#GivingTuesday Gratitude (& a free webinar)

gratitude, fundraising, free webinarPhew. You made it through another #GivingTuesday. Awesome!

Now what?

Have you thought about how to thank the fab donors who donated to you on #GivingTuesday?

Have you pondered how you’re going to handle the thank-then-turn-around-and-ask tango that happens between #GivingTuesday and year-end?

Do you have ideas for how to infuse gratitude into your donor loooooooove strategy so you have an explosive, joy-filled fundraising year in 2017?

Maybe a tidge? Maybe not at all? Maybe you have but want new ideas for changing things up?

Well have I got good news for you: I’m doing a free webinar next week with the Goddess of Gratitude, Shanon Doolittle!!!!

Gratitude-a-palooza: A gazillion ways to make your donors feel like rock stars
Wednesday, December (yikes, December!) 7, 2016


1-2Pm Pacific

Can’t join us live? No big. It’ll be recorded. But you have to sign up to get the recording. So sign up, sit back, and soak up all the ideas me and Shanon have to share with you.

Oh, yeah, we’ll also have lots of time to answer your questions so bring ’em on!

No more light knocking: Unexpected Inspiration from #12NTC

door, old door, wooden door
No one can hear you when you knock lightly!

“Stop knocking lightly on the door of change. We’ve got to knock it down! People are counting on you.” 

By day, Jeff Shuck runs Event 360. By night (or perhaps in the wee hours of the morning as he has 4 kids!), he blogs at Your Part Matters.

At the 2012 Nonprofit Technology Conference, Jeff gave a session on using data to effectively segment your audiences. There was talk of regression and p-values and pivot tables. Not what many would consider “inspiring”, although highly useful.

That’s why his closing was so unexpected…and awesome.

After geeking out for 87 minutes, Jeff took the last 3 minutes to implore the audience to get serious about doing good. To do more. To do it louder. To get more people involved. To really give this making the world a better place stuff everything we’ve got.

I said a really loud “Amen!” and whooped a lot at the end. If it’d been remotely appropriate, I would’ve stood on my chair and cheered.

We’d spent the morning listening to Dan Roam, author of Blah, Blah, Blah, so we all had visual representation on our minds. But Jeff’s words gave us all a mental picture that we can use every day to gauge our effort, if not our impact:

Did we knock the door down today or simply lightly knock, hoping not to disturb anyone with our do-gooder ways?

Perhaps it’s not realistic that every day we’ll knock the door off its hinges. But just by asking the question, we’re way more likely to way more often, right?

Even if you’re not an Excel whiz or a data-head, check out his session for that last bit. It’s worth it.

For  more inspiration, check out the Do Gooder Video award winners, which were announced at the conference. (Get out the hankies!)


Dream: verb and noun

When you have a dream while sleeping, that happens in spite of you. You’re asleep, after all.

When you have a dream while awake, it happens because of you. Your dreams reflect who you are and what you stand for. It is both verb and noun. “I dream of a better world and I’m making that dream come true.”

Martin Luther King, Jr. epitomized dreaming in action. His “I Have a Dream” speech is as resonant today as it was on August 28, 1963.

Below shows another dream in action. It’s the dream of Severn Suzuki as described in an address she gave to the United Nations. She is 13 years old.

What’s your dream? Are you working every day to make it come true?


Because We Can! A Tribute to Senator Scott White

Senator Scott White
Scott White: waving to voters the day after he was elected

On Tuesday, October 4, 2011 at 2:14PM Pacific, I published a blog post on the iSector.

On Friday, October 21, 2011 at 6:11PM Pacific, I got a phone call from my dear friend, Alison Carl White.

On Saturday, December 24, 2011 at 8:24AM Pacific, I was running around the seawall in Vancouver, B.C. in gale force winds and torrential downpour.

This three moments are inextricably linked.

The iSector was the outgrowth of my long-held belief that the name of our sector–currently, the Nonprofit Sector–does a huge disservice to what we are trying to accomplish. I can’t say I love the name ‘iSector’, and I will continue to search for a better name, but at least it gets us away from referring to ourselves as the ‘Non-Progress Sector’.  Publishing that post was a big moment for me.

The phone call from Alison was another big moment, but in a very different–and tragic–way. She was calling because she had just learned that her husband, Senator Scott White, had died. Alison is 39. They have two young children. Scott embodied health, energy and leadership. To say this was a shock would be the understatement of 2011.

What struck me most about Scott was his belief that so much was possible. While most of us would scratch our heads, shuffle our feet (looking a lot like Eeyore), and wonder how we’d get out of this mess (insert whichever mess might cause you consternation, e.g. education, transportation, the environment), Scott was bounding along in pursuit of a better path forward (sort of like Tigger, with the brains of Owl).

