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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.



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.



Management Track - Fall 2015

ONEplace's Management Track offers a variety of series to target those management and leadership skills that we continually need to refine. Plan ahead because many of these fill to capacity.

Supervision & Management Series

Paul Knudstrup’s (Midwest Consulting Group) popular series returns with two sections – Monday (A) and Thursday (B). 

(A) Sept 14     Job of the Manager – Managing Yourself - 9:15 am-12 pm
(B) Sept 17 

(A) Sept 21     Communicating for Results - 9:15 am-12 pm
(B) Sept 24 

(A) Sept 28     Building Relationships – Managing Others - 9:15 am-12 pm
(B) Oct 1

(A) Oct 5     Managing Change & Making Effective Decisions - 9:15 am–12 pm 
(B) Oct 8

(A) Oct 12     Leading & Empowering – Growing Yourself - 9:15 am-12 pm
(B) Oct 15 


Fundraising Series 

Michelle Karpinski (Pretty Lake Camp) teams with ONEplace to provide needed information & guidance for a successful year-end campaign. 

Oct 29      Planning Your Year-End Campaign - 11:00 am – 12:30 pm

Nov 5      Donor Communications: Cut thru the Noise - 11:00 am – 12:30 pm

Nov 12    Donor Recognition: Keep’em Coming Back - 11:00 am – 12:30 pm


Operations Series 

Thom Andrews (ONEplace Director) provides three processes to transform your organizations practices and internal communications. 

Nov 2      Project Management - 9:15 am – 12:00 pm

Nov 9      Decision Making - 9:15 am – 12:00 pm

Nov 16     Problem Solving - 9:15 am – 12:00 pm

Just ONEthing - Sept 2015

This past month’s Inclusion Series wrapped up with Trans*, Gender Non-conforming, & Genderqueer: a workshop for allies. During the 3-hour workshop, we learned terms, context, and explored how to be an effective ally.

Sojn Boothroyd and Amanda Niven reminded us that vocabulary is contextual. Different terms carry different meanings across geographical and generational cultures. That being said, they provided definitions and descriptions for terms used in the workshop:

Trans – abbreviation for transgender

Trans* - an asterisk is sometimes added to the word trans to signify that trans communities are diverse and include many different identities

Transgender – someone who does not identify with the gender assigned to them 

CIS gender – someone who identifies with the gender assigned to them

Gender non-conforming – someone whose appearance/identity does not conform to societal standards

Genderqueer – sometimes used to describe someone who defines their gender outside the constructs of male and female. This can include having no gender, being androgynous or having elements of multiple genders. 

Nonbinary – someone who identifies outside the gender binary (i.e., male – female)

They cautioned the group that these terms are emerging and there are various viewpoints on their definitions and usage. We should not assume that one person’s words, identity, and definition apply to others. If you are unsure, then ask and be ready to listen.

Finally, we explored the concept of allyship. An ally is a person who helps to advocate for a particular group of people. Allies are knowledgeable about issues and concerns and may help build more supportive climates. They lead from the back, continually questioning themselves and learning as well as taking action to make their workplaces more welcoming.

Coffee with Bob Jorth

This month we sat down for coffee with Bob Jorth, Executive Director of the Kalamazoo Promise.

Tell us how you got to where you are today

I’ve had a zig-zaggy career path with 30-40 jobs. So, in broad strokes, I received my bachelor’s degree in general studies from a small Iowa college and took a job in the aerospace industry doing quality assurance among other things. I eventually took a job with NWL – that brought me to Kalamazoo. While working there, I got a master’s degree in public administration and learned database programming. I later took a job with Secant and was working there when the Kalamazoo Promise job opened up. I believe that my background in databases, process improvement, plus my volunteer work with ISAAC and community organizing made me a good fit for the position, and I got it. So, while it’s been a winding and even somewhat tortured, route, it’s all come together to lead me here today.

What do you most love about the Kalamazoo community? 

I arrived in Kalamazoo almost 30 years ago (January 1986). Having grown up in a small town (population 175), I love the small town feel of Kalamazoo – friendly, people know each other. I also like some of the big city attributes it has as well. I love that it’s a diverse community, and the location can’t be beat – so close to Lake Michigan, Detroit, and Chicago.

