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The Importance of Family Philanthropy

September 27th, 2012 | No Comments | Posted in How Not For Profits

Preparing for a series of international presentations, I recently updated [and de-Americanized] a number of my most popular case studies. To my mind, there is no doubt that the process of philanthropy decision-making is cross-cultural and generic, but the context for making those decisions is heavily influenced by local laws and regional culture. A challenge for those of us who work and speak internationally is to help our clients and audiences understand which is which.

But what struck me in taking this fresh look at these well-worn and proven cases was how frequently I used family examples to illustrate the points to be made. Why?

Of course, the most obvious answer is the numbers. Of the approx 80,000 private foundations in the USA, the overwhelming number are fully run and governed by family members. If one wishes to find the most generic examples, “family funders” is the place to start. Independent and corporate private foundations play a very important role, but are a small fraction of the total cohort.

It is hardly surprising that smaller to midsize family foundations would full reflect the name, personality, and priorities of the founding family. Yet, in recent months I have had occasion to teach and advise a number of very large and well-known foundations. These are foundations with large numbers of professional staff, most of whom have a highly specialized expertise. They were hired to bring a level of knowledge to the grantmaking process which the families didn’t have. Interestingly, in virtually every case, no matter the size, it didn’t take long for the name, personality, and priorities of the family funders to enter the discussion at these places as well.

All of this underscores the centrality of family philanthropy in setting the style, agenda, and landscape of the private philanthropy world. It doesn’t matter whether the vehicle is a checkbook, a donor advised fund, or a private foundation. Indeed, often there is simply a technical line between a family funder and a foundation which bears his/her name. In other cases, the family foundation may be professionally run, in a second, third, or fourth generation and have outside-non family trustees. Sometimes, family giving is sophisticated and strategic; other times, it is idiosyncratic and socially driven. In every case, it matters.

It matters because family philanthropy fosters a family’s expression of altruism and socially responsible behavior. It is often a way in which core values are transmitted from generation to generation. Writ large, it is the way in which society manifests its commitment to cultural values, compassion, and identity. And, because thoughtful philanthropy alerts a giver to the larger environment of social need, interest, and solutions, family philanthropy is a frequent influence on public policy.

Long time readers may recall that several years ago I was invited to conduct a workshop on inter-generational philanthropy for 100 leading philanthropists from around the world. No one from the USA [except me] was invited, and I was explicitly told to avoid American examples. the moderator of the day was a prominent philanthropist from South Africa. At the end of the day, in his concluding remarks, he expressed his surprise at the generic nature of the issues. “What this fellow [referring to me] talked about was exactly what is happening in my family!” I suspect he found it liberating to know that his was not unique.

Similarly, when I speak at conferences for family funders or work directly with family foundations, I try hard to help them see that, in most cases, what they may have perceived as unique family personality constructs, or inter-generational obstructions are more typically generic issues which most families face. [True, some do it better than others, and sometimes there really are challenging family issues - but in most cases, families are dealing with very representative issues.] Here too I have found that discovering this is liberating for most families: it de-personalizes differing opinions of style and priority, and can provide an openness to learn from each other and other families how matters which may seem stubbornly intractable can be resolved.

From a macro perspective, family philanthropists are the freest to take risks, to experiment, to think and act outside the box. Our field not only needs to honor and defend that kind of freedom, it requires it. This historic vision of the risk capital role of private philanthropy still applies. Today that manifests itself in funding innovation, start-ups, politically sensitive initiatives, as well as more traditional new projects of established organizations. Family funders may be willing to explore new kinds of philanthropic investments, program and socially responsible investments, hybrid funding models even while they are in their infancy. [Frankly, most of us know that not all of these ideas will succeed, but none of us really knows which ones might.]

Those of us who teach and advise funders have an important role in helping families learn how to do what they want to do better, more effectively, and in a more satisfying way. But we also have to be careful not to, en passant, straitjacket those very foundations and funders from testing limits and reaching beyond their grasp. All of us, in the families, in our field, and in our communities, all of us need to have a commitment to do no less. It matters.

