The Big Secret – One Word – to Transform Donor Loyalty

SECRET 300x300 The Big Secret – One Word – to Transform Donor Loyalty

What ONE principle can change your donor relationships from short- to long-term?

In a recent post about building donor loyalty I promised to reveal my personal #1 SECRET the one principle that makes the greatest difference to long-term, sustainable fundraising success.

I’m going to share that principle here; then I’m going to turn this principle into a word – actually three variations of the same word – that you can use to transform the way you’ve been doing business.

Are you ready?Continue Reading

7 Little-Known Secrets That Will Get You a Visit with Your Donor

Milk a cow 7 Little Known Secrets That Will Get You a Visit with Your Donor

If you want to milk a cow, sit by its side.

Why is it so hard to set up a time for a visit with a prospect?

It just is.  People screen their phone calls.  They don’t answer your emails.  They’re busy. And, let’s face it, they know what this is about.  Some folks will avoid the ask because they’re thinking about it in terms of ‘money’ rather than ‘impact.’  Once you get in the room with them, you’ll be able to change this perspective.  But… how to get there?Continue Reading

4 Secrets to Inspiring Philanthropy through Storytelling

Storytelling hands 4 Secrets to Inspiring Philanthropy through Storytelling

People. Purpose. Passion. Plan

Philanthropy; Not Fundraising

People. Purpose. Passion. Plan.  Four “P”s in a row. I know… you’re thinking, cute. Yawn. But wait. Before your eyes glaze over, stop a moment and think about these 4 “P”s.

They’re  central to your success in inspiring philanthropy.  Because even though I’ve written, and truly believe, that there are fundamental ways fundraising has changed significantly over the past five years, there are also things that haven’t changed at all. You simply must translate these fundamentals to the digital world:

  1. People love a good story.
  2. One with a purpose. 
  3. One told with passion. 
  4. One that has an order or plan. 

It’s human nature to love to listen to – and tell – a story.  So let’s figure out how to make that happen for your organization – and for your donors.Continue Reading

How to Overcome the Money Taboo and Succeed with Fundraising


gallo money story 3 How to Overcome the Money Taboo and Succeed with Fundraising
We think asking for money is like hanging our dirty laundry
My last post explored the reasons board members fear fundraising . Most fear of fundraising boils down to two factors: (1) fear of rejection, and (2) fear of looking stupid due to insufficient knowledge/skills. It turns out that these fears are relatively easy to overcome. Seriously. Read the last post.
The hard part is overcoming our deep-rooted psychological aversion to talking about money.  Most of us were raised to believe this is impolite.We’d rather talk about anything else.

Many scholars argue that money is the number one social taboo in America (see also Krueger, The Last Taboo). Even religion, sex and politics are better discussion topics as far as most of us are concerned.
51xEiJBk3XL. BO2,204,203,200 PIsitb sticker arrow click,TopRight,35, 76 AA300 SH20 OU01  How to Overcome the Money Taboo and Succeed with Fundraising
The Fundraising Taboo
Where money is concerned, we tend to come from a place of “no.”  And people think fundraising is all about money. Here’s what I mean:  Say the word “fundraising” and look at people’s faces.  Their mouths will pucker up in a grimace.  Their eyes will squinch closed as if in pain.  Their brows will furrow.  I recently tried this with a board of directors, asking them each to give me the first word they thought of when they thought of fundraising. Here are the (all) negatives:


FUNDRAISING means:
Asking
Ugh!
Yuck
Painful
Hang up
Arrgh!
Money
Duty
Necessary
Evil
When viewed as being about money fundraising, at best, is seen as an onerous chore; a necessary evil.  We’ll put it off for as long as possible – sometimes forever. This is why many organizations find themselves in an endless cycle of cultivation, never getting around to the “ask”.  We even get as far as making solicitation assignments to our volunteers, and they often tell us they are willing.  But they back burner the job.  We call and remind them.  They say “yes, I’m meaning to do that soon.”  They don’t.  We call again.  Nada. Zip. Effectively, we say “no” on behalf of our would-be supporters – never even extending them the courtesy of making their own decision. Before you know it, the year has ended and we’ve effectively avoided doing our chore.

