The Most Valuable Person on Your Team

Who is the most valuable person on your team?

The answer is: Anyone who helps you do what you do.

In the spring of 1990, after a year of sending resumes and working at temp agencies, I finally landed a full-time job in New York City. As a receptionist. With a Master’s degree. We were in the middle of the recession, and I got one of the last jobs available through my employment agency. I was grateful for a paycheck.

I never let the receptionist salary stop me from doing the work I was capable of doing. By the time I left the Japanese investment bank in 1994 to go back to school, I was writing speeches in English for the Japanese chairman, doing political research for the director, editing the reports of Japanese translators, subbing for analysts at investor meetings, and managing the office. They changed the title on my business cards (at my request) to research assistant. But I was still on a receptionist salary. I didn’t have to do 2/3 of the work I’d carved out for myself. But I wanted to.

Even though my boss said from day one that I was overqualified, in hindsight I am grateful for that opportunity. Being a receptionist for a major corporation, I had the privilege to work daily with individuals who I consider the true engine room of the business: the people who work in the mail room, the messengers, data entry clerks, executive assistants, the admins from temp agencies, and my fellow receptionists. I also was privileged to interact daily with courier service agents, print shop workers, travel agents, and caterers.

These are the people who make everything else possible. They make communication possible. They are often the front face of the company when clients call, email, or walk in the door. Behind the scenes, they hurdle last-minute deadlines to keep the company’s good reputation. They provide a large part of the foundation, and they are a significant reason clients are impressed by the company’s production.

Yet like machines in the engine room, these team members are often overlooked until they break down. And then, at most a phone call is made to “fix it.” Often they are taken for granted and receive little appreciation for the millions of transactions that have gone smoothly and made the company shine.

Many of our temps were aspiring Broadway actors and singers. I doubt most of our sales team, as gutsy as they were, would have the boldness to stand on a stage in front of an audience and belt out a solo. Yet most people in the office didn’t seem to notice these theater professionals who wrote their business correspondence and made sure their criticical mailings got to the clients overnight.

If Meryl Streep or Johnny Depp were sitting in a cubicle next to you, would you notice them? I’m betting you would. Why not give the same VIP treatment to the temp employees who are sitting there? For that matter, why not treat your regular employees as celebrities too? Your success depends on them. Do you know that? More importantly, do they know you know that?

Here are a few steps you can take to learn more about the most important people on your team and to help them feel acknowledged and honored.

Make a list of the kinds of roles that are vital to your company but often overlooked.

Find someone who works in each of those roles. Remember their names.

Talk to them a bit (without interrupting their workflow) and find out what they do.

Find out something about their background and what makes them who they are.

Do the same with the vendors who service your company. Don’t just talk to the owners. Find out about the people they hire and what they do. Then ask the owner to tell you at least one significant way (a way that you probably don’t know about) that their team helps you.

Then show appreciation to those people. Send them a note once in a while telling them how thankful you are for them, how you literally couldn’t do what you do without them. Go out of your way to stop by their workplace once in a while, to smile and say, “Hi, and thank you.”

Talk to them like peers. They may not have your schooling (then again, they might have more schooling than you do!), but they have unique gifts you don’t have. And they are worthy of your respect just by being a person, just like you. Let them hear that in your tone. Let them see, by the way you interact with them, that you honor and value them for who they are. That they are the ultimate VIP and you know it. That you are humbled and privileged to work amidst greatness.

I believe your working environment will become more enjoyable when you take these steps. This is not about creating the right corporate culture. This is simply about being a humble and honoring citizen of the place where you live and work.

Let me know how it goes.

Blogging Is about People

I love blogging. Writing blog articles is one of my favorite activities for myself and for my clients.

Today I’m working on a series of articles for a client. As I write, I remember why I like blogging so much. It’s because blogging is about people.

When I write a blog article, I think about the people who have searched for that article because they are looking for helpful information.

Who are those people? What is going on in their life that has led them to search for this article? How can I help them with my words?

Once I have that person in my mind, I write as if I am sitting with them and talking about the topic they are searching for. That person matters to me. I want to help them find what they are looking for. I want to commiserate with their pain points and encourage them with simple solutions.

