Friday, March 29, 2013

Nonprofit Laughs for April Fool's Day

You have to have a sense of humor if you're in the nonprofit business, especially in this era of recession and cutbacks. So, in honor of April Fool's Day, here are three of my favorite jokes:

     A rabbi, a cantor, and the synagogue board president are captured by terrorists and condemned to death by firing squad. Each is granted one wish before dying.
     The rabbi says he wants to preach the sermon he's always wanted, as long as he wants, with no censoring of his themes.
     The cantor says he wants to sing a whole service, choosing only his own favorite melodies and singing every verse of every song.
     The president of the board says, "Shoot me first."

     The president of the congregation goes to visit his rabbi in the hospital, who has just suffered a mild heart attack. He says, "Rabbi, the board just voted 12 to 8 to  wish you a speedy recovery!"

     The board president of a national nonprofit just unveiled a new fundraising campaign slogan this week to inspire the rest of the board to donate: "I Upped My Pledge: Up Yours!"

And here's a wonderfully weird, funny, and absolutely true news story for you:

     New York State's highest court has ruled that Nite Moves, an adult "juice bar" in Latham, New York, simply can't claim a tax exemption on entrance and performance fees for what it calls "musical arts performances." According to the Court of Appeals' surprisingly close 4-3 decision, "it is not irrational for the tax tribunal to decline to extend a tax exemption to every act that declares itself a 'dance performance.'"
     Speaking for the dissent, Judge Smith said, "Like the majority, I find this particular form of dance unedifying - indeed I am stuffy enough to find it distasteful. Perhaps, for similar reasons, I do not read Hustler magazine; I would rather read the New Yorker. I would be appalled, however, if the state were to exact from Hustler a tax the New Yorker did not have to pay, on the grounds that what appears in Hustler is insufficiently cultural and artistic."
     Despite this compelling argument, a majority ruled otherwise, expanding on its argument with delightfully purple prose: "If ice shows presenting pairs ice dancing performances, with intricately choreographed dance moves precisely arranged to musical compositions, were not viewed by the legislature as 'dance' entitled a tax exemption, surely it was not irrational for the tax tribunal to conclude that a club presenting performances by women gyrating on a pole to music was also not a qualifying performance entitled to exempt status."  

Have any good nonprofit jokes or stories of your own? I'd love to add them to my collection! Post one in the common section, or email me at

Friday, March 8, 2013

Using Social Media: What Works, What Doesn't

Are you dazed and confused about social media and how best to use it? Are you looking for the most effective ways to allot your limited nonprofit resources - both money and staff time - strategically and thoughtfully?

Know that you don't need to use every social media platform - and that there is no one-size-fits all strategy. You do need to figure out where your supporters are in order to use the tool that best suits your organization, whether it's Facebook or Twitter or Pinterest.

Here are five great ways to use social media:

  • Special announcements: Did someone just make a big donation? Has your organization received special recognition? Do you have a big fundraising event scheduled: Did tickets just go on sale for a new show? Social media offers an easy and quick tool for spreading the word, celebrating your successes, giving donors and volunteers a shout out, and creating a buzz.
  • Testimonials: Have a client tell a compelling story about the impact your agency work has had on his/her life. Make it short, and use video if possible - videos always draw more viewers and likes.
  • Conversations: Start a discussion about an issue relevant to your work, especially one that connects to something that's currently in the news. Ask a question to engage your followers. Or post a link to a survey soliciting feedback about your programs. The more you can invite your followers and supporters to participate, the more likely they are to become actively involved - either as volunteers or donors.
  • Calls to action: Do you need volunteers for a workday? Are you looking for a new computer? Is there an important local or regional issue that affects your nonprofits that needs to be brought to the attention of your community, or your elected representatives? Social media is one of the simplest ways to ask folks to help out or to express an opinion.
  • Website connection: You should always be using social media to drive people to your organization's website where they can learn more about your work, stay connected by signing up for your email list, and make a donation.

When it comes to fundraising, however, social media is not the magic bullet you were hoping for. It can operate as a good fundraising tool for small donations for the issue or crisis of the moment. It's a nice way for your supporters or Board members to create small birthday gift campaigns. It is an increasingly important way to grow your network, expand visibility, build your organization's reputation, and help keep folks informed about your good work.

But social media can't solve your funding problems. My ongoing experience as a fundraiser and fundraising consultant (plus every study I've seen) continues to show that the more personal your fundraising approach, the greater the return. 

The moral of this story is that along with your social media marketing you still have to do the hard, slow, face-to-face work of building relationships in order in order to raise the money for your nonprofit cause.