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We want to thank the many AJFCA and IAJVS agencies that participated in the JFNA public policy survey. As you are likely aware, JFNA's annual public policy survey helps to create JFNA's yearly public policy priorities, which dictate the issues and direction on which JFNA advocates. Agencies' participation in this year's survey will ensure that the priorities of human service providers continue to be included in JFNA's policy agenda. 

To view the AJFCA/IAJVS specific results of the survey, please click here. If you have any questions regarding the survey, how the results were calculated, or our public policy advocacy, do not hesitate to contact Liz Leibowitz. We look forward to working with you in 2017 to advance these priorities. 

The steering committee is excited to announce that the NJHSA "Launch" Conference will take place in Chicago at the end of April 2018. There will be much more information to follow, and we will need lots of help planning this conference, so stay tuned for more information. Thanks to Paula Goldstein, CEO of Jewish Family and Children's Service in Philadelphia, for chairing the Launch Conference Committee and to Howard Sitron, CEO of Jewish Child and Family Services and JVS in Chicago, for hosting.
In a similar vein, NJHSA will be hosting a meeting October 28-30, 2017, for Agency Executives, at the Arizona Biltmore. This will be the first formal time for all 140+ Executives to gather. While there will be serious networking for all, there will also, of course, be compelling content. Stay tuned for more on this.

Last, many AJFCA Executives, who are on Facebook, have enjoyed the AJFCA Member Agency Executives (closed) FB page. Execs post questions or thoughts for others to see and respond to.  (The latest was, "I just had an interesting call with a colleague who is doing very forward thinking strategizing and coalition building and supporting around the issue of what is next vis a vis a change in the executive administration. His good point/question is where is NJHSA on this. My agency has barely done anything. Have others done things to gather people, reassure, assess, etc.?".) This has been a quick and easy way to communicate and share resources and ideas and concerns to further our work and network. This now is an NJHSA Member Agency Executives (closed) FB page. If you're on Facebook and want to be part of this group, click here and request to "Join Group." And then...use it!

In late June, JFNA issued an action alert to encourage community action in support of the IDEA Full Funding Act (H.R. 551). This bipartisan bill, which AJFCA also supports, would ensure that the federal government fulfills the promise it made to cover 40% of the cost of educating students with disabilities when it passed the IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) in 1975. To date, this promise has never been fulfilled. Click here to learn more about the legislation and how you can encourage your member of Congress to support it.


Crowdfunding is a popular and easy way for supporters around the world to help people in need. Nonprofits and donors need to be aware of the rules of the road-and the potential potholes-when designing and participating in crowdfunding campaigns. Continue reading here.

Understanding Crowdfunding after a Tragedy, June 28, 2016, Nonprofit Quarterly, by Michele Berger & Gene Takagi

Join the Jewish Federations of Canada for an exciting opportunity for professionals and lay leaders to collaborate with colleagues and peers from across Canada on topics relevant to those invested in improving the lives of seniors. Learn more here.


The Executive Leadership Certificate Program (ELCP) - through a unique partnership between the National Human Services Assembly (NHSA), the Lodestar Center for Philanthropy and Innovation at Arizona State University, and the School of Public and Environmental Affairs Executive Education at Indiana University-provides the foundation of knowledge a new or potential CEO needs to hit the ground running. It does so in a peer learning environment with an efficient combination of in-person and online sessions to accommodate working professionals. The expertise of the two universities, coupled with the peer cohort, makes the program uniquely valuable for new and promising leaders in the sector. Learn more here.

International Women's Day, March 8th is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity. International Women's Day (IWD) has been observed since in the early 1900's - a time of great expansion and turbulence in the industrialized world that saw booming population growth and the rise of radical ideologies. 

Imagine a world in which high performing, high potential university graduates are recruited to work in Jewish communal institutions with the same attractive and compelling packages offered to their classmates going into finance or law or corporate work. Continue reading here. 

Compensation and the Jewish Question, February 9, 2016, eJP, by Dr. Hal M. Lewis

Good management habits are the foundation of great leadership. They grow at the intersection of knowledge, skills and desire. Leaders are passionate about acquiring the knowledge available and marshaling the skills needed to get the job done right. Read the entire article here.

Good Management Habits are the Foundation of Great Leadership, January 29, 2016, SmartBlog, by Bobbie Goheen

Each year the Jewish Federations of North America, a network of Jewish nonprofits across the United States and Canada, raises more than $900 million, much of it from women. The Federations established the Lions of Judah, a key component of its women's philanthropy program, 45 years ago. Today's Lions contribute at any of nine different giving levels ranging from $5,000 to $250,000. The nonprofit offers a variety of other programs to attract female donors at lower levels as well. Learn more here.

How One Charity Engages Women Through Events, December 2, 2015, Chronicle of Philanthropy, by Margie Fleming Glennon

Infographics are all the rage these days, and not just because they're pretty. The popularity of infographics reflects some core truths that nonprofit communicators know well:

  • Your supporters want information that's easy to understand
  • People are bombarded by messages, and there's limited time to grab and keep their attention
  • Humans process visuals much easier and faster than text
  • Images and graphics are more memorable than words

Learn more here. 

Your Plan at a Glance: Visual Communications for Strategic Planning, November 18, 2015, NTEN, by Mark Miller

If you haven't yet nailed down your #GivingTuesday plan, you might feel like it's too late to have a successful campaign. Even if you have a campaign plan in place, you might feel a little stressed that #GivingTuesday is only 2 weeks away. Ok, maybe a lot stressed. Read more here.

Last-Minute #GivingTuesday Tips & Help, November 16, 2015, Network for Good, by Caryn Stein

Are you still trying to decide whether your organization should dive into a #GivingTuesday campaign? Each organization is unique, and you need to be realistic about your resources and your donors, but don't let the idea of doing two campaigns in one month scare you away. We've seen that organizations who kick off the year-end giving season with a #GivingTuesday campaign raise more overall in December than organizations who focus on the last-minute push alone. So, having a successful #GivingTuesday as well as a year-end push can be done. (Even by organizations with a small staff or a small list.) Learn more here.

#GivingTuesday and Year-End Fundraising: How to Do Both, September 22, 2015, The Nonprofit Marketing Blog, by Caryn Stein

Medicare Open Enrollment is October 15th  - December 7th. A patient's health needs change from year to year and their health plans may change benefits and costs each year too. That's why it's important for all Medicare beneficiaries to evaluate their coverage choices each fall. Encourage your patients to compare their current plan to new options so that they can see if they can lower their costs or find a plan that better suits their needs. Open Enrollment is the one time of year when ALL Medicare beneficiaries can see what new benefits options Medicare has to offer and make changes to their coverage. Learn more here.


Laverne Cox in Orange is the New Black, Caitlyn Jenner in Vanity Fair magazine, British boxing legend Kellie Maloney on tabloid covers - the "T" word has certainly found its way into mainstream media. Big time. Read the entire article here.

Trans is the New Gay: Acknowledging the "T" in LGBT, October 15, 2015, eJP, by Surat-Shaan Knan 

September was a record-setting month for charitable donations in response to the Syrian refugee crisis, according to officials at several aid organizations, the result of heavy media coverage. Still, the scale of the Syrian conflict and others, which have created a record 60-million displaced persons worldwide, coupled with years of donor silence, means resources are insufficient. Learn more here.

September a Record-Setting Month for Donations for Refugee Crisis, October 8, 2015, Chronicle of Philanthropy, by Megan O'Neil

On Tuesday, October 27th, AJFCA brought together professional and lay leaders from across the country for the 2015 AJFCA Advocacy Day in Washington, DC. The day started with policy briefings from JFNA, MAZON, and HIAS, followed by a meeting with White House officials from the Offices of Public Engagement and Management and Budget, as well as the Domestic Policy Council and U.S. Department of Agriculture. Attendees enjoyed lunch in the U.S. Capitol,

where they met with Members of the Senate and House of Representatives. Visits to Members' offices were held throughout the afternoon so our agencies could discuss policies impacting their work. Attendees advocated for the reauthorization of the Older Americans Act, protecting social services from sequestration by passing a long-term budget deal, and protecting Social Security Disability Insurance. With news of the proposed budget deal on the table just the previous night, it was an exciting time to speak with Administration policy experts and Members of Congress about the policies that have impact on the AJFCA network. Read the AJFCA policy briefings here and view AJFCA's Facebook page to see pictures from Advocacy Day.

It is with great excitement that we are announcing the award by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services of the grant for support of services to Holocaust survivors. This almost $2.5 million grant also requires almost $1.6 million in matching funds, bringing the total value of the grant to $4M. The grant is renewable for four more years, pending availability of funds. The grant has been awarded to the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) in partnership with AJFCA and other Jewish communal organizations. Ninety per cent of these funds will be available in sub-grants for local communities and agencies to provide person-center, trauma-informed services to Holocaust survivors. Learn more here.


More than 20 Holocaust survivors from the New York City area were among a group of nearly 100 people in need receiving hearing aids Wednesday at an event at Yankee Stadium. The Starkey Hearing Foundation is providing the customized, digital hearing devices with backing from the New York Yankees, the Minnesota Vikings, the Wilf Family Foundations and the Jewish Federations of North America. Read the entire article here.

Yankees, Vikings Help Holocaust Survivors Receive Hearing Aids, September 29, 2015, USA Today, by Tom Pelissero


Marking the 2nd anniversary of the release of the 2013 Pew Research Center's Portrait of Jewish Americans, a highly diverse group of thought leaders from all around the United States has framed a "Statement on Jewish Vitality," advocating strategic responses to respond to the challenges to the Jewish future. American Jewry now stands at a crossroads. Our choices are stark: we either accept as inevitable the declining numbers of engaged Jews, or we work to expand the community and improve the quality of Jewish life going forward. Learn more here.

Strategic Directions for Jewish Life:  A Call to Action, October 1, 2015, eJP


AJFCA sees each Member Agency as a Thought Leader. You are the informed opinion leaders and the go-to people in our fields of expertise. You are trusted sources who move and inspire people with innovative ideas. You turn ideas into reality, and know and show how to replicate your success.

During the month of September AJFCA will share your reflections with the network as we work together to raise awareness surrounding National Recovery and Hunger Awareness months. Click here to view AJFCA's archives to learn more about National Recovery and Hunger Awareness months from the AJFCA Network.

If your agency has a piece to share with the network please email Megan.

The National Human Services Assembly (National Assembly) submitted public comments on the Department of Labor's (DOL) proposed rule to update the exemptions to the overtime pay requirement under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). As you may know, the proposed rule, published on July 6, 2015, would increase the minimum salary threshold to approximately $50,000, below which employers would be required to pay the overtime wage rate for work in excess of forty hours per work week. Learn more here.

Update: The National Assembly Submits Comments to the Department of Labor on Overtime Pay Requirements, September 9, 2015, NHSA

The National Resource Center for Supported Decision Making, operated by Quality Trust, an ACL grantee, is expanding its library of supported decision-making resources. Supported decision-making empowers older adults and people with disabilities by ensuring that they are the ultimate decision-makers in their  lives. In addition, the model is flexible enough to allow people to receive support from others in some areas of their lives, while still maintaining overall self-determination and control.

Supported decision-making tools can include durable powers-of-attorney, advance directives, health care proxies, representative payee regimes, direct bank deposit systems, and peer support programs. Please submit materials to Shirley Bondon, Quality Trust's Health and Aging Policy Fellow.

Quick-when was the last time you thought twice about a ramp outside a public building? How about a wheelchair-accessible bathroom? Do you even blink when you see a closed-captioning enabled TV? Most of these things are so common today that we barely remember how much has changed in the past 25 years. Read the rest of this op-ed on the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act written by William Daroff, JFNA's Senior Vice President for Public Policy and Director of the Washington Office here.

ADA Disabilities Law: A Dream Worth Celebrating, But Not Fully Realized, August 5, 2015 the algemeiner, by William Daroff

The new reforms proposed by the U.S. Department of Labor concerning overtime are meant to address issues for all employers-but nonprofits have to remember that they too are affected, and they ought to be prepared to weigh in or adjust. The new proposed DOL regulations expand overtime protections by doubling the minimum salary of white collar workers before they would be considered exempt from being paid time-and-a-half wages for working in excess of 40 hours, raising the minimum from $23,660 (or $455 a week) to $50,400 ($970 a week).

The Debate over Reforming Overtime Regulations, July 29, 2015, Nonprofit Quarterly, by Rick Cohen


This month has been a whirlwind of exciting activity and announcements for the Administration on Aging and the Administration for Community Living as a whole.  We celebrated the 50th anniversaries of the Older Americans Act and Medicare and Medicaid and the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which together with Social Security (which will celebrate its 80th anniversary in August), help enable older adults to live their later years in the homes and communities they choose.

This month, we also celebrated the 40th anniversary of the Area Agency on Aging network at the annual conference of the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging.  And, of course, July included the sixth White House Conference on Aging, which brought together an unprecedented number of older adults, aging advocates, state and federal partners, community organizations, foundations, and private companies to address the needs of seniors and their families today and into the future.  The conference, along with the Healthy Aging Summit earlier this week, also gave us the chance to share updates on a number of programs with our partners in the aging network. Learn more here.

Recap: WHCOA, Healthy Aging Summit, July 31, 2015, Administration for Community Living


On August 14th, the Social Security Administration will celebrate 80 years of service to the public. As part of Social Security's 80th anniversary celebration, faith-based organizations are invited to participate in the SSA's Faith Week of Action, August 2nd-8th. This week will highlight America's most successful poverty prevention program and encourage the public to take advantage of Social Security's financial planning tools, including the online my Social Security. During this week agencies can host an event, share information about Social Security with their communities, and encourage clients to sign up for my Social Security.  See the toolkit here to get started.

The 2015 White House Conference on Aging will be held on July 13th. The conference will bring together government officials, members of the public, caregivers, older Americans, business leaders, and community leaders to discuss a vision for aging in the next decade. Click here to learn more.

I believe it is every stakeholder's (including employees and members) responsibility to provide financially for the success of their organization. I also believe that there are many different ways to financially support your organization. One opportunity ... would be to bring the financial/business issues out of the back room. Read more here.

The Importance of an Open-Book Policy, June 26, 2015, eJP, by Yoram Samets

The word "training" is often synonymous with "professional development." While a training session can be quite useful for a professional, learning is by far the more enriching experience. Learn more here.

Training vs. Learning: A Different Conception of Professional Development, June 29, 2015, eJP, by Abigail Dauber Sterne

In 1965, President Johnson signed legislation to establish Medicare for the elderly and Medicaid for low-income adults, children, pregnant women, and people with disabilities. Since then, these programs have transformed the delivery of health care in the United States. They have greatly reduced the number of uninsured Americans and have become the standard bearers for quality and innovation in American health care. As part of the 50th anniversary celebration for these programs, the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is collecting stories of how Medicare and Medicaid have made a difference for everyday Americans. Please click here to share your Medicare or Medicaid story.

World Refugee Day is held every year on June 20th. According to UNHCR, there are more than 50 million refugees around the world, half of which are women and children. This day is held in recognition of refugees around the world to celebrate their resilience and strength. For years, many countries and regions have been holding their own Refugee Days and even Weeks. Click here for World Refugee Day Events and ways to get involved in your own community!

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD) was launched on June 15, 2006 by the International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse and the World Health Organization at the United Nations. Learn more here.

AJFCA is proud to support agencies that make education about elder abuse a priority. At the 2015 AJFCA Annual Conference representatives from JFS agencies in Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg, and Ottawa presented their work on the Pan-Canadian Elder Abuse Awareness and Education Program for Ethnocultural Communities incorporating socio-drama performances. Learn more about this creative program on the AJFCA conference page.

Thanks to our many AJFCA colleagues for your outreach to inquire about JFS and the Houston community. Until this morning we did not have power and connectivity and were limited in our ability to respond.

The floodwaters which rose quickly Monday night were devastating to an area in Houston which has the greatest concentration of Jewish residents in the city and many of our Jewish institutions. Three synagogues were flooded. It is estimated that 4000 homes took on water and many lives were lost. JFS is located in the heart of this area but gratefully did not become flooded. The JFS staff itself provides a snapshot of the impact. Seven staff members had water damage in their homes, including the home of our CEO who,  in a lighter moment, referred to the event  as "an equal opportunity flood", devastating property for people of all incomes and stages of life.

More about the impact of the flood on the Houston community can be found here.

We have learned that in these situations the news keeps the spotlight on for just a couple of days but the work continues long after. There are four ways people can help.

  • Able to give? Donate at www.houstonjewish.org/houstonflood
  • Able to provide physical labor (no training necessary)? Email Jfsvolunteer@gmail.com
  • Able to give gift cards for $50, $100, $200 or $500 good at groceries, pharmacies like Walgreens or CVS, big box stores like Target, Walmart, Lowes or Home Depot? Please drop them off or mail to:  Jewish Family Service at 4131 S. Braeswood Blvd., Houston, TX 77025. M-Th, 8:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m., F, 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m.   
  • If you have a contact in a business that can offer significant resources such as housing (especially needed) , furniture, mattresses, appliances, moving assistance and so forth, please email Adele at acroft@jfshouston.org to build database of resources for the coming months.

Those who need help can call JFS at 713 667 9336 or email  jfsstormhelp@gmail.com.

Thank you for all your heartfelt offers for help, many of which we are accessing. We are grateful for organizations dedicated to emergency responses such as Nechama which has already sprung into action. We are proud of the cooperative spirit of our Jewish community and moved by the many examples of neighbors helping neighbors.

For more information on the flood, click here.

Lee Sherman, AJFCA's CEO and Shelley Rood, JFNA's Senior Legislative Associate represented the Jewish social service network and federations at "Living with Dignity," a two-day conference calling for the benefits Holocaust survivors get not to be taxed and counted toward other benefit programs because it reduces their ability to qualify for low income programs. Learn more about the event held in Prague here.

Holocaust Meeting Calls on Nations to Do More for Survivors, May 27, 2015, ABC News, by Karel Janicek


Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) people, and their Allies, all across the country celebrate LGBTQ Pride in June. Pride events can be a great way for Jewish family and children's services agencies to show their solidarity with LGBTQ individuals within their communities! Using our shared Jewish values as a framework, Keshet will start the conversation by highlighting the importance of LGBTQ inclusion within a Jewish context.

Celebrating WITH Pride
Wednesday, June 10th - 1pm ET - REGISTER HERE

This year's May is Mental Health Month Campaign and Toolkit will use the theme B4Stage4 and will focus on how people can address their mental health early, rather than at "Stage 4" - when symptoms are more severe, and recovery a longer process. Learn more about Mental Health Month here.

A community is a place where people of similar background come together, a place where you don't have to go at life alone, a place where you're supported by those around you. The Jewish Abilities Alliance (JAA) is that community for individuals with disabilities and their families. No matter what stage of life you're in, the JAA connects people to resources and services within their community. Explore JAA here.To learn how to bring JAA to your community, contact Liz.

May is Older Americans Month, and the Administration for Community Living is recognizing the 50th anniversary of the Older Americans Act (OAA) with the theme Get into the Act! Use this opportunity to educate your community, the media, and your elected officials about how the OAA helps seniors stay independent. Congress is in recess May 23-30-a great time to invite your lawmakers to see the OAA in action at your organization. Obtain resources and learn more here.

The National Human Services Assembly recently released the policy report, Breaking the Cycle of Poverty in Young Families: Two-Generation Policy Recommendations. The report identifies what needles need to be moved on federal, state, and local levels based on extensive dialogue with direct service providers and national policy advocates. It also addresses critical capacity building needs for organizations. For more information, please contact NHSA directly at policy@nassembly.org.

Feeding America released its annual Map the Meal Gap report with state, county, and congressional district data on overall and child food insecurity rates. The report also includes data on food cost variation by county and congressional district and the percent of food insecure populations likely eligible for federal nutrition programs. If you would like to share this data with your networks, we have sample blog posts and newsletter articles you can use. For more information and resources, please click here contact Eleni Towns, Policy Analyst.

The White House Conference on Aging released a policy brief on healthy aging, a key focus area for the 2015 Conference. The Policy Brief on Healthy Aging examines how Americans can enjoy long and healthy lives by maximizing their physical, mental, and social well-being. Members of the public are encouraged to share their thoughts in the comments section of the brief. By providing input, you'll be contributing to the 2015 Conference in a meaningful and concrete way.

CMS reminds health care professionals that March is National Nutrition Month®- a time to "Bite into a Healthy Lifestyle" with informed food choices now and throughout the year. This year's theme encourages consumers to adopt a healthy lifestyle that is focused on consuming fewer calories, making informed food choices, and getting daily exercise in order to achieve and maintain a healthy weight, reduce the risk of chronic disease, and promote overall health. Learn more here.

Recently, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) awarded $150 million in Section 811 Project Rental Assistance funding to help low-income people with disabilities remain in community settings and avoid homelessness. The funding was awarded to 25 State Housing Agencies to support permanent affordable rental housing and needed supportive services for nearly 4,600 households, many of whom are hoping to transition out of institutional settings back to the community. Read the HUD announcement and list of states receiving funding here.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Center for Mental Health Services, is accepting applications for fiscal year (FY) 2015 "Now is the Time" Project AWARE-Community (Short Title: NITT-AWARE-C) grants. The purpose of this program is to support the training of teachers and a broad array of actors who interact with youth through their programs at the community level, including parents, law enforcement, faith-based leaders, and other adults, in Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) or Youth Mental Health First Aid (YMHFA). Read the entire grant announcement here.

Disability insurance and transportation needs were Wednesday's top agenda items as disability advocates from across the country converged on Capitol Hill for the fifth annual Jewish Disability Advocacy Day. The Jewish Disability Network's members and advocates met with congressional representatives to convey the necessity of passing Social Security Disability Insurance and disability transportation programs. Learn more here.

The Ruderman Family Foundation has announced the launch of the fourth annual Ruderman Prize in Inclusion global competition. The Prize aims to recognize organizations around the world who have demonstrated their commitment to the full inclusion of people with disabilities into the Jewish community through innovative programs and services. The $250,000 prize will be split equally by five organizations. Learn more here.

Ruderman Family Foundation Announces $250,000 Global Innovators in Inclusion Competition, March 3, 2015, eJP

A quarter-century ago, the Americans with Disabilities Act became the law of the land. That's 25 years of progress, of advances that have improved the lives of people with disabilities beyond what was previously possible. The Jewish community has joined in those efforts and sought to bring accessibility and awareness to the forefront. This February marks the seventh annual Jewish Disability Awareness Month, or JDAM. Read the entire article here.

Op-Ed:  Speak Out to Make U.S. More Inclusive for Disabled, February 23, 2015, JTA, by William Daroff & Lynne Landsberg

Please join AJFCA in signing a statement about the President's Executive Action on immigration. This statement, signed by national and local Jewish organizations, welcomes President Obama's executive action on immigration and urges Congress to enact meaningful reform to repair our immigration system. Agencies may read the letter and the list of current signers through this link.

If a client enrolled in a health plan through the Marketplace in 2014, they will receive Form 1095-A in the mail from the Marketplace by early February. It includes basic information that they'll need to know about their household's enrollment, premium payments, and premium tax credit amounts. Clients will need this form for filing taxes in order to fill out new Forms 8962 (Premium Tax Credit Form) and 8965 (Exemptions). If a client didn't have health coverage for all or part of 2014, their income taxes could be affected. They may have to qualify for a health coverage exemption or pay a fee with their federal income tax return. Learn more about exemptions here. 2014 Fees are $95 a person ($47.50 per child) or 1% of yearly household income. For more information about fees click here. Additional information about how the Affordable Care Act can impact taxes can be found here.

The Jewish Week in partnership with the Ruderman Family Foundation is looking for your help in our identifying outstanding business employers in the North America who hire, train and support people with disabilities. "The surest path to full inclusion in our society comes from meaningful employment. People with disabilities are the most excluded members of our society because they are unemployed at the rate of seventy percent." Click here to learn more.

As you may recall, last week we informed our network and issued a press release that the Older Americans Act (OAA) Reauthorization, S. 192, was reported favorably by the Senate HELP Committee. We have just learned that the OAA may receive consideration on the Senate floor in the near future. Learn more here.

A new funding opportunity has been made available by the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) for a Social Innovation Fund (SIF). The SIF grant will be awarded to programs aligning with CNCS' three focus areas: 1) Youth Development, 2) Economic Opportunity, and 3) Healthy Futures within low-income communities.  For more information about CNCS and their mission, please click here.  More details about the SIF grant can be found here.

Jewish nonprofits expressed both appreciation and disappointment as President Obama and his Administration revealed their FY2016 budget. The Jewish Federations of North America voiced concern over the limitation of the charitable tax deduction and funding cuts for important security and emergency programs, while expressing appreciation for the budget treatment of key programs for Holocaust survivors, older Americans and people with disabilities. Read the entire article here.

Jewish Federations Applaud Administration Commitment to Holocaust Survivors and Older Americans, February 2, 2015, JPR Wire, by Max Samis Rabinowitz

The Coalition on Human Needs is asking your organization to sign onto a new letter urging congressional leaders to take action to provide four years of renewed funding for the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Last fall, we sent a similar letter to Hill leaders in support of a CHIP funding extension that was signed by an outstanding list of 1,200 state, local and national organizations, with representation from every state in the nation. Click here to learn more and sign on.

February is Jewish Disabilities Awareness Month. JDAM started 7 years ago when a small cadre of Jewish Special Education International Consortium colleagues decided to create a unified effort to raise awareness and promote inclusion of people with disabilities in Jewish life. Since then JDAM has united Jewish communities worldwide to raise awareness and champion the rights of all Jews to be included and to participate in all aspects of communal life. Download the JDAM Program Guide here. To learn about how to recognize and celebrate in your community and more, click here. If your agency is sponsoring an event or program please share it with Liz.

Wednesday morning the bipartisan Older Americans Act was reported favorably out of the Senate HELP Committee. The OAA, S. 192, contains language in support of Holocaust survivor services. We will work closely with our Senate allies for swift passage in the Senate and advancement on to the House. Thank you sincerely for your advocacy. This has been years in the making, and we are pleased that the OAA reauthorization was the first legislative priority of the HELP Committee in this new 114th Congress.

Please thank your Senators on the HELP Committee for supporting this legislation; and please urge Senators outside of the HELP Committee to cosponsor S.192 before it reaches the Senate floor. Increased co-sponsorship will help ensure swift passage through the Senate.

Bill Text (Holocaust survivor language is at bottom)
Cosponsor List
AJFCA/JFNA Endorsement letter
JFNA Press Statement

If you have any questions, please contact Shelley Rood.

Around 300 survivors of the Auschwitz death camp were gathering on Tuesday to mark 70 years since its liberation by Soviet troops, joined by world leaders for a commemoration held in the shadow of war in Ukraine and a rise in anti-Semitism in Europe. Tuesday's gathering in southern Poland marks perhaps the last major anniversary that survivors of the Nazi German camp will be able to attend in numbers, given the youngest are now in their 70s. Some 1,500 attended the 60th anniversary.

Auschwitz Survivors Ask If Holocaust Lessons Learned on 70th Anniversary of Liberation, January 27, 2015, The Forward, by Wiktor Szary & Wojciech Zurawski

January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month. The National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW) and Hadassah are partnering on a Jewish Day of Action on Tuesday, January 13th, to raise awareness about this issue utilizing social media. NCJW and Hadassah will hold a special Twitter Storm from 1-2pm ET that day, of course, you are more than welcome to post your own tweets and resources. And, if you're looking for other ways to highlight human trafficking during the month of January, check out NCJW's 18 Ways to Combat Sex Trafficking. Feel free to share this resource with your members and networks. If your agency is interested in joining the twitter storm and/or the Jewish Day of Action please contact Jody Rabhan. Learn more about human trafficking here.

February is Jewish Disability Month. We mark February 25, 2015 as our fifth convening of Jewish Disability Advocacy Day. Professionals and lay leaders are invited to Capitol Hill to raise awareness of their work and passion relating to individuals with disabilities and their families. It is also an opportunity for participants to celebrate passage of important legislation, to learn about relevant public policy issues, and to advocate on these issues with their elected officials. Click here for registration details.

On the first day of the new Congress, Republicans symbolically bound themselves to what is certain to be a controversial reform of the federal disability insurance program, which would probably occur near the height of the 2016 presidential campaign. Continue reading here.

Social Security Disability Payments Will Be Cut by a Fifth If Congress Doesn't Act, January 7, 2014, Washington Post, by Max Ehrenfreund

Repair the World is launching an initiative to continue the conversation and take action with Turn-the-Tables.org, an MLK Day campaign dedicated to providing a platform for discussion and service-based action on racial inequality. Repair the World is encouraging everyone to use Friday, January 16th as an opportunity to break bread and reflect on racial injustice issues. If your agency would like to participate please contact David Eisner for a kit, which will include conversation starters, thought-provoking activities and Swag. Additional materials can be found here including social media aids.

A new federal report shows declines in 16 of 20 indicators of civic health, including falling rates of volunteerism and engagement with community organizations and flagging trust in public institutions. Read the entire article here.

Americans' Engagement With Organizations Wanes, Report Says, December 17, 2014, Chronicle of Philanthropy, by Megan O'Neil

Slightly more than two-thirds of Americans say they plan to give at least as much to charity in 2014 as they did last year, according to a new national survey conducted by the Polling Institute at Saint Leo University. Read the entire article here.

Two-Thirds of Americans Plan to Maintain Steady Giving by Year's End, December 16, 2014, Chronicle of Philanthropy, by Rebecca Koenig

Funding Provides Homecare, Medical Care, Food and Other Help in 47 Countries
Elderly Jewish Holocaust victims, the last of their generation to have endured the horrors of the Nazi genocide, will receive significantly more aid in 2015. Learn more here.

The ABLE Act, which would help people with disabilities save for college and retirement, has passed Congress with broad bipartisan support. On Dec. 3, the bill passed the House of Representatives, 404 to 17. On Dec. 16 the bill passed the Senate as part of a bigger tax package. The aim of the ABLE Act is to remove bureaucratic obstacles to help Americans save their own money to help pay for long-term care. There is $2.5M in the spending bill allocated for support of Holocaust survivors. Continue reading here.

ABLE Act:  How One Bill Offers Hope on Congress's Biggest Problem, December 17, 2014, CSMonitor, by Gail Russell Chaddock

The Kresge Foundation has made a significant grant to the National Assembly to continue on their path to reframing human services. The National Human Services Assembly (NHSA), the association of leading national nonprofit human service networks and organizations, launched a discussion in 2011 on why human services struggle for adequate funding and are little discussed or understood in the public square. The discussion led to the notion of "reframing human services," applying what has been learned in the social sciences about presenting the concepts and messages of an endeavor in ways that reflect reality and that resonate with the public (in an apolitical way). Read more here.

The House of Representatives on December 3rd passed legislation to create tax-free savings accounts for people with disabilities. AJFCA has advocated for passage of the ABLE Act for the past six years and is hopeful that The Senate, where the legislation has 70 co-sponsors, will soon pass this important legislation.Passed by a vote of 404-17, the bill known as the ABLE Act is intended to help Americans with disabilities pay for the associated expenses, including medical costs and finding employment.

House Approves New Savings Accounts for People with Disabilities, December 3, 2014, The Hill, by Cristina Marcos


Nonprofits and cultural institutions have often raised large gifts by offering perpetual naming rights to their buildings in exchange for financial support. Perpetuity has now become "a matter of negotiation" according to attorney William D. Zabel, which allows organizations to garner additional financial benefits after the terms of the original agreement expire. Continue reading here.

With Naming Gifts, "Perpetuity" Is a Matter of Negotiation, November 27, 2014, New York Times, by Sam Roberts


Understanding this new wealth and its philanthropic leanings continues to be the subject of great interest overall, but especially in light of this region's two realities: escalating wealth and steadfast poverty. Many feel that a place with this much wealth should be closer to tackling its local social problems. So it begs the question: Who are these new donors? How do they think? Continue reading here.

Philanthropy's New Release, December 2, 2014, Stanford Social Innovation Review, by Kimberly Dasher Tripp


The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has released a webinar highlighting certain provisions in the recently published Supportive Housing and Services for the Elderly and Persons with Disabilities: Implementing Statutory Reforms Proposed Rule. Click here to learn more about the proposed rule and listen to the webinar.


A measure to overhaul a child care grant program is headed to President Barack Obama's desk, 18 years after the program was last reauthorized. The Senate agreed 88-1 to concur in the House amendment to a bill (S 1086) that would create new health, safety and educational standards for the Child Care and Development Block Grant program, which helps low-income families pay for child care. Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, cast the lone vote against the measure. Continue reading here.

Child Care Grant Overhaul Clears Final Vote, November 17, 2014, CQ Roll Call, by Sarah Chacko

Do you have a compelling story to tell about the Holocaust? Enter your screenplay or treatment and you could win $40,000 to make your short film. The Holocaust Film Competition's deadline is March 15, 2015. Click here for details.

Do you have a compelling story to tell about the Holocaust? Enter your screenplay or treatment and you could win $40,000 to make your short film. The Holocaust Film Competition's deadline is March 15, 2015. Click here for details.

"Combating Food Insecurity: Tools for Helping Older Americans Access SNAP," a joint toolkit from FRAC and the AARP Foundation, offers practical tips and examples to help organizations of all sizes address food insecurity in all types of communities with a goal of increasing senior SNAP participation. The toolkit walks through the basics of SNAP, and then provides practical resources to help organizations craft successful programs of education, outreach, and application assistance. It includes real examples of collateral and messages that have worked in communities across the nation, and offers strategies on how to measure success. Click here to access the toolkit.

Join the Administration for Community Living for two discussions on transportation issues and solutions for older adults and people with disabilities. Click here to learn more about the webinars below.

Cultural and Ethnic Diversity in Inclusive Coordinated Transportation Planning: Garnering the Support of a Diverse Range of Stakeholders in Human Services Coordination
Tuesday, November 18th, 3pm ET - REGISTER HERE

State & Local Experts Discuss How 5310 Works To Enhance Seniors' Mobility  
Wednesday, November 19th, 2pm ET - REGISTER HERE

We're in a new age of collaboration, where foundations and organizations are joining together to design and effect strategies for social change. When our organization, the Garfield Foundation, first began exploring a collaborative approach more than 12 years ago, we felt like an outlier in a philanthropic sector that loved individual theories of change, developed in-house and handed down to grantees. Now we get three or four calls a month from groups that want to engage in and support impact networks. It's inspiring to see the growing awareness that indeed, if you want to go far, you have to go together, and that experts can't solve today's adaptive challenges solo. Continue reading here.

Building Our Collaborative Muscles, November 7, 2014, Stanford Social Innovation Review, by Rick Reed, Ruth Rominger, Jennifer Berman, & Kate Wing

One hundred years ago, Theodore Roosevelt advised us that “the best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it.” With all due respect to President Roosevelt, this is easier said than done.

Why delegating is important

A recent study by the Institute for Corporate Productivity found that nearly half of all companies surveyed were concerned about their employees’ ability to delegate work – and with good reason. When organizational leaders don’t delegate, they become overworked, stressed and unhappy. But they’re not the only ones affected; failure to delegate properly adversely impacts an entire organization. Because leaders who don’t delegate lack time to spend on “big picture” responsibilities, no one has time to ensure that the mission of their organization is being fulfilled. Further, by insisting on doing everything themselves, these leaders create a bottleneck, which slows down everyone they work with. Worst of all, the organization’s staff lose out on opportunities to gain new skills and experiences. When these sorts of growth opportunities aren’t available, employees feel undervalued and inadequate, and often leave the organization altogether.

Why don’t we delegate?

Despite the importance of delegating, that same Institute for Corporate Productivity study found that only 28% of all the companies surveyed offered any sort of employee training on how to properly delegate. Proper training is key because delegating can be scary! According to the Harvard Business Review, some of the most commonly cited reasons for failure to delegate are:

    Perfectionism: “It’s easier to just do everything myself.”
    Self-enhancement Bias: “My work is better than everyone else’s.”
    Insecurity: “Delegating work will make me less important.”
    Low Self-confidence: “I don’t want to be upstaged by subordinates.”

How to delegate

Having heard these and countless other excuses during my years as a mentor to leadership executives, I developed the “Boomerang” technique of delegation. Imagine a boomerang: when used correctly, a boomerang returns to the person who threw it. A good manager operates on a similar principle. First, the manager throws the boomerang by delegating a specific responsibility to an employee. The boomerang returns to the manager when the employee reports back after the completion of that task. The cycle then continues with the employee being given additional tasks and continuing to boomerang back to the manager for progress reports and additional responsibilities.

I have taught this management technique for a number of years to students at the William Davidson School of Education at the Jewish Theological Seminary. It is a particularly valuable tool for these graduate students because, as young leaders often just beginning their careers, the Boomerang technique defuses some of the fears associated with delegating work by requiring regular check-ins and keeping leaders consistently apprised of the status of ongoing projects.

Don’t chuck it

You can’t just chuck a boomerang – or odds are it will wind up landing somewhere other than back in your hand. Similarly, in order for the Boomerang technique to be successful, a leader needs to take certain initial steps. Marissa Mayer, the CEO of Yahoo, tells managers to “Give people a vision, rules about how to get there and deadlines.” This advice is the basis for the “Four D’s,” which make up the initial steps to Boomerang management:

    Detail. Clearly articulate goals and discuss how the finished product will appear. It is important that your staff understand the “big picture” so that they understand the purpose of their work and become invested in the project.
    Divide. Chunk the project into clearly defined tasks. Breaking goals into manageable tasks helps to empower staff and makes large projects feel less overwhelming.
    Delegate. Enumerate several clear tasks that need to be accomplished. Meet with your staff and discuss who will be completing certain tasks.
    Deadline. Give a short but reasonable deadline to return with the tasks completed. The goal is for the employee to be given adequate time to independently complete whatever task they have been assigned, but not so much time as to be inefficient.

Boomerang like a pro(fessional)

Let’s take a look at a case study in order to see the Boomerang technique in action. Consider the following facts:

The Aleph Agency hosts an annual staff recognition event. Traditionally, this event was a very formal affair with expensive food and polite clapping. In prior years, the CEO had honored only a few employees for their outstanding contributions to Aleph Agency, and while those employees who were honored did feel modestly appreciated, the overwhelming majority of employees who were not mentioned felt unappreciated. Aleph Agency’s CEO Chana has a new vision for this year’s staff recognition event: a more informal gathering with hors d’oeuvres and cocktails, and some stand-up comedy for entertainment. CEO Chana wants to make sure that every employee feels appreciated at the event, so her vision also includes presentations by each department head, group awards for each department, a few outstanding individual recognition awards, and gift cards for each employee to take home. CEO Chana asks VP Vered to work on the staff recognition event.

Sending out the boomerang: CEO Chana articulates her vision for the staff recognition event to VP Vered, who agrees that it would be good to try to do something different. Chana then outlines the planning of the event to Vered and assigns Vered the following tasks:

    Ask the other VPs and department heads for their input on the new event.
    Suggest at least 3 different venues for the event and check on the prices of those venues.
    Check Aleph Agency’s calendar and propose possible dates for the event.
    Ask Aleph Agency’s CFO for the amount budgeted for this year’s event, and for the amount actually spent on last year’s event.

Chana asks Vered to report back in a week after he completes these tasks.

In this scenario, Chana has just sent out the boomerang for the first time. By starting with small steps, particularly at the beginning, Chana can ensure that Vered is not overwhelmed by the scope of the project.

The boomerang returns: Vered comes back in a week and reports in to Chana. Most of the senior management team was positive about trying something new, however there was disagreement about whether spouses and partners should be expected to attend the event. Vered found 4 different suitable venues and presented Chana with a spreadsheet of prices for space, food and drink. Vered looked at the calendar and found two possible Sunday evenings for the event in the spring if spouses were included; he also found two weekday evenings that could work if the event was employees-only. Vered reported that the total spent on the event last year was $8,500, but that this year, because of the recession, only $7,000 had been budgeted for the event.

Here, Vered has completed the tasks he was given and reported back to Chana; thus the boomerang has returned to her. By checking in on a frequent basis, Chana can correct any missteps or miscommunications early in the project, thereby ensuring that the final event is successful and true to her vision.

Sending the boomerang out again: CEO Chana reviews VP Vered’s work and thanks him for his hard work on the staff recognition event so far (providing positive reinforcement is key!). Chana then asks Vered to complete the following tasks:

    Compose a questionnaire to be sent out to the entire company polling the employees on whether they would prefer to come to a Sunday evening event with spouses/significant others, or an event held on a weekday evening that was limited to Aleph Agency employees.
    Call some similarly-sized companies in the area and ask about their staff recognition events. Ask about the typical gift that was given to the staff.
    Compile a list of suggestions for a 5-person committee to work on the details of the staff recognition event.

Chana asks Vered to send the questionnaire to her Personal Assistant, Polly, by the next day, and complete the other tasks by the end of the week. They schedule a follow-up meeting for the following Monday.

Having successfully completed the first round of tasks, Chana sends the boomerang out of a second time, delegating slightly more complex work to Vered while still maintaining stewardship of the event. By reviewing and complimenting Vered’s work on a frequent basis, Chana can provide a sense of rapid accomplishment and success.

The boomerang returns again: The following Monday, Chana and Vered meet to discuss his progress. Chana had already tweaked the language of the questionnaire that Vered composed, and then Personal Assistant Polly sent the questionnaire out to all of Aleph Agency’s employees. Vered presented the results of his calls with similar companies, reporting that two of the companies had no recognition events but were intrigued by the idea. The other three companies that Vered contacts had annual recognition events similar to what Aleph Agency had held in the past, with a few employees being recognized with $1,000 bonuses. One of those companies reported that these bonuses did cause some tension, but also helped to promote some healthy competition. Chana agreed with 4 of the 5 names that Vered proposed to work on the staff recognition event committee; she switched one name in order to ensure that all levels of Aleph Agency would be represented.

Here, Vered has once again successfully completed all the tasks he was given and reported back to Chana.

Throwing the boomerang farther: Having successfully used the boomerang technique to delegate these previous tasks, CEO Chana can now feel more comfortable handing off increasing levels of responsibility to VP Vered, while checking in less frequently. Moving forward, Chana should give Vered larger tasks (e.g. preparing a budget, developing non-monetary awards that could be donated from various sources, working with the event committee, etc.) while continuing to check in via weekly emails. The goal is for Chana to ultimately be able to leave the project in the hands of Vered and the event committee, while having the recognition event retain her imprint.


The boomerang technique allows leaders to delegate work, while retaining stewardship of large projects, thus ultimately allowing organizations to accomplish as much as possible. Because employees are overseen more heavily at the beginning of a project, any errors or miscommunications can be cleared up early, ensuring of a successful final product, while creating a positive learning experience for the employees involved. So, when the opportunity arises, stop holding on to every piece of a project – try letting go of some responsibility and allowing your staff to boomerang back to you instead.

The Key To Success? Don’t Do It All Yourself! November 4, 2014, eJP, by Cheryl Magen

I have met so many young professionals, the lifeblood of the Jewish community, who want to be affiliated with Jewish organizations, but the language and concepts of the past do not resonate with them.

[This article is the ninth in Advancing Jewish Leadership: A Series on Jewish Context and Professional Practices. Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership is currently marking its 90th anniversary with the launch of the Center for Jewish Leadership. In this series, faculty, mentors, graduates, and staff of Spertus Institute’s graduate degree, certificate, and professional programs share valuable insights relevant to all those working for and with Jewish organizations.]

My journey as a volunteer leader began back in the 1970s. I started on my synagogue’s board which led to my appointment decades later as the President of the Women’s Board of the Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago. In the early years, training wasn’t even a consideration. As someone who was connected to the business world, I heard the buzz of leadership gurus and eagerly sought out the popular literature. I took seminars and workshops and got a degree in Applied Behavioral Science. All of this was critical in my role as a business owner, but I believed it would also be valuable in my work with various organizations. As I became more involved in the volunteer world, I wanted to bring these skills and lessons to my charitable work.

When I took on the Presidency of the Women’s Board in June 2010, I knew I wanted the board to grow and develop, but also knew I needed to enhance my abilities in order to lead a group of committed individuals toward a common, community-oriented goal. My personal goal was to develop future leaders, a mission I took very seriously. How I was to do this wasn’t entirely clear.

My first inspiration came in a book by Dr. Hal Lewis, President of Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership, where I serve as a Trustee. From Sanctuary to Boardroom: A Jewish Approach to Leadership became my bible. I didn’t just read this book. I studied it, I dissected it, I struggled with it. I took it to heart. I saw myself in a new light, in a role Dr. Lewis describes as a “servant leader.” In sharing new-found kernels of wisdom with my Executive Board, I learned a humbling lesson: some of the people, some of the time might be interested and many will not. All I could do was offer my gleanings and then it was out of my control.

After my first year of a two year term, another inspiration came again when Spertus partnered with Northwestern University to offer a Certificate in Jewish Leadership and I enrolled as a student. At first, the prospect of going back to school seemed daunting. I wondered if I would be able to keep up with the rigorous demands of post-graduate education – the long reading lists, the challenging essays, the research. What finally motivated me to enroll, however, was the knowledge that my enduring success as a lay leader would depend on more than just my business acumen. To bolster the techniques, skills, and best practices I acquired from my years of fundraising and administrative work, I needed credibility and certification. In other words, I needed academic validation of what I knew to be intrinsically true. I came into the Spertus program expecting to receive just that. I came away with so much more.

In the Spertus Certificate program, the most important thing I learned was how much I didn’t know. I had always considered myself a capable leader. I had proven myself time and time again as a confident decision-maker, a clear communicator, and a competent, organized manager. The Spertus Certificate program acknowledged these aspects of my managerial style, validating, in essence, what I already knew about the way I lead.

It also taught me an incomparably more valuable lesson: it exposed me to the things I could not do. It shined light on the gaps in my knowledge, gave me a context for my management style, and challenged my perspective on everything from Jewish history to business ethics. By participating in classes taught by men and women who are respected leaders in the world of Jewish leadership, I developed the ability to recognize weaknesses in my leadership style, to accept – even embrace – these weaknesses, and create a plan to deal with them most effectively. I became a better leader; certainly a more humble one.

As a “seasoned veteran” of the nonprofit Jewish world, I became aware of something very important about the younger people seeking meaningful charitable involvement.

I have met so many young professionals, the lifeblood of the Jewish community, who want to be affiliated with Jewish organizations, but the language and concepts of the past do not resonate with them. I was motivated by the concepts of tzedekah as a mitzvah, a commandment. It was incumbent upon me to carry on the traditions; I was part of the legacy of the Jewish people, a link to the past and future. These words do not hold much meaning for younger generations and, in fact, they can even alienate.

Today’s Jews are dedicated to contributing to their Jewish communities in practical, rewarding, and hands-on ways. They strive to change old models – and they expect this new, more personal kind of support to be embraced. They want to call their own shots. They value participation and want, even demand, that their participation makes a difference.

If true leadership is training and developing future leaders, then we face the challenge of doing so within the context of Jewish values and principles and by finding a language that will touch and inspire those we mentor. As I attempt to understand this new emerging leadership, I try not to become defensive or a champion of the “old ways.” I have made a concentrated effort to do more listening and less talking.

As an eternal optimist, I feel that with continued 21st-century training and our support, guidance, and love, today’s nascent Jewish leaders will blossom and thrive. As we encourage people to be authentic, creative, and innovative, they will grow to champion and advance both existing and new Jewish organizations, serving and ensuring the vibrancy of tomorrow’s Jewish community. AMEN.

Jewish Leadership Training: Insights from a Lay Leader, November 4, 2014, eJP, by Deanna Drucker

Launched in 2010, the Jim Joseph Foundation’s Education Initiative has supported the development and expansion of 18 degree and certificate programs as well as leadership institutes at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute for Religion (HUC-JIR), The Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS), and Yeshiva University (YU).

The Jim Joseph Foundation provided the resources needed for program development, staffing, student tuition assistance, and marketing/recruitment activities. The investment was substantial – each institution received $15 million over a period of up to six years. As part of its independent evaluation of the Education Initiative, American Institutes for Research (AIR) assessed how well the three grantees not only delivered high quality programs, but also how well they planned to sustain these programs into the future after the Jim Joseph Foundation’s investment wound down.

As part of its activities, AIR researchers reviewed the institutions’ financial sustainability plans for each of the programs supported by the Education Initiative. Financial sustainability requires careful planning, typically using a dynamic document that is reviewed and revisited periodically. Such a document – the financial sustainability plan – describes strategies to contain costs and to cover them through fundraising and program revenues.

Informing Financial Sustainability Plans Through Break-Even Analysis

A common tool in financial planning is break-even analysis, which identifies the circumstances in which costs and revenues are balanced. We developed a program-level Break-Even Analysis Calculator, allowing program administrators to project revenues and expenditures by changing variables such as tuition, numbers of students, and staffing levels. [1] This interactive tool can be used to:

    Identify the resources required to implement a program, including personnel, facilities, equipment, and materials, whether they are paid for directly or contributed in-kind, and subsequently to calculate program costs.
    Explore ways to reduce costs.
    Identify the effects of different levels of tuition and scholarships.
    Calculate fundraising needs and demonstrate to potential funders why their help is needed.

Review of Financial Sustainability Plans

We created benchmarks for reviewing the financial sustainability plans submitted by each institution. The four criteria described below are based on the assumption that financial sustainability is a process, not an end. In other words, although the process aimed at achieving financial sustainability may not yet be completed, the financial sustainability plan helps develop a road map so that programs can follow into the future.

Assessment Criterion I: Key Informational Elements

We saw financial sustainability plans as facilitating communications and planning within an institution. For this purpose, we expected each program plan to articulate its rationale – how does the program fit into the vision of the institution in its efforts to support the field of Jewish education? How consistent is the program with the institution’s view of current needs and anticipated future trends? Similarly, we expected each plan to identify how long the program should be continued (we do not assume every program will last forever) and we expected a timeline for anticipated fundraising activities. In our feedback to the grantees, we recommended that each financial sustainability plan includes a detailed budget, budget assumptions, and analysis (e.g., break-even analysis) that spells out the calculations and assumptions on which current decision-making is based.

Assessment Criterion II: Feasibility

It is critical that the financial sustainability plan is feasible. For example, if the break-even analysis identifies a break-even point, but the circumstances under which this will be achieved are unreal, the analysis will not serve its purpose. To make the case for the viability of long-term plans, authors should include as many specifics as possible. Projections of philanthropic contributions should include names of funders, projected amounts, and at the very least, an overview of fundraising plans. Projections of tuition revenue should include enrollment estimates, market demand assumptions, and description of strategies to align tuition discounts with measurable student needs (rather than using blanket across-the-board tuition discounting policies). Finally, plans should include an assessment of organizational capacity (e.g., the availability of qualified staff with relevant expertise), which is key to successful implementation.

Assessment Criterion III: Need

Higher education institutions sometimes choose to run programs at a loss, as a service to the field or as a marquee program that can promote institutional capacity and reputation. But financial sustainability plans highlight the costs of such a strategy, allowing institutional leaders to better judge the level of their investment and the return. To ensure that such decisions are based on valid assumptions and consensus among chief officers in the institutions, effective financial sustainability plans should address the need for the program along multiple dimensions.

Assessment Criterion IV: Commitment

Programs can be sustained over the long-term when institutional leadership (the president, provost, and the dean) are committed to support the program through allocation of funds, sharing of infrastructure, and active participation in targeted fundraising efforts. Additionally, financial sustainability planning benefits from use of proven strategies and processes for ongoing review and revision of the financial sustainability plan.

Supporting the Continuation of Higher Education Programs in Jewish Education

HUC-JIR, JTS, and YU developed financial sustainability plans that took into account multi-year projections of costs and revenues. This involved hard work and time – and many of the questions we asked them to address were new to academic leaders who have not often been held to financial standards. All three grantees of the Education Initiative were torn between offering their very best to the field of Jewish education and making promises they were likely not going to be able to keep within the limitation of financial resources. This is understandable.

But spending money and time to ensure the financial health of programs over the long-term is something that grantees need to do. Crafting implementation plans that can be sustained over the long run is a new and difficult task that grantees must increasingly face – and it is something that the Jim Joseph Foundation is committed to, in order to make sure their philanthropic investments produce long term results.

Making Philanthropic Investments Last: The Role of Financial Sustainability, November 3, 2014, eJP, by Dr. Mark Schneider & Dr. Yael Kidron

Do your clients need health coverage? The Health Insurance Marketplace is the place for them. Having trouble finding health insurance that fits your clients' needs and their budget? Look no further than the Health Insurance Marketplace. All plans in the Marketplace cover essential health benefits, pre-­-existing conditions, and more. To find the latest, most accurate, information for your clients about the Marketplace visit HealthCare.gov. Continue reading here.


Financial sustainability requires careful planning, typically using a dynamic document that is reviewed and revisited periodically. Such a document - the financial sustainability plan - describes strategies to contain costs and to cover them through fundraising and program revenues. Continue reading here.

Making Philanthropic Investments Last: The Role of Financial Sustainability, November 3, 2014, eJP, by Dr. Mark Schneider & Dr. Yael Kidron

In 2013, Guidestar, BBB Wise Giving Alliance and Charity Navigator wrote an open letter to the donors of America explaining that "overhead ratios" are a poor way to understand nonprofit performance. The nonprofit sector was hungry to dispel this "Overhead Myth." The field's extraordinary reaction to the first letter has thunderously affirmed that belief. Join together with a second letter, suggesting a set of steps nonprofits can take to help us all move beyond the Overhead Myth. It will take a shared effort to focus donors' attention on what really matters: your organization's efforts to make the world a better place, an Overhead Solution

Less than 1 percent. That's the portion of overall foundation giving that went to leadership development between 1992 and 2011. Foundations ask a great deal of the organizations we support-to strengthen community, meet urgent needs for services, solve complex environmental problems, influence public policy, and build and sustain movements for change. In short, we hope grantees will deliver transformational results for the people and places they serve. So it's striking how seldom we back that up with funds to help organizations develop and strengthen the ability of their leaders to meet those high expectations. Continue reading here.

Investing in Leadership to Accelerate Philanthropic Impact, September 11, 2014, Standford Social Innovation Review, by Ira Hirschfield

Sharsheret was selected for a multi-year cooperative agreement by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to amplify their tailored breast cancer programs for young Jewish women. Collaborating with more than 40 national Sharsheret partners, they will work to serve more than 40,000 women and caregivers, enhancing the quality of life for young breast cancer survivors. For more information, read the complete grant announcement.  

For nonprofit organizations to realize their potential for social impact, they need more than a good program and ambitious leaders to expand it. They need good managers who adopt approaches that make the most of opportunities, anticipate threats, develop talent, and produce strong results.

Fortunately, many management tools and tactics exist to help leaders make good, informed decisions to these ends.

The challenge is to understand what tool can help deal with a given problem, how it’s best applied, and, most critical of all, which ones have most often led to positive results.

Twenty years ago, the global management consultancy Bain & Company created a survey titled "Management Tools & Trends." It led to what has become a biannual consumer report offering guidance to corporate leaders on the best approaches for their organizations.

This year, the nonprofit Bridgespan Group, which was incubated at Bain & Company, is collaborating with The Chronicle of Philanthropy to start an analog for the social sector.

This new project will ask a wide range of nonprofit leaders to provide insight on the use and effectiveness of 25 top tools, and to voice their opinions on the importance of 21 major trends affecting the sector.

Bridgespan interviewed more than two dozen nonprofit leaders and other experts to identify the tools that they believed were among the most important currently available to nonprofits.

The tools focus on five major areas, such as clarifying goals (including doing scenario and contingency planning and devising a "theory of change") and managing success (including seeking feedback from beneficiaries and evaluating programs).

To help leaders gain deeper insight about the tools, we are offering an online reference guide that describes each one, its methods, and its application, along with a bibliography of articles and cases that illuminate the use of that tool. Our hope is that this guide will allow nonprofit leaders to learn more about the approaches, even before seeing the survey results in January. Readers will get an early look at what we’ve learned in The Chronicle’s first issue of 2015.

But management advice doesn’t matter unless it has context, and that is why we also are asking questions about the most important trends in the nonprofit world. Among the issues related to those trends: whether nonprofits are betting on technology innovation to increase their impact or whether they might participate in pay-for-success initiatives or social-impact bonds in the next three years.

We anticipate that the survey will reveal both points of pain and instruments of hope, much as the Bain & Company survey has for corporate managers. For example, in the early 2000s, after sales of the much-hyped customer-relationship management systems had dropped and many believed that interest in the tool was waning, Bain discovered a dramatic uptick of interest in such systems among the business leaders who responded to its survey. That insight helped focus attention both on the specific perils of CRM tools and on how companies could avoid pitfalls and use CRM to serve the needs of their businesses most effectively.

The survey report will not only help nonprofit leaders who want to understand what their peers are doing and what tools might be most valuable to their organizations, but it should also aid philanthropists who want to assess the impact of their current or potential donations, as reflected in the performance of charitable organizations.

The first "Nonprofit Management Tools & Trends Survey" will establish a baseline and provide a snapshot of which tools and approaches are being mostly widely used and by whom. However, the greatest value from the survey may become clear as it is re-administered over time—illuminating trends, showing how tools are working or falling short, and helping philanthropists and other nonprofit leaders understand their own impact on nonprofit management practice and performance.

If you are a leader of a nonprofit, we invite you to participate in the survey. And we look forward to sharing, in January, what we’ve learned about how managers are using the tools and driving trends.

New Project Will Identify and Share Best Nonprofit Management Tactics, October 5, 2014, Chronicle of Philanthropy, by Paul Carttar & Chris Lindquist

There are many ways we compromise as nonprofit leaders. Our time, our budgets, our resources…all for the greater good of our organizations and the communities we serve. But when is compromise necessary? And, more importantly, when is it the right thing to do?

It was recently announced that the Lancaster Museum of Art and the Demuth Museum, both located in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, will consolidate as one entity while maintaining their separate locations. The reason for the merger is to maximize resources, specifically staff and governance. (For a deeper discussion of the two museums, their histories, and their artistic missions, see Eileen Cunniffe’s newswire here.)

Sometimes the term “merger” has the connotation of failure. Contrary to that, many merger cases symbolize strength and vitality, especially when encouraged and endorsed by invested parties, such as elected officials and foundations. The National Council of Nonprofits refers to these nonprofit mergers as “collaborations,” “strategic alliances,” or even “partnerships” to defer any negative significance a merger could represent. In Lancaster, the museum merger has been approved both by a local foundation and the city’s mayor, furthering the positive impact this action will have on the community as a whole. So in this case, the merger is not due solely to a lack of resources, but to an outpouring of community attention and affirmation.

