The Art of Risk-Taking: Creative Strategies to Facing the Uncertain

Los Angeles last month saw the largest annual gathering of Jewish community visionaries, activists, and catalyzers of change in North America, led in partnership by UpStart and ROI Community, the Collaboratory.

This year’s topic of the Collaboratory was ‘The Art of Risk Taking’. The ability to navigate risk is one of the most useful skills to have in our professional and personal lives. No journey is risk free and being able to face risk, evaluate it and overcome it often differentiates between success and failure, happiness and unhappiness. According to difficulty is the reward, we read in Pirkei Avot (The Ethics of the Fathers), and risk adds to the difficulty.

Those who succeed take risks. In truth, “I wish I had taken more risks” is one of most common regrets people cite at the end of their lives. Many feel that the possibility of failure made them play too safe. They also felt that taking more risk and disturbing the status quo would have yielded a more fulfilling life.

Risk-taking is an art. And there is a science to this art. We make about 35,000 decisions per day – from the moment we open our eyes and decide (not) to turn off the alarm clock. As children, we only face around 3,000 decisions per day so adulthood is quite an upgrade to this gamble.

Knowing which risks to take and how to take them can be a powerful tool to stack the odds in our favor. Some of the basic pieces of advice to face the risk include to have as much information as possible, assess risk, and learn from failure. In order to hone your risk-taking skills more, here are a few guidelines from design thinking – an approach that uses creative strategies to problem solving.

  1. Challenge the assumptions: Think outside the box and challenge even the long-held beliefs. Sometime we fail because we cannot let go of the past but it is impossible to assess the future if we are only headed backwards. Learn from the past mistakes but move on.
  2. Ask why: Always ask why, even if you think that you know the answer. More often than not, you may learn that you actually don’t know the answer. The answer can also surprise you and expose the uncertain ahead.
  3. Identify inconsistencies: Sometimes what people say and what people do are two different things. Observe behaviors of those around you and be on the lookout for inconsistencies – they can flash out the potential risks.
  4. Be empathetic: Empathy is one of the key principles of design thinking. It forces us to imagine “walking in someone else’s shoes” thus revealing challenges and concerns around us.
  5. Encourage stories: Stories might not predict future risks well but they expose the breadth of the views and opinions in the world. Stories can unearth perspectives and solutions that have not been considered yet.

Life, in all its beauty and struggle, is unpredictable. Every decision we make has a margin of risk and the life we end up living depends on those decisions. While there always is a chance that our desired tomorrow will never come or the actual tomorrow will never come, there are risks in our professional and private lives that are worth taking because they are almost always necessary ingredients in the recipe that is success and happiness.

And the last piece of advice comes from the great French poet Rene Char:

“Trust firmly in your luck, cling to your happiness and dare to take risks. They will see you and learn to accept you.”

Katia Kobylinski
Katia Kobylinski is an avid brand strategist & social entrepreneur. To merge her passions for causes, stories and arts, she founded ‘creative: for good’ – a virtual ad agency that connects millennial artists and nonprofits for advertising for the good – at JCC Chicago’s start-up incubator Seed613. Katia loves city life, hummus & company.

Creating Events That Have Impact

Arts festivals have a way of making real impact and change on the sociological landscape. The International Shalom Festival, for example, has helped change the narrative in Scotland, by eliciting the public support of all three main political party leaders. The 2017 International Shalom Festival grew from a one-day event in 2016 to a three-day expo which brought 40 Israeli artists to the Edinburgh Fringe, the world’s biggest arts festival. 

In January 2016 the festival was only an idea. So how did it become the grand scale event that it is today?

If we don’t know where we are going, any road will do.  The key to successful event planning is having a clear vision. A team needs to be gathered, one that is conscious of the vision, commanded by it and committed to it. This should be played and replayed with cheerful relentlessness. Our vision was to have a crowded venue full of happy people enjoying the exuberance and diversity and richness of Israel’s culture: music, food, drama, craft, dance, literature. And that is exactly what we got.

The team needs to be motivated to realise the vision. It needs to be led by either a charismatic or competent figurehead, and ideally both! Small teams work best. Meeting frequently but relatively briefly tends to create more impact. Members need to communicate, cooperate and coordinate. We found that a WhatsApp group worked very well.

Many different skill sets are needed, but the most crucial skill is matching existing skills to a need. We divided up these needs into categories: artistic direction, executive functions, music direction, catering, security, PR, hospitality, accommodation, volunteers, and put a member of the team in charge of each remit.

On the tech and marketing side of things: We made sure we had an attractive logo, secured an illustrious patron, set up a Facebook page and off we went.

Our small team of 10, which we never called a committee, were all unpaid and gave enormous amounts of time pro bono. If any of us had charged the market rate for professional services there could never have been a festival. Some expertise had to be bought in: web design, PR in Israel, technicians, but apart from that, and one performer insisting on a fee (never work with someone’s agent!), this was a voluntary labour of love.

