Monday, December 29, 2014

Managing Resources in a Non-Profit World

By Kathryn Stokes

Managing financial resources is challenging in the private sector, ensuring cash-flow is sufficient to pay bills, fund research and development, market your products or services, reward your employees with a paycheck and maybe a bonus, and have a profit at the end.  Non-profits have limited sources for funding, which include grants, donations or, as in the case of the National Association of Government Communicators (NAGC), through membership, award, and communications school registration fees.

Before I joined the board as treasurer a few years ago, the inner workings of a non-profit were very much like the Wizard of Oz to me.  Everything was performed behind a magic curtain and stuff just appeared to get done.  Nothing could be farther from the truth! 

NAGC has committees to deal with many of its operational activities; we have a committee that plans the communications school program, another that plans the BP&GS awards banquet, volunteers who judge the BP&GS entries, we have a marketing committee among others and in a few days we’ll be looking for volunteers for a website redesign committee.   A lot gets done by, already over-extended professionals, committed to ensuring the success of NAGC. 

We cannot do this alone.  To help, we have AMSII, our management team headed by Beth Armstrong.  Beth’s team helps us perform those day-to-day duties that keep NAGC moving forward. 

Beth has managed associations her whole career and her organization has been managing NAGC since I joined.  And, she has committed to not raise her management fee rates at any time since I’ve been on the board, which is about five years.  That commitment is something this former treasurer knows is not easy to do because Beth’s company is not a non-profit.  

Our management firm supplies us with the resources for the operational activities and the financial functions including contract negotiation for the school venue and vendors.  They also collect all the membership dues; collect the BP&GS entries, re-package them and send them to various judges, collect judging forms, order the awards and notify winners where applicable (Communicator of the Year).  Throughout the year they help committee chairs manage meetings, take notes and perform a myriad of follow-ups for the various groups.  They do all this while keeping an eye on the bottom line. 

Our monthly board meeting always includes a financial health-check.  I’ll admit it, there were times I questioned whether or not we would meet our annual projections.  Beth’s experience and counsel has always gone a long way to calm my bottom-line concerns.  We still struggle, but continue to squeak by.

We need your help!

Your NAGC board wants to hear any ideas and suggestions that bring value to our members.  Do you have ideas about how we can save money or generate income? We want your suggestions about presenters and topics for the annual school so that you find value in attending each year.  BTW, next year in Memphis looks to be another great school.  (SHAMELESS PLUG!)

When you attend the annual Communications School, be sure to listen for the financial report during the business meeting.  It is our account to you about the monies we collect throughout the year, how those monies are spent, and what our current financial health looks like going into the next year. 

Managing money is never easy.  But the challenges of managing money in a non-profit world, while stressful, are also rewarding every time someone says they loved the school, the award banquet or gives great feedback on their NAGC experience!

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Response to Query - Forwarded For Your Use

[Some holiday levity, posted by NAGC President John Verrico]

Fellow communicators. It has come to our attention that there have been queries from investigative reporters concerning the implementation of holiday plans across government agencies.
We are proposing this response to any query you may receive, including an official statement and additional details which may be provided "on background - not for attribution."
I hope you will find this information helpful in explaining how government agencies are responding to recent criticisms from the political and private sectors.
On behalf of the National Association of Government Communicators, I hope you get some time off to relax and spend with family and friends this holiday season. To our fellows in uniform serving in deployed status away from loved ones, we send our best wishes for as happy a holiday as possible, a happy and healthy New Year, and a safe return.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Making the List - Government blogs recognized as 'must-read'

Posted by NAGC President John Verrico
Government agencies at all levels provide essential services to their communities and constituents. We communicators are charged, of course, with telling people about the important work of our agencies, and we produce a great deal of communication products to spread the word. We use websites, newsletters, promotional campaigns, and social media outlets, among other tools, but of course, none of these are of any value if people aren’t paying attention to them.

Of all the products that government agencies develop, blogs are perhaps the most challenging. Keeping them fresh and interesting can be quite a task. Once we’ve got the thing going and get followers, we’ve got to continuously feed the beast with new content or we quickly lose our audience. 

