The Rest of the Story

scrabble-wordsWhen I speak to groups or clients ― I like to describe myself as a translator of sorts.  I interpret a need or message for a specific audience. I help make that high-voltage connection that triggers the response or behavior desired.

In our first installment, we covered components one and two of the high-octane story or appeal:

  • The Pain
  • The Problem

And to review ― we structure the story intentionally to address all key information receptors/processors in the brain ― the emotional, logical and habitual brain circuitry. After all, we learned from Dr. Joe Dispenza in Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself that “our conscious minds comprise only about 5% of who we are. The other 95% is a composition of our subconscious minds ― our habits and behaviors that have been deeply programmed on our mental hard drives throughout our lives.”

Next, let’s tackle the elephant in the room. The Solution.

I always start with the questions. How are you changing or improving lives like the one featured in the appeal? How are you delivering differentiated value? How are you uniquely positioned to effectively deliver this solution and make a measurable impact? What will happen if you don’t act?

Begin with the specific and broaden to a vision of scalability that can happen only with the donor’s involvement. It’s not “we.” It’s “us.” Involve the donor or customer in the solution. As an example, here’s a story about an organization* that provides medications to isolated, under-served communities worldwide:

“Our mission of providing essential medicines to those in the remotest locations around the world is very personal to me,” says Sam Doe, president and CEO of [Organization Name]. “Born in Thailand, I contracted polio as a child and lived in an orphanage until I was adopted by a family from the U.S. at age eleven.” 

Now, Sam wakes up each morning in America and pulls on his full-length leg braces — a daily reminder that he did not receive the polio vaccine as a boy. “On the bright side,” Sam teases, “since my shoes are attached to the braces, I never have to look for them.”

Last year alone, [Organization Name] delivered enough medicines and supplies to treat more than 25 million girls and boys in desperate need around the world. More important to Doe, each treatment represents one face, one child and one life — one more son, daughter, sister or brother who is receiving healing, health and hope.

With your help, suffering cannot prevail.

[*Where appropriate, I have changed names to protect client confidentiality.]

So, we have set the stage with the possible. We’ve created the case. What’s next? Now, it’s time for the climax of our story.  As Samuel Goldwyn said, “We want a story that starts out with an earthquake and works its way up to a climax.”

OLG_visionThe Ask

This is Fundraising or Sales 101. The whole letter or email is moving toward this pinnacle ― building on the “Why you, why now, why here?”  And this is often the place we falter in writing these critical communications. We forget to ask ― and do so directly.  We paint the picture and talk about what we do ― but this is where we drive it home.

Web/Digital Example from the University of Dallas:

JOIN US ON OUR LADY’S JOURNEY

The Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe is a special space on the University of Dallas campus devoted to our Blessed Mother Mary. Conceived as a sanctuary for students, alumni, faculty, staff and the community, it serves as place to meditate, worship, reflect, breathe and be — amid the chaos and commotion of Dallas/Fort Worth, the fourth largest metropolitan area in the nation. 

Situated atop one of the highest observation points in the Metroplex, the Shrine also incorporates the ancient, treasured stone of Tepeyac ― positioning UD among the globe’s most significant sacred locations for the Catholic community. Inspired by Our Lady of Guadalupe’s story as patroness of the Americas, we look forward to finishing the permanent grotto, fulfilling the vision of the Class of 1997 ―and completing the campus’ miraculous spiritual destination.

SHARE THE STORY OF THE SHRINE AND UD <links>

  • Explore a Shrine and Synchronicity: Our Lady of Guadalupe and the University of Dallas
  • Experience the Creation of a Shrine: The Art of Faith: 
  • Marvel at the Miracles of the Madonna: The Science of Faith: 

Support the Shrine and Learn More<Link to info signup and giving.>

There will always be a place to pause— and a candle to light . . .


Only one final installment remains in the story of the story. Take a deep breath and stay tuned.

