Tag Archives: Tip

A Few Post-Thanksgiving/Pre-Holiday Season Thoughts On Food Waste

dirty dishMost of the readers of this blog celebrated Thanksgiving this past weekend – at least the majority of us in the United States. I have faith that most of us shared grateful expressions for the riches in our lives – we are, after all, a community of people who support nonprofits and understand the inequalities of society.

Along with millions of others, I spent weeks reading recipes and ideas about how to make the turkey moist, the multitude of side dishes interesting and the conversation meaningful. However, this year, our conversation changed, thanks to a recent series from one of my favorite nonprofits, WBUR, one of my local NPR stations.

While WBUR offered many sweet (and savory) stories about this holiday, they also produced a series about food waste. As far as I know, the connection between our annual festival of overindulgence and excess and this series concerning the 30% of food wasted up and down the food chain was never clearly stated, but the timing can’t be a coincidence.

I love Thanksgiving and celebrating the holidays with family and friends. But, I think it’s important that we sometimes take a closer look at whether our actions match our ideals. For me, this means examining my waste, sharing the links below to the WBUR pieces about food waste, and offering a reminder that Tuesday is #GivingTuesday and December is, well, the nonprofit’s favorite month of the year.

If you have not yet chosen your charity(s) of choice for your 2014 donations, consider that 1 in 7 families in America are food insecure. There are many worthy organizations in your area that accept food (including those extra cans of cranberry sauce or pumpkin), financial contributions as well as much needed volunteers.

Here are the articles from the series:

To End Food Waste, Change Needs To Begin At Home

Supermarkets Waste Tons Of Food As They Woo Shoppers

Everything But The Squeal: How The Hog Industry Cuts Food Waste *I know that many of our readers keep Kosher and may think this article is not for them but the efficiency in the system is remarkable.

To Stop Picky Eaters From Tossing The Broccoli, Give Them Choices

And, lastly, if you would like to read more about how to take advantage of #GivingTuesday you can find my recent article by clicking here.


Fundraising Tip: What You Don’t Know Can Hurt Your Efforts

Fundraising Tip

Donor tracking or fundraising management software for nonprofits comes in all shapes, sizes and costs but the one essential element is that it will keep you organized. What many people neglect to consider is that it will only keep the entered information organized. The more information about a donor, the more you can tailor your appeals, acknowledgements, invitations and recognitions.

Memory lapses, staff turnover and board transitions make anything not documented practically irrelevant. These gaps can ruin a relationship very quickly and quite unintentionally. But, they are easily avoided.

Consider providing contact forms in hard copy as well as electronic formats (Email Abigail Harmon if you would like to see a sample contact form). Explain the importance of this information and send reminders to volunteers and staff until it becomes habit to file contact reports for everyone in the organization. Then, if your software will allow it—and it should—all you have to do is attach the completed contact form as a note to the donor’s record.

It will pay off in donor retention and donor happiness.

Green Tip of the Month: Reducing Impact During Your Vacation

Here are 6 easy tips to lower your environmental footprint while taking your next vacation.

  1. Check your car’s tire pressure: Poorly inflated tires waste gas and cause more pollution.
  2. Change the filter in your furnace: Keep heating and cooling systems running efficiently – whether you are home or away.
  3. Install a programmable thermostat: It takes about 10 minutes to install and allows you to save lots of energy costs when you are not home.  It’s easy to turn the thermostat down (or up) to levels that would be otherwise uncomfortable if you were in the house.  And, now you can even get a thermostat that you can control from your smartphone to reset the temperature prior to your return.
  4. Turn down your water heater when you are going on a long trip.
  5. Use fans to move the air inside your home. This gives the sensation that it is 5 degrees cooler than the actual temperature.
  6. Turn off or even unplug your appliances – including televisions when not in use. For example, televisions draw power constantly for the instant-on functionality.

Have a great vacation while you reduce your carbon footprint.

Green Nonprofit Tip: Commuting

I admit that most days my commute involves walking up a couple of flights of stairs to my home office.  For the rest of you, consider these facts from the MassBike “Bicycling and Health” Fact Sheet before you consider how you will get to work tomorrow.

  • A 15-minute bike ride to and from work five times a week burns off the equivalent of 11 pounds of fat in a year.
  • How much time a person spends driving has a greater impact on whether a person is obese than other factors such as income, education, gender or ethnicity.
  • On 350 calories — or one apple tart — a cyclist can travel 10 miles, a pedestrian 3.5 miles, and an automobile 100 feet.
  • Even though cyclists breathe two to three times as much air as motorists during the same trip, motorists actually breathe in about 60% more carbon monoxide—and significantly higher levels of other air pollutants—due to being enclosed in their vehicle. Cyclists also benefit from the physical exercise, increasing their resistance to air pollution.

