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$42,000 distributed to 15 lucky nonprofits

Michael Pink (left), principal of MAP Real Estate, and Bill Lowry (right) of The Chicago Community Trust, award $10,000 to nonprofit Community Shares

Over 150 members of Chicago’s nonprofit and business communities turned out on October 25th to celebrate a new kind of philanthropy. Two socially responsible Chicago institutions–Urban Partnership Bank and the social enterprise Investing In Communities–teamed up, one as event host and one as donor, to give $42,000 to nonprofits.

The $42,000 in funds resulted from a real estate transaction between an established commercial real estate firm, MAP Real Estate, and Urban Partnership Bank (UPB), a new FDIC-insured community bank and certified Community Development Financial Institution. Investing In Communities (IIC) enables individuals and businesses to connect with socially conscious real estate professionals and generate free funding for their favorite nonprofits.  As an IIC Member, MAP Real Estate’s principal Michael Pink committed 15 percent of the commission he earned representing UPB in a lease transaction for donation, through IIC, to other nonprofits. Through IIC, this ordinary brokered transaction became a philanthropic event that generated unrestricted funding for 15 nonprofit beneficiaries. Read the rest of this entry »

The Workshop helps launch the Smart Communities Broadband Campaign

At the end of September, the Smart Communities program, a project of LISC/Chicago, held an event to launch a marketing campaign to boost broadband adoption and internet access in communities around Chicago. The Workshop team partnered with LISC/Chicago to organize the celebration held at the Humboldt Park Ballroom. We loved working with the LISC/Chicago and Smart Communities team, and we thought we’d share a couple photos of us from the event. When you see Smart Communities posters and ads like these on bus shelters and buses around Chicago, remember that there’s a dedicated group of folks working to increase digital access in Auburn Gresham, Chicago Lawn, Englewood, Humboldt Park and Pilsen. If you’re interested in learning more or signing up for one of the computer classes at a FamilyNet center, visit the Smart Communities website. 


From left to right: Workshop VP Nora Ferrell, New Media Associate Marissa Wasseluk and Operations Manager (and event planning guru!) Maggie Walker at the Smart Communities event.

Beyond the Echo Chamber writes new news history as it happens

I’ve always been lucky that when I left a job, the people who took the position over next were so dang smart that they ended up making me look good, too.

That’s by way of a reflection as I’ve been reading Beyond the Echo Chamber, by Jessica Clark and Tracy Van Slyke. I first met Tracy just 10 years ago when she became communications director at National Training and Information Center, best known for the bank-stoppin’ grassroots action coalition National People’s Action.

You haven’t heard about progressive news outlets’ fiscal crisis much in the course of the economic disaster for other news outlets. That’s because fiscal crisis is endemic to progressive news outlets–as Tracy and Jessica, who met when they worked at Chicago’s In These Times, know much better than I.

Also, despite big exceptions such as the bankrupt Air America, progressive outlets have rolled and grown with the times. They have received huge reinforcements in the form of the progressive blogosphere.

Tracy and Jessica tell us how sites and groups from Brave New Films to Daily Kos, Talking Points Memo, Center for Independent Media, have joined with revamped and revitalized venerable outlets–The Nation, Progressive, Mother Jones etc. to gain voice and influence in the new millenium. Read the rest of this entry »

From book idea to book reading for Our Lot (& other big ideas)

“Communications time,” or the time it takes for shifting audiences’ perceptions, ideas, feelings, thoughts  — which is often what advocacy communications is about, can be long-haul time.

I was reflecting on that this morning while contemplating a quick shout-out for a friend, Alyssa Katz, who’s passing through Chicago soon for a reading of her recently-appeared book, Our Lot: How Real Estate Came to Own Us:

  • When: 6 p.m.-7:30 p.m., August 24, 2009
  • Where: 810 N. Milwaukee, National Training and Information Center, Chicago, IL
  • RSVP: Free but RSVP to Regina Lewis at or call 312-243-3035 by August 21.

Full disclosure, I have not read it yet –it’s on hold for me at Chicago Public Library (I’m gonna buy my copy at the reading, of course!)– but I remember when the idea gestated. Around 9-10 years ago Alyssa was my editor for a number of book reviews I did for the New York City-based magazine City Limits (still around, online these days I think). We struck up a friendship over the phone, fell out of touch. Read the rest of this entry »

New stuff

Three great resources for nonprofit communications, each totally different from the last (and each deserves its own blog post–but better to be quick than thorough, in this case–I think):

ImpactMax on strategy

I recently co-presented on how to create a communications strategy plan and am doing a workshop called The Communications Audit in September for Nonprofit Alliance in Battle Creek, Mich. so I was particularly interested to read the “Impactmax” blog of Gayle Thorsen, Minneapolis-based communications consultant, on the subject of nonprofit/foundation communications plans, beginning last week with audits. Read the rest of this entry »

Summer/fall tour for “arts turnaround artist”

Was interested to hear yesterday a nice profile from Susan Stamberg on National Public Radio of Michael Kaiser of the Kennedy Center and his national tour to help arts organizations facing economic doom.

