Wednesday, August 20, 2008

My biggest challenge--Saying No

My summer classes ended on Thursday and I am so excited to have two weeks off from school because I am exhausted. I don't work for the Foundation any more, however I have managed to completely fill my schedule to the brim and I am still struggling to find free time as well as time to exercise in my schedule. This is so ironic because my job is only 20 hours a week!! However, I am a member of so many committees and exciting initiatives and I simply said yes to too many things this summer.

Do you have this problem, do you say yes all the time?

My friend and fellow blogger Lindsey sent me a great article about time management titled Reclaim Your Time: 20 Great ways to Find More Free Time.

There were several items out of the 20 that resonated with me:
  1. Schedule the time. As you sit down and think about your life and what you want to do, versus what you actually do, you will be looking at ways to free up time. It’s crucial that you take a blank weekly schedule (you can just write it out on a piece of paper, or use your calendar) and assign blocks for the things you love — the stuff on your essentials list. If you want to exercise, for example, when will you do it? Put the blocks of time on your schedule, and make these blocks the most important appointments of your week. Schedule the rest of your life around these blocks.--
I am doing what I love to do yet I'm still not making time for things I love the most. I am so busy when my husband is flying four days a week that when he comes home I am still busy that it is hard for me to stop and spend time with him. Furthermore, I love to scrapbook and read and yet I have very little time to do these things either. I am now going to put chunks of time into my schedule, for my husband, for my scrapbooking and for my reading.
  1. Keep your list to 3. When you make out your daily to-do list, just list the three Most Important Tasks you want to accomplish today. Don’t make a laundry list of tasks, or you’ll fill up all your free time. By keeping your task list small, but populated only by important tasks, you ensure that you are getting the important stuff done but not overloading yourself.
Ok this one is hard. My list usually has 30 items on it not three. I started doing this yesterday and we'll see how it goes. I definitely try to accomplish more than I ever can in a day and that has to stop. I do get a lot done in a day, but I want to be comfortable and say I can't do it all and it is ok to let something go.
  1. Lunch breaks. If the three golden times mentioned above don’t work for you, lunch breaks are another good opportunity to schedule things. Some people like to exercise, or to take quiet times, during their lunch breaks. Others use this time to work on an important personal goal or project.
I am super bad about this. I eat lunch at my desk. I got into this habit a long time ago and I need to stop. We have an awesome break room too.
  1. Learn to say no. If you say “yes” to every request, you will never have any free time. Get super protective about your time, and say “no” to everything but the essential requests.
Ok so saying no is the hardest one for me. I am a people pleaser. I must not feel guilty for saying no.

So, now you know my crazy habits, they are now out on the table and I am hoping that by writing these on my blog I will be more accountable and now make more time for the things I love and care about.

What about you? How are you at saying no? Do you have any helpful tips for those of us who don't say no?

Creating a Community Centered Organization

I took a community organizing course this summer taught by Mike Eikler, Director of Consensus Organizing Center at San Diego State University and who wrote the book Consensus Organizing Building Communities of Mutual Self Interest.

My project for the class was with the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network San Diego. My parter for the class project was Luanne, Executive Director of the Japanese Friendship Garden San Diego.

Luanne and I were interesting in finding out: "What does it mean to run a community centered organization that meets the needs of our members?"

In order to answer this question we engaged in the consensus organizing process. First, we interviewed the board members of YNPN to find out their capacities, self-interests and needs.

The top four capacities and self-interests were:
  • Fundraising abilities and other nonprofit management capabilities.
  • Representing nonprofits that have a variety of connections and collaborations within the nonprofit community and beyond.
  • Networking with other nonprofit professionals even competitors.
  • Meeting with other nonprofit professionals on a regular basis to discover potential resources and skills to serve their own organizations and the community more effectively.
The top four common needs were:
  • Technology
  • Personal Communications and Marketing skills
  • Wellness
  • Working with Seasoned Nonprofit Professionals/Mentors
Then based on those capacities, self-interests and needs, Luanne and I interviewed people and organizations in the community that we thought might be able to meet the specific needs of young professionals--listed above. When we spoke to these individuals and organizations our goal was to find mutually beneficial scenarios and potential partnerships. It was amazing how many organizations are interested in partnering with YNPN San Diego!

In conclusion, our recommendations to YNPN were to fully utilize the Capacities, Capabilities, and Connections of YNPN members as well as create mutually benefical partnerships in the community.

So, last night at our board meeting we formed a partnership committee that will be figuring out the process and structure for engaging in these potential new partnerships in mutually benefical scenarios. Our goal is to not create YNPN in a silo, but to involve the community every step of the process. I think we are on our way!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

My Nonprofit Career Story -- what is yours?

Shelly Cryer an amazing researcher and consultant who works for American Humanics and NYU just came out with an awesome nonprofit career guide. She has a contest to give away one of her free books if you tell your story about working in the nonprofit sector. Her blog post- 6 key trends that could make you seek a job with a nonprofit has a comments section for you to post your story for a chance to win her book.

Although I already have a copy of her book, her post inspired me to write my story-

This is the road to figuring out my purpose—why I work in nonprofit organizations.

I've worked in nonprofits for over 7 years. After earning my AH certificate and graduating from college, I started out as an administrative assistant wishing I wasn't a secretary. Slowly I gained more responsibilities on my job and was promoted to Operations Coordinator. I thought for sure that I was not supposed to be an administrator. At the time I thought doing administration was beneath me. Little did I know that this would be my calling and my career.

