5 Tips for Cultivating Your Personal Brand as a Non-Profit Leader

photo-72Do you want to help your organization? Start with yourself.  What do you stand for?  What do you want to be remembered for?  Whether you know it or not, you already have a brand, it is your reputation.  Developing your own personal brand is about driving that narrative.  Many non-profit leaders are hired based on how they are known publicly, both off and online.  Your well-defined personal brand will help you focus on what matters most, raise more money for your organization, and do more good in the world.

1) Have a personal mission statement:  Warren Buffet says, “The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.” Your mission statement doesn’t have to be specific or permanent, but it should serve as an internal guidance system to help you decide what to focus on and what to leave alone.  An easy way to craft a personal mission statement is by using your 140 character Twitter bio.  Mine is, “Social Philanthropist, Global Citizenship Advocate, Networker, Public Relations, Educator, Mindfulness Practitioner.” Everything that I focus on professionally relates to my mission statement (yes, it covers a ton!).

2) Be on social media:  Aristotle says, “We are what we repeatedly do.  Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”  Now that you have your mission statement, you can use social media to promote, comment on, and influence, ideas and projects that mean something to you and your organization.  Social media allows you to cultivate your brand on a daily basis. Yes, being online can be a time sink, but if you stick with what matters to you, social media will invigorate your brand and is well worth the investment. At a minimum, I recommend interacting with people on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. You will be amazed by the connections you make and the opportunities that arise.

3) Monitor mentions of your name/organization and respond:  Who is tagging you or your organization on social media? What are they saying? It could be great news, or maybe bad news, either way you need to see it, and likely respond.  An alumna of your school is a finalist for a Nobel prize and cites you as a role model. Perhaps you can set up an interview and photo with her before the rest of the press?  A rogue blogger writes that you and your non-profit are wasting funds.  What happens if that article sits online for days before you address it?  By monitoring and responding, you continue to hone and protect your personal brand.

4) Have an online bio:  Perhaps you’ve done an interview or two, or published an essay that appears with your name on the third page of a Google search.  Is there a central source online where someone can find everything positive about you?  Your bio can be on Wikipedia, WordPress, About.me, or on your organization’s website.  Wherever your biography appears, be sure to include links to all of your YouTube videos, publications, and press mentions.  As a social philanthropist and PR person, I love promoting people. When a person has a comprehensive biography it makes it easy for me to share their work and attributes with interested parties.

5) Create your own content:  How many times have you spoken in public?  How many of those speeches were recorded and are now accessible online?  One TED Talk or speaking excerpt can lead to all sorts of opportunities for you and your organization. Do you write a blog? You don’t have to wait for a newspaper to report on you and your school. A link is a link, whether it is from the New York Times or your Blogger site.  When you create your own content, you have control.  Just as you monitor information, you can shape it as well.

For more information on why you should blog (in case you don’t already), please read:


The Top 5 Reasons Why You And Your Staff Should Blog

photo (66)I’m a blogger and have my feelings about the power of the blog, but I reached out to a couple of San Francisco teachers to get their thoughts as well. Alison Trujillo is a Spanish teacher at the Hamlin School, and writes a blog called Life Translated focused on various facets of life connected to the Spanish language. Kristen Goggin is a math teacher at the Town School and writes a blog called Stories from the Garage about connecting social justice to math, among other eclectic topics. Here are my unadulterated top 5 reasons why you should be blogging, with input from both Goggin and Trujillo.
1)  Public Relations/Marketing:  PR/Marketing sounds very businesslike; however, the reality is that schools and non-profits need to show their work to the public at large, including their client community. A blog can reach far beyond the doors of an organization, demonstrating the profound labor being done by you and your staff, while driving traffic to your website. Kristen shares, “Stories from the Garage has gotten a following from other global educators, has built my personal learning network differently, and the stories I write about the Town School end up getting tweeted from some national organizations such as Kiva.org, VIF International!”
2)  15 Minutes of Fame: We live in an online world where videos go viral and identities exist on a multitude of computer-screened social media platforms. 21st century psychology dictates that many people desire recognition and attention from the world. When a blog sheds light on the meaningful work of a person or project, it can serve as motivation, since an entire internet-woven planet may be watching. Goggin says, “I love featuring the boys comments from our Edmodo page and they love when their pictures are blogged and tweeted.”
3)  Personal/Professional Outlet: Teachers and other individuals in the non-profit sector exist in a free-market system, but are often not motivated intrinsically by remuneration. In this sector, there are rarely vice presidents or other titles to aspire to. A teacher can become a department chair; a volunteer coordinator can become a very good volunteer coordinator. By blogging, a faculty member can: create their own personal brand, stay focused, share their unique ideas, and become a thought leader in their discipline. Trujillo says, “My blog and other social media outlets allow me to connect with like-minded folks across the globe, and to communicate with people who share my passion for language, culture, and travel.”
4)  Reflection: The mere act of creating electronic ink on a screen forces reflection. Writing a blog demands a sorting out and explaining what we know, or think we know. A blog can refine how we go about being a human being as we narrate events and contribute our thinking to the greater good. Goggin says, “Since becoming a reflective practitioner, I believe I have discovered greater success and happiness in my practice. I love scanning through old posts and reminiscing about great classroom days. It also allows me to reevaluate my missteps!”
5)  Altruism: Number 5 goes along with number 1. A blog can tell uplifting stories with an authentic voice. When I interview a person who is taking her family to Zimbabwe for a cross-cultural service-learning basketball experience, it is inspiring to share. The writing of the blogger can spur others to participate in the valuable work of your school or non-profit. As a social philanthropist and global citizen, I feel that it is my duty to share the endeavors of people who are striving towards social justice, environmental sustainability, and greater global awareness.
To read Alison Trujillo’s blog, please visit:
To read Kristen Goggin’s blog, please visit:

Recognizing your Speakers, Staff, Volunteers & Donors, using Social Media

Screenshot 2016-02-14 10.50.53In the world of public relations nothing is more important than acknowledging people.  Recognizing the work of your staff builds trust through praise, and praise is one of the key currencies in any school or non-profit. Thanking the visitors that support your organization seems obvious, but can often be overlooked or done in a cursory manner.  Why send a private thank you email, or a verbal “gracias,” when you can share your appreciation with a wider audience?

