Fundraising questions to ask donors and anticipate from them

Last week we started a series of blog posts focused on the art of asking questions, and this theme has carried over into this week. So far, we’ve looked at questions that executive directors should be asking themselves and their boards. We’ve also looked at questions board members should be ask of themselves and their fellow board volunteers. Yesterday, we looked at various questions you need to ask prospective board members before asking them to join your board. Today, we’re ending this series of posts by looking at 1) powerful questions that donors should be asking the non-profit agencies they support and 2) questions non-profits should be asking their supporters.

Questions that donors have of you

Over the last 15 years, I have been part of countless solicitation teams and answered more questions than I care to recall at this time of the morning. While those questions tend to be all over the place thanks in part to “unique circumstances,” there are commonly asked questions that many donors seem to ask after they’ve been asked to consider making a charitable contribution.

  • What will my contribution help accomplish?
  • Specifically, how will my contribution make a difference in your clients’ lives?
  • How financial stable is your organization?
  • There are so many worthy causes that keep asking for support. Why should I support you?
  • How much of my contribution directly supports programming and how much will underwrite administrative and fundraising expenses?
  • Tell me more about your fee structure and why are you charging your clients what you’re charging them? How do you know that is the right amount? Why not more?

The list of FAQs is much larger, but these are just questions that I recall answering over and over again. If you want a more comprehensive list of questions, you may want to read Harvey McKinnon’s book “The 11 Questions Every Donor Asks: And the Answers All Donors Crave“.

Why is it important to know what burning questions to expect? I think there are two HUGE reasons:

  1. If you do a better job “anticipating” these questions and build those answers into your case for support and solicitation presentation, I predict that your annual campaign numbers will start climbing.
  2. There is a long list of fears that get in the way of people volunteering to help your agency with fundraising. One of the top reasons is their fear of not being able to answer questions. Addressing FAQs as part of your annual campaign training program will improve volunteer confidence, reduce the amount of avoidance behavior during the campaign, and result in better solicitations (and hopeful result in better fundraising numbers).

Questions that you should have of donors

As I said earlier, I’ve been on many fundraising solicitation teams, and I’ve seen many things throughout the years. Too often, I’ve seen volunteers rush through the solicitation, get a commitment, and quickly downshift into chit-chat of a personal nature. It is almost as if the volunteer solicitor is non-verbally saying “Phew! Thank goodness that is over.”

I don’t believe there is anything wrong with chit-chat after the solicitation is completed. In fact, there is all sorts of important personal information that could and should be harvested from that conversation, captured on a contact report form, and entered into the donor database. However, most volunteer solicitors don’t receive training on what those conversations should look like.

While it would be easy to use that post-solicitation time to talk about family and personal things, it think the following questions might be more useful in developing a deeper philanthropic relationship with your donors:

  • If you only had one year to live, what would be most important to you to accomplish?
  • What are the issues, injustices, principles or causes in this world that get you riled up?
  • If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be?
  • What accomplishment or legacy would have ultimate significance to you?
  • In philanthropic terms, if you had unlimited resources, what would you set out to do?

While it is important to know the names of a donor’s spouse and children as well as where they went to school or go to church, I think it is far more important to understand a donor’s passions, dreams, and desires. Knowing and understanding these things puts you in a position of helping them achieve big things. I believe this is one of the biggest differences between transactional fundraising and donor-centered fundraising™.

I believe these types of questions can transform how a donor views you and your organization    . . . FROM fundraising vulture TO philanthropic dream-maker.

Please take a minute this morning to share a commonly asked question that you hear donors asking your volunteer solicitors in the comment box below. Or share with this online community one or two questions that you like to ask donors that helps you better understand their philanthropic hopes and dreams. We can all learn from each other and it is just 60 seconds out of your day. Please?

