Kivi Leroux Miller, the founder of Nonprofit Marketing Guide, has poured her career and passion into nonprofit communications. From authoring books to launching her wildly popular blog and a training program for nonprofit communicators, Kivi inspires us to lead the charge for good. Hear a bit about what makes her tick and how she processes feedback to build better communications.
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 activists 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.
Well, thank you for joining me today, Kivi.
Kivi Leroux Miller 0:42
I’m excited to be here, Dawn.
Dawn Crawford 0:44
Yeah, this is so great. This is such a great extension of Create Good. You know, trying to bring folks together in this ethereal podcast space, even if we can’t be together. So thank you so much for being part of this. So I’m going to ask you 20 questions to find out how you create good. And the first ones are easy, they’re not actually part of our 20. But just want to introduce yourself. If you want to please give me your name and title and your organization and your website.
Kivi Leroux Miller 1:12
Sure. So I’m Kivi Leroux Miller. I am the founder and CEO of Nonprofit Marketing Guide at nonprofitmarketingguide.com. And we train nonprofit communications directors and coach them and mentor them.
Dawn Crawford 1:26
Awesome. So what’s your total tally of years and nonprofit communications?
Kivi Leroux Miller 1:32
I think it’s 24. I started freelancing in 1998. And it went from there.
Dawn Crawford 1:39
Wow, fantastic. Okie dokie. So our first set of questions are really just getting to know you, your workstyle what you love about nonprofit communications. So our very first question is share your career and 90 seconds or less, I will give you a buzzer if you go over. So go, go.
Kivi Leroux Miller 1:57
Okay. So graduated from UC Berkeley with a degree in environmental science, worked at the EPA worked at an environmental nonprofit fell in love with someone who lived in DC, moved to DC decided to be a freelance writer for environmental nonprofits, did that for a while, picked up other progressive clients in DC. We moved to North Carolina, I kept consulting, then I got sick of my clients, had a couple babies decided I needed something different. started blogging, started Nonprofit Marketing Guide primarily as a blog, started doing some webinars and more training, wrote a book, write another book, move the training into more mentoring and coaching, wrote a third book. And that’s kind of where we’re at. But I do it was that like, that was less than 90? For sure. Right?
Dawn Crawford 2:45
Definitely. Definitely. That was fantastic. That was a great rewind on your life.
Kivi Leroux Miller 2:50
The last 24 years of my life and 45 seconds.
Dawn Crawford 2:54
Um, so why nonprofits, you know, why do you do this work? I think it’s interesting, too, that you’re always a, you’re always a freelancer as a consultant. So why pick that as your vertical?
Kivi Leroux Miller 3:07
Yeah, you know, I did. I mean, I did work for a nonprofit in California, and, and have always been on boards and very active, we come from my sister, and I come from a family of public servants. We have people in the military, librarians, pastors, nurses, you know, so all of the adults in our family, were very service minded, have an uncle that worked in politics in California. So, you know, it’s just, it was just part of who we were, I was the first person to actually not work in the public sector, however. And so when I started the business, I was sort of going out on my own and like doing this wacky thing, leaving, leaving safe government work or nonprofit work, but I love it, I wouldn’t do it any other way.
Dawn Crawford 3:55
Absolutely. That’s fascinating. It’s really interesting. Get people’s family history and how it influences your life and your choices. It’s amazing. So what’s your favorite thing about what you’d like to do?
Kivi Leroux Miller 4:08
My favorite thing is really our communication instructor mentoring program. It’s a group program. So every six months, I get to meet 16 new communications directors from around the world, really, I mean, mostly North America, but we certainly have international folks participate too. And just getting to see them interact with each other. So many people in this work, feel very lonely. And so connecting them with other people who completely understand what they do for a living and understand their struggles. And then being able to help them see a way forward and see that nonprofit communications and marketing is a legitimate career and to help them find their career path. And to you know, create good in the world that that’s really the my most favorite thing that we do right now.
Unknown Speaker 4:54
Great. So that programs, how often do you enroll folks into that?
Kivi Leroux Miller 4:58
It’s twice a year so there’s So January through June session that we opened registration for usually in sort of mid October of the previous year, and then the July through December session, we usually open up in April-ish. That’s great.
