I just came across an old blog post from June of 2008. In those days, MaryMargaret and I shared the blog and we both wrote about things. At the end of that school year, when MaryMargaret was in fourth grade (she would have been 9 years old at the time) she was cleaning out her desk for the summer and she came across this poem she wrote for Martin Luther King Day that January. Just thought I’d share.
I have a dream that one day this nation will stop hunting animals.
I have a dream that one day we will end war.
I have a dream that one day we will stop drinking and drugs.
I have a dream that we will save the environment.
I have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day we will stop pranking little kids.
I have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day we will stop making guns.
This is my hope. With this faith we will be able to have no bullies or enemies.
This will be the day when all my dreams come true.
I first heard these words from my older brother Geoff after he experienced Kids Are Heroes Day for the 6th time on September 14. I was a bit taken aback and asked him, “What do you mean we’re not a charity? We certainly are and have the paperwork from the US government to prove it!” He replied, “You are not a charity, you are a movement. You are helping to shape leaders out of kids from all over the world; you are empowering children in ways that nobody else is. But you’re not a charity.”
I’ve been thinking about that statement ever since. Well that might explain why we had no major sponsors this year, and had to dig in to last year’s coffers just to put on our event. Everyone tells me that “there are so many charities out there asking for money” and “the economy is still very rough right now”. But those are just excuses. If people don’t view us as a charity, and we approach them as if we are one, then why would they give money to us? I have been thinking about this over and over since our event.
September 14 was our 6th annual Kids Are Heroes Day, and it was by far the best one we have ever hosted. 37 heroes were in attendance and they came from 4 countries. The theme was “One World, One Community”. Many of the children delivered incredibly powerful speeches. They interviewed each other. They shared their charity work with the crowd. American Idol alumnus Rachel Zevita not only entertained us with her incredible voice, but gave the children lasting memories by generously interacting with all of them. One person approached me and told me this was one of the most impressive and important events he has ever attended. He gave me money and asked me to distribute it among the kids’ charities. There was no thought to donate to us.
Struggling with finances and donations is nothing new to nonprofit organizations. We don’t have that market cornered at all. But the sad part of it is, if we don’t do things differently we will not be able to host the 7th annual Kids Are Heroes Day. Period. And that is only the start of it. We fully expect to be a large operation one day, hosting events, clubs and camps all over the world and that will take some serious financing.
Every year, just by being there and showing me their passion, the kids give me the fuel I need to persist. This year I was given so much by them that I have never had more resolve to make this work than I do right now. So this is not a missive to ask you to donate $5 to our “movement” as it were, (albeit we’d never turn it down), but more to put it out there what we need and ask that if anyone reading this has connections to someone who may be able to guide us, or introduce us to someone else who can assist, then please stand up. In the meantime I will be seeking partnerships with businesses and/or people who can offer us the business savvy and direction we need to get over this hump and beyond. I fully believe we need to run things like a business and become self sustaining. I am not asking for fish, I want to learn how to fish.
Our event underscored the position I have held since the first one we held in 2008. Everyone should experience Kids Are Heroes Day for themselves. If you were in attendance, you experienced something magical. Jessica Fornwalt, the author of the article about us in the most recent Hagerstown Magazine, brought her mom to Kids Are Heroes Day 2013. This was the first event for both of them. Both left in tears of hope and all I could say to them was something along the lines of ”I warned you!”
In her article Jessica said two things that come to my mind. One is that MaryMargaret our founder is “trying to change the way you think about children” and that we have a “one-of-a-kind” organization. I second both of those notions. Sometimes it’s the efforts that must break the newest of grounds that have the hardest time doing it in the beginning. And once they do it, they become an “overnight success” and people ask “why didn’t I think of that?” This is the position I feel we are in right now. But we have been chipping away at it for six years. I honestly believe that we are very close to making that breakthrough. We just need a little nudge.
Here is a pictorial montage of Kids Are Heroes Day 2013.
I simply love it when people reach out to us after they discover what we are doing and want to help with the Kids Are Heroes effort. That was the case when I got a tweet from Rachel Zevita, an amazing singer who had the privilege of being on both seasons 6 and 10 of American Idol. She reached out to me just a couple of weeks ago, asking us if she could help us through her music. My first reaction was being scared that I wouldn’t like her voice which would provide us with many future awkward moments. I was quickly relieved as I started listening to her new EP “The Echo Sessions Volume 1“. As a matter of fact, while listening to “Land of My Dreams” I started it over and invited my wife into my office. I didn’t even tell her the context until the song was over. We both just sat and enjoyed listening to it. I then became overjoyed that someone with so much talent wanted to help us out.
