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Big ideas

Five Things I Have Learned As A Millennial Working With Baby Boomers

Dilbert mobile

I am a millennial and I work almost exclusively with baby boomers. My responsibilities require collaboration with many CEOs and CMOs – high-achieving folks who, as you may imagine, are overwhelmingly high-expectation, climbed-the-ladder Baby Boomers with a well-developed sense of workplace professionalism and appropriateness.

Members of Generation Y operate very differently than baby boomers. Basically, the worlds in which both demographics grew up are vastly different. While boomers generally evidence terrific loyalty to their employers, millennials tend to switch jobs frequently. While paycheck size is a significant (and understandable) professional motivator for many boomers, generation Y has different workplace motivations. Perhaps most notable of all, millennials are the first generation of digital natives – and real-time transparency, connectivity, and technical advances have fundamentally altered how generation Y relates to brands, their employers, and even each other. Because of these differences, there is no shortage of articles, memes, and silly videos that touch upon the frustrating differences that occasionally make it difficult for millennials and boomers to get along in the workplace.

While conceding a bit of a struggle at first, I’ve picked up some incredibly valuable lessons as a millennial whose professional success depends upon straddling both the “digital native” (and often perceptually entitled) world of generation Y and the hierarchical (and often perceptually outdated) world of baby boomers.  Here are my five most valuable lessons that I’ve learned as a millennial “change agent” at work in the land of Baby Boomers:

 

1) The more things change, the more they stay the same

(Baby Boomer lessons are always relevant)

This may sound stupid at first. Of course baby boomers have valuable words of wisdom thanks to years (more than us, to be sure!) of workplace experience – but I mean this on a deeper level. A big part of the disconnect between millennials and baby boomers seems borne of the fact that millennials are generally boomers’ children. Due to age dynamics alone, there seems to exist a perception that either generation – whichever one you are NOT in – is out of touch with reality and/or somehow less informed.

Over client dinners, hard conversations about organizational change, and informal chats with executive leaders, I have learned to deeply understand that lessons relayed from baby boomers about their careers and even personal lives are always (always, always) relevant. In fact, they are gold and generally must be married to any “New Age” ideas in order to achieve success. Maybe this is the millennial in me (we value mentors), but if you listen to the underlying message and focus less on matters of style, you will be hard-pressed not to find a lesson or takeaway that doesn’t apply to your profession today.

An example: I’m not saying that print media is making a comeback anytime soon (a point that is still difficult to communicate during an allocation of resources conversation), but the want to be represented on credible, trusted media outlets (as print has been traditionally perceived due to its diligent review processes) is still a relevant communications objective.  In today’s Digital Age, the market places similar trust in peer review sites such as TripAdvisor and Yelp.  The medium may change, but the strategy remains the same: The market places great value in testimony from trusted resources.

Instead of rolling my eyes (in my head, of course!) and thinking, “Does this person really think that an article in this print-only magazine is going to be a game-changer for the organization?” I now understand the takeaway is that the organization would benefit from a visible, credible endorsement…regardless of the communication channel. And, in turn, part of my responsibility to the organization is to demonstrate the efficacy of other platforms – web, social media, peer reviews, etc. – to achieve the organization’s objectives.

 

2) A little respect goes a long way

(How you say something can be more important than what you say)

I am guilty of misunderstanding this. In fact, I am so guilty of acting upon some of the more cliché characteristics of my generation that this “lesson” is one that I’m still working to perfect (even having experienced the benefits when I get it right)! My generation often walks right up to the CEO when there’s something that we’d like to communicate – and I observe this happening with millennials in nearly every organization with which I work. This “ambush” reliably seems to stun the CEO who has lived his/her professional life honoring a very specific hierarchy.

Sample size of one here, but I don’t think that we do this at all to be disrespectful. On the contrary, this seems to happen when we are trying to express a concern or truly want to be helpful. Millennials get mocked a bit because on our youth soccer teams, everyone got the MVP trophy. We are all “friends” with bosses and parents on Facebook. We operate in horizontal – not vertical – structures…and we have been raised to believe that our viewpoints matter equally.

Here’s the lesson: It’s not always what you say to the CEO, but how and when you say it that is most important. Our millennial viewpoints don’t always matter to executive leaders. Actually, this is true in life: not everyone’s viewpoints are always the most important viewpoints to anyone other than the person talking. But, if I do have something to say, I find that it has an infinitely better chance of being heard if I abide by the established workplace protocol. Bursting into the CEO’s office and word vomiting generally doesn’t do justice to the passions of our thoughts. As a millennial, it is to my net benefit to respect the way that baby boomers function.  Abiding by a protocol is not compromising the integrity of our ideas – it is a smart tactic to ensure that our ideas gain the maximum traction in the eyes of leadership.  When it comes to the respect that millennials crave, well, you get what you give.

 

3) Education is important to boomers

(Even if the market is over-saturated with advanced degrees)

I could write a whole blog post about how interesting this is to me, and I write this as someone with some level of academic pedigree. Certainly, an educated millennial seems more likely to be respected by a baby boomer than a millennial with less educational experience. However, I have experienced this preference in several over-the-top, ridiculous circumstances.

Millennials are over-educated. The market is extremely over-saturated with advanced degrees, and MBAs in particular are a dime-a-dozen insofar as this achievement is increasingly common and may not be at all indicative of one’s professional capabilities. That said, I observe many baby boomers holding millennials to very high educational standards. This lesson is more of an understanding than anything else: advanced degrees matter to this generation (which may be why the children of this generation have so dang many of them). It’s difficult: Though those with professional degrees do generally earn more, data suggest that many advanced degrees are not worth their price tag. However, though it is likely that you won’t make your money back, many baby boomers really value this “checkmark.” The rationale behind this perhaps over-valuation is simple: Boomers  find a level of assurance in academic pedigree, and often rely on one’s academic credentials to defend their trust in your work or counsel.  (“They have a Super-Impressive-Sounding advanced degree from Fill-in-the-Blank-Good-School University, so surely they’re qualified!”)

