The Central Washington Conference for the Greater Good was great!

Here’s a sample of my work — the program for the Central Washington Conference for the Greater Good, which convened in Yakima, Washington on April 24. Like the logo, which I designed last year, I used photos of the Yakima Canyon to inspire the cover image.

After the conference, I drove the 25-mile route of Highway 821 through the canyon, taking my own photos of the breathtaking scenery. I’m fairly certain those photos will somehow inspire the look of next year’s conference program.

Margaret Meps Schulte graduates from CO.STARTERS

Thanks to a partnership between the Tampa Bay Innovation Center and Creative Pinellas, Margaret Meps Schulte, founder of 3 Choices Creative Communications recently became a graduate of the CO.STARTERS program.

The course provided nine weeks of training and support, which I used to refine the business plan for 3 Choices Creative Communications in the Tampa Bay area. Facilitated by Chris Paradies, the cohort involved a lot of discussion and brainstorming about the wide variety of entrepreneurial ideas that participants brought to the class.

Here’s my graduation presentation, which gives a great overview of what 3 Choices Creative Communications offers.

3 Choices launches responsive conference websites

At the end of 2018, the staff of Washington Nonprofits asked 3 Choices to redesign their conference websites. We updated and reorganized the information, presenting it in a dynamic WordPress theme that is fully responsive, viewable on all sizes of phones, tablets, and computers. In addition, we wrote and edited copy and combed through hundreds of images from past conferences to find just the right visual messages. The result is a pair of websites that have the lively feeling of the conferences themselves, so users can envision themselves attending.

What a redesign can do for your website traffic

A few years ago, 3 Choices was involved with the launch of the Washington Nonprofit Institute website. The site provides materials for 24/7 learning to members of the nonprofit sector across the state of Washington. At the time, we created icons, images, and content, and then a developer published it using a stock WordPress theme intended for nonprofit causes.

As the staff of Washington Nonprofits added content, they quickly outgrew the nonprofit theme. It was intended to look pretty and raise funds, not deliver hundreds of pieces of multimedia content. Without a strong taxonomy and multi-level menus, users couldn’t find what they needed.

I proposed that we redesign the site with a different WordPress theme, one that would use the dynamic power of the database to deliver content. The theme I suggested was MH Magazine, the same news magazine theme we used for the Washington Nonprofits website.

Without having to write any custom code, we were able to reorganize all the content using tags and categories. Combined with a more robust search engine and a lot more menu options, it allows users to find what they’re looking for, fast, and then see what else is available that’s related to it.

The results have been striking. The number of pages per visit has literally doubled in two months! The content was always there, but users were not able to find it. Now they go from one piece of content to the next…to the next…to the next…an average of six times.

Liquor, Cannabis, Gambling…and your fundraising event

“Liquor, Cannabis, Gambling… and Your Fundraising Event” is a new course produced by Washington Nonprofits, designed to help nonprofits stay legal at their fundraising events. I created the graphical components, layed out and edited the PDF guide, and produced a high-energy video for the project.

You can download the PDF guide for free from the Washington Nonprofit Institute.

Special logos for special siblings

Over 20 years ago, an online community was launched to support adult siblings of people with disabilities. It began as a ListServ, moved to Yahoo!, then to Facebook. For those like myself who grew up with a special-needs sibling, SibNet is a source of support, understanding, and inspiration. It has inspired other groups, too, for teen siblings, 20-something siblings, and grandparents of special-needs individuals.

Don Meyer oversees all of these groups as part of his work directing the Sibling Support Project. He recently asked me to create logos for the four different online communities. The challenge was to make them distinctive from each other, but still clearly part of the same overall group.

SibshopsI have always loved the “bouncing ball” in Don’s Sibshops logo, so I used that and the  color scheme from the Sibling Support Project to align the branding of the four communities. I used typography to give each one a different flavor that’s in keeping with the demographic it serves.

 

Now What?

Handful of "Now What?" cards
Sample “Now What?” cards

3 Choices Creative Communications recently partnered with the Washington Nonprofits Learning team to develop a new game for board members and staff of nonprofits. Designed to encourage conversations about risk and strategy, “Now What?” came out of conversations about the positive and negative things that can happen while starting a nonprofit. It evolved into a set of cards suitable for play at any stage of an organization.

How do you play?
First, download, print, and cut out the game cards. Then decide if you want to play a formal game or simply share cards for conversation.

