Using house party events to advance your non-profit interests

I try to keep an eye open for opportunities to learn new things every day. Last week, I learned something about house party events that was so simple, but potentially game changing if you take it to heart. What I learned was . . .

House party events aren’t just a fundraising strategy.

house partyAs a young non-profit professional, who was just learning his craft, I was first introduced to the idea of a “house party” event format as a fundraising technique. The idea was simple. Ask someone to host a small party in their home. Work with them to identify a guest list of potential donors from their list of friends and colleagues. Make a group ask during the get together and collect pledge cards. My former employer used to call these “leadership circle” events.
Personally, I didn’t like the house party strategy for fundraising. Early experiences demonstrated to me that donors were very effective at hiding in group settings. For example, someone who had the willingness to support your organization and the capacity to do so with a substantial gift, usually ended up making a smaller contribution when asked as part of a group in contrast with a one-on-one in-person meeting.
Fast forward to much later in my career, when I was working as an internal consultant for a large national non-profit organization. I was re-introduced to house parties. Instead of using it as a solicitation vehicle, local affiliates where encouraged to use the strategy for new prospect identification and cultivation. At first, this tool was branded “House Party of Hope,” and later it was re-branded “A Party with a Purpose.
Again, house parties were still being used as a resource development activity. So, I never saw this strategy in any other light. That is until just last week when we hosted a house party in our basement.
The purpose of our house party was to introduce the newly hired CEO for a statewide organization to our circle of friends. The stated purposes of this get together were:

  1. Introduce the new CEO to his organization’s constituency
  2. Introduce the organization’s constituency to the new CEO
  3. Use a facilitated question/answer format with the group to collect stories to help the organization craft a shared vision, set goals, and develop a new strategic plan

engage2Last week’s experience helped me see house parties in a whole new light. No longer was this strategy simply a tool in a non-profit person’s resource development toolbox. The more I thought about it, the opportunities seemed to be endless. Here are just a few of my thoughts:

  • Host a house party to validate a final planning document with any number of stakeholder and constituency groups
  • Host a house party to engage potential collaborative partners in a discussion about what is possible
  • Host a house party to engage staff, build team dynamics, address workplace challenges, start a new program, etc
  • Host a house party to collect stories from clients/constituents to gauge your organization’s impact, develop a marketing campaign, identify additional needs, etc
  • Host a house party to educate the community and initiate a call to action focused on your organization’s public advocacy agenda (Note: I believe I once read the American Medical Association did this in the 1950s or 1960s to defeat national healthcare legislation moving its way through Congress)
  • Host a house party to identify new potential board volunteers as a precursor to the board development committee building prospect lists

I literally believe the sky is the limit with regard to how a house party strategy can be used to advance any non-profit organization’s agency.
If you are interested in learning more about house parties, click-through the following links for a treasure trove of resources and reading materials:

Has your organization ever used a house party strategy? What were your objectives? Were your objectives met? Please use the comment box to share your thoughts and experiences. We can all learn from each other.
Here’s to your health!
Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

Your case for fundraising goal better match your messaging and need

zikaThis morning, I was in my car driving down the interstate when National Public Radio (NPR) ran a story about UNICEF’s goal to raise $9 million to fight against the Zika virus. If you want to learn more about this new, you can click here and read more about it in the Washington Post. However, this isn’t really what today’s blog post is about . . . this morning I want to share with you my response to this story and how it applies to your non-profit organization.
In the three seconds after listening to this NPR story, here are the thoughts that raced through my mind:

  • Ugh! Not another scary disease story (e.g. Swine flu, bird flu, SARS, Ebola, etc) to whip up public fear and motivate action on any number of fronts. Here we go again. 🙁
  • Hmmmm, I wonder if little kids are still carrying UNICEF boxes collecting small change at Halloween? Is it possible for a simple “tin cup philanthropy” campaign to raise $9 million for this effort?
  • Barf . . . I think some of the U.S. Presidential candidates who lost last night’s Iowa Caucus could probably fund this $9 million UNICEF goal many times over. (If you doubt me, then you may want to click here and make sure you’re near a toilet for the post-article queasiness)

You’re probably wondering what any of this has to do with you and your non-profit organization?
Simply . . .

Make sure that your fundraising goal matches the size of your case for support!

