ACN News & Industry Trends

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  • 09/07/2020 8:01 PM | Elizabeth Duffrin (Administrator)

    By Alex McDonald

    A great feature of virtual galas is that donors can join from anywhere with just a single click. The flip side is that donors can also leave with a single click.

    In this post, I’ll show you how to leverage the chat window to keep donors engaged for the duration of your virtual gala.

    Why Do You Need a Lively Chat Window?

    Regardless of how entertaining and inspiring your virtual gala’s broadcast is, donors will miss the interactivity of your in-person gala. The chat window fills the need for interactivity by allowing donors to engage with your organization and with each other.

    Furthermore, a lively chat window communicates to all attendees that your organization has broad support from a passionate donor base. Donors want to be part of success stories.

    Finally, social media streaming platforms, like Facebook Live, use engagements (comments, likes and reactions), to determine whether to suggest your live stream to a broader audience. Lots of comments means more people see your live stream.

    3 Simple Ways to Encourage Comments

    Fortunately, mixing things up in the chat window isn’t difficult - it just takes a little forethought.

    “Salt” the Chat Window

    Ever notice how there is always money in the tip jar at your local coffee shop? Baristas add their own money to show that tipping is the normal thing for customers to do.

    This is called “salting the tip jar.”

    Similarly, you should “salt” the comment window by arranging for some volunteers and especially dear donors to kick off your event with a flood of comments.

    The comments can be simple notes like “So excited to be here!” or “I like the host’s outfit.” If streaming to Facebook Live, commenters can share a Facebook Live Reaction (e.g., like, love, laugh) as well. 

    Other donors will want to get in on the action and submit their comments.

    Dedicate a Representative to Responding

    In addition to salting the comment window, you’ll want a gala representative to respond to donors’ comments and acknowledge generous donations.

    This role is especially necessary if your gala is prerecorded and the hosts can’t acknowledge attendees on air.

    Your representative should be quick witted and well known to donors. Not only will donors submit more comments, they’ll stick around to see the reply.

    Incorporate the Chat Window into the Live Presentation

    Online attendees love when the live hosts acknowledge their comments. Here are some simple ways to facilitate this interaction:

    • Ask a trivia question about your organization and give a prize to the first correct response.
    • Encourage viewers to submit funny phrases which hosts try to work into their monologue.
    • Solicit questions for an organizational leader to answer in your broadcast.

    Obviously, time these games as to not compete with your Fund-a-Need or live auction.

    If donors wanted purely scripted entertainment, they could log in to Netflix. The chat window gives your event an X-factor so you can entertain guests while communicating your mission.

    Brainstorm with your committee how to apply the above strategies to cultivate a lively chat window for your virtual gala. 

    Alex McDonald, director of customer experience at TravelPledge, connects nonprofits with auction items posted by generous businesses. He also shares his extensive marketing experience by developing educational content for organizers of benefit events.
  • 08/03/2020 2:43 PM | Elizabeth Duffrin (Administrator)

    By Don Raack, ACN Member

    If you are like most nonprofits, 2020 was a year of great aspirations. Funding patterns were trending upward, bolstered by low unemployment and higher disposable income.  You were ready to add that new program, hire that new manager, expand that facility . . .

    . . . and then March came . . . and then . . . whoa.

    In a matter of a couple of weeks, many nonprofits went from strong service and growth to a fight for their very survival.  Many have been left wondering what to do when it seems like there is nothing to do.

    The answer is to pour 100% of your organization’s energy into an agile and transparent fundraising strategy. Sustainer donors are the backbone of your organization’s operations, and they are the priority. Your mission has been built upon their loyal generosity, and now is the time to engage them with a new sense of urgency and purpose.

    The most effective, immediate action you can take is to focus on the fundamentals of donor relationship management:

    1.      Engage – Get into your donor data.  Get on the phone with the top 10% of your donors. Recognize their past contributions, thank them in a special way and remind them of why they have supported you to date. Then move to the next 10%, as 80% of your funding likely comes from the top 20% of your donors.

    2.      Ask – Have your message organized in three simple statements answering these three questions: “Why us? Why now? Why you?” Re-establish the importance of your work, communicate the immediate challenges and needs, and remind them of why their specific support has been so critical before and especially now..

    3.      Recognize – Over-communicate the impact of the donor’s gift. Update them continuously and thank them personally for their continuing support.

