Archive for February, 2011

Thriving on reinvention

“Regardless of the timeline for the U.S. economic recovery, emerging trends in competition, technology, demographics and consumer behavior are the major drivers of future opportunities for nonprofit organizations. These trends will shape a marketplace that is vastly different from the one that existed prior to the recession. These changes require a thoughtful examination of every aspect of your organization. The conversation begins with the organization’s business model. How does your organization create, deliver and capture economic, societal or other forms of value?”

This introduction was quoted from one of our valued contributors at CausePlanet, Raylene Decatur, who will be presenting this topic in Denver, Colorado on March 8 for executive leaders called “Thriving on Reinvention.” In the session, she will discuss the following questions with local leaders:

  • Which results are we accountable for achieving?
  • How will we achieve these results?
  • What do these results cost and how will be fund them?
  • How do we build the organization needed to deliver results?

Decatur also touches on these questions and some ideas surrounding the topic of thriving on reinvention in an earlier article we posted last March at CausePlanet.

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Truth-telling is transformational

In Liquid Leadership, I point out the Credo of a Liquid Leader. The second law stands out the most for leadership to be effective: Leadership should cultivate an environment where it is free and safe to tell the truth.”

Ever work for a company that micromanages everything to death? In these environments a paper trail becomes more important than getting the work done. Our current enthusiasm for technology has created even more potential for micromanagement, via massive amounts of emails and documentation and endless meetings to sort through it all.

Yet when this temptation is given in to, the result isn’t better communication or higher productivity, but the opposite. Management becomes the last to know what is actually happening. Conversely, in companies that have moved to flatten their hierarchies and create environments where it is safer to point out the truth, you begin to notice that each person takes their role seriously. When responsibility is shifted to the individual—when people are given the freedom and power to manage their time and solve problems—the result is that no one wants to let down even a single member of their team.

An organization like this runs more smoothly and with more trust. The best and the brightest naturally gravitate toward the chance to work with one another. They know courage will be rewarded, not penalized, and innovation will see the light of day. Such environments operate like entrepreneurial start-ups, with each individual engaged in the success of the company. People are encouraged to challenge one another. They operate with confidence and a sense of personal ambition because they have skin in the game.

This approach may fly in the face of every business manual you have ever read, but those manuals are out of date. We are not in easy times. Consider that betting on one direction or a single type of technology can send a company into bankruptcy overnight. All the more reason to put aside your ego, to listen, and to encourage the sharing of knowledge in every area of an organization’s operations. Environments such as these do not centralize creativity; they make it a systemic part of what drives their entire organization. The truth has become fuzzy these days as people are more interested in the almighty dollar instead of doing great things. We know fluoride is not safe to put in our water and drink on a daily basis. We know our food supply is filled with carcinogenic chemicals. We know our politicians are…well you get my drift. But when drug company whistle-blower Cheryl Eckard tried to fix problems at a GlaxoSmithKline pharmaceutical factory in Puerto Rico she was fired. The 60 Minutes story is here: Bad Medicine: The Glaxo Case.

Yet when Cheryl brought well documented problems to her boss, she was dismissed, told that it would be taken care of and eventually, when she pressed harder, fired. Admitting the truth can destroy entire companies and bring about unwanted changes. Yet the truth is where progress begins.

It is hard to tell the truth when doing so could bring
a wave of lawsuits.

By the way, how hard is it to act like a human being? Some believe that Cheryl Eckard did what she did for the money – (she was awarded $96 million from a $750 million suit against GSK)…really? Did she know she would be a multimillionaire when she discovered drug mix-ups and unsanitary conditions at Glaxo’s plant? It was her job to oversee quality control and if she had not followed through she would have been fired. But what is unforgivable is the reaction of the executives; they simply tried to make it seem as if conditions weren’t that bad.

Shame does not seem to exist in some boardrooms.

Want to make changes in your organization? How about your life or your community? Start by facing the truth…not your opinion. Like maybe my wife is right – I don’t look good in that sweat suit anymore, (not that that has ever happened to me. LOL).What is important to you? Paper trails, micromanagement, telling people what to do? Truth telling is not pretty…but it is transformational. Thank you all once again for your interest in my work.