Click here to locate the sources and read more about MassBike.


Tip of the month: Hooray for Nonprofit Consistency

Often, our articles focus on the areas that are lacking in a nonprofit.

  • How to improve yourself
  • How to strengthen staff development
  • How to engage your board members in the development process
  • How to get your campaign unstuck, etc.

But don’t forget to recognize your strengths.

Why not take 3 minutes at your next board meeting to state your appreciation for someone—at least one board member and one staff member—who is consistent and reliable.  Catch people doing something right!.

For instance, if you have a board member or committee who have kept your finances easy to understand, determined paths of savings and growth and/or can be relied upon without fail – remember to acknowledge them in both a private and public way.  If you have a staff person who supports everyone in keeping his or her eye on the ball in a cheerful, respectful manner and does not let things fall between the cracks, do the same.

You may struggle with balancing the books or occasionally following up on opportunities.  But, the fact that the entire board can be a part of a sincere discussion in tribute to someone’s hard work, will provide a real “feel good” and recognition of the importance of consistent service.

Green Nonprofit Tip: Holidays at the Office

Nonprofit Holiday PresentsWhether you are bringing one gift for a secret exchange or gifts for all the support staff here are five easy tips to make your gift exchange a bit “greener.”

  1. Recycled giftwrap – I have used everything from comics to an old silk scarf as gift wrap.  A nice ribbon (recycled is best) can then make it fancier, sillier, or simpler.  A simple search online will give you plenty of ideas.
  2. Suggest a book exchange this year.  Most of the world is feeling financially tight but taking the cost away from gift giving doesn’t eliminate the fun.  Most of us have books that we would love to share.  Everyone brings a book, then draws a number to create order. Exchanging afterwards only adds to the fun.
  3. White elephants often result in half the people getting useful pieces and half getting bizarre items they will bring to Goodwill.  But so what?  Did you really expect your best gift to come from your office-mate?
  4. Instead of creating a promotional piece with a note, consider a note with a donation to a favorite nonprofit.  A thoughtful explanation will make you just as memorable, may encourage the recipient to become a donor and much more environmentally sensitive.
  5. Consider choosing a shelter or nonprofit wish list for your office to fulfill instead of buying each other gifts this year.  People can either purchase an item from the list or write a check for any amount that they feel they can afford and know that it will be gratefully received.  Much more so than any gift you could give inter-office.

Happy Holidays.  I hope they are festive, fun and green.


10 Year-End Fundraising Tips

  1. Identify the 10-15 major donors who have yet to give in 2011, assign them to board members for solicitation.
  2. Identify 50-100 donors who have yet to give in 2011 and make face-to-face visits to ask them for increased year-end gifts.
  3. Don’t let reluctant volunteers hold you back.
  4. Warm up your donors before the ask through snail mail and email.
  5. Make your appeal letter attractive and easy to read.
  6. Make your solicitation obvious and easy to find—in the first paragraph.
  7. Follow up the appeal letter with a phone call on a targeted group of donors likely to increase their gift.
  8. Plan one e-mail follow-up each week after the direct mail has been received, and at least two e-mail touches the very last two business days of December.
  9. Add to your prospect list for cultivation and solicitation next year.
  10. Make everyone assume a development role for 2012!

Green Nonprofit Tip: Water and Bottles

I’m not sure when my mindset changed from considering Poland Springs as a savior vs. the devil. Okay, maybe the devil is a bit strong, we all know there are times when buying bottled water seems like a necessity – but working in an office where drinkable water is accessible doesn’t seem to fit the bill.

Need motivation to bring your own bottle to the office this fall? Here are some things to consider:

Many doctors, dieticians and parents recommend drinking at least 64 oz of water a day. And I’ve also heard that drinking a glass of water before eating lunch reduces the average caloric intake. A Nalgene bottle which holds 32 oz is easy to pour into a glass on your desk. Look good, feel good and know that you are helping the planet.

Ever consider how much you spend on bottled drinks each year? Assuming you pick up a bottle of water or other drink with your lunch each work day at $1.50 that turns into $375 a year (assuming two weeks vacation).

Flavor packets can make water more appealing. Your local grocery store sells a host of powders to pour into your water bottle to make it more exciting.

