Don’t train for a marathon by biking

goals, strategy, tactics, marketing, messaging, leadership

Make your training support your goals.

At the risk of stating the obvious: when you’re training for a marathon, you run. You run a lot. You run so you’re ready for the marathon. So you’ll achieve your goal.

You don’t bike. (Aside from a little cross-training perhaps.)

If your goal is to retain donors, pick tactics that will help you connect with current donors. Don’t get distracted by engaging new ones.

Ditto for volunteer engagement.
Advocacy.
Public awareness.
And any other goal you have.

Don’t do the equivalent of training for a marathon by riding your bike.

You’ll never get to the finish line.

Benefits, Believers & Poetry

Last week, I had the great, good fortune of spending two days In Twisp, Washington with organizations from Central and Eastern Washington. Talk about inspiring! They were a dedicated group and stuck with me as we covered a whole lotta territory in record time.

One of the many topics we covered (which included, but was not limited to: birthdays, food, dates with babies, rowing and snake eyes) was talking about the benefits of your organization rather than the features.

This is one of those topics that is an eye opener every time it comes up at a training.

Here’s a short list of features and benefits:

tutoring | knowing how to read
family planning | access to choices
education | expanded opportunities and/or connection to heritage
theater | inspiration

Super smart dude Zan McColloch-Lussier over at Mixtape Communications asks the question, “What business are you really in?” For instance, the business of tutoring or of teaching people to read? Most organizations would say, “The teaching to read business!” And yet, when asked what they do, they talk first about tutoring and then about reading.

Tutoring is how you get to your why, i.e. you tutor kids so they can read.

We also had a breakthrough moment around Believers, Agnostics and Atheists. Really, seriously, you can’t convert atheists. (Here’s a short video for those that still think they can.)

This group was also full of poets, musicians and artists. (Happy birthday sounds so much better when there are some singers in the group!). Here is a poem by one of the students on the Inspiration Sector.

When you are at a party and the conversation pauses,
You tell people that you work for causes,
Oh…they say…you work for a non-profit,
You look them straight in the eye…and say stop it!

Solving issues is my nectar,
I work in the Inspiration Sector!

So glad I work in the Inspiration Sector and got to be inspired by this fantastic group of change agents!

Marketing Main Street

Yesterday, I joined 13 of Washington state’s Main Street Managers in Mt. Vernon. Our task was to figure out how each could engage their communities in the unique awesomeness their downtowns offer.

At most trainings I do, each organization has a different Belief Proposition. In this case, they shared a common one–a belief that downtown revitalization leads to lasting, positive economic impact.

That’s what made it so interesting when we started working on messaging. It was tempting to think that since they believed the same thing, they could talk about that belief in the same way and have it be compelling in all communities. Not so!

Since each downtown was so unique, their messaging had to be as well. Here’s a smattering of the Lean-In Lines (otherwise known as Elevator Pitches or a response to the question “What does your organization do?”) the participants created (or at least a close proximity based on my recollection):

We’re leading the charge to make downtown THE place to be!

We’re helping our community rediscover downtown.

We energize small business and celebrate our small town charm.

We bring Meeker Days and so much more right to the downtown core. (Note that this also rhymes which makes it fun to say and easy to remember.)

All are about downtown yet not about any ol’ downtown–THEIR downtown. The lesson: frame your messaging in a way that highlights what’s unique about your organization and what’s most compelling to those you need to engage in your mission.

This group of dedicated, fearless Main Street mavericks made me pine for a Main Street in my (not-so-small) town that was as amazing as theirs. To find a Main Street community near you, check out the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation’s handy listing of Main Streets around the state.