If you are trying to do something BIG and you need your donors to understand how BIG it is as well as rise to the BIG occasion, then your fundraising goal better also be BIG. If you don’t live by this rule, then it is likely that your campaign will:

  • be seen as underwhelming
  • lack traction and volunteer support
  • attract fewer donors than anticipated
  • result in smaller average size gifts
  • run the risk of not meeting goal

I took a phone call the other day from a potential client wanting me to bid on a capital campaign. After asking a few questions, it was apparent they only wanted to set a six figure goal to do a little renovation. I encouraged them to go back to their boardroom, ask the following questions, and then we’ll talk again:

  • What other needs do your clients face in your community? How much money do you need to address those needs?
  • Are your physical plant issues perfect if you are successful with these small renovations? If not, then what more needs to occur and how much would that cost?
  • Is your endowment satisfactorily large enough to inspire confidence in your donors that you have the question of long-term sustainability addressed?
  • Look at this renovation campaign through the eyes of your donors. What do they see? What are their reactions?
  • Does your organization possess the internal organizational capacity to sustain what you’re building? If not, can that be built into this campaign? If so, what would that cost? (e.g. endowing staff positions, etc)

Please use the comment box to share your thoughts and experiences with goal setting and building a B-HAG (e.g. big, hairy audacious goal) type of campaign and case for support. Have you been in this position before? If so, what did you do and what did you learn? We can all learn from each other.
Here’s to your health!
Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

Everyone is a Marketer: Building an Organization-wide Marketing Team

Hi everyone! I know Erik mentioned, I’d write about technology, but when I sat down to write this post, the topic of building a marketing team just would not leave me. I hope you enjoy it! I’ll see if I can convince Erik to let me guest blog again and I promise that post will be more focused along what I have written in the past, on Mondays with Marissa. Thanks for letting me blog-sit, DonorDreams readers! Erik is back on Thursday! 

A few weeks ago, Erik reflected on a quote by Warren Buffet, “The people own the brand.” That got me thinking; if the marketing-strategy-image-better-business-togetherpeople own the brand, then we as nonprofit staff, are all marketers. It doesn’t matter what position you hold in your organization. Every single staff member is a marketer or at the very least can be part of the marketing team.
As a member of the marketing department, it is my job to grow an audience of participants, supporters and influencers for our organization through various means of communication. This is a challenging job and one, in my opinion, should not rest solely on the shoulders of one department. It is not possible for me to know all of the programs that need to be promoted, see the impact we are making in the community, and attract new members all at the same time. I need help. So together with the other members of my department, we worked to create an organization-wide marketing team.
Here’s how we did it and how you can too:

  • Create a marketing strategy – It is the job of the marketing department (or person) to figure out which audiences are reached by which media channel. Perhaps your participants are all on Facebook, but you can reach all of your supporters via email. Take time and figure this out. Also, meet with each department to figure out what that department’s goals are. Put all of in this information down in one place. It can be as basic or as detailed as your time and resources allow and the format does not matter.
  • Identify key team members – Look at your entire organization. Who communicates with the marketing team (or person) the most? Are there members of other departments that want to develop marketing skills? These people will give the marketing team (or person) the information they need to execute their marketing goals. Nonprofits tend to become siloed because each department is focused on their own set of goals, it can help to have a person who is a bridge between their department and the marketing team. Also, other members of each department might feel more accountable to a member of their own team and as a result, marketing information might be more readily available.
  • Decide on a communication system – Email can get clunky, but if it is what works best for your organization, run with it. However, maybe you’ll find that project management software, like Trello, helps organize things and keeps communication fluid, and focused. Or perhaps, it could be a communication call where a representative from each department (ideally, a member of your team you figured out in the step above) shares what needs promotion in their area. Whatever it is, make sure there is a clear system on how communication will flow.
  • Test it out – Now that you have your strategy, team, and system in place, see how it works. It is important to keep an open mind; ask for feedback and make adjustments.
  • Be transparent – After testing out, let the rest of your organization know how the marketing team is now spread across all departments and explain the impact it is having. Where I work, we have seen that creating a team of promotion managers has allowed the marketing department to go from only being scheduled a week ahead of time, to being scheduled at least two weeks ahead and having promotion items on the calendar a full month ahead.

What I described above, is a step-by-step method for creating a structured marketing team that is spread throughout your organization. Maybe your organization needs something more flexible. In that case, the most important thing is to find a communication system that works best for your organization. This is the anchor for everything.
In many organizations the marketing team, is really only one person. It is important to lean on the entire staff to provide this person with information needed to create participants, supporters and influencers. In order for that to happen people need to know what to do with the information they are submitting to the marketing team and get feedback from the marketing team on how they are going to use it.don draper
On a recent episode of Mad Men, Donald Draper said, “Behind every great ad, is a great story.” Building an organization-wide marketing team can make it easier to find the stories needed to create that great ad/blog post/social media post – one that can grow the organization’s membership, donor base, and awareness.
Do you work in the marketing department of your organization? How do you manage internal communications to ensure you have the information you need to tell your story? Let us know in the comments!

