Holly Smith is a socially conscious professional.
So much so that she’s devoted her entire career in service to nonprofits:
- Managing operations at animal shelter East Bay SPCA
- Overseeing the administration needs of Marin Conservation League, an environmental advocacy group
- Currently organizing fundraisers at GLIDE, one of the largest human-services organizations in San Francisco
Her true north is continually finding new and innovative ways to better communicate and amplify the mission of these organizations.
“Regardless of my specific duty,” Holly says, “I’ve always wanted to find more efficient, engaging and creative ways to reach more people—to maximize impact. When I was at the animal shelter, this meant rewriting our adoption paperwork and refining the counseling process so that staff could succinctly explain the behavioral or medical needs of an animal to their new family. It also meant finding innovative ways to promote animals via social media or even on live TV.”
To expand these organizations’ reach, Holly drew on finding new opportunities to focus more on marketing and communication. This also meant upping her technical skills. A Google search later found Holly on our Marketing certificate program page, and she quickly enrolled in her first class: Marketing Management.
“Shortly afterward, I spoke with a friend who took the Data Analysis certificate and she strongly recommended completing a certificate,” Holly says. “She told me that the courses were well taught and advanced her career, so I was sold!”
Since then, she hasn’t looked back. Nearing completion of the certificate and as a recent scholarship winner, Holly reflects on gaining new skills so that she can attract more advocates for the causes she cares about.
UC Berkeley Extension offered an affordable and flexible way to gain these skills. I could learn at my own pace while in full-time work.
What attracted you to our Marketing certificate?
I wanted a broader understanding of marketing principles and techniques so that I could better promote the events I was involved in—and my organization more generally. I also help create content for GLIDE’s social media platforms so I was hoping to increase my skills in digital marketing specifically.
UC Berkeley Extension offered an affordable and flexible way to gain these skills. I could learn at my own pace while in full-time work. UC Berkeley is a great school, so it felt like this was a fantastic opportunity to gain a world-class education in my field of interest.
You started your coursework in the classroom and then, because of COVID-19, transitioned to online. How has your experience been?
I was a little nervous taking courses at first: I’d been out of school for a while and I thought it would be hard to return to a learning environment. But in retrospect, I should never have felt that way. The instructors want everyone to succeed and are incredibly supportive. No question is too trivial, and there is so much to learn from other students in class.
So far the courses have been great! I was lucky enough to start before the pandemic, so I enjoyed an in-person teaching experience initially. It was wonderful to bounce ideas off one another and practice my public-speaking skills, and our instructor was warm and enthusiastic.
Once the classes moved online, the instructors maintained this collaborative and upbeat atmosphere. I appreciate how eager my instructors have been to share resources and answer questions. My fellow students present wonderfully diverse insights because we each come from different professional backgrounds. It makes for creative conversations and a lot of group learning.
The skills I have gained taking these courses in marketing have been invaluable in adapting to this new landscape.
How are you bringing the classroom learnings to life at GLIDE?
GLIDE supports the most vulnerable in our community, principally through the Daily Free Meals Program, which provides three nutritious meals a day, 364 days a year to our unhoused and low-income neighbors. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we have pivoted all services to socially distanced or virtual models, but we continue to offer our support every day to anyone in need. In fact, the pandemic has only increased demand for GLIDE services, with the organization currently serving an average of 11,000 meals a week across the city.
I have been assisting with the distribution of some of these meals, but my day-to-day role is to help raise funds for GLIDE’s essential services by organizing inspirational and motivational events. At any given time, it is imperative that these events are marketed effectively to maximize their reach and revenue. However, the current health crisis has increased the need to refine strategy.
All the events I help organize have moved to digital platforms, presenting novel challenges in the way we craft messaging, as well as new audiences and potential donors. The skills I have gained taking these courses in marketing have been invaluable in adapting to this new landscape.
Absolutely! I took Social Media Marketing Strategies over the summer and learned a lot of valuable information regarding different platforms, tools and techniques. I was able to immediately put my newly acquired skills to use by segmenting audiences and targeting ads on Facebook.
We ended up exceeding our anticipated attendance at our recent virtual events. We also brought in many brand-new supporters, which is paramount to the health of a nonprofit.
As I continue to grow in my nonprofit career, these new skills will make me a more effective employee.
What does earning this certificate—and the scholarship!—mean for you personally and professionally?
I am really looking forward to completing my certificate in marketing. As I continue to grow in my nonprofit career, these new skills will make me a more effective employee and ultimately help worthy causes get the attention and support they deserve.
Winning the scholarship made my certificate goal that much more attainable and reassured me that others see value in my contributions, too. Thank you for the opportunity!