Performance P m e Nonprofit WHAT YOU NEED TO SUCCEED! Vol. 3 No. 1 Magazine 360
The Science Behind Effective Growth
Accelerating Ideas to Marketplace
Expanding Your Grant Support
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Contributing Writers Sticky Ideas from a Non-Stick Source Scott Koorndyk Ever-Changing World HiRho Park Leveraging Storytelling into Story-Doing Terrance DeShaun Smith Adapting to an
Board Relations Nonprofit Boards as Idea Generators 9 Hugh Ballou
Grants Corner Simple Ways
to Expand Your Grant Support Cynthia M. Adams
Nonprofits that Work 3e Restoration 12 Encourage, Equip and Empower 13 Tammy Harden
Are You in the Arena?
Reaching Beyond Success
Featured Personality Ideas that Spread
Academic Desk Hashtags Raise Stories
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above the Fray Stacy Wellborn
Planning Blueprint to Organizational
and Personal Success Jeffrey Magee
Strategy What Gives a Program Wings?
Cheryl Snapp Conner
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4 I Nonprofit Performance Magazine
The Official Guide to All Things Nonprofit Nonprofit Performance Magazine brings impact which spreads hope and direction to those who are changing their communities and the world. This magazine is a great resource for nonprofit executives and religious leaders. • Learn from key thought leaders who can assist you in propelling your organization to reach its potential • Read in-depth stories written by those who have found success at the front line of the social benefit journey • Learn about the impact of community, communication, and collaboration in your organization
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Next Edition Highlights
Times change. Organizations change. But does the way we lead and manage in the nonprofit keep pace with the rate of change we see in other types of organizations? In this upcoming issue of Nonprofit Performance Magazine, we focus on how new ideas, leadership styles, and forms of management are influencing the nonprofit organization. We will focus on the breakdown of the organizational hierarchy, the influence of Millennials on leadership, and how insight from other disciplines is changing the way we think about the nonprofit organization, with articles by leading authors, practitioners, academics, and more!
SynerVision Leadership .org I 5
From the Editor...
Watching the surge of online activity in the summer of 2014 I was struck by the flood of interest in the Ice Bucket Challenge. In a world in which we throw ‘viral’ around all too often, this was a campaign that truly had become contagious. Facebook was bursting with the videos. Athletes, actors, musicians, and members of the media were participating. Even the President joined in on the fun! The impact was amazing. Funds raised in 2014, the year of the Challenge, totaled over $115 million, which far surpasses the $23.5 million raised the prior year. What is it about this campaign that connected with the people? Was it that it called on people to participate in an action that was accessible to anyone and even viewable by others? Did ALS do something in this campaign that we could better understand and teach? Was this the rise of slackivism, and was this a good or bad thing for the nonprofit? In hindsight, I wondered what and how we could specifically learn from this phenomenon. At that time, I thought back to a great book on marketing, Contagious, that I had read about a year before, and I wondered if it would be possible to get the author, Jonah Berger, to help me understand these questions and more. When he agreed, we started bringing this issue into focus. This issue is geared to the nonprofit that is inquisitive, the leaders who are asking good questions, the people who want to know more about why some things work and others don’t. In this issue we explore the models that are leading real change in education, homelessness, storytelling, and many other important causes. Through this issue, we want to prompt you to ask some deep questions and pursue the answers: What is it that makes ideas and practices spread? What makes a marketing campaign for one nonprofit flop, and one go viral? What is it about an event, story, or medium that causes people to wake up and take notice, and what makes it fade away? May your work become contagious as you impact many! Todd Greer
6 I Nonprofit Performance Magazine
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8 I Nonprofit Performance Magazine
Hugh Ballou Board Relations
Nonprofit Boards as Idea Generators
U tilizing a nonprofit’s board of directors’ talents properly is an uphill climb for most leaders whether leading a religious institution, local charity, national nonprofit, or educational organization. We’ve been taught leadership wrong, and we have inherited systems that aren’t working for maximum effectiveness. In fact, in my 30+ years of work with charities, I’ve yet to find a board that functions up to the level of its capabilities. In working with these organizations, I have identified some of the common factors that set up low-performing boards, committees, staff, and other stakeholders, which can be a key factor to idea generation. Often, I find that leaders don’t know how to seek team synergy, considering it a weakness to ask for input from those they lead. But it’s the effective leader who knows how to ask effective questions and knows that good leadership is asking good questions and not having to come up with all the answers. United Methodist Bishop Dick Wills, in Nashville, Tennessee, gave me good advice on creating a vision. We were exploring my upcoming engagement with the Cabinet and I asked about creating a vision for the future of the Conference. He responded that he didn’t remember anywhere in the Bible where God gave a vision to a committee. He was spot on! It’s the leader’s duty and delight to hold the vision. But the leader doesn’t implement the vision alone or create actions for achieving that vision. Leaders set up basic traps for low- functioning nonprofit boards. The first is over-functioning. If the leader wants the board to champion new ideas, then the leader shouldn’t determine all the ideas and actions. First, define the future, and then lead the process by getting out of the way.
