Please join us in welcoming Victoria Reese to Nonprofit Network! She will be serving you as one of our Capacity Builders and Certified Bridges Out of Poverty Facilitators. Drop a line and tell her hello!
I’m ecstatic to join Nonprofit Network's team and to have the opportunity to introduce to myself. As a native of Battle Creek, I spent many summers in Jackson visiting my grandparents and have very fond memories of the community.
For most of my professional career, I have devoted my life to social justice and mission-driven work that has a lasting positive impact on vulnerable populations. Collaboration has been essential to my success and I have worked with multi-disciplinary teams to address violence against women, develop strategies to decrease inequities in health, and obtain a federal charter to operate a community development credit union to expand economic opportunities to improve the quality of life for low-income families.
I have an inherent belief that communities are whole and resilient and that the solution to any community problem is in the community. I also believe that when we co-create strategies with the public, we develop tactics that meet their needs and enable real change to occur.
I am affiliated with numerous professional and volunteer networks, giving me the unique experience of serving as both grantee and grantor. This has given me an in-depth perspective on the state of nonprofit organizations—the changing landscape, the struggles they face, and their development needs.
I am married to my best friend, Tim. I have one daughter, two step-children, and four grandchildren. In my spare time, I enjoy teaching spinning, extreme couponing, and domestic travels.
My desire to be a part of an innovative organization that is forward-thinking, values equity and inclusion, and recognizes the need to partner with the community to bring about change has led me to my new role in Nonprofit Network. As I researched and learned more about the organization, its values and commitment to serving the community, I knew it was a perfect fit as it aligned with my personal goals and values.
I am delighted to add joining this great team to my credentials and look forward to meeting and learning from you.
Please join us in welcoming Victoria!
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Say goodbye to boring meetings with these 10 strategies to promote engagement and innovation.
Say goodbye to boring meetings with these 10 strategies to promote engagement and innovation.
Do you know how much time the average employee spends in meetings? I asked the all-knowing internet and was surprised to find that the answers range from 18-50% of their time, depending on their role in the organization. That is wild!
Time is, arguably, the scarcest of all resources at our disposal. So it's critical not to waste it on unproductive and boring meetings.
A truly valuable meeting is built on three things:
I am going to share some tools that we at Nonprofit Network often use—both internally at staff and board meetings and publicly with our clients—to make meetings engaging.
Keep a basket at the door to hold cell phones until the meeting is over.
Cut out all paper. Use a white board for notes (take pictures with your phone to preserve records) or use collaborative apps to share the agenda and working materials.
Phones can be incredibly distracting at meetings. But they can also be an opportunity to encourage attendants to stay engaged by utilizing apps to participate in conversation, polls, and dialogue.
Remove tables from the room to promote openness.
Provide adult coloring pages and materials to jump-start creative thinking, promote active listening, increase information retention, and decompress stress. You can also provide some tactile toys that people can fidget with during conversation to keep their hands busy and their minds focused on the dialogue.
Start at an unconventional time. Weird times are more memorable and can help to reduce tardiness.
Consider removing chairs and holding a standing meeting. But be respectful of all attendants and do not alienate colleagues that are wheel-chair enabled or otherwise unable to participate in a standing meeting. The intent is to keep people engaged, and isolating attendants would be counterproductive and possibly harmful.
Hold round robin conversations to gather more perspectives.
Use sticky dots to "vote" and voice opinions. This creates a visual that reinforces consensus in the room.
To make the most of your time as a large group, separate into small groups to dialogue, then come back together and have one person from each group share the key points of their conversations.
Do you have any tried and true strategies that you use to keep people engaged in meetings? Let us know! I'd love to hear what you think.
Need help getting out of a run of boring meetings? We can help you build a plan to get out of the boring meeting cycle.
Our mission requires us to use our time wisely, be efficient and to get all the little things done to win big.
I spent much of the last week of 2017 getting organized – I cleaned, purged, planned, scheduled, set goals, created dashboards – it’s my happy place. As a planner by trade, I find great joy in doing all of this.
I have done hundreds of strategic plans, and I know two things for sure:
1) If the plan is out of sight, it’s out of mind. The plan – and planning – needs to be part of your everyday conversation.
