NOTE: This blog is an expansion of a speech I gave at “5 Minutes in Hell,” YNPN-TC’s annual event for people who want to practice public speaking (my slides are available on Google Drive, and you can see a video of the full speech at the bottom of this post or on YouTube). For those considering submitting a speaking proposal in future years, I highly recommend it! You won’t find a more supportive practice venue.
There is no one answer to what a communications job looks like, especially when it comes to nonprofits. While large organizations can have entire teams where each person has their own area or expertise, small nonprofit organizations often have only one staffer (or part of one) who is responsible for getting the word out about everything the organization does.
Communicators have all kinds of duties: writing, social media, websites, emails, graphic design, media outreach, among other things. For some organizations, the communications staff is also responsible for development and fundraising, while others house these in separate departments.
At our core, however, all communications professionals have the same goals: We want to make sure the people who need our organization’s information get it in ways they understand, and we want to make sure our organization looks good.
These goals can mean that communications professionals care about strange things like fonts and colors and images, and we sometimes say certain words should or should not be used.
In this blog, I am sharing some of the largest “pet peeves” communications professionals have in the hopes that non-communicators can learn and work more effectively with their communications staff, and we can eliminate the communications-programs-development divide.Read more
Every year around this time, I tune into YouTube to listen to smart and talented actors, politicians, and comedians share stories and give advice to the graduating class of the year. Even before I graduated from high school, I’ve been watching commencement addresses. Yes, I’m kind of a commencement geek who loves to get goose bumps during these inspiring speeches!
So what binds a moving and insightful commencement speech, a college graduate, and a young nonprofit professional together? I believe it’s the quest to figure out how to lend one’s skills, passions, and interests to build a more just and equitable world. In other words, what can we do do to make a difference in a deeply divided and broken world—or as Robert Di Niro put it in his speech at NYU, “a tragic dumbass comedy.”
Whether you’re a recent college graduate or work at a nonprofit, times of uncertainty, vast change, and great stress can be common. So pep talks, jokes, and advice from a diverse set of successful individuals can be just the pick-me-up that’s needed to build strong bridges into the future.Read more
I’ve been thinking about secondary trauma (sometimes called vicarious trauma or indirect trauma) and the nonprofit sector lately. Those of us enmeshed in the work of healing a wounded world are constantly exposed to images, stories, and descriptions of violence. Whether it’s against an individual or an entire people, we know the depth and degree of evils in the world many people actively avoid confronting. Our jobs require that we engage with violence against others and the Earth.
The ah-ha moment I had while reading Judith Herman’s classic book Trauma and Recovery is a moment I’ll never forget. There is a part where she asserts there are three parties involved in an act of violence: the perpetrator, the victim, and the witness. Most of us are familiar with the roles of the perpetrator and the victim, but few have heard of the witness. The witness does not have to be present at the time of the violent act, and they don’t have to know the victim personally. They can hear an account of violence, see a video documenting it, read a story or report, or see photographs. There are many ways to be a witness.Read more
We’ve all heard it, I’m sure. Culture eats strategy for breakfast. Right?
Whether or not you’ve heard this aphorism, I’d be willing to bet you’ve experienced it. I sure have – in different sizes and types of organizations, and in different ways within those organizations.
But never have I been more frustrated by this truth than when it relates to the lack of a culture of philanthropy in a nonprofit.Read more
First YNPN blog post of 2017. First thought: You survived 2016.
We may be battered from a rough year (don’t even get me started on why… you’re already on the internet, so it should be clear as day).
But thanks for coming back to work.
It’s easy for work to feel just like … well, work. But being a part of a nonprofit, you are the starry-eyed workhorse that has been seeking justice and impacting our community every day. And not everyone has the same opportunity to do that as a job.Read more
“Foundations are really nothing without nonprofits," said John Fetzer from the Northwest Area Foundation at Pollen’s Sustain-A-What event. It was a good line to open with when speaking to a room full of nonprofit practitioners because who doesn’t want to feel like they matter? It definitely got tweeted out on the #sustainawhat hashtag, and set the tone for the rest of the talk – we were not gathered to be yelled at about earned income strategies or that we needed to act “more like a business.”
Because let’s face it, when people talk about nonprofit sustainability, that’s often what they are referring to – how are you going to make money that’s not a grant or donation? What is your clever strategy for monetizing your content or the populations you serve? How are you going to work in ways that make business people and lawyers feel comfortable about it?Read more
At some point during our lives, we may come up with a great idea to improve our society. These ideas often emerge when we identify an unmet need or gap in service. But then what? Coming up with the idea can seem like the easy part. Figuring out what to do next, how to turn your passion into a reality, can be the daunting part.
Years ago, there was a go-to option for someone who wanted to pursue social good – becoming a 501c3. You had to fill out the 30-page application, pay a fee to the IRS, wait, then wait some more – sometimes upwards of a year — to finally get the go ahead to accept donations for your project.Read more
It kills me every time we celebrate the per hour value of a volunteer. Not because I hate volunteers, but because it exposes one of the biggest double-standards in the nonprofit sector.
Independent Sector rated the national per hour value of volunteer time at $23.07 - essentially, that’s what we’d pay someone if we averaged out all of the in-kind value from volunteers everywhere. In Minnesota, it’s even higher at $24.83.
But here’s the thing: that $24.83 equates to an annual salary of nearly $51,600. Why are we paying our nonprofit employees so much less?Read more
I’ve been fortunate to have several opportunities for professional development in the past few years, both within and outside of my workplace. Among the webinars, cohorts, workshops and trainings I’ve pursued, working with a mentor has been the most beneficial.
First, I have to say that I can’t believe mentorships aren’t more common. I know people who have had similarly positive transformative experiences with personal and professional mentors, but it feels like an arrangement that remains massively underutilized on the whole.Read more
Nonprofits are growing – you already know this… Back in 2012 nonprofits accounted for 11.4 million jobs – and even during the recent recession and recovery (2007 to 2012), nonprofit employment steadily increased each year. But did you know that when surveyed by the Nonprofit Finance Fund (in their 2015 State of the Sector Survey), 44 percent of respondents hired someone for a new position? That’s right – for NEW positions!
Human capital plays an incredibly important role for nonprofits – and getting the perfect employee can be a real challenge. Nonprofits typically don’t have recruiters or large human resource departments dedicated to finding top talent from the Ivy League, but nonprofits can find good fits, especially through informal local networks.Read more