An apology, a declutter and some useful links

I have been neglecting this blog and I’m sorry. However, I have very good reason… as you may know I have been freelance again since October last year and boy have I been busy. It’s been great though – I’m working on some really interesting projects with charities, businesses and start-ups and I’ve also become a regular writer for Third Sector’s Digital Hub.

I’ve also recently moved house and I was really impressed with how easy it’s been to change my contact details for the charities I support with monthly direct debits. I thought it was going to be tricky to find out how to let them know but all of them had pretty easy to find details on their websites and I received a reply within two working days. Much more efficient and far less time consuming than informing my banks, I can tell you! What was really nice was the personalised emails I received back. I particularly like this one because yes, moving is stressful!

CRUK

On the subject of moving house, I suddenly found myself with so much stuff. Stuff I didn’t need so I packed up eleven boxes (yes, eleven boxes AFTER moving house) and emailed the British Heart Foundation to collect them. It was relatively fuss-free and I had them collected on the Monday Bank Holiday (no holiday for them, clearly).

A few things that have caught my attention in the past months that you may find interesting:

My charity boss’s bullying still haunts me –  Guardian Voluntary Sector Network, Confessions of a charity professional. Disturbing and distressing but a must-read. The comments really opened my eyes and so did the discussion that took place when I posted this on the Third Sector PR & Communications Network group that I manage on Facebook.

How to illustrate difficult causes and subjects – Madeleine Sugden. Madeleine’s posts are always well thought out and well researched. Take a look at her past posts too. Or better yet, subscribe.

It’s time for charities to stop wasting money on social media – Matt Collins for the Guardian Voluntary Sector Network. Oh boy did this kick off. Poor Matt had to contend with loads of tweets and comments that were really rather unpleasant. I get what Matt was trying to say and that is that social is just one part of your toolbox. There are other tools that are actually more effective (like email) so make sure you’re using all of them to their full potential and not just putting all your eggs into your social media basket.

Charity Boards are failing to adapt to the digital age -this has to change – Zoe Amar for the Guardian Voluntary Sector Network. Always insightful, Zoe makes the case that boards who ignore or don’t understand digital, do so at their peril.

Does your organisation represent more than just clutter in the eyes of your donors? – Seth Piper for The Resource Alliance. I absolutely love this post and I’m pretty certain it’s what spurred me on to do my own declutter.

I promise I will try to post more regularly. In the meantime, if you’d like to connect with me I’m over on Twitter at LondonKirsty.

 

 

The importance of personal branding in a digital age

We all have a digital footprint, whether we like it or not. Back in 2013, I presented on How to build a successful personal brand at 300 Seconds. These days, no matter what sector you work in, having a professional social media presence is vital. When applying for jobs, many recruiters will check your digital footprint to see how you present yourself on LinkedIn, Twitter and even Facebook.

Having a strong personal brand not only helps you to climb the career ladder but it can also open up a host of new opportunities, such as presenting at conferences, invites to events or even writing opportunities.

Photographer Charlotte Knee, who has worked with Masterchef’s Greg Wallace and Monica Galetti, Architect and TV presenter George Clarke and the Yammer team, interviewed me on the importance on personal branding and having a professional headshot. 

Professional-Headshot-Social-Media-Kirsty-Marrins-copyright-Charlotte-Knee-Photography_0001

If you’re interested in having professional headshots, Charlotte is offering a 10% discount with the code CKPHS15. Email her at info@charlotteknee.com

My 2014 highlights

2014 HIGHLIGHTS

It’s that time of year when we look back over the last twelve months and celebrate our highlights. For me, it’s important to acknowledge the successes during the year and to set goals for the year to come. These have been my professional highlights this year (in no particular order):

I became an accredited trainer and have delivered training on behalf of Media Trust throughout the year.

Rob Dyson asked me to become an admin of The Third Sector PR and Communications Network – a hugely helpful network for advice, discussions or sharing resources. If you’re not a member yet, what are you waiting for?

I was an official blogger for the Institute of Fundraising’s National Convention – three days of great presentations and the opportunity to catch up with fellow charity folk.

I landed my current role doing a job I love for a company I’ve long admired.

My blog post on how to run a successful crowdfunding campaign was CharityComms most read article of 2014. Thanks to Anastasia Emmanuel from Indiegogo for her top tips!

I became a regular contributor for the Guardian Voluntary Sector and I was quoted in the actual Guardian. (My husband joked we should frame the article. I haven’t gone that far yet…)

Presenting with my colleague Deborah at Media Trust’s Art of Engagement conference has definitely been a highlight, particularly as I don’t like public speaking!

And talking about public speaking… I also presented recently at the IoF’s Regional Special Interest Group for Community Fundraising and it was great as there was a lot of discussion and debate. I was followed by Teri Doubtfire who delivered a fantastic presentation – I’ve definitely taken some tips on presenting from her!

