Beth's Blog

Nonprofit Book Review: Social Startup Success – A Must Read for 2018

One of my favorite activities is to do a networking walk on The Dish trail, a five mile somewhat challenging hike adjacent to the Stanford University campus, a location where Silicon Valley start up entrepreneurs have famously walked and made deals or come up with great ideas.

Not too long, I had the pleasure of “walking The Dish” with Kathleen Kelly Janus,  a social entrepreneur, author, and lecturer at Stanford University’s Program on Social Entrepreneurship. She just published a new book, Social Start Up Success: How the Best Nonprofits Launch, Scale Up, and Make a Difference. I was lucky enough to get an advanced copy AND have a fabulous walk and talk with her about the ideas.

The book is based on a five-year research project where Janus interviewed hundreds innovative nonprofit organizations. It is playbook details the practices for high performance including: testing ideas, measuring impact, funding experimentation, leading collaboratively, and sharing compelling stories.

She not only shares many compelling and inspiring stories of how passionate social change leaders have built and scaled effective nonprofits, but distills the lessons into useful principles and actionable information. Her book is based on traveling the country and visiting and interviewing dozens of social entrepreneurs who started nonprofits such as Teach for America, City Year, DonorsChoose, charity:water, and others.

Her book shares useful guidance about so many questions that keep those of us in the social sector up at night. The answers are written in a fresh, accessible way and filled with valuable nuggets.  A few highlights of the questions she addresses:

  • How can nonprofit organizations improve their programs with testing and demonstrate impact without funding at an early stage? How to go from Post-It to proof of concept?
  • How can nonprofits engage end-users to generate ideas for programs and services and co-create or co-develop with their organizations?
  • How can nonprofit leaders learn to recognize when their organization’s efforts are not working well and make the difficult changes to produce better results?
  • How can nonprofits craft a compelling theory of change that illustrates how  their programs are having a positive impact on people’s lives? How do you measure that impact?
  • How do you tell your story with data?
  • How to create a culture of testing and get funding for experiments?
  • How to optimize the time, resources, and energy spent on fundraising?
  • How to cultivate collective leadership to sustain the organization and avoid burnout?
  • How to create a highly engaged board?
  • How to create compelling stories that power growth?

The profiles of creative and nonprofit leaders in this book – will not only inspire you, but help you make your nonprofit more successful.  While stories are about social entrepreneurs, the lessons and advice is useful for all nonprofit leaders.  Social Start Up Success is a must-read for every nonprofit leader.

Facebook Announces Overhaul of Newsfeed: What Does It Mean for Nonprofits?


Yesterday was my birthday.  And the one great thing about social media, particularly Facebook, is that you get to hear from many people wishing you a happy day because the platform alerts them.  This year I had a tsunami of birthday wishes.

Towards the end of the day, the New York Times published a story about a big announcement from Mark Zuckerberg about a change in the algorithm and newsfeed that it would prioritize what their friends and family share and comment on while de-emphasizing content from publishers and brands. While tweaks to the newsfeed are not new, this shift is a major change.

According to the article, the intent is to maximize the amount of content with what Zuckerberg calls “meaningful interaction” and social media strategists call “engagement.”   According to the article:

“The goal of the overhaul, ultimately, is for something less quantifiable that may be difficult to achieve: Facebook wants people to feel positive, rather than negative, after visiting.”

Some worry that this shift will create an even more pervasive “filter bubble,” where people only see content that reinforces their own opinions and views.

Facebook has been criticized for its role in spreading fake news and influencing elections.  There has also been a growing swell of criticism pointing out the connection between mental health issues and how Facebook’s interface is designed to addict users. These concerns are coming from researchers as well as technology leaders, including some former Facebook high level employees.

The newsfeed change will also impact nonprofits and others that rely on their Facebook Brand Page to reach their audiences and stakeholders, so de-prioritizing their content or “organic reach,” will require them to invest more paid social.  Many nonprofits, specially small organizations, do not have the resources.

According to the article, this change might be in conflict with Facebook’s revenue model and business objectives of getting users to spend more time on Facebook. Zuckerberg said Facebook’s hopes to have people spend less time on Facebook, but if they end up feeling better about using the platform, they will ultimately benefit.

The social media pundits were swift with posting their analysis on Facebook.

Social Media examiner posted this 10 minute video breaking down the news about the newsfeed.

Mari Smith posted this “translation” of Zuckerberg’s statement. The big takeaways:

  • Facebook newsfeed will be focused on content that sparks conversations between people on Facebook
  • Brand content that creates *community* will be favored (Social Media Examiner in the video above said that days of posting links from blog posts to your page to generate traffic are over.  Paid social and bots and decreasing posting frequency will be more important and training your community to use “see first” option)
  • Facebook will continue to aggressively grow it’s Watch digital television platform and favor content in the News Feed from shows and live broadcasts, particularly regular episodic content
  • Facebook is gearing up to establish large, vibrant, engaged, realtime communities watching the same events simultaneously
  • Organic reach is dead, the algorithmic apocalypse or “Facebook Zero” and it will become necessary to invest in advertising

The plethora of birthday wishes really was due to the newsfeed as it will be implemented in the next few weeks.  Facebook has given us a heads-up and you can probably hear social media marketing screaming and pulling their hair out across the world.

How will you rethink your nonprofit’s use of Facebook?


A Few Thoughts About Nonprofits and Digital Transformation in 2018

Over the past year, I have felt less optimistic than ever about the power of connectivity and networks for social good. And, if the truth be told, almost to the point of wanting to crawl up on a fetal position and never another look at a screen again.

In December, while in London to reach workshops,  I attended a dinner hosted by Vinay Nair, CEO and co-founder of Lightful. Vinay assembled charity sector thought leaders, representing organisations such as Small Charities Coalition, Comic Relief, Marie Curie, Good Things Foundation and more to discuss digital transformation for charities in the age of mistrust.

We all agreed that the reality is that connectivity has only made the underbelly of extremes in our society more visible and spreadable. But online connectivity can also amplify the good work of charities and contribute to civil society.   We need to keep focused on that vision.

Now with a little holiday technology detox and some reflection, I’m feeling different.  I feel that nonprofits need not only a robust digital transformation strategy, but also need to leave room to experiment and innovate with newer technologies like bots, blockchain, and AI.

Here’s few recent guest posts on other places, including a co-authored work with Allison Fine, my co-author of Networked Nonprofit. Allison and I are cooking up some plans for our next writing project together – stay tuned.

What is your nonprofit’s digital strategy focus for 2018?  What experiments or pilots does it include?

AI and Nonprofits: Will Bots Make Transition from Functional to Friendship?

The next disruptive technology phase is already upon here and it includes a technology designed to emulate human conversation – chatbots programmed with artificial intelligence.  It will have implications for nonprofits way beyond simply setting up a Facebook Messenger bot for your nonprofit’s Facebook Brand Page.

With over 100,000 bots created on the Facebook Messenger platform and the rise of AI and conversational user interfaces (think SIRI), Gartner analysts predict by 2020 the average person will have more conversations with bots than their spouse. Opportunities to chat with robots are growing, whether it through our smartphones, tablets, home appliances, virtual personal assistants or our cars.And, while we might think being addicted to chatting with a virtual chatbot is more like fodder for an episode of Black Mirror,  it isn’t.

Gartner analyst suggests this trend will have far more impact on our lives, work, and society than social media and connectivity did a decade ago.

  •      Digital experience and engagement will draw people into nonstop virtual interactions
  •      Business innovation will create extraordinary change from mundane concepts
  •      Secondary effects will be more disruptive than the initial digital change

Think about how you’ve interacted with SIRI.  Have you ever asked her what the meaning of life is?  SIRI is not the only virtual therapist. More recently, Woebot, an AI therapist bot designed to help humans with mental health issues, has had over 2 million conversations since is launch last year. If you consider recent research that has found our use of social media and smartphones isolates us and contributes to loneliness, it isn’t hard to imagine how a relationship with a chat bot might go deeper than simply delivering basic information.

You can see some early examples of bot as companions here. One example, is Replika,  which uses AI to create a chatbot in your likeness. As you chat with it, it collects data about your moods, preferences and patterns of speech, until it starts to feel like you are texting with your alter ego or a “replica” of yourself.

I played with the app and at first found it entertaining, but it quickly moved into creepiness, especially when it said that humans were merely computers encased in sacks of flesh.