Being the aggressive person that I am, without hesitation I invited her down to Kids Are Heroes Day on September 14. After all, we needed a headliner and I would much rather have someone come who gets what we do. We have no budget to pay her, but she’s coming from New York which is much easier than if she lived in Hollywood. After not hearing back for a week or so, I figured I must have come on too strong (*sigh*). But then she called me on Friday to say that she had worked things out and will be coming with two members of her band. She will perform a half hour set of her music starting at 1PM, and will be available to sign pictures at her meet-n-greet which will be open to the public.
So we encourage you to come out on Saturday September 14, from 10AM-4PM to center court of the Francis Scott Key Mall in Frederick, Maryland. Not only will you get to hear Rachel Zevita perform, but you will also get to meet 37 wonderful children from four countries, all making a positive impact in their communities. I guarantee it will be a day you’ll never forget.
MaryMargaret and I attended a local Rotary meeting with the leaders of several local “Interact” Clubs, which are high-school aged teens who are leading both local and international service projects under the Rotary International umbrella. Our presence there was to determine how our two organizations could work together as our missions are so much alike.
The usual “spread the word” and “help us raise funds” ideas were greeted with a lukewarm response as expected. It wasn’t until later when two new ideas dawned on me. I think they provide fresh and fun ways for mature teenagers to work with Kids Are Heroes and make a real difference.
The first idea, which we’ll simply call “Hero Mentoring“, involves the teenagers arranging times when they can go and speak to middle-schoolers about Kids Are Heroes. The mentors explain what it is that we do, and get the audience excited about volunteering. They would then help guide these young philanthropists along as it serves the project the kids come up with. This could be done with individual children and/or kids in small groups. Once the project is completed, hopefully by the end of the school year, the kids would be nominated as heroes for our website. We could even feature the mentor and their student together.
The second idea is “Hero Sponsorship” where the club could select one hero from our website to support. The goal would be to fund the hero’s travel and expenses, along with those of the hero’s guardian, so that they could attend the next Kids Are Heroes Day in 2014. There are many of our heroes who would love to come to our annual event but simply cannot afford the travel. Some of them feel isolated in their efforts and others are even bullied for it. Getting them together with like-minded children from all over the world is an incredible experience for them. And when they do come the members of the club could meet their beneficiary in person.
What other ideas do you have where older teens can interact with Kids Are Heroes? Would love to read about them in the comments.
Here’s a real world example of how using Google Authorship can be beneficial. Today I was re-configuring my email setup and in the process wanted to upgrade my email signatures. I was worried that too many links could cause the spam filters to flag my emails, so I Googled the following:
“should you put hyperlinks in your email signatures”
In the results I saw this link:
In the picture I recognized Mike as being in one of my Google Plus circles so I clicked on it. (This is how Authorship works. If you have everything connected to your Google Plus profile properly your image can show up in Google results.) That brought me to his Google Plus post about it (shown below), which in turn led me to his blog post describing “Creating Rich Email Signatures” in detail.
I folllowed the instructions and as a result created two email signatures for my separate accounts thanks to Mike’s ideas. See below:
Our First Experience with a Google+ Hangout On Air
All week I have been preparing. I have been watching hangouts, some good, some bad. I have learned from the master Ronnie Bincer, the Hangout Helper. I learned about proper lighting, how to import comments and created my own custom “lower third”. I even built a check list before the hangout, and had an agenda all set. We started half an hour early to make sure all was good. We added the proper links out to the events and set up the comment tracker. We were ready to go. As far as I can tell what happened next, this is how I remember it. I wanted to suppress the thumbnail images for the final video, so as part of my check list I used the CameraMan app to do just that. This was three minutes before the hangout was to start.
All of a sudden, my panelist Pete Shiner said, “Wait, I can’t hear you any more.” Thinking it was something on his side, he frantically started playing with his settings. Since he couldn’t hear me we weren’t able to communicate. I tried calling him but his phone was muted as per our prior instructions. Tic, tock, tic tock. Pete came back in to the hangout with a minute to go, and I frantically held up my cell phone to the camera. He called me and we thought we had the problem solved as he could now hear me. The problem was, nobody else could.
