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265 posts categorized "Communications/Marketing"

Is Your Nonprofit Ready to Play a Leading Role?

July 14, 2014

Feldmann-headshotIs our organization relevant?

If you work for a nonprofit, you've probably asked yourself that question more than once. Concerns about relevancy stem from the most challenging aspect of organizational sustainability. Unfortunately, even when your cause is viewed as "relevant," your organization may not be viewed in the same way. And while the activist in you may feel that relevancy is overrated and that you didn't dedicate your life to a cause so that you could spend your days worrying about who's "hot" – and who’s not – the fact of the matter is that organizations perceived as "relevant" typically are the ones that receive the most attention, the most financial support, and the most acclaim.

Relevancy, by definition, means being closely associated with a topical cause or issue. A relevant nonprofit is a nonprofit that can speak to an issue with authority and has its thumb on the pulse of activities around that issue.

In other words, an organization is relevant if:

  1. it is a leading voice in the ongoing conversation/debate around its issue or cause
  2. it is recognized as a connector/convener with respect to its issue or cause.

I often tell my clients to think about their particular issue or cause as if it were a play, complete with actors in lead roles and a supporting cast. If an organization wants to be relevant, it needs to do whatever it can to ensure that it has a lead role in the play.

Playing the Lead

There's no shortage of nonprofit organizations or causes worth donating to in the world – a fact that goes a long way toward explaining the fierce competition that exists among organizations in the social sector.

With so many organizations vying for dollars and attention, it's to be expected that a few will emerge from the crowd and be recognized as the leading voice on their respective issue or cause. How do you know who they are? When funders convene, those organizations are usually in the room and/or a part of the conversation. They're the ones new donors are most likely to be familiar with and trust. They're the ones other organizations look to for their cues and people expect to be persuaded and moved to action by. They lead and others follow.

And if an organization has the chops to play the leading role, it usually has at least two or three people in roles that are critical to projecting its competence and capacity:

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Weekend Link Roundup (July 5-6, 2014)

July 06, 2014

Iced tea_arrangementWe were out of pocket last week, so we've included a few items we missed in this week's roundup of noteworthy items from and about the nonprofit sector....

Black Male Achievement

Philadelphia mayor Michael Nutter argues in a post on the HuffPo's Black Voices blog that three myths are hurting young black men and boys:

  1. Myth: America has progressed enough as a nation that black men and boys have an equal opportunity to be successful.
  2. Myth: Black-on-black violence only affects the black community.
  3. Myth: Helping young black men succeed is not government's problem.

Communications/Marketing

On the Philanthropy Front and Center - Cleveland blog, guest blogger Brian Sooy, president of design and communications firm Aespire, considers four dimensions of communications that have the potential for strengthening the culture of any mission-driven organization.

Data

Jeff Edmondson, managing director of the Strive Network, Ben Hecht, president/CEO of Living Cities, and Willa Seldon, a partner with the Bridgespan Group, weigh in with a nice HuffPo piece on the transformative power of data.

Data may have the power to transform, but in a follow-up to a post on the Markets for Good blog he penned about the death of evaluation, Andrew Means, associate director of the Center for Data Science & Public Policy at the University of Chicago, suggests that nonprofits still have a long way to go in learning how to use it to improve their effectiveness and impact.

Can data sometimes do more harm than good? Absolutely, says Robert J. Moore, chief executive of RJMetrics, on the New York Times' You're the Boss blog. In particular, writes Moore, there are three situations in which he has learned to second-guess the data-driven approach: when the costs are too high; when the results won't change your mind; and when following the data means betraying your vision.

Economy

Very good post by John Hagel, co-chair of the Deloitte Center for Edge Innovation, in response to Harvard historian Jill Lepore's recent New Yorker article dismissing Clayton Christensen and his theory of disruptive innovation. It's a bit of a long read, but Hagel's main thesis is that two forces – economic liberalization and exponentially improving technology –are "systematically and substantially" reducing barriers to entry and movement on a global scale while causing businesses and institutions to "fundamentally re-think" their models and arrangements. "Bottom line," writes Hagel, "[these two forces] are catalyzing more opportunity for players to adopt new approaches that can be highly disruptive...[and] increasing both the motivation and ability of players to pursue these disruptive
approaches...."

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Talk Your Way to the Top: Why Old-School Communication Skills Are the Competitive Edge New Grads Need

June 07, 2014

Millennial_commsYou've just graduated from college and are (justifiably) proud of your accomplishment. But as you head into the workforce, don't expect your new credentials or your great GPA to do the heavy lifting for you. Geoffrey Tumlin warns they don't matter nearly as much as your ability to articulate, influence, persuade, and connect. These days, innovation and collaboration rule, and without the skills you need to do both, even the most prestigious degree is just a piece of paper.

