Thursday, December 31, 2009

Reflection & top 4 posts from 2009

2009 has been a great year, having written 117 blog posts on a variety of topics. I know my resolution for 2010 will be to write more often and with better consistency! Here are the top 4 posts that were written in 2009 that have been the most popular.

1. Advertising on nonprofit websites?

2. Why can't a nonprofit get its own credit card?

3. 3 reasons why you should have a twenty something on your board

4. Want to know how your nonprofit is doing financially?

Interestingly, they are not the most popular overall. Three posts I wrote in 2008 were more popular this year, with the SWOT post getting more hits than all four of the above combined:

1. Using SWOT Analysis for Strategic Planning

2. In-Kind Gifts 101: Definition, Acknowledgement & the Law

3. Nonprofit Blogging Tips from ProBlogger

Friday, December 18, 2009

Top 3 Weekly Blog Posts for Nonprofit Workers

1. Nonprofit Fiscal Rules for the "New Normal" by Nonprofit Board Crisis

2. Hear Ye, Hear Ye - Overhead is Over by Balancing the Mission Checkbook

3. Generational Differences by Michigan Nonprofit Association Blog

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Reader Question: Starting a new program and convincing foundations to fund?

I recently did a session on Programs: Developing, Managing, and Evaluating for the Emerging Nonprofit Leadership Network and I was asked a question by a participant about starting a new program. The participant was wondering how does convince a foundation to fund a new program when you have never done it before, and therefore don't have evaluations showing it was effective?

This question surprised me because I thought most would know the answer, but I found that many at nonprofits were wondering this same thing. The answer is research. You should rarely, if ever, start a new program without research supporting your intervention. So, what if no one has ever done what you want to do - or someone has done it, but there isn't research supporting it yet? Well, then you find research supporting components of the program.

I'll take an easy example, say you want to start a program where 10th graders become tutors and mentors for at-risk 6th graders to help them improve academic achievement. Sure, there might not be research on that specific program, but you should definitely be able to find research on whether mentoring is effective, at what ages mentoring has been effective, what research has found to be successful interventions for academic achievement, research on causes for low achievement for at-risk youth, etc. Using this research you should be able to build a case to support the program you want to do.

So, what if you can't find research or research does not support what you want to do? If you can't find research to support any component of your program in any way, then it probably isn't the best choice. If you find research but it doesn't support your approach - then figure out why and think of ways you can address that.

Where do you find this research? Online, articles, journals, etc. Personally, I use Google Scholar when searching for articles, but you can also use local libraries to access journals and books. Also keep in mind if you find a good article that fits what you are looking for, look at the citations and who the author cited. It is more likely than not you will find a bunch more support or useful information that will help build your case!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Wondering how big of a sample size you need?

So, you have decided to do an evaluation - or are doing some preliminary research for a proposed program. You sit down and try to figure out the details, which includes how many people should you send your survey to? If you are just doing asking a bunch of people to participate in a survey asking about why they donate, or whether they enjoyed your program, then the sample size probably isn't as important. It is important is you want to be able to generalize your findings to the general population - or to the targeted population. So, how do you determine it? Well I could tell you the complex formula and math behind determining a sample size, but it is easier just to point you to a simple sample size calculator you can download. This link will take you to a survey course website, on the bottom left of the page you will see "Sample Size Calculator" click it and download.

Once it pops up, it might be a little confusing so here are a few tips to make it easier:

  • The first tab "Type of Analysis" you can usually leave the defaults - unless you are doing complex sampling - which you probably aren't.
  • The second tab "Values and Settings" is most important. Make sure to enter your population size, etc.
  • The third tab "Corrections" is pretty much self-explanatory and you will probably not use it - but if you do it explains what each option means by the selection box.
  • Once you have entered everything in, then the box to the right should say a number - that is the number of people your sample should include.
*When you download it, there is a "quickhelp" folder that explains what each box means if you are confused about what to put there. Good luck!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Honor for NonprofitSOS

This blog was selected by the Daily Reviewer as one of the top 100 nonprofit blogs!

Top 3 Weekly Blog Posts for Nonprofit Workers

1. "Evaluating Online Donation Service Providers" by Step by Step Fundraising

2. "Fundraising from Out-of-State? An Update on Registration Issues" by Kivi's Nonprofit Communications Blog

3."More on Charity Boards and Tough Times" by Nonprofit Law Blog

Bonus: "We overestimate the gap between nonprofit and for-profit jobs" by Penelope Trunk's Brazen Careerist - This post is a bit older (10/30/09) but has some interesting thoughts on nonprofit vs for-profit jobs

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Exploring Effective Strategies for Facilitating Evaluation Capacity Building

This AEA session was of particular interest to me. I would love to see more nonprofits investing in building their capacity with evaluation, and this session discussed ten strategies to do so:

  1. Coaching/Mentoring: building a relationship with an evaluation expert who provides individualized technical and professional support
  2. Technical Assistance: receiving help from an internal or external evaluator
  3. Technology: using online resources such as websites and/or e-learning programs to learn from and about evaluation
  4. Written Materials: reading and using written documents about evaluation processes and findings
  5. Training: attending courses, workshops, and seminars on evaluation
  6. Involvement in an Evaluation Process: participating in the design and/or implementation of an evaluation
  7. Internship: participating in a formal program that provides practical evaluation experience for novices
  8. Meetings: allocating time and space to discuss evaluation activities specifically for the purpose of learning from and about evaluation
  9. Appreciative Inquiry: using an assets-based, collaborative, narrative approach to learning about evaluation that focuses on strengths within the organization
  10. Communities of Practice: sharing evaluation experiences, practices, information, and readings among members who have common interests and needs (sometimes called learning circles)
See posts about other sessions I attended at this year's AEA: "American Evaluation Conference Summary Post"

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Unique Methods in Advocacy Evaluation

This AEA session discussed common advocacy evaluation methods:

  • Stakeholder surveys or interviews - Print, telephone, or online questioning that gathers advocacy stakeholder perspectives or feedback.
  • Case studies - Detailed descriptions and analyses (often qualitative) of individual advocacy strategies and results.
  • Focus groups - Facilitated discussions with advocacy stakeholders (usually about 8-10 per group) to obtain their reactions, opinions, or ideas.
  • Media tracking - Counts of an issue's coverage in the print, broadcast, or electronic media.
  • Media content or framing analysis - Qualitative analysis of how the media write about and frame issues of interest.
  • Participant observation - Evaluator participation in advocacy meeting or events to gain firsthand experience and data.
  • Policy tracking - Monitoring of an issue or bill's progress in the policy processes.
  • Public polling - Interviews (usually by telephone) with a random sample of advocacy stakeholders to gather data on their knowledge, attitudes, or behaviors.
And highlighted four new methods that have been developed specifically to address advocacy evaluation's unique challenges:
  • Bellwether methodology - Interviews conducted with "bellwethers" or influential people in public/private sectors whose positions require that they track a broad range of policy issues. Part of sample is not connected to issue of interest and sample does not have advance knowledge of interview topic. Used to assess political will as outcome, forecast likelihood of future policy proposals/changes, assess extent that advocacy messages have "broken through", and to gauge whether an issue is on federal/state/local policy agenda and how it is positioned.
  • Policymaker ratings - Advocates (or other informed stakeholders) rate policymakers of interest on scales that assess policymakers' support for, and influence on, the issue. Used to assess extent to which a policymaker supports an issue and whether that support is changing over time.
  • Intense period debriefs - Advocates are engaged in evaluative inquiry shortly after a policy window or intense period of action occurs. Used when advocacy efforts are experiencing high intensity levels of activity and advocates have little time to pause for data collection.
  • System mapping - A system is visually mapped, identifying the parts and relationships in that system that are expected to change and how they will change, and then identifying ways of measuring or capturing whether those changes have occurred. Used to try to achieve systems change.

