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Community Engagement

Sharing is Caring: 4 Reasons To Focus on Facebook Shares (Instead of Likes)

facebook meaningful communication

Forget the number of “likes” on your Facebook posts for a moment and look at “shares” instead. Shares are more indicative of an effective Facebook community and will result in greater ROI from your social media efforts.

Facebook is decreasing organic reach for organizations in an effort to become more “pay to play.”  As organizations scramble to adjust to this change, it is essential to remember that the quality of your fans is more important than the quantity of your fans – especially when it comes to utilizing social media to drive visitation or secure donations.

Speaker and author Sam Davidson reminds folks that “what matters is not the amount of people in your community, but the amount of community in your people.” Sure, that sentiment makes us feel good as organizations trying to foster connectivity with our many constituencies, but Sam’s words hit the nail on the head for the very practical matters of engaging visitors and raising funds as well. Organizations will likely struggle with issues of vitality and solvency if they aren’t relevant…and relevance is a beneficial outcome of focusing on “the community in your people.”

Likes on Facebook are seductive but represent a relatively meaningless “vanity metric” when taken out of context (as they often are). Boasting about your number of fans is also a common (and dangerously misleading) practice among those organizations that have difficulty quantifying the efficacy of their respective social media efforts. Now, organizations are rightfully worried about decreasing reach…but organizations should actually be worried about Facebook decreasing reach to the right people.

Let’s take a very simplified look at how Facebook decides what to show in someone’s newsfeed (with a hat tip to Techcrunch):


While this tactical information is certainly relevant, I challenge smart organizations to take this one step further by focusing on their strategyor, rather, focusing on “news feed visibility and engagement with the right people” instead of simply “news feed visibility.” After all, what good is thousands of people seeing a post that does not serve to actually elevate your reputation or build affinity for your organization?  (And P.S.- Reputation helps drive donor support and visitation.)

As your organization plays with boosting posts and other promotional opportunities on social platforms, be particularly mindful of the “shares” on posts that you promote. While “likes” indeed increase reach in Facebook’s algorithm, a “share” suggests four terrific things that other metrics do not:


1) A share is generally more indicative of quality content than a like

Take a look at your likes and your shares. I’ll bet that you have a lot more “likes” and that makes sense: a share is often harder to achieve than a like because it is much less passive. It takes a higher level of perceived interest for an individual fan to share your content with his/her broader network – an explicit act of endorsement – than to simply click the “like” button. In short, a share is significantly more indicative of active engagement with your community (potential patrons) than a like – and should be weighted appropriately in your assessment of your social media engagement efforts.


2) A share is indicative of a quality fan

The person who shared your post cared enough about your content to promulgate it on their own page as part of their virtual identity, and this can be used as a diagnostic metric to help measure how well you are cultivating affinity. Check out these findings from a recent The New York Times Customer Insight Group study:

  • 73% of people process information more deeply, thoroughly, and thoughtfully when they share it
  • 68% of people share to give others a better sense of who they are and what they care about
  • 84% share because it is a way to support causes or issues they care about


If your content sparked a share, then that individual is more deeply processing your content, making that content a part of their individual brand identity to others, and more actively supporting your brand. In other words, the people who feel this way may be exactly the people that you want to further engage. Arguably, this is why you are on Facebook.


3) Shares have a higher word of mouth value than likes

When people see your content shared in their newsfeed from somebody else, this counts as a credible endorsement. What people say about you is 12.85x more important than what you say about yourself when it comes to driving reputation, and reviews from trusted sources make a big difference in the market’s decision-making processes when it comes to visiting a museum, zoo, aquarium, arts performance, etc. In other words, when you secure a share, you generally amplify your message. However, there is a catch: Just as there are folks with high imitative values, there are some people with low imitative values. We all have a friend or two whose recommendations we truly value…but most of us generally know (and let’s be honest) a person who, if they recommend a brand, you’re just NOT going to touch that brand with a ten-foot pole.  A way around this issue of word of mouth backfiring? Target market makers and early adopters to help make your message stick. These are the people we want to share our organization’s message.


