Browse > Home / Archive: July 2015

| Subscribe via RSS

Baptist Healthcare Bans SSNs to Reduce Risk, Please Patients

July 31st, 2015 | No Comments | Posted in Uncategorized

As soon as Americans get Social Security cards, they’re told to guard them with their lives, as lost or stolen Social Security numbers (SSNs) raise the stakes for financial fraud and identity theft.

So why, patients started asking Baptist Healthcare, was the South Florida system regularly asking for their SSNs? Why indeed, wondered Baptist officials.

In the hands of criminals, SSNs really are the Holy Grail of protected health information (PHI) and weren’t always necessary for Baptist to have, reasoned administrators at the six-hospital system. Or, perhaps they could severely restrict their use and develop work-arounds to where they might be needed.

And so began a three-year odyssey to scrub SSNs from the hospital system’s electronic records, forms and other documents. The effort has been such a success that it is now at the point where there should be so few numbers in use that Baptist launched a “scavenger hunt,” complete with prizes, to ensure SSNs don’t begin to creep back into use.

Mercy del Rey, Baptist’s chief privacy officer, briefly described getting rid of SSNs during a session with other privacy officers at the recent 23rd National HIPAA Summit in Washington, D.C. (RRC 4/15, p. 1). She also provided additional details to RPP after the meeting.

Removing SSNs Is ‘Data Cleansing’

How Baptist went about the process may spur others to undertake similar actions. These may be especially worthwhile in light of increasing data breaches and serve as a relatively inexpensive fix to increase safeguards around PHI. HIPAA consultant John Gomez tells RPP that banning or reducing the use of SSNs is a form of “data cleansing,” a strategy that he recommends.

Del Rey tells RPP the reasons Baptist removed SSNs centered on “patient safety and security.”

“With the increase of identity theft and medical identity theft, patients were questioning why this information [SSNs] appeared in their record,” she says. “Although this was sometimes a technically challenging process for us, we knew [removing them] was the right thing for our patients.”

In July 2013, Baptist announced a breach at one of its medical centers, South Miami Hospital, the result of a theft of more than 800 medical records by a respiratory therapist. During 2011 and 2012, the therapist sold PHI, including SSNs, to two men who filed false tax returns. “We began removing the SSNs from our system before the 2013 breach,” del Rey tells RPP.

When pressed a little further about whether there was a connection between the SSN removal and the medical records theft, a spokeswoman for the system told RPP by email that “Baptist Health generally doesn’t provide public comment on specific timeframes or other specific details surrounding implementation of compliance projects.”

Hunting for the ‘Source’

To get started, Baptist systematically “analyzed our clinical systems to determine where and why [an] SSN was present,” she explains. “A methodical approach was then followed to review all clinical systems to identify the location of the source where SSNs resided in order to ultimately remove it from that system.” If the source of the number isn’t found, it “could potentially reappear in a report or be sent to another system during an interface,” del Rey says.

It took three years to “remove all of the SSNs from all of our clinical systems,” a task del Rey described as “tough.”

“As mentioned during the conference, many of our clinical systems are legacy systems that have been in place for a very long time, so we had to carefully begin our analysis,” she says.

Baptist also recognized that officials couldn’t stop there. “As we have removed SSNs from particular systems or other records, we have provided our staff with additional appropriate training,” del Rey says.

Del Rey also tells RPP that, on top of the “basic HIPAA training that all workforce members receive, we have focused education on areas that have highly sensitive patient information as well as strict role-based security where we constantly re-evaluate the need for that access.”

Baptist officials, she adds, “also run criminal background checks on all employees, which includes those members of our workforce who will have access to PHI.”

Perhaps ironically because Social Security numbers can be used to commit identity theft, del Rey says “[one of the biggest] challenges we faced involved the use of the SSNs to assist with the accurate identification of a patient.”

Del Rey points out that “many patients in our service areas have the same name with similar demographics so in the past we relied on the SSNs as one of the identifiers. Once we made these changes, our processes focused on other demographics and the use of only the last four digits in those cases where patients shared similar demographic data.”

Not all uses can be eliminated. For example, when they appear “in billing systems where the Medicare identification number is the individual’s SSN, [Baptist officials] restrict access and have provided staff that do need access with additional training on safeguards and sensitivities regarding the use of SSNs,” del Rey says.

The government has made little progress in developing a unique patient identifier; calls for this have been renewed. Congress recently told HHS to remove SSNs from Medicare cards (see box, p. 4).

