ONEplace Blog

News, comments, resources, and more for nonprofits.

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

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

I'd like to thank...

I don't go to many movies but I always watch the Oscars. This year was no different.

Every year, without fail, the one thing you can count on is that every acceptance speech will include a long list of names – usually too long to name everyone. These lists include close colleagues, family, and long-time supporters; people to thank and to share in the award. Why? The point is clear:

No one achieves great things alone.

I see the same thing happen at any awards program from the national stage to the local community center. Working together is the only way we can move the needle, change the conversation, create collective impact or fulfill our vision. So, a key question for each one of us is this:

With whom do I need to connect?

I recently talked with a board president who told me that their board created a list of key influencers - people who would support their cause and were in a position to advance their cause. After refining the list, they divided it up, each person taking responsibility for connecting with the people on their list. In this way, the board engaged efforts towards building public support and laid the foundation for sustainability.

What’s your vision for a better tomorrow, and who shares that vision? Who can help address the cause your organization is working so hard to advance? These and similar questions may stimulate discussion at your next management or board meeting. If you’re not sure how to proceed, contact ONEplace and we’ll work on a strategy together.

Best,

Thom

ThomA

Direct Assistance for Unique Challenges

Many of you are aware that ONEplace offers direct assistance services, i.e., first line consultation on unique challenges and concerns faced by nonprofit staff and boards. We average about six contacts each day, attending to phone calls, emails, and personal appointments.

We value this work in large part because of the trust inherent in our conversations. You not only trust us to provide sound guidance and resources but also to hold your concerns in confidence. We honor this position and hold it as a cornerstone of our organization’s integrity.

Building upon this position, we have responded to specific needs by conducting limited on-site facilitation and training for organization staff and boards of directors. These tailored events not only address your specific challenges and concerns, they also provide a common experience upon which to build. Responses to this service so far have been very positive.

Another extension of our direct assistance services comes in recognizing that ONEplace doesn’t have all the answers. Sometimes your best solution resides within another organization that has faced a similar challenge in their recent past. So, from time to time, we facilitate introductions and connections between nonprofits to address the specific concern and to continue to strengthen the overall nonprofit sector.

We value your trust and hope you will extend it to your colleagues as we assist one another in building more effective organizations and a stronger community.

ThomA

Just ONEthing - Jan 2014

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 our Annual Reports People Actually Read webinar. During the webinar, Kivi Leroux Miller (Nonprofit Marketing Guide) presented the sobering fact that the vast majority of people receiving our annual reports will spend only 30-to-90 seconds with them before putting them in the recycle bin. Ouch!

This led into an excellent presentation and discussion on how to best use annual reports. Since there are no regulations or requirements governing nonprofit annual reports, they may focus on connecting with the target audience – commonly donors. Her two main guidelines: frame the report with one main thing to be remembered and keep the report short, personal, and timely.

More information may be found at Kivi’s webpage devoted to annual reports. Also, this webinar (like many that we present) may be viewed individually at the library. Simply call ONEplace to set an appointment (269-553-7910).

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

Help!

Once again, a challenge arrives that stops you in your tracks. What do you do? Where do you turn?

   Help! I need somebody

You’re the only one in your organization who does this work – a lone ranger. Be it fundraising, communications, executive leadership, program manager – you need to talk through this challenge with someone who gets it.

   Help! Not just anybody

After combing the internet, you find information. Some of it may be helpful…you’re just not sure. The more info you find, the more you time you spend, generates as many questions as it does possible answers. So frustrating!

   Help! You know I need someone

Do not hesitate to contact ONEplace. We were created by area foundations and nonprofit leaders to offer direct assistance to nonprofit staff and volunteers. You face a challenge and you need to talk it through, to make sense of it, and to set a reasonable course of action. Don’t remain stuck – call (269-553-7899) or email (oneplace@kpl.gov).

Best,

Thom

P.S. Enjoy this video of the Beatles singing “Help” at Shea Stadium.

ThomA

Here we go again

Let’s be real…for many of us, September starts the program year. In addition to school, many programs, seasons, and endeavors of all sorts begin in the fall.

As I launch into this year, I look forward to the activities, the people, the fun, the challenges, and all the ups and downs. I make plans secure in the knowledge that few things go as planned. I set a course confident that I will, more than once, find myself off course. I claim a vision encouraged by the surety of surprising twists and turns.

Emboldened by the barriers, hurdles and miscues that lie ahead, I open my eyes wide and dive right in. But, that’s leadership – keeping the endeavor mission-focused over the long haul while events and circumstances (largely beyond our control) would draw it off course.

Fortunately, while we may feel isolated from time to time, none of us have to face our challenges alone. My greatest joy over the past year at ONEplace has been the daily confirmation that all of us in the nonprofit community are on the same team. Every engaging post-workshop Q&A session, discussion, and counseling interaction draws upon a shared commitment to building a Greater Kalamazoo. We’re on the same team – not by virtue of common funders but because of a common passion and our common commitment to live, work, play and thrive in this place we all call home.

So, here we go. Another year kicks off promising nothing more than the opportunity to engage. Go for it!

A smooth sea never made a skilled sailor.
English Proverb

Best,

Thom

ThomA

Board Learning

According to Ten Basic Responsibilities of Nonprofit Boards, each board is responsible for keeping itself competent. This is done through good recruitment and good training.

When boards act, they act as one, so it’s often helpful for them to learn and grow together as one. These common experiences not only provide useful governance tools but the board also grows together – deepening relationships and building trust. It adds effectiveness and satisfaction to their work.

Boards rarely have extra time, so ONEplace works with executive directors and board leadership to target training on specific, high priority concerns. Further, we follow up to help ensure that the change you desire comes to pass.

Each nonprofit board is as unique as the organization it governs. Sometimes, our board members need more than prior board experience to navigate your board’s particular challenges. We’re here to help.

ThomA

Organizational Learning

While staff development line items wither on many of our budgets, we still know that attending to our team’s learning promotes job satisfaction and increases productivity.

In a January 2012 Forbes article, Josh Bersin says that the days of the formalized training programs in big corporate universities are gone. Today, many high performing companies use “formalized informal learning programs” that mix on-the-job learning with coaching and performance support.

Does your organization’s training program need some attention? We work with those responsible for staff training (e.g. Executive Directors or Human Resource Directors) to help organize learning programs. Together, we balance learning opportunities from your industry, from internal resources and from ONEplace to provide a comprehensive approach to staff learning.

Whether your program is well-established or more of a thought bubble, I suggest you read Peter Senge and the Learning Organization. It’s lengthy, but it provides an excellent summary of Senge’s 1990 seminal work, The Fifth Discipline, and offers lessons learned from those who’ve used it.

ThomA