I’ll never forget going back and forth with a brilliant client of mine, as we dreamed up her thought leadership brand strategy. She’s a coach and consultant for nonprofits who recently left her fifteen-year career as an executive director for a household name, national nonprofit organization.
And yet, she was having a hard time really owning the word coach in her content, in her profile, and really in her mind. She didn’t know if she could really say that she had the experience of coaching people, in her previous role.
I asked her, “What did you love most about being an Executive Director?”
She said that one of her greatest joys was seeing her team and the people who reported to her throughout the years grow into change leaders in their own right.
Perfect response! I go “Well, how did you support them in doing that? Did you …. coach them?”
And because I knew her heart, as well as her receipts, I felt like I could drive that point home as an objective partner, helping to hold up a mirror to her transferrable skills. I asked her for her permission to share this story and we can kind of giggle about it now, but this larger issue is as serious as a heart attack. OK?
Because the data shows that women, we don’t always think we’re allowed to bring in past, yet perfectly transferable skills into the language we use to show up and describe ourselves with, today. Like if it wasn’t explicitly in our job title or job description, we don’t have permission to say we’ve got expertise in it. And again, as with everything I share about certain outcomes of gender differences, that’s not our fault – it’s a natural response to the biases that are baked into our systems.
Research shows that to apply for a job, women feel they need to meet 100% of the criteria while men usually apply after meeting about 60%. LinkedIn behavioral research backs this up, as they say women tend to apply to 20% fewer jobs that they’ve checked out, as compared to men.
As social impact-driven consultants, coaches, and service providers we may not be applying for jobs in the same way, but we do apply for speaking opportunities, submit proposals, and stretch ourselves with campaigns and launches of new offers – all of which require communicating our strengths, skills, and most of all – value.
So, remember – the experiences and skills you’ve gained up to this point are perfectly valid and transferrable. As I recently went through my first technical launch in my business recently, I realized my experiences from a career in social impact supported this process tremendously.
Highlights from the podcast episode:
In this episode, I want to share how our transferrable skills can set us up for success as entrepreneurs and thought leaders, and hopefully convince you to factor in your own lived experiences into the way you show up and shine in the world.
Social impact professionals become fabulous social impact entrepreneurs
People who grew up in the social impact space are uniquely equipped to run businesses and build influential, personal brands to drive change and raise revenue. And this may seem obvious in theory but in individual practice, oftentimes, it’s not.
And a lot of folks are leaving the nonprofit field to start their own consulting firms and coaching practices, whether it’s because they’re looking to be at home with their family more, or maybe they’re realizing the nonprofit industrial complex will not create the long term visionary change they’re working towards. Maybe being – as my friend Karen Bartlett says – an entrepreneurial activist is a right path for you.
So, I want to talk about how being a fundraiser and being rooted in the mental health field set me up for what I’m doing today. This episode is just as much for me as it for you, okay? I may need this as a pep talk in the future when I get into my feels.
What you might get out of it – especially if you’ve got experience in the social impact arena – is a reminder of how you could use those skills to be helpful in your next launch, campaign, or offer, and how you can factor these stories and experiences in to your ongoing thought leadership content.
Nonprofit fundraising and entrepreneurship
Let’s start with fundraising. Even if you’ve never been a professional fundraiser, you’ve probably fundraised for something, or friendraised, or essentially held a larger vision to attract support and resources to help make that vision a reality.
So, how do we communicate vision? If you think about the last fundraiser or big community event that you attended, can you remember all the facts and figures that were presented? Probably not, but I would guess you remember at least one story. It is our stories that attract others to us, as they see themselves reflected in your story, and buy into your shared vision. Storytelling helps other people imagine a future they can’t yet see, and get on the same pager towards that direction.
And so, a major transferrable skill here is storytelling AND holding a long-term vision vs. getting into the weeds. That’s not to say we can’t hang out with the dandelions every now and then, but we have training and practice at holding the long-term, and making it so clear that our supporters can see it and want to get involved. How this can show up when you’re launching something or putting out an offer, is to take great care to not highlight how we’re getting there but where we’re going and why. It’s not about how comfy the seats on the plane are, but the beautiful destination we’re headed to.
