What’s So Special About March 1st?

Besides that we’re inching closer to spring, March 1st is World Compliment Day!

Here’s why I advocate this little known holiday:

“The initiative, in contrast to Valentine’s Day, Secretaries’ Day, and Mother and Father’s Days, is not commercially oriented, so everyone can afford to participate. ‘World Compliment Day’ simply addresses the basic human need for recognition and appreciation. Nobody wins commercially, but everybody gains emotionally. And therein lies its power.”

It’s also easy to participate. The World Compliment Day website features a “Create Award” link to a simple award form template. In just a few minutes you can complete and email or print & deliver the award form to the people you want to recognize.

Regarding employees, colleagues, customers, suppliers, volunteers, donors, friends, family members: acknowledging and affirming people’s value is critical to their engagement.

Who is deserving of your recognition this week?


Engagement Featured Post Training & Development

Overcoming the Responsibility vs. Authority Conflict: Lessons in Collaboration

How do you manage working with others when you’re responsible for a project they’re involved with, yet you’re given limited or no authority to get the work done?

While I do not recommend this approach, I’ve observed it in many organizations due to reasons that involve internal politics, lack of role clarity, and unshared commitment to goals, to name a few. I’ve also seen people without management authority effectively hurdle the challenge of working with others. Here are examples and lessons learned from two former clients I had the privilege of serving.

  • The “consortium” included representatives of federal statistical agencies from different countries that voluntarily came together to share their work and improve the comparability of their data. What was fascinating was this group worked cooperatively together in addition to their regular job responsibilities and without any extra staff support and resources. They developed and agreed on a mission statement, strategic plan, and working groups to complete a special joint project. They also walked a fine line to work informally–without bureaucratic interference from their respective agencies–while maintaining the necessary formal communication with their respective senior managers to assure continued institutional support for their activities.
  • The “coordinator” was set up to implement a federally-funded initiative for social change that called for integrating the efforts of existing community partners. The coordinating organization in this case had no authority over the partners and no grant-making ability to fund their involvement; i.e., partner participation was purely voluntary. While the overarching mission for social change was closely aligned with the partners’ respective missions, the nonprofits involved were already stressed with more demands than resources. So to engage its partners, the coordinator applied the WIIFM (“what’s in it for me?”) principle by offering them the opportunity to:
    • maximize their respective organizations’ impact in support of the initiative’s overarching goals
    • have a voice in making a difference
    • network with other partners
    • enhance their community visibility.

Lessons Learned
The purpose, structure, and goals of the “consortium” and “coordinator” were vastly different. However, they shared one thing in common: they had to rely on collaboration, rather than authority, to operate effectively. Here are the common elements of how they made it happen:

  • Mutual respect for all the participants/partners involved
  • Aligning and reinforcing a shared mission, vision, and goals among the various players
  • Clarifying and communicating role expectations
  • Frequently sharing progress updates with those involved
  • Recognizing and celebrating individual and collective achievements.

These lessons are applicable in almost all situations, not just those with responsibility vs. authority issues. As communications consultant Kare Anderson says:

“For most of our lives we’ve been advised to lead and manage others. We’ve been taught to resolve conflict, influence, negotiate and otherwise attempt to get what we want from people … But what about the concept of us? More people would rather enjoy the camaraderie of smart collaboration than be lead, persuaded or managed.”

Customer service Engagement

Professional Associations: Where is Your Focus on Member Recognition and Engagement?

In a recent presentation I gave on “Marketing Tools of Engagement for Associations,” the topic of CRM (customer relationship management) came up. It’s not unusual for associations to experience problems with CRM systems based on limited resources or access to updated software. Another complication stems from organizational silos where different departments work with different data bases that they protect with a strong sense of proprietary ownership. Whatever the situation with CRM software, understand that it affects member engagement.

PASAE photo
PASAE photo

So the real issue is whether the association is member-focused or systems-focused. Here’s an example of the latter type. I recently spoke with several business owners and executives who are long-term members of a professional association. They were quite proud of their history of membership involvement and lamented how member recognition has fallen through the cracks. One 25+ year member shared finding a special 15th anniversary certificate in the office files, the last such recognition sent by the association. Another member actually called her association to ask how it missed acknowledging her 30th year anniversary and was sent a certificate in response to her call. With member engagement a hot topic these days, you’d think an association would want to recognize such members as part of its membership retention efforts.

