Tuesday, January 31, 2006

The Purple Cow, Disc Two

As I mentioned earlier, Purple Cow is the second of Godin’s books that I’ve ventured into. While Permission Marketing was solid and worth the effort, the Purple Cow is inspirational to the point of making me sit in my car in the parking lot without turning it off. It very much articulates a philosophy that I very much identify with, by expanding on some of the ideas from Permission Marketing. Godin is an astute observer of trends in society and in business and is very good at reading people and figuring out why they do what they do. As I mentioned in my first Purple Cow post, according to Godin (and this passes the sniff test with me), the reason people act so herdlike is fear—but ironically, when people don’t take risks, their chances of failure are much higher.

Here is a red-letter list that Godin asks us to pull over for and write down:

1. Don’t be boring
2. Safe is risky
3. Design rules now
4. Very good is bad

Godin says, I think very rightly, that people want to be safe. What they teach us in school is to do reasonably well, not stick out, not ask too many questions, etc., etc. The problem with this is that it doesn't make us different enough to succeed in the marketplace.

So I read Ben's post today about whether associations will be able to sort-of harness the energy happening in these online communities. I think that yes, if they start thinking along the lines of Godin's list. It's risky to let passionate staffers cultivate online communities and write blogs on behalf of the organization, but I think it's the way to move forward.

UPDATE: This line of thought reminds me of Creating Passionate User's awesome post on "Death by Risk-Aversion."

By Seth Godin
ISBN# 159184021X

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Target and corporate giving

This is a fascinating article in today's WaPo. It's the kind of thing that the warm and fuzzy nonprofit types decry, but that actually makes a difference. I think it's awesome, and it's very much in line with Carnegie's philosophy for philanthropy.

The K Street Project

We've been talking a little bit about the lobbying scandal, ASAE's position therein, etc. I found this editorial from the Philadelphia Inquirer this morning, which seems to take a fairly balanced approach to the whole situation, wrapped in the context of Santorum's role in the new proposal.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

O Canada, terre de nos aïeux

From Bubble Generation, this story is relevant to those of us who work with professional associations, even if it is presented here as a problem in the great white north. I would love to look into this further.

Nonprofit accounting

This looks like it would be a great seminar. And free too! Too bad I'm not in Cali or I would go.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

I'm a Chevrolet Corvette!

Not sure what to make of this, but here is my result. Thanks to Dr. Helen for the link.

You're a classic - powerful, athletic, and competitive. You're all about winning the race and getting the job done. While you have a practical everyday side, you get wild when anyone pushes your pedal. You hate to lose, but you hardly ever do.

Take the Which Sports Car Are You? quiz.

Sucking up to China

I found this interesting new Pajamas Media blog via Instapundit. The blog's subject is the "China Syndrome" aka "sucking up to China." Now, for me the topic isn't on my front burner, but I do witness the phenomenon right here in the association community via the ASAE's International SIG. I have to snark on this one, that listserv really bugs and I'm subscribed at this point out of a sort-of rubbernecking ethos.

IRS, Nonprofit Governance

Interesting article from one of Ben's cohorts at the New York Society of CPAs.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Re: Meetings Part Deux

This came across Signal v. Noise yesterday. Highly useful model. Use it!

The Purple Cow, Disc One

So, as a follow up to my lengthy and comprehensive synopsis of Permission Marketing (LOL), I'm venturing into the next Godin book, The Purple Cow. I think I first heard about this book in ASAE's magazine, Associations Now, although clearly I'm out of the loop because Mr. Godin has this huge cult following. Here is a great taste of it from Fast Company magazine.

Full disclosure, these are my notes from listening to the audio version of the book. I have a subscription to Simply Audiobooks and they send me CDs to listen to, Netflix style. I like the service, but so far a couple of the CDs have been scratched, and therefore, they skip some. So that is a bummer, especially when I'm all excited to have a new book to listen to during my commute.

Anyway, back to the topic of The Purple Cow. Why the Purple Cow? It's an object lesson. Godin tells the story of his family's trip to France, where they saw many "picturesque cows" (interesting adjective to use for livestock, but hey, I'm game). After awhile, he relates, the setting got pretty boring, even though it was initially really nice to look at. Therein the necessity for a Purple Cow. So this is a metaphor for the marketplace. It's like, okay you have a good product, so does everyone else.

