“I can’t lobby, I’m a Nonprofit!” Myths dispelled!

Published February 8, 2013

Advocacy_or_Lobbying.gifMany seasoned nonprofit professionals are not well-informed about the legalities of lobbying and advocacy. There is a general fear of losing one’s 501(c)(3) status and therefore an unwillingness to engage in any type of political activity whatsoever. This misguided reluctance is causing our sector as a whole to waste opportunities to sit at the policy-making table.
Firstly, there is a large and important difference between advocacy and lobbying. Advocacy is educating people about an issue or topic. Direct lobbying, as defined by the IRS, is communicating with a legislator about a specific piece of legislation. Grassroots lobbying is defined as communicating with the general public and encouraging them to contact legislators and lobby them about a specific piece of legislation.


Let’s be clear:

  • Inviting your representatives to attend your nonprofit’s functions: NOT lobbying
  • Sending information to your elected officials about the positive impact your nonprofit makes in their community: NOT lobbying
  • Scheduling an in-person meeting with a legislator to talk about the general state of your sector: NOT lobbying
  • Asking your legislator to vote Yes/No on a bill: Lobbying
  • Taking a stand on an issue in your e-mail newsletter: NOT lobbying.
  • Encouraging those reading a newsletter to contact a legislator and urge them to vote Yes/No on a bill: Lobbying

As you can see, nonprofits can engage in a wide range of political activity without even venturing into lobbying territory. But to dispel another myth – nonprofits are ALLOWED BY LAW to engage in lobbying. Without doing anything, a nonprofit can expend up to 5% of its resources on direct or grassroots lobbying and be in NO DANGER of losing 501(c)(3) status.

Even better, if a nonprofit files a very simple Form 5678, taking the 501(h) election, with the IRS, the allowable amounts for lobbying expenditures are much higher and more well-defined. Highly regarded, national law firm Venable, LLP has made a wonderful document freely available that explains the issue more fully and tells you what exactly is allowable and how to file the form. (It’s a one-time filing, meaning you do not have to fill out a new one every year. It is also the simplest IRS form I have ever seen.)


One thing that 501(c)(3) nonprofits cannot do, ever, is engage in campaigning for candidates. You are never allowed, as an organization, to endorse one candidate or group of candidates over another during a campaign. A nonprofit is allowed to host a debate featuring the candidates, but all candidates for the office need to be invited. A nonprofit IS allowed to take a public stand on an issue in an election (such as a proposed amendment or resolution), just not on a person or a political party.


As a Board Member of the Georgia Arts Network, I created a handout with advocacy/lobbying tips for the recent Georgia Arts Advocacy Day, held at the State Capitol on January 29. The tips are relevant for anyone engaged in advocacy, so I am sharing that document here.


I hope this post has been useful. Please comment with your thoughts, other good advocacy resources, or your questions!

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2013 Nonprofit Conferences in the South

A new year means new conferences to attend in 2013. Here’s our shortlist of ones happening in Atlanta and neighboring states in the South, taken from SocialBrite’s Calendar of 2013 nonprofit and social change conferences. For young professionals in the nonprofit sector, attending these conferences could be of great benefit to both your organization and your own personal professional development.
Check out the list below and let us know on Facebook or Twitter which ones you plan on attending.
 
The Shift
 
Name: Annual Conference on Corporate Contributions Host Organization: Association of Corporate Contributions Professionals Dates: March 10-13, 2013 Location: New Orleans, LA About: The Annual Conference on Corporate Contributions is the premier conference in the U.S. for professionals in corporate citizenship, corporate social responsibility, community relations and volunteerism and assembles renowned speakers, authors, practitioners and educators. Website: http://www.accprof.org/events/conference/
 
Sustainatopia
 
Name: Sustainatopia Conference & Festival Host Organization: Sustainatopia Dates: April 16-22, 2013 Location: Miami, FL About: Sustainatopia is one of the world's leading events in celebration of social, financial and environmental sustainability. Website: http://www.sustainatopia.com/
 
NMC Conference
 
 
 
