Flying Out to Communications Network Conference Today -- Will Report Out on What You Need to KnowI’m winging my way to Chicago this morning, to participate in the annual Communications Network conference.  I’m a long-time member of this group of communicators who staff and consult with grantmaking foundations, but haven’t made it to the conference for several years. Can’t wait to catch up with folks face to face.

Beyond the relationships — which is what I value most about conferences — I’m thrilled to have the chance to hear king-of-storytelling Ira Glass, host of American Public Radio’s This American Life, discuss his trade. You’ll get the key takeaways on storytelling success, plus those on these key nonprofit marketing topics (from the invaluable point of view of those who fund your nonprofit) and more:

  • How Web 2.0 is Changing Foundation Communications: Can’t wait to grab the foundation perspective and case studies on social media+, especially since I’ve been doing a lot of speaking on the topic lately and know you’re craving models and inspiration.
  • Which Comes First: Building Your Website or Understanding Your Audience? How to structure and market your website — and then measure results — to ensure it delivers for your foundation: You know the answer to this one, but I’m always striving to add new and better strategies to the list.
  • Is the Annual Report Nearing Extinction? A perennial burning question.

Any questions you want me to bring to this group? Email me, and I’ll do my best.

P.S. The Network has done a fantastic job of engaging conference participants in advance, with a conference blog featuring many guest bloggers from session presenters to the home-town-members of the host committee.

This is a great way to build excitement prior to a meeting or event, and continue it afterwards. Another useful model is the advocacy conference blog of the National Breast Cancer Coalition Fund’s. Keeps the conversation and interest going year round!

Nancy Schwartz in Comnet08, Nonprofit Communications, Philanthropy, Professional Development | 1 comment

Give Today -- $10 Will Help Cambodian Youngster Mon Channy Get An Education and Live a Better LifeMy friend and colleague Beth Kanter is a real doer (as my grandmother would say). Right now, she’s jumpstarted an online giving campaign to send 10-year-old Cambodian Mon Channy to school (in center in photo at left).

Mon Channy’s Story
Frequently, children in very poor families work in order to bolster the family’s income, but this keeps them out of school.  For Mon Channy,10, The Sharing Foundation’s(TSF) Khmer Literacy School has provided huge opportunities. Mon Channy is the only child of his  widowed mom, who supports herself and her child through her work on the TSF farm.  Channy is proud to be the first in his family to attend school. His teacher, Ying So Ry, says Channy is a very attentive, hard working student, and she sees a bright future for him.

Give Just $10 to Make a Huge Difference in Mon Channy’s Life
Give $10 today to keep Mon Channy in school, and help win him and his schoolmates $50,000 from America’s Giving Challenge. The Sharing Foundation has the opportunity to get $50,000, if Beth and friends inspire the largest number of unique donors to contribute to the Sharing Foundation through Global Giving between now and January 31, 2008.

Don’t wait. GIVE NOW–while Mon Channey is on your mind

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Nancy Schwartz in Fundraising: Innovations & Research, Nonprofit Communications, Philanthropy | 2 comments

Get Ready, Get Set, Go -- Help Your Supporters Make You an America's Giving Challenge Winner of $50,000Hot off the press is this exciting news about the latest Case Foundation innovation to engage individuals in what I call "distributed giving."  It used to be that you had to be a billionaire to change the world. Case and friends think otherwise and have launched America’s Giving Challenge to prove it. Sort of a social networking model of philanthropy.

The Foundation and Parade Magazine are joining together here to motivate citizens to act to spread the word (and $) on causes they’re passionate about, and challenge them to advocate for their causes to inspire others to give. Eight winning orgs (those with the greatest number of unique donations) will each receive $50,000.

So your challenge — as a prospective recipient of this haul — is to ensure your audiences are aware of the Challenge, and know how to make your org a winner. Make it easy for them to make your organization a winner.

Here’s how it works:

Who can participate:
Anyone with access to the Internet, a willingness to try something new, and the passion and commitment to advocate on behalf of a cause they care about. The entire Challenge is designed to take place online, involving the use of such everyday activities as e-mailing, blogging, and social networking.

To “champion a cause” you must be a legal U.S. resident aged 13 years or older. Anyone can donate to a cause using a valid credit card or other form of payment accepted by our donation processing partners Network for Good and GlobalGiving.

How it works:
There are two ways to get involved:

  • Champion a Cause and have the chance to get $50,000 for the charity of your choice. The eight individuals whose charity badges attract the most unique donors through the America’s Giving Challenge will get $50,000 for their cause.
  • Give to a Cause and help the charity you care about get $1,000. The 100 nonprofits with the greatest number of unique donations made to them through America’s Giving Challenge will each get $1,000.