A strategic alliance allows for growth and sustainability through cost-effective and low-impact measures. The Lancaster-Demuth merger demonstrates the need for shared resources and capacity-building efforts to enhance the mission and continuation of these two major community assets. But who really benefits from this consolidation—the organizations, the community, or both? There are many reasons to merge (such as financial struggles, governing resources, etc.) but the community that is served is essential to any nonprofit’s success. The community is why a nonprofit exists.

In a 2012 article from the Nonprofit Quarterly entitled “Creating Fertile Soil for the Merger Option,” Judith Alnes identifies the realities of major motivations of mergers. Ninety-three percent of organizations merge to increase service delivery and to ensure the long-term financial stability of at least one of the merging groups, while 75 percent do it to save programs and services that might otherwise be lost without the merger. These statistics demonstrate that the community component has a heavy influence on whether or not an organization should merge with another.

Though mergers are often set in place to the community’s benefit, there are some instances when obstacles arise—not all mergers conclude with a happy ending. If mergers are intended to give communities and audiences a more well-rounded and stable experience, then organizations planning to merge should exhaustively examine all data that may affect the merger. One example would be to investigate audience overlap statistics, which can be identified as a cost-saving mechanism, as was the case with the Sacramento Philharmonic and Sacramento Opera merger in 2010. The merger was meant to address gaps in spending, and the small overlap provided partial justification for the organizations to merge to cover certain costs. The reality demonstrated that this overlap was not enough to sufficiently increase revenues; a merger was not the answer.

There are many lessons to be learned from nonprofit mergers, and a variety of both success and failure cases. Clearly, the good of the community should be the result of any merger, as it is at the crux of any nonprofit organization. Why do we continue to strive and thrive as nonprofits? To give back and serve our communities. Alone, we are a voice; as a collective, we are a force. Whether that force acts for our community of nonprofits or for our supporters and patrons depends upon the ambitions and goals of the unified, merged organizations and their anticipated plans for the future.—Jennifer Swan

What It Means When Nonprofits Merge, September 26, 2014, Nonprofit Quarterly, by Jennifer Swan

Imagine this scenario: A supporter clicks the “donate” link in one of your emails and gives to your organization through the website. Afterward, the supporter tweets her support and gets an enthusiastic re-tweet from your organization’s Twitter handle. She also receives an automated gift acknowledgement email from your donation system, as well as a mailed “Thank You” letter from your development department the following month.  Through this seemingly simple interaction, the donor has touched your communications, IT, and development departments.  

Even though members engage with your organization through multiple channels and interact with different departments, they desire the same level of communication and customer service across the board. If one of the three separate “thank yous” to your donor addresses her by the wrong first name (It’s Katherine not Katie, thank you very much), the donor will not assign blame to the communications coordinator who proofread the text; the whole organization may take a hit in her eyes for this lack of attention to her personal details.

Have you heard these comments before?

“I know I already changed my address in your system!”

“No, I haven’t had that job title for three years.”

“Our company categorization is wrong on your website.”

“Why are you sending me information on conference X—it’s nowhere close to my field?”

While you may view your organization as a collection of distinct, perhaps even siloed, departments, your member sees you as one entity and expects consistency and efficiency. For this reason, the member or supporter experience must be consistent organization-wide.

Understanding how your organization’s member data is collected and stored is the first step to achieving this aim.

For example, if someone updates their mailing address with your membership department and the membership team updates their record in the AMS, does this information ever make its way to the lists run by your marketing team? What about any of the demographic data you collect when people register for your events?

In a perfect world, departments throughout your organization would join forces in kumbaya fashion to provide a consistent member experience that recognizes the member’s entire identity, not just discrete interactions with one department. In reality, this task is often fraught with technical difficulties—how often have you requested a seemingly simple transfer of business intelligence only to be told, “But the systems don’t talk to each other.”  

If there is no one-click solution to updating the organization’s marketing lists or sharing demographic information collected elsewhere by the organization, disparate departments should work to find “out of the box” ways to pass this enhanced member intelligence onto other teams. While this may be a laborious process that requires some skill in data manipulation, it’s worth the effort to ensure that you make a consistently good impression with the organization’s members and supporters.

Using this data to tailor member engagement leads to a better member experience.

No matter which team engages with a member, a personalized interaction wins every time. Personalization is achieved when an organization utilizes the available information to make service efficient and to make members feel valued.

Once an organization commits to tearing down its informational siloes, all sorts of member insights emerge. By examining information and patterns of behavior on an organization-wide scale, you will get a fuller picture of your members by connecting the data dots you likely already have on hand. These insights can feed into the delivery of a more customized member experience.

Say that a supporter subscribes to your advocacy-focused digital publication and is a member of several committees focused on areas of legislation that are overseen by different departments in your organization.  Combining all of this engagement data yields a clear picture of a member who is very interested in advocacy. Instead of sending him general emails about every organizational webinar and event, you can tailor your offerings and messages to align with his values. Would he appreciate an invitation to your D.C. fly-in day? Absolutely. Does he want to know Five Tips For Landing a Job in Field X? Eh, maybe not.

This tailored messaging and engagement sends positive signals to members and supporters. Not only are you addressing your member by the correct first name and title, you are tailoring the content your member receives to his past behaviors and preferences. Instead of appearing like an unfeeling robot monolith, your organization is sending signals that say, “We remember you,” “You matter.”

Breaking down data siloes results in a staff that is more in touch with member profiles and member needs. By making member data-sharing an organization-wide priority, you will retain satisfied members and supporters. Additionally, as this approach pushes organizational goals to the forefront, you might just discover opportunities for growth and revenue that you never even knew existed!

Are You Sending Mixed Messages to Your Members? September 16, 2014, NTEN, by Marissa Maybee

One of the simultaneously most rewarding and most difficult aspects of nonprofit work is the reliance on community members to support an organization’s cause. It can be challenging to communicate the importance of a nonprofit’s work in a way that motivates action in others; however, when an organization does successfully reach those people, whether they be volunteers or simply curious parties, the results can be tremendous in terms of both generosity and support. For your group to see this kind of impact, you need to place an emphasis on helping outside individuals establish a personalized relationship with the cause at hand. The best time to create this one-one-one dynamic and instill a stronger connection with the issues at hand is your organization’s events. Fundraisers present valuable opportunities to generate a stronger understanding of and commitment to the given cause within the attendees. This may sound like a daunting task, but it all comes down to maximizing the available data and integrating it with existing customer relationship management (CRM) systems like Blackbaud to enhance the event experience for each individual.

The many uses of data for enhancing an event can be broken down into three categories: before, during, and after.

Planning the event

The planning and promotion of an event is your first opportunity to begin gathering valuable information about your invited guests. It’s your first point of contact with the attendees and, as we all know, a lot can be gained from a first impression.

As you collect the registration data, there are several beneficial methods of segmentation that can be implemented based on the information you receive. For example, has the attendee come to this event in the past? Better yet, has he been coming for the past several years and knows more about the event that the presenters? If this is the case, use that information to put a personalized touch on his event materials. He doesn’t need the background about the event itself, but might appreciate something more along the lines of a “Welcome back!”

Gaining this kind of valuable information ahead of time is simply a matter of asking the right questions. Initial submission and interest forms offer the opportunity to ask far more than simply names and titles. Use the chance to learn about an attendee’s background and goals, and you’ll be able to make strong connections with the right people before the event has even started.

At the show

When it comes to asking the right questions, it’s not all about learning how you can improve the pre-event experience; you can also use that data to personalize the event itself.

While larger components such as keynote speakers or auction items are often set in stone before registration data comes in, there are smaller finishing touches that can be put in place with less advance notice. Are some of your attendees vegan? They might appreciate some appetizers that reflect their dietary needs. Does someone go by her middle name? Show you paid attention by putting that on her nametag. Is there a group of people who spend their weekends hiking? Work your recent experience on the Appalachian Trail into the conversation when you introduce yourself.

The devil is in the details, and people will respond to that extra effort, or lack thereof. For nonprofits that run on the generosity of others, both in terms of time and money, personal connections can make all the difference. Data will open the doors to these more impactful gestures, which can lead to memorable nights for your attendees across the board.

The wrap-up

Your chance to put data to use isn’t over when the last guests leave. In the same way the pre-event registration questions create opportunities for customization, a well-crafted post-event questionnaire can be a valuable commodity. Your attendees appreciate personalized efforts before and during the show because it shows you’ve taken the time to appreciate their contributions; a survey following the event that asks for honest feedback — and then acts on it — demonstrates the same genuine interest and gratitude.

Which speaker was most well-received? What auction item motivated attendees to contribute their highest bids? Once your event data is fully integrated with your existing system, you can check which attendees are repeat donors, and whose average donations increased following the event. This information can help you gain a much clearer understanding of what worked and what didn’t, allowing you to reduce costs on unnecessary initiatives and ultimately improve the event’s overall effectiveness and return on investment. More importantly, these are the kind of highly beneficial adjustments that will result in even happier attendees the following year. Happy attendees are the same attendees who recruit their friends to come to the next event, and in the nonprofit community, that kind of word of mouth is the most valuable resource available. When you combine these sorts of customized touches before, during and after the event, you ensure your event becomes cost-effective and highly optimized to be more than just buzz; it becomes a catalyst for results. And all you need to make that happen is the right data.

Putting Data to Use for a Successful Nonprofit Event, September 15, 2014, NTEN, by Matthew Wainwright

Many boards never understand and utilize the potential each member has to invest in the organization. Having committed to a board, new members are often “on-boarded” out of any fresh, innovative, or challenging ideas they might have. Instead of grooming members to fill the usual skillset, I work to build stronger boards through understanding the value each member brings to the table.

As board members, we can work on building strength through a diversity of new members and a balance of ideas. I’m talking about bankers, artists, architects, techies, and venture capitalists just to mention a few. If we build our board from individuals who have different lenses on the world, who bring thought diversity, we will be able to approach our challenges from new perspectives.

I often remind organizations that board members made a commitment to the organization. Strength comes from honoring those commitments and listening for the interest and value each member has brought to the team. By listening to new members instead of telling them how we operate, I have found we are able to open our board up for change, to see the potential as well as new directions.

The Technique

I apply community-building techniques that re-examine the views and skills each member brings to the table. The method includes asking clarifying questions, active listening, and building understanding before approaching the challenges we face as board members. And, the technique has brought real impact. Through using it, one organization increased donations in one year by 400 percent. It all hinges on learning about each other, respecting our differing methods, and being open to new possibilities. Balancing the thought leaders on our board and allowing them to take ownership for their commitment to the organization builds real strength.

In the BLF session I will be leading on Building a Stronger Board, the participants will work in groups to explore this method. By asking clarifying questions and through active listening, the exercise helps uncover the value each member brings to the team. Commitment, diversity, perspective, and skills are explored in a more personal way that allows each member to get to know the other.

Part of strength also comes from solidifying commitment. Each board member may be able to contribute a range of skills. Each also has a number of commitments they balance. Understanding this ebb and flow can help increase the value your board members can bring to the organization. I have found it also helps in determining when a member should transition off. This type of personal examination can help members understand on their own when it’s time to move on.

How the board views and tells your organization’s story can also bring strength. What is it the board doesn’t know about me as a member? What value could I offer that has not been tapped into? The value and perspective each member has can enrich the way the organization’s message is relayed. As ambassadors for the organization, it’s important that we understand the organization’s story, but it’s equally important that as board member, I can own our part of it. Understanding how each member views the organization’s work will help us shape a stronger message.

The Method

The method I present is more about looking at board process and structure, not about solving problems like scarcity, need for funds, better leadership and how others should change. It focuses on replacing advice with curiosity and exploring an issue from all sides. It is in this search for deeper understanding that we are able to lift the cover on the root of our challenges. To learn what core issues are and how people outside the organization may see them. It leads to building a stronger board.

Are You Listening to Your Board Members?, September 25, 2014, Board Source, by Peter Zehren

Numerous recent studies and articles have pointed out the critical role of philanthropy in communities—not only in supporting the social sector, but also in creating a culture of civic engagement, caring, and trust. But how do you actually build a culture of philanthropy in a community?

I had been working in the nonprofit sector in New York for years when my husband suddenly received an incredible job opportunity in Las Vegas, Nevada. At the time, I knew nothing of the social sector in Vegas—after all, when you think about Las Vegas, the first thing that comes to mind usually isn’t philanthropy.

We moved, and I soon joined the Moonridge Group, a catalyst organization that connects nonprofits and philanthropy, and facilitates community-wide initiatives. Our work focuses on growing philanthropy, building capacity in nonprofits, and ensuring that we increase collaboration and minimize duplication, particularly in Las Vegas. So far our greatest challenges have been community engagement, and building a culture and a legacy of philanthropy.

Las Vegas is a fascinating example of a big little town. It’s a city that essentially exists because of tourism, yet it’s also a thriving city with 2.2 million residents. It was one of the hardest hit by the recession and real estate bubble—and although the economy has rebounded, there are deep wounds. Like many other cities across the United States, Vegas has deep social needs and a low density of nonprofits. It is highly transient and, due to it’s relative youth, does not have an ingrained culture of philanthropy.

Over the past year, I’ve learned a lot about how you can build a culture of philanthropy, and we have refocused our organization as a result. Here’s what we know about what works:

1. Everything begins with engagement.

In communities where there isn't an established culture of board participation and volunteerism, it’s important to start by creating opportunities for fulfilling engagement. One specific thing we did was to create a better pipeline of volunteer leadership. We did this in a few ways. First, we launched a “board matchmaker” tool, which helps pair organizations that need board members with executives who are looking for a way to get involved and give back. We also wanted to make existing philanthropy more strategic and visible. We formed something called the Greater Good Council, which brings together individual and family foundations to engage in strategic, collective impact-like giving. Finally, we began guiding nonprofits toward creating structured volunteer opportunities for individuals and groups, knowing that once someone volunteers, they often develop a vested interest in supporting that organization into the future.

2. Although philanthropy should be strategic, it’s fundamentally personal.

Of course we all want philanthropists to engage in high-impact giving, but when you are starting off trying to build a culture and tradition of philanthropy, it’s most important to inspire people to give. We find that storytelling—sharing personal pathways to giving—works well. We implemented an annual Philanthropy Leaders Summit, where 150 community philanthropists engaged in conversations about how and why they give. We are also starting a video series featuring local leading philanthropists who share what inspires them.

3. You have to reach Millennials directly.

It’s also critical to reach out to and engage the next generation of philanthropists. We helped several nonprofits launch youth philanthropy groups, which focus on volunteering, personal experience, and professional development. We also involve youth in our Philanthropy Leaders Summit.

4. It’s important to help nonprofits better engage with the philanthropy community.

As the tide of philanthropy rises in a community, it’s important to ensure that nonprofits are equipped to accept and effectively steward contributions. We collaborate with other community organizations to create a spectrum of capacity-building services for nonprofits. We also work directly with organizations to develop clear communications with donors (for example, providing information such as “investment updates” to donors so that they can see how organizations are using their funds). We also launched a series of community roundtables to help nonprofits better understand the funding landscape—for example, this fall we will organize a summit with the Nevada Corporate Giving Council (which we helped form) and the Nonprofit CEO Advisory Council (convened by the United Way of Southern Nevada). There are always misconceptions on both sides in terms of funding needs and availability; this is just one step in the direction to better communications and collaboration.

Building a culture and tradition of philanthropy for an entire city is a massive undertaking, but it is vital. Like many communities across the country, Las Vegas has deep social needs, and it is up to all members of the community to help support their neighbors. It’s so inspiring to see a rising tide of national philanthropic efforts (such as the Billionaire’s Pledge)—but it all starts at home, in our communities.

Building a Culture of Philanthropy, September 19, 2014, Stanford Social Innovation Review, by Anna Pikovsky Auerbach

On the evening of September 30th Vice President Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden hosted a reception at their home for Jewish Community leadership. Lee Sherman and Shelley Rood were honored to be among the 100 guests and to represent the work of the AJFCA network. In his remarks, the Vice President spoke about his strong commitment to ensuring that Holocaust Survivors live their lives in dignity, and acknowledged the great work of Aviva Sufian, U.S. Special Envoy for Holocaust Survivor Services, and the supports being provided by our Jewish human services agencies. Click here to view photos. 

As the general elections approach on November 4th, there is increased scrutiny over the activities of charitable organizations. While we encourage relevant policy questions of elected officials and those seeking office, there are distinct lines in which we may not cross. This memo offers guidance from The Jewish Federations of North America. Please contact Shelley Rood if you have any questions.

Domestic Violence Awareness Month evolved from the first Day of Unity observed in October, 1981 by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. The intent was to connect battered women's advocates across the nation who were working to end violence against women and their children. Click here to view a compilation of AJFCA member agency domestic violence professionals' original publications addressing domestic violence in their communities in an effort to raise awareness of this devastating epidemic.

A subtle vibe of negativity can spoil an otherwise effective workplace. I've seen this impact even the most capable of teams. The dynamic can bring a group of talented contributors to a slowed, encumbered pace. The team becomes snagged on issues that fail to drive performance — and the collective energy of the group fractures and dissipates. We might feel that we personally lack the resources to affect levels of happiness in our workplace. However, we have more ability to do so than we might have previously acknowledged. Research has shown the inherent power of a positive mind set has far-reaching potential to enhance not only psychological well-being — but the achievement of valued workplace outcomes.

Positive psychology explores, and attempts to capture what is "right" within our lives. It shifts the emphasis to experiences that help us build a positive foundation, so we can meet issues and challenges. The psychological resources of hope, self-efficacy, resilience and optimism (Think HERO), can influence how we approach our daily work lives. These resources — which together form the construct of psychological capital — can be integral in affecting our behavior.

As managers, team leaders or individual contributors, taking an active role to encourage a more positive workplace can prove to be a worthy investment. Take a moment to take stock of your own psychological resources and those of others around you. Do you feel capable of meeting the demands of your work life? Do you feel the team possess the tools to meet the challenges that lay before you at work? Does the group feel confident and hopeful? What needs to change to create a more positive environment?

A few ideas to encourage a more positive workplace. (These are simple — yet in practice, we often need a reminder.):

Express gratitude. Recognizing others for their contribution is a powerful resource builder. I've seen talented contributors who were tempted to leave an organization, simply because they misjudged their own value. Routinely expressing gratitude can set a powerful and positive tone of deep respect. Remember that two simple words —"thank you"— can have a long-standing effect on work-life happiness.

Take every opportunity to align work with strengths. Utilizing our strengths in the workplace is key to building confidence. This involves routine discussions with your team members, to evaluate if their skills are being tapped. For yourself, make every attempt to incorporate the areas in which you excel, into everyday work life. When weaknesses take center stage — work life can become a miserable experience.

Value the work of others. You may not agree with every idea or plan presented, however respecting what others bring to the table is key. We all work hard to make a difference — try not to rob others of the feeling of satisfaction that comes with contributing.

Communicate, even when it is challenging. Next to public speaking, engaging someone in a difficult conversation, is likely one of our greatest workplaces fears. However, happy workplaces rely on open, diplomatic conversations. So, if you are hesitating to share something important or you are avoiding conflict — think twice before sweeping it under the carpet. (A few ideas for that here.)

Emphasize feedback. Offering (and seeking out) honest feedback is critical to our work lives. However, we must remember that we differ in terms of our feedback requirements and capability to both absorb (and apply) the information. Be cognizant of the individual differences among team members.

Bring balance to the negatives. As human beings, we have the tendency to dwell on negative information (quite possibly an evolutionary byproduct). Often we find ourselves obsessing about a goal we didn't fulfill — or a relationship that is strained. Build resilience by refocusing your energy on successes, when you feel disappointment or stress.

Practice "flexible" thinking. When considering a new challenge, be sure to explore potential obstacles and generate alternative pathways to effectively manage them. This exercise builds feelings of efficacy in the face of an unexpected turn of events—a common occurrence in our work lives.

Acknowledge the small steps that lead to successes. Often we focus on lofty, larger goals that may take an extended amount of time to accomplish. Identify and celebrate incremental goals along the way, to help bolster energy levels and maintain focus.

How do you create a positive work environment at your place of business? Share your strategies here.

How to Build a More Positive Workplace, September 9, 2014, LinkIn, by Dr. Marla Gottschalk

Social Fresh TipsThe number of tools, services and software that we use for marketing these days has increased exponentially. From publishing to analytics to creating images and lead generation and plenty of other categories.

Really quickly there starts to be some overlap and we start accumulating logins and monthly fees for tools that we don’t necessarily need or use. And some tools just don’t work out, and need to be replaced.

Every year I do an audit of the tools and software I am using. The goal is to identify the tools that are working and force you to deal with the ones not quite making the mark.

As we went through the process this year, I realized this is something a lot of marketers and businesses need to do more often. If you have never done a software/tool audit for your marketing or even just for the management of your business, you should do one now.

1. Add Tools
First add all the tools and software you are using to a spreadsheet, free and paid. I used some dummy tool and software names in the spreadsheet layout I use to review the tools we use for Social Fresh. Here is the template if you want to use it yourself.

2. Include Context
After adding in the tools, work out all your monthly and yearly costs, how often you currently use each tool, and the category of the each (to help find overlaps).

3. Decide the Tool’s Status
Label each tool as either 1. Keep (what’s working), 2. Replace (we need a better option), or 3. Drop (no longer a need, failed test). Focus on finding the Keep and Drop tools first.

That middle part, Replace, is always the challenge, when you decide you still have a need but your current solution is not getting it done, it takes some work to find an alternative. And sometimes, there just is not a great alternative.

Don’t be scared to label a tool as Replace though. It does not mean you have to replace it overnight. It might take you a while to find an alternative. But starting to look is the first step.

Pay special attention to tools that you are spending too much money on, tools that overlap with others (eliminate one), tools that you simply are not using enough, and tools that are not producing results.

4. Set Next Steps
After you finish with labeling each tool, decide what your next action is for each. Some of the Keep tools might need some changes. The Drop tools need to be canceled. And your Replace tools need some research. Add these to do items to your calendar or task manager and get to work.

This simple process can be completed in a couple hours but it will save you time, save you money, increase the success of your marketing, and give you a little more sanity.

Are You Using Too Many Social Media Tools? August 19, 2014, Social Fresh, by Jason Keath

“Our board is so engaged in fundraising, we can’t imagine how they could possibly do more.”

Wait … what? Why is it so rare to hear nonprofit leaders making this kind of statement? Well, it’s because very few people think their board members are doing enough to attract, retain, and deepen the commitment of major donors. According to the oft-quoted Underdeveloped: A National Study of Challenges Facing Nonprofit Fundraising, depending on organizational budget, only 18-35% of respondents said board members were “sufficiently” engaged, while 0-7% said they were “very sufficiently” engaged. One development director likely speaks for many peers when she said:

"It is really, really difficult to motivate the board and get them to see the value of what we do. We have people who renew their term, but these are the very same people who will not pick up the phone, will not attend board meetings, will not come to a donor meeting or partner with the executive director, which is a huge, huge obstacle."

Whenever I hear comments like these, my first question is to ask about board giving – and not just if they give, but how their gifts are solicited. Because there’s one simple rule that, when applied well, can dramatically increase board involvement in fundraising:

If you want board members to engage with major donors, engage them as major donors.

Think of it as the Golden Rule, Fundraising Edition. No matter how many trainings, tools, and resources you provide, board members will not fully understand the value of donor-centered conversations and other touches until they experience them firsthand. This is not a trait unique to board members; it’s how all humans learn. Consider showing, not telling board members why their participation in the work of major gifts promises such a strong return on investment.

Is making a gift one of the very first things you ask a new board member to do? While it’s true that 100% board giving should be a built-in expectation, if you treat their donations as a “given,” you’re missing out on a huge chance to show them how to reach for that personal, meaningful stretch gift. Take the time to ask new members why they chose to serve, what excites them about your program, and what more they want to know. In turn, they’ll understand that fundraising is a journey that leads up to, rather than begins and ends with, “the ask.”

Are your board members handed pledge forms and envelopes at a meeting, and told to return them as soon as possible? Or maybe they just get a letter in the mail? While collective board giving matters to other donors, remember that your board’s commitment is deeply personal. Have face-to-face meetings with each board member, assign solicitation teams, and determine request amounts with the care and strategy you would use for your top donors. They’ll grow to understand that donor conversations are much more about shared values, hopes, and dreams for the community, and much less about dollars and cents.

Are your board members regularly thanked for their specific contributions of time and money? While they may be close to the organization, every board member will still be grateful to hear about the impact of their giving. Consider developing a stewardship plan that includes quarterly touches from your senior executive, development director, board chair, and the Development Committee chair if you have one. A board member who has received a thoughtful note is more likely to understand the significance of signing or sending one.

So that’s the secret: treat board members like you’d like them to treat major donors. The results will be “golden!”

The Golden Rule of Board Engagement, September 3, 2014, eJP, by Barbara Maduell


Can an established nonprofit still be innovative? It's a question that any "blue chip" company has to be ready to respond "yes" to in order to ensure continued growth. So if being innovative is viewed as being critical to a for-profit company's success, why wouldn't such a standard also apply to nonprofits?

Today's philanthropic environment encourages nonprofits to be more innovative than ever before, especially as there is increased focus on measuring impact. This push to stimulate the development of creative solutions to addressing the needs of the community helps to challenge nonprofit organizations to constantly reconsider their program models. In this way, nonprofits move beyond their comfort zone to embrace new and innovative strategies for realizing the impact of their mission. Being "innovative" does not mean deserting an organization's history, but rather leveraging what's been done to achieve new and greater impact. Like "blue chip" companies, established nonprofit organizations often have the staff and resources to take risks and pilot new programs or approaches for achieving impact.

How can a nonprofit take the leap toward being innovative? Here are some initial steps that even the risk averse may feel comfortable taking:

1. Establish a culture of innovation: Leadership needs to let staff, clients, and external constituents know that they value the agency being innovative. It's this creation of a culture of innovation that will empower individuals to think critically and creatively about the agency and its programs.

2. Define the need: Development staff should work with program staff, the organization's leadership, clients, and external constituents to identify pressing needs and service gaps within the agency's scope. During this phase, nonprofits should be willing to question the effectiveness of their existing program models while also considering potential complementary areas of impact.

3. Brainstorm: Once the needs have been identified and leadership is on board, the development staff should work collaboratively with program staff to host a series of brainstorming sessions to ascertain potential solutions to the identified issue(s). Often an organization is already home to innovative thinkers who just need to be given the freedom to exercise their entrepreneurial spirit.

4. Draft the concept: Drawing on institutional knowledge, research, contemporary literature, and other sources, the "innovation team" should put together a concept paper that captures the proposed innovation's activities, goals, and objectives. It's this initial document that development staff can then share with external stakeholders who may be interested in supporting the project.

5. Pilot the innovation: Once the nonprofit has developed a proposed model, and if resources allow, it should test that model. In many cases, this test will help to provide potential funders with the early impact data they need to ascertain whether the project is a viable investment.

To some, questioning what's been done may be difficult and adding new innovative projects to an organization's programming could be viewed as unnecessary; however, this culture of innovation is necessary to constantly pushing an organization forward. Once the culture has been established, staff will be able to move through the process from developing innovative approaches to achieving impact knowing that they are supported by their organization's leadership.

Just as new innovations are viewed as being critical to a for-profit's bottom line, so too should it be a valued aspect of a nonprofit's business plan. For-profit companies recognize the need to remain relevant by updating their products and services while also developing new ones, in much the same way nonprofits need to be laboratories for piloting new and creative approaches to living out their missions and serving their communities.

Can An Established Nonprofit Still be Innovative? September 2, 2014, The Huffington Post, by Joseph Amodeo

Maintaining the vibrancy and strength of Jewish communities across the country continues to be a concern for those of us involved, whether professionally or as lay leaders, in the Jewish communal enterprise. How do we ensure that the variety of Jewish organizations that make up the fabric of our communities continue to exist for future generations and are financially stable to meet current and emerging needs?

Endowments, once a luxury, are now an essential element of every Jewish organization’s financial stability strategy. How do we build and grow these endowments so they provide the level of funding needed to compensate for declining annual giving? While at the same time converting our Jewish communal organizations from competitors to collaborators and encouraging our most loyal and committed donors to support these valued institutions at a level many never thought possible.

Legacy giving initiatives are transforming Jewish communities across the country by addressing all of these issues. Not only are they taking advantage of the tremendous transfer of wealth provided by the baby boomer generation, but these efforts engage younger generations in changing the language and landscape of giving.

In just two years, through partnerships with Jewish federations and Jewish community foundations in 12 communities across the country, the LIFE & LEGACY ™ program of the Harold Grinspoon Foundation has assisted 183 Jewish organizations in locals, as small as Omaha and as large as Chicago, to secure more than 2,000 legacy commitments with an estimated valued of over $70 million in future gifts. More importantly, these communities are actively engaged in integrating legacy giving into their philanthropic culture, fostering camaraderie and respect among Jewish organizations and providing generous and forward-thinking members with the opportunity to express their passion, purpose, and commitment to sustaining vital programs and services.

One of the hallmarks of Harold Grinspoon’s philanthropic strategy is to inspire other donors. To encourage them, he offers incentive grants to spark conversations which ultimately support Jewish institutions of all kinds. It’s a method that he very successfully integrated into his Jewish camping program to help endow camps across North America. With LIFE & LEGACY, a two-year-old program, he is also realizing gains. His $3 million investment has already resulted in $70 million in future gifts.

So here is what we have found to be the key elements of a successful legacy initiative: a comprehensive training curriculum, ongoing support, a structure which prioritizes organizational collaboration, establishing goals, tracking efforts and most importantly monetary incentives which motivate organizations to make legacy giving a priority and donors to take action during a limited timeframe.

LIFE & LEGACY partner communities are provided matching grants to support the implementation of the program as well as funds to incentivize their local organizations to be successful. Legacy commitment goals are established for each organization and the community as a whole. Matching grants are paid on an annual basis upon achievement of the community goal. Organizational incentives are granted each year as institutions achieve, or in many cases, exceed their individual goals. The receiving organizations have the discretion to use these funds as they see fit. With a return on investment that is more than 20 fold, it’s a formula that works.

Just as matching grants encourage donors to increase annual giving, incentive grants motivate donors to take the necessary action today that will result in after-lifetime contributions to organizational endowments that are critical to future operations. Additionally, as a result of the collaborative structure of the program, we have found that on average donors are making legacy commitments to multiple organizations.

Because each commitment counts toward organizational goals one Jewish professional told me that her greatest joy was calling the professional of another organization to advise them that a legacy commitment was secured. And this cooperative spirit is extending beyond the boundaries of individual communities as evidenced by the development of a network of Jewish professionals who are sharing best practices, brainstorming around challenges, supporting each other’s efforts, and thinking strategically about encouraging legacy commitments to Jewish institutions throughout North America.

Through the mobilization of communities, both big and small, to integrate legacy giving into their philanthropic culture in an incentivized, systematic and collaborative way, we will provide our most loyal donors with an opportunity to support vital Jewish organizations in a way they previously thought impossible, strengthen and maintain dynamic Jewish communities, and assure a strong Jewish future.

Transforming Jewish Communities Through Legacy Giving, September 8, 2014, eJP, by Arlene D. Schiff

Join the National Council on Aging and Jewish family social service agencies across the country in recognizing Falls Prevention Awareness Day on September 23rd to bring attention to this pressing public health issue. Click here to access NCOA Fall Prevention resources.


If you’re like most nonprofit communicators, you have a list of specific quarterly or yearly goals. No doubt they include growing your e-mail list, acquiring new donors and increasing engagement on your Facebook updates.

But whatever your goals are, make sure they cover these seven tips below:

1. Write it down

A plan is very difficult to follow and measure if it’s not written down. Most nonprofits don’t have content strategy. And based on the limited work I’ve done, they also lack an online marketing strategy that’s written down.

Make a resolution to create written plans for each campaign throughout the year. Your plan should include stated goals, stated messaging, a strategy outline, and finally, tools and tactics. How much detail you include in this document is up to you, but at least include these elements.

Also, check out these three articles on develop a solid online marketing strategy:

2. Practice split-testing

If you’re like most nonprofits, your donor retention rates are less than satisfactory. Improving this starts with fixing the places where you’re converting poorly.

•Begin by split testing your fundraising pages, if you haven’t already. Split-testing helps increase conversions by testing out variations in the content. Some typical areas to start with include headlines, images, button location, button text, button colors, and copy. Check out how the Marine Mammal Center split-tested variations of a call-to-action.
•You should also split-test email subject lines and email content. This will eventually point the way to increased open rates, click-through rates, and eventually conversion rates.
Check out this article on how split-testing raised over $100,000 for WWF.

3. Maximize secondary actions

Make the most of every interaction people take with your nonprofit. For example, when people sign a petition, immediately email them to ask for a donation (says thanks first). This approach uses recency to create momentum towards a secondary call-to-action – essentially killing two birds with one stone.

In fact, maximize any webpage people see after completing a transaction (signing a petition, joining your email list, making a donation, registering for an event). Carefully consider what secondary actions make sense for each transaction. For example, if someone makes a donation, make sure they can easily share that with their friends.

4. See beyond the dollars

All too often, the scope of the supporter relationship is limited to money. But donating money is only one way that they interact with you.

Supporters also share your Facebook updates, sign your petitions and pledges, and re-tweet your blog posts.

Develop a specific plan to encourage these types of actions, remembering that growing a community is like growing a garden. It takes time, care and consideration. Focus on growing your community, both in terms of numbers AND engagement.

5. Be useful

It seems like all the social media experts claim that the key to success to being awesome. But what your community really needs is for you to be useful.

Being useful is much easier than trying to be awesome. Being useful is about putting the needs of your community first, like in this Facebook update from the Museum of Fine Arts:

6. Take risks

New tactics and strategies for using social media sprout up every week, making “best practices” somewhat limited. In fact, I think we should change the term “best practice” to “most commonly used practice that gets average results.”

The fact is, the web and mobile are changing very fast. Those who play it safe get average results at best, while risk-takers adopt more quickly (test, fail / win, learn, repeat). Fail forward, they say.

7. Test and measure

Most nonprofits are not strategically testing or measuring digital media. Yes, data is collected and stored in excel spreadsheets. But the hard questions aren’t being asked: Why are we measuring click-through rates? Why are we measuring our Facebook page fan growth?

Let your strategy dictate what should be measured. This will make your data much more useful. For example, if your goal is to convert more donors via email, then you want to test and measure conversion rates via clicks in those messages. Go back to what I said about split-testing.

Remember to breathe

If you’re like me, you need a fair amount of down time.

You need time to step back, take a breath, and take in the panoramic view of what you’re doing – in work and in life. Pace yourself and be smart about daily habits.

And try to have fun.

7 Tips for your Nonprofit Communications Plan, September 4, 2014, eJP, by John Haydon


The challenge of developing future leaders can loom as a daunting prospect. One reason for this view, is the belief that early career experiences and leadership roles are completely distinct entities. In reality, many of the skills required for success at various organizational levels, may overlap and remain critical over time. If we could approach development as a "layered" phenomenon, likened to the stratum within rock formations — building core strengths over time — we could take a fresh approach to development. Leadership readiness doesn't materialize as the result of completing specific types of projects or a structured development program. Becoming a capable leader is an evolution — a co-mingling of training, coaching, and exposure to the types of challenge that bring both insight and growth.

As discussed in the research of Zenger/Folkman we delay unwisely when developing leaders. While we often begin managing others in our 30's — focused leadership development may not begin in earnest until much later. This creates a precarious skill gap, which can leave an organization both underpowered and unprepared. In fact, we should begin nurturing future leaders much sooner than we have in the past (and reinforce key skills that are acquired along the way). This would address the "layering" of skills necessary to build a strong potential leader bench. Identifying potential leaders in this manner, has a number of key strategic advantages; the first of which is improved succession planning.

Additional research discussed at HBR, illustrates this layered dynamic quite clearly. In fact, some of the skills required to progress through levels of management, may be more stable than previously considered. While specific skill emphasis may change with level — certain skill sets remain front and center for the long-haul. Thinking strategically, for example, is a perfect case in point — as it is often associated with higher level leaders. But, as discussed by the researchers, "...there are a set of skills that are critical to you throughout your career. And if you wait until you’re a top manager to develop strategic perspective, it will be too late."

Testing developing capabilities with techniques such as stretch assignments (aligned with organizational initiatives and coupled with their current role) should also serve as an integral part in development. This offers opportunities test skills on the "open road". However, within modern organizations, retaining talent longer-term, becomes a critical obstacle. Here, transparency and a mutual exchange agreement become crucial. We should consider making a commitment to those with considerable promise (likened to the "Tours of duty" discussed in Reid Hoffman's, The Alliance) — offering the stability they need to hunker down and become emotionally invested.

Here are few other early development topics we could consider:

•Delegating. An often a sticky subject, delegating confidently demands that we strike a delicate balance between time and control. If we don't allow others the opportunity to handle the tasks at hand, we risk squelching motivation.

•Persuasive Communication. Becoming a skilled and powerful communicator remains a core area throughout our work lives. This becomes especially critical as we move toward leadership positions.

•Conflict Management. The capability of facing difficult or uncomfortable challenges, head on — is critical. Developing this skill often takes time and mentored practice.

•Awareness of Functional Links. Organizations are comprised of many moving parts. Becoming keenly aware of the inter-dependencies is a critical skill as we move toward a leadership role.

•Alliance Building. Leading is essentially knowing how to collaborate and build positive, lasting bonds with those that surround you. If you cannot inspire collaboration toward a meaningful goal, your leadership "quotient" is limited, at best.

•Global Awareness. In this day and age, leaders need to consider global reach. Developing a keenly honed industry-wide perspective, is vital to move forward.

•Idea Management and Intrapreneurship. Contributors desire opportunities to explore their ideas and spread their wings. Having a level of awareness to champion the ideas of team members is critical.

What are the challenges your organization faces with leader development?

Leadership Development is All About Layering, September 3, 2014, Linkedin, by Dr. Marla Gottschalk

One of the most useful nonprofit management books of this year is The Brand IDEA: Managing Nonprofit Brands with Integrity, Democracy, and Affinity by Nathalie Laidler-Kylander and Julia Shepard Stenzel.1 As an executive director working systematically at the re-branding of the organization I lead, the authors’ insights into the particular value and role of the nonprofit brand could not be timelier. What I didn’t expect was how much the book’s concepts would challenge me to think differently about the composition and focus of the nonprofit board of directors, including my own. I serve on multiple boards, have numerous boards as clients, and report to a board of directors, yet struggle to define and tap the full purpose of a nonprofit board. I am certainly not alone. Many have written eloquently in these pages in search of the board’s value beyond the fiduciary—David Renz and Judy Freiwirth, to name just two governance thought leaders. Though Laidler-Kylander and Stenzel did not set out to write a governance book, their elevation of the significance of nonprofit brands and their nonprofit-specific framework for brand management may yet provide a very useful way to think about who serves on our boards of directors and what orientation they can best bring to that most ephemeral of leadership roles.

To explore the power of brand as an organizing principle for boards of directors, I have selected three of The Brand IDEA’s core concepts and considered their implications for how we compose our boards and orient their individual and collective work, finding the conceptual elements of brand and brand management to be strikingly germane to what the board as a collective and its individual members need to embody, continuously understand, and extend broadly across an organization’s constituencies.

1.Brand Definition
“An identifier and concept that imparts information and creates perceptions and emotions.”2
2.Brand Value
“We [. . .] have observed [. . .] a paradigm shift in the way nonprofit actors perceive and understand brand. This shift has led to a view of brand not as a fundraising tool but as a critical strategic asset, one that embodies the organization’s mission and values and supports broad participative engagement and collaborations that maximize impact.”3
3.Distinction between Nonprofit and For-Profit Brand Management
“The brand IDEA differs from for-profit brand management in three fundamental ways: first, brand is focused on the mission rather than on consumers; second, positioning is used to gain organizational clarity and to support collaboration rather than to gain competitive advantage; and third, control is replaced by participative engagement.”4
Brand Democracy and the Board’s Purpose

The authors describe brand democracy as in place when “everyone develops a clear understanding of the organization’s core identity and can become an effective brand advocate and ambassador. Every employee and volunteer authentically and personally communicates the essence of the brand.”5 How much time have we wasted in our sector helping board members memorize mission statements, or, more typically, lamenting how long and un-memorizable they are? What if, instead, the request of board members was to deeply understand the current and aspirational brand of the organization and to be the über-ambassadors for it? What if each board member took on the core identity of the organization as his or her own leading up to, during, and well beyond board service?

That is the essence of brand democracy: being part of the core identity of an organization is no longer limited to specific people on an organizational chart or to finite term limits—it can’t be contained that way. So instead of reading reports at monthly meetings about the staff’s communications efforts, for instance, board members would be a part of the data set: blogging, tweeting, and making public appearances themselves. In this vision, the board is an invaluable multiplier of the staff’s voice, and because its members’ skillful ambassadorship is volunteer based, it has a special credibility and resonance all its own. Taking this idea to its fullest, the monthly or quarterly board meeting as the core place where board members “show up” becomes increasingly anachronistic. If board members are the agents and models of brand democracy, their true value is out in the field every day. Perhaps board meetings become focused primarily on equipping members for their fieldwork ahead.

Brand Identity and the Board’s Composition

The authors write, “When the brand is anchored in the mission, values, and strategy, the identity becomes the internal reflection or collective perception of everyone in the organization, and captures the very nature or raison d’être of the organization itself [italics mine].”6 If we really mean everyone—not only paid staff—then the implications of brand identity for board composition are significant. It’s my experience that many potential board candidates will feel aligned with the mission of an organization— able to say with conviction that they care about climate change or youth access to the performing arts, for instance. But what if the request of board members is something much deeper than that? What if the request is not only that you care about the cause but also that you embody the organization’s values and can discern and articulate the particular value of its chosen strategies? If it is the latter, I suspect the potential pool of appropriate board members for a given organization gets quite a bit smaller, and, moreover, I suspect the board candidate screening approach becomes more similar to that of senior staff in the depth of alignment sought than to the classic board recruitment matrix, with its requisite attorneys, accountants, and community power brokers.

Indeed, Laidler-Kylander and Stenzel spend considerable time on the centrality of values to brand and brand identity: “This idea of living the values is connected to how authentic an organization and its brand are perceived to be.”7 This suggests two things: first, that organizational values have to come “out of the closet” and mean something every single day to everyone in an organizational system; second, that a frank discussion of values has to be the first conversation with potential board members—and nonalignment a deal breaker for service—rather than arising from the orientation processes for already appointed directors. I can imagine a more cautious interpretation here—the argument that organizational values are distinct from personal ones. But from the perspective of board members as the ultimate brand ambassadors, I disagree. If an organization’s values feel academic at best or anathema at worst to a board member, how can she embody and express the brand’s identity in all of her organizational ambassadorship? I don’t think she can. If they are academic to her, she will likely avoid any explicit expression of values in the course of her ambassadorship; if they are anathema to her, she might even actively contradict them in the course of her ambassadorship. In either case, the organization’s brand is fundamentally undermined.

As a leader in the midst of re-branding at a forty-year-old organization, to me the authors’ assurance that it is not uncommon for the external image of an organization’s brand to lag behind its more rapidly changing internal brand identity is comforting.8 But here again, from a board composition perspective, what if board members were chosen especially to shorten that lag? What if, in board recruitment, we sought people who were so attuned to the aspiration of the brand that their board membership accelerated the closing of the gap between internal identity and external perception? Given how many organizations across all fields are in states of mild to severe disruption, this becomes an exciting board recruitment criterion: how credibly and enthusiastically would this candidate embody and extend the aspiration of our brand? Imagine the real danger of the alternative scenario: the staff continues to craft the new internal identity and the board propagates itself with members identified with a brand gone by. Given typical board member terms of six years plus, the internal lag in brand clarity could be seemingly interminable and have serious consequences for the board’s utility in strategic thinking and resource development.

Brand Affinity and the Board’s Judgment

The notion that a mission statement “keeps a board grounded” as it contributes to strategic thinking and decision making is in dire need of replacement, and I think brand is extremely useful here. This quote from one of the authors’ interviewees resonated immediately: “We are becoming much more explicit about Breakthrough’s methodology, about our approach, and not just the issues we care about and our end goals, but being clear with ourselves and with others about who we are and how we think, that this is our methodology, this is what we want to do.”9 We gather that their mission, per se, has not changed, but how they approach it has, and thus how they want to be understood has. That is brand. I think of the implication for the board as having to do with the quality of their strategic judgment individually and as a collective.

The authors explain brand affinity as having two elements: “Brand Affinity comprises two sets of actions. First, armed with a clear understanding of the theory of change and brand identity, the organization identifies partners, reaches out, and uses brand to attract them. Second, brand Affinity includes using the brand to enhance the effectiveness of these partnerships in achieving mission and maximizing impact.”10 If a critical element of a board’s job is to identify new partnerships (and here I would include identifying long-term donors and future board members, as well as collaborators), the board members’ judgment in parsing which potential partners are a brand match is essential. I have seen far too many executive directors managing relationships forced upon the organization by a board member who doesn’t respect the notion of nonprofit brand. The request of board members is more nuanced in this vision; their entire network of relationships couldn’t possibly be brand aligned. So the request is that they are continuously discerning what relationships they can forge or steward for the organization that optimize brand affinity.

What about the Money?

I can imagine resistance to this notion of brand as the organizing principle for the board, especially where it concerns money—namely, who is going to raise it and who is going to oversee it. If we are disciplined in composing our boards to brand, will we have enough people to participate in fundraising and to exercise the board’s fiduciary responsibility effectively? Like the board meeting as the board’s primary venue for “showing up,” the beliefs that only power brokers can raise money and only certified professional accountants can achieve real financial literacy are outdated. To be clear, if a power broker or CPA is brand aligned, that’s wonderful, and he or she can be invaluable to an organization; but the idea that status or professional skills should trump brand alignment is, I believe, a costly compromise that organizations have been making for far too long. To take the critically important issue of fundraising, for instance, what Simone Joyaux has written persuasively in the Nonprofit Quarterly is that we are looking for long-term donors: individual giving success is measured in the lifetime value of a donor, not in “one-and-done” gifts.11 I would place my bet on a brand-embodying board member over a dispassionate power broker to identify and cultivate brand-aligned donors, who logically would be more likely to become lifetime donors.

• • •

Looking back over the work my colleagues and I have done together to evolve our organization’s programming and brand, I see all of the elements of The Brand IDEA in play, though of course we didn’t have the authors’ very helpful language for what we were doing. As I write, the board members who have stayed and changed with us are in the process of recruiting a new cohort of board members. The Brand IDEA has given us a powerful framework and inspiration to invite people onto our board with as much passion as we have not only for our mission but also for the particular ways we aspire to achieve it—that is, for our brand.

Our Boards in Our Brands:  An Aspiration, August 29, 2014, Nonprofit Quarterly, by Jeanne Bell


What if we could untether our strategic planning processes from typical constraints? What if we looked at building on our strengths and capitalizing on our opportunities rather than fixing our weaknesses and responding to threats? What if we unlocked our potential to grow, thrive, and evolve? What if rather than sustainability and stability we focused on transformative possibility?

Members of Solomon Schechter School of Queens’ professional development team and Board of Trustees spent a day and a half with Charles Cohen and Ray Levi of PEJE (Partnership for Excellence in Jewish Education) in imaginative exploration of the possible. Piloting a generative, creative planning process known as “asset optimization”, we began with a few “rules”:

    No silos allowed – multiple voices identify disparate assets, including human assets, to unleash new potential.
    Thinking must be interactive.
    Change and success must find common ground. We must not view change as an end unto itself, but rather as a vehicle for achieving success. Similarly, we must challenge the potential constraints of success, which can lead us to being stuck in what has worked even though our world is rapidly changing around us.
    The power of imagination must be embraced.
    In order to “connect the dots” in new, innovative ways we must identify dots we might not have even realized existed.
    The Head of School must accept not being the expert.
    The Board must support innovative thinking.

From there, we played. Using a model created by Shattuck-ST. Mary’s School’s President Nick Stoneman as a means of sharing the creative process that transformed his school over the span of a decade of innovation, we first engaged in two rounds of asset optimization using assets from schools other than our own. We worked with a very specific asset in each of six areas: Physical Plant, Faculty and Staff, Brand Recognition, External Relationships, Geography and Region, and Program Offered. Our task was to optimize potential by intertwining assets in these six disparate areas, finding opportunity previously unrecognized by connecting and combining asset categories in new and innovative ways in order to improve in seven specific areas: Faculty Engagement, Student Retention, Increased Enrollment, Facility Expansion, Endowment Growth, Additional Programs, and Alternative Revenue.

Charles Cohen and Ray Levi functioned as our coaches, activating our learning by observing, asking reflective questions to stretch our thinking, and offering feedback on what we might consider. They challenged us to be more specific and less “neat,” freeing us to resist the impulse to tie loose ends together quickly and instead to consider as many possibilities for building on strengths as we could. Working in two separate groups, we strove to optimize assets for two fictional schools, each with seemingly unconnected assets. Through the brainstorming, we crafted narratives of meaning, building on strengths to create schools that are world class – one emphasizing community and character; the other science and social policy. Inspiring us to live with the inherent messiness of creativity, at least for awhile, our facilitators sent us off on round two with two new schools and two new sets of assets to consider. To the delight of our facilitators, we emerged with “messier” packages of potential, and multiple potential directions for the schools presented to us – one a girls’ school emphasizing the arts and expanding into wellness programming and therapeutic arts for students and the broader community, and the other a struggling school in need of substantial intervention with a plethora of possibilities for improvement based on strengths, some of them initially hidden.

With the experience of imagining the possible in connection to fictional schools, with fictional assets, we were ready to identify real assets in our own school; dots we might not have yet even recognized in order to then connect those dots in new, innovative ways. Feedback from our coaches Charles Cohen and Ray Levi on our identification of our own assets was consistent with the feedback they offered in relation to our efforts at optimizing assets in the fictional schools which which we had practiced: be more specific. And so, we went back to work – identifying with much greater specificity faculty members, alumni, programs, and opportunities made possible by our physical plant. Those assets became the raw material with which we returned the next day to engage in multiple rounds of the asset optimization exercise using real assets of our own school.

Prompted by our coaches to think more expansively, more ambitiously, more creatively, more flexibly, and more specifically, we imagined a world class school. We envisioned signature programs and strategic partnerships enabling us to be ever more relevant to our students, preparing them in concrete, innovative ways for the rapidly changing world of work with emphasis in technology, science, and entrepreneurial ventures; infused with commitment to being socially responsible; deeply grounded in the enduring values and texts of our Jewish religious tradition. We described potential ways to build upon global connections stemming from our own multi-national, multi-lingual student and family population. Considering museums, universities, libraries, businesses, organizations, and individuals with whom to develop strategic partnerships, we recognized ways of cultivating connections to benefit our students. We imagined expansive potential for recruitment and facility expansion based on a virtuous cycle of optimizing assets.

Beyond the imaginative ideas, we experienced important shifting of mindset. Possibilities requiring effort, risk, and courage were shared aloud as possible, leading not to a sense of anxiety or outright dismissal, but instead to openness to further exploration. “The toothpaste is out of the tube,” one participant playfully remarked, in reference to our rapidly changing world as well as the possibilities we together imagined.

Ready to leave the limitless world of potential and possibility and return to the more mundane day to day world of the operational and the tactical, we considered next steps that would enable us to build on positive momentum generated. Members of the professional leadership team considered concrete actions we could take to actualize some of the more manageable suggestions offered as well as to lay the groundwork for more ambitious innovation. Most significantly, we considered ways of bringing others who had not participated in the training into the process, primarily our Trustees and our faculty. Recognizing that at this time two days of learning combining theory and imaginative play with a purpose would not yet be achievable or even advisable for our very busy Trustees, or our very busy faculty members, we considered specific ways to infuse the language and thinking behind asset optimization into our work as we seek to shift our school’s mind set to a focus on identifying, cultivating, celebrating, and building on strength and opportunity. While much remains to be done, the conversation and learning has already had a potent impact. The toothpaste is out of the tube!

What If? Perspectives on Asset Optimization, September 1, 2014, eJP, by Shira Leibowitz

AJFCA is supporting H. Res. 707, a resolution that condemns all forms of anti-Semitism and rejects attempts to justify anti-Jewish hatred or violent attacks as an expression of disapproval over political events. The resolution condemns the comparison of Israel to Nazis and supports Holocaust education at home and abroad. During recent meetings between the Special Envoy for U.S. Holocaust Survivor Services and Holocaust Survivors, the Survivors expressed increased anxiety stemming from attacks against Jews in Israel and in Europe. This resolution currently has 99 cosponsors and we hope to raise that number past 100 this week! We are hopeful the House can vote on this in the next week. Please thank the cosponsors and urge your Representative to cosponsor. To see a list of cosponsors, click here

At the Andrea & Charles Bronfman Philanthropies (ACBP), we have continuously researched spend down organizations since the decision was made to sunset ACBP by 2016.

We have been surprised by the limited content available on the process of how foundations spend down, rather than the more broadly discussed topic of why foundations spend down. (We’re glad to see this starting to change, with resources like Duke University’s online spend down research library).

We therefore went on a mission to consolidate both the process-related experiences of ACBP and other organizations’ research papers and articles relating to spending down. This is the first of two blogs this month that highlights the steps involved and items for consideration that we have organized from our research. This post will highlight strategic priorities, while the next will focus on operational components. We hope these two checklists will help other organizations as they grapple with similar spend down questions.

Let us be very clear from the outset – the spend down process is not a perfect science, nor is there a handbook that can mold a perfect strategy. As GrantCraft often shares, and as is a relevant reminder here, philanthropy and its strategies are not a one size fits all. However, we are of the opinion that by asking the right questions, foundations can make sound judgments about their spend down to make it more meaningful, strategic, and able to achieve goals – rather than being deterred by unneeded challenges. Here’s our guide to asking the right questions:

1. Evaluate overarching programmatic priorities.

    What is the legacy objective, if any? Is it the name of the foundation, the programmatic impact, or both?
    Who will make the legacy decision? The founder(s)? His/her children? Trustees? Staff members? Some combination?
    Will future generations continue the foundation’s legacy or impact objectives through other means?
    If there is a living donor, how will s/he engage philanthropically after the spend down takes place (if at all)?
    How might the foundation need to adjust its current programming to meet the legacy objective?
    Will there be an endowment at the close of the foundation? If so, to whom will it be distributed?

2. Determine when to spend down and how to communicate it.

    Should the date drive the program goals or the program goals drive the date?
    Is the foundation’s lifespan long enough to make appropriate program planning adjustments?
    Who needs to learn about the foundation’s decision to spend down?
    How and when will the spend down be communicated to partners and grantees?

3. Carry out assessment of current programs.

    What types of qualitative and quantitative criteria should be used in the assessment?
    How do those criteria align with the foundation’s present and legacy objectives?
    How might the assessment handle comparisons among grantees and within various funding portfolios?
    Should outside consultants or an evaluation firm conduct the assessment?
    Who should be involved in the assessment? Founders? Trustees? Staff? Grantees?
    Should the assessment be carried out anonymously or publicly?

4. Wind down funding of non-essential grantees.

    Has it been clearly communicated to the grantee that funding will soon stop?
    Is a transparent timeline in place for reduction of funding?
    Has the timeline been communicated with adequate lead time to each grantee? If not, can the foundation consider readjusting the schedule?
    How might the foundation assist with transitional support or attract replacement support from other funders?

5. Enhance capacity and funding for core grantees.

    What steps must be taken to ensure core grantees have the financial and operational expertise to continue after the spend down?
    Will the foundation provide capacity building – monetary or in-kind – to enable grantee sustainability in the areas of:
    Fundraising and donor relations management?
        Financial and organizational management?
        Governance and board management?
        Strategic planning?
        Leadership development and staffing?
    Have actionable fundraising plans been created by grantees with reserves in place in case financial goals are not reached?
    How will the foundation and grantees balance responsibilities to search for new partners?
    If the foundation has incubated grantees, how can the grantee mitigate the “branding” effect that often ensues and onboard new partners?
    Are there merger possibilities for incubated grantees in order to consolidate operational capacities?
    Should the foundation use a dashboard or other tool to track and analyze progress of grantee strength and sustainability throughout the spend down process?

6. Determine if new program initiatives will be considered.

    Will new initiatives invigorate the staff and potentially prevent loss of enthusiasm?
    Is it practical (or necessary) to reduce funding for other grantees to fund new initiatives?
    Can the foundation transition from a grantmaking organization to one that offers non-financial support to grantees through mentorship?

7. Determine closing and post-close strategies.

    How can the foundation spend its time meaningfully capturing lessons learned and networking grantees and funding partners to leverage its investments over the years?
    How should the foundation’s successes and impact be celebrated? If there is an event, who will be invited?
    How will the institutional knowledge created and accumulated throughout the foundation’s lifespan be preserved?
    Where will this knowledge (and documentation) be archived? By a partner or supporting membership organization?

We hope this list will illuminate important spend down considerations and will assist other organizations in thoughtfully examining their own priorities and processes.

Stay tuned for the next post in this series, which will underscore operational practicalities to consider for sun setting organizations.

Steps to a Successful Spend Down: Strategic Priorities, August 31, 2014, eJP, by Mariah Schuknecht

Since going viral the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has raised an unprecedented $82 million (to date), nearly $80 million more than the same period last year. These are enviable results in the history of fundraising, by any accountancy. The ice bucket challenge will be remembered as a legendary campaign, perhaps one that even finances a cure for a horrible disease. The funds continue to roll in, and we’re all still cheering for the ALS Association’s doused inductees. The ingredients of this campaign cocktail are clearly all top-shelf. And, as we all sober up (and perhaps dry off) from the success of the bucket campaign, it’s time to consider, “What made the ‘Ice Bucket Challenge’ so successful?” What worked?

