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We all know 'there's an app for that,' but when it comes to volunteer managers in the digital age, this saying rings no truer. Digital volunteer management is all about taking advantage of the engaging online tech tools and applications available to help groups large and small, connect, coordinate and do GOOD work. Check out 5 habits of effective (digital) volunteer managers:
1. They use social media. Facebook, twitter, Linkedin, Google+, just to name a few, are the channels digital volunteer managers utilize to purvey news, updates, opportunities, and the story of their organization. Connecting and engaging with volunteers online sets up the trust and positive impact their organization has with volunteers offline. Check out Facebook for Volunteer Engagement and Twitter Basics for Recruiting Volunteers
2. They use free online volunteer scheduling tools. Saving volunteers time in the digital age with the convenience of online volunteer calendars is highly prioritized by digital volunteer managers. Free, easy scheduling, mobile access 24/7 and automated reminders save hours of busy work and help volunteers stay on track. More info here
3. They show appreciation. Digital volunteer managers get creative with recognition of outstanding members in their volunteer community with online story-telling, videos and social shouts. Animoto is a fun slideshare video app that can help volunteer managers share appreciation videos via email, on their volunteer webpage and on social channels. Flikr and Shutterfly provide a platform for online photo albums for volunteers to share. Check out more Volunteer Appreciation Apps
4. They project-manage on the go. Online applications and free tech websites are the go-to toolkit for digital volunteer managers coordinating events. Dropbox and Google docs for sharing plans, Join.me and Skype for meeting up remotely, and Trello for assigning and managing pieces and people, name just a few of the free digital and mobile platforms perfect for volunteer managers.
5. They get their hands dirty. Yes, digital volunteer managers step offline and dig in with volunteers helping get the hard work done when it comes time. As volunteer managers have coordinated and organized volunteers, they convey the significance of what volunteers are doing by joining in, having fun, and respecting volunteer's time and effort.
Photo courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Did you catch our free fundraising webinar? One of our biggest and best yet - if you missed it, check out the slideshow below and download the recording here: Download Boosting Fundraiser Turn-out and Profits Recording (Takes a few minutes to download)
Helen Douglas-Hart had a dream of developing a natural area that would reflect the native habitats of east-central Illinois. Her dream became a reality in the late 1960's by planting a 33-acre nature preserve. Today, the Douglas-Hart Nature Center features more than 70 acres of prairie, wetland,
and forest habitat. Also, it provides the people of the surrounding communities the unique opportunity to learn about and discover the wonders of nature.
Today our volunteer Spotlight shines on Dakota Radford, who uses VolunteerSpot's online signup sheets to coordinate volunteers at the center.
Tell us about your organization and your volunteer needs.
Volunteers are vital to everything we do here. The Douglas-Hart Nature Center is located in a rural community in east-central Illinois. Just outside of town, these 72 acres of trees, prairie grasses, and wetlands are surrounded by an expanse of corn fields. Inside its confines, over 10,000 visitors find enjoyment in nature, every year.
The mission of Douglas-Hart is twofold, and the first is to continue to restore the property to the way it was two hundred years ago, before pioneer settlement. Intergenerational volunteers on the “Conservation Crew” work together to remove invasive species and replace them with native seedlings, grown in the greenhouse from seeds they collected last autumn. Volunteers also keep the trails mulched, build trail signs, and construct the waste receptacles and other outdoor facilities.
second part of our mission is to provide
opportunities and programs to make nature available to everyone in the community. Throughout the year, volunteers work with staff educators to lead field trips, open house events, and traveling programs. Annual events such as October’s Haunted Trail Hike bring out dozens of volunteers wanting to generate festivity for the community, while getting them outdoors. During the summer, Jr. high and high school students work side-by-side with student teachers, retired teachers, and environmentalists to lead hundreds of local children who participate in our summer day camps.
In 2012, approximately 640 volunteers donated over 28,000 hours of service to the Douglas-Hart Nature Center. I am proud to be their volunteer coordinator. Since I am also the assistant educator, I am busy! Although it felt like I spent hours a day sending and receiving communications with volunteers via email, phone, and postal, I was still frustrated every time I forgot or didn’t have time to send a volunteer a reminder or an updated shifts roster. Reminder emails and an always up-to-date sign-up list were what attracted me to VolunteerSpot right off the bat.
