In this webinar, Kivi Leroux Miller shares what she has learned from coaching hundreds of nonprofit communications directors and teams: The secrets to being more strategic, effective, and happy in your nonprofit communications work.

Full Transcript

Steven: All right, Kivi, my watch shows 1:00. Is it okay if I go ahead and kick us off officially here?

Kivi: Yeah, let’s do it.

Steven: All right, cool. Good afternoon, everyone, if you are on the East Coast and good morning, I should say, if you are on the West Coast or somewhere in between. Thanks for being here for today’s Bloomerang webinar. “Be CALM not BUSY: How to Manage Your Nonprofit’s Communications for Great Results.” My name is Steven Shattuck and I’m the Chief Engagement Officer over here at Bloomerang and I’ll be moderating today’s webinar discussion as always.

And just a couple of housekeeping items before we begin, just want to let you all know that we are recording this session and we’ll be sending out the recording as well as the slides later on this afternoon. So have no fear, there’s going to be a lot of good advice here that you’re probably going to want to review later on. So don’t worry about missing anything, I’ll get all that good stuff in your hands later on this afternoon. If you have to leave early, you’ll be in good shape. You can watch the recording later too.

Most importantly, as you’re listening today, please feel free to use that chat box right there on your ReadyTalk screen. We’re going to try to save some time at the end for Q&A. So don’t be shy, don’t sit on those hands, send us your questions and comments. You can do the same on Twitter, if you prefer to use Twitter. If you’re a tweeting type person, I’ll keep an eye on the Twitter feed there as well for questions and comments.

And if you have any trouble with the audio through your computer speakers, we find that the audio by phone is usually a little bit better and a little bit more solid. So if you can dial in by phone and you don’t mind doing that, try that before you totally give up on us if you have any trouble with the computer audio. There is a phone number in the email from ReadyTalk that went out around noon Eastern today. You can dial in there.

If you are new to Bloomerang, I just want to say a special welcome to you. If this is your first webinar with us, we do these webinars just about every Thursday. We bring on a great guest like Kivi, totally educational session, just something we like to do to give back.

If you’ve never heard of Bloomerang beyond that, what our core business is offering donor management software. So if you’re interested in that you just kind of watch to check us out. You can visit our website. You can watch a quick video demo, even if you are really interested in the product, you can see it in action that way. So check that out, wait till the end of the session. Don’t do that now because you guys are in for a real treat today. This is a guest that I always am asking to come back on our series annually. Kivi, I think this is maybe like your fifth or sixth webinar with us, so thanks again.

Kivi: I don’t know if it’s quite that many.

Steven: I think it’s five, yeah.

Kivi: Okay, I trust you.

Steven: You are one of my favorites. Thank you so much for being here and taking time out of your day. I know you’re super busy with travel and fundraising and coaching and all the great things you do. So I just want to brag on you real quick before I turn it over because you guys, like I said, are really in for treat.

If you don’t know Kivi, she is the Founder and CEO over at Nonprofit Marketing Guide, great resource, I think you should all make it your homepage, at least bookmark it because great blog, lots of resources, whenever there is a marketing or email or social media or content question from at least the nonprofits I talk to, Kivi is always the first person I say check out her website, great stuff.

She’s a trainer, she’s a coach, she’s working with hundreds of nonprofits all the time helping them with communication, helping marketers there. She is also a prolific author. She’s got three books out including the newest “CALM not BUSY,” the definitive book for this session, so always great stuff from Kivi. I’ve already taken away too much of your time, so Kivi, take it away for us, tell us all about how to be calm and not busy.

Kivi: All right, we’re going to do it. So as Steven said I’ve been doing training and coaching for a long time in the nonprofit sector. And, you know, I started out doing really tactical trainings. So we started teaching people how to do annual reports and email newsletters and how to create all of the stuff. And then the communication, director profession really started to develop in our sector and so we started to focus more on helping people in a more complete way in that job. We also do these annual trends reports. We’ve been doing those for I think eight or nine years now.

And so after really watching the evolution of nonprofit communications, I realized that there was a lot more to effectiveness than just knowing how to write well or to be able to design something that was going to get people to click on it, that there really were some important management characteristics of really effective communications teams.

And so, we started to focus in some of our trends report research and some of the work that I do training and coaching around some of these questions of effectiveness and we discovered that there really were some big differences. And so I’m going to talk to you today about CALM not BUSY which is the difference between really effective nonprofit communicators and people who are less effective not because they’re bad people or they don’t know best practices but because they were approach to the work is troubling and troubling them in some ways. So we’re going to look at the default, unfortunately, is busy and how to work your way away from that to calm.

But as Steven said I love taking questions and questions really help me focus my comments for our next 50 minutes together or so. So I would love for you to chat in a question to me right now and I have all those really fast as I’m talking and, again, that will help me kind of focus my comments today because this is the kind of stuff I could talk for eight or nine hours on and, of course, we don’t want to do that today. We want to focus. So help me focus by chatting in your number one question for me today and while I’m waiting to see all of those I will go ahead and get started.

So everyone is super, super busy all the time, right? Busy, busy bees. That’s true throughout our sector whether you do communications or fundraisings or program work or you’re on the management team or whatever, it’s consistently an issue for us, understaffed, overworked. When you don’t really deal with that sense of overwhelmed and how busy you feel particularly as a communication staff member some bad things can happen. So let’s get the bad stuff out of the way and then we’ll move to the positive.

