RADIANCE BLOG

Category: Stuff We Like

GoodBusiness – The State of Corporate Philanthropy in Colorado

We were very excited to work with B:CIVIC, the Denver Chamber, DaVita, TIAA and the University of Denver to collect data about how businesses in Colorado are engaging with and giving to their communities. It was great to see that businesses of all sizes across Colorado are engaging in corporate philanthropy, especially at the local level. It was also interesting to see that in addition to cash donations, many businesses are offering support for their employees to donate time and money.

The report can be found here.


How do you measure the value of an experience?

When I think about the professional development I did last week, I would summarize it thusly: an unexpected, profound experience.

I was given the opportunity to attend RIVA moderator training and I walked away with more than I ever could have dreamed I would get. Do you know that experience where you think back to your original expectations and you realize just how much you truly didn’t understand what you would get out of something? That was me, as I sat on a mostly-empty Southwest plane (156 seats and yet only 15 passengers) flying home. While you can expect a RIVA blog to follow, I was struck by the following thought:

What does it mean to understand the impact your company, product, or service has on your customers?

I feel like I was born and raised to think quantitatively. I approach what I do with as much logic as I can (sometimes this isn’t saying much…) When I think about measuring the impact a company, product, or service has on its customers, my mind immediately jumps to numbers – e.g. who (demographically) and how satisfied are they with it. But am I really measuring impact? I think yes and no. I’m measuring an impersonal impact; one that turns people into consumers and percentages. The other kind of impact largely missed in quantitative research is the impact on the person.

If I were to fill out a satisfaction or brand loyalty survey for RIVA, I would almost be unhappy that I couldn’t convey my thoughts and feelings about the experience. I don’t want them to know just that I was satisfied. I want them to understand how profound this experience was for me. When they talk to potential customers about this RIVA moderator class, I want them to be equipped with my personal story. If they listen and understand what I say to them, I believe they would be better equipped to sell their product.

This is one of the undeniable and extremely powerful strengths of qualitative research. Interviews, focus groups, anything that allows a researcher to sit down and talk to people is creating some of the most valuable data that can be created. We can all think of a time where a friend or family member had such a positive experience with some company, product, or service that they just couldn’t help but gush about it. Qualitative research ensures that valuable of that feedback is captured and preserved. If you want to truly understand who is buying your product or using your service, I cannot stress the importance of qualitative research enough.


Questions? Conversation killers?

What happened to me? When did my conversation style stray into a revolving game of 20 Questions (a 1940s era TV show)? I’m a big believer in the power of questions but too much is too much. There, I’ve said it.

I suspect working with a bunch of wicked smart and curious researchers is part of the problem. I’m surrounding by people intent on determining the right questions to ask. And they like to think of questions by posing questions.

What happens when a question becomes the default? Have I lost my ability to speak in statements? To declare what I believe or think or know?

When something becomes an unintentional habit – a settled or regular tendency or practice, especially one that is hard to give up – it’s time to establish new patterns.

And thus I’ve commenced the somewhat clunky experience of rephrasing questions into statements. If you experience me fumbling about with words a bit more than normal, you’ll know I’m in the midst of behavior change.

Hey, I wonder if anyone has done any research on this?

PS – If 20 questions aren’t enough I can point to a list of 200 conversation starters.


Tuft & Needle: Incredible Mattresses. Incredible research?

If you have ever received a proposal from Corona Insights regarding customer research, you may have seen this line:

“We believe that surveying customers shouldn’t lower customer satisfaction.”

We take the respondent’s experience into account, from the development of our approach through the implementation of the research (e.g., survey design, participant invites, etc.), even in our choice of incentives. We work with our clients on an overall communications plan and discuss with them whether we need to contact all customers or only a small subset, sparing the rest from another email and request. For some clients, we even program “alerts” to notify them of customers that need immediate follow-up.

