NLEAFCF Launch – Just in Time for the Holidays!

Thanksgiving is a time for giving “Thanks” and that is exactly what our newest client has been doing since September 11th, 2001. The National Law Enforcement and Firefighters Children’s Foundation (NLEAFCF) offers grant and scholarship programs to children of law enforcement officers and firefighters who have been lost or permanently disabled in the line of duty.

NLEAFCF approached us to help them create a new online presence that reflected their passion and commitment to offering grant and scholarship programs to children of law enforcement officers and firefighters who have been lost or permanently disabled in the line of duty.

The Process

We started by focusing on the design aesthetic – making it reflect the kind of work NLEAFCF does to help the children of our heroes. Built on WordPress, the website also provides NLEAFCF staff with an easy interface to upload their photos from their events as well as manage their grant and scholarship programs. From the start of the process we went through:

[toggle title=”Discovery Phase”] We start by getting to know NLEAFCF as an organization – discovering their goals, strengths, weaknesses, triumphs, and failures. In this stage we defined the major objectives for the project and took a close look at the audience they’re targeting. We found out what sites nleafcf liked  such as,, etc. We also found out what colors and textures they would like to used on the website.[/toggle]

[toggle title=”Design Phase”] We then provided NLEAFCF with three design comps. They had the opportunity to give feedback and changes. One thing that Mark & Phil prides themselves on is that we don’t track the numbers of revisions on design. We feel its important for the client to get the exact site they have in their head. With NLEAFCF we “nail it” on the third revision. [/toggle]

[toggle title=”Development Phase”] Next we focused on bringing the idea we designed in the previous phase to fruition.[/toggle]

[toggle title=”Launch Phase”] Lastly, we focused on executing the final deliverables and measuring their success. Deployment include launching a completed website, invitations for the Annual Heroes Award Gala, etc.[/toggle]

We integrated PayPal for donations and Network for Good. On  all sites with Mark & Phil we incorporate a sticky nav that stays at the top of the website to show exactly where you are and where you can go next on the site.

Mark & Phil launched NLEAFCF’s new website in September just in time for their first annual hero awards gala honoring  John T. Chambers, Chairman & CEO of Cisco Systems with the Corporate Hero Award and The Honorable Rudolph Giuliani with the Public Service Hero Award and to raise funds for the grant and scholarship programs. It was a huge success and raise over $500,000 for the grants and scholarship programs.

NLEAFCF Thanksgiving

NLEAFCF is gearing up for their 13th annual Thanksgiving Breakfast that will be held November 28, 2013 in beautiful Bryant Park. In cooperation with the NYPD, the FDNY and the Port Authority police of N.Y. and N.J., the NLEAFCF hosts an average of 1,300 children and relatives of fallen law enforcement officers and firefighters for a very special Thanksgiving breakfast.

The event is free to the invited kids and families and features great food, camaraderie and an up-close view of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Each year new families look forward to this significant event for a chance to gather, celebrate and ease a sorrow that can be particularly difficult during the holiday season. Sponsors underwrite the costs of the event so the children and their families can attend for free.

The Sexperience 1000 – Interactive Infographic

We’re loving this interactive infographic for The Sexperience 1000. It’s an interactive journey through the sexual experiences and preferences of one thousand British individuals derived from 20 survey questions Channel 4 posed to the British public. For instance, you can see things like:

  • What’s the favorite sexual position of iPhone users in the North?
  • Do country music lovers over 55 prefer to do it in the dark?
  • How often do single Britains “do it” in a week?

Interestingly, the infographic was built in Flash so it’s nice to see that some nonprofits are still using it these days when its appropriate. And don’t worry – its safe to check out at work – no nudity or anything. Enjoy!

5 Advantages of Outsourced Marketing

In the non-profit world, “outsourcing” is sometimes regarded as a dirty word, but that has nothing to do with outsourcing your marketing, which is actually a very smart move for your organization.  With tight budgets and a lingering recession, now is the time to make the most of your resources, whether talent or money.  But that’s not the only reason to outsource marketing functions.

With an explosion of new media and social marketing opportunities, now is the time to take advantage of these exciting technologies or risk being left behind.  In a sense, your cause is at a crossroads, and seizing all of the new marketing tools can propel you to the top of your niche.  But the only way to do so is by having experts in the field guiding your marketing strategy, rather than struggling to understand and implement the technology yourself.

