Category Archives: non-profits

Evening in the Stacks: Sparkle and Spurs

I walk in the doors and inhale, smelling the slightly sweet, dusty scent of old paper. I walk straight to my favorite section and stop in front of a particular shelf, pull down a book and smile at the soft crackle of the plastic-cased cover as I ease it open and begin to read. An hour later my parents  wander into the crowded maze of ceiling-high shelves to find me sitting right there on the linoleum floor, my nose inches from the pages, utterly absorbed.

I’ve always loved reading. For as far back as I can remember, I’d routinely walk around reading, completely unconcerned about bumping into walls, objects or people. I couldn’t travel without at least two books: a main book and a back-up book (being caught someplace with nothing to read ranks somewhere between “trampled by a herd of rabid cows” and “forced to listen to Kevin Costner attempting a British accent” on the Avoid-O-Meter scale). I was one of the only kids I knew whose parents would encourage her to put the book down to go outside and play.

My first library? The Miller Branch of the Howard County Library System.

It looks a lot different these days, but then it should. It’s been rebuilt twice since I was little to keep up with the growing and ever-changing needs of the community. I firmly believe that my overdue fines alone helped finance the second building – checking books out was great fun. Returning them? Not so much.

So why am I telling you all of this? Simple. This year, I’ve been asked to return as a Celebrity Bartender for Evening in the Stacks: Sparkle and Spurs being held at the Miller Branch of the library. How cool is that? I’m definitely going to need your help, though.


“But Mickey, we didn’t know you were a celebrity!”

I’m not, but I’m happy to perpetuate the myth for the purposes of supporting the Howard County Library System. I’m selfless like that.

“But, Mickey – do you even know how to bartend?”

Yes, of course! And by “yes” what I actually mean is “no.”

I’ve never worked in the service industry, preferring to focus on retail during my formative years because, let’s face it, retail is far more forgiving of sarcasm. If you want to know about  pressure treated 2x4s or how to fold a shirt for a shelf display, I’m your woman. The good news (for me, anyway) is in order to level the playing field, we’ll only be pouring beer and wine. Even I can’t screw that up too badly. Right? Right? Hello?

If you can join us on Saturday, February 23 from 7-11 pm at the Miller Branch, it’s sure to be an amazing evening.  During the first hour, all six Celebrity Bartenders (Dick Story, Vicki Goodman, Tom Coale, Pam Klahr, Paul Skalny and I) will be serving drinks simultaneously at the Antler Bar. I have no idea what that means, but I have to admit I’m intrigued. And it will all be in good fun, because we’re really not all that competitive:

Okay, so we’re a little competitive.

If you can’t join us, you CAN virtually tip your favorite bartender by going to the Evening in the Stacks page, clicking on the “Donate” button under Celebrity Bartenders and filling in the name of choice when you click “Add special instructions to the seller.” I think I speak for ALL of the Celebrity Bartenders when I say that the name you MOST want to virtually tip begins with Mickey and ends with Gomez. Just a thought.

Hahaha! I’m joking!

Kind of.

photo (12)

In all seriousness, the most important aspect of the event is supporting two outstanding programs: A+ Partners in Education (which includes the STEM Program, Battle of the Books, Spelling Bee and Rube Goldberg Challenge) and Project Literacy, a wonderful and successful adult literacy education program. So please consider donating – it really would mean a great deal to me.

To get you in the mood, so to speak, here’s a photo of spurs (not mine), boots (mine), my dad’s Akubra hat from Australia, the guitar I need to start playing again and two book recommendations:

Territory by Emma Bull, a retelling of the events that unfolded once upon a time in Tombstone, Arizona.

The Dark Tower by Stephen King, a series featuring the ultimate gunslinger, Roland Deschain of Gilead.

If I make it through this year’s event, perhaps next year I’ll ask if I can return as something far, far cooler than a Celebrity Bartender: a Celebrity Librarian.

Stay tuned!

And thank you kindly for considering my request to support my favorite library system.


Filed under authors, books, fundraising, laughter, non-profits, writing

This Celebrity Bartender

I’ve been invited to serve as a celebrity bartender for this year’s Evening in the Stacks, which benefits the Howard County Library System. Before I forget to mention it, the event is on Saturday, February 25th from 7:30 – 11:30 pm at the brand new Miller Branch, which is really quite spectacular. The photo to the left is of the reading froggies just outside the front entrance – completely adorable, but then I’ve been a frog fan-girl since Kermit.

Let’s go ahead and start with the celebrity part.  Whaaaa? I was about 99.9% sure the invitation came to the wrong person (I’m still not entirely sure I won’t be turned away on the evening of the event – “Icky WHO? Not on the list, sorry!”). To be included with the folks serving as celebrity bartenders this year is humbling, to say the very least.  The list includes Mary Kay Sigaty, Dennis Lane, Candace Dodson Reed, Dick Story and Vic Broccolino.  In other words, I am way, WAY out of my depth.

