Archives for category: Nonprofits

I’m sitting in the airport, getting ready to go back to reality. It’s been almost a year since I wrote my first post. In that time span a lot has changed; my world has changed. I feel like it is time for a reintroduction.

I started off lucky. I was fortunate enough to get a college internship a year and a half ago at a Chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council. While the experience was great, it was the people I met during that time that I need to give thanks to, they showed me my potential.

The Executive Director of the Chapter, Jane Baxter Lynn, became a mentor to me. I would work hard, and that obviously earned her respect, but it was her passion and dedication that drove me to work harder, and be better. During my time there, I went from a college student to a communications professional. I learned the tools I needed to make it in this profession; hard work, dedication, and striving to keep things as simple as possible.

With my wings flapping, I jumped. I took my internship experience from USGBC and from my good friends at Greenlights, and aimed high. I had developed a pretty good skill set in online communications. I read blogs, tweeted, and began to understand the online landscape. With that experience, I felt it was time for more. I applied for a position at Edelman.

The first person I met at Edelman was Dave Levy. That is when I knew I was in the right place. Dave is a wealth of information, and he saw potential in me, and invited me to join Edelman’s internship program. I was extremely fortunate to become a part of a team that literally had awesome running through their veins. For as much as I learned in school, and in my two years of interning, I probably learned about twice that in the two months I interned at Edelman. That experience set me up for success; in October of this past year I was offered a full-time position,  working in Digital for Edelman.

All that has happened over the lifespan of this blog. And now, I can call myself a professional. As I have changed, so has this blog. It was once a sandbox for a college student to figure out the online space. Then it was an interactive resume for a graduate. And now, it is a sandbox once again. This time, however, it is the sandbox of a professional.

I often wonder what the new year will bring. What changes will I experience; what things will I learn. And so I leave with my one call to action: share. I want to learn about your experiences, and find out what you have learned.

Its time for me to catch my flight. I wish you safe travels and a happy new year.


My blog  just turned 40.

Like most that experience age 40, my blog is questioning itself in a weird mesh of reflection and bewilderment.

“How has there already been 40 posts?”

“Ugh, those paragraphs aren’t as tight as they used to be.” 

“Have I, after 40 posts, been successful?”

The interesting thing is that I feel a forty-year old would come to terms with the above comments much like I am coming to terms with this blog. A lot has happened over the time period of those 40 posts. The writing may not be as ambitious or written with the same intellectual vigor, but it has developed a tone; it now has structure. And yes it has been successful. It may not have won any awards, but it has carried a message, and has been received well by people.

So… am I supposed to buy a Corvette now or something?

Well, my blog is 40, not me, so I think the Corvette will have to wait. But in the meantime I do have some ideas for what I am going to do:

       1.     I am going to write to an audience, an audience that will listen.

When I started this blog it was intended to demonstrate that I was familiar to blogging, and meant to be a device to help me develop my writing skills. But I got tired of writing to some mythical job recruiter, and I decided to focus on writing to people who can identify with me. I will continue to offer this blog as a tool to recent graduates, employment seekers, and emerging communications professionals.

       2.     I am going to tell a story.

As I look back on some of my past writing, I realize that my best posts reveal something to the reader, and give them something that they can feel. A persuasive argument has no emotion, but an inspiring story can be quite persuasive and can hit people in the gut, where it really counts.

       3.     I am going to continue to strive for excellence.

While I feel I have made great strides in my writing, I want more. I want to engage a readership. I want to see a conversation take place via comments sparked by a thought-provoking post. I want people to tweet about my posts; to ignite conversations of their own. I want my pursuit of betterment to make other people better.

I do realize that those are some pretty lofty goals. But how else do you achieve greatness other than by setting the bar high?

I am fortunate though, to know what I need to do to achieve those goals: Listen. I will listen to criticism, I will listen to advice, and I will listen to my audience to make my online presence, worth something to others.

There is one more thing that I will try do start doing more frequently; leave with a call-to-action. So I say this to you: write. Write with everything you got. Put your head down on a piece of paper; punch out your thoughts on a keyboard. And if you are already doing that, great. Show me what you got. Share your writing with me, as I share with you. So that by the time you and I turn 40, our achievements will allow us to afford that Corvette.

Greenlights’ Sessions is a series of posts that discusses advice given to me from the wonderful staff at Greenlights for Nonprofit Success (@greenlightsATX), an organization dedicated to nonprofit excellence.

Part 1:

During my final days at Greenlights I had the opportunity to ask various staff members some lingering questions I had been pondering. Being the communications professional that I am the first of these questions was:

What do you believe is the best and most reliable form of communication and why?

The feedback I received was awesome. For this question there wasn’t really a consensus, but three forms did stand out. Face-to-face, emails, and in writing were the three that we said to be the most effective. I love that there was no mention of Facebook or texting, and that telephone conversations weren’t listed.