I take the time to be creative in the way I write. After all, that person is giving their time to read the article. I hope they will have a good experience. Maybe they will come away with new ideas or be reminded or encouraged in areas they already knew about.

That’s what blogging is all about. Connecting with people, understanding them, offering helpful tips, sharing relevant stories, and encouraging them in their day. 

Blog writing has other important elements as well. Keyword research is helpful, so you know what people are searching for and how they are looking for that information. The right keywords help people find your blog, so they can read those articles you wrote just for them.

It also matters when you include photos, meta tags, links, and calls to action in your blog article. All those elements help people find your article and improve their experience of reading your blog and engaging with your website.

If you have a product or service that provides the solution people are looking for, don’t be shy in sharing it. While your blog article shouldn’t read like a billboard, there’s nothing wrong in sharing a link to your solution and helping your prospective customer find the relevant product or service page on your website.

If you serve customers locally, you will need to include that information in your blog as well, such as including your locale in the tags or in a few of your calls to action.

All of those technical aspects of blogging are important and need to be included.

But above all, remember that blogging is about people. When you keep people in mind, you will enjoy blogging, your words will connect, you will build trust, and you will remember why you do what you do.

If you’re overwhelmed at the thought of blogging or the time it takes, I can help. Everything I just described, I do the same for my clients as I do for my own blog. Your customers are people who matter to me. I will put myself in their shoes, get to know what they are looking for, and write in a way that connects with them. Talk to me about how I can help you create or grow your business blog.

Happy Blogging!

Are Your Blog Posts Evergreen?

If you are building your business blog or if you haven’t posted in a while, a great way to start is to create evergreen blog posts. These are the posts that last over time. Just like evergreen trees, evergreen blog posts are always alive and relevant, throughout the year, season after season, year after year. Your evergreen posts are the ones you will often refer people to read.

I recommend that business blogs have at least 10 evergreen posts that you can refer people to read. If you are just starting your business blog, I encourage you to concentrate up front on writing evergreen posts. Those initial 10 posts will give you a solid foundation to build on. When you create evergreen posts, you will know you are spending your limited time on blog posts that will work hard for you and have a lasting impact. Because evergreen content remains relevant over time, those blog posts will need fewer updates. So you can concentrate on what’s timely and new.

Why are evergreen blog posts important? Evergreen content will help you grow your business in many ways. You can utilize evergreen blog posts to:

(1) Give your website visitors a solid overview of your business. The more they learn about your business through your eyes, the more they will feel like they know you and trust you.

(2) Answer many commonly asked questions. You will enjoy being able to refer clients and prospective customers to your online library of evergreen content.

(3) Show prospective clients you care enough to anticipate their needs and their greatest areas of concern. Clients will see you have taken the time to create thoughtful blog posts that address their most common concerns with in-depth insight.

(4) Demonstrate your expertise and thought leadership in your industry. Position yourself as an authority and go-to person when someone needs help in your line of business.

(5) Keep your main web pages from looking overwhelming and cluttered. A few simple links will allow visitors to explore a topic more deeply through your evergreen blog posts.

(6) Educate your website visitors by publishing a current topical post and then saying, “To learn more about this topic, please read ABC article” – with a link to the relevant evergreen post. That way, you don’t have to keep repeating basic information in each new blog post. You don’t have to assume your prospective customers have that basic knowledge. You just write your timely topical post and then link to the relevant evergreen article that gives prospective customers the basics.

(7) Provide great opportunities to link different parts of your website together to create a seamless prospective customer experience.

The more evergreen content you create, the more you will enjoy that last benefit. It is a wonderful feeling when you create a new blog post, and you find five or more posts you can link to from your existing evergreen library. The more evergreen content you have, the more opportunities you will see to add those links.

It’s fun to look at a line you have just written and think, Hmm. I can link to XYZ post that I already published on that topic. Fun and practical too because you are creating a better quality online experience for your prospective customers. With these interconnections, you are making your website look and be active as well.

Your website visitors will follow those links on a journey of getting to know you and your business more deeply. They are more likely to follow those posts to a conversion point, ready to respond because they have already engaged so much with your content. They are also likely to bookmark and share your post with its rich evergreen links.

