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Business schools enhance job-preparation programs

March 21st, 2014 | No Comments | Posted in Education

For MBA students, the job search begins long before graduation.

The MBA degree is a passport to the world of business, but comes with no guarantee of reaching the desired destination – a satisfying job.

Global hiring prospects are holding steady for 2014, but sluggish economic growth, increasingly-selective employers and a rising worldwide volume of MBA graduates have raised the stakes for young job hunters.

“They [students] have to put time, energy, passion and enthusiasm into this thing called a job search,” says Brian Marchant, director of the Business Career Centre at Queen’s School of Business in Kingston. “Students need to be on their A game absolutely as they go through this.”

To help students map a path to their dream job, business schools are revamping their programs, adding career support services and working even more closely with employers.

Queen’s, for example, has added more career development as part of its redesigned one-year program. Relative to two-year programs at other schools, Queen’s sees its shorter duration MBA as a selling point, with 84 per cent of graduates landing jobs within three months after their degree. But the one-year program offers no time for internships. “Our students have to be able to articulate the value proposition [to an employer] more effectively because they don’t get to show it [through an in-program internship],” Mr. Marchant says.

Last year, the school changed the start date of its MBA program to January from May to create postprogram opportunities for work experience. After completing the one-year program, students have five months to gain paid internship work experience before officially graduating in May.

“We have never had the opportunity to offer that before and employers are saying that is interesting,” Mr. Marchant says.

For their part, blue-chip employers are escalating efforts to tap top prospects well before graduation day.

“Many years ago, an employer would go to campus, conduct a career fair, post jobs and cross fingers and hope for the best for applicants to come,” says Lisa Kramer, director of campus recruitment for the Royal Bank of Canada. “Now there is a much stronger focus on building a strong brand on campus as an employer and interacting with candidates.”

She adds, “There is more networking and proactive meeting with candidates well before the formal interview process.”

Last fall, RBC introduced a workshop to teach students how to develop and communicate their personal brand, including how to use social media to position them in the job market. The bank also holds on-campus sessions for business students to talk about any topic, including how to redo their résumé and social media profile.

“Social media has changed the game,” says Ms. Kramer, who has 17 years of experience in campus recruitment. The bank uses LinkedIn as an entry point to talk about the bank’s programs, allowing students to make contact and ask questions well before bank recruiters show up on campus.

“Students also understand the need to start the process much earlier,” she says. “It is not enough any more to walk in to your MBA program on the very first day and think, ‘I am here and doing my MBA and I will land a fantastic job at the end of the program.’ There is a lot more that goes in to it from Day 1.”

At the University of British Columbia’s Sauder School of Business in Vancouver, students in the 16-month MBA program prepare for two recruitment seasons – one for a mandatory summer internship and the other for full-time employment after graduation.

Like Queen’s, Sauder has revamped its program to intensify professional development as part of the academic experience.

“You have to own the journey,” says Ian Christie, director of the Robert H. Lee Graduate Career Programs at Sauder, with students expected to make the most of in-class learning and extracurricular activities. “From Day 1 of orientation, I stand up there with the associate dean to say that no one is handing this [degree] to you on a silver platter.”

Last fall, the school rejigged some of its professional development activities so that students could participate in five mock interviews (instead of two previously) in the first three months of the MBA, before they meet later with prospective employers recruiting for paid summer interns.

“It’s a live-fire opportunity for them [students] to get a sense of what it is like,” Mr. Christie says.

This month, Sauder plans to roll out a new “e-portfolio” program for its 110 MBA students to market themselves using social media. As part of a for-credit course, students will be expected to build a blog and create video and other links to their work for viewing by prospective employers. “It gives them a tool that will allow them to better differentiate themselves and showcase themselves in the marketplace,” Mr. Christie says.

The new initiative underscores the increasingly competitive job recruitment picture, he adds. “It is not a cake-walk for anybody.”

Gustavson appoints executive in residence

An entrepreneur, corporate executive and international trade specialist has been appointed as executive in residence working with students and faculty at the University of Victoria’s Gustavson School of Business.

Blair Hagkull returned to Canada in 2011 after more than a decade of working for himself and others in real estate-related projects in the Middle East. He is a corporate adviser with Jones Lang LaSalle, a global real estate services company.

In a press release, Gustavson dean Saul Klein described Mr. Hagkull’s background as a “perfect fit with what we teach.”


Special to The Globe and Mail


Debt figures in US, Canada more complicated than often shown

March 20th, 2014 | No Comments | Posted in Education

A recent Globe and Mail article points out that rising PSE student debt figures from the US are often used as a cautionary tale for institutions and governments on this side of the border. The article points out, however, that journalists often overlook the fact that “at publicly-funded schools in the US, the percentage of students graduating in debt varies.” A recent Institute for College Access and Success study reported a variation in student debt from less than $5,000 per borrower at some institutions to almost $50,000 at others. It also showed that students in the East and Midwest borrowed far more than those in the West and South. The Globe article also points out that here in Canada, “the widely cited average of $25,000 debt on graduation hides that 40% of students start out in their post-school careers with under $10,000 in debt.

Why Canadian and U.S. education systems are so different


The Globe and Mail


For Canadian journalists on education, the United States is a gift for all seasons. Student advocates point to astronomical debt levels among American students to warn against raising postsecondary tuition. Detractors of all-day kindergarten cite studies questioning the benefits of early learning. And both advocates and detractors of online learning treat U.S.-based MOOCs as if they were about to invade distance learning here.

Why the reliance on the U.S.? Geography and language are not the only answers, although they contribute. The experimentation and innovation in the United States are an irresistible pool from which to draw. Yet if we could resist the easy pickings – U.S. research studies are like cod off Newfoundland 300 years ago – America would be revealed in all its strange exceptionality. Here are three ways America is different from us and why it matters.

