Friday, April 30, 2010

Apply Today for FREE Fellowship to Learn More About the Role of the Internet in Fixing Politics!

  • Want to learn more about how the Internet can fuel your public policy efforts?
  • Interested in fine-tuning your social media skills for greater advocacy success?
Fenton Communications, a well-respected public interest communications firm, is offering a 10 FREE fellowships to 2010 Personal Democracy Forum conference. This year’s focus is “Can the Internet Fix Politics?” The conference will be held June 3 - 4 in NYC.

Fellows will receive complementary registration to the conference, reserved seating for the plenary sessions and a private lunch with senior Fenton staff and other fellows.

Fenton is looking for folks who are already familiar with social media.

Interested in attending? Apply today! Deadline is May 7.


    Tuesday, April 27, 2010

    That Little Church in Silver Spring. I Wouldn't Have Missed it for the World.

    I've been writing about my church lately.  It's an important place to me.  It's where I got married to the love of my life. It's where my daughter was baptized.  It's where people cared for me as I wept over the end of my first marriage.  I also talk about my church because I think nonprofits can learn from these interesting and complex places.

    Last Sunday, we had a liturgy and celebration at my parish to welcome our new priest and mark the beginning of our new ministry together.  Truth be told, I'm not sure we really knows what our new ministry is.  We've never done a strategic plan - at least not since I've been a member.  And, we don't have a marketing or program officer.  What we do have is a community of pretty diverse folks who have been hanging out and hanging in with each other for a very long time.  We also have faith (sometimes) that we'll figure it out - together.

    It seems to me that what some churches get right (I'm sure this is true of mosques and temples too), and what many nonprofits get wrong, is understanding that the community rules.  For example, my church wouldn't work if it weren't for the volunteer labor.  An eleven member Vestry governs the church.  A choir leads us in song.  And, "office angels," meet every Tuesday to collate the weekly bulletins. In short, my church - like most - wouldn't "go" without the donations of time, talent (and, of course, treasure) which the members bring to bear each week. From both a religious and organizational standpoint, community is central to the proper functioning of our institution.  In fact, the community is the institution.

    This is a very different point of view than the one held by many nonprofit leaders who think of the community as somehow outside of or ancillary to their work.  These organizations attempt to insulate themselves from the community at large, which leads to lots of problems, like staff burnout.  It also creates a gulf between the needs and desires of the community and the needs and desires of the organization.

    In their soon to be released book, The Networked Nonprofit: Using Social Media to Power Social Networks for Change, Beth Kanter and Allyson Fine talk about the challenge that many nonprofits face in embracing and connecting with their communities.
    "Traditionally, organizations have viewed themselves through an organization-centric lens. Envisioning oneself and one's organization as as the center of the universe with other people and organizations circling around it - providing it with funds, attention, and volunteers as needed - is at odds with a world energized by social media and connectedness.  Other organizations and individuals are not waiting for instructions for what to do; they're talking, doing, and connecting based on their owns needs and interests.  Networked Nonprofits know this and are reorienting themselves to engage with individual free agents and organizations in their networks."
    Instead of living inside of our organizational bubbles, Kanter and Fine urge us to become more responsive, inclusive and representative of the PEOPLE in our networks. We can do this with or without social media.  The important thing is to open the doors. 

    I think churches can teach us something here.  Ideology aside, churches can teach us about the centrality of community.  How we can no longer afford (figuratively and literally) to be the center of the show.  How we can learn to be better facilitators of our common work.  How we can work toward consensus and grow from asking and listening to the input of all of our members.

    I'm not saying that it's easy.  But it's vital if we want our organizations to stay relevant. 

    Communities need organizations to be successful.  But they also need organizations to be more open, fluid and inclusive!  Smart nonprofits recognize this and stop trying to control the dance.  Instead, they mold their organizations to assist, organize, push, enable, and ultimately empower the community to do its' good work.


    P.S.  The title of this post is from a beautiful sermon by The Reverend Dr. Stephanie J. Nagley.

    Thursday, April 15, 2010

    Still Not Convinced that Messaging Matters? Read This!

    This photo is by ianboyd.
    “There was a blind man who sat down on a sidewalk beside a beautiful city park to beg from those who passed by. It was a lovely day in early May.

    On a piece of cardboard, he crudely wrote in chalk, ‘I’m blind. Please help me.’ He set his hat in front of him. By noon, he had collected only a few pennies.

    A businessman, walking to lunch, peered at the meager offering the blind man had received. The businessman stopped long enough to write another chalk message on the backside of the cardboard sign, and then continued on his way.

    The blind man held the new message for others to see. Then something strange happened. The blind man’s hat quickly filled. After lunch, the businessman returned and remarked on the difference.

    ‘What did you write on my sign?’ asked the blind man.

    ‘The same thing you wrote,’ replied the stranger, ‘but with a few different words.’”

    You may wonder what the businessman wrote.

    This story is by William H. Crouch, Jr., President of Georgetown College. It was forwarded to me by Beth Tuttle, Managing Partner, MetStrategies who got it from Jerold Panas at Linzy & Partners.


    Wednesday, April 14, 2010

    All You Need to Know About Online Fundraising

    Online Fundraising Benchmarks & Metrics
    View more presentations from Steve MacLaughlin.
    • Trying to determine how your online fundraising program stacks up?
    • Hoping to convince your boss that you REALLY NEED TO INVEST in online fundraising this year?
    • Looking to brag a bit about the success of your online program?
    Check out this great presentation by Steve MacClaughlin, Director of Internet Solutions at Blackbaud, above.  Steve provides the context for understanding how much money is being raised online, how online donors differ from offline donors and why you should dive in!

