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Sam Davidson's blog

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Posts tagged nonprofit
Speaking Event: Daxko's Reach Conference

I'm excited to be returning to speak at Daxko's annual conference. The Reach Conference is a chance for those working with membership-based associations to learn best practices, new technologies, and big ideas in order to grow well. I'll be opening the event as the keynote speaker, helping those in attendance understand Millennials a bit better. We'll specifically be talking about how organizations can market to Generation Y and tell a compelling story to get their attention and consider membership.

I spoke at this same conference in 2010; this will be a fresh look at the next generation with updates stats and stories.

See you soon, Birmingham!

Click here to register for the Reach Conference.

Speaking Event: Connecting for Children's Justice Conference

I'm excited to be keynoting the Connecting for Children's Justice Conference in Nashville this November. Tennessee Children’s Advocacy Centers hosts this major conference each fall, drawing some 700 people from across the state of Tennessee for two days of training, collaborating, networking, and learning. Filling two full days with workshops, the event has a diverse audience, including nonprofit employees, case managers, law enforcement, and legal professionals. This is the largest and most important event of its kind for this audience each year.

I'll be keynoting the opening lunch event, discussing how all of those involved in helping children can better work together. I'll also be leading a brand new workshop on the power of story. How can organizations find their core story - something that supporters can share in order to further grow donors or volunteers?

See you in November!


Go Beyond the Tools to Find Your Passion

You're not passionate about social media. You're not passionate about entrepreneurship. You're not passionate about nonprofits, and you're not passionate about making money. All of these things are mere tools that you use to live out a passion. Saying you're passionate about these things is like a carpenter saying he's passionate about his hammer. He may prefer his hammer to his screwdriver, but what he truly loves is building something.

Social media is a tool that a person who's passionate about telling stories uses.

Entrepreneurship is just a tool used by someone who is passionate about making new things or awesome things or who wants to share an idea that matters.

People passionate about helping others may use the nonprofit sector and structure to do that.

When I ask people what they're passionate about and they start listing tools, I stop them and ask them to get to the core of what they love and who they are. One way to correct ourselves when we start listing tools as passions is to ask ourselves what we'd be passionate about if it were 1972 - 40 years ago.

Back then, you couldn't be passionate about social media or online marketing or computers or Apple. But you could be passionate about storytelling or community building or difference making.

Here's a list of passions that transcend time. I bet you get excited about a few of them:

  • Helping people
  • Communicating
  • Sharing ideas
  • Family
  • Relationships
  • Navigating change
  • Solving problems
  • Good design
  • Innovation

Any of these things could build a great career for you for a very long time. Understanding that the available tools will change over time to help you articulate these passions means you'll be flexible in an ever-changing world of work.

Don't go praising the tools. Use them. That's what they're there for.

What would you add?

What's your passion that transcends time?

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Church! Now for a Limited Time!

On Sundays, when I write, I do so at length on some topic of religion, Christianity, Jesus stuff, or faith. Beware. What if you were only supposed to go to church for a limited time? What if church was only supposed to be relevant for a season of your life?

For many reasons, we assume a church must last forever. A church plant starts small, intimate, messy, and spontaneous. It meets in peoples' homes while cats lick themselves on the rug during a prayer. They meet in apartment clubhouses, school gymnasiums, movie theaters, and other churches' basements. The lack of permanency gives each person in the new church a very crucial role as they need to recuit, pack up, participate, and assist each week.

But then, the church grows. More people start coming. Community outreach increases. Offerings start being taken. People come on staff and get paid. The church pays rent and maybe even buys a building. It affiliates with a denomination. Clergy are ordained. And it keeps...on...growing.

At some point, the romanticism is lost. The clandestine nature of meetings is replaced with shiny marquees. The servant attitude that compelled people to haul in things from car trunks is gone, replaced by permanent sound boards and janitorial staff on payroll. Those who were in love with working hard leave, looking for another new beginning. In their stead are young families and lifelong Christians who enjoy the stability of brick walls and carpeted sanctuaries. And maybe even the right color of choir robe.

And many lament that the old has gone. Where are they attending church now? a founding member may wonder. Why aren't they stil here? Have they backslidden? Of course, other churches are thinking the same thing about this church's new members, but no matter. Churches often trade members like NBA teams trade point guards.

I think this is all okay. I think church is supposed to be seasonal. You don't have to go every Sunday, it's okay to only show up on Easter, and I have no problem if you don't feel like going for a long, long time.

There is a time in our lives where institutionalization may matter. It's different for each of us. Some of us feel called and comfortable to participate in a church with hierarchy, offering plates, and pipe organs. Then, later, through some revelation or change of preference, it's time for smaller group gatherings, opting for guitars over pianos and coffee shops more than Wednesday night spaghetti dinners.

Life is dynamic. We as humans are even more changing. Are you the same person you were 10 years ago? Then why do we expect that a single church can meet all of our needs as we grow and change over time, especially if that church rarely changes over time?

Abandoned church

I've participated in it all. In high school and college, I was a product of the structure and wanted nothing more than to continue its legacy for a career. I worked towards it, only to have things shift, leaving me wanting nothing to do with tradition or systems. After a few years of study, thought, and learning, I found a new fit. Beginning my own faith community in my living room allowed me, my wife, and a handful of others to express our faith in a way that wasn't threatening to others and that was challenging to each of us. In the bond of that experiment, each of us grew into the grace and knowledge of Jesus and God through community, forming friendships and bonds that revealed to each of us something bigger than ourselves.

