Why Nonprofits Should Use Skype

Communication has come a long way since quill and parchment. Today information is sent through the air at high speeds and people can get what they need in a matter of seconds. Email is a standard in today’s communication arsenal, but today I’m going talk about voice calls. Talking is still faster than writing and today we are going to look at how Skype can help when it comes to communicating through voice.

Image representing Skype as depicted in CrunchBase
Image via CrunchBase

Skype is a powerful tool that can be a great benefit to any nonprofit organization. Skype can be used to make voice or video calls to people in your contact list. I know what you might be thinking, “we already have phones for this, Marissa”, but allow me to show you the flexibility of using Skype for calls.

Calls (voice or video) to users in your contact list who are also using Skype are free. That’s right, FREE. This can add up to big cell phone savings. How many times do you send an email knowing it’s going to take longer than you’d like to get the information you need just because everyone has a ton of email to go through? If everyone in your organization was on Skype if a person had a question, they could just Skype call them and get the information in a matter of seconds. Skype calls can be answered no matter where the person is logged in from, if that’s home, a cafe, or the cubicle next door.

English: Skype on mac that is version
English: Skype on mac that is version (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By adding money to your Skype account, phone calls can be made to landlines. This is a nice feature to have if a person on your team is even found in a place with a wifi signal but no cell phone reception. Additionally, by adding money to your Skype account, you can make international calls at lower rates than you would if you used a landline phone.

Skype also allows users to attach a single phone number to their account to make it easy for calls, whether made from Skype or a landline, to be answered from anywhere. With a mobile app, Skype users are able to answer voice and video calls on the go.

Skype also comes with voicemail functionality. This can be a great tool for agencies. By simply creating an account with phone number attached to it, messages left in this voicemail box can be accessed by anyone who has access to the account; making returning calls a team effort.

One more feature of using Skype for voice calls is the ability to record phone calls. If your agency is having an important conference call, it can be easily recorded through Skype. This recording could the be posted for absent team members to listen to when they are available.

There is much more to Skype besides just making voice and video calls that can be helpful for your organization. When in a video call on Skype users have the ability to share their screens with people on the call. This feature could come in handy for Board Meetings being held online if not all of the Board Members could make it. Skype also comes with an instant messaging service that allows you to send quick messages to people in your contact list when a call is not needed. Through this chat system, documents can also be easily shared between team members.

Skype is a feature rich application that has a lot to offer a nonprofit organization. I have seen where using it has increased communication between team members just due to the pure flexibility that comes along with it. Do you think Skype is a good fit for your agency? Do you already use Skype? If so, what do you use it for the most? Let talk about it in the comments below!

Your non-profit organization is like a car and you are the mechanic

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.

I am trying something new this Friday with John’s organizational development blog post. Please take a moment and ask yourself the following few questions:

  • Are you trying to build organizational development capacity? Are you a small organization who is trying to get bigger?
  • Are you experiencing a staffing issue? Is one of your employees not fitting in well with the rest of the team? Or are they experiencing performance issues?
  • Are you adding a new program or a new service location?
  • Are you contracting your organization and eliminating programs and service locations?
  • Have you hired a consultant to help your agency with something?
  • Is your organization’s board of directors disengaged?

As I read John’s post titled “Pieces / Parts,” I found all of these questions racing through my head as potential springboard themes for my post this morning.

So, here is what I propose we do this week. If you answered ‘YES’ to any of the above questions, please click here and go read John’s post.

As you read his long and systemic post, I know you are going to have an epiphany about something happening at your agency regarding organizational development. When that happens, please jump back here and share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Are you a systemic thinker? If not, where are you going to find that person to help you with your quest of repairing, improving or building your car . . . errrrr, I mean . . . your non-profit organization?

We can all learn from each other.

Here’s to your health!

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

Survey Says? We can all learn a lot from top non-profit brands!

When I think about opinion polls and surveys, the first thing I think of are the folks at Harris Interactive, who are widely known for The Harris Poll. Sure, there are lots of people in America who are in the business of knowing your opinion, but Harris is the granddaddy of them all. So, when Harris released the results from their 2012 Non-Profit EquiTrend study, I decided to click-through and see which non-profit brands average Americans recognize most, trust and value.

