Tag Archives: nonprofit management

My favorite NP reads

Here is a short list of my favorite nonprofit management and technology books that are out right now. Don’t miss them!

The Networked Nonprofit: Connecting with Social Media to Drive Change
Beth Kanter (Author), Allison Fine (Author), Randi Zuckerberg (Foreword)


In their book, The Networked Nonprofit, Beth Kanter and Allison Fine write, “Networked Nonprofits work as social networks, not just in them.” According to Kanter and Fine, by connecting individuals with common interests and goals, nonprofits create an ecosystem of organizations and people eager to help.  And by utilizing “free agents”individuals working outside the organization who can organize and raise funds – nonprofits can capitalize on the power of social media to get their message out.

Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard
Chip Heath (Author), Dan Heath (Author)


According the Heath brothers, change is NOT a four letter word! During his plenary presentation at the 2011 Nonprofit Technology Conference (#11NTC) Dan Heath described the metaphor of the elephant (unconscious/emotional brain) vs. the rider (rational/conscious brain) used in this book he co-wrote with his brother and discussed how nonprofit organizations can use the “elephant” as a fuel for change: Direct the rider. Motivate the elephant. Shape the path.

YOU and Your Nonprofit
Norman Olshansky and Linda Lysakowski, Editors, with 43 contributing authors


Heather Burton, Director, Product Marketing, Nonprofit Solutions, recently was published in this book, YOU and Your Nonprofit. Her chapter talks about how to achieve the “dream board” everybody wants. It’s about understanding not only the long-term vision, but also the current reality and the gaps between the two, and then setting the right priorities at the right time to begin closing those gaps. All the proceeds from purchasing from this direct link will benefit, BookSpring! YOU and Your Nonprofit Use this code and save 25% off. CODE: CCPRESS423

My Five Reasons For Being A Girl Scout

Stacy Dyer, Brownie

Stacy Dyer in full Brownie uniform, marching in the downtown Stuart holiday parade

Many years ago, I was shorter, cuter and I could eat a lot more cookies than I can today!

Before the days of Daisies, I joined Girl Scouts as a Brownie.  Yes that’s me to the right, check out my smile.  I loved being a Girl Scout.  Looking back there are many reasons why I enjoyed the experience and why I recommend Girl Scouts today.

Girl Scouts is fun!  I joined Troop #305, in Palm City, Florida initially because my mom’s friends’ daughters were all in the troop and I wanted to hang out with them.  We had a blast camping out, volunteering in local beach clean ups and dressing up in our uniforms to walk in the town’s annual holiday parade (complete with orange flag sock garters!)  Who doesn’t want to be in a parade?

Girl Scouts gets you outside.  A big reason for joining Scouts was the outdoor activities. I enjoyed horseback riding, camping, and wildlife rehabilitation. Scouting encouraged a great love of the natural world and it’s a value that has stayed with me to this day.

Girl Scouts gives you “prizes” and a sense of accomplishment.  Earning badges was one of my favorite parts of being a Girl Scout. Every meeting, our troop leader would organize a fun activity which would get us closer to our target. I have a competitive spirit and I relished the opportunity to have a good time and achieve something purposeful. I had so many badges, I had to get vest instead of a sash. My poor mom couldn’t keep up with sewing them on! I still crave accomplishments and rarely rest on my laurels for long.

Girl Scouts teaches you how to be an entrepreneur.  Call it Cookie Capitalism.  I learned “cold call” selling to strangers outside the grocery store and how to soft sell to my dad’s golfing buddies between the third green and the fourth tee. Back then, the only way to refuse me was to claim you had no cash. Of course, with today’s mobile payment options, and ATMs on every corner, you probably can’t get away with that excuse anymore. Selling cookies is a cornerstone of Girl Scout fundraising that instills an entrepreneurial spirit in young people—another Girl Scout trait I still carry today. I have supported myself as a freelancer and I am currently helping my husband Charles to build his coffee business on the side.  I have many an office colleague hooked on custom roasted coffee.

