Posts made in February, 2012

A Fresh Look at Event Planning

Posted by on Feb 20, 2012 | 0 comments

This blog post lists 10 Event Trends for 2012. From flash mobs, to meetups, to the unconference. Julius Solaris of has it covered.


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Maintaining Your 501(c)3 Relationship with the IRS

Posted by on Feb 16, 2012 | 0 comments

Just like any relationship, your nonprofit organization’s relationship with the IRS takes time and effort.

Beyond the obvious reminder that remembering special dates and sending timely communications is a bit more critical to the health of your IRS relationship than, for instance, remembering Valentine’s Day, there is not much more for me to say.

Take a minute and visit the IRS website for specific, detailed, current information on your nonprofit IRS deadlines and requirements. Make certain you have your ducks in a row and the appropriate filing dates on your calendar.

Just one more relationship to add to the list of “relationships you don’t want to take lightly”. This one, once damaged, is not easy to repair.

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Dear Valentine, Your Reputation Stinks

Posted by on Feb 14, 2012 | 0 comments


This blog post is taken verbatim from Claire Kittle’s Talent Market February Talent Update. If you don’t know Claire, you should; she’s an effective matchmaker when it comes to nonprofits and employees.

Talent Tip #30: Dear Valentine, Your Reputation Stinks

So here you are on Valentine’s Day, sitting alone in tears watching The Notebook. Why? Because you are a nonprofit manager who has had difficulty filling key positions in your organization.

Nonprofits regularly ask me why they are having problems hiring for a role. Often, it’s because the opening is a challenging one to fill (i.e. fundraising!); but sometimes it’s due to reputational issues.

In this market, candidates are skittish about joining an organization with anything less than a solid character. Candidates in the hunt for a job take into account several reputational factors when considering whether they want to work for an organization.

Here are several dynamics candidates talk to me about regularly:

  • Financial Stability – Is the organization financially stable? Has it had layoffs in the recent past?  What does the 990 look like? If it’s a small, Mom and Pop shop, can it weather these difficult economic times?
  • Turnover – What is the turnover rate? Is it abnormally high? Why are people leaving? Do they sense they are on the Titanic?
  • CultureWhat type of culture does the organization have? Is it a healthy, positive culture that helps employees learn and grow? Is it a vibrant, entrepreneurial place to work? Or is it “churn and burn”? Are there people in high places who are notoriously difficult to work for? What is the word on the street about the organization’s inner-workings?
  • Impact – Is the organization really making a difference? Is there movement-wide excitement about what the organization is accomplishing? Or is the work stale, staid, and inconsequential?heart free market

heart hire me not 2If you’re the president, executive director, or hiring manager for an organization that may have reputational problems, take heed, but don’t give up hope.  Remember that repairing or changing a reputation takes time, but it can be done.

In fact, if you take action now, next year you won’t be sitting alone watching a sappy Rachel McAdams movie. Instead, you’ll have a repaired reputation and a happy staff with whom to hang out.

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STOP (in the name of love) and write a thank you note today!

Posted by on Feb 14, 2012 | 0 comments

It’s Valentine’s Day. Spread a little love.

Today is a good day to take a minute and hand write a simple thank you note to some of your donors, or family, or friends.

Maybe you have a Top Ten list of supporters, or maybe you have several brand new donors, or maybe you haven’t personally connected with someone in awhile…whatever your unique situation, whomever you think you should connect with today, find your pen, grab some notecards, and take a few minutes to write 10 personal thank you notes.

Stop (in the name of love) and do this!

The most important thing in life is to learn how to give out love, and to let it come in. – Morrie Schwarz

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10 Strategies to Beat the Monday Blues

Posted by on Feb 13, 2012 | 0 comments

I’ve got ’em, do you?

Leave it to a child to remind us that attitude is a choice.

But seriously, how do we pull ourselves out of the Monday blues and end the day with a sense of accomplishment?  As the sign says, “Paint yourself a different color.”

