Before: Take the Farm Friends SurveyAfter: Farm Friends Asks: What’s Your Fantasy Meal? Subject lines are more important than you might think. On average, at least 100 emails flood your constituents’ inboxes every single day. That’s a lot of digital noise to shout over, which is why your email subject lines need as much TLC as the content inside. Here’s a simple, four-step makeover to help transform your subject lines from ho-hum to “Oh, wow!” 1. State the ObviousDon’t dance around the point of your email. Talk straight to your recipients about what they’ll find inside. You can be creative and pique curiosity, but for best results, make sure you answer the question, “What’s this email about?” If you make readers think too hard, they may just opt to delete without reading and move on to their next message. For newsletters, highlight the key piece of content you’re sending—a subject line like “Fall 2013 Newsletter” is easy to gloss over in a busy inbox.Before: All the news that’s fit to emailAfter: The Top 10 Women in Science 4. Keep It ShortMake every word count. After you’ve written your subject line, go back and delete words or phrases that don’t add value. Ideally, stick with around 50 characters or less. Some studies have found that the 28- to 39-character range is the sweet spot for maximum open rates.Before: Final reminder to make reservations to attend the Strutting Dog Gala on October 15, 2013!After: Strutting Dog Gala: Last day to RSVP! 3. Avoid the Spam TrapWhy bother with killer content if your subject line gets it caught in the spam filter? Keep your message front and center by avoiding things like cute symbols and special characters—spam filter magnets that attract the wrong kind of attention. Subject lines containing the words help, RE, or FWD are often interpreted as scams.Before: ♥♥♥You will LOVE these PREMIUM GIFTS for your donation!!!♥♥♥After: Cool donor gifts from Heart Healthy Houston! 2. Stand Out from the Crowd In a sea of emails, it helps to be a little different. Add a touch of visual interest with brackets, quotes, a smidge (just a smidge) of all caps, or an exclamation point (just one!). Personalize your subject line with the recipient’s city or state, which typically generate higher open rates than first or last names. Instead of telling people what’s inside, try asking a question that piques their curiosity.Before: SafeSurf loves its volunteersAfter: SafeSurf LOVES its volunteers! Before: Hot dog! Get down and boogie with your beagle!After: Join Long Island Pet Rescue’s Fall Frolic Before: RE: Help a veteran find a homeAfter Homes for Heroes Fall Fundraiser wants you! Revamping your subject lines with these simple tips can make a big difference in your email open rates. You might even see a boost in constituent engagement and giving!Don’t forget:Your email subject lines can show how much you respect your constituents’ busy schedules by telling them exactly what they’ll find inside.It’s okay to add a little visual interest to your subject line, just don’t overdo it and catch the eye of the spam filter instead.Short and sweet is best when it comes to subject lines. Always try to keep them under 50 characters. Before: Books for Kids is Coming to your neighborhoodAfter: Books for Kids is Coming to Newport!
