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Maria Volunteers a Motion Graphics Video for UNDP!

8 Nov

By Maria Rapetskaya

I run a boutique design firm which produces all things creative and digital – branding, print design, web design. We specialize in motion graphics – creating show packages for broadcast television, such as “On the Case with Paula Zahn” for Discovery ID.

I have been independent since 2005 and currently am the sole owner and steerer of my own brand, Undefined Creative. I decided right away that I would build this venture in my own image, weaving into it my philosophy on work and life, so that the two not only peacefully co-exist, but fuel and inspire each other.

As the Creative Director, I deal with clients on a daily basis, discussing projects, deadlines, and aesthetics. But I also make a consistent effort to chat about their day, their families, and their frustrations. It’s important to me to know my clients personally. This helps me establish the kind of working environment that I believe in – a place where projects are taken seriously and executed flawlessly, yet do not become one’s sole reason for living.

I was born in the former Soviet Union and have held on to some of the core values that were taught to me as a child. Among these was the notion that individuals should give back to the community, since we are all part of that community. For a few years I volunteered in various capacities – painting murals in inner city schools via NYCares, finding art-based programs for kids and teens, working with seniors, and participating in reading programs. All the while, I hoped that I could find a way to volunteer my primary skills, as a digital designer, and even better, as a motion graphics/animation artist.

In the winter of 2010, I found myself teaching an undergraduate course in Motion Graphics, and saw a natural opportunity to do some good. I proposed a collaboration between each student and a pre-screened nonprofit. The course thesis became a real-world job, with a message and a mission. While not every project turned out to be 100% successful, the idea was embraced by both the University and the students. While researching non-profits, I came across Catchafire. First, I assisted Catchafire in developing the “Motion Graphics” project template. Then, I volunteered on one of the first motion graphics projects at Catchafire, which was a series of animation for the United Nations Development Programme. I worked on an extremely tight deadline, however, it was creatively challenging and socially relevant, and I was delighted about the opportunity to use my skills to aid the UNDP.

It is my belief that each of us has some special skill which we can contribute, a skill which others may not readily possess. I am a deep supporter of the Catchafire model of professional volunteering. After all, this is the kind of work I am most qualified to do, and offering services which would otherwise be unaffordable to the organizations is the best use of my time.

Watch the Motion Graphics Video that I produced for the UNDP here!

Investment Banker conducts Market Analysis for Global Goods Partners

1 Nov

By Rob Tsai

I was recently matched as a volunteer with Global Goods Partners to conduct a market
 analysis, through the volunteer matching service Catchafire.   I’ve 
been working with Jennifer Gootman on conducting analyses to answer 
strategic questions on the business – including the size of the total
 addressable market, growth rates and market segmentations.

My background includes having worked in management consulting, 
investment banking, strategic planning and software solution sales. 
I’m really excited by the opportunity to apply some of my business 
skills in a way that helps create positive social change in this 
world.  While I appreciate that we are using the same tools and 
approaches to solving standard business questions such as how to 
define your customer segments, how to measure and improve loyalty, how 
to improve brand awareness, how to increase customer engagement and 
conversions – it’s really refreshing to know that at the end of it
 all, there are clear and measurable impacts from this business 
(whether it’s measured in number of kids sent to school, or number of 
jobs created or number of meals provided).

This mission is even more critical today.  While there are certainly
 several benefits the advancements of world trade and globalization, 
it’s clear that the economic growth (and now decline) of the last
 twenty years have left numerous communities and populations behind.  I 
believe that social enterprises like GGP serve an important need and
 social purpose.  By bringing handmade goods to the U.S. market and
partnering with artisan organizations that pay fair living wages and 
encourage community development, GGP is offering consumers a new way 
to vote with their wallet for the ideals that matter to them.

Learn more about Global Goods Partners

Design for Crunch Time

25 Oct

By Brielle Maxwell, Catchafire Volunteer

I like to volunteer to see the inner workings of innovative non-profits.  In skill-based volunteering you get to use your skills for a mission you’re passionate about. In my case I got to use my design skills for Sparkseed. Sparkseed is a non-profit organization that invests in college social entrepreneurs.

To design enthusiasts like myself,  the design process is exciting at every stage, especially launch time! I find those launch dates and deadlines creep up very fast.  Pretty soon it’s time to design to communicate those great world changing ideas and it needs to happen fast. I find this time exciting… it’s all the energy and excitement that’s been built up for months and now it is time to unleash the latest program, website, or campaign.

