Art Engagement…

Happy Thursday All!

One of the things I am really passionate about is art engagement and arts education. Having lived in NY and Charlotte, NC, I have seen what cultural arts brings to a city and how it enhances a community. I am blessed to be able to sit on the Boards of several arts/cultural institutions here in Charlotte.

During my tenure, I feel it is incumbent of me to provide education and opportunities for all to experience the art in our community. So I was humbled and honored when the Bechtler asked me to feature in their latest installments of membership drive videos. Take a look and listen to how I briefly discuss art places and art spaces as community zones and providing culture for all.


Keith Cradle [@mrcradle on IG/Twitter]


Life Happens…

Good Morning All,

Happy Wednesday to you and I pray your week has been off to a remarkable start. Starting is just as important as finishing. So having a strong start can help prepare you for the things that will come. As the title of this post and the old saying goes…LIFE HAPPENS.

LIFE HAPPENS in the midst of everything we set out to do. From the plans we make to the strategic decisions we design, nothing skews or throws us a curve like life. When crafting your external plans or branding schemes for your nonprofit or small business, you can never be fully prepared for the “LIFE HAPPENS” moment. It just happens and you need to be flexible and willing to adjust.

I converse with plenty of people who want to begin or are in the first few stages of development for their nonprofit and the full display of optimism is front and center. They discuss all the things they wish to do along with how the business will look in 5 years. Hell, they even have a mock-up of the office space once they reach a certain amount of money and decide to purchase an office. All well and good because the dream and confidence in the future is important.  However, no one ever discusses the contingency plans for when “LIFE HAPPENS.”

Trust and believe, LIFE WILL HAPPEN, and you as the owner need to be prepared. Potential donors rescind funds, employees quit or have children, there is a fire in the office, data records get washed away, computers crash, business credit/debit cards get lost or stolen. I could go on for months with the never-ending LIFE HAPPENS scenarios. So while that sounds awful, just know there is a silver lining to those dark and gloomy clouds. And here are 3 things you can do:

  1. Have back up plans for the back up plans: Nothing like having a Plan A, B, C, D; so that when LIFE HAPPENS, you will have a guideline on how to proceed.
  2. Be very flexible: Bending never made anyone break. So don’t be so rigid to the current business plan and be ok with change.
  3. Seek guidance: LIFE HAS HAPPENED to a lot of business owners. So talk with those that have experience and learn how they got through it.

Again, things are going to go wrong. Do not fret or sweat the small stuff. Just know that you can push through and your nonprofit/small business will be fine. If you need help getting through crisis moments and needing organizational plans, please contact us @ JSW Media Group so we can be there when LIFE HAPPENS.

Have an awesome day!


Keith Cradle [@mrcradle on IG/Twitter]

Organizational Culture…

Good Morning All and I hope/pray you are having an awesome Wednesday! We are in the third week of October, with Halloween right around the corner. Which will essentially means we have 2 more months left in 2015.  As we prepare to close out the year, the most recent blog posts have been about getting ready for 2016. So today, I want to continue that trend and make sure we are preparing correctly plus finding out if there is some retooling that needs to be done before January 1st, 2016.

Today, I want to touch on “Organizational Culture.” This concept is so important because it helps define what type of nonprofit you are or want to be. It also helps staff, volunteers, potential donors connect to the mission/vision of the organization.  Culture in society plays a huge role in crafting and keeping traditions.  And traditions are key for consistency, value creation and continued development.

Take a look at your agency or current employment assignment and try to determine what the “Organizational Culture” is. Is it one of empowerment? A culture that breeds gossip and deception? Or does it pass on positive traditions that invest people into the long-term goals?  The “Organizational Culture” that is created can speak volumes and determine possible successes and failures.

But alas, the “Organizational Culture” comes from those that are in charge. So if you are the Executive Director, Boss or Director, just know that it is a top down approach. If your staff is negative and back-biting, chances are they got that from you! And just the opposite. A leader that fosters positivity, openness and growth usually gets that back from those they employ or supervise.  So you have to ask yourself, who I am or who do I want to be as a leader?

“Organizational Culture” is one of the tabs that is hard to quantify but can easily be qualified. Word of mouth is powerful and you should pay attention to the things people say about your nonprofit/small business.  If you need help defining or understanding your organizations culture, please contact us at JSW Media Group so we can get you started on the right path!

Thank you for reading and have an awesome day.