Culture : Different teams have differ- ent norms. Shaping the culture is the pleasure of the leader. Shaping a cul- ture of collaboration is an intentional process that takes time.Moving from a board where there are territories, silos, independent thinking and divisions to a cooperative culture utilizing consen- sus takes time. It’s well worth the time investment for long-term gains. Com- petitive teams block progress. Rem- edy: Understand and utilize consensus as a way to create a collaborative culture. Process : We don’t know how to conduct meetings and most board members dread the board meeting because it’s boring, restrictive, and mostly unproductive. Remedy : Get and use my Conducting Power-Packed Meetings free download on synervision.us. Communication : Most groups don’t under- stand how to communicate. We think com- munication means sharing data. Communi- cation is based on effective relationships. Remedy: When the team creates the idea and the plan, they support the plan. No exceptions.
There are many factors for team empowerment. I subscribe to the paradigm of a musical ensemble as a model for a high- performing team.The leader is the influencer and the model for the culture. The ensemble is a reflection of the leader. It’s no different in a non-musical culture. We must create a process for achieving success from the most relevant and impactful ideas generated. There’s no shortage of ideas a board can generate for the leader and staff to do. It’s engaging the board for implementation that matters. The strategies for empowering team idea generation and empowering participation are not complex. In fact, leaders generally make things too complicated. Here are four factors for getting maximum impact from a board of directors for idea generation and implementation. Size: Size matters. The more people, the more difficult it is making decisions. Having a large board (over 20 members) allows for lots of assignments and activity; however, the potential for getting locked in discussion and not coming to an effective decision is also large. Remedy : Brainstorm, sort, and prioritize ideas by relevance, time, cost, or another factor, and then appoint a three-person project team to move forward with creating a plan and defining specific outcomes.
Hugh Ballou is a Trans- formational Leadership Strategist and President and Founder of SynerVi- sion Leadership Founda- tion. A musical conductor for forty years, Hugh has written eight books on Transformational Lead- ership, and works with
leaders in religious organizations and business and nonprofit communities as executive coach, process facilitator, trainer, and motivational speaker, teaching leaders the fine-tuned skills employed every day by or- chestral conductors.
SynerVision Leadership .org I 9
Cynthia M. Adams
Simple Ways to ExpandYour Grant Support
I n our semiannual State of Grantseeking survey, we regularly hear, “We apply to grantmakers we are familiar with, but do not have time to search for other funding sources for specific projects or needs.” It’s easy to get stuck on a treadmill when it comes to grantseeking,and very difficult to expand outside our comfort zones. These tips will help you develop a larger cadre of funders for your organization without spending a lot of research time. Go through your operating budget to see which items you can offset by finding product donations. One group sent me a list of items that they would be purchasing this year: New computers (3) New scanner (1) New corkboards (2) Hanging file folders (2 boxes) Copy paper (6 boxes) Toner for copier/fax machine Office cleaning supplies New vacuum cleaner I sent this list to Good360 and asked what, if anything, on this list they could donate (registered nonprofits pay only shipping). They had many of the office products, such as toner, file folders, corkboards, etc., and many of the cleaning supplies, including the vacuum. Take advantage of clearinghouses such as Good360 and TechSoup for product donations that will lessen the money you need to raise each year. Because these redistribution centers are usually a simple registration and you can order what you need, procurement is easy.
