Author Archives: Kevin Gould

31st 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 his gift, Kevin chose Horace Mann Educational Associates.

I am proud to volunteer for and support HMEA, a nonprofit agency serving nearly 4,000 people with Autism and developmental disabilities in Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

According the Centers for Disease Control, incidence of autism has been rising over the past 20 years and is now estimated to be 1 in 68 children. It is conservatively estimated that 75,000 people are diagnosed with autism in Massachusetts alone.

The cost of providing care for a person with autism in the U.S. is an estimated $1.4 million over their lifetime, according to a study funded by advocacy group Autism Speaks. For those with autism who are impacted with intellectual disabilities (with an IQ of 70 or less) — nearly half of the autistic population — the cost jumps to $2.3 million. On average autism costs a family $60,000 a year. Nationally, expenditure on autism treatment is estimated at 160 billion dollars and is expected to increase five-fold to 800 billion by 2030.

A recent report from the Massachusetts Autism Commission determined that tremendous gaps in services and supports exist and that there is a critical need to develop a comprehensive approach that will respond to the needs of this burgeoning autism population.

Fortunately, HMEA is working to close some of these gaps. They provide an Autism Resource Center for families, a school for students ages 9 to 22, assistive technology services,  home-based childrens’ servicesday programs where adults with developmental disabilities can learn work/life skills and receive job training and employment, residential and shared living programs, and so much more.

Earlier this year, HMEA held an autism summit that convened local, regional and state leaders to discuss the impact of autism on communities in Massachusetts. HMEA is also developing a new model program called, Students for Higher – Rising up for Autism, to train college students as behavioral therapists and respite providers for children with autism.

Despite the multiple funding sources available to Massachusetts families today, there is a critical shortage of skilled therapy and respite workers needed to meet the care needs of children and families with autism. As a result, many families are on a six-month waiting list for in-home services. The goal of the Students for Higher program is to significantly reduce the number of families of children (and adults) with autism who are desperately waiting for in-home therapy services and respite in Central Massachusetts.

To learn more about HMEA and the many valuable services and supports they provide to people with autism and developmental disabilities, visit www.hmea.org.

22nd 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, Jillian chose UUUM’s Renewal House.

Renewal House is a small domestic violence shelter in the Boston area, but the services they offer go beyond just a safe place to sleep. Through its programs and services, Renewal House builds a supportive community for victims.

Renewal House is a shelter based on the principles of restorative justice, the understanding that everyone involved experiences hurt when domestic violence occurs and a focus on forgiveness. According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, domestic violence between partners affects nearly 12 million women and men in the United States each year. This number includes incidents between same sex couples, and grows larger when we count the number of children affected. As one of the few shelters in this area that has the ability to host families, Renewal House allows adults affected by domestic violence to secure safe housing for themselves and their children.

Recognizing the signs of abuse and deciding to leave an abusive relationship comes with many struggles including loss of financial and emotional support. For those living in the shelter, a supportive community emerges through group therapy and support forums, art therapy, and community outings with former residents, advocates, and volunteers. In addition, advocates at the shelter work with residents to find safe housing, secure necessary services such as healthcare, and assist with job searches. Other resources include English as a Second Language, computer skills and citizenship classes. In the larger community, Renewal House works to end domestic violence by offering conflict resolution classes and general education on the warning signs of abuse.

As a former volunteer at Renewal House, I’ve witnessed first-hand the dedication of advocates and volunteers and the impact they make. To help support their most recent development, a partnership with a transition house for victims of domestic violence, I’ve chosen Renewal House for my holiday donation.

To make a donation to benefit Renewal House, please click here and designate your donation to "Renewal House."

30th June 2014        Nonprofit of the Month, Nonprofits     No comments yet

This month we turn our non-profit spotlight on Franklin, Massachusetts-based Horace Mann Education Associates (HMEA).hmea

HMEA’s highly skilled and caring staff provide a wide array of services for people with disabilities; from educational programs for toddlers to young adults, housing and everyday living support, to employment and habilitation programs.

HMEA provides services to nearly 4,000 people in 110 communities in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. These services help meet the range of needs for people with disabilities that they may not otherwise receive. They work to promote the values, dreams, and potential of people with disabilities through education, support and life experience.

While their services are truly impressive, their accomplishments demonstrate how they are fulfilling their mission. HMEA’s Early Intervention program works with children newly diagnosed with Autism, Pervasive Development Disorder or other Autism Spectrum Disorders to provide intensive educational services in home and in the community. This also helps families understand the needs of the children. Their Day Habilitation programs provide services that promote individuality, self-reliance, and self-support by helping people determine their interested skill areas and becoming more involved with the community. Day Habilitation programs provide on-site nursing, speech language therapy, and physical or occupational therapy.

