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2 Ways to Make Sure Your Donation Money is Going to the Real Thing After a Natural Disaster

The Haitian earthquake has been front page for the past week. Radio, TV, and social media have carried the stories and pictures of the tragedy until the pictures of the children on the side of the road haunt our dreams. But the world responded. The statistics on how much money has been raised so far by twitter alone is amazing. People are texting hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations as well as millions more dollars being sent by snail mail.

Along with the gruesome pictures of the victims, the requests for donations seem endless. We all want to donate, but how can you avoid being ripped off by unscrupulous charity fraud scam artists trying to take advantage of anyone they can, through any way they can? It is an unfortunate aspect of human nature, but after a natural disaster such as the Haitian Earthquake, there are some people that immediately set out to con you in order to enrich themselves. How then can you protect yourself from these people if you want to contribute after a natural disaster?

  • Analyze your emails.

You may receive legitimate emails from charities requesting donations for Haitian relief. However, there is also a very good chance that they are fake, no matter how "officia" they look. Before you go sending off your hard earned money, take the time to check it out. Never click on a link within the email that takes you to the organization's "alleged" website as many scammers have sophisticated websites that look very legitimate. Do a simple Google search to investigate the organization. Check with your local BBB.

Some scammers are not looking for money. Rather, they just want to collect your private information for later use in an identity theft. Never give out your personal or financial information to anyone soliciting you for donations.

But the email looks so real, and it says it is from the Red Cross. It must be legitimate, right? While again, it very well may be legitimate. Still, in your haste to help, do not immediately click on the “donate” money button. In fact, do not click on any links in the email until you are absolutely sure it is from who it says it is. Probably, the best advice is not to even open an email from someone you do not know and you may save yourself much grief.

  • Donate directly to a charity.

We all want to help people in need but the safest way for you to do that is to make a donation directly to the charity by making the initial contact yourself. Call the local office of the charity you want to donate to and ask them the best way. Do not let the scam artists take advantage of your good will. It is the Haitian children who need your money, not some made up charity.


Your Twitter Avatar. How Important Is It?

 What is the first thing you see when you start tweeting? That little square that has some picture, logo, or tweety bird in it. The tweety bird has no attraction because they all look alike and certainly do not define the tweeter. A logo is a bit more exciting, however again, you can not really get a feeling of who is tweeting. A picture however, if it is fun and appropriate, can make you immediately want to know more about who is tweeting, and that is where it all starts.

Twitter is all about building relationships. That little square with the picture, logo or tweey bird in it is your avatar. Your avatar is the very first step in building that relationship because it is the first thing someone sees as you tweet. That is why it is so important to have an avatar which correctly projects who you are.

An avatar is a person's alter ego. You could have an avatar of a very sexy woman and actually be an 80 year old man. Or your avatar could reflect a very muscular and handsome man and the person behind the picture could be a 100 pound weakling. But if you want to be successful in building relationships and getting business through twitter, you want to have your avatar truthfully start your conversation and be a picture of you.

How about a business logo as an avatar on twitter? While in some instances this may be appropriate, generally people do not want to do business with a logo. They want to do business with a real person. Business logos may define what your business is but not who you are. People ultimately do business with you because they trust and respect you. They do not do business with your business.

Some sort of full body or head shot picture of you is ultimately the best avatar. It should be professional yet fun and reflect who you are as a person and as a business person. It should attract a reader's eye and make someone say, "hey, I want to know more about that person"

And that is the beginning of building a twitter relationship! Because they want to know more about you, a dialog will start. The dialog then will turn into a conversation. The conversation will ultimately turn into business. But it all started with the avatar which got their attention.


4 Tips to Good Self Editing

Editing is a necessary self-evil. When you take the time to edit your work, it will look professional, without mistakes and reflect the quality of your services.

Here are some tips to help you become a great self editor.

1.  Know what you are trying to say.

If your writing tends to ramble, you will quickly lose your reader's interest. Make sure you know what the goal of your work is and write that down before you even start. Then when you are editing, take a look at your writing goal and see if your work follows what you set out to accomplish.

2.  Take some time away from your writing. 

It is highly recommended that you take some time away from working on your writing after it is done. This can be from a few hours to several weeks. This will make sure that fresh eyes will review the writing and things you did not see yesterday you will pop out today.

