This Is A Custom Widget

This Sliding Bar can be switched on or off in theme options, and can take any widget you throw at it or even fill it with your custom HTML Code. Its perfect for grabbing the attention of your viewers. Choose between 1, 2, 3 or 4 columns, set the background color, widget divider color, activate transparency, a top border or fully disable it on desktop and mobile.

This Is A Custom Widget

This Sliding Bar can be switched on or off in theme options, and can take any widget you throw at it or even fill it with your custom HTML Code. Its perfect for grabbing the attention of your viewers. Choose between 1, 2, 3 or 4 columns, set the background color, widget divider color, activate transparency, a top border or fully disable it on desktop and mobile.
5 Apr, 2017

Ask Nicole: Are Newsletters Valuable?

By | 2017-04-05T09:55:45+00:00 April 5th, 2017|Categories: Ask Nicole|Tags: , , |0 Comments

Have a question you’d like to be featured? Let me know.

I have another question from Jocelyn, a reader from the Raise Your Voice community weekly newsletter. This time, it’s about newsletters. Jocelyn asks via Twitter:

I used [to] send a newsletter out to help maintain a professional/personal network. How do I decide how often [to send out a newsletter, and] if it’s valuable to others? I think I have a clearer focus now than a few years ago, but my work is still broad/not specialized. Appreciate any tips!

Ahhh, newsletters. Also known as email subscriber lists. I started my newsletter back in 2012, mainly because business people I follow would routinely say, “The money is in the list”. You want as many people subscribed to your newsletter so that, when you need to promote something, someone will buy it.

My relationship with my newsletter—everything from the design of it to the content I share—has evolved along with my business. I’m more comfortable promoting my business services as I’ve gotten clearer on what I do, how I want to show up in the world, and what value I want to give. Plus, I give priority to my newsletter subscribers over my social media platforms because social media is saturated and filled with noise. When someone gives their email address to you, it shows that they want to hear directly from you. Also, outside of posting my latest blog posts on my platforms, I tend to go on brief social media detoxes. If you don’t hear from me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or LinkedIn, chances are my newsletter subscribers have.

Along with answering Jocelyn’s questions, here are some things I’ve learned along the way:

Figure out your purpose for creating a newsletter 

Since starting my newsletter, I’ve shifted the way I view my newsletter as well as my newsletter subscribers. I see my subscribers as not only people I want to share information with or people who may one day become clients or collaborators, but also as a larger accountability system.

My “why” for sending out my weekly newsletter is first and foremost to provide value. Outside of my weekly blog post, my subscribers get information on awareness themes (such as National Minority Health Week or World AIDS Day) and ideas on how to raise their voices in their community about these themes, resources and tools related to Reproductive Health/Rights/Justice, design thinking, program evaluation, and other things related to social justice and community collaboration that they can use in a variety of settings, and resources that promote self care and prevent burnout.

Also, my newsletter gives a behind-the-scenes look at all of the ups and downs of being a social worker running a business based on my passions. I may disclose certain struggles or successes in my newsletter than I wouldn’t otherwise mention “out in public” on social media. For example, my newsletter subscribers were the first to know that I was leaving my day job in 2016 to go into my business full time.

Be consistent

This ties into my first point because it’s through becoming clear on why I have a newsletter and what value I want to share that’s allowed the process of creating a newsletter to no longer suck. For 2017, I’ve decided to post a blog and send out my newsletter on a weekly basis, no matter what. If you’ve been a Raise Your Voice subscriber for a while, you know that I’ve been consistent, and not so consistent, so the point where I had to remove “weekly” on my website when promoting my newsletter list. By the end of 2017, I’ll re-evaluate if I want to continue on with weekly newsletters and blog posts.


1 Mar, 2017

Ask Nicole: What Should I Do With “Pick My Brain” Requests?

By | 2017-03-01T03:03:17+00:00 March 1st, 2017|Categories: Ask Nicole|Tags: , , , |0 Comments

Do you have a question to share with the Raise Your Voice community? Let me know. 

I recently got a tweet from Raise Your Voice reader Jocelyn, a social worker and consultant in the Boston area:

I LOVE your emails. Looking for tips on how to make others pay you when they’re seeking “informal” consultations? Any links?

This is something I’ve been going back and forth with for some time. Maybe it’s the social worker in me that just wants to be as helpful as possible. But sometimes being helpful can get in the way of getting work done for my clients and even working in my own projects.