The following post is a summary of Adam Grant’s presentation on his book Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success at the Conference on Volunteering and Service.In Give and Take, Adam Grant’s premise is that there is more to the secret of success than hard work, talent and luck – especially as the world continues to become more hyper-connected. What’s missing is generosity. Givers excel in a collaborative work environment, but can burn out easily if they don’t see the impact of their contributions or don’t learn how to set boundaries. This is especially true for people in helping professions such as nonprofit leadership, cause marketing and social responsibility.Here are Adam’s 4 tips for creating a cultures of successful givers at your organization.1. Get the right people on the bus (a nod to Jim Collins)Weed out the takers and encourage matches to take their cues from the givers. Rewarding giver behavior and helping matchers see the value in reciprocity with a net positive benefit will nudge your culture towards a collaborative, generous workplace.2. Reduce costsThink about the power of 5-minute favors. You don’t have to be Mother Theresa or Gandhi to call yourself a giver. Giver mentality is more about finding efficient ways to make low-cost gestures with high value to the receiver. You’ve heard of micro-volunteering? Think of it as micro-favors. If someone asks you for help and you know you are the best equipped to help and the act will only take you 5 minutes, say yes. Always. If you are not the best equipped to respond, point the person in a new direction to find the help they need.3. Show impactSome givers burn out others are energized by doing favors – why? Givers burn out when they can’t see the value of their impact. Think of ways to have authentic messengers demonstrate the value your staff creates every day. A message from the CEO is nice, but givers are more motivated by a thank you from a program beneficiary or an employee who gave in a personally meaningful way. Showing impact in a tangible way relates to the concept of the ‘identifiable victim’ or ‘singularity effect’ – people are more compassionate when they can relate to one person’s story.4. Encourage help-seekingA whopping 75-90% of helping starts with a request, yet people hesitate to ask for help – especially givers. Givers don’t want to be a burden and often confuse taking and receiving. We need to create work cultures that reward asking for help and make it ok for people to take it. Also, givers to ask for help so other people (namely matchers) have the opportunity to give and so givers know who can benefit from their help and how in the future.Here’s an example of how help-seeking improves results. Appletree Answers, a call center solutions provider, was experiencing 98% staff turnover each year. That’s a huge HR hiring burden to replace your staff every year. The company started internal employee wish program where employees could ask for help fulfilling their dreams and other employees could offer assistance to making those wishes come true. As a result of creating this culture of giving and receiving, staff turnover dropped to 33%.Your organization can create its own Reciprocity Ring. Here’s how.· Invite employees to join the program.· Have everyone participating make a request.· Everyone in the program then tries to help make those requests happen.· Everyone is both a giver and a receiver, so there is no stigma about asking for help.· Everyone gets better understanding of the resources in their network for future giving and receiving. by Kate Olsen, VP of Strategic Projects at Network for Good @Kate4Good
Still tracking your donors through five different versions of Excel spreadsheets, endless email chains, and Post-It notes? Let’s be real: you need a better way to manage your individual donors.A donor management system will save you time and will help you be a smarter fundraiser. Not sure how this works? Here are the top 14 ways a donor management system will help you this year:Raise more money by targeting donors. Smart donor management allows you to easily create dynamic lists and develop targeted campaigns to donors based on giving history, average gift amount, and more.Eliminate repetitive, manual, and time-consuming tasks by automating standard processes and workflows. Free up your staff to focus on building relationships instead of administrative tasks.Track campaign results in real time. Spend less time (and money) on tracking results from your campaigns and more time planning your next one.Remove the need to sift through multiple spreadsheets and applications to find donor data. Once you move to a donor management system, it’s all in one place and accessible online so you can look up information anywhere.Know how you are progressing towards your December goals. Online fundraising data flows into your donor database to automatically update charts and reports giving you a clearer picture of how close you are to achieving your fundraising goals.Understand your donors and their behaviors. Storing detailed information like donation, volunteer, event attendance, demographics, and participation information will help you better understand what you donors want from your organization (and what they don’t want).Share information between staff and volunteers. A donor database will help you avoid confusion and have everyone operating off the same information. No more searching through an inbox to find the latest version, it’s all stored in one place and updated in real time.Check donor information on the go. Take your filing cabinet with you by having mobile access to view and enter notes right after you make a donor visit.Retain your year-end donors and build stronger relationships. A great donor management system will send automatic thank you emails for donations and reminder emails for pledges that are yet to be fulfilled.Get the most from all your tools with seamless integration. Connect email marketing, donation forms, and peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns so every bit of data is stored in one place.Keep donor relationships strong even when staff turnover happens. Notes are stored in a donor record so when a new staff member starts, all communication history is at their fingertips.Allow staff and volunteers to see only what they need to see. Control access to constituent information by setting permissions to records and data fields.Track incoming funds and pledges. View progress in a dashboard format that is board meeting ready.Remove the need for IT resources to hold your hand every step of the way. A good donor management system should be easy to set up and maintain by development staff. You shouldn’t have to wait on IT support to do your job.With the right donor management, smarter fundraising tools, and a solid campaign plan, you’ll be all set to raise more this year—and for years to come.
