FYI Blog

Avalon Dispatch 02.10.21


Dear friends,

Black History Month continues, and I am so grateful for the National Museum of African American History and Culture’s programming. This week’s events include a poetry workshop, a dialogue on race and medicine as represented in Smithsonian objects, and Artful Observations, an hourlong discussion of one work of art from the museum’s collections. The Avalon DEI task force also recommends 28 Days of Black History, a virtual exhibition that “centers the voices of Black LGBTQ leaders and Black leaders with disabilities often diminished in our nation’s history.”

In light of these and other opportunities, I have been reflecting on the pivot that nonprofits have made to virtual programming in the past year. COVID moved us all online out of necessity – and so many of you stepped up in a big way. By enhancing and reimagining your programs, you not only figured out how to continue the work, but also found new pathways to outreach. I am excited about what these opportunities for engagement will mean both for fundraising and for advocacy.

In other work this week, I consider this article on ethical storytelling to be mandatory reading. The author, John Streit of Operation Smile, outlines five principles: (1) challenge your assumptions, (2) context is critical, (3) weave with common threads, (4) empathy, not pity, and (5) trust, but verify. The shift from pity to empathy strikes me as especially resonant for nonprofits. Storytellers, here’s your call to action: “The true test of an ethical story is if the people it’s about are proud of it when they read or see it.”

For those of you feeling Zoom-weary, consider this interesting take on Zoom fatigue from Fast Company. It’s a great reframing that is both optimistic and honest – a shift to “excelling in the face of constraints.” I think we are all doing great with this!

That being said, it is normal to hit a “pandemic wall” after so many months of chronic stress – especially during winter, when outside activities are less accessible. I recently set out on a mission to find ideas for healthy stress management in the cold months. After sifting through some frustrating results (Take a trip! Visit with friends!), I found this more realistic plan: get good sleep, exercise, eat well, sit in the sun, disconnect from the news, and reach out to friends in any way possible. Most importantly, HANG IN THERE.

I also found two good tips from HBR and one for people who want a more…expressive approach. The first is the importance of taking a lunch break – and encouraging your team to do the same.  Second, try this two-minute mindfulness practice in writing or out loud: “I will focus on ____. I am grateful for ____. I will let go of ____.” If all else fails, I hear that swearing has its benefits, but be careful how you use it!

Finally, I loved this story about the newest celebrity owl in Manhattan. It has been 130 years since a snowy owl has been seen in Central Park, and it has been a hoot for New Yorkers. Hopefully the poor bird wasn’t too stressed by the paparazzi experience.


Take care,