Alzheimer Society of Nova Scotia

Posts Tagged ‘Sarah L.’

YOU, the “silent hum of happiness” fundraiser

In Donors, thank you on December 12, 2014 at 11:29 am

     A video to YOU!

Christmas carols begin in stores too soon after Halloween; office phones ring and fill the hallways in our new renovated space, and the sound of rain against our windows is more constant this winter than ever before.

These are sounds we are accustomed too. Sure to some they are annoyances, but to others they are a good sign (rain equals no snow!) But there is a new sound that is happening in our office. We heard it last year and this year, on the same day.

Problem is, it’s kind of silent. It’s the “hum” that fills the air on Giving Tuesday.

We wrote about Giving Tuesday last year (the first year in Canada) pretty extensively. YOU can read those posts here and here. What I might not have had time to fully appreciate last year, was the feeling that overcomes the office on this special day.

All year long, we appreciate our donors. It is because of them that many Nova Scotians receive the support that they need as they live the dementia journey.

But Giving Tuesday 2014 was a day that started and ended differently than the other 364 days. At the Alzheimer Society of Nova Scotia we began at 8 am when I was on the morning breakfast news, talking about Giving Tuesday and how it impacts those we serve. I brought coffee into the office for everyone to wish them a happy Giving Tuesday. Smiles were already on their faces because people had walked in to donate, others had called.

By mid-morning I had a list of donors for our Executive Director to call. He was calling to just say thank you and offer our services if the donor needed support. At the same time he was doing that, I saw Facebook posts from donors who were shocked and happy they had received a call.

At lunch, I was off to visit the offices of our Giving Tuesday matching partner, Deloitte. In celebration of the day and partnership, they hosted a lunch and learn for their employees about dementia. It was great to have that kind of partner engagement!

Back in the office and another interview this time with CBC news. The reporter Angela, told me that she started her day at Tim Horton’s with the customer in front of her paying for her coffee. It made her day! That, I told her, is what Giving Tuesday is about, making others feel comfort and happiness. She acknowledged that she had spent the rest of the day in a great mood. Her own silent “hum of happiness.”

That afternoon, my Executive Director was making his way into my office, with a smile and I sensed that silent happiness hum. He told me how much he was enjoying Giving Tuesday, calling all the donors, listening to their stories about why they donated and offering our support. He glided back to his office with a new list to call.

Working in an office setting can be stressful. Why are we out of coffee cream again? Who keeps yelling on speakerphone? Working in a non-profit adds another layer of stress. Are we helping enough people? Can we raise a little bit more to fund a new program? The thing I like about participating in Giving Tuesday, is the “silent hum of happiness” from donors, to partners, to staff. It truly is the beginning of the holiday season when you see that many smiles in one day. So thank YOU for making it possible.

(Next weeks blog post we’ll dive into the data of Giving Tuesday!)

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, the major gift fundraiser learning lessons everywhere

In Donors, Fundraising, Major Gifts, Relationship Building on October 7, 2014 at 1:57 pm
The writer with a golden the next round

The writer with a golden ticket…to the next round

A few years ago, well, I guess about a decade ago now, I auditioned for a reality show. I don’t say that out loud very often, but there YOU have it. In 2004, my friends “challenged” me to put myself out there doing something I loved: singing.

I wasn’t a recording artist, or a Broadway show stopper. I was someone who just liked to sing with the radio, or in the shower, when my friends started asking me to sing in their weddings. Being on TV and hoping millions of Canadians voted for me was never my dream.

Auditioning for Canadian Idol (the process was three auditions over the course of one day) – in retrospect – has made me a better fundraiser. It was a cultivation process for the creators of the show; trying to figure out who they would put on stage and support.

There are several lessons to be learned from the experience. Here are my top three:

Overcoming insecurities: Just by stepping into the audition room, I went from amateur to professional. Many who were auditioning with me, were seasoned professionals. And even though I had a few registry signing singing performances under my belt, I felt I wasn’t good enough to be heard from.

It’s how I sometimes feel as I prep for meetings with major gift donors or senior volunteers. “Why,” I ask myself, “Would they want to hear from me?” YOU don’t have to be an extrovert (which I mostly am) to have these insecurities. Fundraisers just need to have passion, knowledge and the opportunity to earn a stakeholders support.

Listening to criticism: One of the saddest moments of trying out for a talent reality show is stepping into the bathroom after the first round of auditions. Every stall, every sink, every inch of floor either a crying contestant or a supportive friend.

There were hundreds of people auditioning that day, just like there are several organizations that appeal to the same major donors. It’s hard in the moment, but hearing criticism (or asking for feedback) about your organization, or the ask, or your project is tough. But actually listening to it, will only help YOU in the future.