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

Questions you need to get answered before asking people to join your board

Last week we started a series of blog posts focused on the art of asking questions, and this theme has carried over into this week. So far, we’ve looked at questions that executive directors should be asking themselves and their boards. We’ve also looked at questions board members should be ask of themselves and their fellow board volunteers. Today, we’re continuing this series of posts by looking at powerful questions that need to be asked of prospective new board members before they are asked to join your board of directors.

If I’ve seen it once, I’ve seen it a million times when it comes to non-profit board organizations’ board recruitment processes:

  • a bunch of people who look and sound alike sitting around a table;
  • pulling names of people out of the air (or out of their iPhone) based upon who might say ‘YES’ to serving on the board;
  • sitting down with a prospective new board volunteer and “arm twisting;”
  • telling the prospective new board volunteer a series of half-truths (e.g. it is only one meeting per month, do whatever you can to help, etc); and,
  • not following the written board recruitment procedures in the agency’s board development plan.

I like to think of board development as a process by which you need to decide who is going to be in the foxhole (aka the trenches) with you for the mother of all wars. (A bit dramatic? Probably, but work with me here.)

You don’t need a boardroom full of warm bodies because an eight person board is no different from a 20 person board if no one understands their roles and responsibilities and everyone is disengaged. If you find yourself nodding your head at this statement, then you understand that your board development process needs to ask more questions and do more listening than it does talking, selling, and arm twisting.

Finding answers to the following questions BEFORE asking someone to join your board of directors will save you months (probably years) of difficulty:

  • Do they “realistically” have the time to fulfill their fiduciary responsibilities as members of your board of directors? (Heck, do they understand those fiduciary responsibilities?)
  • What inspires them about your mission that they are willing to jump in a foxhole with you? How have they demonstrated that passion in the past?
  • What gaps do they help fill on your board of directors (e.g. gender, occupational, age, ethnicity, social network, various fundraising skill sets, etc)?
  • Does their vision for the agency align well with the organizations current vision and strategic goals?
  • Are they willing to give AND are they willing to get? And do they really do they have a clear picture of what that means?
  • What are some of the key values they hold near and dear to their heart and how does that align with the agency’s core values?
  • Does the prospective board member’s personality mesh well with the existing group of board members?

You can get answers to these questions in a number of different ways. For example, get to know the prospective volunteer by either engaging them in other projects first or by building your board development process around the simple principle of “Getting to Know You. Getting to Know All About You.” You can also populate your board development committee with people who are knowledgable enough to answer some of these questions about people in their networks.  Finally, you can go out and talk to people who know them well.

This isn’t rocket science, but looking at how some non-profit organizations go about recruiting new board members you might think that it is.

By the way, as you start asking more questions as part of your board development process, you should probably know that those prospective board volunteers have lots of questions of their own. Our friend, Joanne Fritz at, does a nice job of outlining many of those questions in a blog post titled “Before You Serve on a Nonprofit Board“. I suggest that you click over and read what she has to say. You might want to build your board development process around answering those questions, too.

What does your board development process look like? How do your board development volunteers go about getting answers to key questions? What are some of the key questions to which you seek answers? Please use the comment box below to share some of your thoughts.

Tomorrow we will finish this long blog series with a post focusing on questions donors should be asking of the non-profit organizations they support. Please join the conversation.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

Questions every non-profit board member should be asking

Last week we featured two posts titled “Excuse me, but I have a few questions” and “Questions every non-profit executive director should be asking“. Today, we’re continuing this series of posts by looking at powerful questions that board members should be asking.

As I mentioned last week, Tony Stoltzfus explains in his book “Coaching Questions: A Coach’s Guide to Powerful Asking Questions” that there are many reasons why asking questions is important. The following are three reasons that I highlighted last week:

  1. Asking empowers
  2. Asking develops leadership capacity
  3. Asking creates authenticity

The third reason — “Asking creates authenticity” — is one of the biggest reasons board members need to get in the habit of asking questions.

