Increasing your Search Engine Optimization

As a non-profit you always want more people to find your content that is available online. This will not only increase public awareness for those that may need what you offer but can also help in finding new donor sources! Today I got a great email from a co-worker with some great advice on increasing your SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and I thought I would share it.

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  1. Find out what keyword(s) would be best for the site. In other words, what are people most likely going to be typing in a search site when they look for a site like the site? One term that comes to mind is “christian leadership program”, or something like that.
  2. Implement your keyword(s) into the title tags of your website. Also, if you can use the keywords in and H1 or H2 headings in the site, that is good.
  3. Whenever you upload a video to Youtube or Vimeo, be sure to put your sites link in the first or second sentence of the description of the video. Also, incorporate your keywords into the description. Youtube and Vimeo are top ranked sites and it looks good when they point back to your site. It tells search engines that your site is important. Whatever you do, change the description up and do not use the same one over and over. Google will not like this and it could make your site take a hit. This should help out because we have so many videos to upload and that is a lot of links fairly quickly.
  4. Every blog post that is made should have a link back to the website. If possible, incorporate that link by using your keywords. The blog is another site that is pointing back to your site.
  5. Setup Google Webmaster tools on the website. This will help in allowing the Google bot to crawl your site and look for changes and such. I would do this for the blog as well. http://www.google.com/webmasters/
  6. Make sure and use your keywords in the alt tags on all of your images, in your website. You can use variants like “christian leadership”, “christian leadership program”, “teen challenge leadership program”, etc.

Walking in the Dark

Have you ever tried walking around in the dark? It can be a little bit frightening until your eyes adjust or you find the light switch in the room. You may try taking baby steps or use your hands blindly but the reality is you are greatly at risk of stumbling. This example reminds me of how we all walk in our lives when we aren’t guided daily by the Word of God. 

ImageWhenever we walk around in darkness each day, without the guiding light of God’s Word, we are at risk of stumbling. There are several ways that you can stumble. One way we can stumble is in the area of sin. In Ephesians 6 it refers to the word of God as a Sword. Without picking up the Word for the day we are defenseless against an attack and kind easily find ourself stumbling. Also, we could miss out on some important guidance that God wants us to have in a certain circumstance that is to come that day. Without Gods Word that day, we will be ill-equipped for the hazards that may be in our path.

Your word is a lamp for my feet,
    a light on my path.

– Psalm 119:105

The Word is so important each day because it acts as a lamp for our feet. It helps us see the things we may trip over or run into. Also, It shows us places that we want to avoid stepping. Most importantly, Gods word shows us how to get to where God is calling us to. Without this ever important light guiding our each and every step we will never reach the destination that God has for us. 

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Wait for you
Waiting in this time
You see every need 
You read though every line

You knew everything about me
and still you called my name

You're all that I have looked for
Everything I needed, was in You.
I rest my head, lay down my case
I can't go back that way,
'Cause now I see it.
The Truth.

Looking back in time,
Flipping thru the pages.
All I can see are your hands 
crucified for my wages.

You knew everything about me
and still You called my name
You're all that I have looked for
Everything I needed, was in You.
I rest my head, lay down my case
I can't go back that way,
'Cause now I see it.
The Truth.
Now I see You.

Thankful for a New Life

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This week I am not only thankful just because it is Thanksgiving but also because it is when I celebrate 3 years since my life was drastically changed. This time in 2009 I found myself at the lowest point I ever could have imagined myself to be. I had ended up sleeping outside with a few belongings just south of the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. I was not allowed to see my then 2 year old son and I thought I would never stop doing drugs. I had really given up all hope.

It was this same week three years ago that I was offered a chance to change and by God’s grace I took that chance. I have a clear picture of God reaching his hand down and pulling me out of that neighborhood where I found myself. When I finally gave my life to Christ and allowed Him he changed everything. He took my apathy and gave me a heart that now cares. He took my depression and gave me a joy that nothing can quench. He took my addiction to drugs and gave me a new zeal for Real life. He gave me a new heart. He even gave me my son back.

These verses in Psalms really remind me of what God has done in my life:

The cords of death entangled me,
the anguish of the grave came over me;
I was overcome by distress and sorrow.
Then I called on the name of the Lord:
“Lord, save me!”

 The Lord is gracious and righteous;our God is full of compassion. The Lord protects the unwary; when I was brought low, he saved me.

Psalm 116:3-6

Its so amazing to look back this week and just spend some extra time focusing on all the things I have to be thankful for. My hope is that I will never forget where God has brought me from and all the miracles He has already done. Its amazing that there was a time where I saw no future and no hope and now God has restored everything.

