Personal Development

Top 5 Blog Posts Of 2018

Wow, I feel like I have a little whiplash from 2018. It feels like I’m just getting started, and yet, here it is December again!

My year was full of twists and turns, highs and lows, bumps and bruises, tears of laughter and tears of joy—much like I’m sure your year was. On one hand, I checked multiple locations off of my travel bucket list, including England, Ireland, and Scotland, as well as a cross-country Amtrak trip. I was also a guest on multiple podcasts and featured in several interviews. And I worked with some amazing new clients, along with some old friends.

On the other hand, while I launched two digital products, I was hoping for at least three. I also didn’t meet a few big numbers I set for myself, including the coveted income goal. And my health didn’t improve as much as I hoped it would.

So, my 2018 was a bit of a mixed bag. I’m trying to hang onto the good stuff and learn from the less-than-good stuff. Both of those things will help propel me in 2019.

But before we get there, I wanted to circle back to my five most popular blog posts of 2018. Since I publish a weekly blog post and you’ve got a lot on your plate, it stands to reason that you might have missed one or two along the way.

No worries! I’ll share what others found to be the most helpful in the hopes that it’ll help you succeed as well. Looking forward to a wonderful New Year with you!

Signify’s Top 5 Blog Posts of 2018

1. The Key to Your Success May Be Staring You in the Face (Literally)

Not only are you a human with a life and responsibilities, but you are also at a cause-focused organization, either for- or non-profit. So, whether your work deals with extremely sensitive and dark subjects like human trafficking or not, you still feel the pressure to succeed because there’s a social problem you’re trying to solve. There is a different kind of gravity to your work that few understand.

This can certainly wear on you over time, and without checks and balances, can lead to burnout. And burnout would be a terrible situation not only for you, but for your cause. The world needs your work!

So, what’s the answer to combating the fatigue and burnout? Community.

Read the full post . . .

2. 4 Insider Reasons Interns are Motivated to Help You

I made a couple of big, small business decisions in 2018, and one of those was to hire interns. I'd know for a long time that I eventually wanted to bring in some spry, young talent, but a couple of things were holding me back.

First, I didn't feel "successful" enough to bring anyone else into the mix. I still don't know what "successful" enough meant/means to me, but I finally decided it was time to put that thought to bed. I had valuable lessons to teach someone, and it was time to start imparting.

Second, I knew it would take some legitimate time and effort to get things in place and delegate. Most of us feel like we move at the speed of light, and slowing down isn't an option. But, again, I needed to take a step back. The reality is that I needed extra help, and there were people available to assist. And once I got things up and running, the hard part was over. So, in the end, I got over myself and found two, fantastic interns. 

Read the full post . . .

3. How to Share the Love with Your Amazing Volunteers

love volunteers.

I’ve always worked in nonprofits, and I've always relied heavily on volunteers to make things happen. Along the way, I have also learned a few things. Yes, people need to be needed. But, the warm and fuzzy feelings that first draw them to you will not always keep them around. As volunteers serve with you, or for you, they will eventually need more. And I’ve found that it is so important to continue to show them the love.

So, here's a list of the top five ways you can continue to love on your volunteers.

Read the full post . . .

4. How to Make Your Next Event More Successful

I don't know about you, but I love events. I love attending them, of course, but also working on them behind-the-scenes. When I was an event marketing director, I was able to help create a dynamic experience for almost 8,000 people. And with my nonprofit and social enterprise freelance clients, it's still a blast to see an event go from concept to completion, resulting in smiling faces, sales earned, and money raised.

A couple of years ago, I had the privilege of working with one of my favorite local organizations, Atlanta Dream Center, on their annual benefit dinner. I had been volunteering with them for three years at that point, and they were Signify's first, official client, so they'll always have a soft spot in my heart. Understandably, I was thrilled to be working with them on a professional level now, too.

At the end of the evening, we had quite a surprise—we had not only met the fundraising goal, but we had quadrupled the previous year's total! High fives all around!

However, I don't think it was an accident. After working on so many events over the years, both large and small, I believe there is a key factor we implemented during the event planning process that changed everything.

Read the full post . . .

5. What (and Why) You Should Be Emailing Your List

Everyone wants to talk social media all the time, but it's not the most important thing when it comes to engaging with your current donors and customers. That's right I said it—social media is NOT the most important thing. Breathe that in, people.

Don't get me wrong, social media is an important (and unavoidable) part of marketing, especially when it comes to finding new prospects, but it isn't the top priority for those currently in your circle of trust. I'd rather you stop focusing on social media, and start focusing on your email list. 