The impact of early learning: New York Mayor Bill de Blasio rode into office with a bold promise to expand pre-kindergarten learning and extracurriculars for grades 6 to 8 by hiking taxes on the rich. Why? Because copious amounts of research around the world have shown that early learning pays off with better outcomes later in school and life.

That research does not apply to the United States, however. One explanation that is sometimes advanced is that the disadvantages faced by too many American kids are so severe they cannot be overcome by a few extra hours in the classroom. But that’s not true; high-risk students in the U.S. are similar to others in the OECD. Indeed, the only student group in America that does show some sustained gains from preschool are precisely those at highest risk of falling behind.

Early results from Ontario’s full-day kindergarten model have not yet revealed if gains are evenly distributed among students from all backgrounds, as is the case outside America. If we are closer to American outcomes, it would raise some provocative questions about our society.

Student debt load: Are Canadian students facing rising debt loads? Of course they are. Sustained increases in tuition risk accessibility, even if only because of poorer students’ outsize fear of taking on more debt. Yet the widely cited average of $25,000 debt on graduation hides that 40 per cent of students start out in their post-school careers with under $10,000 in debt. (The very top of student debt loads, above $30,000, did grow by 3 per cent between 2006 and 2011).

The $26,000 figure, however, is competitive with American numbers while actually gliding over some of their superior aid packages. For students at publicly-funded schools in the States, the percentage graduating in debt varies. Those attending private institutions like Harvard receive more money in grants than those at prestigious public schools like Berkeley or UMichigan at Ann Arbor and a higher percentage of their tuition is subsidized than at Canadian schools.

Student attitudes: American 15-year-olds fare worse in international test scores, particularly in math, than students in many other developed countries. The meagre reality of their achievement has no impact on their self-esteem; teens in the U.S. are some of the world’s most confident. Only in one area do they betray uncertainty, their ability to read distances off a map.

Confidence in and of itself is not a handicap – in some top-scoring Asian countries, 95 per cent of students are certain they’ll ace problems. Yet the more cautious Canadian approach is an accurate reflection of our reality. Showering students with praise for just being them, or showing up to class, does not improve their learning outcomes.

Does this list mean that education stories will look closer to home for comparisons this year? We can certainly try.

Student Debt Load Found to Vary by College and State

Published: December 4, 2013

Rising student debt has become a national concern, but the picture is far from uniform, with students at some colleges borrowing 10 times as much as their counterparts at other colleges, a report released Wednesday says.

The Institute for College Access and Success, a research group, reported not only an enormous variation in student debt from college to college — from less than $5,000 per borrower at some to almost $50,000 at others — but also wide differences by region, with students in the East and Midwest borrowing far more than those in the West and South.

The report underscores the murkiness of college costs, with students and parents often focusing on sticker prices that have little to do with how much aid they might receive, how much they might pay out of pocket, and how much they might have to borrow.

“There’s a growing awareness of the importance of student debt, and there are many more tools available now for people to learn about costs, but we still have a long way to go in informing people about how to finance an education, and how much it varies from school to school,” said Lauren Asher, president of the institute.

The report came a day after the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau announced that it would regulate large loan servicers like Sallie Mae — companies that do not lend the money in the first place, but take over the management of the loans — in the $1.2 trillion student debt market. The federal bureau, created after the 2008 financial crisis, already oversees lenders, but it recently reported that people with student debts are often tripped up by the loan servicers, particularly when they seek to change repayment terms.

The Institute for College Access and Success estimated that of the students who earned bachelor’s degrees in the United States in 2011-12, 71 percent had student loans, and the average borrower had $29,400 in debt, compared with 68 percent and $23,450 four years earlier. The group derived the figures from an annual survey of more than 1,000 colleges and a federal government survey of former students conducted every four years.

The numbers are skewed somewhat by for-profit colleges, which award about 6 percent of bachelor’s degrees, and where students are much more likely to borrow money, and borrow far more on average. Excluding for-profit schools, the institute reported that 68 percent of graduates had student debt, averaging $27,850; a recent report by the College Board, using different methodology, put those figures at 60 percent and $26,500.

The institute’s report lists some of the colleges where students borrow the most and the least, based on the college survey, but cautions that some colleges that did not take part in the survey might have made those rosters. Nearly all for-profit colleges did not take part. The high-debt private colleges listed are concentrated in the Northeast, while half of the high-debt public colleges are state schools in Pennsylvania or New Jersey.

The institute also posted college-specific figures on Wednesday in a searchable online database. It shows two private colleges, Anna Maria College and Wheelock College, both in Massachusetts, with more than 80 percent of graduates having student loans, and the highest average debt per borrower, around $49,000, among colleges that provided figures. At two other private schools, Becker College in Massachusetts and Marylhurst University in Oregon, average debt was a few thousand dollars lower, but there were more borrowers — more than 90 percent of their graduates had debts.

The colleges on the report’s low-debt list are a geographically diverse mix of public and private, ranging from little-known places like Campbellsville University in Kentucky to Princeton University.

At California State University at Sacramento, fewer than half of graduates had student loans, which averaged less than $4,500. At Bernard M. Baruch College of the City University of New York, the average debt per borrower was slightly higher, but only about one graduate in five borrowed any money for college.

State-wise, graduates of colleges in Arizona, California, Louisiana, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming were among the least likely to have student debt, and those who did borrowed relatively little. Graduates in New Mexico had the lowest average debt per borrower of any state, about $18,000.

At the other end of the spectrum, graduates in New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Maine, Minnesota and Ohio were among the most likely to borrow and had some of the highest debt loads. Delaware colleges had the highest debt per borrower, almost $34,000.

