Saturday, December 15, 2007

Difference between vision and strategy

I don't know who said it, but it struck a chord and extends well beyond the mentioned sector: Responsible nonprofits may dream with rose-colored glasses over their eyes, but they don’t plan without removing them.
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Thursday, December 13, 2007

Mission to mission

Growing an organization relies on a connection between the mission of the organization and the personal missions of the people who make it real. Help your employees find their spark by encouraging them to reflect and create a personal mission. Then, find out what makes them happy and energizes them at work. Determining the right (or wrong) fit can help move your organization forward.
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Saturday, December 08, 2007

Let employees help move you forward

When your organization knows where it's headed, communicates that with employees and invites them to take ownership of how to get there, you're starting on the right track. Add in a dash of play, creativity and celebration -- you're ready to move forward.
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Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Design as a component

A well-crafted strategy goes nowhere if it can't be communicated. A key component to that communication is the visual design of the intents, often the words. Fo Wilson, designer, said it well: “Design has to be woven into the strategy or it’s much harder to understand the message of the organization. It can’t be tacked on at the end or it will always seem like an afterthought.” Effective design, when integrated with strategy, can take you beyond business as usual.
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Friday, November 30, 2007

A Bit of Old School Charm

It seems, now, more than ever, relationships win the day. Whether you're selling widgets, services or the greater good, connecting with people makes a world of difference. What are you doing for your customers, your employees or your donors to make you the organization of choice? Steve Yastrow sparked a discussion on this thread that demonstrates the value of the extra touch in making your stakeholders believe they "can't get it anywhere else."
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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Messaging that Drives Behaviors

The power of messaging lies in its ability to shape attitudes, behaviors and actions. When shaping your organization's next messaging strategy, winnow all of the conversation to one main message -- the most important thing you need to communicate. Then, identify the most important word in that message. Write it down. Reflect on it. Then, create the deliverable. But, before you send it out the door, take a moment to go back to that one word -- do you see it in what you delivered?
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Monday, November 26, 2007

Lessons for All Sectors from High-Impact Nonprofits

There are lessons to be learned for all sectors from a recent study of high-impact nonprofits published in the Stanford Social Innovation Review. Success in achieving social change, according to the findings, stems not from perfect management, brand name awareness, breakthrough ideas, textbook mission statements, conventional metrics or large budgets. It stems from being clear about what you want to achieve. It comes together by creating evangelists who are going to help you get there. High-impact organizations focus on results and do whatever it takes to achieve them -- within reason.

How about your organization: Are you clear about the greater good you seek to achieve? Are you connecting people to it? Are you clinging to conventional ideals or moving beyond business as usual? Be honest. Be true. And, if you want to achieve it, create a framework for progress to make it happen.
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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Simple as Strategy

Fast Company said it well: simplicity doesn't mean simple-minded. Developing strategy is like developing advertising in that you have to keep it simple. Value comes from distilling your messages into something that resonates -- creating a story that connects and sells. Pull out your organization's strategic direction. Look at the mission, the vision. Is it clear enough to help someone faced with a choice? Take a look at your values. Do they give a clear picture about what shapes the organization's decisions? Without clarity, your strategic direction doesn't do what it's supposed to do. Without a strategic direction, neither can you.
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Monday, November 19, 2007

Calling All Leaders!

As a leader in your organization, you have the opportunity to build your organization’s brand every day. You also have a particular responsibility to be mindful of your words, actions and attitudes because they shape the way people around you (inside and outside the organization) respond.

A quick and easy check-in: create a list of your organization's values or brand traits, put the list somewhere you can see it, schedule a moment of reflection midweek or (better yet) midday to check-in with how well you are reflecting those traits to the people around you. Hopefully, you'll just need that pat on the back to keep up the good work ... but, if you find that 6 times out of 10 you're falling short, you owe it to yourself (and your organization) to figure out why.
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Monday, November 12, 2007

Results for Rewards

A study recently completed for the Linchpin Campaign pointed to the value of not only results but also direct communication when talking with donors about progressive causes. As reported in The Chronicle of Philanthropy, Project Director Majorie Fine said: "Some people were saying, 'We see what happens in the short term, we don't see the big picture. It means that communication is key to getting more donors that want to support this work."

Read a summary of the campaign.

For all of you involved in progressive nonprofit work, seek out opportunities at your next retreat or in your next Board meeting to push your thinking about the vision for your organization and clarify what you expect to see as you take steps toward its achievement. Bring in a facilitator to guide the discussion.