I've had many, many conversations with friends and clients about this topic. I get some slow head-nodding, blank eyes, puzzled looks, and then a question or two usually follows. Something along the lines of, "Why is email marketing so important?" or "Ok, but what should I send to my email list?" I usually also hear that people do send emails to their fans and supporters, but it's been a few...months.

Sending emails just sorta happens when they get around to it. Maybe they'd planned to send out an email blast, but there was yet another fire to put out. Or, they'll email again when they have something "important" to say. 

Any of this sound familiar?

I'm here today to tell you what and why you should be emailing your list. Because it's vital to the health of your organization. Yep, it's that big of a deal.

Read the full post . . .

Looking for more popular options? Here are some of my readers’ all-time favorites:

12 Unique Launch Ideas You'll Want to Copy

What You Need to Convince Potential Sponsors and Partners

A Comparison of 13 Popular Social Media Scheduling Tools

5 Must-See TED Talks for Nonprofit Leaders

10 Tools to Make Your Small Business Look More Professional (Most Are Free!)


PSST: Don't forget that you only have a few more days to enter to win a Communications Strategy Session, valued at $500! Details here. Resolve to make your marketing better in 2019.



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Resources, Tips, and Ideas for Your Nonprofit or Social Enterprise

Kristi Porter, founder of Signify

I'm Kristi Porter, and I started Signify to provide writing and consulting services to nonprofits and for-profit organizations with a social mission, primarily through copywriting, marketing, and business communications. I also teach solopreneurs and small businesses how to incorporate philanthropy and giving strategies. I believe that cause-focused organizations are the future of business. You're proof that companies can both make money and do good. And I'm here to help you get noticed and grow. When you succeed, we all win.


The Key to Your Success May Be Staring You in the Face (Literally)

The end of the year is coming fast, which very likely means a busy season for you. You either have a big sale ahead of you, or you’re heading into the year-end fundraising season. Some of you may also have both.

And, realistically, a lot of you are already tired.

Not only are you a human with a life and responsibilities, but you are also at a cause-related organization, either for- or non-profit. So, whether your work deals with extremely sensitive and dark subjects like human trafficking or not, you still feel the pressure to succeed because there’s a social problem you’re trying to solve. There is a different kind of gravity to your work that few understand.

This can certainly wear on you over time, and without checks and balances, can lead to burnout. And burnout would be a terrible situation not only for you, but for your cause. The world needs your work!

So, what’s the answer to combating the fatigue and burnout? Community.

Community can give you the inspiration and motivation to make it through another year, month, or even day.

Essentially, you need to find your tribe—even if that’s only one other person.

How do you find the community you desperately need? I’ll show you.

The Key to Your Nonprofit or Social Enterprise Success May Be Staring You in the Face (Literally)

Why You Shouldn’t Only Rely on Co-workers, Friends, and Family

When it comes to community, too many people only rely on their co-workers, friends, and family to fill that void, even when it comes to their work. I think this is a problem.

I don’t know about you, but very few of my friends and family have founded a nonprofit or social enterprise. They’re incredibly supportive for sure, but they just can’t relate.

And as a solopreneur, I have no co-workers! Some days I love this fact, and some days I don’t. But even if you have co-workers, there are probably still a few things you avoid talking about like your salary. It just gets messy.

If you founded the organization, unless you have a co-founder, you also don’t have any direct peers. Meaning, you can’t be completely open and honest with the people in your office either because you need to maintain some professional distance.

Are you seeing the pattern? If you only rely on co-workers, friends, and family to be your community, there are gaps of your work that may never receive essential feedback, support, or input. That can impact you in a big way! It may stunt your success, allow little problems to grow into big problems, or even cause blind spots.

Worse still, without the ability to adequately communicate your thoughts and feelings to people who truly understand, it can lead to depression and isolation. I don’t know about you, but these are two things I already struggle with at times, so I don’t need anything else contributing to these issues.

Again, this would be a heartbreaking for you as a person, but it would also effect your organization. And my guess is that you care deeply about your cause and want to succeed. I want that for you too, so let’s talk about a few places where you can find the community you need.

Accountability Partner

Anytime a new or aspiring entrepreneur asks me for advice, the first thing I tell them is to get both an accountability partner and a mentor. I didn’t know how badly I needed these people in my life until I had them—and I don’t want you to miss out!

An accountability partner is someone in a similar situation or role. They don’t have to be at the same type of organization, but it’s great if they have similar responsibilities. Alternatively, they could be someone who is trying to accomplish a similar goal like writing a book.

