ONEplace Blog

News, comments, resources, and more for nonprofits.

The Future is Now

Eight years ago, the Stanford Social Innovation Review published an article warning of a nonprofit leadership deficit “during the next 10 years” due in large part to a wave of Baby Boomer retirements. As we see nonprofit leaders retiring in our community, we recognize that their predicted future is upon us.

In anticipation of this situation, ONEplace developed the ONEplace Nonprofit Leadership Academy (ONLA). In 2011, former ONEplace Director, Bobbe Luce, worked with Paul Knudstrup and others in the Consultant and Trainer’s Network to develop an intensive course offering a comprehensive overview of running a nonprofit organization. Supplemented with readings and a mentor relationship, ONLA provided a strong foundation for up-and-coming leaders.

The third ONLA class will come to completion in mid-May. Three participants from the previous two classes have already moved into executive director positions. While ONLA may not have played a pivotal role in their careers, it certainly played a preparatory one.

The ONEplace Nonprofit Leadership Academy will be highlighted at the next Kalamazoo Nonprofit Connection LIVE gathering on May 14. Information about next year’s Academy will also be available.

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Just ONEthing - May

Kerri Karvetski (Company K Media) presented a webinar on advanced social media strategies that ONEplace hosted in April. She made the point that nonprofits have experimented long enough with social media. It’s now time for social media to carry its weight in fundraising campaigns…but they can’t go it alone.

Multi-channel campaigns, especially those pairing email and social media, consistently provide increased impressions and highly reinforced messaging. They allow supporters to take action in the channel of their choice (which often changes over time). Multi-channel campaigns result in stronger relationships and better donor retention.

In fact, according to Blackbaud’s Idea Lab, first year donor retention rates double with a multi-channel campaign.

  • Offline only donors retain 29% of first year donors
  • Online only donors retain 23% of first year donors
  • Multi-channel donors retain 58% of first year donors

If you would like to see this webinar, you may do so at ONEplace. Simply call (553-7899);or email to set an appointment.

ThomA

Coffee with Donna Odom

This month we sit down with Donna Odom as she recalls the path and passion leading to her present post as Executive Director of the Southwest Michigan Black Heritage Society.

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

Believe it or not, I geek 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. 

ThomA

More with less

Recently I spent time outside Michigan with a room of nonprofit professionals. As we discussed tighter budgets and higher demands, a consensus grew around a perceived shared mandate. With a weary shake of the head, one person stated their common dilemma:

We must do more with less.

The statement was received both as an unavoidable reality as well as a virtual prison sentence. It meant doing more activities with fewer people and less money. "My board just won't have it any other way." "People are suffering and need our help." "It's impossible to say No."

The phrase "more with less" took me back to a 1970's Mennonite cookbook - the "More-with-Less Cookbook." I revisited the introduction which says, "the book demonstrates clearly how we may enjoy more while eating less. There is a way of wasting less, eating less, and spending less which gives us not less but more."

Here, more with less meant more quality with less stress.

I've seen this principle at work in many arenas. Organizations that focus on fewer programs and do  them well without over-stretching their staff or budgets serve more people over time...and serve them better. Those that won't say No and keep over-stretching themselves just fight the same battles year after year after year.

We can do more with less. We can add more quality to our services, more patrons to our rolls, and more funding to our mission. We can do this with less stress, less burnout, and less tension. One key is to focus on what we can do well, and say No to the rest. Like a great tree, build a solid core and then add a little ring every year.

More with less is a long-term recipe for success, not a short-term fix.

Best,

Thom

ThomA

I never thought...

We’ve seen the interview dozens of times. The person-in-charge stands, gazes into the void, and with a shake of the head says, “I never thought this would happen.”

It could happen.

Regardless of the venue or situation, we must face the facts as they present themselves, and one clear, undeniable fact is that circumstances beyond your control could derail your operation. It’s not about being a doomsayer or copping a negative attitude or even painting a worst-case scenario. It’s about recognizing risks and taking steps to protect your organization and the people who rely upon it.

ONEplace welcomes back Audrey Randall (Paradigm Risk Management) to lead us in two sessions aimed at avoiding being caught by what could happen. First, Business Continuity Planning (April 24) examines how to keep your operation running when risks become reality.

Next, Your Emergency Action Plan (May 8) looks at how we can prepare now to respond quickly when time if of the essence. Developing plans of action and getting your staff and volunteers prepared may save your organization thousands of dollars. It could even save lives.

Business continuity and emergency action planning are easy things to put off. They are also our biggest regrets when we are caught without them. Don’t put it off any longer. Register today.

Best,

Thom

ThomA

How long?

Once again, the Kalamazoo Promise put our community in a national spotlight. This time, Politico featured it as part of their year-long innovative ideas series. Julie Mack wrote about it last week on MLive. She summarized the Politico story and stated its conclusion: “…the jury is still out on true transformation, including the impact on economic development.”