    Whether your funding comes from individuals, major donors, or private or corporate foundations, there is funding out there for you to obtain. Prioritize your existing sustainers, endeavor to create new sustainers, over-communicate and make them feel good about your mission and its future. The re-start is coming sooner than you think, so get your sustainers thinking about you!

    Don Raack is managing director of AltruNext, a consultancy specializing in fund development strategy and execution. He is an expert in business and operations management for nonprofit organizations.

  • 07/02/2020 8:49 AM | Lidia Varesco Racoma (Administrator)

    At our 31st annual meeting on June 16, 2020, we announced the election of three new ACN board members.

    FY21 New ACN Board Members

    Brad Ball is Vice President of Big Buzz Idea Group where he serves as Executive Director to the land economics society Lambda Alpha International Ely Chapter and is the project lead for two major events the company coordinates, Ribfest Chicago and Chicago Hot Dog Fest. He enjoys strategic planning and thinking and has extensive experience managing organization finances from both an executive and program level.

    Don Raack oversees brand awareness and all business operations as Managing Director of AltruNext, a consultancy specializing in fund development strategy and execution. As a former user of consulting services, he has the perspective of one who would benefit from ACN's services. As a provider of various consulting services over the past 12 years, he also has the perspective of how best to engage the community served as well as listen to the issues faced and outcomes desired.

    Shailushi Ritchie is founder & CEO of Sevah Consulting and has spent her entire professional career working for nonprofit organizations, developing deep bench strength in the areas that make nonprofits unique. She brings a systems approach to all of her work and tries to find elegant solutions to problems. She believes in service, learning, and service learning. She asks questions to uncover unspoken or even unacknowledged issues that could cause problems and collaborates with all the key stakeholders to come up with solutions. She also brings both her connections with agencies across the state and the country and her unique perspective as a woman of color.

    Welcome to the ACN Board, Brad, Don and Shailushi!

    Current board members Jill Misra, Elizabeth Richter and Lidia Varesco Racoma are returning for another term.

    See the full list of ACN Board of Directors.

  • 06/30/2020 2:30 PM | Elizabeth Duffrin (Administrator)

    By Stacy Harker, ACN Member

    In these socially-distanced times, many nonprofits are debating whether to move a planned in-person event online. Before you take the leap, consider these questions.

    Could you?

    One of the first questions your team needs to ask is COULD WE put on a virtual event? Are you able to pivot from an annual in-person event to a meaningful virtual experience? As you and your organization pose this question, there are several logistical considerations that you need to evaluate:

    • Do you have the necessary technology?
    • Can you present your mission and impact visually?
    • Do you have the staff/team/volunteer capability?
    • Is there a budget?
    • Can you repurpose content from your in-person event?
    • Is your event sponsor flexible about moving online?

    Do you have access to experts who can help you with the logistics of moving online?

    Would you?

    If you think you CAN, the next question is would postponing your in-person event would do more harm than good compared to pivoting to a virtual event? Before making a decision, here are some vital questions to ask your team:

    • Does this event fit in with your overall plan for the year?
    • Can you whip up the strategy, timeline and back-up plans in time?
    • Do you have a host or emcee?
    • What will your actual programming be?
    • Can you still share the impact of your work?
    • Do you have tech support for attendees?

    Should you?

    Let’s say that yes, you WOULD change course and that you COULD logistically pull it off, you really need to ask yourself SHOULD your organization do this?  Whether or not you have the capabilities, all this boils down to is whether or not it is fiscally responsible and within the scope of your organization’s mission to conduct a virtual event. These questions are not just about your “return on investment” but also your “return on energy” since this most likely means going where your organization has probably not been before:

    • Does leadership champion the transition?
    • Is your constituency likely to attend a virtual event?
    • Will you be able to dedicate appropriate marketing support?
    • Have you built in enough time to test your presentation and technology with your team, and test, test…and test again?
    • Can you build and manage a good virtual events team?
    • Can you be SUCCESSFUL?

    The biggest question you need to ask for your organization in the current climate is can you be successful?  What do you define as success? Is it hitting revenue targets? Is it adding more donors?  What definable goals can you use to benchmark your event as a success?  Have your organization’s goals been adjusted to reflect this unprecedented time? Are you providing the next best avenue for connecting with your donors if this is your main event of the year?  Asking your organization all of these questions will put you on the right path to determine whether or not you could, would and should take your event into the virtual realm.

