Monday, December 29, 2008

My Favorite Blog Posts by Bloggers I Follow on Twitter

This is the time of year for making up lists. This is my list of favorite blog posts by bloggers I follow on Twitter. Twitter? You say. I learned about Twitter along with using the Internet to LISTEN from Beth Kanter at the Kelloggs College of Consultants convening and I am hooked. I’ll be blogging about Twitter during the year, but for now here is my list..

Beth's Blog: How Nonprofits Can Use Social Media by Beth Kanter is THE blog for nonprofits to read for using web 2.0 tools. This is an award winning blog and Beth self describes her blog as “A place to capture and share ideas, experiment with and exchange links and resources about the adoption challenges, strategy, and ROI of nonprofits and social media.” It is hard to choose a favorite post at Beth’s Blog but a recent one is perfect for this time of year. “How Can We Make Charitable Giving A Year-Round Habit?” has an idea for each month – great for New Year’s resolutions.
Beth's Blog - How Can We Make Charitable Giving A Year-Round Habit?

Heather Carpenter writes Nonprofit Leadership601. Heather is a PhD student in Nonprofit Leadership and gets to attend many of the major nonprofit conferences around the country. She provides an academic, professional yet young and fresh perspective on nonprofits issues...a blog worth reading. I’m sorry, its shameless, but I can’t deny that this is my favorite post – Heather named me as one of her “Top Next Generation of Nonprofit Leaders You Should Know" list. It is such an honor to be on Heather’s list.
Heather's Blog - Top Next Generation of Nonprofit Leaders You Should Know

Rosetta Thurman is a 26 year old African American nonprofit professional in Washington DC who writes a blog from the perspective of who she is. For us older folks she provides an insider’s peak at how some one from this demographic operates in the nonprofit world. I’ll call it “committed and edgy.” It can be very enlightening. Her recent post, “10 Ways to Become a Better Nonprofit Leader in 2009” is right on target. Great advice – and a little different than what the over 50 crowd would recommend. 10 Ways to Become a Better Nonprofit Leader in 2009

Hildy Gottlieb, author of many books for nonprofits, writes “Create the Future.” Her blog is focused on seeing the big picture and connecting that with the details which allow you to “create the future” rather than just seeing what happens. Hildy is also prolific and writes so many inspiring posts that it is hard to choose just one. Hildy’s blog is not for those of you who are looking for short posts and five point lists. Hildy is more like an opinion columnist. She weaves her ideas through personal experiences and epiphanies and builds a relationship with you. Her blog is for those of you who want to be regular readers not those of you wanting a quick fix on a particular topic. Check out this post – “Building Cooperation” – and make sure you read the comments also. Hildy is great at creating conversation and her blog posts frequently have insightful comments also.
Hildy Building Cooperation

Chris Brogan provides advice on how to use social media and social networks to build relationships and deliver value. His recent post, If I Started Today” gives the best simple, straightforward advice I have seen anywhere for getting started with Web 2.0. Don’t miss this right on target piece. Read the comments – great advice there too.
Chris If I Started Today

Marc Pitman’s, author of “Ask Without Fear!” blog is The Fundraising Coach . Marc is prolific and it is easy to understand why this blog is very popular. The articles are brief but full of good advice and timely topics. “Tips for Fundraising in a Recession” is very timely – check it out.
Marc Pitman Tips for Fundraising in a Recession

The Case Foundation has a new blog with mostly short posts. But their theme and new campaign “Change Begins with Me” has the promise of being stimulating in 2009.
Case Foundation Blog

Another blog that is a great resource but does not have frequent post is the Nonprofit Blog Exchange. Every once in a while Emily posts a “Roundup” of recent posts on nonprofit blogs and it always is a treasure trove of goodies. The blog also has a great blogroll of nonprofit blogs...and you’ll see this one on that list.
Nonprofit Blog Exchange

Enjoy these blogs and...
Have a Happy New Year!


Marion Conway Consulting

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Wishing You a Joyous Holiday and Happy New Year

Silent Night

Dear Friends,

This Christmas Eve I wish all of you a Blessed holiday season. Although this holiday season has some somber overtones as we cope with a distressed economy we also have so much to be thankful for at this time of year when we have our spirits lifted and wish Joy to the World! President-elect Barack Obama in his Christmas message asks us to renew our sense of common purpose as we tackle economic recovery. As Advent, the season full of anticipation for new birth, comes to an end tonight, I am hopeful about the future and our new leadership.

I am again writing this note this year as I take a break from cooking all of those “once a year” recipes. I enjoy preparing, plating on my best dishes and eating traditional foods at Christmas. I am also enjoying the snow outside although the rain is reducing the snow cover and the trees are bare now – no longer snow and ice covered as they were earlier this week.