Love is central. We cannot give what we don’t have to give: people united by love for achieving a noble cause will stand up for each other. You will never hear a bad word against each other and be able to move mountains together. In our case, we wanted to be motivated by the only thing that would overcome the hatred of those who had driven out Jerusalem’s Incubator Theatre from the 2014 Edinburgh Fringe: ahava (love). Love for what is good, decent, worthy. Such a spirit is irrepressible, will catch and carry others in its brightness, and sustain through the inevitable times when there are sharp edges and it seemed like we would never get there. But we did.

One factor that we needed to devote more time to was fundraising. If you have someone who loves doing it, is good at it, or really wants to learn how to do it, then great. But we didn’t. This is one reason why Jewcer is so important, because it can carry much of this burden in an effective and attractive way. Money gives you so many more options, and this is why we have asked Jewcer to help us for the next International Shalom Festival later this year.

 

Nigel Goodrich
I spent twenty-five years in private and public sector middle and senior management in three different educational systems, following which I set up my own personal assistant services business. I gave up that business to establish and lead twenty Friends of Israel groups around the UK and found the International Shalom Festival. I now work full-time as an advocate for Israel building an effective network in the UK and Europe to promote the Jewish state as a modern democracy whose achievements are outstanding.

3 Tips for Balancing Work and the Jewish Calendar

Passover is coming, and with it, some serious anxiety about how it’s going to impact my productivity here at Books and Blintzes.

Now don’t get me wrong. I actually love celebrating Passover! It’s a holiday that requires me to do lots of experimental cooking (kosher for Passover recipes have come a long way!) and reading preparation (there’s always a new hagaddah to explore!). But the cooking and cleaning and actual observance of yom tov, not to mention taking care of house guests and a child on a school break, doesn’t leave a whole lot of time for checking in, let alone keeping up, at the office.

The good news is, that it IS possible to celebrate the Jewish holidays in a meaningful way while keeping on track with our entrepreneurial goals. Here are my 3 main strategies for striking the balance between a joyful Pesach and keeping my work on-track.

1. Plan Ahead:

With tools like hebcal.com, Jewish holidays can be added to our work years in advance. While working for ourselves often means that our schedules are unpredictable, the Jewish holidays are not. My strategy is to ensure that routine tasks are identified and taken care of ahead of time, leaving me with the creative energy I need to deal with the surprises that will come up. Using social media posting services such as Buffer helps me to plan out my strategic content, giving me the flexibility to respond to more urgent matters.

The month before Jewish holidays are also an excellent time to double check your financial tools. I’ll be taking an extra look (and then another) at my cash flow and preparing all bill payments. The true meaning of freedom? The security of knowing that what you’ve been working on will still be there waiting for you. And on that note, make sure to schedule a back-up of your electronic files a few days in advance. Just in case.

2. Manage Expectations:

At work, at home, and in your own head, the Jewish holidays come with a whole lot of expectations. Whether you are traditionally observant and taking off for the chagim means being completely unplugged or you want to take the time to focus on something else, make sure you let your clients know ahead of time that things are going to slow down. While an out-of-office message on your voicemail, texts, and email are essential, help lessen everyone’s frustration by giving them a heads-up that you’ve got a couple of weeks that are not going to be business as usual.

Will you be traveling? Provide specific times and issues about which you CAN be reached. Does your family expect you to give them your unexpected attention while they visit for 10 days? Will you have additional community obligations? Now is the time to talk to ANYONE who believes they have a claim on your time and attention over the holidays. Spend some time thinking about what you will need from others (2 hours of uninterrupted computer or telephone time? unfettered access to a vehicle for client visits?) and what you can offer in return (grocery shopping? alternating child care with neighbors?). Setting these expectations in advance will prevent additional frustration and interrupted productivity when the holidays are in full swing.

3. Make the Holidays Work for You

For Jewish entrepreneurs, the holidays present an extra complication. Yes we want to take time to celebrate with our families and communities, but often our work load intensifies as we turn our efforts to ensuring that our customers and audiences have the tools they need to maximize their holiday experiences. This is when it helps to remember why we are so committed to our organizations. Ideally, our work encourages communication between ourselves and those we serve. What instruments have you developed to collect feedback from your customers? Jotform.com, Google Forms, Survey Monkey, and other programs can help you gather invaluable information to help you direct your efforts the next time the holidays roll around. Knowing that you are spending your time creating resources and providing services that meet your organizational goals and audiences’ needs will give your morale an extra boost to make sure that things get done!

 

 

 

Deborah Miller
A life long reader and food lover, Rabbi Deborah Miller founded Books and Blintzes to share her enthusiasm for the worlds of Jewish literature and cuisine. Understanding that the creative arts are one of the fundamental ways in which people express their connection to Judaism and that our diversity is one of the Jewish community’s greatest resources, she expanded Books and Blintzes to include all forms of art, and is devoted to the inclusion of voices from across the Jewish world. Rabbi Miller was ordained at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in 2011 and is a Board Certified Chaplain.