I imagine Scott knew a roadblock when he saw one, but he never seemed to focus on its presence. He always seemed focused on how to find a dignified way around it that would make the world a better place. He was pragmatic, for darn sure. But he was also an optimist.

And this brings me back to that gusty run. As I came around the point, it blew so hard I actually fell over (not a pretty moment). I was so wet that my shoes were making a bizarre squishing noise every time my foot struck the ground. You’d think I would’ve been cursing this run.

Instead, I was grinning ear to ear.

Why? Because I could be running in that crazy weather. Because I had a choice. Because it was possible.

In moments like these, I now think about Scott. I think about what’s possible. I try to think bigger. As big as Scott thought about what’s possible.

I believe it is possible for us to  truly make the world a better place. Call me a Polyanna. Call me naive. I really don’t care.

I believe–regardless of tax status and official sector name–that if you get up every morning set on making the world a better place, that you can. And that you do.

On that run, I had a vision of a sea of people with t-shirts, badges, ball caps, tattoos, and buttons that all said: Because we can!

Because we can make the world a better place. If we couldn’t, why bother trying?

We should try. Every day. In ways big and small. We should try.

We should make the world a better place, because we can.




Charity or Philanthropy: take your pick

Charity and Philanthropy: both bring light to the world

Here’s a question during this season of giving: If you volunteer at the local food bank or toss coins into the Salvation Army bucket, are you being charitable or philanthropic?

Last year at this time, Aktkar Badshah, who heads up Microsoft’s Corporate Citizenship office, spoke at AFP Washington’s Annual Meeting. He made an interesting distinction between charity and philanthropy. It’s a distinction that I’ve been mulling over for twelve months now. It may seem like quibbling over semantics but I think it’s worth getting clear on this distinction as you head into the final throes of 2011.

Akthar explained that charity is an individual act that benefits the community at large whereas philanthropy increases the well-being of human kind. In this construct, charity is shorter term and, it would seem, lower impact whereas philanthropy is longer term and higher impact.

This is not to say there’s anything wrong with charitable acts. Quite the contrary! They add up to a philanthropic culture and that’s what we’re going for, i.e. enough charitable acts eventually lead to wide-scale impact, or philanthropy.

During this time of year when your supporters have doing good on the brain, the question is: are you creating opportunities for charity or fueling philanthropy? Depending on your goals, either is fine. Just be clear on which one it is.

Don’t mess with my turkey!

Every year, millions of Americans gather on the last Thursday of the month for a somewhat bizarre tradition. After hours (nay days) of prep, family and friends gather around the table and gobble up turkey, cranberries, dressing, gravy, beans, potatoes, rolls, brussel sprouts, and yams until we can hardly move. And then—in an effort to truly outdo ourselves—we come back for pie-a-palooza, whereby we eat pie, pie and more pie.

I truly love this holiday.

Why? Because it’s a combo of tried and true and a twist of new. We all have our fav dishes. (My mum tried NOT serving the green beans one year—bad call. The word ‘mutiny’ comes to mind…) But there’s also room to experiment and try something new. Cumin on yams? BBQing the turkey? Maple syrup and cheddar cheese atop the pumpkin pie? (This last one is much better than it sounds.)

Your donors, fans and supporters want the equivalent of Thanksgiving. There are ways in which you engage with them that they love. Maybe it’s your annual event or your Facebook posts. They don’t want you to mess with those.  But they also want some variety. They want some nutmeg whip cream on their pumpkin pie. They want you to dazzle and delight them.

Lest you think dazzle and delight will take too much time, energy or money, here are three easy ideas:

  1. Create personalized Xtranormal movies. If you can type, you can make a movie. It’s fast, free and fun.
  2. Send an e-card with a cool service like Kudoboard. Again, fast, free and fun. (Seeing a theme?)
  3. Jot a quick note and send via snail mail. Compendium has great cards for the mission-minded of the world. Does it take longer than sending an email? Maybe. But the extra minute to put the stamp on is totally worth it!
How do you delight the people who care about your cause?
P.S. Apologies to my Canadian readers. I know Thanksgiving has come and gone. Hope the suggestions, if not the Turkey theme, still resonates!

The iSector: Are you in?

Non-profit organization - word cloud illustrationDepending on where you live, you may call them non-profits, not-for-profits, or non-governmental organizations (NGOs). These organizations educate kids, fight for justice, feed the hungry, house the homeless, eradicate poverty, protect our planet, fuel the arts, nurture our spirits, find cures for cancer and generally do everything in their power to make our world a better place. And yet, we define them by what they are not.

If you look at the Latin root of the word profit, it means either ‘progress’ or ‘advance’.  At what point did we decide it was okay to be defined as the ‘non-progress’ sector when the whole point of what we do is to make progress?!

And there’s more: the term ‘non-profit’ refers to donor profit, not organizational profit. It is about the individual impact on the person making the gift, i.e. the donor is foregoing personal profit by giving money to a charitable, tax-exempt organization.

