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Reading List 2016

9 Jan


Loved this book. I great look at what it takes to really do good in the world.
Access to technology is never the starting point.
Start with an “aspirations assessment”.

  • January 9, 2016

Emmy Noether Honored by Google Doodle Today

23 Mar

Albert Einstein once called her “the most significant creative mathematical genius thus far produced.”

Read the story on Vox now

New Google Doodle Honors Anna Atkins, Photography Pioneer

16 Mar

Cool honoring of Anna Atkins…

TIME

To celebrate what would have been the 216th birthday of Anna Atkins, a new Google Doodle features images of leaves reminiscent of the botanist’s groundbreaking contribution to photography.

Atkins used a version of “sun-printing” to create a book of photographed botanical specimens. Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions was self-published in 1843 and is considered to be the first book illustrated with photographs.

The method Atkins used for developing photos is called the Cyanotype technique. It is an iron-based chemical method that creates a white image appearing on a blue background. Exposure to sunlight is required for the process to work correctly, hence “sun-printing.”

Through her career, Atkins collected hundreds of specimens and in 1865 she donated her entire collection to the British Museum.

Born in Kent, southern England, on March 16, 1799, Atkins was raised by her father, a respected scientist, after her mother died during her daughter’s…

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Optimizing Your Student Debt

4 Mar

Optimizing Your Student Debt(This is a post by Kaitlin Butler of CommonBond. I’ve recently looked for ways to optimize the student loan debt I have and she graciously offered some thoughts. I like the idea of maximizing the return on education investment she mentions below. Please leave your feedback in the comments. ~Mike)

Optimizing Your Student Debt

By Kaitlin Butler, CommonBond

There’s no “one size fits all” repayment strategy for the millions of Americans tackling student debt. Like nearly everything else in personal finance, it’s up to you to identify the best way to optimize your debt based on your financial goals and needs, and we’re here to help. Here’s what you need to know to take control of your student loans and maximize the return on the investment you made in your education, starting today.

The government offers more repayment plans; private lenders offer more savings.

Federal student loans come with a robust set of repayment options. The federal government offers repayment plans that private lenders can’t offer, including Income-Based Repayment and even Public Service Loan Forgiveness. (See the full list of options here.) However, these repayment plans don’t make sense for all borrowers. If you’re not in the public sector or you’re a high earner, you may not be able to take advantage of many of these options. If that’s the case, consider student loan refinancing, which will help you get a lower interest rate that will help you start saving quickly.

Refinancing gives you a second chance at picking your ideal student loan.

When you refinance, you trade out your old student loan for a new loan, giving you a second chance to customize your debt repayment plan. Besides applying for a lower interest rate alone, you can also choose a new loan type – fixed, variable, or hybrid – and loan term, typically from 5 to 20 years. That means that you can choose a loan type tailored to your own risk tolerance and long- and medium-term goals. (This blog post helps you find the right student loan for your personal situation, and there are no fees when you refinance through CommonBond.)

Reamortizing helps you pay off your loans faster and lowers your monthly payment.

If you save up a lump sum payment – like an annual bonus – that you plan to put towards your debt, make it go the extra mile with reamortization. This is when you make a significant extra payment and then reset your monthly loan payment schedule based on that big drop in your balance. To take advantage of this, ask your lender if you can reamortize (and if there’s a limit to how many times you can do so on one loan). When you reamortize you’ll reduce your loan balance and have lower monthly payments each month based on this new balance.

One final tip for anyone with loans? Make sure you’re signed up for autopay, also known as ACH, where your loan payments are made automatically out of your checking account. Lenders will often offer you a 0.25% interest rate discount just for signing up, and you can rest easy, knowing you’ll never miss a payment.

Kaitlin is Content Manager at CommonBond, a student lending platform that provides a better student loan experience through lower rates, exceptional customer service, and technology. Her articles have appeared on Lifehacker, the Huffington Post, Yahoo!Finance, and more. 

How to Develop an Internal Grant Communication Plan

5 Feb

internal grant communication plan pictureIn the late fall of 2014, I presented at the Grant Professionals Association National Conference. I had quite a good time and received positive feedback about the session.

