BOOK REVIEW: Start Something That Matters

  1. A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about being selected to participate in the TOMS Shoes’ “Books for Bloggers” promotion. I received two copies of TOMS’ founder, Blake Mycoskie’s, new book “Start Something That Matters.” One copy was mine to read and review, while the other was meant for me to give away. While this post is about my review, details on the giveaway can be found here.
  2. I read the bulk of “Start Something That Matters” while commuting to and from work on Chicago’s el. As I was reading, I tweeted the passages that most resonated with me…here are the quotes and context, compliments of Storify:
  3. “Increasingly, the tried-and-true tenets of success are just tried, not true.” @BlakeMycoskie #StartSomethingThatMatters
    November 17, 2011 7:07:36 PM EST
  4. This quote was found in SSTM’s opening pages and its quirky word play was what inspired me to tweet out interesting passages as I came across them. Though I usually abhor puns and think they scream “GIMMICK,” I believe that Blake has truly touched on something valuable; today’s business world is long on advice, but short on originality and risk-taking. The same can’t be said for Blake himself, nor for TOMS Shoes…which should become apparent as you continue to read.
  5. “Stories are the most primitive and purest form of communication.” – @BlakeMycoskie #StartSomethingThatMatters
    November 21, 2011 9:08:11 AM EST
  6. Blake is big on story-telling and attributes it to TOMS’ success. Anyone can make a cool, comfortable pair of shoes…but TOMS was able to connect product with passion. Their customers feel like partners and ambassadors, all because of a compelling and inspiring story.
  7. “If you doubt your own authenticity, it will sap your passion.” – @BlakeMycoskie #StartSomethingThatMatters
    November 21, 2011 7:12:06 PM EST
  8. Think about your contacts in the business and/or nonprofit world. Now think about the people who personally commit to their product/mission…and think about the ones that “just” do their jobs. My guess (and Blake’s hypothesis) is that you’ll see two distinct groups emerge — one that’s passionate and successful, the other that’s ambivalent and middling.
  9. “What distinguishes the ultimate successes from the ultimate failures is what you do with them.” – @BlakeMycoskie #StartSomethingThatMatters
    November 22, 2011 9:04:31 AM EST
  10. Sometimes, there’s a fine line between good and bad…between pass and fail…between success and failure. Blake suggests that it’s not so much the idea that dictates a project’s success, but the drive and reactions of the person or people implementing it.
  11. “I surround myself with inspirational quotations.” – @BlakeMycoskie #StartSomethingThatMatters #meta
    November 22, 2011 9:12:36 AM EST
  12. Each chapter starts with an inspirational quote. I guess it’s no suprise, then, that Blake wrote a book filled with inspiring words from his own mind.
  13. “Lack of resources inspires creativity… It’s one one of the reasons @TOMS succeeded.” – @BlakeMycoskie #StartSomethingThatMatters
    November 22, 2011 6:35:22 PM EST
  14. One of the most compelling (and easy to replicate) parts of the TOMS story is how the company started on a shoe-string budget and found success before it was logistically ready to handle it. How did Blake avoid business disaster? By staying simple, exploring every possible cheap/free option and resisting the urge to burn capital (ahem, pets.com) simply because it was available.
  15. “Simplicity is simple. Perhaps this sounds redundant. But it’s true, and it’s important.” – @BlakeMycoskie #StartSomethingThatMatters
    November 23, 2011 4:12:28 PM EST
  16. ‘Nuff said.
  17. “Ur org’s next great idea may come from…the top down, bottom up or zigzagging thru the middle.” @BlakeMycoskie #StartSomethingThatMatters
    November 25, 2011 4:46:01 PM EST
  18. Power to the people! Organizational hierarchy is often important, but Blake suggests that it not come at the expense of innovation. Often, the best insights can come from those employees with ears closest to the ground. Make sure you set up a system in which their observations are collected, appreciated and acted upon.
  19. “Being clear about where your donors’ money goes is the best way to build their trust.” @BlakeMycoskie #StartSomethingThatMatters
    November 25, 2011 5:02:23 PM EST
  20. This is gospel to fundraisers, but cringe-inducing to many of our accounting offices. Yes, transparency requires a lot of extra effort…effort that will be rewarded tenfold by loyal, appreciative and increasingly well-educated nonprofit donors.
  21. “Compliment publicly and criticize privately, but do both directly.” – @BlakeMycoskie #StartSomethingThatMatters
    November 26, 2011 12:09:11 AM EST
  22. What a great business tip! This one has already gone into my rotation.
  23. “Incorporate giving in2 ur business model & give ur business a mission larger than ur bottom line” @BlakeMycoskie #StartSomethingThatMatters
    November 23, 2011 9:16:37 AM EST
  24. “Giving feels good. But…giving is truly good for business as well.” – @BlakeMycoskie #StartSomethingThatMatters
    November 26, 2011 10:23:28 AM EST
  25. “When giving is incorporated into ur business model, customers become product marketing partners.” @BlakeMycoskie #StartSomethingThatMatters
    November 26, 2011 10:26:19 AM EST
  26. These passages appear in different sections of the book, but I’ve united them here because the message is a common one.While not every for-profit business can or should work on TOMS’ “one for one” model, Blake (and a growing number of other business leaders) suggests that to build loyalty among customers, today’s companies need a connection to social good. You may not be able to give away a million pairs of shoes to children in third world countries, but your customers will appreciate and reward your genuine efforts to make a difference in your local community. And really, can’t every business do that? Shouldn’t every business do that?
  27. “I firmly believe that every person alive can make this world a better place.” @BlakeMycoskie #StartSomethingThatMatters
    November 26, 2011 10:45:04 AM EST
  28. Carpe diem, Blake. Carpe diem.
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CEO Leadership Tips for Young Professionals

