Sarah joined the Driving Participation Podcast to talk all about strategy. How do you create a strategy everyone is on board with and can follow? And, more importantly, how do you even define strategy? Sarah and host Beth Brodovsky explore how developing a strategy can take less time than you might think.
Click below for audio of the podcast:
Beth Brodovsky: 00:00 Hi everyone! I can’t believe it, but it’s been almost five years since we started driving participation and we’re coming up on episode 200 in May. Over the years I’ve learned so much from our guests about what it takes to attract the right people and move them from engagement into action. For our 200th episode, I’d love to hear what you have learned from listening. Maybe it was a small twist on something you were already doing or maybe it was a “this changes everything” idea, so I want to give you all a chance to participate. Grab your phone and record a short voice memo sharing something that you have learned that has helped you drive participation in your work. Then email the audio file to [email protected] and if it’s easier, just writing it up in an email is great too. After five years of talking, I’m excited to hear what you have to say. So tell me what’s been helpful and how you’re driving participation in your organizations. And I even have a secret stash of driving participation mugs that I’ll send to the first 10 listeners who share their story. Thank you for listening and learning with me. I can’t wait to hear how focusing on participation has impacted our whole nonprofit community.
Introduction: 01:20 Welcome to driving participation with Beth Brodovsky, a podcast for sharing great ideas that get people involved and active in organizations. Join us to learn what marketers and fundraisers around the country are doing to get people to show up. Stick around and give back.
Beth Brodovsky: 01:35 Hello, this is Beth Brodovsky and welcome to Driving Participation. Today I am here with Sarah Olivieri. Sarah is the founder of PivotGround and I love how she describes her business. She says they help nonprofits to thrive in the digital age and anybody that has been listening to this show for a while knows that I love the word thrive. So Sarah, thank you so much for joining me today.
Sarah Olivieri: 02:00 It is a pleasure to be here.
Beth Brodovsky: 02:02 And so Sarah and I had a really terrific conversation around strategy and what strategy actually means and how do we even really define that word. And it came up because I feel like in my work in my business, I’m starting to realize that not everybody means the same thing when they talk about strategy. So we’re going to get into a conversation on strategy today. I’m really thrilled to talk about that, but as you all know, before I get into that, what I love to talk to people about is how they got into this work and what participation means to them. So Sarah, can you share a little bit about yourself and about your work and how you came to doing what you love to do?
Sarah Olivieri: 02:47 Sure. Well, I actually came originally from a nonprofit background. I was a program administrator and executive director, mostly nonprofits relating to helping people on the autism spectrum. And when I was doing that work, I always was thinking about how can we just structure our nonprofits better so that we can do more with the resources that we have and grow more efficiently and deliver a bigger impact. And then as the economy went down, I ended up leaning on what had been a side hobby, which was building websites and doing marketing. And then, you know, as life would have it, doing marketing and websites brought me right back to working with nonprofits where I could help in a way that other people who worked on the web couldn’t because they didn’t understand how nonprofits function. And that led me right back to what is like the heart and soul of my work, which is really helping nonprofits structure their businesses better so that they can then take advantage of everything that digital and digital marketing has to offer.
Beth Brodovsky: 03:56 You know, it’s so funny, like I always feel like I want to tell kids, today, like, be careful what the first job is that you take because so many of us, like that’s sort of my story too. I started working at a nonprofit and I worked there for eight years and then when I went out on my own, I was like, ugh, I want to do something totally different. But it just keeps coming back, this nonprofit thing. And I feel like I hear that from other people that whatever it is that that started out as their thing, it easily can grow on you. So I’m all right, anybody that’s young that’s listening to this do something that you really love because you may be doing it for a long time.
Sarah Olivieri: 04:34 Do it first. You know, my mother who has some great advice, it’s infrequent, but whenever she gives advice, it’s incredible. She told me at an early age to really find something that you love doing to make a living on. Because if you love doing it, you will do it more and you will do it better and you will become a true expert.
Beth Brodovsky: 04:53 Okay. So what we all really want to know is how do you get a mother that only rarely gives advice? I, you know, that’s another podcast I think.
