Corporate Social Responsibility Is More Than a Marketing Ploy

For-profit companies traditionally operated within a set of rules dictated by the government, such as collecting and paying taxes or meeting state and federal regulations. Everyone accepted profit maximization as the goal, and it didn’t really matter how companies managed to achieve that mission.

Today, many judge companies based on their broader impacts and whether they contribute to beneficial change. It’s definitely a positive shift, but new businesses must strike a delicate balance: Too much of a focus on corporate social responsibility (CSR) for a new brand over the effectiveness of the product or service can actually damage brand appeal. Researchers at North Carolina State University found that consumers view new brands as less enticing when their key messages focus on CSR more than the benefits of their products, even if they donate money to good causes.

While consumers want to support brands that give back to the world, they are more concerned about the efficacy of new products. And who can blame them? Nobody wants to spend hard-earned money on a subpar product. When product quality is equal but one item comes from a company with a social mission, customers are more likely to choose the company with a focus on CSR, though.

Patagonia stands out as an excellent example of effective CSR. The company aggressively incorporates environmental causes into its corporate DNA — and its customer base is just as aggressively loyal. Volkswagen, on the other hand, went out of its way to greenwash its corporate image by promoting “clean diesel” while flagrantly violating federal emissions laws with nitrogen-oxide emissions (a smog-forming pollutant linked to lung cancer). The disparity between VW’s mission and its actions had steep consequences.

Finding the Right Fit

CSR should be authentic to the soul of an organization — it should not be an add-on or a marketing ploy. Before committing to CSR, brands need to survey potential customers and brand ambassadors to ensure they focus on the right initiative.

For smaller companies and startups, this could constitute a more informal process of casual interviews with a few dozen people coupled with the founders’ personal goals. Established companies will want to undergo more extensive research that includes surveys and in-depth focus groups with employees, customers, and potential customers. In both cases, companies must confirm that the CSR initiative resonates with potential customers while identifying any concerns that could alienate critical groups. Without genuine authenticity, it’s only a matter of time before an initiative fails — it’s imperative that the CSR mission resonates with the company, its staff, and its executives.

Patagonia earned plenty of attention in 2016 for donating 100 percent of its profits from Black Friday sales to environmental groups. By literally putting its money — more than $10 million, in fact — where its mouth is, Patagonia proved its dedication to protecting natural resources. Considering a large swath of Patagonia’s clientele is environmentally conscious, that single day of sales truly resonated with brand loyalists.

Once a company pinpoints the CSR initiative that meshes with its identity, its leaders must articulate the CSR mission internally and externally. That mission will likely evolve, but it should be authentic to ensure long-term success. A genuine effort at CSR initiatives can be a great way to motivate and empower employees.

Internal CSR messaging focuses on culture and creating a universal message across the company. Everyone should understand the overlap between the CSR initiative and the company’s mission, as well as how the initiative affects every employee’s role. Externally, brands must simplify this messaging into an easy-to-understand version for consumers.

I’ve had to tackle this challenge with my own company, 2920 Sleep. We have boiled down our CSR focus to three elements: a commitment to product quality, excellent customer service, and 1% for the Planet. We aspire to make high-quality, long-lasting products that will have a reduced environmental impact with lower return rates; take care of our customers with great service; and stay financially successful so we can channel one percent of our revenue to support organizations that protect the environment. Our commitment to product quality and customer service enables us to support our CSR initiative. This mission is driven by everyone at the company — from our leadership and marketing teams to our customer service department and our brand ambassadors.

More than anything else, brands should ensure the CSR narrative is a part of the corporate culture. Think again of the difference between Patagonia and VW. Patagonia’s founder, management team, and employees all actively support its mission. VW, meanwhile, has lost brand integrity and market share, and its executives face significant fines and possible jail time.

Consumers can spot the difference between pretenders and companies that are committed to a mission. CSR offers an opportunity to pivot a business from a purely financial operation to an organization that recognizes its ability to help a wider community in addition to meeting financial goals. With a balanced approach to CSR and business goals, companies can truly shine.

Instagram Benefits for Businesses in Comparison to Other Social Media Platforms

With billions of monthly users and almost 500 million users who are active regularly, Instagram has been marching towards success since its introduction in the year 2010. There is no denying the fact that businesses are constantly using social media platforms in order to ensure that they have proper knowledge about their competitors. Apart from that, social media marketing has helped numerous small businesses gain success.

In fact, big and reputed businesses are also constantly revising their social marketing strategies in order to stay one step ahead of their competitors. One of the most difficult tasks that businesses face is to choose between the different social media platforms that are there. However, without a doubt, most of the businesses have agreed that Instagram is undoubtedly the best platform currently.

Numerous businesses have not only started reacting more to this growing platform but also, if an analysis is conducted on the topmost brands from different parts of the world, you will get to know that almost 90% of these businesses have Instagram accounts. With this number of businesses as well as brands on this platform, it is obvious that one question is constantly going on your head. This question is whether there is an incentive for businesses that are using Instagram consistently. You need to know that the top brands are capable of generating more leads with the help of Instagram in comparison to other social media platforms.

Instagram is constantly rolling out numerous amazing features that you should definitely take advantage of. Given below is a list of the reasons as to why you should take your business to Instagram in comparison to the other social networking platforms.

Users purchase products online

According to www.lyfemarketing.com, users are responsible for using the Instagram app for purchasing any product that they love, online. It is obvious that sales are the most important thing that a business is looking forward to achieving at the end of the day. If you are asking as to why you should be on Instagram, the answer is that this platform helps in increasing sales by ensuring that you connect with your potential customers.

Instagram has a huge volume of people who are online regularly and it is not very difficult to locate your potential customers. Just like you are on the hunt for your potential customers, you need to know that even they are also looking for the kinds of products and services that you are offering. If they are interested in what you are posting on Instagram, they are going to visit your business website. And, this is exactly where the journey of becoming a customer from a potential customer starts.

Instagram advertisement

You already know the total number of users that are there on Instagram and you are also aware of the fact that this growth is not going to slow down. You also know that once your potential customers come across your business, they are likely to convert into your customers as well. Now, you need to know about Instagram advertising.

Instagram was purchased by the CEO of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, and since this purchase, the capabilities of Instagram started broadening in order to match the capabilities of Facebook. Facebook is currently known to have the best and advanced platforms of advertising on social media. You have the option of advertising to people by understanding their age, behavior, location, interests, etc., on Facebook, and this means that you have the option of doing this on Instagram as well.

This means that you have the option of targeting your target audience with the help of Instagram advertisements and you can be assured that they are going to definitely make a purchase. You can also buy real Instagram likes in order to get more likes from real people on your posts.

Leads and sales can be tracked

You need to know that both your sales as well as leads can be tracked with the help of Instagram. This can sound pretty obvious but you need to know that a number of companies are investing in the platforms without even understanding the effect that they have. Since Instagram makes use of the same platform that manages Facebook advertisements as well, it is obvious that the tracking capabilities are also the same.

You will be able to see almost everything, which includes, the number of times your present or potential customers have clicked on the links, your leads, and conversions, and you will also be able to observe the cost for every result on the ad campaigns that you run. This means that you have the option of viewing the results that you have been achieving consistently. This will also help you to understand whether you have invested money in the right place or not.

Instagram analytics along with the tracking capabilities is responsible for making this platform worth the time of the marketers. It is crucial to understand, which advertisement is drawing in revenue and, which is not. On the basis of this information, you can work on future advertisement campaigns.

Business profiles and personal profiles are different

Instagram allows you to create both a personal profile as well as a business profile. It is obvious that if you are the owner of a business, you cannot run a personal profile on Instagram. You need to switch to the business profile so that you can gain all the benefits, which include, having calls to action, the ability to promote a post and also gaining access to Instagram insights. It is also going to provide the Instagrammers with the idea that the business pages are owned by verified businesses and not personal users. If you are making this adjustment, you can be assured that you are going to get all the amazing benefits that Instagram is providing to the other businesses as well.

Conclusion

Instagram has created an amazing world for both the small as well as the reputed businesses. Instead of hunting for recognition and awareness in the other social media platforms, it is a much better idea to get on Instagram and giving your business everything that it needs in order to spread its wings.

