Busy week

My mom has been in town this week.

I’m launching a huge web project for a national non profit.

I facilitated a conversation on community transformation with local leaders from gov’t, business, non profit, artist and education sectors.

Meetings for 2 boards of local non profits I’m on.

Plus, I’m still married with 2 kids!

So much awesome stuff in one week is tiring, but I’m grateful for where life has taken me. The last few years with health issues were tough but my year check up after surgery a while ago went well and since then it feels like things have gone really well.

Google’s 8 Pillars of Innovation for Non Profit’s

Susan Wojcicki has seen Google grow from the very start … the company was once based in her garage! In 2011, Wojcicki wrote “The Eight Pillars of Innovation” about how the company pushes itself forward.

These Eight Pillars made Google one of the most useful and financially sound companies on the planet.

What would it look like if your non profit applied them?

1. Have a mission that matters

Work can be more than a job when it stands for something you care about.

This by far is the easiest one for non profits at least to start. Your mission is (or at least should be) compelling, exciting, inspiring. And your work should be closing tied to that mission. If these things are in place you will have no problem getting people to invest their lives in helping you accomplish your mission. Employees, funders, donors, partners all will be excited if you have a compelling mission and can communicate it well.

Is your mission clear, actionable and compelling? If not, what needs to change?

2. Think big but start small

No matter how ambitious the plan, you have to roll up your sleeves and start somewhere.

End Hunger. Stop Domestic Violence. Save a Species. Non profits are nothing if not ambitious. But often times these lofty and ambitious goals stand in the way of doing something today. Don’t get trapped in constant cycle of updating strategic plans but never actually doing something.

What one action can you take today to chip away at the problem you agency seeks to solve?

3. Strive for continual innovation, not instant perfection

Our iterative process often teaches us invaluable lessons.

I once worked with a non profit known for being innovative in their space. The kind of organization that others looked up to. They spent a HUGE amount of money on developing a new website with a large well known interactive firm who typically works with fortune 500 types. The firm built the site on a very developer friendly platform but this made iteration near impossible for the organization. They were locked in as they didn’t have an ASP.NET developer on site to make changes as the data came in.

This is a very technical example of course, but everyday you make decisions about all sorts of things.

Are you positioning yourself for continual innovation or are you so focused on some unrealistic standard of perfection that you are either spending years on planning or setting it and forgetting it?

Both are dangerous and will eventually cause stagnation for your non profit.

4. Look for ideas everywhere

Some of the best ideas at Google are sparked just like that – when small groups of Googlers take a break on a random afternoon and start talking about things that excite them.

My favorite book I’ve ever read is Frans Johansson’s, The Medici Effect. In fact my company’s name, Intersection, is inspired by the concepts in it. Basically he says that breakthrough ideas occur when we bring concepts from one field into a new, unfamiliar territory.

The entire field of social impact business, social enterprise, profit for purpose business, etc. is really founded on this idea of the intersection between profit and purpose. Intersections between different people, different ideas, different fields, different cultures, different socioeconomic backgrounds often yield amazing and unpredictable results.

So what can your organization learn from other non profits, especially those trying to solve different problems that yours? What can your non profit learn from businesses? How can you create an organizational culture that seeks out these opportunities?

5. Share everything

By sharing everything, you encourage the discussion, exchange and re-interpretation of ideas, which can lead to unexpected and innovative outcomes.

Non profits certainly are ahead of the curve with this, what with gov’t mandated 990’s being publicly searchable and all. But raw data isn’t enough.

Sharing your wins, losses, ideas, plans, goals, etc. is scary. But by encouraging discussion of all these things you open up lots of opportunities that we saw in the previous Pillar of Innovation.

Your annual report likely lists a lot of wins. Can you add some risks, failures, plans and ideas this next year to really jumpstart a culture of innovation among your staff and major stakeholders?

6. Spark with imagination, fuel with data

What begins with intuition is fueled by insights. If you’re lucky, these reinforce one another.

Ideas are great. Instincts are great. Gut feelings are great. The likelihood is that if you are a leader you probably got there by following these things. But sometimes they can be wrong. Or sometimes they come too early or too late as part of a bigger story. Data is what proves you right or wrong. If you are right, fantastic, refer back #3! And if you are wrong? Fantastic! Look ahead to #8!!!

