How To: Utilize Social Media

Social media is fantastic. You can reach people who are not usually in your financial or geographic reach with little to no cost. In my opinion social media is one of the best marketing tools organizations can have.

The most important aspect about using social media is to have a constant and clear presence on all of the sites you are using. Platforms like Hoot Suite can help you stay organized and consistent. Mapping out what you want to say and when you want to post it helps outline and create the image you want to be projecting online.

Facebook, Twitter, and even Google+ allow smaller organizations to reach out across the world for new volunteers and donations, and it is also a great platform to connect with other organizations that have similar missions and goals. Networking by following and liking groups that are similar to yours can lead you to new followers and new opportunities. Engage with the people and organizations that follow or like you and who contact your organization via social media. People and groups like to feel engaged and that their comment or opinions matter.

Make sure you encourage people to share, re-blog, and retweet. It may be unlikely that your post will become viral, but a post can spread fairly far and quickly if shared through numerous circles of people.

Stay simple. A picture is worth a thousand words, so you don’t necessarily need a paragraph that goes along with it. People skim their social media, so make sure that whatever your text, picture and / or link is, that it’s appealing and catchy. Basically, think about what you click on, what catches your eye. See what other organizations are doing to maintain and expand their online presence.

It takes time to build up, but a quality social media presence is priceless. You are able to access new groups of people and learn about what your sector is doing in all parts of the world. The chance for donor expansion or collaboration is literally at your finger tips.

Happy posting, and good luck!

Armchair Activism

Armchair Activist (Noun): One who sits in their armchair or desk chair and blogs or posts Activists issues on Facebook without ever really doing anything about said issues or exercising any form of activism as it would require that person to actually leave the armchair. –Urban Dictionary

Most definitions of armchair activism or “slacktivism” that I have come across are not flattering or positive in any way, shape, or form. I definitely understand the criticism. People who aren’t involved, but who like to convince themselves and the online community that they are making a difference. Feeling satisfied by only posting and tweeting about a certain cause.

I might be swimming in naiveté, but I would like to argue why, at least in theory, we can’t assume that arm-chair activism is solely composed of lazy people who like to pat themselves on the back for doing virtually nothing. Those type of people exist in every social movement.

I do believe that with new and ever-growing technology our understand of social movements need to change. I’m not saying that everything about a social movement can be accomplished through a computer, but many of these people who are posting, liking, and retweeting would never had had access to the information or news story in the first place. Can we really say that if social media didn’t exist the way it does, that these people would be more ‘active’ in these causes?

Not everyone can march on Washington or occupy a local area. If they can sign a petition, or spread a news piece, they are doing something productive. Could they be doing more? Of course; in theory you could say that about any person within a movement.

People only have so much time and emotional energy to give. If they volunteer at an animal shelter and only post online about labor issues, that’s great. We can’t make a difference every waking moment within in every sector or issue.

Is there an over-inflated sense of self in some of the online activist community? Yes. Is there an over-inflated sense of self in the Occupy Movement? Yes. A group of people who only like to pat themselves on the back and puff out their chest to build online clout should never define an entire movement or activist community.

Hash-tags can’t save the world but they can make the world a little more informed and hopefully, passionate. Which, in theory, can make the world a better place.

How To: Get New Donors and Keep Them

If we are lucky, our organizations have at least a small core group of people who financially support it. We wouldn’t be where we are without these donors, but honestly, the more we expand and diversify our donor base, the more sustainable our organizations will be.

I have found that the best way to get new donors is through storytelling, whether it be through social media or through elevator pitches.

Social media is a great way to reach potential donors that are normally outside of your geographical area. Facebook, Twitter, and even Google+ can be great resources to spread a donation campaign or generally about the work you are doing. A quality, regularly updated Facebook page or Twitter handle can show potential donors what you are doing, how you are doing it, and how a donation can impact the work of your organization. Also interacting with other organizations on these sites will give supporters of similar programs an opportunity to check out your projects.

If you are looking for bigger donations, I find that crafting an elevator pitch is the best option. Whether you are at an event, happy hour, or there is a surprise encounter, it’s crucial to have a short pitch about how much money you are asking for, why you need the money, and how it will be used. Cold calls or emails sometimes work, but people really value face to face interactions, even if it is for 30 seconds.

Along the lines of storytelling, just talk to everyone about your organization as much as possible. People are much more willing to give money when they see that the people working within the organization are passionate about the mission. For example, I may have created a new opportunity for my organization at my sister’s graduation party. You never know when people are looking to give, so it’s best to always be ready.