7 Experiments to Grow the Traffic to Your Website

Gone are the days when websites are accessed only through computers. The advancements in technology have given us the convenience of accessing information through smartphones and tablets too. The websites that are developed by just keeping the computer screen size in mind are likely to face a slack with so many users accessing it through multiple devices. Top web designing companies have understood the importance of responsive design development to provide the optimal website for their clients.

What is a responsive website?

Responsive design is the website’s layout that changes the view of a web page in response to the device’s screen to ensure optimal viewing experience. Flexibility is key in designing a responsive website. It saves you from the hassle of writing a separate code for mobile and a separate one for another screen type thus saving a lot of development time wasted in rewriting code.
Here are some responsive web development best practices for responsive websites.

Easy Navigation

Navigation in mobile was a hassle until the responsive design trend emerged. Scrolling through a webpage designed for a computer is tedious on a mobile device, and responsive design has impacted the mobile site navigation considerably. Keep your navigation simple and scalable. While creating a site’s navigation, menus should be consistent throughout all web pages making it easy to locate information. You can use hamburger menus or pull-down menus to eliminate sidebars for simple mobile navigation.

Use “Mobile First” Approach

While designing a responsive website, it is always good to start with the “Mobile First” approach which has been in the UI (User Interface) design trends sometime now. It is always recommended to start from the smallest entity and then build your way up by including the enhancements progressively.

The reason why mobile first approach has gained popularity is the domination of smartphone usage in the current trend.

Stats by StatCounter states that 51.3% users access webpages through their mobile devices and 48.7% access them through traditional computing platforms.

The rule of thumb for responsive design states that if your content, navigation, and layout appear well on a smartphone then it is likely to be well displayed on a tablet or a computer.

Plan Your Content

Organize your content before you start designing in-order to get an idea on how the content is displayed in the device screen and how it would appear.

Organized content is important as it is the source which allows your audiences to learn more about your work, and it is in line with your design which will help customer engagement and lead to better conversion rates. Disorderly content does not convey your story to your audience and will make all your efforts go in vain.

Desktop sites have room for more content whereas with mobile devices, your content is confined within a smaller screen. Mobile users hate long scrolls, hence keep your content minimal yet effective.

Typography is also another important aspect to look into when it comes to smaller screens. Make sure your font is legible and larger in smaller screens.

Optimized Images

Take note on how your images will display in different screen sizes, and create optimized images for each screen layout. This will considerably reduce the scaling of images and bandwidth problems. Avoid the use of PNG file format as it will consume a lot of bandwidth. To hinder the images from scaling, you can set image dimensions using percentage values thereby keeping the image quality intact.

Use Negative Space Efficiently

Using Negative space is another popular web design trend that is here to stay. Use of Negative spaces brings user focus to important content of your website without any distractions. It support’s responsive design’s minimalistic approaches by helping you add breakpoints in the design.

Check Screen Orientation

Design your website for both portrait and landscape orientation as mobile and tablet users tend to use both these orientations. These orientations doesn’t matter for a desktop user but mobile/tablet users have the auto rotate mode on for their convenience and prefer the site to work for both orientations.

Multiple Screens

It is always advisable to check how your design’s end result look in the actual devices. This will help you judge how your website scales in different devices. Practical implementation will always differ from theoretical assumptions. So, test your design in real time and interact with it in order to add improvements.

You can also perform a usability testing to get to know your users point of view. This will also give you some insight on the usability issues of your design.

These responsive web design tips and tricks can provide data on the potential problems you may encounter while designing a responsive design. To attract business, it is necessary to optimize your website for all devices to support customer use.

Abusive Bosses Experience Short-Lived Benefits

Being a jerk to your employees may actually improve your well-being, but only for a short while, suggests new research on abusive bosses co-authored by a Michigan State University business scholar.

Bullying and belittling employees starts to take its toll on a supervisor’s mental state after about a week, according to the study, which is published in the Academy of Management Journal.

“The moral of the story is that although abuse may be helpful and even mentally restorative for supervisors in the short-term, over the long haul it will come back to haunt them,” said Russell Johnson, MSU associate professor of management and an expert on workplace psychology.

While numerous studies have documented the negative effects of abusive supervision, some bosses nevertheless still act like jerks, meaning there must be some sort of benefit or reinforcement for them, Johnson said.

Indeed, the researchers found that supervisors who were abusive felt a sense of recovery because their boorish behavior helped replenish their mental energy and resources. Johnson said it requires mental effort to suppress abusive behavior – which can lead to mental fatigue – but supervisors who act on that impulse “save” the mental energy that would otherwise have been depleted by refraining from abuse.

Johnson and colleagues conducted multiple field and experiments on abusive bosses in the United States and China, verifying the results were not culture-specific. They collected daily survey data over a four-week period and studied workers and supervisors in a variety of industries including manufacturing, service and education.

The benefits of abusive supervision appeared to be short-lived, lasting a week or less. After that, abusive supervisors started to experience decreased trust, support and productivity from employees – and these are critical resources for the bosses’ recovery and engagement.

According to the study, although workers may not immediately confront their bosses following abusive behavior, over time they react in negative ways, such as engaging in counterproductive and aggressive behaviors and even quitting.

To prevent abusive behavior, the researchers suggest supervisors take well-timed breaks, reduce their workloads and communicate more with their employees. Communicating with workers may help supervisors by releasing negative emotions through sharing, receiving social support and gaining relational energy from their coworkers.

Co-authors are Xin Qin from Sun Yat-sen University, Mingpeng Huang from the University of International Business and Economics, Qiongjing Hu from Peking University and Dong Ju from Communication University of China.

5 Ways to Turn a Crazy Idea Into an Awesome Reality

Charlie Chaplin, Alfred Hitchcock, John Lennon, Martin Luther King, Richard Branson, Steve Jobs, what do they all have in common? Every one of them had crazy ideas they trusted, believed in and took proper actions to turn those into an awesome reality. The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do. This famous quote was the genius of Rob Siltanen.

We live in a time where you have more opportunities to turn your crazy ideas into an awesome reality. Just think about it; jet-setting the world, making music or starting a new business were never as attainable as they are now. Nothing is off limits when you have opportunity drivers such as social media, crowdfunding, business incubators nowadays.

Everybody gets great ideas, it’s turning them into a reality that makes all the difference. Think about Google X projects like the driverless car or Google Glass. How about the innovative genius of Apple products when they first came into the market? iPods and iPhones and Apple computers all have revolutionized digital products. Can you even imagine your life without these devices?

These were all crazy ideas once. That was before someone took great efforts into making them come alive. So what did they do? You know you’ve got to do something about that brilliant idea you have before it fizzles out of your mind. Here are five ways to turn them into reality:

1.      Stop Talking and Start Doing

When people have crazy ideas, they get excited and go tell their friends or share it with their family. If you don’t have the proper foundation to defend your idea, then you are ridiculed, shamed or even forced to give it up before you did anything about it. So before you declare your crazy idea to your inner world, consider writing your idea down on paper first. This is to make sure you don’t forget it. Once you’ve written it down, do a SWOT analysis and begin a market research to see if your crazy idea is crazy enough to take off the ground. Do a survey or give out samples to know your potential audience. All this work will help you know if your crazy idea has any potential to turn into a reality.

2. Know How to Sell Your Idea

With the perfect market research, numbers and answers in check, prepare yourself to defend your crazy idea. Your crazy idea is your important product and who’s to say it won’t turn into profitable venture someday? So how can you sell this message across to venture capitalists or people who can back up your crazy idea? If you’ve ever watched the popular TV reality series “Shark Tank” you know pitching your idea has to be done in the simplest way. Easy does it. Can you explain, in under two minutes, how your crazy idea solves a problem? Because if your idea doesn’t improve anybody’s life then you may not have any takers for it. For example, you have this crazy idea for a script or a book, then get assistance on it before you pitch it. If your idea can turn into an app, make a great pitch about it so vendors buy your idea and make the app the way they want later.

3. Break It into Milestones

According to Harvard Business Review, there is a stark difference between planning for new venture and planning for an existing company.  Breaking your crazy idea into milestones will help you see how it will evolve and knowing this helps planning better. Each stage tells you what the drawbacks were and you can then come up with solutions, change plans and deal with the next stage. Milestones help you test previous performance and is key for decision making because it won’t be based on estimates. Estimates are more often away from reality. Performance-based reviews are more likely to help you project future behavior. Every milestone will further work on deadlines which helps build a momentum to turn your crazy idea into a reality!

4. Build Momentum

If you want to achieve what you’ve set out to turn into reality, you need to infuse your plans with great momentum. If you see obstacles in your path, people may ask you to wait until they pass. While sometimes this could be true, other times it could just mean you are procrastinating. The more you wait to get something done, the harder it will be, to get done later. Prioritize to take the most necessary actions first. Take consistent steps to stay on course.

5. Don’t Focus on Results

.. too early. Let’s say you’ve started a blog and you’ve posted articles, but you don’t see those 100,000 daily visitors you planned to see in the first six months. See if you’ve done everything in your power such as SEO, posting articles that improve people’s lives, used social media or guest posted to attract traffic. What else can you do to make it better? If you’ve done everything, there will be results. If these results are not what you expected at first, then chances are you will be discouraged. If you shift your focus, you are guaranteed to not see those results anyway.

So what you need is a meticulous plan, motivation to see it through, stay on your course and remain focused to turn your crazy idea into an awesome reality.

Social Workers Discover How Entrepreneurship Increases Their Impact

cq5dam-web-1200-630

Social Workers who add entrepreneurial skills to their helping skills, experience a significant increase in impact.

Anneke Krakers, founder of the Social Worker Entrepreneur Training Programs, researched the business opportunities for Social Workers in depth. She created a proven method that helps Social Workers to transform from employee to entrepreneur.

Ask any Social Worker about her or his dreams and you hear stories about changing the world. They are driven by passion for people in need. But when you ask Social Workers if they find themselves successful in creating this dream, most Social Workers respond negative. They get stuck in huge caseloads and excessive administrative burden. They never experience themselves to be the Leaders of Change they long to be.

Entrepreneurship solves this problem. Building their own business gives them the skills and tools to increase their impact. Anneke Krakers created The Social Worker Entrepreneur Starter Training to teach Social Workers how to build the foundation of their business with a proven method of 7 steps. Important part of this training is about leveraging your services into scalable products which is key to increasing impact.

Anneke Krakers is a Dutch Social Worker, and she started a business ten years ago in The Netherlands to support Social Workers on their entrepreneurial journey. She teaches Social Workers how to be an entrepreneur in a social way using marketing and branding methods that are aligned with their social soul.

Her proven system of 7 steps is acknowledged by the Dutch Social Work Education Institutes. In 2014 her book “Hier Sta Ik Voor!” was released: the first book for Social Workers about marketing and branding. Anneke Krakers is a well known and beloved speaker in The Netherlands.

About two years ago, Krakers started her global leap to engaging Social Workers all over the world who have started or who want start a business. “How cool, we all embark on the same adventure” as one of her students said.

Now for the first time, the Social Worker Entrepreneur Starter Training is available in English, and it supports a growing global community of Social Workers who start their own business. All classes are online.

By the end of The Social Worker Entrepreneur Starter Training, students will have the foundation of their own business which includes:

a laser sharp focus on their market
a suite of the products to sell (with full focus on helping people!)
a unique branding proposition, the look and feel of their unique brand
a personalized marketing strategies including:
how to get prospects
how to build warm relationships
how to get trust and finally the sale

Social Workers will get the basis for long term outcomes like wealth, freedom and peace of mind. This will enable them to actually increase their impact and influence with some of the Dutch students reporting a tenfold growth of their reach!

The Starter Training starts at September 26th. Enrollment ends at September 25th. After signing up, students get immediate access to their Pre-Work “from Employee to Entrepreneur”.  You can request more information at www.annekekrakers.com/startertraining or contact Anneke at a.krakers@welzijnnederland.nl.

For the Love of Money: 5 Observations on Social Workers & Money from the 2014 NASW Conference in Washington, D.C.

The climate of social work is changing. Over the last several years while businesses have moved towards embracing greater social missions, more and more social workers have begun to embrace the field of business and entrepreneurship.

From conversations about money and finance to the increase of social workers starting their own for-profit ventures, social workers are expanding their knowledge on the monetary side of helping.

In fact, in the last two decades we’ve seen a rise in Schools of Social Work like the George Warren Brown School of Social Work at Washington University in St. Louis and the School of Social Work at the University of Michigan offering advanced training in entrepreneurship, management, and business, and contributing to new models of business within the corporate environment.

Founder of The Center for Financial Social Work, Reeta Wolfsohn, makes the observation that it’s taken some time for social work to embrace the importance of money and financial education, stating that for years the majority of participants certified by the Center have  not been social workers but other members in corporate America.

However, evidence of this increased interest on the topic of business and entrepreneurship by social workers was most notably apparent at the recent NASW Conference in Washington, D.C..

During the four-day conference, and especially among the conversations at the Financial breakout sessions, I personally observed several nuances that indicated an increased readiness on the part of social workers to talk openly about their not-so-secret desires for more money and increase their prowess in making it.  Specifically, I left the conference with five observations that I hope will help us all feel more comfortable when speaking on the topic of money and business.

Observation #1. Social workers struggle with feelings of unworthiness and shame around money

One might assume because social workers spend so much time talking about self-worth and actualization, we’d have those topics in the bag, and we do on many subjects. We pride ourselves on being able to move our clients from disabling feelings of shame and guilt to more empowering feelings of confidence and pride that enable them to make progress in their development.

However, many social workers struggle with feelings of shame and unworthiness when it comes to the topic of money.

Sometimes it’s because social workers don’t feel like they have enough money and are in debt, other times they may feel ashamed to even desire more money or that it doesn’t align with social work values. And many times social workers just feel incompetent to handle their money or have more of it in their lives.

Social work researcher Brené Brown says that “shame is the most powerful, master emotion. It’s the fear that we’re not good enough. Shame erodes our courage and fuels disengagement,” and while we agree with this statement and work with our clients to eradicate it in their experience, many of us allow these same disabling feelings to fester around the topic of money.

I was able to note this in many of my fellow colleagues because I’ve seen it in myself. However, the second thing that I noted gave me hope that our approach to money within the profession was changing.

Observation #2. Social workers want to stop feeling guilty about wanting to be rich

There are hundreds (possibly hundreds of thousands) of social workers who want to talk about money and who want to be rich – and  I mean really rich. And not only are these social workers ready to talk, they’re ready to revolt.

At the Conference, I watched brave social workers stand one-by-one and voice their desires to talk about wanting to be wealthy. They were tired of feeling lonely and ashamed, they said, of having aspirations for wealth but feeling as if they had no safe place within the profession to explore and express these desires.

I personally found it interesting that, despite all of the sparsely attended Financial breakout sessions at the conference throughout the week, the one containing the  “Rich Social Worker” presentation, which was held on the final day of the conference, packed a full-house. This was confirmation for me that, when given a forum to talk about money and wealth, social workers are ready to be included in the discussion.

Observation #3. Social workers (generally) don’t know how to make money, but they know that it can be done

One of the things I love about social workers is that we’re tenacious – we don’t give up – and even when we don’t know a thing (which can be quite often), we know how to persevere until we do.

At the Conference many social work entrepreneurs I met shared stories of how they had used their social work skills to create success in their various ventures. And while their stories differed, what was constant was the drive and determination to figure out how something could be done.

When faced with a problem of competency, social workers know that  if we ask enough questions, conduct enough research,  and experiment with enough theory we’re bound to move closer and closer to our goal. Not only was this the story of conference presenters Merry Korn, founder of Pearl Interactive Network, and James Townsend of the Townsend Group, but it’s the story of countless social workers who have ventured into the business world and found success.

Observation #4. Social workers are very generous and want to use their wealth to create more good in the world.

The fact that social workers are generous is not a new idea, but many are limited in their ability to be as generous as they want to be simply because of their financial resources and limited expertise in the way of massive giving.

I personally spoke to social workers at the conference that admitted their financial challenge in being able to attend. This had nothing to do with their desire to attend or the value they felt they had received, but was entirely connected to their income.

For the social worker the question is not about whether or not to give, but about how much he or she can afford to give.

