Newest Crush

I was asked recently which nonprofit organization I thought had the best social media. I normally answer with one of the local powerhouses, like SickKids Foundation, the Royal Ontario Museum, the Art Gallery of Ontario and Alexander Neef (yes, he’s an individual, but he presents himself as an extension of the Canadian Opera Company, and in so doing makes the COC accessible and relatable).

But there is a new social media stud on the scene – the Aga Khan Museum.

If you’re curious, the Aga Khan Museum is that intriguing building going up to the west of the Don Valley Parkways just north of Eglinton. Keep an eye out for it next time you’re stuck in soul-crushing DVP traffic.

The Aga Khan Museum isn’t even open yet, but I already feel like I’ve been welcomed in its doors, received a guided tour behind the scenes, and been able to peruse its collection. A picture says a thousand words and it’s no news to any community manager that audiences love imagery. The Aga Khan Museum has been using its Facebook feed almost like an image-based tumblr, posting a high proportion of images showing the construction of its building and some of the artifact they’ll have on display.  Feast your eyes on the kind of posts they share:


Not only are their artifacts beautifully crafted, but I really appreciate the amount and tone of text that accompanies them. Informative without being patronizing.


This place will have a reflecting pool, people.


Oh, no big deal, just an absolutely swoon-worthy geometric screen.

Part of my infatuation with the Aga Khan Museum is that it’s new, yes, but also because it’s dedicated to the “intellectual, cultural, artistic and religious heritage of Islamic communities” – of which my knowledge and experience is sorely lacking. I enjoy going to the ROM and the AGO, where I have worked and volunteered, and which exhibit artifacts that I’ve already learned about at some point along my +12 years of art/historical studies. But I am genuinely excited to be exposed to artifacts, whose details and significance are new to me.

I’m chomping at the bit to visit this museum. And I’m relishing the confident ease with which the Aga Khan Museum manages to promote itself before even opening its doors.

Now, how to get myself an invite to its opening…

I’ll turn the question to you — which nonprofit organization do you think has the best social media?


Crabby Thanks

I want to rewind things back to 2011. I wasn’t sure any year would be better than 2011. I was on a roll. In the span of 365 days I completed my MA, MBA, Graduate Diploma, I got a job with the Ontario Ministry of Tourism and Culture, I got married, and I bought my first house.

The year ended, and I thought to myself: Ok, that’s it. You’ve peaked. Take it easy. You can’t top this year, so don’t try, because it will only end it tears.

And 2012, by contrast, was far more mellow. No grand life milestones. No new accreditations to hang on my wall.

So it was with absolutely giddiness that I found myself on Paul Nazareth‘s Golden Crab list. (Especially since I remember being super jealous of the indominable Clare McDowall topping his list in past years and wondering how it must feel to be that awesome. True story.)

Why name an award for a crab? Well, as Paul explains: “because it’s a food you can only eat with focus, with people close to you because it’s messy and it’s rare.”

Paul is an absolutely inspiration to me, and to many. I’ve encouraged friends and colleagues to join him at a Starbucks for an early morning meeting, because his advice and energy is as good as gold. When I see them after their chat with him, it’s like I’ve introduced them to Downton Abbey. They weren’t sure what to expect, but Paul, as with Downton Abbey, leaves you feeling energized, warm and fuzzy,* and impatient for your next interaction.

I’m not sure there’s anyone I promote as much as I do Paul. I did just compare him to Downton Abbey, and for me there is no higher accolade. He makes me feel like I can do anything, and reminds me of the value of doing good in this world.

So to be included in his Golden Crab list was absolutely amazing. And to be counted among such amazing people? Even more so.

It goes without saying that you should check out his twitter and blog (and of course his pristine LinkedIn profile).

Paul is all about helping and paying it forward. So here I am. I’ve got skills, and I’m here to help. Let me know how I can.

Who is your inspiration? Who gets the fire in your heart going for your life’s work? And, what can I do to help you this year?