Sarah Olivieri: 05:04 Luck of the draw. If I knew the answer to that, that would be good. All I know is like, I would regularly, as a young person, be like, oh, your mother’s driving you nuts? Just borrow mine. Talk to my mom.
Beth Brodovsky: 05:20 You’re probably the opposite. It’s like, mom, please give some direction here.
Sarah Olivieri: 05:24 Tight. So, yeah and so you want to know about what participation means?
Beth Brodovsky: 05:31 Yeah, I mean, especially as somebody that come from being inside at a nonprofit and seeing it from that perspective to then comparing it now to the work that you do across nonprofits. I always think that that’s really interesting that both the vertical and the horizontal viewpoint of looking at the nonprofit community. So what have you seen through both sides of your lens?
Sarah Olivieri: 05:53 Yeah, well, I really think of two kind of categories of things when I about participation. Of course from a marketing side, I think about a word we usually use engagement, getting people to somehow take action with you, whether or not it’s keeping employees engaged, whether it’s getting your board engaged. And to me engagement and participation are basically the same thing. Whatever that participation means, but it’s some sort of a movement. It’s not just thinking about you, it’s acting in some way. And then the other piece I think about when it comes to more like optimizing nonprofits is around the concept of ownership and accountability of the pieces, the things that need to get done to make the nonprofit work effectively and efficiently. And I think there’s an element of, you know, participation in distributing the various things, the various responsibilities that need to get done and making sure that each person who has that responsibility also has an adequate amount of control or power in order to make that thing actually happen that they’re responsible for and really have ownership over that. And to me, that really speaks to how the best form of participation in making, you know, being all part of the same team and moving the nonprofit forward.
Beth Brodovsky: 07:22 It’s so interesting the way that you put that and I love that you kind of gave it both an external and an internal focus because so many people have responded to it in a similar way that it can’t just be getting the people outside to do things. I often say that people will tell me how do we get people to do what we want them to do? And my answer is, do you have children? Anybody that has kids would like, like it’s impossible to get people to do what you want them to do. It’s about how do you understand what they want to do and facilitate that happening. But that’s really hard if your internal team is struggling with everything, you know, with everything that internal teams struggle with, from culture to responsibility to accountability, to processes. I think a good lead into what we’re going to be talking about.
Sarah Olivieri: 08:17 That’s right. I mean, I think, you know, we’re going to talk about strategy today, but you can’t really have great strategy without great capacity to, you know, get you not just what you need to do today but have enough extra to get you to what you need to do tomorrow.
Beth Brodovsky: 08:32 That’s excellent. You can’t have great strategy without capacity. So I think to me that speaks to that problem of the like you get into this either or thing. People either get really sucked into execution, execution, execution without any strategy, without any sort of line that connects them back to their goals or they can end up doing a lot of strategic like big picture thinking and then everyone’s pointing at each other thinking it was their jobs to get that done.
Sarah Olivieri: 09:03 Right. Absolutely, and I can’t stand either of those typically. Frankly, like it’s my secret sauce, which I shouldn’t call my secret sauce because I just tell it to everybody. Right, my special sauce. That’s exactly it. My special sauce that you know, to go back to that word, thriving. The secret to being thriving for any business probably for people too in their lives, but certainly for nonprofits, is finding that balance and having strength in both capacity and strategy. If you just have strategy without enough capacity, then you end up really frustrated. You have a ton of false starts. A lot of nonprofits find themselves in that place. Like we keep trying to do this and we keep having these false starts. Or if you have a lot of capacity without great strategy, you kind of, you don’t really get to where you want to be going and you can find yourself going off mission. Having mission creep can be a big problem. So the name of the game really is attending to both strategy and capacity. That’s how you get to thriving.
Beth Brodovsky: 10:09 Okay. So now how, just because I always feel like I have to pretend that like everybody might be listening to this that maybe walked into their nonprofit the next day. How do you define what you mean by capacity?
