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Save the Endangered Corporate Sponsor!

Wednesday, December 19th, 2012

Imagine for a moment that your annual office holiday party was in the same restaurant each year.  In exchange for this promotion, patronage, signage & acknowledgment during the event, food was free and there was a cash bar.

Now, after many years of having this relationship, suppose that, as the restaurant owner, I have decided to change the terms of the agreement.  This year, I’ve decided I want instead:

•     All attendees at the party to wear my restaurant logo t-shirt
•     All attendees to make their own creative “Why I love the restaurant” slogan design on their t-shirt, prior to the party
•   A contest for the best designed t-shirt.  Participants need to post photos of their t-shirts on Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Pinterest, etc, with my restaurant name during the three weeks prior to the party.
•     A three drink minimum for guests at the party
•     The chance to go through each guest’s wallet or purse as they enter
•   I’ll announce the t-shirt winners at the party and pay for their meals.  I’m no longer paying for everyone’s food – just the top five t-shirt designers.

If you were in charge of arranging the office holiday party, what would your reaction be?  Would you capitulate . . . or find another sponsor?  This seems like a lot of extra hoops to jump through – for a lot less in return, doesn’t it?

Yet, I speak to so many nonprofit development officers on a regular basis who have signed up for similar deals.  The chance to have a chance at something!  Does it have to do with the mission of the organization?  Nothing whatsoever.  Does it ask your constituents to engage in repetitive – and meaningless – activity?  Absolutely.  And who comes out ahead?  The so-called “sponsor.”

The reason I mention “going through the wallet or purse” in my analogy is to emphasize that you’re not just wasting your supporters’ time (and spending social capital on frivolity), but all of these social media campaigns obtain permission online to get followers’ personal and private data.  This doesn’t just include such things as DOB, gender, etc., but most often pulls all of their friends’ information, too.  It is essentially going through their wallet.  Many are unaware of how much data they’re handing over when they click [I agree], but not all.

What’s more damaging beyond using your supporters to further the agenda of some unrelated corporate mission, however, is that with every one of these campaigns that nonprofits engage in, we are essentially telling corporations – encouraging them – to continue doing business with us this way in the future.

The more we fight like dozens of dogs in a pit over the same, single piece of meat, the less likely corporations will be in the future to stick to the previous model of sponsoring a single event – either as the lead sponsor, or one of several, for a nonprofit.  Why should they bother?

Consider the future of sponsorship overall – both local, regional and national – when you contemplat engaging in one of these contests.  The more you validate them, the more likely they are to become the single representation of what corporate sponsorship means in the future . . . and wouldn’t that be sad indeed?

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Keep the base of the pyramid strong

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How Do You Conduct A Successful Staff Campaign?

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012

Managing a successful workplace campaign means giving people an opportunity to become engaged in multiple ways with your nonprofit, ranging from quietly turning in their envelope, giving online or attending various events.

First, don’t assume that all employees know everything about your organization, its mission, etc.  As with any other population, your organization has a variety of people in a state of flux:  some people have been working there since the beginning of time, and probably know more than you do, while others are somewhere in the middle, and still others might have just started working there just last month.  Have a variety of activities and appeals so that each set can feel engaged.

For the veterans, probably the initial mention that “It’s staff giving time” during your opening campaign staff meeting will be sufficient; however, reminders are always important to help busy people, so an email or two can boost your participation rate with these people.

The residents on the other hand, have lived in “the neighborhood” for a while at least, and heard this appeal at least a few times now.  You’ll have to make some effort to break through the clutter of the past to make an impact – particularly if you are going to increase the participation rate, not to mention the average gift.

When appealing to the newbies, this is your first chance to introduce them to the campaign, so tell the story right!  Why should they give to the staff campaign, anyway?  While you know it’s important to have a high rate of participation to apply for additional funding, your opening pitch should always focus on the mission of your organization, as it would with any other population.  (What will this gift accomplish?)

It’s tempting, when there are so many campaigns to focus on, to give little effort to the staff campaign and just move on to everything else, but getting staff on board can serve to increase your overall number of ambassadors significantly.  Don’t underestimate the power of word of mouth . . . positive or negative.