You don't own your non-profit brand

warrenThe other day, I was in my home office trying to wrap up some work before dinner. The television in the other room was tuned to PBS and Charlie Rose was interviewing Warren Buffet and a few other rich guys. They were talking about the late Coca-Cola President Don Keough who recently died. I was trying hard to ignore the background noise and distraction, but then the following five simple words floating into my office:

“The people own the brand.”

These words came from Warren Buffet’s mouth in response to a question Charlie Rose asked about the time when Coca-Cola removed its Classic Coke from the shelves and replaced it with a reformulated New Coke and the public appeared to backlash.
These five simple words got into my head and have rattled around for the last few weeks. They bothered me, but they certainly sounded wiser than I ever might be.
It got to the point where I actually typed these five words into a Google browser, which is when I found a post titled “You Don’t Own Your Brand Anymore, Your Customers Do” over at iYogi Blog written by Sairam K.
I love the iYogi Blog post, and it is certainly worth a click from you. It crystallized everything for me and got me thinking about the following questions for your non-profit brand:

  • When is the last time you talked to your donors, clients, staff, and volunteers about what the brand means to them?
  • What are your key messages (and I don’t mean your marketing tag line) and how do they align with what people think about your brand?
  • How do you monitor your brand and what people are saying about your brand (especially on social media)?
  • Have you thought through how and what your responses might look and sound like in the event your brand comes under attack in social media circles? And more importantly, have you thought about the damage you might do if your strategy is simply “deleting” posts on your Facebook page?

I think the reason Warren Buffet’s words rattled me so badly was because I thought the organization owned the brand, but in reality staff and volunteers simply care for and steward the brand. The people (aka donors, community leaders, staff, clients, the community at-large, etc) do indeed own the brand.
What does this mean for your organization and your marketing/communication efforts? Please scroll down and share your thoughts and experiences in the comment box below. We can all learn from each other.
Here’s to your health!
Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

Marketing experts weigh-in on how your non-profit can break through the noise

Just the other day my spouse and I were sitting on the coach unwinding from another busy day when this Geico commercial came on television:
I blurted out, “Oh, I just love this commercial.” My partner’s response was “I don’t think I’ve ever seen this one.
Of course, this commercial has been airing for weeks, and it has taken a long time for it to break through the noise for my partner. It was this revelation that got me thinking about this month’s Nonprofit Blog Carnival theme “Breaking Through the Noise” being hosted by RAD Blog.
Over the last few weeks, I’ve scratched my head wondering what could I possibly add to this topic that smarter marketing professionals haven’t already said, which is when it hit me:

Go ask the experts!

Over the last year, I’ve had two amazing marketing professionals in my life. I decided to just ask them to say something wise about how non-profit organizations can break through the everyday noise and information overload that our donors, supporters, volunteers, and prospective supporters and donors experience.
This is what they very graciously shared . . .

Meet Noel Childs

noelI first met Noel more than a year ago when I signed a capacity building contract with Elgin Youth Symphony Orchestra focused on resource development and board development. He is a board volunteer who currently serves as the organization’s Vice President.
As I got to know Noel, I discovered he is one of those creative-types who understands how people communicate. He is the President & Founder of 9ine, and this is how he describes himself on his personal website:

Designer. Artist. Father. Founder.
Arsenal FC Gunner. Guild navigator.
Dirt farmer. Marten herder. Folk hero. Lover.

Did that break through the noise for you? Yeah, it did for me too, which is why I asked Noel to weigh-in on the question of how non-profit organizations can go about breaking through the noise with their communications strategies and efforts.
Here is what Noel had to say:

Stay true to your core mission
Progressive non-profits are realizing that with institutions dying and culture in flux they need to innovate more then every before when it comes to marketing and communications. Changing with the times is essential, but not at the cost of your mission. Find new tactical ways to engage your stakeholders, but all strategy must flow from your purpose — your “why you exist“.
Assess your digital ecology
Take a closer look at all of your online channels, websites, social media, mobile initiatives, digital marketing, and advertising to make sure it’s interconnected without barriers. Stakeholders (both existing and potential) expect to easily flow between channels and if you’re digital ecology has disconnects you’re missing opportunities.
Identify online communities
Online users behave differently from one another. Conduct research to understand their habits and desires and group them. Seek out the influencers that are at the hub of these groups. They are your key to a higher level of engagement. Create communications that will connect at a deep, sub-conscious level.
If you can’t measure it, don’t do it
Cut out the marketing and communications that don’t have some metric tied to it. With a lean budget, not being able to assess a communication’s ROI is like burning money.
Authentic storytelling cuts through the noise
Traditional advertising and marketing is outdated. People are skeptical of being sold to. Millennials completely ignore it. Show the real value of your non-profit though true stories that connect via content marketing.