Name: 2013 NMC Summer Conference Host Organization: New Media Consortium Dates: June 4-7, 2013 Location: Hilton Head, SC About: Every year, hundreds of educators, technologists and learning enthusiasts gather at the NMC Summer Conference to explore and discuss the integration of emerging technologies in teaching, learning and creative inquiry. Website: http://www.nmc.org/events/2013-summer-conference
 
NC Tech
 
 
Name: 4th Annual NCTech4Good Conference Host Organization: NCTech4Good Dates: June 6-7, 2013 Location: The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill About: This conference is designed to serve nonprofit professionals, volunteers and consultants, as well as small business owners. The conference focuses on technologies in areas such as fundraising, social media, and communication and advocacy tools, offering both pre-selected presentations and workshops and spontaneous sessions created by participants. Website: http://nctech4good.org/
 
ASAE Conference
 
 
 
 
Name: 2013 ASAE Annual Meeting & Exposition Host Organization: The Center for Association Leadership Dates: August 3-6, 2013 Location: Atlanta, GA About: Learn and grow. Challenge and inspire. Lead and succeed. The possibilities are endless. At the 2013 ASAE Annual Meeting & Exposition, you'll engage with thought-provoking speakers, experience innovative session formats, enjoy world-class networking events, and much more. Website: http://www.asaeannualmeeting.org/
 
Idea Festival
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Name: IdeaFestival Host Organization: ICI, Inc. Dates: September 24-27, 2013 Location: Louisville, KY About: Founded in 2000, IdeaFestival is a celebration for the intellectually curious. It’s an eclectic network of global thinkers and one-of-a-kind innovators bound together by an intense curiosity about what is impacting and shaping the future of the arts, business, technology, design, science, philosophy and education. Website: http://www.ideafestival.com/
Is your organization putting together a conference in the South, or did we miss one coming up in 2013? Let us know in the comments below!
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Looking Back on 2012 . . . and Towards 2013!

When I think about all we accomplished in 2012 at YNPN Atlanta, it's a little mind boggling.  For such a young organization, we have seen huge growth in our membership and programs!  As we move forward into 2013, I wanted to take a moment and reflect on the awesome work our Board of Directors, committee participants and members have accomplished.
We launched our paid membership structure at the end of 2011, and since then we've had tremendous growth.  Many YNPN chapters feel confident in launching paid memberships until the day they start their first renewal cycle and have a very hard time retaining members.  Not only did you renew your memberships, but we saw an increase!  We are currently at 56 paid members, and we're growing monthly.  We took our mailing list from about 100 people to more than 375.  Not too shabby!
The number one thing that our members requested we add to our offerings was the opportunity to work with a mentor in the nonprofit sector.  Ask and ye shall receive!  In October we launched our Mentorship Program, which has paired 16 YNPN Atlanta members with mid- to executive-level professionals in our field.  We kicked off the program with our Value of Mentorship event and heard from a fantastic keynote speaker, Patricia M. Falotico (Vice President, Global Sales Center Transformation, IBM) on some of the highlights and pitfalls of her mentoring relationships from the perspective of mentor AND mentee.
Holiday Happy Hour Some of our members celebrating 2012 at our Holiday Happy Hour!
This year we held monthly Networking Hours that gave our members the opportunity to meet each other while discussing topics such as how to stay informed about the latest nonprofit trends and learning new skills through committee membership.  We held fantastic professional development events like our Strategic Volunteering Workshop with Girls Incorporated of Greater Atlanta CEO Heather Rocker (@hsrocker).  We look forward to expanding our programming even more in 2013 with your feedback!The next big step for YNPN Atlanta is solidifying our presence in the metro Atlanta nonprofit community as the go-to resource for young nonprofit professionals.  In November we filed for our 501(c)(3) status, which will allow us to raise funds to provide you with more professional development, interesting speakers and fun networking opportunities.  To ring in the new year we've brought on six (yowza!) new members to our Board of Directors to launch YNPN Atlanta into the next phase:
2013 Officers of the Board Lindsey Hardegree, Chair/Governance Chair Molly Friesenborg, Chair-Elect/Member Relations Chair Renee Dubois, Secretary Tayo Adeyefa, Treasurer/Finance & Fundraising Chair
2013 Board Members Christine Brasile Rachel Ciprotti Austin Dickson Anissa Floyd, Events & Programs Chair Marci Tate, Marketing Chair Jewel Thompson
YNPN Atlanta sees an effective, viable and inclusive nonprofit sector in metro Atlanta that engages young professionals as an integral part of the nonprofit community, supporting those individuals in their growth and future leadership.  We need YOU to succeed in our mission!  We need you to attend our events, join our committees, and spread the word that YNPN Atlanta is a valuable resource to the nonprofits in our community.  We are the next generation of leaders in Atlanta, and through the relationships and training offered by YNPN Atlanta you will be prepared to take your seat at the executive table!
On behalf of the YNPN Atlanta Board of Directors, thank you for your commitment to our chapter.  We look forward to more exciting opportunities in 2013!
Sincerely, Lindsey Hardegree Chair, Board of Directors
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Nonprofit Tools & Technology - January

