Monday, January 26, 2015

The Bill and Melinda Gates Annual Letter – Making a Big Bet on the Future and Asking Us to Join In

Bill and Melinda Gates write a personal annual letter - separate from their Foundation’s Annual Report every January.  This is the 15th year of the foundation and they say that they started with the bet that by backing innovative work in health and education they could help dramatically reduce inequity.  They are excited by the level of progress made and this year they are doubling down on the bet. Rather than rest on their laurels, this year they are inviting all of us to join them in making their bet of the future a success.

The theme for this year’s letter: Our Big Bet: The lives of people in poor countries will improve faster in the next 15 years than in any other time in history. And their lives will improve more than anyone else’s.  
The four areas that are part of this bet are health, farming, banking and education.  Some  key specifics of the bet are:
   1.       Child deaths will go down and more diseases will be wiped out
   2.      Africa will be able to feed itself
   3.      Mobile banking will help the poor transform their lives
   4.      Better software will revolutionize learning

Very much like Bill and Melinda there are specifics – both of accomplishment in the last 15 years and expectation for the next 15 for each of these categories.
The letter ends with a call for each of us to join in as a Global Citizen at . It is time again this year for the world leaders to meet to set goals and make commitments to make the world a better place 15 years from now.  Bill and Melinda are using their influential annual letter to encourage all of us to sign up and be part of the global citizen team supporting the goals and staying with the movement to meet the commitments made.

To be fair, the Gates' letter is taking some heat for being so upbeat and not providing more balance of the realities and enormity of what is required to make this happen.  But I must say, we have enough of that "it is too overwhelming" information and it is good to have this clean, visionary, "it really can happen" view.  They are familiar with knowing what can happen if you set goals.  First, you have to have the vision.  Here it is.
This year’s letter is different than the ones in the past.  Bill and Melinda are taking the next great leap in their journey to make the world a better and more equitable place.  They have already gotten billionaires to take the Giving Pledge which gave a huge boost and changed philosophy about how the rich give.  Now the Gates are asking all of us to join in and be part of this effort to bring about global change.  I’m in.  It’s a great idea.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Be More Productive Online – Blue Chips and Monkeys

The topic for this month’s Nonprofit Blog Carnival is personal productivity online. In a nutshell my advice is to spend time on your blue chips and don’t let the monkeys sit in your lap.  Let me explain. 

Years ago, when I worked in corporate America, I was in a training class where we did this exercise.  Everyone was given a long list of questions to answer and 20 minutes to finish as much as we could.  You handed in your answers and got your chips as you completed each question/task.  Some of the questions could be answered easily and some took more time and thought.  For each answer you got a white, red or blue chip.  White chips were 1 point, red chips were 5 points and blue chips were 10 points.  You only needed to answer two blue chip questions to win.  If you spent the whole time on white chip questions you would never get to finish 20 of them in the time available.  The point of the exercise – spend your time on the blue chips (most important items) first. It’s true that they usually take more time but it is worth allocating the time. This lesson has stayed with me for a lifetime.

I think this is a particularly important advice for nonprofit leaders – especially small nonprofits with limited resources and people wearing multiple hats.  Small nonprofit leaders always seem to talk about all the things they have on their plate and why they aren’t getting to something they think is really important.  Often they are in the self-imposed white chip trap. 
When I was first promoted to be a manager my boss gave me this advice.  He said, “People will come to you - not because they want you to solve their problems – but because they want you to understand their difficulty and why something isn’t getting done.  Be careful that you don’t take the monkey from them because before you know it your desk is full of monkeys and you can’t do your job.”  It was great advice.  Each of us should be accountable for our own responsibilities.  Nonprofit executives can be too quick to take the monkeys and feel personally responsible for everything Do you recognize any of these scenarios?   

  • ED takes on answering phones during lunch hour every day rather than letting calls go to voicemail. 
  • ED gets involved in the details of what interns will work on when it could easily be decided by an immediate supervisor. 
  • ED gets involved in daily operations in ways that establishing policies and protocols could eliminate their involvement. 

Notice anything familiar yet?  We all spend some time on the white chips.  If you want to improve your personal productivity you need to to step back, identify your white chips and monkeys – especially the repetitive ones – and re-engineer the process to eliminate duplicate or unnecessary work.

The topic of the carnival is supposed to be about personal productivity ONLINE.  So let’s talk about online.  