My second audition of the day at Idol was brutal. Everything about my first performance was broken down and discussed. But I listened, and I made it to round three.

Now, when I hold a meeting with a potential major gift donor, I always ask the senior volunteer or my Executive Director (whoever came with me) to give me feedback once the meeting is over. Did I speak too quickly (a definite trait of mine)? Did I answer the questions asked of me, how was my body language, how was my language in general (not that I swear like a sailor in meetings, but did I use internal language too much?)

Relationship building/Friend-raising: My final audition of the day came almost 10 hours after the first. I no longer was shy or nervous, I was invested in succeeding. This was evident the moment I stepped in front of the producers, production crew and cameras. I had to make these people my friends. They had to believe in me and my (new found) goal of becoming the next great Canadian talent out of Nova Scotia (Sorry Ms. Anne Murray, excuse me Rita MacNeil, outta my way Rankin Family!)

Fundraising author Penelope Burke has said that when a fundraiser speaks to donors, “…it doesn’t matter your age or experience, YOU should just be interesting.” I went in to that last Idol audition prepared to let them see who Sarah really was: someone who was smart, liked to smile and could sing.

At the end of my audition I had everyone laughing, but my voice wasn’t Idol ready. No problem I said and thanked them for their time. As I was leaving I could hear them talk, “She’s funny.” “Great personality.” “Awesome girl.”

I left not with a title, but with people who supported me.

When I meet potential major gift donors, I really have to work hard on letting them see my personality, my expertise, my passion. It’s easy to be the staff person who seems to tag along and nods their head in agreement with everything that’s said in the meeting.

If YOU have gotten over your insecurity and listened to feedback, YOU know that YOU are not only prepared to be in that meeting, but YOU are the expert there, on how to help that donor change the trajectory of the cause your organization fights for.

As a fundraiser YOU have passion; there’s an argument for the fact that it is in our DNA, our need to make the world a better place. YOU also have passion for many other things. Maybe it’s cooking, running, reading or singing. What lessons can YOU learn from those to help YOU be the best fundraiser YOU can be?

YOU the fundraiser supporting philanthropy

In Donors, Fundraising, Uncategorized on September 2, 2014 at 4:26 pm

There has been much written about the Ice Bucket Challenge for ALS.

I’ve read tweets of support, Facebook posts with negative reactions and have heard rumours of charities trying to “hijack” the fad and/or dismiss it totally.

So as a non-fundraiser for ALS, where do YOU stand?

At the Alzheimer Society of Nova Scotia, we stand with all the participants who are dunking ice water over themselves and/or donating to support ALS. Why? Because we need to support each other in this industry.

As Dan Pallotta recently tweeted, “…non-profit organizations aren’t competing with each other, they are competing with large companies.”

And it’s true. We all have our missions to help those in need; whether that is feeding the hungry, medical supplies for the ill, or shelter for animals – all are worthy causes.

There is no need for us to compete. There is a need for us to cheer each other on when something good happens to the others. Such is the case with the #IceBucketChallenge. A passionate person, with the disease inspired the challenge. It wasn’t an event ALS put on, or a campaign. It truly was grassroots.

And guess what? It is no different than the peer-to-peer fundraising campaign YOU or I put on. So why are fundraisers upset about it? Because it wasn’t done for YOU? That’s a big mistake.

Here at the Alzheimer Society of Nova Scotia we have started to notice that online donations are coming in with a donor message included: “I was challenged to do the ice bucket challenge and I am donating to ALS and to the Alzheimer Society.” What a lovely thing for a donor to do! The spirit of philanthropy alive and well.

My, yours, our job is not to condemn others, but to help them. Donors, or clients. Some may want to do the challenge for YOU and your organization! So tip of the day: don’t be jealous, check your donor’s messages and make sure YOU thank them for doing the #IceBucketChallenge!

(Want to see our #IceBucketChallenge? View it on our YouTube Channel!)

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, keeping your brain active while fundraising

In Third Party on July 9, 2014 at 12:52 pm


Image Source

A few weeks ago, Tammy wrote to you about the “Longest Day” Bridge game that the Bridge Studio held in Halifax. Today, let’s talk about a game that was held at the other end of our province, at Bridge Acadien in Yarmouth.

Yves Chartrand from Bridge Acadien, knows that playing bridge is a great way to keep your mind active (in fact it’s not just playing Bridge that helps, it’s also the social aspect of the game. Read more about better brain health here).  Its one of the reasons he signed his club up to be part of the “Longest Day Fundraiser.”

“I applied early to take part in The Longest Day for 2014 since it was going to be on the day that we run our normal games (Saturday) and I believe it is a great charity to pair up with the game of Bridge.  I have read that keeping your brain active may help delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease and playing Bridge should definitely qualify as an activity that makes your brain work!”

