Thoughts from a conference

On this blog, I try to write only the things that I am okay with the world knowing about the real me. I also generally keep my professional online presence separate from my personal blog. That said, I just spent the last 12 hours at work conference, so in terms of daily blogging, that is the only subject matter, other than a random picture of a cat, that will work for blogging today.

Today was all about storytelling, specifically storytelling designed to inspire donors to give money. I have really only been in the nonprofit world for 3 years, 1 of that was serving as a stipend-ed volunteer, and the past two have been in the world of communications & marketing. I also love stories, primarily as a reader, but also now as a writer. Telling good stories, stories that connect, stories that inspire, that is important to me and to my organization. I also believe in my organization, not only do I give it my focus, attention and hard work for 40 hours a week, but I am a donor as well. I truly believe we are doing good work.

That all said, I don’t always connect to the idea of being a fundraiser. I don’t necessarily want to make you cry with one of my stories, I don’t want to only ever tell you about the individual success story of a kid who overcame great diversity. And I don’t want to ONLY focus on the emotional centers of donors.

As one of our speakers said today, currently nonprofits compete primarily in terms of sales & marketing. The nonprofits who tells their story better, has the best website and gives you a great donor experience is the one who wins the donors. And yes, nonprofits should work hard at all of those things. However, shouldn’t we instead be competing in terms of impact? Shouldn’t it be that the nonprofits who really make the world a better place are the ones who win donors? Not just the ones who can pull at your heartstrings the most?

Another speaker earlier in the day talked about how (and he was coming primarily from the world of direct mail) sad photos move people to donate more than happy photos. He scoffed at the idea that poverty porn should be avoided and said in essence what matters is telling the stories that will generate the biggest checks, not necessarily the stories that are the average outcome from your organization.

That really bugged me. Perhaps it is my millennial generation showing, but my only interest in the world of marketing is the chance to do at organization which is making the world a better place. Life as a salesperson, advertising executive, or marketing guru sounds abhorrent to me. What I want is authentic transparency in the organizations I give to and I work for. I never want to rely on sad black and white photos of kids with empty bowls to inspire donors. I want to show them stories that help them understand how they play an important role in truly solving hunger. I want to write stories that don’t just tell the formulaic (no matter how tested) stories of individual people whose lives were changed, but I want to tell the story of how my organization is connecting the dots between where food is wasted and where it is needed.

One of the big adages of fundraising is that people give from a place of emotion. Supposedly no one gives when they are presented with stats or rational explanations. I can understand that, giving is an amazing act of humanity and it makes sense that it would be more right brain than left. However I don’t think that means we leave the left brain out of it. If the nonprofit sector truly wants to change the world (which is the claim we make in front of our donors every time we ask them for money) than we need to start finding ways to connect rationally as well as emotionally. This world has a lot of problems and it shouldn’t just be the program staff that are using the left sides of their brain to solve them. I like to tell stories and I like excel spreadsheets. I love a good novel and I love to read articles about psychology. I want to tell stories that connect emotionally, but also carry a strong rational core that help our work be understood on a broader level. In other words, I want my stories, but I want my stats too.

Thankful for Thanksgiving

I don’t think I had realized just how much I needed this break until I caught myself counting down the minutes at work this afternoon. While I had a proper vacation back in August when I went home to Chicago/Goshen for the week, I haven’t had a break without going anywhere in quite some time.

And what better way to start off a break then getting visits from friends! Sarah and Mark, friends from my Reba days are on a West Coast road trip and just arrived this evening in time for curry and pumpkin bars. Now we are setting up camp for the night, hunting down air mattress parts, digging out sheets and mixing up the Amazing Overnight Waffles for breakfast tomorrow morning. Next up is PJs and a new to me episode of Spy, a British comedy that Sarah and Mark enjoy.

Regardless of whether tomorrow is Thanksgiving or not for you, I hope you get a chance to rest, eat good food and spend time with people you love, or at least like quite a lot.

Today

I started off the morning by heading over to the other side of my neighborhood to pick up the teaching materials for Sunday school tomorrow-the last Sunday of the quarter. I have to admit I am looking forward to taking a break from teaching, despite only having done half of the Sundays this fall. But teaching, and more accurately hanging out and getting to know, some of the kids at my church was a good experience.

During the walk over, I used the handy-dandy feature of using my headphones/microphone combo to chat with my parents and then on the way back chatted with Jess. Once back home, Jess and I battled bad internet connections to video chat for a while and then I have leftovers for lunch.

The next 3 hours is where my productivity took a solid nose dive while I played Civ 5, building a civilization out of scraps of pixels and sheer will. Finally with the realization that Alex would be back from teaching Saturday school soon and that I should perhaps attempt to get some work done I started working in my room. I shuffled boxes around and then with Alex’s help moved my furniture and unrolled my rug (the same rug that Meryl and I have been happily co-owning for over 10 years now*).

