Last week I had the privilege to speak at the St. Louis Chapter of the Association of Funding Professionals Annual Conference about Marketing Secrets of Donor Centered Fundraising. The session was packed with the top fundraising professionals in St. Louis from the Development Team of the Missouri Botanical Garden to Managers of the St. Louis Science Center to Professionals at Teach for America and so many others.

In the session, I told them that there were three main areas that they need to focus on for the most effective donor centered fundraising: target audience, their organizational brands, and themselves! That’s right, to do more effective work for their organizations, they need to do more bring more of themselves to their work.

I shared how being true to a brand resulted in an 18% growth in funds raised, a 233% increase in new donors, and a 534% in ROI. I also talked about the critical role storytelling plays in marketing. We reviewed the development of the “Your Story is Our Story” campaign that I led with my marketing team at Jewish Federation of St. Louis. Check it out here!

Sharing the power of storytelling, how to apply the classic branding best practices to the not-for-profit world, and connecting with hundreds of St. Louis’ fundraising professionals was an amazing way to spend the day. If you have the opportunity to go next year, I highly recommend it! Hope to see you there next year!


I was talking with someone about their job search. They were trying to figure out whether to blanket the market with their resume (applying to every remotely relevant job posting with the generic cover letter in the hopes of finding someone—anyone—to give them a job) or focus their energy, time, research and networking efforts on a few “dream job” postings.

Then I went to a client meeting where we were talking about developing a plan to market to professionals in a particular industry. The question that arose was whether they should scatter their efforts across the entire industry or focus on one particular subset of that industry.

In both cases, my answer is: focus!

The old adage “niche to get rich” completely applies in both cases.

In marketing, if you choose one area to highlight, you can create a richer message that will be more compelling to your target audience. It may be a more tightly defined audience, but the message has the opportunity to resonate in a more powerful memorable way.

My answer to both clients is to establish yourself in one market and then build on and expand from there. The job seeker ended up having more success when she focused on a few choice job postings and in due time landed a “primo” job for which she was well-suited.

For the small business, the focus on one small sub-segment of their desired expansion market allows them to establish a foothold in that segment and then expand from there. This streamlines communications, maximizes limited budgets, and prevents wasted, scattered (and ultimately exhausting) effort on the part of the sales team that has limited time for new business development.

So if you’re struggling with where to spend your precious, limited time, don’t hesitate: go deep. My advice is to focus on the tightly defined target in order to see the fastest results possible.

Do you agree? What has been your success? Is it better to go broad or go deep?


I’ve been working to finalize my book and get it published. When I was literally about two weeks away from publication, I thought I’d double check a few things…including the title. I looked at it as merely a formality, as I had researched it about three years ago when I originally had the idea for the book. I considered it all part of “crossing the t’s and dotting the i’s.” I did a search on Google and search on Amazon to see what else was out there…and something came up that I hadn’t seen before. It led me to dig a little deeper and a little deeper and then realized there might be an issue.

Oh no.

I touched base with the trademark lawyer, who advised against using the name that I’ve been using because someone has a trademark on it. While you can’t trademark a book title, you can trademark courses and programs related to a book. Since I planned to conduct seminars and teach people how to develop their personal brands, I knew I needed to be mindful of trademark issues. It didn’t really matter for the book title itself, but for the courses that would correspond to the book, the title I had chosen would be problematic.

I was devastated.

Here I was, all ready to go. I had the (which I’ve had for several years), everything designed and laid out–the works. But because of my background in branding, I knew that this could be very tricky.

So I fell back and regrouped.

With the help of family and friends, I explored a bunch of different options and finally narrowed it down to what I felt was a good title and subtitle, one that still integrated the core concepts I have been espousing without violating anyone’s trademark.

I used to do my initial research. This is a super handy site if you’re looking at branding questions. You can search on words, phrases and marks that are filed with the US Patent and Trademark Office.

Just to be safe, I hired a lawyer from for a 15 minute consultation. I was skeptical going into the call that it might be a scam, that she would only try to upsell me to a more expensive consultation (I had been given another quote for a thousand dollars to get advice on the exact same research). But that is not what happened at all! I got great advice quickly and was able to move forward with confidence that I was on solid ground.