Please note that the above notes are credited to the "Unique Methods in Advocacy Evaluation" by Julia Coffman and Ehren Reed.

See posts about other sessions I attended at this year's AEA: "American Evaluation Conference Summary Post"

A day in the life of a nonprofit worker

1. What is your name, organization and job title (you don't have to give your name/organization if you don't want to- it can be anonymous)
Martin Wera – Nonprofit Services Manager, Charities Review Council

2. What is the first thing you do when you get in the office?
Put my lunch in the fridge, check email, check my calendar, and check to see if any nonprofits have finished the Accountability Wizard (the online educational tool the Charities Review Council has for nonprofits). After that, it varies from day to day.

3. How do you spend your lunch break?
During baseball season – check the updates about the Twins. Usually though I check the MinnPost Daily Glean, Politico, and any other news updates. Often I’ll check some nonprofit blogs as well.

4. Which part of your work do you enjoy most?
One of the best things about my job is the opportunity to connect and work with a variety of nonprofits. Depending on which organizations are going through a review, every day is different. Not only is the organization different (e.g. size, issue area, etc.), but also questions that they have about the review and the Accountability Standards. I also enjoy the fact that I feel like in working with nonprofits meet our standards, I’m part of the process of helping them be more effective, healthy organizations.

5. Please finish this sentence: If someone wanted my job, they would have to…..
…be a nonprofit geek.

6. What advice or tips do you have for other nonprofit professionals in your position?
This is trite, but true – do what gives you energy. Having worked at a variety of nonprofits, this has been the clearest lesson I’ve learned. From this point, everything else falls into place.

I am looking for people to participate in this series, if you are interested, please email me -

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

How do we define and measure social impact?

This month's Nonprofit Millennial Blogging Alliance (NMBA) topic relates to social impact and how we define and measure it.

So, what is social impact? Well, I did what anyone that has access to internet would do, I googled it. It seems there isn't really a clear, precise definition for it. I couldn't even find a definition on Wikipedia - the closest I got was Social Impact Assessment or Social Impact Theory. So, I am going to go with a mish-mash of definitions and partial definitions I found:

Social impact = the influences or affects an organization or group can have to impact people's lives. This influence or affect increases with immediacy and strength, and can have both positive and negative social consequences.

So, to use an easy example: More and more people continue to join Twitter because they know more people who are on Twitter, their close friends are now on Twitter, and everyone seems to be joining Twitter. Hence, one would say the social impact of Twitter is quite large and continues to grow as its strength and immediacy grows.

For nonprofits, this would be used more in the sense of how a nonprofit taking advantage of social change to make a difference in people's lives.

So, how would one measure social impact?

Well, since social impact is more that just evaluating the effectiveness of an intervention it would make sense that a simple evaluation wouldn't be enough.

An interesting concept I came across was that one could put together an impact map, which will help organizations to clearly show relationships between inputs (resources) and outputs (activities, outcomes). Basically it helps an organization understand how they create change.

The impact map could be combined with a social impact assessment, which "includes the processes of analysing, monitoring and managing the intended and unintended social consequences, both positive and negative, of planned interventions (policies, programs, plans, projects) and any social change processes invoked by those interventions. Its primary purpose is to bring about a more sustainable and equitable biophysical and human environment." This would allow a nonprofit to map the relationships and measure the change that resulted from those relationships.

A more government-type perspective on social impact assessment can be found here. Some may also go as far as measuring the financial return on a social impact using a social return on investment.

Check out some other perspectives on social impact and how to measure it from NMBA bloggers:

What is Social Impact? by Nonprofit Periscope

Measuring Social Impact (wait…what is social impact?) by Onward and Upward

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Interactive Techniques to Facilitate Evaluation Learning

This was an interesting session that I attended at the American Evaluation Association's Annual Conference. It had some great tidbits. Here are a few things I wanted to share from the session:

The presenter discussed what portion of things people learn, and how they learn them. This is what she shared:
- People remember... 10% of what they read (book, handout)
- 20% of what they hear (head a lecture, podcast)
- 30% of what they see (look at displays, diagrams, exhibits)
- 50% of what they head AND see (live demonstration, video, site visit)
- 70% of what they say OR write (worksheet, discussion)
- 90% of what they do (practice, teach)

Manipulatives help learning!
- Manipulatives are objects that engage the learning in touching, feeling, and manipulation
- Stimulate brain either as part of the learning experience or provide opportunities for movement
- Examples: basket of strange feeling objects, pipe cleaners, clay, cards, paper table covers that people can doodle on

Current research establishes a link between movement and learning!
- Can use brain breaks, energizers to get people moving
- Example of energizer: when asking questions use movement "Raise your hand/clap if you use Twitter"

See posts about other sessions I attended at this year's AEA: "American Evaluation Conference Summary Post"

American Evaluation Conference Summary Post

I am currently in Florida attending the American Evaluation Association (AEA) conference. To follow conference related tweets, search #eval09 on twitter.

The days are jam-packed with fantastic sessions and I likely won't get to post all of the interesting and useful tidbits until this weekend and early next week, but I am going to get them all up by the end of this week. This post will include links to all of the posts, as I post them:

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Nonprofit Conference Etiquette

Last week I attended the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits joint annual conference with the Minnesota Council of Foundations and had the opportunity to meet lots of new great nonprofit folk, in addition to presenting two sessions "Become Social Media Savvy" and "Evaluation 101: Focus Groups and Surveys".

While at this conference a group of were hanging out chatting about donor meetings and who should be going (a whole other post), when a woman from nonprofit came up to us and started explaining what her nonprofit did. This was great because who doesn't love to hear about what all the amazing nonprofits in their community do? Once she was done explaining, she continued on to ask us to give. When we politely declined, she went on to a group sitting next to us, gave the same speech, and asked them to give. After they declined, she left the area and I can only assume went to solicit more gifts.

Typically I never mind being asked for a donation because nonprofits need money to run. But, I think many conferences actually state in their rules not to mention it is against conference etiquette to solicit your colleagues at a nonprofit conference. I mean, didn't she realize that pretty much everyone there worked for a nonprofit organization, and if they all decided to go around and solicit we would have had over 1,500 people asking for gifts? It would have been mayhem not to mention annoying, and would likely result in people not going. So, the next time you go to a nonprofit conference, remember that this is the "safe space" that all of us can come together to learn - not your opportunity to solicit your colleagues.

p.s. I will be posting more info from sessions from the conference, in addition to stuff from next week's American Evaluation Conference. I will also be posting slides from my two sessions on my website on Monday.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Short Hiatus

I will be taking a short hiatus from writing for this blog. With trying to finish up my PhD coursework, board service, volunteering, and consulting projects I am getting overwhelmed and behind. I will be back in mid-November and may post infrequently during that time. I am looking for new nonprofit workers to participate in the "A day in the life of a nonprofit worker" series, and if you are interested please shoot me an email at

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

A day in the life of a nonprofit worker

1. What is your name, organization and job title (you don't have to give your name/organization if you don't want to- it can be anonymous)
Trista Harris, Executive Director at Headwaters Foundation for Justice and chief blogger at New Voices of Philanthropy.

2. What is the first thing you do when you get in the office?
I check the list of most important things that I need to accomplish for the day, that I left for myself the night before and work on the task that will move our organization the furthest. It is usually something that needs some sort of strategic thinking, like our strategy to approach an institutional funder or developing key messages for a media interview.