If you have this card, play it…but also realize that this “card” may matter less to future generations – especially if/when “degree inflation” experiences its inevitable correction.

 

4) Achieving organizational change is MUCH harder than you think

(Watching Boomers adjust is more helpful than watching Gen Y)

Here’s why: Millennials have a reputation for being fast-paced, preferring nontraditional workplace structures, and being connected, entrepreneurial, and nimble. I’m not saying that it’s easy for us to manage change but – let’s be honest – we’ve been in the workplace for relatively little time, so altering our professional foundations may not be quite as big of a deal as someone with decades of experience. Changing a long established, diverse culture is something very different than building a startup of like-minded millennials. When it comes to leadership skill sets, I have learned that a builder builds. A change-maker, however, must rescue everyone from a burning building, let the whole thing burn down, and then rebuild the whole thing. (Yes, I love bad metaphors.)

I’m not saying that a baby boomer CEO of an established organization is innately more…anything…than a millennial CEO of a startup. What I am saying is that the leadership challenges that these positions face are very different…and I fear that my millennial colleagues and I often approach them as if they are the same.

By far and away the most valuable and informative professional (and even personal) learning moments that I have encountered involve observing baby boomers in leadership roles during times of tremendous change. Very many are moving – and they are doing it thoughtfully. For how much I hear my generation gripe about how “slow moving” and “unwilling to adapt to change” older generations may be, I challenge anyone to observe a baby boomer with decades of wisdom leading his or her entire organization into a new era to NOT truly admit, “Okay…Geez, this is rough.” (And then – in that form of admiration that we have reserved only for such leaders as Master Splinter or Mr. Miyagi – “I hope that one day I will be able to do this…”)

Thankfully, every time in my career that I’ve grown frustrated and thought, “Why is this change so hard?!” I’ve had the opportunity to observe a boomer gnawing away at details, serving as a charismatic leader, and just downright making it happen step-by-step and piece-by-piece.

 

5) We are much more the same than we are different.

It frequently occurs to me – especially when I am frustrated by a seeming hesitance to adapt to new ways of thinking – that we millennials may be faced with these same challenges down the road. Right now they feel so distant and incomprehensible. “The world turns and I know that.” I hope that 30 or 40 years down the road, we still know that – and that we embrace a new generation of leaders. By then, we, too, may be similarly at our wits’ end by the young whippersnappers infiltrating the workforce that we’ve dominated for the last half a century with new methods of communication and different motivations.

Mostly, I’ve learned this: Yield. Do I think we’re a special generation? Kind of, yes. (Really – what kind of millennial would I be if I said otherwise?!) But what I’ve learned most is that boomers are, too. (Yes, those same symbolic leaders of print media and ceremonial hierarchy.)  I don’t intend to preach, to lecture, or to appease. I simply intend to share my own lessons as a member of that first generation of digital natives that has (in this current moment)  shaken up how we do business, how we create change, and how we pursue dreams.

I’m proud to be a member of generation Y (most of the time), but I’m proud and grateful – and even downright lucky – to be able to work so closely with so many inspiring baby boomer leaders that serve as the lighthouses for millennials. My ships (our ships?) would be directionless without them.

…Did I mention that I have a thing for bad metaphors?

Is this a childhood legend or a boomer leading a nonprofit toward organizational change? I cannot tell anymore (but maybe if I get to be Leonardo, then I don't mind).

Is this a childhood legend or a boomer leading a nonprofit toward organizational change? I cannot tell anymore (but maybe if I get to be Leonardo, then I don’t mind the confusion).

Interested in getting blog posts, tips, and some silly social media geekery periodically delivered in your Facebook newsfeed? Like my Facebook page (or ) Or for more regular sharing of nonprofit marketing information, follow me on Twitter

 

Posted on by colleendilen in Big ideas, Generation Y, Lessons Learned, Management, Nonprofit Marketing, The Future, Words of Wisdom 4 Comments

Most Popular Posts of 2013 for Nonprofits and Museums

KYOB best wishes for 20142014 is very quickly approaching and the Internet is overflowing with “Best of 2013” lists. There’s a good reason for that: the market generally likes them (and not to mention, they are easy to create). Because I write Know Your Own Bone in order to provide nonprofits and visitor-serving organizations with intelligence regarding market behaviors and perceptions, I thought it only fitting to share your (a rather focused tribe of industry leaders) favorite KYOB posts of 2013.

It was a great year on this end! I became a part-time expat living in London (here’s the (perhaps surprising) reason why), the need for organizations to engage with audiences on digital platforms heightened, and the call for organizations to utilize the type of “big data” that I have access to at IMPACTS increased, resulting in a big, busy year of incredibly rewarding work! I hope that 2013 was a great year for each of you as well – both personally and professionally.

Thank you for reading, engaging with, and passing along Know Your Own Bone among your organizations and circles of industry professionals. I am constantly amazed by your passion – and I am honored to aim to provide market insight for such a thoughtful and hard-working bunch of nonprofiteers! I’m thrilled by the prospect that these posts may be providing value for your friends, colleagues, fellow board members and executives, and even college and graduate students. I hope that my work being a nonprofit/for-profit double-agent has been of value!

I’ll stop gushing and get to the good stuff. Here are KYOB’s most viewed and passed-along posts of 2013. These are the posts that my analytics suggest you emailed around the most, shared with your friends and colleagues, and got the most attention within graduate programs and professional development curriculums:

 

1. Six Sad Truths that I Have Learned as a Millennial Donor

“Hi nonprofit executives and board members. My name is Colleen Dilenschneider. I’m a millennial donor and I exist.”

 

2. Entertainment Vs. Education: How Your Audience Really Rates the Museum Experience (DATA)

“In terms of maximizing visitor satisfaction, VSOs may not truly understand “where their bread is buttered,” and this misunderstanding may result in serious financial repercussions.”

