Monday, January 25, 2010

Bill Gates Second Annual Letter for the Gates Foundation - A Must Read Again

The focus of this year’s annual letter from Bill Gates is innovation and how it can make the difference between a bleak future and a bright one.

Bill sets the tone upfront with this, “Melinda and I see our foundation’s key role as investing in innovations that would not otherwise be funded. This draws not only on our backgrounds in technology but also on the foundation’s size and ability to take a long-term view and take large risks on new approaches. Warren Buffett put it well in 2006 when he told us, “Don’t just go for safe projects. You can bat a thousand in this game if you want to by doing nothing important."

The Gates Foundation may be huge but it also is a family affair. Bill, Melinda and Bill’s father are hands on leaders of the foundation. Warren Buffett is a co-trustee but he really is a member of their extended family. Although the Gates Foundation is professionally managed as a big business of which Bill is very proud, it also has the personal touch of the corner store. Bill discusses how he and Melinda champion separate projects but work together as a team and learn from each other. He mentions advice that Warren has given him and his father’s grounding. The letter doesn’t have the sound of something written by corporate PR, rather it is much more Warren Buffett like – addressing results, hopes, and dreams in a down to earth way.

I was very impressed in the way Bill presented a summary of some of their innovation projects and all nonprofits can learn from this. A grid with projects in global health, global development, and the United States provides a summary of each of these items:
• Description of the innovation
• Time frame for the project
• Who will benefit
• What is the benefit
• Constraints
• Risk – High, Medium, Low
• Partners

It is an excellent snapshot of their work, its importance and the risk level of success they associate with it. I particularly like that they included partners for each project in this summary.

Although the sections of the letter are somewhat different than last year, Bill again discusses the status – improvements and remaining challenges in global health care – especially childhood deaths, malaria and polio. Bill summarizes the accomplishments extremely well and then frames clearly the challenges remaining for each one. Bill’ section on AIDS/HIV doesn’t offer the encouragement of almost total eradication that his section on polio does but it does outline the foundation’s efforts.

When Bill shifts to the US projects the focus shifts from health to education. Bill explains, “The foundation works on health in poor countries because we think it’s the best way to improve lives globally. In the United States, we believe the best way to improve lives is to improve public education.” Bill talks about the importance of using more than student achievement tests and their partnership with schools and unions together in innovative projects to improve teacher performance. Bill also talks about online learning and using technology in an interactive way and with teachers working cooperatively to increase learning. I learned a little bit about this myself last year when I worked with the New Jersey Center for Teaching and Learning and I was very impressed.

Near the end of the letter there is a striking section and chart “Rich Countries’ Aid Generosity. Wow – the US gives the most in absolute terms but is far down the list in percent of GDP – very eye opening.

Bill ends with the “Looking Ahead" section and addresses head-on an area that the foundation has been criticized for – not funding climate change projects. He says “Because the foundation invests in areas where there is not a big market, I have not yet seen a way that we can play a unique role here, but I am investing in several ideas outside the foundation. Bill announces his new website where he’ll report on his trips and activities throughout the year.

In summary, the Gates are very focused and you can not help but be impressed by their dedication, determination, and disciplined approach to their goals. Visit the Gates Foundation website now and read the whole letter. Just as it was last year – it is a must read.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Martin Luther King Day 2010 – Plan Now to Get Involved

Martin Luther King day has been a designated day of service for 15 years. But in 2009 inspired by President Obama’s inauguration, the number of recorded service projects increased to 13000 from 8000 in 2008. And it is estimated that 1 million people participated in a volunteer project that day. On one level – Wow! On another level – only 1 million – surely we can do better than that.

It is incredibly easy to find a volunteer opportunity for MLK Day. You can even do it from your iPhone or Blackberry. The MLK Day website has everything you need to know about Martin Luther King day and you can link to to find the type of project you are interested in close to work or home.

Some Easy ideas for Service on MLK Day – No Excuses
If MLKDay is a work day for you why not see if your employer is willing to sponsor an early quit for a group who volunteers at a local charity or lead a food or winter coat drive at your workplace. It is a good day for group activities and lots of nonprofits are prepared with one day or short timeframe projects.