Give your workplace campaign the same importance as any other, and go the extra mile – solicit a corporate sponsor that might cover the cost of a special staff outing, meal or event.  If this time isn’t feasible, consider soliciting a variety of prizes to be awarded throughout the campaign.

Even small nonprofits with limited staff and budgets have implemented this strategy to bolster morale during their workplace campaigns.

Noreen* was able to give away incentives specific to her office, with management buy-in, such as having heads of departments available to work for other employees for a day, doing their jobs, such as filing, data entry, answering phones, delivering mail, etc.

That was a real morale booster!” Noreen recounts, “But other prizes were popular, too, such as an extra vacation day, or a free executive parking space.  Most importantly, it got more people engaged and excited, talking about who might win the prizes.  Ultimately, our giving and participation went up, too – but the campaign wasn’t seen with the drudgery it had been in the past, simply because of these prizes . . . and, I think, management doing things such as filing and working reception!”

While you want to have enough visibility & events so that everyone can participate, take care to have the means to protect people’s anonymity, as well as see to it that you don’t make anyone feel pressured or shamed into giving.

Some people’s past experiences with staff giving are very negative, leaving them feeling resentful, because – either at their current or previous workplace – they witnessed supervisors directly or indirectly pressuring employees into donating to “the cause.”

Each person’s financial situation is different, and nonprofit employees in particular often don’t make a great deal of money, so creating a festive environment that focuses on your mission and overall (dollar) goal is a better strategy, versus lamenting how your participation goal is still lacking.

Owen* recounts how his mother deposited an empty envelope into the church collection plate every week, so that nobody would think poorly of her, lest she pass the plate without “donating.”

In fact, his mother gave quite generously to their church, by writing one large check per year.  She worried, though, that not being perceived by the congregation as giving on a regular basis could possibly negatively affect her social standing, or make her the target of speculation or gossip.  She felt it was worth the effort to give the impression with the weekly empty envelopes.  Owen still chuckles about this childhood memory today.

As with any other campaign, it’s essential to thank your donors when it’s over.  Make sure to report on the results to everyone (donating or not – prepare for next year!), and translate the overall figures into something meaningful:  “With the $XX,000 we raised, we were able to serve an additional Y,000 hot meals to Z00 homebound individuals!”

Photos and/or video of recent accomplishments are also very impactful, and remember to utilize your social media channels when delivering these messages.  (Make it easy for your new ambassadors to hit the [share] button!)

Finally, track not only your financial successes, but your personal successes.  Which staff members became more engaged or responded the most positively?  You’ll want to explore recruiting them for your campaign committee next year, but don’t wait nine or ten months to do it – ask them now about their interest and ideas.

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Keep the base of the pyramid strong

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What’s Left That Is Private?

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011

The social media world has encroached upon our privacy in ways we’ve never considered before.  Usually, that’s meant Facebook, but Mark Zuckerberg is just the most blatant, declaring that people don’t “care about privacy anymore.”

The truth is, many marketers have been secretly collecting, harvesting and selling customers’ data – from their own computers and elsewhere – prior to Facebook and since then.  It’s simply a matter of who pays attention, when they get caught, and what the penalties are.  Unfortunately, the repercussions are rarely an incentive for the next offenders to be discouraged, and so it goes again.  The next offenders violate at least as much privacy as the prior ones, collect data and profit from it until they are caught and punished, too.

Privacy issues go beyond the bounds of marketing the bounty of data scraping, however. The technology in this case moves so quickly, that not only can the law not keep up, but most people affected can’t keep up.  When default settings are placed in obscure locations and frequently reset with permissions that allow more and more sharing, such as facial recognition software of photos uploaded (and permanently stored thereafter, whether the photos are removed or not), it takes a while for people to realize what’s occurred, let alone object.

Many users choose to participate in location software programs, such as Foursquare and Gowalla, and voluntarily post where they are and what they are doing.  What all smart phone owners may not realize is that the GPS located in their phones often sends the same information to a variety of marketers.  The [I Agree] button depressed with each app downloaded often is a contract that sends the app designer a great deal of data from the phone, including one’s address book, calendar, GPS location information, and so forth.  A free app may cost in other ways . . . every time you use it.

Klout has recently come under public scrutiny for their duplicitous offer to delete accounts, since they were still monitoring data and ranking people with the same accounts, but simply not displaying the data on the “deleted” accounts.  In addition, Klout’s system of ranking people – who have registered or not – was discovered to include minor children, which incensed quite a few users.