So you start to feel very overwhelmed, you feel like everything is last minute, you feel like you don’t really have any time to be strategic or even to come up with a plan because you’re just doing, doing, doing all the time. You’re reacting all the time. A lot of you are in organizations where you might be the only person working on communications and that can feel extraordinarily lonely and you may in fact be reporting two people that are working with others who don’t understand marketing, who don’t understand fundraising, who don’t like anything you’re producing even though you know very well that what you’re doing is following best practices because you take a lot of webinars like this one and yet they don’t get it. You may have lots of opinions but no decisions.

So these are a lot of the things that can really kind of get in our way and if you let these things fester and don’t really deal with them, you end up producing really ineffective communications for your nonprofit and when that happens you’re inconsistent, you start missing out on great opportunities, you don’t get the best out of our stuff, you start to feel defeated and unmotivated and like all the creativity is being sucked out of you and like you’re letting others down because ultimately your work as a communicator is really about supporting the mission of your organization, which is often about helping people who need a lot of help. And so if you’re not doing a good job for any of these reasons, it can feel like you’re really letting the world down.

So this is, of course, all really negative stuff. And the reality is it’s not you. I talk to a lot of communication staff people who find us at Nonprofit Marketing Guide for the first time and I get to talk to them and it’s almost like this confessional conversation where they feel so bad and like they’re the only one out there and they can’t believe they’re just screwing this up and what is wrong with them and their organization and when I tell them it’s not you, everyone is like this. This is sort of the default unfortunately in our sector. There’s a big sigh of relief and then as I, “Oh, go crap. What do we do about it?” So that’s what we’re going to talk about today. We’re going to talk about what to do about it, okay? But first, I want to redefine busy. So we’re just going to stay on the negative here just a little bit longer because it’s really important for you to understand what’s at the root of your ineffectiveness as a communication’s professional if you’re working in this kind of dysfunction.

So B in my definition of BUSY stands for Bogus. And I’m sure a lot of you are at a nonprofit happy hour and, you know, talking about unicorns and we’re all fabulous unicorns and that’s all great except when that actually translates into what your executives think you should be producing like you’ve got your little pocket full of fairy dust when you ride in on your unicorn to work and can make a bunch of stuff happen. So things like, “Well, can’t you just make a viral video.” That would be an example of something that would be a completely inappropriate and bogus request of you as a communication staff person.

So there’s a lot of misunderstanding about fundraising and communications and marketing in our sector. Those of you that are development staff, “Oh, let’s just triple the amount of money you’re supposed to raise next year. But we’re not going to do anything different, we just want you to triple your goal.” Okay, that again is more kind of bogus thinking and it leads to really infective results because it’s bogus.

We also have things that are just simply Unrealistic like pigs flying, so maybe they’re not completely bogus. But they’re unrealistic because you don’t have the time invested or the right staff people or you’re trying to do it too quickly. We have a lot of unrealistic expectations that we put on communications and development staff as well.

The S in my definition of BUSY is Sidestepping and we see a lot of this where leaders are frankly just abdicating their leadership responsibilities and not prioritizing. The single most important thing that a leader in your organization can do is say yes to a couple of things and no to everything else and to really help you prioritize, and that goes for your program staff, development staff, communications, that goes for everybody. That’s what strategic leadership is. And yet unfortunately, we see a lot of people side stepping those hard choices because they want to be people-pleasers or they really feel like they need to do everything to change the world right now, nothing can wait. So oftentimes it’s not like it’s, again, them being a bad person but it is them being a bad leader because they’re not making those choices.

And then finally, the Y in BUSY is for being Yoked which what I mean by that is really tied down, tied down in a lot of different ways. You can be tied down to old ways of thinking. You can be tied down by being too conservative in your thinking where you don’t want to try anything unless you can guarantee results, which we all know in communions and fundraising is a farce. You have to have some level of risk involved. You have to be willing to try new things in order to get new kind of change.

Being yoked can also be just bad productivity habits. So every time Facebook or email pings at you, you have to go look. You know that’s you being yoked to those notifications. So really sort of stepping back and saying, “Okay, what is it that I need to do regardless of what everyone else is doing, regardless of everything we’ve done in the past?” that would be a way to unyoke yourself.

All right, I’m going to take a couple of quick glances at some of these questions. So how do we resolve procedures for each channel? We’ve got too many people being copied. We’ll talk a little bit about collaboration in just a minute. A lot of these responsibilities are dispersed throughout lots of people. I’ve got way too much on my plate but no one is taking anything off of it. Let’s see, how do I develop a plan to deal with my workload? How do we be flexible? Okay, we’re going to cover a lot of that today. Great questions, keep them coming in.

So the reality here, I’ve defined BUSY for you as bogus, unrealistic, sidestepping, and yoked and like I said earlier unfortunately, this is kind of the default for where we are. Now, if you have an extraordinary executive director, someone who has been really well-trained in executive management of nonprofits, this might not be the case for you. But I would say the average nonprofit by default is a busy place. And no one is going to success for you. You really have to take responsibility for it. You have to pick up the fire extinguisher and put out the busy firestorm.

