Author Archives: Heather Conover

8th January 2016        Holiday Giving, Nonprofits     ,     No comments yet

The Conover + Gould team will be donating to ten causes in the spirit of giving back during the holiday season. During December and January, each team member will be blogging about their chosen nonprofit. For her gift, Paula chose St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.

According to The American Childhood Cancer Organization, there are an estimated 15,780 children in the U.S. between the ages of birth and 19-years old who are diagnosed with cancer each year. Globally more than 250,000 children are diagnosed with the disease each year. Thanks to treatment advances, survival rates for many types of childhood cancer have improved. However, for too many kids cancer will shorten their lives. Cancer remains the most common cause of death by disease for children in America.

St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital works hard to be at the cutting-edge of the latest medicine and research in fighting life-threatening pediatric diseases, such as cancer. The greatest thing St. Jude’s does is shield families from the expense of treatment. St. Jude says that “families never receive a bill from St. Jude for treatment, travel, housing or food.”  St. Jude does accept insurance; however, many services provided by St. Jude have never been covered by insurance, and will not be in the future.

St. Jude treats some of the toughest cases of childhood cancer. They also have the world’s best survival rates for some of the most aggressive cancers.

I have a soft spot in my heart for children. I wish all children could live with peace, love, security, food, and health. I want them to be able to just be kids and enjoy that period of their lives. Many years ago, I volunteered for Make-A-Wish Foundation. But I’ve always been drawn to St. Jude for all the good work they do. It costs $2 million a day to operate St. Jude, and 75% of the funds to cover those costs come from public donations. If the contribution in my name will can help save a life and ease the financial burden for parents who need to be strong for their children, it makes me sincerely happy.

30th December 2015        Uncategorized     No comments yet

The Conover + Gould team will be donating to ten causes in the spirit of giving back during the holiday season. During December and January, each team member will be blogging about their chosen nonprofit. For his gift, Jon chose DC Greens.

According to the 2014 US Department of Agriculture Household Food Security in the United States survey, the occupants of 13.2% of households in the District of Columbia didn’t have enough to eat. The survey found that households with incomes near or below the Federal poverty line suffer from the highest rates of food insecurity. People living in food insecure homes skip meals, are more likely to suffer from obesity and other health issues stemming from the consumption of poor quality food, and experience longer and deeper bouts of hunger.

DC Greens is a nonprofit that started out as a farmer’s market serving fresh fruit and vegetable to neighborhood children. DC Greens now works with other DC nonprofits, schools, farmer’s markets, the local government and other partners to improve at-risk children’s and families’ access to fresh food. The Fruit and Vegetable Prescription Program, launched in 2012, now serves 200 DC residents, and also provides valuable data on the benefits of bringing healthy food to families.

DC Greens works with more than 50 teachers in schools across the District to integrate food education and garden science into existing curriculum. In the Cooking Corps program, undergraduate and graduate student interns lead hands-on cooking demonstrations with students from third through eighth grades. DC Greens also serves as the state lead of the National Farm to School Network, which convenes stakeholders from the classroom, cafeteria, farm and garden to identify challenges and find solutions for how best serve their communities.

I chose DC Greens to help support its mission to fight hunger, improve access to high quality food, and its collaborative approach to educating others about the benefits of eating well.

29th December 2015        Holiday Giving     ,     No comments yet

The Conover + Gould team will be donating to ten causes in the spirit of giving back during the holiday season. During December and January, each team member will be blogging about their chosen nonprofit. For her gift, Minna chose Playworks.

I spent a lot of time outside as a kid, and I loved playing outdoors. I still do! In Finland, school children spend at least an hour a day on recess – always outside, come rain or shine or snow. The end of every class is punctuated with a 15-minute break. All this play pays off as Finland consistently scores high on the international PISA tests that assess and compare student performance around the world. It’s hard to say why Finland does so well, but research shows that play is powerful.