Keith Cradle (@mrcradle on IG/Twitter)

A Change Gonna Come…

Hola! Happy Friday and with Hurricane Joaquin bearing down on the East Coast, I pray you are safe, warm and dry. The month of October is upon us, which means fall weather, sweaters/jackets and the sun going down a lot quicker. In other words, a change is coming!

“These the rainy days they say you should be saving for, but when sun shines no one carries umbrellas…” Fabolous

Change is the only thing that is constant. Seasons change. People change. And your business changes. But are you ready for the inevitable change that is going to come? As an owner, director, manager/supervisor or frontline employee, you must be prepared for change and adaptation.  Business models and strategic plans should include provisions for the predictable and the unpredictable.

The great thing about nature is the way it prepares and showcases change. Leaves on trees change colors and then shed. Animals begin to store up food for the long winter.  Seeds become dormant but prepare for spring and a new blossoming. But do you prepare your small business or nonprofit for the change that is coming?

If not, here are three things you can do to prepare:

  1. Take a look at the budget and see where you can trim: Find ways to store up resources and scale back during lulls in business
  2.  Decide if seasonal staff/volunteers are right for you: Nothing like having help at low costs during the winter months, especially students needing internship or volunteer hours
  3. Take a look at your online presence and does it need a refresh: Just like the leaves changing colors, maybe your logo needs a touch of color

While there are plenty of other things you can do, these are just a few to get your mind working and thinking about how to approach the impending changes. Because the changes are going to come. But will you be ready? If you are not ready and need help, please make sure to contact us at JSW Media Group and we can service all of your small/nonprofit business needs.

Have an awesome weekend!


Keith Cradle (@mrcradle on IG/Twitter)

Why a Vision Statement is So Important…


Good Morning All!

As always, thank you for taking the time to read and share this blog. Today, I wanted to share a quick story that will hopefully bring some perspective to you and your nonprofit/business as it relates to vision. Having vision is something we all need as business leaders, managers, executives and down to the interns that wish to move up the ladder to leadership positions.

Without vision, you will not have an idea of the path you wish to tread. It is the vision that coincides with the mission and the strategic plan so that the staff and donors know exactly why they do what they do!

Over Labor Day Weekend, I went out to Dallas to visit and play golf with my friend Eric. While the weather was particularly hot, we enjoyed the hours we spent hitting, chipping and attempting to make par. LOL For those that don’t know, I am new golfer having just started playing the game in March of 2014.  So my tenure hasn’t been that long and my experience is nowhere near PGA level.  I have some ok days on the course and then I have some very terrible days. Lots of lost balls and tons of dropped balls back on the course. During that hot Saturday, I found myself and my golf balls behind a lot trees. Yup, on more than one occasion, I would hit the ball directly behind a tree [see picture above.] So while frustration was setting in, I was also able to find the message in the moment and snap that picture.

While my ball was neatly tucked behind the tree, the flag for the hole was right on the other side. So even though I couldn’t see the flag, I knew where I wanted and needed to go. I may not have had the perfect sight but I had vision. My plan to getting to the pin was now going to be altered but that wouldn’t negate my progress. My journey would be a bit delayed as I hit around the tree and back on the fairway but nonetheless, I found my way. So, when you can’t see the forest from the trees, you need to have vision. A vision of where you want to end up.

Such in life, as in business, there will be times you hit obstacles, speed bumps or find yourself behind some trees. Don’t get discouraged. Focus on the end result and know that your flag is on the other side. You will need to take a step back, readjust your business plan and get the business back on the fairway. And once you are back on the fairway, you will see the flag! Hit your next shot there. It may take some time but it will be well worth it.

Hence the reason all businesses need a real and detailed vision and mission statement.  The Vision statement continually reminds you of where you want to go and how ambitious you need to be! If you need help with crafting mission/vision statements or comprehensive nonprofit/small business services, please contact JSW Media Group via the website:

Have an awesome day!


Keith Cradle [@mrcradle on IG/Twitter]

Grant Writing 101…


Good Morning and Happy Friday!

The start of the weekend is here and time to reflect on how great this week has been. As we speed through August and prep for September, we are fully aware that the 4th quarter is upon us. Beginning the year hot is one thing but closing it out even hotter is even more impressive. So as you assess the year that was, make sure it is shaping out to being the year you have envisioned.