an individual who wants to help raise funds for your good work, when they simply aren’t cut out to do a 1-on-1 ask or to plan and execute a fundraising event. Be sure to guide their research. Prepare a simple project description worksheet that will keep them on track as they do their research. The project description worksheet should contain these sections: 1. Short narrative articulating the need for this project 2. Short narrative describing the program or project you need funded 3. Budget for the project (put as much detail into this as you can, including brand names) 4. Key words that include the geographic area you will cover, the type of support you need (planning money, equipment funds, program funds, etc.) and the specific areas of interest (health, public clinic, health education, etc.) Provide the researcher with very clear guidelines to prevent wasting time by asking grantmakers that would never fund this particular project. And provide them with a reliable resource such as GrantStation or the Foundation Center, so their research is efficient. Cynthia Adams has spent the past 40 years helping nonprofits raise the money needed for their good work. She opened GrantStation because grantseeking requires a thorough understanding of the variety and scope of grantmakers and sound knowledge of the philanthropic playing field. Her life’s work has been to level that playing field, creating an opportunity for all nonprofit organizations to access the wealth of grant opportunities across the U.S. and throughout the world. www.grantstation.com
Now look at your vendor list. You pay those folks for their services.These are all potential donors, or can lead you to potential donors. Spend a little time thinking about each one because it is easy to overlook good sources. For example, one of your vendors is an insurance company. The local insurance agent may not be the right person to ask for support, because you will only get a $100 donation. You want your insurance agent to make a warm introduction to the national corporate giving office or to the company’s foundation. This sort of introduction enables building a new relationship that could eventually produce a significant contribution. If the insurance agent tells you they don’t know anyone at the corporate office (and they probably won’t), don’t be put off; ask for a letter of introduction and support that you can attach to your request. It is an easy thing for them to do, and it always makes a difference in the attention your request will receive. Looking at your list of vendors requires a little strategic thinking, but it can pay off and it takes very little research time. Expand the grantmakers you apply to for support, without expending much of your time, by giving this task to a volunteer or the fundraising committee.This is a great job for
10 I Nonprofit Performance Magazine
SynerVision Leadership .org I 11
Nonprofits that Work
H omelessness is not a new phenomenon. Shelters, soup kitchens, and a wide variety of connected programs have been implemented in communities all across the globe with varying levels of success. These programs usually have a heavy focus on met- rics, and while they have a goal of assisting an individual in the transition from homeless- ness to housed, they typically only achieve short-term relief. In a town often thought of for its picturesque historical village, prestigious college, and role in the founding of our country, people rarely think of Williamsburg, Virginia, in terms of poverty and homelessness. Yet, according to the most recent census, 9.3% of families in the city of Williamsburg were under the pov- erty level, including almost 30% of those un- der 18. While few visitors would encounter the challenges present in the community, the reality of need can’t be denied. 3e Restoration Ministry, founded by Fred Liggin in 2014, has taken shape in the midst of this setting. This organization has sought to challenge many of the prevailing standards of operation in work with homeless individu- als. As a result, they state that their focus is on process, not programs. A brief overview of the organization and its language quickly paint a picture of a different type of organi- zation. Most organizations working with this population would refer to individuals as cli- ents, not Friends in Need, the term that 3e uses in describing those with whom they are blessed to serve.
The 3e Restoration Process is concerned, not so much with transitions, but with deeper concerns: transformation. In the framework of its unique model, the organization points to the importance and impact of friendship that is necessary to walk with those in need. 3e approaches homelessness in a holistic way, addressing the whole person. At the core of the 3e methodology is a commitment to de- veloping community and friendship. The organizational approach that 3e utilizes is heavily grounded in theory and practice. The organization collects and examines qual- itative data in the form of stories, incidents and symbols that represent the systemic shifts taking place in the lives of the Friends in Need. 3e has determined key dimensions of activity and quantitatively examines what the Friend in Need successfully attains when placed, in contrast to how these activities were performed in the past, e.g., learning and applying symbols, making better or more in- formed decisions versus impulsive decision making, or accomplishing major tasks versus procrastination or running from responsibili- ties. This unique framework is built on the com- mitments of partnering organizations. Churches or other organizations wishing to participate follow a standard model that includes Partnering Churches/Faith Com- munities, Servant Leadership Coordinators, 3e Coaches, All-in Friends, and the Friend/ Family-in-Need. By recognizing the reality of needs that are present for people walking
in homelessness, 3e has developed a power- ful approach to an issue that deeply impacts families from generation to generation. As a Friend in Need transitions from home- lessness to housed, or from extreme poverty to stability, a total life re-orientation must take place. In other words, they must expe- rience more than behavioral modification. They must experience systemic change and transformation. 3e believes that homelessness and poverty affects the whole person physically, emotion- ally, cognitively, socially, and spiritually. They term this the Five-Fold Reality of Poverty and Brokenness™. In its literature, 3e points to the tendency over the past several decades to address poverty by influencing one to three of these realities, but failing to address all five realities in a holistic and systemic manner. While 3e Restoration has only been in exis- tence for two years, its transformative impact is already being noticed throughout southeast Virginia and has been implemented in Fred- ericksburg, Virginia, with other communities seeking to implement the 3e process strate- gies in communities across the United States. In the next pages, you will hear from Tammy Harden, Executive Director of 3e Restora- tion Ministry.
12 I Nonprofit Performance Magazine
Nonprofits that Work
Encourage, Equip and Empower 3e Restoration
W hat if serving others were something that didn’t drain us, but a process that both aided the holistic growth of the individual and also contributed to the development of an organization? That very ideal sits at the heart of most organizations in the nonprofit sector. Yet, sadly, we often fall short. Since the founding of 3e Restoration in March 2014, we have been able to embark on a journey. Our founder, Fred Liggin, joined with clinical psychologist Dr. James Goalder to create a unique curriculum that trains a community, typically a local church, to walk with Friends in Need. Not seeking simply to patch the holes and send our homeless friends on their way, we believe that homelessness and poverty affects the whole person physically, emotionally, cognitively, socially, and spiritually, the Five-Fold Reality of Poverty and Brokenness™. At 3e Restoration, we believe in what we do because we have seen it work, not only in the lives of our Friends in Need, but in our partnering organizations. We regularly hear from our partnering churches that the holistic and deeply relational approach of 3e has provided the local congregation with an opportunity to live their mission, without feeling like they are simply engaging in another program or offering some transactional ministry. The core of the program revolves around our values: Justice, Love, Friendship, Gracious Hospitality, Relentless Hope, Compassion, and Listening. This foundation allows us to encourage, equip, and empower faith communities to walk a journey with our Friends in Need, seeking to break the cycle of homelessness and extreme poverty through
Five-Fold Reality of Poverty and Brokenness. 2. Social &Cultural Anthropology: Moving Beyond Crisis Management Our approach specifically addresses the narratives and structures from which Friends derive their systems of meaning and behavior. Our training and curriculum is designed to uncover the personal narratives that possess power in a Friend’s life and how these narratives are formed by relationships, experiences, nature, culture and language. Our curriculum also equips the Friend to understand how systems of meaning are supported by and embedded in the values, institutions, rules/ laws, and symbols that set the parameters by which life is envisioned in society, and ultimately determine what behaviors are acceptable. Addressing these areas empowers the Friend for systemic change by helping them recognize behavioral patterns and their origins. 3. Memorable CoachingTools: Moving Beyond Behavioral Modification We believe that equipping a Friend in Need for holistic sufficiency means giving them the tools to build character and competency. These tools must be accessible regardless of educational level. They must be easy for the Friend to recall and employ in real-life sce- narios, but must offer more than behavioral modification and empower the Friend to- ward systemic change. Therefore, these tools must work together to address the Five-Fold Reality of Poverty and Brokenness. We call these coaching tools Growth Symbols. Our curriculum offers nine Growth Symbols de- signed to improve decision-making skills, de- crease impulsivity, strengthen personal iden- tity, foster positive self-worth, identify false narratives, increase relational intelligence, en-
systemic change, one friend or family at a time. 3e brings together the best models from various disciplines to tackle the challenge of homelessness. Our model takes into account four areas of influence. 1. Situated LearningTheory: Moving Beyond Information-Based Learning We believe that learning must be more than the transmission of factual knowledge or information. Learning involves participation in practice communities that are situated within authentic activity, context and cultures. The 3e Restoration Process© is grounded in intentional relationships and learning environments where the information offered is demonstrated and practiced in real-life contexts and relationships. Our procedure is guided by the 3e Process House© and led by the Servant-Leader Coordinator (SLC) and includes a network of All-in Friends and 3e coaches. In a learning model, the Friend in Need is encouraged toward self- direction while considering the surrounding relationships, contexts and cultures. This helps the Friend discern how and why actions have consequences in their own life and in the lives of others. A healthy framework for interdependence is constructed and an unhealthy framework of co-dependence or isolationist-independence is deconstructed. This model of learning serves as the basis for goals and expectations in light of the
SynerVision Leadership .org I 13
courage holistic self-examination, and bolster personal productivity. 4. Hospitality as Leadership: Moving Beyond Hierarchical Benevolence and Transactional Engagement to Relational Engagement and Presence. Hospitality as leadership is an approach grounded in practices of listening, mutual learning and relational engagement. Hospitality, in ancient Near Eastern tradition, is understood as tending to a stranger, and has moral dimensions that cause a person to leverage their circumstances or resources for the good of another within the context of relational engagement.We train our SLCs to move beyond the notions of hierarchical benevolence led by transactions, and toward holistic sufficiency where relationship is always the chief concern. Hospitality as leadership battles the tendency to objectify a Friend in Need as someone needing to be fixed and leads the SLC to prioritize presence through listening practices (e.g., reflective listening). Listening creates the opportunity for mutual learning, whereby the SLC understands that people living through homelessness have something to offer. Mutual learning nurtures genuine concern and, over time, emphasizes a common humanity that develops a relationship that affirms, confronts and outlines mutually beneficial boundaries. Througha strategic utilizationof this approach within the confines of a community-building approach, 3e has been able to accomplish much in our first 20 months: • 17 Friends/Families in Need have been permanently housed, with 16 actively participating in the 3e Restoration ministry. • 12 Friends/Families have been stabilized through temporary housing with another six pending. • 36 individuals from 14 faith communities have been trained as SLCs. • 13 SLCs from six partnering churches are actively working with a Friend/Family. • 2 organizations are receiving services from our Consulting Division. We are also excited to be a recipient of the Governor’s Homeless Reduction Grant. The grant program through the Virginia Housing Trust Fund provides assistance to projects