You can view the the presentation on developing an internal grant communication plan here:

Internal Grant Communication Plan – Michael Roman

In addition, there was an internal grant communication “getting started” template available for the session. You can download it here:

How to Develop an Internal Grant Communication Plan – Handout – Roman 7-31-14

The description of the workshop was as follows:

We all know the importance of providing timely and informative communications to our funders, but what about providing that same level of communication to our internal staff and volunteers? In this session you will learn how to develop an internal grant communication plan for your small to large organization. There are at least five reasons this can be beneficial to your grant program. Walk away from this session with a sample project timeline, a sample communication plan outline, a sample internal newsletter, at least three different free tools to help you with your newsletter, and many other practical ideas.

The benefits of this internal grant communication plan are that you:

  • keep the internal lines of communication open
  • don’t let staff and volunteers forget that work is grant funded
  • create a more “official” channel to regularly recognize staff achievements
  • can even simplify your grant data collection processes!

Just like funders and donors might need multiple “touches”, your staff and volunteer morale and motivation can improve with new and more targeted internal grant communications.

Session Learning objectives

You will learn how to:

  • determine your best outlet for communicating grant work internally
  • define your audience and its preferred methods of communication
  • develop your internal grant communication templates
  • more easily manage the writing process
  • encourage articles and updates from staff

You will walk through the following:

  • a process to inventory your current internal communication strategies
  • a process to develop your internal grant communication plan
  • a process to measure readership and feedback

Benefits of workshop to grant professional

This workshop will help you develop skills to facilitate internal communication around grant submissions, project progress, and staff and volunteer celebrations. You will take away templates, at least three free tools, and knowledge of the processes used to develop your internal grant communication plan and measure its success.

– –  – –  – –  – –  – –  – – – – – –  – – – –  – –  – –

Please let me know if I can help you in any way with your internal grant communication plan.

You can contact me at michael.e.roman@gmail.com or by filling out this form.

Thank you!

 

Increasing Survey Responses for Conference Workshops

13 Nov

I wIncrease Workshop Feedbackas a little disappointed in the amount of feedback I received after presenting at a recent national grant conference. The conference organizers had switched to all electronic feedback forms.

Using electronic forms to capture workshop or class feedback has its benefits. The number one benefit may be that it decreases data entry time for the conference organizers.

But moving away from paper feedback forms can easily decrease your responses rate, as I saw. You must then pay extra attention to the ways you encourage and motivate your session attendees to give formal feedback.

Here is a simple-to-follow plan that you could use to increase feedback after your next conference, workshop, or class.

Build time into the schedule

When you create your schedule, make sure to mark specific five minute blocks after each session for feedback. It might look like this:

  • 8:00 Registration and refreshments
  • 8:30 Session 1
  • 9:15-Feedback forms open for Session 1
  • 9:30 Session 2
  • 10:15 Feedback forms open for Session 2
  • 10:20 Networking block
  • 11:00 Plenary Session
  • 12:00 Feedback forms open for Plenary Session
  • etc.

Announce the feedback forms

Additionally, if you have room monitors of any kind, make it an important part of their job to announce to the conference attendees that the time to give feedback is now, immediately after each session. Announce it before people leave.

If you don’t have room monitors, write up a short script for each presenter and build it into their duties to announce the feedback forms. It is for their benefit!

Send scheduled emails to the attendees

To pull this all together, use your email service to create scheduled emails to send five minutes before the scheduled end of each session. This way your room monitor or presenter can tell the attendees at the end of the session to check their inbox and fill out the feedback form while still sitting in the session.

For certain, a service like Mailchimp has this feature and can help you make your conference or workshop look super organized.

Advanced method – Create Pre-filled URLs for forms

If you use a service like Google Forms (which is free), you can create pre-filled forms by building special URLs (links). This makes things easier for the user so that she/he can click the link of his/her session instead of clicking a general link and then struggling to find their session from a drop down list. Try these examples below:

Clicking on any of these will allow you to go directly to the form with the session you clicked already filled in. This type of list is what would go in your scheduled email.

Conclusion – Improving conference or workshop feedback response rates

Using just these few simple methods can increase your conference or workshop feedback rates. It takes a bit of planning ahead but will be well worth the effort.

As always, if you have any questions or would like help implementing any of these ideas, please contact me by filling out the form below. Or, email me at michael.e.roman@gmail.com. Thanks!

Bonus Idea

For each feedback question, create a conference-wide benchmark to give to your presenters along with their individual feedback. Just giving a presenter his/her individual feedback won’t give him/her a sense of how they compared to other presenters across the conference.

Ask me a question about your feedback forms

Successful Leaders Don’t Focus on All the Details

4 Sep

What if a leader’s job is to look at most things out of focus?Leaders Don't Focus on All the Details

Typically, we think leaders should have a strong vision, focus on that vision, and help others focus on that vision.

But what if a leader’s job is to keep most things slightly out of focus?

When we hear words like micromanagement, isn’t that an indication that the particular leader doing the micromanagement has gotten too focused on some particular details of the organization? This leader would better serve the organization by bringing a situation slightly more into focus but not making it crystal clear. She or he should keep most things at an arm’s length, slightly out of focus.

This does not mean that someone else in the organization shouldn’t be focused or even hyper-focused on any particular situation’s details. This is why you have many people serving in different roles in the organization. Everyone is paying attention to different details.

Key Differences between Successful and Unsuccessful Leaders

But leaders need to separate the details important to them from all the rest. Leaders need to become comfortable with letting others manage details in areas out of the leader’s focus.

I suspect this is a key difference between successful and unsuccessful leaders. Successful leaders focus on only the most important details and let others manage the rest. Successful leaders have mastered the art of being comfortable with viewing many parts of the organization slightly out of focus.

We Are All Spammers

13 May

If you send emails to groups of people, you are a spammer. We don’t typically think of ourselves this way, but consider the mindset of anyone with the ability to send an email to many people. When you are the sender, you have to decide what you think is important to people. And of course, you tend to think that if you can just get this message to people, they will think it is important, too.

But will they really think it is important?We Are All Spammers
Many people won’t even open the email (unless you magically always have an open rate of 100%). Instead, some people will it open it, and some people won’t open it. This is just like a spammer. When they send an email, they think some people will find the email important enough to open it. And some people won’t open it.

But that spammer very well could have an open rate close to yours. So what makes you different than a spammer?

……………………………….

You could of course argue that people signed up for your list, indicating that they must have some desire to receive emails from you, but this is likely only partially true.

What Did Your List Members Really Sign Up For?

But you have to ask what they really signed up for.

  • Did they sign up after you lured them with a free download of some kind?
  • Did you promise a discount code?
  • Did you promise they would be notified of some upcoming release?

None of these common practices are bad, they are somewhat misleading. If the initial motivation for joining your list was to get something specific, it is a good idea to ask yourself how far your email topics have strayed from this initial offering.

How Frequently Are You Sending Emails?

How frequently are you sending your members emails? How do you think this compares to what they expected when joining your list? You need to check your practices frequently, monitor your open rates, and monitor how many people leave your list after each email.

Practical Changes to Make to Your EMail Practices

First of all, don’t send email “blasts”. Rid your lexicon of that description. Your email practices should be much more sensitive.

Second, notify your list members of how frequently you plan to send them emails. Do this in the initial email, and include it in each email going forward. If you say once a week, then stick to that routine at all costs.

Third, don’t use holidays as a way to sneak an email message in. Just because you have the ability to send an email on any given holiday doesn’t mean you should. Unless that holiday is so relevant to your mission, and your list members lives’ would be worse off without your email, then don’t send it. And being worse off is not the same as being slightly better. I get the sense that people send the holiday emails because they think they are somehow enriching the receivers’ lives, but I doubt that. Instead, think, “If I don’t send this email, will my list members miss it?”

Let me tell you the answer; it is doubtful that they will miss it.

Conclusion

Be sensitive to the personal nature of email and don’t abuse the power you have to get into someone’s inbox. Otherwise, you are no different than a spammer.

……………………………….

Need help with your non-profit or small business email marketing plan? Get in touch; I’d be happy to help.