I’m actually really happy with where I landed, and I think it’s even stronger than what I had before. Throughout this process, I’ve learned:

  • Sometimes our setbacks are really a set up for something even better!
  • is a viable solution for simple legal questions.
  • If you’re an entrepreneur and need to be mindful of your brand trademark issues, be sure to do your homework and triple check that you’re in the clear before moving forward!

So now the name of the book is Your Branding Edge: How Personal Branding Can Turbocharge Your Career. Let me know what you think of the new name!


How does your personal brand convey during interviews? On the eve of many college graduations, I thought I would offer recent college graduates some free interview advice.

I have found that, in general, truth is always more unbelievable than fiction. I have been on all sides of the hiring process–as hiring manager, voting member of the team, and interviewee. I’m always astonished at the crazy things people do and say in interviews. The following is a list of DON’Ts that actually happened, outrageous behaviors I have personally witnessed in interviews.

  1. DON’T Show up late. The candidate was in the final round of interviews–with the CEO of the organization!!! She showed up 25 minutes late and didn’t really apologize or explain herself! What was she thinking?
  2. When asked “what is your dream job?” DON’T describe something totally different than the job or career for which you are applying. I understand explanations about how this position you’re interviewing for might be a steppingstone to your perfect job, but I had a VP/COO candidate for a nonprofit organization who told me his ideal job was to be a Broadway producer. Dead serious. Wanted to be in the theater. I don’t even know what to say about that.
  3. DON’T answer the question, “why are you interested in this position?” with “because the money is really good.” While that may very well be true, no one likes a moneygrubbing job whore.
  4. DON’T admit to being dumb as a stump. I believe the exact words the person used were “I barely graduated. It was a miracle they gave me a diploma!” In general, stupidity is not a desirable personal branding trait. This falls under the category of TMI (Too Much Information) and happens with staggering regularity.
  5. DON’T describe how you always wanted to work for [insert wrong company name here]. Do your research. At the very least, look up the website of the organization’s name and remember it!
  6. DON’T lie about what you did or about where you worked. Background checks, people! You have to know that somehow, you’re going to be found out!
  7. When someone explains that a drug test will be needed when applying for this job, DON’T ask, “what kinds of drugs do you test for?” Big red flag.
  8. DON’T hit on the person doing the interview. Just to be clear, you need a job, not a date! Enough said.
  9. DON’T lean in conspiratorially and make racially-charged remarks about people of another faith or ethnicity. The remarks this person made were so offensive, I can’t even repeat them here.
  10. DON’T admit that you’ve been on “literally hundreds of job interviews and no one will hire me.” This does not instill confidence in the interviewer about hiring you, and it will not boost your personal brand.

I’d love to hear your horror stories of bad interview behavior. Help me build a list of crazy things you’ve experienced during job interviews too! Tell me what dreadful/hilarious/unspeakable things people have done or said on a job interview with you.

Thanks in advance for adding to the comments below. I can’t wait to hear what you have to tell me!


I’m so excited—just learned I’ve been picked as one of the speakers for the Association of Funding Professionals (AFP) St. Louis’ 2014 Annual Conference. The title of the session I’ll be leading is “Turbocharge Your Fundraising: Getting Personal with Your Donor-Centered Fundraising.”

I’ve spent the past two years developing marketing programs for Jewish Federation of St. Louis, a large non-profit community development organization that raises millions of dollars for the St. Louis Jewish community…. and now I’m going to share that knowledge with others!

Here’s the description of the session:

No two fundraisers are the same, so why should your donor conversations come from a canned script? Add your personal branding touch to today’s best practices to take your fundraising to a whole new level. With case studies that show how being true to your brand can have a tangible impact on dollars raised, this session will teach you how to weave donor passions, your organization’s mission and your personal brand together for heart-to-heart conversations that move people to action!

Learn from a branding expert about how to connect with donors that share your passion to turbocharge your donor relationships, your communications efforts, and your overall fundraising results. Discover how to translate your brand in the most authentic—and effective—way possible! By learning what motivates your donors, you’ll be able to present your organization’s mission in a way that resonates. In this session, you’ll learn how to:

  • Increase the authenticity and intensity of your donor conversations
  • Relate on a more personal level to your donors
  • Translate your brand authentically (even on mass appeals!)
  • Tell motivating stories that donors want to hear
  • Develop communications that are donor-centered and brand-centered at the same time

Tap into donor passions for the most meaningful long-term relationships

If you’re involved in a nonprofit, join me September 24 at the Renaissance Hotel at the St. Louis airport. If you register before July 31, you’ll get a discount off the registration fee.

