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Are fundraisers and program staff at your organization even on the same planet? Heidi Massey, on Pamela Grow’s blog, asks Fundraisers and Program Professionals: Can’t Everyone Just Get Along?

Janet Levine, of the Too Busy to Fundraise blog, suggests that actually getting something done in fundraising is a little like planning a trip. Try out her terrific to-do list and you’ll be on your way to success.

I couldn’t help but think of nonprofit fundraising when I read Fast Company’s Abracadabra Moments, the Opening Line You Should Never Use, and 10 More Ways to Sell Ideas. These points come right out of Sam Harrison’s book, IdeaSelling: Successfully Pitch Your Creative Ideas to Bosses, Clients and Other Decision Makers.

Social Media

B.L Ochman, of WhatsNextBlog, provides 7 reasons social media won’t work for your company. Although this post is directed at businesses, it is quite applicable to nonprofits as well.

Twitter is a great place to “listen.” Beth Kanter suggests you engage in Actionable Listening: Learning from Watching Other Nonprofits, and provides an easy way to do that.


There has been so much written about the question of judging nonprofits based on financials that I’ve begun not paying attention. But Mal Warwick, writing at GreatNonprofits, tapped my interest again with his cogent list of nine reasons Why financial ratios aren’t the way to evaluate nonprofit organizations.


Itching to make a snazzy infographic that will explain your data? Rebecca Leaman, of Wild Apricot, lists some resources that your organization can use to bring those stats to life in Make Your Own Infographic.

Speaking of infographics, check out this cute one at PalmettoWriter. Rebecca Martell jumps off from this graphic to a discussion of how to deal with the clutter that comes from unwanted donations at nonprofits. She says, in short, Get Rid of It and tells us how.

Carrie Green, of BeyondNines, has put together a couple of helpful posts about mobile giving. One of them contains a chart comparing the features and costs of vendors working with mobile, plus valuable advice for nonprofits about the whys and wherefores of using mobile to fundraise.

Food for Thought

If you are a nonprofit that has not gotten any money from oil giant and now major polluter, BP, thank the fates. Katya Andresen of Getting to the Point, asked Nancy Schwartz, of Getting Attention, You’re the PR person for a green charity funded by BP: What to do, what to say? The result is great advice for any charity that finds itself in a suddently unsavory alliance.

Mark Horoszowski, of helpinghelp, hosts the Nonprofit Blog Carnival this month with some meaty examples of blog posts that explore How Can Nonprofits Provide Value to Constituents?. Included are examples from a couple of nonprofits that show how they leverage volunteers and other supporters.

Photo by Getty Images

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Best Links: An Oily Crisis, Infographics, How to Sell an Idea originally appeared on About.com Nonprofit Charitable Orgs on Friday, May 28th, 2010 at 19:08:32.

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Cradles to Crayons’ vision is that, one day, all children will have the basic things they need to feel safe, valued, and ready to learn.

Founded in 2002, Cradles to Crayons (C2C) is an innovative Quincy, MA-based nonprofit organization that equips homeless and in-need children with the basic essentials they need to feel safe, warm, ready to learn and valued. While meeting the immediate needs of low-income children, C2C also sets a foundation for lasting change by providing meaningful, tangible volunteer opportunities to thousands of individuals and hundreds of organizations each year.

Charity Navigator, an independent group that rates charities on both their organization capacity and efficiency, recently awarded Cradles to Crayons a four-star rating, their highest ranking.

Sarah Basch, of C2C, tells us, “Cradles to Crayons has a special mission, and meets a critical need. There are more than 305,000 children in Massachusetts living in low-income situations. On any given night, over 1,200 families will be staying in publicly funded family shelters in Massachusetts.

“But statistics don’t get to the heart of what we do. We help kids in need: kids who don’t have shoes that fit, or a coat warm enough to fend off winter winds, or a backpack to take their books to and from school. When young kids don’t get access to these basics, they have a hard time learning. They have a hard time feeling loved, protected, and valued. Cradles to Crayons is helping to change that.”

