Tuesday, July 31, 2012

BIG’s Blog: You Will Never Get 100 Percent

Organizations like families, or even just a group of friends, will virtually never agree 100% of the time on any one thing, whether the matter is small or big.

People have different perspectives, opinions, and agendas.

Perspectives are subjective, opinions can be informed or uninformed, and agendas are personal.

Leaders who are making change need to understand that change needs to be managed. But managing change doesn’t mean 100% will ever want the change. In fact, the goal should only be a majority.


Welcome to BIG's Blog!  Please feel free to forward this post to your friends and coworkers...and email me a comment at:

Sunday, July 29, 2012

BIG’s Blog: Facebook

Do you want to buy shares of Facebook stock? Maybe yes, maybe no. How about Ford or Walmart or Microsoft? Come on, we all drive cars, buy sundries, and pretty much everybody uses Microsoft Word. But do we obsess over their stock price? In a word… no.

So why the obsession over whether Facebook’s stock is up or down or meets Wall Street analyst expectations?

As investors – a small subset of the population – these are all legitimate questions and concerns. But as fundraisers who are looking for ways to reach and engage potential constituents to our cause, why would I even care about Facebook’s financials, so long as the company is solvent?

Heck, most fundraisers I talk to are spending the majority of their time working on their direct mail appeals and the Post Office is technically bankrupt.

Yet every article about Facebook from across the spectrum of writers goes on and on about Facebook’s stock price and if they are viable. New Flash: They just reported $1.2 billion in revenue for last quarter and they have $19 billion in the bank from their IPO. Plus, they are only 8 years old and they have 955 million users worldwide (and growing) including approximately 51% of all adults in the U.S.

I have way more important issues to focus on with the “Social” phenomenon than Facebook’s stock price. Sorry.

I am much more interested in making Facebook work for fundraisers. Facebook and social media (so-called) are not about bringing in money. You need to readjust your thinking. Social is about connecting and building relationships. And frankly, the Social phenomenon is way more than just building relationships. But the “way more” is the subject for a different blog.

Back to fundraising.

One thing we know as fundraisers is that donors who give regularly, and in larger amounts, tend to be older. New Flash: They also are on Facebook.

But guess what? The fact that you and me are on Facebook supposedly raises an issue with the same people who obsessively write about Facebook’s stock price. It’s called the “cool” factor. Personal technologies that are new first attract the young. Facebook started on college campuses. In the beginning Facebook was “cool.” Now that you, me and my mother are on Facebook, the same writers who obsess over Facebook as a viable corporation have started to worry that it is losing its cool.

Am I worried? I am ecstatic!

The people I want to connect with are on Facebook.

Don’t worry about Facebook… use it for all its worth!


Welcome to BIG's Blog!  Please feel free to forward this post to your friends and coworkers...and email me a comment at:

Thursday, July 26, 2012

BIG’s Blog: Red Letter Day

Wow… the stars must be aligned or something!

I woke up last Wednesday morning and, as is my routine, I read my overnight emails which include several blogs that I follow. I had not finished my first cup of coffee when I read the blog post by Roger Carver of The Agitator entitled, Flat Earth Fundraising: Wasting Time By Exalting The Trivial. I thought to myself, “This is really, really good.”

A bit later I clicked on Seth Godin’s blog entitled, The circles of marketing. Actually I read my morning email on my phone and Seth’s blog was so good that I actually had to set my coffee down so that I could focus and take in every word. I had noticed that Seth has been on a roll lately, and his blog on strategy earlier this week is still getting talked about, and now this stellar post!

Then… I finished Seth Godin’s blog and I notice that I was getting emails from several of my blog readers about my Wednesday blog entitled, One + One = Three. And by the time I made it to the office and checked my email I had several more. It is now official: my Wednesday’s blog set a record for comments.

Wednesday, the 25th of July… who knew it would produce some really good thoughts and ideas?