What Nonprofits Should Stop Doing in 2014: Advice From Experts

March 19th, 2014 | No Comments | Posted in Fundraising

Ignoring people who make medium-size gifts

People who give $500 to $10,000 annually fall through the cracks at far too many charities, says Alia McKee, a principal at Sea Change Strategies, a fundraising-consulting company. These donors often aren’t big enough to attract the attention of major-gift fundraisers. But because they give generously, nonprofits often take them off direct-mail and email lists out of fear of offending them with too many solicitations.

To do a better job, organizations need to give at least one person in the fundraising department responsibility for concentrating on those donors, says Ms. McKee. The key is to pair substantive mail and electronic appeals with personal interaction.

Says Ms. McKee: “Investing in this group with a mix of strategies that blend major-giving stewardship with direct-marketing tactics can yield big results.”

Using social media indiscriminately

Nonprofits that jump onto every new online platform that comes along are spreading themselves too thin, says Farra Trompeter, vice president of Big Duck, a communications-consulting company that works with charities.

Figuring out where your donors, volunteers, and other supporters are and where they want to hear from you is a much smarter plan, she says: “I’d rather see organizations think about how they can go deeply in two or three channels than try to have a smattering [of posts] on 10 of them and never keep them updated.”

Hoarding information

A year is too long to wait to tell donors how their gifts made a difference, says Derrick Feldmann, chief executive of Achieve, a consulting company that helps nonprofits reach out to millennials. Instead of saving up information about the group’s activities for the annual report, he says, charities should communicate to donors one important point about the impact of their contributions each month.

Using generic language

Too many nonprofits use fuzzy language, says Mr. Feldman. As an example, he points to the generic phrases many groups use to explain their work: We help the community, we help educate, and we empower.

“They should stop using those big, broad words and just be specific,” he says. “If you help fifth graders with financial literacy, just say it.”

Fearing mobile technology

Organizations need to do a better job of adapting their content for mobile technology, says Amy Sample Ward, chief executive of the Nonprofit Technology Network. The best place for groups to get started, she says, is to make sure that website forms—pages people use to make donations, subscribe to advocacy alerts, or sign up to volunteer—are easy to navigate on a mobile phone’s small screen.

The same goes for email messages. Everyone has opened an email that is three times bigger than a smartphone screen, says Ms. Ward. “It makes the whole email unreadable. You’re scrolling back and forth, up and down, trying to read what it is, so you just delete it. Well, it could have been an amazing call to action, but none of us are taking it.”

Shying away from risks

Charity leaders need to stop paying lip service to the mantra of “fail fast and move on,” says Ms. McKee.

“Most nonprofits want their staff to take big risks and innovate,” she says. “But then they balk whenever a project or a campaign fails.”

Organizations, she says, need to be more thoughtful in the way they experiment with new ideas, defining how they will measure success and planning how they will pivot if the project doesn’t work.

By Nicole Wallace

December 30, 2013

Fundraising Copy: Write It Better

March 18th, 2014 | No Comments | Posted in Marketing

In a paroxysm of  humility (or laziness), I’m letting some of the world’s greatest writers write today’s blog.

Not fundraising writers, per se, but great writers from every field. You see, there’s an insidious notion floating around that copywriting is not “real” writing. Unfortunately this notion is most often propagated by copywriters themselves who somehow feel they must apologize for creating work that moves and motivates people.

Former copywriters F. Scott FitzgeraldSalman RushdieDorothy Sayers, Don DeLilloJoseph Heller and others would certainly disagree, as would anyone who has been so touched by one of your fundraising appeals that he or she responded immediately by making a generous financial gift to the organization you were writing for.

So the list below serves a double purpose: First, it offers some tips that, if you follow them, will absolutely make you a better writer. Second, as you read them, you’ll discover how many parallels there are between your writing and so-called “serious” writing. For example:

  • Diana Athill: Cut (perhaps that should be CUT): Only by having no ­inessential words can every essential word be made to count.
  • Elmore Leonard: Never use a verb other than “said” to carry dialogue. The line of dialogue belongs to the character; the verb is the writer sticking his nose in.
  • Geoff Dyer: Have more than one idea on the go at any one time. If it’s a choice between writing … and doing nothing, I will always choose the latter. It’s only if I have an idea for two books that I choose one rather than the other. I always have to feel that I’m bunking off from something.
  • Margaret Atwood: Hold the reader’s attention. (This is likely to work better if you can hold your own.)
  • Roddy DoyleDo change your mind. Good ideas are often murdered by better ones. I was working on a novel about a band called the Partitions. Then I decided to call them the Commitments.
  • Helen DunmoreA problem with a piece of writing often clarifies itself if you go for a long walk.
  • P. D. JamesRead widely and with discrimination. Bad writing is contagious.
  • Cory DoctorowWrite even when the world is chaotic. You don’t need a cigarette, silence, music, a comfortable chair or inner peace to write. You just need 10 minutes and a writing implement.
  • A. L. Kennedy: Remember you love writing. It wouldn’t be worth it if you didn’t. If the love fades, do what you need to and get it back. Remember writing doesn’t love you. It doesn’t care. Nevertheless, it can behave with remarkable generosity. Speak well of it. Encourage others. Pass it on.
  • Ann HandleyGood writing anticipates reader questions.
  • Stephen King: ”If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”
  • Mark TwainSubstitute “damn” every time you’re inclined to write “very;” your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.
  • Robert Frost: “No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader.”
  • John SteinbeckIdeas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen.

Hang on to this list and refer to it anytime you need a touch of inspiration or a gentle reminder that, no matter what the voices in your head tell you, copywriting matters. A lot.