As Ronnie had mentioned yesterday in one of his hangouts, the comment tracker was not working properly that day. After I got off that hangout I had tested it and it seemed to be working fine. But since someone’s spirit was playing a prank on me, they made sure that my own comments would be pulled in properly so that I’d think it was working. Alas, nobody else’s comments were coming through so I had no way of knowing that people couldn’t hear me. But one of our viewers was persistent. Twenty minutes into it she messaged me that she could hear Pete but not me. (Thanks Keisha!) I ended the hangout and started another which is the worst thing that can happen during a hangout because all the links you have put out there must be updated. When I started my new hangout I received a message saying “your mic is not working or is hardware muted”. That can’t be right. I never touched the mute button. But I’d better look just in case. . .
Yes somehow the mute button had been pushed on my headset. Still don’t know if the Cameraman app did it somehow or I just happened to bump it. This is something I should have checked right away. Lesson learned.
So, the moral of the story is this. No matter how much you prepare, when you do a LIVE hangout be ready for anything. The good news is that after that fiasco everything worked swimmingly. And we even recruited a new panelist for next week’s show.
I have been roaming the halls of Google Plus for the last week or so, peeking in doors and auditing some of the classes trying to figure it all out. Is this something of value or is it just another social media outpost we can hang our hats in? For those who are avidly using social media, you know the price you must pay if you wish to adopt another platform, especially if you want to take it seriously. That is why for basically five years now I personally have stuck to Facebook and Twitter. At one point I sent my Twitter posts to FriendFeed, gave Pinterest a cursory look, and avoided FourSquare and similar venues like the plague. If you spread yourself too thin, your efforts will be less valuable, and you won’t have time to do anything else.
But when someone from the technology field that I respect (namely +Craig Shipp) challenges me to take a hard look at something, I tend to do it. It started with the Google Hangouts. I decided I wanted to host them on a regular basis. After experimenting with them I found that although in and of themselves they can be of great value, getting them to work the way I wanted was quite a challenge. Without going into the details here, suffice it to say that I came very close to giving up. Now I’m not saying I’m better than anyone else, but I do have a technical background. If I was struggling so much with it, how in the world would non-technical people navigate this platform? Even if I got things to work I could never get anyone else to come over.
For whatever reason I plodded through my initial distaste and got things to work. I remembered one of my colleagues telling me he was on Google+ for the sole purpose of using it as a news feed. I didn’t see much value in that until I looked at the Google+ communities. That’s when the light went off. The G+ communities can be likened to Facebook groups (not pages) and Twitter hashtag columns. This is where G+ excels over the others. People don’t use Facebook groups much because the feeds don’t appear in your timeline — for the most part you have to go to that group to see what’s going on. To be more specific, as I recall only posts from your friends are seen in your timeline, and if someone comments on a post authored in the group you get a notification but then have to go find it. Plus, posts cannot be shared from groups. Out of sight, out of mind; I rarely revisit the groups once I join them. I like Facebook pages much better from a branding point of view because the updates do appear in people’s timelines. However the conversation is one way and is dictated by the page owner. Twitter hashtags are great but it is very difficult to follow several of them at once. The G+ communities seem to have done it right. Once joined, the posts are in your timeline and they are organized so elegantly that it’s easy to revisit a particular community and focus on it at any time.
G+ also does allow “pages” similar to Facebook. After having seen the value of communities, I think businesses are much better off creating communities that augment or complement what they do, rather than build a page which equates simply to be another megaphone for them.
On that note I built a Kids Are Heroes community, which invites all the heroes from our website to join and promote themselves. People can interact with them directly if they wish and get a “closer look” at what they are doing. Anyone can start a discussion on leadership and how volunteerism is enhancing their children’s lives.
I also built a Silver Force community, which hopes to help people 40 and older find the resources and get the advice so they can get back in the work force.
From my standpoint Google+ without the communities would be just another social media platform that happened to have great free video conferencing capabilities. But the communities put it over the top for me, which means that G+ will quickly become a staple in my social media activities. Now if I can just discover a way to find some extra time in the day. . .
Update:You’ll notice I didn’t talk about how Google+ influences SEO. That’s because I’ve only heard that it does, but didn’t understand exactly how. Here is a thorough explanation of how SEO can be influenced by your Google+ page.
My friend Craig Shipp is a huge Google+ user and fan. I am perpetually interested in keeping up with new and effective ways to promote brands, market, network, and the like. Craig has been hosting Google hangouts for quite some time now on his FrederickWeek outlet, offering locals a forum to promote whatever it is that they are promoting at the time. As president of Silver Force Technologies, I joined his hangout last Friday. This video is the hangout in its entirety.
What is a Google Hangout?
