5 tips to facilitate an awesome meeting

To Connector Monique Dupre, facilitation is much more than simply making sure a meeting runs smoothly.

“When you can draw out ideas and potential, amazing things can happen,” she says. “If people walk away from a meeting feeling empowered and motivated, you would see how that would change a lot of things – not only in the workplace, but on the personal level.”

Monique’s interest in facilitation began when she realized that the event planning she was doing for a variety of organizations and personal projects over the past 11 years – from helping refugees start gardens to fundraising at her daughter’s school to leading eco-culinary tours in France – required meetings.

In her experience, there is nothing worse than a meeting that goes on too long or has no clear purpose.

So she took an intensive workshop with renowned facilitator Barbara McKay, and began practicing what she learned. Here are her top five tips especially as it relates to Connector Teams:

1. Assign a facilitator.

A facilitator’s main role is to draw out people’s ideas as it relates to the agenda while staying neutral.

If nobody steps up, rotate turns. If someone is hesitant or thinks they might not be good at it, an alternative is to have them take notes on the board.

2. Have a clear agenda and stick to it.

At the beginning of the meeting, go around and ask people what’s most pressing to them to talk about and how much time they have. Once the agenda is agreed upon, post it up on the wall for everyone to see.

An ideal time for a meeting is one hour, but if it goes longer, make sure to take a break. Use a timekeeper to help stay on track. A “parking lot” is also a way to capture ideas or questions for another time.

whiteboard copy

Who said whiteboards had to be boring?
(photo via johnny goldstein on Flickr’s Creative Commons.)

3. Listen. Really listen.

The biggest responsibility of the facilitator is to make sure everyone feels heard. Writing ideas on a whiteboard, for example, helps people to see they were listened to. It also keeps things on track, and eliminates repetition.

Another way is to repeat back and summarize what someone just said: “This is what I heard you say. Is it okay if I put it like this?” This is good with someone who’s especially chatty.

“Even the most hot-headed, can’t-stop-talking person wants to be heard. Getting them to stop talking is the exact opposite of what should happen. Instead, channel that energy and conversation in the right direction,” she says.

How else to do this? Stand next to them. Encourage others who haven’t said much to talk. Pose a question and go around the room.

4. Ask specific questions.

Instead of questions that lead to “yes” or “no” answers, try questions that are specific and have “why” in them.

Think of it this way: asking a kid how their day was like always yields a vague answer such as “fine.” But if you ask who they went out to lunch with and why, you’ll find their answer to be much more robust.

5. Be humble.

Leave your ego and judgment at the door.

“The way I do it in my head is that I see each person as a treasure chest of amazing knowledge and wonderful experiences. They might not see it that way, but they are,” she says. “If you can step outside yourself and simply listen to what’s going on and who’s bringing what to the table, then I think you can be neutral in your actions.”

With all of this, Monique encourages you to practice  – with your partner, your kid(s), a stranger at the grocery store. Look people in the eye. Be in the moment.

“Facilitation can be learned. It’s stuff we do already but we don’t realize it. It’s just awareness and listening skills that overlap with every single conversation we have in life,” she says. “It’s communicating in a way that each person feels they have brought something to the table and walks away feeling good.”

Feel free to reach out to Monique on her blog or contact her directly for additional advice: moniquedupre@gmail.com. For more good tips, Monique recommends Barbara McKay’s blog.

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Money week roundup: Opportunities & ideas

Stuck? Feeling hopeless? Unsure of your next step? For the almost two decades Idealist has been around, we’ve been asking you—our community—to tell us about the obstacles you face when trying to turn your good intentions into action. We’ve compiled a short list of the top-reported obstacles, and now we’re blogging about them one by one.

This week we present: money.

Trying to change the world can be expensive work! So this Money Week, we’re sharing some ideas and opportunities to help you secure the cheddar you need to turn your awesome ideas into real-world action.

InfoG

Crowdfunding infographic by Anna Vital and Vlad Shyshov,
fundersandfounders.com

Nothing attracts a crowd like crowdfunding

This buzzword has become annoying to some (check out this amusing McSweeney’s send-up), but it’s been more than a flash in the pan for a reason.

In the past five years, Kickstarter alone has been the conduit for raising $918 million to help fund 53,000 creative projects. And now they’re far from the only game in town: Indiegogo, AngelList, and Crowdfunder are just a few of the other major players on the scene.