By Willis Turner | Posted on December 31, 2013

The Surprising Power of Promotional Products

March 17th, 2014 | No Comments | Posted in Marketing

When my grandparents moved into a retirement center, I helped with the garage sale. My cousin Claire and I were joking about how best to display the odds and ends from their 60 years together when I stumbled upon a gift from the gods of high kitsch. It was a letter opener, but this was not your typical letter opener.

In the clear acrylic handle floated a mini uterus with two pills strategically placed where ovaries normally reside, alongside the drug’s name, Hormonin. This promotional product was a gift from a drug company representative to my granddad, a doctor in Laredo, Tex. I tried to imagine how this token must have been received by the taciturn Dr. Puig. “Thanks Hal, I’ll put this next to my collection of kidney stones.” Or, “Do you have that on a T-shirt in an extra large?” Highly doubtful. He probably focused on its utility and kept it right there on his desktop. Which is probably what the drug company’s marketing department was counting on.

Promotional products are, some say, the oldest form of advertising.American businesses spend $20 billion a year giving away stuff with logos, according to Jerry McLaughlin, president of Branders, one of the largest sellers of promotional products online. Which is pretty good evidence that it works. Mr. McLaughlin credits the effectiveness of promotional products to centuries old cultural norms around the rule of reciprocity. “If you give something, the recipient is honor bound to give something back,” he said. “In every language and culture, research has found there are really pejorative words for people who get and don’t give back. We humans are hard wired to respond if we get something.”

Are we really that easy? When you get that survey in the mail with a crisp dollar bill attached, do you fill the survey out or pocket the money and relegate the envelope’s contents to the circular file? I visited with Dr. Robert Cialdini, professor emeritus of psychology and marketing at Arizona State University. Dr. Cialdini, who has written a book on the topic, “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion,” became interested in studying the rule of reciprocity out of self-defense. “All my life I’ve been a sucker,” he said.

Dr. Cialdini observed Hare Krishna Society members in airports, watching them foist paper flowers upon travelers. As soon as travelers accepted the flowers, they became more likely to reach into their pocketbooks and reciprocate with a donation. Sociologists and anthropologists have found, he said, that there is not a single society in the world that doesn’t train its people from childhood to this rule. “Marketers take advantage of this all the time,” he said. “Tupperware parties — one of the things that happen very early on — they play games so every one at the party wins a prize from the Tupperware representative. And they feel very obligated to give something back in return.”

A well-known veterans’ nonprofit group, the Disabled American Veterans, is a case in point. When the group sends a mailing for contributions, Dr. Cialdini said, it gets an 18-percent response rate. When the same letter is sent with personalized address labels, which cost about eight cents, the response rate goes up to 35 percent. “For the cost of the address labels they get almost a doubling of return,” he said. “It’s very powerful rule and very small things can trigger it.”

How do companies find the right promotional item? Here are four suggestions:

• Give items that members of your target audience will use in the environment where they make decisions about using your product or service. If you go after executives in corporations, give them something they will use in their offices, around their desktop so your company can be top of mind when they make decisions. Golf-related items are exceptions because lots of business happens on the golf course.

• Have it underscore your marketing message and differentiate your company. Mr. McLaughlin recounts a computer software client who makes antivirus software. The client put its logo on boxes of condoms and sent them to information technology types with the message, “Protect yourself, protect your computers.” Results? “Most I.T. people are male,” said Mr. McLaughlin, “and don’t really have girlfriends so that’s particularly titillating. They believe they got pretty good results.” A bit edgy for most companies, but you get the idea.

•Personalize them. While we are fond of our company logos, customers really like to use items that have their names on them. “People like seeing their own name above all else, said Mike Linderman, president of Express Pens, and former chairman of the Promotional Products Association International. His company makes pens in small quantities that can be imprinted with both your company’s logo and your client’s name.

• Skip the logoed water bottles and other items that will be quickly used and tossed. Make your promotional products investment something that will have a shelf life.

Some of the most popular promotional items these days are thumb drives, aluminum sports bottles, reusable grocery bags, and anything green or American made. But will this stuff really replace the calendars with alluring young women? “I don’t know who the folks were who figured out that men would look at pretty girls and if you put your tools, software or cars next to it, they will look at it. I don’t think that trend is going away,” Mr. McLaughin said.

Did receiving the uterus-enhanced letter opener prompt my granddad to write more Hormonin scripts for menopausal patients? Can’t say, but this promotional product made it 40 years without seeing a trash bin. And it’s now in a prominent place on my desk, right next to a Charlie the Tuna desk lamp.


July 18, 2011, 1:00 pm

MP Mueller is the founder of Door Number 3, a boutique advertising agency in Austin, Tex. Follow Door Number 3 on Facebook.


March 16th, 2014 | No Comments | Posted in Fundraising

Enhancing the good will (and productivity) in your workplace is exceedingly important, but it doesn’t have to be excessively expensive.

Trying to boost your company’s bottom line? It’s time invest in employee morale. Happy workers are 12 percent more productive, according to a study from Warwick Business School.

Conversely, unhappy employees can be detrimental to your business. Not only are they less productive and absent more often, but you will pay the price for months or years to come if they end up walking out the door.Turnover costs are estimated to be from 30 percent of annual salary for an entry level employee up to 400 percent of annual salary for a high-level employee.

Lucky for you, improving morale doesn’t have to cost a fortune. None of the methods I’ve outlined below involves raises or bonuses.

1. Recognize individual employees.

Tell people when they are doing a fabulous job. This is simple, and it works so well. This was by far the most common response I heard when asking professionals how to boost employee morale. Praise your employees at staff meetings, or take the time to thank them in a handwritten note. Whatever the message, the most important thing is that employees know that you notice and appreciate their hard work.