The issues of anonymity and social media cross one another like they never have before, and bring up a multitude of situations, both personal and work-related.  As more and more situations arise, a great many of them head for the courts, where the law begins to adapt and get reinterpreted to fit new technology as it never has.

Until all of the legal policies are in place, it’s best to consider what your own personal and organizational policies will be, with regard to data collection, sharing, privacy, etc.  Even if you have a policy, it’s best to pull it out and review it.  If it’s more than two years old, chances are that situations could arise that wouldn’t have applied when your policies were conceived and written.  (e.g.  Does your policy even address situations of what can/can’t be posted on social media channels?  How to handle a problem posting there?  What about text messaging?)

In times like these, when technology changes so quickly, it’s best to be proactive instead of reactive.  Once a constituent feels that you’ve betrayed her trust, it’s not easily regained.
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Keep the base of the pyramid strong

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What Does Labor Day Mean To You?

Wednesday, September 7th, 2011

For so many workers, the meaning of Labor Day has changed drastically.  What used to be regarded merely as a long weekend and a changing of the seasons is now a stinging reminder of being unemployed or underemployed.

Similar to the anniversary of the death of a loved one, Labor Day creeps up and reminds many people of what they once had . . . and slaps them in the face with the reality of what they are now faced with instead: little or no reward, appreciation or prospects, not to mention a reminder of how much time has passed since the job search began.  It can all be a bit overwhelming to have Labor Day stare you down like that.

There never were guarantees in the job market, but the odds have gotten much more difficult in this economy.  Having a list of various steps that you can take to help tilt the odds back in your direction can be useful.  Not only might this increase your chances, but it can also begin to allow you to consider the employer’s point of view more often.  As you are more mindful of a hiring manager’s needs and perspective, this will make you a better candidate overall.

There are many phases in the hiring process beyond the face to face interview, which is certainly important and worthy of preparing questions, responses, wardrobe, demeanor, etc.  However, aspects prior to sitting down with a hiring manager may or may not lead to getting that interview, and your actions after the interview can determine if you’re called back or selected for the position.

With so many candidates being qualified – and over-qualified – directors have the luxury to be as picky as possible these days.  Which areas might you improve upon, either to impress or make life easier for a potential new supervisor?

Phone/Voicemail

Typically, if a hiring manager likes what they see, the first means of contacting you for more information will be by phone.  It’s important, therefore, to consider carefully which phone number(s) you have provided.  Unless you were asked for more than one phone number, provide only one and remain consistent.

•     Is this a phone number you have control over, or do you share the line with others?  Will you get your messages in a timely manner?
•     What impression will the potential employer get when the phone is answered?  How is the phone answered?  Will the hiring manager feel you are professional (“Hello.  This is Dawn.”), or immature (“Yo! ‘Sup, dude?”)?  Will there be unfavorable background noise, or unprofessional voicemail?  Do you identify yourself on your voicemail, or is it a generic, “Hi – this is 555-1234.  Leave a message.”
•     How soon after a call do you get/retrieve your messages?
•     How easy is it for you to return – or receive – a call during working hours in a private, uninterrupted setting?  (Most first interviews are now via phone.)
•     Do you make a point to add your phone number under your signature in every email correspondence?  Although it may already be listed on previous documents, why not make it easy for someone to find your phone number, instead of looking it up elsewhere?

Email

Many people don’t give a single thought as to how they are representing themselves with their email address, either, but this can affect the job search also.

•     Most people have more than one email address these days.  Consider using – or creating – one specifically for job hunting and networking purposes only.  Receiving all correspondence at one email address can make it easy to have your inbox cluttered and lose or overlook an important incoming message.
•     Try to make your email address as business-like and close to your name as possible.  If your name is “John Smith,” then JohnSmith@aol.com is no doubt taken, but if you can try a different service provider and/or adding your middle initial, certification, etc., so that your email doesn’t end up adding several digits to your last name, it’s much better.  You wouldn’t want a typo of inverted numbers to leave you without a message that was intended to ask you to return for a second interview.
•     Consider investing in a smartphone or other handheld device that allows you to access your emails without having to use a company computer.  Most businesses monitor employees’ online activities these days, and while “personal emails” may have a broad interpretation, using company property to search for and respond to other job listings and offers could get you in real trouble.
•     Many colleges offer free email to their alumni upon graduating, but it’s not a good idea to use this account as your job search email.  Unless you are in the academic field, hiring managers will view you – fair or not – as very young and very green, just out of college, with no “real world” experience, and still trying to vicariously relive your college days.

