Wednesday, May 28, 2014

It's Funny - But Not On YOUR Account

In past posts, I've warned about the dangers of thinking youth was a prerequisite for handling your small nonprofit's social media accounts.

Here's an object lesson in what can happen when you put an intern in charge of your Twitter account without supervision or - apparently - even occasional oversight.

This case-in-point is brought to you by the Seattle Department of Transportation, whose intern might have gone a little off the track, but at least remained safe for work.

Changing Times

After a lot of thinking, I've decided not to continue posting on a (mostly) weekly basis. I've read a lot of articles lately on how social media is changing (Scott Monty left Ford and Shel Israel thinks it's because marketing has taken over), but I really feel that there isn't anything new I can say about social media and small nonprofits. Once you've said:

  • be real (authentic)
  • start conversations
  • follow-up on what people are saying
  • don't make it about you - make it about them've pretty much said it all in terms of content. Then there is talking about ROI, metrics, how to use a particular tool, or more of the technical end of things, and that isn't what I started this blog to write about.

When this blog started, I wanted to help people involved in helping their communities find and use the freely-available, very long-term, awareness campaign that is social media. Most particularly I was looking to serve those similar in age to myself who found this new technological world rather confusing. Social media was kind of a wild west show, with shoot-outs happening all over the place and it was difficult for many try to get started in social media and then stay on top of the changes while (nearly) single-handedly running an NGO. I wanted to lend a hand by sharing my enthusiasm for this new way to reach the public.

People like Beth Kanter and Pamela Grow do some aspects of NGO much better than I ever could, and once you know how to extract lessons from business-oriented blogs like Social Media Examiner, you can learn from dozens of similar experts, including those from specific industries like recruiting. So I guess I feel like I've written myself out of a job.

Social media isn't the next new thing anymore - late night television makes Twitter jokes and daytime soap characters always seem to have a smartphone in their hands these days. Younger people, for whom social media is a way of life, are already in the workforce and some of them are approaching their 30th year. I think you can probably trust them with your Pinterest account.

This blog won't go away. Some people come across some of the older posts and seem to find them useful. And I will likely find the occasional thing of interest I want to share with you. I just don't want to start repeating myself.

Not that I will be idle - I volunteer for two NGOs and have several books waiting to be written. In addition, I'll be starting a blog focused on Emergency Medical Services in Santa Cruz County, which I hope will help county EMS communicate better with the public they serve.

As always, let me know your thoughts in the comments section.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

On Vacation This Week - Don't Argue

Image of Calvin and Susie by Bill Watterson
You know you'll get criticism on your blog, about your post or tweet or even pics on Pinterest and we've talked about examples of how corporate brands and big NGOs deal with it. But, how do you respond when you need to GIVE criticism as part of your own argument?

Do you freak out when you have to argue about something? Would you like to be better at it? Wouldn't it be great if you knew what to do to get those who oppose you to be more receptive to your idea? Then go look at this:

4 Steps to Arguing Intelligently

And while you're there, take a look at some of the other articles. I have no affiliation with Brainpickings except to find it an excellent resource. Maybe you will, too.

See you next week.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

My Wake-Up Call

Image via Alan Cleaver on Flickr
Have you ever had a serious wake-up call?

I read about a man who would rather be a competent violinist than an important physicist. Playing music was his passion and physics was just what he was good at. At the time I read that, I was shocked. I had always been told that you need only find out what you were good at and do it well to be happy, and here was someone giving up a career as a scientist to play music because he loved it. But he had a wake-up call that happiness in your work isn't completely about doing it well, but about giving it your passion, too.

I got a wake-up call this week.

I volunteer on two boards, both related to emergency medicine. For one of them, I was asked to serve as the board's Development Chair. Though I couldn't quite sort out my feelings, my instinct was telling me to decline. However, this very small nonprofit is in a bad way financially, and I didn't feel I could just say no. Instead, I offered to put together a marketing plan and do some fundraising for the next six months.

And I've done a crummy job of it.

I did put together the marketing plan, but never got a chance to present it because I missed the meetings. I attended the kickoff for a Fun Run and Walkathon and got the paperwork moving to make the NGO a part of it, but squandered my chances to communicate with the board and members in the days leading up to the event. It wasn't even until the week before the race/walkathon that I realized that though I had solicited sponsors, I hadn't remembered to register for the race itself.

Lest you consider me a complete screw-up, there were other things at work here and not all of the bad moves (or actually, lack of moves) are on me, but that doesn't change the outcome. So what was my problem?

Lack of commitment due to inability to see clearly.

I've never been comfortable as a member of this NGO's advisory board and I had already thought seriously of resigning, but got talked into giving it another try. They have smart people on the board, but most of them are medical or emergency services people, not people familiar with NGOs. So when it comes to fundraising, marketing, communicating and all the other outreach an NGO has to do, there was little expertise to be had. They really wanted me to help with that.

Have I tried? Yes. Did I do my best? A resounding NO.

I felt clueless about the mission, it took me too long (their meetings are every other month) to figure out where I could help, and (though I didn't know it) I needed to take time to deal with several years' worth of challenges. I had a closet full of leftover issues that would no longer wait and which would take a lot of my energy. Energy that I then did not have for the NGO.

It's not like they won't survive without me. My lack of ability to fulfill expectations is probably a very small thing when seen in perspective. But it's a big deal for me because I haven't failed in such a large way personally for quite a while.

We'll probably make our financial goal - but we might have exceeded it. And there are other things I could have done that would have helped, but wanting to help and being able to are not the same things.

In retrospect (where vision is 20/20), I should have listened to my intuition when it told me I wasn't up for this challenge. I didn't have the focus or the energy required for it. I answered a call for help when I should not have and I ended up doing a half-ass job. My wake-up call: knowledge of how to do things can be useless if it's not paired with energy and focus.

It's a good learning opportunity for me, but I would rather it had not been at the expense of the NGO.

Resource of the Week: 5 Ways You Can Use FB to Help & Inspire Your Friends