 

3. Three Ways The Role of Your Website Has Changed. Is Your Nonprofit Keeping Up?

“There seems to be a misconception that nonprofit websites are immune to the evolution attendant to all other digital platforms…Here are three, outdated ways that some organizations still view the role of their respective websites – and how that old role has long since evolved.

 

4. Why Your Audience Is Not Buying Tickets Online (And Why it May Be Your Fault)

“While you may think that you’re making life easier for your potential visitors by selling tickets online, many organizations actually make the act of purchasing a ticket a more expensive and/or more cumbersome process for their would-be visitors… Here are four common conditions that may create needless barriers to your market purchasing a ticket online.”

 

5. Leisure Activity Motivation: How People Decide to Attend Your Museum or Visitor-Serving Organization (DATA)

“Data indicate that an organization’s own, internal offerings generally matter less to visitors than does the market’s perceptions of the surrounding macro-environment when it comes to motivating leisure visitation.”

 

6. Information Overload: How Case Study Envy Stifles Nonprofit Success

“Too many nonprofits seem to distract themselves from opportunities by making inappropriate comparisons between other organizations and their own… When considering case studies and the operations of other nonprofit organizations, it may help to keep in mind the following four items.”

 

7. Does Your Nonprofit Believe This Myth? The Best Indicator That an Organization is Bad at Social Media

“The easiest way to spot an organization that completely misunderstands the role of social media is to look for those boasting that it’s cheap or free. It’s not. And it hasn’t been for a while now.” Here’s why.

 

8. Marketing Your Nonprofit to Audiences That ACTUALLY Matter

“Many nonprofit executives are collecting information and doing everything in their power to keep up with nonprofit-dubbed best practices….and, perhaps that’s why a lot of them are still flailing…and why many will ultimately fail.”

 

9. Five Key Reasons Why Social Media Strategies Are Different Than Traditional Marketing Strategies

“We have a new platform that didn’t exist in the past – and it has changed a whole heck of a lot about how organizations “do” Communications…  perhaps because it has so drastically changed how the market views Communications.”

 

10. Social Media Degrees: The New Fool’s Gold for Nonprofits

“Here are the five attributes that organizations should try to avoid like the plague and that, quite remarkably, seem inherent to the type of person who may choose to pursue a degree or ‘certificate’ in social media.”

 

Cheers to an incredible 2014 for all of your nonprofits, museums, zoos, aquariums, theaters, symphonies, and other visitor-serving organizations aiming to inspire audiences! May this next year bring you and your organizations much success.

Thanks again for following along!

 

Interested in getting blog posts, tips, and some silly social media geekery periodically delivered in your Facebook newsfeed? Like my Facebook page (or ) Or for more regular sharing of nonprofit marketing information, follow me on Twitter

Posted on by colleendilen in Big ideas, Blogging, Lessons Learned, Management, Marketing, Museums, Nonprofit Marketing, Nonprofits, Public Management, Social Change, Social Media, The Future, Words of Wisdom 2 Comments

Thank You and KYOB’s Most Popular Posts of 2012

Know Your Own Bone Skull

JOB ALERT: Looking to start off 2013 with a new adventure filled with meaningful social media/marketing/PR work for zoos, aquariums, museums, performing arts and other nonprofit organizations? I’m looking for a right-hand-person to serve as IMPACTS’s Digital Marketing Manager. Interested or know somebody great? Please pass along the job description!

2012 has come to a close and we are all onward and upward toward 2013. It’s been a big year for nonprofit social media best practices in general, so I wanted to take a moment to share the most popular posts of 2012.

…But, first and foremost, I want to say thank you to my incredible tribe of loyal readers. I am so fortunate to be able to share thoughts and practices with such a talented group of hard-working, inspiring people! I am delighted (and usually a tad bit taken aback and still downright amazed by the power of the Internet) every time that I have the privilege meet one of you in person. It happens after I give presentations, after board meetings where I have the opportunity to visit your organizations, and – to my utter amazement – has even happened unknowingly with strangers over dinner conversations! (“There’s this blog about social media in museums and nonprofit organizations. It’s called….” Cut to me going slackjawed, followed by an awkward explanation and a laugh.) I am truly honored and ecstatic to learn that the sharing of the best practices that I observe in my work and travels have proven helpful to the thought leaders shaping the future of the nonprofit sector.

It’s been a big year for KYOB! In terms of content, IMPACTS, the company for which I work, has allowed me even more access to thought-provoking data to share with the nonprofit community. Aesthetically speaking, KYOB received a significant design upgrade by Marissa Sher, and Amanda Megan Miller Photography did all sorts of magic taking branding photos for the re-design. (Thanks to that shoot, I now have four skeletons worth of plastic “bones” living in the closet of my Chicago apartment. Cool or creepy actualization of a metaphor? …Yikes!)

Old KYOB

Remember this design layout? It got a major upgrade in 2012!

 

Here are the 10 most popular posts of 2012 on KYOB:

1) The Millennials are Here: 5 Facts Nonprofits and Businesses Need to Know. The millennials aren’t coming.  They’re here now.  And the time has finally come when organizations will start to sink or swim based on how effectively they engage this demographic. Here are five fast facts that nonprofit and business leaders must embrace in order to effectively manage, market and operate their organizations

2) The Top 5 Mistakes That Nonprofits Make When Attempting to Engage Celebrities. Want to know how to increase your chances of getting noticed by celebrities in order to secure a public relations appearance? Here are five mistakes that nonprofits often make when reaching out to celebrities and what you need to understand when considering your ask.

3) The Importance of Social Media in Driving People to Your Museum or Visitor Serving Nonprofit (DATA). There’s a lot of conversation about the ROI of social media and confusion about how to explain its importance to executive leaders. Need help? Here’s some data behind how social media drives attendance to visitor-serving organizations (zoos, aquariums, museums, botanic gardens, theaters, etc).

