How to Ruin Your Reputation on the Internet: Improper Tone

[This post is part of the How To Ruin Your Reputation on the Internet series, written by CEDAM Communications Intern Olivia Courant.]

This series highlights mistakes nonprofits make online that hurt their reputation or make their online communications strategies ineffective.  In the last post, we talked about how out-of-date information on your nonprofit’s website can drive away your audience.  Today we turn to another common problem: improper tone.

—Nonprofits, Nonsense, Negativity, and Cats—

Every day, nonprofit employee Sarah goes through many emails, Facebook posts, and Twitter posts from her coworkers and other nonprofits.  Today, she has seen:

  • One Facebook update from Nonprofit A that reads, Every1 come to Rob’s 30th birthday partyyyyy!!!!
  • One very negative blog post where Nonprofit B rants about Nonprofit C’s latest publication.
  • Two emails from coworker Dan that are full of cat pictures and are carbon copied to everyone on Dan’s contact list.

These are all examples of improper tone and/or mixing personal life with business.  In the first scenario the nonprofit publicly announces a personal event that should be kept between staff members.  It is unlikely that this nonprofit’s volunteers and members are interested in Rob’s birthday party.  The second scenario is an example of unconstructive negativity.  Extreme criticism will cause an organization to be viewed the same way it treats others: negatively.  Finally, sending or forwarding an email, especially a “chain letter,” to everyone on your contact list is a good way to get people to start ignoring your emails.

The best way to avoid using improper tone is to match your tone to your audience.  Ask yourself, who is reading this? There will be a difference when you are writing to a group of professionals about foreclosure resources, versus announcing a fun community event.

In some cases it is perfectly acceptable to write about personal stories – for instance, positive testimonies from the people your nonprofit works with can give your organization legitimacy and show how it is directly involved in the community. CEDAM member Jackson Affordable Housing Coalition has a “success stories” section on their website that demonstrates a perfect use of personal stories. No matter what you are writing, be sure to proofread for spelling and grammar mistakes.

Ultimately, the goal is to balance formality and personality so that you do not look too bland but also avoid putting off your audience.  Having fun is great, but not everyone on your contact list wants to see pictures of your cats.


A CEDAM cat chows down on some pet grass.

Estimates and Projections Regarding Michigan’s Financial Crisis

[From Lisa Nuszkowski.]

The Center for Responsible Lending has issued estimates and projections around the financial crisis in Michigan and the need for a Consumer Financial Protection Agency.  This document provides a snapshot of how the failure to protect consumers has impacted the state of Michigan, in terms of the number of mortgage delinquencies and foreclosures; lost wealth; squelched state consumer protection laws; overdraft loan costs; and payday lending.

2nd Capital Day a Success

On Tuesday, November 10, 2009, CEDAM hosted its second Capital Day in Lansing.  Co-hosted by the Asset Building Coalition and the Michigan Foreclosure Task Force, and sponsored by United Way for Southeastern Michigan and PHI, the event drew 53 people from around the state for meetings with state representatives and senators.

Check back here on Thursday for statistics, stories, and pictures.

If you attended the event and haven’t done so already, please complete an evaluation. You can do that online, right here.

Member News Roundup

[This post is part of the biweekly CEDAM Member News Roundup series.  If you have news to share, send it our way!]

WARM Training Center is announced as the 2009 Champions in Action winner in recognition of environmental leadership in southeastern Michigan.  Read more about the award.

Chief executive of LISC Detroit, Deborah L. Younger, is interviewed in a two-part series about Detroit land use by Darrell Dawsey for Time Magazine’s “The Detroit Blog.”   Start with Part I. Finish with Part II.

Neighborhood Renewal Services of Saginaw, Inc. plans to improve downtown Saginaw and Old Saginaw City in the coming months.  See some of the ideas in this MLive.com article.

Godfrey Hammel, Danneels & Company, P.C. of St. Clair Shores receives Employer Appreciation Award from the Michigan Association of Certified Public Accountants.  Look at the award list on MACPA.

HCAP Funding Announcement

[An announcement on HCAP funding from Lisa Nuszkowski]

HUD recently announced 2009-10 awards for its Housing Counseling Assistance Program (HCAP).  While Michigan saw an increase in the number of community-based counseling agencies receiving funding (from 8 agencies in 2008 to 14 agencies in 2009), the funding for counseling is still far under what is needed to serve Michigan’s homeowners (the increase in funding to these agencies went from $433,147 in 2008 to $582,387 in 2009).  What’s more, some communities such as Detroit received zero dollars in housing counseling funds from HUD.