Later when I attend church I will pray for all of you who read this blog, work with nonprofits and especially those I have worked with. I have all of you on my mind and know your services are especially needed this year and I am wondering if your resources are strained or if people have dug deeper to meet those extra demands this year. I know that we have. My prayers are with you.

No matter which holidays you celebrate at this time of year I wish you the Joy of the Season and a Happy New Year,
Marion Conway Consulting

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Grassroots Philanthropy.....More Than a Great Read.....A Great Philosophy

I just finished reading Grassroots Philanthropy by Bill Somerville with Fred Setterberg and this post is a review. Bill Somerville is the CEO of a medium sized San Francisco based foundation, Philanthropic Ventures Foundation (PVF), and he is well known as an unconventional grantmaker. In this book he lays out his philosophy in detail, provides lots of anecdotes, and detailed guidance on how to implement his philosophy.

The book is well organized and it has a holistic, big picture yet focused on nitty gritty details at the same time feel about it. I guess you’ll have to read it yourself to really understand what I mean.

Bill starts with a simple definition of what philanthropy is – the stuff of dreams made practical and then goes into detail about what’s important for a foundation to do to make the most of its philanthropy. Here’s a few of his ideas:
Find outstanding people doing important work (sparkers, igniters and burners)
Embrace risk – Rely on your head and your heart. Use intuition and trust outstanding people
Focus on ideas instead of problems – Commit to quiet time spent pondering what might be achieved coupled with vigorous ongoing relationships with outstanding people and organizations. The idea being to elevate grantmaking with a sense of hope and possibility.
Move quickly and shred (or is that shed) paper – This is my favorite of Bill’s principles and this chapter is filled with great examples of how they do business at PVF. Empower staff to make decisions and grants and use being in the field rather than excessive paperwork to do your due diligence. You can make grants everyday – not just once or twice a year. Businesses have learned that today everything has to be done in shorter timeframes and the lifecycle of every decision must be reduced. Guess what grantmakers – its time to catch up!

Bill wraps up his book with “Seven Immodest Proposals” which incorporate the ideas presented throughout his book in a simple to do list. But my favorite new idea is his last – Link larger foundations with smaller community foundations to pursue grassroots philanthropy. I love this idea. One of Bill’s basic premises is the importance of being in the field and seeing the actual work being done. Large, national level foundations cannot really do this efficiently but they can partner with community foundations to strengthen the work of both groups. This is definitely an idea worth pursuing.

Grassroots Philanthropy really should be must reading for foundation Board and staff. In fact, I was interviewing Ross Danis at the Geraldine Dodge Foundation for a strategic plan before I started reading this book. We were discussing our mutual interest in Newark when he mentioned Grassroots Philanthropy and picked up a copy on his desk. Their Board had all read the book and they had a lengthy discussion about it. I must admit that this conversation motivated me to start reading as soon as it arrived in the mail and our conversation made me appreciate it more. The Dodge Foundation is highly regarded in NJ and it will be interesting to see locally how they adapt some new ideas.

Interestingly, even the Gates Foundation – yes the Gates Foundation - is adopting some of these principles too. I bet they read this book too. It recently announced grants of $100,000 to 104 scientists in 22 countries. The program called Grand Challenges Explorations had a two page, web based grant application with a turnaround time of about two months. They have 60 people who do the reviews without knowing the applicants and make the decisions. Up to six grantees will be eligible for $1 Million dollar grants based on their results. All levels of scientists are represented, including young investigators who never before have received a research grant. The Gates Foundation called this program high risk but acknowledged that some great science happens in small laboratories by previously unknown investigators.

I highly recommend this book. It is intellectually stimulating and challenging yet written in a down to earth style. It is a quick read at 127 pages. Published by Heyday Books.
Grassroots Philanthropy at Heyday Books Website

Marion' Website

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Year End Online Fundraising Tips - It's Not Too Late!

I just received Network for Good's eNewsletter and the information is so good and timely about year end giving online that I decided to post on the subject. An excellent article by Mark Rovner reveals this interesting statistic: Network for Good processes 40% of online donations for nonprofits in December.

