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  • 09/07/2021 3:47 PM | Elizabeth Duffrin (Administrator)

    By Kaycee Bunch, ACN Member

    Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion has always been essential in establishing an effective nonprofit board of directors and is even more relevant now in our ever-changing world. We tend to hear these three words together—Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (or DEI)—but what do they really mean?

    • Diversity is the involvement of people from a range of backgrounds and perspectives, especially those who have been historically marginalized by their racial or ethnic identity, sexual orientation, gender or gender identity, disability, or economic status. 
    • Equity in DEI refers to social equity, meaning that all members of a community can participate, prosper, and reach their full potential. Equity is not to be confused with equality, however. Have you seen this clever illustration of the difference between equality and equity? Equality (on the left) provides equally for everyone. Equity (on the right) flexibly accommodates each person’s need to arrive an equal outcome.


    Source: “What Is Social Equity?” Melbourne Social Equity Institute, socialequity.unimelb.edu.au/stories/ what-is-social-equity

    • Inclusion is the practice of including and accepting people who are different from you, in every possible way, and providing them with equitable access to resources and opportunities.

    A diverse board that practices equity and inclusion will greatly benefit your nonprofit.  It will allow opportunities to discuss deeply-rooted community issues from multiple perspectives, leading to more creative and informed ways of tackling challenges and pursing goals.

    Although many boards strive for DEI, they sometimes fall short in recruiting a truly diverse membership. An excellent model for creating a diverse board can be found in the world of community development.

    Some years ago, Future Generations University and Johns Hopkins University conducted a study of large-scale efforts at community change, examining approaches world-wide over the previous century. They identified core principles for successful community change and described them as part of a system they called SEED-SCALE. One of these core principles is the three-way partnership.

    Because social change is complex, creating an effective team representing diverse constituencies, proved essential, researchers found. Future Generations University refers to the three groups that must be included in a partnership for social change as the “Bottom-Up,” the “Outside-In,” and the “Top-Down.”

    The first group—the Bottom-Up—are the people who will do most of the work or reap most of the benefits (think of your staff and volunteers and those your organization is helping). The second partnership, the Outside-In, are the outsiders that have an interest in transforming the community (think consultants, researchers, people interested in your organization although they may not have direct involvement in it). The third partnership, the Top-Down, are the leaders whose decisions effect the community (think of your leadership, board of directors, high-profile donors).

    Because all three of these groups of people have knowledge that should inform the direction of your organization, it is vital they all have representation on your board. Strategic planning and other decision-making are typically undertaken by the Top-Down with their bird’s-eye view, perhaps with input from the Outside-In. Rarely is the lived experience of the Bottom-Up invited in.

    Including the Bottom-Up on your board of directors, particularly those from marginalized groups your nonprofit serves, can present challenges It may require extra effort to create equitable opportunities for everyone to participate, such as additional training or even arranging for their transportation to your meeting. It may include actively soliciting their ideas and then listening to a critique of services you’ve worked hard to provide. It may even feel uncomfortable handing power to someone who you feel is less prepared to lead than you are.

    But the payoff to practicing DEI is great. It can lead to more holistic and informed approaches. It can empower those who have been long excluded from wielding power. And as research has demonstrated, practicing DEI is essential for achieving your nonprofit’s vision for meaningful, large-scale, lasting change.  

    For additional information on this topic, see National Council of Nonprofits, DEI Tools and Resources National Association of Colleges & Employers (NACE) Diversity & Inclusion Self-Assessment.

    Kaycee Bunch, M.A, is the owner of Kaycee Bunch Consulting, which specializes in Community Development. Kaycee has worked with over 20 nonprofit organizations both nationally and internationally, focusing on strategic planning, program development, and fund development.


  • 09/06/2021 11:37 AM | Elizabeth Duffrin (Administrator)

    By Liz Duffrin, ACN Member

    Diversity, equity and inclusion is a top priority for the ACN Board of Directors as it begins its new term.

    ACN has great potential to boost its membership by appealing to a more diverse group of consultants, said new board president Shailushi Ritchie, founder and CEO of Sevah Consulting.