3. How do you spend your lunch break?
My favorite way to spend lunch is to meet with our individual donors. It is amazing to see what draws people to become a donor to a social justice foundation. Many of our donors are part-time or full-time activists for the causes that they care about and I always learn something new when I meet with them. I also really enjoy having lunch with other professional grantmakers in the Twin Cities. You can compare notes and strategize about how to effect the issues that your foundations are working on.

4. Which part of your work do you enjoy most?
Headwaters support grassroots community organizing, so I really enjoy seeing how neighborhood residents will band together around a common cause, like getting rid of an environmental hazard in their neighborhood, and make real change through that collective action. Individuals working together can make the impossible, possible.

5. Please finish this sentence: If someone wanted my job, they would have to…..
Believe in the power of each person and each dollar. When you meet with a group of volunteers that is starting to organize low-income residents to try to fix a systemic problem, like racial discrimination in housing, it can be really easy to underestimate the type of difference that they can make. I’ve learned through this work that those individuals can create permanent policy change that can impact thousands and thousands of people because they are drawing attention to something that is unjust.

There are grassroots activists that make $20-50 gifts to Headwaters and a lot of people might feel that a small gift doesn’t really make a big difference but what we have found is that our $20 donors can be our biggest advocates. They tell their friends why supporting community organizing is important and they start organizing donors. When you start adding all of those gifts together and you invest in cutting edge groups, amazing things happen.

6. What advice or tips do you have for other nonprofit professionals in your position?
Don’t forget to make sure that the pipeline of leaders continues behind you. None of us got where we are without mentors and people pulling for us, so make sure that you are that person for someone else.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

A day in the life of a nonprofit worker

1.What is your name, organization and job title (you don't have to give your name/organization if you don't want to- it can be anonymous)
I'm Christopher Whitlatch, Manager of Marketing and Communications at The Pittsburgh Foundation

2.What is the first thing you do when you get in the office?
I check our Twitter, Facebook and blog accounts. I answer any replies and feedbacks that I did not get to in the previous day. I check my email and flag items that need responses.

3.How do you spend your lunch break?
I take a break from my day to read the newspaper or book and grab a bite to eat most days. I try and lunch with colleagues or friends at least once a week to socialize.

4.Which part of your work do you enjoy most?
I enjoy working with the people of the community. My position allows me to interact with donors, grantees, other nonprofits, and community members at large. I enjoy using tools such as social media to tell their stories.

5.Please finish this sentence: If someone wanted my job, they would have to…..
Participate and listen. My job is 2/3 listening to the community and 1/3 talking. With a concentration on using digital media, you need to acquire the skills of a storyteller, community builder, and learn when to participate and when to listen.

6.What advice or tips do you have for other nonprofit professionals in your position?
Don’t ignore the new digital tools – they are wonderful tools for nonprofits. In all the floods and fires that you deal with on a daily basis, remember the people you impact and interact with them on a regular basis. That is what makes my days so interesting.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

A day in the life of a nonprofit worker

1. What is your name, organization and job title (you don't have to give your name/organization if you don't want to- it can be anonymous)
Sterling Harris, PAVSA (Program for Aid to Victims of Sexual Assault), Community Education/Case Tracking Coordinator - which only describes maybe 1/10 of what I do!

2. What is the first thing you do when you get in the office?
Check my phone and email messages. Anything to do with clients takes priority. I primarily work with women and girls age 14 and up who have been sexually assaulted. Lately, I seem to be working with more mothers whose children have been assaulted. Most have reported their assaults to law enforcement and I act as a liaison with the criminal justice system. Many need support in other areas of their lives and I do my best to be creative in finding resources and options that may be helpful to them.

3. How do you spend your lunch break?
Usually with my amazing coworkers, sitting around the kitchen table. We often have women from the neighborhood who will drop in around the lunch hour. We will always drum up something so they can join us for lunch, if they choose.

4. Which part of your work do you enjoy most?
Working with women and girls. Many of the people who find themselves in our office have been
discounted by so many people in their own lives. When people who have experienced sexual violence come here, they are valued as survivors and human beings who deserve justice and utmost care.

5. Please finish this sentence: If someone wanted my job, they would have to...never refrain from asking why sexual violence exists and why so many victims are treated so poorly in the system. The person would need to have an open mind, healthy coping skills, good boundaries, solid work ethic and a sense of humor

6. What advice or tips do you have for other nonprofit professionals in your position?
Take care of yourself and never give up.

I am looking for new nonprofit workers to be featured. If you want to share a day in your life, please email me -

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Reader Question: Personnel issues at board meeting

I work for a small non-profit for over 5 years. We have an Executive Director and three staff. In the past we have been sponsored by other 501c3's and fell under their board of directors. As of this year, we have our own 501c3 and a new Board of Directors, 6 people who have never served on an active board. Our Exec. dir. has had some experience with Boards but not enough to guide them as to what they should do.

That's the here is the problem. The Exec. Dir. recently at a Board Meeting brought up personnel issues and in the notes first and last names given. (Is this a problem with confidentiality?) Also, the problems stated were untrue or misrepresented. Neither person has had a previous conversation with the director either before or after this was discussed with the board. What should be done?

First, I am not an employment lawyer, so I do not know the law surrounding confidentiality.

Now with that being said, the Executive Director can definitely (at least in my experience) bring up personnel issues and state specific names and issues at board meetings. In fact, many do when looking for guidance on issues. Particularly in small nonprofits. With that being said, those names are NOT typically published in the minutes, nor are the specific details. Typically the minutes will say something like "Staff issues discussed." or something along those lines.

I would advise the staff who feel wronged to do two things. First, I would talk to the ED about having the specific names and issues removed from the meeting minutes. Instead, I would request similar wording to what I suggested above. Second, you have the right to talk to the board or board members. Many nonprofits have a grievance policy that advises staff what to do in the case of a grievance with the ED (typically involves going to the board). Since I don't know the specifics about the issues, I'm not sure what the best course of action here is. Since you found out via the meeting notes/minutes, you definitely have the right to contact the board members and note you would like to provide additional information to what you saw in the minutes.

Have your own question? Email me -

Friday, August 21, 2009

Top 3 Weekly Blog Posts for Nonprofit Workers

1.The “Three R’s” of Fundraising Letters by Step by Step Fundraising

2. 5 Mistakes Nonprofit Websites Make by Blackbaud

3. ROI of Listening: 17 Things to Do with What You Hear by Kivi's Nonprofit Communications Blog

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

A day in the life of a nonprofit worker

1.What is your name, organization and job title (you don't have to give your name/organization if you don't want to- it can be anonymous)
I'm Luise Barnikel, Sales and Marketing Associate at IssueLab.

2.What is the first thing you do when you get in the office?
I get some cold water from the fridge, open our windows and sit down to check email and my calendar for the day. Depending on how many items are still on my list from the day before, I also spend a bit of time looking at our social media groups and accounts. A fairly routine hour of my mornings is spent going through my reader to get newest blog posts and third sector news, including feeds about comments I've made or posts I've written. It's important to listen and reply to these.

3.How do you spend your lunch break?
Recently I've been trying to spend a bit of time eating or going for a walk outside. I'm happy that's an option after this seemingly eternal and frigid Chicago winter. Still, I spend many of my lunch breaks eating at my desk. When that's the case, I try to do some off-screen reading (here at IssueLab there's always a great nonprofit report floating around!), or check into news and other sites that give me a break.