What programs do you have in place that aren’t being measured with objective data? How will you fix that?

7. Be a platform

There is so much awe-inspiring innovation being driven by people all over the globe.

This is likely the toughest pillar for a nonprofit to adopt. Software companies have it easy when it comes to building a platform.

But the fact of the matter is, nonprofits that adopt this mentality last. The Red Cross is successful in part because services they offer to nonprofit hospitals and even gov’t agencies. Same with United Way. Organizations that are indispensable to their communities, stakeholders and partners are often times essentially a platform that others are building on in a sense.

What can you do to help provide opportunities for others to build on the work that you are doing? How can you work to ensure the success of your partners and in turn increase your impact and success?

8. Never fail to fail

The thing is, people remember your hits more than your misses. It’s okay to fail as long as you learn from your mistakes and correct them fast. Trust me, we’ve failed plenty of times. Knowing that it’s okay to fail can free you up to take risks.

This one is terrifying for anyone, but especially for nonprofits. Just imagine sitting down with your biggest donor telling him how you spent his donation on some crazy new idea and now it’s up in smoke. No one wants to have that conversation. That said, success often comes from failure. In the for profit world everyone gets this. Edison had hundreds of failures before the lightbulb. One thing to keep in mind though is that all these pillars of innovation are meant to work together, so small, strategic experiments that fail (in keeping with pillar #2) shouldn’t terrify anyone, especially when you fail fast and learn from your mistakes. How exciting will your annual report be when you document the journey of failed experiments leading to the awesome new program that is making huge strides in solving the problem you exist to solve? (Dan Portnoy and I cover how to do this in our Connect + Engage workshop that we run a couple times a year.)

What risks have you taken in the last year? What were the results? What risks will you take in the next year?

Putting all 8 of these pillars together won’t be easy. But if it was easy, everyone would be innovative. But if you want to truly inspire people, solve big problems and change the world you should be ready to put in the work.

If you need help, let me know.

Cecil the Lion: What can marketers and fundraisers learn?

You may have heard about Cecil the Lion. You may have heard about Walter Palmer. You may have even heard about Theo Bronkhorst.

You likely haven’t heard about the thousands of other African animals poached each year in opposition to local and international laws.

But this post isn’t about Cecil the Lion. Nor is it even about animals or conservation.

What we who want to make a difference in the world; who care deeply about a cause; who try to engage others to help solve problems, who have tied our livelihoods to our ability to create a better future, should be looking at is why you and most everyone you know are talking about one individual instance of poaching and why people on Facebook are calling for dramatic and transformative change in the way the international community handles poaching. Why are 4 out of 5 recent stories on poaching about Cecil the Lion at the New York Times?

This is the power of story.

Deep seeded in each human being is a desire to belong. Stories help people connect with your mission in ways statistics never could. Stories allow you to tap into the pain point that your product or service resolves like no other method. Telling one personal story with a REAL photo attached will have more of an impact than all the self promotional media creations you can imagine.

Stories persuade better than statistics to be sure, but more importantly, stories give meaning to statistics. When we tell stories we ensure that when people think of our organization or cause, they think see a face, and think of a story.

Cecil the Lion has a name and a face. People care about a hero they can put a name and face to.

Walter Palmer has a name and a face. People rally together when there is an easy to identify villian.

But if you go to some of the worlds largest organizations websites dedication to stopping exactly this type of activity, you won’t find much about what is today one of the biggest stories. And you won’t find many other stories either.

Storytelling is hard. But a great story has legs and will go so much further than a bunch of statistics.

Need help discovering, capturing and telling your stories? Contact us today.


Dreaming is hard. Keep dreaming.

It’s okay.

You’re scared.

I get it.

But don’t worry. It’s going to be ok. Or maybe it won’t.

Innovation can happen.

Change is hard. Change is scary.

But it has to happen. It is going to happen. Lead it. Don’t wait for it. Don’t chase it.

Don’t settle for anything less than striving to be number one in your field. Transformative change, impact, legacy. These are the hallmarks of innovators, of entrepreneurs, of disruptive, discontented souls. Of dreamers.

If you really want to make a difference, if you really want to change the world you’re going to have to put forward a compelling vision and sell it. Get people excited to really, really, really work hard. Roll up your sleeves. You can’t leave early. You can’t show up late.

Just put in the work. Sell the vision. Get people excited.

