Monday, April 29, 2013

The Huffington Post, Half the Sky Movement, The Skoll Foundation and CrowdRise Launch “The RaiseForWomen Challenge"

The Huffington Post, Half the Sky Movement, The Skoll Foundation and CrowdRise Launch “The RaiseForWomen Challenge”:

A Global Fundraiser to Help Women-Focused Nonprofits Gain Resources and Recognition 

New York, NY – April 29, 2013 – In an effort to spotlight women who are changing the world, The Huffington Post, Half the Sky Movement, The Skoll Foundation and CrowdRise have partnered to launch“The RaiseForWomen Challenge,” a global fundraising competition for women-focused nonprofits. 
For six-weeks, beginning April 24, more than 75 nonprofits from nearly 50 cities will compete to raise the most money for their cause.  Partners will provide a variety of resources and incentives – such as blog platforms, celebrity interactions, and cash prizes – to put a global spotlight on the Challenge.
  • The Huffington Post will invite “RaiseForWomen” participants to blog about their causes and efforts, and will promote the challenge on social media platforms.  Select nonprofits will have the opportunity to appear on HuffPost Live to discuss their programs that benefit women;
  • Half the Sky Movement, inspired by Nick Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, will engage its 1,400 campus and community ambassadors, activists, and celebrities in the Challenge;
  • The Skoll Foundation will give $25,000 to the top-raising nonprofit, $15,000 to the second place nonprofit and $10,000 to the third;
  • CrowdRise, the crowdfunding platform co-founded by Edward Norton, will be the platform used to run the Challenge.
An additional $25,000 in cash incentives will be awarded through “Bonus Challenges” throughout the Challenge period.  Money raised in “The Raise For Women Challenge” will be updated in real-time

For additional information, see this blog by Arianna Huffington, chair, president and editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post; and this HuffPost Live conversation between Huffington; Robert Wolfe, Co-Founder of CrowdRise; and Mikaela Beardsley, Executive Producer of Half the Sky Movement.
“RaiseForWomen” follows the “JobRaising Challenge,” a similar competition by The Huffington Post, The Skoll Foundation and CrowdRise, which raised nearly $1.5 million for 70 participating job-creating nonprofits.  

About The Huffington Post
The Huffington Post is a Pulitzer Prize-winning source of breaking news, features, and entertainment, as well as a highly engaged community for opinion and conversation. The Huffington Post has 46.2 million monthly U.S. unique visitors (comScore January, 2013) posting over eight million comments each month. The site has over 30,000 bloggers -- from politicians, students and celebrities to academics, parents and policy experts -- who contribute in real-time on the subjects they are most passionate about. The Huffington Post has editions in the UK, Canada, Quebec, France, Spain, and Italy.

About CrowdRise
CrowdRise is a crowd-funding platform for people and organizations to raise support for charitable causes. CrowdRise’s core principles are that people have unprecedented power to use the power of networks to leverage their personal capacity and that raising money for charity and giving back should be fun.
CrowdRise’s custom-built platform and game theory, as well as the company’s proven record of designing innovative crowdfunding strategies, provide individual fundraisers, charities, and events with powerful tools to raise the most money for their causes and share compelling philanthropic stories with their personal networks. The site lets anyone turn their friends into an active base of donors for any cause and lets any organization, company, or event unlock untapped leverage out of their existing platform.
CrowdRise topped Mashable’s list of “Most Innovative Crowdfunding Platforms” and was named a “Top 25 Best Global Philanthropist” by Barron’s. CrowdRise was founded by actor and activist Edward Norton, producer Shauna Robertson, and the founders of Moosejaw, Robert and Jeffrey Wolfe. Thousands of charitable organizations, events, celebrities, and everyday donors have made CrowdRise their philanthropic base for giving back.

About Half the Sky Movement
The Half the Sky Movement is cutting across platforms to ignite the change needed to put an end to the oppression of women and girls worldwide, the defining issue of our time. Inspired by journalists Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn's book of the same name, Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide brings together video, websites, games, blogs and other educational tools to not only raise awareness of women's issues, but to also provide concrete steps to fight these problems and empower women. Change is possible, and you can be part of the solution.