During the summit discussion, del Rey stressed the value of positive reinforcement as a form of workforce training. When it comes to the SSN issue, Baptist developed a special contest, or a scavenger hunt, under which employees call del Rey’s office if they find an SSN, for which they receive a special gift — a tiny cup used for Cuban coffee.

Scavenger Hunt Is a Win-Win

“We have had employees find them through our scavenger hunt,” del Rey reports. “This is a win-win scenario for our patients, our employees and our organization. Our patients’ information is further secured, our employees are actively engaged in our compliance activities and are recognized for their efforts and finally our commitment to protecting our patients’ information is reinforced throughout the organization.”

John Gomez, former chief technology officer at Allscripts Healthcare Solutions and WebMD, tells RPP that removing SSNs and other sensitive data — especially if it’s not needed — is a good compliance strategy. Gomez, founder and CEO of the cybersecurity firm Sensato, Inc., says this is a type of “data cleansing.”

Gomez adds that even though it took Baptist three years to do this, “it’s probably a cheap thing to do” and is among the more basic strategies that CEs can undertake without costly IT investments.

He also likes the idea of getting all staff involved in searching for SSNs. Such programs, he says, make it clear for the workforce that “this is our data. We own all that” and spreads the sense that each worker has a responsibility to safeguard the PHI.

As Baptist’s experience shows, removing the SSNs and keeping them from creeping back in takes a redesign of paper forms, a blocking of data fields that ask for them and other IT fixes. It also takes a concerted effort to stop staffers from creating new forms as well as adding new software or programs that ask for them.

As del Rey says, “It’s important to note that this review, though, really never ends. When any new system is being implemented, the use of the SSNs is assessed and evaluated as part of our routine reviews.”

Reprinted from REPORT ON PATIENT PRIVACY, the industry’s #1 source of timely news and business strategies for safeguarding patient privacy and data security.

Featured Health Business Daily Story, May 13, 2015


Why Direct Mail Won’t Die

July 30th, 2015 | No Comments | Posted in Direct Mail

You’ve seen the proclamations over the years that direct mail is near death, along with the counter-arguments that it’s nowhere near dead. Today I share a deeper perspective of the reason why direct mail won’t die. It’s as simple as comprehension. Research reveals comprehension is better when information is consumed in print. And there’s more: millennials — digital natives, if you prefer — who today are in their 20s and 30s, prefer print.

Count me among those who prefer to read the news from a printed newspaper rather than my iPad. Books? My concentration is pitiful if I try to read an e-book. Still, I do a lot of reading — or maybe it’s more like scanning — online. I realize there are others of all ages who feel they comprehend content on electronic devices just fine. Or who at least think they comprehend the content. This research reports how students only think they comprehend as well on digital devices (the research suggests they don’t).

One might think that jumping from reading on printed pages to reading on a digital screen is a no-brainer. But biologically, reading has been an evolutionary development over hundreds — even thousands — of years, as suggested in an article in Scientific American.

Recent Comment

  • I once had a great professor who said, “direct mail is advertising you operate”. The comprehension factor, the tactile feel of having paper in hand, plus great marketing (targeting, offer, solid creative) cause direct mail to still be a…

Our brains evolved to keep the human species alive, eat and reproduce. Reading is a new addition to the mind, biologically speaking. It took unimaginable centuries for the brain to adapt to reading text in print. And now, in just a generation or so, we’ve been introduced to reading on screens, another reading adaption for the mind.

As marketers, we need to recognize which channels are best suited for reading comprehension, and how we can effectively create Short- or Long-Term Memory that persuasively leads to a sale.

In a moment, I’ll outline comprehension effectiveness (based on my experience) of social media, email, websites/landing pages, short video, long video, direct mail postcards, and direct mail packages.

As I see it, there are three stages of comprehension:

Glance and Forget in seconds what we just saw or read (the vast majority of what happens with marketing and advertising messages).

Short-Term Reading Comprehension that evaporates in just minutes or hours.

Long-Term Memory Comprehension that can last several hours, a day, maybe a week, and in a few instances, a lifetime.

We can only stuff so much into our mind and memory. There is a place for “Glance and Forget” channels when multiple instances of “Glance and Forget” impressions build over time to create awareness and anticipation. When we want our marketing efforts to convert to a sale, we need at least the “Short-Term Reading Comprehension” stage. The most successful campaigns, I believe, will make it to the most valuable “Long-Term Memory Comprehension” stage because of telling the story and effective persuasion.