4) Shares increase reach directly to potential fans that may have similar values with the high-quality sharer

Sharers help do some intelligent targeting for you as they increase reach. Let’s go back to that The New York Times study on the psychology of sharing: 73% of people share information because it helps them connect with others who share their interests. Let this work to your advantage. Also, 94% of people carefully consider how the information that they share will be useful to others, and 49% say that sharing allows them to inform others of products they care about and potentially change opinions or encourage action. In the end, people share with thought to the actions and perceptions of folks with whom they are sharing. Yes, Facebook offers targeting for posts, but social connectivity may be more valuable than a demographic-informed algorithm. For as much as things are digitized, there’s still something to be said for real-life relationships and loyalties.

In my observation and experience, organizations focus disproportionate attention on “likes” because shares are often harder to achieve…and nobody wants to look bad. But when utilizing social media, it is important to consider why you are using these platforms. My guess is that your organization isn’t simply investing in social media for social media’s sake. You want donors, a strong community, and to generally increase your impact, relevance and, in turn, overall sustainability.

Facebook is trying to get smarter about making money. Let’s get smarter about how we use ours by remembering that in the end, social media is less about raw numbers and more about people, identity, and connectivity.


Interested in getting blog posts, tips, and some silly social media geekery periodically delivered in your Facebook newsfeed? Like my Facebook page (or ) Or for more regular sharing of nonprofit marketing information, follow me on Twitter

Posted on by colleendilen in Community Engagement, Marketing, Museums, Nonprofit Marketing, Nonprofits, Public Management, Social Media, Technology, The Small Stuff, Words of Wisdom Leave a comment

The Organization May Have Zilch, But You Won’t

Nonprofit employees have the most honed leadership characteristics.

Does that sound silly? I’ll admit I am biased– not because I am a nonprofiteer or graduate student in Public Administration but because nonprofit management trends are on the rise and I am entrepreneurial (which, they say, comes with the Gen Y territory). Entrepreneurial traits such as vision, adaptability, flexibility, and a willingness to do some bootstrapping (thanks, Guy Kawasaki) are necessities when you work in a nonprofit organization that has limited monetary resources.

When an organization has limited funds, employees must rise to the occasion and they do. For example, according to a recent study, small nonprofit organizations are outperforming larger organizations online. These organizations with “zilch” saw an increase in online giving, had greater e-mail click-through rates than richer organizations, and generally had greater ROI from online outreach. These organizations are truly doing more with less.

A small organization with limited funds has the ability to have open communication among employees and a horizontal structure. The professional benefits don’t stop there: working for an organization that is doing more with less allows you to build doing-more-with-less into your professional mindset. And wiring yourself to think this way makes you a better leader. Here’s why:

When you’re on a small team, you get to wear a lot of hats. Whether this is exhausting or invigorating depends on your outlook. The required diversification for your skill set, however, is likely to be extremely beneficial in the long-run. In organizations with limited funds, it’s not unlikely to have a marketer who writes grants and has experience in program delivery. This person, regardless of formal title, is a marketer, fundraiser, and program coordinator in one. In this single position, the employee gets a chance to experience nonprofit management and exert leadership in several different roles. This person sees more than just one corner of the office, and developing and exercising these multiple skill sets- though famously contributing to nonprofit burnout- may provide a greater long-term advantage to nonprofit employees than the short-term disadvantage.

When the organization has zilch, everyone gets to bring their individual strengths to the table and you get to pick your area in which to shine. This makes shining much easier. Love shooting footage on your flip camera? Go make some videos for your organization (I pieced together these ones). When I worked at Pacific Science Center in Seattle, we saved thousands of dollars on our large-scale public events by summoning talent of internal staff members who were talented face-painters, astronomers, magicians, food composters, marine experts, or scholars on the physics of bubbles– and they were as excited to show off their talents as we were thrilled to show them off.

Flexibility and agility are often built-in to the culture by necessity, which facilitates constant ambushes of creative thinking and innovative ideas– and creative thinking is thought to be the most important leadership characteristic of the next five years. In order to do more with less, you need to come up with ideas of how to do more with less. One of the coolest parts of my work at a small nonprofit is sitting down with the CEO and hashing out ideas. Things come up when you work for a small organization that cannot be foreseen: graduate students ask to write a PR plan for you for class, employees stumble upon great new grants that are due next week, community partnerships develop and new events and opportunities arise. When your organization is this flexible, there’s room to be creative, and opportunity is always at your fingertips.