    Currently, most ACN members are white (86%) and reside in Chicago. While experienced in their respective fields, members typically have been in the consulting business for fewer than eight years.  “What can we do to engage more people,” Ritchie asked, “people of different racial and ethnic groups, experienced consultants and people who don’t live in Chicago?”

    The board has ideas. To engage members nationwide, remote programming will continue post-pandemic, even as in-person workshops and happy hours resume. For experienced consultants, programming that “talks about how to move your business to the next level,” could be a draw, she said. The board also anticipates organizing and supporting self-directed affinity groups, such as for members who are on the West Coast or LGBTQ or people of color. These groups may focus on free-form networking or take a more formal approach, such as by inviting in speakers, she explained. “We want each group to meet the needs of its members.”

    The board is looking forward to pursuing many other goals, as well, as it rolls out the strategic plan it adopted at the end of FY21, said Ritchie. “I personally am excited about the fantastic group of board members we have and how much energy and drive there is to tackle some of our big challenges.”

    ACN welcomes its newest board members:

    Gioia Giannotti, ACN vice president, is a new business developer and marketer who co-founded (r)evolution architecture. in 2012 with her husband, Christopher Frye. She serves as vice president of business development for the full-service architecture and interior design studio. Gioia enjoys collaborating with clients across diverse industries to create unique spaces, from master planning through post-construction. Her diverse background includes marketing strategy leadership, business development, and customer experience management for Fortune 500 companies. As a bilingual and bicultural Latina, she brings an equity and belonging lens to her work and volunteer efforts.

    John Bauer, is principal and senior strategist at John E. Bauer Consulting, LLC, based near Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Formerly a school administrator, he earned a Ph.D. in Higher Education Administration and served as a school principal and as chief academic officer of Wisconsin Lutheran College for 22 years. Before launching his consulting practice, he was the merger integration project manager, chief operations officer, and eventually President and CEO of Bethesda Lutheran Communities, a national service provider for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. His consulting practice includes executive coaching, strategic planning, organizational development, and interim executive leadership.                      

    David Dow, based in Bloomington, Illinois, is strategic partner at Schooley Mitchell, North America's largest cost-reduction consultancy, His clients include YWCAs across the USA, small and large regional and national nonprofits, educational institutions, and for-profit businesses. In March of 2021, along with his partner Jim Neeley, David was given the Norene G. Ball award for community service by YWCA McLean County.

    For more than 20 years, David served as managing director of Wisecracker Design. His expertise includes new business development, business expansion, sales, marketing, design, development, sourcing, production, and logistics. 

    Aashi Mital, CEO of Pivotal Solutions Consulting, is based in Cincinnati, Ohio. She focuses on problem solving, sustainability solutions, organizational health, executive coaching, professional development and global connectivity. She is a published author on interdisciplinary topics including geopolitical patterns, executive leadership, business and engineering economics, worldwide sustainability, human productivity and historical perspectivesShe participates in speaking engagements around the world in her areas of expertise, which also include best nonprofit standards and practices.  Prior to launching her consultancy, she was director of the nonprofit wing of J.C. Baker and Associates – The Business Hospital in Cincinnati, Ohio, a consultancy that works with clients on organizational development and sustainability.                                                               

    Arthur Padilla, is senior managing partner of StrataG.Works, and based in Federal Way, Washington. His services to nonprofits include diversity, equity, and inclusion planning, strategic planning, leadership coaching, and program design and evaluation. He has done extensive work in anti-racist and anti-oppression programming across the United States. A recent project included a three-year initiative with the YWCA USA as lead evaluator for a trauma-informed leadership project for high school girls of color. Prior to becoming a consultant, he earned an M.A. in Counseling Psychology and served as a nonprofit executive director for organizations serving people with AIDS and LGBTQ youth.

    See the full listing of FY21-22 Board of Directors here

  • 07/16/2021 5:30 PM | Ed Graziano (Administrator)

    Thank you to all that attended our 32nd Annual Meeting (and our second virtual meeting) on Friday, June 18. We were thrilled to see members, board members and committee volunteers, sponsors, speakers as well as nonprofits in attendance. 

    One of our key updates was the news that we have broken our highest membership number on record, including an increase in national members (our membership now represents 15 states). 