Sarah Olivieri: 10:22 Sure. So for capacity I think of, of course there’s an obvious one, money, although I think this one is not as big a challenge for nonprofits as they would believe themselves. And then the rest of the things around capacity has mostly to do with people, although it can have to do with physical facilities as well. But people is where there’s a lot of untapped capacity in nonprofits. So, and when it comes to the capacity that people have, one area could be expertise. So if you’re an expert in something, your capacity to do it is much greater than if you have to learn how to do it right. There’s just time. You could have lots of extra time in your day to do stuff. Although I have some great tricks for getting time back in your day so that you can shift to doing the activities that are most important. So time, expertise, and then there’s a concept I kind of play around with that I call alignment. So there’s a lot of people capacity you get when you have a clear written strategy or really nicely written out visions for the future. And that’s not so much about, you know, are we actually going to get to our three year vision or five year vision? Probably not. Like you’re probably gonna shift where you’re actually going along the way, but you need something to be an anchor so that everybody on your team can get aligned. And when you get aligned, you unearth this capacity both in people doing like more of the right things but also in people’s creativity. You give people the space to come up with maybe solutions that they wouldn’t have otherwise.
Beth Brodovsky: 12:07 I so agree with that. I actually teach a class on creativity and the thing that I present is that it’s actually the constraints that drive creativity. That it’s so easy to think that the place to be creative is like a blank piece of paper and a wide open slate where you can do anything, but that only often ends up meeting that creates a block where like you can’t, it’s hard to move forward when anything’s on the table. That putting some, I call them cattle shoots, around things helps people be more creative because they know like what the walls are for them to bounce off of.
Sarah Olivieri: 12:43 Yeah, I couldn’t agree more. I love putting constraints on things and that kind of segues into like another way you can create that kind of more capacity for your people is by putting in great kind of structures or systems and processes. And a lot of people are like, oh, processes, that sounds terrible. If the process feels terrible, then it’s a bad process. But a good process gives you those constraints so that you can very quickly move in the direction you need to.
Beth Brodovsky: 13:16 Right. And I think that’s where capacity then ties really directly into this idea of strategy, that it sort of like constraints and capacity to what end that if you can make that direct chain back to what are we doing today and like why am I doing this activity versus the different activity without having some link back to something, you’re just doing stuff, you’re doing a lot of things that are busy and that’s like, I feel that that’s a lot of times what leads to this feeling of burnout and exhaustion in people that are tend to be overworked to begin with as opposed to it’s a lot of work, but I see where it’s taking me.
Sarah Olivieri: 13:57 Yeah. And that’s exactly where strategy comes into play.
Beth Brodovsky: 14:01 So how do you now, how would you define strategy?
Sarah Olivieri: 14:05 Sure. So I take a pretty simple, but I would argue most accurate strategy, which is that a strategy is just a set of your goals of where you’re trying to go and the actions that you’re going to take to try to get there.
Beth Brodovsky: 14:23 That is a nice, simple, plain language description. Yay.
Sarah Olivieri: 14:28 So you know, so if you do not have, and it should be written, unless you are truly a team of one, which if you’re a nonprofit, you are not a team of one because you have a board. So it needs to be written down in some format. It should not, does not need to be a lengthy document that does not help with communication. We do our strategies actually written out like a mind map so it’s extremely visual. But you need to be, everybody needs to be on board with that strategy. So if you say you’re acting strategically but you’re not actually following a strategy that’s written where the goal you’re trying to get to and the steps you’re trying to take to get there, that’s not acting strategically. You probably are acting tactically. I don’t use the word tactics a lot because I think there’s confusion around it, but tactics are kind of those proven, or at least they worked in the past kind of tricks or ways of doing things that will probably, that are designed to achieve the kind of goal you’re trying to achieve.
Beth Brodovsky: 15:32 Right. And we tend to define them as the tools that you would use to actually achieve a goal. The thing, you know? And I feel like it’s really confusing to people because I mean, we, your people get strategies and tactics confused all the time. We’ll hear somebody say, well, you know, what’s your strategy for this? And say, oh, well we’re doing an email newsletter or that, that’s our strategy engagement. No, that’s not a strategy. That’s a tactic. Right. It’s hard. So why is it important to know? I mean, sometimes I feel like this is all semantics. Like what you name things and what you call them. You know, especially people that are in nonprofits that aren’t, didn’t work in the corporate world. It’s easy to be like blah, blah, blah, corporate words. Who cares? We’re just trying to get through the day. But, you know, like underneath the naming of things, like what’s, why is it important to actually know the difference and have a difference.
