Muddlings

Pottery, nonprofits and for-profit consulting. Exploring synergies between the three and ideology specific to each.

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

New Pots Are Out




For those of you following along at home... about 20 pots came out of a successful firing over Memorial Day weekend - another half-dozen are expected to come out within the next week.

We stumbled upon a couple of really nice glaze combinations and a Shino that I'm really excited about (detail pictured above).

Approximately 12 of them are already accounted for. The remainder will be posted to the PBA Pottery store page and available for purchase by 06.06.05. Stay tuned for more info. pba.

Writing for the Web

How does your nonprofit think about content? Do the statements below sound familiar?
  • "We cut and paste the content from our annual report to our Web site"
  • "We started talking about content after we figured out what our site was going to look like"
  • "Our content focuses on what our organization does and how we're structured to deliver our services."

How about these?

  • "We figure out what is important to our audience first. Then we begin writing. Then we simplify it."
  • "We have established specific guidelines around tone, tense, and length for each type of content we generate."
  • "We never cut and paste directly from offline documents. There is always atleast one round of edits for clarity, length, and structure before placing it online. "

If the first set of statements sound familiar, it's time to step back for a minute and reconsider your approach. If the second set of statements rings true, then congrats - you're on the right track.

The basics you need to consider as you write for the web:

  1. Audience. Your site user/reader is why you're here. Don't write a word without thinking of the person(s) that will be reading your work. Make sure your target audience cares about it and remove references that don't mean anything to them. Talk to them in a genuine voice that they can relate to.
  2. Medium. Reading online is different than reading offline. Assume that your readers are grumpy skimmers looking for a reason to leave. Assume they're in a hurry. Assume they are unforgiving.
  3. Length. Try to keep it as concise as possible. "Grumpy skimmers" don't want to read paragraphs longer than 50 words - they want bullets and snippets wherever possible.

There is a plethora of free information on this topic online. Check out the following resources as you begin creating or updating content for your site:

These are just a start - a couple of searches on Google! will yield many an article on the topic. The items above are a bit more comprehensive and worth reviewing first.

Feel free to drop a line with any questions you may have - if I don't have a point of view on the topic, we can talk it through and arrive at one together. Take care. pba.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Email Marketing ROI Test for Nonprofits

Work in the development office of a nonprofit organization? Are you an Executive Director seeking more information about electronic communication methods? As Tom Cruise once said... "Help me, help you!...".

As a part of Rhumbline's recently-launched GiveAhead program (a business development program that provides Organizational Alignment and Web work to nonprofits on an ability-to-pay basis in order to expand our network of relationships), we're looking for organizations that are willing to share their offline newsletter process and expenses with us.



We'll use the information as we evaluate EMMA, an email marketing company we're considering partnering with going forward. Our initial look at the product leads us to believe it will be a viable option for nonprofit organizations (based on cost and usability) and we'd like to back up those initial inklings with concrete numbers prior to signing up as an Agency Partner.

So... why fill 1 of 2 slots in our little ROI test? You'll get free analysis, education, and a determination of whether or not EMMA, or another tool like it, could reduce expenses and enable you to serve more folks along the way. Rhumbline will better understand the ways we can help nonprofits improve their communication and potentially establish a new partnership. Sounds like a win-win to me.

Drop me an email at panderson at rhumblinepartners dot com if you're interested.

If you're just interested in learning more about EMMA, contact Annie Kinnaird (annie at myemma dot com). She's a fine soul that will walk you through the site and maybe, if you're really nice, even let you play with a test account. Please let her know you heard about EMMA from Pete @ Rhumbline. (Yes, that does mean that Rhumbline is getting a small spiff for referrals ;)

Saturday, May 07, 2005

SEO Update - Yahoo! - "We're baaaack"

Let's do a little recap: we're in the process of updating the pbapottery home page so that it appears on the first page of results on Yahoo! and Google for the search phrase "stoneware pottery" (a string that is now up to more than 1 million results on Google)
  • The page started at position 17 within Yahoo!
  • The page dropped to position 39 or so for no apparent reason within Yahoo! (prior to implementing changes)
  • The page moved from 39 up to 12 after making modifications
  • The page outright disappeared from Yahoo! about 3 days later (for a period of about a week-and-a-half)
  • And the latest... the page has now reappeared and is back at position #12

When I inquired with Yahoo! regarding the inconsistency (Googles results have been far more consistent), I waited a little over a week to hear back... then I received a scripted reply... but the page magically reappeared in the index which is far more important than their communication with me.

So... we'll be getting back to it shortly in hopes of picking up that last couple of spots that will place on page 1 instead of page 2. Thanks for playing along. pba.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Fundraising - State a Goal & Keep Folks in the Loop

How do you raise $3600 or so in less than a week-and-a-half?

By honestly stating a case, asking and accepting donations of ANY size, and keeping people up to date. I wasn't following any specific methodology while raising money for a friend at church that had cancer. We simply knew that we had a few guys willing to shave their heads and a goal of about $2000 with about 8 days to raise it.

We thought we were being aggressive in our goal-setting since each of us had full-time jobs and family commitments that limited the time we could commit to the effort.

We created a single online page with Bill's story, a couple of photos, a few PayPal donation buttons, and the "Bald-O-Meter" to track our progress. We spread the word via e-mail, face-to-face conversations, and announcements at our church. We ended up receiving donations totaling over $3600 (a small dent in Bill's medical bills, but much appreciated help).

And what, beyond our bald heads was most mentioned? The Bald-o-meter. We had over 550 visitors to the page - 150 of which returned to continue to keep tabs on our progress with the bald-o-meter. Folks rally around tracking mechanisms because they make them feel a part of something larger than themselves.

So... when your nonprofit is pursuing raising funds online...
  • Be specific with your goals (and make them realistic ones)
  • Help folks understand how many donors at a certain dollar amount it will take to meet your goal
  • That said, accept donations of any size and sincerely appreciate every penny you receive
  • Provide a mechanism for ongoing updates and provide them throughout your campaign (don't be afraid to have a little fun with it)

fyi... Bill is in remission and back at work as I type this message. He now has hair and I still have stubble. I have yet to be able to make it through the chia-pet stage where your hair is too short to do anything with, so I'm stickin' with stubble for now. Take care and happy fundraising. pba.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Shameless Familial Plug - Joy Williams




My "little cousin", Joy has her third album coming out today. Check out her site and pick up a copy of Genesis @ grassrootsmusic.com. The only thing bigger than her voice is her heart.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Signing Pots




I recently read a blog entry on potteryblog.com about signing pots and thought the topic was interesting enough to take a few minutes and document my own approach for the sake of posterity...

Upper case initials one side of the foot, lower case initials on the opposite side of the foot.

The signature is created using the three corresponding keys from an old typewriter that I picked up at a thrift store during my college days. Those three keys have survived somewhere between 13 and 15 years (many of which they sat dormant) and, if all goes according to plan, they'll be around for quite some time to come.



Why this approach? I'd say I've got about 5 reasons:
  • Visual symmetry - I find it pleasing to have the caps offset with their lowercase counterparts.
  • Limited size - regardless of the size of the piece, the signature is ultimately small and unobtrusive - it's ultimately about the pot, not my signature.
  • Same but different - I'm a hybrid business analyst/consultant and potter/maker - it's a relatively extreme dichotomy, but one that exists in each of us at some level. Everybody has uppercase and lowercase parts of themselves - I love the subtlety that goes with using both in my mark.
  • Throwback - I'm a self-professed geek when it comes to gadgets and technology, so the concept of using typewriter and letterpress text from a bygone era is pert-near poetic to me.
  • Unique - I may have been suckered in by an Arby's slogan from a few years back, but this is one area that, as far as I'm concerned, Different is Good...

So, while future folks may need to depend on the Internet Archive to find out what the "pba" means on the bottom of their antique piece of pottery, you can rest easy with a full understanding of said signature. Thanks for reading & take care. pba.