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Conscious choice and discipline

In his book, Great by Choice, Jim Collins compares companies within the same industry, during the same time period, facing the same challenges. The great companies excelled and maintained their excellence over 15 years. The comparison companies faltered. He sums up the difference in a phrase:

Conscious choice and discipline.

Since I first learned this phrase, I’ve stumbled upon it on many occasions and in a variety of settings. I don’t hear the phrase spoken or see it written; rather, the phrase pops into mind as I observe what’s before me. Be it a child with schoolwork, challenged parents, determined youth, engaged employee, recent retiree, etc., excellence stems from sincere commitment and unwavering discipline.

Not that any one person exercises this winning combination in all aspects of life. Instead, I observe that almost everyone exercises sincere commitment and unwavering discipline in some aspect of life. That is, most of us have access to this experience, its impact, its benefits. And that is an experience we can draw upon.

So, where do you invest sincere commitment and unwavering discipline? 

It may be as simple as how you organize the clothes in your closet or care for a single, potted plant. Whatever it is, examine how this experience serves you, how it makes you feel, how it makes you whole.

Let the “small wins” teach and motivate you to take on the next thing. You know can do it. Indeed, you’ve already done it.



No thanks

As we approach Thanksgiving, I want to pause, be grateful, and affirm all the times I’ve said, “No.”

I realize that “no” is not often considered an affirmative statement. As kind and generous folks, we usually want to say “yes” when asked to help or assist in any way. Indeed, “yes” seems to leap from our mouths before we fully consider the request. It’s our default response. It feels like we’re being helpful.

Yet, every time we say “yes” to something new – a new project, new program, new responsibility of any sort – we risk diluting all the previous commitments we’ve made. To find the time and energy for even one more activity, we often embezzle energy from our standing commitments, other short-term commitments, and ourselves.

So, like a thoughtful “yes,” a well considered “no” is a strong affirmation. It affirms our family, our friends, our work, our health and everything else that fills our minds and calendars.

Happy Thanksgiving!


Inspiring and encouraging

At ONEplace we glimpse into a variety of organizations – new, established, small, large, struggling, thriving. Regardless of the size or situation, our area’s nonprofit staff and volunteers demonstrate a depth of commitment and perseverance to address their particular cause. What’s most impressive, however, is the intricacy and impact characterizing each organization.

It’s a gift to listen to someone explain how their organization’s services improve people’s lives. I often find myself pleasantly surprised as I learn how organizations come along side their constituents, navigating systems, removing barriers, and equipping them to move on.

This is why I so enjoy our KICtalks programs. Kalamazoo Innovative Community talks provide organizations an opportunity to spotlight their particular innovation, show how it builds community, and invite others to play a part. I learn a lot about each organization and leave inspired, encouraged, and interested to learn about other organizations.

The next KICtalks is Thursday, November 12, 5:30 – 7 pm at the downtown library. We’ll hear from Kalamazoo Book Arts Center, Kalamazoo Literacy Council, and Restore Ministries. I hope you’ll attend.




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 (



P.S. Enjoy this video of the Beatles singing “Help” on British TV.

ONE Leader Development

ONEplace believes that a strong nonprofit sector is critical to the success of any community. We encourage everyone to be a leader (i.e., take full ownership of their role) within his or her own span of control and sphere of influence.

We envision a day when a critical mass of Resolute-Humble Leaders (i.e., Level 5 Leaders) is spread throughout our area, collaborating to successfully address deeply entrenched community problems. Success is not understood as solving a problem once and for all. Rather, success is a state of continual improvement in which a community admits and addresses their problems in a spirit of hope and unity.

As a catalyst for community success, ONEplace focuses on Leader Development that 


  • addresses the whole person, because we bring all of who we are to every situation
  • encourages personal integrity, because aligning values and actions energizes one’s voice and agency
  • builds collaborative connections, because only together do we bring sufficient capacity to the table


ONEplace offers leader development programs for emerging leaders at all levels of your organization. Thanks to the generosity of local foundations, all ONEplace programs are free of charge.

Highly Capable Individual – Available 24/7, ONEpages web-based resources address single topic concerns affecting most nonprofits. Our Video Series also provides convenient, focused instruction on fundraising, communications, governance, and more. For those new concerns or challenges, contact our staff for Direct Assistance with your issue.

Competent ManagerManagement Track series address knowledge and skills critical for management success, including: Supervision, Fundraising, Operational Processes, Team Building, Marketing and more. Our Peer Learning Groups bring motivated managers together to learn and grow in a collaborative environment, while deepening their own sense of passion and commitment. For emerging leaders with their sights set on executive leadership, our ONEplace Nonprofit Leader Academy offers a ten-month, intensive course in leading an organization.

Effective LeaderPeer Learning Groups provide a needed space for executive leaders to reconnect and renew themselves in a supportive and collaborative environment. In addition, new CEO’s are offered six months of free coaching to help them navigate their personal and organizational transition.

ONEplace also offers LIFEwork Renewal, a self-guided, personal development program open to all that encourages and equips healthier, happier, more productive living. Daily attention to quiet, exercise, diet, and learning, coupled with quarterly day retreat opportunities provide the framework to bring greater focus and energy to one’s work and life.

Many of the above elements are in place and a few will continue to roll out this winter. As always, please contact us with any questions.