A New Years resolution for all nonprofits should be to more effectively use online tools and technology. As always, our featured tools will cover a broad range of uses - from managing social media campaigns to collecting online donations. Many were not developed exclusively for nonprofits, but all will be selected based on their usefulness, ease of use and cost (most, if not all, will have a free version...). This month we’re featuring tools for video presentations, fundraising and mobile site/app development....
 
Present.me_logo
 
 
Present.me - Share online presentations with video content
Overview: Present.me is an online communication tool that lets you pair video/audio content alongside your presentation. Many different types of documents can be uploaded to create a Present.me, including Power Points, PDFs and Word documents. Once a document is uploaded, the user records (webcam required) the presentation and can easily trim/re-record segments. Once finalized, it can be downloaded, shared online and embedded in other webpages. Cost: The basic plan is free. Advanced plans that include unlimited presentations and privacy options range up to $49 per month. Potential Uses: Board presentations, volunteer orientation, staff training.
 
Double the Donation_logo
 
 
Double the Donation - Increase corporate matching gifts and volunteer grants
Overview: Double the Donation is an online service that makes capitalizing on corporate matching gift programs much more convenient for organizations. Many in the nonprofit sector, even those in development, fail to realize how many potential donors work at companies that offer matching gift programs. Additionally, many employees at these companies are either unaware of their company’s matching program or cannot easily access the pertinent information and forms to participate. Double the Donation aims to address both challenges by providing organizations with customizable web pages that feature its searchable matching program database which it actively manages and updates. Cost: Pricing begins at $240 per year and increases based on the organization’s number of donors/volunteers. Potential Uses: Set up a matching gift landing page for your site and highlight participating companies' specific cities.
 
Mobile Roadie_logo
 
Mobile Roadie - Create and manage your own mobile apps
Overview: Mobile Roadie makes it easy to establish a mobile presence without any knowledge of web design or development (i.e., no coding is required!). Organizations that may not have the resources or expertise to create a mobile site or app now have a powerful tool to do so. Users can create custom mobile sites as well as iPhone/Droid/iPad apps using Mobile Roadie’s expansive suite of style options (icon sets included!) and features including push notifications, user badges, pop-up videos and e-commerce, among many others. Mobile Roadie’s platform can also be integrated with other online sources where your content may already exist, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Eventbrite, Flickr and Foursquare. Once your app is complete, Mobile Roadie will also help guide you through app submission process. Cost: Pricing is based on platform: mobile site is free, iPhone app is $99 per month, and iPad app is $299 per month. Potential Uses: Permanent mobile presence (San Diego Zoo case study), targeted advocacy/marketing/fundraising campaigns, self-guided tours, conferences and events (Midem case study).
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The World Won’t End if You Don’t Get the Job – Five Tips for Next Steps