I would add: “…and the jury will be out for several years.”

Things that matter take focused effort over a long period of time. Generally speaking, the bigger the impact desired, the more time required. For example, in the Politico article, when asked about the slight improvement in graduation rates, KPS Superintendent Michael Rice rightly said, “It takes 18 years to grow a high school graduate.”

True. And it takes decades to transform a community. The Promise is here in perpetuity and it just may take that long to see the scale of change that exists in our hopes and dreams.

But, long-term effort isn’t just for the big dreams. Even smaller changes take time. If a nonprofit wants to build a sustainable fundraising program, it generally takes three or four years of focused effort…and that assumes everyone (board and staff) is ready and eager to act. If they’re not ready, it will take longer.

But, we hate to wait. No matter what the effort – big or small – it only takes a few months before the question comes up: “How long? How long is this going to take?”

It’s going to take as long as it takes, and it’s well worth the effort. Things that matter take focused effort over a long period of time.

Best,

Thom

ThomA

From lucky guess to solution

“Try this – it worked last time.”

“Larry had a problem like that. How did he fix it?”

“Just smack it!”

How often do we take a trial and error approach to fixing problems? It’s good to draw on our expertise and past experience, but every attempted fix costs time and money. So, we can’t afford to just wing it.

In these situations, a rational, step-by-step process provides great assistance. Throughout my career I’ve used a problem solving process individually or with groups to address assess problems and identify root causes. I’ve also taught this process several times to various management teams.

On Thursday, April 3, I’m offering a Solve Problems for Good workshop at ONEplace. This 90-minute session explores how to fully describe a problem, identify possible causes, evaluate those causes and confirm the true cause. The process helps us gather solid data, avoid common pitfalls, and document the process for effective communication.

Processes like these are helpful management tools and set a thoughtful, logical tone to addressing challenges of all sorts.

Best,

Thom

ThomA

Coffee with Christine Zeigler

This month we sit down with Chris Zeigler as she recalls lessons and memories from her career, including her current position as Executive Director of MRC Industries.

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

I worked for 20 years for a company in the Central Michigan area called Mid-Michigan Industries. We worked in 7 different counties and provided primarily vocational training to individuals with developmental disabilities. I got the job quite by accident – I applied for a position there after seeing an ad in the newspaper. I had absolutely no experience. The way our Executive Director at the time tells it – it came down to a choice between a guy who had lots of experience in the field and me who had none but apparently they liked my interviews. When she asked the hiring supervisor to tell her a bit more about each candidate he told her that I had played golf in college. Finally, when they could not make a decision she said and I quote –“ oh heck, just hire the golfer.” I did not find out about this until about 3 years later when she was telling this to a group of people and I must say I was a bit miffed. Little did I know that as a result of that opportunity however, that I would find a career that I love and that has been fulfilling and rewarding to me and that I hope has made a difference to others.

After working in my first position there for a couple of years I then became a supervisor and started our Supported Employment program in Isabella County placing people with more severe disabilities into jobs and supervising our staff in this program. We then took over another rehabilitation facility in Gratiot County that was in crisis and I was promoted to Branch Director of that location and after a period of time was then promoted to the Branch Director position in Isabella County. I continued to work my way up through the company and when I left there to take the position at MRC Industries I was Vice-President of Operations. I was familiar with MRC and had visited here a couple of times throughout the years. When this position became open I decided to apply. It was a position of greater responsibility and my family all lives in Kalamazoo. It was an opportunity to be closer to them. I am thankful every day that I was given the opportunity to lead a fantastic organization.

What do you most love about the Kalamazoo community?

I had no idea when I moved here the depth and number of non-profit human service organizations – and also the philanthropy – that exists in our community. There are a lot of people that really care about making our community a fantastic place to live and that care about those less fortunate than we are. I have developed some terrific friendships here (I love that) and there is always something to do. I also can’t let this question go by without saying that I love the golf courses in this area. I am a member of the Moors Golf Club and also love playing at the many other fantastic courses in this area. Really, when I think about it I can’t think of anything I don’t like about Kalamazoo.

What guides or principles do you rely most upon?

The principle I rely on most and that I value above all others is integrity. I believe that if we conduct ourselves with that value in all of our interactions and responsibilities then things will always work out. Even when they don’t seem to work out, they do because you did the right thing. It’s as simple as that.

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

The person that had the most influence on me in my work career was my previous boss, Judy Garland – yes the one mentioned in question 1. She taught me a lot of things as I was growing up in this field but the one that I think is most important is that we treat the people we serve with dignity, respect and compassion – how we would want a family member or loved one to be treated if they were receiving services from us.

What has been one of your biggest learning moments?