One of the things I want to talk about today and won’t have the ability to sum up in such a short post is GRANT WRITING. Grants can be the lifeblood to many agencies big or small. Grants provide needed capital and resources to organizations through the fiscal year and reporting period. So much so, that having a dedicated grant writer or development director is now a common line item in the budget. But the real quest is getting the grant!

I have the pleasure of sitting on a few committees that process and award grants to community agencies along with working with agencies that receive them and writing them myself. My experience with “soft-money” goes back over 15 years when I first began working at the Mecklenburg County Health Department and needed to provide monthly/yearly results to the State and Federal government so I could keep my 100% grant funded job!

Most people believe that grant writing and procuring those funds is an easy task. Just sit, write and tell the people how much you need their money. So not the case and you will fail each time. While there are no magic tricks or guaranteed theories that will work every time, there are a few things you can do to help your cause. Hence, GRANT WRITING 101…

Shall we begin? Let’s…

  1.  Pilot the program well before you ask for a grant: This step is often missed because many people believe that their idea is solid without proven results. Wrong! You will need to show the funding agency that you know what you are doing and how it will work.
  2. Documentation is key!: If you do not document it, it didn’t happen. And then you cannot prove to the funding agency that you did it or that it does work.
  3. Grammar and spell check: I cannot count the amount of times I have seen paperwork that had great programmatic ideas but terrible spelling and grammar. How can a funding agency trust you with starting an educational program when the organization starting it cannot even spell?
  4. Eliminate the high salaries: Point blank, period. Nothing evokes the ire of a funding body when they read your requested budget and see exorbitant salaries for the Admin Team. Is this about getting rich or helping others? Furthermore, the amount needed to run the program is excessively low. If your salaries are over 69% of your total estimated budget, trim it. Or best of luck next year!
  5. Find a niche program area or zip code: Everyone is doing mentoring. Everyone. So what else can you do that is different and set a part? Find an area of town that has been neglected and do your program there. Do a program that adds value outside of the normal categories. Get noticed by being noticeable.

While this is not the totality of GRANT WRITING, it is a good start. There is much more to the process before and after. Grants can be a great way to build internal capacity or expand programs. But do not rely on them for overall sustainability. A healthy agency knows when to wean themselves from the soft-money and develop hard-line items.

As always, thank you for reading and if you need further help, please contact me or JSW Media  Group for consultation. Have an awesome weekend.


Keith Cradle [@mrcradle on IG/Twitter]



Good Monday Afternoon!

I hope your week has started off on the right foot. I want to first send my thoughts and prayers to the family and friends of Civil Rights Activist Julian Bond. Mr. Bond passed away over the weekend at the age of 75. He was a prolific fighter for justice and freedom during a crucial time for African-Americans and this country. May he Rest in Power…

On Saturday, I had the extreme pleasure of being the lead facilitator for the monthly JSW Media Group round table sessions entitled “Coffee Talk.” “Coffee Talk” bring together small pockets of people looking for traditional business advice in a nontraditional environment and for a very low-cost. My business partner Jameka and I understand that many small and start-up companies do not have the budget or finances to hire large firms or attend high dollar conferences. So the “Coffee Talk” series was started with accessibility and affordability in mind.

Well, that brings us to the title of this blog post…”Invest.” Along with discussing the “Life Cycles of Nonprofits and Board Development”, one of the main points I touched on Saturday was that you have to INVEST in two things. And INVEST in them consistently and continually. Those two things being your business and your health.  Let me explain:

  1. In order to have a successful and thriving business, you must INVEST in it.You have to spend money to learn, to expand and to sustain the model. If you do not plant seeds, there is not harvest to reap. Period.
  2. In order to be around to run the business and enjoy the fruits of your labor, you need to be healthy! If you do not INVEST in your health, you will not be around nor will you be in any condition to run a business. As they say, your health is your wealth!

So. Think about where and how you INVEST your time, talent and treasure. If they do not line up with long-term sustainability and viability, you may need to evaluate and refocus. Just a thought…

Finally, JSW Media Group will continue to do “Coffee Talk” throughout the year. If you are in need of low-cost consulting and business advice, please sign up. But more than the “Coffee Talk”, JSW Media Group is a full-fledged company that can service a plethora of business needs [for profit and nonprofit]. So take a look at the website ( and consider becoming a client.

Have an awesome day!


Keith Cradle (@mcradle on IG/Twitter)