Employee recognition need not stay within the office walls. One local hospital worked with its public relations pro—Shelly Gordon of G2 Communications—to create its “Hospital Heroes” program, which celebrated outstanding staff accomplishments. The press profiled the hospital’s housekeeping staff, nurses and surgeons, boosting employee morale.

One Internet startup challenged employees to devise an innovative and cost-effective way to promote the company. Each month, the company chose and implemented the best idea. Management announced the winner at a staff meeting and gave him a prize. Elgin “Subwaysurfer” Bolling won one month and to this day describes it as “one of the highlights of my working with the company.”

2. Show employees the results of their hard work.

I once worked at a large nonprofit that raised money for other nonprofits. Most of my co-workers and I had very little, if any, direct interaction with the people and the communities we helped. Though we raised money for books and senior excursions, we never witnessed the joy of seeing children receive the new books, nor the delight of watching retirement home residents enjoy an afternoon at the museum.

To remedy this, the HR team organized field trips for us to see the results of our hard work. These were incredibly rewarding experiences and connected us to the communities. They made me feel more passionate about the work we were doing.

To replicate the field trip experience in your workplace, be sure to share with the entire staff the thank-you notes and positive reviews from customers. Better yet, team-builder Mike Jaffe of Jaffe Life Design asks clients to meet and personally thank the employees who service their account.

“By reminding employees about the meaning their work has by seeing its impact directly through the eyes of the people they are engaging with, it serves as a tremendous boost to morale, confidence, and satisfaction and adds an entirely different level of meaning to their work,” Jaffe says.

3. Give employees responsibility.

All your employees can point out inefficiencies in your organization, but not all feel empowered to do so.

Paul Vragel of 4aBetterBusiness recommends listening to employees to learn what gets “in the way of the good job they want to do” and then involving them in the process to eliminate these barriers. Using this approach, he helped a midmarket manufacturing company implement almost 100 ideas that increased earnings by 30 percent within a few months.

When Terry Henley of Employers Resource Association needed to take over a production department of 100-plus employees on a six-month cleanup assignment, he involved the employees in improving their respective departments. Together, they reduced their error rate by 50 percent, increased their production by 25 percent, and eliminated huge backlogs that previously caused them to work overtime.

4. Treat employees like people.

“The fastest way to kill morale is to treat an employee like a resource similar to a stamp press or die cutter,” says Curtis Stuehrenberg of Accelrys. Instead, extend small gestures like learning your employees’ names and sending flowers when they are sick.

5. Make sure top management is available, listening and engaging.

In the early days of Hewlett-Packard, “the HP Way” included the practice of “management by walking around,” says Bob Kalsey, whose father started working at HP in the 1950s. Founders Dave and Bill spent time on the shop floor talking with individual employees, asking questions, and soliciting ideas.

“People there felt their work and opinions were valued, and they took pride in that,” says Kalsey. “We all want to feel genuinely a part of something larger than ourselves, and when we do, we are loyal and eager to go the extra mile. Unlike many C-level people who insulate themselves from low-level workers, Dave and Bill weren’t absent from their employees’ daily lives.”

6. Offer training.

“One of the top reasons employees leave a company is the lack of development opportunities, so providing your employees with professional effective training is sure to boost morale,” says Robert Bilotti of Novita.

This begins by partnering new employees with more-seasoned veterans, bringing in experts for training sessions, and paying for employees to attend local trade conferences.

“Your best people continue to demand professional development opportunities that help them grow, yet most companies take the short-sighted view of cutting those programs when financials are tight,” says leadership coach Darcy Eikenberg of Red Cape Revolution. Be wary of taking away these benefits.

“Your stars will remember how they’re being treated now and will walk to your competitor as soon as the economy turns,” Eikenberg warns.

7. Give small perks with big personal impact.

In addition to providing training, businesses can reward staffers with perks that make a difference in their employees’ lives.

One perk that I cherish—and which costs my employer nothing—is the luxury of working from home once a week. The hour-and-a-half I save by not riding the bus gives me the chance to take a breather between my work and family responsibilities. Having flexible hours can make a world of difference to working parents.

New Belgium Brewing Co. in Colorado rewards each employee with a new bicycle after a year of employment, and it encourages employees to ride by providing on-site showers and bicycle maintenance supplies. Of its 320 employees, more than half the staff rides to work in the summer.

When it comes to rewarding a job well done, many executives revert to giving their employees small cash bonuses. Instead, Ruben Estrada of Estrada Strategies recommends treating employees to an experience.

“Instead of giving your production supervisor a $50 bonus, offer to buy dinner for him and his wife at a local fine restaurant,” Estrada says. “When you give an employee money, his attitude is grateful, but the feeling is, ‘I earned it,’ and thus the impact is short-lived. When you give an employee an experience, you’re giving them something they would call their mother to brag about.”

8. Be transparent, and keep staff in the loop.

When employees don’t know what is going on in the company, productivity can give way to redundant or otherwise unnecessary efforts on the part of the staff. Worse yet, when employees are given only part of the story, they are left to fill in the blanks with gossip, rumors and worry.

This happened to the employees of a client of leadership coach Darcy Eikenberg. The company was successful in a growing industry, but employees were still concerned with layoffs. The executive wasn’t looking at the situation from the staff’s viewpoint. The staff didn’t know as much as she did. She then started explaining how and why the industry was growing, and why they were making cuts for the benefit of the company.

9. Make the office fun.

“No one wants to leave a place where they are having fun,” says Abby Kohut, a recruiter at Staffing Symphony. “For little to no cost, employers can implement programs that make their employees smile.” Her suggestions include potluck cooking contests, baby picture contests and department shows.

