This connection was enhanced thanks to some artists making custom cards for these employees during the height of the pandemic. We’ve been having conversations beyond the standard, “Is there anything liquid, fragile, perishable or potentially hazardous such as lithium, batteries, perfume or mercury” in the package and often talk about fun stuff, ranging from dating advice to our favorite musical artists. During one those conversations, we chatted about how Boyz II Men is the best male group; however, I’m not sure who we’d collectively say is the best female artist.
Although I’m biased and a bit closed-minded on the topic, since I’m a data guy, I decided to ask the question to others and get feedback from a variety of sources. First, Cardz for Kidz asked an open-ended question via our Instagram story and we got these two responses:
- Lady Gaga
Interesting. Those ladies both have several hits and have been known to dominate the charts. Not the direct connection I was thinking of though, so I reached out to a couple more contacts who volunteer through an organization called Volunteering Untapped Chicago (VU), and they provided these names:
- We asked Tom and he said, “Sia.”
- We heard back from Patricia and she said, “Taylor Swift and Carly Rae Jepsen.”
With both of these VU contributions, I was introduced to new names; yet these artists still weren’t really the one(s) I had in mind. See, I’m a bit biased. I know if I go back into the Post Office and discuss with those ladies who my favorite female artist is and they disagree, I’ll need some reasons.
Hands down, one of my all-time favorites is Mariah Carey—which is why we addressed her directly on Instagram… twice (Rainbows & Butterflies). Yeah, she’s got some of the more “pop-centric” songs, but (in my opinion) Ms. Carey has some moving classics.
What cemented Mariah as one of my all-time favorite female artists was my time leading up to my brain surgery. To be honest, I don’t really remember who or what made the initial connection, but I had “Through the Rain” on repeat after some of the initial negative feedback. Then, if you take it even farther back, you have other strengthening songs like “Hero.” That’s a quality song; but it’s all about taking a deeper look and finding where your strength really lies.
With Cardz for Kidz, you can find all types of Live videos, images, blogs with my persona, but is that really the case—it’s just a “one-man band?” No.
We’ve been able to ship over 200,000 cards around the world while spending less than $200 in advertising. Yes, we mentioned how we have some new volunteers who have helped us consistently, but how do we handle the large influx of cards, fundraising, increased awareness, and many other critical aspects? Thankfully, there’s been a common answer and I’ve mentioned them before: Volunteering Untapped Chicago (VU).
- Increased Awareness. Sorry—once again this may come from me being a marketing man, but I think one of the most important aspects of growing a business or nonprofit is finding a way to increase awareness. What I’ve noticed is that often with groups hosting an event, the participants know they’re making cards for kids all over the globe, but they don’t know they’re supporting the 501(c)(3) certified nonprofit: Cardz for Kidz, NFP. We tried analyzing packages to see what was more common—“Cardz for Kids” or “Cards for Kidz.” Both misspellings are common, people know there’s a “Z” somewhere, but often forget it’s in both “Cardz” and “Kidz.” Thankfully, with groups like VU, they’re consistently including our name in their monthly emails, detailing how they’re supporting us. Their members consistently see our name written out, instead of just hearing about this magical organization located somewhere in their city. With this type of consistent alignment, their members have been able to contribute and support us in a variety of ways.
- Filling the Gap. Well, since this is a blog post I should be 100% open and honest. A better definition would be desperate. You see, most people across the globe are interested in the fun part of making cards and sending them to us. Then, since we’re posting pics and we have the Participants’ tab that recognizes their contributions, A LOT of people want to see pictures of their cards and receive their recognition immediately… or at least within a week. We hear from groups who want their logo moved up and other people who want to see pictures of their cards. We’ve tried to highlight how due to COVID-19 we’ve had to cancel all our large in-person volunteering events that we were planning, but that wasn’t sufficient. The pushback was getting so bad that it influenced our decision with Facebook. Facebook reached out to us and told us that we could design ads that said ANYTHING, and they’d run them on their sites for us—for FREE. We could have strictly run ads trying to get more donations, fans, awareness; instead, we updated our website’s “How To” page to include volunteer text and ran some ads about volunteering, too.
