Featured Articles

The rich deliciousness of Blue Avocado . . . in-depth stories that give you the inside scoop.

Whose nonprofit is it anyway?

An all-too-common tale

Allow me to share a story about a small, community nonprofit. The organization, which used cultural immersion experiences as an educational tool, was founded by a dedicated woman who had worked for decades as a school teacher and then began the 501(c)(3) as her passion project. To make it sustainable, she spent three years serving as its unpaid executive director and board president.

Yes, You Really Need One - Why Strategic Planning Matters and How to do it Better

During a recent call with a leader of a nonprofit organization, he asked a question I've been getting more and more. "Do we really need a strategic plan?"

He continued, "It seems like a lot of work for some pie-in-the-sky document that rarely gets used." If done the wrong way, strategic planning can be exactly that: a lot of work for very little result. However, done well, a strategic plan based on an inspiring vision and thoughtful mission, can significantly improve a nonprofit's impact.

Point-Counterpoint: Too Much Influence or Not Enough - Should Nonprofits Be Allowed to Support Political Candidates

After signalling his intentions to do so at the National Prayer Breakfast in February, on May 4, President Trump signed an executive order aimed at weakening the Johnson Amendment, an act that has received mixed reaction from the nonprofit world. Created in 1954 by then Senator Lyndon Johnson, the legislation prohibits churches and other charitable organizations from direct or indirect political campaigning.

Although Trump cannot single-handedly eliminate the amendment (that's a job for Congress), his executive order takes on enforcement of the legislation in what he described as an attempt to make sure "people aren't unfairly targeted for their beliefs."

But this begs the question: what does the administration's latest move mean for nonprofit organizations? Will chipping away at Johnson be net positive or negative? The answer isn't so clearcut. Here, two voices within the sector weigh in.

How To Be a Community-Powered Nonprofit

Accusations of fake news are all over the news. So when donors want old-fashioned, honest information, they are turning to nonprofit news organizations they trust. We asked consultant Kevin Davis, who works with many of these nonprofit journalism organizations, to explain how they are working to gain donors' trust by being community-powered. Pro tip: Any nonprofit communications strategy can benefit from these smart lessons!

If Your Board Looked Like Your Community

Moving Board Diversity from a 'Problem to Solve' to 'Something to Practice.' Staff and Board Members Weigh in on Common Hurdles and How to Overcome Them.

This story is part of New Faces New Spaces, a series by the Irvine Foundation exploring how arts organizations are adapting to reflect the changing demographics of California, engage with their communities, and become more resilient organizations.

Blue Avocado # 98 Summer Bonus Issue

Summertime is a great time to kick back and get some deals. We're bringing you the Blue Avocado with sizzle. In this issue you can sign up for free phone calls with Blue Avocado writers Kim Klein and Vu Le, webinars with Jan Masaoka and Steve Zimmerman, not to mention a couple of cool free accounting products, and discounts on Charity Channel books and Nonprofit Quarterly. Wow!

The rules: sign up for any of these deals within these 4 days or they're gone: Tuesday, July 15-Friday, July 18, 2014. All deals/registrations close at 8 pm Eastern/5 pm Pacific on Friday, July 18.

Our next regular issue (#99) will come to you in September with What Board Members Need to Know About Overhead, an accounting/compliance guide to nonprofit auctions, nonprofit humor, and more. And we're ramping up for our 100th issue celebration in October! --Susan Sanow, Blue Avocado Project Manager and Jan Masaoka, Blue Avocado Publisher

What is Kim Klein Thinking About Now?
Monday, August 4, 2014 12 noon pacific/3 pm eastern

Free! Where else would you get to sit in with legendary speaker, writer and advocate Kim Klein, interviewed by Jan Masaoka and you can ask your questions, too? In this live 60-minute interview we'll hear the backstory to some of Kim's most provocative Blue Avocado articles (such as Coming Out as a Christian and Nonprofit Tax Quiz). And we'll hear what most delights and outrages Kim these days. Don't forget: free, but you must click here to register by July 18.

What's So Funny, Vu?
Monday, August 18, 2014 10 am pacific/1 pm eastern

Free! You already love reading Vu Le, Blue Avocado humor columnist and Seattle nonprofit leader. Join a free conversation with Vu and Jan Masaoka to get the behind-the-scenes scoop on how Vu manages to be so bitingly funny yet still searching for unicorns.

While listening, you can practice his Nonprofit Yoga poses, too. What questions do you want to ask Vu -- besides where he gets his great haircut? Suggestions for future column topics? Sign up free by July 18.