And if you know me, surely you’re saying to yourself, “Self? Are they crazy?! What on earth does Mickey know about bartending?!” And you’d be right to ask that.  Very right, indeed.

You could fit my total knowledge of bartending on the head of a pin and still have plenty of room left over for countless enthusiastic angels swing dancing their little wings off.  But that’s the fun, right?  (Not the swing-dancing-angels-part, the not-having-any-idea-how-on-earth-I’m-going-to-NOT-embarrass-myself-bartending-part.)

The theme this year is Masquerade, based loosely on the Venetian concept of masques and celebration.  Here is a photo of Venice to get you in the mood, so to speak:

And had I not just attended a masquerade party this past weekend, this is the mask you might’ve seen on the evening of the event:

It’s pretty. It’s from Venice. It’s also a pain in the wazoo to carry around, and I almost took out the eyes of several guests when I wasn’t paying attention.  So that’s out.  As they say, it’s all fun and games until you poke someone’s eyes out with a Venetian mask when you’re trying to raise money for a favorite cause.

Here’s the fun part – I’d love for you to join us.  It’s going to be a LOT of fun – amazing food, music, silent auction and dancing.  Even better?  The bartenders will be competing for tips.  And THE BEST part? You can add to my electronic tip jar ANY celebrity bartender’s electronic tip jar before the event even starts if you won’t be able to attend in person!  It’s super easy, and you can use PayPal.

Just visit the webpage for Evening in the Stacks and scroll down until you see this:

Click on the giant yellow Donate button and you’re off!  You can use PayPal (Did I mention that? So easy!) and simply enter the name of the bartender you’d like to support into the Tip Field.

Just in case you can’t see it, here’s a slightly modified version to help you decide which name you should HIGHLY CONSIDER typing into the “Tip Field” section for your donation:

And please note, electronic tips will be accepted until noon on February 25th. 

Seriously, I do hope you’ll consider supporting me.

More importantly, I hope you’ll consider supporting the Howard County Library.  If you love books or reading or learning you know that you simply can’t beat a good library.

This event is being held at the branch where I grew up – where I first discovered reading, where I used to sit right down in the aisles to read a favorite book, and where I donated most of my allowance for decades of late fees.

Hope to see you there, but if you can’t make it, I hope you’ll consider a small donation to support a favorite cause.  Thanks!

Proceeds benefit the Library’s educational initiatives, including A+ Partners in Education and Project Literacy.


Filed under books, fundraising, non-profits

One of the Lucky Ones

It had been a long week. I returned to my on-campus apartment after work and stretched out on the bed for a nap. I woke up at sunset to long bars of golden light streaming through the blinds, and to the feeling that I wasn’t alone.

He was sitting on the edge of my bed, watching me sleep. He smiled when I woke up, like I’d be delighted that he’d been clever enough to trick a janitor into letting him into my apartment. To this day I think that the flood of outrage and betrayal I felt are what saved me from anything worse. If I’d shown fear, there’s no telling what might have happened.

“What the hell do you think you’re doing?” I said in my coldest voice, jumping up from the bed. He stood up, and I advanced, backing him towards the door. “Get out of here. Now!” I gestured impatiently towards the front of the apartment, raised my voice to a command. He stammered an apology, an explanation, but retreated all the same.

Once the door closed behind him I locked it and collapsed against it in tears. It wasn’t until a month later, when he banged on my door on and off for an hour and then sat there waiting for me to come out, that I was able to call the police, file a report and request a restraining order.


A different apartment, a couple of years later. It’s nighttime. My phone rings. It’s him. “Come to the window,” he says. I don’t want to, but oh-so-quietly I glide across the living room and peek through the blinds. He’s standing outside, backlit by the single flickering light in the alley, peering in. I call the police, but he leaves before they arrive. This escalating behavior along with the incredibly insane messages he’s left on my then-boyfriend’s phone are enough to warrant police action, but he leaves town before anything happens.


Ten years later. The phone rings. I pick it up – nothing. Just like the countless other times – morning, afternoon, middle of the night – that I’ve picked up the receiver to the deceptively simple sound of silence. We can’t change our number – an elderly relative will get confused if we get a new number. We’ve reported it to the police twice, and they dismissed it, so it’s pointless to try again. So I go outside with the dog in our isolated yard, wondering if someone is watching from the trees, wondering if she’s safe, if we’re safe, if I’m safe. Fortunately for me, he was doing the same thing to a woman in a different state. She was able to get a detective assigned to her case. When they finally caught him, they contacted me because my number showed up over and over again in his call records.