Why do we do this, especially with organizations we love?  When we serve on a board (or as a committed donor) aren’t we making a statement about our values?  And if we truly value something, wouldn’t we want to share our values with others and enable others with similar values to also participate in the wonderful mission of which we’re a part?

This brings me to the word “philanthropy”, which literally means “love of humankind” (from Greek).  When I asked the same board who painted the word “fundraising” with a negative brush to paint the word “philanthropy” for me, here are the (all) positives:


 How to Overcome the Money Taboo and Succeed with Fundraising
PHILANTHROPY means:
Giving
Generosity
Satisfaction
Joy
Appreciation
Inspiring
Love

Fulfillment

Fundraising is not about money; as a servant to philanthropy it’s really about love. And we mustn’t say “no” to love on behalf of others.  People are perfectly capable of doing this on their own, and they should be able to make their own choices. What makes us feel okay about denying others the opportunity to feel fulfilled?  As one of my fundraising mentors and founder of The Fundraising School, Hank Rosso, said: “Fundraising is the gentle art of teaching the joy of giving.”

Once board members understand their role as noble “philanthropy facilitators” (as teachers rather than ignoble fundraisers) they can shift their brains from a place of “detestable” to a place of “honorable.” Most of us genuinely want to help others.  We want to care about something other than ourselves.  We welcome someone reaching out to touch us… to motivate us… to inspire us to the actions for which we yearn.

I love the definition of philanthropy coined by Bob Payton, professor emeritus at The Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University, as “voluntary action for the public good.” Every word has impact. Philanthropy is voluntary; not coerced. It’s action; time or money given, and it’s directed towards the public good. In other words, it’s not about money. It’s about helping.

Philanthropy is based in values. Development uncovers folks who share the values your organization enacts. Fundraising matches the donor who shares those values with the organization that enacts them. Presto! We’ve suddenly shown others the path to be the change they want to be in the world. That’s why “fundraisers” are such superstars. Fundraisers are the catalysts that make change happen.

Do you see the difference between fundraising and philanthropy? How would you help your board members to get over the fundraising taboo?

 

WARNING: Jargon Redux. Why Your Writing is Boring


No Jargon WARNING: Jargon Redux. Why Your Writing is Boring

Last week I wrote about the evils of using jargon.  I got lots of responses. It’s clearly hard for people to get outside of their ‘insider’ mindset. When we use words at work daily, they begin to seem normal (even though we may’ve never used those words before).  Before working at a social service agency, I never regularly used the words “client,” “youth,” “senior,” “programs,” “services,” “underserved,”  or “managed care.”  If you think these words are okay to use in your external communications, they’re really not.  Later in this post I’ll point you to an article by Gail Perry that explains why. These are modern jargon; words that don’t cut it if you want to differentiate yourself, demonstrate impact and inspire investment.

Thanks to all of you who sent me your favorite jargon culprits. For those of you who may wish to avoid these words in your future marketing and fundraising materials, you’ll find a list of these offenders later in this post.

What it all seems to boil down to is communicating for understanding.  Words you can use internally (or with funders, as per their requirements) should perhaps not be used externally.  It takes a lot of awareness — and practice — to avoid falling into the jargon pit. I always ask myself:
1. Is there a more simple word?
2. Is there a word that has more impact?
3. Is there a word that’s more specific?
4. If I took this word out, would the meaning be just as clear? More clear?
5. Does this word unnecessarily (or stereotypically) categorize someone?
Words that bug folks:
attriting  account-managed       actioned   back-end      back of the envelope
bandwidth        benchmark       best practices   capacity building           change agent
                       
community-based         critical         CRM   cultivation         dashboard        development
           
disseminate       distance travelled          empower          evidence-based            front-end
going forward     groundbreaking     hard outcome       impactful           implement
innovative         leverage            pipeline   proactive          prospect           regular giving   
scoping     soft outcomes     state of-the-art              stewardship      successful
transparent          unique          utilize            vital           values-based          volunteer

 