Digital and print channels can co-exist and strengthen each other. Digital is useful for the moment when a person is looking for top-line or summary information, or just a place to make a quick impression (recognizing there is an additive effect of impressions over time). Print is most useful and effective when your prospect is ready to pause, read and more deeply comprehend, leading to long-term memory and action.

My experience, and my opinion, suggests that as marketers, we can best leverage certain channels in these ways:

  • Social Media: Serve readers short, light content. Build your brand, organization and follower base. Don’t expect action beyond likes and shares (which you can’t take to the bank). But social media, in my experience, is good for impressions and building top-of-mind awareness. Keep it curious, likeable and sharable. But don’t expect purchasing action. Unless there is a click to a landing page, it’s a Glance and Forget channel.
  • Email: The best use for email is when you have built your own list of raving fans. Email results are lousy when sent to people who haven’t opted in to your message. So if you’re writing to your opt-in list of customers (or inquiries), write content to provoke curiosity that leads them to click to a landing page, leading to the possibility of Short-Term Comprehension. When the email was only opened, but there wasn’t a click, then it is a Glance and Forget channel.
  • Websites/Landing Pages: If someone searched and happened upon your website, and if the bounce rate is high, you have a Glance and Forget website. If, on the other hand, you have a landing page with valuable content and call-to-action, or CTA (for example, opting in to an email list), you have a shot at Short-Term Comprehension, and in some instances, Long-Term Memory Comprehension.
  • Short Video: A short video will likely be a Glance and Forget channel unless you have a call-to-action leading to a landing page with a CTA or opt-in to your list. When that occurs, you might be able to lead to Short-Term Comprehension.
  • Long Video (or a Video Sales Letter): When viewed all the way to the end, a long video should result in Short-Term Comprehension, and possibly Long-Term Memory Comprehension and a sale, when there is an effective CTA.
  • Direct Mail Postcard: There’s not much space on a postcard, and with so much postcard competition in the mailbox, most postcards are a Glance and Forget channel. A thoughtfully created postcard can result in Short-Term Comprehension, however. And if you have a strong CTA, you can move a postcard message to Long-Term Memory Comprehension if the person acts by either calling for information or making a purchase.
  • Direct Mail Package. The ability to deliver long persuasive copy is the value of direct mail, and is why direct mail won’t die. Let’s not kid ourselves: most direct mail is never opened and goes directly into the trash, making it a Glance and Forget channel to most recipients. But when the recipient is curious upon seeing the outer envelope, opens it, and dives into a long-form letter, brochure, or reads an insert or order device with your offer, you’ve achieved at least Short-Term Comprehension. When the creative and copywriting effectively persuades and sells, you lead your prospect to Long-Term Memory Comprehension. When you do that, you can score the sale.

Direct mail, I’ve found, is usually the best channel for converting and producing sales. Direct mail, when using persuasive copywriting and clarity of design, facilitates high comprehension and works. And that’s the deeper reason why direct mail won’t die. What do you think?

Target Marketing

Unique French tech school gets 70,000 applicants, but offers no grades or degrees

July 29th, 2015 | No Comments | Posted in Education

A non-profit school in France known simply as “42″ received 70,000 applications for 900 openings last year, in spite of lacking accreditation, offering no degrees, and providing instruction only in computer science. There are no grades, no textbooks, no diplomas, and no tuition, and each student is fully funded thanks to a $90 M donation from tech entrepreneur Xavier Niel. Students spend their time in teams, solving increasingly difficult problems. But critics point to the school’s low number of women students, as well as its lack of extracurricular activities, as issues with the model. Others suggest that its narrow focus is a problem. Co-founder Nicolas Sadirac said, “42′s goal is not to fill our students’ heads with facts and theories, but to help them become creative innovators who can solve complex problems together with peers.”

In the United States, Silicon Valley often symbolizes the outside forces disrupting traditional higher education. For the French, it’s not a location or even a technology company, but a nonprofit school known simply as “42.”

It doesn’t provide a degree, charges no tuition, and offers only a training program in computer science. But after starting just two years ago, 42 has already shaken up how some here think about teaching, the value of credentials, and how best to prepare students for technology jobs. And it’s been wildly popular.