Click here to register.


We all have them: pet projects that we started that are just sitting there, undone. Usually, it’s a project that started as something without we just “try.” But then, we found that it was fun and important and bigger than we originally anticipated. So we work on it, and we find nuances and have creative ideas about it how to enhance it and add to it and make it better and refine it… So it never gets done.

It becomes so big and important that it never gets finished.

And then life gets in the way. Other distractions keep us from finishing the project… So it sits in the drawer taunting us, reminding thus of the greatness that could be but isn’t… And because it reminds us of failures, of things we haven’t done, we start to focus on that, on the “undone-ness” of it.

And so the feelings we feel for the project change. Added to the initial excitement and joy and fulfillment we feel, we add sadness, discouragement and defeat.

And then we don’t want to work on it anymore.

But the solution to the problem is action. Because that project still could be great, if only we would pick it up again and throw some energy its way. Once we start up again, we will see the fun and the joy and the greatness that is there, just waiting to be realized. By just doing a little bit, and then a little bit more, and then a little bit more, that project could grow to be amazing… and done!


Sometimes, a little encouragement can go a long way.

Several years ago, I helped someone in their job search, advising on what he could do and how to go about having conversations about his accomplishments and how he could contribute. He didn’t have much money to pay for on-going coaching at the time, so we had just a few conversations. I helped as I could and wished him well.

Fast forward a few years…I have moved from Connecticut to St. Louis and done many other professional duties since then. I didn’t give our previous conversations additional thought, but one day, I got a thank you note and a check in my mailbox. The note talked about how I had helped him; he summed it up by saying, “You are really good at what you do.”

Well, Ralph has paid his debt in full…not just from the money (although that is always helpful), but more for the encouragement he provided. You see, since moving to St. Louis, I have focused on other types of branding projects. I haven’t done much of the kind of consultation that I did with him (work that brought great joy and satisfaction), and I find that I miss it. I’ve been thinking about diving back into that, but I have been wondering whether I should.

So that one sentence had such a huge impact on me. I have carried that note with me in my briefcase every day since I got it. That note nudged me to begin again, so that’s what I’m doing. I’ve committed to publishing my book, Turbocharge Your Career, within the next three months, booking speaking engagements and setting things up online to do some coaching.

So thank you, Ralph, for sending that note. The money is certainly appreciated, but the thought has been priceless!

Is there someone that you can encourage? If so, tell them what they mean to you. Help them move toward their dream. You never know what a lasting impact that may have!


Written by Rahna Barthelmess originally posted on Southworth Blog

The CEO’s personal brand can have a dramatic impact on an organization’s overall brand (and vice versa). When you think of Jack Welsh, you think of GE; think of Virgin Atlantic and it brings Richard Branson to mind.

The “changing of the guard” is an important time, and the communication about a new CEO can be critical to the continued success of an organization (and to the new CEO’s career!). Now, before you stop reading this article because you are not a CEO, let me assure you that the conversation also has relevance to your career. Understanding the process can be instructive for you if you get a new job, a promotion, or if you are responsible for the hiring of others.

One of my clients is the oldest and largest charitable organization in the city where I live, and recently I was involved in publicly launching the new CEO to the community. Ultimately, this is a matter of personal branding and requires an evaluation of target audiences and key messaging. In this situation, the team had to think about all the different constituents that would be interested in this change–donors who care deeply about how the new executive would carry on the mission of the organization, the employees who will now have to work for this person, and the larger community who will be impacted by this new executive’s leadership for years to come. Every CEO has a vision for his or her organization, and communicating that vision broadly and clearly can help further that vision dramatically. Here are some of the activities we focused on:

• Reviewed and refined key messages over and over again until we felt we had them nailed down.

• Set up internal meetings with employees

• Sent special email announcements to donors and other key constituents

• Facilitated media interviews to launch this new CEO

• Made introductions and set up meetings with key players to begin to build the long-term relationships necessary to his (and the organization’s) success

• Designed and reviewed the new CEO’s personal stationery package to ensure it expressed his personal brand while also holding true to the company’s brand standard

• Recorded a video of the new CEO, and posted it on the website so that interested parties could get a sense of what’s important to him and what he’s like

• Reviewed his LinkedIn profile, knowing that many people would now be checking him out.