Girl Scouts empowers you to be the best you can be and to help others in turn. Service to others is a key part of the Girl Scouts experience.  You learn to be your better self by helping others and giving back to your community.  You also learn you are unstoppable and that really all you need in life are your friends, a pocket knife, flashlight and a box of cookies

For over a 100 years Girl Scouts has been developing girls and helping them grow into women.  Not too many organizations in this world have lasted as long.  I am so happy that I am getting to attend the 2011 National Girl Scout Council in Houston, Texas this week.  It is a chance to reconnect with fellow alumni, engage in Girl Scout leadership activities, and check out the captivating speakers.  I’m looking forward to being a part of this unforgettable event.  I will also be live tweeting from the event, follow the festivities on Twitter @stacydyer or the hash tag #GirlScouts100


How to Launch a Rapid Response Campaign like a Rockstar

The Bastrop Fires (image courtesy of AHS Media Arts)Here in Austin, I have been humbled by my community’s response to the central Texas wildfires. Individuals, small local businesses, and national corporations alike have clamored to offer their generous support to everyone affected by the fires.

This disaster, hitting so close to home, literally, has been an eye-opening experience for me as a fund raiser because many local nonprofits were unprepared for the outpouring of support that came from the community.

While this is a good problem to have, as far as problems go, there are few simple steps that every nonprofit can take RIGHT NOW to make sure they are ready to rise to the challenge when communities pour out their hearts in support of a common cause.

Start with a Simple Web Form

Create a simple form that can easily be placed on any website. Keep your form short and sweet. Ensuring it doesn’t take up too much web “real estate” will increase the number of websites willing to place it on their site. Keeping it simple also increase the likelihood of your form being prominently featured. Ideally, you want your form to be on the front page and “above the fold” to get as many impressions as possible.

Build your form using Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) so it can easily blend into any site. Webmasters will be more likely to publish your form on their own sites since it will automatically take on their sites’ look and feel without any additional work.

Make sure your form can be easily distributed as snippets of code so even novice webmasters will easily be able to embed your form on their own sites. With the form still hosted by you, you will have complete control over the content and can change it at any time.

Control Your Message

During non-urgent times, use your rapid response form to highlight your latest accomplishment, share a video or picture, or even let people sign up for your newsletter. Use rich media like pictures and video to keep your form interesting even when it is not “activated.” In times of need, quickly update the message on your form to distribute important information to the community, collect urgently needed funds, or whatever call to action you need most.

Webmasters are usually most likely to let you ask for donations during times of disaster. However, that doesn’t mean webmasters like hosting donation forms on their sites all the time. To increase your forms’ popularity, use your rapid response form to distribute information most of the time and only ask for donations in times of dire need.

Build Your Network Before You Need It

Encourage embedded forms throughout your supporters network of websites—other nonprofits, corporate sponsors, individual bloggers—so that your forms are already in place and ready to go when the need arises. Start building this network right now, don’t wait!

Launch a campaign that targets those technically savvy supporters who are most likely to have a website on which to feature your rapid response form. Use Facebook and Twitter to point them to your rapid response form. Be sure your form has the snippet of code for them to embed on their site featured prominently. Ideally, the snippet should be right next to your share buttons for Facebook and Twitter, so all users have to do is copy and paste.

To increase the number of people who distribute your form, customize the content for each audience. For example, if your organization’s mission is animal wellness, create a form that features kittens for cat lovers and another with puppies for dog lovers. Targeting your content will widen your audience and increase the overall exposure for your rapid response form.

Ways to Use a Rapid Response Form

Obviously, you can use a rapid response form to ask for donations, but that is only the beginning. Your new form has all the potential power of a grassroots, distributed information network. Other ways you can use your form include:

  • Political activism – encourage supporters to contact their representatives to speak out against potential funding cuts or other legislation
  • Activate community action – Flash mob at 12:30 at City Hall!
  • Information alerts – think news alerts; when something is happening right now that your supporters need to know about immediately
  • Generate matching gifts – We need another $2000 by 5pm to qualify for that big match from the Mr. & Mrs. Rich Foundation!

Now that you know the basics of creating a rapid response campaign for your organization, how will you put it into practice? Share your ideas!

Want more examples?

