Friday, March 28, 2008

How Do You Make a Nonprofit Board Not Boring?

"On the importance of term limits for nonprofit board members:
'It's sad to think how many boards are just a couple of funerals away from greatness.'"
-Kelly Kleiman of The Nonprofiteer, Things We Wish We'd Said (Board Development division)
I've never been on a nonprofit board, but I've been in board meetings as a staff member. "Fun," "inspiring" and "efficient" aren't words I would use to describe them. I guess I'm not the only one. In a 2007 survey of over 5,000 Board Café readers, 52% said "most boards do a so-so job."

What are new models you've seen that work to create engaged, creative, effective boards whose meetings its members look forward to?

In's, Is Your Nonprofit Board Bored? Eight Ways to Keep Them Awake Joanne Fritz lists eight tips from The Jossey-Bass Handbook of Nonprofit Leadership and Management including:

• Set up periodic retreats away from the usual meeting site. When working with the Girl Scouts in St. Louis, we took the board members to one of our camps for an overnight. This allowed board members to bond and loosen up which favored good discussions.
Gayle Roberts of the Fundraising for Nonprofits blog compiled 30 Tips for Effective Nonprofit Board Leadership based on advice she received from her LinkedIn Network. A few tips that I particularly liked were:
• Find 15 minutes on the agenda of each board meeting to either reflect upon a big picture trend or to learn about an issue that affects the work of the nonprofit.

• Develop individual board member agreements that specify what each member will contribute and what they can expect in terms of support and opportunities.

• When chairing a meeting, find ways to draw in people who don’t always get a chance to speak or who are newer to the board.

• Weed out the people who have nothing better to do than to contribute through negativity or simply want something to put on their resume.
Nicole Notario-Risk, the author of Board Service Provides Growth Opportunities for Emerging Leaders, on the Johnson Center's NP2020 blog, enjoys being on a board and has used it as a professional development opportunity. The 27-year-old board president gives four reasons why you should join a nonprofit board:
• The opportunity to challenge yourself and develop specific skills.
• The ability to serve a mission closest to your heart.
• The chance to learn from a skilled Executive Director and/or staff.
• The opportunity to be a part of a great team and build relationships.
I'd love to hear your stories about how you keep your nonprofit board from being boring, and example of new models for board development and management.

Photo by me.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Do What You Can: National Week of Action for Darfur April 6-13

"[Y]ou don't necessarily have to solve a problem. You just have to take the steps that are available to you. . . . I focus on the fact that I don't have to solve it. I just have to do what I can. "

--Jerry Fowler, Executive Director of the Save Darfur Coalition, during an interview on the Voices on Genocide Prevention Podcast.

I don't have to solve the problem.

I just have to do what I can.

One of the reasons I think the issue of genocide in Darfur, and in other places, hasn't reached the mainstream consciousness, is that it is hard to find actions that make concerned citizens feel like they are having an impact. The genocide prevention movement hasn't found its equivalent of carbon offsets, hybrid cars and CFL light bulbs.

Perhaps they would gain a more mainstream constituency by acknowledging the overwhelming nature of the problem, and emphasizing in their messaging that you
just have to do what you can.

April 6-13, 2008 human rights groups like Genocide Intervention Network, STAND, Amnesty International, and Save Darfur are using the Global Week for Darfur to raise awareness about the continuing violence and need for action. The week provides a number of ways for you to do what you can.

April 6 Host a fundraiser house party for your favorite human rights organization with a viewing of Hotel Rwanda in memory of the Rwandan genocide's anniversary.

April 8 Watch the HBO special, The Greatest Silence: Rape in the Congo.

April 9 Attend a protest along the Olympic Torch relay route in San Francisco. Tell China to, "Extinguish the Flames of Genocide in Darfur." Check out Dave Eggers' recent Op -Ed in the New York Times, "Dropping the Torch" about the event.

April 10 Call President Bush at 1-800-GENOCIDE and ask the White House to keep its promise by implementing the Sudan Accountability and Divestment Act (SADA).

April 13 Join STAND, Amnesty International, GI-Net, and Save Darfur on the National Mall in Washington, DC for a rally at the White House on the Global Day for Darfur.

After the Global Week for Dafur has passed, you can continue to follow anti-genocide news, policy and campaigns on the ENOUGH Project's Report feed, and the STAND, Genocide Intervention Network, and Save Darfur blogs.

By writing this blog post, I am doing what I can. What can you do?

