Tag: non-profit

Top 5 ways Canadians Give to Charity

On average Canadians gave $531 last year to charity. In Alberta the average was a little higher at $596.96 per person. Although it would not be surprising if this average amount drops a little this year due to the dropping price of oil and the effect on the local economy. These stats came from an article last week in the Calgary Herald. The article was based on a recent Statistics Canada report. As an organizational leader for a nonprofit I am always thrilled to read any report about how people express there generosity and how they donate to charity. In the video below I talk about the top 5 ways listed in the report as the ways Canadians give to charity. Some of the ways will definitely not surprise you -but one or two just may.


30 ways your donation helps our families

For most, the holiday season is filled with parties, shopping, laughter and joy — but Ronald McDonald House Charities® Southern & Central Alberta families are experiencing the season much differently. Everything is on hold — including celebrating the holidays — while our families wait patiently at their child’s bedside far from home and hope for good […]


5 Way Your Nonprofit can Raise Money Like Charity :Water

Charity Water and the story of how they transformed their organization from a grass roots nonprofit to a power house that uses content and social media extremely proficiently to further their cause and impact ,has to be one of my favorite success stories. If you haven’t heard of Charity Water -search them on You Tube, that is right after you watch this video.

Does giving to charity make you wealthy?


          Anne Frank wrote “No one has ever become poor by giving” –but is it possible that giving can make you wealthy? For centuries a number of religious and philosophical texts have described the relationship between giving or being charitable and the generation of personal prosperity. In general there is a lot of evidence and research that describes that the wealthier you are the more likely you are to give bigger gifts to support important causes, locally, nationally and/or internationally. Is there any science to back up the religious and philosophical teachings that might suggest that the relationship between generosity and prosperity goes both ways? Brook (2007) in a paper titled Does Giving Make us prosperous? points out:” A large majority of Americans give of their money and their time. Most estimates place the percentage of U.S households that make charitable contributions each year at about 75%, and the percentage that volunteer about 55 percent.”  Brooks in his research goes on to describe:”… charity and prosperity are mutually reinforcing. That is of obvious importance for nonprofit research and management: It gives much greater importance to the role of fundraising in the nonprofit economy, suggesting that it is far more than a simple means to an end- it may be an engine of benefit in and of itself.”  Brooks does have an explanation as to how this phenomenon may be created: Many psychologists believe that charitable behavior can provide a productive focus in people’s lives, which enhances their confidence and self-esteem –and consequently their likelihood of prospering.”

           I don’t think most of the people I know give because they want to prosper; actually I think most would describe just the opposite. They would describe their giving or generosity is designed towards giving without any expectation of a return. Interestingly Brooks (2007, pp409-410) concludes:”…many philosophical and religious teaching have asserted that it is charity that leads to prosperity. This article has sought to test the direction of this relationship, and has found strong evidence that money giving does in fact, influence income. “For those who believe that real prosperity is really related to happiness, there is certainly research to suggest that giving can create some happiness.  Dunn, E.W.  et. al. (2008) thought that spending money on other people may have a more positive impact on happiness than spending money on oneself. When these authors considered this question they found that;” …spending more of one’s income on others predicted greater happiness both cross-sectionally (in a nationally representative survey study) and longitudinally (in a field study of windfall spending). “

        So there you have it-giving to charity can make you both prosperous and happy. Two more reasons to support your favorite cause.



Brooks, A,C. (2007) Does giving make us prosperous? Journal of Economics and Finance: Vol. 3 N.1; pp.


Dunn, E, W. Aknin ,L,B & Norton ,M.(2008) Spending Money on Others Promotes Happiness; Science 21

         March 2008: Vol. 319 no. 5870 pp. 1687-1688 DOI: 10.1126/science.1150952

5 More Great On-line Resources for Charity Leaders


            I never feel that you  can know enough or learn enough about how to do a better job leading the organization you work for.  The great thing about being a professional or leader in this age is the abundance of information and material for learning that is available as close as on your phone, tablet or laptop. Here are a few more organizations I frequently check out as a source of new ideas.



          Great website with blog-posts about everything to do with branding, marketing or communications for the nonprofit sector. The organization provides an interesting service to professionals working in the sector called “AskCharity”. The service is described as :”  AskCharity is a free service designed to help journalists and charities work together. Journalists can use it to find case studies, spokespeople and information from a wide range of charities. Charities can use it to build their media contacts and coverage.”


