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Blue Grotto has developed an exciting and unique menu of trainings and workshops designed to enhance message development and delivery, creative thinking, problem solving, and planning. Our trainings and workshops are customized to meet the needs of each client. There are no cookie cutter seminars at Blue Grotto.

Call us today to talk about ways to maximize your communications resources – 651.398.4556

Our recent work for clients planning for their anniversaries and milestone celebrations prompted us to revamp our strategic planning facilitation - Beyond the Birthday Cake. This last year, at the request of clients hoping to leverage a once-in-lifetime opportunity, we have had great success facilitating our strategic planning sessions by conference call. Run very much like our in-person sessions, they include a cross-section of the client team responsible for the deliverables of the anniversary but are cost effective for clients outside of our regular travel schedule. The result of the planning sessions is a well-defined executive summary to help guide the organization’s decision-making throughout their anniversary project. Thoughtful planning ensures that anniversary activities reflect your organization’s mission and the values and philosophies that have led to your success.

Our very popular Beyond the Press Release workshop leverages our experience helping Blue Grotto clients maximize their opportunities for stronger media relations. The first step in getting your story told is to know what your story is, or at least what will appeal to a reporter. Too often, organizations who want to be more visible are clueless about how to get in front of the cameras. This workshop is designed to help prepare your organization's representatives to better understand what the news media wants and does not want, as well as tips on how to best present your potential story. We also strategize on the importance of being the "go-to" source for newsrooms.

Blue Grotto's Crisis Communications workshop brings you tools for communications readiness: your organization's ability to address a sudden or unexpected event or crisis. We strategize on how to handle media inquiries (just as importantly, how NOT to handle them), how to prepare for an interview (tips on what the reporter is and is not looking for), how to prepare multiple representatives of your organization (for example: your company's leadership team as well as ED, Board members, and staff of our nonprofit clients) for inquires from the media, and tools for communications follow-up.

For our nonprofit clients, we’ve compressed our most popular communications workshops into ala carte trainings:

Communications on the Fly is a 20-30 minute board training tool. Presented as a training at your board meeting, this session is intended to help board members identify key elements of your organization’s messaging and identify additional tools needed to help them become more proficient in delivering those messages.

Beyond the Sound Bite is a 60-90 minute extended board training intended to help board members identify key elements of your organization’s messaging and identify the tools needed to help them become more proficient in delivering those messages. This training allows board members to engage in practice sessions on delivery of the message, beyond a 30-second elevator speech. We also help you to create talking points for board and staff. People tend to internalize your mission statement, rather than memorize it, and then recite it in their own words. Talking points give folks the opportunity to showcase your organization and help you to achieve greater consistency of your message.

‘More Than a Memo’ Messaging Audit is facilitated with your staff to identify opportunities to refresh and reinforce your key messages. We begin with a review of your existing communications strategies and resources. We’ll help you identify narratives that express key messages - real-time stories of volunteer experiences, donor relationships, even vendor relationships. And we will help you create messaging tactics for internal as well as external communications, including introduction of messaging and communications to board, staff and volunteers.

Other Blue Grotto workshops and trainings that can be customized for your team include:
(Click for detailed descriptions)

Call or email us today to talk about how Blue Grotto workshops can make an impact on your organization’s capacity, creativity and communications abilities.

Beyond the Mission Statement:  
Effective Storytelling Communicates the Values that Attract Donor Interest

“Stories tell us of what we already knew and forgot, and remind us of what we haven’t yet imagined.” Anne L. Watson

Why storytelling? Storytelling is a powerful tool. More than flow charts or bullet points, stories stick with people. Whether your goal is to reach one person, or to stand out at a volunteer fair where hundreds of people will pass through your booth, your well-told story can introduce your organization’s values while helping others connect with your work in emotional and rational ways.

Too few organizations take advantage of the opportunity to tell their stories in routine communications. Taking the time to tell your story in every format – newsletters, fundraising materials, grant applications, advertising, mission statements - helps you connect more closely with audiences. This ensures that potential staff, board members, donors, volunteers, and community representatives get to know you better.

