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  • Fri, December 16, 2016 3:54 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Massachusetts Down Syndrome Congress (MDSC) has built an employment initiative that engages employers and opens doors for good, meaningful jobs for the self-advocate members in their community. "Your Next Star" was launched two years ago and is a clarion call for employers to diversify their workforces by including people with Down syndrome and other disabilities.

    MDSC Communications Director Josh Komyerov and Executive Director Maureen Gallagher will co-present a session at DSAIA 2017 which will cover the benefits of a diverse workforce, innovative approaches to hiring people with disabilities (including customized employment opportunities), examples of successful companies/employers and approaches that lead to success. Special emphasis will be paid to the range of jobs that people with disabilities can work. "We look forward to sharing our expertise so other organizations can understand the dire nature of the current situation and ultimately build their own employment initiative to make a real difference in their communities," said Komyerov.

    More incredible sessions geared toward teens/adults in the Down syndrome community are also on the schedule including:

    Learn more about these and other great sessions offered at the DSAIA Leadership Conference in February 2017.

  • Tue, November 08, 2016 10:39 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By Rick Lent, Ph.D
    Originally published on Meeting for Results

    Structuring A Respectful Meeting In A Contentious Situation…

    Here are five tools that are particularly helpful in structuring a productive conversation when you expect conflicting views. You can plan to use most of these tools in advance of the session, but any of them can be implemented “in the moment” when a discussion threatens to get heated. See the links to earlier posts for more explanation and examples of the tools mentioned here.

    Contentious meetingTools to Build More Balanced Feedback. The tools I call 1-2-All and PALPaR can be used in combination with Three Reaction Questions to create a more measured, balanced discussion. 1-2-All is helpful because asks participants to reflect first and then share their thoughts with one or two others before speaking to the whole group. These first two steps create a structure in which each person is more naturally able to gain some insight into their own and other’s perspectives. I find that 1-2-All can keep a discussion from being “stolen” by one impassioned participant. PALPaR, particularly used with Three Reaction Questions, enables a balanced hearing of the feedback, followed by a later, more thoughtful response that integrates what was heard. It avoids setting up the back-and forth of question/response that can verge on becoming a verbal dual.

    A Tool for Working with Both Sides of an Issue. Forces Review can turn an unproductive debate into an acknowledgement of both problems and possibilities. It engages the group in a constructive dialogue about how to improve the possibilities of success while recognizing the difficulties. (I will describe this tool in detail in an upcoming post.  For now, see the Meeting for Results Tool Kit for more information on how to use this tool.)

    A Tool to Use in the Moment. One more tool can be used in the moment a potential conflict arises: Practical Sub-Grouping. This tool outlines a process designed to structure a productive exchange when one or two people speak out against the prevailing direction of some discussion. As a leader, you can use this tool very transparently. No one should feel that you are manipulating the direction of any debate. You simply form several sub-groups to talk with one another about their views (not about why they dislike some other view) while others listen. Then you ask the whole group to identify what they conclude from having listened to this sharing. (See the description of Practical Sub-Grouping in the Meeting for Results Tool Kit for more information on how to use this tool.)

    These and another 27 tools are described in my “job aid” for anyone working to lead better meetings — Meeting for Results Tool Kit: Make Your Meetings Work.

    Learn more about how to lead an effective meeting for your organization in our upcoming webinar with Rick on Wednesday, November 16th at 1 pm ET/10 am PT. Register today: Leading More Effective Board Meetings

  • Fri, October 14, 2016 5:36 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By Steven Shattuck, Chief Engagement Officer at Bloomerang

    This post originally appeared on the Bloomerang Blog on October 3, 2016.

    The consensus among social media practitioners is that only a portion of your messaging should be promotional.

    For example, the rule of thirds states that only 33% of your content should be promotional, while the80/20 rule limits it to just 20%. It makes sense, doesn’t it? After all, who among us wants to constantly solicited to on social media?

    So if the majority of your social media postings should be conversational, how do you go about generating those interactions?

