Archive for January, 2012

The Laws of Motion for Non Profit Organizations

Friday, January 27th, 2012

Was Sir Isaac Newton on a Non Profit Board?

Isaac NewtonOK. So was Sir Isaac Newton on a non profit board of directors? Possibly.

No, this isn’t a physics lesson. But it is time for you and your board to analyze the inertia of your group to see if it is content to be “at rest,” or if it needs a good “push” (or nudge). Newton’s first law states that every object will remain at rest unless compelled to change its state by the action of an external force. So who on your non profit board (or outside the board) will be that “external force” to move your board from inactivity to inertia?

This is what Newton is saying about boards in his first law: “…there is a natural tendency of objects to keep on doing what they’re doing. All objects resist changes in their state of motion…” unless acted upon.

Oh, sure, every board has some members who are doers — always moving and never at rest. They want to get things moving. They are self-starters and don’t need a “push”. But how many other board members sit around and wait for that external force (whatever or whomever it may be) to move them into action to accomplish the goals and objectives of organization?

In simple terms, Newton’s law says that if your board member has a velocity of “zero,” then in reality, your board member is “at rest.” Gee, go figure. Only when an external force is applied, perhaps a “call-to-action,” will the velocity of your board member move from zero. I’m not saying how fast that person will be going, but at least he/she would then be moving past zero. On the plus side, some motion is better than none — that’s one of my laws of non-profit boards.

Step back and reflect on all the high energy level activities that are typically required of board members: friend raising, fund raising, grant writing, speech writing, volunteering for special events and the list goes on. Despite the numerous responsibilities that need to be carried out, how many non profit board members are operating at “zero” velocity?

Well, there are “pushes” and then there are “pushes” or “nudges.” And that’s where Newton’s second law of non profit boards comes into focus.

“Acceleration is produced when a force acts on a mass.” Well, here’s a very easy formula: substitute “doer” for “force” and “non-doer” for “mass”. Thus, the greater the mass (of non-doing) the greater the amount of force needed to accelerate the object. Wow! Just how much energy do people have to expend to move non-doers to some form of activity? Is that why board activities are typically carried out by so few people because they much rather expend their own energy POSITIVELY rather than expending all their energy to move a non-doer into activity?

Do you have people who currently exhibit the leadership skills to move your non profit organization in a forward direction — the ones who will be that “external force”? Keep in mind that it’s not fair that they have to expend enormous amounts of energy to move the masses.

In the ideal world, these leaders should only be asked to exert a friendly nudge to move the entire organization from that zero velocity to a speed that is in sync with the goals and objectives of the group. And maybe, just maybe, that’s why all boards should have board member assessments and accountability measures. After all, if the velocity of a board member is always going to be zero, why keep that person?

Yes, Newton really did understand non profit boards. And “No,” I don’t think I’ll discuss his third law: To every action there is always an equal and opposite reaction. Now that would be an interesting discussion, wouldn’t it?

By Joseph John

Texting: Mobile Marketing Popularity

Monday, January 23rd, 2012

Texting: The Most Popular of All Mobile Marketing Strategies TextingShort Message Service (SMS) mobile marketing, also known as texting, is an outstanding avenue for small business owners to reach their customers. Almost all cell phones have the capability to

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send and receive text messages and cell phone owners have the ability to opt-in and opt-out of receiving text messages. Customers can opt-in to receiving a company’s text messages by texting a keyword to a short code. A common short code (CSC) is a five or six digit phone number that can send and receive text messages. A CSC that is exclusive to a company can be quite expensive so most small businesses prefer to share a CSC. The keyword that the customer uses is what distinguishes one company from another. The keyword ensures that customers are connected with the correct company. All

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of the major wireless telephone carriers can support CSC. After a customer sends the keyword to a CSC, they will receive an auto-reply message. The auto-reply message confirms their participation in the text messaging campaign. Why would a customer choose to participate in a text messaging campaign? There are many incentives a company can employ to entice participation:

  • Mobile coupons
  • Discounts only available to customers on the texting list
  • Participation in contests
  • Advance notice of sales
  • Advance notice of new products
  • Ease of ordering a product or service
  • Priority in ordering a product or service

By using the text messaging marketing tool, a small business can contact their customers anytime and anywhere and rest assured that the people they are sending their messages to are people who want to receive them. And if a customer decides that they don’t want to participate in the campaign any longer? All it takes is a click on the opt-out link at the bottom of every message. Of course, it is the small business owner’s top priority to make the incentives so attractive that a customer never chooses to opt-out! By Peg Glover    

2012 Non Profit Creative Sessions Part 2

Friday, January 20th, 2012

Generating Creativity for Your Non Profit Board, Part II

In my previous article, “Generating Creativity for Your Board, Part I,” I referenced three books that I have used for many years as the base for brainstorming sessions and annual non profit board planning meetings. That article focused on Charles “Chic” Thompson’s book, What a Great Idea!

A Kick in the Seat of the PantsThis article will focus on Roger von Oech’s books, A Kick in the Seat of the Pants and A Whack on the Side of the Head. Both books are exceptional and help the reader leap over the “I’m not creative” statements that are so common among so many people. However, A Kick in the Seat of the Pants is my favorite of the two books because of the many creative exercises it contains to assist people in the creative process.

A Whack on the Side of the Head, which is the sequel, focuses more on the creative process, and the various hats a person wears as they proceed through the four stages. There are interesting and entertaining exercises, but not as many as in the first book.

In A Whack on the Side of the Head, von Oech lists the ten common mental blocks (or really “locks”) to creative thinking. The ten blocks are chapters appropriately titled, beginning with “The Right Answer” continuing to “Be Practical”, “Play is Frivolous” and finally “I’m Not Creative.”  Every chapter is an assessment of a specific mental block that is perceived by folks; he then presents very entertaining exercises to help overcome those basic blocks. Throughout the 138-page book, he provides tips to help overcome those mental blocks — 36 tips in all.

One tip I particularly like: “Don’t get so busy that you lose the free time necessary for idea hunting. Schedule idea-hunting time into your day and week.” In other words, be willing to stare out the window. Schedule time on your calendar to hunt for ideas and be fresh in your thinking. Let your mind go — don’t tether it to narrow thinking.

A Whack on the Side of the HeadMany of his exercises are fun and quite challenging — perfect for a non profit board meeting or retreat. One exercise I find entertaining and quite refreshing is one in which you create metaphors. After all, metaphors s-t-r-et-c-h the imagination; and one exercise he provides in the book is titled “The Meaning of Life.” Participants in his seminars have created metaphors such as “Life is a bagel. It’s delicious when it’s fresh and warm, but often it’s just hard.” Or “Life is a puppy dog.” Hmmmm, go finish THAT one.

Or “Life is a room full of open doors…” and I challenge you to finish that one as well. And one in particular I like is “Life is a banana, you start out green and get soft and mushy with age…” and the metaphors continue. Think of the people on your non profit board and imagine them in a creative session creating metaphors to describe the organization, the board, and the community it serves. WOW. Now, that would be an interesting exercise!

Page after page, tip after tip, exercise after exercise, the book is designed to move people out of their comfort zones and begin exploring their imaginations so that the creativity is transferred to real-life situations. The title A Whack on Side of the Head is so apropos — to WAKE UP the creative side that really does lie within each one of us. Sometimes a “whack” does feel good and makes us better. Do your non profit board members need a whack on the side of the head to stir up the creative juices?

Von Oech’s creativity — and his many challenges to us — continue in the next book. A Kick in the Seat of the Pants is another great title that generates the following premise: the human body has two ends on it; one to create with and one to sit on. Sometimes people get their ends reversed. When this happens they need A Kick in the Seat of the Pants.