For another super list of jargon, check out this nifty Philanthropy Jargon Generator. Besides being a lot of fun, it’s eye opening. It quickly becomes clear that when you use jargon – and it’s worse when you string jargon words together – you leave a lot of folks scratching their heads. If head scratching is the emotional call-to-action you’re going for, then be my guest.
Jargon is not just acronyms and scientific language.  I recommend reading The 3 Most Boring Words in Fundraising Appeals by Gail Perry. She explains why these words (which most of us have used all too often) – underserved; programs, and services — have little or no emotional impact. Modern jargon is anything that is so overused and obtuse as to have become essentially meaningless.
Jargon puts people to sleep.  And, surely, this is not your goal! For some other examples of slumber-inducing prose see Jargon, Jargon We Got Jargon by Kristina LeRoux, which also includes a link to another list of commonly used clichés and jargon. Try to avoid anything that makes people hear/see “blah, blah, blah.
THIS ABOVE ALL: Look for bang for the buck. Can the word stand on its own? Does the word scream for a response? Does the word make the reader feel something? Jargon is not compelling. Good writing should be compelling. Channel Ernest Hemingway’s Top 5 Tips for Writing Well. Be brief, succinct and vigorous. Don’t use a word that makes the reader want to ask:  “What do you mean by that?” Avoiding jargon is really another way of saying: Be a good writer.

How do you avoid using jargon? Do you have a system that works? Please share!

Fundraising Writer Alert: 6 Things Modern Jargon Is and Why You Must Avoid Them


 Fundraising Writer Alert: 6 Things Modern Jargon Is and Why You Must Avoid Them

Jargon is the opposite of constituent-centered writing.

           
You must avoid it because it’s not constituent-centered.
           
I could stop here, but I won’t.  Because most of us use jargon all the time without being aware we’re doing so.  Why?  Because we only know that it’s ‘bad’ and to be avoided.  Yet how can one avoid something without knowing what it is?
Let’s take a look at some different types of jargon; then vow to stop using it.

Jargon pops up all over the place; it’s more insidious than you think.  Originally, the word applied to trade languages used by people who spoke different native tongues to communicate. Jargon was esoteric, yet it was precisely defined for ease of communication between specialists in a given field (e.g., physics; mathematics; astronomy; computers; medicine; law). This made sense.  And it’s also common sense that we’d want to avoid using technical language when trying to communicate with (or raise funds from) non-technically savvy folks. This would be a simple rule to apply.  But jargon is much more than scientific lingo.
The type of jargon most used today is better described as a buzzword (which often develops from the appropriation of technical jargon, yet is used in a more general way, often inaccurately or inappropriately.) It may be used due to an intentional desire to be vague or, perhaps, to a desire to impress. The key is that the words are used outside of the context where they’ll be easily grasped (click here for a list of common buzzwords in business, and here for a list for nonprofits from trend watcher Lucy Bernholz ).
MODERN JARGON IS:
  1. A “clinical” or “official” or “specialist” word. In the nonprofit world this would extend to words like ‘case management’ (really, who wants to be either a ‘case’ or be ‘managed’?); ‘client’ (this is a broad categorization, even a dehumanization, of a real person who’s a child, parent or grandparent), or ‘youth’ (when is the last time you said “I’m going to pick the youths up at soccer?”). Jargon can simply be words that are used in white papers and grant proposals, but not in conversation (or fundraising appeals).
  1. A term of art.  It may seem to be a perfectly ‘normal’, everyday word to you.  But would your best friend really understand what it means? Another way to think about this is whether the terminology is especially defined in relationship to a specific activity, profession, group, or event. One example is ‘planned giving’ (even those within the profession disagree as to the meaning); others are ‘stakeholder’, ‘dashboard’ and ‘outside-the-box.’ When a term is only widely recognized in your industry, and not easily comprehended by the general public, this is jargon.
  1. A word that’s seldom part of every day usage. George Orwell wrote in Politics and the English Language: “Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.”  What does “microfinance” or “social entrepreneur” mean to the average person on your mailing list?  I recently used the word “bandwidth” in a blog post, and not everyone understood what I meant. Test words out on colleagues if you aren’t sure.
  1. A pompous, “big” word. The original “Mad Man” advertising guru David Ogilvy,  in an internal memo to Ogilvy & Mather employees in 1982, told his staff never to use jargon words like reconceptualize, demassification, attitudinally or judgmentally. A whole new definition, corporate jargon, is described as using sometimes-unwieldy elaborations of common English phrases, acting to conceal the real meaning of what is being said. Ogilvy defined jargon words as “hallmarks of a pretentious ass”.
  1. An acronym. Anything using letters can be an acronym.  It’s not just reserved for scientific terms or names of organizations.  It can be something as simple as “E.D.” or “CFRE” or “FTE” or “FY” or “ROI” or “YTD” (and these are acronyms used all the time by nonprofits in their literature).  Acronyms will often stop a reader dead in their tracks if they’re not universally understood.
  1. An over-used phrase.  When phrases pertain so universally as to become essentially meaningless, this is a form of jargon. (The same principle applies to “buzzwords”; while these are not offensive to everyone, you should be aware that some people go ballistic at their very mention).  Examples of over use in the nonprofit world include: “these are trying economic times”; “making a difference”; “tradition of caring”, and “changing the world.” If you don’t believe this can be less than effective, check out this post from the Non-Profit Humour blog (it’s seriously hilarious, and makes its point).
Jargon is bad because it deters understanding.   Jargon can make it take longer for folks to appreciate what you’re trying to say.  Not everyone will stop to do research in order to comprehend your intended meaning. Most, in fact, will simply give up. Others may pretend to understand; then they won’t act because they really had no clear idea what you were talking about. And all your efforts will have gone to waste. Your goal is to communicate, not to confuse, annoy or anger.
Comb your prose for jargon before you publish anything. This includes your next fundraising letter, newsletter, annual report, case statement, blog post or anything intended for distribution via social media. Don’t forget social media! It’s easy to fall into acronym use when you only have 140 characters. Yet, even though the word comes from old French meaning ‘chatter of birds’, I’d suggest keeping it out of your tweets. Especially on social media, people are looking for simple, quickly grasped content to make it easy to form a split-second decision as to whether to share it.

