Avocados are Back - Hi!

By Jan Masaoka

I don't know about you, but it's been a long time since we had some Blue Guacamole. Susan Sanow and I have had a lovely sabbatical and we're also very happy to be back. Break open that bag of chips and a couple of beers for us, too? :) This issue:

  • A Tiger Ate Someone Today . . . and I'm on the Zoo Board: First Person Nonprofit
  • Everything We've Been Taught About Major Gifts is Wrong by Jan Masaoka
  • Why Don't Foundations Build Capacity in Fundraising? by Aaron Dorman
  • Ask Rita: Can We Fire Someone for What They Said in Personal Email? by Pamela Fyfe
  • Nine Nonprofit Trends that Need to Die by Vu Le

You might notice our new look, too. The changes are minor but they allow Blue Avocado to look better on those electronic devices that didn't exist when we started in 2008. And please: let us know what you're up to! - Jan Masaoka


A Tiger Ate Someone Today . . . and I'm on the Zoo Board

By Anonymous

It made international headlines: tiger attacks three visitors and kills one after escaping her enclosure at the San Francisco Zoo. What was it like to be on the Zoo board at that time? We are grateful to our friend for sharing his First Person Nonprofit experience and what he learned about boards:

How did you first hear about the attack?

It was Christmas night. It happened about 5:00 pm on Christmas Day. I was at home and it came across in an email about 5:30. Everyone started exchanging messages. My first reaction was sadness, deep sadness . . .


Everything We've Been Taught About Major Gifts is Wrong

By Jan Masaoka

Of course, by "everything" for purposes of this article I mean "three big things." But conventional wisdom can lead us astray when devising effective fundraising strategies. Like leprechauns, these mythical truisms can mislead us into thinking we should be chasing pots of gold that will always remain out of reach:

Myth #1: People have been acculturated to resist asking people for donations. Training them in "doing the ask" and inspiring them about goals are good ways to overcome this resistance.

Actually, only a few people are very resistant to asking strangers . . .


Why Don't Foundations Build Capacity in Fundraising?

By Aaron Dorfman

Foundations often encourage nonprofits - especially grassroots organizations - to develop non-foundation income streams as part of sustainability. So then why do so few of our grantmakers invest in building the capacity of those groups to raise independent money? Aaron Dorfman of the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy takes on this mystery:

Said a major grantmaker: "The most significant regret I have in looking over my 15 years as a leader of two big philanthropies is that, while we thought a lot about sustainability at the Open Society Foundations and at the Atlantic Philanthropies, we rarely made grants to strengthen organizations' fundraising." - Gara LaMarche . . .


Can We Fire Someone for What They Said in Personal Email?

By Pamela Fyfe

Dear Rita in HR: We recently discovered that an employee is shopping online at work and is signed on to social media sites such as Facebook for about 3 hours per day. We don't know if she merely views it for a moment and then leaves it open or if she is actually posting and reading for those 3 hours. We also don't know if she is doing this exclusively during her lunch and break time, which combined would account for about 1 hour/day. In addition, she left her Gmail account open and we were able to read some of the mail she sent to a friend about the fact that she hates her supervisor. We would like to fire her for these infractions. Are we are solid legal ground here?
- Don’t Know Much about the eWorkplace

Dear Don't Know: You've got a complicated situation here. . .


Nine Nonprofit Trends that Need to Die

By Vu Le

Vu Le of the Ranier Valley Corps, calls out some of the most annoying nonprofit trends. We would add the use of word clouds (see left).

1. Ignite-style presentations AKA "presentation by karaoke"

"Ignite" involves a five-minute Powerpoint presentation with 20 slides, where the slides advance themselves every 15 seconds. It cuts off long-winded people, and it's kind of fun to see how speakers match up their speech with the slides. When done right, and used mostly for humorous and easy-to-understand stuff, it can be great.

But I've seen it too often used for novelty's sake to explain difficult nonprofit concepts or missions, in which case it becomes "presentation by karaoke," underestimates . . .


Notes from the President

Pamela Davis, Volunteer President, American Nonprofits
Pamela Davis
Volunteer President
American Nonprofits
We at American Nonprofits remain keenly interested in working to find ways to improve nonprofits’ access to capital.  We are currently collaborating with Nonprofits Insurance Alliance of California (NIAC) in some work they are doing to develop a scoring model to evaluate creditworthiness of nonprofits. They also recently launched a $1 million loan fund to assist their members, while at the same time honing this credit scoring model. In addition to continuing to look for ways to improve nonprofits’ access to capital, the American Nonprofits board of directors recently has developed a concept paper to better describe our aspirations for this American. We welcome your feedback...

Join the Discussion

American Nonprofits was formed by a group of nonprofit sector leaders to serve as a platform to address issues of finance, credit, strategy and accountability. As a membership organization that welcomes both nonprofit organizations and individuals, we occupy the intersection of finance and strategy. We are a platform through which members can convene local and national discussions, initiate solutions, and collectively improve nonprofit finance (e.g. the credit union project below).
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American Nonprofits Federal Credit Union

Do you think nonprofits deserve fair access to credit and loans?
Do you want to discuss and improve nonprofit strategy and finance?
Does it annoy you that big banks make profits from nonprofit customers without offering appropriate credit?

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To view the draft business plan for the proposed credit union: Draft Business Plan

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The work to found American Nonprofits as well as assist with the research into the credit union is possible thanks to a $100,000 grant from Nonprofits Insurance Alliance Group, and an initial $25,000 grant from the Wallace Alexander Gerbode Foundation. The Silicon Valley Community Foundation also made a $50,000 grant to forward this work.


Check out this recent Article about us in the Silicon Valley Business Journal

Check out the Article about us in the San Francisco Business Times

Check out the Article about us in the Chronicle of Philanthropy