There are upcoming dates across the Midwest (Cleveland, 7-22; Kalamazoo, 7-23; Indy, 8-11; Louisville, 8-12, etc.)–you can find out about the tour and arts organizations can also apply for specific help from Kaiser and the Center’s Arts In Crisis project.

While the work applies directly to arts groups, many a nonprofit can learn something from his mantras of what worked for him–collaboration, longterm strategy, and of course savvy marketing and communications. His core idea: do not try to cutback to escape from fiscal troubles. The idea that an arts org can “save it’s way to health… is wrong, dangerously wrong,” he says in a Huffington Post article.

In addition to the Arts in Crisis site, a nice, more in-depth piece about it is on Nancy Schwartz’s Getting Attention blog, too (have you entered your org tagline in her contest yet? it’ll take you about 2 minutes, go  learn more/do it here!).

NTEN Scholarships

The Nonprofit Technology Network, NTEN, conference for social medi-ologists is April 26-28 in San Francisco… kind of a haul from out our way (I kinda wish it was today, just to be out of -10 or whatever). Plenty of good stuff for nonprofit communicators on the agenda… and Convio is underwriting scholarships to the conference! Check it out (but save some funds to go to Making Media Connections June 10-11, of course!)

New media summit takes a new tack

John Patterson headshotIt would be unfair not to report that John Patterson and the Chicago New Media Summit changed their tone slightly and their price radically for the Sept. 15-16 event. Good for him! I meant to say in previous post that I’m sure it’s worthwhile.

From $425 for the conference and $75 for a networking event the first evening, they’ve decided you can go to the 6-10 p.m. Monday party for just 10 bucks! Or attend a single day for $135 or both days and the party for $235. Makes more sense to me.

I have a feeling impresario Patterson, who also directs business development for a local media firm and apparently helped put Austin, Tex. on the map as a hip and happenin’ place, must be wondering why Chicagoans are so fractious (and, maybe, cheap!). But it also sounds like he’s picking up on communications, midwestern style: no bullshit, stress the we, acknowledge conflicts (be transparent), not too flashy.

I remember, growing up, meeting someone who told me that for radio announcers, flat Midwestern voices were always prized over, say, a New York accent. Might it be true for the voice, or tone of communications generally, that this kind of un-hyper Midwestern voice is the most effective or desirable overall no matter where in the country one lives?

New Media Summit, Chicago, Sept. 15-16

“There will be movie stars,” Chicago New Media Summit organizer John Patterson told me this afternoon. They’ll rub shoulders with the glamorati of Chicago’s for-profit social media community at the Museum of Contemporary Art — folks from local biggies 37signals and Threadless, for example, are presenting (and so is Jane Hirt, our new Tribune editor) — for a couple days, building a stronger sense of connection and community among these folks to raise awareness of the city’s capacity to produce state-of-the-art new media.

John invoked several times the model of the Ted Conference (“Ideas Worth Spreading”). Clearly the idea of the New Media Summit is to build some buzz for Chi-media. Read the rest of this entry »

“The First Amendment, Freedom of Speech and the Future of Journalism”

6:30 to 9 p.m. Wednesday, June 4 At Columbia College Chicago Film Row Cinema, 1104 S. Wabash Ave.

Event will feature a reception, screening of “The National Press Club at 100: a Century of Headlines, and panel discussion

Cyrus Freidheim, President and CEO Sun-Times Media Group, Bill Adee, Chicago Tribune Associate Managing editor for Innovation, Renee Ferguson, investigative reporter NBC News Channel 5, Vivian Vahlberg, managing director Media Management Center, Northwestern University; Gil Klein, National Press Club, moderator.

As part of a year-long effort to mark its Centennial, the National Press Club, the world’s leading professional organization for journalists, is organizing an ambitious program aimed at screening its documentary film before audiences in all 50 states. Learn more at It’s part of a public education campaign undertaken by the National Press Club to honor its centennial year, sponsored in part by World Affairs Council and Aviva USA.

To reserve a seat, call toll-free 1-866-514-7570. Cost is $10 for adults. Students are admitted without charge.


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