If folks won’t understand it, dump it. If it sounds stuffy, pretentious or stilted, dump it.  If there’s anything in it that only people in your industry would fully appreciate or understand, dump it. If what you’re saying could apply to a hundred other charities and is not uniquely you, dump it. This is another tip from David Ogilvy: “Never send a letter or a memo on the day you write it.  Read it aloud the next morning — and then edit it.

Jargon will fail to differentiate you from your competition. You can’t stand out by using jargon, buzzwords and pablum. Jargon won’t help search engines find you either.  How many others are trying to ‘change the world’?  I’ll tell you: Google says 2,490,000,000. Remember: you have a mission and product or service you’re trying to convey as unique.
What are the worst examples of jargon you’ve heard (or found yourself using)?

Who Else Wants to Feel Successful? The Problem with being Jack of All Trades; Master of None

23113358 Who Else Wants to Feel Successful? The Problem with being Jack of All Trades; Master of None
Why don’t I feel serenity?
Do you feel successful? Think a minute about what you and/or your organization do. Does it feel like enough?  Too much? Does it make you and/or others happy? Fulfilled?  Do you feel successful (or not) based on what other people say and do? Based on how much money you make or how famous you are? Or does fulfillment come from something deep within that defines your purpose? Let’s take a moment to consider the way we define ‘success.’

Is there a ‘secret sauce’ to create success? Recently I watched a YouTube video about mastery from the inimitable cartoonist/philosopher Hugh MacLeod, and I’m persuaded that mastery is the ticket. Not fame. Not fortune. Just doing something really, really well that you love. Hugh talks about seeing a movie called Jiro Dreams of Sushi.  Jiro owns a 10-seat restaurant, underground, in the Tokyo subway.  All he serves is sushi.  He works 365 days/year.  He loves his work. Others love his work.  They wait up to a year in advance to be able to eat there.  They’ll pay $1,000/head.  The tailors of Savile Row in London have a similar model.  They don’t have large overhead.  They aren’t billionaires.  Yet they have a year-long waiting list too.  Sewing buttons, cutting cloth. Sewing buttons, cutting cloth. Over and over.  And they have greater personal satisfaction than folks working on Wall Street for oodles of money. Through mastery. 
Is mastery the secret to fulfillment? Hugh draws all day at his work bench.  He says it’s boring; but he loves it. He, like Jiro and the tailors, does something simple and useful that people value.  The secret sauce?  Mastery. And no one can take this away from you. You take mastery with you wherever you go.
autonomy.1.1 Who Else Wants to Feel Successful? The Problem with being Jack of All Trades; Master of None
Cartoon from Hugh MacLeod, Gaping Void