Here’s your fundraising bucket list:

Keep it Simple

“Donate or douse!” That’s the entire campaign. There’s no dinner, no response card, no environmentally wasteful flyer followed by a glitzy envelope bearing the unavoidable invitation: just a simple challenge over a friendly channel (Facebook) frequented by people who, for the most part, have the means to make a modest, or even generous contribution. The prospective donor, approached by a friend or loved one has a simple choice: contribute or make a public spectacle of yourself and film it. Giving is easier than making a video. (In my case, giving is easier than uploading my video – which is why we need teenagers.) And it would appear that, in most cases, those challenged both donated and doused, which makes the campaign all the more successful – it’s progression is viral. Support A by doing B and/or C; that’s simple.

For your cocktail shaker: The less complicated your campaign activity is, the better.

Make it Fun

The best fundraisers are “friend-raisers.” Encouraging your friends to join you in supporting a cause provides them the opportunity to lift themselves up, in addition to attracting new converts to the nonprofit. In the case of the ice bucket challenge, the appeal is fun and the -raising, be it fundraising or friend-raising, is secondary to the appeal of the campaign. People who’ve never heard of ALS nor learned anything about it since being challenged still doused and donated! Why? Because the campaign’s appeal is purely fun! And it’s not just because a bunch of celebrities participated in it (though surely that helped). The dousing invited creativity and the embrace of community. What creativity is involved in pouring cold water over your head? View one of the Ice Bucket Challenge clip rolls on YouTube and you’ll see.

For your cocktail shaker: Find a way for existing and potential donors to have fun while funding your cause!

Use Social Media the Way It’s Intended

Facebook enables ordinary people to share personal information with their friends, and often reconnect with old friends, by displaying their personal “stuff” on a public platform. The ice bucket challenge is successful across this and other channels because social media was designed specifically for sharing “stuff”. FB built its empire upon recordings of marriage proposals gone awry, cats purring, slips and falls at weddings, links to prescient articles etc. Posting a video of yourself while inverting a bucket of ice water over your head works on this medium. Contrast this with all of the things that don’t get good traction on FB – invitations to miscellaneous events, groups you don’t want to join, etc. and you get the sense that the latter items are all sales pitches as opposed to personal appeals to connect with someone. Social media is for socializing, not soliciting.

For your cocktail shaker: Build your campaign around the idea that friends invite and share information with other friends.

Identify a Meta-Message

“ALS is bad.” That’s all anyone needs to know when challenged by a friend to join the bucket brigade. When thinking about your organization, try to extract the overarching meta-message from your mission statement, making it as plain and easily transmittable as possible. The point is, identify something about your organization’s mission that everyone can agree with. “We make Jews” for day schools is a concentrated version of mission statements about “nurturing schools” that offer “differentiated instruction” in a “holistic Jewish environment.” Figure out what your meta-message is. Is it something that everyone can get on board with? If so, you’ve found your overarching theme to anchor your campaign.

For your cocktail shaker: Align your campaign to a potent meta-message.

Supporters Recruit Donors

I’m so-and-so and I challenge Ploni (my family member, friend, colleague, comrade-in-arms, celebrity crush) to do the ALS ice bucket challenge. It’s more meaningful if the invitation comes from someone you admire and respect. The bucket challenge went viral because each individual invited two or three people who were likely to take up the cause because they are familiar to each other and on the same “level”. I invited my daughter and two friends; Bill Gates challenged Elon Musk and Ryan Seacrest. Like all good fundraising, the best asks are peer-to-peer.

For your cocktail shaker: Design your campaign around the idea that friends recruit friends.

No Penalty for Not Donating

You can ignore your friend’s Facebook challenge altogether, but because of the social aspect (and all the previous bucket list items), I believe many, many people chose to douse themselves. And while many people contributed in support of the ALS Association, there are, I’m sure, people who used the dousing as an out to conserve their hard earned cash. And what do they get for not donating? They earn virtually the same “celebrity” as those who did donate (and douse). The dousers-not-donors help to advance the cause and are given credit for having done so. Further, there’s every reason to believe that dousers are more inclined to donate in the future because of their newly acquired familiarity, however superficial, with the nonprofit. There’s no downside to giving people a respectable out if they really don’t want to or cannot afford to make a contribution. Offer them an opportunity to be a friend of the organization.

For your cocktail shaker: Make friends, not enemies.

With a Twist

Good bartenders put a personal spin on each cocktail, mixing each to appeal to the culture of their club/clientele. The aforementioned six bucket list items, when combined in just the right proportions, will satisfy your community. Experiment with the mix – the result shouldn’t be shocking like a bucket of ice water over the head. Invite some of your trusted inner circle volunteers to a “tasting” of the mixes you’re considering, to fine tune the “taste.” Eventually you’ll develop a recipe that’s certain to make most people happy and keep them coming back for more.


Mixing a Successful Fundraising Cocktail: Success of the Ice Bucket Challenge, August 31, 2014, eJP, by Lev Herrnson

The issue of how much nonprofits should spend on fundraising has been a topic of heated discussion for a long time, and has given rise to several watchdog groups, such as the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance, Charity Watch, Charity Navigator, and others. The aim of these groups is to help prospective donors see how much of their money goes to programming and how much is spent on fundraising. Recently, the Nonprofit Federation of the Direct Marketing Association (DMANF) established a new dashboard tool to allow nonprofit organizations to self-report on their fundraising expenses. The watchdog groups swiftly responded, saying the tool is ultimately meaningless.

The Nonprofit Federation is the nonprofit arm of the Direct Marketing Association, a trade association “dedicated to advancing and protecting responsible data-driven marketing.” Last year, the DMANF Ethics Committee and the Advisory Council published a set of fundraising principles, and this new dashboard tool is based on some of the assumptions inherent in the new principles. One of the basic principles is that fundraising and management in general cost money. The principles also suggest that most of the money raised by nonprofits should be applied towards fulfilling the stated mission. So far, there is no disagreement with the watchdog groups, although DMANF does not give guidance as to what an acceptable percentage spent on fundraising might be. (BBB Wise Giving Alliance, for example, suggests no more than 35 percent should be spent on fundraising.)

The real divergence is on the issue of time. The BBB and others measure spending and income annually, while DMANF says that an examination of spending over the course of three or more years provides a better look. Their argument is that the costs to acquire a new donor are relatively high and only pay off over time, as the donor moves to making annual gifts that increase in size. Taken over time, the initial cost to acquire the donor is mitigated. As a result, the dashboard tool asks for three years of information, and so can demonstrate trends.

The dashboard, which comes in the form of a downloadable PDF where information can be filled in, saved, and recorded online, invites the nonprofit to self-report information for the past three years about the mission, total revenue, the number of constituents served, program expenditure, expenditure to acquire new donors, the number of new donors, and more.

Charity Navigator’s Sandra Miniutti, in an interview by the Chronicle of Philanthropy, commented that there is no “independent” oversight of the information being provided in the dashboard. Moreover, it hides how much donors are actually giving, meaning that a lot of money may have been spent to acquire donors who stay at very small giving levels. Therefore, the dashboard seems to have been “written for the groups that oversolicit,” according to Charity Watch’s Dan Borochoff.

Essentially, the DMANF believes the dashboard tool is more reflective of the real expenses associated with fundraising, and then leaves it up to the prospective donor to determine if they are comfortable with the ratios and the trends over time. The watchdogs are saying there must be analysis of the information in order for donors to get any real value from the report. However, the watchdogs themselves often differ completely in judgment of the same nonprofit. As NPQ has reported, one nonprofit—the Wounded Warriors Project—received a poor rating, a decent rating, and a high rating from three different watchdog groups.

There is something commonsensical about a tool that gives quick and easy access to basic information, allowing a prospective donor the chance to review it and make up his or her own mind. However, it is valid to criticize that tool for not providing information about the number of donors at varying giving levels, whether they have increased their gifts, and other related information that would justify acquisition costs. Perhaps, in the end, this new tool needs a bit of refinement.—Rob Meiksins

Mark Vanderbeck is the CEO of ACTS Retirement-Life Communities, which operates 23 continuing care facilities across eight states. These communities serve a total of 8,500 residents, and Vanderbeck says that their consultation has helped him enormously over the years.

Here, he recalls the first time he realized what a depth of wisdom he had at his fingertips:

“There was an early contract which was still in force that made life, especially in the 1980s, almost impossible. Any increases in a given year of the residents’ fees were limited to five percent of the original monthly fee. So it’s not just five percent of the current fee, but of the original fee. So here we are, sitting in the late ’80s, with inflation of 16 to 18 percent. Over time, this community was going to be in dire straits, even though anybody walking by would see this beautiful community and not see the financial problems.”

At that time, the head of the residents’ financial committee was the former chancellor of the New York State University system.

“I went to him and he understood very well what the problem was…. We had several conversations and you know, ultimately, he said, ‘Mark, you can’t keep this as something that’s a management problem. This is ultimately a resident problem.’

“At that time in my life, there was a tendency to keep certain things [quiet]—you wouldn’t necessarily fully communicate certain kinds of issues. He encouraged me very strongly to come up with a plan. It was called the Trustees Plan and it gave people the opportunity to pay at market levels and it was communicated that this was needed.”

Vanderbeck says that this formative experience led him to a deep commitment to transparency.—Ruth McCambridge

Dashboard Confessional: The Value of a Nonprofit Self-Reporting Tool, August 28, 2014, Nonprofit Quarterly, by Rob Meiksins

If you're like me, 24 hours is more than enough time to get everything done that you want to get done in a day. And a five-day work week? That's two days too many. And money? it ain't no thing. There's more than enough to fund all the events, initiatives, and programs I want to do.

Wait. That doesn't sound right.

Most of us are both time- and budget-strapped. We want to stay focused on our mission, but, try as we may, it seems there is always more to do than there is time to do it. Yet, the people we serve and the funders who underwrite our efforts expect us to produce results.

So, what's a time- and cash-strapped nonprofit to do?

Here’s an answer: Automate time-consuming, but necessary processes using modern technology.

How Much Time Did Routine Tasks Take Up Last Week?

Take a second and think about some of the routine tasks your organization does - entering data into systems, transferring that data between systems, getting approvals, promoting content through social channels, etc.

How many hours did your organization spend on those activities last week? Last month? Last year? For example, at StartupLansing.org, we spend time each week on:

•Managing our social media platforms
•Finding content to write about
•Tracking & managing our content calendar
•Curating content relevant to our audience(s)
•Tracking events around Lansing and consolidating them into a single, comprehensive calendar
•Aligning our team around our various organizational goals

The list goes on.

I'm sure you do some (if not, most) of these things in your organization. You know how much work it is. Maybe you avoid these things precisely because it's too much work.

There's A System for Everything - and That's the Problem

So much of the work involved in the tasks described above requires managing multiple systems. For instance, at StartupLansing, we use Trello, Hipchat, Google Drive, Hootsuite, and other tools to accomplish the tasks I mentioned. Each of these systems excels at a specific thing: Trello makes it really easy to work on projects together; Google Drive makes it easy to collaborate on documents; and Hootsuite makes it easy to manage social media.

The problem is that these systems do not natively interact with each other. This leads to redundant work. For example, we use Trello to manage our social media calendar:

As a team, we brainstorm the content we want to share, assign specific tasks to individuals to optimize it and, when the content is ready to be shared, I approve it by dragging the content to the "Approved" column.

This is fantastic for collaboration.

But what about when we want to get the content into, say, Facebook? What should we do? Copy and paste the content into posts? Maybe, if there's only one or two posts per day. But what about Twitter? We typically post 5-9 times/day - should we copy and paste 45-50 pieces of content per week into these platforms? At what time(s)?

You can see how this starts to become onerous, quickly.

Enter Hootsuite. This platform allows users to bulk-upload content to social media platforms for distribution at pre-specified times. All one need do is upload a spreadsheet with data in a specific format, and the content will be published accordingly.

Great. We have a good collaboration tool (Trello) and an efficient way to upload our content (Hootsuite).

Here's the problem...they don't talk to each other, so we still have to copy and paste data from Trello to Hootsuite.

Or do we?

Enter Web Automation

The problem of having systems interact with each other is particularly acute in the modern era. There is software to accomplish almost every task you can imagine. Too often, however, they do not interact with each other.

Tools like Zapier.com and IFTTT.com have emerged precisely to solve that problem. Think of these tools as behaving like old-fashioned switchboard operators — they connect two parties who want to interact.

For example, to solve my social media problem, I use Zapier to send approved Facebook posts to a Google Spreadsheet that we can use to do a single upload to Hootsuite.

Thus, we get the benefit of scheduling our social media in advance, with almost no human effort spent on the task. Instead, our time is spent on finding good content to curate and (trying) to write clever content for our audience (our mission).

Seven Simple Steps

Setting this up is really easy and can be done in just a few steps. For instance, to connect Trello to Google Drive, we simply do the following:

1. Select the two systems we want to have interact with each other

2. Authenticate the first account

(Disclaimer: the reason this says "Cognite Labs Trello" is because my company owns the Trello account)

3. Authenticate the second account

4. Tell the system what to do with the first account

In this case, I tell the system to use the StartupLansing Social Media Calendar board and to "trigger" when new activity happens on the "Approved" list.

5. Tell the system what to do with the second account

Here, I tell the system I want to create a new row in a Google spreadsheet when the activity on Trello is triggered. I specify how fields on the spreadsheet ought to be mapped to Trello.

6. Test it and make sure it works

To make sure you set up the recipe correctly, you can test it before you turn it on.

7. Turn it on!

Once you are satisfied with the test, then turn it on and watch your non-value added work decrease!

So Many Use Cases

I just highlighted a single use case above, but I use recipes for different things:

•Promoting events on Twitter as soon as they are added to the StartupLansing calendar (GCal to Twitter)
•Creating Facebook events when we add a new event to the StartupLansing event calendar (GCal to Facebook)
•Customizing Facebook posts when we publish something new on the blog (Wordpress to Facebook)
•Saving content I read on the web and want my team to curate (Pocket to Gmail)
•… And so much more.

Getting Started is Easy

Admittedly, it is hard to think of what can be automated from the outset. I suggest the following candidates for automation:

•Instances where someone is copying and pasting data between systems
•Instances where a lot of time is spent on data entry
•Instances where you want team members to be able to dump data into a single, shared repository
•Repetitive tasks

Most of us have a lot to do and not enough time to do it. Fortunately, web automation tools like Zapier and IFTTT make it easy to reduce the time we spend on non-value added tasks, when what we really care about is the output or product of those tasks.

I encourage you to think about the work being done in your organization, then check out the recipes on Zapier and IFTTT. I promise you will find ways to reduce work, so that you and your organization can spend time on what really matters: your mission.

Stay (Mission) Focused: A Simple Tool to Help You Save Time and Speed Up Your Organization, August 21, 2014, NTEN, by Jesse Flores


Keshet, a national grassroots organization that works for the full equality and inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Jews in Jewish life, has been awarded $250,000 by the Jim Joseph Foundation.

The funding will support the expansion of Keshet’s signature training, The Keshet Leadership Project, to Jewish organizations in New York and Los Angeles over the next two years. The Leadership Project is a multi-service program that convenes, trains, provides resources for and supports Jewish institutions to become more inclusive of LGBT individuals and families, with a particular focus on youth. The Project is designed to impact the policies, programs and cultures of Jewish institutions by supporting the leaders of those institutions to make sustainable change over time.

For over a decade, Keshet has worked with organizations, trainers and leaders within the Jewish community, to gather and test best practices for an impactful training model.

The Keshet Leadership Project is an intensive program, consisting of five phases: Assessment, Learning, Planning for Action, Follow-up, and Evaluation. The Project launches with the Keshet Leadership Summit, an immersive and experiential day-long program designed to build the capacity of individual leaders, such as rabbis, executive directors, heads of schools, camp directors, youth movement leadership and top lay leaders. Each leader and institutional team drafts an action plan with objectives and a timetable for implementation. Following the Summit, leaders receive specialized coaching over the course of a year to help them carry out their action plans. In addition, Keshet Trainers are available for on-site trainings for an institution’s entire leadership, faculty, staff or community members.

The Leadership Project is currently underway with Jewish community institutions in Miami, Boston, and Palo Alto.

You can learn more about the Keshet Leadership Project by visiting the project website.

Keshet Awarded $250,000 for Inclusion Training, August 27, 2014, eJP

Long standing professionals often forget for whom they work. They also tend to forget the importance of their role to nurture leadership and volunteerism. They forget the need to apologize to others, to admit they have erred.

I have been studying the structure of volunteer organizations and analyzing the leadership of their professionals’ leadership styles for a little more than forty years. I have founded a number of synagogues in Europe and the United States, worked as a congregation rabbi and finally served as the exec director of the Federation of Jewish Men’s Clubs (FJMC) for nearly thirty-five years. My work has been guided by the belief that if one wishes to build a community one must empower and invest in its volunteers.

This isn’t always easy and it runs counter to the way most organizations function. The majority of not-for-profit organizations when they wish to develop a community or a project choose to invest in professionals. This, is a logical means of moving forward but it often overlooks the fact that the professional staff is only one part an equation. The second part of that equation is the volunteer culture. The manner in which professionals interact with their volunteers often determines their continuity and the success of the organization they represent. The success of any not-for-profit organization is dependent upon this volunteer/professional relationship.

A large number of professionals assume that part of their position is to create and articulate a vision but the manner and the strategies that the professional employs to empower others with that vision is rarely taken into account.

In order to create a working meaningful volunteer/professional culture the professional or professionals needs to develop a plan that engages and develops volunteers. Too often this fails to occur and tensions between lay and professional leaderships develop.

I often ask newly ordained rabbis, serving in their first pulpit, to define their leadership style in a simple sentence ending with an adjective and a noun. For example, “I am a dynamic leader.” The results are usually very interesting primarily because they have never been asked to consider this question. When I am asked this question, and I usually am, my response is “I am a servant leader.”

Servant leaders help make their volunteers the best volunteers, the best leaders, they can be. Servant leaders places volunteers in the spotlight, and helps them learn how to motivate others. Servant leaders quietly create the roles models we wish to be emulated. They are the ones who help their professionals make decisions. They are the ones that learn how to lead grace after meals so they can teach others.

In order for this to occur, volunteer leaders require backups and partners and the security that they will never fail, because the professional understands that their lives, like ours, are extremely busy and very complicated. Someone will lose a job, or contract an illness, or have something happen to their family which will limit their ability to serve. At times this means that the volunteer leader might not meet some people’s expectations. They might not perform in a position the way someone else would. It might mean two steps forward one step backward. The servant leader helps leadership understand they are doing the best they can and are learning how to be more effective volunteers and possible leaders if they are properly encouraged. In the volunteer world a culture of friendship means that no one ever fails, they just might not succeed as much as they desired. The professional’s job is to create a culture of friendship and trust coupled with the recognition that everyone has different abilities.

I was recently asked by the leader of one of the great teaching institutions in America, how could I run an organization, the only one in the Conservative Movement that is growing and getting younger, with such a small staff? My answer was simple and straight forward. I empower volunteers to coordinate all of the various portfolios. I help them break down positions with tremendous responsibility into small achievable goals and tasks. I place them in positions where they can succeed and I trust them. I help them learn to share, to ask questions and to request help from others. I work hard at teaching them how to work as a team and to divorce themselves from ownership

Too often lay leaders, upon attaining high office, confuse “inauguration” with “installation”. They speak of their legacies and results. Attitudes like these creates cultures of fear and mistrust. When this occurs, organizational directions can be shifted in different directions at the whim of the president. On the other hand, a culture of friendship reflects a venue where incoming, existing and past leadership works together. They stay on course from administration to administration concentrating on previously determined goals.

In many instances the vision of the professional doesn’t always reflect the needs of the organization. This is one of the great pitfalls in the not-for-profit world. A person can be swept up in the perceived glory of becoming an international figure, a world Jew, when in actuality in order to strengthen the organization a different professional direction is needed.

Long standing professionals often forget for whom they work. They also tend to forget the importance of their role to nurture leadership and volunteerism. They forget the need to apologize to others, to admit they have erred. They forget how important it is to be a servant/leader.

Leadership in the Volunteer Community, July 15, 2014, eJP, by Charles Simon

The Claims Conference has successfully negotiated a $250 million landmark agreement with the German government.  As a result of last week's negotiations, a new fund will be established, to be administered by the Claims Conference, for Jewish Child Survivors of the Holocaust. This joint fund will provide support to Shoah survivors around the world who lived under Nazi occupation and will enable them to receive symbolic financial compensation for the traumas suffered during their childhood.  The payment from this fund represents an acknowledgement of the special trauma and hardship endured by children during the Shoah.

Our negotiating delegation emphasized to the German government that because Jewish children were in constant fear of death during the Holocaust, this trauma has overshadowed the rest of their lives. Early traumas are now resulting in late-onset physical and psychological problems that only now are appearing as concrete symptoms in their old age.

Those survivors of the Shoah who were born January 1, 1928 or later – the oldest of those would have been young children when Hitler came to power in 1933 – and who were in concentration camps, ghettos, or for at least six months under Nazi occupation (or 12 months in Nazi Axis countries) in hiding or under false identity will be eligible to receive a special one-time payment of €2,500 (approximately $3,280) because of special needs.

The agreement is subject to approval by the Bundestag and the Claims Conference.  It is envisioned that the fund will become operational on Jan. 1, 2015. Approximately 25 percent of the funding for this program will come from the Claims Conference, with the remaining 75 percent provided by the German government.  These were not easy negotiations - especially given the German government position that these survivors were already receiving pensions and therefore should not receive any additional payments.  Ultimately, these payments represent acknowledgment of the special needs of those who endured the Shoah as children, especially 70 years later.

The agreement reached in the negotiations between the Claims Conference and the German government comes on the heels of the first-ever symposium held in Berlin of Jewish child survivors, held on August 27 at Centrum Judaicum.  The symposium – “Lost Childhood: Jewish Childhood Survivors” – was organized by the Claims Conference, in cooperation with the World Federation of Jewish Child Survivors of the Holocaust and Descendants (WFJCSD) and the Center of Organizations of Holocaust Survivors in Israel.  In this context, I want to thank Claims Conference Board members Stefanie Seltzer and Max Lazar Arpels, who have given their hearts and souls to child survivor issues over the years.

During the symposium, internationally recognized experts provided a comprehensive sense of the special suffering endured by Jewish children during the Holocaust and shed light on the particular situation of child survivors today.  This special symposium was the subject of last week’s email message from Greg Schneider.

We are all deeply grateful to Ambassador Stuart Eizenstat, our Special Negotiator, who traveled to Berlin specifically for Thursday’s four-hour meeting, and returned to the U.S. that very afternoon.  His dedication to helping Holocaust victims runs extraordinarily deep.  Our thanks also goes to Roman Kent, who has been a driving force in negotiations with the German government, particularly regarding the homecare program, over the years.  Amb. Colette Avital also deserves special acknowledgment for her active involvement in the child survivor fund negotiations.

The Claims Conference negotiating delegation comprises Amb. Eizenstat; Roman Kent, Co-Chair; Holocaust survivor leaders Amb. Colette Avital, Uri Chanoch, Ben Helfgott and Marian Turski; Amb. Reuven Merhav and Rabbi Andrew Baker; and Claims Conference Executive Vice President Greg Schneider and the team of professionals from the Claims Conference led by Greg – including Rudi Mahlo, Representative in Germany, Karen Heilig, Christiane Reeh, and Konrad Matschke – who worked diligently to make this new fund a possibility.

These successful negotiations were a result of the skill of our negotiating delegation and their passion to bring a small measure of justice to those who had their childhoods cruelly ripped away. The Claims Conference continues to press for the liberalization of the criteria of other compensation programs so that every survivor can feel safe and cared-for in the last years of their lives.

Child Survivor Fund Established, September 3, 2014, Claims Conference, by Julius Berman

Jewish Women International has been chosen to participate in the Purple Purse Challenge, the Allstate Foundation's national campaign to get people talking about domestic abuse - specifically financial abuse, which is the primary reason domestic violence survivors stay in or return to abusive relationships. September 2nd through October 3rd, JWI is asking you to give what you can toward this effort. Learn more here.

Philanthropy is, increasingly, a world of insiders. How many foundation websites explain in no uncertain terms that they do not accept unsolicited proposals, or even unsolicited letters of interest? For nonprofits that aren’t already in the foundations’ circles or don’t socialize with the foundation leaders and staff, it looks and feels like an impenetrable, unscalable, concrete wall. And as government programs like the Social Innovation Fund put government dollars into grantmakers who bring their own predetermined lists of grantees, smaller and newer nonprofits—particularly nonprofits representing the interests and concerns of controversial constituencies—find foundation fundraising an impossible game that could even affect their prospects for some public sector funding. Imagine the sound of a metal gate closing just as you get to the door. That’s where foundations tend to be nowadays.

Does this mean that foundation grantmaking reaches an ever-narrowing range of nonprofits? To an extent, unfortunately, yes. The foundation grantmaking game—remember, we’re talking about some 100,000 foundations—depends a lot on who you know on the inside (or as an intermediary referral) who will bring your nonprofit’s proposal or letter of interest to the attention of someone within the hallowed halls of philanthropy. The barrier presented by foundations that won’t even entertain or read unsolicited letters is a real problem for nonprofits looking for the “risk capital” that foundations are known for. But nonprofits with good ideas, strong experience, and projects and programs worth funding are a hardy lot and sometimes find ways of vaulting over the barriers to present ideas to foundations that they might not otherwise hear or consider—but should.

Brad Smith of the Foundation Center wrote in 2011 that 60 percent of foundations say that they do not accept unsolicited proposals. A 2009 Foundation Source survey of its clients, all family foundations, found that 77 percent would not consider unsolicited requests. Of those family foundation respondents, 72 percent said that they already know whom they wanted to support, 37 percent feared being “inundated” with proposals, and the rest generally wanted to be anonymous.

It is increasingly rare to read a statement such as this from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation:

“RWJF seeks out and supports pioneering ideas and innovative solutions to ensure we stay on the cutting edge in our efforts to foster a culture of health in America. We accept unsolicited proposals for pioneering ideas and issue awards throughout the year, with no deadlines.”

It is an implicit recognition by the foundation’s managers that good ideas ferment and bubble up from the field, outside of a foundation’s four walls, and that those foundations that want to be cutting-edge look to nonprofits on the front lines of social change to tell them what they might not know, anticipate, or recognize.

While they all have their reasons, more and more foundations, young and old, are moving toward the rejection of unsolicited proposals as standard procedure. The Case Foundation, founded and run by AOL mogul Steve Case and his wife Jean, builders of a high-tech firm that surely had to leap over barriers to get noticed during its infancy in the business world, makes its position clear:

“The Case Foundation invests its resources in specific projects and initiatives that complement our approach to philanthropy. Our grants and staff time are focused on partnerships that we develop proactively with nonprofits, businesses, and other foundations. We regret that we are unable to review or consider unsolicited proposals.”

Case suggests that unsolicited nonprofits seeking financial assistance check out the websites of GuideStar, Charity Navigator, the Council on Foundations, and the Foundation Center for ideas on where they might go, given the locked door at Case.

Plenty of respected foundations with solid track records of excellent grantmaking have decided to close the door on unsolicited proposals, too. To name a few: the Edward W. Hazen Foundation (because of the decreasing percentage of unsolicited proposals that the foundation is funding altogether combined with the foundation’s desire to focus on increasing the effectiveness of the “emergent education and youth organizing” field, though the foundation said it would on occasion issue RFPs), the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation (because it prefers to “cultivate long-term projects and partner with organizations whose efforts are aligned with our program strategies”); the Marguerite Casey Foundation, and the Rita Allen Foundation (because it “practices proactive grant making and works with a variety of experts in its fields of investment to identify organizations invited to submit proposals”). These are respected, admired foundations, all making it clear that without an invitation, you shouldn’t come knocking. It’s as if being able to submit unsolicited proposals or LOIs has become a quaint, nostalgic practice of a bygone era.

How can nonprofits penetrate the inner sanctums of foundations protected by moats of “do not accept unsolicited” policies? We offer some polite (and perhaps less polite) suggestions for worthy nonprofits trying to tap desperately needed sources of philanthropic capital.

    Get visible to build relationships: Even the non-soliciting foundations show up at conferences—the Council on Foundations, Independent Sector, Exponent Philanthropy (the new name for the Association of Small Foundations), and the programs of regional associations of grantmakers. Remember, as a nonprofit participant, you aren’t supposed to solicit for money at these conferences (although we’ve watched plenty of people who have and routinely do in the most embarrassing way). However, showing up, talking, presenting if you are able to get a slot on a workshop panel, even organizing rump non-conference sessions on your topic opens up your organization to these foundations. Periodically, you’ll see foundation reps at these gatherings snap to attention as they hear something that they haven’t known before and realize is of value to their grantmaking agendas. When you meet the foundation program officers, follow up with materials and information that you think they might be interested in—not the hard sell for your organization, but the soft sell of information that builds on common interests. Some foundations that preclude unsolicited proposals and LOIs will, however, make grants to “new” nonprofits on the recommendation of trustees or staff. You only get to them by building relationships, and you build relationships by being visible, connecting, and interacting.
    Research their boards and staff for connections: It’s often surprising how poorly nonprofits research their potential funders. Go through the target foundation’s entire board for an in-depth review of the bios and resumes of the board members. That means doing solid Google searches on them, checking out their bios on Who’s Who and other directories, checking on the Foundation Directory online for their presence in other foundations, and checking GuideStar for their memberships on other nonprofit boards. You’re looking not just for personal connections, but issue connections. You’re missing the boat if you don’t see whether these people have written or when or where they have spoken out on issues of concern to your nonprofit (a Nexis search for news clips mentioning foundation board members by name is very useful). When you find those topical and organizational intersections, reaching out to those individuals is a way of getting your organization into their foundations’ mental hoppers.
    Send information, working papers, and thought pieces: When you find non-soliciting foundations with issue interests common to your organization’s, send them information that you think will give them new insights and ideas, pique their interest, and stimulate their thinking. When foundations reject unsolicited proposals, they are implicitly saying their existing circle of grantees and information sources constitutes whatever they need to know. The reality, which your organization knows, is that these foundations don’t know all there is to be known and would themselves benefit if they were exposed to new ideas. If foundation program officers find themselves benefitting from your ideas, there’s an opening to be pursued. An even more intriguing possibility is to send think pieces and working papers and ask the foundation for substantive reactions and feedback—that is, shift the dynamic from potential grantor/potential grantee to one of equals engaged in the solution of a shared concern.
    Send an LOI anyhow: The Foundation Center’s Brad Smith suggests that nonprofits not simply send LOIs to foundations that announce they don’t accept unsolicited proposals. His theory is that raising money from foundations is fundamentally a matter of relationship-building, so that should precede any submission of letters of interest or letters of introduction. Smith is correct that relationships are clearly the preferred way of relating to foundations, but for those nonprofits that can’t get around to lots of conferences—especially given the large number of foundations out there that may or may not show up at philanthropic conferences—an unsolicited LOI may be necessary. Rather than sending LOIs willy-nilly, if an LOI it must be, the letters should be aimed at foundations whose grantmaking and interests are compatible with your nonprofit’s. You can determine this by looking at the foundations’ grantmaking, particularly through the grants listing in the Foundation Directory Online.

Sending thought-provoking information is preferable, but a cover letter that verges into an LOI isn’t a bad idea. Look for foundations whose grant guidelines suggest that they “do not encourage,” rather than “do not accept,” unsolicited inquiries. That might seem like a minor semantic difference, but it is worth exploring. However, in order to deal with the foundations’ hypersensitivity to unsolicited “proposals,” don’t send an LOI with a funding request. Use the LOI to establish a relationship on the issue that your nonprofit and the foundation share. Engage the foundations in terms of intellect rather than triggering their all-purpose resistance to requests for dollars. The reality is that many foundation program officers really do want to engage around ideas, but don’t want to be targets for obsequiously false nonprofit suck-ups. Sometimes foundation program officers and trustees see and sense an opportunity to engage on a higher plane and are thrilled at the opportunity be seen as more than a human wallet.

    Work for philanthropic change: Other than the programs of the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy (FULL DISCLOSURE: This writer was NCRP’s executive director some years ago), there seems to be little occurring in the nonprofit and philanthropic sectors promoting change in foundation grantmaking and virtually nothing that challenges the increasingly closed-door approach being adopted by foundations toward grant-seekers. The Foundation Center’s Smith suggested some time ago that even the generally do-not-solicit foundations ought to keep a portion of their grantmaking open for unsolicited proposals. “Foundations receive a tax exemption on their investment income in exchange for contributing to the public good,” Smith wrote a couple of years ago. “One way to do that is to maintain at least a single program area, however small, that invites the public, in the form of nonprofits, to freely apply for grants.”

There are a number of foundations that do maintain open windows for unsolicited LOIs or proposals in specific areas of their grantmaking, consistent with Smith’s recommendation. For example, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation identifies on its grant guidelines webpage which of its program areas are accepting unsolicited proposals (such as energy and climate, Bay Area communities, and performing arts continuity and engagement) and which aren’t (education, global development and population, and philanthropy). The Lumina Foundation’s online grant guidelines indicate that the foundation intends to be proactive in most of its grantmaking, meaning that it doesn’t generally accept unsolicited inquiries, but it notes, “We have allocated a modest amount of grant monies for unsolicited inquiries to encourage innovative ideas that relate to our strategic portfolio.”

Opening the door to unsolicited LOIs and proposals runs counter, it would appear, to the “strategic grantmaking” dynamic that has overtaken so many foundations, designing their own theories of change and generally running their own programs with nonprofits pre-selected to do the work. While debated vociferously pro and con (increasingly con), strategic-grantmaking foundations are frequently functioning more like operating foundations, designing “scripts” in which compliant nonprofits are cast. However, really good strategic thinking requires constantly scanning the environment to discover which nonprofits are making headway on challenging issues. A foundation’s strategy is inherently weak if it exists primarily within the foundation’s internal echo chamber or among a limited circle of foundation staff talking to each other. Foundations that open their eyes and ears to the dynamic work of nonprofits in the field are being truly strategic because they are listening to and looking for the creative ferment that emerges from the best of nonprofits—even if they happen to be little nonprofits not on the foundations’ current radar screens.

To this point, foundations certainly don’t face any pressures on Capitol Hill for changes in areas like foundation payout rates or increases in disclosure and transparency. But beyond that, within the nonprofit sector, there has been less and less outright criticism of foundations for their grantmaking policies and procedures per se other than whether they are making grants to desired causes. Clearly some of the procedural issues reflected in foundation grantmaking practices aren’t matters of legislation and regulation, but as Smith notes, foundations receive a tax exemption authorized by the U.S. taxpayer and should be a subject for advocacy by nonprofits. The nonprofit sector cannot and should not give foundations a grantmaking pass simply because all of us need their dollars.

The importance of nonprofits on the ground, on the front lines of social change, is that they are—or should be—the eyes and ears of philanthropists who want to better understand the nature of the issues they want to address. But where you stand on this issue is, sadly, where you sit. Todd J. Sukol, the founder of an organization called the Do More Mission, was once an impassioned proponent of foundations’ accepting unsolicited proposals.

“Did you know that three fourths of America’s 950,000 public charities have annual budgets of $500,000 or less? […] Among them are some amazing folks doing remarkable things at relatively small amounts of money—if you’re turning everyone you’ve never heard of away because the inbox is clogged with junk, you’ll never be able to meet enough of the best players to decide who is most deserving of your support,” Sukol wrote. “You could easily miss the chance to make your most important gift. Think for a minute how far a relatively low cost extra pair of hands (with brains attached) could take you in terms of making your charitable giving a whole lot more impactful—and more rewarding.”

As of February 2014, Sukol became the executive director of the Mayberg Family Charitable Foundation, located in Bal Harbour, Florida and Rockville, Maryland. According to Sukol’s LinkedIn profile, through Do More Mission, he had been a philanthropic advisor to Mayberg prior to becoming its ED. According to Mayberg’s profile on the Foundation Center’s Foundation Directory Online, Mayberg “contributes to only preselected organizations.”

Hopefully, Sukol will reintroduce the Mayberg Family Charitable Foundation to the “impactful” and “rewarding” environment that ensues when a foundation accepts unsolicited proposals. He will be helped along on that path if nonprofits speak to institutional philanthropy—established foundations—and press them to open the window to the fresh thinking and creative ideas of nonprofits by accepting unsolicited LOIs.

Scaling the Wall: 5 Ways to Get Unsolicited Proposals Heard, August 11, 2014, Nonprofit Quarterly, by Rick Cohen

Under the watchful eye of seasoned fundraisers, students in the Development Summer Internship Program at the University of Michigan attended the program’s annual etiquette dinner, where they nibbled on salad and sipped sparkling white grape juice as they were instructed in the proper way to pass a bread basket, which fork to use, and how to decide whether it’s appropriate to use their smartphones to share photos of the fancy food on In­stagram.

For a fundraiser of the millennial generation—someone born after 1979—a blunder with a smartphone could turn off a donor and lose a charity crucial support.

But focus on etiquette helps fledgling fundraisers learn how to handle such an episode gracefully, says Katy Wallander, who, as assistant director of student philanthropy in the university’s development office, helped preside over the table-manners lessons in June. "Even if the donor or the person of interest—the reason you’re there—is taking a picture of their food, you smile and you’re very kind to them and say, ‘This is such a beautiful meal,’ " Ms. Wallander says. "But you do not take out your phone."
A Rising Generation

Millennials, goes the stereotype, are wrapped up in their own little worlds and relentlessly distracted by texts and tweets and statuses and updates. They are ambitious and optimistic. Some even say they feel entitled.

But many fundraisers of all ages reject the notion that there’s anything drastically different about the rising generation when it comes to a desire to raise money for charities. Lots of young people have already set their sights on that career path: Fundraisers under age 30 make up the fastest growing segment of members of the Association of Fundraising Professionals, says Andrew Watt, the group’s leader.

"I suspect that we always believe that the next generation is not going to be able to fulfill the responsibilities in the same way," says Bruce Flessner, a fundraising consultant. " And if you’re a part of the younger generation, you look at all the people who are currently in there, thinking, ‘Someday we’ll be in charge and we’ll do it better.’ "

Texting and Talking

Still, there are some sticking points that millennial fundraisers and their supervisors say that they often negotiate.

Technology and communication are often flashpoints between generations in fundraising offices.

For example, Amie Latterman, director of development at SPUR, a community advocacy group in San Francisco, reminds young colleagues to tone down instant messaging and social media when board members or other VIPs are in the office, because it could look like the fundraisers are slacking.

On the other hand, Ms. Latterman says, these activities function as a sort of virtual water cooler, and as long as employees get the work done, she doesn’t mind some online socializing.

"They all work hard, and I know that, because I get emails from them at all hours of the day, and I get texts from them at all hours of the day."

And yet for all their communicating by text, millennials do not love speaking on the phone. In the high-touch world of fundraising, this can cause rifts between generations and potentially turn off donors.

Salmiyeh Karamali, a 28-year-old public-relations associate in the office of development at the University of Michigan, admits that, like many of her peers, she opts for text or email over the phone.

"I think our younger generation likes doing something that’s quick," she says. "It’s a little less scary and a little less intimidating."

Nevertheless, the University of Michigan puts the donors’ desires first, says Judith Malcolm, senior director of executive communications at Michigan and Ms. Karamali’s supervisor.

"We have a donor who refuses to use email. He’s on a high-level committee, and we send out an email to everyone on the committee and we fax him," Ms. Malcolm says. "If a donor wants an email or wants a fax or wants a phone call, that’s what you do. And it’s not about what your preference is at all."

Ms. Latterman agrees that speaking on the phone can be a sticking point among her young staff members and volunteers.

"I have to really push my staff and be like, ‘Call them. You’ve been emailing back and forth enough, it’s clearly not working. Try the phone.’ "
Paying Dues

Millennials sometimes face another charge: They want to bypass paying their dues in their quest for greater responsibility. In a field like fundraising, where interpersonal skills gained with experience are crucial, young people may overestimate their abilities.

Ms. Malcolm recalls an entry-level fundraiser whose boss left the university. The employee wanted to jump up to that vacant position after only a year on the job.

"I said to her that I didn’t feel she had the experience—she was brand new to fundraising," recalls Ms. Malcolm. "She literally said, ‘What could I go online and read so that I could be ready for that job?’—totally dismissing the idea that there are just lots of things you don’t know."

The professionalization of the fundraising field is partly responsible for fostering this overconfidence, suggests Daniel Blakemore, assistant director of development at International House, a nonprofit group that serves international students in New York. Colleges offer degrees in philanthropy and fundraising, he notes, and thus young graduates may feel more ready for the real world than they actually are.

"I can’t totally fault millennials who are coming up with that experience and saying, ‘I’ve learned this for four years, I know the sector now,’ " he says.
Starting Early

Some organizations are working to get more undergraduates and even high-school students into the fundraising pipeline by introducing them to the potential career path very early.

The Nonprofit Leadership Alliance offers the Certified Nonprofit Professional credential through 40 universities nationwide. And the Association of Fundraising Professionals offers a certification in fundraising at 35 universities, and reaches high-school students in three states through the Youth in Philanthropy curriculum as well as the newly announced Students in Action program. That program, a partnership with the Jefferson Awards Foundation, will be available in 12 states in 2015.

With many more high-school programs requiring some type of volunteer service, the newest class of rising fundraisers is more idealistic and experienced than ever before, says Pat Bjorhovde, coordinator of the association’s youth programs.

"We find 22- to 24-year-olds coming in and becoming professional members who already have four or five years of fundraising experience," she says. "They’ve been volunteers. They’ve done internships. It’s amazing."

But sometimes even precocious talent needs a reality check. Mr. Blakemore, who also serves as vice chair of the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network’s Board of Directors, encourages young fundraisers to talk to people who are already doing the jobs they want. He notes, "There are a lot of different ways that organizations operate that have absolutely nothing to do with what is in a textbook."
Job Hopping

Millennials’ ambition, paired with a raging demand for talented fundraisers, means a lot of job prospects—and job hopping.

They also want validation for their achievements.

"We’re a fast-moving generation," says Kate Gagne, 29, development associate at the Cleveland Hearing & Speech Center, who works with the young-professionals committee of the Association of Fundraising Professionals. "We like things to happen quickly. So if we’re doing something and we’re excelling at it, we don’t want to be told, ‘OK, now that you know what you’re doing, you have to do this for two more years before we’re going to look at you for a promotion.’"

Young people aren’t as loyal to their employers as in the past, Ms. Gagne acknowledges. However, she notes, "they’re not as loyal to us. They’re not providing us necessarily the retirement benefits or different things that our parents grew up with."

Some organizations put structures in place to help young fundraisers grow professionally and keep them on the job. At the University of Michigan, for example, new hires may start in the production department, working on marketing materials to gain a base of knowledge, but can move up in a few years to the annual-giving team.

"Hiring a person is very expensive," says Ms. Malcolm. "Moving them isn’t."

Fundraisers in their 50s and 60s often recall that they stumbled into fundraising accidentally, so many caution nonprofit managers to maintain perspective when dealing with their energetic but sometimes puzzling young colleagues.

"I don’t think that we have the right to stand in judgment of what I think is an exceptional generation," says Mr. Watt, of the Association of Fundraising Professionals. "I am enormously positive, I think there’s huge talent out there and huge commitment, and I see nothing to worry about."

Young Fundraisers Are Ambitious and Impatient but Need Training, August 11, 2014, Chronicle of Philanthropy, by Cassie Moore

The High Holidays are certainly a time when Jews – regardless of their level of engagement or observance – feel most connected to their Jewish selves. It is a time when Jewish organizations of all kinds seek to inspire Jews to step up their involvement and, yes, to possibly make some charitable gifts. But how effectively do organizations design compelling appeals during the High Holidays, especially when so many Jewish organizations are competing for charitable dollars? The following are recommendations for Jewish nonprofits other than synagogues.

In yesterday’s post, I highlighted the importance of the High Holiday appeal for congregations. But what about other Jewish nonprofits, including day schools, defense and policy organizations, Federations, social service agencies, and Israel “friends of” organizations? In my decades of experience in the Jewish fundraising world, I’ve seen a few stellar examples of High Holiday appeals. But too often, this has been an underutilized resource. Too many Jewish organizations have reached out to donors around the Days of Awe in a pro-forma, uninspired manner. A good number don’t even try. But they are missing a crucial opportunity. Here are a few reasons why:

    Jewish organizations may very well have an easier time raising money around the High Holidays than synagogues. Like synagogues, they can tap into the wellspring of Jewish identity during this period. But unlike synagogues, they don’t have to interrupt prayer and reflection to ask for donations on the holiest days of our Jewish calendar.
    The fourth quarter is, far and away, the strongest period in the domestic calendar for charitable giving. This year, Rosh Hashanah falls on September 24, which is less than a week before the start of the fourth quarter. Timing is on your side!
    Experts predict that 2014 may surpass the record for total charitable giving set in 2007 – before the financial meltdown known as the Great Recession. If it doesn’t, it will surely come close. If your organization doesn’t tap into this spirit of generosity, others will.

While Americans are a giving people, most individual donors don’t maximize their giving capacity. And we, in the Jewish community, are perceived to be among the most generous! Even if someone has already made a philanthropic commitment to support your agency, don’t be afraid to ask for a separate High Holiday gift. Remember this counterintuitive rule of fundraising: the more time that passes after a donor’s last gift, the less likely that donor is to give in the future. This is one reason why colleges and universities are so successful at fundraising; they strategically time their requests. They manage to stay in their donors’ minds without overstaying their welcome. So ask and then ask again!

A successful High Holiday appeal is like any other campaign. It requires strategy and planning. Consider forming a committee to plan the appeal. Utilize all the platforms at your disposal: email, social media, and direct mail, to reach your intended audience. For this to really work, the High Holiday appeal must somehow be different from other campaign asks.

    But here is a concept that I really like: organizations could concentrate their High Holiday appeal on lapsed donors. What could be a better time to start giving to an organization again than just before the proverbial book of life is opened? Therefore, I urge that you review your donor rolls and focus on those who have not made any type of gift in the last 12-36 months, highlighting a concept of “we miss you!”.

For “friends of” organizations in the United States raising money for Israel, this year’s appeal comes at a critical time. Every corner of life in Israel was and continues to be affected by the war in Gaza. The operations of every Israeli nonprofit have been impacted on some level. Israeli organizations must use their communications to American donors to demonstrate the impact the organization has on Israeli society. As part of the High Holiday appeal, groups must provide some concrete information about how the conflict has affected the organization. There’s a sense, misplaced or not, that some organizations – particularly those that are less well known – are “using” the conflict to raise dollars. Donors will always be skeptical, and we want a healthy degree of skepticism. That’s what keeps nonprofits on their toes! If a case can be made that the war in Gaza has created new needs for your organization, then by all means make it and link it to the High Holidays. Just be honest, straightforward and eschew exaggeration. At the holiest time of the year, you are asking Jews to invest in the Jewish state and the global Jewish community. That is something to be proud of, not something to shy away from.

Jewish organizations must not be afraid to call upon the language and paradigm of the High Holidays to frame the request. The High Holiday appeal must be targeted, special and distinct from an organization’s annual campaign. Creative and strategic approaches will likely yield rewarding results. That’s especially true in an environment in which donors feel confident about the economy. It is certainly late in the game to start thinking about the High Holiday appeal. Ideally, such an effort should be mapped out in the spring, but, I contend, it is not too late to launch a targeted effort. As Rabbi Hillel famously said, “If not now, when?”.

Consider High Holiday Campaigns, August 14, 2014, eJP, by Robert Evans

It’s not easy to stand out among a million posts and messages on Twitter and Facebook these days. And it actually gets harder each day as these and other social networks continue to grow.

Luckily, I had the honor of interviewing some of the top industry leaders, and asked them to share their secrets for doing just that.

If your business is going to invest in Twitter as a social media marketing channel, you should make sure it is worth your while.

To get to the bottom of what really works on Twitter

The result?

Advice from 31 experts such as Jason Keath, Adam Braun, Britt Michaelian, Kim Garst and many more.

Here are some of the key lessons that I’ve learned.
1. Add Value First

Pay special attention to this point, because most of the experts I spoke with shared that you can’t skip this step. In order to stand out, start by giving back to your fans. “You have to constantly go beyond their expectations and deliver something of true value to them” says Jason Keath.

One of the ways to check yourself on whether you are offering value is to consider your perspective. Are you just “doing social media” stuff or are you behaving like a human?

Humans help one another. Humans make each other laugh. Share things that are informative, instructional. Humans respond to questions and service issues. “Just doing social media” or “being social” is a mindset that quickly reduces the value you have to offer.

Value is what gets your audience to trust that you have something important to share. According to Jeff Bullas, you can create value by developing a memorable brand or great content.  
2. Care More

Here’s a great tip by Britt Michaelian: “Treat your friends and followers with kindness and gratitude and show them you care about who they are. Do this consistently and you will not only stand out, but you will feel great.”

I agree!

3. Ask Your Audience What They Want

Adam Braun, a New York Times bestselling author and the founder of Pencils of Promise, sends personalized messages to his followers every day. He makes an effort to learn more about his readers and build meaningful relationships with them.

I can personally attest to this: he was willing to take some time out of his busy schedule to respond to me. I learned from Braun that if you don’t know what your audience wants, don’t guess. Why not just ask them?
4. Reply To Questions

Simple right?

Don’t you get annoyed when you see people or businesses who don’t reply to some comments simply because they feel those people are “irrelevant” according to their “data”? Jenny Brennan has made being responsive part of her identity: “Make sure you respond to every comment, tweet and interaction.”

Your responses need to be meaningful, too.

Brennan explains, “it is also important to do your research” to “find out more about the person who has taken the time to reach out.” If you craft a tailored reply, you’ll stand out from anyone who simply responds for the sake of responding. When you respond, people appreciates it. Here’s an example from a happy customer of KLM.

5. Have a Personality

Here’s a mistake most of us make: we share content without adding any personal touches.

As Marsha Collier puts it: “Sharing good content is a given, but that is not enough. Show your personality in your posts, don’t just quote titles, add interest!”

8 Simple Tips That Can Help You Stand Out on Social Networks
by Aaron Lee on Aug 14, 2014

8-simple-tips-to-stand-out-in-socialIt’s not easy to stand out among a million posts and messages on Twitter and Facebook these days. And it actually gets harder each day as these and other social networks continue to grow.

Luckily, I had the honor of interviewing some of the top industry leaders, and asked them to share their secrets for doing just that.

If your business is going to invest in Twitter as a social media marketing channel, you should make sure it is worth your while.

To get to the bottom of what really works on Twitter

The result?

Advice from 31 experts such as Jason Keath, Adam Braun, Britt Michaelian, Kim Garst and many more.

Here are some of the key lessons that I’ve learned.
1. Add Value First

Pay special attention to this point, because most of the experts I spoke with shared that you can’t skip this step. In order to stand out, start by giving back to your fans. “You have to constantly go beyond their expectations and deliver something of true value to them” says Jason Keath.

One of the ways to check yourself on whether you are offering value is to consider your perspective. Are you just “doing social media” stuff or are you behaving like a human?

Humans help one another. Humans make each other laugh. Share things that are informative, instructional. Humans respond to questions and service issues. “Just doing social media” or “being social” is a mindset that quickly reduces the value you have to offer.

Value is what gets your audience to trust that you have something important to share. According to Jeff Bullas, you can create value by developing a memorable brand or great content.  
2. Care More

Here’s a great tip by Britt Michaelian: “Treat your friends and followers with kindness and gratitude and show them you care about who they are. Do this consistently and you will not only stand out, but you will feel great.”

I agree!
3. Ask Your Audience What They Want

Adam Braun, a New York Times bestselling author and the founder of Pencils of Promise, sends personalized messages to his followers every day. He makes an effort to learn more about his readers and build meaningful relationships with them.

I can personally attest to this: he was willing to take some time out of his busy schedule to respond to me. I learned from Braun that if you don’t know what your audience wants, don’t guess. Why not just ask them?
4. Reply To Questions

Simple right?

Don’t you get annoyed when you see people or businesses who don’t reply to some comments simply because they feel those people are “irrelevant” according to their “data”? Jenny Brennan has made being responsive part of her identity: “Make sure you respond to every comment, tweet and interaction.”

Your responses need to be meaningful, too.

Brennan explains, “it is also important to do your research” to “find out more about the person who has taken the time to reach out.” If you craft a tailored reply, you’ll stand out from anyone who simply responds for the sake of responding. When you respond, people appreciates it. Here’s an example from a happy customer of KLM.

5. Have a Personality

Here’s a mistake most of us make: we share content without adding any personal touches.

As Marsha Collier puts it: “Sharing good content is a given, but that is not enough. Show your personality in your posts, don’t just quote titles, add interest!”

Add your personality by including a little of YOU and your story in everything you share.

6. Be REAL

Most of experts shared this tip, so listen up: Be authentic. Be genuine!  

Kim Garst describes how there’s simply no faking this: “You have to be authentically passionate about what you do and who you serve. True passion is contagious.” Speaking of contagious, -you can tell that Kim’s passion really is irresistible.

7. Know the Trend

Here’s a valuable tip I learned from Mark Ivey: constantly look out for trending topics.

When Ivey (who co-founded gluten-free food company Ivy’s Garden) found out that Jimmy Kimmel’s digs at the gluten-free lifestyle were going viral, he wrote a post that would capitalize on the buzz.

However, he didn’t just hop on the bandwagon–he showed that Ivy’s Garden cares about and provides value for people following a gluten-free diet. Snickers does this well, too

8. Think Visual

Five experts shared this tip: Play up the visual element.

According to Stacey Miller, “images catch our attention, keep our attention, and are digested faster than text.” Zach Kitschke from Canva says, “the best brands have a strong visual identity on social media” and advises us to be consistent in what we post and in our use of colors, fonts, photo filters, and icons or logos.

BONUS. Know What Works

You don’t need to reinvent the wheel.

Here’s a secret that the team at Post Planner uses: We have a powerful feature in our app called “viral photos,” which allows us to find and share some of the most popular photos out there. Using this tool, we are able to increase our reach significantly. Here’s a sample of one of our recent photo that had over 4.7 million reach and 60k shares:

In addition to these eight tips that you can use to stand out, here’s yet another a bonus tip from me: be patient. It takes time to stand out, and it’s not something that you can achieve in a single day or even a month.

What’s YOUR best tip for standing out?

8 Simple Tips That Can Help You Stand Out on Social Networks, August 14, 2014, SocialFresh, by Aaron Lee

Show Me the Money…

We all remember that memorable line from the movie Jerry Maguire starring Tom Cruise. While the context was clearly different, the essence was the same. Credibility is established by putting “skin in the game.”

In today’s philanthropic marketplace, the nonprofit Board is the place where the credibility is built. If the Board does not give, many will hesitate to participate, yet others simply will refuse. This is not a scenario that any nonprofit in today’s hyper competitive environment wants to face, let alone create.

We are all agreed that Board members are invited to serve for their expertise and their ability to bring programmatic and political assets to the table. In some more traditional circles Board members have been recruited for their ability to “give time” which, at one time was considered an asset on its own with a currency equal to money.

The key difficulty is that you cannot pay the bills with time. Therefore, the thematic message of this post is that every nonprofit must ask every Board member, as part of their fiduciary responsibility, to make a meaningful gift to the organization they are leading. It just makes sense. If a Board member isn’t supporting their organization financially, how can they expect someone less connected to their organization to follow a lead that is not demonstrated.

So how does an organization do this?

    Start with the Board President – he or she must buy in to the idea that all Board members must give. This is not yet a given, even today.
    Create a deadline for Board commitments, along with a suggested gift range that is motivational but accessible by all.
    Make fundraising a part of every Board meeting agenda, and make Board Giving a prominent part of that discussion. Unlike in public forums, respectfully call names and ask why people haven’t yet participated.
    Set a firm goal of 100% participation by each and every Board member in the nonprofit’s Board Giving Program.

And that last imperative is doubly important because increasingly foundations and other institutional funders are limiting their support to nonprofits that can demonstrate 100% Board participation in giving. From their point of view, why should they support a nonprofit whose own leadership won’t set the example? Secondarily, they may question why Board members are not giving – asking themselves “what do they know that we don’t.”

Bottom line … according to a recent Board Source Report, as well as the National Center for Nonprofit Boards, and the National Governance Survey of Chief Executives, only 46% of Boards today report 100% participation. It is not surprising that those same sources list the inability to raise money as the major weakness of many nonprofit Boards, while only 5% listed fund raising as a demonstrable strength of a Board. Fundraising ranks #1 among board areas needing improvement.

Yet actual dollars contributed truly matter less than fact that every Board member makes a gift. And again, while this seems to be an intuitive organizational direction, the notion of “giving time” still carries weight in some places.

One way that some Boards are working their way toward 100% participation is trying to put the fundraising onus on every Board member through a “Give and Get” or Give or Get” approach, often providing a minimum that every Board member needs to “produce” in order to fulfill their responsibility. There is an important difference between these two strategies.

Those organizations that employ the “Give or Get” approach, which still absolves Board members from dipping into personal funds for even a token gift, are unwittingly letting their leaders off the hook. Needless to say, we vigorously endorse the “Give and Get” strategy which requires each Board member to begin by investing their funds as “skin in the game.”

And just a note on “Give and-or Get” approach, even this is waiting to get deep traction in the nonprofit arena. The 2012 Not-For-Profit Pulse Survey found that 77% of Boards do not have either type of policy in place. Further, of those organizations that have “Give and-or Get” policies in place, 35% require less than a $5,000 cumulative commitment from Board members.

What, therefore, becomes the expectation when recruiting members for a nonprofit Board?

In the process of recruitment to a nonprofit’s Board, Board service should be presented and framed as an honor and a privilege, and that honor includes giving. The expectation of Board giving should include a stipulation that Board members will be removed if he or she refuses to make even a token gift.

Looking at it a bit more positively, when Boards actively lead the fundraising activity, nonprofits are more likely to reach their fundraising goals. According to the 2012 Nonprofit Research Collaborative Study, only 52% of nonprofits without a Board level development committee met their 2011 fundraising goals, compared with 63% of those with a stated commitment to development through a Board standing committee exclusively for that purpose.

And if we look at Board giving “by the numbers,” once again from the 2012 Not-For-Profit Pulse Survey and the 2012 Nonprofit Research Collaborative Study, we find the following:

    Board average 74% participation in giving
    68% of nonprofits have a policy requiring Board members to make an annual gift
    Among the organizations that require a minimum Board Gift, the median was $1,000
    Nearly 3% of nonprofits require a gift of $20,000 or more to be donated or raised by each Board member

In conclusion, let’s reach back to close the loop with Parts I and II, particularly the importance of measuring ROI in our competitive and entrepreneurial fundraising marketplace, and reiterate the fact that Board giving is a multiplier for attracting and obtaining broader and increased giving. In this way a nonprofits greatly expands the probability that it will succeed on the short term and in its quest for growth and sustainability.