Resourcefulness is a high-demand attribute in both the nonprofit and for-profit world. Though the constant growth and energy often required to work in nonprofits with limited funds may lead to infamous nonprofit burnout, the benefits of this kind of work far outweigh the negatives. The lessons you learn working for an organization that is consistently doing more with less have the potential to pay off over and over again as you continue to lead organizations in the future.

This post is created in conjunction with other members of the Nonprofit Millennial Bloggers Alliance. Our posts this week (all with “Zilch” in the title), explore perspectives on how nonprofits can do more with less. Check out other members’ posts and get in on twitter conversations regarding these posts by using the hashtag #NMBA.

Posted on by colleendilen in Big ideas, Generation Y, Leadership, Lessons Learned, Management, The Small Stuff, Words of Wisdom Leave a comment

Celebrating One Year of Know Your Own Bone

The original header when I started KYOB in 2009

I began this blog one year ago and it’s come a long, long way in the last twelve months! Throughout the last year, this has been a place for me to share ideas, gather my thoughts, and even do a bit of research. In one short year, Know Your Own Bone won me an award, earned me phone conversations and guidance from Penelope Trunk, got articles re-printed in popular magazines, hooked me up with the Nonprofit Millennial Bloggers Alliance, gave me the opportunity to write an advance review for the Harvard Business Review, was picked up by wonderful thought leaders, and allowed me to connect with many talented professionals.

Upcoming: Speaking of connecting with talented professionals, please tune in to Rosetta Thurman‘s BlogTalkRadio show, All Nonprofits Considered, from 12 – 1pm EST next Monday, July 12th. I will be discussing the current culture of nonprofit leadership in museums and the arts with young arts professional, Ian David Moss. Please join the chat room and help contribute to the discussion next Monday!

I know many bloggers often feature “best of” posts that link back to previously written articles. Until this point, I’ve never done this in a post. In celebration of my one-year anniversary with Know Your Own Bone, I’ll highlight some of the various types of posts I’ve written. These are certainly not “best of” posts, just a little survey of the themes I’ve covered over the last twelve months. Create a page with all of Know Your Own Bone’s “best of”s, you suggest? That sounds like a great task for year #2.

Thanks to all of you who check-in on Know Your Own Bone again and again- especially those of you who subscribe or who have reached out and commented or shot an e-mail or two my way. I love hearing from you all and I am beyond grateful to have such a great group of intelligent and insightful readers!

Here’s to the start of another year of Know Your Own Bone, with even more thoughts on the evolution of museums and nonprofits, community engagement, and social change. Cheers!

Posted on by colleendilen in Arts, Blogging, Lessons Learned, The Small Stuff 2 Comments

5 Reasons to Always Be Thinking Like a Graduate Student

I’ll be honest: when I left my full-time gig at the Science Center in order to become a full-time graduate student last year, I was terrified by how this change would alter my own viewpoints and how I am perceived as a professional. I was concerned that I wouldn’t be taken as seriously if a majority of my time (the “full-time” part) was spent studying sector management as opposed to actively working in the sector.

Even as I am halfway into my graduate school experience, I can already look back and say that I had a right to be as terrified as anyone undergoing a big change (especially when thinking that my experience might be like this)– but I’d never take back the change in perspective that I’ve undergone for the time-being. I know full-well that by this time next year, the status will switch back and I will return to the full-time working world (oh, the magic of a professional degree; the point is to go back). But I will always understand the importance of thinking like a graduate student. Here’s why:


1) It forces you to see the big picture. There are things going on in every industry and the way we do business is always evolving. Currently social media, communication,  soft skills, and Gen Y’s public service motivation are shaking things up in the nonprofit world, but even after those things run their course, there will be something else. When you are a graduate student you see these things– and what’s more: you see their collective effect on the industry because you spend nearly every day piecing together the puzzle. Thinking like this is extremely valuable because it helps you to mentally tackle many sector problems at once, and scientifically, this kind of thinking helps build up solutions more creatively than tackling one at a time– which is often done in a working environment. Thinking like a graduate student in this sense means always keeping an eye on the bigger picture of the industry as a whole, and it will result in creative solutions and a more complete understanding of where your difficulties lie.