The following are my tips for using social media to make your thank you that much better:

For visiting speakers:  At the very least, take a photo of the speaker that can be posted on your website, Facebook, or Twitter page.  Ideally the photo will be with your Head of School, students, or within the context of the work that your non-profit does.  If the speaker has a Twitter account, be sure to tag them in the posting so they are able to retweet.  It is important to designate someone to take the photo, otherwise it might not happen.

A more complete appreciation includes a photo and a blog article.  The blog should include direct quotes from the speaker and perhaps video footage, especially if they are a musical performer.  The video can be shot with a camera as basic as an iPhone.  I also like to include quotations from members of the audience that reveal what they learned from the speaker.  At the end of the blog article, acknowledge the person who invited the guest and share links to the orator’s website or organization.  Send the article to the speaker and post on your website.  If you take these two steps you are almost guaranteed to be able to call on that person as a future resource.  See the link below (Erin Schrode) for an example of a blog written about a speaker who visited the Hamlin School in San Francisco.

For your staff:  Any given day, week, or year, members of your staff are doing incredible things.  Follow the same photo and blog guidelines that you would for a guest speaker. For members of your staff I recommend sharing a draft of the blog with them ahead of time to ensure that you have specific information documented correctly.  Once the blog has been written, you can send the link to their colleagues to further the public acknowledgement of their excellent endeavor.  See the link below (Grupo Amapola) for an example of a blog written about the work of a couple of Spanish teachers at the Hamlin School.

For your volunteers:  Perhaps you have an annual fundraising or community-building event?  Have you ever documented the history of the gathering and all the people involved? Do you ever find yourself reexplaining an annual event to enlist future volunteers?  A comprehensive blog article can acknowledge volunteers and help to recruit future helpers.  Do some research and give credit to the individuals who started the event, project, or partnership.  At the end of this type of blog I like to include a section that states, “Special thanks to the following people for their recent and past support of……” See the link below (Hamilton Family Center) for an example of a blog that acknowledges volunteers who were integral to a partnership/event.

For your donors:  This is an area where your organization is probably very vigilant, no doubt you send out a handwritten thank you letter soon after a donation is made.  Why not up your game by recognizing the donor in a tweet or blog?  This isn’t appropriate for all donors, but most philanthropists appreciate a public nod.  Beyond a tweeted thank you, a comprehensive blog can: inform a donor about what exactly their funds were used for, demonstrate how your organization’s mission is aligned with a donor’s interests, and provide relevant links to websites connected to the donor.  Donors often have a personal brand related to their philanthropy, your blog can help further their altruistic reputation and work, while serving to steward their future engagement with your organization.

By following these tips your organization will achieve positive internal and external public relations, while ensuring robust future involvement by staff and supporters alike.

To read an example of a blog that acknowledges a guest speaker, please visit:


To read an example of a blog that acknowledges staff members, please visit:


To read an example of a blog that acknowledges volunteers, please visit:







Twitter & Blog: How to Generate Your Own News

Screenshot 2016-02-12 12.32.15Perhaps you still exist in the world of the “press release.”  Today any school or non-profit can create their own news and expand the reach of their work or brand with just an internet connection and the desire to share a story.

As director of global citizenship at the Hamlin School in San Francisco, I was made aware of a couple of 4th graders who held a bake sale to raise money for the Nepal earthquake relief in 2015.  The work of the girls led to a school wide effort to raise funds and awareness.  I quickly wrote a blog article about their endeavor and published it on my Hamlin WordPress blog site.  As an avid Twitter user I have a handful of followers who report for mainstream media outlets.  Laura Dudnick from the San Francisco Examiner newspaper saw my article through a tweet.  Within a couple of days, Dudnick had interviewed a Hamlin student and published her own article covering the story. Dudnick’s article led to further support for the cause and for Hamlin’s global citizenship work.

Here are my easy tips for turning your school or non-profit’s work into news:

  1. When in doubt, blog about it.  The first step is to find a story related to your organization.  Some stories are big, some are small, but the only story that will never be heard is the one that you didn’t record.
  2. Include a great photo.  This is only common sense, but think about who is in the photo and where it is taken.  Does it show your organization in action?  Does the photo capture key people involved with the project or event?  Does the photo have a recognizable background that speaks to your brand?
  3. Send the blog article to people involved with the event or project.  I’ve had my blog articles republished in newsletters, put into Flipboard magazines, and placed on the front page of websites, all because I sent a link to the key people involved with the work.
  4. Send the blog article to people not involved in the event or project.  I don’t do this all the time, but most news writers and outlets have easily accessible email addresses.  If you feel that your story might be of interest, feel free to send out the story’s link with a brief explanation of its relevance.
  5. Tweet and tag on Twitter.  A single blog article tweet can land in the internet abyss. A tweet where you use #hashtags and tag potential retweeters can get your article surfing.  If you post with a photo, don’t forget you can tag up to 10 people to further your reach.  Also, in some cases, don’t be shy about asking your friends to retweet through a private email request.

Visit the link below to see my original blog article about the Nepal earthquake relief: