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GuideStar Blog

Facebook in 2015 – What Nonprofits Need to Know


With Charitable Giving Tactics Old and New, Nimble Nonprofits Win

The numbers are out. Charitable giving grew by 2.1 percent in 2014, according to the newly-released 2014 Charitable Giving Report from Blackbaud, and this modest growth will no doubt prompt nonprofit fundraisers and executives to take a step back and evaluate their own fundraising results from the past year. But behind this solitary, lackluster statistic, there’s a more complex and profound transformation taking place in the U.S. charitable giving environment.

Nonprofit Meeting Culture: Beth & Andrea Answer Your FAQs

Thank you to everyone for joining us on February 12th for our webinar with Beth Kanter and Andrea Kihlstedt, Nonprofit Kick Start 2015: Creating Healthy & Productive Meetings. If you missed the event, you can view the full recording and slides here in our Webinar Archives. In this follow-up to our event, Beth and Andrea will answer some key questions our attendees submitted about how to create healthy and productive meetings for their nonprofits:

Six Important Tips For Your IRS Form 990

Did you realize that your nonprofit’s IRS Form 990 is available to the general public? This is a big surprise for many nonprofit board members. Armed with this knowledge, a nonprofit misses a terrific opportunity to tell their story as fully as possible if they are not thinking strategically about how information is presented in this important document. For advice on what you can be doing to take advantage of this communications opportunity, as well as your IRS Form 990 generally, we turned to regular BoardAssist guest blogger and finance pro Paul Konigstein. As usual, Paul had all the answers!

Walking As Work: Why Movement Is the Killer App

Psst! Want to learn more about walking as work? Register here for our free GuideStar webinar on Thursday, February 12 at 2pm ET with Beth Kanter and Andrea Kihlstedt, "Nonprofit Kick Start 2015: Creating Healthy and Productive Meetings." Can't make that time? Don't worry, all registrants will receive full slides and recordings a week after the event. Thank you!

Last year, when I got my annual physical, my cholesterol numbers were not good. For this month's Connect theme, a number of speakers are previewing the great breakout sessions they are preparing for the 2015 Nonprofit Technology Conference in Austin, TX March 4-6. Following is a preview of one of over 100 breakout sessions.

My doctor's advice was to start eating a heart-healthy diet and get more exercise. A lot of my work consists of sitting — working on a computer, talking on the phone, or attending meetings or conferences. As Nilofer Merchant points out in this TED talk, people are sitting 9.3 hours a day, which is more than we're sleeping, at 7.7 hours. All that sitting is not good for your health.

I made a commitment to change. I started using a Fitbit and apps like to monitor and motivate me. I also changed my eating habits. I'm happy to report that my numbers are in the normal range. I'm also noticing that many of my NPTech colleagues are trying to become healthy, and that is why I decided to put a session together at the 15NTC on “Walking as Work” along with Ritu Sharma to show some ways that we can all integrate walking into work.


I try to walk between 10-20k steps a day, using my fitbit to measure it. When I mentioned this to a colleague, he asked me, "How the heck do you make the time to do this? What have you cut from your schedule?" I have cut out non-productive work time where I sit at my desk and can't concentrate! I have incorporated mini-breaks to walk in the middle of the day to help me think when I I am writing or thinking through a problem for a client. Also, if I'm on calls, I do them while walking around. I have gotten good at taking notes while I walk. I've also replaced networking requests for "coffee" for "walking meetings." It isn't about making the time or thinking about physical activity or movement as a separate exercise time, but something that is integrated into your life — including work time. I even presented a walking keynote on walking!

The problem is that walking is perceived as a "break activity," not part of work as explained in this Harvard Business Review blog post, "Take a Walk, Sure, but Don't Call It A Break." It describes the benefits of walking as part of work — creativity, leadership development, and relationship building. "So, when you really need to get something done, get away from your computer and your conference room, and go for a long walk. It’s not a luxury. It’s work."

Senior Leaders Get on Their Walking Shoes

The benefits of walking to "clear your brain" or build relationships is not a new leadership technique. As Louis Sullivan, HHS Secretary in 1989-93 and famous for walking meetings, notes, "For me, walking has proved to be a great way to promote a healthy lifestyle, while facilitating my communications skills and leadership efforts." Steve Jobs was famous for it and, perhaps because of that, walking meetings are common in Silicon Valley, as this article points out. The walking at work trend is being more broadly adopted by senior managers, in part because leaders want to get some distance from their always on work styles, with all of the demands of smartphones and laptops. It’s also boosted by the increasing number of open-space offices, which give even top executives little privacy to speak candidly or have any alone time.

