A Community of Philanthropists

One of my favorite aspects of my job at Central Carolina Community Foundation is helping plan the community’s 24-hour online giving day event, Midlands Gives. The Community Foundation has hosted Midlands Gives for the last three years and each year it has grown by leaps and bounds. This past year, the event raised over $1.6 million for 360 local nonprofits!

This past summer, I was blessed to be promoted at the Community Foundation to Strategic Initiatives and Communications Manger, adding the new responsibility of overseeing and managing the entire Midlands Gives planning process. As I begin to take on this new challenge, I wanted to share some of the many valuable lessons this event has taught me through the last few years.

Everyone can be a philanthropist.  You don’t have to be rich or famous to make an impact in your community. Everyone has something to give and that something can make a bigger difference than you realize. You can give of your time, offer your talents , use your network to share about important causes, or give a donation of gently used items or money. One aspect of Midlands Gives that I love is how it opens doors to people, allowing them to find new causes they care about and raise awareness of how they can help.

Every donation counts and collectively makes a huge impact. During this past year’s event, over 7,000 people made a donation, adding up the $1.6 million. Many of these donations were less than $100 and collectively added up to make a huge impact for local nonprofits. No donation is too small- any amount you are able to give will make a difference and impact your community.

Our community is made up of thousands of philanthropists who careMidlands Gives has shown me how incredibly generous and caring people in our community are. The outpouring of support and enthusiasm for each of the nonprofits participating, the social media shout-outs and the genuine excitement for the day all shows how big of a heart people in our community have. The community truly comes together during the event, cheering on nonprofits and encouraging friends and family to join in to help see the leaderboard numbers climb. Through the least three years we have seen this event bridge gaps in the community-everyone plays together-from the nonprofits to the media to the corporations sponsoring thousands of prizes to incentivize giving.

Giving days happen all across the nation at different points in the year. Nonprofit Marketing Guide has a great list if you are looking for one in your area. As for the Midlands of SC, mark your calendar for another great year on May 2, 2017!

P.S. What causes do you like to give to? Tell me in the comments below.

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5 Tips for an Enjoyable Staycation

A couple of weeks ago Andrew and I had the luxury of enjoying a couple days off at home. It was the perfect mid-semester break in the midst of a very crazy time for us. I recently started a part-time MBA program at University of South Carolina and Andrew has three evening classes this semester so our normal weeks have been filled with many long days.  Due to this craziness, we realized we needed to be very intentional with our time off. We needed to have time that was restful and relaxing but was also going to work within our budget. So, we decided to use my vacation time split between seeing family and having long weekend staycations throughout the year.

Staycations have been a wonderful discovery for us. As introverts, we need the time alone to rest and rejuvenate. Staycations have saved us money and allow us more time to explore our community and enjoy some extra time with each other. However, they can be ineffective vacations if you do not put some boundaries on them. It can be tempting to work on personal and home projects and before you know it, your relaxing days have turned into stressful work days. So, here are five tips or lessons we have learned to ensure you have a relaxing and enjoyable staycation:

  1. Set goals . A little planning will go a long way with your staycation.  Just as you may plan a vacation, plan how you want to spend your time and be intentional with it.  Our usual staycation goal is to relax but you may want to use it to spend time with family, accomplish a big project or explore a new area of your hometown. Identifying this goal before the staycation ensures you will use the time intentionally and have an enjoyable time off.
  2. Set aside time to remove sources of stress. If you know there is something hanging over your head that will cause stress and prevent you from relaxing, allow time to take care of it. This time can either be before your staycation begins or time you have built into your staycation. For example, during our most recent staycation, I knew I would need to complete some school assignments before I could relax. To help me with this task, I extended my time off and took a half- day at the beginning of my vacation. I intentionally spent this time working on homework so I could enjoy the rest of my time off.
  3. Identify activities that will help you relax.  Make note of what activities you would enjoy during your staycation and make a point to enjoy them. Be careful not to treat these as a to-do list. They are simply guidelines for how to spend your time. Identifying these activities will help you avoid getting to the end of your staycation and wishing you had spent your time in other ways.
  4. Try something new Staycations are the perfect time to try something new or cross an item off your bucket list. During our most recent staycation, Andrew and I went hiking at a park we have been wanting to visit. Take time to explore and enjoy your community. Who knows, you may discover a new hidden gem!
  5. Treat yourself. Staycations are vacations first. They just happen to be at home. So allow yourself to treats just as you would on vacation. For Andrew and me, this means cooking a favorite meal together and having a favorite dessert. But for you, it could be something different.If cooking stresses you out, allow yourself to go to your favorite restaurant or order in something. Maybe you give yourself the day off from exercising or have breakfast in bed. Whatever your treat is, it’s important you make the time special.

