Archive for the ‘Communication’ Category

focus1There is no unanimous agreement on the benefit of focus groups, or even how to conduct focus research or use what is learned from it. Done well, however, focus groups can be a source of information.

At the Direct Marketing Association New York Nonprofit Conference, Dana Weinstein, membership director of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM), and John Perell, manager of direct marketing, research and analytics at the American Red Cross (ARC) national headquarters, talked about focus groups their organizations conducted and the knowledge they gleaned from them.

The results for the museum:

  • There was little to no idea of the USHMM work. It was an unknown entity.
  • Commonly used language describing its public-private partnership (federal support and nationwide donors) did not resonate.
  • Despite deep probing, messaging to war veteran audiences did not resonate.
  • The genocide message resonated well.
  • Anything “America” or “national conscience” did not resonate. Strong language and images ranked high.

For the ARC:

  • The Red Cross is synonymous with “disaster relief.”
  • Disaster relief is so powerful that it dwarfs the importance of other American Red Cross activities and services.
  • Emphasis on disaster relief does little to build the local brand.
  • The need exists to create a chapter identity.
  • The strongest case celebrates the power of giving.

The Nonprofit Times

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capacityThe Nonprofit Good Practice Guide, a free online resource, captures and organizes good practices for nonprofits and foundations.

There are thousands of effectiveness-building tips and resources on topics including:

  • Accountability and Evaluation;
  • Advocacy;
  • Communications and Marketing;
  • Foundations and Grantmaking;
  • Fundraising and Financial Sustainability;
  • Governance;
  • Management and Leadership;
  • Staff Development and Organizational Capacity;
  • Technology; and
  • Volunteer Management.

Source: National Council of Nonprofits

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arrowI had been since October 2006.  For my readers, these are the most read posts:

Top Posts – Updated: April 16, 2009

To read an actual post, click on the red sentence below:

Federal student loan forgiveness for nonprofit employees  – 3,937 views

President signs federal student loan forgiveness bill – 1,581 views

Ten myths about business ethics– 1,492 views

The importance of program evaluation– 1,067 views

Tips and Techniques for dealing with angry employees– 595 views

About the Author– 523 views

Why people leave jobs?– 434 views

Seven hidden reasons employees leave their jobs – 428 views

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Here are some great recommendations from Get-It-Done-Guy on voice mail etiquette:

1. Always leave your full name. I can’t say this enough. Leave your full name. They’ll recognize my voice. No, they won’t. Leave your full name. But I’m leaving my message for my parents. That’s nice. Leave your full name. It’s good practice. Your parents agonized over that name. They fought over it. They almost divorced while debating Filligan versus Dormalia. And your middle name? Don’t even get me started. Just leave your full name.

2. Always leave your phone number twice. 866-WRK-LESS. Once at the beginning and once at the end. But they have my phone number, you cry! No, they don’t, not with them. But we talk every day! Yes, and they don’t have your phone number. Not in front of their eyes. Just leave it. Leave it at the beginning of the message and the end. If they miss it the first time, they’ll have a second chance. And whether their voicemail has “rewind 10 seconds” or “replay from start,” they’ll //quickly// be able to get right to the number with only a couple of key presses. 866-WRK-LESS.

3. Speak slowly and clearly. Your brain screens out traffic, conversations, and wind while you leave a message. You hear the dulcet strains of your own voice, while the voicemail system hears static, wind, the occasional siren, and that truly disgusting belch you expelled without a second thought. Oh, yeah, and your cell phone is cutting out while you leave the message. Speak to them … like … they’re … a … child. They’ll understand you and you’ll get the fun of activating your parental instincts without the fuss of actually changing your friend’s diapers.

4. Leave enough information so the person can take the next step. Don’t just say “Call me.” What a cop out. You’ll just bounce back and forth like some hideous voicemail volleyball. Tell them enough so they can proceed without calling back, or if they call back, they can do it having made all the progress possible. “This is Sam, calling about the, er, health issue. Could you call me back with the name of that antibiotic? And what’s your favorite cotton swab? Thanks!”

By the way, when you’re done with this episode, download a PDF of these rules from getitdone.quickanddirtytips.com.