Walking is the Killer Work App for Creativity

Henry David Thoreau said famously, “Methinks that the moment my legs begin to move, my thoughts begin to flow.” As a trainer, I have incorporated movement breaks and moving around into instruction because this helps wake up peoples' brains. But incorporating walking into your work has many advantages, too. Research shows that walking boosts creativity and cognitive function. It can also help to build relationships.

Some Tips for Walking Meetings

One resource that I came across is "Everybody Walk," a campaign aimed at getting Americans up and moving. While their messaging is focused solely on the fitness benefits — that walking 30 minutes a day, five days a week can improve your overall health and prevent disease — there are some useful resources on the site. I think there are additional benefits, especially for work. When you walk solo, you have the benefit of working through some problems or helping you generate a creative solution. But walking with colleagues can boost relationship-building and collaboration. That means rethinking meetings.

What are some practical ways to integrate walking into work?

1. Make a list of all the work meetings in your life

  • Organizational Meetings: A big part of work life, especially for those who are staff members of traditional nonprofits, are meetings. Think about all the meetings that are scheduled in a typical workweek. Many are face-to-face: these might include 1:1 meetings with colleagues or your boss; small team meetings, or large team meetings
  • Professional Networking Meetings: Meetings with people for coffee or lunch or visiting their office (or vice a versa) for professional relationship building
  • Conferences: Small or large sessions at conferences
  • Virtual Meetings: Conference calls, online chats, and webinars

All of these meetings can be reinvented as walking meetings. Those that require technology and an Internet connection can easily be transferred to a mobile phone while you walk.

2. Think about your goals

Walking has the added benefit of getting your creative juices going. So, if you are having a brainstorm meeting, you can make it even more productive by making it a walking meeting. Or maybe you want to change up the dynamics of a small group meeting by changing your normal routine.

The Feet First site suggests that these tasks are perfect for walking meetings:

  • Educate and inform: Educate about things in the environment while experiencing and demonstrating them. Different experts can speak at different locations
  • Problem solve: Problem solving can be enhanced by the physical activity of walking (“thinking on your feet”), as well as informal interactions among people
  • Enhance creativity: Creativity is enhanced when people are physically active, and stimulated by a variety of visual, auditory, and other senses
  • Socialize and build team spirit: Relationships are developed while walking, and team-building occurs while involved in informal activities. The spontaneous mixing that occurs on a walk can enhance interactions
  • Make decisions: Walking meetings help prepare for decision-making and can result in more options for consideration
  • Resolve conflict: Walks can help resolve conflicts for pairs and small groups. For larger groups, the walk improves team interactions and helps generate solutions

3. Let People Know in Advance

It is important to give enough warning for a walking meeting so people can dress accordingly — bring a coat or sweater or wear comfortable shoes. Walking meetings in high heels are not much fun.

4. Planning and Preparation

Like any other business meeting, there is agenda preparation, but there are also some other items you need to think about. You need to allow time for stretching and bio breaks. Also, allow time to capture notes after the meeting. I like to take along a pen and small pad to jot down notes, but I find that if I am doing a walking meeting, I'm retaining information better; some quiet time right after the meeting ends is enough to capture the notes.

5. The Actual Walk

Plan your route in advance, if possible, so you know how far you can walk in your allotted time and avoid noisy spots or too-narrow walkways. If you have more than one other person, you will have to do a little bit more planning. According to the Feet First Walking Guide:

  • One on One Meetings: Meeting as a pair tends to be easy. Walking breaks down the barrier of a desk and chair, and lets people communicate more equally
  • Small Group Meetings of 3-5: Meetings with three or more can be affected by the width of the sidewalk or path, variations in terrain, and possible physical barriers. This size group is flexible, as discussion can occur while walking, or if desired the group can stop along the walk
  • Groups of 5-16: Meetings with larger groups tend to result in more than one conversation while walking. If the whole group is to be involved, make time to stop and gather as a whole
  • Groups Larger than 16: These tend to require more planning, with a strong leader and potentially a few assistants if needed. There will be conversations while walking, then planned stops for presentations

Also be sure to establish the rules such as "stay with the group" or "no cell phones," before you head out. If you have a larger group, you might want to designate someone as the notetaker. And, if you have more than one person, you might have to break the group up by pace of their walking. Include stops in your meeting to summarize agenda points and shift into next topic.

