Category Archives: book review

The Dragonfly Effect – its all wings and analogies

The Dragonfly Effect is a book by Jennifer Aaker and Andy Smith about ways to use social media to drive social change.

They use the analogy of the wings of a dragonfly as the four essential ingredients in any social media campaign.

It breaks down how to ‘do’ social media to drive change into four ‘wings’.

Wing one; is about focusing focus on a single concrete measurable goal or outcome and then breaking it down into small manageable actions or chunks.

Wing two; is how to grab attention and get noticed amongst all the other noise that we are all bombarded with.

Wing three; is about engaging your audience emotionally through telling stories and making a personal connection.

Wing four; is about how to make it easy for your audience to take action and enable others and the importance of providing fast feedback.

There are some interesting case studies, and they give tips for beginners on using Facebook, Twitter and YouTube and building networks. However, I was disappointed with the overall content as it was repetitive and cluttered and I found the number of dragonfly and wing analogies a bit irritating. (The dragonfly analogy is apparently because the dragonfly is the only insect to move in any direction when its four wings are working in concert)

However they make some good basic points, which apply to any activity designed to drive change, that of

  • Focusing on the end goal
  • Grabbing audience attention
  • Engaging with the audience
  • A clear and simple call for action

So my advice is, if you are planning to use social media (or drive any sort of change) to take these principles and get on with testing out your campaigns and messages rather than spending time reading the book.

I’d love to hear about what you are doing and what is working and not working for you on social media right now….

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‘If the best thing we can say about our organisation is how much it costs to raise a pound then that’s a bit sad’

Today I was reading Kevin Baughen’s Penguin Blog, ‘Which charity brand will be the first to jump on admin costs? And it reminded me of couple of sessions that I saw at the FIA Conference earlier this year.

Dan Pallotta, author of Uncharitable and founder of Pallotta Teamworks spoke about how charities overheads are perceived by the public, media, government and their own staff.

Dan challenged the popular belief that the more of a donation that goes directly to services and the less that is ‘wasted’ on overheads including salaries, staff development and administration, the more effective the charity. He spoke about expectations that charity staff should be paid far lower than their equivalents in corporate organisations, and receive less investment in personal development and training, because they are compensated by the ‘feel good factor’ of working for a ‘worthy’ cause.

Dan used an example of soup kitchen A and soup kitchen B to illustrate his point. Soup kitchen A reports that 90% of every donation goes to the cause; soup kitchen B reports 70%.

But what you don’t know from this topline statistic, a statistic from which many people base their decision on which organisation to support, is that soup kitchen A serves rancid soup in a run down building with unfriendly staff, while soup kitchen B is open all the time, employs friendly staff, serves hearty nutritious soup in state of the art facility and also does case management.  In this scenario when making a decision on which organisation to support, the percentage that goes to the cause is not a good question. A better question would be; which charity makes the most difference?

Many charities are apologetic about the costs involved to raise funds. Almost half of charities claim that there are no costs associated with their fundraising. The lack of transparency regarding expenditure required to deliver sustainable fundraising only exacerbates public, media and government perceptions that somehow charities should fundraise for free, and that donors should expect 100% of their donation to go directly to services.

Adrian Sargeant in his Masterclass on ‘What every board should know about fundraising’ raised a similar point. He commented that “If the best thing we can say about our organisation is how much it costs to raise a pound then that’s a bit sad.”  The most important measure is the difference that a donor has made.

Adrian went on to highlight that in the UK we lose 50% of new donors in the first year. Then 30% year on year. In 2007, 38% of donors stopped giving. Over half of those stopped because they no longer felt personally connected. So, if we don’t continue to engage and build relationships with donors the initial cost of recruiting those donors is wasted.

Developing long-term relationships requires investment. It simply can’t happen for free. Charitable organisations must continue to invest carefully in their fundraising and at the same time be bolder and more transparent about the real costs involved in running an effective sustainable fundraising programme.

This paradigm shift has to be led from within the sector. It is the responsibility of charities to change the perceptions of the public, media and government and help them understand that fundraising efficiently does indeed cost money.

Kay Sprinkel Grace described fundraisers as brokers of dreams, giving supporters the opportunity to make a difference to the world. Yet our big dreams and ambitions, and those of our supporters are often reduced to apologetic conversations about how much it costs to raise a pound.

How can you be bolder about the real cost to raise a pound? And more importantly how can you show your donors that their donation to your charity will make the biggest difference?

Why we have our best ideas in the shower

This evening I watched the live stream of a RSA talk by Jonah Lehrer about new research that is deepening our understanding of the human imagination.

Not actually being at the RSA in real life was a strange experience, I felt like I was intruding as people arrived and I watched by myself. In silence until the speakers took the stage. It was also a modern-day miracle given my recent service from Virgin Broadband.

The talk was based on Lehrers new book Imagine: How Creativity Works, which explores where creative thoughts originate.

CRAP

No I’m not being rude. CRAP is apparently an acronym for Compound Remote Associates Programmes.

