Sandy Cyr has arrived as the Editor-in-Chief for the Philanthropy Journal after an admittedly haphazard path. This passionate communicator shares how her love of storytelling and interviewing has led her to her a life of service. In this episode, get inspired by this thoughtful, smart, helpless helper who has a distinct way with words.
Sandy Cyr is the Editor-in-Chief for the Philanthropy Journal. She holds an MPA with a focus in Nonprofit Management from NC State University, and a BFA in Graphic Design from the Rhode Island School of Design. Sandy considers herself a social justice warrior for the nonprofit sector, and in her spare time she fancies herself a farmer.
Brian Crawford 0:00
Welcome to the Create Good podcast. I’m Brian.
Dawn Crawford 0:04
And I’m Dawn.
Brian Crawford 0:05
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 0:23
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, welcome to this episode of the Create Good podcast. Today, I am talking to an amazing nonprofit professional who has had a very interesting career and a lot of great things I think we can all learn from. So, we have Sandy on today. Hey, thanks for joining us, Sandy.
Sandy Cyr 0:56
Thank you for having me. It’s an honor to be here.
Dawn Crawford 0:59
Great. So tell us your current title and organization to get us going.
Sandy Cyr 1:04
Sure. So, I am the editor in chief of the Philanthropy Journal. PJ actually has been around for about 35 years here in North Carolina. I came on board with PJ back in 2014 when it was housed at NC State, and was charged with revisiting it, bringing it off hiatus and republishing it again. So I’ve been with PJ almost entirely since 2014. The university in which we are housed decided to shutter the journal in 2019 and we brought it back a year ago and have started publishing again. So I was managing editor, now I’m editor in chief and owner.
Dawn Crawford 1:44
Excellent. Very cool. So tell us a little bit about the, yeah, editorial focus of the PJ.
Sandy Cyr 1:51
Yeah, so what we are really is a platform to elevate voices in the sector. We’re not a news outlet. We’re not investigative journalists. We’re a storytelling platform. We build and strengthen community and build understanding within ourselves of each other and of this work through sharing these stories, through highlighting people who are doing really incredible stuff. And it’s everyone from, you know, a volunteer to, you know, PR person to major multinational nonprofits and everything in between and beyond.
Dawn Crawford 2:23
That’s great. So tell us, since everybody’s listening, can you tell us the URL of the journal?
Sandy Cyr 2:27
Absolutely. So it’s www.philanthropyjournal.com.
Dawn Crawford 2:32
So how long have you been in nonprofit communications? How many years?
Sandy Cyr 2:37
About 15 years. I’ve always inadvertently been involved in nonprofits, but didn’t really consider myself a nonprofit communicator until about 2007, 2008.
Dawn Crawford 2:49
So we’re gonna get into kind of questions about your career, but also the things you love to do and things you don’t love to do. So first, tell us about your career in 90 seconds or less.
Sandy Cyr 3:00
So my career has never been linear or intentional. It’s always been a series of mishaps, which I don’t think we talk enough about, so I’m really kind of trying to stress that it is, you are able to be successful even if your path is not linear or clearly defined. So I actually went to undergrad for graphic design and thought I was going to be an artist. And then I struggled for a few years and was doing some administrative roles and then I moved to North Carolina and decided to get my Master’s in Public Administration with a focus in nonprofit management at NC State University. And that program really kind of reignited that desire in me to change the world that I feel like young people have, but you kind of lose as you get beaten down by the day to day aspects of adulthood. So I went back to school, got my Master’s in nonprofit management, and really the combination of nonprofit management and graphic design lends itself really elegantly towards a career path and nonprofit communication. So I was a director of communications prior to leading the Philanthropy Journal.
Dawn Crawford 4:11
Yeah, it’s so true. Yeah, having that, having that dual assets are so important for nonprofits. I think that person to be able to do some sort of skill, right, whether it’s really good writing or creative writing, plus, you know, having an understanding of tactical communications. So valuable.
Sandy Cyr 4:27
Dawn Crawford 4:29
So why nonprofits? Why this work?