And that’s really hard, right? I mean there’s a lot going on there on the work side and also just on the sort of personal organizational culture side. How do you deal with your colleagues and your bosses? So we’re going to try to talk about some of that today and how you can make all that happen. All right, so we are going to try to leave the busy behind and empower you to say no and to be more strategic and to prioritize and to do all that and still be collaborative, agile, logical and methodical which is what CALM stands for.

So let’s go through each of these letters in a little more detail and give you a sense of what I’m talking about. And then we’re going to apply what we’re talking about here to several situations. So the C in CALM is for being Collaborative. So what does that actually look like? In the book we have six different chapters about being collaborative, and so each of the bullets that you see on these slides represents a whole chapter in the book. So the first thing you want to do to be collaborative as a communication staff person or development staff person, I’m talking mostly to communicators here but a lot of these translates very quickly to development staff.

Connecting the dots between your work and everything else. So all of the programmatic staff, those people needs to understand the role of communications and development in helping them do their job. And if they don’t understand that that’s a real failure and you’re going to have a really hard time getting them to collaborate with you, getting them to meet your deadlines. If I don’t understand why you need something when you need it, then odds are my own deadlines and my own priorities are going to trump that and I’m not going to get you that thing you desperately want on time. So it’s really up to you to connect the dots for people so that they can see how important communications and development is.

And that leads us to our second bullet which is these conversations are really on you to lead. It’s on you to start this. I spend a lot of time talking to communications directors who are sitting back waiting to be told what to do, waiting for their executive directors to lead and guess what, it never happens. So you can sit there and be ineffective or you can step up and try to assume some of that leadership. And again, that’s a real personal choice that you have to make and it can be a little scary. But it’s really the best way to start to make some progress. So think about how you can lead those internal conversations. Think about how the, what you could say in your existing staff meetings to get people to focus a little bit more around your communications priorities and really start to put that plan together.

As you’re being more collaborative and having conversations with people about their ideas for communications and development, you’re going to hear a lot of ideas. And, of course, everyone that gives you an idea is going to think their idea is the most brilliant thing that they’ve ever heard. But you’re going to hear a lot of that and, of course, you’re going to have a different opinion about most of it. So you really have to figure out a way to listen but to then manage what you hear and if all the great ideas you hear go directly onto your to-do list that is a major problem. You need to put some speed bumps in that roadway.

So we recommend that you come up with what’s basically an idea parking lot and all the new ideas that people come up with for you and including some of your new ideas for those of you that are big idea people, you come up with too many idea for yourself too and I will raise my hand to say that with me as well. We need to put some speed bumps in our own way sometimes. So you create sort of this idea of parking lot and then you come up with some criteria to get out of the parking lot. Sometimes that can be a worksheet like a creative brief. And so you have to be able to articulate who the target audience is, what the message is, what the call to action is, which channels you’re going to use, who’s got the time to work on this, are there budget implications?

You have to have all of those answers before that idea gets out of basically idea jail, out of the parking lot and starts to get on to your to-do list. There are lots of different ways that you can do that. It doesn’t have to be like a worksheet like a creative brief but you want to have some criteria that stands in between so and so has a brilliant idea and now you’re suddenly working on it and that’s on your to-do list, lot’s more ideas in the book about that.

Okay, for this chapter on being collaborative is about empowering staff and insisting on accountability. And this can be really hard especially when you don’t feel like you have a lot of authority within the organization. But if you really make it clear that this is what effective communications and developments looks like and you really make your points and prove your points about that, and we’ll talk about that a little but more under agility, then there’s really not that much people can come back with.

You know, if it’s not just you whining but you’re really demonstrating that this is what it takes to be effective and you’re going to help people, you’re going to empower them to take on some of the work and you’re going to hold people accountable publicly for meeting those deadlines that they agreed to, it can be a real culture shift. It can take quite some time to make this happen. It’s not that you’re going to have a one staff meeting and everybody is going to start meeting deadlines. But over the long term you can create this kind of change.

Part of that involves talking about how decisions are going to be made and so there’s a whole chapter on communications decision making. You know, is it the last person who speaks gets their way. Is it the person who is best friends with the executive director always gets their way? Is it the meeting after the meeting after the meeting where things are actually decided? You need to kind of understand the reality of how decisions happen and then try to question some of that and change it.

Really try to encourage your leadership to delegate decisions as low as possible on the org chart. So, for example, every time I hear about an executive director who wants to approve every tweet and Facebook post it just makes my head explode because that is not the kind of thing that an ED with the communications and development team should be looking at. That needs to be delegated lower down the food chain, you know, the org chart. And so if you’re in that kind of situation, you have some trust issues and we’ll talk about that in just a minute.

And then resolving conflict is also s really important skill and it’s something that you can do no matter where you sit within the organization. Conflict is healthy. Conflict is good. That’s where new ideas and innovations come from. It’s not from everybody sitting around and nodding at each other and just sort of silently debating these things. Change comes from conflict. So it’s okay to raise these conflicts and to talk about it, you know, be adult about it, be clear about it. It’s not about fighting people. You know, it’s about having honest professional conversation about what you all are doing. Okay, so that’s what we mean when we’re asking for collaboration.

Let’s talk about being Agile now. And as I said, a lot of these is actually about trust and relationships. So there are two kinds of trust that I really encourage communications spokes to really think about. Of course, there are lots of different ways to define trust but in terms of communications work there are really two things that I think are most important.