Meet John Mitchell

john mitchellJohn is the other marketing guy who has been in my life for the last year.
I first met John during a capital campaign project with Boys & Girls Clubs of Bloomington. He is one of the busiest cats I know, and he graciously agreed to serve as the chair of the Club’s capital campaign Communications Task Force. He is the Owner & Executive Director (and self-described ping pong guru) of Monarch Media Studios.
John has a very strong and powerful point of view when it comes to cutting through the din that everyone now experiences while watching television, sitting at your computer, driving to work . . . in fact just living.
Like Noel, I consider John to be a communications genius which is why I asked him to weigh-in on how your non-profit organization can break through the noise and reach those with whom you need to speak.
Here is what John had to say:

There is a worsening marketing NOISE developing that is causing the process of messaging to become both more difficult and simpler at the same time….I’ll explain.
While you’re reading this, you’re probably receiving an email, a push notification, and a news alert about something that you will likely ignore while promising yourself that you will find a way to unsubscribe when you have time.
It has never been easier to get your message in front of your target audience, but it has never been harder to make them pay attention.  The most profound of messages will likely be lost in a sea of sports scores, political updates, cat videos, and free wal-mart gift card opportunities.
It sounds overwhelming, but the noise has actually provided an opportunity as well.
The opportunity is for a return to honest sentiment and simple truth. Whiteboard sessions that focus on semantics and tag lines can now be replaced with coffee house meetings over stories of real life change and passion.
Call me naive, but I believe the way to cut through the growing marketing noise is with simple, honest, clear, and real messaging.  It stands out in a sea of swooshes, sexy hamburgers, talking animals, and 3-D billboards.
In this way, not-for-profit messaging has never been at a bigger advantage, when it comes to getting the attention of potential donors.
If I’m selling a widget, I have to dig deep to find a profound, honest message that speaks through the noise.  This is why marketing has started to look more like visual gymnastics than like intentional messaging.  When an organization has a message that is driven by human story (i.e Boys and Girls Clubs stories), passion and compelling calls to action become the low hanging fruit.
So, my advice to non-profit organizations (as a marketing minion who has done more visual backflips than I care to admit), is to lean into your advantage in the midst of the noise.

  • Look for the human stories.  People make us care.  Stories make us move!
  • Find the common denominators in your stories.
  • Speak clearly and honestly to your audience.

Good news . . . you have the power to break through the NOISE.

So, what did you think? Did the advice of these two marketing pros resonate with you? What is your non-profit organization doing to break through the increasing noise of the world around us? Please use the comment box below to share your thoughts and experiences.
A special thanks to both Noel and John for taking time out of their incredibly busy and creative days to share their thoughts. Won’t you please do the same? We can all learn from each other.
Here’s to your health!
Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

How do you network?

networkingA few days ago, I was Skyping with Henry Freeman, the owner of H.Freeman Associates LLC. It was a getting-to-know-you session because a mutual friend had suggested that we needed to meet and explore possible ways for our two consulting practices to work more closely together from time-to-time. During our conversation, Henry asked me a question that I haven’t been able to get out of my head. That question was:

How do you network?

As one does in a fluid conversation, I had to think on my feet and these were the examples that came out of my mouth:

  • Coffee meetings
  • Breakfast, lunch and dinner meetings
  • After-work cocktails
  • Virtual networking (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterst, Google+, LinkedIn, and the DonorDreams blog)
  • Group membership (e.g. Fox West Philanthropy Network)
  • Conferences

I’m not sure if I’m any good at networking, but I do it primarily because I like people. I love meeting new people. If you are a regular reader of this blog, then you know that I regularly say things like “We don’t have to re-create the wheel” and “We can all learn from each other.” Both of these expressions are most likely drivers behind what gets me out of my home office and meeting with all sorts of people.
During a little windshield time yesterday, Henry’s question was still rattling around my brain when it dawned on me that “networking” is obviously a critical skill for most non-profit CEOs and fundraising professionals. If you’re good at networking, then you are probably a natural when it comes to:

  • cultivating new prospective donors
  • stewarding existing donors
  • developing collaborations with other organizations, groups and corporations
  • soliciting donors and selling sponsorships
  • recruiting volunteers
  • identifying and recruiting new prospective board members
  • engaging existing board members

