Guest Author: Linnet Overton, TALS Outreach and Development Director
Thoughts About Lunch
As everyone at TALS knows, I am ALWAYS ready for lunch. Just ate breakfast? No problem, I’m game! Just ate what I brought from home, but you want to go out? Can do, there’s always room for more! Point being, I love food, love to eat, and love lunch.
Lunch is (as I’m sure you all agree )the perfect meal. It provides a break from the work day. You can take time to brainstorm with colleagues in a casual setting. You can get out from in front of your desk and stretch your legs. And, it’s the ideal time to try a new restaurant without paying dinner time prices! I could go on and on about the virtues of this meal-in-the-middle-of-the-day. But, as we know, this column is not called ‘Thoughts about lunch,’ it’s called ‘Thoughts OVER lunch.’ So, let me share what I’ve been thinking about over lunch these days.
Doing More with Less
As the TALS Outreach and Development Director, I’m always thinking about how we can do MORE for our programs. And in this current economy, I’m trying to do more with fewer resources. I know TALS is not alone in this. It seems that everyone is faced with streamlining, regrouping, and rethinking their development strategies.
A 2010 study by the Urban Institute, Hammered by the Recession, Most Human Service Nonprofits Say They’re Having Major Problems with Government Contracts, found that;
“Fifty-six percent of organizations reported less revenue from state governments, 49 percent from local governments, and 31 percent from the federal government. Nonprofit budgets were further strapped by drops in contributions from foundations, corporations, and individuals. Seventy-two percent also experienced declines in savings and investment income.
To cope with the financial strain, 82 percent of human service providers scaled back their operations, with 50 percent freezing or reducing salaries, 39 percent drawing on financial reserves, and 38 percent reducing staff.”
Brainstorming with my colleagues, we decided that one effective path to enhancing resources for our programs was to further articulate their immense value. By sharing the stories of our programs, we knew civil legal services’ long-term integral role in remedying diverse issues faced by vulnerable Tennesseans would speak for itself.
Getting the Word Out
We used some grassroots tactics, such as, encouraging programs to share client success stories with local newspapers. Here are two great examples from the Legal Aid of East Tennessee and Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands.
We used social media, including our Facebook and Twitter campaign “Do you know what civil legal services do for your community?” You can see examples of this campaign here, here, and here featuring some of our programs including West Tennessee Legal Services and Memphis Area Legal Services.
We have also begun enhancing our website’s program features. (Shhh, we’re set to launch later this spring, don’t tell anyone yet ) If YOU have success stories you’d like to share about your experience with legal services, please email me (email@example.com) so I can work to share your story too!
We would like to do even more though. For example, I’d LOVE to do a video Public Service Announcement (PSA)! This video from the Tennessee Supreme Court Access to Justice Commission is truly inspirational and it would be amazing to have something similar featuring civil legal services programs in Tennessee. But in these tough times, where do organizations get the budget for big projects? Well, over lunch yesterday, I got an idea. Maybe to do something big we don’t need BIG money. Maybe to do big things…we have to think SMALL. Like these videos filmed exclusively on smart phones!
Check them out. They are so well done and you’d never guess they were filmed with a phone and budgets as low as $100! Wow. Using this small resource makes the PSA a possibility for our organization.
Needless to say, I’m now thinking about our PSA story board. Maybe a little lunch would help this process along…. I’m up for a burger, or maybe some sushi, or an India buffet would be great too! Lunch anyone?!
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