This should not be. And of all the professions that use money to make the world a better place, social work is a shoe-in for “Most Likely to Succeed.”

Observation #5. No matter how successful they become in business, they fully embrace themselves as social workers

Because many social workers are venturing into entrepreneurship and for-profit businesses it’s easy to imagine that they would get so caught up with the for-profit side of things that they lose their connection with social work. But on the contrary, the social work business professionals that I spoke with strongly revered their social work identity and hailed their social work competency skills as the major component in the success of their businesses.

This theme was emphasised over and over at the conference and stood out as a reassuring beacon of hope for those contemplating entry into entrepreneurship, but fearing disconnection from the profession.

What this all means

In light of the observations made, I strongly believe that social work is experiencing a revolution, and that in the next few years, more and more trained social workers will seek options that not only create better conditions for their clients, but allow them to build business models to support them. They will have open discussions about wealth and entrepreneurship, and demonstrate confidence when quoting their rates. If enough are prepared to do this, not only will we impact the overall pay scale, but we’ll change the course of history forever.

Perhaps – just maybe – we will even be able to afford that trip to Cancun. Radical self-care, anyone?

photo credit: ignatius decky

The Business of Social Work Practice

Over the last decade, certainly in Australia, funding for human services organisations has undergone significant change.  The days of filling out an annual evaluation report and expecting to be automatically re-funded are gone. Simply ensuring you meet the objectives of last year’s funding is not enough. A competitive tendering process is now a harsh reality in the realm of community services. What implications does this have for social work practice?

CompetitionFirst of all, we need to get comfortable with the notion of “competition”. It’s a word that doesn’t seem to feel comfortable with most social workers.  And yet, in the tender process, that is exactly what we face.  May the “best” organisation win. No matter what your values and passions may be as a social worker, no matter how much you abhor the thought of competing with another well-meaning, non-profit agency, no matter how much you talk about collaboration and partnerships, the bottom line is that you have to provide evidence that your organisation deserves a portion of limited funding more than another.

Secondly, we need to become acquainted with the word “business”. Traditionally, funding in community organisations is prioritized to the grass-roots workers – those who deliver service to the client group. The rest of the “business” is expected to be run by volunteers. Or the coordinator of the service works double the paid hours to ensure everything is running smoothly at a business level. At times a small portion of funding is reluctantly allocated to a bookkeeper or administrative assistant or allocated to the social workers who are already overloaded meeting client needs. Besides being an unrealistic addition to workload, most social workers do not have an effective skills set in business practice.

This reluctance to allocate funds to the business side of the organisation exists because traditionally, community organisations are “supposed to” spend allocated money on client service delivery. This has been perceived to mean “direct service”.  But tell this story to any small business, or a corporate organisation and they’ll ask “how does your organisation (business) run effectively and professionally without business and marketing expertise? “ Every business knows, to compete effectively in the market place, you need people with both business and marketing skills. Private businesses are born in a tough, competitive market place so this notion is simply accepted as part of business life. Community services however, were born in a “charitable, gentle, cooperative” market place.

Time to wake up – things have changed. As many of the larger community organisations have proven, allocating funds to the “business” side of an organisation enables growth. These large community organisations have whole departments allocated to “operations”, “marketing and communications” and “fundraising”. Those employed to deliver client service are able to focus on just that – their clients. The business side of the organisation is fine-tuned by those with specific skills in those areas. The ultimate result for those organisations is that they’re highly competitive in the tender process. And the more tenders they win – the more their client needs are met.

So how would a small community organisation start the process of being competitive in a business sense when funding is so limited? First of all do what you’ve been taught to do as social workers: look at the big picture.  Empowering your clients is not just about casework and running groups. The stronger your organisation is, the more chance you have of gaining the funds you need to initiate or expand service provision. Then question the status quo. Just because it’s always been done this way, doesn’t mean that’s what works best.

Perhaps the well-meaning volunteer, or the overworked caseworker are not the best people to be focussing on business operations or communications strategies. Where there really is no funding to employ more people, start placing some priority on business practice. Think of ways existing staff and volunteers can be up-skilled so that they understand and possibly assist in strategic planning, fundraising, marketing and business operations. Talk to some of the larger organisations and ask them how they raised the funds to break away from the traditional charitable approach to a solid business approach. They also started out small.

Then ask yourself these questions: How many social workers know how to write up a business plan? Or understand that a marketing plan is an integral part of a business plan? How many social workers understand that innovation and creative thinking are essential elements of any successful and sustainable business?  Or at a smaller level, how many social workers understand how to promote their services to their client base?

Social workers traditionally are not business oriented. Social workers want to see all human services as affordable. But in a world where values change, where government priorities become unpredictable and outcomes are consistently measured according to standards set by external assessors, isn’t it time social workers took on some business sense?  We’re not the traditional “do-gooders” anymore. We’re agents of change. It’s time to look inward at our profession and take some responsibility for the lack of funding to critical operations funding in our organisations.

After all, we continue to accept and work under the premise that our organisations should only allocate funding to direct service, not to administration. Ironically we do this because we’re used to another kind of tender – being gentle.  Ultimately, this quiet acceptance significantly reduces the chances of community organisations gaining momentum and successfully competing for effective client services.  Which tender are you aiming for in your social work practice?

4 Pitfalls to Avoid When Using the Internet to Find a Job!

linkedin

Many of you reading this may be recent or soon to be graduates, and/or  you have been looking at the job market with abject terror. You might feel somewhat akin to how a deer must feel as they are staring at an oncoming car. You know that you need to find a job, but you also can’t seem to make any moves to do so. Well don’t let opportunity pass you by! Don’t fall into these technology pitfalls that can make finding a job even harder!

1. Searching websites like Idealist, Indeed, Craigslist

Yes, those websites are great, but they also create several problems:

  • They encourage you to apply for job with companies that you don’t know about. Which is fine, but you are far more likely to get a job with a company that you know and love.
  • Everyone else is seeing these same jobs, which means you have to stand out in an even bigger crowd
  • These websites can be outdated, there is no guarantee that you applying for a job that even exists!

Solution: Find organizations you know and love! Look for jobs on their website, even better call their HR department. Yes, they might just tell you to look at the website, but you have made an impression that you want the job. The person is even more likely to remember your name. You may also hear about a job before it is posted!

2. Not having a complete Linkedin profile

Good job, you made yourself a Linkedin! Oh, you didn’t complete the whole thing. I guess that is fine, I am sure the person hiring you for your dream job will fill in the blanks though it might not be with what you should expect.

If you are going to have a Linkedin you need to complete it and continue to update it.

  • A post once a week is good, once a month as a minimum.
  • You never really know who is going to look at your profile. You might be missing out on any number of opportunities.

Solution: Complete your Linkedin profile, for those who are not tech savvy and are having a hard time there are many guides out there, call a friend and you can even email me and I will look at your profile and give you some free advice!

3. Mixing Work and Play

  • I am all for people using their computers for fun! By all means have a Pinterest about your favorite band, cat pictures etc. Use your twitter to talk about the latest celebrity idiocy, but please, oh please….
  • Have separate accounts! The last thing you want an employer to see is your drunken, misspelled political rant on twitter.

Solution: Use an Alias for your personal accounts, or just your first name! Make sure they are not linked to the same email address. Setting things to private is not adequate, as nothing is really private on the internet.

4. Not promoting yourself

Again, we live in an age where you never know who might be looking at your online profile!

  • Put your best face on!
  • Make sure your contact information is up to date and most of all promote yourself. It is ok to shamelessly ask your friends to share, retweet, and pin your posts because you will do the same for them.
  • The point of this whole social media world is to have as many people as possible see your best face.

Solution: Share, share, share: make sure you post once a week at least and share it. If you are in a resume pool and the hiring manager has read your blog and loved it you are going to have a huge advantage over someone they have never heard of before!

Now, you know technology can help you find a job, but it can also hinder you.  Make sure you are using it right and remember nothing beats good old fashion legwork!

The Pros and Cons of Placing Students in Internships

As many of you know, internship experiences are the most important part of a social work program. Since the MSW is a professional degree, having a professional experience that you can apply your coursework is necessary. Internships do more than provide free labor and something to do.

They test the student’s knowledge and help them discover their future goals. Internships are learning experiences, and students should complete as many internship opportunities as they possibly can. I am about to finish my eight internship, and I know I will be completing at least one before I graduate school. Without all these internships, I would not have known the aspects of the social welfare sector that I like and dislike, as well as where I excel.

Considering these points, it is important for schools to be able to provide successful learning experiences. In order to ensure students get these opportunities and abide by the regulations of the Council of Social Work Education, most social work schools place their students at sites. I do not want to state that this is a wrong way to complete internships, especially for graduate students, but there definitely are positives and negative components of this approach. The following points should be considered while we talk about this internship reform.

I’ll start with the positive aspects first of this approach first.

Students are guaranteed some experience.Whether or not the student believes it is applicable, the student will get experience that they will benefit them in one way or another. They may not being doing the work they want to do or end up doing, but they are learning something that will help them in some way or another.

It helps those students who are unsure of their career goals. Even though I believe that students without career goals should not enter graduate work, this way helpful for them to identify opportunities and explore fields of social work, they may not realized existed. Let’s face it. An MSW degree can be an exploratory process, especially for some of the less qualified and motivated students.

The school has better connections than the student. Obviously, the school staff knows more professionals and agencies in the local community than the student. If a student is not originally from the area or went to college in another city, they may not have the connections or know of the agencies to obtain an internship. Agencies also can reach out to the schools and inform of their ability to host students.

There is less worry about abiding by the national council’s standards. Most likely a student does not know the policies and procedures of the CSWE, and they would have to attempt to understand all of them in order to choose a placement. Luckily for students, the schools have staff that know the policies and ensure each experience qualifies.

Students learn to make the best out of situations. As social work students, this the best part of schools placing students at agencies. Social work students are unique and are working with clients who may not be able to change their situations. How are we supposed to motivate our clients to make the best out of their situations, if we cannot make the best out of our own? Our internships are ways for us to experience first-hand what it is like to be given a situation and learn to maximize the opportunity. There is definitely something to acknowledge when a student turns an internship that may not want into an experience they enjoy.

Even though there are many good things, every system has its flaws. Here are a few things that I noticed that are not beneficial:

There is no guarantee that the student will be able to explore their interests. Internships are learning experiences, and crucial for students to figure out what they want to do. If the internship experiences are chosen for them, then they cannot explore their interests. Students should be about learning as much as you can possible while in school, and should passionately follow opportunities that interest them.

Students may not be adequately prepared to obtain a job in their desired field. Most MSW programs have at least two internship experiences, depending on the program. If a student is placed in two internships they do not like or realize they would like to do something else by the time the graduate, they are going to have a difficult time finding a job they do like. For example, my school places you the first year, but you get the chance to choose your placement the second year.

The fact you can choose your second placement is their excuse when students complain that they would like to pick their placement. I honestly do not agree that answer is good enough. For example, a macro student interested in policy will most likely be placed in a clinical internship their first year, then they chose their second year placement. The next year they pick a policy internship, but realize they do not like it or would prefer to do something else like program management. Now what? The student has two internship experiences of things they do not want to do, and are not prepared to have a job they may want to have.

Graduate students should not be babied.By the time an individual reaches graduate school, they should have a specific plan of what the degree is going to do for them. If a graduate student does not have any idea of what they want to do, then they should NOT go to graduate school. They should probably go work for a couple of years, do more internships, complete a public service program or spend time figuring out what you want to do before you spend your money on something that you may end up not liking. Placing students in their internships is treating them like high school or undergraduate students. Graduate students should be more than capable to find their own internships.

Students do not develop the professional skills needed for job searching post-graduation. This is a big flaw I see in this system. Students need to learn in school while they have resources available to develop professional skills, such as resume writing, cover letters, interviews and networking. If the school does all of that for them, students will not have the necessary skills needed when they enter the job market. In some ways, this method promotes laziness since the school is going to do everything for the student. Students need to learn to do the work themselves and prepare for applying to jobs. It is not easy. Ask any graduate. Students need to learn to fail when it comes to job. Every young professional is not going to get every job they submit an application. Learning this now and obtaining support from school services will be extremely helpful when they undergo the arduous process of applying for jobs post-graduation.

Placing students becomes political.Unfortunately, I feel that almost everything is political and social work schools certainly have to deal with these issues. Agencies will expect quality students from the school, and if they do not get them, they may not accept any more interns or even graduates. Schools then have to deal with placing the good students are the sites they want to maintain good relationships with, and then the rest of the agencies get the students left over. If an agency and student both a say in the process, then less responsibility falls on the school if they experience does not work out. Also, schools may focus on the social work areas that benefit the school rather than the student. Students need a voice in these decisions, especially since it is influential factor in their lives.

Honestly, I believe each student should be treated individually. We cannot use a universal system for every student. The students who may have discovered what they want to do and have a strict career plan should be allowed to tailor their education to that field. The students who may not know what they want to do can opt to be placed and the school can take care of it. I completed eight internships and had a job before I started my MSW program. I knew what I wanted out of this program more than the students who did not do any internships before starting graduate school.

I may have been fine finding my own internship, but other students may have not been prepared. Students are professionals or are learning to become professional. If they pick an internship they do not like, then they know that for next time. Without this opportunity to explore, how can a student develop successful career goals on their own with a school holding their hand the entire process?  It seems ironic that a field focused on motivating the individual to make decisions in their life has such strict regulatory standards. Universal methods and social work do not usually go together.

Also View Segments on PBS NewsHour:

Former Interns Debate the Worth and Legality of Unpaid Internships

Will Work for Free: How Unpaid Internships Cheapen Workers of All Ages

The ADA, Service Animals, and Places of Business

Service Dog 1

The article I wrote in January about a restaurant owner’s refusal to serve a veteran with a service dog raised questions about how businesses are to respond to people with disabilities who use service animals.  Today, I wanted to share what the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) have to say about service animals in privately owned businesses that serve the public.

The ADA has a frequently asked questions page about this matter, and I decided to select a few question and answer statements from the page that business owners need to know in order to not offend those who use service animals or violate the mandate.  The key “take home points” within each response will be in bold.

How can I tell if an animal is really a service animal and not just a pet?

A:  Some, but not all, service animals wear special collars and harnesses. Some, but not all, are licensed or certified and have identification papers. If you are not certain that an animal is a service animal, you may ask the person who has the animal if it is a service animal required because of a disability. However, an individual who is going to a restaurant or theater is not likely to be carrying documentation of his or her medical condition or disability. Therefore, such documentation generally may not be required as a condition for providing service to an individual accompanied by a service animal.

Although a number of states have programs to certify service animals, you may not insist on proof of state certification before permitting the service animal to accompany the person with a disability.

What must I do when an individual with a service animal comes to my business?

A:  The service animal must be permitted to accompany the individual with a disability to all areas of the facility where customers are normally allowed to go. An individual with a service animal may not be segregated from other customers.

I have always had a clearly posted “no pets” policy at my establishment. Do I still have to allow service animals in?

A:  Yes. A service animal is not a pet. The ADA requires you to modify your “no pets” policy to allow the use of a service animal by a person with a disability. This does not mean you must abandon your “no pets” policy altogether but simply that you must make an exception to your general rule for service animals.

My county health department has told me that only a guide dog has to be admitted. If I follow those regulations, am I violating the ADA?

A:  Yes, if you refuse to admit any other type of service animal on the basis of local health department regulations or other state or local laws. The ADA provides greater protection for individuals with disabilities and so it takes priority over the local or state laws or regulations.

I operate a private taxicab and I don’t want animals in my taxi; they smell, shed hair and sometimes have “accidents.” Am I violating the ADA if I refuse to pick up someone with a service animal?

A:  Yes. Taxicab companies may not refuse to provide services to individuals with disabilities. Private taxicab companies are also prohibited from charging higher fares or fees for transporting individuals with disabilities and their service animals than they charge to other persons for the same or equivalent service.

What if a service animal barks or growls at other people, or otherwise acts out of control?

A:  You may exclude any animal, including a service animal, from your facility when that animal’s behavior poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others. For example, any service animal that displays vicious behavior towards other guests or customers may be excluded. You may not make assumptions, however, about how a particular animal is likely to behave based on your past experience with other animals. Each situation must be considered individually.

Although a public accommodation may exclude any service animal that is out of control, it should give the individual with a disability who uses the service animal the option of continuing to enjoy its goods and services without having the service animal on the premises.

All excerpts are courtesy of the Frequently Asked Questions page about service animals and businesses.

Though some of the statements I highlighted may seem to be ones that should be understood by all, they are not. People with disabilities are denied service and full participation in establishments utilized by the public each and every day in this country, and abroad.

Being ignorant of the law is no excuse when breaking it, especially when it infringes on the rights of a person to use a service or facility.  Business owners have to be knowledgeable about what their responsibilities are when it comes to the law, and people with disabilities have to speak out when their rights have been violated, whether intentionally or not.

Every week, I come across stories of people with disabilities, regardless of their ability, experiencing discrimination at alarming rates.  2014 will mark the 24th anniversary of the enactment of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and we are still fighting to “get in” and be treated as equal.  How much longer will the fight continue before the legislation is respected and followed, and we are given the opportunity to fully participate in all facets of society?

(Featured headlining image:  Courtesy of Wet Noses Dog Treats.)

How To Be A More Ethical Manager

The surly, unfriendly boss has long been a corporate stereotype and the butt of many jokes in the workplace. However in modern businesses, organisations, and charities, the manager is increasingly responsible for the wellbeing of staff which means finding modern ways to motivate.

How to Be a More Ethical Manager
How to Be a More Ethical Manager

From the CEO to the project manager, every supervisor in a charity has a role to play in motivating staff and keeping morale high. There are various skills you can develop to make yourself more effective as a manager in your charity or business, and we’ll look at a few here.

Flexibility

Managers are increasingly having to learn to be flexible. The information age has introduced a huge range of challenges for the modern boss, from the use of social media (authorised or not) to the monitoring of staff performance in the cloud. Managers need to teach and learn. Most importantly, they must accept that other team members may have more to contribute on certain topics. The ability to be part of a team, as well as its leader, will serve any manager well as they strive to be more ethical in their leadership.

Generosity

The modern manager needs to be confident in their appraisal of a situation, yet willing to bend and adapt – and willing to admit when they’re wrong. An ethical approach to leadership means letting others lead when they are in a better position to do so, then stepping up to help when others struggle. Charity employees are in an ideal position to recognise opportunities to give more of themselves and realise when energy can be conserved for other tasks.

Motivation

Modern bosses are increasingly asked to motivate staff using positive methods rather than correction. That means finding the employee’s trigger and using it to lead them towards positive change. For some employees, that might be an extra break, an early finish or a bonus. For others, simply recognising their achievements is enough.

Managers are increasingly aware that punishment breeds resentment, and in voluntary jobs or charity work, the ability to motivate is a critical skill. The very best managers and bosses inspire a willingness to learn and a desire to work hard, and are able to discover the things that make their team members ‘tick’ in order to foster a positive, productive working environment.

Keeping With the Times

According to this blog by Sue Brooks, a human resources expert, our modern, ethical bosses need “great learning capacity and the boldness to try new ideas”. Bosses also arguably need the confidence to tackle problems in the team, or the organisation, and willingness to admit to their own flaws before blaming others.

Breeding honesty, transparency and trust is a great way to ensure your team stays motivated and united in its aims: to do good work for your charity or non-profit and approach each task with a can-do attitude. Sure, it’s a matter for HR, but it’s also a matter for any business or charity that employs people and needs their commitment to the job.

Welfare: The Business of Misfortune

Corporate Welfare vs Social Welfare
Corporate Welfare vs Social Welfare

I’ve dreamed of one day moving home again to have my future children surrounded by their family, but I also fear living with those who constantly reject my deepest held values with the continued disinterest in my chosen career as a social worker.

The fact that many people receiving public assistance work harder in a day to keep their families safe than some work in a lifetime has been turned into a misleading truth equating most welfare recipients to lazy blacks or people who don’t pay into the system.

It’s not the abandonment of the sense of patriotism and responsibility towards our fellow Americans that has me up at night writing about these concerns. However, it might be the fact that most of our tax monies don’t even go toward welfare programs, yet this tends to be the only focus from conservative leaders to control federal spending.

“The Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Havard University published a study entitled “The Welfare Queen Experiment” in which Black and White participants watched news clips about a “lazy welfare recipient” named Rhonda. Separate test groups watched news stories that showed a photo of either a black Rhonda or white Rhonda for a few seconds. Each group was also given a survey to measure attitudes toward race, gender and welfare.

White participants showed a 10% increase in anti-black sentiments when Rhonda was Black and surprisingly, an increase of 12% when Rhonda was White. This suggests that the Welfare Queen archetype and the distorted view of Black Americans on welfare is well-entrenched in the White American psyche. The majority of welfare recipients are non-urban and White. The majority of food stamp recipients have jobs or are children, so comparing paychecks to food stampsmakes no sense.” Read More

When I see anti-welfare and anti-government memes being shared by my loved ones, I wonder do they know what I do for a living and what I’ve committed my life to? Do they understand how I’ve sacrificed, at times, my own financial and mental well-being to be a social worker?

Social workers are consistently ranked among the lowest paid and most depressed professionals in our community. Do they care? Posted and re-posted on Facebook by my parents and others who love me, I think how disconnected it is from my reality.

When I was in school pursuing my MSW, it was made possible by welfare and a Stafford Loan which helped me obtain my bachelors degree. I often had professors who talked about working ourselves out of a job, and the idea that our goal as social workers is to cure the ails of society. No children abused, no family hungry, no woman raped, only then would our profession no longer be needed.

Until that time comes, there will be a collection of inspired hearts whose basic promise is to fight to the end for the most vulnerable of our brothers and sisters. I guess you could say we’re in the business of misfortune. Sounds like a dirty job, but it’s not. I have no shame in saying that I make a career out of working for the lesser blessed.

As far as my family, I’d be honored if they tried to figure out why welfare jokes don’t make me laugh. Although I may not explain what I do at family dinners, my work as a social worker matters especially to the people you’d least expect walking into that clinic, hospital, advocacy agency, or human services office. We’re all grateful public services are there when it’s our time to ask for help. Anyone drawn any unemployment lately?

Until I come to terms with my family’s values, I live away with a supportive partner, sisters who try to understand, and supportive friends. Most importantly, I respect the communities that need our help whose needs give me purpose, whose resilience inspires me, and whose empowerment pays my salary.

Learn How To Be A Consultant Series with Dr. Michael Wright

In case you missed the phenomenal chat with Dr. Michael Wright, I have compiled his Social Work Consultant series into one article, and I have attached the link to the archived chat. This will allow you to easily access the vast amount of information he provides in his Consultant series.

Series 1. Defining the Social Worker as a Consultant

Social Workers are uniquely qualified to operate as consultants at all ecological systems levels. Our mandate of individual change and social change ensure that we are always mindful of the consequences of individual creativity and organizational innovation. Our ethical parameters provide a clear process for reviewing policy, corporate decision making,… Continue Reading »

Series 2. As the Consultant, What the Social Worker Already Knows

Social work professional education includes in its core curriculum some important constructs that are also vital to the social worker as consultant. In addition to reinforcing the mantra of individual change and social change, the constructs provide us with a vocabulary for discussing human behavior in the social environment.  Perhaps… Continue Reading »

Series 3. As the Consultant, What the Social Worker Must Learn

A Matter of Roles (and Rolls?) Consider that, as consultant, you must gather the ingredients, the cooking pans, the oven, the electricity, and the dinner guests. You cannot simply show up with napkins and a winning personality. The ability to plan and manage complexity across systems bakes success into the…Continue Reading »

Series 4. Managing Your Consulting Business

The social worker will certainly be skilled in connecting with and informing clients. The social worker as consultant will also need to manage a business. Social work tends to attract persons whose primary concern is not money, who do not typically publicize their achievements, who favor trust-based relationships, and who… Continue Reading »

Series 5. Four Context for the Social Worker as a Consultant

Launching and sustaining any business depends on three things: Development of a brand, marketing of brand, and truth in advertising. In other words, first, you have to come up with something to sell. Second, people have to hear about and understand what you are offering. Third, your product or service…Continue Reading »

Series 6. Consulting with Start-ups

BUSINESS PLAN The first and most important task for any start-up is a two-page executive summary outlining your business model. In two pages, you need to be able to summarize the market, operations, management, and financial projections of your new company. It must have real information (not fluff and wishes),… Continue Reading »

Series 7. Ethics of the Social Work Consultant

I am nearing the end of the “Social Worker as Consultant” series (only 1 post remaining). I am going to publish the complete series as a text book. I am soliciting your help. Would you like to write a chapter for the book? Let me know your ideas. I think… Continue Reading »

Series 8. Educating the Social Worker as a Consultant

THE CURRENT SOCIAL WORK CURRICULUM: The standard social work education curriculum has 5 areas of inquiry: Practice Methods, Policy, Ethics, Human Behavior in the Social Environment, and Social Research.  The social worker as consultant may organize these into two categories: Systems of Practice with Human Behavior and Social Mechanisms. “Systems… Continue Reading »

Ethical Concerns When Using Social Media


554813_438073382871805_984676012_n

In the latest Iron Man, Tony Stark played by Robert Downey Jr., always has the best and newest technology gadgets out there. Even though Iron Man is a fictional movie, the use of technology and social media is revolutionizing how we communicate, process information, and problem solve local and global problems. However, many helping professions struggle to use the basic technology which require minimal skills in order to enhance our communications with each other. Until we master the basics, we will have difficulty intertwining advanced technologies into practice.

With the uber-trendy social networking sites’ (SNS) captivation of Internet users around the world, those in the helping profession are having a hard time keeping up with the latest and greatest in this season’s social media tools before they become outdated.

While many are quick to claim that this lag is due to an “old-school” mentality of avoiding 21st century technology, there are several factors that social workers, non-profits, and government agencies have to take into consideration before they can pick up the new toy on the playground. Private entities that are not working with vulnerable or at-risk populations have the perceived luxury of being more “lax” in their social media policies – forgoing concerns of confidentiality, cultural competency, or liability.

Public organizations are often times held to different legal and ethical policies that require much more detail and time spent towards considering where social media can help service provision and clinical work.

Social networking sites are intended to provide quick access and instant information dissemination to a specific group of people. So how do organizations working with vulnerable populations balance justified ethical concerns with the incredible potential of social media? While I may not have the magic answer, a well-developed social media policy is a good place to start.

To help anticipate all possible outcomes of social media use – both good and bad – social workers need to make sure that if they are planning (and able) to use these tools in their practice, they have a strong, carefully thought out social media policy to guide them. Especially considering that there are resources and examples out there of how caseworkers and clinicians can correctly use social media in their work, an effective social media policy can develop a “treatment plan” for using these tools while also developing a “safety plan” for when issues arise.

Whether you are in a government agency, a nonprofit, or a private practice, a social media strategy that outlines your specific goals of using the tool, your disclosure and participation policies, and how the tools will be used will help address ethical and legal considerations while also creating a foundation for keeping pace with evolving social media trends.

[gview file=”https://swhelper.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/WebinarSocialMediaPolicy-1.doc”]

Interview with Gary Wexler: Former Ad Executive Turn Nonprofit Activist

Recently, I had the opportunity to interview Gary Wexler who is a former Ad Executive that has helped to create television commercials for products such as Apple and Coca-cola. Now, Gary uses his powers for good to help nonprofit agencies maximize their marketing strategies instead of wasting donor dollars on ineffective tactics. Also, Gary Wexler is an Adjunct Professor at the University of Southern California teaching marketing in the Annenberg School of Communication. Later in the article, you will also be able to view a short video on “Way Beyond Branding” by Gary Wexler who possesses a wealth of knowledge, and I would like to share with you our conversation.

SWH: Tell me a bit about your background and your passion for the Nonprofit Sector.

Gary: I became involved with nonprofit causes in high school joining a student club where we traveled as tutors, working with grade school kids in poverty areas of Los Angeles. It captured my soul and began a lifelong involvement with the sector as an activist, volunteer, board member, donor, and finally as a professional. In my 40s, I left my career as a successful ad agency copywriter and creative director, creating award winning television commercials for Apple Computer and Coca Cola because I realized my passion was with the nonprofit sector. My passion for the sector lies in the fact that the nonprofit sector holds the soul of our society.

SWH: How do you define Nonprofit Revolution Now and what is it mission?

Gary: The world has changed. We are living in a new era, dominated by new thinking.  Yet, the nonprofit sector is in many cases stuck in old-thinking and fearful of making the drastic changes needed in order to survive and thrive. The Revolution is leading the way for these new changes and methodologies using what we call “Seize the Conversation” marketing as the engine of positive disruption within the sector. Seize the Conversation is integrated with Human Centered Design Thinking which is a way to bring people into collaboration to create the big new ideas that will give the sector a powerful verve. This is the purpose, goal, and methodology of the Revolution.

For the organizations who read the Revolution, the other purpose is to lead them to realize that nonprofit marketing is about helping create three results—fundraising, advocacy and participation. It’s results are not a branding or social marketing campaign. Those are mere tactics, along with many others, in the battle. But, this is a battle for ideas that penetrate the hearts and minds of the donors, activists and participants.

SWH: How did this new project come about, and what types of issues do you focus your writing?

Gary: It came about from my teaching. I am the Professor of both Nonprofit Marketing as well as Advertising in the Masters in Communications Management program at USC/Annenberg. In nonprofit marketing, my students were sent out to work with real nonprofit clients, armed with knowledge they gained in class on how to focus and ask invasive questions and then bring the client participants into consensus.

When they return to class each semester after meeting their clients, the students all say the exact same thing. “You taught us how to focus, ask questions and bring consensus and these nonprofits can’t do it.” That’s when I knew I had to begin writing about the issues of the sector and what I believe the solutions are. The focus of the writing is on big ideas as solutions created through Seize the Conversation strategies.

SWH: What is the Nonprofit Revolution Now Manifesto?

Gary: The Manifesto is the weekly blog…soon to be called the “Blog-ifesto.” The new site will be up in the next few weeks which will be exciting, powerful, informational and controversial.

SWH: What kind of information and content do you highlight on the blog?

Gary: I grab the most important conversations that need to be circulating in the nonprofit sector and then translate them into how to create results using big ideas to deliver the goals of fundraising, advocacy and participation.

SWH: How does someone become a part of the Revolution?

Two ways. Either sign up for the blog. Or bring us in to create the Revolution within your organization, helping you reach your fundraising, advocacy, or participation goals.

Wanting more of Gary Wexler? You can visit him at http://www.garywexler.com or Nonprofit Revolution Now. You may also want to follow him on Twitter at @garywexler.

 

 

 

Capability vs Ability

By Daniel Jacob, MSW

Change…  It sounds so simple, people use it often on a daily basis as a way to correct, improve outcomes, gain knowledge, etc.  However, I believe the greatest reward associated with positive change, is the ability and capability to move forward.  We are all capable of having positive change in our lives, but often we are not able in making it happen.  Reflect on that statement for a moment.  Having personally and professionally  had several opportunities to help others change for the better, I use this example in the most clear and straightforward manner that I can.

If you are in a state where your path in life is just a series of roadblocks with no sight of an opening, you often feel stuck, hopeless and helpless.  At this point you may not see change for the better as a way out because you are so frustrated, angry, tired, and all the other feelings associated with a life filled with roadblocks.  Your too physically and mentally drained to even think about taking action, and often many  convince themselves that it is easier to keep on suppressing.
This is where the work part comes into play.

You yourself have the answers, you just can’t see them, and instead of moving towards a plan of positive change, you settle for being stuck.  This makes sense as I have mentioned prior it is easier to settle for being stuck.  It is hard, very hard to do the necessary work to get unstuck and move through and forward.  So, when I say that we are all capable of change for the better we are.  We are just not always able.  This is the underlying message in it all.  Capability vs Ability.  If you just look at those two words and there meaning, you hopefully can see the solution to getting through those roadblocks.  You can see that there is a way to change for the better.

Furthermore, you have to really understand and remember that you must be patient with the process, you must!  While changing for the better is the hardest work that you will ever face, it does not happen quickly and often in the time frame that most desire. This is why we often have setbacks because we become frustrated or nonbelievers to the process when we don’t see it happening as quick as we would like.  Well, ask yourself what option is better?