How do you generate evergreen topics for your blog? You will find a helpful starting place simply by answering the following questions with bullet point ideas:

(1) What are the most common questions you are asked by current customers and prospective customers?

(2) What basic areas of your business do you wish your clients understood better?

(3) What are your clients’ most common pain points? For each pain point, what 3 helpful tips can you give them (without giving away the farm)?

(4) What intro “speech” do you find yourself repeating every time you talk to a new client or prospect?

(5) What areas of your business or industry do clients and prospects probably not know about – but they should?

(6) What wisdom have you learned from working in your industry that you want to share with clients or even with other professionals in your field?

(7) What interesting history, benefits, or other stories behind your services, products, ingredients, or business style can you share with your prospective customers?

Those bullet point answers that you just listed are potential topics for your evergreen blog posts.

If you are just building your blog or starting again after a break, I recommend focusing on some of those evergreen topics right away. Then keep the list handy for the next time you draw a blank for your blog topics. You can’t have too many evergreen blog posts. But you can have too few.

Depending on your blogging schedule, aim to get at least 10 evergreen posts on your blog within a year, even if that means one a month. Sometimes it helps to block off time and write several at once. If you do that, schedule them for posting over time if you need to, to keep a steady posting schedule.

In other words, don’t upload them all at once unless you know you can keep blogging on a regular basis. Consistency of blogging is more important than quantity or frequency. And no one will be able to read them if you upload them all at once. Depending on your blog design, visitors might not even see them if you post them all at once. Spread them out over time. Keep your blog fresh.

Here is one more tip you might find helpful about evergreen blog posts. If you create 20 evergreen posts, it may also be worth the effort to collect and publish them in an e-book that visitors to your website can download for free. I have so many posts on one of my blogs that people have told me they would even pay for an e-book to read my posts in one place, rather than hunting for them. You can find many creative ways to enhance your prospective customer experience and boost your website activity by including a downloadable e-book. And those evergreen blog posts are a great way to gather that content.

If you need help getting started, I offer a writing service in which I interview you to create a list of evergreen topics. Then I write a collection of 10 to 20 posts for you, sometimes with a short follow-up interview for any clarifications that are needed. I’ll help you formulate a plan for which articles to post when, and I will make suggestions for other more timely posts you may wish to write in between. I have also helped my clients turn those evergreen posts and interviews into e-books. I welcome you to contact me for a free consultation.

12 Tips to Make Your Audio Recording “Transcription Ready”

Transcription
Photo by OpenClipart Vectors at Pixabay

I’ve been transcribing audio files through an online vendor. One of the biggest challenges – and the biggest reason I will turn down a project – is poor audio quality. And I feel for those clients. Whoever takes their transcription projects is going to have a hard time creating a transcript that meets the clients’ expectations. A transcriptionist, no matter how experienced, can work only with the audio quality he or she has been given.

To get the high-quality transcripts you are seeking from your audio or video recordings, here are 12 helpful hints:

1. Speak clearly. You would be surprised how often your voice drops off while speaking, or how many words you might run together when speaking quickly.

2. Be sure all speakers are near their respective microphones. If you are recording a phone call or online meeting, coach all participants to stay close to their mic any time they speak.

3. If you are recording a meeting with more than three participants, ask each person to identify himself or herself each time before speaking. Otherwise, your transcriptionist will not be able to distinguish between speakers. You would be surprised how similar voices often sound on an audio recording. If it doesn’t matter to you that each speaker is identified, then be prepared to see “Speaker 1” and “Speaker 2” each time someone speaks, even if there were three or more speakers on the call.

4. When you submit an audio recording, it can be very helpful if you also submit a list of the first names of the speakers with their proper spelling, along with a vocabulary list of any other proper names that are frequently referred to in the recording. Imagine listening to your conversation and not being familiar with the proper names and locations your participants take for granted. That is what your transcriptist will be dealing with, and his or her best guess may not meet your expectations.

5. If you are using prompts from a printed document as you speak, realize that every time you crinkle a paper, the microphone will pick it up and magnify the sound. Whatever words you were speaking will not be heard in the audio. This goes for any sounds you might make, including dropping something heavy or scraping something across your desk.

