News, comments, resources, and more for nonprofits.
“Try this – it worked last time.”
“Marvin had a similar problem. How did he fix it?”
“Just smack it!”
How often do we take a trial and error approach to fixing problems? It’s good to draw on our expertise and past experience, but every attempted fix costs time and money. So, we can’t afford to just wing it.
In these situations, a rational, step-by-step process provides great assistance. Throughout my career I’ve used a problem management process individually or with a group to address situations large and small. I’ve also taught this process several times to various management teams.
On Wednesday, June 19, I’m offering a Group Problem Solving workshop at ONEplace. This 90-minute session explores how to fully describe a problem, identify possible causes, evaluate those causes and confirm the true cause. The process helps us gather solid data and avoid common pitfalls.
While not panacea’s, processes like these are helpful management tools and set a thoughtful, logical tone to addressing challenges of all sorts.
Congratulations to the 2013 class of the ONEplace Nonprofit Leadership Academy!
The Academy included ten full-day sessions covering over 20 topics related to running a nonprofit organization. Each participant also engaged a mentor relationship with a current nonprofit executive director.
Instructors include many of Kalamazoo’s top consultants in nonprofit law, governance, human resources, cultural competence, program evaluation, fundraising, and communications. The experience also included occasional panel discussions with those working in the field.
The Academy class of 2013 includes:
Sonja Dean, Michigan LISC
Kara Haas, Kellogg Biological Station
Mark Hudgins, Heritage Community
Christine Jacobsen, Ministry with Community
Jennifer Johnson, Kalamazoo Loaves & Fishes
Celine Keizer, Community Homeworks
Katie Marchal, Community Healing Centers
Jennifer Miller, Senior Services
Petra Morey, MRC Industries
Christine Murphy, Transformations Spirituality Center
Dallas Oberlee, WE Upjohn Institute/Michigan Works!
Brian Penny, Senior Services
Catherine Pinto, AACORN Farm
Keith Platte, Urban Alliance
Judith Rambow, Kalamazoo Public Library
Joan VanSickler, Buy Local Greater Kalamazoo
Jennifer Welles, Housing Resources, Inc
Dana White, Heritage Community
Launched in 2012, the ONEplace Nonprofit Leadership Academy addresses the need for developing nonprofit executive leadership as this sector anticipates upcoming Baby Boomer retirements. The Academy’s third session begins in January 2014. Application information will be available in September. More information is available at kpl.gov/ONEplace/ONLA.
I’ve read it yet again in another leadership book. This time the quote reads, “…no technique can substitute for face-to-face human interaction.”*
That’s why we scheduled the Kalamazoo Nonprofit Connection – LIVE event earlier this month, to provide an environment for us to connect, get to know each other, and learn from one another. Our post-event survey provided great feedback on the event.
72% responded to the survey
86% said that the reason they went was to meet people & network
88% rated the event high overall
99% said that they would like to meet either quarterly (57%) or bi-annually (22%)
96% said that the best time to meet was after 4 pm
Overall, comments were positive and encouraging.
“I met several people that I will connect with again.”
“Perfect set-up with tables, chairs and pens/paper.”
“This event was great and I look forward to connecting with community leaders at future events.”
With the strong response and high preference for quarterly gatherings, we’ll stay with Wednesday evening and meet again in August, followed by a pre-holiday gathering in November. So, mark your calendars for Wed August 14, 4:30 – 6 pm and Wed November 20, 4:30 – 6 pm.
*Quote from “The Leadership Challenge” 3rd edition, by James Kouzes & Barry Posner, page 181
When I hear the phrase, “once upon a time,” I immediately relax, settle into my chair, and focus my attention on what’s coming next. I’m about to hear a story.
Stories form the foundation of virtually all our entertainment and learning. All TV series, movies, and books (even most non-fiction) are stories. Songs, lectures, dances, and many paintings evoke stories. It’s how we convey information and instruction, and it’s how we turn information into meaning,
Communicating with donors and other stakeholders requires us to tell stories. Yet, many of us struggle with where to start, how to gather stories, and how best to tell them.
Over the next few weeks, ONEplace offers events targeted on this challenge. Great Stores = Connection (May 29) provides interview questions to draw out information and tips on how to engage staff in gathering good stories. Plus, we’ll look at several examples.
In Assess Your Qualitative Impact (May 30), Demarra Gardner shows us how to evaluate our organization’s programs and services, drawing out the information that paints a comprehensive picture of how we are fulfilling our mission.
ONEplace also explores two arenas for telling your story with How to Win Corporate Grants (May 21) and Asking for a Legacy Gift (June 6).
Our stories carry power – power to inspire, encourage and motivate. No other medium comes close. Make it work for you.
I recently met a person online (it’s not what you think). It was a local business relationship, but the first several interactions were on email…and it got off to a rocky start…I think.
You see, I wasn’t sure. It felt weird – like we weren’t connecting. But I didn’t know if the other person felt that way. Her emails generally came from a mobile device, so perhaps the shortness I sensed was due to her being busy or not-so-quick at thumb-typing.
I tried calling, but we only exchanged brief voicemails. I needed to connect with her, but did she want to? Was this going to work? Should I just let it go? Though unsettled, I ventured to the meeting ready to navigate what I assumed would be choppy relational waters.
We met. At first the discussion focused on the business matter at hand, and then things relaxed a bit. By the end of the meeting, we were fast friends. Two weeks later we had a follow-up meeting that was fun and productive.
Since then, despite all the emails, to do’s, and stacks waiting for me on my desk, I’ve put a higher priority on meeting people face-to-face. In this short time, both efficiency and effectiveness have increased as well as job satisfaction. This experience reinforces what I’ve always known: while relationships can be sustained electronically, they deepen through personal interaction.
