Chicago AMA Convenes Marketers with a Mission

chicagoamaThe Chicago AMA continues its tradition of inviting the larger community of nonprofit marketers to participate in open dialogue and identify key trends and tectonic shifts in the field for the coming year. This collaborative process will shape a vital program to support shared interests and hone high-priority focus areas for communication and development professionals. As with previous years, the outcome will be a series of dynamic conversations between thought leaders sharing ideas, best practices and resources to help them gain a fresh perspective, build relationships and develop innovative strategies.

The program comprises two distinct, yet related tracks: a think tank for marketers of nonprofit organizations and a think tank for marketers of higher education institutions. Participants begin their discussion with a starter list of topics. At the end of each think tank, they will have defined three to four major topics with talking points for the 2015 program year.

Below are the starter lists for each Special Interest Group (SIG), event details and registration links. Admission is free. Sign up today for one or both!

IMG_5576Chicago AMA Nonprofit Marketing Think Tank
Tuesday, November 18, 2014
8:00 am – 10:00 am
The Chicago Community Trust
225 N. Michigan Avenue
Suite 2200

Chicago, IL 60601

Nonprofit SIG Preliminary Topics:

  • Content marketing tools and social media
  • Mobile & responsive website design
  • Personalizing donor communications
  • Big Data for fundraisers
  • Different types of gifts – from bequests to monthly giving
  • Direct mail & acquiring new donors
  • Bring media back to social media – producing videos, photos & infographics
  • Strategic planning & engaging your stakeholders
  • Why can’t we be friends?  Successful Executive Director & Development Director relationships
  • #GivingTuesday on December 2nd


IMG_5535Chicago AMA Higher Education Marketing Think Tank
Thursday, Nov. 20, 2014
5:30 pm – 7:30 pm
415 N. Dearborn St.
Suite 300
Chicago, IL 60654

Higher Ed SIG Preliminary Topics:

  • How can cause marketing advance your institutions reputation?
  • Social media as a recruitment tool
  • From school rankings to student outcomes, what is most compelling?
  • Using your brand as a recruitment tool
  • How do you develop your school’s value proposition
  • Mobilizing the university to support your marketing efforts
  • Webcentric – What’s the outlook for web communication?


Stories help you dream big and overcome your fears.

Mary.Nerburn.photo_Today on Barkada Circle radio, we interviewed Mary Nerburn––author, coach, speaker, and entrepreneur/business owner. Mary is celebrating the one-year anniversary of her book, Jack It Up: A 50-Something Women’s Guide to Fixing a Flat Life and Start Living Again. Internationally, women and men of all ages are benefitting from her wisdom.

In today’s program, she tells the Barkada Circle audience how she uses storytelling in helping people dream big once more, push through fears and show up in life again. Mary’s no-nonsense approach appeals to those who seek an engaged authentic life by answering their true calling and realizing their new life mission. Her reminder for embracing your true north is “Like a pebble in your shoe, your dream will nag at you until you respond and live it.”

Jack It Up explores core values as the foundation for decision making and suggests ways to identify and act on personal giftedness as well as using laughter, movement and connecting with nature to create balance. The reader is guided from one chapter to the next with tools for both reflecting and making real changes with laser questions such as, “What do you know about your potential and what do you intend to do with this insight?”

Listen to the podcast of today’s program.

Mary is available for workshops, book readings and consultations with individuals or companies: Mary’s book Jack It Up is available at

We are what we teach.

Instead of, “do what you love,” perhaps the more effective mantra for the entrepreneur, the linchpin and maker of change might be, “love what you do.” If we can fall in love with serving people, creating value, solving problems, building valuable connections and doing work that matters, it makes it far more likely we’re going to do important work.
— Seth Godin, Turning passion on its head

The core of Barkada Circle is to connect, in meaningful ways, the people who can affect change within their organization. It is the first step to getting clarity on their mission and ultimately getting to it. Story is our passion. It is also our message.

Coming back from a long break, these words from Mr. Godin provide just the right tone for Barkada Circle to begin a new chapter in dynamic storytelling. To be clear, by no means were we on vacation. These past few months have created a turning point for Barkada Circle as we continue to discover the many different ways that storytelling could help Chicago’s local nonprofits build stronger communities around mission.

We learned that in the field of education, there is a great need for effective leadership development for teachers starting with those in early childhood education. The women and men who introduce learning to our 3- to 5-year olds not only read stories to these children, but also find themselves needing to tell stories to their staff, the parents of the children, and others in their community. Many of them, believing that they were born to teach children and youth, also see the need to lead others and in some cases, entire communities.

