Time for Halloween

candy corn
The pumpkins are the BEST

Halloween is my FAVORITE holiday. It takes place during the BEST season, there are all sorts of opportunities to get scared out of your mind, and then there are the ACTIVITIES! Pumpkin patches, pumpkin carving, apple picking, corn mazes, haunted houses. It’s so much to cram in!

Usually this time of year calls for re-watching of Halloween movie classics: Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street, and of course, Halloween. But this year, hanks to the wonder of Netflix, I have a queue of movies I have never seen to frighten me all the way up to Halloween night!

1. The Lady Vanishes-  A lesser-known Hitchcock. In this, a young woman aboard a train suddenly vanishes and none of the passengers can recall seeing her.

2. Children of the Corn– I am ashamed I’ve never seen this Steven King classic . Creepy kids killing adults and taking over a small rural town? Yes please!

3. The Crow– Rock star comes back to life to exact revenge on those who killed him and his girlfriend. It’s like Batman for Halloween!

4. The Faculty– A 90s cult classic I haven’t seen in a while but can’t wait to re-watch! Aliens take over invasion of the body snatchers-style starting with the high school. 90s stars like Josh Hartnett and Clea DuVall fight back. Awesome-ness ensues.

5. The Frighteners– Another cult classic! In this one a shady psychic detective uses his abilities to boost his business. It’s got Michael J. Fox so it’s impossible to go wrong.

6. Slither– It looks and sounds like a farce, but from what I’ve heard this body-snatchers flick is full of fright and fun. Plus Nathan Fillion. Be still my heart.

7. House at the End of the Street– The most recent movie on my list and also the only thriller/slasher.  A family moves to town and finds out their neighbors’ house was the site of a double murder, and their teenage daughter (Jennifer Lawrence, again can’t go wrong) investigates.

I’m going to need more than just this list, so let me know some more creepy movies to add to my netflix queue!


Nonprofit Vocabulary

I’ve found there is a fair amount of jargon if you’re not familiar with the nonprofit world. Even if you are, it helps to have a glossary handy just in case things start getting mixed up.

This is just a starter! If you have some terms you deal with every day in the nonprofit world, I’d love to heard about them.


This is a legal distinction which means an organization does not operate for profit, does note have shareholders, and operates for either a religious, charitable, scientific, public safety, literary, or educational purpose, or for the purpose of fostering international sports or preventing cruelty to children or animals.


An institution whose purpose is to distribute funds to colleges, schools, hospitals, charities and the like. These are the “big guns” that you hear as sponsors of NPR like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Community Foundation

Operating similarly to a foundation, community foundations manage the funds of many individual (or group) donors and carry out the charitable interests of those donors. Community foundations are usually geographically aligned with a specific area or state, for example here in the Triangle we have the Triangle Community Foundation.


Tax designation for most nonprofits, foundations, universities and nonprofit hospitals. Contributions to these groups are tax exempt, and all of these organizations are exempt from paying income tax. The “brief” description of this designation can be found on the IRS website.


These groups have started springing up more and more in the post-Citizens United ruling and are in the news quite a lot in the wake of the accusations against the IRS for targeting conservative political action groups. Technically, organizations under this designation promote “social welfare” and may take part in politics, elections, and lobbying. Unlike their (c)(3) cousins, contributions to these groups are not tax-deductible, and organizations do not have to disclose who their contributors are.


An award, which does not have to be repaid, usually given to a nonprofit organization but also to individuals. These awards may have certain strings attached, to which the grantee much comply in order to receive the grant and be eligible for future awards.

Matching Grant

This is a common example of a grant with strings attached. Many times for large campaigns, a foundation or grant-making authority will grant an organization money if that organization can match the amount given in other contributions. For example, the Rachel B. Johnson Foundation will award a $50,000 grant to the Ashby is a Cute Kitten Charity once the ACKC raises $50,000 from its other donors.


Now we’re getting into the weeds! Once a nonprofit, foundation, etc. reaches the point where it has more than $250,000 in the bank at a time (the maximum the FDIC will insure), usually it will begin investing some of its assets in order to split up the amount into separate accounts which will be insure-able, and to continue growing its wealth.

