Weathering COVID’s financial storm

first_imgThe March shutdown for COVID-19 not only disrupted learning and research at Harvard, it had a negative impact on University finances not seen since the 2008 financial crisis, requiring massive, unplanned spending to meet pandemic needs while curtailing revenue-generating activities. As the University prepares to release its annual report this month, Executive Vice President Katie Lapp and Chief Financial Officer and Vice President for Finance Thomas Hollister sat down with the Gazette to discuss the extraordinary final months of the fiscal year that ended in June and the financial pressures facing the University.Q&AKatie Lapp and Thomas HollisterGAZETTE: Given the turmoil of the last six months, Harvard’s annual financial report struck a surprisingly positive, albeit cautionary, note. Despite the disruption caused by COVID, including a major decline in revenue, the operating deficit was $10 million on a $5.4 billion budget. How did the University manage that?LAPP: The results are testament to the strong financial position that the University was in when the COVID pandemic hit. That allowed us to quickly pivot and adapt to a landscape that was changing within three months of the end of the fiscal year. The report documents a $10 million deficit for FY20, but we sustained a $270 million revenue decline from projections that we had made immediately prior to the pandemic. We issued refunds of room and board; we canceled continuing education and executive education programs; we closed research labs and halted a number of other activities that have revenue associated with them.The University leadership — the Corporation, President [Larry] Bacow, Provost [Alan] Garber, the deans across the Schools, and the vice presidents — put in place cost-control measures that allowed us to address those declines quickly. That included freezing hiring, freezing salaries, and dramatically reducing capital spending. University leadership also took a voluntary pay cut. I would like to give a shoutout to Tom Hollister and his financial team. Only two years ago, they had the foresight — working with the president and our finance committee — to model dramatic financial losses at the University. It was that foresight and the resulting exercise, which all of us went through, that positioned the University quite well to handle the initial crisis.HOLLISTER: I think it’s worth mentioning the breathtaking speed with which the faculty, the administration, and staff pivoted to remote and hybrid learning and working. Even with closed labs, faculty and staff investigators were finding ways of conducting research. It was astonishing and inspiring.GAZETTE: Tell us more about the downside planning, the recession playbook. What kind of exercise did people go through as part of this planning process?HOLLISTER: I think these planning efforts, including the recession playbook, put us in a stronger position on the eve of this pandemic. Larry Bacow, very early in his presidency, said he wasn’t sure when, but he knew there would be a recession during his tenure. I think that insight encouraged the Finance Committee to support building the playbook. It also helped many across the campus have a better sense of how to react. There was a game plan, in essence.“… if the last many months have taught us anything, it is that the future is totally unpredictable with regard to the pandemic and what impact it will have on our campus and beyond,” said Executive Vice President Katie Lapp. Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard file photoGAZETTE: Was it about prioritizing, thinking about the mission? Or was it a dollars and cents, “We’re going to cut office supplies by half”?HOLLISTER: It was under the direction of the deans at each of Harvard’s Schools. Each of the affiliates also did scenario planning for their multiyear financial plans and their annual budgeting process, examining how a downturn could impact their operations and what would be their choices in terms of response. It began at a very high level: What do we want to maintain, or even invest in, during a downturn? And in that sense, the focus was to try to be strategic.LAPP: Scenario planning of this sort is not focused on the absolute details. It’s articulating what your priorities are, what you would preserve, and where you might look to tighten your belt. So, when the actual circumstances hit, you have already gone through that mental process with your team, and you can start getting into the details.GAZETTE: How does last year’s $308 million surplus relate to this year’s deficit? Was that put away as rainy day funds that can now be used, or is there less of a direct link between last year’s surplus and this year’s deficit?HOLLISTER: Last year’s University-wide surplus was really a consolidation of results for individual Schools and units. Their surpluses were earned locally and used locally. If they were not invested immediately in the enterprise, they went into reserves and are available exactly for times like these. In some cases, they may have paid down debt, which gives further flexibility. So, past surpluses have clearly been a help. One great strength of our decentralized environment is that those who are best informed and most knowledgeable about their School or their unit are the ones making decisions and know best where the money should go.GAZETTE: The market’s continued strong performance may seem a bit divorced from the COVID-19 reality, but it helped the endowment become a significant bright spot in the budget picture with a 7.3 percent return and an overall value increasing $1 billion to $41.9 billion. How important is endowment revenue in stabilizing the University’s finances year to year, but especially in