Stormy Trotter, PhD.
Nonprofit organizations (NPO’s) are essential to our communities and strive to advocate for causes, fill existing gaps and provide meaningful resources. Many are successful in delivering programs and servicing needs, but still are often underrecognized and under supported.
How does marketing, communications, and public relations play a role in helping NPO’s succeed?
Marketing is the promotional strategy used to engage an audience for a specific appeal or action. Marketing helps publicize events, build & maintain relationships and create awareness for the organization. The terms marketing and communications have commonly been used interchangeably but they are indeed different. Marketing requires analysis, consistency, and creativity to create effective messaging. While communications refer to systems, processes, and channels of disseminating messages.
Public relations can be seen as a marriage between marketing and communications, in that it helps formulate the image, and thereby the support of the organization. All these actions should be consistent internally and externally to maximize the benefit to the NPO.
If you feel your organization is not getting the attention it deserves, ask yourself how are you spreading your message, what are you communicating about your organization? Are you telling your story effectively? What are your methods of communication? How do you know what you need as an organization?
If these questions are plaguing you, join our upcoming webinar, where we will explore ways to effectively market your message, discuss how to maintain clear and consistent communication and describe the role public relations play in any successful organization.
Communicating your Message: Marketing and PR Basics -
July 20th, 2022 | Noon to 1 PM ET
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"In order to have a conversation with someone you must reveal yourself." James Baldwin
There are two types of conflict:
Cognitive, which focuses on substantive differences of opinion, improves team effectiveness, and produces better decisions, increases commitment, increases understanding, and increases empathy. Cognitive conflict occurs as team members examine, compare, and reconcile these differences. This type of conflict requires team members to focus attention on all too often ignored assumptions.
The other type of conflict is Affective.
Affective conflict is characterized by disagreements over personalized, individually oriented matters that reduce team effectiveness and produce destructive conflict, poorer decisions, fosters hostility, distrust, avoidance, and apathy.
Teams and people who use cognitive conflict encourage thinking beyond the customary options. They listen to minority voices, encourage dissenting opinions, and synergize the thoughts and perspectives of different members. They approach problems from totally new perspectives. They challenge, productively, one another's assumptions. They encourage members to speak freely and challenge the premises of other member's viewpoints without the threat of anger, resentment, or retribution.
Cognitive conflict is accomplished by pausing, paraphrasing, inquiring, and using stems of connection and transition as part of putting new ideas on the table. Examples of stems of connection include, “Here is a related thought”, “I hold it another way”, “From another perspective”, “An additional idea might be”, “an assumption I am exploring is....”
(Adaptive Foundations, Garmston and Wellman)
"Conflict can be seen as a gift of energy, in which neither side loses,
and a new dance is created." Thomas Crum.
You, or someone you know, might be someone who needs to move from affective conflict to cognitive conflict. We can help. Nonprofit Network helps nonprofit organizations find better, smarter, more efficient ways to work and serve their community. All nonprofit organizations are unique. The path to efficiency, transparency and accountability is different for everyone.
Please plan to join us at our next virtual workshop, Conflict Management on May 25th at 1PM. We will further discuss the different types of conflict, and how to address conflict among teams and within organizations to increase collaboration. Or if you need to schedule a conversation, please email us for an appointment.
May is #MentalHealthAwarenessMonth
In addition to my role as a consultant for nonprofit and public sector organizations, I am also a mental health professional. I’ve been a licensed clinical social worker for over twenty years. I served as the deputy director of a community mental health authority, and I occasionally see clients in my private practice.
Many mental health clinical professionals have experienced a noticeable increase in demand for their services in the wake of the COVID-19 epidemic. During the past two years, I have been contacted by individuals, couples, and families seeking assistance in coping with personal challenges caused or exacerbated by today’s increasingly stressful climate. I’ve had the honor of serving people who likely would never have reached out in previous times.
