Info For Nonprofits

Ask and Train Your Board to be Powerful Messengers (Hands-On)

Getting Attention! -

Andy Robinson provides training and consulting for nonprofits in fundraising, board development, marketing, earned income, planning, leadership development, and facilitation.  Along with training people to raise money,

Andrea Kihlstedt writes, speaks and coaches about campaign campaign fundraising.

Do you dream of a board composed of wealthy people with wealthy friends, people who are fearless about asking those friends for big gifts?

Unless you’re very lucky (and these types of boards come with their own challenges), that’s not your board. So, looking beyond that fantasy, what’s your Plan B?

How about a board filled with committed people who give as much as they can, and who tell your story in a deeply personal and compelling way?

We believe that all board members, regardless of social class, can participate in fundraising – and serve as powerful ambassadors. As ambassadors, they can (if asked, trained and supported) proudly represent your organization within their social and professional circles, finding potential allies and donors.

Then, when your board members tell the shared story of your mission—complemented by their personal stories of how they connect with your work—they become powerful advocates for your cause.

How to Help Your Board Members Find Their Own Stories

Our new guide, Train Your Board (and Everyone Else) to Raise Money, features proven storytelling exercises designed specifically for board members.

One of our favorite exercises, “Why Do You Care?,” was contributed by our colleague Gail Perry. It takes about 15 minutes, so is easy to incorporate in one of your regular board meetings. Here’s how to organize it:

1. Hand out paper and pens to your board members and ask the following questions:

  • What do you say when someone asks why you serve on our board?
  • What moves you about our organization and its work? How do you talk about that?

Tell them they will soon share their responses with four other board members, then give them a few minutes to make notes.

2. Then describe the next step as follows. “When I say begin, please stand up and find a partner. If you don’t know the person well, introduce yourself. Then take about 30 seconds each to tell your stories. When I ring the bell, move on to another person. We will do this four times.”

After four rounds, ask everyone to be seated.

3. Debrief the exercise using some combination of the following questions:

  • What was the experience like?
  • What did you hear from your colleagues?
  • What new ideas for talking about us and your work with us did you learn from others?
  • Did your language change with each new partner? If so, how?
  • Were you surprised by anything you said? Or anything you heard?

This exercise offers a powerful alternative to the canned elevator pitch, which many trustees request but is often ineffective. Which do you think is more powerful: a board member reciting five bullet points from memory, or a passionate trustee telling her own story?

Your board may never be the money board of your dreams. But each of your trustees can be a great ambassador. All you have to do is to help them get comfortable and effective at telling their stories. This exercise is a great place to start.

How do you help your board become strong messengers? If you’ve had trouble with this, what’s getting in the way? Please share your tips and frustrations here.

P.S. Get more nonprofit marketing tools, templates, case studies & tips delivered directly to your inbox. Register here for Getting Attention blog & e-news!

Helping Cancer Research with "Play to Cure: Genes in Space"


Jennifer Ann Beswick Become a galactic legend and help further cancer research. Not a bad way to spend part of an evening, no?

Data analysis poses a tremendous challenge for scientists today. While technology has vastly expanded our capacity for collecting massive amounts of information, our ability to translate those mountains of data into practical knowledge has remained quite limited. Scientists at Cancer Research UK (CRUK) recently pioneered some innovative methods for expediting the quest for a cure. In fact, the results of CRUK’s 2013 GameJam were so impressive that the event may very well establish a radically new model for disease research — one in which the public plays a crucial role in the scientific process. Gamification has certainly reached new levels. At first glance, Play to Cure: Genes in Space might not appear to be a game designed to aid advances in cancer research. However, it is hoped that gamers will help scientists find vital new clues in the fight against cancer.

Is A Downer News Cycle A Factor in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge Success?

Beth's Blog -

In the last six weeks of summer, turn on any TV news channel, NPR, or read news articles online, and there was depressing news.    The Malaysian Airline tragedy in the Ukraine, the Ebola virus outbreak,  the conflict on the borders of Israel/Palestine, Iraq/ISIS,  Ferguson, and the sad passing of Robin Williams.    These are all very serious and sad world events.   So, maybe it is not too surprising that something that makes us feel good while doing good and a little silly like the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge went wild on the social networks.    (That’s the response I gave during NPR Morning Edition when asked why it was catching on)

The challenge involves dumping a bucket of ice water on one’s head or donating to the ALS Association, with a social media component.   Participants do a video of themselves dumping the water on their heads or donating, and tagging other people in their network to do the same.    This was not a campaign started by the ALS Association, but young people who wanted to support the cause.   Soon celebrities and main stream media joined in the fun as it continues to sweep the nation.   Technology rock stars have also joined the bandwagon, including Bill Gates, Robert Scoble, and Mark Zuckerberg (who was challenged to do this by Chris Christy, Governor of NJ).