times of economic crisis?HOLLISTER: The endowment provides the largest portion of our revenue through annual distributions into operations. In this past year, it accounted for 37 percent of total revenues. Those funds provide essential support for the teaching and research activities at Harvard and are thanks to Harvard’s incredible donors, both past and present. The strong performance was an excellent outcome in the midst of market volatility. These results place HMC [Harvard Management Company] for the second year in a row at the higher end of endowment returns for large peer universities. Narv Narvekar, the president of HMC, would be the first to say that results should not be measured on a year-to-year basis. But it’s increasingly clear that Narv and his colleagues are making steady progress and demonstrating proficiency and achievements in a variety of ways. Narv’s annual summary letter is in the annual report, and I urge everyone to read it for further information.GAZETTE: Was there a moment when either of you breathed a sigh of relief when it appeared that the market was not going to stay down the 20 percent or 30 percent it fell to in the spring?LAPP: People did heave a sigh of relief, but that said, if the last many months have taught us anything, it is that the future is totally unpredictable with regard to the pandemic and what impact it will have on our campus and beyond.HOLLISTER: Katie’s point is critical one. This is a time of enormous uncertainty and the sudden changes in the endowment are a good example. With all of the market volatility, the administration and the Corporation have said they intend to distribute as much as they responsibly can from the endowment. The Corporation took three separate actions: in May, they reduced the endowment distribution for fiscal year 2021 because the markets were trending down 25 to 30 percent at the time. They reduced the distribution by 2 percent at that point from the previous year. Then, as the markets improved in July, they increased the guidance to maintain a flat distribution as compared to the prior year. And then, finally, about a month ago due to relatively strong performance at Harvard Management Company, happily, President Bacow announced a $20M contribution, the equivalent of a 1 percent increase, from central funds available to the Schools. It’s an example of Harvard being adept and quick. At the same time, unfortunately, we’ve also had to be adept and quick in reducing expenses to offset other revenues that are rapidly declining.GAZETTE: The endowment has been a frequent target of critics. Does this illustrate its importance and perhaps validate it as a key financial strategy?HOLLISTER: There’s an oft-voiced perception that the endowment is somehow hidden away and unused, that it’s being hoarded, when in fact it’s the opposite. Earnings from the endowment are distributed annually without fail. They represent Harvard’s largest source of revenue for teaching and research. And, as the administration has said, the aim is to distribute as much as responsibly can be distributed to benefit both current and future generations of students and scholars. We’ve been lucky that the markets rebounded. It wasn’t too long ago, during the Great Recession, that the endowment lost almost 30 percent of its value and the distribution had to be cut nearly 20 percent over two successive years. With the current difficulties in the economy, some might say the market is overvalued, but we’ll keep our fingers crossed.GAZETTE: Why don’t we get into more detail on COVID’s impact on the University’s finances? How did it impact operating expenses?HOLLISTER: There was rapid action taken on all discretionary spending, as well as a salary freeze, voluntary salary reductions by University leaders, a hiring freeze, and putting the brakes on capital spending. Thanks to everyone’s efforts, it worked. Setting aside onetime charges, expenses were down almost $70 million from 2019, and down $272 million from what we thought they would likely be just a few months before the end of the fiscal year. If we had not taken those actions, that $10 million negative result would have been far worse.GAZETTE: Amid those cuts, financial aid was able to be maintained and in fact, increased?LAPP: For the past year, Harvard granted $645 million in financial aid and scholarships, which was an increase of $31 million, or 5 percent. Thanks to our alumni and philanthropic supporters, Harvard continues to have one of the most generous aid programs in the country, both for undergraduate and graduate students. Members of our community rose to the occasion in the middle of this pandemic and with a stock market collapse to provide more dollars in current year giving than any other year in Harvard’s history.GAZETTE: There’s no end to the pandemic in sight. Are revenues and expenditures now balanced without having to take additional extraordinary steps?LAPP: This is going to be a period of continually monitoring how we’re doing in addressing the virus, anticipating what might be needed, and then communicating clear and concise information to the community. No one knows what this pandemic has in store for us in the coming months — until we have the vaccine — and I think that’s something we have to live with. We have to continue to pivot and to always hold onto the values that we as a University have been and will continue to be committed to — namely, the safety of our community, advancing the mission of teaching and learning, and supporting our workforce.HOLLISTER: We should also say that we are currently out of balance. Our projections indicate that we’re deficit spending now, and we can’t sustain that over the long term. But we’re watching it carefully. These are difficult times.,GAZETTE: How