4.Which part of your work do you enjoy most?
I enjoy it when people find IssueLab's work and tools helpful. It's not only my job at IssueLab, but also IssueLab's mission to nonprofits to help folks communicate. When that gets done effectively and we can see the results through more traffic on our forum, more research contributors or more organizations partnering on our services, it's very rewarding.

5.Please finish this sentence: If someone wanted my job, they would have to….. persistent! It's difficult to build a solid brand and get attention on a small budget. On top of taking every good opportunity to get your word out there, it's important to follow-up and build meaningful connections – and that takes time.

6.What advice or tips do you have for other nonprofit professionals in your position?
You're important. Don't get discouraged and be patient. Especially now, many nonprofits are dealing with (even) smaller budgets. Everything is a process, and it might take a while to see results of your marketing efforts. It's important to measure returns and evaluate your work, but giving it your all is the best you can do.

I am looking for new nonprofit workers to be featured. If you want to share a day in your life, please email me -

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Guest Post: Developing a brand through an online presence

By Alexia Harris at Project Learn of Summit County (@alexiaharris)

It is imperative that nonprofits understand the significance of developing a brand. Whether your mission is to support cancer research or provide services to adults in need of literacy skills that mission needs to be communicated not only in person, but also online.

In June 2009, it was announced that the YMCA of the USA's brand is worth almost $6.4 billion, making it the nation's most valuable nonprofit brand, according to research conducted by Cone and Intangible Business. The study also revealed that The American Cancer Society stood out with the strongest brand image, which can be credited to its standing as the single most relevant nonprofit organization among consumers. This study showed the correlation between an organization’s mission, brand and value. It also proved the importance of nurturing the public’s awareness and opinion of the organization.

As the community relations manager for Project Learn of Summit County, one of my responsibilities is managing the agency’s online presence with strategies that support business, marketing and communication objectives (among other things).

My goal is to make sure that Project Learn is properly represented on the Internet.

To reach my goal, I had to do three things:

1. Revamp Project Learn’s web site to make it helpful, user-friendly and visually appealing.

2. Implement search engine optimization tactics to improving our web site’s availability to search engines and social media networks.

3. Monitor and participate in social media to gain insight to topics that are related to literacy and adult education.

This is not a “do it and leave it alone” type of job. You must update, monitor and participate in all types of communication activities on a regular basis. Communicating your mission and maintaining your brand must be done with care, as well as convey the same message. Nowadays, when a person wants more information about an organization, the first thing they do is conduct an online search, which is why an organization’s online brand is so critical.

However, it is important to remember that when implementing your strategies and tactics, that your mission be integrated seamlessly so that it is able to become synonymous with the brand. By taking the correct steps to establish your brand and communicate your mission, you will create a very useful means to generate needed funds and prove your worth to supporters and volunteers.

*Do you want to see how Project Learn does it? Browse our Facebook page, Twitter profile and blog for suggestions on communicating your brand and mission online.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

A day in the life of a nonprofit worker

1. What is your name, organization and job title (you don't have to give your name/organization if you don't want to- it can be anonymous)
Krista Francis, Director of Human Resources at Jubilee Association of Maryland (@jubileehr). We provide residential and related services to adults with intellectual and other developmental disabilities. Our office is in Kensington, MD, a suburb of Washington, DC. I love my job and I’ve been there 9 years. When my boss is away, I am Acting Executive Director, so my life is busy.

2. What is the first thing you do when you get in the office?
I wish I could give a more inspiring answer, but I delete all the spam the junk folder missed! While my computer is waking up, I go make coffee if it’s not already perking. I check in with my early arriving co-workers, Shannon and Aarti. J A few minutes of peace and relationship-building before the phone starts ringing! We empty the dishwasher together and catch up on our lives.

3. How do you spend your lunch break?
I often get soup from the Kensington Market down the street. I might eat in the kitchen with co-workers or meet my hubby for a picnic in the beautiful park down the street. Probably two days are working lunches of one kind or another. If I eat at my desk, I check twitter or work on a blog post.

And once a month, I make it a point to get together with my HR friends from other agencies. Feels so good to get out and connect with them!

4. Which part of your work do you enjoy most?
Recruiting and onboarding, absolutely. I love connecting the best candidates to our positions and helping them transition into their new jobs.

I also love the positive influence I have on our culture, our policies, our practices, our staff. I love working at an amazing, reputable firm and hiring amazing talent that will continue the legacy.

Finally, I love the variety and diversity in my duties and knowing that every day I make a positive difference in the lives of people with disabilities.

5. Please finish this sentence: If someone wanted my job, they would have to…..
Learn how to keep secrets. Be discreet. Multi-task. Give people bad news. Think both strategically and long-term. Be detail-oriented and have good follow-through. Broker deals. See both sides. See the forest and the trees. Connect with the mission and vision of the company until it becomes your own.

6. What advice or tips do you have for other nonprofit professionals in your position?
Stay on top of the trends in both human resources and your specific industry. Don’t get complacent.

Strive to be the best. Quality attract quality, which attracts more quality.

Connect with others. Human resources is a hard profession and it is easy to feel isolated and alone. Your co-workers don’t understand what you do and they have no concept of the demands on your time and psyche! Talking to, tweeting, e-mailing and meeting other HR people makes all the difference. Reach out and get to know each other. Share information, generously share your resources and best practices.

Continue to learn and grow. Money is always tight in nonprofits, but be creative so that you can attend conferences and seminars. Get outside your agency. Mentor young folks. Pass on your expertise. Experiment with social media. Do something new.

I am looking for new nonprofit workers to be featured. If you want to share a day in your life, please email me -

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

A day in the life of a nonprofit worker

1. What is your name, organization and job title (you don't have to give your name/organization if you don't want to- it can be anonymous)
My name is Jennifer Edel and I’m the Coordinator of Training and Community Partnerships for the Community Justice Project. We are a non-profit program that recruits and trains volunteers from the community to mentor offenders at the Hennepin County Adult Correctional Facility.

2. What is the first thing you do when you get in the office?
The first thing I do when I get in the office is read my emails, listen to my voicemails, and respond to them.

3. How do you spend your lunch break?
I usually spend my lunch break in the break room eating food I prepared at home. Occasionally I go out for lunch with a co-worker.

4. Which part of your work do you enjoy most?
What I enjoy most is working with the mentors. I enjoy learning about them, their life experiences, and why they are interested in mentoring offenders. We have mentors from all ages, backgrounds, and experiences.

5. Please finish this sentence: If someone wanted my job, they would have to…
Be organized and willing to work with people. Besides working with the mentors I prepare materials for trainings, contact mentors about different events, put together the mentor newsletter, and attend community meetings.

6. What advice or tips do you have for other nonprofit professionals in your position?
Learn by doing. Also be open to trying new things and taking on new roles. Networking is also important. It is good to attend community and other meetings where you have the chance to meet new people and learn about different resources.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Guest Post: Make Your Reports Accessible - Three Easy Tips

by Luise Barnikel at IssueLab

The shifting landscape and expectations of information seekers leaves your nonprofit with the difficult task of catching up and rethinking dissemination.

Your research provides valuable insight into critical social issues. To generate the biggest impact from the knowledge shared, your research report should be engaging to the various audiences it will touch, and adapt to today's expectations for knowledge sharing.

So here are three easy tips to keep in mind when you are planning and designing your next research report.