3.  Read it out loud. 

When we read to ourselves, our minds tend to gloss over mistakes. However, if we read what we have written slowly and out loud, reading every word, then it is amazing how we can catch errors that we may have never seen before. 

4.  Print it out so you are not reading it off a computer screen. 

Print out your work rather than trying to edit it on a computer screen. Using a hard copy allows you to mark it up and see what you have written. When you change the medium, your eyes get to see your writing from a different viewpoint. You are more likely to pick up errors, or see how you can make your work even tighter when you have it in hand. 

These are just 4 tips to help you get going in self-editing your work. Editing is not easy. It takes practice but the result will be well worth it when you see your published work.


4 Steps to Define Your Niche Market

If you are writing a book or developing a product you need to define your niche market. A niche market is a group of people or businesses that have similar interests that can be identified and reached. By defining your market you can determine who you are going to market to which will help determine how you couch your marketing and how you spend your marketing dollars.
Here's the process to find your niche business or book topic:

  • Find a niche product or service you are passionate about.

It is important to find a product, topic or service you are passionate about. If you are going to devote time and energy to develop your site, build traffic and generate money you will need to enjoy what you are doing.

  • Determine your target audience.

Do your homework. Make sure the product you want to promote has a big enough market to make it worth while. You do not want to have a topic too broad that you blend in with all of the other sites. For example, if you love animals you may want to narrow your market to dogs. You can even further narrow your dog market to small dogs. However, be careful not to go overboard in defining your market because if you narrow your small dog market to only pugs it may become too narrow. You need to find that one point where there is sufficient market yet not overwhelming.

  • Search keywords. 

You can search keywords to see how many people search for the niche market you are targeting. This also applies if you are trying to determine your book topic. You may be interested in women’s health. A niche market of just women would be overwhelming, but if you further narrow your niche to women approaching menopause, you have created a strong and powerful defined niche that will be filled with useful keywords.

  • Find out what your customer wants. 

If you already have a business or product you can take a survey to find out what your customers want. You can also test a product with your customers to see if it will be worth your time to pursue. If you are a business owner and want to write a book about motivation you might give a free tip sheet on how to motivate your staff. If it is popular it may be a good topic for a book. If you sell retail items and want to expand your product line, sell the product for a limited time to see what kind of response you get before you stock up on inventory.

What steps have you taken to define your niche? What makes you stand out from your competitors within your defined niche?


How to Instill A Love of Reading in Your Children

So many children today spend too much time in front of the TV either watching a program or playing a video game. They need more time expanding their mind with reading, exercise, or creative play. I will explore ways to increase their creativity through reading.     

  •  Lead by example. 

If you want your children to read more then they need to see you reading. Children like to do what their parents do. You can not expect to develop readers in your family if you do not even have a book in the house.

  • Set aside a special time to read.

If you have infants or toddlers, a great time to read is just before bedtime as part of the bedtime routine. With a small child, choose a book with colorful pictures and ask questions about the pictures. Soon they will start imitating you and begin to “read” the books as well.

At first you will need to read to your child. Eventually when the child begins read, he still will enjoy listening to a book that is too difficult for him to read. If you read a chapter each day he will look forward to finding out what happens to the characters in the book. If your child is reading independently, be sure you read a book you are interested in along with her. It can be for as little as 10-15 min a day.

  •  Go to the Library.

Take a trip to the library every week. Your child can then find books that interest them. If your child is interested in dance or soccer encourage her to get a book on the subject. If art is an interest there are numerous books on great artists, works of art or art techniques. You want to make reading fun and interesting.

  • Pick books that are attractive to your child.

For example, if your child has a short attention you may want to pick books initially that have lots of pictures and just talk about the pictures. Ask questions about what you have just read to them. Get an audio book along with the book in print so that your child can listen and read at the same time.  Keep it simple and fun

  • Increase the time you spend reading.

After you have read consistently for 4 weeks for a certain time each night, you might be able to increase the time you spend reading. If your schedule allows, try reading more times per day. Make sure you have books available near the TV for the children to pick up as an alternative to watching TV.

  • Take a book everywhere you go.

Keep books available in the car and read if you are waiting for one of the children. Make sure they take a book on long trips, on vacation, or when they visit grandparents.

  • Don’t get discouraged.

It may seem that your child is not as interested as you want them to be. Over time, if you do the actions outlined above on a consistent basis, they will have the habit instilled in them.  

What have you done to instill reading in your child?