    We thanked our outgoing board and committee members for their service: board members Suzanne Griffith, Emily Taylor and Randy Ford, as well as outgoing committee chairs, Michael Mayse (Programming) and Laura Weinman (Membership). 

    We also announced retaining board members Jim Javorcic and Shailushi Ritchie as well as new board members, John Bauer, Arthur PadillaDavid DowAashi Mital and Gioia Giannotti. See the full ACN board here

    Shailushi Ritchie, who led the Strategic Planning Task Force, unveiled ACN’s new strategic focus as well as our related Mission Statement, Statement of Purpose and Core Audience. 

    Kelly Short of Campbell & Company shared eye-opening data and discussed how we can shift to a more community-centered fundraising model that brings racial equity to fundraising, and how we as consultants can use our power to break the systems and processes in place. 

    Next we heard inspiring insights from our panelists: Hilary Dale of BDO FMA discussed how they helped nonprofits apply for PPP loans, resulting in over $1 billion in loans. Talla Mountjoy of Talla Mountjoy Consulting talked about how she started consulting for a better quality of life and to follow her passion. Arthur Padilla of StrataG.Works talked about how he initiated coaching cohorts to help people dismantle racism and become allies. 

    Our featured speaker Monique Jones, CEO of our partner Forefront kicked off her talk by sharing the five personal values that lead her work: optimism, integrity, equity, fidelity and humor. She talked about how organizations and philanthropy are being reimagined and how consultants can be a part of this. She suggests to diversify what you’re able to offer, take care of yourself, and set boundaries for what you can/cannot do. 

    Thank you for joining us—here’s to a great year! 

    The meeting replay is available for ACN members here.


  • 07/12/2021 7:36 PM | Elizabeth Duffrin (Administrator)

    By Chris Vaughn, ACN Member

    The online content your nonprofit creates tells a story. It highlights the importance of your work and accomplishments. Done well, it can further your mission by attracting new members and inspiring constituents to action.

    Now that the pandemic has moved so much of our lives online, your nonprofit’s content strategy is more important than ever. And your audience expects more than ever: a static website, monthly newsletter, and occasional Facebook post are not enough..

    Sequence Consulting recently conducted a survey of national and Chicago-area associations to find out how the pandemic had changed their members’ expectations for online content. What we found almost certainly applies to most nonprofits, regardless of size and mission: the demand for timely and useful information is increasing and will likely remain high in a post-pandemic world. To decide if your nonprofit needs to level up its content strategy, ask yourself the following four questions:

    1. Do you publish new content often?

    If not, you need to! In the past year, organizations that prided themselves on highly-produced, in-depth publications learned that this content style no longer worked for their members.

    Todd Unger, chief experience officer of the American Medical Association, said that members were now asking for more frequent contact, and cared less about the production value of content than its timeliness. “‘We want to see you more and hear from you more,’” members told the AMA.

    All nonprofits should make new online content a priority, but the frequency depends on your goals. If your mission. like the AMA’s, includes being an up-to-date source of relevant news, then you should publish new content daily. Advocacy organizations which aim to inspire members to immediate action on important issues should produce content daily, even if just through a social media post or a tweet. Even the smallest nonprofits shouldn’t neglect to communicate weekly if they want to be remembered. Fortunately, frequent communication has never been easier, and you no longer need to spend time and resources on perfectly polished content—members and contributors prefer content that meets their immediate needs.

     2. Are you taking full advantage of technology?

    Thanks to the unprecedented use of web conferencing platforms like Zoom, you now have the opportunity to secure higher-caliber speakers for digital events. Speakers and members can attend from anywhere, providing opportunities that would be impossible with in-person events. Whether virtual or in-person, there is significant value in live events. Margaret Mueller, CEO of the Executives Club of Chicago, finds that having high-quality speakers interact with members live allows “the connection to become more raw and real.”

    These events don’t need to be elaborate to be effective. One of the hallmarks of The Executives’ Club’s new content strategy is Coffee and Connect, where members can log on at the same time a few mornings a week to get advice from an expert in residence about the issues their business is currently facing. 