The Challenge begins December 13 at 3pm EST and will close January 31 at 3pm EST. Get ready, get set, go!

P.S. I adore and respect The Case Foundation for its ongoing focus on imaginative strategies to engage citizens to go beyond individual giving to raise money for the causes they care about. Another great example is the Foundation’s Make it  Your Own Awards program.

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Nancy Schwartz in Fundraising: Innovations & Research, Nonprofit Communications, Philanthropy | 0 comments

Update: November 2nd — You must register at GEO before downloading this guide.

Grantmakers for Effective Organizations Pushes for Investment in Strategic CommunicationsNonprofit organizations, rejoice! Grantmakers for Effective Organizations(GEO) has just published an action guide for grantmakers providing operating support — including strategic communications — for nonprofit organizations.

Yes, strategic communications should be fully integrated into every single program funding proposal you craft and submit. No program can succeed without it. But there’s an enormous need for unrestricted funding: For funding for more program-based communications; for experimentation in new communications channels; and for the communications beyond the program specific that are necessary to integrate program work throughout the organization, and build awareness and engagement at the org level.

Grantmakers, I urge you to download GEO’s General Operating Support Action Guide today. It’s worth a read for you nonprofits as well, to see how the funding landscape is changing. Finally!

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Nancy Schwartz in Fundraising: Innovations & Research, Nonprofit Communications, Philanthropy | 1 comment

Communications Network Members Headed to Miami to Dig into Key Marketing Challenges for Grantmakers and NonprofitsI’m taking one of my rare out-of-office continual learning breaks at the end of the month, when I’m flying down to Miami for the Communications Network Annual Conference which begins on Halloween eve.  I’m hoping my daughter (aka Spiderman) will forgive me.

The Network, an association of communications experts working for and with foundations, has designed a well-rounded agenda, covering topics from communicating via ethnic media and reaching under 30s to foundation-specific issues such as how to brand a foundation to ensure its funding has the greatest impact (without alienating its hard-working grantees in the field). Even better, conference planners have scheduled lots of peer networking time–some formatted, some not–which I always treasure. After all, I don’t get to see these folks in person more than once a year at most.

What I’ve found at previous Network conferences is that the discussion, whether it be on topics directly related to nonprofits (grantees in these folks eyes) or on the funders, always has significant implications for nonprofits. I promise to report out on insights and recommendations that’ll shore up your communications agenda.

On a side note, I wish there were more opportunities for in-person learning; the investment always pays off. But there’s not much out there for us nonprofit communicators. What conferences are part of your continual learning agenda? Please let me know. 

P.S. Here’s a list of continual learning strategies suggested by fellow nonprofit communicators.

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Nancy Schwartz in Nonprofit Communications, Philanthropy, Professional Development | 0 comments

Op-Ed Advocates Nonprofits Need More MBAs, Including Marketing-WiseI was thrilled to read this recent op-ed in the Philadelphia Inquirer by Harvard biz school graduate Mike Kerlin, who sets the stage by reminding us that only 6% of MBAs enter nonprofit management. Yikes. I didn’t realize the situation was so grim.

What’s useful about Mike’s take here is his:
1) Caution that business tycoons like Gates and Buffett who become philanthropists aren’t the norm; and that philanthropy alone will not change the world. (Hallelujah, Mike. Finally!)

2) Understanding that nonprofits are the critical implementors for putting these funds to work; and that

Without talented leaders who can manage donor dollars as they would shareholder investments, nonprofit organizations can easily founder, rendering Gates’ and Buffett’s good intentions worthless.

3) Clear explanation of how well-trained experts trained in business can turn the tide towards stronger nonprofit orgs (remember, business isn’t restricted to corporations, it’s how organizations work)

The new era of philanthropy needs more M.B.A.s and other private-sector professionals to run effective and efficient nonprofit organizations. With business-savvy leaders come essential tools – marketing, finance, accounting, operations and organizational  leadership – that maximize philanthropists’ “social return on investment.”

For example, two-thirds of nonprofits fail to measure the results of their marketing programs, according to a survey conducted by Nancy Schwartz & Co. Such basic management techniques lie at the core of an M.B.A. curriculum.

(Thanks for the mention, Mike.)

4) Call to action for MBA administrators and students, nonprofit organizations and the corporate world to join together to make more MBA-nonprofit matches possible:

Nonprofit organizations need more than just patchy forays from M.B.A.s. Some private companies have begun offering “externships” or “loaned executive” programs. Many business schools have begun paying off the loans of students who choose lower-paying nonprofit careers. To link students early with nonprofits, the Wharton School launched the Wharton Non-Profit Board Leadership Program, which places M.B.A. students on local nonprofit boards. Late last year, La Salle University pulled together students, professors and seasoned executives by acquiring the Executive Service Corps of Delaware Valley.