This book explores creativity and focuses on the four steps of the creative process. We all wear different hats during this process. The first hat, or process, is called the Explorer — it’s the person who is looking for lots of ideas, shifting their focus, looking for fun things, examining the sublime and the ridiculous. The explorer is always looking for as many ideas as possible. After exploring every possible idea, and NOT throwing any away, the Artist steps in. Not an artist in the sense of graphic or visual arts, but an artist in the sense of doing something to those ideas — adding new twists, new turns, new wrinkles, new spins, and constantly performing what-if’s.

The next hat we wear in this process is that of the Judge. This phase is where we assess all the work from the prior two processes that have been created; thus begins the weighing of the wealth of ideas carefully with an eye on the realities of the situation(s) at hand. That means weighing them in the context of timing, finances, reality checks and other criteria that need to be examined. And once the Judge is finished with the assessment(s), one more hat is worn.

It’s the final piece of the creative process and it’s the one von Oech refers to as the Warrior. Once the Warrior takes over, it’s time to put the plan together and move from “what if” to “what is” while getting rid of excuses, selling the concept and being persistent, and being ready to take your ideas into “battle”. The warrior is the one who ultimately has to “…overcome excuses, idea killers, temporary setbacks, and other obstacles.”

There’s no doubt that your non profit board is easily comprised of Explorers, Artists, Judges and Warriors…and many combinations of the four. All four need to work together in the process in order to try new things, re-define the organization, and consistently breathe new life into the organization.

I have talked about three books in this two-part article. But it’s not really the three books that will create the change in you, your board and the organization. No, it’s the willingness of all non profit board members to move ahead and take new looks at everything the organization does. Remember what I had mentioned previously that stagnation and inactivity should be the greatest fear of any nonprofit board since change is a constant, and your organization needs to embrace change and to do it creatively.

Have fun — you’re allowed to have fun. Play is allowed. Dream. And although von Oech’s book titles may sound a bit “physical,” shall we say, in reality your non profit board does need that whack on the side of the head and that kick in the seat of the pants.

By Joseph John

A Whack on the Side of the Head at Amazon

A Kick in the Seat of the Pants at Amazon

2012 Non Profit Creative Sessions

Thursday, January 19th, 2012

Generating Creativity for Your Non Profit Board, Part I

I just recently wrote about New Years’ Resolutions — three of which I’d like to reference:

Open the box. Now seal it! Don’t get back into that organizational box.

Try a fresh coat of paint. Look at your logo, your brand, and your marketing language. Determine if your organization’s image needs a fresh coat of paint to create a brand new, and vibrant, organization to the community.

Plan for the future. Begin working on creative long-term fund-raising, i.e., planned giving, programs.

OK. Why did I reference those three resolutions? For years, whether I was in the “for profit” or “non profit” arenas, I have urged creativity. I have challenged folks to change their perspectives and develop different tacks on programs and processes. The challenge has always been for folks to stop saying “We’ve never done it that way.” Ugh!

There are three books that I have used for many years as the base for brainstorming sessions and annual planning meetings. Now, why I used these books in particular can best be explained by the very titles themselves: Roger von Oech’s A Kick in the Seat of the Pants and A Whack on the Side of the Head. The third book I have also used for creative thinking is Charles “Chic” Thompson’s What a Great Idea!

I must admit that these books are dog-eared and well-traveled — yet, they have NEVER aged. The ideas and processes presented in all three books are ageless; the exercises — never stale. These books make people think, smile, stop, look, listen and — well, you get the point. And by the way, there are soooo many creative thinking books on the market, but these are the three I have always relied on.

This article will focus on Chic Thompson’s book “What a Great Idea!” I’ll talk about von Oech’s books in the next article, appropriately titled “Part II”.

There is one chapter I have ALWAYS used as the basis for starting a brainstorming session. Thompson’s chapter titled “Killer Phrases — the enemies of ideas”, is one of the most fantastic ice-breakers I have ever used.