And then my daughter was born, shifting my understanding of and need for church again. The priorities of being a good dad now take precedence over those of being a faithful church attendee. Therefore, my wife and I are nomads again, finding spiritual solace through many non-church outlets, the chief of which is the smile on our daughter's face.

Peter Rollins has begun a new church community/experience. And, at its onset, it has a shelf-life. While the details are still coming together, the plan is for this community to only last a year. When that year is up, the church is done. Disbanded. No affiliating after that. There will be no offerings, no leases, and no services once a year has passed.

This will be interesting and inspiring to watch. And it makes me wonder - what if all churches had an expiration date? What if churches knew the date of their last Sunday gathering before their first one began?

For starters, it could make each community more effective. If a church - much like many nonprofits - knew it had a limited time to make a real cultural impact, I think it would spend less time bickering, finding people to kick out or silly stands to stake a claim on. Like people with terminal diseases who are only given months to live, each day becomes important. What would a church support and rally behind if it only had a few years to do something meaningful? I'm guessing it would stop debating gender-based ministerial qualifications and start to find ways to empower all people to serve others.

I'm guessing it would stop drawing lines in the sand based on sexual orientation or petty differences and begin to work together to do real good, like feed hungry people and heal sick people. It would care less about elections.

And what would this mean for you? The church hopping wouldn't stop, but that would be okay. Some churches are great to take your kids to; others have dynamic youth programs that are a better fit for your teenagers. Some churches offer fantastic and meaningful Sunday morning experiences while others are better at providing volunteer opportunities.

What it means - both now and in my imaginary world of churches with "sell by" dates - is that specific churches and all churches in general may only be relevant to you and to a community for a short time. So be it. Find one, plug in, and don't feel bad when it no longer provides you with a meaningful experience. It doesn't mean that God is done speaking to you. It just means God's voice is now best heard in a different place.

Go there.

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Six People Who Inspired Me in 2011

For me, 2011 will be a year when I saw people make leaps that inspired. It was amazing to watch all six of these people embrace an ethic of risk in their personal and professional lives. Each inspired me to make 2012 a year in which I live deliberately. Without further ado, here is who inspired me this year:

Rebecca Thorman

Six People Who Inspired Me in 2011 - Rebecca ThormanEver since I met her in 2007, Rebecca is someone who makes me think, encourages me, and tries new things in order to become a better person. Case in point? This year, she began to charge a monthly fee of $5 to read her blog, putting her at the forefront of a growing trend of sites and blogs that charge for access. Because of the success of her bold experiment (which you can read about here) we started charging a premium for our value-added emails at Cool People Care. It's been a great move for us as a company. And we have Rebecca to thank for it.

Hal Cato

Six People Who Inspired Me in 2011 - Hal CatoHal had a job for life. As the very successful and highly respected CEO of Oasis Center, Hal continued to grow the impact and bottom line of this model nonprofit organization. Hal is someone I've admired since Oasis gave me my first stint in the nonprofit world back in 2005. Then, I was a lowly beginner, yet Hal still made time for me to pick his brain about all things nonprofit-related. This year, after 10 years at the helm, Hal decided to move on into the world of entrepreneurship. His new venture will get off the ground in 2012 and it will be exciting to watch. Thanks, Hal, for showing us that it's worth doing things that make us uncomfortable.

Nancy VanReece

Six People Who Inspired Me in 2011 - Nancy VanReeceA friend since we met in 2008, Nancy was the hardest working woman in Nashville this year. She had spearheaded our nonprofit relationships at Cool People Care the past two years, and this year, she took on the daunting task of running for a city council seat. A late rezoning put her unexpectedly up against an incumbent, but it only made Nancy work harder and start conversations her district needed to have about the future of the city. Nancy was also the first openly gay female candidate to run for city council in Nashville. And, even though she didn't win a seat, she's not done making Nashville better.

Adrian Reif

Six People Who Inspired Me in 2011 - Adrian ReifI've known Adrian since he graduated from Vanderbilt a few years ago. He's always willing to dream big and is a fellow social entrepreneur. That pathway led him to fully launch Yumbutter this year. They make the best peanut butter on the planet. Seriously - I eat some every day. He launched his company with a commitment to feeding people - both those who pay for his product and those who could never afford it. When you buy a jar, a kid somewhere gets access to nutritious food. Watch for this delectible product to come to a store near you in the future, and look to Adrian as someone who can show you that in order to find meaningful work, all you have to do is dream it.

Anna Guest-Jelley

Six People Who Inspired Me in 2011 - Anna Guest-JelleyI met Anna when she became a client of Proof, a branding company I started in 2010 with Matt Cheuvront. Upon meeting Anna, her commitment to making yoga accessible to all people was apparent. This year, in the face of personal loss, she continued pushing yoga further than it has been pushed. She teaches classes and blogs regularly all in an effort to spread the message of body positivity. Anna's commitment to a more just world evidences itself in her entrepreneurial journey, and Curvy Yoga continues to draw its circle bigger to include all people who simply want to try.

Bob Bugg

Six People Who Inspired Me in 2011 - Bob BuggThe father of my college roommate, Bob has been chronicling his bout with a 'nasty little disease' on his blog for a while. And in 2011, he continued to fight. His weekly stories keep me informed of his progress and any reader can see that devotion to family is paramount above any other achievement. The love Bob has for his wife and his children - and grandchildren - is what keeps him going. Bob's story is also a reminder that when we are rightly rooted in relationships with those who matter most, we can face anything.

Who inspired you?

These six people inspired me in 2011. I'm lucky to personally know each of them. It's easy to look to the headlines for people who inspire. I hope all of us can back up a bit in order to focus on those closest to us. May you be aware of the beauty and true that exists at an arm's length in 2012.