Board Recruitment Time? Use the Blue Ribbon Nominating Committee Technique
Monday, August 11, 2014 10 am pacific/1 pm eastern

Free! Speaker: Jan Masaoka, Founder and Editor, Blue Avocado and CEO of CalNonprofits
Board recruitment discussions often start with the tired question, "Who do we know?" Instead, let's start with "What board members do we need to accomplish our most pressing tasks this year?" Tested successfully with hundreds of nonprofits, we'll also tackle some difficult questions such as whether and how to recruit people of different races or educational backgrounds and whether to have fundraising or donation requirements. Click here to register free . . . only through July 18 of course.

What are Nonprofit CFOs Like and What Do They Want?
Free webinar Monday, August 25, 2014 12 noon pacific/3 eastern

Steve Zimmerman,CPA,MBA, Spectrum Nonprofit Services
In this exclusive-to-Blue-Avocado webinar, co-researcher Steve Zimmerman will recap the findings of the national Nonprofit CFO Study where more than 900 folks weighed in. He'll reveal some surprises about this crucial but often overlooked staff including educational backgrounds, workload, what they think of how their boards understand finance and whether they think their CEOs make fair salaries. And answer all of your questions about it, too. Register here by July 18!

Nonprofit Quarterly discounts

Thank goodness for Rick Cohen and Nonprofit Quarterly; if they weren't covering issues, who would? Rick's articles probing foundation fiscal misadventures and government-nonprofit fiascos, the status of African American museums and more should be required reading. Just for Blue Avocado readers, NPQ is offering a $15 discount on a one-year subscription to its print magazine. In addition to the discount, you will receive the NPQ compendium, How to Create Great Nonprofit Management Teams, from Boards to Leadership -- available for download after checkout. To redeem click here by July 18!

It's a Blue Avocado Happy Hour Meet-Up!
Tuesday, September 9, 2014, 5:30 pm in San Francisco

Pull up a seat at the bar, but there's room for just 35 of our readers! E-mail me (Susan) the title of a favorite Blue Avocado article to blueavocado@hotmail.comby Friday, July 18, 2014 at 9 am pacific/12 noon eastern. If you are among the first 35 responders, you will be sent the secret location to join Jan Masaoka and friends at a San Francisco site Sept 9, 2014, 5:30 pm - 8 pm for no-host fun (light appetizers provided). If you live, work or just happen to be in the area, this will be fun.

Jitasa Offers Free Finance Dashboard Presentation for Your Board

Tired of dull eyes around the table as you walk through the same financial statements and reports yet again? Let Jitasa create dynamic financials dashboards and board presentations from your financials so you can articulate the story behind your numbers -- to the board, the staff, and even yourself.

Jitasa is pleased to offer a free one time service for Blue Avocado readers. Your Jitasa Financial Analyst will:

  • Set up your Executive Financial Dashboard with financials from your QuickBooks system*
  • Create a dynamic PowerPoint presentation of financials for your board meeting

Offer limited to the first 100 respondents who sign up before July 18 at 5 pm pacific/8 pm eastern. Questions? Email Ron Kwak, Director of Marketing at ron.kwak at jitasa.is. Where to sign up? Here.

CharityChannel books: sizzling book discounts

Why read a mystery on the beach when you could be reading a nonprofit management book at a 15% discount? CharityChannel Press offers their entire collection to Blue Avocado readers for 15% off . . . books, manuals, in any quantity, but just for the four-day bonus issue period (July 15 - July 18). You can order as many times as you want over the four-day period.

Start by shopping here, and when you're ready to order, use the code blue and you'll receive the 15% discount. This offer can be used as many times as you want over the four-day period, but the offer may not be combined with any other offer except for additional discounts for bulk purchases.

Need More Sizzle This Summer?
Here are some upcoming summertime Bacon Festivals:

7/18 - 7/20 - Bacon & Barrels - Los Olivos, CA
8/2/14 - Baconfest VA - Roanoke, VA
8/2/14 - Omaha Beer & Bacon Fest - Omaha, NE
8/2/14 - Big Bite Bacon Fest - Long Beach, CA
8/16/14 - Central City Bacon Tour - Central City, CO
8/16/14 - Indiana Bacon Festival - Delphi, IN
8/23/14 - Bacon-Fest - Kansas City, MO
8/23/14 - Bacon, Sports & Beer Celebration 2.0 - Chicago, IL
8/30/14 - Hormel Black Label Bacon Fest - San Diego, CA
9/1/14 - Bacon Labor Day - Simpsonville, SC

Check out www.bacontoday.com for Bacon Festival details.

And finally . . .