How many times have I seen board volunteers telling their executive director and fundraising professional what they think should happen or what they are most concerned about?  Well, if I had a nickel for every time I’ve seen it, then I wouldn’t be writing this blog every day.  🙂

In Tony’s book, he explains that “asking” rather than “telling” creates a situation that fosters trust and transparency between people. In my experience, board members are more influential and effective when they ask more questions and seek to truly understand what is really going on and why staff are suggesting and doing certain things.

However, it is important that board members understand their roles and responsibilities first before they transform themselves into “questioning machines”. It would be perceived as “micro-management” by most non-profit staff members if board members started asking all sorts of detailed questions around programming and operation.

This doesn’t mean that asking programmatic and operational questions aren’t appropriate, but doing so in the appropriate context is very important.

When it comes to strategic direction, policy and business-related things, I believe that many board members need to do a better job of getting involved and engaged. Asking good questions inside and out of the boardroom will help accomplish this objective.

One of the biggest non-profit boardroom challenges occurs when conversations are started, people talk an issue to death, and nothing every seems to get resolved. Tony Stoltzfus talks about the importance of SMART Goals in his book and offers a number of great questions that can re-focus your conversations into something more goal-oriented and actionable.

SMART is obviously an acronym for the following:

  • Specific — You can state clearly where you are going
  • Measurable — You’ve included a way to measure progress
  • Attainable — It is within your capabilities
  • Relevant — You care enough about this goal to make it a priority
  • Time-Specific — It has a deadline

The following are a few questions that Tony suggests might help you craft a SMART Goal:

  • What will it look like when you reach your objective? What is the outcome that you want?
  • How can you quantify this goal so we’ll know when you’ve reached it?
  • Are there any barriers or circumstances that preclude reaching this goal?
  • Why is this important?
  • By when will you reach the goal?

One pitfall that I believe board members need to avoid when using this approach is using it to interrogate staff. After all, isn’t “board engagement” the goal here? If so, then these questions should be used by volunteers to engage their fellow volunteers. Or these questions can be used by staff to get board volunteers involved and focused on action.

Of course, these are NOT the only questions that board members should be asking in the boardroom. Click here to see a wonderful list titled “Questions Nonprofit Board Members Should Always Ask” that our friends at put together.

How much “question asking” goes on inside of your boardroom? What have you found to be effective and engaging questions? What has been ineffective? Please use the comment box to share a few of your thoughts.

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

How Nonprofits Can Use Tumblr

Before there was Pinterest, there was Tumblr. Without Tumblr, there would be no Pinterest.

As if there weren’t enough social media sites to manage these days, today we are going to take a look at Tumblr and see if it is a good fit for your non-profit organization.

What is Tumblr?

Tumblr is a short form blogging site that allows users to post photos, videos, blog posts, and audio recordings into what is called a tumblelog. (Yes, it’s a real word. Stick with me here.) Users can follow tumblelogs and re-blog or “like” posts . . . just like on Pinterest.

Who is Tumblr’s Audience?

Every social media site has an audience. Facebook and Twitter’s are the broadest, and they are the most popular. However, sometimes finding a niche audience can be very effective when it comes to reaching more people. The average Tumblr user is under the age of 25. While they probably aren’t big money donor prospects due to their young age, Tumblr users can be very powerful online advocates for your cause. According to Wikipedia, “as of June 8, 2012, Tumblr has over 58.9 million blogs and more than 24.7 billion total posts.”

Young people who may not be able to contribute to your organization today, might be able to do so tomorrow and don’t you want to be on the top of their list? In the meantime, these individuals can be talking about what your organization is up to or become a volunteer.

To put it in fundraising terms, asking these young people to advocate on your behalf will have a “self-cultivating” effect and build a very strong donor base for your organization in the future.

What is a successful Tumblr post?

Just like with most social media sites, you want to create a post that users will want to share with others. (Sharing really is caring.) On Tumblr, most users will like a post if it is short. Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of long posts out there in the Tumblrverse, but they are usually by people who have an established and large audience.