But, I’m just one voice on the matter. What do you think?
P.S. Here’s a related quote from film producer and author Peter Guber: “Nothing replaces being in the same room, face-to-face, breathing the same air and reading and feeling each other's micro-expressions.”
Tell to Win
How do you achieve clarity on gnarly issues?
As highly-wired, multi-networked, resource-rich folks we likely turn to our various webs of family and friends as well as books and blogs. Yet, we may be overlooking the most powerful teacher of all – ourselves.
When my son was a preschooler, he simply would not act on a suggestion or direction from me until he had made it his own. His entire body revealed his process from “I’m not so sure” to “maybe” to “I have decided that I’ll do this.” It had to make sense to him and, in essence, become his idea.
As adults, I observe (in myself and others) that we’re little different. Simply being advised or directed toward a certain solution or course of action doesn’t mean we’ll blindly give our assent. It needs to make sense to us. Often, this is a quick bit of consideration. But on those complex, many-layered issues, we need more.
Many authors suggest steps we can take, and our Achieving Clarity ONEpage resource provides a brief digest of these. Yet, outside sources alone don’t motivate action. Until we take the time to individually consider, mull and reflect – listening to the guide within – we will not commit to serious action.
When we want to achieve “buy in” with an individual or group, the critical step is not telling, it’s listening. How do you best listen to your inner guide?
A Hidden Wholeness
Who is in your learning network?
Who do you learn from on a regular basis?
Who do you turn to for your own professional development?
These are the questions that educator Dr. Mark Wagner poses at the beginning of his seminars on personal learning networks. He finds that, with so many of us working as “lone rangers” in our given organizations, we best keep our edge by building our own networks of learning or growth.
While ONEplace can play an integral role in your professional development, each of us needs to build our own dynamic learning network. Fortunately, the online connections available to all of us make this less of a challenge. Indeed, the greatest challenge may be the overwhelming amount of available information and connections.
While Dr. Wagner offers us some clear direction to building our personal learning networks, it’s important to keep some guidelines in mind.
First, your network is for you. Don’t follow someone on Twitter because other people do or don’t give in to the temptation to grade yourself by the number of connections or comments or likes on Facebook or LinkedIn. This is your learning network, so make sure it is serving your learning needs.
Second, your needs change so let your network change, too. Follow a thought leader’s posts and blogs as long as they are helpful. Some writers keep rehashing their insights, so after a few weeks, you know their perspective and can move on. Sometimes, you may wish to simply get new voices into your learning mix, so shake up the roster. The point is to freely adjust the mix to meet your changing needs.
Third, keep your network manageable. There is only so much that any one person can digest, so keep the number of blogs, tweets, groups, etc. within reason. Make sure the ones you follow give you the highest quality information, best connections, and most insightful conversations.
Take these three guidelines and Dr. Wagner’s information with you by downloading our ONEpage resource, Personal Learning Network.
Inside Drucker’s Brain
The calendar says that spring has sprung, and my seasonal clock tells me it’s time to clean, organize, and plan ahead.
Years ago I learned that if you want to be ready for the fall, you better have it all in place by Memorial Day. Summer is its own thing, and, for some, there’s a mystical time-space leap from May to September. So, if you’re not on their radar before June, you’re scrambling in September.
In the month ahead, ONEplace assists your spring cleaning and planning in communications (Your Communications Calendar, April 9) and in fundraising (Long-Term Development Plan, April 23).
We’re also taking a new look at nonprofit uses for social media platforms (LinkedIn and Twitter Basics, April 2 and LinkedIn Groups for Nonprofits, April 10).
Finally, our annual surveys are hitting inboxes. Please let us know your thoughts and needs so we can best meet your needs this summer, fall, and beyond.
The nonprofit strategy revolution
Some things get undeserved bad raps. We get stymied or frustrated by something, so we cast it aside rather than fix, adjust or redirect.
Can you say, “strategic planning?” How about “performance appraisals”…or “meetings?”
Faulty leadership most often suffers not from a lack of know-how but from a lack of execution. We often know what to do, but, for various reasons, we simply do not follow through. So, we place the blame on the thing we won’t do and dismiss it.
This won’t do. Let’s throw a life preserver out to these water-treading children, pull them ashore, and do the work that needs to be done:
- Setting an intentional path toward increased community impact through strategic planning
- Nurturing our staff’s professional development through meaningful performance appraisals
- Taking the time to check-in, to resolve tactical issues, to make strategic decisions, and to grow together as a cohesive organization through effective meeting practices
Begin right away. You can start by reclaiming the importance of meetings by attending Effective Meetingson Wednesday, March 13. This session goes beyond agendas and timely minutes to getting the right people in the right place addressing the right issues.
We often hear phrases such as, “keep in touch,” “losing touch” or “stay in touch.” It’s about connecting with people and maintaining relationships.
A former colleague of mine frequently referred to a “touch” as any contact with a customer (i.e., client, patron, donor, funder, etc.). She recognized that the frequency and quality of our touches directly relates to the effectiveness of our organizations.
March at ONEplace is all about improving our touches. We will address issues of direct communication (Email Newsletters – Feb 26) and mass communication (MLive Update – Mar 14), donor recognition and formal gatherings (Effective Meetings – Mar 13).
Later in the month we continue with a look at connecting with Millenials (Mar 19), using LinkedIn & Twitter (Mar 27) and your overall communications personality (Mar 20).
Another phrase I often hear is: “It’s all about relationships.” Whether your focus is fundraising, communications, management, or leadership, developing and maintaining key relationships sits at the core of your effectiveness. So, plan now to take advantage of the above professional development opportunities.
Customer Once, Client Forever