Alzheimer Society of Nova Scotia

Archive for the ‘Communications’ Category

You, Standing out in a crowd

In Communications, Public Relations, Relationship Building, Uncategorized on November 25, 2014 at 3:57 pm

8469849-standing-out-of-the-crowd-concept-with-individual-successful-goldfishPhoto source

In an often crowded not-for-profit market, it can be difficult to make your organization stand out. It’s definitely something we are always working on at the Society. We want to make sure that people know who the Alzheimer Society of Nova Scotia is and what we do.

So, how do we do that? Here are a few tips and tricks I’ve learned along the way.

  • Plan ahead: Take some time to map out the year ahead, month by month. This will help you decide if there something specific you want to focus on each month. It’s amazing to see how often you can leverage something that is already happening to make sure your organization’s message gets out there.Here’s an example of how the Society does this:
Month Focus Angle
December Holiday season Tips for gifts/caregiving/ visiting someone with dementia
March Brain Awareness Week Better brain health/risk factors for dementia
June Father’s day Profiling the men in our lives

As great as planning ahead is, you still need to make sure you are flexible. Even though you have mapped out the year, something will likely come up at the last minute, and you need to be ready to respond.

  • Be active and engaging on social media:
    I can’t emphasize this one enough. Being part of the conversation on social media is a great way to talk about who your organization is and what you do. But, simply just posting isn’t enough – you need to make sure you are engaging your audience. For some social media tricks on how to best engage your audience – check out one of our previous blog posts here.
  • Get out there:
    Make sure you take every opportunity available to get in front of a crowd to talk about your organization. If you’re doing a media interview, an education session or speaking at one of your organization’s event – make sure you always bring it back to the overall message of who you are and how you can help.
  • Change it up:
    Don’t be afraid of change. By switching it up every now and then, you can start to create a buzz about your organization. We change it up every year with National Philanthropy Day, and it has definitely made people take notice of what we are doing.

These are just a few tips, but we’d love to hear from you. Do YOU have some tips YOU can share about making sure your organization stands out? Leave a comment below.

YOU, the video storyteller

In Communications, Donors, Uncategorized on October 28, 2014 at 1:38 pm
Video Storytelling: the Alzheimer Society of Nova Scotia’s Annual Report 2013-14

Today, I am hanging out over on a Google Hangout with the lovely folks from Giving Tuesday Canada, YOUTube Canada and the organization Pathways to Education. Why are we all having a Google hangout? Because we are passionate about using storytelling via video to share your organizations story.

Here at the Alzheimer Society of Nova Scotia we have been using videos as a way to communicate with donors, event participants, and partners for a few years. As I will say in today’s Hangout (which will be recorded and available on YOUTube) is that video is a great way to engage your audience, because they get to “meet” the very families, or animals that they help. Maybe they see the building of the new hospital from start to finish, in time lapse. Both scenarios mean they get to see where their contributions go.

What a lovely way to connect with your organizations supporters!

Budget, technology, script writing, producing, finding people to tell their story, all play a factor into the decision to use video. And it’s true, some videos are easier to make than others.

The good news is: if we can do it on the most limiting of budgets, with a disease that is quite isolating and stigmatizing, YOU can too.

Here are some inside tips that I will be sharing today:

Tip # 1 – already posted above: DO use video storytelling as a communication tool!

Tip # 2 – Always ask for permission to contact supporters. Because when YOU need to create a video, YOU will have a group of supporters YOU can ask to help! This group is your storytellers!

Tip #3 – (one from my years of being a Girl Guide member!) Use your resources wisely! We make free videos ALL THE TIME. We download free apps to our phones, like Splice, that allow us to edit, add text, etc, then we post it to our YOUtube channel – another free resource!

Tip # 4 – Learn how to embed your videos into your blog posts, or e-newsletters and watch not only the number of views but also any comments, making sure YOU answer them.

Responding to comments on your videos and responding is the most traditional way of engagement, brought to YOU by a new media format.

Good luck! And please view our video above, which was created by a professional videographer that we hired. If YOU have any questions about video storytelling at your non-profit, ask us! We’d love to help YOU!