So you’ve found your dream job posted with the perfect organization. You’ve worked hours on your resume and cover letter. You got the call for an interview and even two more callbacks for final round selections. The interviewers seem impressed and laud you for being a very strong candidate. You’re anxiously awaiting an offer when you see this e-mail in your inbox:
Worker ImageDear Mr/Ms. ________, Thank you for interviewing with our company. The selection process was very competitive, and it was difficult selecting the right person with so many qualified applicants. UNFORTUNATELY….
We’ve all seen that email before, and it feels an awful lot like what the Mayans predicted would happen today - the end of the world. It really stinks not to get the position, and it can be hard to see what can be gained from the situation. Here are some immediate next action steps you can take to alleviate some of the stress:
• Breathe! – Take a deep breath and let the reality settle in. It can be a hard pill to swallow and discouraging to know that you didn’t get the dream position. Most importantly, REFRAIN from posting any negative comments on social media about the organization turning you down. As perfect as you may have seen the job, know that the decision was made with the assumption of what was best for both parties’ current situation. There’s definitely something even better awaiting you in the near future!
• Reply Politely – Like sending a thank you note after your interview, send a quick thank you e-mail letting the organization know how you appreciated their time in considering you for the position. Wish them well with the other candidate and highlight a lesson you may have learned from the interview process. Your reply can help to build a bridge between you and the organization beyond the application process.
• Ask for Feedback – Within your thank you note, ask for feedback about how you did during the interview process. You'll learn about what you did well and what you can improve on. Since you didn’t get the position, you really don’t have anything to lose from the question, and it shows that you are invested in improving professionally.
• Keep in Touch – At the end of the note, mention that you’re interested in future openings and opportunities with the organization. If it’s a nonprofit, see if they have volunteer opportunities that you can help with – maybe within the department that you were applying for. This gesture shows that you’re still invested in the mission of the organization and in your own personal professional development.
• Continue Applying! - As we know in the nonprofit sector, things can shift quickly within organizations, so it’s important to not “put all your eggs in one basket,” no matter how appealing that “dream job” was. There may have been other factors within the organization that may not have suited your working style, or the position already had an internal application considered. No matter the case, continue seeking positions, and don’t get discouraged by the rejection. Seek opportunities for growth in the application process and know that you WILL find that dream job!
Happy hunting, and may the odds be ever in your favor!
- Kenneth Tran, YNPN Atlanta Marketing Committee Member
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Holiday Happy Hour & Food Drive

We are so thrilled to announce that at the YNPN Atlanta Holiday Happy Hour & ACFB Food Drive our members and friends donated more than 80 pounds of food to the Atlanta Community Food Bank.  That’s enough to serve about 100 meals!  Thank you so much to all of those who joined us and for your generous donations!
We had such a great time seeing old friends, welcoming new friends and toasting to our successes this year.  We hope to see you all again soon, and until then, Happy Holidays!
- Marci Tate, YNPN Atlanta Board Member
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Nonprofit Tools & Technology - December

As we mentioned last month, our featured tools will cover a broad range of uses - from managing social media campaigns to collecting online donations.  Many were not developed exclusively for nonprofits, but all will be selected based on their usefulness, ease of use and cost (most, if not all, will have a free version...).  This month we’re featuring tools for email testing, monitoring website analytics and fundraising....
Litmus
Litmus - Test your HTML e-mails live in virtually every e-mail client
Overview: Litmus is an online tool that lets you test your e-mail campaigns in 30+ e-mail clients and devices.  Many nonprofits rely heavily on HTML e-mail campaigns for fundraising, volunteer engagement and newsletters.  Litmus ensures that the recipients of your e-mails view them exactly how you intended.  Major e-mail marketing services (e.g, MailChimp, Constant Contact, ExacTarget) have come a long way in terms of ensuring end-user e-mail client compatibility, though Litmus does a much more thorough job.  If you are unsure whether this tool would be useful for your HTML e-mails, just test it out for free on the Litmus website.  The monthly cost may seem steep, but you may only need it for several months, and when you consider the implications of a successful (or unsuccessful) marketing campaign, it may be a steal for your nonprofit! Cost: Basic plan begins at $49/month and increases with features up to $299/per month. Potential Uses: One-time use to test HTML templates or ongoing testing for e-mail marketing campaigns.
 
Chartbeat
Chartbeat - Real time web and marketing analytics
Overview: Chartbeat provides you with real-time dashboards for your key website and social media analytics.  The best way to understand Chartbeat is simply to spend a few minutes exploring the demo dashboards.  Using Chartbeat can save any nonprofit, especially those without a dedicated social media manager, a tremendous amount of time tracking and analyzing data from multiple online channels.  Unfortunately many nonprofits spend too little or too much time gathering website and social media data.  Chartbeat helps shift the focus from gathering your data to actually using it to drive tangible decisions. Cost: Base plan is $9.95/month and includes 5 websites and 2 administrator accounts. Potential Uses: Actively monitor and analyze website/social media metrics, screenshots for report deliverables.
 