Consider this framework: Your organization was invited to participate in a charitable contest. An eccentric philanthropist identified three progressive organizations. Each organization has to pitch a pathway project. Winner take all. $15 million. The prize is awarded based on the thinking and on the presentation. Break out into small groups and brainstorm your organization's pitch.

Perhaps something more concrete might help your group ... Identify your major programs. Break out into small groups and link each program to your long-term plan or your organization's vision. Present. Have each person critique the clarity of the presentation as well as the program's connection to both the bigger picture and the delivery of results.

And, if your organization doesn't have that plan or that vision ... stop. Don't go another step without consulting with a professional who can help you build a framework for your future success. It not only helps employees, it helps donors see that you value the greater good and that you understand how your organization is part of a movement for positive social change.
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Thursday, November 01, 2007

Nonprofits Benefit by Aligning Assets with Mission

There are a few pluses to running a nonprofit a bit like a business. As the Triple Bottom Line gains momentum, nonprofits have an opportunity to demonstrate to Board members and the community how they, too, consider human capital, social capital and financial capital when making decisions.

When nonprofits live and breathe in a world of limited assets, fighting for scraps, it can be tough not to give over automatically to the desire for financial returns that maximize the minimum. Yet, nonprofits who step back and work from a platform of mission-based decision-making can make inroads and great strides that produce higher 'triple returns.'

Some small steps can make a big difference in starting down that road. Here are four to consider:

1. Be clear about your purpose. A clear mission makes for better decisions and keeps you from being too easily swayed by promises of deep pockets or other opportunities. A good facilitator can help you articulate that mission and a community loan fund can help with technical assistance that uses it to build your financial capacity.

2. Document your commitments. Write down the filters that are important to your organization. Formalize it into a vendor selection policy or an investment policy. Share it with employees, funders and other stakeholders to demonstrate your commitment and create an opportunity to talk with them about the issues important to your organization.

3. Audit your assets. Take stock of the human, programmatic and financial assets of your organization. Think about the vendors with whom you do business and look for ones that support your values. If you offer retirement plans for your employees, consider including a socially responsible investing option.

4. Share your story (and share it again). A once-a-year plug is not going to do it. Remind people on a recurring basis about the value of walking the socially responsible talk. Help people who live it on a daily basis remember how to leverage their assets in a mission-driven way.

Thanks to Salli Martyniak, Forward Community Investments, and Steve Zahn-Cantelmo, AG Edwards, for their conversations on this topic.

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Sunday, October 28, 2007

Single Steps of Progress

Now is the time for society to rise up and take actions for the betterment and protection of humanity. If each individual takes a single humanitarian action, connections will be made for long-lasting progress.
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Beyond the Promise

The true value of an organization over time comes down to performance not promise. While we hook people or intrigue them by what we promise, we generate loyalty and connection with them when we deliver on those promises.

Consider your organization ... how well connected is what you promise to what you deliver? Would people at every layer of your organization agree with you?

Perhaps you have an opportunity to bring people together in constructive conversations about the organization's core purpose and how it performs for its stakeholders. Using that information, you can create a clear framework for progress that puts everyone in your organization on the pathway to value.

Or, perhaps you've just uncovered a reason to celebrate!
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Thursday, October 25, 2007

Brand Success Connects

Success comes not when people connect to your brand but when your brand connects people to each other.
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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Great Brands are Consistent

Branding is about consistency. It's about acting in a manner consistent with your core purpose. It's about deciding in a manner that is consistent with your goals. It's about communicating to your stakeholders in a manner that is consistent with your value to them.

Jeff Brooks goes a step too far in dismissing the importance of brand guidelines (and the look of your brand). If you have a great brand, the last thing you should do is dismiss the "puny efforts of the brand police to achieve consistency." If you have a great brand, you should applaud the efforts of your "brand police" to ensure that there is a thread of visual connection among the messages you're selling to your stakeholders -- be they employees, customers, donors, shareholders or members of the general society. After all, great brand guidelines (which do exist, contrary to Mr. Brooks' assertion) provide context and share the story of the brand: where it came from, what it stands for and why it's important.