Accountability partners are fantastic because they serve as a peer who can almost act like a co-worker or partner without the same strings. You are there to help each other succeed in your goals through, well, accountability.

You’ll be able to accomplish your goals because someone is there to regularly ask about them. It’s the same reason that Weigh Watchers meetings work so well. You take the necessary steps because you’ve got to get on a scale the next week to measure your progress.

You also both show up because you don’t want to let the other person down. Plus, they can provide a perspective and sounding board that you may currently be lacking. And, let’s face it, sometimes you just need to complain to someone who fully relates to your situation. We all have those days!

If you don’t have someone already in mind for your accountability partner, ask friends, family, or even put the word out on social media. It may take some time to find this person, but it will absolutely be worth it.

You might also consider a trial period to make sure you’re a good fit. My previous accountability partner and I had only just met when we decided to test the waters. We agreed to meet twice a month for three months, and we loved it so much we continued for six months. It was a huge boost for both of us—and our businesses!

Mentor

I think we all consciously, or even unconsciously, crave a mentor. We want “someone who’s been there” to show us the ropes. We are, of course, talking about your working life here, but you could also seek out mentors in marriage, parenting, hobbies, or any number of things.

The only prerequisite for a mentor is that they have more experience in a particular area than you do, and they are willing to share that knowledge. They almost act like a shortcut in that way, helping you bypass more of the struggles to get to more of the wins.

Let me also take a moment to dispel a couple of common misconceptions about mentors. The first is that we commonly picture mentors as much older than ourselves, but that isn’t always true.

My mentor Holly is only a couple of years older than I am, but she is CFO at a nonprofit called Growing Leaders, so she has vastly different experience than me. (One of those being that she’s good with numbers, ha!) She sort of serves as my all-around life mentor. We talk about everything, and often, that includes my business.

I had another mentor for over a year, Christina, who created The Contract Shop. She is actually over a decade younger than me, but had the experience of selling online products which I wanted to learn. So, while you may be seeking someone much older than you for one reason or another, you certainly don’t have to.

And because I also work with cause-focused organizations on both the for- and non-profit side, it’s also helpful to have mentors in both spaces.

With those two examples, you may have guessed the second misconception, and that is that you only need one mentor. Holly is the one who turned me on to this concept. She has multiple mentors that fill different roles in her life and career. Some she sees regularly, and some she may only see once a year. I really love that, and want to follow her example.

In my experience and in talking to others, mentors are much more difficult to find. It was six years of searching between finding Holly and my previous mentor. And I only had Christina for just over a year before her work got too crazy to maintain our appointments. So, I know how daunting it can be to find a mentor.

But again, I suggest that you start by asking your network. And even if you have the perfect person in mind, but they seem to already have a lot of commitments, never assume they’re too busy to fill that role. Make the ask, and be okay with hearing no, but don’t let an assumption keep you stuck. Mentors often get as much out of the relationship as mentees, so it’s definitely a mutually-beneficial situation.

Honestly, you may also just need to be patient. Don’t give up, but be okay with waiting. You’ll be so glad you did!

Mastermind

You may have noticed that I said things were going great with my accountability partner, but we only met for six months. That’s because we turned the partnership into a mastermind group.

I knew several other women who were looking for that kind of opportunity, and none of us were direct competitors, so for us, it made sense that we give it a try all together.

We meet every two weeks via an online chat, and sometimes in person. Our format was pulled from reading about other groups, as well as our own preferences. So, we usually have one person that shares about something they’ve learned which would benefit us all, and we also share a win, something we might need feedback on, and something we’d like to be held accountable for at the next meeting.

The benefit of a mastermind over an accountability partner is, of course, more perspectives and voices. But in all three of these scenarios, it’s been really incredible to get the additional support and encouragement. And that includes both the good days and bad days. We all know they’re both part of the equation!

Other spaces to find community

The three recommendations above are my go-to suggestions because they are often the most hands-on and consistent opportunities for community. They also make it easier to go deep on some of the hard subjects you need to discuss.

However, if those aren’t options right now, or you’re still in the search process, here are some other, great alternatives to try. Who knows, one of these may even lead to an accountability partner, mentor, or mastermind!

  • Events: This weekend I attended the Tribe Conference for the second year in a row. There are a lot of writers in the room, and “writer” is one of the main words I use to describe myself, so these were my people. It was comforting and motivating just to be around their energy. I also feel that way when I attend social justice events. Find the places your people gather and go meet them.