The reason why these requests can be annoying is that they can be very time consuming, and as writer Ruchika Tulshyan shares in “How 3 Successful Women of Color Navigate ‘Can I Pick Your Brain?’ Requests“, you have to create your own criteria for how to handle these requests. I tend to have a soft spot for some people (most notably social work grad students or people interested in entrepreneurship), so it’s not uncommon for me to schedule time for them when I can. If the person is someone I’m interested in building a professional partnership with, I don’t mind having them pick my brain because I’m picking their brain right back.

Here are my recommendations:

Get Money!

Requesting money up front can show people you mean business. Here are some examples:

  • Web designer Krystle Rowry of Kriss Did It: Krystle has a “Kriss Critique” where you pay to do a walk-through of your website design and she provides areas of improvement. She also has a “Pick My Brain” service where you can ask her specific questions related to your website design. She follows up with you a month later.
  • Social Worker and business brand coach Vasavi Kumar: Vasavi Kumar gives you 2-hour, 4-hour, or 6-hour opportunities to pick her brain. This service can focus on self-promotion, content and product creation, pitching yourself, and more.
  • Branding boutique Ready To Werk: Ready to Werk provides 45 or 60 minute phone consultations for budding entrepreneurs who need some help in flushing out their ideas.

Create a “Frequently Asked Questions” 

My “Ask Nicole” blog posts are my way of providing a FAQ for my business. Throughout the month, I get emails from a variety of folks–social workers, graduate students, activists, executive directors, etc. I often get the same kinds of questions, and to prevent me from answering the same question multiple times, I may share a question in a “Ask Nicole post” so when someone emails me with the same question, I’ll point them to that post as well as add any additional (but brief) information specific to their situation. I also point them to my Blog Archives so they can read blog posts related to their question, as well as read related blogs posts by topic. I do this to not only save time, but it’s also a good way to share information on a much  broader scale.


1 Feb, 2017

Ask Nicole: How Can I Get Hired for Workshops & Speaking Engagements?

By | 2017-02-01T00:54:56+00:00 February 1st, 2017|Categories: Ask Nicole|Tags: , , , |0 Comments

Do you have a question to share with the Raise Your Voice community? Let me know. 

Michelle, a social worker in Pennsylvania, writes:

I have been researching other options to become involved in within the [social work] field and came across your website. I was wondering if you [could] discuss how to get involved in facilitating workshops/speaking engagements.  This is an area I’m very interested in pursuing and am eager to build resources and network with other professionals.

I’m always excited to hear fellow social workers eager to show their expertise in a variety of ways.

I’ve been facilitating workshops in some capacity since 2003-ish. I started co-facilitating workshops as a student, with other youth activists around the country, then as a Reproductive Justice activist and professional social worker. Because I was so new to it, I leaned a lot on my peers to guide the workshop facilitation. I also sought out people who have a delivery style you like or who speak on topics that interests you. The goal isn’t to imitate them, but observe how they engage their audience. Whenever I co-faciliate a workshop or training with someone, I focus on how they engage the audience, how they interject personal experiences that tie into their content, or how they tie in real-world examples to illustrate their content. I eventually found a facilitation style that worked for me. 

First, determine what your interests are and what you want to share your expertise in. Next, brainstorm how you want to deliver your information.  I’ve written a series on preparing and facilitating workshops (Part One | Part Two | Part Three | Part Four). We tend to think of workshops as being in person, but you can also deliver great content via online formats such as GoToMeeting or Zoom. In my Blog Archives, there’s a section on workshops where I share my own experiences with workshop facilitating as well as exercises I’ve facilitated in workshops.

Secondly (and probably most important), let people know that you’re available for workshops and speaking engagements! Word of mouth has been a driving force for my business and for lots of people interested in professional speaking and workshop facilitation.

Next, find ways to show your expertise before going into a conference or workshop space. My preferred method to show my interests and expertise has been through blogging, and in using my social media platforms to promote my thoughts. Blogging has been a good way for me to show my expertise, gain clients, and have folks invite me to speak. (I view it as an online business card). Blogging has also given me a platform to share my perspective AND has allowed me to revisit my stance to either strengthen my voice or to share a new perspective. Blogging may be that for you as well. Or it may be podcasting or sharing your perspective via YouTube. You can also engage with folks via live feeds on Instagram, Facebook, or Periscope. You can curate the topics you like to talk about and it aids in developing your personal approach and what you’re known for (aka, your brand), which then helps people associate you with certain speaking topics. I recently updated my Speaking page to show what my interests are as well as what I’m most requested to speak on.


4 Jan, 2017

Ask Nicole: Any Advice for Social Workers Leaving New York City?

