social sector


5 Way to Delight Customers By Showing Your Casual Side

This is the age of authenticity. People, and especially millennials, don't like it when you look too good too much of the time. Now that just about everyone has a camera in their pocket and a platform to go public, it's expected that if you're a big deal you'll be caught with your hair down once in awhile--I suggest as an organization you do so intentionally.

Let me give you business rationale to back up this assertion that you should use content marketers of yesteryear would have shunned, along with a five practical applications.

From Global Charity to Celebrity The Principle Applies

A 20+ year employee and leader within World Vision shared with me one of the secrets of the organization's success over the past few decades. Very simply, their development team showed supporters pictures of themselves in the everyday work of the business. This tactic lifted an entire group of donors from the "middle" to the "major" contribution level and catapulted them to a $ Billion dollar organization.

Next, far from the world of charity, Taylor Swift has, according to Time Magazine (subscription wall), conquered the music business. How has she amassed such a huge, loyal, profitable following? By sharing her heartbreaks in her songs, sure, but even more than that she shares intimate photos and videos of her life and creative process. Taylor sitting on the couch with her cat eating bon bon's, friends out skiing, random thoughts from the journey even. 

Your supporters mostly cannot come see you and the work in person (you should offer quality site tours -- more on that in a later post), so you need to take them along the journey with you. 

Here's What To Show 'Em

It's time to become a tour guide to your own brand/company/cause, but what do you show? Here are a few pointers:

  1. Show yourself in the midst of the work, literally holding the artifacts that tell the tales of the business. Consider providing a peak into the training tools, legacy stories, characters, everyday objects, even funny mementos around the office. For example, a colleague of mine has an office full of spears from his work with tribes around the world, I've included photos of them with a short description in donor letters and on social media. 
  2. Consider what goes into your production and share the steps along the supply chain. How do resources get from point A to B? Lift the veil. For example, a friend owns a wholesale floral distribution business and he flies around the world to pick out products for holidays a year in advance. He knows what next year's Valentines Day will look like now so I told him to give his customers a sneak peek into that world (it borrows from the fashion industry). It's fascinating, educational, and helps his business stand out.
  3. Make yourself available for regular knowledge sharing and Q&A. Many org.'s have incredible experts tucked into their offices, known among industry circles but not elsewhere. Don't discount that some of your customers would LOVE to hear what s/he has to say. Set-up a quarterly conference call or webcast to enable them to share their latest and greatest observations. Take advantage of the many platforms, panels, podcasts, etc. that already exist to showcase your heroes. Give attendees a chance to pick their brain too--a great way to show your openness and value
  4. Let your current supporters write materials for you. Companies usually want to formalize user-generated content by turning it into a process. Yet you don't need to be hampered by that formality, start by simply asking volunteers or customers to write an email about their experience. Millennials love to do this I've found, and the content they send is often stellar! Once you receive and format it post to your social media or newsletter. 
  5. Skip the not-that-funny employee holiday group shot in favor of a richer profile. Lots of organizations throw up funny staff photos to appear unpolished and fun, but few give any valuable insight or garner much of a response. Instead, small companies should highlight each staff member on your website with latitude given for employees to add a personal touch. Larger companies should produce periodic employee profiles spotlighting the various players on your deep bench.

Maybe this doesn't seem like tough stuff to do, yet few organizations do it at all let alone well. Open the door to your business "back room" with these suggestions and don't always feel a need to use high-end production for your content. Go ahead and take a selfie during your staff retreat or use your phone to make a telling video once in awhile. Loosen your privacy settings to let your fans tag you--this day and age there's no hiding the real you and millennials crave authenticity. 

Customer Experience

7 Revealing Steps to See if You Are Growing Millennial Leaders

Many charities are not raising up millennial leaders internally. This is a disturbing trend that will affect the livelihood of organizations, first leading to a loss of relevancy as the organization fails to speak the language of younger generations, then a loss of bright young talent who don't relate to the company, and finally a loss of donors who see a lack of a succession plan. It's ugly folks--heed this advice!

In this piece, I will highlight ways to determine if millennial leaders are being raised up if you're working with a charity in a leadership role. If you are a valued volunteer, committee member, part of a board of directors, or an executive in a charity, you would do well to assess your organization.

First, consider that if venture capitalist investment in start-ups that will change the world trend heavily toward investment in millennial leaders, there must be a reason. The reason is that they have the energy for massive production, a lack of institutional legacy thinking that can hamper innovation, are wonderfully agile in their technical abilities, and have many years ahead of them to lead into the future. 

Next, check out McKinsey's latest report on the social sector. This rare treat spotlights one massive concern for charities--the lack of leadership development. So, with both smart money and research, not to mention organizational growth fundamentals not withstanding, I think we can all agree, investment in millennials in the charity is essential.

Most charities will tell you they are doing this and can even point to a success case or two. However, what appears to be millennial empowerment can be a facade for a culture that does not allow for the kinds of investment, risk, mistakes, and growth that real leadership development requires. 

Here are the questions you should be asking charity leaders:

  1. How many millennials are in management, director, and executive positions? You want to see a minimum of 30% in each category for a healthy balance between young and old (too young has its pitfalls too, a subject for another article). 
  2. Are there millennials on the Board of Directors? Sound far fetched? It's not--consider that nearly every 501(c)(3) education institution of higher learning includes recent graduates on their Board. 
  3. How are millennials being trained and invested in? Ask for real examples of training events, coaching arrangements, and dollars spent. 
  4. What major strategic projects are millennials leading? Ask tough questions to discern if they are really able to guide the project direction versus taking orders from higher ups. 
  5. How many staff are under millennial management? It's vital that millennials are given experience with hiring/firing and evaluations with guidance from Human Resources.
  6. What tools are in place to let "share happy" millennials extend the reach of the brand? How effective are those channels in terms of shares and interactions?
  7. Finally, ask the leaders how they are creating space to routinely listen to their youngest, freshest employees. You want to see channels that deliver their input at least quarterly, if not on an ongoing basis. This can be done through round table discussions, advisory teams, or even virtual collaboration. 

Personally, I have benefitted from incredible leaders who exemplify millennial investment. For example, the CEO of Penske Logistics, Vince Hartnett, once tapped me to develop an ambitious new leadership development event, leaving many of the details including format, location, selecting a keynote speaker, not to mention small details, up to me to plan and execute. At the same time, his executive team made time to meet with and coach me. They sent me to relevant conferences for training to build up my skill set in planning large international events. In conclusion, the event series ended up being a huge success that pushed the envelop on event return on investment data collection and results, and continued on for many years. 

My time at Penske, among others, helps me to have a lens through which to look at charities, and sadly the same kind of development is rare to see. Charities believe they are running too fast or too lean to develop millennial leaders properly, or they are blind to their inability to empower others. However, this kind of thinking is a self-satisfying myth and a mistake that must be decisively addressed and reversed for the charity to thrive in the future.