Thursday, July 30, 2009

Collaborations making work smarter, not harder

Volunteers have become ever more important as struggling nonprofits in a troubled economy experience mounting pressure to provide resources and services. Despite the trying economic times and the first decline in charitable giving in 20 years, the Volunteering in America report finds that rates of volunteerism continue to hold steady from 2007 rates.

As a Co-Chair of the Steering Committee of the Nonprofit Network in Dakota County (NNDC), I'm excited to share that our network is facing the challenge of diminished resources despite greater need by banding together to work smarter, not harder. A project of the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits, the network formally known as the "Dakota County Social Leaders Action Network," has transcended its initial goals of engaging nonprofit board members to become a coalition of collaborative local organizations.

The Nonprofit Network in Dakota County has promoted partnerships amongst our member nonprofits since the beginning. In 2007, on National Make a Difference Day, three nonprofit groups co-hosted the first-ever "Birthday Bag Blitz" to assemble Cheerful Givers birthday gift bags for less fortunate children. In doing so, mentors and mentees from Kids 'n Kinship were able to share a common volunteer experience as well as hear from Smoke-Free Dakota about the new statewide smoke-free workplace law.

Other Nonprofit Network groups joined together to host a series of 5 Emergency Preparedness workshops in Spring 2007. Individual nonprofits walked away with individual emergency plans as well as the opportunity to discuss with other community institutions how to coordinate their distinct roles in times of crisis.

In August 2008, the Nonprofit Network recognized and thanked the county’s many volunteers at the first “Honoring Volunteers Day” at the Dakota County Fair in Farmington. Rather than require individual organizations to pay booth fees and staff their tables for 12 hours a day for a full week, Honoring Volunteers Day allows for nonprofits to recognize their volunteers and recruit new supporters in one afternoon! This year's Honoring Volunteers Day is slated for Sunday, August 16, 2009 from 1:00PM-4:00PM at the Dakota County Fair. Stop by to learn about nonprofits across the county, participate in speed-volunteering opportunities, and be recognized for your own volunteering efforts in our community!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Social media for social good, with a side of bacon

This Friday marks Social Media Breakfast - Minneapolis/St. Paul #17. Social Media Breakfast, with local chapters across the nation, is a networking and learning opportunity for local social media users to talk about using social media and social networking tools in their business or careers. The July 2009 #SMBMSP topic is, "Nonprofits & Social Media," and I will be speaking on a panel with several other folks who work in Minnesota's nonprofit sector. Our conversation will run the gamut on a wide variety of issues stemming from our use of social media for organizational outreach, fundraising, and communications.

Unfortunately, SMBMSP 17 sold out within an hour after it was announced (there are a lot of do-gooders in the Twin Cities, as my last post evinces). Those who can't join us in person can follow our video stream: on Friday morning from 8:00AM-10:00AM. You can also check out our panelists' podcast, recorded late last week, to provide a brief glimpse into our upcoming conversation. Hope to see you there or get your feedback here!

Nonprofits & Social Media
Nonprofits and social media have been a popular discussion topic recently. Mashable launched the The Summer of Social Good in June, an online charitable campaign to raise funds online through the power of Social Media and the Internet. Groups like Social Media for Social Change (SM4SC) been created around this concept and coordinates fundraisers around the US. The first Social Good Conference will be held in New York this August focusing on the topic of “Social Media for Social Good.”

What are local nonprofits doing to harness the power of social media? Has it helped to increase awareness, funds, volunteerism? What role does it play now and in the future? Join us and our panel to explore these issues and more.

Meg Canada, Senior Librarian, Hennepin County Library

Sarah Burt
Systems Administrator, Office of Congressman Ellison

Lindsi Gish
E-communications marketing manager, Second Harvest

Dania Toscano Miwa
Development associate, Great Plains Institute

Ashley Schweitzer
Marketing Coordinator, Nonprofits Assistance Fund

Diane Tran
Staff Consultant, Catalyst

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Twin Cities ranked #1 for volunteerism!

The Corporation for National and Community Service released their annual Volunteering in America report today, which highlights Minneapolis-St. Paul as the number one ranked large metro area for volunteerism in the country. The state of Minnesota ranks 3rd in the country with 38.4% of residents volunteering, for a total of 1.6 million volunteers giving 169.7 million hours of service this past year. Most Minnesotans volunteered with religious organizations (34.1%), followed by educational institutions (26.3%) and social services (13.5%). Of particular interest to @MinnesotaRising, Minnesota ranked 4th in the nation for volunteerism amongst both Baby Boomers and the Millennial generation. However, Minnesota Baby Boomers volunteered at a rate of 42.9% in the past year, whereas only 29.6% of Minnesota Millennials volunteered. The National Conference on Citizenship highlights these two special generations for their potential for civic participation, given their sheer sizes (77 million Baby Boomers and 82 million Millennials nationwide) and their current statuses in life stages suited to high levels of civic engagement. Their 2008 Civic Health Index: Beyond the Vote finds:
"Compared to the Baby Boomers when they were young adults, Millennials are somewhat more likely to volunteer. They are less likely to vote and to participate in face- to-face civil society, as reflected by questions about attending meetings, belonging to groups, and attending religious services. Declines in face-to-face engagement occurred before the widespread use of the Internet; but clearly, today’s youth have new opportunities for online interaction. Overall, if we compare Millennials to previous generations when they were young, the Millennials appear more engaged than Generation X and engaged in different ways from the Boomers."
Minnesota has a rich history of civic engagement and innovation that continues to thrive today, thanks in large part to long-standing community organizations like the Citizens League and the League of Women Voters of Minnesota. As Minnesotans continue to build on this impressive legacy by engaging all generations in supporting our statewide community, the true measure of success will be an educated workface, vibrant economy, and engaged citizenry in the years to come.