Mastery is a journey; not a destination. The journey begins whenever we decide to learn a new skill. In the book Mastery: The Keys to Success and Long-Term Fulfillment George Leonard writes about the ways in which mastery leads to greater satisfaction and excellence. He notes that mastery is not reserved for the super-talented.  Anyone can travel this path.

Those on the path to mastery enjoy the practice just for the sake of practice. Even when the work is frustrating, or seemingly not moving forward towards a defined purpose, it’s still enjoyable.  Every step along the way is meaningful, even though the pay-off isn’t quick or easy.

 Who Else Wants to Feel Successful? The Problem with being Jack of All Trades; Master of None
How to win with so many choices?

People who win the lottery don’t feel successful.They feel lucky. And thrilled. But the thrill wears off and they go back to feeling mundane. Sometimes they even feel guilty. It turns out that ‘having it all’ without having found an underlying purpose is not really that satisfying.

The ‘kicker’ is that finding an underlying purpose, and deciding to do something really well, means foregoing other opportunities. You can’t go down all paths simultaneously.  And since the journey towards mastery is long and slow, you can’t go down too many paths sequentially either. So you must choose; then put on blinders to everything else.  Otherwise, you become what Leonard describes as a ‘dabbler’ (yard-long resume filled with 1-year stints) or a ‘hacker’ (passable tennis player, but nothing more) or an ‘obsessive’ (sacrifices enjoyment of the journey for getting to the end result as quickly as possible). In other words, keeping all options open may lead you to become the infamous “Jill of all trades; master of none.

Life in the 21stcentury offers a dazzling array of choices at all times. It’s difficult to decide what to focus on in the next half hour, let alone the next 10 years.  One of the reasons we favor the urgent over the important is it postpones our decision; in our minds we don’t have to give up on anything.  We’re constantly busy and active. Yet we don’t choose to act; the situation chooses us and we react.  And we imagine that this makes us important. Yet does anyone strive to have “Was a part of every email chain” on their gravestone? Choosing not to choose does not lead to fulfillment.
 Who Else Wants to Feel Successful? The Problem with being Jack of All Trades; Master of NoneFulfillment comes when we accept our limitations.  We cannot do everything. But that does not mean we cannot do something (or several things) meaningful.  There is a famous admonition in Judaism, attributed to Rabbi Tarfon, which states “You are not required to complete the task; neither are you free to desist from it.”
If we choose thoughtfully, there are things we can master.  There are things our organization/business can master.  And there are things our supporters, through us, can master as well. These things will be meaningful because we love them, and because others value them.  By embarking on the journey towards mastery, we will achieve fulfillment and success.
 
What have you mastered that people value?
What do you do that is outstanding and that no one else does quite the way you do?
What can your supporters master through you? They may not be able to save the entire world, but who canthey save?

Long Weekend SMIT: Stop Hunkering Behind Your Desk


Here comes this month’s *SMIT (Single Most Important Thing I have to tell you).   The next time you have the urge to utter “I don’t have time for this,” stifle it. Usually the things we think we don’t have time for are precisely the things we should most be doing. Like taking some time off.  Getting up and out from behind our desks. Turning our gaze onto something besides an electronic screen. 
Trust me. Time is short. You don’t have time not to do this.
1345673214 8098 3 Long Weekend SMIT: Stop Hunkering Behind Your Desk
Chances are you spend too much time sitting at your computer. It’s making you stupid.  Seriously. It’s also shaving years off your life. Seriously. This is not just about resolving to exercise more.  It’s bigger than that.