Posted on October 3, 2012August 15, 2016Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Reddit (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)On September 29th, The Lancet published a commentary, Women’s and children’s health: no time for complacency, by Richard Horton, Editor of The Lancet. The commentary describes discrepancies between research groups that estimate maternal and child mortality. Horton calls on these groups to work together to reach some level of consensus in order to help country leaders and program implementers to make important decisions. He also discusses big challenges with equity, accountability and monitoring of recent pledges for women’s and children’s health.When new figures for under-5 child mortality were released this month, the headline message was that aid works. Deaths among children younger than 5 years fell from an estimated 12 million in 1990 to 6·9 million in 2011. That remarkable achievement means that 14 000 fewer children now die each day than in 1990. There are many examples of success. In Niger, rates of under-5 mortality almost halved between 1998 and 2009. Rates of reduction of newborn mortality have also accelerated since the 1990s. These are truly impressive results, fully deserving of celebration. But not complacency.Read the full commentary here.Share this: ShareEmailPrint To learn more, read:
ShareEmailPrint To learn more, read: Posted on November 13, 2013February 2, 2017By: Kelsey Holt, Senior Project Manager, Women and Health Initiative, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public HealthClick to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Reddit (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)The third biennial International Conference on Family Planning kicked off this week in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, with almost 3,000 attendees from all over the world gathering in the remarkable African Union building. Delegates are seeking inspiration from leaders in the field, youth, and colleagues, and an opportunity to share research and best practices related to the vision of “Full Access, Full Choice” in family planning. The speeches given during the opening session of the conference Tuesday on sustained political commitment emphasized family planning as a tool to reduce maternal mortality and protect women’s rights. The successes of Ethiopia’s health care system in reducing “unmet need” for contraception in a short period of time— in part thanks to an impressive health extension worker program— and the country’s commitment to reproductive health and women’s equality were celebrated widely. John Kerry and other world leaders also urged renewal of the various commitments made to achieving universal reproductive health access for all beginning in the 1990’s as well as the recent FP2020 goal of reaching 120 million new contraceptive users by the year 2020. Against this backdrop of political commitments and acknowledgement of the importance of family planning to women’s health and equality, the many subsequent conference sessions about quality of care hold much promise for real progress and action towards these goals. The importance of quality of care was described by Anrudh Jain on Wednesday in a session hosted by the David and Lucile Packard Foundation on quality of care as the “leaking bucket problem” whereby women who manage to make it to contraceptive services at least once do not always continue their relationship with the health care system after receiving sub-standard information, counseling, and method choice—or even disrespect or coercion. These women represent a substantial proportion of those with unmet need for contraception who are past users failed by existing methods and services. The challenge of ensuring respect, dignity, and adequate choice for women receiving contraception counseling and services around the world persists. Moving beyond access to quality and a focus on respectful care and informed choice seems particularly critical in the context of new approaches reported on at the conference to increase contraceptive uptake through financial incentives to women, health workers, and health facilities, or goals for uptake of a certain volume of long-acting methods. If not done carefully, these innovative programs threaten to create perverse incentives for systems and providers to coerce women into methods that are not right for them and must be carefully studied to ensure we do not sacrifice women’s rights for fertility and contraceptive prevalence targets. As emphasized by Ms. Theo Sowa, Chief Executive Officer of the African Women Development Fund, in Wednesday’s opening plenary, we need to challenge ourselves to do things differently: “If we are complacent, we do not achieve the things we need to achieve in the time we need to achieve them.” Quality of care is one area where we cannot afford to be complacent—and this includes tackling the hard issues of ensuring respectful treatment to ensure informed choice during contraceptive care. The centrality of the issue of quality at the ICFP is promising for our ability as a global community to acknowledge the skeletons of population control in our closet and proactively move towards a future where women of all ages and backgrounds have access to high quality counseling and services to meet their contraceptive needs and contribute toward the fulfillment of their rights and the goals originally conceived of during the Cairo conference in 1994.Share this:
You know what takes a lot of inspiration and a truckload of guts? Fundraising.I learned this the hard way when I started a nonprofit in the living room of my apartment with just $500 and a credit card. There were days when I second guessed myself but ten years later we raised over 10 million dollars and have been featured on Oprah, CNN, and the Today show. Last year, Girlstart turned 20. I’ve learned a lot since then, including how to get the absolute best fundraising results in the shortest possible time using scientifically proven methods.So what tips do I have for you to make 2018 your best year ever? Lots! Are you ready to ring in the new year raising more? Here are 5 New Year resolutions I want EVERY fundraiser to make:1. Resolve to learn more about your donors.Why did they give to your organization – what connected to them? What programs do they care about? What motivated them to give in the first place? What was the best gift they ever gave and why? Of all the organizations they support which one does the best job engaging them? What are their top three philanthropic priorities? What do they love about what they do? How do they prefer to be communicated with? You can ask some of these questions when you call them to thank them just for being a donor and others in a visually rich donor survey.2. Resolve to learn from your data.Do you know what your donor retention rate is? If you don’t know how you’re currently performing, setting goals to improve is meaningless. You can examine retention overall or narrow it down to first-time donors and/or major donors. You can calculate retention by the number of donors or gift value. I personally recommend examining by gift value so you know exactly what your retention rate is costing your organization. To run your numbers, decide on your 12 month date range (a calendar year or your fiscal year) and add the donor gift amounts by annual “class” i.e. the class of major donors giving $1,000 or more in 2017 (or the class of all 1st time donors in 2017) and then divide that amount by what those same donors gave to you the previous year, in 2016. In other words, if you had 1,000 first time donors in 2016 and only 200 of those made another gift in 2017 your new donor retention rate would be 20%. Why does retention matter so much? Acquiring those donors cost you money, time and effort. As Roger Craver, author of Retention Fundraising, advises, “Taking actionable steps to reduce donor losses is the least expensive way to increase your fundraising income.”3. Resolve to make your donors FEEL something.This is one of my biggest pet peeves in fundraising. Giving is such a joyous experience but so much of our communications can feel bland and lifeless. Does your appeal or acknowledgment make your donor feel great about themselves? It should. What we feel is irrelevant. What our donors feel is the only thing that matters. While we’re busy trying to educate our donors, or boasting about how awesome our programs are, our donor might be tossing our letter in the trash. Communicate in a warm, friendly, personable tone. Make the donor feel like gushing over what they made possible. If your autoresponders sound like a robot wrote them, it’s time for a rewrite in 2018!4. Set a revenue goal for every donor in your portfolio.Base your appeal goals on your donor’s capacity, inclination, prior giving, and interests. Now you’re ready for your best fundraising year ever! What’s more, when your CEO walks in and tells you about a budget shortfall you’ve got solid ground to push back on unrealistic goals.5. Resolve to dedicate 30 minutes a day to call and personally thank donors.Don’t start with the biggest and then fall off the wagon on this goal come February. If you can, include new donors to your call list. Be prepared with a few great discovery questions and opportunities for them to engage with you deeper. Before you know it, your lower level donors will be major gift prospects. The secret is you have to STICK WITH IT. Put it on your calendar as a recurring appointment when your energy levels are at their peak. Don’t forget to smile while you’re talking or leaving a message.I’d love to share more of my secrets with you – Download the NFG Masterclass Webinar Fundraising Strategy Series with “The Secrets of High Performing Fundraisers”. Want more help? I have OODLES of guides to make your fundraising EASIER.Here’s to 2018!Learn more about our guest blogger:Rachel Muir, CFRE transforms individuals into confident, successful fundraisers through workshops and retreats. When she was 26 years old, Rachel Muir launched Girlstart, a non-profit organization to empower girls in math, science, engineering and technology in the living room of her apartment with $500 and a credit card. Several years later she had raised over 10 million dollars and was featured on Oprah, CNN, and the Today show. Learn more about Rachel at www.rachelmuir.com or follow her at facebook.com/rachelmuirfundraising and on Twitter @rachelmuir.
