Tucson, Arizona: When Words Kill

The attack Saturday in Tucson, Arizona that critically injured Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, killed a federal judge, a nine-year-old girl and six other innocent bystanders marks a new and painful moment in our country’s history. As information continues to unfold about the attacker’s motives, the local sheriff blamed the “toxic political environment in Arizona” for the carnage. Some may rationalize this latest tragedy as the act of a disturbed individual that should not be confused with politics. Well, yes, the shooter is probably a disturbed individual, but we also know that a climate of vitriol can fuel a disturbed or very angry person to take horrible actions. Many respected observers of our national scene have been warning for months of the risks fomenting just below the surface in this … [Read more...]

Coca Cola Bubbles Up an Idea


I happened upon a fun and funny online concept brought to you by the smart and clever people at Coca Cola. The entire MyCoke site is filled with some great marketing ideas, but the one that caught my eye is its Coca Cola Smile-izer interactive experience. If you click on one of the floating Coke bubbles, it bursts open with the sound of laughter created by one of thousands of MyCoke website visitors willing to participate in a little silliness and by doing so, have Coca Cola make a dollar donation to the National Parks Foundation. Each bubble represents one person’s laugh. And, it may surprise and delight you to listen to how unique each person’s laughter is. What really got my interest beyond the simple joy of listening to laughter bursting forth while I was working (I don’t often hear … [Read more...]

Is Your Message as Limp as a Day-Old Latke?

If you have not taken a hard look at the messages you have been sending your most valued donors over the past six to twelve months, go grab a few samples, sit down with them and put yourself in the shoes of your donor. Read the messages one at a time (in the sequence they were sent) and think about how you reacted to each one. If you see lots of repetition, nothing new or surprising, you are not effectively communicating with your most important supporters and are sending them a message (however unintentional) that they are not all that important to you. While there is some truth in the marketing adage,” keep repeating your message” so recipients know who you are and recognize your mission and purpose, another truth is that your most loyal and generous donors deserve something more from your … [Read more...]

Just Because I Ordered Tuna Salad For Lunch Today Does Not Mean That’s All I Eat

In my experience, nonprofit fundraisers seeking to secure a repeat or increased gift from a donor - especially one who made a first and/or modest gift - too often jump to the conclusion that if a donor gave to (fill in your cause or special campaign here) they are likely to continue to give to the cause that prompted that initial donation. So, just keep asking them over and over again. Or at least, as this line of thinking goes, make sure that the next appeal to the donor is closely aligned to their giving history. But why? Just as I don't make a diet solely of tuna salad, donors may not want to simply continue giving to the same old thing. They just might be interested is seeing the full menu of giving opportunities. A new donor may have responded to an appeal for any one of a dozen reasons - … [Read more...]

Selling the Not-Always Apparent Benefits of Social Media

Believe it or not, I still hear lots of skepticism about the value of social media from people who just don't see how time spent engaging on Facebook, YouTube or Twitter translates into results. Never mind that the world now spends over 110 billion minutes on social networks and blog sites, according to Nielsen. For some busy and otherwise-engaged people all this time spent tweeting, chatting and texting is time lost to more important endeavors. There are, of course, lots of experts out there who can articulate how to measure the ROI of your social media investment. Their approaches are important ones to adopt. In short, it all distills down to two words: influence and engagement. Organizations need to figure out who they want to influence and who are the important social media influencers of … [Read more...]

Lessons from J. Crew

I read with great interest this past Sunday, October 3, 2010, The New York Times article, "Buy My Stuff - and Theirs, Too" by Joshua Brustein, that we in the Jewish community need to consider. The gist of the article is how J. Crew, one of the most successful online and in-store space clothing retailers, has determined that "friending" other purveyors' goods makes great business sense for them and their customers. This is befriending - no, it's actually community-building - taken to the max. J. Crew determined that surrounding its products with those of other fashion-related businesses, would create a more potent marketing picture for its consumers to consider and ultimately purchase that if they simply went the traditional route of merchandising their own goods. If J. Crew has determined that … [Read more...]

The Organizational Elevator Speech. Is Yours Headed Up or Down?

If you find yourself too often at a loss for the right words or on the other end of the spectrum speaking endless babble about your favorite nonprofit to that poor soul who harmlessly introduced herself to you read on. Like the elevator speech executive coaches train professionals to fine tune about themselves, every nonprofit volunteer and professional needs to equipped to effectively and articulately explain their organization and their involvement in 15- 30 seconds. Not much time to say something meaningful and memorable is it? Well, since everyone has gotten aboard the Twitter bandwagon, this should be a piece of cake, right? My experience with lots of nonprofit leaders suggests telling a willing new acquaintance about one's beloved organization in simple, compelling words is not so easy. And … [Read more...]

A Communicator’s Al Chet

The following was originally published on eJewish Philanthropy, September 27, 2009: As Yom Kippur approaches, I start to create a mental list of my actions that have caused harm or pain to someone over the past year. I will quietly recite them during the Yom Kippur Al Chet prayer. During this exercise these past weeks, I became keenly aware that communication - or the lack of it - is often at the heart of my Al Chet confession. Whether it was my tone, my choice of words, my lack of responsiveness or my rush to say something and then get it wrong, failed communication is an important theme on my list. I wonder how many of these transgressions of communications we all share. Failure to get all the facts right. Failure to communicate clearly - using words that precisely convey a … [Read more...]