  1. Even tech-savvy firms or personnel with diverse backgrounds can use outside expertise.  Outsourcing marketing functions will allow you to take advantage of the skills and experience of professional advertising and brand management specialists. These individuals are immersed in the world of marketing every day and can use successful techniques from other campaigns to benefit your organization.
  2. Additionally, outsourcing your marketing to a professional firm can help you gain a broader perspective and identify any potential blind spots or biases in your marketing.
  3. Another important advantage of outsourcing marketing functions is the insight and data that professional marketing firms possess.  Marketing firms have a wealth of research at their disposal and have the resources to perform evaluative analysis on target markets and the effectiveness of outreach techniques.
  4. Experience and specialized knowledge aren’t the only ways in which outsourcing your marketing can benefit your organization, though.  Leaving marketing functions to the experts gives you and your employees the freedom to concentrate on what you do best.  Without the distraction of trying to tackle marketing, your organization will instantly be more focused on running your cause, not promoting it.  Because of this, you can pay more attention to your core competencies and put your resources into internal improvements, rather than worrying about your image.  This will give you a chance to streamline your operations, which in turn will give your marketing firm another thing to share with your audience.
  5. In addition to freeing up your personnel, you can free up more money by reducing overhead.  Outsourcing marketing functions means you don’t have to worry about recruiting and training new employees or finding workspace to put together complex projects.  Marketing can be quite expensive, and there are a lot of fixed costs – between graphic design programs and subscriptions to research databases, the cost required to run one successful campaign on your own can reverberate for many quarters to come. Also, advertising and promotion professionals and “creative” minds often expect higher salaries, so outsourcing marketing can cut down on your costs as well.

In this new age of communications, the importance of marketing can’t be ignored.  With so many new methods for reaching supporters, a mass marketing campaign just isn’t effective any more.  Audiences are diverse and there are an astonishing number of channels of communication to consider.  Instead of diverting valuable resources to such a complicated area, why not reap the benefits of outsourcing marketing functions?

How to Secure In-Kind Donations in a Tough Economy

Especially in this uncertain economic climate charitable non-profit organizations need to think outside the box for their donation request strategies. When it comes to in-kind donations (items or services donated to events or campaigns by companies or sponsors), a fundraising plan of action needs to happen before non-profits can expect donations to fall into their laps. When planning large-scale gala events or golf tournaments that involve auctions, these tips will put you way ahead of the fundraising game.

Strategy #1
Compile a database list of in-kind donations and prioritize items. Set deadlines for items and write effective (and short) donation request letters. Mail donation request letters eight months to one year in advance of events/campaigns. Do not expect in-kind donations overnight. Follow up with every contact on your master in-kind donation list. Divide companies and/or items between staff and/or volunteers (so it’s not as overwhelming).

Strategy #2
Target companies and sponsors that have the funding/resources to underwrite or donate items. Don’t lock companies into large versus small ticket items. Brainstorm and utilize resources from volunteers, staff and vendors.

Strategy #3
Ask for discounts from large vendors (such as rental or tent companies). Most vendors will give non-profit organizations partial discounts. Generous vendors will sometimes offer an in-kind donation of rental fees/tent usage. Create an in-kind sponsor level for vendors who waive fees and donate services.

Strategy #4
Take what you can get in this tough economy – don’t be picky. If a company can donate 200 flashlights (as opposed to 2,000), accept that amount. Approach other companies and ask them to match Company XYZ’s donation of “200 flashlights.” Company XYZ may be able to donate the rest of the items or similar items.

Strategy #5
Always follow up with phone calls and thank you letters after securing in-kind donations. Create a donor agreement letter and ask companies to sign (so they don’t forget that they agreed to donate and you have it in writing). If a company wants “acknowledgement,” offer a link to their website or a sponsor thank-you in the program. An in-kind donation is just as valuable, and should always be recognized along with monetary sponsors/donations.

Idea: Flash Mobbing for Good

We’ve got a new client (can’t say who it is just yet) and our first project with them is to help plan a flash mob for this fall in NYC. Obviously this makes us super excited because we’ve always loved flash mobs and we love working with causes we care about, so combining the two is a bit euphoric. Excitement aside, we’ve been researching a ton about flash mobs we think were done really well, how they pulled them off, and gathering a list of tips for a guideline we’ll be sharing later this summer about Flash Mobbing for Good.

