Chicago Shines a Light on Suicide Prevention

If you live in Chicago or will be in town on Saturday, March 14th, join me at the Hilton Magnificent Mile and meet the good folks carrying out the mission of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Volunteers from all over will gather to share stories and learn how to increase awareness for the cause. I will be giving the volunteers useful tips on how to engage others through storytelling.

Suicide is a serious public health problem that takes an enormous toll on families, friends, classmates, co-workers, and communities, as well as on our military personnel and veterans.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2013–the most recent year for which full data is available–someone in the United States died by suicide every 12.9 minutes. This makes it the 10th leading cause of death for Americans, but unlike many other leading causes, suicide continues to claim more lives each year. Suicide is currently the third leading cause of death among young people age 15 to 24. The highest overall rates of suicide are for adults age 40 to 59.

To know the reason for someone’s suicide death is challenging. Research has shown that most people who die by suicide have a potentially treatable mental disorder at the time of their death. The disorder has often gone unrecognized and untreated. What we know about the causes of suicide is lagging behind that of other life-threatening illnesses because the stigma surrounding suicide has limited society’s investment in vital research. To find out more, you can go to the website of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

Since its founding in 1987, AFSP has connected tens of thousands of people who have lost a family member, loved one or friend to suicide and help them cope. AFSP has reached thousands of individuals who are at risk for suicide, as well as those who love and care for them to make prevention possible. In order to help people understand the facts, AFSP has gained the participation of members of the scientific and clinical communities, who conduct groundbreaking research on suicide and its prevention.

To fully achieve its mission, AFSP engages individuals and families, scientists and legislators, and community organizations in essential dialogue to increase awareness, understanding and support for those impacted by suicide.

Register today for the AFSP Volunteer Gathering on Saturday, March 14th and take the first step with me. It is a journey in which everyone must participate because the stories surrounding suicide reflects what’s happening in our homes, our schools and our communities. The more we openly talk about it and listen, the better we can see and act.


The Trust presents On the Table at the Philanthropy Club

Thank you to Eva Penar, Director of Marketing and Communications at The Chicago Community Trust, and Jean Westrick, Independent Consultant to the Trust, for leading a dynamic discussion at the Philanthropy Club’s March 3rd session on how individuals and organizations can participate in the Trust’s civic engagement initiative called On the Table.

onthetable_logoIn 2014, the ambassador program for On the Table created a social viral campaign that led to over 17 million digital impressions. As May 12, 2015 marks the Trust’s Centennial, that day will see thousands of people throughout Chicagoland gathered around tables sharing meals, sharing stories and sharing commitments to make our region the most philanthropic in the nation. These conversations will bring people together around a common vision which is the first step to realizing change and making an impact in our communities.

Barkada Circle is happy to be an ambassador for the program and will be hosting two On the Tables, one in the city and one in a suburb. Stay tuned for details.

For more information about On the Table, visit their website at

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.