Philanthropy Fashions: What’s here to stay, and what’s just a trend?

Read my guest post from the Communications Network blog. Here’s an excerpt:

Just as wearing animal prints is not right for everyone (and certainly not for me!), not every industry trend fits every organization. Big Data is certainly out there, but foundations would be prudent to think about how to “make it their own” before jumping on the bandwagon. I would argue, however, that going a little outside of your comfort zone, be it with a loud print or a deep dive into an opportunity data set, is good. Data sets like these offer a way to assess and contextualize your current funding priorities, and can even provide a new angle through which you can share your grantees’ impact in local communities. In a time when data and communications are simply inseparable, the potential for surprising and positive results is huge. And, just think of what you’ll learn along the way.

(Un)Related note: anyone want to go into a side business of making kitchy tshirts for the nonprofit sector? I’m feeling good about it.

Philanthropy Fashions: What’s here to stay, and what’s just a trend?

Dove conducted an experiment about how women perceive their own beauty. Very interesting to watch.

[Update 4/18/2013: I have heard as much negative about this ad as positive over the last several days. Posting was not an endorsement but rather a spark of conversation. My personal opinion: On one level, this is fascinating to see the difference in how people view themselves from how they’re viewed by strangers. To me, the difference in the second drawing was more a tone, a confidence, that makes someone more ‘beautiful’. On a different level though, I’m bothered by the homogenous subjects (just women in their 30s and 40s of mid-range weight and appearance with no normal blemishes or other noticeable appearance features) even though Dove usually does a better job than most with showing a range of women, and also the idea that beauty means narrower face, less freckles, fuller hair, etc. At the end of the day, I don’t think this ad/experiment is really helpful, and the interesting qualities would be better served outside of the beauty brand context. That’s my take.]

It’s hard to believe cellular phones have been around for 40 years. They’ve really changed the way we keep in touch, do business, and communicate on whole. I wonder where the next 40 years will take our talking devices…

Top 7 telephone tips for calling a company’s main line

You’re calling a general line and don’t know who will pick up. Here’s a list of my top 7 telephone tips resulting in better communication and customer service:


  1. Identify yourself. Who are you and what is your affiliation? It’s very hard to field an inquiry without someone knowing who you are. Most people forget this.
  2. Speak clearly. Especially when calling from a mobile phone and/or outside, it can really be hard to understand you unless you speak slowly and enunciate.
  3. Do not speak in a run-on for 2 minutes before pausing. You might have the wrong number, be talking with the wrong person, and/or information might be lost or confused. You are just wasting your breath. Instead, start with the thematic nature of your question, and ask who best for you to speak with.
  4. Do your background research. If the company you’re calling has a website, look there first for your question. If you’re calling to follow up on previous engagement with that company or a staff member there, have that information in front of you. This sets a tone for a more productive conversation.
  5. Listen well. If the person who picks up tells you their name, company information, reference number, or anything else, note it. In the event that you get disconnected and need to call back, you have information to resume; in the event that your question isn’t answered and you speak with someone else, you have reference materials; if they are helpful, you’ve already begun recording information.
  6. Don’t assume the person who picks up is dumb; usually, it’s a person who knows more than you might think whether their primary job is receptionist or they’re a program employee manning the phones that hour. If they ask for information, don’t assume what they do or don’t know; tell them they information they ask for. They will inquire further or redirect if it’s outside their scope.
  7. Always, always be nice. Say thank you. Keep the tone of your voice courteous and not pushy. I promise that you will receive better assistance.

Simple! Now go make phone calls!

The Permanent Disruption of Social Media

Social media has chipped away at the foundation of traditional donor-engagement models. A new study highlights the realities of donor behavior and how organizations can redesign their outreach strategies to be more effective.

Fantastic article. Nonprofits and those involved with fundraising, please take the time to read and reflect on how you can reshape strategies for helping your cause.

An excerpt that I really like is the below graphic and accompanying explanation. Organizations on whole need to move towards a vortex model to maximize internal resources and outward impact, but they can’t forget the pyramid model, either.

The Permanent Disruption of Social Media

Interview: Josh Gondelman, Postcard Sender Extraordinaire

I’m endlessly fascinated by people who communicate in new or different ways. Josh Gondelman, a writer and comedian based in NYC, decided earlier this year to send a postcard to anyone who wanted one because he loves letter-writing. My friend Barry told me about it, and of course I eat these things up. I signed up and promptly forgot about it, and then got a wonderfully hilarious mystery postcard in the mail a few months later. It took me a whole night to figure out who Josh was, and that in and of itself was lots of fun. Then, I interviewed him.


Jen Bokoff: From whom and where was the first postcard you ever received?

