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Exhale, the organization I co-founded and have been leading for over 10-years is a celebrating a very special anniversary.  Five-years ago we expanded our Bay-Area post-abortion talkline into a national, multilingual service that is available everyday.  Learn more about what we’ve been doing over the last five-years on Exhale’s blog and please consider making a donationWe need to raise $15,000 by August 31st. (more…)

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I was honored to be invited by the Development Executives Roundtable to share Exhale’s experiences with major donor fundraising on April 20, 2010.

In this edited video, I share the challenges that Exhale faces and what it looks like when we do major donor fundraising right.

I was honored to receive the following feedback:

“I hope you could feel the energy and admiration in the room yesterday, as I did, as you described the work you do with EXHALE.  Many of those who attended yesterday were from small organizations, and you were an especially uplifting and encouraging force for them.  But you were for me, too.  Especially when I heard that Rush Limbaugh ranted against you!  One attendee told me how much it meant to her to finally hear from someone who works and raises money in very challenging circumstances and for a very challenging mission.  And who is succeeding. You are an inspiration.” – Marjorie Winkler, ACFRE
Fundraising Consulting & Interim Management
  

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A woman who has had an abortion and who goes online in search of support and connection will undoubtedly find everything that is wrong with the abortion debate in this country. Shame, stigma, anger, violence, and judgment around abortion are the status quo online. Imagine if instead each woman found what she really needs: respect and understanding. Exhale envisions a better online world for women and their loved ones post-abortion and we need your help!

Exhale is in the running to receive a free, new website through the Free Range Youtopia Grant program, worth $15,000! There are more than 400 great ideas competing for the prize, and we need your vote!

Vote for Exhale today and you will take us one-step further towards our goal of a new social website that champions listening, promotes storytelling and builds empathy for every woman who has had an abortion.

Vote!

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In 2008, Exhale and our community lost a very dear friend and ally. Rachel Falls, the Hotline Director at the National Abortion Federation (NAF), passed away after a long battle with brain cancer. Rachel was many wonderful things to many people. At Exhale, she will always be remembered as one of the first people to embrace our mission and promote our work. Rachel was a true pro-voice champion: she integrated post-abortion counseling into NAF’s services, collaborated with Exhale staff to train others in the field, and became a vocal advocate for promoting the emotional wellbeing of women who have had abortions. We continue to miss her mentorship, her leadership in the field, and most of all, her compassion for others.

To honor and recognize Rachel Falls for her contributions and impact, Exhale created the Rachel Falls Compassion Award. This award is given once a year to a talkline counselor who best embodies the spirit and values of Rachel Falls: exuberance, strength, empathy, commitment, vision, and compassion. Only fellow talkline counselors can nominate the potential winner. Last year, we were honored to award Elsa Valmidiano, who you can read about in our zine (pg.7).

This year, Exhale honors Jan, an Exhale counselor for over six years. In her time with Exhale she has served with distinction on the talkline and in capacities almost too numerous to mention. She has shared her personal abortion experience with new volunteer trainees, acted as a pro-voice ambassador at conferences, become a lead fundraiser for Exhale, and served on other task forces and groups. If we offer a leadership opportunity, we can be sure that Jan will take it!

ChilnawFallsHikeJune09

Jan has contributed so much over the years, and it is especially striking how she infuses her work with warmth, humor, and humanity. It is no surprise that she inspires us in everything she does! The qualities of “exuberance, strength, empathy, commitment, vision, and compassion” emanate from her.

Here are a few excerpts from nominations she received from her fellow volunteers:

“Jan is a superstar. She is always one of the first to take on leadership positions… she has been a prime example of living Exhale’s pro-voice mission… And, of course, that she’s been doing this wonderful work for so long is an inspiration.”

“I nominate Jan. She is not only a stalwart veteran to the talkline who still takes shifts devoutly every month, but she contributes by paving an amazing path in the pro-voice movement with her presence and her voice… Her perseverance and strength as a counselor to help women today on the line always amazes me, where Jan continues to connect to each and every caller no matter what generation, race, gender, or class. Go Jan!”

In honor of her award, I sat down with Jan to ask her a few questions about her experience with Exhale as a volunteer. Here is what she said.

What first brought you to Exhale?

San Francisco Chronicle columnist Stephanie Salter wrote glowingly about this new organization in the Bay Area, a talkline for callers post abortion. I read it, was intrigued and called. They were interviewing for new counselors and that interview was the most comprehensive, intense, thought-provoking one I’d ever been involved in. I ‘passed’ and was in the next training class, a class that was as thorough and as wide-ranging as the interview had suggested.

You’ve been volunteering for more than six years. Tell me about what it means to you.

It’s a rare call that does not end with my feeling Exhale makes a difference in individual lives, that I have just made a difference. Callers who are relieved and those who are in great pain are grateful for the non-judgmental, pro-voice place from which we are there to support them, to listen to their story (often told for the first time), or to work on a ‘self-care’ list with them. It’s a consistently positive experience for me.

