One of the joys of working at ONEplace is the opportunity to meet and talk with a variety of people: from long-term nonprofit leaders to those incubating start-ups; from seasoned board members to neighborhood advisory councils; from funders sitting on millions of dollars to social entrepreneurs sitting on a single idea. From all these discussions and more, I’ve realized one undeniable fact:
Each person brings a critically important contribution to the discussion.
This is not about asking “Who’s not at the table?” or making sure the discussion includes “representative voices.” This is about recognizing that every discussion is ill-informed because voices will always be missing. It’s also about making the effort to go beyond representative voices and seek out, invite, and create an environment safe enough for each critically important perspective to be raised.
We’re doing this on a few fronts, at ONEplace and in community centers. It takes time – sometimes years – to get acquainted and develop readiness, and then more time to build trust. But, as they say, “In five years it will be 2019 either way, so we might as well start.”
Posing open, honest questions that draw out the diversity of perspectives brings new light to the matter at hand. Just as light from one angle illuminates only part of a structure and casts shadows on other parts, light from many angles removes the shadows and illuminates the whole.
And, when I catch a glimpse of the whole, I realize the specious nature of the phase, “people in need.”
Rather, I desire to participate in the diverse circle which hosts people we need. In this circle, there is no teacher or student, no grantor or grantee, no provider or client. In this circle, each person claims, “There are eyes that see things I don’t see, ears that hear sounds I don’t hear, and hearts that bear burdens I don’t bear.”
Until every light shines, unencumbered, we’re all left in the dark.
The upcoming ONEplace Nonprofit Leadership Academy offers early career nonprofit professionals an intensive leadership development experience – free of charge.
ONEplace, Kalamazoo County’s management support center for nonprofit organizations, opened in 2009 and has offered the Academy since 2012. The Academy provides emerging community leaders an in-depth exploration of leadership within a nonprofit context. Due to the generous support of area foundations and the Kalamazoo Public Library, all ONEplace services are free.
During the Academy, a variety of experts and practitioners guide the participants through subject matter critical to nonprofit leadership. Participants also engage personal development activities vital to being a leader.
In addition, each participant works with a mentor for the duration of the Academy. The mentor (usually a current executive director) and participant explore topics raised in class and other related issues.
As a result, participants discover their own leadership qualities and challenges through assessments, group discussion, and various participative exercises, and develop a plan for future steps toward leadership.
This competitive program includes nine full-day sessions held monthly from February through November. Prospective participants are encouraged to attend ONEplace Leadership Series and Management Track workshops offered throughout the year to prepare for and supplement this intensive Academy.
More at kpl.gov/ONEplace/ONLA
Many nonprofit staff supervise others, manage programs, or both. Acquiring and honing management skills form a continuous process and a cornerstone of organizational effectiveness.
Our ONEplace Essentials program addresses your and your staff’s basic management skill development needs. Every month, we’ll offer at least one Management Track workshop focused on skills critical to your success.
For example, we recently held a video series on event management (July), a workshop on team building (Aug), and our Supervision Series (Sep/Oct). In the coming months, we’ll offer workshops on communication skills (Oct), problem solving (Nov), decision making (Dec), project management (Jan), and more.
Spending valuable time on professional development is essential to your career growth and your organization’s development. By scheduling our Management Track workshops further in advance, you can better plan and coordinate your professional development activities and get dates on your calendar.
Plus, we encourage Management Track workshops as preparation for (and follow-up to) a Leadership Academy experience.
Our goal is to develop Essentials into a menu of workshops that you can count on each year. Of course, we’ll adjust, tweak, and alter based upon your good feedback. Thanks!
[list of Management Track workshops]
You see our “This Week” email every Monday listing the next three weeks’ worth of events at ONEplace. Do you ever wonder how these events get selected…or how you can influence the selections? Let’s peek behind the curtain for a brief moment.
For several months, we’ve been selecting workshops based upon evaluation feedback, issues from direct assistance meetings, and research studies. We then ensure a balanced offering addressing leadership, management, fundraising, and communications.
Last spring, we decided to add a strategic element as well. We developed a generic calendar of nonprofit activity that plots approximately when certain activities take place in an organization’s life. For example, year-end fundraising campaigns in Nov-Dec, annual reports three months following the year’s end, annual review of communications in the spring, etc. We implemented this approach July 1 with a four-webinar series on event planning (in anticipation of fall fundraising events). Series attendance exceeded workshop averages by 20%.
As we implement this further, you’ll notice that we will announce some events months in advance. This will give you an opportunity to better plan your professional development and hold those spaces on your calendar.