The first step is to know your objective and audience.  Are you using online activity as a resource, for marketing, fundraising, advocacy, awareness?  Who is the audience?  Where do they hangout? If your answer is everyone and everywhere you will be spending too much time on the white chips.  If your answer is everything, then I suggest you send some monkeys packing.

You can use measurements, analytics and soft data too to figure out where you are getting the most bang for the buck online and which areas have the most potential for growth.  I use google analytics to analyze which of my blog articles get the most attention and how the traffic is being driven.  I peel the information in several ways.  Since I am mostly – not completely – a local business I analyze how much of the traffic is coming from local sources.  I look to see which articles inspire people to look at additional pages and not just the landing page. I analyze the data in different ways depending on what I am trying to accomplish.  I actually have two blogs this one and The Grandma Chronicles.  At the Grandma Chronicles I write about being a grandmother and product reviews.  What is so interesting is that the drivers to each blog are very different.

I have not had much luck with my nonprofit consulting blog facebook page.  In my case linkedin groups, pinterest (yes, pinterest) and participating on other blogs is most effective.  I use twitter for resources and peer interactions but not for business development.  At both of my twitter accounts I have about 8 lists and when I am at twitter I don’t go through the feed.  I use my lists so that what I am reading is focused.  For consulting the topics include governance, nonprofit technology, NJ nonprofits, philanthropy, executive search, etc. MyWishlist of Books for Nonprofit Folk Pinterest Board drives traffic all the time since I post new pins throughout the year.  The Wishlist is my signature piece so I give it attention all year long.

For the Grandma Chronicles, facebook is more effective.  This page likes a bunch of grandparenting, parenting and toy company pages and it is very easy to have interesting stuff to post all the time.  I intersperse this treasure trove with my own original material and the facebook page drives traffic to my blog where people do click on my Amazon links.  Pinterest is also effective with the grandma crowd.  Participating on twitter or linkedin is a zero and participating on other blogs is not very effective.  For this “business” I would like to have readers anywhere in the United States and being local is irrelevant.

The monkeys?  There are lots of them in your email.  They are jumping around and want desperately to land in your lap.  Delete, unsubscribe and forward with a copy to sender – letting the sender know they will hear back directly from the responsible party.

So to sum up – be more productive online by playing your blue chips instead of the white ones and staying away from the monkeys.


Monday, January 05, 2015

Freebies to Kickstart those New Year's Resolutions

Whether you have your business objectives or personal resolutions ready for 2015, there is no time like now to get started on them.  If some of your objectives and resolutions are related to nonprofits here are great ways to get started with freebie resources and webinars from some of the top names in nonprofit consulting.  They are getting off to a generous start in the new year by offering you something for free and you can get off to a quick start by taking advantage of these special offers.  These offers will disappear soon so check them out today.

On-Demand Webinar: How to Build a Donor Communication Plan That Will Make Them Fall in Love
This webinar by Kivi Leroux Miller at the Nonprofit Marketing Guide will show you how you can create a donor communications plan that makes donors feel appreciated, included and in the know so you become their favorite.  And there’s more.  Click here for this recorded webinar.  

Made to be Modern: Website Trends for 2015
This free webinar from Idealware  is live on January 8th, 2015.   How do you tell your story, create your content, and present your site in a modern way?  What about formatting content for users on mobile devices? Can you create content for your website that can also be used on social media or other communications channels?  These questions and more will be answered by Idealware’s Executive Director, Laura Quinn. Don’t wait –register today.  Click here to register.  

The 2015 Donor Love Calendar
From Pamela Grow, a top rated fundraiser, the theme for her 2015 planning calendar is gratitude.  This is your guide to scheduling a year filled with gratitude for donors.  See monthly gratitude reminders and lots of tips to deepen donor relationships and grow your fundraising.

A Three-Part Webinar Series on How to Get and Use $10,000 per Month of Free Google Advertising
CharityHowTo offers a wide range of excellent webinars on topics of interest to nonprofits.  There is usually a fee but this one is a three part series for free.  It will be offered on 1/29, 2/5, and 2/12/15. Topics include:
·       What is Google Ad Grants?
  • What is pay-per-click advertising?
  • Why is Google Ad Grants an essential nonprofit marketing tool?
  • Case studies: How other nonprofits have benefitted.
  • Step-by-step details of the application process.
  • Top 10 tips on making your Google Ad Campaigns a success
  • Measuring & Improving Google Ad Grant's Success Using Google Analytics
When you are done you’ll be a Google grant expert – and it was free.

These freebies are really worth checking out.  I’m sure that at least one of these topics is on your 2015 list.  So don’t wait…get started now.