Guest post by Ryan Crane, Director of Development at Primary Health Care, Inc.
Game-changing fundraisers, networking professionals, gifted writers and executive directors all presented insights and advice at the 2015 Mid America Conference on Fundraising May 4 & 5 at the Marriott in downtown Des Moines.
Nearly 100 Midwesterners who work in the Development field — representing almost as many nonprofits– descended on Des Moines to learn best practices and trade secrets. Breakout sessions on how to ask for major gifts and how to begin a planned giving program at your nonprofit were particularly well-attended, reflecting trends in Development that focus on both those areas.
Direct mail expert Tom Ahern also pointed out, though, that most donors are in their 60s or 70s, and direct mail is still an effective medium with which to reach them.
Between sessions and after each day, participants hustled to ask each other about pitfalls and frequent stumbling blocks, including how to engage millennials and how to create dynamic events.
Monday’s lunch keynote, Marcy Heim, empowered and encouraged participants to brag on themselves a little, and to take part in a form of self-help with a song called “People Love to Give Me Money.”
The closing keynote, Adam Carroll, is a native Iowan who gave a rousing course in crash-networking, demonstrating to the crowd that a person is rarely more than one or two degrees of social separation from achieving their goals and dreams. “Comfortably step outside your comfort zone,” he urged participants.
Overall, the quality of the conference was top-notch, and participants left buzzing with new ideas, lots of energy, and a catchy jingle about how people love to give them money.
As a result of attending this conference, I am re-examining our direct mail approach, tweaking our Community (annual) Report, applying some of the new insights I learned to one of our YP events, and I am doubling down on efforts to engage my board and my Leadership team in planned giving.
Guest post by Amy Yost, Director of Development and Marketing, Iowa International Center
I’ll never forget my first experience meeting several of our international professional visitors, just days after starting my job with the Iowa International Center. Our organization had just welcomed nine journalists from countries around the Middle East to Des Moines, to discuss U.S. press and foreign policy with local leaders. Our volunteers and staff hosted a potluck to welcome and engage them in some delicious citizen diplomacy. It was amazing. Here’s a group shot from the event:
I’m not in this picture because I got to stand back and watch my 7-year old, who insisted he be the one to take the group photo. Witnessing him share lunch and conversation with these wonderful new friends from the other side of the world quickly made up for any parental frustration.
Annually, our organization hosts 130+ international delegates visiting Iowa on a professional exchange. The interactions provide an eye-opening experience in citizen diplomacy without the price tag of an international plane ticket.
I feel my personal interaction as a young(ish) nonprofit professional provides some of our international visitors with a unique perspective on the United States. While talking with recent guests from Kazakhstan, I was asked why companies and organizations give so much back to the community through volunteer hours and donations – through cooperative efforts to build houses for the less fortunate, or initiatives to include disabled individuals in the workforce. It dawned on me that philanthropy as we know it can truly be a “foreign” concept outside the U.S. The world actually has much to learn from central Iowans – specifically from those who keep our non-profit community running. Enter: YOU.
As a non-profit professional, you might not be able to afford twice-a-year transcontinental trips. One way to satisfy your wanderlust might be serving as an Explore Des Moines volunteer. You will welcome international visitors, show off our community and share your life and work with them – with no long-term or overnight hosting commitment. Think of it as a night out with friends from around the globe that you just haven’t met yet.
Explore Des Moines volunteers work with our staff on details before planning dinner and an outing. A friendly, flexible attitude and access to transportation are the simple qualifications. Explore Des Moines volunteer outings with visitors generally last 2 to 3 hours, and opportunities are available year-round. More information, including a volunteer application Form, can be found online here.
Through Explore Des Moines, you’ll help build a positive perception of Iowa on a global scale, and may even have the chance to share knowledge to encourage community-building through philanthropy in another part of the world. I promise you’ll come away feeling more open-minded and inspired about how just how small the world can be, as well as more aware of the awesomeness of your work in our community, too.
