Get ready to hear from a media relations wizard! Elizabeth Finley is the Communications Director for the National Coalition of STD Directors (NCSD), which has been instrumental in the Monkey Pox communications nationwide. Hear from this seasoned comms pro share her secrets to securing national media coverage while all staying grounded in a busy life.
Elizabeth is the communications director for the National Coalition of STD Directors (NCSD), the association that represents the staff and leaders of STI prevention programs and STI clinics across the country. For nearly 20 years, she has worked on strategic communications and policy for public health and child development organizations, and has spent more than a decade communicating about sexual and reproductive health. Before moving to NCSD, Elizabeth oversaw communications, fundraising, and policy work for 12 years at SHIFT NC, a nonprofit that focused on improving adolescent sexual health in North Carolina. She has also worked at The North Carolina Partnership for Children and Prevent Child Abuse North Carolina. A jack of all trades by necessity, Elizabeth loves the breadth of work nonprofit communications offers – everything from media outreach to shaping messages to graphic design.
[00:00:37] Dawn Crawford: Welcome to the Create Good podcast. Today we have Elizabeth Finley, who is an amazing wizard at making PR possible for the organizations that she works for. She’s worked for some really interesting tough to cover topics sometimes, so it’ll be great to talk to her about all of her work.
So, welcome. Thank you, Elizabeth.
[00:01:35] Elizabeth Finley: Thanks for having me.
[00:01:37] Dawn Crawford: Yeah. So tell us about your current organization and your title there.
[00:01:42] Elizabeth Finley: Sure. So I’m the communications director for the National Coalition of STD Directors. NCSD is the trade association for the people who run state STD programs. These are federally funded programs. In every state. And and we call them jurisdiction. So every state, every major city has their own program.
We also represent the people who run local programs in health departments and have a big network of clinics, their STD clinics or STI clinics around the country. So we, we work with clinicians, administrators, the folks who run those programs. And also one of the, the bedrocks of STD prevention is contact tracing.
So we also represent the nation’s disease intervention specialists or contact tracers.
[00:02:37] Dawn Crawford: Cool. Wow. Yeah. Well this is, yeah, so this, this episode’s recorded in the end of August, 2022. So this will be a really good monkeypox conversation, cuz that is, I mean, it’s, it’s everything, but it’s unfortunately been tied to STDs in this kind of storyline, which will be interesting. So it’ll be great to talk to you about that and how to pivot off of that, but also how to capitalize on it.
So tell me, how many years have you been in non-profit communications now?
[00:03:10] Elizabeth Finley: I think really close to 20. I think my first four or five years I spent in jobs that were technically labeled development jobs. But I, I stuck with it because they had a heavy. communications workload and then finally was able to, to score a job that had communications in the title, which is what I wanted to do.
[00:03:34] Dawn Crawford: Well, perfect segue. So why don’t you tell us about your career in about 90 seconds or less?
[00:03:40] Elizabeth Finley: Sure. So I, I started out, I actually started out in political communications, campaign communications and couldn’t, couldn’t afford to move around. It’s a job that keeps you on the road. So I hopped into nonprofit development because I couldn’t find a nonprofit comms job. And then finally made the shift into nonprofit communications entirely in issues that relate to child and adolescent health.
And then eventually landed in an organization focused on adolescent sexual health, something that I’d been interested in for a long, long time. And I spent 12 years in North Carolina doing adolescent sexual health communications and public policy. and then just recently made the shift to the national level to work on STDs.
This is my first time though, I have to tell my colleagues that I’ve worked on adult sexual health, which is a new realm for me. And, and very different. I’m used to working on a population that, that isn’t associated with sexual health. And so switching to the more mainstream population is, is different.
[00:04:50] Dawn Crawford: Definitely. Yeah. So why not profits? Why do you do this work?
[00:04:56] Elizabeth Finley: I, I jumped into nonprofits just because I was, I was obstinate. I didn’t wanna work for the man and didn’t wanna go into corporate America. Nonprofits are so interesting because they’re such a creative space, and I, I don’t necessarily. Artistic, creative. But, but it’s a space where things happen.
We get to interact with policy makers. We get to interact with what’s happening in the world in a way that I don’t know that you always do if you’re inside of a, of a traditional for-profit company. And I find being able to be part of what’s happening in the broader world to be really interesting.
[00:05:40] Dawn Crawford: That’s a really good approach. What’s your favorite thing about what you get to do?
[00:05:43] Elizabeth Finley: My favorite thing is the variety nonprofit communications, I think I think differs somewhat from, from where folks who do communications in the private sector are in that we have to be kind of generalists or, or jacks of all trade. . I never do the same thing day in, day out. And my, my day in a single day can be very very rangey, very varied, right?
So, you know, I can jump from writing a long document to writing a press release, to doing a media call, to doing a little bit of graphic design work. And I enjoy that variety. I get, I get bored easily. I don’t think I would wanna be in a job where I got bored. So that, that part really appeals to me.
It’s, it’s the variety of it.