Photos, lists, videos, and questions do well, and I think it is helpful if you include links citing original sources so that if your post is interesting I will be able find more to read on the subject. Additionally, you can use Tumblr to drive traffic to your agency’s website by creating a short post with a link back to an article on your webpage. You might also consider sharing a photo from your latest event on Tumblr.

Tumblr also has a feature that allows users to ask the tumblelog’s owner a question. Posting answers to those questions is a great way to interact with your followers.

How do I get started on Tumblr?

Sign up.

  • Take a look at what other nonprofit organizations are doing on the site. See what type of posts work best for an organization like yours.
  • Follow tumblelogs in your community and actively reblog and like their posts.
  • Tell your volunteers, supporters, and donors that you are now on Tumblr.
  • Write a few posts and see which ones your audience responds to most.

If you are looking for a younger audience with whom to share your content, Tumblr just might be the place for you. If you find that Tumblr is not a place for you, I still recommend signing up and claiming your organization’s space on the site so that no one else does. I also recommend using Tumblr as another source for finding out what is going on in your online community.

For more Tumblr tips, check out this Mashable article.

Does your organization already have a tumbleblog? Post a link in the comment section below and let us know what works best for you on this platform.

How many monks vs revolutionaries are on your non-profit board?

Welcome to O.D. Fridays at DonorDreams blog. Every Friday for the foreseeable future we will be looking more closely at a recent post from John Greco’s blog called “johnponders ~ about life at work, mostly” and applying his organizational development messages to the non-profit community.

Today, we’re focusing on a post that John titled “Forward!“. In that post, he talks about monks and revolutionaries and how crying out the battle command “FORWARD” means different things to those two groups of people. You really need to click over and read John’s post because it hits the nail on the head.

After reading “Forward!” two thoughts came into my head as it relates to non-profit organizations.

  1. The existence of the “executive committee” is dangerous, especially if you aren’t careful about who sits on that committee.
  2. There are so many different decision-making paradigms that non-profit boards can use to make tough decisions, but few ever pay attention to these options.

Executive Committee

I believe that BoardSource is the non-profit sector’s leading authority on all things board governance. In an article titled “Should nonprofit boards have execuitve committees” they say:

“An executive committee can be an efficient tool, but not every board needs one. An executive committee should never replace the full board. “

I go a little farther than my diplomatic friends at BoardSource. While there are certainly times an executive committee makes sense (go read the BoardSource article), I think those circumstances are far and in between, and most non-profit organizations should banish their executive committee to their organizational waste bin!

As John talks about in his post titled “Forward!,” your board of directors has people with different values and agendas. If you boil it down in the same way John did, then you have people who thirst for change and you have people who fight against change. This dynamic is at play all around us (turn on CNN and spend some time following the Presidential election coverage), and it is at play in your boardroom.

If you have an executive committee full of “revolutionaries” (as John puts it), then you have set-up a sitution where a small group of board members can cry “FORWARD” and drag the rest of the board of directors with them (including over a cliff). Chaos reigns!

OK, my example might be a worst-case scenario . . . but I’ve seen it happen with my own two eyes.

Perhaps, a more common situation is where board members who aren’t on the executive committee disengage and stop attending board meetings. Yes, this can be the executive committee’s fault because the disengaged board member doesn’t see the urgency in attending board meetings or ensuring that quorum is attained. Why? Because the executive committee can always meet and take care of any pressing issue.

Ugh! If you must have an executive committee, I encourage you to use it sparingly and only in emergency situation. Most importantly, pay attention to who you put on the executive committee and make sure there is a balance between “monks” and “revolutionaries”.


If you’ve heard it once in the boardroom, then you’ve heard it a million times:

“All those in favor, say aye. Those opposed say no.”