CRAP is like the word puzzles you get in the Sunday paper. Unrelated words are presented and the problem is to find a fourth word that relates to them all, e.g. for the words; pine, crab and sauce  – the solution word is apple.

The study showed that the creative insight that comes before a solution, can be detected in the brain 8 seconds before it arrives. It’s identified by functional resonance imaging and electroencephalography.

In plain English this means that the bit of the brain behind your ear that scientists don’t know huge amount about shows a sharp spike in alpha wave activity. This alpha wave pattern closely resembles that of someone who is in a relaxed state.

Therefore the conclusion is that if you are in a relaxed state (and a good mood too apparently) you are far more likely to develop creative thoughts.

So this is good news. If we can relax more, and spend more time on the activities that relax us; going for a walk, having a bath, taking a break from our desk or having a few beers with friends (A different study showed that undergrads who were too drunk to drive had a 30% higher success rate in solving these sorts of problems… make of that what you will) it will help us be more creative.

The bad news is that for many people it is hard to relax and switch off from the stresses of daily life. Also relaxation alone wont cut it. According to Lehrer to master the elusive skill of creativity we also need grit, serendipity and real life face-to-face interactions.

And to find out more you can see the RSA film of the event here.

Perhaps that explains why so many of us have our best creative ideas in the shower?

Having ideas isn’t the problem. The hard part is making them happen.

I’ve just finished reading Making Ideas Happen by Scott Belsky; an inspirational book full of practical advice based on real experiences of the challenges and joys of making ideas happen.

 

“Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration” Thomas Edison

As Scott rightly points out, having ideas isn’t the real problem; it’s making them happen. Ideas don’t happen because they are great or by accident. They happen because people make them happen. And there is a formula.

Making ideas happen = Ideas + organisation + communal forces + leadership capability

Organisation This is about managing your energy wisely and prioritising where you will make the most difference. Scott suggests that you approach everything (even personal life)  as a project.  All projects are broken down into;

  • Action steps; specific concrete tasks that move you forward; write blog, call important person, pay electricity bill
  • References; project related information; websites, email trails to refer back to
  • back-burner items; not for now, but someday; idea for a new training course or pitch for a client Organise everything in these three categories to move projects that matter forward.

Communal forces Ideas do not happen in isolation, (also see Stephen Johnson’s Where good ideas come from) you must build your networks, work with the people around you, tap into their energy, ask for their help in building, refining and broadcasting your idea, get their feedback and reciprocate.  This will help your idea gain traction.

“Diversity of opinions and circumstances increases the likelihood of happy accidents” John Maeda FISD President

Leadership This is the ability to inspire others. Your ideas will thrive with you as a creative leader. There are challenges to this; it requires a mindset and a personal resilience to help you overcome obstacles along the way to making your idea happen. Actually taking action or ‘shipping’ as Seth Godin names it in his excellent book Linchpin, is one of the biggest challenges. Having the ability to close down the ‘lizard brain’ that feeds on fear to stop you shipping things and causes you to sabotage your progress by having….. another……. meeting… (sound familiar?) is a skill that leaders must work hard at.

I love this book because there are many practical tips to help you make your ideas happen, my favourite tip is keeping an eye on the backward clock… and also the many stories including the Purple Santas.

Most ideas never happen. I challenge you to defy the odds and work hard to become a person whose ideas happen. If you can do this you will be at a huge advantage.

It’s no longer good enough just to be ‘good’

Life is competitive. I think Darwins’ theory of natural selection also applies to organisations. Put simply; evolve or die.

In order to survive your organisation needs to understand its customers and offer them incredible products and services. You also need to be able to anticipate change and be able to respond more quickly and more remarkably than your competition.  It’s no longer good enough just to be good.

It’s also no longer good enough to be very good. In his book Purple Cow, Seth Godin makes the point that very good is an everyday occurrence and hardly worth mentioning.  Because it’s boring and expected. He claims that ‘very good’ is the opposite of remarkable.

Most organisations are good. Few are remarkable. The lack of remarkableness is because people and organisations are scared to be different. They think it’s safer to be like everyone else. According to Seth this poses a problem because unless organisations are remarkable then they will not survive. See paragraph 2.

‘Tastes like chicken isn’t a compliment’ Seth Godin

Remarkable can be bad or good. If you travel by plane and get there safely you don’t tell anyone. That’s what’s supposed to happen.  That’s just good or very good. What makes it remarkable is if it is diabolical beyond belief or exceeds your expectations, e.g. rude staff, dreadful food, delays or a free upgrade without you asking, complimentary champagne or arriving early.

Remarkable spreads. People tell people about their remarkable experiences. Authentic remarkable can go viral across the world in minutes.

So what are you doing for your donors, volunteers, beneficiaries and customers that’s very good, and how can you make it remarkable? If the answer is nothing. I suggest you get thinking – or you quit while you are ahead.

If you are contemplating remarkable you might find these books inspiring

Purple Cow – Seth Godin

Linchpin – Seth Godin

Business Beyond the Box – John O’Keefe

Good to Great – Jim Collins