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How to Communicate In The Midst Of Tragedy: 9-Step Checklist

by Nancy Schwartz from Getting Attention!

Like you, my heart and head are heavy in the wake of yesterday’s bombings in Boston. Especially since I feel so helpless.

I had a completely different post planned today, but wanted to respond a.s.a.p. to the questions, worries and just totally-wrong communications I’ve seen going out since the bombings yesterday afternoon.

Most of this outreach was harmless, but simply a mismatch with what’s on our minds right now. Because most of us are feeling horror, sadness, fear, uncertainly and a sense of helplessness and vulnerability.

Here are my right-now recommendations for your organization’s response.

Please share your strategies, and add your questions and feedback here.
We are much smarter together.

 1. Get Off Auto-Pilot

Given our collective state of mind, some of the nonprofit outreach I saw yesterday was absolutely inappropriate—like the e-invite I received at 7:19 PM yesterday fromSave the Children via Harris Interactive, asking me to respond to its survey.

This email came in as the details of deaths and serious injuries continued to flow, including the death of an 8-year-old boy and the critical status of his mom and sister.

Let’s put aside the fact that Harris told me the survey would take 25 minutes of my time (won’t ever happen) and focus on the horrendous oversight here—this campaign was clearly auto-scheduled and on auto-pilot.

As a result, this ask missed the mark by 1,000 miles, coming across as a huge “who cares” by Save the Children. If I was in charge of this survey, I’d put it on ice for now.

Our state of mind doesn’t get more ungrounded than it is right now. So be ultra-sensitive.

 2. But Don’t Just Go Dark Either

Your cause and work is vital to making this a better world.

And although it may seem easiest to go dark right now, please don’t. Your network counts on your work to carry our world to a better place.

Proceed slowly and strategically, but do proceed. The last thing we need is staying stuck right here.

 3. Use Your Relevancy Lens—Relevance Rules More Than Ever Post-Tragedy

What’s top of mind for your network is the only lens that matters, now more than ever. Put yourself in the shoes of your prospects and supporters. What are they focused on now?

It’s likely to be fear, horror, sadness, empathy, helplessness and/or anger. That’s your cue.

Your own agenda must fall behind for the balance of the week, at the very least, unless there’s a real, organic link to bombing-related issues.

It’s never productive to communicate into that environment at the moment of. You’re not missing an opportunity if you push on, and you risk alienating your network if you blindly push on with plans.

4. Right Now—Show You Care

Show your support for the Boston/Marathon community and empathize with the shock and sadness your supporters are likely to feel via Twitter or a brief Facebook post.

Social media is an ideal way to let your supporters know you’re with them right now, and to share words of comfort. That’s the kind of response that puts a human face on your organization.

Here’s a good this-morning model from the Community Foundation of Sarasota County.

Post-Boston1

5. Right Now—Hold Scheduled Outreach Till You Review

Immediately unschedule what you have lined up to release today and for the balance of the week. You’ll reschedule what’s in line with your base’s state of mind after a brief review.

Automating outreach is a lifesaver, but also a potential snafu at times of crisis. It’s auto-schedule, not auto-pilot.

I saw so many pre-scheduled tweets, Facebook posts and emails go out yesterday afternoon, in the hours following the bombings when we were in the spell of first shock. As a result, I received these “business as usual” communications, at a time when nothing was usual, which caused a huge disconnect.

Stay real, and stay respectful. That will ensure your relevance in good times and bad.

6. A.S.A.P Today—Review Your Marketing & Fundraising Plans For Next 10 Days

Link your message to the bombing only if there is an organic link (e.g. children’s health and well-being, violence prevention, gun safety, public safety, anti-terrorism.)
Otherwise, avoid trying to capitalize on a tragedy. You’ll fail, miserably.

If your organization isn’t working to help the Boston/Marathon community or related issues, consider taking a couple of days off from your asks.
Those in support of your issue are already making contributions and circulating petitions. But it’s too raw  today to start persuading others, or even showing them how they can help avert future disasters like this one.

Depending on our mood and focus over the course of the week, pick the right time to dive back in with a moving forward focus. That may be Thursday, but may be next week.

Instead, craft your outreach for later in the week so you’ll organize most powerfully,  galvanizing disheartened supporters to join you in action for a better future. The exception, of course, is if you’re helping the affected community directly.

Change any metaphors or analogies you use that feature bombs, explosion and the like in not-yet-published content for the next two weeks.
These are some of the most-used references, usually used in a positive way (but there is no positive now). Think exploding with daffodils (from a Facebook post this morning from one of my favorite botanical gardens) or the fact that the star’s first Broadway show absolutely bombed (in the e-newsletter scheduled to drop tomorrow from one of my performing arts clients).

Such references can’t be used gratuitously for the immediate future. Comb your coming content carefully.

Get speed input on your revised approach today with colleagues on the ground and members of your marketing advisory group

These are the folks who are in touch with your base (and are your network members), and you need their insights.

If you don’t have a marketing advisory group already in place, reach out to a few current supporters in each of your segments, asking for five minutes of their time for a quick call.

7. Share Your Revised Approach With Your Colleagues & Ask Them To Share What They Hear

Even though your colleagues’ may not have been aware of your plan for your marketing and fundraising outreach in the next ten days, update them on what’s changed and why.

