Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Vote, Vote, Vote

No, not three times. Even though I live in Illinois, land of the voting-dead, I'm only going to vote once.

But I AM going to vote........PLEASE make sure that your employees, volunteers, and their families both remember to vote and have the time and access to do so. TODAY would be a great day to send out an all-organization email reminding them. Do it again next Monday, and certainly post signs at your entrances, and lunchroom/break areas reminding people to vote. If your state/county has early voting, get them to go sooner rather than later.

Remember, you can't have signs or literature supporting ANY candidates visible, or on people (such as buttons, t-shirts) but you CAN and SHOULD encourage them to get out and vote. And not just for President. Make sure they cast ballots in other elections as well.

This election is CRUCIAL for nonprofits. Don't miss th boat.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Nifty NFTE

Last night at my class at Kellogg, we used a case study about an amazing organization called the National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship, or NFTE. David Nelson, the COO taught the students about NFTE's experience with strategic planning, organizational focus, and reworking mission statements, all to the benefit of the young people NFTE serves. It was wonderful and sobering.

NFTE, the brainchild of entrepreneur Steve Mariotti, has been well covered in the general press, as well as the focus of two Harvard Business School case studies. The concept is that, through teaching business skills to low income high school students, you can focus the students on something that interests them while at the same time making them use reading, writing and math skills.

And it works. In addition to using various models to spread the program, NFTE has engaged top flight academic institutions to measure its impact. And it works. The early results show that NFTE graduates have more interest in reading, more interest in math than their non-NFTE peers. That's huge.

The concept was great. The implementation, at least in the early years, was sporadic. But NFTE, through the application of good business skills, has turned on the afterburners, and is reaching more youth than ever.

I love it.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

A breather....

The Senate Finance Commitee has asked Independent Sector to develop a group to advise the Senate on it's proposed legislation to deal with nonprofit abuses. This is at least a breather, and potentially a great piece of news, depending on who IS gets on its committee, of course.

The second look will result in no action this year, and thus the next congress can take it up with a little more time for reasonable (I hope) consideration.

You should also look at IS's original response to the Senate.

I hope you will keep track of IS's progress and pay attention to the Finance Committe's actions. They will certainly affect all of our future. You can make comments as well....directly to the group.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Abundant loneliness

I was in our local Sam's Club with my wife Friday night. It's a trip I don't take often, out of consideration for my sanity. The place is too big, with too many choices, too much stuff. Too much abundance; makes me feel guilty, somehow.

I am the primary cook in our house, which also makes me the primary grocery shopper. Here, too, I am assaulted with far too many options. How many different kinds of yogurt, choices of cereal, or selections of barbecue sauce does one nation really need?

It occurred to me a few years ago that ten people could walk into my grocery store, al with exactly the same grocery list: Apples, bagels, diet cola, cheese, coffee, hamburger, toilet bowl cleaner, and ice cream. It is more than possible that none of the ten would walk out with any single product in common. What about hamburger, you say? Well, you can get it in 6 different varieties (ground sirloin, chuck, etc.) and in patty form or tube form, or frozen or fresh......and that's simple, compared to the yogurt section, or the salsa choices.

Where I'm going with this is that it is a symptom of our culture where everyone can have everything just as they want it right now. Remember the old Burger King ad, "Have it your way, at Burger King?" I see it everywhere. At my gym, no one talks any more. They are plugged into their IPod's, listening to exactly the mix of songs they want---the heck with the entire CD. OR they are plugged in to the TV attached to their cardio machine watching whatever show they want...heaven forbid we should all have to watch the news, or Oprah, or a football game together.

With 1 gazillion channels, we can watch or listen to just who we want to, and worse, just who we agree with or who makes us comfortable.

And here's the secret.....if we all do our own thing, we do less and less together, we have fewer and fewer common experiences......and lose a bit of understanding of how other people act, think, believe, and feel.

Too many choices can isolate. Isolation can turn into iconoclasty, less willingness to listen, much less compromise.

I dunno. It just worries me.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

E-commerce for nonprofits

You know I have been talking a lot about nonprofits having a better net presence, particularly in being able to accept donations online, and having more information on every website. And, I'm a huge believer in business development for nonprofits -- even wrote a book about it, Social Entrepreneurship, a few years back.

Now the crossover of tech and business for nonprofits shows up in a really interesting set of case studies from the Benton Foundation called "E-Commerce and Nonprofits: Three Case Studies" .

Worth a look, for sure.

Monday, October 18, 2004

Google's free nonprofit site search offer....

Our friends at Google (full disclosure: I use Google Adwords) have developed a free search tool to add to your website. It can either search your site, or your site and the web, depending on how you set it up. It's free, too! This is a good add-on to your site, particularly if you have a large and regularly changing site.

The program is called "Public Service Search" and the FAQ page is great. Check it out!

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Home again...