After getting these new donors, what is the best way to make sure our donors keep on giving? I’ve found that organization is essential; keep track of who donates, when, and how much. Make sure the donors feel appreciated, whether it be through personalized thank you notes or a shout out on your Facebook page. The more your donors know about what is happening within your organization, the easier it is for them to talk about how your organization is a great one to support to their friends, family, co-workers, etc.

Ask! The worse they can say is no. Good luck!!

Real Positive Change Takes Time

Everyone in sports and LGBT* community is talking about Michael Sam getting drafted by the Rams and that his jersey is selling like hotcakes. While obviously excitement has been expressed by the LGBT* community, it is also very easy to lament over the fact that the first openly gay play drafted to the NFL wasn’t an all-star quarterback or wide receiver. Why couldn’t the LGBT* community bust down the door instead of having in gently pushed open by a seventh round draft pick?

I am not diminishing Sam’s achievements. He has obviously worked very hard to be where he is now, and the fact that ESPN aired a gay kiss on TV definitely made a big splash in the sports world.

The reason we don’t have an openly queer quarterback is the same reason we haven’t an openly queer president. Lasting positive change takes time and moves very slowly. Saying that lasting change takes time does not mean that I am satisfied for slow progress, but in order for the LGBT* community to bust down doors, we need people like Michael Sam. When Harvey Milk won in 1977 no one had dreamed of an openly gay politician. Now we have out Senators and Congress-people who stand up for LGBT* individuals across the United States.

Again, we should not be satisfied with slow-moving change; we should always try to aim higher and better. A quick flash in the pan is satisfying initially, but after a short period of time it can very easily lose impact. Unfortunately people need to see something over and over again until it becomes accepted and normalized.

Fast change looks nice, but what about the substance? What happens after the first openly gay quarterback gets drafted or the first out president gets elected? There is something to be said about reaching to the top, but more importantly lasting change comes from the hard work that continues after reaching the mountain peak. What is a queer president or quarterback going to do to continue to advance the LGBT* movement?

In a perfect world we wouldn’t need to kick the door down or LGBT* rights.

I don’t need to tell you that we don’t live in a perfect world. So we keep trudging forward, relishing in the small victories, but never accepting them as the permanent status-quo.

How To: Develop a New Program

Developing new programs for our organizations can be very exciting as well as daunting. Excitement can cloud judgement or details can be overlooked. It is important to stay organized. The questions listed below help me map out a new or evolving program:

General Planning:

  • What are all of the elements and mechanics of your program?
  • What needs to happen before the program launch?
  • What marketing and social media is needed?
  • What needs to happen at the launch of the program?
  • What are the outcomes you are trying to achieve?
  • How will you evaluate the program after an allotted period of time?
  • Is there a way to adjust the program if outcomes aren’t completely met?


  • How are you funding this program?
  • Are the funding sources sustainable?
  • How do your funders define program success?
  • What information do you need to give to the funders throughout the funding period?
  • How frequently do you need to inform funders on progress?

Who do you need?:

The Constituents:

  • How many people are you trying to serve?
  • Who specifically are you trying to serve?
  • Why this community or group of people?
  • What do you know about this geographic location?
  • What research is still needed (historic, geographic, cultural, political, etc.)?

Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Challenges:

  • What resources do you have? What do you still need?
  • What advantages does your organization have?
  • What external and international challenges may arise?
  • Do you have a plan to deal with and adapt to these challenges?

The Future of Your Program:

  • How long is your program supposed to last?
  • If it isn’t permanent, is there a plan to phase out your program?
  • Is the goal to expand this program outside of the original community or geographic area?
  • If so, how will you maintain quality after the program is expanded?


Most importantly, have fun and good luck!

The Mentors in My Life

This Mother’s Day, while I am  extremely grateful for my mother and how she has raised me, I would like to focus on the mentors in my life. I’ve been very lucky in my adult life, having mentors that have guided me through my journey in the LGBT* community and also the non-profit sector. I would not exist the way I do if it weren’t for these people, for which I am eternally grateful.

I would imagine that being out in any profession can prove difficult, but I know first hand what the repercussions of coming out in the international non-profit sector are. Honestly, I have felt like a unicorn at times, a mythical creature rarely seen. I know that other queer people work in non-profits, but unless they have worked in a LGBT* non-profit, I have never had a mutually ‘out’ interaction in my field with a peer.