Like the idea of flavored water but trying to avoid the additives? Cucumbers, mint, and fruit are all added to water for events – why not try a natural flavor that you can grow in your own backyard.

Enjoy the end of August. But don’t forget your water bottle!

Green Nonprofit Tip: Nonprofit Energy Consumption

Nonprofit energy efficiency imageThere has been plenty of talk lately about rising energy prices.  A great way to save money and help reduce your organization’s environmental impact is by turning off non-essential equipment.  A shredder can easily be unplugged when not in use, but even printers, coffee machines and scanners can be turned off overnight and potentially unplugged.

It may not seem like a lot, but small changes add up.

10 Tips For Getting Organized In Your Office This Fall

Getting organized - Your ducks in a rowAs I was looking at a recent school supply list, I saw the word organizer. It occurred to me that this fall, my 3rd grade twins are not the only ones who should be considering some additional organization.

I have been in my new home for two years and I now have a better idea of how I work in my home office but in those two years I have only modified my space to work decently, but never fully re-vamped it to help myself become more productive.

Here are my top 10 tips for getting organized this fall:

  1. Remember that you are not trying to boil the ocean. I recently heard that phrase for the first time and was struck by the thought of how many times a person looks at a project and makes it seem so large that he or she doesn’t know where to start.  Take an hour this week and see what you can do to make yourself feel more organized. Did that make a dent or do you need to make it two hours next week to feel that you have made a difference. What ever you choose – mark it in your calendar as an important meeting that must be rescheduled immediately.
  2. Continue spending the time on organizing after you achieve your goal. After you congratulate yourself on cleaning up your office, consider the fact that maintenance of a system is the only way to keep papers out of piles in the long term. But, just like in other aspects of your life, a little slip up doesn’t mean you need to give up.  Sometimes you need to do it again and again to get yourself into the habit.
  3. Establish a “To Do” System for getting organized. I divide paperwork into priorities
    1. “To Do” (the pieces I want to go through everyday,
    2. “Soon” (which I try to look at every other week or whenever things slow a bit),
    3. “For ___(fill in the blank of the person who you often have documents for but get lost in the piles)___,”
    4. “To File (everything that doesn’t fall into one of the original categories usually can be filed away for future reference or placed in the recycling bin).

Different people use different systems but there is no one who is truly ready to be focused on getting organized who doesn’t use a system that is personalized to their needs.

  1. Recycle or shred documents on a regular basis. Hard copies of documents are becoming obsolete. Computers help you store and access documents as easily as any file room so consider what does and does not have to be kept on a regular basis. Sometimes, it can be as simple as considering whether or not you are the only person in charge of this information. For instance, if you are a committee member, do you need to keep copies of the agendas from each meeting?  Probably not. If someone needs a copy of something they will go to the committee chair not an individual member for the official record. If you are keeping it for your own reference, consider what is useful and what is extraneous and how the useful pieces should be stored.
  2. Don’t go out to buy new storage items until you know exactly how you will use them. It is easy to get seduced by the clean pictures in a catalog or online site but that doesn’t mean you will use any of it in your office. Use old folders to start your systems and then count how many fun colored packs you need. Sit at your desk each day and determine whether you would prefer to lay your folders down on the desk, see them vertical in an open holder or hidden away in a file drawer. Each person’s way of getting organized looks different.
  3. Consider your time in the same way you consider your paperwork. If you know you often get an hour of “unexpected” phone calls each day – plan for that as much as you can. Perhaps it is as simple as allowing for four 15-minute breaks throughout the day that can be used for what ever comes up.
  4. Create a calendar system that works for you. Does your smart phone work as a reminder for you or do you need to look at a spiral bound calendar? Do you respond to your own notes on dry-erase wall calendar or do you constantly look at the exotic bird calendar from the bookstore? You may have to try out a few different systems to see what works, but if two weeks go by and you have missed a meeting – try a different method of reminding yourself.
  5. This is one you might not like, but avoid taking personal calls on business hours. Yes, we all need to blow off a bit of steam, but an hour call to a sister or friend can easily suck up an hour of time that will leave you behind schedule and feeling frantic and disorganized.
  6. Take Control. No matter which system you use, remember that you are in charge, not the paperwork, phone calls, or general clutter.  You have to choose to make yourself more organized. If hiring a professional organizer will help you through the process, go ahead but he/she is not going to be able to go through the paper on your desk. You are still going to have to look at it and decide what to do with it. So set the time and just do it.
  7. Remember the pay off. Feeling organized will save you time and make you happier. And is there really a better pay off than that?