This work is personal (for us all)

This past week, my wonderful (former GuideStar) colleague Jackie led me through Media Training 101. There was a lot to learn—use bite-sized quotables! Weave in your key points in early and often!! Tell brief, compelling stories! But the most challenging lesson I had to work through was determining when it’s appropriate or distracting to make things personal. Because so much of mission-driven work for me—for all of us—is very personal.

As you may have heard in our first Candid webinar,  both Brad Smith and Jacob Harold (our president and executive vice president) came to this sector-wide infrastructure work after working in the philanthropic and nonprofit sectors for quite some time. I came to this work both by accident and because it’s exactly where I should be. Thanks to family, community, and educational opportunities, I have always placed high value on giving in a range of ways—donating toys, making charitable gifts, spending time in service of others, and drawing connections, to name a few. I have also always been fascinated by the power that money holds in influencing everything from our day-to-day choices to enabling systems of oppression. I’ve witnessed this power from a number of sides, as I often flippantly-but-authentically describe my career as starting from budgeting money (nonprofit client advocacy days) to taking money (IRS days—secret’s out!) while making jokes about money (comedy hobby) to giving money (foundation days) to talking about money (now). And while I never once as a kid dreamed of making data and insights about philanthropic giving available to all, this work is personal and powerful. I believe that with this kind of information, we can all be better at our giving, no matter what type of giving it is. Further, we can strengthen the underlying systems for giving in inclusive, efficient ways through critically thinking and sharing with one another. I get positively riled up about what we can catalyze by working towards our mission.

While a knowledge-sharing mission might not be exciting and personal to everyone, it is to me. People working on increasing the availability of potable water, making cities more accessible, or supporting those facing domestic violence are doing so because it’s personal. And I think that’s why it’s often hard to separate talking about the work of an organization or program from the personal reason that we’re putting in that work. The media training was a reminder to me of how our stories can work for us in so many ways, from fostering trust in partnerships, to fundraising, to building staff culture. (But, they can also drown out other stories or broader narratives that are also important to tell!) So, with this month’s letter, I encourage you to both celebrate your personal story and use it as a reminder to lift up someone else’s.



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About the author(s)

Director of Stakeholder Engagement