Guest blogger Stefanie Muldrow shares her journey of overcoming fear to begin blogging for social good.
“Just do it.”
I stared at my wedding photographer from across our sticky cafe table. She repeated herself: “Just–,” she paused, “do it.” A quick meeting to discuss contract details had become a heart-to-heart as Emily described using her savings after college graduation to pursue her dream and start a photography business.
I admired her for this boldness and confessed that since college I’d been dreaming of starting a blog that promotes social good and community engagement but I had never managed to begin. Her response of “Just do it” addressed the fears I’d been grappling with in three quick, convicted words. That evening, I signed up for a website and began—finally.
I have always loved to volunteer but it was not until after a service trip to rural Honduras my senior year that I decided to make a bigger commitment to the greater good. Volunteering at a school and an orphanage there, I came face-to-face with poverty and tragedy. But I was also surrounded by hope from the community in spite of it all. Our final day as I departed down the dusty, dirt road to the airport I knew I wanted to be part of that hope somehow.
That feeling only intensified after I graduated a few months later. I searched for a way to use my skill—writing—to inspire hope. I settled on a blog as the medium for this. By writing I felt I could raise awareness about the causes I felt strongly about—education, poverty, and youth issues—and also give visibility to those who are doing things, big and small, to improve the world.
But as I developed the idea in my head, I began to doubt myself: When would I find time? Am I qualified? What if it’s terrible and I fail miserably? Would I even make a difference? It took three bold words from a near stranger two years after the trip to silence my fears. Now that my blog is up and running, I find it so fulfilling and I wish I’d began much earlier.
What I’ve learned along the way
1. The closest thing to the “perfect time” to start is now.
You will make time if it’s something you feel strongly about. One of my largest obstacles was waiting for the “right time” to begin. “Summer break” became “after I graduate from college” which became “when I find a job.” Soon I realized that if I wanted to start before I retired it was now or never. When I finally began blogging I could not wait to get home from work and start on material for the next post.
2. Passion will fill in gaps in expertise.
I wanted my blog to address a variety of issues but I was not an expert; all I had was volunteer experience and a fire for a number of causes. However, when research for a post would lead me to an interesting and unfamiliar concept or movement, I would fervently investigate it. I believe that my passion to make a difference was (and still is) the force behind my thirst for knowledge.
3. Take yourself seriously (and others will too).
The first few months of setting up my blog I kept it a secret. I worked hard on posts that no one even read. It took time for me to realize that if I wanted to make a difference I was the first one that needed to believe that my efforts to make a difference were worth supporting. I started letting my friends, family and coworkers know about what I was trying to achieve. Now they are my best scouts for new post ideas.
4. You are not alone.
After creating a Twitter account for my blog, I learned that there were many others like me who were using similar websites to make a difference. I have had more success networking on Twitter than I have had at all of my college’s career center networking events combined. As soon as you can, find and connect with people who share a common goal. Their support will help you remember that your efforts are part of something bigger and will give you vitality when the going gets tough.
So you have an idea? Great! Don’t let your fear control you for another second. Just do it.
Stefanie is a Washington, D.C. -based writer passionate about encouraging others to start making a difference. At her blog, The Silver Lining Chronicles, she writes about community engagement, social good and philanthropy. When she’s not writing, she enjoys volunteering, gardening, and photography. Follow Stefanie on Twitter @_BeyondtheCloud.
The piece below on an Argentian entrepreneur was translated and edited from the original Spanish version on the blog of our Spanish site, Idealistas.
Around Easter, this image of a man sipping coffee (paired with a short story by Italian Tonino Guerra) spread like wildfire through social networks across the globe. Thousands shared the photo and ‘liked’ it on Facebook. Sol Verdier, a mother and graphic designer, decided to go further.
When she saw the picture and read the story behind the photo, she thought, “I can do something more.” So she founded the Argentine initiative “Un Café Pendiente” (or, “Suspended Coffee”), a movement encouraging coffee shop regulars to buy an extra coffee to be “on hold” for a customer who can’t afford to buy a cup.