Storytelling promotes the shared vision that strengthens your relationships. Anecdotes help an organization show who it is rather than simply tell what it does. They take into account the organization’s roots, the passion of its founders, and the philosophies that went into building it. An organization’s mission and vision, where it has been and where it is going are often best illustrated through a narrative.

Communicating the values that shape your nonprofit – those intangibles – will set you apart from other nonprofits; they work from the inside out. They reflect the inner workings of your organization.

As your organization approaches a milestone, celebrates success, plans for transition or embarks on new initiatives, consider the stories that you have to share. These stories have the power to inspire, excite and support those vital to your organization’s purpose. In the fiercely competitive and rapidly changing environment of nonprofits, let Blue Grotto help you to recount the values and successes of your organization and use your own best practices as a map for the future.

What this workshop offers:
Because every nonprofit is unique in their management, board development and staffing, Blue Grotto customizes our Storytelling Workshop to help you maximize your existing resources. In each workshop, you will learn to establish a process of collecting stories that illustrate your organization’s mission, values and best practices. At the same time, we help you identify ways to leverage those stories and incorporate the entire narrative process into other elements of your organization.

Anniversary Planning

Milestones and significant achievements offer an organization a unique opportunity to look both back and forward. We hope you are planning to take full advantage, and create a celebration program that clearly outlines your organization’s strengths, culture and vision. This workshop can help you identify ways to capitalize on your organization’s history and founding values while concurrently preparing for your future.

We at Blue Grotto also know first-hand what a big responsibility coordinating anniversary activities can be and that the assignment is usually in addition to someone’s already full plate of work. Strategic planning can help focus your team’s efforts on leveraging the anniversary program, not simply plan for a party.

In this Anniversary Planning Workshop, Blue Grotto will:

  • Facilitate strategic planning session to identify goals, objectives, audiences, ownership opportunities, tactics, measurements and evaluation, and key messages for long program {objectives will support the organization’s current strategic plan}
  • Review tactics already identified by your committee or staff and suggest additional tactics to accomplish objectives; align tactics with objectives served
  • Suggest ownership opportunities for tactics: who will take responsibility for implementation, budget, and ensuring that the tactics meet objectives
  • Clarify measurements for goals and objectives
  • Assist your steering committee or staff to develop a timetable for activities, implementation and completion
  • Propose tools for evaluating outcomes

The resulting executive summary will be a tool to communicate your strategy to staff, board members, nonprofit donors and funders, as well as community partners and potential sponsors of certain activities. It will also help you to assess your progress throughout the year, and serve as a guide for additional opportunities as they arise. anniversary program.

We encourage clients to think of the strategic plan as a working draft. Blue Grotto can be most successful on your organization’s behalf by working together with you. Clarifying and articulating goals and objectives will be a foundation of your anniversary program, and your continued input into this process is vital to its success. A well-planned, thoughtful anniversary campaign is a chance to deliver a renewed sense of commitment to stakeholders while articulating the vision of today’s leadership.

Blue Grotto has the most complete resources for producing a high-quality anniversary program that is reflective of our clients’ standards for integrity, excellence and partnership. We’d be delighted to lend a hand in preparing for and achieving a successful anniversary program.

Brain Rain:  Your One-Stop Brainstorming Workshop

Most goal-oriented business meetings require brainstorming of some kind. But a good brainstorming session can be ruined if participants criticize ideas too early; if the boss facilitates the group; if the problem statement is unclear; or if no follow-up mechanism is discussed.

Through this workshop, participants will come to recognize the elements that contribute to a solid brainstorming session. For example, good brainstorming involves both idea generation and idea evaluation. Good facilitators know when to move from divergent, or expansive thinking to a narrowing down process. Effective sessions often require an agreed-upon method to select the most attractive and workable ideas.

We will introduce the concept of Brain Rain team sessions that help meetings become fun, fluid and wildly productive. Participants learn to stretch their creative muscles to produce a higher quantity, quality and more originality of solutions, participating in a process that takes real life work challenges and uses proven techniques.