about the revenue side? The University gets revenue from a lot of different places. We’ve spoken about the endowment. I wonder if you could address some of the other major areas that were important in last year’s budget picture?HOLLISTER: Katie mentioned that $270 million in anticipated revenue was lost in only 15 weeks last spring. Annualized, that is a 17 percent drop, which is eye-catching, and we’re trying to operate this year with that kind of shortfall. That’s what makes it an ongoing challenge. As one example, our most recent indication is that labs and their related funding are running at about 10 percent behind this point last year. We also expect students will need more financial aid and we know our overall enrollment is smaller, so that combination means fewer tuition dollars. Many continuing and executive education courses have been canceled or are not occurring. Fortunately, our alumni and donors really stepped to the fore, as Katie mentioned, in the spring. Going forward, however, with a difficult economy, it’s hard to count on those levels of philanthropy.LAPP: There are also expenses for systems and processes that keep folks on campus safe: the rigorous testing, contract tracing, isolation and quarantine measures we put in place. While absolutely required to secure the safety of students, faculty, and staff, they come at a cost that has added to the stresses on our finances.HOLLISTER: There are endless examples: Graduate students in Harvard-owned apartments were allowed to move out in the spring and break their leases. Many of those units are now unoccupied, so that’s another source of revenue that has declined, if not evaporated entirely, for a while.GAZETTE: Some capital projects were paused, but I imagine some weren’t. A rare upside to the situation is that you can get more done if people aren’t in a building you’re renovating. What has been the impact of COVID on the progress of Harvard’s capital projects?LAPP: We did curtail capital spending in the last few months of FY20 and the numbers reflect that. We spent $627 million compared to $903 million in fiscal year 2019. Of course, everything was paused during the pandemic’s early months, due to construction halts in Boston, Cambridge, and elsewhere, but we did later have significant projects continuing. The Science and Engineering Complex is completed. We have Swartz Hall at the Divinity School going forward; we have Lewis Hall at the Law School. There are a number of projects that were in either midstream or later, and those are proceeding. We’re doing some renewal projects as well, but we’re putting a lot of scrutiny on the expenditure of capital dollars in this fiscal year.Some projects will continue because they are critical: lab renovations and things that are absolutely essential. But each School, every department is looking at their capital expenditures and making sure that they are top priorities for the School. Some are taking advantage of empty buildings to actually do overdue repairs and deferred maintenance: We can get in there quicker without interrupting too many people.GAZETTE: Even before the pandemic struck, higher education was feeling an economic squeeze. How is the industry doing during these times? LAPP: I think the pandemic accelerated a lot of changes that were on the horizon. It created a tremendous avalanche that hit many, many institutions, and those that are less financially stable are feeling tremendous strain. Having to send students home was quite dramatic, both in terms of its speed and its impact on finances. Bringing people back this fall required making sure that systems were in place to keep people safe, and Harvard relied on the guidance from our public health experts at HUHS. Having so many people working, teaching, and learning remotely put a dramatic strain on institutions without the robust systems that a place like Harvard has, thanks to the hard work of our IT teams over the years. We’ve seen some schools closing or talking about merging. We read recently about dramatic declines in student enrollment in community colleges and many small colleges. I don’t think we’ve seen the end of these impacts.HOLLISTER: From a financial standpoint, this has exacerbated the pressures of the last decade on traditional revenues in higher education. It’s among the many challenges facing our country as a result of the pandemic, because American colleges and universities have been the source of new discoveries, new knowledge and ideas, and the training grounds for future leaders for a better tomorrow.As we look forward, it’s probably worth mentioning two things. As dour as we have been in discussing the financial impacts of the pandemic, Harvard will find a way through this. We have the capacity and the leadership and the know-how to do it. And secondly, what’s happening at Harvard now is in some ways exciting, with faculty, scholars, and researchers finding new ways to deliver remote and hybrid learning, advancing new approaches to pedagogy, publishing new knowledge, and carrying on with consequential research. It’s happening at every Harvard School. I’d rather we didn’t have to pay such a terrible price for it, in human and economic terms, but there are some silver linings.Interview was lightly edited for clarity and length. An uncertain financial road ahead Finance chief calls for renewed community commitment to University’s core principles A recession playbook Relatedcenter_img Harvard’s chief financial officer outlines fiscal shifts wrought by COVID-19 The Daily Gazette Sign up for daily emails to get the latest Harvard news. Thomas Hollister details the planning the University had already done for the eventuality of a downturn Hollister explains revised guidance on endowmentlast_img read more