Just ONEthing - Nov 2015

How would you like to work less, feel better, and be more productive? Over this past month, several presentations and discussions pointed to an almost magical idea that would do all three:

Devote time to self-care.

The standard excuse of “I’m too busy” is characterized by one presenter as another way of saying, “I’m too lazy.” Busy becomes lazy, when we take on too many things outside our core priorities, don’t draw healthy boundaries, and do-it-yourself rather than delegate. We put ourselves and our organizations at risk by burning up and burning out to better our organizations and services.

Beth Kanter (The Networked Nonprofit) is working on a new book focusing on “impact without burnout.” Faced with dire warnings from her doctor, she changed her habits and not only feels better but is much more productive than when she worked longer hours.

A driven workaholic, Kanter framed self-care as “part of her work” to make spending time on self-care more palatable. As a result, she feels better, “works” fewer hours, is more productive, and produces higher quality work.

Bottom line: If you’re healthy and rested, the quantity and quality of your work will improve.

Executing leadership

Halloween fast approaches! Pumpkin spice saturates everything consumable and Trunk-or-Treat signs compete with election signs for front lawn real estate. 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 improve or remove 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 cause 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.

ANM 2015

I spent last week at the Alliance for Nonprofit Management Conference. This annual gathering of nonprofit leaders and capacity builders examined various ways to build the capacity of individuals, organizations, and communities. Rusty Stahl (Talent Philanthropy Project), our first keynote speaker, provided the biggest take-away for me when he said,

Capacity building must focus on people first.

While we may evaluate various structures, experiment with new models, and implement multiple incentives, it all comes down to the ability of individuals to take responsibility, build relationships, and develop their skills. Organizations may provide the encouragement and space for professional development, but it’s individual preparation and engagement that makes all the difference.

So, how are you attending to your own professional development?

Another key take-away was the need for each of us to attend to our own self-care. Our second keynote speaker was Beth Kanter (The Networked Nonprofit) whose upcoming book focuses on “impact without burnout.” She suggests that self-care is part of our work and calls for us to develop a culture of replenishment in our own lives and organizations. The bottom line is this: If you’re not healthy and rested, you cannot be productive.

So, how are you attending to your own self-care?

One final take-away: we have the unusual opportunity to access programs and resources to assist in our development, year-round, free-of-charge, at ONEplace. The foresight and commitment of our funding community to create such a center opens avenues that the vast majority of our nonprofit colleagues lack.

So, take the lead in your professional development and self-care. Not sure where to start, ONEplace can help with that too. 

What is your next step?



Savor the KISS

We all know KISS – Keep It Simple Sweetie. The admonition gets tossed around from time to time, especially when someone (self or other) gets mired in operational complexities or lost in multiple scenarios. So why is keeping it simple so important and effective?

KISS allows people to bring order to their own particular style of chaos.

Let’s face it: people are messed up – and I mean that in a nice way. That is, people bring their own messiness to your website, your program, your service, your doorstep. There’s no way to anticipate all the various recipes of messiness that get served to your organization by patrons, volunteers, et al. So, what do we do?

We keep it simple.

Not only does the simplicity of our process serve the patron’s need, it makes for happier staff and more willing volunteers. Sure, there will be plenty of exceptions, so let them be exceptions. Keep the normal simple.

This goes for organizational branding as well.

A recent article in Entrepreneur spotlights the importance of simplifying one’s personal and organizational branding. Consultant Steve Tobak advises us to “keep it simple” and cites Apple and Mercedes as examples. Both keep their names attached to their products: the Mercedes SL-500 or the Apple Watch that you saw on Apple TV and purchased using Apple Pay.

How are you bringing complexity and confusion to processes or communications?

Ask someone who doesn’t know your organization to look over your website, marketing, and services. Simplifying the first steps, the introductory brochures, the homepage, the elevator speech and other gateways to your brand and services will not only make life easier, it will make everyone happier.



Raise more money

A couple of weeks ago our Leadership Academy spent time on fundraising. In addition to excellent instruction, we also enjoyed a highly engaged discussion with a panel of experienced fundraisers. Among the several topics, tips, and insights shared was this:

The year-end fundraiser is still king.

Virtually every organization does some type of fundraising in November and December. Gratitude and giving are in the air, donors get a last chance at tax deductions, and many have developed a habit of donating at year’s end. Whatever the reason, it’s an extremely important time for nonprofits that depend on donor contributions.

ONEplace offers programs to help you plan, prepare and deliver a successful fundraising campaign. First, this week’s video is Year-End Fundraising Campaign by Big Duck, a New York communications firm that works exclusively with nonprofits.

Next, in mid-October, our video series brings you Giving Tuesday Success by nonprofit social media guru, Beth Kanter. This will encourage you to have your Giving Tuesday in place and ready to go for raising big money on December 1.

Finally, our Fundraising Series returns, beginning October 29. Michelle Karpinski (Pretty Lake Camp) partners with ONEplace to bring you three workshops designed to help you make this year’s campaign the best ever. They include:

Planning your Year-End Campaign – Oct 29

Donor Communications – Cut thru the Noise – Nov 5

Donor Recognition – Keep ’em Coming Back – Nov 12

Your time is valuable. Let these video and workshop opportunities ensure that you spend the needed time focusing and refining your campaign. You’ll save time – and raise more money – in the long run.