The Chronicle of Philanthropy

             This has to be the ultimate newspaper for Fundraisers. I have had a subscription for a while, but if you don’t want to jump in and invest right away, follow their website for a while and see if you find the articles to your liking. The website and subscription service covers pretty much anything to do with fundraising and philantrophy.


Imagine Canada

           Even if you are not from Canada this site has some great resources (certainly if you work for a Canadian Charity you will find this site even more helpful).  The organization is a critical support to the Canadian nonprofit sector. On their website they describe themselves in the following manner: ” Imagine Canada is a national charitable organization whose cause is Canada’s charities. Our three broad goals are to strengthen the sector’s collective voice, create opportunities to connect and learn from each other, and build the sector’s capacity to succeed.”  Check out their site to find out more that this organization does for the sector, but also check it out for the resources they post online. They have guides for nonprofits for most of the critical areas important to running a charity.  The organization also publishes the report Canada Survey of Giving, Volunteering and Participating Data which is a great resource to understanding how Canadians give and volunteer. On a frequent basis the organization also publishes its Sector Monitor which tends to provide a lot of great information regarding emerging trends facing the sector. Imagine Canada polls nonprofit leaders and executives from across the country to prepare the report.



           Now Blackbaud is in the business of helping charities, so it should be no surprise that their website is full of valuable resources. The link to their resource section is here:


I am a big fan of their gift range calculator an easy to use, valuable resource to use when planning a capital campaign or even planning out your annual campaign.

I also like Blackbaud’s white papers which are brief “how to” guides and primers. If you are a new leader working for a charity I am sure you will find something useful to you here. Even if you have been in the sector for decades and are planning to implement something new to your organization , like P2P fundraising you’ll find some useful information here.




          Also in the business of helping nonprofits Convio like Blackbaud has a lot of valuable information on their website. Convio was so successful in what they do-that Blackbaud actually bought them a while back. Not unlike the Blackbaud site there are some useful tip sheets and guides for a number of fundraising. Convio does a few reports annually that help us compare ourselves to other charities in the sector. Be sure to check out Convio’s :” Charitable Giving Report,  Peer-to-Peer Benchmarking Report and their Online Benchmarking Report. You will come away with some new ideas but also see how your nonprofit stacks up.



Marketing for Charities on the Cheap


            If you have read a few of my earlier blog posts you know that I do think even small nonprofit organizations need to invest in marketing (or maybe I should say small nonprofits especially need to invest in marketing). One book that has some very practical advice on low cost marketing for charities is the text by Levinson, Adkins and Forbes titled Guerrilla Marketing for Nonprofits. Especially useful information on low cost marketing techniques is described in their chapter: Guerrilla Social Media. The authors suggest:” Guerrillas know a good deal when they see one. And social media is a very good deal for guerillas because they focus on reaching individuals instead of merely selling their ideas to markets. With a little time, energy and imagination, nonprofit guerillas deepen relationships with their clients and supporters and increase the frequency of exposure of their message to the people they want to reach by using social media (Levinson et. al. 2010, p.195). The authors have an interesting description of why they think social media is so effective for charities. They describe;” …social media is designed to spread information through relationship networks quickly. It works on the same principle of Six Degrees of Separation. The Six Degrees principle states that people are so interconnected with one another by human social relationships that no one person is ever more than six people connections from any other person on earth. Some researchers believe because of the popular use of social media people are now separated by only three degrees (Levinson et. al. 2010, p.197).  These authors suggest that nonprofit organizations need to consider opportunities to take advantage of this ability to spread information quickly. For example they advise: “The messages of your viral outreach need to be easy to grasp without explanation and easy to pass on to others (p.198). Additionally they suggest;” Give people the content they need to pass on your viral marketing. Provide assets for your audience to make their own videos, allow them to put their pictures in an e-card, anything that helps to put them into the storyline and send to their contacts (p.199).