Writing from home for the first time in....far too long. In the past 30 days, I've been in New Hampshire, Houston, central Missouri, Evanston IL , Sacramento, Lake Tahoe, St. Louis, Atlantic City, Seattle, Couer d'Alene, Denver, and San Antonio. Now I have 10 days here...nice to sleep in my own bed.

I met and worked with some terrific people, and renewed friendships with many others. As always, I am struck by the diversity of the work that nonprofits do, the energy and enthusiasm that staff and volunteers bring to their work, and the incredible benefits that accrue to our society as a result.

Small notes from the road.....

Did you know that all of the Army's new uniforms are being made by nonprofits that employ people with disabilities?

Or that document shredding is now a $1.5 billion industry? (this work is also done by people with disabilities both for the government and private sector firms.

Or that 400 lb. people shouldn't be allowed to sit in the middle seat of a three seat airliner row, particularly if they haven't bathed for at least a week?

Or that a Boeing 737 can fly with an access panel the size of a dessert plate missing from the top of its port (left) engine? (last night's flight from San Antonio to Chicago)

Or that all the taxi drivers I had on my trips are voting for Bush? (I ask everyone - this includes on driver born in Iran, two in Iraq, and all three from Africa) If the "cabbie" vote is crucial, the Bushies can relax.

Going to my daughter's high school's homecoming football game today. How All-American is that?

Friday, October 15, 2004

Compassionate Conservatism?


Tax breaks for big (and already profitable) corporations funded by reduced benefit from donating to charity.

Sound compassionate to you? Me neither.

Tucked away in the American Jobs Creation Act (a corporate tax giveaway that was passed by Congress last week) is a provision to radically change/reduce the tax deduction benefit of giving your car to charity. This will generate $2.4 billion for the federal government over the next 10 years.

That's a good thing, right? After all, someone has to pay for the tax breaks to already profitable corporations, right? Why not Goodwill ($12 million a year from donated vehicles) and Volunteers of America ($10 million) and the other 4,300 charities that accept donations? I mean, these charities already have lots of money-- doesn't the federal government already fully fund their communities' needs? Or will corporate benefits result in less food for the hungry, shelter for the homeless?

Well, who cares? After all, there's a war on! Oh, I forgot, the SAME corporations benefit from that, too.

Makes me ill.

News coverage.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Accessibility news from Idaho

Well, the news isn't from Idaho, but that's where I am. I'm attending a conference of execs of nonprofits that increase employment of people with disabilities. I was sitting in a briefing from the national CEO this morning and amazed/depressed yet again with how many issues these execs have to wrestle with, including a bunch that have been dealt with in earlier posts here.

There's the war (it effects the jobs these people find--both increasing and decreasing), a WHOLE bunch of legislative issues and hoops, Sarbanes-Oxley, the Senate Finance Committee report, etc. Dealing with all this stuff is important, but it all distracts from mission-provision at some level. Blah.

Anyway, while I was being bummed about all of that, I remembered that I had been meaning to track down some good resources for accessibility tools for websites. And what happens? This week's TechSoup "By the Cup" shows up with just that.

Here's the material cut and pasted directly from "By the Cup", which I strongly urge you to subscribe to--it's free!

DO-IT Accessible Web Design
The University of Washington's DO-IT program has put together
this list of links that includes information on accessible Web
design, and publications and videos that can help you build
accessible sites. This site is a good reference for usability
testing too. This collection of useful links is helpful for
being a Web site that is accessible to everyone, including those
who have disabilities.

What's more, this week's soup recipe looks yummy.......

Monday, October 11, 2004


Thoughts from my drive from Seattle to Couer d'Alene today:

1. Driving long, easy drives (little traffic, no real deadlines) through new territory is good for the head and the heart. It gives me time to think, and to remember how much of the world I haven't seen---and thus how small my perspective really is. All day I wanted to stop in the small towns I passed and ask people what they thought of charities, or the war, or the economy. Reminds me to keep asking and keep listening.

2. The Cascades are too pretty to describe.

3. Eastern Washington State is as different in terms of biome from Seattle as Antartica is from Florida (this I had been told, but had never seen).

4. I'm glad that when this gig in Idaho is over, and I get done in San Antonio Thursday and Friday, I get to go home for a couple of weeks.

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Fish for thought.....

Yesterday, I was in the Pike Place Market in Seattle, at the fish stall that inspired "FISH" , the top selling management book. Watching the fish guys wrap an entire crowd around their fingers WAS fun, WAS a good experience, WAS a choice that the fish guys made.

And, of course, that enthusiasm spreads to other stalls up and down the market. The Vegetable guy snapped every paper bag open dramatically as he helped each customer, and engaged in gentle joking with his fellow vendors. The flower stalls were full of fun, with the sellers telling people how good they would look with a beautiful bouquet.

(By the way, if you haven't been there and you like flowers --- have to go if you are ever in the area...the most incredible flowers ever for the lowest price imaginable)

But, back to the point, good attitude and fun is spreads. The fish sellers have a smelly, cold, blah job. They sell fish. They've turned it into a fun, community event. A tourist attraction for heaven's sake. And their attitude has made this entire market a more engaging place for everyone.

