ONEplace Blog

News, comments, resources, and more for nonprofits.

Hey! Where're you headed?

When was the last time your board discussed the organization’s mission and vision? How much has changed – big shifts as well as incremental changes – since that time?

We find that evaluating the mission and vision is either a glossed over exercise – not much more than a quick reaffirmation of the mission statement – or a tediously-detailed (i.e., word-smithing) part of a large strategic planning effort. Neither produces helpful results.

Yet, a biannual mission and vision evaluation serves several needs of the board. First, it takes stock of the environment in which you live and work. What’s it like today? How do we expect it to change in the next two or three years? How does this impact our long-term direction?

Second, it faces everyone in the same specific direction. It’s no good to say something akin to, “We’re heading north” (a 90-degree chunk of the compass). Rather, we need to say, “Our heading is 012 degrees.” Specificity lets everyone know exactly who we’re serving and why.

Third, and perhaps most significantly, reconnecting with the mission and vision of the organization breeds ownership. Effective fundraising, ambassadorship, and board recruitment requires personal connection to the mission of the organization. This exercise allows each board member the opportunity to engage the mission on his/her own terms…to find that personal stake. It deepens each person’s commitment and motivates their informing and inviting others.

So, I encourage taking time to evaluate your organization’s mission and vision at least every other year. ONEplace can help with resources or in facilitating the conversation. It will strengthen your connections and your resolve.

Best,

Thom

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Pages will turn

When reading a book, article or anything in hard copy, to find out what happens next you must turn the page. The act becomes a revealing – circumstances once hidden, now coming into plain sight.

Pages are turning in our area. Last week, Pretty Lake Camp announced that Michelle Karpinski would succeed Mitch Wilson as its new executive director. Michelle spent the past nine years as vice president for development at the Kalamazoo Nature Center.

Pages also are turning at other organizations in our area. Leadership changes, on staff as well as on the board, are inevitable. Many organizations, like the ones above, prepare for such inevitabilities. However, several others do not – an act akin to living in denial.

One mark of a “sustainable organization” is a succession plan. The plan should address the sudden departure as well as planned departure of key leadership positions – executive director, board chair, and any others where a vacancy would significantly impact the organization.

Also, the longer one has held a position, the more important this plan becomes. Often, the long-term leader holds so much knowledge, carries so many key relationships, and has become so efficient in their role that it takes more than one person to replace them. That’s an unexpected – and unwelcomed – kick in the budget.

How would you navigate a change in executive director…a change in development director? Serve your organizational well and ensure that succession plans are in place and up to date.

Best,

Thom

P.S. Read about Michelle (a 2012 ONEplace Leadership Academy grad) and her new role at Pretty Lake Camp

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Think on your feet

Prepare all you want, but most situations include several unscripted moments. We need the ability to think on our feet.

In reviewing articles on this topic, I found that some suggest stall tactics such as having the person repeat the question, you repeating the question, or asking a clarifying question. These may buy time, but sooner or later you must respond. So, what do you do?

Many take their cue from those who regularly improvise. Citing jazz musicians, for example, one coach encourages clients to be fully in the moment – focused and engaged. Advisors among all articles advocate staying positive, actively listening, and taking risks.

Our upcoming workshop, (Manage by Improv – Jan 23), explores how we think on our feet. Using improvisation games, our leaders (Improv Effects) demonstrate how we can enrich our communication skills and increase our confidence. It’s a unique angle on engaged interaction, plus, it’s a lot of fun.

Whether you can make the workshop or not, prepare for unscripted moments. Here’s an article to help with that.

Best,

Thom

P.S. Improv Effects is featured in the current issue of Encore.

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Unresolved

Tired of hearing about New Year’s resolutions? Me, too. So let’s have some fun with it.

Like many words, “resolution” has more than one meaning. For instance, resolution also refers to the sharpness of an image and the clarity of its detail. Resolution provides a measure of presentation quality, and higher resolution usually means better quality.

