Creating a Culture of Collaboration

“That’s what collaboration is really all about: it’s not about just working together and sharing office space. It’s having a relationship with an individual or one organization having a relationship with another organization.” — Hardy Smith

Create collaboration with consultant and speaker Hardy Smith as he joins in to share the best way to create not just a relationship, but a true collaboration. Real collaboration between people — or even between organizations — comes with many benefits. It helps vent out the issues at the root of a challenge and helps vent out the opportunities for creating solutions, he says. He shares where organizations go wrong with collaboration and the one element that makes a key difference. He and Beth explore:

  • The differences between internal and external collaboration
  • What are some of the keys for a successful long-term relationship?
  • The contrast between simply working together and collaborating
  • Why disagreements are sometimes a good thing
  • Creating a culture of leadership buy-in
  • Why the need to collaborate is probably greater now than ever before


Hardy’s website

Email Hardy:

Find Hardy on Twitter @HardySmith1

Read his Boardsource blogs

Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration by Ed Catmull on Amazon

Association of Fundraising Professionals

DP 112 with Greg Koch from Zoo Miami: Adapting Your Message to Your Audience


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April’s Slam Dunk and What It Can Teach Us.

April's Slam Dunk and What It Can Teach Us

Here at Iris Creative, last month could be summed up in one word: April.

No, we don’t mean the page of the calendar we were on. We’re talking about April THE GIRAFFE. And like many of her fans around the world, we obsessively followed her for weeks.

In case you missed it, on April 15 Animal Adventure Park in upstate New York hosted a live broadcast of their giraffe April giving birth to her calf for over 1 million YouTube viewers.

To date, their 39-minute YouTube archive clip has well over 14 million views. Fourteen million!

April even has her own official website— Folks contacting Animal Adventure Park with inquiries about giraffes are directed to a dedicated email address. And the Giraffe Cam even scored a sponsorship from none other than Toys“R”Us. (Remember their mascot Geoffrey?)

Needless to say, the event was a slam-dunk for a seasonal park in a county of just over 200,000 inhabitants.

From sharing slews of facts about giraffes and their conservation with millions of people to selling giraffe emojis, Animal Adventure Park orchestrated the awareness-building phenomenon many organizations dream of.

Or did they?


Building Awareness vs. Tapping Your Audience

Build awareness. It’s what everyone wants to do. But activities bent solely on building awareness can be costly—not only from a financial standpoint, but from a messaging standpoint as well.

Often, awareness-building initiatives result in a diluted message as you attempt to be everything to everyone in order to reach a broader audience. It’s so much harder to create a connection and differentiate yourself that way.

We’d much rather see organizations get a bigger bang for their buck—by creating a laser-focused connection with their ideal audience.

As it turns out, April’s Giraffe Cam didn’t start out with a vast audience in mind either—just her usual fans. And look where that focus got her!

Read on for our key takeaways from April’s blockbuster stream:


1. Listen to your audience.

According to a report by KENS5 Eyewitness News, the Giraffe Cam initiative started because the park—which is closed to visitors during the off-season—had been receiving inquiries about the status of April’s pregnancy from regular-season visitors.

The park listened.

They came up with the Giraffe Cam to keep interested folks informed.

And things snowballed from there.


2. Building momentum takes time.

The Giraffe Cam went live weeks before April’s calf was born, mostly, it seems, because the park simply didn’t know exactly when the big moment would arrive. Her tentative due date was mid-February.

The lead-up gave April’s viewership time to gain momentum—and secure a sponsor with appropriate tie-ins. The park even set up a text alert system so obsessed fans like us could get the latest updates.

(The Toys“R”Us logo switched to Babies“R”Us when the calf made his appearance. Talk about message alignment!)

None of this would have happened if they simply went live five minutes before the birth.


3. Follow up after an event. Invite participation. And add a little suspense!

After the live birth the morning of April 15th, the screen didn’t just go black. In addition to watching footage of the baby giraffe, people waited in suspense for the big gender reveal later that day. (Spoiler alert: It’s a boy!)

The park also encouraged fans—for a fee —to participate in two rounds of voting to help staff name the calf.

And you guessed it. They made an event of the name reveal, too. We’ll let you discover that one for yourself.


Do you see an opportunity to connect with your audience? Run with it!

Need some help getting off the ground? From engaging audiences to making the most of your events, creating connections is what we do best.

Give us a call at 267-468-7949 or drop us a line at!

(Live streams not included.)

Creating Communications Toolkits

“Everything is included in there. We include best practices and some additional tips and areas for consideration and it’s just all tied up very nicely into one folder for them to use, that they can forward to somebody who is going to do it for them or like I said, they can pick and choose or they can split it up between all of their staff members. However they want to use it.” — Theresa Miller, Girls on the Run International

Tune in to hear Theresa Miller, chief engagement officer for Girls on the Run International, join Beth to talk toolkits: how to create them and why they’re helpful. Providing toolkits complete with social media messages, graphics, fundraising appeals and more — plus a calendar to guide when to post — Theresa explains how the organization helps its state councils and supporters reach their audience in a way that works for them. She talks about how the fundraising teams and marketing and communications teams join together to engage different audiences and work as a unit, resulting in a fundraising increase on International Women’s Day by more than 300 percent! She and Beth explore:

  • How to create a toolkit that provides the right materials and still leave room for customization
  • How to decide what to put into a toolkit and ways to measure if it’s working
  • The importance of a “read first” document
  • How to create an effective survey
  • How you can use this model no matter what size your organization is


Girls on the Run International website

Nonprofit Toolkit


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Content Driven Attraction and Conversion

“The main thing to remember about content marketing…it’s always audience-centered. It’s always what do they need, what are they struggling with. So it’s all about identifying what would be helpful to them and then building content around that.” — Robert McGuire, McGuire Editorial Content Marketing Agency

What is the difference between content and content marketing? How do you differentiate between an interim metric and what Beth calls a terminal metric? What about the difference between content and social media? Robert McGuire of McGuire Editorial Content Marketing Agency joins in to answer these questions and more. He takes a deep dive into the world of content, particularly content-driven attraction and conversion. He and Beth explore micro conversions, lead magnets, and growth hacking among other terms and practices you can learn from to make your content strategy work. He and Beth discuss:

  • How to identify micro conversions
  • How content marketing has changed
  • Common types of lead magnets
  • How successful content planning can make a difference
  • The biggest difference between content and social media
  • What actually is a content strategy?
  • The difference between clickbait and clickbait and switch marketing


Get in touch with Robert:

McGuire Editorial Content Marketing Agency website

Content Strategy Template

Driving Participation episode 134 with Bill Skowronski


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Your Three-Step Spring Marketing Detox

In a 2015 study, 60% of working professionals report that their productivity suffers because they’re trying to tackle too many things at once.1

That’s a lot of over-busy people who are still disappointed by what they haven’t accomplished!

Are you one of them?

Is your to-do list never ending? Your desk overflowing? Are you weighed down by a heap of unfinished (or unstarted projects)?
From emails to appointments, an endless parade of time-sucking tasks have cluttered our lives and clouded our vision.

When you’re distracted by urgent needs and pending deadlines, you might never get to the high-payoff project that’s been waiting months — or even years — for you to address.

But right now it’s the perfect time to clean out and get focused!

Whether you draw your inspiration from the warm weather’s call to spring cleaning, the tradition of sweeping the chametz from your cabinets for Passover, or the idea of renewal every Easter, there’s something in the human spirit that craves a regular reset.

Here’s a three-step spring detox for your marketing to-do list:


1. Eliminate

First, take an honest look at your list and eliminate anything that really isn’t a priority, doesn’t have a worthwhile payoff, or has been on your list so long that it’s no longer relevant.

Just this week Beth led a social media training session for a group of nonprofits in New Jersey. When she told them they didn’t have to “Be Everywhere” the group let out a collective sigh of relief. And with the assurance that they didn’t have to do everything, they asked, “how do we know if what we are doing is worth the effort?”

Good question. So here are a few more you can ask to find out if it’s time to let it go:
• Are you reaching and holding the interest of your primary audience?
• Can you demonstrate that what you are doing is moving directly or indirectly toward a desirable action?
• Do you know which of your strategic goals that activity supports?

If you are not sure, it may be time to put that project on hold until you do.

Feeling lighter already? Great!

Now for the dreaded eight-letter word:


2. Delegate

Accept that you can’t do it all. If projects are stuck but can’t be eliminated, then you need to get help. A list of work backing up adds stress that can impact your ability to make progress on anything.

First decide what on your list can be handled by someone else. Accept that they won’t do it exactly the way you would and identify projects where done is more important than perfect. Indecision frequently causes more damage than a wrong decision.

In some cases, you might be able to delegate down (or across) to a subordinate, coworker, volunteer or intern. In others, (and this one’s trickier), the project might be languishing because it really needs to be delegated up the reporting chain.

If you’re finding it difficult to delegate down or delegate up, you might discover that you’re dealing with a project that you should delegate out.

Which leads us to our next step…


3. Evaluate

Do you lack someone on your team with the right skillset to complete the project? Are you short on the time or the expertise needed to manage the process?

It would be a ridiculous waste of resources to maintain a staff that encompasses every imaginable skillset your organization could ever need. But sometimes projects get delayed when the right person isn’t available to take it on.

It’s inevitable that at some point you’ll encounter projects that you’d be better off delegating out.

Going outside for help increases your capacity without increasing your overhead. Not to mention that a specialist will get the job done faster and better than anyone juggling multiple priorities.

Outside help can come in many forms. It might be developing an ambassador program to help spread the word. It could be collaboration with another organization that has resources you can share. Or it could mean hiring experts to handle the task.

What opportunities are passing by while your message isn’t supporting your new strategy, your website isn’t working the way you want or that campaign you imagine is still in your head?

If there is a project that is stuck, let’s talk. We can help you leap forward this spring.

1 Wrike 2015 Work Management Survey Report. Retrieved from

Creating Content with a Purpose

“Content is really an experience. It’s an experience that you direct towards your audience, you encourage your audience to have and that experience could be an article, it could be a video, it could be a podcast, but at the end of the day, it’s an experience that you want them to have.” — Sarah Gilman, Lupus Foundation of America

How can you create content that effectively drives your message home? Sarah Gilman, director of the National Resource Center on Lupus at the Lupus Foundation of America, joins in to talk all about content. From developing a consistent, recognizable voice to repurposing and repetition, she explores key ideas to keep in mind when it comes to creating content — especially health content. She emphasizes the importance of looking at the kind of content that will help you meet your organization’s strategic objectives. Content strategy isn’t a term necessarily used often when it comes to public health, but Sarah talks about its importance in her field and in the work she does. She and Beth explore:

  • Key differences between content strategy and content marketing
  • The importance of creating and implementing a consistent voice and tone
  • The benefits of creating a checklist and content guide
  • How to manage creating a content strategy and balance your workflow
  • How to effectively repurpose your content
  • Ways to keep document and keep track of all of your content


Lupus Foundation of America

National Resource Center on Lupus


The CDC Clear Communication Index (Index)

ExpressionEngine CMS

Craft CMS


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The Path to Participation: Five Shifts to Inspiring Action

“Your audience moves from engagement to participation when you help them take ACTION.” — Beth Brodovsky

This week, Beth is taking what she’s heard from podcast guests about the meaning of participation and turning it into concrete actions you can take. She outlines five shifts you can make on the path to participation. It’s clear that participation can mean different things to different organizations, she says, but what everyone has in common in the need to inspire people to take the important actions you need for your organization to thrive. From creating a survey to get to know your audience better to making the simple change of swapping “we” for “you,” Beth details ways you can get the right people to get involved. She explores:

  • How to identify the urgent and important need your organization tackles
  • Why it’s important to put your audience at the center of the action
  • The biggest mistake you can make when talking about your organization’s mission
  • How to save your energy and effort for where it’s likely to pay dividends
  • The best way to get to know your audience
  • How to “date” your audience


Google forms

Session 133: Developing Your Audience Focus with Jeff Miles

Session 143: Think Small: Experiments in Personalization with the Drexel Fund team

Email Beth at


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The Path to Participation: Five Steps to Inspiring Action

As old man winter swept through with a final hurrah, shovels and snow blowers across the country have been working overtime clearing paths in the snow.

But today we’re going to talk about a different kind of path — the kind that leads people to take action. The path to participation.

Participation can mean different things to different organizations — whether it’s getting people to donate, advocate or volunteer. What matters is that people are taking the important actions you need for your organization to thrive.

In our work, we’ve identified five steps on the path to participation to help you attract the right people and get them more deeply involved:


Didn’t pay your cell phone bill? Don’t expect your phone to ring! The same thing applies when you’re trying to attract people to your cause. If there’s no connection, your audience can’t answer.

To get that line hot, it helps to start with a little self-reflection…

First, identify the URGENT and IMPORTANT need your organization tackles.

Do you address childhood hunger — or the fact that three-year-old Jane will have nothing to eat today?

Do you work to protect the environment — or are you trying to stop deforestation in your county or there will be no owls left in two years?

Do you help low-income students get a great education — or are you helping Jack learn to read before he loses interest in school like his brother who already dropped out?

Get the picture? It’s about vividly positioning the outcome of your work.

Next, think about what makes you uniquely able to deliver the solution.

Do you have first-hand knowledge of the situation in a particular geographic area? Experience with a certain sub-species of bird? Are you the only organization that offers 24-hour services in your sector?

Look for parameters can you put around your work that make you the one-and-only.

Once you’re clear on what urgent important needs you’re uniquely positioned to solve — things you’re proud your organization does better than any other — you’re ready to create a connection using messages, images and experiences that move your readers.

But to do that, you need to….


If you’re afraid of dogs and allergic to cats, are you going to feel a strong inclination to support your local animal shelter? No matter what the messaging, the shelter’s time and money would be better spent wooing animal lovers.

It’s time to stop doing everything for everyone. Save your energy and effort for where it’s likely to pay dividends, and then laser-focus on what will help you connect with those people you want to reach.

The critical first step is to create a profile of your “perfect” person. And be specific. Don’t just stop at demographics like name and age. Get into her hopes and dreams.

Now imagine you’re speaking directly to this perfect person every time you write a letter, choose a website photo or post to social media. Let that image guide you.

You’ll find this approach shapes which of your projects you talk about, what details you include, who you profile, even what channels you use.


When your supporters donate money, give of their time, or otherwise advance your organization’s mission, it’s not really about you. They’re pursing their dreams for the world they want to see. You’re job is to make it a reality.

Everything you say and do should reflect this reality by putting your audience at the center of the action.

You can check to see whether your messaging is all about your supporters by watching your pronouns. Take some copy from your website, your newsletter, or your last fundraising letter, and highlight every time you use “we/us/our,” and flip it to “you/your.”

For example…

Organization-centered: Dear audience, We did this. We changed this. We need donations to…

Becomes audience-centered: Dear audience, You made this happen. When you volunteered, you changed this. Your gift if critical because…

See how YOU’VE made YOUR audience central to YOUR story?


So far you’ve connected with and engaged your target audience. But if they don’t actually DO anything — share with a friend, make a donation, sign up to volunteer — they’re not participating in bringing your mission to life.

Your audience moves from engagement to participation when you help them take ACTION.

We live in a world overloaded with information, decisions and distractions. To overcome these barriers to participation, your audience needs you to focus their attention.

So stop serving your audience an overwhelming buffet of action options. Instead, offer your supporters a chef-selected entrée you know your perfect person will find appealing.

Your gut (or your board) may push you to ask your community to tutor, sponsor a child, provide snacks during the school year or call their senators, all in one letter sent to everyone. Too many choices usually lead to no choice. Pick the one action that is most valuable to you right now and most moving to your intended audience. Focus on really driving the message home with a stirring story your perfect person will readily react to.