1. Make your research usable, and re-usable. We understand the time and effort that goes into creating a thorough research report. Still, choosing a restrictive copyright can discourage readers from sharing or using your information - even for a good cause. There are copyright options that allow your audience to use the information in a wide variety of ways and even build upon it to create original research. An easy way to apply non-restrictive but legitimate copyrights to a document is using Creative Commons. IssueLab encourages its contributing organizations to use Creative Commons, because it "increases sharing and improves collaboration."

2. Leave Them Asking for More. The research abstract can be a great way to generate further interest in the entire body of work, but really it should tell a journalist on deadline everything they need to know. Abstracts that leave out vital information - or are too long to read quickly - can actually deter readers from downloading the report to learn more. There's a fine line between cliffhanger and information overload, but those who are truly interested in reading your report will ultimately do it when they have the time. So, distill valuable information, make the abstract comprehensive and quotable, but don't just copy and paste the executive summary.

3. Get the facts out there. Once your report is released, go through it and extract short phrases, quotes, and statistics that can easily be shared online. Micro-blogging (sending brief text updates) has become an increasingly important skill and tool for organizations that wish to keep constituents informed. You can also create graphic summaries or pull charts that can be posted on Facebook or displayed alongside the abstract. Lastly, always make sure you include a direct link to your report listing page or .pdf - nothing worse than not finding the source of good information!

What are your thoughts on other easy ways to make research more usable?

Friday, July 31, 2009

Top 3 Weekly Blog Posts for Nonprofit Workers

1. The Value of Volunteers at Michigan Nonprofit Association Blog

2. High Performance vs. High Impact Nonprofits at Tactical Philanthropy

3. Do You Need More Personality in Your Marketing Mix? at Kivi's Nonprofit Communications Blog

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

A day in the life of a nonprofit worker

1. What is your name, organization and job title (you don't have to give your name/organization if you don't want to- it can be anonymous)
Stephen Bauer MS
Executive Director, Nonprofit Workforce Coalition
American Humanics
The Nonprofit Workforce Coalition is comprised of 70 nonprofits, academic centers, associations, foundations and consulting companies focused on recruiting the next generation of nonprofit sector leadership.

2. What is the first thing you do when you get in the office?
Write down all of the things floating around in my head from the commute into work...then prioritize the to-do list for the day.

3. How do you spend your lunch break?
I try extremely hard to take a lunch break...It is the only break I take during the day so I would prefer to have lunch with co-workers or friends and socialize a bit before heading back to work.

4. Which part of your work do you enjoy most?
Connecting people in the sector to better improve their reach or accomplish their goals. We can accomplish so much more working together than we can working apart. I am a true believer in collaborative action.

5. Please finish this sentence: If someone wanted my job, they would have to…..
If someone wanted my job they would have flexible, open to multiple view points and be a strategic thinker. It is also vital to listen and truly get to know other organizations to examine ways that they can benefit from partnerships and collaborations.

6. What advice or tips do you have for other nonprofit professionals in your position?
Stay focused on the core mission work of your collaborative. It is easy with multiple voices to get side-tracked and spread to thin. Set reachable goals with intermediate measurable results that show progress towards those goals and stay completely focused on that work.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Top 3 Weekly Blog Posts for Nonprofit Workers

1. Would You Pass the Board Pop Quiz? - Board Orientation, Education and Assessment at Accountability Wizardry for Nonprofits

2. When (Nonprofit) Directors Sweat the Small Stuff by Nonprofit Board Crisis

3. Crowdsourcing Your Professional Learning With Social Media: An Example guest post by Kevin Gilnack on Beth's Blog: How Nonprofits Can Use Social Media

Bonus: Adopt a Nonprofit at the Washington Post

Sing for your really: A unique funding opportunity

I recently sent an email about an interesting and unique funding opportunity called the Heart and Soul grant (made possible by the CTK Foundation Philanthropic Fund and Grammy award-winners, Los Lonely Boys).

To apply for the grant, the organization must submit a 4-8 line poem (lyrics) that represents the “heart and soul” of their mission. After the grant closes a jury panel of recognized independent music artists and producers from around the country will select a winner based on the quality and impact of the lyrics. The selected nonprofit will be awarded $10,000 and have their poem put to song by Los Lonely Boys.

If you are interested in applying, do so by August 15, 2009. Any 501(c)3 nonprofit is eligible. To learn more and apply for the grant, please visit the CTK Foundation website and click on the gold Foundation tab.

What an easy fun grant application - at least it's not the 5-10 pages you will typically have to write! If you apply for this, please feel free to submit your "lyrics" below in the comment section. Thanks!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

A day in the life of a nonprofit worker

1. What is your name, organization and job title (you don't have to give your name/organization if you don't want to- it can be anonymous)
Stephanie Jacobs, Consulting Associate at Fieldstone Alliance

2. What is the first thing you do when you get in the office?
When I walk in the door, I say hello to my co-workers who are already hard at work. Then I turn on my computer and check my email, Twitter, Facebook, and calendar.

3. How do you spend your lunch break?
I like to eat lunch with my co-workers. Sometimes we are all too busy to have lunch together, but we try to eat together as often as we can. There are picnic tables right outside of our office, so in the summer we eat outside almost every day.

4. Which part of your work do you enjoy most?
I enjoy learning about what makes nonprofit organizations tick. In my work, I get the chance to interact with and learn about organizations all across the country. It’s amazing how organizations can appear so different on the outside in terms of industry and culture, but they face many of the same issues and challenges. While the organizations may share struggles, the people who work at these nonprofits also have their passion and dedication for their work in common. It’s their passion that keeps me going and makes me work harder.

5. Please finish this sentence: If someone wanted my job, they would have to…..
Know how to manage time and personalities. I’m often working on many kinds of projects (organization and life stage assessments, strategy development, collaboration) involving many different people (the consultants I’m working with, the clients, and sometimes the organization’s stakeholders). Not only do I need to assist with the tasks of the project, keeping the client’s needs and unique situation in mind, I also need to be a team player, working with the consultants and the client to ensure the project is successful. It takes good time and people management skills to get things done.

6. What advice or tips do you have for other nonprofit professionals in your position?
Network, network, network. There is nothing like having a group of peers to turn to in good and bad times, peers who understand what you are going through. More and more of my closest friends are from the nonprofit sector. Not only are they smart, fun people, but we also share the same values, talk openly about what’s happening in our jobs, and create connections for each other we might not have made ourselves. We are laying the foundation for solid partnerships for the future when we are the leaders in the field.

If you want to share a day in your life, please email me -

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

A day in the life of a nonprofit worker

1. What is your name, organization and job title (you don't have to give your name/organization if you don't want to- it can be anonymous)
Jyl Shaffer, Sumner County Director for HomeSafe-Inc.

2. What is the first thing you do when you get in the office?
Well, my day starts before I get out of bed. I say a quick prayer then check my Blackberry for e-mails, twitter updates, and rss feeds. (I'll admit sometimes that sequence has a different order!)

3. How do you spend your lunch break?
I live a mile from work so I bike back to the house and let my dogs out. I usually actually eat while I'm working.

4. Which part of your work do you enjoy most?
I love outreach. I run a domestic violence shelter and community program so I try to spend as much time as possible doing community education. I also started a teen program in the schools that brings me more joy than I thought a job ever could.

5. Please finish this sentence: If someone wanted my job, they would have to…..have a really solid support network. This is not the place to be if your marriage is struggling or if you have no friends to help you separate from the job.

6. What advice or tips do you have for other nonprofit professionals in your position?
Challenge everything. The domestic violence movement has been going strong for 30+ years. We're no longer counter-culture; we're part of the system. Is our message relevant, meaningful, and life changing? What's the point if it's not?