Today, the average chatbot’s language skills have advanced enough that they can do all kinds of things beyond answers to basic questions. Artificial intelligence has become the new customer service department. But many nonprofits probably do not need a bot to become their stakeholders best virtual friends or advisers. It is probably to better to focus creating or improving a highly functional chabot that builds your organization’s mailing list or answer basic questions.  Perhaps you can meet the expectations of this trend by incorporating just a hint of personality, fun, or playfulness like the Anne Frank House bot.

If you want to get up to speed, I’ve put this curated list together of Bots and Nonprofits with links to research, examples, and practical information that I used to put together a little pilot for a Facebook Messenger Bot on my Facebook Brand Page.

Has your nonprofit jumped into the sandbox with a bot or put your head in the sand?  Have an example to share, please do in the comments.


Twitter for Nonprofits in 2018: Rebirth or Retire?

The past year, Twitter has been widely criticized for its role in spreading misinformation , being  a Petri dish for hate speech, and how it approaches world leaders use of the platform.  You will also see some of the most viscous attacks from trolls on Twitter and they are only rarely quieted with compassion.

On the other hand, some say Twitter is ready for a renaissance, a phoenix rising from the ashes. And while the bulk of nonprofits put most of their resources into Facebook (whether Facebook is perfect or not), there are many nonprofits effectively using Twitter and leveraging the platform for social good as well as their staff and leaders.  While Twitter and other platforms can amplify the under belly of the world, they can also connect people with nonprofit organizations and spread social good, joy, and even fun.

Take for example the #AskACurator hashtag created by a digital expert who works with museums almost five years ago and still active today.
Someone sent out a tweet wondering if London’s Natural History Museum and Science Museum went to war, which would win. One museum said they have dinosaurs; the other said they have robots. They kept going back and forth, and it went viral. The conversation was tweeted and re-tweeted thousands of times, and people joined in the fun.

Twitter has recently added some features, some met with “meh,” and others with controversy. If your nonprofit wants to up its Twitter game in 2018, here is a summary:

Tweet Storms and Threads:  Twitter  announced the launch of a new feature in December help users more easily post Tweetstorms – a series of related tweets posted by a Twitter user in quick succession, in order to share longer thoughts. While Tweetstorms have been around for awhile, with users finding workarounds to share them (for example numbering their tweets like this RedCross Tweetstorm) Here’s an example of how I used to share a link to my New Year’s post so I could engage with other people mentioned in the post. Here’s a powerful example of personal storytelling using the threads by Charlotte Clymer on depression and suicide. Here are some tips on using Tweetstorms.

Twitter Doubles Character Count:   Twitter officially doubled the character count for all users last November, 2017 after testing it. It was controversial as Twitters either liked it or hated and were vocal about their opinions. Caitlin Kelly posted an image of editing down Twitter’s announcement Tweet from 280 characters to 140, arguing that brevity was better. Twitter said it made the change because some languages require more characters, but the move is more likely growing the user base by making the service easier for newcomers. (Some wonder whether creating a non-toxic community where online abuse is seriously addressed would be more helpful.)

Twitter Accessibility Feature:   Did you know that Twitter has an option to let you add description to images for the visually impaired?  Twitter user Rob Long, who is a blind veteran, explains in a Tweet Storm, why this important. My colleague, Neil Parkh, created a Twitter Moment with some tips and resources.

These features are not new, but I don’t see a lot of nonprofits using them to engage followers or for storytelling.  (If your nonprofit has an example, please share in the comments.)

Twitter Moments:  Twitter moments was rolled out in 2015 as Twitter’s approach to curating breaking news for the platform. In 2016, Twitter made it possible for any user to create their Twitter Moment and link to their profile.  A Twitter moment is a collection of Tweets from different users that tells a story. I use moments to create stories based on Tweets from conferences or workshops that I’ve presented.  Here’s an example of using Moments from a Museum.

Twitter Polls:   Twitter Polls, the ability to do a flash survey, have been integrated with Tweets for some time. Here are the best practices. Here’s an example of how AskACurator used polls.  Twitter polls are limited to four answer options and have a lifespan of a week.

Twitter Lists:   Twitter lists are really useful for tracking trends in a specific area. I use them everyday for content curation, but there are many other ways to use lists.

To make your nonprofit’s use of Twitter productive, there are many tools out there to help you manage followers, measure your results, schedule, and more. The best list is from Buffer, The Big List of Twitter Tools.

Let’s see what happens to the platform in 2018. Maybe there will be more options for light engagement rather than “Love”?

Is your organization making the best of use of Twitter in 2018? Have a story, example, or tip to share?  Let me know in the comments.


3 New Year’s Rituals for Nonprofit Professionals To Begin 2018 with Clarity

I wish you a very happy and healthy 2018!  I used my holiday break as an opportunity for a brief digital detox and time for family, travel and fun.

During the first week of January , I use the quiet time for three New Year’s rituals that help me prepare for the year ahead and identify professional growth areas.  I’ve used these rituals for over a decade and found them helpful.

1) Review the Year: For as long as I can remember, I have kept an annual professional journal, using a variation of bullet journal technique. I call it my “To Do, To Done, Don’t Do, Reflection List.”  I use it for planning and goal setting as well as to reflect along the way. I also use it as a year in review tool.  In early January, I read through the journal and think about accomplishments:What gave me a sense of purpose and feeling of personal and professional fulfillment? This year I used a new tool recommended by colleague Alexandra Samuel, the “Year Compass, a free downloadable booklet that provides a set of structured reflection questions.

2) Identify “My Three Themes”: I do a combination of Peter Bregman’s  theme for the year, and Chris Brogan’s “My Three Words.”  Chris Brogan’s ritual suggests selecting three words, but I modify it by articulating key themes.  These help guide my professional learning and improvement and maintaining good habits. When you have worked in a field a long time (for me it has been over 3 decades), you have to keep an open mind about remembering and reflecting on what you have heard before — looking at as if it was new. I’ve used Chris Brogan’s technique for over a decade and found it very helpful in keeping me focused. My colleague, Wendy Harman, was also inspired by Chris Brogan’s technique, but she takes it deeper and includes daily reflection questions.

3) Start A New Journal: I use a large Moleskine (8 x 11.5) for my journal or my “To Do, To Done, Don’t Do, Reflection List.”  I create a few pages in the beginning to write about my themes, what makes me happy, what to improve, and major projects for the year.  I also include my list of work/life habits that I want to maintain or modify.

Each month I create the task list organized with different color codes for different types of work/life.  The work related tasks also correspond with color codes on my google calendar and my hard drive/google drive files.  I also write a monthly reflection looking at my themes and habits as well as what I accomplished and what could be improved. I use weekly reviews and look-ahead rituals as well as the 18-Minutes A Day Reflection Technique. There are lot of productivity journals out there, for example, “Best Self” and I have reviewed those for inspiration for different checklists, formats, and questions to ask regularly.

Year in Review

Here’s what I learned from looking over my 2017 professional journal:

  • The Happy Healthy Nonprofit:   In 2016, I published “The Happy Healthy Nonprofit: Strategies for Impact without Burnout,” with co-author Aliza Sherman.   The book was well received and was #1 on Amazon’s Nonprofit Books many times.   In early 2017, we completed a two week book tour. I continued an active schedule of teaching workshops on self-care for nonprofit professionals and creating a culture of well being in the nonprofit workplace as well as numerous keynote presentations.
  • Emerging Leaders Playbook: With the generous support of the Packard Foundation and in collaboration with Third Plateau Social Impact Strategies,  we launched the Playbook Web Site that offers grab and go leadership development and culture change activities for nonprofit and emerging leaders. I also facilitated a number of nonprofit staff workshops building on the curriculum.
  • Training:  Workshops, Master Classes and Conference Keynotes: I presented over 80 keynotes, panel sessions, webinars, guest lectures, informal talks, and workshops for nonprofits and foundations in the area of networked leadership, leveraging professional networks in service of mission, digital strategy, crowdfunding, virtual meeting facilitation, leadership development based on the emerging leaders playbook, self-care and creating a culture of well being, training trainers and facilitators, and other topics. This past year was my 4th year as an adjunct professor at Middlebury College.
  • Writing and Blogging: I’ve kept an active publishing schedule for Beth’s Blog, something that I’ve done since 2003!   I wrote guest posts for many nonprofit publications, including the Stanford Innovation Review, Asian NGO, NPEngage, Guidestar, Giving Compass and others.