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Battle of the brands

This week I read two blogs that converged on the same topic of brand management, more specifically, brand protection and I couldn’t help but weigh in with the help of some of featured authors on CausePlanet, like Sarah Durham (Brandraising) and William McEwen (Married to the Brand).

In the first blog by John Burke of visABILITY, he asks “Is it fair for a very large university to suppress a similar logo of a small, obscure high school 1,400 miles away?” Burke referred to a case where Penn State threatened to sue Buna High School in Buna, Texas if they continued to use a mascot that looked like Penn State’s long-standing and storied Nittany Lion. In the end, the high school changed their mascot and everything associated with it, including team uniforms, office stationery and collateral, logos on gym floors, the works.

Meanwhile, Elaine Fogel of MarketingProfs asks “How far should charities go to protect their brands?” Fogel, who formerly managed the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation’s brand, further raises the question, “Who gets to use ‘for the cure’ for example? Just the Susan G. Komen for the Cure?” Fogel cites a recent news segment: NBC News report on a breast cancer brand by Brian Williams because it asks the same question.

While Fogel understands that peer organizations who support breast cancer research feel that they should collaborate to achieve greater results for the shared cause, she argues “the reality is that nonprofits fund raising for breast cancer research and programs compete against each other for funding dollars. They also compete with other charities in their market that raise money for other causes. How can they stand out and differentiate their missions unless they have solid marketing and branding strategies? It is absolutely the same as in the business sector. Companies that invest heavily in their brand assets must protect them to avoid confusion in the marketplace.”

I have to agree with Fogel on this one. Organizations spend decades cultivating a purposeful characterization of their service or product and credibility surrounding their fundraising efforts as well as a tremendous amount of time and resources to research their messaging platform and visual identity. It’s no wonder smaller, under-resourced nonprofits want to ride the coattails of a brand that’s already flourishing.

But to the managers of the borrowed brand, it feels like a cavalier act that disrespects everyone involved. “Brandraising involves everyone in your nonprofit’s community—board members and staff leaders, volunteers, program staff, and perhaps donors and funders. Everyone plays a role in the development of effective communications,” says Sarah Durham, author of Brandraising. Those of us who have nurtured a brand know the painstaking efforts a well-developed brand requires especially when nurtured consistently among the staff and volunteers alike.

Furthermore, Married to the Brand author, William McEwan, argues that an organization’s livelihood depends upon its ability to develop lifetime donors, or in his words, “marriages” with donors rather than a series of one-time donors or “first dates.” According to McEwan, healthy brand marriages produce enormous benefits to an organization but these benefits aren’t build overnight. In order for consumers or donors to marry a brand, they must feel an emotional attachment to it. Between 2000 and 2004, Gallup delved into this emotional attachment to learn about the essential requirements of an enduring brand relationship. Their conclusions are summarized in the book and include:

  • Brand marriages aren’t built overnight, regardless of how much time and money is spent on marketing programs.
  • There’s a crucial difference between a customer and an engaged customer. Building customer engagement should be the focus of every company or organization.
  • What it takes to attract first-time customers/donors is different from what it takes to turn that prospect into a fully engaged customer/donor.
  • Creating a new brand relationship (a first date) requires conveying a brand promise that is not only credible and compelling, but also establishes a personal connection with the potential customer/donor.
  • Keeping customers/donors (a brand marriage) means continuously adding to the bond that initially connected the donor to your organization. Your organization’s brand promise must be reiterated at every subsequent contact with the donor.
  • Brand marriages won’t last without trust. However, brand passion is the ultimate determinant of a lasting relationship.
  • Emotionally engaging customers/donors results in demonstrable financial return. Disengaging them costs.
  • Successful brand marriages can only be achieved through organization-wide commitment and aligned, integrated efforts.

Given the level of strategic planning and endurance required to care for the lifetime engagement of a donor and his/her perceptions of a brand, shouldn’t nonprofits honor one another’s diligence by respectfully declining the use of an existing message or visual? I whole-heartedly say yes.

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