An emerging field of inactivity studies reveals that some of us just naturally move more than others.  And this extra movement makes a huge difference. I’ll leave you to read the research in the two linked articles above for yourself (or check out Stop Your Business From Ruining Your Health ), but here’s what one of the lead researchers in the field, Dr. James Levine, has to say: Excessive sitting is a lethal activity.
The good news is we can tinker with our system just a tad to alter our natural patterns. Yes, here’s where we get out from behind our desks! Not only may it improve your memory, help you to think more clearly and give you a longer life, it will also improve your work productivity and performance. Who doesn’t have time for this?
It turns out the old management by wandering around  philosophy has multiple benefits. When you wander in an unstructured manner just to talk with others in your organization you create energizing opportunities for personal, face-to-face engagement.  In Managers – Get Out From Behind Your Desk! we learn there’s a lot to be said for just being present. And what can be said for being effective as a manager and leader could also be said about being successful as a parent, spouse, partner or friend:
            The most effective…get to know their people…their frustrations, concerns, questions, beliefs, problems, dreams, goals, strengths and weaknesses…negative things are happening… right now, and the sooner you identify them, the sooner you can reduce, eliminate or neutralize them. If you just act as if everything is just fine, prepare for the consequences.
Take some time to get up and out. You’ll feel better.  Others will feel better. Ultimately, you’ll find the time was well spent as it will open up time you were losing by just hunkering down.  Hunkering is a defensive posture; standing up gives us a lot more control.
How do you recharge? It’s worth giving this some thought.
Not just on holidays, but as a regular, incorporated part of your lifestyle? Not just at home; also at work. A daily battery boost.
Have a great long weekend!

10 Keys to Solving the Right Problems: Part I

 10 Keys to Solving the Right Problems: Part I
What’s the problem?
Problems, problems… who’s got problems?  We all do, but before we can solve them we must first define them.  Otherwise, we’re apt to solve the wrong problem!  Sadly, this happens all the time. SO let’s take a page from Einstein’s book. He is quoted as having said that if he had one hour to save the world he would spend fifty-five minutes defining the problem and only five minutes finding the solution.
Don’t put the cart before the horse (or mule, burro, zebra or… gee whiz, what kind of animal do you have there?)! Back up! 
 10 Keys to Solving the Right Problems: Part I
There’s no one right way to solve a problem.  Yet we fall into a trap when we rush to find solutions. I learned this years ago attending a workshop at the Interaction Method in San Francisco.  It was an invaluable lesson.

The creators of the method, Michael Doyle and David Straus, distilled all their best advice about running meetings in How To Make Meetings Work (a book I highly recommend in its entirety; here I’m channeling just the chapter on solving problems). In a nutshell:  problem definition is the one important thing you must do to assure you solve the right problem. 

