In this feature, we interview one of our fabulous team members to show a little spotlight on the staff that makes IMI great. Today we’re highlighting Allison Winter.
Originally from Greenville, NC, Allison has been gracing IMI with her bubbly personality and outgoing presence since 2013. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in English with minors in Creative Writing and Journalism from NC State University. This month, Allison takes us all back to school and a time where getting a pimple was the end of the world. Check it out!
IMI: What was one of your most embarrassing moments in school? (elementary/ middle/ high school/ college).
Allison: I was very quiet in school, and I mostly kept to myself, which has prevented me from having any great, embarrassing stories to share later in life. However, if I had to pick one, it was when my AP U.S. History teacher in high school called me out in front of the entire class and said I’d be lucky if I made a 2 (out of 5) on the AP test. He picked on me throughout the year and, looking back, I think it’s safe to say he was a big believer in the blonde stereotype. So, needless to say, I was ecstatic when I got a 4 on my test and was able to count his class towards college credit!
IMI: What was your favorite teen show, movie, or book?
Allison: The two channels I stuck to in high school were the Disney Channel (shocker) and Turner Classic Movies (TCM). One rainy afternoon, my mom and I stumbled upon the movie Rebecca on TCM. It’s one of Alfred Hitchcock’s first movies and is an incredible thriller. I loved it, and I’ve been hooked on Hitchcock movies ever since! As far as books go, I was a total Harry Potter fan, and even went to the midnight release of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.
IMI: If you could give one piece of advice to your 16-year-old self what would it be?
Allison: Don’t take yourself so seriously, and don’t care so much about what other people think.
IMI: What is one thing that people would be surprised to know about you?
Allison: To keep with the school theme, I loved to dance back then, and I took ballet, tap, jazz, and modern. We performed the Nutcracker every year during the holiday season, and we always had a big production right before the start of summer vacation. My two favorite roles throughout the years were the Mirliton in The Nutcracker and Alice from Alice in Wonderland!
In more recent years, something that may be surprising is my husband, Cameron, and I are trying to live a “zero waste” lifestyle. I could talk about this for hours, but if you’re interested in learning more, then I’d highly recommend the book Zero Waste Home. It’s amazing!
IMI: What has been your favorite place to travel while working in AMC?
Allison: The Greenbrier, hands down! It’s a big, beautiful resort in West Virginia with a lot of history. Every inch of it was decorated by Dorothy Draper in her unique style, and it was such a treat to explore the property! Visiting The Greenbrier fulfilled a dream I had of staying there since middle school, and I still count myself so lucky to have gone there.
The first picture is Cameron and I in front of Notre Dame. Paris was our last stop on the month-long European adventure we took two summers ago!
The second picture is of the two of us at the first Georgia Bulldogs football game this past season. Yes, Cameron’s beard has grown exponentially since we moved to Georgia. Go Dawgs!
The INACSL President’s Award was created to recognize an individual who has contributed significantly to advance the mission and vision of the organization. In her speech, INACSL’s President, Kristina Thomas Dreifuerst, PhD, RN, CNE, ANEF, noted that she chose Jalene for this award because “[Jalene] has been the wind in INACSL’s sails. As an organization primarily made up of volunteers that rotate in and out of roles, Jalene has been a constant in providing direction and support to keep the ship afloat. She brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to the organization in a gentle and guiding manner. She is incredibly efficient, organized and always willing to go the extra mile. Jalene has helped the Board of Directors navigate through challenges in the organization, and guided us to keep moving forward.”
With Jalene’s guidance and management, INACSL has increased its assets by more than 568 percent, increased its net income by more than 5 percent, and been able to secure the organizations future by setting aside over $1 million in reserves and invests. In addition, INACSL has had three consecutive years with record high membership numbers and recently released the redesigned INACSL.org. Finally, the INACSL Standards of Best Practice: SimulationSM have been translated from English to Mandarin, Japanese, and Korean. Translations in French, Spanish, and Portuguese are also currently in process.
Congratulations, Jalene! We are so thankful to work with you and learn from you.
