Alana – An Inspiring Graduate Committed to Service

June 23, 2011

I first saw Alana as she began working as a volunteer in the Red Cross shelter. We talked briefly and I learned she was a high school English teacher.

On her first day she demonstrated that she was there to work hard. I watched as she completed her assigned tasks and then found other work to do. She swept the floor, moved boxes and served food. She later took it upon herself to organize the shelter’s library of donated books and to teach a girl how to shoot a basketball. Read the rest of this entry »

People Who Inspired Me in Joplin

June 20, 2011

I spent two weeks in Joplin, Missouri immediately following the EF-5 tornado that destroyed much of that small town. I was there as a member of the disaster relief team of the American Red Cross.

In Joplin I talked with many survivors of the storm. I toured the indescribable destruction inside the tornado’s footprint. I even became acquainted with several of the people who lost their homes and were staying in the Red Cross shelter.

The more I got to know the people of Joplin, the more I was inspired by them. Although they seemingly had lost so much, they were grateful for what they still had. Although they greatly appreciated the support coming from every part of the nation, they felt no sense of entitlement. Although they faced an uncertain future, they were hopeful and believed that better days would come. Read the rest of this entry »

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 »

Why I Hate Committees (But Love Task Forces)

November 5, 2009

I think committees are a colossal waste of time. Too often they focus on process rather than impact. The typical agenda emphasizes “coloring within the lines” rather than creating collaboration. Attendees are probably there because they are required to be, not because they necessarily have something to contribute.

Over time, a committee tends to take on a life of its own. It creates work to perpetuate its existence. It looks for problems to solve in areas where problems didn’t exist until they were created by problem-solving committee members.

When I’ve chaired committees I’ve often struggled to understand why the committee was originally created and why it continues to exist. I’ve been a member of committees where I was able to catch up on my reading while held hostage by PowerPoint presentations intended to torture me with a meaningless dump of information. As a nonprofit leader, I’ve staffed numerous committees where I wondered how to best use the time of busy volunteers who thought committee work was a good way to be engaged in a worthwhile cause.

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 ( 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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