Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Downturn 2008: Harvard Business Survival Guide

Harvard Business Publishing has developed a resource section featuring information and resources for manager's on the economic downturn. The information is available here.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Still looking for that gift for the person who has everything?

Have you seen the gift cards out for donating to charity? I know all of the pundits are saying that gift cards are a bad gift this year since you never know how long that store is going to be around! But philanthropic gift cards? Never heard of them, not until this week!

What a great gift to give that "hard to buy for" person who has everything...or a way to get kids into the spirit of the holiday, and out of that consumeristic (is that a word?) mindset that they get this time of year!

Check out the Good Card that your "givee" can use to donate to 1.5 million different nonprofits! Get your board members to use them as corporate or family gifts...get your family members to use them to help any event, promote them as a way to give this holiday season!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

If you missed yesterday's meeting

If you missed yesterday's meeting of the WNY ED Network, don't worry. It was such a great discussion that it's being carried over to the next meeting.

Attendees welcomed Bill O'Connell, ED of the Homeless Alliance of WNY. Bill provided us with great information on policy making and lobbying (yes, nonprofits can...and if you don't think so, we'll see you on March 4th!).
"Nonprofits are in a unique position to inform" legislators about the issues that you face every day, and they want to know the numbers, the funding and other alternatives, Bill said. He also urged attendees to frame their discussions with reporters, uring them to become an asset to the media and be recognized as a community expert on the issues facing your nonprofit. It was also pointed out that you want to stress the importance of lobbying to your Board of Directors and gain their crucial support of the organization's efforts.

The WNY ED Network also welcomed Pat Johnson, Associate Professor at Canisius College. Pat talked about the project opportunities through the Nonprofit and Government Accounting course. The goal is to get MBA and senior students involved with nonprofits early in the semester. In the past, they have assisted with development and review of policies and procedures, governance, writing resource guides, etc...If you're interested, she can be reached at

We also reviewed the results of our Skills Inventory Survey to date. A big thanks to those of you who took a minute to answer the four questions...The number of ED's who are willing to help each other is certainly indicative of what makes Buffalo a great place to work!

So what's ahead? Our Wednesday, March 4th meeting will be extended one hour, starting at 9:00 a.m. for networking with the program starting at 9:30 a.m. By that time, this recession will be 15 months long, just one month shy of the previous record 16 months! How will it be affecting your organization's donations, funding, staffing, programs, etc...?

Please join us for a great discussion by several community leaders about what you can do to help your organization through these difficult economic times. Watch here for more details!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Request for direct mail/online fd information from The Nonprofit Times

I need some hard numbers on nonprofit direct mail and online donor responses. I would prefer initial contact via email - but feel free to call if that works for you. I would love to know:
  • How many pieces of direct mail are sent out?
  • What is the response rate?
  • How do those numbers compare to last year?
  • What is the average gift you are seeing?
  • Are some mailings/regions performing better than others?
  • Is your nonprofit increasingly turning to email?
  • How many emails are sent out for the holiday, and do they have follow-up emails?
  • Are you seeing a higher average gift online?

    Please answer the questions that apply to your organization. I'm trying to figure out if the holidays are going to be good, bad or ugly - and would love to hear from you. Thank you and I look forward to your response!

    All the best,
    Michele Donohue
    The NonProfit Times
    973-401-0202 Ext 208

5 Tips for facing tough economy

The staff of CCSNYS put their heads together, and came up with the following five strategies that might help your organization in facing the upcoming tough economic times ahead. Remember, a dollar saved is as good as a dollar earned!
  1. Get more efficient - put in cost controls and cut where possible
  2. Reorganize internally - reorganize how you do things in order to do them better
  3. Raise more money - diversify your funding sources, which admittedly, is tough to do unless there is existing infrastructure and experience
  4. Restructure - consider your options: merge, collaborate, shared services
  5. Look at market realities - core versus secondary programs, etc...

Let's make this a space where we can go for sharing tips on how you may be doing any of the above helping each other, we make everyone stronger!