In pondering the nature of creativity, I think about moments when I happen upon the thread of an idea for a writing project. I follow the thread, weaving together ideas in my mind until I can envision the finished writing piece as an intricate tapestry. Though I most consistently experience the pull to create in writing, it is not the only area of my work where creativity could be beneficial.
Following this, one of my goals in 2018 has been to set aside more time for creative thinking in all areas of my work. After much reflection over the past few months, I have personally found that that stimulatingcreativityrequires setting aside a space in my mind for new thoughts to take root and flourish. The best way for me to do this is by engaging in some mildly stimulating physical activity for a few minutes.
Most of my work as a nonprofit professional is mentally, rather than physically, challenging, so physical activity provides a respite for my brain. This rest provides space for my mind to wander while the rest of my body is occupied and brings renewed energy and focus when it’s time to turn back to intense mental activity. Sometimes I find creative inspiration in the physical activity itself or in the burst of energy following it. Some strategies I’ve used for engaging in work-appropriate physical activity are below:
Physical activity does not always entail breaking a sweat. One of my favorite ways to give my brain a rest is by coloring. Ever the perfectionist, I find that selecting crayon colors and working to stay in the lines of an intricate mandala design is immensely satisfying, though not too challenging. If I am stuck on how to attack a problem, I set my iPhone timer for a few minutes and open my coloring book. In the time it takes me to fill a section of a picture with color, my mind relaxes and, after a few minutes of solitude, creeps back to the problem at hand with a new perspective.
If you are interested in this method, you can print adult coloring pages here.
Another way to practice physical activity at work is by doing desk yoga. As the name implies, desk yoga is yoga that has been modified to be completed while sitting at a desk. Yoga practice is steeped in mindfulness, so when I do this, I am forced to focus on my body instead of work for a short period of time. A break doing desk yoga refreshes me mentally and spiritually with the added bonus of alleviating any stiffness from sitting at a desk all day.
Watch this video to give desk yoga a try. Subtitles are included so your coworkers don’t have to listen to your desk yogi.
A final way to inspire creativity at work is through a walking meeting. At its heart, a meeting is a conversation between coworkers. Though technology requires that some meetings take place indoors, many meetings can be moved outside; in fact, I prefer this strategy when I have a challenging problem and would like the input of one of my coworkers. I find that walking meetings promote a relaxed and collegial dynamic, which makes tackling problems less intimidating and more productive. In addition, I think that the simple act of switching from an office environment to the outdoors has the potential to inspire my brain to new heights, stimulating my senses by the smell of the air in my nose; the feel of the terrain on my feet; and the sights and sounds of trees, plants, animals, and other people.
In the mental Olympics of the contemporary workplace, it can feel like too much effort to take the time to cultivate creativity. Nonprofit professionals need only a few minutes a day to color, stretch, or walk outside to give themselves outlets for creative thought.
What are your strategies for inspiring creativity at work? Please feel free to comment below.
How often do you think about the role of creativity in your workplace? The book Creativity, Inc. written by Ed Catmull and Amy Wallace, dives into the creative depths of Pixar Studios and examines the business practices that have led them down the current path of success. As Catmull provides a behind the scenes look at the company during his 30 years as president, his writing takes the form of an instruction manual for cultivating inspired employees. While reading this book, I couldn’t help but become inspired myself. Below, I take a look at a few quotes from Creativity, Inc. that resonated with me and how they translate into running an Association Management team.
“Create a fertile environment”
Whether or not you identify as a creative mind, it is important to remember that everyone has the potential to be creative. This creativity can take shape in a variety of different forms. Thus, to cultivate an environment rich with innovation and development it is important to first lay the groundwork with an atmosphere that encourages individuals to think outside of the box and take risks when necessary. This is where innovation is born and how non-profits continue to stay relevant in the ever-changing business climate.
“Any successful feedback system is built on empathy”
We all know that constructive criticism is a good thing. However, feedback should always be intertwined with the idea that as a manager, I too have walked in my employee’s shoes and I understand their frustration. In other words, “The Braintrust is fueled by the idea that every note we give is in the service of a common goal: supporting and helping each other.” At the end of the day, we are all in this together and are much stronger as a team than when we are working individually.
