Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Dallas Resident Wins GCP's Volunteer Recognition Contest

By Shannon Prudhomme
Contributor, Gulf Coast Philanthropy

Volunteer Recognition Award Winner Nina Charles flexes
her volunteer muscles at the North Texas Food Bank.
Dallas area resident Nina Charles was painting the face of a young girl one weekend while volunteering to paint faces at a local charity event with Rainbow Day, a local child development organization. As Nina used her paintbrush to create a colorful creation on a young girl’s face, they began to discuss her interests and school experience.

“She proceeded to tell me that Obama was the 44th president,” Nina said as she described the scenario, “and I said ‘did you know that YOU could be president one day?’"

With an astonished look on her face, the child replied stating that she never thought of being president as a possibility for her life. “She gave me the most heartfelt smile as if I just instilled a deep belief in her heart.”

Moments like this, Nina said, are what motivate her donate her time to various organizations in the Dallas area both independently and through one of her company employee volunteer initiatives, Citigroup’s Global Community Day.

“Those are the experiences I want to share with others and hopefully it touches someone or many to want to do the same,” she said.

These extensive volunteer experiences, which consist of long-term volunteer commitments to food service organizations and health-related fundraisers, are the reasons she was chosen to receive the Volunteer Recognition Award from Gulf Coast Philanthropy. Nina’s prize included an $100 Amazon.com gift card and $50 donated to the charity of her choice, which she elected to contribute to the North Texas Food Bank (NTFB). Applicants for the award were asked to respond to two questions detailing their volunteer efforts in Louisiana, Texas, Mississippi, Alabama and/or Florida.

The active community volunteer said she learned about the organization's work through her employer's corporate employee volunteer program. 

“Every year, Citigroup holds Global Community Day to which they partner with various charities, have employees sign up to volunteer and donate to each organization,” she said. “Over a year ago a co-worker asked me to accompany them for Global Community Day at the North Texas Food Bank.”

Nina poses with a colleague during one
of Citigroup's employee volunteer days.
That experience, combined with her own personal research on her community most pressing needs, solidified her commitment to volunteering with the North Houston Food Bank and Meals on Wheels.

“It was an eye opener,” she said. “Before then, I hadn’t realized the hunger crisis that was going on in the community and how many children went without meals each day.”

She now alternates volunteering twice monthly for each organization, and has adhered to her commitment for more than a year. In addition to her focus on ensuring families have nutritious meals, Nina supports the annual fundraising efforts for Susan G Komen Race for the Cure and March of Dimes.

Nina shares the wealth of her experiences by recruiting friends and young people in her community to volunteer their time as well. “It warms my heart when I receive messages about people who notice what I am doing and want to join in or want more information on the organizations, especially the youth,” she said.

Nina emphasized the invaluable sense of purpose and impact one can have simply by contributing one of life’s most precious resources: time.

“If all of us committed a minimum of our time to helping out others I truly believe it would make a huge difference across the world,” she said. “There is a great need for volunteers and volunteering helps you to see your life in different ways.”

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Gulf Coast Philanthropy Announces Volunteer Recognition Contest

By Shannon Prudhomme
Contributor, Gulf Coast Philanthropy 

In recognition of National Volunteer Week, which is April 15 to 21, the Gulf Coast Philanthropy team is pleased to announce a volunteer recognition contest.

The intent of the contest is to highlight regional community members who volunteer extensively as independent citizens or through corporate volunteer engagement programs.

A five-member selection committee will review all applications and determine a winner during National Volunteer Week. The winner will be announced on April 21st on Gulf Coast Philanthropy.  In addition to other eligibility criteria, applicants must have engaged in efforts over the past 12 months or more that benefits one of the following states: Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama or Florida. A panel of judges will review all applications and notify the winner of their status by April 21st.

The winner will receive a $100 Amazon.com gift card and $50 to the charity of their choice. These prizes have been generously donated by the Detroit-based Kaleidoscope Consulting LLC.

The application deadline for the contest is now closed. Please read the subsequent article on GCP for details on the winner. 