2) If the plan isn’t measureable – you will never be able to keep track of where you are. When it comes to winning a game – the scoreboard is the most important thing
As I work hard to keep committed to my personal and professional goals and resolutions, I use lots of resources and tools to keep me organized and efficient. Anything that saves me time is an asset to me. Anything that keeps me focused on what’s important and allows me to advance my mission is worth my time.
Here are 7 tools I have been using to ensure success and help me crush my goals:
Tracking business mileage.
I am using an app to keep track of my business mileage – the one I use is called MileageIQ – that actually prints my mileage reimbursement forms for me, from my phone, after it tracks automatically my business trips. Doing this by hand, after the fact, can take me hours and often I forget where I went.
New time keeping process.
We are using a new program called Harvest that merges time keeping and projects. It allows for easy time study’s, collective planning and keeping on track with milestones and tasks.
We use Quip, Slack and Google Docs to work on collaboration, in unison and in alignment. We plan staff meeting agendas, create systems, and shared to-do lists using these tools and do our best to “work out loud”
Streamlined and consistent calendar.
Our office has gone to a “single calendar” – gone are the days of a yearlong planning calendar on the wall, a different on one our phones and an event calendar on the back of someone’s door. We all use one tool, Outlook, and all calendars are shared and collaborative.
No lost paper.
I’ve also eliminated paper to do lists, scraps of paper and sticky notes taped to my computer monitor – I use one, Tasks – through Outlook, accessible anywhere, that pings me when things are due, helps me prioritize, allows me to instantly turn an email into a task and assign tasks to other staff members – and tells me when they have marked it complete.
I use a password keeper – the one I use is called Dashlane – and I only have to remember one password and it remembers all of my other ones.
Tangible milestones and accountability. My family has a big financial goal to meet – so we printed envelopes and numbered them (just like old school church pledge envelopes) and will use them to not only keep ourselves accountable to the goal but also to celebrate the shrinking number of envelopes.
I’d love to hear your methods and ways that you keep track of what’s most important to you.
Want to have a conversation about about establishing goals and identifying tools to help you crush them?
With the New Year comes a perfect time to wipe the slate clean and take some new approaches to better ourselves. This is great time slot at the beginning of a new calendar to consider your professional development. We know that enhanced professionals (at staff or board level) will positively impact the accomplishments of organizations. Higher skilled leaders get enhanced results.
Now that that ball has finally dropped in Times Square, a fresh look at your personal professional development is in order.
You may know that we at Nonprofit Network facilitate a lot of workshops. I’ve observed during those sessions that there is always someone who is overloaded with new and different. They are overwhelmed by all the ways they could implement the information and need assistance in identifying next steps that are achievable.
So my recommendation is to keep it simple.
Identify a single, key skill that you feel will impact your development. Mastering that skill in 2018 will make a difference.
I’ve waited until now to introduce you to the hard part. New skills will bolster your performance as you implement them, but the truly valuable impact only comes when you have mastered them.
Mastery requires changing your behavior. Changing your behavior starts with forming new habit. And habits take time.
Most people expect a short journey to mastery and when it takes more time than anticipated, the effort is reduced, or maybe frustration stops the effort entirely. Workshops are fantastic venues for exploring new skills, but the full potential comes from practicing what was learned and implementing the skills every day.
Habits were once thought to be created over a three week period. However, recent studies now tell us true “habits” will actually take 66 days or more to form. Yes, that’s slightly over two MONTHS (not weeks). Don’t despair! Creating the new and powerful habit will be worth it. It will be a skill that not only immediately benefits your organization, but one that will stay with you for the rest of your life.
When to start? I really like the old saying of the best time to plant a shade tree—the best answer: 20 years ago. The very next best answer is TODAY. If you start now, by the time our snow is gone for good, you will have a new habit.
Coming up are some workshops that may address the skill you identify. Need to focus on self care? We've got you covered. Want to improve employee management and retention? Not a problem. Ready to elevate the quality of your board management? We've got that too.
I’m not going to be so bold as to tell which skill you need to acquire. You know what it is already. Say it out loud. Now take a deep breath and get started identifying what you can do today on your journey to mastery.
