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I’m delighted to have been asked by Hudson Valley Parent Magazine to share my years of cooking knowledge with you. As a business owner and mom of 2, I teach everyone how to make good food, fast and easy under the constraints of today’s REAL and busy lifestyle. Mine are no “made for TV” philosophies for sure. What you see is reality at its finest and if I can do it, so can you!
Join me here each week and learn how I can help you too get back to the dinner table the easy way, and save some time, money and sanity in the process.
Did I mention we’ll laugh a lot and have fun together? Watch and find out!
Sarah Ludwig Rausch is a mom of four and a freelance writer. Sarah specializes in parenting, children’s health, agriculture and family issues and writes a blog, “Parenting By Trial and Error.” She’s written for The Christian Science Monitor, The Progressive Farmer, Farm Industry News, Singapore ‘s parenting magazine Motherhood, and a variety of other publications.
When the girls were younger, say 4 or 5, we gave them an allowance of 75¢ a week. 25¢ for spending, 25¢ to save and 25¢ for church offering. Now that they are nearly 10, we’ve increased it to $3 per week, with the same principle – $1 for spending, $1 to save and $1 for church offering. When the allowances actually get paid, that is.
Cody and Logan have never gotten an allowance, and I usually forget to give the girls theirs unless we’re shopping and they want something. At that point, it’s purely a guess as to how much I owe them.
I’m curious about other people’s thoughts and practices on allowances. Do you set up a day every week to pay everyone? Keep piggy banks for each kid? Designate the allowance into parts as I do? How much do you give your kids? Do you put the savings in an account? At what age did you start giving your kids allowances? Do they have to work to earn any or all of it?
Meet Carole Wolf. A woman with a passion for her job. Well connected in her community. And she has an extensive knowledge of how the arts can benefit us all.
But is that enough to stave off firings, cutbacks and fewer fundraising dollars?
Carole is the successful executive director of the Mill Street Loft, an arts group in Poughkeepsie. They are managing their budget month to month. They track everything very carefully. “Now, more than ever we are looking at where we have spent our money and how it is working,” she emphasizes.
But they, like many groups I have spoken to, had to cut staff positions and limit staff hours. (With hopes to restore them, she says quickly). She knows that unless their current revenues pay for the costs they won’t be in business too long.
Not for profit groups have to make a “profit” to survive and grow
Sometimes we forget, not for profit businesses have to run on a profit model. For these community groups, the profitable dollars go into raising salaries, running new programs and expansion, rather then towards dividends or higher returns for the owner. But, like all of us in business, we must make money to stay in business.
When asked how fundraising is going, Carole talks about their recent Friends of the Arts Awards. Over 300 people showed up and they raised about $75,000. (But she quickly assured me that it was not all profit.) The event was not only about money but about building new audiences, says Carole: “Acknowledging people in our community. Building new partnerships. Creating visibility in the community to other arts groups, cultural organizations and human service agencies.”
Carole’s instincts are sharp. That’s what has allowed her organization to grow in this community, but again I ask, “Is that enough in this new environment?”
Database marketing = the difference between success and failure.
I would love a peek at Carole’s database…or her cell phone directory…or where ever she keeps those valuable names, phone numbers and email addresses.
Here’s an insider tip: if you get an email from Carole it may help your bottom line.
How? Carole can help you make your staff more productive by using creative techniques. Does she use this talent? No.
Many of us are too focused on us and getting our message out about how wonderful we are. In my experience, it doesn’t seem to matter whether it is a for profit business or not for profit . We are all making the same mistakes. When, in fact, if we focus on using the new technologies to help others, they in turn will be more likely to help us in the long run.
Using new technology makes the tasks easier…once you learn the secret.
How does it work?
- If you have a large contact database (and what exec doesn’t) separate the names into groups: business, community, political etc. You decide the groups based on their needs, how they operate, and their importance to you. The key word in the past sentence is “them” and “they”. This model is not about you, but it’s about them: those key constituents you would like to reach.
