Say What You Mean to Say

nonprofit, web design

A number of nonprofit organizations have proved that blogging is worthwhile and beneficial. Often, I’m asked by board members, wishing to establish a blogging presence for their nonprofit, how they can increase traffic on their blog.

It’s a complex question, and the answer mostly depends on the nature of each individual blog. However, there is one piece of advice that applies to all blogs:

Add something to the dialogue of the community.


How To Add a PayPal Button to Your Blog

nonprofit, web design

Donations are the backbone of any nonprofit organization. A great, free way to market requests for donations is to add a PayPal Donate button to your blog. If you have a Blogger blog, installing the button is easy. If you have a blog, it’s even easier. However, for those using free blogs, installing a PayPal button can be intimidating. I know it was for me.


Why You Should Keep Your Free Blog

nonprofit, web design

It’s easy to be tempted by customization upgrades available for blogs. Before you go and purchase a custom domain name ($10-$15/year), CSS upgrade ($30/year for, and hosting package (approx. $70/year), let me point out some positive aspects to your free blog.

{For a refresher course on the difference between and, read this article and this one}

Quote of the Week, 09/30/2013


Quote of the Week, 09/30/2013

QUOTATION: Remember, remember always that all of us, and you and I especially, are descended from immigrants and revolutionists.

AUTHOR: Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1882–1945)

ATTRIBUTION: President FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT, remarks before the Daughters of the American Revolution, Washington, D.C., April 21, 1938.—The Public Papers and Addresses of Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1938, p. 259 (1941).

On August 13, eight African-American residents filed a federal lawsuit against the city of Rochelle, Georgia–a town of around 1,200 people. Represented by the environmental advocacy group Earthjusice, the plaintiffs claim the city discharged raw sewage onto their property for decades in violation of the Clean Water Act and the city’s National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (“NPDES”) permit.

Image courtesy of domdeen /

Image courtesy of domdeen /

The Clean Water Act was enacted by Congress in 1972 to “restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the nation’s waters.” 33 U.S.C. § 1251(a).  As such, the CWA prohibits  “the discharge of any pollutant by any person” unless it meets the NPDES permitting requirements set forth in section 402 of the Act, 33 U.S.C. § 1342. NPDES permits are intended to reduce pollution to levels that are not harmful to the waters into which they flow.

The town of Rochelle was most recently in the media for holding its first racially integrated high school prom. According to Reuters Legal, the small community is divided along racial lines, with white residents living on the south side of the railroad tracks and African-Americans living on the north side.  A representative from  Earthjustice told a Reuters reporter that “[t]he city has repaired and updated its sewage pipes on the south (white) side of the tracks but has let critically needed repairs lag on the African-American side.”

According to the complaint, the city of Rochelle discharged raw sewage into a creek through various unpermitted point sources in its sewage collection system, including manholes and broken pipes that the city has failed to fix. The manholes and cracks in the concrete sewer pipes let storm water flow in, flooding the system and forcing raw waste backward into people’s yards and homes, according to ABC News. The plaintiffs allege the city has illegally discharged raw sewage for years and has failed to report and monitor spills, which are “causing irreparable environmental degradation and adverse harm to Plaintiffs and the residents of the City of Rochelle.”

The plaintiffs all live on the north side of the railroad. They filed suit in the U.S. District Court in Macon, Georgia, hoping to force the city to immediately stop the discharge of the raw sewage and to seek fines against the city for their violations of the Clean Water Act.


  • Deborah Zabarenko, “African Americans sue Georgia city over sewage dumping” REUTERS LEGAL (August 14, 2013).
  • Russ Bynum, “Sick of Spewing Sewage, Ga. Neighbors File Lawsuit” ABC NEWS (August 31, 2013).
environment, social justice
Image courtesy of

Contaminated Water in Pennsylvania May Have Been Caused by Nearby Fracking Site

Image courtesy of

Image courtesy of Grant Cochrane /

Hydraulic fracturing, known as “fracking”, is a process which involves injecting water, sand, and chemicals into the hard shale rock under high pressure in order to break it up and extract the gas trapped within. While this unconventional source of gas has transformed energy supplies in the United States, it has also spurred growing health and environmental concerns, according to the New York Times. Bloomberg reports that the fracking companies responsible for contaminated water often require confidentiality from injured residents as part of their settlement agreements. Critics argue the fracking companies employ this strategy to keep data hidden from policymakers, health experts, and the media.

A recent study published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences concluded drilling sites may be contaminating drinking water wells in the Northeast. The study was conducted by a research team from Duke University. Researchers analyzed 141 drinking water wells in northeastern Pennsylvania and detected methane in 82% of drinking water samples. The researchers found that average concentrations of methane were six times higher for nearby homes  with gas wells. Concentrations of ethane and propane were also higher in drinking water of homes near natural gas wells. These results led researchers to conclude that some homeowners have drinking water contaminated with stray gases.

The federal Clean Water Act (CWA) allows a citizen to sue to enforce the CWA’s prohibition against discharging water pollutants without a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit. Congress allows for citizen enforcement suits as a way to ensure regulatory agencies do their job.

