Archive | August 2012

Reducing the Carbon Footprint of Keeping in Touch

’ve worked in three organisations where the headquarters have been in Bristol, while I’ve been in Edinburgh. This made keeping in touch with the rest of my team challenging! Phone calls and emails can keep in touch to a point but team meetings are really helpful for people to get to know each other and discuss work.

Travelling between Edinburgh and Bristol takes a long time and leaves a big carbon footprint. Two of the organisations I worked with actively encouraged rail travel (and I happily took the train!), but that takes about eight hours between Edinburgh and Bristol! Although taking the train to London actually doesn’t take that much longer than flying (when you take into account airport bus journeys and all the hanging about in the airport) with Bristol you do save time by flying. Don’t get me wrong, I prefer the train and would always encourage colleagues to take the train too, but I can see the argument that a hard pressed organisation might want to save the additional time and cost of the train journey.

It’s vital to meet face to face at least sometimes, but how can you reduce the number of journeys that you make?

I’ve been involved in video conferences, but being the one person in the Edinburgh office faced with eleven people in the Bristol office can make it difficult to properly participate in the meeting, specially if you’re the kind of person who likes to think before making your contribution. I’ve also been involved in telephone conferences with all participants being in different offices, those have worked better, because no-one can see anyone else and so everyone is in the same boat and needing to think carefully about how to include everyone in the discussions. There’s Skype too of course, which is good because it needs minimal equipment and is free. I’ve only ever used Skype in an internet cafe though, which didn’t lead to the most positive atmosphere for a meeting!

If you work in an organisation that is based in widespread offices, how do you manage to reduce the carbon footprints of your meetings?

The Handbook of Market Intelligence

I was delighted to win a copy of The Handbook of Market Intelligence in a Twitter competition run by The Big Red Tomato Company. I was asked to take a photo of myself with the book for their Facebook Page, so here it is. A review will follow in due course.

Some thoughts on Customer Care

I was browsing old posts on my Over Forty Shades blog and found this one and thought it would be worth using as a basis for a blog post here. I had been talking about customer care, or the lack of it in certain situations.

Although the examples I used in the original post happened a while ago now, they’re worth repeating. The first one is just an example of excellent, efficient customer care:

Saraband Books held a competition on Twitter, asking people to tweet about Woodlands. I was honoured and delighted that my tweeted haiku won this competition. I was equally delighted by the fact that Saraband sent me a direct message on Twitter immediately asking for my address and congratulating me and telling me when they would post out my prize. I was even more delighted when the prize (a copy of the wonderful Woodlanders book, which I reviewed on Crafty Green Poet) arrived the next day.

Now of course, sometimes things go wrong and it’s how you deal with that, that matters:

I had entered a Hollywood Haiku competition on Best for Film, which asked for haiku reviews of films. I sent in two haiku and was annoyed when the second one bounced back! I left a comment in their blog and within a few minutes I’d received a reply asking me to send my entry to an alternative email address, which I did. Then later that day they’ve emailed all contestants, apologising for the bounced emails, extending the deadline to 23 May and assuring us all our future entries to the competition will reach the organisers!

So those are two examples of good customer care, unlike:

The publisher who shall remain nameless who held a competition on Twitter, which I won, but even six weeks later, after a reminder via Twitter and an email direct to the company, still had not only not sent my prize, but they didn’t even communicate with me at all! Similarly, the publisher who held a competition, which I won, but they had run out of copies of the book I had chosen as a prize. They emailed me to offer an alternative, but have not been in touch since I chose an alternative!

The environmental organisation in Scotland, who shall remain nameless, who contacted me to say they were so pleased that my Crafty Green Poet blog drives a considerable amount of traffic to their website, that they would reward me with a substantial free gift. They then did not communicate with me at all, despite me asking them for clarification. I’d linked to their website with no thought other than visitors to my blog would enjoy their site and their charity, and never expected to receive anything in return. Now however I have begun to feel antagonistic to this organisation, because their customer care is so poor.

Then of course there is the utility company which constantly makes errors with our account. Their customer care is excellent, in terms of politeness and efficiency of staff dealing with the calls. However, although as I said above, things do go wrong, it would be better all round in a case like this, if the utility account operated smoothly, with no need for constant complaints to the customer care department, no matter how nicely they’re dealt with!

The moral of the story is that if you want to offer a gift or a prize then you make very sure that you actually deliver on your promises otherwise you risk annoying people and losing customer goodwill. If you find you have made a promise you can’t keep for whatever reason, then get in touch to apologise and explain why you can’t fulfil your promise, that way you may disappoint someone but at least they will admire your honesty!

As ever, bold text contains hyperlinks that take you to other web-pages where you can find out more.


The power of storytelling in fundraising

For some reason I thought today of this story someone told me, years ago, about a fundraiser they knew, who worked for an animal rescue centre.

This fundraiser would, every Friday afternoon, as a kind of fun activity, take a pin and stick it in a fundraising directory and then write a letter to the randomly chosen grant making trust.

This particular day the trust selected stated clearly that they never made donations to animal charities. However, our fundraiser was not easily daunted and noticing that the trust had a particular interest in deprived children, she put together a letter. In this letter she focused on a child, let’s call him Billy, who came from a deprived background, his parents were in constant dispute and were often violent to him and to each other, he was undernourished and underachieving at school. Then one day Billy found a stray cat, he had a PDSA  vet check the animal;s health, looked into how to feed it properly and looked after it as if it were his own. As a result Billy started to take more care of his appearance, started to pay more attention at school and even inspired his parents to fight less. If rehoming a cat could make such a difference to a child’s life then shouldn’t this charitable trust consider funding an animal rescue centre?

The chief executive of the trust was impressed by the ‘sheer cheek’ of this fundraising approach and made a generous donation to the rescue centre. Now, it’s not an approach that can be guaranteed to work every time, but it does nicely highlight the power of storytelling in fundraising appeals.

What are your powerful stories from your work that help you secure funding?