The total value of an organization’s financial assets is known as its endowment, and can be organized (in legal terms) as a public charity, private foundation, or a trust. Beyond this there are some restrictions of how much money can be held in an endowment, particularly if you are a university, and the weeds start getting deeper. If you’re really really into this stuff, I’d check out the Wikipedia page as a starter.

Why I Work for Nonprofits

In my real life, when I’m not playing with my kitten or making delicious things come out of my kitchen, I split my time between a small nonprofit that serves disadvantaged youth through music and a large grant-making foundation. I always knew I wanted to work for organizations whose mission it was to improve our world, but it took me some time to finally come to where I am today. I could probably go on and on about why I love working for these organizations, but I’ve whittled it down to these 4 reasons:

  1. It’s a community.  At least here in the Triangle, nonprofits are supportive of one anothers’ missions. There are listservs and Facebook pages dedicated to connecting nonprofit professionals and their organizations to one another, resources, volunteers, you name it!
  2. Women rule. The nonprofit sector is dominated by women. I found statistics from 2009 saying that 73% of workers in this sector, 45% of CEOs, and 43% of board members (WomenMovingMillions.org). Granted, the wage inequalities between men and women CEOs still hold for the nonprofit sector, but the fact that there is a near 50-50 split between men and women CEOS is impressive. At the two nonprofit organizations I work for, one of my bosses is female, the other is male. The board members are about a 50/50 split between men and women at the small nonprofit I work for while the large organization has more men on its board (but to be fair, it’s a family affair and they only have sons). It’s pretty empowering to be in an environment where you’re  likely to be working with a room full of women.
  3. Transparency. Ok, technically by law nonprofits are required to make their financials public, but still, the fact that there can be open conversations about how your workplace spends money and what they value is refreshing. Plus transparency means accountability; when organizations or businesses must be accountable for producing results based on what they spend, you get better results.
  4. A little goes a long way. Nonprofits have limited resources which means they have to do their research and get creative. This can be a great thing for innovation, especially for techies and development nerds. Plus, you get to really focus on where the organization needs to spend money, not on where it can spend money. This reduces waste (which is good) and paves the way for long-term financial responsibility for one day when a little organization becomes a BIG organization.

At the end of the day, I feel more fulfilled working for a not-for-profit entity because I know the hours I worked don’t just contribute to my company’s bottom line or my boss’ ego, build up something larger than myself or my organization. They’re hours spent making a better community, and ultimately a better world.

Book Review: Effective Fundraising for Nonprofits

The book I’ve been reading this week could just as easily find its place in a classroom as my bedside table. It’s called Effective Fundraising for Nonprofits and is published by legal information company Nolo.

This book is set up just like any textbook; each chapter has a case study or example, breakout boxes with tips and warnings, and includes worksheets for specific topics. I really like this setup because you can flip to the chapter on whatever you happen to be working on (major gifts campaigns, social media, etc) and review the tips and strategies that chapter outlines.

Another really useful part of this book are the worksheets. They are included as an appendix as tear-out sheets and in each chapter so you can get a feel for the planning as you’re thinking about that chapter’s theme. I made copies of a few since I was borrowing this book from my library such as the “Grant priorities summary chart” and the “Grant prospects research overview” sheet.

Since the book is written by a lawyer, the book includes some handy information about the financial laws which govern nonprofits. If you are starting your own nonprofit or just don’t know much about nonprofit tax laws especially, this can be really information to think about when learning about fundraising.

Taken as a whole though, I wouldn’t recommend sitting down and trying to read the entire book. It’s written like a textbook and should be read like a textbook- in focused chunks based on the subject you are trying to learn about.  Effective Fundraising is a great reference for any nonprofit bookshelf.

The Nolo website has both E-book and paperback versions available for purchase.


4/4 Epic Mountains


Book Review- Guerrilla Marketing for Nonprofits

A new themed blog entry I’m going to start doing are book reviews. Mostly they will be nonprofit and marketing books, but if there’s a must-read that I pick up for pleasure and not just ongoing reading, I’ll be sure to post about it here!

If you are starting up a nonprofit and aren’t sure where to start with fundraising and community building, then Guerrilla Marketing for Nonprofits is a great place to start. The book is geared toward nonprofit professionals who run small organizations and aren’t quite sure where to start with marketing.

The idea of ‘guerrilla marketing’ is that with limited funds, nonprofit marketers have to think outside the box and get dirty (so to speak) with their marketing techniques. Much like guerrilla fighters they have to plan ahead, think strategically, and rely on carefully crafted attacks rather than an all-out siege.