Jillian Zavitz at TalktoCanada, a company that offers English lessons over the Internet, has tried numerous approaches to boost the morale of her teachers. She found that bonuses and weekly prizes don’t work. Faced with the additional challenge of having a virtual workforce, Jillian tried a new approach and implemented a game called “Amazing Race Canada” for her teachers and students.

“So far people are pumped at the opportunity to do different things—and compete against each other,” Zavitz says.

10. Ask employees what motivates them.

Though the list above will certainly help bolster the morale of many employees, one of the most important things is to ask your employees what motivates them. Robert Dolezal, CEO at Consultiq & D&A Consulting, recommends sitting down with each employee and having a conversation about what they value and how they measure success.

“The answers they give will in turn suggest non-compensation rewards that will boost morale—and the conversations themselves will make them feel more motivated, appreciated and participatory, leading to morale boosts just by asking,” Dolezal says.

Raj Khera , co-founder & CEO of MailerMailer, finds that the outcome of these sessions “is often a list of ideas that you hadn’t thought of. If you implement them, the employees will feel even more appreciated and will typically help you get the ideas launched.”

Just be genuine

Whichever methods you implement, remember to do so out of genuine interest and concern for your employees. Employees will recognize forced office socials and cheap thoughtless gifts as such, and this can cause more damage than the good will you sought.

By Joy Powers | Posted: December 26, 2013

Joy Powers (@joypowers) is a blogger at Spark Minute and partner of the brand journalism firm Spark Media Solutions.

STORIES – Discover the most important thing in your fundraising toolkit

March 15th, 2014 | No Comments | Posted in Fundraising

“Stories make us more alive, more human, more courageous, more loving.” -Madeleine L’Engle

Fundraisers have discovered that stories have magical power.  Stories can seize our attention, working on an emotional, primal, even mythic level.  Stories can tap into universal human values that bind us together across time and distance.  But in our super-saturated world, even a powerful medium like story-telling can soon be perceived as yet more hype and spin.


  • According to inbound marketing firm HubSpot, 65% of nonprofits are producing more content in 2013 than a year ago.
  • A recent Content Marketing Institute study shows 92% of nonprofits are using social media, blogging, email, and videos for their content marketing efforts.
  • In an environment of Facebook, blogging, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, Vine, Google+, SlideShare, and a dozen other content platforms,  marketers are desperately searching for a distinctive edge that will make their content resonate in the hearts and minds of their constituents.  “Content is king” has become the paradigm.
  • The distracted audience has become our biggest challenge. As a result, “build it up, pump it out and they will come,” is not a fundraising strategy.  It is a roadmap for becoming one of the undiscovered, the ignored, or worse – the invisible.

Where’s the real story?

Can any story be distinctive and utterly unique; something a donor feels is truly authentic in an age when new content quickly devolves into a cookie-cutter template?

Yes.  Having cultivated major gifts for over ten years, I have learned that there is one thing a donor will treat as memorable, meaningful and endlessly fascinating:  the story of their own life.  The longer I cultivated major gifts, the more I saw that we were cranking up the volume with our organizations’ stories but inadvertently silencing the donor.  I run a program that inverts this dynamic and spotlights the donor’s story.

Over a decade ago, I became involved in a new concept in our organization called, “The Book of Life.”  The idea behind it was to encourage our current donors and new prospects to write autobiographical sketches wherein they could reflect on and describe their inspirations, role-models and core philanthropic values.   If a distracted audience is indeed our greatest challenge, I never have anything but the undivided attention of my storytellers.

Consider this 30-year long “Brand Pyramid” study by Millward Brown, a global marketing research and consulting firm.

Benatar graphic

This pyramid maps out five milestones that elevate perceptions from simple awareness all the way up to passionate brand loyalty.

Donor values, your mission: build the bonds

“Bonding” is the apex of the engagement cycle. This is the stage where people develop a genuine emotional affiliation with a brand.  For fundraisers, it is the point where we strike a perfect alignment between donor values and our mission.

Having been involved in collecting the stories of over 250 donors, I can add another facet to this bonding level:  our Book of Life donors share their stories with their families, social circles and professional peers.   These major gifts are not one-offs.   They are springboards for additional gifts and inspire action from like-minded people, often spanning successive generations within a family.

When donors are given the opportunity to recall and record their lives through the lens of a narrative story, the experience can be a revelation and forges significant, active engagement.

Time and again, I have seen these story-telling donors become some of our most emotionally invested, vocal advocates.  As a result, my organization’s content is constantly refreshed, renewed, revived and relevant because, as The Book of Life tagline says, “Every Life has a Story.”

publication date: Jan 2, 2014
author/source: Janice Benatar

Zimbabwe-born Janice Benatar has also lived in South Africa and Israel, and now makes her home in Toronto. She is involved in a number of fundraising initiatives, specializing in endowments, planned giving and capital campaigns.  Janice currently works as Senior Development Officer for the Jewish Foundation of Greater Toronto and the Tomorrow Campaign of UJA Federation, and was a speaker at AFP-GTA’s Chapter’s Congress in 2012 and 2013. Contact her by email.

Millennial Philanthropy

March 14th, 2014 | No Comments | Posted in Fundraising

An oxymoron or the real deal?

Ask any direct-mail fundraiser, and she’ll tell you that the average donor age is approximately 60.* Sixty-year-olds give the most money and make up the bulk of volunteers. They also are most likely to serve on nonprofit boards.

I suppose this makes sense, at least among the middle class. By the time folks reach their late 50s and early 60s, they’ve paid down/off their mortgages and put their kids through school, and can afford to redirect more disposable income to charity. Folks in this age bracket also are thinking about their legacies, i.e., what they’ll be remembered for. But this begs a question: If most donors are 60-something, what does this mean for millennial philanthropy? Should we ignore these 75 million younger Americans until they come of “donor age”? Or should we take a different approach to millennial cultivation and giving? And if so, how should we proceed?

