One Cause At a Time – Archive

An Archive of Chicago Now One Cause at a Time Posts

Archive for November 2013

Your Black Friday Guide to Shopping for Consultants

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C Now Social Media 01Today is known as “Black Friday”, when retailers attempt to recoup their losses by getting a jump on the holiday season. For many non-profits, social enterprises, and other mission-based organizations, this is an effort to perhaps begin shopping for consultants and freelancers.

As someone who is a freelancer myself (and who has a wide range of experience), I thought I would dedicate this week’s post to providing insight into what to consider when hiring a consultant. There are some great resources outlining what to look for, including this post via Netsquared and a chapter in Diedre Maloney’s The Mission Myth, but I’m providing you with some “insider” tips – things to look for and consider when hiring.

And now, the One Cause At A Time Insider’s Guide to Hiring a Tech Consultant:

  • Perform Due Diligence and Check Us Out – Many consultants and freelancers have online portfolios and Linked In profiles – it’s fair game to see if we can deliver on what we’re promising. Even if you’re hiring through a recruiting firm, doing your own due diligence can let you know whether an agency is attempting to match a person to your needs….or simply trying to “make the sale”. (Plus, good consultants do not claim skills they do not have, and will often make appropriate referrals when necessary).
  • See What We’re Saying on Social Media – This is especially true if you’re looking to hire one of the many “non-profit social media gurus” that are selling their services. If their outreach is of the superficial kind – focusing either on their own lifestyles, what they ate, or simply “liking” an article – they may not be worth investigating further. If they prefer to “build brand awareness” over matching your business goals (whether it is fundraising, marketing, or reaching key audiences), turn and run away. As this blog advocates, you should really avoid promoting “slacktivism” at all costs.
  • When It Comes to Payment, Be Willing to Negotiate – Non-profits, social enterprise startups, and other organizations may lack funding, but keep in mind – consultants have to eat, too. We are willing to negotiate around payment terms, but if your organization’s expectation is for a consultant to handle the bulk of work for minimal pay….that might be a key to consider alternatives like internships, or even moving towards a different model (a project basis versus an hourly rate, for example). Because, let’s face it….
  • Everything’s Negotiable – Some consultants have “my way or the highway” policies around where they work, their pay scale, etc. Good consultants will be somewhat flexible in the details, and although there are limits, keep in mind – we want to work with you. We just have to make sure that we can meet your expectations. And finally…
  • Get It In Writing – Whether it’s a formal contract or simply a working agreement, be sure that all terms are agreed to and formally documented before moving forward. It sounds very formal, but you can find boilerplates via Docstoc or Scribd (or search what your looking for on Google with “filetype:doc” after the end)…and ultimately, having a formal agreement means less confusion – and an easier time working together – later on.

This is, by no means, a comprehensive list of tips – just a good starter for discussion. If you’ve worked with consultants as part of a non-profit, social enterprise, or other mission-driven organization, please be sure to leave a comment below. You’re more than welcome to follow us on Facebook, or drop me a line via private e-mail.

Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful holiday!


Written by gordondym

November 29, 2013 at 9:37 am

THE (Non-Profit) JOB SEARCH CHECKLIST – Book Review

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Book Review - The Job Search Checklist

(Special thanks to Amacom Books for providing a complimentary copy for review).

Our current economic situation has impacted many in several fields, and non-profits/social good especially so. With increasing numbers of people either being laid off due to funding cutbacks or struggling to find work, it becomes critical to have a systematic approach to finding employment. (I should know – I am one of those very job seekers.. Thankfully, Damian Birkel’s The Job Search Checklist does an extraordinary job of outlining a procedure for non-profit job search success.