Plus, we live in a world of appearances. What you look like matters. And, in a world of uncertainty, people are more likely to support organizations that connect all of their messages -- the written, the actions, the spoken and the visual.
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Saturday, October 20, 2007

Connecting Words

In a business that's all about creating connections through communication, it's fun to come across tools that clarify the very words we use by connecting them. Check out the Visual Thesaurus. Use it to map your brand traits. Then explore new ways to express them and live them without losing sight of the core message.
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Thursday, October 18, 2007

Experience Design :: Design Experiences

Scott Mallwitz recently shared a great mental image when explaining experience design: it's about creating a ride, then watching your brother scream like a girl when he's on it. Design can't be truly great until it grabs ahold of the intended audience. Design is a conduit for the interaction and connection of the audience, who bring the real energy.
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Tuesday, October 02, 2007

A Sequence of Messaging

Messaging is about drawing emotion and imprinting a memory in the brains of our audiences. If they remember the emotion and can associate it with the brand ... success! The messaging is only one-half words. The other half? Design. The right juxtaposition of imagery and ideas will lead the audience to the path of enlightenment. It will educate. It will inform. It will instruct. It will influence. Here is a sequence we recommend for effective messaging: State the objective; discover the idea; differentiate through the words and deliver with the design.
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Friday, September 28, 2007

Direct response is what it says

Direct response is what it seeks: not a delayed action, but an immediate response. "Call today!" "Order now!" etc. They are the rally cries of direct marketing. Thinking about employing some direct response? Consider:

1. Copy is king. The right words in the right place at the right time have the power to grab attention, keep attention and get a response.

2. Definitions drive response. Define your audience and you create the pathway to their response. Insights on the target audience should drive your copy, your images and your desired response.

3. Media matters. Proper placement is one thing, proper negotiation matters even more.

4. Return rules. Measuring for the response can be "easy" but only when you have the proper tools in place.

Above all, design matters. When effective tactic is combined with effective design, well, look out. The results are unmistakable. The design doesn't need to be award-winning but it does need to be brand consistent.
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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Curiosity Sparks Action

Frame your communication to play to people's curiosity. Craft the right set of questions and you might be surprised at how curiosity about answers sparks people to action. Dan Heath shares a post he received about how the right questions drove attendance at a church finance meeting.

What's your question?
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Monday, September 24, 2007

Red herring, anyone?

It strikes me that Claire Gaudiani's call in an August Chronicle of Philanthropy sparks good conversation but may not be constructive for the very organizations represented by the "sector." She calls for use of "social-profit" to reflect the "investment, risk taking, and entrepreneurial imagination that have always been so essential to organizations that serve the social good.” Since nonprofit organizations, even while called nonprofits, can focus on investment, risk taking and entrepreneurial imagination, important energy needed to communicate that focus may be diverted. Rather than spend time discussing a new name for the nonprofit sector, we suggest spending time telling your social-profit stories to staff, clients, board members, donors and community. Talk about risk and return. Show results. Be accountable. Worry less about the name of the sector and more about creating the common good.
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Friday, September 21, 2007

Positivity Plus

Penelope Trunk, blogger, Yahoo! columnist, and author of The Brazen Careerist, often points to the study of positive psychology to explain her views of the work world. One of the tenets of positive psych is to spend more time focused on areas of strength than trying to improve areas of weakness. Part of the reason is that people are happiest when doing what they do best every day. Does your organization focus on improving its strengths? Do you talk internally about identifying those strengths? How could your employees start daily doing what they do best?
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Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Risk for Reward

A reminder we all need from time to time: there is no box. In idea-based businesses, most of our limitations stem only from habit to censor before we create. We hate to be wrong, to look foolish or to appear vulnerable. But to move beyond business as usual, we have to risk all three so we can tap our innate creativity.

Need a push? Read these tips to overcome mental blocks:
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Monday, September 17, 2007

Straight Talk by CEOs: a place to start

Couldn't agree more with Frank Luntz that the time is past for CEOs to start talking in language that Americans actually use. It can be tough to change, but a great place to start is elimininating acroymns. An even smaller first step, don't shorten the name of your organization to an acronym when you write about it. The second step of that challenge, don't do it when you talk about it.
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Saturday, September 08, 2007

Magical Insight

Words from The Amazing Randi: “Allow people to make assumptions and they will come away absolutely convinced that assumption was correct and that it represents fact. It’s not necessarily so.” Necessary for magicians, yet dangerous for the rest of us -- whether as consultants, coworkers, family members or individuals simply striving to do good in the world -- dangerous when someone else assumes something and it truly isn't necessarily so. Reinforces the power of clarification and connection.
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Clarity helps with complicated GenXers

Want to get Gen X into your world, don't tell them what they are going to get of it. Create a sense of community, create an opportunity for connection. Respect the fact that many were shaped in a world filled with lies and they are always on the lookout for the next half-truth or false-proclamation. Since they are complicated, be clear in the true value you deliver.

