Describe yourself and your approach to life in a few sentences
Describe myself… that’s a tough question! I am an Enneagram 8, described as self-confident, strong, and assertive. While I can be straight-talking and decisive, this personality type can also be ego-centric and domineering. But at their best, they use their strength to improve others’ lives, which is what I strive to do.
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed my approach to life, in that I am trying to take time to smell the roses, slow down more, and savour every moment.
How did you get into the not-for-profit sector?
I call myself unemployable because I’ve worked for myself for 11 years. I have always been an activist, from starting a recycling program at my middle school to running the Gay/Straight Alliance in high school. I served in the US Peace Corps as a health education volunteer, designing public health campaigns in rural Senegal, in another language and completely different culture. After that wonderful experience, I got my first job in development and fundraising, and I’ve pretty much held every job in nonprofits that you can imagine. In my work right now, I train nonprofits on the best ways to build their audiences and raise more money using social media and digital tools.
Who or what inspires you?
I am constantly inspired by those who have the courage to be who they are and live their truth. Recently I’ve been watching the TV show POSE, about trans women of colour in New York City in the 1990s (the show starts in the 80s). The obstacles, challenges, and outright violence that this community has faced and continues to face inspires me to continue fighting for equality for all people.
What’s the best career advice you’ve ever received?
I had an incredibly difficult and demanding boss when I had my first development job. It was at Boston University, and expectations were very high to find grants, funders, and corporate sponsors. He had been Ambassador to Tanzania under President Bill Clinton and didn’t take any excuses from anyone. We would organise these elaborate events for international guests, and something would invariably go wrong. But he always said “Figure it out. Just figure it out and get it done.” It was a lot like Tim Gunn on Project Runway – “Make it work!”
You’ve had a different pandemic experience to us in Australia. How did you get through the past 18 months?
We were luckier than most to be employed and healthy. Managing remote learning for a kindergartner and sixth grader was definitely challenging, as well as trying to work and take care of ourselves. I rented a spin bike and took walks most days. It was nice to have my husband home because we were so used to him commuting to work three hours per day and not getting home past bedtime most nights. I do miss conferences and traveling and hope that comes back soon – we would go everywhere, not just for work but also for vacations. I miss that experience of exploring a new place, and of networking with huge groups of people.
What has surprised you in the past year?
I was surprised how resilient and adaptable the kids were, and are. Wearing masks, not seeing their friends and grandparents, doing homework at home and then a few days a week at school in person and now fully in person. They rolled with the punches and we got through it (still getting through it).
In terms of nonprofit work, I was surprised how many nonprofits didn’t communicate, put their heads down, and didn’t speak to their audience! They may have thought that this would all be over soon so let’s just stay quiet until the end. Almost two years later, these organisations who didn’t communicate are suffering and those that sent newsletters, posted on social media, and continued fundraising are thriving.
Top tip for taking a digital-first approach to work?
Digital-first is a mindset. It means seeing all communications and all interactions through a digital lens. If you send out a printed newsletter or appeal letter, how can you mould it and adapt it for a digital audience? What do we need to know about digital donors in order to make their user experience better? Digital fundraising and digital marketing represent a revolution for nonprofits, for the world. Denying the changes and the transformations that digital tools have enabled us is fruitless and counterproductive. Be curious but be strategic – don’t just chase shiny new tools.
Julia is a digital fundraising consultant based in the US. Recently named one of the 25 most influential nonprofit thought leaders and one of the seven nonprofit thought leaders to follow on Twitter during the coronavirus crisis, Julia Campbell is on a mission to make the digital world a better place. She is the author of two books, a mum of two kids, and a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer. Her passion is to get organisations and change makers to stop spinning their wheels and start getting real results using digital tools. You can check out her thoughts and ideas at www.jcsocialmarketing.com/blog.
Julia will be appearing at DigiRaise + EventRaise 2021 on 16-18 June. She will be conducting as masterclass, How to raise awareness and drive donations using social media , and a plenary, How to build a community on Facebook and Instagram: And get them to convert!