Above: (Left to right) Réal Bédard, Eric Crammond, Robin Maiville and Kelly Kean, CFO of Greater Ottawa County United Way, Holland, MI at the Andar Software conference booth.
My colleagues at Andar Software have participated in United Way’s Finance, Talent and Technology Forum for many years, but as a newcomer to the company, it was my first time attending, and I could not have been more pleased by the event. The Forum was hosted at the Hilton Americas-Houston in Houston, Texas. The full three days had a jam-packed agenda that was filled with great sessions and informative yet entertaining keynotes.
What Was the Biggest Treat?
The lemon dessert served on the last day was pretty delicious, but that’s not what I’m referring to. The best part of the Forum was being surrounded by nonprofit professionals who really love their jobs and are invigorated by the difference they make in their communities. I had the opportunity to meet and chat with quite a few of them, and their positive energy and openness immediately made me feel like we were old friends. Nonprofit employees have an undeniable passion for what they do and are continually looking for a way to improve their daily jobs. It was also evident that they are students for life, open to new learning opportunities and to expanding their professional growth; plus, they ask some really great questions! There wasn’t one session that I sat in where vital (and often tricky) questions weren’t asked of the presenters.
Above: (Left to right) Robin Maiville and Debbie Brown, Director of Finance, United Way of Central Savannah River Area, Augusta GA were stopped for a photo opp.
Creating Great Content
A common theme throughout many of the sessions was the struggle to create content due to either a lack of resources or time or both. There are many channels to produce content for, the most common ones being your website, social media accounts and third-party publications. Multiply that by the type of asset (written, video, audio or graphic) and it immediately becomes hard to keep up with audience demands. What’s the solution? The consensus amongst the industry is to produce quality content over quantity. There’s a lot of noise on the internet as it is, there’s no point in adding more of it; instead, make a point to create high-quality assets that may take a little more effort but will have a high return on investment. The quick answer for nonprofits and charities is: your audience most importantly wants to know how their donations are affecting the community, so sharing those stories is highly recommended. Is your nonprofit supporting a reading program? Put out a case study to showcase how successful the program is. Try to make it a video case study, audiences connect easily to them because they are a more instant communicator of emotions than a written case study is. Are you recruiting volunteers? Great! Make sure all your communications showcase how the community emotionally benefits from the volunteer program AND also communicate how the individual volunteer will benefit too. Do you have a program to end homelessness? Share stories from individuals who have positively changed their lives after being helped by the program.
Above: (Left to right) Eric Crammond and Doug Goodwin, Director of Information Systems of United Way of Central Alabama, Birmingham, AL had a chance to catch up during breaks.
Success = Strong Resiliency
For the closing general session Martha Davis talked about the Predictive Resilience Framework. The main message was that resiliency is a human quality that’s incredibly useful for survival when we have to face tough or stressful times. The premise is that when we have good resilience, our body is able to protect us from hardship more efficiently, plus it’s also better able to bounce back and recover from unpleasant situations. The framework presented by Davis contains six types of resilience: tenacity, collaboration, vision, composure, reasoning, and health. What really hit home was that five of these types of resilience were relatively easy to identify, but when the audience was asked what the sixth one might be, we were all fairly stumped. The one we had trouble coming up with was ‘health’ … and I have to admit, it’s one that’s very commonly overlooked, especially when our lives are busy, we’re tired, and there’s limited time in the day.
Above: Photo of the General Session presentation slide containing the six types of resiliencies in the framework.
You might be wondering why this is important, or why it was talked about at the Forum. It’s no secret that the work we do in the nonprofit world is rewarding, but it’s also challenging when we’re faced with a turbulent economy, new or trending technology or ever-changing customer habits and expectations. The fact is that all of these challenges are much easier to face and overcome when we have substantial resiliency in place. When we’re resilient we’re better able to learn, we’re naturally better leaders, we don’t get sick as often, and we’re less susceptible to addictive behaviors like over-eating, smoking, and drinking. All these qualities sound like the perfect formula for the type of people I would want to be surrounded by in life, both in the personal realm and at work; and if that’s what I want to have around me, then I have to start with being resilient myself! Davis’ talk tied the perfect bow to a really well packaged Forum that, throughout all three days, provided tools to make us more resilient.
That’s just one word to describe my attendance of United Way's 2018 Finance, Talent and Technology Forum. Speaking to customers and prospects, and attending sessions left me feeling energized and refreshed. It reminded me of what a great industry we work in. It brought back that pep in my step so that I could return to work feeling confident and ready to tackle any challenges that come my way.
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The Great Rivers Conference in Milwaukee, WI is up next on February 19-22, 2019! Andar Software will be hosting a Live United Lounge there, so be sure to come by. We’re looking forward to seeing some fresh faces and some old!