Interested in learning more about your crowdfunding options?

  • This good Forbes article breaks down what different sites offer and how to find the one that’s best for you.
  • See our recent guest post by the heads at CauseVox to get ideas for a workable crowdfunding strategy.

Show me the money

shutterstock_130862018

These opportunities will have you feeling like this guy.
(photo courtesy Shutterstock)

If you want to try from the reverse angle and go for funding that’s already been allotted for specific purposes, here are a few current opportunities:

  • Presidio Graduate School’s Big Idea Prize “awards a full-ride scholarship to a Presidio degree program for the best ‘Big Idea’ to move the needle in sustainability.” The deadline for admission in fall 2014 is May 15 of next year.
  • You don’t necessarily have to be a 501(c)(3) to apply for grants. DoSomething.org hosts a database of grants available to entrepreneurs.
  • If you’re part of a nonprofit and want to get your website in order, apply for Elevation’s $1-for-$1 match program. For every dollar you spend on design, programming, and related work, the web solution company will chip in a dollar of their own. Last year they gave about $500,000 to 150 organizations.

Pick up some knowledge

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Restock your brain library.
(photo courtesy Shutterstock)

Or maybe the time is right for you to hit the (proverbial) books and read a little more about different funding options. Here are a few ideas:

  • Don’t be afraid of corporate fundraising—there are dollars and non-monetary support to be found in the business community. For some tips on how to break in, read this DoSomething.org Q & A.
  • Online fundraising (and fabulously-named) gurus Stay Classy have a whole section on their blog dedicated to helping you get money. Check out guides such as “Growing a Community of Fundraisers,” “The 4 Phases of an Effective Peer-to-Peer Campaign,” and “Avoid the Big Mistake.”
  •  If you’re in a position to make grants, we know that giving money away (or doing it well, anyway) is seldom a walk in the park either: it can be tough to decide who gets funding, especially as strategies change. “Storytelling & Social Change: A Strategy Guide for Grantmakers” is a free-to-download publication that aims to “serve grantmakers interested in so-called ‘narrative strategies’ for their funding and communications programs.”

Party with a purpose

shutterstock_132010724

Break out the costume box.
(photo courtesy Shutterstock)

From the “mixing business with pleasure” file, here’s With Love… The New Generation of Party People—a new book and accompanying website geared toward helping you put on great fundraising parties. Find ten complete party plans with everything from invitations to music playlists to help you show your friends a good time while bringing in some cash for your cause.

Have you had a good fundraising experience recently (or a not-so-good one)? Share your story in the comments.

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Crowdfunding tips from the pros at CauseVox

Stuck? Feeling hopeless? Unsure of your next step? For the almost two decades Idealist has been around, we’ve been asking you—our community—to tell us about the obstacles you face when trying to turn your good intentions into action. We’ve compiled a short list of the top-reported obstacles, and now we’re blogging about them one by one.

This week we present: money.

Growing up, maybe you were the 4th grader who sold lemonade for 25¢ a glass to help feed hungry kids. Or maybe more recently, you’ve been rocked by the correlation between global warming and the natural disasters that hit developing nations the hardest.

Whether you’re a born do-gooder or had a life-changing experience somewhere along the way, crowdfunding can help you scale your social impact.

Here are a few tips to get started with crowdfunding your social good project.

Create a point of view

crowdfunding point of viewYou want to do some good. Great! Now what good, exactly?

You know what distinguishes vivid, memorable dreams from the vague, forgettable ones?

Details.

It’s not enough to want to make the world a better place, you need to tell the world how you plan to do that:

●      What particular problem are you trying to solve?

Is there a lack you want to fill? A mistake you seek to correct? Or even something good you want to make even better?

●      What’s your strategy for solving the problem?

What tools are at your disposal?

●      Who are you helping by solving this problem?

By trying to help all seven billion people in the world, you’ll hardly accomplish anything. Instead, start with seven and slowly but surely, you’ll start to reach more.

But you must have a point of view on how you’re going to change the world. Follow our guide on how to form a point of view before you start crowdfunding.

Identify your story

Your story is your most important asset in a crowdfunding campaign. It’ll drive people to take action for you, whether they share your story with friends or feel moved donate to your project themselves.

shutterstock_105363872Specifically, your story is important to crowdfunding for a couple reasons:

1. It’s an invitation

The fact that 27 million people are enslaved throughout the world ought to be convincing enough for anyone to get involved, right?