Dawn Crawford 5:12
And that’s great utilization of your professional development dollars, when conferences are few or, you know, we’re kind of all rolling to these webinars. I mean, yeah, that’s such a great use of those dollars.
Kivi Leroux Miller 5:25
Yeah, it’s, it’s great. I mean, people get, you know, personal, private coaching with me, but they really get this group experience that they can’t really find anywhere else. It’s, it’s creating this trusted group of 15 other colleagues who totally get it. And it’s just really, really valuable to folks.
Dawn Crawford 5:43
That’s fabulous. Great. Okay, magic one time, if you could change one thing about your work life, what would it be?
Kivi Leroux Miller 5:51
I would want executive directors and boards and other senior leaders to understand the value of communications and marketing, and not make it so friggin hard on their comms staff to do their job well.
Dawn Crawford 6:05
What do you think is the biggest challenge? I mean, what do you is it that they expect us to be cash registers that are supposed to have unlimited amount of time? What do you think is the…
Kivi Leroux Miller 6:15
I just don’t think they appreciate what the workload is, when you really look at what nonprofit communications directors are doing these days, they are using, you know, easily a dozen pieces of software, probably three dozen types of technology, all told, it’s a lot of work. And it’s a lot of expertise and a lot of skill building. And it’s constantly changing. You know, you have to really give your communication staff time to learn and to read and to experiment in order to produce really good results today. It’s not just sitting down at a keyboard, and you know, banging out a Facebook post and calling it a day. It’s much more complicated than that. And I don’t think there’s a real appreciation for that in our sector.
Dawn Crawford 7:00
Yeah, agreed the experimentation is so huge and admitting that you’re experimenting can be really hard for communicators. Sure. I know, it’s something we try to bring to is, like, cool. So let’s just try this out for three months and see how it goes. And it doesn’t work. It doesn’t work. But that’s okay. We didn’t do it for a whole year. Right. Like, right now. It’s amazing. So what are you looking forward to in the next year?
Kivi Leroux Miller 7:27
I know you have the center work questions. I’m actually taking a Girl Scout trip to Belize in June and we’ve been fundraising for four years. So that is the single most important thing I’m excited about. For this coming year, just being able to sort of get out of the house. And, and help these girls, you know, see the fruition of their work. But on the work side, I would say, you know, we at nonprofit marketing guide are building a private label community, we decided to leave Facebook groups for a whole variety of reasons. And so you know, we’re taking it slow. We’re not having super high expectations for ourselves. But I’m finding that to be pretty fun and interesting.
Dawn Crawford 8:07
It is cool. Yeah, that ability to connect in the online space is gonna be critical. Moving forward, I think.
Kivi Leroux Miller 8:13
Yeah. And not having to rely on a company that always doesn’t always have our own best interests at heart. Yeah, definitely. Facebook, so
Dawn Crawford 8:22
Great. Um, so what do you feel like you still have to achieve in your career?
Kivi Leroux Miller 8:28
You know, I’m 52 years old, Dawn, like I said, I’ve been at this for 24 years. Like, I don’t feel like I have any real big milestones that I still need to hit. It’s kind of freeing in a way, I’ve written three books, which was a big goal of mine. I have a successful company that pays all my bills. You know, I think just being able to maintain my level of excitement and interest in fun, and I’ll keep doing this as long as I can. And when it gets to be a drag, I’ll quit
Dawn Crawford 9:05
Yeah, fair enough. Fair enough. So what advice do you have for a person who’s either transitioning their career or starting their career and nonprofit communications?
Kivi Leroux Miller 9:15
I think it’s really important to figure out what it is you love and where that meaning is for you. You know, answering that why question. There’s certainly a lot of interesting challenges in this work. Definitely not, you know, the place where you’re going to get rich and retire early. So I think you need to find the meaning for you and the value for you. And if you can do that, then it’s easier to navigate some of the snake pits that you’ll occasionally come across.
Dawn Crawford 9:46
Absolutely. Yeah, I think finding the joy in the work is really important.
Kivi Leroux Miller 9:52
Dawn Crawford 9:53
Have you noticed anybody kind of losing that joy with the pandemic and not connecting with people as much or do you think are sector has done okay, kind of mental health wise?