  • Co-working Spaces: These places have become huge community hubs for many entrepreneurs and small businesses. Not only are you working around new people you might not otherwise meet, but many of them also have regular and special events for you to actually hang out with the people sitting around you. I would definitely need these sort of structure introductions. ;)

  • Facebook Groups: It’s quite common now for course creators, coaches, and business owners to have Facebook Groups. (Psst: Have you seen the Signifiers group?) These online outlets are another great place to meet people in similar situations or pursuing similar goals. I’m in a bunch of them that relate to different areas of my life like business, hobbies, church, causes, friends, etc. If you’re have trouble finding community in-person, or have very limited time on your hands, this could be a great source for you.

  • Social Media: I’ll differentiate social media from Facebook Groups for the purpose of this post because groups are generally more targeted. On social media, you may have other friends and followers who could easily become trusted members of your community. For example, I have a new friend I met this summer over Instagram because I wanted to find other people who were Enneagram 4s as well as INFJ’s, both of which are smaller segments of the population. So, it’s been fun to chat with her about how our weird and wonderful minds work. :)

Encouragement From Tribe Conference Speakers

The work of your nonprofit or social enterprise is essential, and it needs you. But you can’t serve it well if you feel isolated, depressed, or burned out.

All of the above examples will meet different needs at different times, and when you mix and match a few of them together, you’ll be unstoppable. You’ll have the community you need to champion your cause, do your important work, reach your goals, and struggle less in the process. I want that for you, so I hope this post will help you take the next step.

As I mentioned, I was at Tribe Conference this weekend, and I can’t tell you how awesome it was. Well, I could, but we’d be here a lot longer! That event was the inspiration for this post because it definitely gave me the inspiration and motivation I needed to finish the year strong.

So, before you start taking those next steps, I wanted to leave you with some of the words of wisdom that meant a lot to me this weekend. I think they’ll do the same for you.

“You cannot avoid rejection and do your greatest work.” - Jeff Goins

"If you do work that is different, you’re doing something dangerous and worthwhile. People will question your differences now, and celebrate them when you succeed." - Todd Henry

"Other people see your work for what it is. You see your work for what it isn’t." - Melissa Dinwiddie

“Be relevant, authentic, and advocate for your brand.” - Amy Landino

"Community will help you succeed." - Chase Jarvis

"Dream big. Start small. Keep moving." - Charles Lee

“Lead with acceptance. Become a better listener. Don’t fear failure.” - Dave Delaney (Check out this guest post I did for him last year!)

"If you keep waiting for your dream to feel easy, you’ll never stop waiting." - Ali Worthington

"Don’t wait for permission to create your work." - Nicole Gulotta

"Marketing isn’t about closing a sale, it’s about opening a relationship." - Mike Kim

"We need to say out loud what our souls are silently screaming, because it may give someone else the courage to do the same." - Tim Grahl

“Know who your audience is. You can even have a less than perfect product or service depending on who your audience is and what they’ll pay for. They may just be waiting on you to create something.” - Joseph Michael

“Get okay with being uncomfortable.” - Heather Teysko

"Tell the stories people want to hear, not the stories you want to share." - Janet Murray

"Failure doesn’t ruin your story. Failure helps you write it." - Paul Angone

“You need to take responsibility for your own success.” - Joe Bunting

"It's easy to think about the things you haven't done or success you haven't attainted. But remember that there was a time when where you are sitting now was out of reach." - Ken Davis



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What’s the answer to combating fatigue and burnout? Community.

Kristi Porter, founder of Signify

I'm Kristi Porter, and I started Signify to provide writing and consulting services to nonprofits and for-profit organizations with a social mission, primarily through copywriting, marketing, and business communications. I also teach solopreneurs and small businesses how to incorporate philanthropy and giving strategies. I believe that cause-focused organizations are the future of business. You're proof that companies can both make money and do good. And I'm here to help you get noticed and grow. When you succeed, we all win.


Three Simple Steps in the Quest to Find Your Ideal Intern

Last week, you heard from my intern, Megan, on four reasons why interns are motivated to help you. Are you convinced? I sure was! (And if you haven't check it out yet—yes, she does address the question of money!)

This week, you're getting the follow-up by my second intern, Michael. We've talked about the WHY, and now we'll hit you with the HOW. I'm not sure which of those two questions resonates with you when you're thinking about an intern, but hopefully, we'll provide you with the answers needed to take that next step.

I've only had Megan and Michael for about a month, and am already so thankful for them. So, do yourself a favor and go get an intern (or two). Not sure how? Just keep reading!