After listening to so many women and men tell their stories with abortion on the talkline, what have you learned?

The decision to have an abortion is not one taken lightly and it’s often done with very little support. Because the dialogue around the topic has become ever more rancorous, most callers have not had the benefit of ‘talking it out’ with anyone. The stigma is great. I’ve come to believe that the dialogue has been ‘hijacked’ by the guilt inducing voices who rarely, if ever, care about the individual. Like the woman who was overjoyed about her pregnancy until it was discovered that her child would not survive outside the womb and who knew that her last 4 months of pregnancy would include constant broad smiles from passersby while she knew there would be no happy outcome; the father of the girl who is still a child herself who has an abortion and word gets out in his small, non-supportive community and church and the whispering is getting to him; the young woman I insist write down the suicide hotline number…these are among the reasons why I continue.

What do you wish everyone knew about women who have had abortions?

That one in three of us will have had an abortion before 45, so despite the dearth of conversation about the issue, it’s a very common experience. Walking down the street just count one, two, three and get a clear picture of the variety of women who just might have walked in your shoes. There might be some comfort in that and I hope that would encourage more women to speak out about their experience. It’s you, me, your neighbors both rich and poor, across the age, income and political spectrum who have had the procedure. Enough with the stigmatization.

Do you have any advice for people interested in volunteering at Exhale?

Call for your interview if you can give some time to a most worthwhile endeavor. You are needed, you will be valued and the personal reward is assured.

Thank you, Jan, for your continued excellent service to Exhale and the women we serve. Please join me in wishing Jan congratulations on her award by posting your well-wishes in the comments!

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We had a very, very packed room at our workshop “Adventures in New Media” at Fundraising Day today. People standing in the back, sitting on the floor and lots of really great questions about how you measure the impact of social media strategies on fundraising. I learned a lot from the panelists, Jennifer Berger, Executive Director, About-Face; Steve Kehrli, Development Director, PETA Foundation; Noel Rabinowitz, Director of Media Programs, Applied Research Center, including some of the following highlights:

There are hidden costs to social media especially in relation to human resources and time.

Can’t fully control your organizational brand online, but you can interact with it!

Constituent and membership engagement is key!

Let the youth go wild.

Websites should be a program, not just a marketing tool.

Vertical Response is free to nonprofits!

Among so many, many other strategies, ideas and lessons learned.

I was also struck by how much the mood in the room changed when a panelist showed a video. Every video was applauded. It takes all the words, strategies and power points that people use to talk about their mission and makes it real and accessible in the moment. People connect automatically! I could feel it.

Make videos, make videos, make videos…use them in presentations all the time!

And, they don’t have to be expensive!

Case in point.

Here’s a video of my introduction to the panel (made on a flip camera with flip movie editing):

Here is the About-Face video, which was also made on a Flip and which cost $600 to have an editor make it look good:

Here is a great ARC video, which was also low-cost.

And here is PETA’s video which has gotten 40 million views, but that hasn’t translated yet into major donations.

Conclusion: Video great for bringing people to your mission, but still untested as a fundraising strategy.

And, yes, I am well aware that social media is so much more than just video, and because I was so struck by how the audience responded to video during the presentation, I want to make sure my fellow nonprofiteers remember it doesn’t have to be expensive to be good and compelling!

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I am stoked for tomorrow! I will be moderating a panel called “Lessons Learned: Adventures in New Media” tomorrow at AFP’s Golden Gate Chapters day-long conference called Fundraising Day. I have been involved, on and off, with this conference for many years and this year was a member of the Program Committee. My Exhale colleague, Chrissy Hyre, and I put together all the workshops for what is destined to be the most awesome Communications Track in the history of Fundraising Day. 🙂 That’s what happens when you create workshops that you actually want to attend!

Here is what we’ll be talking about:

Aspen Baker moderates a panel of nonprofit leaders who successfully utilize social media strategies for constituent engagement and fundraising. Steve Kehrli, Jennifer Berger, and Noel Rabinowitz will share tips for success and qualitative return on investment, mistakes to avoid, and answer questions about staff commitment and organizational resources.

To represent awesome organizations, at a range of budget sizes, the following panelists will share their adventures in new media:

jberger1Jennifer Berger, Executive Director, About-Face

steveSteve Kehrli, Development Director, PETA Foundation

noel1Noel Rabinowitz, Director of Media Programs, Applied Research Center

Looking forward to hearing all their experiences, lessons learned and their big ideas for what’s next!

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http://www.nten.org/blog/2008/11/20/how-will-your-nonprofit-raise-money-in-2012

How Will Your Nonprofit Raise Money in 2012?

Peter Deitz, Social Actions

With the global financial crisis at its peak and a recession looming, many nonprofit managers are probably asking themselves, “How will my nonprofit raise money next year?” I suspect fewer fundraisers are asking themselves, “How will my nonprofit raise the money it needs four years from now?”