4) How Generation Y will Change Museums and Nonprofit Membership Structures. Because online engagement is increasingly critical for buy-in among all generations, it must be applied not only to marketing, but also to fundraising. Membership teams, in particular, will need to re-work their operations and offerings in order to sustain and grow their number of supporters. In fact, IMPACTS has already uncovered the need for museums to revise how they tell the story of membership benefits.

5) 40 (More) Ways Nonprofit Zoos, Aquariums, and Museums are Engaging Audiences Through Social Media. Here are 40 (more) ways that nonprofit zoos, aquariums and museums are engaging audiences using online platforms.

6) 5 Critical Nonprofit PR Strategy Tips for Marketing to Millennials (DATA) Here are five critical insights into the millennial mindset (and increasingly, the general public’s mindset) that should be integrated into an organization’s public relations strategy.

7) Generation Y and Inheritance. It’s Time to Have a Talk  Data suggests that there’s a rather significant expectation delta between millennials and their parents when it comes to how much money millennials expect to get in inheritance. Here’s what we asked, and here’s what we found.

8) Why Offering Discounts Through Social Media is Bad Business for Nonprofit Organizations. Offering discounts through social media channels cultivates a “market addiction” that will have long-term, negative consequences on the health of your organization. When an organization provides discounts through social media it trains their online audience to do two not-so-awesome things…

9) Web and Social Media Play Leading Role in Public’s Decision to Visit a Museum (STUDY). When comparing how folks get their information about leisure activities, it’s not even close: web and mobile platforms (including social media) are disproportionately influencing your museum’s visitation and attendance.

10) Death By Curation: Why the Special Exhibit Isn’t So Special Anymore. It’s no secret that a true blockbuster exhibit can boost a museum’s attendance to record levels. However, a “blockbuster” is rare, and the fact that these blockbusters spike attendance so dramatically is an important finding: Blockbusters are anomalies – NOT the basis of a sustainable plan.

 

Thanks again to everyone for making 2012 a great year! The nonprofit community is facing a time of incredible change, and I am eager to share experiences, best practices, and market information as we move forward. I hope that you’ll all do the same as your organizations respond and evolve.

Cheers to working together to better prepare ourselves and nonprofit organizations around the globe for a better, brighter future. Here’s to a wonderful, challenging, and inspiring 2013…

Thank you!

Colleen Dilenschneider

Interested in getting blog posts, tips, and some silly social media geekery periodically delivered in your Facebook newsfeed? Like my Facebook page. Or for more regular sharing of nonprofit marketing information, follow me on Twitter!

 

Posted on by colleendilen in Blogging, Branding, Community Engagement, Generation Y, Jobs, Leadership, Lessons Learned, Management, Marketing, Museums, Nonprofit Marketing, Nonprofits, Social Change, Social Media, Technology, The Future 2 Comments

Social Media: The Every-Department Job in Nonprofit Organizations


So, this “Internet” thing? It’s here to stay. It’s perhaps a hefty statement, but in this age of increased transparency and digital communication, your marketing team may well be the single most valuable department in your organization. (I’ll explain…)

Marketers aren’t increasingly important because they are necessarily smarter or have more talent than do the valuable resources in your organization’s other departments. It’s because the job of the communications, marketing and public relations professional has evolved from being a single funnel to media outlets streamlining promotional messages on behalf of an organization, to serving as several funnels to different, targeted demographics based on content from several different departments in a manner that achieves an organization’s long-term goals. Today, great marketers in visitor-serving organizations show the world how every other department shines. (And when they do it well, they shine, too)

It’s no secret: As I’ve said before, social media does not belong to the marketing department. It’s critical to open up communications between your marketing department and other departments. Your organization will need all of these connections in order to succeed in attracting visitors, building affinity for your brand, connecting people to your cause, and securing donors. Consider this. Here are six critical keys to social media success, and all six rely on cooperation with other departments:

 

1. Killer content (Marketing needs Education)

Engaging content is the key to success in social media. Content is currency. Engaging content keeps organizations top-of-mind and increases reputation – a key driver of visitation. It keeps your nonprofit in folks’ Facebook newsfeeds and gets you re-tweeted, shared and liked. It increases your reach and online audience. Content drives interaction, which drives affinity, which drives support. Arguably the best place to find this engaging mission-related content is from your organization’s scientists, educators, and interpreters. They are natural suppliers of fun-facts – they can uniquely tell you when behind-the-scenes activities take place, and they generally provide the “wow factor” for education-based content.  Moreover, because many members of this department are public-facing, they already know what visitors consider interesting. Without the Education Department, marketers would have nothing to share except updates on their morning meeting about media ad buys… and, fortunately, they know better than to tweet about that!

 

2. Community management (Marketing needs Visitor Services)

Did you know that 42% of individuals using social media expect answers to the questions that they ask online within one hour? This is often made difficult because many nonprofit organizations (and shockingly, several museums) still “go dark” on the weekends (typically, the busiest times for museums)! Social media is increasingly a platform for customer service – and timeliness counts. Marketers must rely on an organization’s Visitor Service team in order to provide important information regarding pressing customer service questions.  We call this “social care” and it is critical online. Nielsen has released their 2012 Social Media Report . Take a look at some of their findings:

 

3. Cultivation of evangelists and supporters (Marketing needs Fundraising)

I just lied for consistency purposes. In reality, Fundraising needs Marketing. Online giving continues to grow by 13.1% year over year, and online giving currently accounts for 6.3% of total giving. BUT organizations do a disservice when they assume that online giving is the only type of giving strongly connected to marketing. Web platforms and social media are the single most powerful marketing channels used for obtaining information – including gaining information for making visitation or giving decisions. Even if someone gives in-person, over the phone, or by mail, chances are that the connection was strengthened by digital communications. Marketing and Fundraising Departments can (and should!) work together to make lists of potential evangelists who are likely to spread the organization’s message, and social media can help identify folks with an existing affinity for the organization with the inclination and/or propensity to become members or donors. I’ll be so bold as to highlight an increasingly-relevant truism: Marketers don’t need fundraisers to be successful at marketing, but fundraisers need marketers to be successful at fundraising. In my experience, “old-fashioned” fundraisers hate this…but, generally, when you take stock of the current condition, “old-fashioned” fundraisers aren’t succeeding right now.

