Posts Tagged ‘Non-Profit’

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’m really appreciating all the coverage of the Oscar Grant murder and the trial of Johannes Mehserle over on OaklandSeen.com. (more…)

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Recently, a long-time friend, coach and colleague asked me for my recommendations on how she can become a super social media guru.  She’s a nonprofit consultant with vast expertise and wants to grow her skills and experience to continue to be the great resource she already is to her clients. (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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I founded Exhale in 2000 with four other women. I was 24-years old and a recent college graduate with a resume that included 14-years worth of jobs doing newspaper delivery, babysitting, waitressing, hostessing, baristing, bartending, housekeeping, and a short stint running the front office of an Alaskan bush-flying service. After completing 5-years of college (from three schools in two states), I was ready to continue with my life’s adventures and was working on landing a new job in Antarctica.

But, then, something I did not expect happened. I got pregnant. Then, I had an abortion. And I personally experienced how the politics of the debate had left women and their loved ones behind. The debate seemed less to do with exploring the role of abortion in our lives and more about trying to prove the other side wrong. I wondered what was possible if this trend was abandoned and replaced by efforts to build something positive and life-affirming.

I decided to try. The something eventually became Exhale and ten years later I am proud to continue serving as its Executive Director.

The story of my abortion and how it led me to found Exhale is well-documented, but this story is just one small piece of what has led me to build an effective organization with such a unique mission. The last ten years have been filled with enormous challenge, breathtaking inspiration, rigorous work and intense self-reflection towards my goal of practicing sustainable leadership with impact.

I have learned a lot about leadership. Leadership is not a paid position, a reward for doing something special, or another way to describe being in charge. Leadership is earned when we take responsibility and give top performance in everything we do. It has been a rewarding ten years of leadership at Exhale and I am thrilled to share some of what I’ve learned, overcome and celebrated.

Here are my Top 10 Leadership Highlights at Exhale in the 000’s.


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Recently CNBC hosted a townhall forum at Columbia Business School with Bill Gates and Warren Buffet. Mr. Gates said: “business schools teach people about value.” And, we know that in the business world, time is money.

But, what about our nonprofit world? Often, we give our time for free. Sometimes as volunteers, or board members or in pro-bono arrangements. We give our time for free because we share a belief in the cause. In return for our time, we accept the opportunity to be a part of something important to us, something that fuels our soul, or fulfills our need to contribute to the world.

What about the times we, as nonprofit staff and representatives, give to other nonprofit organizations? Are collaborations always free? Who bears the brunt of the costs and how do we recognize the value contributed?

In the nonprofit sector, time, knowledge and experience are often our most important assets. We should spend our assets even more carefully than we spend our money and their exchange should be negotiated rigorously. The truth is, nothing is free. Someone is always paying. There are always costs. And our value, our assets, should never be underestimated, least of all by ourselves.

The better we understand the true costs of doing business and the real value we offer our partners, the better we will be able to leverage our assets towards our organizational and collaborative goals.

Our time is not free. Time is money. Spend it wisely.

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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.


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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!


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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