SupporterWall
SupporterWall - Raise money and showcase your supporters
Overview: SupporterWall is an online crowdfunding tool that lets you showcase donors in an interactive grid.  There are many fundraising and crowdfunding tools available, though few let you showcase donors in anything beyond a simple list.  SupporterWall lets you customize the number, size and funding level of each square as well as the image (e.g., a logo, ribbon) before launching your campaign.  The interactive wall can be easily shared via social media as well as embedded in web pages. Cost: You can either choose an upfront $49 fee or a 6% fee on all funds raised. Potential Uses: Grassroots fundraising for specific projects where visibility is a high priority.
- Jeffrey Ader, YNPN Atlanta Marketing Committee Member
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National Arts Marketing Conference

Published November 29, 2012

A few weeks ago, I attended the National Arts Marketing Project Conference (NAMPC) in Charlotte, North Carolina. I was there representing both the Georgia Symphony (I’m their Director of Community Engagement) and the Georgia Arts Network (I serve on their Board as the Marketing Chair). NAMPC is an annual event organized by Americans for the Arts. I can categorically say that it was the best conference I have ever had the pleasure to attend! I learned SO much, met incredible people, and had a ton of fun to boot!
One thing to note, the typical NAMPC attendees, being marketers, are obsessed with Twitter. To reflect that, I have linked to the Twitter accounts of relevant people and companies here, rather than to their traditional websites. There was a Twitter dashboard in the main room of the conference, which you can see below. They also gave a prize for the funniest tweet and for the person who tweeted the most times, and they have even created a free e-book of the 50 best Tweets from this year's event. (See? Obsessed! But in a good way!)
Photo by George Hendricks.
IMG_9386 Here’s a photo of me asking her what designer she is wearing (I also had a “real” question!). Photo by George Hendricks.
First of all, I highly recommend checking out Nina Simon’s incredible keynote address. You can watch the entire speech and the Q & A here: http://youtu.be/umG_jAr-7VU
It’s really inspiring! Nina runs a museum in California and her blog, Museum 2.0, has begun a revolution in the industry. Her tactics for engaging with the constituency are something which can be applied across many nonprofit disciplines.
At a roundtable discussion led by Adam Rubine of California-based company Paciolan, I discussed leveraging marketing techniques for fundraising. One thing we spoke about was Re-Targeting Ads, which are ads that use cookies to place strategic ads on websites. Say you visit a clothing store’s website and look at a pair of jeans, but don’t purchase them. Re-Targeting allows the store to place ads on major sites like The New York Times, so that the next time you visit the NY Times site, you would be shown an ad for those jeans. Re-Targeting brings in revenues of 14 to 1 versus the amount spent on the ads.
Adam wondered if this technique could be used for fundraising. If someone visits your donation or membership page, couldn’t they be shown an ad exhorting them to donate/join as they visit other sites around the web? It serves as a nudge and a reminder. I thought this idea was fascinating!
Another great session I attended was called Your Brand Age is Showing: Evaluating the Effectiveness of Your Public Identity. The presenters were Ann Aronson of the University of Minnesota, Erin Lauderman from the Weisman Art Museum, and Shelly Regan from Yamamoto. They spoke about the re-branding process for the Museum and about 10 factors in re-branding:
  1. Signs – Need to be clear about the signals you send to the marketplace
  2. Objective – Why does the brand change matter? Where will it lead?
  3. Leadership – The top person at the organization must be leading the charge for re-branding.
  4. Commitment – Be prepared for change and set expectations for the change.
  5. Stakeholders – Get everyone on board; socialize your ideas.
  6. Process – Expect the unexpected throughout.
  7. Resistance – Be prepared for skeptics, both internal and external.
  8. Support – Find partners and allies in the process.
  9. Wholeness – Connection across the organization is critical.
  10. Measurement – Metrics do matter!
This tied in well with the final keynote of the conference from author and marketing guru Rohit Bhargava, who exhorted the crowd to work on humanizing your organization's brand. Here are his top tips!
Tips for Creating a Human Brand:
  1. Tell the Truth – By letting your audience behind the scenes of the organization. Share your "outtakes."
  2. Connect People – Make connections with your influencers.
  3. Offer an Emotional Story – Ex: You can dramatize your backstory.
  4. Live Your Personality – Don’t be shy, and celebrate your quirks!
You can see Rohit's full presentation on the conference website. If you work for an arts or cultural organization, I highly recommend attending the NAMP Conferences in the future. Next year's will take place on November 8-11th in Portland, OR. I will be there! Will you?

