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posted by Teresa Coles Nov 30,2010 @ 11:59AM

Who owns philanthropy?

Many of us who support the work of nonprofit organizations have been trained to accept the conventional definition of philanthropy: the act of making a large financial gift to a nonprofit or cause. We’re told that philanthropy is one thing, while charitable giving is another. All that separates the two is the number of zeros on the check.

There’s no denying that major capital gifts are mission critical. They can make an immediate and profound impact on a nonprofit’s ability to carry out its mission. These are the gifts that often make the difference in being able to build new buildings, staff new initiatives, and carry out new research. The people who are in the position to make these kinds of gifts — and who do so cheerfully — are important stewards of humanity, and they are to be commended.

But what of the others without the means to give as much? Are they not philanthropists in their own right? Our friends at Wiki tell us that philanthropy is the effort or inclination to increase the wellbeing of humankind. That’s pretty wide open, wouldn’t you say?

To that end, I believe every quarter dropped in the black kettle, every $10 gift placed at the foot of an angel tree, and every check written to a nonprofit during the holidays is an act of philanthropy. Why should those gifts from the heart be classified as different, or any less worthy?

A season is upon us. And as we walk through these weeks together, I urge us all to look for the small gifts and acts of grace that can cumulatively change the world we live in. As my dad used to say, “Being generous has nothing to do with having a lot of money.”

posted by Cathy Monetti Nov 29,2010 @ 12:03PM

Lessons from Black Friday Shopping

I write this post at the end of long holiday weekend. I've made a road trip to visit my parents, cooked Thanksgiving dinner, attended a state playoff football game, practiced church choir Christmas music, hung wreaths on the windows, loaded the holiday playlist on the iPod, decked the living room mantel, and — in the interest of full disclosure — watched Lifetime Television For Women. (Note to all who are looking for love: Rush to your local preschool and volunteer to direct the Christmas play.)

And I shopped. Beginning at 12:01 a.m. on Black Friday, my daughter, sister-in-law and I fully experienced the "What do you mean it's only 40 percent off?" crazies with the hundreds of thousands of other bargain shoppers who braved ridiculous crowds and overloaded parking lots for super-duper bargains. Whether consciously or not, we expected to be richly rewarded for bringing our wallets and our Christmas lists to the stores of Prime Outlets in St. Augustine, Florida.

As I moved with the hordes from store to store, I realized there were some valuable lessons for smart brands in this ultimate retail experience:

1. Keep your promises.

I was surprised at the level of customer service offered at many of the stores, even with deep discounts and large crowds. For the most part dressing rooms were monitored, store shelves were straightened and re-straightened, there were plenty of cheerful workers on the floor helping customers find just what they were looking for. Not only did this make me feel valued and appreciated, but it made the merchandise seem more valuable, as well. Smart, smart, smart.

2. Simple is better.

Isn't it frustrating to not understand a complicated offer? Instead, several retailers offered consistent savings storewide, which they reinforced with signage AND greeters at the front door. If everything in the store was half price, it was nice to know from the moment I walked in.

3. Do something extra.

One high-end retailer offered storewide savings plus an extra 20% off one item, but only until 2 a.m. People swarmed.

4. Say thank you.

As I made it through the checkout line at one store, the cashier looked me in the eye when handing me my receipt and said, "We appreciate you coming out and shopping with us tonight, Mrs. Monetti." It took 5 seconds, but the impression it made will last a long, long time.

Authentic brands make meaningful promises, and they keep them — even when there's a good excuse not to. It's a lesson we would all do well to remember.

posted by Apprentices Nov 26,2010 @ 03:00AM

Small sparks make great fires

In college, I worked as a summer counselor at a wilderness camp in Alaska. My program director was passionate about equipping our campers with skills, not just entertaining them. This meant that nine year old girls built our campfires.

