Standing Beside Alaska's Non-Profits

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In the old days, a blog was a place to post a list of links to other web sites, sometimes with commentary to give some context to the list, hence the term Web Logs or Blogs. Today, a blog can be the hub to your entire social media efforts, a place where you can link to your pages on social networking sites and accounts with other social networking tools.

While The Foraker Group dips a toe into the social media waters, we're using our blog as

  • a place to draw attention toward important articles and resources on The Foraker Group web site;
  • a place to comment on and link to interesting news stories regarding nonprofit issues;
  • a place to provide perspectives on the use of social media tools by nonprofits;
  • a place where we can hear from you to learn about your opinions on issues we blog about or on ones that you're facing.

It's the last objective where we need your help and participation. A blog can be an incredible community-builder, however, someone needs to be brave enough to come out from the shadows and not just read but respond. We know you're out there (our blog stats show an average of 100 readers per blog post).

Now's the time to introduce yourself. We'd like to turn this blog into a powerful community where we each have the opportunity to voice our opinions and tell our stories. This is not a broadcast medium.

What's on your mind as someone working with or within a nonprofit organization?

Foraker president Dennis McMillian's latest Letter from the President discusses the need for board diversity and how to get there.

He elaborates on these ideas:

1. Use the tools we advocate in training for good board recruitment and retention.

2. Recruit true believers.

3.Tokenism is not a strategy.

4. Don’t rush to recruit.

"I found that almost every organization was encouraged to recruit a more diverse board," says McMillian. "Looking at my own board back then, I realized that it also lacked diversity. It especially lacked involvement of Alaska Natives. In other words, board diversity has been a big issue in this state for a while, and unfortunately almost 20 years later, we seem to have made little progress."


What are your thoughts regarding board diversity? Share them here in our blog comments.

Recently, we created a Facebook Page for The Foraker Group to explore the value of social media specifically as a communications tool throughout Alaska particularly for people working with Alaska nonprofit organizations as well as our Partners.

There are several things to note about the Page and the use of Facebook for communications:

1. Page Not Profile. Facebook Pages are tools that companies and nonprofit organizations can build to create a presence on Facebook. People can then show their support or interest by becoming a fan of the Page.

Note: Nonprofit organizations are not supposed to create Profiles on Facebook according to Facebook rules. If you have a Facebook account, then you have set up a Profile. Some organizations have incorrectly set up Profiles for their organizations instead of Pages and run the risk of having their accounts suspended by Facebook which means losing all the "Friend" connections and content.

2. Blog Feed. The Foraker Group is feeding its blog posts into the Facebook Page so you can now read this content in multiple platforms including on the blog itself, on the Foraker Facebook Page or by subscribing to the blog's feed (there are subscription options towards the middle of this blog page).

3. Events. We'll post The Foraker Group calendar events to the Facebook Events feature so you can also access information about upcoming classes and events from your Facebook account.

Note: By saying you'll attend on the Facebook Event Page does not confirm your reservation for the class or event. It simply notifies your friends on Facebook of an interesting event you are attending. You still must register via The Foraker Group web site as usual.

4. Discussion. There is a Discussion link at the top of the Foraker Facebook Page where you can click to start or join in on a conversation. We're testing out the value of an online discussion forum so feel free to leave some comments there.

If you're using Facebook, we hope you'll become a Fan of The Foraker Group Facebook Page to help us explore this new communications asset.

If you are using Facebook, what are you using it for specifically?


Are you always on the go? Do you have a long commute and want to spend that time learning something new? You might want to try podcasts. Podcasts are basically downloadable audio files, often in the format of a radio show with a host, sometimes guests, and in the case of nonprofit podcasts, timely and helpful information about issues of interest to nonprofits and philanthropic organizations.

Most well-produced and popular podcasts are under 30 minutes in length although some are longer and still others are under 10 minutes. You can listen to podcasts on the Web, however, the ideal way is to download the MP3 files onto your computer and load into your MP3 listening device like an iPod. A great source of weekly free podcasts is iTunes.

