Fixing a Wobbly World: What You Can Do to Restore Balance

Fixing a Wobbly World: What You Can Do to Restore Balance

We have a choice.


Here’s something I learned from a remarkable Sunday school teacher [who demonstrated by attempting to balance a pencil on one finger].

You see this pencil?  I can get it to balance here for a second or two. But then it wobbles. So I tweak it, to restore balance. If I neglect to tweak it, it falls. It may break. That’s life. An inevitable struggle to restore balance and affirm life. That’s the human condition. And our responsibility is to work ceaselessly to restore this balance and repair our world – which is ever in danger of breaking.

Continue Reading

How to Humanize Your Nonprofit Work by Building Empathy

empathy word cloudI am so inspired!

I recently learned about Van Jones’ virtual reality experiment, Day of Empathy via this video (thank you, thank you, thank you to Nancy Schwartz for writing about this on her Getting Attention nonprofit marketing blog: OMG Experiment to Connect & Activate (Dream Corps Case Study). The idea is to use virtual reality to build empathy (i.e., to help people walk in the shoes of others) in order to motivate action.

The idea of using virtual reality to build empathy on a communal scale is brilliant!

And it ties back to Darwin’s theory of survival.Continue Reading

The Meaning of Philanthropy, Not Fundraising – Part 2

The meaning of Culture of Philanthropy

Get on the path to philanthropy, not fundraising


In Part 1 I laid out why philanthropy inspires, and fundraising tires.

Fundraising must be done, of course, but there’s something about how it’s been practiced in the past that turns too many people off.  It’s been connoted as being all about money, when really it’s all about valued outcomes.

These valued outcomes are shared by many who support the cause – donors and non-donors.  Employees and volunteers. Development departments and program departments. Major gifts staff and annual giving staff. All these folks have a collective stake in the nonprofit’s survival.Continue Reading

The Meaning of Philanthropy, Not Fundraising – Part 1

The meaning of Culture of Philanthropy

Get on the path to philanthropy, not fundraising


I wish I’d told my younger self “you’re right!  Stick with it; don’t get distracted. Stay the course.

Here’s what I’m talking about: Philanthropy, not fundraising.

This has been the tagline for my business and blog since I began Clairification in 2011. It grew naturally out of my experiences working as a frontline development director for 30 years. I’ve always insisted that no single person could possibly receive credit for a donation.  “Donors don’t give because of development staff,” I’d tell program staff.  “They give because of the great work you do!Continue Reading

Philanthropy – Love of Humankind – Needed Now More Than Ever

As Paris mourns, sister city San Francisco lights up City Hall in solidarity

The world can seem a cruel place. Never more so than when horrific, senseless events unfold and innocent people are killed, maimed and scarred. Philanthropy, love and compassion can seem elusive.

Yet it’s right here. In each of us. To choose, or to not choose. To pay attention to, or to ignore.

Today, and all this week, we celebrate the United Nation’s International Day for Tolerance. While it may seem we haven’t much to celebrate right now, the reverse is true.Continue Reading

Quick Guide to Get Your Nonprofit “Crowd On”

quick_guide_to_get_your_nonprofit_crowd_onI’ve been thinking a lot about crowdfunding lately.

Bzz… bzz… buzz… buzz… Do you hear it?

It’s the sound of the times. It’s the bees flying around crowdfunding campaigns like honey. Sweet, golden honey.

Are you getting yours?

With the mainstream shift into digital communication, and the advance of technology through online donation and peer-to-peer fundraising platforms, crowdfunding is something I believe you should seriously consider if you’re not already getting your “crowd” on.

Especially if you have…

  • A big campaign going on.
  • Or a specific project that lends itself well to the telling of a compelling story.
  • Or you need to raise a lot of funds in a relatively short time period.
  • Or there’s a strong tie to some big event – anniversary; holiday; news story.
  • Or your current constituents are more inclined towards being ambassadors than asking or giving.
  • Or you’re having a hard time breaking out of the “box” of folks you think might be interested in your cause, and are looking to build your audience in new ways.