Guest post by Norah Carroll, Digital Marketing Strategist at Veridian Credit Union
As a not-for-profit, Veridian Credit Union has a heart for people who give back. Our credit union is owned by our members, and we’re committed to enriching the communities our members call home. We’re excited to open our newest Des Moines-area branch, located at the corner of Ingersoll and MLK, this June. And to celebrate, we want to shine a light on the unsung heroes who are making our community a better place.
Through May 8, we’re inviting non-profits in the Des Moines area to nominate their most dedicated volunteers for the chance to be recognized as a “Volunteer Inspiring Progress,” or VIP, in one of three categories: inclusion, innovation andfinancial literacy. From these nominees, we’ll select three volunteers to honor as VIPs – volunteers who share our vision for the future and who are making our community a better place.
So, what does it mean if your organization’s volunteer is selected as a VIP? To show our support for the work these VIPs are doing,Veridian will donate $1,000 to each non-profit whose volunteer is selected. And, each VIP will also receive a well-deserved gift and recognition at our branch opening event this summer.
To nominate the “best of the best” in your organization, or to find out more about Volunteers Inspiring Progress, visitveridiancu.org/vip. We can’t wait to share the stories of our community’s most inspiring volunteers.
Working in the non-profit sector, we all know that balancing a budget can be a difficult task, and marketing is often an area where organizations are stretched. Even if you’re not a communications professional, you might be called upon to whip up a program flyer or beg a friend to design your gala invite. AIGA Iowa’s Design Assign to the rescue!
Design Assign is part of the national AIGA Design for Good initiative. Design Assign volunteers work pro-bono to create projects that leave meaningful impact on non-profit program may be just what your non-profit needs to revamp a logo, create a new brochure or redesign a website.
Now in its fourth year, Design Assign pairs non-profits in the greater Des Moines area with local designers, web developers, photographers, writers and other creative professionals. Non-profits submit project requests, and creative professionals are assigned to a project. Once non-profits and creatives have been paired up in teams, a kick-off workshop is held. Teams meet in person and discuss the project, which they then work on through the summer to complete. Design Assign concludes with a gala presentation of all the projects in October.
Since 2012, more than 30 local non-profits have participated in Design Assign. Here are some examples of projects completed in previous Design Assign events:
• Rebranding for the Alzheimer’s Association’s Wine & Chocolate Festival
• Promotional brochures for Central Iowa Shelter & Services
• Redesigned brochure and graphics for Youth Emergency Services Shelter (YESS)
• Infographic design for Prevent Child Abuse Iowa
Check out some awesome examples of past work on the AIGA Design Assign Website.
Timeline: Now through April 12, 2015, submit a project request as a nonprofit for Design Assign! For more information project submissions and guidelines, visit designassign.iowa.aiga.org.
Guest post by Mallory Kowal, Health Coordinator with TAVHealth at Mercy Accountable Care Organization in Des Moines
Last week, I experienced my first encounters of the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network kind. My newfound interest in reading the Business Record is partly responsible for this exploration, as its recent issues feature several impressive individuals who identified as members of this group. But what really drew me in was the active engagement of the website and social media presence. Reviewing the many upcoming and past professional, social, and educational opportunities, I thought to myself, ‘Wow, they really get a lot done.’
I started my professional life in Des Moines in 2011 as an AmeriCorps VISTA for Central Iowa Shelter and Services. I could have significantly benefited from YNPN; the other VISTAs and I ran into a lot of dead ends and would have flourished with the support of other nonprofit community leaders. Though my current position is in healthcare and technology, I still strive to make those valuable nonprofit connections because I recognize that the more acquainted I am with the nonprofit world, the better I can assist patients who depend on their services.