The “Longest Day” fundraiser takes place on the longest day of the year, June 21. Fundraisers around North America host special events, or challenge themselves/group to do something for up to 12 hours. It could mean that everyone in your office walks a treadmill, one hour at a time, for 12 hours, raising funds to do so to support those living with dementia.

At Bridge Acadien, here is how they spent their day:

“We had a great day with 5 games from 10 am until 10 pm.  We did have a supper break, which was very much appreciated.  I may change the format next year.  it is a lot of work to run all those games without any help.  The highlight was the participation by local players and the amount of food that was brought in by all.  It helped us provide great hospitality and I believe that everybody enjoyed themselves.”

We thank Yves and Bridge Acadien for supporting those in our province, for whom many days, seem like the longest, as they live with dementia.

Do YOU think that your office, organization, club is up to the challenge of spending the Longest Day next  year raising funds for Nova Scotians living with dementia? Let us know in the comments!

In the meantime, maybe YOU are interested in Bridge. Yves wants YOU to know:

“Bridge is a great game. YOU learn communication skills, teamwork, problem solving skills, how to win and lose gracefully and all kinds of math skills.”

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.

YOU, the award nominated supporter

In Special Events on May 28, 2014 at 10:18 am

EmployeeAppreciationGraphic                                                                                                                  Image Source

It’s another awesome week here at the Alzheimer Society of Nova Scotia – we have three standing nominations for the Maritime Philanthropy Awards! Handed out by the Association of Fundraising Professionals – Nova Scotia Chapter, our nominees will mix and mingle at a dinner tonight.

Our organizations couldn’t exist without the help and support of special community members. They are invaluable. Whether they are fundraising, hosting events or volunteering, we can’t thank them enough.

Our President Chris Wilson feels the same way. “The Alzheimer’s Society of Nova Scotia receives virtually its entire budget every year from events and donations by generous Nova Scotians.  This past year we have been particularly lucky to have been the recipient of generous donations of both monies and time and effort from three very prominent and well respected Nova Scotians.”

On behalf of the Society, Mr. Wilson would like to introduce you to the Alzheimer Society of Nova Scotia’s nominees:

Outstanding Individual Philanthropist
“Rob Steele very generously agreed to hold our Evening to Remember at his beautiful home in the Halifax area.  His generosity far surpassed anything we could have expected.  Personal sacrifices he made resulted in an evening that will be long remembered by those that were lucky enough to have attended.”

Outstanding Sponsorship Partner
“Over the past years, our Walk for Memories event has become one of our biggest fundraisers.  The society has come to rely on the event to both bring awareness to our cause and also raise much needed funds.  There is no doubt that without the sponsorship support of Shannex and the personal support of Jason Shannon, the event would not be the success that it has become.“

Outstanding Volunteer Fundraiser
“As President of the Alzheimer Society of Nova Scotia, I would like to thank Justin McDonough for not only his past service with the Board of Governors for the Society, but also his ongoing passion and dedication to raise much needed funds through his extensive involvement as a co-chair for the Walk for Memories and also through his volunteer efforts to speak with donors in the wider community.  Without Justin it would be hard to imagine the Alzheimer Society of Nova Scotia achieving the successes it has over the past few years.”

Please join us in congratulating and thanking not only our organizations three nominees, but all the nominees of the Maritime Philanthropy Awards who volunteer and donate to a variety of worthy organizations, to make our communities happier, healthier and well supported.

YOU, the appreciative fundraiser

In Special Events on April 29, 2014 at 3:51 pm


I have a secret.

I know that in fundraising we talk a lot about ROI (Return on Investments) and that special events are, supposedly, not where we should be focusing our energy. Events are time consuming and can be expensive. people say.

But, I…. well you see…I really LOVE putting on events.

There, I’ve said it.

And no, it’s not because I like to throw a big “party,” it’s because events, when done right, can give organizations a good ROE (Return on Engagement).

Walk for Memories has been raising awareness and bringing those living the dementia journey, together, for over two decades. It was eight years ago that the Society determined it would be a special event fundraiser.

Over the past eight years, just like the number of people with dementia have grown in our province, so has the event in participants and funds raised. It remains the largest event we hold each year and one that everyone in the office looks forward to.

Why and How? So glad you asked!

Here are Sarah’s Essential Components of a special event fundraiser
(This does not include media planning or budgets, because I know you are already awesome fundraisers who are careful about partnerships and staying within a budget!)

1. Communication – Are you only communicating with your guests just a few months before or all year long? Our participants are affected by dementia, they are a family member, a friend or a support worker. We invite them all year long to participate in the programs their donations ensure are available to Nova Scotians. And at those programs, we post pictures to the Walk for Memories social media, because we want to let our donors know what we are doing with their money.