    Stacy Harker, an associate at KEES, provides interim staffing services to nonprofits going through the executive search process. Stacy has more than 19 years of nonprofit experience in education, performing arts, media, consulting, interim staffing and executive search.

  • 06/25/2020 5:38 PM | Anonymous

    We were thrilled to see so many of our members at ACN's first-ever virtual annual member meeting on June 16, 2020. 

    After realizing we couldn’t hold our in-person meeting, our committees quickly pivoted our 31st annual meeting to an online format that featured association updates, as well as Q&A and networking opportunities. 

    ACN board president Jill Misra kicked off the meeting with a State of the Association—including the following record-setting stats and notable differences from the last fiscal year:

    • 2019’s 30th Anniversary Celebration & Annual Meeting drew a record-high number of attendees 
    • Current membership is at a record high—and includes a 7% increase from this time last year
    • Membership has diversified by geography and membership type, including out-of-state memberships representing Wisconsin, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Ohio, New York, Kansas and California
    • 3 of our in-person events sold out
    • 44 of our members volunteer on the board of directors or committees

    Next up were committee reports, an overview of key accomplishments in the past year and and plans for FY21 from our Finance, Governance, Marketing & Communications, Membership, Nonprofit Relations, Programming and Strategic Planning Committees. 

    After that, we announced and welcomed our new board membersBrad BallDon Raack and Shailushi Ritchie. (Stay tuned for a post to learn more about them and their roles on the board). 

    The meeting wrapped up with a Q&A session to answer members’ current questions and concerns about the association, as well as small group networking in breakout rooms

    Though of course we prefer to be together in-person, we are pleased that we could bring our community together virtually. We look forward to making ACN even more beneficial for members and nonprofits in the coming year! 

    ACN MEMBERS: If you missed the meeting and would like to review the slides or watch the recorded meeting, click on the Member page of the website, then click on the Governance and Strategic Plan link. If you are not already logged in, you will need to do so using your email and ACN member password. If you have any questions, please reach out to our Executive Director Tricia Fusilero at

  • 06/15/2020 12:08 PM | Elizabeth Duffrin (Administrator)

    By Edie Canter, ACN Member

    Should we fundraise now?” “Can we fundraise now?”  “How should we fundraise now?”

    These questions have been top-of-mind for nonprofit leaders during the COVID crisis. Fortunately, the answers may be simpler than you think.  And what we learn at this time can inform fundraising practices in the future.

    Yes, you should fundraise during crisis

    Does your organization need philanthropic dollars now or in the next several years?  If the answer is “yes,” then you must fundraise. 

    Some express discomfort about asking for money if their organizations are not on the front lines of crisis response. I urge you to put that discomfort to the side.

    Remind yourself of this: your mission was relevant before the crisis and it will be relevant after the crisis. Indeed, your work – even adapted for COVID – is relevant right now. If you believe in your mission, you owe it to your organization to fundraise. It is as simple as that.

    Yes, you can fundraise during crisis

    You can raise money as long as there are supporters who believe in your work, are generous, and have the capacity to give.  Let’s see how these three elements play out now.

    First, you can assume that supporters who believed in your mission pre-COVID still feel warmly toward your work. If you take care of the fundraising fundamentals, they will continue to care.

    Second, during crisis, people look for ways to be helpful. While some may not be able to give now, others are increasing their gifts. Supporters want to support, however they can.

    Third, while our country faces unprecedented economic anxiety, many people have maintained employment and wealth. As of this writing, stock market performance continues to be high, with stock prices significantly above the lows of the Great Recession. And even during the Great Recession, philanthropy continued, albeit at lower amounts.

    Let’s be realistic – you may not raise as much money as you planned for this year. But the requisite elements are present: supporters, generosity, and wealth. You can fundraise.

    Remember the fundamentals

    During crisis, key fundraising principles still apply.

    Build relationships: This is a great time to connect one-on-one with top supporters via phone or video calls.  Ask how people are doing, share how you’re coping, update supporters on your important work, and thank them.

    Engage donors:  Keep your supporters engaged with regular and authentic emails or newsletters (nice infographics and videos are a bonus, but not necessary). Consider offering a virtual opportunity for supporters to connect with your work – perhaps a 30-minute “get to know the staff” webinar or a panel discussion.

    Tell your story well: Provide personal narratives and stories that demonstrate your organization’s impact – and remind donors of the importance of their gifts.

    Special considerations during COVID

    Sensitivity to the times: Be thoughtful in your “asks.” If you do not know how individuals have been affected by the crisis, couch your request in compassion. “We know these are difficult times. If your situation allows, we hope you can continue your important support.”

    Special events fundraising:  In lieu of in-person events, virtual events have exploded, with success we could not have imagined a few months ago. These events are proving amenable to familiar revenue-generators such as sponsorships, paddle raises, tickets, raffles, and auctions. Here is a small sampling of creative formats:

    • Live events featuring pre-recorded speeches and performances or using breakout rooms to facilitate networking and dialogue.
    • Multi-day events with daily panel discussions.
    • “No-event” fundraisers – usually online campaigns over several days.
    •  Events marketed as happy hours, pajama parties, living-room activism, and more.

    When planned and managed well, special events raise money, build community, engage supporters, celebrate success, and elevate constituent voices. During the COVID crisis, we can achieve all these goals with virtual events.

    Take the COVID crisis as an opportunity to deepen donor cultivation, hone storytelling, and explore creative fundraising. All will pay off in the post-crisis world.

    Edie Canter, president of Canter Strategies, provides nonprofits with expert consulting in development assessment, planning and execution; strategic planning; interim leadership; Board/organizational management; and persuasive writing.  She brings to the table over 35 years of experience as an executive director, director of development and communications, board member, and advocate.

  • 05/13/2020 8:55 AM | Anonymous

    by Annisa Wanat, ACN member

    “There are super sexy exciting things to think about running a nonprofit, I know no one wants to talk finance, but you have to,” began Megan Angle for ACN’s April Educational Program, “How to Run Your Nonprofit like a For-Profit.” In ACN’s first virtual educational program, Megan, a CPA with Porte Brown, provided useful tips for nonprofits on solid financial management policies and procedures that will impress donors and strengthen your organization. 

    1. Key Financial Policies 

    From an auditor’s perspective, there are four key policies to have in place to demonstrate to your team that your nonprofit is committed to staying financially healthy. First, conflict of interest policy requires any staff and board members to disclose any potential conflict of interest with vendors or suppliers - and remove themselves from the decision-making process involving those parties. Although federal law prohibits retaliation against employees who shine the light on misdeeds, a written whistleblower policy demonstrates your organization’s commitment to transparency. A compensation policy that ideally uses an external source to be sure your salary scale is in-line with other similar nonprofits in your region can streamline the negotiation process with new employees. And finally, a document retention policy will help your entire team understand the importance of organizing files.

    2. Zero-Based Budgeting

    Instead of building your annual budget based on the previous year’s spending, consider planning your expenses from the ground up. This method of budget development requires you to justify all your costs at the beginning of the period. Megan recommends creating a budget this way every year, but if you find it too arduous, every other year would be reasonable. The idea is to be sure you reflect on your plans and to be sure you are doing what is needed, rather than just continuing to operate “the way it has always been done.”

    3. Operations, Capital, and Cash-Flow Budgets

    A financial sound nonprofit will separate its budget plans by category, as well as be sure that anticipated revenues, especially if they vary seasonally, can cover your expenses on a month-by-month basis. A cash-flow budget will help you navigate ebbs and flows in funding, for example, when there is a global pandemic that interrupts the economy. 

    4. Budget to Actual Comparisons

    “Don’t put together a budget and never use it,” stressed Megan. Periodically reviewing your budgets to see if your plans have come in on target can help you understand relationships and patterns for future planning. Also, consider picking a couple of key metrics, such as working capital, savings indicator, and debt ratio and analyze the financial strength of your organization over time.  

    5. Hierarchy of Emergency Liquidity Planning (HELP)

    Understand the HELP so that you can plan for disruptions in your cash-flow. To lay the groundwork for stability, be sure to maintain a savings account with minimal withdrawal fees and keep at least 30-days of expenses in it that will not be touched until an emergency. Second, before you need it, establish a line of credit for another 30 days of expenses. It will be harder to get the loan if you wait until you need it. Be sure to have a plan for what your liquidity should be before you can tap into the savings account or access the line of credit. 

