Hear from Dawn Crawford about how she’s balanced her passion for telling stories and making a difference in the world. In this episode we’ll talk burnout, how feedback is broken, and her hopes for the future.
Dawn is the Principal and Owner at BC/DC Ideas. She is the powerhouse that had driven the agency to produce award-winning and impactful brands, campaigns, and more for nonprofit partners over the last decade.
Brian Crawford 0:02
Welcome to the Create Good podcast. I’m Brian, and I’m Dawn. And we’ve spent the last decade plus working with passionate communicators activist and do gooders around the country. We also host a conference called Create Good, where we gather folks to share their work, and create a community for people trying to make the world a better place.
Dawn Crawford 0:25
The Create Good podcast is a conversation with changemakers and rabble rousers to find out what makes them tick, and how they create good. Let’s get started.
Brian Crawford 0:36
So today, we’re here to talk with Dawn Crawford, who has worked in nonprofits for her entire 20 year career. She is the DC BC/DC ideas and is a creative powerhouse. We can’t wait to talk to her.
Dawn Crawford 0:55
Great, so glad to be here. All right,
Brian Crawford 0:58
let’s start with this. Tell us about your career in 90 seconds.
Dawn Crawford 1:02
Yeah. So I graduated from the University of Colorado at Boulder with a news editorial degree. So have a love journalism and writing. And from there, I went directly into working for nonprofits. So I knew that I wanted to contribute to nonprofits, and tell the stories of these organizations. This was all during the recession of some time, I don’t even know which one it is now, but it was during recession. So do take a little bit. But I started in child abuse prevention, communications. And then I went to immunization communications, which in healthcare communications, which really was my passion. And I found that that was really the combination of communications for me was around telling stories around health care, vaccines, and science. So and then we started BC/DC ideas in 2010. And we’ve been doing that ever since. So we’ve been able to work with over 100 nonprofits in the 11 years of our business. And it’s been pretty incredible to be able to contribute in that way to society and to the world.
Brian Crawford 2:07
So for you why nonprofits, why do you do this work? On
Dawn Crawford 2:11
profits, it all started with a zoo. So I went, I realized that there was somebody at a zoo telling stories about animals and getting people to donate and buy tickets, it kind of hooked me the idea of being able to do storytelling and moving people to action is really what I loved. And so I knew I didn’t want to be a journalist, I didn’t want to have to move to Kansas and do nothing. But once I realized that you can have a professional career really just telling stories about nonprofits is really where I found that niche. And that crossroads for me of really loving to write, and do strategy and move people to action was through nonprofits.
Brian Crawford 2:54
And so it sounds like you’ve worn a lot of hats over the years. And even through today, what’s your favorite thing about what you do, which you get to do?
Dawn Crawford 3:03
What’s my favorite thing? I love problem solving for nonprofits. That is honestly what I love most. I love helping people through that process of seeing something that is a pain point, or seeing something that isn’t working, and then giving them new solutions and new strategies and ideas and tactics to help them overcome it and change it and have it not be painful anymore. And then also just adding fun back into communications. I think a lot of people find us as nonprofit communications consultants, when things are really broken, or when they’re just really, really tired. And so I think we also really help people bring the fun back to their work.
Brian Crawford 3:46
So this is the the magic wand time. So if you could change one thing about your work life, what would you change?
Dawn Crawford 3:54
Um, I mean, we really care a lot. So I think that’s something that our passion for this work and are just workhorse mentality. It’s kind of hard. Some days, it’s hard to turn it off. And we just always want to do a really good job. And I really hate, like, making mistakes and stuff like that. So, I mean, I think that’s one thing. You know, I wish I could care less, but I don’t know. That’s a thing, right? Yeah, I think I mean, I would love to be able to do this for the beach. But I don’t, you know, that’s just having an extra house. I don’t know, you know, I think with COVID. And with virtual teams, and you know, honestly, our team has been virtual since we started the agency 11 years ago. So COVID didn’t really change that. But I think the rest of the world is realizing how cool flexibility is with virtual teams. So I would love to do this by the beach.