What guides or principles do you rely most upon?

I have two things I rely upon. First is the ability to listen. The older I get, the more I see the ability to listen well as an extremely powerful tool in relationship building, in understanding systems and processes, and in getting to the core of people’s needs. The second is to treat every person as a unique individual. We have about 1,400 Promise students in college, so I work with a lot of students and parents. I want to respect each one and attend to their unique situation. These are constant reminders for me. Third (I just thought of a third) is to understand what is really at the core of the organization that you’re working for. At the Kalamazoo Promise, the core mission is student success. If I stay focused on the core mission, it helps with decision making and with keeping all efforts on track. 

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

I’ve had a bunch of mentors. Marianne Houston was one. She taught me the power and importance of deep listening. Many were college professors. The overall theme that I take from them is to have the self-confidence to do the job as I see it. It’s having confidence in myself that, if my understanding is clear and focused on the mission, then I can trust my instincts and move forward. Another take away from them is that no job is a small job. Each job deserves my very best effort.

What has been one of your biggest learning moments?

One big learning moment was the first time I was fired. It taught me that I’m replaceable. I know that this is true of every one in every job – it’s true of me today in my current job. Eventually, someone else will do this job. What this understanding does for me is to help me be less self-righteous and to not take myself too seriously.

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

On an average day I talk with several students and parents as well as attend to other calls and emails. I’ll have a couple of meetings. Then, there’s always some project to squeeze in between the regularly scheduled work.

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

My greatest challenge is the sheer number of students in our program – over 5,000 who are eligible for the Kalamazoo Promise. Again, my desire is to treat and respect each one as a unique individual, so I’m kept up by the need to keep up with workload. Another great challenge is how we, as a community, can address the disparity of success among minority students and to get more kids through high school and using the Kalamazoo Promise. Currently, I’m challenged in putting together our 10-year report.

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

Trends within the Promise field? It’s a pretty unique organization. That being said, I interact with people at colleges and universities to keep up on how to best facilitate student success. That’s our core. Yet, the Kalamazoo Promise is unique. What’s clear is that it’s a scholarship. Yet, the overall success depends upon the community’s citizens and organizations to help our students prepare for college…prepare to be successful. It’s something we can only do together. My hope is that the community is a bit sleepless about this, too.

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

Success in the nonprofit field is very similar to success in any field. Identify your passion and then be open to opportunities that will allow you to pursue that passion. It’s more about awareness than anything – self-awareness and opportunity awareness. I often tell students, “Don’t worry about your first job. Just get out there and see what doors open along the way. If you want to serve people, then start serving them and see where that takes you.”

What hobbies or outside interests do you enjoy?

I love the outdoors – the beach, mountains, ocean. I like being in “reasonably remote” areas (access is important). I enjoy riding my bike and writing poetry. I also enjoy spending time with family and friends.

KICtalks spotlights four community efforts

ONEplace and the Kalamazoo Public Library (KPL) team up to present Kalamazoo Innovative Community Talks or KICtalks on Wednesday, August 26, at 5:30 pm at Kalamazoo Public Library downtown.

The 90-minute event features four brief (5-10’) talks highlighting their innovative efforts to serve and build the greater Kalamazoo community. A reception for enjoying conversation and locally-sourced food follows the talks.

The August 26 event will hear from four innovative efforts: 

Children’s expression takes many forms and Read and Write Kalamazoo describes how their empathy centers provide a variety of opportunities for children to authentically express themselves. Utilizing small groups and collaborative adult interaction, they develop a culture where voice, perspective, and identity are valued.

Can Kalamazoo become the most physically fit community of its size in the nation? On the Move Kalamazoo believes it can. They will describe common barriers to movement, specific barriers in Kalamazoo, and their vision for getting us fit.

What does it mean to “be from Kalamazoo?” Remi Harrington of the Urban Folk Art Exploratory shares her fascinating story and will inspire all to seek what you need from our amazing community and claim Kalamazoo as your hometown.

When we talk of education, we rarely talk of educating the parents…as teachers of their children. Seeds for Success, a local affiliate of Parents as Teachers, describes how they collaborate with five area agencies to give kids – and parents – a better chance for success.

Quarterly KICtalk events are open and free to the public. To register, visit

Sink deep roots

Let’s get personal for a moment. Each of us has career aspirations. We want to do well, be successful, enjoy our work and feel good about our accomplishments. Many of us wish to make a lasting contribution and earn the respect of our colleagues. So, to those ends, I have one question for you:

How long is your long-term?

I recently finished a book that addressed one’s development in terms of five-year, even ten-year chunks. Imagine what you could accomplish if you approached your career and self-development in terms of ten-year chunks?

This goes beyond the job. Even if you’re approaching retirement, there are things you wish to do, contributions you wish to make, in your 60’s and 70’s. Of course, if you’re younger, it may be a stimulating exercise to imagine your life and career ten, fifteen or twenty years from now.

Why so long? It takes time to sink deep roots.

Whatever motivates you, gets you up in the morning, and pulls you through your day – plant yourself there. Learn about it and let tendrils of inquiry and understanding extend into the rich soil, in all directions, at all angles. Find others who share your interest and challenge each other’s assumptions.

Before long, you’ll find that what started as an isolated inquiry has turned into a complex network of interconnections. As you examine it, you’ll see how to craft it, deepen it, and make it your own.

This community needs what you have to offer. 

It only takes a few years…and it’s exhilarating!




Leader development sits at the core of all our efforts. At ONEplace, we define a leader as someone who takes full responsibility and ownership for his/her role, developing the skills, knowledge, connections and awareness needed to fulfill that role, listens and learns from others, and teaches and shares with others. Or, to put it in a phrase:

Leaders keep learning.

An article in the recent McKinsey Quarterly reminded me of a fascinating, yet disturbing aspect of learning: neuroplasticity. It fascinates me because, thanks to fMRI’s and other imaging techniques, we’re being flooded with new insights and knowledge. It disturbs me because, like many of you, I continue to draw upon concepts of the hardwired brain, left-brain/right-brain preferences, and the fine art of multitasking – all which have been debunked.

Neuroplasticity – the brain’s ability to change its physical structure and functional organization – changed the game.

We now know that the brain rewires itself (makes new neural connections) when we learn new things. This happens at any age. We also know that everyone utilizes both sides of their brains without strict preferences and, in fact, the brain is more active than we previously thought. Further, calming practices (such as mindfulness or meditation) actually generate more brain matter in the executive functioning areas of the brain giving us a greater capacity for complex thinking. Again, this happens at any age.

Recent brain research offers us more and more insights into brain functioning, learning capacity, and so much more. Furthermore, it’s giving us direction in what we can do to keep our minds sharp and nimble (e.g., See Ten Habits of Highly Effective Brains). 

All this reminds me of a humbling and challenging notion: knowledge is dynamic.

Facts change. Theories come and go. Best practices become past practices. And radical notions end up being mainstream. The world, with all its varied and wonderful parts, keeps changing. And the good news is: your brain can handle it.



P.S. Keep up on brain research and effective brain building practices at

One nation...indivisible

Emerging from this July Fourth weekend, one phrase sticks with me.

“One nation...indivisible”

We say it in the Pledge of Allegiance as both an aspiration and recognition that, once the debate is done, the votes are tallied, and the commitments are made, we act as one. On the world stage, there is only one USA voice.

This understanding is scalable, too.

It’s true for states, cities, neighborhoods, organizations, boards, senior management teams, departments, and even individuals. Each may puzzle out its myriad of daily routines, acute concerns and seasonal celebrations. Internal debates may rage on, but the entity acts as one.

Leaders know this. 

Leaders occupy seats both in the balcony and on the stage, observing the forest and navigating amongst the trees. They know this about their organizations: presenting unified services to the public while dismantling silos in-house. They know this about their boards and leadership teams: encouraging stakeholders with a focused message while mining productive conflict and encouraging debate inside the conference room. 

They also know this about themselves.

Leaders in any position recognize that we bring all of who we are to every situation. We may separate and compartmentalize our activities, behaviors, concerns, et al to analyze and understand them. Yet, on the ground, where life is lived, we must acknowledge and manage the swirling, indivisible mix of thoughts, emotions, and behaviors; choose our path; and move forward. We may understand things in categories, but we function as one.

One nation (one city, one organization, one board, one person), indivisible: it’s how we want it, and it’s how it is.