Sierra Leone (1,360)Finland (3) Ten Countries with the highest MMRs (per 100,000 live births)Ten Countries with the lowest MMRs (per 100,000 live births) ShareEmailPrint To learn more, read: For countries with current MMRs less than 10 deaths per 100,000 live births, measuring a two-thirds reduction is not feasible due to statistical limitations. Those countries with low MMRs should therefore focus on reducing internal inequities. National-level MMRs can hide disparities within countries: Women of low socioeconomic status, belonging to certain racial or ethnic groups and those living in rural areas, for example, are often at greatest risk of dying from pregnancy or childbirth-related causes. Therefore, all countries are called to focus on eliminating inequities among sub-populations under the new goals framework.The SDG 3.1 global target of less than 70 deaths per 100,000 live births represents an ambitious reduction in the global burden of maternal mortality from the current global MMR. Data from the Global Burden of Disease Study 2015 estimates that the global MMR is 196 deaths per 100,000 live births. According to the World Health Organization, the global MMR is even higher, at approximately 216 deaths per 100,000 live births. But the global goal is achievable if all countries contribute to the global average by accelerating their national reduction of preventable maternal deaths by at least two-thirds and ensuring that no woman and no country is left behind, a key theme of the Global Strategy.Clearly, we all still have far to go in order to achieve both the global and national targets for maternal mortality. Reducing the global MMR to less than 70 deaths per 100,000 live births through national reduction of MMR by two-thirds in all countries by 2030 and reducing inequities in maternal survival within and among countries will be challenging; but with continued investment in maternal health research, programs and policy at the global, national and local levels, we can work together to end preventable maternal mortality across the globe.Learn more by checking out these resources:Strategies Toward Ending Preventable Maternal Mortality (EPMM) | World Health OrganizationThe Sustainable Development Goals and Maternal Mortality | MHTF Topic PageEnding Preventable Maternal Mortality | MHTF ProjectStrategies Toward Ending Preventable Maternal Mortality (EPMM) Under the Sustainable Development Goals Agenda | MHTF BlogA Common Monitoring Framework for Ending Preventable Maternal Mortality, 2015–2030: Phase I of a Multi-Step Process | BMC Pregnancy and ChildbirthEnding Preventable Maternal and Newborn Mortality and Stillbirths | BMJ—How do you think we can reduce maternal deaths around the world? We want to hear from you!Share this: Chad (856)Iceland (3) Democratic Republic of the Congo (693)Sweden (4) South Sudan (789)Austria (4) Burundi (712)Italy (4) Nigeria (814)Poland (3) Posted on September 20, 2017September 20, 2017By: Rima Jolivet, Maternal Health Technical Director, Maternal Health Task Force; Sarah Hodin, Project Coordinator II, Women and Health Initiative, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public HealthClick to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Reddit (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)There has been some confusion recently about the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) target for reducing global maternal mortality. The SDG global target is to reduce the global maternal mortality ratio (MMR) to less than 70 per 100,000 live births by 2030. In addition to this global target, there are separate country-level targets: The primary national target is that by 2030, every country should reduce its MMR by at least two-thirds from its 2010 baseline. The secondary target, which applies to countries with the highest maternal mortality burdens, is that no country should have an MMR greater than 140 deaths per 100,000 live births by 2030.SDG 3.1 global target:By 2030, reduce the global maternal mortality ratio to less than 70 deaths per 100,000 live births.EPMM national targets:Primary target: By 2030, all countries should reduce their maternal mortality ratios by at least two-thirds from their 2010 baseline.Secondary target: By 2030, no country should have a maternal mortality ratio greater than 140 deaths per 100,000 live births.These global and national maternal mortality targets, developed by a group of