A great deal of my training work is done face-to-face. I know that might seem old fashioned, but being a trainer and facilitator and in the room with social change leaders is what inspires and energizes me. I almost made it to the 1000K level for United, in part, due to six International trips, including teaching a master class, workshop, and participatory session at the IFC-Asia in Bangkok,  teaching master classes in Brasil and Amsterdam, and spending a week in Finland as a guest of the State Department and US Embassy in Finland working with a wide range of NGOs and social change leaders.

I also had a glorious week-long experience working along side the co-founders of Wake on the Tech2Empower program in Guatemala. I facilitated workshops with volunteers from Bay Area technology companies and we worked with more 50 women’s rights organizations in the region.

Not only did I design and deliver workshops and master classes for capacity building organizations for a range of nonprofits, but I also expanded my practice to internal workshops for nonprofits and foundations on a variety of topics, including workshops on creating the ideal work culture. I also did a far amount of virtual training, including developing a new workshop on virtual facilitation and I also launched a series of micro-learning courses with Nonprofit Ready on personal productivity and organization culture topics.

In December, I was honored to do a Facebook Live broadcast from Facebook Headquarters in London with Lightful CEO Vinay Nair. And in October, I welcomed Emily Goodstein and Saleforce Foundation into my kitchen for a Facebook Live about Giving Tuesday.

And, of course, I continue working on a number of volunteer projects, including serving as a board member to NTEN and LLC and as an adviser to the volunteer facilitators for The Nonprofit Happy Hour and Giving Tuesday and serve on the advisory committee for IFC-Asia and Nonprofit Ready.

In order to accomplish as much as possible, I have lived many of the ideas around self-care that in our book, The Happy Healthy Nonprofit.  As part of my quest to incorporate movement as work, according to my Fitbit dashboard, I have walked more than 5 million steps this year and that has helped me accomplish everything above!

My Three Themes: 

Reflection: Reflection is about deep thinking that leads to continuous improvement. It requires carving out time to think, dream, celebrate, give gratitude, and build upon your life and work. It helps you find purpose in life and success in your professional work. Reflection helps energize me and helps me focus. The bulk of my professional work is training and teaching and that requires reflection to remember and document your instructional processes and techniques so you can also train other trainers.

Well Being:  This relates to all the curriculum, writing, and teaching I do around The Happy Healthy Nonprofit and Leadership Development. Well Being is about self, others, and organizational culture. This goes beyond wellness in the workplace, but embraces how people do their work together that is sustainable. I’m also continuing to focus on technology wellness, not only for individuals but in the nonprofit workplace.

Digital Transformation: Digital transformation is about how nonprofits organizations and the way they work is transformed by technology. It isn’t just about the tools, but about how people need to work and think differently. I continue to be interested in teaching “networked leadership skills” which focused on how to use online networks and social media in service of your career, professional learning, or organizational goals. But digital transformation needs a robust digital strategy that understands how new emerging digital technologies will impact the nonprofits mission and the people served and staff. Digital transformation also impacts training and teaching delivery as well as internal collaboration for staff.

When I look back on 2017, it was a very rich and productive year.     And, I expect no less in 2018.  What about you?  What will you accomplish in 2018?


Holiday Vacation Exit Strategy: How To Take A Break

The holidays are almost here.  It should be a time where nonprofits and their hard working employees welcome some much needed downtime. Vu Lee in a recent guest post on the Guidestar blog has issued a call to inaction suggesting that nonprofits should give the week off to staff.

He offers some good reasons why:  making up for working long hours all year; compensate for low pay; improve morale; and boost individuals’ resilience and productivity.  He also acknowledges that there are other considerations such those organizations that provide direct services and being a busy time of year for fundraisers.

Joan Garry also talks about the importance of time off for hard working nonprofit staff or else it is the express train to burnout.

In the Happy Healthy Nonprofit: Strategies for Impact without Burnout, Aliza Sherman and I did a deep dive into the research literature about the proven links between vacation time, employee resilience and productivity, and how it contributes to the organization’s goals.  Yet according to recent studies, only 23% take all their vacation and 66% work while on vacation.

The Project Time Off is leading a national movement to transform American attitudes and change behavior. They hope to shift culture so that taking time off is understood as essential to personal wellbeing, professional success, business performance, and economic expansion.  You will find useful research, resources, and other information to help you make the case for taking your vacation time.

One reason that people don’t take their vacations is that they are afraid they will miss too much work and get too far behind.  Others fear they will have millions of emails piling up and find themselves compulsively reading and responding to email during a holiday break, ironically to reduce stress.

It is time for a shift in perspective.   Tell yourself that taking a vacation is healthy and that you’ll return to work more creative, energized, and resilient. And, it is important to not to be online reading your emails while your taking a break.  Here are some tips for unplugging from work during the holidays:


  • Close the Office: As Vu Le suggests and if it is possible for your nonprofit to do, closing the office during the holidays and encouraging folks to fully log off is the best approach.
  • Prep Your Individual Getaway: Before your holiday break, let other people know you are leaving. Some people put on a pre-vacation bounce message.  Make sure you remind people to get their requests to you a few days before the office closes to the holiday so you can get back to them or get that task done.
  • Bounce Message:  Put a bounce message on your email letting people know that you are out and won’t get back to them immediately.  While it might be tempting to add a humorous bounce message, some people may include a phone number if there is an urgent situation. Add a few days to your bounce message, so when you come back, you won’t feel obligated to respond to everything at once.


  • Resist the Urge To Check Email: It is easier to say than do, especially if you are addicted to your email and mobile phone. One option might be to remove your work email entirely, or put all work apps on the last screen buried in a folder. At least your thumbs will have to do a walk of shame before taping your email app.
  • If you must read email: Try not to respond, just read and focus on deleting and clearing out. More tips here.


  • Re-entry Day: When I go on a break, I try to give myself a full day back home before going back to work. I use that day to do laundry and clean up my email. Here are some tips about coming back from break without more stress than before you left. Luckily, early January tends to be slow for most nonprofits and you might return from your holiday with some time to get organized for next year.

In the spirit of taking a break, I’m going off line for the holidays and will see you in 2018.  What are you doing for a holiday break?  What are you tips for unplugging during a break?

Do Capacity Building Programs Help Nonprofits Achieve Better Results?

Note from Beth:My long-time colleague, Teresa Crawford, Executive Director, Social Sector Accelerator, shares some thoughts about nonprofit capacity building programs based on extensive research.  Her answer to the question about capacity building programs leading to better impact will surprise you.

If you know me or have worked with me before you know I like to plan. It is so part of my personality that even on vacation my kids wake up in the morning and ask what’s the plan for the day. So, imagine how I must have felt two years ago when I became the Executive Director of the Social Sector Accelerator. All the planning was ahead of me to deliver on our mission to increase investment in the social sector, improve partnerships – particularly between local actors and their supporters – and provide support for strong, resilient and impactful nonprofits.

In addition to the countless lunches, coffees, roundtables, focus groups and other opportunities for feedback and discussion I engaged in I also dug into the evidence on the impacts of capacity building on organizations. I dug into the link between the wider theories of capacity development and building strong, resilient nonprofit organizations capable of achieving impact in their communities and on the issues they tackle every day. Answering these two questions is important to us at the Accelerator. We believe that any measurement of the impact of investment in strong organizations should ultimately come back to demonstrating the additional impact organizations are able to achieve after receiving this kind of support.

In all our research, we found 3 challenges to making sense of the evidence:

  1. Capacity Building Divorced from Results

Last year we worked with a team from IO Sustainability to look at what the literature had to say about linking organizational strengthening to mission impact. Of the 50 studies we reviewed just one started with the question – “What skills, capacities are needed to help us achieve our mission? How will we build those skills and capabilities” The rest of the studies we reviewed made the assumption that stronger organizations lead to increased impact. But this was left as an unexamined assumption.

The results of this dive into the literature left me feeling very dissatisfied. Why do we do what we do if not to make people’s lives better, their communities safer or increase access to quality education? If organizations are focused on those types of measurable results then why aren’t investments in organizations focused on helping groups achieve the durable results they define?

  1. The Forgotten Roots of Capacity Development in the Movement for Ownership and Empowerment

Besides diving into the literature on evidence of impact we also spent time reviewing our own approaches for supporting leaders, organizations and networks. Our practice emerged (and it truly emerged – our parent organization Counterpart International developed its theory of change after over 50 years of working in communities around the world) and was grounded in community led development. When we focused our attention on supporting organizations and networks we built an approach that emphasized their ownership and leadership of the process.  Our role was to coach, support, mentor where necessary – but never to lead.