2) Grad students have built-in microscopes or telescopes. That’s like having science tools built into their brains (for a few years), folks! This is directly related to point #1. People often joke that grad students always think what they are doing is important, even though it’s not. What’s really happening here (and the reason we grad students think what we’re uncovering is so important) is that we have a different perspective. As mentioned above, in professional degrees, we zoom out on the sector. Academic degrees tend to zoom in on a part of the sector. Either way, grad students are thinking in a way that is not common in workplace environments (whether it’s with their internal microscopes or a telescopes). Thinking differently spawns innovation. Grad students see something non-graduate students don’t see (and often vice-versa). There’s terrific potential here. When faced with a problem after graduate school, I’ll strap my telescope back on and see if I can think about things differently.


3) It makes you aware of your own strengths and interests. In graduate school, you can pursue your own interests within your degree. Beyond MPA student, I have no role defining my duties in one specific area (I can choose as I go). There is a lot of freedom in these programs to make yourself an expert on whatever strikes your interest. Similarly, in graduate school you must do everything from public presentations, to writing case studies, to leading debates, to drawing graphs to illustrate possible solutions to market failures. You learn quickly where you shine… and also where you stink. The bottom line lesson here, however, is to keep exploring and taking up new challenges in the working world. It may lead you to interesting solutions to problems. And trying new things helps you learn a lot more about yourself and how you handle certain situations– it’s teaching me a lot at any rate!


4) It gives you a feeling of purpose (which helps you live longer and makes you better at your job). I have two years while I’m obtaining my degree to challenge perspectives, share crazy ideas freely, and sink my teeth into the sector. I feel a sense of purpose when exploring skills required to improve the sector. Feeling a sense of purpose does more than reduce your risk of getting Alzheimer’s and help prevent depression. It actually makes you live longer. Studies have shown that purpose motivates us to accomplish things and grad students spend two years (or more) devoted to developing their purpose and career goals so that they can work hard for you (or themselves) after they graduate. What can people who aren’t in graduate school do to develop this mindset? Make time to focus on what you are doing and why.


5) It keeps you humble. Folks tend to feel like they are improving in their careers based on how many people are reporting to them throughout the years– or at least I felt this way a bit before I came to grad school. Now,  nobody reports to me. I study with a lot of accomplished people and I take classes from distinguished professors. This is humbling. Also, full-time graduate students often take a financial hit to attend school (even if they are employed by the university or working a part-time job– or in my case, both). I’ve worked in hierarchical environments and I’ve started at the very bottom– but being broke, living on ideas, and being surrounded by thought-leaders is every bit as humbling as it is romantic and drive-inspiring. I will strive to keep this perspective and treat everyone as an accomplished classmate, regardless of their background or experience. Good ideas come from everywhere, and there’s no need to get cocky about my own.

Posted on by colleendilen in Education, Graduate school, Leadership, Lessons Learned, Management, Nonprofits, Public Management, The Future, The Small Stuff, Words of Wisdom 1 Comment

Keep The Ride Alive- A Tradition to Celebrate the Power of the Individual

Daisy Keeps the Ride Alive this year in Bloomfield Hills, MI.

‘We are called a nation of inventors. And we are. We could still claim that title and wear its loftiest honors if we had stopped with the first thing we ever invented, which was human liberty.” – Mark Twain

On the April 18, 1775, Paul Revere and other riders set out to warn American farmers and villagers that the time had come to fight for freedom. As individuals, these riders combined to help launch our country’s quest for independence – an independence that gave each of us the opportunity and freedom to engage our own individual “rides” that can make a difference.

So on April 18th, we salute Paul Revere and the others who fought for our freedom. They demonstrated the power and potential of a single individual.

Since 1997, on April 18th, people all over the country and around the world have celebrated Paul Revere’s ride by wearing the KEEP THE RIDE ALIVE T-shirt. On April 18, 2010 look for people wearing shirts with “KEEP THE RIDE ALIVE ALIVE” in black letters on the front and “235 YEARS” on the back – with a black and white picture of the traditional bald eagle… and remember to keep your own ride alive.