When I moved to another state and started looking for jobs, I quickly realized the jobs that I qualified for and would be good at were that of Operations Manager. I realized I was really good at doing Operations and came to terms with the fact that administration was strongly needed in the organization in order for it to run. A couple of years later, when I was hired as an Assistant Director for a nonprofit with a great salary, I started blogging about nonprofit operations, and received many great responses from people who were looking for operations tips for their own nonprofit organizations.

This brings me to where I am now. See, I don’t have a passion for a specific mission or cause, my passion is helping nonprofits run more efficiently and effectively. I want to support the people who have a specific vision and mission. This drew me to pursue my PhD so I could teach nonprofit managers on a regular basis how to improve their finances and operations so they can better achieve their missions. Now I’m not afraid to say, I love administration!!

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Don't listen to them--you should go to grad school!

I'm quite annoyed. Lately I've read three different blog posts all discrediting grad school stating its overrated. Yes, I'm biased and I'm in grad school, but here are 5 reasons why you should go to grad school.

1. This one blogger questioned why nonprofit folks are getting MBA's and an advanced education. My response to that is, it won't hurt us one bit to learn about competition and marketing. Yes we are different than businesses, however the nonprofit sector is getting more competitive and as I said in my post about nonprofit confidence, nonprofits need to do something to improve their marketing to raise public awareness which will raise public confidence in nonprofits.

2. These bloggers seem to be forgetting about the nonprofit specific masters degree programs, there are 242 colleges and universities that offer Masters level courses in nonprofit management and 157 that offer graduate degree programs in nonprofit management. Mine happened to be in a school of business and while I was pursuing my Masters of Management in Nonprofit Administration I had many classes with MBA students. We all did projects together and I enjoyed teaching corporate folks about nonprofits and vice versa.

3. So there are some bloggers or commenters on Give and Take blog discrediting nonprofit masters and MBA degrees alike because they were disconnected from the real world. I agree that some masters degree programs are not in touch with the real world, however the programs that I have been through have been for successful working professionals and we learn as much from professors as we do from one another. Also one thing that sets nonprofit degree programs apart from others is the amount of real world experience and applied projects the students do. My colleague Emily Davis did so many amazing projects for various nonprofit organizations during her Nonprofit Masters degree program that she was able to start a successful consulting business. In other words people who earn graduate degrees in nonprofit management have an advanced degree and lots of real world experience too.

4. I really like Penelope Trunk's Brazen Careerist Blog, however I'm going to challenge her post on seven of her reasons for graduate school being outdated.
  • Graduate school is an extreme investment for a fluid workplace-WRONG-nonprofit graduate degree programs are discounted by almost 50% and they provide a massive amount of scholarships.
  • Graduate school is no longer a ticket to play-WRONG-just look at my last post about how 89.1% of alumni had a career change because of the NLM graduate degree program at USD.
  • Graduate school requires you to know what will make you happy before you try it-WRONG-there are many jobs in the nonprofit sector, check out idealist's nonprofit career guide for first time job seekers and sector switchers and you don't have to decide right now.
  • Graduate degrees shut doors rather than open them-WRONG-I can speak from personal experience also, this seems to be a repeat of above, the statistics show otherwise that a nonprofit graduate degree opens doors.
  • If you don’t actually use your graduate degree, you look unemployable-WRONG-the nonprofit graduate degree is good even if you are volunteering and makes you a better board member.
  • Graduate school is an extension of childhood-WRONG-as I mentioned above I go to school with adults in my graduate degree program, my program has provided me real life experience and taught me to be more patient, calm, and a better leader. Plus we challenge the work of our professors and other scholars alike--we are engaging in inquiry.
  • Early adult life is best if you are lost-WRONG-again, you don't have to know what you want to do the great thing about grad school is the inquiry and exploration process. If you do know what you want to do then you can be more specific with what you read and study. It works either way.
5. Here's several blog posts by Future Leaders in Philanthropy about why they chose to pursue a MPA or an MBA.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Alumni Perspectives: Evaluation of the Nonprofit Leadership and Management Masters Program at University of San Diego

This past year as a Research Assistant in the Caster Family Center for Nonprofit Research, I worked with the Director of Assessment in the School of Leadership and Education Sciences to do an evaluation of the Nonprofit Leadership and Masters program at the University of San Diego. We recently published this report.

Key findings include:

The rate of Overall Satisfaction with the program is 95.2%.

In terms of the program’s effect on students’ careers, 89.1% of the alumni experienced some type of career change since attending the program, with 58.7% receiving an increase in income since graduation.

For each of the learning outcomes in required courses, 89% to 100% of the respondents indicate that their knowledge and skills were enhanced moderately to extremely well.

Across all cohorts, 75% of the respondents indicated that they apply the knowledge they learned in the program on a daily basis.

Article: Working with Vendor's and Consultants

Here's the link to article I wrote for the Philanthropy Journal Online about working with vendors and consultants. Here's a couple of tips that are included in the article:
  • It is good to verify that prospective vendors have many nonprofit clients and that those clients are happy with their work.

  • Never make a decision about purchasing something for the organization over the phone - always request something in writing. If the vendor can't give you something in writing then don't purchase it.

  • Carefully review all invoices received from vendors and verify that the information is correct.If a vendor overcharges you, dispute the charges and don't give up until they are resolved. Being persistent and following up with the vendor on a consistent basis works.