Archive for category Tools
Some simple, free ways to start…………………………
Writers often share with me their frustration that their number of reads are not what they would like them to be.
First, allow me to encourage you by saying, for my first couple of years of blogging, it seemed like a heroic feat achieving double digit reads on any of my pieces.
That being said, here are some mistakes or omissions that I made that I see other people frequently make:
- Failing to share or cross-promote the blog posts of colleagues or other close allies — If you are part of a blogging team, promote the posts of others on the team. Comment on them. In other words, the “do unto others” rule applies here. If you would like them to help promote your blog posts, then you must also be willing to do the same for them.
- Forgetting to take advantage of link-ups on popular sites — For example, Jolene Philo has a link-up every Tuesday on her site, www.differentdream.com. Ellen Seidman has a weekend link-up every Friday at, www.lovethatmax.com. There are others out there as well.
- Not being where my audience is — If you are not on social media sites like Pinterest and Twitter, you need to be there. That is where your audience dwells. Pinterest is the #2 social media out there, according to a report in Mashable. Although I went there reluctantly, the mutual sharing ends up being like a continuous ripple effect through every piece you share on that venue. People can also invite you to join group boards, which continues to grow your readership exponentially. In Twitter, you can build many allies by retweeting other material out there that is similar to what you are doing. Using common social tags for things like #rare (rare disorders), #autism, #mhsm (mental health on social media) and #specialneeds, #SpNParenting, #SpNFamily also help people find your material.
- Not writing for other blogs or publications — Offer to contribute to other blogs to build recognition of your writing. They don’t even have to be in related areas. For example, one place you could be contributing is to a secular, diagnosis specific community, which will still build interest and readership for your faith-based pieces.
- Not sharing in diagnosis-specific groups — Number 4 being said, don’t be shy about sharing your posts in diagnosis-specific groups on Facebook or LinkedIn. Even if your post is faith-based and the group is secular, people welcome what you have to share.
- Not using platforms like www.networkedblogs.com or www.bloglovin.com — These sites help others with similar interests to find your blog pieces and facilitate easy sharing.
- Being shy about sharing your own pieces with your every-day friends — People with whom you are acquainted care about you. They are interested in what you have to say. They can be some of your best conduits to spread the word about your blog posts. Share with them on Facebook!
- Posting only once per day — In today’s culture, people have the attention span of a flea. If you use Twitter, tweet twice at a minimum between 5 AM & 9 AM, EST and 5 AM & 8 PM, EST. If you use Pinterest, pin your posts on a board once between 5 AM & 9 AM, EST, and on another board (if possible) between 5 AM & 8 PM, EST. If you use Facebook, make sure you give your post a “Like”. While that may seem self-aggrandizing, it actually keeps your post in people’s news feeds.
- Not creating visual interest in my posts — People are extremely visual. Do not underestimate the power of great photography, posted in large format to attract readership to your blog post. People also prefer photos to clip-art in a MAJOR way. Along that same line, creating visual interest by varying text size, type, boldness, and even color throughout your post makes it more appealing to people.
- Not creating large, quotable bullet points — Often times people can only afford a quick glance at your post. They can still find value in it by scanning the main points. Making those main points large and bold facilitates better scanning of your piece, and people are more likely to share it.
- Not including useful links — Even if you want to link a Bible verse quote to Biblegateway.com or Bible.com, adding some sort of link within your posts adds value to people. Readers LOVE resources, even if it means linking to a piece you previously posted. Go back and look at all the links I have included for you in this piece. See how easy I have made it for you to get to resources I mention? That is what you want to do for your readers.
Some of these ideas may seem overly simplistic, but regular attention to these small details will do a great deal for boosting your readership. Give yourself a pat on the back for each of these you are already doing.Blessings, Barb
Men, don’t tune out! You may want to roll your eyes and write this entry off to the “church ladies” responsible for coordinating potlucks, but this is for YOU too. When looking at the overall strategy of our special needs ministries, aid and comfort to those we serve is of paramount importance. That’s why you or those you lead should be finding some way to connect your adherents to help with meals in times of extra difficulty. Surgeries, hospital stays or other challenges such as moving or loss of a job are times where this simple act of kindness can be a big blessing.