Sadly, I learned the association is unable to effectively recognize long-term members due to its membership data base. It relies on the member’s inception date, and the association’s problem with the system is that a person could have joined 15 years ago, but might technically have only been a member for 12 years because the person dropped out for a few years and then rejoined. As a result, long-term members are not routinely recognized; however, the association will send an anniversary certificate if a member asks.

This organization has decided to forgo the opportunity to acknowledge and reinforce long-term members, because it might recognize some folks who don’t deserve it. It’s clearly a “systems-focused” rather than a “member-focused” association, and any declines in membership are blamed on the economy.

Member retention by inertia is NOT an effective member engagement strategy!

Here are several short- and long-term suggestions for becoming more member-focused:

  • “Silent gratitude isn’t much use to anyone.” – G.B. Stern. Don’t make members “request” recognition – this really isn’t recognition at all, just “proof.” It’s also irritating to members if they have to prompt their association to recognize it. If the system is bad, fix the system or find ways to work around it. For example, randomly pick a date and recognize everyone who is a member on that date – even if that person hasn’t consistently been a member for five, ten or 20+ years, it’s likely s/he will appreciate the recognition.
  • Take a critical look at your membership retention numbers. Most turnover occurs in the first few years of membership – is this the situation in your association? Can you segment turnover by length of membership to see where any other drop-off occurs?
  • Seriously discuss how important members are to your association. In addition to being able to answer what “member value” you provide, also consider the value that members bring you in terms of brand strength and revenue.
  • Make member engagement – all activities encompassing the member life cycle from recruitment to retention – a strategic and intentional focus of your association. It should be an ongoing agenda item in your staff meetings, board meetings, and strategic planning sessions.

Caring for Volunteers

In honor of National Volunteer Week, this post is dedicated to all volunteers who dedicate themselves to the nonprofit causes they care about.

How do nonprofits demonstrate care for the people who voluntarily serve them? Smart leaders know that effectively managing volunteers takes more than a “recruit ‘em & recognize ‘em” approach. Their organizations are intentional and proactive in engaging, developing and retaining volunteer talent.

For nonprofit professionals and volunteers new to volunteer engagement and management, here are some guidelines to help you create a strong volunteer experience.

1. Learn about your volunteers: who they are, their interest in serving your organization, and their expectations as volunteers. Ask them:

  • What about this organization appealed to you to get you involved?
  • What do you expect to give and get from your volunteer involvement?
  • Would you recommend this organization to other volunteers?

Also consider exit interviews with volunteers who leave your organization – whether through rotating volunteer service, term limits, burn-out, or other reason – to learn more about the volunteer experience.

2. Clarify and clearly communicate what your organization expects from its volunteers and what they can expect from you. Be honest about the time commitment and effort involved.

3. Provide the necessary tools and information volunteers need to best serve your nonprofit. This includes orientation and training, your mission-focused strategy and plans, program overviews and updates, etc. Also consider how operational or policy changes may impact volunteer efforts, and communicate any changes and the rationale behind them in a timely manner.

4. Recognize and acknowledge your volunteers’ value. While National Volunteer Week provides an opportunity to celebrate volunteers, it’s important to let volunteers know they’re appreciated throughout the year.

5. Proactively listen to your volunteers – ask for their feedback and ideas – and respond appropriately.

Volunteers are precious resources. Treat them carefully and with the respect they deserve.


Engagement Marketing Training & Development

“Share of Mind, Share of Heart” Award News

[Update: I’m proud to report that my book is the winner of the Small Business Book Award in the Marketing category!]

I just learned that my new book, Share of Mind, Share of Heart: Marketing Tools of Engagement for Nonprofits, is nominated for a 2013 Small Business Book Award, and I’m truly honored. This special recognition means greater awareness of the book and its reach among nonprofit leaders, staff members, and volunteers.

