16 Apr The #1 Reason People Aren’t Seeing Your Great Work
If there is one thing I’ve embraced as a nonprofit leader, it’s what I’ll call community exposure. I love people. I especially love meeting strangers. I listen to what they’re interested in, what they do, and what they love. I look for talent. People who are doing their work well. My fellow leaders, are you actively engaged in this process, too? Wherever you stand on it, today’s article is an invitation to elevate your leadership in your community. Why? Because you and your organization are needed in ways you can’t possibly imagine.
What I see is that 9 out of 10 nonprofit leaders are hiding, Executive Directors in particular. Perhaps you’ve decided you’re too busy, or maybe you think community exposure isn’t for you. If either applies to you, I’ll share what the consequences are. You could be doing the most wonderful work, and nobody knows about it. That’s a tragedy. So much to give and nobody in your community knows. It’s time to change that, and you can do it with your own style, and your own way of being.
To begin, you need a strategy to connect to your community. What do they listen to? What do they read? What websites do they follow? Are they on Instagram? Are they texting? There’s a place for print, a place for audio, and a place for video. Your laundry list of excuses is the only thing keeping you from connecting with your community. If you really want to grow, you need to tap those channels. What I hear most often from nonprofit leaders: “I don’t have the time” or “I don’t have expertise”. My answer? Get it. You are the only thing in your way.
There are four elements to becoming known for who you are and the work you do as a nonprofit leader in your community…
First, consistency. Every time you speak, deliver on that promise. Show up as a person who walks the talk of “can do”. Build that confidence in people around you.
Second, the long game. Nothing happens overnight. Your reputation is built over time. It’s not something you decide. The community decides based on watching you and hearing you. They decide according to how you live your leadership.
Third, keep going. You will have successes and failures. The trick is to keep going. The community wants to know that starting over is okay. Model that.
Fourth, never stop. There’s not a beginning of the year or an end of the year. If you take a month off, so do your supporters. There are no breaks. You go all year. Rain or shine.
Something to keep in mind as you expand your visibility and presence in your community is to think of all the people who have the potential to interact with your organization. Every organization is touched by all ages – from 14-year-olds to 93-year-olds. What I see is most leaders focus on only one segment. Some are chasing the older folks because they’ve amassed their wealth and have all their assets to dispose of. Others chase the 19-year-olds with tech skills. Either way, focusing on one age segment is a slippery slope. It’s how you miss out on talent, resources, and opportunities. Open your eyes, your ears, and your mind. Your community has more to offer than you can imagine if you’re willing to open up to it.
Leadership in your community shows up by going out and making yourself known. It’s not necessary to go where the glitz and glamour is in order to make connections. The key is to go where there are lots of people and lots of conversations. Show up at a fair, a church supper, a one day event somewhere. Free events are as valuable as events that cost a couple hundred dollars. If you’re going to a gala, take a detour. Strike up a conversation with someone who isn’t outwardly important. The person at the door taking tickets, for example. They have reach, they have followers, and they will remember you.
The most valuable piece of advice I can give you about showing up in your community? Get comfortable going alone. By yourself. It’s even better when you show up somewhere alone, and you know nothing about where you are or what the event is. That’s courage, and frankly, that’s leadership. Don’t go in looking for the familiar face. Instead, go in to meet strangers. Above all, pack your message. You’re going in as an individual, but you represent a nonprofit or a charity. You need to be willing to speak about that, just as someone who is in sales. They talk about their work, and so do you. Don’t talk about your grandchildren or your last vacation. You are there to represent your work, and you need to get it in people’s heads. THAT is what nonprofit leadership in your community looks like.
Want help? I offer individualized coaching and consulting specifically tailored to meet you where you are, with the people and resources you have available to you, and with your goals in mind.
Reply to this message directly to set up a conversation. Even if we don’t end up doing work together, I promise our conversation will highlight a direction and solutions you haven’t yet considered.
Let’s start there.