Justice Friday highlights CAT Program

first_imgThis week’s Justice Friday lecture highlighted how Saint Mary’s women can impact students in the South Bend Community School Corporation.The conversation, led by assistant director of the Office for Civic and Social Engagement (OCSE) Samira Payne, focused on the College Academy of Tutoring (CAT) Program, which employs Saint Mary’s students to serve as tutors and teacher’s assistants in partnered schools.Payne said the CAT program works primarily with local Title I schools to strengthen the schools and local community. Two primary partners are Harrison Primary Center and Nevarre Intermediate Center.“We seek to provide resources through tutoring and teacher assistants, a pen pal program with fourth-graders and donating uniforms and school supplies,” Payne said. In the South Bend area, there are more students in need than the State of Indiana’s rates, Payne said.“In the State of Indiana only 41 percent of students receive free or reduced lunch in South Bend that number is 60%. In addition to that, in the State of Indiana, 75 percent of students are achieving at or above grade level and in South Bend it is 60%.”Payne said it is important to focus on the strengths of Saint Mary’s students and share those strengths to make the local schools and community stronger. Juniors Jade Johnson, Miranda Reed and sophomore Alexis Stigler have participated in the CAT Program and shared their unique experiences.Johnson said participants in the CAT Program serve as consistent and positive influences in the students’ lives.“You know that the consistency you’re giving them makes them hopeful,” Johnson said “I tutored the same girl over the course of a year, and when she started coming in she was unable to finish any homework beforehand. I saw a drastic change in her ability to learn. By the end of the year, she was completing a majority of her homework on her own and was even on the honor roll.”Reed said the best part of the experience was being able to see how much the kids come into themselves, develop confidence and focus on their risk taking abilities.“I was a teacher’s assistant last year, and I loved being able to give kids who need it one-on-one attention,” Reed said.Stigler, who helped tutor and read to local fourth graders, said it was one of the most rewarding experiences of her life. “The kids are so excited, you wouldn’t believe how happy they are just to see us walk in the door. For me, the best moment was when a girl said she wanted to go to college because we were there,” Stigler said.Payne said the volunteers have a lot of fun in the CAT Program, but also all come together to discuss problems they might be facing.“All of the CAT Program participants come together to talk about their experiences, celebrate, vent and think about different issues that might be affecting their students,” Payne said. “It is not just about providing resources. We also talk about what more we can do to impact change.” Payne said Saint Mary’s women should consider how they can create long-lasting, sustainable change and also focus on considering how to best help students who need immediate help. The Justice Friday lecture series takes place every Friday from 12 p.m. to 12:50 p.m. in Conference Room A and B of the Student Center. Tags: Justice Friday, Office of Civic and Social Engagement, saint mary’slast_img read more

Notre Dame alumnus talks LGBTQ+ ‘past, present and future’

first_imgLiam Dacey, a Notre Dame alumnus (’04), gave a talk about the past, present and future of LGBTQ+ acceptance at Notre Dame on Friday in DeBartolo Hall. As an undergraduate, Dacey co-founded the University’s Queer Film Festival. Today, he is a board member of Gay & Lesbian Alumni of Notre Dame & St. Mary’s (GALA-ND/SMC), an officially unrecognized alumni group. Spectrum co-sponsored the talk with Diversity and Inclusion.Dacey said he came out as gay his sophomore year at Notre Dame, during which he considered transferring colleges. However, he said support from professors helped him decide to stay.“I remember, I’m meeting with Jill Godmilow, who’s an emeritus Professor now in FTT. And she was like, ‘You have to stay, there’s not enough gay people here. We need you,’ and she got other professors to talk to me and try to encourage me to stay, especially in the film department.”Dacey said he came up with the idea for the Queer Film Festival the next year.“I met someone who was the chair of GALA at the time, Gus Hinojosa, and I remember at Starbucks — this might have been later in my junior year — but we were just shooting the breeze and I was like, ‘Hey, maybe we should do like a gay film festival or an LGBT film festival,’ and he was like, ‘That’s a great idea.’”In 2004, Notre Dame had its first Queer Film Festival.“It was kind of a surreal weekend, the first festival especially. And at the end — it was like a three or four-day thing — we screened the last film at the Hesburgh Library.”On the last day of the festival, Dacey said he and a group of festival members visited Fr. Hesburgh’s office.“We met with Fr. Hesburgh, told him what we were doing — we just did the first-ever LGBT Film Festival at Notre Dame — and he blessed us. He compared what we were doing to what he did during the Civil Rights movement.”In his talk, Dacey also recalled a conversation he once had with Fr. Mark Poorman, the former Vice President of Student Affairs at Notre Dame. Dacey wanted an LGBT student club on campus.“I remember I asked him in his office once, ‘What’s it going to take? Why can’t we just get a student club?’ And he told me, in a very candid moment, ‘It’s just there’s not enough trust.’ And he was like, ‘Put yourself in the administration’s shoes. What if an LGBT student club, like, had some wild gay pride parade in the middle of campus? What would we do? How would we answer to alumni?’”Dacey cited Notre Dame’s position as a Catholic university as an institutional obstacle to progress on LGBTQ+ issues.“Here you not only have academia but you also have the Catholic Church,” Dacey said. “So you have two powerful forces working there. But that being said, I don’t think Notre Dame would have progressed as much as it has if it didn’t allow for progressive change.”Describing the future of Notre Dame’s non-discrimination clause, which currently does not include sexual and gender identity, Dacey brought up the Supreme Court’s upcoming Title VII decision. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act outlaws employee discrimination on the basis of sex, race, color, religion and national origin; the future legal protection of sexual and gender identity depends on the court’s decision.“I think whatever ruling they do there will definitely affect what Notre Dame ends up doing,” he said.Even if the Supreme Court votes in opposition, however, Dacey said he believes the University will eventually expand its non-discrimination clause.“If they don’t rule in our favor at the Supreme Court, and it just kind of goes back into Notre Dame’s hands,” Dacey said. “I think it’s going to take longer. I’m still optimistic it will happen, but I don’t see that happening easily and anytime soon.”Tags: GALA, GALA-ND/SMC, LGBTQ, Queer Film Festivallast_img read more