Have a vision worth fighting for. Worth sweating for. Worth bleeding for. Worth dying for.

[quote style=”boxed” float=”right”]Imagination is more important than knowledge ~ Albert Einstein[/quote] Do you want to make a difference?

You’ve got to fight. You can’t be afraid and even when you are you have to be courageous. You have to fight. You have to push through.

Sometimes you will fail. (probably more often than not!)

Keep dreaming.

Sometimes you will struggle.

Keep dreaming.

Sometimes you will be scared out of your mind.

Keep dreaming. 

People will tell you that you are crazy, that you are moving too fast, that you are idealistic, foolish or just plain dumb.

Keep dreaming.

Be a dreamer. Believe that you can change the world. Keep going.

And when you’ve done all that? Ask for help.

Should my non profit use Periscope?

Let’s talk about Qik.

Qik, a company that was very early on in the stream-live-video-from-your-phone trend that popped up and then quickly faded around 2008-2009, is being retired by its parent company, Skype. Skype acquired Qik back in 2011 for upwards of $100 million. ~ Techcrunch

If you check out all of my earliest youtube videos you will see that Qik is tagged. I was livestreaming all kinds of things from my Windows Mobile Device before iPhone supported video. In fact, Qik worked on iPhone even though iPhone didn’t have the functionality in their OS. It was a great service.

In fact it was so great that today, almost a decade later, 2 near identical services have popped up and are all anyone is talking about. Meerkat came in like a wrecking ball (feel free to sing along at home) leveraging your Twitter social graph and then Twitter said, hey, we have some pretty solid programmers here too and um, also access to the Twitter graph, so um, lets copy it (which remember is literally a copy of Qik, and several other livestreaming apps from the last time we went down this road…) and released Periscope.

Off topic but interesting side note, the best ideas aren’t always successful. Great ideas require great execution and marketing to get off the ground.

Which brings us to the question, “Should your non profit be using Periscope?”

At our non profit training last month, Connect+Engage we talked a lot about social media. A few guidelines that came out of that conversation:

  1. The right tools are one’s aligned with your strategy
  2. Do thoughtful and strategic experiments
  3. Do it wrong quickly
  4. Measure the right things

So, “Should I use Periscope?”

Honestly, I have no idea! Unless you are one of our retainer clients I just don’t know your donor base well enough to decide that for you. But we can offer you some questions to help you figure it out.

  • Do you have an engaged Twitter following?
  • Do you have KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators) for your social presence?
  • Do you know your story and how to tell it well?
  • Do you have the time to invest well in creating the content as well as establishing and measuring goals?

If your answers to these questions lead you to believe you should move forward then get moving and create great content and connect with your donors and volunteers today!

Make it a MAY to Remember!

Join Dan Portnoy and I for a half day of training on how to best equip your team for this year’s campaigns. We’re calling it Connect + Engage because we all know: that’s how you win donors and catalyze audiences.

We wanted to share what we’re seeing in successful non-profits and provide helps in several areas from telling your story to connecting with volunteers. Each session will be done in a fast-paced, poignant style with lots of images, kind of like a TED talk. We aren’t holding anything back.

Do you want to know how to raise more money than you ever have this year?
We’ll tell you.
How is this year’s campaign video going to connect with the most people?
We’ll tell you.
How can you ensure that you’re creating the most engaging story?
We’ll tell you.

Here’s what the training looks like:

Welcome, expectations, ground rules
Session 1 – Getting your story right, tone, modes.
Session 2 – Determining audiences
Session 3 – Connection and engagement, principles and strategy
Session 4 – Using social media effectively and efficiently
Session 5 – Using video to acquire and cultivate donations
Session 6 – Recruiting, managing and maintaining great volunteers
Closing thoughts
We know you’re busy so we made the workshop just a half day so you can grab the latest concepts and implement them with your team in real time. Bring your team and work on your marketing together with us at the workshop.May 5th – Orange County (Santa Ana)

Create Space Studio,
Historic Hervey-Finley Building
204 E. 4th Street Suite O, Santa Ana, Ca 92701 (click for map)

Morning Session 8:30-12 (noon)

Afternoon Session 1pm-4:30pm

May 7th – Los Angeles

Northland Village Foundation
4520 Cutter Street Los Angeles, Ca 90039 (click for map)

Morning Session 8:30-12 (noon)

Afternoon Session 1pm-4:30pm

I hope to see you there!