YOU, Working with the Media

In Communications on September 9, 2014 at 3:42 pm

iStock_000012540093_ExtraSmall                                                                                                                                                                            Source

Although the prospect of working with the media can be a little daunting, it doesn’t have to be. It’s a great way to get exposure for your cause and have YOUR message out there.

Having a few things in place ahead of time helps make sure you are ready to take full advantage of the media coverage your organization gets. Here are a few things I have learned during my time at the Society.

1) Have procedures in place for responding to and tracking media inquiries:
We have set up procedures to follow when we receive a call from the media. I am the initial contact for reporters, and then work with my colleagues to determine who the best fit for the interview is. You want to make sure the person who will be interviewed is extremely knowledgeable about the topic, engaging and represents your organization well.

After the interview is complete, the media request is logged. This includes recording the topic of the interview, who the media outlet was, the date of the interview and who represented the Society. Through the Alzheimer Society of Canada, we also subscribe to a media monitoring service, which sends a report each morning about any coverage we have received. These are both great ways to see how much media interest you’ve had over the course of a month, and to take note of times where there was a higher frequency of calls (and what the cause of that was).

2) Make sure your spokespeople ready to go:
The more you can prepare your spokesperson for an interview, the smoother it will go. The first thing I do every morning when I arrive at work is scan the news (including newspapers, television, radio and social media) to see if there is anything that we might get a call about. If there is something that stands out, I send it along to the staff so they will be familiar with the topic.

If I am pitching a story (about an event, or new initiative we are working on), I work with the potential spokesperson ahead of time. That way, they are fully aware of what we will be sending to media, are comfortable with key messages and can plan ahead for possible interviews.

When we do get a media request, I sit down with the staff member who will be doing the interview, and do a “mock interview” with any possible questions they might get. I try to make the questions fairly difficult, and that way the person doing the interview is ready for anything. We have found that mock interviews are a great way to brainstorm about the messages we want to get out there, and are a good way to calm those pre-interview jitters.


3) Respond in a timely manner
When you get a media request, make sure you respond in a timely manner. I subscribe to the 15 minute rule. If I say I will call a journalist back in 15 minutes, I make sure I call back in 15 minutes or less with a confirmation of who they will be speaking to, and when they are available. Journalists are busy people with tight deadlines, and really appreciate having things confirmed early on, so they can come do the interview, and have time to work on their story.

4) Be proactive
If you think you’ve got a great story idea, don’t be afraid to be the one who makes the initial contact. Find out who the reporters are who cover your area of interest, or speak with the producer or news director. I would suggest doing the pitch initially by e-mail, but remember – journalists have limited time, so make sure your pitch is newsworthy, to the point and includes a suggestion of who should be interviewed.

If you haven’t heard anything in a day or two, follow up by phone. Just like your initial pitch, this should be quick and to the point. Pretend you are in an elevator with someone, and only have 30 seconds to a minute to get out all the important points. The reporter or producer you are speaking to will really appreciate this.

These are just a few tips, but we’d love to hear from you. Do YOU have some tips YOU can share about working with the media? Leave a comment below.

YOU, Saying Thank You

In Communications, Donors, Fundraising, national philanthropy day, Public Relations, Relationship Building, thank you, Third Party on August 27, 2014 at 12:46 pm

thank you


We have blogged about this before. This is not a new concept. Saying thank you is one of the most basic concepts of fundraising. It should be innate to all of us. And while sending thank you cards and letters and including a thank you in every email response is a great habit, what about going further than that.

We have mastered the standard thank you. I worry that it gets lost sometimes. Are the standard thank yous in my emails getting noticed? Are people getting immune to them?

Our Philanthropy Department has been promoting the idea of an “outside the box” thank you for a long time, especially since we started participating in National Philanthropy Day. This is an amazing opportunity to explore if YOU are looking for a cool, new way to say thank you to your supporters. So now that the trend is set in our office and the bar is high. How do you thank someone in a memorable way?

I had an opportunity last night to do one of my most favourite thank yous of all. This thank you isn’t new for us, we have been doing it this way for a few years, but it is so well received and appreciated, that we just can’t mess with it now.