Three different men. I knew them all. The first had been a boyfriend, the second a friend’s ex-boyfriend, the third an acquaintance.

Stalking is no joke. It’s not flattering, or funny. It doesn’t show you care. It’s not romantic. It has nothing to do with love.

Stalking is about power, and fear, and intimidation. It’s about isolation, and hopelessness. It’s ugly, and sad, and pathetic.

There are times when I feel ashamed that I’ve been stalked three times, like there’s something that I’ve done to make it happen so often. Like it’s my fault. It’s certainly made me more cautious in my friendships – far more skittish and reluctant to trust. There are other times when I get angry – why me? Will it happen again?

And I’m one of the lucky ones.

This is why the 12for12k charity this month – Jodi’s Voice  – resonated so deeply with me. Jodi’s Voice is an organization dedicated to increasing awareness surrounding the crime of stalking and providing services for an estimated 3.4 million victims each year.

I wanted to share my story not to elicit pity, but rather to inspire others to action. If you or someone you know is in a situation like this, it’s not okay. Document everything. Report what you can. Be strong. Don’t be intimidated into silence.

I’ve shared the smallest taste of what it was like: the way your heart jumps when the phone rings or there’s a knock on the door, the horrible feeling of wondering if someone is watching, the helplessness and frustration of knowing that most of the time you have to wait for something truly bad to happen (to you or to someone you love) before anyone takes you seriously.

How can you help?

You can donate, write a blog post, share this blog post, raise awareness and help spread the call to action. More information is here: Thank you.

Photo credits:
Some rights reserved by pangalactic gargleblaster and the heart of gold
Some rights reserved by massdistraction


Filed under 12for12k, non-profits

Book Review: The Future of Nonprofits

Book Review:  The Future of Nonprofits:  Innovate and Thrive in the Digital Age by David J. Neff and Randal C. Moss

The Future of Nonprofits - coverWhen I was asked to review The Future of Nonprofits, I’ll admit that I was a little reluctant. I typically prefer to read and review fiction.  The information I use to stay current on nonprofit and volunteer trends comes from blogs, webinars, articles, workshops, podcasts, and a variety of sources and generally doesn’t include books.

I’ve worked in the nonprofit sector for years, though, both as a leader of small nonprofits and as a resource to nonprofits of all sizes.  I’ve observed recent trends in the sector and struggled to adapt, and I’ve watched others do the same.

As I started reading The Future of Nonprofits, a funny thing happened. I’d find myself referring to it in conversations, or working key points into discussions and presentations.  In fact, I’ve been recommending it to board members, community leaders, and local nonprofit staff, saying, “It’ll be available soon, you should definitely consider picking up a copy.”

What makes this book different from the gazillions of others written for nonprofits? It’s timely, it’s relevant.  It provides genuinely insightful and helpful advice, observations and strategies, scaled for nonprofits ranging from large to small.

  • It explains the differences between strategic planning and “futuring”, and why future scanning is so crucial for nonprofit success.  For smaller organizations that might not have the resources to future scan, the authors suggest ways to create a nimble and flexible organization poised to quickly make the most of new trends.
  • It scrutinizes business management strategies that nonprofits are beginning to use (Lean, Six Sigma and TQM) and it carefully considers which aspects could work for nonprofits and explains why others won’t.
  • It offers case studies and interviews – many rooted in social media – as a means to gain a deeper understanding of the successful transition from idea to reality.
  • It suggests people and organizations to watch and follow – sector leaders across a variety of platforms that will enable the reader to stay connected long after the book is finished.
  • It provides concrete suggestions for embracing innovation from start to finish and removing barriers to implementation (favorites include sample job descriptions and interview questions targeting innovative qualities for staff members).
  • It predicts trends for both nonprofit fundraising and communications. (Seriously worth the read for these alone.)

What doesn’t this book do?  It doesn’t bombard you with lofty ideas and leave you flailing around as you try to implement them (or, more likely, as you immediately get frustrated and give up).

The authors understand that one of the most difficult aspects of change is actually DOING IT. Neff and Moss acknowledge that creativity is important (and many nonprofits have developed successful systems for generating new ideas), “But the real leverage is in the back end: the ability to execute ideas. Ideas will only get you so far.”  (from The Future of Nonprofits).

There are only a couple of downsides to this book that I could find.  The first is that, while the authors intentionally tried to scale to a range of nonprofit sizes (and they did a great job), the process may seem overwhelming to smaller agencies.  I’d encourage smaller nonprofits to give it a chance, and to consider the fact that their very size may make them more nimble and better positioned to put some of the ideas into practice quickly and with a minimum of fuss.

The second is that some folks who could truly benefit from the book may not read it, or may dismiss it because much of The Future of Nonprofits challenges the, “This is the way we’ve always done things.” mentality.