They also put the people they serve to work, helping them learn valuable job and life skills. HMEA operates several redemption and recycling centers and operates a landscaping service. They also partner with companies large and small to provide a wide range of employment opportunities in the community for individuals with disabilities.

In addition, HMEA has started its own consulting service, Cloud For Causes, which provides cost-effective IT services to other area non-profits as a way to defray overhead expenses and maximize the amount of funding available for direct services.

To learn more about all the great things HMEA is doing for people of all ages with developmental disabilities, visit their website or, better yet, check out their new video.


Lately, I have been fascinated by the way that new technology is taking us full circle in the evolution of mass communication. We are essentially becoming modern-day cavemen and cavewomen.

If you think back to how early humans first began to “mass communicate”, it was through pictures and grunting sounds. In fact, humans were telling stories with pictures as far back as 40,000 years ago when rock walls were the communication medium of choice rather than something you climb at the gym on your lunch hour. I wonder who the first prehistoric human was to use a handheld mobile device by drawing a picture on a smaller rock that he or she could carry around rather than having to wait for everyone to come look at the static message on the cave wall?

While images have always been a powerful way to communicate, it has never been easier than it is today to communicate visual messages. The ability to capture and create visual images with incredibly powerful handheld technology and the growth of social media sites and apps for sharing them has created a visual messaging Renaissance at the expense of the written word.

There is no doubt that we are using fewer words and more visuals—photos, videos, infographics, wordclouds, memes, etc.—to communicate our messages today than compared to a few years ago. We don’t always communicate in complete sentences or even use complete words. We grunt with our thumbs in an odd new language of text abbreviations, auto-correct gobbledygook and emoticons.

While this is a troubling development to those who believe we are losing the ability to communicate effectively through the written word, is it really a bad thing? What is the right amount of visuals versus text? Is there such a thing as too many pictures? And just because we have all these new visual tools, are we really any good at using them to communicate clearly and effectively?

Here are a few examples of the balance between the visual and written content as we ponder these questions:

Example 1: Print

The French newspaper, Libération, published their November 14th article with no photographs to showcase the importance of visual communication.

frenchnews
Photograph from British Journal of Photography

Would you buy a paper or magazine with absolutely no photographs?

Example 2: Social Media

Social media has exploded with pictures and videos to pull the reader into reading more. Recently, even Twitter has adopted the ability to display photos and video. The following two examples help demonstrate the visual power of social media. 

Example A: A tweet from the Wall Street Journal uses a snapshot of the front page to attract visitors on Twitter.

wsjtweet

You are able to instantly see some of the day’s major headlines. Does this attract you to click through see the full details?

Check out the second example from Facebook.

Example B: A Facebook post from Safeway using Pinterest images to get readers interested in learning new Thanksgiving sides recipes (and of course, buy those food items courtesy of Safeway).

safewaypinterest

The truly interesting part of this post is that it blends two social media channels together. Images on Safeway’s Pinterest are used to pull the audience from Facebook. Did it work? Starting to feel hungry?

Example 3: Infographics

Infographics are a popular way to translate more complex issues. These are a true test between the written and visual communication. How much text can actually fit on that map? Is text even necessary on the chart? Check out a couple examples that demonstrate the options.

Example A: The New York Time is regularly praised for their infographics. Not only do people find them visually pleasing and informative, they are often interactive. Below is an infographic done in February to display how President Obama might write the 2013 budget proposal.

Image 1

obama budget1

Image 2

obama budget 2

Very few words are apparent in regards to the graph itself. Text has been provided on the sides to provide context. However when you scroll over the graph, a text box pops up providing the details relevant to that point. If this information were inside the bubbles themselves, it would make a busy graphic.

Example B: Using of a map is another popular technique for an infograph. Below is an example from the Washington Post using color to display population change by country.

map

There are only 6 words and the color bar with associated percentages to explain what this graph means.

Of these two infographic examples, which did you find more interesting, informative, and visually pleasing? We might not all agree.

The important thing to remember is that there is no magic formula with regards to the right combination of visuals and text. While visual aesthetic is important; the main criterion is audience comprehension.

I think this is something our prehistoric ancestors understood instinctively as the painted cave walls with messages that we are still receiving today. I wonder if 40,000 years from now, internet archeologists will unearth the infographic I tweeted last week and understand the meaning.

I’d like to hear your thoughts on the ways you are using visuals in your work and what you see as the next steps in the evolution of how we use visuals to inform, educate, entertain and persuade audiences.