Perhaps most troubling is the adverse impact on teens and young adults. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, people who are 18-25 years of age have the highest prevalence of mental illness at 31 % as compared to only 14% prevalence among persons aged 50 and older. Moreover, the impact of social media on the mental health of young people has been verified. A recent 3-year study has revealed that Instagram (owned by Facebook) is the most harmful social media platform for teen mental health. The study reveals that frequent use of Instagram by children and adolescents is central contributor to mental illness, particularly in teenage girls. Repeated use of the photo-sharing app may lead to body image and self-esteem difficulties and even suicidal thoughts. In response to the research findings, Facebook has suspended development of its Instagram Kids project.
Although many people point to the COVID-19 pandemic as the central cause of the rise in mental health challenges, the reality is that behavioral health issues have been increasing in prevalence for many years. In the U.S., the national rate of suicide has increased by 35% since 1999. Furthermore, suicide is the second leading cause of death among people between the ages of 10 and 34.
The terms mental health, mental illness, or behavioral health can encompass a broad spectrum of conditions ranging from mild to severely debilitating and even life-threatening. The realities of the current social, political, and economic environment have impacted everyone. Even if you have not personally experienced physical illness, personal loss, or financial instability, you may be inadvertently affected by the increased strain, pressure and “background noise” in our complex society. Although a broad range of behavioral conditions exist, most mental illness experienced by the general population can be grouped into three categories: depression, anxiety, and substance use.
▪ Depression is a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest in routine activities. Depression isn’t just “the blues” and affected individuals can’t just “snap out of it.” Symptoms my include feelings of emptiness and hopelessness; anger and irritability; sleep disturbances; appetite changes; problems with memory or concentration; and possible thoughts of self-harm.
▪ Clinical depression may require professional treatment involving psychotherapy or even medication. The good news is that in addition to advanced therapeutic techniques, there are many modern medications that have proven to be highly successful in treating moderate to severe depression.
▪ Anxiety or generalized anxiety disorder involves excessive worrying or panic that is difficult to control, and which may interfere with normal activities. Symptoms can include excessive focus on minor issues; indecisiveness; difficulty concentrating; inability to relax; and physical manifestations such as fatigue, sleeplessness, body aches, or nausea.
▪ Like depression, generalized anxiety disorder can be successfully treated and managed with advanced psychotherapy and medications.
Substance Use Disorder
▪ Addiction or substance use disorder is a disease that affects a person’s brain and behavior leading to the inability to control the use of a legal or illegal drug or medication. Over time, the affected individual may require larger doses of the substance to feel the same effect. Eventually, the individual may find it difficult to function without using the drug. Symptoms may include: (1) intense urges to use the drug; (2) spending excessive amounts of money on the drug; (3) not meeting personal or professional obligations; (4) engaging in excessive activities to obtain the drug; and (5) engaging in risky behaviors when under the influence of the drug.
▪ Substance use disorder can be successfully treated and managed with a combination of inpatient and outpatient behavioral therapy, medication, as well as family and community support networks.
Despite the increases in the volume of Americans experiencing mental health challenges, there is hope. Several national studies have shown that there has been a decrease in stigma and negative assumptions about mental illness. The studies show that people are more willing to reveal that they have a mental illness. In addition, fewer survey respondents indicate that they would be reluctant to seek help for a mental health problem. Fortunately, there are many resources available to assist individuals and families who may experience mental health challenges.
Depending on your location there are always resources nearby and listed below are a few Michigan and national resources for anyone who may be experiencing challenges with mental health or substance abuse.
▪ National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
▪ National Hotline for Mental Health: 1-800-662-HELP (4357)
▪ Behavioral Health Treatment Provider Locator
▪ Michigan Community Mental Health Agencies: complete listing
▪ Mindfulness Meditation
▪ Self-Care Resource Center
Jackson Michigan and surrounding areas:
A large portion of my career in the nonprofit and public sector has been working for funding organizations, both private and public. These roles have afforded me the opportunity to acquire experience and insight as both a reviewer of grant proposals as well as one who prepares proposals for submission to other funders. I’ve also taught grant proposal development courses at the university level and based on my experience, here are a few observations that may serve to improve your grant proposal development skills.
This may seem obvious, but most funders provide detailed instructions regarding submission timelines, grant award announcements, and most importantly, the format of the proposal itself. Review these carefully. Many funding organizations will screen out proposals that don’t follow basic RFP guidelines. This means that your proposal may not be reviewed simply because the proposal did not include a cover page, contact information, or because it exceeded the stated page limit.
As I gained experience as a proposal reviewer, I learned to first read the abstract or executive summary and then flip to the budget. This often saved me from spending precious time reading the full narrative of a proposal that was not supported by a budget that reasonably reflects the activities outlined in the proposal. If the funder expressly requires a specific financial range for the proposal, make sure that your request does not exceed the stated capacity of the funder. Second, check your math. Just like spelling and grammatical errors, numbers that don’t add up make a poor impression on the reviewer. Finally, unless otherwise suggested by the funder, make sure that your total request is in line with the operating budget of your organization. A grant request that is double, triple, or quadruple the current operating budget of your organization is more likely to be turned down. Funders often want to see some previous capacity of successfully managing sizeable program budgets.
Again, this may seem obvious, but nothing raises doubts in the mind of a proposal reviewer like poorly edited prose. Grant proposals are often the first impression of your organization to a potential source of funding. It is imperative that the proposal writer prepares a document that is well-structured, and that is free of spelling and grammatical errors.
Funding proposals should be easy to read. The reader should not have to wade through overly dense text to understand the ideas presented in your proposal. My other job is teaching at a university. When I grade assignments, well-written papers that flow well and are free of structural, grammatical, and spelling errors overwhelmingly tend to get higher grades. Likewise, well-written proposals have a higher likelihood of getting funded.
Include citations and references. A grant proposal resembles a research paper in that much of the information that supports the problem statement should come from external sources. Citing peer-reviewed research from credible sources serves to strengthen the case that you are making. A simple rule of thumb is that if it didn’t come from your own personal experience or opinion, you must cite the source and include it in your references.
If you don’t have a strong writer on staff, consider keeping a grant writer on retainer. In either case, it may be wise to contact the English or journalism department at your local community college or university. Faculty members are often available to serve as an external editor of funding proposals as well as other documents that will be seen outside of your organization. And if you are a Nonprofit Network member, you can take advantage of your member benefits.
Include a logic model. Most funders require a logic model. And if the guidelines don’t mention a logic model, I’d include one anyway. A logic model is a graphic depiction of the flow and structure of your proposed program, project, or service. It’s essentially a conceptual road map of your project and should display inputs, activities, outputs, outcomes, and the overall impact of the project. A well-constructed logic model should align with and even further illustrate the narrative of your project description section. There are many ways to prepare a logic model. When I teach grant writing classes, I often refer students to the Logic Model Development Guide published by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.
From years of reviewing and preparing grant proposals, it has been my experience that the evaluation section and the sustainability sections are often the weakest components of the proposal. Many grant seekers typically write these sections last, which means that they may be an afterthought. This is usually evident to the proposal reviewer. In the case of the evaluation section, start thinking of how the program or project should be evaluated as the program design takes form. As you develop the activities and outputs, you should determine how program data will be collected, how it will be analyzed, and how outcomes will be presented. The W.K. Kellogg Foundation has published the W.K. Kellogg Foundation Evaluation Handbook, which can provide a clear framework for designing an evaluation plan that impresses grant proposal reviewers.
Finally, the sustainability plan is often the hardest section to prepare. The funder is essentially asking you to project into a not-too-distant future when their funding is no longer available to support program operations. This question can seem frustrating and even unfair to those who are seeking initial funding. However, from the perspective of a funder it makes sense. Why fund a great project that will cease operations in a year or two?
The key to writing an honest sustainability plan is to vividly enumerate the ways in which the program or project can reasonably obtain resources to continue services beyond the grant period.
This may include:
(1) absorbing some of the program costs into the operational budget
(2) individual donors
(4) social entrepreneurship
(5) annual fund
(6) major gifts
(7) corporate sponsorships
(8) seeking other grant funding
In most cases, a successful sustainability plan will include more than one tactic. If you want to learn more, please plan to join us on Wednesday May 18th at 10 AM for our new workshop,
Grant Writing Basics: Tips to be Successful
Leading a nonprofit organization is a lot like preparing for an athletic competition. It requires consistent training, practice, and a plan to succeed. An athlete never gets to check the box off next to a basic skill. It doesn't matter how many times you've run that drill—you still review, practice, and adapt when necessary, and yes, keep on training. And it is the same for a board of directors.