Three Simple Steps in the Quest to Find Your Ideal Intern

It’s the end of February and the New Year has already gifted us all with a handsomely exhaustive list of responsibilities…

Social media drafts are long overdue, email updates stack a mile high, and blog posts eagerly await an obligatory glimpse. Somewhere in the sewage of this chaos, you also discover that your most urgent and time-sensitive tasks are often the very ones which you’ve neglected.

But, SUDDENLY, you have an epiphany—you don’t have to do this all on your own! What if you had a helping hand? After all, for every Batman exists a Robin, for every Scooby a Shaggy, and for every Cher a respective Sonny.

What if . . . you had an intern?

You may not be able to offer your intern a salary, but you have compensation in the form of experience that they desperately desire. They can serve as more than a glorified coffee runner, and even play a crucial role in keeping your small business or nonprofit operating at optimum speed.

Finding an intern is actually less complicated than one might assume. There’s not one algorithm that will do the trick or one method superior to others, however, let’s explore three, overarching avenues that will aid your search.

Finding the right intern for your organization lies at the intersection of three avenues:

  1. An understanding of the qualifications for your intern role

  2. A correct and detailed intern position description

  3. An idea of where to find the best interns for your nonprofit or social enterprise

1. Outline your requirements for potential interns.

Think of the search for an intern as paving a yellow brick road that will steer the right candidates to the doors of your organization. If that’s the case, you should to be clear from both an academic and professional perspective so that the right person rings the doorbell.

This begins with you carefully outlining prerequisites including educational achievements (high school, GRE, undergraduate and graduate), portfolio samples you may want to see, and prior work experience. One company might be looking for tenured university seniors with previous agency experience, while others are looking for malleable minds that are eager to learn. The choice is yours, however, you cannot expect more, and receive less, without setting expectations. In turn, you might also discover that you have hired an intern whose skills and talents far exceed the amount of work you have to offer them.

Just remember that it’s okay to be selective. An internship needs to be the right fit for both parties.

 

2. Create a clearly defined intern job description, including the benefits they’ll receive.

No one likes to be exclusive, however, in terms of finding the perfect intern, a certain degree of exclusivity needs to be shown. And just so that we don’t parallel the clique from Mean Girls, let’s put it this way—it’s not them, it’s you.

Be open to students with skills and attributes that may be uncommon for your line of work, however, don’t be deceptive in a job description. If they are looking for a for-profit sales role and you work strictly in nonprofit fundraising, they might not be the right fit. Again . . . that’s okay!

So how do you ensure that your role or program is a right fit for the applicant? Before you begin soliciting resumes, clearly define and outline job standards and provide candidates with an overview of the program in which they’ll be participating. And if your internship provides certifications, credits, or payment, be sure to list these in the job description, too.

Finally, be specific in the language you use to describe the internship. Good candidates don’t often migrate toward listings that use generic language. Because internships can last a series of months (even entire semesters), potential interns want to know exactly what it is that they’ll be doing.

You may even want to look at other intern postings online to help you decide what to include.

 

3. Use the Internet and your existing network to help you find an intern.

Most of the individuals searching for an internship experience are students and young alumni. Because it’s likely that these individuals haven’t had extensive amounts of career experience, it’s easier to mold their talents and help them hone in on those they haven’t yet developed. And that should be exciting for both you and them.

To find your young Padawan, it’s essential to utilize the correct platforms. For now, we’ll focus on three outlets to aid your search: career centers, online postings, and personal networking.

Career Centers

The vast majority of large universities and colleges are outfitted with programs and facilities that provide their students with professional working opportunities. Some universities might call it a career centeror “services/development program. The jargon’s all a little different, but globally, the mission is the same—to find work experience, internships, and jobs for students and recent graduates.

Cast your eyes on the example of New York University, which operates the Wasserman Center for Career Development. This career center provides extensive lists of internship opportunities, jobs, and sound advice in the sojourn of career discovery.

My advice to you is to shoot for the stars! Contact every university career center in your respective city or state, and use those centers to network your way to great candidates. They can provide you with potential career fair dates, ensuring that you can speak with students in person, or potentially provide listings or direct links for your internship on their website.

As you build relationships with students and career centers, you’ll develop a steady stream of candidates through pre-existing relationships. And when students provide positive feedback about you to their career centers, you’re more likely to receive continuous and high-quality candidates. The other benefit of going through career centers is, of course, that they’ll often do the regular work of searching for your intern so that you don’t have to!

