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Whoa, Nelly!

…er, Nora. Ok, I am actually not going to post my pre-proposal today.

It takes more than one day to do this. I have acquired the password for one journal that will be cited in my pre-proposal, and have given the structure more thought. I will spend more time writing it tomorrow and will post it when I have it.

The general path is that I would discover what types of development messages are communicated in publications from universities. I think I would go about this by conducting a rhetorical criticism of the content of a year (two?) of the institutional magazine for each of the top 10 fundraising universities. The idea is still a little fuzzy – which was a major roadblock to me two years ago. I would get a spark of an idea for a thesis topic, then think it out a little further, then determine that it was not a feasible research topic and then get frustrated. This one I am kind of starting to get frustrated with, but I KNOW there must be a topic within development messaging that will work. If I start here, I think I can flesh it out perhaps with the help of some esteemed inviduals.

Tonight I will read two theses successfully defended by former classmates to get a better idea of how I need to focus my thinking. I will also send a second e-mail about class registration.

This afternoon I heard back from my thesis advisor when she responded to my question about how to retroactively enroll in the Thesis Continuation course. She signed it, “Good to hear from you, Dr. X.” Which is a little encouraging, right?


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Ok, ok. So I spent 2-1/2 hours today working on my thesis, which is more than I have spent total over the past 1-1/2 years. I’m not sure why I am so lame about writing my thesis; actually, I do know but it sounds like a ream of excuses. I’ll spare you except for one. I did nothing to prepare for my thesis during my two years of coursework and for some reason, despite significant encouragement from a wise colleague who was also in the program. So when thesis time came for me, I was overwhelmed at the thought and didn’t know where to start. And I still am…

However, I must soldier on or face losing the chance to actually graduate.

Today I made major steps:

  • enrolled in the Summer 2010 Thesis Continuation class
  • e-mailed the program chair to ask for her grace to retroactively add me to the spring Thesis Continuation class
  • conducted initial journal research and identified sources, downloaded articles
  • began to sketch out my pre-proposal

I shall share my pre-proposal on Monday night.

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Day 1, or Day 366

It’s a new day.

Discipline and regimen have never been part of my life. Watching Olympic athletes competing this weekend made me think that I have no idea, no concept of what it takes to dedicate myself to a goal or a passion with the vigor needed to excel. Even when I trained to run a marathon, I followed the the training program at, maybe, 50%, and my 5:11 time reflected that – BUT it was still the stereotypical yuppie life-changing experience for me. As long as I can remember, I race to the finish on deadlines, hit snooze most mornings for a solid hour, mail bills the day they’re due, start a project with grand dreams but it ends up stuffed in a box on a closet shelf, talk about going to the gym but can’t seem to get into a routine. I hate the way this feels; while I’m not so crazy that I don’t realize what a big and rewarding life I have, there’s always been this nagging feeling that I haven’t lived up to my potential, in so many areas.

BUT TODAY, I turned a corner. Up at 5:40, ran 2 miles, crunched some abs and did a few pushups. Came home, made some tea, ate oatmeal with dried cherries and pecans, and fired up the computer. Set for success!

The day already feels good because there is No Way I will hit 5:30 and rationalize myself out of going to the gym. Because I’ve already worked out, that feeling won’t be hanging over my head all day.

A minor accomplishment, but I’m taking it one day at a time. It’s not just about working out regularly; it’s this need to show myself I CAN do something if I stick my mind to it. The working out isn’t what this blog or this new day is about; tomorrow I’ll delve into what this blog is really about – a major project that I’ve put off for so long that I now face losing three years worth of time-consuming and expensive work.

Tomorrow: Another Workout and Finally Starting My Thesis

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Long time, no…

This blog started as a project for a class I took studying for a master’s in communication from Johns Hopkins. I’d hoped it would evolve into a place where I post interesting news about communication and the digital world, but for multiple reasons that thought died quickly.