If you’d like to learn more, sign up on my website. I would be honored to review one of your appeals, as well.  It’s all about maximizing your appeal. It all starts with the story one.

Inspiring Response: 5 Ways Story Can Turbo-Charge Your Message

writeheart“Story is the DNA of all meaning.”  – Annette Simmons

Do your appeals have undeniable power? Do you enthrall, captivate, motivate ― and drive response?

With only weeks remaining in 2016, the cavalcade of carefully crafted requests will soon commence. For most of us, they will arrive from all points, directions and media ― email, snail mail, APPs, Facebook, texts and tweets. What will grab us? And more important, what will snag the  imaginations of our prospects? What will be deleted? Filed? Ignored? Dismissed? Or worse . . . unnoticed?

Some will be cloaked in gratitude. Others will lament the ubiquitous budget gap or unexpected organizational need. Still others are likely to promote a seductive donor challenge, captivating contest, new initiative, capital effort or recognition group.

But they should all have one thing in common ― a compelling story.

What’s the hook? And I’m not talking about a cheesy advertising gimmick or giveaway.  The power to resonate comes from the human, emotional connection.

Big, looming, seemingly logical organizational problems ― like deficits, shortfalls and even unmet needs are just that. The organization’s problems. As communicators, we must focus on the donor’s or prospect’s needs ― they are often triggered at an imperceptible, emotional and even subconscious level.

Though Marshall McLuhan might argue, the message is just as salient as the medium in this case ― especially given the media miasma engulfing us at every turn.  As I wrote in a prior post, I feel effective messaging must address the entire brain ― engaging the emotional, logical and habitual brain circuits.

Behavioral economist George Lowenstein confirms “our subconscious explains our consumer behavior better than our conscious.  Ninety percent of all purchasing decisions are not made consciously.”

Working as a writer, communicator and crafter of hundreds (maybe thousands) of appeals and calls to action throughout my career to to date, I have identified a few key elements that are absolutely essential.  [Where appropriate, I have changed names to protect client confidentiality

The Pain

This is probably the most important concept. And it’s personal.  What is the emotional state ― or discomfort your message can resolve for the prospect or donor?  According to brain theory, everything begins with an emotional nudge, which connects to the cerebral cortex or executive function of making a decision.  And the most important thing about framing a powerful request or appeal is articulating the pain in an intimate, relatable, visceral way. Compare these two.

        “I was deployed in Saudi Arabia on 9/11 . . . And I can still hear the screams . . .”             

         Corporal John Ray’s* battle-weary voice cracks and catches in his throat.

        “We were in combat overnight . . . and we weren’t prepared,” says the slight, sandy-haired U.S. Army veteran ― as he slowly brushes a single droplet of sweat from his brow. 

       “The nightmares never stop, but I just wish I had enough to eat . . . “

                                                                       (versus)

       “Veteran hunger is a growing problem in America . . . And their struggle is significant.”

The top copy is weaving a human story that’s drawing the reader into a specifically defined conflict ― not a daunting global cause that is difficult to quantify ― or feel. More to the point, one tells and one shows.

The  Problem

The next step is the core challenge or problem.  How does this pain manifest, and how does your organization or operation contextualize the issue you are addressing? Get granular. Explain why is your mission is significant, and why should we care? Again, it’s important to construct a very personal, human narrative. Here’s an excerpt form a letter:

It was January 2007. I was on a mission trip that rattled me to my very marrow ― and ultimately changed my life forever. We brought more than 285,000 nutritious meals for hungry, struggling children who were barely surviving in the war-torn squalor.

Shockingly, the meals ran out too soon. There were just too many suffering, vulnerable girls and boys like Maribel  . . . in such dire need.

 We simply did not have enough to go around . . . All  I could do was stand there and weep. So, I had to do  something. 

Are you hooked?  And better yet . . . are you wondering about the next three components? Well, you’ll have to stay tuned for these and other stories. It’s a real cliffhanger . . .

