Archive by Author

Insights into Ice Buckets of Charitable Giving

This Harvard Business Review post by Dan Pallotta, The Ice Bucket Challenge Won’t Solve Charity’s Biggest Problem, is more than worth the read and further discussion by anyone working in fundraising, determining policy, or advocating for change.

Openly admitting his love for the Ice Bucket Challenge, Dan goes on to reshape the massive media attention to date by focusing on more than the numbers of buckets or dollars.

Charitable giving in the U.S. was $335 billion in 2013, but only about 15% of that, or $50 billion, went to health and human services causes – 85% went to religion, higher education and hospitals. $50 billion isn’t near enough to cure cancer, ALS, AIDS, Alzheimer’s, and other threatening diseases. It’s not enough to end poverty, homelessness, bullying, and all of the other problems charities address.

His comparisons to the other 98% of US GDP, the for-profits, demonstrate the true challenges to delivering solutions to the real world issues that the “for purpose” sector must address and solve.

Imagine if Tim Cook had to get people to dump ice on their heads in order to bring revenue into Apple – and had to figure out a new idea like that every six months – with an R&D budget for hatching it of precisely zero, to boot. Apple’s revenues are close to $50 billion every quarter – equal to the entire annual budget of the entire U.S. health and human services charitable sector.

Many of us have close personal reasons for celebrating this research windfall for the ALS Association. Maybe now’s a good time to expand the conversation with the goal of implementing a truly sustainable and growing sector for positive change. Read Dan’s article and pass it on.

Branding, Marketing Success

First see: Branding in 8 Words

Next: make excellence the first test of what you do.

For inspiration see anything from Tom Peters on Excellence.

Tom is a fan of all caps…

EXCELLENCE is not an ‘aspiration.’
— Tom Peters


Branding in 8 Words

Say what you do.

Do what you say.

Next: Branding, Marketing Success

For Purpose Organizations

Adam Braun tells his story better than anyone else can and it’s a story well worth hearing and talking about.

For anyone working in the non-profit world, Adam’s take on the shift to the “for purpose” approach will be both enlightening and encouraging.

“Starting with just a $25 deposit,” he founded Pencils of Promise in 2008  and so far POP has built 208 schools serving over 22,000 students.

Beyond the information at POP’s site, there is this excellent conversation with Adam and Jonathan Fields: He Walked Away From Wall Street, But Nobody Expected This. Including Him…

I hope the story of Pencils of Promise and the concept of “for purpose” versus “not for profit” provoke more thinking and conversation with my friends working in this essential arena.

If You Use E-mail…

…and you want your e-mails to actually get read by current or potential supporters, customers, advocates, etc., Janelle Estes from the Nielsen Norman Group (NNG) has some insights for you.

Summary: Focus on the first 40 characters. Descriptive and well-written subject lines allow recipients to make an informed decision to get more details or move on.

All things from Nielsen Norman are based on excellent research methods. Research that raises questions that most of us never even think of, let alone take the time to ask.

Estes’s report, Email Subject Lines: 5 Tips to Attract Readers, focuses a lot on newsletters but the findings apply broadly to other sorts of e-mail campaigns.

Remember that email is a relationship tool. It’s the best and most cost-effective way to keep in touch with customers over time. Increase the perceived value of a subscription by reducing the likelihood that subscribers suffer the penalty of opening messages they don’t like.

If you want to dedicate yourself to becoming the best informed student and practitioner of effective e-mail campaigns, in your spare time, there is no source better than Nielson Norman.

Or you can contact May Street Creative Advisors, let us do the studying of great assets like NNG, and together we can implement thoughtful and tailored steps that free up your time and boost your effectiveness.

“How Fascinating…”


Benjamin Zander at PopTech

Since my serendipitous introduction to Benjamin Zander’s amazing video, “Benjamin Zander: A world of possibility,” my memory of his presentation style has made me smile and my memory of his message has made me better at whatever I’m doing.

His is the only video on my iPod.

As communicators, we can learn from other creative modes.

Music has messages. Paintings have messages. Dance has messages. Architecture has messages.

Exposing ourselves attentively to other forms can make our work more effective and the process more fascinating.

My discovery of Benjamin Zander came from more than one source but for sure I remember reading about him in Garr Reynolds’ Presentation Zen.

Garr Reynolds is an excellent resource for anyone whose job or life requires communication success.

After watching “A world of possibility”, I bought Ben and Rosamund Zander’s book, The Art of Possibility.

And watched the TED video: Benjamin Zander: The transformative power of classical music.

I discovered a connection between Zander and another serendipitous find, Jonathan Fields in Radiance and Fascination: The Zander Effect.

Connections to connections.

All good.

All communicating.

The Art of Possibility cover image

The Art of Possibility

Integrated Communications

Below is a link to how professional or theoretical communicators view the concept of “integrated marketing communications.”

Our take is more basic.

Your catalog should reinforce your web pages.

Your blog should amplify your newsletter.

Your e-mails should look like they were created and sent by the same place that mailed that postcard announcement.

Your presentation to potential subscribers, donors, and grant committees, should mirror the look, echo the message, and appeal to the same emotions and thinking as your other communications.

Integrated communications. Simple, right?

Bonus: time saved from integrating your communication efforts.

Time = money.

Therefore, save money.

Big-time time savings.

Therefore, save big money.

Whether you create a simple, one page style guide, a post-it note on the fridge, or a worldwide communication plan, the result is the same: everyone has access to the answers.

From the way you use colors, format dates and times, capitalize position titles, to spelling the street you are on, all has been decided and is right there for everyone. Inside and outside.

If a new question comes up, just settle on an answer and update.

The good news, you don’t have to create a style guide. We’ll do it with you.

More on style guides shortly. But if you just can’t contain your enthusiasm, here are a couple well done references:

The promised link to “integrated marketing communications.”

Seth Godin on Communicators

Several years ago a colleague suggested that I read Seth Godin. I did. I do.

Now I’m the one recommending him — and almost anything he writes or presents.

If you work or live in a world where you never need to communicate successfully, skip this suggestion.

Otherwise, read The Posture of the Communicator. Often.

An excerpt:

What’s helpful is to realize that you have a choice when you communicate. You can design your products to be easy to use. You can write so your audience hears you. You can present in a place and in a way that guarantees that the people you want to listen will hear you. Most of all, you get to choose who will understand (and who won’t).

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Non-profits and Web Success

Gerry McGovern is a great resource for any organization seeking success online, whether that organization is small or gigantic.

ALthough I am sharing his thoughts especially for my non-profit colleagues, their value extends to anyone working in communications.

Here’s a brief excerpt from his Putting people’s needs first:

As a result of focusing on people’s top tasks (what people really need) and helping them do what they needed to do as quickly and easily as possible, the Norwegian Cancer Society has seen a:

  • 70% increase in one-time donations
  • 88% increase in monthly donors registered
  • 164% increase in members registered
  • 348% increase in incoming links
  • 80% increase in visitors

Gerry McGovern exemplifies the best of the internet — brilliant thinkers and doers who share freely and advocate for better.

My message to you, as a non-profit professional or organization, is that you are not alone.

We are here to help. We study and process information from resources like Gerry McGovern so you can focus on your mission and talents.

Together we can be awesome.

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