This also meant that sometimes we ate cold stew. Or spent our whole dinner hour trying to inspire fourth-graders to gather kindling. And I spent a great deal of time hovering nervously as little fingers fumbled with matches. But I will never forget how each child changed after her small pile of kindling caught flame. Immediately, she was taller, more confident—because her mentor believed in her ability to try.

I’m the new apprentice at Riggs Partners. I think the brilliance of the RP apprenticeship program comes from its unique structure—a recent college grad working in a close mentor/mentee relationship with one of the partners. With just one week behind me, I’m realizing that when Cathy agreed to mentor me, she meant it. She’s not merely handing me an assignment list—she’s teaching me. When I started, Cathy told me to watch for the lesson every day. So here it is:

Look around you. Are you mentoring anyone? Can you be mentored by someone? The mentoring relationship has potential to be one of the most valuable relationships you develop for your career. Mentors inspire. Mentees learn. And sometimes, it’s the other way around.

Sustaining this constant exchange of knowledge, experience, and inspiration takes time, but the payoff is worth it. Riggs Partners recognizes this, and their apprenticeship model is designed to maximize the mutual benefits. I’m excited to spend the next few months working in such an inspiring environment—learning how to build my own fires.

-Kathryn White

posted by Teresa Coles Nov 23,2010 @ 07:25AM

Nonprofit brands need one clear note

Two trains have been happily running alongside each other for quite some time now, but they’re headed for a collision on the switch tracks. Train A is the nonprofit that does a lot of great things, and likes to talk about all those things. Train B is the grant-making organization that has been doing its best to help nonprofits that support of wide variety of endeavors.

Here’s the rub: funders are getting off the general track, and are looking for a higher level of focus and accountability from nonprofits. Nonprofits must mirror this dynamic if they are to compete successfully for grant dollars and for the support of their constituents. The truth is that people can take in only so many messages from a nonprofit or cause.

Crafting a razor-sharp organizational and communications strategy is not easy, and it never has been. Nonprofit brands must land on one clear note — and play it over and over — to stand out in a marketplace that’s tightening every day.

posted by Cathy Monetti Nov 22,2010 @ 02:58PM

4 Lessons from the "Will We Ever Get This Website Live" Project

Late last week we debuted a significant update to our website, riggspartners.com. We did so without much fanfare; there were no email announcements, no Facebook status updates, no tweets.

Do you find this odd? I mean, we are in the business, after all. But I think we were just so worn out from process of getting the site rebuilt and live that we were ready to move on to the real reason we come to work every day: building powerful brands for our clients.

Nevertheless, I think it is worth a few minutes to make note of the Lessons Learned from the "Will We Ever Get This Thing Live?" RP web update project. So here goes.

1. Working on your business is just as important as working in it.

The most difficult part of this project was the discipline required to make decisions about how we want our company to evolve. Continual re-invention is a part of our DNA, so there was no shortage of ideas. But working out the details, and articulating them, took careful consideration and a great deal of time. We now have regularly scheduled partner meetings during which our agenda is focused solely on Riggs Partners.

2. Technology is changing so fast you will never be able to keep pace. And yet you must.

Halfway into the redesign we made the decision to expand the page width of our site. This became a consideration because we were seeing an undeniable trend toward larger monitors among our RP site visitors (numbers shifted dramatically in a six month period). We also knew we had to optimize for our mobile visitors.

3. Design is King. True, if by "design" you mean "usability."

Thanks to our friends at truematter for our shift in perspective. They quietly insisted that nothing matters more than knowing who visits your site and organizing your content around their needs. Let me just say: We believe.

4. Do it well and your blog will become the center of the universe.

Keely Saye of KeelySaye.com is our Inbound Yogini. She's made us realize the potential of creating a digital destination that when well honed, functions with its own magnetic force. "Create meaningful content," she says, "and they will come." She also got us serious about focusing, filtering, converting and monitoring. The new R | blog is proof.

