Thursday, April 29, 2010

Thought Provoking Grantmaking Ideas from the Council on Foundations Annual Conference

The Council on Foundations has just completed their annual conference in Denver and thanks to Kris Putnam-Walkerly there is an excellent set of articles on the conference at her Philanthropy411 blog. Kris put together this year’s team of bloggers and they are a diverse and distinguished group of “reporter/commentators.” And yes they provide both the objective reporting of what was said and their own commentary on the content. I have been reading all of the blog posts and I find them both informative and thought provoking. I suggest you head over to Philanthrophy411 and check out all the posts too.

Before the conference, Kris asked a LinkedIn group, “What Do You Want To Learn From the Council on Foundations Conference?” and posted some of the responses on her blog including mine:

“Something I’d like to read about is trends in grantmaking. I think that there are two trends in opposite directions…It seems that some foundations are becoming more demanding – more complicated grant applications, increased evaluation requirements and less money to grant. Other foundations seem to be streamlining with less red tape, using the generic online application, allowing staff to make some grants rather than just the Board opening the opportunity for grants throughout the year rather than once or twice. Is there anything to this? I’d like to hear about it.”

The three themes for the conference were: Social Innovation, Social Change, and Social Justice. And there was a lot of discussion touching on the topics I raised. Here are some highlights:

-Speakers challenging grantmakers to make longer term commitments to social change which takes a lot longer than a 3 year grant cycle
-Discussion about commitment to and value of advocacy and not just service delivery
-Speakers encouraging grantmakers to take more risk and not be so enamored with “safe, easy to measure” projects

Rebecca Arno
reported this about evaluation at a panel on social justice:

“The crowd revved up as conversation turned to the current philanthropic fascination with metrics. Naidoo fanned the flames with observations about philanthropy’s “cultural infection with business values”…but Deepak Bhargava of the Center for Community Change reminded us that a lot of well-intentioned mediocrity passes itself off as social justice, so some kinds of metrics are needed. One of my favorite observations on the metrics front came from Eboo Patel of Interfaith Youth Core, who said that they envision their outcomes “not as Monets, but as detailed Polaroids.” Rice noted that if philanthropists would put up the kind of money needed to accomplish the appropriate strategies, she could provide metrics. But in the absence of a large enough investment, metrics can be a distraction.”

There you have it - There is a wide spectrum of opinions about evaluation - even among foundations.

Paul Connolly noted that in the “change versus charity” debate discussion a popular theme was that “too many philanthropic dollars were devoted to transactional direct service delivery and not enough were for advocacy to support transformative change.” I agree with Paul's assessment that its charity AND change that is most effectve. They are not in conflict – each works best in concert with the other.

Geoffrey Canada from Harlem Children’s Zone was the speaker at the closing plenary and I’m sure that his remarks encouraging foundations to take risks with innovative ideas was an excellent topper for the conference.

Thanks, Kris - and all the bloggers - for bringing us this great coverage.


Sunday, April 25, 2010

Come Join Me in St. Pete's - Great Conference, Beach and Golf - What More Could You Want!

I have been away for most of April and just returned home last night. I have a bunch of things I want to blog about and I plan to get a more detailed blog post out later this week. But I just have to share this...

My proposal to present at the Joint Charity Channel and American Association of Grant Professionals has been accepted and I will be presenting a session entitled "The Social Networking Challenge and Opportunity for Nonprofits" on November 5th in St. Petersburg, Florida.

I last attended a Charity Channel conference in 2003 when I was still fairly new to nonprofit consulting. I learned a great deal and met in person for the first time many people I knew from the wonderful Charity Channel forums. I am excited and looking forward to presenting at this conference sooooo much.

In the next two months I will be leading two more workshops on this subject and so you can expect a few blog posts as I continue to make constant updates to my material. There is always something new happening with social media and nonprofits.


Saturday, April 17, 2010

Marketing, The Networked Nonprofit, Online Training – Kivi LeRoux Miller, Beth Kanter, Allison Fine and Nancy Schwartz – All in This NTC Post!

This is my second article about 10 NTC – the 10th Annual Nonprofit Technology Conference held in Atlanta earlier this month.

On the first day I attended a Marketing Meet and Greet hosted by Nancy Schwartz and Kivi LeRoux Miller. They are two of the top nonprofit marketing gurus around and they make it all seem so simple and so much fun. Even as they smoothly facilitated over 100 people in discussion, I learned about email list segmentation, using humor, and the value of using case studies to inform boards.

That evening I saw Kivi LeRoux Miller give one of the best presentations I have ever seen. And she did it at the Ignite series where each speaker has only 5 minutes and 20 slides. Kivi’s topic sounded serious “A Content Creation Strategy for a Busy Nonprofit”, but she got her message across with a hilarious and playful set of slides. The simple message was create something really good, share it in lots of pieces and remix it into something new. As you are doing this - Be Genuine, Be Generous and Be Grateful. She got all of that in – and very effectively in 5 minutes. You can see Kivi’s slides at:

Kivi’s book, “The Nonprofit Marketing Guide: High-Impact, Low-Cost Ways to Build Support for Your Good Cause” is due out soon and you can link to it on Amazon at the link below.