The following is how Harris describes this project:

“The 2012 Harris Poll Non-Profit EquiTrend (EQ) study measures the brand health of 87 non-profit brands across seven important categories, including Youth Interest, Animal Welfare, Health, Social Service, Disability, International Aid, and Environmental. Harris Poll EquiTrend provides the insight our communities, corporate sponsors, and non-profit organizations require to make informed decisions about donations and overall support.”

I must admit that I was a little confused when I first read the webpage that described their findings, and I had to go back and re-read everything a second time. Click here to see that page and read more about this project. I think the confusion resulted from Harris dividing their findings into seven different categories, and it was difficult to figure out which agencies were at the top of the “collective” non-profit branding survey. For example, the Girl Scouts were at the top of the EquiTrend Youth Interest Non-Profit Brand survey, but they weren’t one of the “overall” top four brands when you combined all seven categories into one comprehensive list.

The following are the top four non-profit brands in 2012 according to what people told Harris:

  1. American Red Cross
  2. Habitat for Humanity
  3. Salvation Army
  4. Feeding America

If you are a regular reader of this blog, then you know that I regularly say: “We can all learn from each other.” I think this expression comes from a deep-rooted belief that re-inventing the wheel is a waste of time. With this in mind, I decided to share with you this morning YouTube videos from each of these top non-profit brands. Please take a brief moment and click-through these videos.

When you’re done (and it will take only a few minutes), please use the comment box below to share some of your thoughts and observations. What do you see these well-recognized non-profit brands telling people about what they do? Why do you think their messaging is so effective? Why does it resonate and stick with people?

American Red Cross

Habitat for Humanity

Salvation Army

Feeding America

So, what did you think about what these four top non-profit brands had to say? Did you have any “big ideas” about your agency’s branding efforts while watching these videos? If so, please share that thought with us in the comment box below.

Here’s to your health!

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

Advice for all non-profits: “It is time to talk human again!”

So, I was sitting in my living room watching television and trying to multitask last night when one of the commercials that I was trying to ignore jumped out of my television, grabbed me by my shirt collar and shook me hard. It was an advertisement by Skype and it was very cute.  You probably know which one I am talking about . . . it is the commercial with the middle school aged boy and girl passing notes in class. I’ve embedded it below if you want to view it again.


I especially love the following line in this ad:

“Long before email threads, we turned to each other. It is when the spirit of collaboration meant more than an ‘FYI’ or ‘Reply All’. When messages were passed along by simple gestures, validated by an honest expression.”

Long after this commercial was over, my mind kept straying back to it. I must have re-played it over and over and over again in my head all night long. After a few hours, it dawned on me that there is something about this message that obviously resonates with me and my point of view about non-profit organizations.

For the last few years, I became more focused on using technology to engage people (e.g. non-profit clients, donors, board volunteers, etc) in a way that felt efficient and productive. Thinking back on it, I have tried all sorts of technology tools all in the name of saving time:

  • Email (Ugh . . . I can send wickedly long emails with lots of detail)
  • Google Docs
  • GoToMeeting
  • Conference call bridges
  • e-newsletters

I suspect this trend is rooted in the idea of being respectful of a donor and volunteer’s time. After all, life is so busy and very fast nowadays. However, are we really being more efficient? Are we really getting more done? Are we really simplifying things or do our efforts really just de-humanize the experience and end up doing more harm than good?

I think United Airlines hit the nail on the head more than 20 years ago when they run this iconic television ad:


Please don’t misunderstand what I am saying. I believe technology is here to stay, and we all better learn how to appropriately use it to keep our donors and volunteers informed and engaged.

I suspect that technology will also continue to creep into our lives and become a stronger fundraising solicitation tool over the next decade. I also suspect that more and more board and committee meetings will happen over Skype and other online video platforms.