So, what if, instead of cramming more should’s, ought’s, or to do’s on ourselves via New Year’s resolutions, we create a high resolution New Year? We rid ourselves of the everything’s-a-priority, pixelated view of our efforts and sharpen our clarity on things that bring out the vibrant hues of our mission. That is, we bring our work into focus.

Daniel Goleman (Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence) writes daily on this topic. He identifies the myriad of distractions vying for our attention and identifies the importance of sustained, concentrated focus for insight and innovation. His suggestions include actions we can take in the workplace and beyond. For example:

When you find yourself checking your email when you should be working on something else instead, just telling yourself 'I'm distracted now' activates a brain circuit that makes it easier to drop what's irrelevant and get back to focusing on your work.

Few of us have time or energy for what’s irrelevant. So let’s make it a Hi-Res New Year.

Best,

Thom

P.S. The above example came from this brief Daniel Goleman article on Seven Ways to Sharpen Your Focus.

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Coffee with Anne Wend Lipsey

This month we sit down with Anne Wend Lipsey, Executive Director of Kalamazoo Loaves and Fishes.

Tell us how you got to where you are today (positions held, career shifts, etc)

I graduated from Western Michigan University with a degree in secondary education, and then my husband and I moved to Ann Arbor. After studying Urban Planning at the University of Michigan, I worked for an organization doing home repair for senior citizens in Detroit. The community-based group did good work helping to keep people in their homes. We moved back to Kalamazoo, and I got involved with Ministry with Community as it was starting. I worked with their Center City Housing (precursor to Housing Resources, Inc) and with the beginning stages of Kalamazoo Loaves and Fishes (KLF). With KLF I helped facilitate conversations involving soup kitchens and the role of Ministry and KLF with prepared meals. After spending six months working at the Eastside Neighborhood Association, I applied to KLF and became their second office person. During this time (1984-91), KLF was very grassroots, so we did it all – from office to warehouse. I then worked for about seven years with United Way and about five years with the Kalamazoo Community Foundation. During these years I got a comprehensive view of the area’s nonprofit sector and the particular experience of observing nonprofit leaders. I returned to KLF in 2003 – still a grassroots effort – and took on the task of developing it into a more stable, long-term organization.

What do you most love about the Kalamazoo community?

Kalamazoo is my hometown. While I’ve lived other places, there’s just something special about Kalamazoo. People here care about the broader community. They’re willing to struggle with the big questions and take on the big issues. At the same time, there are pockets of really cool activity going on here. And it’s accessible. Kalamazoo is big enough to have Peace Jam host Nobel Peace Prize laureates and yet small enough to get from here to there without fighting traffic.

What guides or principles do you rely most upon?

I rely on groups: an incredible staff that consistently does great work, a dynamic board that asks the tough questions, and a volunteer corps that operates out of caring passion. The combination creates a great energy that’s bigger and different than any of them could do on their own.

Who was one of your mentors and what do you carry with you from that relationship?

Bob Rasmussen was pastor of North Presbyterian Church when Ministry with Community was starting. He’s a friend and set me on the right path. I worked with Ann Marston on allocations at United Way. She was a strong advocate of nonprofit organizations and knew their importance to the community. My husband, Sandy Lipsey, has the ability to listen deeply. He helps me get to the other side of the hysteria. And my parents: my dad taught at WMU and my mom worked with substance abuse prevention. I grew up during a wild and wonderful time when you needed to take sides, and my parents taught me to be on the side of social justice – the side of “we,” not “me.”

What’s an average day like for you at work?

First, there’s my rev-up time when I touch base across the organization on items of the day. There’s time spent interfacing with the board – as a whole, in committees, or in individual meetings – as we continue navigating the transition from grassroots to stable, dynamic organization. I spend time on fund development: writing newsletter articles or thank you notes, visiting donors, or talking to groups about KLF. Finally, there’s checking progress on items I’ve delegated to other staff.

What are the types of challenges/opportunities that keep you up at night?