It didn’t take me long to realize that there are many other benefits of VolunteerSpot. I found I was getting a much higher response from younger and more tech-savvy volunteers. While most of the mature volunteers enjoy stopping by or calling me to sign up for something, most of the younger generation prefers to be non-confrontational and to make an anonymous choice, browsing their options on the activity page before drawing any attention from me with their sign-up. Other volunteers use the always-up-to-date activity page to monitor support levels in real time, and will recruit new volunteers from their own social circles to fill holes they see in the roster. I think VolunteerSpot’s services give the information and power of choice to the volunteers, and they respond!
What’s one piece of advice you have for volunteers or their leaders out there?
As a volunteer coordinator, I try to always offer “at least 2.” With the great diversity of volunteers we work with, two is the very minimum number of options we need to offer, no matter what it is we are offering: weekday dates and weekend dates, postal newsletter and electronic newsletter, full shifts and half shifts, green t-shirts and blue t-shirts, indoor work and outdoor work, in person sign-ups or online sign-ups at Volunteerspot. Now we are all on board!
Anything else you’d like our readers to know?
I can’t thank VolunteerSpot enough for offering these services at no charge to volunteer leaders everywhere. It is a valuable gift for so many organizations. I continue to find more and more ways to use VolunteerSpot at the Douglas-Hart Nature Center, and would recommend it to anyone.
For more information visit www.dhnature.org
We salute Dakota and all the other volunteer leaders out there making a difference. If you're using VolunteerSpot, write and tell us about what you're doing and give us a chance to shine our Volunteer Spotlight on you!! Just email us at VS@volunteerspot.com.
Colder weather means even warmer hearts! Have FUN this Fall with these creative ways to give back and practice random kindness:
1. Ding Dong Surprise. Ding dong ditch some delicious, festive treats for your favorite teacher or school staff member by wrapping and leaving them - in secret, or at the doorway after you quickly knock and run.
2. Treat or . . . Treat? Wouldn't a new neighbor or old friend be wickedly surprised when you family comes to trick or treat and instead leaves a delicious treat or gift for them on Halloween? Get your kids involved and they'll be as thrilled for this surprise as that king size candybar.
3. Game Day. NFL Sunday & World Series viewing boasts good food, good friends and good . . . giving! Turn attendance to your game day party into a way to collect non-perishable food and goods to donate to your local food bank.
4. Warm & Cozy. You're kids new winter coats might look totally fab, but are their old ones still any good? Collect gently used cold-weather apparel with your kids in your own home and donate to a local charity story or family shelter.
5. Pumpkin Party. You're planning on a family night carving session anyways, so why not find a pumpkin to purchase to support a good cause. Google local Pumpkin Patch fundraisers in your area and reserve one today.
6. Halloween Candy Buy Back: Find a participating dentist in your area and let your kids cash in or swap out their Halloween candy for other goodies; the candy is donated for care packages to our troops overseas. More info here
7. Extra Dinner. Are the kids already helping you whip up a batch of your favorite squash and pumpkin seed soup? Make bonus servings and deliver to an elderly neighbor or local family in need.
8. Fired Up. Show your civil servants some appreciation this Fall. Get a group of families together to deliver warm cider and baked goods to your nearby fire or police station.
Photo courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Twitter provides a great way for schools to keep in touch with their parent community - for sharing volunteer opportunities, fundraising news and volunteer appreciation stories! But how can you get your school parents to join your twitter community and engage with your school online? Try these 5 easy ideas:
1. Promote your social handles everywhere. Share your twitter handle with a simple "Follow us today!" call to action on correspondence with parents - in eNewsletters, on fundraising materials, on your school's webpage, and even on flyers home.
2. Link your twitter feed up to facebook. Social widgets are super hot right now and really easy to link up to from your popular facebook page. Applications like Woobox help you do it for free in seconds, more info here
3. Host a giveaway. A great way to gain followers in social media is to host a small giveaway (think small gift cards, movie tickets); make a point of entry for your parent community to follow your school on twitter. Platforms like Rafflecopter are great for this, more info here
4. Connect with your ambassadors. Does your school have social media mavens or bloggers with big followings in your community? Network with them to strategically promote your school's twitter account, retweet your school, and encourage parents to follow you.
