New York and the surrounding areas have experienced an intense couple weeks with the storm fronts from Sandy and last week's Nor'easter.
My colleague Laura and I lost power at Emma's New York office for the week, but we know not everyone has been so fortunate. Our thoughts and support go out to the hundreds of thousands of people whose lives are still in upheaval.
There's been a palpable philanthropic feeling throughout the area as we all try to rebuild the homes, businesses and spirits of our neighbors.
We've noticed a number of our clients sending out additional updates on shipping delays, schedule changes and closures, as well as encouraging their audience to make donations or volunteer where it's desperately needed.
If that's you, please reach out to me so we can credit you for the additional cost of these send-offs.
How each new Emma customer helps us support DonorsChoose.org
Since we give $5 to DonorsChoose for every new customer that signs up, Emma employees have a lot of fun directing upwards of $2,000 each month to deserving classrooms. A rotating cast of our staffers hand-pick where the money goes each time, and it's such a joy to make personal connections and help underfunded teachers and projects.
Let's take a look at some recent projects we've helped fund …
Comic books bring Shakespeare to life
Cody De Vos, a member of our agency relations team, directed and co-wrote Terminator the Second, a re-imagination of Terminator II using dialogue culled directly from Shakespeare's works. It's no stretch to say he's a film geek.
So with that production fresh on their minds, a few staffers quickly fell in love with Mrs. C's request for comic book versions of Romeo and Juliet. We hope this project inspired her high school students to embrace the works of Shakespeare — and become life-long readers.
Books in bags for better readers
Jerry Morrison keeps IT operations running smoothly around the office, and he's also the father of a young son who's enthusiastic about reading. When choosing this project as one for Emma to fund, he knew that purchasing books for a low-income, second-grade classroom was a no-brainer.
"I know how much my kiddo loves reading and getting cool books to bring home from school," he said. "I think it would be neat to help give these kids the same excitement."
Smile for the yearbook
Mrs. H. sponsors an after-school art club and supervises the yearbook, but she'd always taken the pictures herself or recruited parents' help. This year, though, she wanted to give her students digital cameras so they could capture memories through their own eyes.
David Weintraub, a senior sales associate at Emma and professional photographer, spotted the project. "It's great to support young photography students," he said. "I love that we helped them get the tools they need to learn."
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Thanks for joining Emma, and helping us do some good in classrooms around the country. Think you'd like to get more involved? It's completely possible that your ability to help spark a love of reading, passion for graphic design or enthusiasm for football is only a click away. Visit DonorsChoose.org to find projects that fit your own interests, and tell us what you find.
Meet the 25 incredible small charities that just got free Emma service for life
One of our favorite holiday traditions at the Emma shop is our Emma 25 program, in which we award a lifetime of free Emma email marketing service to 25 small nonprofits who've applied for it.
This year, we were once again astounded by the quantity and quality of nonprofits that applied, each one as deserving as the next.
The missions of this year's honorees vary — helping kids with disabilities ride bikes, fighting human trafficking around the world, supporting design that elevates social issues — but each one spoke to us in a unique way.
We're supporting DonorsChoose as folks join the Emma community
If you follow Emma's giving back efforts on our blog, you've likely noticed that Emma has a thing for trees — and making sure the world stays leafy and green. Since 2007, we've planted five trees for every new client we bring on board, and that's added up to well over 80,000 trees.
After all that leafy goodness, we're switching up how we give back on behalf of customers. Starting this month, we're supporting DonorsChoose.org with $5 for each new client who joins Emma. That money goes directly to classroom projects posted by teachers and funds materials that otherwise fall outside of tight public school budgets.
In the past, when we've given to DonorsChoose, I've spearheaded the classroom selection process. Now, the Emma staff will collectively choose the projects, and, this month, we narrowed the list by choosing classrooms in the cities Emma calls home. We're helping to bring sculpting supplies to an art teacher in Nashville,chairs to a music class in NYC,books to students in Austin, science supplies to an elementary school in Denver and a classroomcomputer to a Portland middle school.
This is the beginning of a really cool new chapter in Emma's giving back story, largely because it casts such a wide net. It's about you, our Emma community, giving us the chance to make a difference in classrooms across the country. Thank you for joining Emma and doing some good in the world.
We're giving away 25 Emma accounts to small, local nonprofits. Encourage your favorite cause to apply today!
Fall is in the air, and that means it's finally socially acceptable to eat candy corn and dress like Snooki, which is not really something you can pull off in, say, April unless you're actually Snooki.
More importantly, fall marks the launch of our annual Emma 25 initiative. For seven years and counting, we've been awarding a lifetime of free Emma service to small, deserving nonprofits and hoping that our email marketing tools help these causes do even more good work in their communities.