Look, let’s face it, every single blog that I write or Roger Carver or Seth Godin writes isn’t going to be War and Peace. You just can’t hit the ball out of the park every time you step up to the plate, but there is so much to talk about so you just keep on sharing. But every once in awhile, the universe aligns just right and things just jell for you and others simultaneously.

Anyway… if you missed my Wednesday’s blog or if you don’t follow The Agitator or Seth Godin’s blog… check them out below. I promise, they are worth the read.

One + One = Three by Mike Browne

Flat Earth Fundraising: Wasting Time By Exalting The Trivial by Roger Carver

The circles of marketing by Seth Godin


Welcome to BIG's Blog!  Please feel free to forward this post to your friends and coworkers...and email me a comment at:

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

BIG’s Blog: One + One = Three

Hopefully my title caught your attention. Where is this going?

It is rare that two separate authors writing about two separate subjects come together in the mind of the reader (me in this case) and are synthesized into a third idea that relates so clearly to the work that we do. That is what happened the past few days. Sunday and Monday, in an article by Doc Searls in the Wall Street Journal, and a blog by Seth Godin each contained nuggets that took me… and hopefully you… to a new place.

Seth Godin’s blog was about the importance of strategy entitled Strategy matters more than ever, a key theme you have heard from me before. Meanwhile, the article by Doc Searls addresses not only the shifting consumer (and donor) but the power to inexpensively communicate worldwide with people in a whole new way.

“Since the Industrial Revolution, the only way a company (nonprofit fundraiser) could scale up in productivity and profit was by treating customers as populations rather than individuals – and by treating employees as positions on an organization chart rather than as unique sources of talent and ideas.
The Internet has challenged that system by giving individuals the same power. Any of us can now communicate with anybody else, anywhere in the world, at costs close to zero… and do other influential things, with global reach.” – Doc Searls, author of The Intention Economy: When Customers Take Charge

“Sam Walton (founder of Walmart) was a huge success, largely because he developed a new retail strategy, not because he was better at running a store than anyone else. Local bookstores are in trouble, not because they don’t work hard or care a lot, but because they are saddled with expenses that used to be smart (rent for a local storefront) in a world where they are merely ballast.” – Seth Godin

Fundraisers are smart people. They know their fundraising organization is like the local bookstore but their real question is, “Where do I find a new strategy that works for me?”

We have a large direct mail fundraising client who sees that the future of direct mail appeals is fading. They are building a dedicated center to communicate via phone and Web-based communications with new and existing donors. We have a small women’s religious community that is also setting up a dedicated center to communicate with constituents and donors via phone and Web, and they plan to link up all fundraising operations with their priories worldwide.

Do you really think Sam Walton-types who are innovative don’t come from the charitable fundraising world?

Strategy matters and the strategies and plans are out there.

“Not changing your strategy merely because you’re used to the one you have is a lousy strategy.” – Seth Godin


Welcome to BIG's Blog!  Please feel free to forward this post to your friends and coworkers...and email me a comment at:

Monday, July 23, 2012

BIG’s Blog: Rest In Peace, Stephen Covey

When you hear the name Stephen Covey, does it ring a bell? Mr. Covey died last week at the age of 79. He was an educator (Doctor of Religious Education) who wrote the book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, which sold over 25 million copies. His book became core reading in business schools throughout the world and become highly influential in focusing on ethics in the business world, just as ethics in business was becoming a major topic.

And although the majority of Covey’s seven habits were focused on the subjects of personal self-mastery and interdependence in the workplace with other people such as “Think Win-Win” and “First Seek to Understand, Then to be Understood,” the habit that has stayed with me the longest, and the one that I use in many venues in my life, including business, is Habit # 2, “Begin With the End in Mind.”

As leaders in fundraising begin to wrestle with the process of transforming their fundraising organizations, start with the exercise of imagining what it will look like from all organizational dimensions. How will the organization chart be different? How will infrastructure – including technology infrastructure – change? What new expertise that you don’t have today in-house will be needed? How will you communicate with constituents and donors in the future – and how will they communicate with you? How will the workplace culture change? And finally, what will your constituent and donor communications marketing look like?

