Podcast: Yacine Bara's Financial Planning Against Poverty

Yacine Bara is the founder of Winnipeg based ChangeWealth, a financial planning social enterprise. They are working to provide an alternative source of income for social impact organizations. We had the chance to speak about how social enterprise can work towards finding better sources of capital to fund their operations, and how social enterprise must be able to function as a business to achieve their social goals.

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Defining Success

Or: What makes a social enterprise?

How you define success should influence your pricing, distribution, packaging, employment practices, and more. Every aspect of your operations should point back to your definition.

We each have different priorities for our lives. We want different things and we value some things over others. For myself, being able to live close to my family and get intentional time with them each week is something that I value over having a larger home or the chance to live somewhere exotic.

When we choose our priorities individually, we are making decisions about how we use our time and our energy, what kinds of things we spend our money on and the kinds of people we build relationships with. When we find and define what our personal success looks like, it is easier to find the path that leads towards fulfillment.

As a business, making an explicit definition of success is the key to making an impact. By expressing and committing to a definition of success that goes beyond profit you can become a social enterprise.

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Podcast: Community Economic Development with Sarah Leeson-Klym

Sarah Leeson-Klym is the Manitoba Regional Director of the Canadian Community Economic Development Network. We were able to sit down and have a conversation about how community economic development can impact cities, how leaders emerge, and how we can speak about developing and new framework for economic development. She also shares her personal story of how she got involved in the movement.

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A New Definition of Networking

Or: To Network is to give

Networking is hard. You sign up for a conference where you don’t know anybody, you spend all your time scoping out people who might be interested in what you’re selling, and you hand out 40 business cards. Then weeks down the line, still nobody has contacted you back.

There is a better way to network. It starts with changing your mindset.

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How to Figure Out What Media Work for You

Or: Why Twitter Works for You… Or Not.

Everyone has at one point been told, “there’s this new thing out there, it’s called __________. It’s really big, everyone’s on it, and we should be too.” How can you tell if this new media will be useful for your business or organization?

First off, no matter what anyone else says, you don’t need to be on whatever new media they’re talking about right this second. For most new media, there’s a period of time where it’s uncertain if it will actually take off or not, or how it can be used for business or nonprofit marketing. It takes a while for best practices to be established, no matter the platform. You don’t need to rush.

Ok, well if we can take our time and choose our media wisely, what should we be looking for in a marketing platform? There are a couple different considerations that need to be thought about when you’re looking to start any kind of marketing.

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Putting the Social back in Social Networks

Or: Organizational Listening for Beginners

Have you ever wondered what your customers and clients think about you and your organization? If you haven’t then you’re likely not focusing enough on how you affect your customers. If you have, but didn’t know where to start, this post is for you.

Part of the rise of social media has been because of a desire to hear and be heard. Where most organizations see social media as a new way of marketing, the most successful firms use social media as a method to connect with their customer base. There must be a significant shift in how you operate as an organization to be able to move from advertising on social media to connecting through social media.

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Optimizing Webpages for People

In my previous article I explained how you can start improving the SEO of your pages. Now, all of that SEO is worthless if you don’t also improve how your pages function for the end user. You want to have a page that is both accessible and useful. This can be done in a variety of ways, but I will be walking you through how to use links to improve your site accessibility, how to format your content to present it in a more understandable way, and how to use lists to your advantage.

 

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SEO Basics

SEO, or Search Engine Optimization is an important tool in the modern digital marketing toolkit. It is a method for writing webpages and content that attempt to gain better visibility on the most used online tools: search engines.

Anyone with a computer who wants to know anything uses search engines. If you want people to see your online site, you probably want to optimize for a better position with those search engines.

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How to Respond to Challenges

Have you ever thought that you just need more time for a project? That you need more money, more support, more space or more staff to complete the work appropriately? These are typical constraints that are ever present in work environments. It is typical for every part of life that we have constraints, and it is no different in business or for social organizations.

I would like to argue that our constraints are actually what lead to creativity.

“When we face an obstacle or a barrier or limitation, we don’t see that as a negative, we see that as fertile ground for creativity so that we are forced to think creatively to solve a problem.” – Roger Berrington, Volunteer Executive Director of CanU

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The Most Important Part of Communication

Trust is the most important part of any communication. Without trust, there is no way to communicate. Because of that, you need to find ways to build trust with your audience.

Why is it important for your audience to trust you? Have ever had a friend that always asks for a couple bucks every few weeks and rarely pays you back? After a while, no matter how much they promise they will pay you back, you won’t really believe them. If you can’t trust the people that you’re talking to, then nothing of significance can come from the conversation.