I am so thankful for God’s unrelenting love for me. I am thankful for my family and for their forgiveness and patience with me. I am thankful for my 5 year old son and the relationship that I now have with him. I am thankful for all my friends who support me and pray for me. I am thankful for my Job, my car (even though its broken right now) and all the opportunities that I have to do ministry. It has truly been a blessing to look back this week and reflect on all I am thankful for!

What are you thankful for today? Where were you 3 years ago?

Lessons from the son of an old Tobacco Farmer

This past week I have had the opportunity to come spend some time with my grandparents and extended family that live in North Carolina. Usually my trips only ever last a few days and I only get a few minutes with everyone after it is all said and done. This trip for Thanksgiving has been very different because I came up 4 days early due to my grandmother being really sick. My mom knew she needed to come help any way she could and I didn’t want her to drive the trip alone so I packed up a bunch of stuff for my son and I in about 10 minutes and we jumped in the car with her.

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The trip has been such a blessing already. I have had some great time to talk to my family members and have especially had some extra time with my Granddaddy.  One thing that I love most about him is that he loves to tell stories and he really tells some interesting ones that remind me how much things have changed in his 85 plus year lifetime. Another thing about his stories are that they really can teach a life lesson. I want to just share a few of his stories, really briefly while I’m here, mainly so I do not forget them and will have them after he is gone.

This afternoon while eating lunch we were discussing the complexity of this toy that my son Landon was messing with at the table. He sat there for a minute and tried to remember, as hard as he could, the most complex toy he played with as a kid. He mentioned a fire truck and laughed at the fact that it had been so long he could hardly remember. Then he began to talk about his experience at Christmas each year as a child.

My granddaddy began describing to me what he and the rest of his siblings could expect each year for Christmas. He told me about how each year his parents would put a collection of candies, fruit and a single toy into an old shoebox for each of them. He seemed very nostalgic as he talked about the times, as if he didn’t feel cheated at all. He seemed so thankful. It amazed me as I began to think about the ever-growing laundry list my 5 year old has already started accumulating for Christmas in the last 72 hours and the way I grew up during the holidays. His story blew me away and reminded me how much I really take for granted.

As he continued talking he began explaining to me the intricacies of growing up in a small farm family raising tobacco in the 1920’s. He explained to me how they would cure the leaves, wrap them, put them onto a neighbors truck and took their crop into town for sale.It was this time each year, when they sold the yearly crop that was another great memory for my granddaddy. He told me how his dad would bring home one or even two big bags of fruit after he came back from selling the crop each year! This was something the kids really looked forward to.  Imagine this, they spent hours and hours after school all year long laboring and their biggest payoff as a kid was a bag of fruit. It blows my mind honestly, trying to imagine a kid doing that in modern day America and not complaining.

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Its amazing all the details that went into their work and really how much time they invested. My grandfather never played sports because it was expected of him to come home after school to work on the farm. The world was so different then and just in a few short conversations I have taken so much from his new stories and even the ones I’ve heard several times before.

Another thing that I have learned more from than anything else has been watching him take care of my granny. He helps feed, bathe and clean up after her almost constantly and does it all with patience and kindness. They have been married well over 50 years and have spent pretty much their entire lives together. Watching him serve her is a huge challenge for me on how I “serve” those I love around me. It also has helped me realize that marriage and love isn’t so much about all the pretty stuff at the beginning but the willingness to sacrifice and serve at the end.

This post has ended up far longer than I wanted it to end up, but I still want to mention one last thing. My granny was scared she was going to die for a few days last week. When we first came to visit, I sat and prayed with her and she began telling me how good Grandaddy has been to her. She told me how earlier that day he had come in and said, “You’re the best thing that happened to me, I love you so much honey…” My heart melted when she told me what he had said to her. She cried as she told me how sweet he was. Its amazing how your priorities change when you realize how brief life really is.

Are you truly Living?

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What does it mean to live or truly experience Life? The dictionary expresses simply, “To be alive; exist”. For everyone who has experienced true life in Christ knows that the dictionary doesn’t even come close to defining what true life is. True life to me is expressed in a life that is totally abandoned to Christ that is filled with a vibrant energy and desire to spread Gods love.

This morning I read something that really gave me a new perspective on how we can tell if we are really Living:

14 We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in death.

1 John 3:14

This verse tells us that the way we know we have entered into life is when we are loving others. If you want a litmus test on whether or not you are living the fulfilling life that God has called you to look to the amount of love you express to everyone around you. I believe that you can see you are experiencing true life when you not only love those people you like and enjoy but also your enemies.