    Ask yourself what information would be most engaging to your constituents, and what experts they would most like to hear from. Find a way to deliver that information to them quickly, in a live format. 

    3. Are you publishing your events as content?

    When the pandemic hit, many nonprofits had to quickly abandon traditional event formats and go digital with their conferences, trainings, and fundraising events. One benefit: any online event, large or small, can be recorded and repackaged as content. Quick highlights from a longer video can be excerpted and shared via social media, email, and your website. Key points can be summarized in a blog post or a great quote shared with a tweet. The recorded event itself can be made available online. By taking your event content, repackaging it, and distributing it online to those who couldn’t attend live, you can provide significant value. Again, video doesn’t need to be highly produced to be engaging and effective.

    4. Are you highlighting constituent stories?

    Ultimately, people want to be part of organizations making a difference in the world. Members of professional associations want to read stories about colleagues who have excelled while simultaneously making an impact. Supporters of any nonprofit would value hearing from staff and those they impact talk about challenges and victories.

    Some highly successful associations have already adopted this approach. The AMA publishes a short-form digital magazine that focuses on members who are moving medicine forward. Some of the American Bar Association’s most popular content consists of members telling stories about other members. The Executive’s Club of Chicago shares members’ stories online through short video segments.

    There are many ways to incorporate personal stories into your online content strategy. Find the strategies that work best for your nonprofit. When you do, you will see engagement, membership, and revenue grow.  

    Chris Vaughn, PhD, is the chief strategy officer at Sequence Consulting, which has helped associations and nonprofits of all sizes grow their audience and revenue through innovative strategy and marketing since 2001.  His clients include AMA, AARP, United Way, Make-a-Wish, American Lung Association, and the Jewish United Fund, and many others. For more information on how top associations are using lessons learned during the pandemic to transform their content strategy, download Sequence Consulting’s report here.


  • 06/03/2021 11:21 AM | Elizabeth Duffrin (Administrator)

    By Amy Schiffman, ACN Member 

    Last month, I sat screen to screen (on my sixth Zoom of the day) with my Evolve Giving Group colleagues, talking about how many of our nonprofit clients feel “stuck.” That feeling is the result of a pandemic that has forced them to rethink their plans and strategies and yet, at the same time, made it difficult to plan.  We thought hard about how to help nonprofits think differently about possibilities and opportunities, and developed a process we call visioning.

    Visioning is more creative and comprehensive than a revision to your vision statement. It is the precursor to every strategic plan, feasibility study, and every large-scale campaign. It enables organizations and groups to agree on compelling goals, breakthrough strategies, and aligned action.

    An organization’s strategic visionwhich is summarized in its vision statementis an overarching set of goals, without the roadmap to get there (that comes later). It tells stakeholders, staff, and donors “where we’re going” and “what we hope to achieve.” Nonprofits with clear strategic visions are the ones that inspire donors, unify stakeholders, and raise substantial amounts of money.

    Here are 4 signs it’s time to engage in strategic visioning:

    1. Your work looks wildly different than it did 1.5 years ago.
    2. You’re questioning whether a particular project or set of programs really fits into your organization’s bigger picture.
    3. Making decisions about how to move forward has become increasingly difficult for staff and board members.
    4. The constant change and shifting gears over the past year has left your team feeling burnt out, misaligned, and confusedand you’re not sure how to get back on track.

    If you relate to one or more of these statements, it’s likely you’re ready to define your strategic vision. I suggest you start with an exercise that engages a small group of stakeholders who are ready and willing to think “big” about your organization’s future. This exercise helps jump start the visioning process and stimulate brainstorming:

    Setup

    The group forms two concentric circles facing each other. One third of the group joins the inner circle and the remaining two-thirds join the outer circle. The group then forms trios with one person from the center circle and two people from the outer circle.

    Activity

    Each person in the trio has two minutes to complete the sentence “It is (choose a date in the future - like June 15, 2023) and it has been a great year…” This person should speak as if it is currently that date and share organizational accomplishments, current programs or operations, challenges, and achievements. After six minutes, each person in the trio will have had their turn and the inner circle can rotate so that each person joins a new trio and the group completes three rounds.