“I make a point of being open about our meltdowns”
A paralyzing fear of failure is something that is far too common in the workplace. Yet, failure is the catalyst for the learning process and should be treated as such. Of course, we want to be proactive and avoid common pitfalls, but as a leader it is important for me to set an example and face my shortcomings head on and encourage my team to do the same. Such actions will disarm the stagnating fear of failure that if gone unchecked can ultimately render your team uninspired and your business no longer competitive. Thus, when problems are faced head on, solutions are discovered and better practices are established for the future.
“There are two parts to any failure”
However, what happens when we hide our failure? Let’s review, the authors highlight that failure is comprised of one part making a mistake and one part reacting to this mistake. When we become introspective and push part one under the rug in order to avoid part two, we unintentionally hold ourselves back from reaching our full potential. For instance, “When a director stands up in a meeting and says, ‘I realize this scene isn’t working, I don’t yet know how to fix it, but I’m figuring it out. Keep going!’—a crew will follow him or her to the ends of the earth.” However, if the director continually ignores the situation the crew will begin to question the director’s ability to do their job and ultimately become uninspired. The same can be said for the office, when a manager is transparent and keeps their employees in the loop, the team stays motivated towards reaching a common goal.
“Directors have the responsibility to be teachers”
I may not be a film director like the authors, but I recognize that as the president of an Association Management Company (AMC), I am also a teacher. This is an integral part of my job as I am constantly setting an example and preparing the next generation of AMC professionals. If I can generate future leaders that can continue to progress the company and inspire their employees then I have done my job.
Ultimately, Ed Catmull is over 70 years old and is still creating and imagining for Pixar. That’s probably the biggest sign that he loves his work, his employees are inspired by him and the creative space he has cultivated is continuing to grow and prosper. As a result, I am inspired to continually welcome creativity into my life and encourage my employees to do the same.
In this feature, we interview one of our fabulous team members to show a little spotlight on the staff that makes IMI great. Today we’re highlighting Lee Claassen.
Originally from Coldwater, Mich., Lee Claassen has dedicated many years creating a career path for herself that is unstoppable. Lee has been a part of the IMI team since 2016 and has been involved with the association management industry for over three decades. She received her bachelor’s degree in business administration from Grand Valley State University and went on to pursue graduate studies at the University of Virginia. She not only boasts executive leadership experience in trade associations, professional societies and charitable organization, but is also knowledgeable in strategic marketing, fundraising and organizational development. We asked Lee a little bit about herself. Check out what she had to say!
IMI: Who is the one person you always find yourself asking for advice?
Lee: My best friend Cindie. She has lived all over the world and is familiar with many different cultures. I find her perspective on people invaluable, and she never hesitates to remind me that it’s not always about me.
IMI:What is one thing that people would be surprised to know about you?
Lee: My father is 97, my siblings are 17 and 15 years older than me, I have a niece that’s only 12 years younger than me, and I have four great nieces and nephews.
IMI: Who/what is one thing that gives you inspiration?
Lee: Waking up every morning! Also, I love the opportunity to be creative and to work with my hands. The second bedroom in my apartment is a studio/craft room that is my happy place.
IMI: What’s one challenge you had to overcome being in the Association Management Industry?
Lee: Learning how to be patient (which can still be a challenge for me). Decisions are typically made by consensus and nothing moves very quickly in non-profit organizations.
IMI: What is one misconception about an AMC?
Lee: That everyone works with multiple clients, which we know isn’t always the case.
With non-profit staff stretching around the world and employees desiring more flexibility, working remotely is on the rise.
The option for key team members to work at home when needed can significantly increase availability and avoid interruptions in service during times such as inclement weather. Worried about the flu? Encourage staff who are feeling ill to stay home rather than risk spreading their illness. Life happens, but working remotely even for a couple hours during the day while a sick child is napping can make a big difference in ensuring critical tasks are covered.
