Why nonprofits should consider Facebook advertising

Back in November, ActionSprout, a company designed to help nonprofits engage with supports on social media, teamed up with Facebook to offer free Facebook ad credits to nonprofits around the country. The application process was simple — enter your basic info and Facebook page and click “submit.” I was pretty sure it was a long shot, but what nonprofit communicator turns down a deal like that?


A few weeks later, I was notified that Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation had received $1,200 in free ad credits. No joke. Enter champagne emoji. These ad credits were to come in three chunks — $400/month for Dec., Jan. and Feb. Beyond that, there were very few restrictions — ActionSprout simply wanted to let us leverage the dollars to make the most impact.

Anybody working in nonprofit communications (and specifically with digital) will understand my glee. For comparison, as an organization, INHF had spent maybe $500 on Facebook promotions over the last three YEARS. I quickly set about planning, and here are some things I learned so far:

A little goes a long way

Compared to more traditional forms of advertising, Facebook ads are a steal, cost-wise. If your nonprofit engages in traditional promotion, I would strongly suggest working digital advertising into your communications budget. Not only do you get quantifiable reach and engagement numbers, even small campaign budgets can make a huge splash with the right targeting. $20 could do wonders for your digital presence.

Reaching new audiences

Almost every nonprofit struggles to reach specific audiences, whether it’s millennials, major donors or the communities they’re trying to help. The ad credits INHF received have let us target groups of people we don’t often reach. We’ve run a specific month-long campaign to garner page likes and engagement from 25-40 year olds. We’re bringing new people in — people we want to hear our message — and can now tailor content to engage them with our organization without it falling on nonexistent ears.

Involving other departments

Sometimes, when you come into a little bit of money, coworkers come out of the woodwork with their own digital desires — ideas for campaigns or content that they want to experiment with. Our development team tried formal year-end fundraising on Facebook for the first time. Our land projects department saw an opportunity to share the stories of some properties we’ve protected recently. We were able to boost policy initiatives to targeted audiences, encouraging them to contact legislators. Our whole team has gotten involved, and it’s been an amazing way to engage non-communicators in my job and passion.

How have you used Facebook ads to boost your communication? Leave your tips, stories or questions in the comment section.

Discussion Group Recap: Partnering to Leverage Funding Opportunities

By Sarah Welch, Communications Director, Prevent Child Abuse Iowa

Suzanne Mineck, president of Mid-Iowa Health Foundation (MIHF), joined our YNPN morning discussion on October 15 to share a few insights into how collaborative partnerships can leverage greater funding opportunities. Here are a few highlights from the conversation:

According to Suzanne, the problems communities are dealing with today are complex and the response system is siloed, making it impossible for one individual or organization to fully address an issue. Partnerships bring together knowledge and perspective to address an issue from all angles.

For example, in addressing youth development, a group needs to look at aspects such as safety, family dynamics, early childhood development, available community supports, and other areas to achieve greater results.

It is important for funders, like MIHF, to be at the table, but one foundation or organization should not be the only funder of a collaborative effort. Partnerships can help all organizations working on the issue to pool their limited resources to have greater impact as well.

The downside to collaboration, noted Suzanne, is that you can lose some control, since you are one voice of many at the table. Many voices can also make an initiative more complicated to move forward.

All of these aspects were part of the Connections Matter project I shared as an example at the October 15 discussion. The Connections Matter initiative brought together Central Iowa partners who were all interested in addressing the same question: How do we make the public more aware of trauma research and engage people in responding?

Through this partnership, we developed a shared message and tools to help this message spread throughout communities. Mid-Iowa Health Foundation got us started with an initial grant, but the collaborative nature of the effort helped us secure other grants, and we have been able to leverage each organization’s resources, such as a registration system or coordination time.

The reasons why this collaborative effort worked for us is that it brought diverse partners to the table to address a specific problem we all noticed. The broad and unifying focus of the effort inspired new partnerships and funding opportunities as well. Except for the website, we have not tied any of our names to the project so that it is seen as a true community effort.

Along the way, I’ve learned that coordinating a project like this requires significant planning. It is important for each person to feel like they have a voice and can own part of the work. Each member must also be generous with resources, sharing what funding they secure for the greater good of the effort.