State of Vermont transforms business operations with cloud technology from IBM

first_imgARMONK, N.Y. and MONTREAL, July 21, 2011 /PRNewswire/ — IBM (NYSE: IBM) and Silanis Technology today announced that the State of Vermont is using cloud computing to transform its business operations to improve efficiencies, boost profits and more cost effectively collaborate with vendors.In keeping with its cost cutting initiative, the State of Vermont is lowering costs, reducing paper consumption and increasing efficiency in its Department of Information and Innovation (DII). The DII is transforming the way it processes vendor contracts with IBM cloud services and Silanis’ electronic signature technology.”Our department signs as many as 80 vendor contracts a month. A Cloud-based business process using Silanis and IBM technology helped us keep up with Vermont’s commitment to the environment and our plans to adopt productivity-enhancing technologies. Hand-signing also meant many of our people were spending valuable time chasing down multiple signatures or correcting errors,” said Kris Rowley, DII’s Chief Information Security Officer.The integration of Silanis’ subscription-based, secure online e-signing service, e-SignLive, with IBM’s LotusLive cloud-based collaboration service allows Vermont’s DII to gather, approve and process signatures and contracts in an efficient, environmentally friendly, paperless manner.DII Contracts Move Vermont’s Business ForwardDII contracts range in value from thousands to over a million dollars and often require signatures from officials located in other office buildings before being submitted for final sign-off for example by the State’s Attorney General.While many of its contracts and relevant forms are downloadable from its website, the need to sign them by hand meant added potential for errors, extra work for staff, long wait times, and high processing costs. To address this problem, DII is using a Web-based service that doesn’t require any software downloads. The service captures strong electronic evidence during the signing process which makes it extremely difficult for signers to repudiate their signatures should there ever be a dispute.DII’s use of a cloud-based, electronic signing service provides a cost-effective, easy to use and set up alternative to enterprise licensed solutions.”Silanis e-SignLive provided us with an extremely cost-effective, yet secure means to relieve the signing bottleneck. Contracts only got printed so they could be signed and then were routed via interdepartmental mail, snail mail, to different cities, and offices. Employing the software also encouraged us to re-evaluate our business process and signing procedures and we ended up achieving efficiencies we hadn’t even expected. Not only have we reduced paper, but we have cut courier costs and the turnaround time for a typical contract approval has dropped from weeks to minutes.”Due to the success of this solution, this organization is considering using additional IBM cloud collaboration capabilities in the future. IBM LotusLive’s cloud collaboration service includes a range of tools such as project tracking, web meetings and instant messaging, all of which serve to promote team work, help quickly find expertise needed to get projects done, and create effective partnerships.e-SignLive enables organizations and individuals to invite their customers, partners, and suppliers to instantly sign documents over the web, while harnessing the power of online collaboration and social networking during the negotiation and pre-signing process. Silanis’ e-SignLive e-signature service allows multiple users to review, modify and sign a single document in a secure and compliant extranet environment.Presented to the legislature in 2009, the government of Vermont’s responded to an anticipated $154 million fiscal gap in its 2011 budget. Rather than simply slashing services regardless of the impact on the residents of Vermont, the State gave its departments the mandate to place outcomes first. This places the emphasis on improving operational efficiencies within departments and maintaining services for citizens and reducing operating costs.”This initiative is our way of taking a positive approach to the downturn in the economy,” says Rowley, DII’s Chief Information Security Officer. “It’s a challenge that has led us to seek out ground-breaking technologies like the combination of e-SignLive and LotusLive, which is improving the way we do business while costing us less.”Silanis Technology Inc. is the leading provider of electronic signature software to government organizations and agencies. The world’s largest deployment of e-signatures and forms was deployed by the U.S. Army in 2004. More than 1.4 million Army personnel use Silanis’ e-signatures and IBM Forms to sign thousands of documents, saving the government a projected $1.3 billion annually. The federal government’s General Services Agency standardized on Silanis’ e-signature solution in 2003 as part of its e-Offer and e-Mod systems to electronically manage its contract agreements and amendments with over 13,000 suppliers. The world’s largest insurance and financial services companies, integrators and service providers also depend on Silanis to accelerate business transactions and reduce costs while improving compliance with legal and regulatory requirements. Visit Silanis on the web at is external)About IBM Cloud Computing:IBM has helped thousands of clients adopt cloud models and manages millions of cloud based transactions every day. IBM assists clients in areas as diverse as banking, communications, healthcare and government to build their own clouds or securely tap into IBM cloud-based business and infrastructure services. IBM is unique in bringing together key cloud technologies, deep process knowledge, a broad portfolio of cloud solutions, and a network of global delivery centers. For more information about IBM cloud solutions, visit is external). last_img read more

