Monthly Archives: June 2011

You’ve Come A Long Way, Flaky

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Are You A Flake? 

Like a lot of other people, especially women, I stared in horror at my t.v. screen yesterday when I heard Chris Wallace utter one of the dumbest interview questions of all time…”Are you a flake?” For a minute there, I wanted Michele Bachman to retort, “I know you are, but what am I?” I probably would have…but, that is why I am not presidential hopeful material. I also had a fantasy that Chris-y Poo would follow it up with a Barbara Walters-esqe save…”And if you are, what sort of flake would you be? Snow? Coconut? Parmesan Cheese?” Quite honestly, that would have been the only thing that would have made his line of questioning even slightly okay with me…

Now, I know that most of the critiques of news these days follow a predictable pattern…It’s usually one side saying that one network isn’t “real news”, or the other side saying that one network is “socialist”, bla, bla, bla. I’m sure you’ve heard all that too, and that’s not what this is about. So, for the love of God, let’s put all that aside for awhile, shall we, and focus on what actually happened in the FOXNews studios on Sunday. Now, I should state up front that I’m not very fond of Chris Wallace to begin with. I think he’s rude and haughty, and he consistently delivers rude and haughty interviews and commentary. I’ve seen him come off this way with a lot of his interviewees….male and female, Republican and Democrat, and so on. I think that’s just the way he is. But here’s the real issue–why did it occur to him to be rude in that way? The word flake is typically attributed to females, and a reasonable substitution could be, oh, I don’t know…airhead? Somehow I can’t see Wallace asking Donald Trump the same question. That is, not unless he wanted his toupee to be tossed into the Fox Newsroom shredder, toot sweet. 

To her credit, Bachman, although clearly taken aback by the question, handled it with class, grace, and intelligence. Thus demonstrating that, no matter which way you lean politically, she is clearly not a flake at all. She is what she says she is–a serious candidate, not Congresswoman Barbie, playing dress up complete with a red suit, podium, and campaign button. Take that, Chris Wallace! 

I have to wonder though, how prevalent is Wallace’s perspective? How many people out there, while not dumb enough to say it out loud, still secretly think that men are always better than women in professional roles? More than any of us care to believe, if you ask me. I see it play out subtly in workplace situations…a lot of women tend to ever so slightly defer to men when decisions need to be made, leaders need to be chosen, etc. Most of the time, I don’t think that they realize they are doing it either, and would probably deny it if confronted. And I’ve also seen women behave just a little differently when men are around too. That’s just my own personal observation, and endlessly debatable to be sure. But, I think that what happened on Sunday, along with the unusually virulent media scrutiny of other political women such as Sarah Palin, Laura Ingraham, Hillary Clinton, etc. begs the question…how far have we really come

As usual, I don’t have all the answers. Far from it, my observations and musings usually just lead to more questions. But I will say this. I think that we as women need to, as a group, stop spending all our time arguing over which political party is the party for women with a feminist mindset, and broadly refocus our myopic attention that sees only one or two political issues and tends to ignore the rest. True, we have come a long way…not so very long ago we had to fight for the right to even vote in a political election. And ever since, we’ve fought a less clear cut war with several battles and skirmishes, to, when it comes right down to it, be taken seriously. In my opinion, that means being taken seriously in whatever we choose to do with our lives…our choices as independent individuals. Michele Bachman has chosen to pursue a political career. She’s an attorney, and has had a lot of successes in both her life and her career. She also, much to the dismay of many left leaning women out there, has chosen to be a conservative. And we, every last flake in the snowglobe, owe it to her to support those choices, whether they are our choices or not.

And, right about now, we need to stand up and unite to fight for her right to a fair, equitable interview that is in no way related to or based upon her gender…. 

WittyBizGal Nonprofit Spotlight: Come On Baby And Rescue Me!

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Last year, right after Thanksgiving, I made a life changing decision–I adopted a dog! I’d honestly never “owned” a dog by myself before…I’d had cats mostly, and had adopted them from shelters over the years, that is until my youngest showed signs of cat allergy. After that, I was more or less pet-less, although we had a family guinea pig, Nutmeg, a betta fish named Sal, and a family dog we call Sodor. But as for a critter that would follow me around like a furry stalker, and always choose my lap to sit on, nope, not really…

It was my husband’s idea that I get a little dog…one I could keep in the house, take places with me, and one that would be my own little shadow. He suggested that we find a reputable breeder and consider a Yorkie. As I began to look into the different breeds of small dogs, I read that Chihuahuas were fiercely loyal, and tended to bond with one person in the house. That sounded right up my alley!