Sarah Olivieri: 16:33 Sure. So I think the most important thing of maybe having the difference, and you know, I’m a big fan of renaming things. Like if the word strategy just doesn’t bring to mind what it actually is and you need to give it a new name, name it whatever makes it right. But the important thing is that it’s about having, it’s a two part thing, a strategy, there’s the goals and there’s the actions. And so when you think about making a great strategy and, and whatever you’re going to call it, we want to think about really what, how do we write a great goal? And I think the trick to goals is that there are outcome goals. Those are the things, those things that you’d like, you know, how can you make your children behave? No, that’s a total outcome. Can you do a bunch of things to maybe influence how they behave? Absolutely. That’s something that you have control over. And here’s a great example of renaming. So in the academic world where they study goal setting, they call these goals that you have control over process goals. I never could use the word process cause I just couldn’t, it just didn’t connect for me. So I’d call those goals execution goals because it’s something I can execute on versus an outcome. And I usually call the outcome goals, impact goals, meaning that they’re having a direct impact on my strategy and there’s something, I’m changing the ways somebody acts. And then I have another type of outcome goal that I call perception goals, which is changing the way somebody thinks. And oftentimes there’s kind of this chain reaction, right? You have to change the way somebody thinks before you can change the way they act. And I find it really helpful to break, break down those types of goals when you’re really setting your strategy. Because nonprofits have like hard outcomes to achieve. I always call it mission impossible. So, if you’re gonna achieve a really hard outcome, you really have to break it down into its parts so that you know how to progress. So, you might have a big outcome around, let’s say you’re trying to, you know, if you’re a mental health organization, you’re trying to bring somebody a level of mental wellness and, and peace and control over their lives and hope for the future. So what is that outcome? What does that look like in changing their behaviors and then what are the things they need to believe before they will even take action with you to achieve those things. And then what are the things that you’re going to do? And once you break down those things that you’re going to do, you can begin to say, if, if I’m having the outcome that I’ve, I’m not having the outcome that I expect, is it because I’m doing the wrong things or is it because I didn’t actually do the things I said I was gonna do? And that is a really big difference. And that can really help you measure for your board, for funding, for your team. Because that is really different because sometimes to see movement on outcomes at a nonprofit, sometimes it’s obvious, but sometimes it’s like it’s a microscopic change you’re making but you’re still making a change. It’s totally still worth it. It’s just a really hard outcome to achieve. So you want to be able to measure kind of your effort independently of measuring that outcome.
Beth Brodovsky: 19:50 I think that that’s really helpful for people to hear because I feel like right there you hit the key to why it’s easy for people to get confused on what strategy is. Because it’s easy to think about the goal of a nonprofit. Like I want to end world hunger. Like that’s our, that’s our goal. But if that’s your goal, it’s such a far off goal, it’s easy to then just focus on like, what am I doing today? What am I just doing today? And the connection between what I’m doing today and achieving that big goal, it’s so intangible. But the idea of creating these other types of goals, you know, this is the outcome goal, but this is also my impact goal. This is what, these are my, I would call them objectives. Like these are the thing that, this just goes to show that everyone has different names for everything. So don’t get excited. But I also always want to tell people, also watch out for the consultants that like rename your cup into a liquid holding vessel. Like renaming things can go either way. It can either say, hey, I just need to call this something different so I can connect with it. It can also like obfuscate and maximize the constituent, like blah, blah, blah. Be careful.
Sarah Olivieri: 21:03 Right, it should work for you. And objectives is a great name for it. And there’s a whole, you know, around objectives and key results OKR’s. Which is basically how Google and some other big companies change their strategies and it clearly it clicks for them. For me, the key results language, it just didn’t quite fit me. But it’s the same thing and it is that two part piece. That’s what makes a strategy. It’s got two parts. And so in OKR’s it’s objectives, that’s the outcome.
Beth Brodovsky: 21:36 What does OKR stand for?