Lastly, selected workshops will be ear-marked as ONEplace Leadership Series events. These events will address key leadership issues and will be suggested as preparatory work for those considering the ONEplace Nonprofit Leadership Academy. Topics such as Supervision, Mission/Vision, Strategic Communications, Emergency Preparedness and others will be offered.
Your evaluation feedback, survey responses, and comments offer extraordinary assistance in keeping ONEplace programming targeted to your needs. Thank you!
If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard the phrase, “stretched too thin,” I’d be neck-deep in nickels. Nonprofit or not, many staff feel the strain of too much to do and not enough time to do it. One executive director recently phrased the question this way:
How do we prioritize our work and then be willing to live with it?
Setting priorities, in part, means choosing what’s not going to get done. Everything can’t be a priority. Most things can’t be a priority. Only the few, essential, mission-critical things are priorities. The rest…well…I can hear it now.
“52 of my 57 tasks ARE mission-critical! It all MUST be done and done soon!”
Assuming the criteria of what is and is not mission-critical is sound, you’re left with two choices: delegate or delete. Both involve letting go.
Delegation means being willing to let go of control and trusting someone else to put their stamp on the result. However, there may be more options here than you first imagine. We may delegate to someone within our organization or work collaboratively with another organization. We may hire out certain tasks. We may be able to divide a task and only attend to the critical aspect of it. What other options can you think of?
Deleting critical tasks may mean facing the fact that capacity is truly being exceeded and then letting go of that which makes the task critical (e.g., paring programs or services). This is an extreme measure to be sure.
These are not easy decisions. The important ones rarely are. Yet, we must maintain the capacity to deliver on our commitments, and recognize that every “yes” that takes us beyond our capacity diminishes the quality of our programs and the integrity of our organization.
If you find yourself wresting on this particular mat, please contact ONEplace. We’ll work with you to sort things out.
Like many of you, ONEplace operates on a fiscal year, and our new year begins July 1. This coming Monday is New Year’s Eve – Woo-hoo!
We have no New Year’s Resolutions, however we can announce some new and developing capacity building efforts.
Our ONEplace Peer Learning program launched with a recent survey of interest. With 80 of you interested in participating, we’re looking forward to many rich, insightful discussions in the months ahead.
Before the summer’s out, we’ll also be unveiling ONEplace Essentials, a core selection of workshops in each of five key areas: management, leadership, governance, fundraising, and communications. These workshops will be scheduled months in advance so you can hold the dates and better plan your professional development activities.
Details of the next ONEplace Nonprofit Leadership Academy will be announced in September. Feedback from the previous three classes and discussions with leaders of similar programs in other communities are helping to refine our Academy each year.
Finally, we will continue to encourage you to connect with your nonprofit colleagues through our Kalamazoo Nonprofit Connection on LinkedIn and in LIVE quarterly gatherings (next is August 20). These networking opportunities expand your resource pool and often connect you to the solutions you need.
So ring in the New Year by taking time to consider your professional development needs and those of your staff and board. We’re happy to work with you to prepare your plan.
We consistently hear from you (including our recent survey results) that you value discussion and interaction with your peers. This makes sense. As we work together on new information, we challenge each other’s assumptions, uncover specific insights, and learn from one another.
A recent study supports your feedback. Last year, the Johnson Center for Philanthropy did a study for Wilberforce University on effective capacity building strategies. This exhaustive study examined literature from 2008-2013, surveyed 236 foundations, and included 20 interviews. One key result of this study was that peer learning surfaced as the most effective capacity building approach.
Over the past several months, ONEplace has been piloting peer learning groups. In addition, we’ve interviewed persons who have benefitted from other peer learning groups. Now it’s time to move this effort to its next phase.
Soon we will issue an invitation for our ONEplace Peer Learning program. Participants will be gathered in small groups. Here are some details:
- Groups will be approximately 8 persons
- Peer groups will be defined by common position held and similar level of experience
- Time commitment will be up to each group (suggestion is at least six monthly meetings)
- All groups will be facilitated by ONEplace
We look forward to this new venture, and we look forward to your participating and helping it to grow into an effective way to learn, connect, and grow in your career.
- You want your board to be more engaged…how do we get them to focus?
- You’ve been on a board for years…is this really what we should be doing?
- You’re elected to a nonprofit’s board…now what?
- You’re considering serving on a nonprofit board…what am I getting myself into?
This past year, ONEplace increased its assistance and training with nonprofit boards. One of the insights from working with almost 20 boards is that there often is confusion as to what is and is not the board’s role. We find this is true for experienced board members as well as newer members.