I love this story from NTEN about a Marfa radio station’s Facebook page becoming a hub for community alerts and info.  The key is to have your network in place BEFORE the emergency. Read these related articles and let me know what you think.

Related articles:



Book Review: YOU and Your Nonprofit

Heather Burton, my boss, recently was published in this book, YOU and Your Nonprofit. She brilliantly wrote the second chapter.

Here is a summary of her chapter:

Executive directors, staff members, and volunteers want it. You and I want it. Everybody wants it.

The dream board.

And oh, the places we’d go with that dream board! We’d have the most beautiful vision and a clear strategy for achieving it. We’d raise all the money we need, serve all the clients in need, and make the world a beautiful, safe place.

If only the world was that perfect! Alas, it’s not.

But, there are ways to move closer to that utopia. In my experience, it’s about understanding not only the long-term vision, but also the current reality and the gaps between the two, and then setting the right priorities at the right time to begin closing those gaps.

I’m hoping this article provides insight into how you can re-energize and transform your board in a way that brings your organization into the next phase of its evolution.

The chapter goes on to address topics such as organizational and board life cycles, getting the right leadership, on-boarding board members, and having the right roles for the right people.

If interested in purchasing one, you can get your copy at this link. All the proceeds from purchasing from this direct link will benefit, BookSpring!
YOU and Your Nonprofit

Use this code and save 25% off. CODE: CCPRESS423

Book Review: The Future of Nonprofits

The Future of NonprofitsThe Future of Nonprofits: Innovate and Thrive in the Digital Age is a new book by Randal C Moss (@randalc) and David J Neff (@daveiam). In it, the authors strive to unravel the mystery around how nonprofit organizations innovate and implement new ideas.  It provides a roadmap for nonprofits to create a system to encourage innovation–a place for new ideas to be judged, tested, funded and eventually launched.

The book begins by defining the concepts of strategy vs. futuring.  Nonprofits must anticipate future states so they can be prepared to capitalize on emerging opportunities in the marketplace. Rather than focusing on contingency plans, Moss and Neff point out that organizations must plan for all (or at least the most likely) future states.  Futuring helps organizations to define the environments in which they can expect to be operating. The book describes how nonprofits can create their future through innovation, tolerating waste, and creating an organizational culture that welcomes change.

The book also discusses several major roadblocks to nonprofits effectively innovating.  One of these obstacles is having an operational mindset which is focused on productivity and execution–missing slow, incremental changes that build up over time.  Overburdened staff are busy focusing on day-to-day tactical activities, and organizations don’t allow for the nurturing and implementation  of forward-thinking ideas.

Moss and Neff explain that executive support is key factor to successful innovation – staff must have buy-in from the top down as well as laterally across departments.  For example, if implementation will need IT support, communicating early with IT along innovation stages/timeline can reduce pushback. The book even suggests ways staff can use their Board of Directors as an extra set of eyes to spot trends and changes that will affect the way the organization operates.

[Innovation is] “Easy to talk about, but not so easy to take substantive steps forward,” says Wendy Harman (@wharman), Social Media Director for the American Red Cross. (pg 24)

To take that next step, Moss and Neff suggest nonprofit leaders must move past metrics that measure success based on income/revenue alone and instead, focus on engagement. Understand the motivation of your constituents and get close to their experience. Rather than simply looking at how constituents currently interact with your organization, look at how they would like to interact with you.

While many traditional (for-profit) management theories eliminate waste from organizational processes, Moss and Neff instead profess that “waste is wonderful!” (pg 49) The book points out examples of companies like Google, which encourage staff to spend up to 20% of their time pursuing things they are passionate about.  The process of rapid innovation which results from this freedom enables staff to take advantage of opportunities that may have otherwise been missed. Innovation is not something that can be run in a side department or as an ancillary program.

This review only scratches the surface of what is covered in this very timely book.  There are interviews with nonprofit leaders from American Cancer Society, Nonprofit Technology Education Network (NTEN), American Red Cross, and others to get perspective on what current nonprofit leaders are doing to support innovation.  There are also specific recommendations of blogs, conferences, and websites with resources about nonprofit innovation and identifying future trends, in general.