Nonprofits Take Action – Now!! Today!! – MLK Day is January 18th!!!
If you are a nonprofit - right now – not tomorrow – register your projects available for MLKDay at and at any local databases collecting projects such as your local Volunteer Center or United Way. This is a perfect opportunity to introduce your organization to new volunteers and supporters. The projects do not have to be elaborate. Onsite projects like painting a room, cleaning out and organizing closets are popular projects. Don’t pass up opporunities for after work groups to come for an hour or sponsor food or clothing drives at their workplace. Are you an arts group? Do you need some help working on making sets – a great after work project.

Why not have a “Need Professional Skills” project and ask for help with your website, marketing materials or social media launch. Or how about resume writing and interview coaching at homeless shelters.

It is free and easy to register your projects. You never know - the perfect person may show up on a cold winter morning and begin a lasting relationship. This opportunity is to good to pass up.

Ready for a Little Inspiration?
But this all sounds so mechanical and practical – If you need a little inspiration to get moving with setting up projects and volunteering visit the King center website and you’ll be greeted by an inspirational message in Dr. King’s own words.
King Center website

This video on YouTube provides a kalidescope of last year’s projects – view it to get inspired about what ideas may work for you.
2009 King Day of Service: Realizing the Dream

Stimulating Ideas for the Times... Resolutions for Nonprofits in 2010

For the last two years I have asked my LinkedIn network to contribute to a list of suggested New Year’s resolutions for nonprofits. Experts - diverse in their expertise and recommendations - have again responded with a stimulating list of suggested resolutions. Some are nationally recognized, some work for nonprofits and some are consultants. Two CEOs of leading nonprofits offer their advice. Read on....and take notes...resolve that some of these resolutions will appear on your own list.

Last year the tone of the recommendations had to do with facing a difficult year ahead. This year we all seem to realize that we are facing a paradigm shift and the resolutions have more of a “Lets straighten up and face the future squarely and show them we’re ready” panache.

I thank all of the nonprofit professionals who contributed to this post making this such a rich set of stimulating ideas that all of us can use as we develop our goals for this year. I’ve grouped them by topic for easy reference.

Community Building
Hildy Gottlieb and Jane Garthson both have recommendations focusing on building community. Hildy is the Founder of the Community Driven Institute (CDI) in Tucson, Arizona and Jane, an ethics and leadership consultant who hails from Toronto, Canada is working with the CDI (I bet especially in the winter).

Hildy recommends that “we focus on what is possible, rather than what is wrong. Aim at creating the future you DO want for your community, rather than focusing all your energy on what you do NOT want (poverty, hunger, disease). The very best we can do by eliminating a negative is to get to zero. Aim at the positive future you DO want to create, and you will solve your community's problems (and your organization's problems) on the way to creating that positive future.” Hildy's approach always leaves me with a new sense of energy and can do anything spirit.
Hildy Gottlieb's blog

The Pollyanna Principles - Hildy's newest book

Jane also builds on Hildy’s Pollyanna Principles suggesting “a focus on making your community better, in the ways that matter most to your community. Focus all resources on action areas that create a better future. Govern for what matters, which is all external to the organization. Focus on effectiveness in achieving desirable outcomes for community; internal efficiencies and oversight only matter if the community benefits. And remember that many other organizations in your community also exist to make the community better. Plan and collaborate with those organizations.”
Jane Garthson's website

Strategic Planning
Susan Bari, Kim Pawlak and Terrie Temkin were on the same wavelength with their resolutions reinforcing mission, vision and value.

Susan Bari, president and CEO of the Leader to Leader Institute encourages that we “ask Peter Drucker's Five Most Important Questions. It is important to continuously ask ourselves: What is our mission? Who is our customer? What does our customer value? What are our results? and What is our plan? This strategic planning self-assessment process will keep us true to our selves, our donors and our clients.” As a side note, I am trained in the Drucker self assessment process and use these strategic planning principles with my own clients.
Leader to Leader website

Leader to Leader blog

Kim Pawlak, Associate Executive Director, Text and Academic Authors Association advises: “To develop a solid strategic plan with actionable steps to ensure that you stay on track with your mission and vision and use your limited resources in a way that maximizes the impact you can have on your constituents.”
Text and Academic Authors Association

