The Wine and Whine podcast offers those working in the nonprofit and social impact sector real, actionable insights from leaders who have seen it all, and know we can make it better.
In 2018, nonprofit rockstars helped their communities navigate hurricanes, scandal, and violence. “Justice” was declared the word of the year, according to Merriam-Webster, and a lot of good things happened, too. As we always do, we went into the fray, built up our collective muscles for change-making, and led the charge to make the world a way better place because we know it can be. In 2019, we’ll see some of the foundations we’ve been building sprout results and spark movement. Here are 5 trends we predict will impact our impact-makers in 2019:
1. More people will see the awesome power of nonprofits and step up to serve.
At the time of writing this article, the United States government is in Day 29 of a partial shutdown, the longest in the nation’s history (Update: 2019 government shutdown lasted a total of 35 days). Public faith in government is at a historic low, and people are generally uncertain what the future will hold -- who will take care of peoples’ critical needs, security, and our environment?
We will, of course. We, meaning the American people. At our best, it’s what we do: We step up, in one form or another -- whether that means taking on challenging but fulfilling careers in the nonprofit sector or getting up early with your kids to go pick up litter on the trail because park staff were sent home during the shutdown.
Lily Tomlin famously said, “I always wondered why somebody doesn’t do something about that. Then I realized I was somebody.” People are starting to realize they are somebody, too. And if they’re smart, nonprofits can funnel this energy into greatness.
What this means for Nonprofit Marketing, Volunteer, and Development Pros:I know. Nonprofits have been coming to the rescue, filling gaps in the market since the dawn of our existence. But now is the time for those critical efforts to be seen. Really seen. So get ready to capitalize on your community’s can-do spirit! Offer unique opportunities to get involved that give people a sense of power. If you work for an organization serving a cause impacted by the shutdown or its aftermath, rally a group of volunteers (like these awesome folks) and give them the chance to work out their frustrations with the current situation through service. Then, send out a press release and post on social media to showcase your efforts and use the interest in the stories of the shutdown to get a light shining on your amazing work. When you empower people and show them they have the capacity to control what happens here, they’ll become your greatest allies, volunteers, and donors.
Lots have changed in social media fundraising. New algorithms pop up on what seems like the daily, just when you think you have cracked your engagement right. And yet, nonprofit communicators can't afford to ignore these changes.
No matter what your work status, be it full-timer, freelancer, or somewhere in-between I think we can all agree that taxes are THE WORST. Sure they pay for important things like roads, and schools, and a variety of other things that our society needs to function, but at times they can seem needlessly complicated and difficult to get right. Oftentimes freelancers feel the sting of tax woes more than most folks because they are more likely to have a much more complicated tax situation than others. Fear not dear American taxpayer, there’s hope for you yet! Knowledge is in fact, power, and the better you can arm yourself with the right knowledge about taxes, the better off you will be.
Just out of high school, I still hadn’t shaken my teenage awkwardness and lack of confidence. Though a fire to change the world burned bright within, it burned aimlessly. I was unsure how or where to direct this passion and energy until I started volunteering. I cooked meals for the families of chronically ill children, built habitats for tigers, and served at soup kitchens. But throughout these experiences I was also growing. I learned to communicate my passion with clarity, practiced public speaking, and gained skills in marketing, fundraising, and more.
These experiences also taught me about the needs of my community and, within a few years, I launched my own nonprofit organization with a mission to inspire others to serve their community and help all of the wonderful causes I’d come to know and love.
I volunteered as the organization’s President and de facto Director for eight years and throughout that entire time, I knew the cause was depending on me. But I needed to make a living so I could pay my bills, and I so worked a number of jobs while running the organization on the side, from data entry, to quality control for clinical studies, to bartender. Everyone else in the organization was in the same position; we all volunteered, working extraordinarily hard out of love for the cause, but most couldn’t put in more than ten or so hours per week to progress it.
The organization stagnated. We were never able to serve more than a small handful of people or causes at a time, though the need was still great and demand for our help was growing. I knew we were going to have to invest more in building capacity as an organization if we were going to be able to meet this need, so I rallied our board of directors and we developed a business plan, bit the bullet, and hired our first paid team member.
