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Things to follow: cupcakes, new Facebook tools, blogs and… Gotye videos(?)


Everyone loves cupcakes… Here at the Workshop, we love cupcakes AND social media. So it shouldn’t surprise you that we follow both Flirty Cupcakes and the Food Truck Freak to find out where we can hunt down not only our favorite fluffy and sweet mid-day treats, but some other really great mobile food too! Yesterday, July 12 was declared Food Truck Day by the University of Chicago’s IJ Clinic on Entrepreneurship. The first 19 people in line at each food truck stop received free treats! How cool is that? The declaration was initiated to help build awareness around the upcoming July 19th city hearing on Food Trucks. A new ordinance would propose limiting available spaces food trucks could park and vend in the city.

When I asked our Operation Manager, Maggie Walker about how she started following Flirty Cupcakes she said, “I saw a link posted by someone I follow on Twitter and that’s how I found out about them. I don’t use Twitter that much so I began following them on Facebook instead.”

So now, the rest of the staff is well-informed about when the cupcake truck will be in front of our office. But what I find interesting is how most of us are using Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and other social tools to share information and keep each other informed. For nonprofit communicators, how do we wield this power to communicate our messages and keep our audiences informed about our causes? We can learn a lot from each other. Perhaps that is why the whole #ff (Follow Friday) on Twitter has become so popular and is now an embedded cultural practice on the social web.

Here’s what we are following lately… Read the rest of this entry »

Get your Nonprofit Brand Page set up on Google+

The Workshop is now on Google+, are you? Google+ (beta) has been up for some time now with a lot of us asking questions regarding it’s practical use to further reach out and engage with audiences. For nonprofits, the opportunity to directly engage with our audiences jumped one step further. Just the other day, the search giant announced the ability for organizations, businesses, nonprofits and more to create their own Brand Page. Read the rest of this entry »

Workshop joins the launch of the Chicago Independent Ad Network

The Workshop has joined the Chicago Independent Ad Network along 14 other local, high-quality news sites. This new ad network provides Chicago advertisers a unique and powerful new channel to reach millions of readers and support the work of local news outlets that keep our city informed and engaged.

The network will go live on November 1st. For more information about the network and to advertise, visit the website at

We are very excited about sharing this news. This network will help build the relationships between these various news outlets and will strengthen the Workshop’s mission connecting the news media with nonprofit communicators across the city.

Expect to see changes to our website upon the release of the ad display technology!

What do you think about digital fees at The New York Times?

If you’re a regular consumer of news, you’ve heard that The New York Times has gone where so many news outlets have failed before and put up a paywall online. Except, it’s not really a wall so much as a very narrow doorway.

Basically, visitors can read 20 articles for free each month online. Once a reader exceeds that amount, they’ll be asked to subscribe. Logically, if you’re already a print subscriber, you can get unlimited access online and on your phone. There are more in-depth details about online subscriptions on the Times’ website, but that’s the basic gist. I usually read Top News on my iPhone in the morning, and it looks like that will still remain free. However, there was a New York Times blog I also read on my phone, and now I’ll have to pay weekly for the app if I want to access that blog and other content beyond Top News.

Everyone is watching to see if one of the nation’s leading newspapers can actually begin to turn online readers into digital subscribers. As newspapers continue to navigate this shifting media landscape, the Workshop team is curious to hear your thoughts.

What do you think about the online fees? Did you subscribe to one of the digital plans? Is the cost about right, too much, or not enough?

Raising awareness about our region’s water

My husband thinks I have a strange relationship with water. This is probably because I drink a lot of water, and I nag him to drink more. I think it’s good for me, but my husband tells me I’m “over hydrating.” To which I respond, is that even possible?

And, I worry about water more than the average person. It may seem like a strange thing to worry about given all the other problems in the world right now, but I don’t think so. After all, it’s a basic necessity. While working on a five-year campaign to clean up the Great Lakes, I learned a lot about how many places lack clean, fresh water and how very lucky our region is to have such an abundance of it.