    Debrief

    At the end of the activity, spend some time debriefing with your final group and assign a note taker. I suggest asking questions such as:

    • How did your vision change with each round?
    •  What did you hear from others that inspired or excited you?
    •   Did you hear any consistency or alignment around future hopes and goals?

    The ideas that come out of this exercise can form the foundation of an organizational vision. If you are interested in learning more about strategic visioning, please reach out, and if you try this exercise with your team, let me know how it goes!

    Amy Schiffman is president and CEO of Evolve Giving Group. She and her rock star team can be found at www.evolvegivinggroup.com so feel free to reach out with comments or questions.


  • 05/02/2021 9:41 PM | Elizabeth Duffrin (Administrator)

    by Janet Cobb, ACN Member

    If I had a nickel for every time a client voiced concern about not wanting to cause “donor fatigue,” I’d be very rich!

    Many nonprofits are afraid of communicating with their donors “too often.” They don’t want donors to get tired of hearing from them, to unsubscribe, or to stop giving. They don’t want to “bother” or “nag” them. But the idea of “donor fatigue” is a myth.

    Why is it a myth?

    Think about it. Take a moment to think about an activity or event you enjoy or a cause you care about. Do you look forward to hearing about it or do you dread it?

    What emails, texts, and phone calls do you look forward to? Who are they from? What are they about?

    I love to read small business and nonprofit origin stories. I enjoy learning about new ideas for solving big problems around racism, homelessness, food security, disease, domestic violence—the list goes on. I appreciate information on writing, gardening, home repairs, and cooking. I am passionate about many things. And when I’m interested in something – I love to be inspired. I enjoy learning more about what others are doing and how to improve or enjoy it in new ways. I want to know what’s going on with the social causes I care about.

    For some people it’s sports, politics, religion. We have entire television, radio, podcast, YouTube, print news, and every other imaginable channel to stay connected to the things we care about.

    Why would the causes we support through our philanthropic gifts be any different? We don’t give because we don’t care – we give because we do care.

    So, really, the problem isn’t how often we communicate with donors but what we say – or don’t say – to them.

    How do we bust the myth?

    Remember you’re engaging in a conversation with people who care about what you care about.

    You’re not producing monologues or soliloquies. You’re carrying on a conversation. A conversation takes at least two – to speak and to listen. Ask yourself – “How can I offer a benefit to the audience? How can I serve my community through this communication?”

    Don’t always talk about yourself (i.e., your organization and programs).

    Share content about the CAUSE with links to news articles or other people or organization’s efforts and success. Have you recently read a book or listened to a podcast that educated, informed, or inspired you that you can share? Can you ask questions to discover what inspires a donor’s gift? Can you ask questions to better understand the talent, energy, and resources that your community brings to the table?

    Use conversational language not business, formal language.

    Write as if you are writing a letter to your best friend or family member. Don’t use industry jargon. Keep your sentences simple. Be honest and authentic. Show vulnerability when appropriate. Don’t act like you have it all figured out if you don’t. We may each play a different role, but we’re all in this together trying to create a better world – write from that perspective.

    Communicate with purpose.

    Have a reason to invade my inbox. Do you have something new to say? Decide if your communication will inform, educate, inspire, thank, or ask for a donation. Don’t send mixed messages. Have a specific, clear call to action.

    Know your audience.

    Donors, non-donors, lapsed donors, volunteers – many levels of engagement exist within your community. You don’t want to send the same communication to everyone. Are you trying to acquire, convert, re-engage, retain, or upgrade a donor? Will you send via postal mail or email, post on social media, or record on video? Which channel does the donor or prospect prefer? What program area does the donor gravitate towards? Use all the information you have about your audience to communicate so that they feel like you understand them.

    Remember, no one wants to be one of a million – they want to feel like they are one in a million. We all know we’re not the only person in the room, but it sure feels good when someone makes us feel like we are.

    If you are creating and sending a variety of communications to donors that will help them feel more engaged and connected to the mission and vision of your organization, you can never communicate too much.

