(Posted by Lori Lee Davidson, co-founder of NMS)
Betsy and I met serendipitously 4 years ago when I moved 2,000 miles across the country with my little family to Atlanta. We had a common friend who introduced us within the first 2 weeks of me moving to the south. Betsy and I quickly became friends bonding over a common love of literature, Atlanta Braves, and appreciation for well-timed sarcasm.
We were both soloprenuers. My work experience was primarily in business marketing, product copy, website creation and revision. Betsy’s in being a writer extraordinare – manuscripts, nonprofit proposals, magazine and news articles, and community funding. When a contract came along that was too large for us to handle on our own we collaborated. It worked great. I’m a westerner, quick to remark, addicted to the outdoors, hanging from the side of the mountain or running up it. Betsy is a true southern lady – we evened each other out. My skill set was just enough of a contrast to Betsy’s, together we were a fabulous team.
February 2012 we met for lunch, we didn’t know it at the time, but Nonprofit Media Solutions was born. It must have been the tacos.
(Have you ever eaten at Taqueria Del Sol in Decatur, GA? If not, stop what you’re doing. Drive there. You’ll have to stand in line for 20-30 minutes but then order everything on the menu. If you must choose… my favorite: fish taco, Betsy’s favorite: Memphis taco. However, we both agree you need to order them all. And the salsa trio. And the cheese sauce. And… )
We both felt unfulfilled in our current phases of work. I had just finished a long, time-intensive project with a large company in Atlanta. Betsy was waiting to hear back from her largest client – we both had an ebb in our flow. We spent our lunch talking about what we enjoyed most in writing and helping others. If we lived in an ideal world what we would do? We both agreed that in a perfect world, we’d abandon the business to business ship and help nonprofits. We laughed and sighed “one day.” Over the course of the next 6 months every time we would meet for lunch the topic would always shift back to two things:
1) We love nonprofits. How can we be involved? Could we do this? Could we walk away from business?
2) We want to be passionate about what we do and feel like the time we spend should be helping someone in a larger picture, not just selling a product ‘for now.’ How can we make that happen?
We started reaching out to those in our nonprofit and community circles. We talked and talked and talked. We actively tried to find how our skill set and network would (or even could) help – was it needed? What is the reality for nonprofits and their budgets? We’ve primarily worked with businesses and community foundations – can that translate to nonprofit work?
What we found? YES. Yes, there was a major need in the small to medium nonprofit sector for exactly what we could bring to table. In each case the organization was doing good and serving their target audiences well, but they needed more hands on deck to help carry out that mission. Years of freelancing work had molded us into creatures of flexibility. What did the nonprofit need? Could we help? Even if it was a small job, a proposal, data entry? Absolutely. Something bigger like a grant, marketing development or conference logistics? Most definitely. We had experience being able to step into a group of people, adapting to their tone, style and mission. That certainly translated. What else could we do to become a better resource for nonprofits? Betsy attended the Georgia Nonprofit Summit, took a grantwriting course at UGA and learned how to navigate the Foundation Center in Atlanta. I dove headfirst into learning best practices for nonprofit social media, funding cycles, fundraising and learning even more code for website development.
Then came time to tell our husbands. You know – “Hey honey, you know how Betsy and I have been tossing this idea around? Well, we’re going to do it. Betsy and I are going to walk away from what we’ve been doing individually for the last decade, go into business together and help nonprofits. We doubt we’ll make much but we’ll be so much happier and more passionate about work!” Bless their hearts, they were supportive and encouraging even amidst the reality of the situation.
Betsy and I ran the Chickamunga Battlefield Half Marathon fall of 2012.
We spent the majority of that weekend trip discussing logistics, coming up with our company name, when we would launch, what services we could provide and really how very excited (and scared) we were to jump into this new venture. We discussed it with our small business consultant. Everyone agreed: launch date January 7, 2013.
We were official.
Now we’re here. We have been overwhelmed by the positive response we have received. We knew we would love helping others but I don’t think either of us expected how absolutely in love we would be with nonprofit work. It has been humbling to learn about the amazing programs around the country. Our We Heart Nonprofits campaign in February was the perfect opportunity to show just a fraction of the good we’ve uncovered. Every day we learn more. Every day we feel as though we’re on a quest to find a nonprofit that needs its message spread. Every day we are excited to wake up and work. Every day I feel passionate about what I’m doing – how can you not? People are amazing and working so hard to bring changes and good to others.
There is no question: We are 100% in this. We are 100% passionate about helping organizations get their message out there. However that best translates.
We are heading back to the Georgia Nonprofit Summit in May and will most likely eat our lunch at Taqueria Del Sol. We are excited to be able to go this year as Nonprofit Media Solutions, LLC.