How Organizations Use Social Media

From nonprofits to for profits, organizations are using social media to engage and interact with their followers.  Twitter and Facebook are the two most popular sites used.  Every time you join or like an organization or group, and like the status or comment, you are engaging with the organization of your choice.  Organizations ask questions to the public, asking them to share their personal stories and experiences but the moment you comment back you are reflecting and thinking about the organization.  Twitter allows for the organization to be more personable by retweeting your tweet on their page, making it intimate and allowing for more personal engagement.

Some organizations have learned to recover from social media mistakes as well.  In early February of last year, someone at the Red Cross accidently posted a tweet to the Red Cross account that was meant for their personal Twitter account.  Check out Twitter Faux Pas   As a result of this mistake, the Red Cross has received a lot of attention and traffic to its site.  Because the Red Cross acted quickly and responded with humor, they were able to get a lot of support from the public as well as a donation from Dogfish beer.

Public relations through social media is allowing organizations and companies to easily connect with its followers and consumers.  It is about maintaining the relationship with the public and social media provides this outlet as the public is occupied immensely with social media sites.  Make sure to follow us on our Facebook page, or comment.

The Courage of Commitment, Part 2: Burnout and Perseverance

by David Norgard, Associate Faculty, MA in Organizational Management Program


Burning bright now, but... (photo by Sebastian Ritter via Wikimedia Commons)

As mentioned in my first article on courage of commitment, most leaders of faith-based and community and membership organizations genuinely want to make a positive difference. We want to have an impact – on individuals, on their communities, on the environment.

Sometimes the vision is even grander. We want to change our society, our world – or some aspect of it anyway. And this is all very good because we know that change doesn’t happen without people willing to step up as change agents.

Yet sooner or later, the road toward progress no longer invigorates us with exciting challenges and illuminating vistas and meetings with inspirational figures. On the contrary, the problems seem intractable. The views have long since become tedious. The individuals with whom we contend generate more stress than comfort. What we dared to call our mission, our calling, has become our burden, depleting us more than invigorating us.

The Road Too Long, the Summit Too High

We call it burnout and the metaphor is apt. It is as if, in serving as a light to our chosen corner of the world, we have not stopped to put more oil in our lamp and our flame has nearly gone out.

There are two kinds of burnout:

  • The road too long. In the first instance, we do not blame ourselves. We recognize that our efforts are sound, our motivations sincere. Yet the pace of progress seems agonizingly slow, the force of our impact distressingly minute. We have worked so very long and so very hard, yet the end is not in sight. And eventually, it is only sane to wonder: Is it worth it? Or, is it futile? This is the burnout of perceived hopelessness – hopelessness despite our best efforts.
  • The summit too high. In the second instance, we do blame ourselves. We come to the sinking realization that we were not the right person at the right time after all. We are not up to the challenge. We know how to empower volunteers, perhaps, but what is actually needed is a magic piper to elicit major gifts. We have skills and good intentions. But in the given context, we really don’t have what it takes. This is the burnout of perceived inadequacy, when our best is not good enough.

Avoiding Burnout

So how do we avoid these self-defeating interpretations of our situation? How do we avoid either turning back or just wandering away? The answer depends on whether the perceived challenge is a road too long or a summit too high.

In the first case, it is fundamentally a matter of perception of context. If we are engaged in one of the great historical struggles and wearied by the likely prospect that we will never see a battle won, let alone the final victory, then the hopelessness on the surface may be covering a deeper problem. Perhaps the real issue (yes, ironically) is hubris. In the great works – against war, against global warming, for peace, for a humanity in harmony with the rest of creation – even a moment’s reasoned reflection will remind us that our entire life-work is, after all, but a short leg in a long relay. When we are at our best, we are all team players, and to the team with the most courageous and persevering players goes the victory. In any profound struggle, there are but a few Mandelas and Salks and Churchills who are cheered as they cross the finish line. Most of us are here to ensure that the baton is passed to the next runner. Our hope and our satisfaction rightly come from ensuring – simply yet crucially – that the forward movement continues.