To answer these questions, I went directly to the source, interviewing Qui Diaz , director of strategy for PR firm Livingston Communications. Qui is a millennial and a philanthropist in her own right. At Livingston, she’s responsible for helping nonprofits develop strategies to reach younger donors via the social Web.

Jocelyn Harmon : Do you see yourself as a donor or a philanthropist? What do these terms mean to you?
Qui Diaz: 
“Donor” is a limiting term that doesn’t see beyond cash, whereas “philanthropy” captures a wider range of benevolence. I don’t give nearly as much as I’d like to on either front — time or money — but I am there, on each front, to some extent. I’m also new at this and have a lot to learn. So let’s say I’m a rookie philanthropist, or a philanthropist-in-training.

JH: Why do you donate?
Donating is my plan B because dollars alone will never feed my need for hands-on action. Plan A is giving my time and attention, which is more gratifying. However, I do contribute dollars to nonprofits with missions that align with my own, and I’m learning to give more strategically.

JH: What causes are you drawn to and why?
Anything that alleviates poverty, provides clean drinking water, and prevents the cruel death or disenfranchisement of human beings. These global issues have always resonated with me, even [when] I was a kid. And while the importance of local giving is not lost on me, I’ll usually choose to back the end of suffering before anything else. In addition, I’m drawn to organizations that are looking for systemic solutions to complex problems — like microfinance.

JH: How do you make donations (via Web, mobile, check, etc.)?
 About 85 percent of my donations are made via the Web. I’ve participated in a few text-to-give campaigns and sometimes make on-the-spot cash gifts, but I rarely write checks.

JH: Are there any particular times of the year when you are more or less motivated to give?
No, but I feel very compelled to give right now because of the economic downturn and the impact it is having on major/older donors, foundations and nonprofits.

JH: What one piece of advice would you give to a nonprofit that wants to attract more millennial donors?
Millennials are supposedly born-and-bred digital natives, which means two things: First, we are very comfortable doing research, donating and connecting online. Second, we expect and respond best to person-to-person connections. This is what our training in social media has taught us — that we can be heard and listened to, and can go directly to the source.

What does this all mean for nonprofits?
“Meet millennials where they are, i.e., in digital space,” Qui says. “But remember that it should be you, not your brand, who reaches out to us. For example, put your name and title on your Twitter profile and say hi. You’ll make more friends online if you engage us as people rather than consumers. And we’re worth cultivating, I promise.”

By Jocelyn Harmon

March 2009


20 best practices for your charity website

March 14th, 2014 | No Comments | Posted in Fundraising, Website

In 2012, Fraser Green, Holly Wagg and I had a coffee and talked about how critical websites have become to fundraising. We discussed how we could help charitable organizations get more out of their online fundraising efforts. Over the next few months, we came up with a combined list of best practices that our companies (Good Works Co. and Envision Online) had been sharing with our clients.

On November 19 we presented these best practices at the 2013 AFP Congress in Toronto. Here is an overview of our presentation and the best practices that we recommend. As you read through this list, think about which ones your organization needs to start leveraging.

  1. You are your website. Every organization has its own style and brand, just like a person. When people go to your website, do they see the real you? Being up front about who you are as a charity helps users make an emotional connection with you. 60% of donors report visiting a charity’s website before making a gift.
  2. Think from the outside in. Get some distance from your site and try to see it from a donor’s perspective. Is the information speaking to them effectively? Put on your donor hat and open up your website – you might be surprised what you find out.
  3. Where was that again? Sadly, many websites are a series of random pages stuck together without any strategic vision. Your website architecture is critical to accomplishing your site’s goals. If key stories or events are buried many pages deep in your site or aren’t named clearly, you’ll lose interest – and support.
  4. Design for your users. Understanding your users and what they’re looking for is essential. It’s not uncommon for usability experts to develop personas to learn to see from their users’ perspectives. Once you understand them, ensure the design meets their needs. Ask yourself, “Is this what Barbara or Jacques would want?” If you can, assemble a focus group to review the design and make sure it works for them. 
  5. Be mission-minded. At the end of the day, you need your website to be all about the cause. When someone comes to your site, is it clear why your work is important? Be creative: use imagery and text that highlights what you are trying to achieve.
  6. Your website will never be static again. There is no such thing as “set it and forget it” when it comes to your website anymore. Find the creative talent somehow, and commit to adding new content and making your website better continually. (On average we are subjected the equivalent of 180 newspapers full of information each day!)
  7. Keep your CMS flexible. You need your website to be flexible, expandable and easy for anyone to update. New technologies and social media platforms are emerging all the time. You need a website and back-end interface that can adapt when the next Twitter or Facebook comes. Beware of proprietary content management systems that can only be upgraded by one company and don’t allow you the flexibility to update your file names, page titles and body content.
  8. Your homepage does matter. For most sites, the homepage is still the most popular landing page. As the hub of your site, it must make a great first impression visually. Even more important, it must quickly direct people to the content they are looking for.
  9. Your website is a storytelling platform. People love stories. Your website is the ideal place to tell those stories. Use video, pictures and engaging copy. Stories connect people to your cause.
  10. Keep your website readable. With great power comes great responsibility. Now that everyone can (or should be) able to update their own website, they need to make sure to follow a set of typography standards that provide a highly readable experience.
  11. Optimize your website for Google. Many people overlook this when planning their website or adding content. Google is continually changing its search engine algorithm. Content creators must understand what works to help you rank higher, and what gets penalized. Make sure your CMS can support your optimization goals as well!
  12. Build your email list. Email is still an excellent way to connect with donors. We know of fellow fundraising professionals who have run million dollar campaigns solely through email. Keeping and maintaining your list current is critical. Ask for emails everywhere and anywhere you can (at conferences, on your website, etc.). But make sure to follow the opt-in rules, or all your hard work could go to waste.
  13. Measure it. In 2013 we have access to an abundance of information about our websites and social media conversations, but very few people take advantage of it. Use free tools like Google Analytics to keep track of where your website traffic is coming from and what your users are doing once they arrive. We suggest reviewing this information on at least a monthly basis for potential problems.
  14. Write solid fundraising copy. Copy is king. Write engaging fundraising copy, and spend the extra time to make sure it really connects with your audience. Remember, they are always one click away from an alternative option.
  15. Your donation page matters (a lot). The copy, the placement of the buttons, even the colours on your donation page can make a difference in your funding. Many larger organizations spend a tremendous amount of time getting the form fields just right.
  16. Mobile, tablets and more. Over 30% of the internet audience is on a mobile device. This is increasing every day. Your website must be responsive (or at least work well on a mobile device). If not, you could lose that person who clicked on a link in your tweet and found a mess when they arrived at your site.
  17. Make social simple. Your online presence is made up of a hub and spokes. Your website is the hub where donations are made and the real connection happens. The spokes are your social media accounts like Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook and LinkedIn. With a large percentage of donors spending most of their internet time on Facebook or Twitter, you need to make sure your content and presence is everywhere your potential supporters are. Share content that will reel them into your website.
  18. Be (recycled) content-driven. It’s OK to recycle on the web too! That great article you wrote or picture you added can be shared on Twitter, Facebook and even LinkedIn. That killer quote can be tweeted. You don’t need to worry about being original. Content on social networks has a very short shelf life.
  19. Maximize your revenue. Sometimes just optimizing your site to work better with your existing supporters is all that you need. Even a 1% improvement on a donation form seen by 2,000 visitors a month would net 20 more donations each month! Try using A/B testing techniques on your website to discover what works.
  20. Own your site! You need to have control of your site. Professional fundraisers in 2013 may have to change their website every other day. If you are not able to make content changes yourself and call the shots on technical upgrades, you have a problem. Your website is by far your most valuable marketing tool.
publication date: Dec 17, 2013
author/source: Todd Jamieson