Here are some podcasts that might be of interest to anyone working at or with nonprofit organizations:

Philanthropy This Week - A new audio offering by The Chronicle of Philanthropy covering nonprofit news with expert guest views.

Social Good - Allison Fine offers her nonprofit consulting expertise and interviews guests (also offered by The Chronicle of Philanthropy).

Social Media Goodness - The Foraker Group communications consultant Aliza Sherman (your humble blogger), talks about the basics of social media geared toward nonprofits.

Craigslist Foundation Nonprofit Boot Camp - Based on workshops given by the Craigslist Foundation to discuss nonprofit issues with a lot of expert advice.

Conquering Nonprofit Chaos - Author Bradley Burck breaks down concepts from his book of the same name.

What are your favorite podcasts that can be helpful to nonprofit organizations and their staff, volunteers and board?


The Foraker Group recommends caution and prudence in your decision-making during this challenging financial downturn. This is not the time to panic or make rash decisions. The community you serve is depending on you to fulfill your mission promise. Your leadership and strategic decisions should guide your way as you navigate uncharted territory.

To keep you abreast of the resources and news related to the state of the economy and its impact on nonprofit organizations, we continuously post news, commentaries and perspectives from a variety of sources on the Foraker site under Economic Response.

We urge you to check this section of our site often for new information, and feel free to send us relevant links or post them to comments here.

What resources are you using right now to weather these tougher economic times?

The next Foraker Certificate in Nonprofit Management begins in September 2009.

All classes will be held in Anchorage, Alaska. Applications are NOW available. Applications are due June 30, 2009

Classes begin in September and end in December 2009.

The Foraker Certificate in Nonprofit Management is a statewide program offered in partnership with the University of Alaska. This is a non-degree program offering 10.4 Continuing Education Units (CEU's).

The program is designed for Alaska nonprofit professionals in leadership positions who want to enhance their management skills and explore a full range of issues and best practices to use in their organizations.

Tuition for the certificate program is $2000 for Foraker Partners. Tuition for all other students is $2500 . All students will also be charged a $300 books and materials fee. Payment is due on the first day of class unless other arrangements are made. Please do not send payment with your application. Limited travel scholarships are available for those living beyond driving distance.

The application process is competitive. Applicants will be evaluated based on their current position in the organization, their career intentions, impact on the agency, and geographic distribution. Every effort is made to create a cohort of students that will both teach and learn from each other.

Read more about the Program.

Download the Application. (Word Doc)

Access the Fall 2009 Schedule. (Word Doc)

Have you gone through the program already? If so, we'd love to hear some of your feedback here.

Did you know the Obama Administration has launched a new online portal,, where organizations can list service opportunities and individuals can find openings of interest or develop their own projects?

From the site:

"This website is a new portal for you and all Americans to find your own ways to serve in your own communities. Just choose your keyword - "education," "environment," or whatever interests you - and type in your zip code to see what opportunities our partner organizations have in your area. Americans are putting their own country back on the right track, be a part of it."

The service effort will focus on:

1) promoting clean energy, energy efficiency, and public land restoration;

2) supporting education and literacy for all Americans;

3) increasing health care access, public health awareness, and prevention; and

4) providing community renewal to areas hardest hit by the economic crisis.

Federal agencies are also working on developing tools to assist service activities and to help to track the community impact of these efforts.

First Lady Michelle Obama and the Corporation for National and Community Service announced this initiative to help put volunteers "on a path to sustained service." The initiative launches officiallyon June 22 at the National Conference on Volunteering and Service and culminate in a National Day of Service and Remembrance on September 11.

Additional reading:

Press Release: First Lady Thanks Corporation for National and Community Service Employees

Remarks by the First Lady at a Corporation for National and Community Service Event

Time is running out for all qualifying Alaska nonprofits to apply for the 2010 PFD Contributions Program.

