Once upon a time, I wore all the hats. Before my team grew in size, if some task required skills beyond our expertise, I dug in, googled my way to a quasi-confident level of knowledge, did it myself, and hoped for good results. Not, mind you, because I wanted to, but because I didn’t see any other choice.
It’s not only staffers at small organizations like mine that feel the overwhelming stress of having oh-so-much on our plates. I’ve heard tales of woe and burnout from colleagues at organizations with teams of dozens or more with budgets in the millions of dollars. The world is a big place with big problems we’re determined to solve and there’s always so much that needs to be done. Folks even in the largest nonprofits never quite feel like we can handle it all.
But times are changing. Collaborative teaming is on the rise, which means not only do organizations have access to skilled professionals who understand the specific trials and tribulations of the nonprofit sector, we can even have the power of a whole team of them at our fingertips at a cost effective rate that your board of directors can smile about.
Check out four real-life stories of times specialized teams helped nonprofit professionals sleep well at night:
1. Recruiting thousands of volunteers for woah impact
A team of savvy specialists who know the social impact world can really dig in in a way a random marketing or strategic planning firm can’t to focus on what matters: Results.
One organization, All Voting is Local, recognized that a lack of poll workers at polling stations during election time resulted in hundreds of thousands of votes not being accounted for. So, they secured a specialist team to tackle the problem. In the span of a month, the team of specialists used their harmonious skills in copywriting, media outreach, and design to launch a campaign to recruit and sign up over 3,000 citizens in specific counties to work in polling stations in November.
2. Here, let me launch that website for you
As I write this, somewhere off in the world, there’s a team of magical specialists working hard to create a professional logo, brand, and website for a new nonprofit doing critical work to rally a network of attorneys to donate their time to prisoners up for parole. The organization’s founder, a kick-ass entrepreneur, needs to spend this critical moment in her cause’s timeline doing what she does best: Focusing on growing a network of support so she can launch strong. Leaving logo, branding, and website design to the specialists who get it is a really smart move, one I wish I’d made back in the day.
As a founder myself, and uh, a little Type A, I admittedly get a little anxious at the thought of a group of people I don’t know swooping in to take care of an important task for me - even though I know I need their help like I need a solid nap. The beauty of working with a team of professionals, though, is that they’ve mastered balancing partnering with you or other nonprofit staff like collaborators, but without the feeling that you have to do any of the heavy lifting. More than that, this team and others like it have mastered the grace of true collaboration with each other. I had the opportunity to observe some of these specialists working in their natural habitat. Their respect for each others’ competence and positive encouragement of one another as they worked through milestone after milestone was a refreshing delight. I would expect no less from specialists rallying together to do amazing work for a cause they see as critical to the improvement of the world, even across zip codes and time zones.
While the team worked in perfect harmony, the founder got to focus on the “fun parts” like sharing her opinions on colors, styles, and the feel she finds attractive and in alignment with her mission and goals while leaving the taxing mental work to the specialists at her side. The result? She’ll get to focus on learning and building up her network, maximizing her own time and skills, so she can get right to solving the problem she’s setting out to solve within weeks or months, not years.
3. Now you know
Did you know that half of affected school aged children go undiagnosed with Tourette Syndrome and Tic Disorder each year? Four million people now do, thanks to a digital and social media campaign orchestrated for The Tourette Association of America by a team of social impact specialists. In less than a month, a team skilled in design, media buying, and social media strategy developed a memorable and evocative campaign targeting parents, teachers, and doctors. In just less than a month, this team was able to support the Association in dashing the most common misconceptions about the disease for a tremendous impact.
The team didn’t just design a killer campaign and peace out. They stayed active as it launched in targeted geographic areas, tweaking and optimizing ad targeting and strategy to ensure it would have the greatest reach as it was all going down. In four weeks, the team’s work had increased web traffic to The Tourette Association of America’s site by 45% and drove over 160,000 new sessions to the site.
4. A strategy to spread justice
How do you empower diverse stakeholders in communities across the country to band together to ensure fair and just policing practices and restore trust of law enforcement when you don’t have boots on the ground in every city who needs to do this work? A team of specialists was part of the solution. With their high level copywriting, branding, and web design experience combined, the team will do the heavy lifting for justice, designing a strategy to launch and execute toolkits that will equip hundreds community organizers interested in taking the organization’s work to their local streets.
Social change requires united action and a clear, consistent message across all actors. It requires everyday people having the tools they need to feel empowered to be activists even when the headquarters of a cause may be hundreds of miles away. And it requires being able to breakdown a complex, sometimes controversial subjects, into pieces and messaging that folks with all levels of understanding can use. What better allies in this daunting task than a group of diverse specialists with their fingers on the pulse of each community they live in?
Nonprofit professionals of the world, it’s time to dream.
What would you accomplish if someone else could handle the execution of that marketing campaign, fundraising strategy, or web design project for you? These organizations have earned back valuable hours in the week for meetings with important donors, speaking engagements for audiences of supporters, thinking of higher level strategy, and spending some time with the people they serve by collaborating with teams whose sole purpose is to get them the deliverables they set out to achieve. Every organization needs a little (cost effective) help sometimes, and getting started doesn’t have to be complicated. All you have to do is ask for a little help.