That’s why I was so thrilled recently when I saw so many government agencies listed as having “must-read” blogs in the technology realm.

Last week, FedTech magazine posted their picks for the 50 Must-Read Federal I.T. Blogs for 2014, and earlier this month its counterpart StateTech magazine posted the 50 Must-Read State and Local I.T. Blogs for 2014. While there are many non-government organizations, think tanks, and media outlets producing blogs in the government technology space, it was wonderful to see government agencies making the list.

Congratulations to the cities of Baltimore, Chicago, New York, and Seattle, and state agencies in California, Georgia, Massachusetts, Nebraska, and North Carolina. On the federal side, congratulations go to the White House for both their Office of Science and Technology Policy and their Open Government blog, Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate (which also had two blogs on the list, including, the Department of Health and Human Resources (also with two blogs), General Services Administration (also with two blogs), Department of Defense, Department of Energy, Environmental Protection Agency, Federal Communications Commission, Federal Trade Commission, U.S. Agency for International Development, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the federal CIO Council.  

Also, a shout-out goes to our friends in the National Association of Counties, and the National Association of State Chief Information Officers for also making the list.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Meet NAGC's Featured Member of the Month for December: Judy Pedersen

By JudyPedersen 

Find something you love to do and you'll never have to work a day in your life.” Those are the words of motivational speaker Harvey MacKay, and they ring true for me.  

In my role as Public Information Officer for the Fairfax County Park Authority I work closely with the media, promote popular programs and environmental initiatives, ensure public access and participation in our planning efforts, and engage in event management on a regular basis.  I have lots of fun and constant deadlines, but you won’t hear any complaints from me.  Which is not to say that over the past 25 years of communications work in government there have not been moments that felt overwhelming and frustrating, or that there were not times when I wisely moved on to another position that was a better fit.  In this field, you have to own it.  Less than total commitment just doesn’t work.

I wake up and feel lucky that every day is different; new challenges, intriguing situations and multiple communications options.  They key to success is to surround yourself with talented, dedicated people and stay open-minded as new technology, new issues and ever changing communications tools.  Staying current can be challenging for those of us over 50, but ask yourself if you really need that additional platform and remember that the “old” ways are still effective. 

My job is to distribute accurate information, tell a compelling story, and get the message to the right folks. Even after nearly three decades, it still feels right to me.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Five Reasons to Serve as a Blue Pencil and Gold Screen Competition Judge

By Chris O'Neil
Communications Director

White wigged,black robed, gavel holding judgeWe’ve all heard the phrase, “It’s good to be the king.” (Thank you Mel Brooks)  But I’m here to tell you that it’s good to be the judge – well at least a judge.

That’s right, it’s good to be a judge, specifically, a judge for the National Association of Government Communicators’ Blue Pencil and Gold Screen Awards.

Ok, so there’s no crown jewels, court jesters, powdered wigs, black robes or cool gavels, but there still some good perks to serving as a judge for the annual competition that recognizes excellence in government communications in more than 40 categories (including the newest for Infographics).

What’s in it for me you may ask?  Here are five solid perks:

1.  Resume building creds.  We all work.  We all work hard.  We all work hard at communicating about our agencies.  Not every one gets the chance to work hard at evaluating competition submissions, providing insightful feedback and determining, sometimes by the narrowest of margins, who goes home with the plaque or trophy.  Truth.  Serving as a judge sets you apart from your contemporaries – it establishes you as a regarded subject matter expert with valuable experience from which others seek to learn.

2.  Insight.  Remember when you were learning to write news copy?  What did your instructor or professor tell you?  They told you to read, and then read some more.  When you serve as a judge you read a lot of submissions, which gives you insight.  You get to see what other teams are producing, how they are evaluating effort and success.  You get to see how they addressed an issue, developed a strategy, set goals and implemented tactics.  You get to see some good ideas.  Chances are some of that is bound to rub off and maybe help you with an issue or project you’ve been struggling with.

