Horses as Family?

The subject has come up lately about bringing in new horses and selling others. I’ve been faced with students, parents and supporters who feel like this reduces our horses to commodities to be bought sold or traded at will. It seems like time to debunk this train of thought.

First, for every horse for whom we find a wonderful home, we are able to receive, rescue, care for another soul. The number of horses in America who end up at slaughterhouses is staggering. This year, the number of horses sent to slaughter in the US and Canada is expected to be 100,000. The work we do at Square Pegs is committed to be “one horse, one student at a time.” This is important work to us here.

Currently, with staff (that’s me) and volunteers at this level, the 9 horses we are caring for today is about all we can handle. This means that each horse is cared for, groomed, vaccinated, has regular vet and hoof care, special diets and exercise and lesson plans appropriate to their mental and physical needs are attended to. If you have spent any time at the barn, you know that there is ALWAYS work to be done. During the short days of winter, darkness seems to fall about 20 minutes too soon. Our board bill would make you cry. And our board just recently went up!

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Why Blog?

The Donor Power Blog has a good article on the reasons a non-profit should blog and the reasons they should not:

Donor Power Blog: Should your nonprofit blog?

So, what are our reasons for starting this blog? Well, for one thing, it was easy. Joell and I are comfortable writing, so that makes it easier for us (other than finding the time). The blog software we use, Movable Type, is very easy to use and provides all the sophisticated interfaces for syndication, plug-ins, authoring, comments and trackbacks. And now we’re going to hook it more directly into our website so that it serves as regularly updated content there. Joell uses ecto, which is wonderful on the Mac, and I use Performancing and the Movable Type web interface because ecto on windows just doesn’t work as well. (I can’t WAIT to be off of my windows machine! But that’s a topic for anotherposting.)

But mostly we started this blog because we wanted to capture more of the stories about what we do and what happens every day at Square Pegs. As we teach, learn about running and non-profit and note interesting trends and ideas, we hope people come to understand better what this is all about a are compelled to get involved. Maybe they’ll send us a check, or maybe they’ll volunteer. Or maybe they’ll be inspired to go support some other cause that really has their heart. That’s OK too!

The Donor Power Blog article mentions how few people are “reading blogs”. But I don’t think that’s really a barrier. Your own supporters are your first customers for your blog. If they know you are blogging and are interested in your cause ( and have computer access), they’ll come and read what you write. Make sure they like it, and make sure they believe that what you’re writing captures the story of your organization.

I also believe that many people have read a blog but don’t even know it. To them it’s just a website. But folks (techies like me) get hung up on the specifics and on the buzz-words. Heck, our friend Joe Shelton has a blog, and doesn’t even know it – because he just writes a new story every day on the front page of his website. No archive, no categories, no RSS feed, just great stories about life on a Horse Rescue ranch. I don’t just call it a blog because he updates it all the time, but because it’s all about the stories. That’s the key – the stories.

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Who’s Guy Kawasaki?

Well, since I mentioned Guy I’ll point you to his blog and a specific posting that is one of my favorite Guy-isms. It’s a version of his commencement address that he’s given a few times and it’s a great illustration of why I read everything Guy puts out.

Let the Good Times Roll by Guy Kawasaki: Hindsights

The rest of Guy’s blog is also some familiar stuff if you’ve already been reading Guy’s books, but I think his blog will be worth following. I’ve certainly got it on my GoogleReader

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Creating Evangelists for our cause

It’s great to see some folks in the Non-profit community paying attention to the sage advice of Guy Kawasaki:

Donor Power Blog: How to create charity evangelists

From the beginning, we’ve thought about how to create this sort of commitment and involvement with Square Peg Foundation. We know we have some good success with some individuals. But I always wonder what we might be missing. If you just talk to the folks who are already committed, then you won’t find out what you need to do better if you want to hook the folks who are almost, but not quite, hooked.

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Weather Hold

We are on weather hold here on the coast again. It’s been pouring rain here today, except when it isn’t. The last month has been tough on us because this weather requires that we cancel lessons, and we never quite make them all up. That hurts program revenue and we’re still running pretty tight financially.

The bad weather also means extra work for us. The horses stll need exercise, and we have to be especially careful of blanketing and other care to be sure our buddies don’t all get sick.

Hopefully by next year we’ll have a covered arena, making us at least a little bit more weather-proof!

Technology use in Non-Profits

I’m doing some planning for the second half of our fiscal year (January – June) and I’m finding it very useful to watch the “nptech” tag on Technorati. This allows me to easily see new blog postings and news regarding the use of technology in the non-profit sector. Check out the technorati listing here:

Technorati Tag: nptech

Since many of you are not really techies, I’ll explain a little. A Blog is just a space for regular news or commentary, or items of interest. Some Blogs are very specific (such as Square Pegs blog). A specifically creeated tag like nptech allows the community to identify each other quickly and find new folks. Technorati is a service for “tagging” blogs and finding them according to how they are “tagged”. The bookmarking/tagging service is another system that works a little differently.

The whole noptech idea came from some conversations on Omidyar Network, a wonderful community of people, all committed to making a difference

Acceptance of new ideas

Today Seth Godin posted about inertia and product adoption. So now I’m thinking again about how we communicate about Square Peg Foundation, our mission and our programs.

Of course, the whole idea behind Square Pegs is a bit new for most people, and getting people to accept new ideas, or even small changes to their old ideas, is hard. People don’t pay attention and even when they do, they resist change.

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Stories and thoughts

Our work generates stories. Lots of stories. We use these stories to hep people understand what we do, and we also use these stories to do what we do. The best stories work in both ways – supporting the growth of our program, and also supporting the work oof our program.

Our supporters and friends know this, of course. They want more. And we understand that we need to share stories more often and more widely. So that’s the first purpose of this Blog.

The second purpose of this Blog is to share our thoughts and ideas. Sometimes this will be practical questions of expanding our network of support or administering the programs, and sometimes we will share ideas that are more philosophical regarding why we do what we do and how it works.

We will be sharing authorship of this Blog. At first, Joell and I will do the writing. But we hope to have some contrbutions from our students and supporters in the future. If you have ideas about this, please let us know!