Richard Marker

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How an Executive Director Uses Social Media For Her Small Nonprofit

September 27th, 2012 | No Comments | Posted in Social Media

Last week I had the opportunity to attend the Social Media for Nonprofitsconference in Boston. One of the best presentations was from Julie Nations, executive director of The Ellie Fund, who as you know, wonTwive and Receive.

Julie talked about what it was like to launch and manage a social media presence for her nonprofit, which is staffed by herself and two other people.

She started out by sharing the fears and concerns she had about social media, which are shared by most small nonprofits:

  • – Lack of resources to manage social media
  • – Lack of knowledge about which tools to use
  • – Doubt if whether it will work or not
  • – Confusion about how social media fits within a fundraising strategy

Julie went on to share her experience working with Joe Waters and myselfas we guided her through planning and implementing the campaign for Twive and Receive.

What The Ellie Fund Does With Social Media

Julie shared a lot of helpful tools and resources, but she also allowed people to see under the hood and take a look at what she’s doing every day on Facebook, Twitter, and their new blog.

  • – On Facebook: Julie monitors page activity everyday, responds to comments, and searches for great content to post on the page. Her content strategy is about appreciating fans, sharing outcomes, and sharing patient stories.
  • – On Twitter: Everyday Julie uses Twitter as a way to drive traffic to their website and blog, and as a way to build relationships by re-tweeting content from other users.
  • – On the Blog: Julie recently launched a blog for the Ellie Fund that will hopefully increase their site’s ability to show up in search, and build their e-mail list.

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40 Ways to Get Banned From the Top 5 Social Networks

September 26th, 2012 | No Comments | Posted in Information, Social Media

It may feel like a fustercluck, but there are actually some rules and regulations that go along with participating in social media. Not the kind that ban people from uploading pictures of their meals (PB&J no crust today guys! #omgsohungry), but the ones that help alleviate things like spamming, bad content, and a poor community experience. You know, the things that help make social media a nice place to be.

It’s not a perfect system the social networks have worked out, but it’s important for marketers to know — because believe it or not, lots of marketers are breaking these rules and don’t even know it. And it breaks our hearts to see marketers giving an honest go of social media get banned from the networks … and then not even know why the heck it happened.

This post will review the policies the most popular social networks have set up — some more stringent than others — that we think you should be aware of. And we tried to put them in plain English, too, devoid of confusing and boring legal babble. If you’re accidentally breaking any of these rules, at least now you can put the kibosh on your illicit activities before it’s too late!

How Marketers Can Get Banned From Pinterest

If you’re curious how the newest social network on the block works, we encourage you to read its Terms & Privacy page in full. But for a quick reality check, here are the guidelines marketers should remember when pinning to ensure they stay in Pinterest‘s good graces:

1) Grabbing another company’s account name. When you open an account on Pinterest, you’re indicating that you are authorized to act on behalf of that company. So if you’re not an employee of that company, you’re not authorized. And if you get caught, you’re not allowed on Pinterest anymore, either.

2) Pinning copyrighted content. Any content you post cannot infringe on the rights of the content creator. Make sure it’s either content you’ve created yourself, or content you have a license to share. That means if you’re posting an image from your blog post, that better be copyright-free!

3) Automating your Pinterest content. Marketers can’t use an automated service to post content to their pinboards, repin or like other pinners’ content, or create links. All the rewards you reap from Pinterest, in other words, have to come from your own hard work! Note: If you pin a ton of content from one URL all in one sitting — let’s say you just published a blog post with a ton of great images, for example — you may be prompted by Pinterest to verify that you’re not a bot. Just fill it in and keep on keepin’ on.

4) Scraping content from Pinterest. On a similar note, you can’t use automation to scrape content from Pinterest. Whether you wanted to use it in blog posts, on your Facebook page, to get a list of links — whatever — you can’t do it. Again, any information or content gathered has to be done manually.

5) Scraping for contacts. Any contacts you get from Pinterest have to be opt-ins; as in, they have to come to your site and fill out a form saying they want to hear more from you. Scraping Pinterest for pinners’ personal information so you can market to them later is strictly prohibited.

6) Spamming posts. Just like you shouldn’t be spamming the comments sections of blogs, you shouldn’t be spamming the comments sections of pins.

