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ANM 2015

I spent last week at the Alliance for Nonprofit Management Conference. This annual gathering of nonprofit leaders and capacity builders examined various ways to build the capacity of individuals, organizations, and communities. Rusty Stahl (Talent Philanthropy Project), our first keynote speaker, provided the biggest take-away for me when he said,

Capacity building must focus on people first.

While we may evaluate various structures, experiment with new models, and implement multiple incentives, it all comes down to the ability of individuals to take responsibility, build relationships, and develop their skills. Organizations may provide the encouragement and space for professional development, but it’s individual preparation and engagement that makes all the difference.

So, how are you attending to your own professional development?

Another key take-away was the need for each of us to attend to our own self-care. Our second keynote speaker was Beth Kanter (The Networked Nonprofit) whose upcoming book focuses on “impact without burnout.” She suggests that self-care is part of our work and calls for us to develop a culture of replenishment in our own lives and organizations. The bottom line is this: If you’re not healthy and rested, you cannot be productive.

So, how are you attending to your own self-care?

One final take-away: we have the unusual opportunity to access programs and resources to assist in our development, year-round, free-of-charge, at ONEplace. The foresight and commitment of our funding community to create such a center opens avenues that the vast majority of our nonprofit colleagues lack.

So, take the lead in your professional development and self-care. Not sure where to start, ONEplace can help with that too. 

What is your next step?



Savor the KISS

We all know KISS – Keep It Simple Sweetie. The admonition gets tossed around from time to time, especially when someone (self or other) gets mired in operational complexities or lost in multiple scenarios. So why is keeping it simple so important and effective?

KISS allows people to bring order to their own particular style of chaos.

Let’s face it: people are messed up – and I mean that in a nice way. That is, people bring their own messiness to your website, your program, your service, your doorstep. There’s no way to anticipate all the various recipes of messiness that get served to your organization by patrons, volunteers, et al. So, what do we do?

We keep it simple.

Not only does the simplicity of our process serve the patron’s need, it makes for happier staff and more willing volunteers. Sure, there will be plenty of exceptions, so let them be exceptions. Keep the normal simple.

This goes for organizational branding as well.

A recent article in Entrepreneur spotlights the importance of simplifying one’s personal and organizational branding. Consultant Steve Tobak advises us to “keep it simple” and cites Apple and Mercedes as examples. Both keep their names attached to their products: the Mercedes SL-500 or the Apple Watch that you saw on Apple TV and purchased using Apple Pay.

How are you bringing complexity and confusion to processes or communications?

Ask someone who doesn’t know your organization to look over your website, marketing, and services. Simplifying the first steps, the introductory brochures, the homepage, the elevator speech and other gateways to your brand and services will not only make life easier, it will make everyone happier.



Raise more money

A couple of weeks ago our Leadership Academy spent time on fundraising. In addition to excellent instruction, we also enjoyed a highly engaged discussion with a panel of experienced fundraisers. Among the several topics, tips, and insights shared was this:

The year-end fundraiser is still king.

Virtually every organization does some type of fundraising in November and December. Gratitude and giving are in the air, donors get a last chance at tax deductions, and many have developed a habit of donating at year’s end. Whatever the reason, it’s an extremely important time for nonprofits that depend on donor contributions.

ONEplace offers programs to help you plan, prepare and deliver a successful fundraising campaign. First, this week’s video is Year-End Fundraising Campaign by Big Duck, a New York communications firm that works exclusively with nonprofits.

Next, in mid-October, our video series brings you Giving Tuesday Success by nonprofit social media guru, Beth Kanter. This will encourage you to have your Giving Tuesday in place and ready to go for raising big money on December 1.

Finally, our Fundraising Series returns, beginning October 29. Michelle Karpinski (Pretty Lake Camp) partners with ONEplace to bring you three workshops designed to help you make this year’s campaign the best ever. They include:

Planning your Year-End Campaign – Oct 29

Donor Communications – Cut thru the Noise – Nov 5

Donor Recognition – Keep ’em Coming Back – Nov 12

Your time is valuable. Let these video and workshop opportunities ensure that you spend the needed time focusing and refining your campaign. You’ll save time – and raise more money – in the long run.



A refill with Donna Odom

This month we revisit our discussion with Donna Odom as she recalled the path and passion leading to her present post as Executive Director of SHARE – Society for History And Racial Equity (formerly known as Southwest Michigan Black Heritage Society). SHARE is emerging with an expanded scope, now including racial equity and the name change to more accurately reflect their new mission.

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

There were many shifts that led me to where I am today, but the primary shift was leaving Chicago and relocating to Kalamazoo. In Chicago I began my career as a French and English teacher. From there I transitioned to positions in career services and cooperative education. My last position before leaving Chicago was teaching college English Composition and Research Writing.