technical experts through extensive consultations with global and country-level stakeholders, were published in a 2015 report, Strategies for Ending Preventable Maternal Mortality (EPMM Strategies). The EPMM Strategies report fed into the development of the Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health, 2016-2030 (Global Strategy), a framework for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals related to the health of women, children and adolescents.Understanding the distinction between the global and national targets is crucial. The global target alone is not useful for instituting country-level change. Countries need to set national targets to drive reduction in maternal deaths and thus contribute to meeting the global goal. The primary national target—that every country should reduce its MMR by at least two-thirds from its 2010 baseline levels—takes each country’s different starting point into account while still holding countries accountable for their own progress toward the common SDG goal.Each country has a unique starting point: a different baseline MMR and epidemiological risk profile, different health system capacity and resources and a different sociopolitical climate for work on reducing maternal mortality. These differences are reflected in the wide disparities in MMR among countries around the globe. National MMRs range from 3 deaths per 100,000 live births in Finland, Greece, Iceland and Poland to 1,360 deaths per 100,000 live births in Sierra Leone. This disparity illustrates that, unfortunately, a woman’s risk of maternal death depends largely on where she lives. Thus, the secondary national target—that no country should have a national MMR greater than 140 deaths per 100,000 live births by 2030—was proposed as an important mechanism for reducing extreme inequities in global maternal survival. Liberia (725)Czech Republic (4) Somalia (732)Belarus (4) Data are estimates from “Trends in maternal mortality: 1990 to 2015” Estimates by WHO, UNICEF, UNFPA, World Bank Group and the United Nations Population Division Gambia (706)Kuwait (4) Central African Republic (882)Greece (3)
This year’s proceeds will provide full scholarships for needy students to attend the University of the West Indies This prestigious event will bring together just over 1,500 Jamaicans and friends of Jamaica Jamaican Ambassador to the United States, His Excellency, Professor Stephen C. Vasciannie will be the guest speaker Story Highlights Jamaica’s independence celebrations in the New York tri-state area will come to a climax on Saturday, August 17, when the Jamaica Independence Celebration Foundation, Inc (JICFI) stages the annual Independence Ball in commemoration of Jamaica’s 51st year of independence.This prestigious event will bring together just over 1,500 Jamaicans and friends of Jamaica at the New York Hilton Hotel in downtown Manhattan, where the island’s colors, and music will be on display.The ball, which is being held under the distinguished patronage of the Consul General of Jamaica to New York, Herman G. LaMont will have as its special guest speaker, Jamaican Ambassador to the United States, His Excellency, Professor Stephen C. Vasciannie. Noted Jamaican actress Sheryl-Lee Ralph will compere the event.Two distinguished Jamaicans, Heather Foster, Office of Public Engagement at the White House, and orthopedic surgeon Dr. Answorth A. Allen, along with Irie Jam Media, will be honored this year. Patrons to this year’s ball will dance to music provided by the Fabulous Five Band.Speaking at the media launch held at the Jamaican Consulate in New York, Chairperson of the JICFI, Paulette Willoughby said that over the years, proceeds from the ball have been used to support several organisations.Among them are the New York City Rescue Mission, Good Shepherd Foundation, Early Childhood Foundation, Ward Theatre Foundation, Boys’ Town Foundation, Alpha Boys’ House, American Foundation of the University of the West Indies (AFUWI), American Cancer Society, Mission for the Poor and Mustard Seed Communities.Ms. Willoughby informed that this year’s proceeds will provide full scholarships for needy students to attend the University of the West Indies, as well as support for an early childhood institution.The JICFI, a non-profit organisation, dedicated to celebrating Jamaica’s independence, seeks to bring together Jamaicans in the Diaspora to a signature ball, held in New York annually. The gala will showcase Jamaica’s food and culture.Contact: Derrick Scott