7) Putting links in the wrong place. Pinterest wants you to include links in your pins so pinners can follow the links to get more information on a pin. But they only want it in the right place. When you pin an image, click ‘Edit,’ where you’ll find a field labeled ‘Link.’ Put your link anywhere else and you may get banned.

8) Don’t get banned. If you’ve been banned once, you’re banned for life. Or as Pinterest puts it, “the Service is not available to any users previously removed from the service by Pinterest.” So, tread lightly.

How Marketers Can Get Banned From LinkedIn

LinkedIn‘s rules aren’t as stringent as the ones we’ve seen on other social networks — perhaps the B2B playground hasn’t gotten quite so out of hand. You can read LinkedIn’s User Agreement in full, or just browse these highlights that jump out for marketers:

1) Connecting with people you don’t know. Seriously! You have to actually know the people you connect with on LinkedIn, or they can boot ya right off!

2) Posting copyrighted content to forums. Whether it’s your LinkedIn Group, LinkedIn Company Page, or on LinkedIn Answers, you can’t publish information that violates others’ intellectual property rights. This one won’t get you banned, but LinkedIn can remove the content and close your group or page. Additionally, LinkedIn will terminate the accounts of users who have been “deemed to be repeat infringers under the United States Copyright Act.” You know who you are.

3) Using LinkedIn messages as an ESP. LinkedIn messages are not to be used for mass emailing. This constitutes a misuse of service, and can get you kicked off the network.

4) Putting links and email addresses where they don’t belong. You get to fill out your profile however you want, as long as it’s accurate. So if you put, say, a link to your blog in, oh I don’t know, the ‘Name’ field … you’re gonna get shut down pretty fast.

5) Selling your LinkedIn presence. Built up a pretty big LinkedIn Group? It might be an asset, but you can’t sell it or monetize it in any way if you want to stay on the social network.

6) Using bots to get connections, followers, or members. Just like Pinterest and some other social networks we’re about to cover in this blog post, LinkedIn wants you to grow your reach organically.

7) Impersonating another company. Another familiar refrain, brands can’t create a fake profile for a competitor to mess around on. You’ll look stupider doing that than they will, anyway.

How Marketers Can Get Banned From Twitter

The full list of Twitter ”rules” can be found here: The Twitter Rules. Aptly named, eh? Here are the ones that are most likely to apply to marketers so you don’t get banned by that sweet little tweety bird:

1) Impersonating others. If you’re impersonating others in an attempt to mislead other Twitter users, Twitter will not be happy. That means no pretending to be a competitor — that’s a low blow move, anyway.

2) Snagging trademarked usernames. Another sketchy move is trying to grab your competitor’s username. If they’ve trademarked the name, Twitter will reclaim it from you on their behalf. Twitter will also suspend you if you’re using trademarked logos on your profile.

3) Squatting on handles. Ow, that sounds uncomfortable. This means you can’t grab a Twitter username and not use it. Well, you can, but Twitter will just grab it right back if it remains inactive after 6 months. On a related note, you can’t grab a username for the purposes of selling it.

4) Buying or selling Twitter usernames. There can be no transactions made around Twitter usernames at all. The penalty is possible permanent suspension from Twitter — for buyers and sellers.

5) Giving yourself an unearned Twitter badge. Twitter has little badges for Promoted Products and Verified Accounts. If you use one of these badges anywhere on your profile — including your profile picture or background image — your profile will be suspended.

6) Posting the same thing over and over. If you’re trying to get a tweet visibility, you can’t do it by tweeting it like a maniac, particularly if it’s duplicate content tweeted at specific users. Same goes for links — Twitter will penalize you if they see you tweeting the same link over, and over, and over … and over.

7) Following people like a bot would. That means you shouldn’t use a bot to manage your following and unfollowing, nor should you act like a bot when manually following and unfollowing people. Aggressive follow and unfollow behavior — particularly seeing a large amount of people followed and/or unfollowed in a short period of time — will signal to Twitter that something’s amiss.

8) Getting followers in sketchy ways. Specifically, those “get followers fast!” schemes. It may get you permanently banned from Twitter.

9) Hijacking a hashtag or Trending Topic. If there’s a #hashtag or trending topic blowing up Twitter and you want in on the action, you can’t try to hijack it with unrelated content about your brand. If you do, you could feel the wrath of the mighty blue bird mighty soon.