In addition to the five pillars of a great appeal, there are  many other components of your content concoction. Of course, we must artfully integrate urgency, all calls to action, testimonials/success stories, various digital platforms, and customer relationship management (CRM) interfaces. But start with this formula. Start with the IMPACT ― and you will definitely turbo-charge your results.

If you’d like to learn more, sign up below. Tell me about your project. Also, watch for the next installment.  Maximize your appeal. It all starts with the story of one. 

Stream of Consciousness

teardropI am a seeker ― with far more questions than answers, and in recent days, my queries have been dramatically outnumbering my explanations.  Fortunately, in the past decade, my lifelong spiritual quest has led me to the sagacious sphere of one Dr. Joe Clifford.  And that’s why I pen this post today.  Alas, I am struggling with his recent announcement that he and his family will be leaving our frazzled city in less than a month. Intellectually, I know this sadness will pass, and Dallas/#DallasStrong will persevere somehow, but I still feel an overwhelming sense of  loss.

References to Joe’s canny wisdom and his super-human pastoral care shimmer across the pages of my blog like freshly cut gems.  Since 2009, the content I have crafted here has included both professional and personal musings ― more like a meandering stream of consciousness than a stake in the ground, but these ideas started spilling forth way before Twitter was cool and Snap even considered Chatting.  And, this stream has definitely ebbed and flowed . . .

Now, thinking about the soul-rattling events of recent weeks and days, my own profound healing journey over the past seven years, and Joe’s impending departure, I can’t help but recall one of the first posts I was ever inspired to write. It was about a “Joe sermon.”  And several years later, I actually had the good fortune to do some “official” blog writing for First Presbyterian Church ― helping amplify the impact of Joe’s insights and the Word of God.  A career highlight and honor. 

An excerpt from that April 2009 post:

Joe has an extraordinary capacity to inform and enrich my path in ways that are difficult to articulate. Today was an excellent example. He talked about the celebration of Easter wearing off as we entered a week punctuated by the bleakness of tax day, difficult professional challenges ― real life, etc. Then, he said a friend forwarded him the Susan Boyle link on Wed ― the astonishing performance of the unassuming 47-year-old on Britain’s Got Talent, who has captured the world’s imagination. He says he does not have time for all the forwarded email he receives, but he opened this one for some reason.

He said he wept ― and he asked the congregation how many of us had seen it and wept. Most of those present raised their hands. He went on to describe theologian Frederick Buechner‘s take on the origin of these tears. I now cannot get enough Buechner. He ponders:

How do you listen to your life? How do you get into the habit of doing it? How do you keep ears cocked and your eye peeled for the presence of God or the presence of anything else? One thing I have said, which I think is true, is to pay attention to any of those moments in your life when unexpected tears come in your eyes. You never know when that may happen, what may trigger them. Very often I think if you pay attention to those moments, you realize that something deep beneath the surface of who you are, something deep beneath the surface of the world, is trying to speak to you about who you are . . .

They are not only telling you something about the secret of who you are. More often than not, God is speaking to you through them of the mystery of where you have come from and summoning you to where you should go to next.

Joe said we have a profound, spiritual reaction to joy ― to God. And it’s not enough to experience the moment ― we must use it as a way to discover our own life’s calling, what God has called us to do and be.

The world is hurting ― facing daunting challenges. I believe we are called to pay attention, be vigilant in our consciousness, and bare our hearts. Thank you for helping us do all of those things along the way, Joe.  Godspeed to you and your family . . .  with a smile and a tear.

This may not be Susan Boyle, but it’s a moment ― for now.

Creating Content. Inspiring Results.

RECENT PROJECT HIGHLIGHTS:

Romancing the Pants  | HAGGAR CLOTHING CO.