Friday, November 14, 2008

WNY ED Network upcoming meeting

As I write this, it's 60 degrees outside, so it's hard to believe that our December meeting is quickly upon us. I hope that you can join us on Wednesday, December 3rd at the Red Cross Mansion on Delaware Avenue here in Buffalo. Networking will begin at 10:00 a.m. with a panel discussion to follow at 10:30 about the issues that nonprofits will be facing in the coming year.
The turbulent economy, government cutbacks, political advocacy and the need to collaborate will all be topics under consideration. (We'll also be reviewing the results of our ED skills survey and probably fine tuning that so we can really get a grasp of how we can all help each other out!)
I hope you'll join us!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Highlighting Resources For Your Nonprofit

There are so many great resources available, and we would like to share one that we find very helpful. Here is a collection of articles rounded up by the Minnesota Council on Foundations for their blog. Take a look at these articles or visit their blog.

Nonprofits Need Gen Y Leadership in an Uncertain Economy
Perspectives from the Pipeline (cross-posted on the Stanford Social Innovation Review blog): It’s clear that the old top-down hierarchy isn’t the best model for what needs to happen in organizations today. When we just don’t have time to come up with another 5-year strategic plan to survive in this economy, how do we generate new ideas to address issues head on? Right now is an opportunity for young nonprofit professionals to bring fresh, innovative ideas for how we do the work of social change.

Charity Uses Blog to Disclose its Financial Woes
Give and Take: Kjerstin Erickson’s charity is in financial trouble — and she’s telling the world about it. Tactical Philanthropy’s Sean Stannard-Stockton has been following the story and says that “if you care about nonprofit transparency, I think this is a conversation you need to be a part of.”

A Trip Down Merger Lane
Stanford Social Innovation Review: Is yours a mid-size agency that is strong and that wishes to grow, but you don’t have the financial capital to do so? Is your unrestricted financing shrinking? Are you having difficulty raising the quality of your back-office services because you can’t afford the investment? If so, perhaps it is time for you to seek a full or partial merger partner for your nonprofit.

Philanthropy Calls to Action
Philanthropy 2173: There are at least five current examples of organizations that are promoting or encouraging certain types of collective action by philanthropists during this economic cycle and in preparation for a new presidential administration. These are positive signs of efforts to work together, to aggregate action, to respond and work within tough external realities, and to think deeply about the timing and commitment philanthropists make to the causes they care about.

Start Your Turnaround Stories Today
Balancing the Mission Checkbook: Turnarounds make great case stories after the fact - when the organization is revitalized and builds a new reputation for connections with the community, strong leadership, and financial health. Who wouldn’t want all that? So why wait until things are bad?

In Defense of Raising Money: A Manifesto for Nonprofit CEOs
The director of business development at the Acumen Fund has been linked all over the web for his essay that begins “I’m sick of apologizing for being in charge of raising money.” He wonders, “How is it that in the nonprofit sector we create this illusion that growth and change and impact can happen absent … energy and engagement?” This link goes to Seth’s Blog; original PDF here.

Friday, October 24, 2008

A Call for a Nonprofit Plan

Watch this video put out by the V3 Campaign, which is advocating that nonprofits need to ask our elected candidates (all of them) to outline their plans to strengthen the nonprofit sector. Visit here to join this call to action or download a pdf of the questions to use on your own. The V3 Campaign also relates some helpful information about the value of the nonprofit sector. As you look ahead to 2009, how will you make your elected officials aware of the challenges your nonprofit is facing?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Insurance for your nonprofit

Blue Avocado has a great article, A Board Member's Guide to Nonprofit Insurance, that features a question and answer session with Pamela Davis, president and CEO of the Nonprofits Insurance Alliance Group. This article offers an overview of insurance basics and definitions. Interested in learning more about insurance for your nonprofit? Contact Council Services Plus, the insurance brokerage subsidiary of CCSNYS, for more information.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Buffalo Niagra Arts and Culture Network

Check out the Buffalo Niagra Arts and Culture Network, a new online community of local artists, musicians, and writers. The online network is a forum to post events, share photos, blog, and interact with the local art community. The site was launched only three weeks ago and already has over 80 members. Whether you're looking to promote your organization's events or for something to do this weekend, the new forum is a great place to start!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

First Program a Success & Second Event on the Way!