Readers will come away from this book with the confidence that you don’t need an expert to create an innovative organization.  Managers must encourage a willingness to be aware of your current situation, an eagerness to explore opportunities, and have a tolerance to fail. This book shows there are opportunities to solve massively complex problems with simple technologies and it gives organizations a roadmap for creating an environment where innovative ideas are encouraged, evaluated, and finally implemented.

Online Advocates Help You Raise More

This article about online advocates, entitled “Online Advocates Help You Raise More”, originally appeared in the May/June 2011 issue of Advancing Philanthropy

Empower your raving fans to fundraise on your behalf

By Stacy Dyer, Sage North America

Humans are social creatures.  We are more likely to support a cause when asked by friends or family.  Make the most of people’s natural social nature by empowering those individuals who are most passionate about your cause to share their passion for your cause and solicit support on your behalf.

“We work hard to develop long-lasting, strategic relationships with individuals, organizations, and businesses, so our pool of existing supporters and donors are essential to us,” says Jessica Anderson, communications manager for Pennsylvania Environmental Council (PEC). “Not only are they the most loyal event participants, but they also reach out to new supporters with whom we wouldn’t otherwise connect.”

It’s about more than just getting people to sign online petitions. Encourage your raving fans (you know who they are, right?) to ask their own social networks to support your cause online. There are several ways to encourage personal advocacy online.

Peer-to-peer fundraising

First, there is simple peer-to-peer fundraising.  This happens when a donor or supporter shares a link to your donation form on their personal email or Facebook, Twitter, or blog page, encouraging their friends, colleagues, and readers to visit your website and make a donation.

Make it easy for supporters to share your organization’s donation forms on popular networks by embedding “share” links on every donation and event registration form you create.

Personal Fundraising Pages

To engage your supporters even more, allow individuals and partners supporting your organization to host personal fundraising pages on their own websites or blogs.  Maximize distribution with a portable virtual form. Advocates will be more willing to host a form on their site if it does not require visitors to leave their site in order to complete the form.

Make sure you address security within the form itself.  Credit card transaction security is crucial. Allow advocates to host your form without needing to worry about security, and without needing to specially configure their own blog or website.  Sponsors and other organizational partners will find this particularly helpful and will be more likely to not only sponsor your organization or special event, but also fundraise and advocate on your behalf on their own websites.

Ideally, the form you distribute to allow others to fundraise on your behalf will be easy for you to update, at any time.  The wider your distribution, the more difficult it would be to contact each advocate and request them to manually update it.  Create a form that you control, so that if you need to update your message for an urgent call to action, or any other reason, your changes will be immediately reflected anywhere the form is published.

Personalized Advocacy Center

Bring e-advocacy even further by allowing individuals to create their own personalized fundraising page, tracking the donations they have raised for your cause, on your site.  This type of advocacy is often used by registrants of race events, as they ask their friends to sponsor their participation in your run, walk, or ride.  But you don’t need to host a race to encourage advocate fundraising; it can be used in any type of fundraising campaign.

Create widgets online that supporters and participants can customize and share with their own peer-to-peer networks.  Make it both fun and personal.  Allow advocates to upload an image and share a personal statement about why they are supporting your cause.

Encourage your advocates to thank their friends and family who donate or pledge their support. Collect and share the email addresses of donors with the advocate, so they can send a thank you message to each of their personal supporters.

Competition can be a great motivator, too.  Set clear goals for each advocate, and allow advocates to increase their goal to keep the support flowing even after the original goal is met and surpassed. Be sure that any donations your advocate collects offline are counted, too. Use visual progress meters to publically track progress and allow individuals to share their success.

“We’re excited to have an advocacy center for each of our Pennsylvania Environment Ride participants,” says Anderson. “Making it easy for riders to ask their friends to sponsor them in the event, plus get credit for all the donations they raise themselves, will increase the amount of money raised by the event.”

Expand Your Reach

You rarely get anything you don’t ask for, so ask for it!  Your network of supporters, participants, and donors are your greatest asset when it comes to expanding your organization’s reach.  Ask your raving fans and most motivated supporters for help and make it easy for them to do, and you’ll be pleased by the results.