Face to face conversation was noted because people have the ability to read into nonverbal cues and react accordingly. I would also add that providing immediate feedback through nonverbal cues is essential in establishing report.

Getting things in writing was my second favorite response, mainly because people noted that it solidified agreements and added security to professional exchange. It was also mentioned in passing that people like receiving hand-written items because it demonstrates and greated sense of value because of the time that goes into it.

Communication preferences vary from person to person. I think what lies at the core of which method used is the purpose of the communication. By looking at it this way we broaden the strategy behond how we communicate.

Thanks Greenlights Team!

Even though I have been interning and volunteering in the nonprofit sector for over a year, I have found out that there is a lot out there that I didn’t even know about. This realization pushed me to make a better effort at getting in touch with the nonprofit community and to understand the conversations that other Nonprofiteers are taking part in.

I was tired of feeling like the new kid at school and wanted to understand the meta-messages and jargon that was being thrown over my head. When I started here, the number 501 was meant nothing and a 990 was just an ACT or GRE Test score to me . So I went on a search to see how I can better be connected to the nonprofit sector.

The first thing I did was search for websites and blogs that were devoted to the nonprofit sector. I found wonderful information from sites like NTEN, TechSoup, and Idealist. I know that these are primarily technology oriented, but they pointed me in the right direction to find out about great nonprofit blogs like Beth’s Blog, Wild Apricot Blog, Blue Avocado, and 501derful. These useful sites opened my eyes to a world of active, passionate Nonprofiteers that I had no idea existed.

From these local and national blogs I was able to identify key people the 501 world that contribute. Some local influencers came up like Andrea Ball and David Neff and some nationally renowned folks like Beth Kanter and Dan Palotta appeared to show up as well.

By just scratching the surface I was able to find out about philanthropy trends from blogs like Philanthropy 101, I was able to see how other nonprofits were using technology from sources like TechSoup, and I was able to grasp the Austin nonprofit community from people like Monica Williams who writes Giving City Austin.

While I have not met many if any of these people in person, I have learned so much from them. Now I try and keep up with all the information flying around with utilities like Google Reader; which helps me organize my Blog and Community rss feeds, and Tweetdeck; which allows me to organize who I follow via Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

All of this information has led me to become more in tune with the nonprofit world and has also allowed me to see how I fit within that world. I am glad I have been able to embrace technology as a tool to help me understand the nonprofit world and hope that you too can become in tune with your job and passion in the same way.

I have been an intern in the nonprofit world for over a year now and have seen the impact that intern positions can create. Interns are active and curious contributors that desire to excel and to make a good impression. Sometimes their eagerness can be a little disconcerting but here are a few suggestions that can make the process a little easier:

Start off with something that will force them use the resources available to them.  

When I started my first internship, I was tasked to create an “About Us” document for the organization. Because I knew very little about the organization, I thought the assignment was a bit brazen. In hindsight, I realize how useful such a lofty first assignment was. This task forced me to gather information about the organization and deliberate what were key messages and missions of the organization. I learned from the information I gathered as well as became familiar with the informational resources that I had at my fingertips.

The more you invest in an intern, the better your return on investment is. 

Most interns do not have much real world experience. So if you can provide them with opportunities to work and develop real world skills, they will be thankful and you will be able to get more out of them. In my personal experience I have had the tremendous fortune to work on website development and content management for various organizations. These are real world tools that are not covered in classroom material. These skills definitely set me apart from other students entering the job market and made me a useful contributor to many projects. This kind of experience has given me confidence and experience in an area that can actually make an immediate impact in any organization. This knowledge has helped me contribute to multifaceted, ongoing, projects which has enabled my employers to maximize their work potential as well as get the most out of me.

Provide both long and short term tasks to avoid a stagnant intern.

It seems that in every one of my internship experiences tasks have been assigned on an ongoing basis. Ongoing tasks have been very beneficial; they allow the intern to work independently and to avoid asking “what’s next?”  Interns should not need to be held by the hand 24-7, and furthermore, most interns are independent enough to figure out what tasks need to be accomplished. Of course interns can and should contribute to administrative tasks, but giving long term projects to interns allows them to create work products that can have a lasting beneficial impact for you.

So now the important advice: HOW DO I GET INTERNS?

Fortunately there are many available interns nearby; the University of Texas is a wonderful resource for prospective interns and employees.  However there are other universities in the area as well. Most of these schools have job listings where you can submit work opportunities like U.T.’s Hire a Longhorn. However to best way to the interns is through your existing professional network. You will find that through your connections there is usually an intern waiting. Most times a colleague will recommend one of their  own former interns or perhaps knows of a student looking for a position.  If not, do not hesitate to reach out to professors at nearby universities. By searching departments at UT you can usually find a contact email for a professor who teaches a subject related or relevant to your organization. They usually have several students they could recommend and at times would not even mind announcing opportunities to their classes.  

Interns can help in a variety of ways. Do not hesitate to be creative with the role interns can play in your organization. You may be pleasantly surprised at what they can offer to your organization.

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