When my family started this symbolic shirt-wearing tradition in 1997, we made and distributed only 9 shirts with iron-on letters. From that day onward, the tradition has been growing. My family now makes and distributes over 300 free shirts to willing participants each year. Shirts run out quickly, and often folks in our high schools and colleges have made their own shirts with fabric markers to celebrate the day when supplies ran low.

During my college years, a majority of the shirts were worn on The University of Chicago campus with large amounts often found at the University of Notre Dame and the University of Wisconsin-Madison campuses (where my brother and sister attend(ed) school). Since our college friends have dispersed, the tradition has made even wider impact– with shirts being worn in nearly every state in the U.S. (including Paul Revere’s House in Boston) and beyond to Canada, Scotland, Japan, Dubai, and other countries.

The tradition is not meant to be political– but rather patriotic and a collective celebration of the important role that each individual plays in the world. I want to share it with my readers here at Know Your Own Bone because I believe that in order for people to be their best and contribute to the evolving world, they must understand and celebrate their individual worth.

Henderson House Keeping the Ride Alive, 2004

Alpha Omicron Pi Keeping the Ride Alive, 2005

Folks caught walking around campus, 2006.

A few ladies keeping the Ride Alive in 2007

Keeping the Ride Alive during Seder dinner in Seattle in 2008

Keep The Ride Alive Shirts from 1998 – 2010 laid out on Jackie Wild's bed in Wichita, KS.

Happy Paul Revere Day, readers! Please take a moment today to think about how you have contributed, not only to moving along the nonprofit and museum worlds, but about the impact you make every day in the lives of loved ones, and the greater context of your community.

Posted on by colleendilen in Public Service Motivation, Social Change, The Small Stuff 1 Comment

5 Unexpected Ways in Which Grad School Loans Are Changing My Lifestyle

In August, I summoned my life savings, took out a Stafford loan on top of them, and headed back to school to pursue a master’s degree in Public Administration at the University of Southern California.  I was prepared for the basics of living on a serious budget: cooking more and eating out less, watching my spending, avoiding shopping centers… but my terror of forever paying off graduate school loans struck me even deeper than I expected.


As I’m reaching to end of my first semester in grad school, I’ve noticed significant (sometimes accidental) changes in my lifestyle that didn’t exist while I was working full-time. While it’s true that I’ve essentially transformed into a metro-riding, hulu-watching, caffeine-deprived vegan, I’m amazed by the overall value of these alterations and how much money I’ve already saved through these good-for-me changes.

1) I’m accidentally vegan.
I didn’t realize that I was essentially vegan until I went home for Thanksgiving.  It makes sense, though, when you consider that tofu costs $1.69 and two chicken breasts cost $7.49 (Ian is also lactose-intolerant, which accounts for the lack of dairy). There’s also a lovely little Farmer’s Market in Los Feliz, so I just didn’t notice the lack of meat and the sudden abundance of fresh veggies in my diet.

Here’s why it’s not so bad:

Here’s what I’m saving (roughly): I simply swapped the price of tofu that I buy in a typical month per ounce ($0.14/ oz; $1.69/12 oz) with the price of chicken breasts per ounce ($0.31/oz; $4.99/lb).

  • ADD: amount that would be spent on chicken per month if each ounce of tofu is swapped out for chicken: ($29.76 (0.31 x 16 oz = 29.76)).
  • SUBTRACT: amount spent on tofu per month ($13.44 for 96 oz (96 oz/month; 2 packages of 12 oz/ week) $0.14x 96 oz = $13.44)).
  • TOTAL: $195.84 per year ($16.32 per month)


2) I’m metro-savvy
It would be a blatant lie to say that it’s easy to live in this city without a car, but I live in a fairly walkable neighborhood, and I’ve grown to appreciate the bus commute. I get all of my work done, and often by the time I get home from class, I can spend the rest of the night enjoying myself. I’ll admit that one of the happiest days of my life will be when busses have wireless internet connections and airplane-style tray tables.

Here’s why it’s not so bad:

Here’s what I’m saving (roughly): I used Ian’s spending as an outline for calculating this information.