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

How do nonprofit organizations use Twitter? Part 2

As I mentioned yesterday, in "How do nonprofit organizations use Twitter?", I recently completed a mini-case study to explore how nonprofit organizations use Twitter. Yesterday I mentioned some of things I noticed, and today I wanted post post some of the highlights from the interview, and a link to the Charities Review Council's Twitter Plan.

For this mini-case study, I interviewed Kelly Rowan, one of the staff members in charge of her organizations Twitter account @SmartGivers at the Charities Review Council.

How does your organization use Twitter, what specifically do you tweet about?
Well we tweet about the organizations that have participated in our review process, so we tweet about the results of those reviews, and then also about other events or services that we’re offering and we try to provide links to good resources both our resources that we provide but also resources provided by others that we think will be valuable to the people who are following us and then we just try to engage in conversations that happen to do with informed giving and nonprofit accountability and transparency and helping really to improve and increase philanthropy.

How did you come to the decision about what specifically you wanted to tweet about?

Well we viewed Twitter as another communication tool for us, so we of course have our marketing and communication plan that we have each year that we implement and then the goals that are inherent in that plan are design to help us pursue our mission and then the goals for the Twitter plan are designed to help us meet those marking and communication goals.

How has using Twitter impacted your organization?
Well the very first day that we launched our account, let’s see what was the topic. Helen had tweeted about an article or something and the very next morning we had a call from a reporter at the Wall Street Journal who had seen that tweet and she just never would have, I mean of course there are ways she could have become aware of us, but Twitter was a really direct way for that connection to be made. So, that’s kind of an example, but I think overall we are using it to try to break down barriers in communication and accessing the services that we provide and really helping to mobilize informed donors and accountable nonprofits for the greater good.

Finally, Kelly made a great point near the end of our conversation that I wanted to share "I think a common challenge that we all face is we are trying to figure out how to measure how effective Twitter is in meeting the goals I mentioned earlier. There are some really great conversations happening around that, oftentimes via Twitter."

Monday, July 13, 2009

How do nonprofit organizations use Twitter?

This is the question I sought to explore in a mini-case study I completed for a seminar I was taking on case studies. For the project, I observed six nonprofit organizations use of Twitter:

- @SmartNonprofits
- @SmartGivers
- @MealsonWheels
- @StJude
- @2Harvest
- @ProjectSomos

Additionally, I completed document review and interviewed a nonprofit organization about their use of Twitter. Because of the tiny scale of this mini-study, the results weren’t conclusive (and not all that rigorous), but I was able to gain an interesting look into how some nonprofit organizations have been using Twitter. A few things I noticed:

- Mission and Twitter use don't always align
Some nonprofit organizations do not include much about their programming in their tweets. They will tweet requests for volunteers, requests for donations, links to studies or articles, but rarely will you see a tweet that gives you insight into what exactly that organization is doing. Project Somos did a good job of tweeting about what exactly the organization was doing, as did Smart Givers. Twitter can be an excellent way to promote programming, and while all an organization's tweets should not be about the programming, a good amount of them should be.

- Frequency can be lacking
If you or your organization decides to join Twitter, then you need to participate and participate regularly. I'm not saying you need to tweet every hour, but I think at a minimum every day is the ideal. If your organization tweets once a month you aren't getting what you could be out of Twitter and you are not going to really build a following.

- Some blur personal and professional boundaries
There is a lot of variation among how nonprofits use their Twitter accounts. Some believe that the organization's Twitter account should never include personal tweets, while others are quite the opposite. While I see nothing wrong with conversations on Twitter (which are obviously between people and not organizations), those in charge of their nonprofit's Twitter account may want to hold back on the "Watching Transformers" or "Picking up the kids from day care" tweets.

- Some just aren't quite sure how to use Twitter
This can easily be seen by taking a look at the timelines of many of the nonprofits that use Twitter. At this time, no one has really figured out a way to measure the effectiveness of using Twitter for nonprofit purposes, and there is no "right way" at this time. It is clear that like people, organizations are confused about what the purpose of Twitter is supposed to be.

Check back tomorrow (Tuesday) for links to one of the documents I reviewed, the Charities Review Council’s Twitter plan, along with highlights from the nonprofit interview - How do nonprofit organizations use Twitter? Part 2.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Effective use of television in nonprofit marketing and fundraising

Should your meager advertising and marketing budget be spent on television? In nine out of ten cases I would say no. This past weekend I saw one of those rare times I would say yes. While watching a classic (Terminator 2) a commercial came on for the ASPCA. I’m sure many of you have seen the commercial, it has the sad music – “In the arms of an angel" by Sarah McLachan with pictures of dogs and cats with shocking statistics (every 10 seconds a dog or cat is abused or beaten – an issue that deserves its own post). It was a touching commercial - I remembered the statistics from watching it once.

The ASPCA did an amazing job bringing together all of the elements of a successful television commercial. They had an emotional pull, a soft appeal, saddening statistics, and a famous person to bring legitimacy and importance to the cause (I’m not saying you need famous people for television commercials). I just think they did it extremely well. After watching it, it made me want to donate.

I wanted to include the video from the commercial I saw, but I couldn't find it. But, here is another one of their commercials that is very similar.

For further reading about using television in your nonprofit work:

- How deadly are stupid nonprofit ads?
- One of the most effective nonprofit TV PSAs I've ever seen
- Nonprofit group to take out TV ads backing Sanford on stimulus
- TV ads are great, right?
- 5 Steps to a Potent Ad -- rid Gets Attention for Reducing Hospital Infection

Friday, July 10, 2009

Top 3 Weekly Blog Posts for Nonprofit Workers

1. How to have more self-discipline by Penelope Trunk's Brazen Careerist

2. Why you need to raise restricted funds by Donor Power Blog

3. What I Wish Journalists Knew About the Nonprofit Sector by Nonprofit Congress Blog

Bonus: Nonprofit Blogs: 5 Reasons You Do & Don’t Need One by Kivi's Nonprofit Communications Blog

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

A day in the life of a nonprofit worker

1. What is your name, organization and job title (you don't have to give your name/organization if you don't want to- it can be anonymous)
Elizabeth Clawson, Communications & Development Associate at the National Council of Nonprofits

2. What is the first thing you do when you get in the office?
I check my email so I can respond right away to urgent messages, usually from my colleagues or journalists.

3. How do you spend your lunch break?
I confess—I usually eat lunch (which I bring from home) at my desk. I know that’s a work-life balance no-no. But I do read the Express (DC’s daily newsmag), which ends with the fun stuff—human interest stories, the Blog Log, comics, crossword, etc. So it’s relaxing.

4. Which part of your work do you enjoy most?
I love working with the media. I wrote and edited for my high school paper for a couple years and loved the writing aspect of it…but I was too introverted to enjoy constantly seeking out interviews. I’m still in awe of the whole profession. If I can get one journalist one good source or statistic, I feel like it’s been a good day. Same for my colleagues—they sustain me.

5. Please finish this sentence: If someone wanted my job, they would have to…..
…be resourceful. We’re a small office, so when we need something we don’t have, we sometimes have to freestyle it. “It” might be shipping labels, or a licensing and permissions policy, or an intern orientation binder. Then again, we didn’t even have intact communications or development departments when my job was created, so I’ve been building it from the ground up over the past year. That’s been both exhilarating and exhausting. It kind of reminds me of constructing massive Lego towers when I was a kid: you’re never really done, because there are always other things to add to it.