[00:06:30] Dawn Crawford: Absolutely. So yeah, speaking of picking up media calls so you recently got your organization onto a national late night show. Would you like to tell that story?
[00:06:42] Elizabeth Finley: I, yeah, it’s, it’s I, I can tell that story. It’s, it’s probably not as exciting as you might think. So, so we’ve been working on the National Monkeypox response since May, May 18th is the date that the first case was identified in the US and it’s the date that I got my first media call about it. And so we’ve been, we’ve been elevating monkeypox in the news since May 18th.
Just for context, y you know, in this outbreak, what clinics are seeing is very different from the way Monkeypox has presented in countries where it’s endemic. So in this outbreak people are seeing symptoms on their genitals. They’re seeing rashes or lesions. And, and kind of along the way we’ve learned more symptoms pain, difficulty going to the bathroom, just it’s very different from the way the virus has been known in the past.
And so because of that, people are coming into the clinics that are a part of our networks. It’s a newer virus, it’s something that people are not familiar with. So people will come into STI clinics and, you know, they think they maybe have syphilis or herpes something kinda more, more common frankly, in the United States.
So it’s our folks, it’s our networks who’ve been on the front lines of this outbreak. They don’t have any dedicated funding to do it. They’ve kind of had to work together and network and figure out the response. You know, with, with lots of outbreak things, the, the government-led response has, has been really slow.
And so it’s been up to our network of people and us to elevate that issue. So we’ve been all over the news which is really fun. And so we, you know, we’ve talked to, I think, every major media outlet in the United States, and then a few weeks ago, we got a call from Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. And I, you know, I don’t think you can pitch to them, you can pitch anywhere, but, but they have like a big note on their website that says, do not give us a call you can’t get on.
And so they, they sent us an email on Friday and we were, you know, we were just, Dying. Right? I mean, John Oliver does such an amazing job. Not only is he funny, but he does his due diligence. He digs into an issue. And so, so it’s really impressive to see the behind the scenes effort of putting together an episode of Last Week Tonight, because they talked to us, they asked us really good technical questions.
They asked us how they could frame it on their show without promoting stigma. You know, and if they had their facts correct and I, I think that they did as, as much due diligence to get that story right as you would see the New York Times. Do or the Washington Post even more so. But it was, it was just a lot of fun.
We we sort of joke with our executive director who’s our primary spokesperson he keeps saying and has said along the way, like, when is Anderson Cooper gonna call me? And it’s sort of been this like little inside joke in the office, you know, he just really wants Anderson Cooper to call.
And so when I went on vacation for a week, I put in my out of office message inside of the office, like, call me if it’s an emergency, like when Anderson Cooper calls. And that hasn’t happened yet. I mean, we’ve, we’ve done a number of stories with CNN and we’ve done the New York Times and the Washington Post.
There’s nobody who’s like, lacking on our radar. We are not having trouble being in the national media. He just really wants Anderson Cooper to call. But for me,
[00:10:27] Dawn Crawford: funny,
[00:10:28] Elizabeth Finley: like hearing from last week tonight is, it is gotta be, you know, tops in one of the cooler things that’s happened in my career.
[00:10:37] Dawn Crawford: yeah, absolutely. Also nonprofits are like, oh, if we could only get on. Blah, blah, blah. You know, I think for me in my early career was like, if we could only get on Oprah , right? Like everything will be solved. Our whole will be a national organization if we get on Oprah.
And the more you into this, it’s, yeah, it’s, it’s a cool thing for you. And it’s a blip though. I mean, has there, has there been any good residual off of that appearance? Like what do you feel, how do you feel like it moved things forward? Did it bring people to your organization?
[00:11:11] Elizabeth Finley: So, so it’s really interesting that you ask that each of these media outlets has their own audience. And Last Tonight has a very specific audience. So, you know, I, I got some, you know, some kudos from my own personal network. People I know who thought it was cool. You know, what we were really trying to do with our media effort is try to get funding for our clinics and our programs because they need it.
You know, we have clinics who have said that that they have gone from being traditional STI clinics to being Monkeypox clinics. It’s all they’ve done all summer and they, and
[00:11:51] Dawn Crawford: Well, it’s awful for all those other STIs. Yeah,
[00:11:53] Elizabeth Finley: Right? Right. And, and STIs are endemic in America. They’re epidemic. So we have the highest levels of syphilis and gonorrhea and chlamydia, than we’ve ever had. These are important health issues and people need access to care. And the lack of access to care is one of the biggest reasons we have these epidemic levels of STDs. So having all of the clinics stuck dealing with a new outbreak is a really problematic. And with the way these clinics are funded, they can’t pay for these things retroactively.
And so we’ve been trying to get congress, the federal government to move on funding this outbreak to fund the response. And, and Last Week Tonight isn’t what gets to them, right?
And so it’s, it’s a cool feather in our caps. It’s great to see how we’ve elevated a story so much that it makes this weekly show last week, con last week tonight only picks one topic for their feature a week. You know, so, so not every news story is making it in, but in terms of having an impact and creating the outcome that we are trying to create with this media outreach.