that address homelessness needs in the Commonwealth and support state housing policy. 3e Restoration was awarded the grant’s maximum amount, based on the Department of Housing and Community Development’s scoring process. The bedrock of the organization, however, is found in the stories of those we have walked with that tell the true impact of 3e Restoration: Frank was a field engineer for a Fortune 500 company until his mother became ill. Finding no other options, Frank had to quit his job to care for her. Then, a car accident left Frank injured, jobless, penniless, and homeless. Through his journey with 3e, Frank has found All-in Friends who have walked with him on his journey toward self-sufficiency and faith. Frank now lives in a house, has a good job, and is finishing his college degree. Drake had just gotten out of jail, had recently lost his mother, and was kicked out of his winter shelter due to drug possession when he connected with 3e Restoration. One of our board members, Carl, had mentored Drake when he was a child. Carl and Holley, another former mentor, walked with Drake on the journey to restoration, working with him almost daily for several weeks. Drake now holds two jobs, is sober, and is preparing to go back to school. Through our three divisions (Restoration, Consulting, and Housing), we are able to help the socially displaced, train social service agencies,and help find permanent housing for our Friends in Need.This work is done as we approach each person holistically, recognize their unique situation and offer them a unique plan, assist them in skill development and the making of healthy choices, surround them with a caring community, and assist the restoration of their physical, emotional, cognitive, social, and spiritual health. Tammy Harden, whose passion is to walk alongside those in need, is the Executive Director of 3e Restoration. A long-time volunteer with many local agencies and nonprofits, she has focused in recent years on consulting and project management in the areas of affordable housing and housing for persons with disabilities. www.3erestoration.com
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Our Drink Water and Give campaign suggests that people drink water when they go out to eat, using their monthly savings on beverages as a recurring donation to 3e Restoration.
14 I Nonprofit Performance Magazine
Sticky Ideas from a Non-Stick Source
A s the leader of a nonprofit organization focused on accelerating the transition of ideas from the research laboratory to the marketplace, I’m fascinated by great innovations.Those innovations contain great lessons for those of us in the business of “ideas.”One of my favorites is the story behind the invention of Teflon™. Teflon is the third slipperiest substance in existence – even geckos can’t climb it. But for all of Teflon’s “non-stickiness,” there are some great lessons on what makes great ideas sticky. On April 6, 1938, Dr. Roy Plunkett and his Assistant, Jack Rebok, were in the laboratory actively working on ideas for new forms of non-toxic refrigerants. One of the samples they were testing didn’t behave as they expected. When they opened the valve to the cylinder containing the new refrigerant, the cylinder wouldn’t empty. They cut the cylinder open and found an unexpected white, waxy substance. That unexpected substance became Teflon and is, almost 80 years later, still the basis for a market with annual revenues of more than $1 billion. What can we learn from Dr. Plunkett’s sticky non-stick idea? Sticky Ideas Aren’t Loners – andThey Aren’t Alone Dr. Plunkett wasn’t pursuing a single idea. He wasn’t even pursuing what would later become Teflon. He was pursuing a clear objective, however. In his quest to identify a non-toxic refrigerant, he evaluated dozens of different chemical compositions. Taken as a whole, these experiments created the environment for a sticky idea to emerge.
and entrepreneurs resist bringing new people into their business. While that is understandable, it almost always results in frustration or failure. The best leaders know their strengths and weaknesses, and surround themselves with people who supplement their skills. And, when the time is right, those same leaders know that turning the reins over to someone else, whether on a project, an event, or a great idea, may actually be the path to success. By the way, Dr. Plunkett was promoted within DuPont, and became a member of the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 1985. What can leaders of nonprofit organizations learn from Dr. Plunkett’s accidental development of Teflon? As leaders, our greatest contribution should be in the creation of an environment where great ideas can flourish; we should always lean forward, knowing that action and progress is always better than mere contemplation; and finally, know your strengths, and when others can take a great idea forward, further and faster. Have a wonderful 2016, filled with sticky great ideas! Scott Koorndyk is President of The Entrepreneurs Center (www.TECdayton.com), a technology com- mercialization accelerator located in Dayton, Ohio. For most of his career, Scott has focused on intellectual property management, technology identification and development, and early-stage capital investments in diverse for-profit and nonprofit businesses. Scott has a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry from Hope College in Holland, Michigan, and a Juris Doctorate (J.D.) from the University of Dayton School of Law, with a concentration in Intellectual Property law. SKoorndyk@tecdayton.com