10) Posting links with no context. If your updates are just a slew of links with no personal content to give them context, you’ll not only annoy your followers, but Twitter will also want you off their network.

11) Getting ratted out. Sometimes the Twitter community self-polices. If a large number of people are blocking you, or your account has received a lot of SPAM complaints, Twitter will boot you. So play nice out there.

How Marketers Can Get Banned From Google+

If you’re using Google+, there are a couple surprises in here that you might not have considered. You can read their Google+ Policies & Principles in full here, or catch the biggies below:

1) Creating fake pages. Yes, it’s prohibited here, too. Big shock. Moving on.

2) Running contests. Ooooh, that’s a new one! You cannot run contests, sweepstakes, offers, or coupons directly on your Google+ page, but you can display a link to those promotions that leads people offsite.

3) Aggressive Circling. That’s a … weird phrase. But much like you can’t aggressively follow and unfollow people on Twitter without getting flagged, you can’t Circle a ton of people on Google+ without punishment.

4) Altering or adding +1 buttons where they don’t belong. Similar to the Twitter badge rule, you can’t, say, superimpose the Google +1 button on an ad. It’s a misleading way to garner clicks.

5) Keyword stuffing. Yes, it can happen here, too! Because Google+ is so closely tied with organic search, the penalties are just as stiff. If you’re trying to rank for a keyword, stuffing it into every Google+ update is not the way to do it.

6) Marketing regulated products. If you’re marketing in a regulated industry, such as alcohol, tobacco, medical devices, fireworks, pharmeceuticals, etc., you cannot use Google+ to market those topics.

7) Letting your page go dormant. If your Google+ account is dormant for more than 9 months, Google can snatch it right back from ya.

How Marketers Can Get Banned From Facebook

We’ve all probably participated in our fair share of complaining about leaving Facebook. But could they force marketers to leave? Maybe, if they start doing any of these things that violate the Facebook Page Guidelines:

1) Creating fake accounts. As Forrest Gump said, “That’s all I have to say about that.”

2) Using bots or scrapers. Well, almost. Facebook says you can’t use them “without our prior permission.” Which basically means no using bots or scrapers … if you had permission, you’d know it.

3) Posting copyrighted content. You’ve heard this one a bunch of times in this blog post, and if you do it a bunch of times on Facebook, they have the right to disable your account.

4) Naming your page in goofy ways. Facebook has some pretty stringent naming requirements! Your page name cannot consist of solely generic terms, like “pizza,” must use proper grammar and capitalization, may not be in all caps, and may not include character symbols.

5) Collecting user data incorrectly. What does that mean, exactly? It means you have to clearly state that it’s your business, not Facebook, collecting their information, and you will obtain their consent before using their data in any way.

6) Including calls-to-action in your cover photo. This includes promotions or discounts, requests to ‘Like’ or share your photo, contact information for your business, or generic CTAs like “Tell a Friend.”

7) Running contest or promotions outside of a Facebook app. If you want to run a contest or promotion on Facebook, you can only do it through one of their apps — either a Canvas Page or a Facebook App. You also can’t base participation on a requirement that a user take any action with your brand page, such as uploading a photo to your Timeline, or “Liking” a wall post. The only actions that are allowed as a condition of participation are “Liking” a page, connecting to your app, or checking in to a Place. You can’t use any Facebook mechanism, like the ‘Like’ button, in order to vote or register for the promo, either. Finally, you can’t notify winners through Facebook. So basically … you have to jump through a whole lotta hoops if you want to run a promotion or contest on Facebook.

Corey Eridon

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U. of C.: Call us, maybe?

September 26th, 2012 | No Comments | Posted in Fun Stuff, Marketing, Offbeat News

The University of Chicago might not have made it onto the list of the nation’s “Top 20 Party Schools,” but the folks on the stately South Side campus want prospective students to know that they’re as hip to the latest jams as No. 4-ranked University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

This summer the university jumped on the “Call Me Maybe” bandwagon, sending out letters that use portions of the lyrics of the popular Carly Rae Jepsen song to those who inquire about admissions.