*Certain episodes notwithstanding. You know the ones I mean. Paul would never break your heart like Downton Abbey decides to do every now and then.

ADDENDUM: This was my 100th post! Thanks for reading, liking, commenting, all those great things you do! Without you, this might as well be a diary.

If your new year’s resolution was to give back…

Then have we got an event for you.

It’s that time of year again! Timeraiser, one of my favourite events, is coming to Toronto in March.

I love Timeraiser. It’s an art auction. But instead of bidding dollars, you bid volunteer hours.

Opportunities for young donors to engage with causes – beyond our sometimes meager wallets – are what gets my blood pumping (plus, there’s art, which is pretty much my main passion in life). Because volunteers and organizations get to work out their arrangements themselves, we’re not just talking envelope-stuffing and door-knocking volunteer gigs. This event helps organizations take advantage of an incredible (over-) qualified demographic of young and determined professionals.

The cherry on this bombastic sundae is that Timeraiser pays the artists for their submissions too.

Last year I won a work of art at Timeraiser with a bid of 100 hours (which is the maximum allowed). I was at first daunted by the commitment, but I was able to reach that goal, months ahead of schedule.

Timeraiser put in to perspective how much of my time I donate to causes I love. It also made me think differently about what services I can provide. Through Timeraiser I helped organize events, designed promotional material, and worked on print layout for publications. I consider myself quite good at these things, and have done them pro bono (just sounds fancier than “free”) before, but for some reason the experience with Timeraiser let me see the accumulated value of my donated time.

And, because I’m as thrilled to support Timeraiser as I am the nonprofit organizations of my dreams, I’m submitting my own artwork for the auction this year. I would be thrilled to see my art hanging at the event, and hopefully inspire some aggressive bids…

Hope to see you at Timeraiser this year!

Get the lead out

I was very fortunate to attend Environmental Defence‘s #EcoBeautyMarket tweet-up event this week.  I made my way through the room, checking out vendors toting all sorts of cosmetics, soaps, shampoos, creams, deodorants, and lip balms, all of which were free of the harmful chemicals that are prevalent in the same sort of items you might pick up at Shoppers Drug Mart or Loblaws.

Think, for a moment, of your morning routine. After you complain at your alarm clock and at the fact that it’s still pitch black outside and your bed is just so warm and comfy. On any given day you maybe wash your face, brush your teeth, shower, shave, apply makeup, etc. By the time you’ve left the door for work or school, you’ve put up to 100 chemicals on and in your body. (Yes gentlemen, you too).

But so what, right?  I mean, if products are sold to the public, they have to pass some sort of test, right? Safeguards in place to protect the consumer?  Well, 85% of cosmetics are not tested for human safety!

Turns out there are loopholes in the cosmetics industry that allow companies to include ingredients without our knowledge. Just one example: if an ingredient contributes to a product’s scent, it doesn’t have to be listed under the ingredients. This makes sense – companies don’t want to list their secret and proprietary recipe on the back of each of their products. But it also means you don’t actually know what you’re putting on your skin, your hair, your lips.  How can consumers be expected to make informed choices without being informed?

In the late ’90s when it was discovered that the paint on childrens’ toys contained traces of lead, there was a massive recall. But certain lipsticks still contain lead, and are not recalled. Lipstick, a product intended to go on your lips, can have lead it in.

There’s also an assumption that, hey, okay, the chemicals in your products are harmful, but they’re only present in tiny tiny quantities. Yet think how many times you brush your teeth, or apply lipstick, or use shampoo – those tiny tiny quantities can build up faster than your body can flush them out.

Rick Smith used himself as a guinea pig, and over a 48-hour period of using products with triclosan (found, most worryingly, in Colgate Total) and other chemicals prevalent in many of our daily products, levels of these chemicals skyrocketed in his system.  While Health Canada has cleared triclosan as safe for human use, it has been linked to the creation of superbugs and, as something we often rinse down the drain, has negative effects on our environment.

And this is just one of the hundreds of chemicals present in our cosmetics and household products.