 

Online Postings

Remember, the interweb is a friend not a foe. This is an essential element to the success of finding your intern in the haystack.

To get even more specific, when looking for interns in university-level programs, go to the places they would go. Posting ads on Craigslist won’t likely aid you in the process of searching for an intern if the population you’re searching for isn’t using Craigslist.

Students and recent grads alike utilize a multitude of websites, some of the most popular being LinkedIn, Internships.com, and Handshake. LinkedIn proves to be a necessary networking tool for the duration of careers, as you probably already know. To ensure that you are fully utilizing LinkedIn, make sure to join groups with similar missions to promote your business and discover talent. I found this article particularly useful.

Additionally, in searching for interns, I’d insist on using websites like Handshake and Internships.com, which directly target college students and young alumni. Handshake specifically has access to over 8 million students and young adults, and more than 475 career centers. And Internships.com is the world’s largest student-focused internship marketplace, bringing students, employers, and higher education institutions together in one centralized location. Convenient, eh?

And should you wish to cast your net wider, many standard job posting sites like Idealist and Work For Good also allow for internship listings.

Personal Networks

Last but certainly not least, don’t underestimate the potential of your personal network. The people you already know may help you find your best interns.

It’s easiest to start with your friends and family. Put out the word that you’re looking for an intern, and see if they can help you fill the spot quickly. Just remember to include that clearly-defined intern job description, even when talking to people casually.

Next, post about the internship on your personal and professional social media outlets and in groups. This is a great, and fast, way to spread the word about your opportunity.

And a final example is the connections you have with clients or peers in the same field. More than often, students and young alumni are looking for more than one consecutive internship. One summer they might work for a for-profit manufacturer that produces burlap supplies for a local, nonprofit coffee shop. But next summer, that same intern wants to work at the coffee shop itself. So, reach out to your partners and colleagues for contacts.

With a little preparation and planning, you’ll find your dynamic duo. The Robin to your Batman. The Sonny to your Cher.

By the way, did you miss the first post on why an intern might want to help you? You can read it right here!


Michael Banks, Intern at Signify

Michael Griffith Banks is a fourth-year Public Relations Major at the University of Georgia with a minor in Spanish. He’s throughly involved with UGA’s Office of Admissions, most recently serving as an Orientation Leader for the University.



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Finding an intern can actually be less complicated than you might think.

Kristi Porter, founder of Signify

I'm Kristi Porter, and I started Signify to provide writing, consulting and strategy services to nonprofits and for-profit organizations with a social mission, primarily through copywriting, marketing, and business communications. I believe that cause-focused organizations like yours are the future of business. You're proof that companies can both make money and do good. And I'm here to help you get noticed and grow. When you succeed, we all win.


How to Gain Authority and Trust at Your Organization

Welcome to week two of the "small business resolutions" series! Last week, we talked about seven simple tools that build a strong small business foundation. Like they did for me, those resources will help you look more professional to those you interact with, giving you a leg up on your competition and giving your customers and donors more confidence in you. 

This week, let's address one of the biggest issues I've seen at nonprofits and social enterprises: poor internal communication. It's a proverbial elephant in the room, isn't it? We're often so focused on communicating with would-be customers and donors that we don't get our own houses in order. And, yet, everyone knows that it's a problem.

This behavior leads to all sorts of problems, like confusion, distrust, and frustration. In fact, I'm guessing that an example or two has already popped into your mind. We've probably all worked at (or lead—yikes!) organizations where the internal communication left a lot to be desired.

So, it's time to make a change. This is too important. After all, you'll only see more cracks and flaws as your organization grows. And think about it this way . . . your nonprofit or social enterprise has a cause that it's fighting for. It has a mission, a purpose, a problem to solve. So, why would you want to do great things externally while, internally, your employees are confused, mistrustful, and frustrated? That's not only counter to your mission, but will stunt your growth.

But here's the good news: it can be fixed. You can gain authority and trust at your organization through a healthy culture of communication, and I'll show you how.

How to Gain Authority and Trust at Your Organization

The Effects of Poor Communication 

I think there a couple of reasons why internal communication isn't addressed more frequently. First, it's hard to measure. You can't directly see a correlation to sales and donations, so it's shoved to the back burner until it's a real issue. Second, it's usually dictated from the top down, whether intentionally or unintentionally. So, if your organization's leaders aren't very good at communicating or have unhealthy communication habits, that's likely to dictate the culture. (And no one wants to confront the boss.)

