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!

If you are willing to be featured, please email me -

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Fundraising House Parties: Why won’t anyone host one?

Does your nonprofit want to have house parties, but can’t find anyone to host? Maybe you should take a look at how you are structuring them – if a structure even exists. Many nonprofits include house parties in their goals for the year, but fail to find individuals to host. Is it because no one wants to open their home? I don’t think so.

I think much of it has to deal with how to you sell someone on it. While there will always be people that won’t want a bunch of people in their home, there are a lot of people that wouldn’t mind if it was simple and easy. Unfortunately, many nonprofits don’t make it an easy decision for prospective hosts.

The two biggest barriers to getting people to host a house party are the guest list and the refreshments.

Guest List
Is the house party just for the host's friends or is it a comprehensive targeted event? This is a key distinction. While most hosts won't mind sending out some invitations to their neighbors, friends, or family, it shouldn't be expected that they are the only guests (unless that is what the host wants). Hosts will be stressed by the idea that they are solely responsible for getting people there, plus your nonprofit will be missing out. This is the time to take a look at who lives nearby (say a 20 mile radius) and invite them too - especially those that get your newsletter but maybe don't donate, or those who donated 5 years ago but haven't donated since.

This is a tough one. Some believe that hosts should pay for everything as part of their "gift" of having the event. I don't agree. I think hosts can be asked to help in a variety of ways, from making cookies to asking the local restaurant for donated food, but I don't think a requirement for them hosting a house party should be that they are required to provide food and drinks. The nonprofit should be prepared to handle this. There are many ways to keep this low budget, for example, have it be a mid-afternoon house party and have cookies (or get them donated) and refreshments (donated or ask host, otherwise nonprofit pay for).

To maximize the number of hosts your nonprofit gets for house parties; I tend to think that the nonprofit should be prepared to do everything involved with hosting a house party. The only hard and fast expectation from the host should be that they are there helping the event and that they provide the use of their home. In most cases, in my experience, the host will at least help cover food.

Regardless, it should pay off. All you need to do is get one donation to cover the meager cost of refreshments and cookies (if they weren’t donated or covered by the host), but you may reap later donations by attendees and the one person that did donate may become a lifelong donor. It’s better to eat the meager cost of throwing a house party (or to build relationships with businesses to get donated food/beverages), than to just keep not having house parties because no one is signing up.

Finally, make sure to make everything clear and easy. Whether you agree with me about who should be responsible for what, spell it all out in a house party information sheet. It's important to make sure the host feels that they aren't on their own with it.

One more thing - House parties don't have to be about fundraising for prospective hosts that don't like fundraising - they can be information sessions (friendraising).

Monday, June 15, 2009

The first 10 people I followed on Twitter

A few days ago I realized that I am almost at my 1,000th tweet. I figured that my 1,000th tweet should be something related to Twitter, so when researching potential blog topics I came upon an interesting and fun post by SocialButterfly "A Look Back: My First Twitter 10." After reading it, I immediately went back and took a look at the first 10 people that I followed. There weren't really any big surprises, but I thought I would share them with you in no particular order:

1. @thetattooedmama
Jess is the graphic designer that owners the Delicious Design Studio, and the person that did the original design of this blog. It makes sense she was one of the first I followed since she designed the blog that is NonprofitSOS.

2. @problogger
This is a no brainer. Darren is a genius when it comes to blogging and always has unique, thoughtful and well-written posts to help bloggers at ProBlogger. Which is why he was one of the first that I followed.

3. @staceyburns
I worked with Stacey at a nonprofit a few years back. She doesn't tweet much now, but is an amazing person. I have never worked with someone that is so committed to her work. When I first joined Twitter, I'm sure I searched for those that I knew on Twitter, which is likely how I found Stacy and started following her.

4. @SmartNonprofits
This is the Minnesota Council of Nonprofit's Twitter account. In Minnesota, we are very fortunate to have such an awesome state council for nonprofits. For those in the nonprofit sector, they are an obvious pick for someone worthwhile to follow.

5. @Deborah Howard
Deborah is the President and founder of the Companion Animal Protection Society (CAPS). I'm sure she is one of the first I followed because of her work. I am on the board of an animal rescue, Pet Haven, and animal welfare is a cause I care about deeply.