  • ADD: car payment ( $250/mo; $3,000/yr) + insurance ($1,000/yr) + gas ($250/mo; $1,440/yr) + parking in apartment building ($40/mo; $480/yr) + on-campus parking ($600/yr; $50/mo)= $6,520
  • SUBTRACT: 9 month student bus pass ($324/yr) + 3 month regular bus pass ($228/yr)= $552
  • TOTAL: $5,968 per year (which excludes initial cost of buying a car)


3) I gave up cable

The idea of losing HGTV and the Discovery Channel was painful at first (RIP, access to Mythbusters), but I think these savings are worth it. Ian created our new system for watching TV, and he did the math. Check out the link for more detailed information.

Here’s why it’s not so bad:

  • Hulu allows me to continue to watch addictive shows.
  • I watch much less television. In Seattle, I watched about an hour everyday to wind down after work. Now, I watch about one hour every week.
  • When I do watch TV, they are shows that I’m turning on the television in order to see.
  • I used to relax by watching TV. I now relax by cooking or reading.

Here’s what I’m saving (roughly):

  • ADD: cost of cable. Installation charge ($50) + monthly costs of Netflix, Comcast Cable Internet and Comcast Cable ($1,380 per year; $115/month x 12) = $1,430 per year
  • SUBTRACT: cost of current system. Antenna and cables ($72) + costs of Netflix and AT&T DSL Internet ($600/year; $50/month) = $672 per year
  • TOTAL: $758 per year


4) I have a job that’s not on my resume
I work 10-12 hours each week at USC’s Roski School of Fine Arts as an assistant for the MFA program. It’s low stress and laid back.  While the essence of the job is indeed in line with my interests in arts, culture, and education, there isn’t a great deal of leadership discretion required. This low-key job is not going to be on my resume or my LinkedIn profile, but it’s a nice way to meet new people and make some extra money.

Here’s why it’s not so bad:

  • I’m introduced to different organizational cultures outside of my program in the School of Policy, Planning, and Development.
  • I meet folks from an entirely different USC grad community, and I work for Rolling Stone’s 2005 “Hot Artist” of the year.
  • I get to research current artists and art happenings, which allows me to feel connected to my background in art.
  • I make money.

Here’s what I’m saving:

  • ADD: I make a total of $3,000 for the 9 months that I am in school.
  • TOTAL:  $3,000 per year


5) I’m caffeine-free

This was obviously a conscious (and semi-painful) decision. It was a big part of the culture of Seattle to meet friends for coffee (in LA it’s more often meeting for drinks). I was also drinking a few-too-many Diet Cokes everyday. I got horrible headaches when I stopped drinking caffeine, but now I don’t miss it.

Here’s why it’s not so bad:

Here’s what I’m saving:

  • ADD: average amount spent on caffeinated beverages per month before I quit, according to my account. ($487.20/ year; $40.60/ month)
  • TOTAL: $487.20 per year


Projected savings resulting from these lifestyle changes: $10,427.04 per year

It adds up!

Posted on by colleendilen in Generation Y, Graduate school, Lessons Learned, The Small Stuff 8 Comments

Words of Wisdom: 41 Inspirational Quotations for Young Nonprofit Leaders

I adore inspirational quotations– and I’ll admit that I have a rather silly habit of keeping long lists of my favorites.  After spending a considerable amount of time weeding through the bunch, I’m pleased to present 41 tidbits of advice from famous folks who know/knew a thing or two about leadership, determination, and putting your heart into something you’re just crazy about.

Please comment with your own favorite quotations to add to the list. I’d love to hear what gets you up and running, and doing what you do best!

“Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other.”
– Abraham Lincoln

“Don’t worry when you are not recognized, but strive to be worthy of recognition.”
– Abraham Lincoln

“We should be too big to take offense and too noble to give it.”
– Abraham Lincoln

“Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.”
– Albert Einstein

“Try not to become a man of success but rather try to become a man of value.”
– Albert Einstein

“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”
– Anne Frank

“Focusing your life solely on making a buck shows a certain poverty of ambition. It asks too little of yourself. Because it’s only when you hitch your wagon to something larger than yourself that you realize your true potential.”
-Barack Obama

“If you’re walking down the right path and you’re willing to keep walking, eventually you’ll make progress.”
-Barack Obama

