Friday Freebies

September 18th, 2009   •   Comments Off on Friday Freebies   

Yesterday I attended an AFP session on time management. The primary focus of the presentation was centred around managing email, and the amount of time we all spend on this task on a daily basis.

The inspiration for today’s Freebie came from a colleague of mine, Anne Melanson (Bloom Non Profit Consulting Group). At the end of the session, Anne told us all about a free online resource that we could use when trying to schedule meetings that involve several people, such as committees and boards. Doodle ( is an online poll service provider. It is absolutely free and rquires no registration. You simply set up your poll, email the link to your committee members, and have them weigh in on their availability or vote for their choice…the possibilities are endless.

Check it out, and Happy Friday.

Federal Funding for Seniors

September 16th, 2009   •   Comments Off on Federal Funding for Seniors   

The government of Canada has recently launched a call for proposals for funding requests in support of seniors. Funds are available to help non-profit organizations renovate facilities or replace equipment they use to deliver seniors’ programs and activities.

For more information, please visit:

Deadline for applications is November 6, 2009.

Friday Freebies

August 31st, 2009   •   Comments Off on Friday Freebies   

I’m either three days late for last week’s post, or four days early for this week’s – it depends on your point of view. Either way, here’s a fun (and free) resource for those who have a secret desire to host their own talk show…or simply to create and host live video segments.

With UStream TV,, anyone with a webcam can create their own video show and broadcast it live over the Web. But it’s not just a wecam tool – users can create live videos using a camera or video recorder.

So when you’re planning your next big donor recognition event or other news-worthy announcement, and the folks from CNN seem uninterested in providing news coverage, take the bull by the horns and broadcast it yourself!

Exciting Career Opportunity

August 26th, 2009   •   Comments Off on Exciting Career Opportunity   

Youth Services Bureau of Ottawa (YSB) is one of Canada’s most dynamic and progressive multi-service youth focused agencies located in one of the Nation’s most livable urban regions, Ottawa-Gatineau.

YSB’s Board of Directors has approved the establishment of a fundraising Foundation, in order to generate more revenue and strengthen the agency’s programming. The Board has targeted the launch of the foundation for January 2010, and is seeking a qualified and motivated fundraising professional to lead this exciting initiative as the Foundation’s inaugural Executive Director.

To review the position description and apply online, please visit:

Friday Freebies

August 21st, 2009   •   Comments Off on Friday Freebies   

I searched far and wide to find a true “free” version of, what I think, is an amazing technology tool…text-to-speech and text-to-mp3 software.

I realize that text-to-speech software has probably been around for a few years and is invaluable to people living with vision loss, but I never realized the availability and value of text-to-mp3 software. offers both free (basic) and paid-for (premium) versions of TextAloud software. With speech-to-mp3 software, you can convert any electronic text document to audio files that can be played on your iPod, mp3 player, and even on your television. I wish I had known this existed when I was studying to write my CFRE exam!

Most of us spend way too much time sitting in front of a computer these days. Convert electronic editions of the newspaper, or those reports you need to review, to mp3 files. Hook up your iPod, lace up your sneakers, and take it outside – enjoy the outdoors while the weather’s still great.

Happy Friday!

A little care and feeding

August 17th, 2009   •   Comments Off on A little care and feeding   

No one wants or needs me to describe how the economy has beaten the stuffing out of some charities’ revenue streams. Not being a novel topic of conversation any more, its just not that interesting.

But what is interesting is watching how grassroots fundraising is once again on the rise, thanks to technology and the “new connectedness.” In vast numbers, regular, ordinary everyday folk like you and I can make (modest) donations instantly, and reach out to our networks of friends to follow our lead.

Charities are scrambling to find a way to access these legions of friends and potential supporters in the wired world. The question is not, “can we?” but rather “how can we?”

There are lots of ways to attract financial support, and boost public awareness of a charity’s work, through social networking. The key? It all boils down to care and feeding (which is probably not what you want to hear if you are looking for a quick fix).

Regardless of whether you are looking for a quick fix or long term solutions, build some common sense principles into your stakeholder communications and you will inevitably yield increased financial returns in fundraising. Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Including people in a genuine two-way conversation about your organization’s worthwhile work is the most effective way to engage their long term (and financial) involvement;
  • Donors want to hear from you more frequently than when its time to ask for another gift;
  • Donors really never get tired of hearing you say “thank you” for their support (and advocacy);
  • People want to know, specifically, how they can help. Large monetary contributions may not be what they have in mind;
  • People expect to be able to tell you how, and through what channels, and with what information, you should communicate with them;
  • You need to make that act of helping (giving, volunteering, advocating) a swift and simple process that provides them with instant gratification.

Keep those principles in mind as you move ahead in stakeholder engagement and you can’t lose.

Friday Freebies

August 14th, 2009   •   Comments Off on Friday Freebies   

Unless you’re one of those people who always has a pen and paper on hand, chances are there have been many occasions when you’ve wanted/needed to capture a piece of information and found yourself scribbling on a napkin, only to lose it or (forget) and use it.

Here’s a great no-cost tool you can use almost anywhere, anytime. Evernote is the free equivalent of Microsoft’s One Note. Check it out

Happy Friday!