Every January we run a campaign called Forget Me Not Week. This campaign goes out to all universities and colleges in the province as a way to engage the younger generation. The schools compete against each other to raise money and whoever raises the most gets a prize. The prize is our way of saying thank you. For the past decade or so, the winner of the campaign has been the Acadia Axemen football team. They are extremely dedicated to our cause and have carved out a niche for themselves in their community. The team and coaches work extremely hard to win this challenge and it is important to us to do something meaningful for them, after all, we want them to stay engaged.

Working with the coaching staff we help develop a team bonding experience during their preseason training. This is an important time for them to gel as a team, and so giving them an experience that allows them to spend time together off the field is important. This is also a time where they are working extremely hard and don’t have a lot of extra energy to give. As a result we set something up that is relaxing; a private screening of a movie of their choosing.

It is amazing to see how appreciative and thankful the team is to have to this luxury. As students, they appreciate the free entertainment, and as a team they appreciate the opportunity to get to know each other and the coaches.

This also becomes an opportunity for us to say thank you directly to them while they are all together, and explain why what they do is so important to the people of the province.

We could send a hand written card to say thank you that gets tacked up on some bulletin board in the locker room (which we do). But this opportunity gives me face time with the team, gives the coaches a chance to accept a plaque in front of the team and helps me strengthen my relationship with the team. There is nothing like talking to someone in person to fortify a relationship.

It might not be the most outside the box thank you we could ever dream up, but here are some important things to remember: we did something that fit their schedule, we did something that fit their agenda, we did something they enjoy and we got that all-important face time. A true “thank you” success.

YOU, the donor wall producer

In Communications, Donors, Fundraising on July 31, 2014 at 3:25 pm
Our donor wall is a TV!

Our donor wall is a TV!


A little over two years ago, two big things happened at the Alzheimer Society of Nova Scotia:
1. We moved into new office.
2. We received our first, multi-year, major gift for programming for people with early stage dementia.

The reason I mention the two together is because for the first time we thought, “We need a donor wall!” and then, “We can’t put one up yet, we’re moving!”

Over the past two years as we have settled into our new office space, we have played around with furniture, wall hangings, and the placement of all the things that a growing organization deals with.

At the same time, at staff meetings we have discussed what donor recognition is, why it is important, how we all can do it everyday. We also canvassed the staff asking what they would want as our donor recognition. Some answers back included a wall with brass name plaques, a quilt that travelled across the province embroidered with donor names to stained glass fish on the wall for each donor (since we are on the Atlantic Coast!)

In the end we decided to trial a donor recognition AND information scrolling presentation. This means that we can do more than just list a donors name, we can profile donors, we can offer information on dementia and we can inform those waiting in our lobby, who in the organization they might want to meet with. For example, “Want to learn more about fundraising? Ask to speak to Sarah!”

Here is how we did it, in case YOU are looking for a new idea!

We (the Department of Philanthropy) set the ground rules that this presentation couldn’t have audio (it’s in the lobby next to three desks with staff at them) and submissions had to come from all staff. The Department of Philanthropy would handle the set up of the tv and the creation of the presentation. Submissions were encouraged to be short on text and with pictures. They also only should include information that was relevant for the next three months. After that, a new presentation would be created.

In the end we have a looped slide slow of 150 slides. Each morning the tv is turned on and the presentation rolls. I have watched staff stop to read just as much as clients!

Here are some of the slides: a donor profile, an introduction to our President, information on an upcoming fundraising event, an introduction of a staff member (each department will be profiled at some point in the year), a listing of our Platinum supporters.

pic college

There are several companies out there that provide this type of service, we just wanted to see if we could pilot this first. We bought the tv and mounting system when it went on sale months ago, and created the presentation ourselves.

It has only been a week, but the feedback has been great! Next step will be putting a frame around it to make it stand out a little more. What donor wall do YOU do?

YOU, what it takes to be BOLD

In Communications, Fundraising, Public Relations on July 22, 2014 at 2:13 pm


At the beginning of the year my Director assembled our department and announced that this year our guiding theme would be “Be Bold”. At first I assumed I knew what this meant, I can do that, piece of cake. I mean it was obvious, wasn’t it? Don’t be afraid to think outside the box. Don’t be afraid to think big, create waves and stir things up.

I soon came to realize that being BOLD was easier said than done. It seems that being BOLD in your personal/social life is achievable with little effort or fore-thought, but being BOLD at work requires a type of inhibition that seems unnatural.