The first one is building trust in your competence. So you know what you’re talking about and how can you prove that? Well, you can attend lots of seminars and webinars like this one but don’t just come here and never talk about it. You know, be vocal about the kinds of things that you’re learning. Talk about the kinds of books you’re reading, the kinds of blogs, podcasts you’re listening to. Bring up the things that you’re learning in casual conversation as well as in more formal conversation when you’re making proposals.

You know, if you have to write a memo to try to encourage your executive director to let you do something use that memo to really make the case for why you should do the thing you’re doing and really base it on the expertise of others. Sometimes it’s really important to bring in outside influences whether it’s webinars like this or like is said books you’ve read. Other organizations that your bosses admire or maybe are a little jealous of, find out what they’re doing. Really make your case and build trust in your competence so that people know you’re on top of it that you’ve figured it out, you’ve done your homework. That’s really what competence is about.

Building trust in your intentions is a little bit different and that is really more about your ability to understand kind of politically the implications of what you’re suggesting. And so, you know, what will different people think about this is the timing of saying that thing right, you know, is it going to have implications for other elements of the organization? If you haven’t thought through those sorts of things, then people are going to sort of question your intentions. They’re going to think, “Well, you know, she just wants to play with Facebook ads but she doesn’t really understand the implications of that for the organization.”

So you really want to communicate that you’ve thought through some of those different implications. Again, you know, you’re thinking about how this might affect other people, how it might affect other programs, if the timing is awkward or not, and making it clear that you’re cognizant of those things.

Other things you want to do to be agile, again, decision-making is really key in being able to make decisions quickly as a communications person, because if you wait too long your moment has passed. We see this all the time with people who are interested in getting PR and there’s some breaking news that their organization would be perfect to comment on for a second or third-day story and it takes you two weeks to get someone to agree to talk to a reporter or to write a press release. And by then that thing is passed, the time has passed, and so you really missed that opportunity.

If you can figure out how to make decisions more quickly and who gets to make those decisions, who needs to be consulted on what, you’re going to be able to jump on those opportunities a lot more quickly and you’re going to be able to get some of that good press coverage that your board always loves but is really hard to get if you’re not in an agile organization.

Part of that is expecting the unexpected and so that can be anything from kind of on the negative side, the crisis planning, all the way towards really just being opened what’s going in your community and being able to connect some dots that people might not see. You got to be a really good listener, keep your ears and eyes open all the time to what’s happening in your geographic community, in your larger professional community, and really try to capitalize on some of those exciting timely things that are going on.

And then, of course, there’s also agile content. At Nonprofit Marketing Guide we talk constantly about content repurposing. We are just constantly repurposing content ourselves. We do an entire webinar on how to repurpose content because today you have to produce so much stuff to fill all your communication channels that you really need to be good at reusing and recycling and repurposing content. So we include that in the agile section as well.

All right, let’s talk about the L, which is being Logical, and what is being logical look like? Well, I talk a lot about leadership priorities and so this is where that all comes into play. You need to limit and integrate your communications goals with the other goals in the organization. You can’t be expected to do 12 things at once. You have to prioritize. But at the same time you have to keep up with shifting priorities.

The reality is that stuff changes a lot in the nonprofit sector and depending on what your organization does, the world around you may change quite a bit too. So if you’re doing advocacy and you’re counting on politicians at any level of government, you know that you really can’t predict much of anything and so things are constantly changing and so you’ve got to figure out a way to be both strategic and being able to keep up the agile with those shifting priorities.

And there’s lots of different ways to do that all the way from leaving room in your editorial calendar, leaving yourself some questions to regular check-in meetings so that you can confirm with leaders that you’re staying sort of on course where you need to be.

Learning to say no as I said is also super important to being strategic and being logical just because somebody has a great idea but that doesn’t mean logically that it should be worked on right now. And just because something seems really urgent and even if it seems like it might be a great opportunity if it’s actually not something related to one of your strategic priorities, you should probably say no. Even if the New York Times or whichever publication your board really wants to see your name in calls you for something, if they call you on the wrong topic on a subject that you’re really not interested in having an opinion on because it’s not something you actually do or do very often, you need to say no to the reporter.

So learning how to say no is super important and, of course, there are lots of different ways to say it. My favorite is not yet or not right now. You’re not really saying no but you’re not saying yes to putting in on your to-do list right now either. You always want to follow best practices but you want to experiment constantly as well. You always got to be trying new things. Things are changing so quickly with technology and with the way people consume information that you can’t rely on any one way of doing things for very long, things are sort of always shifting underneath your feet. And so you need to be able to just kind of keep your balance and then knowing the best practices is how to do that but you want to be able to experiment as well.

And then finally, with being logical it can be really hard to make time for long-term strategic goals when you are constantly just feeling like you’re firefighting all the time on today’s emergency. So I encourage you every day even if it is literally five minutes to spend some time making progress on something that you know is really important even if it’s not especially urgent right now. It can be something as simple as reading a blog post about it or writing a to-do list about it or maybe doing a quick little mind map on the questions that you have before you can really jump into that work but take five minutes and make sure that every single day you’re at work you’re making a little bit of strategic progress.