One of my biggest learning moments came when I had started my new job here at MRC and we had the major flood in 2008. Our building on Bank Street had about 5 feet of water in it and most everything was ruined. We had to try and find a place to continue services, we had production and mailing customers that lost their product, staff who no longer had a desk, a computer or place to go, payroll that needed to be met etc. etc. I had about one minute to get over the initial shock and devastation and then had to move quickly.

I remember having all kinds of questions such as “what are we going to do, how are we ever going to recover from this, can we recover” etc. and then I said to myself “you are it.” In other words, it was my responsibility to figure out what we were going to do and my responsibility to go forward with the belief that we would recover from this. I remember thinking: nobody died, nobody was seriously injured and we will figure this out and come out stronger as a result. It was my job to make that happen. That is not to say that we did not get a lot of support from the community, our board of directors and our staff but ultimately I felt that I was responsible for the outcome we did or did not achieve. This weighed very heavily on me.

The other thing I learned from this was the tremendous support that we had in this community. It was very heartwarming and meaningful to learn that people really cared about MRC and therefore that people really cared about the individuals we serve and that they were considered an important and respected part of our community.

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

I have two things that keep me up at night. The first is that I worry about what if something happens to someone under our care. We have responsibility on any given day for around 450 individuals with disabilities. I am proud to say we have an excellent safety record but it only takes one mistake or one person not following a policy or procedure when something bad could happen so that responsibility is something that never leaves me. The other thing that keeps me up at night is worrying about money. Although MRC is a very financially stable organization, my job is to make sure it stays that way and when we have funding cuts that are outside of our control it makes me worry.

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

I do a lot of reading and talking to people in our field. I am on the Board of Directors of MARO, our state association and they provide a lot of good information to us. I am also on two other committees/work groups in Lansing that helps me keep abreast of current trends. I also would like to think we are not just following the latest trend but setting the trend!

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

The best advice I could give someone is to first make sure that you have a passion for the mission of your organization, the willingness to work hard as a result and to take the responsibility you are given seriously. Second, I would remind people that the funding we primarily get is tax payer money and we have a responsibility to assure that it is used wisely and in a way that most impacts the individuals we serve. Third, always maintain a sense of humor, be flexible and do what you can to make life a little easier for the individuals you serve. You will be rewarded many times over.

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

Golf is my number one hobby. When I am not at work you can usually find me on the golf course. I still love to compete. I love being outside and particularly love boats and being on the water. I even like to fish as long as I don’t have to touch the worms or the fish. I also love to read and am always in the middle of a good book.

ThomA

The Madness of Winners & Losers

Our April NEWSletter arrives in the midst of March Madness. Those who attend to such things complete their brackets, contribute to the office pool and cheer on their team. And, while there may be several moral victories, the final result is one winner and several losers.

Sports competitions provide entertainment for most of us and build skills and character for those on the court or the fairway or the field. That spirit of competition also informs many approaches to business. However…

…competition is no way to run a nonprofit.

Successful nonprofits (as well as most successful businesses) thrive because they work cooperatively with other organizations. (BTW, this is confirmed by hundreds of studies dating from the late 1800’s through today.) They place their long-term vision and desire for impact above their own self-interest. And they increase their impact by embracing a network mind-set, giving knowledge and resources away to accomplish more than if they acted alone.

The funny thing is this: even though a network mind-set appears as generous and altruistic, it’s actually a function of enlightened self-interest. By focusing beyond your personal career and organizational success to the impact you wish to make, you increase your chances of being successful.

In their book, Forces for Good, Leslie Crutchfield and Heather Grant identify four tactics to implement this mind-set:

  1. Work to increase the resource pool for your cause more than grabbing for your share
  2. Share knowledge and expertise to gain more influence as a collective
  3. Develop leadership throughout the network
  4. Grow small networks into increasingly larger coalitions

Overall, it’s not about who gets the biggest grant or who gets the credit. It’s about getting that change.

ThomA

Just ONEthing - April

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 month’s insight comes from Mary Jo Asmus, President of Aspire Collaborative Services. In her recent workshop, Coaching for Breakthrough Performance, Mary Jo taught and demonstrated the power of focused attention.

Spending as little as ten minutes being focused on the other person and asking them open questions, allows the individual to peel back layers of understanding and discover more effective courses of action.

Unlike feedback which offers evaluation of previous acts or consulting which offers specific direction, coaching opens individuals to the insights and possibilities within themselves.

More specifically, coaching:

  • Helps an individual visualize the current situation and desired future situation
  • Restates and builds on an individual’s own insights to co-discover possible options
  • Explores necessary tasks to remove barriers and achieve desired ends
  • Ensures commitment of the individual to take action and be accountable

Find out more about Mary Jo, including her informative blog at aspire-cs.com.

ThomA