Kivi Leroux Miller 10:03
Oh, I think there’s a lot of room for improvement. Let me just put it that way. Yeah. You know, and I think it particularly for the folks that you and I talked to all the time the nonprofit comms, folks, you know, it kind of goes back to my other answer where managers need to really understand the strain that they’re putting on their staff, just sector wide. And the comms folks were under a lot of stress with the pandemic, especially early on, because now all of a sudden, people were interested in their websites, and they were interested in their email lists, where they may not have cared much before. And now suddenly, that was the only way they could get anything done programmatically. And, you know, it was a double-edged sword. I think that the focus and the attention in a lot of cases, the investment was really good. And that was sort of a silver lining for a lot of nonprofit communicators. But it was also a lot of work and a lot of stress.
Dawn Crawford 10:56
Absolutely.So we’re going to talk a little bit about feedback and criticism and how you can help people can work better together in a collaborative environment. So we’re very interested in this BC/DC Ideas, we’re very interested in how people manage feedback, and how you, you know, internalize it, how you get the work done, those sort of things. So how do you personally process criticism and feedback on your work?
Kivi Leroux Miller 11:21
You know, I think it depends on what it is, you know, if it’s just oh, say it this way, or I like this approach better. Um, you know, I don’t take any of that personally, you know, when people however, when you’re doing some of the work I’m doing, and you have strong opinions, sometimes people, you know, you might hurt people. And of course, that’s much more difficult right to take, because you don’t want to hurt people. But for the most part, in our work, I would say, you know, one of my mottos is live your life and draft. And so I feel like I’m constantly updating things, learning and proving things, and you’re not really learning and you’re not really improving unless you’re getting that kind of feedback. And so I just see it as an integral part of the work we do. I welcome it. You know, like I said, sometimes it’s a little more stinging than others, but you just you just have to process that.
Dawn Crawford 12:14
Yeah. Yeah. Where do you feel like you get your most feedback? On your work?
Kivi Leroux Miller 12:19
Well, we ask for feedback a lot in a lot of different ways. So we’ll sometimes do surveying, but I’m constantly asking, especially my private clients, you know, is this working for you? It’s a lot of coaching. And so, you know, I feel like I’m constantly checking in with them, to see if it’s working, and if we need to change anything up. So you know, for me, like I said, it’s just, it’s just part of how we operate. We’re constantly listening. We’re constantly seeking feedback. And you know, we don’t take all of it. But we hear all of it. Yeah. So it’s, I just feel like it’s really fully integrated into our working style at Nonprofit Marketing Guide.
Dawn Crawford 13:01
So how do you how do you like to receive feedback? And how do you kind of communicate that to your colleagues? What’s your favorite kind of method or format?
Kivi Leroux Miller 13:08
Yeah, so I mean, like I said, I believe I believe feedback should be continuous, and you know, timely. So the idea that you you know, do a performance review once a year is sort of absurd to me, especially in the comms work, where things are constantly changing. So you know, I think if you’re, if you’re building that kind of continuous feedback in now, of course, you do have to put limits on it, we only want so many review rounds on certain things we’re creating. But if you’re making sure that you’re doing those check ins, and you have that built into the system, and people know where they can give feedback, I find it to be, you know, a much better approach than trying to like survey people at the end of something. I just that doesn’t work for me.
Dawn Crawford 13:52
Absolutely. Is there a feedback style that doesn’t work for you?
Kivi Leroux Miller 13:56
I think the too late or after the fact? It’s like, wow, you know, that’s really good feedback that I actually can’t do anything with at this point. You know, that’s frustrating, right? Yeah. I mean, you can always learn for next time, I suppose. But, you know, getting people engaged in collaboration early, really eliminates a lot of that sort of after the fact, feedback, that’s not helpful. And so, again, I really try to think of it as part of this sort of continuous loop or cycle.
Dawn Crawford 14:29
Absolutely. Yeah, I think bringing all of those, all of the reviewers to the beginning of the process is really critical. I think people often kind of hold those landmine folks and people who are going to be a tough review until late in the process, and then they’re like, those people just blow it up anyway, so might as well have them blow it up in the beginning and work through it. Yeah, yeah.