If you enjoy Blue Avocado and/or appreciate these special offers, please make a donation to our sponsor American Nonprofits (you can specify it is for Blue Avocado). We're like public tv: free for everyone -- including our 64,000 subscribers -- but we realy on donations from folks like you. And don't forget to pass along Blue Avocado to your friends, co-workers, co-board members and others. Thanks! -- Susan and Jan

Surprise! Most Legacy Gifts DON'T Come from Major Donors

Planned giving professional Greg Lassonde gives us step-by-step instructions for soliciting bequests and planned gifts, and sets this in the context of paradigm changes in the field:

While there is a growing amount of data about the importance of legacy giving, two statistics about prospects stand out above the others:

* 70% of Americans and 80% of Canadians give to charity during their lifetimes

* Fewer than 5% make a legacy gift

This discrepancy offers us an opportunity to reach more donors for legacy gifts than we thought were available, In fact, surprisingly, the majority of legacy gifts (both dollars and numbers) for almost all organizations come from donors who have not been major givers previously.

How could this be so? . . .

A Funder's Message to Other Funders About Overhead

This article is adapted from a presentation made to Grantmakers for Effective Organizations (GEO). Our deepest thanks to Unmi Song for speaking these truths:

Good afternoon; I am Unmi Song, President of the Lloyd A. Fry Foundation. The overhead issue is one of the most important -- and most neglected -- topics that funders should be thinking about and discussing.

There is a lot of buzz around "impact" and "outcomes" and "evidence-based practices." But there is not enough buzz around what it takes for nonprofits to achieve these things.

What I've learned recently is that the assumptions we funders have about overhead are wrong! If we think . . .

How to Staff and Support a Committee

Is staffing a committee more like herding cats or like herding turtles? Actually it's more like Dancing with the Stars. An important skill for nonprofit managers is knowing how to support a committee of volunteers, such as an Advisory Committee, a Board Finance Committee, or a coalition:

Staff at many levels support your organization's volunteer committees. For instance, an administrative assistant may support a committee that is planning the spring fundraiser. Or the CFO may support the board Finance Committee. And, of course, the executive director supports the board.

When supporting a committee, the most seductive trap for a staffperson is . . .

Special 4-Day Discounts, Deals and a Contest! It's Blue Avocado #90

In the best of times or the worst of times, we nonprofits are always ready for a good deal, a good discount or something in our favorite currency: free.

All deals, discounts and freebies end at Friday, September 20, 2013 at 5 pm pacific time (8 pm eastern). And as a bonus to our bonus issue, we have a Blue Avocado contest about boards.

Thanks to our contributors for making these offers. Keep calm and read on. -- Susan Sanow, Blue Avocado Project Manager


How About a Game of Blue Avocado "Truth or Dare" on Boards?

Want to sit around the Blue Avocado campfire with

Jan Masaoka and Rick Cohen? 10 lucky readers will be eligible to join the campfire conversation on boards of directors.

How do you qualify? Submit a true story in 25 words or less of the most funniest/most interesting/most outrageous/most inspiring thing that ever happened to you at a board meeting. Send it to blueavocado@hotmail.com by Friday, September 27 at 5 pm pacific time (8 pm eastern time). Write "Truth or Dare" in the subject matter line. If selected, the idea may be shared with our readers (with or without attribution --- let us know.) Decisions by the judges are final.

The campfire conversation with Jan will occur with the 10 winners on Friday, November 1 at noon pacific time (3 pm eastern time). Winners will be notifed by October 15.


CharityChannel Press offers a 20% discount on everything in its In the Trenches series of books and workbooks, just for Blue Avocadoo readers.

With 24 titles to choose from -- such as fundraising, leading a board, being an executive director, and even how to become a successful consultant -- you're sure to find one you'll like.

Review the catalog of titles, and when you're ready to order, use the code BlueAvocado to get the special deal . . . . but just during the 4-day bonus issue period (Tuesday, Sept 17 through Friday, Sept 20). It applies to any or all of the CharityChannel Press books, manuals, and workbooks, in any quantity. (This offer may not be combined with any other offer except for additional discounts available for bulk purchases.)

A fundraising advice call with Kim Klein (the superstar author and speaker) and a subscription to Grassroots Fundraising Journal: Special subscription rate for Blue Avocado readers: just $29 for a one-year subscrption with unlimited access to the online archive of over 400 fundraising articles. Each issue of the Grassroots Fundraising Journal has practical, do-able pieces on special events, direct mail, major donor programs, membership campaigns and more.

Go to grassrootsfundraising.org/subscribe, choose the $39 rate and enter the promo code "blueavocado". You'll then qualify for the $10 off! Offer good through September 20 at 5:00 pm pacific.