Terrie Temkin, Principal in CoreStrategies for Nonprofits recommends that “nonprofits keep their eyes on their vision and value. While hardly a new resolution, it's a resolution similar to the perennial diet and exercise - critical for a healthy existence, but somehow hard to maintain. If organizations want to survive in this environment, though, it's never been more important.”
Terrie Temkin's blog

Communication, Networking and Social Networking
John Haydon, Maria Semple and Gayle Thorsen all touch on these subjects – each with their own unique vision.
John Haydon, a leading social media and marketing strategist for nonprofits recommends that “non-profits have "implement mobile giving" as a goal for 2010", especially if the average age of their donors are less than 50 years old.” John did us a favor to hit this straight on with clarity - this is going to be a big, big topic in 2010. I’ll be writing about it in the next few months.
John Haydon's blog

Maria Semple, a nonprofit prospect research consultant, provides this advice for nonprofit executives: “Do more networking -- both in-person and in the social media world. Join networking groups outside the nonprofit sector where business owners, corporate executives and philanthropists congregate.” This is something we all know we should do but so many of us just don’t get around to it. Maria is right – make it a resolution - this can really be valuable to your organization and to you personally.
Maria Semple's website

Gayle Thorsen,a nonprofit communications consultant, also addresses mobile giving as part of a larger communications strategy. Gayle offers, “My advice would be to do less better. Many of the nonprofits I talk with have too many communication balls in the air. Make the hard choices that streamline and focus communications. Be brutally honest about capacity issues--especially with social media. Don't do anything without understanding exactly how it supports your strategy and to what degree. Take projects off the plate rather than add more. This simplification advice applies to every aspect of communications--from messaging (strip the fat) to website/email design (think mobile).” Galye also pointed out that this is especially important with pared down staffs.
Gayle Thorsen's blog

Advocacy and Building Relationships
Elizabeth Clawson, a prospect researcher, recommends that nonprofits resolve to attend a lobby day at their state capitol this year. She says, “These events allow nonprofits of all sizes and missions to advocate for their sector and build relationships with state legislators. In addition to state-specific issues, there are many federal ones to mobilize around, such as the charitable mileage rate.” I am so happy that Elizabeth contributed to this list. She is a young nonprofit professional and participates in the online nonprofit community very actively on Twitter and at her blog.
Elizabeth Clawson
Elizabeth Clawson's blog

Susan Detwiler, a nonprofit and philanthropic consultant, offers good advice for improving executive staff board relationships: “Resolve to recognize that even people you can't stand probably have the best motives behind their actions. So instead of focusing on how they're impeding you, figure out where they're coming from. e.g., that loud mouth board member; or the donor that wants to tell you how to run the organization. Acknowledging a positive motive helps move the conversation in a good direction. Make sure all your board members feel useful! Just saying thanks is nice but even more powerful is letting people know just how helpful they are. People want to know they've really done something with their time and their life.

Michael Keats, business process improvement consultant for nonprofits offers this practical advice: Update operational procedures. Mike lists the benefits as:
•Establish a standard for the method and quality of operations;
•Provide a means of training and helping new staff be more productive sooner;
•Increase efficiency and flexibility by enabling staff to be cross-trained
•Minimize disruptions when a key person is suddenly lost to the organization.
Michael Keats website

And finally, the resolutions offered by Ken Berger, CEO Charity Navigator, defy categorization:
-We will not tell stories about individuals we have helped without data that shows meaningful change in communities and peoples lives to back it up
-We will strive to develop an outcome driven culture within our organization from top to bottom.
-We will start by going through a theory of change process and not rest until everyone in the organization knows our desired outcomes and how each one of them will help us get to them!
-We will also seek and listen to our constituent’s feedback on our efforts.
-Whenever possible, we will seek funding for research to prove that our interventions are causing meaningful change in people’s lives. We will then share this evidence based research with our peers to further all of our efforts to improve our world.
Ken Berger's Blog

Thanks again to each of the contributors to this list - you have provided us with a stimulating list of ideas on which to build our 2010 resolutions. I hope you will visit their blogs for ongoing stimulating commentary throughout the year – I know I do. Do you have ideas you would like to add to this list - we'd love to know what they are. Please share your ideas by posting a comment to this post.