If you're in the arts, read a post by Bridgette Redman that offers her research-based and first-hand experience on how this applies to arts marketing.
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Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Connecting on your target's turf

Take a lesson from artist/activist Eve Mosher, who seeks to personalize the effects of global warming on New Yorkers through "High Water Line." Her chalking of a 70-mile line to show where waters could reach during storms if climate change trends continue stops people. They watch. They ask what she's doing. They open the door for her to share her compelling story about keeping the water from ever hitting that mark. The project is simple and relevant to her audience. High Water Line connects people in the familiarity of their environment and daily routines. It not only captures their imagination as they envision what that line represents but also invites connects them with the cause.

How do you connect with your audience? Do you engage them on their turf? Step back and find some creative ways for your customers to interact with you.

More information on Mosher's project is available in the August edition of Free Range Thinking.
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Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The stories of your brand

David Pollay writes at Positive Psychology Daily, "Our life is not a series of facts only. It is mostly a set of interpretations we have made about events in our life. These interpretations add up to a story -- a story of who we think we are, what we have experienced, and what we're likely to do in the future."

This is true for your organization as well. Your brand is not simply a series of facts. While it stems from fact (a quality product or service), it is created from the interpretations of your customers and employees. It is in the stories told -- the ones you craft carefully as well as the ones you might never hear. Gather stories. Conduct a communications audit. Survey. Take steps so that the stories of your organization reflect your brand and your vision of achievement.
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Friday, August 03, 2007

Building Better Nonprofit Board Leaders

Nonprofit leadership is as much about an effective Board as it is about a visionary staff. Well-meaning, yet ill-intentioned, business leaders can wreak havoc. Help them help you. When staff clearly explain the Board member's role and the responsibilities, they can all be better leaders. Add these four things and you've got business people who will build and support better nonprofit leadership:

1. Take responsibility. Nonprofit service isn't about building a resume and it's more than feeling good about "giving back." Nonprofit leadership is about being accountable for moving the organization forward from a position of strength. Take responsibility for asking questions and making tough decisions.

2. Bring a business mind to the table. Board members need to bring the same business sense to making decisions on a nonprofit Board that they would in their own Board room. Yes, there are differences between not-for-profit and for-profit operations, but limited resources make the balance between them all the more important.

3. Commit to communicate. Consensus-building is often the norm on Boards. Business leaders committed to clear communication that aligns stakeholders can facilitate the type of progress that converts leadership into progress. Communicate clearly, communicate often.

4. Build a better bottom line. Business leaders need to operate from the mindset of fiscal responsibility that bends to mission. It isn't about turning a profit, but it's not about losing money either. Deficit budgeting is dangerous for any organization. Business leaders can bring their financial goal-setting expertise to the table so that the strategic direction of the organization is strengthened by balanced budgets.
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Thursday, August 02, 2007

Transformation begins inside

How can you transform your organization? Start with your employees.

In a discussion about change at Merrill Lynch, Diane Schueneman emphasizes how critical it is to facilitate learning opportunities for workers. Develop training programs, offer innovation incentives and support coursework at all levels to allow employees to lead your company’s evolution.

Never forget: people are the organization. Create new ways for people to grow and your business will do the same.

From the archive: Build them, you build your brand.
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Friday, July 20, 2007

Going up ...

You press the button, and wait. The familiar bell dings. The doors open; you enter. You wait for the doors to close. Someone rushes in with an appreciative smile. "Thanks. New to the building and can't believe how slow this elevator is ... I see you're one floor above us, what do you all do?"

There it is. The set-up. Respond well, you may have a new client, a new boss, a new friend. Stutter, you botch your first impression and could lose more business than you even know about -- since the power of a network is powerful indeed.

Follow the basics. "Thanks for asking. I'm (name) with (company). We (purpose) for (target audience)." But don't keep it all about you; reciprocate with a question. Start a conversation. The best thing that could happen would be for it to get interrupted at the 12th floor so that you can reconnect later.