Written in a straightforward style, The Job Search Checklist focuses specifically on layoffs in the business world, but much of its content easily applies to those working in the non-profit field. (For startups and social benefit-oriented businesses, this becomes even more critical). Birkel takes a compassionate yet methodical approach, encouraging recent layoffs to focus on adjusting to their jobless status as well as planning and executing a formal strategy. Unlike many bloggers and “experts” in job transitions, The Job Search Checklist never feels unnecessarily punitive or dismissive, nor does it suggest that job seekers do more with less. The book is clear, concise, and serves as a very solid guide for those seeking employment.

(Ironically, I found myself not only nodding in affirmation, but also realizing that I had been practicing Birkel’s principles in my own search without realizing it).

With the increasing professional attention and focus on non-profits, many people seeking work in that field have a unique set of challenges. Dependent on external funding, employment is perceived as a bit less lucrative, and networking within non-profits is often challenged by “gatekeepers”. Although social ventures, benefit corporations, and other mission-driven businesses may be a great alternative, networking within those structures can be rather challenging, despite a state task force driving social entrepreneurship as a driver of economic growth. Birkel’s book provides an extremely critical edge in formalizing and breaking the process down into concrete steps. Although the book does not promise automatic success, it cuts through the din of “career coach” conversation to provide a real-world guide for making headway into finding gainful employment.

Damian Birkel’s The Job Search Checklist is a must-read for any job seeker – it does not promise miraculous results, but it does take a compassionate, empathetic, yet realistic approach to finding employment. For those laid off, the book serves as a mandatory guide for working through the emotional consequences of job termination while establishing the groundwork for finding new work. For those working in fields geared towards social benefit, it provides a critical edge that allows for potential success.

Have any thoughts about job seeking in the non-profit or social venture arena? Please feel free to leave them in the comments below, or post them on our Facebook page. You’re also more than welcome to reach out to me privately either via Linked In or private e-mail. (Just be sure to mention One Cause At A Time when making a connection). And as always, thank you for reading!

Written by gordondym

November 15, 2013 at 7:29 am

Meet Your Neighbor: UsToo

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(Special thanks to Derek Serafin of Motion PR for his assistance, and Tom Kirk of UsToo for his time and input)

When discussing tech and non-profits, it is very easy to think broadly – social media, open source software, and other high-end tools. Thankfully, UsToo provides a great example of using channels to better engage its audience, working towards supporting, educating, and advocating on behalf of men with prostate cancer.

Founded in 1990, UsToo was one of the first voluntary organizations to drive conversation around prostate cancer. Structured in a similar way to YMe’s focus on breast cancer, UsToo focused on providing information and support around a disease which is a “silent killer” with no visible early symptoms. Engaging those directly affected by prostate cancer, the organization works to raise awareness, increase media presence, and engage advocacy around a form of cancer which comes second to lung cancer as a source of fatality. However, given the view of prostate cancer as one with no visible symptoms (or “easy cancer”), UsToo works to educate men and their families to take action in terms of screening, treatment, and advocacy.

One of the more forward-thinking aspects of UsToo’s engagement has been how they use lesser-known online technology to foster communication between its various chapters. E-Mail is a critical tool for UsToo, as it provides not just a monthly newsletter called the “Hot Sheet”, but an information service called “Prostate Pointers” where users can ask questions and gain resources. Webinars have also been a critical piece of UsToo’s work, allowing people from diverse locations to acquire knowledge and expertise . Plus, online forums and discussion groups provide plenty of opportunities for families and supporters to share. Granted, this may not have the whiz-bang of current social media, but UsToo is focusing less on the tools and more on their use, building communities and driving engagement.

Want to learn more about UsToo face-to-face? On November 19th, they are working with City Winery on a “Pours for Prostates” fundraising event. For more information and for tickets, please visit the City Winery site (and there will be tickets available at the door).

Have a non-profit we should feature, or suggestions/comments for the blog? Please feel free to leave them below. In addition, you can follow the blog on Facebook, or contact me directly either via Linked In or private e-mail. And as always, thanks for reading!

Written by gordondym

November 11, 2013 at 8:34 am