Haggar Content Elaine Gantz WrightWhen Joseph Marion Haggar, Sr. started the Haggar Company in 1926, the most prominent apparel manufacturers on the East Coast said, “Haggar can’t make clothes in Texas, and he won’t last one year!”  Today, it’s clear that more than 87 years of persistent innovation and keen ingenuity have certainly proved them wrong.  As one of the apparel industry’s most durable brands, Haggar has maintained a stable market position for almost a century—which provides a fertile ground for new creative energy and expansion to take root.

Led by apparel impresario, Rich Honiball, Haggar’s SVP of marketing, licensing and e-commerce, the Perfecting Our Craft Campaign has reignited the 87-year-old Haggar brand from the inside out—supporting Haggar sales, merchandising, and design partners in crafting creative strategies— not just building individual packages and promotions.  I had the privilege of helping weave the Haggar “back story” or essence into the venerable American menswear label through the fine-tuning of a compelling, fully integrated brand voice.  Now, the process continues as we interpret the story, bolster the brand,  and engage the Haggar man with various media—including web, email,  Football Hall of Fame events, fashion industry initiatives, social media, blogs, Sports Illustrated and even Mike & Mike radio spots on ESPN.  So, don’t just sit there, #GetAPair.

Discovering “A New Nation” | BENEVOLENT MUSIC

Benevolent MusicTexas and California-based Benevolent Music presents the world premiere of A New Nation,” the captivating new opera based on the biblical conflict between Jacob and Esau at the Fort Worth Community Art Center’s Scott Theatre Sept. 20 -22. Directed by Dr. Rick Piersall, opera director at Abilene Christian University, and conducted by Dr. David Thye, director of the Fort Worth Symphony Chorus and conducting chair at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, “A New Nation” stars tenor Samuel Cook as Jacob and baritone Daniel Lickteig as Esau.

Over the past month, I have been consulting with artistic director Mark Peterson on building a content marketing strategy to introduce his organization, vision, collaboration, as well as his world premiere work to Texas with five performances scheduled over two weeks in Abilene and Fort Worth. Tactics include integrated social media content, targeted promotions, video, inside-out campaigns leveraging production relationships, radio spots/interviews, and PPC advertising. Visit to https://web.ovationtix.com/trs/cal/34320 to purchase tickets. Read more about the production at Benevolent Music Notes; engage on Facebook – Facebook.com/benevolentmusic, Follow us on Twitter @MusicBenevolent and #ANewNation.

“A NEW NATION” PRESS RELEASE

WRR 101.1 Radio Spots

Triune Web Content

Building Success | TRIUNE GENERAL CONTRACTOR

Headquartered in Dallas, Texas with regional offices servicing the El Paso, Shreveport, Seattle, and Washington D.C. areas, Triune is a nimble, customer-riveted general contractor with a palpable passion for excellence. Since 1997, the team at Triune has been committed to exceeding customer expectations with unsurpassed levels of quality and service. Combining a national vision with regional responsiveness and local know-how, Triune is uniquely positioned to outperform the competition and needed a website that effectively communicated this capability and moxie. I worked with CEO/CFO Vince Fudzie to produce the necessary content to drive results.

TRIUNE WEBSITE

Talk to me about creating content to help drive your results.
Send me a note – and we will connect.

The Art of Social Enterprise

Elaine Gantz Wright is a social media coach — providing the practical tools you need to thrive in the brave new media world — listener, writer, blogger, speaker, creator, actor, mom.

I attended the 15th annual “Food for the Soul” Stewpot Art Program exhibition at the Bradshaw Gallery at the Dallas Public Library downtown today.  Impressive does not begin to describe the breadth and emotion of this remarkable work. Such raw energy and delight for souls in such turmoil.  On view through Dec. 28, this breathtaking show is part of is a community art outreach program serving the homeless and at-risk populations of Dallas through the Stewpot ministry at the Dallas First Presbyterian Church.  But it’s really so much more than that. I think this program exemplifies a new “brand” of social initiative that not only strengthens our nation’s rapidly fraying safety net, but empowers individuals through creative expression and supports financial self-sufficiency through micro-commerce. Love it!