15 people participated in WNY Executive Directors Network's first program meeting on June 4th. The event took place at the Buffalo Museum of Science and featured speaker Neil Melbroad on fund development. Neil worked in the local nonprofit community for years and retired just a couple of weeks after speaking. The first program was a great opportunity for networking and professional development. We're already looking forward to our next program set for Wednesday, September 3rd. The Deputy Mayor will be talking about her experiences with nonprofits and some of the issues that the administration sees coming up. Senator Cathy Young will also be present to talk about Upstate Now legislation. You can register for the event by clicking here.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Grants and Awards Info

The Chronicle of Philanthropy has just released an updated list of Grants and Awards broken out by application deadline, programming area and geography. For the complete listing, click here.

For a link to an edited list of Grants and Awards specifically for organizations in NY, click here.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

CEO's Dissatisfied with Board of Directors

This article in the Philanthropy News paper (sign up for free email version here) points to a study by the Urban Institute. A must read for those of you working closely with your Board!

Many Nonprofit CEOs Dissatisfied With Board Performance,
Report Finds (5/12/08)

A significant number of CEOs at midsize nonprofits are dissatisfied with the performance of their boards, particularly in regard to fundraising and the way boards monitor their own performance, a new report from the Urban Institute ( ) finds.

The report, Boards of Midsize Nonprofits: Their Needs and Challenges (,
examined the results of a 2005 survey of 1,862 nonprofits with annual expenses between $500,000 and $5 million and found that
62 percent of CEOs indicated that their boards do a fair or poor job of raising revenue, while 60 percent assigned similar marks for their boards' self-assessment activities. In addition, more than a quarter of CEOs rated their boards as fair or poor when it comes to evaluating CEO performance; planning; monitoring programs and services; community relations; and educating the public about the organization.

Although most CEOs rated their boards as good or excellent in most roles, the only area in which a majority -- 53 percent -- rated their boards as excellent was in respecting board-staff boundaries.

The report, which was funded by the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr.
Fund, also examined board composition and found that 36 percent of boards have no minority members, and that on average only
6 percent of board members are younger than 35, while 13 percent are over 65. Among other things, the report recommends widening the pool from which nonprofits select board members in order to attract well-rounded members from a variety of backgrounds and implementing procedures for boards to monitor their own perfor- mance regularly.

"Substantial percentages feel their boards are doing a poor or fair job in many areas," said Francie Ostrower, the report's author. "Our findings clearly do reveal disturbing levels of CEO dissatisfaction with board performance."

"Disturbing Levels of CEO Dissatisfaction With Board Performance"
at Midsize Nonprofits, Study Finds." Urban Institute Press
Release 5/08/08.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

June 4th meeting of the WNY ED Network

We have our first guest speaker for our first program meeting of the WNY Executive Director's Network! The topic, as identified by all of you who filled out the survey, is Fund Development, something everyone wants to talk about!

Our guest will be Neil Melbroad. For nearly 30 years, Neil has worked in nonprofit fundraising. Beginning his career in 1979 as the director of planned giving at Canisius College, he worked on a successful $8 million capital campaign and helped set up a strong planned giving program that continues to generate many planned gifts for the College to this day. He went on to spend 8 years at the Buffalo Museum of Science where he led the Museum in its successful $3 million capital campaign. During his leadership, the Museum’s membership base grew from 1200 to over 14,000 members and its annual fund saw a five-fold increase. For the past 15 years, Neil has been the Assistant Executive Director of the Greater Buffalo Chapter of the American Red Cross where he built a major gifts program that has helped increase the chapter’s unrestricted individual and corporate annual giving from $140,000 to $1.1 million and oversaw a successful $3 million campaign. He also created the Chapter’s successful annual event the M*A*S*H BASH, which generates nearly $500,000 per year. Neil has done a great deal of consulting for other non profits in the area including being campaign counsel for both the Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy’s $13 million capital campaign and WNED’s $15 million capital campaign, helping structure a major gifts program at the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens, and working on feasibility studies for both Gilda’s Club and Hilbert College. For the past four years, Neil has been working with a local arts collaboration made up of CEPA Gallery, Just Buffalo Literary Center and Big Orbit Gallery to help strengthen their development programs. Neil is an Adjunct Professor at Canisius College teaching in the Non Profit Management concentration in the Graduate Communication and Leadership Program.

