Friday, November 30, 2007

Sex Scandal Clean-up Continues At American Red Cross

By Paul Clolery

The American Red Cross (ARC) is undertaking a forensic audit of money spent by deposed Chief Executive Officer Mark Everson to determine if any of the charity’s money was used inappropriately as he romanced a married female subordinate who is now reportedly pregnant.

Everson, whose salary was $500,000, will receive nothing from the organization in terms of termination pay, said Carrie Martin, an ARC spokesman. “There is no severance package. The board has offered Mr. Everson a contribution (under $10K) to assist with medical insurance costs,” Martin responded via email to questions from The NonProfit Times.

The organization just started the review, according to sources. “The board members are livid,” said one ARC staffer with direct knowledge of the situation. “If he spent a dime, or bought a dinner, they are going to want it back.”

According to Martin, “As a matter of due diligence, the Red Cross has been reviewing sources that may potentially unearth evidence of financial or other impropriety. No evidence to suggest this has been found. … Therefore, we cannot speculate as to what actions the organization would take if any were found.”

Everson, 53, married with two adopted children, resigned Nov. 27 during a conference call with the ARC board. He had been on the job just six months. A senior staff member brought the situation to the board nine days earlier. The investigation was not initiated because of a complaint from the female subordinate.

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Thursday, November 29, 2007

5 reasons YOU should be on the "tube"

With the explosion of YouTube -- and everyone else and their uncle jumping on the video bandwagon -- the use of video can now be an inexpensive tool for nonprofits to promote their causes. Michael Hoffman, of See3 Communications, which creates media for nonprofits, offers the following advice for nonprofits looking to dip a toe into the world of online broadcast:

  1. Video is more important than ever and it's here to stay. As the Web and television come together, your Web site is becoming a channel and the need to have engaging video content is becoming an organizational imperative. Imagine being given television time and using it to put up a PDF.
  2. There are so many ways to use video these days, that the "Dinner Video" model no longer makes sense. Instead, document what your organization does on a regular basis, and make sure to check the calendar so you don't miss the most interesting moments. Create a library of content, which you can go back and reuse and repurpose over time. As this library grows, so do your story options.
  3. Not everything has to be done professionally. Depending on your organization, staffing and interest, a certain level of self-sufficiency can be brought in-house. The model now is that you still do the high-value post-production, but that organizations will be more nimble in both gathering new material and in getting certain pieces out the door quickly.
  4. YouTube is important. But counting views is not usually a nonprofit's goal. Lots of views on YouTube don't necessarily translate into clicks, emails or donations. In fact, they usually don't. That might change with YouTube's Nonprofit Program, but that's yet to be seen.
  5. It is very early in terms of direct response Internet video. There aren't good metrics yet on where/how this works well. So for now, the main focus is on video as engaging content that complements campaigns and works well in a social networking context.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Keep Your Writing Readable On The Web

By Jamie Holaday
Considering people's ever-shortening attention spans and given the shocking lack of grammar taught in public schools, it's important to keep your writing straightforward to keep your readers on track. I didn't do such a great job in that first sentence. We'll have to see if I can reign in my verbose tendencies.

This item post is really to provide some top tips for writing for the Web. There are a few quirks when writing for the Web that are important to keep in mind.
  • Consider your audience. You have people of all backgrounds and experiences surfing as equals. To accommodate this wide-spread audience, you're going to want to write at about a ninth grade reading level or less. Newspapers generally follow this principle. They want their work to be as accessible as possible and so should you.
  • Think about attention span. (again) As we continue on in our sound-byte driven, media overload world, people's attention spans seem to shrink at a rate equivalent to the speed with which new toys for them to play with are developed. Not to be cynical or anything. What I'm trying to say is that you need to get to your point quickly. If you don't capture attention quickly, your reader might surf on.
  • Think about the mechanics of reading on screen. Depending on the machine a person is using, the screen size and thus the amount of text seen can vary widely. This is one of the reasons that long Faulkner-esque paragraphs don't work well. Also, it's really hard to follow visually as you scroll. Keep paragraphs shorter with a decent amount of space in between them.

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Jamie Holaday is the internal communications coordinator at Blackbaud. Her email is Jamie.holaday@blackbaud.com

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This article is from NPT TechnoBuzz, a publication of The NonProfit Times. Subscribe to NPT TechnoBuzz or any of our other enewsletters and get the latest nonprofit news and stories delivered to your inbox.

Monday, November 26, 2007

It's never too late to get started

There's never a perfect time to begin a planned giving program at your nonprofit, but you have to start somewhere.

Viken D. Mikaelian, president of VirtualGiving, Inc. in Valley Forge, Pa., suggests getting down to business: Go into the office on a Saturday and start planning. But don't make a dramatic announcement to your boss on Monday morning. Play it cool and don't make him/her nervous, just highlight the fact that "everybody else is grabbing these gifts, it's time we got in line too."

Start with thanking those donors who already have put your organization in their will.

Mikaelian, who led a session on marketing planned giving programs during this year's National Conference on Planned Giving conference in Grapevine, Texas, recommends drafting a letter about how important the endowment is to your organization -- "not bequests, not planned gifts, but the endowment." Here are elements of the letter:
  • Be sure to include specifics about dollar amounts, who's investing it, and how it helps your organization reach its goals every year. A board member or CEO should sign the letter and mail it to everyone who has given $100 or more for the past three years.
  • Create a tag line to every annual-fund acknowledgement, such as, "Make a gift that costs nothing during your lifetime."
  • During some down time, schedule a letter to consistent donors asking them if they have included your nonprofit in their wills, and including sample bequest language if they want to do so now.

This article is from NPT Weekly eNewsletter, a publication of The NonProfit Times. Subscribe to NPT Weekly or any of our other enewsletters and get the latest nonprofit news and stories delivered to your inbox.