Monday, April 2, 2012

Capital One Bank Supports Economic Development in Houston Through Small Business Program

By Shannon Prudhomme
Contributor, Gulf Coast Philanthropy

Capital One Bank is embarking upon the third year of its “Getting Down to Business” Program in Houston, which offers an opportunity for qualified small businesses to grow by increasing business knowledge, networking with industry experts and lenders, and earning a matched savings reward.

Dandy Candy LLC Founders Gina Williams and Goya Qualls graduated from program last year and were the winners of the business plan competition. The company uses a new and patented technology to reproduce any image or message on the surface of delicious chocolate that can be packaged for various occasions.

Co-Founder Goya Qualls credits the program’s mentorship component with helping her to more effectively reach the company’s target market. “Prior to Capital One, we spent money in all the wrong places trying to get our product in front of people,” she said.

2011 Houston Graduates of the Capital One Bank
Getting Down to Business program

Photo courtesy of Capital One Bank
Goya’s business partner Gina Williams said she knew they needed to change their business development strategy, and felt it was divine intervention that they received an e-mail about the program. “When the chance came to participate in the GDTB Program, we jumped at the opportunity,” Gina said.

In alliance with several partners, including SCORE, Money Management International, Accion Texas, Capital One’s program provides small business owners with networking opportunities as well. The program consists of 15 evening education sessions, and participants are required to attend each session, develop a business plan with guidance from an assigned mentor, and meet other program requirements.

Ann Guliex, President of All-N-One Services staffing firm and 2011 program graduate, said the credit counseling aspect the program was essential helping her position her business for long-term growth and success.

“The credit reports from Money Management at the beginning and end of the program was an excellent source of information to fully understand what was needed to improve credit ratings and scores,” she said.

Ann also emphasized the need for participants to remain consistent to reap the benefit of the “Getting Down to Business” Program.

“Be totally committed to the program for the 7 or 8 months and you will leave the program with a better understanding on what direction to take your business and how build and grow,” she said. “You get out of the program what you put in.” 

To apply, please complete the online application for the program by 5 p.m. on April 6, 2012. 
All qualified businesses will be contacted for an interview. Due to the high level of interest, a panel of judges will help select 15 applicants.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Much Needed Volunteer R & R (Recruitment and Retention)

By Laprisha Berry Vaughn
Contributor, Gulf Coast Philanthropy

Shannon Prudhomme’s’ previous entry, Texas Restaurants Partner with UNICEF to Provide Safe, Clean Drinking Water to Children Around the World, highlighted UNICEF’s Tap Project. UNICEF touts having the largest volunteer mobilization effort for the U.S. We are less than 30 days away from National Volunteer Week (April 15-April 21, 2012) and it makes sense to think about how organizations can engage volunteers for National Volunteer Week and beyond.

Effectively recruiting and engaging volunteers can be a sustainable way for nonprofits to reduce organizational costs, publicize the organization, its mission and activities and engage the community. The most successful volunteer programs use multiple avenues to promote the opportunities available and to encourage initial and on-going participation.

Getting Volunteers
Publicity: Get the word out about the volunteer opportunities available and how to apply using the organization’s web site, blog and/or newsletters. Feature active volunteers in the newsletter and on the web site and always include instructions about how to volunteer.

Talent Scouts: Empower the current volunteers to recruit their colleagues and friends.

Volunteer Job Fair: Set up a Volunteer Job Fair or table at your next event where interested parties can sign-up to be volunteers in the future. Current volunteers should be on hand to answer questions and serve as ambassadors and champions for your organization and its volunteer opportunities.

Retaining Volunteers
Set Them up for Success: Give volunteers tasks in which they will be successful. Give volunteers all resources necessary to perform well.

Show Appreciation: Thanks and recognition are critical factors in motivating and retaining volunteers. There has never been a volunteer who has been thanked too often!
• Volunteer Recognition Banquets can be a powerful tool to recognize volunteers among peers and may help with ongoing volunteer recruitment
• Learn what motivates each volunteer and make your recognition appropriate to what he or she thinks is important
• Thank volunteers genuinely and appropriately
• Assess volunteers and promote volunteers to other roles that take better advantage of their talents

Show They’re Valued: Make sure the volunteers are doing work that is meaningful to them and the community. Show volunteers that you respect and welcome their feedback and opinion while planning and evaluating a process or project.

