Just for fun: the Matrix remix

HT to Maria Popova (@brainpicker), mostly off topic though this reinforces Stephen Johnson’s ideas about adjacent possibility as the source of great ideas. Plus I’m a huge fan of The Matrix and will have to watch it again after seeing this.

The video is a scene-by-scene mashup of where things came from in The Matrix. Great fun.

Fundraising with Generosity

Katya Andresen, who writes the awesome Nonprofit Marketing Blog and is also one of my co-conspirators for Generosity Day, made a great point on last week’s generosity economy post:

I have been thinking a lot lately about the latest research on the mind – and our mirror neurons – which shows the extent to which we’re hard wired for empathy and, by extension, generosity…Yet giving to charity isn’t growing at the pace of other elements in our generosity economy.  I think one aspect is that many of the people in charge of unleashing generosity (fundraiser, namely) have failed to fully understand and embrace this landscape.  We as a sector must engage with supporters in a more meaningful, connected and GENEROUS way ourselves if we hope to inspire the generous actions that come to people naturally…rather than treating them like walking wallets.

In many ways, this observation was the nagging worry that led me, two years ago, to my generosity experiment: I was spending my days talking to people about connecting with their passion, about being bountiful in their thinking, about being generous, yet I hadn’t moved my own relationship with generosity forward much in the three years I’d been doing my job as a fundraiser.  And without that connection, I didn’t feel like I could do my job in an authentic way.

Sounds good, you may say, but let’s get real for a second.

OK let’s.  For example, I just talked to a colleague who is getting on an international flight on Monday for a fundraising trip.  If she doesn’t raise $400,000 next week, a branch of her nonprofit is going to be shuttered.  With that looming, how hard is it going to be for her to see those potential funders as anything but walking wallets?

The answer is that it’s hard.  Really hard.  But it’s the only way to be really successful.

The first thing we need to do is reframe what we’re doing here.  Last week I talked to the new class of Acumen Fund Fellows about how to mobilize resources behind their ideas.  I started the session with a a free association around the word “fundraising.”  They were wonderful and honest, throwing out words like “storytelling” and “connection” but also a healthy dose of “hitting up your friends,” “draining,” and “begging.”

But here’s the big secret: great fundraising is a fair deal for everyone involved.  You (the fundraiser) are connecting people to their passions and giving them an opportunity to do something great in the world.  You are helping them express their dreams and maybe, just maybe, connecting them with an organization that will be transformational in their lives.  You are giving them the chance to change the world.

Of course what you have on offer won’t be for everybody.  But that’s OK.  For the people who you do fundraise from, you are offering something of (at least) equal value to the donation they are giving.  In fact, by definition that’s what they’re saying by giving to you!

Approaching fundraising with generosity, to me, is about approaching each conversation with the attitude: “let’s figure out what great things we can do together.”  It’s not about your need, not about separating a well-meaning person from their money, and it’s definitely not a zero-sum game.

Best of all, it is incredibly empowering to wake up and realize that, as a fundraiser, you have something of great value to offer.  If you can couple that feeling of empowerment with a spirit of generosity, I promise it will transform your fundraising, transform how your donors experience you, transform your ability to connect great, meaningful, powerful ideas to the resources they need to come to life.

Thanks, Katya, for the inspiration.


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P.S. This post is about fundraising but there’s nothing special there – most of these conclusions apply to more traditional sales and business development when done the right way.  The greatest salespeople bring joy to their work, and the knowledge that they are making their customers’ lives better.  The thing they’re selling – and their attitude – is a gift to the customer.

Bump and grind

WordPress.com, of which I am a very happy user (cost = free, uptime = 100%, functionality = great and always improving) has one interesting limitation – the blog statistics one can easily access are “blog traffic,” meaning the number of site visits you get on your blog.  There’s no direct information about how many RSS subscribers you have or people subscribe to your posts by email (never mind stuff being retweeted, re-Facebooked, re-emailed).

If blogs were magazines, this would be akin to tracking how many copies you sold at the newsstand and ignoring your monthly subscriber base.

The thing is, monkey see, monkey do.  Seeing those on-site stats daily makes you care about their mostly random vacillations.  And while they do matter some – if you’re writing good content, others will link to it, repost it on social media sites, etc. so your onsite traffic will increase – they’re mostly noise compared to getting and keeping loyal readers.  For example, getting 25 new RSS subscribers is obviously more important than getting 5,000 hits on a single day (25 subscribers = ~5,000 impressions /year), but it just doesn’t feel that way.

