Thursday, July 26, 2018

Not As Nice

Get ready - here’s another one of those first person blog posts. I need to be 100% open and honest. There are some people who look at me think, “Wow, Ike. You’re running a certified non-profit that’s reached over 60,000 kids across the globe, including deliveries to each continent, and you’re doing it all in your free time. How do you do it?”

My response would simply be, “Come on guys, let’s be honest. What else would you expect from Forsythe Middle School’s nicest boy?”

1998 – 8th Grade Nicest Boy in the School

Some may say I’m being SUPER nice, while others could say I’m just being SUPER competitive. I’m trying to retain my title and now I’m not just competing against other 8th grade boys, but now it’s adults of all ages and I decided to expand it to companies, groups and/or schools. I want to be the nicest. When I tell people how to pronounce my name, I’ve always said, “Although it’s spelled I-K-E, just think he’s Extremely Kind, which is pronounced E-K”. 

With that acronym, most people can remember! 😊

Now, competitive Ike thinks he’s doing pretty well. And I like to think I’m holding on to my title. Although it was never really named who was nicer between Amanda or I in 8th grade, I had an idea. Since we first won that award in 1998, this year would be our 20 year anniversary of being recognized for our compassion! It’s been a long time since I won, so I’ve started to expand my expectations for myself.

It has expanded past individuals and now onto everything. For example, if you look at the first place Cardz for Kidz! started, Lurie Children’s Hospital, I like to think I’m winning. Although we’ve been able to take a bunch of pictures of patients, families, and staff there, I think since I’ve volunteered over 250 hours, dropped off 1000+ cards, and wrote them a poem, I’m in the lead!

One place I think I’m a bit closer with is the University of Michigan as a whole. At first I was giving myself a bunch of points since it was before my #PurplePride stages and was proud of my condition, and I let them write about my epilepsy and wrote about U of M myself. Then I thought about it again, after I had to drop classes due to epilepsy testing, I recall my Spanish teacher letting me come in and sit in on classes so I wouldn’t get too rusty. That’s still going.

Blog Posts
Child Life Visit During Hospital Surgery
Volunteered Hundreds of Hours at Mott
Sit in on Spanish Classes During Testing

One battle where I keep thinking I’m getting ahead, but then get pulled back, is with the Chicago Interactive Marketing Association (CIMA). Competitive Ike is getting discouraged. Here’s the full history about this organization and how we’ve been going back and forth.

I first heard about CIMA when I started in media buying back in 2007. Originally I thought of this as an organization for digital media professionals that threw fun events, and since I was at a media agency I could go to them all for free – thanks to the sales reps purchasing the tickets! Unfortunately, in 2009 the economy took a downturn and I lost my job at the time. I was desperately searching for positions and realized that one way I could improve my odds was doing more networking – enter CIMA. The events were too expensive for me to purchase the tickets myself, so I reached out and learned that if I volunteered (e.g. ran the check in) I could work for the first hour, then attend the rest for free.
  • Competive Ike figured that was close to a break even. I was volunteering for a bit, and then they were letting me in for free.

I was doing this for the majority of their events, since they would often reach out and ask if I was interested in volunteering. Then at the end of the year or early 2010, the head of volunteering reached out to me and told me that I was chosen as VOLUNTEER OF THE YEAR! In my head, I thought “For what?!?! Getting free drinks and networking?!” I got a plaque and a certificate that I have to this day.

  • Competive Ike wasn’t accepting it. They were clearly being nicer for recognizing me for doing something so little.

I reached out to my CIMA boss, Lisa A, and told her I needed to do something more. I didn’t want to simply accept that award for just attending free events. After some deliberation, she connected me with one of the heads of the education department who was starting a new $5,000 scholarship for undergraduate marketing students. They asked if I would help promote it. Perfect. I accepted the job.

By this time I had started an evening MBA program and, thankfully, started a new job, but I had to be the nicest. I walked around multiple campuses in the Chicagoland area handing out flyers. I tried talking about it on social media. I even reached out to some professors who I knew had connections. Unfortunately, it wasn’t working and we weren’t getting enough applicants. A few years later that scholarship that I helped start promoting was open to any marketing student, whether it was full-time or part-time, graduate or undergraduate. In 2016, I applied and won. 

  • Normal Ike was excited since that was going to help with the MBA costs and the additional certification I was going after. Competitive Ike was disappointed since one again CIMA was taking a step up, being much nicer.