“We’re thrilled to hear that you’ve shown an interest in the University of Chicago,” the letter begins. Then it takes on a familiar tone. “I know that we just met you — and this is crazy — but here are our numbers:”

Viral videos of people lip-syncing the song are popping up everywhere. The U.S. Olympic swimming team made a video mouthing the words. So did the diving team. College sports teams and their mascots have gotten in on the action, as have former Secretary of State Colin Powell and a group of U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

Lest anyone think that the U. of C. is stepping outside its comfort zone to prove it’s not as stodgy as some might think, a university spokesman said, “That kind of wit is in the culture of this place.”

The letter makes it clear that while this might be a school with Nobel Prize winners currently on its faculty, it’s also known for some pretty fun stuff, like the annual scavenger hunt and its annual essay prompts devoted entirely to the fourth day of the week — Wednesday.

The letter ends with the popular question: ”So call us, maybe?”

College Dean John Boyer has said such expressions of wit reflect the university’s core values: “a disdain for dogma and conventionality, a compulsion to play with ideas and a high admiration for the arts of self-expression.”

The phones just might be ringing off the hook now.

Dahleen Glanton, Chicago Tribune reporter

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7 Easy Ways to Boost Your Nonprofit Marketing Impact with Google Analytics

September 25th, 2012 | No Comments | Posted in Marketing

Here’s a scenario I hear all the time from nonprofit marketing folks: We know we should be looking at how our website is doing, but we don’t even have the time to figure out how to start.

Instead, many of you persist in building out your site or blog based on what you think your base is interested in or what you think is the way they enter your site. But here’s the problem with that—it’s all about you, and everything you do nonprofit marketing wise has to be about your audience if you want to engage and motivate them to give, volunteer or sign a petition.

The core insights you need to know are how your site users are finding your site (or blog), and how they interact with it.

Analytics:

  • Consistently quantify site performance and usage. Remember though, that comparison of findings among sites doesn’t mean a thing, since each site has unique goals and audiences. Focus on tracking metrics on your site over time, from the baseline of right now.
  • Build your understanding of how or if your site or blog is meeting stated objectives critical to achieving communications goals.
  • Suggest approaches for course correction if necessary.

So, I urge you to take one to two hours to set up a website analytics (usage measurement) tool. I recommend Google Analytics to our nonprofit clients, and use it myself, because it is reliable, easy to use, and free but there are other strong tools out there as well.

Getting Started with Website Analytics

When you’re thinking about measuring the impact of your website, start with your desired outcomes rather than scanning the dozens of metrics every analytics program provides. Your goals for your site will highlight the metrics that matter.

Your first steps are to:
1. Define site goals.

2. Pinpoint measurable objectives that will demonstrate your moving towards reaching your goals.

3. Identify, as specifically as possible, the target audiences you need to engage to meet your objectives.

Who Should be Involved?

The individual closest to site content and goals should be in charge of website analytics, analyzing them to understand what’s working and what’s not, and making decisions on changes. Google Analytics is quite simple to set up but if you need a bit of help, turn to your organization’s website developer or IT consultant for a brief consult.

Set Up is Quick and Simple?

For Google Analytics, set up is four steps away:

1. Set up an analytics account (you’ll need a Google account, if you don’t have one already, you can create one).

2. Insert the tracking code that’s generated into every single page on your site and/or post on your blog. If you need help with this, ask your website developer or IT consultant.

3. To track conversions—the page a user gets to only once they’ve taken a key action such as making a donation or providing information to get a free research report—set up goals and insert a unique conversion code on the goal (or “end result”) page such as your donation thank you page. Also, track where these users came from (a page on another site or yours, a Google ad or a link on a colleague organization’s site), at which time of the day, and how long they stayed on your site. This pathway is called the funnel, and can also be tracked by Google Analytics.

4. Set up a scannable “dashboard” highlighting key stats. I review our dashboards for the Nancy Schwartz & Company and GettingAttention.org sites on a daily basis, and frequently use them to make decisions.

Nancy E. Schwartz, Publisher – GettingAttention.org / President – Nancy Schwartz & Company

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How to Use SMS Effectively

September 25th, 2012 | No Comments | Posted in Marketing

Remember SMS marketing? It was the channel that was going to let marketers reach most any customer at most anytime. No smartphone required. No apps to develop. It was the “everyman” channel, capable of reaching virtually every one of the 327 million mobile phones in the U.S. (88 percent of the adult population).