In the second case, there are two possibilities. Maybe we have been deceiving ourselves. Maybe we are in the wrong position or the right position for too long. If that is so, then the courageous thing to do is to step aside and let someone else step up.

But it could also be that we have simply not been good stewards of our strength. We have let ourselves get too tired, and with the exhaustion has come self-doubt.

Then, What To Do?

We take rest. We stop and reflect, even if the voice of duty keeps chirping, “There is still work to be done.” We rest anyway. We close the inbox. We step away from the conference room. We turn off the mobile phone… And we look back. We look on what has been done thus far, what has transpired to date because we have stayed true to our mission. In the words of Dag Hammarskjold, we say to ourselves, or perhaps a confidant, “For everything that has been, thanks.” …and most critically… ”For everything that will be, yes.”

And at the first stirring of renewed creativity, which is the signal of renewed hope, we proceed to act. We banish the hope and we act, with confidence

A Final, Personal Reflection

When the conflicts are waxing and the money is waning and the glow of accomplishment is growing dimmer rather than brighter, it is tempting sometimes to say, “Enough.” But a mission is there to be done, a calling is made to be answered. And so, if the call is indeed heard and the mission remains true, what can we do? We can go on. We may need to rest… but in the service of saying – again – “Yes.”

ImageIn addition to being an Associate Faculty member in the M.A. in Organizational Management Program of Antioch University Los Angeles, David Norgard is the founder of OD180, a consulting firm that develops strategies for nonprofit organizations. He has also held leadership roles on various nonprofit boards and committees. At present, he serves as the President of Integrity USA, the Episcopal Church’s LGBT advocacy group. A graduate of AULA’s M.A. in Organizational Management program, David currently serves as Chair of AULA’s Alumni & Community Advisory Board. He also holds a B.A. magna cum laude from Augsburg College and an M.Div. from Yale Divinity School, where he received a Dean’s Citation for Community Service and an Award of Distinction among Alumni.

Nonprofit Leadership and the Courage of Commitment

The Common Predicament

"Meetings and speeches and decisions — oh my!"

We all have personal reasons for working or serving in the nonprofit sector, and they are not necessarily all altruistic. Perhaps we appreciate the distinctive organizational culture nonprofits tend to have (in comparison to commercial enterprises) or the community connections that we often gain by being associated with a nonprofit.

Yet nearly all of us have joined the nonprofit sector, whether as professionals or volunteers, because, whatever else we might desire from the experience, we also want to make a positive difference. We want to make some contribution to the common good, however defined.

So we get involved. We join a board or we take a new job. Then, either quickly or gradually, we become immersed in the ebb and flow of the organization’s life and we are content that we are “doing a good thing.”

Yet no matter what the organization is or what it does, that contentment is eventually disturbed. One scenario is that we come to a crisis. We need to make a decision (or support one) that will be controversial and incite criticism, even opposition. It is a situation that calls for the courage of boldness.

The other scenario is less dramatic but no less problematic. We become exhausted and start to burn out. The road to progress – to actually having an impact – begins to appear endless, and we wonder if we will ever accomplish anything even close to what we originally set out to do. It is a situation that calls for the courage of perseverance.

The Courage of Boldness

It is often said that leaders are recognized by their ability to do three things consistently well:

  1. lead a meeting
  2. deliver a speech
  3. make a decision

Taking a stand on matters of substance comes with the territory of leadership. It cannot and indeed must not be avoided.

Sometimes it is easy, of course. We take positions which are popular with our constituencies and doing so brings joy to us and to them. At other times, though, it is just the opposite. Responsible stewardship of our institution requires that we make tough decisions which will be unpopular at least and give rise to virulent objection at worst.

This latter scenario could be the fate of many of you as programs are downsized and staffing is reduced and cash reserves are depleted. We are entering a time when boldness will be called for repeatedly.

In such a time as this then, it becomes critically important to accept the sober reality of authentic leadership: In order to reach the farther goal of contributing to the common good, periods of painful steps are unavoidable.