Now, I was thankful and kept close to the board and was trying to do little things as time permitted. Unfortunately, with school and work I wasn’t able to do as much. Then later when I was done with school, it became work and Cardz for Kidz! that was taking up my precious time! Then what made it tough for my competitive side was CIMA didn’t take a break.

Here are just a couple examples:
  • Through some connections, a company held a fundraiser and donated all of those funds to Cardz for Kidz!. We used that donation to hire a company to build our website, Sadly, working with them was a big disappointment. We realized they were cheating us and we weren’t getting the type of service we were requesting. They told us it’d be between $2,000-$4,000, but then charged us at least $5,000. After the site was finished, we paid them but then we found some flaws. When we contacted them to update it, they told us it would cost more. We immediately canceled all ties. Unfortunately, we weren’t sure how to make updates to the site since we’re still rookies. Thankfully, a gentleman name Eric stepped in and helped fix a couple of those flaws (e.g. made it so we could evenly upload logos on the Participants tab). What does that have to do with this blog post? Eric was the President of CIMA. More nice points for CIMA.

  • One of our connections, Barry W, worked with CIMA as well. He recommended I connect with some people there about setting up a table at the holiday party. Based on our close relationship, we were easily able to get a table set up during some of the most recent events. That may not describe it enough so below are some examples that show the sign they made for us, a glimpse that shows the scale of the event, and some of the people working. Through those events, CIMA has been able to make 311 cards for our disheartened kids. Once again, more nice points. 

  • Once again, being honest. As of now it seems we at Cardz for Kidz! get a good amount of cards in English, but have a hard time getting cards in other languages. For example, you’ll see us pleading for cards written in Spanish for our locations in the US and Mexico. We also need cards in French for our hospitals/homes in Haiti and Quebec. But another language we often fall short on and don’t often plead for is Arabic.Currently there are 4 separate hospitals in the USA who have requested cards in Arabic and unfortunately VERY few groups make cards in that language. When the 4th hospital reached out asking for cards, I was trying to think of ANYONE I knew who could potentially make some cards in that language. As I was glancing on the CIMA board page, I saw a picture of Binsih. I remembered how during the 2017 holiday party instead of simply partying and enjoying her friends and coworkers, she stepped aside and created multiple cards in Arabic for us! I reached out to her and told her about our new need and she agreed to help. She’s currently helping us fulfill our need for Arabic cards. Wow, CIMA. More nice points.

  • How has it been reading this blog post so far? Have you seen a bunch of grammatical errors? Have you seen mistakes with words like there vs their vs they’re? Please don’t get me wrong, I went to strong grade schools and the University of Michigan, so my writing isn’t horrible, but it is VERY difficult having a full-time job and also running a non-profit on the side. With Cardz for Kidz! this entails keeping a presence on most social media sites and a lot of corporate, educational and non-profit partnerships, so it’s bit hard to check all the time. And let’s be honest – I’m better at Analytics than English. I tried writing some of the blog posts in the beginning since I heard that could help our SEO and it was a way to acknowledge some groups. Some groups gained more interest and I had a couple people who were willing to proof them. Originially I had people who just glanced at them and said, “Yeah, this looks fine,” but I could tell they didn’t take the time to read it. I had some editors who were helping, then one was slow responding to proofing. Then another dropped off and said she didn’t want to help anymore, #wasntworthit. I tried contacting my mom to help, sisters, old teachers. I was getting nervous. Then came the 2017 CIMA holiday party. Yup, Binish stopped by and made some much needed cards in Arabic. Also, a superhero, Alexis stopped by to make some cards. I gave her a brief background and she said she would LOVE to help more. I told her about my desperation for an editor and although she does this professionally, she agreed to volunteer her time to proof this. Now when we write blogs about corporations or groups such as CIMA, I can be 100% comfortable that when Alex reviews it, it’s correct. Wow. If it wasn’t for CIMA granting us space at the holiday party we wouldn’t have connected with one of our current editors! More points for CIMA.

Example edited post:

Ok, Competitive Ike is desperate. On the other side, I did agree to meet with the head of the education portion of CIMA, Nick Cheetany, and highlight how great CIMA is and how helpful the scholarship was. I do have the CIMA flyers hanging up in my office and encouraged my company to join in, but that’s not enough.  

I guess it’s true. I was planning on reaching out to Amanda and seeing if we could do something special for our 20 year anniversary of being the nicest, but maybe not. Seeing how CIMA originally helped me personally and has helped my growing nonprofit in a variety of ways, I have to admit, when you compare me to CIMA, I’m NOT AS NICE. I’ll officially pass along my title. Thank you CIMA!

