As someone who started her career in the non-profit sector, I know first-hand that making meaningful impact on a daily basis can be a struggle. There is no doubt that good intention, vast intelligence and valuable skills are not lacking in the current employee base of non-profit organizations but I believe the ability to attract and pay the experienced talent they need to magnify and grow their non-profit remains a challenge.
This is one of the many reasons I chose to volunteer for the recent Skills for Cities event hosted by Common Impact. I spent the first few years of my career in human services working for organizations that had committed staff and leaders working towards huge goals. But as with many for-profit organizations, I spent much of my time putting out fires and serving immediate needs without having a chance to focus on strategy or consider ways to add value to a worthy organization.
While I would love to spend more time focused on consulting with and supporting causes that are important to me, we all know how hectic and filled our days can be. Skills for Cities felt like the perfect way to connect something I cared about with time I actually had available.
It has become common practice for many organizations to utilize internships and co-ops to put boots on the ground, as well as build boards that have the experience and strategic proficiency to help take an organization to its next level. Common Impact has found a way to expand the network of these organizations with an easy ask: just give us one day.
Skills for Cities is a yearly event designed and created to match non-profit organizations with individuals who have specific skill sets that they are in need of but may lack the internal resources to secure full time.
This year’s event, held on October 30th, aimed to “unite talented corporate and nonprofit professionals for a day of learning, community building and skills-based volunteering”. This year, Common Impact decided to focus on “dedicating Skills for Cities to support racial justice and Black-led nonprofits facing the double pandemic of racism and COVID-19”.
After filling out a skills assessment, I was asked to lead a team of professionals from up and down the East Coast with varying skill sets and backgrounds to assist OneGoal Massachusetts in creating a communications plan for their organization. They specifically asked for help to increase local awareness and build more significant partnerships with Massachusetts schools, administrators and donors.
A big task for one day, our team met a few days prior to the event to highlight the biggest questions we had about OneGoal’s national parent organization and the strategic goals they were trying to reach with a communications plan.
What we realized was that the need was bigger than a communications plan; we needed to help OneGoal identify their key message and the true goal of their communications.
A single plan was not going to serve all purposes: we first had to get down to the roots of the organization.
In our first hour of meeting with the staff at OneGoal, the team delved deep into how the more broad, national organizational strategy could be distilled into a streamlined local strategy, which we would then use to create a powerful communications plan supported by a strong local activation plan.
We used the next two hours to create a recommended methodology around how OneGoal can communicate with its key constituent groups moving forward. We also shared best practices and key demographic info to help them understand how to best reach each group.
While we know we didn’t change the trajectory of OneGoal in just five hours, we know we made an impact on the staff’s ability to be more strategic about what the “best-selling” points of their organization are. At the end of the day, we felt we set them up to take on more of a marketing lens when making connections, creating communications and approaching partners.
This experience helped me realize that things I see as core to my daily job or skills I employ day-to-day are still new, thought-provoking, and helpful for others to recognize the true assets that exist within their organizations.
And all it took was one day and a group of five people who had never met before coming together for one cause: to help.