Evernote for Non-Profits: How Regional Food Bank CEO Dan Flowers Transformed His Workflow, and His Organization

Tips & Stories

Evernote for Non-Profits: How Regional Food Bank CEO Dan Flowers Transformed His Workflow, and His Organization

Posted by Dan Flowers on 19 Oct 2011

Posted by Dan Flowers on 19 Oct 2011

Name: Dan Flowers
Profession: President and CEO, Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank
Location: Akron, Ohio
Company: Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank, 50 staff members
Website: http://www.akroncantonfoodbank.org/
Twitter: @daniel_flowers



Dan Flowers is the president and CEO of the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank. A former guitar teacher, Dan’s passion for food banking was sparked after taking a grant writing class in graduate school. After working as a grant writer for the Food Bank in Flint, Michigan, he eventually came to the Akron-Canton Regional Food Bank to become CEO. Dan uses Evernote to help him tackle his inbox, to-dos, keep track of paperwork, and manage his team to make sure that business flows smoothly.

I use Evernote, Everywhere:

I use Evernote for…

I came to Akron to run the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank. Our customers are charities that in total serve 180,000 people a year. As CEO and a member of the National Committee of Food Bankers, I get hundreds of emails a day and travel frequently. Evernote is with me every step of the way:

  • Evernote as a replacement for flagging emails for followup and tasks: I forward emails for followup to my Evernote account and tag them all appropriately. My assistant, who also uses Evernote, also sends important emails and reminders straight to my Evernote account. Evernote is my hub. I just watch the stream and tag things as they come in. [Learn how to send emails to your Evernote account]
  • For keeping documents in sync: I save documents in Evernote. I travel regularly for work and often have to review documents on the go. I forward all of my emails with document attachments to Evernote and mark them up on my iPad on the plane.
  • For capturing inspiration in the community: I’m always taking pictures with Evernote on my iPhone. If I’m out in the community and I see something that might help us enhance our brand and promote our message, I snap a photo of it.
  • For tracking the cycle time of a project: I’ll take a document that an employee is working on, date it, put my initials on it and then snap a photo of it. I’ll wait to see where it ultimately lands in the file and pull up the picture I snapped to see how long it took for the document to get finalized.
  • For audio notes and reminders: I take notes in all kinds of places, with whatever device I have on hand. Even when I’m driving, I’ll pull up Evernote on my phone and record a voice memo.
  • For juggling multiple action items, on the go: For me, one of the best features of Evernote is the sync and the way that all of the apps work together so well across my various devices. It’s the most seamless multi-platform interface I’ve seen and makes Evernote an invaluable tool for any multi-tasking CEO or manager.

Evernote as an expression of your work style

I’ve noticed that the more I’ve been using Evernote, the more it’s become a reflection of my management style. I can see how I interact with people, the processes that I implement, and how I see a project come to fruition. That’s a pretty unique thing to be able to see in such a visual way.

Are you a manager or CEO? How are you using Evernote to tackle your day-to-day?


Evernote Premium

Upgrade for features to help you live and work smarter.

Go Premium
View more stories in 'Tips & Stories'

18 Comments RSS

  • Rahil Pirani

    Excellent article. I too used to work at a NPO, and a tool like evernote (with this article in hand) could really help NPO’s decrease costs and increase efficiency.

    I never thought about using Evernote as a project management tool, but now, after reading this article, I can see all the great uses of evernote!

  • Dan

    So does it cause some kind of cosmic event if I take an Evernote blog post and clip it to Evernote?

    Great article. Glad see practical business use cases. I am a huge fan and have been using Evernote for business for quite some time now. Any way I can share my story with you as well?

    Thanks for all you do! Keep up the great work.

    • Kasey Fleisher Hickey

      We hope you do clip useful blog posts to your Evernote account! We’d be happy to learn more about how you use Evernote. Shoot an email to kasey@evernote.com.

  • Dan

    Would you be willing to share more specifics on how your workflow works? How do you use tags, folders, identify actions, etc.

