Start Planning NOW for #GivingTuesday

GivingTuesday 2017

This year #GivingTuesday will fall on Tue, Nov. 28.  (It’s always the day after CyberMonday, which follows Thanksgiving weekend).  I’ve been receiving a deluge of emails recently with ideas on how to get ready for the big day of fundraising, which was started by the 92nd Street Y in 2012.   You can download a free toolkit here.

Here’s a few tips to get started (if you haven’t started planning yet):

  • While GivingTuesday only happens on one day / year, your organization must plan a series of communications in multiple channels to remind supporters of the event.  Then, when the day arrives, you must start sending emails early in the day (as many other orgs will be doing the same thing)
  • Create a dedicated web page to focus on why it’s important to consider giving on GivingTuesday, and reference that location in your communications
  • If you’re thinking that asking donors to give on GivingTuesday will affect your year-end giving, you need not worry.  I had the same concern initially, but many experts have assured me that there is no negative effect on year-end gifts.
  • There are many resources available from Causevox, Classy, and Network for Good which can help with creating templates for the big day.
  • Start writing your social media posts now (you don’t want to have to start doing this at the last minute)

Every year, GivingTuesday gets more successful.   Make sure your nonprofit is ready to participate – it’s only 2 months away.

Time to Vote for Your Favorite NTC Sessions

18NTC Session Voting Now OpenDo you know that next spring’s Nonprofit Technology Conference will be held in wonderful New Orleans? (if you needed yet another reason to attend!) Nten has opened voting so you can select your favorite sessions.   As usual, there are many great choices.

But don’t wait too long – voting is only available through Friday, Sep. 1 (that’s before Labor Day weekend).  Take the time to vote now to help make it another great event.


7 Deadly Communication Sins of Project Managers

As a long term project manager, I know first hand the importance of communication in completing my projects successfully.  This week I was reminded of what not to do through a webinar, The 7 Deadliest Communication Sins of Project Managers, offered by Skip Weisman through Technobility and Interthink Consulting.

Below are a summary of the ‘7 sins’ with a few of my takeaways, but I encourage you to watch the video (1 hour) – it will be worth your time:

  1. Lack of Specificity – are you clear with your requests, e.g. when promising when you will speak or meet?  Avoid phrases like ‘as soon as possible.’  (Ask others for clarification when you are not clear about what they’ve said.)
  2. Lack of Immediacy, Urgency and Promptness – recognize when you are postponing important conversations / decisions and take action.
  3. Lack of Directness & Candor – what are you not talking about?  Are you addressing issues to a group instead of to an individual.  Beware of sarcasm and passive aggressive behavior in yourself.
  4. Lack of Desirable Behaviors – focus on what you want, not on what you don’t want.  Focus on what you would like to see in the future, not on what’s happened in the past.
  5. Lack of Respectful ReBUTtals – if you add ‘but’ after a compliment, listener will only pay attention to what you say afterwards.  Use ‘and’ instead.  (you’ve probably heard this before, but have you applied it?)
  6. Lack of Appropriate Tone & Body Language, e.g. eye rolling, folding arms, raising your voice (even slightly), sighs – You may not be aware of how you’re coming across and how your behavior is affecting others – ask for feedback!
  7. Lack of Focused Attention – ask others for their attention – request that they put the phone away while you meet.  (and make sure you aren’t multitasking while communicating with others.)  Listening is a choice, not a skill.

Whether or not you’re a project manager, these tips will improve your relationships with your co-workers.


How to Communicate Across Departments

Often nonprofits are focused mostly on how well they communicate with supporters, but there isn’t nearly enough attention given to how well departments within the organization communicate with each other.  For example, do you know what other departments in your nonprofit are working on?  If you spend most of your days interacting with people in your own group and/or those who sit near you, the answer will likely be no.

This week’s brief (20 minutes) webinar by Kimbia offers three simple suggestions on how to improve internal communication:

  1. disrupt the silos – promote an environment where departments work, sit and socialize together, not only within their own group
  2. use a shared project management tool – there are options that resemble a spreadsheet (SmartSheet), are more visually oriented (Trello) and many that are in between (e.g. Basecamp)
  3. Use collaboration tools – add video conferencing where possible when meeting with colleagues at other locations.  This helps minimize others paying more attention to their phones than to you.

Be careful with overusing email!  Sometimes the channel that you prefer communicating in may not work well for others.  Also, start with yourself – if you make an extra effort to inform other departments what your area is working on, they may decide to do the same.

Guest Interview with Wayne Elsey

Wayne Elsey

This morning I had the pleasure of interviewing Wayne Elsey, the founder and CEO of Funds2Orgs, a social enterprise that helps nonprofits, individuals and organizations raise funds while helping to support micro-enterprise (small business) opportunities in developing nations.

Some questions I asked:

  1. Many of us who decide to work in nonprofit start off with enthusiasm, but find over time that the reality of working for a nonprofit organization (underfunded, understaffed) is very different from the initial vision. How can we maintain our passion, whether we stay in the job we already have or go elsewhere?
  2. As an entrepreneur, you’ve started many successful companies.  As a staff member of a nonprofit organizations, how can we use entrepreneurial skills to succeed?
  3. If we aren’t lucky enough to have a ‘passion,’ how can we discover it?
  4. Recent trends suggest that many supporters are more comfortable donating when asked by friends and family than by nonprofit organizations directly.  How can our nonprofits best take advantage of this?
  5. What are you most excited about currently?  What comes next?

Our interview (14 minutes) is below:

To learn more about Wayne and his views on philanthropy, leadership, fundraising and marketing, please visit his blog at Not Your Father’s Charity. For free digital resources, including Wayne’s books, please visit his Free Resources page.