The first time I worked on a website redesign, it was not pretty. Not the design of the site but the process. I had copy and pictures and figured we’d need to review layouts. So the button that leads to the donation page should be — wait. Who is making sure the donation page will work and be connected to all the right accounts after we change web hosts? Does the vendor do this? Will the project still be on time? What on earth is a merchant account or payment processor and why do we need two?!
To this day, I remember is what it felt like to ask a question, anticipate getting some super expensive or horribly complicated answer, and get laughed at by the web developer (good times).
Thankfully, I’ve worked with many more freelance developers (graphic designers, printers, consultants) who listened to my fumbling questions and said, “I hear that you’re concerned about or interested in X, and I can answer that, but I think the question you really want to be asking is Z.”
These were professionals who asked me questions to understand the context within which my organization was working, dug deeper into what success looked like, and held up a mirror to help us see our blind spots — rather than trying to skate by in them.
Tip #1 Own what you know. Also, own what you don’t know.
You don’t need to know anything to ask someone, “What else should I be thinking about? What have I missed? What questions would you have that I have not asked?”
Ever played that team building game, “All Aboard”? You’re in a group and you are given say, a hand towel or a telephone book (showing my age here, I know), and the goal is to get everybody on board without anyone having a foot touching the ground. Depending on the variation or the prop used, the boat may get smaller (e.g. towel is folded in half) or your group may get bigger — and still you need to get everyone on board without any feet touching the ground.
Often, working at a nonprofit organization can feel that way. You’re trying to serve the same number of people with fewer resources, or serve more people with the same amount of resources. This metaphor is not only apropos to programming, but to fundraising as well. You’re trying to raise funds from more supporters (get more people on board) with the same number of staff or resources. And yet, the more you raise, the more people (donors and clients) you can get on board.
It does not need to be an endless game of chicken, egg, chicken, egg.
That’s why you focus on major gifts and/or grants, right? We know it’s important to respect donors at all levels, but in terms of where we spend our fundraising resources (time, budget, attention), it is clear that we prioritize funders who can give large gifts. But it’s easy to take those smaller dollar annual gifts for granted — just send or share it out to enough people and build our lists and followers because it is a small percentage of volume, volume, volume.
Or is it?
Perhaps not obviously so, the nonprofit and freelance economies are interconnected. When policies are enacted that mean less government support for nonprofit organizations, that means the pressure on these organizations to fill gaps in human services, such as providing support for education, health, and to fight poverty increases. And that means already strained nonprofits need a larger workforce to help address these big needs — leading to half of surveyed nonprofits reporting plans to increase their staff size in 2017. At the same time, more than half of all employers across the sectors are seeking contract workers.
Many folks are currently gravitating towards meaningful work in the nonprofit sector, and yet many others are drawn to the flexibility and creative challenges of a freelancing lifestyle. Throw the two together, and you get a subculture of employees itching to do good through their work without wanting to sacrifice the freedom freelancing might afford them.
As the Nonprofit sector’s workplace style changes, those looking to freelance in the sector will feel it, too. Here are a few ways how:
#1: Greater demand for workers means more salary transparency
This blog post was written & originally posted on Medium by Founder / Director of Make A Mark, Sarah Obenauer. She's the creator of 12-hour make-a-thons around the world, responsible for gathering the best creatives & developers together and connecting them with their impactful nonprofit community to provide innovative design resources. Check out Make A Mark
Imposter Syndrome Kicked In Quick
In 2017, after over two years of spending nights, weekends, and even lunch breaks on my side gig, I finally went full time. But it didn’t talk long for me to feel the self-doubt associated with impostor syndrome kick in. The Harvard Business Review defines imposter syndrome “as a collection of feelings of inadequacy that persist despite evident success. “Imposters” suffer from “chronic self-doubt and a sense of intellectual fraudulence that override any feelings of success or external proof of their competence.”