         Other writers have provided similar observations that social media is changing the way people receive information or are willing to receive information and how charities can use these new preferences to gain support. For example  Miller (2009) point out:” In place of once trusted institutions consumers are increasingly looking for alternative sources of information and advice to help guide the myriad of decisions they make in everyday life, including their purchasing and donating decisions. In particular, in search of authenticity and independence, they are turning to the opposite end of the scale from the big traditional sources. To friends, family and countless others that they have never met, but through the use of online recommendation activities that they treat as informed and trusted peers” (p.366)”. 

              When considering how this change can be responded to Miller (2009) suggests;” We need to move from the direct marketer’s focus of building and mailing mass contact lists and develop new online fundraising products that supporters will want to take to their friends and wider networks themselves. As we flip the funnel and our supporters become a key channel through which we communicate, the professional fundraisers role will increasingly become that of community manager rather than campaign manager, as each community fundraises in that way that works best for them.”

             The fortunate reality for small nonprofits is that visibility and awareness can be achieved at a lower cost than some traditional media. However it is likely a reality that small charities will need to become proficient in using these tools not only because they are cost effective but also because their stakeholders do/will prefer it. Levinson et. al (2010) point out;” The question is not if your organization will use social media , it is more a question of when. Your donors are looking for a more personalized relationship with your nonprofit. New generations of volunteers, donors and clients don’t just prefer social media, the demand it.  Today’s younger generation communicates with one another using social media and texting, not email and snail mail.”


Miller, B. (2009) Community fundraising 2.0-the future of fundraising in a networked society?

         International Journal of Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Marketing. V14, n1: 365-371.

Levinson, J.C, Adkins,F. & Forbes,C. (2010) Guerrilla Marketing for Nonprofits: 250 Tactics to Promote,

           Recruit, Motivate and Raise More Money: Irvine: Entrepreneur Press

Not everything that counts can be counted.


“Not everything that counts can be counted. And not everything that can be counted, counts.” — Albert Einstein

           It is National Volunteer week and last night we were honored to be at the Propellus Volunteer Awards Event last night. We were honored because one of our amazing volunteer families was the recipient of the Volunteer Family of the Year Award. It was awe inspiring to hear Donna talk about her family’s investment making a difference in their community and specifically in making a difference for the children and families we serve. When you nominate a volunteer or a family of volunteers for an award like this it does not take long to itemize the number of amazing things they do for your cause but it is hard to measure and quantify the value or the impact of their investment.  Last year for the 2013 National Volunteer Week economists tried to describe the value of volunteer’s investment of time in Canada. They used the International Labour Organizations definition of what volunteering is. They quote :”[the] (ILO) has defined a volunteer as an individual who performs unpaid, non-compulsory work either through an organization or directly for others outside their own household.” Good definition but it does not really capture the emotional or social nuances of the impact of volunteers.  TD Economics goes on to describe;” In 2011, researchers at Johns Hopkins University estimated that almost one billion people in the world volunteer their time every year.” At a big picture level or a worldwide level the impact of volunteer’s generosity is immense. Even at a national level the impact is staggering. These same economists make projections on the value created in Canada alone. This value they estimate to be a least $50 billion dollars of value to Canadians. The author suggest: “Although individual volunteers may earn more during their regular jobs, they may not use these highly-paid skills in their volunteer activities. In turn, the average wage is a reasonable benchmark to use for our exercise. Based on the hours volunteered and an imputed average hourly wage, the economic value of volunteering in Canada is in the ballpark of an astounding $50 billion each year. This figure, though undoubtedly impressive, is likely a conservative estimate that does not include any capital investment, nor improved skills and attitudes.”

          Assigning a dollar value to volunteer work makes it quantifiable and easier for the average person to come to an understanding of how important volunteers and the volunteer sector is to our nation and in fact our world. But it is unlikely that fiscal calculations will ever fully estimate the true value. Imagine Canada describes;” Counting hours doesn’t show the impact of the volunteer work. And as a result, it gives an incomplete picture of the value of volunteers. For some, the idea of putting a dollar value on involvement belittles the volunteer’s efforts. Many feel the passion and commitment of volunteers is priceless.”  We do count hours in our organization and try to measure the impact of our volunteer’s contribution in as many ways as we can. Heck we even count and record on spreadsheets the number of cookies our volunteer bakers bake for our kids. For example in our Calgary House on average our volunteer bakers bake 10 dozen cookies per day for our families.