Image courtesy of

Image courtesy of Dan, Image Contributor at

Recently, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit bolstered citizens’ abilities to enforce the Clean Water Act. In California Sportfishing Protection Alliance v. Chico Scrap Metal, Inc., the U.S. appeals court reversed a lower court’s dismissal of a citizen suit brought by the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance. The group accused a local junkyard operation, Chico Scrap Metal, of violating the Clean Water Act by contaminating stormwater runoff and polluting local waterways.

Chico is a California scrap metal recycling operation. In 2008, the company pleaded guilty to 14 misdemeanor environmental violations and had to pay for cleanup costs and penalties. Two years later, when the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance sued the company for violating the CWA, the company relied on their previous pleas to argue the suit could not move forward because they had already been “diligently prosecuted.”

You see, the CWA bars citizen enforcement suits when the state “has commenced and is diligently prosecuting a … criminal action in [state court] to require compliance with [the CWA].” 33 U.S.C. § 1365(b)(1)(b). United States District Judge Garland Burrell ruled the 2008 pleas constituted “diligent prosecution” so as to bar CSPA’s suit.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit disagreed. Writing the Opinion for the panel of three judges, Judge Susan Graber held there had been no claims yet concerning the company’s management of its storm water. The earlier proceedings aimed to enforce only laws other than the CWA. Thus, the Ninth Circuit found the state had not commenced any action in court “to require compliance” with the storm water permit nor had the state commenced any administrative penalty action comparable to one under the CWA.

The Ninth Circuit reasoned “[a]lthough the 2008 consent orders notif[ied] Defendants that they ‘may be liable for penalties’ in the future if they fail to comply with the terms of those orders, the state did not actually assess any penalties in the orders themselves.Thus, even if the cited provision […] might be ‘comparable’ to [the CWA…], Defendants’ potential liability under the consent orders” does not bar the citizen enforcement suit. 2013 U.S. App. LEXIS 14777 at *23-24.

The Ninth Circuit reversed and remanded the decision of the lower district court.


  • California Sportfishing Protection Alliance v. Chico Scrap Metal, Inc., No. 11-16959, 2013 WL 3779974, 2013 U.S. App. LEXIS 14777 (July 22, 2013). Available online at
  • Mica Rosenberg, “Citizen suit over water pollution can move forward in California,” 7/24/13 REUTERS LEGAL 11:01:51 (July 24, 2013)
Image courtesy of domdeen /

Fracking Lawsuit in Colorado Moves Forward; Lone Pine Orders Not Permitted Under Colorado Law


Last month, a Colorado appeals court reinstated a family’s lawsuit against fracking companies who claimed they were sickened by the companies’ shale gas well near their home. The decision signified a victory for environmental plaintiffs as the Colorado appeals court ruled “Lone Pine orders” are not permitted under Colorado Law. In the past, Lone Pine orders were used by companies as a procedural roadblock to prevent toxic exposure claims from making their way through the court system. 


Volunteer Retention: You’ve Cast the Bait, Now Set the Hook


Recruitment is Great, but Retention is Key.

The life source of many nonprofit organizations is their pool of volunteers. These individuals give their time and energy to fulfill day-to-day operations and special tasks needed to run the organization. While nonprofits often invest a lot of time into getting individuals to volunteer, they often fail in keeping those individuals.

Six Steps to Keeping Volunteers

There are several key components in a volunteer program that enhance retention: placement, orientation, training supervision, evaluation, and recognition. 1 

1. Placement.

Ideally, in recruiting the volunteer, you asked for their reason(s) for volunteering with your organization. Tune in to the volunteer’s response, as it often indicates their areas of interest.  Recognize their interests and place them in volunteer positions that will highlight those interests. A volunteer interested in her role is a volunteer happy in her role.

2. Orientation.

An orientation is important to allow volunteers to feel as though they are a part of the organization. An effective orientation is organized, informative, and welcoming. It should cover the agency’s history, mission, programs, and population served. Staff should be introduced and an overview of the volunteer program should be given. Explain the important role volunteers play in fulfilling your organization’s mission and the community’s needs. Finally, include a tour of the facility and point out locations of office equipment and supplies if these are relevant to the volunteer’s position.

3. Training.

Volunteers should be given clear directions for the tasks required of the position. Training programs have the potential to both clearly explain to volunteers what is expected of them and allow volunteers to get to know one another. Remember that everyone learns differently, so use many different training techniques.2

4. Supervision.

Volunteers should understand to whom they can turn to with a question or for feedback. Provide contact information and facilitate introductions.

5. Evaluation.

Incorporate evaluations both of  the volunteer and by  the volunteer.3 Use the evaluations to improve your volunteer program.

6. Recognition.

Provide on-going recognition both verbally and concretely. Consider giving out volunteer awards or hosting an annual volunteer appreciation dinner.3


  1. Serve Nebraska,, accessed November 19, 2012.
  2. NDT Resource Center, “Understanding Different Learning Styles,”, accessed November 23, 2012.
  3. CASA, Volunteer Evaluation Form, weblink, accessed November 24, 2012.
  4. Salvation Army Indiana, Volunteer Appreciation Dinner,, accessed November 24, 2012.

Additional Resources