--Posted by Rachel Ciprotti, YNPN Professional Member

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YNPN Atlanta Night at the Alliance Theatre

Holidays with The ChalksThe Alliance Theatre is offering a YNPN Atlanta discount for their upcoming show Holidays with The Chalks!  Tuesday, December 4 will be YNPN Atlanta night, and we’re encouraging our members to have fun at this rowdy new show from the Alliance Theatre.  Just go online, call the Woodruff Arts Center Box Office at 404.733.5000, or stop by in person and use promo code CHALKS15 to get 15% off your ticket.
The Hertz Stage will be decidedly transformed into a classic honky tonk for The Chalks, an all-sister Country and Western band permanently down on their luck at the local dive. Never able to live up to their own talent, they travel the country at the mercy of their sister-/wife-swapping manager. Spend an evening with their music, their stories, their really big hair – you might even find yourself a part of the show.
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3 Ways to Strategically Highlight Your Volunteer Experiences

At last night's Strategic Volunteering Networking Hour, we enjoyed a fantastic workshop with Girls Incorporated of Greater Atlanta CEO Heather Rocker.  She shared her ingenious tips for how to take your career to the next level through volunteerism.  Check out this article Heather wrote on the subject for Georgia Tech Alumni Magazine.
Now that you have insight into how to use volunteering to jumpstart your professional development, we'd like to share ideas about how to strategically highlight your experiences to help further your career.
Remember back in high school when your teachers and parents would put the pressure on you to volunteer? Reasons included making sure your resume looked more appealing as a prospective applicant to higher education institutions and helping you gain experience and skills that you may not have learned from school. Volunteering and its personal and community benefits are just as important now as back then, and now as you’re looking to apply for jobs in the real world, it’s never been more vital to continue volunteering and highlighting the skills you’ve gained from those experiences.
The economy and current job market have given us the chance to be creative and resourceful in how we gain relevant professional experience. When we volunteer with an organization, especially if we’ve become long-term volunteers or board members, we gain a host of skills and knowledge that could benefit our career in the nonprofit sector. Here are three ways you can highlight the skills you acquire through volunteering:
• List relevant volunteer experiences on your resume.
Resumes aren’t just for highlighting your previous paid jobs and internships. If you had a significant volunteer experience that’s relevant to the focus area of the organization you’re applying to, or held a volunteer position that utilized the skills outlined in a job posting, put the experience on your resume. Employers will notice the position and be more intrigued by the experiences you’ve been immersed in outside of your typical work life.
• Share a volunteer experiences during a job interview.
On a similar note, be ready to talk about the volunteer experience should an employer ask about it during your job interview. It’s always good to have specific professional experiences and examples in mind when you’re about to go into an interview, so think of some relevant volunteer experiences that you could share with a prospective employer. For example, share what you learned in problem solving and leadership while serving on a local nonprofit board or how you have experience in project management and partnership building as a long-term volunteer leader.
• Highlight your volunteer experiences on LinkedIn.
In the past year, LinkedIn has begun to recognize volunteer skills as relevant work experience on users’ personal profiles, and many recruiters are going onto LinkedIn to headhunt prospective applicants. It’s important that you list your volunteer skills and the causes and organizations you support. LinkedIn is also a great place to have visible recommendations from leaders in the organizations you’ve served with and have others endorse the professional skills you possess.
What are some other ways that you’ve highlighted your volunteer experiences? Please leave a comment to share!
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