A board is never past the need for training. Seasons, needs, pandemics, growth, and experiences are just some of the variables that change the environment in which a nonprofit lives. All board members benefit from regular governance training. So let's talk about what some of those benefits include:
1) Ongoing, cyclical orientation. Just because you’ve been on a particular board awhile doesn’t mean you know everything. Asking naïve questions helps strengthen the board as individuals and as a whole. Making governance training and conversations a regular part of your conversation helps to ensure that all board members—both new and old alike—are on the same page.
2) All nonprofits have a life-cycle, which means that no two organizations need the same board—you need to be equipped to give your organization the most relevant skills, perspective, and leadership based on where it is and what it needs. No two boards are alike. If you’ve served on a board, then you’ve served on one board. Know where your organization is in its life cycle and seek deep understanding on what your board needs to provide.
3) You are legally liable for the organization. When you know what you’re liable for, you will make informed, responsible decisions. Board training can inform that process and may provide you with the information that will protect you.
4) More efficient meetings, more effective decisions. When a board is well-trained and each member knows their role, things run more smoothly. Meetings become more engaging and decisions are more thoughtful and strategic. Who doesn’t want that?
5) Increased impact. A board made of trained and informed experts is one that advocates for its organization and inspires action. Staff are motivated to perform and then the community sees and benefits from the mission work accomplished.
6) More funding. There are over 51,000 nonprofits in the state of Michigan alone. Your organization literally cannot afford to operate with a mediocre, meets-expectations board. There are tens of thousands of organizations seeking the same donors, seeking the same funding—if you want rise above the rest, you need to be on top of your game.
At the end of the day, it's up to the board to make sure that a nonprofit is fulfilling its purpose—that it is advancing its mission and making true, lasting impact on the community. Board governance training is a crucial role in that success.
Plan to join us May 19th, 2022 for Unstick Your Board Meetings, a 1-hour webinar centered around common practices, myths and mistakes that make board meetings less effective with modifications that allow more efficiency.
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*blog updated from Aug. 2018
“How do you stay organized?”
This question has been following me around since I can remember. Though I’m not sure how my passion for organization started, I’m sure growing up with a very organized grandma helped (thanks, Grandma!). Staying organized has helped me streamline processes and accomplish goals both at work and home and I want to share some helpful tips that might be able to translate to you and your work.
A simple method that helps me to stay organized is utilizing a to-do list. Below are some great tips on how to keep your to-do list functional and manageable.
1) Find a medium that works for you. Determine how to keep track of your list according to your lifestyle. Would you prefer using pen and paper so that your list is physically in front of you? Would it be better to keep an electronic list on your phone for your on-the-go lifestyle? Use the method that works best for you.
2) Make a weekly master list and a daily list. Start each week by making a master list of everything that you need to accomplish for the week. Then each day create a daily list. Write down everything that you must do that day on your list (include meetings, tasks, appointments…everything that you can think of). This will help you plan your day.
3) Be realistic. Do not overwhelm yourself. Reality check – you may not be able to accomplish 15 tasks in one day. Highlight the top three things you need to get done that day and do them. It is important to recognize that life happens and there is only so much time in a day. Something unexpected may happen (you may get interrupted several times; the phone might ring off the hook…you get the idea). If you did not accomplish a task that you were hoping to do today, do it first thing tomorrow.
4) Break it down! If you have a large project to tackle, break down everything that needs to be done to accomplish that project. Laying out the individual tasks allows you to process and recognize everything that is required for the project. After writing down each task, the project may seem bigger or smaller than you originally expected. By seeing each step required, it will help you to better plan and manage your time.
5) Prepare a to-do list before you leave work. The last thing I do before I leave work for the day is make a to-do list for the next day. This helps me set my expectations so when I walk into the office the next day, my to-do list is right there, ready and waiting for me to dive in.
And isn't there just something satisfying about crossing tasks off from your to-do list? I hope these tips will help you to organize yourself in a way that allows you to take charge and tackle your day with a smile. After all, nonprofit leaders and staff wear multiple hats and strong organizational practices are essential for staying on track in today’s challenging environment. If you are looking for more tips and tricks to stay organized – join us for Nonprofit Network’s upcoming webinar “Keeping Yourself Organized” on Wednesday, April 20th from 12:00 – 1:00 pm facilitated by Sharon Castle and myself where we will share additional tips and apps to help you keep your calendar, email, and more organized. We hope to see you there!
Katena Cain, PhD.
Nonprofit Management Consultant
Even when organizations don’t directly engage with trauma, they are touched by it. The effects of trauma are present when employee habits change, and they are absent. They are present when tensions build between staff and clients, and they are present when high turnover occurs and stretches budgets.
A trauma-informed organization is one in which all components of the system have been reconsidered and evaluated in the light of a basic understanding of the role that violence and trauma play in the lives of people seeking services from an organization and who may also be employed by that same organization.
Trauma-informed organizations change these painful patterns by acknowledging both the far-reaching effects of trauma and the many paths to heal it, becoming more effective in the process. Additionally, an organizational environment that is trauma-informed can support and sustain ‘trauma-specific’ services as they develop.
A trauma-informed system recognizes that trauma results in multiple vulnerabilities and affects many aspects of a survivor’s life over the lifespan. Therefore, a trauma-informed organization coordinates and integrates trauma-related activities and training with other systems of care to serve trauma survivors. A basic understanding of trauma and that dynamic should be held by all staff and should be used to design systems of services in a manner that accommodates the vulnerabilities of trauma survivors and allows services to be delivered in a way that will avoid re-traumatization.
A trauma-informed service system is knowledgeable and competent to recognize and respond effectively to adults and children traumatically impacted by a range of overwhelming adverse experiences, both interpersonal in nature and caused by natural events and disasters. There should be written plans and procedures to develop a trauma-informed service system and/or trauma-informed organizations and facilities with methods to identify and monitor progress.
It is imperative for an organization to have a full understanding of what trauma is. An organization that is trauma-informed will have the ability to be aware, recognize, and plan for situations that may create trauma and use best practice to reduce trauma among the communities, clients, patients, families, volunteers, and employees served.
If you'd like to learn more about defining and recognizing trauma and how it shows up in our work, please join us on April 5th at 9:30 AM as we expand this conversation at our workshop, Being and Becoming a Trauma Informed Nonprofit Organization.
“Slightly less than half of U.S. adults, 46%, have a will that describes how they would like their money and estate to be handled after their death.” - 2021 Gallup Poll
“Slightly less than half of U.S. adults, 46%, have a will that describes how they would like their money and estate to be handled after their death.” - 2021 Gallup Poll
The two most common objections for individuals to not have a will or estate plan are a sense of loss of control of their resources like having enough money to last their lifetime or being able to leave money to children or grandchildren and the complexity of making a legacy gift. Nonprofits have an opportunity to educate donors and help them realize the importance estate planning which should include how they can proactively plan for their retirement needs, leave money to family members, and make a legacy gift.
What does this mean for you as the person charged with development? Well, 54% of Americans don’t have a will designating where their assets will go once, they die and some of them are likely in your donor pool.
So why don’t more nonprofits include legacy gifts as a giving option?
“I don’t have time to meet with donors about their estate plans. I’m a small shop and I wear many hats.” “I would love to have a planned giving program, but it’s almost the end of our fiscal year and I’ve got to raise 30% of my goal if I’m going to make budget. Plus, our annual gala is next month and I’m swamped.” Sound familiar?
If your organization does not market planned gifts as a giving option to your donors, you are missing a significant opportunity to help build your capacity and long term sustainability.
It’s not as hard as you think. The mystique around planned giving can be off putting, however, according to Ilona Bray, J.D., “…the vast majority of legacy gifts to nonprofits are not made through fancy annuities and other financial arrangements requiring the nonprofit’s management, but the old-fashioned way, through wills and other simple probate-avoidance devices…”
Follow these simple steps to begin marketing legacy gifts to your donors:
If you want to learn about how to identify potential legacy gift donors, starting a legacy gift conversation, responding to donors concerns and pairing the best planned giving vehicle with a donor join us on
May 11th from 10am – Noon for “Planned Giving Basics: Simple Tips for Adding Estate Planning to Your Nonprofit’s Gift Options.”
