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Author Archives: Jennifer Marcuson

All-Star Spotlight: “Community Teammate”– Morales Group and Exodus Refugee Immigration #Dreamteam

Posted on August 28, 2017 by Jen Marcuson

Exodus Refugee Immigration Morales Group

Brackets For Good introduced a new strategic feature to the 2017 Indianapolis tournament: The Community Teammate. Designed to pair local businesses with participating nonprofits to help them increase their reach and strengthen their competitiveness in the tournament, the program raised the stakes and essentially created two teams carrying the ball for each nonprofit – but it didn’t mean anyone got any extra bench time!

One such partnership, between Exodus Refugee Immigration and Morales Group Staffing, was definitely a slam dunk. Morales, a staffing firm that focuses on the local immigrant population, has been recognized as one of the fastest growing Hispanic owned businesses in America and one of the best places to work in Indiana. Their BFG nonprofit teammate, Exodus, has been working to resettle refugees in Indianapolis for over 30 years. Pairing up for the tournament was a natural extension of their ongoing relationship.

The two organizations have been working together for many years, working to secure job placements for refugee clients. The desire for Morales to become a Community Teammate came out of the spirit of their Community Outreach program. Monique Charlebois, Director of Human Resources with Morales, stated, “We live our mission every day. We want to build better futures and we want to do that with our partnerships.”  Morales’ outreach includes financially supporting organizations in their community but also provides a deeper level of commitment and activity, including encouraging employees to do at least 25 hours a year of volunteer work, some of which is on company time. Cole Varga, Executive Director of Exodus, wholeheartedly agrees, “This organization walks the walk. They really care about this population.”

CEO Tom Morales said that when they signed up to be in the BFG Teammate program they specifically asked if Exodus had a partner. Once they were paired up, dedicated staff were assigned to work with the Director of Development at Exodus, Liz Standiford, and together they created a strategy with the ultimate goal of winning the tournament. They also wanted to ensure Exodus raised at least $35-$40,000, a huge increase over previous years’ totals for the organization, but a goal they surpassed, raising $44,000 and making it to the Engaged Eight round.

Amanda Franklin, Branding and Digital Strategy at Morales, revealed one in-house engagement tactic they used; the Lids Free Throw points. Earning $2-$3 just for filling out your donor profile was easy and they earned over $100 from doing that. She noted, “It was also a good opportunity for the staff to get a better understanding of what the tournament is about.”

The two organizations came together to create shared social media messages and strategized their Friday night round-end plans together. Each Friday, Morales, Exodus, or the unofficial third partner, Luna Language Services, hosted a party for staff, volunteers, board members, and friends of each organization. Morales hosted the first week, treating everyone to food, the live BFG feed, and a silent auction of donated goods to help raise more money to put toward the last seconds of the round. Each week as they progressed, video feed of the cheering partygoers would be shared online after the round close.

While they worked closely together, they did not work alone. Tom revealed that a key strategy was reaching out to other affiliated organizations, such as Luna. “Overall, we realized there was no reason not to share in the fun!” he added, “I’m not just talking about the financial piece. It was something very different, so that was the first step – how can we reach out and make it entertaining for everybody.” Monique confirmed, “We definitely strengthened our connection with Luna. For many of us that would go to the events, it was good to get to know other organizations that are also so passionate about this.”

Morales acknowledged that their round-by-round budget occasionally got thrown by the wayside due to the fierce competitiveness amongst the team. Tom said, “I honestly believe that had I been there during our final round, we would have gone over because I wasn’t going to lose! I think it’s really important to note, every time I did give, I didn’t feel like I was buying something. It felt like I was giving to something that was really going to be for the greater good.”

The two organizations share an easy camaraderie, joking back and forth about the tense end-of-round moments they shared. The tournament partnership played a role in creating this level of comfort. Monique commented, “Coming together on the Friday nights, and getting to know the team better, it was a lot of fun. We encouraged people to come by giving them volunteer hours for coming.” Cole agreed, “For some of our non-employment staff who don’t interact with Morales all the time, it was nice to have them here and give them a chance to interact.”

Amanda noted the importance of being invested in your partner. She said, “I don’t think it would have been nearly as successful had we been partnered with someone that we hadn’t had a relationship with. A lot of work goes in behind the scenes, and you’re working very closely together. I would definitely recommend that if someone is going to do this, they partner with someone they have a connection with.”

