Tuesday, June 25, 2013

You and Your Nonprofit Board – Just Published

I am soooo excited to be a contributor to the just published You and Your Nonprofit Board:  Advice and Practical Tips from the Field’s Top Practitioners, Researchers and Provocateurs.  The book is edited by Terrie Temkin and published by Charity Channel Press.  As I went through the table of contents there were so many articles that I wanted to read, I didn’t know where to start.  I was attracted to being involved with this ambitious project from Terrie’s first call for papers.  She described the project as “a series of practical, conversationally-written articles on subjects of interest to the nonprofit or community benefit sector” and requested articles that would “offer readers new thinking.” She provided a list of potential questions as thought provokers and asked for proposals on topics that excited us.  She whet the appetite of potential contributors with her description and open ended approach.  Then her perfectionist editing and superb organizing of the final product has produced a book that is practical and at the same time will make you want to try new ideas. There are 38 contributors and I am honored to be among this well respected cadre of contributors. 

This is not a basic handbook.  It is an anthology of articles featuring current trends and fresh ideas on topics of importance to nonprofit boards.  There are plenty of examples and short boxes throughout which provide food for thought, definitions, principles, quotes, examples and practical tips.  My copy is going to be full of yellow highlighting very soon.

I work with and write for small nonprofits and often nonprofit books assume a level of staffing and economic status of the Board that is not representative of their reality.  This anthology has many articles that speak to the small nonprofit experience honestly and offer practical advice.   Articles such as “Yes, Your Board Can Be Strategic without Staff!” by Jane Garthson and “What Staff?  Keeping Operations and Governance Separate in an Organization with No Staff”  by Mitch Dorger are examples. 

The whole gamut of board issues is covered from “A Blue Ribbon Nominating Committee for your Board” by Jan Masaoka to “Act Your Age: Organizational Life Cycles and How They Impact Your Board” by Mike Burns to “Don’t Just Whack“Em and Plaque“Em” with an excellent example for an exit interview of Board members by Carol Weisman.

I chose to submit an article that I have written about on my blogs.  It is entitled “Exercising Board Leadership with Social Media” and started out as a slightly changed composite of existing blog articles at Marion Conway – Nonprofit Consultant and Nonprofit Capacity Building at managementhelp.org.  Terrie’s editing with a zillion comments and questions helped shape it into a much better article with crisp presentation.  Thank you Terrie even though I was getting impatient, your perfectionist editing did produce a much better product than my first submittal.  Am I a Practitioner or a Provocteur?  What do you think?

Carter McNamara says it best with this review – “Seldom have I seen a more thorough publication and with such well-respected authors. The book covers the critical basics and brings in the state-of-the-art. It's well-organized to be a reference manual for all of us in nonprofits.” 

Right now Amazon is offering You and Your Nonprofit Board for only $27.72 which is a 31% discount from the $39.95 list price making it affordable and eligible for free shipping.  Click below to go to Amazon now.

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Highlights of New Funder’s Guide for Funding Technology from Idealware

 Idealware has just released an outstanding report for FUNDERS entitled “A Funders Guide to Supporting Nonprofit Technology - 10 Ways to Build Your Grantees’ Technical Savvy.”  I have written a number of times about writing a grant for technology and/or including it in your grant proposals as a line item.  But this is the first report I have seen directed at funders.  It is thorough, straightforward and makes an impeccable case for foundations to integrate technology into their funding and full range of support.


You must review the whole report if you are a funder.  If you are with a nonprofit, read the report, forward it to your funders – today, and incorporate these ideas into your proposals.  Here’s the link:

The report puts technology in the mission bucket – not in some off on the side administrative bucket – labeling  it a tool to help nonprofits meet their missions.  It goes on to describe the technology capacity building as a single project you could fund that would have a positive impact throughout all your grantees’ programs and services?  The report continues “even a small investment in your grantees’ technology can have a large impact on their missions.”  Those of us working in the nonprofit technology arena of course know all of this.  But it’s news to lots of funders.

The report features case study examples and quotes from funders.  Here are two of my favorites:
“Providing technology information to our grantees leverages the money we’ve already invested—it helps maximize the efficiency and effectiveness of their projects.”
— Polly Seitz, Director, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Local Funding Partnerships

“Helping our grantees’ use technology effectively is the most cost-effective investment we could ever make.”
—David Krumlauf, The Pierce Family Foundation

The report describes the pyramid of technology and its components as follows:

  • Functional and secure infrastructure – includes hardware (computers, servers, networking hardware) and software (word processing, spreadsheet, presentation)
  • Data Management – Constituent management, program management and accounting software systems.  
  • Website and email -  the online public face and mouthpiece
  • Social media—including Facebook, Twitter, or blogs

Barriers to Technology for nonprofits are:
Lack of knowledge as to what can best help them.
Lack of money to buy the hardware or software they know they need.
Lack of staff time to figure out complex technology issues.
Lack of knowledgeable personnel to support technology.
Turnover of staff members who understand the technology infrastructure.
Well-meaning advice that steers them to solutions that can’t be supported.
Using solutions that don’t have any external support available.
Thinking of technology as peripheral to their mission.
Fear of technology or change.

The report advises that before you can effectively provide help, you need to know where your grantees are struggling and recommends a simple sample survey as a place to start.

So how Can Foundations Help?
You’ll have to read the full report to see all of the ideas.  Here are some of my favorites that I think are particularly helpful to small organizations.


  • Newsletters and social media – feature technology articles, research reports and tips
  • Link your grantees to existing resources that can help them  
  • Include technology books in your resource libraries
  • Write articles about best practices for tech in your focus area.
  • Create and distribute research surveys and present your findings.

Send grantees links to interesting trainings.
Invite grantees to watch an online training with you.
Purchase seats in webinars or live workshops for your grantees.
Bring in experts for informal Q&A sessions.
Invite your own staff to train grantees on topics they know about.
Contract someone to conduct webinars or live workshops for your grantees. l

Technology as a Proposal Line Item
Simply allowing grantees to include technology costs as a line item in proposals will encourage them to think about and share their needs in this area.

Technology Capacity Grants
Concerned?  Require attendance at technology workshop first.

Providing Direct Technology Support
The Pierce Family Foundation is a great example.  They supports its grantees’ IT and
technology needs with a technical generalist who does phone consulting and site visits to help each individual grantee. He provides general technology guidance and help to implement straightforward solutions— everything from installing virus protection software and troubleshooting databases to helping to evaluate where technology can have the biggest impact. By working directly with grantees, he is also able to identify where additional help or funding could best be put to use. (PS - I've heard David Krumlauf speak and believe me he's a gem.)

Create New Resources
A great example is the Annie CaseyFoundation which funded a research report to help organizations understand data visualization, best practices for using infographics for marketing, and how to create them on a budget.

Funding Technology Capacity Providers
Organizations such as NTEN, TechSoupGlobal, and Idealware provide articles, research reports, webinars and conferences where nonprofits – large and small can learn both the basics and what’s new and important for them to keep updated on. These organizations provide invaluable resources for nonprofits – especially smaller ones who don’t have technology specialists on their staff.

These are just some of the highlights…You should read the whole report.  What do you think of the recommendations in this report?  Do you have any to add?  Please let us know in the comments.