Friday, November 30, 2012

How America Gives (Nicole Wilken)

This interactive map from the Chronicle of Philanthropy is a fun tool to visualize how certain regions compare to national averages in terms of philanthropic giving. The data shown are from 2008, but the map gives really relevant information broken down by geographical regions and demographic studies without being overly statistical.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Nonprofit Marketing (Nicole Wilken)

Kivi Leroux Miller is the president of Nonprofit Marketing and is a leader in how marketing and social media can contribute to accomplishing the goals of nonprofits. In this recent post from her blog, Miller shares some great ideas about how to develop engaging newsletters, blogs, or websites – balancing what the target audience wants to hear and what the nonprofit wants them to learn. And really, it should be a balance between the two elements. In Miller’s strategy: “Put some cheese sauce on that broccoli.”

In a similar way, this blog is intended to be both a way for me to tell about my experiences and the strategies that seem to work best in the contexts I use them as well as to pass along resources that would be most helpful to you the readers. In an effort to create transparency: What would you like to hear in this blog? What sort of resources would be helpful for you to know about? Is there any type of information that you find most helpful?

Feel free to leave comments or questions below, or send me an email at

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Gratitude (Nicole Wilken)

Here is an interesting idea about the cyclical nature of philanthropy:

In a recent essay, gratitude guru Robert Emmons argues that thankfulness is important not only because it helps people feel good, but also because it encourages them do good. “Gratitude takes us outside ourselves where we see ourselves as part of a larger, intricate network of sustaining relationships, relationships that are mutually reciprocal,” he writes. “As such, gratitude serves as a key link in the dynamic between receiving and giving. It is not only a response to kindnesses received, but it is also a motivator of future benevolent actions on the part of the recipient.” This “pay it forward” aspect of gratitude fosters the exchange of time, money, and attention in the service of social good.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Increasing Google Rank (Nicole Wilken)

As the nation’s leading search engine, Google allows people to find the information they need using a few keywords. For this reason, it is important that nonprofits, like any organization, are aware of how information about their work is made public on Google, specifically the organization’s website. Hopefully, when a person searches the organization name specifically, the website would be the first hit. But what happens when a person is trying to find an organization that offers a particular service using only general keywords? This is when understanding Google ranks can come in handy and be a significant part of an organization’s visibility and outreach. For more information about how to increase Google ranking, visit this website.

Using our World Relief Campaign project as an example: I was surprised to see that when I used a general search of “schools on Indian reservations” the website of the Red Cloud Indian School was the first hit on Google. However, when I searched “schools on Indian reservations in the United States” the website was not on the first ten pages of Google hits. When I specified the location using “schools on Indian reservations in South Dakota” Red Cloud was again the first hit. The moral of the story: search terms can affect the amount of information that people have access to depending on the combination and specificity of the keywords. When searching Google to better understand an online profile of an organization, test multiple combinations of search terms to get an accurate view of the organization’s visibility and Google rank.

This also highlights an important thing about the technological revolution. Don’t rely on technology to automatically increase the amount of information that people will have access to about a particular nonprofit. Though there are ways to manipulate the information presented online, don’t depend solely on online publicity. Instead, come up with a comprehensive outreach strategy that involves emails and Google searches, but also mail notifications and word-of-mouth.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Festivus, Fly Fishing and Meaningful Gifts

Remember the Seinfeld episode where George makes holiday (in this case, Festivus) charitable donations in honor of his coworkers to "The Human Fund?" In typical Costanza style, he solves a perpetual gift-giving problem, "what to buy coworkers," by making up a charity and printing up cards that say, "A donation has been made in your name to The Human Fund.... The Human Fund, Money for People." (Get a glimpse of the cards here.) His gift is widely appreciated among coworkers until his boss, Mr. Kruger, decides to support the Human Fund with a $20,000 donation of his own. Then, accounting informs Kruger of the charity's nonexistence, and ... yada yada yada... we end with feats of strength. Love it!

But, there are two things to we can take seriously about this episode:
  • Giving gifts to nonprofit organizations "in honor of" coworkers, friends, extended relatives, clients, vendors, etc. is a great idea! You give a double gift, especially if you tailor the gift to something personal about the honoree.
For example, if your grandad is a veteran, and he loves fly fishing, you might want to make a gift in his honor by contributing to Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing, whose mission is "to assist in the physical and emotional rehabilitation of disabled active duty military personnel and veterans through fly fishing and fly tying education and outings." Take what you know about someone's life and passions, and turn it into a gift that is meaningful to the honoree and beneficial to people who need help.
  • It is important to do your homework. You would hate to to find out, like Mr. Kruger did, that there was a problem with the charity you've supported financially. A great starting point is Guidestar. (Check out Nicole's previous post here.) Those organizations with the Guidestar Exchange Seal have demonstrated a commitment to transparency. Talk with your honoree to find out if there are causes and organizations close to her heart that she already supports. Talk with your local community foundation or United Way (find them by clicking on the links) to learn about outstanding organizations in your honoree's hometown. If you have the time, volunteer at the honoree's organization to learn more about why your friend is connected.
George Costanza thought that giving a gift to a charitable organization was taking the easy way out, but the truth is that giving can be intensely emotional and personal, and you can show your deep appreciation for someone in your life when you take the time to know and support what is meaningful to her.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Social Impact Exchange (Nicole Wilken)

As we approach the end of the year, we turn our attention to making gifts to non-profits that have the greatest impact. One resource to help us choose is the Social Impact Exchange, a resource that is “about finding what works and getting it out to the people and places that could benefit the most.” Their website includes a list of the 100 most high-impact solutions to the nation’s biggest problems – addressing education, poverty, youth, and heath – and the 16,000 programs across the country that implement these strategies. To be included in the S&I 100 list, charities must be over three years old and have an annual budget of over $1 million. The organizations must also supply an impact assessment of their work by a third-party along with a growth plan for the expansion of their effective programs. Each organization’s profile offers a user-friendly description of the work and impact of the organization, including the mission, goals, and a summary of its financial information. Unlike other resources, this is not a rating service to endorse the work of particular charities. Instead, the Social Impact Exchange offers insight about what strategies are most effective in solving the largest national problems that we face and identifies the organizations that are implementing these programs successfully.