Diversity, Charity and the Challenge of Getting Real

More than half a century ago I launched my activist career at the age of 3 by carrying my own hand-made “Jim Crow Must Go” sign outside a whites-only amusement park. It’s hard to imagine being alive at a time when that kind of overt racism was possible. And it’s easy for white folks like… Read more

Are Your Stories Negative Enough?

If you ever saw the movie Adaptation, you’re at least somewhat familiar with fabled story coach Robert McKee (no relationship to Alia). Though played by an actor in the movie, McKee is very much a real person, and his seminars have influenced the work of some of this generation’s best storytellers. He’s also a character… Read more

Complaints are opportunities: Expletives deleted

Last week, a client received an expletive-laced email complaining about the quality of their premiums and the consistency of their delivery. The email author is a senior and wants to pass on the premiums to his grandchildren to encourage their interest in the cause. Expletives-aside, I was struck by how passionate the donor was about… Read more

Identity Fundraising

In the most underrated chapter of the underrated “Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard,” Chip and Dan Heath offer some pure gold for all of us in the persuasion business. The chapter entitled “Grow Your People” addresses the near limitless power of appealing to identity. Tell a group of at-risk elementary school… Read more

What is community?

Community — the word is bandied about in digital channels like sauce at a BBQ picnic. But what is it really? Here are five traits I think are necessary for me to feel like I’m part of a community: Members know me  and I know them — with varying degrees of familiarity. There is a… Read more

Fundraisers and Bounty Hunters

It never ceases to amaze me how many senior level nonprofit execs still conflate fundraisers with bounty hunters. “Go forth and bag me some dollars,” these CEOs cry. It conjures the image of a 19th Century varmint trapper, loaded up with musket, traps and provisions, trekking into the woods in search of prey. For the… Read more

The revolution will be televised: Entertainment to learn from

We are living through a golden age of entertainment. Podcasts like This American Life, Serial, Invisibilia and Radiolab are taking storytelling to a whole new plateau — connecting listeners to emotional stories that are told with scientific and journalistic integrity. TV shows like The Wire, Orange is the New Black, and Transparent are creating a… Read more