American IdolOpens in a new window trained millions how to text to a short code. The major airlines taught us about the convenience of real-time messages (i.e., flight updates). The American Red CrossOpens in a new window allowed us to make effortless donations to those in need.

Yet SMS remains the least-used arrow in the marketer’s quiver. Why the hesitation to draw the bow? Reviewing some key tenants of direct marketing — targeting, timing and trust — might give us some clues.

Targeting is difficult in a SMS-only world. If the opt-in was through a mobile-originated campaign (e.g., “Text CLICKERS to 44144″), the marketer knows nothing more than the subscriber’s mobile phone number. Their geographic targeting options are limited to the subscriber’s area code, which due to relocation or company-issued mobile numbers, may or may not reveal the subscriber’s current place of residence. Targeting for relevancy can be even more difficult (if not impossible) unless the keyword itself can provide clues to the subscriber’s specific area(s) of interest.

Timing is always a tricky thing with SMS marketing. The “always on” nature of a mobile phone means that your message can arrive in the middle of a meeting, in the middle of dinner, the middle of a movie or in the middle of church services. If the phone is set to emit a tone upon the message’s arrival, some mild irritation is sure to follow.

The possibility of being interrupted by an ill-timed, untargeted (i.e., unwelcome) marketing message is clearly the driving factor behind low mobile opt-in rates.

Simply translated, there’s a lack of trust. Unlike other direct channels, your SMS message is delivered whether the subscriber wants to read it or not. There’s no need to check her inbox, walk to her mailbox or answer her telephone.

Trust requires a relationship, and a relationship requires an exchange of information. As any mobile marketer knows, an initial mobile opt-in requires a standard confirmation message that lets the subscriber know how often they might be contacted, and that they can opt out by texting “STOP” at any time. As a marketer, it’s a no-win situation. If a subscriber says four messages a month, it might be insufficient to their needs. If he/she says 15 messages a month, it might be overwhelming to them. One size never fits all.

So what’s a SMS marketer to do? The obvious answer is to understand each subscriber’s preferences. How often does he or she want to be contacted? What subject matter is of greatest interest to them? What time of day is most preferred? All of this requires collecting data.

It’s technically straightforward to collect data — simply send the subscriber a series of mobile-originated messages and ask them to respond with their answers. Unfortunately, it’s not practical to ask more than two questions or three questions in this manner before the subscriber stops responding.

As a better option, tear a page out of the email best practices playbook. Instead of a series of questions, ask the subscriber to text a single piece of data — their email address. Then you can follow-up with an email invitation to visit your online preference center, where subscribers can specify when, how frequently and even what subject matter they’d like to receive via SMS communications.

Once you’ve gathered the information, use it. Does she want a message everyday? Send her one. Only on Wednesday’s at 5 p.m.? Schedule it. She prefers theater over concerts? Don’t cross that line.

While technology currently available to the modern marketer is both fascinating and powerful, all good relationships ultimately come down to good communication, respect and trust. So adhere to your customers’ preferences, respect their choices and be rewarded by the trust you create.

Dan Smith is the senior vice president of marketing at ClickSquaredOpens in a new window.

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How the Invisible Hand Points Students to a Job

September 24th, 2012 | No Comments | Posted in Information, News and Updates

They are easy to spot. A certain glaze over the pupils; puzzled pauses before setting out again in another direction: first year university and college students look so terribly lost during the first few days of school because, in fact, they are.

It’s understandable: finding the right place to be at the right time is no small matter in a sea of thousands.

But isn’t the really difficult decision about what you should be, rather than where you are? Engineer or electrician? Anthropologist or accountant? Lab technician or teacher? Make a wrong turn in these hallways and you will pay for years. But so will the rest of us.

The economy needs only a certain number of actors and teachers, and right now probably a lot more electricians. If the post-secondary system gets this mix wrong, the consequences are unnecessarily high levels of structural unemployment, and lower economic growth.

Ultimately, it is students themselves who collectively decide how many stage-managers, human rights activists and biochemists will appear on the labour market in four or five years. But, can we really trust eighteen years-olds to make these decisions?