#notasnice #upliftingspirits

To see more pictures and stories, please check out our website; like us on Facebook; follow us on Twitter and Instagram; visit our Google+ or LinkedIn pages! Also, check out some of our videos on YouTube! 

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Inspirational Service

Do you know the impact you’re having? We promise you we’re trying to show you the best we can, but it’s tough. If you look on our social sites you’ll see they’re flooded with pictures of cards. That’s because we made an official “pinky promise” to post pictures of all the cards that we receive - #solemnlyswear. That way, you know your package has been received, your hardwork is appreciated, and you’ll have an idea of when your cards may be going out. That’s why you’ll see a lot of pictures like the ones below.

We have spoken about it once before, but it’s worth noting that we have to respect the children’s privacy and triple check before we share any of the pictures - #intheroom. Therefore, it’s more likely that we’ll receive pics of the staff than we do pictures of the patients.

Although those pictures and quotes of the kids and staff with your cards is inspiring, we don’t think that’s the best way to measure the difference you’re making.

Let’s think about it - when there’s something that’s amazing for you that you’ve received from someone that touches you deeply, what do you want to do? Share it. That ranges from telling someone to passing it along and doing that same positive thing for others. We’re amazed that so far we’ve had kids in Europe who were going through challenging health conditions ask their parents if they could make cards in return and send us a package of cards. Then we were updated by our Ronald McDonald House in New Zealand that those kids were going to start consistently making cards for our kids here in the states since they LOVED their first package. Here’s a quote from that first email:

One child named Kohen (9-10), was super inspired to make cards after I gave him an excellent card, which was in the shape of a PlayStation controller. He made about 12 cards with his sister Solae (8), and requested that we send the get well cards back to you, in Chicago! I was thinking about getting some more kids to make cards, until we have a good number to send back to you. The only question is, where should we send these cards? Do you often have young people sending cards back to you?

It’s clear that you have some INSPIRATIONAL SERVICE since you’re not only uplifting spirits, but making kids and families so happy that they want to spread that joy on to others across the globe.
Please keep up the good work! We promise we’ll continue to try to find ways to fully express the difference you’re making.

#inspirationalservice #upliftingspirits

To see more pictures and stories, please check out our website; like us on Facebook; follow us on Twitter and Instagram; visit our Google+ or LinkedIn pages! Also, check out some of our videos on YouTube!

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Amateur's Impact

Here’s a common response we get when we ask people to make cards: “No, I really can’t. I’m not artistic at all.” We immediately respond with the shortened story about how the patient at Lurie Children’s Hospital interrupted us trying to explain why the card we gave him looked so bad and said, “I can tell he tried really hard.” Even with those explanations, some people still decline. Let’s try this way…. again. Let’s make fun of ourselves.

We’ve said this before, but when describing the history of this non-profit we always say, “We accidentally started it on purpose.”
  • On Purpose – meant to reach as many kids as possible by delivering personally valuable handmade cards.
  • Accidentally – did not plan to start a 501(c)3 certified non-profit that would have several of the largest corporations joining in and helping send packages to kids in 20+ different countries.

A lot of the work for Cardz for Kidz! is done relatively late at night. That ranges from scheduling social posts to responding to emails. Because of this late-night work, there are often mistakes in what’s written, whether it’s using the same hashtag twice or some sentences simply not making sense. To give you proof, here’s a post a friend saw and alerted us about:

It was supposed to be “It’s official we’re NOW…” instead of “Not”. Thankfully a friend noticed that.

Even with all those mishaps there are still positive results from the recipients, groups, and hospitals.

When it comes to our social posts, we often make mistakes, but still we’re getting fans and likes. People still enjoy seeing their cards on social media and kids still love receiving those cards. Therefore, if you try your best to make a card and sign your name and city the kids who receive it will LOVE it.

Is our encouragement still not working? Ok, we’ll keep making fun of ourselves!

So recently we’ve been driving more people to our website. It used to be all the attention and participation was coming from social media, but now based on connections via other sites, we’re starting to get more people coming to – thanks Goods Giving Back! Since visitation is increasing, we do our best to keep our site as updated as possible, but we learned our lesson and here’s proof…

That’s a screenshot from a few weeks ago. We tried to update the text on the About Us page independently. As you can see, everything got messed up and even after trying VERY hard to fix things, we still couldn’t get things to line up. The takeaway was yeah, we can check a box that shows if a group is Silver, Gold or Platinum on the Participants tab, but no, we can’t even try to modify that text anymore. We’re not qualified enough. How it worked out is there was an URGENT email sent to three people who volunteer to help with the site and thankfully one of them was able to fix it.