The author shares, let me say, a “mere “40 Killer Phrases that begin with “Yes, But…” to “Let’s stick with what works” to “What will people say?” to the most infamous “Because I said so.” Fantastic. AND, in the book he even challenges the readers to send in their most favorite killer phrases and if it’s used in a subsequent book, they’ll receive a free Killer Phrase Poster. Can you imagine what that poster would look like in YOUR non profit boardroom? Could you envision an exercise challenging YOUR non profit board members to come up with their best killer phrases?

Here’s the key about Chic Thompson’s book, and why it can become the base for your first or subsequent non profit board planning sessions: he lists four steps in his book. There is Freedom, then Expression, followed by Creation, and then Action.

I have always enjoyed and

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embraced the first chapter “Freedom” where Thompson states “Ready, FIRE, Aim…” this is where the origin of ideas takes place. It’s “OK” when you’re brain storming, because this is where ideas begin — no restrictions. Wow. Let’s create a new way of thinking. LOAD that gun, fire it, and then worry about aiming when it’s time to skinny down the good, the bad, and the ugly of ALL the ideas that were shared at the meeting. Think about ALL the meetings you’ve attended where everything was shot down by the “KILLER PHRASES.”

He talks about “challenging assumptions, challenging perspectives, brain-picking, grading on a scale from 1 to great, idea meetings that work, and the list goes on.

Throughout the book, Thompson even highlights “Creative Rules of Thumb” which are numbered creative thinking axioms. These are excellent sound bites of advice such as the following: “Creative Rule of Thumb #16: Make sure that the penalty for failure is not greater than the penalty for doing nothing.” Hmmmm. What non profit board has EVER said that failure is OK!?

Well, this article was not intended to be a book review as much as a book recommendation for sharing (and required reading) with your non profit board. Yes, the sound bites go on-and-on in this first-rate book. The chapters are full of processes and fun activities to get YOUR board thinking, acting, and interacting among their peers. Oh, and most importantly, they might begin to re-define the non profit organization…and themselves?!

Stagnation and inactivity should be the greatest fear of any nonprofit board since “change” is a constant, and your organization needs to embrace that change — but, creatively.

I’ll talk about some of the fun exercises for creativity from Roger von Oech’s books in my next article.

By Joseph John

What a Great Idea! 2.0 by Chic Thompson at Amazon

2012 Non Profit Board Resolutions

Tuesday, January 17th, 2012

It’s Not Too Late to Make and Keep Non Profit Board Resolutions

It’s 2012. We’re two weeks into the New Year. Only 9 more weeks until spring! So what’s the status of your New Year’s resolutions? How many

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have been kept and how many have been broken?

The treadmills in the fitness centers are burning up. The smoke cessation and diet clinics are going non-stop. And what’s happening in non-profit organizations? Were there ANY formalized resolutions for 2012? Were there ANY commitments from board members to contribute to the organization’s growth, health, and well-being? Did ANYONE on the board make a list of resolutions for the board?

Twenty-Twelve. There still remains a lot of time — 50 weeks — in the New Year to re-make and re-shape your board. And NO, you don’t need 20 resolutions – nor 12 – but that does have a nice ring to it, doesn’t it? However, what you need are manageable resolutions that will encourage board commitment AND follow-through during the entire year.

You’ve probably seen dozens of resolutions before, but let’s reinforce some of the ones below that you and your non profit organization board can and should make. These are resolutions that will ultimately make a difference to the community you serve.

Friend (member) raise. Light a fire under yourself and other board members and begin reaching out to friends, neighbors, and associates. Tell them great stories and vignettes about the incredible accomplishments of your organization and the impact it has made on the community. Remember the axiom: “Friend raising comes before fund raising.”

Open the box. Now seal it! Don’t get back into that organizational box. Yes, it’s a matter of getting outside of the box and doing things creatively. Be different. Be unique. Make people say “now that’s a unique and creative organization.”