Friday, March 21, 2008

Notes from The Seven Things Everyone Wants: What Freud and Buddha Understood (and We're Forgetting) about Online Outreach

Think about the last time you did something for a cause. Maybe you gave them money. Maybe you did a walk. Maybe you signed a petition.

Why did you do it?

That's the question the Nonprofit Technology Conference session, "The Seven Things Everyone Wants: What Freud and Buddha Understood (and We're Forgetting) about Online Outreach," tried to answer. I thought I'd share some of my notes with you from the session.

Workshop leaders, Katya Andresen of Network for Good and the Non-profit Marketing Blog, and Mark Rovner of Sea Change Strategies and the Sea Change Strategies Blog believe that there are 7 Deep Human Needs that you need to remember when you are creating nonprofit campaigns.

Andresen noted, "No one here said, 'I gave or volunteered because of a tool,' like email or Twitter. You supported a cause because of how it made you feel." It's easy for nonprofits to forget who is on the receiving end of their messages. Effective campaigns always keep their audience's needs in mind.

According to Andresen and Rovner, the old marketing and fundraising playbooks don't work anymore. It is time to reinvent marketing and communications for a new era using The Seven Deep Human Needs.

Need 1: To be SEEN and HEARD

Does your home page make people feel heard? Not many people give money because they read a well word-smithed mission statement. Effective sites and campaigns provide space for people to express themselves. Nonprofits need to truly listen to their supporters and acknowledge what they are saying.

Not listening is the root of most problems, personal and professional.

* Teen Health Talk engages youth to talk about health issues rather than lectures at them.
* March for Women's Lives allowed people who couldn't march to post messages and stories on the March for Women's Lives' web site.
* Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation created a site for young people. As an after thought, they included a pen pal section where young people could connect with other young people who have diabetes. It is the most popular part of the site.
* Oxfam has used Flickr petitions successfully in several campaigns. Two of their staff members recently returned from Darfur and are putting together a video to raise awareness about it. They are collecting questions from supporters about Darfur to include in the video.
* The Environmental Defense Fund asked supporters to help them write a Declaration of New Patriotism.

Need 2: To be CONNECTED to someone or something

Engage people by connecting to what they (not you!) care about.

* BeliefNet has prayer circles where people can share prayers for specific people. On the example they showed, people of all religions posted prayers for a sick child.
* March of Dimes' Share Your Stories allows families of babies in the NICU to share stories.
* CarePages allow families and friends of people who are sick and hospitalized to share updates on patients' conditions and provides a place for people to send messages of support.
* National Resource Defense Council asked supporters to upload their photo and post about why they care about the environment.
* An Ocean Conservancy member created a Facebook Cause for the organization without telling them. On their own, the member recruited 2500 people to the Cause.

Need 3: To be part of something GREATER THAN THEMSELVES

Examples shows the cumulative effect of everyone changing their light bulbs to CFLs. It tracks the dollars saved, number of cars off the road, pounds of coal saved, and pounds of CO2 prevented based on the number of CFLs purchased at the moment.

Rovner said he has worked with many focus groups who feel like sends too many emails, and that they ask for money too often, but they don't unsubscribe because being a member makes them feel like they are a part of a larger progressive movement.

Frogs are one of the harbingers of global warming. (I guess that explains why I've been hearing frogs at night since February) Frogwatch USA is a monitoring program that facilitates people's collecting and sharing data about frogs in their area.

Need 4: To have HOPE for the future

Doom and gloom, and finger-wagging messages don't work.

Example of gloomy messaging
* The Ad Council's Don't Almost Give Campaign video on YouTube. One commenter wrote, "I hate these commercials."

Examples of hopeful messaging
* Earth: The Sequel has been up for 2 weeks and has received 15,000 views.
* Save the Children's homepage uses mostly photos of healthy, rather than sick, children.
* The Mix It Up campaign encourages young people to cross "social boundaries" and sit with someone new at lunch.
* The Yes We Can Obama video.

Need 5: The security of TRUST

People are starved for a sense of trust in "the messenger." The book, The Geography of Bliss discovered that one of the common factors among people in "happy countries" is a sense of trust.

76% of givers say they are influenced by friends and family.
SixDegrees allows people to create widgets that feature a photo of themselves and 150 characters of text about why they support a particular cause.

The Packard Kid Connection site helps kids get ready to go to the hospital. It builds trust because it looks like Club Penguin (Club Penguin is a social network for children), and it has videos of children explaining how things work at the hospital.