Take some time this summer to sit back and “Begin with the End in Mind.”


Welcome to BIG's Blog!  Please feel free to forward this post to your friends and coworkers...and email me a comment at:

Thursday, July 19, 2012

BIG’s Blog: Baby Boomer Leadership Must Lead the Change

Unlike previous generational cohorts in the United States, the Baby Boomer (Boomer) generational cohort, born after WW II has known nothing but advancing economic prosperity their entire lives. Much of that economic prosperity has been driven by technological advances that the Boomers adopted throughout their lives.

Today’s Boomers hold the leadership positions in nonprofit organizations including boards or councils, executive leadership of the organization, and fundraising leadership.

Boomers have always strived for “changing the world” in ways that would overturn past economic or social injustice. Boomers have pushed all their lives to “redo” and “modernize” so many aspects of their world. And up to now, they have done it without holding the senior levels of authority and power.

Today Boomers hold those levels of authority and power. Insofar as fundraising is concerned, Boomer leadership must lead the change in transforming their fundraising. It will be their biggest legacy and the capstone on a superlative career that they have given their blood, sweat and tears to.

It’s that important!


Welcome to BIG's Blog!  Please feel free to forward this post to your friends and coworkers...and email me a comment at:

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

BIG's Blog: Disillusioned

The word “disillusion” generally is thought of in negative terms, such as, “I am disillusioned with my job… country… life… etc.”

But the word disillusion takes on a positive aspect when we are freed of a negative illusion that we are living under. If, for instance, I am living under the illusion that nobody likes me, then that illusion has a profound effect on all aspects of my life. But if I become “disillusioned” of that negative illusion… my life changes for the positive.

My fear is that many Baby Boomer (Boomer) age fundraising leaders and their Boomer-age boards or councils live under the illusion that the status quo ways of fundraising will continue to support them, even as they slowly add some Internet-based channels.

Boomers see the Internet as “new” by virtue of their age and perspective. The problem with this view is that the growing younger end of the population sees the Internet as old and “always been around” technology.

Both are right, but from different perspectives. But there is a problem and that problem is that it is the younger generations that now “own” the Internet in the same way that the Boomer generation owned Woodstock. Our Boomer generation owned the culture of Woodstock because it was ours… not our parents’… but ours. Today’s younger generation owns the Internet and is making it a key part of their culture.

And now I am specifically talking to Boomer fundraising leaders: It is inevitable that you will become disillusioned with your traditional ways of fundraising and see the need to accelerate your push to an Internet-based fundraising model. And the faster you reach that point of disillusionment, the better the odds are for the future of your fundraising organization.


Welcome to BIG's Blog!  Please feel free to forward this post to your friends and coworkers...and email me a comment at:

Sunday, July 15, 2012

BIG's Blog: Why Baby Boomer Fundraisers are Missing the Point . . . Maybe

There is an old saying: “If you are a hammer, everything looks like a nail.”

The hammer is the Baby Boomer (Boomer) generational cohort. Boomers by virtue of the common experience of passing through the same time together have a common view of life and culture in general. As to the specifics in life and culture, well, that can get a bit more complicated.

Boomers today run the age gamut from 48 to 66. And if they are still in the workplace… which most of them are… they have by virtue of age and tenure in their chosen profession assumed the upper tier of leadership within their group or organization.

We all “get it” that the rise of the Internet is impacting every organization, including nonprofit fundraising organizations. But when Boomers open their eyes and look at the world, they think that naturally all people… other generational cohorts… see the world the way they see it. And when it comes to the Internet, well, that is new and different and we are figuring it out. Right?

Imagine most Boomers surprise when they learn that a huge part of the population under age 48 don’t see the Internet as new but rather old.

After all, the Internet has been around since 1994… almost 18 years ago. Someone that is 47 today was 29 in 1994. And someone who is 37 years old today was 19. To them that was way back. But to Boomers who remember Ronald Reagan beating Jimmy Carter in 1980, 1994 seems like yesterday.