Until then, here are a few of the videos that have absolutely made us chuckle, in fact the reactions here in the office we as follows:

  • 2 people cried
  • 4 people laughed
  • 1 person fell out of their chair
  • 1 person broke their glasses because they got so emotional and excited (this guy)

So sit back, check these out, and think about how you could use a Flash Mob for your cause to drum up some support, publicity, and genuinely have a kick-ass time.





Featured image from Greenpeace Finland on Flickr.

A Great Cause Marketing Example: Planet Fitness Mother’s Day Sale

When it comes to cause marketing many brands and causes get it completely wrong by offering small percentages of sales or taking extreme advantage of the partnering non-profit. Essentially, these companies make millions of dollars and non-profits struggle for even making 3% or less on the profits of their products.

Well we were delighted to hear that Planet Fitness is giving 100% of the down payments for new clients that join the club to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation for their Mother’s Day Sale. How awesome is that!? Every $10 down payment collected will be donated to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation to support breast cancer research. Their tag line is “do it for you, do it for Mom, do it for all moms.”

We love it when corporations have the courage to do a real cause marketing campaign that has the ability to create a real impact. Its even cooler when we here that it really had an impact, Planet Fitness Sale Raises Over $370,000 for The Breast Cancer Research Foundation

Fundraising Idea #1: Using Artistic Creativity to Raise Funds

A new feature that we’ll be running here at Mark & Phil is the Fundraising Idea column. Basically, we get so many ideas when we’re strategizing with clients that there is no way we can possibly use all of them. So we’ll be sharing them here with you and offering them to you for free. Thats right, F R E E. No strings attached at all. All the we ask in return is that you thank us in the comments or on twitter so we know that these ideas are getting put to use!

So, for our first post we thought we’d highlight some of the great work that can be made when you combine the power of artistic creativity and fundraising. In general, it is always a good thing to have a few artists and creative people that your organization works with and make sure you treat them like gold.

Auction Art
The featured image above is from illustrator Patrick Moberg’s series called Animal Pharm and is a perfect example of what we are thinking. With a series of pieces like this, I could easily see the possibility of doing an online auction for Patrick’s pieces and tying the donations into the favorite charities of each celebrity that its associated with. So to put this idea in perspective, think about what artists your organization knows or has worked with. Do they have pieces they could donate for an auction like this? Is there an artist that talks about the same issues that your organization deals with? Perhaps a local artist could even donate pieces that would sell well to your donor audience? We’ve seen this method work for one of our clients Catskill Animal Sanctuary and a special auction called Foolsgold Sanctuary.

Photo Book
Make some type of collective art book or photo book, using up and coming photographers. Each one could donate one picture to include. They could then be printed on-demand using something like Blurb For Good which makes terrific coffee table books. The beauty of using something like Blurb is that the production cost is included in each book donation, so their is no up front cost to your cause to get this rolling. We’ve been thinking about this idea a lot, especially given how many pictures we have been taking with our new Canon 60D. Best way to find good photographers to submit work to you is by asking on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. Another good way to find photographers is by approaching a local university or art department, often they have many talented individuals that would be interested, but more importantly, the faculty almost always has connections to the local artist community and would be able to refer you directly to the right folks to talk with.

Children’s Coloring Book
We use a lot of stock photography and illustrations in our design work with clients. Because of this, we come across a lot of great pieces that could work very well in different contexts than what they were originally intended. Case in point, a children’s coloring book. So the idea is that you could use an illustration from a site like iStockPhoto or GraphicRiver, get rid of all the colors, and they make the book with something like Blurb For Good as well. Or another great way to spin this would be creating an “online coloring book” using the same art and instead ask people to donate a small amount for using the service or if they want to print out the piece. Hey, this may not be a huge money maker, but it would definitely get your cause some extra funds and some media buzz. ;)

So there ya have it, a few of our ideas. Feel free to use them and be on the look out for more in the coming weeks!

Just Having an Amazing Cause Won’t Help You with the IRS

Everyone thought things were business as usual until an announcement from the Internal Revenue Service on June 8, 2011. They expressed the melancholy news that 275,000 nonprofits lost their tax-exempt status due to the fact that they failed to file the proper paperwork that is 14% of all the nation’s nonprofits.