Here's how it works. Nonprofits can apply at myemma.com/emma25 from today through Monday, November 21. We welcome any 501c3 nonprofit with 10 or fewer employees, including current Emma customers. Emma staffers pore over the applications to select 25 (it's unbelievably tough), and we announce the honorees in early December.
Of course, we rely on you to spread the word. Encourage the nonprofits in your community to apply, whether it's a group you support, volunteer with or that's made a difference in your life. And share the news and application page with your social networks, too, if you're so inclined.
And thanks for teaming up with us to do some good!
A personal connection with multiple sclerosis leads to an innovative fundraising idea
It's Emma's second year participating in Jack Daniel's "Bike to Jack and Back" MS Ride, and our team of riders is ready to kick (nay, pedal) some serious tail on October 1st and 2nd. Kelli Liszka and Jamie Bradley share their stories of how we got involved in this cause. Plus, read on for tips about a fun fundraising idea that any company can do — for any cause.
Every year, the National MS Society teams up with Jack Daniel's for a bike ride called Jack and Back. Riders start just south of Nashville and ride to Lynchburg, Tennessee, where all of the world's Jack Daniels whiskey is made, and the next day everyone rides back to the start. It's a cool 150-mile roundtrip.
Emma's involvement with Jack and Back started when a friend told me about the event in 2010. The MS Society was having a sale on ride registrations, and I sent it around the Emma house to see if anyone would be up for it. There was a pretty good response, and the first Jack and Back Team Emma was born.
This year our team has grown from 11 to 17 riders, consisting of Emma staffers, friends and family members. A group of Emma volunteers will also help out at the finish line, setting up camp and cheering on the hundreds of riders. We've been hitting the roads to get our legs ready for the ride and are hoping the weather will be in our favor this year.
In April of last year, I lost my mother to multiple sclerosis. I know, that's kind of a bummer-y way to start my portion of this post, but stick with me — there's a happy ending. I realized pretty quickly that there are only so many Lifetime channel marathons and long phone calls home one can stomach before thinking, "I should probably do something — anything — other than this."
Along came Kelli's email about Jack and Back. I don't own a bicycle, but that didn't stop me from participating. I brainstormed with some other not-so-athletic folks at Emma about ways that the entire office could get involved.
We decided to hold an online auction for all of our staffers to raise money and have fun. Our auction is in its second year, and it's a huge hit. Even people who don't want to bike 150 miles or volunteer during the race love the idea of a fierce bidding war for homemade cheesecake. I asked for all willing participants to tell us a "safe-for-work talent, good or service" that they'd like to auction off, and cheesecake was just the start. We got quite the array of offerings, from Doubles Tennis with CEO Clint Smith to A Deluxe Car Tune-up by designer Seth Wood to A Full Night of DJing For Your Next Dance Party by developer Josh Mock.
We posted all of the offerings online, and on auction day, staffers bid for their favorite items. The bidding gets a little ruthless, I assure you. Last year, we raised a little more than $1,300. This year? $2,575 and some change!
I'm proud it's become an Emma tradition; our donations are making a huge difference to other families like mine.
Want to pull off a company-wide silent auction of your own? Here are a few quick tips:
Export the survey results from Emma's response page to an Excel spreadsheet. Now, it's time to post entries in a spot where your officemates can easily view and bid on them. We used a platform called Jive, but you could use your company's internal blog, build a simple landing page or even coordinate bids via email.
Drum up excitement and explain the rules. Check out the email campaign that Kelli and Jamie sent to the Emma staff. (We've modified the email just a bit so the links are no longer live.)
As bidding time ticks away, build momentum with another email campaign. See ours here.
Finally, once the auction has closed, share news of the winners and money raised. It's super exciting.
That's all there is to it. It's pretty simple, lots of fun and gets everyone involved. Have you got any company fundraising ideas up your sleeve? We'd love to hear them.
Catching up with a few of last year's Emma 25 honorees
Each year, as part of our Emma 25 program, we award 25 nonprofits (sometimes more!) with an Emma account. The honorees receive a custom stationery design at no cost and free email service and surveys for life – or as long as they'd like. It's a great way to recognize their hard work, and to provide them with the opportunity to easily communicate with their members and donors. Last winter marked the seventh year of Emma 25, and this month I'm checking in with three of the honorees to see how they're using Emma to help others.
Literacy Volunteers of Charlottesville/Albemarle
The Literacy Volunteers of Charlottesville/Albemarle in Virginia work to provide one-on-one, confidential tutoring in basic literacy and English as a second language to adults living or working in Charlottesville and Albemarle County.