Go ahead, press the button.
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Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Don't let a white paper make your reader blue

The white paper. A potentially valuable tool for connecting with your audience. Yet, too often, in an effort to sound authoritative, the white paper author wanders, loses focus and drones on for too long. Don't let it happen to you. Make it relevant. Make it engaging. After all, any communication that doesn’t hit those two marks is a waste of time for the recipient. Craft it with consistent objectives and a sense of clarity in mind. Looking for tips? Consider Michael Stelzner’s upcoming seminar, Creating and Marketing Winning White Papers, or his book on the topic.
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Monday, July 16, 2007

Thought for the Day: Storytelling

"The important point that I'm trying to make is that storytelling has nothing, whatsoever, to do with logic. Logic is a limping stepchild of the true processes of the spirit. It's an illusion. It's a defective little parlor trick. Associations are the way that we perceive. Electrical connections caused by the juxtapositions of experience. That's the way we are really built, and storytelling takes into account that truth."

-- David Milch, co-creater of HBO's John from Cincinatti

Seeking to move forward in connecting people with your mission? Suspend logic, allow your mind to free associate, find a clear truth and, then, only then, connect it with your business objective.
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Friday, July 13, 2007

Simple constancy for stronger identity

Authenticity is the ability to remain true to oneself in the face of pressures to change. But we are never the same today as we were yesterday, or will be tomorrow. Since change is the only constant in life, how can an organization retain its authenticity and communicate it effectively? Stagis points to Marimekko pattern design for inspiration on staying true to your core purpose while leveraging your “brand’s learning potential” to fulfill your mission in new ways. We are most true to ourselves when embracing how we inevitably change.
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Thursday, July 12, 2007

Decisions are powerful forces for progress

Progress hinges on decision-making, not decision-building. Good decision-makers gather input efficiently and make a decision based on it quickly. Don't fall into the trap of collecting, opining, rethinking and rebuilding. Make a decision; move forward; and learn from the process.
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Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The upside of silos

Organizational silos may have a redeeming quality by improving specialization within individual groups. Look to the silo-intensive IT industry for tips, and remember to stay focused on clear communication. Don't allow a lack of clarity to sidetrack good work. Connect the task to the mission, bring staff together and foster curiosity -- you just might find the upside of those silos.
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Thursday, June 21, 2007

Rekindle Curiosity

In today’s competitive, innovation-hungry market, it’s time to recondition how employees look for answers. Author Dennis Stauffer clearly understands this as he advocates “practical creativity” in his book Thinking Clockwise: A Field Guide for the Innovative Leader. Without a sense of discovery, an organization can’t adapt and evolve:
  • allow people to share information and admit mistakes
  • encourage questions
  • rekindle habits of curiosity and you can move an organization in the right direction
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Monday, June 18, 2007

Trends in Giving

In a recent study by the Center of Philanthropy at Indiana University, four long-term trends in charitable giving were synthesized from the past 40 years of philanthropic activity.

The first trend reflects the rise of foundation giving and charitable bequests. Since 1964, foundation giving has increased 469% and charitable bequests have increased 242%. This is in addition to a 213% increase in corporate giving and a 176% increase in individual giving. Although they may seem like stunning increases, they are merely commendable compared to increases in the economy and income levels. Foundation giving and charitable bequests are becoming important fundraising options for nonprofits.

The second trend shows a consistent 'share of giving' throughout the United States. Although giving in inflation-adjusted dollars has increased, giving as a percentage of the GDP, income and profits has stayed relatively constant. Total giving as a percentage of the U.S. GDP has remained around 2% over the past 40 years. Why are people not donating more even though their assets are increasing? How can the nonprofit sector get people to move above and beyond historic donation levels?

The third trend links government funding and private giving. If a nonprofit receives funds from the government, they tend to receive fewer funds from individuals, and vice versa. The United States gave $1.8 trillion to nonprofits in 2000, and this type of funding had a significant effect on individual giving. Troubling is that when nonprofits receive government funding, they tend to decrease their fundraising expenditures and staff, yet government funding is now diminishing in many area and these may have difficulties reestablishing ties to and relationships with individual donors.

The fourth trend tracks the increase of nonprofit organizations in the United States -- and their increased segmentation. In 1995, there were roughly 630,000 registered nonprofits in the U.S. By 2005, this number had reached about 1 million (a 67% increase). More amazing is that donations to these organizations have kept pace with the growth. Perhaps the increased specialization makes that possible as people who wouldn't have donated before are now asked by new organizations that match their particular interests and concerns. But for those who do have a history in philanthropy, it can become complicated when the time comes to select one organization to receive your donation.