So why are Boomers in fundraising leadership having such a tough time shifting modes from the way they have always done fundraising… think direct mail appeals… to Internet-driven fundraising? Frankly, it is perspective. They see the Internet as “new” and don’t feel the personal imperative to shift in a more determined and speedy way because they don’t feel a sense of urgency. They actually believe they have the time to figure it out.

This is doubly compounded if the board/council they report to is also Boomer or older.

Boomer fundraising leadership is living under an illusion.

In my next blog, I will address “disillusion.”


Welcome to BIG's Blog!  Please feel free to forward this post to your friends and coworkers...and email me a comment at:

Thursday, July 12, 2012

BIG'S Blog: Being Very Clear on the Goal

Fundraising is about, well, raising funds. In fundraising, the goal is to raise money. Period.

Isn’t it amazing when you peel back the onion to get to the core of an issue, question, or agenda that the issue, answer, or priority becomes very clear?

A friend of mine has a favorite saying: “Nothing focuses the mind as much as running out of money.”

Fundraisers, like other professionals, can begin to define themselves as “what they do,” rather than “what they are.” But it is the “what you are” (fundraisers) that keeps the revenues flowing into your nonprofit’s missions year after year.

As the fundraising playing field shifts from analogue to digital, and marketing and advertising shift from offline to online, the fundraising goal remains the same… raise money.


Welcome to BIG's Blog!  Please feel free to forward this post to your friends and coworkers...and email me a comment at:

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

BIG’s Blog: Guest Post

Paul Sawers is the App and Media Editor at The Next Web.

When I saw the title of his article and read it, I didn’t want to just comment on it, I wanted my blog readers to have a chance to read it word-for-word. This is a great piece for many of your friends and peers in nonprofit fundraising… feel free to forward it to them!

The article is entitled: Why our aversion to technological advances is about to change

“Thomas Edison turned down the radio because it had no commercial value; Western Union turned down the telephone because management thought ‘it will never be more than a toy’; Thomas J. Watson Sr., founder and head of IBM, turned down the computer; and Kodak turned down the Xerox copier.”
- Donald A. Norman, The Invisible Computer (1998)

History is littered with wide scale aversion to new, disruptive technologies. And as renowned cognitive science academic Donald Norman notes above, it’s not just Joe and Jane Bloggs who fail to see the latent potential of new products – captains of industry are also prone to ‘missing the point’.

But what really interests me is the general attitude across society whenever new communication technologies are introduced to market. It never ceases to amaze me how dismissive folk are whenever something different comes along; something that offers a new way for people to interact with other people and the world around them.

I joined Facebook in 2007 – I was hardly an early adopter, but I wasn’t late to the table either – and I distinctly remember the attitude of many people at the time.

The argument against signing up to social networks was usually something like this:
“Why would you want to sit on the Internet and chat with friends when you should be out meeting and socializing with real friends? Geek!”

If each of these critics were genuinely out with their friends all the time, returning home only to sleep, then they’d maybe have a leg to stand on with their jibes. But everyone has time away from the outside world to have a little ‘me’ time.

More importantly, the irony of said individuals electing instead to sit at home staring at some mindless, unidirectional drivel on TV was completely lost on them. Why was it okay, and non-geeky, to be addicted to TV shows like Friends or Hollyoaks, but not quite-so-okay to spend half-an-hour or so perusing friends’ holiday snaps on Facebook?

Alas, their attitudes have evolved and they’re all on Facebook now. Oh, and they all use it a hell of a lot more than I do.

There are still a few stragglers out there, stubbornly fighting the social media onslaught, purely on principle from what I can tell. One of my friends said he saw a video I posted to Facebook recently, but before I could come close to uttering “I knew you’d give in and join”, he informed me that he was accessing Facebook on his mobile using his wife’s log-in details. That’s crazy.