Sandy Cyr 4:32
I can’t help it. I’m a helper and when I was thinking about what kind of master’s degree I wanted to get, I looked at the Public Administration program and it really spoke to me and really helped me see that I had been involved with nonprofits and volunteer work since a very early age. I am naturally a helper and, you know, have a very strong public service motivation and just, you know, I talk a big game about getting out of nonprofits and going corporate to the dark side, as it were, and I just can’t. I just keep getting pulled back in. I get so excited about the work and people who are changing the world and all of the incredible things that are happening and it just, every time I have a conversation with a practitioner at reignites my enthusiasm for this work. And that’s, you know, to answer that follow up question of what gets me going in the morning, it’s those conversations. It’s being able to talk to people and get excited about what they’re excited about and seeing all of the incredible things that are happening.
Dawn Crawford 5:35
Yeah, absolutely. How do you feel like your master’s degree has served you and nonprofits? Because I think it is definitely a it’s a cost evaluation, right? For folks really thinking about whether it’s worth the money and a career set that’s not greatly high paying. So yeah, how has master’s degree can help you?
Sandy Cyr 5:53
Please don’t limit this to 90 seconds, because it’s, wow. This is a shameless plug for the MPA program at NC State because I really do think that the program is very high quality and really prepared me for the workforce in ways that my undergraduate degree did not. You know, I got a lot of tools for my toolbox and I had a deeper understanding of how the public sector works, how nonprofits work, you know, the importance of the value of this work. So in terms of that investment for a master’s degree, for me, it was very important because, you know, it was a, it seemed like a divergent path from you know, BFA degree. From an artist to public administrator. And so I needed it. I’m also the kind of person who requires outer accountability. So I needed that accountability of a graduate program to kind of push me in that direction. And so it’s really a very personal choice. I was working at NC State at the time, so I had tuition assistance so the cost of it was significantly less than someone who doesn’t have that option to have that benefit. I can’t say that everyone, per se, needs one. I think a lot of the things, especially if you’re looking for something specific, like how to do a budget, or, you know, grant writing or stuff like that, there’s a lot of resources available as one-off opportunities online, and webinars and classes and things like that. But from me, where I was in my career and in my life, that’s, I really needed that program and I was really grateful for everything that I learned and all the opportunities that I had along the way.
That’s great. So what is the favorite, your what’s, your, what’s your favorite thing about your job? What do you love to do?
Talking to people. You do. And it’s awful, because I’m an introvert so I talk to people all day and then I have like, nothing left. And then I need like two days to recharge. But I do, I really love connecting with people. I sort of joke that I’m the Barbara Walters of the nonprofit sector, because I have people in tears at least once or twice a week. And I know. And honestly, it’s because people want to be heard. You know, we know in the sector we’re doing amazing things. We know the work is hard. We know it’s challenging. We know sometimes it’s thankless. People just want to be heard and listened to. Everyone has a story to share and that’s what PJ offers is that platform to listen and to we call it the “luxury service of reflection.” We provide a space for practitioners to stop and think about their work in ways that they don’t have the luxury of doing in the day to day. So it’s really, it’s those conversations with folks, learning about all the incredible work that’s happening around the globe, getting inspired by everyone that I talked to and learning new things.
Dawn Crawford 8:59
That’s fantastic. Yeah, that’s something that I’m really pleased with, even with this podcast, especially nonprofit communicators, are even asked less about themselves, right? Because we are so focused on telling story of our organizations and, you know, the important people within our organizations and the people we serve, that nobody asks about the communicator.
Sandy Cyr 9:22
Absolutely. Well, and, we talk about that, too, you know, in my interview process, I approach it as a conversation. I ask some questions to guide it along, but you know, using active listening, you know, I’ll reflect back to someone at some point, we always call it the magic moment where I say like, “what I think I’m hearing you say is X, Y or Z” and they pause and they say, you know, I never thought about my work like that. And that’s the real gift I think that we offer because we are so conditioned as communicators, as practitioners, to be on brand you know, to, to have that canned language, to have the elevator speech rehearsed, that we don’t often stop and kick ourselves out of that mode and really get to the heart of what it is that we’re doing. And when you think about, all of those tools are important, they’re very, very important to help you understand who an organization is, and what they’re all about. But they’re designed and crafted after hours and hours and hours of strategic planning and wordsmithing. And, you know, all of that getting into the weeds so that you have what you think is a really tight sentence or two about who you are and what you do. But it never really gets to the heart of what it is you actually do. And that’s what we try to highlight here.