Hope to see you there!

WHEN: Wednesday, June 4th

TIME: 10:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m. (remember to be on time or even come a little early since the first half hour will be networking)

WHERE: Buffalo Museum of Science

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Want to win $2,000 for your nonprofit?

Have you heard about the opportunity for your nonprofit to win one of several awards given by Council Services Plus (CCSNYS' for-profit subsidiary insurance company) and the Nonprofit Risk Management more

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Did you miss Web 2.0 training a couple of weeks ago?

If you missed the Web 2.0 training that Val did a couple of weeks ago, you missed a lot!

The major headline coming out of research conducted by the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth Center for Marketing Research late last year was that charities in the US are outpacing the business world in their use of social media/web 2.0.

The study of the Forbes Magazine list of the 200 largest US charities, called Blogging for the Hearts of Donors found that more than a third of the organisations are blogging, forty-six percent report social media is very important to their fundraising strategy and the majority monitor their online reputation.

Indeed, something like three quarters of those nonprofits studied were using some form of social media – including, podcasts, social networking, video blogging and wikis.

Whilst the authors of the study expected to find that charities were adopting social media, they didn't expect to find that the technology adoption levels were considerably stronger than corporate America. To read more

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Change of Plans!

There has been a slight change of plans for the June and September meetings...due to scheduling conflicts we haven't been able to get the Policy and Local Government speakers in June, so that topic will be September 3rd. The meetings in September and December will be at the American Red Cross at 786 Delaware Avenue.
June 4th we will be discussing Fund Development, but we're still looking for a meeting site...does anyone know of any place we may not have tried?

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Steering Committee minutes

The Steering Committee met today to review the follow-up survey that resulted from the first meeting of the ED group held February 21st. You can see the entire survey results in pdf format, (questions 4 and 7 answers were open-ended, so click here to see those) but the summary is as follows:

· Wednesdays 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. in the City of Buffalo worked best for the majority of people, so this year’s calendar was established, with the meeting site and specific speakers to be announced. Presentation topics were discussed, and it was decided to go with the top three setting this year’s agenda as noted here. If you have any suggestions for speakers that you know of for these topics, please let me know.

Wednesday, June 4th (Policy and Local Government Issues)
Wednesday, September 3rd (Fund Development and Grant Seeking Issues)

Wednesday, December 3rd (Skill Development for Executive Leadership)

· Several good names were submitted; and the Steering Committee chose the WNY Executive Director’s Network since that name most closely reflected the geographical area represented as well as denoting that it is an Executive Director’s group.

I hope that you are all able to attend on June this site for the meeting site and speakers!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Why Google? iGoogle!

Do any of you use iGoogle as your homepage? It's a virtual dashboard of your work (or home) life at a glance.

I don't know, maybe I'm just too excited about these kinds of things but I see nonprofits everyday struggle with efficiencies, with project management, scheduling meetings, keeping track of the million things on their 'to-do' list without ever starting a 'stop doing' list (that's Jim Collins' idea, not mine).

Met some people from Google at the Nonprofit Tech Conference in New Orleans...they are GOOD people and want to help you do your job. If you don't know about GoogleApps, come to our workshop next week. Even better, and this is just between you and me, I'm trying to get Google to our Money for Mission Conference on June 24th (yup, at the Turning Stone again).

Want to see what my iGoogle looks like?

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Donna Brown, Buffalo Deputy Mayor

Staff from the Buffalo office met last week with Donna Brown, Buffalo Deputy Mayor. It was a great meeting, and I have to say that she has a real understanding of the issues that nonprofits face every day in their efforts to improve Buffalo neighborhoods.
As Deputy Mayor, Ms. Brown will focus on housing and community development issues, education, youth initiatives, community relations, business development/job creation and the development of an anti-poverty strategy for the Brown Administration.
Ms. Brown will serve as the Administration’s liaison with the Buffalo Public Schools and the district-wide Joint Schools Construction Project. In addition, she will represent the Administration on the Mayor’s Anti-Flipping Task Force, while coordinating city-based housing initiatives in collaboration with the Office of Strategic Planning.
She will also bring her private sector expertise in M/WBE business development initiatives to expand city programs and manage follow-up with city department heads to achieve required results determined through the CitiStat Buffalo program. Ms. Brown will also help lead the development and implementation of future new components of CitiStat Buffalo.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Buffalo Reuse Exec Featured in New York Times....