5. Share relevant information. Your twitter feed is a great way to relay important news and updates to school parents and teachers, but it's also a fun way to engage your community with interesting resources and ideas. Share great potluck recipes, intriguing parenting articles, and hot new education apps, to name a few, to keep your feed vibrant and engaging.
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Your classroom Halloween or Fall party is just around the corner - are you ready? Start planning now in order to have a stress-free, festive Halloween party the whole class (and your teacher) enjoys!
Craft Projects: Plan a craft that can be easily completed in 10-15 minutes and fits with the suggested theme. Ensure the craft parent volunteer has EVERYTHING needed and brings full craft kits (glue, scissors, etc.), also a trash bag for clean up. Don’t assume the teacher will provide all items. Check out fun Fall crafts HERE
Party Favors: Hand out colorful, festive pencils, candy, Halloween stickers, erasers or other school supplies as party favors or as prizes for games.
Snacks: Keep it simple and portable, and plan extras for the teacher, staff and parent helpers. Are there allergies or school guidelines to consider? Pumpkin treats are always a hit – check out this blog post for 5 easy pumpkin snacks kids love!
Decorations: A colorful tablecloth, balloons, and hand-cut paper pumpkins are inexpensive and go a long way to making a room look festive. Add some spooky (but fun) Halloween music to complete the mood.
Memories: Pick a volunteer to take photos or videos of the party and share with the parents who could not come. Upload to a shared online album, private facebook page or class blog.
Relax and have fun! Your kids love having you help in their class. Halloween can be fun for everyone – including YOU!
Bonus: Get more class parents involved in the festive fun with free online sign up sheets! For class party signup templates, click here.
Here's to a fantastically planned class Halloween party and a safe and fun Halloween!
Join VolunteerSpot's CEO & Founder, Karen Bantuveris, Thursday October 24th, 2013 for a can't-miss webinar that's sure to make an impact with your school, league, faith group or nonprofit!
Whether you're organizing a carnival, auction, book fair, fun run, performance, you name it - the hints & tips in this webinar will change how you fundraise.
Learn how to:
- Choose the right fundraiser for your community
- Increase attendance with social media
- Recruit and engage more parents to help
- Boost profits and revenue
- Intersect product fundraisers & community events
- Engage donors online & offline
The Minnesota Renewable Energy Society (MRES) is a
member-run, non-profit organization founded in 1978 to promote the use of, and
to engage in advocacy for, renewable energies in Minnesota through education
and the demonstration of practical applications. MRES is involved in education,
awareness, and advocacy efforts for all forms of renewable energy, with a
particular emphasis on solar technologies.
Today, our Volunteer Spotlight shines on Laura Cina Burrington, Managing Director of MRES, who uses VolunteerSpot's online signup sheets to coordinate volunteers.
Tell us about your organization.
MRES is a member-run, volunteer-operated charitable non-profit organization dedicated to helping Minnesotans gain knowledge of and access to renewable energy technologies.
Our mission is to advance a sustainable society and a renewable energy economy through education, leadership, and by example.
Our vision is to be a key catalyst in advancing solar energy and in transforming Minnesota's energy landscape to embrace efficiency and sustainability.
Above all else, we believe in planning for the long term to preserve the commons for future generations, providing equitable access to renewable energy for all, effecting change through education and example, embodying excellence and positivity, honesty, science and truth, and perseverance.
How do you use volunteers?
Throughout the year, MRES presents renewable energy classes, workshops and events such as the Solar Boat Regatta, Minnesota Solar Tour, and the Eco Experience solar exhibit at the Minnesota State Fair. We need volunteers to help out with all the events. Our biggest need is at the state fair, which runs for 12 days. We host a booth that requires 7 volunteers per four-hour shift, inside and outside. We have about 200 spots that we need to fill for this event.
Volunteers educate the public, keep the space clean, and restock brochures, and interact with fair-goers about solar and how it works in Minnesota, explain about our organization and our partners. This year, we added two new activities; a photo booth, and a kids area.