Ahhh, yes . . . .Roberts Rules of Order, bylaws, majority rule . . . BUT it doesn’t have to be that way. There are many different decision-making paradigms that exist and some are better in certain circumstances.

If you have been reading recent posts at DonorDreams blog, then you know that I am on a Tony Stoltzfus kick as I re-read his book “Coaching Questions: A Coach’s Guide to Powerful Asking Skills“.  Tony suggests there are 13 different decision-making strategies and he offers a variety of questions to help frame issues when using each of those paradigms. The following are just a few that you might find interesting for your board when making certain decisions:

  • Cost: What would it cost in terms of time and resources to do this? What would it cost if you don’t do this? What’s the cost if you don’t decide or let circumstances overtake you?
  • Alignment: How well does this decision align with your passions, your values, and your calling?
  • Relational: How will this course of action affect the people around you? Who will benefit, who will be hurt?

There are 10 other decision-making strategies that can be used to frame boardroom decisions, but I won’t steal Tony’s thunder. You really need to go purchase his book!

If John is right, then you have monks and revolutionaries in your boardroom. Some decisions will be tough to make. Sure, you can tilt the scales by making sure there are enough of one kind of decision-maker voting in the manner that you want and need . . . OR . . . you can be strategic and thoughtful with how you frame issues and engage board members in approaching certain decisions.

There is nothing that says you have to always use a majorty rule voting paradigm. After all, I bet that there are certain things in your organizational bylaws that require a “super majority” vote. So, why not employ a consensus building model in certain circumstances? It isn’t right in all circumstances, but it is sometimes.

Does your organization still operate with an executive committee? If so, when do you activate that group and what decisions do they typically make? Does your board use different decision-making paradigms in certain circumstances? If so, please share the specifics and how that has worked for you. You can share all of your thoughts using the comment box below.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

Questions every non-profit executive director should be asking

Yesterday’s post was titled “Excuse me, but I have a few questions” and it introduces a series of posts this week and next week focusing on the importance of asking questions as well as on who should be asking what. Today’s post looks at the executive director and some of the more powerful questions they could and should be asking.

As I mentioned yesterday, Tony Stoltzfus explains in his book “Coaching Questions: A Coach’s Guide to Powerful Asking Questions” that there are many reasons why asking questions is important. I highlighted the following three reasons:

  1. Asking empowers
  2. Asking develops leadership capacity
  3. Asking creates authenticity

I believe the very first reason in this list explains why non-profit executive directors need to get better at asking questions of their board members. The following is what Tony says about  “asking empowers”:

. . . roughly 80% of the time, I find that they already know what to do: they just don’t have the confidence to step out and do it. Self-confidence is a huge factor in change. When you ask for people’s opinions and take them seriously, you are sending a powerful message: “You have great ideas. I believe in you. You can do this.” Just asking can empower people to do things they couldn’t do on their own.

Sure, Tony is talking about executive coaching in that passage, but in some regards executive directors serve as a coach to the board of directors. At least sometimes . . . right? (Yes, that job involves a weird little dance and sometimes the board leads and other times the executive director leads. Sigh!)

I cannot tell you how many non-profit executive directors tell me that their board members are disengaged. While there can be many reasons for this phenomenon, one reason could be that the executive director is doing too much talking and not enough asking. Think about it for a moment.

When I decided to open The Healthy Non-Profit LLC  last year, I saw a blog post from Seth Godin titled “Questions for a new entrepreneur“. After reading it, I posted it to the bulletin board in my office. I periodically go back and re-read it because the questions he suggests a new business owner ask are right on target. Here are a few of those questions that I think are applicable to non-profit executive directors:

  • Are you aware of your cash flow? What’s your zero point? What are you doing to ensure you get to keep swimming?
  • What’s your role?
  • Are you trying to build a team?
  • Why are you doing this at all?