I must admit I’m still struggling to synthesize by own artistic voice, so my heart is full when I see these developing artists talking about their work with such confidence and aplomb. Watching a program on ADD on KERA/Channel 13 tonight, I was struck by the quote, “We have found that success is not really depend on how much we know; it’s dependent on how we feel about yourselves – our self-esteem.” Well, these artists are definitely moving in the right direction—and what a win-win-win to support them. The artists receive 90% of the sales of their work, and The Stewpot receives 10%.

I found a small piece by Charles William I could not live without – an intricate ink drawing of intertwined harlequin figures. I was mesmerized by his precision and sense of whimsy–with a disturbing edge.

Take a moment to visit the show and be part of social entrepreneurship that’s part solution, part treasure and part blessing.

Hours are 1:00 – 5:00 on Sundays, closed on Monday, open 10:00 – 5:00 Tues and Wed., 12:00 – 8:00 on Thurs and 10:00 – 5:00 on Fri and Sat.

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Search for Serendipity, Synchronicity and Spirituality

Mo Ranch

“Here are the two best prayers I know: ‘Help me, help me, help me’ and ‘Thank you, thank you, thank you.'”

–Anne Lamott

A writer, editor, actor, mom and social catalyst, I am essentially a communicator. In DISC profile terms, I am a “high I,” relating to social situations and communication. People with high “I” scores influence others through talking and activity and tend to be emotional. They are described as convincing, magnetic, political, enthusiastic, persuasive, warm, demonstrative, trusting, and optimistic. In Myers-Briggs terms, I am a solid ENFP. As an ENFP (extroverted, intuitive, feeling, perceiving), my primary mode of living is focused externally, where I take things in primarily via your intuition. My secondary mode is internal, where I deal with things according to how I feel about them, or how they fit in with my personal value system.

They say ENFPs are warm, enthusiastic people, typically very bright and full of potential. They live in the world of possibilities, and can become very passionate and excited about things. So, even with all of this self-awareness, I still have so much to learn.

I thrive on the creative process, finding connections and igniting possibilities. I relish any opportunity involving creation, the arts, music, theater, laughter, service, dining, joy, serendipity, synchronicity and spirituality. Lately, my world has been defined by a larger proportion of bittersweet blessings. Thus, I am moved to branch off from the “mother blog”  on social media musings and take on more personal issues.

Please visit Amplifying Now. Let me know what you think, and join this seasoned, sometimes satirical,  single mom’s journey of refinement, revival and revelation.

Peace and light,

Elaine

Facebook Valentine

Dear Reader, my sincere apologies for such a lengthy gap between posts. I so appreciate your attention to my musings, and I have missed you sorely. Contact me at elgantz @ yahoo.com if I can help you with social media, marketing, or communications.

On Friday, January 8, 2010 I received a Valentine’s Day card from my Mother. She has always been quite enamored with all things mail—postal, that is, so I am never surprised when her cards arrive in multiples and even early, but this was significantly early, even for her. I remember a palpable queasiness in the pit of my stomach, but then, I had felt vaguely uncomfortable about my stubbornly aging parents for weeks. Then, late in the afternoon on Friday, January 29, I received a call at work that my Mother was in the ICU at Parkland. She had been rushed there after a devastating stroke.

I think my heart broke that day.

This was the beginning of an agonizing journey, including my father’s concurrent debilitating health emergency and affliction in February. I will refrain from the intricate detail, but I can tell you that pondering and writing about the theoretical vicissitudes of social media and well—just about anything—became somewhat daunting when dealing with all-consuming family health crises, especially when they came in duplicate, simultaneously—and when the relationships involved had been historically complicated in the best of times. I have been forced to recalculate, reconfigure, re-evaluate, and re-prioritize—everything. And pray most of the time.

Then, consider all of this in the context of an abrupt job “separation.” It’s just one more wave in what a friend has called my “Life Tsunami.”

OK, Universe, you have my attention! Now what?