Here’s why:

  • It’s just basic respect, and you should do this on an ongoing basis.
  • Many of these folks are in close contact with your target audiences in their daily work, and have the opportunity to focus those conversations appropriately—but only if you share your approach!
  • They’re also most likely to get the feedback that shows you you’re taking the right path, or have to recalculate. Ask, train and support them in doing so. It helps all of you!

8. Next 10 Days—Move Forward With Your Ear Close to the Ground

It’s still early in this tragedy, and events are yet to unfold. So stay close to what’s top of mind for your network (and the rest of us) through this week and next.

Go ahead and schedule coming campaigns across channels, but review what’s scheduled on a daily basis.

9. By End of April—Craft a Crisis Communications Plan That Includes Shared Tragedies Like This One

I recommend placing review of queued-up communications at the top of your crisis communications checklist, whether it’s a crisis within your org or outside of it. In many cases, crises outside of your organization impact your network of supporters and partners equally, if not more than, crises that effect your nonprofit.

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10 Questions That Create Success

January 27, 2012 2 comments

Want help focusing on what really matters? Ask yourself these on a daily basis.

Thanks to Geoffrey James from @Sales_Source for a helpful article on success, and priorities.  

Think that success means making lots of money?  Think again.

Pictures of dead presidents have never made anybody happy. And how can you be successful if you’re not happy? And buying things with that all money isn’t much better. A new car, for instance, might tickle your fancy for a day or two–but pride of ownership is temporary.

Real success comes from the quality of your relationships and the emotions that you experience each day. That’s where these 10 questions come in.

Ask them at the end of each day and I absolutely guarantee that you’ll become more successful. Here they are:

1. Have I made certain that those I love feel loved?

2. Have I done something today that improved the world?

3. Have I conditioned my body to be more strong flexible and resilient?

4. Have I reviewed and honed my plans for the future?

5. Have I acted in private with the same integrity I exhibit in public?

6. Have I avoided unkind words and deeds?5. Have I acted in private with the same integrity I exhibit in public?

7. Have I accomplished something worthwhile?

8. Have I helped someone less fortunate?

9. Have I collected some wonderful memories?

10. Have I felt grateful for the incredible gift of being alive?9. Have I collected some wonderful memories?

Here’s the thing.  The questions you ask yourself on a daily basis determine your focus, and your focus determines your results.

These questions force you to focus on what’s really important. Take heed of them and rest of your life—especially your work—will quickly fall into place.

The Cure for the Not-for-Profit Crisis

 

by Paul Leinwand and Cesare Mainardi via Harvard Business Review

There is a crisis in the not-for-profit sector. Since the great recession began, donations to the largest charities in the U.S. have dropped by billions — down 11% in 2010 alone, according to a recent report from the Chronicle of Philanthropy. This was the worst decline since the Chroniclebegan ranking its “Philanthropy 400” list of America’s largest fund-raising charities in 1990. Leaders of philanthropic and other non-profit organizations naturally blame the economy for this problem; and many expect things to get worse as the economic malaise drags on.

 

But the financial meltdown has not affected all charities and not-for-profits equally. It is the more versatile, general-purpose charities — including such well-known, diverse institutions as The United Way Worldwide and the Salvation Army — that are faring the worst. For more tightly focused not-for-profits, such as the Cleveland Clinic and the network of Food Banks around the country, the decline is not nearly as sharp.

 

Why the disparity? Our own research on organizational strategy and leadership more broadly suggests a reason. Since 2010, we’ve been conducting an ongoing survey of managers’ attitudes about the strategies of their organizations (click here to take the not-for-profit version of the profiler). More than 65% of the respondents from the non-profit sector said it was a significant challenge to bring day-to-day decisions in line with their organization’s overall strategy. When asked about their frustration factors, 76% (the largest group by far, and a larger percentage than their for-profit counterparts) named “too many conflicting priorities.” When asked about their organization’s core capabilities — distinctive things their association could do better than anyone else — only 29% said these supported their organization’s strategy, and almost 80% said that their association’s efforts to grow had led to waste.

 

All of these results suggest that, while the hit to fundraising has hurt many not-for-profits, the more fundamental core problem is strategic. These institutions lack a strategy for connecting their mission with their ability to deliver. In short, this is a crisis of coherence.

Read the rest of the article: The Cure for the Not-for-Profit Crisis – Paul Leinwand and Cesare Mainardi – Harvard Business Review.

How a Double-Dip Recession Could Affect Giving

By Lisa Chiu

As economic experts begin to raise the possibility that America will face a double-dip recession, fund-raisers are looking to the past to learn what might be ahead.

No recession in recent history has been as bad as the one that just wrapped up. Indiana University’s Center on Philanthropy, which produces “Giving USA,” noted in June that giving dropped by 7 percent in 2008 and 6.2 percent in 2009, declines that were larger than anything since the study was first conducted in 1956.

Patrick Rooney, the center’s director, says that “if we had a double-dip recession, it would be disastrous for philanthropy and charities.” But he encourages charities to resist the urge to let the worries about the downturn get in the way of fund-raising. “If I were running a charity, ” he says, “I would continue to invest in fund-raising and steward gifts well. Giving may go down overall, but if you keep fund-raising, it is more likely to stay the same or go up if you stay in the game.”

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