The primary challenge: people are food insecure. We’re doing more advocacy than ever. We no longer talk about putting ourselves out of business, because the situation is not improving. For example, how do you stand up to cuts proposed in the Farm Bill? It’s the injustice of it all.

How do you stay up-to-date on latest trends in your field?

ONEplace provides incredible resources for the nuts and bolts of nonprofits. I also stay connected with national organizations – the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) and Feeding America – plus regional ones as well – the Food Bank Council of Michigan and the Food Bank Council of South Central Michigan. I’m more an observer now but did spend time on the board of the Food Bank of Michigan. I also keep in touch with others that provide emergency relief services in our area.

Advice for those wishing to have a long lasting career in the nonprofit sector?

Listen, listen, listen, listen. I’m centered in the belief that it is with others that we find wisdom, perseverance, and strength to carry on. The other piece is to have fun with each other – with staff, with volunteers, even with the board. We’re all a part of this community. We’re all in this together.

What do you geek (i.e., what hobby or outside interests do you really like)?

I’m a potter (I make weird pots). I also garden, read mystery novels, and spend time with my grandchildren.

Anything else?

Push out your timeframe. Find one place to naggle at the edge. What does it look like over a long period of time? Accomplish something today and then build upon that.

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Building Connections

As the folks gathered for a recent ONEplace event, one participant told me of a collaboration he and another participant would be doing this spring. The collaboration came about, he said, because they met at ONEplace.

My response: “BOO-YAH!”

Connecting you with your nonprofit colleagues sits at the core of our operation. At every event, you’re invited to meet the other participants, talk with them, and discover how you can resource one another. Be it in small groups, workshop discussions, Kalamazoo Nonprofit Connection LIVE gatherings, or on LinkedIn, the connections you make will serve your career, strengthen your organization, and increase your community impact.

How do you connect with your colleagues – within your organization, within similar organizations, within the wider nonprofit community? How could you benefit from increasing the number or frequency of your connections?

Mark your calendars for our next Kalamazoo Nonprofit Connection LIVE gathering, Wednesday, February 12 at 4:30 pm. Arrange to meet someone there, plan to introduce yourself to someone. In other words, make it work for you.

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Just ONEthing - Jan 2014

Every month, we learn much from the participants and presenters we meet at ONEplace. In Just ONEthing… we highlight an insight gained during the past month from our nonprofit community and its partners.

This months’ insight comes from our Annual Reports People Actually Read webinar. During the webinar, Kivi Leroux Miller (Nonprofit Marketing Guide) presented the sobering fact that the vast majority of people receiving our annual reports will spend only 30-to-90 seconds with them before putting them in the recycle bin. Ouch!

This led into an excellent presentation and discussion on how to best use annual reports. Since there are no regulations or requirements governing nonprofit annual reports, they may focus on connecting with the target audience – commonly donors. Her two main guidelines: frame the report with one main thing to be remembered and keep the report short, personal, and timely.

More information may be found at Kivi’s webpage devoted to annual reports. Also, this webinar (like many that we present) may be viewed individually at the library. Simply call ONEplace to set an appointment (269-553-7910).

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ONEplace Top Ten(s)

In the spirit of year-end reflections, Adam and I decided to share our Top Ten list. We recognize that people vote with their attendance and with their post-session evaluations, so we did two lists. Therefore, based upon your evaluations and attendance, here are your top rated workshops from 2013. (drumroll please)

By evaluation

  1. Support from Millennials (3.19.13) 100%
  2. Project Management (12.3.13) 99%
  3. Real & Relevant Messaging (6.25.13) 98%
  4. Learn for Life & Career (9.5.13) 98%
  5. LinkedIn Best Practices (4.17.13) 97%
  6. Management Series 2: Leading & Empowering (11.4.13) 97%
  7. Video will Work for You (6.11.13) 96%
  8. Manage by Improvisation (10.8.13) 96%
  9. Free/cheap Web Tools (12.4.13) 96%
  10. Promote the CAUSE or DIE (12.10.13) 96%