5. Perfection can't be the goal.

Late last year, the partners read Seth Godin's book, Linchpin. We were all inspired by his insistence that the measure of success in this new world is the ability to SHIP. (Take too long and your work will become irrelevant before it sees the light of day.) I think it could well be THE lesson for those of us who are determined to explore every possibility before committing.

Three days live and we already have a list of "things I'd like to change" on our newly launched site. Ah, good reason to come back to work tomorrow.

posted by Teresa Coles Nov 18,2010 @ 04:19AM

Election results: Nonprofits, game on

Remember Leonard’s Losers? It was a radio show my dad loved to listen to just prior to the college games on Saturday. Came on around noon, as I recall. Leonard was a big–ole football lovin’ country commentator whose sage predictions were as bona fide in my house as David Brinkley’s editorials.

No matter what team you were pulling for in the elections, Leonard would tell you one big loser was left in the carnage: nonprofits.

Organizations committed to social good must brace themselves for legislative showdowns and budget cuts. Federal gridlock on issues that affect nonprofits is a sure bet, which will force much of the action down to the state level. Along the way, grant dollars will take one hit after another.

What are nonprofits to do? Start thinking like entrepreneurs right now. You simply cannot wait any longer.

Nonprofits must call upon five basics of for-profit marketing to generate new forms of revenue:

  1. Identify an unmet need or cultural trend in your market
  2. Determine how that need or trend intersects with your cause
  3. Based on that insight, craft an intriguing offer that’s indigenous to your cause
  4. Price it appropriately
  5. Market it creatively

It’s scary, new territory for many nonprofits. But if you suit up and enter the new nonprofit market, you can stay off the loser list for good.

posted by Kevin Smith Nov 12,2010 @ 06:00AM

Bait Shop

Digital marketing and communications is all about developing the lure. The view across the street from our office inspired me.

Live Bait
Oil on Canvas
20x20

posted by Teresa Coles Nov 11,2010 @ 10:41AM

Nonprofit entrepreneurs follow the money

Buy a plush animal and make money for real animals. Makes you feel warm and fuzzy all over, doesn’t it?

It’s a fun example of a nonprofit that’s being creative in generating new forms of revenue. Specifically, it’s a great example of following the money. That is to say, consider what people are already spending money on, and determine how your nonprofit can insert itself into that equation.

Here’s the deal, as reported by our friends at Mashable:

The World Wildlife Federation has combined three things everyone loves this holiday season: buying stuffed animals, doing good and playing on Facebook. It all comes to life on Facebook’s first-ever nonprofit gift center.

The holiday campaign lets WWF supporters buy different packages aimed to look like an “adoption.” While WWF won’t actually ship a tiger to you, these symbolic adoptions each come with an adoption certificate, color photo and a species description card. Packages range from $25 to $250; all packages of more than $50 come with a soft animal chosen from a list of 100 different species.

The WWF has launched gift centers in the past, but the incorporation of Facebook marks a larger turn toward establishing Facebook as a fundraising and community hub in addition to its website. “Shares” and “Likes” will function much like a virtual wish list. Users will soon be able to friend a wide range of species to receive information and updates about WWF’s conservation work related to the species.

Additionally, the organization will soon be launching an interactive feature called “Find Your Inner Animal.” The app will be similar to Facebook’s omnipresent “What Kind of Disney Princess Are You?” quizzes but with a social good angle. After answering some simple questions, you’ll be presented with your true inner-animal. You’ll then be given the opportunity to “adopt” your specific animal through a gift center package.

The soon-to-be-launched app is a brilliant tie-in for the gift center, both encouraging users to learn more and to give more.

posted by Teresa Coles Nov 10,2010 @ 06:35AM

Launching the healthcare social media machine

Beyond taking the time to prepare a social media policy, perhaps the second most important item to remember before launching a social media program for a healthcare system is simply this: don’t forget them that brought you.