It was a Monday and there was a new member social happening at Quinton’s about an hour after I get off work. Quinton’s is comfortable – bright and spacious enough where a newcomer wouldn’t feel like a focal point, Plus, they have a happy hour I can get with. So I brought my best “for-profit friend” and we moseyed on up to the small group that had gathered. The next hour passed in pleasant company where we shared laughs and experiences (professional and not), and I felt that I had met a distinctly refreshing genre of Des Moinesian.
Toeing the water had proven to be agreeable, so I decided to attend a discussion group a few days later on how to connect with colleges, led by Iowa Campus Compact and representatives of our local higher educational institutions – Drake, DMU, Simpson, Central, Iowa State, and the University of Iowa. Keeping with the “room-to-grow” feeling, this meeting was held at West End Salvage – an even brighter and more open space – and I was impressed to see three full tables of young people, even though it was 8 a.m. on a Thursday. I purchased a delicious café au lait and found a seat.
Throughout the discussion, I learned that many nonprofits had partnered with local colleges with strong results: Drake has a community initiative that drives students and faculty members to foster positive change within the surrounding neighborhoods, DMU students hosted a health fair for clients of the Easter Seals of Iowa, Central College used GIS mapping to aid DMARC in their aim to identify food islands and opportunities through outreach, and the University of Iowa is co-writing grants with the Iowa Cancer Consortium.
These successes in health, technology, and financial services assured me that although I am no longer a student, universities are both packed with incredible resource capacities and still very accessible. I was grateful to find that my peers had also retained an undying love for their alma mater, and channeled this devotion into game-changing accomplishments and reciprocal relationships.
In short, the morning was positively inspiring, and I walked away with some priceless new connections to other young professionals and my head buzzing with ideas. Thank you to YNPN for existing, and keep up the amazing work!
Looking to recruit college interns and job applicants to your nonprofit? A great place to start is with the local career centers. We compiled a handy list of contacts (current as of Feb. 2015) in the area to help you make the connection.
Download an awesome resource here: YNPN Des Moines Master Internship College Contacts
Guest post by Shayna Holle, Intern for Big Brothers, Big Sisters of Central Iowa and student at Simpson College
I was recently involved with YNPN as a student panelist for one of their series discussions entitled “Afraid to Ask: Creating Quality Learning Experiences for Students.”
From a student’s perspective, I think it’s great that young nonprofit professionals in the Des Moines area are hungry to figure out how they should be approaching students and the most effective ways to do so. Not only does this series benefit YNPN members, but it also benefits students. As you all desire the best intern for your organization, we desire to be the best intern for the organization that’s right for us. That is something I truly believe. However, sometimes it can be difficult to find that perfect fit.
So, how do you find the right candidate for your organization?
I think it starts with generating a detailed and specific position description. Every potential intern or volunteer should be able to gather a sense of the position or opportunity. Generating desired tangible outcomes for the candidate to see is crucial. It’s also important to provide more description than what you think is necessary. Don’t compromise what you’re looking for in a potential intern or volunteer by not listing the qualifications you desire and the tasks you want completed. Because just like you, we also want to get the most out of our experiences and opportunities.
Besides specificity, I think it’s extremely important to be aware of and to utilize your connections with local colleges andabout anyone and everyone you have interacted with at Drake, Central, Grandview, Iowa State or Simpson. Connections are vital. Being a student at Simpson has allowed me to establish and develop valuable relationships with my professors and other faculty members on campus. When someone on campus approaches me about an opportunity, nine times out of 10, I’ll apply for it. My professors know me; they know my qualifications, experience and skills. When they approach me, it’s because they believe I’m qualified and that I would be a good fit for whatever position it might be. As young professionals within the nonprofit world, you’ve been exposed to how influential and instrumental networking actually is. Utilize your experience and knowledge and become connected to the schools in the area in some way, whether that’s through professors, students or other faculty members.
As a soon-to-be college graduate, I can speak from experience that I wish more nonprofit organizations would be proactive about reaching out to colleges and universities when opportunities arise. So many students, just like myself, are passionate about making a difference and being involved with organizations who advocate for those who aren’t able to do so for themselves. College students are eager to establish lasting impressions, and I believe nonprofits are the perfect place to begin.