“The key is not always to market the biggest effort you are doing but what you are doing that most connects with your audience,” advises Jeff Miles, Director of Development of the Keystone Opportunity Center.


You might not get someone to participate through your first round of efforts. And even if you do, don’t expect an encore performance without ongoing outreach on your part.

As Sarah Gilman, Director of the National Resource Center on Lupus aptly put it, “For motivation to progress to action, repetition is required.”

Here are some of our favorite ongoing strategies:

Date your audience

Most people don’t get married on their first date. (Well, unless they happened to be in Vegas.) Relationships tend to progress through various levels of commitment before a couple says “I do.”

Take a similar approach to your relationship with your audience by inviting them to participate in stages.

One of our favorite ways to do this is through an email welcome series. When someone first signs up for your newsletter or takes some initial action, you can invite them more completely into your fold through a series of automated specialized emails that cater to their interests and invite future actions based on previous activity.

Work your thank you pages

Once someone’s made a donation or filled out a form on your website, don’t forget to work your thank you pages to create a deeper connection or a second action, whether that means sending them to your social sites, sharing a video, highlighting special content for them or giving them something special.


Use your data to look for inspiration and identify what’s working.

Was one campaign particularly successful? Experiment to see if you can identify the secret ingredient and incorporate it into future efforts.

Split your email list in half and see if you get better results sending out your appeal on different days of the week. Then try again with different subject lines.

The possibilities are endless. But you won’t know what works for your organization and your perfect person unless you try out new strategies.

Feed the connection

All this repetition takes us back to the beginning —pay your audience dues so you don’t get cut off!

Continuing to ask, ask, ask will only disillusion your participants, no matter how “perfect” they are.

When you remember to ooze gratitude and focus on delighting and amazing your audience, they’ll be more likely to take action the next time you ask them to participate.

Personalizing your Networking with LinkedIn

“It’s very passive if ‘Donald’ invites ‘Beth’ to connect, ‘Beth’ says yes and then that connection goes on the proverbial shelf.” – Donald Hale, University of South Carolina

How can you optimize your experience with LinkedIn to really create meaningful and personal connections with people? Donald Hale, interim vice chancellor for advancement at the University of South Carolina Upstate and assistant vice president for development for the University of South Carolina Main Campus, joins in to talk about how to take a virtual connection and make it a personal one. When you send that first message to join a network, you can personalize it beyond the general introduction. Donald gives examples about how to use LinkedIn to network in the most optimal way, such as when organizing local events to get the attention of the alumni who it applies to most. They discuss:

  • The impact of using visual communications on LinkedIn
  • Active versus passive engagement
  • The danger of getting “seduced by the masses” on social media
  • The two steps Donald takes when forming a connection on LinkedIn
  • How Donald uses LinkedIn to connect with alumni communities around the world
  • How social media has changed the definition of participation


University of South Carolina Development Department

LinkedIn Premium

LinkedIn Business Plus


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Think Small: Experiments in Personalization

“Universities sometimes have a really institutionalized way of speaking, which is OK, however, we’re talking to real people and we’re asking them to do a thing that maybe isn’t the first thing they want to do.” — Drexel Fund Team

This week, Beth sits down with the team from the Drexel Fund, Drexel University’s annual giving team. They talk about how they reach 133,000 alumni and how their methods have changed over the years to create more effective messaging depending on who they’re trying to reach. One key tactic has been experimenting with segmented groups of their target audience to create more personalized messages with the incentive of donating and getting involved. Drawing inspiration from even something like a Rubik’s cube, they talk about projects and ideas they have to make their appeals fun, engaging and personalized. Beth talks with them about:

  • Understanding the alumni engagement index (AEI)
  • Where universities can improve in their communication with alumni
  • How they decide what is a risk worth taking when testing communications
  • How one 50/50 email test helped them understand what tactics of messaging work more effectively
  • How to improve retention rate
  • What they would do with an unlimited budget


The Drexel Fund website


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