Melinda Billings

Melinda Billings

We’ve been talking about ways to include other staff members in your work. We love what Melinda Billings at Peacehaven Community Farm came up with to bring key players in her organization together – a book club! We like this idea not only because she used Content Marketing for Nonprofits, but because it’s a great way to  make sure everyone is on the same page (no pun intended) regarding goals and best practices.  ~Kristina

Guest Post by Melinda Billings at Peacehaven Community Farm

As a member of a nonprofit staff, one of the most important things to me is teamwork – sharing ideas and working together to reach a goal and fully express our mission to the public. When I first joined Peacehaven Community Farm in 2014, it was critical to me to pull together key players in the organization to discuss goals and plans for the year. I had also recently read Kivi Leroux Miller’s Content Marketing for Nonprofits and as I read, there were things that I realized I wanted to share and discuss with my counterparts.

Knowing that everyone loves a good book and a cup of coffee, I convened a group to form the Content Marketing Book Club, meeting once a month for five months, discussing a section each month.

Our group included staff from the following areas: volunteers, communications, development, and community engagement.

We all read before we would gather, coming prepared with examples of successes – where we were already doing things well – and questions and thoughts about how we might make some changes.  The questions throughout the chapters (Stop, Think, and Discuss) proved to be great conversation starters, leading to great dialogue on things to celebrate and how we might approach things differently.

Another helpful part of our group was the use of the worksheets provided online to supplement the reading. These were useful in helping us determine our Participants, Supporters, and Influencers (PSIs) and formally identify our style and voice.

For these components, we expanded our discussion to the Board of Directors in order to involve them in the process.

Here are several significant outcomes of our book club:

1. We recognized and celebrated that we have done a good job training our community to be co-producers of our content.

2. We pursued the idea of recruiting different voices to tell the story. We have found ways to incorporate our core members (residents with disabilities), board members, and our resident assistants. Here is a video we produced for our annual campaign using the reflection of a resident assistant who was moving on to another job.

3. We explored the question of whether we were giving our donors enough success stories. This conversation led to a quarterly publication, “A View from the Loft,” that was focused on our major donors, giving them a more frequent form of communication and a look inside some of the day-to-day happenings on the farm.

book club

4. We published our first annual report. We had produced yearly summaries but 2015 was the first time we published a “real” annual report. It was a great way to capture our accomplishments – in writing and in pictures – and we have used it many times as a way of engaging members of the community, and possible volunteers and donors.

Not only was the Book Club helpful in identifying future goals, but it was also critical in promoting teamwork.

So often we work in silos, operating only within our area of focus with little or no thought of how what we do will affect other parts of the organization. Coming together for these discussions gave us a chance to celebrate and brainstorm together, and jointly identify some needed objectives that would improve the organization across the board and continue to support and further our mission.

Here are a few suggestions for setting up a Book Club at your nonprofit:

  • Identify the key members of your organization that need to be a part of the discussion.
  • Meet on a regular basis, setting times in advance that will work for everyone; read in advance.
  • Take notes. We organized ours into the following categories: general notes, questions, what’s working well, and new ideas.
  • Communicate notes and ideas with full staff.
  • Get your board involved. Use worksheets provided to get input.
  • Celebrate successes and identify opportunities for change.
  • Revisit notes periodically to recall successes and make sure progress is being made in other areas.

Could this idea work for you? What books would work for your book club? Share your ideas in the comment below.

Melinda Billings is the Director of Community Engagement at Peacehaven Community Farm. Located in Guilford County, NC, Peacehaven is a sustainable farm that is dedicated to providing permanent housing for adults with special needs in a supportive and family-like environment. In her role, Melinda manages external communications and the broader community engagement strategy for the organization. Melinda holds a B.A. degree in Journalism from UNC-Chapel Hill, and she has 25 years of experience in corporate and nonprofit marketing and communication. 

Published On: August 10, 2016|Categories: Communications Team Management, Relationships, and Boundaries|