Much of the current language and practice around capacity development seems to have forgotten the roots of the capacity development movement of the 1980s.  Capacity development as a practice emerged from the dissatisfaction with externally led, paternalistic, technocratic support offered by donors and Western nations. The lack of results achieved through an expert led model led to the emergence of a new way of working where leadership of change and the definition of results was in the hands of the countries and organizations doing the work.

While some of the existing programs, tools and approaches still prioritize experts and prioritize investments in groups disconnected from the communities they serve, I was heartened by the discussion taking place around Kathy Enright’s blog post on redefining effectiveness and the comments from Vu Le in his post. Who is defining results anyway?

“The ability to assess and achieve results does not mean that an organization is inherently effective – especially if program models and theories of change are rooted in false narratives about the causes of inequity, or if the results are not those most desired by the people and communities being served.” – We Need a New Definition of Effectiveness – Kathy Enright – GEO Funders

Investments in organizational strengthening have to begin with an organization led formulation of the results they are seeking in their programs and related to their mission.

  1. Tools, Tools, and more Tools

When social change issues are complex, we can sometimes default to creating a set of tools to make sense of them. We are not the only sector that falls into that trap. One set of resources that I didn’t find lacking was the plethora of tools available to organizations and foundations who want to improve the way they function. Thanks to the Hewlett Foundation team and their colleagues at Informing Change for putting together an amazing list of all the tools they could find.

While we may be swimming in tools there are several significant gaps –

  1. Overall the tools were weak on measuring commitment and practice related to diversity, equity and inclusion.
  2. Most had weak measures of accountability especially towards clients, beneficiaries and community.
  3. Few were accompanied by a strong statement about commitment to process that prioritizes ownership and empowerment.
  4. Most, besides the great Leap of Reason Performance Imperative tool, had weak links between organizational strength and results measurement.

The old adage remains true – we measure what we care about.

As a result of our research, discussions, experimentation and after spending two years with our own programs and their data and the programs and data of colleagues in the Grantmakers for Effective Organizations community we’ve come full circle on the discussion of organizational strengthening.

We believe that properly supported capacity development is itself important because it places local organizations at the center of the solution. We think this makes for greater impact, but more importantly believe it is the right thing to do.”

We are convinced of the importance of inclusive and participatory design and planning of organizational strengthening interventions. A successful intervention must demonstrate that stronger organizations can achieve greater impact. Its only by clearly defining and focusing on a shared understanding of results that we can have any hope of learning what does and does not work in our quest to build strong nonprofits.

I am happy to say that after two years we, at the Accelerator, have a much stronger plan. We are coaching foundations to adopt a capacity building mindset and provide more relevant support to their grantee partners. In February 2018, we are hosting our first Organizational Strengthening Design Workshop. We will be building on the concepts laid out above to help foundation leaders build a useful and impactful program. We are building a cohort of peers leading programs in their foundations to reenergize people around building strong, resilient and impactful organizations in the social sector.

Teresa Crawford is the Executive Director of the Social Sector Accelerator. 

Facebook Live-A-Thon for @ASPCA Raises Over $50,000 on Giving Tuesday

Last week, nonprofits in 42 countries celebrated the sixth Giving Tuesday,a global movement to inspire giving. According to the Giving Tuesday report, $275 million was raised in addition the countless hours of volunteer time and in-kind contributions.

Giving Tuesday is more than just a day of fundraising or to launch a nonprofit’s year-end fundraising campaign. The big outcome is to increase generosity overall.  The Giving Tuesday movement is making that happen with many partners, powered with learning, collaboration, and spreading practices.

The Giving Tuesday infographic offers an analysis issues discussed during Giving Tuesday.  Included in the top five is the environment and animals.  The ASPCA (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals), an animal welfare organization in North America, was one of the nonprofits that participated in Giving Tuesday.

The ASPCA, designed and implemented a virtual fundraiser using Facebook Live  or Facebook-Live-A-Thon to help raise awareness and funds to support animals. The event “ASPCAGivingHope” shared hourly live videos that took you behind the scenes of the organization’s work, showcased adoptable animalssupporters, celebrities (human and animal), and clever segments like a “SlumPURR Party” about fostering cats.

They promoted the event using both paid and organic social media. In addition, shared information on their blog and website as well as including it in their weekly email newsletter to more than 2 million subscribers.

They also promoted the event via their mobile app, the ASPCA Pet Safety App. Celebrities participated in the event, including actress Edie Falco, Mother of Dogs founder Allie Rizzo, pet influencers Chloe Kardoggian and Mervin the Chihuahua, and Animal Planet’s Travis Brorsen, Dan Schachner, and Jill Rappaport joined the event. These influencers also shared the event on their own social media channels, expanding the reach.

To leverage post event attention, they created a video highlight reel to pitch media for additional coverage.

Staff member Bhavana Lalwani shared in an email interview that the organization has been testing the Facebook Live Platform for shorter events that included the donate button and got some traction. They wanted to try something bigger for Giving Tuesday.

The Facebook Live-A-Thon took two months of planning and coordinating logistics for the segments as well as creating compelling content. The set design was mostly handcrafted and featured various themes such as the NYC landscape, a football stadium, and a holiday backdrop. They had a strong wifi connection and used an iPhone on a tripod to broadcast the event.

They exceeded their goal of $25,000 and received a matching gift from corporate sponsor, Subaru.

Bhavana Lalwani, Social Media Assistant, notes that Facebook Live was a really useful fundraising tool “because it is a great way to cut through the normal chatter on people’s news feeds.”

Did your organization try something new for Giving Tuesday? Has your organization used Facebook Live for a fundraiser or other purpose?

Happy Giving Tuesday: How Board Members Participate

Before I take you behind the scenes of our NTEN board fundraiser for Giving Tuesday, let me ask you to consider to a donation of any size to support NTEN and the Nonprofit Technology Conference Scholarship campaign. NTEN believes that finances should not be a barrier for small organizations to be able to access the resources and connections that the Nonprofit Technology Conference offers, so every year they offer scholarships to those who might not otherwise be able to attend.

The photo above is from last year’s NTC. Can you spot me? I’m the fourth one from the right.  I’m standing on the stage with my fellow board members. We were introduced to the crowd of over 2,000 nonprofit professionals gathered at the conference to network, learn, teach, and well, party too.

What you may not see are the many nonprofit techies who can’t participate because they work for small nonprofits with small budgets that could not handle the cost of travel and registration. Many of the professionals are working on important programs and services, often working for and with disadvantaged communities. A donation to the NTC scholarship fund will help professionals make it to the 2018 Nonprofit Technology in New Orleans.

The NTEN Board Giving Tuesday Campaign

I’ve been on the board over a year and currently chair the Evaluation Committee. I enjoy the experience because my fellow board members are all experienced, smart,and respected professionals in the nonprofit tech field. Our meetings are always a great learning experience and thanks to the leadership of our chair, Farra Trompeter, the meetings are always productive.

The governance committee has done exceptional work and gone much deeper than the typical tasks of by-law wordsmithing or brainstorming lists of potential board members. They have designed and implemented a good on-boarding experience for new members, helped codify and define board roles and tasks, and we even have do an annual assessment of our performance that gives us specific metrics on how we’re doing as a board.

About a year ago, we went through a discussion and process to determined our “Triple A” commitment as a board.  This is based on the book by Kay Sprinkel Grace. The A’s stand for:  Ambassador, Advocate, and Asker.  All board members made a concrete commitment to specific actions that fell into those three areas.  This, of course, included our own donations as well as participating in a crowdfunding campaign for the Scholarship Fund.

Even though none of us on the board are millionaires, we still formalized our giving amounts (which include amount raised) to the organization. And while the amount we raise as a group is a relatively small amount compared to other income sources, it demonstrates our commitment to the organization.

As a board, we launched our campaign, today, on GivingTuesday using the crowdfunding platform CauseVox. The platform lets us set up own landing page and reach out to our networks customizing the ask. NTEN staff pulled together the collateral materials and made it very easy for us board members to focus on raising the money and thanking our donors. Our goal is modest, $10,000 by the end of year, and as of this writing we are collectively 25% of our goal.

Source: Blackbaud

According to my colleague and former NTEN board member, Steve MacLauglin from Blackbaud, Giving Tuesday, now in its sixth year (great origin story here),  is on track to raise more this year, but the trend of donation distribution is skewing towards smaller and mid-size organizations, like NTEN.  While many nonprofits leverage the day to fundraise in many creative ways, some also use it for donor stewardship, thank you events, and in-kind donation drives. There is also a Giving Story Contest for donors to share why they give and win a cash prize for the organization of their choice.