Without my mentors, and specifically one of my former professors, I wouldn’t have anyone who truly understands what it’s like to travel to a different country as a gay humanitarian. Being closeted in some cases and being out in others has a lot of emotional and practical consequences. I’ve written previously about how toxic the closest can be, and it’s even more toxic when you have no one to talk to about being stuck in there.

My professor has let me voice my concerns and has legitimized my fears. She gets the complexities of weaving in an out of identities for the sake of doing something that you love, while being with someone who you love.

Some days it’s really hard reconciling my Lesbian identity with working in a country that is not LGBT* friendly. There are days that if I focus on it too much I become a big spiraling ball of anxiety heading towards a bout of panic attacks. Luckily I have people to pull me out of these funks. I have my girlfriend, my friends, family and mentors. Without these people, and specifically my former professor, I might be doomed to be rolling in my anxiety forever.

Just having someone who gets it allows my head to clear and it restores my passion and my faith in what I am doing. Even if we need to stay closeted for the sake of our work and passion, we need to find at least one person who can relate to and empathize with our struggles.

LGBT* non-profit workers aren’t unicorns and we aren’t islands. We need people who get the queer and the non-profit of us.

How To: Acquire and Keep Volunteers

Volunteers are the backbone of nonprofits. Without volunteers willing to give their time and talent, many non-programs would come to a halt. Not only that, volunteers who have good experiences can be an organization’s ambassador in expanding your network.

How to Get Volunteers:

1. Firstly, check who is in your immediate network? Your secondary network? Who has expressed  interest in similar causes or volunteer opportunities?

2. What non-profits or companies do you partner with? Organization might share volunteers or their networks, and companies usually have a quote for volunteer hours that they need to fill.

3. Use your technological resources. Post events on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc., and make sure people share the opportunity with their friends and followers. Idealist and VolunteerMatch are great sites to post specific volunteer events to find people who are interested in groups similar to yours.

How to Keep Your Volunteers:

1. It might seem obvious, but the most important part of keeping volunteers is making sure that they have a great impactful experience. Whether its tutoring, making calls, or planting a garden, volunteers need to feel like their time is well spent and that they made a big difference.

2. Make sure the volunteers are getting some reward. I find that offering food and drinks is the best way to reward volunteers and not have them feel like they are getting ‘paid’ for their time.

3. Make sure you receive and maintain their contact information. One time volunteering events are great, but most people willing to volunteer want to have repeat experiences.

4. Keep people informed! Use that contact list and all of your other relevant contacts to make sure that they know when new opportunities arise. keeping former volunteers in the loop help them feel like they are an integral part of your organization and mission.


Volunteers are the face of our organizations, and they spread their experiences to people who are possible new constituents, donors, or volunteers. Make sure the experience is a great one. Good luck!

Story Telling – Why I Love Working in Development

I have been asked several times “Why non-profit development? Why would you actually want to work in development?” Through various discussions and job interviews, it seems like a lot of non-profit folks fall into development by accident and/or non-willingly. No one wants to be the one who is begging for operational funding.

For me, working in development and writing is less about begging, and more about story telling. Obviously the need to ask for money is crucial to non-profit development, but I find joy in how you frame the ask. How we craft the story of the mission depending on who we are talking to. What parts of the organization’s story do we emphasize and high light for a specific sponsor? For individual donors?

I live and breathe for my organization. I love coming up with creative ways to share the story of who we are and our mission to as many different groups of people. Framing the money beg part in a story-telling sense has helped reduce my anxiety when I have to talk to people. The idea of blatantly asking for money is terrifying; the chance to spread my mission and story to more people is energizing and exciting.

My organization’s story is a part of who I am. Sharing what we do comes as natural to me as blinking. If I can craft our mission and programs in such a way that benefits my non-profit financially, I know I am making what we do more accessible and understandable to more people.

It’s one thing to run an organization with a great mission. It’s another thing to get funders, volunteers, and the general public on board with your organization. In a perfect world, we wouldn’t need to constantly have our hand out for funds when we feel like we are taking time away from programming.  However, having to ask for money constantly challenges the quality of our work, and also how we present it to our constituents and donors. We shouldn’t be numbers driven, but story driven. Telling stories allows us to humanize our work and constituents, and it makes us work to be creative in our outreach and grant writing.

Non-profit development makes us better at what we do and helps us spread the message of what we do to the masses. It might not perceived as pretty or glamorous, but in my opinion it’s one of the most rewarding aspects of working in the non-profit sector.