The second question is the more important of the two, and the more difficult to answer.

Current best practices will serve nonprofits just fine in 2009. Between email solicitation, direct mail, major donors, and grant-writing, the vast majority of nonprofits will weather the economic hard times. But a shifting communications environment and changing donor demographics could render those best practices ineffective at best, and obsolete at worst, as early as 2012.

Raising money in 2012 will require creativity and foresight. Micro-philanthropy — that ambiguous term that refers to all things socially networked, small-scale, and charitable — will have matured.

Donors of all ages will be looking for meaningful points of engagement with your organization. They’ll want to set the programmatic agenda, select the beneficiaries and target areas, communicate the organization’s message, and, in real-time, evaluate feedback as it comes in.

Notice something strange about those tasks? None of them involve passive check-writing on behalf of your organization. In 2012, individuals will come to your organization with the expectation of being full partners in your work, not just dollar wells to be tapped when cash is needed. Donations will be a consequence of meaningful engagement, not a measurement of it.

Over the next four years, innovative organizations will use technology to transfer to individuals the reins on everything from program work and evaluation to fundraising and communications. Raising money in a micro-philanthropic environment will come naturally to these groups.

The economy may be hopping four years from now. For organizations that stick to a more traditional managerial and communications structure between now and then, however, raising money is going to be tougher in 2012 than in the darkest days of 2009.

So how should your organization prepare for the changes that are afoot?

Get accustomed to using social media to communicate with all of your potential donors.

There’s an unfortunate consensus emerging in the nonprofit sector that social media is only helpful for communicating with young people. Nonprofits are spicing up their social media communications strategy with language and informalities that may turn-off older supporters and major donors. This is a flawed assumption. The fact is that program officers at foundations, boomers, and prospective employees are all turning to social networks to get a sense of your organization.

In this medium, openness, responsiveness, and inquisitiveness serve your cause well. Simplistic appeals targeted at teens and college students don’t. Therefore, when crafting your social media communications strategy, focus on the qualities you want to be associated with and not the target audience you want to reach.

Experiment with online contests, both creating them and participating in them.

Online contests like the Knight News Challenge, The Case Foundation’s America’s Giving Challenge, and the AmEx Cardmember Project can be resource draining to participate in, especially for a time- and cash-strapped nonprofit. Nevertheless, participating in some (surely not all) of these contests will provide your staff members a focused opportunity to use social media to communicate with supporters. As a result, your nonprofit will get a sense of how many of your supporters are following you online, and to what extent you can count on them to act on your behalf.

Another approach to the online contest phenomenon is to run your own. Platforms like Genius Rocket and NetSquared provide nonprofits an opportunity to crowd-source a communications or technological need. Figure out what your need is, set a bounty on it as a deliverable, and then witness how the Internet responds. You’ll probably be pleased with the outcome.

Participating and running challenges encourages openness, responsiveness, and inquisitiveness online. These are important traits to develop, and will make fundraising easier as micro-philanthropy matures.

Make hiring decisions based on social media know-how and not just resume smarts.

When it comes to preparing for the shifting communications environment and donor demographics, your employees are your biggest asset. Most job seekers still list their desktop computing skills in their resumes instead of their social media know-how. When interviewing for any position at your organization, make sure to ask about the applicant’s familiarity with social media. Training employees down the road can be expensive and ineffective. You are better off hiring people who are at home online than trying to make them that way after they’ve been hired.

Note: Age is not a good indicator of social media know-how. Ask questions, and you’ll be surprised who’s on top of the technological changes and who’s not.

Empower your interns.

If your organization has interns, make sure to tap them for ideas on how to use social media to create meaningful points of engagement with your organization. Too often, interns are given menial tasks like photo-copying and filling out Excel documents. And yet, they are the ones who have volunteered to spend time with your organization (read: “they care”). They also have an outsider’s perspective on how your organization is represented online. Make the most of their time with you by asking them for ideas on how to better represent your organization online. Their ideas could very well lay the foundation for an effective micro-philanthropy campaign.

Get an iPhone.

The future of interacting with your organization is mobile as well as online. Get an iPhone or portable data-device in order to start experiencing the possibilities. If your nonprofit’s managers are not using portable devices to communicate with staff and supporters, they’re not going to understand the potential for mobile technology to change the what and how of your organization’s work. Get them started now, so that in 2012, you’re not beginning at square one to develop a mobile fundraising strategy.

Four years ago, web 2.0 was barely on the radar of nonprofits. Today, it’s becoming standard practice to communicate with supporters using tools like Flickr, MySpace , Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter. If four years of social media can transform the way U.S. presidents get elected and people connect with causes, imagine the changes that another four years of social media will produce.

My advice to the nonprofit technology community: let’s start preparing now by thinking as creatively as possible

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