Since being selected as an Emma 25 honoree in December, Jackie Bright says, "In just five months our distribution list has increased by 8% — nearly 100 new recipients (we have a small list, so this is huge)." Their emails campaigns are super successful, not to mention gorgeous — check out a recent one here — and their average open and click-through rates are around 26% and 9% respectively. Jackie adds that Emma has helped them provide better customer service and generate greater reach. She says, "We've been able to link all of our social marketing to this email, helping us cross-market and expose new people to our Facebook page and website."
The Rape Crisis Center of Medina and Summit Counties
The Rape Crisis Center of Medina and Summit Counties in northeastern Ohio serves sexual assault victims and co-survivors. Education and awareness are two driving themes behind their mission to help others, and it's important for them to get the word out quickly. Dana Zedak, who helps to plan and execute their email campaigns, says that Emma streamlines the sending process. Dana adds, "Any moment people hit reply and tell us that we 'do good work' or ask questions about our agency is a fantastic Emma moment. The more people associate our logo and our message with the work we do, the more clients will get to us and the more donors will give to us." And their response numbers indicate that subscribers are receiving the message with open ears — or eyes, if you will. A recent email campaign had more than a 20% open rate.
Beginning as a community project, The Heart Gallery of Pinellas & Pasco is continuing to grow into a successful, independent organization. As an affiliate of The Heart Gallery of America, they display portrait galleries of local foster children who are awaiting adoption.
Their monthly newsletters and event updates reach more than 1,700 audience members and generate stellar 28% open and 21% click-through rates. Carol Hughes, Community Outreach Manager of The Heart Gallery, points out the value they place on stylishly adding images to theircampaigns:
Our beautiful photos of children are used to promote an awareness of the need for adoption. The email layouts provided by Emma allow us to easily upload pictures for use in our newsletters, bulletins, announcements, etc. We are able to use various sizes of the images to accompany our publications, and we continue to receive comments about the quality of the photos in each campaign.
A look at our design partnership with Nashville's street newspaper
Being a member of Emma's design team is a pretty great gig. It's even better when we're able to use our design chops to contribute something meaningful to our community. When the right opportunity comes along, we help nonprofits effectively communicate their mission to their target audience — and it feels great to be a part of something so valuable.
Last year at a local design conference, keynote speaker Tasha French wowed us with her passion and devotion to Nashville's street newspaper, The Contributor, which she founded in 2007. Since then, Tasha has worked with a fantastic team, dedicated vendors and the Nashville community to turn The Contributor into the biggest street paper in North America.
Homeless and formerly homeless vendors sell and distribute the paper, which covers various aspects of homelessness and poverty in its monthly issues (although Tasha's hope is to increase publishing frequency soon). Many of the Contributor vendors sustain themselves through this work, and more than 35% have gone from homeless to housed since they became vendors.
After meeting with Tasha to determine the best ways for us to help, the design team began working on a fundraising and awareness campaign to target Nashvillians and tourists alike. Together, we established a consistent aesthetic for the project, and each piece went to a different designer. Here, each one shares details about the work they did.
Project: Postcard by Kelly McClain
The main push behind this entire campaign is to encourage supporters to not only buy the paper but to also read and enjoy it, since a lot of great work is put into publishing each issue – and ultimately, its long term success depends on readership.
To that end, we used actual vendors' and readers' comments about their favorites parts of the paper (in their own words – and even in their own handwriting). We also featured beautiful photographs, taken by Tasha, of the people we quoted. This gave the campaign a very personal feel, which we particularly loved for a newspaper that is sold face-to-face, person-to-person.
For the postcard, I made a stamp-like graphic with the simple phrase I read it, and gave it a weathered texture in a stand-out color. We wanted to create a look that was the right balance between clean and professional, but with a print feel (without getting too carried away with the street paper aspect).
Project: Email stationery by Seth Wood
Collaborating with The Contributor over the past few months has allowed us to peek into the inner workings of the paper and see how it really affects change in the lives of its distributors. It's affirmed the good that The Contributor is doing for our community, and I hope my piece of the project serves as a meaningful contribution to their campaign.
I was tasked with creating their new email stationery, which is fairly neutral in tone — its colors and textures are highly reminiscent of what one might see in an actual print publication (e.g. roughed edges and a slightly distressed texture). To keep continuity with the different designs, I repurposed some elements from other pieces of the campaign, such as a stylized version of The Contributor's logo, parts of the footer and the image of a vendor.
Project: Poster by Lauren Johnston
I am thrilled that we had the opportunity to work with The Contributor. As a team, we decided on a lot of the design concepts before we got started individually. For example, we agreed on font styles and a color scheme and then delegated the specific projects. I love that all the pieces are cohesive, but each one is unique to its designer's style.
I created the poster, which was the perfect assignment for me. I crafted a vintage, collage sort of feel, and paired it with solid type treatments and plenty of white space to keep things easy on the eye.