Successful nonprofit leaders, entrepreneurs and business people know that real magic happens when an organization has its eyes firmly fixed on clear objectives, while fostering an environment that encourages lots of divergent thinking and contrary views. They also know that ideas aren’t ever really alone. Somewhere, someone is thinking about the same challenge, the same market space, or the same customers. Sticky Ideas Aren’t Ideas for Long In our current innovation culture, we sometimes put too much emphasis on the value of ideas. Unfortunately, ideas don’t magically identify themselves and transform into things of value. Did you catch the description of what Dr. Plunkett was doing? He was “in the laboratory actively working” on an experiment. He wasn’t sitting in his office thinking deep thoughts, writing papers or theorizing. He was in the mix, working, translating a scientific idea into reality. From that energy came his happy accident. Sticky ideas come from translational development, not passive thoughts. It Takes a Village to Raise a Sticky Idea When the properties of Teflon were better understood within The DuPont Company (Dr. Plunkett’s employer), responsibility for the substance was transferred to chemists with greater experience in polymer development. Too often, nonprofit leaders
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Jonah Berger Featured Personality
Ideas that Spread
S ocial benefit and nonprofit organizations need to grow to be effective. They have an important message and are doing really good work, but they need to get their message out there. It’s not enough just to do good work; you have to get your ideas to catch on. Unfortunately, many organizations don’t have a huge budget to spend on advertising. So, very simply, how can they get the word out? Word of mouth is a really powerful tool to do that. Not only is it ten times as effective as traditional advertising, it’s much cheaper. It’s much easier to diffuse that message if you can get people to talk and share your message. You don’t need a big advertising budget - you just have to figure out how to turn your customers or, in this case, supporters, into advocates. That’s really where the science comes in. We all know word of mouth matters. The last book we bought or movie we watched often came from someone we know. But to get word of mouth to work for us and get our ideas to spread, we have to understand why people share some things more than others. Sometimes we look at word of mouth, and at content that gets shared, and we think it’s random, it’s luck, or it’s chance. We think it’s a pot of lightning; there’s no way there’s a formula there! But there is a formula. Taking STEPPS We’ve looked at thousands of pieces of online content, at word of mouth from tens of thousands of brands, and at millions of purchases and, again and again, we see the same six factors coming up. I put them in
there’s a spike in shares, then it goes down, and another spike, and then it goes down, and another spike, and then it goes down. The spikes aren’t random. They’re seven days apart, every Wednesday or, as it’s colloquially known, hump day. While the content itself doesn’t change, when Wednesday rolls around, it provides a ready reminder, what psychologists call a trigger , to make people think about it and talk about it and share it. Something that’s top of mind is much more likely to be tip of tongue. If I said peanut butter and ..., you would say, jelly . If I said rum and... , you would likely finish with Coke . The point is that some things remind us of other things, even if those things aren’t present in the moment. The more frequent those reminders are, the more likely we are to think of those things. Peanut butter’s almost like a little advertisement for jelly. Jelly doesn’t have to remind us to get it. Peanut butter does all the work for jelly. If you look at what people talk about and share, much of it is driven by what’s top of mind, not just what’s interesting. If people are sitting around, you talk about what you’re doing this weekend and you talk about the weather.Those things aren’t the most exciting, but they’re top of mind. The weather’s right around us and the weekend’s right around the corner, so we’re triggered to think about it. Remember the Link Nonprofits too often ask if people like their message, not if people will think about their message. To make sure people think about your message, you’ve got to link your idea to
a framework that I call STEPPS. It’s not random, luck or chance - there’s a science here. STEPPS stands for S - social currency
T - triggers E - emotion P - public P - practical value S - stories
Each of those principles is a psychological driver of what people share. By understanding them, we can get all sorts of content, ideas, and messages to be more successful. We wonder too often how much people will like our message when they hear it. But we don’t worry as much as we should about whether they’ll remember to talk about it and share it later. You might be familiar with the GEICO ad for hump day, with the camel walking around the office, asking what day it is. At the end, someone says, “It’s hump day,” the camel gets really excited, and the ad says, “How happy are people to save money with GEICO? Happier than a camel on hump day.” The ad is a little funny, but it’s not that funny. GEICO didn’t spend much money putting it out there, yet it was the second most-shared ad of 2014. When you look at the data to find out why, you see an interesting pattern:
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something in the environment. You have to find that trigger, or that peanut butter, that is out there, so that every time they see it, they think of you. For example, Corona’s done a great job of linking their product with the beach. When you go to the beach, you can’t help thinking about Corona. If I’m a nonprofit, a social organization, what in the environment is going to remind people of my message? How can I make sure to link my message to the things that are going to come frequently, rather than infrequently? Let’s say you’re a cancer organization. When someone says that their spouse just came down with cancer, that’s going to be a reminder for us to remember the message for your organization. Beyond those sorts of things, people might not think about it. People say they love the environment and they care about it a lot, but if they’re not reminded to think about it, they’re not going to think about your environmental organization and take action. We did a study trying to get people to eat fruits and vegetables. Everybody knows they should eat more fruits and vegetables; they agree with the message, yet they don’t change. It’s not that they don’t want to change. They just forget when they’re at the grocery store or at the restaurant what they’re supposed to be picking. If you link something as a trigger, for example linking eating more fruits and vegetables to a tray in a student dining hall, people are 25% more likely to pick fruits and vegetables.The message itself isn’t any better, but people think about it more often.They see the tray in their dining hall, they remember the message, and that changes what they choose. If you find that peanut butter, if you find that trigger, they’re much more likely to think about your message. Case Studies: Livestrong and the Ice Bucket Challenge When the Livestrong campaign was in full swing, it became a massive social currency thing. You saw that yellow silicone bracelet on everybody. It had that sense of social currency, and it also moved things forward as a trigger as people thought about cancer research. The social currency one gained in wearing that simple yellow silicone bracelet was important to why it became contagious. Nonprofits are a good cause, an important cause. People support these causes partially because of what it says about them. What does it say about you if you support one cause versus another? What does it say about you if
you participate in the Ice Bucket Challenge? What it signals or communicates is actually very important, even if people sometimes don’t want to admit it. I think lots of organizations saw the Ice Bucket Challenge as being exactly what they need to do. The challenge worked because it’s a perfect example of some of these principles. With social currency, for example, it’s very hard to back down, particularly if it’s in a public situation. If someone sends you a letter and asks you to donate, that’s very private, very unobservable, so no one knows whether you decided you’re willing to do it. But if someone asks you publicly, it’s like challenging someone to a duel; it’s much harder to back down from that. In Back to the Future , one character calls Marty McFly a chicken, and he can’t back down. If someone challenges you to do a pro-social thing in a letter, you can just throw the letter away and no one will know. It’s much harder to back down if someone in the middle of a room challenges you. That publicness really encouraged people to do it. It also allowed people to put their own personal spin on it. It wasn’t just doing exactly what everyone else was doing. It was a mix of supporting the cause and showing how you’re going to pour the bucket over your head: lukewarm water rather than ice- cold water, for example. It allowed people to express some individual personality, which helped a good bit. And, finally, there is emotion. It was very surprising the first time somebody did it. We hadn’t seen a campaign like that before and, because of that surprise, that higher level of emotion, people became much more likely to share. But the campaign also showed us the value of slacktivism (the desire people have to do something good without getting out of their chair, as defined by Barbara Mikkelson) in a larger campaign. Two things are important here. First, it would be great if people not only donated money and poured a bucket of water over their head, but they also learned about ALS along the way. Even if this raised a small amount of money, and raised awareness among a few people, it’s better than nothing, particularly for the low-budget or no-budget that the ALS Association put behind this. While we hope that everyone is going to learn a lot from it, the bigger thing is it changed social movement; it became a part of culture, similar to the pink breast
cancer and yellow Livestrong campaigns.The organization would love everybody to fully understand the details of the message. Even if not everyone fully understands it, but they encourage others to do it, that’s beneficial at the end of the day. The Takeaway That said, I don’t think that the goal of the board of a nonprofit should be to create the next Ice Bucket Challenge. Too many organizations want to do a version of that: take videos of spraying people with ketchup or mustard, post them online, and that will be really successful. But copying something that’s happened before isn’t going to make you successful, and you don’t need a viral video or viral message to get your ideas out there. You just need to turn your members or supporters into advocates. Millions of advocates would be great, but you need to be happy if every person who supported your cause in the past told just one more person about you. That would give you many more supporters than you had already. The point is that the notion of viral videos has gotten people focused a little too much online, and a little too much on going huge, rather than just thinking about how to, person by person, build the message. Only 7% of word of mouth is online; much of it is offline. It’s important to think more about the psychology, rather than the technology. Too often we think we need a viral video or a social media campaign. What you need is a message that people share, online or offline. Triggers are one of the things that prompt people to share and they are vital to anything being spread. When developing a campaign, I would ask four key questions, four keys to triggers: Who? - When? - What? - How? Who do I want to have triggered? I don’t necessarily want everyone to be triggered. I don’t need everyone from grandmothers to 16-year-old guys to be triggered. Who are the key individuals, the folks that I’m going after? When is the right time to get them to be triggered? Take reusable grocery bags: everyone has them, but we tend not to remember them until we get to the store or when we’re in the checkout line, which is too late, because you’re not going to go back home to get them. It’s not just thinking about who we want to be triggered, but the right time, the ideal point, to think about it.
