Category Archives: books

Book Review: Make the Impossible Possible

I was finally able to procure a copy, through inter-library loan, of a book I’ve been wanting to read since I first heard Bill Strickland speak at the Housing Colorado NOW! affordable housing conference a few years back. At that time, I heard that he would be retelling his inspiring story about building a craftsman/job training center, Manchester Bidwell, in an upcoming book.

Bill Strickland has to be one of the most innovative social enterprise thinkers working in the non-profit world today. In sum, the book describes one man’s desire to create inspiration in inner-city Pittsburgh through arts, music, and job skills, imbued with personal passion, plenty of high-culture references, and philosophical and practical thoughts, all while relaying his own rise from inner-city single-motherdom to struggling college student to nonprofit founder to pilot to larger-than-life nonprofit celebrity.

For those that have heard Bill Strickland speak, the first chapter will bring back (verbatim) memories of his slides and the stories he tells in an hour-long journey, full of wonder and amazement at how he’s turned job skills training into life-turnaround-experiences.

I was reminded that, for me, there was something almost too good to be true about his inspiration—that perhaps in his passion to provide nourishment for others’ souls, somehow his own has been forgotten along the way. Without a doubt, his ideas about turning abject disappointment into a land of opportunity have been overwhelmingly successful for many participants, and given Manchester/Pittsburg a reason and a place to celebrate.

The economic driver behind many of Manchester Bidwell’s corporate partnerships, are, as Strickland admits, perhaps questionnable to some in the non-profit industry. However, “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” still goes a long way toward making an impact. Mahchester Bidwell seems almost solely built on partnerships with corporations who need specific employees, or on start-up programs that fulfill niche markets–be they orchid-growing or medical paraprofessional training.

This low-tech book is a good reminder to not only go back to the basics, but to really examine the desired end result of a project in order to be sure that you’re not just following the tried-and-true. I’ve in no way done it justice, so I recommend reading Making the Impossible Possible as the best way to be inspired to apply the Manchester Bidwell lessons in your own world.


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Book Review: The New Recruit

The New Recruit: What Your Association Needs to Know About X, Y, & Z
…those being the Millenial generations!

by Sarah Sladek

Boomers want a successful career and to make the world a better place; membership associations help them do both. However, this relevance is lost on younger generations who are already doing these things without a career or experience.

I recently had a conversation with a board member about promoting community arts events and new ideas to tap into a wider audience. He remarked–uncreatively, I though–that ‘under 40s’ weren’t their target market since their families took all of their time and money.

Quick ideas to ponder from the organization Women of Today:
• Totally electronic communications
• ‘Big sister’ mentors
• Leadership, public speaking, and professional development opportunities
• Scholarships
• Partnerships

‘What’s in it for ME?’ younger generations ask. Although organizations have been trying to answer this regarding their target markets for years, Gen X demands answers, and since they can get the benefits that associations traditionally offer in so many alternative ways, if they don’t have a sense of belonging, they’re not going to join.

What young folks, in general, want from an association:
o Must have a sense of belonging–an invite, not a form
o Age-specific networking opportunities, career-building , making a difference,
o although time-sensitive, so employ virtual career and networking opportunities
o One-time projects, make decisions (meetings–ugh!)–episodic volunteers, just like new retirees
o Opportunity to lead a group or oversee a task
o Marketing materials make a strong first impression–straigtforward, online. Appeal to all generations’ needs in your bullet points! Case studies should profile how membership has made a difference in careers.

Membership will take longer, as it’s a trust-building process with younger generations. This process will affect traditional recruiting, and most of all budgeting. Future projections must be taken into account when investing in new ideas to reach new populations, not just the per member cost or annual revenue.

Recruiting Students

o Offer a discount rate
o Target recruiting at colleges, teleconferencing and web availablility, and two tracks of programming
o Consider special fairs targeted just to students, relationships with colleges, discounts, student chapters, mentoring and more.
o Another creative idea is a competition only open to the target generation, one that relates to your mission and gives young professionals a chance to connect with their careers.
o How about a students-only resume posting section on your website? Or a student award?

High emphasis on students creates a sustainability–not a revenue-generation–plan. Prioritizing recruits from college, high school and even younger develops long-term interest and builds that trust necessary for a membership relationship. Students must be involved in the planning and management, though.