Guerrilla marketing, according to the authors, is people-focused. These nonprofit professionals must rely on a strong network of relationships to get their message out to the world and follow-up with these connections to ensure change occurs.

To a guerrilla marketer, communication must be more about the audience than the organization itself. By using what the authors call “You Marketing,” nonprofits can put their audiences in the story of what these organizations seek to do and see themselves as part of the change.

I loved that the book referenced tried and true communications theory as part of its approach. It’s the scholar in me that wants to be reminded that these ideas have a basis in scholarship and aren’t just rote industry habit.

I also found it useful that the authors break down media into 3 useful categories for planning a marketing campaign:

  1. Mini-media: one-to-one or one-to-few campaigns such as business cards, canvassing, phone calling, print materials, or signage.
  2. Maxi-media: traditional media such as print ads, direct mail, commercials, or billboards.
  3. E-media: online branding and content such as blogs, banners,  or social media.

This breakdown also included many ideas for each media type, so be sure and grab the book if you want to hear more!

Besides helpful ways of thinking about marketing, the guerrilla authors have some step-by-step approaches to fundraising and planning that will help anyone, regardless or expertise or skill level, be a better nonprofit communicator.


3/4 Epic Mountains


Writing for the Web

Print media has a long history of style and best practices, those practices do not  translate well to the web.  Online, people want information quickly, so the style of writing has changed to meet the needs of the reader.


Headers help readers find information quickly.  They break down the information in the article into sections, which can be scanned quickly.  Short sentences also help readers scan information quickly.

SEO Optimization

Being able to find an article in an internet search is the first step in delivering information to the reader.  Using keywords in the title and in the body of the article will help it show up higher in Google ‘s Page ranking, as well as in the analytics used by other search engines.  Search Engine Watch has this article on Google and SEO to help out beginners.


Print articles follow the inverted pyramid organization of information, with the most pertinent information coming first, followed by additional details.  Whereas web articles follow more traditional essay format of a short introduction, 3-4 body paragraphs, and a short conclusion summarizing the information just discussed in the article.  This style guide gives an in-depth look at more style guidelines for web writing.

These tips for organization, SEO optimization, and making information scannable will help make any article reader-friendly for the web.