About Advancing Philanthropy
With 32,000 subscribers, Advancing Philanthropy is written for the members of the Association of Fundraising Professionals and executives of nonprofit organizations and institutions. The magazine provides ideas and strategies for the fundraising community, and includes information on education, training and advocacy for philanthropy. It also addresses ethical concerns and provides the latest news, resources, tools, models and technology for the sector. Web site: http://www.afpnet.org/Publications/IssueList.cfm?navItemNumber=544

Online Advocates.. from AdvPhil (pp33-41) Technology MayJun 2011


Participants’ tips for race fundraising success, part two

This article is part two of a series that focuses on the participants perspective of an event fundraiser and how to improve participants’ experience with events, and increase overall event participation. It was originally published by Hilborn eNEWS, formerly Canadian Fundraising & Philanthropy.

If you haven’t already, please read part one of the series.


Participants’ tips for race fundraising success, part two

By Heather Burton, Stacy Dyer, and Stacey Miller

As we said in our last article, you only get one chance to make a first impression. Timing, location and course selection are key starting points to providing a fantastic experience and having us show up again next year.

We’re going to finish our sneak peek into the participants’ perspective with three other areas of focus: technology, marketing and race necessities.

Easy event registration

There’s nothing worse than getting excited about information from a PSA, local newspaper ad or even a friend, only to struggle with event registration. These days, easy online registration is a must for successful charity races.  If we have to step away from your registration for any reason, there is a good chance we might never return.

Consider vendors that specialize in event management software and online event registration. They should have pre-made templates that you can modify to suit your own event, saving you time and effort and making our online registration a breeze. Help us find your form – make it available not only from your website, but also from your Facebook page or anywhere else your supporters might find you online.

We all hate filling out forms, so make sure you remove as many barriers as possible to completing the registration. Most of us like forms that are simple to complete, collecting all the relevant information (such as t-shirt size), in one place.  We understand that you need this information for your database and we support you in that endeavor. But please, collect only the information you absolutely need.  Use an after-race nurture e-mail for additional information or cultivation as necessary.

Ensure your technology includes a merchant gateway so you can securely collect payment at the time of registration. Give me options to pay for my registration, such as credit cards, Paypal, or Google Checkout.

Be sure to capture the registration data in a database so you can run reports and email the participants in case your logistics change. Having email addresses also allows you to add participant information to your fundraising database.

Hear ye, hear ye!

Market, market, market, and market some more! During race season, you’ll have to make a lot of marketing “noise” for us to notice your race – especially if yours is an inaugural race. Many of the most effective channels will run your race announcement free of charge. This includes local running stores, websites, and newspapers. Many television and radio news programs also allow local nonprofits to publicize their events. No matter where you advertise, be sure to include the name of the race, date, time, place, charitable beneficiary, directions for registering and contact information.

Don’t forget about or ignore the role of social media. Facebook and Twitter can be your best friends for viral marketing. People are more persuaded to participate in a race when asked by family or friends, so make sure links to registration forms are easy for us to share directly in our social networks. Allow us to monitor the success of our fundraising efforts with online thermometers or status bars that update automatically whenever a contribution is made.

It’s true that as runners or cyclists we love our sport, but incentives will draw us toward a particular race. Everyone loves to get the “stuff” that comes with organized events. From the souvenir shirt to the bib number, participants feel satisfaction from having proof of completion. Many participate in races year after year just because they enjoy collecting the unique, limited-edition t-shirt included in their race packet!

And don’t forget that we love extras – discount coupons to local smoothie shops, athletic stores, health clubs or spas are popular items. Many times the charity can get these items donated or at a reduced cost in return for the advertising. Make the packet a true “goodie bag” to entice the racer to register year after year, and remember to consider what you can do to make your packet unique. It will get talked about in race circles and draw even more participants to next year’s event.

“This was OK, but…”

We want to remember your race, not only for your cause but because of its excitement and memories. Here are some race necessities to consider.