Raise communication awareness internally. Start talking to each other — board members and staff members. Everyone is important in your organization. Rip off the “shoulder boards” of rank and talk to everyone who works to make a difference in your non profit organization. Resolve to communicate better among yourselves. If you can’t communicate clearly among yourselves, then the next resolution is going to fall flat on its face.

Raise communication awareness in the community. Again, “open the box” and start thinking of unique ways that will generation POSITIVE communication throughout the community. Create a “Communications Go Box.” Develop a belief statement and a “lift” speech. Start inviting yourself to community events and talk about your non profit organization and how it benefits those around you.

Raise your hand. That’s right! Don’t sit on your hands. You joined the board as a volunteer — so VOLUNTEER. Don’t shun responsibilities and duties that you should be doing as a board member. Non profit board members MUST always be “doers.” When you start leaning towards delegation, delegate to yourself first.

Raise the bar. Set some higher goals for friend raising, fund raising, and other initiatives that require going that “extra mile”. Sure, times are tough, the economy is tough, but the community you serve needs your willingness to tough it out and set the standards higher — they need your 100% effort.

Dust off the bylaws, vision, mission, and values statements. Make sure the drivers of your organization are fine-tuned. Challenge, if need be. Change or modify them if necessary. DON’T wait until next year.

Take ownership. “It’s Your Board.” Make yourself an owner of the organization and begin pushing for excellence, unity, and most importantly trust.

Sow the seeds of board recruitment. Recruit and groom new talent on the board and that means looking towards the “X” and “Y” generations so they can become the future leaders on your board and great community spokespersons.

Try a fresh coat of paint. You do it around your house — a fresh coat of paint or wallpapering seems to breathe new life into your home. Do the same for your non profit organization. Look at your logo, your brand, and your marketing language. Determine if your organization’s image needs a fresh coat of paint to create a brand new and vibrant organization to the community.

Plan for the future. Begin working on creative long-term fundraising, i.e., planned giving, programs. Focus on the here-and-now with an eye for keeping the pipeline of future funding open for your organization.

Say “thank you”. Two little words are two HUGE words. Get in the habit of saying “thank you” to board members, staff members, volunteers, contributors, friends, and more. “Thank you” is one of the greatest ice-breakers, which leads right into friend-raising.

Well guess what — I just listed twelve (12) resolutions for 2012. Go ahead and rank-order the ones that you and your fellow non profit board members can work on immediately. Commit to excellence. Resolve to keep your resolutions for 2012. Remember that keeping your resolutions will result in benefits for you, your non profit organization, and the communities you serve.

By Joseph John

QR Code: Really Worth the Effort?

Wednesday, January 11th, 2012

I must admit that I am probably considered a late adopter of QR (quick response) codes within the advertising, marketing and public relations professional arena. While I have been an owner of a smartphone

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for several years, it wasn’t until recently that I downloaded an application onto my smartphone to read QR codes.

What I discovered about QR codes, from my personal experience, and to borrow a line from Shakespeare is that they are “much ado about nothing.”

There are some real problems with scanning a QR code with a smartphone and getting valuable feedback or in some cases getting feedback at all. As a consumer, I prefer to shop in large discount stores such as Costco, Sam’s Club, Target and Walmart. Often times, the reception I get within these large ‘warehouse’ stores is poor if existent at all. Therefore, the QR code means little to my shopping experience within these walls.

Freeway billboards often have a QR code in the advertisement. I have never been quick enough to complete a scan as I flash by a billboard. Plus, I like to keep my eyes on the road when I am driving so scanning a QR code from the

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freeway is not a priority.

Then I have received a QR code within a text advertising message or e-newsletter on my smartphone. Hmmm? How is my smartphone supposed to read that code?

Having read that QR codes have been overwhelming adopted by various European markets, as well as Japan and South Korea, I thought I’d read some solid research on the topic.