Now in its fifth year, the Small Business Book Awards celebrate the best business books that entrepreneurs, small business owners, CEOs, managers and their staffs should read. The Awards are produced by Small Business Trends, an online publication, which along with its sister sites, serves over 5,000,000 small business owners, stakeholders and entrepreneurs annually. Small Business Trends has published reviews of small business books, including Share of Mind, Share of Heart

“Today’s business owners are hungry for information and insights to help them run a successful business. Also, they use books as a way to grow and develop their employees and management teams. The Small Business Book Awards are a way to acknowledge the books that small business owners and entrepreneurs appreciated over the past year,” said Ivana Taylor, Book Editor at Small Business Trends.

Please share and vote …

These awards offer a unique online opportunity for people to show their support for and vote on their favorite business books. Please vote for Share of Mind, Share of Heart for the Small Business Book Award and encourage your colleagues, co-workers, friends, and family to do the same. You can vote once a day now through March 26th. Together we can help more nonprofits achieve success with this book. Thank you!


Engaging Employees in Community Impact: Interview with Ryan Scott

I first learned about Ryan Scott from his blog post When Volunteers Become Voluntold. The term “voluntold” was new to me, but not the concept – it describes the oxymoron “mandatory volunteering” that many employees experience in the guise of corporate community involvement. I was once voluntold for a community fundraising effort by an employer and found the experience extremely frustrating. I read more of Ryan’s posts on his company’ Corporate Philanthropy & Volunteering Blog and discovered a kindred spirit with a passion for corporate community involvement and employee engagement.

We connected via email, and he graciously agreed to be interviewed here. Ryan is a technology entrepreneur who founded Causecast in 2007 to help companies harness their power to do good. He believes socially responsible companies can strengthen employee engagement through social engagement by involving employees in the company’s philanthropic efforts. However, when administrators are hampered by the cumbersome tracking of social campaign implementation and management, their philanthropic program may fall short. Causecast’s Community Impact Platform was developed in response as a centralized online solution to help companies better track and manage their giving and volunteer programs. According to Ryan, this platform “reinvents the possibilities around corporate philanthropy, enabling organizations to propel authentic grassroots momentum that captivates employees and the public alike.”

QSM: Why do you advocate corporate volunteerism as part of engagement? What does it mean for a company’s brand? 

Ryan: Employee engagement is a big concern for executives everywhere – in fact, one recent survey cited it as the top challenge for 2013. Many factors go into employee engagement, but research shows that one of them is social engagement – involving your company in purpose-filled work and getting your employees activated around that process. Not only does employee volunteerism and giving improve your brand internally – through increased employee retention, recruitment and engagement – it also helps your brand externally – through increased consumer trust and loyalty. Edelman’s Trust Barometer survey last year showed that the credibility of CEOs has plummeted, whereas the credibility of employees has risen. Never has it been more true that employees are your best brand ambassadors, and volunteerism gives them something meaningful to say and do that helps build authentic relationships with your community.

One company we just spoke with – Umpqua Bank – has an unheard of 93% participation rate in their volunteer program. They take their program very seriously, make it a priority from the top down and give employees one week a year to volunteer with organizations related to their cause focus. As a result, Umpqua’s compelling volunteer program has become a big boost to overall employee engagement.

QSM: What do successful companies do to get employee buy-in?

Ryan: Corporate volunteer programs are lifeless exercises in lip service without employee buy-in. A surefire way to drain any vitality from your program is to just set initiatives in motion on autopilot and assume that “if you build it they will come.” Actually, they won’t. Employees need to feel connected to the good citizenship your company is espousing, and they need to know that they play a role in setting the direction of that citizenship. After all, they’re your most important citizens.

So how do you get buy-in? Storytelling plays a big part – and I don’t mean storytelling from the top down. Companies that empower their employees to play a big role in charting their cause course and then encourage them to share their experiences with others do themselves a big favor in generating momentum with their program. That’s why our Community Impact Platform has social media capabilities built-in – to make it easy for employees to get the word out and get others engaged. When employees feel that they are drivers of change, and they can be public ambassadors of that change via an open forum of discussion about their experiences, the ingredients are there for a volunteer program with some real meat to it – the kind of program that generates impact for all involved.

QSM: How can a company maintain momentum with its employee volunteer program? What can a company do it keep it from becoming stale?