We are conditioned to watch ourselves at work. To be politic. To be reserved and calculated. To make decisions based on fact and research, not feeling and emotion. For me, being BOLD would require me to switch gears and inject more vulnerability into my work. This makes me slightly uncomfortable.

Yesterday, I was called into a brainstorming session. This was my opportunity to step out of my shell; my opportunity to finally be BOLD. Here is what I learned:

  1. Dare to be criticized. It isn’t the end of the world for someone to challenge your idea or opinion. Criticism might have a bit more weight when that idea comes from an emotional place, but YOU have to learn how to detach.
  2. Dare to say that first thing that pops into your mind. It is the thought that immediately and instinctually comes to mind. It is also the thought we often don’t share because we have not had time to think it through and refine it. Share it anyway. Even if it isn’t the answer, it could lead to something productive.
  3. Dare to be cliché. YOU might not use the cliché, but then again, it could be the jumping off point for a bigger and better idea.
  4. Dare to be dramatic. Voice that crazy idea, then bring it down to something manageable. The idea might be way over budget; it might be totally unrealistic logistically, but it doesn’t mean there isn’t something useable.
  5. Dare to challenge. It is ok to take the opposing view from your colleague. If you do not like the idea, express that opinion (professionally) but also offer an opposing suggestion. The answer could be somewhere in the middle.

The bottom line is that being BOLD isn’t impossible, in fact it is easier for some people more than others. It might take YOU out of your comfort zone, but the rewards will be worth it. Challenge yourself.

If YOU want to start small, try this: next time YOU are in a meeting make the resolution to express one idea that YOU would normally filter.

YOU, the “annual report” creator

In Communications on July 2, 2014 at 3:32 pm

annual report card                                                                            Alzheimer Society of Nova Scotia – “Annual Report” Postcard

Depending on your fiscal year-end, chances are YOU just helped your organization publish an annual report. It takes a village to make an annual report. YOU need stories from the program staff, and financials from Finance; there is the obligatory Executive Directors message and that donor listing from your (hopefully) well maintained database.

But what if YOU didn’t do that?

Earlier this year I challenged our Department of Philanthropy to BE BOLD. Why would the annual report be status quo then?

This year we decided to buck tradition and try something new: no annual report at all! I say that tongue in cheek because of course, we wanted to share with our donors, supporters and partners how they have made the difference in the lives of those living with dementia.

We just didn’t want to do it with a 15 page booklet.

Here is what we did that maybe YOU can get some ideas from for your next annual report!

1. We made a video and we didn’t tell YOU who was who in it. We weren’t joking when we said that this “annual report” was going to be about the stakeholders who make things possible. In the video is our Executive Director, Board President and Director of Programs and Services. But also families that have used our services and volunteers. It doesn’t matter who is who.

2. We made a postcard (see above). All the information about our programming, our partnerships and even our revenue and expenses, can be found on a postcard. People have little time to sort through mail and sit down and read a booklet, but a quick snapshot with the important information is a great way to stand out in a overcrowded mailbox!

3. We made a website. One of the benefits of an annual report is being able to read an organizations financial reports as well as browse their donor listings. At the Alzheimer Society of Nova Scotia we believe that we need to be transparent and authentic to our donors, so we made a webpage on our site where supporters can see the video and download the financial information. We then bought a website address to re-direct to that page, for easier access.

4. We didn’t call the video or the postcard an ANNUAL REPORT. We did this on purpose. Because A – Now we can use the video or the postcard all year. One department has ordered enough to give every conference participant! And B – no one wants to read an annual report. The connotation with the term is, well, boring.

We sent actual postcards to donors, volunteers and supporters. Each department took their own stack. I took some and wrote personal notes (like you usually see on postcards) to monthly donors and sponsors. Some received the card electronically: For instance, our Giving Tuesday donors, since they were all online, were emailed the card with a link to the video.

Within a day of launching the video at our annual general meeting, we had close to 200 views and many comments on how nice it was to spend four minutes with an “annual report” rather than receiving a booklet.

While an annual report video and postcard is not new, I think it is BOLD. It is an interesting way to show donors how their donations impact Nova Scotians.