Pearls of Wisdom: Non-profits Online

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With millions of sites out there, how do you pick out the 1 or 2 you’ll want and need to read?

A dozen times a week, someone will ask a question, you will enter it in Google, and voila!—question answered. But how do you get not just facts, but insight, and how do you learn stuff you did not know you needed to know? That’s what regular reading of the best of the still-new blogs and other news sites can offer.

It’s a sure thing there are at least a few news and info sites you probably need to read, and a couple you probably will enjoy reading. With any luck, they may even be the same ones. Because the best way to find the really good stuff is still word of mouth, here are a few favorites we think you’ll love.

About nonprofits:

One of the best combinations of useful and fun to read about nonprofits that I’ve discovered yet is Blue Avocado,

I’d never heard of it until attending an event sponsored by the Lumpkin Foundation, where publisher Jan Masaoka spoke. Since then, I usually get a laugh, and sometimes learn something important, when I check back at her site. For example in April Jan created awards for news outlets and foundations: “Abominable Press Coverage of the Nonprofit Sector” and “Narcissism in Philanthropy.” (go here to find out who won:

About social media and Web tips:

Understanding how the tools work and the companies behind them help me use them better. Offering that information, combined with comprehensive coverage and usually a pretty light touch in their writing, makes a winner.

Mashable is a great example of an old-fashioned model—the trade paper—succeeding on-line. Just in the past month I’ve learned how to use the keypad on my phone better and gotten the scoop on 5-way Skype video calling. It’s also the go-to source for trends, who’s suing whom, and the next change Facebook will make to its interface. You just never know when what you read there will cross the line from interesting to know to need to know.

More online learning and networking:

If online communications is a significant part of your responsibilities, joining an email list whose core is made up of nonprofit folks who make their living off Internet strategies is a good use of your time—sign up at

Technically, Progressive Exchange is an email, not a site, but it’s a great place to float a question, share or learn about nonprofit Internet–oriented jobs, and track issues and trends in nonprofit online communications and development.


You wouldn’t be reading this if you did not have ties to Chicago. We’re blessed with plenty of sites that offer news and commentary worth reading: Chicagoist, Gaper’s Block, WindyCitizen. Huffington Post Chicago is a great place to not just read but also think about writing something yourself – whoever runs the site has been very gracious about hosting viewpoints and opinions on matters of policy and public interest. These sites and of course many more are listed at the Workshop’s New News page,

Gordon Mayer is the former Vice President of the Community Media Workshop and is currently the Operations Director at National People’s Action.

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