Battling High School Drop Outs

Fact:  Indiana determines how much prison space it will need in 15 years by measuring our 3rd graders’ test scores.  That is scary. We’ve heard this in the past from United Way and this was effectively used on the front of a nice communications (and fundraising) piece from Shepherd Community Center  that I received this month.

This is a very convincing reminder of the importance of education, but it’s a lot more than that.  Shepherd and Mary Rigg Neighborhood Center both have track records that show they are making an impact on these stats.  The average students in the public high schools (Indianapolis Public Schools–IPS) in their communities are graduating at less than 50% (high school). When I speak with people at Shepherd they say it’s pretty common for almost every student in IPS schools to be failing about one class. And that’s including the kids who will still graduate! Our urban IPS is like an extremely leaky water faucet where half of the students aren’t graduating. They are just getting pumped into our shared communities.

Immigration and immigration reform are a huge spotlight right now and a full reality — and a part of this equation. Yet, these people are woven into the fabric of our communities and society – and we need to make sure they are fed, educated, and cared for. I think many of you leave this up to voting for our elected officials  hoping that’ll do it. Shepherd raises all their funds from private donors. not from government grants.  Mary Rigg does receive some government grants, but private donations are critical.

The Bright Spots
 —  there are a couple of specific places making a huge impact – the students who are involved in the Horizon Christian School at Shepherd Community Center high school program and students involved in the George Washington Community High School (a Mary Rigg collaborative) – their students are graduating at a rate around 84% for Shepherd and above 70% for George Washington.

But it isn’t just about going to class, studying, and having quality teachers (or adequate even). Those are vital components for sure. The success-story students are getting people to pay close attention to them. In my experience, the parents in the struggling areas of town aren’t fully equipped to hold their children accountable nightly to make sure they achieve academically at a decent level, let alone, a high level.

There was an opinion piece this month in the Indianapolis Business Journal about baby boomers vacating skilled-worker jobs in key manufacturing areas. It speaks about the opportunity for the urban poor to fill these jobs, but indicates that “Indiana has failed to produce enough high school graduates with the basic skills for such jobs”.  Based on IPS graduation rates, one might understand. The author works for a group called Local Initiatives Support Corp. That has adopted a new strategy “to connect the people and places of urban Indianapolis to the growing economic opportunities of our region”.  I agree with their plan that says we need to “adopt new and bigger approaches to educations, employment, business development if we are to connect more urban citizens to opportunity.”

Maybe this still leaves you at “what should I do about it?” — Get involved in something that directly is impacting the success of your urban schools.  For example, please donate to Shepherd (Donate) and Mary Rigg (Donate) as one of the direct ways you can improve Indianapolis and central Indiana.  I believe for central Indiana, this is the largest problem we have – multiple thousands of non-graduating youth dropped into the landscape each and every year — and the school system is not entirely to blame. We can all make a tangible difference – so please get involved with (or support) groups like the above that are (a) feeding kids, (b) educating, (c) creating visions of hope .

Posted in Radical Insights | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Apple Watch, Tattoos, Fundraising

News came out this week that there’s a *workaround* for the Apple Watch if you have tattoos on your wrist. A workaround. That’s hilarious!

They have discovered after the recent much heralded release that Apple’s new Apple Watch has difficulty reading respiration and heart rate through ink tattoos. We’re definitely driving into a new era of the Internet of things when those “things” are now connecting with human organs.

Image credit:

Read More… Wrist Tattoos & Apple Watches–The Verge article:My first thought was a decision to not have full sleeve tattoos (or tattoos at all) is never a bad thing. I always ask people who are looking to get a tattoo how long they plan on living and how this will look from ages 60-100. That’s a mere 40 years.

And it sure doesn’t sound healthy if your watch can’t read your respiration/heart rate through the tattoo — and it can otherwise??

The Verge’s article says “If you need another reason to rethink getting that sleeve tattoo, Apple just gave you one…”

My son who is electrical & computer engineer programmer said “I’m surprised they didn’t think about that.”  Like testing for too much ink.  I don’t want to stereo-type, but I said, something like maybe the people who can program the watch to monitor heart rate have been late adopters to sleeve tattoos.

I won’t be a first adopter. I rarely am. I am usually on second wave. (Like I just bought the MS Surface 3. Sounds like they made a lot of improvements. Thank you first adopters!!!).

Continue reading

Posted in Radical Insights | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Volunteering — Who Likes This Stuff??

I woke up one day and realized I was neck-deep in all-things volunteering and I don’t even like to volunteer.

At eTapestry we had regular service project days and since all eTapestry clients are charities, it was a no-brainer on where to find places to volunteer. And we would get paid half-days to volunteer (after the purchase of Blackbaud you could even accumulate more days off by volunteering). Today they call this stuff “corporate social responsibility” (Forbes article on CSR).