    Megan not only stressed the importance of these five financial management policies and procedures but provided suggestions for how smaller organizations could implement them. If your organization is not ready to hire a full-time financial person, consider outsourcing this to a CPA. Or recruit a board member who has these skills to build up the policies and train staff on implementation. 

    At the end of the presentation, Megan fielded questions from attendees. The full webinar is available on the Porte Brown site.

  • 05/11/2020 1:22 PM | Kelli Moore (Administrator)

    By: Melissa Lagowski

    You might feel like you will never break free from Zoom calls and virtual meetings right now, but we will reach the other side of this “shelter in place” soon. However, the world as we knew it will never be the same. Have you started thinking about what this means for you and your business?

    Some people are passive and have a wait and see attitude while hoping for a return to normal, but times like this are for preparation and innovating. If you actively invest the time now to plan out what you want to achieve on the other side of COVID-19, you are far more likely to succeed. It would be to your advantage to use this time to begin planning for a future that has already been altered.

    At some point, you probably grumbled and mumbled under your breath about a project you didn’t like. Or you wished you could stop offering a certain service or working with specific type of client. This is your chance to re-imagine the possibilities. The market is forcing you to consider a redesign anyway, so this is the time to approach your future with a blank slate.

    Reconnect with Your Why

    When was the last time that you thought about your “why?” Take a moment to think about why you do what you do: Why do you serve the nonprofit arena? Why does your work matter? To you? To your clients? Reconnecting with your why helps re-ignite your passion for your own personal mission, so start by identifying your why and confirming that it is still the same as it was three months ago.

    Evaluate Your Work and Your Desires

    Businesses were forced to make unexpected and immediate changes over the past couple of months. As an example, some of us may have already been set up to work from home (with little change other than the increase in virtual meetings), while others had everything turned upside-down. Regardless, the adjustment happened so quickly that most people haven’t really had the chance to think about the new normal and analyze the entirety of its effects.

    So now is the time to make a list of the pros and cons of your life before COVID-19 and your life after COVID-19. You may have some surprising findings. For example, while I miss meeting with people in person, I love the short commute times of these virtual meetings, which means I can be home for dinner every night with my family. As you work to “reset” your life, personally and/or professionally, feel free to select the best of both worlds to plan for your future as you think about what comes next. You now have the ability to adjust your services, your roles, your processes, etc., as you move forward, so don’t miss this opportunity that could make your work and your life more balanced or more meaningful.

    Innovate for Growth

    “Crisis is the mother of invention.” We have heard it before, but today is proof that it still rings true. Opportunity truly exists when we realize that it is not just our roles that have drastically changed, but our clients and potential clients have had to adjust their needs and processes, as well. What monumental shifts have they been forced to take? Why not use this time to connect with your clients and other nonprofit organizations and ask them? What is their current pain? What is their greatest need? Is there something that you could offer them to help?

    Look for the gaps in your industry and any gaps in your services. After such a large disruption (that is still evolving), this is an ideal time to identify what is missing for your industry and/or clients. Is this an adjustment that you make? Is the need something you could offer? Crisis is a time to identify how you might make shifts in your work to better serve your clients. You may uncover something you never thought of before that could increase your relevance (and revenues) in the future.

    Re-establish the Vision

    Now that you have taken inventory of what was working and what was not, it is time to re-establish your overall vision. Again, this is the time to hit the reset button to design what life after COVID-19 will look like. Write about it in detail. What services will you offer? Who will you serve? How will you make them feel? What do you want to be known for? Why will your clients need you? How will you improve the nonprofit world? How will that make you feel? What lessons have you learned that you want to apply, and how will your life be different as a result? What will you offer that you hadn’t before? What will you discontinue offering because it no longer serves you?

    You get to keep doing what has served you well and put changes into place to improve the parts of your work that have not been serving you well. Personally, I have identified many things in our company that need to be simplified. I have also identified services that we no longer want to offer, and we are creating some new ways to assist nonprofit organizations in need. This pivot is reinvigorating our team and increasing our excitement about the future of the company.

    Today offers the biggest opportunity of your life to hit the reset button, so do the work now to create intention for your future. It will provide the clarity you need to move forward when we are able to proceed with our lives again.

