By Joan Ogwumike
I started my blog, “A Researcher’s Diary,” in early 2017 as a way of expressing my ideas and experiences in the field of prospect development. I wanted to focus on what I knew best — prospect research — as it was unique to me. Everyone is a writer nowadays, and everyone has a blog or believes that they can have influence over people. Deciding to create your own space and share your ideas can be intimidating or difficult, but there are three elements to a blog or creative platform that can set you on the right path.
Establish Your Voice
The voice of my blog is a Black millennial woman who has nonprofit and higher-education experience, enjoys finding new and creative ways of expressing her ideas, asking questions, and presenting learning moments for readers. I write and create content that is inspired by so many facets of my life, from television to people in the industry to chatter on Twitter. My inspiration is layered, dissected and then transformed into what you see on my blog and other platforms that I create for.
What is your voice?
Giving yourself a platform means you are giving yourself a voice — a way to focus and share who you are, your experiences and ideas. You are sharing with the world (believe it or not) who you are and what you believe in. There are times in which you can gather other voices and experiences by giving them a platform on your site, perhaps through features on a topic or as interviewees.
And as you share, advocacy and education follow.
By sharing your experiences, you can advocate for what you believe in. I advocate for more prospect research in the nonprofit space. I specifically share what I know about the field because I want readers to learn more about research and how they can utilize it to further their fundraising goals. I also write for researchers, because I want them to see their craft explained through a different lens.
How does one promote self-expression in a field that many do not feel is expressive or allows you to be creative with your work?
I sought out to make sure that my blog was unique to me, and I implore you to do the same on whatever your platform is. I chose a blog as my medium, but a podcast or YouTube (which have both become very popular and influential) may work best for you, so, consider your strengths and interests when making your decision. Self-expression is based on the simple foundation of what is true to self. I express my experiences in the field and those shared by others through poems on nonprofits during the fall/winter seasons. I have a series that interviews different researchers and fundraisers in different continents as they navigate the industry, so they can share their perspective. I created a superhero called Super Searcher and a mock movie trailer series, as a way of celebrating those in this field. I have also expressed myself creatively by using what I know and being imaginative.
On Apra Illinois’ blog, where I also create content, I have produced different series, one of them called Match Makers, a series similar to reality television matchmaking shows. In this series, a development officer is matched with the “right” researcher. The contestants, prospect researchers, undergo an array of challenges and then the fundraiser chooses who wins the challenge.
In Match Makers Season 2: The Prospect Development Edition, the contestants are in teams made up of one researcher, one prospect manager and one data scientist. Style and capabilities are tested through random assignments — as readers imagine a world where we could match our perfect prospect development team with a development officer.
Another series, called 50 Shades of Prospect Development, tested my ability to illustrate. I wanted to depict the complexities of our beloved field through colorful images that represent the emotional ups and downs, moments of pride, conflicts with our co-workers, technology, and opportunities for growth we find in our careers.
However simple, unique and creative, these are all examples of what is true to me.
There is always someone watching your posts. Once you have set a tone and standard, consistency is critical. A post from “A Researcher’s Diary” goes live on the 15th of every month. I have never missed a month, but I have had very late uploads because I am human. So, I hope you know that consistency is also the most difficult part of upholding a presence online. There is always someone waiting for your content. If you doubt that no one is reading your content, take a break and watch your audience come to life with inquiries of your whereabouts. By setting a specific upload day for my posts, I have truly kept myself consistent, so I recommend creating a calendar or schedule for uploads.
Remember, consistency builds habits, which then leads to the gradual growth of your audience. Time is paired with consistency and chooses how successful you will become, so be patient with yourself and continue your great work.
Social media can also be your secret accountability partner. Your audience will follow you on social media as a way to learn more about you and receive updates on your posts. This is a fantastic marketing tool that allows you to share your work with the world and find inspiration. Twitter has been an amazing tool for me, in terms of connecting with the prospect development community and partaking in fundraising conversations. LinkedIn has also become a platform for many writers who want to share posts about research and fundraising. Make sure to think through which social media platform could work best for you.
Ask yourself, where is my community?
I found mine to be on Twitter, as a consistent and inspirational force.
So far, these three elements have helped me through my writing journey and will continue to be a necessity. I will always need to rely on my voice. I will always need to be genuine and expressive. And I will always need a way of maintaining consistency. As I have shared what has shaped me, I hope that you begin to think about your new creative outlet.