Shape Up NC! Sample Social Media Plan

  1. Audience Analysis
    1. Who is the audience: 52% of North Carolinians are obese according to the CDC. 26% in the youth age range 12-18 and 20% from 5-11 are overweight.  Based on these statistics, I will be focusing on the teen age rage, since 1 in 4 are overweight, and the adult age range, which can help reduce adult obesity and obesity rates in their children.
    2. Audience Social Media Use: This plan will focus on the adult demographic, who can have an influence in the lives of their kids under 18. Adults use social media mainly in the morning at work, and in the evening, so our updates during these times will focus on family activities and ideas that get all ages participating.
  2. Example Plans
    1. EmpowerHER: women’s social health.  Facebook page with lots of shares, commenting, polls, updated questions, and integration with other SM platforms.  Ran a campaign called Be My Healthy Valentine (Description available: http://www.marketwatch.com/story/empowher-media-encourages-women-to-spread-the-health-with-new-social-media-campaign-2012-02-10) where women could send health-themed valentines through their Facebook page.
    2. Habit Heroes: Disney paired up with Blue Cross Blue Shield for this campaign and ride in Disney World’s Epcot park.  While not a strictly social media campaign, it shows the line that marketers have to respect between shaming people into health and informing them (http://www.orlandosentinel.com/health/os-epcot-health-exhibit-20120221,0,1737330.story and http://www.salon.com/2012/02/28/disneys_fat_shaming_fail/)
  3. Objectives
    1. Analytics: Evaluate the effectiveness of posted links through the use of bit.ly link shortener.  Keep track of Facebook likes and shares to evaluate posts through built-in analytics.
    2. Follow more health organizations and similar campaigns to keep up with what the “competition” is doing, find content to retweet, and to hopefully get retweets of our own content.
    3. Increase not only followers, but the amount of retweets, replies, likes, comments, and shares so that popularity and participation are increasing.  Instead of a numerical goal with a time line, this is an ongoing engagement goal.
    4. Integrate contests across multiple platforms: Facebook and FourSquare to engage more people.
  4. Knowledge
    1. I am assuming that the Shape Up NC audience is aware of the importance of health and fitness for their lives, but either not sure how they can take steps to live healthier lives or and interested in finding new tools and information about living a healthy life.  These are people who may have already been told they should look for ways to improve their health, or may be typically healthy and would like to remain so.
  5. Platforms
    1. Twitter: This platform will be the main way of dispersing useful information and facts for followers. Through Twitter we will be able to publicize any polls and contests on Facebook.  Twitter is the best for publicity and dispersing information because people use Twitter as a news gathering site and expect content and updates from the accounts they follow.
    2. Facebook: We will keep an active presence on Facebook to interact with followers with questions, polls, and contests to encourage engagement.  Facebook is better for engagement because the wall feature encourages active conversation and checking in more often.
    3. FourSquare: We will partner with locations on FourSquare that encourage healthy lifestyle (parks, gyms, health food stores, health-conscious restaurants) and recognize the mayors of these locations via Twitter and contests to encourage competition to live healthy and check in often.
  6. Staff Support
    1. Public Relations Officer: Oversees the entire campaign and project.  Collaborates with team members to come up with new ideas for the campaign, communicates with other branches of Shape Up NC to make sure everyone is aware and promoting the campaign.
    2. Social Media Coordinator: This person would be in charge of gathering content to post on all the platforms, monitoring analytics, interacting with followers, and posting.
    3. Community Coordinator: This person would be in charge of forming relations with community organizations who are also involved with healthy living, creating partnerships with local businesses that promote a healthy lifestyle, and promoting the social media campaign offline.
  7. Example Tweets:
    1. Links and Content Tweets:
  • Curious about your or your child’s BMI? Check out this calculator from Fit Together NC http://bit.ly/zZva9N #ShapeUpNC
  • We love walking as a way to get moving! Check out these tips from @American_Heart here:http://bit.ly/wb7BlA #ShapeUpNC
  • Cravings got you down? Here’s some healthy substitutions from @goodhousemag http://bit.ly/q57ceC #ShapeUpNC
  • Even @Time is on the healthy living bandwagon- check out their article on ways to get moving with your kids http://ti.me/6aQ90k #ShapeUpNC
  • Do you have enough energy? Take this quiz from Eat Smart Move More NC to find out: http://bit.ly/y2bZOl #ShapeUpNC
  • Thinking about starting a running program? Here are some tips to help you get started: http://bit.ly/fgb4qp #ShapeUpNC
  • Cycling is a great way to get exercise and save the planet!  What beginners should know: http://bit.ly/kfqw9y #ShapeUpNC
  • Music is a great way to get motivated and stay motivated to workout. Here are the top tunes from @FitnessMag http://fitm.ag/12RbF #ShapeUpNC
  • Have a sweet day with this delicious and slimmed-down Truffle Cookie recipe from @FoodNetwork http://bit.ly/mBR4QU #ShapeUpNC
  • If it’s hard to eat healthy with your family’s busy lives, check out these tips: http://bit.ly/iyNEtM #ShapeUpNC
  • Get the whole family involved in being more active. Be Active NC has great tips for kids: http://bit.ly/y0hmmN #ShapeUpNC
  • Here are some great blogs and resources on healthy living for this #ShapeUpNC #FF: @healthyliving @ @sanjayguptaCNN @CJNutrition @Greatist
  • On a budget and still want to eat healthy? Check out these tips: http://bit.ly/auBX6C #ShapeUpNC
  1. Engagement and Contest Tweets:
  • Have you checked in on @foursquare lately? Be the mayor of your local park, gym, or healthy eatery to win prizes from #ShapeUpNC
  • Where is your favorite place to get moving outside? Tell us, and check in on @foursquare! #ShapeUpNC
  • We love getting fresh veggies from the farmers’ market opens in March! Tell us how you are celebrating the beginning of spring! #ShapeUpNC
  • Spring has sprung- Tell us your spring healthy living goals on Facebook! #ShapeUpNC
  • Life is busy, when do you fit in time to be active? #ShapeUpNC
  • Walking more can be easy! Park your car further away or take the stairs. What tips do you have for walking more? #ShapeUpNC
  • What are your favorite healthy week night dinners? We want to know! #ShapeUpNC