Health Update Feb 2015

Had another Bone Scan (where they inject me with a radioactive isotope and then take pictures with a gamma camera) on Thursday. Went well. Sending the results to my doctor. We shall see what he has to say. The hope is he will say that it looks good and I can schedule surgery and finally be done with these health updates! Worst case scenario is he says I have to wait another 3 months and then have another bone scan. If none of this makes sense, I’ve gone into much more detail in earlier posts.

Health update–one year later

So my last scan did not show what they had hoped for. The affected area is still very active (the calcium cells continue to form). Until this stops, the doctor won’t do the surgery as it would lead to additional muscle loss. So I have another scan in Feb. Pain is mild most days. If I am very active during the day sometimes I am pretty sore by bed time and a lot more tired than usual (though since it has been a year, maybe THIS is usual). Needless to say I was very disappointed. It really is a bummer to know that I cannot BEGIN recovery until at least February. For those who’ve been following along that means well over a year since this all began.

When I first began sharing publicly about all this I posted some areas of concern I’d like help/prayer/good thoughts/etc. on. I figured I would revisit that since the 1 year anniversary of the moment I became aware of a problem is coming up in a couple days. Back then I said:

“We would sure appreciate your prayers in a few specific areas:

  • Answers: having no idea what is actually going on sucks. certainly some of the potential diagnoses are not great, but at this point we cannot begin moving on with our lives until we get a diagnosis so I would really like to get that part of this ordeal done with
  • Finances: we have great insurance through Shannon’s work and we put a pretty good sum into our flexible health spending account that we can draw from, but still lots of doctors visits and lots of medications and lots of tests mean lots of copays. Additionally, the pain and stress and time involved has limited my ability to win new business. So we have more money than normal going out and far less than normal coming in. This is not sustainable and I am currently exploring options.
  • Kids: obviously, mom and dad being stressed out is hard on kids. pray that we remain patient and fair with them, they get the time and attention they need and that we have the wisdom to help them deal with and discuss things in a way that is developmentally appropriate.
  • Us: stress and uncertainty impact people in a variety of ways. Pray that our relationship remains strong (I don’t doubt this, but have seen it play out poorly in others lives) and that we deal with things in emotionally healthy and responsible ways (not my strong suit).”

So how it going?

  • Answers: We got them. It did not lead to moving on with life the way I expected but I do know constant minor pain and the inability to ride a bike is the worst of it.
  • Finances: This continues to be a real challenge.
  • Kids: I feel Shannon has done an amazing job here. I do ok some days and struggle others. I get tired and cranky really easily and am pretty hard on them at bedtime when that happens.
  • Us: Emotionally healthy and responsible ways of dealing with things still aren’t my strong suit. I have struggled with this a lot. I vacillate a lot between pretending nothing is wrong to wallowing in self pity. Neither one of these make me a very pleasant person to be around. And then I get tired and cranky.

I wish I knew how to fix this stuff.

My eye turned out to be periocular cellulitis. I took antibiotics and am all healed up. It was a little scary for a couple hours. I went to the doctors office (several miles from my house) for a walk in but they were booked up all day and referred me to urgent care (several miles from my house in the opposite direction). The urgent care doctor took a look at me and told me I needed to rush to the ER (a block from my house), to get emergency IV antibiotics and a CT Scan. She was convinced I had orbital cellulitis which without the IV antibiotics could lead to blindness or death. I was not very excited to hear this. I went to the ER where they treated me like a pretty serious emergency, until the doctor poured acid in my eye (he called it dye but I think he was lying), looked at it under a blacklight, said, “you’re fine,” then it became like any other er visit where I sat there for an hour until someone came to discharge me. As I was leaving they told me my diagnosis and gave me a prescription. 3 days later I was perfect and I just finished up my antibiotics.

Updates continue to be posted here.

Health Update

For previous health updates click here.

On my way out the door for a bone scan. On Friday I have an appt to go over the results. Best case scenario we can schedule my surgery at that appt.

Unrelated to my leg I developed some sort of eye infection (my internet sleuthing over the weekend makes me thing cellulitis) so I will be going to the doctor after my scan today for a walk in to hopefully get it diagnosed and taken care of.


Any ideas why my eye hurts and is nearly swollen shut?

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