Posts by Liz Morrison


Field Report! Second Team meeting in Brooklyn, New York

On Wednesday April 16, six Brooklyn Connectors came together for our second meeting. We had a fun discussion that ranged from coining the adjective “connectory” to discussing ways we can build and support our Team.

Over the course of two hours we tackled the following questions:

What are some of the best ways that we can connect the Connectors?

We have a Team of 57 Connectors spread out across our large borough (fun fact: Brooklyn could be considered the 4th largest city in America!).

As we grow our Team, it’s important to us that we spend time building and strengthening our bonds to one another. We came up with some ways to spread information about ourselves and stay connected between meetings.

  • Use the Team message boards more to keep Connector conversations going between meetings

  • Encourage everyone to fill out the Brooklyn Team Resource Inventory spreadsheet so we can collect our shared knowledge, spot connections, and identify skills

  • Create a Doodle survey to find out what meeting times work best for the most people

  • Create a collaborative Google Map where Connectors can plot their location within Brooklyn so we can see if there are more Connectors in our specific neighborhoods

What do we need to be the best Idealist Connectors/Idealist ambassadors?

Before we reach out into the community, we want to make sure we’re being good ambassadors for Idealist and this movement. We decided to plan some future meetings to address our needs.

  • Common language to describe this Idealist movement. Before we start recruiting more Connectors or introducing ourselves to the greater Brooklyn Community, we want to brainstorm some common language and an “elevator pitch” that will quickly describe our mission, goals, and work. We know that Idealist is also working on this wording, so depending on when we schedule this meeting, we can tweak what Idealist creates to best fit the Brooklyn team.

  • Host some Connector trainings to help us build up similar skill sets. Possible training sessions could include:

    • Idealist 101: An introduction to all the things you can do on Idealist.org. Once we know more about the site, we can encourage more individuals and organizations to use Idealist tools to connect with opportunities for action.

    • Action Group Facilitator Training: Give some insights on the best ways to structure meetings, run discussions and brainstorms, help people identify obstacles to action, and follow through on their good intentions.

    • Social Media Boot Camp: Discuss and learn about how can we use our personal social media channels to amplify and spread the Brooklyn Team’s work and message.

    • Best Ways to Reach Out: Invite people from .orgs/.coms/.govs to talk to us about the best ways to reach out to their particular sector when we need help or want to invite them to participate.

  • Schedule fun, informal events to give Connectors time to get to know each other. From happy hours to team rock climbing, the purpose of these events will team building and social bonding. We scheduled our first “Bring a Friend Connector Social” for Wednesday night, May 7th.

Do you live in Brooklyn? Join the Team! Live elsewhere? Check out Teams in your area. Not a Connector yet? Read all about it and join us.

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Field report! Team meeting in Brooklyn, New York

Yesterday afternoon, five Brooklyn Connectors met in one of the free meeting rooms at the beautiful Brooklyn Public Library Central Branch.

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The BPL’s Central Library (image via Wikimedia Commons)

By the end, we’d covered three things:

1) Expectations for Connectors in the Team

In order to be effective, we proposed that people in the Team should:

  •  Complete their Idealist personal profiles so that everyone can see their skills, interests, connections, and all the contact info they feel comfortable sharing.

  • Make an effort to interact with the Team at least once a month: attend a meeting, reply to a discussion thread, participate in a Team event, or add a helpful resource.

  • Keep the Team discussion board a place for Connector-related topics only.

2) Starting a resource inventory

Collectively, we have a lot to offer. Using a Google spreadsheet, we’ll create a repository of our skills, knowledge, and connections to great resources, so we can quickly help people move from intention to action.

3) A schedule for meetings

New Yorkers tend to be busy, so scheduling ahead is helpful. We chose the date for our next meeting at the library a month in advance and created an event on our team page. (Note: libraries often offer meeting rooms to the public for free. If you’re looking for a place to hold your Connector meeting, they’re a great place to start!)

We also raised the possibility of using Google Hangouts for an online meeting if it’s ever too difficult to meet up in person.

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Connectors: Welcome to Brooklyn, baby!

At the end, one of us suggested that we take a quiet moment to reflect. Sitting there looking at my fellow Connectors, I was overcome by a sense of possibility and purpose. I’m so excited to get to work and meet more amazing people who are passionate about building this movement and sparking good action in this world.

