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  • Mon, February 08, 2016 9:10 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By Susan Black, CFRE
    Allene Professional Fundraising

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

    Last time we talked about the importance of passion for development professionals who are in a one-person shop.  I mentioned that sometimes passion may be the only thing keeping you going!  Lack of passion may lead to burn out and burn out starts when we feel overwhelmed.  That's easy to feel when you are by yourself.  To avoid burnout when you are a one-person show, focus on two things: your board and your donor communications.  We'll tackle the latter next month. For now, let's take a look at your board.

    In essence, you will need to make your board your de facto development staff.  Start by making sure there is a functioning development committee on the board.  This group will be able to help you make key decisions and set short and long-term goals; they can also run interference with the rest of the board to help your initiatives take hold.  Managing this group will not be easy, but hopefully you can hand-pick the members and build individual relationships that will help you get the support you need.  

    The second step is to ensure that all fundraising projects have their own committees, including your annual fund. The committees do not have to be comprised entirely of board members.  In fact, it's a great way to recruit potential board members by introducing them to your organization on an event or project-based committee.  Then your job becomes managing the people on these committees and empowering them to undertake all the main fundraising projects of your year. Ideally, work with each special event committee beginning a year in advance of their event and help in whatever ways they need, but do not do all the work yourself!  Empower them to do as many aspects of the work as possible.  This can be tricky because many committees believe it's their job is to tell you how to do yours! But with the help of a champion on each committee, by giving the members specific tasks and deadlines, managing them through reminder phone calls, and holding them accountable for their assignments, they should rise to meet the expectations you have set. Sometimes it will seem like it would be easier to do the work yourself, but it will be worthwhile in the end when the group takes ownership of the project and you see your base of support grow.

    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

  • Wed, February 03, 2016 6:38 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The Parent’s Guide to Down Syndrome: Advice, Information, Inspiration, and Support for Raising Your Child from Diagnosis Through Adulthood, by Jen Jacob and Mardra Sikora

    Review by Anne Mancini, Executive Director and Trisha Oyos Stibbe, Parent

    Down Syndrome Alliance of the Midlands, Omaha, Nebraska

    Full disclosure! We know – and love – Mardra, and her son Marcus Sikora.  

    Anne: When I schedule a meeting with Mardra, I block out some extra time, because I know we are going to find more to talk about than what’s on our agenda. Marcus and I are in a book club together. I got to see these two in action when I attended an author reading of Black Day: The Monster Rock Band. They are joyful and fun to be around, but Mardra isn’t afraid to tell the hard truths. She is not apologetic about her choices and opinions. She is a well-educated and passionate advocate for Marcus and his peers. So I knew before I opened the book that there would be a lot of Mardra’s heart in it.

    Trisha: Claire was only a few months old when I first met Mardra and Marcus. My husband and I listened to this power duo talk about advocacy and were so inspired. Seeing a young adult with Down syndrome being fully engaged and immersed in the “real world” gave both of us such hope about Claire’s future. After speaking to Mardra, my passion for advocacy grew, and I know it was due to her setting such a strong example.

    Anne: The very first thing I appreciated about The Parent’s Guide to Down Syndrome is the advice to seek out a local Down syndrome association. As the director of the Down Syndrome Alliance of the Midlands, I have the privilege of watching my families welcome each other to the community and share stories and support. This book will provide that sense of community for any parent not quite ready to dive into a local organization or who unfortunately does not have one geographically accessible.

    Trisha: My husband’s work causes our family to move quite often. In the next three years we will live in three different states. Finding the Down Syndrome Alliance of the Midlands was finding “my people.” There was no prefacing feelings, I met people who understand that sometimes laughing is the best medicine, and we compare and recommend physicians, therapists, hospitals, etc. Having a local support system has been invaluable. When I am about to lose my mind over this new life, I talk to the other moms, go to the get-togethers, and yes, even cry. Because these friends get it like no one else does. 