The future of philanthropy looks bright, particularly with the impending 'trillion dollar transfer' as the aging Baby Boomers give their money to children and to nonprofits. And, it raises the bar for nonprofits to enhance accountability and responsibility for managing charitable interests and donations.
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Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Praise for Clarity of Type

An article in Business Week (May 28, 2007) recognized the value of message over typography. UpFront included a mention of the New York Museum of Modern Art celebration of the Helvetica typeface, created by the Haas type foundry in Switzerland 50 years ago. It quoted Curator Christian Larsen: "Helvetica is almost a template... consumers read the message, not the typeface." Another reinforcement that clarity is key to identity and branding.
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Saturday, April 28, 2007

Sell your ideas by knowing your audience

A recent study found five distinct decision-making styles among executives.
  1. Charismatics who show exuberance during a sales presentation, but yield a final decision on a balanced set of information.
  2. Thinkers who exhibit often contradictory points-of-view within a single meeting through a barrage of questions.
  3. Skeptics who remain highly suspicious of each data point due to their very strong egos.
  4. Followers who make decisions based on how other trusted executives made them or decisions they've made previously.
  5. Controllers who focus on the pure facts and analytics of the offering due to their large amounts of fear and uncertainty.
Be ready to adapt to the person's attitude during your discussion. And, don't assume you're dealing with Skeptics, who are only about 19% of the typical middle management demographic. You're more likely to find Followers or Charismatics in the room. So, as you sell your idea, observe your audience and adapt your pitch accordingly -- you just might find a greater success rate.
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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Back to basics, back to profits

In trying to expand Legos beyond itself, the company allowed their focus on the actual toy to drift. This created problems, as people like Legos for what they are - a toy with which to play and create. In 2005, Lego shifted its focus back to basics, selling the theme parks and lessening expansion efforts in order to focus on creating toys. This apparently proved a great move for Lego, as sales are now soaring. Lego controls 60% of the $600 million U.S. construction toy market, astounding numbers when you note that it was failing less than five years ago. Plus, the iconic toy is better than ever, as the company has been bringing back old favorites and inventing new lines. They have also addressed the challenge of kids growing out of toys at younger ages by adding an interactive feature. For many of the new lines, after the actual product has been constructed, kids can then play with them in other ways, such as with moveable race cars and electric powered rides. While this allows for the video game child to be entertained, it still features Legos in their ultimate form: colorful blocks for building. And those blocks are building Lego right back into the place it wants to be -- profitable.
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Sunday, April 22, 2007

Branding insights from Buddhist traditions

In both the spiritual and secular worlds, the individual search for the soul calls for an understanding of the self in the context of the world around them. Spiritual growth is all about enlightenment through understanding the higher power, the journey, and the world around you.

The link to branding lies in how effective branding creates relevance and connects an individual with an aspect of the larger community and creates relevance and that in developing effective brands, one must keep an open mind and make strong observations.

Bernard Liebov postulates three strands of brand research "in the Buddhist way:"
  1. Generate an internal understanding of the brand. Look to those who are ultimately in control of where the brand will go and determine future pathways for an accurate and encompassing brand.
  2. Understand the connection of the consumers' immediate world to create a strong path for the brand's growth and establishment.
  3. Connect the brand in the context of the broader world. Identify an open space that can be filled by the brand and how that space relates to others.
Remember that everything a brand does should be reflective of its core identity, and that consistency serves as the ultimate reward for those who work behind the brand. Connect to a purpose, generate a vision of achievement, create a plan of action and communicate consistently to that end. Good practice, good business -- and maybe, just maybe, enlightenment too.
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Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Relationships Behind Big Growth for Nonprofits

Since 1970, more than 200,000 non-profit groups have been established in the United States. Of those, only 144 of them have reached $50 million in annual revenue.

In a recent study and discussion conducted by Stanford University's School of Business, non-profit leaders discussed the challenges they face and their effective methods for growing a non-profit organization. All leaders agreed that funding organizational growth is a difficult task, and those over $50 million mark noted a different approach to raising funds.