TakeThemAMeal.com is the perfect tool for these times. It never ceases to amaze me that there are people out there who still don’t know about this terrific, free, web based means to coordinate a food schedule. A speedy, user-friendly platform, the person coordinating meals merely sets up the schedule for the recipient, listing the duration and frequency of the need. Any food sensitivities, dislikes, allergies or preferences can be detailed. Once the page is set up for the recipient, it can be shared with anyone in their circle of family, friends, coworkers, fellow church members or neighbors by e-mail, Facebook or even on their Caringbridge page. Take Them A Meal does all the coordinating, reminding and contacting from that point on. People choose a date on the calendar that hasn’t already been taken. Once they sign up for a date, they are reminded by the platform of their commitment. The recipient can also look online to see if a meal is coming that day, what the meal is, and who is bringing it. There is a connected blog that provides etiquette tips, as well as a page with links for recipes. The entire system is pure genius in my humble opinion.
Recently, we had a family that has multiple children with special needs find themselves in a precarious position. The father was undergoing serious surgery that would require the mother to be away with him at the hospital for a stretch of time. People of good will wanted to step up and provide them with meals for their large family. With children on the autism spectrum that are challenged eaters and others who have food allergies, carry out gift cards where the family could make their own food choices were a much better option. Yet, the wife was concerned about offending any of the well-intentioned who wanted to cook a meal. We set up a Take Them A Meal page for the family and circumvented the worries about etiquette by specifying on the page that all meals should be provided only in the form of a gift card. It was the perfect way to get them the help that they needed, the way that they needed it, without the family having to be put in an awkward position.
If your ministry or your church has not yet tapped into this easy, helpful tool, add it to your war chest today!
Have you ever found yourself in a stressful situation where time was of the essence, and you had to get a large video file, multiple documents or multiple high resolution photos to someone on your team? You could download them to a flash drive and then hope to drive them to the party if they are local, or overnight express them to the party if they are out of town. But what if it doesn’t get there in time? And forget working together in real time. That’s impossible with a flash drive unless you’re in the same office.
Several years ago, my marketing team introduced me to a tool that has become so part of my regular work that I hardly think twice about it. However, some recent encounters with colleagues have revealed to me that I’m clearly not the last one on the block to know about this handy-dandy tool. Dropbox is a user-friendly means of sharing documents and files as easily as you store them to your own computer. The process works this way:
- You create a “folder” and upload your files to that folder.
- You share or invite others to that folder to collaborate.
- You receive a notification in real time on your computer when a shared item is revised and saved.
The advantages of this tool are many. As opposed to Google Drive, you can park video files, graphics, and photos, in addition to pdf files, and other documents. And honestly, have you ever tried getting any sort of support from Google? Jesus will return before that ever happens! Another advantage is that you receive a whole lot of storage for FREE before you ever have to buy more space, so you can remove files from the Dropbox that you no longer need to be shared.
I can tell you that this tool has served us on so many important projects that would not have been completed efficiently had we not used Dropbox. We have shared documents and videos as we formed our Parent Mentor Program. Our new logo refresh took place in Dropbox. Marketing documents are constructed and share there. Respite volunteers, attendees, and policies have all been updated using this tool. And we are currently using folders in this application to create our new website refresh.
Even if you don’t want to share files with others, Dropbox also offers you the ability to store documents for easy access when you’re away from the office or your home base computer. With their application available for all device types, you can go from desktop to tablet or even smart phone with the greatest of ease.
For a FREE video tour or download visit: http://db.tt/lE8i9SWr
It’s that time of year again — the time where I rave about the Willow Creek Association Global Leadership Summit. This year’s conference did NOT disappoint! In fact, of the 5 years I have been attending the Summit, I think this year left my leadership the most full. I don’t think there was one speaker I found unhelpful.
Here are some of my favorite quips from this year’s speakers:
- COURAGE is required in every single part of leadership (and can’t be done without God’s help). ~ Bill Hybels
- We all deserve the right kind of stewardship and caring, we are all children of God. ~ Colin Powell
- You’re a CRO a Chief Reminding Officer more than anything. People need reminding more than they need instruction. ~ Patrick Lencioni
- You may have the title, but whose kingdom is it? ~ Chris Brown
- You don’t have to talk people into Jesus. You just lead them to Him. ~ Bob Goff
- You don’t have to be a pastor to make a difference. You can make a difference where you are. ~ Mark Burnett
- Leadership is intentional influence. ~ Joseph Grenny
- If you want to be a leader in the future, you have to adapt to change. ~ Vijay Govindarajan
- Love and belonging are irreducible needs of men, women, and children. In their absence, there is always suffering. ~ Brene Brown
- You have to invest your vision in those that will be there after you are gone. ~ OscarMuriu
- The hardest thing a leader has to be ridiculously in charge of is him or herself. ~ Dr. Henry Cloud
- If you want your leadership to matter, lead in the things that matter to God. ~ Gary Haugen quoted by Gary Schwammlein
- You will never do anything more significant with your life than serving the local church. The local church is the activity of God on this earth and it has been for 2,000 years! ~ Andy Stanley
If I have one complaint about this annual event, it is that I find it difficult to know which excellent idea I should implement first after the conference. Prayerful discernment after such a valuable time of learning is a must. I pray that you will avail yourself of all the post-conference resources as well as attend next year’s Leadership Summit. For more information, visit http://willowcreek.com/events/leadership/.
