Thursday, July 02, 2009

Sample Free Search

Why code your own site search when Google will do it for you?

Google's Custom Search is easy to set up, inexpensive, and very effective.
  • The free version (illustrated below) has ads in the results
  • For $100, they'll take the ads off.
  • Illustrated is the very basic version that literally took 5 minutes to set up
  • There are many options for putting the results within your own website's style, a frame, a separate page ... all the stuff you'd expect Google to do
  • Best of all: you can aggregate results from multiple sites. See the 2nd example below!

Searching one site

I needed a prototype custom search of one website to show some buddies, and it took literally 10 minutes to set up:






Go ahead, give it a try! (Keep in mind, it searches just that one site).

Remember, the results will be on a very plain web page, because I didn't bother setting it up to match your site's style sheet. It's pretty easy to work with, as you'd expect, since you're dealing with the industry leader.

Searching Multiple Sites!

Imagine a topic that is covered by several sites. For example, information on lawyers in Washington States is spread across one State Bar, multiple County Bars, various specialty organizations and the state courts. You don't want to use plain ol' Google, because that tends to mix results from Washington State with Washington D.C., not to mention Washington University in St. Louis. Instead, you figure out which sites you want to search all at once and here you go:






Try it. For example, search on "PBLAC" to discover that both wsba.org and the Washington Courts have important information on it.

Let me emphasize that the annoying ads can go away if you pay Google a one-time fee of $100. This is a total BARGAIN! for many organizations!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Box Beats Bag!

Let a simple cardboard box replace your grocery bags easily, cheaply and environmentally responsibly.

We all know that plastic shopping bags are an annoying waste, difficult to recycle and expensive, although convenient. Paper shopping bags may be marginally better; at least they're easily recyclable. Better still are reusable bags, made of cotton or some other material. Figuring out the best ways to promote and use these are a hot topic, as, for example, in my blogBuddy SmallFootprints' most recent "Change the World Wednesday" challenge: The Plastic Bag Challenge.

But let me suggest another choice: the humble yet incredible useful cardboard box:

Now, I have and re-use many cotton bags. Over time, they acquire personality; "Ol' Blue" is more than 10 years old and, while slightly faded, still has a lot of use left (kinda like a lot of us!)

But when it comes to serious grocery shopping, I now prefer the humble "Banker's Box". These easily folded cardboard boxes are designed to fit 18 inches of standard sized paper files, which makes them carry about the same as 2 standard grocery bags. They fits nicely into shopping carts and the back seat of cars. Their handles are strong and they don't flop over when you drive.

You should get them for free, as people discard them all the time; they're very reusable and recyclable. I just keep a couple in the car; new uses come up all the time, e.g. quickly organizing various items to be dropped off at different locations. Give them a try!

As with bags, my favorite stores give a small rebate when I bring in my box, so ... as is so often true ... Going Green Means Saving Green!

Tops Tips for Recruiting Volunteer Lawyers

Can you recruit volunteers for your legal aid programs faster, easier and better with these techniques? They worked for me, and I'm not any smarter than you are, so they should work even better for you!

1. ADMIT IT: YOU'RE SELLING SOMETHING!

Recruiting is a sales job.

For many of us, that's bad news: It's hard enough talking to strangers, but trying to sell them something is inconceivable.

But good news: We don't have to be Willy Loman or even Billy Mays.

And better news: There's a huge literature on sales techique. You don't have to re-invent anything; just apply it in a different context. To get started, I suggest The One Minute Sales Person; it's a very fast read and will be useful not only in recruiting voluteers, but in finding clients for your law practice.

(There are gazillions of other books & resources on sales & recruiting; let me know which you have found useful, by hitting "reply" at the end of this post.)

You do not have to admit that you're selling something to anyone else (especially to those you are trying to recruit), but you must admit it to yourself so you can recognize your biggest recruiting/sales problems and find solutions.

2. ENLIST AFFINITY GROUPS!

An affinity group is any interest-based voluntary association, such as a county or subject matter bar association. There are many other definitions but for recruiting purposes, you want the ones that people have chosen freely because they are pre-selected as to their interest.

Affinity groups are especially valuable because they tend to be looking for value to deliver to their members. If you ask them to help recruit volunteers for a worthy cause, they will love you because it adds value to the affinity group. Just be sure to give them full credit and praise, e.g. "The Hells Canyon Bar Association and AACF need you ... "

Affinity groups can be recruited to recruit further volunteers.

Example: For Attorneys Assisting Citizen-Soldiers and Families (AACF) I systematically emailed the chief executive and some other officers of every county bar association in Washington State. Following the principle of Personalize! (below) I ensured that the email subject line, and some content within the message, directly appealed to that particular entity. The response was good, with many responding directly that they would forward the information to their members and/or discuss at their next meetings.

(I suppose you could, in theory, recruit volunteers from a non-voluntary group, e.g. if you're organizing a prison breakout, you'll direct your appeals to those who want to escape. But for most volunteering, it works better to approach prospects from some place they're happy to be. )

3. ASK THE IDEAL PERSON!

The people you want to recruit are not going to come to you. You must go to them. This means asking; you cannot avoid it. You can lessen the pain of asking, and the concomitant likelihood of rejection, with a simple procedure:
  1. Think of three people who would be ideal for the project
  2. Ask them
  3. If they say yes: congratulations!
  4. If they say no: ask them who else could do the work
  5. Repeat until done.