5. If you’re just calling to touch base, let them know a few times when they can call you back. There are times you want a phone call, and times when you don’t. When you’re out on the town, edging up to that sexy single standing by the bar, you just aren’t in the mood to take a phone call about refilling your company’s supply of packing peanuts. Tell your voicemail victim, “Give me a call today after 3, tomorrow at 7, or Thursday between 9 and noon.” You’ll help them and save your love life, all at once.

6. Keep it short and simple.

7. Make it fun. If you must go on and on in a voicemail message, make it easy to listen to. Be humorous. Sing. Deliver your message in rhyme. I do all these things, and people love getting messages from me. If you’re going to force people to think of you, have ’em think of you fondly.

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apologize1I recently discovered the audio book, The Last Lecture, by Randy Pausch. A long-standing academic tradition, the “last lecture” is premised on what a professor might say to a class as a final “words of wisdom.” Dr. Pausch, terminally ill from pancreatic cancer, actually delivered a last lecture at Carnegie Mellon on September 18, 2007 where has was a professor of computer science. The audio book was terrific and I am enjoying a second listen. The YouTube link to the video can be found here.

With wonderful candor, and humility, Dr. Pausch shares great wisdom and practical advice on living a life worthy of itself. Framed as a future gift to his three children, The Last Lecture, is a gift to all of us. Let me share a scintilla of his wisdom on how to make an apology.

The art of apologizing and meaning it has all but been lost in a time of spin, market messaging, and legal language. The ability to apologize — to deescalate and step away from the Sirens’ call of “being right” — is so very important. Yet, what often results are half-hearted and thinly veiled attempts to manipulate and wallow in the luxury of being right.

But what if apologizing is acknowledging that life is just complicated and two people, or two litigants, or two warring nations just see the circumstance from very different vantage points?

It seems like we have a choice — we can be right (always attractive to us humans), or we can be effective. Maybe, just maybe, apologizing is a commitment to ourselves to become complete, to let go, to move on. Could it be that apologizing is an act of self-creation and healing for ourselves?

Dr. Pausch talks of the two ways that we so often “apologize.”

  1. “I’m sorry you feel hurt by what I’ve done.” Get real, that isn’t apologizing; it’s a toxic spin to make ourselves right.
  2. I apologize for what I did, but you also need to apologize for what you’ve done to me.” No cigar here either. This is asking for an apology, not giving one.

Both of the above are life sucks, and will just piss people off. Then damn, we get to be right again.

Randy recommends a much more effective, three-step process to effective apologizing:

  1. What I did was wrong”
  2. “I feel badly that I hurt you.”
  3. “How do I make this better?”

Talk about words creating healing. And yes, some people might attempt to take advantage of you when you ask how you can make it better. But Randy found that people will generally appreciate that you made a good effort. He found that they may tell you how to make improve the situation in some overall, easy way. And often, they’ll work hard to make thing better themselves.

Randy’s parting words are to “be patient for others to come around, because they just might.” But either way, we are complete; we can move on. I know for myself I am reminded of the old saw, “too long dumb, too short smart.”

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All of us have been the victim of mind-numbing, god-awful presentations. Here are some tips to make your next presentations great:

  • Know your subject
  • Know the audience
  • Know the A/V equipment
  • Know the time constraints
  • Have a “plan B”‘ be prepared to adjust on the fly
  • Have a “hook” to start . . . get their attention (See Knockout Presentations, DiResta (1998))
  • Keep it simple
  • Engage the audience: use eye contact, questions, etc.
  • PowerPoint tips:
    • Use the “Rule of 6”
      • 6 lines per slide
      • 6 words per line
      • No more than 6 slides without a graphic
    • Use minimal animation and effects
    • Rarely use sound effects
    • Use a big font (230 pt.)
    • Graphics and sound effects must be relevant to the topic and not distracting
    • Allow 1 minute per slide; more if you expect a lot of discussion
    • Beware of colors: dark background vs. light; yellow
  • Use humor, but be careful!
  • Use voice inflection
  • Be aware of your gestures
  • Know when to use charts
  • Know yourself
  • When appropriate cover:
    • The purpose
    • Background
    • Relevant issues
    • Recommendations / actions
  • Always tell ’em, tell ’em, and tell ’em again

Good luck!

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trash1It seems that every nonprofit imaginable has a website. The dirty little secret is that most are horrible! Most should be assigned to the trash. Absolute failures to connect and communicate.

Here’s my take on the top reasons for these failures and some thoughts on improvement.

