It's no wonder then that Tom's of Maine sponsors a yearly contest that provides charities the opportunity to take home as much as $50,000.
Now through September 13, the public can vote on the top 20 nonprofit finalists of the competition at 50 States for Good. Five nonprofits will receive $20,000 and the top vote getter will receive $50,000 to do good in their neck of the woods. The winners, determined by the public vote, will be announced in October 2011.
I particularly like the Tom's of Maine program because it awards smaller nonprofits, with less than $2 million operating budgets. And these charities are spread across the U.S., doing good deeds from providing meals to the elderly in Burlington N.C, to planting trees in hurricane ravaged Galveston, to a dance project in Monterey bringing awareness to oceans and climate change.
Applications to the 50 States for Good program were narrowed to 20 finalists by a panel of judges including Christie Garton with USA Today's Kindness Blog, Beth Kanter, co-author of The Networked Nonprofit and co-founder of Zoetica, and Sam Davidson.
Davidson, President of Cool People Care and author of Simplify Your Life, helped decide which charitable applicants became the finalists in the contest. Davidson has been a judge for the contest for three years. He explained why and what he looks for:
"I like the Tom's of Maine campaign because it allows ordinary people the chance to determine where philanthropic dollars are spent, without being millionaires. Very few people get a chance to determine how $150,000 is given away, so this is very unique. As a judge, I love the contest because it has very clear parameters (age of organization, budget size, program type) that help to recognize nonprofits that might usually fly under the radar. I also like the focus Tom's puts on getting applicants from each state so that every part of our country is represented.
"When picking a finalist, I look for two things: 1) How bold is the vision? Is this something that will have a lasting - and not just a temporary - impact? 2) Can they pull it off? Given the time frame and volunteers needed that the applicant provided, do I think they can turn their big vision into a reality? I've seen some unique programs and ideas in my time as a judge. It's really fantastic to see the dreams and innovation that exist in the nonprofit world today."
Social media is the key to successfully competing in charity contests like this one. Anne Baker, Executive Director of Alamance County Meals on Wheels, Inc, said of her nonprofit's participation:
"People have started to tease me about my email signature because you just can't miss the plea for Tom's of Maine. I am thrilled with being teased because I know they are noticing and hopefully voting. I do feel as though we were unprepared for this wonderful opportunity....I wish I had really seen the power of social media before I actually really desperately needed the power of it."
Amanda Swan, Director of Development & Communications for The Lands Council in Spokane, said that they are "Sending twice-weekly reminder e-alerts to our database of members....press releases to all local media as well as like-minded groups....[and] Used facebook and twitter to regularly promote 'Reforest Spokane Day' and remind followers to vote...."
Priscilla Files, Tree Planting Coordinator for Galveston Island Tree Conservancy, told me, "Basically, we're mostly promoting through social media (facebook and twitter so far) and also handing out cards with the information and QR codes to vote....I send out a daily reminder to vote and am trying to be as creative as possible with that so I'm not too annoying."
Voting costs you nothing, so do get your vote in today for one of these terrific organizations.
If you're a nonprofit considering taking part in a charity contest, be sure to check out these tips in Three Experts Suggest Paths to Success in Charity Contests.
- Jump Start Your Nonprofit Social Media
- Online Fundraising: A Startup Guide
- Guide to Online Marketing for Nonprofits