    Janet Cobb is a national speaker and author of  Promised Land: The 10 Commandments for Nonprofit Strategy, Communications, and Fundraising. As a consultant and coach, she has guided more than 300 early-stage, small and mid-size nonprofits to create strategic plans, communication plans, and 12-month fundraising roadmaps.


  • 04/05/2021 7:49 PM | Elizabeth Duffrin (Administrator)

    By Matthew Kirkpatrick, ACN Member

    While the economic outlook is brightening this spring, the recovery has yet to arrive. Your nonprofit is likely searching for more ways to lower costs and reduce workloads.

    One easy way to save time and money is to stop using traditional paper checks to pay suppliers. Here are seven ways that switching to electronic payments will benefit your nonprofit:

    • Improved efficiency: a single payment file upload initiates payment to all suppliers. This eliminates the need to log in to multiple banking systems, and the cost of paper, postage, printing, and mailing paper checks.  
    • Streamlined reconciliation: integrating an electronic payments system with the general ledger in your accounting platform significantly reduces the time required to verify that payments have cleared.
    • Fewer errors: uploading a single payment file eliminates costly error-prone manual processes. As a result, staff won’t need to waste hours uncovering and resolving a single payment error.     
    • Easy integration: electronic payments can be seamlessly integrated with any accounting platform without requiring significant changes to existing accounts payable workflow processes. 
    • Better cash management: electronic payments provide greater control over the timing of payments to suppliers. This opens the door to more early-payment discount opportunities.
    • Fewer supplier inquiries: with electronic payments, suppliers have 24/7 access to the status of their payments, as well as their payment history. This visibility helps suppliers better manage their cash without the need to call or e-mail overburdened frontline payables staff.
    • More time to focus on the mission: few things waste as much staff time as printing, signing, stuffing, mailing, and reconciling check payments to suppliers. Paying suppliers electronically frees staff from the drudgery of manual check processing, allowing them to focus more of their time on higher value, mission-driven activities.

    Matthew Kirkpatrick is vice president of business development at Paymeranglocated in Richmond, Virginia, which provides accounts payable automation to nonprofits nationwide. A former nonprofit director and program leader, he values Paymerang for its diversity and commitment to helping nonprofits become more efficient so that they are able to better focus on their mission. Click here to learn more about the benefits of electronic payment.


  • 03/01/2021 5:18 PM | Elizabeth Duffrin (Administrator)

    By ACN Members Mindy Faber and Margaret Conway

    Leadership isn’t only for those with “director” or “manager” in their titles. We all serve as leaders on problems that require our particular skills, expertise, or creativity. Leadership skills often come into play as we collaborate with colleagues or partner  organizations, mentor new colleagues, or serve our organization’s constituents.

    We at Convergence Design  Lab created a deck of cards called Leader Hats that we use with clients as a playful way to think about how leadership style can impact their organization and the work that they do. Each card features a particular “hat” representing a positive style or approach to leading, facilitating, or mentoring.  The cards can be used as a quick icebreaker at a meeting, as a more structured game, or as a discussion and reflection tool.

    Are you the Coach pushing everyone to reach their full-potential, the TED-talker inspiring others with your deep insights, or more a Therapist, serving as a one-on-one reflection guide? And which style best fits each of your colleagues? Take a look at the cards below or the full downloadable deck here, which can be printed and cut to make your own deck.

    • Choose the hat that you wear the most when leading or mentoring. Why does it fit you so well? Choose another hat that you don’t often wear. How might you try it on?
    • Identify cards that you think your colleagues demonstrate the most often. Share with them why you think they wear it well!
    • Pick a random card and challenge yourself to think of a way to apply that style to your work.

    The possibilities for using these cards are endless. Spread them out on a table to prompt discussion. Identify more leadership styles and add them to the deck. Play our favorite game and have each person chose the style they think defines each colleague best, write it on a Post-it note, and stick it on that person's back. Now guess what style most colleagues picked for you! 

    In workshops, we find these cards get people talking within seconds about themselves and sharing stories about each other’s personal strengths. So often we admire our colleagues secretly but don’t take time to openly appreciate them or consider how we might adopt their most successful practices. How did a colleague whose leadership style you’d like to emulate come to adopt that approach? Who influenced their style? How did they develop it?

