ONEplace Blog

News, comments, resources, and more for nonprofits.

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).

ThomA

Small Group Update

Many people find that having a small group of trusted colleagues contributes to the foundation of their success. These take various forms: master mind groups, personal boards of directors, content-area small groups, sector-based small groups, and more. Some last for a few months and others continue for years.

What’s clear is that having a mutually supportive network of trusted colleagues is critical to personal development. At ONEplace, we’ve just completed piloting a mindfulness small group and we’re currently facilitating two other small groups. We’re learning as we go, but we’re already seeing promising results, such as: focused, in depth exploration of real, current issues; development of personal practices that reduce stress; and deepening relationships with nonprofit colleagues.

Would you like to participate in a small group? Do you know 2, 3 or 4 others who also may be interested? Here’s how ONEplace can assist:

  • Additional recruitment & scheduling of meetings
  • Host meetings
  • Facilitation of the group process & plan
  • Any needed follow-up

At our first meetings, the group decides how frequently they’ll meet and the number of meetings involved in the initial commitment (e.g., meet monthly for six months).

Please email me (thoma@kpl.gov) with your thoughts and interest. We’ll launch new groups in January.

ThomA

Just ONEthing - Dec 2013

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 Suprotik Stotz-Ghosh of the Kalamazoo Community Foundation and others who attended our community alignment workshop on November 6. During this time, Suprotik posed the question, What are the barriers to your operating at maximum potential? Among the responses came these insights:

  • We think we have to do it all vs. working smarter
  • Organizational tunnel vision – we don’t see the full picture
  • We work in silos and will collaborate only so far. We stop when we fear losing funding
  • We may use the same terms, but we have differing definitions of those terms - misunderstanding
  • We often reinvent the wheel, trying to solve issues by ourselves when someone already has the answer
  • Always done it this way vs. Willingness to change

Suprotik offered that what works best for any specific community is found in the intersection of Best Practices (success in many communities), Local Data (trends unique to our community), and Local Voices (from people nearest the issues).

ThomA

Many thanks

Thanksgiving fast approaches. So, this week I’ll simply share with you three Work-Related Gratefuls (WRGs, pronounced wergs).

1. ONEplace colleagues – It’s great to work with people you enjoy and admire, and I’m grateful to work with Adam McFarlin. Many of ONEplace’s innovations these past months are his contributions. I also am grateful for colleagues past, Bailey Mead and Bobbe Luce, whose contributions continue to benefit our nonprofit sector.

2. Consultant network – Talent abounds in so many corners of our county. Our consultant network includes smart, insightful, dedicated, and innovative persons who put the meat and muscle into ONEplace workshops, Leadership Academy, and more. I’m grateful and honored to work with them.

3. Kalamazoo Nonprofit Connection – While I’m grateful for every dedicated nonprofit staff, board member, and volunteer, I especially want to thank those who connect through the Kalamazoo Nonprofit Connection – both the LinkedIn group and our LIVE gatherings. Taking time to meet, share and regularly connect with your nonprofit colleagues illustrates your grasp of the long view and your commitment to collective impact.

I could go on, but three is a good number. Plus, why should I have all the fun – what are your WRGs?

Happy Thanksgiving,

Thom

ThomA

Trust connections

In a video I recently viewed, Diana Chapman Walsh, president emerita of Wellesley College, offers her five attributes of trustworthy leadership: question ourselves, develop and attend to solid partnerships, avoid the use of force except as a last resort, value differences not only as a source of respect but as a source of creative information, and create a community.

Certainly, others may vary their own trustworthy leadership list, but I find that in leadership, as in many other areas, it all comes down to relationships. The connections we build over the course of our careers make all the difference in our individual success as well as our organization’s impact.

Our quarterly Kalamazoo Nonprofit Connection – LIVE events were created as a venue for you to make and strengthen connections with your nonprofit colleagues. Along with its sibling, the Kalamazoo Nonprofit Connection LinkedIn group, they provide opportunities to meet, discuss, ask questions, share resources, and support one another.

I hope you’ll stop by the upcoming LIVE gathering on Wednesday, November 20. We’re here from 4:30 – 6 pm.

Best,

Thom

ThomA

Inter(active)dependence

I get jazzed when I'm part of a group that's getting deep in the hoo-ha on issues that matter. Last week (Nov 6), we had moments of that during our Community Alignment workshop.

During the discussion, Suprotik Stotz-Ghosh (Kalamazoo Community Foundation) offered three keen insights that brought this elusive topic into clearer view.

Community alignment is an act of our will
We choose to be aligned or not. There's no magic formula or moment when all falls into place. Alignment occurs when two or more organizations set their intentions to a common outcome and consent to common goals; when we choose to combine our power to do good and to do it well.