Last Week tonight isn’t what does it
[00:13:16] Dawn Crawford: Yeah. Yep. Exactly. Yeah. And it’s, it is fantastic. And it’s a really fun thing. And it is, and it, it opened people’s minds and it’s amazing to bring your organization, which, you know, I’m sure a lot of people are like, wow, I had no idea there was a niche organization to support those professionals,
[00:13:36] Elizabeth Finley: mm-hmm.
[00:13:38] Dawn Crawford: That, that gets elevated to a national level. And so it’s amazing and it’s definitely a lot of hard work. And how does it, yeah. how does it move your organization forward? If like, it, it, you know, how people like board members can make that like a goal and I’m like, no, this is not a goal.
[00:13:53] Elizabeth Finley: Right, right. So I mean, to your, to your point about board members who focus on Oprah, I mean, I, I’ve been there, like, you, you either wanted to be on Oprah or you wanted Oprah for her money or like, you know, how, how do we call Bill Gates? You know, I, I think you can’t exist in nonprofits for too long without getting that request from a board member.
So I mentioned the, the call we did with our clinicians. We had US House of Representative staffers on that call.
They weren’t the primary audience, but we had gotten looped in with them enough that we sent them the invite and they knew to come. We did a, a very similar kind of more formal briefing where we had. High volume clinics from across the country. So these are clinics that are seeing lots of patients in San Francisco and Boston and New York City, and Chicago and Detroit.
We hosted a briefing for the federal government. So for people from the CDC and Congress and the White House and having a closed, I mean, it was a Zoom call there, you know, there was nothing like wizardly about that, a Zoom call where they tell their stories. You know, that got way more traction than any media appearance did.
Now, the, the media appearances helped us get those people there. It got the original attention. But in terms of communicating a message, that call and allowing people to ask questions really did us a lot of good.
[00:15:31] Elizabeth Finley: Or, or similarly, you know, we, if you are talking about more traditional news media we’ve had stories that we, we intentionally tried to work with the Washington Post on, because the audience for them was a more political audience because the story itself was more political.
So a lot of stories about the vaccine rollout and challenges with that, where we knew we needed political pressure. We worked with the Washington Post.
We had a situation in some of our clinics where phlebotomists were refusing to draw blood from monkeypox patients.
Which is, which is ludicrous. It, it was counter to the CDC’s advice. You know people who draw blood have precautions already. They have to draw blood from people who have all kinds of things, right? They’re protected. But they were refusing to draw blood from monkeypox patients. And so we worked with CNN on that cuz CNN has a big audience.
And we were putting pressure on the companies who you know, these are big commercial lab companies like LabCorp. You know, so there you’re targeting a big audience. You’re going big because you need it to be a big story. So I think, I think it’s really easy to get hyped up about an Oprah or Bill Gates or the shiny object or even Last Week Tonight.
But the reality is the people you are targeting, the people you’re trying to get a message to are listening to certain outlets. And you need to think about which ones you’re going to reach out to and target try to get that message to them.
[00:17:10] Dawn Crawford: So with those big national PR outlets like that, what tools are you using to reach them? Is it stalking them? Is it building relationships? Is it cision?
[00:17:21] Elizabeth Finley: So honestly, we, we have a PR firm that’s helping us.
[00:17:26] Dawn Crawford: great.
[00:17:27] Elizabeth Finley: Yeah, so I’m not doing all of this by myself and, and the PR firm we’re working with is super duper valuable. We’ve worked with them, we worked with them during COVID and I say we, the organization. I wasn’t, I wasn’t with the organization during covid.
So our organization, because we represent the contact tracers we secured 2 billion from Congress to fund contact tracing efforts during Covid. And the PR firm that we work with is the same firm that helped us elevate that story. And so, so when we started working with them, we actually started working with them before monkeypox.
We had a need to secure funding for our clinics even before this outbreak started. And so we had initiated a, a three month contract with them, just a short term contract. Three months to try to get this story in the news before the house budget came out so that we, you know, just get a foothold, enough news to get a foothold.
And we had gotten some nice media hits when we released, when we worked with the CDC to release the latest STI numbers. And specifically rates of congenital syphilis are really high. And we had done a really nice story with Kaiser Health News on congenital syphilis and how the United States had essentially eradicated it and then pulled funding away from the issue. We needed to, to reinstate funding. So we hired this PR firm for three months to try to keep keep our news hits up, keep us in the news.
You know, when you release data like that you kind of get an immediate rush of news hits and then it dies down, and we didn’t want it to die down. And so while we had their contract the Monkeypox outbreak started and we extended it.
They helped get us a foothold with a lot of people. You know, I will say lots of people come straight to us and whether they’re, they’re just Googling or they have a prior relationship or you know, they’ve worked with. Long ago in the past, before this outbreak, I’d say 50 50, they reach out to us or they reach out to our PR people.
One of the things that’s so great about having a contract PR team, y you know, and this is not to dismiss their skills at all. They’re amazing, but just adding extra hands when you’ve got something big going on. You know, I can’t write statements that fast with everything else going on.