When you make those sudden noises near your microphone, it is not only the quality of your transcript that will suffer. You might actually cause physical damage to the transcriptionist’s ears. Professional transcriptionists often use high-sensitivity, noise-canceling headsets that magnify volume. One sudden noise can literally cause irreversible harm to your transcriptionist’s hearing. Please be mindful and careful toward that person who is serving you. You might not have met them, but they are part of your team, and it’s as if they are in the room with you, their ears finely tuned into your every word.

For that reason, also be sure to keep the tone of your conversation level. Avoid sudden outbursts. Please be aware of and honor that person who is tuned in with a high-sensitivity headset, listening closely to every sound in order to help you capture a high-quality transcript of your valued conversation.

6. Minimize background noise. You need to record in a quiet environment for clear audio quality if you hope to receive a good transcript. I have listened to too many interviews that take place at cafes and restaurants. While that might be a great location for an interview, realize that your resulting audio (and transcript) will suffer. If you are depending on that transcript to write a book or a report based on your interview, it will be in your best interest to choose a quieter location.

7. If you’re going to type for note-taking during the interview, test your setup first. I was unable to capture a transcription on an otherwise good-quality call because one of the attendees was typing. The noise from the keyboard obscured the interviewee’s words and made it difficult to follow the conversation. I can’t imagine it was easy for any of the conference call participants to hear and concentrate, either. If you need to type, choose a quiet keyboard, mute yourself, or if possible, have someone else attend the call who will simply stay muted and type.

8. If you are interviewing someone by phone, and the signal is fuzzy, hang up and try again. If you are struggling to hear what the other person is saying, it will be that much harder to hear the audio. Static distorts even the most commonly spoken words, and a professional transcriptionist will not guess at what is said. Instead, you will see “inaudible” stamped throughout your document.

9. Don’t hesitate to ask the person you are interviewing to repeat anything that wasn’t spoken clearly or that was interrupted by static. That repetition will do wonders for capturing those valuable comments on your transcript.

Transcription
Photo by micaelabustamentefg at Pixabay

10. I’ve participated in many group meetings that were recorded (many of these I often transcribe for those groups). I understand that free-flowing conversation is a healthy part of interaction. But recognize that the more people are talking over each other, the more impossible it will be for your transcriptionist to distinguish what is being said. You will end up with a transcript that has “crosstalk” stamped in those places.

If it is normal banter, that may be fine. But don’t let your most salient comments get lost in the crosstalk. Often participants in meetings need to be coached on not interrupting a speaker. People are so eager to share their thoughts, but it’s also valuable for everyone to listen to each other and honor each other’s comments. You will get a better transcript as well.

11. Don’t press “record” until you are ready to begin your interview, meeting, etc. Transcriptionists begin typing from the first recorded word. If there is a lot of chatter at the beginning, all of that will be transcribed (and much of it will be stamped “crosstalk” or “inaudible”). Since most transcription services charge by the audio minute, you will have wasted your dollars on those initial minutes of chatter.

Because that chatter will be hard to decipher, it will also take your transcriptionist longer to get through that section, and yet your transcriptionist is being paid by the audio minute. So this professional is putting in more of his or her time, with less compensation, to decipher conversation that will not be useful to your transcript.

12. If you plan to make a lot of recordings, it will be worth your time to review your completed recordings along with the transcripts you receive. Wherever you see “inaudible” or “crosstalk” or a time stamp with a guess as to how a proper name is spelled, ask yourself what you might have done differently to make a better quality audio. That will help you receive better results in the future.

The quality of the transcript you receive is only as good as the quality of the audio recording you submit for transcription. Taking the time to create a clear atmosphere with minimal disruptions will result in a better recording and a better transcript. You deemed the conversation important enough to record, so it is worth taking some extra steps to ensure good quality.

Invite Your Board and Volunteers to Build Your Nonprofit Organization’s Blog

Are your board members and community volunteers helping to grow your nonprofit organization’s blog? If not, this would be a great time to invite them.

Your blog is one of the simplest ways to get the word out about what you do. Your blog also brings interested people to your website. When website visitors find lots of informative and engaging blog posts, they spend time exploring your site, bookmark it, and share your articles.

The challenge for nonprofit organizations is the lack of time to write and publish regularly on your blog. You’re busy serving your cause every day. Who has time to write?