I may be stating the obvious here… Or not! But donors are not inclined to give funds to support our ministry work unless they see us giving first.
I am not just talking about giving time. There are many that lead a ministry who think that the amount of time they pour into the work is enough to inspire others to donate. That is a mistake. For starters, there is much work in ministry that people will never witness. Planning, writing, calling, organizing and recruiting volunteers all occur behind the scenes. Humans are visual beings. If they don’t see you doing the work, they have a hard time relating to the amount of effort you have put forth.
Additionally, we put our money into what we are passionate about. Jesus makes this point in Matthew 6:21. In GuideStar’s recent article, Hard Truths Your Board Members Must Face If They Want to Raise Big Money, the closing power-packed section, “Those Who Ask Must Give First”, details the essential need for leaders to open up their wallets first. While the article is intended for a board of directors, its principles are just as applicable for those leading a team at church.
Giving and then publishing those dollar amounts can create great discomfort for us in Christian community. After all, Jesus warns us in Matthew 6:2-4 not to be braggadocious about our charitable donations. One way we resolved this at our organization was to create tiers or giving levels of donors that we thanked in our year-end “catalog”. In-Kind donors were also included in those tiers. THe other levels ranged from $1-$99, $100-$499, $500-$999, $1,000-$4,999, and $5,000+. This way, people can be inspired by the leader’s or others giving, seeing their general range of support without listing the exact amount.
I encourage you, if you are not already, to include your own ministry as a recipient of part of your tithe or charitable giving. Keep track of what you are donating dollar-for-dollar as well as any in-kind giving of supplies or equipment. This will help you keep clean records that help legitimize your cause in addition to benefiting your own tax returns.
Photo Image Courtesy of: FreeDigitalPhotos.net
This past weekend, as I was driving around running errands with the family, I happened to be listen to Christian radio. On the station I listen to, they have feature news stories on Christians and ministries making difference in the world around them. One story featured this weekend just about gave me whiplash. In this story about a ministry in Georgia that is committed to feeding children during the summer, it quoted a statistic that 31 million children are going without food this summer because they have no access to school breakfast or lunch when class is not in session. That number seemed huge to me. After doing some digging, I discovered that this statistic would represent nearly half of all children in the United States. You mean to tell me that half of all children in this country are going without food while school is out this summer? Forgive me, but I have a hard time believing that.
I do not want to diminish the very worthy work of this ministry. However, that statistic caused me to wonder if we in the church are doing ourselves more harm than good with the way we use numbers. While we preach with our mouths that Jesus would have died on that cross for our sins even if we were the only person on the earth, we operate with the mindset that large numbers make a ministry more important or valid. Often churches measure their success based on attendance or number of decisions for Christ. And charitable donors surely like to know how many people their dollars have helped reach. Yet, statistics can be notoriously manipulated or misquoted.
For years, we in special needs ministry spread the pervasive, unfounded statistic of an 80% or higher divorce rate amongst couples raising children with special needs. There is also a statistic attributed to Joni & Friends Christian Institute on Disability that claims that same percentage of individuals and their families with disabilities are unchurched. However, I’ve never been able to actually locate that statistic on their website. In other words, our important, worthy work may have others looking at us askance just as I did the US hungry children work, all because of funny math.
I invite you to ponder and discuss this issue with me. Do we do ourselves a disservice and undermine our mission by over-inflating numbers? Do we make ourselves hypocrites by saying each life matters while attempting to get people to buy-in to our work simply because of volume? As always, your thoughts and insights are more than welcome by posting a comment below.
Image courtesy of: FreeDigitalPhotos.net