They do like a weekly tip sheet that they send out to their network of reporters. And so, you know, this Dawn, but it’s like a press release. You, you know, just kind of hot topics in the news. We are available to speak on them if you’re doing a story on them. So they would do these weekly tip sheets that they would send out to their networks.
Even in the start of the outbreak, they would do those for us. And we did that up until mid-July when we were getting, getting so many hits. We just, we didn’t need to do them. So that’s a great tactic. That was really helpful for us. they would also do in case you missed it, releases. So anytime we get a big story, so when we did the CNN story about the about the phlebotomists they put out and in case you missed it, release, which is essentially like, Hey, did you see this story?
We’re available to talk more about it. Because news outlets will, will sort of piggyback on each other. You know, you’re not, you don’t put out a big story in your one and done. Everybody wants their you know, their version of the story, right? So you put this out, CNN does an enormous article, and then there’s some, some big newspapers that we’ll do their version of it or digital sites that will do their version of it.
So those, in case we missed it, releases are really great. That’s something, both of those, those strategies are things that I wish I had known about when I was earlier in my career. They’re things that I never never would’ve thought about doing. But again, if you have something big pop up and you’re a one person shop or a two person shop, there’s an enormous amount of work to manage.
And it’s just, it’s really hard to get it done, and I think anybody who’s been in a non-profit has had this experience of knowing all the things you can do or should do, and just not having the time or bandwidth to do them.
[00:22:09] Dawn Crawford: exactly. And I think, yeah, and that’s, that’s the power in advocating for more resources and services for your, for your team, whether that’s people, it’s interns, it’s, yeah, it’s a agency to help you. But yeah, it just, it makes it all so much richer and that you’re able to focus more on the work at hand versus doing all the tactics.
It’s really what we’ve kind of shifted talking about our work, right? It’s, it’s like, let me do everything, all the, like all the tasks that happened so that you can focus on strategy, right? But it, it’s definitely, it’s a very lucky position to be in for sure, for a lot of the organizations that are listening I’m sure today.
[00:22:50] Elizabeth Finley: Yeah.
[00:22:51] Dawn Crawford: but yeah, absolutely.
[00:22:52] Elizabeth Finley: and absolutely. I I don’t think I’ve fully internalized the value of having an agency help out with these things until I had this experience. And even when we brought them on board, you know, I, I had feelings about it, right? I’m new in my job, leadership wants to bring in an agency they have history with, and, and my immediate feelings are like, do you not think I’m capable of doing my job?
And I’m so grateful that they had the foresight to do that. Because they’re so good
[00:23:26] Dawn Crawford: And relationships with reporters is so difficult cuz they move so fast now and that’s somebody’s whole job is just to talk to people about , where they’re moving and what they’re covering. Like, yeah.
[00:23:38] Elizabeth Finley: Right, right. And, and it’s good, you know, it’s a good long term investment. Not only are we getting closer to the goals of our PR work they’re helping us build relationships with these people. So there are, there are a couple of national reporters who will text me when the White House does press conferences and, and I’m on text with these national reporters and on Slack with my, my colleagues internally.
And we’re all just, you know, What is, what did they just say? Is that true? That’s complete bullshit. Like, you know, where did they get this information and how do we get on top of this? And, you know, I’m like fact checking as they go and I’m sending reporters, like clinics that they can talk to as we go. It does, it does pay off in the long run.
So you, you don’t necessarily lose those connections. It’s, it’s not completely ephemeral, right? You hang on to some of those benefits long term.
[00:24:40] Dawn Crawford: Cool. So shifting back to just general work life, and not just pr but you know, what’s your, what’s your favorite thing that you get to do in your professional life?
[00:24:51] Elizabeth Finley: I do love the media interviews. I love working on talking points. I don’t love writing down talking points, like I’ll backpedal on that a little bit. You know, there, there are times where it’s like, do I need to write this down or is it in my head? You know, one of the things that I really love about communications and I love about the topics that I work on it is just finding ways to communicate ideas to people, right?
Finding the metaphors that make sense to them, finding the things that make them go aha. Finding the, the newsy bits in all of the technical work that people are doing. And I get to work on public health. Public health is just fascinating and I get to work on sexual health which is also fascinating, but sort of has this added layer of, of stigma, of kind of surprise that people are willing to work on this or talk about it.
You know, so, so finding short, pithy bullet points that are gonna communicate those concepts to people it never gets old.
[00:26:05] Dawn Crawford: Yeah. So, magic wand time, what’s one thing you wish you could change about your professional life?
[00:26:12] Elizabeth Finley: Oh gosh, I, I would love like truly unlimited PTO, right? I would love to be able to travel more or take more time off. Some of the things that you learn while working you, you don’t quite recognize them while you’re learning them. But I’m sort of at a point in my career where I feel like I can skip off to one of my kids’ school events and not have to, like, apologize endlessly for doing it.
Like, why do we have that stress in our lives anyway? Or, I think back, I think about all the times I should have taken a sick day. and didn’t or felt, you know, like I had one foot at a kid event and one foot back in the office, or just should have taken a vacation. Like the, you know, we’re here every single day, all day, not getting it all done, right?
