What’s in your message to donors? Technology to assess communications

I was really excited to attend Net Tuesday last week, and I wasn’t disappointed. Ben Johnson (currently with Union Gospel Mission) was one of two presenters giving a talk on data for social change. While he had tonnes of great points re: data analysis, what excited me most was the visualization of text data using Wordle.net. (I used Wordle last year to demonstrate what my blog was about, and it was right on target!)

Question 1: What message are you sending out?

What message does your board chair’s message in the annual report send?
What message does your vision and vision statements send?
What message does your newsletter send?

While we obviously write these items with very specific intents, sometimes our language, when we dig down deep, doesn’t actually reflect our intentions.

Copy and paste your text (or an rss feed) into Wordle, and voila! (See below for an example). You may be surprised. At UGM, Ben found that some of the language actually focused on programs, when really what they wanted to focus on was people.

Question 2: What messages do your donors respond to?

On UGM’s online donor form, an open box question asks “What inspired you to give today?”. Ben then took all the responses and threw them into World, and voila!

Many at UGM (a faith-based social services organization) might assume that faith and God would be reasons behind giving. These words were present, but even more so were words that indicated a connection to family (brother, father, sister, etc.) and times of year (eg Christmas).

If you analyze what is inspiring donors to give, you can update (and assess!) your communications accordingly to match donors’ interests.

Example: UBC Vision and Mission

UBC is my alma mater, and I have always loved and identified with their vision and mission. I would have done SFU’s but alas, we DON’T HAVE THEM (ridiculous and uninspiring, I know).

UBC vision and mission by Wordle
Image Credit: Wordle.net

I can see easily now why I connect with UBC’s vision and mission. Beyond the obvious university words like “research” and “students”, the next most prominent words are “society”, “sustainable”, “global” and “citizens”. I’m surprised that “learning” isn’t more prominent though.

Try it! You might like it! What results did you get?

Nonprofit career tips by and for UBC students

Along with my colleague Roselynn Verwoord, fellow Next Leaders Network steering committee member, I presented on the topic of careers in the nonprofit sector at the latest University of British Columbia Student Leadership Conference (SLC 2010). As a UBC alum, I’ve presented at this conference before – I really enjoy meeting keen students interested in career development and the nonprofit sector.

The top tip I enjoy sharing with students is how a degree does not define you. You do. I demonstrate this by sharing my main post-university jobs (high school teacher, nonprofit gala event manager, and promoter of student engaged citizenship and community-university engagement) and asking what they think my undergrad degree was in. Chemistry and Biology are generally not the first guesses.

The workshop participants brainstormed different tips and resources related to finding employment in the nonprofit sector. They came up with a pile of suggestions in a really tight period of time – many that were new to me. Learning happens in every direction.

Looking for Jobs and Volunteer Roles

Networking and Mentorship

  • Arts Tri-Mentoring/Engineering Tri-Mentoring
  • Joining Clubs/Student Associations (e.g Emerging Leaders Group)
  • Sharing experience with other volunteers
  • Me Inc. – Commerce Conference (external networking)
  • Parents and family friends
  • Volunteer in residence
  • Professors
  • Friends of friends
  • Mailing Lists/talking to people at fairs
  • Make use of relevant LinkedIn groups (Non Profit & Philanthropic Job Board) and Twitter contacts (via Andrea)
  • Research ideal potential employers and conduct an informational interview (check out a WLU informational interviewing booklet) (via Andrea)

Resumes, Cover Letter and Interviews

  • Research company before interview
  • Career services (for help)
  • Hook for cover letter – be interesting
  • Be specific to job description
  • Be unique, passionate (to certain extent)
  • Interviews –
  • be down to earth
  • practice potential q’s
  • confidence
  • Don’t’ answer questions in conventional way
  • Situation, task, action, result, transfer (technique for answering interview q’s)
  • Reveal your transferable skills
  • Be honest

Learning and Workshops

  • Mentoring Programs
  • Involvement Showcase (CSI)
  • Green Book
  • SLC 2010
  • Google
  • Events UBC Site
  • Career Days
  • Community workshops
  • Company workshops
  • Clubs
  • Go Global (Exchange)
  • Read
  • Community centers/resources
  • Research seminars
  • Research the rules are for the part of the sector in which you’re looking (do you need a specific degree?) (via mjfrombuffalo)

Things NOT to Do

  • Don’t pick something you don’t find interesting
  • Don’t lie about your passion
  • Don’t be inconsistent in your approach (e.g. volunteer work can be just as important as paid work)
  • Don’t have ANY visible content online that’s questionable. Always manage your online personal/professional brand. (via Andrea)
  • Bashing – don’t criticize another organization
  • Don’t name drop
  • No assumptions
  • Don’t ask about wages (to begin with, anyway)
  • Don’t be in it for the money
  • Don’t burn bridges
  • Don’t do it just for the sake of your resume

What a fantastic list! You can find more ideas for young nonprofit professionals in Metro Vancouver here, including common mistakes made by new-to-nonprofit job seekers.