Now let’s take a step back. In 2014, I sat down with my husband and a graphic designer friend to talk about an idea that I had. I had been working at a nonprofit and during this time I seen the struggle in the humanitarian sector of finding the time, talent, and money to resource projects involving design and marketing. When we were able to find the resources, we saw its power — more engagement, more grant funding, and more lives saved.
This was how Make a Mark was born. Make a Mark is a 12-hour design and development marathon benefiting local nonprofit organizations. Back in 2014, I never would have imagined that we’d now be in eight cities across the globe: New York City, San Francisco, Baltimore, Chattanooga, Charlotte, Asheville, Roanoke — Blacksburg, and Brussels.
What is Imposter Syndrome Anxiety?
Spreading these events to other communities is always something that I wanted to do. I wanted to share this opportunity for collaboration and community with other passionate people. But I had questions in the back of my mind: Am I really capable of doing this? Am I really able to lead these people all over the world? Will I let down our nonprofits and makers?
All of these harmful, negative thoughts caused me to reflect on why I was questioning my abilities.
When I was in school, I made straight A’s, was involved in extracurricular activities, served as an officer in clubs and had healthy relationships with friends. I succeeded because I worked hard and was given instant feedback in the form of grades and affirmations. We get used to this during our school years. If we do well according to the education system we live in today, we’ll get promoted to the next grade, make the honor roll, get into college, etc.
In our professional life, it is the same story. We have regular performance reviews and if we do well, we receive affirmations, promotions and raises, if not, we’re given tips for improvement or we’re fired.
What Are The Signs of Imposter Syndrome?
When Make a Mark became my full time job, I gained freedom and passion, but I lost access to constant feedback. That feedback is something that I took for granted and without even realizing, self-doubt and anxiety started to slip into my thoughts. I noticed that I became more reserved about publishing content, hesitant to bring on new locations and less confident when talking to others. I was nervous to take chances that would further the mission because I didn’t want to let down any nonprofits or makers. I didn’t want to fail. And I certainly didn’t want to fail at something that I had invested my whole heart in for the past several years.
How To Overcome Imposter Syndrome
It was during this time that I voiced these concerns to my husband. He started a company back in 2012 and had been through the same wave of emotions. Through talking with him, I realized something very important. As humans, we are never finished growing and learning. We’re constantly trying out new ideas and experiences to see what works and what doesn’t. Sometimes we fail and feel embarrassed, and sometimes we succeed and feel like impostors. Understanding and taking control of those feelings is what helps us to grow.
Over the past year, I’ve tried a few things that have helped me to understand myself better.
- Take quiet time. Everyone gets caught up in the details of their work, particularly those of us who work from home and struggle with work-life boundaries (that’s a topic that we’ll save that for another time). Taking time in your day to let your thoughts, fears and excitement bubble to the surface can provide focus and inspiration. My husband and I take walks in the morning away from our computers and phones (Well we have them with us, but they are tucked away. Safety first right?) and let our thoughts flow openly. Sometimes this is done in silence, and sometimes we spend the entire walk brainstorming.
- Confide in others whom you trust. Reflecting internally is critical, but sometimes those thoughts can get jumbled. I’ve found that talking to my peers who are also running their own small businesses or organizations keeps me from feeling isolated. It helps to know that I am not alone on this journey.
- Be willing to look at your work critically. During our early years, people tell us if we’re good enough according to their standards, but we’re uncomfortable telling ourselves that we’re good enough. To thrive, we have to be willing to take a step back, look at our own work and accomplishments and determine whether or not it is up to our standard. And if it isn’t, it is up to us to improve it.
- Keep your purpose in your heart and mind. I feel so fortunate to have this opportunity to focus on executing on my purpose of helping meaningful organizations thrive through design, creativity, and technology. By acting with purpose, I know that Make a Mark will continue to serve nonprofits and makers alike.
Understanding my feelings and knowing my purpose in life helps me push aside the impostor syndrome. That doesn’t mean I won’t stumble and fall sometimes, but I will get back up with more vigor than before.
Whether you’re debating switching from 9-to-5 to full-time, being-your-own-boss kind of work, or graduating from college and knowing that traditional isn’t for you — that first gut feeling should only be considered the beginning of the conversation you should be having with yourself.