    A few key takeaways:
    • Online fundraising comprised about 5% of total giving ($15 billion) in 2009 but grows exponentially each year.  For example, in 2001 online giving was just $550K!
    • Online donors are younger than traditional donors.  (Hint: If you want to reach younger donors - this includes Baby Boomers too - you need to be online.)
    • 30% of online gifts happen in December.  Translation: You need to grow your list NOW to get ready for year-end fundraising.
    • The average online gift (according to the Blackbaud study) was $144.72. 
    • Multi-channel donors - those that give online and offline - give the highest gifts.
    • The Internet is a significant source of NEW donors for nonprofits.  This is a particularly important finding, since acquisition through direct mail continues to decline rapidly.

    Tuesday, April 13, 2010

    Don't Let Your Organization Become Pale, Male and Stale

    A new report from the Racial Diversity Collaborative and Urban Institute shows that 92% of national  nonprofits headquartered in Washington, DC are led by non-Hispanic white executive directors.  This is extremely troubling given the fact that nationally - minorities, classified as those of any race other than non-Hispanic, single-race whites - currently constitute about a third of the U.S. population, according to Census figures.  In fact, did you know that by 2042, the U.S. will be a "minority-majority" society, i.e. minorities will comprise more than half of the population?

    After reading this report, I took my dismay (and these dismal stats) to Altanta and channelled my frustration into Diversifying Your Nonprofit Tech and Communications Teams, a panel I moderated at the 2010 NTC (Nonprofit Technology Conference) .  (See deck above.)

    This workshop, starring Allyson Kapin of Rad Campaign and Women Who Tech; Shireen Mitchell of Digital Sistas, and Ivan Boothe of Rootwork, ignited a great conversation about the lack of diversity in the nonprofit sector in general and tech in particular.  Specifically, we discussed how a lack of diversity can (and does) compromise nonprofit fundraising, communications and advocacy efforts.

    I've mentioned this before, but diversity is a hard topic to address. Discussions about race, in particular, tend to come with a lot of baggage.  I notice that black folks often feel ignored and worry about being labeled whiners, while white folks clam up for fear saying the wrong thing and being called racist.  The good news is this didn't happen at NTC.  In fact, we had a very rich discussion.  It's my hope that we'll persist in having these conversation and making a business case for diversity in order to change the composition of nonprofit leadership, coalitions, and organizations.

    A comment from one of the panelists was particularly helpful to me. Ivan Boothe reminded me that diversity is about both process and people.  In other words, in addition to hiring people from diverse backgrounds and inviting them to be a part of our organizations, it's also important for charitable organizations to be more inclusive in the way that they work.  The latter can be accomplished by opening meetings to all staff and inviting partners and the people we serve to join our boards and committees. (Frontline staff and constituents are often people of color.)

    We ended our session with the following questions.  Answering these queries may help you open the gates to work with new and different constituents.  I'd love to hear your thoughts as well.  How are you ensuring that your nonprofit is diverse, in both it's leadership and the communities it serves?  In other words, what are you doing to ensure that your organization does not become pale, male and stale?*
    • Who is missing from this debate/constituency?
    • Where do they “live?”
    • Do the people on our staff have relationships with them?
    • What tools should we be using to reach diverse audiences? (Facebook, MySpace, Black Planet, Hi5, mobile)
    • Are we questioning our assumptions about who people are, where they come from and what they need from us?
    • Is leadership invested in diversifying our staff and teams?
    • What would this coalition/program/service/application look like if we viewed it through a “diversity lens?”

    P.S.  If you want a concrete example about what can go wrong when you don't have a diverse community building, testing and launching your new programs, services and applications, watch this video - HP Computers are Racist.

    *Beyond Pale, Male and Stale is a chapter in Beyond the Echo Chamber: Reshaping Politics Through Networked Progressive Media by Jessica Clark and Tracy VanSlyke.  You should buy it!

    Friday, April 2, 2010

    Guilt and Shame are BAD for Fundraising

    Before I get started, let me make a big, fat caveat - I'm a donor to CARE.  I love this organization and the work that they do.  In particular, I'm a big supporter of their efforts to empower women all over the world to lead productive, satisfying lives.  What I don't like is this appeal because it makes me feel guilty and ashamed.

    Guilt and shame are bad for fundraising. They're also redundant, because I already feel SO overwhelmed by all of the perils and problems of this world.  (Really, my superego bashes me enough.)

    While an appeal like this one might get you dollars, it won't GIVE DONORS the psychic reward they crave - that warm, fuzzy feeling that lets them know that they are helping to change the world and make a difference.  That they are good folks.  Instead, when people donate in response to a guilt trip they feel relief but mostly it's because you're finally off their back!

    Here is another story.  I co-chaired the annual giving campaign at my church last year.  And let me tell you I was dismayed by the number of parishioners who didn't pledge to our church.  (You should know, I attend a mid-class/upper mid-class suburban church and most of the parishioners have the means to give.) I had to force myself to resist my desire to guilt and shame people into giving, "Hey, look at all of the other folks in the church who give!" "As member of our community, don't you want to help BUILD as well as share in the wealth of our parish?"  "I know you just remodeled your kitchen. How 'bout swinging some of that cash our way so we can make sandwiches for the homeless!"  :)

    Luckily, I resisted my snarky voice and tried to take a higher ground. Why?  Well, I would have made a few enemies.  But seriously guilt trips simply don't work.

    People have their own reasons for giving to charity and churches.  Sometimes the trigger is finding the right person to make the "ask."  Sometimes the key to unlocking a donor's wallet is getting them involved in the mission/ministry of your work.  But (and here's the punch line) if your goal is to build LONG TERM, ENRICHING RELATIONSHIPS it's important to be patient, stalwart and kind.  Don't badger people into making donations.  Bring them along in a loving and kind way.