Community alignment is about a better way to connect us
Our work takes on greater meaning when it engages us in something bigger than ourselves or our organizations. When we choose to align around these larger goals, the connections we make are stronger and deeper. They withstand conflict and debate, and they surround us with the net of support required to pursue transformational change.

Community alignment begins by starting conversations with people we don't know
While we acknowledge the truth that "we're all in this together," we often don't recognize that "all" includes those voices not being heard. Aligning with those we know takes work. Seeking those we don't know - but need to know - requires curiosity as well as vulnerability. Let's keep asking, "Who's not at the table?" And then, offer them a chair.

We live in a dynamic community - a living system in constant flux. In such a place, community alignment is not something to be attained so much as to be pursued (like "the pursuit of happiness"). At best we'll achieve moments - moments when months of effort from many people results in lives being changed...improved...transformed. At the end of the day, that's something to celebrate!

Then, tomorrow, we do it all over again.

Best,

Thom

ThomA

Executing Leaders

It’s Halloween! So I bow to the gruesome and gory and offer a gallowed twist to basic leadership practices.

Hang’em High – Put your clean & dirty laundry high on the line for all to see. Transparency is a must and leaders should be the first to admit mistakes and offer second chances.

Stake in the Heart – Plant your stake (i.e., take a stand) aligned with your passion. A misplaced stake will burn you out, and unplanted stakes mean you and your organization stand for nothing.

Firing Squad – Keep the right people on the bus in the right seats and fire those who shouldn’t be on the bus. Make the difficult decision and do it compassionately and appropriately – but do it. Not taking action frustrates the people you want to keep and it holds back the operation.

Off with their Heads – Big-headed egos must go! And, the bigger they are, the harder they’ll fall. It’s not about you (the leader), and it’s not even about your organization. It’s about your mission and the collective impact you can make aligned with others who share your vision.

Leaders who execute well not only know what to do, they have the fortitude to do it.

ThomA

Just ONEthing - Oct 2013

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 Dann Sytsma and Brian Lam (aka, Improv Effects) who led our Manage by Improvisation workshop. Through a series of improv games and exercises we learned the power of: 

  • affirming what the other person says and then adding to it 
  • making strong choices in the moment 
  • having fun

One participant emailed us two days after the workshop to add to comments made on the evaluation. The participant wrote: “The improv practices we learned are highly applicable to my job, particularly to the collaborative aspects of the work I do.”

ONEplace offers the improv workshop again on January 23, 2014. Registrations open in late November.

ThomA

Focus

Autofocus used to bug me. I’d take a picture of two people standing side-by-side, and invariably the camera would capture the detail of the plant centered behind them and blur their faces.

I eventually learned the trick of autofocus, but it still bothered me. The auto feature distracted me from my desired focus of attention.

Now, more than ever, distractions abound. Our attention gets pulled in several directions every minute. Yet, research and practical experience show time again that our ability to focus – to pay attention in the right way, at the right time – is critical for success.

Focus not only directs our attention, it also brings things into clear view. As the detail sharpens, we discern where to invest our time, our energy, even our very lives. Clarity draws us toward our center.

Our organizations have a center – it’s usually captured in the mission statement. Each of us also has something inside that knows when we’re in the center – when we’re on the beam or off the beam. In accepting that knowledge and pursuing that center, we find our passion, our bliss, our happiness.

Allowing ourselves this journey requires a self-acceptance that allows for the mistakes we’ll make along the way. It requires courage as we put ourselves out there and learn in public. And it requires a focus gained from self-reflection (i.e., set manually) rather than dictated from outside ourselves (i.e., autofocus).

Best,

Thom

P.S. Here’s a brief clip of Daniel Goleman speaking on focus – watch clip

ThomA

On Leadership - Sep 2013

Leadership development is becoming ONEplace’s cornerstone. Why this focus?

We’re targeting leadership development because of overwhelming evidence that leadership – both executive and non-executive – sits at the hub of effectiveness. People take their cues from the top. No major initiative ever succeeds without the leader’s support. And every unit – from task force to board – relies on effective leadership.

As a result, ONEplace will change over the next three years. Changes we’ve made to date include:

  • Increased management/leadership workshops during the year
  • Increased online information and fewer webinars
  • Created environments for connecting with nonprofit colleagues online (LinkedIn group) and face-to-face (quarterly gatherings)
  • Pilot testing small group leadership intensives
  • Increased communication with you

As we endeavor to encourage and equip your long-term leadership development needs, we welcome and will solicit your feedback and suggestions. As always, our goal is your success.

Upcoming ONEplace Leadership Series workshops:

ThomA