So I’ve put together a few resources, and some of my own thoughts, to help you think things through.Continue Reading

Clairity Click-it: Effective Altruism; Team Building; Year-End Giving; Free Resources

Mouse with computer mousee
Click it!

On the anniversary of 9-11, I’ve put together a group of posts that show that more people than not want to do good in this world. There’s a lot of inspiring food for thought here. Plus, since the critical end-of-year fundraising window is fast approaching, I’ve got a few things to help you with your planning – not only to acquire donors, but to sustain their giving over time. Plus one thing I thought was pretty cool, and that just brought a smile to my face! Spend a few minutes today to reflect on how we can come together to heal the world.Continue Reading

#GivingTuesday – How to Be a Winner

What does #Giving Tuesday mean to your nonprofit? To your donors?

Have you considered making #Giving Tuesday a gift to  your donors?

In my last post, #Giving Tuesday, Win or Lose Day? You’re in Control I talked about the origins of the day and all the good intentions that went into its creation. Yet I’ve heard from many, many nonprofits that they just don’t have the bandwidth to develop and promote one more fundraising initiative during this very busy time of year. I’ve been there, and I empathize.

Sometimes the newest bells and whistles are simply a lot of sound and fury, signifying nothing in the end.  But rather than reject the notion of #GivingTuesday out of hand, I began to wonder if there were ways to jump on the bandwagon without cannibalizing other types of year-end fundraising.  Or without burning out staff and volunteers. Or without confusing donors who feel like they’re being asked for this, that and every such thing.

I noted that I love the idea of using #GivingTuesday to celebrate and thank our donors. We don’t thank our supporters nearly enough, so why not have a day dedicated to donor love?

I think there’s a way to make #GivingTuesday about both giving and getting. And I promised to share an example with you in my last post.Continue Reading

#GivingTuesday – Your Win or Lose Day? You’re in Control

What does #Giving Tuesday mean to your nonprofit? To your donors?

What does #Giving Tuesday mean to your nonprofit? To your donors?

Giving Tuesday. What’s it all about? Read about the origins here. It’s one of those things that sounds good on paper, but in actual implementation it can be less than ideal. Why? Because it comes right smack dab in the middle of most folks annual campaigns. So there’s often little time to do it right. And it can cannibalize other fundraising efforts.Continue Reading

April Fools SMIT: 7 Tips to Stop Social Media from Peeing on your Nonprofit’s Floor

Puppy chewing slipper

Take care of me, please.

This month’s SMIT (Single Most Important Thing I have to tell you) is that if you don’t take care of your social media it’s going to pee on your floor, tear up your furniture and chew up your shoes.  No fooling.

Social media is like a puppy. Everyone wants to play with the cute, cuddly puppy.  But then it grows up.  It needs to be walked. It needs to be fed. If you’re gonna get one, you gotta care for it or it’s gonna die.    It takes time, attention and dedication. And just because you have one or two (perhaps named Twitter and Facebook) that doesn’t mean that adding a few more (named Pinterest, Google+ and LinkedIn) and caring for them is going to be a piece of cake.

Full credit: I’m nowhere near the first to make this analogy (see e.g.,  Is Your Social Network a Puppy or a Dog? by Jay Bear; Free Puppies by David Bowman; Social Media is Like a Puppy, and Surviving social media marketing: A puppy owner’s guide).

Puppy litter in red wagon

Don’t you want us all? We dare you!

What’s your current status vis a vis puppies? Will you get one? Everyone else seems to have one, no?  Your board members say you should get one, yes?  Maybe even a whole litter!  Or do you have a couple of puppies tucked in the corner, but for whom no one has claimed responsibility? Some days they get played with, fed and walked; other days, not so much?

Two puppies driving white toy car

Are you driving social media or is it driving you?