I’ve written about the rise of Philanthrokids, those young people otherwise known as Generation Z, who are online social network savvy and can easily use their Smartphones to raise money or awareness for a cause.    I’ve seen colleagues take the challenge with their children, like my colleagues Lisa Colton and Marc Pitman both of whom have a family member who suffered from ALS.

It sounds counter intuitive to ask people to donate $100 to ALS or make this goofy video and share on social.  But according to news reports, it has increased awareness and dollars raised  for ALS research. The association reports $15.6 million in donations since July 29, compared with $1.8 million in the same period last year, including 300,000 new donors.  There were over a million videos created according to various reports.

Even my favorite charity and philanthropy cynic, my colleague Tom Watson who writes a regular column for Forbes Magazine, gave the Ice Bucket Challenge a big thumbs up in his recent column, pointing out all the reasons why it was a success beyond the dollars raised.  One reason is that wacky and goofy fundraisers work.  Another reason is the social proofing element, where friends tag their friends on social network. Social proof is peer pressure in a positive way, the positive influence created when people find out others are doing something – now, suddenly, everyone else wants to do that something too.

Like everything on the Internet, there was a backlash and criticism.   It’s  publicity stunt philanthropy.  It encouraging slacktivism, not long term relationship between the donor and the charity.  It won’t make a difference to those with ALS. And all about social media narcissism — a selfie on steroids and ego philanthropy.      Some suggest it is a just fad and is not really expanding charitable giving:

That would be all right if new donations to ALS added to the total of charitable giving. But the evidence is to the contrary. The concern  of philanthropy experts is that high-profile fundraising campaigns like this end up cannibalizing other donations–those inclined to donate $100 to charity this summer, or this year, will judge that they’ve met their social obligations by spending the money on ALS. (See this piece by MacAskill for an explanation.)

The explosive spread of the ice bucket challenge could even end up hurting ALS fundraising in the long term. The challenge is a fad, and fads by their nature burn out–the brighter they glow, the sooner they disappear.

The hard work of philanthropy always lies in creating a sustainable donor base. But the ice bucket challenge has all the hallmarks of something that will be regarded in 2015 as last year’s thing.

In a discussion with colleagues, I think Nancy White, had the right idea.   She was challenged and honored her friends request, but since wasn’t a fan of video self-promotion, she created a cartoon and also bent the challenge rules.   She also donated $100 to ALS, but also sent a donation to Doctors Without Borders because right now there are many West African countries who are so short of medical providers given The Ebola Crisis.  She challenged her friends to donate to ALS and to match their donation to another cause saying “Let’s spread good intentions, but wisely.”

Another alternative is the #noicebucket challenge:  Don’t dump cold water on your head; donate to ALS or other charity; and encourage your friends to do the same.   Inspired by Nancy, I’m forgoing the video and the water (we’re in a drought in California) and donating to charity:water, in honor of founder Scott Harrison’s son, Jackson, to welcome him into the world.

While the amazing success of the Ice Bucket Challenge isn’t going to be something that every nonprofit will be able to replicate, the ALS challenge will be how they can retain all these new donors.    For other professionals who work at nonprofits who may be asked by their board to cook up viral social media fundraiser, the challenge will be to extract the lessons learned and apply to social media infused fundraising campaigns and be ready to launch during the next negative news cycle.

Nonprofit Shares Data About Troubled Teens With Researchers - Technology - The Chronicle of Philanthropy- Connecting the nonprofit world with news, jobs, and ideas

AFP Blog -

Nonprofit Shares Data About Troubled Teens With Researchers - Technology - The Chronicle of Philanthropy- Connecting the nonprofit world with news, jobs, and ideas: Nonprofit Shares Data About Troubled Teens With Researchers

By Nicole Wallace

Researchers are gaining access to enormous amounts of data about teenagers who are struggling with depression, bullying, and other problems, thanks to Crisis Text Line, which has been operating for a year.

How the ice bucket challenge can boost Chinese philanthropy - Quartz

AFP Blog -

How the ice bucket challenge can boost Chinese philanthropy - Quartz: This morning, Chinese billionaire and internet entrepreneur Zhou Hongyi, the founder of search portal Qihoo, stood in front of a group of his employees and dumped a bucket of ice water over his head—all in the name of eradicating the disease Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), better known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Email Is Still the Best Thing on the Internet - The Atlantic

AFP Blog -

Email Is Still the Best Thing on the Internet - The Atlantic: All these people are trying to kill email.

"E-mail is dead, or at least that’s what Silicon Valley is banking on," wrote Businessweek tech reporter Ashlee Vance.

There's the co-founder of Asana, the work softwarePublish Post startup. Email has "become a counter-productivity tool,” Justin Rosenstein likes to say.


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