I downloaded Russell Herder’s* findings on a research project they published in August, 2011 titled: The QR Question, Are QR Codes an effective marking tool for engaging customers?

Noted within the paper is that QR codes have actually been around since 1994. QR codes were created in Japan by a subsidiary of Toyota and were originally designed to track auto parts. No wonder Japan has a high usage rate of QR codes within the consumer market. Their use of QR codes has been evolving for seventeen years.

Some of their key findings include (and I quote the paper):

  • “A surprising number of consumers demonstrate a significant lack of understanding as to what QR codes are and how they work.”
  • “Seventy-two percent of consumers say they have seen a QR codes, yet nearly three in 10 do not know what it is. Further, nearly one in five people who regularly go online via their mobile phone do not know what a QR code is.”
  • “Nearly four in five of those who have scanned a QR code have done so more than once. Perhaps more importantly, however, only 31 percent report that what they receive in return is worth their time.”

These finding support my personal experience with QR codes. That is certainly not to say that QR codes are going to have a very short life span within the U.S. marketing and advertising world. But it does seem obvious that if QR codes are going to find a solid and long-lasting spot within the advertising and marketing world, then the information provided by the QR code must have high value to the consumer.

By Peg McRoy Glover

*Russell Herder is a twenty-eight year old creative, strategic and research marketing firm based in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The report The QR Question, Are QR codes an effective marketing tool for engaging customers? is part of their Thought Leader series.

It’s YOUR Non Profit Board!

Tuesday, January 10th, 2012

Lessons to be Learned from “It’s Your Ship”

Envision fifteen people sitting around a non profit boardroom table. A question from the chairperson is posed: “Who will take charge of such-and-such, and this-and-that?” Now envision all board members pointing their finger at the person sitting next to them. YES. Pass it around the table, “It’s not MY responsibility — it’s theirs.” Wrong!

Your responsibility as a board member is this: “It’s Your Non Profit Board!”

Captain D. Michael Abrashoff wrote an excellent book titled It’s Your Ship. The slogan aboard the USS Benfold became “It’s Your Ship”, and he developed “…confident and inspired problem-solvers eager to take the initiative and take responsibility for their actions.”

I first read this book when I was working in a for-profit organization, challenged by an associate and friend of mine to use this book as a great foundation for leadership skill-building.

As I recently re-read the book, I realized that many points of leadership that Abrashoff was stating could be applied to non profit boards. Are you kidding? Naval leadership skills for a non profit organization? YES.

I thought it would be interesting to note the titles of the eleven (of twelve) chapter titles and the subsequent chapter subsections. The titles alone are thought-provoking, and will provide some “food for thought” for those board members who want to reflect on their responsibilities.

Allow me to share just some of the titles and chapter subsections that will provide some discussion points with the entire non profit board.

Listen Aggressively…use word magic [back your words with action, or practice what you preach]”.

Communicate Purpose and Meaning…make your ‘crew’ think ‘we can do anything’”.

Create a Climate of Trust…being the best carries responsibility…trust also makes money”.

Take Calculated Risks…if a rule doesn’t make sense, break it…if a rule does make sense, break it carefully.”

Go Beyond Standard Procedure…push the envelope for innovation…volunteering benefits everyone…stay ahead of the competition”

Build Up Your People…trust people, they usually prove you’re right…expect the best from your crew — you will get it…build a strong, deep bench.”

Generate Unity…forget diversity — train for unity”

Improve Your People’s Quality of Life…in heavy times, lighten up…let the crew show off the ship…the secret of good work? Good play.”

I only touched on a few of the many great salient points that Abrashoff states in his book. Bear in mind that everything that he writes in his book is real. He lived it. He breathed it. He practiced and implemented it. His book was my “AH HAH” moment to appreciate that many board members don’t realize that once they get appointed and sit on a board, they have to believe in their purpose and realize “It’s MY Board.”

Yes, it’s YOUR board and now’s the time to personally take charge and make a difference in YOUR organization.

by Joseph R. John