That’s where your board and volunteers come in. They have unique ways of looking at your organization’s activities and sharing the importance of what you do.

Blogging for nonprofit organizations
Picture by Geralt at Pixabay

Your board and volunteers can write about:

  • Why they chose to join in your vision.
  • How serving your mission has impacted them.
  • Their favorite moments with your organization.
  • Highlights of an activity where they have participated hands-on.
  • How your organization benefits the community.
  • A day-in-the-life reflection.
  • Their greatest hopes for your organization and the people or causes you serve.
  • And so much more.

If they feel like they don’t know how to write an article, you might suggest that they talk into a tape recorder or make a bullet point list. There are simple ways to get ideas across in writing.

Perhaps you can find a volunteer to head up this project. Maybe someone who loves to write. This volunteer can interview the board members or transcribe and edit their recordings or thoughts. I had the privilege of doing this at an organization where I served on the board. My interviewing project helped me become more involved with the organization in many ways.

This volunteer can also interview staff members to capture their perspectives on the vision and mission. No doubt your staff has a lot to share but may be too busy to write about it. A volunteer can take the time to type up and edit the staff interviews and ask additional questions for further information. That’s another project I participated in, as a board member, and I was thrilled to do it.

Allow your volunteer bloggers to be creative and to reflect their unique style. Do you have an attorney on your board? Let her write her reflections in a legal style. Is one of your volunteers a poet or songwriter? Let him write creative verses for your blog. Moms are often good at capturing and writing in dialogue style. Encourage each person to write in their unique style and voice. That makes for a well-textured and lively blog.

blog writing for nonprofit organizations
Photo by StartupStockPhotos at Pixabay

It is amazing to watch a nonprofit organization’s blog come to life when many people get involved and contribute. We are doing this right now with an organization I am involved in, and these guest articles have stirred a lot of interest. Visitors see the activity and different perspectives, and they want to be part of what your organization is doing.

When board members and volunteers are published on your blog, they will share those articles with a whole new audience that you might not have tapped into yet. You will get more article shares from people who know and trust your volunteer bloggers.

If you don’t have a volunteer/board blogging team, start reaching out today. Getting everyone involved in your blog is great for team building and creating outreach momentum. And it just might be fun too!

Your Book Is a Great Business Card

When people talk to me about writing a book, one of the first questions they ask is, “How much can I earn from my book?”

My answer is, “Assume you will earn nothing.”

Money and income are not good reasons to write and publish. While some authors do have breakthroughs, most books earn very little. Most new authors aren’t ready for the amount of marketing and publicity they will need to do – not to mention the out-of-pocket costs that come with that. Even if they go all-out on book promotional efforts, they are unlikely to see good returns.

While money is not a good motivation to write a book, there is a business advantage – if you are writing about the business you are in. A book is one of the best business cards you can give a potential client. Will it cost you money to give away your books? Yes, of course. But if you are willing to invest in your business, a book is a wonderful business card.

When you give your book to a prospect, they learn a lot about you. They will see that you

  • Take initiative.
  • Are a thought leader in your industry.
  • Have wisdom and experience to share – and are willing to share it.
  • Are able to complete a significant project (a book is not a small thing to put together).
  • Are generous with information – after all, you’ve given this person one of your books.

Books are a better conversation starter than a business card. When you give someone a book, they will find plenty to talk about with you.

You can also give your books as gifts or prizes at events you host or at venues where you are a guest speaker.

If you remember to put your business contact information in the front and back of your book before you print it, that information will be handed to more than the person you give it to. People like to give, lend, and recommend good books to others.

Obviously, you want to use some finesse in giving out your book. You probably don’t want to walk up to a stranger and hand him a copy – although I have a friend who would. But if you keep several copies with you, you’ll be surprised at the openings in conversations that lead naturally to, “Here’s a book you might enjoy reading. I wrote it.”

So, if you are in business and thinking about writing a book, be sure to have the right perspective. Don’t expect a sudden boost in your income – if that happens, it will be a pleasant surprise. But do expect to get a great business card and conversation starter for the next event you attend or lead.