And so I wanted to share with all of you a great nonprofit campaign launched a couple weeks ago: “What Our Water’s Worth.”

Led by the Metropolitan Planning Council and Openlands Project, this campaign aims to get all of us thinking about the value of our water. The website contains some useful tools and links. There’s good use of social media (“Like” the campaign on Facebook), a blog and some nifty maps spotlighting where our region’s water comes from. There’s also a link to The Field Museum’s water calculator. You can find out how much water your household uses and get some tips on easy ways to cut back.

We all need water. We all use water. Let’s all take some responsibility to protect it.

Da Bulls, Da Bears, and Da Bard… Talk Like Shakespeare Day is April 23

This Friday is Chicagos Talk Like Shakespeare Day, created by Chicago Shakespeare Theater to raise awareness of da Bard

This Friday is Chicago's Talk Like Shakespeare Day, created by Chicago Shakespeare Theater to raise awareness of "da Bard"

“WHEREAS, in conjunction with Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s annual celebration of Shakespeare’s birthday, Chicagoans young and old, at school, work, and home, will be encouraged to incorporate phrases like ‘prithee,’ ‘thou,’ ‘fie!’ and ‘knave!’ into their parlance as a way to celebrate the legacy of the language….NOW THEREFORE I, Mayor Richard M. Daley, do hereby… proclaim [Shakespeare’s birthday, April 23, 2010 and] encourage citizens to let boldness be thy friend.”

Last year we wrote (Microsites? Yea Verily) about how Michael Wood, director of planning and program development for the Chicago Shakespeare Theater, and his colleagues cooked up the bardic birthday bash Talk Like Shakespeare Day to raise awareness about Shakespeare’s heritage (did you know Shakespeare contributed more than 1,700 words to the English language?) among new audiences. Read the rest of this entry »

Chicago Arts Marketers Get Seriously Collaborative

Studio Chicago is a yar-long event, one of several new initiatives to help market arts events

Luis De La Torre's art studio in a Bridgeport warehouse is classic, but threatened by a tough market. That is one of the themes that may emerge from Studio Chicago, a year-long project to promote events for or about artists and the spaces where they create--one of several new initiatives to help market arts events. DeLaTorre artist from Flickr, used w/permission.

I love this picture of Luis De La Torre’s studio. I also know from my co-worker Diana that it’s touch and go for Luis (who is her husband) to maintain his space because of economic hard times disproportionately affecting the arts market.

Two new arts-marketing initiatives highlight collaboration and capacity-building to help local organizations build audiences and patronage: Studio Chicago and the Chicago Art Exchange. Read the rest of this entry »

Chicago nonprofit awesome holiday gift ideas

Shoot and Score, by Vron, from flickr

Shoot and Score, by V'ron, from flickr

I scoff at Christmas decorations in stores before Thanksgiving is over, but in the spirit of, if you can’t beat ’em join ’em & for those of us already thinking about spending our scant $$ for holiday gifts–it seemed like a good moment to list nonprofits that sell stuff — specifically, gifts for the holidays!

This post was inspired by lunch a week or 2 ago with Megy Karydes — writer, marketing/PR consultant and born and bred Chicagoan. So, full disclosure, a bunch of these are folks she works for.

I’ve looked through the sites though, and fell comfortable this is a solid list of great causes offering cool stuff.

Artisans 21 around the corner from my home in Hyde Park is one of the country’s oldest cooperative art galleries, I was there this morning, and saw some photos and demitasse cups for espresso that caught my eye (rather large for those who like me need their coffee strong and lots of it).

Bright Endeavors aims to break the cycle of poverty experienced by inner-city, homeless and at-risk young women 16–25 by teaching them skills to become self-sufficient, successful adults. They make Dreambean Candles as well as other products, like an $8 jar of bath sea salts to a $60 Tealightful Gift Box which includes candles, bath tea bags and fair trade, organic tea.