When asked if they would participate again, Monique was quick to jump in, “Absolutely we would do it again! It is such a great cause and it is so much fun. I would advocate for anyone being a teammate to one of the organizations. As soon as it was over, we were thinking about how we were going to do things differently next year. It was a great way to collaborate, be team players, and support a good cause.” Tom added, “Had the competition not been there, I don’t think we would have raised the same amount at all. I think it was the strategic, competitive component that really got us going.”

And of course, when asked about their Buzzer Beater strategy, everyone agreed… “We won’t reveal it!”

Posted in Brackets For Good, Indianapolis, Nonprofit Story, Sponsor Story


Local Giving, Global Impact: Food For His Children

Posted on July 27, 2017 by Jen Marcuson

Food For His Children

Minnesota’s Food for His Children (FFHC) fought their way through 4 tough rounds to finish as one of the Philanthropic Four organizations in the Twin Cities tournament.  While the team was 100% volunteer-run in the US and one of the smaller organizations to participate in BFG17, they are likely the only organization to have board members and staff on the ground in Tanzania!

FFHC provides holistic community development to families living in material poverty in rural Tanzania.  Since their launch in 2008, they have served over 225 families. Through their program, which costs about $21 per month per family, recipients learn new ways of farming, caring for livestock, how to run businesses, and about saving money and providing for their families. Often, this is done through a program of sustainable goat farming.

While they did have a valiant tournament run, and earned over $16,000 for their program, serving a community outside the local community did prove to be a challenge. Co-founder and Executive Director Kerrie Holschbach reflected, “I think it was harder for us to compete against organizations that serve locally because the people they impact are right here. The 1,500 people we are directly impacting are a world away.” Ultimately, their global status offered a differentiation from some of the other organizations. Kerrie added, “We have much to offer people who want to give locally, but impact globally. Many who know they have the ability to transform generations with just $21 per month are fervently passionate about giving and want to do anything they can to make an impact.”

Being a fairly new organization, the exposure provided by participating in BFG was invaluable to FFHC.  They were featured in a BFG Top 10 Video, utilized the training tools provided, and their team in Tanzania learned creative ways to share their work via short video clips. They gained online fundraising experience and attracted new supporters, some of whom have started volunteering with them since the tournament. As a result, their confidence in fundraising has grown. In the pre-tournament survey, FFHC had stated that they felt they had been only ‘moderately successful’ in online fundraising to date. After their BFG run, Kerri stated, “Today, I would say that we have been very successful in online fundraising!”  She added, “One comment we heard from our donors in the last rounds was that they were ‘pulling for the little guy’ because we were up against organizations that have million dollar budgets and paid staff who can focus on fundraising and communications. The nitty-gritty work for BFG was done with just three volunteers, which should encourage all nonprofits to give BFG a shot.”

While Kerri won’t reveal her top-secret tournament strategies, she said that upon reflecting on their 2017 performance, one thing she would change was the temptation to hold back asking for donations in the earlier rounds due to fear of exhausting their supporter base. She believes they would do just as well if they encouraged supporters to give from the beginning, not to wait until the end of the round or until the later rounds.  Next time, she says, “we will operate from a different mindset and our opponent will be blessed by also raising more money in order to keep up with us!”

Posted in Brackets For Good, Fundraising, Nonprofit Story | Tagged Twin Cities


All-Star Spotlight: A Vision of Redemption

Posted on June 28, 2017 by Jen Marcuson

A Vision of Redemption_logo and beneficiary_Brackets For Good Miami_ 2017.jpg

A breakout star in the 2017 Miami BFG tournament was undoubtedly A Vision of Redemption, Inc., a young but feisty team out of Pompano Beach. Founded in 2012, AVOR is a volunteer-staffed nonprofit whose mission is to enhance the quality of life of families affected by incarceration. Through their programs, which include career coaching, familial support, family visitation, and services to returning citizens released from the correctional system, they aim to ensure that all individuals have the access to the resources necessary to ensure future self-sustainability.

The championship round was the highest-scoring round of the Miami tournament. Both AVOR and their final competitor, the Holocaust Documentation and Education Center, scored significantly more than they had in any of their previous rounds. We asked AVOR what their game plan was going into that nerve-racking round. AVOR founder Robin Figueroa noted that while they were in it to win it, they knew they were up against a strong competitor. She said, “We were really praying that we could win as the organization we were up against was pretty big. It’s a museum and they were founded before we were born. So we knew they had support and money to back them up since they’d been in business for such a long time.”

