I have a sculpture for you

I’m not quite sure how it happened. One moment, I was at this touchy feely staff retreat complete with a yogaesque mirroring exercise and the next,  I was in charge of the LGBTQ  initiative (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, & Questioning or Queer depending on who you ask). I do PR, raise money, event planning, write copy, acknowledge donors, you know, all the things crammed under development in a small organization. My involvement with program is usually limited to talking about how exciting our work is and why you should fund it. The culprit is a wacky grant I am supposed to steward till I can dump it in someone else’s lap.

Our area barely acknowledges LGBTQ issues and we have a grant to raise awareness, help kids, stop bullying, all good. So far we have established a PFLAG group (Parents Families & Friends of Lesbian and Gays). Excellent! We have held community discussions for school districts to help kids. Awesome! We have established a horrible website that no self respecting teen will visit. There are 18 people with usernames. I assume the 18 are staff members or teens we know well enough to coerce, like offspring. It is bad. And useless. Our meeting with an established LGBTQ group in a neighboring county is going swimmingly with lots of plans in the works until the program director announces she has a sculpture for me. A sculpture created by a high school class for NoName Calling Day. It represents what it feels like to be bullied, an albatross around your heart. Kind of looks like a papier mache corpse with glitter. I am supposed to find a home for it. A public home willing to display it. And there is a poem. And there are bags of food.  All of this is in her car. Now on the floor of my office, which doubles a a counseling room.

A local food bank declared us LGBTQ friendly so we are the recipient of a food drive. I go through dozens of bags checking expiration dates and note several cans of olives, fat free balsamic vinaigrette, polenta, organic corn flakes with dried fruit, and imported pasta from Italy, just the stuff I would go for if the cupboard was bare. Our emergency aid person takes them to her church for desperate local families. I hope they know what to do with polenta.

As for the sculpture, the eyes are a little creepy, but it beats the motivational poster I haven’t quite removed so if my new LGBTQ project bff can’t find an appropriate display place, I suppose it would be quite a lovely addition to my office.

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The most important meal of the day

We are planning a breakfast. Or more succinctly, I am planning a breakfast. The board seems to have rallied around finding a new ED. A flurry of emails. Lots of meetings. Committees. Pre-meeting meetings. Our biggest fundraiser is a couple of months away and let’s just say I have concerns. However, in the hierarchy of frustration is my inability to get Hal on the phone. Apparently, Hal is the solution. We are a Jewish agency and any meals served must be kosher. Of course, around here kosher caterers come at a premium. I am not up on my kashrut but I know enough to know that getting a rabbi to oversee a $35 bagel on a plate is meshugana. Hal, the “big boss” of Bubba’s, reportedly the only place for a perfect bagel with a schmear, the centerpiece of any Jewish breakfast event, prefers to deal in fax. As in he gets them and doesn’t respond. I want one 20 minute conversation to work out what we want, how much, and a phone number in case it doesn’t show up. Apparently, Hal is the only one who can to make it happen. I may have to resort to recruiting the former board president, a Bubba’s regular. I would rather seek his assistance in a more monetarily productive way, not to mention he picked me to be the interim ED.  I can run the organization, really I can, but please help me get bagels–now there’s a confidence builder.


The circus is in town

The exiting ED and I visited a local real estate developer and his CFO, both of whom  bring their 3 exceptionally large dogs to work with them. The youngest is a 4 month old Great Dane puppy, We went to ask for a Leadership gift to kick off our yet to be named multi-year giving society. I heard it was a bit of a 3 ring circus. As the puppy tried to engage the other two,  the older was not amused and let the pup know. The third felt left out and grabbed the pup’s prize toy and took off to the other side of the room. Lots of under the table, around the chairs. I have 3 of my own, terriers, dogs you can pick up and move if they are in the way. The scent must have been irresistible. I was trying to stay focused while being sniffed all over. Just as I got to the good part, “would you consider. . .” the phone rings and he’s totally distracted.

romotional poster for Forepaugh & Sells Brothe...