In these periods, equal measures of self-confidence and openness to others is critical to survival. On the one hand, you must not waver once having reached the point of personal conviction. On the other hand, you must not close yourself to the possibility of receiving new information and insight which lead to new conclusions.

Lincoln (who has been much in the press again these days) held this balance of self-confidence and openness extraordinarily well. It was one of the essential factors of his political genius. Thurlow Weed, one of Lincoln’s political associates, said, “His mind is at once philosophical and practical. He sees all who go there, hears all they have to say, talks freely with everybody, reads whatever is written to him; but thinks and acts by himself and for himself.”

We could not have a better example to which to aspire amidst the present economy.

A Final, Personal Reflection

In a second installment, I will focus on the other aspect of courage of commitment, that of perseverance. For now let me close with a personal observation from my twenty-plus years in the nonprofit world.

At its best, every organization holds to a single essential noble purpose. It has been created to teach or to heal or to preserve or to provide.

In any given context, a leader, too, is given a single essential mission, the success of which is critical to the organization’s success. It may be that the leader’s mission is to rebuild. Or it may be to reorganize. In good times, it may be to expand or to professionalize. Whatever it is, the authentic leader will know it… and proceed with determined commitment. And while open to new understanding, he or she will not be swayed by passing storms of criticism. He will do the right thing, thinking and acting by himself and for himself.

In addition to being an Associate Faculty member in the M.A. in Organizational Management Program of Antioch University Los Angeles, Guest Blogger David Norgard is the founder of OD180, a consulting firm that develops strategies for nonprofit organizations. He has also held leadership roles on various nonprofit boards and committees. At present, he serves as the President of Integrity USA, the Episcopal Church’s LGBT advocacy group. A graduate of AULA’s M.A. in Organizational Management program, David currently serves as Chair of AULA’s Alumni & Community Advisory Board. He also holds a B.A. magna cum laude from Augsburg College and an M.Div. from Yale Divinity School, where he received a Dean’s Citation for Community Service and an Award of Distinction among Alumni.

OMG – She/He is Leaving! How to Handle Key Staff Departures

by David Norgard

"The board meetings just won't be the same without you..."

First, a story from a friend and colleague, David Cupps…

David Cupps currently serves on two boards of directors. One organization is a national advocacy group; the other is a local musical group. By coincidence, each board was informed of the departure of a key staff member within days of each other.

In the case of the advocacy group, it was the administrator who was leaving after more than a decade of extraordinary service. He had done so much for so long with so little that it was hard to imagine moving forward without him. Likewise with the music group: in that case, it was the artistic director, and music ensembles need their direction.

So what does a board – and executive director – do? What should they do?

Wringing hands in quiet despair and watching the descent into chaos with a piteous gaze is probably not the most helpful response. What David has been learning from these two similar situations, he recounts below:

  1. Remain calm. Your attitude will be contagious for good or ill, so act like you want your members/constituents to act.
  2. Quickly inform other leaders. They will appreciate being on the “inside track,” and you will need their help and solidarity.
  3. Make a plan and let people know. People will be glad to know you are doing something about the situation and will feel relieved. This is a good idea even if your plans change later!
  4. Communicate – even to the point of over-communicating. People begin to panic if they do not know what is happening. Do not worry about repeating yourself. Often people miss the first message, skim the second one, and misunderstand the third one.
  5. Revise your plan as necessary. Don’t let your plan become outdated. You will need a common understanding with your fellow leaders and a current road map is the easiest way to stay on task.

My friend David Cupps and I have led parallel lives lately in the respect that we both have had to deal with unexpected departures. In my case, it was a university development officer. She had done great work and then she was gone. I feared that alumni relations would grind to a halt – or worse – regress. Tempted to succumb to the hand-wringing option, I reviewed what I teach in supervisory training classes and workshops. (It is often said and often true: We learn ourselves by teaching others.)

In managing staff, it is a given that good people will both come and go. Nowadays, the long tenure of a great staff member is the increasingly rare exception.