- While we’ve received a couple new volunteers through these methods, nothing has been as helpful as our partnership with Volunteering Untapped Chicago. Back in the day, before COVID-19 (“BC”), we used to have events at a local bar. At these events, VU members counted cards, took pictures, and packaged over 4,000 cards.
- Later, during the COVID-19 mandated lockdowns and closures, they still had their team assisting us and had their members stop by our location, pick up cards, proof them via video conferencing, and drop them off, which helped us encourage thousands of people across the globe.
- A lot of people are making cards, but not as many people are volunteering behind-the-scenes. They help fill the void by proofing, counting, and packaging thousands of cards.
- Another way they fill the gap: by helping us make connections. During one of the first events where people were counting cards, I got to meet some of the Amnesty International Chicago team members. That later sparked us meeting with a couple of chapters, and we’ve been able to send those three locations cards on a consistent basis. Volunteering Untapped Chicago has helped us to connect with other nonprofits that we can uplift and encourage.
- Our Cause is Worth It. I get all the social media notifications for Cardz for Kidz on my phone and/or via email. You’d be surprised at some of the posts I see. There are often posts where people tag Cardz for Kidz with comments such as, “Please join as we make cards for Cardz for Kidz and raise money for SickKids.” Or I’ve seen similar post that just replace “SickKids” with “St. Jude,” or the name of another major hospital/nonprofit. Although I consistently try to post pictures on our timeline of the loooong receipts after each trip to the Post Office (highlighting how we’re sending thousands of cards), and show how we’re donating much more (e.g., entertainment systems), most participants strictly donate cards. Corporations, nonprofits, and individuals only want to donate their time. Not VU. Although they’ve been giving back in a variety of ways and are a nonprofit themselves, they requested I set up a page for their team to make independent donations so they can purchase an entertainment system (link to page). They are consistently encouraging their team to join in.
- If that’s not enough, the other message we’ve been using with the free Facebook advertising is promoting using Facebook’s birthday fundraiser feature. Currently, one of the only other people to create one of those is a member of the Volunteering Untapped Chicago Yeah, we tracked those funds and added that to the VU goal!
- Utilizing Their Network. By this I mean some members of Volunteering Untapped Chicago used their personal connections to increase our global reach to help us completely fulfill our mission statement and save thousands of dollars on a consistent basis. How you may ask? Sorry, when I originally wrote this blog post, I was asked by some of their communications team not to open up about it yet. I don’t think they’ll be on the level of our Secret Admirers, but I’ll follow the rules and just let you know that thanks to connections at VU, I’m thankful we added “Across the Globe” to our mission statement.
- Making Cards. Last, but not least, they also participate/contribute in the way that most individuals give back—making cards. We’re not sure how they originally heard about us, but they have made 400+ cards and that’s why their logo is on our Participants tab. They have helped us with some of the behind-the-scenes volunteering as mentioned earlier, and they updated us that they were willing to make cards when the weather prevented them from doing one of their outdoor activities.
As listed above, I’m thankful that Volunteering Untapped Chicago has searched for ways to contribute and help strengthen our expanding nonprofit in a variety of ways. This ranges from answering some of our requests, to helping us fulfill needs before we even asked about them. (*I promise that as soon as I get documented approval, I’ll share ALL kinds of details!*)
It’s interesting. Ever since I lost my bet with the Board in 2015—and had to come out about running the organization, see Secrets Out, it seems that people have been directing their gratitude directly to me. If you look at some of the reviews from our partner hospitals/nonprofits, they often mention my name specifically (recent example) even though for years I’m not the only one to commend, #werethankfultoo.
When I look over how we’ve grown, how groups have participated, and my potential future conversations in the Post Office, I think that I need to modify the words to one of Mariah’s most well-known songs: I “finally see the truth, that HEROES LIE IN VU.” We’re forever thankful for Volunteering Untapped Chicago’s help. You can help them reach their fundraising goal; when it’s reached, we’ll donate an entertainment system in their name—https://secure.givelively.org/donate/cardz-for-kidz/volunteering-untapped-chicago.
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