What Does Purim Teach Us?

Many a rabbi has pointed out the midrashic wordplay that indicates that Yom Kippur is, in fact “a day like Purim” (Yom haKi-Purim). Others have noted that some sources indicate Purim to be the holiest Jewish Calendar day of them all. At the heart of Purim does, in fact, lie the holiest deed that any human being can commit oneself to.

For all of us, Jewish or otherwise, the Book of Esther is a celebration of triumph against greatly unfavorable odds.

On the one hand, the King of Persia (whose name has perplexed people reading the text out loud in English translation for centuries) has a temperament that is difficult to predict and a personality that is very difficult to define. On the other hand, there is Haman, who deems himself very powerful, very worthy of respect and has step-by-step and concrete visions for a plan to kill all Jews in the kingdom.

In their midst to clandestinely thwart Haman’s efforts are Mordechai and Esther, who do not feel empowered by the circumstances at all and often speak between themselves in uncertain terms in realizing their plan to save the Jews (in contrast to Haman’s confidence).

Despite that, they always, ALWAYS act on a plan, even when the strategy or the circumstances may not be absolutely sound.The story is a very holy one because it indicates that paralysis from fear or over-analysis is the antithesis of divine vision, and that seizing the day, however the day may be, is a divine attribute, found in many other heroes of Hebrew scriptures such as Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Aaron and virtually ALL of the others.

Even when Esther thinks of the possibility of having herself and her people destroyed, she still presses onwards. Yom Kippur also contains very much a similar idea–that despite the numerous difficult circumstances created by our misdeeds–on a personal, communal and national level (if not in fact considering the whole human species)–we will nonetheless ask to move forward by being written and sealed in the Book of Life.

Purim is, above all, a celebration of risk taking, to which we as a species and Jews the world over (as well as other peoples) owe all of our accomplishments.

Purim and Yom Kippur also come at times of the year in which the seasons are waning away, in which winter despondency gives way to celebration and the mirth of the sun’s rays gives way to solemnity. In both holidays, despite everything, there is sadness and reflection on this sadness but never paralysis, and this reflects the type of determination that entrepeneurs, visionaries and resistors need to embody in 2018 and beyond.

As the head of my own company, I think of all of the ways that I have needlessly been hindered by my own self-doubt and limiting beliefs. Esther and Mordechai could have done the same, but then I wouldn’t exist and by extension the Jewish people would have been a memory.

On Purim I revel in the possibility that we will embrace who we truly are, with our primal optimism, and reflect the very best aspects of the human experience, unfettered by negative emotions weighing us down, that any Supreme God or human being would be very proud of.

Happy Purim to all you risk takers out there, and to all who have yet to take a chance. Go on, have the first bite!

jared.gimbel
Jared Gimbel teaches Jewish and Nordic languages and also sometimes works as a seasonal synagogue cantor. Having mastered 18+ languages spanning almost all continents, he also works as a translator from various languages into English. His new video game, “Kaverini: Nuuk Adventures”, a cartoon adventure game set in contemporary Greenland, is set for release in 2018. He currently lives in Brooklyn.

Tu B’Shvat: The Jewish Holiday Intended for Everyone  

Most Jews in the U.S. today would associate Tu B’Shvat, the Jewish New Year for the Trees, with something like the American Earth Day. Even Jews from outside of the U.S. are likely to associate it with ecological awareness and environmental protection (possibly due to global attention rightly paid to these issues). In antiquity, far before humanity was aware of its ability to damage the biosphere, Tu B’shvat occupies an intriguing place in the Jewish calendar as a day of everyday agricultural workers.

The Pilgrimage Festivals (Pesach, Shavuot, and Sukkot) involved priestly ritual and the Temple in Jerusalem, as did the high holidays. Hannukah and Purim involve people in positions of power as the heroes. In contrast to these holidays, Tu B’Shvat is primarily a holiday about ordinary work and ordinary cycles, which is important to consider given that the priesthood and the royalty, despite being the Children of Israel along with everyone else, had a sense of detachment from the general populace. A lot of Jewish day school narratives, both when discussing Jewish history as a whole as well as the background for many holidays, focus on “big guys”, such as Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David and their families. Often what isn’t present is the fact that the entire story is usually, especially in the Five Books of Moses, on the Children of Israel themselves. Despite struggling with both their leaders and God, they are not just what makes the story, they ARE the story.