Dawn Crawford 10:38
Really fantastic. Okay, magic wand time. What’s one thing you wish you could change about your work life?
Sandy Cyr 10:46
Capacity. If I could change one thing, I would have a big budget and team.
Dawn Crawford 10:55
Yeah, yeah, how has that kind of changed now that it’s become a independent organization?
Sandy Cyr 11:02
So we don’t have you know, now that we’re not housed at a state institution, we don’t have certain limits of bureaucracy, which really opens us up to take a bolder voice, which has been really fantastic. Because in our eyes, you know, the way that we’re really going to change this nonprofit narrative is, you know, to take, to say what needs to be said, to be bold in those statements and those ideas, and the words, you know, and when you’re in a state entity, you have to be very careful about what you say and all of that sort of stuff. So that’s definitely helped. We don’t have to do fundraising, which is a huge relief. But you know, from a private sector model, that comes at a different cost, right? You have to have subscribers and advertisers. And so there’s still that effort that needs to take place, but it’s less of a power dynamic. I think that feels in the nonprofit sector, when you’re sometimes feeling like you’re begging for money just to stay alive.
Dawn Crawford 12:03
Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Then how is your staffing kind of changed too? Do you have less more people now?
Sandy Cyr 12:13
It’s literally just me. So I have colleagues. Mike, my co-business owners and myself. But I don’t have any editorial staff, or, you know, I have no interns or students or any of that I had the luxury of having at NC State. So that has been hard. We do have a growth mindset. So we do intend to have a staff and grow fairly significantly over the coming years. But of course, it takes a while to get the machine back up and running. And especially when you’re switching funding models to get that ground.
Dawn Crawford 12:50
So the flat the be journal is, so it’s a for profit model now for serving nonprofits. Yeah, yeah. It’s like us. Yeah, like BCDC Ideas. Yeah. Yeah. Means you still live with all those monetary restrictions? Yes.
Sandy Cyr 13:06
Don’t have a lot of problems.
Dawn Crawford 13:07
Yeah. Okay, so what are you looking forward to in the next year?
Sandy Cyr 13:14
Well, so that growth, seeing it grow back up, again, is really exciting to see, especially having been through it already before and knowing what we are capable of doing. That’s really exciting. And then one of the most exciting things that we’re doing is we’re introducing a print component to PJ as well. So it’s a quarterly magazine called Philanthropologist. We’re finalizing our first issue. That’s a word one of my colleagues had crafted so we’re using it as the title of the magazine and it’ll come out in just a couple of weeks…the first issue. So a year ago, I’ll give you the backstory now of how this came. A little publication that couldn’t die. So a year ago, some folks reached out to me and it’s Earl Bridges and Craig Martin, who are the producers and cohosts of The Good Road television program on PBS. They do kind of an Anthony Bourdain style travel show where they go around the globe, and they talk to cool people doing cool work in their communities. So it’s sort of the Anthony Bourdain travel show for the nonprofit sector. And of course, there’s only so much you can cover in 23 minutes per episode when you’re traipsing around the globe. So they were really looking for a place to send their viewers to, to take this deeper dive, to have an opportunity to, you know, take some of the cuttings off of the floor and put them in a place where people could access them so that all of the material gets used that they see value in. So they…I don’t know how they learned about PJ but they reached out to me via LinkedIn and we had a conversation or two and there was a lot of alignment in what it was that I, you know, what my vision for PJ had been, still is, and what they wanted to do. And so we spent 2020-2021 getting ownership of PJ from NC State and planning it out and putting all the pieces together. And we began publishing in January of this year. So, we’re up and running, spent a couple of months rebuilding those relationships with folks that I had, and all of that. So it’s almost a new publication. But we’re starting, you know, with a really solid foundation and reputation and ethos. So the Philanthropologist magazine, is really that bridge between the television program and PJ. So while you have a relationship that we’re not formally connected, so Philanthropologist becomes the space where we can speak to both the flip, the p journal audiences and The Good Road television audiences. And so each issue is a deep dive into a certain geographic region around the globe. And we engage writers, locals, transplants, diaspora from these different areas to craft the content for us. So it’s not me sitting here in Raleigh, telling you what this space is all about. that I’ve never been to it’s truly a global publication where we’re engaging voices from around the globe in this work.
