Notes from the President
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:
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
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 . . .
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 . . .
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 . . .
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. . .
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 . . .
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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To view the draft business plan for the proposed credit union: Draft Business Plan
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