These innovations help nonprofits, but in the end, more M.B.A. students must be willing to forgo profits earlier in their careers, and more nonprofits need to pay enough to compete with private-sector salaries.

Expertise is the backbone of organizational success; and expertise has a price. Somehow, somewhere, nonprofit organizations need to be able to pay it.

I’d love to see Kerlin’s quad — of MBA administrators and students, nonprofits and corporate citizens — come together to make his vision a reality. The timing couldn’t be more perfect as this year’s MBAs-to-be enters the gates of learning.

PS I have an MBA myself, so I know that although it’s not the be-all-and-end-all of personal development, it is a course of study that prepares one in a broad range of organizationally-crucial disciplines.

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Nancy Schwartz in Nonprofit Communications, Philanthropy, Trends | 2 comments

Case Foundation Offers $35,000 for Great Ideas -- Asks Audiences Where Money Should GoGoing one step further than even the typical nonprofit or foundation-run contest, the Case Foundation (as in Steve Case, founder of AOL, and his wife Jean) is asking the public for guidance in making its grants with its new Make it Your Own Awards program.

As reported in yesterday’s New York Times, the foundation  is the first ever to share its grants decision-making with the public. The program is “a direct response to research showing that many people feel disconnected from public leaders and institutions and don’t believe they have the power to make a lasting difference in their community,” says a foundation spokesperson.

What’s unique here is that the Case Foundation is putting its research findings into practice, and reaching beyond its own staff and board to do so. Most importantly, its demonstrating a great deal of respect for grassroots ideas. Here’s how it works:

  • The foundation is asking individuals and small, community-based nonprofits to submit ideas for strengthening their communities.
  • A group of judges will select 100 finalists to query for a more formal proposal.
  • Another panel will review these proposals to select 20 finalists, who will receive $10,000 each.
  • In November, the public will vote to select the “final four” from these finalists, who will each receive an additional $25,000.

“We are excited about the potential for change when citizens are placed at the center of deciding what issues to address and how,” said Case Foundation CEO Jean Case. “As citizens, we need to ‘own’ the challenges and opportunities in our communities — not leave them for someone else to tackle.”

Of course, program success is dependent on strategic communications being put into play pronto. The broader community (and believe me, “individuals” are incredibly hard to reach as you have no idea where they are in terms of other communications channels through which you can reach them, or where they aren’t) has to know about this program, and be engaged enough to participate, to have it work.

The Case Foundation has made a great start with the communications agenda  —

  • Engaging audiences via broadcast communications — namely significant media coverage
  • Providing a thorough sub-site for the program, with comprehensive information on all its aspects
  • Soliciting contact information (emails) for those interested in keeping tabs on the program as it evolves via a Make it Your Own e-newsletter (promoted on every page in the mini-site)
  • Continuing to engage audiences via this e-newsletter as the program evolves over the balance of 2007.

Great idea, Case Foundation, and a strong model of strategic communications which is guaranteed to ensure program success.

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Nancy Schwartz in Nonprofit Communications, Nonprofit Marketing News, Philanthropy, Unique Approaches | 1 comment

This is the conclusion reached by panelists at a recent discussion a recent discussion, “Standing Out in a Crowded Field: Attracting Resources to Meet the Ambitions of Today’s Social Entrepreneurs.”  The key point for us communicators is that it’s all too easy to forget communicating with key partners — these crucial conversations tend to get lost in the frenzy to reach and engage board members, donors, volunteers.

It’s a given that the way funders and nonprofits communicate with each other has gone through major changes in recent years.  Grantseekers can no longer stand on their record of good work but must effectively communications achievements and future goals. Funders have learned to be much clearer and more explicit about the nature of their giving, and what they are trying to achieve through their grantmaking.

As I see it, this shift benefits both sides of the giving equation. Grantseeking organizations gain a clearer sense of their successes and ongoing challenges in striving for stronger communications and credibility. Grantmakers benefit from a stronger sense of organizational focus, and are able to generate more qualified grant applications, that are more likely to lead to achievement of their funding goals, through more detailed, clearer communications on giving.

Read the complete report here. Listen to the complete discussion here.

Thanks to The Communications Network for the tip.

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Nancy Schwartz in Nonprofit Communications, Philanthropy, Specific Audience Segments | 0 comments

Update — How to Become a Big Give Contestent

I swear to you that just yesterday morning I was ruminating on how to get "Giving" into the mainstream (and yes, the extensive article on giving — What Should a Billionaire Give – and What Should You — in Sunday’s New York Times Magazine is a good start, but realistically reaches only a tiny segment of prospective donors), and realized that a giving reality show was the only way to go.

