Monday, April 28, 2014

California Online Voter Registration (COVR) system

Nationally, California ranks 45th out of 50 states in the percentage of eligible voters who are actually registered to vote. There are 8.5 million Californians who are eligible to vote, but have not taken the step of registering to vote.

COVR is one tool that can contribute to increasing the state’s low voter registration rate while helping election officials maintain quality voter rolls.

California’s online voter registration system now has some incredible new features:
You can register online using a tablet or a smart phone.

The application is shorter and easier – you can register in just a few minutes.
It is now available in 10 languages: English, Spanish, Chinese, Hindi, Japanese, Khmer, Korean, Tagalog/Filipino, Thai, and Vietnamese.

It is easier to use with a screen reader and more accessible for people with a disability.
You can submit an online registration form without a driver’s license or state identification card and your county will then follow-up with you to complete the final step of registration – providing your signature.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Thank-You to my anonymous angel

My angel (who are you?) sent me wonderful gifts yesterday: jazz singer Gregory Porter CDs “Liquid Spirit” and “Be Good”.  Both are outstanding and I love them !!!  In the tradition of Kurt Elling and Bobby McFerrin, Gregory Porter has expanded my universe of soulful jazz singers.  Thank you again!


Monday, April 21, 2014

7 Steps to Succeed With Crowdfunding in 2014

by Mazarine Treyz

Like in all fundraising, marketing and relationship building are key.

Have you ever thought about doing a Kickstarter or Indiegogo campaign for your nonprofit? I was approached recently by a board member of a nonprofit to give feedback on the organization's Indiegogo campaign. I looked at its campaign text, and it was terrible. The organization was trying to raise operating funding, but its 18-minute video was a train wreck. Learn from this! 

Before you dive in to a crowdfunding campaign, there are a few things you should know. 

What is the same? How is Kickstarter crowdfunding like traditional fundraising? You build relationships with people and share your updates and stories with them so they want to give to you. And with your deadline, people get excited to give, tell their friend s, and word spreads quickly. 

What is different? How is Kickstarter crowdfunding not like traditional fundrai sing? People who back you expect to get something tangibl e out of the arrangement. It's not just a " feel good" opportunity. It's a chance to get something they want too. As far as I can tell, it's kind of like online shopping ... but with a feel-good twist that they're helping other people's dreams come true. And if the campaigns don't make their goals, well, they haven't actually spent anything. (Did you know that 56 percent of Kickstarter projects never make their goals?) 

Recently, I went to a meetup about crowdfunding for startups. Each person who spoke had raised more than $150,000 via Kickstarter. One of them was Andy Baio, who raised $175,000 for his XOXO Festival. We also heard from Ryan Frayne, who raised $149,000 for a new invention that inflates and deflates things really fast, and Zeke Kamm, who raised $6,000, $223,000 and $87,000 with three different Kickstarters to make products for filmmakers. 

Kamm and Baio both made products, and as they put it, "If you have an idea, it allows you to see if the idea is worth anything." Say your nonprofit wants to start a project. Or your association wants to do a new, fun conference. Or maybe you want to start an earnedincome stream - let's say, getting th e startup capita l to make a new product for your nonprofit. (You're a homeless shelter and want to make bedbug-free beds for other homeless shelters, for example.) Here's some advice you might find helpful. 

TIP 1: Cost it out 
If you're making a product, Kamm suggests, "Do not do a Kickstarter for a $10 product." 
That was his first mistake. People fund your project to get the prizes. That is really one of the best ways to get your Kickstarter funded. "Do the numbers," he says. "If you have something that needs 1,000 backers, can you get th em? Don't make your $20 level be a T-shirt. Do you have any idea how much it costs to get a T-shirt made? Even one T-shirt, with eight colors, costs $25." 

TIP 2: Do your research 
You will put the same amount of work into your Kickstarter if you research or don 't, and you wil l have vastly superior results if you do the research. Kamm suggests watching 150 successful project videos and 100 unsuccessful project videos to pick out the characteristics of successful Kickstarters. 

TIP 3: The top 2 secrets to Kickstarter success are ... 
Marketing and marketing. And marketing is - BOOM! - fundraising! Kamm suggests getting started early on this. Look at other similar projects on Kickstarter and the biogs they're featured on. Then comment on the blogs and create a relationship with the bloggers. Then launch your Kickstarter and ask them in a quick pitch email to cover it. Do not try to find the email addresses of people who have funded other Kickstarters. Big no-no. 

TIP 4: How do you set a fundraising goal? 
"For our XO event, we set the price at $400 per ticket because that was the cost, including our time," Baio says, adding that you should set the goal at the minimum you can to make the project worth your time. 
"Figure out what your core reward is, and price that fairly. That is what people are primarily backing the project for," he says, adding that Kickstarter frowns on stretch goals. Just put a modest goal, and then talk in the description text about what you will do if you exceed that goal. 

TIP 5: What should you use for prizes? And now many levels? 
Baio suggests $5 as a level to start at and, as a prize, provide backer updates (which is a nice way of keeping people informed about your project). He also says that if you're selling high-end tickets, you should sell them but give something more to people who maybe can't make it to the event. Beca use his conference was about honoring and highlighting do-it-yourself (DIY) artists and crafters, Baio offered a DIY kit; Tshirt; and goodie box with coffee, Etsy-bought crafts and artwork. He suggests three to fo ur prize levels, tops. Admittedly, he says, he's seen up to 40 prize levels in a Kickstarter, but those usually work best with role-playing games. 
If you give people too many choices, he says, they'll run away from your project. Remember this when you're giving people 10 options to donate on your website. Maybe just have one to start, and make it more complex later. 

