Street Art Featuring Peter Norman (left), Tommy Smith (center), and John Carlos (right)
DID YOU KNOW? Fifty years ago this week, in October of 1968, two athletes raised their fists in protest of racial discrimination and segregation in the United States on one of the largest international stages: the podium of the Olympic Games. Once the 200-meter running event had concluded, American sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos, having won gold and bronze medals respectively, stood shoeless on the podium and turned to the American flag to listen to the Star-Spangled Banner. As the anthem played, Smith and Carlos each slowly raised a black-gloved fist in the air and kept them up for the remainder of the song. These athletes likely had no idea that this silent act of protest would create one of the most iconic images of their time. The photographs taken of this moment were instantly sent to newspapers and appeared on front pages across the world. Yet the consequences of such a defiant act were nearly as immediate. According to a report from ABC Australia following the event, the two athletes were suspended from their team and asked to leave both the Olympic Village in Mexico City and the country within hours of the ceremony. The International Olympic Committee, whose President, Avery Brundage, made no objections to the Nazi salutes of the Berlin Olympics, deemed this act unsuitable for an apolitical international organization. What fewer people know is that the third person on the podium, Peter Norman of Australia, who shocked the world by earning the silver medal in this race, also participated in this protest, although more subtly. All three athletes proudly wore an Olympic Project for Human Rights badge on their chests to symbolize their solidarity. When Norman passed away in 2006, Smith and Carlos took the trip across the world to Australia to be pallbearers at his funeral. But before reading more about the moment that further popularized the Black Power symbol, check out these nonprofit headlines of the week.
During a discussion at the annual International Conference of American Healthcare Philanthropy (AHP), Darlene Marcos Shiley, President of the Shiley Foundation, urged the audience to think about “what makes a philanthropist tick.” Shiley and her late husband Donald, who amassed their fortune through the development of a heart valve, have given millions of dollars through their foundation over the years to organizations focused primarily on healthcare, education, and the arts. Shiley, who said the couple’s decisions about large donations were typically made at the dinner table, practiced “total engagement” following her foundation’s charitable gifts. She often chats with students at colleges or universities to which she has donated and has gotten to know those at Public Broadcasting personally enough to grant her the witty nickname, “Duchess of Downton.” Thus, Shiley advises nonprofits not to be afraid of getting personal. Do not be afraid of reaching out to donors who have already written a check in fear that they will be bothered by your request for further engagement. Donors, especially long-time givers, want to get to know your organization in a deeper, non-monetary fashion, and will likely welcome further communication that has nothing to do with their checkbook. Your stewardship should not end after the last thank-you card is sent. Shiley also advises nonprofits to set wish list goals high, as you never know what item or service for which you are asking funding will evoke a personal response from a large-scale donor like herself and prompt a donation. Finally, although developing personal connections and directly showing your donors your impact will undoubtedly help donor retention, Shiley reminds nonprofits that philanthropists often feel pressure to switch it up. So, if a donor does not return one year, it might be no fault of your stewardship strategy. To read about Shiley’s address and how your organization can put impact and stewardship at the forefront of your fundraising efforts, click the link to the article above.
The last decade has seen a sharp increase in telecommuting, or employees who work at least part of the time from home. According to Global Workforce Analytics, the amount of people working from home has increased by 140% since 2005. Those in the nonprofit sector, always eager to minimize costs of rent, energy, and general office space maintenance, have happily joined this movement. Yet this trend has also raised concerns about ergonomic safety in makeshift home office spaces. Far too many telecommuters work in environments that are convenient yet ergonomically irresponsible due to their potential to lead to chronic negative health effects. One of the most significant examples of such risks is tied to computer use. An article from the Forbes Nonprofit Council explains how “computer-based work can cause chronic shoulder, wrist, neck or other types of musculoskeletal disorders due to overuse or unsafe ergonomic practices.” Another potential hazard of remote work is the tendency to remain sedentary and not take breaks from one’s work or computer screen when there is a lack of environmental stimuli. Thus, done in poorly designed environments and without adequate training, increased telecommuting among employees could prove more costly than beneficial to your organization. The article gives nonprofits a few tips on ensuring healthy ergonomic practices for their employees who work from home. These tips include, among others, investing in a supportive chair, steering clear of distracting locations, locating your desk away from windows to escape sun glare, and placing one’s computer monitor at arms length and eye level to avoid “posture-related discomfort.” Taking these steps to promote ergonomic safety in employees’ homes will allow your organization to reap far more benefits than simply lowered rent costs. Telecommuting also helps reduce carbon emissions by taking commuters off the road and allows organizations to hire the most qualified candidates regardless of their permanent geographical locations or reluctance to relocate. To read more tips on how to help your telecommuter employees create safe and healthy work environments at home, check out the link above.