NEW YORK — The local news industry hasn’t been the subject of much good news itself lately.Newspaper circulation is down sharply, and so is employment in the newspaper industry. Financial cutbacks have led to the shutdown of nearly 1,800 daily and weekly newspapers since 2004, and given rise to new terminology to describe what’s left in their wake. “News deserts” describes parts of the country no longer covered by daily journalists, while “ghost newspapers” is a term for publications with much more limited circulation and ambition.Facebook’s $300 million donation Tuesday to fund local news initiatives helped put the problem in focus. So did the ownership bid for the Gannett company, publisher of USA Today and several daily newspapers, by a company known for making sharp financial cutbacks.David Bauder, The Associated Press
Near the end of last season, Cincinnati Enquirer writer Paul Daugherty penned a column about Reds first baseman Joey Votto. It was not kind.You can extol the virtues of the almighty walk all you like. You can tell me how wonderful it is that Votto makes fewer outs than anyone. I understand all that, and it is all good. Especially if you’re leading off or batting 2nd. If you are batting 3rd, your responsibilities are different. Seventy-three RBI with Choo ahead of you all year is substandard. All numbers aside, Votto doesn’t pass the eyeball test this summer. There have been times when he simply looks disengaged.This might seem like stinging criticism, particularly the part where Daugherty jumps from Votto’s RBI total to accusing the Reds star of checking out. Thing is, select members of Cincinnati’s baseball media corps often bash Votto for being too passive — especially when he comes up with runners on base. Marty Brennaman, the radio voice of the Reds for the past 40 years, seems to do it all the time. That September 2013 column wasn’t remotely the only time Daugherty called out Votto. The idea of Votto as this submissive hitter who keeps his bat on his shoulder during RBI opportunities has become so widespread that even the Cardinals announcers brought it up when the Reds visited St. Louis last month. And as far as the eyeball test goes, well, it’s tough to watch Votto do something like this (on a 2-1 count, no less), and not shake your head a little:That mid-at-bat stroll aside, is the narrative true? Is Votto hurting his team by turning into a wallflower when he gets chances to drive in runs? Or is this just another case of blaming a team’s best player for its failures?Votto defenders, and Votto himself, argue that indiscriminately swinging at more pitches would hurt more than it would help. Votto’s elite batting puts him at or near the top of the league in walk rate every year. It also helps him avoid making weak contact on pitches out of the strike zone; since his 2008 rookie season, no qualified hitter has been better at getting on base (and thus not making outs) than Votto has.So rather than pointing to simple walk rate or swing rate, we turned to ESPN’s TruMedia system for context. It slices and dices stats in countless ways, to the point where we can see how often Votto swings at pitches in the strike zone with runners in scoring position. That way, we can focus on the situations most conducive to knocking in runs and eliminate pitches out of the zone, which you’d want hitters to pass up anyway.We came up with three ways to dissect this stat. First, we can see how often Votto swings at strikes when at bat with runners in scoring position, and whether he’s doing it more or less now than he has in the past. We can also compare Votto’s swing rate in those situations with those of other elite hitters. TruMedia data goes back to 2009, and Votto ranks third in the majors since ’09 in weighted runs created plus,1Also known as wRC+, this stat tallies all the walks, singles, doubles, triples, homers, outs and other outcomes compiled by a hitter — minus context-dependent stats like RBI — then adjusts for park effects and the era in which a player plays and boils it down to one number. A score of 100 is average for a major league hitter, which means Votto’s 162 wRC+ since 2009 pegs him at 62 percent better than average. so comparing Votto to the rest of the top five in that stat over the past half-decade makes sense. Finally, we can see how often Votto swings in these spots