blog

Get to know Youth Villages – Op4G's Non-Profit of the month.

Get to know Youth VillagesCongratulations to Youth Villages, a long time Op4G partner, for its selection as our Non-Profit of the Month for June! Being Non-Profit of the Month is a great opportunity for organizations to increase their Op4G donations by enlisting our army of volunteers to complete surveys on their behalf for an entire month.

Youth Villages is dedicated to helping children with emotional or behavioral issues, as well as preserving healthy functioning families. It has a long and successful history in communities across the United States, providing a wide range of intervention services and outreach through corporate and church groups. Aaron Keegan, the organization’s Development Manager, was pleased to accept the additional assistance from Op4G.

Learn more about Youth Villages by liking them on Facebook and help them raise donations by registering to complete surveys on their behalf here.

blog

Can Bikes Replace Cars in New York City?

bikeCall it the year of the bicycle! As of June, seven cities across the US have added bike sharing programs and another twenty are launching programs before the end of 2013. Among the most recent and publicized of these cities is New York. Since Memorial Day, New York’s Citi Bikes program has made over 6,000 bikes available at 330 docking stations in Brooklyn and Manhattan.

Modeled after successful programs in Montreal, Boston, and Barcelona, Citi Bikes sold over 29,156 total annual memberships and 75,707 rides in its first week of operation. While some users have expressed frustration (i.e. over necessary “check-ins”, occasional broken docks, overtime fees etc), many offer positive reviews. In particular, they highlight the convenience of the bikes, which unlock with the swipe of credit card and allow for quick commutes when public transportation is lacking or traffic is heavy. Some also describe the program as a “fun” way to gain an “entirely different view of the city”.

But perhaps the greatest benefit of the program is the resulting decrease in vehicle use and, by extension, greenhouse gas emissions. According to Gabe Klein, Commissioner of the Chicago Department of Transportation and a founder of the Capital Bikeshare program in Washington DC, “40% percent of trips in urban areas are 2 miles or less, but 90% of those trips are taken in a car.” Thus, if you can encourage a fraction of individuals to switch to bikes, you can considerably reduce vehicle-related emissions. In Barcelona, for example, where 11% of the population engage in bike sharing (1.7% regularly), researchers estimated that “carbon dioxide emissions may be reduced by 10,000 tons a year”.

To learn more about bike sharing and its environmental impact, please contact our partner, Clean Air Cool Plant. Also, to find a bike-sharing program near you, visit The Bike-sharing World Map.

 Flickr photo credit: Ethan Lofton

blog

How to raise $30,957.00 for charity in your spare time

Helping out a good causeWhat can a small group of volunteers accomplish in their random spare moments, without spending a dime, without having to set aside blocks of time in their busy schedules, and without leaving home or their place of work? Given those parameters, one would think little to nothing at best.

Well under those same circumstances, a few chapters of Big Brothers Big Sisters have done exactly the opposite of nothing by generating $30,957.00 in donations using Op4G’s free service for Non-Profits. It’s hard to believe, but we have the encouraging data to prove it.

How long are we talking?

Over a period of almost two years, Big Brothers Big Sisters accumulated a group of 2,521 members who take market research surveys on their behalf. These are folks who have signed up at Op4G.com, selected Big Brothers Big Sisters as their Non-Profit of choice, and agreed to receive invitations by email to take our online surveys …no more, no less.

What do you mean online surveys?

Online market research is an essential tool for companies, universities, health care researchers, and others. We assist those organizations by building and administering their online surveys, and deploy them to our members. The fees we receive are then shared back with our members, as well as our Non-Profit partners like Big Brothers Big Sisters.

How active were the Big Brothers Big Sisters volunteers?

At any given time throughout this two year period only about 15% to 20% of their 2,251 members were active and participating. We consider them active if they open the email invitations sent from Op4G. What this suggests is that you don’t need to be super attentive to help make a real difference. Most people complete one or two 15 minute surveys a month. This also suggests that Op4G’s new model of volunteerism fits very well within the demands of our digital age society. It’s all about volunteering for the cause you love, while distracted and busy.

How did they get members to sign up?

With social media, sharing something good with your friends or followers has never been easier. The participating Big Brothers Big Sisters chapters announced their partnership with Op4G in their newsletters and on their Facebook pages. Over time, with very little effort, a group of “members” signed up.

Where do we go from here?

While our overarching aim is to expand funding for Non-Profits, we’re just getting started. Our small sample of members engaged on behalf of Big Brothers Big Sisters is the tip of the iceberg, especially when you consider how much time we all spend online. It’s well known that “volunteering rates among adults have been on the rise since 1989”. And, with recent medical findings that point to quantifiable health benefits associated with volunteering, Non-Profits have great shot of benefiting significantly from the momentum.