How did you find out about VolunteerSpot?
Another partner in the eco-building at the fair told us about it. It's been hard to find a system that worked, and since VolunteerSpot was recommended to us by another organization, we figured we'd give it a try.
In the past, volunteers had trouble logging in to other online sites we tried, and kept losing their passwords. So far, with VolunteerSpot, people have been signing up for the past three weeks and I have had NO questions about signing up! Many shifts are already filled…we put the link out there for the public access, so we have more people who can help out.
One thing I love about VolunteerSpot is that I don't have to send out reminders. VolunteerSpot automatically sends the reminders two days before the event, and people can send the information right to their calendar.
Do you have any advice for other volunteer leaders?
We do a training every year before people volunteer, and everyone loves it. Through the training classes, volunteers have the opportunity to network with other people, and they feel more prepared for their volunteer experience because they are not walking in blind. I recommend holding a training or some sort of get together prior to the event to make everyone feel more at ease.
I also encourage readers to support their local chapter of the American Solar Energy Society
We also plan to use VolunteerSpot for smaller events throughout the year like sustainability and college fairs.
We salute Laura and all the other volunteer leaders out there making a difference. If you're using VolunteerSpot, write and tell us about what you're doing and give us a chance to shine our Volunteer Spotlight on you!! Just email us at VS@volunteerspot.com.
Pumpkins, parties and parent conferences, oh my! Make the most of your parent-teacher conferences this busy Fall season with these helpful Do's & Don'ts:
Do: Schedule classroom parents for conferences with free online signup sheets. Allow parents the convenience of signing up for their conference slot from their computer or smartphone; and rely on automated reminders to help everyone remember! More info here
Don't: Send a reply-all email to parents and expect not to stress out over sifting through 30 replies to schedule parents.
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Do: Offer ways for parents to attend remotely, i.e. via Skype, Facetime, Google Hangout, in case their busy schedule or possible emergency prevents them from getting to the school.
Don't: Wait to the last minute for straggling parents to sign up; email them or message them from your VolunteerSpot parent-teachere conference signup with reminders to fill a slot or find a way to work with their schedule.
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Do: Use social media to get the word out about parent-teacher conferences. Tweet, facebook, include on the class blog and in the eNewsletter. More ideas here
Don't: Send a flyer home with students and expect it not to get lost in the shuffle.
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Do: Be prepared for each conference to discuss the individual student in a positive and encouraging way. Remember, it's a collaborative conversation with parents, not a tell-all. More tips here
Don't: Find yourself struggling to remember specifics you want to discuss with parents. Jot down notes for each conference and be prepared with these extensive resources for teachers here
We're giving away a $25 Target Gift Card everyday for a week PLUS a Grand Prize $100 Target Gift Card with Mobile School Directory!
Posted at 11:00 PM | Permalink
Tags: sweepstakes, volunteerspot sweepstakes
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First day of school – check. Back to School Night – check. We’re half way through the fall semester and now is a great time to take inventory of the small things we can do for our students to help them have the best year ever!
A Good Night’s Sleep. Getting enough rest is one of the most important ingredients to student success at every age. Help your student find a good routine at bedtime. While there may be occasional late nights (sporting events, family functions, special school projects), a good night’s sleep will help your student focus better at school – and hopefully wake a little more cheery!
Time for Breakfast. It’s no secret that kids can’t learn if their stomachs are grumbling. A healthy breakfast goes a long way in fueling your student for success. When there isn’t time for a sit-down morning meal, pack fresh fruit, cubed cheese, granola or a health bar for your student to eat on the bus ride or in the cafeteria before class.
A Home for Homework. Create a space where your student can do their homework without distractions. If possible, sit down and review what assignments they have due for the week so they can learn to schedule their time and be prepared. TIP – suggest they begin their homework time with math or science. Research shows the brain works those types of problems best when their minds are still in ‘school’ mode.
Teacher Touchpoints. You’ve probably scheduled your parent-teacher conference, or maybe you were the first one in line! Make sure that isn’t the only time you touch base with your student’s teacher. Read the class website, blog or social feeds and check for updates sent home about class activities. Ask the teacher how s/he prefers to communicate (via email, class website, phone call) and the expected turnaround time for a routine conversation.
