The new hot topic in technology these days is ethics.
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.
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.
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.
For some of us, it’s hard. It’s hard to make the connection between what we’re good at, what excites us, what makes us money, what connects us with other people, what will make us grow/learn, and what a business or our world at large could truly benefit from that only we can contribute to.