Circling back around to the idea of engaging board members, here are a few questions I found in Tony Stoltzfus’ book “Coaching Questions: A Coach’s Guide to Powerful Asking Questions” that I believe non-profit executive directors should be asking of their board members in committee meetings and in the boardroom:

  • Where do you see this going?
  • How do you want things to turn out? What’s the best possible outcome?
  • What do you think this looks like from the other person’s point of view? (e.g. donor, client, staff, etc)
  • How do you feel about that?
  • What are the real issues here?
  • How should we make this decision?
  • What do you need to know to make a great decision?
  • What would a great decision look like?

I believe the following Ralph Waldo Emerson quotation can best summarize how important a good executive directors can be to their board of directors, especially if that executive director knows how to ask really powerful questions:

“Our chief want is someone who will inspire us to be what we know we could be.”

What questions do you hear being asked by executive directors? Are they powerful and engaging questions? Please use the comment box below to share a few examples.

We will continue this series of posts focusing on the fine art of “asking questions” next Tuesday because tomorrow is “Organizational Development Friday” with John Greco and Monday is, of course, “Monday’s with Marissa”.  Tuesday’s post will focus on powerful questions that board members should be asking both of themselves and their executive director.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

Excuse me, but I have a few questions

If you are an executive director, fundraising professional or board volunteer of a non-profit agency, then you are a leader. There is no arguing this fact. It is a basic truism. As a non-profit consultant, I am always assessing the effectiveness of an organization’s leadership group, and one of the biggest things I look for inside the boardroom is “who is asking questions” and “what types of questions are being asked“.

Tony Stoltzfus wrote a book that is popular among many executive coaches — “Coaching Questions: A Coach’s Guide to Powerful Asking Questions“. At the very beginning of this book, he outlines some of the reasons why asking questions is more powerful than just talking and telling. The following are three of those reasons that I believe apply to your non-profit organization:

  1. Asking empowers
  2. Asking develops leadership capacity
  3. Asking creates authenticity

Let’s zoom in and examine exactly what Tony says about the second reason . . . “asking develops leadership capacity”:

Leadership is the ability to take responsibility. A leader is someone who sees a problem, and says, “Hey — someone needs to do something about this! And I’m going to be that someone.” Simply asking, “What could you do about that?” moves people away from depending on you for answers, and toward taking leadership in the situation. Asking builds the responsibility muscle, and that develops leaders.

What questions do you ask yourself and others? What questions are board members asking often? What about donors . . . what are your donors asking you? Do the people who your agency serves ask questions. If so, what are they?

Today’s blog post is what I call a “springboard post” because it will serve as a launching pad for a series of future blogs. So, tomorrow’s post and next week’s posts will zoom in and look at powerful questions that different stakeholders typically ask and what you should do about it and how you should encourage it. So, stay tuned to DonorDreams blog, and in the meantime please share some of those powerful questions you’ve used or heard others use in the comment box below.

I think Rudyard Kipling stated it best, when he said:

I keep six honest serving-men,
They taught me all I knew;
Their names are What and Why and When,
And How and Where and Who.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

Jazz up your non-profit agency’s annual report using online video

Every once in a blue moon I will scroll down to the very bottom of someone’s email. It has become fairly standard practice for people to tuck all sorts of things into the signature block of their email. A few days ago I received an email from Jonathan Trapp who is a Vice President at Assurance Agency, which is an insurance brokerage company. At the bottom of his email was a YouTube link to a company video they developed last year to celebrate their 50th anniversary of being in business.

I’m dropping a copy of this online video into this morning’s blog post because after watching it I had one of those “Oh-Wow” epiphany moments:

Click here ===> Assurance Agency 50th anniversary video

So, did you see it, too? Did you have the same epiphany ?

I don’t know about you, but after watching that video I immediately flashed back to those days as an executive director when I struggled at the end of every year to develop content for my agency’s annual report. It always felt like I was doing the same thing every year. There was always:

  • content about the agency’s Youth of the Year,
  • last year’s financial summary,
  • a list of the agency’s big accomplishments,
  • a letter from the executive director and board president, and
  • of course . . . the long and boring donor honor roll.