If your favorite Non-Profit could use a boost, simply fill out the form here and we’ll take care of the rest.

blog

Op4G Volunteer of the Month: Roxanne Splett-Young!

schoolOp4G would like to recognize Roxanne Splett-Young, a sweepstakes winner! Thanks to Roxanne, the Northgate PTA received all funds donated to the “non-profit of the month” in April.

The Northgate PTA is the Parent Teacher Association for the Northgate Elementary School in Seattle, Washington. Roxanne selected Northgate PTA as her non-profit of choice as it was a “great and easy way” to support her daughter’s school. This support, she felt, was especially important given recent funding cuts and the school’s high percentage of ESL students and free/reduced lunches.

Roxanne first learned about Op4G from a fellow member of the PTA. She joined the Op4G panel shortly thereafter, in late 2010. Since then, Roxanne has earned approximately $100 for the Northgate PTA and has encouraged the entire association to join. In her view, “Programs like Op4G are great because there is no cost for families and yet there can be a return… It is easy and you can decide how time consuming it will be”.

In addition to donating through Op4G, Roxanne volunteers for the Northgate Reads program. She also supports the PTA of her children’s current school. Congratulations again to Roxanne Splett-Young!

Flickr photo credit: Bob Kelly

blog

Donate to the Lupus Foundation of America (DC / MD / VA Chapter) through our upcoming study

Donate to Lupus Foundation of AmericaOp4G will be administering an upcoming study targeting Lupus patients within the next two weeks.  This is an opportunity for Lupus patients to direct their survey earnings to the Lupus Foundation of America (DC / MD / VA Chapter).  Please join Op4G to help “solve the cruel mystery of Lupus”.

The goal of this study, conducted by researchers in Medical Social Sciences, is to better understand the symptoms, side effects, and quality of life of people living with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE).  For this study, individuals with SLE will be asked to complete surveys over the next 6 months.  By repeating the surveys over several months we will gain new knowledge on how symptoms and quality of life change over time.  This information will help researchers design better therapies for SLE and understand the impact of SLE therapies for patient well-being.

Results will likely be published in a scientific journal in 1-2 years.

blog

Carbon Dioxide Levels Surpass Troubling Milestone

smokeIn May, 2013, carbon dioxide levels in our atmosphere surpassed a “long-feared milestone” – an average daily level of 400 parts per million. This new level marks the highest concentration of atmospheric CO2 in over 3 million years, according to best available evidence from Hawaii’s Mauna Loa observatory.

To environmentalists, the finding is more than an interesting fact. It represents a disturbing long-term trend which, if continued, could prove catastrophic. In the words of Robert Keeling of the Scripps Institute of Oceanography,  “We are quickly losing the possibility of keeping the climate below what people thought were possibly tolerable thresholds”.

The finding also signals a collective failure on the part of governments. With few exceptions, governments have proved unable or unwilling to meet defined CO2 targets. In fact, in some cases, emissions are actually rising at an accelerating pace.

At Op4G, we are grateful to partner with several non-profits working to combat rising CO2 levels. Clean Air-Cool Planet, for example, aims to scale-up innovative solutions to reduce carbon emissions, prepare for climate change, and build support for effective climate policies. Solar Sonoma County is a consortium of businesses, elected officials, city governments and individuals dedicated to reducing greenhouse gases through the installation of solar and energy efficiency applications. Additionally, the American Lung Association in California is committed to reducing air pollution and global warming.

If you are concerned by CO2 levels and climate change, please consider completing Op4G surveys for these non-profits today!

Flickr photo credit: 3rr

blog

Get downright Mucky for MS in Philly this Saturday and Sunday

MuckFest does a lot for MSMuckFest™ is a fun run type of obstacle course layered and oozing with mud.  This Saturday and Sunday come out to the MuckFest in Philly and cheer on the participants as they make their way through the 5 mile gauntlet.  This a great event and all the donations raised benefit the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

According the event organizers…  “There’s beer, great food and music in the MuckFestival area. We operate on “the more, the muckier” principle, so bring your friends and family to join in the hilarious spills and thrills. We even have a specially-designed mucky play-lot for the kids called Lil’ Muckers.”  Seriously… that’s the name.  If you’re not interested in getting dirty, then please come out to volunteer to help with registration, t-shirts, gear-check, etc.

Check out the MuckFest Pics

This event is run throughout the United States each year in 18 different cities.  Check out the MuckFest schedule to find out if the mud will be making its way near you soon.

Can’t come out this time?  You can help in other ways by supporting the National Multiple Sclerosis Society Greater Delaware Valley Chapter by taking surveys on their behalf through Op4G.