Before you totally surrender your non-profit and its relationships to the “Technology Gods,” I encourage you to take the following advice from our friends at United Airlines and Skype:

  • Scale back your email and non-personal technology efforts with volunteers and donors.
  • Don’t make-up reasons for volunteers to attend a committee meeting or board meeting. Make sure that the agenda contains important stuff.
  • Don’t make-up reasons to sit down with a donor. Make sure every touch is engaging, enlightening, fulfilling, and fun for them. It is more about them and less about you. Right? Connecting people with your mission in an emotional way is a recipe for success! And technology is anti-emotional.
  • Visit people in-person, but do so in a way that feels important and not a waste of time.
  • Try your hand at online video conferencing. Of all the technology available to you, this one somewhat allows some sense of personal interaction. Start small with an individual or committee first.

I think we can embrace technology in a way that makes sense and is not de-humanizing. It will take a conscious effort on your part. Are you up to the challenge? Or are you just going to continue ‘forwarding’ that email thread with an attachment and clicking ‘reply all”? Please scroll down and share your thoughts about either commercial? Did either have an impact on your non-profit point of view? I would love to hear your thoughts and what you plan on doing about it.

Here’s to your health!

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

Managing versus leading at your non-profit organization

This morning I am running off to facilitate an interesting discussion among some very smart non-profit professionals. The topic of the discussion is: “The Art of Being an Executive Director: Leading vs. Managing“.

To be honest, I’m so excited about today’s discussion that I’ve been looking forward to it for a month.

In preparation for today’s facilitated discussion, I developed the following questions to help get the creative juices flowing and stimulate discussion:

  • What is the difference between leading and managing?
  • How do you know when you’re leading or just managing?
  • Does this mean leaders can abdicate their role in implementation?
  • Are there tools you use that hold you accountable to leading?

Usually, when I’m asked to facilitate discussions like this one, I also try to bring various resources to the table that participants might find useful and seek out after the discussion. The following are just a few of the resources I plan on sharing:

Rather than going on and on this morning about my thoughts on leading versus managing your non-profit organization, I thought I’d ask you to think about some of the questions I posed and you can weigh-in with your thoughts using the comment box below.

As I’ve been saying for more than a year now . . . “We can all learn from each other.”

Come on . . . please?  The comment volume for this blog has decreased in the last few months. I know that the summer is here, but let’s try to reverse this trend just for today. Please take a few minutes out of your morning and leave a comment. It might make all the difference in the world for someone else. I would consider it a personal favor.  🙂

Here’s to your health!

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

How to Keep Social Media Updated While on Vacation

Vacation season is well upon us so I thought in this post, I would focus on some applications that can help you keep the social media train running while you’re away.

In my mind, I see running social media as a customer service position. So it is important that while you are on vacation your community doesn’t feel left behind. Planning out your posts is an important step to make sure that your social media plan doesn’t skip a beat. There are many templates out there that can help you lay out what you are going to post and to which network. It is important that this plan is a detailed as possible and shared with a teammate who might be looking over your social media sites while you’re away.

After you’ve planned everything out you can actually schedule your posts to be posted in the future. This can be done in a couple of ways. First, Facebook recently added scheduling functionality. When you are typing a status update on your organization’s page, you will see a clock in the bottom left corner of the box in which you are typing. Upon clicking on it you will be able to assign a time that you’d like this post to be published. All posts are then accessible through the Activity Log in the page’s admin panel.

Third party applications can also help with the scheduling of posts on Twitter. The most popular application is Hootsuite. Hootsuite can also schedule facebook posts, so it might be the all-in-one solution for your and your team. Other social media sites such as Pinterest, YouTube, and Google+ do not seem to have scheduling functionality at this time. It will be important for you to leave your plan with someone who will have access to updating your sites while you are out of the office.

In addition, if your organization runs a blog, you can have those posts either waiting as drafts to be published or scheduled to be posted using your blog management software. That way, the blog doesn’t look like it has skipped a beat in your absence.

Even though you have taken the time before your vacation to schedule the posts to be published, I would recommend that someone still look over those posts and have the ability to cancel their publication if needed. Part of having a strong social media presence online is being current and sometimes something happens that needs to be posted over a post that you planned out a week ago. If you can, avoid sharing log in information with your team member and either make them an administrator on that site or set them up using a third party application such as Hootsuite, TweetDeck or Sprout Social.