Notes:

  • We tend to ask people with whom we are comfortable, rather than those who would be best for the job. That's normal and human; cold-calling (or "cold-emailing" in today's world) is hard because you get rejected a lot. You've got to get beyond it if you want to succeed.
  • We also tend to hope that if we just put up a "Help Wanted!" sign, the right person will magically come by and read it. This is not true; as a rule, the people you want are busy! If You Build It They Will Come worked only because the Chicago Black Sox Were Dead And Bored!
  • The point of asking the ideal person is not so much recruiting the ideal person right off as it is setting you into the network of ideal or near-ideal persons. Typically, the absolutely ideal person will be too busy to do your project, but almost always will know others with comparable expertise. If you have chosen wisely, it's a subject that they care about greatly and will enjoy discussing briefly with an interested person, so long as you don't abuse the privilege.
  • If you cannot think of anyone on earth who could do the work you're thinking of, then perhaps there's something wrong with your project.
  • Do not be daunted by the fact that you don't know the person. Certainly it's easier to have someone introduce you, but the only penalty for trying is failure ... and that's also the penalty for not trying.
  • Expect to run through several cycles of referrals. Don't worry, this is normal and it can be good: if you make each contact in this cycle feel that they've gotten something out of your contact, they may be useful for your next project.
  • Some projects are too big to rely solely on direct asking by you. You need to recruit volunteer recruiters. How do you recruit them? Ask!

Examples:

  • In the late 1990s, I telephoned the new Russian Constitutional Court in Moscow and arranged an in-person interview with the Court's clerk. This was probably a first for an American law student, and it lead to some interesting experiences for both of us, but it never would have happened if I hadn't been outrageous enough to ask the ideal person for the interview. Surely your project requirements tend to be less extreme.
  • Assembling the staff for the December 2007 Lawyers for Warriors CLE consisted entirely of the "Ask the Ideal Person" methodology. The experts really enjoyed talking about their subject matter and recommending others if they could not attend. Several of them pitched in on my next project, and I was slightly helpful on some of theirs.

4. PERSONALIZE!

How many mass appeals did you delete from your inbox today? How many articles in magazines did you skip over?

There is a place for mass appeals for help; however, they rapidly diminish in effectiveness as their number multiplies and the target audience gets tapped out. (The very first lawyer spam actually worked after a fashion, reportedly netting the spammer up to $100,000 although this must be substantially discounted by his subsequent disbarment.)

Broad appeals via official website, print magazine and email are less expensive than personalized appeals, but have serious limits. They can be used by only a few projects; they desensitize the target audience to future appeals. This is a real problem if only a fraction of the audience to which you are broadcasting is qualified for the particular project. Print is an inflexible medium, requiring a substantial lead time; websites are useful only to the audience that visits them, which may not be your ideal recruit; broadcast email is a uni-directional communication.

That doesn't mean that broad-based media is not useful (...see "Authenticate!", below...) but unless you have a lot of money to support them, your campaigns need to go beyond.

Example:
  • For our 2008 AACF recruiting campaign, every members of the WSBA who mentioned "military law" as a practice area (and who didn't list an .mil address ... we didn't need to recruit people already providing services) got an email with their name on it. The response rate was excellent!
  • To recruit volunteers for our 2009 training in Yakima and Spokane, I sent a personalized appeal to several dozen lawyers in those counties with a practice area of "family law", mentioning in the case of the family lawyer specialists the need for that particular expertise.
  • Technological support in this area is broadening rapidly with the development of Facebook Causes, Twitter, and the like. For one example see Support Passage of Agent Orange Equity Act 2009 - H.R.2254

5. Authenticate Your Appeal!

The people you want to recruit will ignore appeals from the Central Bank of Spammerville, but notice a registered letter from the State Bar or Supreme Court. You want to make your appeal seem less like the former, and more like the latter.

(This may be less of a problem if you actually are the State Bar or Supreme Court, but OTOH you may have more of a rep to defend and to spend wisely. You choose!) A good way to make your appeal appear authentic is to incorporate links and quotes from highly trusted organizations. This is where the official announcement on an official website comes in handy; while it may be read by only a few casual site visitors, your link to it in your appeal lends authority to your message.

Example:
  • Our 2008 AACF appeal launched before a recruiting article could reasonably be published in print, but the credibility of our email appeals were greatly added by including a link to a message from the Washington State Bar Association (WSBA) as well as contact information at a National Guard Legal Affairs office. Recipients of the appeals could reasonably conclude that WSBA and the National Guard were credible sources of information.
  • The 2009 appeal had the added benefit of linking to a report on the 2008 effort. While the report by itself didn't generate a whole lot of new recruits (...it necessarily came out during a slow time for the project ...) it was very valuable in making our 2009 appeal seem credible.

More!

I hope my small experiences above will help you recruit more volunteers more easily.

What have you learned in recruiting volunteers? If you reply below, you can teach me and whoever else reads this!

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