The poster has a subtle newspaper background texture, and an actual vendor is highlighted on the front. In the top right portion, printed in the vendor's own handwriting, it reads, "I read the Contributor about the issues that happen around us." I cannot wait to see the whole campaign up around Nashville.
Project: Billboard by Elizabeth Williams
I had the pleasure of working on the billboard design for The Contributor's "I Read It" campaign. It was quite exciting for me as I'd never had the chance to design anything over five feet. It was a challenge, too, because its message had to be slightly different from the other pieces in the campaign.
According to conventional wisdom, a successful billboard consists of seven words or less, as people only have about 10 seconds to absorb your message — not an easy task. Because of that, we decided to change the message to a question: Do you read it? We really want viewers to ask themselves that question. Hopefully, they'll think about about why they buy The Contributor and what value they place on it, and it may intrigue non-readers enough to pick up a copy next time they see a vendor.
Once we settled on the message, it was a matter of perfecting the typography — making sure it was legible, well-designed and consistent with the other campaign pieces. Along with the typography, I used one of Tasha's photographs of Dunn, a Nashville vendor, who just happens to look as if he's waving to the people passing by the billboard. Plus, he has such a genuine smile that his photo was really the ideal choice for the billboard design.
It was such a meaningful experience to work on a project that is making a difference in the lives of so many. When you care about a cause and your professional skills can help lift it up, it becomes your responsibility to do your part. We were fortunate to be able to take on this partnership with the folks at The Contributor, who so graciously trusted us with delivering their message.
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We enjoyed working together to create a campaign that The Contributor will use to spread awareness throughout Nashville and surrounding areas. And we hope you've learned a bit about our design team's process and enthusiasm for this project. We'd love to hear about other nonprofits that are making a difference in your community.
Do you love The Contributor as much as we do? Support it here.
Emma has been in Denver for just over three years, and I've called the city home for the same amount of time. (Has it really been that long? Wow.) Being in a satellite city has its perks, one of which is the opportunity to build relationships with local Emma clients and participate in community events that I'm passionate about.
Two years ago Emma was invited to be the email sponsor for the first annual Step Up for Cancer event, put on by Generous Cancer Foundation. It's a great cause, and we said yes without hesitation. We've continued to be a sponsor ever since.
It's hard to imagine that I can help fight cancer by literally taking a step upward. You know, as in taking the stairs. But on August 7th, stepping up to help fight cancer is exactly what I'll be doing, along with my fellow Coloradoans and the supporters and staff of over 40 Colorado nonprofits at Dick's Sporting Goods Park. We'll run or walk the 1,765 stairs in the stadium, and in doing so, we'll raise money for a participating non-profit of our choice.
That's what makes Step Up for Cancer so unique — it was created with the sole purpose of benefiting other nonprofit cancer organizations.
Even though this is Emma's third year sponsoring, this will be my first year participating. Interested in joining me? There's stil time to register! Visit Step Up for Cancer's website to learn more. I would love to see you there.
Emma runs with Ellie to help put students in school
At Emma, we eat and breathe email, but it's also important to us to give back and donate to causes we're passionate about. We support several ongoing causes — like DonorsChoose and Kiva — and we're always on the lookout for new ones. For the last few years, we've also supported Ellie's Run for Africa, a 5K fundraiser here in Nashville.
My colleagues know very well my soft spot for the run. Its primary focus is to raise money for education in some of the most impoverished areas of Nairobi, Kenya. Ellie started the 5K with her family in 2004 out of a passion for helping kids on the other side of the world. Oh, and she was only eleven years old at the time.
My involvement with the 5K fundraiser began four years ago, and since then, I've had the opportunity to serve as co-chair of the annual event as well as travel with Ellie and the ERFA team to visit the schools we support, including New Dawn High School in the village of Haruma. Having seen firsthand how our Nashville community serves students and communities in Kenya, I am continually inspired to continue my work with Ellie's Run each year, and I'm so proud that Emma has been involved for the last three years.
Ellie recently stopped by Emma's Nashville office with some African stew (her mom's recipe!) and shared her story. We heard about individual students and the power of education in developing communities. For a teenager in the slums of Haruma or Kibera, the chance for an education is a chance out of poverty. Education is not free in Kenya, and the opportunity is only available to those with funds — that's where Ellie's Run for Africa helps. Through ERFA, Nashvillians have the chance to walk or jog in honor of the students and schools we're financially supporting in Africa.
In addition to sponsoring the event as a company, a group of us Emma staffers joined Ellie on May 21st to run and volunteer for the 7th annual event. It was a huge success, with over 400 runners and $49,000 raised! Students like Francis Ikoha, Lucy Kamwende Kamau and Enock Wanami Simiyu will continue to be supported through education, a hot meal and a supportive environment. What a perfect way to kick off summer.
Want to see other ways that Emma gives back? Click here.