Still, as a single mother of teenage boys, I have become quite adept at riding the “survival roller coaster” for the last ten years. Yet even Monsieur Maslow, guru of all things needy, would posit that I have many blessings to count amongst the mayhem—and you better believe I am grasping for every possible nugget of gratitude as I navigate the debris sprinkled across these choppy seas.

Fundamentally, I am enormously grateful for reconnection with my sister, Melissa, as we pilot the blind turns, brick walls, and back alleys of the frustrating health care labyrinth. My boys have shown considerable compassion and maturity inside the ominous hallways of ICUs and rehabs—and my friends and church family have provided me with exceptional support. But, one of my most surprising and cherished blessings has been social media—specifically, Facebook. I’m not talking about ROI or conversions or leads. I’m talking about the kind of value for which there is no metric, no Google analytic.

In those darkest moments of loneliness and fear, reading the sincere, heartfelt messages of my friends, near and far, recent and from years ago, on Facebook has been a true gift from God. The arrival timing of some of these messages has been nothing short of Divine.

This sounds somehow saccharin—even to me, but this precious prose has served a miraculous refuge of comfort and warmth for me—when nothing else in my rattled world has seemed steady or solid. The magic even came in the form of timely medical advice from Ann, a Northwestern pal I had not spoken with for years, who had actually worked with stroke rehabilitation patients. Amazing! So, in honor of those special souls in my life . . . here’s my true inspiration. I share a sampling of some of my favorite Valentines—even though it’s March:

From Stephen:
The point is that we do not know why these things happen, and it seems like at ‘our age’ things should be easier. I am sure I am not the only one who knows and is encouraged by the fact that you will come through things wonderful, wiser, stronger, and maybe happier. Thoughts and prayers are with you.”

From Kim:
“Everyone of us is called upon, probably many times to start a new life. A frightening diagnosis, a marriage, a move, loss of a job; and onward full tilt we go, pitched and wrecked and absurdly resolute— driven in spite of everything to make good on a new shore. To be hopeful, to embrace one possibility after another— that is surely the basic instinct—crying out, ‘High Tide! Time to move out into the glorious debris. Time to take this life for what it is.’ ” — Barbara Kingsolver

From Joe:
Prayers ascending, Elaine. May God’s abiding presence bring you strength, courage, wisdom, and peace to face this onslaught of challenge.

From Laura:
You are a gift to me, and I love you very much!

From Carol:
“Holding you and your family in The Light.”

And from Amy . . . just hours before everything changed professionally:
“We can’t take all our fortitude and will and force the outcomes we want. But we can open our hearts and time to letting God be right in the middle of everything for us. Daddy and I just said goodbye to his Mom. We didn’t find God in the worrying about what to do for Granny next; we found God in the small stuff, like brushing her hair, and in supporting each others’ choices and process of holding on while letting go. Whatever you face, I trust you will face it with the openness and authenticity I see in your eyes when I look at your pictures. And you will never face it alone.

With deepest gratitude! Share your mystical experiences . . .I would love to hear . . .

Connecting in Isolation

Montreat, North Carolina

I just returned from four days in a miraculous place— Montreat, North Carolina. The peaceful, picturesque village sits nestled in a perfectly pristine pocket that exemplifies some of God’s finest handiwork. Though the temperature hovered near the single digits, the still, stately Black mountains seemed to envelope the eleven of us like a lush, tonal blanket—sprinkled with glistening stars of ice in the day and shimmering droplets of light in the deep, velvet night.

The event featured many fascinating people, presentations, and workshops—intertwined with personal introspection and self-discovery. It is what many have deemed a “thin place”—a location on earth where the veil separating the spiritual realm and the material world is slightly more diaphanous—perhaps, even permeable at times.

This is a place where hearts hunger and souls search.
It is a place where the emotional epiphanies are as significant at the intellectual insights—where relationships with acquaintances deepen and the murkiness of life’s choices becomes profoundly clear.

