jobs-clear-communication

What are You Talking About?

What is your elevator pitch? Does everyone in the organization know the pitch and do they deliver the same message in the same way?  The  Baltimore Community ToolBank has a great strateby to address these very questions.  Every Monday , the ToolBank has a staff meeting with the message for the week written on a whiteboard.  This whiteboard is prominently displayed in their office where everyone who comes to volunteer, donate or for a meeting, sees the messaging.  Sometimes the ToolBank posts this message on socialbaltimore-community-toolbank media like the following posted on its Instagram: “2425 tools washed with rainwater this year”.  This specific messaging is a strategic way of ensuring everyone in the organization is talking about what matters, in the same way.  What if one person said, “2425 tools washed with recycled water this year”, or at a fundraising event, a board member stated, “2425 tools were washed with repurposed water this year”.  These are very different messages.   Although repurposed water can come from a variety of sources, including a toilet, Baltimore Community ToolBank is not sending a message regarding repurposed water in general.  Rather, the ToolBank, a leader in rainwater collection and repurposing from their 40,000 square foot rooftop, is focused on publicizing their ongoing strategic plan to leave as little footprint as possible by capturing the rainwater and using it to wash their tools. The ToolBank that loans tools, tables, chairs, wheel barrels and much more to community-based partners for pennies on the dollar are also environmentally conscience and holds communication in high regard throughout their organization.

Organizations that excel at communication are stronger, smarter and vastly more effective.  Sean Gibbons, the Executive Director of The Communications Network, explained this idea on the Podcast “Nonprofits are Messy” with Joan Garry (episode 13) Sean discusses how the organization’s message and passion needs to be clear to those inside the organization as well as made easily understood to those outside.  This precise messaging helps those outside the organization understand what your work is and why it nonprofits-are-messy-artwork-v2-300x300is important.  Gibbons challenges, that communications in a nonprofit can seem like it is adjunct to the ‘work, and when this is the attitude, the opportunity to share your story and bring more people on board is missed. He suggests that nonprofits are in the ‘idea’ market, and that large social issues cannot be solved by ONE organization.  The ideas of your organization’s mission, vision and purpose need to be sent out into the ‘world’ and partnerships need to be rendered.  If representatives of your organization can not explain clearly why, what you are doing is important the message is lost to those within the walls of your nonprofit, the hard work and importance is never understood by those outside the organization.

Social media can help target your messaging but be cautious of these sirens in the water, as it is easy to fall for every new, fast moving, shiny new platform.  When new platforms arise, i.e Snapchat, it is a good idea to look at your messaging, who are you targeting and decide if this new venture is worth your staff/volunteer’s time investment.  In the podcast, Gibbons talks about how, The Communications Network created a persona for their social media presence.  At about 21 minutes into the episode, Sean talks about how they represent themselves as Helen Mirren on social media.  This personification helps with their messaging and their ‘voice’ on various media.   Take a pause…..who would your organization be?

Being strategic about communication is not a waste of time.  Simon Sinek, in his vastly popular TED Talk Start with Why, challenges business to focus on their Why.  If it is unclear to the people in your organization why you are doing what you do, they will have a hard time talking or explaining why the work you do is so important.  It is worth spending time thinking about what your overall message is and to decide how to talk about your work.

The Cycle of VM Site Visits

The sun and the birds are waking me up these days.  This change in season means spring site visits are beginning!  Volunteer Maryland places Volunteer Maryland Coordinators (VMC’s) throughout the state.  The impact they make on the community is beyond belief.  We do our best to put words and data to their tremendous impact, but each and every one

of the VMC’s have their own individual spark and passion.  They add more than just volunteer coordination to their Service Sites. They contribute creativity, leadership, AmeriCorps pride and most of all, they know how to be part of a team!

As the Program Manager, I have the pleasure of visiting every service site throughout Maryland.  This season’s site visits kicked off at Fox Haven Organic Farm in Jefferson.  Here Amelia Meman, one of the VM28 Peer Leaders extraordinaire and I learned about the great work

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Maddie Price VMC at Fox Haven Organic Farm

Maddie Price has been doing since she arrived at the site in October.  The last time we were at Fox Haven, we pulled a couple of root vegetables.  During this site visit on Monday, April 25th, we toured the Chestnut Orchard and checked out the garden beds.  The garden beds have been cared for by volunteers — weeded, mulched etc.  Volunteers also transplanted berry bushes to a better spot on the farm.  The sun was shining, and at one point we took our shoes off and walked in the grass.

Tomorrow we visit the Baltimore Community ToolBank.  Marcus Mosley the VMC at the ToolBank is serving his second year and has grown by leaps and

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bounds!  One of his goals was to recruit recurring volunteers.  Marcus did it, and we get to watch him in action!  At this site visit, Marcus will be leading the group of volunteers in a service project that goes beyond the warehouse on Wicomico Street in Baltimore.  The ToolBank’s reach goes beyond Baltimore and touches thousands of volunteers throughout Maryland.  With a VMC in place, the ToolBank has been able to strengthen their volunteer program and retain valuable volunteers.Chelsea

For the next few weeks, Peer Leaders Amelia Meman and Chelsea Goldsmith and I will traverse the state and visit all the VMCs.  Next week we will be in Westminster, Carroll County and finish the week in Salisbury.

Please take the trip with us and check in frequently to this blog!  Together we Will Get Things Done!

How to Deal With a Hard Headed Three Year Old

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Have you ever tried to rationalize with a three-year-old?  Apparently, this is something my mother had to do on a regular basis.  According to her, the stubbornness started when I was born, 10 days after my due date! I was born in May, so the Taurus bull in me reared its head often. When I was three years old and trying to learn a backward somersault for gymnastics, my mom tells me I would practice over and over again.  She said I had bruises on the back of my head because the floor in our house was so hard.  She remembers continually asking me to stop and that my answer to her was always, “Just one more”.  After two hours of banging my head on the floor, I had the backward somersault!  You might be thinking: this does not sound like a difficult child.  However,  I also insisted on having my mom watch me.  I wanted to make sure that once I mastered the backward somersault, she would see it.

I slowly learned to use my bull-like powers for good and not evil! We rarely ate fast food, but once in awhile my Pop would cave and take me to McDonald’s.  We were taking a ride through town on our way to get a burger when I saw a woman with two young children sitting on the side of the road holding a sign that said, “Please help, homeless & hungry”.   I remember feeling confused.  I am sure I saw homeless and hungry people before, but for some reason, she stuck out in my head.  She had two girls with her and it made me think – what if those two girls were my sister and I – what if that woman was my mom.  I internalized their situation and I had to do something about it.  I asked Pop if he would buy three extra hamburgers.  He asked me why I needed three more hamburgers if I had just finished eating!  I described what I had seen and pleaded for him to buy the hamburgers for the lady.  Pop did not like to waste money, but he hated disappointing me more – and I knew that!  I got my way, we gave the hamburgers to the family, and every weekend for about five months, we drove around our town handing out anything I could squander from the cupboards in our house.  I think my mom was actually planting extra canned goods and boxed food in order to boost my enthusiasm.

Whether you call it being hard headed, stubborn, or persistent, this Nicki With Oystersattitude has helped me in so many aspects.  As a Volunteer Maryland Coordinator in the Class of VM 24, this resolve helped me to accomplish many difficult or challenging volunteer projects. As a VMC at Quiet Waters Park in Annapolis, I called on my bullish nature to do anything from get trees planted to train Girl Scouts about oyster restoration.  Through the many projects and programs we were able to accomplish many meaningful volunteer experiences.  I am looking forward to being part of so many more!