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(a couple peek out from behind their curtains at their driveway, where a John Cusack-like figure is holding a Say-Anything-like boombox over his head) “Under the circumstances, you really have to admire their commitment to donor engagement.”

The John Cusack model of donor engagement

The John Cusack model of donor engagement published on

Nonprofits are facing some challenges as their supporters, members and donors start to isolate themselves. Face-to-face events are off the table, and a not-insignificant part of the population isn’t willing to touch that direct mail piece until it’s been dunked in bleach and autoclaved.

One great way we could have helped each other to surmount that challenge is the annual Nonprofit Technology Conference, which was slated for this week. But the threat of COVID-19 forced the organizers at the Nonprofit Technology Network, NTEN, to cancel — at a tremendous cost to the organization, which we’ll get into in a sec.

Into the breach stepped the good folks at Keela, who make software for the nonprofit sector. They pulled together an impressive array of presenters (many from the NTC speaking roster, including the mighty Beth Kanter) for Plugged In, a free three-day virtual conference.

And I drew this cartoon for them because they were the first to take me up on an offer to draw a cartoon for ten people who have donated their NTC registration fees back to NTEN. See, NTC is the major source of NTEN’s revenue, and they still have to pay an awful lot of sunk costs for the conference.

So let me restate that offer! There’s still nine free cartoons up for grabs for registered would-be NTC attendees who donated back their registrations. Just hit me up with your donation confirmation, and let me know a topic or two you’d like me to cartoon on. Email me at rob at robcottingham dot ca.

(sleepless woman in bed, to her partner) Well, on the upside, I'm a shoo-in to win the office sleep-deprivation pool.

40 winks

40 winks published on No Comments on 40 winks

Sleep-avoidance is a holy sacrament in the Church of Very Busy People. And truth be told, I’m a more observant member of the congregation than I’d like to think I am. But I’m working on it. In fact, the moment I wrote that last night I recognized what I was doing and went to bed.

There’s a particularly militant faction of my church (and I’ll cop to attending more than a few services). Adherents to that strain of the faith work for non-profits and advocacy groups in service of a shared mission. And if you’re one of those folks, it’s way too easy to convince yourself to sacrifice a few hours of sleep, or yet another workout, or a healthy meal, or investing in a relationship, in the name of The Cause.

This cartoon is from a book offering several helpful heresies that just might save the lives of some members of the flock. It’ll definitely make them more effective in changing the world. The Happy, Healthy Nonprofit by Beth Kanter and Aliza Sherman argues wellness belongs at the heart of every nonprofit. And Aliza and Beth give you solid advice for putting it there.

This is the fourth of the cartoons they invited me to draw for the book, and I’ll post several more in the coming days. But you don’t have to wait for me to hit publish — and you probably shouldn’t, given my newfound interest in sleeping. You can see the cartoons right away with this simple hack: ordering the book.

Enjoy! Just don’t stay up too late reading it.

(Three people walking; one is trying - and failing - to draw on a whiteboard) So far, everything's working with our walking meetings except the whiteboard.

Coming this October: The Happy, Healthy Nonprofit

Coming this October: The Happy, Healthy Nonprofit published on No Comments on Coming this October: The Happy, Healthy Nonprofit

Working with mission-driven nonprofit clients has taught me some important lessons about self-care. When you care deeply about your work, it can be easy to let self-care slide. Maybe skipping your workout means you get to make a call to a top donor. Or staying late for another few hours means a grant proposal heads off tomorrow instead of next week. Or putting off your vacation means you’re there for a crucial planning stage for the AGM.

Not only that, but some organizational cultures give a heroic sheen to unhealthy choices. It’s not poor self-care; it’s taking one for the cause! And if everyone else is doing it, you’re going to find it awfully hard to be the only one who insists on not working over the weekend.

Until you burn out, get sick or even die.

This October, Beth Kanter and Aliza Sherman are releasing The Happy, Healthy Nonprofit: Strategies for Impact without Burnout. It makes a compelling case that nonprofits can benefit tremendously from embracing a commitment to health and wellness.

I’m so psyched that Beth and Aliza invited me to draw a series of cartoons for it. You’ll see the first of them here today, and a few more over the next weeks leading up to the book launch.

I’m proud to be associated with their book. And I’m hoping you’ll consider pre-ordering The Happy, Healthy Nonprofit. Pre-orders can make a big difference to a book’s success, and I’m convinced the more people who get this book’s message, the better.

The Happy Healthy Nonprofit cover

Next up, my Hour-Long-Break-With-A-Caesar-And-A-Good-Book challenge

Next up, my Hour-Long-Break-With-A-Caesar-And-A-Good-Book challenge published on No Comments on Next up, my Hour-Long-Break-With-A-Caesar-And-A-Good-Book challenge

Beth Kanter gave me a kind nudge on Facebook to draw something about the Ice Bucket Challenge to support ALS research. Here it is!

Now, if you’re looking for something beyond graphic smartassery — like, say, real insight into the success of the challenge and what it means for the non-profit sector — check out Beth’s blog posts on the subject:

And watch Alexandra Samuel in this panel on the challenge on CBC’s The National. (Alex wrote a blog post about participating on this panel, which I recommend not only for its keen analysis of the role of time zones in western alienation, but also for the phrase “Rob’s smoking-hot robot body.” And yes, she backs that assertion up with a photo.)

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