Outside of planning social media posts, make sure you have your email covered as well. Don’t forget to activate an out of office message to be sent when you get an email while you are on vacation. Don’t forget to give people a place to go if the need an issue attended to in an urgent manner and let them know when they can expect to hear back from you. Out of office messages are able to be set up in both Gmail and Outlook and other email programs.

If your company uses gmail for their email service there is one plug-in that can help you send emails while away from your desk. The service is called Boomerang and using it allows you to schedule emails to be sent in the future. This could be helpful service if need to send a reminder to your team while you are on vacation.

Planning to go on vacation can be stressful. This is specially true when you work with social media because being connected is part of the job. I hope these tools can help ease some of that stress. What tools to you use when planning for vacation? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

John’s puppies provide perspective for non-profit organizations

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: “Puppy Perspective“. In that post, he describes two different perspectives that he and his wife have on the exact same occurrence. The event in question has to deal with John’s dogs and the daily arrival of their mail carrier. While John’s post is cute and fun to read, you should really click over and read it for yourself because John’s dogs tell an important story about one of the biggest challenges every non-profit organization faces.

“Perspective” is a funning thing. It can sometimes feel like one of those circus fun house mirrors.

Think about how many different stakeholder groups your organization has:

  • Executive director
  • Fundraising professionals
  • Program staff
  • Clients
  • Donors
  • Board volunteers
  • Fundraising volunteers
  • Program volunteers
  • New prospective or incoming board volunteers
  • Prospective new donors

OMG . . . the list could go on and on, and John’s post “Puppy Perspective” very clearly shows us how common it is for different groups to have very different perspectives on the same thing.

This phenomenon means that building consensus around important decisions can sometimes feel like “Mission Impossible”.

When looking back at some of the organizations I’ve worked with on planning, implementing and evaluating an annual campaign, I now clearly see how different perspectives made implementing change difficult. To illustrate this point, the following is a short list of stakeholders and what I am sure they were thinking as they listened to me talk about running an annual campaign:

  • Staff — Ugh, this is so necessary, but this sounds like a lot of work and there is no time.
  • Board members & fundraising volunteers — Sitting down in-person with a donor and asking for money? That sounds scary!
  • Donors — OMG, another fundraiser? How many more times will they come back and ask for money?
  • Program staff — Why can’t people just give money and leave us to our important work? Outcomes measurement is so hard and takes time away from actual program time.

Everyone has a different perspective, and this makes getting something done very difficult. This is why non-profit executive directors must be highly skilled at driving change. When they aren’t good at getting everyone on the same page, then nothing happens and the non-profit organization dies a slow death.

Our friends at the Change Management Learning Center offer some interesting tutorials, training, and books that you might find helpful when developing your case and leading change.

Are you regularly on a different page than your board volunteers? If so, how do you manage that and close the gap? Has your agency’s fundraising staff found themselves at odds with program staff? How have you eliminated those silos and facilitated peace throughout your kingdom? Please use the comment box to share a story or an approach that has worked for you. We can all learn from each other.

Here’s to your health!

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

Stop thinking. Stop planning. Start doing!

Tuesday’s post “Does your non-profit organization make a difference? Americans don’t think so!” introduced one of the main points in Dan Pallotta’s book Uncharitable, which is that non-profit organizations are under-resourced thus have a difficult time driving results and change. Pallotta argues that the reasons for too few resources are cultural, attitudinal and legal. Yesterday’s post explored what this author believes is at the heart of the non-profit sector’s dilemma. Today, we’re talking about what to do about all of this.

I must admit that Uncharitable was a page turner for me. The more I read, the more I found myself thinking: ” Hmmm . . . I wonder how he suggests we overcome that challenge.” So, words cannot express my disappointment when I got to the chapter where solutions seemingly would be forthcoming and read the following:

“Some readers might expect that in this final chapter I would suggest some dramatic statutory re-engineering — the end of the entire not-for-profit tax-exempt classification or something on that scale. But that is to put the cart before the horse. Even sweeping and fundamental statutory revisions are of secondary importance to changing the way we think about charity.”

After putting the book down and drowning my disappointment in another cup of coffee, I decided to embrace this anticlimactic end to Pallotta’s book. In the final analysis, he is right. Of all the obstacles in the non-profit sector’s way of embracing capitalism and a free-market approach to charity, almost all of them are attitudinal and behavioral barriers and very few of them are structural (e.g. laws and regulations).