Here are some things to note:

1. Apply now. If you are working with an Alaska nonprofit interested in being considered for the 2010 PFD Contributions Program, you must apply. You can get to the application information via Pick. Click. Give.'s site.

2. Re-Apply. If you are an organization that qualified in 2009 for the program, you still must apply again in order to be considered for 2010. It is not a given that you will get into the program again, plus there are new questions to answer as well as modified guidelines.

3. Do You Qualify? Only qualifying organizations should apply. Guidelines for qualification are in the program's FAQ.

4. Apply Early. Think about submitting your application by May 31, 2009 to receive feedback on your application.

5. The Deadline Is...The final deadline to have your application postmarked is June 15, 2009.

For more information, you can call 1-888-785-GIFT (4438) or email

Customer Satisfaction

Our success at The Foraker Group is measured, in part, by the satisfaction of our customers. Only by meeting your expectations will we be able to fulfill our core purpose of strengthening Alaska nonprofits. Recently you should have received an email about our 2009 Customer Satisfaction Survey if you have worked with us in the last year.

Please take a few moments to complete this survey. It will be open for your participation until May 29. We ask that you select one person from your organization to take the survey -- preferably a senior member of your board or staff. Individual responses will be kept confidential. However, we will share a summary of them with Partners after the survey closes.

As an added incentive this year -- after you have taken the survey we will include your organization in a drawing for one free hour of consulting time. At the end of the survey you will be sent to a separate web page to enter your name, organization, phone and email. This extra step assures the anonymity of your responses.

Please email for a link to the survey if you haven't received our notice.

A recent article on The Chronicle of Philanthropy reports that women are taking a more prominent role in charitable giving for their household.

The study, sponsored by Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund, found that 80 percent of the respondents to their survey were married and the majority of the men who responsed said that their spouse was the primary influencer in charitable-giving decisions for their household. Women who participated in the study tended to name a wider range of influencers in their giving decisions including family members, friends, and co-workers. Almost half the women surveyed felt strongly about involving their children in philanthropy compared to 39% of the men.

High Income Women's Giving Habits

The survey also focused in on higher-income women and found that this particular group were more likely (than other survey respondents) to make public gifts to charity, to use more complicated financial structures to make gifts, and to turn to financial advisors when making charitable contributions.

Also according to the report, high-income women were more likely than other survey participants to donate to health and science-related causes and to make additional gifts to charity in response to increasing needs and difficult economic times.

The study found that the average charitable giver (male and female) surveyed donated 6 percent of gross household income in 2008 with a vast majority giving up to 10 percent. They also consider charitable giving as a part of their overall financial plan.

But Who Is a Philanthropist, Really?

An interesting finding in the study is that the respondents defined a philanthropist as someone who donates at least $100,000 a year or more. At a time when we're working to educate and create more awareness of the power of individual giving, this perception is a telling factor in why many people don't realize their personal power to give at any amount. Philanthropy doesn't require a minimum dollar amount. A philanthropist can be anyone giving any amount of money, time or attention to an important issue, cause or organization.

NOTE: The survey was conducted online by Chrysalis Research of Kirkland, Wash., and Research Data Technology of Woburn, Mass., from Jan. 28 to Feb. 4, 2009. It included 1,003 respondents who donated at least $1,000 in 2007.

You can read the entire article here and view the press release here.

Dennis McMillian's opinion piece appeared in the Daily News-Miner on May 3rd. He discusses the risks of taking--and relying on--stimulus funds for any Alaska nonprofit. Below is an excerpt of when not to take funding when funding:

 • Requires the organization to start a new program that has not been planned.

• Overextends the capacity of the organization.

• Causes the organization to stray from its mission.

• Provides a short-term band-aid for an organization with systemic funding problems.

McMillian goes on to say that if an organization does not have systems in place to transparently manage and report on the use of stimulus funds — ensuring that taxpayer money is wisely invested — it also should not apply.

Read the entire opinion piece.

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