Aware of this reality, we can take one of two approaches.

We can ignore it and – a little like Claude Rains in “Casablanca” – be shocked to find it going on in our establishment. Or, we can expect it and be prepared… But that begs the question. How does one become prepared and, for that matter, stay prepared? Is there some emergency protocol to put in a binder for when this type of “crisis” strikes? Is there some kit to buy and mount on the wall?

In a word, no. However, there is a long-term strategy – rather counter-intuitive on first reading – which sets the stage for smoother transitions. As a friend and colleague once put it, we need to think these days just as much about “getting the people done through work” as about “getting the work done through people.”

In other words, we need to value professional development and not just productivity.

People who work put forth effort that results in individual performance. This leads to results for the organization; it also needs to lead to rewards for the individual.

Part of the equation, of course, is compensation and benefits. Yet equally valued in the workforce today is the opportunity for professional development. In small and medium sized nonprofits, there are often few, if any, opportunities for professional advancement… but there are many possibilities for learning skills, acquiring knowledge, making contacts, and engaging in creative processes.

The short view of facilitating professional development is that a person will grow into greater capability, only to desire something greater and eventually leave. That will probably happen anyway. People come and go.

But when the person who has been “developed” leaves, what is left behind is a legacy of caring about staff and a commitment to excellence… and what is carried into the world is an enduring respect for and appreciation of your organization.

In addition to being an Associate Faculty member in the M.A. in Organizational Management Program of Antioch University Los Angeles, David Norgard is the founder of OD180, a consulting firm that develops strategies for nonprofit organizations. He has also held leadership roles on various nonprofit boards and committees. At present, he serves as the President of Integrity USA, the Episcopal Church’s LGBT advocacy group. A graduate of AULA’s M.A. in Organizational Management program, David currently serves as Chair of AULA’s Alumni & Community Advisory Board. He also holds a B.A. magna cum laude from Augsburg College and an M.Div. from Yale Divinity School, where he received a Dean’s Citation for Community Service and an Award of Distinction among Alumni.


Moral Impulse: Rebel with a Cause

by Kimberly Hollingsworth, AULA BA Student & Founder of Humanity Is Us

When will genocide matter? Does it have to be at our front door or happen to our families before we care enough to do something? That’s my tough question. I used to believe that if the Holocaust happened today, there would have been such a tumultuous uproar that we would have stopped it before six million people were collected and murdered within a span of six years. Today, I’m not so sure.

The genocide in Rwanda never should have happened in 1994. While the international community closed their eyes, 800,000 Tutsis were slaughtered in 100 days. A member of the nonpermanent United Nations Security Counsel, the Czech representative, declared at one point, “Rwanda is not a priority for the Czech government, but as a human being I cannot sit here and do nothing.”

I launched my anti-genocide organization Humanity Is Us on November 29, 2010. (See my previous article, “Conflict of Ethics: What Does Genocide Have to Do with Business?”) While drowning in website designs, templates, hosting, domains, hyperlinks and other web hosting lingo, I also struggled with state and federal requirements for the protection of my embryonic entity. A simple idea was turning into a complicated responsibility. An AULA faculty member introduced me to a social entrepreneur who emotes action and possesses the same fire in the belly against genocide and rape camps that I do.

Andrew McGregor and the Tiziano Project

In May 2007, while a student in the master’s program for journalism at the University of Southern California, Andrew McGregor found himself frustrated with the co-existence of global video-sharing and genocide: “How can there be a world with YouTube and undocumented atrocities at the same time?”

If the mainstream news had kept the acts of genocide on the nightly news, instead of allowing public interest or lack of comfort guide the headlines, the international public community of responsible citizens might have demanded immediate actions from their governments. Today, journalists have to worry about corporate responsibilities, self-preservation, media trends, competition, and universal bureaucracy. Accountability for the success of the business enterprise has created detachment from the original purpose of journalism. With a rush for headlines that grab viewers, journalists rush to report headlines without checking sources. As Andrew puts it, today’s news has become a “propaganda whore.” Sensationalism has replaced news that can make a difference in saving people’s lives.