Online Presence

Having social networking skills is often a selling point when interviewing these days.  It’s often becoming a necessary part of the job, just as computer skills were a couple of decades ago.  However, it’s essential that you be aware that how you behave online reflects back on the impression you make to your current and future employers.  There really is no privacy online whatsoever, regardless of any setting(s) provided on the various social networks.

Take care in what you say and how you say it when posting – or emailing – any type of statement, video, photo, etc.  If you wouldn’t be comfortable with the general public viewing it, it’s best left unsaid online.  This doesn’t mean you have to be a recluse, however, but learn that it is a public venue.  There are things you wouldn’t say or do in public, simply because you prefer to present a well-behaved, polite persona.  It’s the same thing.

Some additional pointers:

•     Periodically Google your name and see what the results are.  Are you pleased with them?  What are the most important aspects that Google has to say about you, if anything?  If your name is similar enough to others, add some other distinguishing terms about yourself (or remove the distinguishing terms about the others) to narrow the search to you.  If you don’t care for the results, there are two things you can do to improve your online presence:  Add more positive hits with online activities such as tweeting, blogging, posting comments on other blogs, LinkedIn groups, etc., or remove the hits by contacting those sites that have mentioned and/or tagged you.
•     Be mindful of what you are tweeting, posting, blogging, commenting, etc.  This isn’t just about party photos, but such things as complaints about your job, co-workers, boss, and so forth.  If you come across as whining about job interviews, or being negative, rather than someone who perseveres, your attitude – regardless of the topic discussed – can help a hiring manager decide whether you make the short list or not.  Many bosses are turned off by excessive use of profanity as well.
•     Consider that the better you become at social media, the more you can use these tools to your advantage, too.  While managers are availing themselves of a way to view potential employees while they “have their hair down,” candidates with know-how can do the same thing and learn more about the personality of a possible manager than they ever could before.  Now, after an interview, if you have a gut feeling about that person possibly being condescending or a drill sergeant in disguise, you might be able to confirm that hunch with a little online homework!

Mail

Don’t neglect the importance of writing a handwritten thank you note after your interview.  For a phone interview, an email thank you may be all that’s necessary, but unless a decision is being made within the next day or two (which you determined during your interview), there is time to write and mail a thoughtful, handwritten note, which elaborates upon some point or topic discussed during the interview, as well as thanking the manager(s) for their time.

Not only does this gesture demonstrate that you have courtesy and a timely sense of follow through, but in addition to showing legible handwriting and the ability to craft a letter, all managers appreciate knowing who has the ability to compose sentences properly without the use of spell check and grammar assistant tools from a word processor.

So few candidates send a thank you after an interview, and among those that do, many opt for the shortest route, such as a text, email, or sending some type of form letter to everyone seen.  Make certain you take good enough notes to write each individual a unique message expressing something about the time spent with them – or why bother?

The better fit you can find with the job you ultimately do get, the less likely you are to spend all of your off hours searching for the next job so soon.  The ideal situation is not only to find work that is challenging, but also a supervisor that gives and receives respect.  A living wage is the cherry on the sundae, of course.

Here’s hoping that future Labor Days remind us more of sundaes, s’mores and picnics, rather than unreached goals.

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Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment.
—  Rita Mae Brown

Similar Posts:

(When) Should I Start Looking Elsewhere?

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Yvonne* and Zachary* realized that even with preparation, problems arise during interviews

Fix It Or Forget It?

Wednesday, June 29th, 2011

Ask anyone what is most important about a job, and they’ll say “salary,” but ask why they left their last position, and it’s rarely about money.  Most likely, it’s related to the work environment and what they could no longer tolerate.

This is why it is so essential to consider all aspects of a new position when interviewing, and give careful thought to the primary components required to make the job desirable . . . from your viewpoint.  What are seen as crucial benefits for some may be less vital or even insignificant to another, depending on their financial, geographical, family, health and other circumstances.