I thought about breeders and going for a pure bred dog. There are certainly advantages to that, such as a better chance of getting particular traits that suit you and your needs, and I don’t fault anyone for wanting a pure or “real” version of any dog. That’s a personal choice. But for me, I just kept thinking about all the animals, dogs, cats, etc. that are destroyed each year because they are unwanted. There’s usually nothing wrong with them such as being overly aggressive or sick, there are simply too many of them and not enough people who want them…or perhaps not enough people who know how to get them.

I began to search online for shelters in my area, and my internet queries quickly pulled up a nonprofit organization in my region—Florida Little Dog Rescue. I was intrigued! This place obviously dealt in little dogs, and I’d actually be “rescuing” a dog. Quite honestly, I didn’t really know what that meant, but I assumed I’d be saving a dog from certain death, or maybe a fate worse than death. This sounded like a plan!

9 Out of 10 Hot Vets Agree–Rescue Rocks! 😉

And so it began…in a process that smacks of online dating, I searched the little furry faces on the page, and as I read their biographies, tears welled up several times.  A lot of them had been rescued from abusive situations, abandonment, and puppy mills—there seem to be an inordinate number of monsters who were all too willing to keep animals in deplorable conditions, forcing them to give birth to one litter of puppies after another, all for profit. Ugh…sometimes I’m really embarrassed to be a part of the human race…


Anyway, as I browsed over a few days, looking for the best friend that was just right for me, I saw many pooches that were strong candidates. They were all small, cute, and their stories tugged at my heartstings. And then, along about day 3, I saw her—the one. She was a Chihuahua, mostly anyway, and in her photo she just had this attitude…you know, not a bad attitude, but she was staring proudly and looking straight into the camera as if to say, “I’m cute, I’m sweet, and I’m the one for you! Why wouldn’t you want me???” And those ears…let’s just say, Peach (that was her name) could have auditioned for the lead in the canine version of “Dumbo”….just sayin’…In fact, it was those amazing, no apologies, Look at me world!!!, ears that sealed the deal for me. They gave, and still give her, character and personality.


I called about Peach right away and arranged to go and visit her at her foster home, which was over an hour’s drive away, after my application had been approved. They told me that I could either adopt her right on the spot, or go home and think about it. I dragged my family out on a Sunday afternoon, because I was sure that my dog would get snapped up by some bogus person if I didn’t go right then. As mentioned before, I’m impulsive like that. Sometimes it works in my favor, and sometimes not.

When we arrived at the foster home, she came right out to the car and started wagging her tail. Her “Foster Dad” stared in disbelief and said, “I can’t believe she’s not barking at you guys…she barks at everybody!” This turned out to be a highly prophetic statement, as my Peach, who I renamed Coco, is the terror of the neighborhood on our nightly walks. She especially hates other dogs (aside from her adoptive brother Sodor), and bicycles. The guy who rides his bicycle while trailing his little dog on a leash alongside really makes her foam at the mouth. Oh, and she’s doubled in size, more or less growing into those ears. 🙂  She has several quirks, some of them cute, some of them annoying, but she’s mine. And she’s perfect for me! She also definitely has those loyal Chihuahua traits too—she’s bonded pretty strongly with me, going wherever I go. She’s a good car rider…likes to stick her head out the window and bark at bike riders and anyone else who looks suspicious to her.

As a nonprofit organization, Florida Little Dog Rescue has a smart, efficient business model. In order to keep overhead low, they do not maintain office space, and business is conducted mostly by phone and online. They also rely heavily on foster homes for rescue dogs, which consist of animal lovers in the region who are willing and able to open their homes to the animals until they are adopted. This is actually a big part of what makes Florida Little Dog Rescue unique, because the foster environment allows foster humans to assess the temperament, personality, quirks, and housebroken status of the dog in a home setting. That way, the foster family or individual can communicate directly with the potential adoptive family or individual about the realities of adopting a particular animal, thus ensuring a better dog/human match, and hopefully a stable, lifelong home for an already traumatized doggie.

Florida Little Dog Rescue is a 501c3 nonprofit organization that is a division of Big Dog Rescue. The organization supports its efforts and operation solely on charitable donations. If you would like to make a donation to the general operating fund of Florida Little Dog Rescue, please click on the picture of Coco below:


If you are interested in adopting a little dog yourself, please start by filling out this Adoption Application so that your eligibility may be assessed. Please Note: Adoption is only available to Florida residents at this time!

