Tag 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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Darwin and Social Media

Need a break from social media? Sometimes you just need a break from the intensity of a project, and my friend Sarah has an interesting escape–she has a book of Robert Frost or something else mind-numbingly complicated on her desk, and when she needs a break, she picks up the tome. She says it helps to concentrate on what is being said in the book and takes her away from the problem at hand.

This is what social media feels like sometimes–it can be so complicated, but Sarah’s solution is just the opposite–not an escape, but an equally challenging situation that draws the mind away. Enter Darwin:

Currently, I’m reading On the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin, in the original. Well, in the original text–but delivered via email! A few paragraphs, sent every other day (according to my preferences), sit in my inbox like another to-do, but eventually, I remember Sarah’s re-focusing technique, and I’ve been using these reading breaks to ponder how genetics are changing to predisposition the new workforce to adapt to social media.

And there’s a great ‘at your fingertips’ tool for this, too–combining what’s great about new media with the comfort of the good ol’ fashioned book. Have you heard of DailyLit?

DailyLit serializes books and emails snippets. They offer titles for purchase, and titles for free–including many classics. Just a simple login and password gains you access to lots of literature, and the site is full of opportunities for interaction–just like any good social media site. You can create reading lists, comment on titles, and discuss books in forums, and–somehow!–you can link your DailyLit profile to your Twitter account.

Another similar service I like is my local library’s ’email book club’; I tried the Business Book Club, and received a daily 5-minute segment that previewed a book. At the end of the week, I’d read a chapter or two, and could request or buy the book. (And the whole story behind the ‘leader’ of the club provides an interesting insight into a whole new career choice and industry–online book club manager!)

Interesting to ponder–the old, and the new, evolving and adapting to change.

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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: 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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Groundswell: How People with Social Technologies are Changing Everything

In thinking about engaging supporters who are already online, and those that aren’t, Groundswell categorizes them into six typographs of users/non-users. The book–from Forrester Research, who’s pretty into this stuff–uses lots of data and demographics to talk about ‘markets’ and ‘trends’ that are swelling up–so we’d better get ready, like it or not. Check out their blog to keep up with the latest, including how President Obama is right there in the swell, collecting ideas from anyone who wants to have input.

In the same vein, non-profit social media blogger John Haydon writes on Return on Investment:
“The real ROI in social media is manifested when your current supporters start talking to their friends about how much you rock. And as they rave about you, hundreds or thousands of other potential supporters see these conversations.” That’s the ‘viral’ effect you hear about. And you can’t ‘go viral’ with a canned fundraising letter email. He sums it up: “The best way to avoid appearing disingenuous or frivolous is to be genuine and committed.” So, talk about what’s up, what comes to mind, and as if you were writing to a friend–a real one.

Beth Kanter, in her “Cute Dog Theory” says that non-profits should spend 1-5 hours participating in social media and 5-10 hours a week creating content. Her post gives an outline of laying down some steps and goals before diving in.


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Why: Online Communities

Nancy White of Full Circle Associates provides a tip sheet on defining your case for developing online communities. It’s a good thing to think about why your organization wants to throw itself into the mix–and a good way to steer towards ‘fitting in’ to the mix rather than impaling yourself in the process.

She has other great info, but it’s something I’ll start with.

Some other things to throw in the mix include Jill Friedman Fixler’s worksheet on your organization’s (Boomer) volunteer case statement, downloadable and from her Boomer Volunteer Engagement: Collaborate Today, Thrive Tomorrow

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