So, over here you have a team learning about nonprofit leadership on the fly and are simply doing our best to keep the website and social sites up to date to make kids smile. As you can see in the picture above, we’re not qualified to make changes to the website. As mentioned before, there was no experience nor preparation in setting up this certified non-profit. Now, please just read the messages below and you can get an idea of what an AMATEUR’S IMPACT can be. That ranges from starting a small nonprofit to trying your best while making your next card! #everycardcounts 

#upliftingspirits #amateursimpact

To see more pictures and stories, please check out our website; like us on Facebook; follow us on Twitter and Instagram; visit our Google+ or LinkedIn pages! Also, check out some of our videos on YouTube!

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Who Do You Know?

It’s interesting. You may think to yourself, “I’m not artistic so I can’t help Cardz for Kidz! at all.” However, like we’ve said many, many times—that’s not true! Not only can you make cards these children, their families, and staff will love, but your connections are valuable as well.

Regarding connections, have you heard of the concept called six degrees of separation? It’s interesting to think that with the billions of people on the earth, there’s only six degrees of separation between you and everyone else. Which means you know someone, who knows someone, who knows someone, who knows someone, who knows someone, who knows someone that could connect you to just about anyone on the planet.

It’s a concept that’s been questioned a lot; still, while reviewing it we also found some studies that seem to prove it really is true—case in point, this Microsoft article.

Connections and/or networking have been helpful for us, too.

One example in support of this concept is the impact of Brett—a former coworker of our founder, Ike. One day, the two of them talked about Cardz for Kidz! and Brett then spoke with people at the Google Chicago office about Cardz for Kidz!; Google soon agreed to have some employees make cards. Brett soon connected us to Sally at Google. Sally encouraged the Chicago office to join in more and requested that we register on a financial platform so they’d be able to donate. Now, Google has had various offices join in to make over 500 cards. In addition, through that registration we’ve been able to partner with multiple groups—including our Secret Admirer, who has helped fund the purchase of multiple GO Karts. In addition, Sally’s family has been passionate about Cardz for Kidz!—ranging from her children making cards to her mother being a part of the executive board. Reviewing our history, we’ve been able to get creative advice, monetary donations from all types of companies, and thousands of cards from a variety of corporations, all sparked from our first connection, Brett at Google.

Here are some additional connection testimonials sparked by our registration on the donation platform.

  • ·       One of our key participants is a special Sarah in Minnesota. She learned about our organization due to our registration at the request of Sally and Brett. Sarah’s made multiple cards and, thankfully, her time and donations have been matched by her company. What’s even more impressive is that she’s taken the time to research how to make cards in multiple languages, enabling us to fulfill our promises to our hospitals across the United States and the globe. Finally, she helped us secure our partnership with our hospital in South Dakota and is working on setting up another partnership in Minnesota.

  • Another connection we have is with the AAA in Utah. It’s very impressive that when we had our record-setting quarter, four of the OVERALL Top 10 cards came from the AAA in Utah! What’s equally impressive is that our main contact at AAA, Sara, has been working on connecting us to all the different artists within AAA so they can fly out to Chicago and attend our upcoming Cardz WITH Kidz event. In addition, she’s working to help us expand our presence in Utah.

We’ve been using these types of connections to successfully expand and receive more quality cards. With these new participants, we’ve been able to steadily grow and have raised thousands of dollars to be able to fulfill card requests here in the United States, as well as send consistent shipments across the globe. Based on these donations, we recently purchased our fourth GO Kart—which brings us to $14,000 donated by a non-profit that doesn’t charge anyone anything and has high shipping costs due to sending cards around the world.

Another way we’d love to use your connections is to help reach more contacts at hospitals, homes and shelters. As mentioned in the beginning, we’re looking for locations with small to mid-size pediatric departments that may often get overlooked by other non-profits or organizations looking to make big donations—#toosmallnosuchthing. As listed above, we’ve had some people do some amazing things with their six degrees of separation, resulting in us gaining a bunch of new participants. But right now our question is: WHO DO YOU KNOW at locations with disheartened children who could use some smiles? Please reach out to them and let us know if they’re interested in receiving cards.

#upliftingspirits #whodoyouknow

To see more pictures and stories, please check out our website; like us on Facebook; follow us on Twitter and Instagram; visit our Google+ or LinkedIn pages! Also, check out some of our videos on YouTube!