Brian Crawford 4:51
So you’ve accomplished a lot. What do you feel like you’re still striving for?
Dawn Crawford 4:57
I think one thing that’s been really hard for us as an agency, as a communications agency is just expanding our regional scope. You know, I think we get to serve a lot of nonprofits in North Carolina and the region, like, we definitely have some DC based nonprofits and things like that. But it’s always been hard to kind of break out of that region. So I would love to have clients in other cities and places. But it’s always been difficult to do that. And I think it’s just, you know, the nature of nonprofits and things like that, too, is that they want that local knowledge. Do they feel that they need that regional knowledge, too? So I think that’s something I’ve always wanted to figure out is how to have additional clients in other places you like, cuz I want to go visit those places?
Brian Crawford 5:42
Yeah. BC/DC Seattle? Yeah, you’re listening in. So for someone starting their career nonprofit, so maybe moving over from somewhere else, what kind of advice would you have
Dawn Crawford 5:57
for them, I advise that you don’t move into your greatest passion area. So if you really love cats, do not work for cat shelter. Because you will give your entire life to the organization and you’re gonna burn out really, really fast. So I think you want to be with a nonprofit that you really care about. It’s something that you believe in, but not that you are passionate about, I think those things that like, Ooh, I would love to volunteer for this organization, and then get paid there means that you’re just going to sell your entire soul to the organization, and you’re going to get burned out. And you’re also going to have that kind of the magic taken off of that organization, you know, because you’re going to get real deep, and see all the dirty under carriage. The organization. So I think that’s my advice is clearly do it, like you absolutely have an opportunity to have a career and nonprofit communications. But just really be careful about the mission that you pick. Because it’s what you’re going to live for the next, hopefully two years of your life, or longer.
Brian Crawford 7:10
So the next section, we’re gonna talk about feedback. So I know it’s something that you care about a lot. You’re writing a book about the oven some talks on. So let’s talk about that. Usually, you’re asking me and other people, how they do feedback and how they take and give feedback. So flipping the script on here, yeah. So how do you personally process criticism, and feedback with your work?
Dawn Crawford 7:39
Yeah, so this is something I’ve definitely struggled with my whole career, I’m a fairly anxious personality, it helps me plan well, but it also helps me be very sensitive, and really care about what people have to say on my feedback. I think that’s something that it’s not mechanical to me, like, I really take it and I still take it a lot. Even with people that I have calls with, I have a client that I’ve had calls with for the last seven, eight years, probably. And she’s Yeah, like, still heard feedback on stuff this week, like tore me down a little bit on something else super high on so I take it very, very personally, you know, but I also see that feedback is incredibly important. And it’s it is a mechanism to get better, and that I always still take every single piece of feedback as an opportunity to get better. So that’s, that’s how I process it is very personally.
Brian Crawford 8:34
Well, good to know. So with that in mind, then on the flip side, how do you like to receive feedback? And what are some ways that you encourage that and receiving feedback in
Dawn Crawford 8:49
that way? Yeah, I mean, I think what’s been interesting, I’ve been able to work with people for as long as I have, you know, for eight years, five years, is that I’ve really been able to understand their feedback processes and the things that they initially come back to with their feedback process, and then help figure out how to train both of us both myself in them to give more constructive feedback. So constructive feedback is what I like to receive. And constructive feedback to me is direct mechanical feedback. It is, you know, this, this word isn’t correct. Just change it, or this isn’t hitting this mark, like this isn’t hitting this goal. So let’s try to rework it. But I need it to be kind of, you know, almost thinking about it as a smart goals are things that are measurable, actionable, relative and timely things that things that are direct, right, if you don’t like the color, that’s cool. And, you know, I think that we’re very clear with that with our clients that step over the line of it getting emotional, or getting too personal, or too flippant. I think That’s something else too is that flippant? Feedback is awful. So, yeah.