8 excuses that are keeping you from financial success

first_imgIt’s too easy to come up with excuses for not saving enough money and getting ahead financially. You don’t earn enough. Your student loan debt is suffocating. You need new clothes. Your furniture is old. Your kids are expensive. And the list goes on. But unless you’re going to inherit millions of dollars, it’s probably best that you start making financial choices today that will bring you the financial security you deserve.Here are eight common excuses that are keeping you from financial success. If these sound familiar, it’s time to make a change.1. I Can’t Afford to SaveIt’s not uncommon for people to believe that they don’t make enough money to put a portion into savings. Even some workers at generous income levels feel this way.“The culprit behind this excuse is usually lifestyle inflation,” said David Melnyk, a financial planner with Verus Wealth Management. “As someone earns more, they often feel they are able to spend more. Spending money on things that make your life fulfilling is totally necessary and important to do but make sure you aren’t cashing out your dreams and goals in the process.” continue reading » 51SHARESShareShareSharePrintMailGooglePinterestDiggRedditStumbleuponDeliciousBufferTumblrlast_img read more

5 reasons to integrate storytelling into your marketing strategy

first_imgWe’ve been telling stories for thousands and thousands of years, dating back to when cavemen drew hunting stories on stone to brag about their adventures. Telling stories is an innate way for humans to communicate and build relationships. Think about any date you’ve ever been on. When getting to know one another and trying to develop a relationship, you wouldn’t simply spit out your own features, rather you’d tell your story.Example 1: “I have a great job. I have green eyes. I wear size 7 shoe.”Example 2: “I love what I do. I help people achieve their dreams every day and I wouldn’t change that for the world.” –Or- “My parent’s always told me that my green eyes run in our family because we’re of Irish decent. My great grandparents emigrated here from Ireland.”Which example is more likely to strike a chord with your date? People don’t buy features and benefits; they buy your story. Take a look at five reasons storytelling is important to your marketing strategy: Stories strengthen relationshipsYour stories create connections with members on a deeper level than standard marketing tactics. By telling your brand story and sharing member stories, you’re creating invaluable emotional connections between your members and your brand. Good storytelling that creates the ultimate connection are those that aren’t necessarily about you, your products, or features, they are stories about emotions, experiences, needs and wants. Stories create experiencesBy telling your story you leave lasting impressions on those who come in contact with you. By creating a story-based experience, your audience walks away with something way more tangible than traditional product-based marketing message. They walk away with an experience that they are more likely to remember. Stories are more likely to be sharedWhen was the last time you called your friend to tell him/her about the features of a new checking account you just opened? Probably not recently. But if you saved money by switching to a credit union and felt like you family from the moment you walked through the door, you might share that story with your friend, no? Sharing of stories has been amplified by social media, making storytelling that much more important to your brand. Stories shape information into meaningRemember that grade school teacher who always told stories while he/she taught? Sure you do. That’s because those stories made you remember the educational content better than the boring teacher who just taught textbook content. Stories can help shape useful information into inspirational, shareable content. Stories are less likely to be resistedThe average consumer is exposed to over 5,000 marketing messages per day (Yankelovich Consumer Research). When we know we’re being sold to, we tend to close our ears. Miraculously, when someone tells us a story, we are captivated and have all the time in the world to listen. Telling your story will help break through the marketing clutter that consumes people today.A great example of a credit union that uses storytelling in their marketing is BECU. 201SHARESShareShareSharePrintMailGooglePinterestDiggRedditStumbleuponDeliciousBufferTumblr,Hilary Reed Hilary Reed, founder of EmpowerFi, is an innovative thought-leader who has been involved in various aspects of strategic sales and marketing for 15 years. Her career began in 2000 when … Web: Detailslast_img read more