 

4. Unique initiatives (Marketing needs Exhibits)

This ties back to killer content. Exhibits teams have access to important, exclusive information that can pique online interest. They know when there’s a big, wrapped mystery being delivered on the loading dock, which animals are giving birth, why exhibits are placed where they are, and (like their colleagues in the Education Department) they know a nice bit about how people learn. Most importantly, they can facilitate unique initiatives like online animal-baby naming contests and help arrange special programs/experiences that can be value-adds as prizes for online engagement (Related note: Please don’t offer discounts over social media. The short-term, “subsidized” bump in engagement has significant, long-term, negative consequences for nonprofit organizations.) Exhibits teams can help allow for open authority opportunities that increase reputation, open conversation and “make everyone a curator.”

 

5. Ability to experiment (Marketing needs Executive Leadership)

Social media and online engagement best practices and measurements evolve, so goals need to evolve, too. For instance, most of the museums that I work with don’t have a real budget for Facebook aside from human capital or full-time equivalents (read: someone’s time). However, Facebook’s recent changes to Edgerank (Facebook’s status-delivering algorithm) have made the platform more pay-to-play with promoted posts and sponsored stories. Now, organizations would be wise to consider that maximizing engagement on Facebook may require a sustained monetary investment. It also makes compelling content from various departments even more important.  In sum, social media isn’t about evolution…it’s about revolution.  Changes are nonstop, big and fast. Leaders need to embrace the inevitability of change.

 

Also – and much more importantly – executive leadership buy-in is a key element to creative engagement. The best, most-famous examples of online engagement in museums (think Museum of Science and Industry’s Month at the Museum, or Indianapolis Museum of Art’s Online Dashboard, or museum directors betting artwork on the superbowl) required not only permission, but a willingness on leadership’s part to take on these initiatives.  To take engagement to the next level, marketers need to understand that yesterday’s “how-to” manual is already obsolete. To have permission to innovate better practices in this rapidly evolving space, marketers need to be talking to leadership.

 

6. Human Tone (Marketing needs Human Resources)

Social media policies are best practices in organizations. In the digital era, folks want to know the people behind the computer screens. This also means that audiences can be drawn to staff members with their own online brands. These brands and real-life experts can be very helpful for organizations seeking to increase their respective reputations. Here are some famous ones in the museum world.  However, organizations also risk having folks say inappropriate things online, share private information about an organization, and occasionally display less-than-awesome online behavior. The Human Resources Department plays a critical role in managing staff members’ online behaviors – they are a marketer’s “safe harbor.”

 

We do our organizations a grave disservice when we shrug and call communications – and especially social media – “Marketing’s job.” Increasingly, social media is everyone’s job (at least parts of it).  Successful organizations understand the need for everyone to participate in the overall communications effort. Marketers don’t merely communicate, they collaborate.  We aren’t solely about content, we’re about connection.  And, the best amongst us understand that we can’t do it alone.  Our success – indeed, the success of our organization – is a product of giving EVERYONE in the organization the most important job.  We’re all marketers.

 

Interested in getting blog posts, tips, and some silly social media geekery periodically delivered in your Facebook newsfeed? Like my Facebook page. Or for more regular sharing of nonprofit marketing information, follow me on Twitter!

 

Photo edit based on meme by KSB

Posted on by colleendilen in Big ideas, Branding, Community Engagement, Education, Exhibits, Leadership, Lessons Learned, Management, Marketing, Museums, Nonprofit Marketing, Nonprofits, Public Management, Social Media Leave a comment

The Organization May Have Zilch, But You Won’t

Nonprofit employees have the most honed leadership characteristics.

Does that sound silly? I’ll admit I am biased– not because I am a nonprofiteer or graduate student in Public Administration but because nonprofit management trends are on the rise and I am entrepreneurial (which, they say, comes with the Gen Y territory). Entrepreneurial traits such as vision, adaptability, flexibility, and a willingness to do some bootstrapping (thanks, Guy Kawasaki) are necessities when you work in a nonprofit organization that has limited monetary resources.

When an organization has limited funds, employees must rise to the occasion and they do. For example, according to a recent study, small nonprofit organizations are outperforming larger organizations online. These organizations with “zilch” saw an increase in online giving, had greater e-mail click-through rates than richer organizations, and generally had greater ROI from online outreach. These organizations are truly doing more with less.

A small organization with limited funds has the ability to have open communication among employees and a horizontal structure. The professional benefits don’t stop there: working for an organization that is doing more with less allows you to build doing-more-with-less into your professional mindset. And wiring yourself to think this way makes you a better leader. Here’s why:

When you’re on a small team, you get to wear a lot of hats. Whether this is exhausting or invigorating depends on your outlook. The required diversification for your skill set, however, is likely to be extremely beneficial in the long-run. In organizations with limited funds, it’s not unlikely to have a marketer who writes grants and has experience in program delivery. This person, regardless of formal title, is a marketer, fundraiser, and program coordinator in one. In this single position, the employee gets a chance to experience nonprofit management and exert leadership in several different roles. This person sees more than just one corner of the office, and developing and exercising these multiple skill sets- though famously contributing to nonprofit burnout- may provide a greater long-term advantage to nonprofit employees than the short-term disadvantage.

When the organization has zilch, everyone gets to bring their individual strengths to the table and you get to pick your area in which to shine. This makes shining much easier. Love shooting footage on your flip camera? Go make some videos for your organization (I pieced together these ones). When I worked at Pacific Science Center in Seattle, we saved thousands of dollars on our large-scale public events by summoning talent of internal staff members who were talented face-painters, astronomers, magicians, food composters, marine experts, or scholars on the physics of bubbles– and they were as excited to show off their talents as we were thrilled to show them off.