So that’s why I was the perfect volunteer for a quick volunteer match up. The holiday weekend of July 4th was approaching but that was far from the minds of the folks at Sparkseed. They were focused on their Dangerously Ambitious conference that was only six weeks away. They needed a  print materials project, to communicate all of the awesome innovations they packed into their Dangerously Ambitious conference. They already had Sponsors eagerly awaiting their  materials.  Being resourceful they called on Catchafire.  Catchafire matched me to Sparkseed. Then it was smooth sailing and Sparkseed got their print materials right on time and had a very successful Dangerously Ambitious Conference.

My takeaway from the experience if you’re a nonprofit don’t push back the launch date again, get a skilled volunteer and get you game changing idea out there.

Why Mitch Kapler Joined the Catchafire Volunteer Movement

4 Oct

Why I joined the Catchafire movement and why I love it.
By Mitch Kapler

Let’s be honest – a lot of us are really lucky to be American and living in the modern awesomeness that is the American life. I, like many of my peers grew up with a great education, great family, great friends and great experiences.

Realizing this as a young professional in Los Angeles around 2006 – there were serious efforts made to wake up early on Saturdays to plant trees with the Tree People or help terminally ill children have some fun within the world of art with the Art of Elysium. That said, waking up early on a Saturday after 70+ hour work week in Hollywood was a major stretch – so rarely was I able to make it out. This didn’t feel too good but like many of us I said – what are you going to do?

Fast forward to New York City, April 2010. Internet Week. Thanks to meeting Sara Walker-Santana and Laura Mignott (via introduction by Adam Neuhaus) – I got to meet the wonderful gals of Catchafire. Rachael Chong and Jane Slusser discussed their new platform/company acknowledging the challenges revolving around non-profits needs for professional services/help. My ears perked. Have I found my answer to giving back in a way that was conducive to my hard-working lifestyle?

After hearing their speech, I decided to try it out – why not, what do I have to lose?

The Catchafire team managed to build an awesome online platform. It was super easy to upload my LinkedIn profile, target issues/non-profits that were important to me and areas of expertise where I could offer help.

Within days four non-profits were e-mailed to me that were right in line with my interests. I picked Cool Culture because – well – it sounded cool. Helping low-income families gain access to NYC’s museums and cultural institutions in spirit of creative education and inspiration for children/parents. Awesome.

It’s been a totally different experience offering my professional expertise in spirit of optimizing their programs and initiatives. We have managed to streamline operations, shift their marketing positioning and are developing an social campaign around their programs that will be awesome.

If you feel like there is more of your talents to offer and wish to be the change you want to see in the world then maybe Catchafire is for you. It’s unique feeling volunteering your services where real-tangible results can be felt/seen, where a real do-good transformation can take place.

This is why I joined the Catchafire movement and this is why I love it.

Katie Sherman, freelance copywriter, talks about her volunteer experience with Room to Grow.

21 Sep

Three Tiers for Room to Grow: A Press Kit Revamp
By Katie Sherman

A press kit is often treated like a junk drawer: left-over brochures; letterhead with copy from old donor letters; and exhaustive, double-sided lists of donors. It’s a surprise there aren’t half-full packages of birthday candles and Domino flyers too.

I know this because my first project was a Press Kit for Room to Grow.

No red tape
One thing surprised me: No bureaucratic back-and-forth at Jane placed me with my project just a week after registering. I met with Room to Grow’s executive director (a savvy, no-nonsense woman with a nose for insight) three Mondays in a row. That’s it. No scheduling conflicts that come with team-based volunteering. And never too many chefs in the kitchen.

Press kits aren’t for press
In many nonprofits, press kits are actually for funders – not investigative journalists. So there needs to be an instant get. The press kit revamp has readers nodding instantly. Yes. I get it. You do 2 things: redistribute baby items to low-income moms and provide parental coaching. And the meetings are every three months, just like the size charts of infant clothes.

A tiered strategy
In just three weeks, we nailed the killer messaging strategy below.

Room to Grow does two things:

1. Redistribute baby items to low-income moms
2. Provide parental coaching from a social worker

Yet they had never said this succinctly. To get it across, we used a tiered strategy: On the left-hand side of the kit three pages stood at different heights.

Babies outgrow infant clothes.
Women grow into motherhood.
Help us give them Room to Grow.

Each page nails it’s respective story line: Items – Coaching – Get Involved.

Statistics and quotes from donors, volunteers, corporate partners, and clients are also incorporated. Plus, we weeded out dozens of press tearsheets and kept only the ones that include client interviews/stories. Now, the junk drawer is clearly organized. And just in time for holiday fundraising.