But this serene setting was only part of the magic. The Rev Brian Blount, President of Union Theological Seminary and Presbyterian School of Christian Education, a commanding, compassionate presence, proclaimed during the first night’s session, “You are those God has called” to help nurture and guide our youth. And much like Dorothy, who travels to the exotic Emerald City in search of what is missing in her life, I found the most potent wisdom right there among the very people who accompanied me to this remarkable destination. Silly and seasoned; sassy and sweet; sardonic and soothing—these special spirits shared rich truths and many a poignant moment.

I was humbled and honored to be in this eclectic First Presbyterian Church entourage.

Erika Funk, Youth Initiative Minister of Broad Street Church in Philadelphia, spoke about the lack of empathy she sees in so many of our youth. Is the pseudo interaction of texting and IMing developing a false sense of intimacy—impairing our ability to measure, assess, and manage interpersonal communication effectively? Fundamentally, are we losing the ability to truly “be” with people? It’s a disturbing notion. She is concerned that our young people may be stepping back and away from those in need. “I see a fear of the homeless,” she says. She suspects this may be the consequence of this under-developed empathy and increasing personal isolation. It’s as if our powers of observation and understanding are evaporating.

“There are just fewer and fewer instructions for being human,” Funk laments.

That resonated with me. The paradox is chilling. Is our humanity really waning as we mindlessly create more and more ways to connect? ‘Tis a question worth pondering—in many realms of life—especially since turning back the hands of time is not really a viable option. If this “erzatz engagement” is the new reality, perhaps it is time to revise our expectations of interaction. Or, is it? What does it mean to the way we approach and frame our communication—now and in the future?

What are your thoughts? What do you think about the behavior changes media drives?

Peas in a Pod

ElaineGantzWright’s blog is for people interested in using the Web and online marketing to drive social change. Elaine covers social media for nonprofits, philanthropy trends, online giving, cause marketing, random life musings, and more.

Tactics for Tough Times

“It is the nature of man to rise to greatness if greatness is expected of him.” –John Steinbeck

Whether you are large or little, flush or floundering, it’s never too late to chart a course to flourish in the New Year. Even though recovery is still looming as a faint glimmer on horizon, we need to be vigilant about honing our skills to work smarter and make the most of the new economic realities. Here are some scrappy, do-more-with-less things you can do to jump-start your marketing program in 2010:

Contact your lapsed donors. Appeal to them via snail mail or better yet, through email. Reactivated donors can have higher lifetime value than new donors, because they’re already invested.

Express gratitude. Curtailing donor-acknowledgment activities as a means of cost-cutting can be counter-productive–and even devastating. In fact, messages of appreciation will be more potent than ever.

Take risks. Yes, even in a time of uncertainty, new tools can help you differentiate yourself in a sea of solicitations and a cacophony of causes. Social media can help you expand your base and leverage the viral power of peer-to-peer fundraising in dynamic, new ways. Discover exciting ways to streamline your process and empower your volunteers. In this Internet age, the medium is definitely the message, as well as the method!

Innovate. Effective fundraising is dependent on innovation. Everything is testable, and any idea can lead to a stronger program. Whether it succeeds or fails, there is something to be learned. The biggest mistake you can make during tough times is to retreat to a defensive position and make decisions out of fear.

Put the “Donate Now” button on everything. Don’t be shy about the “Donate Now” button. So many schools and universities, in particular, are shy about using this. It’s one of the easiest ways to increase online giving–by asking!!! Some key places to put it include:
• Your homepage.
• The homepage of your online community.
• Every email, every e-newsletter you send.

ENGAGE in social media. If you have not already, create a Facebook page that will automatically post status updates to your Twitter account. (Set that up, too.) And, investigate your LinkedIn groups. You may find that that there is already an active community of support burgeoning on these sites. Build a bridge, and interact with online savvy groups.