Reality shows are one of today’s common denominators. And when you want to popularize a concept or practice, common denominator is the way to go.

So you can imagine my surprise when I heard about Oprah’s plan to pay it forward — The Big Give.
The Big Give — the first philanthropy reality show (AND IT’S IN PRIMETIME) — will features 10 people  challenged to take the money and resources they are given and multiply them to come up with the most powerful, sensational, emotional and dramatic ways to give to others. Each week the group will face a "big catch" that will test their nerve, drive, ingenuity and passion. Throughout the episodes, the field will be narrowed through a unique method. The stakes will get higher and higher, with one person ultimately being chosen to have his/her wildest dream come true for making the biggest impact.

The eight-episode series will center on the drama, emotion and magic of making a difference in peoples’ lives. The concept mirrors a recent installment of “The Oprah Winfrey Show” in which Oprah gave audience members gift cards worth $1,000 to use for a charitable cause.

Love it! Readers, I’ll be following The Big Give as it comes to life, and reporting back to you. Who’s better to popularize philanthropy than Oprah? The woman has the
charisma, and the market savvy, to do it, and to do it well.

Nancy Schwartz in Advertising, Fundraising: Innovations & Research, Nonprofit Marketing News, Philanthropy, Television | 9 comments

Just Added — December 18th!

  • Taking the Initiative (Sierra Club)
    • Blogger: Executive Director Carl Pope has been blogging for almost two years now, and he’s a pro at it. He writes zingy, pithy posts on issues that are relevant to audiences lives, so they catch readers’ attention.
    • A recent post on Illinois’ recently signed bill to restrict pollution, partially focused on ensuring that regional fish are as mercury-free as possible pulled in readers with Pope’s focus on:
      • Many fish have dangerously-high levels of mercury
      • Illinois is ahead of the game in signing this new bill
      • Detailing aspects of the bill which are great models for other states.
    • So he pulls readers in via a personal concern (mercury-laden fish), then hooks them into the legislative/advocacy agenda. Masterfully done, Carl.
    • Subscribe to this blog’s feed and track Carl’s posts. He’s one of the best nonprofit bloggers I know, and the top of the list of advocacy bloggers.

Don’t forget to email me when you hear of a new blog from a nonprofit or foundation CEO.

  • President’s Blog (Trinity University)
    • Blogger: President Patricia McGuire is a natural blogger — disarmingly straightforward, tackles the hard issues, writes in a conversational voice.
    • She gives her point of view on two fronts — University news and current affairs. In Her November 16th post, McGuire hones in on Nancy Pelosi’s (a Trinity alum) perceived loss of power after her appointment of Steny Hoyer as whip (Pelosi had supported Murtha, but was out voted). She uses this event as a springboard to discuss “losing and leading, learning the art of compromise in order to make progress.”
    • McGuire’s clear, strong voice is compelling. If I was a student considering Trinity, or a prospective donor reviewing giving opportunities, I’d source her blog for a powerful sense of what I’d be getting into.
    • BTW, comments are accepted only through an email form, with McGuire blogging her responses only to selected comments and queries.
  • President’s Blog (Oregon Institute of Technology)
    • Blogger: Martha Anne Dow, Institute president, blogs on issues as wide-ranging as the campus physical plant to the Institute’s GRAD program for high school graduates. No comments are accepted.
    • Dow’s posts are in “admin voice,” so don’t make as much impact as they could.
    • Nonetheless, she posts on some controversial issues. See Dow’s October 23rd post on the decrease in state support, results in increased tuition.
    • However, Dow needs to post more frequently. I’m writing this on November 17th and the last post was made on October 30th.
  • Beneblog
    • Blogger: James Fruchterman, social entrepreneur, founder of Benetech and 2006 MacArthur Genius award winner. Benetech creates innovative technology solutions that address social needs. Its initiative created the world’s largest accessible library of scanned books and periodicals, providing people with visual or print disabilities access to a dramatically increased volume of print materials.
    • Fruchterman’s blog is a great example of what studio 501c blogger Celeste Wroblewski calls the “business lunch blog.”
      • In a simple and clear, short to medium-length posts  Fruchterman discusses Benetech news and comments on current events related to the mission and  work of the organization. Definitely stays at the overview level but his comments supplement the reader’s understanding of Fruchterman’s vision,and where the organization is going.
      • Just the kind of interesting but finite content you’d discuss over lunch with a donor, staff member, colleague or board member over a roast beef sandwich, when you have a 2pm meeting coming. Enough, but not too much.

Here’s a fairly comprehensive listing of leadership blogs across the world.

Nancy Schwartz in Blogging for Nonprofits, Leadership, Nonprofit Communications, Philanthropy | 4 comments

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