Friday, July 20, 2007

My Personal and Professional Life Merge on Facebook

I haven't really understood the popularity of social networking tools until now. I did create profiles on Friendster, Linkedin, and My Space and I do like how I can see what my colleagues are up to on Linkedin and connect with all my High School friends on My Space, but aside from that I haven't make much effort to "add friends or colleagues" or use all the system features.

Recently I saw a demo of Facebook and all its capabilities. Wow!! Facebook is so different then these other tools because of all the awesome applications to choose from. I can bring my blog, my flickr photos, books I read, my delicious tags, the places I've traveled, and much more all into one page and easily move around each of those elements. Basically my personal life and my professional life merge on this one page.

I also really like how nonprofits can create applications in Facebook (see example) to get new supporters and raise awareness of their cause. This is a great tool for less web savvy folks or groups to have their own page on the web.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Choosing a Nonprofit Focused PhD Program

In the last 10 years nonprofit education programs have sprouted up across the country. When I started my Masters program I was planning to earn an MBA and a Certificate in Nonprofit Management, however that quickly changed when the Masters of Management in Nonprofit Administration (MMNA) degree was implemented at my University. I immediately switched programs and was the first person to earn that degree at my University in 2003! Due to its popularity, North Park now offers an online MMNA degree!

During my time at North Park University, I was inspired by so many of my professors who spoke about their real world experiences as nonprofit managers and consultants. At a certain point during my program, I determined I wanted emulate my professors and pursue a profession teaching nonprofit managers how to run effective nonprofit organizations.

Since the majority of nonprofit masters programs across the country were very new at the time I earned my Masters degree, I really didn't know what, or if any universities had nonprofit focused PhD programs. So, I started my search to find the right program for me.

After my husband and I moved back to California, I learned about the Academy of Management' Public and Nonprofit Division's Doctoral Student Consortium through the Association of Research of Nonprofit and Voluntary Action (ARNOVA) listserv. ARNOVA is the association for nonprofit professors and researchers. I was very nervous when I attended the Doctoral Student Consortium because this was my first nonprofit academic conference and I was meeting professors who I deeply admired from reading their published articles and books! However, the professors and students were all very nice to me and provided me helpful information about their individual programs. Many of the PhD students chose Public Administration doctoral programs or they developed their own sort of nonprofit focus in Public Policy, Sociology, Social Work or other PhD programs. I learned there are very few schools with a cohort of nonprofit focused PhD students.

I also learned about Dr. Roseanne M. Mirabella's list of nonprofit management education programs and I went to each school's website to learn about their programs. I received various advice from people throughout my search process, like, "pick a specific professor you want to study under," or "know what you want to research before you get into your program."

It's been a long road, but during that time I earned great deal of real world nonprofit management experience. Plus, every time I attend a nonprofit academic conference I got to know professors and students in individual programs which brought me one step closer to applying to a program. Last fall I had so much fun volunteering at the ARNOVA conference in Chicago and reconnecting with my former North Park professors and current North Park students.

I chose a PhD program that is right for me. I really connected with the students and professors at the University of San Diego. And I am excited that I will be studying and doing research with 5 other nonprofit focused doctoral students.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

No More Mediocrity--Lets Run Great Organizations!

I attended CompassPoint's annual conference last week--Nonprofit Day. The key note speaker was Jim Collins, author of, "Good to Great," and "Good to Great in the Social Sectors". He is so inspiring and he is an academic!! I aspire to be like him because he presents his research findings in relevant terms to nonprofit and businesses alike.

Jim challenged to strive for greatness in our organizations. He spoke about the difference between good and great organizations. He said great organizations have leaders who are disciplined, they focus on the who first and then the what. They have passionate ambition, and humility!! These leaders focus on building a great team of people around them and placing the right people on their bus.

I love the analogy Jim used about how we need to do clock building in our organizations so the clock will be able to run when we are no longer there. I've seen too many organizations struggle or almost fail because the founding Executive Director or a key leader left the organization. As a result, I am a strong advocate of putting systems and people in place so organizations can continue and be great without me. Turnover is so prevalent in the nonprofit sector!