In response to the concern that Michigan’s counseling agencies are not receiving their fair share of HCAP funding, the Michigan Foreclosure Task Force started meeting with members of Michigan’s Congressional delegation to inform them about the dire need for additional funding and how little HCAP funds community-based counseling agencies in Michigan receive, despite the extraordinary need.  The entire Michigan delegation signed a letter to HUD Secretary Donovan asking questions about how funds are awarded and how Michigan can access more federal resources.  We expect to have a response from HUD to share with the Task Force shortly.

We plan to continue meeting with members of the Michigan delegation to make the case that our agencies need adequate funding to meet the need for foreclosure counseling in Michigan.  Thus far, we have met with Senator Levin, Congressmen Dingell, Schauer, Camp, and Ehlers.  Please let Steve or I know if you have a relationship with your Congressperson or would be willing to help us set up a meeting with them.  We will also be participating in a strategic planning session with HUD later this month, where we will continue to deliver the message that Michigan needs more counseling resources.

A few important reminders and announcements:

  1. If you haven’t already, sign up today for Friday’s webinar on What You Need To Know About Michigan’s 90-Day Law. You can do so here.
  2. Detroit HOPE Now will be hosting a foreclosure prevention workshop on Saturday, December 5, 2009 from 9am-2pm at Cobo Hall in Detroit.  If your agency is interested in participating, please contact Sheila Squier at ssquier@twcny.rr.com with the following: Agency Name, Volunteer Name(s), Contact Email and Phone Number, and Languages Spoken.
  3. Accidentally delete an email with important Task Force information?  My emails to the Task Force will be posted on CEDAM’s blog, so please visit to catch up on any information you may have missed.

Pre-Capital-Day Webinars 11/2 and 11/3

[This post was updated Nov. 6, 2009.]

In preparation for Capital Day, CEDAM hosted two policy webinars. Materials from the webinars are linked below; please note that if you are attending Capital Day you must review the materials from the “Review of Policy Topics for Capital Day” webinar (see below).

The first webinar was “How a Bill Becomes a Law.” CEDAM policy staff reviewed the legislative process with an emphasis on Michigan.   Materials from the webinar are available here under “The Legislative Process and the State Legislature.” This information is recommended for anyone who is attending Capital Day and would like to improve their understanding of the legislative process.

The second webinar, “Review of Policy Topics for Capital Day,” covered the following topics:

  • Foreclosure Rescue Scams (by Lisa Nuszkowski, Michigan Foreclosure Task Force)
  • Predatory Lending (also by Lisa Nuszkowski)
  • HB 5296, Employer Notification of Earned Income Tax Credit eligibility (by Ross Yednock, Asset Building Policy Project)
  • Increasing Volunteer Base for Volunteer Income Tax Assistance sites (also by Ross Yednock)
  • The 2010 Census and Why It Matters for Michigan (by Katie Johnson in collaboration with the Michigan Nonprofit Association)

This webinar is required for Capital Day attendees. If you attending Capital Day and did not view this webinar, please review the materials here under “Capital Day November 2009 Resources.” We will not be discussing the issues at length on November 10, so we can devote more time to advocacy training.

How to Ruin Your Reputation on the Internet: Stop Updating

[This post is part of the How To Ruin Your Reputation on the Internet series, written by CEDAM Communications Intern Olivia Courant.]

Welcome to the “How to Ruin Your Reputation on the Internet” blog series.  This series will highlight common mistakes nonprofits make online that hurt their reputation or make their online communications strategies ineffective.  In other words, this series is about bad web practices.

—The Nonprofit That Never Posted—

Let’s begin with the following scenario: you hear about CEDAM and want to see what the organization is about.  You search for CEDAM on Google, find the website, land on the CEDAM homepage, and what do you see?  An announcement from 2005.  It is 2009.

2005 CEDAM screenshot

Does CEDAM no longer exist?  Or is the staff just too lazy to update the website?  Either way, having old information on your homepage will drive away your audience and make your organization look less professional.  When a nonprofit sets up a website, online profile, or Facebook page, it must consider how much time and how many resources it has to put into its online presence.

TIP: If your nonprofit is too busy to maintain a full-fledged website, consider using only a Facebook page.  Having a Facebook page lets Internet users learn about your nonprofit, and at the same time it is easy for you to post news or events to show that your nonprofit is, in fact, still active.  This video will show you how to set up a Facebook page.