I’ve been a Trustee at the Small Charities Coalition for just over a year now and I’m really excited at the direction the charity is moving in.

Enrolling on Google’s Squared Online course – I’m only just over half way through. It’s been challenging but I do love a challenge…

So, what am I looking forward to in 2015?

Hopefully to pass Squared Online!

To help my team at work to reach our targets.

To retain my CharityComms ‘most popular post’ title (ideas for a popular blog post topic will be gratefully received…)

But generally… to work hard, to step out of my comfort zone, to say ‘yes’ more than ‘no’, to do the things that scare me and to just be happy.

What have been your highlights this year?

The best and worst letter I’ve ever received

My husband and I share a love of dogs. As we rent our flat, we’re unable to have a dog of our own. Although, even if we did own a property, I’m not sure we could have a dog just yet as we both leave home early in the morning and are not home until around 7pm.

One of the first birthday presents I gave my husband was sponsoring a Dogs Trust dog in his name. Every year my husband receives birthday, Christmas and even Valentine’s cards from his sponsor dog, Shane.

Then he received this letter.

Letter from Dogs Trust

Shane had passed away.

I’m not ashamed to say I cried my eyes out. I’m even tearing up just writing this. Yes we never got to meet Shane but he had been our sponsor dog for years. Pictures of him are on our fridge. He’s the dog we never had.

But this post is not about losing Shane, it’s about how Dog’s Trust handled that communication to us. It’s a sad letter but a lovely one too as it talks all about Shane – what kind of dog he was, how he was loved and cared for by the Dogs Trust staff (sadly Shane never found a forever home) and how he would genuinely be missed. And I completely believe every word.

Now of course Dogs Trust doesn’t want to lose our monthly donation so they’ve chosen another dog for us to sponsor. They’ve given us the option to choose another dog or amend our sponsorship and have given us a telephone number should we wish to call them.

So meet Lollipop.

Lollipop

Lollipop will now be our new sponsor dog and we’re looking forward to receiving our first Christmas card from her and supporting her (and other dogs like her) through our continued sponsorship.

I believe that charities can, with well written and sensitive communication, turn a sad (or bad) situation in to a positive. This letter is a great example of that.

The perils of writing sector articles

I’ve been thinking about writing about my feelings on contributing to sector articles for a while now and when I saw this LinkedIn Pulse post by Simon Scriver, and the fact that my Guardian Voluntary Sector article on the #icebucketchallenge went live today, it seemed like the perfect time.

Don’t ask me how I ever started writing sector articles in the first place – I honestly can’t remember. I do remember my first one for the Guardian on how charities were using gamification was written because they contacted me directly having seen my NFPtweetup Storify on gamification.

For those of you in the sector who know me (in real life and through Twitter), you would probably say I’m a really confident person. And I am, to a degree. But I’ll tell you a little secret… when it comes to ‘putting myself out there’, I am quite frankly terrified.

I wrote the #icebucketchallenge piece for the Guardian on Monday night because I had seen people in the sector debating the topic on Twitter and I believed it needed a wider audience to have a bigger debate. It’s an issue that will come up again and again so we may as well talk about it now. As I’ve written a few articles for the Guardian, I knew it was something they would be interested in publishing and as it’s so well known it would be the best platform to get this debate going.

Since Monday night I have been wracked with nerves. Would people think the article was balanced (This is VERY important to me)? Would Macmillan, a charity who I actively support, be vilified? Would people think I was just writing it for self promotion? Would they this, would they that… the self-doubt questions are endless. There are so many people in the sector I admire and look up to and whenever something like this happens I wonder if they’re thinking, “Enough with the self promotion!”.

I’m not going to lie and deny that part of it is not about self promotion. It is, because it leads to opportunities. I can absolutely tell you now that the only reason I have my current job is because of the articles I’ve written. When I was freelance, self promotion was vital for getting work. And once you start…well, it’s quite hard to stop.

I do also like the buzz I get from people saying they’ve enjoyed my articles, or that is was well written or ‘interesting’ (though sometimes this is loaded – interesting in a good way or bad?). And of course there are times when people don’t agree with me, and that’s uncomfortable too. Unsurprisingly, I don’t particularly enjoy conflict. But this is a price you have to pay.

It is a bit about ego too, of course it is. My family are super proud of my achievements and actually, I am too. I never set out to be where I am now in my career (heck, I started out in finance!) but somehow it’s happened. And I’m not going to apologise for it.

The point of writing this is really to put my feelings down on paper (does a blog count as ‘paper’?) so that hopefully they can stop consuming my thoughts. I wonder if others who write for the sector feel the same?

Have you got a life wish?