"What stands out to hiring managers are great communication skills," says Tumlin, author of Stop Talking, Start Communicating: Counterintuitive Secrets to Success in Business and in Life. "Can you pitch an idea to a supervisor? Can you build a consensus among group members? Can you build rapport with a client

"Gen Yers will need much more than 'just an education to get the attention of hiring managers and bosses," he adds. "Any new grad who struggles with communication will need to boost those skills in order to get ahead."

Below, Tumlin shares eight communication lessons from the book that will give you the competitive edge you need, now and throughout your career:

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Most Popular PhilanTopic Posts (May 2014)

June 01, 2014

It was a rough month for Typepad, the blogging service/platform used by tens of thousand of blogs, including PhilanTopic. On two separate occasions during the month, the platform was subjected to significant DDoS (distributed denial-of-service) attacks that knocked it completely offline. In fact, we were down for the better part of six days. Despite the inconvenience, it was a busy month here, as some of our favorite contributors -- Allison Shirk, Derrick Feldmann, and Foundation Center president Brad Smith -- checked in with popular posts. Here's another chance to catch up on some of the things you may have missed....

What have you read/watched/listened to over the last month that made you think, surprised you, or caused you to scratch your head? Share your finds in the comments section below....

Justin Bieber vs. the Gates Foundation

May 21, 2014

When it comes to social media and "crowds," the largest philanthropic foundation in the world is no match for Justin Bieber. Not even close. As the graphic below shows, over the thirty-day period from November 3 to December 3,"Justin Bieber" was mentioned in 40,596,304 tweets while the "Gates Foundation" appeared in just 4,765.

Bieber_vs_gates

This somewhat crazy comparison offers some important lessons for philanthropy as foundations struggle to measure their grantees' (and their own) online impact.

Lesson #1 — "Crowdsourcing" requires a CROWD

The professionals that really understand crowdsourcing work for companies like eBay, not for philanthropic foundations. But like most of us, foundation program officers have learned enough about all this stuff to be dangerous and increasingly pepper their grantees with questions and suggestions about crowdsourcing. Crowdsourcing works best when knowledge can be built on the clicks of very large numbers of people involved in relatively simple market-based activities such as shopping and travel, or where new markets can be created, as we are beginning to see with crowdfunding. Crowdsourcing in the philanthropic space, on the other hand, has by and large been a failure, and there is a trail of dead wikis to prove it.

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Weekend Link Roundup (May 10-11, 2014)

May 11, 2014

Our weekly roundup of new and noteworthy items from and about the nonprofit sector....

Net_neutralityArts/Culture

In an op-ed in the Washington Post, David Skeel, a professor of bankruptcy law at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, argues that the $816 million art-for-pensions deal to keep the Detroit Institute of Arts collection intact and in the city fails to protect all creditors equally and, therefore, is probably illegal.

Communications/Marketing

On Beth Kanter's blog, Jay Geneske, director of digital at the Rockefeller Foundation, shares the thinking behind the foundation's decision to underwrite a project that looks at the role digital technology can play in elevating the practice of storytelling as a way to inspire action on behalf of the poor and vulnerable. Findings based on the foundation's initial convenings have been packaged in a report, Digital Storytelling for Social Impact, that's embedded in Geneske's post or can be downloaded here.

Education

In a post on the Campaign for America's Future blog, Jeff Bryant, editor of the Education Opportunity Network site, looks at a handful of recent reports that call into question the efficacy of private charter schools.

Environment

Nice two-part interview on the Greenpeace USA blog with environmental activist and documentarian (The Story of Stuff) Annie Leonard, who earlier this week was named to lead the organization.

The announcement by Stanford that it was divesting its endowment of investments in coal companies has officials at other colleges and universities feeling the heat, writes Jonathan Berr on CBS' Moneywatch site. But in the New York Times, op-ed contributor Ivo Welch, a professor of finance and economics at UCLA's Anderson Graduate School of Management, argues that "[i]ndividual divestments, either as economic or symbolic pressure, have never succeeded in getting companies or countries to change."

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Weekend Link Roundup (May 3-4, 2014)

May 04, 2014

Our weekly roundup of new and noteworthy items from and about the nonprofit sector....