    Anne: Just like most organizations, this book features the voices of parents of all walks of life, with children of all ages. There are stories about hearing the news, breastfeeding, having more children, becoming a community advocate, and sending your child to college.

    Trisha: Reading the birth diagnosis stories took me back to the day Claire was born. I thought, “So, it wasn’t just us?!” Other parents had experienced the same joy-combined-with-grief that so few understand. I was able to identify with all of those stories, good and bad.

    Anne: In our community, we know that when faced with a diagnosis of Down syndrome, there are many things about which a new parent doesn’t even know yet what to ask. I was pleased by the explanation and discussion of topics such as the blue and yellow colors, school acronyms, and guardianship issues. Because it is presented chronologically, the information can be digested in the early days and referred to again later, or taken in bit by bit as the child approaches those transitions. 

    Trisha: The format of this book was easy to read and digest, given the vast amount of information. I read it all in one sitting and dog-eared several pages. While Claire is only 9 months old, it was still invaluable to read some stories of those with older children with Down syndrome. I don’t think one can ever be too prepared.

    Anne: Trisha and I are proud to recommend this book to parents of children with Down syndrome. We think wherever a parent might be on the journey, a connection to information and other parents’ stories is extraordinarily helpful and can be found in these pages.


    The book is available at Barnes & Noble (in stores and online) as well as Amazon. For special offers, click here 

  • Thu, January 28, 2016 9:49 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By Susan Black, CFRE
    Allene Professional Fundraising

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

    Recently I went out of town with my husband.  We chose a get-away that would allow me to see and experience a bit of his new passion: white-water kayaking.  After seeing the incredible amount of preparation, packing, traveling, unpacking, etc. (not to mention risk-taking!) he went through to participate in his new hobby, I exclaimed that the only way he could want to continue was if he was extremely passionate about the sport! The same is true for fundraising professionals who run one-person shops. Passion is a key attribute of any fundraiser, but especially those who are running a one-person shop.  In fact, passion may be the only thing keeping you going!  

    So how do you keep your passion when you're toiling alone?

    Reconnect with the source: Take time in your day-to-day work to interact with those you are benefitting. Nothing will reconnect you better than seeing the faces of little children enjoying school, families receiving a meal, or patrons enjoying the artwork. 

    Plug in to a community: Find others like yourself by joining AFP or another professional group and prioritize attendance.  Learning new things about fundraising and sharing your struggles with others will make your situation seem so much more manageable when you feel like you're not alone.

    Never Stop Dreaming of What Could Be: For years I kept a little paragraph on my bulletin board with this heading and it always inspired me.  Although I don't recall the source, this great sage reminds us that as fundraisers we are "dream brokers", "helping others realize what their resources could accomplish if only they were directed toward those noble ends." The author encourages us to "use your position to dream immeasurable dreams [for what your organization can accomplish], then share your enthusiasm for what could be with those who can turn them into reality." Good advice, indeed.

    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

  • Mon, January 25, 2016 8:56 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By Dana Lightman, Ph.D.

    You don’t need to hear from any expert to know that change is a constant element in our lives today. Leaders must navigate ongoing changes in their organizations, ranging from policy and personnel to technology and finances. And it is the leader who sets the stage for how these changes are received by staff and integrated into the organizational culture. To make matters even more stressful, the changes that are taking place are more complex today than they were in the past, and they are happening at an accelerated pace. In the past, when change occurred, it was more relaxed. You had time to adapt your feelings, thoughts and behaviors. You didn’t have to work at adjusting your perspective, because adjustments happened naturally. You didn’t have to spend so much time integrating new information and concepts. Integration seemed to just occur automatically.

    In today’s world of fast-paced change, you can’t afford to be passive. You need to be proactive, intentionally taking charge of your responses to change.  And helping others move from initial negative reactivity to more positive perspectives can create a smoother transition in the organization. For example, these types of thoughts about change would put anyone on a downward spiral of frustration, anger and resistance: “I don’t want to deal with this new policy.” “Not another new computer program I have to learn!” “Our old manager was so much better.” 

    The first step in being proactive is to notice and pay attention to thoughts that drain your energy and create anxiety or negativity.  The key is to shift your focus to the positive aspects of change.  Use these questions as a guide:

    • How will I grow from this change?
    • What negative pattern can I tackle and overcome?
    • What can I learn from this change?
    • What gains could I make that will help me down the road?


    The next time you face a change, coach yourself and others to notice the feelings of loss, uncertainty and discomfort that are the normal, initial reactions to change.  But don’t stop there.  Actively embrace this change as an opportunity for discovery, insight and mastery.  While change requires adjustment, when you take charge of your perspective, it can also lead to growth and empowerment.


    Dana Lightman is one of the many incredible presenters at the 2016 DSAIA Leadership Conference. Dana will be delivering the Saturday keynote address. Learn more about her at

    To see Dana and other speakers in person, go to


  • Tue, January 19, 2016 4:33 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By Norman Olshansky: President

    NFP Consulting Resources, Inc.

    I’ve often been asked, “what is the most important ingredient that makes for a successful nonprofit”?   I have a simple answer,  “everything starts with leadership”.

    Nonprofit organizations are typically created by an individual or group of founders who have a passion for a cause and who want to “make a difference”.   It is usually a long and bumpy road from initial concept to operational implementation and sustainability.  How well a new organization is able to navigate the normal stages of development depends on the quality of its leaders both volunteer and paid.

    Organizations go through stages just as individuals go through stages of growth and maturity.  The Founder of an organization is typically a passionate and driven person.  He/she has a strong commitment to an idea or vision for what they want to accomplish and they feel a responsibility and ownership for the development of the organization.  Without these driven and passionate “founders” most nonprofits would not be in existence today and able to provide important services and benefits in our communities.

    However, in order for an organization to be sustainable long term and to grow, it must adapt to the various stages of organization development and change.  What may seem like normal processes can be challenging for some organizations.  Some examples of change and challenge are:

    1. How an organization adapts from being all volunteer led to having staff.  
    2. When a new organization moves from operating out of someone’s home to a building or office space.  
    3. How existing leaders handle the loss or addition of volunteers or board members 
    4. The need to use/obtain technology and be able to communicate with large numbers of people
    5. Other factors such as fundraising needs, legal and compliance issues, competition, relocation, relationships with funders, or rapid growth/decline in the number of people seeking services, can all pose major challenges for organizations throughout their development. 

    The quality of volunteer and staff leadership determines how well these and other issues are handled. 

    True leaders share similar characteristics.  They are enthusiastic, positive, committed, lead by example, are driven and demonstrate a passion for the mission of their organization.  They engage and involve others. They are able to work with teams.   They are good listeners and consensus builders.  They are engaging and decisive.  A good leader is a reasoned risk taker and is constantly looking to the future.  Often neglected but very important, a good leader develops others to carry on their work and eventually transitions out of leadership in order to sustain the organization long term.

    Too often passion can interfere with good leadership.  I’ve never met anyone involved with nonprofits who had bad intentions.  However, the way some “leaders” handle issues and relationships can become problematic as a result of their strong feelings of what they think is best for the organization.  No one person “owns” a nonprofit.  By their very nature and legal status, nonprofits are the responsibility of a board of directors.  When a board relegates its authority to the “founder” or largest donor, or even to a staff person, problems eventually follow.   Each entity is important and has an essential role to play as leaders within a nonprofit.  However, leadership is not absolute.

    Often “Founders” have difficulty with transition.  After all…’s their baby and it’s hard to accept when a child is growing up and no longer wants or needs to be completely dependent on their parent.  However, good parents work hard to help their children become independent and at the same time maintain a strong relationship with each other.  Good leaders are able to make that transition.