I have been occasionally working remotely for six months and I love having this option. Not only does it makes it easier to get to doctor’s appointments or professional development sessions with minimal downtime, but it is refreshing for me to get a change of space and work outside of the office.
In spite of these benefits, it is important to remember that this type of work requires the employment of focus and self-discipline. Below you can find strategies for creating work mode outside of the office:
1. Define your work routine and stick to it
Most people keep consistent hours at the office, arriving and leaving around the same time every day. Coworkers have a general idea of each other’s availability because they are used to this office rhythm. This means that when you are not working in the typical office environment, you need to communicate to your colleagues when you are available. One easy way to do this is keeping the hours you work remotely consistent with the hours you are typically in the office. You can also create a shared calendar for your team on Outlook or Gmail, if you do not already have one. On days that I work remotely, I keep my calendar blocked off with any professional or personal appointments so my coworkers know when I am free to respond to any questions. Also, tell your coworkers what type of communication works best for you when you are not in the office, whether that is email, text message, phone call, or Slack. This could vary based on the type of message being communicated and/or personal preferences. Clueing everyone in to your workflow will ensure that you are all able to complete your work responsibilities with minimal interruption.
2. Create a working space at home OR go to a different location
I started experimenting with different locations in my house for a work space. Through this, I have learned that the best environment for me is the living room, seated on the couch with the blinds open to let natural light beam in and low-key music playing in the background for white noise.
Another option is leaving the house. As an extrovert, I feel energized when I am surrounded by other people. I will work from the sofa for a while and then, if I start to feel lonely or restless, I will go to a local coffee shop with incredible almond lattes and excellent music to finish out my day. Choose a work space that works best for your personality and work style.
Of course, the options for finding a workspace in the public or private spheres are limitless: home offices, parks, coworking spaces, libraries, book stores, etc. The most important thing is to select a space with the intention of working productively there.
3. Schedule breaks with activities
At the office, I find that there are regular interruptions to my workflow: coworkers asking questions, bathroom breaks, hallway conversations and meetings. When I am working in an environment outside of the office, I am more intensely focused because I do not have to worry about these types of distractions at all. That being said, it can be mentally exhausting to work intensely for long periods of time, so it is important for me to schedule regular breaks for myself as needed. I typically will work for 1.5 or 2 hours and then take a break. This could mean that I switch to a different task to give my brain a rest, take a webinar or study something inspiring that relates to my work. Other options could be to take a walk outside, go to the gym, run a quick errand, make lunch, read, write or do a small chore. When I return to the task at hand, I feel refreshed and re-energized.
If you follow these steps, you will be able to harness brain power and productivity outside of the office and gain some extra time to complete personal tasks.
What are your strategies for working remotely? Feel free to comment below.
In this feature, we interview one of our fabulous team members to show a little spotlight on the staff that makes IMI great. Today we’re highlighting Caitlin Smith.
Caitlin has been part of the IMI team since February 2017 and brings a variety of experiences to IMI. Born and raised in Greensboro, N.C., Caitlin served four years in the U.S. Navy on a forward deployed aircraft carrier as a Hull Maintenance Technician Engineer and traveled the world. We asked Caitlin a little bit about herself. Check out what she had to say!
IMI: What are some things you like to do in your spare time?
CAITLIN: Play with my dogs, spend time outdoors, and explore new places.
IMI: What is one thing that people would be surprised to know about you?
CAITLIN: I was a welder and a firefighter in the U.S. Navy.
IMI: Who/what is one thing that gives you inspiration?
CAITLIN: I am easily inspired. I pull inspiration from almost anything. Eating, traveling, reading, looking at art, shopping or simply walking down the streets of the city have all been summations of my inspiration. I would say my biggest inspiration, though, would be my goals and where I want to be in the future.
IMI: What’s one word you would use to describe the Association Management industry?
IMI: How has your background helped you face challenges within the industry?
CAITLIN: Having a military background has helped me in finding alternate solutions to problem solving.
In our staff teams at IMI, we often discuss how best to tweak our marketing email subject lines. For non-profits, we’re competing for visibility in email boxes filled with work correspondence, messages from friends and an onslaught of promotional emails from every online store you’ve ever purchased from.