To view the photos and read the bios of little dogs currently available for adoption, click here: I’m Looking For My New Best Friend

If you live in Central Florida and would like to become involved in fostering rescued dogs, go here: I’d Like to Open My Home to Rescue Dogs

To follow Florida Little Dog Rescue on Facebook, where adoptable dogs are featured along with their eventual rescue success stories, click here: Florida Little Dog Rescue on Facebook

And finally, if you’d like to donate to save a specific dog that is scheduled to be euthanized by Animal Control this week, click this link: Save Me, I’m Worth It!

Middle Aged Beauty Contestant Wins Big For Charity…Film At 11

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My tendency to enter contests that I don’t have a snowball’s chance of winning was well documented in my archived blog, The Art and Pathology of Pessimistic Optimism; Confessions of a Middle Aged Beauty Contestant. In it, I “told on myself”, as we say here in the South…and confessed that I have a penchant for finding online contests based upon some type of creative entry and driven in some manner by numbers of click votes, that I realistically have no chance of winning, yet am always sure I will win–and win big.

When I turned 40, I was stoked about the MORE 40+ modeling contest, and was sure I was going to win that one despite the fact that I, throughout my well nourished life, have always been consistently a size bigger than what is considered “plus sized” in the  modeling industry–that being a tiny size 10. To my shock and horror, I didn’t even place in that one. Then came the Bare Escentuals Women of B.E. contest, in which I explained in my characteristic entertaining prose, why I am the Woman of B.E. In that case, it was my lack of click votes, and apparently friends, which was the reason behind my stunning defeat. Most recently it was MORE’s Beauty contest, formerly known as MORE’s 40+ modeling contest. I guess the magazine finally realized that there truly isn’t much actual fashion industry call for models who are older than the usual just-potty-trained ones after all, and have morphed their annual contest offering into something more realistic for women over 40.  But, alas, I didn’t win that one either, despite my compelling essay entry on beauty that is so much more than physical. 

Earlier this month I actually found, and entered, a contest that I have a real shot at winning! It’s Capella University’s Inspire Action contest, in which my video entry “Help Me Make An Even Bigger Difference!” is climbing daily in click votes and currently stands at number 2 in its category, “Community”. I won’t actually win anything personally if I get this one…better yet, I’ll secure a $10,000 donation to “my favorite charity”. So, no makeup kits, trips to the QVC studios, cash prizes, or chances to be the next Cindy Crawford for me this time. Nope, it’s better!

The charity I’ve chosen is my organization, Women’s Resource Center. Like most struggling nonprofits WRC needs that donation, and truth be told, I need this win. I’ve had a rough year…okay a rough last few years if I’m being honest with myself and with you. Nonprofit work is my passion and nothing makes me feel more alive than doing good in an organized fashion. Knowing me that’s probably some sort of psychological disorder… nonetheless, I’d really love to get this one…for women in our community who could use a hand up to become independent and to succeed in life on their own. And for me, a woman who could really use a win right about now…

Click Here To View & Vote For My Video Entry:  Help Me Make An Even Bigger Difference!

 

My Life Flashed Before My Eyes…In Technicolor Barbie

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Like most girls growing up, I had a Barbie Doll…mine was the 70’s version, the blonde, tanned California Girl one. Of course, being dark haired and dark eyed and not from California, this did a number on my self image. But, I got over it…eventually.

These days Barbie has branched out, and recently I stumbled upon their Barbie Collector line…a fabulous assortment of pop culture and entertainment inspired dolls. And Holy Moly! My entire life, the t.v., movie, and musical part of it anyway, flashed before my eyes…

My mother was a big time Elvis fan…she and I would watch Elvis movies that ran on Saturday afternoon t.v. back when there were only 3 channels…

The Carol Burnett Show was a favorite of mine on Saturday nights…Nobody is funnier than her comedy team, and I don’t think I’ve ever laughed so hard at any comedy sketch as I did when I saw “Went With The Wind” for the first time…

Ahhh, the 80’s…the excess, the big hair, the catfights! On Dynasty, not in real life…well, I’ve always had big hair…

I did like to have fun! 😉

This little gem of a movie led to leg warmers, off the shoulder t-shirts and a very unfortunate perm…

And present day…my favorite obsession! And the only real Victoria in my opinion…I’m still mad that they replaced her in Eclipse. 😦

To see the entire Barbie Collector pop culture collection, click here: Barbie Collector

WittyBizGal Nonprofit Management; Motivate Your Staff, Maslow Style

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A lot has been written about how to motivate employees to work towards achievement of organizational goals and objectives. There are also various theories of motivation itself. Almost everyone has heard of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, which classifies human needs into five broad categories; physiological, safety, belonging, esteem, and finally, self actualization. In a nutshell, Maslow theorized that people’s needs must be met in this ascending order, beginning with physiological, and ending with self actualization. In other words, don’t even try to talk to them about how much they need to care about all the lofty goals of the nonprofit they work for, if you’ve been overly long winded at a pre-lunch staff meeting, and all they can think about is that PB&J sandwich in their desk drawer.

Other researchers in the field of psychology have devised other motivation models, but Maslow’s remains my personal favorite. It explains, in the most basic of terms, what makes people tick. Once you understand which needs motivate them at a given point in time, you can better understand how to motivate your staff to help you achieve the vision and mission of the nonprofit organization. So, here goes…not necessarily in order of importance, don’t think of it that way. Think of it as a sequence which must be followed, so you’ll spend less time spinning your management wheels, and more time achieving your management objectives.

PHYSIOLOGICAL

Just about everyone who works has some sort of monetary motivation for doing so. I’ve read a lot of articles and textbooks, etc. that make the assertion that people’s primary motivation for working is not salary or hourly wages, bla, bla, bla. This is simply not true. When push comes to shove, to varying degrees, people usually work in a paid position because they need the cash to cover their rent or mortgage, buy food, clothes, etc. Once these needs are basically addressed, then they have the luxury of thinking about other things they might want. While it is not always possible for nonprofits to exceed the market in terms of competitive wages, all nonprofits should strive to at least meet the market. I don’t know of any organization that has achieved much of anything by following a lag the market strategy.

In order to attract and retain the human resources you need, you must strategize to pay your people competitively for the positions they hold. So, first and foremost, develop a compensation strategy that can be consistently applied throughout the organization. This means you should have rhyme and reason to how you pay everyone in your organization. It needs to make sense, relatively speaking for each position, and have a sensible range at each pay grade which can be tied to performance, which we’ll get into later. Get hold of some current salary survey information so that you can effectively benchmark those grades and ranges too, and compete for the best and the brightest in the candidate pool. The Nonprofit Times offers this information for a relatively small fee here: Salary Survey Data Tax Free, of course…:-) If you can’t afford that, be creative. Make some investigative calls to other area nonprofits and gather as much information as you can from them, enough to help you get an idea of where to set your own compensation framework.

SAFETY

People need to feel reasonably physically safe in their work environment, and they also need to feel relatively secure that their organization is stable and their job will not disappear inexplicably overnight. First and foremost, get your risk management ducks in a row and develop workplace policies on safety, security, sexual harassment, etc., and put some weight behind a simple paper policy that sits on a shelf gathering dust by planning and conducting regular training on each of these. The best place to go, always, for human resource management related information, forms, and best practices is the Society for Human Resource Management, or SHRM. Some resources are free on the website, and some require membership with SHRM, which is well worth the annual fee.

As for economic security, the best thing for you to do is to shore up your organization and strengthen it, to increase the chances that it can weather any storm, survive any recession, and be sustainable in the long term. There are a lot of ways to accomplish this, but perhaps one of the best is to engage in formal strategic planning. Strategic planning forces you to assess your current situation and environment (both internal and external), determine where you want to take your organization, and plan out, in a clear and realistic way, how exactly you are going to get there. There is some excellent (and FREE) information for nonprofits tackling strategic planning, especially for the first time, here: All About Strategic Planning

BELONGING

Your employees need to feel as if they are part of a team. Teamwork is a business buzzword that is tossed out a lot these days…by organizations trying to make themselves look like one big happy family, and by desperate job seekers trying to make themselves look like they will fit right in–anywhere, so that they can meet Need #1, Physiological. But, quite frankly, high functioning, cohesive, healthy workplace teams are much rarer than these folks would have you believe. If you are looking to foster real teamwork in your organization, there are many books and resources out there to give you advice. Hint: Avoid books that are overly gimmicky, and offer a too-simple-to-be-believed, easy recipe for teams.

Over the years, however, I have picked up a few broad guidelines for teamwork that do actually work:

1) Create a Team Charter–it needn’t be overly formal or complicated, but should probably be written down, and it should clarify the broad purpose or task of the team, specific, measurable objectives for achieving that purpose or goal.

2) Set Ground Rules & A Game Plan–This may seem like overkill, but the expectations of each member of the team should be established, both behavioral and task, and these should be written down, and acknowledged by each team member with a signature.

3) Create Communication Guidelines–Once again, this may seem silly to actually think about and write down and have people sign, but trust me, it’s not. We may think we are all adults and will act like it in the workplace, but I have seen grown ups on teams behave like kids on a playground when a miscommunication or lack of communication occurs. There are so many ways communication can break down, and when it does, your team can fall down a well that even Lassie cannot pull them out of. Think about all of the potential pitfalls of your team’s communication, and establish rules to follow for effective communication, active listening, and conflict resolution.