Dawn Crawford 16:23
How interesting. And then what’s the distribution model for the rent?
Sandy Cyr 16:28
Can I get back to you after we get one?
Dawn Crawford 16:34
I just think it’s so interesting to start a print publication now, just because it’s so tough, you know, the print world is so….so yeah, it’s sad. I mean, I think if it’s digital distributed to I mean, I think if you have those companion, yeah.
Sandy Cyr 16:46
So it’s interesting, right? Because we talk a lot of publishers, when we were thinking about this, we talked to several folks in kind of the design industry that do a lot of strategic planning and strategic design for major publications. There’s actually a resurgence happening now in print publications. And it’s hard to have that data. Mail is really an effective way, like paper mail, especially now that people aren’t getting as much.
Dawn Crawford 17:15
Yeah, it’s super disruptive
Sandy Cyr 17:16
It’s a captive audience. You can’t, you can’t measure open rates and click through rates and all that sort of stuff. But you know, we are doing things where we’ll embed QR codes and where we can tell that people are coming from the magazine to the website to kind of measure it that way. You know, and we’ll have our mailing lists and stuff. But, you know, we’re in the building process. So, you know, for this first issue, we’ll be sending out copies to the folks who crafted the content with us, and you know, people on the, you know, distribution list, and then subscribers. And then through the print publication, through the printer that we’re using, people can also go on to our website and order single issues. So if they watch an episode, on like, have the good rode on Puerto Rico, and they want to learn more, they can go to the website and get the Puerto Rico issue.
Dawn Crawford 18:07
Interesting. That’s an interesting idea that they’re almost, yeah, their capsules too, in that way, too. They’re almost like…yeah, additions or yeah, interesting. That’s interesting. Cool. That’s really, really cool. Great.
Sandy Cyr 18:20
That’s what I’m looking forward to this year. Yeah.
Dawn Crawford 18:23
Cool. So you’ve gone from being communications manager to managing editor director basically, right of this publication to now owner. So what else do you have to achieve? What else do you want to do with your career?
Sandy Cyr 18:36
That…there’s sort of two ways to answer that question because, first of all, it’s not about me. So I’m like, I’m just the conduit. I’m the curator. I don’t have to measure myself by anything, If that makes sense. I do this, because that’s how I’m motivated. We recently ran an opinion piece that was titled “Stay Out of Haiti” – I don’t know if you had a chance to read it – but for me, that really epitomizes what it is we’re trying to do with PJ. The article itself went viral. The messaging was incredible. It’s exactly the kind of content that I want to be curating and putting out there, where people are able to get past that vulnerability that we face in the sector and really say the things that need to be said. So, in terms of achievement, what I want to see for PJ is to have significantly more content along that vein. Really empower the sector, to really empower the practitioners and to help build that understanding in people who don’t necessarily understand their connection to the sector, on why this work is important and how they can go about supporting it effectively.
Dawn Crawford 19:55
Right. So what advice do you have for somebody who’s…wants to start their career and nonprofit communications or somebody who’s transitioning to nonprofit communications?
Sandy Cyr 20:04
My biggest piece of advice is that this work is not for the faint of heart. It’s not easy. So you know that one piece of advice would be to really hold on to your why. Have that clear vision of why you’re doing this work. You may not have a clear vision of what it is you want to accomplish or how you’re going to get there, but know why you’re doing the work. And that’s going to help get you up out of bed every morning. Like, if you want to save the world, if you want to protect water sources, if you want to have social justice for rabbits, I don’t know, just always kind of holding that tight. And that’s going to keep you going on the toughest of tough days. In terms of communication, specifically, again, it’s really hard. Oftentimes, especially in the smaller nonprofits, communication departments are one person. And it’s my experience and understanding that often nonprofit staff in other roles don’t necessarily understand what the communicator does, and what their value and importance is. And you see that, you know, when you look at staff listings and there’s no communication people.
Dawn Crawford 21:23
Sandy Cyr 21:25
And so there’s that tension of like, I know what I do. I know why it’s important. I know how that fits in and serves the mission and the organization and the whatever, whoever we’re serving, right? And then being able to articulate that in a way that your colleagues understand that as well so that everyone’s kind of moving in the right direction to meet that mission.
Dawn Crawford 21:48
Yeah, yeah. Yeah. It’s such a good point. That to work in the nonprofit sector, how strong you have to be, because you do have to be okay with, yeah, ups and downs with funding with strong other strong personalities, with…
Sandy Cyr 22:04
Dawn Crawford 22:06
Passion, yes. And expectations, right? Of how you spend your money, how you do things, how you help people, why are you helping this person, you know? And yeah, and how strong you have to be. And I don’t think we give ourselves that credit, right? Because we’re also told like, oh, well, isn’t that cute, you’re working at a nonprofit? Yes. Like, I’m the strongest person I know. Like, I am doing this for less money, because I’m making a difference. But it’s also that’s a strength. And yeah, that’s interesting.
Sandy Cyr 22:33
Oh, my gosh, Dawn, so many points that I could build off of that. But it’s true. I mean, people don’t get it. And why should we be paid less to change the world? That’s not right. That model has to shift. And it’s true, like, Oh, you do this because you know, your husband has a real job?
Dawn Crawford 22:53
Sandy Cyr 22:54
No. No. We’re doing this because we’re filling the gaps the government can’t fill to meet the needs of the community.
Dawn Crawford 23:04
Yeah, government and industry right? Nobody’s gonna pay to help these people, yeah.
Sandy Cyr 23:07
No, there’s no money. Yeah, exactly. There’s not a sustainable model. You know. But it’s true. I mean, you have to be strong and you have to deal with all of those things. And in it, it’s exhausting. And especially when you’re consistently operating in that scarcity mindset that is, quite frankly, imposed upon the sector, by this lack of understanding from the community at large. I, you know, I’m not going to point that at foundations or any of like, major funders or anything, right. It’s, it’s everybody. We all have a responsibility to our communities in so many different ways that need to be supported and need to be funded.
Dawn Crawford 23:53
Yeah, yeah, definitely. Great. So the next section of questions around feedback is around the creative collaborative process, right? And how this isn’t necessarily about like, personnel feedback, right, but it’s more about feedback on your ideas and your thoughts and your work. So, how do you personally process criticism and feedback on your work?
Sandy Cyr 24:17
Yes, so I’m an introvert. So it takes me a few days. I need to churn. I also do not claim to have all the answers. I view myself as a lifelong learner. I don’t go into situations assuming that I know everything. I go into it with an openness to the process. And, so, as long as people aren’t, you know, deliberately criticizing me, I’m okay with criticizing my work. I mean, I went to art school for undergrad and part of that process of these eight hour studio classes was to have a critique at the end where you stand around and you talk about the good, the bad and the ugly, and it’s not about sandwiching model, right. It’s about how do we improve this so that its effective. And I think keeping that at heart is is so key, really to anybody who’s giving or accepting feedback, you know. Take the personality out of it, take the judgment out of it and focus on purpose and mission and say, “it can be more effective if we do this, this or this.” And you know, and I feel statements are very important as well.
Dawn Crawford 25:25
Yeah, yeah, those I statements are, yeah, huge.
Sandy Cyr 25:29
It’s interesting, too, because as a communication professional, I view the world through the lens of communications and that everything, all of the world’s ills, can be solved through effective communication. And I think that as a culture, we don’t have the ability to give effective criticism. You know, and we view criticism as a neg…well, let me let me back up and say, we don’t have the ability to critique effectively because there’s a negative connotation to it that doesn’t need to be there. And because of personal selves and our personal feelings to this work, and that line kind of blurs with nonprofit communicators, because you are very passionate about the work you, hopefully, you are deeply connected to the mission of the organization and the work that’s being done and so there is that kind of blurred line between the two. But, you know, I feel like, if I’m given a space to present my ideas, and it’s a place where other people can talk about their perceptions and ideas, then it’s a process.