Mike

Get Expert Help for Your Non-Profit Website, Email Strategy, or Communication Plan

1 Apr

I have some exciting news: I’m one of the first people offering personalized, expert help over live video through a new Google product called Helpouts.Non-profit website communication plans - social media - ebook - helpouts

Helpouts makes it easier to get help right when you need it, wherever you are. Whether you want help solving a problem (like how to manage your non-profit website), completing a project (like managing a social media campaign) or mastering a new skill (like publishing an ebook), all you need is a PC, smartphone or tablet with a camera and you can connect with someone who can help.

I’m offering help with non-profit digital communications (website, email, social media, ebooks) and invite you to check out my Helpout: Non-Profit Website, Social Media, & Communication Strategy. If you know someone else who you think might benefit from my non-profit technology expertise, please pass the word along.

Thanks for helping me help others,

 Mike

Find me on Google Helpouts for non-profit website help

 

 

3 Opportunities You Are Missing to Provide Value

17 Feb

Why Are People Trying to Provide “Value” by Asking What Others Want?3 Opportunities You Are Missing to Provide Value

Value-making seems to be a full time profession for many people. Everywhere you go there is somebody insisting that they are trying to provide value for their customers, their clients, their company. But what is the value they are trying to provide? People don’t seem to know. Why do I think they don’t know? Because they’re sending out too many surveys. They are constantly talking about value and constantly asking others about value, but they never define value. They value value, but don’t know what it is!?!

Value Is Generic

Value is really a generic catch-all phrase. It’s non-specific. It doesn’t tell me anything about what you do, what you think you should do, or what you want to do. Instead, you sound like everybody else when you talk about value. Do you really need a survey to tell you that people value great customer service? Or timely delivery? Or competitive prices? No, these things are generally a given, though some people will value one more than the other. These values are also generic. Most organizations have these very same values and make promises based on these values.

Problem 1: Organizations Don’t Really Listen

I don’t think people are really listening to the answers their customers, clients, or partners might be giving them about what they value. They’re not listening because the things being said aren’t direct answers. Instead, the answers exist in other interactions.

3 Opportunities to Listen and Provide Value to Customers

  1. For example, when I call any type of customer service line, I expect to get my question answered quickly and professionally. And everybody, including me, thinks their question is unique. No one believes their question is exactly the same as someone else’s question. So why is it so rare to get a real person on the line when you call customer service? Clearly these organizations don’t care about what I really want. But I bet I’ll get a follow-up survey asking me how the phone call went. Instead of this survey, why not have a real conversation with me when I call? Why not listen?
  2. When I’m checking out in a physical store, why doesn’t the cashier listen to what I have to say about my shopping experience?
  3. When I check out online, why doesn’t someone call me to help me through when I’m having trouble? Imagine that level of service.

Problem 2: Value Doesn’t Easily Scale

But these ideas are somewhat of a pipedream because these things many people value don’t easily scale. Amazon can’t scale that level of service to call any customer having trouble checking out online. They’ve already attempted to solve that problem with one-click shopping. Facebook can’t call you when you encounter a log-in issue. Target isn’t suddenly going to have their cashiers strike up a conversation about my shopping experience. Why? It wouldn’t scale well. The utility company, cable company, and so many others aren’t going to get rid of their artificial intelligence operators (standing by, but no real problem-solving skills). It doesn’t scale well.

4 Ways to Scale Value

First, listen in all the interactions you might have with a customer. Don’t have the interaction and then send a survey as a proxy for listening. If you send the survey after the fact, I don’t think you were ever really listening in the first place. Second, be proactive in problem areas. How can you help a customer solve a problem before he/she calls you? Call them first instead. Third, think of every other way you can listen without surveys and pursue those listening opportunities first. Fourth, give all employees the ability and authority to act immediately on whatever they are hearing from customers. Addressing issues after the fact (discovering them through a survey) is hardly ever as good as responding in the moment.

Conclusion: Value People

People want to be valued. Don’t wait to define your values based on surveys. Start first with valuing your customers as people.Constantly act on expected values by listening during conversations and solving problems proactively. If you do these things, you may find that you can say “You’re welcome” more often as customers thank you for your value-based based interactions.

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