It can be tempting to take a page out of the marketing book from all those promotional emails that we receive. Inspiration is great – but be cautious. We want subject lines to be catchy and draw the reader in, but as non-profits we typically need to use a more “approachable” marketing strategy.
How do you know where the line is between an approachable and heavy-handed subject line? Let’s look at a few email offenders I’ve received in my box recently. Yes, these are all examples from actual emails I received. (I unsubscribed from many emails while compiling this list.)
8 Subject Line Offenders
Can we talk about …?
You’ve seen these everywhere: “Can we just talk about Oprah’s speech?” or “Can we talk about conflict?” It can be a great, personable opener, but “Can we talk?” suggests that there will be a dialogue. Beware using this phrase for one-way communication. It can sound disingenuous unless you are making an effort to participate in a dialogue. Keeping that idea in mind, it could be used in the context of an interactive web meeting, social media post (great for engagement!) or a blog where followers can share their thoughts in response.
Runner-up: The “REAL TALK” subject line hits all the same flat notes as “Can we talk?” for me.
You just missed it…
Unless your non-profit is for time travelers, I’m not sure this subject line will resonate with your readers. No one likes to feel like they are behind schedule. Focus on messaging that takes a positive angle on urgency. Here are a few of my favorite of the “time” related subject lines that I’ve seen lately:
You’re THIS CLOSE to missing out
Only a short time left
The clock is ticking
Time is running out
I’m Calling You Out…
This pointed subject line coupled with the opening of the email (“If you’re reading this email right now, then I know you haven’t taken advantage of …”) is, at best, a bit passive aggressive. Rather than scolding your readers for failing to take advantage of your offering, perhaps take a lighter approach. Something like, “Did you forget to register? There’s still time!” might be more effective.
Deleting This Email Could Cost You That Promotion
There’s enough generalized anxiety in the world that we shouldn’t add to the stress with our subject lines. Offer the carrot, not the stick. For a great, positive angle on this subject line, I like Jon Acuff’s: “Ready to do great work this year?”
Runner-up: “Can you afford NOT to open this email?” Dear marketer: I’m sure I’ll survive, but thanks for worrying about me.
The best way to make boring data sexy
This subject line was for an educational webinar about data in Excel. Unless it’s somehow related to your non-profit, I’d suggest avoiding marketing that centers around making something “sexy.” If you need ideas for interesting adjectives try a Google search or hold a quick brainstorming session with a colleague.
OMG! The [event/service] is here!
Unless your target audience is young, or your brand voice includes slang, avoid trendy phrases in your messaging. It can be too easy for trendy phrases to be a misstep and no one wants to go viral for a mistake in their email or post.
*Don’t Open This Email*
This type of subject line is often suggested for grabbing the “rebel” segment of your email list. Is your organization full of people who thrive on a challenge? Is your brand voice edgy and pressing for change? If not, this subject line seems counterproductive and can be out of character.
Use “Urgent” with caution. Your organization’s “urgent” status may not be what your readers feel is urgent. If you say something is “URGENT” and it’s just a discount expiring soon you will lose a lot of trust with your readers. Unless the need is truly urgent and important, it’s best to focus on other ways to describe the time sensitive nature.
These are just a few of the latest email subject lines that gave me pause. What are some headlines you’ve seen recently that didn’t work for you? How would you craft a better subject line? Please share in the comments below!
At IMI, we have our own Party Planning Committee called the Fun Committee. In addition to coordinating the IMI Annual Meeting, planning the IMI Annual Christmas Party and recognizing employee birthdays, the Fun Committee is given the freedom to devise events throughout the calendar year to provide an opportunity for connection outside of the traditional workflow.
It was my pleasure to serve on the Fun Committee in 2017. As a final farewell to my time with this group, I would like to highlight the events completed during my tenure.
February 14: Valentine’s Day Goodies and Recipes Exchange
Inspired by the grade school tradition of bringing cards and bite-size candy to share with the class on Valentine’s Day, we asked IMI staff to bake bite-size sweet treats and bring the accompanying recipes. Then, we provided treat bags so everyone could gather the goodies and recipes of their choice. Each of us enjoyed satisfying our sweet tooth and celebrating a day about sharing love with people you care about.