Hanging out on Google is similar to group Skype-ing, where more than one person can join a video conference and everyone can see and hear everyone else. Hangouts support up to 10 people. Without going into the nuances of each application, I will say that the biggest differences I have noticed between Skype and G+ Hangouts is that group Skype is not free whereas G+ hangouts are, and when I tried to record Skype with a plug-in it simply didn’t work (even their tech support could not solve the issue). Archiving G+ hangouts are seamless (if you can get the connections set up right) and if you start a “hangout on air” it will automatically save the video on the connected YouTube channel. This way you can create a “show” that can be viewed later by others who missed it.
Craig uses this method as a way to build his brand. I do think it’s a great way to network with new people, and I am planning to use it accordingly. Along the lines of my company’s (@SilverForceTech) vision, we hope to find the real gems in our laid off work force who have lots of experience yet are unnecessarily neglected by other companies. These will be people aged 45+ who are still current with technology, very hungry to get back to work, and are excellent at what they do. Along those lines we hope to start a weekly hangout where we discuss ways that workers over a certain age, whether or not they are in the IT field, can stay relevant and find work for themselves. So if you are interested in becoming a panelist on this show, either once or as a regular guest, you can email me here. It’s a great way to network, promote your business, and join the discussion that may be of some real use to people. We do have panelists signing up already, so please let us know as soon as you can if you are interested.
If you have been following my personal social media efforts lately and/or are connected with me on LinkedIn, you may know that I was recently laid off from work. This has happened to SO MANY of my friends and acquaintances in the last few years I was wondering when and if it would ever happen to me. Although I was sympathetic to my friends when I had learned what had happened, I had no way of knowing what it actually felt like as to date it had never happened to me. The initial shock is about what you would expect. What is a bit more devastating is the ensuing months where the paychecks simply do not arrive. This becomes a growing fear where you start to question what your future may hold, envisioning all the dark places your mind takes you to. It feels like someone is slowly stepping on your throat.
If you are fortunate enough to have a wife like I do, she’ll snap you out of your funk and tell you to go take a walk or something. I did just that and remembered the very principles I often preach, which are to keep a positive mind and rid your head of any negative thoughts as they are nothing more than poison to your soul.
Part of my original frustration led from the apparent age discrimination I knew I would be up against. I discovered an interesting article written not too long ago that offers potential reasons why age discrimination exists, even though it is technically illegal. Upon request I had sent my résumé to a friend who is close to my age and he quickly told me to “take your picture off the page — it dates you.” Wow, really? I succumbed and sent it to him as requested, yet have not heard anything back.
Sometimes it takes a shock to the system to start something new. I had been wracking my brain for years to come up with a business idea. This one became a no-brainer. Create a consulting company and find the best people that are out there in similar situations to myself. I know that I have a LOT of years left where I want to work, am still very smart and self-disciplined, incredibly motivated, and most of all loyal. Many of the younger force get trained in something and simply move on to repeat the same pattern in a new position. My task is to find other people who have been in a situation similar to mine, are excellent workers and very comfortable with new technologies. So I formed a company called Silver Force Technologies, LLC (Twitter: @SilverForceTech; Facebook: SilverForceTech) and am ready to go. There is even pending work that I cannot discuss until the contract is signed, but it looks very promising and I have also reconnected with a old colleague in need of similar work.
I am hoping this is the beginning of something VERY special, where we can buck the trend and hire more talented mature workers. Will we consider someone from the younger pool? Yes we will, but they better be able to keep up.
Being the perpetual student of social media, and also facing circumstances where I need to find consulting work, I recently revisited the “About.Me” site. The pages, although they may appear a bit narcissistic to some, are laid out very nicely and seem to attract a forward-thinking set of people. (Am I the only one who prefers when people put images of themselves up there?)
At first glance the service appears to provide only a landing page where people can elegantly list their skills and interests. Once you start using it, you discover that when other people view your page you get notifications about who has viewed your page. This can be a good way to connect with new people. You can find others by browsing through the Spotlight, Featured, and Inspirational categories.
Many of the About.Me pages have links to their Twitter pages. For some reason, connecting with someone through Twitter after you have reviewed their about.me page seems to give you a bit more insight about them up front. The down side is if they don’t keep up their Twitter feed, it makes little sense to connect with them there. I discovered that this is a great way to connect with people I am interested in. It left me wanting more categories than the three aforementioned default ones.
Then I remembered that people set up search tags when they create their original page. So if your interests are social media, or social entrepreneurship, you can enter those tags and be included in a list when people search on those terms. You can also search by location. Once I discover people who interest me, I take it a step further and follow their Twitter feed if it is current. I even have a Twitter “About Me” list. So now I’ve found my new favorite way to connect with new people in social media. Here is my About.Me page. I’d love to see yours.