They realize that story is a vital catalyst for engaging people and helping them understand two key things: 1) why change in education is important and 2) what role they need to play in making it happen. Through story, they try to spark relevant conversations that build valuable connections to raise the quality of learning that our children receive at that early, yet critical point in their development.

On the heels of the observance of Labor Day, I salute our teachers for the hope and the potential they bring to our society. I thank them for recognizing the value of story in their work. I love what I do for I share in their belief that storytellers make the best teachers, and the best leaders.

Tell an Engaging Story, Virtual or Live!

Barkada Circle recently led a workshop that challenged participants to look at their websites in a new way and ask the question: “Does my website tell an engaging story?”

The conversations centered around these key points:

Think of your home page as a book cover
You only have seconds to grab the viewer’s attention and make them want to explore further.


Showcase human themes
Stories about your programs are important, however the stories of the people behind and around these programs are what will resonate with your audience. Highlight narratives that bring emotional values to the fore such as hope, strength and transformation. They cut through to the human core which connects people more deeply to your mission.

Keep the language simple and free of business jargon
Write like you would talk to someone face-to-face. The goal is not to impress, but rather to make your audience understand.

Use a photo or video wherever you can highlight characters in your story
A human being is naturally drawn to an image of another human being. Hold the viewer’s attention with original images of real people who are part of your mission. Curate your photos and videos to highlight the humanity in your work.

Apply a visual rhythm
Create a balance between images and text for visual appeal. Making specific choices about the amount of text and the images that complement them helps the viewer focus and understand your key message and retain it. The common saying “less is more” applies here more than ever. For a good example, view the website of the nonprofit charity:water.

How do you move your website viewers to feel and act in the way you want them to? If your website doesn’t stir your own emotions, chances are it won’t stir theirs.


Thursday, May 29, 2014
6:00 pm – 8:00 pm
Street-Level Youth Media
1637 N. Ashland Avenue
Chicago, IL 60642
Fee $10

From virtual storytelling to live and in-person! When was the last time you engaged a live audience with a compelling story?

Join Barkada Circle® for it’s 3rd Semi-Annual Storytelling Jam Session: WHAT’S YOUR READ, an evening of open mic storytelling for folks with a mission. This is a great opportunity to share your compelling story with your peers in a safe and supportive setting.

Do a live reading. Show a video. BE CREATIVE and try something new. BE BOLD.

You get the most benefit by coming unprepared with an unfinished story because the immediate feedback you get from the audience will help take your narrative to the next level.


Grantmakers on Stewardship: How Can Nonprofits Nurture Successful Collaborations?

gpa_debbieJoin us for GPA Chicago’s full-day conference 2014! 

Our day will begin by taking a fresh look at the role of grant professionals in the context of ever-increasing scrutiny and accountability. We are constantly called to be good stewards for the organizations we work with, as well as for their donors. Does this sometimes create difficult ethical dilemmas?

Our keynote speaker, Debbie DiVirgilio, will lead attendees through a process of understanding and establishing ethical standards of operation for grant professionals. View Debbie’s bio and read her post on LinkedIn about The Stewardship Compass.

After enjoying a delicious lunch prepared by the great chefs at Macy’s Culinary Institute, we will engage a panel of foundation representatives in conversation about Creating Effective Collaborations Appropriate to Funding Agency Missions and Goals. Our esteemed panel will comprise:

Monique Brunson
Director of Programs
Chicago Foundation for Women

Suzanne Connor
Senior Program Officer, Arts & Culture
Chicago Community Trust

Jalisa Hinkle
Coordinator, Advocate Bethany Community Health Fund
Advocate Charitable Foundation

Brad White
Associate Director
Alphawood Foundation

Go to the EVENT PAGE for the full agenda and to REGISTER

At our afternoon breakout sessions, you will have the opportunity to deep dive into many of the ideas raised at the keynote and panel discussion.

1:45 pm – 2:45 pm (2 concurrent sessions) 

Grant professionals as leaders
Debbie DiVirgilio, Principal, The Faith-Based Nonprofit Resource Center

Partnerships and how to make them work
Nalani McClendon, Principal, NK McClendon Consulting
Mary Visconti, Chief Executive Officer, Better Boys Foundation

3:00 pm – 4:00 pm (2 concurrent sessions)

Fact Finding: Using Census Data in Grant Writing
Ileana C. Serrano, Information Services Specialist, U.S. Census Bureau

Improving communication and buy-in from program staff
Carole Brooks, Resource Development, Special Education District of Lake County
Joyce G. Poll, Nonprofit Strategist, J.G. Poll & Associates

Your attendance at the conference automatically qualifies you for a chance to win a FREE GPA national membership. Winner must be present.