Like, we do all the things, but there’s always more to do and that doesn’t change if you take time off. I think the ability to take more time off and kind of have that be a universal thing that people do without the guilt, without the counting of it would be really, would be really awesome.
[00:27:31] Dawn Crawford: Yeah, absolutely. So what are you looking forward to the next year? You just, when did you start this current position?
[00:27:38] Elizabeth Finley: I started in March, so I’ve been here almost six months.
[00:27:43] Dawn Crawford: Yeah. So you’re coming up on your year, but what are you looking forward to
next year and the next six months year?
[00:27:49] Elizabeth Finley: So so one of the things that has come out of the monkeypox outbreak response work is we have a, we have a new supplemental grant from the CDC to test their consumer facing messages. So
[00:28:02] Dawn Crawford: interesting.
[00:28:03] Elizabeth Finley: so they’ve, they’ve come up with some, some messaging that they’ve put on their website. Of all the things they’ve done in their response, it’s one of the things that has gotten has gotten some kudos for being, for being straightforward, for focusing on harm reduction.
You know, because this is an, an outbreak that primarily has impacted men who have sex with men and presents similar to a sexually transmitted infection. You know, we’re, we’re drawing comparisons to covid, which is, is like the, the frame for all outbreaks, like forevermore, but also to the h HIV epidemic, right?
So the early, like, you see lots of comparisons to the early days of H I V and and so I’m really looking forward to this project because I think one lesson learned from both of those outbreaks is just the need to communicate well. and communicate well early on. And so we have funding to, to research to test messages, to develop messages, and to disseminate them.
And I think that, I think that will be a really fascinating project. You know, we’re doing that in that at a national scale is really intimidating just because we don’t have an enormous budget and you can spend like billions of dollars on advertising, right? Like getting it out is gonna be the part that we don’t have a ton of funding for.
But the ability to, to test those messages and develop them and share what we’ve learned could have an enormous impact.
[00:29:40] Dawn Crawford: Yeah, absolutely. That’s fantastic. Yeah. So you’ve had, you’ve had a good career. Do you feel like there’s anything else? I mean, you just also took a new job, but do you feel like there’s other things you still need to achieve?
[00:29:53] Elizabeth Finley: That’s a good question. You know, there aren’t things on my radar that I’m super excited about, right? There’s no like ladder I’m trying to climb at this point. You know, I, I want to, I wanna be in a place where I continue to learn things and I get to be a part of what’s happening in the world.
You know, I, I do think that The older I get and the farther along in my career I get, I’m actually a lot less confident. You know, I feel, I feel good saying I don’t know things, and I feel good. I feel better at this point in my career. Like I, I think you, you kind of you know, show your track record and, and you get to say what you don’t know.
You don’t have to posture life, you know, everything. But I was a lot more confident when I was 25 than I am now that I’m 41. Right.
[00:30:55] Dawn Crawford: It’s true.
[00:30:56] Elizabeth Finley: You know, so I think owning what I’ve learned and recognizing like, Hey, I have expertise in
this, Would be great. Like, that would feel great. And then the other thing is like at some point I, I still like, feel like I haven’t figured out what I wanna do with my life, right?
[00:31:15] Dawn Crawford: Okay.
[00:31:16] Elizabeth Finley: like I, here I am having spent 20 years in nonprofit coms. And that’s what I set out to do. But I marvel at people who specialize in what they do. And and sometimes you know, I, I said earlier on, I, I’ve become a jack of all trades, but sometimes what you feel far more than being a jack of all trades is feeling like you’re a master of none.
And so maybe at some point it would be interesting to special. I dunno, I dunno what I would specialize in. And honestly, I don’t know if that would feel like it’s taking the, the variety I thrive on away. But, but I, I’m in awe of people I work with who have really deep expertise on what they do.
[00:32:05] Dawn Crawford: Yeah. Yeah. Well, good news. And sad news when you’re bad at math, like a lot of communicators is. So 20 years in, we still have 20 years left. We still have at least 20 years left. we’re done.
[00:32:18] Elizabeth Finley: Yeah.
[00:32:20] Dawn Crawford: We just don’t think about that math. I don’t wanna think about it. I don’t wanna think about Yeah, that’s a lot more time. I was like, you know, cause you put so much time in, you’re like, oh, we’re close. We’re close to the end. We’re like, no, no, you’re not.
[00:32:31] Elizabeth Finley: No.
Well, and I mean, advice to your younger listeners, like save for retirement. Don’t hold off on that. Like, you get to a point where you’re like, oh, like. yeah. 20 years left or 30 years left,
[00:32:48] Dawn Crawford: Yes. I know. Yeah, I know. Okay. So speaking of that, what advice do you have for folks who are shifting into the nonprofit sector or people who are just starting out in their career besides save for retirement?
[00:33:02] Elizabeth Finley: huh? I, you know, I think more for people who are just starting out find out what matters to you. I think there’s a lot of pressure in nonprofits to speak to your own altruism or your passion for the field. I, you know, I I know that this is the Create Good podcast. Like, I, I don’t do what I do to create good.