Ideas from Others
At Minnesota Entrepreneurs, they aligned their new outreach with their mission, focused on:
Inspiration: high-profile speakers in profession
Education: panels of experts
Networking: events
Some changes to their normal m.o. were that dues ($240) included admission to all events, which were held at a trendy locale with amenities that appeal to younger generations. They featured young members and new events on their website, and swapped discounts with other organization’s young professional members.

The National Association of Women Lawyers has a career-introductory program called Backpack to Briefcase to connect students with professionals, something that could be implemented online, on campus, or via a one-to-one mentoring program. Job shadowing could also be seen favorably. Mentors could bring protégées to events for free.

Boston’s Young Professionals Association boasts 10,000 members from its low cost ($35) membership, weekly networking, and service opportunities. Many of these organizations grow rapidly from their inception, I suspect because the concept is both new and speaks to the younger generation.

A Minnesota Chamber group hosted for-fee Emerging Leaders sessions that were speed-networking, but also added a monthly service project for those Leaders. I like this concept of casual interaction and then a follow-up opportunity. A San Francisco PR association got PR firm members to host monthly programs by their executive leadership, offering tips and connections. Access to these programs is through membership in the Young Professionals program, $50 annually, which includes many regular membership benefits such as training discounts and a one-time discount when transitioning from student to chapter member.

Two things you must have in order to attract young professionals:
o Opportunities that appeal. What about connecting young potentials with opportunities to serve on boards, mentor, volunteer, or serve at peer organizations?? This is not the old way of doing business, e.g. committees-for-life, board and officer positions
o Tech on your website! Interactivity, self-control, membership interaction, online learning, video, blogging & podcasting are all part of Gen Y’s life. If you’re not including these things, you’re not relevant.

Ready to begin recruiting younger members?
Remember, you’re not making money off their membership, it’s their future investment and purchase you’re after. There is a great grid in the book where you list each of your association’s specific programs, services, communications, and opportunities, and compare them to the desires of younger generations:
Does it: Use Tech? Provide Tangible Benefit? Offer Professional Development? Engage in community service? Take < 2 hours/mo.? Cost < $30/ mo.?

Of course, the next step is to expand the areas where you’re not fulfilling those needs, and to budget for associated estimated costs.

Some Other Ideas and Next Steps

Consider a ‘transition’ membership for new professionals to avoid the drop-off of student members who are suddenly faced with the burden of the full rate. You can attach age limits, years in profession, or adjust the rate to more than 50% of the full rate. Also consider appointing a young spokes- or chair-person for this effort. If you’re trying to recruit younger members, it makes sense to have someone of that age inviting people to join in a public way via the media, online communications, at the board, or emceeing events. Recognition is an important benefit, and if you have younger members involved, be sure to recognize them.

Once you’ve secured members, be sure you’re engaging them. You can conduct an organizational overview webinar or conference call, host new member receptions, send emails or handwritten notes with business cards at quarterly intervals, even just give new members a personal welcome call. Continue to recognize repeated memberships–2, 5, and more years, and list these in your publications. If they can’t volunteer, ask for their input to solicitation, speakers, and print materials or invite them to contribute articles or introduce events.

It also seems you need to evaluate if you have any younger or student members to begin with. If you have a student membership that isn’t being utilized, analyze why that is and strengthen this program. If you have younger members who are inactive, how can they be engaged? Ask them. Get creative–plan a trip, a special award for young professionals, or a networking event.

No doubt, it’s a lot of work, and more work than with other generations. If you want younger members to feel they belong and that their contributions are valued, your need to find a way to meet their needs and invite them not only to participate, but to lead. Set you goals for recruiting younger members, and name three action steps.

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Book Review: e-Riches 2.0

I’m reading a lot this summer. It’s summer. That’s what you’re supposed to do, right? Well, there’s no beach involved, but I’m on goodreads if you care to sign in and find my lists or keep your own.

e -Riches 2.0: Next-Generation Marketing Strategies for Making Millions Online by Scott Fox is a good book for organizations wondering why and beginning to get into the social media scene.

e-Riches covers the what, why and how of some of the most popular social networking sites like Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, LinkedIn and social news. With a bent towards marketing and business. But nonprofits market, and nonprofits are in business, so go forth and find this one to learn how public relations have changed, how you can measure your marketing program, and touches on higher-level topics like search-engine optimization, posting information content that can be freely accessed, and using video and advertising to drive more traffic to your site..