    So what if you are lacking good leaders in your organization?  Does the culture of your organization encourage good leadership qualities?  Have you thought about what you can do (with others) to change the culture or your organization and help existing leaders to better appreciate, understand and implement their roles and responsibilities?   Do you have a good system of recruitment of leadership, orientation, training, mentoring, recognition, term limits, etc?    Do you have an active governance committee that reviews performance of leaders and makes recommendations on ways to improve leadership?  How effective is your succession planning?  Do you have good role models and examples of best leadership practices within your organization?  Is leadership development built-in as part of your overall strategic planning?

    There are ways to change organizational culture and develop quality leaders.  What are you doing to improve leadership within your organization?   In the end as in the beginning, ……it all starts with leadership.


    You can see Norman Olshansky in person at the 2016 DSAIA Leadership Conference in Charlotte, NC, March 3-6. Check out the full schedule here

    To read more of Norman's insights, visit his blog at:

  • Mon, January 04, 2016 2:48 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Title:  Count It All Joy: Life Lessons from a Child with Special Needs

    Author: Kathleen Murray, PhD 

    Reviewer: Lauren Camp

    Dr. Murray offers a raw, honest look into the past thirteen years with her son who has a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and Autism. The book is divided into short and intriguing life lessons she has learned as her son, Christian, grew up. Murray describes the heartache she first experienced at Christian’s birth and how her original expectations of her son have exceeded her initial thoughts. Her remarkable description of the joy and lessons her son provides for her family portrays a true sense of her family and their love for each other and the growth they have experienced since his birth.

    The book provides an interesting perspective of having another child fourteen months after Christian was born with special needs. She accounts how the relationship between her son and his younger sister has been a strong and important component of her son’s development. Murray recounts how she overheard questions from others about having another child so shortly after her son, but she believes the outcome was remarkable for their family dynamic. Her daughter now has a profound sense of compassion and love for her brother. Murray states, “One of the best gifts ever given to Christian was his little sister.”

    Murray’s book is a quick and easy read for any new family experiencing a diagnosis ofKathy Murray Down syndrome, or a reflective and often funny account for a family of a child who has already experienced a similar situation themselves.  After reading this book, many people will be more open to embracing a child with special needs as the joy and lessons they will experience can be compared to no other.

    One of my favorite lessons from Murray’s memoir is from “Doors,” which states “Don’t close a door before you know what’s on the other side; it might be wonderful.” This lesson can be applied to so many aspects of life, but particularly when a family is shaken by a diagnosis of Down syndrome. Enjoy your new baby, learn what the future holds as it happens, don’t try and linger about or assume how the rest of your life will be with your new child, simply experience life as it comes.

    About the reviewer:  

    Lauren Camp is the Program Coordinator & Communication Director for the Down Syndrome Association of Delaware. Lauren first became involved with the Delaware organization in 2010 as a volunteer. In 2012, she started the Days of Summer Camp Program and continues to run it as a volunteer. She also works with the National Down Syndrome Congress as their Kids' Camp Director for the annual convention. In 2013, the DSA of Delaware presented Lauren with The Down Syndrome Advocacy Award for her outstanding volunteer efforts.

  • Tue, December 22, 2015 3:47 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    I try to stay out of "discussion threads" because they lead to no good.  No good, I tell you! But sometimes I forget my rule and innocently make a comment. Oh boy...then I remember why I don't do that. The one thing that always hits me after being bombarded with implications that I don't set expectations high enough for my son with Down syndrome or I put limitations on him or I'm wrong to feel sad every once in a while when we don't hit a milestone or get to do other things that his peers are doing is this: we are not very accepting as a community. I'm being specific here because honestly, people, it kind of hurt my feelings. I mean, yes, it really did hurt my feelings.

    Which leads me to the real issue here: if we want acceptance of our children and adults with Down syndrome, then we have to start at home. No, not in YOUR OUR home. Yep, the Down syndrome community. Heck, the disability community. Once upon a time (some of you have heard this already), a parent at a disability advocacy conference in Austin commented on the fact that my son had Down syndrome, "Oh, that's the Cadillac of disabilities." Yes, they said that. I have witnesses. I wanted to tell them (ok, I thought of my comeback much later in the hotel room) that sometimes it felt like a Yugo, sometimes like an Edsel and sometimes like a semi. 

    But what I heard from other parents and even nonparents around the country was troubling. They stopped going to the local DSA events because they felt bad because their child was so high-functioning. Or that they stopped going to the local DSA events because their child was so low-functioning and they felt inadequate as parents. And some of them...they stopped going because their child had a different form of Down syndrome and they didn't feel welcome. Wait - I'm not done. Some stopped being involved because the "inclusion" topic always led to the fact that they were happy with the placement of their child in school and everyone harped on them for not fighting hard enough. And, some...some stopped going because their children weren't children anymore and they didn't feel included in all the "young" events that their group constantly focused upon.

    I was one of of the people that liked to speak up and tell people that inclusion was the ONLY way to go. Fight the system. Spend more time on after-schooling. And you know what...I was wrong to do that. I have realized that I did those parents and my community a disservice by preaching acceptance and inclusion from my soapbox but not practicing it when I stepped down. We have got to respect each other, people. We have got to get better about NOT having online conversations where we alienate members of our community. That parent or educator or medical professional that just had their involvement soured by that conversation or flippant remark might have gotten soured to the whole community. Who knows? They might have been poised to bring great change to our community as a whole in the years to come and we just ruined it.

    Less preaching, more listening. Less talking at people and more talking with people. More respect. More acceptance. More inclusion. And not just for our wonderful friends and loved ones with Down syndrome.

  • Thu, December 10, 2015 2:47 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Ok, that might have been a LITTLE over the top but sometimes it feels like DSAIA is just OUT THERE.....with NO NET. And honestly, I kind of like it. No, you won't find me on every stinking roller coaster ride at the amusement park. Nor will you find me zip-lining. (I was fooled into believing it was a one-time thing and then I found out that there were 10 zip lines and no way to get was not pretty.) But what you will find me doing is taking risks to find more effective ways to deliver programming and services to our membership. 

    Some (ok quite a few) involve technology. So if it works and you love it, that is great. But if it sometimes doesn't, please know that our goal was to make it better for our members. One of those risks is a new "info" avenue we are trying. We're utilizing Google Hangouts on Air and YouTube live streaming to bring you a broadcast each month regarding great information, involving guests and even a topic for discussion. This past month, we had our first broadcast with our guests being the Conference Cast. We talked all things conference including registration, mobile apps, speakers, events and even what's up with uptown Charlotte! 

    The recording is available - here's the link:

    And we hope to see you on the next one in December! Don't ask - we still got some scheduling to do, LOL!

  • Tue, November 24, 2015 4:41 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Guest Blogger: Julia Campbell of Julia Campbell Social Media

    Social media is not a fad, nor is it a trend – it is a way of life.

    Digital and social media tools have completely revolutionized the ways in which people communicate with each other, as well as the ways that we consume and share information.

    Love them or hate them, they are here to stay – and their influence on nonprofit marketing and fundraising is only growing.

    In MDG’s new infographic, they found that nonprofits have seen huge growth in their online presence, and an increase in their use of online fundraising tools such as social media and peer-to-peer campaigns.

    Key findings:

    **3 of the top 4 ways that nonprofits connect with donors and supporters are now digital – nonprofit websites, email campaigns, and social media channels.

    **Online giving, while still a small percentage of overall philanthropy and giving, is the fastest growing way that donors are supporting nonprofits.

    **81% of nonprofits still find Facebook incredibly important to their social strategy.

    **Peer-to-peer online fundraising is popular and a great way to raise money – 33% of all online donations are made through P2P campaigns.

    **Email isn’t dead – far from it! Nonprofits recoup $40 for every $1 spent on email (this means they are doing it right).

    Julia Campbell will be presenting at DSAIA's next webinar on Dec 8th - you can register here. You can read more of her blog here.