How You Can Help

  • Donate funds
  • Volunteer at the Giving Factory if you live near Boston
  • Donate goods – Donations of children’s goods are what make the Giving Factory possible. Donations are needed of new and gently used clothing, books, toys, baby items, and school supplies for kids up to 12.

Would you like to be our Cause of the Week? Tell us who you are, and why you should be featured in our blog right here. We would love to hear from you.

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Cause of the Week: Nonprofit Helps Children of the Recession originally appeared on About.com Nonprofit Charitable Orgs on Sunday, May 23rd, 2010 at 13:33:47.

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The good news from the 2010 Fenton Forecast: Leadership and Effectiveness Among Nonprofits* is that 80% of the respondents to this annual survey have a postive view of the performance of nonprofit organizations.

The bad news is that nearly two-thirds of survey respondents report they plan to either reduce their giving or keep it the same as last year. This is on top of already reduced giving levels for 2008 and 2009.

Donors seems to be quite cautious about their charitable giving for the moment and into the near future. Giving will decrease or remain static for 2010, even among those with higher incomes.

Among those donors who plan to decrease giving, 56% say they will cut their donations by 23% or more. Even older Americans, ages 50 and older, intend to reduce their giving the most.

The survey, according to Fenton’s press release, revealed how nonprofits can best communicate news and information about their issues. When asked which sources of information they deem the most credible, respondents ranked traditional news outlets the highest. Social media sites like Facebook ranked near the bottom for credibility. This held true with both younger and older audiences. Yet when asked how they themselves choose to share their opinions on the causes they care about, respondents ranked Facebook as their number one method.

The study reveals that the number one way people assess whether or not a nonprofit is doing a good job is by how well they manage their donated funds. People want to know that the money is being spent on programs which further the organization’s mission. In addition, the public is looking for nonprofits to provide fact-based and objective information about the issues they champion.

Survey respondents were asked to rank the performance of 50 well-known nonprofits based on their effectiveness and leadership qualities. These were the top ten organizations, ranked as “extremely” or “very effective”:

  1. (tie) American Diabetes Association
  2. (tie) Special Olympics
  3. American Red Cross
  4. Habitat for Humanity
  5. Make-A-Wish Foundation
  6. American Heart Association
  7. Susan G. Komen Foundation
  8. ASPCA
  9. American Cancer Society
  10. Humane Society

Complete survey results are available here.

*Fenton is a leading communications firm specializing in social justice issues and nonprofits.


Photo by Getty Images

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Nonprofits Not Out of the Woods Yet originally appeared on About.com Nonprofit Charitable Orgs on Friday, May 21st, 2010 at 12:00:13.

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I don’t think any of us need to be reminded that we are all drowning in data…and a lot of us enjoy data…just not the drowning part.

NTEN is trying to do something about that. They quote research that claims Americans consume 3.6 zettabytes of information per day. One zettabyte is one billion trillion bytes. We are overwhelmed and our donors and supporters are even more so. Can you help them make sense of the information that you send them?

The answer is yes, and NTEN is sponsoring an online event called Taming the Data Monster that will help. The event will take place on July 29 from 10 am to 12:30 pm, Pacific Time. The cost is only $50 for NTEN members and $100 for non-members. You can learn more and register here.

Photo: Getty Images

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Is the Data Monster on Your Back? originally appeared on About.com Nonprofit Charitable Orgs on Wednesday, May 19th, 2010 at 12:05:17.

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Jordan Viator, posting at Connection Cafe, has provided some wonderful examples of Getting Creative with Online Fundraising: 10 Campaigns Using Mission Inspired Gifts aka Gift Catalogues. If you need ideas about how to offer your donors more engagement through their gifts, this is a great resource.

Allyson Kapin, at Frogloop, explores some terrific advice from Mal Warwick, guru of direct mail fundraising. Learn about the new fundraising landscape and what today’s donor most wants in these two articles:

New Guiding Principles for Fundraising

Deepening Your Donors Commitment

Social Media

Are your social media efforts sustainable? Find out what that means and about the 10 Trends in Sustainable Social Media from Debra Askanase at Community Organizer 2.0.