The more I think about it, networking skills sound more and more “foundational” as it generally related to SUCCESS.
As this idea continued rolling around in my thoughts, I couldn’t help but wonder what skills and traits are associated with people who are good networkers. Here is an incomplete list of things I managed to come up with:

  • Sincere and genuine
  • Conversational
  • Interested
  • Engaging
  • Good listener
  • Empathetic
  • Living in the moment
  • Intuitive

I’m not sure how accurate this list is, but they were all things that crossed my mind.
The final thought that crossed my mind on this topic was “How can someone get better at networking?” Not surprisingly, this question drove me to my favorite resource in the world — Google.   😉
After clicking around a little bit, I came across a link to Huffington Post simply titled “Networking Tips.” When I clicked it, there were two pages of HuffPo articles on a variety of networking subjects like “10 Simple Rules” and “8 Ways to Amp Up Your Personality.” It looked like a treasure trove of great reading.
Wanna see those links? Simply click here and enjoy!
Do you think that you’re good at networking? Why? What do you do to network? Which of your many skills and traits lend favorably to your ability to network?
If you end up like me and get thinking about this question, please scroll down to the comment box and share your thoughts and experiences. We can all learn from each other.
Here’s to your health!
Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

Philanthropy is emotional. Is your agency embracing this reality?

philanthropyI was on the phone yesterday talking with Pamela Grow over at The Grow Report about a toolbox project I’m currently work on. During that call, she shared an emotional donor story, and my response was simply “philanthropy is emotional“. For whatever reason, I haven’t been able to get neither Pamela’s story nor my simply conclusion out of my head. Whenever something like this happens, I always take it as a sign from the “blogger gods” that I need to write about it.
So, that’s what you’re getting this morning . . . a handful of stories and examples from my life to prove the point that philanthropy is emotional and ask what you’re doing about it. Hopefully, you can share a few stories and examples of your own.
What exactly is philanthropy?
I know that when I think of “philanthropy” my mind immediately wanders to non-profit organizations and charitable giving. However, the concept of philanthropy is much more expansive than just money being donated to agencies. The following is a simple definition that Google spit out at me when I asked:

Philanthropy is the desire to promote the welfare of others, expressed especially by the generous donation of money to good causes.

When you take a step back and look at the bigger picture, “promoting the welfare of others” includes volunteerism, advocacy in addition to charitable giving.
live unitedOur United Way friends totally get an A+ on this one because they’ve been running around for a decade now telling us to LIVE UNITED which encompasses the following ideas:

  1. Give
  2. Advocate
  3. Volunteer

I guess when I step back and look at the bigger picture of philanthropy, I can’t help but wonder how it can’t be an emotional activity. After all, the act of reaching out to help someone else and expecting nothing in return is a selfless activity that is rooted in love and caring. Both of which are emotional. Right?
My first tearful national conference
youth of the yearMy first Boys & Girls Club national conference was in New York City in 2001 literally months before the terror attacks.
During one of the general sessions, the 2001 National Youth of the Year stepped to the big stage and told his story, which included:

  • a father who had died
  • a mother who was addicted, in prison and infect with HIV
  • a Boys & Girls Club that became home
  • hope and inspiration

There wasn’t a dry eye in the room.
His story illustrates the power of philanthropy and demonstrates how emotional it is for people.
A donor’s tears
tears2Fast forward to one of my first engagements as an external consultant. I was assisting with an organizational assessment and conducting interviews with board members, volunteers, collaborative partners, donors, former donors and various other stakeholders.
The organization was experiencing a number of pain points and found itself under scrutiny by the newspaper, television stations, and its supporters. As if this wasn’t bad enough, those who the agency served were starting to organize and protest.
I had the privilege of interviewing someone who had “done it all” including:

  • program volunteer
  • fundraising volunteer
  • board member (I believe two different stints on the board)
  • donor

There she sat, sharing her perspective on the current state and desired future state of the agency, and there were lots of tears.
Why was she crying?
Simply said, she understood the importance of the agency. She had witnessed and participated in the transformational gift this organization provides its clients. Her tears were rooted in frustration and fear.

  • Frustration that the current issues haunting the agency were getting in the way of fulfilling its mission.
  • Fear that the current issues might permanently close the doors and impact clients.