Touch bases with us if you want to talk it through.
Do you want to talk about coaching?
Carrie Heider Grant
As we look forward to new opportunities in the new year, I want to share some of the exciting things on the horizon for Nonprofit Network. Our 2018 workshop calendar is live, and there will be a few more workshops and tools added in the coming weeks. This calendar looks and functions a little differently than those of previous years, and I want to take a few moments to highlight some of the exciting developments.
Let's take a look.
Nonprofit Network Leadership Academy
Calling all new executive directors! In early January, we will be opening registration for the Nonprofit Network Leadership Academy. This is a training that we have developed exclusively for executive directors who have been in their role for fewer than 3 years. Participants will be part of a cohort that will meet monthly June 2018 through December 2018. Academy registration includes a copy of the Michigan Nonprofit Management Manual.
Innovative and Accessible Board Training
Nonprofit Network is thrilled to say that we have a new vehicle to deliver board training. Thanks to the support of Community Choice Foundation, we have been able to develop an innovative tool that nonprofits of all sizes, budgets, and life-cycle stages can implement to strengthen the board. I am excited to share more about this seriously cool tool in the next few weeks!
Brand New Workshops
We have a *slew* of brand new workshops in the coming year! We’ll cover topics like planning, employee management and retention, understanding how policy changes will affect the sector, self-care, grant writing, and so much more! Heads up, though: with the exception of a select few workshops, we will not be repeating classes. So register early when you see a session you want to take—it won’t come around again later in the year!
Conference Content without the Week-long Commitment
Multi-day conferences are expensive—both in cost and in time away from the office. We know how hard it can be to carve out those resources, so we are offering a variety of full-day trainings in 2018 on governance, fund development, and leadership to make deep-dive, professional development more accessible and manageable.
Bridges Out of Poverty Workshops
I cannot stress enough how much impact the Bridges Out of Poverty framework can have on communities. We will offer at least four public sessions in 2018 and, as the content has recently been updated by the authors, now is the best time to register for a Bridges Out of Poverty workshop.
Foundations of Board Governance (aka Board 101)
Foundations of Board Governance is the new name for our long-standing Board 101 workshop. This foundational class has been polished up and will now be offered quarterly and at varying times to accommodate the schedules of more people. We will rotate between mornings, afternoons, and evenings. We’ll also offer Starting a Nonprofit Organization quarterly in 2018. We want to make these basic and critical classes more accessible. The first session will be on January 18—spread the word!
Nonprofit Network wishes you a very happy holiday season! 2018 is shaping up to be a busy and exciting year, and we look forward to seeing you there!
December is the giving month. According to Charity Navigator, 31% of annual giving occurs in the month of December and 12% of annual giving occurs on the last 3 days of the year. Which means that you will be sending lots of thank you’s in the coming weeks.
How much planning have you done around the strategy and content of those thank you letters?
If your answer is "little-to-none," then know this:
The number 1 reason that people keep giving is because they were thanked well.
Let's dive in.
The follow up and thank you to a gift is the most important step of the donor journey. Thoughtful and strategic follow-though helps you build a stronger bond with your donor, it connects them with the impact of their gift, and it communicates their active role in your success.
When done well, a thank you may be the reason a donor considers giving an increased gift next time. Remember, it costs less to retain a donor than it does to attract a new one. Fundraising expert Harvey McKinnon says “Donor loyalty is not about the donor being loyal to you, it is you being loyal to the donor.”
Here are some simple strategies to ensure your thank you is impactful and works toward retaining your donors.
1. Make it prompt.
2. Make it personal.
3. Start in a personal way.
4. Use a warm tone.
5. Be emotional.
6. Send a real letter, not a pre-printed card.
7. Thank smaller gifts warmly.
8. Refer to the donor’s past support if you possibly can.
9. Send more than one thank you letter.
10. Offer a next step
From the moment we are brought into this world, we begin to hear how important it is to be kind to others. Whether it was sharing your toys with a sibling, or including someone at recess, shoveling a neighbor’s driveway, delivering a meal to a sick friend, we have always been encouraged to give to others. While we heard it often, most of us never questioned the phrase, “Sharing is caring.” That is, until we grew older.