Some 70,000 people from Europe, the United States, and elsewhere applied last year for 900 openings, giving it an admissions rate lower than Harvard’s. Critics say its approach has few, if any, lessons for universities, and 42 lacks the state certification that’s required here to give it the imprimatur of legitimacy.

But Nicolas Sadirac, one of its four founders, says official accreditation is not what 42’s leaders aspire to — in fact, they shun it. “We don’t want to have to play by those rules,” says Mr. Sadirac, who describes France’s universities and vocational schools as lethargic knowledge factories that pump out rote learners.

“42’s goal is not to fill our students’ heads with facts and theories,” he says, “but to help them become creative innovators who can solve complex problems together with peers.”

In many ways, 42 resembles American companies, like General Assemblyand Codecademy, that have started in recent years to train people in computer coding and other skills while also questioning how well colleges prepare students for jobs. Like those efforts, 42 has its origins in the technology world.

It is the brainchild of Mr. Sadirac, 42’s director and a former university administrator, and the eccentric tycoon Xavier Niel, who made his fortune with Internet and telecommunications ventures. (A testament to Mr. Niel’s irreverence, which he flaunts, the school’s name comes from Douglas Adams’s novel The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, in which the number 42 is the key to all knowledge.) Mr. Niel put up about $90 million to set the project in motion in 2013. In addition to paying for its facilities, 1,000 iMacs, and a staff of 20, Mr. Niel’s donation supports each student. The school is tuition-free and meant to be accessible to young people from all backgrounds.

That idea isn’t radical in France, where public universities are highly subsidized and cost very little. But other aspects of 42 run opposite to the somewhat rigid education system here. The school has neither grades nor deadlines, diplomas nor books — not even a faculty.

For admissions, it ignores the baccalauréat, the test that essentially determines whether a student graduates high school and gets into college. Rather, applicants — anyone between 18 and 30 years old — take an online aptitude test, which if successfully completed lands them in a pool from which 4,000 are invited to 42’s home in northwestern Paris. The finalists are given a coding problem and four weeks to crack it. The project is rigorous — less than a quarter of them make the final cut.

No Professors, No Grades

The courses at 42 are run much like the entrance exam. In the place of classes, students choose projects (called piscines, or swimming pools) designed by 42’s staff with input from outside sources, including technology companies. Their task — and the way they learn — is to solve increasingly difficult problems working in teams of two to five. In the end, they either solve the problems and pass — or they don’t and fail. Students work at their own pace and are expected to “graduate” within two to four years.

All of this happens in 42’s sparse, industrial-sized halls with row after row of big-screen Macs. “It had been a business school,” says Mr. Sadirac with a smile, “but we ripped out all the classrooms.” If the all-nighters take their toll, there are cushions where students can sack out. For recreation there is table soccer as well as a computer game room.

Nicolas Sadirac directs the school, which is unaccredited and offers no degrees. “We don’t want to have to play by those rules,” he says.

Mr. Sadirac, a large man with a thick beard, explains that the aim of 42’s education is to put its programmers straight into France’s technology and software-engineering sector — which is short on highly skilled personnel — and thus to help France’s economy to better compete on a global level.

A key part of the 42 experience is an internship, usually in the fields of software development, telecommunications, or the Internet. Mr. Sadirac notes that 42’s go-getters are getting snapped up by those firms before they even finish the program.

“I love it,” says a second-year student, Laurie Mezard, who quit an undergraduate computer-science course in Paris before she took the 42 entrance exam. (Forty percent of the students who started in 2014 have never finished high school; others graduated from college, including elite universities like Stanford and Oxford.) “This isn’t really work,” she says. “It’s more like a game. You’re given challenges that are exciting to do.”

Since its inception, 42 has received a blizzard of press — overwhelmingly positive — as well as visits from representatives of mainstream tech-focused institutions, including Caltech and MIT. “A lot of institutions in France are taking on some of these ideas, like learning by doing instead of long, boring lectures,” says Olivier Rollot, a French journalist who writes about education.

A new film school in Paris, L’Ecole de la Cité, set up by the filmmaker Luc Besson, has dropped the admission criteria of a university degree, which is required by France’s other film schools. The University of Strasbourg has opened up a graduate program based on 42 in which computer-science students pursue their own projects without classroom instruction.

Yves Poilane, director of Telecom ParisTech, an engineering graduate school, says that 42 isn’t “a competitor but rather complementary to what we do. It takes in talented young people who didn’t fit into the system, for whatever reason. Usually they’d fall through the cracks.”