You can find additional resources on walking meetings here.

The preceding is a cross-post by Beth Kanter, the author of Beth’s Blog: How Nonprofits Can Use Social Media, one of the longest running and most popular blogs for nonprofits. To read the original article on Beth’s blog, click here. Beth has over 30 years working in the nonprofit sector in technology, training, capacity building, evaluation, fundraising, and marketing. Beth is an internationally recognized trainer who has developed and implemented effective sector capacity building programs that help organizations integrate social media, network building, and relationship marketing best practices. Beth is an expert in facilitating online and offline peer learning, curriculum development based on traditional adult learning theory, and other instructional approaches. She has trained thousands of nonprofits around the world.

Stop the Excuses! 4 Reasons to Start Using Video Calls

How do you keep in contact with employees across multiple locations?

Celebrate your #Nonprofitluv this February with GuideStar

Each February, GuideStar strives to let nonprofits across the country know just how much we appreciate what they do. That’s why we want to hear from nonprofits like yours that are high-performing and doing great work as they use data to drive their impact-making decisions. Let’s rise together to spread a very extraordinary message across social media this month through GuideStar’s third annual #Nonprofitluv campaign!

Help Your Supporters Do Good with These Apps

System Automation: Trusting Technology To Help You Do More

With the advent of readily available APIs, more and more systems are "talking" to each other these days. However, connecting the systems that you use each day can be a scary idea.

In this article, we'll offer tips for approaching system integration and how nonprofits can do even more good with technology.

Why is system integration important?

No matter what data it contains, an isolated application ultimately decreases in value. System integration helps nonprofits recapture this value and do more with less – especially when funding is results-driven. Linking applications together reduces time spent on duplicate data entry and minimizes the chances of clerical errors.

Advantages go well beyond the reduction of administrative burdens. Integration can also help streamline workflows and can deliver more meaningful reports for grants or donors engagement. For example, by allowing volunteer and donor databases to communicate, nonprofits automatically multiply their fundraising potential and have access to a more global view of their supporters.

Does integration makes sense for my organization?

If fractured data is hurting your organization (instead of helping it), then system integration might add value. Here are a few scenarios to consider:

  • Are your donors annoyed? If they are getting mail with their names misspelled, calls when they prefer email, or fundraising appeals addressed to a deceased spouse, this can tarnish your reputation and decrease your donation stream.
  • Do you see the whole picture? If you can’t easily identify trends and patterns because your data is too scattered among different applications, then you are missing out on important information. This data could drive changes in procedures, marketing, fundraising, and more.
  • Do departments mistrust each other’s data? If each department is using a different database for the same individuals, who really has the correct information?

Do any of these challenges sound familiar? If so, it’s time to consider an integration strategy.

How do I prepare for an integration launch?

  1. Establish that your tools can be connected. Most vendors list out their integration partners on a webpage. Start by exploring tools that integrate with one another. Cloud-based applications are often open to integration.
  1. Define what you want to accomplish. What problems do you wish to resolve? What benefits do you want to achieve? These questions will guide you and help you define exactly what you require a system integration to do.
  1. Communicate with staff and stakeholders. Be sure to make clear why you have opted for integration and how it will benefit your organization. This will be critical to your project’s success.
  1. Ask for information about the integration. Be sure that it meets the needs you outlined, and then dig deeper. You’ll want to find out how long the integration has been in use and ascertain if it is still in beta testing. When talking with the vendor, request case studies or references of satisfied customers so you can do your own research into it.
  1. Consider hiring a consultant who has successfully lead these types of transitions. An experienced integration consultant can help relieve the stress of integration and serve as a point person for your questions.
  1. Don’t be afraid to provide feedback to the vendor. If you’re experiencing an issue with the integration, the vendor would probably like to know about it. Don’t be shy.

Your data sets are just like your employees: when they communicate and work together as a team, you get the best results. From expediting internal processes to creating better marketing and fundraising approaches, software integration brings together important data that will synergistically further your nonprofit’s mission.

The following is a guest post by VolunteerHub, a cloud-based volunteer management software application that offers online event registration, email and SMS (text) messaging, report generation, and much more. This is part of our ongoing VolunteerCorner series – focusing on what you need to know about volunteering for nonprofit.

The Next Big Thing

There is a lot of talk, across many diverse industries, about “big data.” But what does that really mean? It’s really nothing more than what it sounds like, data – and a lot of it. The real value is in the information and insight it can provide, if it is used properly.