It is far too easy to lose sight of the fact that it is often the masses in Jewish history that have been the most important and influential, although seldom are any of them given a voice (as is the case in much of the world with any people group). In an age in which a lot of young Jews are clamoring for acceptance in communities, Tu Beshvat can help us think about how the Jewish experience has had many dimensions in which people of all trades were not only involved but very deeply involved. The Jewish story in the Bible isn’t only one about high priests and kings, nor is the one in the Talmud only about sages—it involves the whole of the people. While many other holidays may celebrate the Temple rites or singular Biblical heroes, Tu B’shvat is a holiday for those orchard laborers in Judah and Israel whose stories were never told.

From entrepreneurial standpoint, this understanding of Tu B’shvat is essential, especially now. Many entrepeneurs of contemporary times tend to focus on individual characters (such as CEO’s, bosses, well-known heroes and paragons of the craft) rather than big collectives that history may have not given a strong voice. But what about those lacking that strong voice? What can business leaders learn from partaking of a rite that resembles the life of the ordinary farmer?

Individualism and competition in the world, rather than collectivism, has sometimes been a toxic influence, and Tu B’shvat is about the wholesomeness of the human story as well as the agricultural and ecological experience. Above all, this holiday serves as a reminder that, despite our accomplishments, our ancestors were largely ordinary laborers and we owe a lot to them and need to learn from their example.

 

 

jared.gimbel
Jared Gimbel teaches Jewish and Nordic languages and also sometimes works as a seasonal synagogue cantor. Having mastered 18+ languages spanning almost all continents, he also works as a translator from various languages into English. His new video game, “Kaverini: Nuuk Adventures”, a cartoon adventure game set in contemporary Greenland, is set for release in 2018. He currently lives in Brooklyn.

CRMs for Nonprofits: Improve Your Constituent Relationships

The use of “Customer Relationship Management” or “Constituent Relationship Management” (CRM) systems is standard in for-profit businesses, however, many nonprofits are yet to embrace the power of CRM as a donor management tool. Many still rely on spreadsheets, or a loosely connected combination of various tools to track donor engagement, volunteers, campaigns, and other critical functions that sustain and grow nonprofits.

The benefits of investing in a good CRM—several of which are free—far outweigh the time and financial costs, as it simplifies daily operations and effective outreach.

Using CRMs opens up new ways of doing things more efficiently and more effectively. And as your organization grows, you can scale this essential nonprofit tech to suit current needs. These programs can serve both the small volunteer-based nonprofit to the multi-million-dollar international nonprofit organization. A simple spreadsheet cannot effectively handle such a scale of operation in a multiuser, multi-location environment.

Benefits of Using a CRM for Nonprofits

Coordinated Communication

Maintain an easy flow of information among volunteers, donors, board members and service recipients. Since nonprofits can have so many people to manage, using a CRM eliminates much of the complication and reduces the chances of mistakes in communications.

Efficient Processes

Time and money are essential to every nonprofit (and indeed, every business); streamlined processes available from a robust CRM help save both.

Preservation of Organizational Knowledge

As time goes by, your organization learns things about its supporters, its processes, and best practices. In most traditional settings, the knowledge exists in individuals. With a CRM, this knowledge gets preserved in the system, allowing the organization to keep running smoothly even when key individuals leave.

Visibility of Relationships

At the click of a button you are able to see all the relationship running across the organization. It shows a record of events, emails, volunteer contacts and donations, among other types of essential information. You don’t have to dig through tons of information (and cobble together multiple spreadsheets) to get to what you need.

Simplified Data Management

With a great CRM, you can create a new marketing campaign or plan an event with just a few clicks, even targeting specific people based on donation or participation levels. These tasks can be time-consuming if you work the “time-tested” way with Excel or Google Sheets, a separate email system and donation system.

In-Depth Knowledge of Your Benefactors

Using a CRM opens up a whole world of information about your donors, volunteers, and other contacts you track. You will get to know their interests, what they respond to, and even (with some systems) what they share on social media, so you can best appeal to them.

Features to Look for in a Nonprofit CRM

The landscape of online CRMs is getting crowded, with several big players and a lot of specialty systems created just for nonprofits. Whether you need all of the bells and whistles of the paid platforms or can use one of the free (and still powerful) ones depends on your needs.

Here’s a checklist of features to consider when choosing your nonprofit’s CRM:

Workflow Automation

A CRM that makes it easy to automate common processes like receiving donations, thanking donors, sending out mail-merge email campaigns to people who meet specific criteria, creating follow-up tasks, and sending weekly activity summaries can save the organization a lot of your most precious resource: time.

Collaboration and Sharing

It should allow all the employees to work on common projects and share both information and resources.

Easy to Scale Up or Down

A system that will grow with you, supporting a larger donor base, adding or eliminating functionality based on your needs.

Managing Overlaps

A good donor management application should be able to maintain and clearly show any overlap in the stakeholders. For example, a volunteer becoming a donor, a beneficiary becoming a donor, etc. Instead of spending hours sorting out duplications and comparing data, the organization can spend the time building relationships.

Simplifying & Unifying Processes Across Departments

Depending on what your nonprofit does (or wants to do on a regular basis), a centralized system for donor management, engagement, email, marketing, and even fundraising, allows the whole organization to work together seamlessly.