I know that I do right and I feel good about what I do, and I probably feel different if I were doing something that created bad. . But I do what I do because it’s interesting. I think early on I I really fell into the like, nonprofit martyr complex. I think I was really concerned with you know, what was on a job description or a title.
I recognize that it’s a privilege not to be hung up on those things. Like it’s you don’t care about your title when you have a director title, but you do when you’re like a coordinator, right? So, so these are the privileges that come with, with being in the field for a long time.
But I, but I’ve learned along the way, I thrive on being a part of decision making processes. I need to be a part of them. If I’m not a part of them, I don’t feel comfortable with my work. . I really like being in an organization that is responsive to the world and not wedded to a, a forever work plan that never changes.
Those aren’t things that you see on a job description, right? And so, so it’s really easy to look at a job description and say, oh, that has social media, and I like social media. Or that, you know, that’s doing, that’s doing too much video editing and I don’t like doing that. And the reality is the things that, that keep you going and make you feel secure in your job and happy in your job are, are very often things that are not on a job description.
And it does. You good to spend a little time really thinking about. what it is that you like and do not like about how you work and the places you work. Rather than just kind of laying out this, this career ladder from, from one title to the next, or one salary band to the next or one type of organization to the next.
[00:35:22] Dawn Crawford: And yeah, and it’s hard to ask questions to suss that out too, and if whether your interview people will be honest about it too, because those are it’s culture questions, right? It’s cultural questions about the organization.
[00:35:34] Elizabeth Finley: Yeah. Yeah. They’re
[00:35:35] Dawn Crawford: concern can certainly be some lip service to that.
[00:35:38] Elizabeth Finley: Yeah, they’re cultural questions about the organization. You know, you can, you can ask things about how, how le how decisions are made in an organization. You can ask how leadership is structured. You can ask about the specific tasks. You know, the, the other thing that, that I would share with, with folks who are in the earlier stages of their careers is, you know, you’re not married to a job.
You can change jobs. If something is,
[00:36:05] Dawn Crawford: it’s like, it’s amazing. yeah,
Two years. It’s like if you make it, you’re good. Like
[00:36:10] Elizabeth Finley: and, and I think no, no offense to listeners who might be baby boomers, but there was this, this real baby boomer mentality that you had to stick it out in your job and stay for a long time. And that if somebody changed jobs, that was a red flag.
And I’ve hired, I’ve interviewed tons of people before. It is never stuck out to me as a red flag that somebody’s had a short tenure at a job. Some nonprofits are just toxic and I know
that, Some, you know, sometimes you learn things about a job and it’s not right for you, and it is better for you and it’s better for the organization.
For you to move on and find something that works for you or, or like life happens. People have babies, people have illnesses. So don’t be afraid to make the moves that are right for you.
[00:37:02] Dawn Crawford: Yeah, absolutely. Well, great. So the next section of questions are around feedback. Feedback on your ideas and your work. It’s not necessarily HR feedback, this is not like annual review feedback. This is more critique on your ideas, you know, and how you process it and how you like to receive it. So with that in mind, how do you personally process criticism?
Do you deal with it well? Is it something you’re constantly working on? How do you deal with criticism and critique?
[00:37:30] Elizabeth Finley: I, I think it matters how, how I. Feedback. I have always struggled with social anxiety and it flares up from time to time. It gets worse, it gets better. You know, I medicate, I do therapy, right? So I do all kinds of things for it. You know, one, one thing that really I struggle with is the idea of not being approached directly.
Like I, you know, tell it to my face. I love, I love being a part of an iterative process. You know, I, I do not have a lock on good ideas. I really respect my colleagues. They’re full of good ideas and just like I might have a good program. Idea from time to time that a program team can run with, you know, they’re likely to have good communications ideas.
So, you know, I’m not the sole owner of the right way to do something, but what I need is to be a part of a discussion about how to get better. I’ve had it happen before where where people, or where my supervisor or somebody will come to me, you know, and deliver secondhand feedback.
And I hate that the idea that that two or more people were sitting in a room where I, you know, where I wasn’t present talking about things that I did wrong or could have done better, like that, that just talking about it makes me feel anxious.
[00:39:01] Dawn Crawford: Yes.
[00:39:03] Elizabeth Finley: like to be a part of the process of getting better.
[00:39:07] Dawn Crawford: I love that point of collaboration around ideas for other departments too. Cuz I do feel like communications often is the funnel of, of feedback, right? . So I’m like, we get a lot of feedback all the time, all the time, all the time. We are the champions of receiving feedback even if we don’t like it. But that idea that yeah, that can go both ways is a really refreshing approach for an organization too.
That it doesn’t all have to funnel one way and that, yeah, communications does have interesting things, you know, to think about and. Suss out with other program people. That’s interesting. That’s really good. That’s a really good point. Yeah. So how do you like to receive feedback and how do you feel like you communicate that to your team? What’s the style that you like?
