Archive for May, 2010

Working Wikily

DATE: May 31st, 2010

I love technology…. in fact, I am thinking about getting my husband an ipad for Father’s Day… only he’s not my father. So maybe I’m just tempted to buy an ipad for the sheer fun of it.
But technology, adapted without thought, may not actually lead to anything interesting. Maybe my touch pad computer, smart phone and e-reader are all the technology I really need (today).
I am a part of a member based group that considers itself extremely tech savvy. They verbalize a commitment to social networking. But they strip the networking out of it. Because social networking implies a conversation — and no one with more than 5,000 friends on facebook is actually having a conversation.
So here’s the tug.
We talk about personalization. We build social networking infrastructure so that with one click of the submit button we populate twitter, facebook, our blog and linked in. But few of these “social networking” tools actually move to conversation. They are outbound strategies to blast messaging.
I can’t possibly be fully engaged in a social media activity that generates a new message every 10 seconds or so. Plus, much of the messaging is random, sometimes interestingly random, but of little consequence. (Yes, I know, I chose it!) Because I have bought into the need to be engaged in social media portals, I feel the pressure to have various tools running in the background. So my mind is becoming cluttered with things like:
“In 20 minutes your site could be on page 1…”
“Just arrived at Starbucks…”
“OMG…. I caught a glimpse of JD downtown TO…”
“LOL… l love Twitter…”
So, what it comes down to, user generated content is not always of value.
Stanford Social Innovation just launched a great article on working wikily…. in it, the authors write: “The challenge for social change leaders is to understand when it is best to maintain tight control and rely on the skills of experts, and when it is best to let go and rely on networks to yield the best results.” (The whole article is at
I think that that is the bottom line. Interesting, clever, witty, informative, well written content gets read.
As we develop social media tools and strategies for our clients, we want to understand their overall vision, mission and commitment to relationships. We don’t want to create a tool that generates meaningful content that forfeits opportunities for engagement. We want to build on-line communities that are not hidden by the foliage of clutter — but meaningfully engaging.

The power of a dollar

DATE: May 20th, 2010

Non-profits take the responsibility of accountability very seriously. Many donors scan the financial reports to find the 80/20 accountability statement. Organizations, working hard to be responsible in the eyes of their donors, to ensure the 80/20 balance.

But is that the most effective use of our donation dollars?

Let’s say Charity 1 and Charity 2 raise funds that will be applied to research. Charity 1 meticulously measures the 80/20 rule. They spend about $2million each year and they raise $8 million. Over $6 million is applied directly to research.

Charity 2 is more aggressive in its fundraising. Understanding the high need for increased research dollars, they have decided to invest $5 million into raising funds. They were able to raise $15 million dollars, funding $10 million dollars of research. even though the 80/20 rule was broken, they were able to impact research by almost 2 times the group invested more cautiously.

The power to do research was increased with a higher investment into procuring donations.

Alana Conner Snibbe writes:

Some foundations, nonprofits, and charity watchdog groups continue to tout overhead ratios as solid, standalone indicators of how efficient organizations are. Others handle the ratios with more caution. “Using overhead ratios as a sole benchmark can lead you to a false positive,” says Bennett Weiner, chief operating officer of the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance. “A charity may have financial circumstances that look very good, but may have problems in governance and other areas.” For this reason, Weiner suggests that donors should consider many different indicators in addition to overhead ratios before choosing which charity to support. (Stanford Social Innovation)

There is a lot of education needed to help donors understand the power of their dollar.

Technology at Work

DATE: May 18th, 2010

Totally amazing opportunities are lying, quietly at bay, while google, Apple and Facebook noodle away. Web development — smart web development — is the way of the future.
I’m not talking about pretty web sites — I’m talking about strong, work horse web sites that are designed to impact revenue growth.
We just launched a brand new sponsorship module for IN Network Canada — and it rocks,
I’d love to take you on a tour of the inner workings of this seemingly docile software. But it’s tough in a blog (call me, I’d be happy to walk you through it!)
From the outside (that would be the user interface to my IT friends) — it looks almost benign…. you can choose a child to sponsor.
But underneath it all…. WOW. You can literally manage your sponsorship system from that central data base. In fact, it has the power to become the international hub for all of the global partners for IN — one hub, one system, one software.
It’s designed to automatically produce sponsorship kits and import the information into the pre-printed packages — ready to be mailed. The system integrates fully into both the donor contact management system AND the financial system. The administrative user interface takes the web master through the import system in an easy three step process that has built-in checks and balances, making sure the transfer has no glitches.
I am really excited about the possibilities. Barefoot Interactive is developing intuitive technological applications for non-profits and for-profits, thinking outside the boundaries of pre-packaged solutions.

Storytelling Wins

DATE: May 7th, 2010

When I was in university and had to memorize hundreds of thousands of biological terms (I was in premed before I saw the marketing light), I used a very simple memory device… tell a story with the facts. By creating a story — wildly unrelated to the facts I was memorizing — I was able to contain about 95% of my test material. Great strategy for my grade point average.
My daughter, pulling-your-hair frustrated with math, went to her older brother to understand long division. He, being much older and wiser, patiently told her a story about Mr. Denominator and Mrs. Numerator. From a frustrated fifth grader, she completed a degree in nursing where math plays a big part in her training!
So why are marketers still reeling off a list of benefit statements?
When we first met Royal Homes, an innovative, module home builder, their advertising was focused on the technical advantages of modular building. While there are many interesting advantages of modular building, especially in a Canadian climate, the lack of “story” behind the information made their messaging unmemorable. We were able to move their message to a story. The audience began to understand the Royal Homes difference because they could relate to the story.
Storytelling is essential for non-profit organizations. Benefit statements and program descriptions do not inspire, stories do. We all respond to stories — that’s why television dramas and movies capture hours of attention each week. That’s why Harlequin is so successful.
Skilled storytellers are more than skilled writers. They have an inherent gift for understanding the story within information. They have an aptitude for understanding the “why” rather than just the who and how.
Invest in a skilled storytelling…. communicate with impact!