‘Boot Camp’

But how far 42’s ethos can be applied beyond its walls is a matter of dispute. Joel Courtois, managing director of the Paris-based EPITA Graduate School for Computer Science says that much of what 42 claims is new — the independent learning, internships in the professional world, even the swimming pools — has been in practice at EPITA since the 1980s.

Yet there are important differences, too. EPITA, like other programs recognized by the ministry of higher education, offers classes in ethics, foreign languages, social responsibility, and even mathematics and writing. “We also have to address the role of technology engineering in our society,” Mr. Courtois says, like by asking about “its impact, not just the most effective way to do it.”

Moreover, Mr. Courtois says that at state-certified schools a student doesn’t have to leave the program if he fails at a project. “We have faculty who help them learn how to do it,” he says. “We don’t want to destroy them.”

This year 42 scratched its initial deadlines for student projects. Some students told The Chronicle that new students were buckling under the pressure. (Mr. Sadirac says deadlines were done away with for technical reasons, not because of complaints, and are being reintroduced into the program gradually.)

The entrance exam and the first year have been described approvingly by Mr. Sadirac as “boot camp” and “grueling.”

“Not everybody is so motivated at the age of 18 to work like they’re in a start-up in Silicon Valley,” says Mr. Rollot, the journalist. “This can’t be the only option for those who don’t fit into the system.”

Critics also point out that 42 has very few women, just 8 to 10 percent of the student body. The 42 staff says that it does everything it can to recruit women but that computer sciences just don’t appeal to women in France. Other observers, who note that Mr. Niel’s online ventures have included pornography, say 42 could be trying harder to bring in women.

Mr. Courtois points out that students should have time to be students — like by participating in clubs, sports, and other extracurricular activities — none of which 42 offers. “They learn other skills that are important to build one’s own company,” he says.

“I don’t believe that education isn’t working in France. Of course all things can be improved,” says Mr. Courtois, responding to the critique that French higher education has grown stale. “But France already has good engineers. Facebook, Google, Microsoft — they all recruit our graduates and praise them highly. This means our system isn’t so bad.”
By Paul Hockenos
May 11, 2015
The Chronicle of Higher Education



Fundraising Myth Busters: Major donors shouldn’t get direct mail

July 28th, 2015 | No Comments | Posted in Fundraising

This is a widely believed fundraising myth. It’s one that I personally hear at least monthly – if not weekly. The thinking is that because major donors give more money, they don’t want to get your organization’s regular direct mail solicitations.

This is installment six of seven in my Fundraising Myth Busters series. If you haven’t had the chance yet, you can check out 1-5 here (Donor acquisition; Brand advertising & direct response fundraising; Solicitation frequency; Online-acquired donors; Cut acquisition to improve revenue)

Let’s jump right in…

Myth #6

Major donors shouldn’t get your direct mail appeals

What we know

  • Major donors frequently start out their giving with smaller gifts through the mail, online or at special events. In fact, in one study, we found that 23% of the cash millionaires identified across a series of nonprofit donor files were acquired through direct mail.
  • Every touch point you have with donors builds awareness, credibility and preference for your organization.
  • 90%+ of major donors make their giving decisions based on an emotionally compelling request, but want specific facts and figures to validate their decision.
  • They view their giving as an investment – they want and need to see the impact and ROI.

How did we validate this

  • We looked at the variances in giving across two local market nonprofits. The first removed several thousand major gift-level donors from their direct mail program. The second left those donors in the mail program but created a unique contact strategy (i.e., more robust offers, higher quality packages, closed face envelopes, first class postage, increased stewardship and impact reporting, etc.).

What we learned

  • After 18 months, the first charity (the one that removed major donors from the mail program) realized a $1,000,000 reduction in income from the donors that had been pulled out of the mail program.
  • The second charity, the one that mailed major donors with a special annual treatment, generates roughly $800,000 per year at a 10:1 ROI from the major donors in their mail program. Because this program helps upgrade donors to higher giving levels year-over-year, they’re also able to use this as a filter to identify donors that are likely to give larger gifts if personally engaged.

You’ll raise more money from your major donors and keep them engaged (i.e., retained) longer if you strategically layer direct response vehicles like direct mail and email with personal cultivation efforts like phone calls and face-to-face visits rather than just picking one way to communicate with these highly valuable donors.

