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 a video of the full speech is 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 subject 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 duties 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
It’s true. Researchers have confirmed it, dogs have no concept of scale. In other words, a small dog does not realize how small he or she is. Hence the well-known phenomena of small-dog syndrome. So why am I bringing this seemingly random factoid up?
Well, I’ve noticed a similar phenomena when working with web vendors. It can be hard for them to anticipate how long it will take to do work for you, especially if the work in question requires the creation of something that’s entirely new to them.Read more
In my post, 'An Approach to Dealing with Resistance in Your Organization', I discussed how change in your organization could cause resistance, and I suggested strategies to work through it. This post will focus on culture in an organization and why it is important to understand the culture of an organization before, during, and after implementing change – a Part 1 if you will. Part 2 will focus on what you can do during organizational change and how to ensure culture change sticks. It is important to remember that an organization does not have culture; it is the people that create, form and maintain a culture. Culture can dictate if an acquisition, merger, or organizational change goes successfully, and it is vital to understand how structural changes will impact said culture.Read more
If you work in nonprofits, then at some point you will bump into the people that fund nonprofits. What is the most important thing you can do in that moment? Thank You! It does not matter if you are at a gala, touring a site, or working on a project for your executive director, take a moment to express true gratitude to that partner. Donors are much more than a fiscal sponsor. They are (if you treat them right) lifelong advocates for the same mission you are passionately working for day-in and day-out.
If you work in nonprofits, then at some point you will bump into the people that fund nonprofits. What is the most important thing you can do in that moment? Thank You! It does not matter if you are at a gala, touring a site, or working on a project for your executive director, take a moment to express true gratitude to that partner. Donors are much more than a fiscal sponsor. They are (if you treat them right) lifelong advocates for the same mission you are passionately working for day-in and day-out.Read more
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about ideation and implementation. Based on the ways I’ve heard nonprofiteers talk about these two concepts, it seems we’ve created a false dichotomy. How many times have you heard phrases like:
- “I’m no good at details. I’m more of an idea person.”
- “He focuses on details and doesn’t see the big picture.”
To me, being a strategic, big picture thinker does not preclude you also being a project manager who tracks details like a boss. In fact, I often find that those with boots-on-the-ground implementation experience have better ideas. They are closer to the challenges and opportunities that are ripe for innovation.Read more
We’ve all been there. You sign up for an info session at a conference or an event with a presentation that sounds intriguing and potentially groundbreaking. You sit down for the session, pen in hand, ready to take notes. Throughout the entire session you wait for something noteworthy – something so insightful you just have to tweet it, write it down, and take it back to the office to share with your colleagues or impress your boss. You wait, and you wait, and nothing. Turns out the session isn’t what you thought it would be. The information doesn’t apply to your organization or your job, or it covers information you’ve already heard a million times (social media 101, anyone??).
Recently I attended an event that left me feeling this way. So now what? Did I just waste an hour or two of my time?Read more
As Millennials in the nonprofit sector, our ideas for trying new approaches are often met with responses like: ‘this is the way we have done things for 10 years’ or ‘I don’t see why we need to change, things are going well’. To understand how we can better influence people with our ideas despite resistance, we must first understand what resistance is and learn strategies to help us manage professional situations in which we find resistance (and not let those moments get the best of us).
Resistance is natural; it occurs in and outside of work and shows up wherever there are human interactions. Resistance is often an emotional process, and it is a reaction against the process of being helped (Burke, 2008, p.109). Sometimes we see resistance within our organizations when there are changes taking place, when stakes are high, or when roles shift among co-workers. We ourselves might be resistant to new ideas, suggestions, or a different way of doing our work. Whatever the reason, it is important to remember that resistance rarely has anything to do with you. Rather, it is reaction to the challenge created by new changes or ideas being proposed.Read more
I’m learning something in life, over and over again. I’m learning that a lot of the best things happen when you’re not looking for them. Maybe you’ve heard this from people before, sometimes in the context of romantic relationships. It’s a classic; they were seeking hard, and missing, and failing, and trying harder, and missing bigger, and the whole time the best thing was right under their nose. Common denominator in these situations? Stop looking.Read more
I know it’s only early November, but-let’s face it–stores are already decked out for Christmas, so it doesn’t seem too early to do a 2014 retrospective. As a board, YNPN Twin Cities has committed in our new strategic plan to being and supporting other members in being thought leaders in sector-wide conversations.
So, in order to get that conversation going, I’ve developed a list of 5 “buzzwords” or terms that I think are highly relevant to what has gone on in the nonprofit sector–and in particular in Minnesota’s sector–in 2014.Read more
I am finishing up an MBA at the University of Saint Thomas, and one of my last classes is an elective on negotiations. I really enjoy it. The readings are on sports contracts and great diplomatic compromises. I enjoy both role-playing in the cases that we use for mock negotiations and the debriefing afterward, where the class analyzes cases from every point of view. These are enriching experiences.
There are some really useful skills that I've picked up in the class, many from Ron Shapiro's book, The Power of Nice. If you are looking for an approachable book on building your negotiation skills, I'd definitely recommend this one. It’s full of memorable guidelines and pithy insights from many years in sports and entertainment negotiation, and it’s a quick read. His “3Ps and a Big L” – prepare, probe, propose, and listen – is as useful and basic an insight as you’re likely to get, and it can be applied to any number of situations we face as young nonprofit professionals.Read more