Sarah Olivieri: 21:44 Objectives and key results. OKR. So your objectives and your key results in OKR’s are just those key things that are going to have achieve the objective. So you might have one objective and then five things you’re going to do to achieve that objective.
Beth Brodovsky: 21:56 Right. So where do you find your work that you’re doing now most nonprofits are getting stuck when it comes to strategy?
Sarah Olivieri: 22:04 Oh, I think there are a couple areas. One is that the concept of a strategic plan, traditional strategic planning, which is still kind of the most prevalent form, does not really, I think, end up in a strategy that is usable to you. It’s not going to take you down to, so what do I do tomorrow? It’s not going to help you there. And often because they are, the planning process is so long, they can be outdated before they’re done. Often they come out in like a long documents, so that’s really hard to turn into an execution piece. Sometimes they’re missing the execution goals, um, or the process goals completely. So that’s hard. Like, you know, strategic planning gets muddled in there with this content concept of strategy and so that can kind of set either nonprofits going down a we have to do the strategic planning process, which is very time consuming and expensive. Or they’re like, oh, we hate strategic planning. It’s not for us, so we’re just not going to have a strategy at all. So that’s one area where nonprofits get stuck. And I think another area really has to do with digital marketing, digital fundraising activities because a lot of people do just follow tactics that other people have done on the internet and just following tactics will not save you from the crazy, chaotic, space of the internet. I call it an ever expanding universe where the laws of physics change monthly. So you must have a true strategy. You must be crystal clear on the outcome you’re trying to achieve when you start fiddling with the internet because you can really get lost. You can spend a ton of time and a ton of money doing that. So I see a lot of nonprofits being like, oh, we have to do social media because somebody said we had to do social media.
Beth Brodovsky: 24:07 Right, exactly. Because a board member’s12 year old just came up with, you know, and it’s hard because you do see what everyone else is doing. And I do, I feel like one of the best roles of a strategy is to keep you from getting pulled off your center because it is so easy to see somebody else that’s doing something and feel like you’re not doing enough. Or somebody else that did something great and you’re like, oh, I want a piece of that. We all have, you know, marketing envy. It’s hard not to, but when you have that, like when you have your path, it’s written down, like you said, it is much easier to stay true to that course and you really think through, all right, well we’re not doing that because of this. And to bend off the people that walk into your office and say, we need a…
Sarah Olivieri: 25:00 That’s right. A great strategy, you know it’s great when you have the, when it’s easy to say no or to say actually we are planning on doing that, but we’re not planning on doing that now or planning on doing that, you know, in three months from now. So like, let’s check in again. But you know, when you have a great strategy, it really lets you, it’s balanced with your capacity and you don’t take on more than you can handle right at a given time.
Beth Brodovsky: 25:28 And I think that that is really, really key that what you’re saying about capacity because it’s this, you know, filling up these separate buckets of tactics that I think leads people to get spread really thin in their time and their energy. And then they’re doing all these things and at the end of the year there’s no synergy. It doesn’t add up to more than the sum of its parts. And it’s hard when you feel like you’ve worked really hard and spent a lot of money and it didn’t amount to anything to even go forward from that. Often what I hear from people is well, we’ve tried everything. We don’t know what to do next, nothing worked. I’m sure you’ve heard that too.
Sarah Olivieri: 26:08 I tell my clients like what I’m going to give you now is a fireproof garbage can where you can just, like you’re probably dealing with a lot of fires that your nonprofit right now that aren’t really moving the needle on anything. And what you need to do is prioritize the things that are most important and put those things that aren’t. And when you ignore them, yes. Will they cause a small fire? Sure. Can you put it in the fireproof garbage can and just let it burn itself out? Absolutely. And that’s one of the secrets to getting back time and start getting yourself out of that. Because what happens is not every, all businesses do this if they’re not, if they don’t have a good strategy and they’re not paying attention to capacity, but as they grow, they fill up their capacity 100% doing their everyday work and they forget that you have to leave a certain percentage available in order to build the building blocks and get yourself to the next level of capacity.