Without a clear definition of the problem to be attacked the entire process will be misdirected.  Problems, Doyle and Straus note, boil down to perceptions.  Whose problem is it? Ever stop a children’s fight and ask them what it was about? Generally you’ll get something like: “He hit me and I fought back.” “No, she started calling me names,” etc. The objective in collaborative problem solving is to get to agreement on the common statement of the problem. As stated in an excellent case vignette about framing business problems to inform relevant research:  Even a good road map is useless unless you know just where you are going.  All of the roads can be correctly drawn, but they still don’t get you where you want to be.
12907.strip 10 Keys to Solving the Right Problems: Part I
To assure you’re headed in the right direction, and solving the right problem here are tips gleaned from experience, plus wisdom from Doyle, Straus and John Dewey:
  1. Clarify that problems aren’t ‘bad’. They’re a fact of life. Change occurs and change requires responses. Don’t be afraid of problems, don’t ignore them and don’t try to gussy them up by calling them something else. One technique is the “best, worst and most probable’ scenario”. When folks are resistant to addressing a problem, ask them what’s the best, worst and most probable thing that will happen as a result of solving/not solving the issue. Often folks will not be able to think of any terrible consequences if they try to resolve the issue, and then will become more willing to get the ball rolling.
  1. Legitimize problem perceptions. Ask everyone to state their personal view. Don’t judge at this point. If there is a lot of dissonance, try discussing how folks feel about their perception of the problem. If Joe says “There’s a problem with productivity” Sam may feel threatened that he’s going to have to work longer hours.  If Joe understands how Sam feels, he can rephrase the problem. Once everyone has stated their viewpoint folks can begin to see the commonalities, or lack thereof.
  1. Rephrase the Problem. In the example above, let’s say Joe instead asks the group to figure out “ways to make people’s jobs easier.”  He’s likely to get a lot more suggestions. Similarly “How can we increase sales?” is very different than “In what ways can we provide more benefit to the consumer?”  They are phrased from different perspectives. Also, the latter phrasing suggests there are a multitude of possibilities, rather than one right answer. Words carry meaning and play a major role in how we perceive a problem.
  1. Get a working definition of your problem. Once you’ve clarified perceptions the next step is to say what it is and what it isn’t. If your car stalls, you can’t jump to the conclusion it’s an engine problem.  Similarly, if you start working on “Where to build a new school” you’ll rule out possibilities you might have explored if you’d defined the problem as “Where to find new classroom space.” Building excludes other possibilities like renting or converting existing space. You don’t want to narrow the problem prematurely.
  1. Make the problem engaging. “Increasing sales” is boring.  “How can we wow our customers?” is challenging. “How to create a Facebook page?” is boring. “How can we engage meaningfully with our constituents?” is exciting. Plus, it doesn’t close off other solutions (maybe Facebook is not the only answer). If it’s fun, it’s like a game; folks will want to play.
What’s your tip to assure you’re solving the right problem?
Have you found a way to make problem solving engaging? 

Part II will explore 5 more keys to solving the correct problem,
 but perhaps there are even more.  Please share!

Why You May Be Dull at Work: What You Can Do to Change

no purpose without play Why You May Be Dull at Work: What You Can Do to Change
Remember when summer used to mean time for play?  Have you lost that playful feeling?  Before fall rolls around, let’s see if we can get a bit of it back. Hugh McLeod of Gaping Void recently reminded me that there is no purpose without play. As anyone familiar with nursery rhymes knows, all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.
We accept that for children their “work” is play; that being free to explore and innovate is how they learn and make sense of the world.   Yet we don’t allow ourselves the same liberties as adults. We forget that we’re all children inside and that perhaps this is still a good way for us to expand our minds… think outside the box… grow… become inspired… and create.
If you’ve ever felt you’re just mind-numbingly working, working, working… tediously running, running, running… monotonously busy, busy, busy – like a hamster on a treadmill – then perhaps a little play is just the ticket to finding new purpose and meaning in your daily routine.

Much has been written on the subject of finding purpose and, towards this end, the importance of channeling a play ethic (See “The PlayEthic”; “Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul”(by Suart Brown, M.D. ). Similarly, research into the science of happiness has shown us that an organizational culture embracing play and joy can be a key to improving employee morale and customer satisfaction – all leading to a purposeful and successful bottom line (Check out  “Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, and Wisdom” (by Rick Hanson); “Peak: How Great Companies Get Their Mojo from Maslow” (by Chip Conley)). So what are we waiting for?
It’s time to stop plodding through the day, barraging our constituents with messages about why they should do something (e.g., buy a product/service; give a contribution). Let’s stop pressuring and invite folks to do something pleasurable, fun and meaningful. Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh’s book on “Delivering Happiness” is particularly relevant to nonprofits as he also speaks to the importance of concentrating on the happiness of those around you to increase your own.  This means, if we do it right, making our clients and supporters (and co-workers) happy is what will ultimately win the day, enable us to fulfill our missions and make us happier, more passionate and newly purposeful to boot.
We need to cease thinking of play as a distraction and begin celebrating its benefits. How often have you heard an employee complaining, only to have someone else say “if it wasn’t so hard (awful; difficult) they wouldn’t call it “work”? Tony Hsieh reminds us that work doesn’t have to suck. Chip Conley exhorts us to find our own “joie de vivre” by going beyond short-term thinking and the daily grind towards an all-encompassing, joyful vision that bestows a sense of purpose and well-being among all who come into contact with it.
What can you do to become more of a “player”?
What keeps us from moving from a “work ethic” to a “play ethic”?
What playful strategies do you employ? Please share!