TIP 6: What makes a successful Kickstarter video? 
Videos should be no more than two minutes and 53 seconds, says Kamm, who is a filmmaker. Why? People have short attention spans. And if you're thinking, "Well, all I have is an iPhone," that's OK. Frayne made his Kickstarter video with his iPhone and iMovie on his computer. 
"Look, the main thing that comes through is sincerity," he says. "If you can be sincere, and find your audience, and speak to them in the language they understand, you will create fans. People will feel connected to your story and  become your fans, and back you again and again." Frayne also mentions that people might just see your video on Kickstarter and want to mentor you or partner with you in other ways. For his invention, he says, he's talking with a rubber company in Canada on a potential partnership to market his product with its product, which he would never have gotten if he hadn't had the exposure of a Kickstarter project. 

TIP 7: It's not just about the money 
(This one will have fundraisers nodding their heads!) It's about creating true fans - people you can call on again and again to back your Kickstarter projects. Which is like saying, "Build a donor base, and keep asking donors to get involved!" 
Duh. A woman in the audience said, "Oh, well, but I don't want to ask my backers to give again!" To which all three of the speakers responded, "Why not?" 
In the end, it's a free country, and they have the right to refuse you. But why deny them the choice to give to you again, if that's what they want to do? 

That is an excellent motto for fundraising, really. If you'd like to read more about how to have a successful Kickstarter, I also helped an artist and filmmaker create a successful fundraising email last year. Read about it here:  18 April 2014

Philadelphia® Double-Lemon Cheesecake Bars

Why should the kids get all the Easter treats?
Philadelphia® Double-Lemon Cheesecake Bars

Prep Time: 35 min. / Total Time: 7 hrs. 75 min. incl. refrigerating /Makes: 76 servings
2 cups vanilla wafer crumbs
3 Tbsp. butter, melted
4 pkg. (8 oz. each) Cream Cheese, softened
1 3/4 cups sugar, divided
3 Tbsp. flour
1 Tbsp. lemon zest
1/3 cup lemon juice, divided
1/2 tsp. vanilla
4 eggs, 1 separated
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
1/2 cup water
HEAT oven to 325°F and line a 13x9-inch pan with foil. Mix wafer crumbs and butter; press onto bottom of pan. Bake 10 min.
BEAT cream cheese, 1 cup sugar, flour, lemon zest, 2 Tbsp. lemon juice and vanilla with mixer until blended.
ADD 1 egg white and remaining 3 whole eggs, beating after each just until blended. (Reserve yolk for later use.)
POUR batter over crust. Bake 40 min. or until center is almost set. Cool 1 hour. Refrigerate 4 hours.
MIX cornstarch and remaining sugar in sauce~ gradually stir in water and remaining lemon juice. Bring just to boil, stirring constantly; cook and stir until clear and thickened. Lightly beat reserved egg yolk until blended; stir in 2 Tbsp. hot cornstarch mixture. Return to remaining cornstarch mixture in saucepan; cook and stir 1 min. or until thickened. Cool.
SPOON glaze over cheesecake. Refrigerate 1 hour. Use foil handles to remove cheesecake from pan before cutting to serve.

© 2014 Kraft Foods Made with fresh milk, real cream and no preservatives.

How to Avoid a Slumped, Sad Pie Crust

by Hannah Klinger
No shortage of home bakers have witnessed the Great Piecrust Disappearing Act-dough that looks perfect in the pan but contracts in the oven.  The problem: too much gluten. The gluten in dough can become like rubber bands stretched to their limit: too much strain, and the proteins snap back into a tangled heap. You need some gluten for structure, but you need to treat it gently. By the way, even packaged pie dough can shrink.
The solution: Relax your dough. It's tempting to work homemade dough into a cohesive ball, but this over develops gluten. The dough should just hold together when squeezed in the palm of your hand, with bits of fat visible throughout. Form the dough into a disk, wrap, and chill at least 20 minutes-this lets the gluten unwind.
To form the pie shell, gentry roll the dough into a circle larger than the pan, at least 12 inches, and then trim and flute. Stretching a too small circle to fit the pan will stretch the gluten.
Chill the pie shell before filling. (If you feel you've stretched purchased dough, chill it, too; this will relax the gluten and help prevent shrinkage.)  The fat, still solid from the fridge, will melt and steam in the oven, creating delicious flaky layers.

Thursday, April 03, 2014

"The Ends of BGLOs" - Dr. Gregory Parks

"We now live in an age in which many college students do not feel the need to join any fraternity or sorority. Some choose to join something other than a BGLO. It is problematic that BGLOs have built no real pipeline to membership by seeing mentoring K-12 African Americans as not simply good for the community but also necessary for the future viability of these organizations. At this rate, a decade or two from now, the pickings will be remarkably slim for college students who are interested in BGLO membership and possessed of the requisite qualities and characteristics that will sustain BGLOs. Even more, BGLOs have not thought through an optimal MIP that will commit members to their respective BGLO in real and tangible—financially and physically active—ways. As such, while BGLOs are likely to see fewer and fewer aspiring members or ones with poorer credentials than decades before, they are also likely to witness a greater hemorrhaging of active members. And for organizations with an economic model that depends largely on initiation fees and membership dues, their best hope will be to lower the bar to membership. This will fundamentally alter the nature of these organizations, not guarantee long-term membership commitment, and continue to leave them vulnerable to limited coffers and increasing hazing allegations, among other things."

Read the article in its entiry:
by Gregory S. Parks, JD, PhD
twitter: @BlackJDPHd