Ideally, yes; the reality, however, is that most people are more intimidated than moved to action by such statistics.

We’re more easily won over by the emotion and imagery that stories evoke than by plain numbers. Narratives bridge the gap we perceive between the helpers and the helped.

Learn how to use storytelling for your nonprofit or project.

2. It’s your own motivation, too

Spoiler alert: At some point during your crowdfunding campaign, you will hit a wall. What’s gonna keep your nose to the grindstone?

Your memory of the sight of faces, the smells in the air, the sounds, the tastes, the textures.

Your story will remind you that it’s not about hitting certain numbers, that people’s lives are at stake. Your story will keep you motivated, encouraged, and inspired through your crowdfunding campaign.

Create your tribe

Your tribe consists not only of the people you hope to serve, but those who will serve alongside you.

Social enterprise is a team sport; your people—prospective staff, board members, supporters, clientele—will help you work smarter, and not unnecessarily harder. Any successful crowdfunding campaign takes the time to create a community of believers that will help amplify the marketing and funding of that campaign.

It’ll be helpful to consider other like-minded social enterprises and projects not as your competitors but your teammates, as though you were all members of a relay team. Then, figure out which leg of the race you’re running: are you starting off? the anchor? in-between?

Create a crowdfunding campaign

STR-CauseVox-Fundraising-SiteNow that you’ve sketched the fundamentals of your social enterprise or social good project, you can create a fundraising site to start crowdfunding. An effective crowdfunding campaign has the following elements:

Visual storytelling

That a picture conveys a thousands words is cliche for a reason. It takes less time for someone to get your vision by watching a two-minute video than by reading a 600-word article. Rest assured that putting the time in to tell your story through a well-made video is worth the effort.

Impact metrics

You’ll need to show the crowd the power of their collective dollars.

For example, members of the Mocha Club donate $9 a month toward the organization’s project areas (clean water, orphan care, health care, etc.). By forgoing three coffee shop drinks every month, you could: give clean water to nine Africans for a year, save one child from malaria, or extend the life expectancy of one person living with HIV/AIDS.

Number-crunching that highlights the potential progress your enterprise could make instead of harping on the severity of the problem are what will compel the crowd to join your cause.

Seamless branding

Hopefully, you’ve invested time and thought into branding your social good project or social enterprise. Branding is more than just picking colors and creating a logo—it’s about the impression you make.

Your brand presents your identity to the public. A branded fundraising page is like a lighthouse that helps guide boats to harbor.

Studies have shown that branded donation pages get more donations than generic, unbranded pages!

Leverage social media

crowdfunding social mediaI’ve intentionally saved this step for the end, since you need to be grounded before your grow!

Most, if not all, of your crowdfunding efforts will take place online, and social media will play an important role. In fact, social media is a key tool. But no amount of social media savvy and strategy will make up for a lack of substance.

But by now, you have established a solid foundation: you’ve clearly defined your identity and point of view and story. Now you’re ready to broadcast your presence! This is where social media steps in.

Here’s one simple, obvious-yet-easy-to-forget strategy in using social media: Keep it social.

This is about connecting with people.

In your effort to quantify and measure and be results-oriented, remember that all of this is ultimately supposed to be people-oriented. Make sure your numbers and statistics represent people with unique stories and gifts. You’re starting a social enterprise, after all.

Wrapping up

Crowdfunding to launch your social enterprise is about more than raising money—it’s a means of building relationships. Your tribe, your clients, and your supporters are part of the momentum that will sustain the movement you’re starting.

Taking this holistic approach to starting your own social enterprise or social good project will set you up for success, not just survival.

SaraChoe_headshot

Sara Choe is a crowdfunding expert at CauseVox, a fundraising platform focused on crowdfunding for nonprofits and social good projects. They’ve helped thousands of people raise millions of dollars via crowdfunding.

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In a creative rut? 52 ways to get unstuck

unstuck

We all get stuck.

Whatever the project, sometimes our creativity is less like the juice that’s supposed to be flowing and more like the pulp that gets caught in our teeth.

So how do you start clean again? Especially when that fundraising event is right around the corner or you have to write the story of how your social enterprise started right now?