Can there be any doubt that the typical non-profit annual report needs to be “jazzed up”???

In reality, the annual report is super important. It is the perfect stewardship piece because it speaks to the return on investment that donors received resulting from the contributions they made to your agency. Additionally, it can be a great cultivation piece because it shows prospective donors what they might expect your agency to do with their future donation.

I think human beings are very visual creatures, which is what intrigues me about using online video to tell the story about where your non-profit organization has been in the last 12 months. If I were in your shoes I don’t think that I’d totally get rid of the paper version, but I would be very tempted to produce a much smaller document that is supplemented by an online video.

You’re probably asking: “How would that work, Erik?” Well, I could see a one-page, double-sided annual report with key content including:

  • financials
  • major accomplishments
  • thank you message to supporters
  • lots of pictures of your happy clients

At the bottom of the abbreviated annual report, I would print the YouTube link with a message encouraging donors to view the annual report video online. If I were in the habit of distributing the agency’s annual report at a special event, I might consider handing out the abbreviated paper report along with a CDROM or USB flash drive with a copy of the video on it.

You could easily post a copy of the annual report video on your website and Facebook page.

You could also do what Jonathan Trapp of Assurance Agency does and include a link to the video in the signature block of every email you send out for the next year.

While doing some research for today’s blog post, I came across a similar post by the good people at Socialbrite. Click here to view their post on this subject and you will see four sample non-profit annual report videos.

If today’s post generally got you excited about jazzing up your agency’s annual report, then visit Kivi Leroux Miller’s website. She is selling an e-book on this subject. She also offers webinars. You’ll also find a link to her free annual report wiki page with a few resources that you might find useful.

Are you happy with your annual report? What do you put in this critical document? Have you tried using online video as part of your annual report process? If so, how did it work out for you? Please share your thoughts in the comment box below.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

How to Listen to Your Online Community

Social media does a great job giving you ways to tell things to the world. The moment something happens all of your Facebook and Twitter followers can know about it. While this advancement in broadcasting is great and a marvel of modern technology, as with any relationship, listening is even more important than telling.

Listening can help you figure out what to post on your social media sites, keep you up-to-date with what other organizations are doing, and keep you aware of the latest news. Today, we are going to look at two tools that you can set-up to help you listen to your online community.

Google Alerts

Google has a product for almost everything, but Google Alerts is perhaps the most overlooked. This product will keep a watchful eye on the internet for key words and phases and send you an email whenever one of those words or phrases is mentioned.

For example, if your organization provides after-school programing for children, you can set up a Google Alert with the term “after-school programing” and Google will send you an email mentioning the latest news, blogs, or YouTube videos posted on the subject.

Depending on the search term, you might not want a notification every single time it is mentioned, which is why Google Alerts allows you to set contact frequency for daily or weekly.

Google Alerts are also really helpful when monitoring what people are saying about your brand. For example, you can set-up and alert with the name of your organization and know when someone else mentions you on their blog post or in an article.

Twitter Search

While Twitter doesn’t offer an alert function, there is something equally as useful pertaining to “search” functionality that you are able to save.

On the Twitter home page, in the top right corner is a search box. Any term that you searched for can be saved and Twitter will update it with the most recent tweets on the subject. If you click on the gear box on the right corner of the results, you can do an advanced search which allows you to set-up even more search parameters.

What I really like about the Twitter search function is that you can look for tweets by location and include positive or negative tweets in your search as well. Based on your search term, Twitter also suggests new people to follow so that you can expand your community based upon the search you just conducted.

Additionally, some social media managers like Tweet Deck and Hootsuite allow you to save Twitter searches within their program so that you don’t have to go back to the Twitter home page to do it.