12 Simple Questions to Bring Your Organization’s Blog to Life

With all the amazing work your organization is doing in the community, it’s not easy to find time to keep your blog up to date. But your blog is one of the first places people will visit to learn about what you are doing.

How do you keep adding to your blog when you don’t have much time?

Keep it simple.

Answering questions is one of the easiest ways to fill a blog post with useful information that also shows your passion for your work. You can even speak the answers into a tape recorder and have them transcribed quickly. Your answers will sound so natural that your readers will think you are talking directly to them.

There are many questions that lead to great blog posts. Often, those questions are the ones asked by your customers and supporters. Check through some of the inquiries you receive by email. You will probably find good topics for your blog. If one person is curious about something in your organization, others will be too.

If you would like some help in getting started, here are 12 questions relevant to your blog. Answer these 12 and you will have one blog post for each month of the year. You can blog more often (and probably should), but this will help you hold down the fort in the meantime.

Blog Questions:

  1. What is your organization’s mission, and what are 3 specific ways you have carried out that mission in the past year?
  2. What is the biggest problem your organization helps people solve?
  3. What are 3 ways your organization is unique from other organizations in your field?
  4. What is your favorite success that you have witnessed in your organization’s work this past year?
  5. What do you like most about the people you work with? (You don’t have to name names; just describe the qualities, personalities, goals, and atmosphere.)
  6. What is the biggest challenge your organization has faced, and how did you overcome it?
  7. What is one major change/improvement your organization wants to help create in the world?
  8. What are 3 things most people probably don’t know about your organization?
  9. What one thing has surprised you the most about working in your field?
  10. What do you like most about your customers or supporters and/or what are the qualities you appreciate about them?
  11. What is the latest “new thing” your organization has done? (It can be big or small.)
  12. How and why did you get started in this business?

Don’t overthink it. Just answer from your heart. Base your answers on the experiences that come first to your mind. As you answer the questions, just be yourself and speak/write in everyday conversational language.

You will be amazed at how your responses will connect with the people who visit your blog. Your answers will help make your company feel more three-dimensional, more real to them. They will see themselves wanting to get involved with your organization.

And you will have a blog that helps you stand apart online.

Sharing Your Legacy of Leadership through a Book

If you have served in leadership for a while, in any environment (business, family, nonprofit, education, healthcare, military), you have lived through many challenges. You’ve experienced things – good and bad – that you never expected. You’ve learned that encouragement and humility win the day. Probably you don’t regret a moment of this journey, even though some things didn’t turn out the way you’d hoped.

What you may not realize is how much people need to learn from your experiences and from the wisdom you have encountered along the way. They need your words of encouragement. Wouldn’t it be great if those who come after you don’t have to make discoveries the hard way?

One thing I’ve learned in working with leaders is how humble the best leaders are. If you’re the kind of leader I enjoy working with – and I believe you are – you probably don’t even think of yourself as a leader, let alone someone who should be putting words of wisdom in a book. The thought probably embarrasses you and goes against everything you’ve been taught about humility.

But reality is that you are a leader. It’s evident in the way you live, encourage, mentor, empower, and inspire, and by the roles you play in people’s lives.

You have so much to share. I would go so far as to say you have a responsibility to share what you’ve learned, and to teach by example how to lead. We, your readers and future generations of leaders need this!

You may feel like the more you have experienced, the less you know. But it’s your unique leadership experiences and your view of the world that the rest of us need to read and learn.

The world needs your legacy of leadership. It really does. One of the best ways to pass your legacy to others is through writing. Have you ever thought of what a gift your book would be for people who have yet to walk where you have walked?

I have spent 15 years ghostwriting and editing books for leaders like you. Leaders with real heart who have led through the trenches of life, work, home, and community. It has been a privilege to get to know each author and each story. I enjoy recommending these books and buying copies as gifts because I know people will be blessed by them.

To see a partial list of some of the books I have edited, please visit my Testimonials page. I don’t have any financial stake in recommending these books. I’m just incredibly proud of these authors for stepping out and sharing their life and wisdom in a book. If you have been considering writing a book to share your experiences, I hope seeing their books will inspire and encourage you.