By attendance

  1. MCACA Grant Workshop (7/29/2013) 47
  2. Your Community Alignment (11/6/2013) 37
  3. Michael Gallery Workshop (7/11/2013) 30
  4. Supervision Series 2: Message, Method & Tools (9/16/2013) 27
  5. Penelope Burk: Get your message heard (2/14/2013) 26
  6. KADI Training (1/16/2013) 24
  7. Supervision Series 3: Performance Management (9/23/2013) 24
  8. Take the Lead: Influence (2/13/2013) 23
  9. How to Win Grants (4/11/2013) 23
  10. Effective Meetings (3/13/2013) 22

Thank you for all you do to support, encourage and enrich our community. You’re amazing people doing amazing work.

Happy New Year!

Thom

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The Looonnnnggggg View

As we approach the end of the year, two things commonly happen – we rush through last minute holiday details and we pause to reflect on the past year. It’s a holiday twist on “hurry up and wait.

Of course, some last minute activities cannot be avoided. It seems that every event, project, and multi-faceted effort involves last minute details. We anticipate them, plan for them, and then crank ‘em out. These “hurry up” tasks simply cannot be done any earlier.

The “wait” tasks – often weightier, developmental activities that take time and long-term commitment – cannot be so quickly cranked out. These demand top priority, our first and best energy, and regular time on our calendar.

I’m talking about the kind of activities that populate Stephen Covey’s Important-Not Urgent quadrant. They bring vision and perspective. They develop balance, discipline, and self-control.

In summarizing these, Covey writes

What one thing could you do in your personal and professional life that, if you did on a regular basis, would make a tremendous positive difference in your life? Quadrant II activities have that kind of impact. Our effectiveness takes quantum leaps when we do them. (The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, pg. 154)

So, how would you answer Covey’s question? Or, in the spirit of the season, try this: instead of looking forward, first take a look back. What, during this past year or in previous years, have you done on a regular basis that made a tremendous positive difference in your life? Name your success, celebrate it, and learn from it. And then look ahead and see how you can build on it.

That’s taking the long view – small, consistent steps over a long period of time. It’s the key to great board development, great fundraising, great public relations, great programs…indeed, it’s the key to being great.

Best,

Thom

ThomA

Up your rep

Every nonprofit desires a strong public reputation.

One recipe for increasing an organization’s civic stature is to: 

  1. identify your community’s long-term, well-funded priority, and then
  2. help it be successful while staying true to your mission.

The result is that the organization:

  • does what it does best
  • builds strong alliances with other organizations, businesses, and agencies
  • enjoys endorsements from community leaders as an example to be followed

In most communities this is a near-impossible task because there are no long-term, well-funded priorities. The priorities change with each new administration or budget cycle.

Not so in Kalamazoo County. We share a common vision – a sustainable culture of learning at home, in school, at work and throughout the community. Its pillars are the Kalamazoo Promise and The Learning Network of Greater Kalamazoo, but its active participants populate a very long list. And, make no mistake, the effort is well funded, and we’re in it for the long haul.

Recent recognition from the Lumina Foundation and Dan Cardinali, president of Communities in Schools, Inc., indicates that we’re moving in a good direction. Cardinali writes:

What's tremendously encouraging to me is the way that the entire community is coming together in support of the public schools. In Kalamazoo, public education is everyone's business. The silos that separate schools, businesses and civic organizations are coming down as everyone accepts a shared responsibility to prepare young people for a successful, productive life. In other words, Kalamazoo is re-forming its sense of community, not just reforming its schools. (read full post)

Are we on the right path? Yes…for now. But there’s a long way to go and the path twists and turns. And, it has no end. We just need to keep moving forward.

Will you and your organization be satisfied walking the sidelines or being an armchair quarterback to this adventure? I hope not. Get in the game! Claim the vision as your own, and offer your best. The least it will do is up your rep.

Best,

Thom

P.S. Kalamazoo is among 20 communities selected by the Lumina Foundation for project to boost college success (read article).

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