Run_for_the_rosesCommunications/Marketing

On the Hewlett Foundation's Work in progress blog, Heath Wickline, a communications officer at the foundation, poses a good question: What is a foundation Web site for? Whatever the eventual answer, Wickline admits that he and his colleagues have "the nagging feeling that we can and should be doing more. The [foundation], like many of our peers," he adds,

is sitting on a huge amount of data that comes out of our grantmaking. We believe it could be valuable to a wider audience: policymakers, funders contemplating grantmaking in fields where we fund, nonprofits who wouldn't be eligible for a grant, but whose work is adjacent to what we fund. We regularly conduct evaluations of our strategies to determine what's worked and what hasn't. And the end result of much of our grantmaking is research that could have important implications for policy. Our commitment to transparency means we can, and should, do everything in our power to ensure that all of that information is not only available, but easy to find and to use....

The Ford Foundation also is building a new Web site and, through an Un-Survey, is asking all of us to tell it what kinds of questions the site should answer. A clever and creative idea.

On the Markets for Good blog, Peter Grundy, the "father of the infographic," credits his invention to two ephiphanies, one in 1990 ("good information design is not about visualizing information but about visualizing our opinions of information" and the second ("making things simple is complicated") in 2000.

Education

On her blog, Diane Ravitch responds to Alexander Nazaryan, the author of a Newsweek piece rebuking Louis C.K. for slamming Common Core standards.

Impact/Effectiveness

In an important post on the McKnight Foundation blog, Kate Wolford, the foundation's president, offers a few thoughts on the foundation's decision to invest $200 million, roughly 10 percent of its current assets, in four impact investment categories: mission-related investments via public markets, mission-related investments via private markets, mission-driven investments, and program-related investments.

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Most Popular PhilanTopic Posts (April 2014)

May 01, 2014

Infographics, a book review, and good advice for nonprofit communications pros and individuals thinking about starting their own nonprofit organization -- like the weather, April here at PhilanTopic was all about variety. It was also a big month for vacations, so here's another chance to catch up on some of the things you may have missed....

What have you read/watched/listened to over the last month that made you think, surprised you, or caused you to scratch your head? Share your finds in the comments section below....

Has the Word 'Impact' Lost Its Impact?

April 23, 2014

(Derrick Feldmann is president of Achieve, a creative research and campaigns agency based in
Indianapolis. In his previous post, he shared a design strategy for resource-constrained development pros.)

Feldmann-headshotTwo years ago, I wrote an article about the use of the word innovative in our field. The gist of the article was that those who trumpet the fact they are innovative probably aren't, and that, conversely, truly innovative organizations aren't in the habit of publicly defining themselves as "innovative."

In this article I want to look at another word that is getting a workout. It's not sustainability, community, or empower -- although our sector could walk away from all three of those and not be any worse for it.

No, the word I want to consider is impact.

March and April are conference season in the nonprofit sector, which means I have plenty of opportunities to hear what other fundraisers and nonprofit marketers are doing to inspire donors to give. Recently, I got together with some fellow fundraisers at one of these conferences to talk about our different approaches to asking for money. During our conversation, I heard the word impact (in its various forms) used at least five times. In fact, when I think about it, the word was everywhere at that particular conference, from exhibit booths, to program materials, to live Twitter feeds from sessions with titles such as:

  • Impact Investing
  • How to Get Donors to Understand Your Impact
  • Impact Fundraising – Truly Getting Donors to Give to Your Cause
  • Marketing Impact to Your Volunteers
  • Training Your Board on Your Mission and Impact

I mean, if the word had a publicist, she'd be getting rich from a job well done!

As you might imagine, after a couple of days of this I began to examine my own use of the word. Surrounded by others who spoke the language fluently, I realized I had adopted their patterns of speech and even used the word five times in the presentation I gave at the conference.

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Weekend Link Roundup (March 29-30, 2014)

March 30, 2014

Our weekly roundup of new and noteworthy items from and about the nonprofit sector....

April_showersCommunications/Marketing

In a guest post on the Communications Network blog, the Barr Foundation's Stefan Lanfer shares some lessons he and his colleagues have learned about communicating in times of change. The first two are simple but powerful: know what you want to communicate, by word and by deed; and know what you don't want to communicate. Check out Lanfer's the post for three more things the foundation got right.