Your culture could be driving in the wrong direction

first_img 46SHARESShareShareSharePrintMailGooglePinterestDiggRedditStumbleuponDeliciousBufferTumblr,Stuart R. Levine Founded in 1996, Stuart Levine & Associates LLC is an international strategic planning and leadership development company with focus on adding member value by strengthening corporate culture.SL&A … Web: Details According to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, “When culture and strategy are aligned, organizations achieve goals, amplify successes, and have greater impact”.  This simple sentence, drives home the importance of having a strong, positive corporate culture within your organization.  The Gates Foundation has put a substantial effort into creating a high-impact culture, recognizing this strong link between culture and goal achievement.  While many leaders realize the importance of a strong corporate culture, many still do not, and therefore do not put the time and effort into understanding and building the right culture.  Culture can be defined as the prevailing ideas, values, attitudes, and beliefs that guide the way employees think, feel, and act.  Aligning these concepts between the organization and the employees, as well as with the corporate strategy, can mean the difference between success and failure.  Employee engagement and culture have been cited in a recent study as the number one human capital challenge companies face globally. Employers that do not take into account the possible conflict between individual and corporate culture, run the risk of disengaged employees and the negative consequences that entails — decreased productivity and high turnover.Those leaders that do not understand the strong link between culture, productivity, and profits, often look outward to create impact and profits with efforts such as new advertising and rebranding campaigns, overlooking the importance of their internal constituents, their employees. These misguided efforts frequently result in a misalignment of corporate and individual culture, subsequently resulting in employee dissatisfaction, disengagement and turnover.  These same leaders do not see the value in hiring for cultural fit and continue the practice of hiring for skill and knowledge alone, again resulting in disengaged employees and high turnover.  A recent Gallup survey showed that only 32% of employees were engaged in their jobs, showing the overwhelming majority were disengaged.Left to itself, a corporate culture will develop on its own. The result, however, will undoubtedly not be conducive to a well-run and positive organization. Culture, like a growing child, must be nurtured and crafted as it evolves. If we do nothing for our newborn child, imagine what she will be like when she turns 10 (if she even survives).  Wild, and unkempt, she will be misbehaved and uncontrollable, at the least.  A corporate culture will evolve in a similar fashion, like the parent of the wild 10-year-old, the leader will try to figure out why the company is not doing well or even why it is going bankrupt, looking at all the outside reasons while failing to look internally at the culture.So how do leaders build a culture?  Recently, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation set out to build what they refer to as a “high-impact culture”.  Through research, internal assessment, and focused leadership, they made a concerted effort to change their internal culture and evolve the organization. Viewing culture as something that can be created, shaped and changed, they began their journey with a culture survey. After discovering the current state, they created a model in which they defined the cultural agenda and implemented solutions that would reinforce the desired culture.  Led by top executives, this initiative was all inclusive and seen as a never-ending journey across the entire organization.  The Gates Foundation continuously monitors their culture, paying special attention to the alignment of the culture with the impact they want to have in the world.The Gates Foundation case shows that through a concerted leadership effort, consistent communication, employee engagement, passion and the commitment of the entire organization, positive, impactful cultures can be built. The efforts of the organization, leadership, and workforce, will be rewarded with higher profits, corporate sustainability, and greater employee engagement. last_img read more

England vs Iceland: FA asks for Nations League game to go ahead at Wembley | Football News

first_img– Advertisement – In an international week special, Jamie Redknapp reacts to Joe Gomez’s injury news and analyses where England must strengthen ahead of next year’s European Championships.Listen to the Sky Sports Pitch to Post Podcast on: Spotify | Apple | Castbox – Advertisement – Entry from Denmark is currently banned for non-British residents after a new strain of coronavirus – thought to have originated in mink farms – was found in the country.The FA has now confirmed they have been lobbying the UK Government for “elite athlete exemption” on Iceland’s behalf, which would have allowed them to enter the UK under strict rules.It had been suggested that a neutral country, possibly Albania, might host the match. “We have asked Government to consider allowing us to play our final UEFA Nations League match at Wembley Stadium, by giving travel exemption to the Icelandic team subject to strict medical protocols,” read an FA statement.“The Icelandic team will have played Denmark in Copenhagen and therefore would be subject to a travel ban.“While in Denmark they will have been under strict UEFA protocols in a sporting bubble and will be PCR tested before travelling to England. The PCR test picks up the Cluster 5 variant.”Pitch to Post podcast: Redknapp on England- Advertisement – Oxford are gearing up to face Wycombe at an empty WembleyImage:England vs Iceland could yet be played at Wembley The FA has asked the Government to consider allowing England to play the UEFA Nations League match against Iceland at Wembley on Wednesday.England’s national stadium was due to host England’s final Group A2 game, but the entire Iceland squad are unable to enter the UK under current rules given they first play Denmark in Copenhagen on Sunday.- Advertisement –last_img read more

