Thursday, December 27, 2007

If a picture is worth.....

I've been telling audiences this past fall a lot about generation change and nonprofits, and about upgrading their websites to include video. Most boomers moan and don't even think about the idea, since they assume I'm talking about huge production cost. We (and by we, I mean boomers) were raised when a 5 minute video HAD to be professionally produced and cost thousands of dollars. And, we had to wear a tie....ugh. As an aside, a three-fold brochure also cost thousands to be professionally designed and printed--and we had to print 10,000 copies to make it "affordable." No wonder our marketing print material was old, out of date, and non-targeted....

But back to video. The bar on "good" video has changed, and YouTube changed it. If you haven't been there, go a take a look. Go to and search for, say, Charity, or Nonprofit. You'll see stories about nonprofits, video produced by nonprofits, etc.

And what you'll see is that the quality of the video varies widely. Which means that video posted on your website does not have to be 60 Minutes quality. It has to be reasonably good, but most important, it needs to tell a human story. For people under 30 (by which I mean the donors, volunteers, staff and board you want) video is the most compelling way to catch their eye and tell that story.

A couple of places to get help. First, YouTube has a nonprofit program to get you started. Go here to check it out.

Second, the Chronicle of Philanthropy has an article on nonprofits using video in all kinds of cool ways.

Still pics are great---video is better. Costs are down, and impact is high. Hmmmm. Sounds like a formula for success to me.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Mulling about legacies

At the end of the year, a lot of us review the past 12 months (think of all those holiday newsletters you get), read lists of "ten best" this of 2008, "best of" that for the year, etc. We get ready to set our goals/resolutions for the next year.

On a more mundane level, if we're on a calendar fiscal year, we also have to deal with work plans, budgets etc for the coming year. All of us as individuals think (at least briefly) about any tax planning we need to do before the end of the year.

All of this is pretty normal, customary; the usual.

But this year, I've been thinking a LOT about an email I got from someone I recently met in Florida. He sent out the copy of an obit whose last line was:

"He leaves behind approximately 6.5 billion people worldwide."

Funny, on first look, and certainly original. But it got me thinking about legacy, what we leave behind us, about how we help those who come after us do better, live better, be better than us.

Nowhere in our society is leaving that legacy more important than in the nonprofit sector. No one has more of the job of building better, fairer, more just communities, of educating, protecting, caring, healing, enthralling more than nonprofits. Its the core of what we do. Its mission.

And while most of us are justifiably concerned with helping here and now, what really happens if we foment effective change is not just improving things now, we improve them for the 6.5 billion others---and their children, and their grandchildren. So, should I change my idea of good stewardship? Should it be not only for today, for this year, this decade, but for beyond my lifetime? I think so, and I'm still sorting that out.

What do you think?

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

More on nonprofits and Social Networking

JoAnn Fritz, in her regular column on nonprofits has a great set of resources for anyone looking to expand their presence on the web beyond just a website.

includes help on blogs, social networks, etc. Definitely worth a read. And this time of the year, it's good to think a bit about what we plan to do next year.

For many nonprofits, 2008 needs to be the year they hitch a ride to Web 2.0.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Nonprofit Warning Signs

The December issue of The Mission-Based Management Newsletter came out early this month and I neglected to post about it. This month's topic is Signs of Organizational Trouble.

Here's the intro to the management tip:

"You wake up and feel lousy. Head hurts, throat is raw, no energy. Signs of a cold, or the flu. Not good.

You are going down the highway and up ahead all the brake lights are coming on and every vehicle is slowing down. Uh-oh.

For those of you who live in tornado country, it's blustery and the sky turns green....get to shelter, and right now.

All of these are signs of trouble, ones that we've learned to watch for and diagnose quickly. In the three cases above, if you take action quickly, you can prevent (in order) being sicker longer, having an accident, or getting badly hurt. But what about signs of trouble for your nonprofit? Wouldn't your staff and board like to have some early warning signs that would help prevent larger problems?

In this issue, we'll look at some signs of trouble that I've developed over my time as an exec, a board member and in 25 years of consulting. These come from my 2004 book Nonprofit Stewardship: A Better Way to Lead Your Mission-Based Organization. In the book, these are all listed in one chapter, but here, I'll break them down into management, tech and marketing categories to go along with the format of the newsletter. Let's start here with the management items on my list. Signs of trouble for a nonprofit include (in no particular order):"

Check it out, and remember you can look at past four years of past issues, by topic by scrolling down to the bottom of the newsletter. Also, you can sign up for the newsletter (it's free) by emailing

Saturday, December 15, 2007

At the speed of net.

Really interesting paper (thanks to Cheryl Taylor for the headsup) from University of Massachusetts Dartmouth's Center for Marketing Research entitled "Blogging for the Hearts of Donors: Largest US Charities Use Social Media". It's well worth the read.

The paper discusses the use of Web 2.0 applications in fundraising and community awareness work. From the promo page for the paper"

" This research proves conclusively that charitable organizations are outpacing the business world in their use of social media. Seventy-five percent of the charitable organizations studied are using some form of social media including blogs, podcasts, message boards, social networking, video blogging and wikis. More than a third of the organizations are blogging. Forty-six percent of those studied report social media is very important to their fundraising strategy."

Good reading for anyone who is thinking about NOT increasing their online presence.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Boomers ride in....

As regular readers know, part of generation change is that the Boomers are (and will continue to) come to nonprofits AFTER their first career, some as employees, some as volunteers. Business Week in the December 17 issue deals with this in a series of stories under their regular feature called "Second Careers" The two stories of the four in this issues set I liked the best were:
about picking the right board of directors to get on, and
about ways to work for nonprofits after your first career is done.

By the way, I see tons of this kind of transition going on, and it requires patience on both sides....there is usually a bit of culture clash!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Learning in Tampa

Had a great time in Tampa working with Achieve Management, The Children's Board of Hillsborough County and the Nonprofit Leadership Center of Tampa Bay. Their hard work had gathered around 150 people to discuss Generation change. Each participant got a copy of Generations, and they were a very interactive, fun group to work with. All in all a great day for me and, I hope, a useful one for them.

One interesting vignette from the day: in the early afternoon, we broke into 8-9 groups and discussed the one thing that the group was most vexed about or most critical regarding their nonprofit and generation change. After 40 minutes or so, the groups reported out. I expected at least 3 groups to talk about inter-generational conflict, a couple to talk about executive transition, perhaps 2 to report that the age of their board as their big problem.

I was so wrong. 9 groups; 9 different issues. I've been saying that generation change is a broad issue, but I keep learning how broad every time I go out and speak.

And, as always, I heard some new questions or new, critical twists on old ones. Here are a couple.

1. "You tell us to recruit younger board members in groups. But with a small board (18) and term limits there are years where only one or two slots may come open--and we have other skill set needs. What do I do?"

2. (From a GenX supervisor) "How do I get a Silent Generation staff employee who is totally tech-averse to buy into our our email-based reporting system?"

Both of these questions highlight very good hands-on applications of the generational shift. I gave both people a few suggestions, since I couldn't answer in any depth since I didn't know all the details.

The answer to the first question is, in brief, prioritization and balance. Which skills are more important to your organization-and I understand that Generational representation may not be the priority right now.

The answer to the second question (again, lacking a lot of specifics) seemed to me to be mentoring--having a younger staff peer assist the older one until she became adequately comfortable with the technology needed to do the job.

As always, when you teach, you learn. I learned a lot!