Education Reform

Public school advocate Diane Ravitch has posted a draft version of of remarks made at an education conference earlier this month by Dissent contributor Joanne Barkan on the topic of how to criticize the role of "big philanthropy" in education reform

Fundraising

In today's New York Times, Arthur C. Brooks, president of the American Enterprise Institute, lets readers in on a well-kept secret: Fundraising is fun. The "magic" of raising money for a cause or organization, writes Brooks,

goes even deeper than temporary happiness or extra income. It creates meaning. Donors possess two disconnected commodities: material wealth and sincere conviction. Alone, these commodities are difficult to combine. But fund-raisers facilitate an alchemy of virtue: They empower those with the financial resources to convert the dross of their money into the gold of a better society....

On the Relationship Science blog, Kathy Landau, executive director of the National Dance Institute in New York City, makes an impassioned case for seeing data and relationship building "as mutually beneficial rather than mutually exclusive."

Grantmaking

In a post on the GrantCraft blog, Grant Coates, president and CEO of the Miles Foundation in Fort Worth, explains how a reevaluation of the foundation's grantee selection process helped him and his colleagues realize that leadership often is what separates a "good" grantee from a "great" grantee. "The presence of powerful leadership," Coates writes, "is almost tangible – it's a spirit that employees exude, a confidence that the organization embodies, and an impact that's measurable – true leadership is, in short, a game-changer in the grantee selection process."

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Weekend Link Roundup (March 15-16, 2014)

March 16, 2014

Gopher_I_LiedOur weekly roundup of new and noteworthy posts from and about the nonprofit sector. Enjoy....

Communications/Marketing

Guest blogging on Nancy Schwartz' Getting Attention blog, Julie Brown, program director at the Findlay-Hancock County Community Foundation in Ohio, shares the steps she and a colleague have taken over the last year to achieve "storytelling success" and boost donor engagement at the foundation.

Community Improvement/Development

On the Huffington Post's Black Voices blog, Ashley Wood, Detroit editor for the HuffPo, takes a closer look at the hipsters-are-taking-over-Detroit narrative and uncovers a fascinating (and more nuanced) conversation. As Meagan Elliott, an urban planner and Ph.D. candidate in sociology at the University of Michigan, says at the end of the piece: "I think everyone is open to change. That's what makes the conversation interesting. Everyone recognizes that things need to change here."

Corporate Philanthropy

In Fast Company, Stephanie Vozza explains why every company should pay its employees to volunteer.

Data

Writing on the Stanford Social Innovation Review blog, Foundation Center president Brad Smith looks at the three types of data (transactional, contextual, impact) foundations need and suggests that "for strategic philanthropy to realize its true potential, foundations need to learn how to manage information (data) to produce and share knowledge. Doing so," adds Smith, "will depend on changing internal incentive systems, in which foundations employ static data primarily as means for approving strategies and monitoring grants."

Giving

Nice infographic on the npEngage site illustrating highlights of Blackbaud's 2013 Charitable Giving Report. Click here to download (registration required) a copy of the report, which includes overall giving data from 4,129 nonprofit organizations representing more than $12.5 billion in total fundraising and online giving data from 3,359 nonprofits representing $1.7 billion in online fundraising.

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Weeeknd Link Roundup (March 8-9, 2014)

March 09, 2014

We forgot to set our clocks forward, but we didn't forget our weekly roundup of new and noteworthy posts from and about the nonprofit sector. Enjoy....

Daylight_savings_timeCommunications/Marketing

On her Nonprofit Communications blog, Kivi Leroux Miller shares the checklist she uses when evaluating clients' email newsletters.

Data

In a post on the Markets for Good blog, Beth Kanter shares three of her favorite DIY data vizualization tools. (Hint: You probably have two of them on your computer.)

Education Reform

In his Straight Up blog on the Education Week site, Rick Hess, an Education "policy maven" at the American Enterprise Institute, shares some suggestions for the Measures of Effective Teaching team at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation from blogger and award-winning teacher John Thompson.

Impact/Effectiveness

On Friday, New York State governor Andrew Cuomo announced the names of four finalists for the next round of the state's "Pay for Success" program, which aims to connect private and philanthropic investors with nonprofit organizations that provide direct services for vulnerable New Yorkers in the child welfare and early childhood, healthcare, and public safety sectors. For more information on the program and the finalists, click here.

As impact investment continues to gain traction — and favorable press coverage — an important piece of the story is being neglected: the role of government, Indeed, write Ben Thornley, Cathy Clark and Jed Emerson on the Huffington Post's Impact blog, "impact investing would barely exist — certainly not at its modest, current scale — but for the support and partnership of government."