3.  Professional Development.  Judges don’t get away with simply giving a numeric value.  Our judges provide insightful remarks – they mentor folks who entered submissions.  Serving as a judge is a great way to sharpen your saw as a mentor, and to reinvigorate your commitment to the professional development of the communicators you supervise. 

4.  Bling.  If you attend the 2015 school, your name badge gets emblazoned with one of those wicked-cool ribbons that say you were a judge.  Hang that with your other event credentials.  Sweet.

5.  Sense of Pride.  Yeah, it’s pretty satisfying to know you had a hand in making someone else’s day, maybe even their career.  You’re the one.  Go you (cue Joy Zipper tune "One").

So there you have it, five solid reasons for becoming an NAGC Blue Pencil and Gold Screen Awards Competition judge.  So what are you waiting for?  Go to our website at, download the judge’s application form, fill it out, and take your first step to greater professional fulfillment.  It’s good to be a judge.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Being thankful for government communicators

Fellow communicators,

On Thanksgiving Day, I had a chance to reflect on my 33 years in government communications. It never fails to astound me just how broadly impactful our profession is to society.

All across the nation, and around the world, there are government communicators tirelessly working throughout the year to provide important information to the public. Webmasters ensuring that government websites are functioning to accept service applications from citizens. Speechwriters crafting the all-important words a public official needs to address a crisis. Graphic artists creating signage and promotional campaigns for safety initiatives. Media relations officers helping news reporters understand technical or complex issues and facilitating access to subject matter experts. Social media managers monitoring Twitter during a disaster and helping to direct emergency services to the areas that need them most. And I'm just scratching the surface.

There really is not an aspect of society that does not bear the mark of a government communicator. At all levels – federal, state, provincial, municipal, local, tribal – communication professionals are the shining light of government service.

Although too often unnoticed or unrecognized, what you do is vital and tremendously appreciated. So, on behalf of a grateful population, my fellow board members and I at the National Association of Government Communicators express our gratitude for your service and commitment

Revel in this day of thanks, and may you find much to be grateful for in your life.
John Verrico
National Association of Government Communicators
Good Communication … Good Government


Thursday, November 13, 2014

Get in those Blue Pencil and Gold Screen Entries Soon

By Cheryl V. Chambers, Competitions Director

It really is “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year!”  That song is stuck in my head, and I could not agree more.  What you may be thinking is, “Are you kidding?  We haven’t yet celebrated Thanksgiving.” 

Sorry to mislead you…it’s the time of year for entering the National Association of Government Communicators’ Blue Pencil and Gold Screen (BP&GS) competition.  (That song really is stuck in my head, though.) 

The awards competition is a terrific way to validate your work and compare it to what your peers are doing. Every entry receives written feedback from the judges who are fellow government communicators or subject matter experts in the award category.

Grant Kaiser, communication manager for Rocky View County in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, and winner of last year’s Best in Show award, said, “[The awards program] helps bring credibility to the profession, and strengthens the case for the clear, open communication that I believe we all strive to provide citizens.  For my own organization, winning a NAGC award has been terrific for staff morale.  But most importantly, it has already helped me strengthen the idea that communicators belong at the table when decisions are made, and not just called in to ‘sell’ those decisions afterwards.”

In case you missed it, the National Association of Government Communicators hosted the Webinar, “How to Win a Blue Pencil and Gold Screen Award,” featuring former and current judges, and the multiple award-winning Fairfax (Va.) County Park Authority.  The Webinar is archived on NAGC’s website ( and highlights the DOs and Don’ts of entering NAGC’s highly-acclaimed competition.

The deadline for early submissions (Dec. 12) is fast approaching.  And don’t forget, it pays to enter early—who doesn’t love a discount for getting ahead of the game?  That holds true for becoming a member as well! (more discounts if you join NAGC).

With more than 40 categories and the chance to compete for “Best in Show,” the BP&GS Awards Competition, is truly a winner.  Check out the NAGC website or look for us on Facebook and LinkedIn for all the details and a chance to connect with other NAGC colleagues.  

Grab a “Call for Entries,” make your list and check it twice!  And with any luck, we’ll see you in next June in Memphis for “Blues, BBQs, and Government News.”