Friday, July 24, 2009


During the National Civic Summit last week, I attended a session hosted by Best Buy on their new @15 initiative. The effort is based on their contention that, "What happens at age 15 has a lot to say about teens' success in school and beyond." The Best Buy Children's Foundation commissioned Minneapolis-based, Search Institute, to conduct a national study of 1,817 fifteen-year-olds and draft a new report, Teen Voice 2009 (PDF). The report introduces three concepts that have potential to set or keep 15-year-olds on a positive course at this critical time in their life: Sparks, Teen Voice Index (TVI), and Relationships and Opportunities Index (ROI).
Key Findings from Teen Voice 2009 -Sparks, which are individual talents, passions or gifts that give teens energy, motivation, focus and joy, are critical to teens' well being. Yet, while 66% of teens surveyed can identify at least one spark for themselves, fewer than half who know their spark have much spark support beyond their family. -Teen Voice Index (TVI), a new measure of teen engagement in social issues, found 18% of youth scored high, indicating significant opportunities to help young people find their voice and contribute to their communities. Teens with high TVI scores are at least three times as likely as those with low scores to see civic engagement as important, hold prosocial values and have a sense of hopeful purpose for the future. -Relationships and Opportunities Index (ROI) is a new measure to track three elements that significantly help teens: being valued and treated fairly; having access to high-quality opportunities, such as after-school programs; and having people who nurture their sparks. Only about one in eight (12%) of teens score high on this index. Youth with high ROI scores are much more likely to report positive outcomes and are three times as likely as those with low scores to have a sense of hopeful purpose, express caring values, be actively engaged in school and take on leadership roles.
While I am initially somewhat wary of Best Buy's self-interest in reaching out to the youth demographic (traditionally known to retain the most expendable income for discretionary spending) given the corporation's interests in advancing their bottom line, at the same time, there is, undoubtedly, real opportunity to leverage their access to (droves of young Best Buy retail store employees) and appeal to (electronics-savvy generation) the youth population for the common good. The research and media surrounding this effort is an important step to acknowledging a different kind of story about teens than is typically portrayed. Moreover, highlighting the beliefs of young people in their own power and potential is critical to changing norms and stereotypes that exist around youth. As President and CEO of Best Buy, Brian J. Dunn, notes in the report's welcome letter, "Too often we hear bad news about young people - the challenges they face or the problems they create. Best Buy is committed to changing the conversation about teens and helping the world to see them as the outspoken, intelligent, creative, bring-on-the-world individuals they are."

Monday, July 13, 2009

LWVMNEF recruiting mentors for LOTT Fellows!

The annual LOTT conference is known to be a thought-provoking experience for many, and a life-changing experience for some. I'm excited to have been a part of LOTT's Advisory Committee for the past several years and look forward now to supporting its programming into the next phase! See below for the official announcement about the expanded programming and search for talented professional women mentors for the first round of LOTT Fellows! Contact Allie Moen ( for an application form or for more details.

League of Women Voters Minnesota Education Fund (LWVMNEF) is proud to announce a new beginning for Leaders of Today and Tomorrow (LOTT) an ongoing leadership development program.

LOTT was founded in 1993 and for 14 years produced an annual seminar bringing together college-aged women with women in public policy leadership roles. The annual seminar has been an excellent opportunity for young women to form relationships, identify mentors and develop future employment and leadership skills.

LWVMNEF is expanding LOTT from a single annual seminar to an ongoing leadership program which supports young women over time with a consistent alumni network. The expanded LOTT Fellowship Program will provide five months of leadership programming and support to ten outstanding young women and the needed support for goal development and achievement, resulting in a clearly defined vision for themselves as future leaders.

We greatly appreciate your support of the LOTT Fellows Program, and look forward to your continued partnership in taking the program to the next level. Outstanding mentors will be key elements of a successful new fellows program. We ask for your assistance in recruiting high-quality mentor applicants who can help us get the new program off to a strong start. Please share this announcement within your organization and/or with women who you think would be a great fit for the LOTT Fellows Program. To learn more, see the LOTT website announcement or contact LWVMN Program Director, Allie Moen at 651-224-5445 or at

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

National Civic Summit in Minneapolis next week!

The annual National Association of Secretaries of State conference will be held in Minneapolis at the end of next week and it turns out there's an open invitation to join in on the fun at the National Civic Summit! If you are interested in improving nonpartisan civic imagination and impact, you won’t want to miss this opportunity to interact with national leaders on a wide spectrum of critical topics. Following are two events where you can join the conversation: The Opening Night Party at the National Civic Summit Mill City Museum - Minneapolis, MN Wednesday, July 15, 2009 6:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m. $50 Tickets The National Tweetup is the opening night mixer for the National Civic Summit and the launch of the national conversation about all things civic. The event will feature: * Social Media Team to help people use new social media tools * Civic Voice Stage where participants can share their views and accomplishments * Live Stage where we will stream participant comments and response to event poll questions THE CONNECTION at the National Civic Summit The Minneapolis Hilton 1001 Marquette Ave Mpls, MN 55402 July 15-17, 2009 Over 100 nonpartisan organizations will showcase their ideas, approaches and tools through exhibits and workshops at the Minneapolis Hilton Hotel. Download the current agenda of speakers, topics and schedules (PDF file) or register today to attend The Connection. This event is free and open to the public.
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