Pittsburgh Emerging Arts Leaders Network

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Just Say No

This is not a campaign against drugs…but then again, while I’m here, don’t do drugs 😉

The struggle with saying no is a really interesting and relevant topic to me.

As an individual, I enjoy being needed and appreciated so if someone asks something of me, I am inclined to say yes without considering if that’s really a smart choice.

As a burgeoning small business owner, it’s really tempting to take business that isn’t a good fit for our brand and how we do business, because “well, at least it is some money instead of no money.”

As a non-profit arts administrator in a small yet multi-faceted organization with limited resources, I want everyone to love my organization as much as I do and fear that saying no can engender ill will in the community.

In all three of these cases (though I plan to focus mostly on the non-profit arts organization for this blog), learning to say no is so important.  Why? Self/business/organizational preservation.  Just as we talk about work/life balance all the time among arts workers (perhaps it will be featured in an upcoming blog post,) we have to apply the same principle to businesses and organizations.  When it really comes down to it work/life balance is all about managing resources: time, energy, etc.  And as we all know, organizations have resources too.  There’s only so much time in a work day, there’s only so many employees, there’s only so much money, and so on.

So when a request for a favor, a potential collaboration, or donation inquiry comes across my desk, how do I go about deciding to say yes or no?  I want to ensure that every time we say yes to something that the result will be of some value to the organization.  That value doesn’t have to always be monetary.  Value can be found in new connections, community good will, and of course, strengthening the mission, among others.

What is valuable, how valuable it is and if it is valuable enough has to be determined by each organization.  In our case, we’re one year into a new five-year strategic plan, so much of our discussion on these items revolves around the question of whether or not “this” will help us achieve one of the major goals in the plan.  But for other organizations, that evaluative process might be very different–your organization might need cold hard cash to make something worthwhile, or butts in seats.  Again, every organization is different, assigns value differently and therefore has different reasons for saying yes or no to the opportunities it’s presented with.

The key is having some system in place to evaluate on your value criteria.  If you don’t have any process in place, every time a question presents itself, it’s just overwhelming and stressful and adds to the difficulties in saying no.

I’m a huge proponent of learning to say no, clearly and confidently. I’ll admit that I’m actually much better at it with my small business owner hat and non-profit administrator hat on that my personal life hat, but nobody’s perfect, right?  And it wasn’t always easy–it’s definitely a learned skill.

As with many things in life, practice is key.  I also find that having the evaluative system above as incredibly helpful in providing a reason for saying no.  I feel much more confident telling someone, “thank you so much for this opportunity, but the glass center is not in a position to pursue this at this time” rather than just “no,” because I’ve actually done the work to determine that we’re not in the place to pursue this right now, or it’s not a good fit, it doesn’t align with our mission, or whatever other relevant determinations I make.

And since working on saying no can be tough, let’s have a little humor to wrap up. Whenever I think about saying no, this scene from 27 Dresses, where James Marsden’s character tries to help the people pleasing Jane (Katherine Heigl) to practice saying no.

So, let’s all take our inner people pleaser on a vacation for a few weeks and just say no.

Do you have a hard time saying no?  Do you have particular strategies to deal with it at work?

Sam Laffey is the Marketing Associate at Pittsburgh Glass Center and a partner at Porter Loves Photography.  She is always looking for groovy patterns, cute puppy dogs and all things green.  She can be found on a myriad of social media platforms, including Twitter @samlaffey.


Social Media for Non-Profits is Just Social Media

ImagePhoto courtesy of Flickr user Alnarcisi33

Podcamp Pittsburgh is a free social, new media un-conference that just completed its seventh year this past weekend.  With local social media experts and celebs creating the content, no two years are ever the same.

This was my second year attending Podcamp Pittsburgh.  Despite the fact that waking up early on rainy Saturday AND Sunday is not my ideal fall weekend, I found it to be an incredibly valuable use of my time last year, and with the speed at which things change in the social space, I knew there was new information to be learned this year.  In addition to learning a great deal about strategies and new tools in social media, it’s an incredible opportunity to meet the social media gurus of Pittsburgh, often people I’ve followed and “known” virtually for some time.  Putting faces to Twitter handles is always fun!

Because this conference isn’t arts specific or non-profit specific, I always find it interesting to take in the information wearing my different hats: as a social media manager for a non-profit arts organization, as a partner in a small for-profit business, and as an individual who is active online.  Some might argue that these hats are very different and thus require very different information.  For example, I attended a session entitled “Social Media for Nonprofits” and there were other sessions on the schedule called “How Crowdsourcing Can Drive Nonprofit Engagement” and “Using Social Media to Meet Immediate Nonprofit Needs.”  After much thought, I am going against that grain and saying that I truly believe that social media for non-profits is just social media.  Sure, programs, goals, and audiences are different, but that’s true from one non-profit to another and one for-profit to another.  This doesn’t change the approach to social media strategy and usage.  I believe this so much that I’m even considering proposing a session to that effect next year—stay tuned.