Interesting discussion of Geoff Moore's chasm models, early adopters, etc. Godin's take is that these early adopter types (and, more specifically, the ones with influence on those around them) are the only people it's worth advertising to. So, those people should be sniffed out and targeted before doing anything else. A refrain of the author is that TV is dead--he allows as that he's prone to hyperbole--but I personally think he's got a huge point. So the permission thing is huge, the relationship building is huge, and most important of all--the PRODUCT is where you have to spend your money, not the marketing.

Funny thing, this book has been out awhile--to me it makes such common sense and yet in today's issue of Advertising Age the lead article's headline proclaims "Toyota to Saatchi: Move Forward." It continues, "Carmaker pushes agency away from crutch of TV." So, let me get this straight, the CLIENT has to tell the ad agency what the new trends in marketing are? Not good publicity for Saatchi. Maybe the agency world should stop all the navel-gazing that passes for professionalism and actually follow the market. Sorry for the snark.

Also fear. He says the reason it's so easy to be remarkable is that people are afraid of it. People are afraid of confronting criticism and the world isn't set up to make people think outside the box, to abuse the turn of phrase. So, the field is white and ready to harvest for people who are willing to take risks. But as it turns out, he concludes, being "boring--in other words, seeking the path of least resistance--is the riskiest thing that an organization can do. For me, this rings true as well. Think of the "New Job Security." That's basically the gist behind that argument--what used to be safe and comfy is now dangerous and leaves you unprotected against marketplace or individual whims.

How does this apply to associations? A couple of thoughts:

1) Many associations represent professionals or industries, so if the profession or industry is booming, so will the association. If not, that's a problem of the association. But what should an association do if the industry is cruddy or going thru a slow patch? I think there's a real opportunity for an association itself to shore up a flagging sector or to help the sector reinvent itself. Discuss.

2) The association community can be fairly inward-looking. This I think comes from the fact that not many people outside the association really know what it is we do. So we may suffer from keeping to many apples to apples. Lots of ideas can be had from observing the world, and particularly, always be focus group testing your members (informally of course) to really determine what their needs are. Then be prepared to act. Godin goes off about how if there's a will to implement these new ideas, then there will be a way to make it happen. This rings true.

Enough bloviating for now. TTYL.

By Seth Godin
ISBN# 159184021X

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Welcome to Nick's Book Blog

I made this sign this morning from this neon sign generator. Thanks to the Generator Blog.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Associations and political activity

Here's an interesting bit from the Cato Institute here in Washington discussing the size and influence of associations and PACs in Washington and New York.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Trends in 2006

The McKinsey Quarterly has an excellent article on trends for the year, and for the next decade. Easy reading, and more encouraging than you might suspect. (Registration required)

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Re: Meetings

Signal vs. Noise has an awesome meta-report on the cultural phenomenon we call staff meetings. The study they quote definitely articulates problems I've seen, and perhaps even contributed to!

The Emotionally Intelligent Manager

Being emotionally intelligent is easy except if it's hard. That's why we have books to teach us such things. To be truthful, I picked up this book just to see what the "Four Key Emotional Skills of Leadership" are. Here goes:
1. Identifying how all of the key participants feel, themselves included
2. Using these feelings to guide the thinking and reasoning of the people involved
3. Understanding how feelings might change and develop as events unfold
4. Managing to stay open to the data of feelings and integrating them into decisions and actions.
Jossey-Bass has a sample chapter on their website. Anyway, this is the model put forward by David R. Caruso and Peter Salovey. So, in the past--what would you say?--five years or so, emotional intelligence has been all the rage. Basically, though, it boils down to "don't be a jerk." Know what I mean? But we have all kinds of jerkiness left over from the days when the foreman ruled the masses at the factory, and from the days when women were clawing their way to the top. So now, "emotional intelligence" is in so that we can all just get along. Reminds me of Aristotle's Rhetoric and appeals to pathos and connection with one's audience.

ISBN# 0787970719
By David R. Caruso and Peter Salovey

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Association advantages

Here's a post I found over at PicoBusiness. This article collects a series of posts from Scott Maxwell on how to win in the big company versus the little company battle. Although these tips are aimed at small business, they are 100% applicable to associations and small nonprofits if we will just take notice! One point that's made is that it's important to leverage your time advantage in a small operation. From some of the nonprofits I've worked in, many people seem very hesitant to use that advantage and instead they take shelter in a more bureaucratic model--seems dangerous to me.