Member — $90 early bird / $125 after April 18
Non-Member — $105 early bird / $140 after April 18
Student — $50 early bird / $65 after April 18

Registration Deadline: Tuesday, April 29. 

REGISTER TODAY and take advantage of the early bird discount


Presenting to Funders: The Conversation Continues

One of GPA Chicago’s thought leaders was very kind to contribute her views on “How to Deliver a More Compelling Presentation to Funders,” the theme of our chapter meeting in February 2014.

Eileen F. Murphy, Best Buddies Illinois State Director

Eileen F. Murphy, Best Buddies Illinois State Director

Eileen F. Murphy is State Director of Best Buddies Illinois. A graduate of Antioch College, Eileen has worked for BBIL for almost eight years and won State Director of the Year in her third year. She has worked in special events, program planning and fundraising for twenty-five years.

GPA: Why is a face-to-face interaction important to communicate with a funder?
EFM: You convey face to face what you cannot convey in writing. Other senses come into play. Your personality, your knowledge, passion for the project etc. It is always a good thing to get a chance to meet face to face. You hopefully will get the grant, and if not, they know more about you. Something may come up in the future that you are a good fit for. Perhaps a collaboration.

GPA: What will resonate with them?
You are in the black. You are a responsible shepherd of their donation. Their dollar goes along way. You and your staff deeply care about the mission. It’s your job to make them deeply care through photos, phrases and perhaps bringing those you serve. Their gift results in lives changing. Draw on an experience that is universal such as eating lunch with your friends in the HS cafeteria, friendship in general. Imagine what it is like to only have caretakers as friends, or not get invited to parties. Then imagine you have a school with 200 members of the Best Buddies Club who have literally changed the culture of the school. Everyone deserves a typical teenage experience.

GPA: What do I need to know about the person(s) with whom I’ll be meeting?
Everything if possible. Do a little research. What makes them tick? My last meeting was with a seventeen year old and was one of the more difficult ones. You are going to meet with all kinds of people.

GPA: How do I create an effective mix of compelling data and stories?
Evaluations, program statistics, your trajectory based on a growth plan, uniqueness of the agency, numbers served and in what capacity. When I was in the arts, I tailored the “ask” to the asker. Were they interested in movie stars, struggling film makers, or arts education in the inner-city? Mentoring (the last 16 years) involved similar preparations. Are they interested in a geographic area, children or adults, low income or the suburbs? Same thing but different. The impact one person or a group can have on a life and the course of that life. Show this in studies. Intellectually understand and feel it. Don’t make up programs to fit a foundation; it adds money to the budget and takes away what you really want funding for.

GPA: How do I go beyond their expectations?
Be prepared for every question – audit, budget, programs, growth and history. Ask how they would like the meeting to go after friendly banter. Most foundations have a way that they conduct their meetings but are open to your own surprises (a participant, a parent, or a board member). But I would check ahead of time with them. If you are meeting them at a location – you have their cell phone, you’ve arranged for parking, you are waiting at the entrance. Be passionate and informational. Read your visitor. Does he/she look bored? Be in tune with that. I think it is easy to talk too much especially when you are passionate.

For more information about Best Buddies Illinois, visit Join the conversation at the GPA Chicago Area Chapter LinkedIn Group.

You are NOT a Non-Profit

The Nonprofit SIG of the Chicago American Marketing Association continues its educational program series on mission-driven marketing with its second session:

Your Organization is NOT a Non-Profit: Fund Your Mission

chicagoamaThursday, April 3, 2014
8:00-10:00 a.m.
415 N. Dearborn, Suite 300
Chicago, IL 60654

Since when did 501(c)(3)s adopt the mentality that they are not in the business of making money?  Of course they are.  501(c)(3) is only a tax designation not a business model.  Your organization wants to promote research, scholarships, and education to advance the profession and achieve its mission.  In the recent past, major companies would help fund the missions of non-profits, but today these resources have become more limited.

Organizations have to be more self-reliant to generate funds to accomplish their missions and adopt an entrepreneurial mind-set.   Funding will need to come from their current products and programs. Marketers will need to be intimately involved with initiatives to develop the products and bring them to market.

Jill Slupe, CEO of Verde Martin and Sandee Kastrul, President and Co-Founder of i.c.stars will provide insights and case studies that can help us understand how to monetize programs that generate revenue to support our missions.  They will be joined by moderators Nanette Perez, Program Officer of the American Library Association and Beth Zemach of Association Management Center.

Registration opens soon so stay tuned.

Follow us on Twitter with #camanp and join the conversation on LinkedIn:

For more information about all Chicago AMA events, visit