How is your organization leveraging Giving Tuesday?  Is your board participating?


Book Review: Engine of Impact – Essentials of Strategic Leadership in the Nonprofit Sector

Last week I attended the launch of the book, Engine of Impact: Essentials of Strategic Leadership in the Nonprofit Sector by William F. Meehan III and Kim Starkey Jonker, with a Foreword by Jim Collins.  The authors identify seven leadership best practices of high performance based on their extensive experience in the nonprofit and philanthropy sector. Together these best practices form an “engine of impact” that nonprofits need to build, maintain, and hone over time to scale with results.

As a member of the Leap Ambassadors Community, a group of nonprofit leaders, funders, and practitioners who believe that performance matters, the book, the ideas and insights shared by the authors resonated.   I wasn’t surprised to receive a copy from Mario Morino, the visionary behind the Leap Ambassadors Community and author of an influential book on the topic, Leap of Reason with a note mentioning that one of the authors, Meehan, is a long-time esteemed colleague and mentor.

The book is a great read, packed with insights as well as high level frameworks and practical applications. This book should be on the holiday reading list for any nonprofit leaders and their boards (and their donors) who want their organizations to thrive and magnify impact.  These principles once applied can help organizations sustain their work because they will be able to attract and leverage funding.

Source: Engine of Impact

As the authors describe, the practice of strategic leadership is not just doing good work but also doing the work in a highly intentional and effective ways.  To explain their approach, they use the metaphor of an engine as illustrated above to break down the components of strategic leadership.  It starts with the organization’s mission or the air.  Next comes the compressor or strategy that takes the air of the mission and applies pressure to it.  In other words, creating a strategic plan.  Impact evaluation is the thrust indicators, providing measurement and evaluation of the performance.

The turbines, which generate power for the engine, are insight and courage.   The fuel for take off includes funding, talent, organization, and governance.   When the engine works well, it creates thrust or impact.  The chapters in the book unpack each of these components that can help nonprofit leaders steer their engines towards greater impact.

The book devotes a chapter to the topic of scaling – which is about how far that engine can take your nonprofit. According to the authors, scaling can be a powerful way to increase impact but for only for certain nonprofits under certain circumstances. The first step is to understand readiness to scale.  On the book site, the authors provide a diagnostic that helps nonprofits gauge that readiness based on assessing all aspects of the engine model.

I love frameworks, but sometimes they are dry and boring. Not in this book. The authors have created a “Readiness to Scale Matrix” which includes five categories, presented with engaging visual metaphors to make it memorable.  This framework was my favorite insight of the many great ideas and advice in the book.

The five categories are:

  • Scale Jail: Nonprofits that do not have a well-built engine and have little or no fuel.
  • Field of Dreams: They have a proven engine of impact but need to develop a solid plan for funding the necessary fuel to scale.
  • Small is Beautiful:   This are small nonprofits that serve a specific population really well and don’t need to scale because they are focused on serving a limited group of specific beneficiaries.   Makes me link of the “Small but Mighty” performance indicators for small nonprofits from Leap Ambassadors.
  • The Waterfall:  This is an organization with a weak engine due to a flawed theory of change and weak impact evaluation, but there is a lot of fuel because the organizational leaders excel at marketing. This is not sustainable.
  • The Promised Land:  The organizations in this category have earned the right to scale because they have a well-built, provide impact model and by finding the fuel that they need to sustain growth.

There are many more great insights in this book for nonprofit leaders. Engine of Impact should be in your essential reading stack now!


Keeping your Nonprofit Safe and Happy Online: Dealing with Harassment


Note from Beth:   Many nonprofit social media managers are also serve as online community managers, supporting communities of their nonprofit’s fans and supporters on social media channels.  Sometimes, they do encounter people online that are less than polite and cross the line over to online harassment.  Here’s some simple ways to handle these uncomfortable situations.

Keeping your Nonprofit Safe and Happy Online: Dealing with Harassment
guest post by Hannah Donald

It’s pretty well recognised that social media has become an essential tool for non-profits to reach those important to their organisation; whether that’s fundraisers, donors, volunteers or beneficiaries. In fact, 71% of non-profits agree that social media is effective for online fundraising. So the chances are your organisation already has a social media presence, and are using it in a variety of different ways to compliment your offline campaigns.

Sadly, online harassment is more prevalent that ever, with harassers using recent political events as a catalyst to target organisations helping vulnerable people. Because of this, online harassment if affecting the great work charities and nonprofits are doing, which shouldn’t be allowed to happen. Part of looking after the health and wellbeing of your organisation, including your staff, is making sure that they’re safe and happy online, and an important aspect of this is ensuring you’re dealing with online harassment in the most effective way. Although there’s no magic solution to stop online harassment, there is an easy and efficient way to deal with it that can minimise any negative effects.

In order to help charities, non-profits and social enterprises deal with unwanted abuse online Social Misfits Media have teamed up with their friends at Hollaback! to create a free, downloadable infographic. Social Misfits Media came up with the idea of putting together this guide in response to organisations that had voiced concerns over being unsure of how to handle any negativity online. Ignoring comments, or responding in an inconsistent way, could lead to further issues; this infographic is to be used in the moment, to make sure your organisation has a consistent way of dealing with online abuse, to keep your cause, and your staff, safe and happy. By sharing the infographic with your team you can be sure that you have a succinct policy in place and don’t get caught off guard by any unwanted comments.

The infographic has a simple-to-follow flowchart, which will first of all help you to understand whether a comment is online harassment, or whether it’s just a form of feedback. The flowchart will then proceed to advise you how best to deal with the comment depending on it’s nature, with outcomes ranging from acknowledging it with a reply, to taking a screenshot of it incase of escalation and then contacting the social media platform on which it was sent. The infographic advises that when you do respond to a comment you should always consider citing a source in your reply, being timely and responding as soon as possible, and keeping your tone of voice calm. Whilst these three pointers may seem simple, it can be difficult doing this when you feel angry or frustrated by someone else’s negative comments, so it’s important to keep these words of advice in mind.

For non-profits who struggle with time and resources, or who just need some help and advice around dealing with online harassment, this infographic is a handy tool to disseminate amongst your staff. Once you put the flowchart into use, you can hopefully feel in control of, and not deterred by, any negative comments you receive online, allowing you to focus on the good by reaching those who need your organisations help and support the most.

Hannah Donald is the Community Manager at Social Misfits Media, specialising in helping charities, foundations and non-profits better use social media to reach their goals. Follow Hannah and Social Misfits Media at @HannahDonald20 and @MisfitsMedia.

Fundraiser, Heal Thyself!

Note from Beth:  Last week, I had the honor of teaching a master class at the International Fundraising Congress (IFC) on avoiding burnout for fundraisers with Corinne Aartman in Amsterdam.   Richard Sved, a fundraising consultant from the UK, participated and wrote a reflection on the UK Fundraising Blog.  He graciously agreed to republish it as a guest post.

Fundraiser, Health Thyself!  Guest post by Richard Sved

Dear reader, I’ve now been awake for 20 hours, as I begin to type these words. But I’m buzzing. My first ever day of IFC has been an uplifting, motivating experience.

All round the conference hotel, there are powerful slogans stencilled into the wall in capitals, attesting to the power and importance of fundraisers and fundraising, such as “Between us we change the world”. And it’s true. I’m sure it’s why I’m feeling energised, having practically got up before I went to bed. Fundraisers achieve great things, and there was vibrancy in abundance.

But we’re all working so hard. How can we take better care of ourselves? This was the subject of the masterclass I attended today, hosted by the warm and generous Corine Aartman, and led by the inspirational Beth Kanter. Fundraiser burnout is such an important subject. Kudos to IFC for finding space to devote to it. We don’t talk about it enough.

Because it is clear that our sector is prone to chronic stress. We can be affected by the vicarious trauma of exposure to the causes we represent. We can feel our work is under appreciated – we just bring in the money. We are frequently under-resourced. Because we are driven by our passion and our values, we can become over-invested – emotionally and physically exhausted.

This afternoon, Beth guided us through much of the thinking, the learning and the practical tips contained in her book, The Happy Healthy Nonprofit.

We discussed our stress triggers (such as deadlines, lack of self-discipline, struggles with mounting in-boxes), and looked at ways of working to manage our own physical and mental self-care.

I loved the final exercise we did in which we drew up a Self-care plan checklist, separated into five sections: self, others, environment, work and money, and technology, as well as steps we can take to try and achieve these goals. My first attempt is shown here.