Russia warns Turkey, blocks UN bid to end Syria bloodshed

first_imgThe Syrian NGO Alliance said displaced people are “escaping in search of safety only to die from extreme weather conditions and lack of available resources”.”We have hundreds and thousands of people who are fleeing… not just from bombardments but from lack of insulation, from the weather, a lack of heating. It feels like doomsday,” Razan Saffour, of the Syrian Expatriate Medical Association, told AFP in Istanbul.The group said a total of $336 million was needed for basic food, water and shelter. Education resources were also needed for 280 million displaced school-age children.Talks fail between Turkey, Russia  Russia on Wednesday warned Turkey against intervening in Syria as it blocked a UN bid to end the Damascus regime’s brutal assault on the last rebel enclave.Syrian aid workers called urgently for a ceasefire and international help for nearly a million people fleeing the regime onslaught in the country’s northwestern Idlib province — the biggest wave of displaced civilians in the nine-year conflict.Turkey, supporter of some rebel groups in Idlib, has been pushing for a renewed ceasefire in talks with Russia, which backs the Syrian regime. Ankara is eager to prevent another flood of refugees into its territory adding to the 3.7 million Syrians it already hosts. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said talks with Moscow over the past fortnight had so far failed to achieve “the desired result” and warned that Turkey would launch an offensive into Syria unless Damascus pulled its forces back by the end of the month. “An operation in Idlib is imminent…. We are counting down, we are making our final warnings,” Erdogan said in a televised speech. He called for Syrian forces to retreat by the end of this month behind Turkey’s military posts in Idlib, which were set up under a 2018 deal with Russia designed to hold off a regime advance.The Kremlin quickly responded to Erdogan’s threat, saying that Turkey should instead act against “terrorist groups” in Idlib.”If we are talking about an operation against the legitimate authorities of the Syrian republic and armed forces of the Syrian republic this would of course be the worst scenario,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters in Moscow.With Turkey moving large numbers of reinforcements into Idlib in recent weeks, Defence Minister Hulusi Akar emphasised that it was “out of the question for us to withdraw from our observation posts”.”If there is any sort of attack against them, we will retaliate in kind,” he told reporters in Ankara.  Russia objects to UN bid Russia, which along with Iran backs Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, has repeatedly vetoed UN resolutions on the conflict as it hopes for the triumph of the regime.At the United Nations, diplomats said they were unable to produce a statement on ending the fighting due to Russian objections.”We tried very hard to have a press statement calling for cessation of hostilities and humanitarian access to Idlib,” said Nicolas de Riviere, the French ambassador to the United Nations.”Basically Russia said ‘no’, which is very painful,” he told reporters.The UN envoy to Syria, Geir Pedersen, confirmed that no progress had been made either in several rounds of talks between Turkey and Russia held in Ankara and Moscow.   “To the contrary, public statements from different quarters, Syrian and international, suggest an imminent danger of further escalation,” he told the UN Security Council.Earlier this week the United Nations said the displaced were mainly women and children. It warned that babies were dying of cold because aid camps are full. The Syrian NGOs called for the warring parties to allow safe access for humanitarian groups and for a “complete ceasefire and end to human rights violations”.According to the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the regime offensive has killed more than 400 civilians since it began in December, adding to the toll of more than 380,000 who have died in the years of unrest.”The violence in northwest Syria is indiscriminate. Health facilities, schools, residential areas, mosques and markets have been hit,” the UN head of humanitarian affairs and emergency relief, Mark Lowcock, said earlier this week. The head of the World Health Organization said Tuesday that out of nearly 550 health facilities in northwest Syria, only about half were operational.”We repeat: health facilities and health workers are not a legitimate target,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told journalists in Geneva.Syrian troops have reconquered swathes of Idlib and retaken the key M5 highway connecting the country’s four largest cities as well as the entire surroundings of Aleppo city for the first time since 2012.Oxfam said that two of the British aid group’s local workers died in an attack on Wednesday elsewhere in Syria in the southern Daraa area.Topics :last_img read more

Employment First Commission Announces Recommendations to Help People with Disabilities Find Competitive, Fulfilling Jobs

first_img SHARE Email Facebook Twitter Jobs That Pay,  Press Release Harrisburg, PA – As part of his commitment to help people with disabilities find competitive jobs in the community, Governor Tom Wolf announced today the inaugural Employment First Oversight Commission annual report. The report outlines goals and recommendations for the commonwealth to continue prioritizing competitive integrated employment for Pennsylvanians with disabilities.In 2016, the Governor signed an Executive Order adopting an Employment First policy, with the goal of making Pennsylvania a model state for employing people with disabilities. The policy was codified by Act 36 of 2018, which also created the commission.“I thank the commissioners for their hard work and the recommendations provided in this first annual report,” said Governor Wolf. “We must ensure people with disabilities can achieve greater independence and inclusion in our communities, and this report will help me to move that process forward.”The report proposes employment goals for people with disabilities, including continuing to transition from segregated employment with subminimum wages to competitive integrated jobs that pay at least the minimum wage. Other goals include increasing employment of people with disabilities to at least 7 percent of the state agency workforce and increasing the percentage of students leading planning meetings with school officials about their special education services to prepare them to request accommodations needed to be successful in future employment. The commission also outlined recommendations that would allow more people with disabilities to work a variety of jobs in the community by providing improved training.The commission members are: Mary Hartley, Chair, Principal, 446 Bridges; Stephen Suroviec, Vice Chair, President and CEO, ACHIEVA; Josie Badger, Principal, J. Badger Consulting; Cindy Duch, Director of Parent Advising, PEAL Center; Amiris Dipuglia, Parent Consultant, PaTTAN; Richard S. Edley, PhD, President and CEO, RCPA; Zach Hicks, Arc of PA Board Member; Vincent Loose, President and CEO, Source America; Rob Oliver, Advocate, Speaker & Author; Donna Partin, Board Chair, D.R.E.A.M Partnership; Stephen S. Pennington, Esquire, Executive Director, PaCAP; Paul Stengle, CEO, The Arc Alliance and Heidi Tuszynski, Past Chair, PA Rehabilitation Council.The commission will issue the report annually and work with state agencies to continue implementing the Employment First policy. The commission’s report is available. October 01, 2019center_img Employment First Commission Announces Recommendations to Help People with Disabilities Find Competitive, Fulfilling Jobslast_img read more