All right, let’s look at our final letter and then after this we are going to let you guys sort of choose your own adventure and we’ll talk about some different ways to apply it. So M is for Methodical and there’s lots of different kinds of methodical things that you can do with communications. The number one is using an editorial calendar. That is by far the single most important tool for our communications staff members. And if you’re a development person who is only concerned about your communications, you need to open your eyes a little wider and see what else is going out because odds are other people in your organization are sending things to those same donors, maybe it’s about volunteering or some other event but you want to really understand the whole picture of communications too. So you’ve got to figure out that editorial calendar. We do a whole nother training in editorial calendars and I feel like maybe I’ve even done that for Bloomerang on one of those seven webinars Steven says I’ve done. But if not, we’ll do that one next.

So in addition to that which is really planning out what you’re going to say and what channel and when, you need to have a standard process for how you’re going to create, review, and approve content. So who needs to see what? How long do they get to review it? How many times do they get to see it? Who actually puts it online? If you just leave all of these to chance, you end up wasting an incredible amount of time because you’re doing a lot of work that never actually see the light of day outside your organization or you’re letting people noodle on stuff way too long and so when you finally publish something it’s already like three months when you wanted to get out the door, nobody cares anymore. It’s not relevant anymore.

So you really got to figure out that process and put some rules in place to get the content moving out the door. That requires a culture that respects deadlines and again, that is not something you’re going to be able to change overnight but it is something you can change over the course of several months and maybe even a year, but you got to start somewhere.

So in the book we talk about lots of different ways to start to build that office culture, some sort of more carrot-like, some more stick-like. But there are ways to really change the culture around deadlines. Of course, it helps if your senior management team is supporting you but sometimes those are the people who are worst about deadlines. So we talk a little bit in the book about how to deal with that too.

It’s also important to simplify communications routines so that other people can follow them. You want to be able to go on vacation, or take a honeymoon, or parental leave, or just be able to have a sick day and not think the whole thing is going to collapse in heap around you when you get back. So really helping people understand this is how we do the newsletter, this is how we do Facebook, it’s not rocket science but we have a process. That can really help people understand how they can help you, how they can plug into that process, and it also allows you to be able to leave in like I said not have the thing fall apart.

Consistency in communications is super important and if you get sick and are out for two weeks and people don’t hear from you, that’s not a good thing. People should be able to kind of pick up the slack.

And then finally, we close with improving your own personal productivity. This is really less about time management and more about energy management. Those of you who had read a lot of productivity books understand what I’m talking about. It’s kind of the new approach to this.

You know, everybody is busy at work. We only have so many hours in the day. We all have way more stuff to do then we can fit in those minutes so learning how to better manage our time doesn’t solve any of those problems. But really focusing on where our energy belongs and what we work on at the time of the day when we feel most creative most powerful, most energetic, and what we save for the day or the hours of the days where we kind of just need to put it in autopilot energy-wise, that makes a big difference on your overall effectiveness and productivity if you understand that.

Same thing when you’re being collaborative in dealing with other staff members and with your executive director. If you know that they are just toast by the end of the day, don’t have meetings with them then. You’re going to get nothing but negativity and roadblocks. Really do your best to figure out when your management team and the people you’re trying to collaborate with what their kind of personal days look like and their biorhythms look like. Do you need to talk to them after lunch so they’re not angry with you? You know, figure it out. That stuff ends up being really important to being able to get work done quickly with people.

So that’s CALM not BUSY. We want to be collaborative, agile, logical, and methodical, and not bogus, unrealistic, sidestepping, and yoked.

Okay. So let’s talk about how we take all of these steps in theory and apply it to some very common scenarios. Before we get to that though, if you want to buy the book, it’s available on Kindle and on Paperback on Amazon and there is an assessment that gives you a CALM score. There’s 20 questions that we ask you and it will tell you what your score is and what that means and which letter is your lowest and which letter is your highest.

If you don’t want to buy the book, we have a little quick quiz online that I think is only like five or six questions and it will help you find your top CALM strength. I am one of those build on your strengths people, so I would rather tell you what your strength is and then give you some tips to really turn that into a super power for you and then to build around that as opposed to being one of those people that says, “Let’s find where you’re horrible. Let’s find your weakness,” and start to deal with that. I’m more of a build on your strengths kind of person. So our shorter quiz helps you find your strength.

Okay. So we are going to do a couple of polls here to choose. In the book I have I think 10 or 12 scenarios and, of course, we don’t have enough time to go through all of them today. So I’m going to describe a couple of them to you and then what we’re going to do is I’m going to have you pick which one you want to do. So let’s see. Where is the first poll? Is this the first poll? Yes. Okay. So here are three scenarios. So I’m going to have you guys vote on which one you want to discuss further. Okay.

So we have Carrie. Carrie has way too much work to do. Okay. Here’s Carrie. Carrie has way too much work to do but has little very little authority. You know, she’s really low on the org chart. She’s sort of more of a coordinator, assistant level, but she’s the only one doing communications. And so everyone in the office is like, “Yay, we have someone doing communications. Give it to Carrie.” Okay. So Carrie’s got way too much to do but she doesn’t feel like she really has a lot of authority to tell people no or to really prioritize her workload.

Then we have Juan. Juan was promoted from tactical worker to strategic leader. So he used to just be like the graphic designer and now he has to manage all of the publication requests from within the organization and he has never had to think that way before. So that’s a new challenge for him.