Okie dokie. So in framing, with, you know, our good friend COVID-19 that has disrupted everybody’s lives. The last couple years, you know, It feels like, I feel like this is the year that we’re going to collectively move on whether science is backing that or not. But largely, America’s going to move on, I don’t know, if the rest of the world is gonna, you know, let us into their countries. But um, you know, I think we are collectively moving on. So I think, you know, a lot of folks, regardless of their background is experiencing a lot of burnout. And, you know, how do you how do you personally kind of avoid burnout? Even when we’ve all been tested so much in the past two years? How do you keep coming back?
Unknown Speaker 15:35
Yeah. So I mean, most of my work is sort of intellectual work. Right, it’s brainpower. And so what I find to be helpful to me is when I can do something more on being creative with my hands, and instead of my brain, obviously, my brain is moving my hands. But so I do a lot of baking, and a lot of gardening, because those are both things that really require, you know, more sort of physical attention, but I can still be creative as I’m doing it, I can, you know, make a loaf of bread look really pretty and delicious. Or I can redesign a garden bed in my backyard, I find that to be a great relief and a great rejuvenator for me when I you know, have to get back to the keyboard and just strain the brain.
Dawn Crawford 16:22
Yeah, it feels like too that your investment in your Girl Scout troop has also been really rewarding.
Kivi Leroux Miller 16:29
Oh, for sure. I mean, I have two teenage girls. And, you know, I’ve got five teenage girls and my Girl Scout troop, including one of my daughters. And you know, they’re all in 10th and 11th grade now. And you know, I’m sure I’ll be one of those weepy people when my daughter goes off to college in the fall. But at the same time, I have always just been so excited as a parent to see the people they’re becoming. And so I’m more excited than sad that my daughter is going off to college, because I’m seeing the person she wants to be come to life. And it’s the same thing with the Girl Scout troop.
Dawn Crawford 17:00
Absolutely. And then yeah, what makes you come back to work?
Kivi Leroux Miller 17:04
You know, I think it is the fact that I can see having done this for as long as we’ve done it now I can see a real kind of ripple effect in the work when I’m helping communications directors, build their organizations by providing them individual coaching that strengthens them, and then that in turn strengthens their organizations. You know, I can see the impact I’m having. And that’s important to me. Like that’s, that’s meaningful, long lasting impact of the work we’re doing. We’re helping other people make really great stuff happen.
Dawn Crawford 17:41
Fantastic. Okay, so this is our rapid fire section. We’re asking for one word short answers very pithy. This is, you know, this is the fun section. So you’re ready?
Kivi Leroux Miller 17:55
Yes. Do I get to explain any of these or do we just rapid fire through them?
Dawn Crawford 18:01
just rapid fire. And we’re just being anti-communicators at this point. We’re just sharing it. Okay, you ready?
What’s your favorite word?
Kivi Leroux Miller 18:12
Dawn Crawford 18:13
What’s your least favorite word?
Kivi Leroux Miller 18:15
Dawn Crawford 18:17
What is your personal nonprofit cause passion, those sort of things?
Kivi Leroux Miller 18:21
Our local farmers market.
Dawn Crawford 18:23
Which nonprofit cause gets too much attention?
Kivi Leroux Miller 18:26
Anything that I think is stupid, like porn in school libraries doesn’t exist. Fake news.
Dawn Crawford 18:32
What’s your favorite curse word?
Kivi Leroux Miller 18:34
Dawn Crawford 18:35
What profession other than your own would you like to attempt
Kivi Leroux Miller 18:38
Garden art sculptor?
Dawn Crawford 18:41
And what nonprofit professional or comms team would you like to talk to on this podcast?
Kivi Leroux Miller 18:47
Anyone getting Mackenzie Scott money who’s actually investing it into communications and marketing?
Dawn Crawford 18:51
Ooh, that’s a good one. Okay. Well, thank you so much. That’s the end. Is there anything else you want to share any bits of knowledge?
Kivi Leroux Miller 19:00
No. This is great. This has been great, Dawn and I cannot wait until we get back to Create Good in person. It is my favorite in-person event. I love it. Love it, love it and went back so badly.
Dawn Crawford 19:13
That’s good to hear. Yeah. Well, awesome. Well, thank you so much, and everybody out there. Enjoy your day.
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