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Mom! No Phone! Take Pictures with Your Eyes and Your Brain!

2 Jun

As a huge aficionado of all things social media and tech, a few years ago this admonition about my phone photo-taking from my daughter, while on a hike, of  “Mom, stop!  Take pictures with your eyes and your brain!” in the woods gave me pause.

If a tree falls in the woods and we didn’t post a pic on Instagram, did it make a sound?

She was right, of course. I had gotten so used to the habit? idea? process? – nay, the compulsion – of photographing or videoing everything, that I was forgetting why humans enjoy experiences to start with.

Sure, wanting to capture memories and share them (sharing them in visual forms is new) is quite human. Storytelling is how all history has been passed on since the dawn of time. Social media is simply an exponentially faster and easier route to storytelling and sharing experiences.

Or is it?

I think of times I have been so bent on taking pictures – not to mention perhaps tagging places and people, adding hashtags and filters, cropping, sharing to multiple platforms – that I realized in horror that I had only witnessed the moment as a bystander, when what I really wanted as a human was to experience the moment.

Who is this captured memory for?  Could you relive the sights, smells, sounds, and emotions from this yourself in 2o years or did you miss it trying to find the right filter?

And that is exactly what Isabella pointed out. We all have the greatest camera ever right here, right now. “Take a picture with your eyes and your brain!”

Really, if everything in the digital world was suddenly deleted, we always still have that – same as it ever was. All of humanity – before Facebook, of course – remembered everything as the beautiful moment in which it happened.

Although I still love social media and technology, I almost never use headphones (in general), or look at my phone when walking, driving (duh, never do that), hiking, or otherwise “being Zen.”  When I walk the dog, the sites and sounds around me are my environment. Almost as if – it was my environment. 😉

When I drive my long commute (45 minutes) I sometimes listen to books and occasionally MUSIC WAY TOO LOUD! but most often, I enjoy the silence and use it as time to think.

Now when I walk in nature, I always have my phone, and am compelled to take pictures of beautiful things of course, but mostly when a beautiful thing summons a feeling I want to remember with a quick snap (also no headphones).

I do take and share tons of photos and videos at nonprofit events where my main goal is to share a feeling of inspiration, brought about by something happening – with others.

But as myself, even when traveling to China recently, I limited my “viewing through a lens” in favor of “viewing through my soul.”

When we all look back 40 years from now, we won’t recall what filter we used or how great we looked at a certain angle in a selfie. We won’t recall what hashtag it was, or who or where we tagged.

If we’re lucky, we’ll actually remember the feelings and emotions we had by being present, in that moment, seeing and feeling the sights and sounds and smells and the emotions and memories that were triggered.

Maybe we can all try to feel and BE  — instead of capture and share. A decade from now around a campfire, the sights and smells and emotions and thoughts and feelings of a moment will be the only things we recall.   We’ll tell real stories about real people and events because we’re real humans.  And if we’re not present when they’re happening, no funny Snap filter or Facebook live video will fully bring it back.

Think about whether you want all your memories to be accessible only by digital photos and social media, or if you want to “take a picture with your eyes and your brain!” and carry it around with you forever.

The good news is you don’t have to choose live memories or virtual, but think about which one *really* lives on forever if everything else gets deleted.

A World Full of Synonyms: Are We All Trying to Say the Same Things?

28 May

There’s a lot of turmoil in the world these days (as always.) Everyone is striving to have their voice and perspective heard, sometimes in productive ways, and sometimes not.

It made me think about my travels and the many people I’ve met who were “different” than me around the world, and even here in the United States.

Regardless of what our passport stamp says, we have a lot more in common that we might realize.

At the end of the day, it seems like most conversations about important things can be boiled down to a few ideas. Depending on who is talking, the ideas will be dressed in specific clothing and look slightly different. But, really it’s always a few similar ideas, presented in what appear to be slightly different ways.

Here are what I have found people to be saying consistently, regardless of their background, demographics, culture, income, religion, politics, or education.