Access Control

Nonprofits rely on volunteers, interns and various staff members to keep things moving. Since many people might be working from the same database, the program should allow for restrictions to functions depending on the tasks and role of the user.

Data Integrity

Working from a decentralized (cloud-based) system can pose security risks, if your data is not properly protected. Some systems will allow you to install on your own server, but that could introduce added costs of hosting and maintenance.

Getting Your Nonprofit Started with a CRM

There are many options for CRMs out there, some more daunting than others. Choosing the right one for your organization depends on your current resources, technical expertise and, of course, your needs.

We rounded up a few top-rated platforms and outlined the uses, pros, cons and costs of each to get you started.

Civi CRM – Open source CRM, event management, donations/payments, volunteer management platform and more, for charities & nonprofits.

Neon CRM – Donor management, event management, donations/payments, volunteer management platform and more, designed specifically for nonprofits.

Salsa CRM and Salsa Engage – Powerful online, mobile and social fundraising software and constituent relationship management tool.

GiveGab – An agile platform specifically tailored for nonprofit donor and relationship management.

Insightly – CRM that allows you to organize and track your current and potential donors.

Hubspot CRM – A totally free customer relations management tool that allows you to organize and track your current and potential donors.

This article was originally published on dotOrgStrategy.com

Boris of dotOrgStrategy.com
Boris is the founder of dotOrgStrategy, a platform for teaching nonprofits how to effectively use technology to achieve and expand their missions, without over-stretching their resources; and Speed of Like, a boutique digital agency focusing on small businesses, startups, and nonprofits. A storyteller and entrepreneur, Boris is excited to combine his passions for technology, storytelling, and making a positive difference in the world by helping organizations increase impact locally and globally, through digital tools including websites, social media, email, advertising and crowdfunding.

Top 5 Business Ideas for 2018

Whether you are a serial entrepreneur looking for the next big thing, or you are looking to make a change and finally start your own business, we think this list can help spark that creative energy for anyone looking to make it big in 2018!

1. Kid-friendly apps

“Tens of millions of kids are using smartphones and tablets these days, and there’s money to be made. In fact, three-quarters of children have access to a mobile device. That’s big business if you know how to develop apps—or if you’re creative and know how to hire people who do. Focus on health and wellness-driven apps first to get the parents on your side. Big opportunity.” — Multiple Streams research

2. Virtual Reality (VR) 

“Virtual reality (VR) is an impressive facet of modern technology. With a pair of goggles and the right computer hardware, you can immerse yourself in a variety of fascinating worlds using VR. If you aren’t the most computer-savvy person you know, never fear — you don’t have to be a programming genius to create a VR-centered business. In fact, most VR-related business ideas have nothing to do with the technology itself. Rather, you can start your own VR industry update website, where you write about new tech, games, software, and more. You can sell creative cardboard headsets (like Google Cardboard, but cooler). If you are good at the programming side of things, you can create your own games and software . . . or you can help car companies and real estate agencies create virtual experiences. ” — Entrepreneur Magazine

3. Affiliate Marketing

“Affiliate marketing is basically the process of earning a commission by promoting somebody else’s product. There are two main ways most people do affiliate marketing: 1. Information products. Here, you promote products like ebooks, membership sites, video series, etc. This type of affiliate marketing can earn you up to 50% or more in commission, has relatively low barriers to entry, and it’s easy to find products to promote. 2. Amazon partners. Many affiliate marketers have success with Amazon. There are literally millions of products to choose from, and it can be quite profitable. For more information, you can check out the Amazon Associates Program.” — Website Setup

4. Website Rentals

“It’s 2016 — these days, everyone calls themselves a web developer. But do you know what very few people tend to say they do? Rent websites. You read that correctly: creating websites from scratch for specific companies is now the old way of generating revenue from Web clients. Instead, Web devs are creating several websites at a time for a certain niche, then renting customizable versions of each site to local businesses. The businesses pay monthly for a website the developer maintains. It’s a great way to make passive income and expand your existing Web dev business — as long as you know what you’re doing.” — Entrepreneur Magazine

5. Tiny Houses 

“They let you travel the country without paying for pricey hotel rooms. Even with full amenities, they cost far less than a normal-size home — Tumbleweed’s tiny houses start at about $10,000. They’re cuter and more practical than RV’s, and they’re (almost) fully customizable…No, tiny houses aren’t just a fad you see on HGTV; they also make up an entire movement and an awesome business idea. Though a couple companies already offer them, those companies don’t take advantage of the full range of possibilities. Very few tiny houses are stylishly decorated, and even fewer are optimized for pets. Maintenance companies tend to ignore the tiny house demographic, too — that’s another business idea, right there.” — Entrepreneur Magazine

 

There are endless opportunities out there for those of you who have the passion and the drive! If anyone has any creative ideas out there, feel free to share with us as Jewcer is always around to help! We’d also love to hear about your projects, whether they are Jewish-related or not, there’s plenty to learn from you and to teach the incredible entrepreneurs in our community!