Friday Freebies

August 7th, 2009   •   Comments Off on Friday Freebies   

Create your own social network…for free!

Ning,, provides a no-fee technology platform that allows individuals and groups to create their own social networks.

Used by the American SPCA, Ning is an economical, customizable and easy-to-use solution for organizations wishing to implement a social networking platform for donors, members and staff.

Happy Friday!

Careful…Your Age is Showing!

August 5th, 2009   •   Comments Off on Careful…Your Age is Showing!   

I recently attended an AFP educational session presented by Anne Melanson, CFRE, and Lori Barker, Director of Development for Phoenix Youth. The topic of discussion was Making your Financial Case for Support. One of the most valuable tips I walked away with was the need to carefully think through your written collateral materials before committing them to paper.

When developing thier current Case for Support, Phoenix Youth carefully considered how to present the necessary information in a way that would not see the publication become “dated” in a month or two. They did not include names of Board members and staff – rather, they decided the best way to present this information was as an add-in. Very smart, very cost-effective.

Because they took the time to plan the Case, Phoenix will have a document that has a shelf-life of 2+ years, rather than 2 months. Staff and Board members move on to other opportunities – it’s a fact of life. Although it’s important to celebrate your organization’s team, it’s wise to think through how to do this in a way that can easily be updated when changes occur.

And what about your website? The same principles hold true. The wonderful thing about your online “storefront” is that it can usually be updated with little cost – and doesn’t result in 5,000 outdated brochures being tossed in the trash.

Are you showing your age? Are your print materials current? How about your website – does it contain outdated information? With online giving on the rise, a fresh and current website gives donors the confidence that your organization is on top of things.

Where Does the Day Go?

August 4th, 2009   •   Comments Off on Where Does the Day Go?   

Recently, I was privvy to a discussion where an organization was debating the merits of continuing on with a particular fundraising event. When weighing the pros and cons, the amout of time required to effectively pull off this event was brought forth as a strong negative. 2,000 staff hours was the amount they had roughly calculated.

The problem with rough calculations and guesstimates is that you never really know what your true investment and returns are. At 37.5 hours/week (people do need time to eat), 2,000 hours translates into 1 staff person working full-time, all day, every day (no vacation, no sick days, no statutory holidays) for 53.3 weeks. And that’s okay – if your event returns proportionate financial and public awareness benefits.

As is the case with most of us, I tend to have several projects on the go at once. I track my time using an application called Time Tracker. It’s not pretty, but it’s functional. Wikipedia (another great FREE resource) has posted a comparison of time tracking software . Some are free, others are fee.

The most difficult thing about using time tracking software is remembering to start and stop it. However, it’s a great way to track and analyze where you are expending your most valuable resource – your time.

Friday Freebies

July 24th, 2009   •   Comments Off on Friday Freebies   

Shame on me – I didn’t post a freebie last Friday, so this week I owe you two.

The first one I’m passing along is a Canadian website designed to serve employees and employers of the non-profit/charitable sector. At employers can post recruitment ads for up to 180 days, free of charge.

And second on the list is a US-based website that provides webinars, teleconferences and other resources to the non-profit sector – free of charge. Check out

Happy Friday!

Friday Freebies

July 10th, 2009   •   Comments Off on Friday Freebies   

Earlier this week I attended a webinar hosted by the Association of Fundraising Professionals, and presented by Allan Pressel of CharityFinders.

Allan passed along a great tip to webinar participants – so I’d like to thank him for contributing to this week’s Friday Freebies. is a free website SEO (Search Engine Optimization) tool that grades the effectiveness of your website in a number of areas – and makes suggestions as to how you can improve your site. This free tool also allows you to rate your website in comparison to others (competitors, peers, etc).

Check it out – it’s a great free resource (thank you Allan).

The Talent Pool – Do you need a life-preserver?

May 8th, 2009   •   Comments Off on The Talent Pool – Do you need a life-preserver?   

Recently, I had the opportunity to speak with Stephen Pamenter of Robertson Surrette. Stephen provides recruitment consulting services to the non-profit sector. I asked him to tell me more about the role that a recruitment firm plays, and here’s what he had to say:

Q. Stephen, in 50 words or less, explain to me the role a recruitment firm plays when contracted.

You are outsourcing a complex and essential process to an expert – someone whose professional existence is built on finding/attracting high quality talent to your organization in a competitive market; someone who can seamlessly manage the recruitment process – from collaborating with you on your requirements, to helping you handle the important offer negotiation.

Q. And what are the advantages, specifically to non-profits, in enlisting a recruitment firm?

Very few not-for-profits have access to in-house or dedicated HR resources. As a result, a staffing requirement is often a reactive and burdensome task, taking time and effort away from key day-to-day responsibilities central to the NFP’s operation. Also, efficiency is essential and most NFPs cannot afford to waste time and resources waiting for the right candidate to fall into their lap. Unless you have a strong and current connection to the available talent pool, most organizations are forced to use only advertisements – and this is often not enough to get the job done. Ads can be expensive and only reach active job seekers, not passive candidates who aren’t looking that particular week. A recruiter is a sounding board with whom candidates feel comfortable discussing opportunities because they don’t have to reveal to an interconnected community that they are job seeking. These are candidates who wouldn’t dream of blindly sending an application into an organization until they are confident the opportunity is of interest.