  1. Julie Smolyansky was the youngest ever female CEO of a publicly held firm when she assumed leadership of Lifeway Foods (NASDAQ: LWAY) in 2002. On November 16, she joined the Young Professionals of Chicago for a breakfast conversation about leadership, overcoming challenges and achieving success as a young professional.
  2. Not one to hide behind podiums, Smolyansky immediately endeared herself to the audience by making herself accessible (sorry for the poor photo quality).
  3. CEO of @lifeway_kefir, Julie Smolyansky #YPCceo http://lockerz.com/s/156663287
    November 16, 2011 8:36:09 AM EST
  4. Smolyansky was thrust into CEO position when her dad died suddenly. Stock crashed next day. “It totally pissed me off.” #YPCceo
    November 16, 2011 8:50:23 AM EST
  5. Smolyansky’s father was the founder and CEO of Lifeway.  After his sudden heart attack, she was asked to fill his very big shoes. She had to simultaneously grieve AND lead — a responsibility made difficult by the fact that few people seemed to think she was capable of sustaining the company’s growth. Her anger may have provided the initial fuel, but Lifeway’s subsequent success can be attributed to rational leadership.
  6. Smolyansky on thinking outside the box: “the rules aren’t what you assume they are.” #YPCceo
    November 16, 2011 8:42:16 AM EST
  7. Smolyansky: “your skill set is your skill set, but your passion & tenacity can take you anywhere.” #YPCceo
    November 16, 2011 8:50:31 AM EST
  8. These two leadership quotes sum up Smolyanksy’s leadership style; she feels very strongly that her passion and daring made up for any shortcomings in her leadership resume.
  9. On company’s natural foods vision: “how you treat your body is how the world treats you.” #YPCceo
    November 16, 2011 8:52:03 AM EST
  10. Smolyansky: “The core of what we’re doing is healing the world through food.” #YPCceo
    November 16, 2011 8:54:14 AM EST
  11. “It’s good business to find ways to help society.” Nice that @juliesmolyansky knows giving back is about more than tax write-offs #YPCceo
    November 16, 2011 9:10:29 AM EST
  12. “The next generation of people & companies bears the responsibility to actively make the world better.” @juliesmolyansky #YPCceo
    November 16, 2011 9:01:57 AM EST
  13. Smolyansky frequently peppered her advice with words like “karma” and “doing the right thing.” She expressed her obligations not only to stockholders and consumers, but to spread the gospel about healthy, sustainable and local foods. More on Lifeway’s corporate social responsibility
  14. Smolyansky: “It’s up to every [young] professional to find their passion and make it their career.” #YPCceo
    November 16, 2011 8:55:15 AM EST
  15. “There’s a leadership gap in the modern business world. Young professionals need to step up to the challenge.” – @JulieSmolyansky #YPCceo
    November 16, 2011 8:59:54 AM EST
  16. Perhaps she was just telling the room full of 20- and 30-somethings what they wanted to hear, but Smolyansky urged her audience to step up to leadership, rather than wait for the opportunity to be handed to them.
  17. “If you’re comfortable, you’re not growing. We’ve never been comfortable.” @juliesmolyansky #YPCceo
    November 16, 2011 9:15:23 AM EST
  18. A great leadership mantra. Smolyansky implored her audience to do what she asks her employees to do — experiment outside their comfort zones to achieve maximum success.
  19. “The future of corporate social responsibility isn’t cash donations…it’s building business models around doing good.” – Smolyansky #YPCceo
    November 16, 2011 9:24:06 AM EST
  20. When asked about Lifeway’s philanthropy, Smolyansky said she thinks the future isn’t in a conventional grants model. She is fascinated by micro finance and seems focused on social entrepreneurship more than old-school charity.
  21. *****

After the event, Smolyansky and I exchanged emails and I asked her for a few closing words for young professionals (since my live Tweets ended abruptly). She was kind enough to humor my request, so I’ll let her words serve as a conclusion:

If you have any doubt about your abilities to lead, to contribute…let them wash over you now and get on with it. We don’t have time. The time is now. We need you to step up, challenge yourself, innovate, be who you were meant to be. Join a movement you believe in or create your own. Just do it. The world is rooting for you.
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Pretty inspiring stuff, no?