The Agitator expounds on some data about Hispanics Using Social Media. This post is a great jumping off point for all of us concerned with reaching this audience.

Twitter is my favorite social media tool, so I really enjoyed this article by Lisa Barone in Small Business Trends: 20 Reasons People Unfollow You On Twitter


The Agitator writes about The Middle-Aged Brain, in a post that is more than applicable for marketing and fundraising.

Bill Jacobs addresses the other end of the generational spectrum in Want to attract younger donors? Hire younger people.

Meanwhile, Katya Andresen tells us Why Millennials Are Going to Keep You on Your Toes

Food for Thought

In Tragic oil spill offers crucial lesson for all nonprofits, Eric Foley, of Transformational Giving, uses BP’s sad response to some creative efforts by earnest volunteers to help as an object lesson for nonprofits.

Loved BL Ochman’s whatsnextblog post, The Stealth Interview, yet another reason to think before you hit “Submit”. More reasons to say less rather than more when online.

Justin Wandro, of Nonprofit Success, shares a personal special moment he had recently, the insight he gained, and poses an important question for all of us in Life and Death – No time to dilly dally.

Not-to-Miss Webinars

More than 70 percent of nonprofits are either working on or thinking about re-designing their websites at any given time, so Blackbaud is offering a free web seminar entitled Indestructible Design to help nonprofits develop effective website design strategies. The date is May 25th.

Network for Good offers a free webinar, Is Your Nonprofit Facebook Page Worth It? Learn how to quantify what your organization gets out of Facebook. The webinar is on May 25th.

Photo by Getty Images

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Best Links: Sustainable Social Media, Stealth Interviews, and the Aging Brain originally appeared on About.com Nonprofit Charitable Orgs on Sunday, May 16th, 2010 at 13:39:04.

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Operatic Experience, Inc., a New Jersey-based organization, sponsors the Italian Operatic Experience Summer Program. The program helps students to bridge the gap between opera-related studies, such as voice, piano, conducting, stage direction, set and costume design, and the professional operatic world.

Operatic Experience, Inc. does that through its Tuscany-based summer program that features:

  • Intensive courses of important operatic languages
  • Cultural experience and interaction
  • Tutelage by international renowned opera professionals
  • Preparation and performance of scenes, programs, and a complete opera.

Marianne Pruiksma, Artistic Director, said, “Being an International Opera singer, I know the difficulty and costs involved for great training and to be given a chance to learn and perform complete roles on stage with an orchestra. I founded this company in 2006 to present the experiences needed, to preserve Opera, Italian language and culture.

“The economic situation here in the US has cut funding to the arts drastically. There is a need for help from supporters to give scholarships to our students or support our orchestra. We are creating jobs, giving students experience, and keeping the Italian language, opera, and culture alive in our youth.

“The one very best thing about our cause, Italian Operatic Experience, is that over the past 5 years its faculty members, international operatic performers, voice teachers, stage directors, conductors, and orchestra are hired because of their passion for working one-on-one with young voice students and accompanists for a 5-week period in Italy. The students pay to be able to work with all of us and drink in our knowledge. These students are able to work with individuals that they ordinarily would never have the opportunity to.

“With the intensive Italian language classes, diction, voice, coaching, acting, and stage direction the students are prepared to perform all roles in the fully staged, with orchestra, Italian Opera that culminates the program.

“The experience for the students is multifaceted. Not only do they get to perform under the tutelage of renown performers, they make networking connections that can help them get into graduate studies at Universities, and even get jobs working with some of the stage directors or conductors. They are taught the Italian language by native speakers, experience Italian art and music history every day, and get to know the Italian culture.

“Some of these students will never be able to travel to Italy again, so this becomes a ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ educational experience.

“The one best thing for me is to be able to work with all of these fabulous individuals each summer.”

