Better than Facebook?


MarketPlace on American Public Media had the following exchange between Kai Ryssdal and Phil Fernandez regarding Facebook’s pre-Initial Public Offering roadshow:

Ryssdal: But if it goes bad in one of these 10 to 15 minute meetings, you’re probably have like nine more set up that day, right?
Fernandez: Nine or 25 or something like that. I’ve done them from San Diego to Los Angeles to Denver to Minneapolis to New York, all in the same day.
Ryssdal: Yeah, sounds grueling. Sounds like not a whole lot of fun.
Fernandez: You know, it’s an incredible high because what you’re doing is one of the most exciting things in a career, and at the same time, it’s about as hellish as anything I’ve ever been through.
Ryssdal: This might seem like kind of a rookie question to ask, but why do we need roadshows? Why do you guys have to go do this? Isn’t there a better way?
Fernandez: You’d sure like there to be a better way. In all things, there’s this adage that says ‘people buy from people.’ And I think this is exactly what this is — it’s people looking people in the eye and choosing whether they’re going to do business with them.
The interview highlights a fundamental point that people connect with people.  A corporation, (even Facebook) cannot create an emotional reaction by itself and with all it knows about us.  The people involved with a cause are the ones who ultimately give it a heart and soul.  This is why direct mail campaigns rarely move the needle when it comes to participation and transformative giving.  It is easy to ignore or select a token gift in response.  However, when your best friend takes you by the arm and says you have to have a very specific experience that resonates with your belief system, it can generate a chemical, biological, and physiological reaction.   If you are moved emotionally, you are ready to do what you can in your power to make a difference.
So often we are afraid to meet face-to-face with another person and ask them to take action.  We hide behind envelopes, emails, websites, and proxies.  This offers a massive advantage to those who are willing to step forward and connect with a peer.  Our fear keeps us off the stage and withholds our greatest gift, the ability to facilitate a shared experience. 
If you are better than Facebook than perhaps avoiding face-to-face meetings is a realistic business strategy.  For the rest of us, maximizing a human connection is the greatest act we can take on behalf of a cause we support.

How Do You Change

You work for Xerox and after looking at your balance sheet you realize that 50% of your revenue now comes from back-of-office services.  That is right, the copier business is not the 800-pound gorilla that determines your company’s economic fate.  Actually, the copier may be the parking brake that is keeping you from accelerating forward.  Marketplace from American Public Media had a informative interview with Xerox CEO Ursula Burns.  Her biggest challenge may be uncoupling the Xerox name from the very product that made it the Kleenex of the photocopier market.

How do you innovate when you are know for one product or program?  If your identity is know for a concrete deliverable it is a challenge to shift into a new product line.  However, if you are known for a commitment to a purpose or belief then flexibility may be your greatest strength.

How does your enterprise adopt new ideas and concepts?


Marketplace on American Pubic Media produced a story about the Toyota design theory of commonization.  A single vehicle part is designed and used on multiple models.  It costs less, requires less in research and development and is more efficient to stock.  The practice is wonderful until something goes wrong and then every model is effected.  Toyota now has a billion dollar problem to fix and has been forced to shutdown production of new cars to fix the current fleet.

I wonder if you have seen the same thing in the nonprofit sector?  I frequently hear groups discuss the need to get more grants from foundations.  If every group acted on this strategy it would overwhelm the foundations.  Giving USA provides the following data.  Foundations account for 13% ($14 billion) of the total philanthropic giving in 2008.  About 75% ($230 billion) comes from individuals.  Which piece of the pie looks more attainable to your organization?  Diversification is one model but commonization as a tactic just because another organization is having success is not strategic but rather reactionary.

Commonization has been used very successfully in a community wide efforts.  Charitable events that support multiple agencies are amazingly well received.  Old Bill’s Fun Run in Jackson Hole, Wyoming is administered by the Community Foundation of Jackson.  It provides a way for the citizens of the community to support all the nonprofits with “one broad stroke.”  It is the umbrella fundraising event for the community.  Commonization has been well received and worked extremely well in this application.

Are your initiatives thoughtfully designed and linked to your strategic plan?  Are you reacting to the success or failure of the enterprise down the street?  If you take on a strategy of commonization can you sustain yourself if the “brakes fail” as in Toyota’s case?  If you are serving for the public trust, what is in the public’s best interest?  What are the benefits of commonization for your community?

Social Media Recommendations, Less Valuabel Than Last Year

A current survey shows word of mouth is trending towards a less trust between friends who make recommendations on social media.  Last year the level of trust was 50%  this year it has fallen to 27%.  People were not always satisfied with the recommendations that received online, some of it erroneous.  Now they are looking for 3-5 additional recommendations before taking action or feeling more assured.  The research comes from Ricahrd Edelman who was interviewed on the Marketplace radio program.

With nonprofit organizations initially being the fastest sector of adopters of social media and relying heavily on Facebook and Twitter for marketing the impact of the survey may be noticeable.  How do you make sure you have authentic, transparent reviews of your organization?  Are you getting a variety of view points to give greater assurance that you are everything you claim to be?  Are you using a bullhorn to shout about your great programs or are your fans spreading the word for you?

Taking Your Skill On The Road

Drove out of a Lowe’s parking lot yesterday and saw two gentlemen standing in front of a van with the doors opened and a variety of specialty tools laid out in front of the van. Cardboard signs read “Skilled Carpenters- Need Work- Rate Negotiable.” I passed the van on three sides and clearly these individuals had all the tools one would expected of a competent carpenter.

How do we advertise our skills in the community? What is the marketplace for our labor and expertise? Clearly these individuals had decided that the parking lot at Lowe’s increased their probability of securing a job. Had they been standing in the parking lot with just a sign, I would have not have taken as much notice. The fact that they had their vehicle, the tools of the trade, a sign willing to offer references, and motivation made their presence more remarkable.

I have receive calls from people interested in working as Executive Directors with no previous nonprofit experience but plenty of corporate leadership, individuals interested in serving as the member of a board, volunteers just looking to use their specific skills. I am quite certain their is a position for each one of them. They call me because they hope that my role as consultant will advance them to the front door of the nonprofit super store where they can walk-in and find the position they are seeking. Sometimes I have potential leads and sometimes I do not.

Word of mouth is valuable. Being in the right place is even better. I wonder what the right place is for talent in the nonprofit sector?