6. What advice or tips do you have for other nonprofit professionals in your position?
Don’t overthink things. There’s so much professional development talk going around these days, especially for young nonprofit workers: Start a blog. Manage up. Find a mentor. Eat lunch away from your desk. I’m sure it’s all good stuff, but it can become paralyzing. Sometimes you just have to do your work. Update the website without wondering if you should ask for a raise for taking on IT duties. Ask your boss a question without trying to advance your career. Eat lunch alone without feeling guilty for networking. If your professional development starts cannibalizing your job, I think that’s neither professional nor development.

If you want to share a day in your life, please email me -

Monday, July 6, 2009

A few great tips for worst-case scenarios

In the recent issue of the Chronicle of Philanthropy they had an interesting article and some great tips for worst-case scenarios. I thought I would summarize and share them here:

-Set priorities: Take a hard look at your programming. In these difficult times, make sure you are focusing on programs that specifically align with your organization’s mission. For programs that don't or are not essential, scale back for now. You can always ramp up later when you have more funding.

-Forecast financial future: To aid in decision-making, make sure to create multiple scenarios for your budget (best, moderate and worst-case). Check out "Want to know how your nonprofit is doing financially?"for quick, easy ways to figure out how your nonprofit is doing financially.

-Identify “trip wires”: This will help you get the most bang for your buck and enable you several options to work through tight times. To do this, identify what certain reductions will get you. For example, if you have a 10% budget cut what happens? Will you have to cut a program or lay off a staff member? What about 20% or even 30%? Does that mean you have to lay off a leadership position? Knowing what these cuts will get you will help you plan for the worst-case scenario.

-Put specific people in charge of carrying out the plan: Please don't do what many, many people do when they create a plan - read it once, and then promptly put it in a drawer where it gathers dust for a few years before you throw it away and do it all over again. Make sure that your plan for weathering the tough times is actually carried out. Assign specific people to carry out the plan.

-Don’t expect miracles: Small changes won't save your organization overnight. It takes time, patience, and hard work to get through the tough times.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

A day in the life of a nonprofit worker

1. What is your name, organization and job title?
Mich Sineath
Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC)
Public Relations and Marketing
AEJMC is a nonprofit association of journalism and mass communication educators, students and media professionals. The AEJMC mission is to advance education in journalism, cultivate professional practice and promote the free flow of communication.

2. What is the first thing you do when you get in the office?
Well, that depends on what you mean by "office." I don't know many people without some sort of technology gadget strapped to their side or ear, be it an iPhone, BlackBerry, or Pre-Palm; not to mention my home computer, which manages to send and receive work e-mail and messages with surprising ease ;-) That said, all of these devices enable today's workforce to work from anywhere and at anytime, which gives me some trouble answering this question as posed. Instead, I'll walk you through a typical morning routine:
First, after thanking God for enabling coffee makers with automatic timers, I quickly grab a cup of fuel, sit down in front of my computer and begin sifting through my e-mail to see what I may have missed during my slumber. This easily transitions to two different Twitter accounts (personal and business) so that I can check for any "mentions" or "direct messages" that may be business-related. Since I'm typically up at such an early hour, I usually just make note of messages I should reply to when I arrive at the "actual office" so that the time stamp remains at an appropriate hour.
After refueling my cup, I'm off to the feeds, checking first for any news or mentions of my organization on the Internet. I make note of any posts that require later attention, then head over to the news feeds that relate to my organization's mission or goals. I comb through many folders and sub-folders for the latest news and information and pull the most relevant aside.
I head over to and pre-schedule my news tweets to be disseminated throughout the morning. Then I'll narrow those down to the top two or three news stories of the day, and share them in other social networks, like Facebook and our company blog. While I'm there, I'll check for any new discussions that may have popped up, or comments that need moderating.
Then it's off to the gym, breakfast and finally to the "actual office."

3. How do you spend your lunch break?
I typically spend my lunch break eating at my desk. On the rare occasion that I do venture outside of the office, I can usually be found at a Barnes & Noble, having a cup of coffee and reading an actual print product of some kind. A break away from the computer monitor can be good for the soul.

4. Which part of your work do you enjoy most?
For me, I come from an academic background in public relations, convergence and new media, so all of the work I'm engaged in is right up my alley. But the most rewarding aspect of my job would have to be working with our volunteers. AEJMC is lucky to have the most dedicated volunteers to help shepherd the association through new ideas and projects and even tough economic times. From strategic planning to national conventions, our volunteers devote so much of their time and lives to the association because they believe wholeheartedly in the mission and vision of AEJMC. What could possibly be better than that?

5. Please finish this sentence: If someone wanted my job, they would have to…..
If someone wanted my job, they would have to be hardworking, patient, and above all, resourceful. Working for a nonprofit can be tough. There are usually less employees, less money and less time to get it all done. And it's more than likely going to be your job to figure out how. If you can handle the associated stress, still have time to pitch in where needed, and be willing to sacrifice the cushy corner office with a view, then you're golden.

6. What advice or tips do you have for other nonprofit professionals in your position?
Remember you passion and stick with it. Be willing to sift through ideas for gems. And always listen to your customers and your gut.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Top 3 Weekly Blog Posts for Nonprofit Workers

1. The Impact of Giving Circles by Nonprofit Law Blog

2. Managing Transitions by Michigan Nonprofit Association Blog

3. A fantastic example of how non-profits can develop a viral email campaign by Mark Buzan's PR & Public Affairs spot on the web

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

A day in the life of a nonprofit worker

1. What is your name, organization and job title (you don't have to give your name/organization if you don't want to- it can be anonymous)
MacArthur Antigua. Public Allies. Director of National Recruitment and Expansion. Public Allies advances diverse new leadership to strengthen communities, nonprofits and civic participation. Our main engine for this is through our AmeriCorps Apprenticeship Program In Fall ’09, we’ll have over 600 young adults doing 10 month nonprofit direct service apprenticeships in 18 different cities across the country. We’re about to complete our 15th program year, and after this current year, we’ll have over 2,800 alumni.

2. What is the first thing you do when you get in the office?
Finalize my to-do list for the day. Followed quickly by checking the Public Allies Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr accounts, and then following up on e-mails.

3. How do you spend your lunch break?
I review the interesting articles that were tagged on the PA Twitter feed, check my personal facebook account, try to go for a quick walk outside if possible. If it’s not so nice outside, I’ll try to write informal correspondence to friends/colleagues so I don’t totally depend on the digital world.

4. Which part of your work do you enjoy most?

I really love working with our local site staff on innovating our recruitment practices. We have staff in over 18 cities, and it’s so much fun creating a space for them to think differently and imagine new strategies. I also enjoy the actual practice of recruitment itself – I’ve set up virtual “Info sessions” (over webinar/conference call) so I can personally present the Public Allies program to potential participants across the country, and that keeps me grounded. It’s easy to be stuck at 50,000 feet when working at a national office, so I really value the opportunities to be one-on-one/small group with local site staff, or potential participants. 12 years ago I was a participant in this program, 6 years ago, I directed our Chicago Apprenticeship Program. It’s tremendously satisfying to be in this position to work on a mission I really believe in, and be responsible for helping connect new people to this mission.

5. Please finish this sentence: If someone wanted my job, they would have to…..
Have to be able to blend the new-school (understanding the generational shift in the NPO workplace, as well as the technology that allows us to manage a national virtual team of 18 different cities and staff), and yet master the “old-school” style of community organizing (ability to listen deeply, the one-on-one relationship, and setting/celebrating victories).

