We're gearing up for our seventh ZURB Wired event, where we work alongside a nonprofit to get over a design hump. The catch: everything has to be done in a 24 hour time crunch.
We've worked with a number of nonprofits over our 16 years. We've noticed that an inspiring mission wasn't always enough to propel a nonprofit to success. For nonprofits, that mission is half the battle. The other half, however, is volunteers.
Volunteers come and go, like the ebb of a river, because life gets in the way. Nonprofits are constantly competing for a volunteer's free time. There are a dozen distractions that can get in the way. So it becomes very hard for nonprofits to mobilize their volunteers and get stuff done. Projects can linger and it seems like nothing will ever move, especially web-based projects. Everyone loses focus and sight. Priorities shift. A web project can be put way down on the list as nonprofits have to reallocate resources elsewhere.
Worse, if an organization is wildly inefficient or disorganized, then it's likely to see a quicker volunteer exodus. One of the recommendations to prevent volunteer burnout (and thus departure) is better project management.
Mobilize in Shorter Bursts
The solution: leverage those volunteer skills for shorter periods of time. Mobilizing teams in a tighter time constraint keeps team members focused. Which is what we at ZURB do for every client project we have, and it's a skill we pass on to the nonprofits that participate in our annual ZURB Wired event. We've been doing Wired since 2006 and helping nonprofits accomplish a specific goal — such as an entire marketing campaign that includes print and web materials — within a 24-hour sprint.
The timebox — an ultimate one of 24 hours — we're able to keep the nonprofit fixated and move quickly through decisions. Instead of waiting for every decision to be thought out and validated over the course of weeks, months, years — it takes mere hours as we move through our entire design process from ideation to prototype to implementation.
Do More With Less
We also work in smaller teams, doing more with less. A common problem faced by nonprofits is throwing too many bodies at a problem and not everyone can contribute. Smaller teams allow us to move quickly through iterations. What gets us moving fast is the design feedback loop.
The design feedback loop is the cornerstone of ZURB Wired. We work side-by-side with the nonprofit, teaching them design thinking and coaching them through the feedback loop. More importantly, we involve the stakeholders at every stage of the game, getting their feedback so that we can validate ideas quickly and get to the right answer.
Last year, we worked with Rebuilding Together Peninsula. They needed help creating a campaign — including a new website and a video — for their 25th anniversary. We began by exploring many options, either through brainstorms or sketches. We broke up into specific teams: content, print, web and video.
Executive Director Seana O'Shaughnessy jumped from team to team, listening to each team's ideas and giving feedback at each step. This allowed us to cut out the middleman and get direct feedback so that we could move forward.
Stay on Target
But making decisions on the fly isn't always smooth. There are going to be bumps. And as you approach a crucial deadline, there's bound to be panic. One year that's exactly what happened.
Nonprofits are programmed to get every last detail right before taking action. And it can be scary to let things go, which happened when it came to our print deadline. All the print materials, artwork and copy, had to be at the printers by 5 PM. For example, we had a nonprofit's team still fiddling with the copy, even though we'd long agreed on a direction and had it proofread. They floundered a bit on what we had written. But it was too late — the copy had already been sent to the printers. We had to reassure them that we were on the right path. It also helped that one of the nonprofit's manager loved the copy that was written. And he was the one person the nonprofit said we'd have the hardest time getting approval from. He actually felt at ease with the process and moving through fast decisions.
In these moments, the best advice comes from "Star Wars" — stay on target. Remember the end goal and don't allow yourself get caught up in minutiae. Focusing on the goal helps push through anxieties and create amazing work.
Want to Participate in Wired or Know of a Nonprofit?
If you're a nonprofit or know of a nonprofit that needs help mobilizing its team, we'd love to hear from you. You can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can give us your email and we'll reach out to you.