    The key is listening.

    Here’s why listening is the ideal starting point to engaging new and prospective followers in a meaningful conversation:

    1. You Can’t Broadcast Until You Have a Community

    If you’re boasting only single or double-digit follower counts on your active social networks, your posts are the equivalent of shouting into a void, especially when you consider that algorithm-controlled networks (like Facebook and Instagram) limit the visibility of your posts to only about 10% of your followers.

    And shouting into a void isn’t the best way to gain followers.

    One of the best ways (not the only way) to gain followers is to monitor ongoing conversations, and engage with them if it makes sense to do so. Listen for mentions of your brand name, your cause, your events or any other topic that is on-brand for you.

    2. Listening Gives You an Authentic Reason to Engage

    Savvy nonprofit marketers will identify social media users in their community who are either influential, in a position to help (geographically close, civically engaged, etc.) or both.

    Unfortunately, there is a tendency to simply spam these people by bulk-tweeting to them or tagging them in promotional posts. It’s no surprise that these messages are often ignored. Social media is not the same as mass email marketing.

    Once you have identified those you want to have a conversation with (either through listening or direct research), engage them individually either around a conversation already in progress or by initiating a new one that is unique to just them.

    This kind of interaction is much more authentic than blasting out the same message to a large group of people and hoping one or two responds.

    3. Broadcasting En Masse is Not Effective

    If you are using a tool that lets you schedule and distribute content en masse to multiple social media networks at once, you may want to reconsider.

    Sending the same update to all of your networks at the same time is universally regarded as a bad idea. Each social network has its own unique community, style and cadence expectations. It’s also counter-intuitive to the whole idea of being “social.” When you’re at a party, do you go up and talk to people individually or do you shout from the corner of the room and hope someone hears you?

    But, most importantly, this isn’t a function that you should look for in a donor database. It’s not your donor database’s job to broadcast to social media. It is its job to measure engagement from social media (Twitter is arguably the best network for this because of how open and personal the interactions are).

    Does your nonprofit organization engage in social listening? Why or why not? Let me know in the comments below!

    For help with generating the rest of your content, be sure to download our free eBook: The Three A’s of Nonprofit Social Media.

    Want more great insight from Steven? Join us for a FREE webinar October 26th at 1  pm ET/10 am PT. Register now!

    About the writer: A prolific blogger and speaker, Steven curates our educational content as Bloomerang's sales and marketing lead. In 2015, he co-founded Launch Cause, a nonprofit accelerator and co-working space located in Indianapolis.

  • Mon, September 12, 2016 10:55 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By Deanna Tharpe, Executive Director of DSAIA

    I had the amazing opportunity to watch Mark and Scott Kelly (yes, the astronauts) speak recently at the annual meeting and exposition for the American Society for Association Professionals in Salt Lake City. Of course, it was great to see these two incredible brothers talk about their journey from kids in New Jersey to leaving the earth’s surface. However, their message gave me some key takeaways that I have to share because they are so relevant to what we do on a daily basis as Down syndrome association leaders.

    One of the first nuggets of wisdom from the talk was that we have to focus on what we can control, not what we can’t.  Helping to lead a Down syndrome organization is an incredibly difficult job, no matter which part of the job is actually yours. And that is why we need to remember to focus on the jobs that are ours – those that we can control. If you are in charge of New Parent/Family Outreach, focus on that and do the best job you can do. Maybe your area is legislative advocacy. Do your research, keep informed and keep connected to national organizations. It’s what is within your control.

    Oh, but, come on.  What if you are the Executive Director? Or the board president with no staff? What if you’re in charge of everything? Wait. No, you are “responsible” for everything. That’s where others come in (volunteers, board members, staff) so that they can be in control of something. And you – you can assist them in their jobs by giving them the training and resources they need to do them successfully.