Permission Marketing

So, I have been promising a review of this book for several days. But I haven't quite known what to say about it. I think that since it's come out, it's become just plain old common sense. TV is going the way of all the world and people hate to be annoyed. This book talks about how you can get over those obstacles. It's a turn of events that's good for small business and small organizations with limited resources. It's probably not as good for big corporations unless they can manage to get over themselves. So, what does the book say? I have found a couple of links that do a good job explaining the process. Here is one from a copywriting blog. And here's a follow-up interview with the author, Seth Godin, in Fast Company magazine.

By Seth Godin
ISBN# 0684856360

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Here's a hack...

Did you see Ben Martin's post on Association Hacks where he's pulling a page out of Life Hack's playbook? Well I don't know if this counts, but I found this nifty little website (paid for by our tax dollars mind you--so use it!) that will make a quick and dirty, yet pretty graph for you. Much easier than Excel if you've just got to throw a graph together w/o proceduralizing anything.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006


I got that word from this article in WaPo's business section today. Decent article, but other than using that word, I have no further comment on the piece.

I will still get around to Permission Marketing yet. I have my notes all recorded, I just have to upload them. Anyway, I wanted to just mention an audio lecture I heard in my car while attempting to cross the Wilson Bridge this morning. It's a lecture entitled "America's Great Third Sector," given by Diana Aviv, to a group of people at the Chautauqua Institution.

Aviv spoke very articulately about the challenges and the successes of nonprofit voluntary agency's and her focus was surprisingly positive. So often when people talk about nonprofit issues they get into this handout mode where people whine and complain about what the government isn't doing for them, how ever since Reagan things have been turning south yada yada. None of that with Aviv, and I was highly impressed with her forthright, empowered philosophy.

One of the items discussed was whether people should form their own foundations or not (for example Bill Gates) and if so doing was harmful to the sector in general. Aviv's thought was 'let's wait and see,' which is very open minded compared to what a lot of prescriptivists would say. My thought though, is that of course they should start their own foundations. That's what Carnegie did when he invented the whole idea: people who have made that much money bring a lot to the table in terms of maximizing its good to humanity.

Her question-and-answer period (mind you, this wasn't a college course so the questions were actually decently intelligent) was great, and she had terrific answers even when asked leading questions by partisan hacks. So props to Ms. Aviv.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Photography hack...

From Life Hack, here's some tips for those of us who try to pull of professional looking stuff with little to no budget to work with!

Anyway, busy 1st day at the new job. I think it's going to be lots of fun. I'm switching to audio books, at least during my commute. (I think the people on the beltway will appreciate that don't you?) So tomorrow, look forward to my write up of Seth Godin's Permission Marketing.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Chapter Operations Manual

Found this online from the Association of Information Technology Professionals. Seems to be a good resource lots of different organizations could customize. It's good to see people lay out volunteer information so cleanly.

Re: Lobbying

I've been thinking about lobbying lately, as has just about everyone it seems. Since I'm a member of the association community here in Washington, DC, I have more exposure to it firsthand than many. I suppose there are some high-powered types who really peddle their influence, but I am concerned that this scandal will affect all the people who push good--or at least necessary--causes and who take pride in their work. I am concerned about "lobbying reform," which in my mind amounts to a circumscription on citizens' free speech. In my view, anyone can and possibly SHOULD lobby the government. Naturally, money is part of that process, even if you're only paying for your team's food at McDonalds.

I very much agree with the point of view posed by Jan Witold Baran in today's Washington Post subtitled "Don't let one bad Abramoff spoil the whole bunch." I guess my reflection is this: the unethical/illegal activities have been spotted, and the system is cleaning itself. Isn't that a success story?

In related news, I was browsing my alma mater's website and found this free internet course that would be a good primer for association people interested in getting more of a context for government affairs.

I can think of some applications for this...

From Biz Stone, we have this bit of wierdness. I'm a little slow on the uptake (the post is from New Year's Eve) but I know several people who would probably appreciate this technological innovation!

Friday, January 06, 2006

Association education programs?

Here's a post from Emily Chang who talks about two new web 2.0 thingies that are geared toward education: Nuvvo and Newsvine. We association types had better realize this phenomenon is going on.