So, bravo to Beth and Corine. If I was worried that there’d be too much theory and not enough practice here at IFC, that’s been thoroughly debunked. I’ve already got enough practical tips to last me many years, let alone the next three days.

So, people, let’s remember that in our efforts to change the world we mustn’t neglect our own selves and those around us.

Fundraiser, heal thyself!

Richard Sved has worked and volunteered in the charity sector for over 20 years. Prior to setting up his own company, 3rd Sector Mission Control, he led the fundraising function for two national charities. He is also an NCVO consultant, and was recently interim Head of Fundraising at Epilepsy Society and Education Support Partnership. Richard’s key strengths lie in charity strategic planning, income generation and communications. He blogs regularly about the charity sector here.

Four Reasons Nonprofit Should Consider the Authentic Storytelling Method

Four Reasons Nonprofit Should Consider the Authentic Storytelling Method
Guest Post by Lewis Haidt

For many nonprofits, taking the “right” photograph or creating the “perfect” video to represent an organization’s mission and work can be an intimidating prospect. This fear-factor can be even greater for a nonprofit creating its first video.

This is why TechSoup has run a storytelling campaign for the last seven years. We believe that all nonprofits should have the capacity to create quality videos and photographs. And that’s why we offer social media events, NetSquared meet-ups, and educational trainings – all geared towards educating organizations on how to create a powerful digital story (Nonprofits can submit stories to our storytelling contest through October 31, 2017).

Here are four reasons to consider an Authentic Storytelling approach when creating your story.
Authentic Storytelling embraces “higher order” concerns such as social justice, the fate of the planet, or environmental protection as critical components. It also reflects an organization’s moral perspective, identity, values, and vision. This framework is derived from the work of Greenpeace’s Tsering Lama, who presented a webinar on Authentic Storytelling with Greenpeace: A Ten Step Process as part of our Storymakers educational offering.

1. Authentic storytelling best promotes an organization’s core mission

People work at nonprofits because they want to serve their community and the larger world. Thus, the more an organization can infuse its videos and images with the organization’s core identity, values, and vision – its ethical mandate – the greater the impact its stories will have. Every nonprofit is unique in how it wishes to impact its local community, its state, its nation, or the world. Authentic Storytelling embraces this uniqueness and zeroes in on the ethical dimension around which a story can be crafted.

The key thing is: don’t be afraid of sharing how you want to change the world. Embrace it!

2. Authentic storytelling shows why folks should care

For change to happen, we must articulate it. Authentic Storytelling imbues a story of change and transformation with the key missing ingredient: why your audience should care. Authentic Storytelling encourages you to imagine the stakes at the highest level: who will suffer if your organization fails in your mission and conversely, whose lives will flourish if you succeed. Embrace the stakes behind your mission.

3. We provide a framework

You may be thinking: “OK, maybe I’ll consider embracing the ethical component, but where should I begin?” We’re glad that you asked. Greenpeace, for the last few years, has actually paid a few lucky storytelling experts to figure out how to create an authentic story. The result is a comprehensive ten-step process that will guide you from start to finish. To begin the actual 10-step process of creating your authentic story, view Greenpeace’s Tsering Lama’s presentation, which is the basis for this blogpost.

4. Stories are everyone’s domain

Authentic storytelling is a democratic endeavor. The storytelling process allows you to uncover what is most important to you, your co-workers, and your community as you craft the story. Enlist as many people as possible – from volunteers to the office administrative assistant to the executive director – and collect five to seven examples of existing narratives around your subject area such as videos, articles, infographics, photo essays, etc. Tsering created this exercise to help.

Don’t be intimidated! Create stories with heart and passion. If you need inspiration or support, check out Storymakers 2017 contest. Then submit your photos or videos, and show us your story that imagines a better world.

Lewis Haidt (@lewisha) Senior Manager, Online Community and Social Media at TechSoup.

A New Approach for Nonprofit Professional Development: Micro-Learning

Recently, a nonprofit professional said to me, “I don’t have time to learn anything new because I have too much work to do.” Indeed, she had a calendar full of meetings, an endless to do list, and an inbox that was anything but zeroed out. Yet, we know that  learning continuously  in a complex world is critical because otherwise our skills are quickly outdated.

Enter micro-learning, resources that can be quickly read, viewed, or consumed and take only ten minutes or less. Micro-learning online courses consist of a video, an info-graphic or list of tips, and a set of instructional or assessment questions that help us think differently about the topic and find something bite size to apply immediately. Micro-learning is often self-directed, so the first important step is figuring out what you need to learn.

According to talent and development experts, micro-learning is disrupting more traditional  types of learning: a longer online course online or an in-person course workshop. Micro-learning is on demand, fast, and can be consumed anywhere, any time.

Now to be honest, as an adjunct professor and someone who has facilitated and taught workshops for over 25 years, I used to think that long, intense courses was the only way to go.  But we need different ways to learn at different points in our professional careers. Micro-learning has become more important because the way we work has dramatically changed.We work in an information jungle, spending a lot of time seeking and looking for information and we are constantly facing a deluge of information, emails, texts, and more.

But learning at work is more than toggling between longer form learning and micro-learning or using one approach versus the other. As Josh Bersin points out in this article on “The Disruption of Digital Learning: Ten Things We Have Learned,” traditional coaching, training, and culture of learning is also still needed. He points out that professionals must have time to learn and the need for discussion and reflection, and giving people space and freedom to discuss mistakes, ask questions, and often experiment with new ideas. All of this modes work together to create a distributed learning ecosystem at work.  That’s the future.

As someone who has been designing and delivering professional development, training, and coaching for nonprofits, I was curious about the best practices of creating micro-learning opportunities.  I was lucky enough to work closely with the team at NonprofitReady , a free nonprofit online learning portal where you will find hundreds of micro-learning and other online courses for nonprofit professionals. We created three micro-learning courses on avoiding burnout at work based on my new book, The Happy Healthy Nonprofit, co-authored with Aliza Sherman.

The first two are available now for free.

How To Get Started With Walking Meetings This micro-learning course teaches you how to integrate walking meetings into your organization. Walking meetings not only improve physical health, but can improve productivity, increase creativity and strengthen work relationships. The course offers practical resources on how to plan and manage a walking meeting so it can become an effective part of your working routine.

Course objectives:

  • Understand the harmful effects of prolonged sitting
  • Plan and manage walking meetings to improve personal wellness and work effectiveness

Preventing Technology Burnout:  This micro course shares the research on how the daily use of technology can result in emotional, mental, and physical burnout. It also includes a self-assessment that indicates your risk for burnout as well as practical tips for effectively managing your personal technology.

Course objectives:

  • Define and recognize personal technology burnout
  • Learn personal technology productivity tips

Check it out and let me know what you think!

The Surprising Truth About Donor Fatigue And What Nonprofits Can Do To Avoid It

Photo by Fuel Relief Fund on GlobalGiving

Note from Beth:  With the hurricanes, gun violence, and fires, I gave generously, including donations to Global Giving funds.  I surpassed my giving budget for disaster relief giving.  However, I still plan to make my year-end gifts (during Giving Tuesday), but I couldn’t help but wonder about donor fatigue and if there will be any impact on year-end campaigns. 

Alison Carlman, Director of Impact and Communications at Global Giving, offers a deep dive into some Global Giving data to find the answer. It will surprise you.

The Surprising Truth About Disaster Donor Fatigue – guest post by Alson Carlman, Global Giving

Disaster relief organizations have been working around the clock to respond to seven catastrophic disasters in the past two months. But that doesn’t mean the important, ongoing charitable work in communities suddenly becomes less urgent. As nonprofits prepare for the upcoming giving season, many fundraisers are understandably concerned about donor fatigue. Dreadful disaster stories are still making headlines; isn’t the public tired of giving?

After hearing anecdotal reports of the recent disasters receiving wildly different donation totals (like this and this and this), my team at GlobalGiving looked into data from our own crowdfunding community to determine if whether we’re seeing donor fatigue. And we have good news: our data looks different. Looking at donation totals to thousands of nonprofits around the world and covering each of six major disasters over the past two months, we’re not seeing major evidence of donor fatigue. We approached the question from several angles, and we’re not seeing the public’s giving interest or ability waning. Here’s what we saw:

1: Giving to disasters hasn’t decreased over the past two months.