Guest post by Emily Boyd, Neighborhood Engagement Coordinator for Community Housing Initiatives, Inc.
In the nonprofit world, we’re constantly trying to find ways to implement our mission. We fulfill our mission by offering programs, gathering important data for policy changes, advocating for those who cannot advocate for themselves, creating meaningful solutions and more.
At times, we see collaborations among nonprofits for noteworthy events and networking opportunities to share new programs and services available: But are those things making long-term impacts? Are you seeing the needle move in your field?
A workshop titled Facilitating Collaboration: Strategies and Tools for Shared Success was offered earlier this year by The Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines. The main point was that single organizations cannot address complex social issues alone. It takes a group of organizations from various fields and passionate individuals who are willing to come together to tackle an issue.
“These leaders realized that fixing one point on the educational continuum—such as better after-school programs—wouldn’t make much difference unless all parts of the continuum improved at the same time. No single organization, however innovative or powerful, could accomplish this alone. Instead, their ambitious mission became to coordinate improvements at every stage of a young person’s life, from “cradle to career.” Strive didn’t try to create a new educational program or attempt to convince donors to spend more money. Instead, through a carefully structured process, Strive focused the entire educational community on a single set of goals, measured in the same way.”
The workshop and article mentioned above both reiterate that you have to set aside yourpersonal agenda to create a common agenda with a joint approach.
How do you see this approach benefiting the population you serve? Where can cross-sector partnerships change the system of how people are working together to address a complex issue? As young professionals, how can we pave the way with innovative solutions that make our community safer, healthier, stronger?
There are few coalitions that exist in the metro, one being Viva East Bank, something I helped spearhead to address neighborhood revitalization. It’s only in initial stages, but it’s a model we hope to spread near and far throughout the Des Moines metro. We certainly have a long way to go, but as The Community Foundation says time and time again, we are better together.
Guest post by Anna Wernimont, AmeriCorps VISTA Change Agent for Community Youth Concepts
As a newbie to Des Moines, joining YNPN was a great way for me to be introduced into the exciting and energetic non-profit world. No matter your age or experience, transitioning is one of the most difficult things we go through as individuals. As I navigate through the unknown, having the opportunity to build my social and professional networks while also being exposed to continuing education and support is extremely valuable.
It’s exciting to be able to have YNPN as an avenue for so many of us in Des Moines as they provide a wide variety of engaging opportunities such as the NON-CON mini conference. At the beginning of January, YNPN hosted their first conference, which was, as the title suggestions, non-traditional and non-scripted. (Being inventive is nothing new to this group of exceptional leaders who make up the YNPN board. This is encouraging for us less-than-average creative people.)
With over 75 people at the non-con, the room was energized. We opened up with an improv session that highlighted difficult conversations common in the nonprofit sector, with commentary from the crowd and Sherri Nielsen, Executive Director of Easter Seals, offering us her wise insight for common situations in the non-profit world which require delicate handling. From there we had the opportunity to choose two of four breakout sessions hosted by our very own young professionals of Des Moines.
I enjoyed attending the conference because of how comfortable the environment was.I engaged with old friends and met new ones, explored topics that spark my interests, and was reminded of the value behind why I choose to do the passionate work I do. I was uplifted reflecting on the natural talents I offer to my projects (Ariane Criger; The Creative Design Process) but also felt supported discussing the critical importance of taking care of our personal wellness first and foremost (Emily Boyd; Burnout Prevention).
I am already eager for next year and to see the ways in which YNPN can expand upon NON-CON and their operations as a great network in Des Moines.
Guest post by Matt Hauge, Communications & Marketing Director at Community Housing Initiatives, Inc.