6. @davemn
Dave Lee was one of the people who inspired me to really get active on Twitter. I remember sitting in the lower level of the capital building while Dave was tweeting about our day on his iphone (he was a presidential elector and I was an alternate). He kept an interesting blog with his take on the electoral college, Citizen Elector.

7. @daniamiwa
I first met Dania when she was working at the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits at their annual conference. Dania is a fun, intelligent nonprofit professional that has interesting tweets and this year, just landed a job to help build the capacity for development at the Great Plains Institute. She is a great person to follow.

8. @Philanthropy
This is the Chronicle of Philanthropy's twitter account. It's no surprise this was one of the my first follows, they constantly provide links and info for those in the nonprofit sector.

9. @alexeaton01
I met Alex Eaton through my community involvement, he lives in my Senate District (62). He is young and impressive - click on his name to see his investment group. It's just too bad he doesn't tweet more!

10. @kellykay30
I first met Kelly last fall, when I was first getting on Twitter. I serve on the finance committee at the Charities Review Council where she works in Development. She impressed me from the start, at small nonprofits with only one development staff, you often find that there isn't a lot of structure or planning - mainly because they just don't have time. This was not the case for Kelly at the Charities Review Council, their thoughtfulness, planning and structure was very impressive and really a model for other nonprofits to follow. They have an active finance committee, and a well-thought out development plan. She is a great nonprofit person to follow.

How did I find these? I looked at the list of those I am following and clicked "next" until I got to the last page of those that I am following. It seems that Twitter lists both those that you follow and your followers in the order that they follow you, or you follow them. So, by going through those that I am following all the way to the beginning of the list revealed the first ten people that I followed.

Follow NonprofitSOS on twitter.

Friday, June 12, 2009


I'm thinking about having a monthly webinar for nonprofit workers. To aid in my decision, I have created an easy, quick seven question survey. Please take a moment to complete it by clicking here. Thank you in advance for your help!

Top 3 Weekly Blog Posts for Nonprofit Workers

It's back! Now that I am back from Africa and my honeymoon, I am starting the Top 3 Weekly Blog Posts for Nonprofit Workers again. Enjoy!

1. You've Gotta Have Heart by Nonprofit Law Blog

2. Strategies for Hard Times: The Case for Sustainable Fundingby Philantopic

3. Nonprofits and Advisory Boards by Nonprofit Board Crisis

This was from two weeks ago, but is a good one - Number of Directors - What's the Best Practice? by the Nonprofit Law Blog

Wednesday, June 10, 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)
Program Coordinator for a Reproductive Health Advocacy Organization.

2. What is the first thing you do when you get in the office?
Triage my messages: voicemail, email, and snail mail.

3. How do you spend your lunch break?
Catching up on industry news (reading blogs, newspapers, journals), chatting with coworkers, or meeting with program constituents and colleagues at other non-profit organizations.

4. Which part of your work do you enjoy most?
I honestly love my job because I know that I'm contributing systemic solutions to systemic problems. I'm happiest when I'm working directly on solving those problems, whether it's identifying new program partners, matching a medical student with a mentor, or bringing people together to learn a new skill that will improve women's access to reproductive health care.

5. Please finish this sentence: If someone wanted my job, they would have to…..
be creative, flexible, and committed to doing whatever it takes to increase access to abortion care. Because long-term social change takes time, they would really have to be prepared for many rejections along the way.

6. What advice or tips do you have for other nonprofit professionals in your position?
Network. Learn who the people are that might benefit from your services, and reach out to them multiple times. Be persistent. And stay on top of developments in the field by reading blogs, subscribing to listservs, and attending industry conferences when possible. You never know who you might meet that could help you with your goal.

If you are willing to be featured, please email me -

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Some thoughts about grant writing

When I wrote my very first grant, I had no idea what I was doing. I leaped at the opportunity to write a grant so I could have that experience under my belt. At I can honestly say that I probably didn't do all that great of a job...I got the money...but I saw several typos and upon reflection, realized I had made numerous mistakes. I thought I would share some of my lessons learned, so maybe you won't repeat my mistakes :)

  • Proofread, proofread again, and when you think it is perfect, proofread one more time.

I can't tell you how often I see grants with typos, errors, etc. My first grant had some, and it's likely yours do too. It's very difficult to get every single typo in a 10-20 page grant, but you should try, and proofreading is the best way to help avoid all those typos.