Shani
Shani is a photographer and content creator from Los Angeles. She graduated from UC Santa Barbara with a Communication degree, which she puts to good use by connecting with all the incredible Jewish organizations and the people who support them. With a deep pride in her Jewish roots and an Israeli background, Shani hopes to share the power and potential of Jewish innovation and connection with the world.

Why Entrepreneurs Should Not Set New Year’s Resolutions

New Year’s Resolutions Don’t Work

There are numerous research driven, fact based articles that outline why New Year’s resolutions don’t stick. There’s a ton of psychology stuff that explains this all, but I’m not going there right now.

We’re going to move forward with the premise that less than 10% of the population actually stick to their New Year’s resolutions for any significant amount of time.

And just to clarify here, I’m not talking about SMART goals, I’m talking about resolutions, about “lifestyle wants” and “should dos.”

So if resolutions are not the way to go, what’s the alternative?

The Concept of One Word

You’re an entrepreneur. I get it. Therefore, I bet you’re thinking “there’s no way One Word can encompass all I want to achieve in 2018.”

And I beg to differ.

I’m a list kind of gal. I like seeing down on paper what needs to get done and then crossing items off as I complete them. I actually have an actual bucket list and I still use a notebook to create a monthly budget and mind map my projects.

So you’d would think that writing out yearly resolutions would be right up my alley. And you’d be right.

However, this is my third year not setting New Year’s resolutions and not doing so has changed my business for the better.

Instead of listing out my “resolutions,” I chose a single focus word for the year. It was a word by which I would gauge all my actions when deciding whether a specific task would bring closer to my yearly goal or not. My yearly goal being that one word.

Focus

I first tried this in 2016 and my word was actually “Focus.”

I was born with an entrepreneurial spirit and while that means that I have an incredible vision for my business… it also means that I’ve got multiple incredible visions for multiple businesses. And despite liking to think that I can multitask… experience has shown me that having so many passion projects leads me to very little success in any one area.

I chose 2016 as the year during which I’d narrow my active projects down to one and decide where I wanted to put the bulk of my efforts.

Fit Jewess was that one project I decided to invest in.

So, I officially closed down the clothing store I had owned for eight years. I disabled the educational website that had teen empowerment workshops that I had been working on as a hobby. I stopped pursuing online affiliate marketing as a source of passive income.

Systems

In 2017 I picked the word “Systems.” As per the E-Myth, I’m a great Entrepreneur, a pretty good Technician, but I’ve got zero Manager in me. It was time to develop systems that I needed so that my business could run like a business rather than a mom-and-pop shop.

I’m amazed at how much I’ve learned about myself and how my business has evolved as I began to apply this concept by filtering my actions through the lens of “will this help me develop a long term system that’ll benefit my business or will it add to the chaos?” I didn’t always make the right decision, but it was a start.

Hustle

My word for 2018 is “Hustle.”

But enough about me.

Let’s talk about you. And you not making resolutions this year.

Three Steps to Choosing Your One Word

I’d love to invite you to choose your One Word.

This is no simple feat, and is not necessarily done in a single sitting (though it could be), but I’d like to break it down into 3 steps.

1. Consider what you want to accomplish in your business this year.

As an established business, you have a mission statement which is guided by its vision statement. These are both inspired by the reason you personally felt driven to start this business. Make sure that’s all up to date and if the direction of your business has changed at all, now’s the time to make any tweaks.

And as 2017 comes to a close and we welcome in 2018, I assume that  you have created a marketing plan for the new year and that you’ve outlined what you want to achieve in 2018.

Now’s the time to ensure that the goals you’ve listed are aligned with your Why, so take a few moments to review it all. To make sure that everything you’ve written on your goals list brings you closer to fulfilling your mission and bringing you closer to your vision. 

2. Narrow those ideas to a single word.

Your Why inspires your vision and mission which in turn dictate your goals. Now it’s time to sum up all of those goals into a single word. Look back and see where you struggled last year and look forward and see where you want to strengthen your business next year.

Your One Word will encompass all of your goals and will get to the root of what you feel you want to accomplish this year. Some ideas might be Loyalty (if you want this year to focus on customer service), Execution or Productivity (if you feel like that’s been lacking from you and your team in the last year), or Recognition (if your main goal is to establish your brand in the marketplace), etc…

Create a list of words that you feel match up with your goals/mission in Step 1 and speak each one out loud. Tune in and notice how you feel with each word. Does it just sound like you’re reading out of a thesaurus, or do you feel a little tug in your heart that seems to be saying, “this is it.”

If that last part feels a little too “lovey dovey” for you, that’s fine. Process it in whichever way you like, but your One Word should be one that resonates strongly with you and that almost feels like it’s yours.