Myth Busted

Published by Andrew Olsen, CFRE
April 28, 2015
Fundraising Fundamentals

10 Ways to Master your Email Subject Lines

July 27th, 2015 | No Comments | Posted in Email

Your email can move mountains: It’s got gripping imagery. Personalized storytelling. A solid call-to-action. And all the markings of a successful message sure to deliver major results.

But how are you going to get people to open it? Answer: The subject line.

Think of subject lines as the gatekeepers that can either be the key for unlocking the power of your message or being responsible for getting a one-way ticket from your inbox to the trash. Subject lines are so important that some experts believe you should spend just as much time figuring out your subject line as you do composing the email itself.

Don’t stress. Check out and share this infographic to learn how to master your email subject lines:


Nonprofit Email Subject Lines
Written on April 18, 2015 by Jennifer Gmerek


Fastest growing cities for super-rich individuals

July 24th, 2015 | No Comments | Posted in Fundraising

One of my fellow APRA-GH board members shared this tidbit with me last week.  An article published by New World Wealth tracking ultra-high net worth individuals around the world.

Seems that Houston is the fastest-growing metro in the US over the past 10 years for super rich individuals.



There’s an accompanying radio broadcast discussing the causes – chiefly the accelerating stock prices in the energy sector over the past 5 years.  To listen to the broadcast, click here.


By Diane Korb
May 11, 2015 · 8:08 am
APRA Houston

How To Write Emails That Rock: 3 Tips for Planning and Strategy

July 23rd, 2015 | No Comments | Posted in Email, Fundraising

We are so lucky as nonprofit fundraisers today. We have a huge digital toolbox at our disposal to facilitate giving: our organization’s website, social media channels, text to give, crowdfunding, and, of course, email.

For most digital fundraising methods to work well, we need a direct line of communication to our donors. Email is still our best bet for this. A potential donor might miss your tweet or Facebook post, but your email will almost definitely appear in their inbox. Where it gets tricky is figuring out how to get people to open our emails and take action.

That’s why planning and strategy are really important for sending effective emails. Even before you start writing your next email appeal, take time to answer these three questions.

What’s the goal and message of your appeal?

Your goal should be the specific fundraising target for your email and what you want people to remember after they read it. If you don’t know the goal, you can’t create the best campaign strategy, like whether you should you send just one email or a series of emails that create a story arc.

Your message is the thing you want to communicate to your audience that they will remember and act on. This is the basis for everything in your appeal, and you want it to be clear and concise. If a word, sentence, or paragraph doesn’t support your messaging in a positive way, delete it or find a way to rephrase it so it does support your message.

How many emails are you sending for this appeal?

This question will guide you into developing and figuring out your strategy. Your predetermined goal, plus what else is in your email or communications calendar, determines if you’ll send one or multiple emails for your appeal. Multiple emails, when done right, typically give better results.

Multiple emails reach more people. Three emails per campaign are ideal. If you send just one, odds are good that people won’t see it or they’ll forget to respond. Multiple emails also allow you to segment data and follow up depending on their response, such as who has opened and not opened your email. In other words, not every person is getting every single email—or maybe even the same email. This can have a huge impact on your email fundraising results, not only in increasing engagement and donations but also in reducing unsubscribes.

Multiple emails are a great way to tell a story. If you send three emails within a campaign, you can create a story arc with a beginning, middle, and end, or you can tell different angles of the same story. The first email could tell a client success story, the second from the perspective of a staff member, and the third from a volunteer or a client who can speak firsthand to your program’s success.

Who is your audience?

If you don’t have a good sense of your audience, now is the time to change that. A donor survey is a great way to get to know who they are (demographics) and what they care about (psychographics). Once you have that information, you can write directly and more pointedly to the people you’re trying to compel to give or take some other action.

Think of these questions as a “trifecta of information” that will ultimately guide you to the content of your email campaigns. The more work you do in strategy and planning, the easier the rest of your email fundraising will be.

Adapted from Nonprofit911: Telling Stories Through Email: How to Write Appeals That Rock with Vanessa Chase, founder of the Storytelling Non-Profit.

Adapted by Iris Sutcliffe, Network for Good

Images Rule Social’s Visibility — 10 Ways to Rule Them

July 22nd, 2015 | No Comments | Posted in Social Media
Click to enlarge this portion of the Quicksprout infographic about visually appealing content. (

Online content with relevant images gets 94 percent more views than content without it, many consumers are visual learners and Jeff Bullas says visual content with psychological impact “can double your social media engagement.”