If foundation leaders really want to "make a difference" — for their missions, their grantees, and the individuals and communities they serve — they would be wise, writes Tim Delaney, president an CEO of the National Council of Nonprofits, in the Nonprofit Quarterly, to focus their efforts at the state level. With so little being accomplished at the federal level these days, "the arc of history is being written in the states....[And unless] more attention is devoted to the state policy level, the stealth shift of burdens onto nonprofits and foundations will reach a disastrous tipping point."

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Weekend Link Roundup (February 1-2, 2013)

February 02, 2014

Groundhog_bingoOur weekly roundup of new and noteworthy posts from and about the nonprofit sector....

Communications/Marketing

The 2014 Nonprofit Blog Carnival is off to a roaring start, having pitched its tent on Beth Kanter's blog during January. The topic for the month was how do you measure your nonprofit's marketing or communication strategies, and close to twenty posts were submitted, including contributions from Niki Kidd, a principal at Social Change Consulting ("Using Data to Assess Your Peers"); David Hartstein, WiredImpact's "storyteller and measurement guy" ("8 Metrics To Measure Online Fundraising"); Lori Jacobwith ("If You're Only Sharing Boring, Unclear Data, What's the Point?"); Cassie Bair, vice president of marketing at Mobile Accord ("Measure the Love in Your Mobile Communication Program"); and the Ad Council's Anastasia Goodstein ("Nonprofits and Big Data: An Inside Look at How the Ad Council Is Leveraging Data for Social Change"). Good stuff.

Fundraising

In a post on her About.com site, Joanne Fritz highlights six mistakes that nonprofits make in their online fundraising. Based on responses to something called the Online Fundraising Scorecard survey, they include not personalizing emails with a person's first or last name, forcing potential donors to navigate three or more pages before they can actually make a gift, and not suggesting a next step for donors once they've made a gift and had been thanked.

Higher Education

If you only have time to read one longish post this weekend, make it Clay Shirky's latest, "The End of Higher Education's Golden Age." In it, Shirky, a Distinguished Writer in Residence at the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute at New York University, argues that the model of higher education that developed in the U.S. in first half of the twentieth century was "perfectly adapted to an environment that no longer exists." What's more, writes Shirky, higher education's present difficulties -- its growing unaffordability, dependence on "contingent labor" (i.e., poorly paid grad students), unhelpful focus on elite institutions, inability to adapt to changing demographics -- are "the bill coming due for forty years of trying to preserve a set of practices that have outlived the economics that made them possible." As always from Shirky, a well-researched and thought-provoking essay.

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[Infographic] 2014 Nonprofit Communication Trends

January 25, 2014

This week's infographic, which first appeared on Kivi Leroux Miller's Nonprofit Communications Marketing blog and is based on responses from more than twenty-one hundred nonprofit professionals to Leroux Miller's annual communications trends survey, is packed with interesting (and sometimes surprising) findings.

Who would have guessed, for instance, that engaging one's community (49 percent) and building general brand awareness (40 percent) would be mentioned by nonprofit communicators as higher priorities in 2014 than retaining current donors (30 percent)? Or that e-newsletters continue to be the most popular vehicle for communicating with one's supporters, ahead of both email and direct mail appeals? Or that Facebook is still viewed, by a large margin, as the most important social media site for nonprofits?

But don't take our word for it:

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Why Is Rebranding So Hard?

January 24, 2014

(Sarah Durham is the president of Big Duck, a communications firm that helps nonprofits connect with supporters, build awareness, and raise money. This post originally appeared on the Philanthropy Front and Center - Washington, D.C., blog.)

Headshot_sarah_durhamRebranding processes can be miraculously transformative or deeply unproductive; I've seen several examples of both. In a few (rare) cases, I've even heard stories about rebrands that set an organization back — usually by alienating donors, clients, and staff people. Perhaps the worst story I've heard was shared by a participant in a workshop I gave years ago: her organization had changed its name, logo, and tagline abruptly, losing most of its donors and clients. The rebranding had alienated them by leaving them out of the process, changing something that wasn't broken, and failing to explain any of the reasons why they did what they did.

Of course, every nonprofit wants its rebrand to happen as quickly, painlessly, and inexpensively as possible. They want the work to be excellent, and to have it stick, delivering the results the organization hoped to achieve at the outset.

In truth, rebranding is very much like renovating your home — while you and your large family are living in it. Sometimes, doing it right can mean it takes longer, costs more, and is more messy or disruptive than you might have imagined.

Because Big Duck takes nonprofits through rebranding processes all the time, we're always looking out for ways to avoid disaster and ensure success for our clients.

Here are three of the key ingredients we've noticed exist at the nonprofits that sail through the process largely unscathed:

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