To do this, you need to clear the canvas. Review your thoughts, examine them carefully and identify the negative influences. Remove or change the negative thoughts. Instead of thinking, “I hate waiting in this line, the guy in front of me is so slow,” change your thought to “At least I’m ahead of the 5 people behind me.” Instead of looking at the pile on your desk and thinking, “I will never get this done,” change your thought to “I can break this into specific topics and tackle them one at a time. I can do this!”

Be more confident in yourself. Be brighter, happier, more positive. Think of the glass half full, instead of half empty.

I know it sounds like a cliche, and of course, it is a cliche, but it works. Your mind controls how you feel. If you’re feeling blue, it’s because YOU chose to feel that way. You chose blue.

In our interactions with colleagues, donors, family, friends and the public, it’s imperative that our attitude is painted positive. Your attitude can directly affect their attitude. It’s a domino effect that should not be underestimated.

“One of the most important steps you can take toward achieving your greatest potential in life is to learn to monitor your attitude and its impact on your work performance, relationships and everyone around you.” This quote, from the  2009 Success magazine article by Kieth Harrell Why Your Attitude Is Everythingsums it up perfectly and the article’s 10 strategies to improving your attitude are great examples of how we can CHOOSE our attitude.

As I said in a recent blog post, choice is everything. But as we’ve been reminded today, so is attitude.

I know it’s late on a Monday, but it’s never too late to improve your attitude. So grab a paint brush, turn that frown upside down, and make it a good day. It’s really up to you.

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Pink Ribbons and Scattered Feathers

Posted by on Feb 8, 2012 | 0 comments

It’s been quite a week.

When the Komen for the Cure debacle began, I was stunned. I am a long time supporter of Komen’s 3-day Walks. I’ve crewed these events and each time I have has been life changing.

As the minutes, then hours, then day passed without the Komen organization issuing a response of any kind to the public outcry following their ill-advised choice to withdraw funding support from Planned Parenthood, I was (literally) shaking my head in disbelief.

Ultimately, the poor choice made by Komen leadership was corrected with a public apology, a reinstatement of promised funding to Planned Parenthood, and the resignation of a key senior manager on the Komen leadership team.

Life will go on for Komen, but it won’t be coming up pink roses for quite some time, and there is a lot of damage control still to be done. It’s hard to take back words and change public perception, even when you publicly reverse a decision.

As it became more and more evident that Komen had failed to plan appropriately, my daughter and I were planning like the crazed wedding planners we have suddenly become. Our event planning skills definitely came in handy as we worked through the mile-long checklist of “pre-I do” to-do’s.

Based on the bride’s long dreamed-of ambiance and theme (brand) for her wedding, she has already searched out and chosen the perfect venue, set the date, and mailed beautiful save the date cards. And the groom’s parents have already chosen and reserved a charming restaurant for the rehearsal dinner.

So, this week it was just Kalen and I focused on details: she found her dress (yes, Mom cried) and bridal jewelry, we stumbled upon amazing beauticians for hair, make-up, and nails, we chatted with the baker about the wedding and cake as if we were long lost friends, we determined that we can have the flowers arranged for much less than a designer florist would charge, and the bride and groom are now ready to book tastings with several possible caterers. The DJ  is selected, although not yet reserved. Although tempted to become tourists, we stayed focused and accomplished so many things in one week that we are still stunned. And there’s still much to do, but with the wedding scheduled for 8 months in the future, we are feeling good.

As we wandered the charming historic downtown of Leesburg, Virginia today, the power of networking could not be overlooked. We were given the name of the (now chosen) baker by our waitress at the charming rehearsal dinner restaurant. The unique plan for the flowers came from the hair stylist. The nail salon recommendation came from the baker. We met with every one of these vendors personally, and because of their (and our) networking, we were pleasantly surprised at every turn and with every new person we met. They were professional and honest with us, and we were clear about our goals and preferences too.

And we talked, to everybody. And they treated us as if we lived there and were part of the community. We felt like we had been visiting with old friends after speaking with nearly every vendor. We did not commit to anything, although the bride is pretty certain what her choices will be. She wants to share everything with her fiance and mull things over a bit before making these decisions and signing on the dotted line.

It’s been an amazing and rewarding week, and I want to share the TOP 16 lessons I learned:

  1. Be vigilant in protecting your brand.
  2. Don’t get distracted. Stay on mission.
  3. Be Transparent.
  4. Communicate. And be timely in your communication.
  5. Every Decision Matters.
  6. Titles Should Not Be Synonymous with Authority.
  7. Failing to Plan is Planning to Fail.
  8. Events Are More than Well-Planned Parties.
  9. It’s Not What You Know, It’s Who You Know.
  10. Celebrate Life’s Milestones.
  11. Success is A Process.
  12. Be Authentic.
  13. Scattered Feathers are Impossible to Gather.
  14. Expensive does not mean “Best”.
  15. Perception is Reality to the One Perceiving.
  16. Choice is everything.
I hope you have a great week. Remember to always Choose wisely.
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Overthinking Can Be Dangerous

Posted by on Feb 2, 2012 | 0 comments

Today has been a flurry of non-activity.

Well, not at my desk, at least not today…but have you ever looked at the clock and realized that you had accomplished nothing but had spent hours mulling things over? I imagine we can all remember a day (or a month) when we managed to while away our productive time being unproductive.

Mulling is good in moderation. Overthinking is dangerous, at any level.

What about…

  • the nonprofit organization that feels disconnected from their donors and wants to reach out, but spends a year putting together a plan before sending even one email?
  • the well-meaning development officer who wants the thank you note to be perfect, but in the creation of this perfection allows weeks and months to go by before a simple thank you is sent to the donor?
  • the fundraising department that can’t reach consensus on a new database and stops updating donor information on the old database until a decision is made?
  • the weekly column that’s due on Friday, but on Wednesday still isn’t drafted?

How can these overthinking efforts be corrected?

Fundraising is an “in the moment” industry. Yes, it’s also a long term effort. Yes, we are working on sustainable, long-term relationships. But the reality is, if you miss the moment, it’s gone. Another moment may provide the opportunity for another timely ask or a personal thank you, but the initial opportunity is still lost. You missed it.

So, let’s work on planning, but not overthinking our efforts. How can we do avoid analysis paralysis (a favorite term of a former boss)? Here are a few tips to get you thinking (not too much) about how to rethink (not too much) your thinking processes:

  1. Track your thoughts – use a ledger and keep track of the time you spend contemplating or reworking or rewriting a project. Take a real look at the time spent preparing and add a value to it (X hours x hourly rate). Does this pencil out, is the value of time to project realistic?
  2. Analyze your purpose – stop for a minute, change your focus and try to determine why you are giving something so much thought. Is it because of self-doubt, a colleague’s criticism, a former negative reaction, a hoped for promotion? Discern your own motivation and critique it’s merit.
  3. Take a break – sometimes we overthink because we’re unable to begin doing. Take a break and you should return refreshed and ready to begin working, rather than thinking.
  4. Redirect – change your focus. Think about something else. Force your mind to stop thinking about one issue and ponder something else (but don’t overthink it!).
  5. Set parameters – for instance, set a time limit on your “thinking/planning” process. Once the time is up, go to work on the project. If it’s doesn’t come together after a predetermined amount of time and effort, do a second “thinking/planning” session, followed by a work session, and repeat. Until you are successful.
  6. Give yourself some slack – you are not perfect. Ask a colleague for their input, recognize that first drafts are exactly what they appear to be – first drafts. Overthinking your first effort reduces the time you will have to edit and rewrite on a second go-through.
  7. Envision the bigger picture – be realistic about the import of this project. Don’t give it more attention, thought, time or effort than it should receive. Balance your time carefully to best manage everything and reduce overthinking to a minimum.

Don’t give this blog post too much thought. Just read it, embrace it, and run with it: send out that thank you note today, work from a simple spreadsheet today, outline the content for your weekly column today, call a donor today….

Make tomorrow a flurry of activity! Don’t overthink, just think and do!

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