Need 6: To be of SERVICE

The #1 reason people stop giving to a nonprofit is that they feel like they are being treated like an ATM machine. They want to help, but they want to be of service, and to have different ways of serving. That need is not being fulfilled if all they hear is the unimaginative drumbeat of dollars.

Need 7: To want HAPPINESS for self and others

The core of Buddhism is that everyone wants happiness and to be free from suffering. The more you want happiness for others, the better it is for you, and them.

For more information about, "The Seven Things Everyone Wants: What Freud and Buddha Understood (and We're Forgetting) about Online Outreach," contact Katya
Andresen at katya.andresen[at]networkforgood[dot]org and Mark Rovner at mark.rovner[at]seachangestrategies[dot]com

Photo by me.

Friday, March 14, 2008

I Want to Be a Grassroots Philanthropist!

Bill Somerville makes the search for innovative funding opportunities sound like an Indiana Jones adventure. Although his book, Grassroots Philanthropy: Field Notes of a Maverick Grantmaker (which he wrote with Fred Setterberg), was written for foundations and other grantmaking institutions, I found it personally inspiring. Between the book, and Oprah's Big Give, I am ready to go on a philanthropic adventure!

I've never worked for a foundation, but I've witnessed the time-consuming grant application process, tortuously long wait to hear if you've been funded, and the equally time-consuming report writing that needs to be done after the grant is received.

Somerville, who is the Founder and President of the Philanthropic Ventures Foundation, offers five principles for reforming philanthropy:

#1 Locate outstanding people doing outstanding work.

Somerville recommends that grantmakers spend at least 30% of their work-week in the field looking for, and meeting with people who are working to make the world a better place:
"Without good people, great ideas rate merely as words. Management plans, organizational charts, even bulging bank accounts--none of these guarantee success. People run programs, for good or ill, and the quality of their skills and commitment inexorably shape the results."
#2 Move quickly (and shred paper)

The coolest example of this principle at work is the Philanthropic Ventures Foundation's "fax grants." They sent a one-page flier out to all of the Bay Area's teachers offering the opportunity to fax in a request for up to $500 for a field trip, school supplies, etc. The teachers with the best ideas were mailed checks within 24 hours. The Foundation has given out $3.5 million in fax grants to teachers, social workers and other youth workers.

#3 Embrace risk

One of my favorite stories in this section was about the Foundation's discretionary grants to juvenile court judges. The judges were given the power to dispense funds to help young people who were passing through the system with things like school clothes, books, musical instruments, glasses, summer camp fees, etc. Somerville reports that the program not only helped the young people, it raised the morale of the justice system staff.

#4 Focus on ideas instead of problems

Somerville feels that, "philanthropy's orientation towards problems disrupts our timing, fatally. We don't take action until a problem bubbles up into crisis."

The Philanthropic Ventures Foundation started a Day Off Program based on a donor's observation that low-income women deserve a day off, just like everyone else. The Foundation asked school principals, social workers and clergy to nominate low-income women who particularly deserved a day off. The chosen women were given $200 with instructions to use it to, "rejuvenate her mind, body and soul." The program expanded to include teachers and unpaid caregivers for disabled and chronically ill family members.

One program participant wrote, "This is the first time anyone has ever given me anything."

#5 Take initiative

Somerville recommends that grantmakers search for people who are doing outstanding work, take funding risks, and "journey outside our own comfort zones."

As I mentioned, I've only been on the nonprofit side of the grantmaking process, and perhaps there are more foundations and philanthropists living by these ideas than I've experienced, but personally, this book turned my ideas about grantmaking around. I was also inspired by the stories where small donations made a difference.

I will continue to donate to nonprofits who are working towards causes I care about, but I'd like to try being more of a grassroots philanthropy adventurer and keep my eye out for outstanding people who are focused on ideas rather than problems, and give them a donation, even if their idea is risky--maybe straight out of my pocket.

Here are some other bloggers' review of the book:
* How Foundations Can Assist Grassroots Movements Even Better . . . by Arlene Spencer of Seeking Grant Money Today.
* Grassroots Philanthropy by Bill Somerville and Fred Setterberg by Phil Cubeta of Gift Hub.
* Intuition or Prejudice? by Kelly of The Nonprofiteer.

Full disclosure: I was sent a review copy of Grassroots Philanthropy.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Tips for Adopting a Pet from a Shelter

We adopted a kitty! With the help of Petfinder and Maine Coon Adoptions (a division of the nonprofit, SAFE), we finally found our perfect pet pal (left). She was a stray that was picked up by the City of Oakdale.

