Tech nonprofits: 'Use this time to create awareness of your cause' - Technical.ly Philly

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May 12, 2020 8:16 am

Tech nonprofits: ‘Use this time to create awareness of your cause’

Women in Data's Philly chapter co-lead, Rajvi Mehta, outlines how the org is staying useful to its community with a pivot to virtual events while strengthening its base.
Women in Data’s Rajvi Mehta (right) discusing personal branding with webinar guest Precious Kingdom.

Women in Data's Rajvi Mehta (right) discusing personal branding with webinar guest Precious Kingdom.

(Screenshot via YouTube)

This is a guest post by Rajvi Mehta, Philadelphia chapter co-lead and regional sponsorship lead of Women in Data.
We started the year and the decade with hope.

Most of the first month of this decade felt like taking a deep breath in and just waiting for the magnificent unknown to unfold in front of us. As we were aligning our local communities to our 2020 vision, making sure our goals and strategies were lined up to only provide the best resources and opportunities for our platform, the magnificent unknown slowly untangled itself into a dark and scary unknown. We told ourselves and each other to just wait the storm out.

On March 13, we said our last goodbye to the normal that we knew and welcomed the new normal with three significant market crashes in one week as COVID-19 spread in the U.S. This was the “magnificent unknown” that was waiting for us.

It has been two months since that terrible first week and with that, the expectations of a leader has changed. A leader is required to be more empathetic, transparent and supportive. It is our responsibility to take care of our community while pushing our mission forward, and rightly so.

Today, I am truly proud of our Philadelphia data and tech community. We have shown resilience and empathy not just toward ourselves but also to our diverse members. I know a lot of us managing tech organizations are going out of our way to help our larger community. I salute and admire your selflessness.

I am the Philadelphia chapter co-lead and the regional sponsorship lead of Women in Data, a global nonprofit working toward increasing the diversity in data careers. Our purpose is to close the gap within local communities by hosting in-person events, talks, workshops and opportunities to network. We have heavily relied on sponsorships and fundraising in the past and we continue to do so. I have spent nights thinking about a strategy to pivot our events while trying to keep a year-old chapter relevant under the new normal. I share the same worry as many companies do: Where will the funding come from? How do we keep up the engagement? What does the future look like?

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We launched the Philadelphia chapter in February 2019. For the next 12 months, we hosted seven events. We went from just one member (me) to more than 600 in 11 months. We partnered with some of the best universities and organizations that represented Philadelphia’s diversity and equality in the most honest light. As a first-time nonprofit leader, I was grateful for everything 2019 offered and I was looking toward a better 2020.

That being said, I do want to throw some light on what we, Women in Data — Philadelphia, are doing and talk a little bit about our future as a chapter, as other tech nonprofit leaders are surely considering their own next moves.

Going virtual

Our plan at the beginning of the year was to have three traditional symposiums throughout the year, the first one was supposed to be in May 2020 focused on elevating careers in data. As times changed, we had to quickly pivot to a virtual environment. One of the good things about going virtual is that you are not restricted by geographical boundaries.

Going virtual requires a lot of your time and effort. Creating content for your community is not simple. Your members have some expectations from your brand and it is important to deliver them in a format that aligns with your brand. Make sure you invest a reasonable amount of time and resources.

We are hosting our first virtual symposium on the topic of job searching during COVID-19 on May 30. Recruiters from Vanguard and Seer Interactive will be answering questions for us during this virtual event. As an organization, we understand how valuable any kind of career guidance is at this point. Hence, we are extremely mindful of providing content that our audience would like, at no cost and without any geographical barriers.

Raising awareness

Depending on what level your organization is right now, it will require a different kind of support. If your organization is brand new in the community or has been in existence for less than two years, especially, use this time to create awareness of your cause.

Women in Data created an eight-week global weekly webinar series from speakers all over the world. We release a prerecorded webinar every week on our YouTube channel on topics related to data and tech. We speak about personal branding, creating an abundance mindset, being a successful business analyst, and data for good. These are free of cost and are available to all of our 21 chapters worldwide.

Building creative partnerships

We have never shied away from partnering with likeminded organizations and we continue to do so. Philadelphia is blessed to have a strong tech community that is capable of supporting each other. We are planning some fun collaborations with other groups, to be announced soon.

We hope that we can keep serving this community with the highest level of education, opportunities and support. We are still a brand-new organization in Philadelphia and we rely on financial support from our community. We are also aware that this is a tough time for everyone and have eased our sponsorship calls to our sponsors and donors. We are confident that once we get back to normal, our partners will be there to support and guide us in any way possible.

This has not been easy on anyone and I am praying for this to pass very soon. I hope we get to see each other in person very soon and partner on some fabulous opportunities. Until then, please take care and be safe!

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