The result has been a community initiative that has had greater impact than my organization of six staff members could have achieved alone. Learn more about the project and the partners involved at www.connectionsmatter.org.

Please share: What has been a successful collaborative effort you’ve been a part of and what made it successful?

Being Innovative


I recently attended “Igniting Innovation: Creating a Culture of Opportunity,” a workshop hosted by The Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines. This session was facilitated by the co-owner of the meyvn group, Tammy Rogers.

The session began by working in a group to define what creativity means and what innovation means. It took me a while to actually formalize my thoughts, but what we determined is that creativity leads tothe development of ideas. Innovation is the process of implementing the ideas. Do you agree?

I tend to have ideas float in and out of my mind almost daily. Some are huge, while others are simplethings that could make work a little more efficient. Sometimes I propose ideas immediately and other times I keep quiet until I’m able to articulate what I’m thinking. I remember as an AmeriCorps Member fresh out of college the ideas and visions I had for my position. After going to Washington DC for a training, I was motivated to change the world and nothing was going to stop me! And then I proposed a
few ideas to my director and got firehosed.

When you firehose someone, things like this are said: “We’ve already tried that. Where do you think we’ll get the money? We don’t have the staff for that. I don’t have time for that. Umm, let me think about it.” Firehosing is toxic and such a creativity crusher. More than any aspect of this session, putting
language around that word made the deepest impact for me personally. To put it simply, it’s how you respond to someone’s idea that can make or break a culture of innovation. Words can kill ideas. Period.

Say for example you have an idea and the backing of your friends, coworkers or whatever people needed to move forward. The process looks something like this:

1. Clarify the situation: put some parameters around an issue you see. What do you know about it? What is happening currently?

2. Generate ideas: be open to any idea, look for what’s right

3. Develop solutions: find ways to make it work, build something cheap and fast, find the most promising ideas

4. Implementation: move forward with the idea

There are a lot of different “innovation processes” online if you want to dig a little deeper, but those are the general steps given by Tammy. Another helpful part of the work session was grouping individuals into the different categories associated with the numbers. Some people tend to be more of the idea generators, while others are all about the process of developing solutions to ideas. Since I identify more with number three on the list, I find that number twos can drive me insane. I think to myself, “Why would you think of a million ideas and not act on any of them?” Then again, where would organizations and businesses be without the number twos? It’s important to learn to appreciate the differences every person or colleague brings to the table.

Sometimes I think we need to make more space for innovation, whether it’s in our own personal lives or at the workplace. Not everything is going to work in reality, but as Tammy stated, “fail well and recover quickly.” Do you need more innovation in your environment? I find that these sort of conversations shake up my daily routines and make me a little more curious. Where can innovation exist in your world? And when it does exist, how can you support those around you during the process?

Interested in reading more on innovation? Check out this post on INC. or this post on Fast Company.


 Emily Boyd is a Co-Founder of POP UP YOGA DSM

NLC Fellowship Application and Nomination Period is in full swing!

On behalf of New Leaders Council Des Moines, we were thrilled to join YNPN members and other local leadership programs for networking on Sept. 10. It was a great opportunity to meet potential candidates for the NLC fellowship as our application and nomination period is in full swing.

New Leaders Council is a national nonprofit dedicated to preparing the next generation of progressive leaders. The Des Moines chapter is now recruiting for our sixth year of the NLC Institute, a leadership and professional development program for young progressives. NLC fellows receive training in leadership, entrepreneurship, nonprofit and political management, fundraising, communications, and more. There are fantastic opportunities to network with other young progressives and with leaders in politics, nonprofits, and business. The Institute runs January through May, one weekend per month. The only cost is a $30 application fee; there is no cost for the Institute itself.

If that sounds interesting, come to our Happy Hour at Royal Mile on Oct. 7. You can also contact me at [email protected].

Applications and nominations are open now at www.newleaderscouncil.org.

(Anyone can nominate a potential fellow – all you need is their name and email address. If you know someone who would be a good candidate, nominate them!) You don’t need to be nominated to apply. Applications are due November 1, 2015.

We hope to chat with more YNPN members at our upcoming events! Thanks for having us at yours.

Stacie Bendixen, Recruitment Chair

New Leaders Council Des Moines

Let’s Get Ready for the YNPN Leadership Development Series presented by Alan Feirer

Check out the blog below from Alan. For this and more great blogs from Alan, go to his blog home page here!