relative to league average.The chart below tells the tale.At first glance, yes, Votto has become much less aggressive with runners in scoring position over the past five-plus seasons. In 2009, his second full season in the big leagues, Votto swung at 78.2 percent of the pitches he saw in the strike zone with RISP, ranking him 10th among 155 qualified batters, just slightly behind the grip-it-and-rip-it approach of RBI-machine Miguel Cabrera. Votto’s number dipped slightly to 76.2 percent in 2010, still ranking among the league’s leaders. In 2011, that number fell precipitously to 69.6 percent, just a smidgen above league average. In 2012, it took another big tumble, with Votto’s swing rate plunging to 62.4 percent — No. 121 in the majors if he’d had enough at-bats to qualify for the batting title. Last year, he rebounded to 69.8 percent, once again a tick above league average. So far this season, the bottom has dropped out, with Votto swinging at just 57.7 percent of pitches in the strike zone with runners in scoring position, ranking him 171st among 187 qualified hitters. Those last 16 guys probably batted with their eyes closed.Now let’s compare Votto to other elite hitters. Placing him side by side with those other top-five wRC+ guys — Cabrera, Mike Trout, Ryan Braun and Jose Bautista — nets surprising results. While Cabrera and Braun rank among baseball’s most aggressive hitters when they get pitches with runners in scoring position, Trout and Bautista have been far more passive … more so even than Votto, before this year.Let’s run one more chart. Same hitters, same runners in scoring position situations, still using pitches in the strike zone, only this time we’ll look at fastballs only, since in theory you’d expect hitters to be more aggressive against heaters than, say, darting sliders or diving change-ups.Same pattern, but check out Votto’s free fall this season. On fastballs in the strike zone with RISP, he’s swung an incredibly low 50 percent of the time, ranking 182 out of 187 batters.So what’s going on here?Leaving RBI aside, Votto’s power numbers have shrunk a lot over the past couple of years. Since his 37-homer MVP season in 2010, Votto has hit 29, 14 and 24 bombs, with just four so far this year. Using isolated power, a stat that gives a better read of a player’s pop than slugging average since it focuses only on extra-base hits, we see that Votto posted a career-low .186 IP mark last year, ranking a less-than-elite 44th among 140 qualified batters. He’s down to .169 IP this year, just the 72nd-best mark in the majors. If a hitter feels he can do less damage when he swings, he’s probably going to swing less often. Votto is one of the brainiest, most self-aware players in the game, so it’s no surprise to see him swinging less often than he has in the past, both with runners in scoring position and the rest of the time.It’s hard to tell how aggressive Votto might be in the future, given what the numbers tell us. Go back and peruse those charts again. The two biggest drops in his swing rate (with runners in scoring position or otherwise) — and the only two times in his career that he’s been more passive than league average in RBI situations — have come in 2012 and this year.In 2012, Votto suffered a painful knee injury, one that sapped his power dramatically until it knocked him out of the lineup for 50 games; of course he’s going to swing less often when he’s both playing in pain and not hitting the ball as hard when he makes contact. As for this year, it’s May 9. Votto has seen only 52 pitches in the strike zone with runners in scoring position, and just 36 of those were fastballs. We should probably wait until we have a larger sample of at-bats before we break out Tom Smykowski’s mat.So yes, Daugherty’s belief that Votto has become more passive passes not only the eyeball test, but also the hard evidence test. Still, Votto doesn’t deserve this much criticism. We’re talking about a player who’s on track to reach base more than 40 percent of the time for the sixth straight season. He’s an excellent defender at first. An infield popup for him is like a Halley’s Comet sighting for the rest of us. And while he might be swinging less often than he used to, even that trend might prove to be much less pronounced than it looks right now.Joey Votto remains one of the best all-around players on the planet, whether or not he ever makes the ghost of Hack Wilson sweat.