2. Connecting Participants to the Mission – So you have all these wonderful, awesome supporters come to the event. Are your program staff their to answer questions, provide information, meet the donors who make all of it happen? When I became the coordinator of Walk for Memories the first thing I did was try to rectify two divides I found with our events: On-site mission promotion and the emotional connection of participants.
Onsite mission promotion: at our Walk for Memories, we have a “Brain Fair.” Organized by the Programs and Services staff, they find partners to work seven booths of activities that focus on the seven ways we can all make our brain healthier at any age (Being socially, mentally active, physically active, eating healthy foods, being stress free, paying attention to our medical health and being wise about keeping our heads safe. See how even in a blog post about events you can incorporate mission promotion!)  Event participants can go to as many of the booths as they want and leave with a takeaway. We include one booth that I just around dementia and the programs and services that donors make possible.
Emotionally Connecting participants: Before coming to work at the Alzheimer Society of Nova Scotia, I had just completed participating in a special event that gave me an opportunity to single out the person I was there to honour. We didn’t have anything like that at our event, which was outside and included walking on a pathway. We created “Memory Lane” which gave participants a chance to pass in artwork, or a picture, of the person they were walking for before the event. We stapled them to pickets and that is what lined the pathway towards the end of the 5km. We have grown over time and moved locations, but Memory Lane remains as a reminder of why we all gather (and in 2014, it is going to look very cool. Stay tuned for the wrap up post!)

3. Appreciation – Just like talking to your participants all year round, how are you showing your appreciation and thus (hopefully) stewarding them? At the event we have a photo booth, and the very next day after the Walk, each persons photo arrives in their mailbox with a thank you. For our Top Teams, we present them frames at the event, for their team picture, with a little write up placed in it. Family teams aren’t likely to want a plaque I think, so photo frames that come with an insert to write a message is an affordable way for any organization to show their appreciation.
We also have a certain pledge level that anyone who reaches (or exceeds) is recognized at the event as a Pledge SuperStar. They wear something different from the rest of the crowd. This could be a different coloured t-shirt (we don’t do t-shirts every year) or a lanyard, or this year a For-Get-Me not pin!

There is so much more I want to tell you about Special Event Fundraising! But I will leave you with this: after six years as the coordinator of the event, a new coordinator will be in the lead of this years Walk for Memories. I have all the confidence in her (I hired her!) but letting go has been a hard transition. The event participants, who share their personal stories to raise donations, are very special to me. They support everything we do. They have made me bookmarks and let me into their world to create videos and campaigns to promote the event. They buy ducks during our other special event and become Ambassadors on social media.

We are so appreciative for all that they do and we hope to make each special event about celebrating all that THEY do to help Nova Scotian families living the dementia journey.

(If you want to talk more about special events, leave a comment. I could go one for another 1000 words!)

YOU, the name – and game – changer

In Uncategorized on April 8, 2014 at 3:12 pm


(image source)

Recently the Fund Development department at the Alzheimer Society of Nova Scotia (ASNS) became a thing of the past.

Events, campaigns, fundraising. Still what we will be doing.

But we have been dedicated to helping the organization become more stakeholder (donor, volunteer, client) centric, through a change in the organizational culture.

Yes, we have been fostering a Culture of Philanthropy.

Much has been written about non-profits looking inwards at their organization, to check if they do live in this culture day to day. A good resource to help YOU was written by past chair of the Association of Fundraising International, Andrea McManus.

A few years ago the (now old) Fund Development department here at ASNS started investigating how we were doing in the area of Philanthropy. Of course we were helping those who needed our help – that is why we are here! But we did not have a recognition program, or an internal fundraising drive. Everything we sent out was from the organization (Corporate language) not from the families that were affected by both dementia, but also the programs our donors helped us create and offer.

Just like Rome, building a Culture of Philanthropy does not (and has not) been built in a day. We continue to strive to learn more about being stakeholder centric and teaching others internally what it means.

As fundraisers we love that a big part of our job is friendraising at the Society. We don’t just ask for money, we are the conduit; donors place their trust in us to steward their money to those that need it. People with dementia and their families trust in us to make sure that programs, services, education and information that they need are available.

YOU cannot do that on Fund Development alone.

When the Fund Development Department dissolved, a new department was born: Department of Philanthropy. In this department are Fund Development Coordinators, Community Outreach & Education Coordinators and the Communications Manager.

But what’s in a name title? This department is made up of Appreciation givers, listeners, talkers, visitors, coffee bringers, story tellers and much more.

Department name change, check. Next, we continue the game change of the organizational culture.