Category Archives: Leadership

Please Join The Bully Project!

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Today, I’m donating space on my blog to promote this film and this movement. Everyone needs to care about this…kids are bullied relentlessly all across this nation every day, even sometimes to the point where they end up taking their own lives. 

Here is the description of The Bully Project copied and pasted directly from their website….

“The Bully Project highlights solutions that both address immediate needs and lead to systemic change. Starting with the film’s STOP BULLYING. SPEAK UP! call to action, The Bully Project will catalyze audience awareness to action with a series of tools and programs supported by regional and national partners.

The Bully Project is a collaborative effort that brings together partner organizations that share a commitment to ending bullying and ultimately transforming society.

Help keep The Bully Project alive by donating to the film’s social action campaign through our nonprofit partner, Creative Visions Foundation (CVF). CVF is a publicly supported 501(c)3, which supports Creative Activists who use the power of media and the arts to affect positive change in the world.  All donations are tax deductible”. 

Click Here To Visit That Nonprofit Organization’s Webpage: Creative Visions Foundation 

A link to the film’s official trailer…Please Watch! 

Finally, a link to the official page for the movement: The Bully Project Please go there, donate your Twitter and Facebook status to the cause for a day, and share this with all your friends and family. 

A lot of attention nowadays goes to bullying of kids who are gay, and that has been wonderful for anti-bullying efforts. Although this is one group of kids who are bullied, it also happens to anyone who is different in any way…special needs kids included. Please care enough to get involved and take action to combat this very real problem! 

You Want To Make A Difference, You Say? Encourage Someone!

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A year ago I got some of the worst news of my life. Someone I loved dearly, someone I just assumed would always be around as long as I was, died suddenly, and at a relatively young age too. This past year has seen me pretty much at a loss trying to fully accept it and to move forward. Truth be told, you never really get over or past something like that. It’s just too shocking, too rage inducing, too sad….and too much. But, you can learn to incorporate the new reality into your reality. And you can find something positive to make of it, because there is always something positive to be made from what is left behind, no matter what. 

The friend that I lost was largely responsible for a major positive turnaround when I was in my mid to late 20’s…when I’d lost faith that I’d ever overcome the circumstances of my life, and “make something of myself”. When it seemed that everyone who was supposed to love me the most had turned a blind eye, or their backs, or both–this person believed in me. I mean really believed in my potential, and even in who I was right then and there, because he didn’t seem to think there was a damn thing wrong with that either. And then a funny thing happened…I started to believe in me too. 

If you’ve ever had someone like that in your life, when your life happened to be particularly hard, you’ll understand exactly what I’m talking about. If you’ve always been surrounded with people like that, and grew up with loving, unconditionally supportive family around you, you may not totally get it. But, I think just about everyone can appreciate the value of encouragement…sometimes it’s a special teacher, or a career mentor, a family member, a religious leader, a friend, etc. 

I think it is Native American culture that honors those who have left this world by adopting one special trait that person displayed in life as your own. That has to be about the smartest thing I’ve ever heard. And it is definitely the best way to ensure that someone you loved, who was important to you, lives on forever. So today, January 11, the same date on the calendar that my friend left this world, I will make it a point to encourage someone who needs it, and to help them believe in themselves, because that is the thing that will make a lasting difference. I’d like to ask everyone who reads this to do the same. 

Choose someone who is having a bad day…or a bad year…or maybe yet another day of what has been a chronically bad life. And then say something, or do something, that will make a difference to them. It doesn’t have to be a grand gesture, or anything that seems like a big deal. Trust me, it will mean the world to them and they’ll never forget it–or you…

“I am a success today because I had a friend who believed in me and I didn’t have the heart to let him down”. ~ Abraham Lincoln

 

5 Things You May Not Know About Juliette Gordon Low

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Recently I visited Savannah, Georgia for the very first time–a beautiful, interesting, and historically rich city I highly recommend! It is the birthplace of the Girl Scouts of America, and also the birthplace of its founder, Juliette Gordon Low. As a former…well, okay, very former member of both Brownies and Girl Scouts, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to tour her home which is located right there in historic downtown Savannah. If you ever have the chance to get to that area, you’d be missing out if you didn’t see it. For information on the house and tours, click here: I’m Interested In Seeing The Home Of A Rockin’ Visionary And Authentic Womens’ Rights Advocate, Way Ahead Of Her Time! 