“…as long as we hold onto our preconceived notions of what our constituents want and how they use our products and services, we will be forever tied to our existing offerings.”  (from The Future of Nonprofits)

As nonprofits, we need to embrace feedback.  Even better, we need to listen and learn where the gaps are and objectively think about ways to better serve our constituents.  We need to embrace change (or at least learn not to fear it).  And we can do this by trying our best to keep up, or we can choose to approach it strategically through some of the lessons shared in this book.

Is now the right time for innovation?  During a prolonged economic crisis?  Shouldn’t we hang on to our limited resources with both hands, and focus exclusively on providing core services?  According to Neff and Moss, this is exactly the wrong approach to take – first of all, what better time to embrace managed creativity than during challenging times? Second, it’s almost impossible to regain an environment that embraces innovation once it’s been stifled, even with the best of intentions.

In the words of the authors:

“The bottom line is this book is going to help your organization do more relevant things faster, less expensively, and drive key business metrics.” (from The Future of Nonprofits).

I couldn’t agree more.

More information on the book is here:

Quotes from the book used with permission for the purposes of this review.  Book cover image from Flickr, some rights reserved under Creative Commons.


Filed under blogs, books, fundraising, non-profits, social media, technology

Musicians on Call – the Healing Power of Music

Music.  It brings people together like nothing else.  It evokes a wide range of emotions.  It makes us love, laugh, cry, dance, smile, sing, think, feel, and reminisce.

It also heals.

Musicians On Call is 12for12k’s October charity.

Musicians on Call

Musicians on Call

Formed in 1999, Musicians on Call brings live and recorded music to the bedsides of patients in healthcare facilities.  Musicians On Call uses music to promote and complement the healing process for patients, families and caregivers.

Musicians On Call was originally founded by Michael Solomon and Vivek Tiwary in the course of their volunteer work with The Kristen Ann Carr Fund at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.

To date, the organization has brought music to over 160,000 patients, their families and caregivers.  They have programs in New York, Philadelphia, Nashville, and Miami.  In addition to their bedside performance program, they’ve also created 320 CD Pharmacies in facilities across the country (and internationally).  And their Project Playback program gives patients the opportunity to have their original music recorded and produced.

On October 16th, 2009, Musicians on Call proudly announced that their program has expanded to V.A. medical centers nationwide, with bedside performance programs in Philadelphia and Nashville and CD Libraries in over 40 medical center in 30 states.

You can listen to music performed by select Musicians on Call volunteers via the MOC Jukebox.  Do yourself a favor and give it a listen – you’ll discover an incredible array of musical styles performed by extraordinarily talented and compassionate individuals.

So please take a moment and think:  what does music mean to you? What is your favorite song?  When has music played a big part in your life?  What would it mean to you, if you were in the hospital, to have access to a CD Library, or to have a musician visit you to play music at your bedside?  Can you close your eyes and imagine what a difference it would make?

Consider:  just $10 brings one song to the bedside of a patient in a healthcare facility, so every donation helps, no matter how small.  Please donate now to support Musicians on Call in their mission to being the healing power of music to those in need.  You can also visit the 12for12k Musician’s on Call post to learn more or to view our progress.

If you can’t afford to donate financially, perhaps you have new or gently used classical or children’s cds to donate to the CD Library program.

I’d love to hear from you if you have a moment:  what does music mean to you?  What music do you associate with different memories or feelings?  Do you have a personal story about the healing power of music that you’d like to share?  Did you find a favorite song on the MOC Jukebox?  (I did!)

Thanks for reading!


Filed under 12for12k, fundraising, non-profits

So You Want to Be A Nonprofit Social Media Genius

Here is an excellent presentation from Beth Kanter at Beth’s Blog (and if you don’t think she’s a social media genius, Google Beth’s Blog. Go ahead. I’ll wait. She is in the number one spot on Google Search, right? ‘Nuff said.). If I only have time to read posts from one blog, this is the one I read. Beth provides real world examples of integrating social media into non-profit mission and operations. She tirelessly shares information and insights about making it all work, return on investment, and she spotlights best practices.

Take a moment to review the presentation and let me know what you think!

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Filed under non-profits, social media

Slide Share

SocialNetworking & NonProfits

View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own. (tags: socnet nonprofit)

Please don’t underestimate the value of Slide Share when you want to learn something. Visit the site, search using terms related to your topic (I believe I found this one looking for info on RSS Feeds, to be honest), and see how many presentations appear!

Depending on the topic, you may want to sort by relevance. For this topic, I wanted to search by latest. I actually viewed several shows that were quite relevant but woefully outdated (the boon AND the curse of social media, sad to say, is that it is constantly evolving).

If you are a visual learner (like me!), then this site is Your Friend.

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Filed under non-profits