Both of these instances can make creating a healthy culture of communication really difficult. However, good communication practices, habits, and systems can mean the difference between having internal support, cohesion, and cooperation—and not having it. With proper communication, your employees and teams will feel united. Without it, they'll be divided. Isn't that enough reason for a change?

Communication Establishes Trust

Think about your significant personal relationships. One of the commonalities between them is trust. And one of the reasons you trust each of these people is because they communicate with you. The same principles should apply at the office.

However, I usually see leaders taking two routes with internal communication. The first is that they withhold information. This may be because they don't feel like it's applicable to others, don't want to overwhelm them, or sadly, may use it as a control tactic. And the second route is where people save up information over time and then dump it all on employees all at once, which leads to overwhelm.

So, instead, make a point to communicate regularly. Proper and consistent communication shows that you value others by keeping them in the loop and respect the part they play at the organization. It shows that you want their involvement. In fact, the people in your office who are good at communicating are likely the ones who are the most trusted. We all trust those who demonstrate that they value us.

 

Communication Establishes Authority

Consider this: one person is the actual leader but communicates poorly with their team. Another person isn't in charge, but is great at acquiring information and distributing it to the team. Who would you go to if you had a question?

The second person may only have perceived authority, not actual authority, but it can be more powerful, can't it? If you're the leader, ask yourself honestly if you're also the perceived authority. If not, what can you do to change that? It likely has to do with your communication style. Be the person who has the information, shares it, and then takes the extra step to follow up when necessary. Your authority will skyrocket.

Create a Culture of Communication

If you don't create a culture of communication, one will be created for you. They can evolve naturally or intentionally. And if you're the leader of a team or entire organization, you can't afford to lose authority and trust to poor communication because it directly relates to the health, well-being, and growth of your organization.

Think in terms of both the "how" and the "when." How you'll communicate can include both in-person and online. You might consider regular staff meetings for face-to-face time. I believe these are best done in-person if everyone is local, but can also be done through platforms like Zoom and Skype if all or part of the team is virtual. Staff meetings don't have to be long, but are a great chance for everyone to hear about large initiatives, get caught up on other's activities, and weigh in on important topics.

You should also think about how your team or organization communicates online. Email is the go-to, of course, but some people work better in programs like Slack, Facebook Groups, or Google Sites. If you're going to be changing systems dramatically, it would be great to get feedback before selecting a new option. Likewise, make sure everyone is adequately trained. You can't blame a system or employees if no one properly showed them how to use it. Give this some time to get up and running, then evaluate and see if you should keep moving forward or try something new.

Lastly, communicate the "when." Outline for people when they'll hear from you. Will you have monthly in-person updates and weekly email updates? What works best for your organization? What will you try, and then adjust as needed?

Set intentional expectations regarding company communication, and remember to be consistent. Tell everyone what they can expect from you, and what they should do with the information. Then follow-up to make sure questions are answered and next steps are taken.

Depending on your situation and the size of your organization, it may take a while to get everything rolling. But you should start to see the difference that can be made when internal communication becomes consistent and intentional. Your employees will certainly notice a difference. And, as a result, you'll gain authority and trust at your organization.

 

Read the other posts in this series:



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Let's address one of the biggest issues I've seen at nonprofits and social enterprises: poor internal communication. It's a proverbial elephant in the room, isn't it? We're often so focused on communicating with would-be customers and donors that we don't get our own houses in order. This behavior leads to all sorts of problems, like confusion, distrust, and frustration.

Kristi Porter, founder of Signify

I'm Kristi Porter, and I started Signify to provide writing, consulting and strategy services to nonprofits and for-profit organizations with a social mission, primarily through copywriting, marketing, and business communications. I believe that cause-focused organizations like yours are the future of business. You're proof that companies can both make money and do good. And I'm here to help you get noticed and grow. When you succeed, we all win.


Ask the Experts: Resolutions and Goal Setting

Each month, I invite guest contributors to speak about timely, relevant, and sought-after topics that are important for cause-focused organizations like yours to be aware of as you grow. For January, I've invited Robert Carnes to talk about resolutions and goal setting. There's no better time for a fresh start than the New Year!

Ask the Experts: Resolutions and Goal-Setting

People have been setting New Year’s resolutions probably as long as there have been new years. Nearly as frequent as the resolutions is giving up on said resolutions. There’s something intoxicating about a fresh start that makes people unrealistic about their own expectations, but even with the best of intentions, they typically don’t last.

Most people just give up making resolutions altogether—and frankly, that’s better than kidding yourself every 365 days. However, there are better ways to launch yourself into the New Year and actually accomplish something in 2018.