At the end of the evening, the feeling in the room was clear – we wish we had known all this information before the vendors had packed up, because we would have picked up more items!  I had an urge to rush home and dump the contents of my medicine cabinet in to the trash.

That’s when There’s Lead in My Lipstick author Gill Deacon calmed us down – it’s not about throwing everything out. It’s about being more selective with your purchases, and what you put on and in your body.  Remember – your skin is an organ. What goes on your body, ends up in your body.

If you’re interested in learning more about this, Environmental Defence has got lots of terrific information.

As an aside, you might also enjoy movies like Food Inc. and Tapped. (Since watching Tapped, I haven’t had any bottled water or water from a water cooler).

Curious about what companies strive to get the lead (and triclosan, and parabens, etc) out of their products? Here are just a few:

At the market I scored The Basic Element‘s rosemary candelilla lip balm and clay facial soap, and citrus deodorant from Green Beaver. They’re Canadian products (yay!), and cost pretty much the same as the brand-name versions I normally buy. But do they work? Better than my regular products.
(Disclaimer: I don’t know if all eco-beauty products outperform their chemical-filled counterparts, but I am confident that there are competitively-priced and high-performing eco-beauty products out there, and worth the hunt).
So take a chance, #treatyoself, and try out an eco-friendly product. It’s not about clearing your shelves and relying solely on water and baking soda to clean every surface of your body and house… but if you can avoid putting questionable chemicals in your body… why wouldn’t you?
What are your thoughts on all this? Would you ever substitute your daily products with an eco-friendly version? Or is it too granola for you?

Be Good Be Social: Part Deux

The Be Good Be Social Toronto Committee: Frankie ChowMarcie CrosbieClare McDowall, Emma JenkinClaire Kerr, Laura Bradley, and Tara Irwin

Last night was the second annual Be Good Be Social Toronto (check us out on Facebook and Twitter), a free conference about social media for nonprofits.  Be Good Be Social started in Glasgow a few years ago, and it’s starting up in Amsterdam too.

Clare McDowall starts the night off in a packed room for Be Good Be Social Toronto

I was delighted to rejoin the organizing committee of BGBS – a group of incredibly talented individuals from all corners of the nonprofit sector.  The planning of the event over the past few months happened almost exclusively online, and mostly through a private Facebook group. We met once in person to confirm our commitment and divvy up responsibilities, and once closer to the event itself to check in.

Paul Nazareth, nonprofit jack-of-all-trades extraordinaire, has a pretty great Storify up about highlights from the night. For those who couldn’t make it, or weren’t following #BGBS12, here are some of my favourite points from the night:

Many hands make light work
Jason Shim & Shubhagata Sengupta started the night off with a terrific run down of crowdfunding. If Karyn Bosnak can get strangers to giver her money to pay down her $20,000 shopping debt, there is a lot of potential for valuable causes.
(Sidenote: Wikipedia has a page called cyberbegging. Harsh. Let’s stick with crowdfunding, shall we?)
Other great examples included The Oatmeal’s BearLove Good, Cancer Bad (raised $220,000 with a goal of $20,000) and Let’s Build a Goddamn Tesla Museum (raised $1,380,000 with a goal of $850,000) and President Barack Obama’s approach to fundraising, going for more smaller donations rather than focusing wholly on the big ticket donors.
But what if you don’t have the profile of The Oatmeal or Obama? The common factor in successful crowdfunding campaigns are two things: they are very very specific (so you know exactly what your dollars are going towards), and they are time-sensitive (to create a sense of urgency).