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Then, what is in the environment around that time? For reusable grocery bags, what’s in the environment when people leave home, and how can we link those things together? I did a project with America Walks, trying to get more people to walk in the United States. It’s a big important cause.We realized that on every corner where there’s a traffic light, there’s often a Walk and a Don’t Walk sign. Why can’t we make the Walk sign a reminder for people to walk more? We see that often, but we don’t think about it. It’s a great potential trigger to remind people that they should be walking more frequently. So we thought a lot about how we could create that link. You may not have a lot of money to create that link. But thinking about who, when, what, and how, is a way to begin to think about effectively creating those links. Not every campaign is going to have the success of an Ice Bucket Challenge or a Red Cross Give Blood campaign, but if you approach your campaigns as each-one-reach- one, you are making great impact. When helping organizations set realistic targets, I focus on the nuts and bolts of getting each individual to talk to one more person,focusing on the why, the how these campaigns work, rather than creating a viral video. Viral videos are often flashes in the pan - they’re here today, gone tomorrow. Most organizations don’t want just a flash in the pan; they want to create enduring change. Thinking about the mechanisms of conversation is important, and measurement is important, too. It is much better to focus on realistic short-term goals that will play out over a longer time span, rather than shooting for the moon and assuming that everybody can do it. Sometimes it is hard for social causes, because people tend to believe the cause is so important that it shouldn’t need to be marketed: we’re curing diseases, we’re helping underprivileged individuals, we’re dealing with mental health. It’s a good cause, so we don’t need to market it. But it’s useful to think about the difference between broccoli and a cheeseburger. I often ask people which is tastier, broccoli or a cheeseburger? Everyone chooses the cheeseburger. But the government has spent huge amounts of money saying we need to eat more broccoli. Everyone knows eating more broccoli is the right thing to do, but they don’t always do it, because the cheeseburger’s tastier. It’s just the way we’re designed. The cheese is fantastic,
it’s got bacon on top, it’s salty, it’s delicious, it’s fatty, and our tongues and minds light up when we taste it. That analogy of some food being tastier than others can be put to ideas. Some messages, some ideas, are tastier than others, based on the way they’re billed - not based on the way they fit with our stomachs or our tongues, but the way they fit with people’s minds. The broccoli, the good message, might be right, but that doesn’t mean it will resonate with people. We have to understand how to make that message tastier, how to build and package and market it. Think about Brussels sprouts, for example. It used to be a gross food and no one wanted to eat them, but if you roast them with a little bit of onion, they’re delicious. Thinking about how we market and package that idea is very important. It’s not enough to say that Brussels sprouts and broccoli are good for you. We need to think about how to wrap it in a package that will There’s the phrase, monkey see, monkey do. People look to what others are doing to figure out what they should do. But it doesn’t have to be really influential people or famous people. People often look to their friends and colleagues just as much as they look to celebrities, and they’re much more likely to be influenced by their friends and colleagues. And sometimes testimonials feel a little fake. When you see a testimonial on a website, you think they got paid to say that, or you think that someone altered the quote to make it look a certain way. It’s much more effective to use this idea of public. Take Livestrong wristbands, for example. Your friends and people on the street didn’t have to tell you that they supported the Livestrong Foundation; you could see that they supported the Foundation from what they were wearing on their wrists. It’s the same with the Movember campaign that’s done a great job with raising money for men’s cancers. You didn’t have to guess who supported that campaign. They wore a mustache as a visible signal of what they were doing. With monkey see, monkey do, the see part is really important. If you can’t see what some- one’s doing, it’s really hard for that informa- tional influence to kick in. One challenge I give nonprofits is this: How can you make the private, the invisible, more visible? How can make it tasty for people. Informational Influence
you make the number of people who support your cause easier to see and, in so doing, make other people more likely to support it too? Building STEPPS into Your Design I advise groups to build the STEPPS into whatever they design. Find your peanut but- ter, find your trigger, make it more observ- able, and also relentlessly prioritize the mes- sage. Too many organizations say there are seven or eight things that are important and think that they need to tell people everything. Sometimes when you try to tell people ten things, they remember nothing, because you split their attention. Do one key simple idea, figure out a concrete way to illustrate it, and show people rather than telling them. How can you show people in a remarkable way so they see it, they really understand how im- portant the cause is and, in so doing, are more likely to become activated and support it? Think about how you can simplify the mes- sage and make it accessible. If we want to further the impact of social benefit organiza- tions, we need to use word of mouth to turn supporters into advocates.Think of your sup- porters not just as individuals, but as a chan- nel to communicate your message. Just as you can communicate your message, you need to use your supporters as a larger channel to communicate that message. If you can turn them into advocates, it’s a much cheaper and more effective way of filling your coffers. It is important for leaders to remember to show, rather than tell, and to simplify the message. If it’s so complicated that it’s hard
to tell one person, how likely is it that that supporter will remember it and be able to tell another person? If it’s simple, and you show it rather than tell it, it’ll be easier for them to be able to remember it and easy for them to tell others.
Jonah Berger, marketing professor at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, is author of the bestseller Contagious: Why Things Catch On . He has spent over 15 years studying how social influence works and how it drives products and ideas to catch on. He has published dozens of articles in top tier academic journals, consulted for a variety of Fortune 500 companies, and popular outlets such as The New York Times and Harvard Business Review often cover his work. JBerger@wharton.upenn.edu
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