As such, I’m always interested to see how other companies handle their interactions when it comes to requesting feedback. Is it a poorly thought out SurveyMonkey survey? Personalized phone call? Or something in between?

Recently, I was in the market for a new mattress and wanted to try one of newer entrants shaking up the mattress industry. I went with Tuft & Needle, and while I won’t bore you with details of the shopping experience or delivery, I found the post-purchase follow-up worth sharing (hopefully you’ll agree).

I received an email that appeared to come directly from one of the co-founders. It was a fairly stock email, but not with overdone marketing content or design, and it is easy enough to mask the email to make it appear to come from the founder. In it, it had one simple request:

“If you are interested in sharing, I would love to hear about your shopping experience. What are you looking for in a mattress and did you have trouble finding it?”

The request made clear that I could simply hit reply to answer. So I did.

I assumed that was it, or maybe I’d get another form response, but I actually got a real response. One that was clearly not stock (or at least not 100% stock – it made specific references to my response). It wasn’t the co-founder who had responded, but another employee, but still impressive in my opinion.

So, what did they do right? What can we take away from this?

  • Make a simple request
  • Make it easy to reply to
  • Include a personalized acknowledgement of the customer’s responses

Maybe you think this is something only a start-up would (or should) do, but what if more companies took the time to demonstrate such great service, whether in their research or their everyday customer service?


If you are traveling to watch the eclipse, be prepared

Solar Eclipse. The moon moving in front of the sun. Illustration

As a bit of a space geek (don’t even get me started on my love of SpaceX), I’ve been planning for this weekend for a long time.  I bought my eclipse sunglasses and started looking into lodging over a year ago, so you can imagine how excited I am for this event.

Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it), it seems I’m not the only one who will be traveling north to watch the total solar eclipse.  (Though you can see the sun 92% obscured in Denver, it won’t be anything like the experience of totality.)  This has CDOT issuing all sorts of warnings about traffic over the weekend.  I was curious about how much of a doomsday prediction these warnings were, so I conducted a quick Google Survey to find out.

Though these surveys aren’t near as robust or scientific as the surveys we at Corona do for our clients, they are a great way to get a quick feel for how the public feels about an issue.  In this case, I simply asked 125 Colorado residents if they were planning to travel north and, if so, where they planned to travel to.  The results?

Again, these are very rough numbers, but with 20% of those surveyed saying they are planning to travel to see the eclipse (out of 5.5 million Coloradans), that could mean that as many as 1.1 million Coloradans will be on the highway on Monday.  CDOT’s estimate of 600 thousand traveling to Wyoming doesn’t seem far off from the 550 million estimate this quick survey would indicate.

So what to do?  Here are my recommendations:

  • Go anyway! Seriously, this won’t happen within easy driving distance of Colorado for another 30 years, and everyone I’ve heard speak about the experience says it’s completely surreal and unlike anything else you will experience.
  • Plan for safety. If you have somehow been living under a rock and missed all of the safety warnings about needing eclipse glasses, here’s another one.  Don’t look at the sun (except during totality if you travel north) without using eclipse glasses.    If you don’t already have them, you can try finding them at local libraries or hardware stores.  And if you can’t find them, check out community events where you could borrow from someone.  The process of the eclipse will take a total of almost 3 hours, so it shouldn’t be a problem to trade glasses here and there.  And if you still can’t make that work, there’s always a pinhole camera.
  • Plan for a good location. Many small towns in the path of totality are hosting events to watch the eclipse.  That’s a much better option than planning to just stop at the side of the road somewhere.
  • Plan for the worst-case traffic scenario. Though my hope is that everyone will be spread out enough that traffic won’t be as bad as CDOT fears, it’s a possibility that they’re entirely correct.  Get gas early so that you don’t have to wait at overcrowded gas stations.  Plan a variety of routes to get to and from your destination.  Take food and water in the car so that you don’t have to swarm the handful of restaurants in the area that aren’t equipped to handle this kind of volume.
  • Have fun! Try and relax, take your time when traveling, and enjoy the experience for what it is. Even if it takes way longer than you expect to get home on Monday, this may be the only time in your life that you get to experience something like this.