Jim said that great leaders are able to reflect on how far they have come but also realize where they need to go. These leaders never unwaiver in their faith even with all the obstacles and time constraints they face. So, for all of us who love our to do lists, he encouraged us to create a stop doing list. This stop doing list will help us deal with our greatest issue of not having enough time.

One of the top companies that Jim writes about in his book, "Good to Great and the Social Sectors," is Southwest Airlines. In a time when the majority of airlines are struggling, Southwest shows amazing greatness which goes beyond the airline industry. On a personal note, My husband is currently a pilot at a commuter airline and his dream job is working for Southwest. I asked him the other day why he though Southwest was such a great company to work for. He told me Southwest is great because they put their employees first. By putting their employees first, Southwest has happy employees and as a result happy employees are great at their jobs!

As I reflect on Jim's talk, I realize many authors have written books about what the qualities are of great leaders, however unfortunately the majority of organizations and companies we come into contact with on a daily basis aren't great, they slide by with their mediocre work environments and bottom line numbers. We need to stop this mediocrity and create, as well as run great organizations. A leading expert in the nonprofit sector recently wrote on his blog, "We need less non-profits, not more." I would rather him say--we need less mediocre nonprofits and more great organizations, because great organizations have happier staff and are more effective at their work!!

Friday, July 13, 2007

Thanks Beth!

Beth Kanter--an amazing blogger just did a nice shout out about my new Nonprofit Leadership Blog. She wants me to keep blogging during my PhD and I will!! Beth, please keep blogging too, I learn so much from your blog!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Craigslist Foundation Networking and Grant Proposal Tips

I just attended a great networking event last night organized by the Craigslist Foundation. The guest speaker at this event was Susan Fox author of Grant Proposal Makeover. Susan shared her "10 Flaws That Doom Most Proposals to Failure." These flaws are:
  1. Proposals that don't fit the funders priorities.
    Do thorough research about their grant requirements and show that your program is a good fit to one of their funding priorities.
  2. The proposal does not follow logical order.
    Example order:
    -Introduce organization
    -What you are doing to address the need
    -Methods to reach goals and objectives (include line item budget)
    -How you will evaluate your activities
  3. Does not show the need.
    Although foundations may know the need out there, they still want to see how much you know about the need.
  4. Overwhelms with too many statistics.
    Use statistics in moderation.
  5. Relies too much on client stories and testimonials.
    Use a couple of stories that can show impact.
  6. Poor objectives or evaluation process.
    Some funders want to see formal evaluations.
  7. Includes a bad budget
    Double check numbers!
  8. Proposals written by committee where specific sections contradict one another.
  9. Uses overblown language.
    Be descriptive but don't overdo it. All organizations are unique and innovative.
  10. Uses vague abstract language.
    Be specific in proposal
This is a great list, even for those of us who do a lot of grant writing!

Monday, July 9, 2007

My Brother and Sister-In-Law's Charity Sabbatical

My brother has been working as an Architect for the past 4 years and specializes in Green and Sustainable building. Recently he and his wife decided to quit their jobs and take a sabbatical and engage in some amazing service projects. They will be spending a month in Mexico providing assistance to a family that they previously built a house for during a church mission trip and then the next month they will be in Arizona participating in the Red Feather project making a straw-bale house on a Native American reservation.

I recently read Penelope Trunk's article in Time titled, "What Gen Y Really Wants," which really made me think about my brother and sister-in-law's new adventure--they are Gen Yers. Penelope writes about how Gen Y wants to and values volunteering. My favorite part of the article is when she writes, "Taking time off to travel used to be a résumé red flag; today it's a learning experience." This was funny to me because we were all a bit skeptical at first as to why my brother and sister-in-law would quit their perfectly comfortable jobs and give up their apartment to do this work (although I shouldn't be the one to judge for I am quitting my comfortable job to start my PhD), as well as some family members weren't sure how this experience would help their careers. However, on my brother's last day of work his firm gave him the book, "Design Like You Give a Dam," which talks about all these humanitarian architecture projects all over the world, including the Red Feather project. My brother's coworkers and managers were excited about what he is doing and I know this service experience will make him a better architect!