Flexibility and agility are often built-in to the culture by necessity, which facilitates constant ambushes of creative thinking and innovative ideas– and creative thinking is thought to be the most important leadership characteristic of the next five years. In order to do more with less, you need to come up with ideas of how to do more with less. One of the coolest parts of my work at a small nonprofit is sitting down with the CEO and hashing out ideas. Things come up when you work for a small organization that cannot be foreseen: graduate students ask to write a PR plan for you for class, employees stumble upon great new grants that are due next week, community partnerships develop and new events and opportunities arise. When your organization is this flexible, there’s room to be creative, and opportunity is always at your fingertips.

Resourcefulness is a high-demand attribute in both the nonprofit and for-profit world. Though the constant growth and energy often required to work in nonprofits with limited funds may lead to infamous nonprofit burnout, the benefits of this kind of work far outweigh the negatives. The lessons you learn working for an organization that is consistently doing more with less have the potential to pay off over and over again as you continue to lead organizations in the future.

This post is created in conjunction with other members of the Nonprofit Millennial Bloggers Alliance. Our posts this week (all with “Zilch” in the title), explore perspectives on how nonprofits can do more with less. Check out other members’ posts and get in on twitter conversations regarding these posts by using the hashtag #NMBA.


Posted on by colleendilen in Big ideas, Generation Y, Leadership, Lessons Learned, Management, The Small Stuff, Words of Wisdom Leave a comment

Celebrating One Year of Know Your Own Bone

The original header when I started KYOB in 2009

I began this blog one year ago and it’s come a long, long way in the last twelve months! Throughout the last year, this has been a place for me to share ideas, gather my thoughts, and even do a bit of research. In one short year, Know Your Own Bone won me an award, earned me phone conversations and guidance from Penelope Trunk, got articles re-printed in popular magazines, hooked me up with the Nonprofit Millennial Bloggers Alliance, gave me the opportunity to write an advance review for the Harvard Business Review, was picked up by wonderful thought leaders, and allowed me to connect with many talented professionals.

Upcoming: Speaking of connecting with talented professionals, please tune in to Rosetta Thurman‘s BlogTalkRadio show, All Nonprofits Considered, from 12 – 1pm EST next Monday, July 12th. I will be discussing the current culture of nonprofit leadership in museums and the arts with young arts professional, Ian David Moss. Please join the chat room and help contribute to the discussion next Monday!

I know many bloggers often feature “best of” posts that link back to previously written articles. Until this point, I’ve never done this in a post. In celebration of my one-year anniversary with Know Your Own Bone, I’ll highlight some of the various types of posts I’ve written. These are certainly not “best of” posts, just a little survey of the themes I’ve covered over the last twelve months. Create a page with all of Know Your Own Bone’s “best of”s, you suggest? That sounds like a great task for year #2.

Thanks to all of you who check-in on Know Your Own Bone again and again- especially those of you who subscribe or who have reached out and commented or shot an e-mail or two my way. I love hearing from you all and I am beyond grateful to have such a great group of intelligent and insightful readers!

Here’s to the start of another year of Know Your Own Bone, with even more thoughts on the evolution of museums and nonprofits, community engagement, and social change. Cheers!

Posted on by colleendilen in Arts, Blogging, Lessons Learned, The Small Stuff 2 Comments

5 Reasons to Always Be Thinking Like a Graduate Student

I’ll be honest: when I left my full-time gig at the Science Center in order to become a full-time graduate student last year, I was terrified by how this change would alter my own viewpoints and how I am perceived as a professional. I was concerned that I wouldn’t be taken as seriously if a majority of my time (the “full-time” part) was spent studying sector management as opposed to actively working in the sector.

Even as I am halfway into my graduate school experience, I can already look back and say that I had a right to be as terrified as anyone undergoing a big change (especially when thinking that my experience might be like this)– but I’d never take back the change in perspective that I’ve undergone for the time-being. I know full-well that by this time next year, the status will switch back and I will return to the full-time working world (oh, the magic of a professional degree; the point is to go back). But I will always understand the importance of thinking like a graduate student. Here’s why:

 

1) It forces you to see the big picture. There are things going on in every industry and the way we do business is always evolving. Currently social media, communication,  soft skills, and Gen Y’s public service motivation are shaking things up in the nonprofit world, but even after those things run their course, there will be something else. When you are a graduate student you see these things– and what’s more: you see their collective effect on the industry because you spend nearly every day piecing together the puzzle. Thinking like this is extremely valuable because it helps you to mentally tackle many sector problems at once, and scientifically, this kind of thinking helps build up solutions more creatively than tackling one at a time– which is often done in a working environment. Thinking like a graduate student in this sense means always keeping an eye on the bigger picture of the industry as a whole, and it will result in creative solutions and a more complete understanding of where your difficulties lie.

 

2) Grad students have built-in microscopes or telescopes. That’s like having science tools built into their brains (for a few years), folks! This is directly related to point #1. People often joke that grad students always think what they are doing is important, even though it’s not. What’s really happening here (and the reason we grad students think what we’re uncovering is so important) is that we have a different perspective. As mentioned above, in professional degrees, we zoom out on the sector. Academic degrees tend to zoom in on a part of the sector. Either way, grad students are thinking in a way that is not common in workplace environments (whether it’s with their internal microscopes or a telescopes). Thinking differently spawns innovation. Grad students see something non-graduate students don’t see (and often vice-versa). There’s terrific potential here. When faced with a problem after graduate school, I’ll strap my telescope back on and see if I can think about things differently.

 

3) It makes you aware of your own strengths and interests. In graduate school, you can pursue your own interests within your degree. Beyond MPA student, I have no role defining my duties in one specific area (I can choose as I go). There is a lot of freedom in these programs to make yourself an expert on whatever strikes your interest. Similarly, in graduate school you must do everything from public presentations, to writing case studies, to leading debates, to drawing graphs to illustrate possible solutions to market failures. You learn quickly where you shine… and also where you stink. The bottom line lesson here, however, is to keep exploring and taking up new challenges in the working world. It may lead you to interesting solutions to problems. And trying new things helps you learn a lot more about yourself and how you handle certain situations– it’s teaching me a lot at any rate!