Josh Gondelman: I don’t remember exactly the first postcard I ever got, but my grandmother, my dad’s mother, used to travel all around the world when I was younger, and so we’d get postcards from Russia and Greece and China. I don’t remember whether Antarctica has a post office for commercial use. Sometimes the mail took longer than my grandmother to get back to America, which was confusing to little me. I thought she was faking the cards and just sending them from her house, because I’d already seen her.

JB: Have you ever developed relationships beyond just a few interactions by sending random people postcards?

JG: I have! There are people I correspond with pretty regularly now that I’d first “met” through the project. Plus there are acquaintances that I’ve gotten to know a lot better because of their involvement. There’s one person who I see out a lot at standup shows (I am a standup comedian), and we’ve exchanged letters and met in person, but it’s a little awkward bridging the gap to casual, running-into-you friend. I’m trying to be more relaxed and natural about it. I always come off as, “Oh. It is so pleasant to see you in the world of buildings and bodies. What? Why did I say that?”

JB: You have nice handwriting. Do you think that’s becoming rarer as typing becomes more common?

JG: Oh gosh! Thanks! I do imagine probably people are less proficient at writing by hand now than they used to be. You must have received one of my early in the morning postcards. If I write a whole bunch in a day, by the end it’s just a lunatic scrawl. I try not to be a dinosaur and sob about how the decline of handwriting indicates a larger societal problem. On the other hand, it’s off-putting when someone writes down a takeout order, and it looks like something out of a serial killer’s diary.

JB: What’s the most memorable postcard you’ve ever sent?

JG: One guy requested that I write to him with my thoughts on medical marijuana, and I wrote back: “I think they should legalize pot but outlaw white guys with dreadlocks.” That was pretty succinct. I felt like I got it just right.

JB: Do you write other things besides letters and your tumblr?

JG: I do! I’m always writing for my standup act, and I write a lot of humor type pieces for Thought Catalog. Right now I’m actually working on a proposal for a memoirish book about this postcard project. So we’ll see if that becomes anything. It’s very exciting to think that anyone might want to read that! Ideally I’d love to get it so my job is some triangulation of standup, prose writing, and tv writing. We’ll see if I make it there!


Check out Josh’s blog featuring many of his postcards, his humor writing, and everything else (including his upcoming performances).

SUCCESS: One Year in Accountability Partnership

A little over a year ago, I introduced the idea of an accountability partnership and was so fortunate that Sam Hansen wanted to try. We’ve now been at it a year, and I have so appreciated our daily goal-setting emails and occasional chats. The partnership has kept me more accountable to making and achieving goals, because we have struck a wonderful balance between flexibility with plans and friendly reminders of what should have been done. Sometimes, we have offered advice based on tone or comments here ad there that feel nonchalant but that the other person had noted to be of potential significance. Other times, it’s just been a bit of encouragement and an e-smile or high five that go a long way. Still other times, empathy has changed the course of a day by provoking other perspectives and inspiring action.

I’m psyched to keep this going. Thanks, Sam, for helping me to accomplish a lot and challenge myself in the last year; here’s to another one.

I’ll be posting some neat stuff about, produced by, or shared by Sam throughout the day; enjoy!

Informational Interview 101

Looking for your next career move but have no idea what it should be? Curious to expand your horizons with no commitment? I am a huge fan of informational interviews, because you can get no-pressure insight from people with experience. This blog post is a really great guide to a successful informational interview.

Who should you interview? I have a few tactics that you can learn in my Brainery class, but one of my favorites is this:

  • Make 5 columns on a sheet of paper (portrait orientation). The header for each column should be someone you know very well (ie best friend, professor, professional mentor, parent, cousin, sports coach, etc.).
  • Under each name, write 10 people that they know that you have either never met or have only ever met casually. You do not need to know their name; it could just be their connection (ie her cousin with the glasses, coworker (dave or dan?), guy at coffee shop she talks to every day). 
  • You now have 50 names in addition to the 5 you started with. Circle 6. Make a point to connect with those 6 in the next month.

Good luck! Do report any informational interview successes or ask any questions!

[UPDATE: 9/25/2013: it appears that the original link is broken, but here’s a new great post on Informational Interviews via Idealist]

Informational Interview 101

Improv, Meet Pathology. Pathology, Improv.

imageI’ve dabbled in improv comedy classes and fun for several years now, and I have often characterized it as professional development (on top of being super enjoyable, of course!). It reminds you of the importance of listening, supporting your team, giving gifts, thinking on your feet, and being “in the moment”.

Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx has integrated improv training into professional development. Izzy Gesell, one of the instructors, explains:

I think this is part of a growing awareness of the need for science and medical students to communicate to non-science people. It’s to communicate when things don’t go exactly as planned.

Improving skills and workplace culture are always good, so kudos to Montefiore! I hope more organizations across industries will be open-minded to this sort of professional development. [shameless plug: I will help you!]