News, comments, resources, and more for nonprofits.
I recall several years ago, closing my hotel room door and leaving the last of five regional conferences. Over the previous two years we had identified needs, set agendas, found venues, developed promotions, and guided registrations. Now it was done, and it felt great.
There's a time to plan and a time to do, and, for many, October is a doing time. This is the time that your plan comes alive, becoming a guiding light. It not only tells you what to do and when to do it, but also lets you see how the varieties of tasks relate to one another.
Keeping this valuable knowledge off the shelf and front of mind ensures that the small but often substantive decisions you make along the way furthers your mission.
Plan the work, and then work the plan. If your plan is incomplete, then take time now to complete it. It's important to know where you're headed.
Then enjoy the satisfaction of a job well done.
In this inaugural installment of our Coffee series, it seems fitting that we sit down with Ann Rohrbaugh, Director of the Kalamazoo Public Library (KPL), and talk about her years at KPL. Having started as an aide in the bookmobile department while still at WMU, Ann held several positions and became director in 2005.
Tell us how you got to where you are today
I came to Western Michigan University (WMU) for graduate school in library science and expected I’d be here for a year! While at WMU, I had a part-time job in the reference department at KPL. When I graduated there happened to be an opening and I was offered a reference librarian position. From that position I became acting department head, then eventually to the library office in a variety of positions until I became director in 2005. Along the way, I returned to WMU and earned a masters in library administration, a degree program like library science that is no longer offered there.
Why do you most love about the Kalamazoo community?
I expected to be here a year but clearly I’m here for the long haul! It has been a wonderful community in which to settle in, raise a family. I love the size of the community, the wide variety of activities, and of course, the strong support for libraries and learning.
What guides or principles do you rely most upon?
I certainly reply upon professional standards for the library profession….open access; freedom to read, listen, and view; the library bill of rights. I’ve learned to trust my instincts too – I think that comes increasingly with experience and a sense for what will serve our community best.
Who was one of your mentors and what do you carry with you from that relationship?
Mentors early in my career certainly were staff at KPL, especially the Head of the Reference Department and later the library director. From both of them I learned how to operate within an organization, the importance of the long-range view, and appropriate risk taking.
What’s an average day like for you at the Kalamazoo Public Library?
Nine department heads report to me and I meet with each of them most every week, so most days I have one or two standing meetings. I’m usually preparing for some upcoming meeting or event, I often have an outside meeting AND I try to find time to sit at my desk and work….plan for our monthly board meeting, write my weekly blog, make progress on the ‘big-picture’ items. Some days email can be overwhelming – good and bad!
What are the types of challenges/opportunities that keep you up at night?
My overarching concern is the financial uncertainty facing public libraries in Michigan. On a shorter term basis, staff issues sometimes make me restless at night.
How do you stay up-to-date on latest trends in your field?
I read the standard library publications and listservs, attend state and local conferences, talk informally with colleagues. Equally important in the library field is staying current generally – technology, current events and trends, government development that could impact us, local news. That’s a challenge but I do read a lot both professionally and, of course, for pleasure.
What advice do you have for those wishing to have a long lasting career in the nonprofit sector?
I’d offer two pieces of advice: network with others both in your field and in related fields, both locally and at some distance. My small group of Michigan library directors of similar size public libraries has been invaluable both professionally and personally. We offer advice and support to each other. Second, live a balanced life. Nonprofit work can be all-consuming, don’t let it become so for you.
What do you geek?
I geek baking! I no longer select cookbooks for the library’s collection, but I still browse them frequently. I bake often, but now that our kids are grown and live elsewhere, I have to share it with others. Fortunately many baked items freeze well.
Enjoy what you do and if you don’t look for something else.
Every month, we learn much from the participants and presenters we meet at ONEplace. In Just ONEthing… we will highlight an insight gained during the past month from our nonprofit community and its partners.
This months’ insight has to do with volunteers and volunteer management. At our supervisor training, Paul Knudstrup shared the rule of thirds related to volunteer management.