    Promote Yourself

    Finally, prepare to promote your services. It may be human nature to shrink when we are afraid or uncertain, but now is not the time to play small. To overcome the effects of the coronavirus on your business, you need to be ready to announce what you are offering and why it matters. Plan now for how you can promote yourself and any service adjustments you are making for the future. It is important to share the news to show that you support those who will benefit from what you are offering, so plan accordingly for how you will do this for the greatest effect. Do you need to make tweaks to your website about new services? Share an announcement? Post the news on social media? Have a bold plan ready so that you can quickly move as the shelter in place mandate is lifted.

    And if the quick adjustments of mid-March have taught us anything, they have shown us to be scrappy. The rollout of new services or service adjustments don’t need to be perfectly packaged, and often, a desire for perfection results in paralysis. We have all learned that you can create something and continue adjusting the offerings or the packages as you go. After all, we were all fumbling with Zoom and virtual technology in the beginning, but now people have learned how to change their virtual backgrounds and use the system far more effectively with time and experience. So, there is no need to aim for perfection here; just aim to get the information out to those who need it, knowing that you can continue to improve it in the future.

    In Conclusion

    We may be living through the only time in our history when we can hit a reset button on life, so don’t let this opportunity pass you by. Invest the time to really analyze your company and your purpose so you can properly position yourself for greater success and satisfaction after the new normal of COVID-19 sets in. Even the slightest adjustment may provide huge benefit to you and your clients.

    Melissa is CEO/Founder/Queen Bee of Big Buzz Idea Group. Big Buzz provides operational support for nonprofits and associations in the areas of administration, communication, event-planning, bookkeeping and database management. 

  • 05/06/2020 12:20 PM | Anonymous

    In honor of National Volunteer Week (April 19-25), we would like to share our gratitude for the contributions of our board of directors and committee volunteers, who work behind-the-scenes to help our members grow their businesses and better serve the nonprofit sector. 

    Hear why our members volunteer with ACN and how it has positively impacted them. 

    Belinda Li of CiTTA Partnership

    How long have you been volunteering with ACN?
    Almost 6 years, currently serving on the Programming Committee.

    Why did you choose to be an ACN volunteer?
    To bring educational and networking opportunities to fellow nonprofit consultants, helping us all develop professionally and connecting with like-minded individuals.

    How has volunteering with ACN impacted your career or business?
    Being involved with ACN, in general, has helped me develop new partnerships with other consultants—resulting in opportunities to work with fellow ACN members on client projects. And being a volunteer for ACN helps raise my and my company's profiles, among consultants as well as nonprofit leaders who attend our events.

    Jill Misra of Impact Solutions

    How long have you been volunteering with ACN?
    4 years, current ACN President and serving as the co-chair of the strategic planning task force

    Why did you choose to be an ACN volunteer?
    The strategic planning task force is a focused opportunity to support the future direction of ACN. I was interested in this work as it aligns with my practice areas and also affords opportunity to learn from like-minded peers.

    How has volunteering with ACN impacted your career or business?
    Volunteer work for ACN offers exposure to colleagues that I otherwise may not encounter. It challenges my thinking while allowing me to contribute in an area where I feel comfortable.

    Donald Raack of AltruNext

    How long have you been volunteering with ACN?
    Almost 1 year, currently serving on the Nonprofit Relations Committee.

    Why did you choose to be an ACN volunteer?
    I felt a desire to serve the community of my chosen vocation.

    How has volunteering with ACN impacted your career or business?
    I volunteer for purposes I believe in. I volunteer for activities that fuel my passion. I volunteer not for the benefit of me, but for the benefit of others; when others benefit, I in turn benefit. Without some positive impact for someone else, I would find volunteering to be empty.

    Jim Stoynoff of Synthesis Solutions, LLC

    How long have you been volunteering with ACN?
    Almost 5 months.

    Why did you choose to be a volunteer?
    It is an opportunity to assist non-profit organizations that are especially vulnerable in this challenging time, and to work with other folks who also share a commitment to do our best in this regard.

    How has volunteering impacted your career or business?
    It has provided many opportunities to help non-profits of all sizes to successfully fulfill their mission and thrive, and at the end of the day it feels great!

    Emily Taylor of teenyBIG

    How long have you been volunteering with ACN?
    1 year, currently serving as VP of Nonprofit Relations.

    Why did you choose to be an ACN volunteer?
    It is a great way to understand the various skills consultants have to offer and begin to collaborate with others in the field.

    How has volunteering with ACN impacted your career or business?
    I've been able to run several speaking events for nonprofits and am learning more about aspects of the social sector I was less familiar with.