    • Jenni

      I, too, am curious for more specifics on your workflow. Specifically, how do you keep yourself from being overwhelmed from task e-mails you have forwarded to Evernote? How does moving them to Evernote help more than flagging them in your e-mail? Right now I have a ton of e-mails with tasks to take care of and I STILL lose/forget information when I’m getting a dozen back-and-forth e-mails on edits to a project.

      • Paul

        This is the one I’m curious about as well. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the advantages of exporting these to Evernote. I find Evernote’s search and tagging to be a big improvement for my reference materials, but haven’t used it a lot with tasks that originate in my Outlook e-mail.

        I have to say, though, the checkboxes + todo:false syntax is a powerful tool indeed!

    • Steiny


    • Joe B.

      ditto. these “how to” articles are much like teaching bike riding with the instructions “sit on the bike and pedal.”

      While it’s always good to be reminded of all the ways to insert content, it’s the thinking smarter, not harder effort behind the organization and retrieval of this content (e.g. I see some interesting saved searches in this article’s un-zoomable screencaps) that creates real value for active archivists whether they be home organizers or busy professionals.

      Please share. Please?

      • Kasey Fleisher Hickey

        Joe, thanks for the feedback. Check out our newly-launched Ambassador Program and Lifestyle forum:
        Users’ stories on our blog are limited in breadth and depth, but this more dynamic, interactive space, aims to help you dive into the specifics you’re looking for and engage in conversations with fellow users.

    • John

      I recommend reading / implementing the task management set-up shown on the website below:


      It looks a bit complicated at first but well worth learning. I use the rule that nothing leaves my Evernote inbox until I have tagged it, and if necessary put a checkbox in the body of the text if it requires follow up. I like to minimise how many Notebooks I have also. You don’t really need many because Evernote’s search capabilities are so good.

      Hope this helps.

  • Dan Flowers

    Thanks for your comments, everyone.

    My usage of Evernote really took off when I finally settled on my notebook organization. My key notebooks are !inbox (my default notebook), !ToDo, and !parking lot. I use the exclamation mark to jump these primary notebooks to the top of the list.

    Everything goes to !inbox and every day I have a vigorous filing session, stuffing items in notebooks, attacking items in my !ToDo notebook, and routing things out of my !inbox notebook. Since my job requires me to review and approve documents far more than editing, I use Evernote as my primary document storage location and think of notebooks like I used to think of hard drive folders.

    Another break through for me was when I started considering notes as tasks in and of themselves and stopped trying to populate task lists within notes.

    Saved searches are really helpful. You can see some of mine in the screen shots above, along with the stacks I’m using.

    Also, I drag old notes into an archive folder and don’t send them to trash.

    Hope this is helpful. Have a great day. Do something nice for someone.

    • Joe B.

      Thanks for sharing Dan. Good stuff.

  • Jason Dufair

    I like seeing the folder named CRAP

    • Dan Flowers

      Everyone needs one…

      My email address is dflowers@acrfb.org if anyone wants to shoot me an email or question.

      Feed People, Fight Hunger.


  • Stefan

    Thanks, this is definitely very good food for thoughts.

    I have built up my email system (Apple Mail) with folders over the years and I guess I’d have to throw out a lot and rebuild in Evernote. Not sure that I’m ready for that…

    • Jeff

      Creative destruction, I think they call it. Could be a good thing.

      Very good tips on how to use Evernote to get things done. I too struggle with moving from folders to tags. Maybe I need more coaching to force the change of habit.

      Dan, thanks too for your living reminder to share with those in need.

  • Lee W

    Thanks for your post, I definitely got some ideas of how to better use Evernote.

    Love the idea of putting an “!” in from of notebooks you want to move to the top of the list. I also like the simplicity of your notebooks, I’ve probably overcomplicated mine.

    I am the President of a small business with multiple locations. Evernote is an invaluable tool that keeps me organized.

  • Alex | Flowers by Month

    An impressive article. I’ve never thought that I could use EverNote seriously for business. Dan’s example showed me, that I could try…