ESTEEM

People who work need to feel good about what they do on a daily basis, so they will have a reason, a motivation to keep doing it, and to help you achieve the mission of the nonprofit organization. The best way to ensure that they will feel good about their jobs is to develop a comprehensive system of performance management. Notice I didn’t say performance evaluation, because they are not the same thing. Performance evaluation is one piece of performance management.

I actually did my HR master’s thesis on the topic of performance management, and these were the conclusions I drew based upon research and analysis:

Good performance management in any organization involves using:

1) Effective organizational and interpersonal communication: Comprehensive job analysis and descriptions & telling people exactly what is expected of them–don’t assume anything.

2) Goal setting: Involve the employee in setting performance goals for themselves at regular intervals from the beginning, not just once a year. 

3) Ongoing feedback, to guide and shape the job performance of individuals to better meet the mission of the organization: Make feedback regular, perhaps daily and weekly, in order to shape performance on an ongoing basis, again NOT JUST ONCE A YEAR at performance evaluation time.

And finally….

SELF ACTUALIZATION

Aside from their sense of doing a good job in the position for which they were hired, employees need to feel as if they are contributing in a meaningful way toward serving the mission, and the client group. In other words, your staff needs to feel like they have a direct impact upon achievement of the mission, whatever that may be. So, how does a receptionist for a nonprofit organization feel as if he or she is making the world a better place while answering phones, routing calls, greeting the public, typing and filing all day? Simple! Re-design jobs to increase direct contact and interaction with the client group, and also that individual’s input and control over how the mission is achieved.

You will want to start with job analysis, also mentioned in #4, and consider adding elements to job descriptions which are designed to give every position more interface with the client group. For example, you might want to put a Receptionist in charge of developing and maintaining a client satisfaction survey program, or something of that nature. And add cross functional teams and committees to your organization. There is absolutely nothing wrong with a permanent team or temporary committee being comprised of executive staff and line employees. In fact, this makes a better team all around! This is because you introduce diversity of perspective into the mix, which, when combined with the great teamwork you developed in #3, along with effective dialogue, and a sense of openness in communication regardless of position level, can propel your organization to greatness! No nonprofit, or any organization for that matter, has ever benefitted in any meaningful way from homogenous teams, groupthink, and line employees who are afraid to share their perspectives and ideas for improvement.

Once again, you can always find great information on the SHRM website for anything employment related, including job analysis and job design. 

I hope you have found these motivational guidelines, inspired by Maslow and designed by me, to be useful and applicable to your own nonprofit organization. If you have additional information you’d like to share about your own experiences with motivation in the workplace, please feel free to comment below!

A Wonderfalls Weekend

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The “Smoosh Faced” Lion That Started It All

I’ve made no secret of the fact that I love Wonderfalls. For those of you who’ve never heard of this fabulous example of episodic television at its very best, Wonderfalls was a short lived, brilliantly written and acted FOX series from 2004. It’s about a 24 year old girl named Jaye Tyler, with an impressive, but utterly useless philosophy degree from Brown University, who works as a retail clerk at a gift shop in Niagara Falls. She has a quirky family, a supportive best friend, and a hunky love interest who came to town on his honeymoon, but stayed on and got a job as a bartender when he caught his new bride…er…servicing the bell staff in the honeymoon suite.

Click Here to Get Wonderfalls on Netflix

As if this engaging plot wasn’t enough, in the pilot episode, Jaye discovers that she has a special gift—animals talk to her. Well, not really animals, but objects with faces. Namely those sold in the gift shop where she works, cartoon characters on signs and the sides of boxes, totem poles, pink lawn flamingos, etc. And each time one of them talks to her, it tells her to do things, to save people, to affect the outcomes of their lives…And so she does, which inevitably leads to some madcap adventure or another.

The Original Pilot, Never Aired…Same Script, A Few Different Actors

If you haven’t seen these, you really should! I recently rented all thirteen episodes on three DVDs from Netflix, and enjoyed them just as much as I did the first time around. 

After I watched the last one this weekend, I looked around my house and realized I have amassed a lot of inanimate objects with faces over the years…And I wondered, if they could talk, what would they tell me to do?

I bet they’d say…

Why’d you move to Florida, anyway? 

Finish that degree, and make it the last one! Blockhead!

Dust us! Our dust bunnies have dust bunnies!

Yeah! What the rag dolls said!

You really should dress more fashionably…and coordinate your accessories for godsakes!

Don’t write that…you’ll be sooorrr-eeee

The Official Wonderfalls Music Video