Monday, August 16, 2010

My Bionic Hand

Lanie, Alex, and Eric Jones

One of my fondest memories of childhood is listening to my grandmother read aloud.  On long road trips, she would dive into detailed descriptions of Narnia or wow me with the latest detective work of Nancy Drew.  I can still remember vivid descriptions of Edward and Lucy being trapped in the wardrobe. And, I can hear Nancy "getting her man" and solving the case.

While it's not exactly the same experience, it is possible to listen to stories via the Internet.  Podcasting now makes it possible to record, share and replay conversations from just about anywhere.  It's yet another medium for sharing our messy, musical lives with one another.

Click on the link above to hear a short conversation between Eric Jones and his children Lanie and Alex.  In this piece, we get a glimpse into what it's like to have a father with a bionic hand. 

This true narrative comes from StoryCorps, an ambitious and beautiful project, to "provide Americans of all backgrounds and beliefs with the opportunity to record, share, and preserve the stories of our lives."  Could there be a better mission?!

Consider including audio podcasts in your storytelling repertoire, especially if you work with people who struggle with the written word.   (Literally) giving voice to your cause is another way to connect people to the soul of your work.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Story of the Day: Why Not?

As I mentioned earlier this week, August is officially story month on the blog.  

Why Not? encapsulated in a 438 word-count email by Jeremy Ben-Ami, President of J Street touched me because of its' personal and inspiring tone. 

Note:  It's not a story about a client or donor.  Instead, it's a PERSONAL REFLECTION by an organizational leader.

We don't hear enough authentic writing from leaders, which is part of the reason that this email breaks through the clutter.  Kudos to Ben-Ami for writing a thoughtful and emotional piece.

When is the last time you or your Executive Director wrote a reflective communication?  Try it.  It may re-energize YOU and your constituents.



P.S.  I found this story on Progressive Exchange, an online community to aid the online efforts of progressive causes, campaigns, and organizations.  It was posted by Michael Hoffman of See3 Communications.

Asked to write a short piece on the topic of beginning again recently, I reflected on the possibility of direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians re-starting in the coming days and weeks.

I wrote that - when it comes to trying something again - there's often a little too much "can't" in the world, and not enough "why not?"
It's just my nature, but I find little else as frustrating as being told a problem isn't solvable, or a goal unattainable. 
I never understood why, in law school, professors rewarded students for spotting issues and problems - rather than for coming up with solutions.
Nor do I understand why bold, new thinking so often meets out-of-hand rejection.  I just point to my friend who pitched several companies fifteen years ago with the design of a slim machine on which you could read books without paper.  They laughed.
Coming up with reasons not to take chances is easy. Passing the buck, pinning the blame on someone else, saying you can't - all easy.
But, in my book, trying and failing is no excuse for not starting again. 
We tell our children to get back in the saddle when they fall off a bike and to get back in the batter's box when they swing and miss. 
Why do we accept anything less as adults - in matters as important as life and death, war and peace?
Sure, we've all heard why Middle East peace can't happen.  How there are no partners.  How everything was tried ten years ago and it failed.  We've been told that those of us who believe are few and far between and that our limited power can't have an impact.
But why not?
That's my thought for Mahmoud Abbas this weekend as he ponders whether to say yes or no to starting direct talks with Israel. Click here to read J Street's statement from last week urging Abbas to enter direct negotiations.
Beginning anew means refusing to accept things as they are.  It means believing that, with effort, the power of good, of hope and of peace can and will overcome the daunting power of the status quo. 
New beginnings demand that we dream a better future and relentlessly ask why not.
Resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will require President Abbas, Prime Minister Netanyahu and, yes, President Obama to lead, to take risks, to defy the naysayers ... and to begin again.
Why not?
Shabbat Shalom, and have a great weekend, 
- Jeremy 
Jeremy Ben-Ami
, President
, J Street
, August 13, 2010

J Street is the political home of the pro-Israel, pro-peace movement. 

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


I keep coming across WONDERFUL stories on the web this week.  So, I've decided that August will be "story month" on the blog. Keep checking back our subscribe today (enter your email address on the left side bar) to see the stories that are inspiring me.

Want me to feature your organizational story or video on Marketing for Nonprofits? Contact me at jocelyn_harmon (at) yahoo (dot) com.

This short video features Marcus a young boy living at Union Rescue Mission, an organization working to end homelessness in Los Angeles. He takes us on a short journey through his daily life at the Mission.

Video is such a powerful medium.  But don't take my word for it, watch it!  Then buy a Flip Video Camera today and start interviewing your clients, donors and volunteers.  Ask them why they work with you.  Next, upload these videos to You Tube (they have a nonprofit channel) or another video site, like Vimeo.  Finally, start sharing your works of art via all your marketing channels - e-newsletter, website, Facebook, Twitter, blog, etc.

It's a great way to SHOWcase your mission!


P.S.  This video could be even stronger with a specific call to action at the end, like "GIVE to Union Rescue Mission now and help young boys like Marcus find a way home."

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Gulf Coast and You!

Regardless of what you read in the news, it's clear that the damage from the BP oil DISASTER is not over.  Just five years after Katrina, Gulf Coast residents are now confronted with polluted water, endangered marine life, and a seriously damaged economy.