In his book Unstuck, artist Noah Scalin offers ideas for 52 exercises to help you get out of the rut and keep taking those steps forward. From the six-word memoir (30 seconds) to a photo mashup (two minutes) to blackout poems (30 minutes) to making a creativity shrine (one hour), each activity is selected to fit with your (obviously busy) schedule.

The idea for the book came from Scalin’s year-long project of making skulls out of everyday objects: stencils, hands, trash, pumpkins, chains, and more. From the process, he learned a lot about staying committed to a project—even when you don’t feel like it.

Here are his seven tips:

1. Let go of preciousness. The reality is that treating your creations as precious little things to protect keeps you from the world of possibilities that comes from trying new things out, making mistakes, and getting things wrong.

2. Freedom comes from limitations. It’s only from narrowing down the options that creativity becomes possible, as you are forced to push against the walls that close you in.

3. Get out of your environment. No matter how inspiring your workplace is, there’s only so much creative work that can be done within it.

4. Get out of your comfort zone. At some point in our lives we’re probably told not to make a fool of ourselves, but the fact is that’s one of the most effective ways to get creative inspiration!

5. Get things by giving them away. The more I gave away, the more people gave back to me.

6. Collaborate. Some of best things I got out of doing my own project were the wonderful new friendships and the deepening of my existing friendships that came from incorporating other people into my work.

7. Inspiration is everywhere. Once you start practicing, the ability to find ideas in even the most mundane environments gets easier and easier.

Go to Noah’s website, Make Something 365 & Get Unstuck, for more inspiration or to show off a project of your own.

What tips do you have for getting unstuck?

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Nonprofit Video 101: 3 tips to keep your videos on point

Video

Lights, camera, questions: three things every video producer needs
(photo courtesy Isaac via Flickr’s Creative Commons)

It was my first week as the brand-new, in-house video producer at Idealist and I was super excited about all the possibilities ahead. So when our executive director Ami mentioned that a woman he just met had a fabulous Idealist story, my video mind starting working on overdrive.

Apparently, Kate Horner had not only found her current job on Idealist, she had also found her grad program at an Idealist Grad Fair, and she had a long track record of finding internships and volunteer opportunities through the site.

I was so excited, I jumped straight into preparations for making a video.

With my co-producer Sean, we scheduled a day-long shoot with Kate that involved an almost 90-minute interview. When we returned to the office afterward, we realized the daunting task that lay ahead: how would we craft a three-to-five minute video with great details that stayed compelling AND ended with a clear call to action?

I sorted through the interview footage and assembled my first cut. It was over ten minutes long, and was confusing and unfocused. While I had gotten in every last detail of Kate’s journey—from volunteering to working for veterans like her brother—it wasn’t a video I would want to watch. And it didn’t leave the viewer with a clear message about why they should look for jobs on Idealist like Kate did.

We tossed that version out and narrowed our focus. We honed in on the moments where Kate spoke honestly about her fear, excitement, worry, and hope—themes we hear all the time from the Idealist community. We also keyed in on the little things Kate had learned when she used Idealist in her job hunt that could be useful tips to share.

With these things in mind, we were able to craft a very personal and relatable story, while weaving in an Idealist pitch.



 

Lessons learned

In the increasingly crowded online video playing field, content needs to be focused, compelling, and clear. (Short doesn’t hurt either.)

In this case, I let my excitement get the better of me, and lost sight of those tenets. The result was that I ended up having to do probably four times the amount of work to get to the end product.

But not for naught—I’ve taken this experience with me as we plan out our next videos. Now, before we do anything, we make sure to use the following advice as a guide:

1. Answer these four questions.

When you’re thinking about making a video, planning is half the process. It’s imperative to answer these questions before you even think of touching a camera:

  1. WHY are you making the video? Fundraising? Awareness? To increase your membership?
  2. WHAT are you trying to say? What is the message or information you want the viewer to come away with? The more focused the better. Try to keep it to one message per video.
  3. WHO is your intended audience? Donors? People who already know something about your cause? People who don’t know anything about it? Event attendees?
  4. WHAT IMPACT do you want to have on your audience? What do you want them to think? Feel? Do?

2. Keep it personal.

Once you’ve thought about the end goals of your video, use that to inform the storytelling. Try to frame your video around someone’s personal story—that always helps the viewer form an emotional connection with your message.

For example, the Girl Effect: the Clock is Ticking is a great video that shows how framing a larger issue around an individual story can lead to a very compelling call to action.