To view the PowerPoint presentation, please click here. If you have any thoughts on these ideas or questions about websites that I could answer in future articles, I’d love to hear from you! Reach out to me on Twitter@envisiontodd or through my website.

A tireless explorer of new developments on the web, Todd Jamieson has been keeping pace with its constant changes since 1996. In 1999, he decided to turn his fascination with the web into his life’s work and founded Envision Online. Since then, Todd has worked as a web consultant, internet strategist and project manager on more than 600 web sites, web applications, and e-business initiatives for medium sized organizations worldwide, including over 100 non-profits and charities. 

8 Ways To Improve Your Fundraising Letters – #fundchat

March 12th, 2014 | No Comments | Posted in Fundraising



Here’s what I know about writing good fundraising letters: You can practice and study for years. And still feel like you’re only scratching the surface. There’s always something new to try, because we’re always learning something new.

So perfection will always be out of reach. But don’t let the perfect get in the way of the good.

Here are a few simple things you can do today.

1. Change the font

If you’re not already using one, switch to a serif font. It wins readability tests. And what’s easier to read gets read. While you’re at it, bump up the size as well. Fourteen is the new twelve. Your older readers (and most of your readers are probably over 50) will love you for it. Better yet, they’ll read you for it!


2. Indent the paragraphs

Another very easy fix. Indenting your paragraphs invites the reader in. She’s not faced with intimidating blocks of type, so she’s more likely to give it a go. While you’re at it, keep the paragraphs pretty short. I don’t like to go over 5 lines. And I use a lot of one line paragraphs – especially where I want to emphasize something.

3. Underline

Speaking of emphasis, go ahead and underline. But not everything. Think of it like a spice. A little makes a big difference, too much makes a mess.

4. Send it back to 6th grade

Or even better, 4th. Use the built-in Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level tool in Word. Or try thisreadability calculator. I love Jeff Brooks’ book, The Fundraiser’s Guide to Irresistible Communications. In it, he suggests keeping it between 4th and 6th grade. Do that with short sentences. And short words.

5. Make sure you use the word “you” often

Highlight all the “you’s” in your letter. If it isn’t covered in highlighted “yous”, go back and reword it. Donor communications giant Tom Ahern often says: “you is glue”. It’s magic. It connects your reader to you. And when you rewrite that way, it makes you put your donor at the center. That changes your point of view as well. Good stuff!

6. Write like you talk

Forget your 7th grade English teacher. Use contractions. Start sentences with “And” or “But”. Use ellipses… Sentence fragments. Whatever it takes to make it sound like one person talking to another. You’re not going for “official” here!

7. Read it out loud

Yeah, your office mate will think you’ve lost it. But you can hear what your eyes alone don’t pick up – awkward phrases, stiff wording… things that just don’t work.

There’s so much more! But these things are easy to do. So you have no excuse. Give it a try, and see what you think.

Want to know more? I love this area, so I’m sure I’ll write more. In the meantime, you might want to check out my friend Pamela Grow’s direct mail fundraising program.

8. P.S. Don’t forget to add a P.S.!

Read what my friend Lisa Sargent says about this direct mail superhero here.

By  | December 17, 2013


Photo credit: djking via photopin cc

Mary CahalaneMary Cahalane is a fundraiser and consultant in Connecticut. She began her nonprofit career almost 30 years ago in theater and remains a passionate arts lover. She loves spending her days helping nonprofits communicate better and develop meaningful relationships. You can find Mary’s blog at Connect with her on Linkedin or on Twitter @mcahalane.