Beth Brodovsky: 27:07 So getting into that, so with the resources that any nonprofit has right now, what are some of the key things that they can do? Like how, I mean, I’m a small business owner. I struggle with this too. It’s so easy to get bombarded and just sucked into letting all of your time get consumed by the emails that just never stopped blowing in, by the people that are on the other side of my door right now that are probably waiting the minute I open the door to have a million questions and you end up feeling like your day is completely consumed by today and the hours and the tasks. How are people carving out this time to think more strategically and to preserve the guideposts, that are such great guideposts, and then save time to invest in them.
Sarah Olivieri: 28:03 Yeah. Well I can tell you, I will tell you there’s a lot of kind of correct but slightly too simplified answers out there. Like, prioritize your time, right? The secret at some point you’re going to have to prioritize, but where can you really start? And I’ll tell you where I usually start is I use a tool called the Nonprofit Blueprint. People can find it on our website. We can put a link in the show notes page. And basically this is a, it basically maps out the functions that make your nonprofit run. It looks a little bit like an org chart, an organizational chart that says like, you know, who’s sitting in what role and who’s in charge of who. But it’s actually very different in that it says what are the key things that have to get done to make our nonprofit run. So do we have, like is there a fundraising function? Is there a function where we deliver our programs? Is there a sub function where we evaluate our programs? Is there a function where we bring people into our programs? Is there a function of coordinating it all? Is there a function where we have innovation and think about the future? And so we do this, we build out this tool and in the template, like it’s not that different for every nonprofit, but each nonprofit has slightly different configurations. So once we have that on paper, a couple of things happen. First of all, there’s usually some aha moments. Like the reason why we’re struggling with fundraising is because, well, we never built a fundraising function into how our nonprofit is structured. Or the reason why we’re having trouble filling our programs is because we don’t have, there’s nobody accountable for that. There’s no function built into our nonprofit. Or oftentimes, you know, we can see where the function of the board, which is, it’s primarily governance when it comes to like the critical functions that need to happen, that the board is like stepping in and trying to do innovation work as well as be the board and so they’re sharing innovation with an executive director and the board. And then things start to get messy. So once we have that and we’ve, you know, been like, oh, well this is, you know, once you put it on paper, it can become really obvious and we assign each function to be one person. And even if like you’re a solo executive director and your name is in every box, you could have this clarity about which boxes you want to get out of, which ones you’re going to get out of first. But let’s say you have maybe three people or you could have many more in your nonprofit. Once you have identified the key three or five things that have to get done, make that function work. Then you can say, okay, you know, John is in charge of this function and Jane is in charge of that function and you can begin to swap jobs that you’ve been doing. You can kind of self reorganize cause everybody should know this chart. And then instead of wearing like a bazillion hats, right? The many hats syndrome at nonprofits, you can divide your hats into two categories. Either I’m wearing a hat cause I’m doing something that I am accountable for, at the end of the day is a critical function of the nonprofit. I’m accountable for it. I own it. Back to that participation piece. At the end of the day, I’m going to stay up all night and make sure it gets done. And then my other hat is these are things that I’m helping somebody else do in my nonprofit, but it’s their accountability. It’s not mine. So at the end of the day, if I don’t have enough time, I’m going to pass the thing that I’m helping somebody with back to them and I’m going to make sure that the stuff that I have to do, because that’s what makes the nonprofit run, gets done.
Beth Brodovsky: 32:05 Oh, you know, it’s funny too, cause I actually work with a business coach and she was actually just teaching me the difference between accountability and responsibility, you know, and as the business owner, you know, it’s just my responsibility to get everything done. And she’s like, no, that’s not necessarily the same thing, but the fact that you could be doing something that somebody else is actually accountable to make sure that it has done or vice versa, that you may be responsible for something that somebody else is actually needs to be getting done on a tactical basis. It’s just, it’s funny. I mean I’ve been a boss for 25 years and that subtle difference, I never really thought that through.
Sarah Olivieri: 32:47 Yeah. And it does make a difference and it can really free people up to streamline the work that they’re doing. So, you know, so how do we get capacity back in the end? What does it really look like? What it looks like is people tend to, can self reorganize that basically within your nonprofit, what tasks they’re doing during the day. And they will get a lot of time back because they tend to start aligning like tasks together because they’re more kind of consistent in their seats. And it also means that there’s no crossover. Like there aren’t two people trying to do the same job and not knowing they’re doing it, which certainly happens. And so people get more time back in their day because they’re doing less context switching. And this is something you should definitely look up if you haven’t heard of that.