According the Chronicle of Philanthropy the new law that was passed in 2006, was established ‘to keep better track of groups that have tax-exempt status, cause many to become delinquent on filing. The law gave organizations with annual revenue of $25,000 or less three years of tax-filing deadlines to comply. Organizations must file annual informational returns, though small groups must simply provide a few basic pieces of information.’

One thing that this writer questions is what happens to all the donors that donated within the last three years to the nonprofits that lost their tax-exempt status? According to the IRS ‘donors to those organizations cannot claim a charitable deduction for gifts to the groups after they makes the list official.’

It is apparent that the responsibility of having a small nonprofit, you must also file the proper paperwork or talk with someone that knows about those things.
In Mark and Phil’s small hometown there are 15 nonprofits that lost their status and in all of New York State there were 1,092 nonprofits. Check out and see if your favorite nonprofit is on the list.

“During the past several years, the IRS has gone the extra mile to help make tax-exempt groups aware of their legal filing requirement and allow them additional time to file,” said Douglas Shulman, the Internal Revenue Service Commissioner, in announcing the revocations. “Still, we realize there may be some legitimate organizations, especially very small ones, that were unaware of their new filing requirement. We are taking additional steps for these groups to maintain their tax-exempt status without jeopardizing their operations or harming their donors.”

There is a light at the end of the tunnel, Getting Reinstated. Any organization that was mentioned on the list or was notified can make a request to the IRS to have their tax-exempt status reinstated retroactively and it should only cost about $850 or less depending on the size of the nonprofit and if they can prove that they had a good reason not to comply the law.



Sharing Notes Within Your Organization with Evernote

At Mark & Phil, we’re taking notes all the time. Some are about new marketing or fundraising ideas we have, some are from meetings with clients, some are personal lists for grocery or shopping, some are pictures of architecture and design elements that inspire us, and some are audio notes where we can do a mind dump of whats on our brains (thats how we came up with Instant Oil Spill. In the past we’ve tried using spreadsheets and word docs, we’ve tried using plain text files and mailing them to each other, we’ve even tried using wikis, but none have worked as well into our daily process than the cloud note taking service Evernote. The free service is amazing by itself but we opted to upgrade to the premium service almost immediately when it came out because it gives you some pretty awesome bonus features.

Here are some of the key things we love about Evernote Premium and whats made it so successful for our own use:

  • Its available for multiple platforms:
  • All of your notes are private by default. Meaning they are protected behind a username and password.
  • Note sharing allows you to share notes with only the folks you want to and not necessarily your whole organization. This truly provides the opportunity for note taking collaboration within your organization. We love using the shared feature for our ideas, it really gives each person the ability to add to the pool while also being able to see what others think.
  • Capture everything that you want to. You can snap a photo with your phone and upload it to Evernote to reference later. You could record audio of yourself or even of a meeting you are in. You could clip a webpage for viewing later and even add notes to remind you what you wanted to read more about. Really, the capabilities are pretty fantastic.
  • Upload files too! Evernote accepts these file types: JPG, PNG, PDF, DOC, XLS, PPT, Videos, and more.
  • Its cheap, Premium accounts are only $5/month or $45/year per account. We’re also thrilled to hear that Evernote is now offering a discount for multiple accounts under one organization with a new service called Sponsored Accounts.

I now realize this sounds like a sales pitch but honestly, we get nothing if you decide to sign-up for Evernote, we just really love their service and wanted to share with all of you in case you’ve been having the same trouble trying to figure out how to share notes internally for your organization.

Viral Video Showcase: Who Cares About The Forests

I stumbled onto this beautiful video and visual essay by Author and Canadian Environmentalist Franke James earlier today. She narrates the video in a mix of illustration, animation, real-time video as well as interviews and data from Greenpeace Canada, WWF Canada, Smartwood, Wolf Lake First Nations and more.

It is a really great watch and very inspiring to see an organization like FSC reaching out to creative folks like Ms. James to share their story. As you watch the video, think about how your cause could tap into the power of some inspiring creatives? Its probably not as hard as you’d think!

“Who cares about the Forest?” is the question author/artist Franke James’ explores in her creative personal story for the Forest Stewardship Council of Canada. Franke is the author of Bothered By My Green Conscience which merges science, art and storytelling to inspire people to take action and “do the hardest thing first” for the planet.

PS. You should also check out the rest of Ms. James’ visual essays! Beautifully inspiring work!