What We Have Here Is a Failure to Converse

February 24, 2010

Perhaps I was wrong. In this new 2.0 era, I thought communications was all about having conversations.

Conversations require interaction where people talk and listen. Maybe I’m missing something, but I observe a lot more talking than listening. It seems everyone has something to say and everyone is clamoring to be heard. To me, it looks like the talkers far outnumber the listeners.

Was I mistaken to assume that things would be different with the arrival of the social media revolution? Am I naive in thinking that people would connect with each other because 1) they were genuinely interested in what others had to say and 2) they actually had something of value to share?

As we interact, as we share information, we connect with each other. Social media give us the tools to connect and converse. Sometimes during our conversations we’ll encounter negative or inaccurate information. Does that mean we should immediately end the conversation? Should we refuse to talk because the conversation may be a little awkward or uncomfortable? Absolutely not! Read the rest of this entry »


What to Do When United Way Moves Your Cheese

January 6, 2010

I just finished re-reading the classic little book Who Moved My Cheese? It gave me a better understanding of what is happening in the nonprofit community—not just here in Kansas City, but across the nation.

For many years, the national United Way system has been struggling to redefine itself. Its leaders have created new methods for allocating money, and somehow they believe that “moving the cheese around” will make their cause more attractive to donors who have, over the years, found United Way to be waning in relevance.

That logic escapes me. In my opinion, United Way will become less relevant as it leaves gaping holes in human services programs. I guess you could call it their “Swiss cheese model” for meeting human needs. I assume United Way realizes that its decision to cut much-needed funding will actually force established, well-respected organizations such as the American Red Cross to compete more directly with them for contributions from within the same donor pool.

Personal Disclosure

To be transparent, I must disclose two important facts about myself before I continue sharing my opinions.

First, I am responsible for marketing at the American Red Cross of Greater Kansas City, the single largest recipient of United Way allocations in this region. Though I am employed by the Red Cross, this blog post has been written on my personal time and entirely reflects only my own opinions, not those of my employer.

Second, before coming to the Red Cross I served as the vice president of marketing for the United Way of Greater Kansas City. Because I have always had great respect for the organization and its mission, I am both a Diamond Donor (meaning I’ve given for 25+ years) and I’m also a member of the Leadership Giving Circle. However, in the weeks ahead I intend to reevaluate whether United Way is the wise investment I once thought it was.

By the way, I have many friends who work at United Way. They are exceptionally professional individuals and nothing I say here is a personal indictment of them or anyone else. Read the rest of this entry »


When Fundraising Becomes Begging

December 1, 2009

This time of year we hear from lots of people asking for money. That includes my charity-of-choice—the American Red Cross—which recently launched its holiday giving campaign.

Everywhere I turn someone’s hitting me up for another contribution. Isn’t it enough that I’m a leadership giver to United Way? Or that I also tithe at my church? Or that I buy trash bags, cookies and popcorn to support worthy causes?

As I drive around town, I’ll often see a homeless person panhandling at a busy intersection. His “case for support” will likely be handwritten on a crude cardboard sign.

Last week as I walked into my favorite bookstore, I was accosted on the sidewalk by the same man who’s been there years. Quite literally, that’s his “job”—begging for money. That brief encounter prompted me to think about the similarities and differences between a panhandler and a nonprofit fundraiser. Here’s what I came up with:

How are they similar?

  1. They both want my money.
  2. They both think they are quite deserving of a contribution.
  3. They both act as if it’s my patriotic duty or moral obligation to support them.
  4. They both will say thank you once I’ve given.
  5. Neither will likely follow up to let me know the positive impact my gift had.

How are they different?

  1. One is dressed nicer than the other.
  2. One has showered and shaved today.
  3. One is more likely than the other to have my e-mail address.
  4. One might publish my name in 6-point type in an annual report.
  5. One is more likely to ask me to give again, reminding me how much I gave last time and even requesting an increase.

Read the rest of this entry »


Why the Red Cross Launched a Facebook Page

August 27, 2009

In my opinion, too many nonprofit organizations have Facebook fan pages.

They were probably created because 1) everyone else was doing it 2) the technology was available or 3) someone with influence told them they needed to be on Facebook. The problem is they don’t know why they have a Facebook page.

At the American Red Cross of Greater Kansas City, we decided not to launch a Facebook page until we could tie it to our strategy. As marketing director, I did not want to naively launch a traditional 1.0 tactic using a new 2.0 tool. Though I’m a huge proponent of the social media revolution, I wanted to understand how a Facebook page would fit into the smorgasbord of all the communication tools available.

We had just redesigned our Web site (kcredcross.org) and I wanted our Facebook page to be complementary rather than redundant. Our Web site would continue to serve as a useful reference in the 1.0 world of broadcasting or pushing information, whereas our social media activities would hopefully spawn interaction, provoke conversation and ultimately engage members of our 2.0 community.

The strategy came into focus as I re-read Seth Godin’s book Tribes. The Red Cross Facebook page could become the place where our “tribe” would gather to share information and rally around a common cause. Read the rest of this entry »


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