- One-third will do what you ask, high quality and on time
- One-third will do what you ask, but they need a few reminders
- One-third will not follow-through on your requests
Each year, you do what you do to thank all of your volunteers, and you invite the two-thirds who did what you asked to volunteer again next year. Then, you recruit new volunteers to fill out the roster.
Over time, you build a strong corps of loyal, trustworthy volunteers.
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:
I love checking things off my list. I love it so much that I add quickly-done things to my list just so I can check them off. Feeling the rush of placing another Check Mark (oh yes, I capitalized it) on this week’s list, I briefly bask in a business buzz.
Now it’s Friday – the week’s end. I’m looking back at the past few days – what’s done, what’s yet to do. Admiring each Check Mark on the list, I pause and puzzle over how puny each accomplishment appears. No one task seemed to do anything of great substance; rather, each task simply moved an effort one little step forward.
Indeed, accomplishments of great substance – such as eating the proverbial pachyderm – are done one step at a time…and often by more than one person or one team or even one organization. Collective impact moves the big issues.
So, each day we move forward, one step by one step. We communicate, person by person. We ask, question by question. We explore, issue by issue – each conversation, each action, each insight contributing a thin layer of substance and understanding.
Eventually, the big issue falls. But it was the daily nudge that brought that issue to the edge.
As they say, the dollar’s in the details, life’s in the little things, and Check Marks ROCK! So, I think that I’ll go make my To Do List for next week.
Are you squeezing every last cent out of every dollar, every year…and still running a deficit? Are you expanding your mission to chase after one more grant? Do your communications often (too often) say, “please save us, we’re worth it?”
If so, it’s time to admit that your organization’s business model is unsustainable. It’s not time to redouble efforts. It’s time for a new direction - time for a turnaround.
Turnarounds are not miracles. They result from good planning and determined implementation, and they require an unwavering focus on strong leadership, disciplined management, aggressive marketing, and right-sized fundraising.
Strong leadership delivers
* a single, unified vision
* a positive, forward-looking face to outside world
* courageous decision-making
Disciplined management delivers
* obsessive focus on the mission
* a feasible plan toward sustainability
* short-term needs handled with long-term perspective
Institutional marketing delivers
* A clear, mission-focused message that’s descriptive and inspiring
* One solid PR hit every quarter (monthly for larger orgs)
* One spokesperson who controls the media message
Right-sized fundraising delivers
* Gifts that make sense given your organization’s budget and profile
* Grants that support the current mission (vs. create new lines of programming)
* Increased revenue
Again, turnarounds are not miracles. They result from good planning and determined implementation. Further, they take place with energy and speed – no more than three years.
ONEplace@kpl can assist with your turnaround. Email or call today (269-553-7899).
Much of the above is drawn from Michael Kaiser’s excellent book, The Art of the Turnaround. He sets forth ten rules that are clear and practical, and he tells several stories of how he applied those rules to turn around various struggling organizations.
ONEplace renovations commence this week. While the conference room remains intact, the walls surrounding the center are coming down. With books boxed, computers carted and pamphlets packed, we’re ready for the walls to fall.
In light of our renovation, it’s tempting to play with the metaphor of “tearing down walls to embrace a broader perspective.” Indeed, creating opportunities for you to connect with your nonprofit colleagues holds a prominent position in our current plan. And, already, several important connections and insights have come about as a result of networking at events and online. Even so, I’ll avoid that temptation.
It’s also quite enticing to conjure the image of “looking out beyond the resource into the wider world.” You know, mapping new ideas and tools on to the current landscape, keeping a long-term view during short-term highs & lows, and continually asking “who else needs to be at the table for this discussion?” Very enticing, but not worth pursuing.
I could, of course, look to an outcome of the renovation – a focused collection, displayed at eye level with featured titles that get to the heart of current professional development needs. But, it’s too early for that.
So, for now, I’ll just leave it as “pardon our dust.”
Wait! Perhaps I should write on the power of asking forgiveness for those little things that….
Maybe next time,