I’ll be out of the office on Monday, and I hope that many of you will be as well.  Enjoy the experience, and cross your fingers for clear skies!


Researching things that go boom

OK, so there may not be a lot of actual research going on in this post, but we at Corona have a wide variety of interests and sometimes like to show those off too!  One such interest is that I have been shooting professional fireworks shows for over 20 years.  I got my start in helping out my dad back when I was in high school (and when the regulations for the minimum age for helping on a show were more…loosely enforced).  Since then, it’s been a summer hobby of mine for years.

Though everyone knows what fireworks are like when they explode, I have found over the years that very few people have any idea what it takes to put on a good show!  Even for a relatively small show (I was in charge of the show in Lafayette, Colorado for 5 years), it takes a crew of at least 5-6 people an entire day to get ready for the big event.  Here’s a quick overview of the steps involved!

  1. Place and secure the mortars. Nearly all aerial fireworks are shot out of mortars (tubes), so the first step is to distribute large racks of mortars and secure them using braces, sand bags, or even burying them.  Professional fireworks are really powerful, and failing to properly secure the mortars to ensure safe operation can lead to disastrous results.
  2. Distribute and load the fireworks. This is possibly the easiest part of the process to understand, but it is also one of the most dangerous steps.  Crew members distribute the shells according to the plan and carefully drop them into their assigned mortar.  While every precaution is taken to ensure that devices are safe during this process, it’s not unheard of for a shell to ignite while being dropped into a mortar, so it’s important to keep body parts away from the top of a mortar!
  3. Wire everything up. Though it is possible to ignite a professional firework device by hand, a vast majority of shows are set off electronically.  That doesn’t necessarily mean computerized, but it means that an electric match is inserted into the fuse of the firework so that it can be lit from a safe distance.  (If you’ve ever fired off a model rocket, it’s the same concept.)  Once the e-matches are inserted, each is wired to a “rail” with a designated ID number so that we can set off that shell exactly when we want to.
  4. Connect the firing board and test everything out. I often describe the function of a firing board as being like a big kids’ version of the game of Operation.  There is a stylus with a metal tip and a wire coming off of it, and when you touch the stylus to a terminal, it completes the circuit, igniting the e-match and sending the shell airborne.  Before we do that, however, we always test everything out to make sure that our wiring is in good shape to shoot the show.
  5. If everything goes well, everything will be loaded, wired, and tested with plenty of time to spare (since weather or other issues sometimes cause delays).  Most of the time, though, there is time to sit, relax, and enjoy a nice, summer evening.
  6. Shoot the show! This part is just as fun for the crew as it is for the audience.  All of our hard work in the hot sun pays off for 20-30 minutes as we get to satisfy our inner pyromaniacs and blow up a ton of stuff in a short time!  It’s always a blast (pun intended).
  7. Clean it up and go home! You’d be surprised at how much work goes into cleaning up after a fireworks show.  Not only do we have to haul all of the equipment back into a truck that same night, we also have to safely inspect the shoot site to ensure that no fireworks are left in mortars and that there aren’t any “dud” shells that came down in the area.  It’s not the most glamorous part of the show and usually takes at least 2-3 hours, so the crew usually doesn’t leave until well after midnight.

Fireworks shows are a lot of fun for both the audience and the crew, but it is definitely a ton of work that requires a special type of worker to enjoy.  (Spoiler alert: fireworks crews aren’t paid like kings.)  I hope that this inside look will help you to appreciate all of the work that went into making your 4th of July holiday memorable!