- Now see what knowledge you process that you can easily offer. To business executives, Carole could email a weekly tip that would enhance the creativity of their staff at their next staff meeting. I would subscribe to her email.
- Now she needs to include a promotion for her email newsletter on her website to encourage sign-ups. She should promote it…promote it …and promote it again. These tips should be archived on her website so that we can access the tips we may have missed. And the trick here is that businesses should have to sign up with a name and email address to gain access. (For Carole, email contacts = new business.)
- Each newsletter has a pitch. This is key to this project working. I bet you think she should ask for money. Maybe or maybe not. How about this: “If my creativity tips are working for you, think how much more creative you could be if you attended one of our class series.” Link them back to your website for the class schedule.
Use this time to think about what you offer and how you can use the new technology to promote your skills more effectively.
Want another fundraising tip? If your organization works with kids in your community, we have just created a new fundraising program that doesn’t cost you any money or staff time and helps kid’s creativity at the same time. Visit
The Undercover Kids and become a Community Partner.
Mill Street Loft
45 Pershing Ave
Poughkeepsie, NY 12601
The Mill Street Loft
According to the Nadia Allen, the executive director of the Orange County Mental Health Association, some of their supporters have not been able give at the same level as years before. As an association they recognize that things must change. But how?
This year there will be no raises for the staff, says Nadia. This will help them offset any decreases for this year. She feels they have a very unique corner of the market; they don’t offer direct services but provide support programs through the county, like their rape crisis hotline.
“We have always been very visible,” says Nadia. “And we are always at the table when mental health related issues are discussed.”
Like many high energy, dedicated executives, Nadia is involved in a wide range of professional groups including trade associations and the chamber. She feels her community involvement makes it easier to obtain grants. That is why she works hard during the day and then spends many evenings attending group functions.
When asked about the Mental Health Association’s involvement with the web and social marketing, the answer is ‘not much.’ She will be attending an association conference, where they will discuss effective use of the web for not-for-profits.
Like many associations, the Mental Health Association uses the web’s functionality to keep in touch with current members…usually during their fund drives. When asked if the community uses their site, she proudly says that they have a lot of information on their site that many access.
Sometimes I wonder, if as the web expands our world and our access to information, we should try harder to narrow our focus. For example, if you have a membership list, divide the list into categories: professional groups who donate and individuals, or those in a specific region. Then develop messages for those unique groups and do it with some regularity….once or twice a month. And it is important to provide information that is useful to the reader…rather than focusing on your organization.
With the new ways we communication, it is time to rethink your marketing plan (that assumes you have one) and change how you “speak” to people.
If you are looking for a unique fundraising idea that does not involve attending another dinner or fundraising event visit www.TheUndercoverKids.com and signup to be a Community Partner. You make money will providing kids with a great outlet for their imagination.
Nadia Allen, executive director
Mental Health Association of Orange County
20 Walker St
Goshen, NY 10924
Although Christopher Fortune is the new executive director for the Orange County Association for the Help of Retarded Citizens (AHRC), he brings a long history of working in the world of not-for-profits.
He is introducing new ventures that he hopes will bring a new audience to AHRC. This spring they hosted their first jazz concert and hope to conduct another this fall. Chris wants to use these events to attract people who may have never heard of his association.
With over 700 staff and a multi-million dollar budget, AHRC offers a broad array of services, from infant assessments to adult community residences. But Chris feels the agency is not as well known as other agencies in the county.
“Soon we will introduce a rebranding of our association,” says Chris. “The word retarded is out of vogue. We want something that is easily recognized.” Once they develop this new look for the association they will begin marketing the agency more heavily.
In terms of how the downturn economy is affecting the agency, Chris is concerned with New York State’s lack of support and advocacy for those with disabilities. “Our funding base has eroded,” say Chris, “causing us to have to be extremely conservative in how we use our money.
“Job security and maintaining services are continuing. But there will be no raises this year,” says Chris. The agency will continue health benefits are the same level, but will look at variations on co-pays and wellness programs.
How is this forward looking executive using social networking? The agency has introduced a new, easy-to-use website. And they will introduce an online planned giving and donation program. But Chris is concerned about updating the agency’s technology and educating staff on how to use the new web-based tools. “We have to start by teaching staff to use their internal user name and password,” says Chris to make his point about how far they have to go.
AHRC’s schools, which are about 1/3 of the agency’s programs, continue to raise money for add-on programs the old fashioned way – selling chocolate bars and other small items.
If you are looking for a unique fundraising idea that does not involve making selling chocolate, visit www.TheUndercoverKids.com and signup to be a Community Partner. Introduce your kids, and those kids of others you work with, to a new exciting mystery series and earn money too.
Christopher Fortune, executive director
Orange County Association for the Help of Retarded Citizens
Newburgh, NY 12550
We are all hearing that the economy is in a slump. I was curious how community organizations are handling the downturn. After all, they provide valuable services. Read this community group’s story and then see the tips I offer that should increase revenue.
I was a big sister for six years, so I decided to give Big Brothers Big Sisters exec Nancy Kosloski a call and get her take on fundraising and the economy. Nancy has been the executive director for many years, and she says this is the worst downturn she has experienced. Many of her staff has begun to work a four-day week to control payroll costs.
“Previous year’s fundraising dollars moved us ahead and allowed us to introduce new programs,” says Nancy. “Now our fundraisers fill in some of the financial holes we are experiencing.”
Recently they held their annual bowl-a-thon which has always been wildly successful. The bowling event raised $31,000 this year. Last year’s take was $36,000. “But we had 350 people bowl – which I considered great.” Nancy made sure to congratulate the staff on the huge turnout. So what went wrong? Apparently, corporate donations were down. “We have a golf event planned,” continues Nancy. “This year the golf outing will fill in the gaps that the bowling event didn’t earn.”
The organization plans to do more events, but it is touch and go because they have fewer staff who are working fewer hours. “This year we will have our motorcycle ride fundraiser with V Force Customs coordinating the event. We have to look at other events but will try not to repeat events that other organizations are conducting.
What are the major challenges Big Brothers Big Sisters are experiencing and how are they being addressed?
One major challenge for this community group has been the loss of their director of resource development – a key person. According to Nancy, another group offered her more money than Big Brothers and Big Sisters could afford. Because of their limited funding this year, they could only hire a part time staff member for that position.
“In terms of foundations, the help we usually count on has come through at 50% of last year’s levels. We thank them for what they are doing now and hope as the economy turns the foundation money will be restored, admits Nancy. “Also the challenge of getting grants is greater than ever, and there is more competition for the same dollars.
How are you integrating social networking into your fund development planning?
Nancy tells her story:
“We are just starting to do that. For example, people can donate through our website. Those who participate in the motorcycle ride can sign up online. And people who bowled could form their teams online.
“We are looking to set up a Facebook page for special causes. I don’t know the first thing about Facebook, and it requires additional staff time, which we don’t have. I signed up for my own Facebook page just to see how it works, but I don’t have time for more friends. This social marketing is a steep learning curve for me. “
Based on their limited funds what is the best direction for them?
Community organizations have the greatest difficulty moving out of their comfort zone. They know their programs, their staff and their kids. But do they really understand what others think about their program and what would encourage more people to get more involved?
How many of the current 350 bowlers, who they were really proud of, would become team leaders next year? How do they keep in touch with them? Did they collect email addresses? How often do they touch base and with what materials?
Create a blog (or short articles that can be emailed) that is sponsored by local bowling allies. Have the ally manager write about the best bowling techniques? If I only bowl once a year, I would be lucky to break 90 points. But if you send me coupons from local bowling lanes, and give me the needed tips, I may begin to enjoy the sport and get more involved with Nancy’s group.
If bowling is an annual event, have bowling articles on the website and encourage me to sign up for your newsletter or your email blast that offers discounts and information. Encourage me to sign up my friends. Become a bowling resource.
I know this is counter intuitive. Why should I promote bowling when our goal is to offer mentoring programs for kids? First, you need to walk in your bowlers’ shoes and second, you may get more new mentors than you realize.
So collect emails (they are very valuable) and use them effectively so people who participate in your events become engaged based on THEIR interests.
If you are seeking a fundraising raising idea that doesn’t cost you any money or staff time, visit The Undercover Kids and sign up to become a Community Partner.
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Orange County
253 South Williams Street
I was involved in fundraising at the temple that my children attended. It was a lot of work but great fun working with the other women in the group. We did fashion shows, pot luck suppers and dinner dances.
But I will never forget one spring, much like the one we are having now, that I decided our group was going to sponsor a fashion show with a twist. Women would model fashions they designed and sewed. I held sewing sessions at my home, and we had a blast. So that part worked great.
The food was going to be simple – some type of pasta, plus salad and a great chocolate dessert. Some of us made large pans of pasta at home and brought them to the temple to be warmed in the large commercial ovens the temple had.
The tables were set. Everything looked beautiful with colorful spring flowers. Out came the rolls and salad. No problem. Now it was time for the heaping plates of pasta. But wait…some of the pasta was cold. Why? It turned out the some of the oven burners didn’t work, so the top layers warmed but the bottom was still cold.
Here we are with 150 women waiting for their meal. You know the old saying, “When the going gets tough, the tough gets going.” My girl friends said they knew we were in trouble when I rolled up my sleeves and washed my hands. And they definitely thought I had lost my mind when I pushed my hands down to the bottom of the first pasta pan, which was cold, and mixed it with the hot pasta on top. I figured mixing hot and cold pasta together would produce something warm and I was right. It saved the day but it is not something I want to experience again.
If you are looking for a unique fundraising idea that does not involve making pasta or sponsoring a fashion show visit www.TheUndercoverKids.com and signup to be a Community Partner.
I have a sneaking suspicion that I’m not the only parent in the Hudson Valley whose budget for family entertainment this summer is going right into my car’s gas tank. My plans to take some weekend day trips across the river and beyond will have to be put on indefinite hold.
What bothers me most about the increasing price of travel is that it costs us about $90 (soon to be more) just to visit my parents. They live about 2½ hours away. My son is growing so fast, I hate for my parents to miss out on this special time in their grandson’s life. But at 100 bucks a trip, I just can’t get out there as often.
To make this summer not so much of a bummer, I have some ideas that don’t require an admission fee, and most can be done without pulling out of the driveway.
1. Play games. Turn off the TV and get out the board and card games. It’s not only a great way to spend time together, but games help build kids’ math, reading, team-playing and sportsmanship skills.
2. Visit the library. Summer reading helps maintain language skills learned during the school year. Besides, where else can the entire family – from infants to mom and dad – participate in educational and fun programs for free? Check with your local library to see what’s happening this summer (rcls.org or midhudson.org).
3. Catch free outdoor concerts. There are free concerts throughout the Hudson Valley all summer long. Just check our calendar (hvparent.com) to find some kid-friendly tunes near you!
4. Go for a walk. Take a stroll around the block or plan a long hike for a weekend afternoon. Just don’t forget the sunscreen and water, and check for ticks when you’re done.
5. Have a picnic in the park. Ask the kids to help make some sandwiches, put together some simple finger foods and drinks and you’ve got a special occasion.
6. Take a bike ride. Find some safe areas like quiet streets or the rail trail and get out there! Children ages 1 to 14 are required by law to wear a helmet. Be sure it’s fastened securely (nysgtsc.state.ny.us/ Kids/kid-bike.htm).
7. Plan a special family day. When I was younger, my family celebrated Christmas in July one year. We each picked a name from a hat, then made a gift for the person we’d picked. On July 25th we had a cookout in our yard, played some games and presented our gifts to each other. It cost us nothing and was a fun way to be creative and share family time. What could you do for a special day?
8. Look toward the sky. Take out some books on astronomy from the library, then go outside at night and see how many stars and constellations you can identify.
9. Camp out in the yard. Pitch a tent, make some popcorn or other fun snacks, and tell some spooky or funny stories by flashlight.
10. Visit local historic sites. There will probably be a nominal fee for mom and dad, but kids under 12 often get in free or at a discount. For a little more than the cost to get your destination, kids can get a sense of the history in their own backyard
bout me: Sharon MacGregor I am a freelance writer and columnist living in Sulllivan County. My husband and I celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary last year and are raising our two man-cubs with both old-fashioned and modern parenting styles. Another member of our family is our one-year old, yellow Lab, Maddy. I look forward to sharing a slice of our family life and family related news with the Hudson Valley Parent community!
It has become more common for parents to look into or set-up college funds, though what that consists of is as varied as choosing a family vacation. If you have a child, and college is on the list of things to do, start saving now! If your child is raised to believe that saving for college is simply something that must be done rather than an option they can pass over, they will contribute.
Think the idea of saving the thousands of dollars one child may need for even a two-year associate’s degree at a community college sounds a bit daunting? You and your child can do it over time with some help and planning. The sooner you start, the less painful it can be!
I just learned you can partner with companies you are already patronizing, such as Exxon-Mobil and Hannaford’s Supermarket and participate in their college savings programs. For example, a small portion of your total at the gas station can be set aside for your child to use for their education. The same theory is used for Hannaford’s Upromise program.
Think about the cash gifts your child is given over their first 18 years. Birthdays, holidays, special achievements and celebrations may all be reason for friends and family to give your child monetary gifts and these can be divided between a purchase and college savings. As your child grows and earns money through part-time jobs, a designated amount should be put aside for college and with as little as $25 or $50 you can open a 529.
What is a 529? “It is a tax-advantaged savings plan designed to encourage saving for future college costs. 529 plans, legally known as ‘qualified tuition plans,’ are sponsored by states, state agencies, or educational institutions and are authorized by Section 529 of the Internal Revenue Code.” (Source: Smart Saving for College, FINRA® )
According to kiplingers.com, “Withdrawals for qualifying education expenses are tax-free. This tax-free status was set to expire in 2010, but Congress made the benefit permanent in 2006. Also, 529 plans are treated as parental assets when it comes to financial aid. (Parents are expected to kick in just 5.6% of their assets while students are expected to contribute 20%.)
Here are other reasons to consider a 529 plan:
They’re simple. State 529 plans are easy. Choose an investment option and make contributions and the plan does the rest. Sit back while the state or a third party, such as an investment firm, manages your funds. They’re portable. Depending on the state, you can choose from a number of different investing options. You also can switch investment tracks within the plan once a year. And if you don’t like your state’s plan, shop around. Plans are open to residents and nonresidents alike. You also can roll your savings into another state’s plan without penalty.
There are no set annual contribution or income limits. Contribution limits vary by state, and some states do not limit contributions at all — a good option for grandparents looking to transfer assets through estate planning. You can pay by check or set up monthly contributions through payroll deduction (yours and/or your child’s) or automatic withdrawal from a designated bank account.
You can roll savings bonds in to a 529 plan without tax penalty. Cash out the bonds and reinvest the money in the savings plan. At tax time you’ll want to file IRS Form 8815 to exclude the savings bond interest from income taxes. You also must make sure that the savings bond rollover conforms to all the rules and that your income doesn’t exceed the limit.”
You can start as soon as the child is born with a little at a time, which will hopefully add up to a huge difference. The options are endless, and the few ideas mentioned here will allow you and your family to start saving for an educational investment in a number of virtually painless ways. In speaking with friends and family, with children of