Then Alex and I made ourselves some supper (leftovers for him, quesadilla for me) and proceeded to have a relaxing evening in. He caught up on the Internet and I organized photos into files with the idea of trying to actually do a few more photo flashbacks from the past 6 months. To cap off the evening I made popcorn and we watched Clue. It was delightful and completely hilarious.

So that brings us to right now, where upon I stared a blank page, considered a few options and finally decided to write this. I hope everyone else’s Saturdays were good ones!

* I tried to find a picture of said rug to show you all. But alas, I do a rather horrible job of tagging in Flickr, so now rug photo. That said, I did find this, so that’s awesome.

Meryl and Abby

A photo from 5 years ago at Will and Keri’s wedding in Oregon.

Day 6 – Nothing much to report

Dinner is served!
Today at work, I had a bad headache and was very tired of looking a computer screen by the time I made it home. But making a delicious spaghetti dinner (with meatballs!) and a side dish of roasted brussel sprouts for Alex and David helped turn the day around. Then David baked more of his incredible sourdough bread (with his very own homemade starter) and Alex and I watched the 3 most recent episodes of Community.  Of which, I have to say, every time I think it just can’t get better than this, that show manages to top itself. It truly is the funniest thing on television right now.

But now it is 10:30pm, so it is off to bed for me!

Ah, what a refreshing week break from blogging

The thing about doing NaBloPoMo every year is it tends to make the holiday season even more discombobulated. Thanksgiving tends to pop out of no where and then before you know it the month is over, you are freely admitting to listening to Christmas music on repeat and you still haven’t bought Christmas presents yet and realize your idea of getting a Christmas tree in your new apartment will have a very short window for display if you don’t get a move on.

So yes, new apartment! In just a few short days, the last of the faithful Hedgehog housemates will be dividing our stuff, dragging things to Value Village, the dump and two different apartments in Ballard, and then settling in. In retrospect moving during the middle of the Holiday season might not have been the wisest idea, but then when is it ever a convenient time to stuff all of one’s worldly belongings in boxes, rent a giant vehicle and haul them across town? This moving distance will be a first for me* so far I have either crossed state lines or just a block or two with my moves.  But thankfully having recently shipped all my boxes almost 3,000 miles and only truly unpacked a month and a half ago, packing everything back up is a little less intimidating.

Oh let’s see what else I was going to talk about….ah yes, I do have lots of good photos and little videos from my Thanksgiving visit home, although I will warn you most of them are of Mathilda, my new favorite puppy.  And the other half of my photos are of my old housemate Anne’s crazy cute kittens.  So basically, expect a post made entirely of kittens and puppies in the near future.

*the only one that would have been a similar distance took place back in high school, but I was off in Germany, so it wasn’t a big deal.

Day 25 – Random Thought

As Thanksgiving usually is, yesterday and today have been full of food, friends, games and even a bit of shopping (but just to the more budget friendly local thrift store). I arrived midday yesterday into Chicago and have been enjoying the chance to catch up with a plethora of friends, many of whom are back in town for the holidays and my friend Kate’s wedding tomorrow! This weekend is making me thankful for the following things:
-sleeping in
-Becca’s crazy good pies!
-homemade stuffing
-blue skies
-playtime with 6 gorgeous kittens
-conversation after conversation with my much missed girlfriends
-the 5th Game of Thrones book to make plane rides go quickly
-the way walking up the steps of my old house makes me feel like I never left
-finding ridiculous faux fur coats in thrift stores
-getting hugs from and trading head rubs with Becca and Jess
-not being at work
-knowing that instead of heading home to Seattle, I get to head on to Goshen to see my wonderful family!

I hope you all are having great times with family and friends!

Day 7 – Linky Monday

Thanks to an interview with Bill Nighy on Fresh Air that I listened to on my way to work this morning, I am pretty pumped to watch Page Eight some time this week.  Who is Bill Nighy you may ask? Only the best British rock n’ roller from my favorite holiday ensemble movie!

Remember Who’s Line is Anyways? Good, now go watch this clip of the best Opera set-up ever! Thanks to awesome Tara for the link!

In case you aren’t on Google+, I decided what I want to dress up as next year, an Old-Fashioned Ghost!

I am always a complete sucker for comedians known for their dead-pan humor cracking themselves up – Stephen Colbert cracked up by his own joke! via kottke

Brilliant screenshot video ad by Urlesque set to “We didn’t start the fire” via kottke on Stellar.io

In other news, I think I won best grocery shopping haul tonight by bringing home Plum Sauce (for dipping my potstickers in) and Peanut Butter Chocolate Ice Cream.  Even the cashier noted that with only the addition of something such as Kitty Litter or Pita Bread I could have really swept the Weird Combination Awards.