Race-start excitement Make sure you have a clear starting line with a countdown clock, and have a bullhorn so you can start your race on time. Consider providing entertainment and engaging with a local radio station to make announcements. We appreciate the local touch of celebrities and activities for our families to enjoy while we run or ride.

Quench the thirst, motivate the soul Along the race course, make sure you have plenty of water stations. High school cheerleaders and athletes make a great addition to cheer your racers on. Music is a great motivator, and local musicians might want to join in the excitement. Have people monitoring the course to keep your racers safe.

Celebrate success. After the race is celebration time! Make sure your finish line is appropriately marked and festive. Consider a finish chute consisting of a rope/flag border about six feet wide and long enough to accommodate the maximum number of participants you think will be finishing within any one-minute period in your race. Keep the finish exciting for us by having racers announced as they cross the finish line. Provide water bottles as we finish the race – don’t make us search for water.

Feed us! And don’t forget that during a race we can burn anywhere from 300 to 700 calories that we need to replenish. Most races will provide fruit (bananas, cut oranges), bagels sliced in half or cookies. Many sports-food vendors like to test their latest products at events, so ask them! Additionally you might consider getting sponsorship from massage schools or chiropractic practices. Give us a good 15-minute massage after a 5K run and your event will stand out in the crowd. These activities will help turn your race event into an after-race party!

Holding a charity race can be daunting and rewarding. From start to finish, there are a million little details to which you must attend. However, these steps will help you anticipate the needs of your participants and supporters and provide an excellent race experience to keep attendees coming back year after year.


Heather Burton, product marketing director for Sage North America’s Nonprofit Solutions business, has been involved in the nonprofit sector for more than a decade. Stacy Dyer is a product marketing manager for Sage’s Austin-based Nonprofit Solutions business. She has worked and volunteered with nonprofits for more than 15 years. With more than 20 years of experience in market management and marketing communications for both nonprofits and for-profits, Stacey Miller currently serves as a consultant to Sage Nonprofit Solutions.

Method Tweeting: Using theatre techniques to engage your social media audience

At SXSW interactive festival in March, I attended a great panel discussion, Method Tweeting for Non Profits (and Other Players)
Click here to view the slides from this panel on slideshare.
Panel presenters included: Carie Lewis, Dir of Emerging Media The Humane Society of the United States (@cariegrls); Dan Michel, Digital Mktg Mgr Feeding America (@dpmichel or @FeedingAmerica); Eve Simon, Creative Dir Beaconfire Consulting (@NaiEve or @thebeaconsxsw); Geoff Livingston, CMO Zoetica (@geoffliving); and Jennifer Windrum, Founder WTF? (Where’s the Funding) for Lung Cancer (@jenniferwindrum and @wtflungcancer).
We have recently been witness to a great example of method tweeting in action, as Eve Simon pointed out via her Twitter handle, @NaiEve. The twitter sensation, @BronxZoosCobra is a prime example of developing an online persona that inspires a fanatical response.   
The facebook page contains many comments of fans, similar to this one:
Despite the Bronx Zoo’s accident, the right social media capital has turned this potential public relations disaster into a gold mine for reaching new audiences and future donors for the organization. 
While most of us do not necessarily want a quarter of a million followers, most of us aren’t going to so far as to impersonate a snarky snake, either.  And with results like that, you cannot deny the method clearly works.

What exactly is method tweeting?

Method tweeting is the concept that nonprofits must create a brand persona via their online presence that embodies a voice for the cause. 
If Shakespeare tweeted would he use his voice or characters? Method tweeting is based on the theory of method acting.  It is about starting a dialogue and tweeting based on authentic emotional and intellectual ties.

Nonprofits use of social media

There’s no doubt that the use of social media among nonprofits in on the rise. In 2010, 60% of nonprofits were on Twitter, up from 38% in 2009 and have on average 1800 followers. But what do they do with those followers? What do they say to them?