About The Skoll Foundation
Jeff Skoll created The Skoll Foundation in 1999 to pursue his vision of a sustainable world of peace and prosperity. Led by CEO Sally Osberg since 2001, its mission is to drive large scale change by investing in, connecting and celebrating social entrepreneurs and the innovators who help them solve the world’s most pressing problems. Social entrepreneurs are society’s change agents, creators of innovations that disrupt the status quo and transform our world. By identifying the people and programs already creating positive change, Skoll Foundation empowers them to extend their reach, deepen their impact and fundamentally improve society.
Over the past 13 years, the Foundation has awarded more than $358 million, including investments in 97 social entrepreneurs and 80 organizations on five continents. In addition to grant-making, the Foundation funds a $20 million+ portfolio of program-related and mission-aligned investments. Skoll also operates the annual Skoll World Forum, the premier conference on social entrepreneurship, and shares the stories of social entrepreneurs through partnerships with leading film and broadcast organizations including the PBS NewsHour and the Sundance Institute, to drive awareness of social entrepreneurship and its potential to address the critical issues of our time. For more information, visit

Monday, April 8, 2013

How To Use an Online Contest to Grow Your Business

By Deborah Sweeney, CEO,

For the established and brand new business alike, one can never discount the power of a contest or a giveaway to reel in new fans and get existing customers involved. Contests today have come a long way since the days where you mailed in a form to a P.O. Box number and never found out how your entry stacked up against others – today, contestants are engaged online and encouraged to spread the news through word of mouth. Most importantly, online contests make the entry process simple, fun, and open to as many applicants from all walks of life as possible. The company I own is currently holding a contest in which all we ask is that you tell us what makes your business brilliant with a short video, but prior to that we also had several successful giveaways through Facebook that really helped grow our following base online too.
What made these contests a success and how can a business new to the contest scene hold a giveaway sure to turn heads? Take a few of my tips into consideration!

Make the Prize Buzzworthy
Contests need to have grand prizes in place that spark not only discussion about how you could really use the prize once the contest ends, but also as motivation to enter in. Some contests have a series of smaller prizes like iPods or gift cards that lead up to a grand prize which, in the event that you want to drive more participation in for your contest, are great to offer up. But if you worry that your company is still too new to the scene and may have a hard time just getting a solo winner, you might want to stick to one grand prize. Make it buzzworthy, no matter what, and try to make the prize something that fits within your industry. If your business sells candles and decides to give away a new car, it could be tricky trying to figure out just how that prize fits in with what you do. A brand new Macbook Air, significant cash prize, and even gift cards for your business included along with the grand prize are just a few winning areas you can never go wrong with.

Utilize Social Media for Engagement
It’s very easy to hold a contest with the only major rules being “like us on Facebook for a chance to win!” and leave it at that. The purpose of social media lies within its name – social – and the best kinds of contests are the ones that continue to keep fans on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and through blog posts updated about what’s going on, any changes made in dates for submission, and chatting with fans who may have questions or are unsure of what they need to do to enter. Strike up a conversation and don’t be afraid to follow your fans on sites that allow for it either – social media elitism is never the best look on a brand.

Build Your Contest Link Back Into Your Website
You may be wondering how exactly you’ll get newfound fans entering in your contest to visit your company website if they’re entering in on third party sites. Rather than just putting your URL for the contest on a third party website, I recommend building it into your main site to better bring in higher foot traffic. That’s what we’re doing with our Brilliant Business video contest right now – all entries are redirected for submission at which keeps it within the site and allows applicants to explore the website once they submit their entries in.

Get Personal with Video
First time doing a video contest? I love this infographic from Andy Jenkins’ blog on “How to Run an Online Video Contest” to get anyone’s video contest started on the right foot. Outside of just getting videos set up and in place, being able to showcase videos adds life to a business particularly if the brand is in an industry we tend to preconceive as being dry. Videos also add credibility to your company and come with a strong sharing ability – they’re easily shared with a wide range of people outside of your network who may wind up becoming customers later on!

Author Bio:
Deborah Sweeney is the CEO of MyCorporation is a leader in online legal filing services for entrepreneurs and businesses, providing start-up bundles that include corporation and LLC formation, registered agent, DBA, and trademark & copyright filing services. MyCorporation does all the work, making the business formation and maintenance quick and painless, so business owners can focus on what they do best. Follow her on Google+ and on Twitter @deborahsweeney and @mycorporation.

Friday, April 5, 2013

In the Red: How to File Taxes When You're Experiencing a Deficit

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-NV, declared in that the U.S. has a "voluntary tax system," because you can choose not to pay if you're willing to face government consequences. Though a small population of Americans have divested themselves from IRS codes, a vast majority will be certain to have their 1040 forms completed by April 15. The months leading up to tax day can be a stressful time for Americans needing to fulfill their civic duty, especially when they do not have enough money to pay Uncle Sam. Here is some advice that can help you get through tax season with as little stress as possible.

File For Extension

Contrary to what many believe, it is not a jailable offense if you cannot or do not pay what the IRS says you owe by the deadline. Instead, you can file IRS Form 4868, which is an application for an automatic extension of time. This extension can also be filed electronically with most tax preparation software. Keep in mind the extension of time is simply a way to tell the IRS you intend to pay, but cannot do so at the present time. Interest will accrue and penalties may be assessed. It is best to send in as much of what you owe as you can, along with the extension application.