It happens to all of us at some point. We begin to question if our efforts are really worth it. We begin to calculate if we have enough resources to allocate to others. Eventually, the kid who valued the idea of sharing whenever possible begins to question if they should even share at all. I’m here to tell you to that you are more influential than you think and that every act of giving you perform creates a butterfly effect that changes the world.
Giving your time or a donation to an organization creates a shockwave. A small donation to an organization can help carry out a mission that inspires others to give as well. Giving your time can inspire others to join an organization or be the extra boost it needed to succeed. Helping spread a message can help educate someone that otherwise would never be exposed to it.
You see, the simple act of giving is not so simple. Sir Isaac Newton's first law states that every object will remain at rest or in uniform motion in a straight line unless compelled to change its state by the action of an external force.
As long as you are trying, as long as you are giving in some way, you are that external force.
You are the difference maker.
You don’t have to give a million-dollar donation to make a shockwave, you can it give your time to help build a playground. A playground where someone may learn for the first time that “sharing is caring.”
Bridges Out of Poverty is the most important work that I do as an employee at Nonprofit Network. We have been teaching this model to organizations and individuals for over three years, training city staff, hospital residents, housing sector employees, school districts, medical professionals, police departments, and so many more.
That’s 30 organizations and over 3,000 individuals.
Bridges Out of Poverty is a proven way to counter poverty and its impact on people and businesses in your community. And it’s working.
In fact, here are the immediate changes one group that serves and employs people living in deep poverty implemented as a result of our work with them:
In September 2017, an updated revision of Bridges out of Poverty resources and materials were released. I traveled to St. Louis and spent three days immersed in the content and sharpening my skills and knowledge as a certified trainer of the Bridges material. This training and the updated material have changed the way I teach Bridges Out of Poverty. If you have already been to a training, it’s time for you to come back for a refresher and new insights.
If you haven’t experienced Bridges Out of Poverty before – or are ready to take the next step – then now is the time to take action. The insights and strategies you learn have the potential to transform your entire community.
Nonprofit Network’s vision is to transform nonprofits to transform the world, and this work is making that vision a reality.
For more information on Bridges or to sign up for an upcoming public workshop—there’s one on the November 28th—visit our website or reach out to me. I love to talk about this work.
Want to know more about having a customized Bridges Out of Poverty session for your organization?
Decision making is the core role of a board of directors. So why do so many boards spend more time sharing information that could’ve been an emailed report instead of having high level, crucial conversations that lead to strong decisions?
You might be amazed at how many board meetings I have been a part of in the past at which zero decisions were reached. Or maybe you’ve experienced this also. Are your board meetings consumed with verbal reports on the status of this issue or that project or how this person performed during the last 30 days? Informing—while incredibly necessary—is not a good use of your short time together as a full board. Spending board hours giving verbal reports is, at best, barely beneficial and, at worst, a danger to your mission.
Instead,share data with board members before the meeting via the board packet. Provide those would-be verbal reports as written reports and give your board multiple days to read them and come to the meeting prepared..
Empowered board members assemble to make decisions. However, empowerment requires the members to come already informed. Prior access to data not only makes decisions easier to settle, but also more likely to stay made as well. Board decisions made without solid data have a tendency to make the deciders less confident that their conclusions are correct and will ultimately bring the issue back in front of the board to wrestle again in the not-so-distant future. Examining the issue once and reaching a solid decision that stays made is the best process to build momentum in the organization.
Board members are recruited from the community not for their ability to be updated, but rather so they can use their life skills to reach the best decisions that benefit the organization. It is a misuse of this valuable human resource to assemble simply to hear a report. The misuse is even more egregious if the entire meeting time is about reporting out data. Leaders view their roles differently when they associate board time with reaching solid decisions; one effect of transitioning to a decision-centric board agenda is better attendance.
Imagine a board meeting at which every member is in attendance and already fully informed as to the status of programs, finances, staff and committee efforts—they are empowered by the most relevant data and with full participation of all voices around the table. That is the scene where the mission of your organization is about to be moved forward. Conversely, assembling all these valuable human resources so that they are merely more informed than they had been 90 minutes ago does not advance the mission any further and sets the stage for people to see their board participation as less relevant, or maybe even optional.
