Building Fierce Mission-based Organizations

For most of our mission-based clients,engagements are about storytelling. We look externally at their key audiences to ensure mission, messages and media are aligned. Given the intense competition to meet fundraising goals, the ability to focus and differentiate is essential to successful programs, including capital campaigns.

Fundraising success doesn’t always start with a view to the outside, however. Increasingly, we’re seeing nonprofits look inward as well, perhaps even first. A 2016 Nonprofit Fundraising Study found that while two-thirds of those surveyed predicted an increase in fundraising receipts in 2017, one-third expressed concern about the institution’s leadership, marketing and staffing.

Telling a powerful “brand” story is foundational in fundraising, but fundraising campaigns must be tuned to the changing audience preferences and new communication modalities. Finding authentic, inspirational stories is one thing, communicating them effectively and efficiently across new media and disparate audiences is quite another. 

Looking inward isn’t easy; therefore, we’ve evolved our process over time to include a comprehensive organizational-readiness assessment. Our clients find that having an objective advocate for best practices is a calming force in what should otherwise be a positive transformation for the entire organization. In fact, many engagements now start with our approach to mapping people, processes and technologies to find and close gaps that could jeopardize the success of ongoing fundraising and future capital campaigns.

We are foremost brand storytellers who help clients reach audiences with compelling narratives. We also know how rapidly the communications landscape is changing for paid, earned and owned media. In this regard, mission-based organizations are no different than their for-profit counterparts: A great story alone cannot overcome the headwinds of having the wrong people, processes and technology in place. They must align their internal and external efforts.

What does this mean for mission-based organizations? Turn attention both inward and outward. And tell great stories but don’t neglect the organization that must tell them. The competition for dollars is fierce – make sure the team you have leading your mission is even fiercer.

Contact us to learn more.

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Say Goodbye to Annual Performance Reviews, and Hello to Daily Conversations

constantexchange (1)

constantexchange (1)

If you asked the general public for the most dreaded events in their lives, most would say illness, loss, colonoscopies, root canals, stepping on a Lego at 3 AM. For us working stiffs, add to the list the annual performance review process.

So, imagine my thrill at reading Vauhini Vara’s piece in this week’s New Yorker applauding Accenture and others for banishing the process. If 330,000 Accenture employees are taking a pass on formality and instead embracing more regular check-ins and feedback, I say, good for you.

You see, to me that sounds like the makings of any good relationship. You can probably surmise from the list above that I’m 50+, and that means, among other things, that I’ve spent 20+ years working, leading, managing, self-assessing, and participating in performance review processes from 1-1 to 360, primarily with people in creative organizations. From my perch, creatives bristle at processes like the annual performance review, happening as it does like some kind of employee rite of passage.

Cue brief self-promotion: the performance reviews we conduct at my company consist of 2 short items, with credit to HBS for the inspiration: 1) What I like and 2) What can improve. This pretty much sums it up, and it dispenses with the additional busywork required. Yes, we do ask for a self-evaluation so it’s a give and take conversation. And, we do seek feedback from others. In general, it works.

But here’s where it falls down: the employee/manager relationship is really not unlike relationships you have outside the office. They are, whether we want to admit it or not, relationships. This is particularly true with creative organizations, which by definition rely on frequent communications, brainstorming, spitballing, call it what you want: they like to engage and engage frequently in search of the perfect solution, answer, brilliant idea. And relationships — assuming, of course, you want to stay in them — require frequent communication, feedback, correction, and “this is how what you did made me feel” moments.

Companies operate with many new rules these days – we’re remote workers working with 9-5ers in the office, channeling thoughts and ideas through email and text, rarely picking up the phone, even. So why do we promote an anachronistic model of performance reviews when all you really need to do is seize each moment of every work relationship to make you and your team better?

Like Accenture’s recent move, I’m equally smitten by what Globoforce (the self-described leader in employee recognition, and a Greenough client, I should add) proposes: you develop and retain employees by frequent acts of recognition, not just once a year, and not by checking boxes, but by having authentic conversations based on crowdsourced feedback.

You don’t wait a year to tell your friends, family or partners that they’ve either messed up or done something phenomenal. Why not apply the same thinking to your relationships at work?

Jamie Parker is president of Greenough Brand Storytellers

Greenough’s Artistic Summer Outing

The Greenough team shows off their creations

The Greenough team shows off their creations

All successful PR and marketing efforts have one thing in common: an inspired team that generates great ideas. So when our annual company summer outing rolled around earlier this week, we decided to do something that would help the team get the creative juices flowing. To that end, I brought the entire agency over to The Paint Bar, a new “art as entertainment” venue just down the road from our office.

For the uninitiated, let me explain: The Paint Bar (and other companies like it) provide groups with step-by-step instruction for painting their own masterpieces. This detailed walkthrough provides even those who are… let’s say, “artistically challenged,” with the know-how necessary to create their own work of art. Art as entertainment has been taking the city by storm, so I thought our outing would serve as a great introduction to it for our staff!

After a couple hours, our art coach had successfully guided the whole team through their own Van Gogh-inspired painting of flowers by a pond. We then had a quick walk through our little gallery, which gave everyone the chance to admire each other’s work. The paintings were then brought back to the office, where we’re planning to showcase them in the lounge.

Our time at The Paint Bar over, Phil and I took the team back to our house for a barbeque and an afternoon of lawn games, which culminated in an intense boys vs. girls bocce match. Best not to announce the winners here, but if any clients are interested, I’m sure that your account lead would be happy to give you the details on how they trounced the competition.

A great time was had by all – looking forward to next year’s outing!

Jamie Parker is the President of Greenough. Follow her on Twitter: @jamieparker4357