The event supports greater Des Moines’ non-profit sector using the “hackathon” concept to create solutions for all sorts of technology challenges organizations face. Participating non-profits start the event by describing their technology challenges to a team of about 80 developers, designers and project managers. Then the participants divide up to form teams of about 8-10 people who will spend the next 48 hours intensely working to build a solution for the nonprofit.
Applications are now being accepted for participating nonprofits at the dsmHack.orgwebsite through February 13.
Below the jump, Matt Hauge, who serves on the board of Urban Ambassadors, an organization that participated in 2014’s hack event, has answered some questions about participating in the event. We also recommend checking out this great report from Kristin Huinker, another participant in last year’s event.
What is dsmHack and why should our nonprofit participate?
The Des Moines Charity Hack (dsmHack) is a two-day event that brings together an incredible range of technology experts to help advance your organization’s mission. If you have had a website, database, or other technology problem but lacked the skills, money, or time to get started with a solution–well, your dsmHack team will knock your socks off with how much they can help.
What kind of projects can we submit?
dsmHack offers your nonprofit two days of service from an incredible team of talented tech pros–for free. We encourage you to dream big and submit the project you’ve always wanted to see happen.
Example projects include automating paper processes like volunteer registration or creating web forms to use instead of paper forms. Your team could help improve and modernize your organization’s website. They could help clean up your organization’s database of donors, or or use it for a new purpose, like sending e-newsletters.
They can also help create new ways to engage your donor and client communities. Last year, one team developed an innovative e-card solution, and another team developed a fun game to educate donors about the organization’s mission.
At the event, everyone’s goal is making sure nonprofits leave with a successfully completed project they can use right away. The dsmHack organizers do their best to admit nonprofits whose project ideas can be reasonably accomplished in the 48 hour timeframe of the event, and they may suggest that you consider alterations to your project to boost its chances of being a success. Also, once you meet your project team, you’ll be able to agree with them what’s reasonable with the time and talent available.
So what actually happens during the event?
First of all, you’ll build your team. When tech participants arrive at dsmHack, they are not automatically assigned to a group, and they may not have heard of the participating nonprofits. That’ll change quickly. Nonprofits are invited to give a short presentation (5 minutes or less! no slides!) introducing your work and your project. Then, participants divide up around the room to form project teams. The dsmHack organizers helps make sure each nonprofit is able to pull together the best team possible for its project.
For a surprising amount of the event, nonprofit participants are able to sit back and relax. Yes, your team will have questions for you, but as long as you’re available to help them out and offer encouragement, they’re hard workers, and they stay focused. At the same time, it’s really fun to get to know your team a little bit and find out what drove them to choose to help out your organization.
At the end of the event Saturday, nonprofits gather and your tech team presents its completed work back to you. For some nonprofit participants, this may be the most exciting and gratifying experience you’ve ever had with technology.
Does it cost anything to participate? What’s required?
There is no cost to nonprofits to participate in the dsmHack event. At the same time, your organization is responsible for software, equipment, web hosting, and similar costs associated with your project.
Your project team works incredibly hard for you during the 48 hour event–and they actually pay for the privilege of working for you. As a result, participating nonprofits are expected to follow certain guidelines for participation.
Nonprofits are asked to have a representative on-site for the first four hours of the event Thursday, over the lunch hour Friday and Saturday, and for the last two hours of the event Saturday. (You are welcome to stay longer!) It’s also necessary to have someone from your nonprofit on-call to answer questions from your team throughout as much of the event as possible–yes, even in the wee hours.
The dsmHack organizers do their best to admit nonprofits whose projects can reasonably be completed in the 48-hour time frame of the event, and your project team will do everything they can to make it happen. However, the organizers are not able to guarantee follow-up support for projects after the event. It will be your responsibility to agree with your project team whether they are able to continue their volunteer service after the event. That’s why taking time to get to know your project team members and talk about their interest in the organization is so important.
Have more questions or want to sign up? Head over to dsmHack.org for more information or to contact the organizers.