Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The Long Tail of Cancer Organizations

It's almost enough already from the "Long Tail" department but here's yet another Long Tail post. This one is about Cancer organizations.

Here's a reminder of what the Long Tail is for those who are unfamiliar (annotated with some NPO references):

Anderson argued that products that are in low demand (small charities) or have low sales volume (small charities) can collectively make up a market share that rivals or exceeds the relatively few current bestsellers and blockbusters (large charities), if the store or distribution channel is large enough (the Internet).

My hypothesis is simple - it's about to get really tough for large cancer organizations to keep raising more and more money each year. Over the past 10 years, we've seen more and more small/niche NPO's pop up and quickly ramp up their fundraising to significant levels. While it doesn't seem to be impacting the large NPO's ability to grow annually so far, the % of what the small guys are able to capture grows larger and larger each year.

I've even started to see some articles hinting around that donor actually prefer to give to smaller, more nimble and focused organizations. Distrust from scandals are certainly one reason, but I don't believe it's the main reason. It's not that simple! Consumers demand personalization - and organizations like ACS and LLS can't go nearly as deep into specific diseases as can a niche organization that has singular focus can. (They'll tell you they can and they are, but look closely at how focused some of the more niche cancer organizations have become - MMRF in particular.

I'm obviously making some generalizations here, but I do think this is worth examining. (I'm also trying to incite your comments).

Using Charity Navigator, I built myself a spreadsheet and looked at 16 cancer organizations ranging from ACS and LLS (large) to MMRF, The V Foundation, Lance Armstrong and Midwest Athletes Against Childhood Cancer (all small).

What it shows starts to prove my point.
  • The industry as a whole grew from $999,243,446 in 2001 to 1,268,777,275 in 2004. 27% growth.
    • ACS grew at 10%
    • LLS grew at 36%
    • All of the other 14 orgs grew at a combined rate of 178%
Sure, in absolute dollars, there is no comparison but this is just the beginning. In 2001, the small orgs took 8% of the total market. Just 3 years later in 2004, that percentage had jumped to 18%. That's explosive growth.

The Long Tail of Cancer Charities

What are the takeaways?

If you are a big cancer organization... you better figure out quickly how you can personalize your diseases and avoid looking like a lumbering, dying dinosaur. It would also be a good idea to start to collaborate with all these little orgs dancing around you. And oh yea.. avoid scandals :)

If you are a small cancer org - STAY FOCUSED! Figure out how to deliver significantly more value to a smaller, more focused group of patients, caregivers, donors and researchers.

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Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Ted Talks: Bono

Recorded in February 2005, Bono's talk is amazingly inspiring and emotional.

He talked about his TEDPrize wishes:
  • Challenge the TED community to help build a social movement of more than one million American activists for Africa
  • Tell people one billion times about the ONE campaign through media exposure
  • To connect every hospital, health clinic, and school in one African country, Ethiopia, to the Internet.
I was curious about how these wishes worked out and found a link on the TED site. The man gets stuff done. I've been semi-critical and questioned (Red) on this blog, but I do believe I'm starting to see the bigger picture of Bono's strategy with DATA, One and (Red).

If you haven't yet discovered TED talks and the TED blog... you are missing out!

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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Book Notes: Mavericks at Work

A lot has already been written about "Mavericks at Work" - a new book by William Taylor and Polly LaBarre. I found this book to actually live up to the quote on the front of the advance copy I got: "I didn't read this book. I devoured it." - Tom Peters.

This book confirms much of what I think about business, leadership and strategy - and was the most exciting business book I've read since reading Guy Kawasaki's "Rules for Revolutionaries".

"The only sustainable form of market leadership is thought leadership."

In one simple quote lies my entire success, or failure as a marketer. NPO marketers - think about your own organization for a moment. We ALL have terrific missions. We all do great things. We all strive to make the world a better place. But what makes us distinctive? Why would I give money to ACS vs. LLS vs. MMRF? If I have multiple myeloma, how do I pick?

The authors also make a key point about organizational vocabulary. Years ago when I was a product manager in the for profit world, the marketing, IT and sales teams realized one day that we were all speaking different languages. Even things like "Price" meant something different to each of us. In the NPO space (at least at March of Dimes and LLS) we use words like Budget to mean Revenue Target - it's crazy. I suggest you develop and publish a vocabulary list - and continue to develop unique ways to talk about your business. Being distinctive means talking differently too, doesn't it?

After the set up however, this book took a turn that I believe has changed the very foundation of how I think about leadership, building teams and driving success.

