Keep Your Quirks – Uniqueness Assists the NonProfit Technology

“Insist on yourself; never imitate… Every great man is unique” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

If you work for a nonprofit, you probably have a reason why. I don’t believe that those of us who decide to work in nonprofits do it for the money. There is something else behind that drive to assist others, be passionate for the mission, and to change the lives of others. Theoretically speaking, you could find all of those things in a for-profit also. Yet, in my experience, I have found that some of the most unique people work in nonprofits. That may be way there was such a rise in ‘accidental techies’ in nonprofits years ago.

There is also probably a reason why you became the accidental techie. I knew how to install a CD. For others it could be that they learned how to backup the accounting software so they learned how to backup computers. For someone who was doing media relations, as they started to work on websites, they were seen as being more technical in nature.  It’s the one (or two, three, four…) things that made you who you were. If you are working on transitioning from accidental to purposeful, that doesn’t mean that you should lose those unique things that are you – those quirks.

Yet there is a delicate balance because if you are making a transition away from being accidental, you have to realize that you can’t do it all. It was so rough for me. I loved handling all things creative. I loved self-learning Quark because that meant I had a hand in the newsletter. Learn HTML on the fly? Sure – I’ll do that too. How do you keep the costs down in implementing a VOIP phone system? I’d learn how to do all the adds, moves, changes, hold music, and all other phone related things. At a certain point, I had to learn to let go of some of the things that I loved to do.

I have kept my hand in the pot though. I equate it to the ‘fun’ component of my job. Sometimes I do need to back away from the disaster recovery meetings, designing new SharePoint Portal, and implementing databases to get my hands dirty in a brochure or to help out with a video. It gives my mind that break from things that it still isn’t quite use to doing all the time.

So, my suggestion, is that you try to keep something that is uniquely you, and you hold onto it. It is the foundation that you built when you started your career and it is probably the one or more things that actually got you pointed into nonprofit technology. It is perhaps the one thing that made you the accidental techie to start with – and while I advocate moving away from that status – you also have to always pay homage to those roots.

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