Category Archives: Nonprofits

Nonprofits

We have high regard for nonprofit organizations and the important work they do, and we consider it an honor to work in partnership with them.

Full Circle Moments and Life-Changing Conversations

It was just about a year ago that Teresa Coles casually asked me if I could stop by the WECO so she could run an idea past me. As we settled into the cozy comfort of the green room, I was a bit bowled over when she asked if – after nine years of owning my own public relations consulting firm – I would consider joining the team at Riggs Partners. And not just joining the team, but heading up a new division to add public relations to the agency’s already impressive suite of services.

To fully understand the shock, surprise and overwhelming sense of “Me? They want me?” I have to take you back to 1998. I was in my second job out of college, working as the Community Events Coordinator at Carolina Children’s Home, a residential treatment facility for abused and neglected children. As with most nonprofits, the children’s home often struggled with having the resources to produce the kind of materials that we needed to help us solicit community support. We heard that a local marketing firm was going to offer free services to area nonprofits, and applied to see if they would develop a brochure for the Home.

As you may have guessed, we were selected as one of the first nonprofits ever served by Riggs’ signature program, CreateAthon. What they probably saw as a small, simple, 8-page brochure was like gold to us. When we went to speak to civic organizations and potential corporate sponsors, we now had an attractive, professional piece that beautifully described our work and explained how our community could help us give our kids a better life.

Over the years, I had numerous opportunities to observe Riggs through our shared professional associations and connections. I attended open houses and parties in their old office on Lady Street. I dropped off snack foods and supplies one year for CreateAthon, just because. I cheered for them at industry awards shows, because it’s great to see good people do well. I even got a chance to be their client when I worked for another nonprofit in the early 2000s.

In 2011, I reached out to ask if I could volunteer at CreateAthon, and received a very enthusiastic call from Teresa inviting me to work alongside her as an account manager for two clients. Of course, I was hooked and again volunteered for CreateAthon in 2012, this time serving as a lead account manager. It was a true full circle moment to go from CreateAthon client to CreateAthon volunteer.

I loved being my own boss for nearly a decade. Some of the proudest work of my (gulp) 20-year career came during that time. I was fortunate to work with amazing clients and meaningful causes. But just as I felt the pull in 2004 to venture out on my own, in early 2013 I was feeling the pull that it was time for a change. I just wasn’t sure what it was.

Thankfully, Teresa did. To say that I’m grateful to be a part of this team is an understatement. I have the best of both worlds – the opportunity to develop our public relations department with the same entrepreneurial spirit that I used to build my own company, and to be a part of an incredibly talented and generous team.

So, the next time someone invites you for a casual conversation, keep your ears, your heart and your mind open. That conversation just might change your life.

In Pursuit of Purpose

We had to see it coming: Aaron Hurst, founder of Taproot Foundation and the guru of the pro bono movement, has moved beyond inspiring us to share our professional skills as a means to social good to building an entire economic sector around doing work that matters.

Aaron’s new gig is CEO of Imperative, a cadre of social entrepreneurs, product developers, economists and all-around brilliant creative minds. They’re on a mission to create a fully functioning Purpose Economy by 2020. The bottom line? Helping people and organizations uncover, activate, and monetize work that leaves a mark on this world — and making a good living doing it.

I got a preview of this big fat idea last winter, when I attended the first-ever Global Pro Bono Summit, hosted in NYC by Taproot. Our last exercise was to figure out – in 15 minutes, no less — how to transform the pro bono marketplace into a $20 billion economy by 2020. We burned up some post-it notes on that, let me tell you.

Those close to Aaron knew he was already at work on the Purpose Economy, writing a book while making the transition to Imperative. Ever watchful for news of the book release, I noted the announcement by Imperative just this past week of the Purpose 100, a compilation of people throughout the world who are deemed to be “transforming our innate need for meaning into the organizing principle for innovation and growth in the American economy.”

In a culture obsessed with the “awards season,” it’s refreshing to see people recognized for their bravery, creativity and tenacity in pursuing something larger than themselves.

