the third thing

I’ve always loved the children’s book Miss Rumphius.

It’s about a woman who resolves as a girl to travel all over the world, to then live by the sea when she was done, and finally, to make the world a more beautiful place.

After she has achieved the first two goals, she becomes very sick and has to stay in bed for a very long time, slowly getting well in her house by the sea.

When she does get up, she decides to fulfill her third obligation by filling the countryside with lupines.

I just now realized that she only started planting lupines (strewing the seeds, really) after she was laid up sick in bed for a year.

She had to spend some time not doing anything, reflecting on things, before she realized the tragically lupine-free conditions under which her seaside town suffered.

So when she finally got out of bed, she knew what she had to do.

Beth Kanter posted today about the five steps to building a social media plan:

  1. Listen
  2. Prepare
  3. Engage
  4. Go offline
  5. Measure success

You can read the whole post to see where she’s going with this.

My thoughts about Miss Rumphius started popping up when I read about Beth’s fourth step:

Step 4: Go Offline

This is a really important step. Does anyone know of good posts that elaborate on this point and are written from a nonprofit perspective?

It is a really important step. I took a bit of a hiatus from blogging not long ago, and used the opportunity to reflect on what it is I’m trying to accomplish here, and what value I’m adding to the space by contributing to it.

You can read my reflections on the self-imposed hiatus here.

I wrote about feeling like I was missing out — on fresh thinking, on new developments, on what was going on in people’s lives — and I still feel that way when I miss a few days or when I am in the middle of a particularly intense time at work, as I am now.

So what am I doing to provide new ideas, new ways of thinking about things? Where are my lupines?

If you’re an organization reflecting on your first foray into social media, what would happen if you took this view of things instead?

Instead of focusing on YOUR return on investment, on how many dollars/donors/emails you won at the end of the game, what would your program evaluation look like if you asked yourself what did THEY get out of it?

What bright new thing did you place in the world?

How did your community members, how did any given individual, benefit from your efforts?

This isn’t another nonprofit final report question that reads something like “quantify the number served by this program.”

It’s more a way of asking: what freestanding thing of lasting value did you create?

Look for the lupines. Start by taking a break, and lying down for a while.

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