Her story illustrates the power of philanthropy and demonstrates how emotional it is for people.
An executive director’s tears
tearsI often find myself standing in parking lots after meeting “kicking stones” with staff, board members, volunteers, etc.
After one meeting, there I was in the parking lot with the executive director and their eyes started to pool with tears. It would be simple for me to chalk those tears up to:

  • being “sideways” with the board president
  • tight cash flow
  • inability to expand services
  • pressures being brought by partners to build organizational capacity
  • powerlessness to be able to give hard-working staff a raise

In reality, this executive director was thinking about opening up a job search and leaving the agency because they weren’t sure that they were the right leader to solve these challenges  The stress was eating them up.
The tears stemmed from the fact that they saw program staff, volunteers, and clients as part of their extended family, and the thought of leaving was akin to divorce or death.
Non-profit staff dedicate their lives to promoting the welfare of others. They are usually donors. They typically work for a lot less than what they could earn in the for-profit sector (by choice). They see, touch, hear, and feel “mission” on a daily basis.
This executive director’s story illustrates the power of philanthropy and demonstrates how emotional it is for people.
What are you doing?
Are you on the same page with me now? Do you believe that philanthropy is emotional? If so, then what are you doing to infuse emotion into the following functions at your non-profit agency:

  • marketing and PR?
  • resource development and fundraising?
  • board governance?
  • staffing?
  • programming?

One of my favorite non-profit PSA commercials is the one featuring Denzel Washington talking from his heart about the roots of his philanthropic spirit. Every time I see this commercial it brings tears to my eyes. Click the video or YouTube link to view this iconic public service announcement and bear witness to another emotional example.

Please take a minute or two to scroll down and share your thoughts and experiences about an emotional philanthropy story. It is the holiday season and a time to give. So, why not give the gift of inspiration to your fellow non-profit colleagues?
Here’s to your health!
Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

Engaging others with webinars and online radio

Trainings, virtual meetings, advocacy!

By Rose Reinert
Guest blogger
So, in the first 13 chapters of Lon Safko’s book — The Social Media Bible — he establishes that social media is about so much more than just Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.  Safko continues expanding our understanding in chapter 14 when he writes about webinars and online radio.
Of course, webinars are seminars and trainings conducted over the internet; whereas, online radio is an audio program (or music) transmitted over the internet.
One of the pillars of a good board development / board governance plan is a training program. Unfortunately, this is a lot easier said than done.
When I was an executive director, I tried really hard to get board members to attend conferences. I brought trainers to town, and I even tried to integrate small training nuggets into our board meetings. The reality is that board volunteers are busy people and breaking away is always difficult.
Thanks to the magic of social media (and specifically webinars and online radio), non-profit professionals now have additional tools in their toolbox to engage board volunteers and other stakeholder groups.
webinarAt my previous agency, their national office made tremendous investments in webinars (aka distance learning). The following are just a few of the training titles I saw them offering:

  • Creating a Committee Work Plan
  • Holiday Mailings
  • Implementing a Resource Development Plan
  • Managing Donor Relationships: Using a Donor Database
  • Board Development 101
  • How to Create a Board Development Plan

If you really wanted, there is nothing stopping you from designing your own trainings and using webinar services to facilitate those distance learning events.
In addition to trainings, I also see some agencies use tools like GoToMeeting and Adobe Connect combined with conference call technology to host virtual meetings.
In my experience, there are some important things to keep in mind when it comes to webinars:

  1. Participants have many distractions from the home and office (e.g. email, phone calls, interruptions), and it is easy to lose your audience if your presentation isn’t highly interactive with lots of questions, polls and surveys. Ask questions of participants in advance of the webinar and answer them during the webinar.
  2. Distance learning is not the same as in-person trainings and meetings. Keep these sessions short and sweet (e.g. 30 to 45 minutes).
  3. Participants need to be reminded to show up because (for whatever reason) these virtual events are easier to not show up for compared to real-time events.

If you are looking for FREE webinars or pre-recorded webinars to use with your board members and fundraising volunteers, check out some of these resources:

Online radio
online radioMany people have discovered Slacker radio, but online radio isn’t just about streaming music while you workout.
Many decades ago, radio was a mainstay in our grandparent’s living rooms (before the advent of television). Once television squeezed radios out of the picture, many of us just listened in our cars as we drove from place-to-place.
Online radio has liberated radio from our cars and enables music and talk shows to be heard on our work and home computers. This, of course, opens up lots of possibilities for non-profit organizations.
The most obvious possibility was already cover by Erik Anderson on October 21, 2013 right here on the DonorDreams blog in a post titled “Have you discovered non-profit radio yet?“. In that post, Erik introduced us to the Tony Martignetti Nonprofit Radio.
If you haven’t checked out Tony’s online radio show about the non-profit sector yet, it is definitely worth it.
Of course, your non-profit organization can start its own online radio station. Why? Because it is another opportunity to get your message out there. It is marketing. It is prospect cultivation. It is donor stewardship. It can even be something you integrate into your agency’s programming with clients.
If you want to learn more, I suggest you go pick-up a copy of Lon Safko’s book — The Social Media Bible.
The Houston Chronicle also published an online article with a number of excellent links relevant to this topic. Click here to check it out.
How is your agency using webinars and online radio? Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comment box below.
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New Years resolutions for me and your non-profit agency