Brian Crawford 10:05
Well, that leads me to my next question, man, what kind of feedback does not work for you what pushes your buttons,
Dawn Crawford 10:14
Vague and flippant feedback. So for me vague is, I don’t like this, or this isn’t working for me. Oh, that one’s like, Okay, we’re gonna slow you down and talk about what isn’t working for you. Because that is it doesn’t give me any direction, right? I want direct mechanical feedback. Also flippant feedback. So things we’ve received recently, somebody said that this image is universally hated. And that was the only feedback. Like that sort of stuff. It’s hurtful. And it’s, it was meant to be hurtful. It was meant to be dismissive. And so that’s the kind of feedback that happens all the time. So yeah, with our 100 Different organizations we’ve worked with, I’ve had 100 different bosses, or more than the last 11 years. So I’ve had a lot of opportunity to receive a lot of feedback from a lot of different types of types of people. And people love to use feedback as a weapon. It’s a way especially with consultants and people who are under them, it’s a way to corral and coerce them into doing things that they need to happen. So mature people don’t use it that way. But I think there’s a lot of opportune people take as a lot of opportunity to be coercive. demeaning. Yeah. Yeah.
Brian Crawford 11:36
It’s my least favorite approach. Also. Yeah. How would you describe your feedback style when you’re giving feedback.
Dawn Crawford 11:46
So most of the time, so I call myself I’m a landmine. So my personality, so for feedback, so what I do is, like, 80% of the time, it’s great, just mechanical, it is, you know, this is I always lead with something that I love, or just saying, just cheerleading, like, Great job I love this is this is really good. And then I’ll give more mechanical, direct feedback of these things do need to change, or I let things fly through, because I trust my team, right, like, I’m not gonna micromanage. And I also know that our clients are going to add some flavor to so you know, as long as I know that the client is watching and paying attention that I’ll let things go through. And then about 10% of the time, it just not working and I go crazy, or I’m tired, or I’m stressed about something else, or you know that. I mean, I definitely don’t I definitely don’t try to take it out on folks. But it is sometimes an avenue for bigger employment issues. Right. So, but 10% of time, like it’s a total takedown, and it’s a redo, but and I think that’s just how our communications projects in general go about 10% are just total reduce that didn’t hit the mark. And so I think that’s just part of communications work. It’s 10% of the time, you’re just not gonna, it’s not gonna work. But yeah, so I think that’s, I mean, yeah, that’s my style is definitely trying to be mechanical, trying to be a cheerleader. A lot of people kind of get freaked out. But the cheerleader part, I know, one of our graphic designers is like, Why is she so like, great job. I want you to feel good about the work and have it not all the feedback, right? Like we like everybody should people, people should like to hear that they’re doing a good job.
Brian Crawford 13:41
Alright, so I have one more question. And we’ll move on to another topic. And that’s what what’s something you you want to improve on? Or trying to improve on either giving or receiving feedback?
Or do you have something?
Dawn Crawford 14:02
Yeah, I mean, I’m always I always want to improve I take So personally, I think for me, is because we have a lot of long term clients is that the feedback you just get tired, right? And so I think that consistency of helping the team maintain voice and tone and and, you know, perfection quality is something that I wish I had time for. But often when we’re just cranking through a lot of stuff. That that is where I definitely let it go. Is that I think being more vigilant in my feedback sometimes would be something I could improve on.
Brian Crawford 14:44
Alright, so let’s talk about burnout. So burnout is a huge conversation. We’re pretty much everywhere these days, but especially in the nonprofit space has been talking about burnout for a while now. kind of alluded to it earlier with kind of mission empathy burnout, I think. So, what? What kind of things do you do to avoid burnout? Or maybe recognize burnout?