I’ll be honest, other than a paper I wrote a few months ago where I used Girl Scouts of the USA as my nonprofit topic, I have not thought much about my own experiences as a Girl Scout over the last few decades. And, as a mom of boys, it’s not come up in conversation either. I dropped out around 4th or 5th grade, as I recall, which is sadly pretty common. There were two young ladies in our tour group cohort who were still Girl Scouts and in high school, and they confirmed that it is unusual for girls to stick with it to the end. They are a rarity, and were there earning their pin for touring the house of the founder. They were extremely polite, gracious, intelligent, and enthusiastic young women–just the sort we want to transition into being our co-workers, friends, mothers, and leaders of our society in the years to come. Hmmmm….could there be a correlation? I think so! Maybe we all need to encourage the young women around us to stay in Girl Scouts for the long haul. They do sort of kick folks out at 18, and after 12th grade, so girls can’t stay in indefinitely, but “finishing” Girl Scouts is a trend I’d like to see, wouldn’t you? 


Anyway, back to the reason I started writing a blog this morning…On the tour I took, and thanks to some materials I browsed after taking the tour, I learned a few lesser known, but fascinating factoids about the founder of this truly amazing organization. And here they are…

1) She was an extremely accomplished painter/artist. I mean, we are talking professional artist quality here. Throughout the house are examples of her work, including a gorgeous, one of a kind set of hand painted plates on the dining table. 

2) As an adult, she was mostly deaf in one ear. This was due to a freak accident that happened on her wedding day when a grain of rice lodged in her ear. When the doctor took it out, her eardrum was damaged during the procedure. 

3) She made a poor choice of a spouse, and paid the price with a bad marriage. Of course, when a marriage is bad, no outsider really knows what happened, and as they say, it takes two. However, the impression I got was that her husband was not a very nice guy. In fact, he asked her for a divorce, she refused to grant it, and then he died shortly thereafter. Hence, Juliette Gordon Low remained Juliette Gordon Low–for always. 

4) This next one is copied and pasted right from the official Girl Scouts website–the section on Juliette’s life: “One of her special skills was standing on her head. She stood on her head every year on her birthday to prove she still could do it, and also celebrated nieces’ and nephews’ birthdays by standing on her head. Once, she even stood on her head in the board room at National Headquarters to show off the new Girl Scout shoes”. 

5) Juliette was BFF’s with Rudyard Kipling. They used to go fishing and camping together, and he taught her a lot about both. Just think, all those Girl Scout tendencies to go camping, hiking, and in general to appreciate and learn to navigate the great outdoors may have their origins in this friendship between two famous people! 

Just in case you didn’t know it, 2012 is the 100th anniversary of the Girl Scouts of the USA…it says so right there on my commemorative t-shirt….

To learn more about the Girl Scouts of the USA, and just how it supports the leadership development, skill building, and self esteem of girls who then grow into the women who will shape this world, please visit their very impressive official website here: Girl Scouts of the USA

Until next time…

WittyBizGal Nonprofit Management; 3 Common But Fatal Governance Mistakes

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The Boards of Directors of nonprofit organizations are a vital component of each and every entity which is a part of the nonprofit sector. A high functioning board is one where leaders clearly understand board roles and responsibilities, as well as areas of major accountability which are:

  • Setting broad strategic vision and goals 
  • Overseeing and ensuring nonprofit’s overall financial viability, both short and long term
  • Fundraising
  • Positive promotion of the organization in the community 
  • Effectively managing and delegating operational responsibility to the Executive Director

Almost everyone who joins a nonprofit Board of Directors does so with good intentions, and a desire to support a worthy cause. There is rarely ever a financial gain motivation, as nonprofit board members are not paid. In fact, in many organizations, board members are expected to make substantial contributions in the form of monetary donations, in addition to donation of time and service

So, you’d think that nonprofit boards would not only survive but thrive in this perpetual atmosphere of goodness, light, good will and sunshine, right? Well…not exactly. In fact a lot of things can go wrong in this sort of environment, resulting in minor to severe organizational dysfunction, ineffectiveness in governance, stagnation, and even the eventual demise of the nonprofit. That last one is always a shame, as most charitable organizations are founded with worthy and important goals, and at least the potential to address pressing social service need, and fill critical gaps in communities. 

Here are my top 3 picks for the common, but highly fixable errors made by a lot of nonprofit boards:

1) Failure To Strategically Assemble And Maintain A Diverse Group

The key to success with a Board of Directors often lies not in its ability to get along well, socialize outside the boardroom, and never experience conflict, but in understanding the value of a team which respects and even embraces differences in one another. The key here is diversity–not in the traditional sense of racial, cultural, and ethnic diversity, although that can play a role as well–but in diversity of background experiences, professional skill sets, personality, and ways of approaching problems. 

Homogeneous groups tend to be less effective than diverse groups because they are prone to groupthink and lack of innovation. This is a common occurrence on nonprofit boards primarily due to the way in which these groups tend to source their members–through their own social connections. People are more comfortable being around others who think like they do and have the same response to problem solving, etc. Let’s remember that comfort is not the goal here–affecting positive change for the client group is

2) Thinking Governance and Management Are One In The Same

Quite simply, they’re two different concepts. Lines are often blurred due to a fundamental lack of understanding of the governance role, as well as arguably subtle differences between the two. Hey, let’s face it, sometimes you can be governing right along there with the best of them, lose focus, and all of a sudden wake up managing. How the heck did you get there? Well, because it’s easy to do. Here are a few tips to keep boards on the governing side and steering clear of sliding over into management:

  • Hire and effectively manage the overall performance of the Executive Director, don’t push them aside and do their job for them. 
  • Keep simultaneous focus on the short and long term. This is actually Leadership 101, and not as hard as it sounds. Set short and long term goals with long term vision in mind. Determine the purpose of your organization, realistically look at where you are now, develop a vision of where you’d like to be, and give broad marching orders on how to get there utilizing the resources you have in the here and now. 
  • Resist the urge to micromanage! If your staff and/or fellow board members are afraid to make the decisions and take the actions which fall within the range of those bullet points on their job description without running it by you first–every time–then you too might be a micromanager. Consult Control Freaks Anonymous for 12 Step Help. 🙂 
  • Remember that oversight is your primary responsibility. Delegation is not abdication. The buck stops with you. In addition to looking great on one of those cheesy motivational business posters, those last two sentences should be your guiding light for governance. Be present and accountable for what your nonprofit does and how it is viewed by external stakeholders. 

3) Nursing A Fundamental Lack of Understanding That Change Is Inevitable, But Growth Is Optional

My friend, motivational speaker and author Mary Foley Tweeted that the other day, and it stirred my governance juices so that I felt compelled to Tweet back, “Amen Sister!” The nonprofit sector has the reputation of being slow to embrace change, clunky and inefficient, and idealistic-unrealistic. Mind you, I say this as a great lover and supporter of all things 501c3, but the nonprofit sector has come by that stereotype honestly….

Many nonprofit boards, while well meaning, do cling to the notion of doing things the way they’ve always been done. While it is important to know and understand the history of the organization (that’s the “where we’ve been and where we are now” part), it is also important to fully grasp the concept that while change is scary, it will be visited upon your nonprofit whether you like it or not. Organizations, as much as they’d like to, do not exist in a vacuum. There is an internal and external environment in which they must exist that is continually changing. Client groups change, client needs change, legal and regulatory climates change, best management practice changes…all aspects of the world in which your nonprofit operates change. And, as Mary so aptly stated in 140 characters or less, the positive growth of your nonprofit is optional…It is optional, and fully within your locus of control and responsibility as a nonprofit board member and leader. 

Should boards then respond by tearing up the old ways and jumping on the bandwagon of whatever is new and trendy? Of course not. But, boards make a grave error when they tie their own hands, those hands responsible for shaping the present and future of the organization, because they are afraid to try new things, think outside the box, and take a calculated, educated risk now and then. If the fear that shaking things up a bit will cause your most important members to jump ship, then you really have to ask yourself if you have fallen into that common trap of pleasing one another rather than a spirit of servant leadership to your mission.  

Please feel free to comment below on my top three governance errors, and add some of your own!