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Community advice Self development

Self care strategies that actually work

What’s the best way to help other people?

The answer: looking after yourself.

Really? How is looking after yourself a tried and true ‘best’ way to help other people?

If you work for a charity that might sound counter-productive. Surely your focus should be on the cause, the people in need, the people you support. Putting time into focusing on your own needs can feel distinctly uncomfortable, wrong somehow.

You’re probably under-staffed, under-funded, overwhelmed and trying to meet an increasingly endless wave of need. The challenges could include service users in distress, complex moderation issues, last-minute requests for case studies, problems that apparently only you can solve, and that regular ‘ping’ of emails on the work mobile phone.

Self care? 5 minutes of yoga, a smoothie and a smug self-help quote won’t cut it.

smoothie being poured away. image from unsplash

Ten self-care strategies 

Even with a low budget and limited resources, here are ten effective and helpful self-care strategies that work well for me. They can help motivate you, empower you, and keep you safe if you’re an online community manager at a charity.

1.Be clear about your remit

Doing this will help you to know what you should focus on, and what you should say no to. This can prevent feeling like you have to be all things to all people at all times, which leads to burnout.

Define remits around time by agreeing expected work hours and the type of issue that justifies attention out of hours.

Define remits around requests by agreeing the types of requests that people can make, and how you handle them. Don’t give any external (or internal) person a carte blanche to post requests without your involvement – that way lies chaos!

Define remits around moderation by being clear what you allow, what you don’t and why. This will set your culture and ensure everyone knows what is expected (more on that another time).

2. Talk to your Helpline team

If you’re regularly in contact with people who are emotionally distressed or experiencing really difficult times, this can quickly have a big impact on your own emotional wellbeing. If you have a Helpline team, speak to them about how they handle these feelings and the tools they have in place to help them support their callers.

In my experience, online community professionals for charities should learn empathic communication techniques used by Helplines, and apply them to their processes for handling moderation, complaints and other enquiries. Empathy and community go hand in hand.

3. Set a clear debrief and escalation process

Make sure you plan ahead and know how you will handle issues. This is a great way to retain control when unexpected and urgent things happen. You’ll feel calmer and reassured when you follow your own agreed process.

This should cover:

How you respond to reputational issues – from identifying a complaint to effectively resolving or escalating.

Getting the right skills and process for safeguarding users who may be at risk of harm or abuse. This is particularly important for charities and will help you to know you’ve done all you can to help users in the greatest need.

Agreeing a consistent moderation process that will help you to be confident in handling a wide range of issues.

The other important part of this is the debrief. Do you have someone to check in with after handling a difficult situation? Find someone to support you and help you to talk things through.

4. Look out for triggers

We all have things that upset us, make us angry or unsettled.

Trauma triggers can happen at any time. This could be a series of threads about losing a parent, a news story about sexual harassment, or a user being sexually abused.

Learning to recognise your own emotional response is important. Watch out for things that keep returning to your mind, or make you lose your calm.

It’s helpful to develop your own techniques for keeping one step removed from these issues. Empathic communication and reflective practice can help you to develop good techniques that enable you to offer support and keep you at a safe distance.

This will help to guard against burnout, or vicarious trauma.

5. Log and track positive feedback – why you do what you do

Appreciation matters (see previous blog). On a tough day when you’re facing budget cuts, crazy deadlines, and a wave of issues it can be easy to wonder why you bother.

Put a little time aside each week to log positive feedback – from simple thank yous to the detailed stories that help show the tangible impact your community has.

Invite others in your team or in your organisation to keep watch for feedback.

If you have more time, share this feedback in your newsletters (anonymising details) or share with your internal contacts.

In community we spend so much time doing the job we don’t shout enough about the great value of our work!

Thank you note and a cup of coffee. Photo by Hanny Naibaho on Unsplash

To be continued…

This is part one of a two part blog series discussing self-care strategies for community managers at charities. [Read part two]

Categories
Community advice Community industry

Appreciation matters

You never forget the important milestones in life like graduating from University, getting married, or being called a despot for removing a racist joke.

You nostalgically nod when recalling the first time someone told you “I wish I got paid for sitting on the internet all day.”* Or that time the charity CEO said “What’s the point of Facebook.”**

breathe image

Not a lot of people know this, but today is Community Manager Appreciation Day. If you manage an online space where people come together, you’ll probably feel overwhelmed at times, and misunderstood by many.

If you work for a charity, you’ll be absorbed in the real-life experiences of your supporters and on the receiving end of anger, complaints or disrespect. You’ll know the importance of ‘smiling from the wrists down’ when responding!

You’ll never forget the first person whose distress brought tears to your eyes, the first threat to leave your community due to a misunderstanding, or the first time a much-loved member passes away. You’ll know how important it is to find someone to offload with.

toy monkey chain showing support

You’ll also remember the first time someone told you why the community matters to them and what they’ve learned as a result. You’ll know the great feeling of reading through positive feedback, or being able to direct someone to the support they need.

If you’re new to community management, some of those things may be new to you. In time, you’ll find your own highs and lows, and your own tips and tricks to manage through tough times, learn from mistakes and share the great moments.

If you’re a lone community manager, you may not know who to connect with or how to go about this. The best way to do this is to find people in similar roles at similar organisations.

If you’re a community manager and you’re struggling, please know that you’re not alone. That there are others who understand.

Keep on learning, keep on sharing, keep on doing. You’ve got this.

graffiti message says you got this

Happy Community Manager’s Appreciation Day! More about CMAD:

http://www.web-strategist.com/blog/category/cmad

*Yes that happened to me.

**That too. In three months they knew they were wrong. In 3 years, I built the brand community from 0 to 14,000 people across multiple platforms.

Categories
Community strategy

Starting with why

It sounds obvious. Why start another blog about community? There are plenty of blogs on this subject from content gurus, marketing ninjas and people who describe themselves in much less cringe-worthy ways.

Because most blogs seem to be written for community managers who are in it for the money. Sounds controversial. However, the vast majority of community management blogs, websites and events are tailored for people who are in the business of selling things and making profit. In it for the money. What if you work for a charity?

Your ‘why’ will be fundamentally different. Your purpose will be a cause or a challenge, and a belief that if people join you in that purpose, the world could be fundamentally different.

What if your primary aim is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable? What if your primary users have a health condition? What if you’re in the business of giving (as well as asking)? What if your main driver is to bring social change, to tackle isolation, or encourage people to volunteer?

To meet your aims, you’ll need engagement and resources like any other organisation. To meet your aims well, you’ll need to connect people around your cause. You’ll need to empower people, to support people, to learn from people.

You’ll need to bring people together because if they buy into why you exist, they’ll want to join you in making your vision a reality. That goes far beyond a website visit, a donation, a newsletter subscription and into the business of building and maintaining mutually beneficial relationships aimed at making things better.

Community Management – the profession that brings people together – is vital to the success of a charity. Community has been steadily gaining traction in the charity sector and I’ve been excited to be part of this work over the past 10 years.

There’s much more that can be shared, discussed and learned, and more that can be done – so charities can connect people and make things better. This blog is my way of helping to share experience with others and I hope it will be helpful.

Community has always been primarily about people. John Coate, one of the world’s first online community managers said: “We realised pretty early on that we weren’t in the computer business, we were in the relationship business.”

Let’s bring people together – for good.

I’ll finish by sharing one of my favourite TED Talks, and the inspiration for this blog post. Before you do anything, it’s worth starting with why.

Simon Sinek – Start with Why. Full talk.