What You Can Do:

  • Visit this organization’s beautiful website
  • Contact the organization at 1-201-773-0773 or send in a check for your support to:

    Italian Operatic Experience
    P.O. Box 113
    Fair Lawn, NJ 07410
  • Sponsor a student by offering a gift of a full scholarship
  • Sponsor a student by offering a gift to pay for accommodations
  • Sponsor the orchestra

Would you like to be our Cause of the Week? Tell us who you are, and why you should be featured in our blog right here. We would love to hear from you.

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Cause of the Week: Operatic Experience Inc. originally appeared on About.com Nonprofit Charitable Orgs on Tuesday, May 11th, 2010 at 06:00:16.

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Joe Waters, of Selfish Giving, is my go-to person when it comes to cause marketing. He has had a ton of experience, and he can translate that experience into best practices that we can all follow.

Recently Waters came up with the 10 Commandments of Cause Marketing. In the wake of the Komen for the Cure partnership with Kentucky Fried Chicken, some of us have been thinking, “Don’t we need some guidelines or rules for these things?” Leave it to Waters to come up with a great list of guidelines. Here are some of them:

  • You shall know what cause marketing is. There is a lot of confusion out there about this and Waters points us to a definition.
  • You shall choose your cause marketing partners carefully. Waters suggests that a cause marketer take a Hippocratic Oath: Do no Harm, like the one that medical professionals use. Basically, don’t hurt your cause, your constiutents or your partner.
  • You shall create cause marketing programs that are win-win. It’s all about helping each other. The company wants the halo effect of partnering with a cause; the nonprofit wants visibility and to raise money.
  • You shall not expect results overnight. It takes time and a lot of effort to build a successful cause marketing program. Think long term. The first program you run will set the stage for future ones.

Be sure to read the entire list of commandments, then print them out and post them for your whole staff to see. These are invaluable, as is most of Waters’ cause marketing advice.


Most of the time I am fortunate enough to work from home, but for a couple of months each year, I return to an office. I’m doing that now and always have to go through a sort of “back to the real world” syndrome. Here are some things about the office environment that I always forget and then am startled by again:

  • Offices are fun. It’s the socializing that is fun. Saying hi and catching up with what everyone’s doing, meeting the new people, marveling at the new configurations of offices, cubicles, machinery, and furniture.

  • Offices are chaotic. People run around asking “Did they change that?” “Did they update that procedure?” “How did you fill that form in?” “Why isn’t the copier working?” “Did you hear what happened to Susan?”

  • Offices are hard on productivity. There are too many meetings. Meetings are called without any apparent reason. Agendas are missing. The person who called the meeting spends 10 minutes telling us all the terrible things that happened to them recently which is why they’re overworked and frustrated. I found Seth Godin’s recent blog about meetings spot on and liked his suggestions.

  • Offices are made up of two countries. There are the people who are whizzes with the tech stuff, and those who are intelligent but become dyslexic when it comes to the deeper workings of computers and phone systems. The tech person is grumpy and keeps accusing you of not reading the documentation…which, of course, is hard to find and is written by another tech person.

  • Offices contribute to the obesity problem. There are the lunch trucks outside that dispense fast food, the vending machines that are worse, not to mention free pizza day, and the basket of candy bars, left over from something or other, that the office manager sometimes circulates. Don’t even get me started about the birthday cakes/muffins/cupcakes that seem to materialize every few days.

  • Offices form alliances against perceived enemies. Maybe it’s the boss with everyone whispering about him or her, or finding ways of undermining her authority. It is common for people in offices to join forces against the customers, the volunteers, or the donors. THEY are stupid, silly, inept, or whatever, while WE are wonderful, without fault, self-sacrificing angels. Need I say that this is not a good thing?

  • Offices are full of goodies. There is plenty of paper, pens, legal pads, big staplers, and copiers that are capable not only of copying, stapling, and collating, but maybe even of roping a steer at the same time. There are support people, from administrative assistants (they seem to know everything) to the people who keep the bathrooms clean and supplied. Most of the time, most things work well.

