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December 2, 2015

Two of My Favorite Office Hacks

Kathleen Wilson CAE, Executive Director

The Urban Dictionary defines a hack as “a clever solution to a tricky problem.” If you’re over 40 think shortcuts and who doesn’t love a good shortcut? My rules for a good hack/shortcut are simple. It must be easy, cheap and effective. Otherwise, why bother? With this in mind, here are two things I’ve discovered that I use on a regular basis to make life in the office easier. “Buffer is the best way to drive traffic, increase fan engagement and save time on social media.”

The only thing in the sentence above that grabs me is “save time”; how about you? Social media is here to stay and very few nonprofit executives have the time to keep up or the budget to hire a social media pro who isn’t also able to do at least five other jobs. Quite simply, Buffer lets you schedule your social media posts to multiple social media platforms. Identify your social media items at one sitting and using a simple browser widget you tell Buffer when to post each item and to which social media platform. After you’ve used Buffer awhile, it can analyze the best times for posting and suggest your ideal posting schedule with the Optimal Timing Tool. You’ll also get reports on how successful your posts are. (If you’re hung up on getting thousands of Likes or Shares you might not like seeing these reports.)

I’ve been using the free version for a little over a month now and I will admit to a tiny learning curve but only because I hate to read instructions and I’m a tad impatient. So, I’ve tested their support via email and it was impressive. The responses are quick, personal, and spot on. The paid versions of Buffer are full of great features but I’m not really interested in analytics or boosting posts so free is fine with me. They do offer a 50% discount to 501(c)(3) organizations. 

Not related to using Buffer, but I love how they’ve done their “About” page, especially how they present the staff. It’s a great idea I’d love to steal. Being a creative type, I love some of their staff titles. They include Happiness Hero, Happiness Engineer, Gratitude Champion, Life Saver, Content Crafter, Community Champion, and the more traditional titles. OK, you can stop the eye rolling now!

ScanSnapYour productive, mobile, efficient, paperless life starts here.”

When the all-in-one printer/scanner/copier/fax/make-your-coffee machines came out over a decade ago I didn’t think life could get much easier. But really, who faxes anymore? And, no, I haven’t really found one that makes coffee. Yet. My husband started using the ScanSnap in his business several years ago and since the moment I watched him use it I knew I wanted one. But, this little baby might be considered pricey for some so if it only meets 2 out of my 3 requirements for being a good hack, my apologies, but I’ll explain how to overcome the price factor shortly.


The thing I love most about the ScanSnap is its speed and reliability. Speed saves time, which saves money and being reliable saves time, money, and my sanity. For years, I’ve used all-in-ones for scanning and although I’ve had great ones, none scanned as quickly or reliably as the ScanSnap. The model I have is wireless and I can unplug it from my desktop and put it anywhere. It comes with great software for scanning business cards, receipts, and other items. Business cards are imported automatically into my Address Book. There’s even a “carrier” that is transparent for scanning odd shaped or delicate items. The thing is really awesome, but watch this video and see what I mean.

Here's a picture of the ScanSnap on my desk.So I’ve covered the fast and easy, now for the price. The MSRP is $495 but Amazon is selling it right now for $409 and with the holidays coming up, I’m sure there will be even better deals available. How did NATLE afford this on our budget, you ask? A particularly generous member knew it was on my wish list and “sponsored” the purchase. Multiplying my hourly pay by the hours spent scanning on a printer and fighting with the software makes this purchase a no-brainer. Start keeping track of your scanning time (documents, bills, receipts, business cards) and see how much the ScanSnap could save your association. If you don’t have enough in your Office Supplies budget line, I’d encourage you to consider adding it to your equipment wish list and sharing this list at your next board meeting

These are my two favorite hacks for this week. Tell me your biggest office challenge and I’ll see what hacks I can find to help you.

October 15, 2015

What is Your Social Media "Sharing" Score?

Kathleen Wilson CAE, Executive Director

By "sharing" score, I mean how often do your friends and fans share your content from your social media sites? How do you make your social media efforts attractive (thus, effective) so that people will share them with friends, family, the general public? After all, isn't the goal of social media to spread to the masses your message of protecting the civil justice system? 

George Takei spreads his message exceptionally well with his Facebook page as evidenced by the amount of sharing his posts get. His goal is to be able to reach the largest audience possible to educate them about two things: the Japanese American internment and marriage equality. However, he knows that his social media efforts cannot only be about his primary issues or people will tune him out. So he posts items that he believes his followers will want to share and share they do! When people share, others will share and this also breeds new friends, connections and followers of your social media sites.

Here's a blog post called 6 "Boring" Companies With Remarkable Marketing Strategies worth reading. Although a little dated, it shows examples of how a few corporations have done this successfully. Even though their efforts are more about marketing for profit, it's the same idea—do something to get people hooked, sharing your content and wanting to follow you. Another good read is Make ‘Em Laugh: Infusing Content Marketing With Humour. The idea here is to stretch a bit with your social media posts. Your scholarly journals and continuing education programs don't offer the opportunities for branching out like social media does and neither do they reach a broader audience like social media. All the more reason to branch out and get creative with your posts and writing style.

A plus to getting your audience hooked is that the more people share, like and comment on your posts, the greater weight they are given in the Facebook algorithm for appearing near the top of news feeds. (Another topic for another day, that one.)

So what will you post today that will get me hooked?

September 28, 2015

Is Crowd Funding the Right Fit?

Kathleen Wilson CAE, Executive Director

Recently a member asked, "Should our trial lawyer justice association consider “crowd funding” for raising money?” Here's my answer.

The short answer is no. Crowd funding is very effective for specific, time-limited projects that fall into the 501(c)(3) or (c)4, categories. In other words, charities. 

If you’re looking to bolster your nonprofit’s general fund, crowdfunding is not the right fit for you. Supporting the overall operations of an entire organization is too broad (see above); it’s a marathon effort, and crowdfunding is more like a sprint.” 

For instance, if your foundation wanted to raise money for underprivileged students to attend law school or a particular law-related event, then crowd funding would be an ideal tool. However, for the generic fundraising to keep the lights on for your (c)(6), raise funds for your PAC, or some other non-specific cause, crowd funding isn’t the answer. 

What exactly is the problem your board is trying to address with online fundraising? Do they want to reach a broader audience? Do they want to make it easier for members to give? Do they want to raise a boatload of money in a very short time? The answers to these questions will vary and they may not all involve the same fundraising vehicle. Is the real question how to get more members to give? It’s very likely that crowd funding won’t be the answer to any of these questions but the question must be asked of the board “what problem are you trying to fix with crowd funding?” 

If you wanted to try an experiment with online funding, #GivingTuesday is a good place to start. Identify a specific need that you’d like your organization to fundraise for and then develop your Giving Tuesday plan. This has all of the best elements to succeed as a crowd funding opportunity. It’s short—only one day—and specific. If it works for your 501(c)(6), please tell me about it!

Provide the facts about crowd funding to your board then guide them to the right answer. Here are some resources that will help you put together the facts.