new yearGood morning everyone! Yesterday was New Years Day and I spent the first day of 2014 in a car trying to make it half way back to the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. As many of you know, I am still working on a contract temporarily providing technical assistance and organizational services to 20 organizations in New Mexico and West Texas.
During the first leg of my drive yesterday, I spent lots of time thinking about New Years resolutions, which is the focus of today’s post.
To resolve or not to resolve?
resolutionsLet me first address the question of whether or not resolutions are meaningful.
There is lots and lots of talk about whether or not New Years resolutions are helpful or just a waste of time. The way I look at it, resolutions are akin to goal setting. And an  individual or organization without goals is rudderless. Right? So, where is the harm in setting a few realistic resolutions.
While driving yesterday, I came up with a few goals for improvement that I’d like to tackle in 2014. Of course, there is my annual re-commitment to health and weight loss, but I’m not going down that path with you today.
There are two other resolutions that I am very excited about and thought you might want to consider adopting for your agency.
techWhen I opened my non-profit consulting practice 2.5 years ago — The Healthy Non-Profit LLC — I did so on the cheap. I used $15,000 of savings to get everything off the ground including: branding, marketing materials, website, home office set-up, and technology.
Needless to say, I ended up making some tough decisions around technology. Case in point, I’m typing this mornings blog on a small Netbook laptop-ish looking computer that operates with an Itel Atom processor (which I think is akin to having a gerbil power the engine of my car).
One of my 2014 New Years resolutions is to invest in technology in a way where I will straddle a 3-way fence.
What I mean is that I will combine the power of the technology world’s three biggest players:

  • Google
  • Microsoft
  • Apple

When I opened my business, I sold my soul to Google. I primarily did this because there was lots and lots of free stuff to be had.
I also didn’t have money to purchase Microsoft products and ended up using free productivity software like Apache OpenOffice, which is really good public domain free software that mimics Microsoft products.
However, the world is changing and technology is progressing along faster than ever. Microsoft is racing to the cloud and challenging Google for market share. Have you seen the new Microsoft Surface computers? What about Microsoft 365? These questions don’t even touch the issues associated with Google purchasing Motorola and getting into the smart phone business. Ugh!
My New Years resolution to move closer to the cutting edge of technology by purchasing a Surface tablet/laptop, subscribing to Microsoft 365, and integrating an iPad into my Google and Microsoft new world order is ambitious. But the timing feels right to me.
For your non-profit agency, I suggest you take a good hard look at technology. I suspect there there might be a New Years resolution waiting there for you.
I cannot tell you how many times I’ve walked into a client’s office and their technology is biting them in the butt.
Many non-profit organizations are “resource poor” by definition. In environments like these, technology is typically basic and under-maintained.
Since tech has a short shelf life, most non-profits live with severely outdated hardware, software, networks, and systems.
I can almost hear you moaning and yelling into your computer: “But we don’t have the money, Erik!
OK, OK, OK . . . 2014 doesn’t necessarily have to be about buying technology for your agency. Your resolution could be all about getting the right group of volunteers around the table to help you develop a written technology plan addressing issues such as:

  • How will your organization upgrade its tech over the next three years?
  • What should your agency’s tech policies look like?
  • What does your agency want to look like from a tech perspective (e.g. network, cloud, Apple, Google, Microsoft, desktop, laptop, tablet, phone, website, blog, ePhilanthropy, databases etc)? And how will all of this capacity be maintained?
  • What is the funding model to attain and maintain what you build?

Tackling this issue is the right thing to do.
Non-profit leaders need to break out of this “starvation cycle” in which they find themselves. It isn’t healthy to under-invest in organizational capacity building because you weaken yourself and plant the seeds of your your own demise.
enewsOne of the features on my company’s website offers viewers the opportunity to subscribe to a free monthly eNewsletter.
I must confess that I’ve been woeful at keeping this promise. Over the last two years, I’ve published just a handful of newsletters.
My other New Years resolution for 2014 is to do a better job of getting my eNewsletter situation figured out and in working order.
While zipping down the interstate yesterday, I started wondering if this might also be a good goal for your organization?
Too many of my clients seem to be in the same boat as I am when it comes to finding time to publish a newsletter.
However, the reality is that you are going to put yourself out of business if you don’t get this thing figured out. That’s right . . . you heard me correcting — “out of business“!!!
Donors need to hear three big things before they make another contribution to your organization:

  1. Thank you . . . we appreciate your investment
  2. We are using your contribution in the manner in which we told you we would
  3. Your donation is having an impact and making good things happen

Your newsletter or eNewsletter strategy is focused on communicating these three things. Your inability to find the time to communicate these things drives your donor turnover rate sky high, which in turn makes raising money arduous and expensive.
Tackling this issue is the right thing to do.
As I said earlier in this post, non-profit leaders need to break out of this “starvation cycle” in which they find themselves. It isn’t healthy to under-invest in organizational capacity building because you weaken yourself and plant the seeds of your your own demise.
What are your New Years resolutions for 2014? Please use the comment box below to share. Let’s inspire each other today.
Here’s to your health!
Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

Why your non-profit agency should be blogging

Non-profit blogging: What’s In It For Me?

By Rose Reinert
Guest blogger

rose1Last Monday, we explored chapter 5 of Lon Safko’s book “The Social Media Bible” and talked about how online forums might be helpful to your non-profit organization’s fundraising program. This week, we explore chapter 6 where Safko unpacks the history and power of blogs.

A little history

As we discovered last week, online forums or communities became public in the 1990’s. Using various online communities, people posted to bulletin board systems and forums. People started posting online diaries or journals that documented their personal activities to these sites, and they often included pictures and video. In the late 90’s and early 2000’s, blogging began to move from personal diaries to include other topics.

If you are reading this- you can check “reading a blog” off your bucket list!

The very first guest blog that I posted on the DonorDreams platform addressed the key issue that all readers address every time they open an email, visit a website or visit a blog. Of course, it is the question of What’s in it for me?” (aka WIIFM). What’s cool about today’s post is that we’re going to discuss WIIFM with regards to both reading a blog and writing a blog.

WIIFM? – Reading Blogs

We all know there is only so much time in the day, and while we work to fulfill our day-to-day job duties, it remains challenging to also fit in personal development and staying up-to-date on industry trends. Who has time for trainings and conferences?

There is an easier way!

I recommend hitting the web and taking a look at some blogs that speak to your profession.

Select a few that you can remain committed to reading. Subscribe to those blogs, and content will be delivered to your email inbox as frequently as the blogger publishes. Some bloggers write a monthly post, others do it weekly, and some (like our friend Erik Anderson at DonorDreams blog, try to post something every day).

My suggestion is to set aside about ten minutes into your schedule at the beginning of your day when you’re powering up your computer. Dedicate those 10 minutes to your professional development by reading a blog or two that you’ve subscribe to and speaks to your professional interests.

If you are not sure where to start you can ask colleagues about some of their favorites. Here is a short list of blogs that I suggest you check out:

For more suggestions, please check out the Blogroll section of the DonorDreams blog. If you have suggestions of other blogs to add to blogroll, please use the comment box to share your suggestion and Erik will add them to our online community.  (Isn’t he always saying something like: “We can all learn from each other?”)

blogWIIFM?—Writing a Blog

This is the first time that I have ever blogged. I did one or two guest spots here on the DonorDreams blog platform, but this is the first ongoing guest spot that I have had.

The first several times that I sat down to write- I ended up:

  • stopping and doing the dishes
  • making a phone call to my mom
  • writing a little . . . erasing it
  • playing a game with my kids
  • finally pushing through to finish

Much like anything, with practice, it becomes less intimidating and each time I sharpened that skill a little more.

Any time you enhance communication with your donors or supporters, you continue to build trust. Depending on how you structure your blog contents, a blog can:

  • engage donors
  • keep them updated on news
  • align your organization with national trends or initiatives
  • demonstrate how your organization is working to meet needs and solve problems.

If your agency is striving to become a donor-centered organization, your blog content should be focused on:

  1. appreciating and expressing gratitude to donors
  2. showing donors that you are using their investments how you said you would during the solicitation visit
  3. illustrating the impact that contributions are having on the lives of your clients and throughout the community

Blogging is a great way to show relevance within your industry. I believe that anytime you can differentiate your organization as an expert in a certain area, you build trust and accountability.

Are you thinking about starting a blog? If so, don’t just jump in and start blogging this afternoon. Ensure you are committed to the time it takes. Make sure your dedication to consistently blogging  is a sustainable commitment. The worst thing to do is start with a bang and fizzle out.

So, now it’s your turn. I would love to hear more about your experience blogging. If you don’t blog, then please tell us the comment box to tell me about your favorite blogs.

Does your organization currently use blogging? If so, who is the target audience? Share your ideas for blogging for your organization. Do you think blogging is worth your investment of time?
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