    But, let’s delve deeper into this because it affects everyone in leadership positions. Sometimes I think all of us tend to let things that are beyond our control take over our focus. We can’t control the weather on walk day but we can control planning for that eventuality. We can’t control the fact that our major sponsor that loved our organization so much that they gave each year generously ended up selling their company and the new owner is a little less generous. But we can control diversifying our funding streams and being aware of changes in our community. We can build relationships or at least begin the process.

    I think about Mark Kelly’s heartfelt story about the day his wife was shot. He couldn’t control the situation but he could control how they handled it as a family. And it reminds me that we as leaders of Down syndrome organizations can take a page from many of the families we serve. A family can’t control whether their child is born with Down syndrome…but they certainly can focus on what they can control. And part of that is turning to a valued and trusted resource for support throughout their child’s lifetime. And that is what a DS leader can control….the quality of the services they receive.

    So, let’s take a moment to buckle in, get focused on what we can control and blast off. The sky is not the limit anymore, it's just the beginning of the journey.

  • Mon, July 18, 2016 8:46 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By Deanna Tharpe, DSAIA Executive Director

    I’m headed out in a few days to one of the most exciting events in the Down syndrome community…the National Down Syndrome Congress Convention. Yes, I’m going there to work but that doesn’t mean that I am not looking forward to this trip with great excitement. (It’s one of the most fun parts of my job!)

    The first NDSC Convention I attended was in 2006 and I have only missed one since. I laugh because I have friends from that first convention that I KNOW I’ll see there this year (and every year) plus all the wonderful new friends I’ve made since that first trip. They are right…it is like a big family reunion (lots of cousins you don’t know but once you start talking you realize you’re family). The greatest experiences I have had have been when we took a self-advocate with us.  Some have been humorous, other enlightening and still some a little emotional. But you know I wouldn’t trade one of them.

    These days, you’ll find me in the exhibit hall during the convention….manning the DSAIA booth. I love that I will get to talk to representatives from groups all over the world. I love to hear about their organization, their challenges, and their successes and then be able to tell them about Down Syndrome Affiliates in Action. Most are parents so they either have their child/adult with them or have a great pic in the back of their name badge. (Oh, yes, I’ll have mine in there as well.  I mean, my kid is super awesome, come on!)

    So, if you are attending the NDSC Convention in Orlando this week, come by and see me in the exhibit hall. I have some cool giveaways PLUS nonmembers can get access to one of our webinars FOR FREE! Ask me how!

    And now, I have to cut this blog short.  Ok, so I’m not completely packed…  Come see me in Orlando! 

  • Wed, May 18, 2016 4:17 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Come on, if you haven't been to a board retreat that fit all three of those, you are my hero! But let's not give up on board retreats...they can be magical. They can be productive. And they can be orchestrated by YOU.

    On May 26, we will be joined by Joan Garry.  She is a leading nonprofit consultant who works with boards and staff members as a strategic advisor, crisis manager, change agent and strategic planner.  She also has a blog for nonprofit leaders at and a podcast on iTunes called Nonprofits Are Messy.  Her webinar topic will be How To Create A Five Star Board Retreat.

    Clearly a five star retreat begins with five star board members.  Here are links to a few posts Joan has written on the topic of building a great board.

    How To Build A Great Board

    Nonprofit Board of Director Assessment Tool

    Great Interview Questions for Nonprofit Board Candidates

    Don't miss out on this webinar! Register now at:

  • Tue, April 19, 2016 1:54 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    I had the pleasure last week of participating in the "National Down Syndrome Society Buddy Walk on Washington" event. While it's not my first time to attend (by any stretch), I did notice some distinct differences from my first visit years ago. I think the differences lie in the number of attendees, the self-advocates and the education of the participants. Let me elaborate.

    While the number of people coming to advocate on behalf of Down syndrome is always impressive, the number this year was an increase. First of all, I saw many more families with young children. Seeing all these families getting involved early in legislative advocacy is nothing short of a boon for our future. ABLE has passed and while there is still plenty of work to be done to improve the existing law, seeing an increase in attendance was surprising to me. It is an election year, but I just felt that wasn't the underlying reason. I think people in the DS community have seen the power of their presence on Capitol Hill and they want to keep that momentum going.