Volunteer TOGETHER. Involving your student in helping your school builds pride and ownership! Many school and PTA activities need help from family members of all ages – consider…weeding the school garden together on the weekend, staffing a carnival booth, cutting out materials for bulletin boards or preparing a potluck meal for teacher appreciation events.
Participate AGAIN. Keep leading by example because support for your student takes shape in many ways! Look for a school volunteer job that fits your busy schedule, like these fun ways to help from home - click HERE.
Posted at 03:30 AM | Permalink
Tags: boosting student success, parenting advice, student success
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The Lighthouse International Film Festival is a nonprofit organization dedicated to showcasing new and innovative films and fostering the next generation of filmmakers. The festival offers three days of films, panels, Q&A's, networking, parties and surfing, and draws some of the industry's top film critics, producers and distributors. The festival also seeks to serve the community by presenting unique programs that inspire, engage and challenge a diverse audience through the art of film.
Today, our Volunteer Spotlight shines on Christine Rooney, Managing Director of the festival who uses VolunteerSpot's online signup sheets to organize volunteers during the festival.
Tell us about your organization and your volunteer needs.
The Lighthouse International Film Festival was founded by a collection of filmmakers, film critics and film industry professionals who share a passion for film and wanted to create an event aimed first and foremost at film enthusiasts. The festival presents feature films, shorts, documentaries and family films, as well as panel discussions with leading film industry professionals. Taking place on Long Beach Island, NJ -- one of the East Coast's most popular surfing destinations -- the festival celebrates three days of new, exciting and challenging films in honor of Long Beach Island's historic Barnegat Lighthouse. The festival runs from 9am - midnight for four days, at four different venues.
We need between 80 - 100 volunteers to keep things running smoothly. The volunteers help in a number of ways both prior to and the days of the festival. They serve on the screening committee, distribute flyers, train other volunteers, pass out tickets, help with technology, drive filmmakers around, take surveys after each film, and greet filmmakers.
How did you get started as a volunteer leader?
Charlie Prince, the executive director, had the idea for this festival about five years ago. He wanted to give people a place to come and see independent award winning films in a beautiful setting. Eventually, it became a reality, and is now a major film festival in NJ. We just celebrated our 5th year. As managing director, I am in charge of running the entire festival, including volunteers. Everyone involved is committed to helping independent filmmakers' to share their films. Indie filmmakers struggle to tell their story, so we are committed to helping them get their message out to the world.
Why did you decide to use VolunteerSpot?
Trying to manage between 80 - 100 volunteers can be a daunting task. VolunteerSpot makes the task more manageable, while allowing us to keep track and update volunteer contact information quickly and easily. Through VolunteerSpot, it's easy to make changes to the schedule; thank people for helping, and send messages. Using VolunteerSpot is one tenth of the work vs. doing the old way, with emails and phone calls. We were hesitant to use an online system, but once we got started, it was so easy to use. One of our favorite features was being able to coordinate and communicate instantly during the event, and set up was so easy.
Do you have any advice for other volunteer leaders out there?
Don't be intimidated by the set up for VolunteerSpot. You don't have to be a computer wizard, anyone can do it! We love being able to thank volunteers, and record their contact info. It may seem daunting but it isn't. I can't say enough positive things about how much time it has saved me. It is has been difficult to find a volunteer director in the past, but now it will probably be easy with VolunteerSpot in our back pocket.
The feedback from volunteers was also very positive. They loved being able to see who else was working, and liked being able to change their shifts. VolunteerSpot made it easier for people who didn't know us to help. I just send the email with the link to the calendar, they click on the link, choose their spot. We like to call it impulse volunteering. I think that's why we had lots of new volunteers this year, it made all the difference in getting people to help. And, volunteers forwarded the link to others…and I didn't have to any additional recruiting.
The link to the volunteer calendar makes it an equal opportunity volunteer system. Even if you don't know anyone in the organization, you can still sign up.
Anything else you would like to share?