You will find the more your organization uses these proven methods, the more effective your brainstorming sessions will become.

Creative Problem Solving Workshop

Professionals are called upon to solve problems on a daily basis. But how many people have the training necessary to creatively address those challenges?

This workshop offers participants skills that will encourage divergent thinking, idea generation, and help to break old habits that inhibit the evolution of new solutions. Through hands-on activities, we will examine together:

  • Actions and beliefs that contribute to creative behavior
  • The relationship between the creative process and the work environment
  • Proven ideation techniques such as Brain Rain and Mindmapping
  • Common barriers that get in the way of ideas and creative thinking

Along the way, each individual will address their own personal creativity inventory to better understand their own set of strengths as they relate to problem solving. Participants will leave with new insights into the flow of creativity and a renewed motivation to take on the challenges of the workplace.

This workshop is particularly useful for departments, work teams or cross-functional groups that are working together to address challenges or find solutions.

Innovation at Work

Innovation is a big buzzword in business today, having been described as the key ingredient that will keep the U.S. ahead of its overseas competition. Organizations that use innovation to propel themselves forward are leading others in the quest for funding and other resources. They are learning, however, that to infuse innovative thinking into a culture requires thinking strategically, rather than tactically. This strategic approach requires more than just encouragement and open-mindedness: it requires commitment to a rigorous process that will change the way your organization thinks about change.

Innovation at Work is a lively workshop used to design new processes, services and solutions. The concept, which uses proven ideation methodology that takes creative plans and makes them into prototypes, can also be used to rethink old systems or services. Participants will take part in this five-step approach that will equip them with methods of ideation and examination that will encourage innovative thinking at all organizational levels:

Step One: Gather Information: The team will need to spend time and attention to gather relevant data on the project. By asking the right questions, such as who is the marketplace and what do they want, their research will lead them to new insights.

Step Two: Observe the Real Situation: Step two is all about looking. The team needs to act like anthropologists and not only observe the process or system they are about to change, but document their findings with notes, photos and even videos. Beware of making assumptions about what we have seen in our daily activity in the workplace. They will sabotage the effectiveness of good observation techniques.

Step Three: Develop New Concepts: Teams that approach brainstorming as a “no-brainer” will probably come up with the same old same old. Employing solid brainstorming techniques will help generate many more solutions with greater originality. Team leaders and participants alike need to be well versed in a variety of approaches to get the process off the ground.

Step Four: Convergent Thinking: Here’s where the rubber hits the road, where big picture ideas start to converge into real application, and where innovations get taken for a test drive. Tough questions are critical at this stage: where are opportunities for improvement? Is the focus in the right place? Are there important questions that aren’t being asked? Timing is also a big consideration: if this step is done too early in the process good ideas don’t have time to reach fruition. If this is done too late in the process a practical application may have lost its chance to emerge.

Step Five: Implementation: Without the right implementation plan, the best innovation ideas sit in a file drawer collecting dust. Teams must investigate to learn who will lose if this innovation is accepted. Who will win? What are the organizational impediments to this action plan’s success? What is the organizational readiness? What will be the timetable for trials and testing?

Visual Literacy 101

Are you called upon to make visual decisions for your company? Do you supervise work with web site or publication designers? Do you ever have to present visual ideas to important audiences?

Many professionals are expected to articulate visual choices, decide upon artwork and layout, or provide input on visual concepts, without having any background or training to draw upon. This workshop will provide you with tools to communicate about the basics of visual language. Together, we will learn to critique examples of composition and layout, exploring core elements of color theory and seeing how simple color and design choices affect each other.

This fun, fast-paced workshop will give you a variety of new skills to better lead or participate in the process of visual creation and development. You’ll get to improve your visual literacy and understand how designers make decisions, all without getting your hands covered in wet paint!

Visual Literacy 101 can be used to work with staff within an organization who are responsible for making visual decisions. The format makes it ideal to train teams and enhance staff capacity.