Greg* enjoyed his position with a large to mid-sized company, where he could specialize on something he was quite skilled at, and had gotten above average reviews in his time served so far.

When the economic downturn struck, his job was safe, but the company relocated to a new building, and Greg was moved from his office to one of many, many cubicles in a wide open space, along with dozens of other employees.  His title, duties and salary remained the same.

Greg found it hard to concentrate on getting his work done each day, and ended up either coming in early or staying very late – or both.  He hadn’t shared with his supervisor that he had ADHD, and all of the activity, noise, etc., made it incredibly difficult for him to focus and accomplish his work.  He didn’t even tell her that he took medication.

When he contacted me, I did mention to him that his condition was legally protected, and that he should be able to request reasonable accommodations, which may even get him an office back, considering his good track record before, and excellent reviews.

Greg seemed doubtful of this.  Apparently, there had been a previous employee who had a different condition and requested other accommodations a couple of years ago.  Greg witnessed his boss begrudgingly comply . . . and make snide comments about him at nearly every opportunity.  Although Greg didn’t feel that this person was the best employee at the company, he felt certain that his supervisor attributed a great deal more fault to him than he deserved, due to the special accommodations requested.

Greg finally decided to Forget It! and although he preferred to work more in his niche that he was most skilled at, he ended up interviewing more at smaller companies that tended to have an office assigned to the positions he was applying for, rather than a cubicle.  He made a point to include in his interview questions, “Can I have a tour of the building?” which is less overbearing than “I’d like to see my workspace,” yet accomplishes the same goal.

This did mean that Greg had to end up working on a variety of assignments, instead of his favorite all of the time, but he found he was better able to focus on all of them when he could have more control over his own workspace, so the tradeoff was worth it to him.

Hilda* found herself in the opposite position, ironically.  She had left her job with an organization where very nearly everyone worked in cubicles in an open space, except the Director and Assistant Director.  Her previous company had a cafeteria, and everyone worked together and ate together and there was quite a bit of socializing all day long.

Hilda was glad to have gotten a promotion to this new company, but the management style – and building structure and location – was different.  She now had her own office, and it was at the end of a hallway.  Hilda is a shy person, and not the type to approach people if they don’t speak to her first.

There was no cafeteria in the building, so people either brought their lunch or grouped in cars and went out together.  Hilda was too shy to invite someone, and since she was at the end of the hall, others didn’t see her or think to invite her along.  She was beginning to miss her cubicle, and feeling very isolated.

I worked with Hilda on several simpler things she could do to inject herself more into the fray, such as adding some personal conversation into the work-related interactions that she was already having with various staff members, so that they would see her as a social being as well.

In addition to visiting people in person at least once a day, instead of always using email or the phone, I suggested that Hilda try to arrive at all staff meetings 5 – 10 minutes early, because a good deal of important networking often takes place among people who chit chat prior to such gatherings.

Another suggestion I made was for Hilda to offer a very compelling reason for people to make the trip down the hall to stop by her office and visit: a candy bowl.  Although a couple of people in her office would occasionally put out candy on their desk during some holidays such as Halloween, Valentine’s Day or Easter, I suggested that she keep one out that was permanently stocked with very popular candies – of better quality than anyone else’s.  This would automatically declare, in a very subtle form, that Hilda’s office is the place to go for an afternoon snack.

Of course, Hilda would have to work on her conversational skills as well; otherwise, people would simply take a candy and leave.

Hilda took my advice, and several weeks later, was happy to report that this Fix It! had worked out wonderfully!  She now had people to eat lunch with and didn’t feel nearly as isolated as when she started the job.  Different people stopped by to speak with her on a daily basis, and a couple of months later, she was also socializing with some of them after work hours at times, too.

In both cases, Greg and Hilda weren’t unhappy with their actual duties, which they each performed quite well, but the circumstances of their work environments led them to consider leaving their jobs  – and neither of them felt comfortable bringing up the specifics with their supervisors.

Do you have a Fix It or Forget It? story to share?  Send it to me, and it might help others.  Identifying features will be altered prior to publishing.

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Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment.
—  Rita Mae Brown

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Barney* and Courtney* deal with micro-managers

Irene* and Jennifer* have constant office stressors

Leslie* and Kirk* face different interview challenges

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