And, Blue Avocado readers who subscribe will be invited to have your burning fundraising questions answered on a free call with the Grassroots Institute for Fundraising Training's Laurene Francois and Kim Klein! The one-hour conversation is set for Tuesday, November 12 at 1:00 pm pacific time (4pm eastern).


Master Class for Technology Champions

Technology Champions aren't necessarily code wizards. Instead, they understand the role of technology in supporting the work their organization does, and work to make it part of their organization's master plan.

Join NTEN for Master Classes in San Francisco on September 19, in Atlanta on October 24, or in Austin on November 14, and become a Technology Champion at your organization! Blue Avocado subscribers can click on the city name to register for the master classes at $30 off (discount code MC-BlueAvo!) Must register by September 20th to get this great rate.

Social Media for Nonprofits / Nonprofit Bootcamp

If you're in the Bay Area, don't miss these TWO opportunities: attend the Nonprofit Boot Camp on October 10 or Social Media for Nonprofits on October 11 at a special Blue Avocado reader price! Blue Avocado readers get $30 off your registration for either day. Tickets include registration, breakfast and lunch.

Just visit here and use the promo code "AVO" to register now.


Nonprofit Sustainability: Making Strategic Decisions for Financial Viability
October 17, 2013, 12 noon - 1 pm Pacific time (3 pm - 4 pm eastern)

Speakers: Jan Masaoka, Blue Avocado and CEO of CalNonprofits, and Steve Zimmerman, Spectrum Nonprofit Services

Too often program goals are discussed separately from financial means, although we all know that both must be discussed together. Jan and Steve will present the methodology for doing so from the book they co-authored with Jeanne Bell: Nonprofit Sustainability: Making Strategic Decisions for Financial Viability. This model can be used as an adjunct to or substitute for traditional strategic planning. Click here to register free by Friday, September 20 at 5 pm pacific time (8 pm eastern).

Get The Most Out of Your Year-End Fundraising
November 7, 2013, 10 am - 11:30 am pacific time (1:00- 2:30 eastern time)

Speaker: Kim Klein, Klein & Roth Consulting (and famous author and speaker!)

Can you say yes to any of these statements?

  1. I had a year-end plan but I got way behind and didn't revise it
  2. My year end plan is on track but we have to raise more money than we thought
  3. I admit I never had a year-end plan and now it seems late to create one

You are not alone. It is not too late to raise a lot more money in 2013. In this fast-paced webinar, Kim Klein will discuss six different strategies most organizations can do in the time that remains before December 31, 2013. You will learn how to focus on the donors most likely to give, who you should ask in person, what you really can do with social media, and how to get ready for next year. Click here to register for free. Registration remains open only until 5 pm pacific time (8 pm eastern) on Friday, September 20.

Matter-ness...How to Make Everyone in Your Ecosystem Count
November 13, 2013 10 am- 11:30 am pacific time (1 pm-2:30 pm eastern)

Speaker: Allison Fine, Senior Fellow, Demos

At the heart of all social change work are people. Allison Fine will explain how to re-organize our work to ensure that every person who wants to matter has an opportunity to speak, create, organize and donate on their behalf.

Allison is a Senior Fellow on the Democracy Team at Demos: A Network for Change and Action in New York City. She is the author of two award-winning books, contributes to HBR.org, hosts a monthly podcast for the Chronicle of Philanthropy, and writes her own blog.

To register for the free workshop, click here. Registration remains open until 5 pm pacific (8 pm eastern) on Friday, September 20.


Accounting and Bookkeeping Services for nonprofits

Jitasa currently serves over 200 nonprofits (they only work with nonprofits) across the United States, saving them up to 25% on their bookkeeping and accounting needs. Jitasa is offering Blue Avocado readers who are new customers an additional 20% off set-up fees. That could translate into savings of over $1,000 for your nonprofit.

To take advantage of this four-day offer follow the steps below:

  1. Fill out the Request a Quote Form by Friday, September 20
  2. Type the code BLUEAVOCADO13 in the comments section on the bottom of the form
  3. Speak with our agent to discuss the right solutions for your nonprofit
  4. Sign a contract for Jitasa solutions and receive 20% off your setup fees (you have only have to request a quote by September 20, not get through all the steps)

To learn more, visit www.jitasa.is or contact sales@jitasa.is. To request a quote, click here.


Don't forget that the biggest deal of all just may be your subscription to Blue Avocado - and you get that delivered to your inbox for absolutely free. What a deal! Why not say thank you with a gift to support Blue Avocado? Click here.


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