  • Don't wait to the last possible minute to write the grant.

I have done this, as have most people. Waiting until the last minute guarantees you will be stressed as you rush to get your grant done in time. You won't be able to proofread it as well or as much, people will be less willing to help you, and it overall won't be as good as it could be. Plus, it doesn't look that great to the funder when you call them the day the grant is due with a question about the application requirements.

  • Use other staff.

I often find that the grant writer (or whichever development staff person that gets stuck with/volunteers for grant writing) is a lone pillar. They write the grants on their own with minimal outside help. Often times they are using templates from past grants. Please try not to do this. While it is completely ok and often good to use templates/past grants when writing a new grant, don't just copy and paste. Make sure to talk to other program staff. Sit in on your organization's programming. Attend the class or day program. Experience it first-hand. This will make you a better writer. Plus, having an ongoing relationship with the program staff ensures that you have the most updated information on that program. Programs, especially new ones, tend to slightly alter themselves as they grow and develop continuously getting better. Last year's grant may not have the most updated and relevant information.

  • Finally, use updated research!

Some organizations don't use research period. You read their grant and they make their case, but don't really back it up. Others do back it up, but don't have the most relevant or recent research. This is important - particularly incorporating evaluation information. Funders want to know why your approach works, why it is best, and why it is needed. Including statistics like "One in three teens currently get no education about birth control at all, and of those who do, many do not get it when they need it most—before they start to have sex." when writing an application for comprehensive sexual education, or "Children whose parents read to them tend to become better readers and perform better in school" for a family reading program, they can help build your case and demonstrate the need for support. But don't only use this sort of research, use internal research and evaluations. Include evaluation information from your program, for example 90% of program attendees increased competencies after attending X program as evidence by pre- and post-test results (for this, you would need to be evaluating your programs).

If you have your own lessons learned or tips, please leave them below for others to learn from!

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)
Kim Weigel, community relations coordinator for Supports to Encourage Low-income Families (SELF)

2. What is the first thing you do when you get in the office?
I start my mornings by signing-on to check Twitter and non-profit blogs, mostly to monitor the latest fundraising trends, review giving stats, etc. I also dedicate an hour or so catching up on current events from the county and state. My agency is a 21-person non-profit serving Butler County, Ohio (SW region of the state), so I read through some of the smaller town newspapers and Cincinnati Enquirer.

3. How do you spend your lunch break?
A typical lunch break is spent at my desk researching potential grant opportunities, online fundraising trends or reading newsletters from associations and committees I serve. Occasionally I’ll take a break from work to complete a crossword or two!

4. Which part of your work do you enjoy most?
One of the most fun aspects of my job is meeting the clients. It’s nice to hear the stories of how our program participants overcame their economic roadblocks and how the agency as a whole gave them the hope and resources to achieve some of their life-long dreams. My absolute favorite part of the job is the event planning and publicity. Who doesn’t like to plan a silent auction, dinners or luncheons? Also, Writing has been one of my strengths for as long as I can remember. I can honestly say I LOVE writing press releases and feature stories highlighting our clients’ successes.

5. Please finish this sentence: If someone wanted my job, they would have to…..
…Master multitasking, be very flexible and smile like it’s senior prom.

6. What advice or tips do you have for other nonprofit professionals in your position?
At 24 years old, I’m the youngest at my agency and the sole public relations guru and grantwriter. Given numerous responsibilities each day, it’s best to remember to pace yourself and know your deadlines. Try to anticipate what data, photos or quotes you can use for each press release, grant request or presentation. This will come in handy when short deadlines or spontaneous assignments are thrown your way and will definitely help speed things along. Additionally, if you’re new to the nonprofit realm or just wanting to expand your networks, look into associations that will help you broaden your network. The Associate for Fundraising Professionals is a fantastic national club with local chapters in many major cities. Additionally- many cities, counties and even townships have fundraising development committees, collaborations for all sorts of causes and young professionals groups. These are great outlets to meet potential partners, gather ideas and find up-to-date local industry news. Also, never discredit becoming a member of and attending local chamber of commerce events. Again, it’s a great way to meet the head-honchos of your area and develop relationships with local businesses, other agencies and community members.

If you are willing to be featured, please email me -