Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Lifehack

Pleased to report I'm a guest blogger on Lifehack.org. Now I need to come up with something :) If you're a first-time visitor, have a look around, and welcome!

Update: Check out my first post about dealing with manipulative people.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

New blogs + 37Signals yoink

I got an email today from MailChimp, which is a web-based mass emailing app. I use their stuff and it has been a good experience so far. Today they sent a newsletter which has a study of open rates and subject lines. Highly interesting. Also from it, I discovered a new blog, bly.com, which is the blog of a professional copywriter. Good stuff. I'm going thru a marketing phase right now because I've figured that's what I need to be doing in my current position.

I sent a message out to the ASAE listserv asking about how to do my marketing plan in an association environment since obviously pretty much every resource is out there to sell "stuff." So it's helpful to a point, but you always have to adapt it. A delightful woman from the American Chemical Society wrote me a couple of lengthy emails explaining her process and it seems just fantastic. So back to work for yours truly.

Also, I wanted to point out today's post from 37Signals, which has loads of great links and observations. You know, the more experience I get the more I agree with their premise that every blessed thing is just waaaaaaay toooooo complicated. They link to a paper that talks about Toyota's business processes adapted to web design. It doesn't sound terribly applicable to associations, however, I believe anything called "lean thinking" is something we could use lots more of.

Monday, April 24, 2006

The importance of failure

Here's a post via a blogger I've been following a long time, Ms. Jane Galt. It talks about the importance, essentially, of saying yes instead of saying no. Of course there's the argument that saying yes is risky, but in most of the professional situations I've been exposed to (i.e. small programs, small offices, small business), the risks are hardly ever that big. But the risk inherent in pissing people off is rather large.

I feel like sharing...

Things are really busy at the ranch these days, but I wanted to post related to something I saw this weekend on HGTV's Mission Organization. This is related to the article I have coming out in June's issue of Associations Now.

Basically, the organizer goes to this guy's room and it's a total wreck. You can tell by looking at the room that he must not use any of the stuff because there's no way he could access all of it or retain in memory what comprised the great meteor of paperwork and schlock. Mind you, I'm not casting stones or anything, because we all do this to some degree or another unless you have OCD and then you take Zoloft until you're able to once again.

Ahem, back to business. The organizer walks him thru the process of stoppping the insanity. They go thru all the crap and sort it using just four (4) categories. [ed. I like to use parenthetical numbers, it makes me feel official like I'm writing a government report]. The categories are:

- I love it
- I feel like sharing
- Not for now
- Ditch it

Now, my premise in my article is that you can use structures like this to solve a million different problems, whether it's with junk or ideas. It's kind of like David Allen's GTD: if you get all your ideas out of your head, you can sort them physically using this or a similar process.

So I'm going to get to work sorting today, and hopefully I'll get some reading in sometime soon :)

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

We should build a house

37 signals nails it on the head with this entry where Ryan talks about the "illusion of agreement." Darn good illustration of something we see happening all the time.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Back from Colorado

I was done with conference last week on Wednesday, but I've taken some time to relax. I had some very long days, and since this was my first conference with this group there was a learning curve on absolutely everything. So it wiped me out. After the conference was over I drove up in the mountains to decompress--something I always used to do in college. This time was different, however, in that my point of departure was a five-star hotel :) Anyway, I drove up to this road leading to Mt. Evans. The map says it's the highest road in the United States. It was really pretty and worth the $47 for a rental car.

Paid board members?

I found this interesting article from the Indianapolis Business Journal about whether nonprofit board members should be allowed to be paid. The concensus seems to be that they shouldn't be paid, but that doesn't really speak to whether they should or should not BE ALLOWED to be paid. I think that in some cases, that would be worth looking at. Some organizations really struggle with having committed board members. And, it's human nature to not take things as seriously if there's no money on the table to seal the deal. But it's definitely an interesting debate.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Nonprofit mergers becoming popular

There's a pretty good piece in yesterday's Globe about the rising popularity of merging nonprofits. The article focuses for the most part on small, regional human-servicy types of organizations, and it points to the increasingly challenging environment for nonprofits. Of course times are challenging when everybody and their pet llama has started one, and so many organizations' main contribution to society is reckless waste (albeit on a small scale) and fuzzy thinking. To quote the article:
Interest in mergers and alliances among nonprofits has become so hot nationally that a California firm specializing in the issue, La Piana Associates, Inc., has seen inquiries on the topic increase more than 50 percent over the last two years, said Bob Harrington, a senior manager who specializes in strategic restructuring.
I think this trend is definitely something we should within the 501-c community. Nonprofits are great, voluntarism is great, but people need to do their research and not create crappy redundancies that sap resources from the system. That's my bit of venting for today.

Conference Blogging

So blogging has been decidedly light. I'm in Denver wheezing my way through our conference set up. Registration starts today, so I'm going to be working my butt off, and trying my best to help create a good experience for everyone who's coming. It should be fun.

We're staying at the brand new Hyatt in Denver. It's very nice and the service--from a guest's perspective--is unbelievable. The hotel is 37 stories tall and two banks of elevators, one that covers thru floor 17, and the other skips that and heads to the higher floors. Now, our president's suite is on 37 and so I ran up there a couple of times yesterday. The elevator is sooo fast that it kind of makes you woozy. And when you come down you have to swallow to make your ears pop. Wild. Also, re the elevators, each elevator has a flat-panel monitor put in it that's like got some live photography on it, and it changes all the time. One scene is a field of sunflowers during an approaching thunderstorm, and the audio is set to play the thunder approaching. Here is the view from my window on the 16th floor:


Then, last night I ordered room service and here is what the apple pie looked like:



But anyway, that's enough travelogue for now. I am currently working on reading The Rise and Fall of Strategic Planning, by Henry Mintzberg. It's really good, but I'm only halfway through. The main takeaway that I've got from it right now is that we put so much energy (i.e. money) into strategic planning and there's not much evidence that it WORKS. Scary, huh? How very practical to actually examine whether something is working or not.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Nonprofit IPO

Fast Company has a cool article in their most recent issue on nonprofit IPOs. It's framed as something new and exciting for nonprofits. Obviously, the goal for investors is not cold-hard cash, but return on philanthropic investment. The poster child is an organization called College Summit, which helps low-income students get into universities, who secured funding for a four-year growth plan using the method. The article also spotlights an organization called NFF Capital Partners, who are an investment bank for nonprofits.

I think this is a tremendous idea, which taps into a Carnegie-esque style of philanthropy. And, perhaps more importantly, it actually funds infrastructure, which is not typically done, although who the heck knows why?