Don’t get me wrong though. There are many, many good reasons for not wanting to communicate with your friends in this way (e.g. privacy concerns), but all this got me thinking about why there is such aversion to new communication technologies that come along.

From the industrial revolution, through to the humble telegraph and on to the connected, Facebook-addicted society we live in now, attitudes have always been the same to disruptive technology in any industry.

Generational patterns: Inspiring the inner Luddite

Each generation has new technologies, and each one is equally skeptical about them. The same trend happens within music – whenever anyone my age says “All music today sounds the same”, or “There are no decent bands around anymore”, I have to remind them that their parents said the same thing, and so did their parents…and so on. If your finger isn’t on the pulse, you lose touch with how to actually find new, exciting music.

Age may naturally make us more cynical and less receptive to new ideas, but with so many changes happening in the digital space I think it’s important that everyone embraces everything that comes along, if you can see a purpose for it.

Of course, there’s no point signing up for Facebook if it genuinely doesn’t float your boat, but if you want to be kept in the loop regarding birthday invitations and the photos from the wedding you went to, get yourself an account now. And if you’re worried about Facebook having data about you, you can give it the bare minimum information and refuse ever to click on a single ‘Like’ or ‘Share’ button in the social sphere.

Ubiquitous Computing

Back in March we brought you news on a neat little fridge magnet that lets you order pizza directly from the door on your refrigerator.

Is it gimmicky? Sure. Are millions of folk using this yet? I doubt it. But the attitudes around this story astounded me, both from tweets I was sent and also comments on the post itself. One person wrote: “As if picking up a phone is so hard to do. Have we, as society, become so lazy, that there’s a need for this?”

But I think this misses the point of such technology. We’re still tentatively feeling our way around what a connected society really means, and as such quirky ideas like this pop up from time to time, either as marketing stunts or simply to show what technology is capable of.
Moreover, I really don’t see why hitting a fridge magnet to order a pizza is ‘lazy’. If that’s the case, surely ‘picking up a phone’ is lazy, when juxtaposed against the old way of doing things – getting up off your arse and walking to the shops. Or if we look even further back, get yourself a plot of land, grow your own ingredients and make your own damn pizza. In my rebuttal at the time, I wrote: “When phones enabled delivery services, people said ‘are people so lazy they can’t drive to the shop’. With the Internet and connected devices, people look back to the previous technological innovation as ‘the norm’.

“Whenever technological innovations come along, people invariably look to the previous new thing and say ‘what’s wrong with doing things that way’. Whenever telepathic pizza ordering comes to fruition, we’ll say ‘what’s wrong with pushing buttons on fridges’. Maybe.”
My response was a little tongue-in-cheek, and took me about 10 seconds to write, but I couldn’t put it more succinctly today with more time on my hand to consider my response.

What’s wrong with satellite navigation?

Let’s consider in-car satellite navigation systems too. That’s another technology that really inspired the inner Luddite in people when it first became popular about a decade ago. “I don’t like relying on technology to find my way around, I’d rather use a map and find my own way from A to B,” would be a typical put-down I’d hear.

Here’s what I say. If you’re driving a 1,300kg machine, replete with power-steering, windscreen washers, a built-in mp3 player and God-knows what else, how can you have an issue with SatNav?

Humans aren’t pigeons – we don’t instinctively know our way around. If you use an A to Z, why is that better than having a computer relay the information to you as you drive?

I bet none of Christopher Columbus’s compatriots mocked him for using a compass to find his way to the promised land. Or maybe they did – “Are you too lazy to use the sun and stars to find your way?”, was perhaps what Columbus was subjected to throughout his mission to the Americas.

Touchscreens: The norm

Another example I’ve considered from the communications realm is touchscreen mobile phones. I was initially reluctant to buy a smartphone because I much preferred buttons – and I didn’t want a BlackBerry. Yes, there were other smartphone options that had buttons, but the options were limited.

