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Reading list June 26 2013

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Do you evaluate your programs? Do you believe in evaluation? Of course you do. Well you should read this piece from the Stanford Social Innovation Review (SSIR) which claims that most charities should not bother to evaluate their work.

Heard about Twitter lead generation cards? Now you have. You’re welcome.

Using Slideshare? Perhaps you should – simple, visual, fast-to-consume presentations can work very effectively. Learn more here. Don’t mention it.

What sort of content gets email readers excited and clicking?

A review of PR-supremo memoir Trust Me I’m Lying.


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A rollicking MUST READ for charities, fundraisers and regulators.

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Needless to say, we believe every word posted on the Hootville website is a gem to be read and treasured by our citizens. Then of course there are the genuine must-read items. This alarming piece of investigative journalism spotlighting America’s 50 worst charities is such an item and should be consumed by anyone who cares about fundraising and charities, those in the profession, serving on NFP boards or our new regulator the ACNC.

Rating Australian charities

Vital statistics, at donors' fingertips.

Sadly we didn’t write the article – the Tampa Bay Times in Florida did with the assistance of The Centre for Investigative Reporting. The paper has a pugnacious reputation and this multimedia extravaganza of data-driven journalism has award-winner written all over it.

Essentially America’s 50 worst charities have been named and shamed. These are ‘charities’ which raise much but donate little. They purport to represent all the right causes – sick kids, women with breast cancer and of course, this being America, police, fire and the military. Funds raised however, go mainly to the founders ands their kids, sons-in-law and best friends.

One note: when you read “solicitors” think fundraisers soliciting for donations by phone or mail not lawyersAnother note: this article is about downright corrupt, fraudulent charities – not merely the inept, lacklustre or meaningless.

It could never happen here – could it? Of course it could. And it does. The Australian Charities and Not-For-Profits Commission (ACNC) should read this to know how the bad guys operate.

Though this media project is laudable as hell and will have impact (mainly by giving prospective donors reasons to not give) America is already blessed with an ongoing non-profit organisation devoted to breaking down charities’ balance sheets and rating their effectiveness. It’s called Charity Navigator and it is astounding. We’ve raved about it here before.

America's worst charities

James T. Reynolds Sr does not come out of the article looking very good.

Six thousand charities are rated and compared against rigorous criteria: admin costs, debt levels, fundraising costs, CEO salaries. Solid apples-with-apples comparisons. The site trawls the financial returns and annual reports and breaks them down. The information is available quickly and simply 24 hours a day.

Charity Navigator does not just concentrate on weeding out totally dodgy operators – it’s mission is far broader and more valuable than that. It rates 6000 charities showing the mediocre as well as the mendacious. It is all about transparency and effectiveness.

For instance – imagine if we could compare every Australian charity in terms of the CEO’s salary as a percentage of total turnover. What an interesting reads that would make.

We desperately need something just like Charity Navigator here in Australia. Now. It would do more to educate and reassure the giving public and weed out the half-baked and ill-conceived than just about anything else, perhaps even the ACNC.

(Thanks to the ever on-line Roslyn Grundy for alerting us to the article.)


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Vale Jeffrey Smart: a brief anecdote

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Jeffrey Smart

Jeffrey Smart. Born 1921, died 2013. Met Brett in the late 1990s.

By Brett de Hoedt.

The best thing for me about being a journalist was the access it provided to people, places and institutions that are generally roped off.

I was an inexperienced but damn hungry journalist back in the late 1990s working for a free (albeit glossy) magazine The Melbourne Weekly when I got access to the late artist Jeffrey Smart.

My overburdened deputy editor announced that he was too busy to keep his interview appointment.

“Oh God – I have to interview Jeffrey Smart. I don’t want to go.”

I heard opportunity’s knock and answered it. After all; I was prepped, having recently read most of a weekend magazine article about Australian ex-pats living in Tuscany in which Smart was mentioned. I had viewed just enough of his highly distinctive work to recognise it unaided. No fruit, no flowers, no plump naked ladies – I got it. I felt I knew enough to plumb Smart’s depths and write a piece thick with insights. I was clearly the man for this task.

My boss was taken aback by my enthusiasm and satisfied with my rapidly presented factoids: Adelaide-born, Tuscan-based, homosexual, old, urbane. I knew it all, got the gig and hopped the tram to the Arts Centre where I met Smart and his part-time Australian promoter / archivist / webmaster.

I cannot recall the second man’s name but Smart was clearly grateful for his contribution to the construction of his reputation. “He’s a real estate agent, of all things and he understands websites,” explained Smart bemused at the breadth of the man’s talent.

Smart seemed bemused with life generally. He was more than generous when I declared my lack of formal (or informal) art training. “Self-education is often far superior,” he said. Having acquired no formal education since, I’ve quoted this wisdom this many times and for that alone I owe Smart a thankyou.

Walking slowly though the Centre, he provided a one-to-one tour of his works. He never rushed, nor gushed and certainly never waxed about any “need to paint”. He seemed to be assessing how his works had held up since their conception. I mainly tried not to say dumb things.

In the foyer outside the Fairfax Studio hung (and still hangs) a multi-panel landscape of a freight train pulling through a scrubby bush setting: Container Train In Landscape.

A decade earlier I’d sat in that foyer digging the scene with friends as a precocious teenager enjoying live late-night jazz. I always felt that I understood the painting more than the music. Now the artist was talking me through his process.

He was devoid of pretension and repeatedly asked me for my (worthless) opinions which I readily provided. For an ambitious boy from suburban Melbourne with creative tendencies this was living. He was Whitlamesque; charming, worldly and charismatic, though with less of the ego. He was, in the American sense of the word: classy.

My regard for Smart doubled; quadrupled. So too my knowledge of the artist – admittedly from a very low base.

Vale Jeffrey Smart.


Iron Man 3 was an opportunity to talk mental health

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mental health marketing

Does this guy seem a little...tense?

We spend a lot of time in Media Savvy 101 talking about finding catalysts for media coverage. Catalysts are triggers to approach media. Catalysts make your story more pertinent and topical NOW.

Some catalysts are internal such as your milestones, breakthroughs or fresh data. Some are chronological such as Mother’s Day, the hottest day of the year, exam time. Other catalysts are external including major cultural events.

advice for PR in mental health

3D glasses, on. Check. Begin film.

Iron Man 3 is such an event. Any movie surpassing the $1 billion mark is a big deal. Brett finally took his father to see the latest instalment (in 3D no less) and was left with two clear thoughts: 1. He would very much like to be Iron Man and 2. Tony Stark’s battle with anxiety / PTSD was an opportunity to seek media coverage about the condition.

If this seems far-fetched please rethink: media outlets from Hollywood Reporter to NPR tackled anxiety / PTSD thanks to the movie. Did any local mental health orgs take the opportunity to reach for the phone and say to an afternoon ABC radio producer and say something a little like this:

“Look you probably know that Iron Man 3 is one of the biggest films of all time and one thing we at The Psychology Institute find remarkable is that Tony Stark, the hero inside the Iron  Man suit actually admits to anxiety and PTSD from his previous battles – the battles in The Avengers. We thought this might be an interesting time to explain what PTSD and anxiety are, the causes and how to manage the conditions. We could play some audio and explain what we’d recommend for Tony so he can keep up his super heroing.”

Maybe it is too late for Iron Man 3-related media hits – but what’s next? What big film, musical, song, singer or TV show can you exploit as a catalyst for media coverage. Think broadly.

Note: it’s not just mega films that create catalysts. Quartet was a tiny, simple, sweet film set in an English nursing home for performers and artists. It raised an opportunity for discussion on aged care, relationships in older age and the fate of retired performers in Australia. And for the record Brett’s folks enjoyed it very much.



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Can your leader lead like this?

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Media training for CEOs

Stand and deliver or be caught in the crossfire.

Chief of Army David Morrison scored universal plaudits for his uncompromising, weasel-word-free video.

While your chief may not need to address endemic sexual abuse and discrimination, she should still be able to cut the mustard when crisis hits.  Which reminds us

With some very simple technology you can video blog cheaply, speedily and effectively.

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Bon Jovi eyes older, lucrative, classier audience

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online marketing

Note the YouTube channel chosen by Bon Jovi's marketers. Maybe they'll be unveiling some unexpected new material.

