Alright – so today we’ve got the honor of introducing you to Natalia Wong. We think you’ll enjoy our conversation, we’ve shared it below.
Natalia, thanks for joining us, excited to have you contributing your stories and insights. Parents play a huge role in our development as youngsters and sometimes that impact follows us into adulthood and into our lives and careers. Looking back, what’s something you think you parents did right?
My parents immigrated to the US, when I was 10. They took a risk leaving everything they knew behind, but it was a calculated risk for future generations. My mom is from a small town, and she didn’t even have the opportunity to go to High School in Argentina. She completed her GED here in the US. My parents had a vision. This vision was the right thing for our family and for future generations.
Also, seeing and experiencing our immigration story, prepared and shaped me for my current role. I remember my 5th grade teacher didn’t speak Spanish, and I didn’t speak English. She wouldn’t even look at me or give me class work. I was placed in a back seat, and I think that she hoped that I would disappear. (This was close to 30 years ago, our school system has improved significantly on how to handle their ESOL students). I would also get frustrated when she passed out worksheets, and then skipped me. After crying alone many times in the bathrooms and wishing I was back home in Argentina, I realized something had to change. I then decided I was determined to show her I could learn even if I didn’t know the English language. This was the first time that I took a calculated risk.
I went to her desk after she finished passing out math worksheets and grabbed one for myself. I went back quickly completed it and then showed it to her. I looked at her and with my eyes told her I was not here to be a spectator. Let’s just say she started giving me worksheets after that moment.
Working in a nonprofit requires risk taking, regularly. It is is imbedded in my leadership role. With a little bit of discernment and positive intentions we can take calculated risks that will benefit our organizations or families. Some of the risks that I have taken, did not turnout as I would have liked, but it prepared me for my next adventure. All risks, whether successful or not, have built my confidence and made my life colorful. The realization of the true impact that we can have when we take risks makes it worth it.
I guess I get my risk taking from my parents.
Great, appreciate you sharing that with us. Before we ask you to share more of your insights, can you take a moment to introduce yourself and how you got to where you are today to our readers
Thank you for taking the time to read about me! I am, Natalia Wong, and I am the Executive Director of The WOW Center (WOW). WOW is a local Miami non profit organization that serves individuals with developmental disabilities after they graduate High School. I volunteered at WOW throughout High School, and I never left. WOW has been my second home for 17 years.
WOW has a holistic approach to our calling, and our mission of empowering adults with developmental disabilities is an interconnected, direct cause and effect of our vision of making Miami more inclusive. Every program and service provided is directed towards meeting a need or barrier being faced by the WOW individuals.
WOW is unique because of our integrated and tailor-made support network that we offer for each individual with a developmental disability. We believe this support network involving home life, state agencies, a hands-on education team, therapists, social workers, job coaches, and community engagement is the key to substantial empowerment of individuals with developmental disabilities. This approach ultimately leads to the creation of an inclusive community.
What I am currently most proud of is our Hu(e)mans of Miami Collaboration. This installation is currently in Giralda Plaza until April 15th and then moving to Coconut Grove. To celebrate Developmental disABILITIES Awareness month, WOW collaborated with photographer Yesi Laver of Simply Lively, to photograph adults with Developmental Disabilities. Each portrait captures the hu(e)manity of it’s subject, highlighting how “more alike than different” we truly are. These portraits, these faces are those of sons, daughters, coworkers, best friends, boyfriends, girlfriends and neighbors. Making Miami more inclusive is a community effort. “Hu(e)man” comes from the belief that regardless of the color of your skin, your age, your gender, your disABILITY – we are more alike than different, we are human. A hue is a spectrum of color, where every color melts into each other to create the hue. We are Hueman.
Can you share one of your favorite marketing or sales stories?
Many people don’t think marketing is an essential part of the non profit industry, or leaders of non profits don’t prioritize or budget for marketing opportunities. However, although non profits don’t sell a product, we still sell something. We are selling a feeling, the feeling that our mission can create. I have learned that people decide to buy, or in our case, donate based on how it makes them feel. Emotions take over logic for consumers or donors.
Hiring and building a team that focuses on our brand, social media, communications and design is one of the best risks I ever took, As the leader of a small non profit with a big vision, budgeting is probably one of my most challenging recurring responsibilities. Every dollar impacts a life. It is a tension I experienced when I presented to our Board of Directors some adjustments i wanted to make to our tight budget. I wanted to make room for valuable marketing. However, I focused on what I believed would be the return of investment. I understand that in order to see long term gain we must make some short term sacrifices in a smart and strategic manner.
Since then, our marketing has been able to build momentum for WOW and has gifted us the best collaborations and opportunities. Huemans of Miami in Giralda Plaza is a direct result of our marketing investments. One of the best gifts marketing has given us, is a community of supporters who are passionate about our mission.
Any insights you can share with us about how you built up your social media presence?
My first advice is to make sure you have a story to share. Our WOW Social Media has been impacting and growing its audience through its story telling.
My second tip would be if social media content creation isn’t your strength, align yourself with someone who does have that strength. I have allowed my weakness to be someone else strength because that’s what building a team is for! It took me too long to invest in social media content creation.
Lastly, plan your work and work your plan! Be intentional about your posts, take your time to understand your audience. Be smart about the content you put out there. People want content that is inspiring, unexpected and relevant. If you aren’t able to consistently do this, invest in someone who will. Steph is able to do this for WOW and our organization is better for it.