Feeling like you want to be happy, and you want others to be happy, seems to be universal.

“I want to be happy.”

“I want to feel safe.”

“I want my family and friends to be secure and not worry.”

“I want to be connected to people.”

“I want to make a difference.”

“I want to feel like this life isn’t the end of everything; I want to stay connected to the world and people I love after I die.”

“I want the freedom to learn and grow and have adventures – and I want people I love to have that as well.”

If you think about all the people you know and care about, and all the people you’ve met anywhere, it’s likely they have/had some or all of these things in common. Maybe you know that because they said so directly, or maybe you gleaned it from conversations, or the things they did and the places they went.

There are undoubtedly many other fine nuances to these and other important ideas.

Think about it, though. Think of someone you feel like you have “nothing in common” with, because your religion or political viewpoint is different, or you grew up in completely different ways in different places. Do you think they have those same desires, if you stripped away the formalities?

Travel is a brilliant way to explore the world and make it feel both bigger and smaller at the same time.  We have some much in common!

Travel is one of my personal favorite things because the more you get into an unusual and different environment, the more you can viscerally feel and sense how similar people really are at the heart of it. Even if you are a different religion, in a different land, with a different political philosophy, speaking a different language, the similarities in hope, happiness, and love are remarkable and easy to feel.

Although there are many religions and viewpoints, the common values are often similar.

While we might all appear to be different, we’re really all using synonyms and saying very similar things in only slightly different ways.

What insights have you gotten from conversations or your travels?  Please share in the comments!

Being #Eco-Friendly,The Simple Things: Paper Towels vs. Cloth?

28 May

I am so appreciative of everyone who wants to hear my thoughts.  Thank you!

Sometimes the most simple things create impact. I love to talk about anything that creates impact.  This “small” thing caught me off guard with its effectiveness!

Here’s a personal experience you might relate to in light of all the smart frugal insights going on…

So a couple months ago I ordered some huck towels on Amazon – 50 for $20 – to replace paper towels in my home. (There were so many huck towels that I gave 10 to my mom and 10 to my sister.) Basically, these are simple towels you keep in a bowl by the sink that you use instead of paper towels.

Paper towels – thank you for your service!  We don’t need you much anymore now, though.  Huck towels are the way to go!

They’re super easy, and much better for most things. (I still use paper towels when I put bacon on a platter to drain the grease.)

Today I somehow had all the towels in the wash at the same time and really felt – like I hadn’t in months – how often I used them. I grabbed other towels but realized that I probably went for “something” 10 or 15 times while cooking, 5-10 times while tidying the counter, and several times just doing whatnot.

Drying your hands is a big culprit.

All those quick “dabs and tosses” could be adding up without thinking about it!

How may times a day do you dab your clean hands on a paper towel?  If you’re like me, it’s lots.  Lots of sheets of paper towels that could stay trees.

I also realized that I used to go through a Sam’s Club allotment (12 rolls? 18?) of paper towels maybe every couple weeks, but one roll now lasted about a month or more.

And, it is so much better to have a proper heavy-ish towel for anything instead of a paper towel. Cleaning, microwaving (except things with cheese?), tidying, snacking – so much better. Sturdy! Also – everything comes out in the wash.

I initially wondered if it would be “worth it” from a convenience standpoint. It’s immensely better actually. Picture anything you want to do, but with something 100x sturdier – it wins every time.

Logistically, I throw the “heavily used” aka “gross” ones into a special bin under the sink – like you’d do with a paper towel for the trash – into a cute small laundry bin.

Surprisingly – or not – most small chores a paper towel would do, don’t really dirty a towel. So, there’s not much overall laundry on behalf of this effort. For example, dabbing your clean hands to dry them doesn’t create much mess. Ditto being adjacent to a snack.

Snacks are the best…no need to bring innocent paper towels into it though!  Huck towels (or any kitchen towel) are sturdier, even to just to wrap around a snack for a minute.

And when there is a certain need for cleanup (pet messes?), it’s something no mere paper towel could handle anyway. 😉

I’ve saved dozens of paper towel rolls (and their cost) per week or month and actually have a better experience at the same time.

Surprisingly, this is one thing that effectually (feels better, works better, easier, cheaper) is all positive, no negative from me. Absolutely, this is one of the most painless ways to save $10 a week AND help the environment that exists out there.

Best simple “eco-friendly” move I’ve made so far, easily.

Why DIY (Marketing) = Sometimes Good, Sometimes Bad

22 Apr

Nary a day goes by that someone I know doesn’t have a client who says, “I can do it myself, it’s free” about some piece of marketing.

Even with tutorials, not every DIY works 😉

Now, that is overtly true for lots of platforms – social media being the main culprit. It is, in point of fact, true that many things about social media do not have a specific payment required.

However, there are a few ways to think about this.

If you are truly fascinated by some piece of social media, or any other facet of strategic marketing, by all means, make it your new hobby. Devote your nights and weekends to learning it and networking in the space, in lieu of spending time on other things like friends, family, and your other normal fun activities. (It can be really fun if you are a true fan!  But requires much dedication.)

A new hobby might be fun!

For most people, however, if they are being truthful, they want the outcome that using something well can produce, not the ability to do/understand it.

It is certainly true that you can learn anything, given enough time. No one is born a surgeon.

But while I might not understand all the details of how electricity works, I certainly appreciate being able to flip a switch and have light.

Light is perfect when you want light.

So as mesmerizing and perplexing as marketing strategy might seem, with plenty of flashing lights and buzzers to intrigue even the most Zen person, some things are indeed best left to experts.

There are no quantities of YouTube videos, blog posts, or fun articles than can recreate years of experience and having seen things happen for real.

In any business, there is always a scale. On one side is time, and on the other side is money.

On one side of the scale is time, the other is money.  Pick your favorite.  You must spend one.

Learning curves are hugely expensive in terms of soft costs, and lost opportunity costs. If your operations manager, who makes x an hour to do her “real” job, spends x hours trying to learn, say, Facebook, how does that affect the business? Who does her operations job?

Additionally, the difference between great execution and poor execution is immense. If you try to DIY a marketing strategy, how will you know it’s working? How will you know if it could be better? What are you benchmarking against?  What happens if SHTF (stuff hits the fan) and someone made a big accidental misstep because they have no experience?

Using anything personally (social media especially) is wildly different from using it on behalf of an organization. It’s like assuming staying at hotel must be like running a hotel. Not so much.

Marketing activity alone is not valuable, and if done wrong, can be detrimental.  A strategy that leads to results is valuable.

The end goal is results, not activity.

DIY is one of my very favorite things. In fact, Pinterest is practically built on it! (Love Pinterest.)

But in the same sense that you would not hire your 20-year-old cousin to defend you in court if you were wrongfully accused (you would hire the lawyer with the best record of keeping clients free – regardless of cost per hour) – I would pay careful attention to where, when and why you DIY.

Because sometimes DIY is good, and sometimes…not so much.

Please share your thoughts in the comments!  And I would love to connect on social media.  @CharityIdeas  most everywhere, or Amy Neumann.

YWCA #ItsTimeToTalkCLE – Diversity and Racism Solutions!

4 Feb

Today I went to a YWCA event, #ItsTimeToTalkCLE, about diversity and racism. It was fascinating in our small groups to hear about personal experiences with prejudice, and it was truly enlightening.

YWCA Cleveland's #ItsTimeToTalkCLE at TriC 2017

The Reverend Joan Campbell and Jane Campbell with host Danielle Wiggins of WKYC, 2017 YWCA

One of my favorite things was the World Café, where we tackled racism in Cleveland and how to solve it, in one hour. What amazed me, was that this group of hundreds of people came together with hundreds of ideas, distilled into a few key areas and solutions for ways to solve the problems, in one hour through working together.

It reminded me of a few overarching things I have seen working with countless nonprofits over a couple decades:

  • Status Quo means… we should probably change that.  To me, the definition of Status Quo is, n. Latin: “We should probably change that.” The fact that something “has always been done this way” should really be a red flag.
  • We’re not fighting for a piece of the pie – we’re making the pie bigger. We’re all working together, because the world is digital and everywhere, all the time, to make the whole pie bigger. The pie is expanding with every smartphone. Collaborate. No need to be divisive. We’re all on the same team. And resources are not scarce. Money follows good ideas.
  • Self-awareness and openness is key to understanding, and tackling, racism, and other issues. We all have biases. We usually have no idea we do until we talk with people we don’t normally talk to, and that is normal. We don’t know what we don’t know. How and where we were raised influences us more than we might know. Only exploring and interrupting our little bubbles creates true opportunities to really learn about people different from ourselves. (Side note – traveling is one of my favorite things, for this very reason.)

The YWCA event was full of fascinating people with incredible ideas. It made me happy to be a Clevelander again after 16 years in Los Angeles, and made me excited to be part of everything happening in Cleveland right now.

YWCA #ItsTimeToTalkCLE 2017

We can create more together by including everyone.

What do you think we can do to make Cleveland more inclusive?

Please make sure to connect with me on Twitter @CharityIdeas, and also wherever you are on social media – I’m CharityIdeas (or Amy Neumann) everywhere.  I would love to hear your thoughts!

17 Reasons to Be Grateful in 2017

1 Jan

2017 is a year to celebrate!

Fall istock

Here are 17 simple reasons why you can appreciate and be thankful and grateful for 2017, because You matter:

  • People love you. Your friends, family, co-workers – they appreciate you!
  • You have all your senses – you can see the sunrise, taste cold water, smell the winter (or the spring), hear nature and the the people you love, feel and touch anything you decide to touch.
  • You can travel anywhere you want. Even if you don’t have two dimes to rub together you can travel in your mind to any place you want by reading a book.
  • You have the ability to change a life by smiling at a stranger every day. It could be the smile that makes a difference.
  • You can see the beauty of everything. “It’s not what you look at that matters. It’s what you see.” – HD Thoreau
  • You decide every day to make the world a better place by being kind. Do one kind deed today.
  • You can read. Most of the 7 billion people in the world can’t.
  • You can make a difference. Pick a cause and volunteer, donate, or tell a friend about it.
  • You bring a special light to the world. No one else is exactly like you. That is awesome!
  • You can move. You can run, walk, skip, jump, shimmy, anything you want.
  • You can speak. Your voice can change a life. You have the ability to tell someone your ideas and thoughts.
  • You can decide. You can tell someone yes, no, maybe. You can be the deciding voice about something important.
  • You can build. You can find your passion and turn it into something that can help other people get to where they want to go.
  • You can lend a hand to someone. Big or little, you can grab a hand and say “I’ve got you.” You can help someone even by listening.
  • You can gift someone. Maybe it’s as simple as a bigger tip than usual, or a word of encouragement to someone who seems stressed.
  • You can tell someone Thank You. That’s always a kind, fresh breeze on a hard day.
  • You can appreciate all the people who appreciate and love you. Take two minutes to write down all the names of the people you love and appreciate. Those are also all the people who love an appreciate you, who you can be thankful and grateful for every day in 2017.

What do you appreciate in 2017?   Please share your comments below!  Thanks, and happy 2017!


Try Simply Asking!

11 Nov

If you work in the nonprofit realm – or are part of small business – you know there are always countless questions you wish you had answers for:

  • Who is our best client?
  • What would they most like to see from us?
  • How can we do a better job?
  • How would they like to be contacted?
  • What’s most important to them?
  • What do they consider success (why would they give us a good rating/donation?)
  • What can what we do make their lives easier?
  • What could we do that would make them feel happier about working with us?
  • What outcomes need to happen for them to think, “Wow! I am so happy I worked with you!”?

