communication tips for niche nonprofits

April 27, 2016

Julia Westhoff, MPA, is the Executive Director of the Secondary Trauma Resource Center, whose mission is to strengthen individual and organizational resiliency through evidence-based training and consulting. She has over a decade of experience working in social service, both in the United States and abroad.

Her undergraduate degree is from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and her Master’s in Public Administration is from San Francisco State University. Working for Big Brothers Big Sisters spurred her interest in prevention education and public health.

She and her colleagues at the Secondary Trauma Resource Center based their secondary trauma mitigation curriculum on the same principles she has used to prevent violence and poverty in other fields. Prior to her tenure at the Secondary Trauma Resource Center, she was the Director of Education at the Metropolitan Organization to Counter Sexual Assault. She was also a volunteer for the Peace Corps in Panama, where she implemented community economic development programs.


Use social media. I know it sounds contrived at this point, but I have been really surprised at how even small social media efforts have led to some big opportunities. 

There are some great community collaborations going on that all nonprofits should be involved in. Community Together at Metropolitan Community College invites presentations from new nonprofits quarterly. NPConnect and United Way have great websites. Resilient KC through the Chamber of Commerce is a wonderful new collaboration, and much more.

Check out what is going on at UMKC. I cannot stress enough how helpful the Center for Nonprofit Leadership and the UMKC Bloch School have been for us. They have helped us find board members through their board bank, offered us scholarships for taking classes, and they gave us a space in the Levitt Social Entrepreneurship Challenge.


Take advantage of what KC has to offer, even if you do not believe you have the time. I am often reinvigorated by new projects and connections that I might not have normally wanted to take the time to invest in. 

Say yes. This ties in with what I said above, but when it is just you, it is hard to find the time to do everything you want to do. But if you expose yourself to everything at first, you will have a great idea of what works for you and what does not.

Accept help. Whether that is through an intern, your board members, or even your friends and family, you cannot do it all. And people often love to be included.

You do not have to be the Be All End All in your field. I used to get frustrated when I saw what I viewed as my competition getting ahead in certain areas. Now I know there is plenty of room for everyone at the table.