Monday, January 04, 2010

My Blog in 2009 Laid Naked and Dissected - The Analytic Results

One of the basic tenets of using social media is to listen. I learned this concept from the chief nonprofit social media guru herself – Beth Kanter – at a Kellogg College of Consultants conference I attended in 2008. There are many tools available and one of the ways to listen and learn is with online analytic tools.

I’ve done an analysis of my blog for 2009 and I highly recommend that you do one of your web presences also. Using Google Analytics,, and Post Rank I think I have the best picture yet of what my readers are interested in. I’ve also reviewed the posts with comments so I know which ones attracted the most interaction. I announce each post on Twitter and LinkedIn and they have been major reasons for the increase in traffic this year – directly and even moreso indirectly.

If I were a major business this would be confidential marketing intelligence. But since I am a one person consultancy and in the nonprofit sector we want to be all about transparency I am about to reveal some – only some - of the intelligence I have gathered from my blog this year. Here are some quick facts:

• The traffic to my blog increased by 30% in 2009 over 2008

• Being mentioned in’s Give and Take, and several well read blogs contributed to some surprising spikes in readership.

• I developed new relationships with online collaboration this year. Beginning with mentioning others and being mentioned I have made wonderful new friends in the nonprofit world. I even got to meet some of them at various events throughout 2009.

• Rather than just the most popular posts, here are the most popular topics:
-My series of articles about nonprofits and social networking
-Several articles about nonprofits and the economic downturn. My thanks to Todd Polyniak, of Sax Macy for much of this material.
-Two posts with reading lists were retweeted and garnered lots of comments with additional recommendations on the blog and on LinkedIn. They were not only well read but being well commented on puts them in an even more coveted category. Comments on your blog indicate a higher level of engagement than just reading your posts.
-Posts about working for and hiring trends in nonprofits

• Only 20 percent of the traffic to my blog came directly to the blog. 34% came via search and 46% came from other referring sites.

• The most popular search keywords driving traffic to my blog included nonprofit, twitter, linkedin, facebook, giving USA, strategic planning, board, consulting, conway, leadership and visionary. I was surprised at how far down the list conway was.

• The most popular referring site by far is LinkedIn where I always update my status when I have a new blog post and I am active in a number of nonprofit groups. The big surprise is that the second biggest referrer to my blog is the Nonprofit Blog Exchange where Emily Weinberg has featured some of my posts in her roundups. Thanks Emily – I always check out the posts you include in your eclectic roundups and apparently so do other people. People visit my blog via Twitter and my website. A fair amount of traffic comes from the Nonprofit Good Practice Guide and BoardSource where my blog is listed as a resource. The Chronicle of Philanthropy’s Give and Take column always causes a big spike in traffic. There are numerous other referring sites but these were the major ones.

• Many people were repeat visitors and read more than one page and believe it or not 5% of my visitors are still using dial-up internet service.

So what do I plan to do with all this information?
I plan to write more about nonprofits faciing a paradigm shift with economic change – This will be tied to themes including board leadership, vision, and strategic planning.

I will be attending the NTEN conference in April and I will write more about technology issues for nonprofits with what I learn at this conference. Understanding how popular the technology topics I wrote about this year were influenced my decision to attend the 2010 NTEN conference.

I certainly plan to continue the collaborative spirit of sharing information about the wonderful nonprofit community out there – these collaborative posts were among the richest in content and the most popular.

I am planning to attend two national conferences in 2010 and I am looking forward to meeting people who I have only known on the Internet.

In 2009 I also had more business from people who learned about me on the Internet – that may be via a search leading to my blog or knowing me through a LinkedIn group. I want to explore connecting my Internet participation with the nonprofit community with more business. I would especially like to do more speaking in 2010 – so just to let you know – I am available and I am willing to travel. Any pointers? Please let me know.

I hope I have piqued your interest in listening on the Internet and finding out more about your own Internet presence. It can provide a good starting point for planning both your web and non-web priorities for the new year.