With moral impulse, he took leave from USC, hired a lawyer, and organized a nonprofit public-benefit corporation, the Tiziano Project. The mission: “The Tiziano Project provides community members in conflict, post-conflict, and underreported regions with the equipment, training, and affiliations necessary to report their stories and improve their lives.” With limited funds, a few contacts, cameras, camcorders and a new idea for exposing crimes against humanity, Andrew left for Rwanda and commenced his quest to spread journalism.

Teaching Journalism to Change the World

photo by Andrew McGregor

Andrew joined forces with a friend, Thomas Rippe, to teach journalistic techniques at a local orphanage. An issue came up: since the Canadian government had already made arrangements to provide for these orphans for life, the orphans, ranging in age from twelve to thirty, lacked motivation to learn journalism.

Undaunted, the Tiziano Project then formed a collaboration with The German Development Company (DED), teaching radio techniques at a local youth house. It did not take long before the weekly radio program about genocide reconciliation aired on Voice of America, providing a trusted resource for updates and local information.

Andrew and Tom continued their traveling school of journalism between Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). At refugee camps they shared writing, photo and video techniques, which empowered the locals and enabled collaborative efforts with the international community of professional journalists. Until that time, stifled voices were forced to wait for an outsider to speak on their behalf.

A week after Andrew left the DRC in 1998, violence broke out again. Within an hour, the refugees trained by Andrew and Tom were able to communicate with journalists, and CNN broke the story. “It was a turning point for us. When the story broke, it proved that the concept worked – it all worked. We had proof of the potential of the Tiziano Project.”

Today, the Tiziano Project is supported by a community of journalists, and the Tiziano Project team itself consists of journalists who have other jobs. It’s the calling, the purpose that keeps this team together. Eventually, the business plan requires funds for salaries so all participants can focus on their goal of keeping stories of atrocities in the mainstream news. I asked Andrew, “Why do you believe the Tiziano Project can help end genocide?” He explained, “It has to do with economics. Journalism can be helpful in creating jobs. Look at the child soldiers. The choices are limited: either you’re a slave or a soldier.”

Chessboxing and Advice for Students

Andrew "The Fightin' Philanthropist" McGregor (media credit: Jesse Reid)

Andrew, who stands six feet and almost ten inches tall and weighs 280 pounds, founded the L.A. Chessboxing club. The idea came from a poster he saw in Europe. Basically, chessboxing consists of eleven rounds (four minutes of chess, followed by three minutes of boxing), and starts and ends at the chessboard. First one to win by checkmate or a knockout is the winner. On February 27, 2010, Andrew claimed the title of U.S. Heavyweight Chessboxing Champion by checkmate in the fifth round.

Ironically, chessboxing helped Andrew build up his strength and his resolve to continue with his vocation. He also learned a valuable lesson about being there for others. It’s important to maintain a balance between personal life and causes, “Without investing in yourself first, you have nothing to give — to anyone.”

I asked Andrew for words of wisdom for the novice social entrepreneur. “Start as a student. Everyone helps students. They help because they know where you’re coming from and that you’re learning. If you’re Joe from a business/organization that no one knows, they don’t have a reference point.” Andrew also suggested having a long-term corporate strategy, “Start focused and with obtainable goals.” The last thing that he suggested, “Visually explain what you’re doing and make a chronological record of it. We were so focused on the work and mission that initially, we missed the opportunity for the potential business development.” It has been remedied.

Recently, the Tiziano Project won a $25,000 grant from a competition on Facebook and utilized it to showcase its product. It’s easier to gain funding when funders can see what their money is buying. After all, today everything is related to business.

Guest Blogger Kimberly Hollingsworth is in the BA Business & Social Entrepreneurship program and Creative Writing program at AULA. She holds an associate’s degree from The American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York and an ABA-approved certificate from UCLA Extension as a legal assistant in litigation. She is currently a senior legal assistant at an international law firm, a member of SAG, and a voting member of LAPA.