It turns out that yes we can, or at least a qualified yes.

In a just-released study, researchers from the University of Toronto found that new graduates chose their careers with a clear-headed understanding of their potential earnings.

The higher the expected earnings in a field of study, the greater the enrollment.

Morley Gunderson and Harry Krashinsky found that this cold calculus influenced not just the decisions of those who graduated with degrees in Business, but also the scientists and engineers, those in the health sciences, as well as those choosing education.

Even those who studied in the Fine Arts and Humanities were sensitive to price signals: the lower the wages earned by previous cohorts of graduates, the less likely students were to make this their field of study.

But there is one big exception: students choosing the social sciences — that collective which includes the anthropologists, the sociologists, the women studies majors, the criminologists, the political scientists, and yes even the economists — were more likely to do so, the lower their expected future earnings.

The researchers — good economists that they are — were stumped, writing: “We do not have an easy explanation for this anomaly and it may be simply just that — an anomaly.”

But the effect is strong — among the most sensitive they find — and since it refers to a significant proportion of the student population it is hard to dismiss for the purposes of public policy.

After all, in spite of this finding they draw the implication that to some important degree the market works: a higher wage in a particular occupation sends a signal of a relative shortage and encourages more people to get the necessary qualifications.

Yet, employers in certain parts of the country are repeatedly calling for more workers with the right skills, and the current national unemployment rate of 7.3 per cent likely reflects a significant structural component due to skill mismatches.

Professors Gunderson and Krashinsky may still be right that the market works, but perhaps not as quickly as it could.

Often the blame for this is placed at the doorstep of the universities. Indeed, the Ontario government is currently in the midst of a consultation process on the future of the province’s post-secondary system, which will surely lead some to call for admissions decisions that are more sensitive to labour market needs, and perhaps even a downsizing of the social sciences.

But in a rush to fix things, there is a risk of making matters worse.

It has long been known that periods of excess demand for certain skills are followed by unemployment and falling wages. This is because all the interested parties form their expectations of future wages and needs according to past experience: students making career choices, university administrators setting admissions limits, governments determining immigration policies, and employers who drive the demand for labour.

Indeed, this is exactly how Profs. Gunderson and Krashinsky measure earnings prospects, by looking backward. The earnings students can expect to make in five or ten years are assumed to be what previous graduates are making.

A pattern of boom and bust is particularly evident in the market for engineers: witness the run up of wages in IT during the 1990s, the call to open the doors to more computer scientists, and the bust, stagnant earnings and unemployment that followed in the early 2000s.

Just maybe the social scientists are the one’s playing the game to most advantage.

Probably the most fundamental appeal that should be made to public policy is the need for more detailed information. This particular study was based upon a Statistics Canada survey that offers a great template, but as it stands is too small to examine the actual disciplines students are studying, never mind offering information for specific institutions. Prospective students and post-secondary administrators would benefit most from this kind of detail before any fundamental reforms are made, and with it market signals may be even more clear.

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Miles Corak

The Debt Threat

September 24th, 2012 | No Comments | Posted in Information, News and Updates

The value of a college education, long held in the United States as a ticket to prosperity and a sound investment, is increasingly being called into question. Rising tuition, mounting student debt loads, and dim employment prospects – topped off by incessant news coverage and opinion pieces about the three – are causing many to ask whether college is worth the cost. With more and more students re-evaluating their investment in a college education, those of us in advancement should consider the following: How will rising student loan debt affect alumni giving in both the short and long term?

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Brian Daugherty

Lawsuits Underscore the Risks of Text Marketing

September 20th, 2012 | 1 Comment | Posted in Marketing

The Telephone Consumer Protection Act—a law passed in 1991 to curb abusive telemarketing practices–originally did not cover mobile marketing  via text message. That’s because it didn’t exist. However, consumers have recently filed hundreds of class action lawsuits under the law citing unwanted texts and violation of privacy—and many consumers are getting large payouts in settlements, says David Almeida, a partner in the Chicago office of Sedgwick LLP, an international trial and litigation law firm.