Let’s further restate that GIVING is the operative word and basic goal of every successful nonprofit, and the expectation of members of its Board, and that these should be the standards:

    Fundraising is a primary responsibility of any and every nonprofit Board
    Leading by Example is the primary responsibility of each Board member; every member should be able and prepared to say “join me” to friends and associates
    Board members should designate the organization that they serve as one of the principal recipients of their generosity
    Nonprofits should, if needed – and to prepare their leaders for the expectation made of them, invest in training to make Board members more effective advocates (and yes) fundraisers
    Many Board members are uncomfortable asking for money and seek to opt out of fundraising responsibilities, and should not be let “of the hook”

As a nonprofit leader or executive you should always be comfortable saying “Show me the Money,” but should also be prepared to make it happen. Today’s nonprofit leader and major donor will understand the value of investing to increase return. Not investing, not engaging your Board members, and running your fundraising on parallel tracks is, in the final analysis, racing toward the cliff. That solution is not recommended.

The Uncomfortable Ask: Board Members and Fundraising, August 18, 2014, eJP, by Avrum Lapin

I will ask readers to bear with me as I try to take a wide-angle lens to the external influences on nonprofit management. They are many and complex, but they also may be simplified—which I will try to do by looking for what, to my mind, is the core design principle we are facing.

Complexities “R” Us

All organizations are affected by the cultures and social structures from which they emerge. Dominant paradigms, shared belief systems, and personal politics create mental models about the way we want—and are sometimes blindly driven—to structure and manage our work.

Our organizational management styles and structures are affected by the following:

    The fields in which we work—in the arts, for instance, dual leadership models that place artistic and business leadership side by side are common.
    The regulatory environment in which we function—for instance, in Head Start programs, regular audits measure a specific and very long checklist of items, including the governance structure, accreditation standards for teachers, and the resources available in each classroom, among many others. Such stringent accrediting measurements administered directly by a funder tend to affect what management focuses on.
    Our communities’ spoken belief systems—for instance, feminist organizations of the 1970s experimented with structures that were less hierarchical because they equated hierarchy with paternalism.
    Our communities’ cultural norms and dynamics—for instance, our ethnic community relates in certain ways to other ethnic communities around it, much as our geographic community relates to its region, state, nation, and the world.

These are larger systems of which our organizations are a part. Of course, within organizations there are often also a set of norms and dynamics put in place by the epic stories we tell of, say, organizational birthing or near-death experiences, or by the model of leadership exhibited by culturally influential leaders or founders. The surfacing of the mix of these internal and external effects on organizational management has always been fascinating work for those who like the anthropological exercise of trying to figure out the assumptions beneath why people in organizations do what they do.

It is complex stuff, but stuff that may just have been made a little easier—paradoxically, by a major era change.

Because, with all of the ways in which external factors affect how organizations function, it has generally been assumed that organizations are systems separated from one another by clear boundaries. In fact, one of the definitional requirements of a system is that it have those boundaries to set it apart. So what happens to the notion of organizational culture when institutional boundaries become more porous overall, and the people associated with the system are working virtually, or are transient or contracted? And what happens to the nexus of management? Does our estimation of where leveraging and management actions are taken change significantly? Might it neutralize differences between organizations to some extent and move the loci of change and cultural influence both up into larger systems and down to much more local levels?

About Dominant Paradigms
In this life, those of us who are actively involved in trying to make complex systems work are always dealing with contradictions—or dialectics, which, according to philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, is the constant conscious playing out of those contradictions to create progress. So, for instance, even as individuals or organizations we are at once attracted to the control of a situation and the active exploration of the possibilities and limits contained in the situation—in other words, to stability and chaos.

Encroaching chaos is uncomfortable for many managers, who by definition tend to like predictability. We are comforted by “I do this, and that happens.” When that kind of predictability begins to be hard to come by and we are beset with disequilibrium, we are challenged to step outside of the system as we have been living in it and try to take a longer view: Has something big changed for good? Is this the system we need? Is it doing what it is meant to do? What ideas can I try? Who else should we be talking to who can be partners in a change bigger than the usual? How do I intervene, and at what level? These are the questions that many of us are faced with now.

Thankfully, often what at first appears to be chaotic because it is still finding its order, later becomes increasingly familiar—game rules, underlying assumptions, and all. Once we have had a chance to observe and experiment with the essence and the patterns of something new, and to realize where practical and ethical questions emerge, we may become surer of our footing even if we cannot yet answer these questions.

But what if we are far from that kind of semi-stasis? What if we are facing a generation or more of greater than usual change?

If we were to assume that organizations mimic the assumptions and operating dynamics of the overall environment, and that these change from economic era to economic era, you would expect the dominant paradigm we have for forms of organizations to change, too. This does not happen overnight, even in today’s sped-up environment. There has been a generation or two of time during which the industrial era has slowly been crumbling—with its artifacts and archetypes becoming almost cruelly comic in their extremity.

But the seeds of this transition to a technology-driven, knowledge-era economy have long been present as the ascending pole of the dialectic. The industrial era, too, was driven by advances in technology, which allowed for the large-scale production in big factories—through the use of machines—that we have come to identify as the rise of industrialization; and the factories needed large amounts of capital to establish themselves, thus consolidating the means of production, and also needed large numbers of wage earners, who made themselves relatively dependent in return for a measure of security. But every revolution carries within it the seeds of its opposition, so—

What Formula Is Driving the Era Change?

If we were to see this economic era as a fractal—“ a rough or fragmented geometric shape that can be split into parts, each of which is (at least approximately) a reduced-size copy of the whole”2—the basic form being replicated might be stated as follows: “We reject: kings, presidents, and voting. We believe in: rough consensus and running code.”

We refer to this short statement—attributed to David Clark, who is often called the founder of the
Internet—because it succinctly expresses the formula by which this era is defined. As Lawrence Lessig wrote in “Open Code and Open Societies: Values of Internet Governance,” what is being described here is not chaos but rather a bottom-up control of development based on an open systems orientation.3 Within this concept, he goes on to say, is the idea of “open forking”: “Build a platform, or set of protocols, so that it can evolve in any number of ways; don’t play god; don’t hardwire any single path of development. Keep the core simple, and let the application (or end) develop the complexity.”

Lessig goes on to say, “Good code is code that is modular, and that reveals its functions and parameters transparently.”

But before we all cheer about the image we are building of networks of locally based action connected on a global stage working for human rights and sustainability, remember that there are still significant issues to work out in the form of reinforcements and defenses of the old way of consolidation. Growth capital still tends to flow to large systems in the nonprofit as well as the for-profit sector; this ghost may haunt us for some time. Many nonprofits are limited by siloed funding as well as funding that does not necessarily lend itself to constant reevaluation and change.

And then there are those pesky, unintended consequences of the new era, which is likely to be equally as good and tragic as the previous one.

Our Networked World and What It Does to an Era Change

There are a number of factors that are distinctly of this age and conspire to reinforce the sense that we are actively evolving a new economic era:

    There is an ever-greater push for transparency and a growing assumption of need for institutional accountability. We now have iconic events—epic stories that anchor the need for and possibility of greater transparency in the public consciousness and imagination. Enron and the mortgage crisis, among a number of other scandals, anchor the need, and WikiLeaks anchors the inevitability.
    There is the ever-more-rapid ability of one group of stakeholders to mobilize quickly to influence another. This allows stakeholders without direct resource control over an organization to affect those with resource control. It is not that this was impossible before, but it took much longer and required more central control. There are any number of stories NPQ has been tracking that describe this kind of spontaneous stakeholder alliance-building online. The unbelievable and wildly diverse power bloc that sprang up overnight to oppose Susan B. Komen for the Cure’s defunding of Planned Parenthood is one example—Komen’s losses have been enormous, rolling out in a series of broken relationships and cash losses.
    There is much less reliance on cradle-to-grave relationships between people and institutions (no longer the standard). And more free agency and greater reach of communications technology require stronger and more consistently engaging attractors. Maybe a core image here is that of the contracted and relatively unprotected worker—the worker with multiple short-term jobs, or the employee who commutes remotely. Socially concerned people are replicating these shorter term, more tenuous relationships—taking their energy to a Habitat for Humanity construction project one month, a race against hunger the next, and participating in a campaign against constrictive web legislation in between. If you want to compete for people’s attention and money and names, you had better be giving them something that they can get very interested in and over which they can feel a sense of accomplishment and partial ownership. They do not always need to do the work themselves, but they do need to feel engaged at a spirit level.
    Social media makes every “local” organization national and even international in certain ways. A small local organization that tries something new can get noticed as a model: its strategies can be replicated and its mistakes avoided. The Internet also expedites realization and expressions of common cause across vast geographic and cultural boundaries. Small local work can build to big work in this way. Swarming may occur, as it did in the anti-landmine campaign. And the friction that occurs at the boundaries sparks odd new thinking—always good for innovation.
    The Internet is perhaps the influential operating system of the era—acting as a model to grow and develop a field on the margins and incremental embroidery on a basic protocol that is near-universally accessible.

But again, the consolidation of power and capital is extreme, even in this sector, as is the urge to stake out spaces where capital can be secreted. We are in the midst of an election that is characterized by the consolidation and secretion of election capital, and we are witnessing the truly phenomenal growth of charitable gift funds. The latter recently prompted Agnes Gund, president emerita of The Museum of Modern Art, New York, to comment, “We need to better comprehend this environment and learn how to participate in it. The arts are slow at developing donors online, where much fundraising now happens. We have been slow to attract the new money—the hedge fund and social-media crowds, the new inheritors of wealth. We need these people in the arts, but we are not getting their attention. Large amounts of money are going into donor-advised funds; we scarcely know how to reach those funds. We are late adapters of social media, of the interactive ways of dealing that are now common among the young.

“As fundraisers, we are not good at collaborating; we argue for one symphony or one dance company or one museum at a time—without appealing for the arts as a whole, significant sector in American life. And as institutions we haven’t learned to combine tasks, to find common ways of solving problems, to enlist new thinkers in our business.

“We are trying to do business as usual, when—in fact—the usual is gone. There is a new usual. We need to make it work for the arts. Without the arts, we would be people without inspiration, without ideas, without ideals. That’s why successful fundraising for the arts in the new economy is essential.”4

What Does This Mean for Organizations?
Is Management Dead?

If we cannot predict our variables in the near future, is all hope of effective management dead? Clearly not, but the style of managing must be so much more fluid, and the actors so much more diverse—and actively thinking and gathering information wherever they sit in and around the organization. The organization must be listening to these actors and processing information in a way that looks for patterns of the emerging order that will need to be addressed. And only then should they feed the scenario back out, so that the actors can help with the next steps of the design.

Thus, participants in and around the cause get the running code—which is likely nothing more than the purpose and vision and principles of the organization (or cause) as it is placed against the challenges of its environment, and rough consensus is reached and experimentation and innovation at the margins is encouraged to flourish.

The course is rough, not smooth. It cannot be sized up with a tape measure (though perhaps measured, at times, with a Geiger counter) as we fall while trying to scale new challenges on a new terrain with a new partner. But there is something exhilarating about it all. Benoît Mandelbrot said that “roughness” is a part of human life, and that there are many different kinds of mess but there is always order in that roughness to be found. And it is all very complicated and simple at the same time.

So here are some more questions:

Do we believe that a swarm of small things can bring down a big thing with any sort of regularity? Do we believe that it can be done “the right way,” without being tightly and centrally controlled? Can we change our orientation from top-down to bottom-up? Can we shift our evaluation and planning practices to ones wherein active communities help define the outcomes that they want and provide data on the results?

And is organizational defensiveness an enemy of the state we want to be in? If our future is based on open networked systems that communicate toward greater effectiveness, are we managing and developing our work toward that end?

External Influences on Nonprofit Management:  a Wide-Angle View, August 15, 2014, Nonprofit Quarterly, by Ruth McCambridge

Following historic flooding in Detroit, Michigan, the Jewish community is mobilizing to provide much-needed support. The Jewish Federations of North America opened a mailbox and online donation fund to ensure that those in need receive emergency aid. Those interested in donating online can do so here. Continuing reading about the flood and assistance provided by Jewish Family Service of Metropolitian Detroit here.

Jewish Federations Mobilize to Support Detroit Community Following Historic Flooding, August 26, 2014, JFNA

As described in the book Governance as Leadership: Reframing the Work of Nonprofit Boards, to govern comprehensively, boards work in three modes: fiduciary, strategic, and generative. To use a metaphor in which an organization is a boat, boards can make two distinct types of contributions: steering and rowing.

When steering, the board collectively:

    Sets the direction of the organization;
    Determines which values and logic will guide it; and
    Ensures the organization’s resources are used prudently to advance its work.

When rowing, board members individually or collectively expand the organization’s resources by, among other things:

    Offering pro bono professional services or expertise to management;
     Volunteering as front-line service providers;
    Advocating for or championing the organization and its mission in the community; and
    Helping to raise funds to sustain the organization’s work.

It can be useful to distinguish steering and rowing by using a substitution test. Rowing work is substitutable. The board does not need to contribute to the organization’s resources, financial or otherwise, as long as it is satisfied they are adequate. For example, a foundation whose board does no fundraising because of its large endowment is not necessarily ungoverned. Given the assets of the organization, the board is simply not called on to do such work.

In contrast, steering work is not substitutable. An organization whose board is not steering may be led by its executives, and may be influenced by other stakeholders, but it is not legitimately governed unless its board deliberates and makes intentional choices regarding the organization’s values, strategies, and performance. (When it comes to oversight of management, boards are non-substitutable not just on legitimacy grounds but also as a matter of practicality: by definition, management cannot oversee itself.)

It is also useful to consider individual versus collective contributions. A single board member or several board members working in an individual capacity can be effective as rowers. In raising funds, doing outreach or working as front-line volunteers, the choice to work alone or in groups can simply be a matter of efficiency, convenience, or preference. But governing is a collective act. Not only do most legal regimes require the boards of nonprofit organizations to include at least several members, but the logic of strategic and generative governing, as proposed in Governance as Leadership, insists on it. It takes a group to test, challenge, and debate the assumptions and subjective preferences that are at the core of this governing work.

Organizations will vary as to how much of which work—rowing or steering—their boards routinely do. The framework below depicts four organizational profiles. The board’s steering contributions run from low to high (left to right) on the horizontal axis. Its rowing contributions run from low to high (bottom to top) on the vertical axis.

To take an example: An organization whose board does a great deal of fundraising and outreach on its behalf, but is relatively uninvolved in setting strategy or monitoring performance, would be in the “Helping” quadrant (high on the vertical board axis and left on the horizontal governing axis).

Note that the “High Performing” quadrant—in which a board is governing while also generating resources—is not the only optimal spot for an organization. Depending on an organization’s circumstances, the “Guiding” quadrant might be appropriate. For example, a professionalized organization with reliable revenue sources, an ample endowment, and a high profile may need no board assistance in these areas, and could therefore be justifiably low on the rowing axis. But it would still need governing. In the “Guiding” quadrant, the board does little rowing but is still steering.

From a governing perspective, the “Lagging” and “Helping” quadrants are suboptimal because, in both cases, the board is doing little steering. The “Helping” quadrant can be especially problematic. It is easy for boards in this quadrant to mistake their productivity as rowers—raising funds, doing outreach, or lending expertise to management—for effectiveness as steerers.

Distinguishing a Board’s Steering and Rowing Work, January 20, 2012, Nonprofit Quarterly, by William Ryan

Many economists say the U.S. economic recovery will stay in the slow lane until American companies finally step up capital spending on things like equipment and technology.

But corporate America is definitely opening up its wallet for one purpose: Spending on training and leadership development by U.S. companies grew by 15 percent in 2013, to more than $70-billion, according to a recent study. That followed two years of growth, at 10 percent or higher, in such spending in 2011 and 2012.

While business is investing in its people with renewed vigor, the nonprofit world continues to lag in making such investments. The Foundation Center recently reported that foundation support for leadership development was less than 1 percent of overall giving from 1992 to 2011. That’s not nearly enough.

We all know that programs and strategies don’t solve problems; people do. So why aren’t more foundations making leadership development an integral part of their grant-making strategies?

If we agree that strong leadership is crucial to the success of the nonprofits we support, what is keeping us from maximizing the impact of our funding by investing more in the skills and capabilities of people who lead organizations, including staff and board members?

At the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund, our trustees strongly support leadership development, based on their experience in both the corporate and philanthropic worlds and their intuitive understanding of the importance of investing in people.

We dedicate 10 to 12 percent of our annual grant making to strengthening leadership. Since 2005, the Haas Leadership Initiative has made mote than $18-million in multiyear grants to more than 100 nonprofits working in the fund’s priority areas of immigrant rights, education equity, and gay and lesbian rights.

We have seen time and again in our work how these investments have contributed to grantee impact and success.

Consider the case of the National Center for Lesbian Rights. Over five years, the center received $834,500 in support from the Haas, Jr. Fund, including $235,000 dedicated to strengthening the organization’s leadership.

The flexible, multiyear funding amounted to about $50,000 annually, which the center used for consulting, coaching, training, and other activities to build and strengthen its leadership.

Among the important results of this work is that the center, which previously relied on two overstretched leaders to run everything, was able to build a strong and collaborative senior staff team of five people

Relieved of many of the internal management responsibilities that had occupied so much of their time in years past, the organization’s executive director, Kate Kendell, and its legal director, Shannon Minter, have become even more powerful forces in the movement for marriage equality for same-sex couples. And the center is widely recognized as a critical player in the movement’s recent wins.

The National Center for Lesbian Rights is not an isolated case. An independent, five-year evaluation of the Haas, Jr. Fund’s early leadership investments showed that our support helped leaders get better results for their organizations and movements. The evaluation also showed that many of our leadership grantees were able to complete successful executive transitions and that they experienced impressive budget growth despite the economic recession.

Of course, we are not alone in supporting nonprofit leadership. Many other foundations around the country have made investing in leadership a top priority.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation, for example, works to develop current and emerging leaders in government agencies and nonprofit organizations serving children and families around the country. The reason: Casey knows that its goal of improving conditions for kids requires building the skills of people to work together to untangle complex problems.

The Blue Shield of California Foundation is building a stronger network of organizations that serve domestic-violence survivors by investing in individual and organizational leadership through its Strong Field Project. And the Durfee Foundation, based in the Los Angeles area, has created a multifaceted sabbatical program that strengthens the leadership of boards and senior teams while giving executives a chance to recharge and renew their commitment to their work.

These foundations are investing in leadership to advance their broader ambitions, and they are committing substantial grant-making resources to this work. While each foundation’s leadership-development approach is distinctive, they all share attributes that our experience suggests are important.

Chief among these is that leadership support is multiyear and is tailored to each organization’s priorities and needs; in other words, this is not about a foundation coming in and telling grantees what to do.

Nor is it simply about sending executive directors to one-time training sessions. Rather, it is about helping organizations identify and secure the leadership support they need at all levels so they can reach their broader goals.

I am not one who believes nonprofits and foundations should indiscriminately follow the strategic expertise of business. However, when the issue is leadership and talent, it’s worth taking a cue from the corporate world.

Unless we can figure out what is behind the nonprofit world’s chronic underinvestment in leadership and turn things around, we will continue to overlook one of the most important ingredients of positive social change. Investing in leadership doesn’t just deliver higher performance; it can also deliver a better, more equitable world.

Nonprofit Leadership Development Is a Vital Ingredient for Social Change, July 13, 2014, Chronicle of Philanthropy, by Ira Hirschfield

While it may be the dog days of August,  GivingTuesday 2014 kicks off on December 4th. After spending a year facilitating a peer learning community of  Knight Foundation grantees hosting giving days, one of the most factors for success  for local no nonprofits participating is having about 6-9 months timeframe to develop a plan. NetworkforGood to the rescue! They’ve just published this terrific, free e-book with lots of tips and planning templates to help your organization decide whether to participate.

The e-book is written by Jamie McDonald, the Chief Giving Officer of Network for Good and the Founder of GiveCorps. Jamie is an expert in online engagement and giving, inspiring Millennial donors, and the force behind BMore Gives More, the movement to raise $5.7 million in a day on #GivingTuesday 2013. If you don’t follow her on Twitter, you should! The e-book offers an overview of the benefits of participating in GivingDays like #GivingTuesday, followed by a whole lot of wisdom and best practices.

I love the metaphor of a successful GivingDay campaign to a party:

    Timing is key
    A unifying theme creates excitement and engagement
    There are some key people you want in attendance to make the party great
    It’s got to be fun – games and activities can make a big difference
    The execution details matter: flow, food, decorations, music
    Party favors (rewards) can be an unexpected delight
    Sharing memories – stories, pictures – after the party keeps the good feeling going, and makes everyone want to attend next year

If your nonprofit is not familiar with the Giving Days format or a little bit skeptical about the potential benefits, the guide includes a great primer in a compact visual format and good discussion starter for your team. The planning steps begin with the question of timing. There are a number of GivingDays in local communities as well as #GivingTuesday – so the first question to ask “Is the timing right?”

All good nonprofit strategists know that you have to begin with setting measurable goals. The guide offers a few examples, and a reminder that  you don’t have to use them all:

    Dollars to be raised
    Number of donors
    Number of new donors
    Number of volunteers (if you are including an activity)
    Increase in engagement of key groups
    % Participation among key groups – like staff

The guide offers up 11 strategies for your GivingDay Campaign.   Here they are with some added insights from me.

1.  Set a big goal. I’d suggest making it realistic, so think “stretch” not pie in the sky.
2.  Convene A Passionate Team:   This is so important to have both internal (staff/board) and external champions helping you spread the word.   If you are the person tasked with supporting this team, remember you have to model enthusiasm and make it contagious.   Making it easy for your champions to do the work is also important and you’ll find lots of templates and examples that you can remix on the Knight Foundation’s Giving Day Playbook and toolkits on the GivingTuesday site.
3.  Create A Branded Campaign: The guide suggests developing a theme and a visual that is used consistently in all of your Giving Day outreach, plus making use of any assets that are provided by the Giving Day host.   You’ll find lots of creative examples of how organizations have incorporated their branding with Giving Day slogans, taglines, and logos.
4.  Use a Hub and Spoke Model: This advice will help you manage the many champions who will help you, especially if you centralized your toolkits.
5.  Build A Communication Plan for Champions: It is important, especially in an age of media clutter, to encourage your champions to share your messages about the Giving Day.  Having a way to communicate with them regularly is essential, both leading up to the Giving Day and especially during the day itself. Facebook Groups are great for this!
6. Take Advantage of Creative Generosity: This is good community management practice.  Let your champions and supporters roll with adapting and remixing your content or jumping onto fun memes.   Make sure you acknowledge and thank them!    The idea is to escalate engagement.
7.  Get Business Business Support: This is something that a Giving Day host may do as part of the overall marketing and sponsorship of the event
8.  Create Once, Publish Everywhere: This tip is a nod to the need to use multiple channels – email, web site, offline, mobile and social.   The content you create doesn’t have to be from scratch for every channel, you are simply tweaking or optimizing it for the channel.    The skill of writing good headlines is an important one to develop!
9.  Gamify:  The best tip for nonprofits is to identify a donor who might issue a challenge match for your organization.  This can really boost your efforts.
10. Saying Thank You: Find creative ways to say thank you to your donors beyond the generic thank you email from the platform.   Social Media is great for this sort of thing,especially if you can say thank you shortly after they make the gift.   It is also important to say thanks after the event as part of a wrap and lots of folks use videos.
11.  Build A Parking Lot of Ideas:   You will probably get lots of great ideas and see lots of great examples of content generated by your champions and donors.  You want to make sure to capture those.   Of course, you will also have some tactics that didn’t quite work out, the best thing is to keep calm and document as the day unfolds and do a debriefing with staff to generate areas for improvement the following year.

Is your nonprofit planning to participate in a Giving Day?   What’s your best planning tip?

NetworkforGood Giving Day Planning Guide, August 7, 2014, Beth's Blog, by Beth Kanter

Common measures of achievement in the fundraising arena are total amounts raised in an annual and/or capital campaign. Even endowment success is often assessed by new money taken in yearly notwithstanding that the development officer at the time the gift is realized may have had nothing to do with securing it, e.g. the bequest. This article proposes a different measure of success or really a combination of them that when adopted will result in substantive development strategic planning. These metrics combine the donor lifecycle map and cultivation tools, which some refer to as “moves”[1] and the process moves management. The measures are twofold: 1) actions (moves) taken by the development officer and 2) progress of the donor along the lifecycle map. Gift size or results become a secondary measure.

The purpose of this map is to suggest that philanthropy officers develop their strategic plans with the goal not only of retaining donors but also moving them to the next segment as opposed to thinking in terms of transactional fundraising related to annual and capital campaigns. The concept of applying cultivation tools is to specify which could be most effectively employed at each sector of the lifecycle map in order to move the donor along.

Thus, for example, asking a first gift donor to serve on a board, no matter how large that initial contribution, would be an inappropriate use of the cultivation tool – invitation to a board – in that the individual had demonstrated no ongoing commitment to the organization; that cultivation tool is better used for multi-year active donors who have contributed regularly and thereby expressed longer- term support for the organization. If the latter had the wherewithal to move to a stretch gift, based on ability to increase a contribution, or to become a major donor, however defined by the respective organization, all the better. In another example, in order to move a second year donor to second year active, the individual might be invited to participate in a telethon, chair or host an event or take part in an on-site visit. All of these tools would result in a supporter becoming increasingly knowledgeable about and therefore hopefully more committed financially to the organization.

Using this model an array of cultivation tools was identified, both personal and impersonal, that were then matched to the various stages of the donor lifecycle map with the goal of using them efficiently and effectively in order to move the donor forward. The primary tool for moving people along, no matter what the sector, was the one on one conversation – whether face to face or by telephone – in order to develop a personal connection to the individual.

Finally, the model was built to encourage the development officer and entire department to focus on all donors – not just those at the very top of what is called the donor pyramid – and to measure movement along the lifecycle as an indicator of success.

Examples of Personal Cultivation Tools

    Schedule face to face or personal meetings
    Thank the donor in a personal and timely fashion
    Use the telephone
    Involve on a committee, board or task force
    Conduct site visits
    Invite to a special function such as a sporting event or lecture
    Organize private events and special opportunities, e.g. parties, leadership or solicitation training, giving circles, etc.
    Include in a feasibility study
    Recognize major celebrations and events in the lives of individuals
    Ask for gifts in a strategic and timely fashion

Interestingly, Anne T. Melvin, Director of Training and Education at Harvard University, who introduced the concept of “Metrics That Motivate”,[3] claims that the best measures for determining success on the part of development officers are those actions that are implemented in relation to a donor. The metrics for success that she identifies are not financial results but rather steps undertaken that would likely lead to identifying a prospect and/or a next gift. Melvin’s actions that are the most highly valued are very similar to those that are identified as personal cultivation tools in the donor lifecycle map paradigm. Combining elements from both models – Melvin’s and the donor lifecycle map and corresponding cultivation tools – suggests new metrics for measuring development success.

Melvin’s concept is built on “aligning (development) officers’ metrics with the nonprofit’s goals,” “incentivizing moves in an officer’s control, rather than things an officer cannot control,” and “using carrots, not sticks.” The goal of the development office, Melvin claims, is to identify, cultivate and solicit prospects, find bequests, steward bequest donors and establish a bequest society – none of which is measurable in financial terms. The “METRIC”, claims Melvin, “is what the Officer does to accomplish the Office GOAL” – finding prospects, cultivating top prospects and establishing a bequest society. What the officer does to meet those goals is in 80% of visits – seeking prospects and making significant moves with top prospects; the number of moves is the metric. She differentiates between those measures which are in an officer’s control, for example, asking for bequests, securing bequests, reviewing prospect lists four times a year with a supervisor for bequest prospects,” and actually obtaining a contribution.

Melvin identifies what an officer does – actions which could also be referred to as using specific cultivation tools – and those that the officer cannot control, i.e. the decision making and gift size determined by the donor. In other words, if the officer visits the prospect, sends the latter information, encourages him or her to attend an event, visits a second time, obtains the donor’s agreement to host an event, join a committee, meet with a volunteer, and make a site visit while also soliciting the donor, sending him or her a proposal and getting a gift – these are all cultivation tools that will, if used well, result in some kind of contribution. All of these, Melvin claims, is part of the gift planning process and are considered “significant moves.” The latter, in my opinion, look very much like the donor lifecycle map with cultivation tools assigned to each sector in terms of what should occur to move the donor from the previous stage to the new one.

While the model of using cultivation tools appears very similar to that of Melvin’s, the strategic planning component involves using impersonal cultivation tools, too, e.g. sending a newsletter or brochure, which Melvin refers to as “marketing touches.” No matter how they are described, these also are included in the strategic planning process needed to move a donor toward making a gift and remaining on the donor lifecycle map.

Both of these models – “Metrics that Motivate” and the donor lifecycle map along with the strategic use of cultivation tools – can be combined to create a powerful measure of success for development officers. The following is a model that I designed for one of my clients using a combination of the two concepts and applied to current donors – not prospects.

Model Metrics of Success

    Completion of a strategic plan for all assigned donors.
    Implementation of the plan giving the most weight to applying personal cultivation tools.
    Maintaining 75% of donors on the lifecycle map. (This takes into consideration that some people will drop out for sundry reasons but also that the people who do not continue along the map are contacted and a substantive effort is made to determine what the explanation for the lapse may be and to reconnect them to the organization.)
    Moving donors from one sector to the next:

    65% of first year donors to second year as long as the first gift is an outright one – not in memory or in honor of someone.
    25% of second year donors to second year active understanding that most people do not want to become more involved than just making a gift.
    65% of second year to multi-year active and 100% of second year active to multi-year active.
    50% of multi-year active to major/stretch/ultimate gift.

    Increasing the size of the gift – 10% at all levels.
    Meeting with the supervisor regularly – at least once a month to review plans and implementation.

This model focuses on maintaining donors and assumes that if the cultivation tools are applied well then the gift will also increase. Since this is the first year of using this schematic for measuring, we recognize that we shall have to tweak it as we become accustomed to it.

These measures are built on three important concepts. The first is maintaining the donor – an issue of concern for development offices.[4] The second is the creation of a cogent strategic plan and the third is that progress will most likely be made because the development officer will have to describe both the plan and its implementation at regular supervisory meetings. This latter piece is extraordinarily important for keeping staff on board as opposed to the constant movement in and out of organizations[5] sometimes due to the lack of internal support and managerial input. Without the supervisory piece, a development officer might spend a “year thinking that they’ve done a great job, but actually they haven’t.”[6]

How Do You Measure Development Success? August 11, 2014, eJP, by Deborah Kaplan Polivy, Ph.D.

Judaism is constantly evolving, addressing new challenges and needs, and a key aspect of synagogue life is setting a vision for tomorrow. Consistent is our yearning to plant seeds for the next generation, but that pathway to doing so is often unclear.

This yearning pushed us at Temple Sinai Congregation of Toronto to prioritize congregational programming that would engage and inspire young Jewish adults. We joined the URJ’s Emerging Young Adult Initiatives Community of Practice (“CoP”) in order to explore best practices for addressing the needs of our young adult cohort and to connect with congregations facing parallel concerns. This initiative brought together seven Reform congregations for an 18-learning month process. We learned from experts in the field of young adult engagement, supported and drew support from the other congregations in the cohort, and launched a pilot to apply our learnings to our congregational needs and landscape. We viewed the CoP as a means to invest in our congregation’s continuing history.

Indeed, ways of engaging young adults in our congregation have evolved as a result of our participation in the CoP process, such as our successful “Next Generation” initiative. Programming has included tikkun olam service opportunities, such as a day of building with Habitat for Humanity; dynamic social gatherings, like Sushi in the Sukkah; and a high-profile networking/professional development series. With the support of H. Lawrence and Beverly Fein and Family, we have been able to send a delegation of young adults to Europe for the Young Adult March of the Living for the past three years, an experience that has inspired us to lead our people with strength. Our participation in the CoP has helped to capitalize on our already successful young adult initiatives, contributing to the development and growth of many of these programs.

A highlight of the CoP process was the formation of our Next Generation Tzedakah Investment Club. The young leaders of our community are mainly new professionals, looking to establish themselves, and their concerns include securing a meaningful job, purchasing a new home, and investing funds for the first time. As a synagogue community, we realized we could address such concerns through a Jewish lens. Further, we felt we could look at the Jewish responsibilities to give back.

As a first step, we identified an established member of the community to mentor our group. Congregant David Beutel, an investor, entrepreneur, and overall mensch, was an ideal fit. Next, we invited young leaders to join us. Participants needed to be members of the congregation between the ages of 22-39, and everyone was asked to contribute $72 to the tzedakah fund. Fourteen people joined the group that quickly took on the form of a chavurah. We met every other month, each time focusing on a unique topic. Experts were brought in to share their investment knowledge, teaching the group the basics of investment, stocks and bonds, real estate, and ethical investing. As a group, we decided where to invest our funds and how to direct the proceeds.

The project was a great success, as evidenced by testimonials from its participants:

    “During school, we were active in NFTY and Hillel’s social action programming, but upon leaving school we didn’t feel as though we were ready to completely immerse ourselves in the adult Jewish community. This club has allowed us to connect with others our age in a meaningful way and become part of a Jewish community that reflects our stage in life.” – Karen Lidor and Ariel Feldman

    “Being able to learn about investment and financial planning from a Jewish framework was really interesting, and it was exciting to be able to invest in the future of Temple Sinai and the Jewish community as a whole, knowing that the seeds we plant today will grow and sustain future projects at Temple Sinai. I have learned valuable lessons about tzedakah and the different ways to give and their meanings.” – Jaime Reich

    “Being part of the Temple Sinai Next Gen Tzedakah Investment Club has been a great way for me to meet members of the Temple Sinai young professional community, interact with some brilliant experts, learn about investments, do tzedakah, and be a part of some interesting, thought-provoking discussions. I’m proud that we were able to set up a Temple Sinai fund to help provide great experiences at Temple Sinai for current and future Next Gen’ers.” – Ben Greisman

We look forward to growing the Next Generation Tzedakah Investment Club with the hope of engaging young Temple Sinai members, while simultaneously sustaining young adult programming for years to come. In doing so, we heed the interpretive words of Torah shared by Warren Buffett, who aptly stated, “Someone’s sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.”

The URJ’s Emerging Young Adult Initiatives Community of Practice, August 12, 2014, eJP, by Rabbi Daniel Mikelberg and Adam Freedman

Judaism is constantly evolving, addressing new challenges and needs, and a key aspect of synagogue life is setting a vision for tomorrow. Consistent is our yearning to plant seeds for the next generation, but that pathway to doing so is often unclear.

This yearning pushed us at Temple Sinai Congregation of Toronto to prioritize congregational programming that would engage and inspire young Jewish adults. We joined the URJ’s Emerging Young Adult Initiatives Community of Practice (“CoP”) in order to explore best practices for addressing the needs of our young adult cohort and to connect with congregations facing parallel concerns. This initiative brought together seven Reform congregations for an 18-learning month process. We learned from experts in the field of young adult engagement, supported and drew support from the other congregations in the cohort, and launched a pilot to apply our learnings to our congregational needs and landscape. We viewed the CoP as a means to invest in our congregation’s continuing history.

Indeed, ways of engaging young adults in our congregation have evolved as a result of our participation in the CoP process, such as our successful “Next Generation” initiative. Programming has included tikkun olam service opportunities, such as a day of building with Habitat for Humanity; dynamic social gatherings, like Sushi in the Sukkah; and a high-profile networking/professional development series. With the support of H. Lawrence and Beverly Fein and Family, we have been able to send a delegation of young adults to Europe for the Young Adult March of the Living for the past three years, an experience that has inspired us to lead our people with strength. Our participation in the CoP has helped to capitalize on our already successful young adult initiatives, contributing to the development and growth of many of these programs.

A highlight of the CoP process was the formation of our Next Generation Tzedakah Investment Club. The young leaders of our community are mainly new professionals, looking to establish themselves, and their concerns include securing a meaningful job, purchasing a new home, and investing funds for the first time. As a synagogue community, we realized we could address such concerns through a Jewish lens. Further, we felt we could look at the Jewish responsibilities to give back.

As a first step, we identified an established member of the community to mentor our group. Congregant David Beutel, an investor, entrepreneur, and overall mensch, was an ideal fit. Next, we invited young leaders to join us. Participants needed to be members of the congregation between the ages of 22-39, and everyone was asked to contribute $72 to the tzedakah fund. Fourteen people joined the group that quickly took on the form of a chavurah. We met every other month, each time focusing on a unique topic. Experts were brought in to share their investment knowledge, teaching the group the basics of investment, stocks and bonds, real estate, and ethical investing. As a group, we decided where to invest our funds and how to direct the proceeds.

The project was a great success, as evidenced by testimonials from its participants:

    “During school, we were active in NFTY and Hillel’s social action programming, but upon leaving school we didn’t feel as though we were ready to completely immerse ourselves in the adult Jewish community. This club has allowed us to connect with others our age in a meaningful way and become part of a Jewish community that reflects our stage in life.” – Karen Lidor and Ariel Feldman

    “Being able to learn about investment and financial planning from a Jewish framework was really interesting, and it was exciting to be able to invest in the future of Temple Sinai and the Jewish community as a whole, knowing that the seeds we plant today will grow and sustain future projects at Temple Sinai. I have learned valuable lessons about tzedakah and the different ways to give and their meanings.” – Jaime Reich

    “Being part of the Temple Sinai Next Gen Tzedakah Investment Club has been a great way for me to meet members of the Temple Sinai young professional community, interact with some brilliant experts, learn about investments, do tzedakah, and be a part of some interesting, thought-provoking discussions. I’m proud that we were able to set up a Temple Sinai fund to help provide great experiences at Temple Sinai for current and future Next Gen’ers.” – Ben Greisman

We look forward to growing the Next Generation Tzedakah Investment Club with the hope of engaging young Temple Sinai members, while simultaneously sustaining young adult programming for years to come. In doing so, we heed the interpretive words of Torah shared by Warren Buffett, who aptly stated, “Someone’s sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.”

The URJ’s Emerging Young Adult Initiatives Community of Practice, August 12, 2014, eJP, by Rabbi Daniel Mikelberg and Adam Freedman

Nearly half of nonprofit human-resource executives say their influence has grown in the past year, while 21 percent report increases in their department's size, according to a new survey.

They say the change is largely the result of new leadership or senior management better understanding the role of human resources in achieving organizational success.

Forty-six percent say their status is the same, and 4 percent say their influence has decreased. As an example of what has changed for the worse, some executives say they no longer report to the chief executive or chief operating officer as they did in the past.

The study, published by the Nonprofit HR, a consulting company, was based on data collected in April from senior human-resource executives at 260 nonprofits with a total of 84,886 employees.

Just a little more than a third of the groups said they had a written human-resource strategy—plans identifying current and future need; the largest employers the most likely to have such a document in place. It is that figure that most surprised Lisa Brown Morton, chief executive at Nonprofit HR.

"If HR is going to make a valuable contribution, there should be a plan, and that plan should be aligned with the organization’s strategic plan," Ms. Morton says.
21% Increase Staff Size

Among the other findings:

    At small nonprofits (those with 250 or fewer workers), one human-resource staff member serves every 39 workers, while at medium-size groups (251 to 999 workers) that ratio is 66 to one, and at large nonprofits (those with 1,000 or more workers), the ratio is 107 to one.
    Three-quarters of executives say the number of people in their human-resource department did not change in the past year, while 21 percent were able to hire additional employees.
    At nearly two-thirds of the nonprofits, senior human-resource leaders report to the chief executive, while nearly a third report to the chief financial officer, chief operating officer, or top-level directors.

Human-Resource Departments Gain Power at Half of Nonprofits, August 15, 2014, Chronicle of Philanthropy, by Megan O’Neil

With August recess in Congress underway, JFNA has provided an update of recently passed domestic and Israel-related legislation, as well as summer recess action items. Please click here to view the update and ask Shelley Rood if you have any questions. As always, please tell us about your conversations and meetings with your elected officials and let us know how we may be of assistance. With the mid-term elections this November, this is a great opportunity to let your leaders know what matters most to you!

What skills are now necessary for nonprofit professionals navigating the new Wild West of virtual communications?

In a recent survey of 266 nonprofit organizations conducted by association management company Virtual, Inc., 82% of respondents reported having a presence on Facebook. 54% were on Twitter, with LinkedIn and YouTube also popular, at 49% and 42% respectively. And M+R and the Nonprofit Technology Network’s 2014 Nonprofit Benchmarks Study of 53 top nonprofits revealed that online giving rose 14% in 2013, making it the best year ever for social media messaging.

With results like those, it’s no wonder that communications and development departments are investing more and more in internet-savvy staff members. But amid a constantly shifting online landscape of increasingly popular sites like Instagram and Pinterest – and surprisingly stagnant endeavors like Google+ – along with a constant barrage of online noise surrounding the people that organizations hope to reach with their messaging, how do employers define social media know-how when hiring staff? What skills are now necessary for nonprofit professionals navigating the new Wild West of virtual communications?

Rule One: Find Staff Who Know Where Your Audience Lives

Not all communication outlets are created equal, says Nicole Sheahan, national Vice President for Development at the DC-based Colon Cancer Alliance. “We’re not seeing a huge rate in opt-outs of emails,” she notes. “But we are finding that people are much more engaged online. Email has become work – not what you do for fun. You’re staying up to date with your real life via social media. And people are starting to do that with the charities they support as well.”

For Brian Perillo, Associate Vice President for Alumni Relations at New York University, that means a focus on two main social media avenues – Facebook and LinkedIn. “We have over two hundred thousand alumni on Facebook,” he says. “Over one hundred forty thousand on LinkedIn. Our LinkedIn group is the second largest higher education group on LinkedIn – we’re very proud of that and we’ll continue to put resources into it.”

LinkedIn and Facebook are also the main platforms used by Amy Siperstein, Executive Director of the Central New Jersey Division of the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association, and her team. Her organization uses widgets on these sites, along with apps on smart phones and iPads to both take direct donations and disseminate important public health campaigns in a way that will connect with online constituents. The most recent app they’ve rolled out has been tied into a larger stroke awareness campaign. “There’s a button on the app that will connect you with 911 if you feel you’re exhibiting the signs and symptoms of a stroke,” says Siperstein. “A lot of people drive themselves to the ER, which is the wrong thing to do. Lives are saved in those extra minutes you can be treated in the ambulance.” Now that the app has been released, Siperstein, her staff, and her counterparts at other chapters are working to get people to download and use it.

Siperstein also sings the praises of Twitter for those who have an aptitude for it-and that doesn’t just mean staff members. “At March of Dimes, I worked with a board chair who really utilized Twitter,” she says. “He had amazing reach. People were following him from all over the country. He used Twitter to solicit donations for his fundraising team, to spread the word on Prematurity Awareness Day and other initiatives. How he worked with it was a great example of how it can have impact.”

Rule Two: Look for Results

Perillo, who supervises a Director of Communications charged with her own team of five content-producing staff members, keeps an eye on key figures in helping steer strategy for social media. “We’re measuring how many people are interested in what we’re doing – liking, favoriting, following our posts,” he says. “We also look into how people engaging with us on social media behave offline. Are people giving at a higher rate, for example? The alumni giving rate [overall] is around 10%. When we look at people engaged on social media, the rate is about 50%.”

Siperstein agrees that giving is the starting-point for measuring staff success in social media. “The easiest measure and the most recognizable one is through revenue. We know that when people utilize social media, they exceed the average amount of revenue they could otherwise bring in.” But in making hiring decisions, she looks beyond hard numbers. “We want somebody who has a basic understanding of not just the functionality of social media, but also how it can tie into the bigger message. We look for out of the box ideas – is it an incentive? Is it a mission piece? Do they really understand that tie in? You can be really great at social media, but if you don’t have that connection of how it can feed into the bigger picture, you’re missing an opportunity.”

The big picture of mission-based messaging is key to the approach of the Colon Cancer Alliance’s communications team as well, says Sheahan. “It’s less about having a direct ask and more about using social media to tell the story and sell the impact of our mission. It’s a great way to showcase donors and the unique ways people can get involved with the organization.” Sheahan says that the Colon Cancer Alliance has been especially successful drawing new people in through strategic use of Facebook-ads, planting key words, encouraging shares, posting funny photos and “awards” to highlight signature events, like their Undy Run/Walk.

“One time, we posted an image of two toilet paper rolls side by side, each one turned a different way, asking people which way was right,” Sheahan recalls. “Several hundred people responded. It created a positive interaction, even if people haven’t donated in a while. Those people shared it with others and it built the donor relationship in a non-threatening way.” She points out other key facets to a successful social media strategy-getting messaging out in real time as trends emerge, creatively pushing for new audiences, tying every message to the organization’s homepage as a central hub. “Everything can be tested. We look at metrics and measure our results after trying different messages, as opposed to an approach of, ‘This cracked me up, so everyone else is going to love it.’”

Ultimately, Sheahan says, there’s one sure-fire way to tell whether your staff is having impact in their social media communications. “If you’re boring, people will let you know by simply not engaging with you. That’s the biggest tell of all-nobody cares.”

Rule Three: Beware of “Butterflies” and “Gurus”

“‘Social Media Guru’ is the worst self-given title,” laughs Sheahan. “Some people really do have a passion for social media, but do they have it because they find it an amazing communication tool or because they’re self-absorbed? I wouldn’t want to put a social butterfly in that role. Before hiring, we look at their own pages. All of those red flags stand out.”

“Before I meet with someone, I Google them,” agrees Siperstein. “Facebook is the first thing that pops up, or LinkedIn, or Twitter. You can see how people represent themselves in their personal life.” This is important, not just because it provides a clue to how candidates will communicate on behalf of your organization, she says, but also because of the transparency of the Internet age. “Five years ago, your Facebook friends were actual, personal friends. Now, I have donors, volunteers, staff members connecting to me. It changes how you represent yourself – on the practical side, it puts an emphasis on being able to have a virtual relationship with your donors, to be in tune with that and adjust in order to be able to connect with them distinctly and appropriately.”

Sheahan also cites the importance of looking at track records. “Years ago, I remember interviewing people, and if someone said, ‘I have a Facebook account,’ that was good enough. You were seen as an expert. You’d never have asked, ‘What have you accomplished on social media?’ because nobody was doing it well, or getting any buy-in from CEOs. Now, with social media, candidates have to come into an interview prepared to answer questions like ‘What’s the one thing you would change in our approach?’ or ‘How do you engage new donors through social media?’ People need to have a portfolio and a track record-show impact in terms of donations and registrations – and be a jack of all trades.”

At NYU, Perillo also values staff members with many tools in their belt. “We’re looking for people who can come up with creative initiatives that span the entirety of the channels available to us,” he says. “We still use print, email, and internal channels like our magazine. So although the communications model has changed, we’re looking for the same skills-people who can come up with creative ways to sell the story.”

Rule Four: The Future Favors the Bold

Sometimes, those broad-based skill sets come from unexpected places, notes Perillo.

“We’re starting to work with current NYU students, who seem to know this space as well as any of us. We’ve launched a program where we’ll bring in student employees to help us produce short videos and other content.” In addition to tapping into in-house talent to stay current, Perillo and his team make sure to stay on top of new online communication channels as they become increasingly influential. “The big thing for us is keeping an eye on where alumni are. As younger generations go, there will be other social media sites they’ll jump into. We’ll develop a strategy to make sure that when there’s a critical mass of people using it, we’ll have a presence there, so that NYU can be a part of their daily online lives.”

“I’d love to have an Instagram,” says Sheahan, “and there’s a lot we can do with Pinterest too – but it’s important not to jump the gun, because every time you add a platform, you have to put more resources into it. I’d rather not have a Pinterest account than have a really mediocre one.” Still, she notes, hiring staff members willing to take small risks can be crucial to social media success. “It’s more important to be a visionary in the social media role than in other roles. It’s uncharted territory, a chance for organizations to try something different and really stand out.”

Siperstein shares Sheahan’s enthusiasm for new websites and online communications channels. “With Instagram and Pinterest, there’s a real opportunity to enhance relationships and add value,” she says. “In the future, we’ll see more and more people sharing their personal stories. Years ago, people didn’t want to talk about having heart disease or having lost an infant. Now there’s a coming of age where the Internet is providing a platform for people to be more open.”

And staff members who understand the value of that openness – that genuine connection to mission – will be the ones to thrive professionally in the years to come.

“Fundraising will be tied into it. That’s probably the direction it will grow in,” she says. “I think it’s a great direction.”

The New Wild West – Staffing Nonprofits in the Age of Social Media, July 31, 2014, eJP, by Jennifer Thorne

In the past few weeks, the Cohen Report has examined the practice of Social Impact Bonds or Pay-for-Success projects. As currently designed and implemented, SIBs are one-offs, linking strong, proven service delivery models associated with well-capitalized nonprofits to private investors, like banks and individual investors, who project that they can make a reasonable return (or sometimes more) by investing in these projects.

The slim handful of SIB/PFS endeavors that currently exist in the U.S. address issues of prison recidivism, supportive housing for the homeless, and early childhood education. Not one of these privately capitalized projects, anticipating government payment if they should reach predetermined outcomes, has yet reached even a first payment point. Still, enthusiasts promote SIBs as an exciting solution for a bevy of social problems and an alternative to what SIB backers see as dysfunctional governmental efforts.

SIBs may be just another public policy fad sweeping the social sector, generating bipartisan excitement accompanied by heavy promotion by a few consulting and investment firms, but buried within the SIB/PFS concept might be nuggets of insight that could be useful in boosting the efficacy of both nonprofit service providers and the government agencies that provide the bulk of their funding.

“How to Make Social Impact Bonds Work—If They Should At All” might be a useful topic for both the true believers who have something of a religious attachment to the concept and for the consultants who imagine themselves earning money as forwell-compensated financial intermediaries between investors and government. The answer is embedded in an understanding of the needs of nonprofits, the capacities of government, and the motivations of private capital.

Supporting truly innovative projects and groups

Why would government be willing to pay Wall Street banks and billionaire investors premiums ranging from 5 to more than 20 percent for funding social programs that have already been proven to work? If a program works and has been proven by experience and evidence, government is better off paying 100 percent to support the program for widespread implementation rather than 120 percent of costs for one-off projects funded by big capital. It is almost financially irresponsible for government to pay more than necessary.

Here’s what government could, in theory, benefit from in the structure of a Social Impact Bond (or Pay for Success financial structure—choose your favorite terminology). While legislative bodies can be lobbied to support programs that have evidence demonstrating that they work, they are hard-pressed to find political support for programs that haven’t been proven, that are experimental, or that test the boundaries of what is known to work.

If there is solid research supporting a truly innovative program, not one that is already guaranteed to reliably produce results, that’s where private capital could play an important role. That’s where the risk and challenge are: private risk capital for projects that need up-front dollars to be tested, hopefully, proven, and if proven, replicated, while government funding should be taking already proven solutions and turning them into widely implemented programs.

Building systems/networks of social progress

The notion of providing funding for private investors behind social problems involves a major conceptual error: that the interventions that reduce prison recidivism, increase employment, or produce supportive housing are neatly attributable to one provider. The reality of these social programs is that they are dependent on functioning systems of providers. For supportive housing for the homeless, for example, what undermines the “supportive” element is the lack of organization and integration of the multiple service providers whose participation is needed as the mechanisms of support for otherwise chronically homeless individuals and families. For employment programs for veterans with serious disabilities, the solutions are dependent on an array of providers who can help the returning veteran not only with connections to employers, but with post-placement support and accommodations at the worksite, help for the veteran’s family, and services from the Veterans Administration and other providers of a variety of mandated benefits.

Which of the players in the system of supportive housing, reducing prison recidivism, and disabled veterans employment get the benefits of SIB investments and which essential entities get left behind? The effective responses and solutions to these social problems are not one-offs with single nonprofits or small nests of nonprofits, but systems of interventions and providers. If we fall prey to the idea that the construction of effective social policy is simply a compilation of one-offs, we are generating resources for selected nonprofits and for profit-driven investors but not doing much for social policy per se.

When social policy in the U.S. requires thinking systematically, building systems and networks of providers, the SIB/PFS model takes government into byways that do not lead to effective public policy. Government programs aren’t meant to create marketable widgets, but effective systems of social program solutions writ large.

What private investors need to be thinking of is how they contribute to building networks and systems of creative and capable service providers. It is difficult to imagine how that would occur. Building systems for social policy solutions doesn’t seem to fit investors expecting a return on investment, but certainly is a function for another kind of private capital—private philanthropy. If SIB designers would devote their private market creativity, such as it might be, to the design and funding of systems for social change, that would potentially be a private sector entrepreneurial contribution to a truly difficult dimension of social progress, the creation of systems.

Avoiding private sector over-influence

That having been said, using private capital to help kick-start good projects may not do anything systematic, but that doesn’t mean that it is harmful. Is there a downside for luring private investors to provide up-front money for social projects? There is one that is hotly contested by diehard SIB enthusiasts. If government were to focus on projects and programs for their ability to involve private capital (assuming the complexity and terms might be more reasonable than SIB/PFS projects like the Goldman Sachs deal on Rikers Island), that could lead government in a problematic direction, one in which private sector investors unduly influence what issues and problems government chooses to pursue and what issues government passes on.

Think that isn’t a possibility? Due to the attractiveness of the concept of private sector leverage and, as SIB supporters argue, the notion that investors bring a different and superior rationale to government programs, U.S. government policy already relies on a number of indirect, privately incentivized methods of picking and funding programs that eschew direct appropriations. Much of government policy operates through tax incentives that are meant to attract private investors to participate in financing public programs, albeit with some measure of economic return to the investors. As an overall justification, the theory is that these incentives harness private capital to serve public purposes, albeit often with robust economic returns and sometimes surprisingly limited genuine risk to the investors.

The Low Income Housing Tax Credit is a case in point. On one hand, it has been for many years an indispensible mechanism to incentivize for-profit and nonprofit developers to produce low-income rental housing. But relying on the preferences of investors, the results, as demonstrated in many studies, show that the majority of housing units produced and sited in suburban and rural communities have been elderly units while the majority of low-income family units have primarily been located in high-poverty inner city neighborhoods—for example, in the New York metropolitan area. In the subsidized housing arena, there is a much greater need for subsidized family housing than for subsidized housing for seniors—and social policy need to locate low-income family units in areas that would result in the dispersion of poverty units. As a recent report prepared for HUD observed, “the LIHTC program may be contributing to the concentration of subsidized housing units within the nation’s largest metropolitan areas,” inconsistent with HUD’s national policy goal of dispersing affordable housing outside of high-poverty areas. That goal of affordable housing dispersion isn’t happening in the housing tax credit because the choice of projects to be assisted depends on the preferences of the investors, not necessarily state or federal locational priorities.

Notwithstanding the problems built into American public policy’s reliance on tax incentives rather than public appropriations for many critical public functions, that is simply unlikely to change. However, the model of the Low Income Housing Tax Credits—and similar structures like the New Market Tax Credits—suggests a way of harnessing the potential energy, as opposed to the artificial marketing hype, behind Social Impact Bonds.

As currently structured, SIBs are financial mechanisms for accomplishing one-off programs—a supportive housing program for the homeless in one city, an anti-recidivism program in another—but not the systematic response of an LIHTC program supporting affordable housing production nationwide or NMTC boosting inner city economic development, and certainly not guaranteed to lead to a broader programmatic expansion. The notion that these one-offs will lead to regional or nationwide programmatic replication and expansion is based on a naïve perception of the American political process, that SIBs that “prove” these already generally proven, evidence-based projects will lead to widespread adoption and replication by state and federal legislatures.

Evidence and facts are useful in making the case to legislators for specific program delivery models, but it takes broader advocacy and social movements to get legislators to turn good ideas into funded programs. One-off project successes don’t win the day in the public policy process.

Upfront operating capital for nonprofits

What do nonprofits need that the supporters of SIBs seem not to recognize? Most of the SIB/PFS projects under consideration involve sizable, reasonably well-capitalized nonprofit service providers. Many of the most creative, innovative nonprofits with ideas to test lack a crucial element: upfront capital with which to plan and design programs that could then receive governmental support. They don’t have the fund balances and working capital to do the kind of in-depth program development that would get their projects in shape for government or private funding.

That’s why so many nonprofits are so appreciative of philanthropic and government programs that provide predevelopment financing. Nonprofit community development financial intermediaries have modeled not only predevelopment financing but also “recoverable grants,” funds that can be written off as grants if the projects don’t go forward or paid back as loans if the projects do proceed. By making a recoverable grant, the money isn’t carried on the nonprofit’s books as a loan and therefore doesn’t adversely the organization’s net worth.

Although couched as up-front financing for social enterprises, Echoing Green has published a brief but useful definition and discussion of recoverable grants:

The Recoverable Grant is essentially a convertible note, with no time expiration and no liquidation payback rights, where the conversion occurs only at valuations greater than a given threshold. It’s designed specifically for very early-stage investment, where entrepreneurs need risk tolerant and inexpensive capital…. There are three core components to the Grant:

    Minimal transaction cost…
    Zero downside protection…to enable the entrepreneur to invest the capital in whichever way they wish to create growth without needing to assess payback risks in the event things don’t work out.
    Reasonable upside benefits…Our Recoverable Grant converts only when the resulting dilutive impact on the organization is around 1% or less and prior to conversion accrues interest at a low rate.

This isn’t a new product. For decades, community development financial intermediaries have been deploying and refining recoverable grants and predevelopment financing as an essential tool in their financial arsenals. It isn’t new, but it is seriously limited in its availability to many nonprofits, especially smaller nonprofits. Were SIB investors to think in upfront recoverable grant terms, with the grants to be taken out, if the projects were successful, by government financing (or longer term private financing), they would be adding something that the nonprofit sector would value and devour.

Full-funding for services delivered

Besides upfront capital investment that can be treated as a grant if the project isn’t successful, nonprofits need something else as they implement social programs: full-funding. In the Nonprofit Finance Fund’s 2013 survey of more than 5,900 nonprofits, “only 14% of nonprofits receiving state and local funding are paid for the full cost of services; just 17% of federal fund recipients receive full reimbursement.” Many people might be surprised that the full-funded proportions of nonprofit service providers are even that high. Most nonprofits have to fundraise incessantly because of the shortfalls in their government reimbursements.