March 13: IMI Annual Meeting at the NC Museum of History
Every year, IMI staff meets for a review of the previous year and a team-building activity. In 2017, we chose to meet at the event space in the North Carolina Museum of History. After completing the meeting, we broke into teams of 4-5 and did a Scavenger Hunt hosted by Motley Clue Adventures. We had to solve puzzles in teams to gather clues based on exhibits in the NC History Museum and the NC Museum of Natural Sciences, which is across the street. It was hilarious seeing the competitive spirit displayed by each team and inspiring seeing how well everyone worked together.
Check out the photos below from our memorable day:
May 8: Duke Lemur Center
On a beautiful spring day, we visited the Duke Lemur Center, which is a sanctuary for many furry monkeys of the lemur species (and, notably for me, featured on the hit PBS TV Show Zoboomafu.) In reflecting on her experience, Lee Claassen, account manager, commented: “Not only was it a beautiful day and an awesome opportunity to get to know my colleagues outside the office setting, I was completely fascinated by the fuzzy little creatures. Who knew they came in so many sizes and colors and were giving researchers insights into human diseases like Alzheimer’s? As we toured the facility and the various enclosures, I got the sense that the lemurs were as interested in us as we were in them. It was a great learning experience and one worth repeating.”
I have to agree with Lee after capturing the below photo – doesn’t this lemur look like he’s posing for the camera?
June-August: Summer “Treat Yourself” Series
Our offices are located in Raleigh, N.C., and if you’ve visited here in the summer, you know that it is miserably hot and humid for the duration of the season. To provide a respite from this weather, we arranged for food trucks featuring icy treats to visit the office each month of the summer. First we had delicious homemade ice cream in flavors like Blackberry Hibiscus and Banana Nutella Waffle from Two Roosters Ice Cream. Then, we devoured sugary shaved ice from Kona Ice. Finally, we enjoyed flavorful soft serve concoctions when visited by Jam Soft Serve Ice Cream.
September 8: “Labor” Day Fiesta Baby Shower
Are you a fan of Dad jokes? We certainly are. When we discovered that one of our staff members was expecting, we knew that we wanted to throw a surprise baby shower and couldn’t pass up the opportunity to have it around Labor Day (get it?). Anyway, we planned a baby shower inspired by the bright colors and delicious food featured at a Mexican Fiesta. In preparation, we enjoyed buying baby gifts and transforming our conference room with tissue paper flowers and cacti. Though our staff member was ultimately unable to make it to the surprise shower, our whole staff FaceTimed her from the vibrant party space and wished her our very best. We also saved cupcakes, presents and tissue paper flowers for her.
October 13: Pullen Park Family Picnic
One of our goals this year was to provide an event where we could spend time with each other’s families and close friends. So on a sunny Friday afternoon, we travelled to a local park to eat pulled pork barbeque and participate in giant Jenga, cornhole, and a photo scavenger hunt. Here are some of our favorite photos from this day:
November 16: Cocktail Hour to Honor Keith and Dick
It is important to us to highlight milestones for our staff, so when one of our staff members married his longtime partner in October, we hosted an after-work wine and cheese reception for them. I personally enjoyed the opportunity to both relax with coworkers and celebrate something so special.
November 29: Thanksgiving Breakfast
In the past, we have held a traditional potluck Thanksgiving dinner. This year, we decided to incorporate breakfast food into our event. As always, I was amazed at the variety and creativity of our staff: some highlights included cinnamon French toast, an oatmeal toppings bar and mimosas. I was pleased that, to me, this breakfast felt like a comfortable and low-key balance to the stress of the holiday season.
December 9: Staff Holiday Party at Coquette
For our formal holiday party, we traveled to Coquette, a French restaurant in North Raleigh, and partook in an intimate, delicious sit-down dinner. Though we couldn’t pronounce some of the menu items, we were delighted with how they tasted.
