Posts filed under ‘Communications’

How to Engage Youth in Philanthropy (Hint: Stop Using the Word Leader)

headshot of Jessica Working in philanthropy, one can’t help but to be constantly thinking about the future – future grant requests, the future impact of investments on the community and the future of our society as a whole.

Not unrelated, I often think about future philanthropists. What will they look like, what will their passions be and more importantly, will they care?

For many in our field, it may be your job to think about the future of philanthropy. For me, these questions prompted me to attend a youth philanthropy summit at the  Pickaway County Community Foundation in Circleville last month, a city just south of Columbus.

If we want to reach young people, teach them about philanthropy and get them excited about playing an active role in the future of our society, we have to change how we approach youth. This was the main message at the youth summit.

But this message totally rings true. We already know that collectively youth are a powerful group to tap into, and formal youth philanthropy programs are prevalent across the state with 26 active programs involving hundreds of young people ages 5 to 22 in Ohio.

Working in the field of philanthropy – and being part of that demographic group we can’t stop talking about, also known as millennials – I see instances nearly every day about how we can (and should) change our message or the way we do things to be more receptive to the next generation.

students pack boxesFor starters, when looking for groups of students to approach to start a youth philanthropy program, don’t go first to the student council or honor societies – most likely they are already involved and the goal should be to reach youth who are totally new to philanthropy. In addition, don’t call your event a “youth leadership event” because many young people don’t see themselves as leaders – at least not yet. Your goal is to turn them into leaders, but using the term “leader” may turn them off altogether.

Here are four other tips I gleaned from the afternoon summit:

  1. A dead room is a dead audience. This should be a best practice not just for youth gatherings, but for how you approach every presentation. You must be engaging or you’ll lose them, and practice the 13-minute rule. Thirteen minutes is the maximum you can expect to have a group’s undivided attention. After that time period, take a break or move on to something new.
  2. If you build it and market it, they will come. But if you don’t have consistency, structure and adult leadership on your end, they’ll do something else. Make it easy to get involved, and providing food doesn’t hurt either.
  3. Seek to understand, not emulate. Just because the store is called Forever 21, doesn’t mean you should shop there! Do keep up on trends in popular culture, slang, etc. but don’t try to pull them off. Kids will see right through you.
  4. Employ social branding. Make sure the youth involved leave with an experience, something to reflect on and an action item. Think about all the other things kids have going on in their day, and set your engagement apart. What makes your group unique, what do you have to offer and what will they get out of it? Think as a marketer, and tap into their attitudes and perspective.

group photo youth philanthropy retreatAs a marketer and a millennial, I know how important it is to meet people at their level. We can’t afford to be blind to the next generation. With the future of philanthropy resting in the hands of youth, it’s in our best interests to involve them now and get them excited and inspired about the role they can play.

If you’re looking for resources for improving or starting a youth philanthropy program, take a look at our youth philanthropy web page, where you can find best practices, resources and a directory of all the youth philanthropy programs in Ohio. Or reach out to me or anyone at Philanthropy Ohio with questions or for assistance.

Best Regards,

jessica signature

Jessica Howard


October 21, 2014 at 11:27 am Leave a comment

Well Begun is Half Done

headshot of suzanneMy southern grandmother often said, “Well begun is half done.”  She also said, “Darlin’, it’s fine, fine, fine – finer than a frog’s hair split three times,” but that’s another story. What she meant by the first idiom stumped me for a long time, until I realized that if you start out with meaning and intent for something to be great, you really are halfway there. The second phrase, well, truly that’s another story for another day.

But I’ve discovered “well begun” isn’t something that happens alone, not in an organization like Philanthropy Ohio. To illustrate this point, let me share with you the process my first Let’s Talk Philanthropy webinar endured from creation, modification, delivery to frog on leaf

For this first webinar, we decided to continue a conversation on “Disruptive Innovation” I began at our statewide conference last fall – how philanthropy is being disrupted by innovations in giving trends, technology and globalization. As a former marketing professor, I prepared my lecture, complete with PowerPoint slides and a hefty dose of facts, figures, lovely tables and charts. I considered it “well begun.” And perhaps it was – if I was delivering it to an audience 20 years ago. What I neglected to consider were the innovations in webinars and what the research shows makes a great one.

Fortunately, the staff at Philanthropy Ohio isn’t shy and they are quite apt in making sure our brand and our messages are of a high caliber. While the script remained fairly consistent with my original thoughts, the visuals changed dramatically, with bells and whistles replacing the tables and charts. I learned four very important things:

  1. You can’t plan enough, and Murphy’s Law will follow you everywhere. Technology isn’t foolproof, and you’ve got to prepare for all calamities. For example, the perfectly working camera we tested the day before had issues during the actual webinar. But due to prior planning, we had a solution. We used all slides and no interactive videography.
  2. Promotion is critical, and social media is a must! Not only did we conduct the webinar but another staff member Tweeted.  Audience identification will drive the marketing strategy because it’s not what the presenter knows: it’s all about what the audience wants to learn.tweeter raising hand
  3. Interactivity is important, and one way to engage your audience is through polls. We conducted three during the webinar and it was actually a lot of fun!
  4. Use more slides to ensure the webinar is interactive. I know, it goes against the traditional thoughts, but really, the more slides the better! I’ve learned that for a 30 minute presentation you should have about 75 slides (1 hour, around 150 slides) that build on what you are presenting. This way there is constant movement and the participant is completely engaged and wanting to see what comes next.

As I started this virtual journey with my sense of “well begun is half done,” I learned from some very smart people that a great webinar is carefully planned and is a wonderful engagement tool which ultimately enhances our brand. The positive evaluations we received reinforced these lessons:  I’m told my delivery wasn’t bad, my mother (who is a lot like my grandmother but a little more gracious), said it was good, and the staff didn’t seem terribly embarrassed.  But I’m committed now, and every month I hope my webinars get better and better.  And I’d appreciate your feedback.

Now – to quote another favorite relative – although I was as “nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs,” we are persevering with my next webinar on March 7, “It All Started With a Girdle.” See you in Philanthropy Ohio’s virtual world of webinars!

Suzanne T. Allen, Ph.D.

March 3, 2014 at 8:45 am Leave a comment

Lessons Learned from the Great Recession

George EspyIt has been four years since the bottom dropped out of the stock market and America was plunged into the deepest recession in nearly a century. In its immediate aftermath, foundations took steps to reduce expenses, redirect giving and prepare for an increasingly uncertain future. Since then, organized philanthropy has had to adjust to an ongoing series of unexpected economic, social and political upheavals.

With little consensus about what the “new normal” will mean for philanthropy, and in an effort to prepare for what may yet come to pass, it may be useful to see what lessons OGF members have learned from the experimentation of the recent past.

Reflecting on your foundation’s decisions and direction over the last four years, what have you learned about grantmaking, operations and communications? What did you do that worked out well? And what would you change, if you could?

Let’s consider each of these separately:

Grantmaking: What did you learn about grantmaking during a time of recession? How can you ensure that changes in grantmaking don’t adversely impact the foundation’s ability to accomplish its mission? What did you learn about “strategic” vs. “responsive” grantmaking? “

Operations: What did the economic crisis teach you about the internal operations of the foundation? What did you learn about the relation between foundation efficiency and foundation effectiveness? Would you make the same operational changes again or react differently? How are you preparing for the next unexpected upheaval?

Communication: What did you learn about internal and external communications as a result of this crisis? Did your communication strategy adequately convey your foundation’s intentions? How did input from others affect your decisions? What would you change in your approach, if you could?

OGF members are always interested in upgrading their knowledge and skills. Please share the lessons you’ve learned in the last few years with your Ohio colleagues. You can email me directly or post your responses below. We will summarize your responses in an upcoming edition of OGF Connection. 

George Espy
President, Ohio Grantmakers Forum

September 19, 2011 at 10:55 am Leave a comment

Great Ideas: Blog Talk Radio Show

Charity ChatWho’s doing it?: Scioto Foundation
Contact: Kim Cutlip, executive director

Charity Chat is a blog talk where Kim Cutlip, executive director of the the Scioto Foundation, spreads the word about the great work of the foundation and local nonprofits, as well as current issues. Recorded and posted twice a month, each talk lasts about half an hour or so.  According to the Cutlip, “The goal of Charity Chat is to increase our communication plans via the web and social network sites, such as Facebook, Youtube and the website.”

How and why did Charity Chat get started?
I was a guest on another blog talk radio and decided to start one for the Scioto Foundation. We thought it would be a great way to promote the foundation and other nonprofits in the area but also inform the listeners of important programs such as AP.

Tell us a little bit about what’s involved in producing the show.
Scheduling guests; developing a topic; laying out bullet points; prepping the guest; promoting via Facebook, e-News and Twitter; hosting the show

What’s been the biggest benefit?
It’s a tie between educating the listeners and promoting ourselves.

What’s been the biggest challenge?
I would say the biggest challenge is for the listeners and their ability to communicate. If one has a question or comment it might be challenging to relay their thought via chat if the participant doesn’t know how to log-on. Logging-on is not difficult, just kind of hidden for those who have never attempted it. The call-in number might hinder the caller as well since it is a long distant number.

What advice would you offer others who are thinking about a blog talk radio show?
Don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Have fun with it. The more you practice the easier it will become. Try to interview the guest face to face rather than over the telephone. Don’t use a speaker phone and sit fairly far apart.

What does it cost?
$40 per month for the service, less than a one-time ad in the local newspapers.

September 12, 2011 at 3:57 pm 1 comment

Social Media and Foundations: If you build it, will they come?

In a word, “no.” Not unless you give them a good reason. It just might not be clear at first what that is.

Unlike communication tools I was “raised” on, social media tools are changing faster than we can keep up with. And, even scarier for some of us at first, they are a two-way medium. It’s not just your messages getting out there, it’s how other people feel about you. Can you be open to letting that communication flow and see what happens?

At The Greater Cincinnati Foundation, we dipped our toe in the water with Facebook and Twitter about 2½ years ago, and began cautiously posting and listening, trying to understand the medium and build some followers while we decided what – if any – our social media strategy would be.

In the spirit of new media, that strategy emerged organically. We posted a few times a month – news, links, photos – and grew to about 150 fans the first year. A few people commented on posts, but no real interaction was happening. We “liked” or followed any local nonprofit, civic institution and other foundation we could find and did whatever else we could think of to build followers.

We began to realize that many of the comments and “likes” were from local nonprofit folks or grantees. As we posted more news about grant projects and other interesting nonprofit or civic projects, it seemed that what might interest our networks most were these stories about our wonderful nonprofit community.

We now have a pretty active Facebook “wall.” Besides our posts, nonprofits and other followers post news or comments related to GCF or tag us in their own wall posts. We have nearly 700 followers, plus about 100 nonprofits, businesses and foundations.

To what end? Well, part of GCF’s brand is to be “a welcoming hub for all things charitable” and we think this fits that bill. It can be hard to find a place to share all the bits of good news that aren’t quite a news release, newsletter article or annual report feature. This gives us a quick, timely, democratic way to share good news in our community with a low investment of time and oversight. We like the “big tent” feeling that it gives us.

A recent e-newsletter issue reminded our subscribers of our Facebook and Twitter presence and provided a few reasons for people to follow us. It resulted in a 10 percent increase in followers by the end of the business day and another jump over the weekend. Plus we had a handful of unsolicited testimonials on our wall the next week.

My takeaway at this point? Be open to trying these tools to see if they fit your foundation’s strategy and community. Don’t be afraid to give up a little message control to build goodwill. Find ways to push your audience to visit and make sure there’s something there that will make them want to come back. If the current social media tools aren’t right for your work, wait until something comes along that is. It could be as soon as next week!

