Monday, February 28, 2005

So pumped up....

Back on the road again for the first time this year---house arrest for my broken ankle is finally lifted! I am so totally ready to get back doing training sessions.

Of course, I'm headed for Maryland, where they have closed schools today already, 4-6 inches of snow. Such fun to navigate that on crutches!

Perhaps a night at O'Hare? Perhaps a training day where no one but me shows up?

We'll see........

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Budget Impact Information

Most of you have probably already found out what, if anything, the proposed federal budget has in store for your area of service. That's good. What's better is to look at what's happening to everyone else. Why? Well, if your area has little or no cut in the proposed budget, and others are eliminated or cut back severely, expect some hard lobbying.

Here are some good places to look- a number of these offer thoughtful analyses, not just raw numbers.....





Get educated, and then get active!

Thursday, February 24, 2005

An issue of Dish and depression..

Current issue of the Chronicle of Philanthropy has been on my desk for a week. Read it today while waiting for my daughter. Slap, Slap, Slap. One long article after another about well known nonprofits in trouble. Habitat for Humanity, The National Conference of Community and Justice, The United Jewish Communities, and the Boy Scouts all come under scrutiny, and all for good (though widely varied) reasons. Add that to the recitation of federal tax cuts, and I was depressed by the time Caitlin got back in the car.

On the good news side of the equation, the Chronicle reported that we've donated over $745 million to Tsunami victims! Rock on...that's more than twice what the Bushies feel that they can spare from their crusades....

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Online resources---

Here's a quick resource, a listing of online newsletters and other great online stuff for nonprofits.

Thanks to the Volunteer Service and Resouce Project!

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Open Source - a list of applications

Last post, I turned you on to an article from TechSoup about open source software. I heard from a number of people that, while they love Firefox, they don't want to go all the way to establishing a new Operating System (OS) with Linux. Their question was: "How can I still use Windows and use open source?"

My immediate answer was: You already are. You're using Firefox with a Windows OS. How much did it cost you? Nothing. Same with other windows based applications that are free.

So, yesterday in the email comes the current issue of TechSoup's By the Cup, including an article on all kinds of Open Source Software for Windows. The article talks through the cautions about open source and includes a long list of applications that you might want to consider trying.

I think that this is a great option for many organizations. And, of course, you can download the software, try it, and then if you like it use it on all your computers.

Check it out. Open source is one area where you break the old rule: You get more than you pay for.

If you are still concerned about using free software, you can always make a donation! I do.

Finally, if standard software is still your thing, always buy from TechSoup. It is SOOOOOOO inexpensive. They have tons of good titles, and since they don't always have everything, check back to their website regularly.

Keep an open mind about open source.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Open Source and nonprofits

Great article in the most recent issue of TechSoup's By the Cup on "How Open Source can Open Doors for Nonprofits", written by two staff from the Nonprofit Open Source Initiative. Read the article, and start thinking about open source software as you upgrade

I've long been a supporter of open source software. It is SO amenable to our sector. Think Linux is for hackers only? Why do most servers now come with Linux? Why does IBM avidly promote it? Because, hmm, it works better, is more secure, is fixed regularly and has great worldwide support.

Another great example: The Firefox browser. Incredibly fast, 99.9% more secure than Internet Explorer (nothing is totally secure) with great features that are updated regularly. I've used Firefox since Christmas on my laptop and work computers and for the past three weeks on our family computer. I've run tests on speed, on adware and spyware blocking and popup blocking, and firefox wins, hands down. Like all open source, it's free. The installation takes about 2 minutes, and you can import all the important stuff (Favorites, cookies, settings) from IE.

Open source works--because its about community and about trust. That's really what nonprofits are about: community and trust. Pay attention to this great alternative. Use it as you can.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Read and's your future.

After the Senate Finance Committee developed a wide-ranging set of recommendations on changes in nonprofit law, the Independent Sector put together a broad-based panel to make recommendations to the Senate Committee on ways to improve the sector.

The Committee has made its initial report, which is available online for review and comment. Take the time to take a look, and speak out. These are really important, and will affect all of our futures.

Take the time to read, think, discuss in your organization, and comment.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Freedom of the press....

Got yet another call from a reporter.

I get these about once a month, sometimes more. Apparently they either find me online, or the Kellogg people sic them on me. MOST of the time, the reporters are looking into some either current or potential scandal in their community and want to know where the smoke and fire may be hiding. I listen, and usually look up the organization on line while we're talking, both on the org's website and Guidestar and, if the call is long enough, look up the paper and the reporter's articles on the subject (it's fun to investigate the investigator)

Nearly all of the time, the reporters are smart, pretty well informed about the issues, and seem pretty unbiased going in. What's depressing is what they are finding, and thinking about what the community is going to feel about nonprofits once the story is published. Abuses of power, sticky fingers in the till, conflict of interest, abuses of staff and clients; all of these glide over the phone line and into my ears.

The saddest questions are always these (in some form or other):

Are nonprofits generally more corrupt than for-profits?
What's the acceptable level of overhead for a nonprofit?
Shouldn't these organizations have conflict of interest policies?

Ouch. So much for the perception that charities are overwhelmingly acting in the public interest.

Aside: Each fall in my class at Kellogg, we have at least 3-4 students from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern. I always ask these students why they are in the class: "To learn more about nonprofits (good) and how to cover them intelligently (great) when they wind up having some public scandal (ouch, again)."

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

SROI - step by step

Got an email a couple of days ago asking for some help in calculating Social Return On Investment (SROI). I noted that a single SROI formula in nonprofits is kind of like the Unifying Theory in physics. It is everyone's wish to have one formula, and lots of people have ideas, but a single formula hasn't yet emerged.

That having been said, I knew that I really hadn't looked at the issue in about six months, so I set out to take a look at the current work. Found some good stuff, some bad stuff, some things that were too broad, some that were too narrow.

But I really liked the work done by the Center for Technology in Government in Albany. They have put together a step by step case for Return on Investment in Technology that includes a really excellent look at SROI as one of its appendices. It's simple, yet pretty complete.

Remember that SROI in some form or other is becoming more and more prevalent in funder thinking. They are asking (and now attempting to calculate) "Where can I get the most Good (G) for my investment (I) ?"

It's a question we need to be ready to both calculate and answer. This means we not only need to know the formula that is most realistic for our service(s), but also be able collect the data on a regular, reliable basis so that we have a statistical foundation to stand on.

I know that some still find it offensive (or overwhelmingly difficult) to try to measure good in dollars and sense or pounds and pence, but we live in the world we live in. Get ready.