    Oh, the self-advocates! Not only were there many, but they were amazingly involved and professional. While none of them were my offspring or came from my local area, I couldn't help but feel pride when seeing them in the halls of the Congressional office buildings or hearing the stories of their visits. 

    Maybe it's just the level of involvement I saw across the board. The advocates I spoke to were knowledgeable about past legislation and about how Hill visits work (even if it was their first time attending). More than that, they asked thoughtful questions about legislation they didn't quite understand. I can't imagine that comes from anything other than training and communications. I suspect the DS-Ambassador program can take a lot of credit for that.

    Overall, it felt empowering to be part of such an effort by the community. Hearing the stories of the state efforts, the triumphs of their visits and seeing the long lines of Congressional members waiting to praise our effort made for a great trip.  Watching a rainy morning turn into a beautiful spring afternoon (hmmm...did we do that?) was icing on the cake. Thank you, NDSS, for all you do!

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      • Thu, April 14, 2016 8:36 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

        It's National Volunteer Week! I know most of us recognize and thank our volunteers throughout the year for their hard work and contributions to our organizations. Of course, many of you might also be posting a big "thank you" on your social media networks as well this week. 

        What this week brings to MY that this is a GREAT opportunity for nonprofit leaders to evaluate our volunteer programs and improve them. For example, what is your recruitment process? Is it different for each event/program or do you have an overall strategy and process for recruitment? What happens when you bring in a volunteer? One of the best resources we (at DSAIA) can offer is Jennifer Bennett's extensive webinar on all of these issues entitled "The New Volunteer Manager's Toolkit" housed in our Webinar Archive on the DSAIA Member Resources section of our website. Jennifer, with VolunteerMatch, has presented at several DSAIA conferences and is just an incredible resource for nonprofit leaders. 

        Another great resource I have to mention is the entire volunteer section of the Resource Library. You'll find examples of volunteer applications and communications (like newsletters). Also in that section is the slide deck of Jennifer Bennett's presentation on creating a training program for your volunteers. And if you do want some ideas on how to thank your volunteers, check out the Event/Fundraising section in the Webinar Archive to learn about some "Creative Ways to Say Thanks!" which includes a volunteer section. 

        If you do decide to post on social media about National Volunteer Week, do us a solid and include us in the post @downsyndromeaia so we can help you share the message. 

      • Thu, April 07, 2016 10:31 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

        Guest Author: Ellen Bristol, President/CEO of Bristol Strategy Group

        When we were kids, I used to envy my cousin Judy no end. When we were in high school, she was never without a date on the weekend, while I sat home feeling sorry for myself. Judy was pretty and cute, but not stop-traffic gorgeous; not a cheerleader; not wealthy; she didn't drive a snazzy car, but she always had boys lining up around the block, dying to spend time with her. And no, she didn't put out!!!

        Years later, I finally asked her what her secret was. Know what she told me?   "I never worried if I was good enough for them. I just wanted to know, is this guy gonna be good enough for me?" 

        What a lesson.  I've never forgotten it. And here's why you shouldn't either.

        • You're already "good enough" for them.
        • Your organization and its mission and programs are already "good enough" too. 
        • And it's "their" problem if they haven't figured it out - and your problem if you haven't told the world.

        Let me explain.

        Judy - who still looks exactly like she did at age four and in high school  - was and is entirely self-confident. She knows if you're OK with yourself, others are as well.  Now this post is not a lesson in self-esteem, it's about fundraising, so let's talk about why Judy's experience is so relevant. 

        First, avoid the tin-cup mentality. it's amazing how often people raise money using the tin-cup approach: "Give us money because we need it!" "Help now! Because we need money!" "If you don't give us money now, little Johnny doesn't get his puppy!" "We're really in a bind and we're counting on YOU to get us out of it!" Not very appetizing to the guy on the other end of the so-called "ask." If you were selling something, it would come across like "buy from me or I'll kill you."  If you've ever had this done to you, you would hate it. If you've ever done this, please bow your head in shame.  