Both thought leadership and launching offers are vision focused. It’s super tempting to talk about the plane – in my case, with my Kindling Collective group offer, that would look like talking about the Circle membership platform, and how many modules you’ll get and we have this number of coaching calls. And that is important, and it feels important because we’ve spent so much time creating these pieces, but to someone who’s not as intimately aware of our service, it might not connect them with their deeper desire of where they want to go. Instead, what will life look in six months, in a year, or longer as a result of taking this aligned action, today – and how can we back that up with real stories of the people we’ve served?
And looking back at my launch I could have probably done a better job with this but hey you know what? That’s what this whole process is about. Treating things as an experiment, looking back, revising, and then doing better once you know better.
The other skill set or piece around fundraising is moving people through a journey. Usually, people who first find you or enter into your orbit – let’s say they follow you on LinkedIn – they’re generally not ready yet to get involved in what you have to offer. The industry stat that’s thrown around is that at any given time, 3% of people have a need for what you’re putting out there.
Priming, cultivating and stewarding as an entrepreneur
And in fundraising, I’d say there are three major ways we build connective tissue with our audience. There’s priming, cultivating, and stewarding. If we took this skill set and applied it as entrepreneurs, as mission-driven consultants, as specialists and service providers, what that might look like? I’ll talk about how this looked for my own launch.
Priming is the piece around getting ready for the ask or launch. It sets the stage and gets people ready for your offer, whether you’re asking for a gift or a sale, or something else.
You may have heard of the old marketing rule – the rule of seven – meaning people have got to interact with your brand at least seven times before taking action. While I’m not sure that’s an exact science, and I would guess the number is actually significantly higher, value building, relationship building, and affinity building is a process. So priming, with my recent launch, looked like doing a weekly testimonial series where I got to highlight and amplify one of my past clientfriends. I’ll link that series in the show notes so you can take a look. It was a win-win, because I got to amplify them and give them flowers, while indirectly also sharing the value of thought leadership work.
Secondly, in all my communications leading up to my launch webinar, I primed my audience with the fact there would be an invitation to join the Kindling Collective group program during the webinar, although there was no obligation. It was included in every LinkedIn post, every email, all of it. Because why wouldn’t I include that, and let them know?
Can you think of anything worse than putting in the work of planning a beautiful gala, breakfast, or other type of fundraiser but keeping the fact it’s a fundraiser a secret? That there will be an ask at the end? Otherwise, it would be awkward for the audience, and even worse, resulting in less of an impact generated because you haven’t primed your audience.
Then, cultivating – which doesn’t exactly 100% line up in the example – but I think donor cultivation skills is kind of like the skillset of having thoughtful conversations in the DM’s and the ways you nurture people after the webinar – after they’ve given you the gift of time and are possibly considering joining the program. There’s a lot of power of sending direct messages 1:1, not to ever convince or wheedle or what I call icky pitch. Sometimes it can feel like asking any question or following up 1:1 can come off as salesy or sleazy.
But I think it’s about intention. And listen, this is coming from a deeply introverted person who’d much rather live in the forest with a society of woodland creatures. But I also deeply care about seeing more overlooked and underestimated leaders dismantle systematically limited beliefs to begin sharing their insights and opinions, to move our world towards a more just future.
And that vision wins, every time I hesitate to send a DM for fear of seeming … I don’t know, forward? Too much? This piece has to stem from a true spirit of wanting to support, knowing that our offer or program can truly help that person – IF we think it can. And if not, or if it’s not a fit for any reason, I bring in the power of a bless and release. I got to attend a fundraising training in New York once with the incredible Lynne Twist, and she essentially said she does not convince, she simply makes a stand. That’s what we do – we make a stand.
Donor Stewardship is the third part, which I think can sort of be equated to amazing customer support and making sure our clients receive the program promise we put out there. I just launched my program so I don’t have too much to say about this other than that this is the most important thing of all! OK? If your clients aren’t getting a good result, then like, stop everything and figure this out.
I think this skillset can also be equated to stewarding your referral partners – maybe that’s more of an exact comparison. How are you supporting the people that are supporting you and practicing community care? It’s one thing to turn your audience into a community but a community goes two ways. If you don’t support your community back, it probably won’t grow into the supportive force it could be. I’m not necessarily talking about a quid pro quo, referral for referral but instead, like, be friends with your friends. If they’re sick, maybe send them a lil care package, you know? If they’re on a podcast sharing something really vulnerable, maybe send them some comfy socks from Uncommon Goods with a love note? Right?