Another advantage is “active recruiting” within the industry. Recruiters can reach out to candidates of interest at other organizations through either networking or researching the market and approaching them. Most not-for-profits would rather not undertake this kind of activity on their own even if they had the time to research targets. In our industry, it is much more appropriate to allow a recruiter to utilize their network and contacts to get the word out. Your recruiter should be an ambassador for your organization and should be adept at presenting your opportunity to prospective candidates the right way, with a focus on what makes your organization unique and the position attractive to them. This is particularly critical if monetary compensation is less than other sectors and when an unbiased opinion of your organization can help.

Finally, when using a recruitment firm, you know you’re getting a candidate intended to make an impact and who has been validated through a transparent and impartial process. If, for whatever reason, the person you hire doesn’t work out, most recruiting firms offer a guarantee to replace that candidate within a specified time period. That protects you from the dreaded and expensive costs of a hiring mistake that we hear so much about.

Q. Given your experience working with the non-profit sector, what would you say are some of the key challenges facing non-profits in relation to staff recruitment and retention?

Not surprisingly, a challenge for the non-profit sector is successfully attracting top candidates when the salary is lower than similar for-profit positions. The key for not-for-profits to overcome this challenge is to focus on your employment brand and leverage your unique strengths. Cash compensation is just one of the many reasons an employee will work for you, so it’s up to the organization’s leadership to clearly define, communicate, and stand by what makes your NFP a great place to work within. I love to talk about this topic with clients but to be brief, we see today’s workforce demanding more independence, a healthy work/life balance, opportunities to learn, and advancement opportunities. We need to be committed to those things and trust that they can attract people away from the big bucks. Also, let’s not underestimate the draw that most ideal candidates have: the desire to make a difference.

Another interesting challenge is that NFP organizations, especially social or community based ones, ideally would find candidates who have compelling and irrefutable reasons to work for them. It’s a good feeling when a candidate is a match because they have a personal connection to the mission or relevant volunteer experience. When you make them an employee, engagement is more likely to be high and so is retention. Unfortunately, due to a tight labour pool and strong competition for talent, this may not always be the case and the fit may not be as easy to spot or as easily extracted from a candidate. Undertaking a comprehensive search process that pushes beyond whether a candidate can simply do your job and delves deeper into why they would want to, is a great way to feel more comfortable that your investment is a smart one and more likely to be long-term.

If you are interested in speaking with Stephen about recruitment solutions for your organization, you can contact him at:

Acquisition and Retention…The Great Divide

May 5th, 2009   •   Comments Off on Acquisition and Retention…The Great Divide   

It’s a widely accepted fact that it costs more to get than it does to keep. Whether you’re talking about employees, customers, goods & services, or donors & volunteers – acquisition requires considerably more time and resources than retention.

So why, after so many years and so many articles educating us about the cost of acquisition, are we still struggling with embracing retention techniques that work?

Allow me to share a personal ancedote that is probably all too familiar to many:

I received a telephone call “on behalf of” a particular organiztion, asking for my support of programs and services for victims of crime. The fella on the phone was good – when I hesitated, he quickly added that many of the victims were women, and I was sold. Prior to this phone call, I had supported (again, through telephone solicitation) an organization providing support and services to burn unit patients. In both cases, the support was provided through the purchasing of tickets to a charitable event.

Being a researcher and voraciously curious by nature, I checked out both of these organizations and found that they outsource their calling/fundraising programs to the same company. Not such a rarity. But neither is the fact that I received no further communications from either organization to which I provided my financial support, aside from receiving the event tickets.

So what was my motivation for supporting these organizations? Was it the appeal of attending yet one more hockey game, or was it the opportunity to help support programs and services which resonated with me as being of great value? For me, it was the latter.

So what could/should these organizations have done once they “got”me to help ensure they would “keep”me? Well, at the very least they could have put the same amount of effort into retention as they did into acquisition. A phone call or letter to let me know the outcome of their fundraising drive – How much did they raise? How was/will the money be spent? How about a personal story from someone helped by the organization? A simple “thank you” would have gone a long way.

But none of these things happened. Instead, the next communication I received was another telephone solicitation call. That’s not good customer service, by anyone’s measure.

The moral of this story? Take great care with those things you value. More than 80% of charitable donations are made by individuals like you & me. Once your organization has “sold us” on your cause, show us you treasure our support. We’ll provide you with a great return on your investment.

Friday Freebies

May 1st, 2009   •   Comments Off on Friday Freebies   

Cheap is good, free is better. With that theme in mind, welcome to Friday Freebies. Today’s post is brought to you by PC Magazine.

Every year, PC Magazine publishes its “Best Free Software of the Year” report. Committed to passing along the free software information at no cost, the magazine also publishes this report on their website:,2817,2338803,00.asp

With over 170 software downloads available, there’s bound to be something there to help make your electronic life easier.