Liz Morrison is a brand-new Brooklyn Connector and a video producer at Idealist. Connect with her! If you’re in the Brooklyn area, check out the Brooklyn Team.

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A shore thing: How soup is rebuilding community in the Rockaways

Robyn hotfood Station 59th St

Robyn set up a hot food station on a street corner a few days after Hurricane Sandy devastated her neighborhood.

Almost exactly a year ago, Hurricane Sandy devastated much of Robyn Hillman-­Harrigan’s Rockaway Beach neighborhood in Queens, New York.

“Nothing was where you expected it to be,” Robyn says. “It felt like our beach town had turned into a war zone over night.”

At that time, Robyn wasn’t thinking about founding a nonprofit and opening a community restaurant. She was thinking about how she could help her neighbors.

On the first day after the storm, she started by bringing batches of hot cocoa, tea, and coffee to the people around her. The next day, she and her friends set up her propane camping stove outside on a makeshift table made from driftwood. They cooked batches of soup and warmed up donated food. A line formed down the block as people came out to eat a hot meal and find comfort in community.

A few days into the disaster, Robyn took a step back and thought about how she could increase her impact beyond that one street corner. She realized she needed better communication, a bigger kitchen, and a system that would help her reach the maximum number of people.

So she formed a Facebook group and asked her network for specific donations. The response was overwhelming. A friend lent space in his restaurant’s kitchen. Another worked with farms upstate to donate produce. A number of people volunteered to help cook and deliver the soup.

Thus, the Rockaway Rescue Alliance Shore Soup Project was born.

Since then, Robyn has centered the project around her two passions—providing access to healthy food options, and building community around food.

So far, the Alliance has founded a community garden, hosted workshops on nutrition, and continued to cook and deliver organic soups to homebound residents. They also recently ran a successful Kickstarter campaign for a summer food truck that provides healthy pay-­as­-you­-can meals to the residents of the Rockaways, who are still living in a food desert.

They’re now more determined than ever to be a resource in their community for a long time to come. Currently, they’re raising seed capital to open SHORE, a pay-­as­-you­-can restaurant that will double as a community center.

Robyn is excited to move into this next phase, though she knows it will continue to be hard work.

“Throughout this process there’s been a lot of red tape and struggle. And we’ve learned that things change and new needs arise,” she says. “This process requires continuous readjustment and the ability to shift and adapt.”

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Robyn delivering meals to the residents of Rockaway, Queens.

Lessons learned

1. Follow your passion and you will find your path.

Robyn has always cared about increasing access to healthy food and community building, and directly after Sandy, she found ways to use her passion to help.

“We just launched right into it. We were so excited and determined,” she says. “We didn’t think about a year from now. We didn’t think about worst case scenarios.”

2. Word of mouth can build momentum and make it real.

In the days following the storm, Robyn realized that people in other parts of the city didn’t know about the devastation in her neighborhood. But she figured that if they did, they would want to help.

That led her to creating a Facebook page, where she posted photos of the devastation and of her efforts to provide warm meals and a feeling of community. And people did pick up on it; just through word of mouth, she was able to get donations and volunteers. It also forced her to name the project, making it more official and sustainable.

3. Talking to people helps you gain wisdom and build a network of supporters.

Before jumping into growing the organization, Robyn took time to talk to people to get their feedback and advice. She started by reaching out to members in her community, then found other organizations who were doing similar work. These informational interviews provided insightful advice and also helped her to build a strong network of supporters.

Along with the residents, these supporters have helped the Shore Soup Project grow from a relief effort into a real, forward-thinking organization—something Robyn never could have imagined before the storm.

“We all have the power and ability to do things. If we choose to harness that power, we can do so much. But if we let our doubts stand in the way, we will never start,” she says. “The storm was the catalyst that helped me overcome those doubts and take the first step.”

The Shore Soup Project is hosting a benefit event to raise seed funds for their SHORE restaurant this Wednesday, October 23, in New York City. If you like delicious food, local booze, and great art for auction, check out their event page on Idealist for ticket details and to RSVP. If you attend, you may be featured in an upcoming Idealist video!