How does play work? Besides redirecting pent up energy, play also promotes learning. Kids learn important social competencies: how to communicate, resolve conflict, collaborate, compromise. They return to class refreshed, focused and better behaved. Our brains need a break!

In the U.S., almost a third of schools with children at the highest poverty levels have no recess at all. Those that do have recess often report it to be uncontrollable chaos - more destructive than refreshing. This is where Playworks comes in. They partner with schools, districts, and after-school programs to support recess and healthy play during recess. This ranges from providing on-site recess coaches that float on the schoolyard to keep everyone engaged and included; a school coordinator to teach, model and empower a sustainable recess program; or a trainer to help staff create and maintain a play environment throughout the school year.

Playworks serves more than 900 schools in 23 cities, and reaches more than half a million students directly and through training. In the District of Columbia, Playworks places coaches at 18 low-income area schools to organize games and activities, and show teachers how to incorporate more physical activity into the day. Coaches don’t stand on the sidelines and bark orders. They get messy, they play along with the students, and chaos is organically transformed into safe, active recess. Teachers at participating schools report both a decrease in bullying and an increase in academic engagement. Play works!

Play theorist Brian Sutton-Smith said it best: “The opposite of play is not work – the opposite of play is depression.” So remember to make some time for play for yourself, for your children and the children in your community. You can donate to Playworks by clicking here. $100 will fund balls, cones, and jump ropes for three schools!

 

27th December 2015        Holiday Giving     ,     No comments yet

The Conover + Gould team will be donating to ten causes in the spirit of giving back during the holiday season. During December and January, each team member will be blogging about their chosen nonprofit. For his gift, Matt chose the NAC Food Pantry.

The NAC Food Pantry is an emergency food pantry located in my hometown, Northbridge, MA. Its mission is to help local families in need who are struggling with food insecurity.

Food insecurity is a condition where someone has limited access to food based on their economic or social status. When we think of food insecurity, we tend to think of the homeless or those who are unemployed. In fact, over 1 in 7 Americans struggle with this issue, and 85% of food-insecure households with children have at least one working parent. It’s an issue that is particularly hard on people of color and people living in rural communities.

The NAC Food Pantry works to solve this issue by providing food, household items and hygiene products to 100 local families in need per month. Everyone that walks through its doors is treated with compassion and respect, regardless of the difficulties they’re facing.

As a volunteer, I’ve been able to see how my hometown has rallied behind the Pantry over the years. Our local Shaw’s and Hannaford stores donate food to the Pantry, and many other local businesses hold fundraisers for the Pantry throughout the year. Additionally, students at Northbridge High School are in charge of a Community Garden, which has grown 1800 pounds of fresh produce for the Pantry this year alone. It’s inspiring to see so many people come together to help local families in need.

Please click here to learn more about the NAC Food Pantry and how to make a donation.

26th December 2015        Holiday Giving     ,     No comments yet

The Conover + Gould team will be donating to ten causes in the spirit of giving back during the holiday season. During December and January, each team member will be blogging about their chosen nonprofit. For her gift, Kemi chose Operation Smile.

I am a first-time mom, and my daughter is my world! My favorite thing to do is to tickle her until she breaks into a smile. Unfortunately, some kids can’t have a beautiful smile because they were born with a facial deformity; and that is why I have chosen Operation Smile. Its mission is to help children born with a cleft lip/palate to get free and safe reconstructive surgery. Most of its patients are poor and lack access to surgical care. It costs as little as $240 to help a child have cleft surgery.

Operation Smile has provided over 240,000 free surgeries. The stories of the kids and their families are so heartwarming, and I hope to help Operation Smile to help more kids through this donation. The generous gift from Conover + Gould this holiday season will give the gift of a beautiful smile to moms like me all around the world.

25th December 2015        Holiday Giving         No comments yet

The Conover + Gould team will be donating to ten causes in the spirit of giving back during the holiday season. During December and January, each team member will be blogging about their chosen nonprofit. For her gift, Sally chose the International Rescue Committee.