        Judy never felt she had to beg for attention, or worry about the other person's reaction to her. Instead, she spent her time getting to know the other person, producing rapport and interest. It came naturally to Judy; she's really gifted that way. But these are skills you can learn - and you must if you're going to be successful at fundraising. 

        Second, understand your financial and social value. You wouldn't have been able to get your organization off the ground unless you had something to offer. Your programs would be unused, your clients would not exist, your board would not be there for you. If you're still tin-cupping around your fundraising, ask yourself why you are not convinced of the value of your own organization.

        And finally, stop asking where the donors are hiding.  Cousin Judy never spent any time obsessing about where the "good" guys were hiding out, unlike what far too many of my straight female friends have whined about over the years. There is no secret stash of "good" donors out there, no magic door behind which they are hiding.  They're already available, and most likely looking for your organization, even if they don't know it yet.  If you've got a meaningful mission, good programs, and effective ways to let the world know it, donors and potential donors will find you. 

        Want to learn more about my cousin Judy, and how she influenced my approach to fundraising? Ready to start a fundraising revolution in your nonprofit? Then you'll want to read my book Fundraising the SMART Way.


        But...there's another option for Down syndrome associations! Why not enroll in a training program that will lead you, teach you, help you design the most effective fundraising program your organization needs and deserves? Learn more about Fundraising the SMART Way during a free webinar on Wednesday, April 20th?

        Register today! 

      • Fri, February 12, 2016 11:51 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

        By Susan Black, CFRE
        Allene Professional Fundraising

        (This is the third in a 3-part series about one-person fundraising shops.)

        Last time we talked about how to avoid burn-out in a small shop by focusing on the first of the two most important aspects of your development operation: your board.  This month we'll focus on donor communications, the second part of the approach. 

        As the manager of a one-person shop, you will need to make sure that your thank you letters go out, that your data is clean, that you know your donors, and that you keep in touch with them on a regular basis through phone calls, letters, and other communications. This is by far the best use of your own time beyond managing the board and the committees. Failing to keep up with these tasks will inevitably lead to lost donations.  Part of your job is making it look like everything is calm on the surface even if you are paddling furiously under the water!  Here's how to tackle this challenging feat:

        1. Set aside time each week to accomplish these activities.  Find time in your week or better yet, a few minutes each day,  to work on some of the "scut work" of correspondence, filing, and database entry.  Don't let these things pile up or they will become overwhelming.  
        2. Invest in a good database.  The last thing you need as a one-person shop manager is to wade through volumes of spreadsheets and lists trying to find donor information.  Instead, make the investment in a good, low-cost web-based database system.  You don't need anything fancy but you do need something that has built-in capabilities to collect the information you need, to sort and manage that information, and to provide relevant reports.
        3.  Hire a good assistant. I realize you might not be able to hire someone but find a part-time person if you can.  If not, you may be able to find willing volunteers on your board or through your local senior center, place of worship, high school, or college.  Get creative and get the help you need.
        4.  Find a reliable printer with a good in-house designer and do as many of your publications online or electronically, as possible. I can't tell you how much time and money I have saved by finding a printer that is located in a small town (their prices are far less than the printers in my city), and that has a good, capable in-house designer.  This vendor provides high-quality work and is like having a "virtual" graphics department. I've also learned to do my own e-newsletters and other simple publications like postcards and flyers using desktop publishing and on-line resources.  It's worth your sanity and your budget to seek out a good printer and learn these programs yourself.

        Susan Black is a respected fundraising consultant and one of the many great presenters you'll find at the upcoming 2016 DSAIA Leadership Conference. Learn more about her at

        See Susan's sessions as well as the full agenda of offerings here

      I want to tell you what WONDERFUL time I had at the conference. I learned so much and came away with lots of ideas for our organization. -Barb Waddle, The Upside of Downs of Northeast Ohio

      About DSAIA

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