Why You Must Segment Your Email List

(Today’s post was inspired by a recently released ebook by Bloomerang, ‘A Beginner’s Guide to Nonprofit Data Segmentation,’ a free download)

Like most nonprofits, your organization probably focuses on growing your email list.  Even while social media and other new communication channels have evolved, email marketing continues to be the best way to keep in touch with supporters.  Also, like most nonprofits, you probably think more about the content of your messages than the audience you will send it to.  Usually, it’s just easiest to send everything to everybody.  After all, email is ‘free,’ right?

Wrong.  A smart nonprofit knows that it is important to communicate differently with constituents who have demonstrated different behaviors.  For example, below are some easy ways to group supporters:

  • first-time donors – those who have recently decided to ‘test the waters’
  • monthly donors – your most valuable people!
  • lapsed donors – those who have stopped giving (do you know why?)
  • volunteers who have never donated – according to a study by Fidelity Charitable Fund, volunteers are 10x more likely to donate than non-volunteers.
  • donors who have shared feedback, positive or negative – these people care enough to spend the time to share their thoughts
  • social media followers – those who you might encourage to get further involved with your organization
  • long term donors – with all the doom and gloom about retention rates, these supporters are especially valuable and must be thanked frequently

If you don’t segment, some of your recipients will not be interested in even opening your messages, and some may unsubscribe or worse, flag your messages as spam.  If your email provider suspects that you are sending email to people who rarely engage, it may eventually stop sending your emails to those who do.

The biggest challenge – after creating these segments, you then have to create different content which is suitable for each group.

Need more convincing?  I’ll be leading a session on this topic at the New Mexico Tech Roundup in Albuquerque, New Mexico on Sep 7 – 8, 2017.  In the meantime, download the free book and get more ideas how you can start to use this valuable strategy.


A New Direction for the Nonprofit Coordinating Committee

Last week I had the pleasure of attending the annual meeting of the Nonprofit Coordinating Committee (NPCC), which also runs the Nonprofit Excellence Awards (full disclosure – I served on the 2014 and 2015 selection committee).  NPCC announced a new mission and long-term goals (see below):

NPCC's New Mission - to help NY nonprofits thrive to build better communities for all NPCC Strategies & Goals to achieve by 2020

NPCC offers a wide suite of services for nonprofits, and seems positioned to play an even stronger role going forward.  The meeting also featured a panel discussion including Michelle Henry, JP Morgan Chase; Jarrett Lucas, Stonewall Community Foundation; Anthonine Pierre, Brooklyn Movement Center and Maggie Williams, The Advocacy Institute.  Some takeaways:

NPCC Annual Meeting Panel Discussion

  • advocacy can take many forms – doesn’t always involve a legislative campaign
  • view funders as partners in achieving your mission, not just as ‘someone with money’
  • when collaborating with other organizations, decide in advance how you will make decisions and what you’re willing to give up (and what you’re not)
  • lobbying can be challenging because you may be confronting those who helped create the problem you’re trying to solve.

NPCC Challenge us when you don't think we're doing the right thing; join us when you think we areExecutive Director Sharon Stapel offered this challenge at the end of the formal program.

Introducing Waves for Water

While walking on the boardwalk in Long Beach Sunday, I noticed a sign advertising a film screening taking place later that day.  After visiting the related web site, the description of someone who ‘decided to become a humanitarian’ sounded interesting, so my girl friend and I changed our plans to go to a commercial movie and went here instead.

The film, Waves for Water, tells the story of a surfer who decided to change the path of his life after realizing how many people are unable to get clean water.  After extensive research, he discovered an inexpensive filter ($50) which can be attached to any water container to remove contaminants.   Founded by Jon Rose in 2009, the organization has expanded to many countries and has also helped in disaster relief.

Jon spoke after the film screening and explained that the technology exists to provide clean water for everyone;  the challenge is matching the technology with the need.  You’ve probably heard of Charity Water, an organization which also focuses on this problem, but takes a different approach to solving it.

Watch the film online – this is an organization worth your support.  It will also remind you how one person can make a difference, and how satisfying it is to find a cause to devote yourself to.

When You Need to Move Beyond Word and Excel

Whether we work in technology or not, most of us have learned to rely to Microsoft Word and Excel (or comparable products like Google Docs and Sheets) at work.  These tools are incredibly versatile, and have features beyond what many of us rarely use regularly.  Yet sometimes, we need to use a different tool.

A spreadsheet can be used for a small database, but at some point it breaks down.  Especially if you are tracking donor / supporter information, there’s a lot more you can do with a database product that is designed for searching / filtering data, validating data entry and generating reports.  A great way to find a product that’s right for you is to consult Idealware’s recently updated Consumer’s Guide to Low Cost Donor Management Systems.  Keep in mind that many products offer discounted rates for nonprofits, and there are many great options at TechSoup.

Recently, I used Excel to develop a project plan for a new database initiative I’m managing at work.  But this isn’t optimal when changing dates and tasks – and then having to change other steps in the process manually.  So I discovered Smartsheet, which is more designed to do project management.  I’ve also used tools like Basecamp, and many of my colleagues are using Asana.

For another database project I’m currently managing, we’re moving from a system where client data was mostly kept in Word documents – one for each client.  As you can imagine, especially as the program grows, this system is breaking down.

Yes, it takes time to learn a new tool.  And sometimes you may try one tool and find it it doesn’t work as you expected, so you need to switch to something else.  But to continue to use the tools you know (e.g. Word and Excel) for all of your needs is like trying to use a car to get everywhere.  Sometimes mass transit is a much better (and relaxing) alternative.