By simply placing recognizable stickers on the outside of participating shops—and encouraging homeless shelters, churches, and other communities to spread the word—Sol can help those in need connect with customers willing to help.
While she’s not the first to be inspired by the story and start up her own version (check out the others popping up around the world), Sol is the first to bring the idea to Argentina.
After two months, and almost 30,000 supporters on her Facebook page, Sol tells us the story of how she went from intention to action:
What was it that led to the idea of creating Un Café Pendiente? Where did you see a problem, a lack?
Un Café Pendiente was born in Naples, Italy, when a Neapolitan man, Tonino Guerra, paid for two cups of coffee instead of one, one for him and one for an impoverished man. It began as a tradition and soon became a project in cities across Europe.
So I began. I drafted a project, set up a website so anyone anywhere in the world can download all the info on how to start a replicable movement in their community, and started a Facebook page to start spreading the idea.
A few days later, after I convinced some friends that own coffee companies to join, “likes” slowly began to appear.
What moved you to take action?
As a child, I went on missions to Chaco several times and participated in various solidarity movements. Today, with a job and a child, it’s more complicated. I saw this project as an opportunity to help everyone.
How do you feel devoting your time to a cause like this?
Happy and exhausted! I love being part of this initiative and, frankly, I’m surprised the impact it had in such a short time. I’m hoping to get a group of people organized to better distribute tasks and continue my work so I can be a mother again!
It’s almost impossible to avoid ‘slacktivism’ these days, with people changing their Twitter pictures to represent a cause or issue and liking nonprofit organizations on Facebook with the best of intentions. But how much does that really help? UNICEF Sweden put out an ad and video last week, admonishing those people who just post on social media about their support for a cause. In an article about the campaign, The Atlantic wrote:
Now, UNICEF Sweden is the first major international charity to come right out and say that people who actually want hungry, sick children saved need to donate money and supplies — not just virtual support.
“We like likes, and social media could be a good first step to get involved, but it cannot stop there,” said UNICEF Sweden Director of Communications Petra Hallebrant. “Likes don’t save children’s lives. We need money to buy vaccines for instance.”
UNICEF’s might be an extreme perspective, but it does raise interesting questions about how charity organizations should spread their messages online without allowing their potential donors to get stuck in slacktivist land, retweeting links and changing profile pictures without ever opening their wallets.
The article goes on to cite a study from Georgetown University and Ogilvy Worldwide, which found that “social promoters were just as likely as non-social-promoters to give money, but they were slightly more likely to volunteer their time (30 percent, versus 15 percent for non-social-promoters).”
Is ‘slacktivism’ really a problem or should organizations enjoy the awareness and buzz, and try to raise money another way?
Started the year with a resolution to get more involved in your community but still need that small push? Here’s your chance.
On March 10, more than 1,000 people across the globe will do something good. Or so they say.
Whether it’s making someone laugh (the promise of Mexico’s Valeria Blanchet) or adopting a pet from an animal shelter (Tennessee-based Steve Carter’s vow), the hope is that each deed will better their community, environment, or personal well-being.
I know these one-time promises often have the best of intentions (“I’m going to do this EVERY weekend!”) but can peter out after the excitement of the day is over. So I spoke with a few folks to see how they’ll be defining their good deeds and sticking to them – both this March and beyond.
Cindy Anapolsky is about to participate in her second Good Deeds Day in Washington, D.C. (the U.S. headquarters for the event) with her husband and two children. Instead of doing a good deed on their own, Anapolsky’s family plans on joining others: Making thousands of sandwiches to hand out to the local homeless population.
“My son hasn’t stopped talking about it since we volunteered last year,” says Anapolsky, who brought her family to a similar sandwich-crafting event last March. “I think it was an important lesson for both my kids and myself.”
Since last year’s Good Deeds Day, she’s been inspired to pitch in on a variety of volunteering opportunities in her area.
“The day is an example of how we should act throughout the year, “ she says. “Not only as an individual, or a family, but as a community. It’s really lovely.”