I attended two sessions with Beth Kanter and in one she was paired with Allison Fine and the other with Kivi. Allison and Kivi are both relaxed and chatty and Beth seems like you can see her brain going a 100 miles a minute while she is talking. She is engaging and engaged at the same time. Actually, Allison and Beth opened the session – The Networked Nonprofit by discussing their different styles and how they collaborated on their new book. It was fun to watch them work together and see how well it all came together from two different angles. They both have strong collaborative skills and it showed in how this session flowed so well.

This session had three themes: Social culture, transparency and simplicity. They defined having a social culture as: Using social media to engage people inside/outside to improve programs, services or reach communication goals. They used the Red Cross as the example and their journey with engaging social media on many levels. For transparency they used the Indianapolis Museum of Art and its presentation of statistical data in an excellent visual slide. There were several examples under simplicity where Beth implored us to do what we are good at and use the network for the rest. What I especially like about this book is that it addresses how nonprofits can use social media on many levels and not just for fundraising. That is such an important point for nonprofits to get. You can also pre-order this book. See the link below. Beth participated in three sessions and you can see her slides at her blog and at As usual they are rich in content.

I also attended “How to Design and Present Online Training People Will Love” by Kivi and Beth. Laura Quinn of Idealware also joined in. Amongst the three of them they have a lot of experience with online training including using different systems. I learned a lot about what to consider and plan for and since I have been thinking about offering webinars I found this session to be very useful. But I think I will postpone webinar planning for now. Maybe – next year.

Kivi brought wine to this session which was from 3:30 – 5 PM on Saturday afternoon. The room was overflowing because it was Kivi and Beth – not because of the wine. The very last thing I did at NTC10 was win a Nonprofit Marketing Guide t-shirt that Kivi gave away at the end of the session. Thank you, Kivi – I’ll wear it proudly.

What a way to top off the conference! It was the best conference I’ve ever been to and all of the sessions were outstanding. I’m already planning to attend in 2011 in Washington, DC.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Highlights from NTC 10 -Nonprofit Technology Conference #1 - Peace, Justice and Video Games

Last week I had the privilege of attending the most incredible NTEN Nonprofit Technology Conference (NTC) with almost 1500 people who are interested in and knowledgeable about technology for nonprofits. I experienced an explosion of learning and connecting and I am eager to share lots with you.

My husband and I travelled by car from New Jersey to Atlanta and the day before the conference we visited the Jimmy Carter Presidential Museum. It was a perfect way to start this trip. We have been visiting presidential museums and it is fascinating. They are each so different and besides recording biographical events and accomplishments in the president’s life they each reflect his personality. I am old enough to remember Jimmy Carter as an adult and I have read his biography so I didn’t spend too much time reading the panels outlining historical events. What struck me was the emphasis – rightly so, I admit – on Jimmy Carter’s commitment to human rights and peace. This is his legacy and he is proud of it. It was a good way to spend the day in reflection before the NTC conference. I had no idea that three days later I'd connect so vividly with this visit.

I almost missed one of the highlights of NTC and I am so grateful that I didn’t let tiredness rule on Saturday morning. After two solid days of morning to night NTC events the 8:30 AM plenary on Saturday morning seemed - well, “optional.” However, I am so glad that I went. The speaker was Asi Burak, co-founder of ImpactGames and executive producer of Games for Change. I had heard about Games for Change but with no real interest in video games - I did not know much. Asi changed that forever.

He talked about his background growing up in Israel and serving in intelligence in the army for five years. I wasn’t yet connecting with him…….Then he moved to Pittsburgh and studied computer gaming under Randy Pauch, author of The Last Lecture…I had a sip of coffee and perked up a little bit. And then he started to talk about his graduate project of developing The PeaceMaker video game as his graduate project…..and before I knew it I was captivated by every word he said.

Avi engaged experts on both Israeli and Palestinian policies and State Department expertise to develop content. His objective was a new kind of video game where winning didn’t mean there was a winner and a loser. He asked an audience member to come to the stage to play the game and game frames appeared on two giant screens. I wasn’t the only one up early on Saturday – over a 1000 people had shown up for this. The player first got to choose if he wanted to be the Israeli or Palestinian leader. The next setup is do you want to play in a calm, tense or violent environment – each becoming more difficult. You then are confronted with various scenarios and have response options. With some options you gave and got nothing, others might solicit a response with some potential for discussion. If you asked for too much you got nothing. On the bottom of the screen there is a measurement of your increasing or decreasing popularity with Hamas, Israelis and the rest of the world. The policy choices and impact of those choices are sophisticated and real. The room was silent as the volunteer made his way through PeaceMaker.

This PeaceMaker video game has been downloaded millions of times and is used across the world including in Israel and Palestine. It causes you to see the other side of an argument and the result of your approach. Pretty powerful.

Asi Burak also discussed the video games being developed with Sandra Day O’Connor to teach kids civic lessons in a much more engaging way than we currently do. Go SDO!

This presentation stretched my brain early on a Saturday morning and made me discover a whole new way of learning. Check the and soon they will have this presentation on their website available as a download. I highly recommend it.

My husband and I have continued south to Florida for some vacation. I will be blogging more about NTC but the schedule is weather and sunburn dependent.

Check back soon.