donations free of charge, from your home. Don’t have that many items? There are plenty of Thrift Store USA bins, you can surely do a quick drop off. Voila! Donations gone…and you have done a great deed!

Interested in campaign ideas? Here are some tips!

  • Identify your audience
    • Families
    • Small children
    • Teens
    • Churches etc.
  • If you have a bulk list of donation needs, condense it down for social media. Ask for one to two things.
  • Ask donors to sponsor a single item that you really need. Maybe they don’t have the time to go and buy it for you, but are willing to give you $50 to buy it yourself or towards to total purchase price.
  • Get creative! Think seasons or the nearest holiday and how to integrate that into your needs! Need more sunscreen for outings? Seedlings or flowers as a gardening activity? Holiday tree decorating?
  • Use social media to get the word out. Create custom hashtags that specify your campaign.
  • Encourage your followers to share! Sharing your posts increases the views, and helps you spread the word.
  • Spend some money! Boosting social media posts for $10 can be very beneficial, especially when spending that $10 gets you over $100 in donations.
  • Always say “Thank You”. Whether it’s a photo posted on your social media pages, a handwritten thank you, a phone call, or a “shout out” at your next fundraising event. Just say it!