At what point did we transfer a reference to impact on individual tax returns and bank accounts to the impact of the sector?

At what point did we confuse one individual foregoing personal benefit with millions of organizations creating community benefit? At what point did we decide it was okay to define ourselves by an erroneous and unrelated marker—profit—instead of by what we are?

What’s in a name?
If individual organizations were to name themselves by the opposite of their intent—e.g. Divided Way, Badwill Industries, Nature Destroyer—we’d think they were crazy.  Yet we refer to an entire sector by the opposite of its intent.

If the sector shouldn’t be named for what it’s not doing and/or for an erroneous reference to individuals deciding to ‘not profit’ from a donation, what should it be named?

As with all else, it should have a name that reflects what makes it truly unique, by what distinguishes it, by what piece of mental real estate it will occupy in people’s brains, by its most compelling attributes.

In this case, we should name it: the iSector.

The iSector’s Five ‘I’s

Why the iSector? The ‘i’ captures its essence and most compelling characteristics, all of which start with an ‘i’.

With its intrepid spirit, the iSector inspires innovation and investment that leads to impact.

Let’s unpack that, shall we?

INTREPID: Honestly, if you look at what the iSector takes on—poverty, sustainability, education, homelessness, health care, arts, athletics, Alzheimer’s, malaria, and polio just to  name a few—it boggles the mind. Only those with “resolute fearlessness, fortitude and endurance” would go there. It is the intrepid spirit of those drawn to the sector that sparks and sustains the work.

INSPIRES:  The volunteer who patiently teaches a six year old to read inspires.  The donor who believes cancer can be conquered inspires.  The board that enthusiastically launches an audacious capital campaign inspires. The organization that believes art is a right not a privilege inspires. The foundation that believes we can eradicate malaria inspires. And it goes without saying, but is worth saying anyway, that this work is inspired by individuals who deserve equal access to a better life, a better future, a better world.

To be clear, I’m not saying the iSector is all rainbows, flowers and unicorns. Solving intractable problems is tough and we don’t always get it right. Sometimes we get it flat out wrong. However, this contributes to the sector’s inspirational nature—there are rarely easy answers, straight-forward solutions or obvious wins. And yet we are undeterred. That’s inspiring.

INNOVATION: This word gets tossed around a lot, so much so that it has almost lost its meaning. The technical definition is “the introduction of something new”. That doesn’t quite seem to do it justice, particularly when you look at it in the context of the iSector where innovation has as much to do with adaptation and experimentation, as creation.  Regardless, “Nobody innovates when they’re fat and sassy, “ as Kenneth Foster, Executive Director of the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts put it. And although the iSector might have a little sass, there’s nothing fat about it. Resting on your laurels isn’t acceptable. And so, we innovate. Not on occasion but all the time. It is part of our rhythm. A daily occurrence, rather than a rare occasion. It may not always look or feel innovative in the moment, but when you add it up, it most definitely is. We innovate with purpose whether on purpose or not. That purpose is to create greater impact.

INVESTMENT: To fuel inspiration and innovation that leads to impact, we must invest in organizations and individuals. The organizations need the resources to not just do the work, but to do it well. The iSector—and those who benefit from the work—need the very best that we have to offer, not the bare minimum. Investments of money, time, capital, commitment, passion, energy, connections—this is what we need to do what we need to do.

IMPACT: When you take the intrepid spirit and couple it with the inspiration, innovation and investment, you get impact. Impact that is felt by individuals, organizations, neighborhoods, communities, cities, states, countries, and continents. Across oceans and Internet connections. Much of it you can quantify. Some of it you can’t. However you measure it, the iSector’s impact is undeniable. Is it enough? No. Can we do more? Yes. (This is where you come in.)

The iSector has nothing to do with tax status. It’s not about whether you work for a 501c3, an LLC, or a publicly traded company. It is about a mindset. It is about admitting that how we have been doing things has gotten us far, but not far enough. It is about taking a risk. It is about taking a stand, a stand that says: Now is the time to do more, even if we have to do it with less. Now is the time to take everything we’ve got and apply it in ways that we never thought possible. Now is the time to take our intrepid spirits and inspire innovation and investment that leads to impact—huge, unprecedented, unimaginable impact.

The iSector already exists. The question is: are you part of it?

[Shout-outs: Unlike most of my posts, this one was awhile in the making and has a special place in my heart. I wanted the following people to know how much I appreciate their passion, smarts and support.  (alpha by first name) Alison Carl White, Carrie Zanger, Dana Robinson Slote, Dana Van Nest, Erin Hertel, Gloria Jordan, Heather Hill, Lenora Edwards, Lindsay Bealko,  Peg Giffels, Peter Drury, Scott Allard, Shanon Doolitte, Susan Howlett, and Zan McColloch-Lussier.]

