Category Archives: No-for-Profit

I was The Gar-repairman!

 By Jeff Bowman

For the past 10 years or so, at dusk on a Tuesday evening I would assume a different identity and travel the streets of my neighborhood in search of repairable items that people had discarded at the end of their driveways, to be hauled away by garbage trucks the next day. Several people knew my secret identity, and have kept it very quiet over the years, however, I will now reveal myself as “The Gar-repairman”

I didn’t do it for profit, quite the opposite; I did it for community service. I am somewhat handy, and electrically inclined.  I enjoy taking things apart to see how they work. Several years ago it occurred to me that those who aren’t good with their hands, or had no knowledge of the inner workings of gears and motors, would simply discard an item and purchase new rather than attempting what was often an easy fix.  The “throw-away” consumer. Those who fully believe in the theory of manufacturing’s planned obsolescence policy. If it breaks it is cheaper and easier to repurchase than to fix. For many years I fought that notion.

I would travel the streets in my unmarked vehicle (so as not to give away my identity), and peruse the piles on the curb. If I saw an item that I thought I could fix, I would casually stop, jump out of the car, grab it and stuff it back in the car and make a quick getaway. Sometimes my son would join me to make it quicker.  We called them “the drive bys”.  Lamps, fans and shop vacs were my specialties, but occasionally I would snag whipper snippers or leaf blowers and other small appliances. A tangled nylon string in the base of the cutter, a cut or worn electrical cord, a fan blade that simply needed cleaning and a drop of oil, a faulty switch or a cracked cover, were common problems and easily fixed at little or no cost using parts from items I couldn’t safely fix.

Now what do I need with all this repaired stuff you might be asking yourself?  I didn’t have a need for it, so every few weeks I would load the car up again with fixed items and drop them off at local charitable organizations, who could sell them and use the money for their very worthy community programs. It was like an in kind donation. (I often received odd looks when I would drop off   3 of the same item)

Times have changed. I don’t have as much time now as I used to, I am purging stuff in my house (donating) and stepping back from my Gar-repairman persona. Today, I believe some products are being made to expire a week after the warranty runs out, cheap plastic has replaced harder, sturdier materials in housings and gears and items that used to be an easy fix are truly not worth repairing now. I will continue to support local charities in other ways because they need the support in this economy, however my days of lurking in the dark for items of interest are over. To those who kept my identity a secret thanks!  To those who yelled at me from their windows on “garbage eve”, your discards went to a worthy cause.

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Filed under Environmental, Jeff Bowman, Manufacturing, No-for-Profit, Sustainability

Using Twitter to make a difference

By Stephen Rhodes

Social Media tool’s like Twitter present tremendous opportunities for community-building in the not-for-profit world.

Here is an example of how Ashoka- Innovators for the Public uses Twitter to fulfill its mission of creating an Everyone a Changemaker™ world.

Tom Dawkins outlines their strategy in a guest post on Beth Kanter’s blog  –Beth’s Blog: How Nonprofit Organizations Can Use Social Media to Power Social Networks for Change. He is the Digital Marketing Strategist at Ashoka, where he is focused on using social media to help create an Everyone a Changemaker world.

Ashoka uses stories and examples of the world’s elite social entrepreneurs to inspire people to action, sharing lessons and opening up the innovation process to more people. Twitter was an ideal fit in their outreach and communications strategy.

“… we have the opportunity to bring together diverse insights and experiences to help map the most effective way forward in tackling many of the world’s most pressing challenges.”

“The approach was to be as human as possible, highlighting not only our Fellows but our staff, and empowering them to be more effective advocates. This was also the chance to share news in a more timely fashion, as well as to proactively reach out and form connections, answer questions, and spark conversations.”

Ashoka’s Twitter goals

  • be timely
  • be human
  • be proactive
  • convene our community

Dawkins says,

“we still have a lot to learn about Twitter and the microblogging medium will continue to evolve in interesting ways. What is clear is that a platform that allows people to connect with one another and talk about the things they care about is a platform made for social change, a place where we can build constituencies and communities capable of collaboratively creating a better future. In other words, it is a place for changemakers, and for building an Everyone a Changemaker world.”

Read his full guest post.

How do you use Twitter to achieve your organization’s goals?

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Filed under No-for-Profit, Stephen Rhodes, Uncategorized

Building social capital for non-profits

By Stephen Rhodes

Non-profit organizations need to build social capital to ensure a long life.

Social capital is about creating value for your community. Moreover, the community has to agree you bring value.

sally-annMany non-profit groups work in a cocoon, where internal comfort and support provide validation. Often managed by a volunteer board, there is great personal social capital from contributing in a meaningful way to a good cause.  Too often non-profits stop there; satisfied that they have a cadre of good people doing good things for their organization, when they really need to engage the whole community in the same way.

The Salvation Army has great social capital. Typically they have strong community support because most of us  believe the Army does great things for our community, probably without really knowing what it is they do.

Some years ago the local Sally Ann contingent dared to dream about the possibility of everyone in our city  contributing a loonie to the Christmas kettle campaign, which in effect would raise $400,000. Reasoning that not everyone could contribute, they thought if half the population would “Toss a Toonie” they would meet their target.  In the first year they raised $230,000.

The community  was mobilized- service clubs, churches, the city and a brigade of volunteers. Why? Because the community at large believes the Army provides a benefit to the citizens of our city. They have social capital. They are about community.

Other not-for-profit organizations need to learn this simple lesson. Build social capital – create that feeling of reciprocity between the community and your organization and you will be successful. The community needs to know who you are and why you make a difference.

Social capital to a non-profit organization is like market share to a business. Without it, you don’t succeed.

What organizations do you believe have great social capital?

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Filed under No-for-Profit, not-for-profit, social media, Stephen Rhodes