You can also register for the 2 part Leadership Development Series here!

Group Dynamic Primer Chapter Four: Communication


If there’s one skill that leaders must master and habitually improve, it’s communication.

If you read this blog, you’ll see that it’s a pretty popular area of concern.

So many dysfunctions, productivity concerns, drama, misunderstandings, and performance failures can be traced directly to communication mis-steps.

It’s tough to summarize this, but here’s an attempt:

Communication goes out, and it comes in.

To keep both channels flowing freely:

Communicate “out” with practiced skill — write well, speak clearly and specifically [and with solid presentation skills], and ensure that your body language is consistent with your message.

Communicate “in” with conscious deliberation — read carefully,listen actively [with verbal, physical, and visual affirmation], and be mindful of the tone, body language, and personality style of the speaker.

Great reads that can help your communication skills includeInfluencerCrucial Conversations, and Secrets of Successful Speakers.

“The only way to lead when you don’t have control is to lead through the power of your relationships.” – Margaret Wheatley

Rate yourself – and/or ask others to rate you – on these:

  • I listen well, with total focus on the speaker.
  • I speak well, clearly, specifically, in a way that leaves no question what I meant and that shows total respect to the person listening.
  • When helping or correcting someone, I address a person’s specific actions, not their attitude.

Save the Date: NON-CON 2016

Our inaugural NON-CON in 2015 brought 100 attendees together — using improv, slam poetry and mind-mapping illustration, among other innovative sessions — to explore nonprofit management through the lens of art at the Des Moines Social Club.

This year, we’re back with a theme that’s oh-so-caucustime-in-Iowa: Advocacy!


SAVE THE DATE: NON-CON 2016 is Friday, Jan. 15, 2016 

NON-CON 2016 will run from Noon-4:30 p.m. on Jan 15, 2016 at the State Historical Building in Des Moines.

The second annual YNPN Des Moines “NON-CON” is an opportunity for professionals at various stages in their careers to explore advocacy and storytelling as skills that relate to work in mission-driven organizations — especially in an election year. The event will combine a keynote from Washington, D.C.-based Bolder Advocacy, and workshops with local and national experts.

Like last year, this isn’t your typical conference, with PowerPoint-filled sessions and pontificating panels. You’ll be actively engaged in conversations and activities. We hope to see you there!

If your organization is interested in sponsoring the event, contact [email protected] for details 

Discussion Group Recap: From Event Participant to Dedicated Donor

Guest post by Brianne Sanchez, Community Relations Manager at Des Moines University and founding YNPN Des Moines co-chair.

YNPN_7-9-2015_3.jpgCongratulations! Your event was sold-out, the food on point and the fundraising goal for the night was met. Kick off your shoes and savor the moment for a minute. But, let’s be honest, you’re probably already asking yourself ‘How do I get all of those smiling people in the event’s photo gallery* to make the leap from partygoers to dedicated patrons?’

First — you’re not alone! There’s a delicate balance between hosting a buzzed-about event and one with a program so long it becomes a snooze-fest, and all development professionals try to walk it with care.YNPN_7-9-2015_6.jpg

Elaine Appleby of the Charitable Giving Resource Center joined us to provide ideas and examples as part of our July discussion group “From Event Participant to Dedicated Donor.”

The essence of her message was encapsulated in a handout from event360:A fundraising event is not an end in and of itself.

It’s easy to breathlessly move from planning mode of your walk to planning mode of your gala to planning mode of your luncheon, but if you truly want to cultivate attendees, you have to stop seeing them as simply seat-fillers and put in the effort to engage them more deeply. This engagement can take the form of pre and post-event touches. A few thoughts shared by discussion group attendees.

If the Des Moines Playhouse hosts a rollicking Hollywood Halloween event, it might not make sense to stop the fun and drone on about the impact donors dollars have on the mission of the organization. But, could they leverage the Facebook event to not only prime attendees for auction items, but to share a behind-the-scenes video tour, or testimonial from a well-known patron?

The Iowa chapter of the Make-A-Wish Foundation leverages QTego technology for a text-to-give campaign. Because that technology captures the phone numbers of all of their donors, the staff follows up with around 900 personal thank-you calls.