Dawn Crawford 26:38
That is interesting. Yeah, the art. Yeah, art school process is something that’s very unique, you know, and I don’t think that a lot of people get to experience that, and of that much collaboration on your idea. And that’s hard. Because it is, it’s so much it is like a physical output of your, of your creative essence on a canvas or so, you know, anything.And how much yeah, you go for years, to learn how to do things, yeah, in a way that’s more efficient and more effective, and easier to read as an emotion or as a even as a finger. Right? That, that everybody can universally read that as a finger, right?
Sandy Cyr 27:18
And we know language is the most ineffective way to communicate.
Dawn Crawford 27:23
Sandy Cyr 27:25
Doesn’t, which makes it even harder.
Dawn Crawford 27:28
And it’s our whole job.
Sandy Cyr 27:31
You know, it’s fun for me, you know, when I’m crafting a piece, or if I’m editing somebody else’s work, like I look at it as a puzzle. Like, it’s, you know, it’s a game that I play where I physically, like, I have a Word doc, or a Google Doc, or whatever, and I physically take the pieces of the article and I move them around and I cut them up, put something over here and something over there. And then, and then, like, at the end, it’s this beautiful painting that creates this very clear, poetic picture of what the story is, in an ideal sense. I mean, sometimes I’m just patching all…let’s be honest, but…
Dawn Crawford 28:06
Get it through. But yeah, cool. So how do you like to receive feedback? And how do you communicate that to your colleagues?
Sandy Cyr 28:13
I am very, I prefer transparency. I do like getting feedback. I am the kind of person who needs, like I said earlier, that external accountability. I can work very autonomously, but I need to know every so often that the work that I’m doing is on target as perceived by other people, you know, I have my view of the world. So, I do like to have that critique and make sure that the work that I’m doing is on point, is on target is, you know, meeting the mission that we’re trying to do. I don’t like when people say, “Hey, can we talk?”
Dawn Crawford 28:51
Sandy Cyr 28:52
As someone who’s lived with chronic anxiety my entire life, I’m like, my brain is definitely like, “we’re all gonna die. You’re terrible.”
Dawn Crawford 29:03
Or you’re gonna die, I’m gonna die, somebody’s gonna die.
Sandy Cyr 29:10
And…yeah, everything feels gross, physically, mentally, emotionally. So I value transparency and, like I said, I prefer when people make it, you know, kind of mission-driven rather than personal because I am an empath and I do..I am a feeler. I’ve been told over and over again, I need thicker skin. I’m like, I can’t do that. That’s not, that’s not possible for me. You know, and now that I’m in my 40s, and I don’t care anymore about what people think of me, which is such a, you know, I tell people, maybe you just need to be nicer. You know, I’m not the problem because I feel.
Dawn Crawford 29:50
Absolutely. Yeah. Yeah. So with that, what style of feedback doesn’t work for you?
Sandy Cyr 29:57
So I don’t know if it’s necessarily a style but I don’t like when I feel like I’m being ganged up on. You know, like, in a group setting and everyone’s you know when it becomes…I don’t like when it’s personal.
Dawn Crawford 30:10
Yes. But yeah, like ganging up…and those are different things. Yeah, I think ganging up is when it’s so many different perspectives of feedback, right? And then personal is just nasty. It’s just not. It’s not perfect. But I mean, yeah, I mean, there’s ways again. Yeah, Brian’s favorite phrase is being pecked to death by ducks. That’s that’s his, like, group feedback phrase.
Sandy Cyr 30:33
Wow. That’s interesting. Yeah. Yeah.
Dawn Crawford 30:38
Yes. And as your farm because you, yes, you have your farm now, you know, you’re very keen with duck pecking?
Sandy Cyr 30:44
Yeah, yeah, that would take a while…Please, chickens would be quicker?
Dawn Crawford 30:51
Yes, it would be. Yes, absolutely.