There isn’t a decline over time in disaster donation totals from the past two months. Donors have given about equal amounts to Hurricane Harvey ($4.0M since Aug.) as they have to the recent hurricanes in Puerto Rico + the Caribbean ($4.6M since Sept.). Rather than seeing a decline over time, we’re seeing disaster fundraising closely correlating to media coverage of the disaster. The compassion of people to help their fellow citizens in times of crisis is truly inspiring!

2: Overall donation totals have actually increased year-over-year on GlobalGiving.
We compared overall giving in 2016 to 2017, and we’ve actually seen significantly more giving this year than last year to date. This trend is the same for both our non-disaster projects, ($5.3M YTD in 2016 compared to $9.2M in 2017) and disaster projects ($1.7M YTD in 2016 vs $10.6M in 2017).

3: Nonprofits around the world are still successful in meeting funding goals for other causes.
Our Accelerator participants have been more successful than past cohorts, despite the fact that their crowdfunding campaigns started the same time that Irma made landfall in Florida. We had more than 600 nonprofits from 88 countries working hard to meet a $5,000 goal in our quarterly Accelerator program this month. This cohort was more successful than any other group in GlobalGiving history.

4. Repeat giving rates haven’t changed.
7.2% of people who gave to one of the disasters above have given to another disaster over the last two months. This is compared with 7.3% repeat rate among our non-disaster projects during the same time this year, and 6.3% among non-disaster projects in the same period of 2016.

5.Donors aren’t demonstrating that they’re tired of our appeals.
We haven’t seen any decrease in email engagement rates (nor an increase in unsubscribes!) between our Sierra Leone Mudslides appeal in August and our Harvey, Irma, and Mexico earthquake appeals in September.

6. There may even be evidence that giving spurs more giving.
We’ve seen that donations increased to lesser-covered disasters when other similar disasters were covered by the media. For example, we saw that donations to the South Asia Floods (starting August 17) increased after Harvey Floods led the headlines in August 28-20.

What You Can Do To Prevent Donor Fatigue

Even if there’s not evidence yet of donor fatigue, we should stay vigilant about nurturing meaningful relationships with donors right now. During humanitarian crises, nonprofits depend on human empathy to raise funds quickly to help those in need. According to Caring In Crisis research, ‘hit and run’-type disaster appeals might work in the short term, but fundraising without focusing on relationships can cause collateral damage, making donors feel dehumanized, helpless, and cynical in the long term. The research suggests there are ways nonprofits can help to avoid donor fatigue. GlobalGiving and our partners have been focusing on these three strategies:

1:Keep information emotionally manageable:
The identifiable victim effect is important to remember. The story of the one named person being rescued from the rubble in Mexico is easier for donors to handle than the thought of a whole school or city in distress. Appeals that are very specific, actionable, and emotionally manageable are more effective. Even just ensuring donors that their donation will go to help people affected by a specific disaster in a specific area can go a long way.

2:Ensure proposed solutions are cognitively meaningful and morally significant to donors:
If donors can see the difference they’re making, their perspective on the whole situation changes. GlobalGiving sends very specific updates about how donations are used. This makes a donation feel less like a transaction and more like the beginning of a relationship. How do we know this works? After people read reports about how funds are used, they actually are happier with their donation. We see an increase in Net Promoter Scores—akin to satisfaction ratings—after donors read reports (compared to immediately after their donation).

3: Provide meaningful opportunities for donors give feedback:
We have pages and pages of responses to email updates that look like this:

“I can’t tell you how good it is to get an email actually updating me on the funding received overall and further, detailing where and to whom the funds are going. Thank you for making it easy for me to help you help others.”

“I know that the funds are being used by local groups on the ground, and that as the situation and needs evolve, the funds will continue to be distributed to the groups that are best equipped to meet those needs.”

Donors want to be able to ask questions and give feedback as part of the relationship with your cause.

We’ll be watching to see if these strategies will help convert some of our one-time disaster donors into more loyal repeat donors in the future, and we’ll continue to monitor to see how long-term giving trends are affected by these disasters.

The Takeaway
What’s the best approach as we all prepare for #GivingTuesday and year-end fundraising? Don’t get discouraged! Instead, stick to what we know works: tell specific, compelling, emotionally manageable stories. Provide safe and easy ways for people to engage in a way that feels significant to them. And create meaningful feedback loops with updates from the ground and opportunities for donors to share their thoughts. I’d also recommend that you don’t ignore the disasters altogether in your communications this month, but find ways to make connections around shared human values.

So take heart! Your work is important, and we believe you can harness this spirit of human kindness and generosity that’s beginning to thrive and channel it toward your earth-changing work this giving season.

Alison is the director of impact and communications at GlobalGiving.

The Perils of Fake News, Coordinated Misinformation, and Social Media Addiction

There have been many news articles recently about social media for evil: How Facebook, Twitter, Google, and even Instagram have been abused for coordinated misinformation paid social media or advertising to influence our political system. Find out what funders are doing to fight it in this upcoming Media Impact Funders webinar series.

It makes me miss the optimism from a decade ago about the rise of social media and social network platforms.  We had great hopes (and still do) about the potential for “social media for social good,” how networks, connected society, and movements can be catalyzed to solve complex social change problems, for good causes and for philanthropy.   But as one of the engineers who helped create the Facebook like button noted in this in recent Guardian article, humans develop things with the best of intentions and for them to have unintended, negative consequences.”

The article describes the great lengths that Silicon Valley insiders are going to disconnect from social media and their mobile phones. These insiders are the same engineers who designed and built different features in social media platforms that created our behavior addictions.  Makes you wonder what they know that the average user does not?

Dubbed “Brain Hacking,” this 60 Minutes  piece aired last April,sheds light on the problem from researchers.  They also interviewed a former Google product manager turned interface design ethicist, Tristan Harris, about how tech companies are intentionally creating a large scale epidemic of people getting hooked to their smartphones. (It enables the platforms to make money from advertisers who want to get that captured audiences’ attention.)

While at Google, Harris produced an extensive presentation titled “A Call to Minimize Distraction & Respect Users’ Attention.”  The presentation inspired with Ted Talk and then a popular Medium post that discusses how interface design influences people’s behaviors.

It makes it very difficult to “quit” platforms like Facebook and others, despite many people saying they would like to stop. Recently, Micah Sifry wrote this post called, I Wish I Knew How to Quit You Facebook that prompted an interesting discussion thread (ironically playing out on Facebook) with other nonprofit folks.

The lack of ethics of social media platforms is bigger than the problem of individuals ruining their ability to focus and unable to separate from their smartphones. Now that social media platforms are essentially pay to play or have been transformed in what is being called the “Advertising Economy,” our human attention is being sold to the highest bidder, whether it is to sell us products like flavored water or to influence our political views and ultimately chip away at civil society.

The Guardian article connects the dots between the rise of social media behavior addiction and the selling our attention to the potentially devastating impact upon our human relationships and  society. You might argue that it is an overly dystopian view. Or after reading the article you might feel utterly depressed and want curl up in the fetal position.

What can we do?

On an individual level, we can focus on the consumption area. We can become more intentional about not being so hooked to our social media and mobile apps and more critical consumers of information, especially before we share it. Although that is not enough.

Five years ago, Howard Rheingold wrote a book called Netsmart, that presaged the attention economy. He provides techniques to help you answer a simple question, “Does this deserve my attention?”

On a system, big picture level, check out Media Impact Funders webinar series to explore what funders can do to fight misinformation and fake news and the negative impact. Broadly speaking, the philanthropic initiatives mentioned in the post and that will be explored in the webinars seek to intervene at one of three points in the information system: on the production of politically relevant information, on its distribution, or on its consumption. A solution needs to address all three areas.

How has age of coordinated misinformation impacted your nonprofit’s ability to have impact?  How is brain hacking of social platforms impacted you personally or other nonprofit professionals?

Two Examples of Nonprofit Social Media That Will Make You Smile (and learn a best practice or two)

Recently, my social media feeds have been anxiety producing, if not downright depressing.   The parade of bad news: gun violence, hurricanes, earthquakes, nuclear war, fake news, and more. Unfortunately, if you work in digital strategy and social media, monitoring social is a daily task and as a result a bad mood has become an occupational hazard.  What to do?

Quit Facebook or other social media? Um, no (go back and read the link and conversation to find out why.) You could go on a new diet and consume news mindfully. Blogger Vu Lee, who wrote the forward to The Happy Healthy Nonprofit, offers up 9 tips for self-care, including downloading a chrome plugin that replaces 45 with photos of kittens.

Today I’m seeking out examples of how nonprofits use cute dogs, cats, or babies in their social media to feel good, but also extract a social media best practice or two so it doesn’t feel like a “waste of time.”