December 13: Around the World Holiday Party & Gift Card Roulette
In addition to our formal holiday party where we invite the significant others of staff, we also host a casual staff holiday party in the office. This year, the Fun Committee asked staff to get together in groups of 3-4 and pick a country to highlight. Each group then chose a space in the office for their “booth” and provided food and decorations for the selected country. In this event, we hosted Greece, Mexico, South Africa, Nigeria, New Zealand, France, and North America. Kimber Williams, account associate, commented: “It was really great to experience such a vast number of cultures from the comfort of our offices. And the food was really great too!” Kara Stachowiak, account associate, added: “I enjoyed the planning stage, which allowed me to learn more about a group of my coworkers, just as much as the event. The celebration was eye-opening as well. Many of our clients serve individuals throughout the world, yet it is easy to focus on the customs and traditions in our own areas. It was nice to learn about different cultural norms for holiday celebration and be reminded that there are many different ways to celebrate.”
I truly appreciate working in a space that values creativity, community and connection with each other. It was wonderful to share food, laughter and family with my IMI coworkers through Fun Committee events in 2017. I look forward to the next year of Fun Committee activities!
If you have any ideas for our 2018 adventures, feel free to comment below.
Our world is increasingly full of shortcuts to get where we’re going faster and how we communicate is no exception to that trend. Slang, abbreviations and memes are very much a part of modern communication. Your organization’s culture will often determine if slang and memes are appropriate to use in communication with your members, but what about acronyms and other abbreviations?
Note: For the sake of brevity (see what I did there?), in this post “acronym” can refer to any type of abbreviation your organization might be considering. You can learn about abbreviations, acronyms and initialism here.
One trend I see with non-profits is a steady use of abbreviations. When naming a new product, service or feature, the tendency is to reach for an abbreviation first. Perhaps you even started with the acronym first and worked backwards to create the full name (a backronym).
While acronyms are handy for typing, our challenge in non-profits becomes knowing when they will be useful and valuable to our members.
Here are some things to consider before naming your next program.
Know your audience. Consider where you want to use the acronym. We all have shorthand that we may use with fellow staff and volunteers who are deep in the trenches, but for more general member-facing communications such as emails, newsletters or social media it’s best to use full titles. No one likes needing to ask, “What does XYZ mean?”
Consider “why” the term needs an abbreviation. Is the name of your program simply too long? You may be trying to do too much with the name. Are you working with a “legacy” title? It might be time to consider rebranding if it no longer fits with the current nature of the program or the culture of the organization.
Keep focus on the important things. We can acronym away things that matter. An organization that wants to increase awareness about a specific aspect of their efforts (international, multilingual, legislative, advocacy, integrity, technology, etc.) would benefit from letting those words stand out when naming their initiatives. For example, an organization that wants to increase awareness about its global efforts should promote their International Work Groups rather than “IWG.”
Beware “alphabet soup.” We’ve all experienced the confusion when multiple abbreviations in a document start to jumble together into “alphabet soup.” Acronyms can exclude some readers from your community, making it hard for them to feel a part of the organization. Practically, this means that the Super Cool Organization’s (SCO) Young Professionals Networking League (YPNL) may have difficulty drawing newcomers to their event (“Join us for SCO’s 2018 YPNL!”). Not only is alphabet soup hard on the eyes, but the purpose of the event is lost to anyone who isn’t familiar with the lingo or the context.
Watch out for a loss of clarity. If a photography non-profit organizes grant writing classes called Snapshot Funding (SNAFU) Workshops, they might find that attendees expect the class is about common photography mistakes.
Make your terms searchable. If you reference SNAFU in your promotions, be sure that a search of your website for “SNAFU” will bring up the Snapshot Funding Workshops. There’s nothing worse than wondering what an organization’s abbreviation means and getting zero results on their website.
Check your name with multiple sources. Always check that your desired name does not conflict with another company’s intellectual property. Also, make sure any abbreviations do not spell something inappropriate or ill-fitting for your organization.
Spell it out. If you decide an acronym is the right fit for your initiative, the first time the abbreviation is used in each document, article, or post always list the full name for clarity.