Many nonprofit boards find themselves knee deep into the process of identifying candidates to join their board. If you find yourself on the “governance committee” or what some refer to as the “nominating committee” and are responsible for this extremely important effort to recruit the best board member candidates, I’d like to share some insights.
I’m sure you have adopted the standard process of evaluating the makeup and skills possessed by your current board, right? This review and comparison to the desired skill sets and makeup of your board often identifies the “gaps” that guide your search for leadership. This process answers the question of how do we make our board stronger.
In this effort to find board members, we sometimes are tempted to just fill the seats in order to conclude the process speedily, but I suggest that quality be the driver in this important process. In fact, I’d like to make the case that developing the slate of new board members is one of the most impactful activities for any nonprofit. It literally is creating your organization’s future. So slow down and introduce some intentionality. Ultimately your organization will benefit from it.
Your community has a makeup. It includes people with different histories, skill sets, current experiences, races, sexes and ages. Developing leadership that all has the same skills, experiences, races, sexes and ages hampers an organization from making the best decisions possible. Decision making (the primary role of the board) can only be done well when good data is used to make those decisions. Good data comes from numerous sources, but a primary source should be the life experiences of your leadership.
Recruiting for those vast experiences requires intentional effort. I’ve often heard this intentional effort is “more work”, “harder”, or “extra steps”. I’d suggest the results from this effort far exceeds the energy required of any deliberate steps. Recruiting to reflect your community enhances your perspective on program delivery, fund development, staffing and communications. Having a leadership group that has a makeup that is comparable to your community leads to better board conversations. Those better board conversations lead to better board decisions which-again-is the board’s primary work.
Having a board table surrounded by diverse experiences, views and skills and including each of their perspectives in the discussion and decisions is a recipe for connecting with the community. Connection gets your story out. Connection gets your story heard. Connection places your organization in an enviable position to deliver impactful services to your community. Go and be impactful.
Need assistance with any of the above steps? We have a Board Matrix tool and a Quick Board Assessment tool. Use your membership benefits for the discounted pricing and give us a call. Not a member? Join (it’s very reasonable) and we're here to help!
Nonprofit Network strives to be a model of inclusion. We believe that bringing diverse individuals together is essential to effectively address the issues that face current and prospective partners. Set a goal to learn more about this topic, join our next board training event on April 19th, 2022.
*updated from Nov. 2019
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If the demographics of your donors, board members, staff, volunteers and clients don’t reflect the average make up of your community... Your recruiting, hiring, and fundraising practices may not be geared to include everyone. Nonprofits can sometimes fall into a homogeneous trap. Board members can look and think the same. Staff looks and thinks the same. Donors look and think the same. And sometimes – without intention – the design of our services exclude rather than include.
Being an inclusive organization that values diversity doesn’t “just happen”. Like every other best practice, organizations must be committed and diligent to have good habits. If you are intentionally an inclusive organization, you will naturally attract donations from a diverse population, your board will be diverse in skill set, education, race, income and culture. And when you post positions, you will have a diverse set of applicants to interview. If you don’t attract diversity, I suggest you examine your practices for any that may be deemed exclusive. Such as requirements for office staff to be able to lift 50lbs or more (how often does that ever happen) or have a drivers license/reliable car (vs reliable transportation) and review your dress codes, and hair style requirements. Does your job posting require a degree or is work-experience applicable? Take the time to invest in and prioritize strategies and practices that address inequities. Embrace diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Nonprofit Network strives to be a model of inclusion. We believe that bringing diverse individuals together is essential to effectively address the issues that face current and prospective partners. Set a goal to learning more about this topic, we have a few on our calendar that are coming up.
Want even more? Click here to sign up for our weekly e-newsletter. Each week you'll get a link to the most recent news, workshops and blog post. We promise to respect your time and will not flood your inbox. We only send one newsletter email each week and when any timely important announcements need to be made.
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