The Greening of the Independent Sector

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Can we really eliminate paper in our fundraising appeals? Can we engage donors and volunteers via email? Is it possible to engage new donors because of “green” policies?

Can a small non-profit organization undertake a “green” program without breaking the bank? There are degrees of greening, from building a new building and receiving Silver Level LEED certification (Spertus College) to grant proposals about building green affordable housing. I do think the independent sector as a whole as well as small(er) and large(er) non-profits have opportunities to be more green. Some ideas you may or may not have been thinking:

  • Use your email signature for good. Ask readers if they need to print the email or attachments. Be fun…”Do you REALLY need to print? We are trying to be more green, join us! Don’t print unless necessary.” COST: $0.00
  • Reduce, Reuse, Recycle – an old adage, but are we putting it to use in our offices? What’s happened to all that paper we shred? It would make nice stuffing for a pillow, compost material, confetti. Are we recycling and making (some) money on ink and toner cartridges? Can unused printed paper be made into scratch pads by leaving a pile of cut paper in the copy room? COST: $0.00
  • Board reports and meeting information – What do Board members really need to prepare for a meeting? Can we post to the web (Constant Contact) and tell them what they need to READ and what needs to be printed for the meeting…AND NO COPIES will be available at the meeting. Everyone has to take personal responsibility for being green (and, of course, preparing for the meeting.) If organizations is going green…the Board has to sign on as well. COST: $0.00
  • Annual Reports – hmmm to have one or not. To print or not. This was an interesting comment at the event. We COULD just post annual reports to the web, IF foundation funders didn’t require a hard copy (in duplicate) with grant proposals. But think about that, do we really need to PRINT many, many, many annual reports? Is a CD any more green? COST = savings in printing
  • We have been talking about the pros and cons of emailing donors and volunteers. Do they open and read email? Depending on who you listen to at your latest conference or topics on “new” media, they do or they don’t. They receive (and read) email everyday from people and organizations they care about…from Borders, airline frequent flyer programs, quotes of the day, friends, family and work. They subscribed to those and READ them, don’t they? So the real question becomes how can we be the in their life? We need to connect to them on issues important to them. If they are your donors, there must be an issue YOU have that interests them. Seems simple enough, know your donor, know your message. COST: Depends on email programming, spam clearance, gathering emails and interest.

Those are just a few ideas, in a short period of time. If you decide to initiate or institute a “green” policy, make sure you tell people about it…staff, donors, volunteers, the press. Make a commitment and a splash. Don’t SEND a press release (SAVE THE PAPER)…post it on the website, email everyone you know, call the press.

The greening of America is not going aways. Articles abound in ALL sectors. Let’s get ahead of the curve for the independent sector, full speed a hybrid, of course!

What is your organization doing to be more green? Leave a post and share the wealth! Tell me your thoughts and share with others!

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