Do you know where your board is on the Decision-Informing continuum? Here’s an exercise for you to conduct that will gather data to confirm your assumption:
Review the board minutes from your most recent three board meetings. Take note of time spent informing and time when decisions were discussed and conclusions reached.
Then, at your next board meeting, record how much of your time is spent informing members as to status of finances, staff efforts, program progress, or committee activities, and compare that number with how much time is spent discussing issues and data to reach decisions.
The closer your results are to mostly decision making, the more movement you will see towards mission fulfillment.
Continue this process each month, refining your agenda and practices until the majority of your regular board meetings is spent discussing and making decisions. Make the meeting entirely about decision making and that mission fulfillment will be even more observable.
The transition to conduct decision-centric meeting begins by deciding to change. Then you follow up that decision with new processes and a transition to a meeting agenda that reflects your new direction.
Want to discuss this transition in more detail?
Give Tom a call at 517-796-4750 or click the button below.
As a capacity building center, Nonprofit Network teaches best practices for nonprofits. Depending on your organization's size, stage, structure, or mission, there may be some variables in how you should operate and govern. But there are some things that are universal and apply to us all.
Myself? I'm a data person who values evidence and solid science when it comes to my perspective on the world. So if I told you that there is a way to improve the quality of conversations and decisions at your board and staff level that may take you out of your comfort zone, and—with enough hard work and planning—will be worth every minute, would you bite?
I recently came across some research from 2008 that looks at the impact of diversity on group functioning—specifically on how a newcomer impacts decision-making and the quality of decisions made by a group.
Here’s a breakdown of how they conducted the research:
50 fraternity and sorority members were placed in same-gender groups of four people each. Every group comprised three members of the same fraternity or sorority (the “oldtimers,”) with a fourth person who was either another member of that same fraternity or sorority (an “in-group”) or was a member of a different one (an “out-group).
The old-timers came together in their individual groups after reading a series of interviews from a murder investigation and discussed which suspect was most likely the murderer. Their task was to discuss the case for 20 minutes and reach consensus on the culprit. After five minutes, the fourth person—either an in-group or an out-group—joined them.
Here are three of the most significant findings from this study and some suggestions for how you might apply them to your own organization:
1) The groups that were all in the same fraternity or sorority (oldtimers + in-group newcomer) were more often wrong in their final decision. While the groups that had an out-group person added to the mix were more frequently correct. Having a homogeneous group was a clear disadvantage.
Study your recruitment strategies at the board and program level. How are you ensuring that you are bringing people to the table who have different perspectives and experiences?
2) The out-group newcomer didn’t necessarily bring in new ideas. But rather their presence raised the water level of the quality of the group’s discussion. The presence and influence of an outsider disrupted the cognitive processing and the exchange of information within the group. This study specifically sought to “determine whether the benefits of newcomers only occur when they brought in a new idea.” The results overwhelmingly demonstrated that the advantage of an out-group newcomer was most valuable when they did not bring in a new idea
Examine your culture. How are you intentionally building relationships in your group that allow for discussion and constructive conflict? Are you allowing newcomers to influence your discussions? How are you planning crucial conversations to grow your capacity and effectiveness?
3) When the 20-minute discussion ended, the groups were surveyed about their experience. As you might expect, the groups of like-minded people were more comfortable during the process—but they were also more confident that they chose the correct answer. The groups with an out-group newcomer reported being more uncomfortable during the process and less confident in the accuracy of their decision—even though they were right!
Evaluate your effectiveness. Do your perceptions line up with how well your organization is actually performing? Measure the data and identify how to improve as a whole.
Nonprofit Network strives to be a model of inclusion. We engage all people with dignity and respect. We believe that bringing diverse individuals together is essential to effectively address the issues that face current and prospective partners.
Looking for more general information? Check out this resource page from the National Council of Nonprofits.
Nonprofit Network has worked tirelessly for the past three years with the team at Michigan Nonprofit Association to build a comprehensive tool that assesses an organization's practices. This Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity Assessment is one the many ways we can walk with you to build your capacity.
If you're ready to talk about how you can move your organization forward in this critical work, let us know.
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