Ryan: I think you need to continuously find new ways for employees to get involved. Doing the same day of volunteering year after year is not only dull, it doesn’t allow you to build on your experiences or diversify your cause skills. That’s why Causecast offers numerous paths to impact, with ready-made campaigns like competitive corporate crowdfunding that gamify the challenge of fundraising to make it more fun and successful. Is your company engaged in disaster relief efforts after tragedies like Hurricane Sandy? Well how about expanding that to disaster preparedness, so that employees feel more connected to subsequent relief efforts and have the opportunity to become trained disaster relief volunteers who can help with hands-on work in times of crisis? There are so many different kind of volunteering opportunities to consider, and you’ll keep things fresh by staying plugged into the evolving thought leadership in this area and applying it to your own program.

We encourage our clients to map out a blueprint of their volunteer efforts throughout the year, so that we can fully leverage a calendar of volunteer opportunities and make them as meaningful and unique as possible – whether they’re theme-based (for holidays like Veterans Day) or strike deep into the heart of a company’s cause mission. The more you think ahead and put thought into the kinds of opportunities you’re presenting to your employees, the more resonant and interesting your program will be. The result will be increased participation rates, increased engagement around your company and increased impact for the cause at hand. Isn’t that what every company wants?

QSM: Thank you, Ryan!


Engagement Training & Development

Favorite Employee Engagement Quotes – Part 2

Continuing last week’s post on my favorite engagement quotes, here are several more gems + suggestions on how you can apply them in staff meetings.

“… the most effective way to engage your employees is to treat them like valuable people with skills, not people with valuable skills.” –  NBRI Employee Engagement Infographic

“Employees either benefit or burden every dimension of a company’s existence. The extent to which they deliver one or the other is primarily a function of company culture and leadership’s view of employees’ value to the company.” – Rajendra S. Sisodia, David B. Wolfe, Jagdish N. Sheth, Firms of Endearment.

“The way your employees feel is the way your customers will feel. And if your employees don’t feel valued, neither will your customers.” – Sybil F. Stershic, Taking Care of the People Who Matter Most: A Guide to Employee-Customer Care.

“Culture is about performance, and making people feel good about how they contribute to the whole.” – Tracy Streckenbach interview, Clear Goals Matter More than MissionThe New York Times.

“People want to know they matter and they want to be treated as people. That’s the new talent contract.” – Pamela Stroko in Tanveer Naseer’s blog post How Leaders are Creating Engagement in Today’s Workplaces.

“Employee engagement is the art and science of engaging people in authentic and recognized connections to strategy, roles, performance, organization, community, relationship, customers, development, energy, and happiness to leverage, sustain, and transform work into results.” – David Zinger, Let’s Co-Create an Employee Engagement Charter, The Employee Engagement Network.

Discuss amongst yourselves …
Here’s how you can use these and last week’s quotes to facilitate a dialog with employees. The following discussion ideas work best in organizations where management is concerned with and committed to employee engagement. However, DO NOT attempt if management is not open to improving employee engagement; such discussion can devolve into a “bitch & gripe” session leading employees to become frustrated, demoralized and even more disengaged.

  • Ask people to share examples of their experiences as customers interacting with companies whose employees are engaged vs. disengaged. Then discuss ideas on how to strengthen employee-customer engagement in your organization.
  • Employees choose a quote they find most meaningful and/or encourage them to create their own quotes. Based on the selected quotes, discuss ways to maximize engagement or minimize disengagement.
  • Present this scenario: everyone has been granted a wish to become CEO of his/her ideal company. Which quote(s) would they use to guide them in managing the organization and why?

Your turn
I invite you to share your favorite quotes on employee engagement. I’d also love to hear how you use them to reinforce engagement in your organization.


Favorite Employee Engagement Quotes – Part 1

There’s a lot of great content written about employee engagement, and I love finding quotes that best capture what engagement is and is not. Here are some of my favorites, listed alphabetically by author. So as not to overwhelm you with too many quotes, I’ll share more in my next post.

“ … employees engage with employers and brands when they’re treated as humans worthy of respect.” – Meghan M. Biro, Your Employees are Engaged … REALLY? Forbes.

“Connect the dots between individual roles and the goals of the organization. When people see that connection, they get a lot of energy out of work. They feel the importance, dignity, and meaning in their job.” – Ken Blanchard and Scott Blanchard, Do People Really Know What You Expect from Them? Fast Company.