Secret Strategies to Maximize Fundraising Event Revenue

  1. On November 15, Shanon Doolittle (of the Group Health Foundation) hosted a fundraising event webinar as part of the National Fundraising Event Series. When I read the webinar teaser, signing up was a no-brainer:
  2. In this new economy, event fundraisers have to work even harder to sustain or grow their event revenue. But what if instead of working harder, you had the tools to work
    smarter? By focusing on activities that will drive event revenue, you’ll
    maximize your impact to raise more money for your cause. This webinar will spill
    the beans on specific techniques that can help you efficiently achieve better
    financial results. From audience development to auction procurement, you will
    learn new strategies for helping your nonprofit maximize its event revenue and
    other best practices are now trending in our industry.

  3. And guess what? The session was even more valuable than I imagined it would be!

  4. “Which revenue bucket makes you want to scream into a pillow at night?” – this is how I know this webinar is for me @sldoolittle #NFE11
    November 15, 2011 2:16:44 PM EST
  5. Our hostess with the mostess, Shanon Doolittle, started the webinar by asking about event fundraisers’ most common frustrations. Clearly, she “gets” it.
  6. Trouble securing event sponsors? Figure out the month when their funding decisions are made. Solicit on their schedule, not yours. #nfe11
    November 15, 2011 2:16:24 PM EST
  7. NPO event sponsorship: get in touch w/ prospect and ASK when they make funding decisions- plan accordingly #nfe11
    November 15, 2011 2:18:02 PM EST
  8. Often, our pitches are good enough to warrant funding. But if the corporate prospect makes funding decisions in March, the world’s greatest ask won’t work if it’s delivered in December. How do you know when your prospect makes a funding decision? Shanon says it’s not complicated…just ask!
  9. Create entry-level (lower $) sponsorship opportunities. Opens door for new sponsors at accessible investment amounts. #nfe11
    November 15, 2011 2:19:08 PM EST
  10. event sponsorship is like dating. don’t ask them to marry you on the first date. ease in and provide entry level sponsorship opps #nfe11
    November 15, 2011 2:20:26 PM EST
  11. An idea so simple you’d be amazed how many people miss it. Not every sponsor can be a platinum one; create an entry-level opportunity and you’ll get more sponsors, increased revenue and better relationships!
  12. Table sales: create a committee and gamify/incentivize the process. Competition breeds success! #nfe11
    November 15, 2011 2:20:45 PM EST
  13. NPO event table sales: top salesperson from ur org who sold most tables- give em gift, let em choose where they wanna sit etc #nfe11
    November 15, 2011 2:21:26 PM EST
  14. Selling tables can be a challenge, but Shanon suggests creating a committee to focus only on table sales. Offering those volunteers an incentive is a great way to get the best results.
  15. NPO event table sales: offer smaller size tables 4 those who can’t afford full table. get em in door & next yr will be easier #nfe11
    November 15, 2011 2:22:15 PM EST
  16. Don’t just offer tables of 10/12. Offer a small table option too…you’ll fill the room easier! #nfe11
    November 15, 2011 2:22:17 PM EST
  17. Some people just can’t afford and/or can’t fill your standard 10- or 12-person table. Sell a half table, says Shanon. Part of an event fundraisers’ job is to reduce opportunities for prospects to say no!
  18. NPO event ticket sales: offer discounted prices 4 young ppl. and YES- this totally works!!!!! #nfe11 @sldoolittle
    November 15, 2011 2:23:57 PM EST
  19. Many organizations are trying to reach the young professional demo. If you want to capitalize on their energy and networks, why not offer 20- and 30-somethings a discount to your event?
  20. use your invitation to share your story. make an emotional impact. #nfe11
    November 15, 2011 2:25:33 PM EST
  21. NPO event invitation: treat it like direct mail- tell ur orgs story!!! if some1 cant go 2 event- invitation should make em wanna GIVE #nfe11
    November 15, 2011 2:25:44 PM EST
  22. Love this. “Treat your event invitation like your direct mail.” Another great opportunity to tell your organization’s story. #NFE11
    November 15, 2011 2:27:11 PM EST
  23. Event invitations are often the most boring mail we receive. Why not design them with your marketing eye? Doing so can only help drive event revenue AND brand awareness. If you already do direct mail, you should have an idea for what works and what doesn’t.