I encourage you to spend a few moments with this list and consider the ways in which these remarkable human beings have channeled the talents, experiences and relationships they’ve cultivated in their lives into a force for good.

Then get out a sheet of paper and start looking for your purpose. It’s there, just under the surface, waiting for you.

Own Your Contradictions: How to make the most of confusion around the work you do

Brand strategy is nothing more than the truth. Like great strategy, the truth is simple. That doesn’t mean it is easy.

What makes the truth difficult is the uncomfortable debate, the idiosyncratic exception or the inherent contradiction. And therein lies the opportunity.

Rick Ridgeway, VP of Environmental Affairs at Patagonia, recently penned an essay, “The Elephant in the Room.” Ridgeway acknowledges that while Patagonia has enjoyed growth, continued growth is ecologically unsustainable. He admits Patagonia’s “uneasy relationship with growth,” and continues a dialogue began on Black Friday of 2011 with Patagonia’s “Don’t Buy This Jacket” ad in the New York Times, something I blogged about in 2011.

Likewise, there is discussion at Riggs Partners regarding our own growth and profit relative to our emphasis on pro bono, love of nonprofit work and embrace of the cause du jour. Let the “what abouts” continue, as business is nothing but the commerce of constant course correction.

Business complexities shouldn’t cause confusion; they should prompt candor and clarity through conversation.

The value of pro bono

A recent article in the New York Times speaks to the importance of not working for free because it devalues all creative vocations, rendering our work worthless to a culture that often defines value monetarily. As a part-time freelance designer, I tend to agree with this premise in a practical sense. Why should I give my time, effort, and skills to someone at absolutely no cost? For exposure to new audiences? A chance to beef up my portfolio? The possibility of future work? While such offers sound appealing and may at times even benefit the creative, they are ultimately the equivalent of asking for a free 5-course meal at a fancy restaurant in exchange for a positive review on Yelp. Spending all your 9 to 5 efforts on a project for next to nothing in return could therefore be considered an insane waste of time.

Why then do we do it once a year, for 24 hours straight? Because pro bono is not just working for free, it’s consciously giving for free: giving of our time and talents to deserving nonprofits who’s jobs are to give of themselves every day; steadfastly giving back to our communities what they have so graciously given us — a chance to make the world a better place. As I reflect on CreateAthon and all the good that was done last week, I realize that not all work done for free is worthless or a devaluation of our creative talents. Pro bono work can in fact have far greater value when done for the benefit of other do-gooders. It’s this spirit of giving back, this CreateAthon, that continues a cycle of good in our community. This is our ever-so-small contribution to the continuing rotation of the great world around us. And for the joy set before us, we will do it again and again.

New Work: Doing Pro Bono, Pro Bono

Inspired by the American Bar Association’s Celebration of Pro Bono, our friends at Taproot Foundation wanted to create a global celebration of pro bono, skills-based service across all professions. They chose last year’s Global Pro Bono Summit as the birthplace for their movement. As business leaders gathered to discuss the increasing viability of the pro bono ethic across industries, Taproot rallied the troops. Summit attendees were quick to demonstrate their enthusiasm, and in that moment, Taproot’s idea became a worldwide movement.

Wave that flag! The new Pro Bono Week logo embodies the spirit of skills-based volunteerism.

As lovers of all things pro bono, we were thrilled when the folks at Taproot asked us to develop Pro Bono Week’s brand identity. Ryon Edwards and Nate Puza collaborated on a design that captures the essence of the movement: Proud. Spirited. Visionary. The energetic yellow-orange reflects the contagious positivity of that moment last year when Taproot first unveiled their ambitious plan, and the flag bearer dares every participant to think big. Pro bono is no longer a nicety. From now on, it’s serious business.

Like the movement itself, the Pro Bono Week logo is a call to action.

 

Ryon's mockups demonstrate how the logo might be used with the official Pro Bono Week hashtag.

Putting pro bono to work.