 

4) It gives you a feeling of purpose (which helps you live longer and makes you better at your job). I have two years while I’m obtaining my degree to challenge perspectives, share crazy ideas freely, and sink my teeth into the sector. I feel a sense of purpose when exploring skills required to improve the sector. Feeling a sense of purpose does more than reduce your risk of getting Alzheimer’s and help prevent depression. It actually makes you live longer. Studies have shown that purpose motivates us to accomplish things and grad students spend two years (or more) devoted to developing their purpose and career goals so that they can work hard for you (or themselves) after they graduate. What can people who aren’t in graduate school do to develop this mindset? Make time to focus on what you are doing and why.

 

5) It keeps you humble. Folks tend to feel like they are improving in their careers based on how many people are reporting to them throughout the years– or at least I felt this way a bit before I came to grad school. Now,  nobody reports to me. I study with a lot of accomplished people and I take classes from distinguished professors. This is humbling. Also, full-time graduate students often take a financial hit to attend school (even if they are employed by the university or working a part-time job– or in my case, both). I’ve worked in hierarchical environments and I’ve started at the very bottom– but being broke, living on ideas, and being surrounded by thought-leaders is every bit as humbling as it is romantic and drive-inspiring. I will strive to keep this perspective and treat everyone as an accomplished classmate, regardless of their background or experience. Good ideas come from everywhere, and there’s no need to get cocky about my own.

Posted on by colleendilen in Education, Graduate school, Leadership, Lessons Learned, Management, Nonprofits, Public Management, The Future, The Small Stuff, Words of Wisdom 1 Comment

Discover Your Public Service Identity

 

Brewer, Selden, and Facer, in a shockingly under-discussed academic article published in 2000, contributed to theories of public-service motivation by identifying four individual orientations. It helps to think of them as four different do-good personality types: samaritans, communitarians, patriots, and humanitarians.

If you’re a samaritan, then civic duty and public service are central to your identity. Samaritans feel good as a result of giving to others. They empathize with the underprivileged, and expect those that they help to exert effort on their own behalf. They are deeply compassionate and caring.

If you’re a communitarian, then you are dedicated to giving back to society, and especially your community. Communitarians and samaritans are most likely to help others, even when they are not paid to do so. Unlike samaritans, however, communitarians feel no special connection to the disadvantaged, and aim to give back to the community as a whole. Communitarians have high standards of public officials, and believe that the greater good means elevating entire groups of people who are in need.

If you’re a patriot
, then you are fiercely loyal, and you stick to what you see needs to be done. Patriots would risk significant personal loss in the name of what they believe to be the greater good, and are drawn to problems that are much bigger than themselves. Patriots risk self-sacrifice for their beliefs and feel a strong sense of duty to the public and to themselves.

If you’re a humanitarian
, then social justice is central to motivating you and you tend to think about the big picture. Humanitarians are focused more on what they consider to be fair and right. They are very responsible, and making a difference in greater society is important to them. Humanitarians have a knack for building connections and inspiring others, but are not as likely to work without compensation as a Samaritan or a Communitarian.

 

For fun– and justified by the fact that the Myer-Briggs Personality Test was actually created by an ordinary housewife who was trying to understand her son-in-law– I’ve put together an unscientific personality test to help you identify your public-service motivation identity according to Brewer, Selden and Facer. This test assumes that you are motivated by ideals of public service. If you are taking this test and none of these answers apply to you, chances are you do not run strongly on public service motivation.

Count how many S, C, P, and Hs with which you identify:

1) If you were a superhero, you’d consider yourself to be the guardian of:
A) the community (C)
B) the greater good (P)
C) social justice (H)
D) the underprivileged (S)

2) You are most driven by the thought of making positive changes for:
A) all of mankind (H)
B) the nation as a whole (P)
C) entire communities (C)
D) other individuals (S)

3. Would you continue to serve citizens if you were not compensated?

A) Absolutely. I know that even one person can make a difference– and I’m going to do it. (S)
B) Yes. Giving back is very important to me. (C)
C) Maybe. To work without payment, I’d have to be 100% dedicated to the cause. (P)
D) Probably not. It takes a lot of resources to contribute in the way that I want to. I also need to make sure my basic needs are met in order to be most innovative. (H)

4) Which of these projects sounds most interesting to you:
A) developing a network of contacts to seek assistance for a variety of social causes. These contacts will help spearhead a food pantry, winter coat distribution, and a school bus safety check. (H)
B) after losing a loved one to a brutal murder, you’d start a nonprofit to provide emotional support and advocacy for victims of crime. Your service would help make changes in laws that have give victims a stronger presence in the legal process. (P)
C) personally making shoes for the homeless and getting your friends to help, too. Together you can help out over 1200 homeless men and women! (S)
D) Turning around a community that is in shambles. You’ll work to establish after school and off-site tutoring, culture, and sports initiatives and work with the state to establish the county’s first special programs for at risk students. (C)

5) Which of these public servants do you most admire?
A) Mother Teresa (S)
B) Martin Luther King Jr (P)
C) Bill Gates or Oprah Winfrey (H)
D) Abraham Lincoln (C)

Mostly S- You’re a samaritan.

Mostly C- You’re a communitarian.

Mostly P- You’re a patriot.

Mostly H- You’re a humanitarian
.

 

Please feel free to share your public service identity in the comments section. It would be interesting to get a sense of which is the most/least common orientation among contemporary leaders. (I am a communitarian).

.

Note: The information in this post relies heavily on information from these three academic articles.

 

Posted on by colleendilen in Leadership, Lessons Learned, Nonprofits, Public Management, Public Service Motivation, Social Change 2 Comments

How to Lead with Empathy: Read Fiction

It’s no surprise that great change-makers and business leaders (like Barack Obama, Bill Gates, and Nelson Mandela), when asked about their favorite book, say something like “The Great Gatsby” rather than “How to Make Friends and Influence People.” Perhaps this is because fiction influences people in its own right; it makes readers better leaders.

Looking to hone your leadership skills? Here are five reasons why you should pick up a work of fiction:

 

Hemingway's 'For Whom the Bell Tolls' is a favorite book of President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden.

1. Fiction helps you understand other people’s emotions.

A study by the Journal of Research in Personality uncovered that readers of narrative fiction score highly on tests of empathy and social acumen. Not only that, but they score more highly on tests involving social reasoning . This kind of skill allows great leaders to connect with others on an emotional level, and it provides them with the emotional basis to tell compelling stories that engage others.

 

2. Fiction increases social ability.

Reading fiction puts you in somebody else’s head, and studies show that this is good practice for us in our ability to relate– not just to people on a one-on-one level– but to groups and in differing social situations. Fiction provides information on how and why people react to combinations of social forces, and by putting ourselves in the mind of the main character, we are challenging our own perspectives. This skill comes in handy for every leader, but you can imagine that a politician without high levels of emotional intelligence and with a less-than-perfect ability to maneuver socially might not retain favorable polls for very long.

 

3. Fiction enriches brain functioning.

Of all of our organs, the brain is the only one that will continue to grow and function if we nourish it properly. Reading fiction provides your brain with new scenarios that buff up our brains. And fiction gets us more involved than you might think: our brains are responsible for constructing the voices, appearances, gestures, and even smells of characters and scenes in novels. When we watch a play or see a film, many of these interpretations are resolved for us– so here’s a brain-enriching tip: read the book before you see the movie.

 

'War and Peace' became Nelson Mandela's favorite book when he read it during his years in prison in South Africa.

Nelson Mandela first read his favorite book, 'War and Peace,' while in prison in South Africa.

4. Fiction makes you more creative.

According to research conducted at Emory University, the brain’s reward pathways respond more strongly to unexpected stimuli rather than expected stimuli. Fiction, more so than other genres of literature, provides the most unexpected stimuli. Readers’ brains light up as they face new scenarios. Being exposed to these kinds of creative forces teaches our minds to think and act creatively in return. Want to perfect your creative problem-solving skills? Studies say that detective fiction will help.

 

5. Fiction makes you smarter. Fiction makes you smarter in two ways. First, reading has been shown to increase vocabulary and vocabulary is arguably the best single predictor of occupational success. Second, fiction exposes you to different time periods and cultures. It’s impossible to read The Great Gatsby without getting a sense of the prosperity of the roaring twenties in America. The Grapes of Wrath takes readers back to the Great Depression. Not only do readers get a professionally beneficial dose of vocabulary by reading fiction, but they also get an engaging history lesson and taste of other cultures.

Posted on by colleendilen in Education, Leadership, Lessons Learned, Social Change, Words of Wisdom 1 Comment

Lessons from Haiti: Mobile Giving in 2010

This post is a prompt by the Nonprofit Millennial Bloggers Alliance to further increase awareness of the Haiti earthquake and its victims, and highlight take-aways for nonprofit organizations and their supporters.

A (made-up) business card with a call to action.

Since the 7.0 magnitude earthquake in Haiti last week, American’s have been publicizing ways to give to those affected by the crisis– and we’ve raised well over 150 million dollars for the cause. 11 million dollars have come from a single donation method: texting. (and this is already outdated! Mashable was encouraging readers to donate in order to raise 20 million dollars by midnight last night through the Red Cross Text Message Campaign alone.)

Folks can donate $10 from their cell phone bill to Red Cross relief efforts by SMS texting “HAITI” to 90999, or donate $5 to Yele Haiti’s Earthquake relief efforts by SMS texting “YELE” to 501501. It’s the cool, new way to give. It’s easy and it adds up. Though this method of giving is not ideal for the Haiti crisis (as funds need to be delivered immediately and may be held up), the widespread popularity of this method of giving offers a new strategy for nonprofits’ to incorporate in their fundraising plans. There’s reason to believe that nonprofits who can work with organizations like the Mobile Giving Foundation to incorporate mobile giving will see, as evidenced through text-based giving to the Haiti crisis, an increase in donations and a new kind of donor. Here’s why:

 

It’s easy to give through text. The average American sends 14 text messages every day, and as a country, we send 4.1 billion text messages each day. Mobile phone use has continued to increase for years. In order to give, the donor doesn’t even need to get his or her credit card ready. He or she simply sends a text message and the donation is taken from the donor’s cell phone bill. The easier it is to do something, the more likely people are to do it. We all know how to text, so we all know how to give.

 

Mobile makes it cool to give. Cell phones are providing us with the newest and easiest ways to do everything. You can manage your bank account with your iphone or use it as a GPS. The ability to give via text message is another cool, new way for Americans to use a convenient tool that they already love. It combines technology and giving. There’s instant appeal.

 

Small donations add up. Donating $10 to Haiti via text message does not sound like a big donation– but American’s have collectively donated over 11 million via text (at the very least); that’s more than 1,100,000 people using their cell phones to donate to Haiti. Nonprofits could, over time, raise a lot of money for their cause. What if nonprofits add the call to action in their e-mail signature or on business cards? It’s an open door to easy giving that can lead to major funding.

 

Small donations build relationships. A downside to text-based donations is that it is one-way giving. Though it is up to the donor to follow-up and continue to build a relationship with the organization/make themselves known, the first step of the fundraising pyramid has taken place because the donor felt connected to the cause and contributed. Nonprofits should utilize text-based giving to strengthen their fundraising efforts– especially if they are active on Twitter, Facebook, or other types of social media where they have many fans, but are having troubles transforming them into donors.

Posted on by colleendilen in Community Engagement, Lessons Learned, Nonprofits, Social Change, Social Media, Technology 6 Comments