Greenheart, in Bucktown, carries fair trade and handmade items from more than a dozen developing countries as well as local organizations. Megy says the nonprofit ecofriendly and fair trade shop hosts a launch party Dec. 2 for a new line of copper and brass jewelry from South Africa.

If you would like to give a gift to charity in honor of a friend or family member, consider Hope for a Hurting World Catalog from Heartland Alliance, one of our region’s largest and most vital advocates for and providers of human services. Gifts range from $15-550 and include an infant care kit to healthy snacks for an after-school program. 

MayaWorks works with women in Guatemala to make gifts, home accents, jewelry and, most recently, introduced a baby collection. Baby booties for 6-12-month-olds are $15 a pair. Their best-selling item? yarmulkes.

Update! If you are more of a gift card kind of person — or you have to give a gift card kind of a gift — Oakbrook, Ill.-based nonprofit Opportunity International lets you buy a card whose recipient can designate the funds for a microloan to a woman enterpreneur in Kenya, Ghana, Colombia, Mexico or the Philippines. It looks pretty simple to do, check it out at OptInNow.

Update! Porchlight Counseling Services, an Evanston-based agency that offers counseling and other resources to survivors of college sexual assault, are selling “(k)no(w)more beads” this holiday season–beaded bracelets with an amethyst stone as a centerpiece: “(k)no(w)more beads represent empowerment, resistance, and community connectedness by insisting that the public know more about sexual assault and demanding that sexual assault be no more,” Stephanie Boehmer of Porchlight writes.

Reason to Give, the Firebelly Design-initiated campaign for supporting Humboldt Park families, plans a “holiday pop-up shop” with lots of artists and inexpensive art at Firebelly’s studio from 5 to 10 p.m. Friday, Dec. 4.

Sweet Beginnings markets Beeline, a line of honey-based personal care products which are handmade by individuals facing barriers to employment, particularly those with histories of criminal conviction.

I think of The Enterprising Kitchen, which helps women work toward self-sufficiency and economic independence by handcrafting soap and body care products out of its Ravenswood studio, as a grandma of Chicago’s social-enterprises. They offer products from $5 to $350 or will be happy to make up a custom order (baskets, anyone?) if you’d like.

WomanCraft is a nonprofit in North Lawndale whose green, handmade paper sheets are embedded with wildflower seeds including flax, cornflower, echinacea, coreopsis, larkspur, and black-eyed Susan seeds. A set of 10 cards is $13.

Need more inspiration? A few more posts featuring Chicago and some Midwest nonprofits’ gift ideas: from and the Reader’s great Holiday Shopping event calendar.

Buy, buy, buy! Who am I missing do you think? And/or, if I missed your organization and you would like me to add you, let me know here.

(You can also add your nonprofit to our brand-new nonprofit organization directory here).

Taglines-Earnest Folks, Aren’t We?

New Yorker cartoon captions they are not.

Looking at nonprofits through the prism of our taglines–thanks to Nancy Schwartz’s new Nonprofit Tagline Report, which came out this week, I just have to say it: We are one earnest group of people.

If you’re at a nonprofit and online, chances are you know about this, but if not–Nancy, a New York-based marketing guru, solicited and received input from literally thousands of folks at nonprofits, including a final vote that produced 13 best taglines by popular acclaim: Read the rest of this entry »

Two more new blogs for nonprofit communicators

Chicago publicist Rebecca Sive offers up opinions on politics and public affairs, “SiveSiftings.” If nothing else, her posts are worth checking out because of this: they are the perfect length! Check it out, we think you’ll agree.

If you’re thinking about merging, or closing your doors (ack!) you may also find useful a new blog from Jean Butzen, Chicago consultant who formerly was director of housing agency Lakefront SRO acquired in 2006 by Mercy Housing). Jean’s blog, “Mission Plus Strategy Equals Social Value,” like her practice, focuses on “strategic re-structuring: mergers, joint ventures/partnerships, management service organizations, parent corporations, and leadership transitions for nonprofit organizations.”


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