In addition, his appointment launched a national conversation about succession planning in other charitable organizations around the country, so we had to actively participate in that online dialogue.

Typically, the outgoing executive has had a long and distinguished career, and it’s important to acknowledge that person’s contributions even as the new exec is ushered in.

So what does that have to do with you? You may not be a CEO, but the steps we took to launch this executive in his new job can be instructive for you. If you are job seeker, or newly in your position, or if you are the manager of someone newly hired, you’ll want to think through these very same steps in establishing yourself or your employee to ensure a successful career launch within an organization. While you may not be giving media interviews to the press, you should think through how to best communicate to relevant parties what value you’ll bring to your job. While you may not be meeting with public dignitaries, you should nonetheless evaluate who the key players in your world will be and how you can begin to build those relationships. What does your business card and personal stationery say about you? What does your LinkedIn profile look like? What about your Facebook page? It is guaranteed that people in your company will check you out.

The same evaluation and thoughtful planning should be done if you’re a manager and have recently hired professionals for your team. With whom do they need to meet? Who needs to know about them or about their background? How do you announce their coming, and if they are replacing someone, how are you graciously ushering the new employee while being properly respectful to the outgoing personnel?

Whether you are a CEO, new to your job or managing new hires, launching a new career takes time and thought, but the benefits are well worth the effort. Oftentimes the littlest incident can play a major role in success (or misstep).

I’d love to know: What key actions played a major role in your launching your career or the career of others on your team?





When you are trying to build a brand, sometimes it’s important to do something BIG. Whether building a personal brand or corporate brand, “go big or go home” is wise counsel. In order to make a big impression, you need to think BIG!



This strategy can work in many different types of branding. St. Louis used this tactic to increase its economy and raise its stature as a destination—in short, to improve its brand. One man had an idea that building a national monument could reinvigorate downtown St. Louis and worked to convince civic and government leaders that the idea had merit. The concept snowballed and eventually resulted in the architect Saarinen’s modern-day architectural wonder known as the St. Louis Arch.

When you go to visit the Arch, you should take the time to see the movie about the making of the Arch. It is truly an amazing feat of architectural engineering, designed down to the inch with no room for error. But it’s also a lesson in branding for the city of St. Louis—by doing something really BIG.

Doing something big can be scary; it takes courage and a sense of the bigger picture. I’ve had clients start out with big ideas that then get watered down or whittled down by budgets to something small. Don’t let this happen to you! Fight for the big thing and do everything you can to make it happen!

In the hit movie Hitch, “the date doctor” gave advice to the main character, Albert, to do something big to get the attention of the woman he desires. “Shock and awe,” he called it. Albert takes it to extreme and quits his job to get noticed. In a moment of fear, cowardice and hilarity, the tactic works. It’s a good example of building a brand in a big way.

Now, I’m not saying you should quit your job or build a monument, but the concept is relevant to many branding situations. My high school-aged son and I were talking about how to get into a prestigious university. Usually there are loads of kids who apply to these schools with 4.0 GPAs and impressive resumes full of awards, achievements and a long list of extracurricular activities. The question is, “How do you stand out?” If everyone is super-smart and talented, how do you make the admissions office take notice? The answer is, “Go Big!” Shock and awe can work in personal branding for college applications just as much as for getting the girl or building an economy.

I’ve seen personally the long-lasting impact a big branding statement can make. When you go big, you aren’t just building a short-term impression. You’re trying to build something that will last in the hearts and minds of your target audience forever! When I was at LEGO, we hosted a 20-city tour of an interactive event that allowed kids and parents to experience the fun of LEGO play. It built the brand long-term, in a very big, very personal way. Right now, I’m working with one of my clients on a BIG program to help people understand who they are and what they are all about—to make a big statement. This program will be something to be remembered for years to come!

So what are you doing to build your brand? Whether you’re a classic packaged goods brand, a college intern or a municipality, find a way to go BIG. Have the courage to make a bold statement, to be noticed, to make a lasting impression! You’ll be glad you did!