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08/23 2013

It’s time for SXSW Voting!

It’s that time of year again! This year I need you help supporting some great folks who have some very cool stories to tell.

The first panel I would love your vote on is all about herding your internal employees and using the power of internal social collaboration networks to make that happen. The next panel is how big brands have their legal and social media teams working together to get content out faster than ever.

Both are full of great speakers, best practices and case studies. Take a second and do the following:

1) Vote THUMBS UP on both of the panels

2) Leave a comment on both panels.

3) Look on the right side of the pages and tweet/facebook out your favorite out of the two!

http://panelpicker.sxsw.com/vote/20945

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Posted in Innovation
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03/28 2013

Innovation in Action : Build-a-Sign Philanthropitch

Check out this idea from our friends at Build-A-Sign. Based after the popular fast pitch idea, they are hosting a Philanthropitch for nonprofits. (Full Disclosure: Their CEO is on the Lights. Camera. Help. Board). Philanthropitch is an event for select Austin-area nonprofits to showcase their organization, its impact on the community, and present a specific need (in less than 5 minutes) to a panel of Austin’s most successful community leaders in order to secure cash prizes for their mission. Any nonprofit can apply starting April 1st to participate in the pitch event taking place on May 29th. Visit www.philanthropitch.com to apply & learn more. Interested? Tell us why in the comments.

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Posted in Info Tech, Innovation
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10/11 2011

Caffeine, Pixels, and Pivots: 3 Tips for Starting a Nonprofit-Focused Business

This is a special guest post by my friend Dodd Caldwell from BellStrike.com

I don’t like to tell people what to do.  Situations and circumstances change and my “expert” advice doesn’t always fit.  But I’ve learned a lot recently about starting a nonprofit-centric business so I’ll just share a few things that mattered to Bellstrike (and may matter to you).

Coffee Meetings Matter – Caffeine isn’t the only element that makes coffee shop meetups so important.  It’s the education.  In the early days of Bellstrike’s development, I asked a lot of local nonprofits for a bit of their time to run my ideas by them.  I didn’t try to sell them on Bellstrike; I didn’t even have anything to sell.  I just told them what I was working on and asked them to pick it apart.  Most everyone was happy to oblige.  Getting feedback from potential customers and not just from friends was invaluable.  These short coffee meetings made Bellstrike what it is today and continue to shape us.

Impeccable Design Matters – Pixel-perfect design isn’t very prevalent around the nonprofit world.  That’s why it’s so important – great design can help any nonprofit-centric business standout even more than it would in other industries. Bellstrike received an initial rush of exposure and much of it was due to our design.  But design isn’t just aesthetics.  Design encompasses so much more: usability, personality, details, and aesthetics.

Usability – Take an otherwise complicated process and make it intuitive.  In order to make sure we did this with Bellstrike, we conducted a lot of user-testing on individuals over the age of 55 with lower incomes and little internet experience.  We figured if we could make it easy for them, it would be easy for most everyone else.

Personality – Some people aren’t going to like Bellstrike.  They’ll think it’s too playful or unprofessional.  That’s OK because some love it.   We wanted to set an approachable, fun, refreshing tone throughout our brand – from the videos, to the hidden goodies, to the way we word our copy.

Details – People notice details. On the day we launched, we had multiple people email us screenshots of typos we made deep within our Terms of Service.  I didn’t even think anyone actually read those.  Also, most companies don’t spend a lot of time designing their Help page, but we wanted to make even our less prominent pages as easy on the eyes as they are to use.

Aesthetics – When most people think of design, they think aesthetics.  To get the right look, we hired a world-class designer and illustrator.  Even when it comes to elements like buttons, we want beauty, not just functionality.  And we love typography.  With new developments on the web, beautiful fonts can now be used for dynamic text.  In the past the world was stuck with just a few web-standard fonts.

Drastic Change Matters – A “pivot” is a drastic change in a business model that still retains some of the core ideas of that model. I first envisioned Bellstrike as an Etsy for nonprofits where each organization would create a profile and upload content to it.  Donors would be able to browse for organizations to support.  But I noticed that the competitors in this space were already executing pretty well.  I also seriously doubted whether donors “shopped” for nonprofits in this way.  Finally, after talking to potential customers, I realized that every nonprofit wants their own branded, donation-enabled website.  But they oftentimes have trouble creating and updating it.  That’s where we found our opportunity.  I decided that Bellstrike would become a website creation platform.  And we may very well make other “pivots” in our future.  It’s good to stick to your guns but once you realize your plan doesn’t make sense, why not switch to a different weapon?

Whether you’re a non-profit or a for-profit, if you’d like hear more about what I’ve learned, contact me Bellstrike.com, doddcaldwell.com, or on Twitter @doddcaldwell.

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09/26 2011

Review : Cause Marketing for Dummies

I recently got the chance to read a pre-release copy of the new Joe Waters (@joewaters) and Joanna MacDonald tome “Cause Marketing for Dummies“. Having followed Joe’s blog and twitter stream for awhile I’ve come to enjoy his sense of humor around marketing and great tips around how to interact with brands. I was a tiny bit familiar with cause marketing having dipped my toe into it at the American Cancer Society and doing some sponsorship work with Lights. Camera. Help., however, as Joe notes sponsorships are not the same as cause marketing.

Even with my limited background Joe and Joanna’s book really opened my eyes to the rest of the cause marketing world. At 300+ pages this book takes you step by step through the cause marketing process from day one of writing the plan all the way down to using advanced digital marketing tricks to earn more money for your campaign.

Some of my favorite sections included “What cause marketing can’t do”. Here are some sample thoughts:
1) Cause marketing doesn’t build brand
2) Cause marketing isn’t for the indifferent
3) Cause marketing partnerships can be fleeting
4) Cause marketing is more about marketing than mission

Take that last one to heart kids! My second favorite section was on how cause marketing could be a win-win-win. I won’t give away all of the secret sauce but my favorite parts had to do with when cause marketing works great for the companies involved. Some samples below for you business owners reading this:

1) Other forms of marketing increase your visibility, cause marketing increases your favorability.
2) Cause marketing gives you a competitive edge that goes beyond product and price.

I love that last one as it reminds me directly of the RED campaign, and how much that has given a lift to brands like Apple and Nike. Whether that is deserved or not could be a whole other book…

All in all this is a great start for anyone involved in nonprofit marketing or fundraising. If you are really looking to wrap your heard around the subject this is THE book to pick up. I’m really looking forward to Joe and Joanna’s next book..Maybe a more critical look at the shine companies get from cause marketing? What do you think of the book or cause marketing in general? Sound off in the comments below.

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