Toni Gage plans on spending her Good Deeds Day with her synagogue congregation, making food, packaging snack packs for kids, and painting the nails of residents of a local rehab. Like Cindy, she sees the day as an important model for the youth in her community.
“Spending a day helping others keeps kids grounded,” Gage says. “When they deliver food or work with those who are less fortunate then them gives them a whole new perspective.”
Over the past few years, her synagogue has participated in the day together, and continues to host charity and volunteer opportunities throughout the year. And it’s not just the kids that benefit.
“Many of the adults in our congregation don’t even realize how needy our community is,” Gage says.
Ruth Lamberty, who helps manage Good Deeds Day, may be too busy with running the event on March 10 to participate. So, she and her staff organized a trial run in February where they committed an entire day to everything from painting a neighboring preschool to volunteering at a local furniture donation shop.
“It’s important to practice what we preach,” Lamberty says. “Because, if we don’t, what’s the point?”
Ultimately, Lamberty says, the day is meant to trigger good deed-doing in its participants throughout the entire year.
“It’s always the hope and goal,” she says. “But even if it’s just a day, it’s a commitment to something good. It’s a start.”
Inspired to get in on the celebration? Pledge your good deed here in this colorful box conveniently linked to Facebook. Don’t forget to also browse over 13,000 volunteer opportunities worldwide listed on Idealist.
Today is Nelson Mandela’s 94th birthday. There are various conversations and events happening online and offline celebrating his life and impact. What stood out to me is the above video which chronicles Nelson Mandela’s life via social media.
According to Mashable,
“To commemorate the occasion, Prezence Digital Production created an information-packed but easily digestible video detailing the events of Mandela’s life. The four-minute video is a quick tour of Mandela’s timeline, told through a combination of hypothetical Facebook status updates, tweets, Instagram photos and Foursquare check-ins. It contains archival photos and actual quotes from Mandela, relatives, friends, political figures and media outlets.
The video, backed by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, runs on the premise that Mandela may not have spent 27 years in captivity if social media platforms were available back then.”
While the video is meant to be a fun way to explore the life and impact of Nelson Mandela, it also made me wonder: what role does social media play in moving social movements forward?
Do you have examples or thoughts on this? Share them below.
Need professional development, but don’t have a budget for travel or tuition? Here are a bunch of free or relatively affordable upcoming trainings we’ve spotted recently – ones you can join from the comfort of your own desk or couch.
Special thanks to Ben Hastil for his contributions to this roundup.
Telling your organization’s story
Show me the money
Become a better manager
12.12.2011: The bullets in this post have been updated to include the percentages of social media jobs (out of all jobs posted on Idealist) each year.
Fellow Idealist Jeremy and I recently ran a little test to see how frequently “social media” appears in job postings on our site. Here’s how many listings have included the phrase over the last several years:
Curious what the very first jobs to include “social media” were? Reaching all the way back to November 2006, we found four jobs from three trailblazing organizations: a Content Producer at WGBH Educational Foundation; a Social Network Designer-Manager at Games for Change; and two web developer jobs at Feminist Majority Foundation.
When I was hired in 2006, there are at least a few people on staff who were creating social media, but I don’t think they would have called it that. For example, our editor Eric checked all of the copy on our site, but he also served as a curator of news about the nonprofit sector and posted articles from around the world every day. He was blogging before we had a blog. Now social media weaves naturally into the jobs of many folks here, whether they’re writing emails for multi-channel campaigns, blogging here, or using social networking sites to learn about and grow our community.
Questions for you, dear readers:
This is the third in a three-part series for job seekers. You might also enjoy Can social media help you land your dream job? and Applying for jobs? Four free tools to keep the process simple.
The headlines about jobs are very doom-and-gloom, but this summer the number of jobs posted on Idealist has actually increased (knock on wood, there are currently more than 7,000 jobs listed on our site). If you’ve found yourself saying “there just aren’t enough hours in the day to stay on top of everything,” here are some tools to help you save time and keep your search organized and on track.