Taking a few minutes to set up a Google Alert or two and save some searches in Twitter can save you time when it comes to finding content to post, resources for articles, and figuring out what your online community wants to hear from your non-profit agency.

Other social networking sites like Google+ and LinkedIn also have search functions that you might want to investigate.

However, I can’t stress enough how important it is for you to set-up alerts focused on your agency and the names of any other organizations with similar missions as yours. This way you can keep your ear to the ground and know what people are saying in your community.

Do you use Google Alerts or Twitter search already? Are they helpful to you? Do you have other tools that you use to help you achieve the same goal? Let’s talk about it in the comment section below.

Do you have “balance” in your non-profit life?

Welcome to O.D. Fridays at DonorDreams blog. Every Friday for the foreseeable future we will be looking more closely at a recent post from John Greco’s blog called “johnponders ~ about life at work, mostly” and applying his organizational development messages to the non-profit community.

Today, we’re focusing on a post that John titled “Catch More Life“. In that post, he talks about work-life balance, values and dreams. I think this is an especially appropriate post for this Friday because we’ve been talking about time management all week-long, which begs the question of work-life balance.

I loved John’s post this week because it came at just the right time in my life. A few weeks ago, I celebrated a huge anniversary — the day I decided to let go and “free fall” in life. It was the end of May 2011, when I left my job at Boys & Girls Clubs of America. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do, but I knew that I couldn’t stay on the path that I was on.

After taking the summer to decompress and think things through, I realized that life is too short and decided to cease the moment. I started blogging. I invested time in doing things that made me happy. I opened my own small non-profit consulting practice in October 2011 and resumed what I love doing, which is helping non-profit organizations build capacity.

I promised myself that I wouldn’t do any assessment or evaluation work on my decisions until October 2012, but the anniversary of my departure from Boys & Girls Clubs of America threw me a curveball and I started asking:

  • Was this the right decision?
  • Am I making enough money to sustain the consulting practice?
  • Do I need to go back to work for “The Man”.   😉   (Sorry, Fred)
  • Do I need to change certain things about my consulting practice?

I started feeling the anxiety that comes with assessment and evaluation . . . until I read John’s post.

While I’m still not sure that I’ve made the right decision or if I am on the right path with my new business, I feel better about putting my anxiety away until October. I also feel a little better about the decision I made a year ago because at the core of that decision was exactly what the fisherman in John’s post is trying to do.

I also find myself concerned this morning about the state of the non-profit sector. Philanthropy News Digest reported a few years ago about a study conducted by the Meyer Foundation:

“. . . young nonprofit staff are concerned that challenges such as work-life balance, insufficient lifelong earning potential, a lack of mentorship, and overwhelming fundraising responsibilities may prevent them from becoming nonprofit executives.”

As I look at this report finding and then look at the fisherman in John’s post “Catch More Life,” I find myself nodding my head and thinking that the word “challenges” is an under-statement.

If you are an executive director, you shouldn’t dismiss this phenomenon because it fundamentally threatens the long-term viability of your agency. Perhaps, the best thing you can do is:

  • Sit down with your employees,
  • Figure out what they value in life and offer to help them achieve it while they work at your agency,
  • Help them develop a career and life path, and
  • In the final analysis, appreciate their choices as you figure out how to simultaneously meet your agency’s needs.

If you are a board volunteer, you should take a hard look at this report and do a number of things like address it in your organization’s strategic plan and compensation & benefits plan. You should also demand that your executive director model work-life balance and promote it.

If you are a donor, please consider funding capacity building initiatives that help non-profits grow their fundraising muscles, which in turn will bring more resources to throw at this challenge.

The non-profit sector is at-risk and we are our own worst enemies. Is it possible for the fishermen and businessmen from John’s post to co-exist in the non-profit sector?

Do you personally have a work-life balance challenge? How are you addressing it? Does your agency have a balance issue with regards to the organization’s culture? Are you addressing it? If so, how? Please scroll down and share your thoughts in the comment box below.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847