The Lighthouse Film Festival brings filmmakers, critics, and film enthusiasts together for a weekend of cutting edge films from around the world. It's become one of the major film festivals, and it’s a great weekend at the Jersey Shore. Films, fun, and sun! This year, the festival was the kick off event after hurricane Sandy. Long Beach Island was one of the worst hit areas in New Jersey, but we had a larger festival this year than ever. The community was so resilient…people still came out and helped even after the storm, which shows that their commitment to the arts is alive and well here on LBI. Many people were displaced after the storm but the festival still pulled off the biggest and best festival ever. The film fest embodies the spirit of LBI.
We salute Christine and all the other volunteer leaders out there making a difference. If you're using VolunteerSpot, write and tell us about what you're doing and give us a chance to shine our Volunteer Spotlight on you!! Just email us at VS@volunteerspot.com.
The Fall season hosts an array of outdoor events powered by volunteers, from festivals to sporting events, pumpkin patch fundraisers, you name it! Check out our 5 fun ways to keep your volunteers warm in the chilly Fall air:
1. Dance Party! Take 10 minutes before and after volunteer shifts for an impromptu dance party. With a boombox on hand and some jumpin' beats, dancing warms volunteers up, gets their families involved, and adds an extra note of 'fun' to the day.
2. Cocoa & Cider! Have willing volunteers who can't serve time for this particular event? Ask them to donate instead - hot cocoa and cider on hand are great ways to sustain volunteers, keep them warm and put a pep in their step. Check out 5 fun ways to spice up your hot cocoa here
3. Hugs! Show some love with extra hugs! Make it a point of your event to pass on hugs to working volunteers - keep them warm and show how much your group cares.
4. Gloves, scarves, and hats! Have extra warm apparel on hand for those volunteers who forget to grab some on their way out of the house. Find and wash gently used items from local thrift or re-stores, or ask for donations and keep them in a labeled box at your event for volunteers to borrow and return.
5. Appreciation! Volunteering already has volunteers feeling warm and fuzzy about doing good for others, but you can amplify that feeling with a little recognition. Simply saying thank you to volunteers before or after your event, or even giving hand-written thank you notes or online messages are easy ways to show your appreciation and give their time a warm, positive feeling.
2013 has seen its array of 'trends' so far from pop-culture to eco-friendly iniatives. Incorporating "what's hip" into your school, church or non-profit carnival or festival is sure to boost profits, turnout, and FUN! Check out these 7 easy ideas:
1. Eco-rewards: Extra tickets for bringing reusable bags to tote home prizes from the carnival are huge for schools and nonprofits right now. Healthy snack options at carnivals are on the rise too, with fresh fruit cups and lemonade & cider (instead of sugary sodas and juices).
2. Temporary Tattoos: The novelty face painting booth is taking on new forms in 2013 - and temporary tattoos are in! With the low cost of buying temporary tattoos in bulk, and the time it saves to apply and make a kid smile at your event, these are a quick and easy alternative to face paint - more variety and less cleanup too!
3. Adding Product Sales: Slipping your annual product sale into its own booth at your carnival is a great way to add revenue and make some sales. Keep it seasonal with your holiday gift, gourmet chocolates, spirit cups and popcorn sales in the Fall - and reusable tote bags, gourmet coffee, and luxury products in the Spring. Check out other fun ideas here
4. Photo Booths: Taking a note from the social media wave, people love having and sharing pictures! Photo booths can be rented or easily assembled on the cheap with a simple curtain backdrop and fun props (jumbo sunglasses, feather boas, fake mustaches). DIY photo booths can be manned by volunteers who take pictures for folks with a Polaroid or the family's own phone/camera.
5. Silent Disco: Wireless headphones and a slamming deejay turn your private dance party into a shared experience at this year's carnival or festival. With paid entrance into the festival dance tent, all patrons listen to the same music supplied to their headphones and have a blast without drowning out the whole event with loud music.
6. Online Scheduling: Carnivals and festivals are the products of lots and lots of handson effort. There is no easier way in the digital age to coordinate hoards of volunteers than with free online signups from VolunteerSpot. Mobile access and automated reminders are key to getting more people involved to make your even an even bigger success. More info here
Posted at 03:30 AM | Permalink
Tags: carnival booth ideas, carnival trends, festival booth ideas, festival trends, fun carnival booths
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