Recognizing the Duty of Foresight

“I think in many ways the consistent practice of foresight is crucial so it’s not a one off thing. It’s not something you do occasionally. It’s something you’re doing all the time. It has to become sort of a central focus of how the board is devoting its attention.” — Jeff De Cagna, Foresight First

Jeff DeCagna, executive advisor of Foresight First, joins in to talk about his work in the association community. He emphasizes the importance of recognizing the duty of foresight and using it to build resilience. Of course, he doesn’t mean predicting the future but rather the ability or the choice to look forward. He explains how embracing the idea of foresight can lead to building resilience and help manage risks. They explore the idea of emphasizing governing over governance and how to encourage the people you’re working with to see governing as an active process. He also explains the difference between being a volunteer and being a voluntary contributor, and how the label can change a person’s motivation.

He and Beth explore:

  • Jeff’s definition of foresight and what its benefits are
  • Why Jeff prefers to use “governing” over “governance”
  • How foresight plays a fundamental role in stewardship
  • The difference between competent trust and benevolent trust
  • How can an organization begin to focus on foresight?
  • The difference between director experience and user experience


Foresight First website

Jeff’s Chat link: Chat.Center/ForesightFirst

Follow Foresight First on Twitter: @dutyofforesight


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MLK Day: The Secrets of a Successful Movement

“There is a clear and obvious link between Dr. King’s legacy and encouraging people to engage in community service that breaks down barriers and builds a land where people live in peace, dignity and equality.”

Just a few days ago, thousands across the country observed Martin Luther King Jr. Day. This week on Driving Participation, reflect on the legacy of the civil rights leader and how it can inspire you to effect change in your own community. How did the movement to get involved in community service in his honor begin? Beth takes a look at the holiday’s history and the lessons you can learn from MLK Day for your own work. Revisit past episodes to hear how the work other Driving Participation guests do can inspire you, too! She takes a look at:

  • How MLK Day got started and how it’s grown to the movement it is today
  • How your own organization can organize its own MLK Day of Service effort
  • Getting involved in pre-existing holidays, such as Giving Tuesday or National Wear Red Day…
  • …Or even creating your own holiday!


The Greater Philadelphia Martin Luther King Day of Service:

Corporation for National & Community Service

Giving Tuesday:

American Heart Association National Wear Red Day

Laurel Hill Cemetery’s Grave Digger’s Ball

Tobi Johnson Session

Jamie MacDonald -Turning Online Events into a Party for your Cause

Session 17 – Abigail Quesinberry The Real Reach of Social Media with Abigail Quesinberry
Session 22 – Justin Ware Manufacturing Viral Campaigns
Session 28 – Kait Sheridan – Starting a Movement and Building Momentum
Session 70 – Sean King – Using #GivingTuesday as a Launchpad for Growing Your Audience
Session 79 – A #GivingTuesday Resource Roundup from our Podcast Guests
Session 83 – Amie Simpson Evolving #GivingTuesday
Session 100 – Karen Bantuveris Engaging Volunteers with a Social Media Buzz Team

Subscribe to Driving Participation in iTunes.
Sign up for our next master class.

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Getting People to See and Stay on Your Website


“When you design for your internal audience instead of your external audience, you get a website that converts well internally.” — Claudia Pennington, CEO of Side Hustle, LLC

Learn the magic of Google this week with digital marketing consultant Claudia Pennington. She joins in to share the secrets to getting the right people to your website — and then staying there. From keywords to the structure of the site itself, Claudia and Beth explore the mindset of a searcher and what you can do to fill those needs. She names her top priorities when assessing a website as well as the trends she thinks will color marketing communications for the next couple of years. With her background in social media, Claudia takes a look at how platforms like Facebook and Twitter are using live video features and how you can make them most effective. She and Beth discuss:

  • What does SEO actually mean?
  • How to make a usability test in order to make your website the most effective
  • Where do you go to learn what people are searching for and what’s bringing traffic to your site?
  • The two trends Claudia predicts will make an impact on marketing communications
  • The number one concern when you are thinking about the structure of a website
  • How search engine optimization is like a plumber


Follow Claudia on Twitter: @seoauditguide

Claudia’s website

The Mindset List from Beloit College:

Zoom video conferencing

Google Search Console


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Mobilizing a City to Plan America’s 250th Birthday Bash


America’s turning 250 in 2026! And an occasion like that deserves an epic party.

USA250, a Philadelphia-based nonprofit, is building a coalition to develop plans for honoring the country’s Semiquincentennial, with America’s birthplace as the hub of the festivities. The idea is for Philadelphia to be the center of activity for the year — producing and hosting seminal events throughout 2026. Think All Star Games, the Super Bowl, special exhibits at all the museums and compelling public events.

To begin building momentum, the USA250 hosted Toast250, a kickoff party to bring stakeholders to the table.

We’re not sure who had more fun — the partygoers that evening, or our graphic design team while creating the event brand!


To help make Toast250 a smashing success, we designed a suite of event materials starting with a re-design of the Toast250 logo.

We continued with an invitation package, an email banner, web graphics, social media images, event signage elements and a photo backdrop of Independence Hall.


We also worked with our client to provide a design that allowed him to update digital invitations and print small batches on the fly. That way he wouldn’t miss an opportunity to bring someone new into the fold.

Here’s to 2026 in Philadelphia!

Do you have an event you’d like to make extra special? Let’s talk before your to-do list makes you feel like you’re 250!

How a Holiday Became an Annual Movement, and What you can Learn From it


On Monday, January 16, countless people across the country are expected to observe Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in service to their communities.

But that wasn’t always the case.

So how did the holiday grow so rapidly into massive movement of civic engagement?

After a significant struggle, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Federal Holiday was signed into law in 1983 and first observed in 1986. Later, in 1994, Congress designated MLK Day as a national day of service, appointing the Corporation for National & Community Service, a federal agency, to lead the effort.

Soon more organized initiatives began popping up across the country to mobilize diverse volunteer efforts. Today the day is widely known as “a day on, not a day off” that its proponents dreamed it would be.

What can you learn from this impressive movement to help you effect change and inspire action within you own community?

Here are some of key elements we think contributed to the movement’s growth.


The date and its meaning were already on people’s minds.

The MLK Day of Service movement built upon an established foundation of shared ideals, a powerful history, and a date already printed on standard calendars.

Even before the federal holiday was established on the third Monday of January, many already celebrated Dr. King’s birthday on January 15th.

There’s a lot to be said about overcoming people’s inertia by organizing around something that’s already familiar.


There’s a clear connection between the holiday and the effort.

When Coretta Scott King testified before Congress to have the MLK federal holiday designated a day of humanitarian service, she quoted one of Dr. King’s famous statements:

“Everybody can be great, because everybody can serve.”

There is a clear and obvious link between Dr. King’s legacy and encouraging people to engage in community service that breaks down barriers and builds a land where people live in peace, dignity and equality.


People persevered.

Dedicated organizers across the country persevered year after year to grow the movement. (And before them, dedicated people persevered year after year to have the federal holiday recognized to begin with!)

The Greater Philadelphia Martin Luther King Day of Service, the nation’s largest MLK Day event, started with only 1,000 volunteers in 1996. Now, over 20 years later, that number has grown to 140,0000!

This was certainly not a one-and-done event.


The movement is bigger than any one organization or person.

A broad coalition has collaborated to make the MLK Day of Service a success.

While some organizations directly connect volunteers with a wide range of service opportunities, large-scale organizers like the Corporation for National & Community Service and the Greater Philadelphia Martin Luther King Day of Service also provide resources and tools to help other groups get their own projects off the ground and spread the word.

By working together, organizations can reach a wider audience — and benefit from each other’s areas of expertise.



The MLK Day of Service offers a number of insights into mobilizing action and raising awareness to effect change. How can you put this to work by tweaking it for your own community?

One obvious way would be to organize your own MLK Day of Service effort, geared toward the issue your organization addresses that make the nation a more just place.

But can other holidays throughout the year be used to inspire action, too?


One successful example is the Giving Tuesday movement, an effort that encourages people to break out their wallets to do good while their credit cards are still warm from Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

For more tips on making the most of Giving Tuesday, check out the Cyber Tuesday episodes of our Driving Participation podcast, including Episode 28 – Starting a Movement and Building Momentum and Episode 83 – Evolving #GivingTuesday.

Remember that it’s easier to gain traction around a date that’s already well established. And there should be a clear link between the holiday and your effort — like candy and cavities, the connection between National Brush Day on November 1st and Halloween the day before.

You can listen to our conversation with Abigail Quesinberry’s about her work with the Ad Council to create National Brush Day here.

Our other favorites include the American Heart Association’s multiple efforts in February that ride the tide of Valentine’s Day, like National Wear Red Day. Another great one is the Laurel Hill Cemetery’s Grave Digger’s Ball, which ties into Halloween to raise funds for the National Historic Landmark.

(Of course, if establishing an entirely new holiday in its own right is part of your mission, don’t let us stop you. Someone had to push for the creation of the MLK federal holiday to begin with!)

Don’t be discouraged if your first year starts small. Look for other organizations that might make logical partners, and keep at it. Soon your audience will begin to remember you each year as the day approaches! Consistent work over time pays off — often better than a big splash at the outset does.

Finally, there’s never better spokespeople than your own supporters. Get them involved to move you forward.



For more information, check out the following Driving Participation Podcasts, including transcripts and links to the audio recordings on iTunes:

Episode 13 – Turning Online Events into a Party for your Cause

Episode 17 – The Real Reach of Social Media with Abigail Quesinberry

Episode 22 – Manufacturing Viral Campaigns

Episode 28 – Starting a Movement and Building Momentum

Episode 70 – Using #GivingTuesday as a Launchpad for Growing Your Audience

Episode 79 – A #GivingTuesday Resource Roundup from our Podcast Guests

Episode 83 – Evolving #GivingTuesday

Episode 87 – Mastering Online Social Fundraising Using Content Marketing


Subscribe to Driving Participation in iTunes.

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Why Does Membership Matter

dianeward_wp“You want them to be active, to participate, to come, spend and enjoy. So that is where the calculations and profile comes in. It’s not department to department, but institutional wide, how is the membership permeating and where is it affecting.” — Diane Ward, Membership Matters

It sounds like a simple question, but there isn’t a simple answer: Why does membership matter? This week, Diane Ward, president of Membership Matters, joins in to share the ins and outs of membership programs, from data collection to evaluating who your members are. Within her work experience, she has learned how people “move in, move up and move out of membership programs.” Members vote with their feet and wallets, she says, so she takes a look at why it’s important to look beyond factors such as revenue and expense equations and focus on what members do for your organization. Members’ visitation and how they engage in one year usually foreshadows their retention in the next year. She and Beth discuss:

  • How Diane recommends dealing with the data attached to understanding memberships and how to focus on what’s most important
  • Why it’s important to evaluate what members do for your organization
  • The two most common measurements people use to evaluate their programs
  • How participation with an organization can serve as a barometer of how active people are
  • What do actions beyond paying membership dues show about about the organization?
  • How to use metrics and technology to build a user profile and how it can help you determine if memberships are working


Membership Matters website:

Email Diane:

Revisit Adrian Segar’s episode:


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What Worked in 2016


New Year always feels like a fresh start with a clean slate. It’s a great time to look both forward and back. Last year we did a show about looking forward and setting your marketing resolutions for the year ahead.

This year Beth invited our past guests to look back at what they did over the year that helped them grow. They have some great insights and suggestions for you that I think you’ll really enjoy.

In this session, learn what fifteen of our consultant and nonprofit guests did differently — and really worked.

Listen in and get inspired to set your own intentions for what’s next.


Highlights from the session:

Consultant Gail Bower paused to reflect on value, brand and messaging

Sarah Hemminger and Allison Buchalter, from Thread created an arc of community events that build thousands of new interactions, connections and press.

Rachel Hutchisson from Blackbaud kept things simple, true and completely core to what she believed on her path to her delivering her first TedX talk.

Steven Screen from the Better Fundraising Company encouraged clients to narrow their fundraising focus to one compelling part of their mission.

Consultant Meredith Low found a cool new tool to capture the ideas that come to her in a flash.

Carol Meerschaert, formerly of the Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association, followed the COPE strategy—create once, publish everywhere.

Vanessa Chase Lockshin from the Storytelling Nonprofit put contingency plans in place so she wouldn’t be stressed out when things go awry.

Adrian Segar from Conferences that Work invented a new process for participation at conferences that had attendees engaged in conversation long
after the session ended.

Candi Summers from Bestwa put her effort into getting as much face time as possible with donors.

For Greg Koch of the Zoo Miami Foundation, taking one step backwards led to taking several steps forwards.

Claire Axelrod from Clairification encouraged her clients to pick up the phone and than donors right away.

Sandy Rees from Get Fully Funded saw a terrific response from donors when they made their newsletter more personable and conversational

John Lepp from Agents of Good shared a formula for personalizing direct mail using the Pareto Principle.

Elizabeth Weaver Engel wants listeners to start a formal program of regular audience conversations.

Jeff Miles looked at what he was doing that was missing the mark with his audience and learned to focus on who they really are to skyrocket donations.

Thanks to our guests for giving us all a boost into the new year and thank you for another year of listening.


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The Secret to Happy Email Subscribers


“When you market only to sell, you miss a critical opportunity to support, educate and bond with your community.”

There is a difference between over-communicating and over-asking, especially when it comes to email marketing and communication. That’s just one theme of this week’s episode. Join Beth as she discusses how to plan your communication strategy ahead for next year as 2016 draws to a close. Instead of worrying about sending too many emails, Beth shares the secret to switching the focus to something that will matter: a relationship with your subscribers. She explains how the year is full of peaks and valleys as far as communication. She shares six tips to fill those valleys so that downtime doesn’t become dead time. Hear about:

  • A step-by-step guide to planning a marketing calendar for next year
  • Tips on engaging your audience based on what you do
  • Mapping out the key dates you need to lead up to every season
  • What kind of content to share with your email subscribers during the “valleys”
  • Why you should sometimes be sharing personal content
  • What is conversion marketing?
  • A new monthly master class on marketing
  • And more!


Beth’s blog post on the secret to happy email subscribers

Interview with Anne Samilov on Amy Porterfield’s Online Marketing Made Easy podcast


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Creating a Warm Welcome to XPN


This summer we helped National Public Radio station, WXPN (XPN) build a better connection with new subscribers who attended their free Latin music festival.

The station has been adding Latin content to their broadcast lineup for some time and last year launched NUEVOFEST, an incredible free Latin music festival.

NUEVOFEST attracts many who are new to XPN. The station wanted a way to connect this new audience to XPN content and move them towards membership.

They have an excellent and regular e-news, but that content is broad and covers their whole audience. How can you help new audiences get to know you while giving them exactly what they want? Here’s how we did it…

The time in between someone signing up and receiving their first e-newsletter is a powerful time. They are never more engaged then right after they have had a positive experience.

For most organizations what happens in this time is — well, nothing. It’s a valley of silence. Depending on when they subscribed to your list, registered for or attended an event, the next communication could be days or weeks away. And with NUEVOFEST’s attendees, many of the people getting that first e-news wouldn’t connect the station to the event they attended.


But you can fix that with a welcome email series.

Before these readers started receiving WXPN’s regular e-news, invitations to other events or an ask to become a member, we built rapport with them over a shared interest. By creating a series of emails designed to show them how the station is the perfect place to support their love of Latin music, we created a bridge to move them into the community.

Over two weeks, the six-part series revisited the fun of the free Latin music festival. The next day we shared how to access the event photos, and teased about video to come in the next email. We then pointed people to Latin-focused content and events. Near the end of the series we introduced other XPN benefits and how membership supports this programming.

We set up emails to trigger on specific days using Journey Builder in XPN’s Salesforce platform. We built everything in advance and then left placeholders so we could include elements from the live event.

Including images and links that were only available after the event definitely made the process more hectic but it was worth it to give each email a personal feel.

The strategy could be summed up as: Give. Give. Give. Give. Give. Then ask. Spending time wooing the people new to your community will help them know they are welcome and valued.

The Secret to Happy Email Subscribers


While festive celebrations dominate our days as 2016 draws to a close, the new year will be here before we know it. Now’s the time to map out a communications strategy that will keep your audience engaged the whole year through!

But as you tackle your communications calendar, don’t fall into this all-too-common trap…


Valleys of Silence

We see a lot of organizations and companies that make the same fatal mistake. They’re so concerned about losing the subscribers they’ve worked so hard to get, they actually UNDER-communicate!

Here’s how it happens.

Most organizations find they spend a lot of time asking their subscribers to take action (ahem, that is, give them money) leading up to pinnacle dates through out the year, whether it’s an event, the final day of a membership drive, the conclusion of a fundraising campaign or the end of a big sale. We call this conversion marketing, and it’s a necessary part of your overall strategy if you’re going to stay afloat.

That’s why, if you look closely, you’ll likely find that your marketing calendar is full of peaks and valleys. And that’s totally normal. There should be active selling time as well as down time.

The danger is when down time becomes dead time.

Once that event’s over or that drive has ended, organizations tend to go on radio silence. Why? People tell us all the time — they’re afraid their readers will unsubscribe if they get too many emails.

But the problem isn’t over-communicating.

It’s over-asking.

In an interview with Anne Samilov on Amy Porterfield’s Online Marketing Made Easy podcast, Anne describes your relationship with your subscribers like a bank — if you keep making withdrawals without making any deposits, you’ll eventually hit zero.


The Solution: Relationship Building

Your subscribers joined your list because they want to hear from you. And people buy from people they know and like.

But when you market only to sell, you miss a critical opportunity to support, educate and bond with your community.

Instead, focus on balancing your conversion marketing with “relationship marketing,” which (you guessed it!) focuses on building a relationship with your subscribers.

You can do this by using your valleys to schedule content that’s fun, interesting, educational and personal — just because.

The key is to keep the heartbeat pulsing, even while at rest.

Here’s your step-by-step:

  1. Map out your peaks.
    These are the key dates you need to lead up to every season — the events, the campaigns, the drives, the seasonal sales.
  2. Chart your inclines.
    These are the communications you ramp up leading toward your peak. When you’re done, there should be some valleys when you’re not really sending much about those big annual goals. If there aren’t any valleys, go back and adjust your ramps to create the valleys.
  3. Fill in the valleys with relationship content.
    Your valleys are the place for your relationship content. Think about what you can share that would delight and amaze your community and keep them glad they’re involved.


Ideas for filling in the valleys

At a loss for ideas to fill in the valleys? Here are six of our favorites:

  1. Offer general gratitude.
    A thank you for buying a ticket, making a donation or completing a purchase DOESN’T COUNT — you should already be sending personal thank you’s for that anyway! In addition, say thank you at Thanksgiving. We love you on Valentine’s Day. Send a random expression of gratitude. And whenever you can, work a thank you into the ideas below.
  2. Demonstrate impact.
    Tell about the child who’s beating her disease because of your subscribers’ support. Invite a customer to talk about how he sees more beauty after taking one of your art classes. Describe the economic improvements in the village you source your product from.
  3. Share progress stories.
    Are you constructing a new building? Working to solve an issue? Trying to eradicate a disease? Share updates on the progress you’re making toward your goal.
  4. Educate your readers.
    Whether you organize conferences, sell a product or work toward the common good, you have first-hand, inside knowledge about some subject or issue. Share some of it! Organize yoga retreats? Describe your latest go-to pose and its benefits (with pictures of course!). Offer catering services? Give tips on pairing wines and cheeses for a great party.
  5. Engage your readers in advocacy.
    Are you an issue-oriented organization? Let people know when they can take action on something that matters to them or when important legislation is on the table.
  6. Reveal your process.
    Do you run a successful school? Explain one of your teachers’ effective teaching methods or walk through a typical day. Make exceptional chocolate? Tell your readers how (without revealing your recipe!). Produce stellar shows? Take people behind the scenes of a rehearsal or explain the way you go about selecting your next production.

Time to go get planning! And, as always, let us know if you want help getting this project off your plate!







Iris Creative Group Inc. • 451 S. Bethlehem Pike, Suite 310 • Fort Washington, PA 19034 • P: 267.468.7949
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