To that end, I’ve chosen a couple of gems to share that I learned in non non-profit specific sessions that I believe to be applicable to all social media users, no matter what hat they wear:

Communicate value to your audience.  Share information that is important to your audience.  If you share valuable content, you establish yourself as an expert and the go to resource for information in your field.  If you struggle with generating valuable content to share, you should not be jumping on every new media platform that arises.

Show up.  Having a profile on a social media platform that never gets updated is almost worse than not having a profile at all.  Keep your information up to date and stay consistent.  If you don’t have time to update 10 different platforms, pick the ones that suit your goals and your audience best and forget the rest.

Engage.  Be responsive to people that engage with you through comments on your posts.  Like and comment on neighboring businesses and organizations.  Don’t dump and run. (This was one of my favorite sound bites of the weekend from health coach and rainbow maker Emily Levenson.)

In true new media un-conference fashion, the sessions were streamed live throughout the weekend for folks to watch from home and they will all be available online within the next few weeks for anyone to check out.

How do you use social media?  Do you think it’s different for non-profits than everyone else?

Sam Laffey is the Marketing Associate at Pittsburgh Glass Center and a partner at Porter Loves Photography.  She is always looking for groovy patterns, cute puppy dogs and all things green.  She can be found on a myriad of social media platforms, including Twitter @samlaffey.


Pittsburgh Delegation to the 2011 One Young World Summit September 1-4, 2011 – Zurich, Switzerland

Hope you all will consider applying for this remarkable opportunity!

Pittsburgh Delegation to the 2011 One Young World Summit
September 1-4, 2011 – Zurich, Switzerland
Bringing together and connecting the best and brightest young leaders from around the globe to address major global challenges

The One Young World Pittsburgh Partnership invites young professionals from Pittsburgh’s not-for-profit community to apply to participate in the 2011 One Young World Summit in Zurich, Switzerland, from September 1 through 4, 2011. Launched in 2010 in London, One Young World is the premier global forum for young leaders from around the world. One hundred highly recognized global corporations sponsored or sent young leaders to the conference, which has been referred to by CNN as the “Young Davos.”

More than 1,600 delegates under the age of 30 are expected to attend the 2011 Summit. Participants are selected through a nomination process by global leaders from the private sector, government, and the non-profit sector in each of the world’s 192 countries. One Young World convenes the best and brightest from the “successor generation” from around the world to discuss the most pressing global challenges – and to develop solutions to meet those challenges. The goal is to develop a global network and to ensure that the concerns and opinions of the next generation of decision-makers and opinion leaders are heard.

Pittsburgh has been selected by One Young World as the sole U.S. bid city to host the 2012 Summit, and the One Young World Pittsburgh Partnership wants to field a strong delegation at the 2011 Summit in Zurich. The World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh is coordinating with other southwestern Pennsylvania organizations to sponsor five delegates to attend the Zurich event. Candidates interested in applying must be between 21 and 28 years of age and should be affiliated with an area non-profit. Successful candidates will be team players who demonstrate leadership potential, and who have the ability to grasp complex concepts and provide valuable insights, as well as a commitment to cultural diversity. They should show an interest in global affairs and in helping define Pittsburgh’s place in the world.

To apply, candidates must:

  • Complete the registration form
  • Submit a personal statement (of no more than one page in length) which outlines what the candidate can contribute at the Summit and how the candidate hopes to benefit personally and professionally from attending the Summit.
  • Provide a current resume and/or narrative biography.
  • Submit two letters of reference from people who can assess the candidate’s personal and professional qualities. (Ideally, one letter should be from an employer and one from the leader of an area non-profit.)
  • Agree to use Social Media to share experiences during and after the Summit.
  • Candidates should email their application to oyw@worldpittsburgh.org by Friday, June 24, 2011.

Candidates will be notified if they have been selected by Monday, July 15, 2011.

For more information about One Young World, please see http://www.oneyoungworld.com.

For more information about being a part of Pittsburgh’s delegation to the One Young World Summit in Zurich, please contact oyw@worldpittsburgh.org.

The One Young World Pittsburgh Partnership is a consortium of local companies, non-profits, and community organizations which are working together to bring One Young World to Pittsburgh in 2012. The founding partners include the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, Euro RSCG Worldwide PR, VisitPittsburgh, and the World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh.

More information: http://www.worldpittsburgh.org/oyw.jsp

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