The first volunteer days were field trips to Gleaner’s Food Bank, Shepherd Center, John Marshall Jr High, St Mary’s Child Center.  I loved that we did those things. I didn’t like doing them.

I’m not always jazzed about the physical or mindless work — although I’ve built Habitat for Humanity homes in Gulfport Mississippi (after Katrina), built a home outside Tijuana, and provided medical clinics to people in Haiti — Food pantries, serving meals, several landscaping, house cleaning/repair efforts — not fun during, but always glad to have done it.

Currently, I’m volunteering as board member at 2 charities (Safe Families, Mary Rigg), a youth mentor with another, and a “Sunday” school teacher (on Saturdays). [The board activities–that’s been a great surprise and fun, and the youth and kids stuff I actually love the doing part.]

At our church two years ago, they *repeatedly* asked for literally hundreds of people to volunteer for our GKC which is basically Sunday School. It takes close to 1000 volunteers to support GKC. After my wife also encouraged me to do it as well, I figured since I have a gift for children–genetically passed by my dad (“kid whisperer”, I’ve been called) I agreed to sign up — however, for “every other” week! I wasn’t committing weekly…Long story short – I now go every week and maybe the only volunteer who is working year-round without taking the built-in summer break. A good friend of mine Susan Ingram calls me a “junkie” for all the things I do.

Personal shoppers for inner city families (Indy)

You should start getting involved like this. Like the old adage says, find what you are very passionate about, that you really have a passion toward (or an affinity to) and give it a whirl. If you don’t think you have time, in almost all cases, that’s self-created or self-determined. I volunteer with doctors who are extremely busy. We also volunteer with a family who has 4 children (college to grade school), one teen with cerebral palsy and they have 1 adopted from Asia. Both parents work. You are not busier than they are!

You might also be getting a nudge to volunteer, if you’re paying attention. I was not planning on being a youth mentor at all and after going to a leadership conference realized I was already mentoring and then officially signed up with Shepherd Community Center’s amazing mentoring program.

In that corporate social responsibility article above it talks about a company being “carbon neutral” for the last seven years. I think that’s a very cool phrase. However, with the right kind volunteering we can further things beyond an earthly-impact.

The word volunteering might ring negatively right off the bat for you. Yeah, me too. But now I’m also a certified volunteer-freak. My advice then is to Get a little freaky? Or, freak out a little.


Posted in Radical Insights | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ice Bucket Results, Social Media, & Online Fundraising

Donate Now buttons are fun!

There are some new reports from the usual suspects – with Blackbaud releasing its Charitable Giving Report for 2013 and our community’s Indianapolis Business Journal interviewing the local web-fundraising superstar (former eTapestry CEO, now Bloomerang founder) Jay Love.

Results are showing continued overall growth in online fundraising, but still under 10% of overall annual giving for most charities. The numbers are growing year after year and won’t reverse course until they invent another kind of internet. Interestingly, faith-based organizations grew the most in their share taken online.

This Indianpolis Business article (from this week) highlights the amazing success of the

very viral Ice Bucket Challenge – a national craze stirring millions of dollars ($145 million) in online fundraising towards a cure for ALS.

esday has also become a very popular and very effective national social media campaign the past few years to spur giving following Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Here are two great article on why charities should not be fearing social media.


Like we’ve mentioned in various blogs, you need to make donating on your web-site obvious and easy.


If you need help with any ecommerce (Donate Now buttons) needs,  give us a call.

Posted in Radical Insights | Leave a comment

Great stats on when people open email

What our data told us about the best time to send email campaigns

By Ros Hodgekiss on 8th August 2014

Who really waits to get to their desk before reading their email these days? In reality, many people start their workday while walking into the café, or on the train. Or, if you’re like 50% of folks, you begin and end your day emailing in bed.
Click Here to read more on what hours of the day people open


Posted in Radical Insights | Leave a comment

eTapestry Youtube Advertisement

Very nicely done video ad for eTapestry

Posted in Radical Insights | Tagged | Leave a comment

Off Road Quads | Driving (Web) Traffic

There’s a popular commercial going around now talking about “if you don’t have a website – people aren’t going to take you seriously.”  I would add that your web presence needs to be even more than just having a site. It’s too easy today to have a sophisticated looking site, so you’d better look sophisticated.  My sons and I recently went for a 4-wheeler desert adventure 15 mins outside of Palm Springs CA. The Off-Road Quads website is not going to impress anyone. And I think for tourist places like this the difference in website it going to normally be the differentiator.

However, sometimes social media can bail you out and help you overcome a bad web site.  Off-Road Quads’ Yelp page is better than their own site!

“Upon looking at their website, my friend and I joked that this was probably the most random place ever to go to. They didn’t really pick up the phone when we called them the day of but we decided to chance it and head over.