          We definitely could never repay our volunteers for what they do for our families but measuring it and reporting it, seems like a small effort to describe the impact. In the summer of 2005 when I started with the organization we had an excel spreadsheet with the names and addresses of 35 volunteers who helped us in the House. Last year when we created our annual report it was staggering to realize that within the year over 1400 people had volunteered, in our House and at our events. Yesterday Donna was writing her acceptance speech (which was amazing) she emailed me to find out how many volunteers had volunteered for the Calgary House in the past year. I almost emailed back 1400 because I figured it couldn’t have changed that much since last year. I asked our volunteer coordinator to do a quick query in our volunteer database. We were both amazed when the database told us 3694 people had volunteered for us in some capacity over the recently ended fiscal year. We are a relatively small charity so realizing in total how many people were helping is a little humbling.

           It is hard to quantify and hard to describe what a difference our volunteers make, but our families and our kids know. At our own volunteer awards night all of our volunteer awards are named after kids who have used our House(s). Each year for each award named after a child, the parents come and give a speech at our event about exactly what the volunteers meant to them. This is a metric that is hard to quantify but like the man said:”… not everything that can be counted, counts”



Imagine Canada (2014) Assigning an economic value to volunteering: company website; as retrieved

          from: http://volunteer.ca/content/assigning-economic-value-volunteering

TD Economics (2012) An economists case for volunteering,  as retrieved from:


6 great online resources for charity leaders


          In any sector staying abreast of changes in your environment and changes and technology can make the difference for the success of your organization. This is certainly true for the nonprofit sector. Fortunately there are many on-line resources that provide a wealth of information for nonprofit leaders and executives. Here are just a few sites that I find myself checking out on a fairly regular basis to come up with new ideas and stay abreast of changes in technology and trends pertinent to the sector.


Charity Village and Charity Channel’

I first became aware of these sites when I was looking for my first jobs in the nonprofit sector.  Both sites have nonprofit sector job postings and offer job alert features (emails will be sent directly to your in-box for positions meeting your criterion.  Both sites have a library of on line articles and how to guides for a number of issues important to non-profit organizations (e.g. board development, volunteer management, fundraising budgeting, etc.) Charity Channel is a U.S site and Charity Village is Canadian. If we have an opening which is specific to the sector like a fundraising or a program operations role, Charity Village is one of our go-to sites for posting

http://charitychannel.com/    http://charityvillage.com/

Nonprofit Hub

This site has some really interesting posts on social media, fundraising, technology relevant to the sector and more. I like this site because at times their writers just seem a little ahead of the curve. Some of their authors are talking about trends that are going to happen before most of us are paying attention to them. They also tend to have great links to articles and material on other sites of interest.


The NonProfit Times

I tend to think of this website as the digital newspaper for the sector. If you are a fan of charities and all aspects of what they do and what it takes to operate them this is a good site for you. Very frequently I come across links on my LinkedIn feed to articles that I think will be really interesting. A good proportion of the time the articles are a link to this website.


Non Profit Technology Network (NTEN)

As the name of the site suggests this website and their related media focuses on the “tech” side of the nonprofit world.  One of the nice things about this site is you can search for resources and links by job/role type. For example you can search for resources for:

 •Communications Staff


 •IT Staff


 •Program Staff

This organization also produces a quarterly journal (NTEN Change: A Quarterly Journal for NonProfit Leaders). It is a visually appealing document with a lot of great material and you can sign up online to receive it for free.  Another value on this site is the organization does research and produces bench mark studies in an few areas of interest to nonprofit leaders- and of course you can also download these studies for free.  


Blue Avocado

One of my former board presidents was a big fan on this site; she used it to find a lot of useful information on board development, governance and board training.  I like the site because it covers all aspects of nonprofit management – but I also like it because the organization does not take itself too seriously. After all a name like Blue Avocado- if you weren’t reading about it here you would not necessarily assume it was a site for nonprofit leaders.  They also appear willing to make the odd tongue in cheek post. Today I noticed the post below posted on their front page. I had to go to the Charity Navigator Site for more information- oh right it is April Fools Day.

Charity Navigator Closes

From Lee Taylor, Hayward, California

“We realized it’s stupid to rank nonprofits based on a few unproven management indicators,” said leaders. “We apologize for all the harm we’ve done to good nonprofits.” When reached for comment, a nonprofit spokesperson said, “Ding dong the wicked witch is dead.”