Don’t just ask yourself today how your living but rather, how you are loving.

Booking a Store-front Fundraiser

In 2010, the campaign raised $12.8 million – the most ever raised during Kroger’s annual campaign. This figure represented more than 9% of the total donated to The Salvation Army nationwide during the storefront campaign.

-Kroger.com

For the non-profit that I work with we have found that store-front fundraising is an excellent way to not only raise a large amount of funds in a short period of time but can also give you a great chance for building public awareness in a community. This hands on approach allows for individuals from your organization to really describe the heart of your organization and create a lasting impression.

The organization that I work for helps people that have life-controlling issues with drug addiction, alcoholism, eating disorders and other destructive behaviors. When we send our representatives, who are usually involved and have been or are currently in the program, they can help inform others who may have family or they themselves be struggling. Our small program consisting of at the most 20 volunteers per weekend throughout the year has given out somewhere in between 50,000 and 10,000 promotional cards alone. When you think about the other 200+ programs in the Us alone that are doing similar public awareness and fundraising events you can see the vast population we reach each year.

I think that its an incredible option to not only raise money but to connect a face and personal testimony with a large group of people. If your nonprofit would like to begin doing store front fundraising it is as easy as contacting some local stores in your area and usually sending a letterhead with the who, what, what, why, when and where for your organization. If you have no Idea where to begin I have written a simply letterhead that we have used for hundreds of stores over the past few years. Feel free to pull the content and change it to fit your needs!

Here is the Template:

February 16, 2012

Walmart

123 Main St

Anycity, USA

888-555-5555

888-555-0000

Attn: NAME – (Persons tile)

We are submitting this letter as a request to set up a Public Awareness day there at your store. Your store is included in our area for doing drug and alcohol prevention and awareness. Also, we are a non-profit 501c3 organization that relies on donations and fundraisers to help keep our programs open and available for those in need. During our fundraisers we will usually send out 2-4 representatives from our program to give out information and accept donations.

The Following dates are what we have available:

July 20-21

August 24-25

September 28-29

October 26-27

November 9-10

Teen Challenge is a program focused on helping men, women and juveniles with life controlling issues such as drug addiction and alcoholism. Our organization has been around for over 50 years and has over 200 centers in the United States alone. Our program is a training center focused on training and equipping those seeking to work in Teen Challenge programs all over the world.

Sincerely,

YOUR NAME

YOUR TITLE

YOUR OGRANIZTION

888-555-0000 – Phone

888-655-4445 – Fax

Email@email.com

Question: How does your organization best raise money and public awareness with your community?

Patience leaves you… Wanting Nothing

I can very easily admit that some of the hardest lessons I have had to learn in life are related to patience. I know that I am not the only one who probably feels this way as well. Its pretty safe to say that pretty much every person is born is born with a high level of innate impatience. These past few months my patience has been tried in many more ways than one.

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The memory that sticks out more than anything is this summer when I lost the keys to my car. I spent three days at my parents house that weekend looking over and over again and could not find them anywhere. Finally on Monday morning I looked one last time and still had no luck. I started looking into a locksmith and the cost for just 1 key was going to be more money than I even had in my account. I was at a point of frustration that really can’t be captured with words. I was LIVID.

Its funny now that I think about the situation but in the moment I was far from laughing. This was just one situation where I literally came right up to this breaking point and then right before I walked in to call the locksmith I got really candid with God. I put away all my reservations on how I thought I should pray and just flat out said everything that I really wanted to. I’m not proud of what I said but its what I felt.

I finally finished saying everything when suddenly a memory comes back to my mind from when I had shown up to my parents that I had thrown some food away as getting out of my car. I then sensed God speak to me, I imagine with a hint of humor, and He said go look in the trash can ONE more time. I did, and yes they were in there on the bag of trash I had thrown away…

That whole weekend showed me how impatient I really am and the condition of my heart in such a real way. There seems to be a common thread of events in my life that show me over and over how much I need to grow in the area of patience.

I am starting to understand more and more why God is continually growing my level of patience and endurance. The process of growth is painful just like it is in any natural process like body building or long distance running and is more than worth all the effort. Each time that we are stretched we recover even stronger. With each trial and test of patience, we get closer to the perfection and completion that God has for us.

We all have the desire for satisfaction and to have all our needs met. God teaches us patience and endurance because they are the avenue in which we find true satisfaction and contentment in this life. It doesn’t mean that everything will change and start going our way but that we will begin to respond to life in a way that truly left wanting nothing.

But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.

James 1:4