Let's talk about how you can realistically set and accomplish your goals this year.

 

Q. What are the latest trends in annual goal setting?

A. The most popular New Year’s Resolutions in 2017 were essentially the same as they’ve always been—eat healthier, exercise more, get organized, spend less, and travel. Basically, people are always going to seek the same things to improve their lives.

One trend I’ve heard about recently is setting smaller, shorter-term goals. Rather than trying to set a resolution for the entire year, make one for each quarter that stands alone, or adds up to a larger goal. Three months is a more manageable scale for most people compared to 12 months.

This also allows you to reevaluate your goals every quarter, rather than annually. Continually monitoring your progress helps you to be more flexible and accountable. Start small and win big.

Q. What is the biggest mistake you see people making with New Year’s resolutions?

A. Unrealistic expectations. New Year’s couldn’t come at a worse time. Every year, it’s scheduled right after New Year’s Eve—a night everyone intentionally stays up late and indulges. No one wants to get up early and work hard on January 1—so you’re already off to a bad start.

Instead of a sweeping gesture to make ourselves feel better in the moment, it’s much better to set goals we can actually follow through on. So, set a less ambitious goal that you can expand on later. These are practices you can turn into habits, rather than burning out by February.

In his book Finish, Jon Acuff recommends cutting your goal in half. So, if you want to write 30 blog posts this year, set your expectation at writing 15 posts. Because writing 18 posts by the end of the year is better than getting overwhelmed, giving up early, and not writing any at all.

 

Q. What is your best piece of advice?

A. Make your goal something you actually want to accomplish. Are you setting goals out of guilt or peer-pressure? If so, odds are that you won’t actually achieve them. Internal, positive motivation is much more powerful than guilt.

But even goals you enjoy can lose their flavor over time. So inject some fun into the mix to prevent burnout. Celebrate small victories. Reward yourself for hitting benchmarks. Involve other people to keep you accountable and motivated.

Remind yourself why you’re pursuing this goal in the first place. If it’s something you enjoy and truly desire, that should help keep your attention focused all year long.

Q. What is one thing readers can do this week to improve?

A. Pick one small thing to accomplish towards your goal. Instead of trying to run a marathon, start with the first mile. Instead of writing a book, write a blog post. Often, people fail to meet their goals because they get overwhelmed and can’t see any progress.

Giving yourself smaller, attainable steps builds momentum towards a larger achievement. It’s also much easier to know what you’ll be able to finish this week, rather than by the end of the year. Don’t worry about staying perfect—focus on finishing what you can do today.

 

Q. Anything else we should keep in mind?

A. The most important thing is consistency. A small habit maintained over time can lead to big things. Goals come and go, but habits stick around.

The key to making a difference in your life is creating sustainable practices that have a positive cumulative effect. Do good work that will allow you to do even more good work in the long term.

And one of the best ways to keep a good thing going is not quitting when it’s no longer perfect. If you miss writing a blog post or scheduling your social media next week, don’t give up entirely. Give yourself a pass and prepare to get back on track. You’re never going to be perfect—focus instead on being better.

 

6. Do you have any resources that would be helpful so people can learn more?

  • Jon Acuff has become an expert on achieving goals. His 30 Days of Hustle online course was one of the reasons I was able to publish my first book last year.

  • Another great resource from Jon Acuff is his new book I mentioned earlier, Finish. It’s all about ignoring perfectionism and getting real work done.

  • Jeff Goins has also got a lot of practical advice and encouragement, especially for writers. His new book, Real Artists Don’t Starve, is all about making a living from work you actually enjoy.

  • If you want an example of the extreme, check out Month to Master—one man’s journey to master one new thing every month for a year. Not recommended for everyone, but definitely entertaining.

And here are a few more resources from KP:

Wishing you a joyous and prosperous New Year!


Robert Carnes

Robert Carnes is a writer and storyteller. He's the author of The Original Storyteller: Become a Better Storyteller in 30 Days. Carnes also works as a managing editor at Orange in Atlanta.



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Let's talk about how you can realistically set and accomplish your goals this year.

Kristi Porter, founder at www.signify.solutions

I'm Kristi Porter, and I started Signify to provide writing, consulting and strategy services to nonprofits and for-profit organizations with a social mission, primarily through copywriting, marketing, and business communications. I believe that cause-focused organizations like yours are the future of business. You're proof that companies can both make money and do good. And I'm here to help you get noticed and grow. When you succeed, we all win.