  24. NPO event invitation: include matching gift info #nfe11 @sldoolittle
    November 15, 2011 2:26:29 PM EST
  25. Include matching gift information on your invitations. You’re wasting an opportunity if you don’t include the option. #nfe11
    November 15, 2011 2:26:49 PM EST
  26. It logically follows that if you start treating your invitations like direct mail, you should also include matching gift information (like you do in your direct mail pieces). Different donors will want to give in different ways; make sure you’re opening up every possible avenue.
  27. NPO event raffle: u can pre-sell tickets b/c person doesn’t need 2 be at event to join raffle. helps build buzz 4 event #nfe11
    November 15, 2011 2:28:09 PM EST
  28. Offer multiple raffle items that people can choose from! #nfe11 @sldoolittle
    November 15, 2011 2:29:29 PM EST
  29. Shanon’s charity raffle tips include pre-selling to ensure you maximize revenue from people who can’t attend your event. Also, create multiple prize packages/buckets so people can choose which prizes they’re eligible to win.
  30. If you’re doing a charity auction, use a professional auctioneer. Don’t let a volunteer do it…you’ll leave money on the table. #nfe11
    November 15, 2011 2:33:03 PM EST
  31. NPO event auction: limit number of items; use professional auctioneer- u may be leaving $$ on table. they know how 2 get more bids #nfe11
    November 15, 2011 2:33:10 PM EST
  32. While your Board chair may think he can run your auction, a professional auctioneer will instinctively know how to maximize the bids for each item…and keep the event from devolving into chaos.
  33. Doing a “raise the paddle” event? Pre-solicit starting donations. The worst thing you can do is get ZERO bidders on items. #nfe11
    November 15, 2011 2:34:13 PM EST
  34. It looks really bad if you can’t get anyone to make a starting bid. Talk to your major donors/leaders prior to the event and get them to agree to start off the bidding at a comfortable level. In most cases, other bidders will follow.
  35. use #donation cards to capture your quiet donors at the end. #nfe11
    November 15, 2011 2:37:08 PM EST
  36. Don’t forget to put a donation card on the table. Not everyone wins the auction/buys raffle tix. Create another donation opportunity! #nfe11
    November 15, 2011 2:36:04 PM EST
  37. I love this idea of the “quiet donor.” Putting a donor card at every seat ensures that EVERY guest has one more opportunity to make a gift.
  38. Post NPO event: send event summary as quickly as possible after event, could be titled: Join us at our Virtual Table w/ donate button #nfe11
    November 15, 2011 2:39:59 PM EST
  39. ask non-attendees to join you at a post-event “virtual table” … and yes, follow-up with an ask. #nfe11
    November 15, 2011 2:40:06 PM EST
  40. After your event, email an event summary to both attendees and non-attendees and feature the DONATE button. #nfe11
    November 15, 2011 2:40:13 PM EST
  41. Post NPO event: u CAN make an ask after event, send e-appeal 2 ppl who didn’t RSVP or come- let em know ur org still needs their help #nfe11
    November 15, 2011 2:40:57 PM EST
  42. After your event, you should STILL be asking for donations (from both attendees and non-attendees). Shanon invites people to join a “virtual table” at which they get an event recap, see pictures/video and hear another call to action (the ask).
  43. Let your event dictate the technology you use; don’t let “cool” technology drive your event decisions. #nfe11
    November 15, 2011 2:49:56 PM EST
  44. There are a lot of exciting tech toys available to event fundraisers. Make sure you’re using the tools that make the most sense for your org and event…not the ones that are the shiniest.
  45. NPO event sponsorship: RESEARCH UR PROSPECTS!!!!!! if u cold call, let biz know u understand what they do, engage etc #nfe11
    November 15, 2011 2:58:59 PM EST
  46. No one likes cold calling (or being cold called). But you stand the greatest chance of success if you let corporate prospects know that you understand what they do and why they do it. Research their philanthropic agendas thoroughly before you ask them to contribute.
  47. You rock my world. Thanks for live tweeting my little webinar, @fundraisinisfun @matthewsm1th @jesstaback @mackenzietl @kantifaeff! #NFE11
    November 15, 2011 5:11:52 PM EST
  48. No, Shanon, you rock OUR worlds.
  49. I’m hoping someone is going to storify @SLDoolittle & #nfe11 awesome info! Event fundraisers need this info in the playbook!
    November 15, 2011 2:42:21 PM EST
  50. Done and done! 🙂