Congrats to Michael Gainer, of Buffalo Reuse, who was featured in the NY Times Magazine this weekend. The issue covered a diverse array of issues on philanthropy, community involvement, celebrity causes, and social entrepreneurship. Check out the issue here!

Friday, March 7, 2008

Sneak Peek at Web Workshop - It's Better in Person!

Since Cindy Wagner gave me a great "shout out" in her latest email, I thought I would post the slides on here from my last Web 2.0 workshop. This thing caught on like wildfire with well over 6,000 views on

If you don't know what Slideshare is...that's one great reason to come to the Web 2.0 Workshop.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

CCSNYS has announced new dates for the Build A Better Nonprofit workshop series. I hope that you can attend!

New dates set for CCSNYS workshops

Nonprofit Marketing and Messaging
Presented by Valerie Venezia, VP of Membership & Marketing and Cindy L. Wagner, Capacity Building Advisor for CCSNYS

Getting our story out is becoming increasingly more important for nonprofits. It’s not enough for people to know you “do good work.” Creating our message and getting the word out can be daunting and seem expensive. Never fear -our staff will give you an overview of what every nonprofit can do on a low (or non-existent) budget to craft their message and market their “story”. This workshop will focus on creating a strong message that anyone on staff (or board) can remember and communicate. We will also explore some traditional marketing/storytelling mediums. Our afternoon session will focus on the use of the internet in getting your message heard.
Date: Thursday, April 3rd, 2008
Time: 9:30 am to 11:30 am
Cost: $ 20 CCSNYS Members, $30 Non-members
Location: Ellicott Development Company
295 Main Street # 210
Buffalo, New York 14203

To Register: Click the workshop name above
Confirmation: An e-mail will be sent to you immediately following registration
Questions: Please contact us at (800) 515.5012 ext. 126
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Tools for Nonprofit Marketing: Web 2.0
Presented by Valerie Venezia, VP of Membership & Marketing and Cindy L. Wagner, Capacity Building Advisor for CCSNYS

We're taking our Web 2.0 workshop and pulling out all the pieces that you really want to know about - the free stuff! There are hundreds of free tools online that can help you with fundraising, marketing, and building up a constituency. Which ones are "nonprofit friendly?" This workshop will focus on Fundraising widgets, Website Building & Blogging Tools, and social networking sites like Facebook and YouTube for nonprofits.
Date: Thursday, April 3rd, 2008
Time: 1:30 pm to 3:30 pm
Cost: $ 20 CCSNYS Members, $30 Non-members
Location: Ellicott Development Company
295 Main Street # 210
Buffalo, New York 14203

To Register: Click the workshop name above
Confirmation: An e-mail will be sent to you immediately following registration
Questions: Please contact us at (800) 515.5012 ext. 126

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Nonprofit ED Help Network Feb. 21 Meeting Minutes

22 Nonprofit Executive Directors met Thursday, February 21st to discuss the formation of a peer networking and professional development group for the Western New York region, including the counties of: Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Erie, Genesee, Niagara, Orleans and Wyoming.

The meeting began with an overview of the statewide movement of similar groups convened by CCSNYS presented by Andy Marietta, Regional Coordinator at the Central NY office. The discussion included the structure and operation of said groups, as well as some of the questions they faced in deciding the group model they wanted to use.

The results of the pre-meeting survey, to which 53 Executive Directors responded, were then presented by Cindy Wagner, Capacity Building Advisor at the Western NY office. (If you would like a copy of the survey, please click here.)

The vast majority of respondents, as well as the attendees, agreed there was a need for the group, and that it should meet quarterly with presentations by outside speakers on a topic of interest.

It was decided a follow-up survey would be posted concerning meeting dates and times and presentation topics, as well as gathering information on the group name, mission, structure and Steering Committee members.

The Steering Committee will meet to discuss the follow-up survey results and present the group with those results at the next meeting.