My boss who had clearly had this very experience before, tapped the table which got his attention and quickly picked up where I left off. We got the gift. I quickly joined the tag team effort to jump in with our making the announcement and would he fill a table to witness the big event. The dogs were bored with us and the meeting was over. At the elevator, his CFO confirmed that he would make sure calls to fill the table would be made as well as a check delivered for this year’s pledge.


When it rains, it pours

 

Just when you think things are going well! Our Executive Director announces she is moving on to greener pastures. I can’t say I blame her. Despite all her achievements, its an uphill battle.

But we are now minus one visible, visionary leader, a real downer in terms of marketing.

I’m  5 months into an organization with so many holes to plug that prioritizing has become now, urgent, and emergency. And I work part time!

To laugh, I have been offered the position of interim Executive Director until the board can find a replacement. I’m good, but that’s pretty desperate. Now let’s talk board–I have been to 5 board meetings. There are too many board members I’ve never met and a handful I’ve seen once. Enticing!

On the other hand, tuition is a mighty powerful persuader.

 


It’s all about the story

I got the greatest feedback from a development director of another local non-profit who attended our last point of entry event. She was impressed with how we made a lot of nothing so moving. We are a social service agency. No cute kids, no sad puppies, or revitalized urban decay. Basically nothing to show for what we do. And our offices are, well, offices. Hardly tour-worthy. The true measure of the Benevon training is to make the story  overcome the obstacles and touch, move, and inspire your guests to engage with your mission.

The talking head is my new best friend.  A video of a family member talking about how her dad benefits from our Friendly Visitor program, which sounds like a nice old lady delivering muffins. He gets a ride to temple every Friday night with a family we matched him with.  Nice, but so what. Until you hear the back story.  He almost died after accidentally leaving the car running in the garage at his home thousands of miles away. She uprooted him to a local assisted living facility. The loss of independence, loneliness, and the change in parent/child dynamics were overwhelming for the whole family. These outings have given him independence, new relationships, and kept him connected to the community. She believes he would be “further down the road in dementia” had it not been for the connectivity he now enjoys and she is relieved at his improved quality of life.

Our story is not the outcome–the ride–but the work of an exceptional staff member who figured out what could make his life meaningful again and came up with how to make it happen.


Where to start

I inherited a  website I rate at Web 0.5 on Heather Mansfield’s scale of  social media evolution. Doesn’t even make 1.0 infancy. Our website is essentially an electronic brochure with snail mail newletters in .pdf form you can download. The “what’s new” is a year old consisting of a list of sponsors. Finding the Donate button is a challenge. And then, it connects you to a place to create a Paypal account. Our Facebook is a profile with 200 friends and a business page, not even a nonprofit page, with 26 likes.Despite it all, we’ve gone from 0 to 5 new requests to be added to our mailing list each week. So something is working.

I did not grow up with social media and have no interest in connecting with people over what I ate for breakfast. As far as I am concerned, people in my past can stay there. However, this is different. To get up to speed, I ordered Heather’s book Social Media for Social Goodand while waiting for it to arrive, I caught her webcast. Confirmed all of my worst fears but bolstered confidence in my own assessment. What needs to be done is a long list.


Less is more

In the 20’s, Hemingway won a bet that he couldn’t write a story in 6 words. He declared “For sale: baby shoes, never worn” his finest work. Students First found a winner for its contest to describe a great teacher. I voted for this one. Also from the runners up– “All 30 students raised their hands” was among my favorites.

A direct mail solicitation that is almost done has gotten longer and longer as everyone added a little something. It is now two pages but  lots of white space. I caved on my idea of a non letter format making finding an alternative to Dear Friends a must. I did, however, put my foot down and declared there will be no string of PS, PPS’s  at the end, like I couldn’t figure out how to end the thing.

As my distress of too many words reached a frenzy, my daughter sent me a TED talk on the subject. Apparently, I am in good company.

Sebastian Wernicke 1000 TED talks, 6 words
www.studentsfirst.org