If you don’t have time, resources and inclination to take care of a puppy right now, then do what you need to get ready. If you can’t nurture the puppies you’ve got, don’t adopt new ones.  If your puppies aren’t thriving, then consider whether to give them over to someone else (hire or outsource) or seek a trainer (consultant). Social media, like puppies, can be extremely rewarding.  Social media, like puppies, can become your best friend. But rewards and friendship have their costs as well as benefits.

Puppies and social media are decidedly not free; just like friends, they require care and feeding. [See infographic on How Much do Small Businesses Spend on Social Media?] A puppy is a living, breathing animal; not a toy. Similarly, social media is a living, breathing two-way communications channel; not just a shiny plaything. If you just toy with it, it may bite back!

Time to stop fooling around with social media. 

7 Tips to Take Social Media Seriously

1. Embrace social media as the essential communications medium that it is today. Today it’s one of the principle ways folks find out about and interact with brands. Get yourself and your entire household (aka organization) excited about the prospect of truly bringing something new into your lives.

2. Clarify your different social channels, understanding that different people use different networks for different purposes. (see Guy Kawasaki’s top ten social media tips for nonprofits). Figure out the places that make the most sense for your constituents; then go there first. It’s a much better strategy then simply adopting the same puppy your neighbor owns.  If you’re not a poodle organization, get yourself a Labrador retriever or a Chihuahua. Spend a bit of time figuring out your personality and that of your constituents before you leap in. You wouldn’t go to the pet store blindfolded and just ask the clerk to give you any old dog.  Don’t do that with social media.  All channels are not created equal.

3. Get, and keep, everyone involved.  Don’t make social media the province of just one or two departments.  It’s not just for I.T. Or marketing. Or development. Involve program staff. Involve the C-Suite. Involve your volunteers. Everyone must be on board if you’re to become a truly connected, relevant social business for the 21st century.

4. Really play the game. Don’t just buy a board game and keep it in a box. Participate enthusiastically and strategically.  When folks comment, respond.  When folks retweet your posts or ‘like’ you, thank them.  Engage. Remember the ‘social’ in social media.  Make a relationship. [See 6 Ways Your Nonprofit Wins the Game of Social Media].Make a best friend. 

5. Take the village to heart.  Remember the adage “it takes a village?” Trust in the power of crowdsourcing. You absolutely have to share.  Make every piece of content shareable.  Think about linking from one piece of content to another; from one channel to the next.  Don’t think about anything in isolation. [I’m reminded of being in college. My roommates and I used to keep the NYT crossword puzzle on the kitchen table all day; as we came in and out of classes, we’d each add a little bit. When we’d come back later in the day, there’d be something new added that helped us figure out something that had previously eluded us.  By the end of the day, working together, we’d have the puzzle figured out].

6. Test things. It’s a version of trial and error. If you throw a ball and your dog doesn’t chase it, then try a new game.  Do the same with social media.  Don’t just give up and decide your dog/constituent doesn’t like to play. Find what motivates your particular audience. You may learn that posting a video raises more money than a photo, or vice-versa. You may find that a 7 word subject line does better than a 3 word subject line, or vice-versa.  What works for everyone else may not work for you.  Pay attention; then tweak your system.

7. Track and report on what you’re doing. This will keep you focused on your ROI and also keep everyone in the organization involved and informed.  How’s your social media impacting your fundraising, volunteering, advocacy, public relations? Is this what you wanted to happen?  If not, how can you refocus?

When you bring a puppy into your life it makes demands on you.  Be prepared.  Also embrace how much meaning and joy social media can bring to you and your village.  After all, you’re all in this together.

Philanthropy is fundamentally social. I encourage you to check out the SPECIAL GUIDE:  7 CLAIRIFICATION KEYS TO UNLOCK YOUR NONPROFIT’S FUNDRAISING POTENTIAL. It includes easy-to-follow worksheets and exercises to prepare you to become an effective social media adopter and philanthropy facilitator in the 21st century.

Photos via Flickr: BuzzFarmers; Jacob and Kiki Hantla