Larger non-profits succeed based on relationships. They focus on creating one long-term relationship with one funding source, like a corporation or the government. And, they didn't put all their eggs in one basket -- they still pursued diversification and risk management strategies.

Of 101 organizations that have a dominant funding source, over 20% had a secondary source that accounted for more than 10% or more of their revenue. What does it all mean? Focus on building relationships and go big if you can, but don't turn your back on everyone else.
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Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Designing products, utilizing culture

Design Issues in Europe Today addressed the place of culture within all forms of design. As design enhances, it is becoming more and more difficult to differentiate products and services based solely on the way they appear. Where design alone cannot create a differentiating stance, a brand's cultural value (represented by its aesthetics, significance and function) works to set it apart from everything else. Users and consumers demand something more than just functions, they want values, and they want to find them within everything with which they interact. This is already quite visible in certain categories, such as food, clothing, and real estate, where culture lies at the base. But this need for culture and value is extending into new areas, such as airlines, banking services, and electronic goods. Culture needs to be communicated at all times in order to maintain the connection with the public. Use is relevant, but what lies beneath is becoming even more important.
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Thursday, April 05, 2007

Encourage Do Gooder Baby Boomers

Baby Boomers today are volunteering at higher rates than the two generations before them, but their one-in-three attrition rate could be a problem in the future, according to a new study by the Corporation of National and Community Service. More than one in three Baby Boomers (aged 46 to 57 years) volunteer their time, essentially creating a volunteer explosion in the nonprofit sector. If this increase in volunteers is harnessed properly, the capacity of nonprofit organizations can be enhanced by great measures.

Religious organizations top the list of favored volunteer outlets, followed by education or youth services. Less of an emphasis was placed on being involved with civic, political, business and international activities.

The bad news of this study comes from the fact that more than one in three Boomers who volunteer one year do not volunteer the next, and their volunteer slots may not be filled upon their departure. This is troubling, as volunteers are a critical part of the charitable-sector workforce. A 30 percent turnover rate for volunteers is not a good thing for nonprofit success.

Commitment to volunteering among Boomers increases as the number of hours donated grows, with almost eight in 10 people giving 12 or more weeks a year continuing to volunteer. Additionally, there is a strong connection between volunteering and donating. This, in turn could translate the encouragement of volunteering into greater financial and in-kind contributions from volunteers.

Takeaway: boost your nonprofit by communicating a clear purpose and clear opportunity to volunteers.
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Monday, April 02, 2007

Pillars for Social Marketing

A feature on outlines five pillars of social media marketing through the Internet and Web site design. In order to maximize effectiveness and impact upon the public, it states the following five forms of action are recommended.
  1. Declaration of Identity: This phase requires an organization to declare its value, who they are, and where you can find them. This needs to be clearly articulated so that public interest is heightened, while simultaneously bringing them back to the organization. Clear facts and information should be presented throughout the medium.
  2. Identification Through Association: This act is basically about getting people to associate themselves with the organization. This is hopefully largely achieved through the clear establishment of its identity (as stated above), but takes it to the next level and pushes the public to talk to others.
  3. User-Initiated Conversation: The public comes to the organization with their declarations and questions, largely emerging from interactions thus far, and the organization needs to respond. This is very important to the success of the organization, as it needs to cater to the needs and questions of the public. Basically, it’s about customer service.
  4. Provider-Initiated Conversation: This is the time when organizations need to probe the public on how they feel, what they like, what they hate, and how they think. Feedback is invaluable. It’s important to express to the public the value in their opinions, as it can make a lot of positive change emerge.
  5. In-Person Interaction: This is the pinnacle form of interaction. After users have visited a Web site and established what exactly they want from it and are receving from it, the interaction needs to be taken to the next level. This solidifies and expands opinions and feelings toward brands.

It has been complicated to achieve this notion in the past through internet-based interactions because of the fact that no one has created a solid structure from which everyone should work, and the problem of overlap of functionality within Web sites. This can be addressed by truly understanding objectives and how to best associate those with the identified targets.

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Friday, March 30, 2007

Designing for Business: Making the Impossible Possible

At the Design Management Institute's Conference in Copenhagen in mid-March, much discussion occurred that searched to find out how to measure design’s role in the business world. After much debate, one answer was rendered correct: the act of educating management.

For years, designers and managers have been seen as separate entities, and have largely existed on completely different pages. Designers have viewed themselves as strategic visionaries and problem solvers, while managers have trouble grasping that role, not seeing much value in things that they can’t really quantify.