The research findings of the Urban Institute and the National Council of Nonprofits were not quite as dire as the NFF survey results, but still paint a serious picture of government policy to underfund nonprofit service providers on state contracts:

“The newest data from the Urban Institute reveal that nationwide more than half (54 percent) of all nonprofits surveyed identified governments not paying the full costs of the contracted services as a problem. In some states, however, nonprofits reported far worse. Three out of four nonprofits responding to the survey from New Jersey (75 percent) and Rhode Island (74 percent) reported problems with governments not covering the full costs of contracted services. In a majority of states at least half of nonprofits reported problems with governments not paying full costs for the work they perform on behalf of governments and taxpayers.”

In the research conducted by the Urban Institute, more than half of the surveyed nonprofits reported that their government grants required them to provide matching funds, and one-fourth faced matching grant or cost-sharing requirements on government contracts. SIBs promise private investors full payment plus a return for their capital contributions if projects meet their designated outcome targets. For nonprofits, a more attractive financial vehicle would be a structure that provides them full-cost reimbursement for their services.

The other issue that is, clearly, evidence in the SIB dynamic shows that the nonprofit recipients tend to be larger nonprofits. Smaller, community-based, community-controlled nonprofits are rarely if ever talked about as implementers of SIBs. Organizations that have been the mechanisms for SIB investment tend to be large—instruments of scale to be further scaled up, not in any way representative of the thousands of smaller nonprofits doing excellent work but unable to be the subjects of major academic studies or lures for Goldman Sachs or Bank of America investment. Some of these larger nonprofits might have the fund balances and funding sources to withstand less than full payment on services, but small nonprofits simply don’t have that financial latitude.

Moving forward

Amid all the SIB hypers complaining that critics don’t like the hype and SIB ideologues making sure they signal their potential investor clients that they’re available to craft SIBs hell or high water, the reality is, as a friend of NPQ recently noted, the SIB train has left the station. Unlike other over-hyped social enterprise ideas, like the L3Cs that have never shown signs of life, there are SIBs underway and SIB investors looking to place their money in social programs that generate a return based on meeting performance targets. Can we convert that investment energy into something more useful than one-off projects with big returns for banks and with support for big nonprofits?

If SIBs could be structured so that they don’t simply provide more resources to the nonprofits that are already well capitalized, if they can help nonprofits with vitally needed upfront working capital for social experiments, if they can help construct systems for social change rather than one-off projects, if they can address the sector-wide problem of nonprofits receiving less than full compensation for the services they deliver, and if investors would be willing to take real risk and accept returns much more moderate than those anticipated by the likes of Goldman Sachs…then you might have a SIB structure that would add some significant new value to government and to the process of social progress.

Thoughts on Making Social Impact Bonds Work—If They Should at All, July 31, 2014, Nonprofit Quarterly, by Rich Cohen

I am preaching to the converted, or am I?

What makes a Board work? What drives an organization to recruit one person over another? Why do some Boards with comparable missions and similar caliber people succeed more than others? How do they measure success? What do Boards today expect from their members? Do they achieve their goals? So many questions…

So let’s take a step back and start our conversation about the Board member as investor and creator of return on investment (ROI), hopefully with some feedback from readers. I am eager to hear what others think about the ideas discussed in this posting.

The American nonprofit Board model has developed and evolved over many centuries, and today it is fundamentally American. It is told that the Massachusetts Bay Company Charter written in 1629 specified that a Board of 13 “men of wisdom” would manage the colonial government. In fact, the Board model that has developed into what we know today developed from that time as a uniquely American construct and is linked to the enduring American culture of volunteerism, civic engagement and democratic rule. Alexis de Tocqueville punctuated that point, writing in the 1830’s that America’s philanthropic spirit, including the formation of Boards for decision making, distinguished it from Europe at the time.

Today, as the philanthropic marketplace in the Jewish world and throughout the country continues to evolve, we engage every day in revitalizing and updating an enduring model created in an earlier age. The nonprofit model, led by a Board and based on a strong commitment to a mission, may be old, but it has never become outdated.

Mary Ellen Jackson, noted authority on nonprofit leadership and the Executive Director of the New Hampshire Center for Nonprofits, noted that “the nonprofit Board requires that a group of volunteers, many of whom do not know each other nor possess expertise in a mission, come together and, through committees and four to six Board meetings a year, assume primary legal responsibility for the organization.”

This encompassing statement underscores the commitment to mission as the underpinning of a productive Board – not expertise or technical knowledge. Together with professional colleagues, Boards project legitimacy, credibility, community support and connection, and the ability to do business.

In fact, as I have been writing in most of my postings on eJewishPhilanthropy.com and elsewhere, successful organizations, and organizational ROI, are driven by the power of new ideas and innovation, leading to effective approaches and solutions. Looking to the future, and staying with established best practices, Boards and organizations in the 21st Century thrive and lead by recruiting members who are serious about the mission, their fiduciary and fundraising responsibilities, and who employ critical, entrepreneurial thinking.

Driving the point one step further, and underscoring the centrality of a strong and meaningful vision to organizational success, Naveen Jain, Founder of the World Innovation Institute, added that “Philanthropy is not about giving money but about solving big problems.” We echo Jain’s challenge and encourage organizations throughout the charitable arena to step up to meet it.

All Boards debate and approve budgets, set financial and administrative policies, and are charged with the task of ensuring that the organization has adequate resources. What truly sets successful Boards apart is their commitment to gathering the courage to push boundaries, not micromanaging the operational details, and encouraging organizational investment of thought leadership and finances toward innovation and creative thinking among their volunteer and professional colleagues.

To stay true to this increasingly important ethos with a commitment to entrepreneurial thinking and generation of intellectual and financial investment, the Board must:

    Collectively and continually question assumptions
    Take the “10,000 foot” or even the “30,000 foot” view, and look at larger visionary issues and concerns
    Balance efficiency, opportunity, and mission
    Create and sustain a culture of transparency and accountability to their funders, stakeholders, and their community
    Always look through the prism of the organizational mission and consider the “end user,” the reason why the organization is in business
    Allow the CEO and the professional team to execute, and support new “products” and initiatives
    Expect every Board member to make a financial contribution at a personal level of capacity

To do this, as noted above, organizations must recruit the right people and make them aware of expectations before they sign on. Prospective members should not be “two dimensional” collections of friends, relatives, or only like minded people. Further, organizations should not merely go for a person because he or she “has time,” but they should find the right person, even (especially!) a busy person with the skills, attitude and resources to be successful.

And, speaking of ROI, Board giving is an obvious and important element. Across the country, according to the 2012 Board Source Survey, Boards average 74% participation in giving, and just 46% of Boards reported 100% participation, though we are making progress. Nearly 70% of nonprofits report a policy requiring annual Board giving – a number that has been growing over time.

When seeking to measure ROI, philanthropy can be a calculated risk, and successful nonprofits must make sure that every dollar has a multiplying effect. Thus, Board giving, as a motivator and first step to an organization’s broader annual giving program, can show the way for an organization and its donors to leverage personal giving through relationships with donors and funders.

In conclusion, and in keeping with our themes of leadership driven by entrepreneurial thinking, investment of financial and intellectual capital, and measurable ROI, we encourage nonprofits to see and utilize the Board as the basis and nucleus of their success. In doing so, organizational leaders must:

    Make sure everything relates back to the organization’s mission, purpose, and vision
    Focus messaging so that Board members are on the same page when they discuss the organization publicly and privately
    Create opportunities for volunteer leadership and synergy with professional activity
    Encourage Board members to be “brand ambassadors” for the organization
    Create mechanisms for the Board to review programs, services and operations without heading down the proverbial “rabbit hole”
    Press the CEO to focus on major issues
    Emphasize that one’s presence is not present enough: Board members must contribute ideas and dollars and be engaged
    Keep meetings concise to foster creativity, productivity, and collaboration
    Expect and obtain 100% participation in financial support from the Board
    Stress the role of the Board member as strategic philanthropic multiplier through identification and engagement of new donors

Board Members as Donors & Investors: Understanding Impact & Conveying ROI, August 4, 2014, eJP, by Avrum Lapin

Many economists say the U.S. economic recovery will stay in the slow lane until American companies finally step up capital spending on things like equipment and technology.

But corporate America is definitely opening up its wallet for one purpose: Spending on training and leadership development by U.S. companies grew by 15 percent in 2013, to more than $70-billion, according to a recent study. That followed two years of growth, at 10 percent or higher, in such spending in 2011 and 2012.

While business is investing in its people with renewed vigor, the nonprofit world continues to lag in making such investments. The Foundation Center recently reported that foundation support for leadership development was less than 1 percent of overall giving from 1992 to 2011. That’s not nearly enough.

We all know that programs and strategies don’t solve problems; people do. So why aren’t more foundations making leadership development an integral part of their grant-making strategies?

If we agree that strong leadership is crucial to the success of the nonprofits we support, what is keeping us from maximizing the impact of our funding by investing more in the skills and capabilities of people who lead organizations, including staff and board members?

At the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund, our trustees strongly support leadership development, based on their experience in both the corporate and philanthropic worlds and their intuitive understanding of the importance of investing in people.

We dedicate 10 to 12 percent of our annual grant making to strengthening leadership. Since 2005, the Haas Leadership Initiative has made mote than $18-million in multiyear grants to more than 100 nonprofits working in the fund’s priority areas of immigrant rights, education equity, and gay and lesbian rights.

We have seen time and again in our work how these investments have contributed to grantee impact and success.

Consider the case of the National Center for Lesbian Rights. Over five years, the center received $834,500 in support from the Haas, Jr. Fund, including $235,000 dedicated to strengthening the organization’s leadership.

The flexible, multiyear funding amounted to about $50,000 annually, which the center used for consulting, coaching, training, and other activities to build and strengthen its leadership.

Among the important results of this work is that the center, which previously relied on two overstretched leaders to run everything, was able to build a strong and collaborative senior staff team of five people

Relieved of many of the internal management responsibilities that had occupied so much of their time in years past, the organization’s executive director, Kate Kendell, and its legal director, Shannon Minter, have become even more powerful forces in the movement for marriage equality for same-sex couples. And the center is widely recognized as a critical player in the movement’s recent wins.

The National Center for Lesbian Rights is not an isolated case. An independent, five-year evaluation of the Haas, Jr. Fund’s early leadership investments showed that our support helped leaders get better results for their organizations and movements. The evaluation also showed that many of our leadership grantees were able to complete successful executive transitions and that they experienced impressive budget growth despite the economic recession.

Of course, we are not alone in supporting nonprofit leadership. Many other foundations around the country have made investing in leadership a top priority.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation, for example, works to develop current and emerging leaders in government agencies and nonprofit organizations serving children and families around the country. The reason: Casey knows that its goal of improving conditions for kids requires building the skills of people to work together to untangle complex problems.

The Blue Shield of California Foundation is building a stronger network of organizations that serve domestic-violence survivors by investing in individual and organizational leadership through its Strong Field Project. And the Durfee Foundation, based in the Los Angeles area, has created a multifaceted sabbatical program that strengthens the leadership of boards and senior teams while giving executives a chance to recharge and renew their commitment to their work.

These foundations are investing in leadership to advance their broader ambitions, and they are committing substantial grant-making resources to this work. While each foundation’s leadership-development approach is distinctive, they all share attributes that our experience suggests are important.

Chief among these is that leadership support is multiyear and is tailored to each organization’s priorities and needs; in other words, this is not about a foundation coming in and telling grantees what to do.

Nor is it simply about sending executive directors to one-time training sessions. Rather, it is about helping organizations identify and secure the leadership support they need at all levels so they can reach their broader goals.

I am not one who believes nonprofits and foundations should indiscriminately follow the strategic expertise of business. However, when the issue is leadership and talent, it’s worth taking a cue from the corporate world.

Unless we can figure out what is behind the nonprofit world’s chronic underinvestment in leadership and turn things around, we will continue to overlook one of the most important ingredients of positive social change. Investing in leadership doesn’t just deliver higher performance; it can also deliver a better, more equitable world.

Nonprofit Leadership Development Is a Vital Ingredient for Social Change, July 13, 2014, Chronicle of Philanthropy, by Ira Hirschfield

Every kid who ever started playing an instrument has had the same fantasy:

You’re sitting in the park, practicing the four chords that you know on your guitar over and over. Suddenly, you hear a voice.

“Hey kid, you’re pretty good. Mind if I jam with you?”

You look up, and it’s the lead singer of your favorite band.

A few months ago, my organization, the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network (YNPN), had the grown-up, nonprofit sector version of this fantasy play out when the folks from NPQ reached out to see if we were interested in collaborating on a companion to their annual reader survey. If you follow us on Twitter or Facebook, you know it’s no secret that YNPN and its members are pretty big fans of NPQ. Needless to say, we were excited to have the opportunity to jam with them.

The main goal of the collaboration was to help NPQ amplify the voices of young nonprofit professionals. We also wanted to continue to test our strength as a research partner; could we actually gather a large enough number of respondents to be statistically significant to the overall study?

The response to the survey—one of the largest turnouts we’ve had in the past year to a broad request for input from our members—showed that young professionals were excited to have the opportunity to talk with one of the sector’s leading publications about what mattered most to them. Approximately 89 percent of the respondents to our survey were between the ages of 18 and 34, with the vast majority of respondents between 22 and 34. In contrast, this age group made up only 16 percent of the respondents to the general NPQ reader survey.

Top Concerns Reveal Generational Differences

When asked about the critical issues affecting nonprofits and philanthropy, our members told us that their top concerns were leadership, professional development, and low wages. For those of us who spend our days talking to young nonprofit professionals (or are young nonprofit professionals), these results are not surprising. When comparing the results from the YNPN member survey and the NPQ general reader survey, however, it’s clear that there’s a huge gap in how these issues are perceived between younger and older professionals.

Several NPQ readers said in the broader reader survey that staff turnover was among the thorniest issues that they faced this year, yet YNPN members were still four times more likely to discuss talent retention and staff turnover in responses. YNPN members were around five times more likely to mention pay, salary, or wages in their responses to questions about their biggest workplace concerns and the state of the sector. It’s also interesting to note that of the six people who mentioned salaries in the general reader survey, three of them were complaining that salaries for their staff were too high.

YNPN members were also much more likely to talk about non-monetary investments in staff like professional development and leadership training. In fact, they were eight times more likely to list professional development as their biggest workplace concern or as one of the trends that will affect the sector over the next five years.

Passion and Pay: “Two Roads Diverge in a Wood”

To provide a little bit of context as to why these issues are top of mind for young professionals, it might be useful to look at the results of another recent survey. Last year, YNPN San Diego surveyed their members and found that their average age was 29 years old. Most had master’s degrees, making it likely that many of them are carrying some kind of student debt. Yet 50 percent of their members make less than $35,000 per year.

In talking with our members and other young nonprofit professionals, their love for their work and the nonprofit sector is abundantly clear. Beyond the anecdotal evidence, research continues to show that young professionals are more purpose-driven in their work than past generations and that millennials are willing to trade high salaries for work that is more meaningful and provides better work-life balance.

This is a huge opportunity for the nonprofit sector to attract top talent that is naturally interested in mission-driven work. Yet we continue to ask our next generation of leaders to work for wages that mean delaying or even being unable to attain other important life goals like home ownership, parenthood, and even retirement. With just a little bit of context, it becomes clear why these issues feel so urgent to young professionals, many of whom want to work in the nonprofit sector but don’t know if it’s financially sustainable.

Where We All Agree

It is clear that these issues must also become urgent for the current generation of leaders in the sector. One of the NPQ survey respondents, for example, expressed a fear that we hear time and again from established leaders about what will happen to the sector over the next five years: “I am concerned with the draining of executive talent by retirements and burnout with fewer than the number needed stepping up to replace them.”

As part of a network of more than 50,000 young nonprofit professionals who are eager to lead, our members voice that the issue is not that we don’t have leaders who are willing to step up. Rather, we are not providing them with the support they need to not only step into leadership positions, but to also be effective once they’re there.

These survey responses provide an important glimpse into our sector’s leadership pipeline. Groups like the Talent Philanthropy Project, the Building Movement Project, and, of course, YNPN, are opening up discussions among leaders of all ages about where we go from here to develop the powerful nonprofit sector we need to build a more just and equal world.

However, we also think that more collaborative efforts like the one between YNPN and NPQ are needed in the sector. These intergenerational conversations can amplify often-marginalized voices and provide space for emerging leaders to jam with established leaders and move the sector forward together.

We would love to hear from YNPN members and NPQ readers of all ages: What other issues should we highlight? What would you like to see from NPQ in the future and from this new collaboration?

YNPN & NPQ Begin Collaboration: Young Nonprofit Leaders Speak Out! August 5, 2014, Nonprofit Quarterly, by Jamie Smith

What would it take to have funding ‘magically’ appear to your camp? Check out this story that a development friend told me:

She worked for a large museum that had just embarked upon a $75 million capital campaign. As part of the training, the development department presented the organizational “story” of why it was so critical to fund the museum campaign to more than 500 staff throughout the organization including guards, porters, and program/front-line ticketing staff. It really paid off, as you’ll see…

Toward the end of the campaign they were baffled as to why one of their prospects, a famous philanthropist in their community, had been unresponsive to requests for a meeting. One day, the mother and granddaughter of this gentleman came to visit the museum. A savvy ticketer at the membership desk noted their name and alerted a nearby porter who ran up to development to tell them that the family of this philanthropist was in the house.

That child got the tour of her life! Programs worked with exhibits to release the best of the on-floor explainers to engage the two. They received a tour behind the theater as well as the planetarium. They went to visit the curators who were restoring an old clock … you get the picture.

The very next day, my friend was sitting with the President at their usual morning meeting. They received a call from the philanthropist’s executive assistant who asked, “On your board, what is the largest category for giving?” “A million and up,” they replied.

By the next week, they received a check from this family in the amount of $2 million.

So what was the magic that had this $2 million fall from the sky? In fact, there was no “magic.” There was intention, planning, training and multiple conversations.

How does this apply to your camp? Notice that this would not have happened if ALL of these individuals had not been trained:

    The development team was responsible for training staff in sharing the essential story of the museum.
    The front desk (the ticketer) had the wherewithal to know who was coming in the door.
    The porter readily went to development to share the news of the philanthropist’s family arrival.
    The curator took an important role by including the family in the day’s activities.

Lastly, did you notice the question that the philanthropist’s office asked? They wanted to know what the largest category of giving was for the board. If their board’s highest level of giving was $1,000, then perhaps the philanthropist would have given $2,000 instead of $2 million! The museum’s board had to be actively seeking stretch gifts.

Here are five things you should be doing to create a culture of philanthropy at your camp, things that will build fundraising momentum and make your success feel like magic:

    Ensure all staff are aware of their role in creating a culture of philanthropy. If you have development staff, have them teach staff about what they are doing and share how they can make a difference. Include the person answering the phones, those doing the bookkeeping and thank you notes, the counselors at camp, and the program staff. Share this story. Ask staff what role they could imagine themselves having if they met a philanthropist. Have them understand that anyone having contact with your camp could be a potential philanthropist.
    Place your development staff, or development volunteers in leadership roles at your camp. This will show that your organization values philanthropy. Have development staff be part of alumni activities, camp sessions, communications, web design, etc. They represent the donors. If you want more donors, development staff and volunteers must be well informed and involved in camp. An organization that is successful in creating a culture of philanthropy integrates the donors and the development staff into their daily work.
    Invite alumni and other prospective donors to camp for tours led by your development staff. Have the different staff that they meet be passionate about expressing the organization’s essential story.
    Educate your Board about philanthropy and the importance of their giving in the eyes of current and potential major donors. Encourage them to make stretch gifts to your camp. Train them to be proficient in your camp’s story as well.
    Include development in staff and board meetings. Make it a high priority throughout your organization. This way, development knows about the successes at camp to share with your funders, and the other departments know about the work of development and its value to the health and well-being of your mission.

Successful fundraising results when every lay and professional member of your team is trained and aware of the importance of their role in supporting your development team.

As for my development friend’s story, now you know:

Even if it felt like magic, it was the integration of the museum’s development team throughout the fabric of the organization that led to their large “surprise” donation. This same integration that can provide your camp similar success stories.

When Funding Success Feels Like Magic, August 6, 2014, eJP, by Laurie Herrick

The CEO of the regional office of a huge national nonprofit organization knew that something was wrong with the organization’s special events; could I attend the next one and observe?

That next event was a “thank you” affair for donors of fifteen years or more. By definition, the guests were older. Many were elderly. They were invited because their long history of giving led staff to believe they were good planned-gift prospects. The evening consisted of several brief speeches, some entertainment, and a dessert reception.

Several hundred guests had preregistered for chartered buses, which came from multiple points in the large metropolitan area. Others would be coming by car. Still others would likely just show up.

What I observed was extraordinary staff energy spent on making sure the event ran smoothly. Most of the staff had “been through this before,” and they awaited the guests with some anxiety. Wait, wait, wait . . . and then all of the buses seemed to arrive at the same time. Hundreds of people left their buses simultaneously and approached the long reception hallway. Each of the guests had to be registered on the way in and then given a name tag. The staff, seated behind the registration tables, arranged in two parallel lines, was overwhelmed for perhaps fifteen minutes. Then, many of the guests needed assistance with seating.

In advance of the speeches and the show, the board chairman took it upon himself to walk up and down the aisles, greeting and thanking guests. In front of the large room, several people, including the CEO, were involved with a group photograph. I recognized a couple, extremely wealthy, to whom nobody spoke.

The entertainment was fine and the brief speeches were on point. The dessert reception was lovely. The guests expressed their gratitude as they left the reception hall for the buses, with extra desserts and some mission-related brochures in hand. The staff went home exhausted.

This special event was a good example of a development team losing its way. So much energy was focused on the logistics that some of the basics of good development work were forgotten.

What are those basics?

Development professionals develop relationships with people. While we sometimes turn to mass appeal approaches such as direct mail, excellent interpersonal skills are central to our work. Sometimes, we talk about the Development Cycle, or the “5 I’s of Development”:


A fundraising event provides opportunities to advance each of these stages of development work. We must continually talk to people, interest and inform them, excite and involve them in our mission.

Sure, a brochure can do some of the work, but, as noted by the Center on Philanthropy’s “Ladder of Effectiveness,” a person to person conversation filled with information and enthusiasm, is the best form of fundraising.

A special event provides numerous touch points for person to person conversation. For the event described above, I first suggested placing energized staff members on the buses—to greet the guests, to handle some of the checking in procedures, and, most important, to talk about the good work being done.

Here are some more ideas:

Checking in

    At the beginning of an event, place the CEO or board chair near the check-in area. That way he or she will have a chance to say hello to just about everybody.
    Instead of a row of volunteers or staff being seated behind a table, why not have them stand in front of a table so they can more easily talk with the guests. Or you could try a podium, to look like the maître d’ station at a restaurant (“Oh, Mrs. Jones, so nice to see you! I have your table assignment right here”).


    Ask a staff member or volunteer to be on the look out for guests standing by themselves. It is hard to come to a large event as a “single.” Make sure these guests feel welcome.
    Avoid placing all the food tables against the walls. A table of dips in the middle of the room encourages conversation.
    Provide each board member with background on two other guests who should be greeted during cocktails.
    While the event described above did not have cocktails, there was a period of time when many guests were seated in chairs, waiting. Why not assign staff members (or board members) to various sections of the room to give thanks and simply make conversation. When I was waiting, I spoke to the person next to me, an older gentleman. I learned that he had no children, was grateful to the host organization for years of service, wanted to “do more.” Imagine if such simple conversations had been organized throughout the crowd!

Seated dinner

    Place a senior staff member, a board member or a key volunteer at each table to serve as a     table host, with responsibility for introducing guests at the table to each other and for making a short toast: “Here’s a brief toast to all of you at Table 6. Thank you for your support of the XYZ          Association. Through your generosity, we’re able to do so much good work. Cheers.”
    Use place cards. Make sure staff, board and volunteers are seated next to people you want them to get to know.


    Informal passed desserts can provide another opportunity for circulation among the guests.
    A round table with a tray of chocolates near the exit provides a way to slow the departure as well as another opportunity for conversation.


    Make sure someone important is near the door to say, “Thanks for coming!”

In short, examine your event for every moment that encourages person to person engagement.

The kind of schmoozing that will engage a donor or prospect does not come naturally to every CEO, staff member, or volunteer. The chief development officer (CDO) has a responsibility to help all the players prepare for their event roles. Included in this responsibility is writing sample scripts for table toasts, providing background on everyone at the table, and making sure the CEO, board chair, and other members of the team have clear assignments, with suggestions on language that can be used (“Sam, I’d like to give you a call next week to talk about a project I have in mind”). In many ways, it is like choreographing a dance: every moment of the event should be carefully thought out.

Then, after the event, the CDO is responsible for debriefing (gathering the little shreds of information that were collected, like the man in my example who wanted to “do more”), reminding everyone to follow up on the calls to “Sam,” the thank you letters, the “good to meet you” notes, etc., etc.

For this to work, in addition to raising money, the cultivation and stewardship roles of your special event must be clearly identified up front as goals. Early buy-in is essential.

Your next special event does not end when the guests go home. Think of the event as the beginning of numerous cultivation opportunities for new and deeper relationships. And yes, the logistics must be perfect, too.

The party may be over, but the development work has only just begun.

Realizing the Full Potential of Your Events, January 12, 2012, Nonprofit Quarterly, by Sheldon Wolf  

Dear Kim,

Isn’t the board structure essentially useless? Shouldn’t it be dissolved?

I and those at the Grassroots Institute for Fundraising Training (GIFT) hear variations on this question so often that we decided to make it the topic of the debate at this year’s Money for our Movements Conference, August 2nd–3rd in Baltimore, Maryland. (It’s not too late to sign up—believe me, it is the place to see and be seen!)

In real life, while I have thought something along those lines in moments of great frustration (both as a board member and as staff), I know that dissolving this structure is not realistic, and, even if it were to happen, would only create a whole new set of problems.

In my experience as a consultant working with hundreds of organizations, as well as having served on two dozen boards and having worked as an executive director, a development director, and a number of other staff positions, I see that the board is a convenient dumping ground for all the problems an organization faces. Just a recent example: I talked with a brand new executive director on her first day at work who said, “There is so much I don’t know how to do, but one thing everyone has told me is ‘watch out for the board.’” I thought she meant the board of her new organization, but she was speaking more generally. How can you enter a healthy partnership and run an effective organization when, before you even know anything about the board members, you have decided to “watch out for them?” Based on the advice of others, this new ED is insuring that her experience with the board will be dysfunctional and unpleasant. Later, as a jaded ED, she will probably give the same advice she got to some new person, never realizing how she was set up with bad advice.

The direct answer to the question, “Can a board of directors really be effective?” is both “YES” and “That’s not really the question.” An effective board both creates and reflects an effective organization. An effective organization is one that sees all of its parts (staff, volunteers, consultants, board members) as part of an ecosystem, and when each person plays their part and does their share, the system works. When one person does too much or a few people do too little, the system is strained. (I am indebted to Patricia Bradshaw, Dean of the Sobey School of Business at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax, who was one of the first to write about the notion of a board as an eco-system. Dr. Bradshaw was a presenter at the first GIFT conference in 2006.)

Moving away from “can a board of directors really be effective?” to the pragmatic question of “how can a board of directors be most effective?” is beyond the scope of this feature. There are thousands of prescriptive articles (many in the Grassroots Fundraising Journal archive) on how to do this.

But staying committed to creating a healthy board of directors, being a great board member yourself, and working joyfully and eagerly with a board of directors as a staff person means answering a deeper question: “Why should a board exist at all?” For social justice activists, the answer is obvious: the board exists to give community people a voice that has some authority. The communities on whose behalf social justice organizations work have many members who care deeply and have a lot of experience with the issues the organization is addressing, but for one reason or another, tend not to be paid staff. The board of directors is a place for that experience to be put to use.

The question we really have to put in front of ourselves is “Are we committed to having our organization be a site for democratic practice and to reflect the values we are advocating for in the society at large?” Before you say yes, keep in mind that this is a BIG YES—a yes that must be said every day. A healthy well-functioning organization takes a lot of work. There will be times of misunderstanding and frustration, anger and resentment, but overall the work of it will create an experience few of us would trade for something else.

Boards:  A Historic Relic? July 24, 2014, Nonprofit Quarterly, by Kim Klein

Your nonprofit is going through an executive transition. The new executive director is finally in place. Now it’s time for the Board of Directors to back out of the way and let the new ED find his or her own way. According to a recent article in Associations Now, this is the time when the board is most eager to hand things off to the new CEO and, yet, it is the time when an onboarding process is most helpful and necessary. “Onboarding is a two way street” with the “board giving guidance to the new CEO” and the CEO and board “collectively setting the new leadership agenda.”

An article in the Stanford Social Innovation Review refers to a number of studies and the experience of experts on executive transitions which suggest that there are at least five ways to “boost the board performance where it counts most: onboarding and supporting the new CEO.” Here are the five recommendations for boards to adopt a “leadership development mindset” for supporting the new Executive Director:

    Lay the groundwork for the new leader: The suggestion is for the board to think 3–5 years out as to where the organization needs to be and work backward to surface the skills needed by the new leadership. The board could identify tough decisions that need to be made before the arrival of a new leader.
    Collectively set the new leadership agenda: According to the SSIR article, almost 40 percent of those surveyed felt that the board was not effective in helping to set priorities in the first year. The leadership agenda is a shared process that starts before the new CEO and evolves as the CEO learns more about the organization.
    Get clear on roles: Questions to be answered include
        Who sets the agenda for board meetings?
        What decisions will the board participate in?
        How and when is the CEO evaluated?
    Go slow in orientation to go fast on the job: The board needs to ensure that the CEO has time to build relationships and get to know the organization as a whole. Create a transition committee made up of members of the search committee, plus maybe some staff, or perhaps a new group of board members. The focus is to help the new leader get fully into the flow of the organization. This committee could identify key meetings to attend and communicate the transition to key stakeholders.
    Make the collective setting of goals and evaluation of progress routine: “Setting expectations proactively lays the foundation for a healthy relationship between the board and new executive.” Almost 70 percent of the executive directors surveyed did not feel that their goals and milestones in their first year were established with the support of the board. According to the Associations Now article, at last year’s ASAE annual meeting, the workshop speaker emphasized “turn[ing] the evaluation conversation to look at future needs, not just past metrics”

Executive transition is a when, not an if. Time spent on developing an executive succession plan and focusing on the onboarding process is time spent on moving the mission forward.

Boards and the Onboarding Process for New Nonprofit Executives, July 24, 2014, Nonprofit Quarterly, by Jeanne Allen

SOS Children’s Villages is a large international children’s charity helping orphaned and abandoned children in 133 countries around the world. SOS Children’s Villages Canada’s role is to raise funds in Canada to fund programs in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

Using SEO To Attract Overseas Donations

So much rides on our search engine rankings. In Canada, 3 to 6 percent of donated dollars go to international charities. It’s a very competitive marketplace for all nonprofits and extremely competitive for international charities. Advertising can be effective, but it’s also costly. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) allows us to capture the attention of the niche market of people who may want to make an overseas donation.

Most new donors don’t go looking for SOS Children’s Villages Canada specifically. A new donor typically finds us after seeing a news media report. For example, after 250 girls were abducted in Nigeria, potential donors searching for more information discovered our work operating schools and helping children in Nigeria. Any issue related to vulnerable children, protection of child rights, gender equality, and orphans can drive potential donors to our website. Once donors find us, our content must clearly help them understand the need.

Why Google Didn’t Love Our Content

The search engines should have loved all our granular content, but they weren’t even seeing it. As it turned out, our own proprietary shared hosting platform was the culprit. Here’s why:

1. Slow page load times. Page load times are critical for SEO. But because we were hosted in Europe on a proprietary platform, our page load times were too slow for Google and other search engines. Users didn’t seem to notice, but our search engine rankings told another story.

2. Not SEO-Optimized. In addition, our website wasn’t optimized for SEO or for usability. Google Grants gives us $10,000 a month in Google AdWords funding, which is really effective if your site is optimized. Ours wasn’t, putting a damper on low-cost marketing strategies like SEO and free advertising. For example, our page on Angola didn’t have a page rank at all because it was seen as duplicate content.

Transitioning From A Shared Hosting Platform

When we made the decision 8 years ago to pool resources with 25 other nations to share a joint proprietary platform, it seemed like a good way to save money. But it wasn’t as cost-effective as we thought. Not only were our search engine rankings suffering, but we were investing a significant development budget each year to maintain the proprietary platform, costing us 18,000 CAD a year.

We wanted to spend donors’ money more effectively so we could drive SEO and bring in more donations. In 2013, we decided to go rogue from the joint platform.

The Solution: Open Source & Drupal

We chose open source and Drupal. We wanted a powerful and cost-effective website that was optimized for SEO, so we engaged a Drupal web development agency to build it.

The Results

Our page ranks are increasing, while our load times are decreasing. Like most charities, we raise the majority of our funds in the two months leading up to Christmas and just beyond. It’s still early, but we’re already well-positioned for this year. We’re slightly up over last year at this time, when we were fundraising for one-time donations during an international crisis and getting an unusual amount of press.

1. Giant leaps up in Google rankings

On pages with the exact same content, we’ve seen page ranks shoot up 4 full points—Angola rose from 1 to 5, for example. Now we’re indexed correctly to Google. The right third-party modules have all been configured and installed. Our new website platform optimizes page delivery within our design, allowing us to increase each page’s perceived value within the search engine marketplace. We’re actually showing up in other nations ahead of the local SOS National Association for that nation—specifically, in anglophone countries. People are starting to ask us what we’re doing differently.

2. Much better page load times

Our improved search rankings can be directly attributed to the lower page load times. Getting on Drupal and using the new website platform decreased our page load time significantly, averaging 49.7% faster average load time. As a result, Google immediately assigned a better quality score to our pages, and to our site overall.

3. Award-winning design

Our new website was so visually appealing that it outshone 5,000 competitors in 24 countries to win the 2014 Summit Creative Award, Silver medal, for a nonprofit website.

Parting Thoughts

If a colleague at another nonprofit were to ask, “What’s the best way to manage our large nonprofit website?” I would tell them this: “Option 1 is hiring a team to build the infrastructure on a cloud provider. Starting from scratch, they set up the servers and all the infrastructures. Then, they configure everything to make it high-performing for Drupal. In the end, you pay tens of thousands a year for hosting, and your search engine rankings could still suffer. We’ve been down that road. Option 2 is running your website on a container-based cloud infrastructure. You don’t need to worry about constant infrastructure maintenance or reconfiguring the architecture whenever your audience grows. And, because your site is so much faster, growing your audience through SEO becomes much easier. At least, that’s been our experience.”

So Fast Google Can’t Ignore You: Donations Optimized For SEO, July 18, 2014, NTEN, by Daniel Loftus

Facebook, with its audience of 1.2 billion worldwide and 128 million daily users in America, has long been touted as a great way to help nonprofits find supporters.

But many fundraisers and charity leaders say that the social network remains a fickle partner in the drive for donations.

Only 2 percent of nonprofits in the United States raised $10,000 to $25,000 through Facebook in a 12-month period, and 1 percent raised $25,000 to $100,000, according to a report released last year by Blackbaud, a fundraising-software company.

Roughly 1 percent of all online fundraising can be attributed to social media, including Facebook, according to Blackbaud’s research.

John Haydon, author of Facebook Marketing for Dummies, puts it in simple terms: The social network is lousy for fundraising.

"Very rarely would you pull out your credit card when you’re on Facebook," says Mr. Haydon. "People are going there to connect with friends or relieve boredom or avoid work. It’s not about making donations."

The Donate-Button Test

Last December, Facebook ran an experiment: It gave 19 charities that are particularly active on the social network a donate button to use on their Facebook pages to boost year-end giving.

But the company and many of the charities that participated in the test have been mum about the results. And judging by the experience of one of them, that modesty may be justified.

The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society reported raising $3,500 through Facebook in the wake of the experiment. But that’s barely a sliver of the $98.5-million the charity raised through all online sources last year.

One problem with the test overall: The donate button did not appear in the Facebook mobile app, where roughly 78 percent of daily Facebook users access the platform.

Facebook officials say they are analyzing the effectiveness of the donate tool and will decide later whether to expand the program.

Lauren Van Horn, who oversees Facebook’s partnerships with nonprofits—a newly created role—said the company had not compiled data on the amount raised using the donate buttons.
Changes to News Feeds

The social network has also made recent changes that pose challenges for charities. It tweaked the algorithm that determines which posts will appear in a user’s news feed, making it more selective. Nonprofits are asking why their posts aren’t appearing in news feeds and why the number of people viewing and "liking" those posts has dropped.

"Organizations don’t realize how many people aren’t seeing those posts," says Wendy Marinaccio Husman, a senior account executive with Donordigital, an online-fundraising consulting firm. Facebook, she notes, is "designed to make money. It’s not designed for nonprofits to raise money."

With the new algorithm, individual posts placed on a nonprofit’s Facebook page are delivered to only a small percentage of its fans, especially if those posts don’t generate comments, likes, and shares, according to Drew Bernard, chief executive officer of ActionSprout, which develops tools that nonprofits can use on the Facebook platform.

Many organizatons contend that, in tweaking its algorithm, Facebook deliberately cut the audience reach of posts to force businesses and nonprofits to buy ads or sponsored posts guaranteed to appear in visitors’ news feeds.

Mr. Bernard says the social network is making organizations to "pay to gain reach for content that didn’t attract an audience organically," and that nonprofits can avoid paying by creating engaging posts.

But Facebook officials respond that the changes to the news-feed algorithm were made to ensure users find the best-quality content, posts, and causes that interest them, based on their likes and shares. At any given time, Facebook officials say, an average of 1,500 posts are available to a Facebook user viewing his or her news feed. Reducing the clutter for each individual user is the goal.
Peer to Peer

If the world’s biggest social network falls short in helping charities raise money directly, it nevertheless offers some advantages in helping them rally supporters through peer-to-peer drives, in which people solicit donations from their friends, usually to sponsor them when they participate in a fundraising event on behalf of a charity.

In a study this year of 135 peer-to-peer campaigns such as walkathons, Artez Interactive, a company that sells online-fundraising services to nonprofits, found 15 percent to 18 percent of the donations were generated directly through Facebook.

The study also found that 28 percent of the traffic referred to a charity’s fundraising page originated from Facebook, and those visitors responding to a peer-to-peer request will make a gift 23 percent of the time.

"It’s completely obvious that’s what would work best," says Ms. Husman. "People give to people. If your friend is making a gift and asks you to do the same, whatever medium it is, it’s going to be much more effective."

Researchers at George Mason University confirmed that idea. They found that a donor’s Facebook-wall post about making a gift was the most effective path to generating new donations from friends, suggesting that nonprofits will benefit from encouraging donors to use social media to share news of their support for a charity and to urge others to give.

"When you ask your friend in front of their friends, it seems to be the most effective," says Ragan Petrie, an associate professor of economics at George Mason and a co-author of the fundraising report. "Having the social pressure seems to be important."
Acquiring Emails

Facebook’s vast audience also provides unmatched potential to find new supporters, gather data about them, and drive them to act.

The key, say people who help charities raise money online, is to create engaging content that will generate clicks, likes, shares, comments, and actions that expand the broadcast and provide a means to capture data and donor prospects. Spending money on Facebook ads or sponsored pages—as little as $500 to $1,000 focused on a target audience, fundraising consultants say—can help posts that are already seeing robust traffic reach even more potential supporters.

The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society found success with a stand-alone ad purchased on Facebook to promote its Team in Training program and Light the Night Walks. The ad produced 1,000 leads for Team in Training and 3,000 registrations for Light the Night.

In addition, it can be highly cost-effective to acquire potential supporters’ email addresses through Facebook and its support tools and to make an appeal for donations later in the online conversation.

ActionSprout estimates that a call to action, which requires a user to share an email address, generates five to 20 new email addresses for every 100 Facebook users who engaged with the post.
A Tool for Advocacy

Experts advise nonprofits to view Facebook as a listening tool as much as a megaphone, to know their audience; and to craft posts that meld followers’ interests with the organization’s mission.

With a vast supply of exotic-animal photos, the World Wildlife Fund has a natural advantage in capturing attention and generates tens of thousands of likes and shares for pictures of rhinos, dolphins, and so on. (A participant in Facebook’s December experiment, it would not reveal how much it raised through the social network.)

The international animal-protection group spends a small percentage of its advertising budget to boost Facebook posts and would increase that spending if it noticed a decrease in engagement, which it thus far hasn’t, says David Glass, senior director of digital marketing.

But, says Bex Young, the charity’s senior specialist for social media, "You have to couple the cute with getting someone to take action," such as to sign up for an email list.

The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, or Rainn, employs a staff member solely devoted to online communication and uses the social network to educate and engage people in a personal way. Infographics have been particularly effective at generating shares and likes, says Katherine Hull Fliflet, the charity’s vice president for communications.

The organization raises about $5-million a year. It would not reveal how much it raised through its participation in Facebook’s donate-button experiment, but Ms. Fliflet says the social network has been responsible for a large amount of traffic to the organization’s website and the growth in demand for its online hotline.

Facebook, Ms. Fliflet says, has been "making charitable giving more accessible, particularly to those who may be first-time givers or younger donors who are looking for a way to interact with a charity."

OurTime.org, a three-year-old nonprofit that encourages political action by millennials, also pushes its advocacy mission with the help of Facebook.

Its six-person staff has gained one million members and 363,000 likes on its Facebook page. It registered 350,000 voters in 2012 and spent less than $1 per voter, showing that the social network can be a cost-effective tool to push people to act.

"We have an email list, but we don’t want to email them eight to 10 times a day," says Jarrett Moreno, OurTime.org’s founder. Facebook, he says, has helped the group get its message out in a less intrusive way: "They’ll click and share or comment, give us another opportunity to appear in their friends’ news feed, and then they’ll follow our page, too."

Charities Like Facebook for Rallying Support but Not Much for Fundraising, July 13, 2014, Chronicle of Philanthropy, by Tom Held

The average nonprofit technology budget accounted for 3.2 percent of total annual organizational spending, according to a new report.

Most groups said their spending on hardware, software, and consulting changed minimally compared with the previous year.

The eighth annual Nonprofit Technology Staffing and Investments Report, published by the Nonprofit Technology Network, or NTEN, examines the roles of information technology and technology support staff in overall operations.

The new findings are based on survey responses collected from 781 nonprofits for their current fiscal year.

Among the other findings:

    Nonprofits budgeted an average of $114,443 for technology in their most recent fiscal year. That figure ranges from $10,530 to $432,214 depending on the size of the organization.
    The average nonprofit reported having about four-and-a-half technology staff members. On average, one technology person supported 30 employees.
    A little more than two-thirds of nonprofits reported that their strategic plan includes technology components, but nearly half said they are not conducting any assessments to figure out their return on investment from technology spending.
    Slightly more than half of nonprofits described their current use of technology as "operating," or having a stable technology infrastructure, practices, and procedures. Only about 12 percent ranked themselves as "leading" in technology, while the remaining nonprofits described themselves as barely maintaining, or failing to maintain, their technology systems.

Average Nonprofit Spends 3.2% of Budget on Technology, Report Says, July 28, 2014, Nonprofit Quarterly, by Megan O’Neil

The fundamental value proposition of the "what works" movement is that the lives of many people in need can be materially improved by expanding the reach of programs and organizations that reliably yield strong results for those they serve.

Which leads me to this question: why do we in the social sector give so little attention to operations—that is, what makes "what works" actually work?

Peruse the sector's journals, blogs, webinars, and conference themes and what do you see? Pretty much anything but ops. They seem to be dominated by more glamorous subjects: the invention of new programs and interventions, the application of "design thinking" to routine problems, scaling, policy advocacy and "systems change," novel approaches to luring private capital into the social-purpose marketplace (such as social impact bonds and "impact investing"), even scientific methods of proving what works.

But what about delivering what works? Rarely addressed is the need for quality and consistency of a program's performance, not to mention the painstaking, repetitious internal processes required to produce outstanding results–in a word, "operations."

Disciplined management, rigorous analysis of performance data, accounting for true costs, relentless efforts to improve processes and programs, the hiring and development of great people—these are essential to ensuring that what is promised in theory is realized in practice. but simply don't seem to get due attention or respect.

This stands in stark contrast to the business sector, where it's clear that what creates real value for people served—and thereby justifies their parting with their hard-earned cash—is consistent, cost-effective delivery of a high-quality product or service that works! True, design is important, as is marketing, branding, technological innovation, capital-acquisition, and advocating for favorable public policy. But the ultimate purpose, and key driver of an organization's health and growth, remains the production and use of products or services that satisfy people's wants and needs.

No one understood this better than Steve Jobs. Yes, he was a charismatic visionary who could generate excitement about compelling concepts and truly breakthrough product ideas. (Indeed, he was so accomplished in these regards that there's every reason to believe he would have made an outstanding nonprofit CEO!) But he also knew that what motivated millions of people around the world to hand over billions of dollars to Apple was not the hype but the reality of reasonably priced, reliably performing, feature-laden products—made and distributed through painstaking, highly repetitious, exacting and decidedly unglamorous processes. Indeed, Jobs appreciated this so well that he selected as his successor Tim Cook, the mastermind of Apple's operations.

Of course, we do not have to rely on for-profit exemplars to demonstrate how operational excellence can drive high customer value and organizational health and scale. Take Teach for America, where Wendy Kopp's legendary vision and dedication to her cause have been matched only by her messianic focus on determining which practices, procedures and methods do, in fact, work—ensuring that TFA could be counted on to deliver, day after day, year after year.

So why does our sector undervalue operations? Mainly, because the financial health and growth of nonprofit organizations is generally not a function of reliable, consistent delivery of products and services that provide superior results. For most nonprofits, funding comes from third parties—government, foundations, individual donors—paying for services on other people's behalf. And in making funding decisions, these third parties have typically focused on many factors—such as well-crafted stories of transformation, clean audit reports, or recommendations from influential supporters—rather than objective, comparative performance. It's hardly surprising, therefore, that the most valued skills of nonprofit CEO's have tended to be the ability to woo those foundation, government, and individual backers, not to rigorously manage and continuously improve program quality, cost, and delivery.

But let me point to two budding efforts that give me hope that operations may finally be gaining respect.

Changing how we think about overhead. Too often, a nonprofit's investments in robust operations capabilities and capacities are categorized as "overhead"—long a dirty word among both funders hoping to maximize their return on investment and agencies aiming to identify the most effective nonprofits. But things may be changing. In a widely publicized "open letter to American donors" in June 2013, the CEOs of GuideStar, Charity Navigator, and BBB Wise Giving Alliance—Jacob Harold, Ken Berger and Art Taylor—wrote that "The nonprofit sector…has too often erroneously focused on overhead over the past few decades, which has starved nonprofits from investing in themselves as enterprises and created what the Stanford Social Innovation Review calls 'The Nonprofit Starvation Cycle.'" And in December, the federal Office of Management and Budget released guidance that requires that nonprofits receiving federal funds get a minimum of 10 percent reimbursement rate on indirect costs (previously it could be—and often was—zero).

Focusing on high-performing organizations. Building on his influential book Leap of Reason, entrepreneur Mario Morino's Leap of Reason Institute is using an annual conference, a website, speeches, and publications to build support for high-performance nonprofit organizations. Leap of Reason focuses on strong management, operational execution, ongoing performance measurement, and continuous improvement, all intended, as Mario writes, to aid "those who understand in their bones that high performance is integral to ensuring material, measurable, and sustainable good." Which brings me back to Steve Jobs. "Some people think design means how it looks," he once said, "but of course, if you dig deeper, it's really how it works."

In Praise of Operations: Making "What Works" Actually Work, July 31, 2014, eJP, by Paul Carttar

Congressional recesses provide an excellent opportunity for you to visit your legislators and their staff in their home offices (or invite them to your own agencies) and talk about your agency's priorities. In addition to your own priorities, we encourage you to ask your Members of Congress to support the Emergency Food and Shelter Program, Holocaust Survivors, the ABLE (Achieving a Better Experience) Act, and funding for the Office of Refugee Resettlement to address unaccompanied children at our border. Please click here for a full explanation of these items including background materials and sample letters. Contact Shelley Rood if you have any questions and let us know about the outcome of your meetings!

Bet Tzedek's Holocaust Survivors Justice Network is hosting a webinar for social service professionals to discuss the recent amendment to the ZRBG "ghetto pension" law, which expands the number of eligible ghettos and allows pension recipients to elect to receive a pension recalculated (and paid retroactively to) July 1, 1997. Click here to learn more about the webinar.

Changes to the ZRBG "Ghetto Pension" Law
Thursday, August 14th, 12:30pm ET - REGISTER HERE

An estimated 80-90,000 Central American children are expected to cross the southern border of the U.S. this year and as many as 140,000 may come next year. During the dangerous journey north, these children are at serious risk of violence, rape, exploitation, and even death. In most cases, the children have fled relentless violence and hopelessness in search of a safe place and a better life. Click here to learn how you can help

More and more, your donors are online, mobile, and tech-curious. What should you be doing to meet them where they are and motivate them to support you? Your future supporters are standing by.

Leading your nonprofit to success means being nimble and having the ability to quickly respond to your supporters.  With online giving on the rise, it behooves nonprofit leadership to focus on embracing technologies for more effective fundraising.

So how do you create a user experience that will motivate donors to take it a step further than just a $5 donation and a goodbye? How do you engage them so they will champion your cause and ultimately spread your message to their friends and family? It’s not as hard as you think. There are a few key strategies and technologies to embrace in order take your fundraising campaigns to the next level.

Donors are busy—You need to be in their pocket

Your donors are mobile, and so your website has to be easy for them to access from wherever they are. Maybe you’re a small theater company, and a thrilled patron pulls out their phone in the lobby at intermission to make a donation right then and there. Or perhaps someone waiting at an airport hears a news item about a flood and wants to donate to victims’ relief. Donations are often made for emotional reasons, so you have to be right there in your donors’ pockets while they’re in the mood. Make sure you make mobile giving easy.

Listen more—Know why your donor gets up in the morning

Do you really take the time to get to know your donors? You should. If you stop and listen, you will learn more about their passions and what drives them. Ask open-ended questions and get them talking. Have you thought about asking for feedback? Find out why they did (or didn’t) donate to your last fundraising campaign. Ask why they care about your organization. The more you understand, the better job you can do to match your campaign’s content or "ask" to what your supporters care most about. Relationships are key when raising money.

Use graphics to get attention

NP Engage, a great source of information for anyone engaged in nonprofit work, shows us an example of a fundraising page for Charity: Water. The image below catches your eye, showing a glass of fresh clean water next to a glass of dirty water. The “donate now” button on the page is a contrasting bright blue color. This visual cue that shows what the donation will do is much more persuasive than any number of words could possibly be.

Build your community—Use social media to convey your message

The rise of social media has turned marketing into a two-way conversation. You have to reach out to your donors in whatever online habitat they like to hang out in—and then ask them questions, listen to what they have to say, and generally just tune in to how their lives are going. While they’re reading your latest email newsletter or checking out the cool photos you just posted on Facebook and Twitter, donors will also see your “Donate” link that’s always right there.

Be sure to say thank you

It is often overlooked and one of the most basic rules—say thank you. This is key! Donors want to know that they are making a difference. They are the ones that truly believe they can help drive change in this world. So help them feel special. Be sure to thank them for their gift.  And if you can, go the extra mile to let them know exactly how their gift made an impact. Did it buy 15 backpacks so underprivileged kids can go to school? Did it feed five hungry children? Communication builds trust, and trust builds repeat donors. Donors want to feel a part of something important and if appreciated, will be very loyal supporters.

Use technology—the right technology

If you work in the nonprofit industry, you can't help but notice that online donations are growing at double digits annually. You need to get your slice of that pie. But keeping up with the fast pace of innovation isn’t an easy task.

The Chronicle of Philanthropy talked to six nonprofit groups that receive more than half their online donations from donors on a regular monthly or yearly schedule. These groups said that the way to get repeat donations is simple: make it easy for donors to give.  Don’t require donors to re-enter their information each time they give.  This is particularly important on mobile devices.  Be sure you offer your most loyal donors an easy, secure 1-click way to donate.

When looking at donation tools, there are three key areas to consider:

    Donor Experience: With donation drop-off at 85 percent, you’re looking for a solution that doesn’t get in the way of any donation—regardless of the device a donor is using. Ideally, you don’t want to ask your donors to create a username and password to manage an account.
    Data Security: This is the holy grail of 1-click donations. To reap the benefits of easy, 1-click donations, your technology provider needs to securely store user credit card information—which instantly ups the possibility of being a breach target. And quite often, that information is protected by usernames and passwords—files that are easily stolen and decrypted. Look for a solution that has expertise with data security to truly get a secure 1-click solution.
    Ease of Integration and Overall Flexibility: How hard is the integration? Will it work with the systems you have—CRM, Website, Email?  Is the 1-click donations solution portable? The speed of innovation is breathtaking, and you need to ensure that you have the flexibility to use the best solutions across all your initiatives. The ideal 1-click solution operates independently of, yet integrated into, your CRM and website.

The nonprofit world has entered the ecommerce marketplace. With modern technology providing the advancements needed to communicate better and solicit donations more seamlessly, connecting with your donors and raising the bar on your next fundraising campaign is easier now than it’s ever been.

Follow Your Donors to Leading Technology, June 9, 2014, NTEN, by Elissa Everett

I’m forever writing about the distinction between the Board (the group) and the board member. From bylaws and policies and book titles and article titles—and the way people talk… I can tell that people think this is a distinction without a difference.

People use the terms “Board” and “board member” interchangeably. But that’s just plain wrong! It drives me nuts.

For example:

So many fundraisers talk about the Board being responsible to help raise money. No. That’s poor communication. The Board functions as a group. The Board exists when it is meeting together. That’s when governance happens.

So how, exactly is the Board—all those people together—helping to raise money? It’s not a group process. That just doesn’t happen.

The board is not responsible for raising money. But individual board members, every single one of them, are responsible to help raise money.

Your organization needs board-adopted policies that distinguish between the two—because they are different, and it’s an important difference.

One policy is the definition of the role of the Board. (That’s the group.) One part of that job description says that the Board is accountable for ensuring that money is raised. How does the Board do that? At its board meetings, which is when governance happens.

For example, the Board reviews and endorses a fund development plan. The Board sets gift acceptance policies. The Board mandates that every board member will help fundraise in some manner. The Board reviews progress and talks about interventions. And all this is facilitated by the staff.

The Board also adopts a policy that defines the performance expectations of every single individual board member—the same expectations for each board member. That includes “give a gift to the best of personal ability,” “help nurture relationships,” “help carry out specific tasks in fundraising.”

Staff helps board members do all that. And you don’t nominate any individual without a screening interview that shares expectations and ensures commitment prior to nomination.

Once, as a board member, I expressed concern to the board chair about the performance of the CEO. I asked to have an executive session of the Board to talk about CEO performance.

The board chair told me to just go express my concerns to the CEO.

How wrong! How very wrong. And I told the board chair that. No individual board member criticizes CEO performance to the CEO. CEO performance is the purview of the board, not any single individual. The executive session that I requested would have provided the opportunity for me to share my concerns—and to see if others agreed. Otherwise, my opinions don’t have much standing.

But this board chair apparently thought each board member was the supervisor of the CEO? Or this board chair thought it was okay to tell the CEO that I disagreed with the way she was doing her job? No way! Wrong again.

The Board is different than the board member. And it is a distinction that makes a significant difference. You’ll find samples in the Free Download Library at my website.

The board chair and other board members

Here’s a distinction that doesn’t make much difference. (Except that board chairs often make it a distinction with a difference!)

The board chair has no more authority than any other board member, despite fantasies to the contrary. Take a look at my previous column about board chairs.

I always remember Massachusetts Keith with great amusement. Over and over, he would tell me that he was right and he would make darn sure that the Board voted accordingly.

But his “right” was just his opinion. He confirmed that with me. However, he informed me that his opinion was “right” and “correct” and “the way things should be.”

Mass Keith simply didn’t understand that as board chair, he had no more authority than any other board member. As board chair, he is a facilitator. The Board makes decisions. Really. There isn’t much difference between the board chair and other board members.

The Board and its committees

Here’s another one. What is the relationship between the Board and its committees? Is there a distinction between committees and the Board? Yes! And it’s a distinction that matters.

For example:

Committees cannot make decisions for the board? The Board directs its committees. Committees report to the Board. Committees don’t direct the Board. Even the executive committee—if you’re unlucky enough to have one! (Just check out my NPQ article about destroying all executive committees.)—has no authority over the Board. Committees don’t substitute for the Board.

So I’m at a board meeting—that same group in the first example—and I’m asking a question about the Finance Committee’s report. I’m told that I don’t serve on the Finance Committee and the Finance Committee talked a lot about this. And I should just be quiet.

Oh, yes. It was all said professionally and graciously. But…really?

My response was:

“I am on the Board. The Board is legally and morally accountable for the health and effectiveness of this corporation. The Finance Committee is not legally and morally accountable. The Finance Committee reports to the Board. I am a board member, answer my question.”

In conclusion, think carefully about the distinctions that make a difference, and what you’ll do about them. Then ignore the distinctions that are simply not sufficiently important to warrant your attention—or anyone else’s.

Nonprofit Boards and the Board Member: A Distinction with a Difference, July 23, 2014, Nonprofit Quarterly, by Simone Joyaux    

For-profit organizations have been strategically managing their talent for years. Through expensive trial and error, IBM, GE, American Express, and others have developed robust human capital management practices to build talent pipelines and develop leaders to increase their business value. Yet, in the nonprofit sector, human capital management is a relatively new concept. "Even more so than in for-profits, where there are hard assets like plants and equipment, a nonprofit really only has staff who are working towards its mission, which is all the more reason to focus on [human capital management]," says AchieveMission Partner Mike Markovits. So why aren't nonprofits using more human capital management practices?