By | 2017-01-04T14:12:17+00:00 January 4th, 2017|Categories: Ask Nicole, Social Work|Tags: , , , , |0 Comments

If you have a question that you’d like to share with the Raise Your Voice community , contact me. 

Ebony, a social work graduate student, writes:

I just completed my first semester in [my social work graduate program] and I  have some questions which are not really being answered in my school. I’m not sure if it is because I am one of the few black women in [the program] or if the my advisor really does not have any answers for me.

I graduate in May of 2018 the the plan is for me to have my MSW along with a certification in child welfare. Shortly after graduation I plan to take the exam for me to get the LMSW. I really want to  get the LCSW because I eventually I would like to open up my own practice working with the youth and obtain my DSW. My dilemma is that I would like to relocate south to Georgia or Florida. I would like to move to a place where it does not snow and the cost of living is lower. I have been living in New York all my life. Do you have any tips or suggestions for me? I do not want to wait until the last minute of my graduate school career to have a concrete plan.


You may recall that I was asked a similar question by another student, only Ebony’s question is the opposite: leaving New York City to work elsewhere as a social worker. Here, I focus on what I felt was Ebony’s primary need: how preparing for the LMSW or LCSW exam (and transferring those scores and licensure) varies by state.

Many students wait until their second year (and sometimes the final semester) to think of the next steps in their social work path, so it’s great that Ebony is thinking about her trajectory while in her first year.

And yes, the cost of living in New York City is significantly higher compared to many southern cities, and that’s always been a major draw for many folks moving down south. While it provides lots of career opportunities, it can feel like a completely different world to a native New Yorker. As a Georgia native, it didn’t take long for me to adjust to life in New York, but many of my native New York City friends had to get used to the slower pace of southern life, even in major cities like Atlanta, Orlando, and Miami. That doesn’t mean the same will apply to Ebony (or to you if you’re planning to make a similar decision), but I just wanted to throw that out there.


2 Nov, 2016

Ask Nicole: What’s the Best Way to Deliver Bad News?

By | 2016-11-02T15:28:45+00:00 November 2nd, 2016|Categories: Ask Nicole, Program Design & Evaluation|Tags: , , , , |0 Comments


If you have a question that you’d like to share with the Raise Your Voice community , contact me. 

It’s the worst thing ever. That moment when you’ve been working with a client, community members, or some other form of stakeholder, and you have to bring the bad news.

I recently got this email from a nonprofit professional (and FYI: I’ve removed identifying information):

My nonprofit has created a program that seeks to increase the importance of physical activity among young indigenous youth in a rural community where there’s a lack of access to gyms and other places that would make it easier for youth to be more active. The stakeholders were expecting that the activities included in the program would resonate with the youth. In my nonprofit, I’ve been charged to carry out an evaluation of this program. We used surveys and focus groups with the youth participants. The results of the evaluation were that the participants weren’t interested in the activities, which aligned with the lack of participation. In fact, the results showed that the participants have developed more creative means to get in physical activity, but they brought up the need for other quality of life services that the program wasn’t addressing. The results could potentially impact the funding that was given to this program, as the funders were expecting that the program would be a success. What’s the best way to handle this?

Dealing with funders and leadership can be tricky, and nonprofits know all too well the stress of proving that a program or service is successful to stakeholders.

So, how do you share unexpected results in a way that is diplomatic and addresses concern head on?

Make it participatory from the start

I’ve worked with clients who had the expectation that I would come in, ready to go, with all the surveys, focus group questions, and in-depth interviews scheduled. They just want someone to come in and do the work for them. When I noticed this happening, I began to push back against working with clients in this way, and in encouraging current clients and potential clients in developing a participatory way of working together. From determining data collection tools to developing questions to ask participants (and even getting everyone together to interpret the data), when you make feedback gathering participatory from the start, it creates buy-in, puts everyone on the same page, and makes everything more transparent. When people are more involved, it makes this process more fun (at least for me), and everyone learns in the process.

And here’s a secret: When you make it participatory, it improves the likelihood that recommendations from the evaluation are actually implemented.

Address expectations and potential consequences 

When you ask your stakeholders what they intend the outcome of their program to be, also ask this:

“What if what we’re expecting doesn’t happen?”

Ideally, we create programs or services based on theory, research, and what’s happen in our community. It builds the foundation to do some meaningful work. Can you believe there are nonprofits actually create programs or services because it just sounds like a good idea? You’d be surprised. So, can we really feel some type of way when we get results that we weren’t expecting, and in the case of the nonprofit above, it sounds like a program was created to address a need that the community has already dealt with.

But when we follow the theory, research, and community input, yet the outcome is still not what we’re expecting?

Determine if it really is bad