To thine own tweet be true

To create authenticity, there must a real-world tie between the person at the keyboard and the cause.  Carie Lewis pointed out, “In order to do my job well, you have to love social media and love animals…tweet what you love.”
The key is to select a staff member or free agent who is motivated by the charity’s cause to promote the organization on social media. If that individual doesn’t believe in what they’re tweeting for, they cannot be authentic. And your entire Twitter presence is based on deception.  To be successful, they must take on the identity of the organization on Twitter and truly embody all for which it stands.

Conflicted loyalties

There are inevitably times when choices are made with which not everyone in an organization may agree. These are the times when it is most important to believe in the organization. Tweeting is believing and anyone responsible for an organization’s public social media persona must have the passion to support the organization even if they disagree with the choices being made.
There is a balance to be struck between personal voice and professional tweets.  Many folks manage multiple twitter accounts.  Dan Michel pointed out that your personal tweets are everyday expressions of your casual self, while your organizational twitter voice is more “like me at a wedding – on my best behavior.”  It is fine to publish snarky commentary on your personal twitter account (as long as it doesn’t conflict with the organization’s position) but institutional tweeting requires more a conservative approach. Talk to people as you would at a job interview or other formal setting.


Personalities blur across accounts when you manage multiple twitter handles.  What happens when your personalities cross?  It happens to everyone at some point.  You know – that tweet you meant to send from your personal account accidentally gets posted to the wrong twitter account.  
This happened to the Red Cross when a staff member accidentally posted to the @RedCross account:
You can read about the faux pas and how the Red Cross dealt (BRILLIANTLY) with the error on the American Red Cross blog.
While it may be impossible to avoid the inevitable twitter mistakes, one thing you can do to avoid crossing your personalities is to use different tools for personal and organization twitter accounts. For example, I use TweetDeck for personal tweets and Hootsuite for organization tweets.

Avatars define voice

How does your avatar represent your social media voice?  Is it a photo? Is it a logo?  What does it imply?  For example, if you are an individual tweeting for your organization, do you use a personal photo so followers know the person behind the tweets? Or do you use a corporate logo and speak with a broader organizational voice?  
Many celebrities use their headshot as an avatar, but very few actually tweet for themselves.  Set the proper expectations instantly by selecting a powerful avatar image that defines your twitter voice authentically.

Emotions and tone

Personality is key to successful tweeting. Greatness doesn’t necessarily translate on twitter.  People like to follow people – not brands. Tweeting for your organization should be a mix of the institution’s founding principles and speaking in a conversational way. 
It is true that personal spokespeople get more followers.  Michel pointed out the clear example of Livestrong’s official twitter which has over 100,000 followers vs Livestrong CEO’s account which has over one million!
The most important takeaway to remember is that authenticity and personality go a long in effectively using social media, such as twitter, to reach your audience. Maintain an appropriate and approachable tone and let personal passions that align to organizational objectives drive content.
My words fly up, my thoughts remain below.
Words without thoughts never to heaven go.
-          Hamlet, Act 3, Scene 3

Participants’ tips for race fundraising success, part one

This article is part one of a series that focuses on the participants perspective of an event fundraiser and how to improve participants’ experience with events, and increase overall event participation. It was originally published by Hilborn eNEWS, formerly Canadian Fundraising & Philanthropy.


Participants’ tips for race fundraising success, part one

By Heather Burton, Stacy Dyer, and Stacey Miller

We love to participate in charity races, walks and rides. They’re a great way for nonprofits to amplify their reach and raise money. They make us feel good, emotionally and physically. And these days, it’s a rare weekend when some sort of athletic charity event can’t be found. We’ve even stumbled across a “yoga-a-thon,” which is not a race, run, or ride, but still a pretty cool idea for summer athletes in the winter months!

In this two-part article, we’ll give you a sneak peek into the participants’ perspective, with key ways to turn avid event participants into not only yearly attendees, but also fans for your cause.

The Toronto People With AIDS Foundation holds its Friends For Life Bike Rally each year. Tim Ledger and Carmelo Millimaci, co-leaders of the event’s media and communications committee, say some of this year’s participants are returning for their 11th year.

“Returning riders and crew tell us that, aside from the cause, the reasons they return are the sense of community they find during the event, the truly lifelong friendships they have developed, the physical challenge, and the feeling of accomplishment they get from cycling or volunteering for the six-day journey from Toronto to Montreal,” says Millimaci.