Get Help

If filing on your own is completely over your head, there are tax experts and accountants at H&R Block, who can debunk the technical language and point you in the right direction. You could even have a refund coming to you that you didn't know about. Filers can access live support through H&R Block's online filing system.

Payment Plan

The IRS offers very flexible payment plans. An agreement can be entered online if your total bill, including penalties and interest, is less than $25,000. The interest rate on the plan is usually 3 percent. If your total bill is greater than $50,000, an IRS Form 9465 must be filled out, along with Federal Form 433-F, which is a statement of finances.

Offer In Compromise

Though TV ads will encourage you to retain a lawyer for this, an Offer in Compromise can be negotiated just between you and the IRS. An OIC will allow you to settle your tax debt for less than the total amount owed. An application and a fee must be submitted, along with a statement as to why the settlement should be accepted. These offers are rarely approved, but it's worth a try in certain situations.

Currently Not Collectible

There are some people who have no means of paying taxes or any other bills. A taxpayer can gather evidence consisting of proof of homelessness, extended unemployment, or other extenuating circumstances that show a complete inability to pay anything. The IRS can then declare the applicant "currently not collectible" (CNC) which will stop all garnishments, levies and other collections activity. CNC's will still receive a statement annually telling them what they owe. There is a statute of limitations on tax bills of 10 years. The amount owed will ultimately be erased if the CNC can stay in that status longer than 10 years.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Turn Crisis into Opportunity with Superior Customer Experience 

By Brad Smith, Sage North America

Carnival Cruise Lines suffered yet another incident on March 14, shining a spotlight on the importance of customer experience once again. After reading about more than 4,000 people getting stranded on a cruise ship in less-than-ideal living conditions for the second time in a matter of weeks, I wondered what small businesses would do in a crisis situation. Providing an exceptional customer experience can make all the difference for your company, brand, and customers, even in a time of crisis. With that in mind, here are some strategies that could help you turn a crisis into a positive situation.

1.    Address the issue with empathy – We’ve all seen this before; a company does something wrong, and skirts around the issue. Whether you’re a big business or a small one, your public wants an explanation, acknowledgement of the toll your actions have had on your customers, and details on what actions you’re going to take to resolve the situation. Everyone makes mistakes. It’s all in how you correct it.

2.    Apologize. – Think about this in your personal life. Doesn’t a sincere apology go a long way? Does a sincere apology singlehandedly remedy a crisis situation in the business world? Of course not, but a sincere apology will humanize your company and spokesperson, while delivering confidence at a time when it’s needed most.

3.    Exceed expectations through full transparency – Put yourself in your customer’s shoes. What would you want done to rectify the situation? Whatever the answer is, do that action, plus one thing. One of the very best things you can do to extend your relationship with that customer is to fully disclose the root causes of the issues and the steps you are taking to arrest and address it. Customers want the companies they do business with to make things right. Even when it seems nothing will help, the effort will be appreciated.

4.    Keep promises and be honest – This goes along with exceeding expectations. Whatever you’ve promised your customers, deliver it, and deliver it well. It’s as simple as that. It’s better to under promise and over deliver than the opposite. Don’t promise more than you can provide, and never lie through omission; it will be found out in the end.

5.    Take to the social channels– It’s important to have a crisis communication plan in place before you begin to tweet and blog, but the most important thing to remember is silence can be your worst enemy. Don’t let your customers wonder what’s happening. That will only upset them further. Remember, your customers are living in a world of instant information. The more prepared you are, the better.

6.    Focus on the customers you do have – So often companies focus on acquiring new sales and clients. When your reputation is on the line, ensure your current customers are the number one priority.

Let Carnival Cruise Lines be an example of the importance of having a plan to provide an exceptional customer experience during a time of crisis. Doing so will instill confidence in your company and go a long way in enhancing long-term customer loyalty.


About the Author: Brad Smith has nearly 20 years of leadership experience in the web consumer, enterprise software, and communication service provider industries, spanning sales and marketing, product management and development, service architecture, and service/support delivery roles. As executive vice president, customer experience, for Sage North America, he is responsible for developing all aspects of the Sage commitment to the customer experience, from product design and customer support, to the invoice experience and all touch points in between. Smith was most recently vice president of customer experience for Yahoo! He also previously held senior leadership roles with Symantec, Openwave, and Verisign. He is a member of the Forrester Customer Experience Leadership Council and the Support Services Advisory Board of the Technology Services Industry Association, and on the board of directors of the Consortium for Service Innovation. Smith holds a BSBA degree in General Business Administration from the University of Central Florida.