Life wishes. We’ve all got them right? My life wishes include: running a marathon, writing a book (would be great if it could top the Bestseller list but I can’t be TOO fussy), visiting Machu Picchu, walking the Great Wall of China, renovating an old house into something Grand Designs would be proud of and learning to speak Italian.

The thing is, if I set my mind to it, I could actually achieve all of these things. And that got me thinking… the children that Child’ s i support don’t have that luxury. Ask them what their life wishes are and you’ll hear:

‘To live with my mom again. I miss her cuddles.
‘For my parents to find work so that I can go home and they can take care of me.’
‘For someone to love me and sing me to sleep at night.’

So I decided to stop procrastinating and do something to help Child’s i raise the money they need to help trace and reunite babies and children that they provide short term emergency care for at Malaika. I want to inspire 100 people to sign up and raise £100 to do something on their ‘life wish list’. That £100 is the difference between a child growing up in an orphanage or being reunited with their family.

Now, I’m no fool. Asking you to only raise £100 to say, run a marathon, is a bit silly. But you could run a 5k. After all, you have to start somewhere……

So what will I be doing to raise £100? I’ll be writing the first chapter of that book I’ve always wanted to write. Lucy Buck, Founder of Child’s i, will be finding her inner voice by staying completely silent for 24 hours. Child’s i’s Kirsty Stephenson will be running 100 km in 100 days. What will you be doing?

Join our #100forChildsi team in four easy steps:

1. Decide on your ‘life wish’ (there are lots of ideas here)

2. Set up a JustGiving page

3. After you’ve set up your JustGiving page, add your page to our team

4. Then email kirsty@childsifoundation.org and tweet me at @LondonKirsty and we will be your personal cheering squad

Image

 

If you can’t take part then please help in other ways by spreading the word on social media, sponsoring a #100forChildsi team member or you can sponsor me. I’d be ever so grateful….

The year that was

As we delve head-first into 2014, let’s take time to reflect on the year that was.

For me, both personally and professionally, it was a great year – I got married and I took the plunge and went freelance. I really can’t wait to see what 2014 holds… it’s only the first week of January and already it’s full of promise.

Here’s a great video on Social Media in 2013 (Hat tip to Paul de Gregorio) Can’t wait to see what 2014 holds for Social…

Some very exciting news….

I am absolutely thrilled to announce that I have been appointed* as a Trustee for the Small Charities Coalition! The charity is a networking, mentoring and support organisation for small charities and is committed to helping staff, volunteers and trustees access the skills, knowledge and resources that they need to best serve their cause.

Small Charities Coalition

For those who know me, you will know that I embody the charity’s mission wholeheartedly. With first-hand experience, I understand the challenges of working in a small charity and that is why I started the Sole Communicators group with CharityComms, over a year ago now, to give sole communicators a space to network with peers and share knowledge.  It’s also a professional development opportunity to develop their skills through our themed events with speakers from the sector. The next one takes place on 5 November with Helen Jones from Refuge who will be talking about their Don’t Cover It Up campaign.

I also believe in giving back and sharing your skills with others on a one-to-one basis, which is why I have mentored small charities through Media Trust’s Media Matching service and I’m currently a CharityComms mentor.

I really can’t wait, in my capacity as a Trustee, to help the Small Charities Coalition spread the word about the vital work that they do to empower small charities and trustees with the skills they need to best serve their charities and, most importantly their supporters.

Alex Swallow, Chief Executive of the Small Charities Coalition, has written this brilliant blog post for Third Sector. I urge you to read it.

*There is the small formality of meeting the Board before being formally appointed

Feel the Fear and do it anyway

Feel the fear

For a while now I’ve been sitting back admiring (and feeling a bit jealous at times) of my peers Matt Collins, Bertie Bosredon, Sam Phillips, Ben Matthews and Zoe Amar. I’ve been admiring the exciting projects they’ve been able to work on with a range of charities and clients and been a bit jealous of their ability to ‘be their own boss’.

So I’m taking the plunge. I’m going freelance*.

I’m not going to lie….part of me finds the thought of the unpredictability of it all absolutely terrifying. But at the same time it’s really, really, REALLY exciting (and oddly liberating) and I can’t wait to get started.

Over the last month or so I have been meeting with accountants, setting up meetings with peers to get some advice, securing some work and getting a website in order (watch this space).

So I’m finishing my full time job next week and then I’m off on a little holiday before starting a part-time Social Media Consultancy role at a PR agency in the first week of September. I’ve also got a training course set up with another agency and I’m really excited about what we will be offering (more of that later).

While I get my website in order feel free to contact me via email, kirstymarrins(at)gmail(dot)com, or via Twitter or LinkedIn.

I look forward to hopefully working with you some day soon!

*Ok, so technically I’ll be freelance three days a week.