This past weekend, I had the opportunity to work with ImpactNPO, a nonprofit that provides a weekend of tech support for nonprofits through volunteers in every tech specialty.
Since the entire board and staff at TinCan Translations are volunteers, I was excited to get feedback and support from a group of professionals who would be entirely focused on my non-profit organization. I can’t tell you how weird it is being the only person to give yourself feedback. With four board members working full time and myself being the only person dedicated fully to TinCan Translation, this weekend was much appreciated.
Volunteer Meet & Greet
On Friday night after work, the event started. I was required to make a presentation about TinCan Translations, which, sticking to who I am, was way too fast paced. Being the Founding President of TinCan Translations, I am excited, and often embarrassed, at the public speaking and professional development opportunities I have. I normally embarrass myself in some way, but, luckily, I have never attached my pride to how I appear in those situations. I reason, everyone learned at some point. I am where everyone was, is, or will be, so why be ashamed at a shared experience?
After giving our presentations, the non-profit organizations were assigned to a table where they would provide more information about their organizations and what they hoped to achieve from the weekend. The volunteers then rotated the tables every five minutes like speed dating and asked questions to determine if their skills were needed.
The need of TinCan Translations was for our website to be improved or re-created. I had personally created the website myself using flash courses and advisers to learn coding, design, marketing, branding, etc. Even though I felt like I had learned a lot in the process, the final website was mediocre and clearly a product of being a generalist in several subjects. We also needed help with search engine optimization (SEO), as the translation business is heavily dependent on organic search engine traffic.
I chose a group of seven volunteers with a range of skills, though to be honest, there were several more that we could have used! Our group consisted of Faye (designer), Anna (developer), Satwik (SEO specialist & designer), Jeff (developer), Mandy (developer), and Megan (Business Analyst). I was literally GIDDY to see what this team could do and may have put inappropriate pressure on them to achieve a miracle!
Planning Stages & The Work Begins
Saturday morning early at 9:00am, we immediately began. Our skilled business analyst, Megan, immediately began asking me questions to get into the nitty gritty details of TinCan Translations. Most of the morning was spent learning about our mission, vision, projects, services, target audience, and target client. We realized that we had to deal with a lot of friction between trying to provide a high quality translation services while also attracting donors who would like to support our projects.
For my readers’ clarification, TinCan Translations has a model of partial self-sustainability in that our for-fee translation services support our community projects to increase language access. The goal is to break the unsustainable non-profit funding cycle (apply for grant, receive funds, report on funds: repeat every year or so).
What we decided is that we needed an extremely professional site that also had a community and empathetic side to it, thereby attracting high-end clients, but not deterring donors who would like to more directly support our projects.
Faye immediately got to work designing a clean professional site. Within an hour, you could start to see a whole new idea forming, and we were all excited to start implementing. In the meantime, we started planning the website, creating new content, and aggregating professional photos.
By the end of the day we were pooped, but there was still much for me to do to prep for the next day. We all went home, and I spent the night on my homework.
Implementation & The Final Day
We entered the final day trying to see how the current WordPress theme would work with the new design. At this point, we had already been uploading new content for a few hours. Unfortunately, at around 11:00 (only 5 hours left!), we realized we needed to change the theme.
This moment was the most inspiring of all. As I said, it is so incredible to see an entire team focused on improving your nonprofit, despite the fact that they have no obligation to do so. Even so, they all cracked down to try to complete the website by the end of the day.
By 4:00 PM, the main feature of the website were done, but there was still a lot of work to do. However, the team had made sure to educate me along the way, and I was sure I could complete most of the tasks.
It was then that I again felt inspired. Every single member chipped in that they wanted to give me their contact information so they could help me out after the weekend was over. I was ecstatic!
As I have traveled around the world more and more, I realize my own country has a weird suspicion surrounding people offering to help. We think, “Why?” “What are they trying to get out of it?” “What’s the scam?” Luckily, the traveling has made me more open to the offers of help, but I still have a nagging suspicion that the offers don’t actually mean action.
You Were Wrong, Danielle
After the final presentations, my extrovert group rallied the other groups to have a celebratory drink. While we had been working, occasional chat and banter was exchanged, but we just didn’t get to know each other. During drinks though, I learned that several people spoken rare languages that my organization was searching for (ever heard of Ilocano from the Philippines?). I also learned that several people had been around the world like I had, and felt empathy for TinCan Translation’s cause of increasing language access. One guy offered to make me a free video which he thought would enhance my site. One girl was able to offer me perspective on censorship in China. Another group spoke about various personality types and how they interact in leadership. And probably most usefully, I learned how to trade Bitcoins (though I haven’t done so).
I’m an extrovert, so moments like these help me to thrive and blossom. I needed the ideas, inspiration, and energy that came out of this joint collective who decided to spend their entire weekend helping a bunch of nonprofit organizations (and my introvert husband got some much-needed alone time).
Find a Way to Inspire Yourself
In writing this post, I thought, how can I best appeal to a greater audience, including for-profits?
My answer & ending motto: No matter what your cause or profit model, find a way to similarly inspire yourself. Us entrepreneurs (for/non-profit), we spend a lot of time giving ourselves feedback, and we rarely have the opportunities for external input. But we can strategically place ourselves in the way of input, criticism, and feedback if we are open to being vulnerable.