Photo Credits: National MS Society

blog

Growing Places – a New Hampshire Non-Profit just keeps growing.

Welcome to one of our newest Non-Profits, Growing Places in New Hampshire. This unique and highly effective organization has been providing childcare, early education, and youth recreation services since 1978. Like many of our partners, Growing Places focuses their passions on improving and investing in their local community. Having worked as a School Psychologist for 6 years in the public schools, I can appreciate the value they bring to kids and families.

The secret to their success is knowing that “every dollar raised for early childhood education saves a community an estimated $17 in future costs such as education, adjudication, and remedial services. Children that graduate from a quality early education program are more likely to have success in their education and careers.”

Their programs are designed for infants through school-age children and they provide childcare, education and recreation every day to 150 children at three locations in New Hampshire. Please support our partner by signing up on their behalf.

blog

Obama Care, Bumps in the Road

Obama Care ApprovedAs a small business, Op4G covers 70% of our employees’ medical insurance costs through a group plan with Anthem Insurance. Typically, at this time of the year, our broker will reach out to us with quotes on competitive insurance carriers for our August 1st renewal. As a small business owner, I am concerned by articles stating that small businesses may see the price of medical insurance increase by 20% to 50% upon enactment of the reform.

Given my limited knowledge of the topic and its potentially significant effects, I thought it would be best to attend an open forum this week hosted by Centrix Bank Co-Founder Joe Reilly. The forum featured a discussion with Greg Walker, CEO of Wentworth Douglas Hospital (the #2 ranked hospital in NH) on the hospital’s preparation for the October 1st roll out of the Obama Care Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) Exchanges.

During the discussion, Walker gave a brief overview of the Obama Care Act and strategic measures the hospital was implementing to manage patient care and meet their federal mandate of never refusing health service. He explained that the current challenge of a hospital is managing the cost of patient fees, as over 50% of the hospital charges are from uninsured individuals and most are not collectable. To balance these losses, a hospital is left with no choice but to charge more to insured individuals.

Walker then discussed health care models. He noted that while the majority of hospitals in America concentrate on treating sick people, forward thinking hospitals like Wentworth Douglas are changing their business model to focus on improving patient health and providing health care managers. Such managers can ensure patient compliance with doctors’ orders and prescriptions, thereby reducing the incidence of future hospital visits (e.g. from 11 to 1 annual visit for one elderly patient) and saving Medicare thousands of dollars. The Obama plan hopes to secure these savings through a managed patient care program that promotes and financially rewards hospital for keeping patients healthy.

In an effort to contain its costs, the Wentworth Douglas Hospital is currently weighing the cost control benefits of patient care through bundled payments. Other cost control consideration raised during the forum centered on unnecessary procedures for elderly individuals and “death with dignity” nationwide acceptance.

The forum offered a solid overview of healthcare approaches and cost containment in America. However, to my disappointment, Walker had very little information on the roll out of the SHOP exchange program and how the hospital will guide patients through the application process. In Walker’s words, it is as if he is “driving his car, knowing where he was going, but not being able to see clearly through the windshield”.

It looks like we are going to need a lot of straight road. Unfortunately, for small businesses there are going to be a lot of bumps along the way. So hold on!

Image Credit:
“Photo by Chuck Kennedy; U.S. Government Work”
http://obamacarefacts.com/obamacare-facts.php

blog

Op4G Partner Profile: Big Brothers Big Sisters of America

big brothers big sistersOp4G has long been a supporter of Big Brothers Big Sisters of America (BBBS). In fact, as of May 2013, Op4G is partnered with 16 Big Brothers Big Sisters chapters across the US—from Maine to Texas to Puget Sound!

Founded in 1904 by a court clerk troubled by the number of juvenile offenders, Big Brothers Big Sisters aims to help children in adversity reach their full potential. To achieve this mission, the organization pairs boys and girls (“Littles”) with caring and professionally-supported volunteer mentors (“Bigs”).

According to national research, “Littles” and “Bigs” meet 3 times monthly, on average. The relationship that develops leads to “direct and measurable impacts on children’s lives”. For example, Little Brothers and Sisters are 46% less likely to begin using illegal drugs, 27% less likely to begin using alcohol, and 52% less likely to skip school. They are also more confident in school and get along better with family members.

So how can you help Big Brothers Big Sisters of America? If you have a few hours of free time each month, consider volunteering to be a “Big”. Simply fill out an online application (at www.bbbs.org) and a BBBS staff member will contact you shortly. We also encourage you to complete Op4G surveys on behalf of our BBBS partners (Op4G Non Profit Partners). If your local BBBS chapter is not on our list, please refer them by completing our non-profit sign up form.