When volunteer recruitment efforts are thoughtful and deliberate, volunteers have meaningful work to do, and they receive appropriate orientation and training, are well supervised and receive feedback and are solicited for feedback and are recognized for their efforts, the volunteer experience will be satisfying enough that they will want to continue to be engaged with the organization for which they have volunteered.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Texas Restaurants Partner with UNICEF to Provide Safe, Clean Drinking Water to Children Around the World

By Shannon Prudhomme
Contributor, Gulf Coast Philanthropy
It is said that everything is bigger in Texas, and this includes the immense philanthropic spirit of businesses throughout the Lone Star State. This year UNICEF – the United Nation’s Fund for Children – selected Houston as one of only five enhanced markets to implement its award-winning Tap Project. The result: several volunteers throughout the entire state have stepped up to register restaurants for this signature campaign to raise funds that will be used to support the UNICEF Tap Project.

“This project is an easy and efficient way for these businesses to help make a difference,” said Beaumont-based volunteer Candace Carver.

She said the Tap Project’s focus on water access and safety hits close to home for her. “In Southeast Texas, specifically, we know what hardships can be and we should know by now not to take our resources for granted.”

Texas joins thousands of restaurants, dining patrons, students and corporations, community, celebrity and government supporters nationwide. During World Water Week, which is March 19 to 25, these restaurants will participate in the UNICEF Tap Project, which is an annual nationwide campaign to provide clean water to children around the world. Patrons of participating restaurants are invited to donate $1 or more for the tap water they usually enjoy for free. The water programs supported by these fundraising efforts aim to reduce the number of children at risk of waterborne illnesses; the second highest cause of preventable childhood deaths globally – killing more than 4,100 children every day.

Photo courtesy of UNICEF
The list of participating restaurants in Houston and throughout the state will be featured on the official campaign website for public viewing, as well as receive coverage from a nationwide marketing campaign that includes strategic partners like online dining sites ZAGAT, OpenTable, SeamlessWeb, and Yelp.

Native Houstonian Miko Tsubai is volunteering to recruit and register restaurants in Houston, and said this campaign will allow the community to gain a higher level of recognition for the city.“We are not often counted among the upper echelon of U.S. cities,” she said.

“This is the first time that Houston gets to be a major city for the Tap Project. Local restaurants that participate can take pride in the fact that they are participating in such a momentous event, and camaraderie will be created among the staff because they will feel like they are doing something great together.” 

The concept of the Tap Project is basic and compelling: “When You Take Water, Give Water.”

Since its inception in 2007, the UNICEF Tap Project has raised more than $3 million in the United States and has provided clean water to children all around the world. UNICEF works in more than 100 countries to improve access to safe water and sanitation in schools and communities, and to promote safe hygiene practices. Over the past 16 years, more than a billion people have gained access to improved drinking water and sanitation facilities thanks to the efforts of UNICEF and its partners. 

In 2011 alone, nearly 700 restaurants and more than 2,200 volunteers from all 50 states participated in the national campaign, making it the largest volunteer mobilization effort for the U.S. Fund for UNICEF. Funds raised through the 2012 UNICEF Tap Project will provide children with clean drinking water in Viet Nam, Togo, Mauritania and Cameroon. 

For volunteers like Miko, the ability to illustrate that everyday citizens can support global philanthropic efforts is what motivates her to volunteer for this campaign.

“The Tap Project is a way to bring people from all walks of life together to enjoy a good meal and unite for a cause,” she said. “It asks us all to remember to not take easy access to water for granted, and to raise our glasses to fill hundreds more.”

If you are a Restaurant Manager or Owner, you can register your restaurant by visiting www.UNICEFTapProject.org or e-mailing HoustonTapProject@unicefusa.org for more information.