So when something big hits that gets you visibility, there’s a natural tendency to thirst for the next big bump – the big sale, the big media hit, the big donor, the big something new.  Keeping your true fans insanely happy somehow seems like less of a victory than landing the next big customer, maybe because happy customers are often quiet, meaning there’s not as much feedback there as you’d like or need.

And so we get one big bump, one big new sale, one major new donor, and the moment things go back to normal we thirst for that next bump and the accompanying adrenaline.  It feels exciting to bring in someone new, to make that big pitch, to close the sale.  After all, isn’t big game hunting what this is all about?

Well no, actually.  This game is part hunting and part gathering, and, in the long-term, nurturing and feeding your biggest fans pays off a lot more than that next potential big win…in fact, looking off too far into the distance is a surefire way to make your most enthusiastic supporters feel like chopped liver.

That constant cultivation, the care and feeding, is the real work that makes a lasting impact.

There’s only one

Tom Fishburne and I went to business school together, which means I was lucky enough to be a very early reader of his “Skydeck cartoons,” funny musings on what life is really like at Harvard Business School.  Tom and I knew each other a little bit at school, and have since gotten to know each other better as we’re each interested in marketing, storytelling and creating the path you want to walk.

In a perfect reflection of our brave new world, yesterday I saw a tweet of Tom’s that referenced a blog post he wrote, in which gave away the whole presentation (slides, text, the whole shebang) he did at the Do Lectures recently (yes, just writing that sentence made my head spin).

Tom’s presentation is a detailed, funny, honest account of the last 11 years of his life, and the path he walked from business school student to brand marketer to professional cartoonist.

If you’re at all interested in writing, publishing, spreading ideas, and how that all happens today (not how it used to happen and how we might wish it still were), check out Tom’s talk.  And if you work for an organization that wants to spread ideas in a new, creative way, you just might want to see if you can get Tom’s help.

Since Tom he was a kid he dreamed about becoming a cartoonist, but it never seemed like a viable profession (some facts: Bob Mankoff, the Cartoon Editor at the New Yorker, gets 1,000+ submissions a week for 17 cartoon spots, most of which are filled by veterans.  In 1995, Tom’s cartooning idols – Bill Waterson (Calvin and Hobbs), Gary Larson (The Far Side), and Berkeley Breathed (Bloom County) – all retired because of their frustrations with traditional newspaper cartooning).

Tom hadn’t cartooned in a while but, bugged by a business school classmate back in 2000, Tom started a weekly cartoon for the Harvard Business School newspaper.  Fun stuff that got folks’ attention, but definitely a hobby for Tom.

Upon graduation he worked in product marketing at P&G and then went on to work at method.  From all accounts, Tom really enjoyed this work.

Along the way, week in and week out, Tom kept cartooning, kept building his tribe (starting with just 40 people at P&G to whom he’d send his marketing cartoons), kept working.  Prominent folks (Seth Godin, Guy Kawasaki, the NY Times) wrote about his work which increased his audience, but it was all a labor of love – he was making no money, making time for all this in addition to his (big and growing) day job.

But slowly, paid gigs started coming in, and Tom realized that he might, just might, be able to make his passion into his profession. (all the details of how he made the decision here)

Fast forward to 2010: Tom, having just gotten a promotion at method, decides it’s his “now or never” moment – if he doesn’t leap now, he never will.  So he leaps.

Panic, fear, terror, ensue.  Tom is, after all, a SITKOM: “Single Income, Two Kids, Oppressive Mortgage.”

Yet nine months later (his goal was a year) Tom’s hit his goals to bring in from cartooning what he did working for method.  It’s all happening for Tom.

Of the many funny and insightful insights for startups/freelancers/how-to-pursue-your-dreams folks, the one I love the most is the quotation from Jerry Garcia: “you do not want to be considered the best of the best.  You want to be the only one who does what you do.”

The other big insight is about there being no shortcuts.  While it took Tom took nine months from the day he quit method to earn enough money to support his family, it actually took him 10 years and 9 months from the date he started cartooning to make this all happen.

The confusing thing about social media and the internet era is that the stories that spread are about overnight successes.  Yet the reality for most of the world is about hyper-specialization and methodical audience-building that pays off after a LONG long time.  The Web 2.0 meme is about speed, but for nearly everyone there are no shortcuts.

The big question to ask yourself is: how do you feel about the notion of becoming the only one who does what you do?

The moment you decide you’re not scared of that – and the moment you realize that you’re not going to know on Day One of your 10 year journey what exactly that thing is – is the moment you’re free to get started.

Tom is an amazing cartoonist and I love his work.  And at a time when the greats of a previous era are hanging up their pens, Tom’s just getting started.  That’s because, while there are thousands of really incredible cartoonists out there, there’s only one Marketoonist.