See what a little smile can start?

Friday, October 08, 2004

A cheaper way to take credit cards

Michelle Johnston, from the Center for Civic Partnerships in Sacramento gave me a headsup on this one from the current issue of TechSoup's "By the Cup", which I get but hadn't read.

If you want to accept credit cards for donations (as I have been urging here and elsewhere) Techsoup has some real deals for you on the credit card machines, the receipt printer, etc. This was made possible by a donation from Verifone.

Here's the skinny:
For detailed information on this offering, visit:

Learn more on the benefits of credit card processing to
nonprofits from NPC and Verifone:

Read "Online Donations: Sorting Out the Chaos":

And a big shout-out to Michelle for the info!

Off to the left coast to see Ben in Seattle, then to Idaho and Houston to do training. Home in a week...for nearly two weeks straight. Sounds wonderful.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Back from the city of the dead

Just spent two days in Atlantic City, doing training. Talk about a walk in the past. No access to the net at the hotel (the Sands; NEVER go there), incredibly tacky, old, decor---put it this way---in most hotels, I walk around barefoot in my room, even down the hall to get ice.....not there.

I did get one reminder about a great resource for you. First, the group that I taught on business development was great--always fun to work with good people. Two or three have already used TechSoup, and two others raved about an "old"resource that I was reminded about " For nonprofits, Xerox will send you a high end printer for free--as long as you buy your printer ink cartridges from them.

These organizations have cut their printing costs and expanded their marketing materials dramatically because of this program.

Worth checking out -- and checking out faster than I checked out of the Sands. guh...

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

A fund-raising resource

I've been fussing at people the past few weeks about not being able to take online donations. I contend that it is not just the wave of the future, but more accurately the wave of the now....and that if you don't have the ability to take donations by credit card and PayPal, you are turning away money--especially from donors age 30 and under.....

So, in the current issue of the Chronicle of Philanthropy, what shows up? An article about which is building a new tool called "Enterprise" which is designed not only to help nonprofits take donations online, but to combine an individual's donation, volunteer, and activism information in one tool. Good online info.

Then more: Network for Good is expanding its online system to help nonprofits take donation online. Great stuff!

Check them both out.

Monday, October 04, 2004

Is it really mission we chase?

Tonight I'm doing my second class of the fall term at Kellogg (Northwestern University's Management School). The topic: Mission----

These students don't miss a thing, and I'm anticipating some good questions on mission, which led to some musings:

Is it really mission we pursue, or is it funds that we rationalize are doing mission? Sometimes I wonder, and I certainly remember my times as an ED when we were looking for survival money. The mission rationalization was pretty weak....

Do we keep mission front and center, or just on the wall? How often do we talk about mission in our regular staff and board meetings? Do we ever use it as a rationale to do or even more important, not to do, something?

Are strong missions an enabler of success? Do they, in CollinsSpeak, get us from being Good to Great?

Hmmmmm. Should be an interesting evening.

Sunday, October 03, 2004

Personal Note

The war got very, very personal today. No, no one I know was killed, or injured. At least not yet.

But my cousin, my 43 year old cousin, is 3 weeks into his tour just north of Baghdad, and I got my first email from him today. While I've known he's been there, and I know other people with children in Iraq, the email made it much more real than the more abstract discussions I've been constantly in for the last 16 months since we invaded.

Part of the message talked about their convoy getting broken down in "RPG alley", a high risk ambush area, and he and his men (he's a reserve sergeant) "doing security" while the Humvee issue was resolved.....

I couldn't help but think of my little cousin, the guy I used to play cops and robbers with, playing, no not playing, war for real. Of this wonderful, bright, optimistic, good guy lying by a roadside pointing his weapon at an unseen enemy. At 43.

For what? Why? Can someone tell me?

Saturday, October 02, 2004

Shameless Self-Promotion

OK, time for a bit of "look at me".

I'm really pleased that my newest book is out. It's the first time that I've worked with the amazing people at the Wilder Publishing Center They've been terrific, so a big shout-out to Vince, Kirsten, and Becky.

Oh, yeah, the book:

It's titled Nonprofit Stewardship: A Better Way to Lead Your Mission-Based Organization. You can check it out on the Wilder site, see the table of contents, reviews, etc. I'm really pleased how it turned out, and I hope that you will enjoy it and find it useful. It lays out a concept of management that many nonprofit execs already use with great success, although perhaps without being able to articulate what they are doing so well.

Check it out!

End of shamelees self-promotion!

Friday, October 01, 2004

Inspiring words from and inspiring lady

Just got off a redeye from Sacramento to O'hare, and am far too foggy to post anything of particular merit out of my brain, so I'll give you something excellent out of some one else's..

At the Alliance for Nonprofits Annual Conference in August, I had the pleasure of hearing Kim Klien (of the Grassroots Fundraising Journal) give one of the two keynotes. Here it is, and it is worth reading, although hearing Kim give it in person was much more fun!