And then we have Janelle and she’s got a great team but she still feels like they’re really just constantly reacting to what’s put in front of them. And she really wants to be more strategic, she wants to stop just getting be down by all the urgent stuff all the time.

So let’s do the poll. Okay. Whose situation should we explore more? The too much work but no authority, promoted from tactical to strategic leader, or stop reacting and get strategic. I’ll give you just a few seconds to take the poll. I’m going to take a sip of tea here and I’ll be right back with you.

All right, let’s see. Janelle is really in the lead. So if you guys want to do something else you need to step up. All right, I think we’re going to go with Janelle. So Janelle wants to stop reacting and get more strategic. Even if you voted for one of the others don’t worry, you’re going to get the full slide deck from Steven and so you’ll be able to see the tips there. But let’s look at what my CALM not BUSY suggestions for Janelle would be.

So the first thing I would say, she and her team need to do is to really focus on their goals and to limit those. To make sure that they’re well integrated with everyone else’s goals in the organization so that when people come and say, “Oh, I need you to do this thing,” she’s able to say, “Well, okay, I hear you but, I can’t do it right now. I can’t do it this week because as you’ll recall we talked about how this was really most important and strategic and if I go do your little thing over here, it’s going to draw away from our more important priorities.” That’s the conversation you should be able to have. All of you should be able to have that kind of conversation.

Then I would encourage her to review how decisions are made to really protect those strategic goals. So, again, if there’s someone who is used to just being the squeaky wheel and always getting their way, that is not really appropriate decision making. So to really think hard about how do we keep getting thrown off of our strategic to-do list and onto this more emergency stuff, how is that actually happening. Is it us just wanting to be people pleasers, and frankly, that happens a lot. People just don’t want to say no to their colleagues. They want to seem like supermen and superwomen and so you say yes even when you shouldn’t.

So oftentimes the decision making is in our own heads that needs to be analyzed. And then figuring out how to make good decisions more quickly so you’re able to deal with that sort of stuff and focus back on the strategy a lot faster. Then I would encourage her to work on being a little more agile with the planning for the unexpected. Even though it seems like there’s something new every day, once you’ve been working in an organization for a year or two, you can really predict the firestorms. There will be categories of things that happen that throw you off course and oftentimes those are related to specific individuals that you work with. And so you will be able to start to understand these patterns and you can start to plan for them a little bit. You can practice how you’re going to respond to certain people who end up throwing you off.

And then looking at additional tools to improve team efficiency, so are you using a project management tool that really helps you keep up with your editorial calendar? Do you have good internal communications tools, so you’re not getting 75 emails a day internally? You know, are there ways that you can really work on your team efficiency? Those would be my suggestions to Janelle.

Okay. So let’s look at our next set. We’ve got three more people for you to think about whether you want to talk about their problem or not. So here is Heather and Heather is a manager in an organization. She runs a small team but her boss, the big VP of Marketing, won’t delegate to her. She is just holding the reigns way too tight and so Heather just feels like she just can’t do anything then.

Then we have Janice and Janice is a new communications director. She’s filling a job that’s been vacant for a while, so she’s got a lot of big ideas about things the organization needs to do but all her coworkers are pretty happy with the status quo. So they’re not really interested in helping Janice with any of her new ideas.

Then we have Allen and Allen is just your consummate workaholic. Like he’s just working too much and he feels really responsible. You know, he loves the organization he works for and he loves the cause. It’s really important to him personally not just because he works there but it’s something he truly believes in with all his heart and soul. And so it’s really hard for him to let go.

Okay. So whose situation do we want to apply CALM to now? Boss won’t delegate, coworkers won’t embrace the big plan, or just working too much, too hard, and can’t really let go? What do you think? I’ll let you guys do a little bit of work on that poll.

We have another clear winner so far but the other two aren’t that far behind. I’ll give you just another couple of seconds here. And we’re going to go with coworkers won’t embrace our big ideas, Janice, we’re going to go with Janice’s trouble here. So let’s apply CALM to Janice. All right, so here’s my suggestions for Janice, first of all, we need to talk about how communications or decisions are going to be made. If there hasn’t been a communications director for a year and Janice is hired as a communications director, then it means no one is really been in that job making decisions for a year and she needs to really articulate how things are changing now that the job has been filled.

You have to stand up for what your responsibilities are. You have to assume control over your workload. If you are waiting for people to give you permission to do your job, you’re going to be waiting a really long time. It’s just not part of the culture of our nonprofits typically. You need to assert that control. And that may mean some conflict but again, conflict is what you need to get to positive change so don’t be afraid of that just think how you’re going to deal with it and start working through it. You know, I’ve talked to people who cry in the car after work for months on end because their coworkers were so awful to them. But at some point there’s a breakthrough and they get to assume more decision making control over their workload that they should have had all along.

So sometimes you do have to tough this stuff out but you’ve got to make some progress. You’ve got to step up and really question a lot of the BUSY that’s holding you back and is holding your organization back. Along with that come conversations about team accountability. Whose job is it to do what? Some people need to help you with content. Others just need to review content. Others need to stay out of your way. So you need to figure out who needs to do what and when and be able to articulate that in a very pleasant professional way, of course, but you need to be able to do that.

