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Parsing Our Way Through the Social Media Maze

I’ve written frequently about my admiration for Beth Kanter (Twitter: @Kanter; blog: and Bob Cargill (Twitter: @cargillcreative) who share lots of good, useful stuff on social media with us all. I also want to commend you to an Infographic “Social Media Cheat Sheet” from Search Engine Journal (January, 2012) I have this particular Infographic posted on Pinterest :Learning from Gurus. Very helpful tool for nonprofit leaders trying to make sense of what might work best in a particular situation as a social media approach. Many friends and colleagues worry about social media as a black hole: that could easily suck up lots of valuable time. No doubt. This can happen. But, on the other hand, social media offer great ways to reach out and communicate with our clients, customers, stakeholders, volunteers. You name it. This is what I’d call “Intelligent Design.” Taking a huge universe and finding the right corner to work in. Check it out.

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Simple Plan to Start Planned Giving Program

Nonprofit organizations that have been around for a bit (number out of a hat: five years) should consider implementing a planned giving program.  Revenue from wills, trusts, insurance policies from your donors can be a good boost to income for the mission.  From the start, I recommend that your finance committee prepare a policy on how planned gifts will be used by your public benefit organization.  Bequests and trusts of $1,000 and more can go to a board designated fund for your nonprofit’s long-term purposes.  This money can build a reserve for you that can earn interest income as well as growth of principle value.  Over time, this fund can generate revenue that can be used to help underwrite operations.  Some nonprofits set a policy allocating 5% of principle value each year for these operations costs.  Discuss your plan with the experienced accounting firm that conducts your annual audit and prepares your audited financial statements under AICPA standards.  You want to be sure you’re in compliance with local, State, federal law.

If you’re going down this path, I also recommend that your development committee recruit an experienced Estate Planner: an attorney who writes wills and trusts for clients, has significant experience in this area, and who has a passion for your mission.  And will join you as a volunteer with the clear understanding that s/he will not earn income from your nonprofit.

At the same time, creating a Gift Acceptance Policy that indicates how donated income comes in to your organization and gets properly allocated will be very helpful to you down the road.  Over time, you might receive real estate or common stock and there should be predetermined procedures on how these gifts will be handled.  Also, some donors may want the executive director or development director to serve as a trustee or executor of their estate.  This is a conflict of interest and should be avoided.  A competent attorney in these matters will advise you properly and help keep you out of wickets that can become rather sticky.

Once the development committee and Board of Directors are in agreement on how to proceed, you want to let your donors know of this new program.  Writing appropriate announcements for your newsletter, noting your program in your annual fund appeal can help get the ball rolling. And working with local funeral homes to have memorial envelopes available so families looking to direct memorial gifts to a “charity” that they know was important to the deceased person can consider you.

These simple steps can lead to a well thought out plan that can bring great benefit to your nonprofit.  Starting in a thoughtful, conservative way can get you on the right track.

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Fundraising Tips to Overcome Summer Doldrums

Raising funds is always a challenge. And for some reason, reaching out to donors in the summer can feel like a lost cause. Au contraire, mon ami.  With vacation time and other distractions, it’s the eager-beaver nonprofit professional who can get ahead of the game by doing a few easy things that’ll generate some $$.

  • Thank Your Donors Again. Of course, you thanked your donors after your annual appeal. And you followed up with those who missed you the first time around. Now is the time to thank again. And, in your note, comment on a project underway this summer, or one you’re contemplating for fall. You can ask if your donor can make an extra gift. You’ll be surprised at the response you’ll receive. And don’t lose the theme…save it for the next annual appeal as a reminder to your loyal donors.
  • Host Informal Social Event. If you have a favorite cafe or bistro, accessible to your local donors where you could host a cocktail or non-alcohol reception that might be of interest to donors, particularly to those retired and looking for something interesting and fun to do. If you’re health-related, feature a speaker who’ll talk for a few minutes and answer questions. If you’re arts-related, perhaps a performer (a musician to play a short program, or an actor who will read a short story) would pitch in because they want to see you succeed.
  • Promote Memorial or Special Honor Gifts. Should local funeral homes have reply envelopes available for your organization?  In your next newsletter, tuck in an envelope promoting special honor (birthday, anniversary, other milestone) gifts so recipients can send a check or credit card authorization and indicate person for you to thank whose special day they’d like to honor.

A relatively modest investment of time can generate a few thousand dollars of income at a time when incoming gifts are slow. This ;can help you identify other times of year when it would be natural to build in a special activity or mailing or constant contact outreach that could bring some helpful dollars in.

If you’d like some help designing one of these or another idea, just call or e-mail and we’ll see if we can find something that fits well for you.

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2- 4- 6- 8: How We Gonna Communicate?

I hope you’ve de-soggified from last weekend’s torrential rains (particularly if you live and work in the mid-Atlantic States or New England). The sun has been good to us, we’ve mostly dried out. Some folks still don’t have their power back, and some towns are still bailing out. I and my readers wish you all well. Hope you are finding help. Let us know if particular nonprofits stepped up in your community and deserve a special shout-out.
If you tweet on Twitter, give those great helping NPO’s a #CharityTuesday hashtag. Regular contributors/followers on Twitter know about this, and look each week for a nonprofit to support based on tweets they receive. This is why every nonprofit should be working Twitter, Facebook, You Tube….various social media to extend out your network.
This week, I want to talk with you about the newsletter.
1. Use social media.
2. Communicate with a newsletter.
On a regular basis, let your followers know what’s cooking at your nonprofit. How your primary customers are finding your service, employing your service, benefiting from your service. Some newsletter tips just for you, because you are special:

  • Publish regularly: monthly is good. Your volunteers, primary customers (those who use your service), donors like to know what’s up. Most of those people feel a sense of relationship with you, with an employee, with a board member. They feel the connection. They appreciate your effort of staying in touch.
  • Highlight upcoming events. Your readers are interested in meetings, special speakers, special events. Repeat these each issue. Those who follow you, who make the link, will get the information on their calendars.
  • Print or e-mail? Use e-mail. Use Constant Contact: the newsletter is embedded in the message. No attachments to mess with. Nice graphic design, if you like. Some of your followers, perhaps donors and/or primary customers over age 60 prefer snail mail. Limit the amount of snail mail. It’s a green thing (that carbon footprint thing).
  • Ask for letters, short articles. Print occasional pieces from your readers. Ask for photos. Link these to your website so folks can find back issues, point friends to your website to read their stories, see their photos.

While you’re doing your newsletter thing, you’re also building community in your nonprofit. Making the communication two-way, making the newsletter interactive, you’re building your network, reaching new people.

Share your comments on this blog if you like. Or if you seek private contact, you can reach me directly at, check my website, tweet me @STEVENETWORK.

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