That’s a little brain dump of how a career or experiences in fundraising can support you on your entrepreneurial path.
I also have the gift of growing up in the addiction treatment, mental health space. It WAS such a gift to enter this field right out of college because it helped shape me into who I am. It taught me the importance of managing our physical, emotional, and spiritual health in bite-sized daily actions over a lifetime, as well as the power of sharing our vulnerable stories and getting support from a peer community. Because shame festers alone but as our friend Brene says, “Shame cannot survive being spoken.”
It taught me how important managing your energy is. It taught me the importance of small habits creating big, transformative change over time. It taught me the importance of holding each other – not physically but energetically – in smaller groups so that that healing, and transformation can ripple out into the world.
But skills wise – one thing for sure I can point out is the importance of advocacy. Many of us work on an issue that has bias or stigma stuck to it. For example, anti-racism work – which is ACTUALLY love work, like my clientfriend Laura Mae Lindo says, but there’s so much … misunderstanding and dis-comfort around it. That’s just one example. And so, how do we talk about these types of things on LinkedIn consistently while feeling safe and adjusted, even if other people are in their own process around not understanding or even wanting to understand what we’re talking about.
Addiction is one of those issues – and I remember early on in my career going to various places to talk about our work to garner support, and some folks would say, “Well, why don’t they just stop using?” / “Why should we support them and donate, when they’re just an outcome of making bad choices.” This was fifteen years ago and the understanding around addiction has changed dramatically, which is good.
But if we’re going to make a stand for the people we support, dealing with the problem that we solve. If we’re uniquely positioned to bring insights and a new way of thinking to the world, so some people can begin the process of changing their minds and hearts, and if we’re working towards a more just future, we’ve got to figure out how to advocate for it. And at the time of this recording I just dropped a whole module about that inside the Kindling Collective so let me give you a teeny tiny teaser.
Who actually benefits from your silence/invisibility/best-kept-secretness? Who or what will continue to fester and grow stronger if you – and your community that will continue to get inspired to share their own stories – don’t continue to stand out, as you stand up for your mission?
Consider that. And I am definitely not saying you need to martyr yourself around your issue, at all, but sometimes when you speak up it prompts a community to do the same.
And finally – the last thing that being so deeply rooted in the mental health field taught me that has supported my business growth and thought leadership strategy, is tying in our strengths, needs, abilities, and preferences, or SNAP. We talked about this a little bit with Jordan Gill in her podcast episode – I will link to that in the show notes.
But essentially, the SNAP approach is an element of person-centered care. A therapist, or counselor, will take into account each patient’s strengths, needs, abilities, and preferences when creating their treatment plan. And I think sometimes we forget to do that in our own businesses, consultancies, and practices. We see our competitors, colleagues, or strangers do something like, start a YouTube channel. But then we think WE need to start a YouTube channel, without stopping to think about the fact – hey I hate being on video. So, what are your strengths, needs, abilities, and preferences and how can you use them to maximize your visibility without setting yourself up to start hating your business? Thinking about that can help guide us before we start chasing the next shiny object. Because there’s a lot of shiny objects, and honestly they all work. LinkedIn is where I’ve chosen to make my playground because it fits my strengths, need, abilities and preferences for my business, but you get to make that choice for yourself.
So, my friend! What are your transferrable skills and knowledge? What were you born or raised or trained to do? What are the things you could write a manual on, and how does it apply to what you do now? And, how can you use this in your ongoing thought leadership content to further position yourself an approachable authority in your space?
These skills are not random pieces of knowledge but instead, they actually make up a mosaic of lived experiences that have positioned you to do what you do now with excellence and grace, even if it doesn’t always feel like it.
So, reach out and let me know how this landed. I am especially curious how you found this episode, since quite a few times during the recording I was like, ummm “Who is this actually for?” But you know what, it was fun to talk about, and so maybe it’s just for me!
Want to drive change and raise revenue as a thought leader on LinkedIn? Hop on the waitlist for the Kindling Collective, a high-touch group program for social impact leaders.
Learn to dismantle systematically limited beliefs around visibility, gain clarity in your message to write content that converts, and build community with power brokers and decision makers that can help you make shift happen.
Resources from this episode:
14 LinkedIn Content Prompts: Build your personal brand and thought leadership, show up for your target audience and grow your know-like-trust factor with your professional audience on LinkedIn.
Connect with me:
LinkedIn: Tania Bhattacharyya