 

Creating a Corporate Culture of Giving: An Inspiring Example

I just read the most inspiring article about a company that gives back to the community: “Most Influential 2017: Charles Antis wears his heart on his socks, spreads messages of corporate social responsibility,” authored by Theresa Walker and published in The Orange County Register. 

I think every business owner and every community would be inspired by reading this article.

Here is what I liked most in this story, and these are important takeaways for any business owner who is interested in making the world a better place:

  1. Mr. Antis has cultivated a habit of giving and has woven that throughout his business practices. In the article, he shares insights about how the company’s giving and profitability have gone hand in hand.
  2. Through his board leadership in the National Roofing Contractors Association, he has encouraged and challenged fellow roofing professionals to help meet a specific need around the nation.
  3. He has donated his specialized roofing work to nonprofits. His commitments cover a wide range of needs. The company’s focus on giving fully embraces the local community.
  4. This roofing professional has shared his personal story of why giving is so important to him. It is those stories, and that willingness to share them, that helps others identify their own “why.”
  5. He desires to help other companies learn from his experiences in how to make social responsibility a part of their corporate culture. He also demonstrates what a small-to-medium-sized business can do to make a difference in the community.

I was excited to read and learn about a company that is modeling and sharing insights into corporate social responsibility. If you desire to cultivate giving through your company in creative ways that impact lives, this article is a great starting place for inspiration.

Why I Chose to Give a Toy Lamb (Anatomy of a Giving Campaign)

When you’re designing a gift campaign, sometimes it helps to look at other campaigns from the perspective of a donor. See what makes the campaign appeal to you; suggest improvements; and discover whether the campaign actually prompts you to complete a giving transaction.

Let’s look at a campaign that caught my eye on Thanksgiving Day. In this campaign, led by a nonprofit organizaton, donors could purchase a particular gift to be given to a child or family living in poverty. The campaign focused on how a small purchase price could provide a gift with a much larger impact.

Gift Campaign Attractions

Why did this campaign grab my attention?

Several reasons:

(1) It makes giving affordable. I won’t hesitate to spend under $10 for a good cause. I don’t have to go over my bank records or think whether or not I can afford it. For coffee lovers, giving up two or three seasonal designer coffees at Starbucks would cover the cost.

(2) I could tell visually from the LinkedIn ad photo and from the website landing page that the campaign offered a lot of variety. We all have different preferences, in terms of what we’d like to give. I could tell immediately that this campaign would allow flexibility of choices. That made me feel empowered as a giver. I could connect with an opportunity that spoke to my heart.

(3) The offer was simple: I could choose my donation and the organization would take care of distribution to the people who most needed this gift. I have given to this organization before and am familiar with their work, so I trusted their promise.

Here is where your year-long content creation efforts – blog posts, case studies, newsletters – pay off in year-end giving. Those year-round efforts create and nurture relationships; they help people become familiar with what you do on a daily basis; they build trust.

With this organization, I didn’t have to investigate or think. I just wanted to give. Had I needed more information, I could easily click on the website’s navigation links to experience the organization and learn more about what they do. The risk there, of course, is that I might not have made it back to the donation page. Hence, their year-long efforts to keep me engaged kept me focused on the donation process on the screen in front of me. This was not the time to learn; this was simply the time to give.

(4) The final attraction to this campaign is that the donation was for a specific item. People love to give something tangible where they can imagine their gift being given and used. I could decide if I wanted to pay for chickens for a family; blankets; hot meals; recreational items; food for a baby; and more. These items were $10 and under, and this was a suggested (not required) donation. I could give less, knowing it would still be put to good use in helping children and families.

If I had more to give, I could choose from a different list with items priced above $10. These included house repairs; medical procedures (from a list of even more specific needs); water filters; and more. For high-cost items, like surgery, I was given the option to pay a portion around $25, knowing my gift would be pooled with gifts from other people to make that surgery possible.

In the end, I chose a $10 gift that provides 4 plush lamb toys for children. While this might not sound as helpful as a water filter or feeding a baby, I know from firsthand experience of working with children in trauma how comforting a plush animal can be. I was wanting my gift to provide comfort, and a little toy animal was for me the ideal way to deliver that emotional comfort.

Areas for Gift Campaign Improvements

Having participated as a donor in this gift campaign, I got to experience the process from beginning to end. This is a helpful way to learn how to improve the donor’s experience. Going through several of these campaigns from other organizations, looking closely at the experience, will help you improve your own campaign.