However, it soon became clear that there was no getting away from the fact that at some point in the not-too-distant future, everything will be touchscreen. So I embraced it, and now I actually find using physical buttons on phones a little odd.

There are still many, many people who refuse to allow touchscreen technology into their lives, simply because they don’t want disruption. One day, they won’t have a choice.

Mobile phones

If you think back… way back… to when mobile phones first started seeping into the public realm. I’m talking mid-to-late 1980s here. They generally attracted derision from people, with insults such as ‘yuppie‘ issued with careless abandon.

But mobile phones clearly offered something awesome and truly disruptive, so why the negativity? My guess is that they were typically owned by very well-off people and weren’t available to mere mortals with normal everyday jobs. But a decade on from that, and it’s likely you’d be the subject of scorn for not having a mobile phone.

Exceptions: Example, Skype

There are exceptions to all this, of course. Take Skype – I recall nothing but warm praise for the VoIP service when it launched a decade or so ago. Skype proved seriously disruptive to the traditional way of doing things, but why did this buck the typical trend of new technologies taking a while to be accepted?

The key with Skype, I’d say, was that unlike the leap from a horse to a car, it bridged a much shorter technological divide. People were already using the Internet for just about everything, and the concept of talking to people in remote locations was more than a century old. So to marry the two in such a way with Skype made perfect sense, especially when you give everyone (not a select elite) access to free calls, 24/7.

So this at least partially explains why some communication technologies are ushered in the front door with open arms, whilst others are snuck in the back door until the public deem it worthy enough. It’s more to do with familiarity rather than the extent of the disruption the technology has on its respective industry.

The upshot of all this is that people like what they are used to. They like familiarity. But people also like cool new things that make their lives better, it’s just that it isn’t always obvious how something improves their life. Why have touch screens on mobile phones when buttons were just fine? Is it just because we can?

Well, no. It helps keep powerful pocket devices small and portable by maximizing the real estate of a handset. But this isn’t always immediately obvious.

“When a new product or a change in the structure of acquiring that product is radically altered, the receptivity of customers to the new way becomes less than enthusiastic”, writes Joseph A. DiVanna, in his 2003 book Thinking Beyond Technologies. “If a product has an intrinsic value beyond the price of the item, customers are inclined to stay with the product, using the traditional structure.”

So…it’s hardwired into us. It seems that humans just don’t like change.

But – and this is a big ‘but’ – the pace at which current digital technologies is moving should mean that people are automatically more receptive to new developments, simply because they have less time to become accustomed to the old way of doing things.

This time next year, I bet we’ll all be ordering pizzas directly from our refrigerator door. Well, maybe.

Great article Paul !

Welcome to BIG's Blog!  Please feel free to forward this post to your friends and coworkers...and email me a comment at:

Sunday, July 8, 2012

BIG’s Blog: How Fast the Switch?

The rise of online sales of consumer goods presages the fundamental shift in how consumers are altering their buying behaviors as they continue to adopt online technology into their lives.

So, too, online donations continue to grow as a percent of all giving, which mirrors society’s adoption of online technology.

But online donation growth is about only the final transaction piece, the dollar transfer mechanism. What about the more important shift of the actual behavior change of benefactor/donors away from direct mail towards online?

For a comparable, let’s look at the shift in actual reading behavior as demonstrated by the shift from printed books to e-books. While print books still dominate – just like direct mail fundraising solicitations continue to dominate – in 2011 total e-book sales rose to 19.3% of total book sales; up from 1.17% in 2008. Forrester Research predicts that by 2015, e-book sales will reach $3 billion or approximately 60% of the total book sales market.

So if online donations are growing year-over-year and actual readership is quickly moving digital, what does this mean for fundraisers?

I think 2015 will be a critical year. Just like the print book versus e-book shift, your fundraising group will shift from direct mail dominance to online dominance between now and 2015.

How does that shift change your fundraising organization?

What does it look like?


Welcome to BIG's Blog!  Please feel free to forward this post to your friends and coworkers...and email me a comment at: