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Coffee with Steve Springsdorf

This month we visit with Steve Springsdorf, Executive Director of the YMCA, as he tells of capitalizing on opportunities, staying focused, and prioritizing relationship-building.

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

Mine is partially a story of being in the right place at the right time. I graduated from MSU with a degree in Environmental Education. I couldn’t find a teaching job, but I student taught in Saginaw and the Y Exec Dir. was on the school board, saw my resume and offered me a job. I took it until I could find a teaching job. I became the Asst. Camp Director the next year until the Camp Director quit two weeks into the season. After 9 years as the Camp Director, the CEO retired. I applied and became one of the youngest YMCA CEO’s in the country. I directed the Saginaw Y for 14 years when I was invited to apply to become the CEO of the State YMCA in Central Lake, MI. It was a very different experience for me, no main building, primarily residence camps, a unit in Petoskey and a state wide Youth in Government program. The camps served families not only across the country but also internationally. This job gave me a much broader perspective of how we can influence youth. After 8 years I was invited to be the CEO at the YMCA of Greater Kalamazoo in 2008 where I continue to serve.

What do you most love about the Kalamazoo community? 

I love the pride that people have in the community, I love the diversity of people and thought, I love vibrant downtown in Kalamazoo and the strong shopping area in Portage, I love the variety of restaurants and brewery’s; finally I love how there is so much energy to make our community better.

What guides or principles do you rely most upon?

Basically, if you keep doing the right thing, good things will happen and treat people as you would want to be treated.

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

My first boss was a huge influence in my career. He was a man of strong conviction, he held people accountable, but he also was a strong advocate and supporter of staff development, both in training and in challenging you to be better. He felt that being a nonprofit didn't mean you were less responsible or business minded than for-profit businesses.

What has been one of your biggest learning moments?

If you have someone working for you that is either not performing or doesn’t fit with the organization then make a change sooner than later. Attempting to be nice only prolongs the inevitable and isn’t helpful to the staff or the organization.

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

I wish I had an average day. I begin with reading two newspapers, handle emails, check in with staff to see if there are areas I can help with; communicate with my board and other partners; building relationships is a big part of what I do. Finally, I have projects I am working on in the areas of organizational improvement, fundraising, and program directions.

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

We are in the midst of a capital campaign so concerns about donors and volunteers are on my mind. The other area is motivating and managing my staff; these are the people who make our Y successful.

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

I read two newspapers a day, I visit our professions websites, but most importantly, I network and talk with my peers on a regular basis. I try to stay involved on state and national levels.

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

Stay fresh, stay challenged, and stay focused on what is important – the mission of your organization, how are you impacting the lives of the people your organization touches. Keep your eye open for opportunities, but build your career on results.

What hobbies or outside interests do you enjoy?

I am an avid reader and enjoy a good game of golf, wish I had one. Recently, my wife and I have been traveling and camping around Michigan.


What's in your locket?

I have a professional question for you: What’s in your locket?

A locket is a small pendant that includes a space for storing a small keepsake, e.g., a photo of a loved one. Worn on a necklace or bracelet, this charm holds a cherished item, and the wearer often opens it to be reminded of one so near to their heart.

So, what’s in your locket (real or imaginary)? Besides being a twist on a popular ad campaign (thanks, Capital One), it’s a relevant question for anyone who wants to enjoy their work. Job satisfaction – and effectiveness – is directly related to the laser-like alignment of your deeply held values, personal passions (loves), and outward actions and abilities.

Jim Collins calls it a Hedgehog Concept. Simon Sinek calls it his Golden Circle. Steven Covey calls them habits. Patrick Lencioni has a pyramid. And Peter Drucker posed them as six critical questions. While each of these authors (and several others) adds his own contribution to the discussion, they all build off of this place of inner-outer alignment.

Yet, while many write about it, few of us are so aligned. Like an aching back, painful barbs shoot through our activities and discourse. And we’re left feeling out of sorts.

This chiropractic conundrum of misalignment is often more intrapersonal than interpersonal. Few of us take the time to listen to our true selves (our inner voice) and understand our deeply held values and personal passions. Instead, many align with an external set of expectations packaged and presented as an appealing alternative to our dissatisfaction.

One of Simon Sinek’s (Start with Why) contributions to this discussion is the idea that people align with others who believe what they believe. He says it this way: “We are drawn to leaders and organizations that are good at communicating what they believe.”

So, we need to open our lockets and peer inside to that which we hold dear and then find the words to speak it clearly to ourselves, our families, our organizations and community. Take some time – quiet, reflective time – to listen and learn from yourself.

My guess is this: once we align ourselves to the most important things in our lives, we’ll find that interpersonal (also intergenerational, interracial, intercultural) alignment comes much easier.

Best,

Thom


Didn't see that coming

It’s not uncommon to be surprised by people and events. When you least expect it, a situation arises, a problem occurs, or a discussion ensues that throws you for a loop. It’s not something you’ve ever dealt with before, and you’re not sure what to make of it…what to do about it.

You’re not alone.

Everyone – even a seasoned executive – encounters a baffling challenge from time to time. Try as we might, we can’t seem to figure it out. We need to get some distance, some perspective on the matter.

That’s why ONEplace offers direct assistance services.

We’re prepared to listen, inquire, and help you come to grips with your new challenge or concern. Depending on the nature of the concern, we may have suggestions, resources, or recommendations of actions to take or people to consult.

Don’t let a festering issue hold you back. We’re here to be at your service. 

Best,

Thom


Let your efforts be known

Are you one of the many area residents who engage unique, innovative, even wild efforts making Kalamazoo a great place live and work? We believe you need a forum to be heard, so we’re launching Kalamazoo Connect.

Kalamazoo Public Library and ONEplace unite to spotlight dynamic community building efforts in Greater Kalamazoo. Each quarter, Kalamazoo Connect features three short presentations on innovative, engaging endeavors followed by an opportunity for informal discussions and networking. Locally-sourced refreshments will be served following the presentations.

Interested? Your presentation will be given in a TED-talk style – open-stage speaking with optional use of notecards. Your presentation must be a minimum of 5 minutes and cannot exceed 10 minutes. You may use audio-visuals if you wish. (For examples, visit www.ted.com.)

Here’s how you can tell Kalamazoo about your innovative, community building efforts.

1. Submit your entry by emailing your name, phone number, name of organization or business, and description of talk (approximately 100 words) to ONEplace@kpl.gov. Entries are due by 5pm on Friday, January 23

2. Applicants will be notified by Tuesday, January 27

3. Participate in a rehearsal of your talk during the week of Feb 2 (by appointment)

4. Accepted applicants must attend and speak at the Kalamazoo Connect event on Wednesday, February 11, 5-6:30 pm

If you have any questions, please contact ONEplace 269-553-7910 or ONEplace@kpl.gov.

Best,

Thom


Board training increases impact

According to Building the Governance Partnership, “Board members often don’t know what they don’t know.” As the seat of authority in most nonprofits, it’s critical that board members clearly understand what’s expected of them and how to fulfill those expectations.

At ONEplace, our goal is to make sure we’re focusing our limited time and energy on areas of highest impact. Since embarking on basic board training, we’re finding this to be one of those high impact areas. 

Initially, we simply responded to what was requested. This usually included a basic overview of board responsibilities with a little extra time spent on one or two items (e.g., fundraising or being a good ambassador). Having now met with over 30 organizations and conducted 16 onsite training events, we’ve developed a broader-based approach.

Every quarter we offer Board Membership 101. This late afternoon workshop provides board members and prospective board members with an overview of board responsibilities. It also serves as an encouragement to nonprofits to supplement this experience with their own, more specific, training and orientation.

Onsite training events (commonly at a board meeting) tailor the content to the needs of the specific board. These events are also much more participative. Providing your board with a common training experience greatly increases retention and application as reminders pop up at almost every subsequent meeting.

The program rounds out with two additional services. First, we continue to provide a place where board and staff may discuss new concerns and challenges and gather helpful resources. And second, we provide facilitation services to help boards discuss difficult or sensitive issues.

For more information, please contact us: oneplace@kpl.gov or 269-553-7910.


Just ONEthing - Dec 2014

Last month, we hosted a Chronicle of Philanthropy video titled, Building Long-term Ties with Young Donors. It discussed data from the Millennial Alumni Report and how it related to nurturing the loyalty of young donors. The video noted the strong philanthropic tendency of Millennials in volunteering (86% would volunteer) as well as donating (75% donate).

Enjoyable experiences with the organization, an opportunity to give back, and the ability to designate donations to a specific program motivate Millennial philanthropy. Millennials also want to see results. 

Social media (especially Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn) is tops in providing Millennials with stories, behind the scenes info, and successes. To maximize reach, the presenters suggest creating an Online Ambassador Program. The program engages volunteers in generating Shares and Retweets, and it’s considered a “must” for any online campaign.

Email continues to be the primary communication channel for calls to action and appeals. Emails should be very short with bold highlights and a soft ask (e.g., donate button).

The bottom line for Millennials (as for older donors) is to ask. Many reported that they didn’t give simply because they hadn’t been asked.


Got a minute?

When we think of organizational values, words like honesty, integrity, and service generally surface. Generosity is not commonly listed, unless it's United Way campaign time.

Yet, in the book, Change Anything, the authors give a nod to generosity when they discuss getting one’s career on track. Identifying what separates the best from the rest, they list three things: know your stuff, focus on the right stuff, and build a reputation for being helpful. 

They look to "Individuals who are singled out by their colleagues as the go-to folks in the company" and say that "people describe them as experts who are generous with their time."

We also know them by other descriptions: team players, mission-focused, and helpful. "Theirs is not primarily a self-serving motivation. Top people are widely known...because they help others solve their problems."

Of course, one pitfall here is trying to use generosity as a means of getting ahead. At the heart of it, generosity is about placing your focus outside self, outside organization, and on to the greater purpose, the greater cause. It may seem counterintuitive, but the more we focus on the greater goal beyond our organization, the better it is for our organization and career.

Another pitfall is helping so much that one’s own work doesn't get done. Certainly, boundaries must be observed. Remember, the second point above was "focus on the right stuff."

So, next time you hear someone say, "Got a minute?" hear it as an opportunity to connect with a colleague, further your mission, and contribute to a generous workplace culture.

Best,

Thom


Connections drive our work

At ONEplace, we define leadership as taking full ownership of one’s roles and responsibilities. This includes taking the initiative to:

  • Learn what you need to know
  • Building relationships necessary to be effective
  • Listening & learning from others as well as freely sharing with & teaching others what you know

Effective leadership in any position demands building and nurturing strong collaborative connections. These relationships not only increase one’s capacity to do an excellent job, but they tend to make work much more enjoyable.

Also, one of the quickest and easiest ways to increase your organization’s capacity is through building relationships. Most of us know from experience that working collaboratively with others creates synergy – a dynamic in which the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. This works with teams within an organization as well as collaborations between organizations.

As you may have guessed, encouraging strong collaborative relationships within the nonprofit sector is one of our top strategies at ONEplace. We deliberately present workshops and other events to encourage, promote and opportunify strong collaborative connections, such as: solving problems together (Nov 4), nurturing young donors (Nov 5), connecting with nonprofit colleagues (Nov 18), or building a stronger board (Nov 20).

Make building strong collaborative connections part of your personal strategy. It will raise your awareness, and you’ll find that every day presents relationship-building opportunities.


Just ONEthing - Nov 2014

During our recent Supervision Series, Paul Knudstrup (Midwest Consulting Group) addressed an issue that plagues many managers: delegation

He recommended having clear criteria for what you can delegate (e.g., repetitive tasks) and what cannot be delegated (e.g., the top 10% of critical activities). Then, list your tasks and identify those that others can do. For each delegate-able task, identify who can do it and what training they would need.

When you approach the person, describe the task for them and let them do their own analysis of the task before you explain the details. This helps assess understanding and engagement. Secure their clear understanding of what’s being assigned and when it’s due, provide training, and then check-in early and often enough to make any necessary adjustments.

One final word: don’t snatch the task back. Once you delegate a task, work with them to get up to speed. It will take extra time in the short-term. In the long-term, it will not only save you time but help develop your staff.


Coffee with Michelle Karpinski

This month we sat down with Michelle Karpinksi who was named Executive Director of Pretty Lake Vacation Camp last spring after spending nine years as VP of Development at the Kalamazoo Nature Center. She connects the dots between her love for the outdoors and her leadership development.

Tell us how you got to where you are today

Coming to Pretty Lake was like coming home. I grew up spending a lot of time outdoors. I strayed from that in college and moved even further away during my early career in broadcasting. I rediscovered the outdoors during my years at the Kalamazoo Nature Center. Working as their development officer I tapped into a deep-seated passion. This further developed as I spent time with my husband and sons in boy scouting. It all came together last spring – camping, hiking, nonprofit leadership – when I joined the staff at Pretty Lake. 

What do you most love about the Kalamazoo community? 

Kalamazoo is such a cool place. While growing up, we moved a lot, so I would not see many people I knew as I went around town. In Kalamazoo, I go almost anywhere and see people I know. It’s a vibrant community with much to do. It’s also a comfortable size – small enough and big enough.

What guides or principles do you rely most upon?

“Follow your heart.” I do my best to do the right thing for our community and for our kids. It’s not always easy, but it’s a good way to move forward.

What has been one of your biggest learning moments?

No one moment stands out. I’ve learned the most from those challenging moments during my career. I’ll do my best and then take time to evaluate: what went well, what I could do better next time. We did this as a team at the Nature Center after having faced a challenging customer service issue. Taking time to evaluate and learn from the experience has informed my life and career.

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

I’m still figuring that out! The typical day is different from season to season, but it’s always busy.

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

There is so much need in the community, I’m continually trying to figure out a way for Pretty Lake to fill that need. We have kids coming to us for summer camp, but they take away so much more than a fun camp experience. The power of the outdoors helps them do better in the classroom and get along better outside the classroom. It also opens them up to experiences they’ve never had before and the opportunity to see themselves succeeding differently than they would in a classroom.

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

I read – a lot. I have sites I follow online plus I take advantage of area conferences. As a Certified Fundraising Executive (CFRE) with the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP), I need to get my CEU’s to stay current. That drives a portion of my professional development. Since becoming an executive director, the new challenges now on my plate also drive much of my learning. My motto is: stay open and embrace change.

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

Find that thing that gets your juices flowing. Nonprofit careers are not the path to wealth but they offer a path to a rich life, and that path is easier is your passion is engaged. Many jobs (e.g., development) require a skill set that can be used in a variety of settings (university, arts, outdoors), but a job that doesn’t tap into your passion will burn you out. Build your skills and connect with your passion.

What hobby or outside interests do you really like?

I enjoy backpacking, snowboarding, and biking (all outdoors, of course).