RSS feeds: For those who aren’t familiar, RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication. You can set up a reader to serve as a one-stop website that automatically fills up with the personalized content you’re looking for.
All you need is a free RSS reader (like Google Reader) and a job site that supports RSS feeds (like ours!). To get started, run your favorite Idealist search, click the orange RSS button, and paste the URL into your reader. You’ll no longer have to constantly visit unique sites and run unique searches. All of your content will be in one place that’s easy to scan.
Google Alerts: Let’s say you’ve done some self-reflection and right now you’re motivated mainly by the desire to support a specific organization’s mission, by filling a specific type of role. (The “five lens framework” exercise can help you figure this out.)
If you know you want to be a Development Associate at the Alzheimer’s Association or a Program Officer at Room to Read, for example, create a Google Alert using those keywords. Then you’ll get an email whenever there is content posted on the web that matches. Even if you’re less sure about the exact job title you’re after, you can easily tailor alerts that pull in new jobs based on your area of interest or expertise.
Idealist Email Alerts: Similar idea, but specifically built into Idealist to help you stay on top of your searches there. They’re really easy to set up.
Social media: If you know you want to work at The Nature Conservancy, for example, be sure to like their page on Facebook, follow them on Twitter and LinkedIn, and connect to them on Idealist. Organizations will often reach out to their networks first before publicizing positions on major job boards.
Your turn! What other tools do you use to simplify your job search?
Remember when people said you should hide your social media profiles during a job hunt? Now I would argue the opposite. Become active in social media – just remember that the person reading your tweets, blog posts, etc. could be your future manager! Here are some tips.
Twitter: Follow the organizations that you’re interested in working for, and the causes that you’re passionate about. Tweet about topics that are relevant to the job you want to land. Interested in fundraising? Follow, RT, and engage in conversation with people already in fundraising. Staying on top of new developments in your field, and being public about it, highlights your growing expertise to future employers.
Facebook: Stop reading and go check your privacy preferences. Put up a photo that’s at least semi-professional and make sure to include your past work and education experience in your profile. Unlike pages that might scare away a potential employer and replace them with the pages of the organizations that you’d like to work for. Engage with their posts when the opportunity presents itself; it will help demonstrate that you’re knowledgeable about their work if and when the time comes for them to hire.
LinkedIn: I’m not even job hunting and I’ve received offers for interviews just because I have an up-to-date LinkedIn profile. Take the time to make your LinkedIn profile as beautiful and informative as your résumé. Keep it up to date with your accomplishments and find and connect to everyone that you know professionally. It can definitely pay off, especially when you’re applying to jobs and looking for someone in your network at a company or organization.
Google profile: For whatever reason, you may have something showing up in a Google search that you don’t want employers to see. Cultivate online content that you control by creating a free Google profile. (And read my last post to learn more about how free Google tools can help you manage your job search.)
Idealist: Create a free profile and let hiring managers see your skills, interests, experience, and the causes that you’re passionate about. You can also connect directly to the organizations that you’re interested in so that you’re in the know when they post new opportunities.
Free blogging tools: If you’ve got a skill, a talent, or a passion for something that is related to your career, start a blog on a free blog service like WordPress. A well-maintained blog is an awesome way to show off your expertise, writing skills, and personality to potential hiring managers. (Not sure where to start or how to maintain your blogging mojo? Lots of folks have written about these topics, including Rosetta Thurman, Badi Jones, and Allison Jones.)
And finally: Put the networking back into your social networks. Whenever you apply for a job, check your social networks for contacts that you have at the organization, or even friends of friends of friends at the organization. If you’re looking for a job, be proactive and message your contacts on all of your networks to let them know what you’re looking for. People usually want to help, and if they know what you’re looking for, they’ll think of you first if something similar opens up at their organization. Knowing someone that can vouch for you to the hiring manager is the easiest way to land an interview.
Your turn to weigh in! What other ways can you use the social web to make your job search more successful?
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