Many events are centered around celebrating community leaders, and attendees are there to support their friends. The Iowa International Center Passport to Prosperity is one such event. It would be a missed opportunity to let so many potential supporters leave without a sense of the organization’s overall mission, but the message might not sink in from a simple place card. If you know you might have a few open seats at tables of 10, what about inviting some of your super volunteers the the event and having them fill in. You’ll likely get some organic conversation started about what the mission means to them, without putting your ED at the podium for a 20-minute speech. 

Appleby’s handout also included a sample engagement plan for event donors who fall into the major gift cultivation strategy:


Source: Download the entire event360 whitepaper here.

In my small group, we talked about the importance of not bombarding YPs with follow-up mailings, but engaging them to help on planning committees during a time in their life where they might be exploring which causes to invest in more deeply as their paychecks grow!


*p.s. Don’t forget to submit your gala pics to DSM magazine!

Afraid to Ask: Becoming a Public Speaking Pro

Guest post by Chantelle Mathany, YNPN Social Committee Co-chair and Development & Communications Specialist with the Alzheimer’s Association Greater Iowa Chapter

I’ll be the first one to admit I am not the greatest at public speaking, so I was eager to attend our quarterly Afraid to Ask series that focused on the subject. This installment featured Julie Mahlstedt, MS, Manager of Design and Development at Nationwide Insurance. Before her current role, Julie developed her public speaking “pro” status at Tero International, a company that provides training programs and coaching services to maximize effectiveness and a professional approach to skill development. She presented practical tips for face-to-face communication that can help effectively communicate your brand message.

7-1-Dara.jpg 7-1-Group2.jpg 7-1-Group4.jpg

One of the key points Julie covered was the importance of eye contact. How many of you were told to look at the crowd or stare at the third eye on someone’s forehead? News flash: we can see you do that and we’re judging you. Sorry, it’s true – don’t do it! Look at one person at a time, then finish and look to the next – by this you’re also making the audience feel included and special. Another useful fact Julie shared is the person with the highest level of eye contact in a room is received as the most credible. Have a meeting where you’re all sitting down? Put a high flip chart on the wall so you can stand up and lead your message.

The success of your presentation will be judged not by the knowledge you send but by what the listener receives. -Lilly Walters

Some more tips Julie shared:

  1. Look for symmetry in your posture and gestures – stand up straight!
  2. Put nervous energy into your gestures and content or “walk it off” beforehand.
  3. If it’s brand new information, keep it short and leave time for questions and answers to lead the audience from passive to active. And always have a question loaded and ready to lead questions (no one wants to be the first to ask).
  4. Aggressive question? Affirm the questioner vs. the question with something like, “I appreciate you asking, thanks for bringing it up.” Don’t join their adrenaline zone.
  5. Remember primacy and recency. Wrap up with “in closing” or “in conclusion” and address your main objective. What’s your ask? What’s their last thought going to be? Make it impactful!


And don’t forget your elevator speech!! Who are you and what is your job title? How are you positively impacting your organization? What would you like to share about this organization? And finally, what makes you proud about working for _____? (mission/common purpose). Have this ready and you’ve set yourself miles ahead of those who haven’t crafted theirs.

Three things I learned from leading YNPN Des Moines


By Brianne Sanchez, YNPN Des Moines founding co-chair and Community Relations Manager at Des Moines University 

This is my last official week as co-chair of YNPN Des Moines, an organization I helped get off the ground in 2012. It’s exciting to see new leaders take office, but I’ll admit that “handing over the keys” is bittersweet. I’ve worked on YNPN through graduate school, the birth of my first child, a job change and half of my second pregnancy. It’s been my opportunity to flex tiny entrepreneurial wings without too much personal risk. It would be selfish of me to stay too long, when I think of all YNPN has done for me, and of the amazing leaders who are on deck. 

I truly feel that the lessons learned and connections I made while founding our group with a bunch of smart, dedicated people have given me a deeper capacity for and understanding of success. These days, success, to me, is walking away from an experience feeling not only that I contributed my skills or thoughts in a meaningful way, but that I met people who challenged me to look more deeply or differently at an issue, or introduced me to something or someone new/interesting.