Online marketing via Google AdWords, Facebook or YouTube is an under-utilised option for many Australian nonprofits. We’ll talk more about this in weeks to come. Meanwhile though here’s one rule for new players: aim squarely at your key audiences unless you have as big a marketing budget as say… Bon Jovi. They which seems to be squarely aiming for some unlikely targets. Is this the best use of their dollar? We guess, that premium seating now comes with complimentary program and knee rug.

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jobville extends free listings

Icon for Post #3445 Australia’s free-for-nonprofits recruitment website has extended its free-for-absolutely everyone offer until September 1.

ethical jobs

Free at last, free at last.

It’s the one Australian job board offering free jobs listings for HR folk everywhere. We list volunteer positions,overseas positions, government and suitable corporate positions.

The site continues to attract new employers including: Reach Foundation, Make-A-Wish and National Institute of Circus Arts.

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Are you propositioning enough people? Probably not.

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Before people transact with you they ask themselves a series of questions:

What does this organisation offer me / what do they do exactly?

Why should I choose this particular organisation?

What’s special / different about this organisation?

Regardless of the nature of the transaction – a purchase, an enrollment,  attendance, a donation or some other form of support; the questions are there. Sometimes prospects ask themselves these questions distinctly and investigate but most times they simple assess you sub-consciously.

marketing conversion formula

MECLABS' conversion formula rates V a 3. Do you too?

How convincingly and succinctly you answer these questions has a huge influence on how many people are converted from browsers into buyers. (And again we mean “buyers” in many forms from donors to volunteers.)

You answer these questions with your value proposition.

Marketing fundamentalists rate value propositions highly as you’ll see in our post about conversion formulas which really is worth reading.

How well do you explain what you do, the value you offer and that you are worth choosing?

Value propositions are easily mistaken for other parts of the marketing game including: mission, vision and values statements (urgh!) and slogans. One thing all three have in common though is that initially, you’ll express your value proposition in words. Short, sharp, persuasive words.

You have to decide what aspect of your many and varied positive qualities you wish to highlight to get the prospect’s business. You might draw a longer bow than you initially think appropriate.

Some value proposition examples: Let’s say you offer an online conflict management classes for parents of teenagers: Teen Tamers.

“Teen Tamer is the convenient, online parenting skills course. Eight sessions in your home to a happier home.” (Emphasis on ease, speed and convenience.)

“The Teen Tamer program was created by real parents of real teens, living in the real world. Let them teach you to tame yours.” (Emphasis on the practicality of the content and empathy of the teachers. Highlights the lack of psychologists and theoretical experts.)

“Our online Teen Tamer program allows you share your challenges, but not your identity.” (Emphasis on privacy.)

Too few nonprofits make their value proposition clear enough, fast enough, persuasively enough. Conversion XL has an interesting post about this.


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Hootville is busy. Here’s why…

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We’re developing websites for Inner Melbourne VET Cluster, a family violence network in regional Victoria and Merri Community Health Service.

media training

Our drums. Oft beaten.

This will be our second website for a community health service having launched Inner South Community Health Service’s new site late in 2012.

We’re also shooting a series of videos for Merri.

Aside from that; there’s torrent of training and emceeing for the Australian Climate Commission, City of Boroondara, Fundraising Institute of Australia, Key Employment, Our Community and many more.

We’re also planning our 2013 public training workshops.


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Meet the latest addition to the internet

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We’ve whelped another website here at Hootville: for our dear client Leading Age Services Australia which represents age care providers, residential and community-based.

website development

Drop in, sign on, help out.

It’s part of a campaign we helped develop to improve funding for the several hundred thousand professionals working in the sector.

The campaign and website’s title comes from the stat that 3 million Australians are aged 65+. We need more professionals to care for them. Worse; with our growing and ageing population we need to find a 300% increase in age sector professionals by 2050. (Thinking of a career change? Call us.) Anyhow – notable features of the site:

This website features a gateway. Our client is eager to garner signatures to the campaign so we created an unavoidable gateway or landing page with a very simple sign-up form.  Please sign up won’t you…

We created printable posters which people can print off and display – particularly in their age services workplaces. We are encouraging supporters to be photographed with the posters and send them in and – guess what – they are.

We used real photography as much as possible, developed case studies of real workers in the sector and distilled some fast facts.

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