To have a life filled with negative outcomes and opportunities fueled by the actions and behavior that are creating such?  Or have a life (still with challenges and roadblocks, life does not provide a challenge/stress free existence) filled with positive outcomes and opportunities influenced by your ability to trust the process, be patient with it, and implement the appropriate skills/tools needed in order to change for the better?

My hope is that this example can provide you with an understanding that life is a series of learning opportunities that allow YOU to determine the quality of your life.  It is up to you and the choices you make that will move you forward, or keep you back.  I hope these words can provide that opening so that you will be able to start the process of changing for the better, with the understanding that the person writing this is the same person who had to learn this lesson, and will continue to.  Until we meet again may you be well to your day, and the day shall be well to you.

Defining the Social Worker as Consultant (1st in the Social Work Consultant Series)

Social Workers are uniquely qualified to operate as consultants at all ecological systems levels. Our mandate of individual change and social change ensure that we are always mindful of the consequences of individual creativity and organizational innovation. Our ethical parameters provide a clear process for reviewing policy, corporate decision making, and behavior in the market. Social workers were seeking to operate within the social good well before it was called social entrepreneurship.

The series of blogs I am composing for swhelper.org will begin with a definition of and perspective on the social worker as a consultant. From that point, the series will address practical concerns to be considered as the social worker considers contracting as a consultant.

  1. Defining the Social Worker as Consultant
  2. Basic Skill Sets You Already Have
  3. Organizational Skills You May Need to Learn
  4. Managing Your Consulting Business
  5. Examples of 4 Consulting Contexts (Including “Life Coaching”)
  6. Consulting with Start-ups
  7. Ethics of the Social Worker as Consultant
  8. Social Work Education and Consulting
Defining the Social Worker as  Consultant

The primary difference between the social worker and other professionals is the requirement that social workers engage in individual change and social change. This informs the social worker as consultant. He/she must bring benefit to the organization that represents sustainability at all levels of ecology.

Social workers understand the Person in the Environment. The social worker as consultant understands the person within the organization within its environment. With this ecology in mind let us define the social worker as consultant in the context of leadership.

The Definition

If Edgar Schein, author of Organizational Culture and Leadership (2010) were to define the role of the consultant, he would likely say something like this:

“The consultant is a leader invited in from outside who manages organizational culture for internal integration and external adaptation. The consultant offers skills, technology, and knowledge not found in the organization enabling the organization to cope with new external environments.”

And what would he mean by that? First, as a consultant, you are an invited leader. Consider that consulting is akin to leadership with a negotiated level of authority. Enter leadership through clearly articulated principles. More than goals, these principles inform your ethical behaviors and help you to determine what actions are acceptable in attempting the goals.

The consultant manages organizational culture. This means that the consultant will have to be skilled in influencing culture.

More than training, you will be tasked at least to outline a change process and articulate a path to innovation with lasting impact even after completion of your contract term.

“Internal integration” suggests that you, as a consultant, must engage the employees and volunteers and harness the capacity that is present within the organization. You will start by assessing the capability of the organization, identifying where knowledge is created, and organizing it as a representation of organizational capacity—what the organization can do.

“External adaptation” suggests that you outline an innovation for the employees and volunteers that connects with the social vision of the organization, satisfies all stakeholders, and represents sustainable operations for the organization. You will begin this by reviewing competition, new information on business process and best practice, and talking with stakeholder, including community members and customers.

New External Environments

Coping with “new external environments” refers to your vigilance and attention to the time innovation requires and the economic, social, political, and technological environment your organization operates within. Environments change quickly. Economic pressures are usually present in nonprofit environments. Even in solvent environments, the pressure exists to remain solvent. You will need to communicate clear costs, benefits, success measures, and sustainability.

Social pressures include relationships among staff, turnover, morale, customer relationships, partner organization relationships, as well as relationships with the community at large. You will need to listen to key informants in communities you are not familiar with. Always, maintain transparency and clear lines of communication. Employ marketing as a tool with the dual purpose of information sharing and advertisement.

Political pressures can include zoning, governance hierarchies, licensure laws, bylaws, and a host of other concerns including relationships with the legislature or accrediting bodies. As a consultant, you will want to maintain an awareness of the connection between your suggestions and the political constraints. Also, be aware that political pressure can originate with individuals as well as policy.

Technological pressure relates to the tools available to implement the innovation you suggest. As an effective consultant, you must remain current with the latest and versed in the pros and cons of tools specific to the organizations you consult with. For a given organization, the tools can include computers and cellular technology, or it could be recyclable insulation materials and flame-retardant drywall. Know the tools that fit your expertise.

Negotiated Level of Authority

Your level of authority within the organization will vary with each consultation. Be sure to specify this in your written contract agreement.

Four levels of authority are typical and help to define the range of roles you will operate in as consultant.

Expert: Shares expertise in meetings or other live events. You will need the following skills: Communication, Systems Knowledge, and Visioning/Program Planning.

Evaluator: Research (compare/contrast/review) current systems and report on efficiency, satisficing, innovation. As an evaluator, you will need the following skills: Operational Research and Process Mapping/Flowcharting.

Sub-contractor: Manage a project and produce deliverables for the client. Social work consultants as Sub-contractor will need the following skills: Operational Efficiency (to meet deadlines), Capacity, and Customer Service.

Manager: Lead an organization through a start-up or innovation process. You will need the following skills as a manager: Leadership, Marketing, and Return on Investment Measurement.

References

Schein, E. (2010). Organizational culture and leadership. (4th ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Top 5 Best Free Website Builders For Your Practice

Frustrated User

I will be discussing my recommendations for the best free website builders to assist you in crafting an online professional image. Whether you are creating an online portfolio or starting a small business, you only have once to make an online impression of yourself with a well planned website.

You could always hire someone to design your website, integrate your social media, provide internet security and IT support. On the other hand, this could be pretty expensive for someone with minimal assets and capital. However, you don’t want potential clients and employers dismissing you based on the look and layout of your website.

Before choosing a website platform, you must first decide whether it will be updated frequently or whether your web content will primarily remain the same. Blog style platforms are great for content that needs to be updated frequently. Static website platforms are primarily for individuals who need their content updated only every few months.

The Top 5 best free website platforms that I recommend are as follows:

Weebly

Weebly’s platform uses a drop and drag type website builder which is very easy to use. It will give you a professional looking website with a wide selection of templates in its free version. For someone with no technical skills, I highly recommend weebly as the best option for the beginner. Advanced features are offered for your weebly site with an upgraded plan.

 Wix

Wix is a great option for someone who needs to display a lot of multi-media such as videos and photos. Wix has recently upgraded it’s technology to HTML5 which now displays on Apple products. Wix also uses a drop and drag website builder platform. The look and feel is geared towards achieving a rich multi-media website.

WordPress.com or WordPress.org

WordPress is the ultimate marriage between static content and frequent updates because it has the ability to do both. WordPress is a free open source platform that will allow you to create with very few limits for a small business owner. WordPress.com is hosted on a wordpress server, and WordPress.org is hosted on a hosting service that you pay for. WordPress is also optimized for mobile site visitors, and it even includes a handy mobile app for on the go posting.

Google Sites

Google sites is the ultimate choice for static websites which includes free hosting courtesy of google. Their sites are fully integratable with a suite of free google products such as google drive, google calendar, gmail, youtube, adsense, and more. Google Sites come with an array of templates that can be modified through widgets for the beginner, but it also give the ability to inject html code and java scripts for the more advanced user. The skill of the user will affect the achievable look and feel of a google site.

Google sites are optimized for mobile site visitors, and it is free to use. Google also offers the ability to purchase your own domain name using Google Apps at a cost ranging between 8 to 12 dollars with privacy options included. For what comes with the purchase of a domain name using Google Apps, I have not found anything better. Google Apps needs a stand alone post by itself which is possible in the near future. Resources will be given below to learn more on these products.

Blogger

Blogger is a Google product that uses a blog style platform. It will provide another alternative for sites needing frequent updates. Blogger has been making strides to improve customization for its users. Most importantly, it is fully integratable with a suite of free Google products, and it’s free to use. However, this option would make a great personal website and your business type would determine whether Blogger is a good fit for you.

Exit mobile version