Beth Reiter Benson, VP for Communications & Marketing
The Greater Cincinnati Foundation

June 28, 2011 at 8:27 am Leave a comment

Harnessing the Power of Technology

There is hardly any aspect of life today that is not impacted by advances in mobile and internet technology – from the way we do our banking and shopping, to how we educate our children or care for the sick. Recent events in the Middle East are powerful examples of the influence of social media. Contemporary Thomas Paines now use handheld mobile devices to communicate their message, much to the chagrin of long established, and now often former, leaders.

Organized philanthropy has been understandably slow to adopt these new forms of technology to their daily operations. Generally conservative in nature, foundations are reluctant to make changes unless clear benefits can be demonstrated. Yet, technology’s impact on contemporary life is so pervasive that few foundations are still immune to their effects. Nowadays most have websites; many encourage online submission of grant proposals and reports; and increasing numbers boast Facebook pages and leaders who can be followed on Twitter.

Yet as dramatic as these changes are when compared to the way foundations operated 20 years ago, they are mere shadows of what is yet to come. Instead of looking at digital technologies as optional business equipment, philanthropy now sees them as essential tools in the service of social change and impact. By harnessing the power of these new technologies, foundations are dramatically increasing the impact they can have on local communities. The possibilities for information gathering and strategy development are greatly enhanced, while demands for greater transparency and accountability can be accommodated much more easily. For example, does not the fact that two-thirds of the people in the world today have access to mobile phones change the way foundations plan programs or evaluate the projects they fund? When instant feedback is available through the cell phones of the target population, focus groups and online surveys can serve very different purposes and mid-course program adjustments can be more informed, effective and timely than ever before.

In the coming months, OGF will offer webinars, workshops and other resources on the impact that technology is having on foundations today and how you can use these tools more effectively in your work. Special sessions are also planned for this year’s Annual Conference in Columbus, October 24-26. We encourage you to take advantage of these opportunities to learn more about how philanthropy is meeting the challenge of a new day.

Thank you for your interest and support.

George Espy
President, Ohio Grantmakers Forum

June 13, 2011 at 3:30 pm Leave a comment

Great Ideas in Communications: Online Annual Reports

OGF asked Kim St. John-Stevenson, communications officer at the Saint Luke’s Foundation, to share thoughts on their online annual reports. Read the excerpt below and the full article in OGF Connection.

Kim St. John Stevenson

What drove the foundation’s decision to produce an online annual report?
Two years ago, the foundation began a major focus “telling the stories” of the organizations in which we invest. We do that in two ways: by telling their stories ourselves and by empowering them with resources and funding to share the power of their own stories. We believe the story of the Saint Luke’s Foundation is much more powerful when told through the eyes of the nonprofits we support.

What are the biggest advantages?
In this era of social media and instantaneous information, the electronic annual report has opened our eyes to the possibilities of creating “living documents” that promote both the work of our grantees and the community transformation we make possible through our grant funds. By inviting community comments in the documents, we were able to create a timeless and ever-changing testament to the good work our grantees do, every day. The online, interactive report was created using the same web platform/content management system that the foundation’s website is created in, which allows for a seamless way to make content changes as necessary. Additionally, most annual reports are obsolete the moment they are printed. A dynamic format enhances the shelf life of the report and provides a unique opportunity to add and update stories on an ongoing basis. By not printing a report, you are essentially being “green.”

What advice do you offer others contemplating such a move?
Do your homework and look at models of reports that have been done. There are varying levels of interactivity, so if you are considering this kind of report, talk to others who have done the kind of report you desire and find out everything you can about their experiences. You also want to be sure you have a great, trusted partner for the project, as you will be working closely together to bring an online report to life.

Check out the Saint Luke’s Foundation’s interactive, online reports: 

Check out other online reports of OGF members:

The George Gund Foundation

Burton D. Morgan Foundation

W.K. Kellogg Foundation

May 23, 2011 at 3:54 pm Leave a comment

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