In a blog post dated May 5, Bullas says marketers need to use high-quality images that appeal to emotion — not just more photos.

“Whether you’re creating original content, sourcing photographs or shooting your own always consider how it will impact your audience,” he advises.

Quicksprout seconds that statistic from Bullas that content with images get almost double the views and says in April that “the brain processes visuals 60,000 times faster than it does text. Ninety percent of the information sent to our brain is visual.”

This visual is just one example:

10 Types of Visual #SocialMedia Posts That Get Shared Like Crazy #smm #contentmarketing

— Jeff Bullas (@jeffbullas) May 4, 2015

Here’s what Bullas suggests marketers do to gain those eyeballs:

1. Use High-Quality Stock Photography. Bad stock photos can make a brand look “cheesy,” he says, so use this tip with caution.

2. Use Screenshots. Don’t just say something happened, show it.

3. Infographics. (For instance, see a portion of Quicksprout’s infographic above.)

4. Personal Photographs. “If your business or brand doesn’t have a human face, people will find it hard to relate to,” he says.

5. ‘Behind-the-Scenes’ Workplace Shots. “This particular type of imagery is more suitable for Instagram and Facebook, which are often considered the more ‘social’ mediums,” he says.

6. Quote Graphics. Use images that are compatible, but don’t compete with the words. Make quotes short and “easily digestible,” as well as a font that will be legible on mobile devices. Consumers will likely see the images on sites like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram.

7. Original Designs. “When designing your own images, always create a style guide to ensure brand consistency,” he writes. “This means determining rules for your fonts, color scheme and image personality.”

8. Use the Brand’s Unique Selling Point. Bullas points to VOSS, which always uses its water bottle in its images and works to convey other concepts, such as purity.

9. Action Shots. How do consumers use or see the product or service?

10. Use Striking Colors. “Colors can depict and elevate mood,” Bullas writes. [Editor's note: A previous Target Marketing article about call-to-action buttons in email includes a few color notes, such as "Orange encourages immediate action, so use it to get consumers to sign up, join or buy forthwith. Emma cautions that orange also conveys 'cheap.'"]

Bonus: Can the visual become a game? IBM is among many brands using gamification, which is also a learning tool (Opens as a PDF). For IBM, a game was its No. 1 lead generation tool for one of its brands in 2010.

What else can marketers add to this list?

Crowdfunded Campaigns for Nepal Are Huge—Is That a Good Way to Give?

July 21st, 2015 | No Comments | Posted in Crowdfunding, Fundraising

The clock is ticking on Lokesh Todi’s efforts to raise $150,000 for charities based in Nepal. That’s what happens when you use social media. You set up a donation campaign on a site like Indiegogo Life (as Todi has done). Then you have a set amount of time to meet your goal. And as of 3 p.m. Wednesday, there are only 61 hours left. So far, the 28-year-old graduate from Yale University has collected over $130 ,000 from more than 1,600 donors.

Todi is part of a crowded crowd of crowdfunders using the web to appeal for small donations for a cause.

Crowdfunding was widely popular in 2012 after Hurricane Sandy. But the magnitude of mini-campaigns for the Nepal disaster is unprecedented, says Amy Sample Ward, CEO of a nonprofit technology organization called NTEN.

GoFundMe alone has more than 700 individual campaigns and 45,000 donors who’ve collectively raised $3.5 million for Nepal. And Todi’s campaign on Indiegogo Life is one of more than 100. Some of Ward’s own friends on Facebook are simply asking for people to send donations to their bank accounts.

Ward has some theories about the surge of crowdfunders.

First, the location of the disaster may have given that method a boost. Nepal is often a destination for tourists and trekkers. Many volunteers go there to help as well. So people are more likely to have a friend — or a friend of a friend — who’s either working there or was affected by the quake. And those friends are often motivated to raise money. 

The familiarity helps, Ward says. Donating to someone who “you can almost picture going down the street to all their neighbors and making sure they are OK” makes donors feel as if they are likely to see tangible results.

It also helps that these fundraisers have goals that seem achievable. An individual campaign may be aiming for $10,000, $50,000, $100,000. “The closer one can be to the [goal] the more people will feel that they are making a difference,” says Dr. Jen Shang, a philanthropic psychologist at Plymouth University in England. But she adds there’s no evidence that donating to small campaigns makes a bigger impact on ground.