This is not surprising. As the world around us changes, the governance challenges shift as well. Concerns with funding, long-term planning, and public perception lead us into a labyrinth of ideas as well as stories of past successes and failures. As one person put it, “It’s easy to get lost in the weeds.”
To address this fundamental concern, ONEplace will offer a Board Membership 101 workshop three times over the next year. During this 90-minute workshop, participants will:
- Learn the ten basic responsibilities of a board
- Examine proven practices in meeting these responsibilities
- Explore how these interface with your board
- Discover the benefits of serving on a board
The next Board Membership 101 is scheduled for Tuesday, June 24 at 4 pm. Others are slated for October and April. Consider having two or more of your board members attend the upcoming workshop to see how this event may integrate with your onboarding and continuous improvement processes.
ONEplace exists to help you do your job better. So, when you talk, we listen.
Last year, you said that you wanted more interactive workshops and fewer webinars. We cut the number of webinars in half and replaced them with 60-90’ workshops/discussions, often supplementing these with ONEpage or video pre-work.
You also said you liked small group roundtables but wanted the group to be bigger and more targeted. This past year we discontinued the open roundtables and replaced them with targeted, short-term small groups. Look for our next small group invitations coming soon.
Overall, you find ONEplace to be meeting your training needs, but you wanted more time for chatting and connecting with colleagues. In response, we started the Kalamazoo Nonprofit Connection (LinkedIn group) and our quarterly Kalamazoo Nonprofit Connection – LIVE networking event. Your participation makes these valuable tools to strengthen our nonprofit sector.
A few weeks ago, we sent our semi-annual Training Event Survey. “Thank You” to the 95 respondents who participated.
At ONEplace, we measure our impact with post-session evaluations and a bank of semi-annual surveys. In the recent Training Events survey, we measure success on these questions:
- Do you plan to return? If you find value, you’ll return for more.
- Do you recommend ONEplace to others? If you find value, you’ll recommend ONEplace to others.
- Do you see a benefit to your job, your organization, and yourself? You notice improvement.
- Do you expand your network by attending? You feel more connected to your nonprofit colleagues
Our benchmark is 85%. Here’s what you reported:
- 99% plan to attend future events at ONEplace
- 97% have recommended ONEplace to colleagues or others
- 99% agree or strongly agree that workshops benefitted their organizations
- 99% agree or strongly agree that workshops helped them do their jobs better
- 98% agree or strongly agree that workshops benefitted them personally
- 91% agree or strongly agree that workshops expanded their network
Your comments also help guide ONEplace programs and activities. Here’s a summary of your 45 separate comments.
- Twelve (27%) comments affirming current programming and approach
- Eight (18%) requested evening workshops
- Three (7%) suggested holding events at locations other than the library
- Three (7%) requesting more small group opportunities with like positions
- Two (4%) encourage more interaction & discussion time in workshops
In addition, there were several single comments sharing ideas for programs and improvements. Some we’ve already started on based upon comments gleaned from post-session evaluations. Others are still to be considered.
We know that ideas and concerns arise any time (not just at survey time), so please do not hesitate to send us your thoughts (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Mission, vision, values, strategic plans, purpose statements, case statements, and the list goes on. With so many ways to document our organization’s focus, it’s easy to be overwhelmed. Sometimes a good metaphor helps.
The Celery Test (from Simon Sinek’s Start with Why) puts organizational focus within a grocery metaphor. We ask for advice from outside experts and each offers their own ideas of what we should buy: Oreos, Celery, Rice Milk, and M&Ms. We go to the grocery and buy all these items. In the checkout line, our variety of items indicates nothing of consequence to onlookers. Furthermore, we know that some items will be more helpful than others.
However, if we were clear that our purpose was healthy eating, then what would we buy…celery and rice milk. At the checkout, someone may notice our healthy choices and strike up a conversation based upon our shared concern (a new supporter?). We know that our money was spent on items that will be helpful. Further, once I wrote that our purpose was healthy eating, you already knew what I would be buying. In other words, clarity of purpose provides organization-wide criteria for good decision-making.
It seems that I cannot visit LinkedIn, Twitter or the bookshelves without finding more and more evidence that having and articulating a clear understanding of your purpose, your cause, and the better world you envision is the single most unifying factor for your entire stakeholder universe (staff, board, volunteers, donors, community). It speaks louder than any talking points, advertising or appeal letter. It’s at the heart of organizational integrity.
If your organization needs to recapture its purpose or simply check-in on it, ONEplace can help. Do not hesitate to call (269-553-7910) or email (ONEplace@kpl.gov) – that’s why we’re here.
P.S. Check out this detailed explanation of the Celery Test.