Conceptually, "The Architecture of Participation" is a simple concept to grasp. Open-sourcing everything from IT, development, marketing and Human Resources is on the table. Involving people in the core design isn't about inclusion or politics, it's about leveraging PERSPECTIVE to create DISTINCTIVE solutions.

In the immoral words of Junie B. Jones (my daughter's current favorite book character): "Wowie Wow Wow!" That's powerful stuff.

If you've read this and are scratching your head, do yourself a favor and go buy this book and read it immediately. The case studies completely blew me away - from TopCoder to Pixar to Cranium, there is so much meat here it's staggering.

More concepts the book tosses out:

  • Unfocus groups - bring together diverse and exceptional people from all walks of life
  • Leaders should "walk in stupid" every day - live on the INexperience curve
Personally, as I try to help whatever organization I work for (stay tuned to this blog for news on what organization I actually do work for) succeed this book presents both an opportunity, and a challenge. Conceptually, the ideas are powerful, but it takes grounded mature leadership to execute open source strategies. The politics and inertia of some organizations won't allow it to take advantage fully of the foundations set forth in the book.

To some orgs, the book will read more like a novel than a handbook for the future!

For me personally, I stand in admiration of the leaders who grasp these concepts and are able to execute them within their organizations. I'm headed that way - anyone want to join me?

Happy Thanksgiving!

I'll try to tag anything good I find with "mavericksatwork" on Delicious. Read the book, find examples and post em up!

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Monday, November 13, 2006

Inspired by the CDC

We've had our "virtual chapter" in Second Life for about a year now, and I've been sitting on it, trying to find the big idea. After reading Nedra's write up about the CDC, I decided to forget the BIG idea and just get going.

SLURL for LLS chapter: (you must already be a SL user to click this link). Otherwise, visit Second Life and sign up!

You can access some links to our patient services, advocacy and fundraising programs. More will come soon I hope! Either way, we're officially off the bench and into the game.

LLS_ServicesWall_002 LLS_ServicesWall

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Some More Thoughts on Social Networking

I've been reading all the great posts on today's carnival and have been absorbing everything and learning a lot- great job everyone!

Here's a nugget to chew on that's been festering in my head for a while.

When you sign up your organization for a social network, it's both YOU signing up and the organization. Problem is that it's YOU that approves friends, responds to emails and posts blogs. This may cause your organization some consternation (what! no approval process!).

It gets worse in worlds like Second Life I think. My avatar, Cram Doctorow is functioning as "me" in the virtual world, but also as the representative from LLS. Sure, I could create a "fake avatar" but that wouldn't be authentic - and based on my own strong opinion, if you aren't being authentic, you are making a big mistake.

I've thought hard about how to represent the organization on sites like Myspace and SL but haven't come up with any perfect answers yet. In most cases, you can sort of fix it but in others, you have to make decisions like:

  • What age to put
  • What sex to put
  • Is the organization married, single or divorced?
  • What to dress your avatar in when he/she/it is associated with your organization.

There's no perfect answer here, but I do think that you should at least consider a few things before slapping up a profile page on a networking site, or creating an avatar in SL.

Here are some starter questions. Please add more to the comments:
  • How will you answer those demographic questions? Age/status/sex of the organization or age of the person currently driving the profile?
  • How will you integrate comments and questions into your existing email flow?
  • What rules do you have of whom to accept as "friends" or not?
  • Whose voice will you use when posting blogs? Your own personal voice, a "media" safe version or a mixed up hybrid? This is a tough one!
  • If you have your own personal profile or avatar, will you both link it to your organization profile AND be transparent enough to be a friend of your own organization? This could be tricky if you aren't careful!
  • Do you put a general email address in, use your main work email address or use a personal address? I've done both and prefer to use a secondary email address.
Here are some specific examples of what we're actually doing:

Our LLS Myspace page says "57 years old." That's how old LLS is as an organization but I think that's pretty confusing. I personally respond to emails and comments and approval all our friends. I also post the occasional bulletin or blog, as myself. My own personal profile IS linked so folks can see who I am. We have no approval process on any of our Myspace pages. Two of the guys who work for me each manage Hike for Discovery and TNT.

On Second Life, I personally manage the group and answer emails (to my personal email address at that!). Donations come in to our group, but there has been confusion around my avatar vs. the group for some reason.

I think there is both a big opportunity and some risk for organizations who are jumping into these networks without thinking some of these issues through.

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What's Your NPS?

After my first post about NPS I decided to experiment on two recent surveys and to see what kind of results we'd get. I embedded "The Ultimate Question" into a larger survey and have started to analyze results. They are what I expected, but it's an extremely interesting concept that needs further exploring.

Here's a summary table of the information:

Event 1 Overall 22%
Event 1 Part of a team 47%
Event 1 Individual 33%
Event 1 Team captain 66%
Event 1 Not a team captain 30%

Event 2 overall 67%

As I would have guessed, folks participating on a team had a higher NPS. This supports a core theory that these events are better when you are part of a organization who is participating as a group. It also might show that event 2, which is a non-walk event has a more engaging experience for its participants, resulting in a significantly higher NPS score.

  • I'm a bit of a numbers nut
  • I mixed the question in with a bunch of others (the recommended approach is to only ask the 1 core question)
For more info, check out the official NPS page.

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Thursday, November 09, 2006

Collaborative Fundraising

Why not just jump off the cliff and have some fun experimenting? Beth Kanter turned me on to this neat new service... and we're going to let it fly for a whlie on our LLS myspace profile.

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It's a Social Networking Carnival

As usual, been doing tons of thinking about Social Networking (check out Dogster for my latest - thanks Randal) and am writing this post to collect some additional thoughts, and to participate in the latest "Carnival."

I'm going to literally address the e-mail I got from Nancy asking me to participate in this weeks festivities point by point. Otherwise, I'll just ramble on as usual!

Context (from Nancy Schwartz): As more and more communications channels come on the scene, we, as communicators, have more to analyze, experiment with, and staff (and sometimes pay for).

How do we:

Find the time to explore an ever expanding menu of communications channels
By simply believing that these channels have future (or present) value, we simply make some time to get to know these systems and how they work. Each site is different - LinkedIn has a different vibe than Myspace - and very different users. Once we think we understand who is using a given site, we'll decide either to jump in or not... that's when we start to experiment by joining different groups, creating our own profiles and becoming part of the community. At LLS, our success with myspace does mean some staff time - so we've divided up the responsibilities but have given those folks ownership to experiment and "play."

Decide what channels to focus on
This one can be difficult if you think about any given channel too much. I never overthink these things - they'll come and go over time. Our focus right now is on figuring out what outcomes we can get from these types of channels. Here's a hint: it isn't always about revenue!

Ramp up our skill base in those channels
Social Networking 101: Be yourself.
Social Netoworking Advanced Class: Stay involved and listen.

If we can't handle these types of skills, we should be doing marketing in 2006.

Convince leadership of the value of investing in these channels (even if it means more budget, or doing less via traditional channels
While I was at the March of Dimes and built the Share Your Story community, the investment was so nominal it wasn't even worth talking about. That said, a significant investment in a Second Life build or interactive game is a totally different story. I personally like to try to build consensus around specific outcomes, and then figure out the tactics of how we'll get there. Usually, if there is a strategic reason to do something, money appears.

Or you can take a direct route now that I think about it... as I was writing this post we got a new comment on our myspace LLS profile that said:
"i want to thank you so much for having a myspace. i myself was diagnosed with hodgkins lymphoma two months ago. its been a tough struggle with the chemo and constant doctors visits, but i know that just having a myspace, that it will help to raise awareness about these horrible cancers and hopefully one day in the future we will find a cure for them!"
That'll convince em!

What channels have the greatest potential for various facets of nonprofit communications (giving, advocacy, program/service marketing, branding, etc.), and why?
I don't have any idea. Maybe someone could leave me a comment and save me some time.

How about some social marketing “don’ts”?
Don't act like a marketer, act like a HUMAN BEING. People appreciate that along with a sense of humor.

This is such a juicy topic that I feel like I need to spend days and days thinking and collaborating with all of you on what's next... so leave some comments and let's start talking.

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Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Widget Mania

Get this widget!

Check out Springwise, a neat widget platform. Could posting a widget on your blog of your own RSS feed create a rift the fabric of space and time? Let's find out!


Monday, November 06, 2006

Widget Mania other Other Musings

  • Check out what Beth has been busy with - and get a wealth of terrific new ideas to spread awareness and maybe even raise few sheckles with some neat widgets.
  • I just finished reading "Mavericks at Work" and plan to do a full review of this amazingly terrific book. This book officially replaces Guy Kawasaki's "Rules for Revolutionaries" as my favorite biz book of all time.
  • Did anyone see this amazing article in the NYT about "(Virtual) Worlds?" Holy moly! SL is like the grand daddy of PR pile-ons. The glare from my avatar's bald head is hurting my eyes.
  • Finally, the NP Times has an article about gaming and NPOs. I didn't realize that the person who chatted me up at the conference was working with the NP Times. Thank god I didn't say anything that would get me in trouble, I hope.

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