Working on making decisions within her control much faster so knowing when you need to collaborate and knowing when you need to stop waiting for other people to make a decision and make it yourself even if it’s scary. Experimenting wherever she can, so maybe this is more an issue of trust where she’s got to sort of build up. You know, she’s new, right? So these people don’t really know her that well. So maybe she needs to experiment a little bit and take some little risk before she can convince others to really trust her to take on these bigger projects. And then I would encourage Janice to celebrate what progress she does make every single day because, again, this can be really hard work, especially if you’re doing it alone, especially if you’re not getting a lot of support from your coworkers. You have to be able to pat yourself on the back sometimes.

Okay, we got one more set and then I’ll take some questions from you all. So here’s our last set of people who are working in BUSY organizations and need our help getting more CALM. So this is Sheila. Sheila works for your typical, sort of stereotypical visionary boss, which means this person has incredibly brilliant ideas but is constantly changing their mind. And I can’t remember what the brilliant idea was last week because they had a new one this week and so it’s just sort of constant chaos and it’s really making Sheila miserable.

Then we have Ryan who is literally doing the work of three people. So imagine a communications team that has three people on it and two of those people left and you’re left behind and your bosses are being really slow about backfilling those jobs. They keep promising that the other two employees will be there at some point but meanwhile the workload has not changed and you are responsible for an entire team’s work now.

And then we have Ellen. Ellen works at a technical organization, she’s the Communications Director and she’s not an engineer. She doesn’t know all of this content. It’s her job to really translate it to something that non-engineers can understand but she has to get that content from the technical people, from the engineers. And she’s not getting a lot of help, so how do you work with content provider’s program staff who you truly are dependent on when they’re not going to cooperate?

So those are our three choices this time. What do you think? What should we talk about? The visionary boss driving you nuts, doing the work of three people literally not just being overworked but people have left and the job has not been backfilled, or just not getting the kind of help you need from your coworkers on producing content? Which one should we tackle this time?

Again, it’s pretty close here. If you care, you should vote. I’ll give you just three more seconds. All right, we’re going to go with doing the work of three people, that was Ryan. Let me back up to the slide. All right, so here’s what I would say with promises of additional staff not materializing. Again, and this should be a theme that you’re starting to hear here. You have to take charge of this situation. You can’t just let it happen to you and just be like the weak little noodle. You have to stand up. You have to have a spine and you have to talk about this. Again, it doesn’t mean you throw a hissy fit or you’re ugly to people but you can in a very CALM professional way talk about how this doesn’t work for you and it doesn’t work for the organization.

So that’s the first thing I would say is don’t just sort of sit back and wait. Really, try to hold your leaders accountable. Ask them for when they’re going to put the job description out. Do they need help writing the job description? You’re the only one left in the team. You might somehow have some ideas about how you want to reorg that team. So try to really help move the thing along. It’s their job to do this. It’s okay to try to hold them accountable as much as you can.

Getting really good at multiple ways to say no is also going to be incredibly important. It’s just completely unrealistic to expect everything to get done when you’re that low on your staffing. So being really clear about “no’s” and “not yets” and when the second person is hired and when the third person is hired, those sorts of things.

Triaging and simplifying many processes if possible. So the reality is you’re stuck there doing the work yourself, you’re not going to be able to shoot for perfect, you’re not even going to be able to shoot for like really good, you need to shoot for this is going to pass this sniff test and we’re getting it out the door. You’re going to have to really sort of lower some of your standards on a lot of stuff so that you can get things done. There may be a couple of things where you maintain that level of excellence but the reality is is that you have to move into triage and simplifying.

Again, managing your own personal productivity not so much about trying to do three people’s jobs but really understanding where you need to put your best self during the day on which topics. You know, do you need to come in a little bit early and then leave early? Do you need to go work outside the office so you can get some peace and quiet for two hours? You really got to figure out what you need in order to make this situation work. And then, again, holding others accountable to help you with this situation, this is not of your own making, so you don’t have to be the martyr that’s trying to solve it. You need to hold others accountable including those managers to get those people hired.

Okay. So those are our scenarios. If you voted for someone that we didn’t end up talking about, it’s in the book. And it’s also in the slide deck. So just watch for that from Steven and as we start to wrap up here it looks like we’ve got seven minutes left, so feel free to fire in any of those questions. And Steven, I’m sure you’ve been watching questions, so feel free to go ahead and moderate those for me.

I just want you to understand that this is really your choice, BUSY is probably the default and so if you want it to be more CALM at your organization, you’re going to have to step up and lead and you deserve a workplace that’s calm. You deserve to be able to work for that and you’re doing amazing things in the nonprofit sector, you’re here not for the pay and awesome benefits, right? You’re here because you care about the change that your organizations are trying to make and therefore, you should feel invested in changing your workplace so that your nonprofit can make that change. So go for it. Okay.

And again, there’s lots more in the book to help you get all that done if you buy the book or you have the book, I invite you to join our book club on Facebook. We just launched it this week. And if you just search “CALM not BUSY book club” on Facebook, it’ll come up. You can ask to join. We’re going to ask you if you have the book or you’ve ordered the book and if you say yes, we will let you in. So Steven fire away, what questions do we have for me?

Steven: Yeah. Man, we got some good ones but first I just want to say thank you, Kivi, for all these great advice, lots of good stuff here. I know you guys were in for a treat and definitely check out the book because obviously Kivi is a wealth of knowledge and there’s going to be a lot more in [inaudible 00:55:12] there, so just check it out, worth the money for sure.