There are so many possibilities to enjoying a vacation at home. And the best part is you do not have to spend time or money packing, traveling or getting adjusted to a new place. Although I love traveling and seeing new places, I sometimes leave feeling I need a vacation from my vacation. I have yet to have that feeling with staycations.

P.S. Do you ever take staycations? What are your favorite ways to enjoy them?

 

Embracing Me

The month of January is always full of advertisers and marketers reminding us about New Year’s Resolutions. As a marketer myself, I know how easy it is to use the beginning of the New Year to encourage your audience to try something new. But these messages always seem to rub me the wrong way.

I quickly get tired of reading encouragements of how this year is my year to be better at (insert area of improvement). I find it wearing to constantly be reminded of my imperfections, how I need to improve in one area or another. Yet, out of pressure to become better, I usually set a few New Year’s Resolutions, most of which are abandoned within a few short months.

This year, however, I was inspired by the editors of Real Simple Magazine (one of my favorite publications). Real Simple took a refreshing take on the New Year in their January issue by focusing on how the New Year was not a time to yet again fail at an unreachable goal but to take time for ourselves. Their thoughts struck me and so, this year, instead of making resolutions that I know will be broken within a few short months, I am trying a new approach: embracing me.

This year, I’m focusing on loving who I was made to be and embracing both my strengths and weaknesses. Well I will certainly continue to challenge myself to be out of my comfort zone and improve my weaknesses, I also want to accept that those weaknesses are part of who I am and who God made me to be. Instead of constantly focusing on what needs to be better or how I am not living up to other’s standards, I want to celebrate my strengths. And, most importantly, I want to rest in the promises of our God, knowing that I don’t have to be perfect like our culture tells me, because Christ has taken that burden from me.

P.S. What do you love about who you are? Tell me in the comments below.

 

 

 

Blurring the Lines

When I first begin this blog, I struggled with what I wanted to include. Do I make is strictly professional? Only personal? A little of both? Do I share my faith? And how much is okay to share? I’ll admit, I’m still figuring out some of this but a recent conference I attended helped shed some light into my questions.

In September, I attended Lead SC, a conference for young professionals in the area. During a session on “Work, Life Balance” a local executive spoke of a lesson he wished he had learned many years ago. He explained how during the beginning of his career he kept each part of his life in a separate box. From work to personal to faith to community, each area of his life was separated and not open to the others. But through the years, he learned that letting each of his boxes mingle has enhanced each of the other parts of his life and allowed him to live a more balanced life. His story was a “light-bulb,” moment for me and one I have been thinking about frequently since.

I’ve always struggled with where to draw the line between work and my personal life. When I first entered the workforce, I did not think you were supposed to be friends with the people you worked with.  But a few great co-workers later, I discovered that it was actually very important for me to know co-workers a little better. After all, you do spend the majority of your time with them. So after thinking through the executive’s words of wisdom ,I’ve slowly been abandoning the box approach and trying out the”blurred line” approach.

My various networks each have something to offer to each other and it’s easier to juggle the ups and down of life when you’re not pushing them away from one area just because it “does not belong.” Of course, there is still discretion and balance to be learned- the lines are blurred, not open, meaning there are still boundaries in each area. Life will always be a balancing act that we work to keep on track.

I’ve especially found this mindset change eye-opening and challenging in my Christian walk. God calls us to share his good news with the world, to be “missionaries” in our daily lives but I’m often unsure of how to go about this calling. However, God has been teaching me that my faith is not another item to be checked off a list or to be stuck in one box but rather something to be mixed in and shared within every aspect of my life.

When I first began this blog, I was unsure if I should share my faith within the posts. I was worried if it would be “professional” enough for the internet. But I now know that the answer is not just “yes” but “definitely!” And so, I will continue to share a mixed-bag of life through this blog, blurring the lines between each and every area. I hope you stay along for the journey.

P.S. What are your tips for the balancing act of life? Reply in the comments below.

My Stitch Fix Review

One lesson I have learned in my first couple years of working is first impressions matter. And, and in the professional world, your appearance drives a large part of that impression. But, creating a work wardrobe can be challenging, especially when you’re on a budget and don’t love shopping. Yes, you read that last sentence right. The older I’ve gotten, the more I have begun to dread shopping for clothes. So when a friend from church told me about Stitch Fix, I knew I had to try it.