After coming to Kalamazoo, I began part-time at Kalamazoo Valley Museum and remained there for 12 years in the Education and Programs area, where I coordinated science and history programs. That was where my interest in regional African American history was sparked. In 2003 I founded the Southwest Michigan Black Heritage Society, along with Dr. and Mrs. Romeo Phillips, Harold Bulger, and Horace Bulger. I served as president of the Society through 2010. After retiring from the Museum, I later transitioned to serving as Executive Director of the Society.

What do you most love about the Kalamazoo community? 

I love the openness and friendliness of the people in the community and their spirit of service.

What guides or principles do you rely most upon?

I like to maintain focus, to complete what I start, and to stay true to my word.

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

I can’t identify any one mentor. I learn from everyone with whom I interact and let their best qualities serve as a guide to my own behavior. 

What has been one of your biggest learning moments?

My biggest learning moment was realizing that I do my best work when I’m following my passion.

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

Because I’m primarily a volunteer at what I do and I don’t have set hours, my days are always different, which is the thing I like most. However, almost all of them involve at least one meeting.

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

When we are planning a specific project or program, I find myself getting my best ideas in the wee hours of the morning.

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

I serve on several boards of history-based organizations.

What advice do you have for those wishing to have a long lasting career in the nonprofit sector

Make sure you are making the decision to enter the field because what you are going to do enables you to follow your passion or your life purpose, not because you think it will make you rich.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

Believe it or not, I spend some spare time on my work which allows me to do the things I enjoy most - expressing myself through speaking and writing, planning and organizing, researching history, interacting with others. The only other thing I do as much is read. I also enjoy classical music, theater, dancing, and interior decorating.

Just ONEthing - Oct 2015

Earlier this month, Paul Knudstrup (Midwest Consulting Group) launched this year’s Supervision & Management Series. The series not only provides critical information to new supervisors, it also gives experienced supervisors an opportunity to revisit information, assess needs, and sharpen skills.

In Session Two, Communicating for Results, Paul touched on conflict resolution and presented a five-step process for addressing conflicts of emotion or perception. They include:

1. Acknowledge the Conflict: Naming the conflict and acknowledging that it exists must occur before both parties seek to resolve it. Often, each party is waiting for the other to deal with it (most often, subordinate waiting on the boss). The fact is, one party must make the first overture, so why not you. 

2. Clarify the Conflict: All of us want to appear as rational, thoughtful people, so we’re good at rationalizing our behaviors. As we ask clarifying questions (e.g., “Good point – say more about that”) it’s often helpful to list information on a white board. This helps objectify the situation, letting everyone take ownership of the full situation. In this step, it’s crucial to listen well and reflect the other person’s emotions back to them to get all information out on the table.

3. Identify Alternatives: Having reduced the tension, we now can enter into problem solving with the other person. Listen to other person without making judgments or rushing to closure. Set out your statements briefly and fairly, but don’t hold back any information. If each of us saw the situation from the other’s perspective, there likely wouldn’t have been a conflict. From this base, we can generate ideas, suggestions, and options for moving forward.

4. Agree on Actions: In this step, we work out a mutually agreeable solution. Commonly there’s an amount of give and take but not always. If, at this point, both have reached a common understanding of the problem, then it’s easier to move to a common commitment to the best solution – regardless of whose idea it is. The key is that all parties agree. To paraphrase Stephen Covey, “If it’s not win-win, I don’t want to play.”

5. Summarize Next Steps: Once you have a solution, the final step is pretty simple. Set forth the steps necessary and an accountability system (who will do what by when). Document these steps and their timeline, and then be sure to check in to ensure that all is on course. Hold each other accountable, while allowing some grace as needed. Resolving the conflict and improving the relationship are the goals, so keep the focus there.

You’ll find more great information in Paul’s book, The 8 Essential Skills for Supervisors & Managers. Now in its second edition and available at the Kalamazoo Public Library or at Amazon.

ONEplace Nonprofit Leader Academy 2016

Applications are now available for the ONEplace Nonprofit Leader Academy 2016. Offered in nine monthly sessions, the Academy helps prepare emerging nonprofit leaders for executive leadership.

The Academy offers leader development in a reflective environment. Each session is a full day-away at an area retreat center. Morning hours include interactive discussion and instruction on topics critical to nonprofit success, such as governance, ethics, fundraising, finances, and supervision. In the afternoon, we process and apply the information to our current and perceived future work environments.

Threading itself throughout the Academy is a focus on self-understanding and self-development. Leaders not only need the knowledge and skills to do the job, they also need the fortitude, resilience, and chutzpah to get the job done. So, we spend time on self-awareness – examining our strengths and barriers to doing what needs to be done. Each participant develops an action plan for the time of the Academy as well as another action plan for the months immediately following the Academy.

As preparation and follow-up to an Academy experience, ONEplace offers Management Track workshops, Peer Learning Groups, and other events. Leaders are lifelong learners. They continually attend to keeping up-to-date with information as well as developing the skills and wisdom necessary to envision, inspire, and encourage.

For more on the 2016 Academy, visit our website. Applications are due Friday, November 13.