Shore Soup Project is also looking for volunteers to help them cook and deliver soup, as well as to fill a part-time position as their Head Chef and Kitchen Manager

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Nonprofit Video 101: 3 tips to keep your videos on point

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Lights, camera, questions: three things every video producer needs
(photo courtesy Isaac via Flickr’s Creative Commons)

It was my first week as the brand-new, in-house video producer at Idealist and I was super excited about all the possibilities ahead. So when our executive director Ami mentioned that a woman he just met had a fabulous Idealist story, my video mind starting working on overdrive.

Apparently, Kate Horner had not only found her current job on Idealist, she had also found her grad program at an Idealist Grad Fair, and she had a long track record of finding internships and volunteer opportunities through the site.

I was so excited, I jumped straight into preparations for making a video.

With my co-producer Sean, we scheduled a day-long shoot with Kate that involved an almost 90-minute interview. When we returned to the office afterward, we realized the daunting task that lay ahead: how would we craft a three-to-five minute video with great details that stayed compelling AND ended with a clear call to action?

I sorted through the interview footage and assembled my first cut. It was over ten minutes long, and was confusing and unfocused. While I had gotten in every last detail of Kate’s journey—from volunteering to working for veterans like her brother—it wasn’t a video I would want to watch. And it didn’t leave the viewer with a clear message about why they should look for jobs on Idealist like Kate did.

We tossed that version out and narrowed our focus. We honed in on the moments where Kate spoke honestly about her fear, excitement, worry, and hope—themes we hear all the time from the Idealist community. We also keyed in on the little things Kate had learned when she used Idealist in her job hunt that could be useful tips to share.

With these things in mind, we were able to craft a very personal and relatable story, while weaving in an Idealist pitch.



 

Lessons learned

In the increasingly crowded online video playing field, content needs to be focused, compelling, and clear. (Short doesn’t hurt either.)

In this case, I let my excitement get the better of me, and lost sight of those tenets. The result was that I ended up having to do probably four times the amount of work to get to the end product.

But not for naught—I’ve taken this experience with me as we plan out our next videos. Now, before we do anything, we make sure to use the following advice as a guide:

1. Answer these four questions.

When you’re thinking about making a video, planning is half the process. It’s imperative to answer these questions before you even think of touching a camera:

  1. WHY are you making the video? Fundraising? Awareness? To increase your membership?
  2. WHAT are you trying to say? What is the message or information you want the viewer to come away with? The more focused the better. Try to keep it to one message per video.
  3. WHO is your intended audience? Donors? People who already know something about your cause? People who don’t know anything about it? Event attendees?
  4. WHAT IMPACT do you want to have on your audience? What do you want them to think? Feel? Do?

2. Keep it personal.

Once you’ve thought about the end goals of your video, use that to inform the storytelling. Try to frame your video around someone’s personal story—that always helps the viewer form an emotional connection with your message.

For example, the Girl Effect: the Clock is Ticking is a great video that shows how framing a larger issue around an individual story can lead to a very compelling call to action.

3. Make a specific ask.

So now, let’s say you’ve done your homework and invested a lot of time, money, and brainpower in creating a personal, compelling video that the viewer watches all the way to the end—congratulations! But if you don’t make it easy for that viewer to take the next step, they probably won’t.

So make it clear what you want them to do. Maybe that’s sign your petition, visit your website, join your organization, or donate to your cause. In any case, don’t beat around the bush: ask them directly.

As a general rule, I suggest ending videos with your website URL so everyone knows where to go for more information. (YouTube’s Nonprofit Program allows you to add annotations around the URL that can turn it into a clickable link.) For example, in Kate’s video, we added a screen at the end that summed up our message and made a direct ask: “Find your dream job on Idealist today. Search now.”

***

While the process of making this video was filled with ups and downs, the experience did make me a better producer. And now I get to put what I learned to the test: we’re looking to find our next “Idealist Story” to film. Maybe you can help!

How have you used Idealist to imagine, connect, and act? Share your stories in the comments below (or email me at liz@idealist.org) and if you’re in NYC or Portland, Oregon, you could be the subject of our next video. How cool is that?

For more information and resources related to nonprofit video, check out Vimeo and Stillmotion’s video storytelling series and See 3 Communications and YouTube’s study about video in the nonprofit sector, complete with tutorials and tips and tricks.

For more Idealist Videos, check out our Youtube channel at www.youtube.com/idealist.

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