What is it? Stitch Fix is a fashion retailer who specializes in creating a personalized shopping experience. You fill out a style profile and their personal stylists handpick a selection of five clothing items for you to try each month. No pressure to buy, you have three days to make a decision, and you can try on the clothes with what you already own at home. You can read more about the nitty gritty details on their FAQ’s here.  So, knowing all this, Andrew and I decided that Stitch Fix would be my “everything” present from him this year. After a few “fixes,” here’s what I’ve discovered:

  • What I Love: Receiving a fun package in the mail each month with a surprise in it. Being able to send feedback to the stylist on what I like and don’t like and knowing that they actually take it into consideration for my next shipment. Trying on the clothes with what I already own and having time to make a final decision
  • What I Like: Having a personalized stylist pick out items for me. They have definitely taken me out of my comfort zone at times, giving me items I never would have picked out for myself. This has been great at times but has not worked so well during others.
  • The Downside: It can be a little pricey, which sometimes challenges my frugal side. There are no sales, so you do pay full price for the clothes. However, so far, the clothes have been high-quality. You are also able to set in your profile the amount you are comfortable paying and shipping both ways is covered.

Conclusion, I would definitely recommend this to anyone who is looking for a simple upgrade to their wardrobe, as it’s fun and easy to use. However, make sure you either budget money for the clothes or ask to receive it as a gift or special treat.

P.S. If you choose to take the plunge and try Stitch Fix, use my referral link and I can get credit. Stitch Fix gives a special link to each of it’s customers to encourage them to help spread the word. Nothing like some old-fashioned grass roots marketing!

Music Notes

Marketing Lessons Learned from Music

Whenever people ask me what I majored in in college, I can’t help but smile. I know what reaction is coming. “Music,” I reply. “Really? What instrument?” I smile again, here’s the kicker. . . “Euphonium.”

Playing Euphonium during my Senior Recital.

Playing Euphonium during my Senior Recital.

The conversation usually continues on to how I ended up in a marketing role for a nonprofit. I never thought I would be doing what I am today but I can see how my path has led me here. Music is often classified as a “useless” major. Most people can’t see the value in an undergraduate degree that is so specialized with so few career options. However, the further I get into my career, the more valuable the skills I learned in my music degree have become. Here are five lessons learned from my music degree that have helped me in my marketing career:

1) To Listen: When you’re a musician, you have to listen. And respond to what you are hearing. Whether it’s in class or playing with a group, music can’t be made without listening to what others are doing. Likewise, the professional world needs more listeners. The more you pay attention to what others are saying, the more you can truly understand other’s messages.

2) To Perform: Performing is part of being a musician. After all, part of the love of the art is being able to share your talent with others. But preforming is not always comfortable. Being a music major helped me learn how to preform under pressure and be comfortable presenting to groups.

3) To Embrace Mistakes: In music, you’re going to make mistakes. And, most likely, it will be in front of others. But musicians are trained to embrace making mistakes and to keep going when you make them. Making mistakes is how you learn what you need to work at and identify your weaknesses. In both the professional and music world, mistakes are learning opportunities, not stopping points.

4) To Work As a Team: When you play with a group of musicians, you quickly learn the importance of team work. Each instrument is necessary and needed in order to succeed. When playing music as a group, you won’t always be the center of attention or the most important part. Everyone has their role and time to shine. The same comes with any organization. Each person has a job to do. If we all work together effectively, there will be great outcomes.

5) To Communicate Creatively:  Music teaches you to think outside the box when communicating with others. Frequently, there is emotion or meaning behind music that you want others to feel and understand. You learn that often you have to over-do your message. You may need to adjust the length of notes, the warmness of your tone, or the style in general, just to communicate to others what you are seeing on the page of your music. Communication professionals are required to adjust their messages to fit a variety of audiences and platforms. Sometimes that means making your message more simple or sometimes it means rephrasing it so that it pulls at the heart strings of a particular audience. Whatever the case is, communication does not belong in a box and professionals must think creatively to be effective.

Earning a music degree turned out to be a useful investment beyond the classroom. I have many, many amazing mentors and teachers to thank for teaching me these lessons and will always be thankful for the opportunities they gave me.

P.S. Comment below: What professional lessons have you learned from music or another hobby that has helped you in your career?

Really? Another Blog?

Hi Friends!

Welcome to my new blog. Yes, I really am beginning a new blog. I know, just what the world needs right? Another blog that is started and never kept up. Another voice in the mix. One more thing to read. I hear you.

So, for my first blog post, I want to give you some background on my decision to start this adventure.

About a year ago, I started working at Central Carolina Community Foundation. As part of my responsibilities, I am a ghost writer for the Foundation’s blog. You can read the posts at yourfoundation.org. Although this responsibility has definitely been one of the biggest challenges of my job, I have surprisingly enjoyed the writing. So, I have decided to start this blog as a way for me to practice my writing skills outside of the professional environment. Practice makes perfect, right?

My hope is that through practicing, I will begin to find my own voice. I can’t promise to be great at posting frequently. I have promised myself that if the blog ever stresses me out, I will stop. Hold me to that!

Also, I hope this is a place where I can receive friendly feedback from my community. Tell me what you like, what you don’t like, how can I improve? The more feedback I get, hopefully the better I will become.

Thanks again for coming on this adventure with me. I’m hoping it will be a great one.