“Engaged employees stay for what they give (they like their work); disengaged employees stay for what they get (favorable job conditions, growth opportunities, job security).” – BlessingWhite, The State of Employee Engagement 2008 [updated link]

“It’s sad, really, how a negative workplace can impact our lives and the way we feel about ourselves. The situation is reaching pandemic heights – most people go to work at jobs they dislike, supervised by people who don’t care about them, and directed by senior leaders who are often clueless about where to take the company.”  – Leigh Branham and Mark Hirschfeld, Re-Engage: How America’s Best Places to Work Inspire Extra Effort in Extraordinary Times.

“Highly engaged employees make the customer experience. Disengaged employees break it.” – Timothy R. Clark, The 5 Ways That Highly Engaged Employees are Different.

“Dispirited, unmotivated, unappreciated workers cannot compete in a highly competitive world.” – Francis Hesselbein, Hesselbein on Leadership.

I’ll share more quotes in next week’s post PLUS how you can apply them to facilitate discussion about employee engagement in your organization.


“Share of Mind, Share of Heart” Book News

Nonprofit professionals, leaders and volunteers interested in Share of Mind, Share of Heart: Marketing Tools of Engagement for Nonprofits now have the option to purchase it in both print and electronic versions. In response to numerous requests, my latest book is available for purchase and download at Energize Inc.’s Bookstore. I’m honored that Energize, Inc., a valuable resource for ALL things related to volunteerism, has chosen to offer my book.

For those readers who prefer print, Share of Mind, Share of Heart: Marketing Tools of Engagement for Nonprofits is conveniently available online through WME Books, and Amazon.

Engagement Marketing

What They’re Saying About “Share of Mind, Share of Heart”

I’m thrilled with the positive response to my new book, Share of Mind, Share of Heart: Marketing Tools of Engagement for Nonprofits.

I’m honored to share these more detailed book reviews by Ivana Taylor, Small Business Trends, and Wayne Hurlbert, Blog Business World.

Here are several recent reviews that I’m also honored to share.

“With a great passion for (and deep expertise in) nonprofit marketing, Sybil Stershic has written an immensely practical, valuable book. “Share of Mind, Share of Heart” clearly explicates both marketing fundamentals and more sophisticated concepts for nonprofit marketing professionals in plain, easy-to-understand language, with concrete examples.

“Unlike many academic texts on nonprofit marketing, this book is peppered with questions designed to get you thinking tangibly and immediately about how the concepts discussed can be applied directly to the day-to-day business of your organization. I found her insights into internal marketing tools of engagement to be particularly apt and important. Too often in leanly staffed, undercapitalized nonprofits where staff is pressed for time, we overlook this crucial area. Morale and profits suffer as a result, with organizations sometimes seeming disconnected and disengaged from their customers, volunteers, and (in some cases) overall mission.

“‘Share of Mind, Share of Heart’ is a book that should be on the shelf of every nonprofit marketer, both novices and veterans.” Andrew Edmonson, Director of Marketing and Public Relations, Houston Ballet

“Like the author, I have served on a variety of non-profit boards and counseled them about marketing. I’ve found that the whole idea of marketing is intimidating to many non-profits. They often believe marketing is too complicated for them and requires a commitment of resources (both human and monetary) beyond their capability. This insightful book dispels these fears as myths. Marketing is presented here as it truly ought to be: a simple, people-based idea about creating and communicating value. Each chapter provides an understandable exercise that will cause the reader to pause and reflect upon how to bring the marketing concept to life in any non-profit.”     Frank Haas, Dean of Hospitality, Business and Legal Education, Kapiolani Community College

“Every now and then, you find a book that contains more than a powerful message—it houses a poignant experience. Share of Mind, Share of Heart is an experiential wisdom-sharing tome written for organizations that benefit us all. Full of practical how to’s and laced in the language and philosophy of non-profits, it will open eyes, enhance skills, and enrich outreach.” Chip R. Bell, noted author and consultant, The Chip Bell Group

Special thanks to Andrew, Frank, Chip, Ivana, and Wayne for taking the time to review and share their thoughts on my book!