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Posts from the ‘Homelessness’ Category

I Haven’t Eaten Much Lately

House of Charity logo

Donate before year-end: Just $10 will buy 40 meals thanks to a Mosaic match.

When I helped serve a free meal recently at House of Charity in downtown Minneapolis, a man came back to the serving line and politely asked for seconds.  He quietly added — just to explain, not to complain or solicit pity: “I haven’t eaten much lately.”

Lucky for me, I have never had to utter those words.  And truth be told, during the holiday season I’ve uttered – or muttered – way too often: “I ate too much today.”

How ’bout you?

Countdown for Year-End Gifts
According to Network for Good, 10 percent of annual giving occurs on the last three days of the year.  If you’re now sifting through end-of-year appeals, why not also consider a gift to a local organization fighting hunger or homelessness?  Here are just a few in the Twin Cities:

  • House of Charity:  This is the only downtown Minneapolis organization that serves free, hot meals — no questions asked — 365 days a year.   Your gift right now is eligible for a match by Mosaic, so your contribution of just $10 will buy 40 meals.
  • Simpson Housing Services:  Did you see the recent news coverage about the Homeless Memorial March and Service?  Through this event and other activities, Simpson is an organization at the forefront of solving our local housing crisis.
  • Open Your Heart to the Hungry and Homeless:  If you’d rather have others determine the best use of your donation, this federated charity pools contributions and makes quick-turn-around grants to housing agencies and food shelves all across the state.

Save Money, Then Give More
I’m sure you have your own favorite charities in these final days of the calendar year.  But as you calculate your 2014 tax savings, consider what portion of that amount you could pass along to a worthy organization that meets food or housing needs in our community.

After all, someone who hasn’t eaten much lately might just need our dollars more than we do.

Homelessness: Upbeat Message on Downbeat Problem

Heading.Home.LogoOn Tuesday I caught a snippet of an MPR interview with Cathy ten Broeke, Minnesota state director to prevent and end homelessness.  She was discussing the problem of homeless veterans as she prepared to leave for Wednesday’s White House event on the subject with Michelle Obama and state and local government officials.

When I heard ten Broeke’s voice, my ears quickly perked up.  While I have long been interested in our state’s homelessness problem, I was also drawn into the broadcast by her delivery.  Ten Broeke sounded so upbeat and positive — almost like she was smiling. (They say you should smile when you call someone on the phone — your listener can tell!)

Skillful Interviewee
Her delivery was articulate and direct, too — no dodging of the interviewer’s questions or bridging awkwardly to self-serving messages.  And she didn’t fall into a little cynical trap laid by the interviewer when he asked whether the White House event was timed to shift attention from the developing Department of Veterans Affairs scandal.

The facts ten Broeke delivered were easy to understand and memorable.  She reported that at last count in January 2014 Minnesota had 317 homeless veterans, and that’s down from nearly 600 in 2010.   She stated confidently that Minnesota can reduce the number to zero veterans sleeping outside by January 2015.

Her skillful description of solutions to homelessness reminded me of a communications strategy used by my former colleagues at a marketing agency.  To test alternative positioning statements, they used the RUB test: Is the message Relevant, Unique and Believable.  Her messages easily passed the test.

Props for Partners
Finally, ten Broeke gave credit where credit was due.  She complimented the federal government for funding permanent Section 8 housing vouchers and providing V.A. services for former military men and women.  And she cited the Minnesota Legislature’s allocation this year of $100 million in bonding resources for affordable housing.

A very successful private/public partnership called Heading Home Minnesota has also contributed to significant progress on ending homelessness in Minnesota.

Are You an Articulate Spokesperson?
I recommend taking a few minutes to listen to ten Broeke’s interview.   And then think about what strategies you can use to convey hopeful, meaningful messages about intractable problems your organization is trying to solve.

Even if you aren’t the official spokesperson for your nonprofit, you should be prepared to represent and present your organization well.  The more staff and volunteers who speak up in positive, forthright ways, the more likely you’ll garner much-needed support for your cause.

It’s Not Just the Words . . . It’s Your Reaction

Slice of PieI read with interest Lori Sturdevant’s opinion piece in the Strib about homelessness, bonding priorities and the size of the state of Minnesota’s bonding pie.

It appears that emotional reactions to just two little words may be blocking funding for some life-changing services at Catholic Charities’ Dorothy Day Center (and for other urgent projects).

What are the words?  One billion.

Sturdevant and others have written and talked at length about the artificial $1 billion bonding ceiling.  Logic tells us that $1 billion 20 years ago does not equal $1 billion today.  So why the limit?

We’ll it’s not about logic, it’s about emotion.  After all, can’t you just feel it in your gut that borrowing more than $1 billion is just too much (even if interest rates are at an all-time low)?

In a post earlier this year on MCF’s Philanthropy Potluck Blog (“Sparking Action: What to Say and How to Say It“), I wrote about some sage persuasive communications advice from Bradford Fitch, president of the Congressional Management Foundation:

” . . . most of us have a flawed perception of how our brains work: We think we make decisions by thinking and analyzing, but we really make decisions by seeing and feeling.”

So that makes me wonder . . . how might Catholic Charities and the dozens of other organizations in line for bonding appropriations reframe the conversation so we see it — and feel it — in a new light?  Certainly each one of their causes is worthy . . . and each has a multitude of stories that can instantly evoke a tear or a smile.  But how could they jointly negate visceral reactions to “$1 billion?”

In the waning days of this legislative session, I hope some astute policymakers and influencers in St. Paul can find the words that will arouse more positive feelings.  Then, maybe our legislators can see the way to increasing the size of the bonding pie . . . and leaders of our homeless shelters and other deserving projects won’t need to fight over the last slice.

Photo cc Pernilla Rydmark