Ugh, Millennials

Is anyone else tired of talking about millennials? Millennials have seemingly been on everyone’s mind, with many worrying over their spending habits, charitable giving, large debt, voting behaviors, and other things. Why do we care so much about this generation? Don’t they already have a problem with entitlement and being all about “me me me”; we probably shouldn’t feed into that, right?

Pictured: Gregory (myself) the Millennial
Fun fact: depending on where you draw the line, 70% of Corona staff are classified as millennials.

As annoying as it might be, there are some very good reasons to focus on the millennial generation. The baby boomer generation is now on the decline and currently there are 11 million more millennials. It is estimated that millennials will comprise over a third of adult Americans by 2020,  up to 75% of the American workforce by 2025, and currently account for over one trillion dollars in consumer spending in the U.S. Despite this, millennials have less money to spend and are encumbered with greater debt. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the conclusion is that millennials are important because they are the new money – they are very quickly becoming the largest group of consumers and are therefore greatly impacting all businesses and organizations.

The millennials, as a generation, share some commonly seen characteristics:

… and the facts don’t end there. If you haven’t already, I highly encourage you to pour over some of the linked materials to familiarize yourself with this impactful generation. If they haven’t yet, millennials will be disrupting your organization sometime in the near future, and it’s inescapable that we all need to adapt.


State of Our Cities and Towns – 2017

For many years, Corona has partnered with the Colorado Municipal League to conduct the research that is the foundation of their annual State of Our Cities and Towns report. CML produced the following short video, specifically for municipal officials, about the importance of investing in quality of life:

Learn more, view the full report, and watch additional videos on the State of Our Cities website.


Nonprofit Data Heads

Here at Corona, we gather, analyze, and interpret data for all types of nonprofits.  While some of our nonprofit clients are a little data shy, many are data-heads like us!  Indeed, several nonprofits (many of which we have worked for or partnered with) have developed amazing websites full of easy to access datasets.

Here are 4 of my favorite nonprofit data sources…check them out!!

The Data Initiative at the Piton Foundation

Not only do they sponsor Mile High Data Day, but the Piton Foundation produces a variety of user friendly data interfaces.  I really like the creative ways they allow website visitors to explore data–not just static pie and bar charts. Instead, their interface is dynamic and extremely customizable. While their community facts tool pulls most (but not all) of its data from the US Census, this tool is very easy and fun to use.  Further, they have already defined and labeled neighborhoods across the Denver Metro area, making it easy for users to compare geographies without trying to aggregate census tract or block group numbers. This is an invaluable feature for data users who don’t have access to GIS. I also appreciate the option to display margin of error on bar charts when its available.

Highlights:

  • Easy to use from novice to expert data user
  • Data available by labeled neighborhood
  • 7-County Denver Metro focus

Explore

OpenColorado

With over 1,500 datasets, OpenColorado is a treasure trove of raw data.  While this site doesn’t have a fancy user interface, it does provide access to data in many different file types, making it a great website for the intermediate to advanced data user with access to software such as GIS, AutoCAD, or Google Earth.  Most data on OpenColorado is from Front Range cities (e.g., Arvada, Boulder, Denver, Westminster) and counties (e.g., Boulder, Denver, Clear Creek), but unfortunately it is far from a comprehensive list, so you’d need to look elsewhere if your searching for information from Arapahoe County, for example.

There are over 200 datasets specific to the City and County of Denver.  I opened a few that caught my eye, including the City’s “Checkbook” dataset that shows every payment made from the City (by City department) to payees by year.  I give kudos to Denver and OpenColorado for facilitating this type of fiscal transparency.  I also downloaded a dataset (CSV) of all Denver Police pedestrian and vehicle stops for the past four years, which included the outcome of each stop along with the address, latitude and longitude.  For a GIS user, this is especially helpful if you want to search for patterns of police activity compared to other social and geographic factors.  Even without access to spatial software, this dataset is useful because it includes neighborhood labels.  I created a quick pivot table in Excel to see the top ten neighborhoods for cars being towed (so don’t park your car illegally in these neighborhoods).