Network for Good's Secrets of Holiday Fundraising Online are:
1. Inspire your donors. Re-connect them with the passion and vision that inspired them to give in the first place.
2. Blaze trails to your donate page. Make it easy for donors to give by making it easy to find your site and your Donate button.
3. Optimize your donate form. Make it short, simple, easy, safe and inspiring.
4. Test drive your online donation process. Sit down a few friends and watch them try to give. Learn. Fix problems.
5. Create a “Why Donate” page that makes a case for why someone should care - and explains what happens when someone gives. Endorsements and ratings are good.
6. Thank your donor at least three times - when they complete a donation, when they get your email receipt and when they get your full thank-you via email a few days later.
7. Provide a warm welcome - an orientation email is a nice idea!
8. Launch a cultivation plan. Re-inspire your donors monthly and listen to what they say. Build a relationship through conversation, not appeals.
9. Measure and test throughout the year.
10. Avoid procrastinating next year! Have a plan. (Yeah, right.)

I've written in detail about some of these recommendations over the last two years and if you click on the technology topics you'll find more detail.

One that I haven't covered in the past that I want to strongly recommend right now if you do nothing else - #4 Test drive your online donation process. Sit down a few friends and watch them try to give. Learn. Fix problems. I can't tell you how important this is. The fixes can be super easy but a small problem can keep a donation from flowing through or a donor from being treated the way you want them to be treated. Make sure you follow the process to the donation being received so that you know that the whole process works and how long it takes. Marc Pitman at his blog, The Fundraising Coach, has an excellent post about his own experience that is worth checking out.
Marc Pitman's Blog - The Fundraising Coach

My favorite one on this list is #7 - Provide a warm welcome - an orientation email is a nice idea! This is a great idea for beginning to build a relationship - more than just a thank you. Yes - I've admitted in the past that I think the emphasis on saying thank you is overdone but that just has to do with my personal needs. I am, however, an information junkie so I really like the idea of an "orientation email."

In a bonus tips article Network for Good recommendations include: People want vivid examples of how their donations will be used and Emotion motivates. My recent posts about re-igniting a passion for your mission dovetail well with these ideas.

If you have some time before the end of the year, look over this list and do some tweaking to your online fundraising efforts. Visit Network for Good's fundraising resources website and sign up for their regular eNewsletter and webinars.
Network for Good's Fundraising 123 web site

Marion Conway Consulting

Sunday, December 07, 2008

More on Re-Igniting a Passion for the Mission with Some Ideas from My LinkedIn Network

Last month I wrote about the importance of nonprofit boards and staffs having passion for their mission and focusing on that during this season. I wanted to continue to write about this subject so I posted the question, “What are your ideas for how nonprofits should demonstrate a Passion for their Mission?” on LinkedIn and got some thoughtful responses that I’d like to share with you today.

Jane Garthson, a well known Leadership and Integrity Consultant to Non-Profit Organizations based in Toronto encourages us to demonstrate your passion for the cause by truly working to achieve the cause – and measuring your progress towards achieving your mission. I plan to write about measurement in 2009 and I will come back to Jane’s message again when I do.

Kristy Alberty, Executive Communications Manager at the National Indian Child Welfare Association writes: “We recently added a new column in our quarterly newsletter, The Heart of the Matter, which are member testimonials. However, it has generated unexpected outpouring of personal stories (not membership-related service stories) from people impacted by our topic. I've occasionally shared those personal stories at our all-staff meetings to remind staff why we are here, who we serve, and the realities of issues/problems. It gives staff first-person perspectives, strong emotional input, and reminds staff of our mission and purpose.“

Leslie Birch, President of Human+Nature, a company which develops video/media for Nonprofits shared this great project: “My friend's non-profit recently did a quilt with seniors and students that was also available as a "virtual" quilt on-line. You could click on a square and hear a story about a senior. Fun stuff!” What a creative idea!

In my last post I discussed my plans for an activity at the annual meeting of the nonprofit whose Board I am Vice President of. We wanted to take some time to re-focus on our mission this year. At table groups, individuals shared their personal stories of why they have a passion for our mission and then highlights were presented to the whole group. We learned about the father who brings his children to events in the inner city that we sponsor and how this has been enriching for his family. The lawyer on our Board surprised me when she said she mentioned Friendly Fuld to her grandmother and she was a participant in our programs many years ago. A retired teacher told of how she had initiated community service at the private prep school where she taught and it grew into the strong relationship with our programs that it is today. A father told of how his son was a student doing community service and it had such an impact on his son that is what led to his own involvement. The exercise was a great team builder as we learned more about each other and our personal stories that weave us together in our work to help strengthen children and families in Newark.

I think it was helpful for each of of us to remind ourselves why we are involved with the nonprofits we love. I recommend this type off exercise for your Board and staff groups and a re-charge.

Passion for the mission is critical - its not the whole thing you still have to pay the bills - but it is a critical ingredient in making your nonprofit who you are.

Read more about those whose thoughts I’ve shared with you today:
Jane Garthson's website

National Indian Child Welfare Association


Marion Conway Consulting