There are many ways to build trust with audiences. The most important part of building trust is consistency. As people see your brand acting in a consistent way, they will begin to trust that you will stay the same. From that initial trust, you can begin trying to expand that trust to include your work.

Usually when people first encounter your organization, you will have people who are excited to see what you do, and those who are naturally skeptical. You will need to be able to interact effectively with both kinds of people.

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How to Write Like You’re Talking to Real People

Have you ever written a piece for your company’s blog and felt that it came out wooden and stiff? How about writing Facebook broadcasts that ended up being a bad sales pitch? Tweets like you’re talking to cardboard? Instagram pics that… You’ve probably already got something in mind.

We’ve all seen examples of poor performance that comes from producing content for “the website” or for “the internet.” Often you can see that it wasn’t written for anyone. You can do better.

Audience personas are tools to help you speak to your audience.

Audience personas are useful because they help you imagine who you are talking with. They can also help guide you to understand what you should talk about.

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Use What You Already Have

How skilled do you think you are at your job? How skilled are you at your hobbies? Is your skill level between your work activities and your hobbies connected?

I believe if you find ways to connect the different skills you have, you will be more effective in all areas. In looking at different aspects of your skills, you can find useful perspectives that you already use, but in different areas of your life.

Typically, only soft skills are described as transferable skills. Abilities like public speaking, leadership, time management, and interpersonal skills. I allow the definition to be quite a bit wider than that. I include understanding different organizational systems, competence with specific technical software, and understanding design principles as transferable skills, as well as most other technical skills.

With each new skill that is added to your toolkit, you get a new mindset that can be drawn on. Whenever you are actively using a skill, you may notice that you start to see what you do in a different way. You shift into a different mindset to better use your skill.

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Transferable Skills

How skilled do you think you are at your job? How skilled are you at your hobbies? Is your skill level between your work activities and your hobbies connected?

I believe if you find ways to connect the different skills you have, you will be more effective in all areas. In looking at different aspects of your skills, you can find useful perspectives that you already use, but in different areas of your life.

Typically, only soft skills are described as transferable skills. Abilities like public speaking, leadership, time management, and interpersonal skills. I allow the definition to be quite a bit wider than that. I include understanding different organizational systems, competence with specific technical software, and understanding design principles as transferable skills, as well as most other technical skills.

With each new skill that is added to your toolkit, you get a new mindset that can be drawn on. Whenever you are actively using a skill, you may notice that you start to see what you do in a different way. You shift into a different mindset to better use your skill.

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Who Do You Compete With?

Most nonprofits don’t see themselves as competing with other organizations. In the traditional sense, they don’t. Most nonprofits don’t compete to sell a product or service.

Looking at competition in a different light, nonprofits definitely compete in a variety of ways with other organizations. They compete with other nonprofits and charities for donations, they compete with all forms of entertainment for the time of their volunteers. They also compete with significant industry lobbyists for the ear of politicians.

There are many ways in which nonprofits need to compete.

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Urgency and Importance

There are a lot of tasks that get done in a typical day. If you’re anything like me, you’ve got a never-ending list of tasks and chores that should get done.  How do you decide what has to happen first and what has to wait?

I can’t remember where I first heard about the distinction between urgent and important. It seems like it is possibly one of the most significant tools for social entrepreneurs or nonprofit organizers. It is also known as the Eisenhower principle.

The Eisenhower principle is used to decide whether a given task is important, urgent, both or neither, and then to prioritize your time toward the important tasks.

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How to Set Goals

How do you set goals?

Many people set goals that are meaningless and have no grounding in reality. You can do better than that.

I see goals as being separated into two categories. First there are high level goals. Things like “engage the community” or “increase sales.”  Next there are specific goals, which I call objectives. Objectives are things like “increase average webpage visit by 10 seconds in 3 months.”

Goals are only useful if they lead to good objectives. If you stop at goals, they are meaningless.

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How to write an elevator pitch

The ideal elevator pitch takes less than 10 seconds to repeat, and is used to intrigue whoever you’re talking with. The elevator pitch is not to sell a product or service, but to introduce yourself and your organization. If you have a good elevator pitch, the people who you speak to will either be interested and ask for more information, or they will know that they aren’t interested in what you have to offer.

 

When establishing an elevator pitch for yourself or your organization, start with a couple paragraphs describing the brand of your organization. When writing out these paragraphs, try to answer the following questions:

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