#1:  How To Handle Social Media Screw Ups: Be Transparent and Apologize

Anita Jackson, who is charge of social media for Momsrising, shared the above apology from NPR on its Facebook. NPR is apologizing for a miss-post or what every social media who manages an organization’s social media presences dreads – posting something on the brand’s social media account that was intended for your personal account.

NPR social media manager explained in this post recounting the mistake and the surprising reaction to it. He had originally posted about his daughter Ramona, but to be transparent, simply edited the post and apologized.

The reaction went viral. People were so hungry to read some good news. There were Ramona hashtags: #ramonaupdates#bringbackramona#ramonaforever and memes. And, of course, tons of photos of kittens and cats.  Animal welfare organizations and zoos went wild.

NPR’s Social Media Manager followed the best practice protocol for handling this type of social media screw up. He wasn’t fired, and the scores of Ramona lovers even set up a petition to give him a raise. Back in 2010, you may remember one of the first highly visible social media mistakes of posting to the brand’s account instead of your personal social media.

It was the example of the American Red Cross’s beer tweet where the social media staff posted a tweet about getting a six pack of beer to the organization’s account. The Red Cross swiftly write an apology on its blog, using humor. The response? They was a spontaneous fundraiser for the organization, raising $20K, increased number of Twitter followers, and the social media staff coined a set of best practices for this mishap.

#2:  Use Transmedia Storytelling to Share Stories That Inspires InspireAction

I’ve told a cat social media best practices story, so have to give equal air time to dogs.  Over the summer, the local humane society in Appleton, Wisconsin shared a story of one of its dogs, a chocolate lab named Hank, who was available for adoption, but had done something very wrong. The amazing story telling went viral – bringing a lot of attention and donations to the nonprofit, but also helped Hank find a forever home.

Photo Source: Rebecca Reppert-Klich

It started with a July 7 post onInstagram about Hank, a chocolate Labrador and his fuzzy purple hippo toy, and how the shelter was going to find the pair a home. So they concocted a who-done-it story in series a posts across different platforms (an excellent example of transmedia story telling) about the demise of the hippo toy, suspecting Hank, putting the fuzzy toy back together again, recuperating, an investigationgetting legal help, public support for Hankreuniting with Hank, and finally clearing Hank.  The best ending to the story was that Hank and the toy found a forever family.  And the shelter continues to post updates.

Good storytelling is a key skill for your social media team and strategy.

What some of the best examples of nonprofits using social media that make you smile or laugh outloud?


Happy Healthy Nonprofit Workplaces: How To Kick the Sit Out It

Last week, I was honored to do the keynote workshop at the Peel Leadership Center’s TimeOut Conference in Toronto, Canada. This conference is an opportunity for executive directors to build skills in resilience as part of a day-long seminar. (They gave out a special blend of tea as a Giveaway, something I have never seen before.) I was invited to teach an interactive workshop based on The Happy Healthy Nonprofit on how to link self-care with well being in the workplace.

Source: Sitkicker

Bringing Movement Into the Workshop

I’ve written about walking as work over the past few years, including walking meetings, Fitbits, standing desks, and more. And, of course, my book, The Happy Healthy Nonprofit has a lot about this topic and bringing it into the workplace.   But there is always more to learn and participants shared a few ideas worth noting:

  • Empathy or Discovery Walks: We talk a lot about the health and productivity benefits of walking meetings, but there is yet another benefit – building stronger relationships.  Empathy or discover walks are designed to build skills in relationship building across disciplines and understanding another person’s point of view. It comes from MIT’s U-Lab. You can learn more about it here.
  • Kick The Sit Out of It:  This is a healthy workplace initiative in Canada called “Sitkicker,” designed to get people standing up at work. Created by PUBLIC Inc. in partnership with the Public Health Agency of Canada, this campaign not only educates people about need to move more at work, but also includes an inexpensive cardboard standing desk that can easily set up in an office.

Trainer’s Notes:

  • Working with Graphic Recorders:   Charlotte Young, Picture Your Thoughts did graphic recording, visually note taking, for the session. Graphic recorders do some preparation for the session. They request a copy of the discussion guide or slides so they can create a visual lexicon of key concepts to use during the session. Also, it helps the graphic recorder in planning the use of their space on the paper if you can tell them how much content delivery versus discussion capture.
  • I-Commit-To:  At the end of the session, I had folks write down and complete this sentence, “I commit to x.”  This helps participants identify what to put into practice. In addition, sharing it with everyone in the room (as part of raffle), makes people accountable and also let’s them hear everyone else’s ideas. I learned this from ETR’s facilitator tips.

All in all a great experience at the Peel Leadership Centre in Toronto. Have you been to a training workshop recently?  What part of the design made it an awesome learning experience for you?

Three Ways To Help Support Hurricane Relief in Puerto Rico

It has been ten days since Hurricane Maria has devastated the Island of Puerto Rico. We have read the harrowing news reports about a lack of food, electricity, and water and people dying. We are horrified by the scale of destruction and suffering of our fellow Americans as they wait for aid to reach them. Where should be donate?

Even if you don’t have a lot of money to donate, every little bit helps.  Even if you already gave once, there is a lot of need out there, so think about giving again. And, as blogger Vu Le says, donating to organizations on the ground can be a form of self-care.

I usually take a three-prong strategy for disaster relief.  I have my go-to global organizations that do a great job at relief efforts on the ground, set up funds for long-term rebuilding, or do a terrific job of vetting local charities to support.  Then, I look for local charities on the ground, many times there is a local community foundation that is stepping up. And increasingly,I look at and try to find a reputable crowdfunding campaign from a site like GoFundMe or YouCaring, usually thought a friend or connection. I’m not alone, according to Pew Research, 22% of Americans have donated to a crowdfunding campaign.

Crowdfunding – the practice of raising small donations from a large number of donors online – raises over a billion-dollars a year, with donations going to support start ups, gadgets, nonprofits, and directly to individuals. As we watch reports of a disaster, we can give directly to people on the ground. It isn’t without its challenges, of course.

The most successful campaigns have a compelling story, but many people in need don’t necessarily have a story that fits the formula or the digital skills to set up a campaign. There is also the randomness of what catches on and gets traction.  It also raises a thorny tax question. Unlike donations to nonprofits, these are not deductible for the donor. There is the possibility of fraud, although platforms like GoFundMe and YouCaring have verified campaigns and monitor for fraud.   When I give to a crowdfunding campaign directly to an individual, I usually do it if I know someone who is connected to the fundraiser.

How do you decide which organizations to support?  This article in the New York Times provides some good advice.  The nuggets are:

  1.  Identify your values before donating –  Jacob Harold says, “Pick the issue with your heart, but pick the organization with your head.”
  2.  Decide how much research time – You can spend hours and hours researching charities or pick an organization that has done the vetting. For example, Global Giving. If you want to do the research yourself, use charity evaluation sites like GuideStar, Charity Navigator, the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance and Charity Watch.
  3. Donate cash, not goods – Sending in-kind items can actually get in the way of relief efforts.
  4. Follow up later, recovery takes a long time  – Donations typically come in right after a disaster strikes, but it is often a long road to recovery. Given the devastation on the ground in Puerto Rico, it is going to take a long time to get back to “normal,” if at all. Consider becoming a repeat donor or contribute to long-term recovery funds.

Here’s my giving strategy for Puerto Rico.

National/International Organizations:

  • Team Rubicon:  Team Rubicon provides disaster relief and uses the skills of veterans. They have a team of volunteers in Puerto Rico. 
  • Global Giving:  They fundraise on behalf of local charities on the ground and do all the research and vetting. They have a fund set up for Puerto Rico.
  • Save the Children:  I am a regular donor to Save the Children because I want to support disaster relief targeted for children and Save the Children does a great job every place in the world, including Puerto Rico.

Local Charities

  • Hispanic Federation 
    A coalition of elected officials in New York and Puerto Rico joined the Hispanic Federation, a Latino nonprofit, to launch this relief fund for Puerto Ricans affected by Maria. Proceeds will go to community and civic organizations in Puerto Rico. Lin-Manuel Miranda, the guy that wrote Hamilton and is from Puerto Rico, writes this testimony about you should donate to this fund.  (This link goes to MoveOn because they are covering the transaction fees)


  • GoFundMe has created a special landing page with all the crowdfunding campaigns in support of Puerto Rico

These are my personal picks, but the New York Times has published this larger list of charities.  What’s your donation strategy when it comes to donating to disaster relief efforts?