Probably about maybe three or four questions, or three or four minutes for questions. Here’s one from Page, I got a board member, Kivi, that’s pretty hands-on and is kind of pushing her presidents to micromanage the work. Any advice for dealing with board members for this kind of thing?

Kivi: Yeah. So, you know, board member cultures like a whole other topic, right? And so there are lots of different boards and lots of different board culture but, you know, regardless of who the person is whether it’s a board member or a volunteer or even a consultant it is absolutely within your right to talk about drawing lines around job responsibilities and whose responsibility is what. And, you know, it’s a little bit of kind of a wild mess where people will just assume responsibility if you don’t assume it. So you kind of have to take ownership of things and say, “This is mine, this is where I need help, you know, this can be yours let’s coordinate in this way.” But if you just sort of sit back, it’s going to happen to you. We see that all the time.

Steven: Here’s one from Karen, how do you know when it’s time to hire somebody, you know, maybe a second person on the marketing or communication team or development team? Is there a rule of thumb? Is there a good way that you recommend that people kind of judge the situation, say, “Yeah, I think it’s about time to bring on someone to help?”

Kivi: You know, it all depends on your goals and whether you feel like you have both the time and talent to achieve those goals. I mean that’s a really generic answer. But I mean for a little bit more of a sort of data-supported answer in our trends reports at Nonprofit Marketing Guide we ask commutations people like how big is your team, how big is your organization, what’s your budget, and so we have some data and some charts that show you if you’re this size of organization, the majority of nonprofits at that size at that budget, would that overall staffing level have two communications directors or two communication staff or they have five communications staff? Here’s the point at which you start to staff up. So independent of your goals you can go get our trends reports and you can see, okay, organizations my size should have this many FTE dedicated to communications work.

Steven: Makes sense. Here’s one from Sheila. Sheila, I got to say thank you for asking this. You are awesome. Thanks for doing this. Kivi, Sheila in a meeting but she is the visionary boss that is driving everyone nuts.

Kivi: It’s okay, Sheila.

Steven: What advice do you have? Thank you Sheila, we still love you.

Kivi: It’s okay. When I first started talking about this, Kristina who is my business partner, the other fulltime person at Nonprofit Marketing Guide and also my little sister, just laughed her butt off because she’s like, isn’t that rich, you’re talking about the visionary boss. So it’s okay, Sheila. You know, self-awareness is like step one, right? So it’s really about helping people see the difference between your visionary ideas and when you are directing them as their boss to do something on it. Lots of times visionary people we just want to be heard like we just, you know, we have brilliant ideas every other moment and we just want the world to acknowledge that, right? Just to hear our brilliance. We want to share it.

But there is, you know, if you’ve got people who are working for you that are looking at you and they’re seeing you as the boss they’re going to take that nod as, “Oh, Sheila just have this brilliant idea, let me listen to it.” As, “Oh, I have to put this thing on my to-do list now.” And that’s very different. And you also just need to keep the lines of communications open so that when your staff people go run off and work on something that maybe you did assign to them two weeks ago and they come back, they need to be able to check in with you and see if you still want them to do that thing because odds are high that you have changed your mind but you may not have communicated that to them. So keeping the lines of communication open is super important too.

Steven: I love it, great advice. I’ve been there myself too and felt bad. I say some off-hand comment and then suddenly they’re out there are trying to make it happen. I was only half-serious. Great advice, great advice.

Kivi: Yeah, like people are working late then they deliver the product and you’re like, “What? Why did you do that?”

Steven: Oh, I’m so sorry. Oh, man, this is fun, Kivi. It’s 2:00, we got to cut up here I know. I want to be respectful of people’s time but any last thoughts? How can people get a hold of you?

Kivi: Well, get the book and join the book club and we can talk all about it.

Steven: Let’s do it. I got to do it. Check out, my favorite let’s say other than Bloomerang, of course. Thanks Kivi, this is awesome. Thanks for being here.

Kivi: You’re welcome. Thank you for having me.

Steven: Well, I would get all the recording and slides in everyone’s hands. So expect an email from me later on this afternoon. I promise I will get that out today. Checkout our website, it does not come anywhere near but we got pretty cool things there you can check that as well.

And we got another webinar coming up every Thursday. Next week is no exception, same time, same place. Going to talk about major gifts, if you are major gift person or interested in that, maybe you’re just getting started or want to kind of improve your chops there, check it out. We got Terry Axelrod going to come in and help you build that pipeline, so register for that. It would be fun. And if you’re not quite interested in major gifts right now, that’s okay. We’ve got some other webinars you can check out. Just visit it our page and you’ll see lots of different topics there you can register for. So we will call it a day there, hopefully, see you next week. If not, we’ll see you again sometime in the future. So have a good rest of your Thursday. Have a good weekend. Have a safe weekend and we will talk to you again soon. Bye now.

Kivi: Bye-bye.

Kristen Hay

Kristen Hay

Marketing Manager at Bloomerang
Kristen Hay is the Marketing Manager at Bloomerang. From 2018 - 2020, she served as the Director of Communications for the Public Relations Society of America's local Hoosier chapter. Prior to that she served on several different committees and in committee chair roles.