The Power of Reframing

Reframing is a powerful perspective-changing tool with which someone takes a thing out of its expected context and forces the viewer to re-experience it as something that completely changes his or her mind about it.

Ronald Reagan did this to Jimmy Carter in 1980. President Carter was going on about something anti-Republican in that year’s debates, and Reagan busted him up on national television saying “There you go again…”

And in ’84, when a much-younger Walter Mondale was trying to make his opponent seem too old, Reagan replied that he had no intention of making an issue of the Democratic candidate’s “youth and inexperience.”

For those readers that were born after 1984, let’s take an example served up to us by director Quentin Tarantino. At the end of part one of his two-act play Kill Bill, Tarantino uses a piece of music that I’ll bet for thirty years had been laughed at as “lame” and “girlish” to thunderclap the piece to a close. It’s James Last (and oh yes, I remember James Last Does His Thing on LP from my childhood) and pan flute player Zamfir combining for “The Lonely Shepherd”, backed by a rockin’ updated bass and horn beat. Now Zamfir may have sold 40 million recordings, but did you ever hear anyone offer up one of his albums as a Saturday night suggestion?

This is the power of reframing. Millions of people who never heard of Zamfir and never would except for Tarantino’s winding of a flute-playing Bill into the mix were exposed to this music and loved it. For those of you who need to listen to it now, it’s here.

That’s the power of reframing. How can you use it to turn what was the geeky and awkward into a success? If you’re looking for ideas personalized to your situation, let me know.

If you want expertise to help you get started right now, click here.


Quantify, Quantify, Quantify

Six years of grant applications for municipal funding of non-profit society programs crossed my desk from 2003 to 2008. Half the time somebody else would drop the ball and as chairman I’d have a last-minute assignment to complete their assessments, too. As a business administration and operations management grad, the financial and functional sections were no big deal. But here was the kicker:

  • no matter how much I liked the organization
  • no matter how good I felt the program they were offering might be
  • no matter how much they insisted their program was unique and helped people

I was held to a strict criteria of evaluation in order to determine whether funding ought to be recommended or not.

One of the major “quick checks” I had to go by was this…How many residents of the municipality were served by the program? Exactly how many?

You can do a lot of thinking about numbers like this. Such as–is $1000 that helps 100 people deal with having a stroke, or $10 per person helped, better than $8,000 to help 8 blind people have seeing-eye dogs?

But the sad truth is, I rarely arrived at this kind of question (I had written ‘dilemma’, but that’s a choice between two equally undesirable alternatives…). The fact of the matter is that the large majority of organizations seeking municipal grant support were unable to clearly or believably quantify how many people in that municipality that they actually helped with their program.

If you’re writing a proposal or a grant application, don’t go on and on with warm and fuzzies about how great you are and that you “know” you are or are going to help people. Quantify. Tell the reader, at least as an estimate, how many people you’re going to help or how much money you’re going to save or how many hours you will shave off a process. Quantify. Yes, you’re going to have to build in a feedback loop into the delivery of your program. But you should have that anyway–not just float from year to year, executive director to executive director, sometimes paying more attention and sometimes not. Quantify. You’ll see your successes grow.

If you’re having trouble quantifying how your proposal will be deemed as a success, and want to get the attention of The Powers That Be, drop me a line.