    Using these cards can give nonprofit directors a chance (in a playful, risk-free context) to reflect openly on their leadership and new strengths they’d like to develop. Modeling a “growth mindset” about leadership—the belief that one’s ability as a leader is not a fixed trait but rather a skill that can grow with effort—is a powerful example for others. It gives permission to everyone in your organization to take on a learning disposition: “I have things I want to work on. I can learn from others. I don’t have to be the expert on everything.”

    Mindy Faber and Margaret Conway are co-founders of Convergence Design Lab, which helps nonprofits design learning experiences—including professional workshops and e-learning—engage in strategic planning, and evaluate programs. Mindy is a seasoned media educator, nonprofit leader, artist, evaluator, and advocate with expertise in connected learning, youth media, civic education, and digital literacy. Margaret is an arts educator with a theoretical background in connected learning, curriculum design, evaluation, professional development, and participatory media. Contact them if you’d like to schedule a free Leader Hats workshop for your nonprofit.


  • 02/01/2021 2:24 PM | Elizabeth Duffrin (Administrator)

    By ACN member Gregory Perrine

    The number of cyber attacks has risen dramatically since the pandemic began. Remote workers, unaware of threats to digital security, have inadvertently cost their employers millions. While businesses are the most frequent targets, nonprofits are also at risk. Consider all of the sensitive data your organization stores or accesses electronically, including payroll information, that might be attractive to cyber thieves. Below are a few simple practices that can significantly lower your risk.

    Establish a Password Management Plan

    Most of us know that we ought to be creating long, strong, unique passwords for our online accounts and updating them frequently. But let’s be honest, we are all guilty of using the same passwords for multiple accounts, and for far longer than we should.

    To keep your data safe, send out reminders to your employees every three months to change the password they use to log on to your network. But recommend that they make it easier by using a free password manager such as LastPass. Password managers store hard-to-remember passwords securely and have built-in generators to create ones that are hard for the bad guys to guess.

    Prevent Social Engineering Attacks

    Most of us are aware that scammers “phish” for personal information with emails that appear to be from companies like Chase Bank, PayPal, and Amazon, or a friend or business associate. But as scammers come up with increasingly ingenious ploys, it’s easy to get caught off guard. We have a few tips to ensure you are catching common phishing scams:

    1. Look at the actual email address, and not the display name. Oftentimes, a scammer can spoof an executive’s name based on what is publicly available online.
    2. Check the tone and grammar of the email and ask yourself, “Does this sound like something the sender would say?”
    3. If there is hyper-linked text, copy the link address and paste it into a new browser window to ensure it is linked to the correct URL.

    Make sure your nonprofit has a system in place to alert employees immediately regarding any phishing scam that lands in their email inboxes. This can be done via email, Slack, Teams, or Hangouts and should include a screenshot (not the forwarded message) of the scam.

    Secure Home Networks

    With so many employees logging into your network from home, ensuring the security of their home networks is vital to preventing an attack. Ask that everyone logging into your network remotely change the default password on their WiFi router, if they have not already. You can always contact your internet provider to see if it can offer any additional firewall protection for your network, or invest in an external firewall if your organization is handling sensitive data.

    Consider a Virtual Private Network

    A Virtual Private Networkcommonly known as a VPN encrypts all of your internet communications so that hackers are unable to spy on your activities or gain access to your data. Some VPNs can even block unwanted ads, pop-ups, malicious websites, and viruses. While VPNs will slightly slow your internet speed, the tradeoff in security is well-worth it. My company, eGuide Tech Allies, has compiled a list of specifications to look for in a VPN and three low-cost providers that we recommend to our nonprofit clients.

    While following the simple steps above can’t guarantee that your network will never be hacked, they will make it far less likely.

    Gregory Perrine is chief executive intern at eGuide Tech Allies, a company that provides digital marketing, technology support, and business development to nonprofits. Perrine has over a decade of experience in providing technology solutions, workflow automations, event planning, and logistics support for emerging nonprofits. He specializes in working with organizations to streamline their operational systems and identify and implement technological solutions that help them become more efficient and effective.

