I’ve always been extremely happy with my talented and supportive network of friends. The last two nonprofits I’ve worked for have asked me, at various points, to use my lovely social network to seek in-kind donations or drum up support. I saw nothing wrong with this, because I certainly backed the mission of each respective nonprofit and I was happy to get the word out. However, I promoted the organizations in the most passive way possible, which is to say, I occasionally splashed their name on my Facebook wall and told people to follow the cause.
At the time, I was convinced that I was passive with my social network because I knew I wanted to start my own organization someday; I understood that I would eventually be leveraging this exact same network to promote my own cause, and I was wary of fatiguing them beforehand by requesting them to support too many other organizations.
Now that The Great Exchange is a reality, I’m surprised to learn that I’m still passive with my social network. Will this change over time? I really can’t say. I went into this project assuming my friends would ardently support my cause because, well, because they’re my friends. That was a fairly natural assumption, but it’s not quite accurate. My friends support me because they’re my friends. What they support beyond that–cause or otherwise–is entirely up to them. And I can see a certain negative trap coming from miles away, one where I start to believe that the degree to which my friends support The Great Exchange will directly reflect how they feel about me.
The Great Exchange is personal, so if I tie it to my friends, I am prone to begin taking their measure of support for The Great Exchange, well, personally. And that’s not fair: to them, to the organization, or to my sanity.
For the strength and sustainability of everything involved, it is imperative that I build a second network, separate from the one that I know and love so dearly. This second network will consist of people who are interested in disability rights first, not in me. There will always be overlap, of course, but passion for the cause–or for social entrepreneurship, compassion, woman leaders, the Austin community, etc–is paramount.
I always knew I’d be reaching out to other disability rights advocates, community-oriented businesspeople, and nonprofit directors I admire in order to widen my network. I just didn’t realize how important it would be to start compartmentalizing the different elements of my social life. I’m so excited to start my outreach push; it’s going to lead to a strong, happy organization.