Formal game: Each player states their name. All players write a list of the names (this is a great icebreaker!). There are 27 cards. Deal an equal number to each player. You don’t have to use them all. The first player reads a card from their hand and explains what they would do in this situation. On the list of names, all players write a rating for the solution from 1 to 5, with 5 being the most effective and reasonable. Play continues around the room, un­til all cards have been read. At the end, the dealer adds up the totals for each player. The player with the highest Solution Score wins.

Conversation: During the learning part of your board meeting, hand one or two cards to every board member. Give them 3 minutes to think about what an effective and reasonable response would be. Invite them to share their idea with a partner. The partner gives feedback on their idea. The partner then shares their response, and conversation ensues. After 15 minutes, share in the larger group what the issues and responses were.

Why a game?
Games invite engagement and conversation in ways that straight discussion does not. It often stirs up social groups so we talk with new people. Laughter lowers the stress level, which prepares the brain for learning.

Download a free copy of “Now What?” from the Washington Nonprofit Institute website.

10 tips for creating professional videos with your smartphone

Watch lots of videos and make notes of the things you like.

Is your organization using video to get attention? Does you have a video strategy in place? If not, it’s time to integrate video into your communications plan.

Most of you already have the most important piece of equipment to do so: The video camera on your smartphone. Following are a few tips for using the device you already have to create quality videos to impress clients, donors, and your community.

  1. Watch other people’s videos and take notes about what you like and don’t like about them. How long are they? How do they capture your attention? How do they keep your attention? What kind of soundtrack do they have? Do they include graphics or animation?
  2. Working from your notes, sit down and write a script for your video. That way, you’ll be sure to cover all your points without forgetting something crucial.
  3. Whether you or someone else is doing the talking on-camera, the speaker needs to practice and memorize the script. Don’t read from a piece of paper in the video.
  4. Hand-held video can be wobbly, which is distracting and looks amateurish. Get an inexpensive tripod or, at the very least, prop your phone on something that doesn’t move.
  5. Make sure the subject is well-lit, preferably with natural lighting, because office fluorescents can make them look green. The easiest way is to position the subject with a window in front or to the side, and just out of the frame. Beware of backlighting — don’t seat your subject in front of a window or desk lamp.
  6. Think about what you want in the background. It doesn’t have to be a blank wall, but be aware that viewers are paying attention to the background, so use it carefully and effectively.

    Cartoon of woman standing in front of bathroom
    Be careful of unwanted items in your video background.
  7. Use an off-camera microphone. There are lots of choices on the market, ranging from simple ones that clip to the phone, lavaliers that clip to the person, or studio mics that sit on the desk. Like tripods, they’re extremely useful and not too expensive.
  8. Be sure your microphone is not picking up a lot of background noise. Even if the setting is fairly quiet, you can be surprised by a leaf blower or sudden fire truck outside. If that happens, take a deep breath and try again — see #9.
  9. Re-record until you get it right. Think of Hollywood, where directors make dozens of “takes” to get a few seconds of the movie the way they want it. You don’t have to use the first take, either. Enjoy the process, and think of the humorous bloopers you could create!
  10. Hire a video producer like 3 Choices Creative Communications to add professional touches, like an animated intro and outro with your logo and tagline, titles, and background music. For examples of our work, take a look at the Aim for Action video.  Mention this blog post for a 15% discount on your first project.

    cartoon of video title
    Hire a video producer to create professional titles and intros.

Aim for Action: How to get people to do what you want them to do

In the mid-1980’s, when I worked at an in-house print department, my employer purchased a bar-coding system to keep track of our work. They installed it and trained us on its use. Much to my surprise, department members rebelled and simply ignored it. Hundreds of thousands of dollars were wasted as a result.

Why did it fail? We had the knowledge and training to use it.

It’s a common problem. An organization provides training, but people don’t change their behavior. They muddle along, doing things the way they’ve always done them.

Aim for Action to the Rescue

Nancy Bacon (ChunkFlipGuideLaugh.com) and I developed the Aim for Action framework to address this challenge. When you want to move someone to action, you need to look at more areas than training. Aim for Action illustrates the areas you need to address. It was developed for the nonprofit world, but this framework would work in any organization, or even your own household.

Washington Nonprofits launches new website

When Washington Nonprofits needed to replace their website in an extremely short timeframe, they turned to 3 Choices for help. The result is a clean, modern site that combines familiar brand elements with an updated look. The site is fully responsive, so it looks great on computers, tablets, and phones.

Because washingtonnonprofits.org is built on WordPress, using the MH Magazine theme, members of the organization can easily manage and maintain the new site themselves. For technically-savvy, medium-sized nonprofits, this is a valuable way to keep website costs down.