IT. WAS. AWESOME. Truly awesome. These guys who run this place have a really good system going.” Joy K. from L.A.

Off-Road Quads delivers. They have something very cool. You might have something very cool as well, but you need to have a site that presents that and you need social media that’s not all managed by you that confirms that.

The story with Off Road Quads gets crazier. When you drive up unannounced – there are phone numbers that are on a beat up fence and a run-down locomotive train car. The photo above is the entrance and it makes it look way more innocuous than it really is.

My older son Trey who has dove off the Breaking Away-made famous rock quarries near Bloomington IN turns to me in the middle of the off-road riding and says “I can’t believe they didn’t make us sign a waiver to do this!”

Which had me wondering how a place like this that doesn’t have you sign a liability release stays in business in our sue-happy world. But later, I figured that if the website didn’t scare you away, and if the even scarier business entrance didn’t have you high tail it out of there, nor the scruffy no-frills staff – then whoever makes it pass that gauntlet is not going to be the type who is going to sue someone after crashing a 4-wheeler.  [The day we went it was 108 degrees. I turned to my boys and said, if you’re going to ride 4-wheelers “desert” (air-quotes) – it might as well be hot!]

Your business needs sophistication on the the website because unlike Off-Road Quads what you do is probably not as unique to your industry and your site visitors have other very compelling organizations doing really great things from which to select. And this includes all your auxiliary pages (like ecommerce and checkout pages) that look like you’re staying on your site even though you probably aren’t.

Posted in Radical Insights | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

24 x 7

eTapestry is on 24-7 are you?

Now that I have started a couple businesses and work primarily from my home office – I tell people I’m perpetually always working and I’m perpetually always not working.  That’s not physically possible. But closer to reality than not.

The great thing about SaaS fundraising tools like eTapestry is that they are available at any hour from all around the world. I’ve logged in from London, Haiti, Tijuana, Alaska, even Cleveland (ok, that’s not fair).

Life Balance
Too many people are “tethered” 24-7 and that’s not healthy. I exercise several times per week. It’s not just cliche – with the blood flowing, I work better as the day persists. I also have a lot of energy to exercise mid-day even though I mentally don’t feel as sharp. I’ll hit the trails, the court, the track, the pool, etc. and I’m 100% better. After the workout it’s like running down hill or riding a bike with a lot of air in the tires. Same amount of effort going in, but the creativity and productivity increase. It doesn’t mean you should necessarily work longer each day, just more effectively.

I work during the day, but I also work-out during the day.  Yet, sometimes I work “after hours” and sometimes I work-out “after hours” too.

Social media and email marketing have always been 24-7 tools and continue to even more be “after hours” communication.

As a fundraiser your online donations may not match what you receive in checks (they never do) but you need to have an online donation page (or two, or three) or your prospects will think you are lazy or behind. And your Facebook pages and tweets can keep volunteers and donors up-to-speed at who knows what hour.

Posted in Radical Insights | Tagged | Leave a comment

Indy Community Centers Closing

The Indy Star recently ran a great article about the closing of a few Indianapolis community centers (“Community centers are too important to fail”) and how the city may not be really doing anything about it. The article is also trying to drive awareness that this could impact how safe our downtown Indy is for all us. Erika Smith speaks to crime in the urban pockets where these community centers were located. Most of these centers were being helped significantly through the years by United Way and the United Way dollars are now typically only going to only charities who run very successful operations and can report their successes very effectively. I’m on the board of one of the successful community centers Mary Rigg Neighborhood Center.  Mary Rigg is now a recognized leader for providing GED and access to adult learning programs in the inner city area. Mary Rigg also has an unblemished balance sheet which it has worked hard on for a decade and very good financial reporting. And Mary Rigg is effectively measuring and reporting things like student reading progression during summer camps. Almost every grant now requires numerous measurables. But just because Mary Rigg is really good at measuring their success doesn’t mean we don’t really need these other organizations (now closing their doors) who are trying to serve the less fortunate.


To read the full article Click Here

Posted in Radical Insights | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Impactful Non-profit Video, Social | Best Practice

One of the non-profit boards I’m involved with is Safe Families. They do some amazing work and are expanding rapidly. We call it a movement.

Recently the founder of Safe Families of Central IN (who is a good friend of mine) was interviewed on this parenting blogs site which has just gone to video blogs (video blog courtesy of Confessions of a Parent).

Watch this video to see how to really leverage video for your overall mission.

Safe Families Interview

Click on this image to play

Great videos like this make a *huge* impact on the viewer. Video is always more powerful. And this video blog is going viral right now by people posting on Facebook and Twitter.  You can see that 108 people have shared this on their Facebook pages already. And it’s being shared with people who’ve not even heard of Safe Families yet.

But now they have!


Posted in Radical Insights | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment