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My Shuka Friend

Posted on September 27, 2016 at 8:00 PM Comments comments (21993)

Shuka cloth, othewise known as the “African blanket,” is worn by the Maasai people of East Africa. You've most likely seen it in photos or even in person. It's predominantly red with plaid containing blue, black yellow and white.

It’s durable and warm and meant to protect the Maasai from the harsh weather and terrain of the savannah as these nomadic warriors hunt for food and spend weeks in the wild. They also raise goats and cattle for their milk and blood, which supplements their diet, and use their livestock for trade.

Their traditions are some of the most visible we have the priviledge to observe and their culture and customs some of the most enduring. There are roughly 1.5 million in and around the Masai Mara National Reserve of Kenya, which is where I had the pleasure of meeting my first tribe.

However, later in my travels, I was even more fortunate to visit a village that was unprepared for guests and ungroomed for tourists. It will forever be one of the most memorable moments in my life. On the way to the village, we stopped at a roadside stand for water and I picked up a Shuka since I knew it was made and sold locally. 

While at the village I thought about trading my new Shuka with someone in the tribe so that they could have something new while I had something authentically worn and used (this has become somewhat of a tradition of mine in my travels). I spoke to the tribe's only English speaker and asked if anyone would be offended by a trade. She assured me it was welcome and all I had to do was pick out the person I wanted to trade with.

This photo is of my Shuka trade. Needless to say, I had to pack my "new" Shuka in lots of ziplock bags and wash it many, many times when I got home. It still smells "authentic" with a touch of campfire smoke, but the memory is priceless. 

I often think of my Shuka friend and the stories he may have told of his odd experience with an American, but I never worry that the exchange was not respectful or even unwelcome. The day in that village was filled with love and friendship and mutual curiousity. 

My hope is that we will always be respectful of those with whom we share the world, and that our reputation as Americans will endure the current administration and remain one of gracious exceptance and tolerance.








The Tale of Two Silos: NPO Marketing and Sales

Posted on February 13, 2015 at 9:30 PM Comments comments (8964)

Once upon a time there was a CMO of a large research institution who was asked to support the VP of Development on a campaign that would build donor and alumni engagement.

The CMO asked for a strategic plan, or at least the advancement goals for the year. They didn’t exist. The CMO asked for relevant data that would support campaign direction. It didn’t exist. The CMO wondered if resources were allocated for this campaign. They were not. The CMO requested to know how the success of the campaign would be measured. “Whether or not we raise money,” said the VP. When pressed for some creative direction that the VP and his leadership would consider on point, the answer given was, “I just saw the movie 'Avatar' last night. That’s what I want. I want Avatar!”

Unless a fairy godmother appeared, "Avatar" was not going to happen without reasonable resources leaving the campaign - and possibly the relationship - in jeopardy. Unfortunately, this tale is all too familiar within nonprofit communications/marketing departments (Marcom) and their development colleagues. Marketing and “sales” have long ago bifurcated their approach to achieving results. But with a mutual understanding of how the two areas operate, successful outcomes and positive partnerships are possible.

1. Both marketing and fundraising are responsible for only one goal – the success of the organization for which you work. If that is not the primary focus, too much time is spent defending unique positions.

2. Fundraisers react and respond quickly to giving trends, advancement research and donor needs, which is very different from a marketer’s need to define strategy, actions, geo/demo targets, budgets, etc. Provide sales with the print and in-person solutions that they need to operate efficiently and get granular with them later.

3. Advancement professionals do not need to understand branding, content marketing or social solutions, but they need to respect it. Without the strong foundation built on executing these strategies, the ability to cultivate new and long-term donors, members and friends is more difficult and formal. Let these tools work to warm up your audience.

4. Like it or not, both departments need to collaborate on organizational goal setting, campaign budgets and schedules. If done during fiscal year planning, it will eventually become a painless part of the process.

For more information on how the two departments can live happily ever after, check out the 2013 Nonprofit Communications Trends Report and note that the most important goals for nonprofit communicators in 2013 is “Acquiring New Donors.”

Without a deeper understanding of their peers in development, Marcom will find meeting these goals a challenge. Fuseideas is in a unique position to build both awareness and giving. With internal expertise in advancement communications, donor relations and stewardship, plus award-winning traditional and digital marketing solutions for academic; nonprofit; travel/tourism; healthcare; and consumer clients, we dismantle silos and send you successfully riding off into the sunset.


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