Meaningfully engaging with donors, corporations & strategic plans

Engagement--WAY more than a sparkly ring!

Last week could’ve been called Meaningful Engagement Week. Early in the week, I facilitated a board and staff retreat that focused on how to meaningfully engage with each other and a new strategic plan.

Thursday, I was at AFP Washington’s Symposium on Major Gifts where Bernard Ross of the UK’s Management Center walked us through how to use psychology, language and humor to meaningfully engage major donors. (That guy is Funny with a capital ‘F’! Whew.)

Then Friday, I found myself hypnotized by Tammy Zonker’s explanation of how she–and her talented team at the United Way of Southeastern Michigan–meaningfully engaged GM in revitalizing Detroit’s “drop out factories’, otherwise known as high schools. (Ouch, right?)

You’d think it’d be different to engage with a major donor, a corporation and a strategic plan. But when you got right down to it, the similarities outweighed the differences by a long shot. It really boiled down to this:

  • Be prepared: Know your donor. Understand what motivates the corporation (and the people who work there). Know the intricacies and opportunity costs of each strategic direction.
  • Sell impact: What will be different in the world if the donor donates, the corporation invests or the strategic plan works?
  • Focus on what you believe: Start with what you believe and then seek out the partners and strategies for bringing it to life. Not the other way around.

Setting the inanimate strategic plan aside and focusing on animate (and sometimes animated) interactions between humans, it’s interesting to reflect on the what makes engagement meaningful. It’s tempting to think it implies that each and every interaction needs to be profound. But that’s not necessarily the case. The impact needs to be meaningful, not necessarily each and every interaction that leads to impact. The interactions leading up to that impact vary dramatically from light touch–think Twitter–to in-depth–think one-on-one conversation. The meaning becomes clear when you look at the impact of all these interactions as a whole.

Whether it’s a donor, a volunteer, an elected official or a strategic plan, are you engaged meaningfully or just meaning to engage?



Benefits, Believers & Poetry

Last week, I had the great, good fortune of spending two days In Twisp, Washington with organizations from Central and Eastern Washington. Talk about inspiring! They were a dedicated group and stuck with me as we covered a whole lotta territory in record time.

One of the many topics we covered (which included, but was not limited to: birthdays, food, dates with babies, rowing and snake eyes) was talking about the benefits of your organization rather than the features.

This is one of those topics that is an eye opener every time it comes up at a training.

Here’s a short list of features and benefits:

tutoring | knowing how to read
family planning | access to choices
education | expanded opportunities and/or connection to heritage
theater | inspiration

Super smart dude Zan McColloch-Lussier over at Mixtape Communications asks the question, “What business are you really in?” For instance, the business of tutoring or of teaching people to read? Most organizations would say, “The teaching to read business!” And yet, when asked what they do, they talk first about tutoring and then about reading.

Tutoring is how you get to your why, i.e. you tutor kids so they can read.

We also had a breakthrough moment around Believers, Agnostics and Atheists. Really, seriously, you can’t convert atheists. (Here’s a short video for those that still think they can.)

This group was also full of poets, musicians and artists. (Happy birthday sounds so much better when there are some singers in the group!). Here is a poem by one of the students on the Inspiration Sector.

When you are at a party and the conversation pauses,
You tell people that you work for causes,
Oh…they say…you work for a non-profit,
You look them straight in the eye…and say stop it!

Solving issues is my nectar,
I work in the Inspiration Sector!

So glad I work in the Inspiration Sector and got to be inspired by this fantastic group of change agents!

Connection and Community in Record Time

I have a friend, Mrs. G, who is an incredibly gifted elementary school teacher. She subs regularly at our kids’ school. This morning, I heard her voice coming from one of the Kindergarten classrooms. It was circle time. I was intrigued to learn how she would navigate this important part of the day when kids transition from home to classroom. The teacher plays a key role in creating a sense of community and smoothing the transition. How do you create that safe space when you don’t know the kids?!

I stopped just outside the door to listen (yes, yes, I eavesdropped).

Sometimes, it’s the small stuff that really matters. Mrs. G did something that was so subtle yet so effective. She said each of their names, made sure she was saying it correctly and then said, “Hello, Jimmy.” One student’s name was Kate on the roster and the student said she preferred Katie. So Mrs. G said, “Thank you for letting me know which you prefer. Hello, Katie.”  In 11 words, or 60 characters, she created a connection and welcomed the student to the community.

What’s so great about this? Her goal was to create connection and community in record time. If she had simply called off their names to make sure they were present, she would’ve been able to check something off her to-do list (attendance–check!), but wouldn’t have achieved her goal.

We can do a lot without achieving a lot. Mrs. G did a little and achieved a lot because she was clear on her goal.

Are you clear on your goals?


Do you communicate as effectively as you think?


Do you communicate as effectively as you think?