Beth Brodovsky: 33:37 I love this. I think, I mean for me learning about this was huge. So can you describe it a little bit?
Sarah Olivieri: 33:42 Yeah, it’s easiest with a visual, but basically the idea is when you switch from one task to another, you lose a little bit of time because our brains take a little bit of time to switch over. And when people studied context switching and the impact is basically it increases exponentially. So if you switch to like if you’re trying to do five things in a day instead of three, it’s not just, you know, it’s not just plus two more chunks of time you lose, it becomes exponentially larger and larger. So by kind of so-called multitasking and trying to do many different types of activities, you end up losing, you can lose more of your time, like 50% of your time or more to context switching. And that is physically how the time comes back, you reorganize, you regroup around what kind of work you’re doing and then you’re doing less context switching and you actually get time back in your day.
Beth Brodovsky: 34:40 Right. And I think that that’s kind of like a revolutionary way of thinking about it for people because I mean most people when you say you need to get your time back, the answer is going to be like, what has to get all this stuff done. And there is no more time. But I agree with you. I mean years ago I started to realize that I was actually a terrible multitasker. I am like somebody like I can not hear somebody speaking to me because I’ll get laser focused in or I do the opposite where next thing you know, I have a hundred windows open on my computer and I don’t even know actually what I started doing. So I feel like I’m not the only person that has a thousand browsers open.
Sarah Olivieri: 35:18 No, you’re probably an average multitasker. I mean the truth is that people are terrible at multitasking. It’s actually not a thing. You can’t multitask. And if you try to, you’re actually just switching from one task, not doing things at the same time.
Beth Brodovsky: 35:36 Right. And I started to realize that I was definitely doing that. So yeah, like really it’s just very hard to preserve uninterrupted time at work.
Sarah Olivieri: 35:46 Yeah. Yeah. And you can start to do that and I use this tool, the Nonprofit Blueprint, to really kind of give a great starting place to do that because you need something to grab into. Like how do I just not context switch. You could do it very simply by just like chunking your time so that you make sure you’re only doing, you do one thing, like start to finish and then you move on to the next. You’ll definitely get time back doing that. But you won’t necessarily move your entire organization forward in that direction.
Beth Brodovsky: 36:18 And the thing is like, you never know what little trick is going to take. Like I started shutting my door, which at first like really traumatized me because I’m kind of a friendly, open person. But I found, so little things that I’ve done is I shut my door when I’m in my office, but I’ve learned it works better when before I shut my door, I would tell my staff I’m going to shut my door for 30 minutes. And then I would set myself a timer to make sure that I got done what I needed to get done in that amount of time. Or I would go and work at a coffee shop. I’ve learned for some reason I work really well when there’s lots of buzz going on around me that I don’t have to pay attention to or I work really well in silence, but when there’s noise going on around me that I’m kind of half paying attention to. Like if somebody out in my staff gets a call and I’m like, who is that? You know? But I think that that’s key. There’s so many little ways that you can get pulled off of your goals, whether it’s your big strategy or your day strategy.
Sarah Olivieri: 37:16 Right. Absolutely. And I just like to say, cause you said, you know, people knocking at your door, especially if you’re an executive director or leader, the thing about the Nonprofit Blueprint that’s going to help you is it’s going to empower your team to do more on their own. Because they’re going to know that they own this seat and it’s going to be really clearly defined and they’re going to know that it’s both their responsibility and that they have the decision making authority to make it happen without you. So you will have fewer people knocking on your door because one, they’ll be able to answer their own questions. And two, if they do have another question, they will know who because they can look at the chart, who to talk to and not just default up to the top.
Beth Brodovsky: 38:01 So since that’s my dream and everyone’s dream, what would you say if you wanted to leave somebody with, like if you just had time, if you just wanted to get started with one task that would help move your life in this direction, move your organization in this direction, where would you suggest people start?