Life has changed a lot since the birth of this blog – I’m one thesis defense away from graduation (although that’s longer than it sounds) and now back in Florida. I still work for Johns Hopkins, now telecommuting to Baltimore from 1,000 a miles away. (It’s working magnificently – better than I’d imagined) I moved back to Florida to spend more time with my boyfriend who I met when I was a reporter at the St Pete Times and somehow just couldn’t shake after I left for Baltimore. All those components of life just fell neatly into place and, well, sometimes I have to pinch myself to know that this is real!

So now I’m ready to start blogging again. Some potential topics:
-digital communications & the intersection with philanthropic goals
-cooking healthy, whole foods for two

Give me a bit to get geared up, but I’m hoping something good will come of this. Stay tuned…

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Thanks to Twitter, I just landed on Shel Israel’s blog about social networks, Global Neighbourhoods. I happen to think Mr. Israel – and his counterpart, Robert Scoble, is rather brilliant, after reading on two separate occastions for two separate classes his book “Naked Conversations: How Blogs are Changing the Way Businesses Talk with Customers.” 

In a nutshell, these two published a book in 2006 clearly articulating how the Internet has leveled the communications playing field, changing the coversation between businesses and customers/clients from a one-way, paternalistic lecture to a two-way transparent conversation. People out there in the InterWebs can host their own blogs, like this one you read right now, where they air issues and publish their thoughts and opinions, have conversations with strangers and share information at a rapid, no-holds barred pace. Businesses should to two things, Scoble and Israel poist: 1. Pay attention to the blogs out there that comment on their company and industry and engage in the conversation and 2. Erect their own blogs where company leaders/influencers can speak openly in a personal, non-PR manner to connect with customers in a “real” way.

So I just read a post on Israel’s blog, and it’s fascinating: Comcast has staffers on a “team that scans social media and responds quickly to customer complaints with offers to help.” The blog post is about a guy whose beat is Twitter. Revolutionary!

Apparently this is old news, but its new to me, and I am fascinated to find out that a behemoth corporation like Comcast is devoting staff time to monitoring and engaging social media like Twitter.  Will find out more on this one…

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I work at a monolithic non-profit, where we really are eradicating disease, educating future leaders, saving lives millions at a time, and making the world a better place. Really. This December we will wrap up a remarkably successful fundraising campaign that is on pace to exceed $3.5 billion.

I also work, on a volunteer or academic basis, with smaller non-profits that lack the super-power reputation and the tradition of giving within an established constituency. This summer one organization struggled to raise just a few thousand dollars, falling short of our goal and leaving many discouraged. The main problem was a lack of articulated need, as well as an unmotivated core of individuals tasked with making the asks despite being given communications assets and talking points.

Looking back, I see that the smaller organization’s micro-campaign might have benefited from the same principles that guide the strategy behind the larger organization’s. As an article, “Changing the World: Why its important for all fund-raising campaigns to follow the lead of the big ones and stress results, not need,” said:

Wage a billion-dollar campaign, and the campaign is about the message, and what philanthropy can do for you. Wage a small campaign, and the campaign is about the money, and what that money can do for us.

Interesting point. And not one I would have applied, despite my background in development communications. But I can see how that strategy would be effective. Our goals as a small arts organization aren’t, really, any less important than those of the larger institution. We have a lot of work to do to get to the same level, but there’s no reason why we shouldn’t position our goals and accomplishments with the same strategy.


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The non-profit for which I’ve worked for the past three years has struggled to launch an addendum to our Web site that promotes the impact of philanthropy and conveys our need. There’s a million reasons, but one big one is that we never took the time or resources to identify what our constituents might seek in a development-centric Web site. Wht would they even need one, and what would people use it for? We are still trying to figure that out (and starting to make headway, thanks to a consulting company that sees dollar signs but also is willing to push us forward.) While thinking about that, I found a blog post on “Zen and the Art of Non-Profit Technology,” that puts together, simply, a list of mistakes non-profits tend to make on the Web. The list promotes the need for transparency, and warns Web sites not to over promise, because failure to deliver is the death of a Web site.

It’s a good guideline to keep at top of mind when developing Internet strategy for any organization, non-profit or not.

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