When I first heard this idea, I thought it was kinda ludicrous. Well, not the concept, but the verbiage of having a word speak to you. But in my three years of doing this, each time, it’s like the word has leapt out at me and said “I’m yours for the year.”

And each time it’s only brought me closer to the business that I’m looking to build.

3. Commit to your One Word.

You and your One Word will be married for the year so make sure you’re comfortable with commitment.

Put your One Word up – in your workplace, at home, on the dashboard of your car. Let it be visible wherever you are and let that One Word be the filter by which you make business decisions. Ask yourself if the choice you’re about to make, if the task you’re about to do, if the relationship you’re about to initiate is going to support your One Word and bring you closer or further from your vision for 2018.

Let your One Word represent the year 2018.

Try it. It’s not like you have anything to lose. Besides for New Year’s Resolutions.

Sara Kupfer
Sara Kupfer, founder of Fit Jewess, is a fitness coach with the mission of empowering Jewish women worldwide through movement and fostering a community united through body positive and weight neutral fitness. She is a CrossFit L1 trainer and coaches girls and women in person and online. She encourages her clients to view exercise as a way to feel more confident by increasing energy, gaining strength and discovering how amazingly capable their bodies are.

Creating a Non-profit Content Calendar – the Easy Way

There are myriad reasons why your non-profit needs to be sharing content regularly on your website and social media. For staying top of mind, reminding people of the work that you do, getting your message out (and furthering your mission), and even basic SEO strategy, content is king.

But between all of the other seemingly more pressing, mission-critical (pun intended) things your team does every day, creating and sharing content seems like a last priority. So while many organizations are aware of the “need” to publish, few do. And even fewer do it with any sort of regularity.

1. Planning Your Non-profit Content Calendar

Creating a calendar is a simple, effective way of scheduling future posts, but, if done right, makes it a lot easier to actually generate those posts. Chances are that you already have a calendar that includes major events like galas, do-good drives, annual events and celebrations, among other things.

That’s actually a great starting point for creating your content calendar, since you know you want to be promoting these events before they happen, and talking about them afterward. Thinking of those events as “content-worthy” ahead of time will likely spark ideas of things you can do and share online well in advance. Put those things on your calendar!

For calendaring and planning, I love the free and powerful Asana, which can integrate with but the best tool is the one you are most comfortable with…even if it’s the whiteboard in your office.

I recommend keeping an ongoing 1-year, 6-month, 3-month, and 1-month calendar. The further away something is, the less detailed the plan has to be. For the sake of sanity, however, anything in the 3-month window should be in prep, anything in the 1-month should be in “production,” one way or another.

Once you’ve got your major dates and content plans, you’ll likely need to add more items. So what do you add? Read on.

2. Create the Right Content for Your Non-profit’s Audience

This seems simple on the surface: Engage with your audience on the subjects that they’re interested in. The more value you provide and the more you show them that you share their interests and concerns, the more personally connected to you and your cause they will be.

The problem is that, most of the time, businesses and organizations focus on just talking about their work; or worse, asking for the sale or donation. Your audience is probably interested in other things, many of which indirectly connect back to the change you want to make in the world.

For example, if you’re a New York City theater company focusing on children’s theater, there are many areas of interest that overlap with yours, which your audience (parents of New York children) might be passionate about, or at least just interested in. New York arts festivals and arts funding news are an easy extension of news you want to share. Then there’s national and local education news, studies about the impact of imagination and storytelling, arts in education, or even that it’s a snow day!

Don’t worry about experimenting and getting it “wrong.” As long as you don’t offend or alienate people, trying different tacks may yield surprising results. With time, the more content you share, the more you’ll see what your fans respond to, with likes, shares, and website traffic. Spending a little time (and possibly sending out a survey) thinking of ideas that your audience will appreciate can go a long way and pay off greatly in the long run.

Sharing content about current events may seem like a full-time job on its own, but with a little planning, it may be easier and less resource-intensive than you might think. Which takes us to the “shortcut” in the next section…

3. Timeliness and Tie-Ins for Your Content Calendar

One of my favorite ways to generate quality, valuable content that speaks to audiences on multiple levels and isn’t all about “me” is by tying it into events happening in the world. As a bonus, people will already be thinking and talking about the subject at that time, so you may enjoy a viral boost. While you can’t plan for the latest news headline, you can plan for national holidays and, more apropos for nonprofits, awareness days, weeks and months. To make it easy to find and add these dates to your calendar, dotOrgStrategy has created a new non-profit awareness calendar feature, including links to websites with more information and hashtags you can use to join the conversation.

There are nationally-recognized philanthropic events like National Volunteer Week, and more specific ones for arts and culture. If you’re an organization dealing with health-related concerns, there is no shortage of awareness dates to tie into. For others, you may have to think a bit more creatively, but that can also be freeing and fun. For example, what’s your organization’s position on television, toilets, fathers, or the U.S. flag?

Whether you want to say something fun or poignant on social media, or to make a larger statement with an article or video, there are sure to be plenty of things to talk about when you keep track of awareness calendar dates.

 

This article was originally published on dotOrgStrategy.com

Boris of dotOrgStrategy.com
Boris is the founder of dotOrgStrategy, a platform for teaching nonprofits how to effectively use technology to achieve and expand their missions, without over-stretching their resources; and Speed of Like, a boutique digital agency focusing on small businesses, startups, and nonprofits. A storyteller and entrepreneur, Boris is excited to combine his passions for technology, storytelling, and making a positive difference in the world by helping organizations increase impact locally and globally, through digital tools including websites, social media, email, advertising and crowdfunding.

The Hannukah Story: A Recipe for Startups?

This year, the story of Hannukah has taken on a new dimension for me. As a company founder, I see the story of Hannukah as one of persistence and triumph in the face of adversity. But also, a flawed one, as is the case with many startups and businesses.

The Maccabees are admirable in the respect that, very much like many startups today, they managed to define their vision and carry it out despite the fact that it seems that the world may not deem it favorable or plausible. Contrary to what ordinary people would expect, they win. The story is, at heart, one of revolutionary projects. However, in recent times, some have branded the Maccabees as religious fanatics who forcibly converted people to Judaism.

I don‘t deem Hannukah or a celebration of the Maccabean triumph as a problem, but rather a collection of lessons for creative minds and entrepreneurs today.

I am grateful that we live in a time in which virtually every Biblical hero is reckoned with in terms of his or her moral shortcomings (not to mention dozens upon dozens of secular heroes in the Jewish world and beyond). The Maccabees were military heroes, while the purveyors of Talmudic Culture, which evolved into contemporary Jewish practices, were distrustful of secular power, empire and brute strength.

I too, much like the Amoraim who compiled the Talmud, deem military might and worship of war heroes as something to keep my distance from (all this while I am grateful for military campaigns that have prevented ethnic cleansing and genocide or at least stopped it from happening further).

In the same way that we hold Biblical heroes accountable for their shortcomings, we must also hold CEOs, world leaders, and business managers accountable for their actions. Biblical characters, themselves, find that their misdeeds impact their life stories and reputations long after the fact. The reason why is telling: because figures with any sort of power had – and continue to have – the chance to bring healing change to the world or raze it to its foundation. While the Divine element in today’s world, the one that brings about judgment and justice, is more hidden, we, as the human race, have the power to make it apparent and judge those in power favorably or unfavorably in accordance with our morals.

Antiochus Continues to Exist in Our World

As a child in Jewish school, the forces of Antiochus, as well as the culture he represented, stood for something very clear. In a sense, the “Yavanim” were purveyors of a worldview that sought to deal away with differences, to unite an empire through cultural conformity. Antiochus‘ offer was tempting, given that people throughout history have given up their traditional cultural distinctions in favor of one that is associated with power, status, and acceptance (and this continues to be the case all over the world).

Despite all of that temptation of surrendering one‘s distinctions and uniqueness for security, there were the Maccabees who flew against the stream, and – contrary to all expectation – they won against a superior military power.

Starting one‘s own business takes extreme bravery, much like Judah the Maccabee and his family had. There is sacrifice of the routine as well as a significant amount of discouragement and temptation to give up from the outside and the inside. There are deep setbacks as well as moments that seem to require miracles.

In the contemporary world, there still is that path of least resistance, the one to constantly do the safer thing, to become more like everybody else, to give up one‘s culture or identity in exchange for a group‘s acceptance. Backed by media, advertisements, and multinational corporations, the temptation to follow the Antiochuses of today is stronger than anyone living in Judah the Maccabee‘s time could have ever thought possible.

One of the first things I ever remember hearing when I began designing my first video game was that “different always does better in the store”. Having investigated many fields of study and subcultures throughout the world, it is evident to me, if not all of us, that remaining personally as well as culturally distinct (while still acknowledging the good of other cultures and people) is the key to finding a fulfilling life, rather than surrendering it in the name of the “safe path”.

The Maccabees didn‘t take the safe path. The most successful entrepreneurs tend not to either.

When I light the candles this Hannukah, I will do so not only for the miracle that a culture was saved, but also for the many miracles that world-changing projects have experienced. Ones that made innovation possible and continue to make the world a place of constant surprise and betterment, despite the naysayers and challenges.

jared.gimbel
Jared Gimbel teaches Jewish and Nordic languages and also sometimes works as a seasonal synagogue cantor. Having mastered 18+ languages spanning almost all continents, he also works as a translator from various languages into English. His new video game, “Kaverini: Nuuk Adventures”, a cartoon adventure game set in contemporary Greenland, is set for release in 2018. He currently lives in Brooklyn.