The book reiterates key points like:

  • Social media is just one PART of an overall marketing strategy.
  • Don’t forget that e-mail is still the number one social media tool.
  • MySpace is not where it’s at for most businesses.
  • You gotta build the crowd through multiple means.

Specific examples of each strategy are included, but this is not a book to devote hours and hours to pouring over. Rather, I find it useful as a skimmable reference for newbies or those looking to integrate social media to other parts of their organization.

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Book Review: slide:ology

slide:ology: The Art and Science of Creating Great Presentations
By Nancy Duarte

WOW! An amazing overview of graphics and editing for anyone who puts together PowerPoints or any other presentation materials–worth a good overview.

Top Four Tips
1. “If you want to be a great presenter, you must think like a designer.”

2. Follow the 10:20:30 Principle–no more than 10 slides or 20 minutes, and no font smaller than 30 point.

3. Create unity through a presentation template for your organization–with editable title, informational, transition, quote and closing slides.

4. GoogleDocs offers hundreds of free, downloadable files to save and use as slide background.

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Book Review: Wikinomics

Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything by Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams provides a good explanation of what wikis are and how businesses are using them. The combination of innovation and creativity that they invite fosters collaborative work in the new economy. Although some of the 2007 references are already dated and the examples are largely from the corporate world, a few hours skimming the material is insightful and well worth a curious non-profit reader’s attention.

Emphasizing once again how the ‘Net Gen’ (as the book references young colleagues), there are frequent examples of how Gen Y just thinks differently. Collaboratively, using technology seamlessly, and not constrained by convention, these tough critics are willing to be a part of the solution. Wikis and other ‘shared spaces’ provide all of us an opportunity to share ideas.

The book provides some concise indications of what a wiki is (other than Hawaiian for quick): it allows multiple users to create and edit the same web page. It also explains through several stories why this tool and other web developments are so critical to how we will function moving forward. Wikis, we are reminded, help one user harness the energies and ideas of others, remotely, to develop a single stream of thought.

As I learned from Dr. David Loertscher’s June presentation to Colorado librarians, (appropos, this link is to the wiki for the workshop!), the shared knowledge of a classroom of students each researching 30 sources, posting them to a wiki, and eventually producing final assignments based on the summaries of all of the sources have the potential to be greater than the sum of any one student’s research endeavors. And thus it is with wikis. I have been a wiki lurker for projects in the library community for several years–each time there is a workshop, a grant, a project, a group will initiate and collaborate on a wiki. I have a personal wiki to track my garden seed ordering and planting.

But a practical non-profit application? The wiki is underutilized & underemphasized, to be honest. Perhaps I’ll try a wiki as a community collaborative effort to come up with a uniform intake form for human services in Colorado. Here’s a link to a previous post that explains wikis & highlights how one non-profit uses a wiki to share information on their collaborative around reducing lead.

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Book Review: Facebook Marketing

Facebook Marketing: Leverage Social Media to Grow Your Business by Steven Holzner was just published in 2008, but is already outdated since Facebook’s Pages update last week.

Nevertheless, it’s a fine tutorial for those bewildered by the many menus and aspects of Facebook’s user interface. I’d recommend it to anyone who’s spent the requisite 2 minutes setting up an account and wonders ‘Now what?!’

Chapters 1-4 walk you through (albeit with some outdated screen shots) setting up your account’s bells and whistles, and gives good detail on how and why to create groups, pages and events. There’s a chapter explaining ads, should you be interested in exploring paid promotion of your Facebook pages. If you have a savvy computer programmer, there’s an overview of developing Facebook applications, too.

Despite the rapidly changing social networking scene, Facebook Marketing serves as a useful primer to the beginning user, and even clarifies some more elusive Facebook aspects such as profile security, event invites, and searching for similar groups. There’s also coverage of Facebook Marketplace, which remains an arena I’m not willing to explore as it seemingly has little to no application to non-profits.


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Research Report: Teens & Social Networking

For those of you who are intrigued by Facebook and MySpace’s clutch on teens, you may be interested in this dissertation describing their attitudes towards security and transparency online.

It’s hefty, but there’s a thorough index that you can browse.

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