6. What advice or tips do you have for other nonprofit professionals in your position?
In terms of the content (which is “recruitment” of young adults): Follow the generational trends in terms of work, leisure and finance. Invent methods to share those insights (slideshare, live workshops, etc). In terms of the mode (working nationally, albeit virtually): keep building relationships across the country, be nimble with the new technology/social media. Before this gig, I had founded my own nonprofit consultancy (Massive Creativity), and I learned that it’s all about doing the work – I had to keep “gigging” to make money, keep my skills sharp, and support relationships. Like Encyclopedia Brown said, “No Case Too Small.” If you can’t get paid, then keep doing pro-bono stuff so that others can witness your work. Now that I’m back in “institutional” life, and that I don’t have to create my own projects/work, I’ve still found that notion of “constant gigging” still helps. Little side projects could become innovations that inform your work, or it could be useful contributions to colleagues to support the work-at large, and just build good karma and goodwill.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Evaluation: insider or outsiders job?

Who should evaluate your program? That question has probably been asked in your organization at one point or another. Most nonprofit organizations hire an evaluator that comes in for a few months or a year, evaluates the program, gives them a report and then leaves. Then a year, or years later, the process repeats itself. Each time with the organization dishing out anywhere from a few thousand to hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Being an evaluation consultant, I am more than happy to help nonprofit organizations with their evaluations, but it makes me very sad when I see nonprofits that aren't doing evaluation simply because they can't afford it. This is one of the reasons why I think that building the capacity of nonprofit organizations to do their own evaluations is so important.

Nonprofits don't need to do fancy random assignment experimental evaluations for them to be good or useful. It can be a simple survey at the end of a program that helps with program improvement.

I do think bringing in an outsider's perspective can be valuable for evaluations, particularly when having an objective person is important. But, when that isn't the case, there really is no reason why an evaluation can't be done internally. It can save money, promote use, and increase involvement of internal staff (which increases likelihood of use).

I'd like to ask you (nonprofit workers/organizations) to share in the comment section whether you do evaluations, whether they are done internally or externally, and why?

Thank you in advance!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Top 3 Weekly Blog Posts for Nonprofit Workers

1. Easier Said Than Done : Choose Your Budget-Cut Battles Wisely by Jeff Brooks at FundraisingSuccess

2. Social Media Usage Guidelines: Don't moon people with cameras (or at least hide your face when you do) by Beth's Blog: How Nonprofits Can Use Social Media

3. Guest Post: Exploring Nonprofit Mergers and Alliances by Tactical Philanthropy

Bonus: Non-Profit Technology Report: Size Doesn't Matter by Wild Apricot's non-profit technology blog

Thursday, June 18, 2009

What is a lift letter?

In a recent nonprofit finance meeting, the question was asked “What is a lift letter?” It made me realize that this terminology might not be as common as I thought, and that it might be worthwhile to discuss and define it on this blog.

What is a lift letter?

A “lift letter,” a direct mail term, is a letter designed to “lift” the response rate of your mailing (which many argue it does effectively). For nonprofits, it typically is a personal letter from a donor, volunteer, program participant, or supporter (who writes it themselves normally – with your editing) that builds a case for the nonprofit and adds credibility. It is used in combination with the normal ask letter.

For example, you write your normal year-end appeal. At the bottom of your normal appeal, you have a p.s. that says something along the lines of “P.S. Please make sure to read Sally’s letter enclosed. Sally has fostered eleven dogs with us over the past decade and recently adopted Westin, a lab mix that was a rescued from a puppymilll.” Then enclosed with the year-end appeal is a smaller (perhaps half sheet) letter printed on a bright colored piece of paper from Sally that explains why X animal rescue is important to her, why she gave, etc. This small additional letter is designed to lift the response rate to the year-end appeal.

Read more about lift letters here.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

A day in the life of a nonprofit worker

1. What is your name, organization and job title (you don't have to give your name/organization if you don't want to- it can be anonymous)
Phil Wright, Blackpool Council Lancashire the CLC, Secondary teacher and consultant teacher.

2. What is the first thing you do when you get in the office?
This ones tricky to say the least as no one day i really like the next, depending on the weather and if I'm feeling the twangs of environmentalism I may cycle the 2.3 miles to the office. However if its windy, rainy, cold, freezing, a slight nip in the air or a little to dark OR anything other than great sun shine then I'll drive. Once there I normally check the dairy, realise that really i should have planned better as I'm no doubt already running late as I've been on twitter or ebay or some other sight that I've taken just a little bit more interest in than i should have. I normally get the items i need for the days teaching preped, thanks the good Lord that I no longer work in a comprehensive school and more and that unless the earth blows up I will get out of the building unscathed today! Once sorted its time to turn to that great institution associated world wide with the Brit's a cup of tea! I trying to cut back on the coffee, I'm pretty sure like all teachers - or at least the vast majority that I'm a coffee addict! While I don't need it get in my way of it in a morning and normally I'll take a swipe at ripping your head clean off your shoulders, normally with my eyes still half closed, so not that bad really lol!

3. How do you spend your lunch break?
As the media and various other organizations keep lambasting us with what it is to be healthy, sexy or even desirable I spend lunch chaowing down a most delicious and filling ......... salad ! Secretly dreaming of the cheese burger or toastie that I really want but aware of the amount of calories that it continues and that if I'm not careful I will become the size of a house ... ok that could be sometime off however after eating my salad in 10mins i decide that really a kitkat would be a great idea! this normally totally undermines the salad effort.
Lunch is normally spend in the company of the people at work who can tolerate my, shall I say individual sense of humour! these are the folks that are less likely to be offended by quips and jibs, in this day and age you have ot be careful who you crack a joke to, for fear that you'll end up in front of an industrial tribuneral! I'm lucky there are a couple of folks in the building who share the same type of twisted humor as me, it 's nothing that bad just the one dig. However thats lunch, generally conducted in half and hour and with a laugh attached!

4. Which part of your work do you enjoy most?
It a total cliché that teachers do it for the kids and talking to anyone I know they will happily tell you that I'd much rather have child lightly roasted for 3 hours at 260 degrees C than really go near one. However this isn't entirely true - ok not true at all. I work with some of this countries most deprived children, some on a level with kids in London! They can be little gits! Its true parents would liek to hear that but hey hoo! However if you put together a really good lesson that really captures their imagination and gives them opportunities that they know that they will rarely get, they work extremely hard and deliver products that are far beyond what you would expect form them and rarely ever leave with out saying 'thanks'.

5. Please finish this sentence: If someone wanted my job, they would have to…..
find me a winning lottery ticket, with a value of around 50 - 90 million pound (possibly euro depending on the values lol).

6. What advice or tips do you have for other nonprofit professionals in your position?
I used to train student teachers and often I get the student the 1st day, and the opening lines would be exchanged followed by .. so what advice would you give me about teaching or teaching here. Well thats a mine field in its self! You could start with the - well check your fly! If its down your going to be reminded of it for the next 100 years! However practical that advise not really what their after. Advice is the learning taken form your experiences, I've done loads of stupid things! So surly the advice should be do the opposite of me and you'll be a head teacher at the age of 25!
What I told them was this' kids don't like BS, don't do it as they see though it, do get them to do anything you wouldn't and don't do anything in front of them that they are not allowed to. I always thought that this last one was really important, I've always got memories from school that in winter months you come in freezing and on the teachers desk was a steaming hot cuppa! They'd sip it all lesson while your teeth chattered and god forbid that you were allowed a drink. The same could be said about summer but with a cool drink. I always infuriated me teachers chewing gum in class or using a mobile phone while in a class ... you'd rollok the hell out of a kid for doing it, yet cos your a teacher its fine ... good example.
I normally left the advice there, I always believed that they would develop into a good teacher on their own making their own advice as they went along!

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