Our successes as a group have been many. We’ve hosted events of all sizes that bring people together on a personal and professional level. We have a balance sheet that’s in the black, a following that appreciates our efforts and leaders who’ve leveraged their experience with this group to take their careers to the next level. We’ve made friends, too. We’ve provided space for people to be vulnerable, curious, ambitious and grow together.

Here are three key takeaways from working on YNPN for the past 3+ years:

1. Set a date, and tell people about it. How do you turn ideas into action? Create a deadline and accountability. Once you know your launch date, you can work backwards and more easily delegate tasks. Maybe it’s the former journalist in me, but nothing lights a fire like knowing people are expecting a finished product on a certain date. I’ve also found that the more people I tell about a plan, the more likely I am to get something done. So go ahead, create that Facebook event. Book a venue, pull together the basics and then hustle like hell to figure out the rest by the time everyone shows up.

2. Never underestimate the power of clear, consistent communication in starting a movement. One of the first things an organization must do is find its voice. I describe the voice of YNPN Des Moines as informal, yet informative. Every group will likely have a “fake it ’till you make it” phase, and sounding like you have a cohesive plan is step #1 to coming up with one. (HA!) When we launched our group, it was little more than a handful of friends meeting for coffee. Our communications platforms changed that. We had a clear message, and communicated with constituents on a consistent basis, through social mesia and a monthly e-newsletter that now boasts more than 500 subscribers and open rates twice the industry average. On the other hand, when working with a big volunteer board, making sure you double check the clarity of a message can help minimize reply-all nightmares. Yeesh. Run a draft by your co-chair and make sure everything makes sense, if possible.

3. Open yourself to peer mentorship. When we started YNPN, we discussed several options for structuring (fiscal sponsorship, etc.) and decided to set out with a model that would give us the greatest flexibility to grown on our own terms. We knew we had the strength of peer organizations across the national YNPN Network, but we also had mentors and champions within our own community who could lend expertise. Our “Afraid to Ask” series was modeled on the idea that you probably aren’t an expert in everything, but you have friends who are willing to show you the ropes or answer questions you might hesitate to bring up to your boss. Whether you’re grabbing coffee or slinging back a few cold ones while you talk, candid conversations about how the sausage gets made within different organizations can be enlightening, and lead to deeper friendships that will help you grow.

P.S. Maybe it’s the service-learning geek in me, but I do think that at times of transition, reflection is a critical step. The new leadership has vowed to change the passwords on me when they take charge (eep!) but I may continue to contribute a guest post here and there, and you can also find writing me at my personal blog, bsinthemidwest.com.

Thank you so much for the opportunity to serve!

Need a fitness goal? Inspiration? Register for a Nonprofit Walk/Run/Zumbathon, etc!

As part of our May 2015 discussion group, YNPs talked about the need to set fitness goals and train around them. If you’re going to start a Couch to 5K program, why not sign up for a race that benefits one of your favorite organizations? Need motivation to get out on two wheels? Register for a charity ride. Mixing fitness and fundraising is a win-win in the nonprofit world!


Upcoming fitness fun shared by YNPN Des Moines Members:

American Diabetes Association Central Iowa Tour de Cure
Saturday, June 6: 25, 50 or 75-mile rides departing from theYMCA Healthy Living Center
More information

NOCC Iowa Chapter’s 8th Annual Run/Walk to Break the Silence on Ovarian Cancer®
Saturday, June 13, 2015 Raccoon River Park
More information

Alzheimer’s Association: Greater Iowa Chapter
Thurs, June 18 – “Walking Around Town” – Staff and volunteers will be meeting at our office in WDM and walking around town in purple 8am-5pm. Join us for 
a portion of the day to help raise awareness and get some exercise!
Fri, June 19, 5:30-7pm – Zumba Party @ Aspen Athletic Club on Hickman Rd – Wear purple and come Zumba! $10 ticket will benefit our org.
Sun, June 21, 9-10am – Yoga on the Lawn @ WDM City Hall North Lawn – Wear your purple and enjoy free beginner-level yoga! If rain, will take place inside City Hall.
Questions about any? Contact Melissa at 515.440.2722 

Prevent Child Abuse Iowa
Superheroes bike rides are June 20 and 27. Learn more here.

Polk County 4-H
Walk, jog or run the Polk County Clover Dash 5K at the Polk County Fair this July 25 at the Iowa State Fairgrounds.

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