Welcoming Michigan: Lessons Learned

Last Wednesday I attended the Welcoming Michigan Statewide Convening in Warren, MI. The day-long event took place during National Welcoming Week, a celebration to recognize and encourage meaningful connections between US and foreign-born community members. It seemed to be a perfect touchstone to continue the discussions we’ve had about inclusion this past summer at ONEplace.

 WelcomingMI_Lolita Photo credit: Anne Canavati/Michigan Immigrant Rights Center

I was present for the afternoon sessions, which provided an in-depth look at the processes and specific steps an organization can take to implement inclusive programs. Much of the information was completely new to me, and in some instances, surprising. Below I have highlighted some of what I thought I knew about a particular topic, and what I learned.


The Power of Arts & Culture to Unite Communities

What I thought…

Holding multicultural events that reflect the different populations in a multiethnic community is the best strategy to get the largest number of residents to attend.

...And what I learned

In the experience of the Celebrating Southwest Concert Series, the event marketed as “multicultural” garnered the lowest attendance, versus previous concerts that highlighted music from specific ethnic groups. As one audience member pointed out, perhaps the residents did not “see” themselves in the term “multicultural.”


All About Local ID Programs

What I thought…

Municipalities will not support the creation of an official local identification card because institutions (i.e. schools, police) may fear fraudulent use, or may not want undocumented immigrants to have an ID card.

...And what I learned

Washtenaw County has had great success with their local ID card. The card is considered a government-issued ID, and most institutions have gladly accepted it in place of a State ID or a driver’s license, which many populations cannot easily access.


Ensuring Language Access

What I thought…

Using a translation phone service might be the best solution if a translator is not available in person.

…And what I learned

According to Ruth Stenfors of the Elder Refugee Program in Grand Rapids, if you’re working with a community that speaks a rare or uncommon language, many translation services may not have an interpreter that can help. Or the interpreter may speak what non-speakers consider to be the same language, but the dialects are so vastly different that the client and interpreter can barely understand each other.


Obviously there are many challenges associated with implementing inclusive programs and services, but the successes are that much more impactful. There is no question in my mind that making inclusion a priority is worthwhile. What better way to welcome new immigrants than to ensure they have equal access to everything a community might offer?

ONEplace Leader Academy 2016

ONEplace Nonprofit Leader Academy 2016

Academy information and applications now available here.

Information sessions (not required) are scheduled for:

Applications are due at 5:00 pm on Friday, November 13


Time to raise some money

Fall events, Giving Tuesday, and year-end fundraising loom large on our fall calendars. The clock is ticking! As we look to the appeal letters, email blasts, and invitations, the question always is: how do we make our message stand out?

Sometimes we’re our own worst enemy in helping our audience connect with our organization. We get concerned with being unique or innovative and we miss the fundamentals. 

As you prepare your communications, here is a checklist to promote connection:

Be donor-centered. People connect with people who are interested in them and share a common cause. If you only talk about your organization, it’s a sure turn-off.

Clarify your target audience. Sure, you want anyone and everyone to donate, but if all are invited then no one is welcomed. Identify the group(s) that value you most, understand their challenges and goals, and target the appeal to them. Have two or three versions if necessary to target different groups.

Evoke emotion. At the heart of connection is emotion. The images, stories, and language you use should evoke the emotion that’s right for the situation. Remember, people won’t remember what you said, they’ll remember how you made them feel.

Take a stand. How does your organization’s compelling mission make a difference right now? Put your position out there and demonstrate that you’re not just another good thing to have around but a leading player in positive change.

Engage your audience. How are you connecting directly with your target audience(s) beyond the emails and appeals? Finding ways to listen to and speak with your audience – especially key influencers – geometrically increase the effectiveness of the ask.

Finally, be patient. I know that you need money now. You’ll also need money three years from now and five years from now. Building a loyal donor base takes time, so do yourself a favor and keep an eye on the long-term development of your donor base while caring for short-term needs.



Staying on track

I can hear him now. At this time of year, my friend will, “Here we go again. Doing what we always do in September.”

For many of us, our work moves in cycles. We just finished what we do in summer, and now it’s fall. After the holidays, we’ll do our winter stuff, and then there’s April and May…sheesh! As we cycle in and out of seasons, we have the opportunity to improve our systems and individual performance.

This is why ONEplace offers Management Track workshop series. These series address skills and processes fundamental to nonprofit management. They also provide opportunities to develop, hone, and refine our individual skills while offering teams opportunities to learn skills together (which improves application and retention).

Recognizing that scheduling is often the barrier to attending professional development events, we’re scheduling more in advance than ever before. Here’s our Management Track schedule for this fall.

    Supervision & Management Series – five sessions beginning Sep 14 (more)

    Fundraising Series – three sessions beginning Oct 29 (more)

    Operations Series – three sessions beginning Nov 2 (more)

Good leaders continually learn new things as well as refine and deepen that which is already known. They travel a track that doesn’t go in circles; rather, it spirals to ever-deeper understanding.