  1. The Dead Site: Sorry but it’s true; you’re the only one who doesn’t know it. Sadly, this is the majority of nonprofit sites. These are the “tombstone websites” – nothing more than a poor version of an electronic brochure. Grab your visitors. Speak to their values, visions, hopes and dreams. If you don’t have the time or minimum resources to develop and regularly update a site, you’re better off taking it down until you can adequately support it.
  2. The No Purpose Site: What do you want your visitor to do? Identify next step actions — maybe, sign up for a newsletter?, become part of your advocacy campaign?, download a great resource? Have friends that aren’t familiar with your organization honestly review your site. Ask them to find the answer to some questions about your group. Examples could include: where are we physically located?, what is your organization’s mission?, what are your recent achievements?, how could them become involved? Pay attention to how easy it is to navigate your site (don’t talk!). Make notes on the ease or difficulty in finding these answers. This feedback is invaluable. Make changes based on what you learned.
  3. The No Follow-up Site: The primary purpose of any website is to get visitors to return! And that’s only going to happen if there’s a reason to do so. If you haven’t identified your web audiences, then you aren’t ready for the web. Every audience will have different and often multiple reasons to become engaged. And don’t think that you are going to raise much money on your site. Unless you are a nationally recognized organization responding to a compelling crisis (e.g. Katrina, Tsunami, etc.), people are not going to donate through your site for a while, and maybe never. Begin a discussion; give them a reason to return, start a relationship.

Need help redeveloping a site that rocks? Let us help. See your services, here.

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You’ve heard people say networking is important, and many trace their current employment to knowing someone in the company. But I believe networking is more than a job-finding tool and can benefit you on several levels. Connecting with other managers in your personal network can improve your ability to

  • present solid business decisions
  • discover practical applications for processes and tools
  • develop innovations
  • create role definitions for special job categories
  • renew your management spirit

Although it can be a pain to initiate, having a personal network is a blessing.

When it’s a pain, you may have to push through.
Publications managers can be introverted people, and the idea of taking the lead to interact with new people is a turn off. Contacting acquaintances and associates to get their help can be equally painful. It’s easier to invent your own solution and ignore your peers. I hope understanding the rewards of staying connected can bring you the ‘juice’ you need to build and sustain a personal network.

Time is another barrier to push through. Networking takes time. You have to schedule contacts, apply and get approval for attending conferences or seminars, and travel. Like exercise and diet, you have to believe in the benefit to persist.

What’s the reward for building your personal network?
Remember the reasons I stated in the beginning.

Presenting solid business decisions
As a publications manager, you make cases for your decisions and your coworkers, and upper management asks questions about them. They recognize your expertise but can feel uncertain because they know little about the guts of technical communication. When you report similar actions or quote best-in-class practices of companies they know, you take your credibility to a higher level. You are framing your actions within a business context. If several companies are taking similar actions, you can show you are part of a business trend.

Discovering practical applications for processes and tools
As you network, you learn more about what’s going on out there; you begin to mine process and tool information from the experience base of your peers. Recommendations and solutions to problems grow naturally. You find out what vendors others use, what organizations they find useful, and what books and articles help them make decisions.

Developing innovations
Conversations spark ideas and sharing ignites further innovation. You can follow up with visits to other groups or offer demonstrations of your work.

Creating role definitions for special job categories
You can discuss job descriptions and special assignments in your group to see where there is commonality and where there are differences. As the industry changes, new assignments develop and the traditional titles of writer and editor fall short of current roles. How have peers solved these issues? What were the results? How can you tailor their jobs descriptions for your group’s requirements?

Renewing your management spirit
Conversations with peers allow you to release the joys and concerns management responsibilities create. The knowing nod and smile can validate you. A frequent comment CIDM Director Dr. JoAnn Hackos receives as feedback on her conferences is the positive experience of interacting with other managers.

How to develop a personal network
Networking happens on the phone, in one-on-one meetings, and at social gatherings, seminars, and professional conferences. You can create your own network by identifying like-interest managers in your company, business area, and professional organizations. Start the process by picking a topic and setting a time and location for communicating with other managers—one-on-one or in a small group. Expand your contacts by signing up for professional conferences. Afterwards, follow up on the phone or in person to increase your opportunity to interact with these professionals. Intensify your experience by recording your results in a networking journal. Note what topics you discussed and what the business or group is doing; list processes and tools; and, most of all, record what you contributed.