At the beginning of every chapter, Pallotta starts it with an inspirational quotation designed to summarize the content of that chapter as well as inspire thought on the part of the reader. One of the quotations was from John Kenneth Galbraith:

“All successful revolutions are the kicking in of a rotten door.”

From this thought, I take my inspiration for today’s blog post. Since most of this rotten door can be kicked in by changing our beliefs and actions, I thought I would share a few of my thoughts on what typical non-profit organizations can start doing to revolutionize the non-profit sector and embrace capitalism and free market solutions to solve our resource challenges.

Engage donors in this discussion

Penelope Burk tells us to become more donor-centered in our approach to fundraising. Her point of view is centered around the donor, and I think it provides the starting point for this revolution.

There is nothing stopping you from forming an Oprah-inspired book club with your most influential donors. Buy a copy of Dan Pallotta’s book Uncharitable for each of them. Meet with them after reading each chapter. Facilitate a conversation about what it means and what they think your agency should do about it and what it means for their personal approach to charitable giving.

Budget for a profit

There is no law that says your non-profit organization can’t make more money than it spends each year. Stop building budgets that don’t include profit. My suggestion is that you set aside 10 percent of your annual revenue every year for the rest of your agency’s life.

What should this money be used for? Well, that is a discussion for your board of directors to have. So, facilitate it! Some possible ideas include: building a rainy day fund (because you know that storm clouds are always on the horizon), saving for future project, or investing in capacity building and organizational development projects. The sky is limit, and board members need to engage in this conversation to make it realistic and plausible.

Use the power of the markets

In addition to building a rainy day fund with your excess profits, every non-profit agency should have an endowment strategy. Investing money with the intent of creating another revenue stream stemming from investment income has been a non-profit best practice for a very long time. Use capitalism and the capital markets to generate money for your mission.

You don’t need millions of dollars to start an endowment. You can start small and make it a policy or practice to reinvest your earned income back into the endowment.

Yes, of course . . . create a stand along investment committee and set-up policies to guide your agency. This can all start happening tomorrow if you just put your mind to doing it. No one is stopping you.

Follow in Pallotta’s footsteps

Dan Pallotta founded Pallotta TeamWorks. His for-profit company created, planned and implemented the world-famous AIDS Rides and Breast Cancer 3-Day events. His company netted hundreds of millions of dollars for the expressed purpose of funding non-profit organizations.

Form a strategic alliance with other non-profits in your community and look at starting a for-profit company with the intent of running a few high-profile special events. This for-profit event planning and management company would not be constrained by rules and laws that strangle your current efforts.

If you are thinking that Pallotta TeamWorks ended up failing and this is a crazy idea, I encourage you to think again. Sure, Pallotta’s company failed, but it left behind an impressive blueprint. I am suggesting that you are smart enough to engage other non-profit professionals and volunteers in your community to review this case study and use those things that work as well as fix those things that didn’t work.

In the back of the book, there is an entire chapter titled “Case Study — Pallotta TeamWorks“. Is there any harm in pulling a group together, reading the case study and talking through questions associated with ‘What if”?

Pallotta has, of course, started up a new for-profit company focused around the points he makes in his book. Click here to learn more about the company he calls “Change Course”.

Many more ideas and your thoughts

Since most of Pallotta’s proposed revolution is rooted in attitudinal and behavioral change, the sky is the limit. He suggests that you start compensating your employees better and attracting more qualified applicants. He suggests investing in advertising. He proposes removing charity watchdog group logos from your letterhead and website.

Like Saturday Night Live’s character Stuart Smalley used to say: “I’m Good Enough, I’m Smart Enough, and Doggone It, People Like Me!” You and your volunteers and your fellow non-profit professionals and their volunteers are smart enough to come up with many more ideas on how the non-profit sector and your agencies can utilize the power of capitalism to monetize your mission.

So, stop thinking about it and start taking some baby steps towards doing it!

Please scroll down and share one idea or thought that you’ve had while reading the last few days worth of blog posts. Let’s engage in doing some brainstorming and start a revolution.

Here’s to your health!

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