Nonprofit layoffs...

Here's some coverage on that from U.S. News. It says "government and nonprofit." I wonder what the breakdown is. If nonprofits are a significant portion of that figure, I wonder what kind of nonprofits they are.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Competing in the Third Wave

First of all, what is the "third wave"? There's a treatment of the term and its origins here. This book which is published by the lovely people at Harvard Business School looks to be really good and really thorough. However, I don't have time to get through it as it's very technical and rich in schemata. (I like to use the latin plural, don't you?)

I did want to note this paragraph where the authors, Jeremy Hope and Tony Hope, discuss Reichheld's loyalty business model. These studies could inform a lot more discussions on association membership than I think is the case.
Based on an analysis of various service companies, Reichheld suggests that there are certain common features that determine longer-term customer profitability in the service industry. Specifically, by identifying and measuring six factors, companies can, over an appropriate time period that will vary from company to company and perhaps even customer to customer, form a clear view of the long-ter profitability of their customers. The factors are these:

1. The cost of acquiring a customer
2. The base (or gross) profit from the goods or services provided to the customer
3. The profit from increased purchases arising from the additional spending of satisfied customers
4. The reduced operating costs of serving loyal customers
5. The profit from transactions with new customers who have been referred by loyal customers
6. The profit from the price premium charged to loyal customers who are less sensitive to price.
So, we know a lot of this is going on with respect to association membership, and we particularly observe the "reduced operating costs" part. But it is instructive to look at the way Reichheld and others have articulated these benefits. (I like to use the word instructive because it makes me feel very sort of professorial. Indeed.)

By Tony Hope and Jeremy Hope
ISBN # 0875848079

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Advocacy issues

Interesting discussion of lobbying/advocacy at The Lonely Centrist.

UPDATE: More at Skeptic Eye.

Nonprofit challenges for 2006

Preparing to scrimp...

Have a conference call today with the ASAE scrimping group. Here's an article I found while trying to get ready.

UPDATE: Well, I screwed that one up for two reasons: 1) it wasn't with the scrimping group at all, it was the training session for icohere; and 2) it's tomorrow. As the youth say, LOL.

The Burden of Bad Ideas

I picked this book up because of its title. Now, the book's subtitle is "how modern intellectuals misshape our society." It's made up of articles written in the late 1990s by Heather MacDonald--and it reads like an Ann Coulter screed. So, if that makes you shriek in horror, this is fair warning.

However, I do want to cover one chapter in particular which is called "The Billions of Dollars that Made Things Worse." In it, she chronicles the history of the foundation movement, with particular emphasis on Carnegie's approach which held that the person who amasses excess wealth should use the same acumen in furthering societal good that he/she showed in earning it. Bill Gates seems to be informed by this approach in his quest to eliminate malaria in Africa and on other health projects in the developing world. That practice is referred to as "scientific philanthropy."

The contention is made that current foundations, starting around the middle of last century and under professionalized management, began to lose sight of these goals, and they became a layer of fat cats. They then began to pay more attention to activism and reframing discussions more than solving problems faced by real individuals. MacDonald and Eggers would agree on many points. In my experience with the foundation world, and through my reading of journals and participation in local nonprofit organizations, I tend to agree with this assessment. Many foundations IMHO are not tuned in with good management processes and fund sinkholes that ought never be funded in the first place. They tend to not reward innovation, and that's why organizational turnover and organizational failure rates are so high. What a waste of money.

Eggers thinks that the United Way is a big part of the solution to the problem, and perhaps that is a step in the right direction. The on-again-off-again integrity of that organization is certainly an impediment to its success. But how about if the big-money funders worked more closely with one another and thought up better standards and imposed accountability on these little beggar organizations?

Anyway, my thoughts for the day...

By Heather MacDonald
ISBN# 1566633370

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

That's because...

Here's to more flow...

Great new year's wishes from Creating Passionate Users.

C'est dans le temps du jour de l'an...

Happy 2006 to everyone! I really like New Year's and the chance you get to just sit back and evaluate how things are going. It's a really healthy thing, at least for me. And I've not posted for a few days--notwithstanding I've been generating content in my head.

On another note, here's an article on volunteer management from Phoenix's Arizona Republic. Interesting thing, volunteer management. Lots of people do it, but not lots of people are aware that lots of people do it...