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Are You Wasting Your Time with Free Tools?

wrong tool

We’ve talked about how to use tools you already have to track your donors, prospects, and constituents for free.

Free is not always the best price. 

Using Outlook, Google, or LinkedIn as your constituent relationship management system (or CRM) may be fine if all you want to do is look up what you know about one person. Suppose, however, that you want to:

  • Send a carefully crafted email to only those people who have given more than $100 as a donation and who live in the zip codes closest to your office.
  • Keep track of registration for a gala or other event.
  • Print call sheets for a phone-a-thon.
  • Automatically send a welcome message and a series of follow-ups to new members.

You can’t do any of those directly from free tools. If you want to send a targeted email message, for example, you might have to create a distribution list in Outlook, export it to Excel, import that to an email marketing system like MailChimp or Constant Contact, compose and schedule the email, and then enter the results back in Outlook–all by hand.

Is spending all that time worthwhile for you? If not, consider spending some money.

Idealware has posted an excellent article, “A Few Good Constituent Relationship Management Tools.”  If you are considering buying software, read the article first.  Then ask yourself: what is it worth to this organization to know everybody the way we know our best supporters?

Adrian Peterson: Child Abuse or Discipline?

Dennis Fischman:

Tammi Pitzen makes a lot of sense to me. Please take a moment to read this blog.

Originally posted on Through Their Eyes:

By Tammi Pitzen, Executive Director of the Children’s Advocacy Center of Jackson County

UPTOWN_adrian_peterson_son1resizeAdrian Peterson

This week the big news was that Adrian Peterson, a member of the Minnesota Vikings, was charged with child abuse for spanking his child with a “switch” and leaving bruising. 

The topic of debate has been: Is this abuse or is this discipline? And secondary: Is this a part of Southern parenting culture?

You knew that I would have to weigh in on this — being both a true Southerner, who now has a child, and being an avid football fan, who is married to an avid Vikings fan.

I was born and raised in the South and my parents used spanking as a discipline method.  I also began my career in child protection investigating child abuse reports in a small town in Louisiana. I will tell you that it is true that in…

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Why Your Nonprofit Blog Shouldn’t Be About Your Nonprofit

Enough about me

Is your nonprofit’s blog mostly about your nonprofit organization? Then there’s a reason your audience is so small!

I know. You’re proud that you made the effort to create a blog at all. You work really hard at posting something  every week. But who’s reading anything you post?

Take this advice from Jayson DeMers, a Forbes magazine contributor:

Ask yourself a few questions: What are your favorite types of blogs? Which ones do you subscribe to and look forward to reading? Which ones do you consider a good use of your valuable time?

Although I can’t guess which specific blogs are your favorites, I think I can predict, with a good deal of accuracy, which types of blogs aren’t on your list:

  • Those that are exclusively about products or services
  • Those that are constantly and explicitly trying to sell you something
  • Those that are essentially a platform for the business or blogger to broadcast their marketing message

Let’s translate that into nonprofit.

  • If you feel bound to write a blog post about each of your programs, you’re boring your readers.
  • If you’re asking for money, time, or action in every post, you’re irritating your readers.
  • If you sound like you’re speaking French–because every post says “We, we, we”–you’re ignoring your readers.

No one has to read your blog. Your board members may read it just to see what you’re doing. Your most loyal friends may read it because they care. But most people have too many other things competing for their time. Unless they can see right away what’s in it for them, they will go elsewhere for their fun.

Do you want their attention? Then you have to make your blog worth their while. That means finding out what they want and giving it to them. Not what you want–what they do.

If you entertain your readers, touch their emotions, make them feel smarter, or help them stay up to date with their community, they have a reason to read your blog. Loyal readers become loyal supporters. That’s what’s in it for you.

Remember Me? (Free Tools to Help You Track Relationships)

do I know you

When you’re building relationships with donors, clients, customers, or business partners, a good memory helps.  But research shows that we can only really keep track of 150 relationships on our own.  Beyond that, we need tools.

You can turn tools you have, right there on your desktop or on the web, into your relationship management system.  All it takes is time.

Microsoft Outlook

You probably already know you can store addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, web page URL’s, and the company and job title of each person you know in Microsoft Outlook.  But did you ever:

  • Use the Search function to find all the people in your Contacts who work at a particular company, or who have a specific title, or whose email address ends with @NameOfTheirOrganization?
  • Add photos so that you recognize them on sight?
  • Use the notes section to store research you did on them?
  • Check your email to and from that person to remind you what you talked about last?
  • Search the Calendar to see when you met with them last?
  • Use the Tasks section of Outlook to remind yourself to talk with them again, or send them something, or do something for them, by a certain date?


If you live in the Googleverse, you can do a lot of the same things that an Outlook user can do, and more.

  • Aside from the usual Contacts information, you can record birthdays, nicknames, how their name is pronounced, and the names of their spouses, children, and other relationships–including the name of the person who referred you to them.
  • Instantly see whether you are on Google+ together, and the Circles to which you have assigned them.  Easily click over to Google+ to see what they’ve posted there.
  • Follow people’s YouTube channels if they have them.
  • Set up a Google search for that person’s name so that anything that appears on the web about them will show up in your Gmail box.
  • Easily share documents with that person without worrying about whether the email bounced, using Google Drive.


On LinkedIn, other people do a lot of your work for you.  If you connect with me on LinkedIn, you will find not only my contact information but my Twitter handle and my website information, too.

I put those up.  I also posted:

  • Summary of who I am and what I do
  • Experience
  • Projects I have worked on (with links to the end results, and the names of people who worked on them with me)
  • Professional courses I have taken
  • Languages I speak
  • Skills & expertise
  • Honors & awards
  • Education
  • Interests
  • Organizations

People have recommended me, and I have recommended them, and both types of recommendations are right there on my profile.  LinkedIn will also show you the LinkedIn groups I belong to, the people I follow, and the people who have connected with me.  Now you know more about me than my mother does!

But how am I related to you?  Next to the Contact Info tab on my profile is a tab marked Relationship.  There, you can write notes about me,  set your self a reminder in relation to me, write down how we met and who introduced us.

Use whichever of these tools feels most natural to you, and you’ll never have to wonder again.

Sharing the Season’s Greetings with Your Community

girl blowing shofar

Sending holiday greetings to your customers and community is a great way to let them know you’re thinking of them. But not everyone celebrates the same holidays.

Pagans will celebrate the autumnal equinox, or Mabon, on Tuesday, September 23.  Jews have a whole season of holidays, beginning with Rosh Hashanah starting at sundown on Wednesday, September 24; continuing with Yom Kippur (sundown on Friday, October 3), and culminating with Sukkot, Shemini Atzeret, and Simchat Torah (sundown on Wednesday, October 8 through nightfall on Friday, October 17). Hindus will observe Navaratri September 25-October 3. Muslims will mark Eid ul Adha on Saturday, October 4.

How do you greet them all?

Ideally, you keep a record of which holiday each person on your list celebrates. Then, you send personalized email to each one. (If you’re not sure how to do that, I can help. Write me and let me know.)

If you haven’t kept those records, now would be a good time to start! In the meantime, feel free to cut and paste the second paragraph of this message into your email and social media. Add, “To all our friends who celebrate these holidays, we send our warmest greetings.”

Shanah tovah to my fellow Jews, and a good and liberating holiday to everyone.

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