Oberlin College Ignores The First Rule Of Holes

Oberlin College Ignores The First Rule Of Holes

You’ve heard the saying: when in a hole, the first step is to stop digging. So why is Oberlin College breaking out the shovels? The Smearing In case you missed it,  a jury in Ohio hit Oberlin with a $44 million judgment* as a result of actions by the college’s administration to smear a small local bakery as racist.  In a nutshell, the facts are these: In November 2016, three black Oberlin students were suspected of stealing from Gibson’s Bakery by Allyn Gibson, who chased down the students onto college property (across the street from the bakery). The three students were arrested and later pleaded guilty to charges of attempted theft and aggravated trespassing, and each signed a statement saying the incident wasn’t based on race. However, by the day after the incident students had organized a protest in which more than 100 people demonstrated outside the bakery. The jury ultimately found that Oberlin administrators encouraged students to protest the store as well as helped organize the demonstration.  The senior administrative staff led by Vice President and Dean of Students Meredith Raimondo orchestrated student fervor against Gibson’s, such as printing flyers, providing protesters space to organize and even purchasing food for the students during the turmoil. In the end, the jury held Oberlin College accountable for libel. For full coverage of this trial, go to the excellent Legal Insurrection blog, which had their staffer present for every day of the seven-week trial.  The blog did the kind of reporting national media used to do.  Cornell law professor William Jacobson and all at LI should win a Pulitzer Prize for its coverage...
Stay On Top Of These Four Trends

Stay On Top Of These Four Trends

We can say. “Our growth will be x% in 2019, but the truth is we can’t control many of the factors that dictate whether, say, revenue rises or not.  Our efforts can’t counter 2019’s economic picture nor societal trends. However, solid organizations control what they can.  One of these things is an awareness of the environment. The Federal Reserve forecasts GDP to grow by 2.5% with inflation at 2% and unemployment continuing to decline to 3.5%.  But, as baseball great Yogi Berra once quipped,  “Predictions are hard, especially about the future”. However here are four trends in America that are worth considering as we launch into the new year: Communication Channels of Choice  Consumers are increasingly disdaining live conversations in favor of services that don’t require talking, such as SMS and social media. Nearly half of Americans engage a chatbot or automated assistant at least once per week.   Our Customers Demand More Control Over Their Data  Deloittte reports that 71 percent of purchased data is inaccurate. Increasingly, consumers know when our contact with them comes from rented data, and this is an immediate turn-off.  Think twice about purchasing data sets or selling/sharing your customer’s data with others.   Personalization Continues To Make The Difference  Most Americans now prefer to buy from companies which offer personalized experiences. Personalization can take many forms, but the most popular varieties are coupons based on the customer’s locations, communications on the customer’s preferred channel, and recommendations based on past purchases or service history.   Customers Want Socially Engaged Companies   Employee volunteerism, selection of socially responsible suppliers, gifts to local nonprofits, all these are becoming standard in...
It’s The Most Wonderful Week Of The Year (for fundraising)

It’s The Most Wonderful Week Of The Year (for fundraising)

It was not the most wonderful time of the year for me. A bad break up plus a few other personal upsets left me in no mood to celebrate the holidays.   I didn’t feel like hanging out with friends and certainly had no desire to drive the 10+ hours home to family.  Christmas day spent delivering food packages to the needy helped get me thru that day, but there was still another week to endure before the promise of better times in a new year. As with many nonprofits, we were closed the week between Christmas and January 1st.    I had joined the staff three years previous as Director of Development. In that time, our annual campaign grew from $80,000 to $230,000. Despite a softening economy, this year looked to top out at $280,000.  Not bad. I waved no magic wand to achieve this growth, just put basic fundraising principles and processes into work at a sleepy mom and pop organization.   I had no training nor mentors.  Everything I knew about donor development came from a handful of books, and even this knowledge was incomplete. Work has always been a way to feel a sense of purpose when feeling less than useful.  So the morning of December 26th found me trudging to the office in search of meaning….or maybe just distraction from less than stellar personal circumstances You’re already in their heart….remind them Back then, when I didn’t know what to do, I went to the office.  Though even now, when I don’t know what to do in the office, I pick up the phone.  The act of...
How To Understand Independence Day

How To Understand Independence Day

Independence came to us via ink….in a way.   In the small city-state of Mainz,  Johannes Gutenberg’s printing press launched humanity into the modern world.     Prior to the 1500s, most of humankind lived under the thumb of the King, the Tribal Leader, the Bishop. The explosive spread of ideas and information enabled by mass production of printed material slowly undermined the majestic authority of the monarchy, the tribe, and the church.   This laid the groundwork for the rise of the nation-state as a means for organizing people. Nearly three centuries later a group of thinkers met in Philadelphia to formalize the idea that the individual is sovereign.  In the City Of Brotherly Love, these men put down on paper that at the pinnacle of society sits each of us and our personal connection to our creator. The job of the government is to protect this relationship so that we may follow our unalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. [ALSO READ:  The New Diversity Of Diversity] Several centuries after that summer in Philly, the internet and all that it spawns is undermining the majestic authority of many institutions we assumed would always exist.  Consider how fast the ability for people to connect one-to-one is destabilizing institutors such as newspapers, taxis, education, even the government.   Formal national defense is less and less about protecting physical locations and more about dominating the digital space.  Gunpowder and split atoms are no longer necessary to bring about the downfall of a nation-state. Sitting at this computer right now feels a bit like living in 1500 holding a freshly printed book.  A...
We Only Get One Chance To Make A First Impression

We Only Get One Chance To Make A First Impression

We only get one chance to make a first impression. Think of the ultimate elevator pitch request: ‘Describe yourself to me in one word.’ If you’re like most people, you’ve been asked this in a job interview. It’s the bane of every college graduate: How can I boil down everything I am into a single word? Here’s the rub; we may not be able to describe ourselves in one word, but others will. The same goes for our business. [Also Read: Social Media Suicide] I spent time last week with an international branding authority, Sylvie DiGusto. According to DiGusto, studies show that first impressions are surprisingly resilient. After forming this opening impression, confirmation bias kicks in. We look for things which support our initial reactions and discount those which don’t. In her book, The Image Of Leadership, she notes this first impression forms in 7 seconds. Seven Seconds. Brain research indicates that other’s initial impression of us gets unconsciously imprinted upon their mind via a single word. This is one word becomes stuck in their heads. This word makes the sale either easier or harder. First impressions are more important than we think. And as market research tells us, a negative impression is 8x more powerful than a positive one. Thus the critical moment in any interaction with a potential client comes in the blink of an eye. You may not make the sale in those first few moments, but you can easily lose one. The good news though is that this process and our image is entirely under our control. We can make it what we want. We...
The New Diversity Of Diversity

The New Diversity Of Diversity

Research from The Economist Intelligence Unit finds that a new definition of workforce diversity is emerging. It’s no longer just about the standard metrics: race, gender, and/or sexual orientation. Driven by the entry into the workforce of Late-Millennials (defined as born 1993-2001), “diversity” is broadening to encompass life experiences, perspectives, beliefs and values. As one local businessperson told this writer, “I sense these kids don’t want to get trapped into the echo chambers in which they see us elders operate.” Echo Chambers are, by definition, a metaphor for a situation in which beliefs are amplified or reinforced by communication and repetition inside a closed system.  The business literature is strewn with stories about teams of incredibly smart people inside incredibly impenetrable echo chambers who produced incredibly disastrous decisions. [Also Read: What Kathy Griffin Can Teach Us About Diversity] These new challenges coming from Late-Millennials are impacting the employer/employee relationship. Joanna Torsone, Chief HR Officer at Pitney Bowes, says the test facing leaders is “creating an environment that lets very different people be who they truly are while maximizing their talent to support high performance.”  A recent survey by the international consulting firm Deloitte confirms this. Their research reveals 9 out of 10 millennials feel that differences of opinion allow teams to excel. Others are noting the emergence of this idea. Writing in Forbes magazine, the business economist Bill Conerly notes that a mixture of what one might call conservative and liberal perspectives provide a vital balance to a company’s intelligence. Late-Millennials are the first generation raised in a Twitter and Instagram environment where they’ve witnessed, shaming of their peers as well as watched adults have their lives and careers ruined. Today’s desire...
Doing The Minimum Wage

Doing The Minimum Wage

A man standing at the side of the road holding a cardboard sign. An altogether routine sight in Oregon. Except this one read; Labor $6.00/hr.  Well below the minimum wage. Intrigued, I pulled over to talk with the man, who appeared to be in his late 50s. His story went as thus: retired with a small pension, living modestly, receiving some government benefits. Just wants to earn enough to protect his tiny nest egg. So why not just get a regular gig at some local business? Turns out “Sam” is kinda slow moving due to various injuries and ailments over the years. Also, his literacy and numeracy skills aren’t the best. “But”, he says, “I make up for it by being dependable and thorough”. My short conversation with Sam made me think about the current discussion over the minimum wage. He could not compete in a labor market at the current Oregon rate $11.25 or even the previous $9.75 (to say nothing of the taxes that business may pay on top of that hourly wage). But $6.00/hr under the table makes him employable. The famed business expert, Peter Drucker, once said something to the effect that companies don’t have employees, they have personnel expenses. An enterprise will only expend money on people who provide a return on investment. “Good business leaders want their employees to have a decent life and want their employees to make enough money to afford to live,” noted Roy Cooper of the Economic Policy Institute. “They just don’t want to be put at a competitive disadvantage.” Does the minimum wage law push people out of...
UnLabor Day – How AI Is Eating Jobs

UnLabor Day – How AI Is Eating Jobs

We celebrate Labor Day by being away from our jobs. Consider the world 200 years ago in 1817. For light you burned animal fat, for heat you chopped wood, and transportation ran on hay. You did it day after day. Only the very few had the luxury of a day off, let alone a three day weekend. From 1817, climb into your time machine and revert another 200 years to 1617. You’d find a world quite similar: toil, toil toil….fat, wood, hay. The world of 1417 also looked the same as 1617. Now kick your time machine in forward. From 1817 leap ahead 200 years and it’s…it’s whoa! I can’t even begin to imagine what the world of 2217 might look like, but that doesn’t concern me as much as 2037 or even 2027. [ALSO READ: How Entrepreneurs Will Save Public Education] I’m not an engineer, but when I study the latest on Artificial Intelligence, I am blown away by what I am reading. Advances in the world of AI are not just an important topic, but probably THE most important topic for our future. Because artificial intelligence will leave half our adult population unemployable. Need an example? Already artificial intelligence machines are replacing journalist jobs. Automated machine learning techniques are sifting through massive data sets to write newswire reports. In Korea, computer “SoccerBots” generate articles on local sporting matches. So it’s not just the waitresses and truck drivers who are facing obsolescence, but your son or granddaughter with their newly minted college degree in journalism (coupled with $40,000 in loan debt). This is just one of the many...
Social Media Suicide

Social Media Suicide

One errant social media post. Who wouldn’t want to be the advertising executive for FedEx, one of the biggest media buyers in the world?   Well, the marketing agency Ketchum holds the contract valued somewhere north of $50 million per year.   Well, they did hold it until the day their VP James Andrews tweeted:   The town was Memphis.  Home of FedEx. By now we’re well versed in the hazards of social media.  If you need a refresher, just Google the names Gabriella Pasqualotto, Justine Sacco or Anthony Weiner. Data from a recent Pew Research Center study revealed just half of employees report that their workplace has rules about social media use at work   If our organization does not have such a  policy, we’re at risk for public shaming, litigation and security breaches. A social media policy has to be part of our employee handbook, just as necessary for us as discrimination, leave, and vacation policies.   We can wind up in a host of problems if our staff say something negative about our company, reveal confidential information, or even share personal views out of line with our customers.   We can even run astray of the law if our staff say something positive about the company without disclosing their employment. [ALSO READ: When You Have To Fire Someone You Like] Firing Someone For Their Social Media Posts The largest government player in social media law is the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). The law allows all employees the right to engage in “concerted activities” for the “mutual aid and protection” of co-workers This also includes social media activities. Therefore, any policy that prevents...
Five Things We Want In Nonprofit Board Members

Five Things We Want In Nonprofit Board Members

As a nonprofit board, they ticked all the right boxes. Gender diverse. Ethnically multi-cultural. There were several prominent business owners.  A Power Player.  A lawyer. An accountant.  Even someone who had used the agency’s services to rise out of poverty – a “consumer”. According to every standard recruitment matrix, this outfit had as well rounded a board of directors as one could hope.   A model board we might say.  Yet I was sent there in the summer of 2007 because this nonprofit was in chaos and on the verge of collapse. This is not an uncommon occurrence. How often do we encounter an organization with all the right board members yet seemingly incapable of getting anything done.   It happens…..A LOT. High performing board members just don’t happen.  Truly transformative leaders just don’t fall from the sky.  Great board members are identified, recruited and oriented.  In this piece, let’s discuss a basic question, “Who are we choosing to put on our nonprofit board?” [ALSO READ: The 4 Critical Rights Of Board Members] Sadly, haphazard board recruitment is the rule rather than the exception.  Selection is not totally random, but we tend not to think about who would be a good board member until an opening appears, with the result that slots are filled by the best candidate willing and available at that time. Part of the failure to recruit solid members starts by failure to identify what type of person belongs on the board.  Many nonprofit boards do have a recruitment matrix to think through what type of technical skills (accounting, law, facility, etc).  Much of this thinking is then mirrored...