NFP Confidential
Claire Kerr moderated a panel of Emma Lewzey (The Redwood), Kelly Bergeron (Ontario 211), and Liz Worth (Kids Help Phone) on how service organizations with sensitive information work with social media. Tips for your crisis service organization:

  • Be explicit on all your social media channels about what issues can (and cannot) be dealt with online, and transfer users to channels they can use for help (be in your phone number or shelter)
  • All organizations have different structures for creating content and monitoring social media. Find the one that works best for your users, cause, and resources (e.g. staff). I think The Redwood’s approach of each senior manager taking two-week shifts in the role of “social media manager” is pretty neat.
  • For organizations of all sizes, social media analysis doesn’t always make it to the board level. Find a way of making your information digestible – whether it’s raw data or a pretty one-pager infographic. There’s value in social media, help management understand that.

Be Bold, Be Brave, Be Amazing!
Julie Silvestri of the Yonge Street Mission was exactly what’s missing from a lot of nonprofit social media conferences. It’s great to hear about how a hospital was able to use QR codes through their city-sanctioned race to raise millions of dollars, but how is an organization with little staff and fewer dollars supposed to replicate that? Julie’s words of encouragements to those handed a stagnant social media presence and tasked with turning it around were simple, but bang on. She also emphasized a visual consistency through all your channels – a gal after my own heart! Though my favourite tip was her sharing her editorial calendar:

Just plan ahead, and learn. It’s how we all get started. And it’s something manageable for the small shop nonprofit.
And like, no big deal, but…

Also, big love to our sponsors Good Works, CharityVillage, and My City Lives, who made Be Good Be Social Toronto 2012 a smashing success!

Were you at BGBS12? What did you think of it? What topics do you think so hot right now for social media and nonprofits?

Emma Jenkin: Hacker

As I’ve said a few times before, I really like Ladies Learning Code.

Saturday morning I joined a packed room of coders-in-training for Hack Day, the first event of its kind by Ladies Learning Code. Rather than a structured workshop on a specific code or program, Hack Day was an opportunity for anyone to bring in their project and take advantage of the wealth of knowledge of tech/coding/hacking mentors. Before my first Ladies Learning Code workshop, I knew only the most basic of HTML (literally: <i>, <b>, and <br>), and less than a year afterwards, I was signing up for a Hack Day.

Throughout the day a hundred of us with different coding levels came to learn new tricks, set up websites, tackle specific coding issues, master WordPress and MailChimp, and anything else we needed to work on. The mentors, tech experts who volunteer their time and know-how were at hand to guide and help us in our work. With one mentor for every two Hack Day attendees, there was plenty of help to go around.

Hack Day marked my third Ladies Learning Code workshop, and I’m mulling over becoming a mentor myself (for Photoshop or Illustrator though, not coding – still status:grasshopper when it comes to coding!).

What really sets Ladies Learning Code apart is its Choose-Your-Own-Adventure structure. You’ve given the tools and the guidance on how to use them, but at the end of each workshop you leave with something different from everyone else in the room, based on your skill sets and interests.

Thanks to the mentors and Hack Day I was able to really clean up my code and finalize the absolute best website I could create. It’s incredible empowering to start with a blank page and code from scratch (no templates here!) an entire website. The mentors even helped me get my head around some jQuery and lightbox functionality!

This is almost too broad a statement to put to type, but tech skills are important to have, and will only become more so in the future. I strongly encourage you to see if there are any Ladies Learning Code sessions that interest you. Chat a big with them on Twitter or Facebook, because their wonderful staff are happy to answer your questions.

And, yes, regardless of the name, men are welcome too. At all the sessions I’ve attended many of the mentors have been men, and there have been men who’ve come to learn. Ladies Learning Code is about creating a welcoming and empowering environment where you can learn new skills at your own pace and comfort level. And they succeed.

Being able to create my own website from scratch, and put to use some pretty neat coding tricks, is such an accomplishment. As my freelance design work has been taking off, I’ve realized I need to have a professional web presence. I wanted complete ownership over the design, and needed to be able to update the content on a whim. I think I’ve come up with something pretty gosh darn slick and snazzy, and would love your input:

Why see just a screenshot when you can enjoy my handcrafted website in its full glory here!

What do you think about the importance of tech skills in the job market? What’s your experience with coding? Have I convinced you to sign up for a Ladies Learning Code workshop?