Investigate mobile applications. Whether you are providing mobile access to a unique resource, to volunteer offerings, or to giving opportunities, everyone is going mobile. We need to communicate to our donors and alumni where they are — in the palms of their hands — through mobile applications, texting, and mobile-friendly rendering of our communication devices. This will be essential in 2010! According to IDC’s Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker, vendors shipped a total of 43.3 million units during the third quarter of 2009 (3Q09), up 4.2% from the 41.5 million units shipped in 3Q08, and up 3.2% from shipments of 41.9 million units in 2Q09.

Whatever you do, keep trusting — and testing, testing, testing . . . And remember to take time to breathe and celebrate everything you have accomplished this year.

Elaine Gantz Wright writes about social media that makes a difference. Contact her at elgantz @ yahoo.com.

Giving Thanks

We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.”
— Thornton Wilder

As we approach another Thanksgiving—dining room tables heaped high with the obligatory turkey, taters, and trimmings, it’s difficult to ignore the struggle and challenge so many of us have faced this year. Alas, it’s been a year of more slicing and dicing of budgets and jobs than of crudités. So many have lost so much.

That’s why it is more important than ever that we focus on gratitude—the active process of paying attention to the blessings in our lives and expressing thanks. Granted, this may require a little more creativity and resourcefulness than usual, but it is so important. How powerful it is that seek the silver lining in our most difficult situations and feel genuinely grateful for the opportunities to learn and grow.

Admittedly, that sounds a little pop-psychological. You may be thinking, “Yea, Elaine, easier said than done.” And, I agree to an extent. My year has provided many “learning opportunities.” With an unexpected “professional reinvention,” the vicissitudes of life as a single mom with two teenage boys, a failed relationship, and critically ill family members—2009 has been no picnic.

But I am grateful for so much. The road to self-awareness can be arduous, disruptive, and painful, but it reaps generous rewards. I have excavated buried treasure (and some trash for immediate disposal) from the depths of my own psyche. And, I am grateful to be making new discoveries daily about what I really want and what I possess that I can express to make the world a better place. Wow, with almost a half a century under my belt, I’m finally starting to figure some of “it” out. As treacherous as the road has been, it’s been productive, indeed.

My remarkable boys, faithful friends, family, and church home are all on my gratitude list. I also appreciate you and your interest in my writing. This blog is my passion and my pleasure. It is astonishing. The unpredictable Circle of Life has truly spun me in an exhilarating, new direction this year. And I am convinced that gratitude has helped me. The challenge is allowing ourselves to see it amidst the noise, clutter, and confusion of our lives—to be fully present and consciously aware. It pays to practice gratitude; it can:

Improve relationships. Think about those people who let you know they appreciate you. Doesn’t their appreciation improve your relationships? Be grateful for people, and make sure you let them know how you feel.

Reduce negativity.
It is hard to be negative about your situation when you are thinking about the positive aspects. One of the fastest ways to improve your mood or outlook is to count your blessings.

Improve problem-solving skills. When we think about a problem from the perspective of gratefulness, we open our minds up to new possibilities and connections. We enter a problem-solving situation with an attitude of opportunity rather than challenge or defeat.

Help us learn. Most dark clouds have a silver lining. Every problem can give birth to opportunity. Being grateful for your situation, even if you don’t like it, allows you to be thankful for the opportunity to learn something new.

Alleviate depression.
Try writing five things you are grateful for each night before you go to sleep. You may just start to see a ray of light piercing through those gray clouds. Developing an attitude of gratitude is one of the most important things that you can do for attracting and manifesting the things that you desire into your life.

Life is a series of choices. It is a combination of proportion and perception, and we must be deliberate about consciously choosing gratitude. I surrender my feelings of negativity and despair. I embrace the viability of hope. I actively look for humor, abundance, and joy, and I allow others to reach out to me with their gifts of love, laughter, and healing. I signal the world that I am open, engaged, and committed to fostering the greater good—today and in the years ahead.

Blessings to you and your loved ones this Thanksgiving,

Elaine