Highlights:

  • Tons of raw data
  • Various file types, including shapefiles and geodatabases that are compatible with GIS, and KML files that are compatible with GoogleEarth
  • Search for data by geography, tags, or custom search words

Kids Count from the Colorado Children’s Campaign

Kids Count is a well-respected data resource for all things kids.  Each year, the Colorado Children’s Campaign (disclaimer, they are also our neighbor, working just two floors below us) produces the Kids Count in Colorado report, which communicates important child well-being indicators and indices statewide and by county when available.  The neat thing about Kids Count is that it’s also a national program, so you can compare how indicators in a specific county compare to the state and nation. In addition to the full report available as a PDF, you can also interact with a state map and point and click to access a summary of indicators by county.  Mostly, their data is not available in raw form, but their report does explain how they calculated their estimates and provides tons of contextual information that makes their key findings much more insightful.

Highlights:

  • Compare county data to state and national trends
  • Reports include easy to understand analysis and interpretation of data
  • Learn about trends overtime and across demographic groups

Outdoor Foundation

If you’re looking for information about outdoor recreation of any type in any state, there is probably an Outdoor Foundation report that has the data you’re seeking.  Based in Boulder, Colorado, the Outdoor Foundation’s most common reports communicate studies of participation rates by activity type, both at a top level and also by selected activity types such as camping, fishing, and paddle sports (haven’t yet heard of stand-up paddle boarding?  It’s one of the fastest growing in terms of participation).  The top-line reports show trends over the past ten years, while the more detailed Participation Reports break out participation, and other factors such as barriers to participation, by various demographics.  Multiple other special reports, focusing on topics such as youth and technology, round out what’s available from this site.

The participation and special reports are helpful, but I’m most impressed with the Recreation Economy reports, which are available nationwide and within each state.  These reports estimate the economic contribution of outdoor recreation, including jobs supported, tax revenue, and retail sales.  For example, the outdoor recreation economy supported about 107,000 jobs in Colorado in 2013.  Unfortunately, the raw data is not available for further analysis, but the summary results are still interesting and helpful.

Explore:


Art meets architecture in Denver this weekend

Looking for something fun to do this weekend in-between rides on the new A Line to DIA? Check out the arts and cultural activities during Doors Open Denver. Art meets architecture through pop-ups ranging from a nomadic art gallery to poetry, drama, and music performances among the 11 offerings. My favorite? Graffiti art. If you’ve been secretly wanting to learn the art of graffiti painting – and you’re 55 or older – then we’ve got the creative outlet for you. Bust through stereotypes as you create graffiti art inspired by two of Denver’s architectural gems.

  • April 23rd, 1-3 pm – Saturday’s pop-up will be hosted by Clyfford Still Museum on their front lawn. Clyfford Still Museum will give 4 – 20 minute architectural tours each day at 11:00, 11:30, 2:00 and 2:30.
  • April 24th, 1-3 pm – Sunday’s pop-up will be hosted by the new Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzales Library and include 3 tours led by architect Joseph Moltabano of Studiotrope, a Denver-based architecture and design agency. DPL staff will share how the library’s design informs their work. Since Sunday is Día del Niño the artist will be prepared to host a multi-generational event at the library.VSA Colorado/Access Gallery

Thanks to our collaborative partners: VSA Colorado/Access Gallery, studiotrope design, Denver Public Library, Studiotrope Designand Clyfford Still Museum. I’d like to give a special shout out to Damon McLeese of Access Gallery; Joseph Montalbano  of DPLstudiotrope; Ed Kiang, Viviana Casillas and Diane Lapierre of DPL; and Sonia Rae of Clyfford Still Museum.

Please join me in thanking the Bonfils-Clyfford Still Museum Stanton Foundation for funding this engaging spotlight on art and architecture.

For more information visit this Doors Open Denver link.