The TCPA was judicially expanded in 2009 to include texts, Almeida tells Internet Retailer. Now, two new mobile texting technologies, friend forwarding and group texting, are changing the legal landscape for mobile marketers.

Almeida discusses how new advancements in mobile marketing technology is spurring a new wave of class action lawsuits against businesses in his report entitled “Mobile Marketing Class Action Litigation 2.0: Enterprising Plaintiffs’ Lawyers Assert Novel Class Claims Under the TCPA.”

Almeida says most companies understand what it takes to run a legal text-based mobile campaign under the TCPA’s mandate: clear disclosure and consent or opt-in by the consumer to receive such messages.  However, he says friend forwarding and group texting are muddying the waters.

For instance, in a friend forwarder campaign, a retailer usually offers its mobile subscribers (those that have already opted in) rewards such as discounts or coupons to forward certain messages to their friends or relatives. Almeida notes that despite the fact that the forwarded texts are outside the scope of the TCPA (they are not sent by an automated telephone dialing system, which is what the law covers), some “friends” are crying foul, and taking these companies to court.

Almeida is currently representing a Pizza Hut franchisee in a friend-forwarder text class action lawsuit in federal court in Florida, which he says is the first of its kind.  He says that the defendants have asked the court to dismiss the lawsuit contending that a text message that is forwarded by a friend is not actionable under the law, which was designed to regulate bulk or en masse solicitations.

Another mobile texting technology that has spurred several recent lawsuits is group texting, which enables users to sign up their friends to receive non-commercial text messages for purposes of communicating and staying in touch. These cases raise questions about the meaning of prior express consent under the TCPA, which the statute does not define, Almeida says. Companies using group texting have petitioned the Federal Communications Commission for a ruling clarifying the meaning of prior express consent.  But so far, the FCC has stayed mum.

And, Almeida adds, text message lawsuits aren’t ending with group texting and friend-forwarding suits. Several companies have been faced with what are coined confirmatory text class action lawsuits that allege that receipt of a text message confirming a former subscriber’s request to opt out is an unsolicited text message violating the TCPA. Plaintiffs claim they, and other consumers who received such messages, are entitled to damages of at least $500 each.

Although one judge to date, in the case Ibey v. Taco Bell Corp., has decided that a singular, one-off text message is not the kind of en masse solicitation that TPCA was designed to regulate, others have not, Almeida says.

Almeida says marketers do have some grounds for defense against such text message lawsuits, including that the texts were not sent using an automated telephone dialing system as is required to state a claim under the TCPA, and that FCC regulations provide an exemption for messages sent to family, friends and acquaintances. Then again, TCPA also requires that consumers receiving mobile marketing messages give clear consent, or in other words, opt in to receive them.

Almeida says the friend forwarder case in Florida could set a precedent for similar lawsuits in the future.  However, regardless of how that case turns out, consumer litigation regarding various direct marketing channels is here to stay, Almeida says. He says companies considering using any new technology for marketing campaigns should carefully review all the possible legal implications.

 Katie Deatsch, Senior Editor at Internet Retailer

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Video Campaign Unlocks Campus Perks

September 20th, 2012 | No Comments | Posted in News and Updates, Social Media

The Student Success Office asked 18 upper-year University of Waterloo students what advice they would share with their first-year self if they could go back in time. Their ‘dear first year me’ video responses had everything from a Mission Impossible-style dash to class, a Dr. Seuss rhyme and a fourth-year ghost who goes back in time to save his first-year self from a studying dilemma.

The videos were also created as part of a challenge put to the incoming class. The task? Share, support and watch the videos to unlock a great prize during Orientation or Welcome Week. The Student Success Office partnered with the Federation of Students to offer three possible prizes: a hot fudge sundae bar at Orientation Week for 500 shares and views, a blockbuster movie showing on BMH green for 1,000 shares and views and the grand prize of a huge concert during the Federation of Students’ Welcome Week for 2,000 shares and views.

The Waterloo community did not disappoint and over the summer the videos reached over 3,691 unique views, 74 supports and 432 social media shares, a total of 4,197 interactions.

Students, staff, faculty and even the campuses sent in their dear first year me advice via twitter with the #dear1styrme hashtag:

A selection of "Dear First Year Me" tweets.

Kirsty Budd

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