To rally their supporters, Figueroa said that they adopted many of the tools provided in the BFG locker room; specifically the email tools. She noted that they were able to use these tools to monitor their email opens and clicks. She credits the locker room training with helping them get to second place.

Despite being brand new to the BFG fundraising model, AVOR raised an impressive 42% of their points via Buzzer Beaters. In fact, Buzzer Beaters are what got them through Round 1! In regular play, AVOR was just behind their first competitor but the Buzzer Beaters made all the difference. Figueroa won’t reveal her Buzzer Beater strategy because she plans on winning next year (we love that enthusiasm!).

While they played valiantly, AVOR ultimately came in second and the Holocaust Documentation and Education Center took the Miami title. The disappointment was short-lived however, because the funds raised exceeded expectations and were put to good use – to fix their 20-passenger bus which they plan to use to take kids to visit their parents who are incarcerated. They also used some funds to purchase supplies to support ongoing programs and hire a grant writer.

Figueroa has some excellent advice for prospective competitors out there, who might be thinking about flexing their philanthropic muscles in next years’ tournaments:

“If you are thinking about joining BFG do it!! What are you waiting for?  It’s the most fun and nerve wrecking moments of your nonprofit life. It has you on the edge of your seat, biting your nails, jumping, screaming and celebrating all in the same day. It’s exciting and if you are lucky enough to win, it will give the chance of a lifetime… more importantly, have fun!!”

Couldn’t have said it better myself. Congratulations to A Vision of Redemption on their amazing tournament run!

Posted in Brackets For Good, Fundraising, Nonprofit Story | Tagged Miami


Brackets For Good 2017 Champions

Posted on April 20, 2017 by Jen Marcuson

The Brackets For Good 2017 Champions post-game press conference: get the scoop on all the game-winning plays.

Brackets For Good Champion check presentation April 12th 2017 at Indiana Pacer Home Game at halftime on halfcourt

🏆 USA (National)

  • Champion: Allied Arts
  • Raised: $440,004.83
  • Mission: Enriching Our Communities Through Advancement of the Arts.
  • How they lit up the scoreboard: “We had brand new donors, and that’s always great. We also had loyal donors, and we had corporate partners that gave more because there was this opportunity to double their dollars. Having that $100,000 prize out there as an opportunity really helped our corporate donors say, ‘let’s get in on this!’.”


🏆 Ann Arbor

  • Champion: Community Action Network
  • Raised: $42,706.44
  • Mission: Community Action Network partners with children, youth and families from under-resourced Washtenaw County neighborhoods to create better futures for themselves and to improve the communities in which they live.
  • How they lit up the scoreboard: “Brackets For Good gave us a way to reconnect with old donors and a way to connect with new donors to raise a lot of money for our organization when we desperately needed it.”


🏆 Baltimore

  • Champion: I AM O’KAH!
    Mission: The mission of I AM O’KAH! is to empower all youth to unlock their greatest potential: through mentorship, scholarships and programs that help them navigate through socio-economic barriers to success.
  • Raised: $30,477.03
  • How they lit up the scoreboard: “Brackets For Good increased our outreach to first-time donors and allowed us to spread awareness about the organization to people who didn’t previously know about us.”


🏆 Cincinnati

  • Champion: NS Cares
    Mission: The vision of NS Cares is to ignite progress and growth throughout the insurance industry through acts of kinds in our communities.
  • Raised: $37,402.93
  • How they lit up the scoreboard: “Brackets For Good not only brings in new donors and connects you to your current donor base but also connects you with other organizations you might not be aware of, and you might have future opportunities for partnership.”


🏆 Denver

  • Champion: Promise Ranch Therapeutic Riding
    Mission: Promise Ranch encourages individuals of all abilities, including Veterans, to reach their full potential by providing safe, supportive, and quality Green Care opportunities in our community.
  • Raised: $52,718.00
  • Game Winning Play: “The tournament created an intense amount of excitement within our community, with our clients, our volunteers, and also new donors. That was really amazing and thrilling for us.”
  • How they lit up the scoreboard: “This competition really gave us a chance to come together as a staff, with our board, and with our volunteers and clients, and build something from the inside out.”