 In this Q&A, Markovits (previously in charge of Leadership globally at IBM, and Leadership and Executive Development at GE) and AchieveMission's Board Chair Tom Eddington (former owner at Hewitt Associates and vice chair at the Taproot Foundation) reflect on their extensive experience in human capital management in both the for-profit and nonprofit sectors. They shed light on why nonprofits are not yet taking full advantage of lessons learned in the for-profit sector and where they see opportunity for nonprofits to do so.
In your experience, what challenges are nonprofits facing in their efforts to become better at human capital management?

Mike Markovits: There are two parts of human capital management that seem to challenge nonprofits more often than the corporations I've worked with.

One part is actually recognizing how important and critical focusing on human capital management is to the accomplishment of their missions. In contrast, at GE and IBM the importance of human capital was reflected throughout the organization: in hiring, evaluations, promotions, and in the way the leadership spent its time. It was not unusual to see senior leaders, including the CEO, spending 30 to 50 percent of their time on human capital issues. It was part of the culture. Companies began to invest in human capital when they realized that not doing so would actually be the more expensive and risky path forward; many nonprofits are just now having that realization for the first time, and it takes time for that shift in priorities to work its way through the organization.

Second, and not surprisingly given the first, nonprofits are generally not aware of the many lessons corporations have learned about how to do human capital management better and less expensively. For example, at GE we learned that pulling managers out of their jobs, putting them into a cohort-based management training, and then sending them back to their business units was not the most effective method for leadership and professional development. When managers returned to their business units, the organizations had a hard time embracing the new methods the leader had learned. We also found that if the leader didn't actually use a piece of the training within a month or two, the knowledge was mostly forgotten. At most, 30 percent of what the managers learned was remembered and implemented. We had much better results when our development efforts focused on stretch assignments, formal and informal coaching, and highly tailored just-in-time training. There are dozens of practices like these that we have successfully adapted for use by nonprofits and that are readily accessible to, but still largely unknown by, nonprofits.

Tom Eddington: While human capital management can help any sized organization, the biggest impact is likely at those with at least a few dozen employees. Most of the leaders of these larger nonprofits experience human capital management challenges regularly but they may not use those words. They might say that they have lots of first-time managers who don't know how to manage, or that their senior leadership team is not working well together, or that the culture does not support accountability and results. More importantly, they are not aware of the decades of learning and the billions of dollars spent in the for-profit sector finding systematic ways to build stronger leaders, teams, and organizations, nor are they aware of the ways hard-won best practices can be tailored to address nonprofits. As Mike said, there's a huge opportunity to transfer knowledge and experience.

The knowledge transfer has not yet happened for a variety of reasons. One is that, historically, there haven't been a lot of nonprofit leaders who have worked in both the for-profit and nonprofit sectors. Another factor is the absence of human capital management experience on the board of many nonprofits. The board is oftentimes comprised of people with other important skill sets. Lastly, many of the nonprofit HR roles have been scoped and filled by strong administrators who have different, important contributions to make. The end result is that the executive director doesn't have access to this information.
What for-profit practices should nonprofit organizations consider adapting?

Markovits: One practice that has been proven highly effective for professional and leadership development is the 70-20-10 approach to learning: for working professionals 70 percent of learning happens on the job through stretch assignments, 20 percent happens through coaching from colleagues to achieve success in those stretch assignments, and 10 percent happens through formal training. As I mentioned earlier, among nonprofits, I see a tremendous overreliance on training which is the 10 percent—sending people to conferences or to workshops as a solution for development—as opposed to development through experience on the job—the 70 percent. Let's get this person a new job or some new projects, let her develop through that experience. Let's really focus on coaching skills to help leaders develop and give them skills to be able to develop staff. It takes some work for an organization to learn how to use 70-20-10 effectively, but once learned it's less expensive and more effective.

Another practice is succession planning—identifying who is capable of moving to key roles, what the total pipeline is inside (and sometimes outside) the organization to those roles, and developing people to help them achieve their potential. We call it succession-driven development and it fosters much faster learning because it taps into personal aspirations in a very concrete way. Too many nonprofits wait until there is an opening and then react instead of planning and building their talent pipelines on an ongoing basis. (For more on leadership development, see Bridgespan's guide Nonprofit Leadership Development: What's Your "Plan A" for Growing Future Leaders? and the Nonprofit Leadership Development Toolkit.)

Eddington: There are about 25 distinct human capital management practices. (For a case study how on AchieveMission helped a nonprofit employ these practices, see the case study "A Smart Investment in Human Capital: How AchieveMission Helped the Corporation for Supportive Housing Increase Mission Impact.") Mike has referenced strong practices in succession and professional development. Others we have seen successfully adapted for nonprofits and that we use frequently include talent reviews, workforce planning, and performance management. General information on all of them is readily available on the internet and AchieveMission has a quickly growing library of nonprofit tailored resources on its website.

 It is still up to the nonprofit leader to adapt those practices, to think about best fit as opposed to a generic best practice. They don't need to recreate the wheel—the wheel's already been created—but they need to tailor it for their unique needs.

To do this, a nonprofit leader should consider what his organization's mission is, the kind of leadership and organization needed to achieve it, and the human capital management practices he'll need as a result.

For example, if your organization is doing something highly innovative and unique, your talent strategy will almost certainly be to develop your own talent: you will likely focus on recruiting lots of highly capable entry-level employees with high potential and devoting outsized attention to professional development with a strong focus on succession-driven development. By contrast, if the capabilities you most need at middle and senior leadership positions are readily available, then you have the option to choose to devote more relative attention to hiring at those senior levels.

Performance management can also be tailored. Some organizations need to devote more attention to performance goal achievement. Others weigh achievement of development as most important. And still others are most focused, at a particular time, on aligning behaviors to the organization's culture. How you tailor and use the tool depends on the needs of the organization and the obstacles it faces in realizing its strategic goals.

To do human capital management best, each of the human capital management processes needs to be tailored to your organization's needs, and integrated with all the other ones so that they all work together.
If a nonprofit is interested in getting better at human capital management, where should it get started?

Markovits: If I was going to generalize about where to get started tactically, I would say it might be around creating really strong individual professional development plans. Great professional development plans depend on getting input from a good performance management process: people need to be getting honest feedback so that they know what their goals are each year, how they are doing in achieving those goals, and know what they need to get better at in order to perform better at their current jobs. (Both free and paid resources covering performance management can be found at the Society for Human Resource Management website and the Harvard Business Review website.) Great professional development plans are also informed by some kind of succession planning exercise, where the organization thinks about what employees have the potential to do and what capabilities they would need to strengthen in order to take on a different or a bigger responsibility. They need to know what they need to learn and get exposed to in order to better position themselves to compete for future jobs. Many people today—and I think it's generational to some degree—are interested in how they can continue to learn and grow, and take on new challenges. Having thoughtful, robust individual professional development plans that have both of those components is the key.

Another answer is that all the tactical programs will not produce meaningful results if people in the organization are just going through the motions—just being compliant so that HR or their bosses will get off their backs. So a great place to start is by changing the culture so that each person in the organization believes that talent is the best way for the organization to achieve its strategic goals. Doing this can be hard but it produces incredibly transformative results.

Eddington: Nonprofits can get started by recruiting to their boards board members from the for-profit sector who have backgrounds in human capital management. Executive directors can also familiarize themselves with human capital management. Consider Jack Welch when he was running GE and all the work he did around creating the leadership development program and putting his emphasis and his time on talent management.1 It can seem impossible, but I know nonprofit executive leaders who similarly spend half of their time on human capital management and have experienced the enormous benefit. (See for example, "The Secret to Transformative Scale: Hire Right.") For executive directors, I would encourage them to take the first step of committing to really understanding what human capital management is and how profoundly it can effect their organizations.
What part does organizational culture play in building human capital practices in nonprofits?

Eddington: For human capital management to have its transformative impact the culture needs to embrace talent. As you walk around the importance of talent in that organization needs to be visible. What might you see? The executive director makes talent a key piece of every management and board meeting. Managers who hire and develop future leaders are visibly rewarded. Staff fully embrace spending time recruiting and are rewarded for doing it well. The organization's strategy and annual operating goals are referred to at least once every week as people focus their efforts to support their achievement. Once the key building blocks of a talent culture are in place, it's much easier to implement and continuously improve each human capital management practice.

Markovits: Tom is absolutely correct. Looking at some steps in that transformation can make it more concrete. For example, building a great team requires setting high standards, discussing performance honestly, and addressing underperformance with compassion and candor. Another example: great leadership development requires the current leadership team to want to develop talent that will become able to take their roles. As you can imagine, in some organizations—either for-profit or nonprofit—the culture makes these practices difficult, while in others these kinds of steps are consistent with the current culture, feel relatively comfortable to do, and successful implementation mostly just requires the right training.

Human Capital Management: Don’t Reinvent the Wheel, July 23, 2014, The BridgeSpan Group

Visual.ly has published this really useful and free e-book on Micro Content.   As our attention fragments and more and more of us are reading content on mobile devices, content creators are finding that the best way to engage audiences is with shorter, bite-sized chunks of content known as “Micro Content.” The e-book, which at 32 pages, is definitely long-form content provides context, best practices, examples, tools, and resources.  I don’t know about you, but as a content consumer, I still do consumer long-form content to get a better understanding of a topic.   As a content creator,  one thing to keep in mind, that if you can create long-form by aggregating micro content or take the Lizzy Borden approach and chop up an existing long form content piece – either way if you create in this modular way you have both forms to publish.

What is micro content anyway?  Yes, it is the opposite of longform content – reports, books, slidedecks, articles – and even blog posts.    Micro-content is optimized for social media channels and sharing.   There many forms of micro-content: tweets, Facebook status updates, curated links, Vine videos, photos, visual quotes, etc.     The e-book gives an entertaining historical perspective on micro-content which is not just a product of a networked age.     For example, gum wrappers and fortune cookies are micro content.

The e-book also points out that headlines may be the most basic type of micro-content, and have been a part of print publications for decades – think newspaper headlines.   Headlines are really tweets and more recently good headline writing is an essential skill for nonprofit marketers who embrace social a la “the Upworthy headline.”   The e-book covers examples of micro-content on different social media platforms and channels, pretty much the usual suspects.  However, here’s one to think about data visualizations.  Not just infographics, but a snippet from an infographic or a chart or graph to illustrate a statistic. Small visualizations of data or illustrations of ideas are effective visual micro content, especially when they are fun and easily digestible piece of content.

Tricks of the Trade

The e-book offers some useful tips or best practices in producing effective micro content.   One suggestion is to make it stackable:

    With so many media options available, from TVs and laptops to smartphones and tablets, consumers are often engaging with multiple platforms at the same time. Research firm Millward Brown’s recent AdReaction study found that more than 40% of 16- to 45-year-old multiscreen consumers in the United States use devices simultaneously. You can hone in on this audience by crafting stackable content that meshes well with other platforms and encourages sharing.


The e-book has a good list of micro-content creation tools, many free or low cost for your tool box and for your mobile phone.   Here’s two new ones that I discovered and have added to my tool box.

    Quozio makes quotes visual – and shareable. “Just provide the text, pick a predetermined style and share. It’s that easy! Its bookmarklet makes it even more convenient to create an eye-catching quote – highlight text on any web page, click the bookmarklet, and your text is delivered into the tool for a hassle-free experience. The only downside to Quozio is its lack of font choice and custom styles. However, its favorable price tag – free! – and the convenience of no registration required makes this a charming, great-to-know tool.”

    Cogggle Sometimes, you may be dealing with a difficult subject that can be daunting to your audience. A great way of inviting your readers to dive into your post is to create a mind map. This visual can help guide your reader through complex ideas that otherwise might have gotten lost in translation. Coggle is a free, straightforward mind mapping tool that allows you to work independently or invite others to work on the map as well, after signing in with Google. Just double-click on the main Coggle to get started and the rest is cake.

You can download the e-book here.

The Art of Less As More: Micro Content, July 24, 2014, Beth's Blog, by Beth Kanter

Long standing professionals often forget for whom they work. They also tend to forget the importance of their role to nurture leadership and volunteerism. They forget the need to apologize to others, to admit they have erred.

I have been studying the structure of volunteer organizations and analyzing the leadership of their professionals’ leadership styles for a little more than forty years. I have founded a number of synagogues in Europe and the United States, worked as a congregation rabbi and finally served as the exec director of the Federation of Jewish Men’s Clubs (FJMC) for nearly thirty-five years. My work has been guided by the belief that if one wishes to build a community one must empower and invest in its volunteers.

This isn’t always easy and it runs counter to the way most organizations function. The majority of not-for-profit organizations when they wish to develop a community or a project choose to invest in professionals. This, is a logical means of moving forward but it often overlooks the fact that the professional staff is only one part an equation. The second part of that equation is the volunteer culture. The manner in which professionals interact with their volunteers often determines their continuity and the success of the organization they represent. The success of any not-for-profit organization is dependent upon this volunteer/professional relationship.

A large number of professionals assume that part of their position is to create and articulate a vision but the manner and the strategies that the professional employs to empower others with that vision is rarely taken into account.

In order to create a working meaningful volunteer/professional culture the professional or professionals needs to develop a plan that engages and develops volunteers. Too often this fails to occur and tensions between lay and professional leaderships develop.
I often ask newly ordained rabbis, serving in their first pulpit, to define their leadership style in a simple sentence ending with an adjective and a noun. For example, “I am a dynamic leader.” The results are usually very interesting primarily because they have never been asked to consider this question. When I am asked this question, and I usually am, my response is “I am a servant leader.”

Servant leaders help make their volunteers the best volunteers, the best leaders, they can be. Servant leaders places volunteers in the spotlight, and helps them learn how to motivate others. Servant leaders quietly create the roles models we wish to be emulated. They are the ones who help their professionals make decisions. They are the ones that learn how to lead grace after meals so they can teach others.

In order for this to occur, volunteer leaders require backups and partners and the security that they will never fail, because the professional understands that their lives, like ours, are extremely busy and very complicated. Someone will lose a job, or contract an illness, or have something happen to their family which will limit their ability to serve. At times this means that the volunteer leader might not meet some people’s expectations. They might not perform in a position the way someone else would. It might mean two steps forward one step backward. The servant leader helps leadership understand they are doing the best they can and are learning how to be more effective volunteers and possible leaders if they are properly encouraged. In the volunteer world a culture of friendship means that no one ever fails, they just might not succeed as much as they desired. The professional’s job is to create a culture of friendship and trust coupled with the recognition that everyone has different abilities.

I was recently asked by the leader of one of the great teaching institutions in America, how could I run an organization, the only one in the Conservative Movement that is growing and getting younger, with such a small staff? My answer was simple and straight forward. I empower volunteers to coordinate all of the various portfolios. I help them break down positions with tremendous responsibility into small achievable goals and tasks. I place them in positions where they can succeed and I trust them. I help them learn to share, to ask questions and to request help from others. I work hard at teaching them how to work as a team and to divorce themselves from ownership

Too often lay leaders, upon attaining high office, confuse “inauguration” with “installation”. They speak of their legacies and results. Attitudes like these creates cultures of fear and mistrust. When this occurs, organizational directions can be shifted in different directions at the whim of the president. On the other hand, a culture of friendship reflects a venue where incoming, existing and past leadership works together. They stay on course from administration to administration concentrating on previously determined goals.

In many instances the vision of the professional doesn’t always reflect the needs of the organization. This is one of the great pitfalls in the not-for-profit world. A person can be swept up in the perceived glory of becoming an international figure, a world Jew, when in actuality in order to strengthen the organization a different professional direction is needed.

Long standing professionals often forget for whom they work. They also tend to forget the importance of their role to nurture leadership and volunteerism. They forget the need to apologize to others, to admit they have erred. They forget how important it is to be a servant/leader.

Leadership in the Volunteer Community, July 15, 2014, eJP, by Charles Simon

Nonprofit organizations are different from business and government. One would reasonably expect to manage and govern them differently. However, in the absence of a general framework for nonprofit management, third sector organizations are under persistent pressure to look like something else. On the one hand, nonprofits are advised (sometimes by “venture” philanthropists) to become more entrepreneurial and business savvy, orienting their organizations more closely to market forces. At the same time, organizations are urged to make increasing the reliability and accountability of their “outcomes” their highest priority, by controlling internal processes and structuring and orienting themselves as hierarchies.

The following statements on Leadership and Organizational Culture are excerpted from Principles & Practices for Nonprofit Excellence, a 40-page document available free at MCN’s web site. These 19 Practices are designed to set out an explicitly nonprofit set of expectations for leadership from board members, managers, and volunteers, in which these organizations gain from broad participation in important discussions and decision-making.

By engaging diverse groups of people who care about the organization’s work and the people it serves, from perspectives inside and outside the organization, nonprofits are able to mobilize support, learn from peers and respond to community concerns. Nonprofit leaders have a complex task: carrying out challenging missions with limited resources and sometimes conflicting demands in the midst of constantly evolving networks of organizational and personal relationships. Open and interactive leadership practices and organizational cultures strengthen the ability of nonprofits to interpret and adapt to opportunities in this shifting environment and to make the most effective use of the ideas and resources available in their organizations, networks, and communities.


1.Nonprofit leaders should make clear the decision-making structures and processes of the organization and its governing body.
2.Nonprofit leaders should devote time and attention to analyze the changing environment and steer the organization through those changes.
3.Nonprofit leaders should actively seek to understand underlying causes of mission-related issues and use this awareness to focus organization activities.
4.Nonprofit leaders should prioritize organizational goals and negotiate external relationships to buffer against excessive control of the organization by funding sources, government regulators, or other external influences.
5.Nonprofit leaders should recognize and navigate the organization’s response to the sometimes competing interests of funders, clients, constituents, the board, the public, and volunteers.
6.Nonprofit leaders should discern a sustainable business model for the organization that takes into account the organization’s size, focus, funding sources and activities.
7.Nonprofit leaders should help the organization cope with multiple demands by focusing the organization’s attention on timely mission-relevant issues and opportunities.
8.Leaders should advocate for their organization and its mission, championing the cause in and outside of the organization.
9.Leaders should actively communicate how the organization’s activities produce the intended change in the community and inspire others to affect that change through fundraising, advocacy and programming.
10.Nonprofit leaders should ensure that sufficient time and energy is invested in the organization’s communication capacity.
11.Nonprofit leaders should continually develop the skills, knowledge and abilities of others at all levels of the organization to take on greater responsibility for carrying out the organization’s mission and engaging community members.
12.Nonprofit leaders should create and sustain an organizational culture that best advances the nonprofit’s mission and goals.
13.Nonprofit leaders should push the organization to make difficult and timely decisions, challenge others in the organization when necessary, and permit conflicting views to be expressed on the way to reaching resolution.
14.Nonprofit leaders should foster a culture of information sharing and interaction between the board and others in the organization so that innovation and creativity can come from diverse parts of the organization.
15.Nonprofit leaders should identify and implement opportunities that enhance a positive working environment.
16.Nonprofit leaders should demonstrate the behaviors they expect of their colleagues.
17.Nonprofit leaders should encourage their organization’s staff and board to seek out, recognize and leverage the shared and different values of diverse cultures.
18.Nonprofit leaders should pay attention to and attend to their need for professional and personal renewal and encourage the same in others.
19.Nonprofit leaders should allow for and encourage questions and reflections on the organization’s strategies, effectiveness and ability to change.

Toward a Nonprofit Theory of Leadership and Organizational Culture, July 28, 2014, Nonprofit Quarterly, by The Minnesota Council of Nonprofits

People are more mobile than ever; communities and jobs are more fluid, and relationships are taking on new shapes. While we are more globally connected, we are feeling ever more alienated and desperate for rootedness, connection, and community. For those of us in the expanding Zeitgeist of virtual communities, a number of questions require consideration

  • How do people retain both their deep connections and the casual ones that enable the migration of ideas?
  • How do virtual communities affect our humanity and relationships?
  • Is commitment to physical place important?
  • What do we gain and what do we lose through so much mobility?

I’ve spent most of the past fourteen years living in Israel and working for American educational institutions. At both Camp Ramah in Wisconsin (as founding co-director of its Northwoods Kollel) and at Mechon Hadar (as director of alumni affairs and recruitment), the essence of my position was intellectually and pastorally oriented community organizing. With the emergence of the Internet as the culture’s central information medium and hub for social organization, I found myself operating on new terrain – working in many places and nowhere. Yeshivat Hadar, for example, may be housed in New York, but the community it serves and represents – Jews interested in rigorous, literate, communal Torah life in egalitarian contexts – spans a far greater distance. While that might foster a network of kindred spirits, does it create community?

Spoiler alert: yes and no. We have an opportunity and challenge today to maximize the ways in which virtual organizations enhance community life while doing some serious, creative, adaptive thinking about how to nurture physical, local communities without smothering mobility.

In some ways, the kinds of fellowship and intimacy forged and nurtured virtually tend to be richer than those found exclusively in face-to-face contexts. And virtual communities are more democratic and inclusive and, consequently, more substantive.

Conversations in threads and wall posts on Facebook and other social media circulate information and perspectives more efficiently and inclusively than messaging that takes place solely on the ground. There are several structural reasons for this:

  • We can maintain the feel of a conversation’s urgency in real time and yet we can respond slowly — with more time to think and digest before speaking;
  • We can eliminate barriers that preclude shy people from sharing their insights;
  • We can include individuals who are socially isolated because of geography, economics, homebound caretaking responsibilities (e.g., parents of young children), or restrictions on their freedom of movement by others;
  • We can limit or block the voices of aggressive interlocutors who too easily dominate social settings in person.

Moreover, virtual communities sustain relationships when they need to grow the most but are at most risk of dissolving – when individuals move away and discover new insights ready to circulate and prevent communities from becoming intellectual silos. Take a biblical example: When they first meet, Moshe and Yitro are drawn together as strangers and kindred spirits. But only later, when they reunite and see one another, could Yitro learn of God’s ways with Israel and Moshe learn about Yitro’s community organization wisdom. The reuniting was essential to community growth, but difficult to achieve; too often, by the time it happens, if ever, people have lost the social rhythms needed to unlock and share their new knowledge. Today, many of our face-to-face relationships are immeasurably enhanced because connections that enable getting back together are better maintained while we are apart.

Virtual communities also enable the retention of our more creative members. During my tenure at Camp Ramah, I would encourage our brightest counselors not to return every summer. I felt it would raise the camp’s creative bar when veterans would eventually return with new perspectives gleaned from a broader array of experiences. This was usually met with resistance: “Once they’re gone, how will we get them back?” High net, low roof. Maybe they were right at that time. Today, though, an organization that loses contact with its members that quickly is simply not trying.

When the community is mindfully organized, it will have even more substantive and creative interactions during opportunities to meet face-to-face. Most of the catching up has already happened. “What have you been up to these five years?” can give way to: “I wanted to talk to you more about that post the other day.” Goodbye, reunions; hello, laboratories. Social media enable human relationships to be thicker, wiser, and more stable.

On the other hand, the malaise that many digitized people feel is real, and I suspect that it strikes the hardest when a virtual community is replacing, rather than supplementing a physical community of stable, face-to-face relationships. Intimacy is often accessible only when built on a foundation of interaction.

Further, geographically dispersed but like-minded individuals talking to one another can also become an echo chamber, deaf to the insights of those of different ages, politics, and lifestyles, and blind to the nuances of received wisdom and local custom. Our celebration of diversity doesn’t look so impressive if we forget how to listen to all the grandparents in our midst.

It is no surprise that the remarkable burst of Jewish innovation in the past fifteen years coincided with the emergence of a digitized generation or that the innovation took a quantum leap forward when social media became the norm. This decade’s big story will be the attempt of that generation to put down roots and establish a stable infrastructure without losing the creative soul of their flexible and mobile origins.

Rootedness in physical space is important, often crucially so: People crave the mutual understanding and dependability that come through long-term relationships. Truly buoyant physical communities today, though, will be those that recognize the ways in which digital community organization reinforces their natural strengths so they can be more democratic and inclusive and better retain their members. Accordingly, those who have discovered the humanity remarkably enabled via social media will go deepest with these relationships when they set down roots and commit to physical community.

Virtual Strength: How the Internet Fosters Community, July 22, 2014, eJP by Aryeh Bernstein

There’s a lot of talk about the future of work…

Technology is indeed connecting us in ways that improve communication, discovery and connectivity. The world is becoming a much smaller place as a result. Chances are that you are connected in one network or another to people in at least 12 other countries. Although social networking and smartphones are relatively new as a staple in the everyday life of adults and kids, how we as consumers use these networks and devices is outpacing how we as employees use technology in the workplace. Over time, how we make decisions as consumers, what we come to expect from the companies that we do business with, and simply how we want to work with them is shifting the balance of power away from today’s business models to the connected masses.

Seems logical and almost commonsensical. The challenge however is that companies are anchored by decades or years of technology investments and the existing philosophies and processes that govern and support them today. But it doesn’t stop there. These connected customers though aren’t the only ones we need to understand, they also represent a growing percentage of our workforce.

Fighting Fire with Fire Will Only Burn Everything to the Ground

In my research, I’ve found that many executives are well aware of the onslaught of new technology. Many however, are unsure of how to solve the problem or even address what the problem really is for that matter. There are those in IT who are drafting new plans that alter long-established roadmaps to evaluate emergent social and mobile technologies. Some are bolting-on trendy technologies onto legacy systems to apply what will only prove to be a temporary fix. As my friend Stowe Boyd, a web anthropologist and futurist often says, “You can’t teach old tech new tricks.”

Either way, social and mobile threw a curveball. It wasn’t just because the technology overtook the world in a matter of a few short years, it’s that social media and mobile apps changed the behavior of people who use them. Suddenly businesses have to rethink…everything. Yet, how they’re structure today symbolizes an old guard of command and control approaches where employees use technology bestowed upon them because it was gospel. In today’s world though, all I can say is “good luck with that strategy.” More often than not, the technology we force onto people forces them to conform to a way of work dictated by technology and those who govern it within the organization rather than use technology as a seamless enabler to get work done, individually or collectively, the way that people organically use technology in their personal life.

Technology is most effective when it is invisible.

Throwing technology at the problem isn’t the answer. Technology is an enabler and we must see it for what it unlocks or facilitates. But that comes down to us not as information architects but as architects of collaboration and work to do something greater than what we accomplish today. With all of the hype, and fatigue, around new tech, it’s easy to get caught up in what’s hot and what’s next.

Technology is part of the solution but it’s also part of the problem.

In my research as a digital analyst and anthropologist, I explore the dynamics of human behavior from a bottom-up or escalation perspective. The conundrum facing IT and businesses overall, is that the philosophies and systems governing the way we work are traditionally designed from that of a top-down approach. Yet how we use technology in our real life is completely different than what we use or how we use it to get the job done.

Businesses can’t look at new tech as a solution until executives understand what it is they’re really trying to solve for or enable now and over time.

Intranets languish.

Knowledge sharing isn’t shared as much as businesses hoped.

Collaboration tools inhibit true collaboration.

Mobile access looks and feels nothing like the way our personal mobile apps feel and function.

So what’s the answer?

Social streams that allow people to feel like they’re tweeting inside their company?

Geo-location apps that allow them to check in to cafés or meeting rooms?

Facebook-like collaboration networks that allow employees to network and work with each other.

Shift to iOS and Android phones and tablets because you have to thanks to the momentum of employees + BYOD (bring your own device).

Cloud anything…because cloud!

Gamification rewards to incentivize people to use internal tech because they get points and there’s a leaderboard to show who’s winning?

It all sounds like it will work until of course, it doesn’t.

Why is that the case?

The answers are simple yet revealing…
When Technology Fails

When I study why technology fails to change behavior internally, the reasons always seem to surprise executives, but rarely do they shock employees.

  1. Older managers disagree philosophically with how younger employees work in general.
  2. Systems architects don’t get today’s employees.
  3. Technology is too painful to use and there’s a lot of it.
  4. Workflow is imposed rather than designed to emulate how people naturally use technology to communicate and connect.
  5. Legacy processes and reporting systems actively discourage people to adopt something new.
  6. Legacy philosophies protect those who work in dated paradigms rather than encourage aging workforces to gain new expertise through learning and collaboration.
  7. Management doesn’t actually reward cross-team collaboration as part of the day-to-day work.
  8. Incentives to change do not align with employee goals and aspirations.
  9. Leadership does not lead by example.
  10. A lack of vision as to why new technology will enable business goals and why employees should buy-in.
  11. BONUS: The culture of the organization is more rigid than adaptive, which inadvertently undermines any hope for innovation

Depending on the culture of the organization, this list only grows…often unwieldy like a weed. Pulling the weed out buys time, but it grows back. You have to get to the root of the problem and solve for it as it lines up with the ultimate vision of the company. And sometimes, because things are so different now with market and employee behavior, that vision may need to be renewed or completely revised to mean something, to be relevant now and in the future.

Things must change, but change begins with seeing and approaching this challenge cum opportunity differently…

This is a time for leadership…not the conventional management systems as we know them. Change doesn’t have to come from today’s executives or managers however. What’s important to understand is that change can come from anywhere within the organization. Anyone can assume the role of leader as long as they have vision for what’s possible, courage to break what isn’t yet fully broken, and passion to mobilize people to unite in transformation. This sense of conviction is contagious and when approached with a human and business focus, even executives can’t help but listen…and learn. I guess that’s what this is about. We have to learn to learn again and that will only help us lead.

The Disconnect in Connecting the Workplace, July 15, 2014, Brian Solis

Take a look at any nonprofit dashboard and the most effective ones probably have an organizational process that lies beneath. Dashboard design is more than simply clarifying outcomes and key metrics. Dashboard design should also inspire buy-in and continuous improvement by using “human centered design” methods.

But shouldn’t dashboards be designed by data scientists and graphic designers? Yes they can be part of the team, but anyone can be a designer! These are methods for developing solutions (any type) in service of people. By applying this approach to any program development or strategy and even your organization’s dashboard, your nonprofit can more innovative and get more impactful results.

Many times dashboard design is focused on “getting it done efficiently” and graphs and does not address the human side – buy-in, learning from data, and consensus on metrics. A focus on the bar charts without taking the time to understand the challenges and open up creative thinking will not inspire organizational buy-in which is so important.

Here are two stories about two very different nonprofits and how they approached designing their dashboards with human-centered design techniques.

Tracking for Impact and Learning

Edutopia, a project of the George Lucas Educational Foundation, is an online web site that creates and curates content that is distributed through mobile, social media, video, and offline channels. They also have a robust online community. The ultimate goal is to improve the quality of education. Their theory of change is about raising awareness of the issues and then inspiring, engaging and encouraging their audiences to take actions around this goal.

Their dashboard already did a great job at tracking impact metrics about the reach and size of their audience, but they wanted to go deeper in tracking engagement and taking action. With a large staff producing and marketing content, they also wanted a way to capture data for ongoing feedback to improve their content.

Again, using design-thinking facilitating methods, the process started with a presentation from the executive director on the strategy for the year and measurement. Staff were asked to use a technique called “Rose, Bud, Thorn” to identify strengths, challenges, and opportunities for change. They created a concept map of the different themes that emerged. While technical topics such data and measurement processes emerged, so did a lot culture change issues.

Next staff identified key impact metrics by creating a paper prototype of the dashboard on the wall, with sticky notes. Using a sticky dot voting process to identify metrics most important to senior management and the board and those most important to different staff departments, they were able to design different “views” – a high level for impact and more detailed version for “learning.”

What emerged from the conversation was a plan for impact reporting, but also a process for more intentional experimentation and learning linked to key metrics.

Metrics for Movements

GivingTuesday, a philanthropic movement to promote a national day of charitable giving that takes place the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, organized a convening of key stakeholders called “Measurepalooza.” The gathering followed on the heals of the “Best Practices Summit” where partners and participants came together to share and learn best practices and identified the need for the movement to also capture metrics beyond “dollars raised on the day” numbers.

In particular, they were interested in looking at transformational metrics such as donor engagement, building nonprofit capacity, and global reach.

As a movement, GivingTuesday needed to address and get consensus on two big measurement questions: What metrics should the movement as a whole measure? What should participants each measure for their individual campaigns?

The session started with setting context on the accomplishments of the past year’s campaign and a summary of what was learned during the best practices summit. This lead to a discussion about the need to capture both “transactional” and “transformational” metrics related to specific outcomes as well as what and how to effectively use both quantitative and qualitative data for both movement level learning and for participating partners.

Through a facilitated design thinking process, small groups of participants created a draft of the Giving Tuesday movement level and partner level metrics.  As a consensus building process, participants used “sticky dot” voting to identify the most important metrics (green for partners; red for the movement as a whole). This allowed everyone to see visually what the group consensus was and hone in what was most important.


Whether you are using data to inform a digital content strategy or to build a philanthropic movement, it is important to remember that effective measurement begins with people.

How has your organization achieved buy-in from staff or senior leaders about what data to collect for impact tracking?  What are the processes that your organization is using to help ensure that data is used for decision-making and learning and not ignored?

Design A Better Dashboard, July 18, 2014, Beth's Blog, by Beth Kanter

Long standing professionals often forget for whom they work. They also tend to forget the importance of their role to nurture leadership and volunteerism. They forget the need to apologize to others, to admit they have erred.

I have been studying the structure of volunteer organizations and analyzing the leadership of their professionals’ leadership styles for a little more than forty years. I have founded a number of synagogues in Europe and the United States, worked as a congregation rabbi and finally served as the exec director of the Federation of Jewish Men’s Clubs (FJMC) for nearly thirty-five years. My work has been guided by the belief that if one wishes to build a community one must empower and invest in its volunteers.

This isn’t always easy and it runs counter to the way most organizations function. The majority of not-for-profit organizations when they wish to develop a community or a project choose to invest in professionals. This, is a logical means of moving forward but it often overlooks the fact that the professional staff is only one part an equation. The second part of that equation is the volunteer culture. The manner in which professionals interact with their volunteers often determines their continuity and the success of the organization they represent. The success of any not-for-profit organization is dependent upon this volunteer/professional relationship.

A large number of professionals assume that part of their position is to create and articulate a vision but the manner and the strategies that the professional employs to empower others with that vision is rarely taken into account.

In order to create a working meaningful volunteer/professional culture the professional or professionals needs to develop a plan that engages and develops volunteers. Too often this fails to occur and tensions between lay and professional leaderships develop.

I often ask newly ordained rabbis, serving in their first pulpit, to define their leadership style in a simple sentence ending with an adjective and a noun. For example, “I am a dynamic leader.” The results are usually very interesting primarily because they have never been asked to consider this question. When I am asked this question, and I usually am, my response is “I am a servant leader.”

Servant leaders help make their volunteers the best volunteers, the best leaders, they can be. Servant leaders places volunteers in the spotlight, and helps them learn how to motivate others. Servant leaders quietly create the roles models we wish to be emulated. They are the ones who help their professionals make decisions. They are the ones that learn how to lead grace after meals so they can teach others.

In order for this to occur, volunteer leaders require backups and partners and the security that they will never fail, because the professional understands that their lives, like ours, are extremely busy and very complicated. Someone will lose a job, or contract an illness, or have something happen to their family which will limit their ability to serve. At times this means that the volunteer leader might not meet some people’s expectations. They might not perform in a position the way someone else would. It might mean two steps forward one step backward. The servant leader helps leadership understand they are doing the best they can and are learning how to be more effective volunteers and possible leaders if they are properly encouraged. In the volunteer world a culture of friendship means that no one ever fails, they just might not succeed as much as they desired. The professional’s job is to create a culture of friendship and trust coupled with the recognition that everyone has different abilities.

I was recently asked by the leader of one of the great teaching institutions in America, how could I run an organization, the only one in the Conservative Movement that is growing and getting younger, with such a small staff? My answer was simple and straight forward. I empower volunteers to coordinate all of the various portfolios. I help them break down positions with tremendous responsibility into small achievable goals and tasks. I place them in positions where they can succeed and I trust them. I help them learn to share, to ask questions and to request help from others. I work hard at teaching them how to work as a team and to divorce themselves from ownership

Too often lay leaders, upon attaining high office, confuse “inauguration” with “installation”. They speak of their legacies and results. Attitudes like these creates cultures of fear and mistrust. When this occurs, organizational directions can be shifted in different directions at the whim of the president. On the other hand, a culture of friendship reflects a venue where incoming, existing and past leadership works together. They stay on course from administration to administration concentrating on previously determined goals.

In many instances the vision of the professional doesn’t always reflect the needs of the organization. This is one of the great pitfalls in the not-for-profit world. A person can be swept up in the perceived glory of becoming an international figure, a world Jew, when in actuality in order to strengthen the organization a different professional direction is needed.

Long standing professionals often forget for whom they work. They also tend to forget the importance of their role to nurture leadership and volunteerism. They forget the need to apologize to others, to admit they have erred. They forget how important it is to be a servant/leader.

Leadership in the Volunteer Community, July 15, 2014, eJP, by Charles Simon  


Conventional wisdom says it’s more cost effective to retain donors than acquire new donors. Of course you should spend a fair amount of your time tending to your active donors, ensuring they’re seeing the impact of their donation and making them a part of your community. In this case, an ounce of prevention is definitely worth a pound of cure. But what do you do if these supporters stop giving? Write them off and move on?

Not so fast, says donor retention expert, Lisa Sargent. In a recent newsletter, Lisa outlines her perspective, complete with a Monty Python reference. She offers superb examples of what to test with your lapsed and long-lapsed files (especially multiple or long-time lapsed givers), instead of immediately purging or ignoring these former donors.

As you assess your own approach, consider these five things before addressing your lapsed donors:

Lapsed donors probably don’t consider themselves “lapsed.” Be careful how you reach out to these donors—many may consider themselves to still be active givers to your nonprofit. Just because they’re not giving at the frequency you prefer, that doesn’t mean they don’t feel they’re important contributors to your cause. Acknowledge their contributions and make sure to let them know the difference they’ve made. In most cases, your next outreach to this group could be considered an “impact report catch-up.”

Different segments have different needs. As you build relationships with donors, remember that you have affinity groups who have specific motivations for giving, and give in different ways. Create a cultivation plan with these variances in mind, and do the same for those who have skipped a donation. Preventing a lapse is the best solution, but early intervention can help bring a portion of these donors back from the brink. (Alan Sharpe has a top-notch framework for a ‘win back’ letter.

Engage them with something different. It’s likely these so-called lapsed donors are still interested in supporting your cause in some way. Offer something new to this group, such as surveys, advocacy tools, volunteer opportunities, or event invitations to assess if they’re still interested. These activities will help keep your cause top of mind and communicate the impact of your work, which will allow you to build a case for giving again.

Look in the mirror. Is your donor stewardship model all it could be? Perform an audit of your donor communications from the point of giving throughout the lifespan of that donor. Then, compare that to a timeline of your donor churn rate. These are the critical moments at which you need to prepare compelling, proactive outreach. If you already have communications just before these time periods, it’s time for an overhaul. (Need some help? Listen to our recent webinar with Donor Relations Guru, Lynne Wester.)

Have a conversation. If a long-time or high-dollar donor stops their support, it’s time to pick up the phone and find out more. Use this as an opportunity to reach out and understand if everything is ok—for both your donor and your organization. Is something going on in your donor’s world that interrupted their support, or have they been soured by a miscommunication? Perhaps they’ve outgrown their current relationship with you and are unsure of other opportunities to do more with your cause. Be prepared to embrace any and all feedback—it’s likely to be an eye-opening conversation that could change your understanding of your donors.

So when do you cut them loose? Some fundraising advisors say never, while other experts say to take a hint after one year. I say: it depends. Look at the reasons why donors may stop giving to your organization and your fundraising cycles. Understand those first, then put a process in place to remediate, reactivate, or retire these contacts.

How do you handle your “lapsed” donors? Chime in and share your experiences below!

Rethink How You Approach Lapsed Donors, June 4, 2014 Network for Good, by Caryn Stein

What is the state of nonprofit management education today? From the ways we establish community value to a renewed emphasis on networking and an expanded menu of organizational designs (among other things), how we work in the sector is changing at a faster pace than ever.

In an effort to establish how curricula are, or are not, keeping up with the changes, I interviewed nine practitioners with extensive experience in the sector: Phil Cass, CEO of the Columbus Medical Association and Foundation; Deborah Frieze, former copresident of the Berkana Institute; Hildy Gottlieb, cofounder of Creating the Future; Mark Kramer, founder and managing director of FSG Social Impact Advisors; Heather McLeod-Grant, principal of McLeod-Grant advisors and coauthor of Forces for Good: The Six Practices of High-Impact Nonprofits; Allen Proctor, consultant and founder of Proctor’s Linking Mission to Money; William Trueheart, president and CEO of Achieving the Dream; Katherine Tyler Scott, managing partner of Ki ThoughtBridge; and Peter York, CEO, Founder and Chief Idea Guy at Algorhythm.

Generally speaking, the group seemed somewhat disappointed with the current state of nonprofit management education, at least in its attention to a rapidly changing context. As one interviewee—Hildy Gottlieb—offered, “Having degree programs in management as an end unto itself reinforces the notion that all that matters is means, with the assumption that somehow, if you have strong means, the ends will magically take care of themselves.” Peter York posited that, increasingly, nonprofit organizations don’t control the market on social change, and predicted that there will be quite an amalgamation of private and nonprofit businesses all competing to address social issues. In his opinion, “People are talking about impact investing, and they don’t care if you are for-profit or nonprofit as long as you demonstrate impact.” Although the group recognized that many graduates are entering the workplace with useful technical skills—from project management to budgeting and finance—they collectively articulated concerns that today’s programs lack attention to the broader context in which these skills might be deployed to improve conditions in communities and accomplish real change.

Five Key Ideas

Most of the nonprofit leaders I know, and that represents a fairly sizable group, have not gone through programs that have anticipated the radical changes that we are facing in many dimensions of our work today. And I am not just talking about the severe cutbacks to resources by public entities and the decline of resources available to nonprofits because of a bad economy; I am talking about the anticipation of radical changes in the demands of our local, regional, state, national, and international economies to have differently educated individuals who can function in a global economy.

William Trueheart

When interviewees were asked what a program might look like if they had the freedom to create a learning experience that would properly prepare people for a career in nonprofit leadership, their answers were clustered around five key ideas. First, leaders need to understand how to establish an organization’s community value. In order to garner the support needed for survival, the community needs to understand and embrace “how the organization contributes to the common good; how it creates a net community benefit.” Second, our programs must teach students how change happens. Students need to look to the future so that attention and resources are focused on the outcomes that must be achieved. Third, students need to learn how to work collaboratively and collectively as part of a group. Effectively addressing complex social problems requires a multisectoral coordinated response. Fourth, programs must recognize the importance of selecting an appropriate organizational structure and business model. So much of what we teach is fixated on philanthropy as a sole source of revenue, and that is simply not realistic in today’s environment. Students need to emerge from graduate programs with a basic understanding of organizational design options, capitalization, pricing, and various business models that can be used to achieve social impact. Fifth, students need to practice. They need to be immersed in authentic learning experiences where there are opportunities for reflection, self-directed discovery, and peer learning.

1. Establishing Community Value

We need to understand deeply the purposes for which nonprofits exist . . . what product or service we are offering to create a better world. That piece gets missed too often, as does the notion of really understanding the values and the purpose of what we are up to and the theory of change behind what we are designing our organizations to fulfill. And then, by the way, we can get to the mechanics.

Deborah Frieze

Without exception, every person who was interviewed emphasized that in order to be a successful leader, program graduates must ensure that their nonprofit is what Allen Proctor describes as a “reliable provider of a service that fulfills a useful need in the community.” On its face, this work is dynamic. As communities and circumstances change, program delivery must shift as well. Deborah Frieze explained that in order to deliver on our public value promise, we “need to figure out what communities actually need as opposed to what the nonprofit sector has been pitching that they need.” This is not easy work. It requires people to challenge their worldview—to let go of what they think they know and discover new ways of seeing and interpreting what is happening. At its best it requires constant iterations on practice and, every now and then, a complete deconstruction of what is in service of what could be.

For this, nonprofit leaders need to know the disciplines of self-reflective practice. “A nonprofit curriculum must immerse students in their own leadership, into themselves,” according to Katherine Tyler Scott. “They need to understand what is core and important to their own character and the values that guide them in their decision making.” These very values can either foster innovation and creativity or restrict and constrain thinking, but Frieze believes that this understanding of oneself is in service of understanding other voices and the facilitation of collective voice: “We need to really immerse ourselves into the community, not simply pass through as a voyeur.” And we must be able to state what is informing us, not as immutable truth but as our perspective, including the information we believe to be important. Phil Cass described this process through the lens of Theory U, a concept developed by Otto Scharmer, which explores the inner place from which leaders operate. According to the theory, leaders must identify the assumptions we have come to accept as reality and how those assumptions guide their thinking and participation. Tyler Scott went on to say that “this kind of work provides students with an opportunity to engage in reflective thinking and discernment: skills they will use for the rest of their lives. There will be no job that will not benefit from having this kind of skill.”

Perhaps one way to contextualize public value is to incorporate the associational history of the sector into the curriculum. As Tyler Scott noted, “Not many people have an understanding of the history of the sector. It’s almost as if they just landed yesterday. People need to know the root of why it was created, why it is important, and why it is important that it continue. They are our best advocates for the sector when they get out. History provides students with a richer context for the work they do. They are not starting over; they are part of a huge community of people, generations of people who have tried to make society better.” The more students know about the history, the more they can begin to think about their own worldview, says Tyler Scott. That is what they take with them from the academy into practice; it is what influences how they lead, how they serve, and how they decide. Tyler Scott believes we should encourage students to think critically about the meaning of their public-sector work and their roles and responsibilities in continuing the traditions that are going to create a better world.

This leads us to another important aspect of establishing community value: acting as a venue for creating a different future. This addresses different issues in different settings, but the methods for the establishment of commonly held vision are a critical and powerful knowledge and skills base, according to Gottlieb: “If we start by teaching how to create significant improvement in our community conditions—if we focus on ends first—it’s not negating teaching management, it’s just putting it in context. We focus on teaching the means within a focus on the ends. Organizations are just tools we use to create the communities we want. If we focus on the tool with no focus on the reason we have the tool, then we wind up with this finely crafted and well-maintained hammer that never builds a house.”

2. Understanding How Change Happens

We tend to have a curriculum now that assumes people are going to graduate and go into a nonprofit organization—and work within that organization using a very traditional [service-delivery] model that has not changed in twenty or thirty years. That’s not the future. That’s not where we see momentum and change and innovation happening. The knowledge and skills to leverage change are what people need to learn, and this is not in the nonprofit curriculum today.

Mark Kramer

It is certainly true that not all nonprofit organizations are about change, yet for those people who are planning to lead organizations that are about social change, an understanding of how change happens—and how to develop the tools needed to make change happen—is essential. Frieze noted that in her experience, change does not happen from the top of the system but rather from deep within it—when people move forward to solve a problem. Gottlieb expanded on that idea, suggesting that change has to happen simultaneously top down and bottom up, and it has to happen across all aspects of the social change arena.

William Trueheart shared a compelling story of how change happened in the Pittsburgh public school system. In 2002, Trueheart was one of three foundation CEOs who elected to suspend funding to the local public school system in Pittsburgh, because the group lacked confidence in the school board’s ability to run the district. Although this was a bold move on the part of the funders, they realized that in order for real change to take place they were but one cog in a very complex wheel; without interest and support from a broad range of stakeholders, systemic issues would never be addressed. Early on they recognized the need for a political dimension to their work, yet there were no political entities at the table. They knew that in order to create the kind of transformational change they were seeking, they needed to educate the broader community on the larger issues—not just that the schools were failing to deliver on their promises but also that there were underlying flaws in the system. This recognition led to a conversation with the mayor, who was then able to work with the foundation leaders to identify a team of thought leaders interested in addressing the systemic challenges. The Mayor’s Commission on Education was formed, and Trueheart served as cochair of the Commission.

Ad Sponsorship (YPTC)

The Commission, made up of representatives from community, business, civic, religious, and educational organizations, conducted an analysis of the school system. The findings released by the Commission almost one year later led to unprecedented mobilization of community-based advocacy groups exerting political pressure to elect a new school board, which eventually hired a new superintendent, who wound up closing a number of grossly underperforming schools that were costing the city millions of dollars. Moreover, the Commission worked with the new superintendent and the new school board to completely restructure the system. One such innovation was the creation of “Learning Academies,” in which the very best teachers were paired with the students who had the most significant needs. The results have been impressive.

Complex problems are by definition intricate. No single entity anywhere in the system has the requisite authority or control to impose solutions, and no single organization has the capacity to implement a solution. Addressing the complex social problems of today requires us to engage people involved with the issues in designing the solutions that will ultimately change community conditions and perhaps fundamentally alter the way work is done. Moreover, future leaders need to understand that the impetus for change can emerge at any place in the system. Gone are the days where we only make social progress in America through the nonprofit sector; in the future, real social change will happen at the intersection of community, nonprofit, public, private, and philanthropic interests—and our future leaders need to navigate this territory.

3. Working Collaboratively

Students don’t understand how groups work . . . how systems work. There are many people who do not understand group dynamics. I am not talking about just doing a project and coming back to the classroom and reporting on it, but really looking at how groups work, the roles in a group, the things that impede, the things that enable, how you intervene when there is conflict, how you deal with lethargy . . . the things they will need to deal with for the rest of their lives.

Katherine Tyler Scott

With all of the recent activity in this sector involving networking, collective impact, and boundary crossing—not to mention new, more reciprocal ways of managing staff and volunteers—future leaders must know how to create and manage partnerships. This was emphasized by Mark Kramer, as he reflected on how social change happens. York added that in order to foster social change, when leaders come to the collective table they need to recognize when to give up their individual autonomy—their identity as an organizational leader—and join in a collective agenda. This is not always an easy call.

Cass noted that true leaders recognize that they cannot be the person with all the answers but rather should be the “facilitator of collective intelligence.” Future leaders must also recognize that in order to move forward in a genuinely participatory way, it is important to engage in real relationships with people, where there is a desire for mutual understanding and collective learning. Manipulative interactions, where one party is trying to understand another so that information can be used to force action, does not build the kind of trust that is essential for authentic participatory practice. Leverage is often created at the collective table.

4. Selecting an Appropriate Organizational Structure and Business Model

One of the things that dismays me is that there is so much emphasis on fundraising, when the vast bulk of a business is running the business. Let’s talk about the business, how it was set up. . . . Maybe it started as a completely grant-funded organization that did what was required in terms of infrastructure, management, skills. Maybe it started as an advocacy group doing education programs. What does that say about how the business is structured? Maybe it is a museum or a performing arts group, which requires a whole different way to structure the business. We never talk about that. We talk about nonprofits as a homogeneous thing, and they really aren’t.

Allen Proctor

There are a myriad of organizational designs in use in the nonprofit sector, and the menu is being expanded daily as technology provides more options useful to organization. The ability to think creatively about design options goes far beyond discussions about hierarchy, ranges of traditional governance choices, and partnerships and mergers. Teaching through case studies about what design elements are necessary to support a high-engagement organization is both dynamic and exciting.

These organizational designs clearly must include an enterprise model, and that includes a clearly conceived revenue model. In an interview published by the Nonprofit Quarterly in 2008, Lester Salamon, Director of the Center for Civil Society Studies at The Johns Hopkins Institute for Policy Studies, noted that supplementing a focus on operating income with the need to attract investment capital was a “sleeper issue” for the sector. Salamon explained that unless nonprofits can find access to investment capital, they will be unable to respond to changing needs and increasing demands. I heard these very same sentiments from the people I interviewed. Interestingly, not only did the desire to provide students with a better understanding of the technical aspects related to capitalization, balance sheets, cash flow, liquidity, pricing, financial planning, earned income, and fundraising come up again and again in my recent conversations, those I interviewed also suggested that too little attention is focused on deciding the most effective way to structure the work so that social impact is achieved.

Sharing the story of Housing First’s approach to chronic homelessness, Kramer talked about how real social impact can be achieved when the work and the business model are substantively aligned to address the problem at hand. Kramer explained that about 10 percent of the homeless population (the chronic homeless) consume about 80 percent of the resources, partly because the system has of late been largely set up to work with people and families who are dealing with transient homelessness (people who are homeless for a brief period of time). Shelters, food banks, and emergency aid are tailored to this latter group of people; however, it is not uncommon to spend more than one million dollars per year on just one person who is chronically homeless, particularly if the individual has multiple disabilities or is moving regularly between the shelter, the emergency room, and prison. Kramer further explained that if the system were built to deal with chronic homelessness, some of these people would be provided with an apartment and a social worker, who would ensure that a full complement of services were provided to address the root causes of homelessness. He argued that the cost savings would be huge and the outcomes infinitely better.

Kramer’s key point was that while it is true that we have a service model where many are working to help the homeless, for the more chronic segment of the population that service does not accurately or effectively address the need. It is imperative that future nonprofit leaders look closely not only at the need but also at how services are delivered. If we look closely at the specific needs of the chronically homeless, we can see that a different program/business model would enable us to save public money and meet needs more effectively. For Kramer and a number of others, a leadership role in a nonprofit is about solving a social problem, but it involves adjustments to service delivery as well as to business models.

5. Practicing in the Field

As students spend time learning how to significantly improve community conditions, they will need opportunities to practice what they’ve learned. They will need opportunities to practice ways of thinking and working that actually improve conditions.

Hildy Gottlieb

While there is ample evidence to suggest that applied-learning experiences in the field provide students with a unique ability to apply the concepts they have learned in the classroom to real-world situations, several of the people I talked to had ideas about how faculty might provide similar learning experiences in the classroom. Proctor and Kramer talked about how cases could be used to lead students through complex decision-making scenarios. My understanding of their comments regarding cases is that they were not talking about the familiar “ethical dilemma” cases prevalent in the academy but rather cases that would challenge students to think critically about how best to achieve desired outcomes—cases that, as Margaret Wheatley and Frieze describe in Walk Out Walk On: A Learning Journey into Communities Daring to Live the Future Now, invite you “to examine your beliefs and assumptions about how change happens and what becomes possible when we fully engage our communities. The resources and wisdom we need are already there.”2

Final Thoughts

It seems to me that there may be a disconnect between the kind of learning we expect students to emerge with and what we teach. As Frieze reminds us, there are many different types of learning environments. Perhaps the academy might practice a little of what we preach and experiment with different models and assess the degree to which alternative educational models produce the kind of learning described in the preceding paragraphs.

As I thought about all I heard, I continually returned to Frieze and Wheatley’s description of a learning journey. What if nonprofit management education were an immersion in an “experience” rather than a course-based curriculum? I wonder if the way many programs teach nonprofit management might not be counter to what we are trying to accomplish. We ask students to be thoughtful and reflective so that they can create a future of greater possibilities, yet we put them through a technical, course-based process that focuses attention on the means.

If systems are to sustain themselves they must focus on their niche purpose and their context in order to adapt and continuously learn. It may be that some nonprofit management education is too focused—not on purpose but rather on the more dry and secondary methods to fulfill the purpose, and in an environment that is evolving quickly or even long gone. If this is true, it robs students of the sense of adventure we should all have when we dive in to help lead a social purpose organization, and it would be a disservice to the sector.

Thoughts on the Relevance of Nonprofit Management Curricula, July 22, 2014, Nonprofit Quarterly, by Judith L. Millesen

The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services included report language on Holocaust Survivor needs in its subcommittee reported bill and draft report. It states that Holocaust survivors are likely to have complex physical and mental health needs and encourages the Administration on Community Living to prioritize this population within its existing programs. It also encourages the Administration to continue working with survivors, their families and the various organizations that serve them. The language can be found on page 159.

An estimated 80-90,000 unaccompanied alien children (UACs) are expected to cross the southern border of the United States by the end of the current fiscal year. The Office of Refugee Resettlement has had to reprogram $94 million to deal with the influx of unaccompanied minors. As a result, funds have been diverted from regular resettlement operations including many programs that Jewish agencies use to resettle refugees fleeing Iran, Iraq, Syria, Burma or Sudan. AJFCA has signed this statement and is advocating for increased funding for the Office of Refugee Resettlement to adequately assist the children fleeing violence without detracting from our ability to serve existing vulnerable refugees.

How can we best frame social-change efforts so they feel ambitious but manageable? How do we do story-based communications so as to celebrate small, “tactical” victories along the way, while connecting each of those efforts to a larger social-change goal that may take years to achieve?

President Franklin D. Roosevelt faced this very problem when building support for his strategy in World War II. Speaking of his “fireside chat” radio broadcasts, he said, “I want to explain to the people … what our problem is and what the overall strategy of the war has to be … so that they will understand what is going on and how each battle fits into the picture.”

The president was confident that people could “take any bad news right on the chin” if they understood the larger story.

Maybe your organization is fighting a war of its own. The fact that you’ve identified the need to bring people along for the long haul is an important step. Following are some practical considerations as you do this.

Keep your eyes peeled for organizations that strike this balance well.

I posed your question to Brett Davidson of Open Society Foundations, and he cited the example of the marriage-equality work of the Human Rights Campaign

That organization, he says, “does a great job of highlighting small or interim victories and featuring individual stories at the heart of these battles, while maintaining a clear long-term vision.” The organization’s website features stories of victories and setbacks in individual states, and maps and other tools to show the big picture.

Consider your time frame.

My colleague at Working Narratives, Nick Szuberla, has worked on criminal-justice issues for 15 years. He says different groups in the movement to end mass incarceration cast their work in different ways.

 “Some are defenders of human rights engaged in an ongoing struggle,” he says. “Others are trying to reverse the trend of an ever-increasing prison population—that’s a long-term fight, but it’s got an end point. Still others are working towards a policy change in the foreseeable future.”

The same principle applies for any organization: Consider how big your big picture is, and plan accordingly for how to keep people engaged.

Avoid conflicts between short- and long-term communications.

Alan Jenkins of The Opportunity Agenda told me it may be tempting to use short-term messages that ultimately undercut your long-term “story” or goals.

“In California, for instance, one campaign argued that undocumented immigrants should have health-care access, otherwise immigrant nannies might, say, get tuberculosis and infect the kids they take care of,” he says. “That message moved some people in the short term, but it also ran counter to the overarching message that immigrants are part of us.”

Advocates realized the damage this message might do and shifted to saying that removing barriers to health care is important “so that everyone can participate and contribute to a thriving California.”

I hope these considerations help. I invite readers to add their thoughts and examples in the comments section. Please also read the Working Narratives blog for more discussion of storytelling strategy.