  • Fri, October 30, 2015 9:22 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Recently, one of our DSAIA members (Deborah Tomai, Board President of Rio Grande Valley Down Syndrome Association) was featured in a TEDx presentation. While an informative article can be found in our newsletter from Nov 2015, we'd like to share the complete interview that we were unable to due to space constraints in our newsletter.  

    DSAIA: Where/when was your TED Talk?

    Tomai: I spoke at TEDx McAllen in McAllen, TX on Tuesday, October 6, 2015.  TEDx events are independently organized in communities around the world, but they follow a strict blueprint set up by the main TED organization.

    DSAIA: How did you come to get the opportunity to do a TED Talk?

    Tomai: I love to listen to TED talks!  When I saw that there would be a TEDx event happening in my area, I followed their facebook page, thinking that I would try to get tickets.  When the organizers announced the theme for this year's event was "Breaking Borders", I was excited.  I sent the organizers an email to suggest that they include a message about disability.  Eventually, they asked for speaker nominations.  I asked a few people if I could nominate them, and I got a lukewarm response, so I summoned my courage and nominated myself.  I made it through the first cut and was asked to submit a short video.  I only had a few days to prepare, so that was intense.

    DSAIA: What was the main message you tried to convey to your audience?

    Tomai: I focused on three actions: welcome, respect and include individuals with Down syndrome (and other disabilities) in our community.

    DSAIA: Tell us about the experience…standing up on stage there, addressing the crowd, being part of a prestigious group…

    Tomai: I felt like a huge fraud!  My son Ben is only four years old, so I'm new at this.  I read a lot, and I've joined a ton of facebook groups, but I'm very much a learner.  Every idea that I shared comes from what I've heard and discussed with other people - the "Just Like You" video, conference speakers from DSAIA and NDSC, LOTS of blogs, and families in my community.  

    When my son was born, we didn't have a local Down syndrome association, so the RGVDSA was formed out of need - I wanted to know families in real life, and not just online.  I hoped that participating in TEDx would benefit RGVDSA - that we would connect with new families, and that we could build our profile locally with local educators, medical providers, funders, etc.  The talk was scheduled for the beginning of October, so I thought it would be perfect leading into Down syndrome awareness month.

    The practices for TEDx were fascinating.  We got to hear each other's ideas take form and change shape through regular speaker meetings.  The people who spoke are all doers and world-changers - two amazing Latina poets, one fellow who started his own school, a man from the colonias who now has his own fashion label in New York, a young civic activist, a Mariachi singer with a gorgeous voice, an award-winning educator, and more.  It's energizing and inspiring to talk to passionate people!

    I was nervous.  I was the next-to-last speaker, so I had to wait all day long before it was my turn to speak.  But the audience was wonderful.  I got to sit with several audience members during lunch, and each person resonated with a different speaker or illustration.

    My talk went well, I think.  We hadn't rehearsed in the same space, so there were a few things that surprised me with the slides and the clock, but it felt pretty comfortable overall.  I was worried about finishing on time, but I made it with 20 seconds to spare!  The audience responded generously with a standing ovation.  I wish I had taken more time to appreciate the moment, but I mostly felt relieved that it was over.

    DSAIA: Has anything come of the talk?

    Tomai: A neat personal moment: one of the other speakers confided in me that she has friends who have a son with Down syndrome, and she wasn't ever sure how to interact with him.  She made a point of telling me that she had invited their family over for a meal, and she gave the young man a tour and talked about her art with him.  She said that her perspective had changed, and she had made a deliberate effort to reach out to him.

    I also received an invitation to be a keynote speaker at a statewide event for physician's assistants in February.  I'll be speaking to around a thousand medical providers across the state - who care for individuals with Down syndrome at all stages of life.  I'm hoping to provide everyone with resources - including links and contact info for every DSA in Texas.    

    DSAIA: Should we look for it on video soon?

    Tomai: That's what I hear!  They've been editing all the video feeds, and it should be ready within a couple of weeks.  I'll let you know when I know for sure.

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


Down Syndrome Affiliates in Action started as a conference bringing together outstanding leadership from Down syndrome organizations around the country. Learn More

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