[00:39:57] Elizabeth Finley: I like it to be a discussion. . I like it to be a discussion of how to get better. You know, some, there, there are different moments when you need feedback, right? sometimes you’re just like not turning in your time sheets consistently, and somebody needs to tell you that. Like, just, I mean, that, that, put in an email, tell it to me, you know, during a one-on-one, like, whatever.
Like, that’s fine. Some things that are that are more like, okay, we need to, to shift the direction this is going in, or we need to, to massage this or do this better. Like, make it a generative discussion. Like, let’s, like set a meeting with me, talk about how we’re gonna course correct.
[00:40:44] Dawn Crawford: yeah, yeah. Definitely.
[00:40:46] Elizabeth Finley: And, and I, I tell my, I tell people that directly.
I tell my colleagues this, you know, . I don’t think it comes up as like, this is, you know, nice to meet you. My name’s Elizabeth. This is how I like to get feedback. But you know, I, I, and I also leave the door open a lot to getting feedback. You know, tell me what I’m missing. Tell me how to make this better.
Do you see any holes in my logic here? I love to you know, I love to ask for ways that something can be better when I’m getting initial feedback or sending it around in draft form. Rather than, than putting a, a period at the end of it.
[00:41:28] Dawn Crawford: Is there a feedback style that does not work for you?
[00:41:31] Elizabeth Finley: Anything that I’m not a part of, right? You know, I really hate hierarchies. Like,
[00:41:38] Dawn Crawford: Yeah.
[00:41:39] Elizabeth Finley: I just, I can’t, I can’t deal with them. You know, I, one thing I do like about nonprofits is they tend to be a little bit flatter.
[00:41:48] Dawn Crawford: Yeah.
[00:41:49] Elizabeth Finley: you know, and sometimes you get personalities who like, love their hierarchies especially when they’re, they’re creating them or at the top of them.
But I just don’t like hierarchies. So the go, go tell Elizabeth she needs to do this better, or she did this wrong, or give this feedback. Like, no, I can’t handle that. Don’t go through my boss to tell me what you could have told me to my face.
[00:42:15] Dawn Crawford: Okay, so the next section is around burnout. Yeah. So you, so you were at SHIFT for 12 years, is that what you said?
[00:42:23] Elizabeth Finley: Yeah, I was.
[00:42:25] Dawn Crawford: . So, I mean, how do you manage burnout?
I also know working with you that Yeah, you don’t take enough vacations or days off. So
[00:42:33] Elizabeth Finley: I
[00:42:34] Dawn Crawford: how do you feel like you deal with burnout or do you even, do you even experience burnout?
[00:42:39] Elizabeth Finley: like, I, I don’t know, I think I’m like burnt to a charred crisp at this
point. Like it’s just a shell of a human . So I’m like charcoal or something. Like I have a little bit left to burn. But yeah, I come pre burned
[00:42:57] Dawn Crawford: Yes.
we’re Just burns hotter, right? That’s the whole point of briquettes, is that they’re charged or they burn harder. Hotter, I don’t know.
[00:43:04] Elizabeth Finley: that’s us in nonprofit pre so we can burn harder.
[00:43:11] Dawn Crawford: exactly.
[00:43:12] Elizabeth Finley: Yeah, I’m, I’m not good at this. So yeah, I was in my last job for 12 years and kind of midway through that we went through a series of really rocky leadership transitions. And so we weren’t just dealing with you know, the, the difficulty of the work itself. We were dealing with the internal difficulties, just lots of drama and you know, uncertainty and, and those aren’t the situations where people are their best.
None of us, myself included, I’m sure. So those were really hard. And then kind of immediately after that, my younger daughter was born prematurely and had a lot of health issues, and, and we spent more than 150 days in the hospital with her. . And so, you know, not only did I have this job that I wasn’t taking enough breaks from, I had kind of this series of you know, additional challenges, whether, whether they were coming from the office or from my personal life.
I guess about four or five years ago once my daughter’s health started to get a little bit better and I wasn’t having to stay up for a lot of the night with her, I started getting up really early in the mornings to exercise. I have two kids, so I wake up at 4:00 AM. every morning. It doesn’t, it doesn’t work for everybody’s body.
And I definitely like con out by like nine 30 at night. I’m not a night owl, I’m an early bird. But those, those hours in the morning when I’m up early are, are the only time that it’s just me. And having that daily time I can count on to know that I can finish reading a news article. It’s when I work out, I turn on MSNBC first thing.
You, you know, it’s, it’s just nice. It lets me get the balance in on the early part of my day so that no matter how my day goes, I know I’ve gotten some of that time for me and it’s, it’s not, it’s not enough, you know, I definitely need to take more breaks. I went last week and I got a facial, which I hadn’t done for years and years and years.
And, and like, I totally booked it in a moment of weakness when like, they called and I was having a crappy day at work. And, and sometimes I’ll, I’ll get to this point in my day where I’m like, you know what? I am just going to look at shoes that I could buy. And like, I don’t know why I need shoes. I work from home now and I haven’t worn shoes except to go out of the house in like three years now.
