Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Embracing the Challenge

By Sarah Fischler, Interim Co-Director

I spent last week on a landscape photography tour in Oregon. I signed up for the tour to experience watching a professional photographer working in the field and to get to some great photo locations at the right time. What I got instead was a huge kick in the pants. For the first time in many years, I felt constantly challenged and inspired. With horrible weather, challenging conditions for photography, excruciatingly long days, and lots of tiresome physical activity, I created some of my favorite photographs…ever.

So what does this have to do with nonprofit management, you ask? For me, this trip pushed me beyond many of my personal boundaries and at those points, I found a lot more success and learning than I anticipated. This can be an important lesson in leading and managing an organization, especially now. For many of the nonprofits I come across in my work for CRC, the downturn in the economy seems to have encouraged some stagnation. This sort of stagnation could, in the long-term, lead to irrelevancy. Sometimes we all need things to challenge our thinking to get us to the next level or out of a rut.

Instead of writing an article focused on practical tips for this month, I am going to let some interesting articles and blogs speak for themselves, with the goal of encouraging our readers to get out of their comfort zones and think differently about our work within the nonprofit sector and your work within your organization. CRC is not endorsing these resources, but we are encouraging you to read a few of them to help you in thinking differently about your organization’s future and possibly finding clarity and inspiration in an unexpected place.

We have included a few articles that look into some structural issues that the authors say inhibit progress within the social sectors and some others that focus on more tactical issues that nonprofits confront each day. Hopefully all of our readers can find at least one item that is relevant for you and your organization in the list of readings that follow.

Convergence: How Five Trends Will Reshape the Social Sector

The Nonprofit Starvation Cycle, Stanford Social Innovation Review

Achieving Better Results through Shared Leadership

Ethics and Nonprofits, Stanford Social Innovation Review

The Sustainability Formula, TCC Group

2020 Vision: What might be the future for fundraising?

Gender Trouble at Nonprofits

Are there too many charities in America?

The End of Charity: How to Fix the Nonprofit Sector through Effective Social Investing

Blogs worth checking out:

Where in Colorado? November

Win CRC's toolkit, Fundraising: Essential Strategies for Fundraising Success During an Economic Downturn.

Each month, we feature a photo taken during our travels around Colorado. Last month, we featured this photograph. No one was able to correctly identify October's photo of Pass Creek Ranch on US 40 between Silverthorne and Kremmling along Colorado Highway 9.

Take a guess for this month's "Where in Colorado?" photo.

Start Guessing!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Nonprofit Leadership and Management Program: Q&A with Diana Allen


Now celebrating its 20th anniversary, CRC’s acclaimed Colorado Nonprofit Leadership and Management Program provides innovative leadership and management training for executive directors of Colorado nonprofit organizations. CRC interviewed Diana Allen, class of 2009 participant.

Diana Allen, Executive Director, Community Partnership Family Resource Center in Divide Colorado, (CPFRC). CPFRC is a human services organization which serves all of Teller County. CPFRC has seven programs: Bright Beginnings/Parents As Teachers, Empowering Young Parents, Parent Education, Playgroups, Middle School After School Program, Adult Basic Education, and Health Advocacy.

How have you become a better leader as a result of your participation in CRC’s Leadership Program? I now know what people mean when they say “It’s lonely at the top.” T his class has allowed me to meet with peers who are in the same position I’m in and I can reach out to them if I need a sounding board. I have learned that I have to make tough decisions and live with the consequences. Several of our activities have brought that home to me. Even though it’s not crystal clear to me, I now understand financial statements much better. Since I had little background in leadership and management, I really needed this course. I am forever grateful to the Anschutz Family Foundation for their scholarship.

What specific technical or management skills have you learned and implemented within your organization? I have a richer understanding of how to approach fundraising and will be working with some Board members to implement some new ideas about raising funds. I also have a better idea of how to go about establishing a workable budget. Last year I had no experience with doing a budget. Now I feel more confident about working one out. Jeff Pryor’s presentation about Boards was outstanding. It helped me to learn more about Board policy which is integral to the proper administration of a nonprofit.

What was your greatest “take away” from the Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center’s Executive Leadership experience? The high point for me (no pun intended) was the rock climbing. I had made up my mind that, at age 68, rock climbing was not something I needed to add to my repertoire. Then when I saw Chanda, who is paralyzed, go up on someone’s back, I decided that I should at least try it. I didn’t go all the way up, but I went part way and was thrilled. I also learned how to belay. From this rock climbing experience I have learned that I can achieve what I set my mind to, no matter how scary!

What personal insights have you made because of your participation in CRC’s Leadership Program coaching component? I have only started the coaching, yet I am already learning better ways to work with my Board.

Do you have other thoughts or comments you would like to make about your experience? This has been a once in a lifetime, incredible experience. I feel so much more in control of my position as Executive Director. Rafting on the Platte River through Denver was a super experience, too, thanks to CityWild.

Would you recommend the Colorado Nonprofit Leadership and Management Program to other ED’s across CO? If so, why? I think anyone associated with a nonprofit will benefit greatly from this experience. Getting to meet and share ideas with so many nonprofit leaders throughout the state will doubly pay back the time and effort spent.