With typically less spare time and far smaller budgets, nonprofits often find it more difficult to prioritize their employees’ professional development than their for-profit counterparts. Yet promoting professional development does not need to mean paying for an expensive conference space and hosting an in-depth training. It can mean as little as setting aside one hour a month to grab coffee with your employees to discuss upcoming projects and strategies, giving your employees some coveted “face-time” with your organization’s leaders at little to no cost to you. An article in the Nonprofit Times outlines a few manageable and affordable approaches to creating time for training and development amidst a hectic schedule. One approach encourages nonprofits to look for community leaders with unique career paths and ask them to speak to your team in an informal environment after work hours. Another suggests organizing a mentorship program in which new hires are matched with a more experienced employee to not only help acclimate new employees to their environment, but also to answer questions about their professional path. Yet another strategy for professional development on a budget recommends creating a set of audio-trainings that employees could access at a local library. You could also look into apps that record similar trainings that employees could access at home from their phones. Other strategies for squeezing opportunities for professional development into your busy schedule include: hosting a quick training during a casual quarterly potluck; engaging your employees by making meetings and trainings more interactive; making projects more collaborative to encourage the exchange of strategies amongst employees; or tapping into your employees’ competitive nature and holding an incentivized contest to encourage the hunt for creative solutions. While providing these opportunities for professional development might seem daunting given most nonprofits’ limitations on time and resources, taking a few hours out of your calendar every month to try one of these strategies will lead to a more productive and engaged team and prepare your employees to tackle more complicated projects. For more suggestions on how to train employees on a budget and why doing so even matters, check out the link above.
This week, at Blackbaud’s annual “bbcon 2018 Conference,” Blackbaud and Microsoft announced that they are combining forces to create what they call Nonprofit Resource Management (NRM), a digital resource management suite designed specifically for nonprofit use. NRM represents the “first resource management solution designed specifically for unique needs of nonprofits and the patterns and practices of resource distribution,” as well as the first suite created jointly by these two companies. According to Jay Odell, President and General Manager of Blackbaud Nonprofit Solutions, this resource will prove especially useful for nonprofits working in relief and aid, as the proper measurement and distribution of physical goods tends to be particularly important for achieving these organizations’ missions. One of the companies’ motivations behind NRM’s development was the lack of resource management tools available that address the unique challenges faced by the nonprofit sector. Without such resources, many organizations are forced to rely on “cumbersome spreadsheets, homegrown solutions, or antiquated tools to track inventory management on gifts-in-kind and goods distribution,” which in turn can lead to “lost time, wasted resources, vulnerability to fraud, and underutilized human and physical capital.” Another goal was to create an industry model to allow nonprofits to easily exchange information and assess impact. The more nonprofits use NRM, the easier it will be to identify effective practices across the board. Justin Spelhaug, General Manager of Microsoft Tech for Social Impact, uses an example of 29 nonprofits working at one refugee camp to demonstrate that if each nonprofit working in a specific location has its own system and understanding of service delivery, there is no way to easily identify which services have the greatest impact. NRM would change this, according to Spelhaug. While the NRM suite is still in development, its first capability set, Good Distribution, will launch next summer and will reportedly be followed shortly by others. To learn more about NRM and how Blackbaud and Microsoft’s Integrated Cloud Initiative for Nonprofits might serve as an asset to your organization, check out the link above.
In a joint opinion piece, Mary Kay Gugerty and Dean Karlan, authors of “The Goldilocks Challenge: Right-Fit Evidence for the Social Sector," warn nonprofits that focusing solely on impact can lead to a dangerous disregard for collecting the data that really matters. They claim that while studying impact can be valuable, it can sometimes put too much weight on results observed at one particular time in one particular place rather than analyzing them as parts of a larger puzzle. Gugerty and Karlan urge nonprofits to take on this “Goldilocks Challenge,” or the pursuit of a data collection strategy that is not too big nor too small. Your organization should strive to gather data that is not all-encompassing and thus irrelevant to what you hope to accomplish, yet also not too specific and insufficient to be of practical use. In order to find a data collection strategy that is “just-right” for your organization, begin by asking yourself if your data is credible, actionable, responsible, and transportable. According to Gugerty and Karlan, if your answer to all of these is “yes,” you are well on your way to smart, efficient, and effective data collection. When ensuring the credibility of your data, it is important to include a control measure of “what would have happened,” in order to measure accurately the impact of a new operational strategy. To assess whether data is actionable and thus worth pursuing, ask yourself if the data in question will change your plan of action and if you even have the resources required to implement this action. To deem if the potential data is responsible, make sure the costs of its collection outweigh both real costs and opportunity costs, or what you could have accomplished with the resources/time used to collect such data. Finally, making sure to collect transportable data means to pursue data that will create insights that are applicable to other programs and to be willing to share your findings with others. Doing these assessments will help your organization avoid collecting data for the sake of collecting it and will instead allow you to use your data to make effective adjustments. To find out more about the “Goldilocks Challenge” and why a one-dimensional focus on impact might be problematic, check out the article linked above.
That’s it for this week’s Friday Five! To learn more about the moment of protest at the 1968 Olympics and why this bold act made international headlines still discussed fifty years later, check out this article from National Public Radio.