  • 01/05/2021 10:14 AM | Lidia Varesco Racoma (Administrator)


    This was a challenging year for everyone, including membership organizations like ours. But despite the challenges, we found new ways to keep our members connected and supported by embracing the new virtual world.

    COVID-19 Response

    As in-person events were being canceled in March 2020, we launched an initiative to support our members virtually. We implemented weekly member resource emails, free flash webinars, networking opportunities in our private Facebook group, as well as virtual speed networking events.

    We had record-high attendance at our flash webinars and our happy hour speed networking events were a hit.

    2020 Board and Committee Changes

    In our Annual Meeting in May 2020 (our first virtual event), we announced changes to our board and committee structure, including the implementation of Board Liaisons and co-chairs for each committee.

    We also welcomed three new board members, Brad BallDon Raack and Shailushi Ritchie.


    2020 Committee Highlights

    Marketing & Communications Committee

    Board Liaison: Lidia Varesco Racoma; Co-Chairs: Aashi Mital & Annisa Wanat

    • We launched a National Volunteer Week social media campaign in May, sharing stories from our current volunteers (getting our highest engagement, to boot).  
    • We continued to remain active on Facebook and LinkedIn (make sure to follow us!) and bumped up activity in our private member communities on Google Groups and Facebook.
    • We shared monthly guest blog posts by members.
    • We are in the process of revamping the ACN website in both structure and content to make it more user-friendly, both for our members as well as nonprofits seeking consultants.

    Nonprofit Relations Committee (NPRC)

    Board Liaison: Emily Taylor; Co-Chairs: Aashi Mital & Annisa Wanat

    • We further established our relationship with Forefront through our series of Ask a Consultant panels on COVID-relevant topics, getting ACN members exposed to Chicagoland nonprofits.
    • We created a Find a Speaker section on our website to direct our nonprofit partners to ACN consultants when they are looking to share relevant knowledge with their nonprofit members. 
    • We revised our RFP process to make it easier for nonprofits to fill out and gather more robust information for consultants to respond to.

    Membership Committee

    Board Liaison: Jim Javoricic; Co-Chairs: Fran Caan & Laura Weinman

    • We implemented virtual New Member Orientations on the first Wednesday of each month.
    • We sent emails welcoming new members and encouraging networking among members.
    • Our current membership is at a record high.
    • Membership has diversified by geography and membership type, including out-of-state memberships representing Colorado, Massachusetts, Oklahoma, Washington, Wisconsin, Tennessee, Ohio, New York, Kansas and California.

    Programming Committee

    ACN Member Stories from 2020

    We are thrilled to share stories from our members about how ACN supported them this year.

    We are only as strong as our membership and we are grateful to work with such a dedicated group of nonprofit consultants.

    ******
    For the first half of 2020 I was a member of the Governance Committee and, later in the year, part of a working group to update the Conflict of Interest policy. As a past president, I know the importance of committee work and the mutual benefit—for members and ACN—derived from the experience. Committee work is a wonderful way to get to know colleagues and share expertise.

    I was also delighted to have the opportunity to participate in Ask a Consultant. It was meaningful to be able to share expertise with nonprofits and colleagues as we all were learning how to navigate during a pandemic. 

    Amy Wishnick, Wishnick & Associates, LLC

    ******

    As a board member, I have been able to take on new challenges that add skills to my business, such as better understanding the hard skills of governance and the soft skills of building a team. This year also brought big changes for me as I tried to manage my business while having a kid at home. Connecting and having conversations with ACN members in similar situations helped me think through how to retool my work to fit my capacity and still make a meaningful impact with my clients.

    Emily Taylor, teeny big

    ******

    ACN has been great for me as I just started my consulting practice. There was no comparable organization in NYC and I have found ACN welcoming, supportive, comprehensive and a great way to meet new people!

    – Kim Vaccari

    ******

    Participating in the ACN Board of Directors and Marketing & Communications Committee has helped me stay connected with nonprofit colleagues as well as fellow parents navigating remote learning. This year, I also got two new speaking opportunities and several new client projects thanks to ACN referrals.

    Lidia Varesco Racoma, Lidia Varesco Design

    Thank you for your support of ACN in 2020—here's to a healthy and successful 2021! 

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