According to Pets 90210, an estimated 8 to 12 million animals are entered into U.S. shelters each year, and an estimated 4 to 6 million are euthanized by shelters because homes are not available.

Do you have room in your home for a homeless pet? Tip Diva offers things to do, and consider before adopting a pet in her, Top Ten Tips-Getting a New Pet:

* Determine your situation (i.e. where you live, who you live with, budget, etc.).
* Research the type of pet you think you want.
* Consider how the pets you already have will handle a new pet.
* Ask pet owners about their experience.
* Get some experience (i.e. pet-sit).
* Have pet resources (i.e. a vet).
* Understand your adoption options.
* Be ready before the pet arrives.
* Give the pet time to adapt.
* Give yourself time to adapt.

SocialPacks offers 5 factors to consider when selecting a pet in her post, Animal Friends: 5 Simple Tips to Choose a Pet.

1. Its relationship with future pets.
2. Its relationship with your children now, or in the future.
3. Your living space and lifestyle.
4. The animal's origin. Find out from the shelter why the pet was abandoned.
5. Breeds. Research the different kinds to understand their different personalities.

Finally, Pet Connection recommends being open to adopting pets of all shades and colors. In their post, Dog Discrimination: Why Ignore a Pet Because of It's Color?, they quote an article that says shelters have more trouble getting people to adopt animals with black coats.

Adopting a pet can save an animal's life, and it can be good for your health too. Kitty's Kitty Blog post, The Significance of Cats, includes an article about a 10-year study of 4300 Americans that found that, "a cat at home could cut your heart attack risk by almost a third."

We've only had our kitty for a few days, but I wish we hadn't waited so long to find her. We took her the vet today and she seemed pretty comfy around all the dogs there; maybe there is a canine pet pal in our future!

I'm a Featured Changemaker on This Week!

I was honored and surprised to discover that I've been named's Featured Changemaker for the week of March 10-16! is a social network for social changemakers and activists:

" aims to transform social activism by serving as the central platform that connects likeminded people, whatever their interests, and enables them to exchange information, share ideas, and collectively act to address the issues they care about. "
They are going to be launching a social action blog network in the summer of 2008, and are looking for a Managing Editor. If that sounds fun to you, or you know someone who would be a good fit, check out the job description on

Friday, March 07, 2008

Where Can I Find Nonprofit Blogs?

" has the potential to change the world the most."--Interview with Guy Kawasaki on
As a nonprofit consultant, I am often asked, "Where can I find nonprofit-related blogs ?" I usually direct people to places like Emily Weinberg's Nonprofit Blog Exchange, or BlogHer's Social Change and Nonprofit blog list. Now I have a new resource to send folks to,

Alltop is a site that aggregates news and blog feeds by topic from “all the top” sites on the web. Topics include: autos, career, celebrities, cute, design, egos, fashion, food, gadgets, gaming, green, health, humor, journalism, mac, moms, music, news, nonprofit, oddities, photography, politics, popurls, religion, science, small business, social media, sports, twitterati, venture capital and windows.

The site is the brainchild of Nononina (Will Mayall, Kathryn Henkens and Guy Kawasaki). Nedra Weinreich of Spare Change worked with Alltop to figure out what nonprofit news and blog feeds should be included (thanks for including Have Fun * Do Good and NetSquared!).

Give the nonprofit and green sections a browse. You may be surprised by what you find as Roger Carr of Everyday Giving Blog observed after using the site,

"I was aware of most of the nonprofit blogs featured on the site. However, I discovered a few I wasn't aware of or hadn't visited in a while. The service provides a quick way to find the stories of interest."
You can send suggestions for blog or news feeds that should be included in any of the categories to

Join the Have Fun * Do Good Facebook Group

Hello Have Fun * Do Gooders!

One of the reasons I write Have Fun * Do Good, and produce the Big Vision Podcast is to share solution-oriented stories that might inspire a reader, or listener to take an action that contributes to making the world a better place (:

Everyone can make a difference on her or his own, but when you work with other people, you can create an even greater impact. You may have already connected with other Have Fun * Do Good readers in the blog's comments, or through the Have Fun * Do Good MyBlogLog community. Today I've set up a Have Fun * Do Good Facebook Group so that you can connect on that platform as well.

If you have ideas for other ways that you'd like to connect with Have Fun * Do Gooders online and offline, let me know!