3. Make a specific ask.

So now, let’s say you’ve done your homework and invested a lot of time, money, and brainpower in creating a personal, compelling video that the viewer watches all the way to the end—congratulations! But if you don’t make it easy for that viewer to take the next step, they probably won’t.

So make it clear what you want them to do. Maybe that’s sign your petition, visit your website, join your organization, or donate to your cause. In any case, don’t beat around the bush: ask them directly.

As a general rule, I suggest ending videos with your website URL so everyone knows where to go for more information. (YouTube’s Nonprofit Program allows you to add annotations around the URL that can turn it into a clickable link.) For example, in Kate’s video, we added a screen at the end that summed up our message and made a direct ask: “Find your dream job on Idealist today. Search now.”

***

While the process of making this video was filled with ups and downs, the experience did make me a better producer. And now I get to put what I learned to the test: we’re looking to find our next “Idealist Story” to film. Maybe you can help!

How have you used Idealist to imagine, connect, and act? Share your stories in the comments below (or email me at liz@idealist.org) and if you’re in NYC or Portland, Oregon, you could be the subject of our next video. How cool is that?

For more information and resources related to nonprofit video, check out Vimeo and Stillmotion’s video storytelling series and See 3 Communications and YouTube’s study about video in the nonprofit sector, complete with tutorials and tips and tricks.

For more Idealist Videos, check out our Youtube channel at www.youtube.com/idealist.

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How to build a collaborative (and happy!) shared nonprofit space

In November last year, five Colorado nonprofits moved into a free-flowing, bright office as part of the Denver Shared Spaces Project. Think the nonprofit version of The Real World: five (somewhat) strangers, picked to work in an office together, to find out what happens when people work side-by-side towards the greater good.

Unlike the drama-laden show, these “roommates” in the Colorado Collaborative for Nonprofits get along famously. (No pulling hair or name calling here.) If your organization is thinking about doing something similar, here are their tips on how to make the most of it:

Collab3

The colorful hallway of 789 Sherman. (Photo credit: Alyssa Kopf.)

1. Plan. Thoroughly. 

Sally Hallingstad, Director of Events & Marketing for Metro Volunteers: Define expectations ahead of time. What’s the purpose of the partnership? What are the potential ways to collaborate, beyond space, and how far will it go?

Alyssa Kopf, CEO of Community Shares of Colorado:  Bring in an organizational anthropologist to learn what kinds of organizations will be in the space and what they value. And try to gauge ahead of time as best you can if you’ll all play nicely together.

Renny Fagan, President and CEO of the Colorado Nonprofit Association: Staff participation at all levels is key, and the long process of inclusion and communication is well worth it. “When you include people in change, they want to make it work.”

Dace West, Director of Denver Office of Strategic Partnerships: Be aware that collaboration is a tricky thing, and that you’ll most likely be looking at a “marriage of organizations with very different needs.” There’s also the complexity of real estate, timing, and priorities to consider, which makes it especially important for partners to be thoughtful about how they’ll work together, and what their shared vision will be. After all, it’s more than just a space and a place to be.

2. Be patient, and adjust accordingly.

Melinda Higgs, President/CEO of the Colorado Nonprofit Development Center: Even when you plan, you may need to plan (again) – especially when you don’t get your first choice of space. “We ended up focusing on the space planning and then, once the space planning was essentially complete, we moved onto the program planning.” In other words: be flexible!

COLLABORATIVE

Besides this map in the breakroom of who’s who, other ways members of the Collaborative are getting to better know each other include bbqs, brown bag lunches, and more. (Photo credit: Alyssa Kopf.)

Sally:  From kitchen duties to shared printers, it takes time to figure out what works. The domesticity of a shared office space – like, what to do with six microwaves? – can make for an adjustment period.

3. Imagine working beyond desks.

Sally: A shared space is designed to promote collaboration, and it helps to keep that in mind. At the Collaborative, for example, some organizations have their staffs spread out, sitting side-by-side with other organizations. The eventual hope is that the first floor training center will someday host programming they can work on together.

4. Think toward the future.

Alyssa: A process like this demands long-term thinking. “Going through shared space planning is a great opportunity to broaden your thinking about your mission, the lifecycle of your organization, and how you want to contribute to collective impact.”

Have a question for a member of the Collaborative? Feel free to contact an organization via their Idealist page, or leave a comment here.

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