How Nonprofits and Associations Can Thrive in Times of Disruption

The following was originally authored for Hager Sharp’s agency blog. You can read it here.

Every four or eight years, the United States officially swears in a new president—oftentimes bringing a new set of challenges. That’s why as a social-change communicator, I felt it would be beneficial to attend the PRSA National Capital Chapter’s most recent Breakfast Breakthrough titled, “What the (Donald) Trump Administration Means for Associations and Nonprofits.” Attendees kept the discussion lively and came away with expectations, takeaways, and tools for news monitoring.

While observing and listening to attendees’ different perspectives, I discovered some helpful tips based on the presentation and my own experience with nonprofits:

  1. Social media is key: now more than ever—From the campaign trail to now, President Trump has never been one to shy away from voicing his opinions on Twitter. Nonprofits and organizations can adapt that same boldness on social media to advocate for their own causes. This may require a change in procedures for some organizations, where the clearance process can slow down their ability to seize the moment. In fact, a key thing about today’s social media is how quickly organizations can get their message out. The Pew Research Center found that Facebook was the third most popular source of news among all voters this past year. Being authentic on your networks is a great way to engage and gain public trust.
  2. Study the media habits of your audience—If you are trying to influence elected officials and their policies, it’s always helpful to understand their media habits. One suggestion for doing this is to utilize Twitter to follow their accounts and the accounts that they follow. Know which media outlets matter to them. For example, this Axios article provides information on President Trump’s daily media diet. For members of Congress, their hometown paper may carry more weight than The Washington Post. Once you understand the “media diet” of your elected official, you can understand how best to target your media messages towards getting his or her attention.
  3. Value insiders’ and outsiders’ opinions—When the breakfast attendees were asked about the last time we analyzed who our audiences are, not many of us raised our hands. Before your organization adapts boldness on social media, it’s important to know who your supporters are—on and offline—and assess how they feel. At the same time, organizations need to assess the sentiment of those outside of their base of supporters to get a sense of what they’re up against and whether there’s an opening to change hearts and minds.
  4. Embrace partnerships with like-minded organizations—Everyone knows the old saying, “There’s strength in numbers.” History has shown this to be true, from the early movements in the 1900s for women’s suffrage to the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s. Both events were the result of individuals and organizations with similar beliefs coming together to advocate for the same cause. Even after those events, organizations benefitted by combining their efforts and becoming stronger advocates in the process.
  5. Facts matter, but emotions do too—Many of the great leaders for social change all share one thing in common: each of them successfully gained followers by incorporating facts into their messages along with relentless passion. As organizations seek to become thought leaders for their causes, the importance of using data and emotion to tell a compelling story will be crucial for inspiring current supporters and gaining new advocates.

Nonprofits and associations don’t have to fear the impending changes. Instead, by studying their new landscape and adapting boldness on social media, organizations can take advantage of opportunities to make sure their issues are at the forefront. It’s also important that organizations assess their own supporters and detractors, unite with like-minded groups, and combine emotion with facts to tell a compelling story aimed at securing more advocates. Attending this PRSA Breakfast Breakthrough gave me more confidence that the effective use of communications will serve nonprofits well—even in times of disruption.

Colin Kaepernick, and the 3 C’s to Finding Your Voice

This post was originally shared for McKinney & Associates’ blog and newsletter, where I was employed at the time. You may find it here.

What’s a good way to stand up for something you believe in? Well, if you ask NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, don’t! The QB for the San Francisco 49ers has been bringing attention to social and racial injustice in America by not standing for the National Anthem before games. Since Kaepernick’s actions caught the attention of media in late August, more NFL players have taken similar stands (or seats) with every passing week during the season. The move has even inspired U.S. Women’s National Team soccer star Megan Rapinoe to kneel before the anthem during recent matches. And, this week Missouri state senator Jamilah Nasheed declined to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance in support of Kaepernick.

People admire those who are courageous enough to stand for something they believe in. It’s why McKinney & Associates has been successful at taking on the bullies and helping clients find their voice. Over the years, the agency has found three common characteristics among clients who have found their voice. Here’s what they have in common with Kaepernick’s actions:

  1. Courage: Kaepernick chose an interesting time to take his “stand.” Since taking the 49ers to the Super Bowl in 2013, his performance has declined to the point where NFL experts were debating if the team should trade him or keep him as a second string player. Even with his playing time and career on the line, Kaepernick is displaying courage by expressing his disapproval for the nation’s actions.
  2. Compelling: Being an athlete in the nation’s most popular professional sports league is one thing; playing for one of that league’s marquee franchises is another. Kaepernick isn’t just compelling because of the stance he’s taking against the nation’s issue; he’s compelling because he was once of the league’s best QBs en route to almost winning a championship.
  3. Conviction: Despite the harsh wave of criticism he’s received, Kaepernick is displaying conviction even through adversity. He has continued to speak with media at their request and has provided thorough explanations for his actions. This conviction may have earned Kaepernick many detractors, but it has also revealed a fair share of reports.

Malcolm X famously exclaimed, “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.” By taking a stand by sitting down, Kaepernick and others are refusing to fall for the belief that America has upheld its promises to the people it’s meant to serve. Amidst the criticism he’s received, Kaepernick has been successful in stirring up conversations around racial and social justice; and a Black American didn’t have to be murdered at the hands of law enforcement in order to do so.