Conference attendees proposed one particular way in which this discrepancy can be resolved: Designers need to educate themselves about business issues in order to become more effective and better designers while simultaneously doing a better job communicating their value to business. There has never been a better time to make these changes, as design is as popular and regarded as ever. But it requires action to truly be taken in order to being some acceptance and adjustments.

The proposal of creating clearly articulated design strategies struck a chord with many. Designers can use the growing body of data that shows that design can have a positive impact on business performance, essentially increasing revenue, profits, market share, and overall competitiveness. Presenting this information to managers can be a truly effective tool, as acceptance will increase greatly.
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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Venture Philanthropy Revamped

In a recent commentary by Susan Herr, founder of PhilanthroMedia, she expounds on "Venture Philanthropy 2.0."

Although the definition of venture philanthropy varies, Herr considers it to be the “efforts of high-net worth donors who invest significant time and money in exchange for clearly defined measures of success and the potential to generate greater than average social returns.”

Herr believes that Version 2.0 has become more sophisticated in the following ways:
  • Ambition has increase immensely. Donors don’t just want to make progress against global problems; they want to solve them.
  • Nonprofits aren’t the only game in town. Rather than having Type A philanthropists work with Type A executive directors to donate funds, new for-profit or hybrid models have entered the scene in order to help donors put their funds where they want.
  • Innovation has become more important than organization.
  • Rather than focusing on building the capacity of promising nonprofits, newer donations are being given to a larger array of cross-sectoral alliances.
These improvements have the potential to change a lot in the promotion of causes and the solving of global problems, despite the skepticism that surrounds the notion of venture philanthropy.
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Friday, March 23, 2007

Big Business Needs Bigger Considerations

In a recent report from the Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship, results found a growing need for CEOs to increase their efforts in combating social issues that are facing the communities surrounding their businesses.

The study drew four main findings:
  1. Public expectations for the role of business have changed significantly since the 1970s.
  2. New roles and responsibilities are being thrust on companies.
  3. Business is squarely in the middle of a major transition that is reshaping its role in society.
  4. The current business model is on a collision course unless companies recognize that society’s issues are impacting positively and negatively their long-term business success.

Changing expectations for social responsibility and financial performance must be met with long-range planning. This long-range planning delivers on a clear purpose and a new vision for achievement of the company, the employees and the community. It stems from a belief that doing good for the company is doing good for the community.

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Monday, March 19, 2007

Philanthropy for results not recognition

The Chronicles of Philanthropy captured insights shared recently by some of the country's largest philanthropists. Bottomline, they will take surprising actions to ensure philanthropic intent. Many of our country's philanthropists aren't donating large sums merely to have their names recognized; rather, they want real change and progress to be made. If it's not going the way they intended, they opt out. They choose results over recognition. Something for development directors everywhere to remember -- know your philanthropists' motivations.
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Friday, March 16, 2007

Details, details, design details

The beauty lies in the detail. Chris Jordan's work work is derived from a true statistic about the world in which we live. Click the link below and check it out:
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Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Design storytellers ala Trollback

In an article from February’s How magazine, award-winning designer Jakob Trollback suggests that designers should start thinking of themselves as storytellers, using design as a language of expression. Content and presentation are inevitably linked together, and unless you care equally about what you’re saying and how you do it, it’s impossible to succeed.

Trollbeck offer the following steps for creating wonderfully effective design “stories.”

Pick up the pen. If you spend your time just making things look pretty, the language is pointless. You must make sure that you’re not just decorating; there has to be a reason behind your design. The solution is storytelling. When you start to think of your design as a story, rather than just a creative execution, you’ll find it much easier to recognize and discard gratuitous design. Every element of the composition should add something to the story, or it has to go.

Start with a script. A good way to get started is to put together a creative statement about your project. Coming up with a creative statement can be really challenging. Even though it won’t capture any of the design’s details, it’s about figuring out the essence of your approach- or you won’t have one at all.

The next part of the script involves the determination of the project’s motivation- what purpose is at the heart of the story, what’s the energy that drives it forward. The motivation should look at the end result and formulate it into words.

Set the scene. Once your statement has been established, you can start thinking about the elements that paint the picture and provide the story’s backdrop. All communication exists in a cultural and social environment. Instead of trying to invent your expression from scratch, you have to immerse yourself in this environment and let it serve as inspiration.
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