My colleague, Geoff Livingston and his partners at Zoetica are hoping to do something about this disastrous state of affairs by organizing (along with a number of other partners) the CitizenGulf National Day of Action on August 25th Their goal are threefold:
  1. To raise $100,000 for Catholic Charities of New Orleans through social media driven events and donations.
  2. To get 10,000 people to take action to help the Gulf by attending a CitizenGulf meet up, donating, or voting for this Good Gulf Idea in the Pepsi Refresh contest
  3. To get 1% of all the people taking actions to build their own CitizenGulf projects with a target of 100 new projects.
You can learn more about the initiative here.

This ambitious event is a very interesting exercise in crowdsourcing - "the act of outsourcing tasks, traditionally performed by an employee or contractor, to a large group of people or community (a crowd), through an open call."

Similar events have been done before with stellar and mediocre results.  Let's be honest, there is a LOT of heavy lifting that has to be done to motivate an unpaid crowd. This work is usually done by a small, committed group of employees or volunteers.  However, when crowdsourcing works, it can be a tremendous boon to nonprofits who save time and money and (perhaps most important) build strong ties with their constituents.  Also, by giving everyday people (like you and me!) ways to make a difference and lead our own change efforts, we all become EMPOWERED ACTORS vs. passive observers of our world.  

I hope you'll take action to help our brothers and sisters in the Gulf recover from this most recent storm.  I also hope you'll follow CitizenGulf as it unfolds.  It may give you ideas about how you can use crowdsourcing to advance your cause.


Sunday, August 8, 2010


Will you like me if I whine and worry and wail?

What if I blather on? And, take too long to make my point?

Will you hate me if I curse? If I lie just a little.

What if it's obvious that I'm S-T-R-E-T-C-H-I-N-G The Truth?

Will you feel annoyed if I ask too much?  If the words I use are not my own?

Does my voice make you cry and sigh and cringe? Do I say too much?  Or too little?

Do I make you want to STOP listening?


Please be patient with me.

My voice is my life.  It BREATHES.  It carries me forward.

Let me learn it.  Let me use it.  I don't want to be afraid of my own stories.


Friday, August 6, 2010

Want a Better Website? Put it to the Test!

My new friend

After viewing the photo, I looked for the email sign-up box.  Full disclosure: My job is to help nonprofits succeed at list-building and email marketing so this is an important feature that I always look for on websites.

Unfortunately, there is no sign-up box on Lets Give Them Hope.  Bad news.  Why?  It means that there is no way for me to ENGAGE with this organization unless I make a donation, which I'd never do on a first date!

Rule #3:  Turn your website into a list-building tool by putting an email sign-up box on EVERY page of your website.  This will enable you to build your database, stay in touch with constituents, and convert them into donors over time.


We are a Christian non-profit organization building Care points of hope in vulnerable communities across sub-Saharan Africa where HIV/AIDS, poverty and numbers of orphans are highest and support structures are very low. Our ministry is aimed in skill building and raising up talent which can be used in the future.
Rule #4:  In ALL of your marketing materials (this means your website too), use words and images that make your mission concrete.  Stay away from buzz words and phrases that are well understood by organizational insiders but mysterious to outsiders. Remember: I am totally new to your organization!

Finally, I clicked on the Donate button.

Unfortunately, this part of the website is not complete.  Still, here are some tips for ensuring that "your site as a whole is a machine which generates financial support."  (This great quote is from Measure Everything by Shabbir  Imber Safdar.)

Rule #5: Make your donate button BIG And BOLD so that people can find it!  And, put it on every page of your site.

Rule #6: Streamline your donation form.  Only ask for critical information.  This will reduce donation form abandonment.

Rule #7: Put a link to your privacy policy on your donation form to assure people that their credit card information is safe.

For more advice on building and optimizing donation pages on your site, see The 2010 Overachiever's Guide to Year-End Fundraising

Thursday, August 5, 2010


This is an example of the pure, potent power of story telling.  After watching this, don't you want to learn more about Vital Voices?  Don't you want to learn more about Kakenya?

Please watch!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Two New Free Fundraising e-Books for You!

Can you believe that summer is almost over?!  Before you know it we'll be deep into year-end fundraising.

The bad news is that play days are nearly done. The good news is that there are two new FREE fundraising e-books that will help you get energized and ready for the huge influx of donations that will (hopefully) come your way this holiday season. :)

The first is The 2010 Overachiever's Guide to Year-End Fundraising by my frolleagues, Alia McKee of SeaChange Strategies and Eric Rardin of Care2.

The Guide outlines the 9 steps you can take today to get your "fundraising on." To read more about these tips, check out this post on Frogloop.  You can also download the FREE whitepaper here.

The second is How to Raise a Lot More Money Now: 50 Great Ideas from 11 Top Experts.  It includes advice from Katya Andresen of Network for Good, Marc Rovner of SeaChange Strategies, Kivi Leroux Miller of Nonprofit Marketing Guide and me!

Here are 3 of my favorite tips.
  •  "Overdo it.  Be too dramatic.  Too emotional.  Too strong.  It's a lot easier to tone it down than it is to pump up weak and underdone copy."  - Jeff Brooks, True Sense Marketing
  • "Take pictures of your clients holding signs that say Thank You and share them with your supporters on your website, in email, and via social media."  - Kivi Leroux Miller, Nonprofit Marketing Guide
  • "7 Reasons Why: Craft seven reasons why prospects should support your organization - give each one a headline with two to three sentences expanding the point - and build a mini campaign around it. Put a link on your home page, add to your navigation, feature in your e-news and more... People crave lists like this." - Nancy Schwartz, Getting Attention

You can download the e-book for FREE here.