Google Glass and Fred Armisen: When Life Imitates Art

Wait…if the SNL skit came first then which one’s the parody?

Stop the Depression Cycle: 5 Tips to Help Nonprofits Share Good News

“Hopefully we will put ourselves out of work.”

This is a common phrase in the nonprofit world. The gist of it is that the charity’s programs will be so successful that it accomplishes its mission, making itself irrelevant. Given the broad scope of many nonprofits, it is also a goal that never seems possible. That’s not to say that programs can’t make significant headway.

Take for instance this headline from today’s New York Daily News: No One Reported Shot, Stabbed or Slashed in New York City on Monday, Police Sources Say. Straight and to the point, while not exactly frugal with the word count, this headline screams good news.

So what can we learn from the sharing of this story?

Stay Positive
It can be easy to sound like a broken record; prattling on about the horrible state of things to justify your nonprofit’s existence. Dig up some good news, the more unexpected the better.

Stats
You better like looking at reports. Comb the data and see where you are making a difference. Did you improve over last year? How about if you compare the data to a few years ago? Find the numbers that support your impact and stop justifying your nonprofit’s existence solely by highlighting the need.

Programs
According to the data, where are you making headway? Which programs are most effective? Talk to your colleagues and find out what they tweaked or instituted that created change.

Shout It
Your nonprofit is succeeding so be sure to tell your media contacts, supporters, and staff. Do you have a newsletter? Intranet? Social media footprint? Internal notice boards? Post it everywhere you have an audience.

Follow Up
Now that you shared the horrible stories of the kitten that was cooked in the microwave, the Pit Bull puppy thrown from a building, or the starved miniature horses (trust me, I’ve been there) tell your supporters how your nonprofit helped each situation (maybe by reattaching a cat’s face or restoring sight so a dog can see it’s owner for the first time in two years). Respond to comments on social media and create a space for supporters to visit for regular updates. No one wants to constantly hear from Debbie Downer.

Once upon a nonprofit…

Storytelling has become a lost art among many modern nonprofits. Statistics now overshadow the drama, comedy and suspense in this sector and unfortunately, the few stories provided to audiences have been relegated to late night appeals that only function as guilt driven fundraisers rather than obtaining support through engagement and understanding.

The Heartstrings’ Connected to the Purse String

Those “pull on your heart strings” ads attempt to form a connection through gut reactions to horrible circumstances, however they rarely leave you informed to share more information than a brief description of a starving child or abused animal.

These “infomercials” are little more than nonprofit junk food designed for one purpose – drive donations. However they never truly accomplish the most elusive goal – creating advocate.

You may donate, you might feel like you contributed, maybe even made a difference and you might even tell a few people. This type of experience will live a box in your mind and rarely fuels further action or provide you with the tools for informed discourse.

Learning and Understanding

Think back to any learning experience in your life. Odds are it was not when you were fed information but rather when you felt a solid connection to a subject. You should have quite a few that stick with you because of the emotional bond to that memory.

Now cull those experiences to the few that impacted your current actions. Maybe it changed the direction of your career or awoke a passion that you never knew existed. Whatever happened, you were never the same person and you learned something about the world around you and how you fit into it.

What was the singular factor that made that experience stick with you for so long and not fade away into a one-time action?

Chances are it involved a story filled with character development, heroes and villains, images that did more than pass in front of you. These experiences welcomed you in to a new world, compelling you to engage with more than just your gut. This moment provided you with a framework where you understood your place in the world a bit more.

Enough with the Mushy Stuff

So now that you have this moment in your mind, you can appreciate what it took to engage you in a purpose. This is what you must now duplicate in your daily interactions with current and future supporters.

Too often, we feel comfortable throwing out statistics. We feel that when presented with the facts everyone will join our cause. That is seldom the case when building long-term support, the kind that will be there years down the road when you need it most…say during a recession.

It cannot be said enough that you care about your organization’s mission more than the average person walking down the street. Their day is filled with work, family, friends, gossip and a million tiny distractions. How will you break into that haze and be noticed?

Find Your Story

Many times it comes down to the story. Who have you helped? How did you help? What did you do that should be a banner headline on the newspaper or scrolling across a media site? Be honest, none of this “Well we just hired great new CEO…”

So here’s your homework: Think of a compelling story. Frame it in your mind. Ask yourself who would care about this story. Does it only work in your town, your city, or will it translate to other states, countries?

If it can bridge culture and language, you have a winner. Now write it down and share it.

A note: It is great if Saturday Night Live parodies your story as long as it’s not because they hate you…

Meeting Waste

Meetings slow productivity and frequently waste time and resources. How many times have you thought a meeting could be over in five minutes and not the hour set aside on your Outlook calendar? That the information could have been shared without a formal gathering? That your colleagues rely too much on PowerPoint or handouts that are skimmed and then filed once you are back at your desk, never to be viewed again until you dig them up for the inevitable follow up meeting?

“Meeting Waste”

Sure, meetings have evolved, usually in attempts to break down those dreaded silos – the scapegoats of any failed initiative. More people are scheduling shorter meetings. Some employers tout the space they have created for meetings. Just think of the dollars spent on meeting environments because people can’t discuss topics outside of a room filled with standing desks, beanbag chairs, and a wall covered in chalk board paint. Have we become so distracted that we need more than a pen and paper? Sure we need visual aids but certainly not in place of our own imaginations.

Inc. posted an article today that highlights “9 Dumb Ways to Ruin a Meeting.” The author, Jeff Haden, has some terrific points including getting out of the office. But many of these tips we know; we just fail to speak up, walk out, or defend the value of our own time.

A former colleague of mine has a wonderful approach to meeting proposals. Once a calendar invite pops up on his screen he calls the person who sent it. He asks if they can explain the issue they want to discuss and frequently they can. They quickly discuss how they can resolve the issue and assign next steps. He then hangs up and rejects the meeting invite. This process takes about a minute or two and saves time for everyone involved.

Fostering Conversation

Many times meetings are called because the discussion leader thinks that is the proper course of action. I have had much more success with desk-side chats, taking the pulse of the organization, and presenting ideas to those involved.

Meetings can happen anywhere at any time. Preparation is key and accountability is vital. Presumably each employee is an expert in their field and should be able to speak about it at any given moment allowing for instant meetings in hallways, at the water cooler, walking to lunch, or on the phone.

Importance must be placed on conversation and each employee’s interest in learning. If this type of environment is fostered then ideas are shared, problems are solved, and opportunities are seized.

Have you recently solved meeting waste at your organization? Share your tips in the comments section below.

Of course, if you must have meetings, just be careful. Take a look at how this company missed a crucial piece of information by wasting time in a meeting (credit to Saturday Night Live):

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