All of these are questions. And the wonderful thing about questions is, you can get answers by asking them.

African American businesswoman raising hand, asking question in business conference

Sometimes we get so busy with our own questions (What should our next campaign be? How should our ads look? Who is our audience?) that we forget that we have a great source of people who are happy to answer many of those same questions.

Our best clients are happy to answer our questions…

If we ask!

So why do we forget to ask?

Although we do know a lot about our industry, our business or nonprofit, our audience, our trends, our campaigns, our fill-in-the-blank…

You know who often knows more than we do?

Our community knows. Our clients, our donors, our advocates, our constituents, our supporters – for both our businesses and our nonprofits.

So why on earth would we not ask them what they think?  We all know, based on experience, that people are happy to tell us most anything we want to know – both positive and negative – if we only ask.  It does take time and thought, and we’re all busy, however it can be tremendously helpful.

Too Many Questions

A great way to find answers is to ask good questions.

If you feel a bit nervous about asking for thoughts and ideas, thinking it may bring forth some negatives with the positives, consider this…

People are already telling everyone their every thought about your product, service, business, or nonprofit right now. And they always have. “Word of mouth” now, however, is instantaneous and massive. Social media and ratings are already answering many of our questions, but outside of being a good listener there, you can’t proactively learn much about your key questions.

So if people are already talking, and answering questions on social media and elsewhere, why not take advantage of this golden opportunity to ask them specific questions?

[A side note about social media. Often people tell me they are wary of having a robust social media presence because “people might say negative things.” To which I would give the following analogy.

If I go to a huge, festive annual gala, where everyone is talking and having fun in a large, loud room, and I hold my hands over my ears – does everyone stop talking? Or do I just not hear them?]

That’s how it works now – that’s what social media is. If I choose to ignore input– or not be actively present and listening on social media – then I am simply clamping my hands over my ears. No one has stopped talking, or saying whatever they want, good or bad (and it’s usually mostly good!). I have simply just chosen put my fingers in my ears, and say *lalala, I can’t hear you,  lalala* (not too unlike in elementary school).

cute little child not listening, sticking out his tongue

It sounds funny, but it’s not far from how we might sometimes treat asking questions, or listening to answers, in today’s world of social media.

So here are a few new digital ways to ask questions, and to listen to the great advice people are giving already, and are willing to give if asked.

  • Listen – Pay attention on social media. Pay attention to mentions of your business or nonprofit that use your name or cause (or #hashtags associated with your name or cause). Paying attention and listening in other places is assumed.
  • Ask – Ask your clients/supporters all about what they want. People are usually happy to tell you their likes and dislikes, what you are doing well or could do better, or anything else you wonder about.
    1. If you have a lot of questions, consider offering something in return for their time, like a unique opportunity or a discount. Time is valuable, so offer people something in return for their kindness of answering important questions, for example in surveys or quick polls.
  • Learn – All this asking is toward an end – getting better. Make it your mission to get better, whether it’s in the services you provide or the missions you accomplish. Also consider this “Listening.” The learning is when the listening meets making proactive changes.
  • Appreciate – The flipside of asking is appreciation. If you ask, thank. People don’t mind helping, and often enjoy giving feedback, however no one wants to feel like they helped without feeling gratitude back. Thank the people who help with your listening and learning quest. Another great way to show appreciate is by taking positive actions to change in the direction people have indicated they want.

To be competitive now, whether as a business or a nonprofit, listening to your clients is critical. And a key to listening is asking good questions.

(These tips work equally well for employees.)

If you want to know the answer to the questions on your mind, consider the idea of:

Simply Asking.

Results Green Road Sign Over Clouds

What do you think? Do you have interesting ways to ask clients/supporters for information?

Please share your thoughts in the comments below, and connect with me on LinkedIn,  @CharityIdeas, on the Good Plus Tech Facebook page, or on Pinterest.

(And please check out my new nonprofit launching in February 2017 – Free Tech for Nonprofits.)

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