You will probably spend some time on social topics but that interaction builds the fabric of networking communication and makes requests easier in the future.

If you haven’t tried networking, I hope you will. If you are already networking, stay connected. Building a personal network rewards your investment and can help you in good or bad times.

©2005 by the Center for Information-Development Management. All rights reserved.
Tel. 303-232-7586 Fax. 303-232-0659

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Our friends at Expert Magazine bring us 20 pointers for great presentations. Here’s the summary:

1. Clarify the expectations.

2. Speak from the heart — and the head.

3. Plan before you speak.

4. Dress appropriately.

5. Be prompt.

6. Be gracious and friendly.

7. Take the time to get to know your audience.

8. Put them at ease, literally.

9. Communicate clearly.

10. Be organized.

11. Speak intentionally.

12. Gesture naturally.

13. Be original.

14. Involve the audience.

15. Make eye contact.

16. Get personal.

17. Get close.

18. Be lighthearted.

19. Send thank-you notes.

20. Learn from the experience.

Source: Mariah Burton Nelson. For the complete article, click here!

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angry1Anger is a force that can move an organization forward to improve, or, it can be a force that destroys the organization’s ability to fulfill its purpose on an everyday level. Managers play a critical role in determining which of these results will come about.

The way the manager deals with conflict and anger will set the climate for employees. Here are some helpful tips provided by Robert Bacal on dealing with the angry employee.

  • When an employee expresses anger, deal with it as soon as possible. That doesn’t mean in two weeks! By showing a desire to make time to discuss the situation, you are showing that you are concerned, and value the employee and his or her perceptions and feelings. Many performance problems reach crisis proportions as a result of delay in dealing with anger.
  • Certain situations require privacy for discussion since some people will be unwilling to air their feelings at a public staff meeting. However, if anger is expressed in a staff meeting, you can develop a positive climate in the organization by dealing effectively with it in public. One technique is to ask the angry employee whether they would like to discuss it now, or prefer to talk about it privately. Let them call the shot.
  • Always allow the employee to talk. Don’t interrupt. If they are hesitant to talk, encourage them by using a concerned, non-defensive tone and manner, and gently use questions. For example:

    You seem a bit upset. I would like to help even if you are angry with me. What’s up?

    If an employee refuses to talk about what’s bothering them, consider adjourning by saying:

    I can understand that you are hesitant to talk about this, but we would probably both be better off if we got it out in the open. Let’s leave it for a few days and come back to it

  • Then follow up on the conversation.

  • Respond to the employee’s feelings first, not the issue underlying the feelings. Use empathy first by saying something like:

    It sounds like you are pretty annoyed with me. I would like to hear your opinion.

  • Before stating “your side” or your perception of the situation, make sure you have heard what the person said. Use active listening.

    George, if I understand you correctly, you are angry because you feel that I have not given you very challenging assignments, and you feel that I don’t have any confidence in your abilities. Is that right?

  • If the employee’s perceptions do not match your perceptions express your perceptions in a way that tries to put you and the employee on the same side. Your job is not to prove the employee wrong (even if they are).
  • Trying to prove the employee is incorrect is likely to increase the anger level even if you are right.

    George, I am sorry you feel that way. Let me explain what I think has happened so you can understand my thinking. Then we can work this out together.

  • A technique used by expert negotiators is to establish agreement about something. Before getting into the issues themselves, lay the groundwork by finding something the two of you agree on. Again, the point here is to convey the message that you are on the same side.

    For example:

    George, I think we agree that we don’t want this issue to continue to interfere with our enjoyment of our work. Is that accurate?

  • At the end of a discussion of this short check in, check with the employee to see how they are feeling. The general pattern is:

    • Deal with feelings first
    • Move to issues and problem-solving
    • Go back to feelings (check it out)
    • Ask the employee if they are satisfied with the situation, or simply ask, “Do you feel a bit better?” You may not always get a completely honest response, so be alert to tone of voice and non-verbal cues.
  • If it appears that the employee is still upset or angry, you may want to let it pass for the moment. Allow the person to think about the situation away from you, THEN follow-up in a day or two. This is important because someone who is angry initially may “lose face” by letting the anger go immediately. Or, the employee might just need time to think about your discussion.

Good luck!

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