Sandy Cyr 30:54
You know, I think everybody can stand to work on their communication styles and their skills. You know, again, it’s that communicator lens where everything is, is a solvable communication challenge. And I have done a lot of work on myself to understand who I am and how I’m motivated and you know, what my Myers Briggs is, and all of that sort of stuff, to be able to articulate that to folks, because I think one of the things that frustrates me the most, professionally and personally, is when the story that people are telling themselves about me doesn’t match up with the story that I know about myself. And that’s where the tension comes from. So I think I take the personal criticism harder, because of that tension between what I’m hearing and what I know about myself, and that I am not…I internalize it and say, you know, I’m clearly not telling my story correctly about myself. And again, that stems from it not being about me.
Dawn Crawford 31:58
Yeah. Yeah. Okay, so we’re gonna talk a little bit about burnout next. Talking about, I think there’s been many opportunities for people to burn out in the last couple of years, whether it’s political or pandemic, or being a parent, or just, yeah, rocky rears, right that a lot of people changed. So, you know, how, how well do you avoid burnout and what are common set of your strategies for avoiding burnout?
Sandy Cyr 32:29
I do not. I do not avoid burnout and that is very problematic. I used to joke, and in fact, I have given presentations on burnout. I gave one to Raleigh Nonprofit Communicators many years ago, I think that up in Durham, you know, I used to joke at PJ that I I knew it was spring when I started to feel like I was going to burn out again. It was cyclical. And when the university shut the journal down and I was very suddenly unemployed, I took a month off where I did not job search or do anything, I just, for recovery. And quite frankly, it took six to nine months to recover in certain ways. Like I still grind my teeth. Burnout manifests itself very physically within my muscles, especially like, here, I hope a lot of this is edited out because I’m…
Dawn Crawford 33:26
No, that’s good. No, this is what this is all about. I think I think a lot of people will experience this. And I think and communicators, communicators in particular, are very skilled at hiding our burnout, because we all have a PR bitchface, right, like we can all put on this face that like is gonna get the work done. And, and we’re strong, it is strong to have to hear this much criticism and critique and thoughts and ideas and problem solve all the time. So when you’re the thing that you have to solve, that it’s very easy to either hide it, or just shove it to the back, you know?
Sandy Cyr 34:04
And I think there’s many layers to it as well, right? You kind of got to earlier, you know, I think more is expected of women in our culture. And that was very evident in the pandemic where women were leaving the workforce in droves, because we’re the ones who, for whatever reason, have to manage everything at home. And so, you know, being a woman, being a mother, being a mother to small kids in elementary school, you know, I have pets, I’m a volunteer, I’m a board member. There’s all these different layers that feed into that burnout and when you’re wired as a helper, yeah, you’re putting your oxygen mask on last, even though you’re going around telling everyone else put their oxygen mask on first, you are gonna be the last person to pull on your mask because you’re gonna go sure everyone else is firmly secure before you put it. And yeah, can’t help that, and so, in a certain sense, and I don’t mean to sound doom and gloom or like I’m tough because I, you know, exist in a constant state of burnout. But, the work is hard and you have strong and you have resilience to do it day after day after day without relief. So in terms of avoiding burnout, it really comes down to putting yourself first. And that is so hard in the nonprofit sector because you don’t have the staff capacity. If I take a sick day, the work doesn’t get done.
Dawn Crawford 35:29
Yeah, especially when you’re a team of one.
Sandy Cyr 35:31
Work doesn’t get done. You know, and so there’s that pressure. And so it’s about kind of protecting yourself, knowing your triggers, and having the tools in place when burnout starts. And so one of the things that I’ve learned, one of the most important investments you can ever make in life, no matter what you do, is to invest in social capital. And one of the things that I’ve learned is to surround myself with people who recognize in me when I need help, and as a helper I’m never going to ask for help, ever or ever. And so I have people in my life, who see it in me and say look, where, you know, I had a friend who was like, Alright, we’re going horseback riding. I don’t care that it’s 11 o’clock in the morning on a Thursday. You’re, you know, it, it’s you need people like that. You need those systems of checks and balances. And again, when you’re working in this scarcity mindset and you’re doing this work that’s incredibly hard, especially in certain areas where lives literally depend on what you do, even if it’s just social media updates, right? It adds that extra layer of tension and guilt and, and stress and all of that. And we internalize that. Just recognizing it. And if you can’t recognize it in yourself, surrounding yourself with people who do recognize it.