As a student of European politics who started my Masters’ work last fall, I have been intensely aware of how the Syrian migration crisis has grown rapidly and with an urgent need for assistance. Help is needed to support the refugees in the vicinity of Syria, who have been displaced by the conflict and also those who are seeking asylum around the world, in particular in the EU. The International Rescue Committee (IRC) is working to improve many aspects of this crisis, from providing healthcare and immediate help to vulnerable populations in the Syria region, to helping refugees through the asylum process in the EU, to helping a successful resettlement of refugees in the U.S. All of these steps are critically important work, and the IRC understands the importance of supporting children first and foremost as they attempt to resume their education and get the necessary food and health care to learn and grow.

31st August 2015        Media Relations     ,     No comments yet

Imagine you’re representing a hospital that’s just promoted the VP of finance to the CEO position. On the way to a swanky reception dinner, the communications director tells you he expects a story in the Wall Street Journal or Forbes by the end of the week. “Got it?” he tells you. Click.

You gulp in trepidation. “WSJ? Impossible!” you think. But instead of feeling sorry for yourself, feel sorry for the journalist on the other end who has to sit through his 35th story idea today.

We get so wrapped up in our own PR worries that we often forget the reporter on the other line is also – surprise! – a human being too. They have deadlines to meet, interviews to run to, and an endless stream of emails to read just like you. Treating the journalist with respect and goodwill may be the extra oomph that sets your pitch apart.

To show a reporter you care, consider these quick tips:

  1. Show some respect. We may see journalists as vessels for our message and forget that they, too, are searching for insightful story ideas that will earn them the respect of their peers and readers. Only pitch stories that contribute to their body of work. Irrelevant ideas are not only a distraction, but can seem insulting. It could harm your relationship with the journalist in the long run.
  1. Know how a newsroom operates. Reporters have to justify stories to their editor and may risk personal capital pitching a half-baked idea. Do the legwork by developing a compelling, coherent narrative that explains why your story is relevant in the "real world." Reporters also cover very specific beats, so do your homework and take the time to familiarize yourself with their unique content and writing style.
  1. Arm your journalist with the tools they need. Would you ever show up to a transatlantic flight without a passport? Of course not. So why would you expect reporters to type up earth-shattering works of journalistic genius without providing any of the materials? Today, journalists need to think through a multimedia perspective so their stories receive enough page views, attract social media buzz, and generate sufficient ad revenue. If you can offer access to an exclusive photo or video, you’re going to be taken a lot more seriously because you understand how the industry is evolving.

Above all, don’t treat reporters like mindless, typing robots. With a little patience, planning and – yes – humanity, you can help a journalist develop a fantastic story that pleases your boss and theirs.


This month, we highlight the Academy of Hope, a local nonprofit organization, which focuses on providing basic education to the marginalized adult populations of the Washington, D.C. area.

Academy of HopeThe educational inequality between marginalized adults and the rest of the adult population is no starker than in Washington, DC, where one-third of adults are considered illiterate and one-in-five lack a high school diploma. Thirty years ago, two teachers, Maria Hilfiker and Gayle Boss, set out to take the first steps toward breaking the cycle of poverty that has flourished in the Washington, DC region in large part due to the lack of access to education and opportunity to learn basic life skills. The teachers founded the Academy of Hope with a vision to change lives and improve communities by providing high-quality basic education to adult learners.

The academy provides a continuum of services ranging from adult basic education to workplace skills and literacy training programs. Academy of Hope programs are accessible to adults with limited financial resources. Students can volunteer in exchange for enrollment or pay a $30 fee per semester.

AOH students are empowered to continue their education after completing these programs, with some 60% of graduates attending college, vocational training or other higher education. Since its founding in 1985, AOH has helped 6,000 adults improve basic reading, writing, math and computer skills.

AOH has made significant progress toward improving the educational opportunities available to adults, who in turn are more likely to become invested in their children’s education and future. 53% of parents who participated in AOH’s programs say that they are more involved in their children’s education.  AOH believes that parental involvement in their children’s education is a crucial first step towards breaking the cycle of poverty.  The need for adult education programs is still as important today as it was 30 years ago.

To learn more about the about the important programs offered by Academy of Hope, visit their website.


Engaging stakeholders early in the process with open and trustworthy communication will help a project succeed.

Over our four part Building Consensus blog series, we will explore the unique requirements of consensus building in initial project planning, siting, permitting, and construction phases of a project.

In this post, we reiterate the importance communicating with your stakeholders in the planning and siting phase, if not earlier.

A project requiring public permits is by definition going to be public, and without talking to the public, it is impossible to anticipate all of the concerns of the community that will “host” the project. By seeking and obtaining stakeholder input early in the planning process, project developers will gain an understanding of community questions, concerns and suggestions and help avoid surprises and major opposition during the permitting phase. True stakeholder involvement at the outset also helps build a positive, transparent and mutually respectful working relationship.

Consensus Building 2

 

  1. Ask, “Who are the stakeholders?”

The stakeholders are the people who are invested or impacted by the project. Reach out to and engage in two-way communication with a diverse group of interested parties to understand anti-development concerns and to educate stakeholders about the benefits.

If unfamiliar with the city or town in which the proposed project would be sited, reach out to the leaders, influencers and others that work and live in the community, including:

  • Town officials
  • Local law firms
  • Engineering firm
  • Business and civic organizations
  • Community leaders
  1. Listen up

Giving stakeholders everything they ask for may very well not be possible, but actively listening to them is of vital importance. Respect and acknowledge their concerns, even if you disagree, and when appropriate, go back and study the situation further. Provide stakeholders with information that helps them understand your decisions, especially when they are contrary to the wishes of our stakeholders. Acknowledge where the project will or may have negative impacts and when possible, make an adjustment or accommodation to the plan. It’s human nature to focus on the negatives more than the positives, so be ready to address them head on and offer the community tangible benefits that they will value.

  1. Use available tools for two-way communication and education

A dedicated website, web-based applications and social media presence can help project planners and managers communicate important information about the benefits of proposed project (e.g., jobs and taxes) and, equally important, the negative impacts (e.g., construction noise and traffic). Remember, information flows two-ways. Educate stakeholders, learn from them and post the information in places that are convenient to your stakeholders.

  1. Meet with working groups

Regular meetings with representatives from your stakeholder groups will give you consistent and effective updates through the planning, siting, permitting and building phases. They can act as a sounding board and help the developers learn about each constituency’s issues.

  1. Gain trust

Transparency and openness build trust. Developers must engage the community early and often, and have the patience when neighbors need to vent about previous negative experiences with your company or other developers before moving forward with the project at hand. A bad process not only detracts from the project, but once accused of a lack of transparency, the opposition circles and getting that first shovel in the ground becomes much more difficult.

 

Read further examples on these steps in  Building Consensus for Your Project, Part 2.

 

30th December 2014        Holiday Giving     ,     No comments yet

The Conover + Gould team will be donating to eleven nonprofits in the spirit of giving back during the holiday season. During the month of December, each team member will be blogging about his or her chosen nonprofit. For her gift, Heather chose "e" inc.

“e” inc. has been one of my favorite local Boston organizations for many years.  This wonderful organization provides children and adults with a scientific understanding of the earth’s natural biomes, resources and systems which when combined with hands-on experiments, observation and field work, helps us understand our current and future environmental challenges.

Led by the dynamic, brilliant and energetic, Dr. Ricky Stern, the e-inc. team of educators inspires environmental change in urban neighborhoods through their school year and summer programs. Their latest endeavor is to build a LEED-certified Environment Science Discovery & Action Museum in Boston that will not only help visitors explore the planet, but also teach them how they can protect it in their daily lives.

We need more organizations like “e”-inc. that are building communities of engaged, caring and motivated young (and older) people committed to taking action to ensure a sustainable planet.

To learn more, or to make a donation, please click here!