One chance to make a first impression

All participants love a well-organized event. Tell us where to park on race day. Give us a map of the course and clearly mark the starting point. The way you manage your race, run, or walk is how we will perceive your charity, especially if this is our first experience with you.

From setting the course to counting down to the start, it’s never too early to begin planning. A few key areas on which to focus include the anticipated number of participants, cost of the packets, advertising, weather conditions, and technology considerations for registration, communication, and tracking runner, walker, and rider times.


Spring and fall are considered race seasons. The weather and the desire to be outdoors make these the most comfortable and largest attended races. Open registration early, especially if you’re asking us to fundraise on your behalf. Four months isn’t too early to open registration. In fact, some participants prefer a six-month registration window. We need to get your message out to our networks, so give us time to do that. Consider this: What lead time would you need to ensure participants have the best possible registration experience?

A considerable number of runs, walks, and rides are held on Saturday mornings. If you set yourself apart by holding your event on Friday or Saturday evening, you give us the option to participate in multiple events. Remember to look at all types of events, including cycling, swimming, and triathlons, because cross-endurance activities are common. Check with your local run and cycle shops as they usually keep an active events calendar.

Location, location, location

Courses are a key component of any successful run, walk, or ride event. Great courses offer a challenge for a variety of fitness levels, good terrain, and nice scenery. Many participants will use your well-planned and enjoyable course to train for your event, so consider accessibility, traffic patterns, and overall appeal of your planned course. The best course routes are not only convenient, but also a pleasure to run, walk, or ride anytime – not just during race day.

Consider family participation

Give us a reason to make your race a “family affair.” If your charity can arrange it, cast a wide net by offering multiple events within one, such as a 5K, a 10K, and a Kids K. Doing this can get tricky, but having various distance challenges allows participants to market your event to multiple audiences to help increase participation and encourage family engagement with your cause. Arrange all the different courses to have the same start and finish line, so supporters who are not racing can cheer on all of the participants from one location.

Measure accurately

For avid racers, it’s frustrating to run or ride a course feeling like your time is incredibly slow or thinking this is your fastest race ever. Accuracy of the course distance is crucial. Please don’t use a car odometer because you’ll only be accurate within 1/10 to 2/10 of the stated distance. The most common way to accurately measure the course is with a Jones-Oerth counter attached to the front wheel of a bicycle. Better yet, get your course certified by Athletics Canada / Run Canada.

Course certification is great for garnering the attention of serious, competitive athletes in your community. It can also help raise the profile of your event in local media, increase participation, and raise more awareness for your cause. Participants like to check times from race to race, so knowing that your course is accurate helps us improve our fitness levels, as well as advocate for your particular event.

Invisible but vital details

Finally, pay attention to elevation gain, traffic, road conditions, and any other factors that could make participating in your event strenuous for the less physically able. Remember, you’re not only catering to athletes, but also the general public and your current constituency. You may also benefit from contacting a local running or walking club for suggestions of routes that may fit your participants’ ability levels.

Millimaci adds, “Our bike rally is attractive to participants for many reasons – for fitness, for charity, for the love of community and friendship, and to make a positive difference in the lives of others.”

In our next article, we’ll talk about choosing technology, marketing, and a few essentials for event day. Happy planning!

Please read part two of the series.

Heather Burton, product marketing director for Sage North America‘s Nonprofit Solutions business, has been involved in the nonprofit sector for more than a decade.

Stacy Dyer is a product marketing manager for Sage’s Austin-based Nonprofit Solutions business. She has worked and volunteered with nonprofits for more than 15 years.

With more than 20 years of experience in market management and marketing communications for both nonprofits and for-profits, Stacey Miller serves as a consultant to Sage Nonprofit Solutions.

Turning Offline Events into Powerful Online Donation Engines

My article: Turning Offline Events into Powerful Online Donation Engines, has been published in the Desert Charity News.  Check it out here, page 37.

It has tips and tricks savvy nonprofits can use to increase online giving for real-world events; such as races, golf tournaments, or opening night galas.