    Lidia Varesco Racoma of Lidia Varesco Design

    How long have you been volunteering with ACN?
    3-1/2 years, currently serving as VP of Marketing & Communications.

    Why did you choose to be an ACN volunteer?
    I originally joined the Marketing Committee to meet fellow members and become more involved in ACN. After serving on the committee, I decided to join the board of directors so that I could help bring more awareness and engagement to ACN.

    How has volunteering with ACN impacted your career or business?
    The largest benefit of being an ACN volunteer has been connecting with fellow consultants who have complementary businesses and collaborating on projects. Since I work with association clients, the experience of being “on the other side” of association life has also been very valuable. Also, since I work mainly solo, being on the ACN board of directors and managing a committee has helped me grow and develop my leadership skills (shoutout to my awesome Marketing Committee, by the way!)

    Annisa Wanat of amw solutions 

    How long have you been volunteering with ACN?
    Approximately 5 years, currently on the Marketing Committee

    Why did you choose to be an ACN volunteer?
    I thought working with the marketing committee would be a great way to network and hone my skills.

    How has volunteering with ACN impacted your career or business?
    Volunteering with the committee has exposed me to the different ways other consultants approach marketing which I have been useful clients. Also, I have developed stronger relationships with other ACN members.

    Tiffany Williams of TJ Marie Consulting and Givly Inc. has been volunteering on the Nonprofit Relations Committee.

    Why did you choose to be an ACN volunteer?
    I'm passionate about strengthening nonprofits and offering services that help support their missions and expand their impact. Volunteering is my way of sharing and connecting with other consultants and nonprofit leaders.

    How has volunteering with ACN impacted your career or business?
    Volunteering has helped me better understand and provide services that speak directly to the needs of the nonprofits we serve.

    Thank you to all of your volunteers—we appreciate you and your service to ACN!

    ACN Members: Are you looking to share your time and talents? Learn more about volunteering with ACN.

  • 03/30/2020 2:54 PM | Kelli Moore (Administrator)

    by Amelia Kohm

    Each of us has a number of tools we use regularly in our consulting practices. A well-worn item in many of our toolboxes is the survey. Whether we are doing strategic planning, marketing, organizational development, or evaluation, we often need information best gathered through a survey of current or potential clients, participants, audience members, board members, staff, etc.

    It’s easy enough to create a survey on Survey Monkey or the like. It's harder to get an adequate number of responses. And even when you do, the respondents might not fairly represent the larger group you want to know about. But let’s say you get past these hurdles. There’s still a major hurdle ahead of you: extracting meaning from your data.

    Surveys include different types of questions. Perhaps the most common one is the Likert scale question which asks respondents to indicate how much they agree or disagree with a particular statement using a five to seven point scale.

    Many consultants and organizations will assign numerical values to response options (5 for strongly agree, 4 for agree, 3 for neutral, 2 for disagree, and 1 for strongly disagree) and then compute averages across respondents. But there is so much more information in those numbers than averages can tell you, including:

    The extremes: Averages can’t tell you what were the lowest or highest ratings on any given statement.

    What most respondents said: Let’s say an average response is 3. This number doesn’t tell you if most people responded with a 3 or if half responded with a 5 and half responded with a 1. More broadly, averages can’t tell you how spread out the data is. Are there similar numbers of responses at each point in the scale or do they bunch up around certain values?

    What subgroups think and feel: Even though the overall average might be high, the average might be low for some subgroups within your group of respondents. Perhaps respondents from a certain neighborhood, for example, had very different opinions than the group overall.

    You can extract and show this type of information using data visualization tools like Tableau. Compare this simple list of averages of responses to several survey questions . . .

    . . . to the chart below which shows the range of responses to each survey statement, the proportion of responses for each rating, and the overall average across survey statements (the gray vertical line) in addition to the averages which appear in the gray circles.

    Moreover, the interactive version allows you to “drill down” into the data and see if whole group results hold for subgroups.

    If you are going to go to the trouble of conducting a survey, make sure to squeeze all of the information you can from the data you collect.


    Amelia Kohm, PhD, is the founder of Data Viz for Nonprofits and has more than 20 years of experience studying, funding, and evaluating human services. Data Viz for Nonprofits ( delivers high-quality, low-cost visualizations that help organizations to quickly grasp their data, improve their work, and show their impact.

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