Dawn Crawford 36:55
Absolutely. Well, despite all that pressure, right, and feeling like you’re gonna explode, why do you come back? Why do you just not flee into working at Home Depot? My personal fantasy.
Sandy Cyr 37:10
So mine is a greenhouse, like a garden center. Believe me, I think about this all the time. I think about it all the time. And you know, I’m like, “Oh, my God, this work is hard. What if I just get a, you know, receptionist job?” Okay, scratch that, because that sounds really awful.
Dawn Crawford 37:31
That sounds like a lot of pressure.
Sandy Cyr 37:33
Well, I don’t mean to sound like just like, being a receptionist is not easy, either, right? But, but I do often think about what if I just had a job where, you know, there wasn’t so much pressure to mend things. And, you know, I joke, you know, when I want an easier job, I’m just going to be an air traffic controller, because at least then I’m only in charge of the planes taking off and landing. But right now, you know, I’m managing relationships with the, you know, FAA, I’m heading up the ticket counter booths, I’m making sure the shelves are stocked at the concessions, you know, like, every single aspect of running the airport is what my job is now, and has been with PJ. So what keeps me coming back is just having these conversations with people, having these conversations with people who need to be heard, knowing that PJ is so important to so many people and provides a real service. That is not happening anywhere else. When PJ was shuttered for two years, people were still reaching out to me saying, “hey, you know, I have this article. Where can I put it? That was like PJ?” I’m like, I don’t know. Because it doesn’t exist.
Dawn Crawford 38:44
Yeah, it really isn’t…
Sandy Cyr 38:47
It’s, it’s the passion for the work. It’s the passion of the folks that I interact with on a day to day basis that reignites my enthusiasm for this every single day.
Dawn Crawford 38:58
Yeah, definitely happy that the PJ is back. I agree. There’s just not a lot of resources or nonprofit stories, right. Okay, so this next section is our rapid fire. You’re supposed to only use one word. This has been the greatest challenge of all my interviewees on this podcast. It’s a just use one word. Kivi did fantastic so that is your standard. Yeah. Okay, so what is your favorite word?
Sandy Cyr 39:27
Dawn Crawford 39:28
What’s your least favorite word?
Sandy Cyr 39:30
Dawn Crawford 39:32
What’s your personal nonprofit cause or mission?
Sandy Cyr 39:35
There isn’t just one. Because my PJ is such a good fit for me. Because I have nonprofit ADHD. I’m like, Ooh, I love animal rescue and environment, blah, blah, blah.
Dawn Crawford 39:44
Yeah, great. What cause what nonprofit cause gets too much attention.
Sandy Cyr 39:51
The overhead myth.
Dawn Crawford 39:52
Oh, that’s good. What’s your favorite curse word?
Sandy Cyr 39:57
Dawn Crawford 39:59
Great. Yeah, what profession other than your own would you like to try?
Sandy Cyr 40:03
Dawn Crawford 40:04
And then what nonprofit professional organization would you like to hear from on this podcast? You get to talk to a lot of people so you get to fulfill this yourself.
Sandy Cyr 40:14
Right? Like I do, it really is a gift I get to talk to everyone.
Dawn Crawford 40:19
Yeah. Well, thank you so much for being so candid. You know, I’ve known you for a long time and I feel like you’re in a very happy place and I’m very happy for you for that. And yeah, it’s so good to see you back and strong and back and part of the sector because I think you’re really needed voice. So thank you so much for being here.
Sandy Cyr 40:41
Thank you so much and thanks for this opportunity. It’s been wonderful to connect with you and talk to you and all that good stuff.
Dawn Crawford 40:49
Well, thank you for all of our listeners out there and have a great rest of your day. Thank you for listening. If 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
Transcribed by https://otter.ai