Nonprofit New Year’s Resolutions – What is Holding You Back?

We are already a week into the New Year and I cannot help but wonder how many personal resolutions have already been disregarded, if not outright discarded, or as I prefer frame it – tweaked into something more … manageable.  We all have big dreams on January 1, but to paraphrase Ms. Grant, nothing short of payment in perspiration is going to turn intention into reality.  Let’s just face it, evidence suggests that our resolutions are more likely to fall by the wayside than be attained.  Nothing horrible will happen when day #364 arrives and you never did register for that marathon or crack that volume of Proust, but when your organization is the one in desperate need of a “lifestyle change” how do you ensure that the change sticks?

There are at least three major problem areas nonprofits may need to reevaluate for 2013:


This year will be even more challenging on the funding front for any nonprofit that hopes spending cuts and words of austerity were just a passing storm.  This is an excellent opportunity to directly confront departmental or organizational fears that keep you hanging on to events that are no longer profitable and deferring serious talks about diversifying methods of giving and ditching your two-decade-old donor profile.  Be creative.  Be bold. The time for wishing things were different is over – 2013 is the year to revamp and revitalize your fundraising strategy and Beth Kanter has an excellent post on how to start thinking about doing just that.



The ability to meaningfully communicate why your nonprofit does what it does uniquely and effectively is key to successful messaging.  Solid content and consistent promotion of your organization indicates a good level of fitness, but engagement is what will take you to the next level.  The goal of storytelling, posting, and other social media activities is to compel your audience to action. This requires genuine engagement. Who are you talking to online?

I agree with Debra Askanase – 2013 is going to take social media to a whole new level in nonprofit communication, marketing, and even operations. If you are not doing more than dabbling in it (as in the requisite accounts and an intern as sole content curator/poster) you have whip your social media muscles into shape! Check out Debra’s post on nonprofit technology for plenty of workout material.


Making it Happen.

You could have the most knowledgeable staff working for the most dynamic Executive Director but your nonprofit is going to keep spinning its wheels if the Board is more impediment than inspiration. Board performance is a sensitive issue, but in this challenging climate it is one that can no longer be ignored with a “boards will be boards” attitude.  Challenge your board to explore their capability as a group and move beyond what can be accomplished around the big table to how they can actively help your nonprofit get closer to your organizational vision by December 31.   A helpful tool to begin this conversation is Elephants in the Boardroom: A Framework for Discussing Board Effectiveness Issues from the Fieldstone Alliance.


What is your nonprofit-related New Year’s resolution? 

Mini-Trends in Social Media Use in Advancement


The Third Annual Survey of Social Media in Advancement conducted by The Council for Advancement and  Support of Education (CASE),  Michael Stoner, and Slover Linett Strategies indicates college advancement offices are becoming much more comfortable with social media as a tool for outreach and engagement – and even a little fundraising.  The report presents the results of their most recent survey on social media use by institutions and was conducted electronically with a random sample of members of CASE.

Some findings:

  • The main goal ( in use of social media is alumni engagement (reported by 83 percent of respondents)
  • Facebook is used by nearly every institution surveyed (reported by 96 percent)
  • Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube experienced a reported increase in use, and 50 percent of responding institutions were integrating social media into their campaigns
  • Less than a quarter (just under 22 percent) of respondents consider their social media efforts “very successful”


Additional discussion on notable changes in the role of social media in advancement since their first survey in 2010, and case studies on crowdsourcing, alumni events and a little friendly rivalry among college fundraising campaigns are included in the report –  available online at the Slover Linnett website.

Bullying Research Taps into Technology

The popularity of social media as an outlet for communication is central to new research out of the University of Wisconsin-Madison that may lead to a deeper understanding of bullying behaviors.  The study uses algorithms and a language-analyzing computer to scan millions of posts from the social media platform Twitter, looking for certain words and language patterns that indicate discussion of, or actual, bullying situations.  This method has advantages over traditional surveying of school-age youth as it expands upon the number of data collection points (typically survey data is a one-shot deal) and may limit self reporting bias on such a sensitive topic.

To date, the study has found that posts about or conversations relating to bullying are not at all uncommon, with comments ranging from the general to the event-specific adding up to approximately 15,000 Tweets a day. The ability to analyze ongoing interactions , even at the group level,  has led to the identification of a new role in bullying besides victim and victimizer – the reporter.  The researchers hope to expand their work to include additional social network platforms in the near future.

This kind of research is exactly what is needed to inform innovative early intervention strategies for adolescents and promote resilience factors against social and familial stressors that may lead to high-risk behaviors.  Social media has only begun to influence the nonprofit sector, albeit mostly  through marketing and fundraising, but targeted outreach and intervention are not far behind.



It is Official – Everybody’s Giving Online

Online giving is considered the number one method of donating to charity mainly due to the popularity of mobile fundraising (and social media) among Millenials, but now it appears that all generations are donating from their keyboards.

Over half (57 percent) of donors give online,  an approximately10 percent increase from 2010 data, according to a recent donor survey undertaken by Dunham+Company. While the giving patterns of persons under age 40 have not changed significantly, there was an increase among the over-40 set, notably among  Baby Boomers and those over age 65. The proportion of women who now give online also increased (to 64 percent from approximately 50 percent) since the last survey.

Dunham+Company’s  research briefs on fundraising and development are available at their website.