And finally today marks the first of what will probably be a long series of months in which I don’t get to head home from work in the sunshine….sigh.

Happy Birthday Jonathan!

Jonathan B&W

My favorite younger brother

Today marks a very special occurrence, the celebration of the 26th anniversary of Jonathan’s birthday, or in other words a celebration of Jonathan’s ability to stay alive for 26 years and counting.  As you have probably picked up on this blog, Jonathan has always been one of my favorite people, whether it was playing pretend on a Big Wheels growing up or making cheese during Christmas vacations, or all the many crazy family adventures we have had, I have always found him to be hilarious and generally wonderful company.  Two years ago, I wrote up a post about my 10 favorite things about Jonathan and so I thought this year I would make a list of things I know that Jonathan likes

1. Jonathan likes to throw things and he also inspired my first animated gif

Click on the picture to see it action

2. Jonathan likes dogs

Jonathan's best friend

Jonathan brought his friend's dog Google home for a very memorable Christmas vacation and I think we all fell in love with the perfect search engine 🙂

Mathilde wins over hearts and minds

Click on this adorable picture to see a video of Jonathan and his new puppy Mathilde being awesome!

3. Jonathan likes to make things

Jonathan makes mittens

Jonathan made his own pair of wool sweater mittens this past Christmas

Jonathan and completed work

Jonathan is also very good at making amazingly gorgeous stone cairns

Jonathan and Dad do different crafts

When Jonathan comes home, he likes to go to the hardware store and buy things to make into other things, like this candle-powered fountain

4. Jonathan likes to be creative

Me and Jonathan

Jonathan introduced our family to the idea of group paintings and was the primary instigator in too our first family self-portrait

5. Jonathan likes to think hard

David is awesome!

Jonathan studies Physics and thinks about things that I can't even understand the definitions of

6. Jonathan likes to be outside

Jonathan: making everything cooler since 1985

Baby Jonathan during a trip to the Boundary Waters during high school

7. Jonathan likes to take trips with friends

Many moons ago, Jonathan and a bunch of his friends took a bike trip to Hell, Michigan and thankfully David recorded video and it is still alive on the web today.  This, my friends, is a must see!

8. Jonathan likes his family

Jonathan graduated

And we like him!

9. Jonathan likes to do things differently

Jonathan can braid his beard!

I think Jonathan's beard is another outlet for his own inner drummer

family tree

No explanation necessary

Jonathan models proper golfing gear

Golfer or Hipster, neither, just Jonathan's perfect combination of both.

10. Jonathan likes jumping

Diving into the Trees

Tim took this awesome picture of Jonathan during our family trip to the Boundary Waters

Jonathan sits on the temple

Tim also took this picture of Jonathan leaping over the Bahai Temple in Evanston

What Seattle means right now

  • sore biceps from a two day attempt to tame the crazy weeds in the front and back yard that grow a good 10 inches higher than the grass
  • the smell the acrid burning plastic of the weed whacker after it lit itself on fire to escape my over 60 minute long forced march through the forests of the back yard
  • laughing at (or should I say with?) the cute baby antics of the adorable 2.5 year old guest at our house’s Labor Day BBQ yesterday evening
  • frustrations with the deteriorating state of my room (it shifted from tetris style boxes, to its current configuration of open bins of clothing blocking almost all floor space access
  • the related frustration of having more clothes than closet/drawer space
  • pleasure in the sense of finding new rhythms and schedules to my day
  • the taste of homemade blackberry jam (Katie and I made another batch this weekend) on Alex’s homemade bread
  • the ongoing quandary of not knowing more and more what the larger goals of this year are, but still having little clarity on the day to day goals
  • successfully navigating two extensive bureaucracies to obtain both a WA driver’s license and food stamps
  • lovely video chats with friends in Chicago, Goshen and Florida
  • an enjoyable but less than inspiring church visit (leading me to believe that it will be even harder than I anticipated to find another church home like Reba)
  • the joy of buying my airplane tickets for my first visit home

My new obsession with Instagram

As you may have noticed in my haircut photo I appear to be holding an iPhone like device. Have no fear I have not given into the siren song of the smart phone (oh that beauteous melody!), but instead I am enjoying my new iPod Touch. Which I now posses thanks to a happy trade between Jonathan and I through which he was gifted a car and me an Mp3 player. Oddly enough considering the age and miles on the car, I believe I may have gotten the better deal 🙂
So yes the new iPod Touches also come with cameras, thus allowing me to finally have the crappy quality point and shoot of my dreams. And thanks to an app with lots of fun filters that do a good job of covering up the low megapixel nature of these photos, makes it really fun to edit them. So here are my current instagram photos:

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