Friday, July 6, 2007

Age is a Touchy Subject with Everyone

I generally shy away from blogging about controversial subjects, however I can't help but bring up how age seems to be an issue for everyone. I have been following a series of posts on the San Francisco Bay Area Young Nonprofit Professionals Network listserv about age. The discussion started when someone posted that they wanted to have a networking event for young professionals and used poor language discluding older folks that was offensive by many on the list, including myself. This sparked numerous responses and then someone posted "the ONLY ages at which people do not face workplace discrimination are 35-40! 40+ -- what we've all heard. Below 35 -- "too young" for positions of responsibility and leadership, even when the skills and track record are there."

Then that sparked someone assuming that YNPN has an age limit. I piped in and attempted to rebuttal by quoting the YNPN website "YNPN outreaches to the next generation of leaders-led by and directly responsive to the needs of early career nonprofit professionals, "and I stated there are folks of many ages transitioning into the nonprofit sector who can be considered "early career nonprofit professionals."

It is amazing how one post can lead to such a variety of other posts about age discrimination. I don't have a solution to this issue, I wish I did. As much as we all try to avoid it, age discrimination exists. I've experienced it--we probably all have. We've also all heard the sayings, "you've had your time," or "your time will come." I like being a consultant because age doesn't seem to come up, people hire me based on my qualifications and my experience. However, as a senior manager and staff member in organizations, the majority of the organizational conflicts I have encountered all stemmed from the age issue. That is why the generational issue is such a hot topic of discussion--most nonprofits are facing this issue.

Here's a thought--what if we all could collaborate, accept our age differences and know that we each bring something great and unique to the table as a representative from each generation? Then maybe, just maybe, age wouldn't be such of an issue for all of us.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Management and Supervision Workshop

I attended this amazing workshop last week about Management and Supervision put on by the San Francisco Bay Area Young Nonprofit Professionals Network. It was great to hear from my peers about how they manage and supervise their staff. This workshop provided me an opportunity to think about how I want to be a better manager. My favorite speaker at the workshop was Vini Bhansali, Program Director at Juma Ventures. She was so inspiring!!

She encouraged us to create an equitable culture, a culture where passionate people thrive. To hire talented individuals and create systems for individual growth and accountability; provide outlets for communications where staff can bring to the surface underlying conflicts and values and a culture where reflection is accepted. She is very successful at creating a team/collaborative working environment at Juma Ventures.

A couple of other great points I heard during the workshop.

  • Not everyone is cut out to be a supervisor. One must make an effort to be a good supervisor and truly enjoy supervising your staff.
  • Supervision takes self-awareness, knowing what you are good at.
  • Communicate with staff and pay attention to subtle changes in behavior.
  • Work to bridge the gaps between different nonprofit departments, finance working with HR, HR working with Development, Development working with Program etc.
  • Supervision is not about power over, it is about power with.
  • The leader's role is the facilitator.
  • Supervision is not about task mastery, it is about working with people!

As busy nonprofit managers, it is really easy for us to focus on the task at hand and on accomplishing the mission of our organizations. However, good leaders in successful organizations spend as much time, if not more on working with and encouraging their staff then they do on accomplishing their work. I learned from this workshop I need to spend more time listening to my staff and find out more about their personal and professional needs.

We are trying to provide equitable opportunities for our clients and constituents, however are we truly making an effort to provide an equitable environment to our staff? I know it sure isn't easy, but it is worth it!!

Monday, July 2, 2007

Be Prepared--Insurance and Risk Management are important!

Before each special event organized by my organization, I make sure the event is covered by our general liability insurance. It takes me a couple of minutes to fill out the form and then fax it to my insurance agent. Amazing how this one activity saves my organization a lot of money. I also take Risk Management precautions and do a walk through of the space before the event.

I just read a Nonprofit Times article about an organization Cars for Kids. Cars for Kids organized a special event--a car show for the past 18 years without insurance. Something went wrong with a car at their most recent event--killing 6 people and now Cars for Kids faces many law suites. What disturbs me is simple Risk Management procedures could have prevented this devastating accident. Also, I know insurance costs seem expensive to some organizations, but Cars for Kids earned almost $100k per year, certainly they could have afforded the $1k for liability insurance.