  • Offices are full of sharing. I enjoy having someone stop by my office to chat or share some information. It’s fun to be able to ask someone their opinion about my latest memo, letter, or procedure. There is informal brainstorming while passing in the corridor, sitting in the lunchroom, or on the way to the car at the end of the day. Lots of grins, shrugs, raised eyebrows, and pats on the back.

All in all, I really enjoy the office when I’m there. It’s fun to get my team together at the end of a big project and just kid around and laugh and let off steam. Would I want to be there all the time? No….I still love being at home, having a flexible schedule, taking a walk, being able to water the garden. But, I’m glad I can return to an office for a while each year.

What is your office like? What do you like and don’t like? How can it be improved? Where do you think the office is headed? Will real offices become rare with most of us working from home? Can we really give up offices in the nonprofit world? What would that look like?

Photo: Andersen Ross/Getty Images

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The Office – No, Not the TV Show originally appeared on About.com Nonprofit Charitable Orgs on Saturday, May 8th, 2010 at 11:21:43.

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Recently, a fundraiser mentioned to me that she wasn’t always good about checking her RSS reader. That’s why she was late thanking me for linking to her website in one of my posts.

That reminded me that it took me forever to embrace RSS (really simple syndication). I set up an RSS reader, Google Reader, but I was lackadaisical about checking the feeds and organizing them. I preferred just reading whatever came via email, such as newsletters and emailings of blog posts. Checking my RSS reader was one more chore I wasn’t really happy about.

At some point, however, I got serious about setting up a listening post so that I could monitor how well my blog posts were being picked up and linked to by other bloggers. As a result, I added my own blog to my reader and some Google Alerts for my own name and blog. I also added to the reader a couple of sites that could track links to my blog, such as Ice Rocket.

By tracking myself, I found the motivation to check the RSS reader frequently. I became fond of reading other blog posts in the reader too, and started adding more sites to the reader and then organizing them. To preserve the blog posts that I really liked and wanted to share with others, or use in my research, or wanted to read more carefully, I set up Delicious and started bookmarking those posts. Delicious allows tagging, so that became a way to organize posts by topic or keyword.

Now I am a devotee of RSS and check my RSS reader first thing every morning. I noticed that RSS has it all over email when it comes to tracking what other blogs are doing. Email feeds of blog posts typically arrive the day after the posting. Email newsletters are fine, but they do not contain breaking news and information. RSS brings blog posts to the reader almost immediately.

RSS is probably not on the top of most people’s list when they are on the Internet. I think that because when I compare the number of people who subscribe to my own weekly newsletter and the number of people who subscribe to my RSS feed, the newsletter is way more popular. I mean giant inequality here. I would characterize the difference as being like a horde compared to a handful.

There are some best practices when it comes to using RSS effectively I’ve found. The most obvious is to check the reader every day and dispose of the contents. It’s like your mail at the office…pitch, save, act on.

If you don’t “groom” your RSS reader frequently, the content grows rapidly and pretty soon you’re overwhelmed. That’s likely the reason people set up readers only to abandon them. Similarly, if you’re not getting much out of a particular blog’s posts, delete it from your reader. I find myself adding and deleting frequently. Once you have many subscriptions, you’ll want to start organizing them into folders if your reader has that capacity.

On the flip side, if you have a website or a blog, make sure your RSS button is really obvious for those of us who do use RSS. I frequently find myself searching all over a website for the RSS icon. I’m not even happy with the RSS icon on my own site, but don’t have control over it. If you’re in that situation, lobby for a bigger and more visible RSS button.

If you are interested in using RSS as part of your listening post, here are some resources:

How are you listening? Do you use RSS or something else? What reader do you like? What other resources should we list here?

Photo by Getty Images

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How I Went from RSS Like to RSS Love originally appeared on About.com Nonprofit Charitable Orgs on Tuesday, May 4th, 2010 at 06:05:38.

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