“When people go to work, they shouldn’t have to leave their hearts at home.”
– Betty Bender

“If you think you are too small to be effective, you have never been in bed with a mosquito.”
– Betty Reese

“If I were given the opportunity to present a gift to the next generation, it would be the ability for each individual to learn to laugh at himself.”
– Charles M. Schulz

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better.  It’s not.”
– Dr. Seuss

“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.”
– e. e. cummings

“The leadership instinct you are born with is the backbone. You develop the funny bone and the wishbone that go with it.”
– Elaine Agather

“Self-development is a higher duty than self-sacrifice.”
– Elizabeth Cady Stanton

“Bite off more than you can chew, then chew it.”
– Ella Williams

“I know the price of success: dedication, hard work, and an unremitting devotion to the things you want to see happen”
– Frank Lloyd Wright

”The important work of moving the world forward does not wait to be done by perfect men.”
– George Eliot

“I found that the men and women who got to the top were those who did the jobs they had in hand, with everything they had of energy and enthusiasm and hard work.”
– Harry S. Truman

“Do not hire a man who does your work for money, but him who does it for love of it.”
– Henry David Thoreau

“If the laborer gets no more than the wages which his employer pays him, he is cheated, he cheats himself.”
– Henry David Thoreau

“Success usually comes to those who are too busy to be looking for it.”
– Henry David Thoreau

“When a dog runs at you, whistle for him”
– Henry David Thoreau

“Goodness is the only investment that never fails.”
– Henry David Thoreau

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”
– John Quincy Adams

“Each of us has a spark of life inside us, and our highest endeavor ought to be to set off that spark in one another.”
– Kenny Ausubel

“What should young people do with their lives today? Many things, obviously. But the most daring thing is to create stable communities in which the terrible disease of loneliness can be cured.”
– Kurt Vonnegut

“A man’s character may be learned from the adjectives which he habitually uses in conversation.
– Mark Twain

“I’ve learned that you shouldn’t go through life with a catchers mitt on both hands.  You need to be able to throw something back.”
– Maya Angelou

“The world belongs to the energetic.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Enthusiasm is the mother of effort, and without it nothing great was ever achieved.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Do not be too timid and squeamish about your reactions. All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Few will have the greatness to bend history itself; but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total of all those acts will be written the history of this generation.”
– Robert F. Kennedy

“Each generation goes further than the generation preceding it because it stands on the shoulders of that generation. You will have opportunities beyond anything we’ve ever known.”
– Ronald Reagan

“Find a need and fill it.”
– Ruth Stafford Peale

“We can always live on less when we have more to live for.”
– S. Stephen McKenney

“We must remember that one determined person can make a significant difference, and that a small group of determined people can change the course of history.”
– Sonia Johnson

“Far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.”
– Theodore Roosevelt

“Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.”
-Thomas Edison

“I’m a great believer in luck and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it.”
– Thomas Jefferson

“Leaders are people who do the right thing; managers are people who do things right.”
– Warren G. Bennis

Posted on by colleendilen in Leadership, Lessons Learned, Nonprofits, The Small Stuff, Words of Wisdom 31 Comments

3 Important Lessons I Learned at my First Full-Time Nonprofit/Museum Job

pacsciAt the end of May, I left my first full-time nonprofit job to spend the Summer with loved ones before starting graduate school in the Fall.

I worked at Pacific Science Center in Seattle for almost two years as the Special Events Coordinator. I developed, planned, and executed over 45 special events to enhance community engagement for visitors. The job was thrilling and unique; I served as the ringleader for hundreds of talented and often unusual exhibitors, vendors, and visiting scientists with incredible abilities to ignite initial sparks of science interest in children and adults.

When Ian Sefferman wrote the post “Leaving Amazon: What I Learned over the Last Four Years,” it made me reflect upon the career-shaping lessons I learned at my own innovative workplace. I would like to share the three most important lessons that I learned at Pacific Science Center. They are not the biggest lessons (those are regarding professional environments, the way nonprofits are run, and how a museum behaves during an economic recession), but rather the lessons I learned at Pacific Science Center that fundamentally changed the way that I think about projects and day-to-day life in a museum/nonprofit environment.