🏆 Hartford

  • Champion: CMHA (Community Mental Health Affiliates)
  • Mission: CMHA is a leading provider of an integrated health and behavioral health care system for children, families and adults. By fostering improvement in the quality of life for their clients, CMHA contributes to the well-being of the communities it serves.
  • Raised: $53,883.78
  • How they lit up the scoreboard: “Brackets For Good was a huge team-building concept for our organization. It brought our organization together; it engaged our employees; it made us feel like a team working together for a common goal.”


🏆 Indianapolis

  • Champion: Brooke’s Place for Grieving Young People
    Mission: To serve people living with childhood grief through bereavement programs, advocacy, community education and outreach. Our vision is to ensure that no person living with childhood grief feels alone.
  • Raised: $91,460.74
  • How they lit up the scoreboard: “Brackets For Good created tremendous awareness about our organization and actually helped families find us who need our services.”


🏆 Louisville

  • Champion: Neighborhood House
    Mission: Our mission is to provide individuals with opportunities to enhance the quality of their lives. Our vision is to break the cycle of poverty for our children and families.
  • Raised: $71,148.83
  • How they lit up the scoreboard: “Brackets for Good is a tremendous way to raise awareness for your nonprofit and to really capture the energy going on around March Madness already. If you can harness that power for good and turn it into dollars, that’s wonderful.”


🏆 Miami

  • Champion: Holocaust Documentation & Education Center
  • Mission: To document and present an enduring, historically accurate record of the Holocaust through eyewitness accounts by Survivors, Liberators, Rescuers, and others who survived terrifying experiences, overcame fear and grief, and triumphed to live meaningful and productive. To teach people from all walks of life the universal lessons of the Holocaust, through thought-provoking exhibitions and insightful programming, illuminating the catastrophic ramifications of prejudice, racism, stereotyping, and bullying which tragically still occur today. This is accomplished through the cultivation of alliance and cooperation with individuals, organizations and institutions, locally, nationally, and internationally.
  • Raised: $32,414.25
  • How they lit up the scoreboard: “Brackets For Good really spreads awareness. It also boosts morale, donors become excited, friends want to get engaged, and everyone has lots of fun!”


🏆 Nashville

  • Champion: Cottage Cove Urban Ministries
  • Mission: To provide educational opportunities and training in the arts through the power and in the name of Jesus Christ.
  • Raised: $40,049.70
  • How they lit up the scoreboard: “The biggest thing for us was that it was a way to get more people involved early in the year when normally fundraising just doesn’t happen.”


🏆 St. Louis

  • Champion: Camp Jump Start
  • Mission: Camp Jump Start is a whole health summer camp dedicated to jump start kid success.
  • Raised: $106,088.43
  • How they lit up the scoreboard: “Brackets For Good gave us a great opportunity to engage all of our staff, donors, and volunteers in order to be a team. Everyone wanted us to win, round after round after round and it got everyone very engaged!”


🏆 Twin Cities

  • Champion: Ronald McDonald House Charities, Upper Midwest
    Mission: We, in partnership with our community, provide a comfortable and caring home-away-from-home that supports keeping families together and reduces stress during a child’s serious illness.
  • Raised: $64,190.07
  • Game Winning Play: “The social media presence has been priceless.”
  • How they lit up the scoreboard: “Brackets For Good is one of the best ways we’ve had to engage new donors or lapsed donors. The competitive spirit energizes not only our staff, but our donors as well as the philanthropic community.”

Posted in Ann Arbor Area, Brackets For Good, Fundraising, Indianapolis, Louisville, Nonprofit Story, St. Louis, Twin Cities


Welcome to the Line Up Birge & Held Asset Management

Posted on February 25, 2017 by Jen Marcuson

Birge & Held (B&H) is a national apartment real estate, private equity and investment firm located in Indianapolis, Indiana. Since 2008, B&H has acquired and currently manages over $350,000,000 in multi-family assets across the country. Through private equity and creative debt structures, B&H continues to grow its portfolio of assets and generate strong returns for its investors.

Birge & Held tugofwar6

 

B&G is dedicated to creating profitable partnerships with their stakeholders, an enriched work environment for employees, best in class properties for their residents, and opportunities for community involvement. They have a Community Service policy for all employees and encourage continuous philanthropic initiatives. In this spirit, B&G has generously signed up to be a BFG 2017 Indianapolis Community Teammate. They are partnered with the Humane Society of Hamilton County, our 2015 Indianapolis Champion!

We are excited to see what B&H and the Humane Society unleash in the 2017 tournament together.

Posted in Indianapolis


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