What are your experiences with running a nonprofit website or Facebook page? Share them with us in the comments section.

Capital Day Q and A

CEDAM and the Asset Building Coalition (ABC) are hosting the second CEDAM/ABC legislative advocacy day on November 10.   The Michigan Foreclosure Task Force (MFTF) is also involved.  Here are the answers to some frequently asked questions.

When and where is Capital Day? Capital Day will take place on Tuesday, November 10, 2009 from 8:30 am to 3:30 pm. We will start the day in the Speaker’s Library of the State Capitol building in Lansing.

Why should I come? If you are a CEDAM, ABC, or MFTF member, you should come to build your relationship with your legislators, to get great advocacy training, and to connect with other professionals in your field.  If you like architecture and history, you should also come for the bonus Capitol tour.

Why do my legislators want to meet with me? First, the whole reason they are in Lansing is to represent you and the people you serve – they want to know their constituents and the work in their districts. Second, by being a resource on community development, asset building, and/or foreclosure prevention, you will help your legislators provide better constituent services and make laws that support Michigan residents and communities.

How will I know what to do? Capital Day is meant to be a learning experience, and there will be several education opportunities:

  • Brief webinar on Monday, Nov. 2 (then posted online) about the legislative process.
  • Webinar on Tuesday, Nov. 3 (then posted online) about the policy issues.
  • Talking points on the policy issues for you and your legislators to reference.
  • Information on how to look up your legislators ahead of time.
  • Hands-on advocacy training at the event.

What will my meetings be like? You will be placed in a group with 3-5 other individuals and scheduled for 15-minute meetings with up to three different representatives and three different senators from your geographic region, in their offices.

What will I talk about? There will be four official policy issues for your legislative meetings: the Earned Income Tax Credit, predatory lending, foreclosure rescue scams, and the 2010 Census. You will have printed talking points to use, although you are encouraged to share your own experiences and resources regarding these issues too. Because you will be in a group, you will not need to speak about all four issues yourself.

How do I sign up? We are still looking for CEDAM, ABC, and Foreclosure Task Force members from the Grand Rapids and Flint areas and rural communities, but all members are welcome and the event is free. If someone from your organization is able to come, please call Katie today at 517.485.3588 or fill out this RSVP form.

Member News Roundup

[This post is part of the new, biweekly Member News Roundup series, where you can see what CEDAM members are up to around the state.  If you have news to share, send it our way!]

Shelter of Flint Announces new Website. Shelter of Flint, Inc., a homeless shelter for women, children and families, announces the launch of its new Web site, www.ShelterofFlint.com. The website features more extensive content, a newsroom, testimonials, and an online donation system.

Flint Neighborhood Improvement and Preservation Project is building a grocery store in downtown Flint that will serve the 20,000 people who live without a grocer in a 5 mile radius. Listen to the NPR newsbit.

Presbyterian Villages of Michigan opened its sixth senior living community, The Village of St. Martha’s, in Detroit at the end of September. The project was funded by a HUD grant.  Read about this new senior living community.

Focus: HOPE held its annual walk on the 11th to raise funds and help launch a new initiative aimed at providing services to children and families in the area (HOPE Village Initiatives). Find out more information about the walk.

Northern Initiatives was awarded the 2009 Achievement Award by Lake Superior Magazine in recognition of Northern Initiatives’ Great Waters program. Read the full story.

Two Michigan Cities Receive National Awards from APA. Ann Arbor and Traverse City have both received awards from the American Planning Association. Read more about the award.

The State of the Industry

[This post is from CEDAM Executive Director Angie Gaabo.]

Everyone knows that times are tough for Michigan nonprofits, but what does that look like on the ground?  Here at CEDAM, we are dedicated to helping our members rebuild neighborhoods and revitalize communities.  To accomplish this, we need to know what they’re facing.

This spring, CEDAM conducted an Internet-based survey to collect data in three areas:

  • the health of the industry (how are members coping?),
  • the direction of the industry (what are members doing?), and
  • our own performance (how can we support our members?).
Verne Barry Place - project of CEDAM member Dwelling Place in Grand Rapids

Verne Barry Place - award-winning project of CEDAM member Dwelling Place in Grand Rapids

The findings were surprisingly positive.  While CEDAM members who responded are struggling with funding shortages, only a few have dissolved and many are forming new collaborations. They are adapting to new needs and funding sources, and they want more resources and guidance from CEDAM on how to do this.

Read the full report (it’s short), then let us know in the comments how this compares to your experience. How is your organization doing? What do you need to better serve your community?