(1) The website was formatted beautifully on my iPhone and easy to navigate. However, I prefer to do financial transactions on my computer. When I opened the website on my computer, the formatting didn’t fit well on my screen. I could never fully read the item description at the bottom of the screen, and I could see only half of the “Add Item” button.

If I hadn’t been familiar with this organization, I would have been tempted to give up. Instead, I pressed through because I knew I wanted to support this campaign. Even so, the formatting caused confusion and I spent more time on the transaction than I might have liked. It’s important to test the layout of your campaign on multiple devices and screen sizes.

Don’t assume donor loyalty will be enough for people to press through. Even the most loyal customers are concerned about online security of financial transactions. If everything doesn’t appear straightforward, they might withhold their donation, simply because the layout makes them uncomfortable.

(2) Because I could not read the full item description on my computer, I wasn’t really sure what my $10 was providing, other than it coincided with the picture of a plush lamb toy. I didn’t know the toy was musical; that $10 was enough to provide toys for 4 children; or that the toys would be given to the children along with their Christmas gift boxes. I had to return to my iPhone and open the item description there to learn more about what I was giving. Not everyone will be that diligent or take that extra time.

Even on my iPhone, when I opened the description, the top line showed over some other text, so it was hard to read. This might seem like a minor detail, but keep this in mind: Formatting errors make the process appear rushed. I know this organization well, and I know how busy they are and how much they are handling this time of year. I’m willing to give them some leeway and understanding.

However, not everyone who visits your campaign knows you. Some might be visiting for the first time and not yet sure if they want to support your efforts. When they see glitches in the formatting, they might wonder if this reflects how well your organization is run, or how much they can trust you with their money. People are very careful where they give their limited funds. They will be overly cautious in looking for telltale signs that cause them not to trust.

(3) My payment transaction linked me with my PayPal account (by choice). However, PayPal (by default) told me the items were being shipped to my address. This caused me to leave my computer screen, go back and look over the information on my iPhone, to be sure I wasn’t getting any items sent to me.

My understanding was that I was simply providing a donation, whereby these items would be sent by the organization to the children in need. That was, in fact, the case. But it took time to make sure, and in the process, I abandoned my computer screen before completing the transaction. We all know that when a person walks away from a transaction screen, that person might get distracted and never return to complete the transaction.

Better messaging along the way would have helped, e.g., the item description might have reassured me that I was donating to provide 4 lamb toys, which the organization would ship to children in need. Those little extra details can make all the difference in helping someone feel secure with an online transaction.

(4) The thank you note that I received online, after my purchase was complete, took time to appear on the screen. I was “told” that if the note did not appear I could refresh my screen; but most people don’t want to hit the refresh button in the midst of a financial transaction. I might have left without reading the note, and it is the thank you note that makes a huge difference in bringing a donor back again.

That thank you note is what helps the donor really feel the difference he or she has made in a person’s life. With an online transaction, you have to work extra hard to give a donor a tangible way to feel what has taken place. The thank you note is one of the most important pieces of your campaign messaging.

As it was, when the note opened, it was in a text-based font and hard to read.  The wording caused confusion, making me think I would not also receive a copy by email. I had to go check my email to be sure a copy was sent before I exited the screen.

Takeaways

On the whole, I appreciated the opportunity to donate plush lambs to 4 children to help them feel comforted and loved. That’s the main reason I gave the donation, and I chose to give through an organization I knew would be faithful to deliver those lambs to the children. I will also return to give again in the future because of my long history of giving with this organization and the trust I have with them.

However, if I were new to this organization or to this campaign, I might not have completed the transaction or returned. Just a few simple tweaks with the layout and messaging would have given me a better experience.

When you set up a giving campaign, I strongly recommend you gather a team of people you trust to test out your process and give feedback before you launch. Test the process from beginning to end. Be sure these are people who can be objective and critical.

It’s the little things that will build trust and assurance; help people complete transactions; and bring them back to support you in the future. It’s also in the details where people will feel empowered by their experience. This helps nurture a desire to keep giving and an interest in learning more about what you do throughout the year.