Archive for the ‘Guest Post’ Category

Guest Post: Make Your Reports Accessible – Three Easy Tips

February 26, 2010

Photo by Leo Reynolds

by Luise Barnikel at IssueLab

The shifting landscape and expectations of information seekers leaves your nonprofit with the difficult task of catching up and rethinking dissemination.

Your research provides valuable insight into critical social issues. To generate the biggest impact from the knowledge shared, your research report should be engaging to the various audiences it will touch, and adapt to today’s expectations for knowledge sharing.

So here are three easy tips to keep in mind when you are planning and designing your next research report.

1. Make your research usable, and re-usable. We understand the time and effort that goes into creating a thorough research report. Still, choosing a restrictive copyright can discourage readers from sharing or using your information – even for a good cause. There are copyright options that allow your audience to use the information in a wide variety of ways and even build upon it to create original research. An easy way to apply non-restrictive but legitimate copyrights to a document is using Creative Commons. IssueLab encourages its contributing organizations to use Creative Commons, because it “increases sharing and improves collaboration.”

2. Leave Them Asking for More. The research abstract can be a great way to generate further interest in the entire body of work, but really it should tell a journalist on deadline everything they need to know. Abstracts that leave out vital information – or are too long to read quickly – can actually deter readers from downloading the report to learn more. There’s a fine line between cliffhanger and information overload, but those who are truly interested in reading your report will ultimately do it when they have the time. So, distill valuable information, make the abstract comprehensive and quotable, but don’t just copy and paste the executive summary.

3. Get the facts out there. Once your report is released, go through it and extract short phrases, quotes, and statistics that can easily be shared online. Micro-blogging (sending brief text updates) has become an increasingly important skill and tool for organizations that wish to keep constituents informed. You can also create graphic summaries or pull charts that can be posted on Facebook or displayed alongside the abstract. Lastly, always make sure you include a direct link to your report listing page or .pdf – nothing worse than not finding the source of good information!

What are your thoughts on other easy ways to make research more usable?


Philanthropic Shopping

February 26, 2010

Photo by Thomas Hawk

Thank you to Joe O’Connor works for for providing this week’s guest post!

Philanthropic Shopping

During these economically chaotic times, nonprofit organizations need support more than ever. Luckily, the internet is chalk full of resources that make donating and finding volunteer opportunities much easier. Some websites even turn everyday online activities, like shopping, into support for nonprofits.

Like many businesses, nonprofits are struggling financially. Big donors are decreasing – and in some cases completely stopping – their normal donations. So, it is important for everyone to step up and help these important organizations.

Some websites, like, allow you to shop for causes online. These services not only enable you to help nonprofits, but they save you money as well. All you need to do is click through the site before you shop at one of your favorite online merchants, and a percentage of what you spend is automatically donated to the nonprofit of your choice. There’s no extra cost for you, and you may even save money with special deals and offers.

In this time of economic crisis, everyone is more careful about spending money. Though that is certainly understandable and important, we can not forget about the great organizations that depend on donations to help feed starving villages, build homeless shelters, or provide after-school programs for inner city children. By taking advantage of philanthropic shopping websites, individuals can remain frugal and still donate to the causes that you care most about.

Not only can nonprofits take advantage of websites like or to promote philanthropic shopping, there are many other opportunities for online fundraising, like Good Search, where people can do philanthropic internet searches (every time someone uses Good Search as their search engine a penny is donated to their charity of choice). Also, many nonprofits are partnering with businesses to have a percentage of an individuals purchase go to charity. You can read an article on this in Inc.: Saving the World, One Purchase at a Time.

Guest Post: Sweat the Fundamentals

February 26, 2010

Photo by Catie Kaoe

Thank you to Rich Cowles, Executive Director at the Charities Review Council for providing this week’s guest post!
Sweat the Fundamentals

When you read or hear about an organization in an embarrassing situation, it generally stems from inattention to seemingly small stuff. A couple of examples:

-A respected human service organization sent a year-end fundraising appeal with an emotional message that included this line: “While you will be receiving many appeals for funds this time of year, this one is the most important.” While the message was heartfelt, it likely turned off some of the organization’s supporters who may not have shared the same pecking order of importance. The nonprofit forgot a basic tenet of ethical fundraising–tell your story but don’t cross the line toward manipulation. Honor the voluntary nature of giving, and leave the decision to the donor.

-A successful, large nonprofit that had taken pains to demonstrate accountability–including putting its conflict of interest policy on its Website–found itself in newspapers uncomfortably explaining why it had bought property from a relative of a board member who participated in the discussion and vote. No one had remembered to invoke their conflict of interest policy.

The Charities Review Council has a number of model policies that can be tailored to your use, including a conflict of interest policy that can help keep it alive. It requires annual disclosure of potential conflicts by all board and key staff. Sweating the small stuff can keep you out of an uncomfortable spotlight that threatens to undo all the good work you’ve done to be transparent and accountable.

Guest Post: Tips for Nonprofits on Being More Transparent

February 26, 2010

Photo by yohann.aberkane

Thank you to Rich Cowles, Executive Director at the Charities Review Council for providing this week’s guest post!

Tips for nonprofits on being more transparent

Your fundraising can use a leg-up in this economy. Taking pains to be transparent is one way to do so—including straight talk about how you’re dealing with the economy. Donors appreciate openness and straight talk.

You might even use an analogy to a household budget as a way of personalizing your organizational budget concerns. Just as families are having to make tough decisions and are cutting back, your organization can’t spend money it doesn’t have… show some of the tough decision making going on in your shop, and the implications in terms of program services that various cuts would have.

Donors also care about realizing a measurable return on their social investment—what difference are you making with their contributions? Frame your accomplishments in terms of mission-related impact on the community, not simply activities.

Take a look at Nonprofit Assistance Fund’s blog, Nonprofit Harvest. It has great tips on financial management and transparency.