Small Charities: Making a Difference all Over the World

         I love the charity I work for, but I have to admit I am a bit of a fan of charities large and small and what they do in their corner of the world. Yesterday one of my twitter followers drew my attention to this charity in Ireland.  Having worked most of my career for organizations that support children and families I had to love what this charity does.  Also working with sick children and their families I can appreciate what a benefit a service like this can be to them. The organization is called BUMBLEance and their vision is to:

Our vision is to provide improved and professional medical transportation services for long-term sick and seriously disabled children, who require professional ambulance transportation. We will transport children in a fun environment from the far reaches of Ireland, both urban and rural, to their treatment centres.

           Within the last two years our own organization started to partner with a local healthcare provider to provide mobile health care services,so I definitely appreciate what they do for children. A service like this is an interesting support and fills an important gap for seriously ill children. To be honest leading a nonprofit the first thing I had to think when I saw their videos was “how do we get one of these in Canada?”. Anyway check out their promotional video –what they do for kids is very impressive. If you live in Ireland or are just concerned about sick children- there are a number of ways on their website that you can become involved or provide support.



How often should your charity post on social media?


             If you are responsible for the social media posts for your charity- how do you determine how many posts per day do you do? On my personal social media sites I post a little more frequently than our staff post on our RMH social media sites. Jill who is responsible for our social media always says “only post awesome” –I on the other hand am a little more willing to post something that is a little less than awesome. How often you post on social media does depend a lot on which platform you are using. When considering Facebook Mansfield (2012) suggests;” Large national and international nonprofits with well-known and much loved brands have a different experience on Face Book from that of most small to medium sized nonprofits. They usually have lots of fresh content to share and their fans are much less likely to “unlike” their page if they overshare on Face Book. Small to medium sized nonprofits, should err on the side of caution. Less is more.” Mansfield recommends Facebook status updates of 1 to 2 a day or less.

          I would tend to agree with her recommendations followers, on twitter seem much more tolerant of frequent posts than Facebook followers. On twitter higher volume seems to be a key. The social media expert who manages the site for our Global charity has told me that she tries to target about 12 tweets a day. Personally I have found the most growth and interaction on my personal social media when I am able to average about 20 interactions a day. Now keep in mind I don’t necessarily want to send 20 tweets a day out about our organization. I want some of those interactions to be mentions and retweets of other peoples content. Mansfield (2012, p.97) reminds us that: “Retweet unto others as you would have them retweet unto you is the golden rule of twitter. The more your nonprofit promotes others through retweets and replies, the more your nonprofit will in turn get retweeted and mentioned.” She goes on to advise:” Strategically speaking one of your primary goals on twitter should be to earn retweets and mentions by others because this is the fastest way to grow your follower base (Mansfield, 2012, p.97).

              Twitter followers do have more tolerance for more volume –but a good portion of that volume can’t be about you or your organization. Think about any relationship –who wants a friend who only talks about themselves. On a personal level this is discipline that I struggle with. There are so many things about our organization that are cool that I want to push out there-but there does need to be balance. To be quite honest sometimes I am good at creating this balance, sometimes I am not. Kanter and Fine in their book The Networked Nonprofit, remind that:” The key ingredient for any relationship is good listening. Rather than just talking to, or worse at people on-line, organizations should first listen to what people are talking about ,what interests or concerns them and how they view the organization. Listening is a terrific way for organizations to orient themselves online.”

           So I suppose how frequently or infrequently you post is important, but how much you listen and engage your followers is equally important. When someone who works for another charity is starting off on developing their social media sites and they ask me the question how often do you post? I usually suggest that they experiment with their own volume to see what works best for their followers and their charity. For my own social media my personal targets are 1-3 instagram posts a day, twitter 12-20 interactions a day and Linked In and Facebook 1 to 2 posts a day. I don’t always hit those targets although some days I post at a higher volume. Anyway your charity should test and experiment with different levels of posting, and as Mansfield suggests that with some platforms such as Facebook “less is more.”



Kanter, B & Fine, A,H. (2010) The networked nonprofit: Connecting with social media to drive change.

           San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Mansfield, H (2012) Social Media for Social Good: A how to guide for Nonprofits:  New York: McGraw