Don’t You Know Everyone Wants to Laugh?

June 16, 2011 by

Make 'Em Laugh

Now you could study Shakespeare and be quite elite
And you can charm the critics and have nothin’ to eat
Just slip on a banana peel
The world’s at your feet
Make ‘em laugh
Make ‘em laugh
Make ‘em laugh

-”Make ‘Em Laugh” from Singing in the Rain

There’s quite a bit of sound communications strategy in those whimsical lyrics. When you make people laugh, they really pay attention to you.

Done right, humor can be a powerful tool for advancing your nonprofit mission. It can break down walls, puncture an argument or bind people together.

On the flip side, when humor goes wrong, it can embarrass, or worse, descend into PR nightmare.

Humor has a certain fragility, an evasiveness which one had best respect. Essentially, it is a complete mystery. -E.B. White

Earlier this month I teamed with Kivi Leroux Miller of Nonprofit Marketing Guide to present “Funny Ha-Ha: How to Use Humor in Nonprofit Communications.” The full webinar recording is available with the Nonprofit Marketing Guide All-Access Pass (click here for details), which is a wicked good training package for busy nonprofits.

In the presentation I give over a dozen examples of nonprofit humor – the good, the bad and the, “Oh no they didn’t.” Here’s one of my favorites:

Ann Coulter: "Go Fukushima Yourself"

Sponsored by Left Action, the campaign seized on an outrageous statement by provocative conservative commentator Ann Coulter. According to Left Action founder John Hlinko, “Go Fukushima Yourself” was a smashing success at recruiting new Facebook fans, email subscribers and Twitter followers.

There’s tons of advice on why humor works, why it fails and my top do’s (do know your audience) and do nots (don’t do humor just for fun – have a purpose).

So get that All Access Pass and make ‘em laugh!

Got a funny campaign? Send me your samples! I’m always looking for fresh, funny material. Tell me about it in the comments below.



I Get Blogging With a Little Help From My Friends

April 8, 2011 by

About two weeks ago fellow nonprofit techie Debra Askanase (@askdebra) and I hatched a plan to blog more regularly. It started like this:

#blog2x

Then went like this:

#blog2x

And a challenge was born:

@blog2x

Swirling around my brain was the advice that it takes 21 days to form a habit, so I translated this into blogging twice a week for four straight weeks.

And a friend joined:

#blog2x

And another friend joined:

We are in Week 2.

I’m pretty sure that none of us has met in person. We are four women, connected via Twitter, trying to make the world a better place by working with nonprofits and blogging about it.

It’s been a rough week for me and I’m behind, but my #blog2X buddies (@askdebra, @junoconsult and @acgtx) are nudging me onward. Who couldn’t use a personal cheerleader, or three? Rock on, ladies!

I’m enjoying reading blog posts I might ordinarily miss, and getting a little extra mileage for my posts.

In gratitude, I adapted a famous Beatles song for them. I think you’ll recognize the tune.

I Get Blogging With a Little Help From My Friends

What would you think if I blogged infrequently,
Would you stand up and stop reading me.
Lend me your ears and I’ll share some stories,
And I’ll try not to post uselessly.
Oh I get blogging with a little help from my friends,
Mmm, I get blogging with a little help from my friends,
Mmm, I’m gonna try with a little help from my friends.

friends

Do you need anybody?
I need somebody to like.
Could it be anybody?
I want somebody to like.

What do I do when my drive is away.
(Does it worry you to be alone)
How do I feel by the end of the day
(Are you sad because you’re on your own)
No, I get blogging with a little help from my friends,
Mmm, get inspired with a little help from my friends,
Mmm, gonna to try with a little help from my friends

Do you need anybody?
I need somebody to share.
Could it be anybody?
I want somebody to share.

Would you join in a spontaneous team?
Yes I’m certain that it happens all the time.
What do you see when you turn off your screen?
I can’t tell you, but I know it’s mine.
Oh, I get blogging with a little help from my friends,
Mmm I get inspired with a little help from my friends,
Oh, I’m gonna try with a little help from my friends

Do you need anybody?
I just need someone to tweet.
Could it be anybody?
I want somebody to tweet.

Oh, I get blogging with a little help from my friends,
Mmm, gonna try with a little help from my friends
Ooh, I get inspired with a little help from my friends
Yes I get by with a little help from my friends,
with a little help from my friends

Photo credit trevinc


Fascinatinger: Ira Glass on Failure and Creativity

March 29, 2011 by

Ira GlassA few weeks ago I had the great pleasure of attending a talk by Ira Glass, host of the popular NPR program This American Life. Ira was there as part of the Alex Krieger ’95 Memorial Lecture series, given each spring in memory of Vassar student Alex Krieger, who was killed in an automobile accident during the spring of his freshman year.

Krieger loved humor, and his parents honor his memory by inviting outstanding American writers and humorists to speak to the students. Past speakers have included  Tom Wolfe, Wendy Wasserstein, John Irving, P. J. O’Rourke, Calvin Trillin, Jules Feiffer, Oliver Sacks, Tony Kushner, David Sedaris, Michael Chabon, Sarah Vowell, Gail Collins, Augesten Burroughs, and, most recently, Frank Rich.

When Ira walked out on stage, he sat down at a plain table with some sound equipment. Then he shut the lights out and began to speak. It was awkward at first, but I quickly relaxed in my chair and began to feel the magic of listening to him on the radio. It was the perfect beginning.

Ira rambled from one subject to another, recounting his experiences at NPR and humbly sharing some of his best and his worst moments as a reporter and master storyteller. He eventually turned on the lights and offered a few pearls of wisdom.

You don’t need anyone’s permission to be creative.

Start creating. Now. You don’t have to wait for lessons or school or a job to unleash your creativity and validate your talent. You need to work at it, whatever “it” is – music, writing, film, singing, accounting, blogging, landscaping, cooking.

Even he has to work at it. His staff conceives and produces dozens of stories for one show. Many of them get cut. The Onion writers generate hundreds of headlines at a time – again, most get thrown away.

You will not produce a masterpiece on Day 1.

Ira cautioned students that if they wanted to work on his show, they had to have a body of work to show them before they even apply. Technology barriers are so low that there’s little excuse for not producing your own work.

And his corollary to this…

At first, you will probably suck at what you do, even if you love it.

Give yourself permission to fail. In every failure there is a lesson.

To illustrate, Ira played a clip from a story he did seven years into his radio career at NPR. SEVEN YEARS. It was truly awful.

He was reporting on the rising price of corn, and by the time he got to the urgent tortilla shortage, we were all in stitches with him. The story had no point, no message, no purpose. It was just facts and anecdotes thrown into a jumbled mess. It was easily forgettable, unlike his work at This American Life. I admire his grace and humility for revealing a work he’d probably rather forget.

My friends at MomsRising have a lovely way of dealing with failure. They hold a joyful funeral for their mistakes. They embrace them – pulling the plug on something that’s not working, not assigning blame and analyzing what went wrong.

If you’re going to beat yourself up, at least take notes and do a better job next time.