Sarah Olivieri: 38:21 Well, it’s kind of kind of a toss up, but I think definitely this blueprint chart is usually the thing I do first with most people because it usually gives us the most bang for our buck and gets people all on the same page really quickly. However you can only go so far that will give you a lot of capacity, but then you’ll need a strategy so that you can tap in to all that extra time before people fill it up.
Beth Brodovsky: 38:51 That is a really huge key point that you can’t just necessarily do one thing. I always say hope is not a marketing strategy. Because you’re so right, the minute you create capacity, it’s like capacity to what end, for what. Without intentionality, all that action is just going to get replaced with more action.
Sarah Olivieri: 39:14 Right, so I’d say the one thing you need to do is two things. Do one capacity activity and one strategy building thing. And if you want to get started, um, with building a great strategy, it does not need to take that long. You know, even though I don’t know who you are, I know that because you work in a nonprofit, you have great vision and you’ve thought really deeply and hard about the work that your nonprofit does. And so I know, and you know your nonprofit, you know how it works right now. You don’t need anybody else’s opinions or information. You can sit down and write yourself a basic strategy. Start by writing your mission right at the middle and then draw a line out and you probably, you know, up three or four lines out. What are the key outcomes that you would need to achieve in order to make a move towards your mission? And even if you just have one, what’s your mission, what’s maybe an outcome you have to achieve as a stepping stone to your mission? And then for each of those outcomes, write down one to three things that you have control over that will make a movement on your mission, on the outcome that will make movement on your mission.
Beth Brodovsky: 40:29 Wow. Well that is, I think really, really helpful advice and it very much aligns with our process around strategic communications planning and I think that it’s going to be really, really helpful for people to hear. However, if people have more questions for you, how can they reach out to you?
Sarah Olivieri: 40:46 Sure. You can email me directly, [email protected] Or you can visit our website, pivotground.com. You can schedule to have a call with a member of our team at no charge if you want. We’ll actually take you through a tool that we developed, which is about understanding your issues that are currently going on for you and identifying whether or not it’s a capacity problem, a strategy problem or both. So we’ll actually take you through that tool on the call. And you can follow us on Facebook or Linkedin or wherever you are. If you’re someplace else, reach out and let us know where you are and we’ll come find you.
Beth Brodovsky: 41:28 Well, we will put links so that you can connect with Sarah on the show notes page. Sarah, thank you much for joining me today and sharing all of your insight with both me and our nonprofit community.
Sarah Olivieri: 41:38 Oh, thank you so much. It’s been a real pleasure. My favorite topic, strategy and capacity. True Joy.
Beth Brodovsky: 41:45 Wonderful. Well, I really appreciate it and thank you everyone for listening. Hey there. Thanks for listening to the show today. I hope it sparked new ideas to turn engagement into action at your organization. One thing I’ve realized over the years is that nonprofit communicators need more help with marketing. You may be a writer that now has to manage the web or a designer struggling with PR or perhaps you are happily finding donors when someone asked you to handle social media too. No one is an expert in everything and when it comes to marketing, the things you need to be a pro at seem to grow overnight. So I want to remind you of two things. First, we’re here to help. If you’re thinking about rebranding, contemplating a campaign or need a fresh look for your event marketing, please reach out. I’m always interested in what you’re working on and perhaps I can help. Second, I know that getting outside help isn’t possible for everyone. Sometimes you need to build that expertise yourself. So one to let you know about our online masterclasses. We run a live one hour online class every month on topics like how to create an infographic, how to take great photos with just your smartphone and how to master your PR pitch. The class is focused on practical, actionable instruction in core marketing areas. One student took an idea that he learned in class and increased his event revenue 50% another student logged in from Brisbane, Australia and said it was well worth getting up at 4:30 AM. If you want an invitation to our next class, text the word masterclass to 33444 or visit iriscreative.com to join our list. I look forward to helping you market like a pro.
Outro: 43:42 Thank you for listening to driving participation. For more strategies to boost involvement in your organization, subscribe in iTunes and follow Beth Brodovsky on Twitter. Driving Participation as a production of Iris Creative Group Inc, communication builds community.