So like, what do I need shoes for? But you know, you, you, like, you need, you need an escape. And, and Twitter doesn’t always cut it . So I booked this facial in a moment of weakness and, and realized like, oh, you know, I just, like, I don’t, I don’t leave the house enough and do these things. And of course, COVID made all of this harder, right?
So. , all of our escapes got a little more limited. And, and even, even just like going to the grocery store or running to the mall, or, you know, going out for a drink or coffee or like taking your laptop to a coffee shop. All of these sort of mini breaks we had built into our lives ended. I also take a lot of naps to be honest.
Like, yeah, I mean, I, yeah, I, I have like a li I had a little, a little nest next to my my desk for a while. And between meetings, if I get sleepy, I’ll just set my alarm for 15 minutes and curl up and take a nap.
[00:46:44] Dawn Crawford: Dang girl. That’s, wow. That’s a, that is a superpower. That is My body does not like sleep, so it just keeps going. I’m a, I’m a keep goer. I’m like, I get angry. I ang, I get angry when I take naps. Oh. I’m like, that’s wasted time. That’s amazing. I’m so jealous. That’s pretty cool. I
[00:47:03] Elizabeth Finley: I wasn’t, I wasn’t always that way. I wasn’t always that way, but yeah, I figured it
[00:47:10] Dawn Crawford: gosh. I like it. I like it. Power nap. Power napper. Okay. So what makes you come back to this work every day?
[00:47:16] Elizabeth Finley: The social norm of not just like piecing out from your job. Um, I mean, yeah. Yes. There, there are things that keep us attached, right? Like if you don’t show your coworkers go looking for you and your paycheck stops coming. So that’s, I mean, that’s part of it. I’ve certainly had moments where I’m like, yeah, I don’t want to do this. I do find with my job, that’s, that sounds so negative, right?
You know, I find with my job and even, even with my last job when I was super burned out, there was always something new to learn. There was always new data to explore. There was always a new there’s always something new to create. I mean, one of the things I love about my job is you know, sometimes, sometimes I just need to like hop into Canva and make something.
And some days it’s all in Word. And and so, so I love the, the variety of it. And I think that that is what, what keeps me coming back. And also I, you know, I’ve just been fortunate to work with some really, really good people. . I have great colleagues right now. I had great colleagues at Shift. You know, I’ve, I’ve had a number of colleagues through the years who, who I said like, I would do anything with these people.
Like when we, when we’re done with non-profits, we’re just gonna go work in like a bookstore together. Or we could go, we could go work in, in a kitchen, a restaurant kitchen together, like surround yourself with people you enjoy spending your time with, and, and sometimes it doesn’t matter what you’re doing, it’s just fun to be with them.
[00:48:59] Dawn Crawford: Yeah. Absolutely. Okay. Rapid fire to close us out. You
[00:49:04] Elizabeth Finley: Mm-hmm.
[00:49:06] Dawn Crawford: What’s your favorite word?
[00:49:08] Elizabeth Finley: generative,
[00:49:09] Dawn Crawford: Ooh. What’s your least favorite
[00:49:10] Elizabeth Finley: impactful. It’s like the nuclear of nonprofits.
[00:49:16] Dawn Crawford: It is What is your personal nonprofit cause or passion.
[00:49:20] Elizabeth Finley: sexual health. Anything with stigma, attach.
[00:49:24] Dawn Crawford: Wow. Wow. Well look at you. Okay. You get you there every day. Is there a cause that gets too much attention?
[00:49:30] Elizabeth Finley: Too much money goes to crisis pregnancy centers. I like when they get
called out. Yeah. I I, I, I won’t say they get too much attention when they’re getting called out for what they do, but certainly a lot of people give them money and, and, and time and Yeah. They’re
[00:49:47] Dawn Crawford: Thank you. Thank you, thank you. On that one. What’s your favorite curse word?
[00:49:50] Elizabeth Finley: Fuck.
[00:49:51] Dawn Crawford: Nice. What profession, other than your own, would you like to attempt?
[00:49:56] Elizabeth Finley: I wanna be a Kids Bop Lyricist,
[00:50:00] Dawn Crawford: Wow, that’s really specific. Okay. And then what other non pro, professional or organization would you like to hear on this podcast?
[00:50:12] Elizabeth Finley: Act up.
[00:50:14] Dawn Crawford: Okay.
[00:50:15] Elizabeth Finley: Yeah, I’ve been really fascinated in this job just getting to see the different ways that public health organizations approach their work compared to like more activist driven organizations. And, and the folks at Act Up have been, have been really, really brave. Like that’s their mo that’s always been their mo to be very in your face and and loud and it’s, it’s gotten good, important things done.
[00:50:44] Dawn Crawford: Cool. Well, cool. Well, thank you so much for sharing your wisdom today. You’re always. I was like, you’re a, you’re a still but deep pond. I always feel like you have so much depth. Whenever I talk to you, I’m always impressed with how much knowledge you have and it’s a pretty cool thing.
[00:51:02] Elizabeth Finley: Thank you. That’s really kind of you.
[00:51:04] Dawn Crawford: Yeah. Well, thank you so much and thank you for everybody for listening.
And y’all have a good day.