Dawn Crawford 15:09
What do you do? Yeah. So during the pandemic, personally was the first time that I got a therapist to address my own kind of professional and personal burnout. And then, also, this winter is the first time I’ve gotten meds to help with it, too. And so, so those things are definitely pandemic related. But in general, I honestly, it helps me burnout is that I take things a day at a time. You know, it’s almost that like, addiction thing of like, because I love this work so much, it’s very easy for me to give my entire life to it. And so as long as I look at it a day at a time, that it’s what to get through the day, today is what to, you know, that sort of thing and what to help yourself in the future, we use a project management system Basecamp. And that helps me with burnout, also, that it is all just a date of time. And that my calendar between my calendar and my Basecamp, it tells me what I need to do that day, right? It’s like my assistant, or whatever they’re called, people tell you to do things. I don’t know what that is. But I think that’s how I really do it is I do it a day at a time. And then beyond that. I love social media. So I often you know, if I need to escape, I will take a few minutes just to look at Facebook, or organize things the Pinterest is also my other big stress reliever. And then we also we we really love change in our family and in our life, like a really loved change. So anything I could do to change, to get outside to like get, you know, air, go exercise, plan, something to do for the weekend, just something needs to change, or very bad with monotony, and that kind of Groundhog effect that Groundhog Day effect that really happened or the pandemic of this thing of like great and waking up and doing the exact same thing I’ve done for the last forever.
Brian Crawford 17:05
Alright, so what kind of keeps you what keeps you coming back?
Dawn Crawford 17:09
Like keeps me coming back? Yeah, I think it is that we get to change the world, every single day. Right now we are literally making the world a better place for somebody through our work. So whether it’s helping somebody find a cat, to bring into their home, or helping protect and preserve the spaces and places that we love and conservation work, or helping get shots and get people’s arms to protect them from disease, it’s just we’re literally changing the world with the words that we get to write and nonprofit communications. And I think that’s the thing that everybody should hold on to is that you’re literally changing the world. And I know it’s just a Facebook post, but it is is making a difference in people’s lives. And people look forward to communication, like people look forward to that. Just seeing what you’re doing. And that’s different than Pepsi, right? Like, I mean, people are probably excited about their next Pepsi. But you know, it’s from a social perspective. They’re not looking for it. They’re not looking to like learn those stories. So that’s yeah, it’s a thing. And really, we get to have such an impact is huge.
Brian Crawford 18:23
For this next section. It’s rapid fire. So with that, we’re gonna do a quick answer. Here we go. Yeah, you ready? Yeah. All right. I was not good at this when we did it. I did not. I don’t think I’d want answered anything. So heat’s on you. All right. What is your favorite word? Change? What’s your least favorite word? No. What’s your personal nonprofit or cause
Dawn Crawford 18:54
passion? immunizations, vaccines?
Brian Crawford 18:58
What nonprofit cause Do you think it’s too much attention?
Dawn Crawford 19:02
Brian Crawford 19:05
What is your favorite curse word? Fuck.
Profession other than your own would you like to attempt
Dawn Crawford 19:15
Brian Crawford 19:17
What nonprofit professional organization or comms steam or other nonprofit unicorn out there? Would you like to talk to on this podcast?
Dawn Crawford 19:27
I would love to talk to Clearwater Marine Aquarium. So they recently lost winter the dolphin which was has been in movies and is like a huge brand asset. So it’d be really they did a beautiful job of transitioning her life and just trying to figure out how they did that. And what’s the next step when you you kind of lose what you’re famous for.
Brian Crawford 19:52
Great. Well, thanks for being on the podcast today. Do you have anything else to add?
Dawn Crawford 20:00
I just I’m really fortunate to be able to do this work every single day. So I’m really thankful to all of the organizations that have trusted their communications to us over the years. And everybody who is listening is trusting the last few minutes of their life to listen to us. And that Create Good is such a cool thing and a cool community. So thanks to everybody to were participating.
Brian Crawford 20:24
Alright, everyone, thanks for listening. This has been Dawn Crawford from BC/DC Ideas, and we look forward to meeting in person whenever we’re all healthy again. Bye, everyone. If you’re listening at home, and you want to get all the new episodes sent to you as we release them, subscribe on your favorite podcast app. And until then, keep creating good