Balance Small Wins and Long-Term Goals in Your Storytelling, July 9, 2014, Chronicle of Philanthropy by Paul VanDeCarr

Leadership is the single most meaningful force for success. Whether it is in politics on a global, national, or local level; in the corporate or private sector; or in the nonprofit world, accomplishment is propelled by the impetus and inspiration of one, or a small group of individuals, who develop creative mission and market-driven ideas, build plans of action around them, and effectively animate those plans through effective execution. Driven by vision and passion and a commitment to excellence and success, leaders create new reality, innovation and change.

Let’s focus on the philanthropic, especially the Jewish philanthropic, sector for this moment. We posit that successful organizations are driven by a central vision of an individual with a determined point of view and with the magnetism and vibrant energy to influence others toward a set of goals and results. That dynamic, crafting approaches and solutions and building consensus around them, frames a group’s agenda and positions it for success.

As I have written before, size and history are no longer sole determining issues or factors. The capability to marshal resources and to obtain results leading to transformative impact is the key metric today. The fact that a nonprofit has been in business for a century no longer matters as much; in fact it might even be a negative.

So the first imperative in marshalling resources is building a Board, a core circle of leaders who share the leader’s dedication to the work of the organization, and who have the drive, capacity, and connections to advance the organization’s purpose and mission and to take on a fiduciary responsibility for the organization’s well-being.

In addition to the fiduciary role, today’s effective Board is committed to mission specific expansion and diversification; being part of offering training and orientation so that skills are developed and expectations are met; personal giving to a level of capacity; and owning the imperative for encouraging and growing the organization’s “culture of philanthropy.”

The ideal Board member is passionate, connected, active, committed and confident. They are hands-on but not intrusive, engaged but not in the way. Members respect the role and the expertise of the organizational professional, especially in today’s increasingly complex and competitive philanthropic marketplace, and see where they fit on the critical path to success.

Starting with the “fundamentals,” effective leaders will assemble, sustain and grow strong Boards by setting clear expectations; linking fundraising to the mission; creating opportunities for mentorship; and setting philanthropy as a core value and deliverable at the point of recruitment.

And remember, successful Boards are inspired by leadership from the top. So a Board Chair must lead by example – doing the things that he or she is asking of their colleagues; affirming a commitment to Giving and Getting (not Giving or Getting – a topic for Part III – which often takes members “off the hook” and building in a lack of accountability); and encouraging and inspiring members to think and to do at the same time.

Ambitious and visionary expectations create strong results. Strong results ensure effective and productive (not necessarily large) organizations that get things done. If Board Chairs and CEOs want Board members to perform, they must make sure that members understand and accept the rules and expectations; that there are written “job descriptions” for Board members and the committees that comprise the Board; that there are meaningful and productive “rules of engagement” with executive and other professional staff; and that there is a mechanism to recognize Board members who achieve and meet targets.

And when it comes to involvement in fundraising, knowing that some will be more involved than others and every Board member comes to the Board with unique skills and personality, the Board Chair and CEO must continuously engage the Board member in the fundraising activity. That includes making introductions and being involved in “asks.”

Clarity in expectations and in assignments is also critical to success. We must live in the world of definition v. assumption, addressing the issues of who is doing what; who is the “leader,” especially when Board members and professionals share tasks; and where is the point at which the Board member comes in. This is especially important today, where the emerging entrepreneurial leader is asserting him or herself alongside the expectation of organizations professionalizing to meet the challenges of the market.

As parting thoughts in this first of three posts on Board Development and Organizational Success, we assert the following:

    As leadership, driven by vision and passion for the cause, is fundamental to organizational success, nonprofits must maintain a commitment to attracting the highest caliber leadership to continue to drive success.
    Set clear and transparent expectations and minimize the compromises, especially when it comes to fundraising, precisely because it often lives outside of Board member’s comfort zone.
    Recruit the right people for the right tasks – it is all about performance and results.
    Appreciate and acknowledge unique talents and successes, making Board meetings about celebrating accomplishment as well as reporting and decision making.

Stay tuned for the next two installments in the weeks to come.

If You Build It, Will They Come? July 14, eJP, by Avrum Lapin

Charitable organizations in the U.S. and Canada are more likely to raise funds successfully when they have a formal, annual fundraising drive, according to survey results released by the Nonprofit Research Collaborative. This is some of the first research to look at how annual funds are conducted and the role the annual fund plays in helping an organization reach fundraising goals.

The organizations with a formal annual fund drive were 20 percentage points more likely to be on track in 2013 to meet their fund raising goals (77 percent on track versus 57 percent of those without an annual fund). This finding held even after taking budget size into account.

Among the 42 percent of organizations that offered donor benefits, the most common was invitation to special “donor-only” events. Far less frequent were commemorative items such as plaques or pins; privileges such as parking or concierge service; communications such as donor newsletters; or access to organizational leadership or “backstage” activities.

The survey asked about donor renewal rates and about the percentage of annual fund donors that “upgraded,” or increased their gift over the prior year. Organizations were highly likely to be on track to meet fundraising goals in 2013 if they had renewal rates above 50 percent and/or upgrade rates of 5 percent and above.

The Nonprofit Research Collaborative (NRC) conducts surveys two times a year. The current report and prior reports from the NRC are available at www.NPResearch.org

This survey was conducted online in August and September 2013 about fundraising results from the first half of 2013 compared with 2012 and about annual fund drives. The 945 respondents form a convenience sample. There is no margin of error, as it is not a random sample of the population studied. Reported results are statistically significant using chi-square analysis.

Survey Links Fundraising Results to Annual Campaigns, July 15, 2014, eJP

Are you a valuable and valued board member for a nonprofit? If not, a graceful resignation and reassignment may be good for you and the organization.

12 reasons why you should resign from a nonprofit board:

  1. You’re serving on the board more for personal benefit than for public benefit.
  2. You have a material financial interest in a transaction with the organization that would be damaging if known by the public.
  3. The organization’s values or activities are inconsistent with your personal values.
  4. You are unable to support the organization when a board action is taken contrary to your vote.
  5. The organization is not operating consistent with the law and/or its own governing documents or policies despite your efforts to insist on compliance.
  6. You’re not informed about the organization’s current activities and/or mission-oriented results, and you’re not informed about the performance of the organization’s executive.
  7. You don’t review the organization’s financials on a regular basis.
  8. You’re missing a significant number of board meetings and therefore unable to actively participate in governance-related planning, deliberations, and actions.
  9. You’re not contributing resources (money, time, connections, or other valuable assets) to the organization apart from the time to show up at meetings.
  10. You don’t spend significant amounts of time thinking hard about whether the organization is effective at advancing its mission and how the organization could be more effective at advancing its mission.
  11. Your conduct at board meetings is viewed by the majority of other board members as disruptive, and you’re unable to work collaboratively with the other board members in a productive manner.
  12. You intervene/interfere with the executive’s management of the organization by personally directing the executive and/or staff and falsely asserting rank (because a board member has no individual authority and no inherent rank in the organizational hierarchy as an individual).

If you’re unable to meet your fiduciary duties of care and loyalty to act with reasonable care in good faith in the best interests of the organization, you’re failing to meet your legal responsibilities. While personal liability may be extremely rare for volunteer directors of nonprofits (absent some kind of intentional wrongdoing, fraud, self-dealing, or unpaid taxes), you’re also putting yourself at greater risk, including from claims that may not be protected by your organization’s D&O insurance. Further, your failure to meet your duties may be holding back the organization from better advancing its charitable mission and serving its intended beneficiaries. you’re able to meet your fiduciary duties but the majority of the board is not, and such deficiency results in an organization with serious compliance issues and values that don’t align with yours, you may also be putting yourself at greater risk. In such case, you may need to balance your duty to still meet your individual legal duties with your obligation to do what’s best for the organization and your interest in protecting your personal interests from possible legal and/or reputational harm.

12 Reasons Why You Should Gracefully Resign from a Nonprofit Board, July 10, 2014, Nonprofit Quarterly, by Gene Takagi

Did you know that Twitter is currently home to approximately 230 million active users who send over 500 million tweets per day? Did you also know that many nonprofit organizations, such as the American Red Cross, have used Twitter as a tool to execute successful fundraising campaigns and build relationships with their community?

Used strategically, Twitter can help you bond with supporters, raise awareness for your cause, and promote fundraising campaigns. Despite this fact, many small nonprofits fail to take the time to implement a Twitter strategy that drives results. Luckily, by using the following four steps as a guide, you can make sure that your organization does not fall into this group.

1. Maximize your presence. Before you begin to think about implementing a strategy, you need to create or complete your Twitter account. Create a Twitter handle that is easy to spell and allows people to easily identify your organization. Beyond your account name, pay attention to the basics, especially the inclusion and accuracy of pertinent profile information. Use a profile and header image that positively represents your organization and its cause, ensure your bio communicates your organization’s purpose, and include the location of your organization as well as a direct URL to your website. Merely taking the time to do this will help others find and connect with you.

2. Design your strategy. Once you have optimized your profile, design a strategy that will allow you to engage and connect with members of your community and your target audience.

· Define your purpose and set goals. Do you want to raise awareness for your organization’s mission? Do you want to use Twitter as a way to promote your fundraising campaigns? Do you desire to build relationships with existing supporters? Decide what’s most important to you and build your social strategy around that.

Set specific targets that will allow you to accomplish your core marketing goals. For example, if you want to increase awareness about your cause, create a hashtag to share with your followers. Then, track the number of mentions, retweets, and favorites you receive in a given time period, as well as the number of times your unique hashtag is used. Remember, your goals should be easy to measure so that you can track your progress and improve your results over time.

· Build your network. Building a network of the right followers is crucial to implementing a successful strategy. Start by following business partners, advocates, experts in your issue area, and existing volunteers and members. Additionally, you can use social media tools such as Topsy to identify influencers associated with your organization. This will help you to showcase your expertise and spread the word about your cause!

· Do your research. Although Twitter is not rocket science, you do have to know the basics. Familiarize yourself with the five different types of interactions and incorporate them into your daily tactics.

The Tweet. A message from a Twitter user, may not exceed 140 characters in length.
The Retweet (RT). A re-posting of another user’s tweet that appears on your Twitter timeline.
The @reply. A public update that contains your response and the hyperlinked username of the person to whom you are replying.
The Direct Message. A private message you can send to your followers.
The Mention. Any tweet containing a username within the tweet, including the @reply.

In addition, take the time to master the art of the hashtag (#). Put simply, when you use a hashtag in front of a word or phrase within your tweet, your tweet will show up in any search results for that term. Use your Twitter sidebar, or tools including Google Alerts, Social Mention, Radian6, Trackur and Twitter’s search tool, to identify which hashtags are trending at any given point in time.

· Develop quality content. With only 140 characters to engage your followers, saying everything you want in one tweet can be a challenge. Keep your tweets creative and appealing by asking questions, providing statistics, and including images, videos and links. Always be sure to reply to those who mention you.

3. Integrate Twitter with your existing marketing efforts. To maximize your reach and audience engagement, your Twitter efforts should complement existing marketing initiatives. Don’t forget to add a Twitter button to your website, embed a live feed on your website and blog, and link to your other social accounts, such as Instagram.

4. Measure your results and calibrate your plan. As you execute your strategy, you must measure and track your performance over time to ensure that you are reaching your goals, but to also ensure that you are constantly experimenting and making changes to improve performance whenever necessary. Use social media monitoring tools such as Klout, Twitter Analytics, Demographics Pro, Sprout Social, and Hootsuite to help you manage your nonprofit’s Twitter account. Explore each of the options and choose one that provides the features that will best allow you to track the progress of your goals.

By taking the time to correctly set up your profile, design a strategy, integrate your Twitter with existing marketing efforts, and measure and monitor your results, your organization will start to leverage the power of this popular social site. Remember to use these steps as a guide, but never be afraid to experiment and see what tactics best engage your nonprofit’s target audience. Most importantly, take advantage of this tool as a cost effective way build relationships and fundraise for your cause.

4 Simple Ways to Leverage the Power of Twitter for Your Nonprofit, July 10, 2014, Network For Good, by DJ Muller


Is our organization relevant?

If you work for a nonprofit, you've probably asked yourself that question more than once. Concerns about relevancy stem from the most challenging aspect of organizational sustainability. Unfortunately, even when your cause is viewed as "relevant," your organization may not be viewed in the same way. And while the activist in you may feel that relevancy is overrated and that you didn't dedicate your life to a cause so that you could spend your days worrying about who's "hot" – and who’s not – the fact of the matter is that organizations perceived as "relevant" typically are the ones that receive the most attention, the most financial support, and the most acclaim.

Relevancy, by definition, means being closely associated with a topical cause or issue. A relevant nonprofit is a nonprofit that can speak to an issue with authority and has its thumb on the pulse of activities around that issue.

In other words, an organization is relevant if:

    it is a leading voice in the ongoing conversation/debate around its issue or cause
    it is recognized as a connector/convener with respect to its issue or cause.

I often tell my clients to think about their particular issue or cause as if it were a play, complete with actors in lead roles and a supporting cast. If an organization wants to be relevant, it needs to do whatever it can to ensure that it has a lead role in the play.

Playing the Lead

There's no shortage of nonprofit organizations or causes worth donating to in the world – a fact that goes a long way toward explaining the fierce competition that exists among organizations in the social sector.

With so many organizations vying for dollars and attention, it's to be expected that a few will emerge from the crowd and be recognized as the leading voice on their respective issue or cause. How do you know who they are? When funders convene, those organizations are usually in the room and/or a part of the conversation. They're the ones new donors are most likely to be familiar with and trust. They're the ones other organizations look to for their cues and people expect to be persuaded and moved to action by. They lead and others follow.

And if an organization has the chops to play the leading role, it usually has at least two or three people in roles that are critical to projecting its competence and capacity:

A CEO with personality. For an organization that aims to lead the way on an issue, nothing is more beneficial than a dynamic CEO. The most effective CEOs have first-hand experience with an issue and a compelling story that illustrates the human aspects of that issue. He or she has a unique ability to make people listen, laugh, and cry. He or she is  a connector par excellence and has an unrivaled ability to bring resources and people to bear on an organization's mission.

The expert. Leading organizations have at least one expert on staff, someone who is equipped to deliver the organization's message(s) with unquestioned authority and credibility. Experts are also critical in terms of attracting sophisticated and institutional donors, and to formulating a response when a would-be funder asks a question that goes beyond the talking points he or she has already been exposed to. This is where leading organization distinguish themselves from the rest of the pack. Your expert(s) should be the authority on the issue and be setting the agenda for research, discussion, and finding a solution to the problem.

Passionate volunteers. Every leading nonprofit has a group of key volunteers who are deeply passionate about and committed to solving its issue. They want to see the organization succeed and are happy to attach their names to and advocate on behalf of its cause. In the case of the most effective organizations, they will stop at nothing to get publicity for its issue or cause and to share that with their networks.

Connecting the Issue

You know your organization is losing its battle for relevancy when you hear things like this:

"We're the best-kept secret in the city – and someday people are going to realize that."

"We do great work but people don't care."

"Our revenues were down, but it's not our fault; there's just too much competition out there."

Sound familiar? Don't despair; you're not alone. Awareness in today's noisy, message-saturated environment is less a function of branding and more about connecting your content expertise to the conversations and chatter that are happening around your issue or cause. Many nonprofits struggle with this, in part because it is a process that takes time, patience, and a willingness to try new things. For the uninitiated, here are a few suggestions to get your started:

Develop connecting points. Your organization needs to create what I call "connecting points" – places where its issue or cause are connected to conversations that are taking place on social media. The trick is to get in the habit of creating these points of connection not just once in a while but on a regular basis. Every week brings a new wave of trending topics on social media – and fresh opportunities for your organization to connect with trending stories related to its cause. Take the ONE Campaign, which is constantly working to connect its efforts to end extreme poverty and preventable disease in the developing world with the latest "happenings" in pop culture. In advance of this year's Academy Award ceremony, the folks at ONE created the Honesty Oscars, a week-long event that honored groundbreaking organizations, activists and "creatives" working to make the world more transparent and hold governments and corporations more accountable.

Create conversations. You've got a dynamic CEO at the top of your organization and at least one or two experts on staff. Now you've got to figure out how to use those resources to start and develop conversations about your issue that also tie into the broader national conversation. Through social media and other digital platforms, starting and engaging others in conversations has never been easier. Not as easy, of course, as posing a question on Facebook, crossing your fingers, and waiting for people to find you. No, you need to give your audiences content that reflects their concerns and values – and that they'll want to share with others. National Geographic is an excellent example. It makes a point of sharing content that is both visually and editorially compelling and, at the same time, strikes a nice balance between exotic travel characterized by themes of adventure and exploration and more topical posts that address serious issues such as food security and biodiversity conservation.

Focus on the right audience. I see this all the time: Organizations that would like to believe they are relevant but aren't because they focus on the wrong audience. In terms of relevance, only one audience matters: the people who are willing to support you, either financially or with sweat equity, or both. Has your organization developed a following that sees it as the go-to organization for your issue or cause? Don't waste your time and energy on persuading "thought leaders" that you're great. If your supporters and potential supporters don't think of you as the go-to organization for a particular issue or cause, you are in trouble. It doesn't matter how many experts love your "show"; if your own donors and supporters aren't willing to champion your issue or cause, you and your colleagues are not going to have a long run.

In the end, whether your nonprofit is "relevant" or not does matter; it’s a concern for every organization. In a play, it's the full cast and crew working together that make the production. In the social sector, an organization that aspires to be relevant needs to have a dynamic CEO, experts who can articulate its message, and supporters who believe in its mission. It's a tricky formula, but organizations that figure it out are likely to stay around and make a difference.

Is Your Nonprofit Ready to Play a Leading Role? July 14, 2014, Philanthropy News Digest, by Derrick Feldmann

As we press forward with our daily work, serving people in need, we keep our hearts and minds with the people of Israel and Jewish communities around the world.  With 80% of the country within range of Hamas’ missiles, the trauma to children and adults in Israel is palpable.  We applaud and stand in solidarity with the many social workers, nurses, doctors, and social service agencies in Israel who are responding to the crisis even as they struggle to protect their own families.  In North America, we stand with communities that are peacefully organizing to support Israel and fundraising to provide needed services and respite to Israel’s citizens under fire.   In all times, and especially in times of crisis, AJFCA members are true to our values of tikkun olam, treating others with dignity and respect, compassion and caring for others, and our great sense of Jewish peoplehood.

This week, the House passed the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), the compromise legislation meant to replace the Workforce Investment Act (WIA). The House approved the measure 415 to 6, following the Senate's overwhelming approval two weeks ago by a vote of 95 to 3. The final language in the bill was the result of months of negotiations and compromises by leaders in both parties in both houses of Congress. A bi-partisan, bi-cameral press release can be viewed at: http://edworkforce.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=387219. The bill is now headed to the President's desk and is expected to be signed. Link to bill, enrolled Friday, July 11, 2014: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/BILLS-113hr803enr/pdf/BILLS-113hr803enr.pdf. Below, for your iteration, is a  summary of the key "improvements" to the Act.
Bill Summary:
Changes to the Workforce Development System:
- Eliminates 15 programs; 14 within WIA and one higher education program.
- Applies one set of accountability metrics to every federal workforce program under the bill.
- Requires states to produce one strategic plan describing how they will provide training, employment services, adult education and vocational rehabilitation through a coordinated, comprehensive system.
- Reduces the number of required members on state and local workforce boards.
- Strengthens alignment between local workforce areas and labor markets and economic development regions.
- Strengthens evaluation and data reporting requirements.
- Specifies authorized appropriation levels for each of the fiscal years 2015-2020.
- Adds a minimum and maximum funding level to the dislocated worker formula beginning in fiscal year 2016 to reduce volatility.
Changes to Training and Employment Services:
- Eliminates the "sequence of services" and merges "core and intensive activities" into a combined "career services."
- Emphasizes access to real-world training opportunities through:
•    Increasing the ability to use on-the-job training (reimbursement rates up to 75 percent for eligible employers), incumbent worker training (may use up to 20 percent of local funds), and customized training;
•    New opportunities to utilize prior learning assessments;
- Pay-for-performance training contracts for adults and youth (local boards may use up to 10 percent of funds); and
•    Requirements for implementation of industry or sector partnerships and career pathway strategies.
- Requires 75 percent of youth funding to support out-of-school youth, of which 20 percent is prioritized for work-based activities.
Changes to Job Corps:
- Improves the procurement process for center operators to support high-quality services by:
•    Collecting information on key factors indicating the ability of an applicant to operate a center;
•    Providing the operator of a high-performing center the opportunity to compete for contract renewal; and
•    Placing limits on the ability of an operator of a chronically low-performing center to compete for a contract renewal, or to continue to operate that center.
- Allows the U.S. Department of Labor to provide technical assistance to Job Corps operators and centers to improve operations and outcomes.
- Collects more data on Job Corps operations and financial management to better inform Congress and the public about the program.
Changes to Adult Education:
- Strengthens the connection between adult education, postsecondary education, and the workforce.
- Improves services to English language learners.
- Requires evaluations and additional research on adult education activities.
Changes to State Vocational Rehabilitation Services:
- Sets high expectations for individuals with disabilities with respect to employment.
- Provides youth with disabilities the services and supports necessary to be successful in competitive, integrated employment.

A good set of benchmarking data informs future social media marketing decisions and helps us to rethink others. Social Media Examiner recently released the 2014 Social Media Marketing Report detailing how 3,025 business marketing professionals conduct social media marketing activities. The report reveals what platforms marketers are using, how much time they are spending on them, the perceived return on investment, what marketing jobs they outsource, and which marketing activities complement social media. Continuing reading here.

Informing Ourselves: The 2014 Social Media Marketing Report, July 8, 2014, eJP, by Debra Askanase

The 2013 Pew Research Center’s “Portrait of Jewish Americans” was like manna from heaven for pundits across the Jewish world. The study unleashed a virtual tsunami of commentary. Most commentators lamented the state of American Jewish life described by Pew and saw the findings as evidence of fuzzy identification with Judaism, growing secularization and lessened Jewish engagement. Pundits typically saw the findings as confirming their respective views of the Jewish community and bolstering their prescriptions for renewal of Jewish life. Continue reading here.

Can the Pew Findings Guide Philanthropic Investment in the Jewish Community, July 8, 2014, eJP, by Leonard Saxe

One in eight American donors has participated in a giving circle – nearly half of them under the age of 40 – and participation in a giving circle can both strengthen communal identity and expand philanthropic reach. These are some of the findings of the newly issued report Connected to Give: Community Circles, which combines quantitative and qualitative data to bring new insight to the philanthropic phenomenon of giving circles. Continue reading here.

1 in 8 American Donors has Participated in a Giving Circle, July 3, 2014, by eJP

As a consultant to nonprofits in situations of instability or turnaround, I have spent considerable time studying precisely how and at what point nonprofits begin to get in trouble. I have backtracked the specific history of several nonprofit case studies to identify where a wrong turn was taken. In most such cases, it was a board decision—quiet acquiescence or approval of a strategic direction that was not sufficiently challenged. Board members would likely not take such chances in their own enterprises.

A few examples:

  • Business leaders know that their operating budgets must include building a surplus to cover technology replacement/enhancement and building repairs and maintenance. Very few nonprofit boards insist on this or even ask, “How much should be we building in reserves?” Few nonprofit board members would insist a current expense be cut to allow for the building of reserves for the nonprofit, but they would in their own companies.
  • Business leaders also know evidence-based decision making rules the day. “What proof do we have this might work?” Back home, they are not swayed by passion and great creative ideas alone; they ask for best practices. “What are others doing in this field?” “Who else can we talk to?” They seek information to mitigate risk. In their nonprofit leadership role, many go along with the recommendation of an ardent Executive Director, figuring, “Well, it must be okay or others would be asking the questions.” If it was their own company or their own money in play, you better believe they would be asking questions and have their ears perked up for possible risk. I have encountered nonprofit boards that have approved an ill-conceived strategy because they think it would be fun or fulfilling for the executive director to work on as some kind of reward.

Chasing Rabbits Down Rabbit Holes

Board members well know the cost of delaying or revisiting decisions in their own professions. Yet in the nonprofit board role, this happens far too often. Decisions made get re-opened repeatedly—by a board member who was absent for several meetings, or a staff person who really doesn’t like the decision, or a new board chair—because the board doesn’t recall this decision is “done and done.” In their business lives, this would be recognized as a distraction, a waste of time and energy and resources constantly chasing rabbits down holes instead of making an informed decision and implementing it. Time really is money, for nonprofit organizations as well as corporations.

 Drinking the Kool-Aid

In their own shops, board members have a balanced view of their executives and direct reports. They know their “rock stars” have weaknesses that have to be accommodated, worked around, or developed. But in their nonprofit role, where a primary part is managing the executive director, many don’t. They are often under the same spell they hear from others:

“You are so lucky to have her.”

“She is a godsend.”

“I hope you never lose him.”

“Can’t imagine this place without him.”

The executive director should be the well-respected face of the organization to the community, but the true, balanced picture of their performance must be known to the governing board. No one is perfect. In the “Dare to Lead” survey of nonprofit executive directors in 2011, 45 percent of nonprofit executive directors did not have a performance evaluation. (“Daring to Lead,” 2011, CompassPoint and the Meyer Foundation)

Some board members are so aware of the extreme stress and long hours on staff that  they feel unqualified gratitude for the ED. Would that happen in their own businesses—unconditional love? No way. In some respects, it is also a bit patronizing. Board members might believe that “no one else could do this” or would do this for so little money. If that is true, it’s a disservice to the organization and the incumbent ED not to be paying them market rate for the position. But it’s possible that it is not true, and the organization should never feel so beholden or held so hostage that they don’t acknowledge performance issues. I have frequently seen organizations where the board members, once in crisis, say, “We asked him/her over and over again for information on this, but never got it.” How is that possible? The board is the boss. If the board asked for information and didn’t get it, what was the recourse, the consequence of nonresponse?

At their own companies, no superstar is perfect. They are evaluated on results and the process for getting those results; their strengths and weaknesses are known. Not so with nonprofit leaders! Sometimes adulation rules the board about the exec director: We are so lucky to have her! Best in the city! That may be, but what are the weak points that have to be acknowledged so they can be balanced against what the organization requires? Is she great with state legislators but lousy with staff relations? Is she great on fundraising but not so good at budgeting and fiscal management? Is he a nationally renowned practitioner or artist but less skilled as an administrator? The bloom is not off the rose, but it can’t be unconditional love because that is magical thinking. No one is perfect. You can’t salute every idea because it is coming from this ED’s mouth. Some of those ideas should be challenged and sent back for further information, research, and proof of life.

Believing Your Own Press

I have heard board members, once they have the “facts, ma’am; just the facts” in hand from our business assessment, cry in dismay, “But we do such good work! People love us.” At one theater performance, though the seats were scarcely one-third full, those present exclaimed how excellent the production was and how this was their favorite night out—“so much more affordable than the uptown theaters.” Other board members have quoted other service recipients or endorsements on their brochures as the justification for hanging on despite near-bankruptcy conditions. It reminds me of a presentation I once made to a very large audience in Tucson, Arizona. Hundreds were in the audience as I waited to go on. I heard my introduction being ably read by the Chair of the conference where I was speaking. He was listing my accomplishments and my head was swelling. I actually had the thought, “You know, I have done pretty well for myself in a short time,” when I had the startling realization: “Wait a minute, I wrote that introduction!” Believing your own press release is the sign you have clearly lost objectivity in evaluating your own organization and performance.

How Nonprofit staff Contributes to the Problem

We in the nonprofit sector contribute greatly to the numbing down of board members. We emphasize in board orientations that nonprofit corporations are greatly different from for-profit concerns. The reality that we have to make our budget up from scratch every year often perplexes board members. They don’t have experience with having no starting point; a corporate annual budget usually starts with some allotment based on previous years and then percentages are negotiated with the corporate head office. For nonprofits, the annual budget must start with assumptions about revenue sources: what can be counted on and what is in jeopardy. County funding, large donor, major sponsor leaving town—all are closely followed by nonprofit staff.

“If X, then Y” thinking is how most nonprofit budgets are put together. Often, nonprofit annual operating budgets must be put together and approved by boards before the final budgets from government, grantors, or campaign totals have final approval, so these revenues are just estimates. However, there should be solid rationales and precedents for those assumptions. Because most board members don’t have this same experience, they rely on staff to tell them the operating budget and they leave the assumptions unchallenged or don’t ask, “What’s the basis for this revenue assumption?” What they hear from staff is different versions of “That’s not how it works in nonprofits,” “That’s not how we do it,” “We never have the money to do that,” and so on.

Board members encounter what often seems ludicrous to them but has grown to be expected by staff, such as government mandates without funding—extra reporting demands with no funding for personnel to prepare those reports; extraordinary increase in services needed but no extra funding; county and state arbitrary cuts in service that force increased demand for services to the door of nonprofits. Since none of that makes sense, they begin to think the whole business model seems illogical based on their experience and therefore they can offer no wisdom or objectivity to strengthen the business of the nonprofit.

Hope becomes the strategy of staff and boards because once upon a time, it worked. Before the most recent recession, in many communities if a nonprofit encountered a financial snare, a couple of community leaders made a phone call or two and “fixed it” with influence and getting large donations to cover the situation. That often doesn’t work anymore. Corporate and foundation coffers are tighter, with more explicit criteria and approval layers required for commitments.

Avoiding Magical Thinking

Deification of Staff

Realism and objectivity blunt magical thinking and can be the greatest contributions made by a board. Boards should have a realistic, albeit deservingly admiring, view of the nonprofit’s executive director and senior staff. Just as they do in their own business, they should know the skills and deficits of the team, the likelihood of turnover, the areas needing balance and oversight from the board, and what skills and characteristics need to be developed and hired for the leadership of the organization. Boards don’t need to micromanage hiring below the executive director level, but they should be alert to an ED hiring “in his own image” when what might be most needed is a complementary skill or expertise.

Board members are also expected to be aware of market salaries and benefits, per the 990 tax return, so that an ED paying a director much more than the market can be questioned, if not challenged, about the value of that decision. I have seen nonprofits that were unaware of the salary levels of direct reports to the ED, including one troubled organization with a program director making as much as the ED—and that salary was $15,000 above market for the position. The board should know that and know the rationale for it. There might be a good one, but it is inexcusable for the board not to know.

The best nonprofit leaders share their own assessment each year with a board committee, including what they want and need to develop to be more effective in the coming year. They do not hide areas for improvement about their own performance or the organization. They are secure enough with a trusted group of board members to be able to share, “My strengths are not in general operations maintenance; I am better at fundraising and relationship management. When we can afford it, let’s consider adding an office manager.” The board creates an environment where this is a safe conversation, not one that an ED has to be fearful of and never share in order to protect their job.

Working for a nonprofit doesn’t make an executive director a saint without flaw. They might well be an extraordinary leader, much admired by board, staff, clients and community, but it’s important that the organization takes priority over any one person. My firm increasingly runs into organizations that are at risk because one staff person—sometimes the ED, often the program or artistic director—is given more devotion than the organization. The regional or national recognition of such a staff person is valuable but does not trump the mission of the organization, and the organization cannot be designed around that person. Too often, we see organizational structure created to accommodate this, or performance expectations avoided because the person is so highly regarded externally. If there is any one person who everyone walks on eggshells around, that is an organizational risk and needs to be acknowledged and a plan created for the good of the organization. Nonprofits are not family or vanity businesses. Board members can often see this more objectively than the staff, who are in awe of the person’s respect in their field.

In their own businesses, board members know that the flip side of any strength is a potential weakness. If the nonprofit’s executive leader is a distinguishing strength, that can be a potential weakness if there is turnover, and the board should be alert and attending to that proactively. Heads in the sand don’t prevent a rock star ED from leaving, which is almost always to the surprise of a board that thought, “I thought she loved this, I thought this was her life!” Could be true, but also be why an exhausted, burned-out exec decides to leave.

Assume Responsibility for the Financial Performance of the Organization (because you are!)

I often ask nonprofit board members to imagine they were asking family members for a loan to fund this nonprofit. How convincing could they be? Would they ask their family to support it? This will often immediately clarify for them that the nonprofit is not a business model in which they have personal confidence. They need to know they are just as responsible as if they were managing a small business and ask questions to understand and ensure there is evidence and facts upon which to make sound decisions. It is very appropriate for board members to ask for fact-based justification, proof of life, and the basis for assumptions. Explanations such as, “Well, we had 1000 attend our free weekend, so if each of them paid $10 that would bring in $10,000!” are naïve, not fact-based justifications.

Cash forecasts must be based on reality, not hope or implied promises. In business, we are asked, “How confident are you? One hundred percent? Ninety percent?” The same question is useful to approving nonprofit operating budgets and revenue assumptions. What is guaranteed? Highly likely? Purely speculative? And at what point in the year will you have to know for certain in order to make this forecasted budget?

Create Time and Forums for Benchmarking and Assessment

In order to gauge discussions of progress, boards and staffs should be working on the same set of critical issues and indicators. Create a performance dashboard with interim benchmarks so the board doesn’t wait until end of year for a pass/fail grade. Build in enough time for board discussions, in committees as well as board retreats, so the hard questions can come to mind and get articulated and discussed. Asking if there is any old or new business ten minutes after the monthly meeting is supposed to adjourn doesn’t cut it.

In summary, the environment is still tough for many nonprofits, and nonprofit board members must remember that governing is serious, consequence-filled work. It is important for them to understand that a decision not made or made without sufficient grounding is as important as a decision made well. They likely know that in their own places of work, and the same applies here in nonprofitland.

Boards should be passionate about the mission but never be so mired in admiration and awed by the awesome that they neglect the practical considerations that help an organization survive and thrive in up-and-down economies. The vision of the organization mission might be lofty and entail risk, but the details to be measured are nitty-gritty. The mission of service is too important to be left to part-time, magical thinking.

“If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.”—Henry David Thoreau

Boards and Magical Thinking, July 2, 2014, Nonprofit Quarterly, by Kathy Ridge

During this year’s Millennial Impact Forum (also known as MCON), thousands of leaders in philanthropy, social enterprise, and technology joined together for two days of inspiration from our next generation of leaders. MCON takes place on the heels of the release of the Millennial Impact Report, an annual look at the Millennial generation and the ground they are staking out as they mature into adulthood.

Derrick Feldmann, President of Achieve, the researchers behind the Millennial Impact Project, said in his opening remarks, “We don’t study Millennials because they’re a part of the culture. We study them because they’re defining the culture.”

Here are a few juicy facts from the report:Millennial Donations

    By the year 2020, Millennials will make up 50% of the workforce
    91% of the female Millennials surveyed donated money to charities, and 84% of the male Millennials had donated
    Nearly half (47%) of the Millennials surveyed had volunteered for a cause or nonprofit in the past month.
    22% of Millennials surveyed gave more than $500 to nonprofits in 2013 and 12% gave more than $1,000.

Transforming the Nonprofit Culture

Millennials CycleDuring MCON, transformational young leaders shared their perspectives on giving—and living meaningfully—in a connected world. The conference centered on the key lessons learned since launching the research in 2010:

1. Millennials engage with causes to help other people, not institutions. And, they prefer to perform smaller actions before fully committing to a cause.

2. Millennials are influenced by the decisions and behaviors of their peers. Peer influence plays an important role in motivating Millennials to volunteer, attend events, participate in programs, and give.

3. Millennials treat their time, money, and assets as having equal value. Millennials view both their network and their voice as two additional types of assets they can offer a cause. Aided by technology, an individual who donates his or her voice may still give skills, time, and money.

4. Millennials need to experience a cause’s work without having to be on site. In 2013, more than 60% of respondents said they felt most invested in a cause when the nonprofit shared a compelling story about successful projects or the people it helps.

Throughout the conference, I noted three other key themes that should get you thinking:

    Millennials are seeking authenticity, and they are skeptical of ‘press-release’ good news, without human stories and data to back it up.
    They believe in the power of technology to drive real community change.
    Millennials do not see boundaries between work/play/family. As Jean Case related from a recent conversation with a Millennial, “I want to bring my full self to everything I’m about.” So employers, nonprofits, brands and Millennials are joined together in a cycle of engagement that unifies them in a way that did not exist in prior generations.

The Future of the Social Sector

As a nonprofit leader, why should you focus on Millennials, whose resources are small relative to their older counterparts? It’s simple. They have the power to generate passion, engagement and donations for your cause. (And, in less than 5 years, the oldest among them will be moving into major donor income levels.)

The strategies for engaging Millennials are no longer just preferences. They have become the norm for effective communication with all ages. As Derrick Feldmann puts it, “It is not overstating to say that a big part of the nonprofit sector’s future relies on its ability to respond to these young people’s charitable inclinations.”

Millennials on a Mission: Idealism, Impact, Innovation, July 1, 2014, Network for Good, by Jamie McDonald

President Obama is requesting almost $4 billion in emergency funding from Congress to confront an immigration crisis from a wave of unaccompanied children surging across the southern border of the United States, White House officials said Tuesday.

The financial request, which is almost twice as much as initial reports had suggested might be necessary, would boost spending on border patrol agents, immigration judges, aerial surveillance, and new detention facilities. Nearly half of the money would be used to improve care for the children while they are moved through the deportation process.

“We are taking steps to protect due process but also to remove these migrants more efficiently,” a White House official said Tuesday morning. “We are taking an aggressive approach on both sides of the border.”
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 Congress will have its own ideas on how the $3.7 billion should be spent. And already there were signs from Republicans on Tuesday that the president’s proposal did not address all of their concerns. Michael Steel, a spokesman for House Speaker John A. Boehner, said a “working group on the border crisis” would review the proposal.

As tens of thousands of unaccompanied minors cross into the United States this year, immigration reform is stalled. The issues are related but not the same. Here’s why.
Video Credit By Christian Roman, Carrie Halperin and Emily B. Hager on Publish Date July 7, 2014. Image CreditEric Gay/Associated Press

“The speaker still supports deploying the National Guard to provide humanitarian support in the affected areas — which this proposal does not address,” Mr. Steel said.

The decision to ask Congress for more money comes as Mr. Obama leaves for Texas on Tuesday on a previously scheduled trip that involves political fund-raising and events focused on the middle class and the economy.

Mr. Obama is not scheduled to travel to the border during his visit, but he has offered to meet privately with Governor Rick Perry, after Mr. Perry declined a photo-op handshake with the president in front of Air Force One when Mr. Obama arrives.

In a letter he sent to the White House on Monday afternoon, Mr. Perry rejected “a quick handshake on the tarmac,” but offered to meet with Mr. Obama “at any time” for a “substantive meeting to discuss this critical issue.”

Valerie Jarrett, a senior White House adviser, invited Mr. Perry to a roundtable discussion about the issue with faith leaders and local officials in Dallas. White House officials said Tuesday that Mr. Perry had accepted the invitation, but officials in the governor’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The delicate negotiations over a meeting between the two leaders underscore the high stakes for politicians as they deal with the huge numbers of unaccompanied children crossing into the United States in recent months.

Mr. Obama is under intense pressure from Republicans to show that he is cracking down on the new wave of illegal immigration. The White House has said it intends to ask Congress for more money to more efficiently return the children to their countries. The administration has also said it wants Congress to give officials more authorities to process the children faster.

But the president is also receiving criticism from immigration activists, who have long urged Mr. Obama to reduce the number of deportations of illegal immigrants already in the country. The president is expected this summer to announce steps he will take to moderate deportation policies, especially in cases where the deportations separate established families.
Continue reading the main story Continue reading the main story
Continue reading the main story

The immediate question of a meeting with Mr. Perry also highlighted the sensitive nature of the public relations decisions facing the White House in a situation like this.

White House officials had said last week that they saw no reason to send Mr. Obama to the border for a speech or event to draw attention to the latest immigration issue. Officials have said repeatedly that the president has no plans to do that on his trip.

But the governor’s letter made it clear that Republicans are eager to draw Mr. Obama into the issue more directly.

“I have followed up with several further communications inviting you to tour the border and view this crisis firsthand,” Mr. Perry wrote. “At any point while you are here, I am available to sit down privately so we can talk and you may directly gain my state’s perspective on the effects of an unsecured border and what is necessary to make it secure.”

White House officials said the emergency funding would support what they called an “all of government” response to the immigration crisis. Most of the immigrants are from Central America, and the funding request includes new money for those nations to combat the violence that is driving parents there to send their children to the United States, they said.

In a conference call with reporters, officials who spoke only on background declined to offer specifics about how many more children would be returned to their countries with the additional funding, or how much faster the children would be processed through the legal system.

“The bottom line here is the number of kids removed is not large enough,” one White House official said, adding that “the process, frankly, is much too long.”

Officials repeatedly described the situation at the southern border as an “urgent humanitarian situation” and said that unaccompanied children must be protected and treated well even as many of them are processed to be sent home.

The White House aides said they expected members of Congress in both parties to support the funding request in the same way that other emergencies like wildfires and floods often receive bipartisan backing.

Officials said they had not dropped a parallel request for Congress to amend existing laws to give the Department of Homeland Security more authority to process and deport the Central American immigrants more quickly.

Currently, federal law requires a more lengthy and complicated process for handling Central American immigrants than it does for Mexican immigrants who cross illegally. One White House official said the administration was seeking to have “one approach to children coming from the region.”

But officials said they do not want Congress to wait on the funding request while the question of changes to the immigration laws were debated.

Obama Seeks Nearly $4 Billion for Immigration Crisis, July 8, 2014, The New York Times, by Michael D. Shear

Please let Shelley Rood know if your agency is engaged in refugee resettlement.  It is our understanding that part of this funding would go to maintain existing refugee resettlement work.


Every so often, change makers and nonprofit leaders are unsure about how to activate the most powerful resource they have – their intellectual capital.

Organizations can be treasure troves of big ideas just waiting to be unleashed and shared with the world, but these same organizations can have limited resources and small or non-existent communications and marketing teams more focused on sharing information and trying to drum up support in an overcrowded charity marketplace.

Thought leadership communications is arguably the most effective and least expensive way a smaller organization can build awareness, support for ideas, and influence the communities they need to reach, including decision makers, policy makers and donors. Nonprofits have their missions but they are often unsure about how to wrap that same mission around a bigger idea – an idea that is woven into the every day world their donors and supporters live in, and that helps those same donors and supporters, better understand the nonprofits work. It’s not easy to all of the sudden turn your nonprofit leaders and your organization into a thought leader – it takes time and commitment but it can be done.

Here’s the thing: So many nonprofit leaders want to become thought leaders but that means so much more than asking your communications staff to share content on topics that are within the organizations subject area expertise. It means more than attending conferences. Thought leadership means you’re leading with your thinking. You’re leading with ideas. You’re leading because you are choosing to empower others with information and analysis that is difficult to find elsewhere. You’re adding real value to an existing conversation. And you’re doing it all consistently. It’s that simple … and that challenging.

Below are five ways your nonprofit can begin having the ‘thought leadership’ conversation:

Start with the big idea

1. Every big idea starts with a vision. It has a strong viewpoint and brings new insight and problem solving to an existing issue. Ask yourself and your team, what original, innovative and valuable perspective your organization and the communities you work with bring to the table. What do you want to achieve from it?

Overcome fear

2. Effective thought leadership programs are an organizational development function not just a public relations function. Powerful thought leadership campaigns need to be embedded into the culture of an organization in order to be truly successful. Sharing and taking a position can be a frightening act for a nonprofit that doesn’t necessarily engage in advocacy work. Teams need to be on board with sharing ideas and insights with the world. Does your culture support that? If not, what steps can be taken to inch toward that goal?

Tell a great story

3. Concentrate on telling one focused, compelling and clear story that supports your big idea and communicate it using channels you know your audience engages with. Social media is a no brainer but there’s also traditional media, speaking events, panels and conferences, that can position your organization as an expert in your field.

Become a resource

4. People don’t like to be sold things, for the most part. Even when what you’re selling is a noble and brilliant cause. That said, they do buy into solutions, expertise and problem-solving. Share your insights in an accessible and digestible way. Spread your idea. Be consistent. Offer guidance and people will follow.

Inspire action

5. Powerful communications and thought leadership can inspire people to act. Whatever your idea is, make sure that it is actionable. What do you want people to do? Be brave. Ask for what you want.

5 Tips to Start Your Nonprofit Thought Leadership Plan, June 25, 2014, eJP, by Caroline Avakian

The numbers are out today and we now have comprehensive, reliable 2013 data about American philanthropy, painting a picture in broad brush strokes of how Americans gave and what kinds of causes donors supported. Measured as whole, the nonprofit community should be mildly encouraged by the results of the Giving USA 2014 Annual Report on Philanthropy. Although given our nation’s history and culture of generosity, the report suggests that we could and should be doing even better.

For synagogues, Jewish federations and other Jewish nonprofits, the data contained in the report is starker and very similar to what was in the 2013 Pew Survey on American Jewish life: the numbers confirm challenges that everybody already knew.

The Giving USA report was issued today by the Giving USA Foundation, which is affiliated with the Giving Institute, and its research partner, the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. Published annually since 1957, the report is considered the authoritative annual source on charitable giving in the United States.

Offering full disclosure, I sit on the Giving USA editorial review board and I’ll be the first to admit that the report has its shortcomings and limitations. First of all, from a Jewish perspective, the report doesn’t specifically break down giving to Jewish causes. We are left to infer the Jewish significance of the numbers, though the depth of the research largely gives us the tools to do so. Moreover, I’ve also made known that the report pays too little attention to the growth of online and mobile giving, particularly the emerging cultural phenomenon known as Giving Tuesday.

Then, of course, there is the pesky fact that the numbers can’t predict the future, nor can they answer some of the deeper philosophical questions we have about the role of philanthropy in American society. But the numbers do tell us a great deal about the direction about how and where donors are giving their precious philanthropic dollars. The data provides a broad economic and cultural context to the sometimes narrow task of asking donors for dollars. In many ways, 2013 represented a continuation of the slow growth in charitable giving since the end of the Great Recession but in other ways it reflects that Americans are passionate about philanthropy.

In 2013, total giving reached $335.17 billion. That figure represents a 4.4 percent increase in current dollars from 2012 and a 3 percent increase in inflation-adjusted dollars.

According to Melanie A. McKitrick, managing editor of the Giving USA report, the 2013 figure represents the fourth highest total in the history of the survey. Charitable giving nosedived in 2008 and 2009, the years of the Great Recession, but the numbers have been climbing back up slowly since 2010. Dr. Patrick Rooney, associate dean of Indiana University’s Lilly School of Philanthropy, said that he expects charitable giving to approach or pass the high water mark of $349 billion reached in 2007 within one or two more years.

“We are getting back on track and hopefully a year from now we will be able to say we have regained where we were in 2007,” said Rooney. “This is consistent with the overall business recovery and other economic variables.”

Giving is a lagging indicator of economic recovery. When bad times become good again, people tend to spend on themselves and their families before they spend on others. The fact that giving is up again is a healthy indicator about the state of our economy. 2013 represented the largest percentage increase in giving since the 2008 economic meltdown. The philanthropic sector is bouncing back more quickly than many experts predicted but are we seeing this rebound perhaps more slowly in the Jewish community.

Four straight years of philanthropic growth is certainly encouraging and demonstrates the fundamental generosity of Americans. Rich or poor, liberal or Conservative, we first and foremost look to ourselves and our charitable organizations to solve big problems. But the growth is much too incremental and lackluster. So many of what we take for granted in American life today, our hospitals, our museums, our schools, funding for disease research, were started by far-sighted philanthropists like the archetypical American, Benjamin Franklin. Where will the innovations of tomorrow come from? I sometimes fear that the incredible examples of Warren Buffet and Bill Gates have failed to galvanize both Americans of means and smaller donors. And the numbers validate my concern in this regard. In 2007, individuals on the Forbes 400 list, who had a total wealth of $1.54 trillion, accounted for 15 percent of all charitable contributions. In 2013, the 400 wealthiest individuals’ earnings had climbed to $2 trillion, but their contributions only accounted for 12 percent of all giving.

Giving by SourceHere are some of the highlights of the report. There’s plenty here for those who take a glass half full approach and those who see the glass as half empty.

    Charitable giving outstripped the tiny 2 percent increase in GDP but was behind the 27 percent jump in the S & P 500 Index.
    Charitable giving increased in three of the four major sources, with only corporate giving showing a major decline.
    Individuals gave $240.60 billion in 2013, an increase of 4.3 percent from 2012. Bequests accounted for $27.73 billion, an 8.7 percent increase from 2012. Foundation gifts accounted for $48. 96 billion, a 5.7 percent increase from 2012.

Corporate giving totaled $17.88 billion, representing a 1.9 percent slide. At a time when corporate profits are near all-time highs, any slide is unacceptable and represents an affront to the notion of corporate responsibility.

Giving by Recipient OrganizationFor the Jewish community, the biggest headline coming out of Giving USA is that giving to religious organizations (all types of houses of worship) once again sputtered along in 2013, continuing a five year trend that perhaps foreshadows a permanent behavior pattern.

    Giving to religious organizations held flat in 2013, dropping 0.2 percent from 2012 and totaling $105.53 billion.
    At 31 percent, giving to religion still makes up the largest slice of the American philanthropic pie.
    Since the end of the Great Recession, overall giving has grown 12.3 percent while giving to religion has declined 2.4 percent.

Americans are becoming less religious and less connected to spiritual communities. No denomination is immune, whether it is the Catholic Church, Main Line Protestants or Jewish denominations. All faced difficult times raising money. A few large “superstar” synagogues are doing OK, but not spectacular, while most are not. To triumph against this trend, synagogues must inspire donors with truly original thinking about how to make synagogue life richer and more meaningful. Many are making valiant efforts and those that are approaching their fundraising campaigns with foresight and meticulous planning stand good chances of finding success.

And then, of course, remains the great riddle of American Jewish philanthropy. At last count, well over one fourth of the Forbes 400 list of wealthiest Americans were Jews. Yet, while there are exceptions, most of those names reserve their largest gifts for non-Jewish causes. Synagogues and Jewish organizations of all types must find ways to inspire these wealthiest of donors. If they don’t give Jewishly, surely we can’t expect their children or grandchildren to do so.

In addition to synagogues, we know that Jewish federations – similar to other umbrella campaigns like United Way and Catholic Charities – have also faced challenging times. Today’s high net worth donors are likely to give to a specific project since they don’t trust well-meaning professionals or entrenched lay leaders to decide how best to use their money. Between 2010 and 2012, total giving to Jewish Federations nationally fell from $925 million to $900 million, according to JFNA’s own data.

Giving USA doesn’t track donations to Jewish federations per se. But it does keep statistics on a sector it labels public-society benefit, which includes umbrella campaigns, disaster relief efforts community foundations and donor advised funds. The results are clearly deceiving, prompted by such large numbers of dollars going to donor advised funds!

    Contributions to the public-society benefit subsector increased by 8.5 percent in 2013, accounting for $23.89 billion in contributions.
    The public-society benefit subsector comprised 7 percent of all giving in 2013.
    The losses at umbrella campaigns were offset by gifts to donor advised funds. For example, the largest gift in 2013 was Mark Zuckerberg and Pricilla Chan’s $992 million donation to the Silicon Valley Community Foundation as a donor advised fund.

Here’s a statistic that may concern those who concentrate on raising money for Israel-based charities:

    Giving to international affairs organizations declined 6.7 percent in 2013, totaling $14.93 billion.
    International affairs organizations received 4 percent of all gifts in 2013.
    Since the end of the Great Recession, giving to international affairs organizations has declined 16.1 percent, the most of any philanthropic sector. Perhaps this is due to the fact that Americans have turned their gaze inward as the 9/11 attacks and the Iraq war have receded into the past tense and that there was no very significant international disaster last year.

Much of the rest of the philanthropic milieu saw good news in the report.

    Giving to educational institutions represented 16 percent of all giving. Contributions to education rose 8.9 percent in 2013, representing 16 percent of all gifts, with the universities stepping up their campaigns and staffing. Jewish day school giving is included here but is not separated statistically.
    Giving to the arts, culture, and humanities subsector amounted to 5 percent of total giving in 2013, accounting for $16.66 billion in contributions. Arts giving saw a 7.8 percent increase.
    Contributions to foundations declined by 15.5 percent from 2013, totaling $35.74 billion. Foundations received 11 percent of all gifts in 2013. I believe many philanthropists are choosing instead to give to donor advised funds, which are much less costly and complicated to maintain than foundations.
    Giving to human services grew 2.2 percent in 2013, totaling $41.51 billion dollars and accounting for 12 percent of all gifts.
    Most gifts to human service organizations tend to be modest ones. With the economy coming back and unemployment numbers dropping, many mega-philanthropists have begun moving their money into other priority areas and away from this category. Note, too, that previous small donors to human service causes have become recipients as a result of the recession.
    Giving to hospitals and other health-related organizations grew 6 percent in 2013, totaling $31.86 billion and accounting for 10 percent of all gifts in 2013.
    Contributions to environmental and animal organizations rose 7.5 percent between 2012 and 2013, to $9.72 billion. These dollars made up three percent of all gifts.

What do these numbers mean? For synagogues and other Jewish organizations, the data reinforces the notion that new models are needed and the future community will likely look much different than the present. That is no reason to despair. It is a reason to charge forward with gusto but with respect for the challenges ahead. Jewish organizations must work even harder than other nonprofits to articulate their cases for giving and to inspire donors to invest.

People of all political persuasions should be able to agree that government can’t solve all problems, particularly those that seem intractable. Remember, it was one of the greatest fundraising campaigns in American history, the March of Dimes that led to the eradication of polio! We need nonprofits to work on solving intractable problems and making our country a better, healthier, more just, more prosperous and more enlightened place. Join me in applauding philanthropy and recognizing its necessity for the future of our Republic and the American Jewish community. We don’t need these figures to tell us that giving is important, but it doesn’t hurt to be reminded. And I’d like to offer a reminder that we can all give just a little bit more.

U.S. Giving in 2013 Rose Significantly but Challenges Persist, June 17, 2014, eJP, by Robert Evans

AJFCA is pleased to share some recent op-eds and a letter to the editor from our network in connection to World Refugee Day, on June 20th. 

Jewish Americans Should Care About Refugees Today
The New York Jewish Week
By Mark Hetfield, HIAS President/CEO & Dale Schwartz, HIAS Board Chair

Making our voices heard on World Refugee Day
The Jewish Sound
By Margaret Hinson, Director, Refugee & Immigrant Service Centers, JFS Seattle

On World Refugee Day, let us remember our own history
By Avi Rose, Executive Director, JFCS East Bay

Letter to the Editor World Refugee Day-U.S. generosity leads way
Tampa Bay Times (scroll down to read it)
By Rochelle Tatrai-Ray, President/CEO, Gulf Coast JFCS

On June 24th Bend the Arc, created a powerful visual memorial in front of the Lincoln Memorial to Andrew Goodman, James Chaney and Mickey Schwerner, who were murdered 50 years ago by the Ku Klux Klan. More than 3,000 yahrzeit chandles were lit. Throughout the day, more than two dozen members of Congress took photos with the yartzeit memorial candles. Click here for photos. Watch and share the powerful video. Click here to view a photo gallery created by The Washington Post. More details surrounding a recent press conference and vigil can be found here. The sharing of this information helps to build greater momentum around voting rights and the swift passage of the Voting Rights Amendment Act (VRAA).

A company's involvement in social causes plays a significant role at every stage of a Millennial's career, according to the just released 2014 Millennial Impact Report. An overwhelming 92 percent of respondents felt that they were actively contributing to a company having a positive effect on the world. This desire to do good through an employer presents new opportunities for companies (and organizations) to more effectively engage next generation talent. Continue reading here.

Giving Back Now a Primary Motivation for Millennial Talent in the Workplace, June 19, 2014, eJP


World Refugee Day was observed last week, and it is ever more important to recognize the parameters of this issue, because they are expanding. The U.N. refugee agency announced recently that the world's population of refugees had increased by 6 million between 2012 and 2013. For last year, the 51.2 million refugees included 2.5 million new refugees from Syria and another 6.5 million people displaced within the war-torn country.

Attention to Refugees Ever More Important as Numbers Rise, June 23, 2014, Nonprofit Quarterly, by Rich Cohen

We have now come to the conclusion that if funders are to make greater progress in meeting society's urgent challenges, they must move beyond today's rigid and predictive model of strategy to a more nuanced model of emergent strategy that better aligns with the complex nature of social progress. Continue reading here.

Is Strategic Philanthropy Yesterday's News? June 10, 2014, Nonprofit Quarterly, by William Schambra



A key legal obligation of a board member is a duty of loyalty. The object of this loyalty is the nonprofit organization each board member is helping to govern. Board members have a duty to place the interest of their nonprofit before anything else when acting in their fiduciary capacity. This undivided loyalty means objectivity in decision making, an unbiased approach to issues, freedom from ulterior motives or external control, and an absence of conflict of interest when choosing between options. Ultimately the full board as a body must act in an independent manner in its decision making. Continue reading here.

Board Member Independence, June 17, 2015, Board Source

For many Jewish organizations, it has become clear that older adults are happier if they can live independently and "age in place," in their own homes rather than in nursing homes. "It has been a longstanding priority of Jewish federations and affiliated agencies to encourage aging in place, the feeling being that when older adults age in place, as distinct from being in an institution, they are able to live healthier and fuller lives," says William Daroff, senior vice president of public policy and director of the Washington Office of the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA).

It is also more cost-effective to age in place because medical costs skyrocket for seniors who move to nursing homes or other facilities, Daroff explains. Read more here.

From Nursing Home to Stay at Home: Jewish Organizations Try to Shift Senior Living, May 28, 2014 by Michele Alperin

The well-known French expression attributed to Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr, "plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose" is often translated "the more things change, the more they stay the same." Anyone living in the world of nonprofit organizations (NPO's) could say that in fact the exact opposite is true. We live in an age where not only does the world continue to change, but the rate of change increases exponentially. For NPO's trying to keep track of their operating environment, the ferocious and unending pace of change can be dizzying. Continue reading here.

Strategic Planning or Strategic Thinking? May 26, 2014, eJP, by David B. Marcu

In 2014, it is the Pew Report on the practices and beliefs of American Jews that has stimulated much debate, some hand wringing, and an evaluation of our communal priorities. What changes and adaptations will mark our Jewish life and institutions in light of Pew have yet to be seen. But this much is clear: The Jewish community is now deeply entrenched in the 21st century preoccupation with big data. We are now extremely reliant on data: to make decisions, track our success, better understand our constituencies, and demonstrate the power of our product. Read more here.

Sustainability by the Numbers, June 2, 2014, eJP

Conversations on funder collaboration have gained momentum. Challenges of and opportunities for collaboration between local and national funders were discussed at the 2013 Jewish Funders Network (JFN) conference. With a desire to maintain the dialogue, JFN coordinated a series of articles on the interactions between local and national funders called "Local and National Funders: The Launch of a Conversation." In turn, this exchange caught the attention of Grantmakers for Effective Organizations (GEO) and led to a joint JFN/GEO webinar in January 2014: The Promise and Pitfalls of Local and National Funder Collaborations. Continue reading here.

Supporting Field-Building Organizations, May 18, 2014, eJP, by Shari L Edelstein, Marcella Kanfer Rolnick and Yossi Prager


What is your organization's fastest path to reach influential people in your community? Many fundraisers once tried to answer this question by flipping through Rolodexes and brainstorming connections, but more are now using tools that analyze real-world social networks and identify shared connections with community leaders. Listen to the podcast here.

Using Social Networks to Reach Thought Leaders, May 15, 2014, Chroncile of Philanthropy, by Allison Fine

Storybanking, takes storytelling one step further. It is a process of identifying and organizing volunteers who are willing to share their own stories in their own words, through interviews with media, testimonies before Congress, or speeches at public events. To do it right, it requires an organizational culture and technical infrastructure to collect and catalogue stories so that the right storyteller can be matched with the right opportunity at the right time. Read more here.

Using Cloud Technology in Storytelling, May 14, 2014, NTEN, by Elizabeth Prescott

The Jewish Communal Fund (JCF) and Slingshot released "Funding Jewish Innovation: A Resource Guide," which can be downloaded here.
The guide offers a crash-course in funding Jewish innovation. It answers common questions around funding innovation in Jewish life, offers reflections from funders in the field, and provides practical next steps for individual donors to select innovative projects and organizations to fund. The guide also features Innovation Snapshots - brief examples of how Jewish organizations both young and old (including Our Jewish Community, the Pearlstone Center, Hillel's Ask Big Questions and G-dcast) are using innovative approaches to remain relevant in today's 21st century world. Continue reading here.

New JCF-Slingshot Guide Provides Crash-Course in Funding Jewish Innovation, April 30, 2014, eJP

M+R and NTEN have again partnered together to bring us their 2014 Benchmark Study. According to the exhibited results, the trends in online giving in 2013 tended toward interesting, if somewhat predictable. The data in the study, addressing email list sizes, fundraising, online advocacy, websites, social media, and mobile activity, came from 53 U.S.-based nonprofits.
The results were not surprising; the infographic shows nonprofits reaching more of their client bases through websites, emailing, and social media.

2014 M+R/NTEN Benchmark Study: Trend Findings for Fundraising and Advocacy, May 8, 2014, Nonprofit Quarterly, by Aine Creedon

A fundraising icon is an image that captures the essence of your cause in the minds of your donors. It instantly reminds them what you do and why they care. It bypasses the chattering, rational left hemisphere of the brain and connects with the side that makes all the decisions -- the right hemisphere.
Finding and using a fundraising icon is the most important visual component of an effective nonprofit brand. Color palettes, font choices, and other design techniques are the window dressing of a visual brand. A fundraising icon is the heart. Learn more here.

The Visual Foundation of Your Nonprofit Brand, May 5, 2014, Future Fundraising Now, by Jeff Brooks

When it comes to relieving the effects of poverty, the work of Jewish charitable organizations has traditionally centered on the most vulnerable groups within the community. In central and eastern Europe, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) and World Jewish Relief (WJR) among others have provided and continue to provide assistance in terms of food, winter fuel, and medical care to children and the elderly, including survivors of the Holocaust. Click here to read about a new crisis that has befallen Europe: the crisis of food insecurity.

The Jewish Response to Food Insecurity, May 8, 2014, eJP, by Liam Hoare

Irv Katz, President/CEO of the National Human Services Assembly and Karen Key, Executive Vice President/COO wrote an article, Reframing Human Services:  How and Why, about the reframing human services effort for Policy & Practice, the most authoritative magazine in public human services, published by the Association of Public Human Services Association (APHSA).

The article clearly lays out the case for why reframing human service is necessary at this time, and it provides an overview of what the concept of framing. 


The design "Landscape of Loss, Memory and Survival" presented by Team Lord of Toronto has been selected for the future National Holocaust Monument, which will be located in Ottawa.Team Lord's submission was selected from among six finalists who were invited to present their design concepts to a jury of professionals and to the public as part of a national design competition. The future National Holocaust Monument will be prominently located in the core of Canada's Capital, at the corner of Wellington and Booth Streets. The monument site faces the iconic Canadian War Museum and will ensure the lessons of the Holocaust remain within the national consciousness. The official inauguration of the main elements of the monument is scheduled for fall 2015.

The Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) is proud to be joining with other leading international organizations as a participant in the Live Below the Line campaign, which challenges people to live on $1.50 for five days to raise awareness of extreme poverty and hunger around the world and to raise funds for organizations like HIAS. Along with helping to promote awareness about refugee issues, this campaign is also directly linked to our programs-in Chad alone, this year HIAS is distributing more than 8,730 tons of food to refugees from Darfur in the refugee camps where we work. Refugees, among the most vulnerable people in the world, must often deal with the impact of extreme poverty and hunger, in addition to all of the other trauma of their condition. 

A bipartisan group of more than 60 members of the House of Representatives is seeking to create a $5 million Holocaust Survivor Assistance Fund. The request was made in an April 4 letter to Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.), chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), ranking member of that committee. Continue reading here.

Bipartisan Group Seeks Fund for Survivors, April 9, 2014, Washington Jewish Week, by Suzanne Pollak


Holocaust Survivors from Maryland, along with Jewish Community Services in Baltimore and the Jewish Social Service Agency in Rockville met with Senator Ben Cardin to discuss the needs of the aging Survivor population. Kathy Greenlee, the Assistant Secretary of Aging at the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and Gloria Lawlah, the Secretary of the Maryland Department of Aging, also participated in the meeting, demonstrating the full support of the state and federal aging service programs. The Holocaust Survivors spoke about the importance of remaining socially connected to the community, and the importance of rental assistance and transportation services. They identified specific barriers with existing services, such as not being allowed to use taxi vouchers for doctor appointments outside the county borders. The Survivors were pleased to have their voices heard, and the government representatives were grateful for the opportunity to meet. They look forward to working with AJFCA to support the Holocaust Survivor Assistance Fund in the federal budget.

Very often when we have developed relationships with professional colleagues, volunteer leaders, or donors in the community we encounter a road block in our efforts to involve them more in our organizations. We find there are issues of competition among organizations, on one hand, and the person's desire to keep a low profile and not wanting to approach other people for donations, on the other hand. Whether we are communal professionals or volunteer leaders, how do we reach those who are already involved, but are reluctant to become more active and committed to the organizations we think are most important to the community?

Stretching the Limits of Involvement, March 19, eJP, by Stephen G. Donshik

Each donor experiences your organization differently-from her own vantage point, with his own personal lens. Each donor comes to your organization because of different events in his or her life, with a different perspective because of events in that life. Continue reading here.

Storytelling: For fundraising . . . and Life, Too, March 21, 2014, Nonprofit Quarterly, by Simone Joyaux 

Organizations with boards that are consistently effective attain that level of performance because their leaders heed three enduring principles.  Emphasize Engagement: to be truly effective, members of a nonprofit board must engage directly and deeply in the substantive work of their organization. Tend to the Top: one of the most important responsibilities of a nonprofit board involves hiring and evaluating an organization's CEO or executive director. Cultivate the Right Composition: what's the right mix of people for a nonprofit board? Perhaps the best answer to that question lies in the venerable idea of "the 3 W's": work, wisdom, and wealth. Continue reading here.

A Better Board Will Make You Better, Stanford Social Innovation Review, by Kim Jonker & William F. Meehan

Broad-and deep-engagement with community members is a fundamental building block of a successful community planning project. Authentic engagement is key because it makes all the difference to building stronger communities; it is a means to an end, and it is also an end in itself for the trust it builds, the ideas it sparks, and the new connections it creates. Read the ten tips here.

Top 10 Tips for Inclusive Engagement, March 11, 2014, Nonprofit Quarterly, by Betsy Rosenbluth

The Ruderman Family Foundation announced the launch of the third annual Ruderman Prize in Inclusion global competition. The Prize recognizes organizations who have demonstrated their commitment to the full inclusion of people with disabilities into the Jewish community through innovative programs and services. The $250,000 prize will be split equally by five organizations. Each year, the Ruderman Prize in Inclusion honors the programs and organizations around the world whose work best exemplifies the full inclusion of people with disabilities, celebrating them as inspiration and models which could be replicated elsewhere. Guidelines and a link to the application form for the awards are available here. Submissions are due by Monday April 7th and the winners will be announced in June.

Although the overall economy has been expanding slowly, the nonprofit sector is vibrant, according to a recent report in the New York Times. From 2001 to 2011, the Times reports that the number of nonprofits in the United States grew 25 percent, while the number of for-profit businesses rose by half a percent, quoting recent figures compiled by the Urban Institute. Read more here.

Nonprofit Growth Outpaces For-Profits in U.S., March 10, 2014, Nonprofit Quarterly, by Larry Kaplan 

The struggle to create effective content strategies for social networks either comes from not having enough time to devote to social media or not having enough content to post. Truth be told, most nonprofits have an overwhelming amount of content on their websites or other communication channels that can be easily repurposed for social. Read the 10 tips for managing your time and dealing with the problem of feeding your organization's social media beasts.

10 Tips for an Effective Nonprofit Content Strategy, February 14, 2014, NTEN, by Cody Damon

Volunteer Professional Community of Practice Calls

AJFCA is excited to announce that we will be providing quarterly Volunteer Professional Community of Practice calls for you all to share with one another and learn about topics of interest. 
The format will be as follows:
  • A volunteer professional from one of our member agencies will volunteer to speak a bit about their experience with a given topic.
  • We will then open up the call for all to share their experiences with the topic. For example, this time around - we'd love those who have been through the CVA process to share their experience - those who feel like you would never have the time to earn a CVA, speak up about the challenges that prevent you from doing so. Anyone with an opinion about how to make time for professional development in general - plan to share your experience.
  • Beri Schwitzer has volunteered to lead this first call - she will also act as the moderator to help facilitate the open conversation.
Volunteer Professional Community of Practice Conference Call
Thursday, March 27th, 2014 - 3 pm EST
CVA: I don't have time for that! 
Making Time for Professional Development
Beri Schwitzer, Director of Volunteer Services, JFS Dallas 
Conversation about what the CVA (Certified in Volunteer Administration) credential process involves and why you should make the time for professional development.
Please email Jennie if you have an idea for a topic you'd like covered, or you'd like to volunteer to lead a call. We are planning these calls based on your interests.

Forty-five percent of nonprofits plan to add jobs this year, about the same share that created new positions in 2013, finds a survey released today. As the economy continues to improve, nonprofits are not only adding jobs but are increasingly avoiding layoffs. Continue reading here.

Nearly Half of All Nonprofits Plan to Add Jobs; Few Predict Layoffs, March 10, 2014, The Chronicle of Philanthropy, by Nicole Lewis


When aligning your fundraising strategy, you focus on two major paths: donor retention and donor acquisition. These are the everyday struggles for any nonprofit. While projects emerge from passion and commitment towards a cause or purpose, finding the proper support to get you there and even further is a true quest based on determination and perseverance. Continue reading here.

Three Elements to Create a Powerful Communications Triangle, February 10, 2014, NTEN, by Laura Iancu

The Keshet Parent & Family Connection is composed of remarkable parents and family members of LGBTQ Jews across the country who are coming together to transform the Jewish community through peer support, public events, and advocating for change. We come from all streams of the Jewish world, have children of all genders and sexual orientations, and are driven by personal journeys of struggle and celebration. Learn more here.

With 2013 behind us, we encourage staffers to take a close look at your website and examine every single page for content, style, tone and layout. Think about the big questions first and ask yourself: is this page really necessary? What is the main message from this page? Is there a shorter, more effective way of saying it? It's a best practice to regularly maintain your website to keep it functioning optimally, much like a car. Click here to read the dirty dozen website mistakes.

The Dirty Dozen Website Mistakes, February 25, 2014, eJP, by Molly Ritvo



The professional Jewish community overflows with conferences. The pockets of time between major holidays are crammed with opportunities for learning, connection, case studies, best practices and keynote speeches. While they are worthwhile, informative, necessary and valuable, they are also an echo chamber. Continue reading here.

Go Outside: Expanding Your Professional Development Horizons, February 20, 2014 Written by Lisa Colton



The organized Jewish community is known for its impressive bipartisan clout when advocating issues relating to Israel. But when it comes to domestic affairs, the community suffers from a lopsided lack of leverage on the Republican side. Some Jewish activists believe that they may have found a pathway to the GOP side of the aisle. Read more here.

Jewish Immigration Advocates Push Eric Cantor To Support Broad Reforms, February 21, 2014, The Forward, by Nathan Guttman

Greg Cangialosi, CEO of MissionTix is a big fan of email marketing, and have been for a long time. Having run an ESP (Email Service Provider) for 10 years, I've had the opportunity to see the power of ROI that the email channel can deliver for marketers across many different industries. Albeit email is a nascent channel for marketing, it still, in 2014, is one of the most powerful mediums out there. It truly is the digital glue and the workhorse of online marketing. Learn more about how to optimize your email marketing campaigns here.

Email: Still The Digital Glue of Online Marketing, February 4, 2014, Mission Media, by Greg Cangialosi


Design thinking should become part of the toolkit of all Jewish organizations, especially in a climate of profound change, but it is particularly important for Jewish professionals charged with engagement work to master this skill. It will serve as a kind of course-corrector, keeping professionals accountable to and in touch with the needs of those they seek to serve. Continue reading here.
Design Thinking, February 23, 2014, eJP, by Rachel Cort


We all love it when a donor says "yes" and agrees to a gift. But this "big yes" is rarely the only yes you hear. Securing a gift is actually a series of "yeses." If you deliver pre-written pitches and presentations to donors you won't have much success. Fundraising effectiveness requires you to ditch the pitch and engage donors in improvised persuasive conversations. Read on here.

Fundraising Tip: Ditch the Pitch Habit #3 - Create a Series of "Yeses," February 3, 2014, eJP, by Steve Yastrow

A major challenge for the Jewish community is the fact that many professionals working to engage Millenials bring their own assumptions, norms and values to bear on experiences meant to engage the unengaged. The first competency recommended to these professionals is an understanding of disruptive innovation as an approach uniquely suited to taking on the challenge of engaging those who are currently not participating in Jewish life. Continue reading here.

Disruptive Innovation as a Framework, February 16, 2014, eJP, by Rachel Cort


In response to the escalating number of seniors struggling to put food on the table, MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger (MAZON) has launched a new initiative, in partnership with the Association of Jewish Family & Children’s Agencies (AJFCA), designed to help low-income, food-insecure seniors get the nutrition assistance they need. More specifically, Solutions to Senior Hunger™, which is generously funded by the Walmart Foundation, is designed to reduce the barriers that keep vulnerable seniors from enrolling in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Continue reading here.

Mazon Launches Project to Combat Senior Hunger, February 14, 2014, San Diego Jewish World, by Donald Harrison

Caregiving for loved ones, lobbying Congress to help those with disabilities and joining the United Nations' convention on rights for the disabled are some of the issues being discussed during Jewish Disability Awareness Month.
Sixty-five Jewish activists from 12 states and the District of Columbia lobbied Congress Feb. 6 during the fourth-annual Jewish Disability Advocacy Day, sponsored by the Jewish Federations of North America and the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. They urged their members of Congress to pass the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act and support the United States becoming a part of the United Nations' international disability treaty. Continue reading to learn more about AJFCA's involvement

Disability Activists Lobby Congress, February 12, 2014, Washington Jewish Week, by Suzanne Pollak

You're invited you to participate in the upcoming Jewish Community Day of Action for Health Care Coverage one week from today, on Tuesday, February 18th. The Day of Action is part of The White House, Office of Public Engagement's ongoing efforts to ensure that Americans have access to quality, affordable health coverage and to educate them about the current open enrollment period under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which closes on March 31st. Learn more here.

Inspiring Creativity in a Changing World

May 4-6, 2014 

Montreal, Quebec

Registration for the 2014 AJFCA & IAJVS Annual Conference will be available soon. For a glimpse at the schedule, speakers and other details, visit this page of our website.

In pay-for-success projects, donors, foundations, or other investors provide money for social programs that are expected to produce results that in the long run will save money for government agencies. If the programs achieve specific results, the government repays investors with a profit generated from those savings. If not, the government pays nothing.  The concept is being explored in more than a dozen states, but only a few programs are now under way.  Read more here.

Pay-for-Success Projects Spread to More States, January 28, 2014, Chronicle of Philanthropy, by Doug Donovan

To raise awareness about access to health coverage, the National Council of Jewish Women has declared a Jewish Community Day of Action on February 18.  Individuals and families across our country have just over 50 days left - until the March 31 deadline - to explore their options in the health insurance marketplace and to select coverage that works best for them, under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).  Please note that HHS has released the new 2014 Federal Poverty Levels, which will be used by states and the marketplace to determine a consumer's eligibility for Medicaid and CHIP.

All collaborations go through cycles.  To sustain the collaboration beyond the first journey through the cycle requires that participants constantly reassess the rationale and value proposition of the collaboration-to learn and affirm why they are committed to working with others.  We live in an age where instant gratification isn't nearly fast enough. Who is willing to work "several years" to develop the trusted relationships and capacity required to achieve collective impact? How do we create a several-year view when so many funders consider three years long-term? The disparity between time required and patience available is one reason why collaboration for collective impact is so elusive.  Read the full article to discover the three lessons the author has learned during his personal collective impact journey.

Rereading "Collective Impact", February 3, 2014, Stanford Social Innovation Review, by Chris Thompson

If you want your board to have substantive discussions, some say to throw some red meat on the table. There is plenty of it out there, and discussions of organizational direction should never be confined to strategic planning processes. So what if you chose some content from the many studies and public opinion polls available? Even if the last thing you want to do is to follow public opinion, it is useful to have conversations about those elements of your operating environment. Continue reading here.

Boards and Discussions of Public Opinion, January 3, 2014, Nonprofit Quarterly, by Jeanne Allen

Let's face it; most people look at fundraising solicitations and other forms of persuasion more as processes of telling and convincing than as processes of listening and observing.  This is not an effective way to raise money, because the odds that a preconceived pitch will be right for the donor you are trying to persuade, at the moment you are trying to persuade her, are about one in a billion. To ditch the pitch, we first need to shift from an output-driven to an input-driven mindset. Read more here.

Fundraising Tip: Ditch the Pitch Habit #1 - Think Input Before Output

Digital technology enables us to venture into a dialogue with donors and potential donors along loads of new interesting channels, but it does not allow us to abandon the old school fundraising methods or mediums - quite the contrary. Our digital fundraising must be firmly integrated to work. Digital media has changed and is continuing to change the way the world works, and we charities are going to have to follow suit.  Read the full article for a list of digital fundraising do's and don'ts.

Do's and Don'ts of Digital Fundraising, January 27, 2014, The Connected Cause, by Monika McMahon

The modern nonprofit has a laser-tight focus on making a difference through one specific lens. Forget the 30-second elevator pitch: the new breed of nonprofit can be summed up by the "Four S's" which will be helpful in this new era of social enterprise.  Click here to review the Four S's.

The 4 S's of the Modern Nonprofit, January 28, 2014, eJP, by Matthew Fieldman

The most predictable fact about Jewish communal life in the next generation is that the profile of future executives will differ from that of their predecessors. We can expect greater gender balance, a diversity of educational and prior career backgrounds and stronger Jewish experiences. While all without exception are for the better, new styles and backgrounds bring with them new challenges, trade-offs and potential pitfalls.  Continue reading here.

Suggestions for the Next Generation of Jewish CEO's, January 27, 2014, eJP, by Robert Hyfler, PhD


In an effort to assist organizations working with clients who are applying for health insurance coverage, CMS has posted several informational articles on their website offering guidance on commonly-asked questions.  For example, frequently asked questions on eligibility, the application process, and helping consumers apply are answered on the site.

To put it simply, assessment is one of the most effective ways to move your board and board leaders to the next level of performance. And if you're like most, that's something you want to do! Why conduct a board self-assessment? Are you wondering whether you should change your board's size or composition? Restructure your committees? Put term limits in place? Do you want to step up your board's engagement? Explore issues related to board/staff relations? Or determine how your board is performing in fundraising or other key areas of responsibility? Read more here.

Why Assess?, January 30, 2014, BoardSource

David Bowman, owner of Precise Edit and an experienced proposal writer, shares the characteristics of proposals that get noticed and funded. Some key elements include having a clear connection to grantor intentions, a clear connection to strategic plan and mission and firm leadership support. View the entire presentation here.

Tip of the Month, January 28, 2014, Foundation Center

It might be old news, but it's still true: Visuals trump text. Content with compelling images experience 94% more views on average than content without images.  Nonprofits can harness the power of visuals to help boost their online presence, generate an engaged social media following, and share information with supporters and donors. Here are 10 ways your nonprofit can leverage visuals online and off.

The Top 10 Ways Nonprofits Can Use Visuals, January 22, 2014, Network for Good, by Liz Ragland

As the nonprofit sector is asked to do more and more, nonprofits will no longer be a "nice to have" but an absolute essential component of any way forward. We will move squarely away from the idea of "charity" and toward an economy and a mindset that fully integrates the social. No longer sidelined as a small piece of the pie, the nonprofit sector will be recognized for the undeniable and pivotal role it plays in our economy, our institutions, our systems. As such, the nonprofit sector will stop apologizing for the resources it needs to do the job. The sector will rise up and take its rightful place as a critical force in shaping a sustainable future.  Read about more trends Nell anticipates in 2014 here.

5 Nonprofit Trends to Watch in 2014, December 17, 2013, Social Velocity, by Nell Edgington

AJFCA is pleased to announce the upcoming launch of the AJFCA - MAZON Solutions to Senior Hunger (SSH) Program.  Pursuant to this collaborative initiative, 13 AJFCA member agencies will receive a one-year grant of $25,000 for program costs and capacity building around the goal of increasing awareness of and access to SNAP benefits for seniors.  The participating agencies are: JFS Colorado, JFCS of the Suncoast, JFCS Jacksonville, Ruth & Norman Rales JFS Boca Raton, JFS MetroWest, New Jersey, JFS Atlantic & Cape May Counties, JFSA Cleveland, JFS Cincinnati, JFCS Pittsburgh, JFS Lehigh Valley, JFCS Philadelphia, JFS Dallas, and JFS Seattle.  The SSH Program will launch officially on February 10, 2014.

There is a growing movement in the Jewish community to include Jews with disabilities in all aspects of Jewish life, driven by the desires of families with children of all ages, people with disabilities themselves, professionals, advocates and private philanthropy. That's the good news. The bad news is that segregation in some cases is increasing, not decreasing. New segregated schools, housing complexes and other forms of segregation are still being developed as new ideas, as inclusion. They are not. Inclusion is part values and attitude, part law, part skillset and part funding. Values and attitudes are perhaps the most challenging thing to change of the four. To fully include people with disabilities, our communities must see them as valued participants. Not as recipients of Tzedek (justice), nor as part of Tikun Olam (healing the world), but as members of a community, valued for whatever contributions they make.  Continue reading here.

Inclusion in the Jewish Community, January 21, 2014, eJP, by Steven M. Eidelman

Organizations that live according to a clear set of values are far more likely to achieve grand and lofty missions and visions and sustain their success over the long run than organizations that do not. It is ironic that for a people so rich in values, few Jewish entities are truly value driven. How many organizations' staff, regardless of role, can clearly articulate the institutional values? How many of those organizations truly live by them in any objective manner? Part of the difficulty in discussing organizational values is that far too many assume a false choice. This binary way of thinking suggests that institutions must choose between expending resources on defining and living by core values, or achieving results associated with the mission of the entity. Read more here.

Creating and Maintaining a Value Driven Jewish Organization, January 21, 2014, eJP, by David Bernstein and Mike Lasday

Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) eligibility determinations grew throughout the end of 2013, especially in states that have chosen to expand coverage to more of their residents, according to a new CMS report released this week. According to the report, between October and December over 6.3 million individuals were determined eligible to enroll in Medicaid or CHIP through state agencies and through state-based Marketplaces. That includes 2.3 million people in December alone, an increase of over 20 percent from November. These numbers include both Medicaid and CHIP new eligibility determinations in states that expanded coverage, determinations made on prior law, and in some states, Medicaid renewals and groups not affected by the health care law. These numbers do not include medicaid eligibility determinations made through the Federally-facilitated Marketplace. Continue reading here.

Medicaid and CHIP Eligibility Determinations Rise in December, January 22, 2014

Nonprofit boards of directors are notoriously fundraising averse. There are often countless excuses nonprofit staff and their board members give about why some board members should be excused from fundraising. Some of the most popular excuses include: we want client representation on our board, but our clients don't have money; some board members aren't good at fundraising; we want board members with program expertise to focus on mission, not money; and some board members are uncomfortable with asking for money. Fundraising is hard.  But it is absolutely critical that the entire board of a nonprofit understand how fundamental money is to the work - without it, nothing else matters. And you simply cannot understand something that you only observe from afar. Continue reading here.

How to Move Your Nonprofit Board from Fundraising to Financing, January 7, 2014, Social Velocity, by Nell Edgington

If you didn't see the online fundraising results you were hoping for in 2013 or you'd like to do even better this year, Network for Good has a new tool that can help. The Donation Page Grader will help you assess your donation page so you can see if you're getting the most out of your online efforts. Click here to take this short quiz to get your donation page grade and suggested resources to help you take your online fundraising to the next level.

How Does Your Donation Page Stack Up?, January 15, 2104, Network for Good, by Caryn Stein

Last month was spent compiling and analyzing the answers from the 2,100+ nonprofit professionals who completed the annual communications trends survey. Now it's time to officially release the 2014 Nonprofit Communications Trends ReportClick here to see the infographic with key findings.

2014 Nonprofit Communications Trends Report, January 8, 2014, Nonprofit Marketing Guide.com, by Kivi Leroux Miller

Lapsed donors are donors who have not donated to your organization within the last year, two years or three years. Donors who have not sent you a gift in over three years are not lapsed donors -- they are former donors. Lapsed donors are valuable. Unlike strangers, they have supported you before. And they believe in your mission enough to have sent you a gift (or gifts). Click here to review some tips on writing an appeal letter that will win them back.

How to Write a Fundraising Letter That Wins Back Lapsed Donors, August 4, 2013, Network for Good; by Alan Sharpe

AVODAH's application is open for the Jewish Service Corps, a prestigious year long program combining work for justice, leadership development, Jewish learning, and community building. Learn about AVODAH  and how to spend the next year fighting poverty in one of four cities around the country.  Join a network of hundreds of Jewish social justice leaders that will challenge and support you!  Watch this video to learn more.  To apply, click here.  Application deadline is February 10th, 2014.

Supporting People Toward Citizenship, Relationships and Full Life in the Community
RESCHEDULED TO  Wed, Feb. 26, 2014, 1-2:30 pm ET
People who live with the label of disability often tend to have few relationships outside of paid staff. Supporting the creation of strong, lasting, unpaid relationships -- those that assure safety, provide natural supports and lead to quality of life -- has been a key part of the work of Neighbours, Inc. over the past 17 years.  Join us for a webinar featuring Patti Scott, Founder and CEO of Neighbours, Inc., to explore the strategies and approaches that have been successful for Neighbours, Inc. 
Patti will address the following issues:
  • Long term supports that enable individuals with disabilities to lead rich, self-directed lives
  • The importance of relationships and unpaid supports in enabling people to be self-directing
  • Strategies for developing relationships and meaningful connections
  • Creating "friendships on purpose" via circles of support
  • Organizational priorities and structures that enable us to focus on relationships, citizenship and natural supports
  • Offering families peace of mind by assuring there are people who will love their family member when they are no  longer here.
This call was rescheduled due to inclement weather.  
Please email Sandy Rosenbaum to register or re-register for the new date.  

Individuals with disabilities are everywhere in our communities. We, ourselves, may have been living with one for years or may be recently diagnosed. Our Jewish summer camps include more and more campers with disabilities. Our parents, siblings, spouses, and children have disabil
ities.  Inevitably, fortunately, and slowly but quite surely, those with disabilities are moving in to workplaces as well. Aside from financial necessities that jobs support, individuals obviously gather more than just money through work. People receive purpose, organization and routine, confidence, relationships, and a place in a community. Jobs allow people to face and overcome challenges, learn from others, learn about others, learn about ourselves, and provide positive feelings from successfully completed work. Imagine that a job can provide emotional, educational, and interpersonal experiences every day. Would we not want that for everyone? Continue reading here.

Workplaces For Everyone, January 14, 2014, eJP, by Micah Fleisig

This week, New Jersey agencies gathered for a program entitled
"Striving to Ensure the Golden Years Are Indeed Golden: How Jewish Family Services Organizations Support New Jersey's Elderly in their Communities," sponsored by the NJ Association of Mental Health and Addiction Agencies and the NJ Association of Jewish Family Service Agencies. Speakers described the challenges and opportunities Jewish social service agencies will face to assist the elderly and their caregivers. Lee Sherman, President and CEO of the Association of Jewish Family & Children's Agencies, noted that America's elderly population is swelling, and that the Jewish community is aging disproportionately.  Continue reading here.

New Jersey Family Agencies Discuss Cost of Aging: Program Stresses Need to Expand Services for Elderly Population, January 15, 2014, New Jersey Jewish News, by Michele Alperin

What Nonprofits Should Stop Doing in 2014: Advice From the Experts
Ignoring people who make medium-size gifts!  People who give $500 to $10,000 annually fall through the cracks at far too many char
ities. These donors often aren't big enough to attract the attention of maj
or-gift fundraisers. But because they give generously, nonprofits often take them off direct-mail and email lists out of fear of offending them with too many solicitations.
To do a better job, organizations need to give at least one person in the fundraising department responsibility for concentrating on those donors. The key is to pair substantive mail and electronic appeals with personal interaction. Continue reading here for more advice.

What Nonprofits Should Stop Doing in 2014: Advice From the Experts, December 20, 2013, Chronicle of Philanthropy, by Nicole Wallace

The key to progress is embedding measurement in practice. When you intervene in a complex system, you have difficult choices to make about where and how to act. We may be fans of impact measurement in the social sector, for example, but what if it ends up driving a kind of "marketization" of the sector that pushes charities toward the biggest bang for their buck? Those choices are almost always underdetermined-you can't know what will happen if you push here instead of pulling there. But if you're lucky, you'll be able to see how the system responds over time and refine your strategies accordingly. Read more here.

Raising the Bar on Nonprofit Impact Measurement, July 10, 2013, Stanford Social Innovation Review, by Tris Lumley

While many improvements to the application process have been made, CMS recognizes that some consumers continue to have difficulty with their applications on Healthcare.gov. They have posted a Tip Sheet on their Assisters Resource page to provide guidance on how to best assist those consumers who are experiencing continuing issues with tax credit eligibility determinations, completing their applications due to technical glitches, Medicaid or CHIP eligibility determinations, or selecting an insurance plan.

Helping Consumers with Casework: Tips for In-Person Enrollment Assisters, January 2014, CMS.

Many companies and many nonprofits know that something has changed. Too often, their response has been to repackage themselves and called it re-branding. It is as if they have adopted the old saw "fake it til you make it." For this group, calling a pre-existing program or project or offering by a new catchy with-it dot.com type title is all they have taken away from an era of rapid and deep change. Do people really believe that because a company or organization has a facebook page or twitter handle that it has changed the way it does things? Continue reading here.

Branding or Branded, January 8, 2014, eJP, by Richard Marker

A "shpiel," which is just a nice Jewish word for a sales pitch, is a very ineffective way to persuade someone to give money to a cause. Leave your shpiel at home. Nobody wants to hear a sales pitch. Do you? When was the last time hard sell worked on you?  When was the last time you enjoyed hearing someone's sales pitch? When was the last time someone "convinced" you to do something?  Your donors don't want to hear sales pitches. More importantly, they are usually not persuaded by sales pitches. If you deliver a sales pitch and walk away with a check, you have succeeded in spite of your pitch, not because of it.  Continue reading here to see why sales pitches don't work.

Fundraising Tip: Ditch the Pitch, January 13, 2014, eJP, by Steve Yastrow

Curious about how other nonprofits will communicate in 2014?  Want to see where the trends are?  Fill out the Request the 2014 Nonprofit Communications Trends Report form to request your copy of the 2014 Nonprofit Communications Trends Report. The trends you'll find in this report come from an online survey of over 2,100 nonprofits. A variety of marketing questions were presented such as: (1) do you feel you are currently overworked or under worked? (2) Which communications tools do you see as very important, somewhat important, and least important to you in 2013? Read more here the continuation of questions and highlights of the report.

2014 Nonprofit Communications Trends Report, NonProfit Marketing Guide.com, January 15, 2014, by Kivi Leroux Miller

We are pleased to announce that we have hired Liz Woodward to fill the newly-created position of Director of Older Adults & Disabilities Services. 

Liz will lead the development and implementation of the AJFCA Older Adult Initiative as well as AJFCA's efforts in the area of Disabilities Services.  

Liz will start with AJFCA on February 3.

Also, we have changed the title of Jennie Gates Beckman to more accurately reflect her responsibilities and the role of her work within the network. 

Effective immediately, Jennie's new title is Director of Volunteer Strategy & Repair the World Programming.

There are the matters of a body of content that a professional is responsible to study and master; essential work-related skills to acquire; research into the work practices commonly found in Jewish organizations; requirements for continuing education; certification for advanced training; a communally accepted code of conduct; and on it goes ... all of which are lacking or entirely absent from the standard employment qualifications and formal performance requirements.  With these inherent limitations, identifying the "top ten books list that all modern Jewish leaders should read" is something that cannot be contributed to with any degree of confidence.  Click here for the list of suggested reading for those who manage and lead Jewish organizations.

A "Must Read" List Is the Start of Something Bigger, January 2, 2014, eJP, by Chip Edelsberg

Nonprofits Need to Integrate Learning into their Work in 2014
The Chronicle recently published an article with expert advice on what nonprofits should start doing in 2014 (highlighted below in this newsletter).  If you look down the list of tactical advice and tips, there is a bigger pattern that emerges. Nonprofits should integrate learning into their work, program delivery, and communications.  As suggested, there are three different frameworks for doing this at work: Adding, Embedding, and Extracting.  Continue reading here.

Nonprofits Need to Integrate Learning into their Work in 2014, January 2, 2013, Beth's Blog, by Beth Kanter

Tis the season for resolutions to do better - both individually and organizationally. One such way we do that in the work world is to invest in professional development. Sometimes, w we are afraid that if we continue down our current path, without growing or changing or learning in some way, we might get hurt in the future, or we might not succeed in the future. Sometimes we invest in professional development simply for the sake of growth and learning, and increased likelihood of impact and success. Sometimes we invest in professional development when we are in crisis, and need help in order to survive. Continue reading here.

Deepening the Impact of Professional Development, January 7, 2014, eJP, by Maya Bernstein

This change will have important implications for all nonprofit recipients of, and applicants for, Federal grants and cooperative agreements.  In a statement, the National Council of Nonprofits summarized the significance of the new OMB guidance this way:

"The new guidance means that nonprofits should be able to focus more on their missions... charities with no government contracts or grants could see less competition for scarce philanthropic dollars. This is a major win for the entire charitable nonprofit community."

Read the Special Notice from the National Council of Nonprofits highlighting the main points of this federal guidance.


Keep an eye on the numbers! To improve performance, nonprofits should pick out key pieces of data from each of their departments and review them regularly at staff meetings.  Looking at important data regularly helps organizations stop making decisions based on hunches and identify potential problems early such as no one has registered for an event or look at how low those numbers are. Continue reading here.

What Nonprofits Should Start Doing in 2014: Advice From the Experts, December 31, 2013, The Chronicle of Philanthropy, by Nicole Wallace

Here are your Nonprofit Monthly Writing Prompts for February. Hopefully, these will help you think a little more creatively about your communications, and avoid the dreaded writer's block!  For the listing of monthly writing prompts, please click here.

Nonprofit Monthly Writing Prompts for February, January 8, 2014, Nonprofit Marketing Guide.com, by Kivi Leroux Miller

During the recession, while for-profit businesses struggled with decreased revenues causing significant downsizing, high unemployment rates, and record breaking home foreclosures, the nonprofit sector continued its pattern of growth, and actually thrived. One-third of revenue for public charities  501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations in 2011 came directly from government grants and contracts. The nonprofit sector is the third-largest workforce in the United States, behind retail and manufacturing, representing 10 percent of the total workforce in 2010. Public charities, the largest designation, contributed over $800 billion to the 2010 economy, making up 5 percent of the GDP and paying over $320 billion in wages. Continue reading here.

 Infographic: What is Driving Nonprofit Sector's Growth?, December 10, 2013, NonProfit Quarterly, by Jaclyn Lambert  


Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) eligibility determinations continue to grow in November, especially in states that have chosen to expand coverage to more of their residents, according to a new CMS report released today.  According to the report, over 1.7 million people have been determined eligible to enroll in Medicaid or CHIP in the month of November through state Medicaid and CHIP agencies and through State-based Marketplaces. CMS also finalized October eligibility determinations resulting in a change from 1.4 million to 2.1 million, bringing the total eligibility determinations in October and November to 3.9 million. These numbers include both Medicaid and CHIP renewals and new eligibility determinations in November.  For more information, Continue reading here.

Medicaid and CHIP Eligibility Determinations Continue Positive Growth in November


Based on site analytics, and in alphabetical order are eJP's Top Ten posts from 2013: (1) 40 Plus and Screwed: More on Less Young Adult Engagement; (2) Eight Giving Rituals for Your Family: Making the Most of Thanksgivukkah; and (3) From Pew Will Come Forth Torah: Judaism is in trouble in America. Continue reading here for the rest of the top 10 posts.

The Best of The Year: 2013, December 25, 2013, eJP

Juggling Work and Caregiving

A staggering 42 million Americans face the challenges of caring for a loved one while wor  king. Although caregiving can be a richly rewarding experience, the role comes with enormous responsibilities-and pressures. AARP's gentle guide provides practical resources and tips that are easy to find when you need them, whether you're caregiving day to day, planning for future needs or in the middle of a crisis. And equally important, this book helps you care for the caregiver-you. For a free download, please click here.

Juggling Work and Caregiving, October 2013, E-book, by Amy Goyer

There's no question that innovation is a sexier funding opportunity than implementation. And yet effective implementation is critical to the social sector's growing evidence-based movement. You need both to work to see results. Hence, a program proven to work in one place won't produce the same results in another if it is implemented poorly.  One solution to this problem is for funders to play a stronger role in the implementation process. Continue reading here to learn more about implementation.

Five Ways Funders Can Replicate What Works, December 16, 2013, Stamford Social Innovation Review, Laura Burkhauser

Network for Good is once again providing year-end giving data for The Chronicle of Philanthropy's 2013 Year-End Online Giving Tracker. You can use this resource to see how online giving is stacking up each day of December and to compare those numbers with the last few years.  To view the online tracker, please click here.

Track and compare year-end giving, December 17, 2013, Network for Good, by Caryn Stein

It has become increasingly obvious that the nonprofit sector suffers from a lack of confidence. Centuries of being sidelined as "charities" while the real work of the world (business) took center stage has made the nonprofit sector continually apologize for the work they do and how they do it.  Nowhere is this more true than in the financing of their work. But for the nonprofit sector to start to demand a seat at the big money table, nonprofits must stop apologizing for needing money. You can't simply decide to stop feeling bad about asking for money. Instead you have to find the confidence to identify and secure the right financing for your work. Please click here to find out how.

Nonprofits Must Stop Apologizing for Needing Money, December 2013, Social Velocity, by Neil Edgington

Starting a Movement Toward Higher Performing Nonprofits
This week, Social Solutions, Child Trend and the Urban Institute hosted the "After the Leap" Conference, building on the momentum created by Mario Morino in his 2011 book, Leap of Reason, and the companion book, Working Hard & Working Well, published by David Hunter t
social velocity

his year.  The conference was an attempt to bring the nonprofit, philanthropic and government leaders who are on the cutting edge of the movement to create a higher-performing social sector together to, as Mario put it "grow a critical mass who can mobilize for greater change." Continue reading Nell's impressions of this conference and the goals that emerged from it.

Starting a Movement Toward Higher Performing Nonprofits, December 18, 2013, Social Velocity, by Nell Edgington.

Five Tips for Building High-Performing Nonprofit Leadership Teams

Many nonprofit CEOs find themselves overwhelmed by the prospect of having to manage group dynamics amidst organizational needs.  A great team is the sum of all of its moving parts. Focusing on ways to build those parts outside of routine meetings will eventually lead to a group of people who look forward to working together and get things done. Click here for five suggestions for building a high-performing team.

Five Tips for Building High-Performing Nonprofit Leadership Teams, December 12, 2013, The Bridgespan Group, by Nicki Roth.

Nonprofit 911 webinar guest, Darian Rodriguez, is a big proponent of leveraging your organization's year-end momentum to boost individual giving. Promoting your cause on #GivingTuesday is a great start, but you can take this a step further by empowering donors to promote your work on their own all year long.  Continue reading here.

3 Ways to Help Donors Recruit Donors, November 26, 2013, Network for Good, by Liz Ragland

How to Create (Or Transform) an Organization: Top 10 List, December 12, 2013, eJewish Philanthropy, by Maya Bernstein

Dr. Anita Friedman, Executive Director of JFCS of San Francisco, the Peninsula, Marin and Sonoma Counties, was featured at UpStart's Executive Director Round Table series in 2009, and EJP loved the article summing up her points so much that they ran it again this week. The author shares how Dr. Friedman wowed participants with her Yoda-like wisdom - "Your greatest strength is also your greatest weakness," "I hated it so much that I decided to take it over," "It's the difference between a Sushi Restaurant and a Cold Dead Fish Restaurant" - and with her genuine passion and phenomenal knowledge about making organizations thrive.  Continue reading here for her top-ten list of essentials for creating, or transforming, an organization.

How to Create (Or Transform) an Organization: Top 10 List, December 12, 2013, eJewish Philanthropy, by Maya Bernstein


Carefully observe the leaders in your organization - the content they create and/or read shapes how they lead.    This is why the leaders who write well, speak well and read often are generally those who effectively lead.   Leaders gravitate towards content that fuels their know knowledge and provides them the insights and wisdom that keeps them on their toes and helps them better serve others. The most effective leaders are both "suppliers" of their own original content and "distributors" of other leaders' content.  Continue reading here for the top 10 leadership content themes.

The Content You Read Shapes How You Lead: Top 10 Leadership Themes, November 18, 2013, Forbes, by Glenn Llopis

"Flow", the state where we feel in command of what we do, do it effortlessly, and perform at our best, was discovered by researchers at the University of Chicago. They asked a wide range of people, "Tell us about a time you outdid yourself - you performed at your peak." No matter who answered - ballerinas, chess champs, surgeons - they all described the flow state. One of flow's best features: it feels great. Today we all realize that we do our best work in those special moments when we are in flow. But how do you get into flow in the first place? Continue reading here for the three main pathways.

How to Achieve a Flow State, November 18, 2013, Daniel Goleman

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has ten Regional Offices (ROs) which represent CMS in external affairs.  Need help finding your local CMS regional office and contact information? Visit: http://www.cms.gov/About-CMS/Agency-Information/RegionalOffices/RegionalMap.html.

PEPS logo AJFCA is pleased to announce PEPS Cohorts 3 and 4.  The agencies participating in these Cohorts, which will launch this spring, are listed below.  A total of 24 AJFCA member agencies will take advantage of this valuable member benefit in Year 1.  Participating agencies will use PEPS to evaluate the impact of their current programs as well as new program opportunities.  Each cohort will connect periodically to share their experiences in implementing PEPS at their agencies.  AJFCA is grateful to our partner JF&CS Atlanta for working with us to bring this valuable benefit to our members.  Stay tuned for an application process for Year 2 this summer.

Cohort 3: JFS Gulf Coast, FL, AJFCS West Palm Beach, JFCS Southwest Florida/Naples, JFS Detroit, JFS MetroWest, NJ, and JFS Dallas.   

Cohort 4: Agence Ometz/Montreal, JFCS Toronto, JCFS Winnipeg, JFS Delaware, JFS Ann Arbor, MI, and JFCS Long Beach, CA.

Executive directors often ask how to select the right candidate to serve as the chief development officer. The CEO (or his or her representative) should conduct a preliminary interview to verify specific information and get an initial impression of the candidate. For more information on the interview process, continue reading here.

Finding the Right Development Officer for Your Organization: Part 1, December 6, 2013, NonProfitQuarterly.org, by Simone Joyaux.


The Wexner Field Fellowship Program is an opportunity for promising full-time Jewish communal professionals, without graduate training for Jewish communal work or in Jewish studies, who are seeking professional development. In partnership with the Jim Joseph Foundation, three Wexner Field Fellows will be accepted as part of incoming classes of the Wexner Graduate Fellowship/Davidson Scholars Program. To learn more about the eligibility requirements and awards, and to submit a pre-application for the Field Fellowship, please click here.

Wexner Field Fellowship Program

Most people can identify effective leadership when they see it, interact with it, and work with it. We know how great leaders manage crisis situations or how they inspire greatness in their teams. The great debate on whether leaders are born or made actually doesn't matter at all -- it's not about how you acquired it, it's about how you act on it that defines leadership. Leaders have to continuously learn and adapt, which means redefining your personal style to help nurture talent or improve your bottom line. Continue reading here.

Investing in Leadership, November 22, 2013, Huffington Post, by Jose Costa

What is the board chair's role as an ex-officio member of all boboard sourceard committees? By serving on board committees as an ex-officio member, the board chair can ensure that there are good communication links between board committees and the board and that the work of all board committees is fully integrated into the whole. To lead effectively, the board chair must not only delegate some governance responsibilities to board committees, but also provide each respective board committee chair with the necessary support, encouragement, and guidance to ensure good accountability.  Continue reading here.  

Ask Our Consultants: The Board Chair's Role As Ex-Officio Member of  Board Committees, November 22, 2013, BoardSource, by Tony Scucci

In our desire for friendships and community, it's natural to categorize people from our closest friends to casual associations. For many nonprofit professionals, there is an additional category of friend
ejp full logoship that holds significant meaning. It is the professional friendships we have with our committee and board volunteers, frequently referred to as "my lay leaders." The lay-staff partnership is distinct and the benefits are numerous. Continue reading here.
In our desire for friendships and community, it's natural to categorize people from our closest friends to casual associations. For many nonprofit professionals, there is an additional category of friend
ejp full logoship that holds significant meaning. It is the professional friendships we have with our committee and board volunteers, frequently referred to as "my lay leaders." The lay-staff partnership is distinct and the benefits are numerous. Continue reading here.

Celebrating the Lay-Staff Relationship, November 21,2013, eJP, by Marci Mayer Eisen

A new report has been released that sheds more light on the motivation behind a donor's decision-making process. Reinforcing what we have previously learned, this report offers insights on donor preferences on information by type and presentation while offering tips for nonprofits, as well as donors. Continue reading here for the report highlights.

What Donors Want (And How To Give It To Them), November 22, 2013, Network for Good, by Caryn Stein

Focusing on the donor's needs and interests can be key to receiving a philanthropic gift. This is especially important to keep in mind during November and December when nonprofits often sponsor end-of
ejewish philanthropy-the-year campaigns. These campaigns are waged to appeal to donors' interest in receiving a tax benefit for contributions made at this time. However, if the cause does not resonate with the donor's interest, then the tax benefit may not be enough of a reason to give to the organization and the efforts to solicit funds will be wasted. The most successful approaches are those that engage donors by way of their priorities and not the agency's priorities.  Read more here.

It's All About the Donor, Not the Nonprofit, November 27, 2013, eJewish Philanthropy,  by Stephen G. Donshik

Repair the World is on a quest to find courageous, compassionate go-getters who are eager to commit to a year of service in their community, developing partnerships with local organizations doing great work and rallying local volunteers to do even more.
Repair the World Fellows will focus on a range of issues, including education, poverty, sustainability, hunger, and more.  The priority deadline to apply for the Repair the World Fellowship application is January 6, 2014.  Click here for more information.

Repair the World Accepting Applications for 2014 Fellows

Join Team Sharsheret for one of their exciting 2014 half-marathon or triathlon races in New York city to help support Jewish women and families facing breast cancer and ovarian cancer.  For more information on the race details and to join Team Sharsheret, please click here.

We Want You On Our Team!

Nonprofit taboos are so insidious because they are unwritten and unquestioned. But that has to stop. If we want to move the nonprofit sector forward, we must uncover certain taboos and determine whether they are really unacceptable anymore. For Nell's list of the five most egregious taboos in the nonprofit sector click here.

5 Taboos Nonprofits Must Get Over, November 19, 2013, Social Velocity, Nell Edgington

In 1990, Lou Adler discovered Stephen Covey's "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People" and was transformed. As a full-time recruiter, Adler quickly realized I could become a better recruiter and assessor of talent by looking for these habits in the people he presented for open jobs. By looking for Covey's seven habits as part of the fact-finding, it's easier to separate those who are a reasonable fit and those who are exceptional. Read more on how this strategy can be used for each of the seven habits.

"The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People": I Transformed Myself Into a Fact Finder, November 19, 2013, The Post, Lou Adler 

Next week is Thanksgivukkah, the rare convergence of the Hanukkah commemoration of reclaiming the freedom to worship and the American celebration of prosperity. The American Jewish community has much for which to be thankful and is, in large measure, extraordinarily successful in terms of income and educational attainment. As we celebrate freedom and prosperity, however, it is important to remember that there are many Jews who live on the economic edge, face substantial financial insecurity and do not have the means to fully engage in Jewish life. Continue reading the article here followed by Lee Sherman's posted comment.
Living on the Edge: Economic Vulnerability in the Jewish Community, November 20, 2013, eJP, by Fern Chertok and Daniel Parmer

If you help people with Original Medicare get certain durable medical equipment and supplies, such as oxygen, walkers, or wheelchairs, you should know about a Medicare program, called the Durable Medical Equipment, Prosthetics, Orthotics, and Supplies (DMEPOS) competitive bidding program, that saves money for taxpayers and people with Medicare and may change the suppliers people with Medicare will need to use.  Continue reading here.

Research done by the City of London demonstrated increased skills among volunteer leaders in categories including team building, negotiating, problem solving, and financial knowledge.
Boards require collaboration, and "leadership moments" may present themselves to charity trustees at earlier stages in their careers than they might in the corporate setting, allowing business professionals to gain confidence and try out new skills in a different environment.  Read more here.

The Skills Businesspeople Gain on Nonprofit Boards, November 18, 2013, Nonprofit Quarterly, by Eileen Cunniffe

One month ago, the Schusterman Philanthropic Network (SPN) launched #MakeItHappen, an online campaign inviting individuals to submit ideas for creating Jewish experiences in their communities for a chance to earn a micro grant.SPN is selecting up to 50 projects on a rolling basis to receive micro grants of up to $1,000 and five to get up to $5,000.The deadline to submit ideas is January 15, 2014.To learn more about this initiative, please click here.

#MakeItHappen: Ideas That Make The World Go Round, November 20, 2013, eJP

There are many good ideas to help nonprofits become more effective in solving complex social problems. They include capacity building, social enterprise, and public-private partnerships, just to name a few. But they are all just means to an end, and the more important issue is what does the end look like. It may be the most important question that usually doesn't get asked or answered: What is success?

A Simple Question but So Hard to Answer: What Is Success? November 13, 2013, Chronicle of Philanthropy, by Bill Shore

While having a strategic plan has become de rigueur for large nonprofit organizations and typical for smaller ones, how many examine the purpose of their strategy development before they jump in. Continue reading here.

Strategy, When It Isn't, Huffington Post, November 6, 2013, Irv Katz

In response to the interest of network professionals in the "industry standard" for compensation in the volunteer field, AJFCA has launched a volunteer professional compensation survey.

Many of the survey questions used were based on the 2012 Jewish Communal Professional Compensation Survey, a summary of which can be found in "Toward Transparency."  
Member agency volunteer professionals are encouraged to complete this survey by Friday, November 15th. 
A link to the survey and more information regarding AJFCA's Volunteer Initiative can be found here. Please contact Jennie Gates Beckman at 410-843-7449 with questions.

At Network for Good, it's the season for fundraising appeal reviews. As part of Fundraising Fundamentals premium training, Network for Good looks at year-end fundraising appeals for hundreds of nonprofits to help them be the best they can be for the busy giving season ahead. All too often, these appeals fall short of packing the emotional punch they need to have to spur donors to act. Read more here. 

What Your Year-End Appeal Is Missing, November 6, 2013, Network for Good, by Caryn Stein

There are many different methods for reflective learning after completing an event, communications strategy, or program. One of the most valuable is to incorporate a process evaluation, capturing what actually happened as the event or program unfolded. You can always learn from documenting as an event unfolds and having a formal reflection or debrief post program or event. It isn't just about writing it down, it is also reviewing what you captured with your team. Read more here.

Keep Calm and Write It Down: How Reflective Practice Leads To Better Results for Nonprofits, November 6, 2013, Beth's Blog, by Beth Kanter


Two thousand thirteen has been an inside/outside kind of year, a time of agonizing introspection for the Jewish community as a whole, and one in which individual American Jews played dramatic roles on the national stage. It was a year of thrilling gains and heartbreaking loss, a year when new words crept into our vocabulary, some welcome, others not. Continue reading here for the full list of the 2013 Forward 50.

The Forward 50: A Year of Looking In - and Speaking Out, November 10, 2013, The Jewish Daily Forward by Jane Eisner

It's a controversial topic, but Nell Edgington, President of Social Velocity strongly believes that every single nonprofit board member should contribute to the financial model of their organization. Watch a short video here.

Why Every Nonprofit Board Member Should Fundraise, October 30, 2013, Social Velocity, by Nell Edgington

It's no secret that it's getting tougher to break through the noise and ensure readers are opening and acting on your emails. Fortunately, there are things you can do to build a stronger email relationship with your supporters now so that you will have better success when you send those December appeals. Try these tips.

How to Get People to Notice (and Love) Your Emails, October 16, 2013, Network for Good, by Caryn Stein


In the nonprofit world, however, there is no common, easily understood measure of success. In fact, having a large positive bottom line may be an indicator that the organization is not doing as much as it could to fulfill its mission. The true measures of success for most nonprofits are statistics related to its programs, but such data are difficult even for management to obtain and understand, much less outsiders. Continue reading here.

Using Outcomes to Measure Nonprofit Success, October 22, 2013, NTEN, by Richard Larkin

On Wednesday, AJFCA applauded the Senate HELP Committee's approval of the reauthorization of the Older Americans Act, which is the primary vehicle for home and community services such as nutrition, transportation, caregiver assistance, and senior centers for vulnerable older adults. Due to the work of AJFCA and JFNA, this legislation includes reference to Holocaust survivors and the urgent need to help them age in place. Read more here

Deciding if an initiative-a project-should be undertaken means determining and evaluating the reason(s), justification, and objectives of the project.  Well-meaning board members and volunteers as well as employees with ideas aimed at assisting a nonprofit can also add challenges to ensuring the right projects are occurring at the right time. Continue reading here.

Determining the Right Project, October 14, 2013, NTEN, by Laura Dallas Burford

In the nonprofit world, however, there is no common, easily understood measure of success. In fact, having a large positive bottom line may be an indicator that the organization is not doing as much as it could to fulfill its mission. The true measures of success for most nonprofits are statistics related to its programs, but such data are difficult even for management to obtain and understand, much less outsiders. Continue reading here.

Using Outcomes to Measure Nonprofit Success, October 22, 2013, NTEN, by Richard Larkin

When it comes to leadership development, the CEO leads the way. Regardless of titles, the CEO is the chief talent officer. No one else can more effectively champion the cause, and efforts will make little headway if the CEO is unsupportive. But no CE  O can do it alone. To build the next generation of leaders, the CEO needs to influence the work and perspective of everyone else involved in the effort, most importantly senior leaders and the board. Take the Board Leadership Development Diagnostic Survey

Engage Senior Leaders, October 15, 2013, The Bridgespan Group

Working from a survey of 2,840 nonprofits, the Urban Institute published an analysis of 2011-2012 data that shows that over the last few years, nonprofits have been losing donors at a relatively fast rate. But the news is actually worse for smaller organizations because the numbers are, as might be expected, sensitive to size. Read more here.

Donor Retention a Growing Problem for Small Organizations, October 15, 2013, Nonprofit Quarterly, by Ruth McCambridge

Messaging is one of the first and most important tools nonprofit communicators need in their toolkits. Whether you're out to drive donations, inspire actions, attract volunteers, or recruit participants, it all starts with a clear understanding of what story you need to tell and how to tell it. Sounds easy enough, doesn't it? But when you spend your days working for a nonprofit, steeped in the complexity of your issue and the nuances of your approach, it can be almost impossible to boil all of that information up into a few simple ideas that really get your message across. Focus on the musts.

Need a Clearer Message? Focus on the Musts, October 16, 2013, Big Duck

Storytelling and growing your online reach is essential for nonprofits to expand awareness in this digital age. Launch Grow Joy has created an infographic that compiles some valuable tips on promoting online content and expanding your online reach. We are all well informed by now that social media is a huge driver in content traffic, but this graphic also touches upon several other important ways you can direct traffic to blog posts.

Infographic: Tips on Promoting Blogs for Content Creators, October 18, 2013, Nonprofit Quarterly

Slingshot has released Slingshot 2013-14 - its ninth annual guide to North America's top innovative Jewish organizations. The Guide, a go-to resource for volunteers, activists and donors looking for new opportunities and projects, will help ensure the Jewish community remains relevant and thriving. Continue reading here.

Introducing the Slingshot Class of 2013-2014, October 24, 2013, eJP

The most challenging aspect of financial resource development is planning a successful fundraising campaign, but we only know after the campaign ends whether it was worth the effort. The value of all the hard work and good intentions that went into preparing the materials, training the solicitors, advertising in the media, and telling people's personal stories is only known once we look at the campaign results.