1. (Take a Moment to) Embrace the Messy Middle

I’ll credit Hammerstein for the decent and catchy advice he bestowed upon youngsters, urging them to “start at the very beginning; a very good place to start.” While it may be true that the beginning is a good place to start, I’ve learned that the middle is the best place to start– at least when tackling a complex problem in a museum/nonprofit environment.

When presented with a task (or in my case, an upcoming event), I was given the basic who/what/where/when information needed to do my job… along with a comprehensive collection of big and small ideas; specific details and vast generalizations passed along through the pipeline. It was my job to take these often-ambiguous ideas and specific details and make everything work.

I discovered quickly that my best events were produced when I wasn’t afraid to immediately lay all of the information out on the table and embrace the mess. That is starting in the middle; taking a moment to wade through the great creative vomit of good and bad ideas, resources, connections, partnership details, long-shots, and no-brainers for the project, and look at them all together.  Yes, this can be an overwhelming way to approach a project in the beginning, but I was constantly surprised by the new ideas and community partnerships that resulted from a good hour of continuous, multi-page brain-mapping. Accepting this moment to embrace the mess at all stages of project coordinating kept me constantly in perspective, and enabled me to maximize creativity in each event. More than anything, it reminded me that projects are often composed of moving parts, and it’s important not to get too wrapped up in specific details or too-big-ideas in the beginning. As hard as it may seem, the meat is in the middle and starting from there can keep you both open-minded and detail oriented— and it provided a terrific framework for my own good ideas to surface

2. Know the Cards You Hold

I’ll start with a story: Only two months after I started working at Pacific Science Center, I began planning our annual week-long holiday event for the public.  Remaining true to the traditional planning process of past coordinators and managers, I began calling science-related entertainers across the state to see just how much it would cost for them to give up their holiday break in the name of science education… Then the single most embarrassing Strike Of Obvious hit me: Why am I calling these people? Pacific Science Center offers some of the very best science education programs in the entire state! My manager and I proposed a re-creation and rebranding of the event in the form of a ten-day science celebration called Science Extravaganza that highlighted Pacific Science Center’s own incredible talent and resources. We saved thousands of dollars, showed off our own programs, bumped up the morale of our own departments, and attracted a record-setting 25,338 visitors during the event– just by being ourselves.

If you skipped the story, start here: That’s the moment I discovered the extreme importance of knowing the cards that you hold; you probably have more than you think. I made an effort to learn the talents of coworkers and volunteers– and it paid off. I was thrilled to learn of coworkers who were part-time magicians, kite designers, or astronomy experts– and we utilized these folks in events. These examples may sound unique to my workplace, and perhaps they are, but it’s not much different than knowing who in the office is the best copy-editor or fax-machine-fixer.

Despite my silly story, if it wasn’t the way that Pacific Science Center always was, then it certainly became a place of incredible resourcefulness and versatility in my eyes throughout the last two years. There seemed to be absolutely nothing that couldn’t be achieved when combining the unique talents of our staff members… I just had to piece it together. It’s no secret that connections can provide you with incredible opportunities, but I’m grateful that I learned that lesson before even leaving the institution.

3. Remember to (Always)  Learn Something

If you reach a point in your job when you believe that you’ve been a victim of some 80-20 rule (In this case, 80% of everything you need to know to do your job, you learned in the first 20% of your time there), then I charge you to prove yourself wrong: Every day, write down one thing that you’ve learned.

It’s easy to be conscious of learning in the beginning, especially if it’s your first full-time nonprofit or museum job! Each day is filled to the brim with lessons, from the name of the woman working in Accounts Payable to discovering the way that information is dispersed and tasks are delegated. Once you know these things, though, it sometimes gets hard to see the less obvious (but just as important) lessons. I kept a journal of the things that I learned every day and it was never hard to find something. I began actively looking for that daily lesson, and when I was aware of lessons, there was never just one. And keeping my eyes open for lessons increased my positivity! Here’s a memo from the bright side: the worst days often have the best lessons.

When you think of each lesson as a gift for later or a thing you can improve upon now, then it makes lesson-searching exciting– not to mention extremely beneficial in the long run.

Posted on by colleendilen in Lessons Learned, Museums, Nonprofits, The Small Stuff, Words of Wisdom 1 Comment