It’s just that “with a big institution, it’s harder to see how your $10 is helping when a million dollars is needed,” says Sandra Miniutti, vice president of marketing at the charity watchdog Charity Navigator.

Still, Miniutti recommends donating to established charities because there’s too much risk with individual campaigns. “There’s no vetting in the front end and no insurance on [the] back end that people will actually use the money for what they say they will,” she says.

And asking for donations via a check or direct transfer into his or her bank account is a huge red flag.

Her advice: “Generally speaking, don’t give through these websites unless you know the [campaigner] directly.”

At Better Business Bureau, Bennett Weiner echoes Miniutti’s point. But his concerns go beyond trust. “Are [crowdfunding sites for local charities] most effective in terms of philanthropy?” asks Weiner, vice president of BBB’s Wise Giving Alliance.

Not during disasters, he says.

He believes an international aid agency that’s dealt with disasters before is a better choice than a small charity. “You may have only one runway available for deliveries, and places may be inaccessible immediately because roads are now broken,” he says. “Well guess what? If they are impassable to the staff at established charities, they’re probably going to be impassable to other charities there.”

The difference is that larger charities may be better equipped to find alternative ways to transport goods, he says.

Both nonprofit technology expert Amy Sample Ward and psychologist Jen Shang stress that the effectiveness of these small campaigns needs to be studied.

But sometimes crowdfunding and big charities hook up. On Indiegogo, a team of entrepreneurs and coders has raised nearly $37,000 on behalf of Oxfam America. “Why should we do this?” the organizers wrote on their campaign page. “Because the hard-working organizations on the ground don’t have time.”

“It certainly does not undermine our efforts, especially in the case of humanitarian emergency response,” says Megan Weintraub, associate director of digital engagement for Oxfam America. “We have no ill-feelings about the ways other people are getting involved. It’s just good that they are.”

As for Lokesh Todi, who’s just $20,000 shy of his $150,000 goal on Indiegogo, he says the money will be given to Nepalese-run charities working in the Sindhupalchowk district. “I wanted to make sure the local organizations that are here for the long term have the money to deal with the situation,” he says from Nepal.

Right now, he’s working with other young professionals and the Nepali branch of the nonprofit ChildReach to send supplies to remote villages in Sindhupalchowk. They’re also coordinating with doctors who want to help. And he’s keeping his donors updated with videos, photos and written notes.

When his campaign ends, he hopes the money will make a difference — even if it is only in a handful of villages. “Twenty thousand dollars is equal to 2 million Nepalese rupees, and that goes a long way in Nepal,” Todi says. “If I can choose one small village and focus my energy on that and work with local NGOs I can make transformation happen.”

In the end, it’s all up to the donor, says Megan Weintraub from Oxfam. But the first step to donating is the same regardless of the platform: Do your research.

By Linda Poon
May 06, 2015


I didn’t know it was possible to start a business

July 20th, 2015 | No Comments | Posted in Inspirational

Work Hard, Have Fun, Dream Big

If I could share any advice with my 22-year-old self, it would be very simple: Dream Bigger

Before you roll your eyes and decide that this is over-simplified advice, I want you to really think about it.

How many of you can honestly say you believed in yourself and your abilities so much that you foresaw your success at 22? Were you laser-focused on achieving greatness and motivated to be your best self every single day?

Some people are like this at 22, but I wasn’t.

When I was younger, I didn’t understand that people could start their own business. I didn’t understand how to channel creativity into something tangible. I didn’t know how to translate my people skills into a career I would be passionate about. At 22, I just didn’t get it. Since I did not know how these things were done, I could not understand how to make them happen. If I’d known I could do these things, I would have done them sooner. I had to experience several different fields – from TV to technology and a few odd jobs in between – before I finally hit my stride and developed the confidence to demand more responsibility and autonomy in my role. I did not set out knowing I wanted to start a business; I just knew I wanted more.

I invest in young people who dream big. Evan and Nick from Tipsy Elves left successful, high-paying careers to jump head first into the crazy world of Christmas sweaters. Ashley from Natural Grip pursued her vision wholeheartedly, making the first 150 pairs of grips from scraps in the trash at her husband’s office. They all dreamt big and made it happen with whatever they had. They taught themselves along the way and made a ton of mistakes, but they never would have tried without those initial dreams.

Work hard, have fun, dream big.

Robert Herjavec

My parents gave me the opportunity for a better life; the rest was up to me.