It’s very tempting to think all you have to do is build the networks, sprinkle them with some promotional or educational content, and watch the external follower base take off. Beyond being arrogant in general, going straight to external audiences means missing out on a HUGE opportunity to connect with and engage the people who can be your very best ambassadors, on the streets and online: your staff, physicians, vendors and other internal stakeholders within the organization.

With very little effort, you can organize a successful internal launch to promote your healthcare system’s entrée into social media. Among others, the benefits of taking the time to do this are:

  1. Generating excitement among staffers and other stakeholders regarding the healthcare system’s decision to embrace social media
  2. Giving this audience something very constructive and specific to do; making them part of the action, rather than waiting to see how they’ll respond
  3. Building goodwill among internal stakeholders by acknowledging the importance of their participation in the launch.

Beyond the textbook rationale for engaging internal audiences in the launch, it’s just fun. There’s no end to the great ideas you can generate to get employees, physicians, vendors and other stakeholders involved — after all, they are the brand. So don’t shut them out of helping to convey the spirit of the brand online. Respect your family first, and they’ll be there for you down the road.

posted by Teresa Coles Nov 08,2010 @ 07:48AM

Election week +1: Nonprofits, game on

Remember Leonard’s Losers? It was a radio show my dad loved to listen to just prior to the college games on Saturday. Came on around noon, as I recall. Leonard was a big–ole football lovin’ country commentator whose sage predictions were as bona fide in my house as David Brinkley’s editorials.

No matter what team you were pulling for in last week’s elections, Leonard would tell you one big loser was left in the carnage: nonprofits.

Organizations committed to social good must brace themselves for legislative showdowns and budget cuts. Federal gridlock on issues that affect nonprofits is a sure bet, which will force much of the action down to the state level. Along the way, grant dollars will take one hit after another.

What are nonprofits to do? Start thinking like entrepreneurs right now. You simply cannot wait any longer.

Nonprofits must call upon five basics of for-profit marketing to generate new forms of revenue:

  1. Identify an unmet need or cultural trend in your market
  2. Determine how that need or trend intersects with your cause
  3. Based on that insight, craft an intriguing offer that’s indigenous to your cause
  4. Price it appropriately
  5. Market it creatively

It’s scary, new territory for many nonprofits. But if you suit up and enter the new nonprofit market, you can stay off the loser list for good.

posted by Cathy Monetti Nov 04,2010 @ 11:24AM

getting ready for debbie millman

debbie millman aiga south carolina columbia december 1

posted by Teresa Coles Nov 02,2010 @ 10:50AM

Giving circles gaining momentum for nonprofits

What would happen if—instead of buying your friends a bunch of Christmas and birthday presents they really didn’t need—you all got together to form a giving enterprise that could collectively benefit any number of charities in your community?

That’s the concept behind the giving circle, a new form of philanthropy gaining popularity both among donors and nonprofits. It’s a great way for people who are interested in making an impact on a charitable organization—but who may not have the resources to do so on their own—to come together and give.

The concept took off three years ago when Kathy Banwart created 100 Women Who Care. She recruited 100 women in her area to come together one evening four times a year, select a charity, and each write $100 checks during the gathering. Her local effort became so popular so quickly she had to rename it 100+ Women Who Care. Since that time, several chapters of “100+” giving circles have popped up around the country.

In addition to fiscal impact, giving circles are considered to be quite effective in engaging participants in the cause. Group members study community needs, research and nominate nonprofits, and often become involved as volunteers. Studies have shown giving circles attract both established philanthropists and first-time donors, creating a positive dynamic. Participating in a giving circle seems to increase levels of giving in both groups while bringing “new money” to the nonprofit sector; especially those small and locally based organizations that often fall off the radar.

As one who’s all about maximizing charitable impact in 24 hours (CreateAthon!), I love the idea of bringing 100 women together in one night, and surprising a worthy nonprofit with a big fat check the next day. Who’s with me?

 

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