Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Where in Colorado? December

Take a guess for a chance to win a copy of Fundraising: Essential Strategies for Fundraising Success During an Economic Downturn.

Each month, we feature a photo taken during our travels around Colorado. Last September and October, we featured this photograph. No one was able to guess
the Springfield Community Center entrance, Night Watchman statue.

For this month's "Where in Colorado?" we are inviting guesses on a photo from a different part of Colorado.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


The following is an interview with one of our 2010 participants about his experience in the 2010 Leadership Program

Terrance Roberts, Executive Director, The Prodigal Son Initiative. The organization provides a wide variety of opportunities such as, after school programs, leadership training and gang violence prevention to help the youth of the Northeast Park Hill community succeed. PSI is changing the lives of young people and helping to revive one of Denver’s most dangerous neighborhoods by bridging ethnic, economic and cultural divides. http://www.prodigalsoninc.org/

1. How have you become a better leader as a result of your participation in CRC’s Leadership Program?

I got a chance to really talk to other leaders and executive directors who were having the same struggles that I was having. We were able to learn together and discuss the challenges of fundraising, staying organized, marketing, personal leadership styles, etc. The high quality training opportunities, coupled with the group activities with other leaders around the state really helped me see my potential and growth. This let me know more of what I needed to be doing to become a more effective leader for my organization and community.

2. What specific technical or management skills have you learned and implemented within your organization?

I have begun to reach out to more funders and personal donors. I have always had a problem asking for resources and money, which is not a good problem to have when running a charitable organization. After the session where CRC had the different foundation leaders and donors discuss what they wanted to see in an organization, and how they would like to be approached, I felt far more confident in reaching out to potential donors and funders and am doing it regularly now!

3. What was your greatest “take away” from the Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center’s Executive Leadership Course?

The rock climbing excursion! I was scared to death on the rock, but when I got the encouragement from the other leaders that I would not fall to the ground if I trusted in their abilities to do their job, I was able to make it all the way to the top of a 100 foot rock! It taught me a lesson about trusting others to do their job so I can go on and do my job. I really needed to learn that lesson.

4. What personal insights have you made as a result of the coaching you received in CRC’s Leadership Program?

I learned that my leadership style is communicated very differently than others. I am always more aware now about how others may be interpreting things I say or do. This is the lifeblood of my business - communication.

5. Do you have other thoughts or comments you would like to make about your experience with CRC?

I thought the entire experience was absolutely great! It was informative, I made a ton of new friends, and I will always remember the experience like going to high school or something of that effect. I think we all will!

6. Would you recommend the Colorado Nonprofit Leadership and Management Program to other ED’s across CO? If so, why?

Of course I would! First of all, if anyone is a new executive director or is planning to take on a major leadership role, then they need to learn to feel comfortable exchanging ideas with others. It is imperative for leaders to be able to learn and discuss certain aspects of the challenges and joys of leadership together. They need to develop trust. Being considered a leader is an honor that no one can truly understand unless they have been in that position and able to discuss their challenges with a group and to learn how to manage that roll and the nonprofit business effectively. CRC’s Leadership Program offered me these opportunities and much, much more. It has been a life altering experience!

The program fills quickly so apply now if you are interested! For more information, please refer to our website www.crcamerica.org or call Carol Crawford at 303-623-1540 x 13.

Where in Colorado? September

Take a guess for a chance to win a copy of 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. Congratulations to Robert who was the first to correctly guess Slate River near Crested Butte.

For this month's "Where in Colorado?" we are inviting guesses on a photo from a different part of Colorado.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

CRC Leaders Take Leadership to New Heights at the Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center’s Executive Leadership Challenge Course

Now in its 21st year, CRC’s Colorado Nonprofit Leadership and Management Program is proud to sponsor a 3-day transformational experience for executive directors of Colorado nonprofit organizations. The following interview illustrates what it was like for one of our program participants.

Stephanie Stephens is the Executive Director of the Colorado Parks and Recreation Association (CPRA), a statewide membership association that provides education, support and recognition for parks and recreation professionals. You can reach her at 303.231.0943, by email at stephanies@cpra-web.org or via the web at www.cpra-web.org.

Before going, what were you expectations and perhaps hesitations about participating in this adventure?

When applying for the Leadership Program, I used this quote: “And the day came when the risk it took to remain tight inside the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” ~ Anais Nin. The Challenge Course was the culminating event in my ‘blossoming’ as a stronger leader and as a more confident woman.

I came into the outdoor adventure with some hesitation... what would it be like sharing a ‘bunk’ with others I don’t know entirely well? What will the challenge course really be like? My expectations, though, were stronger than the hesitations. What a great opportunity to stretch my mind and body! And what a fabulous way to remove myself from day to day work craziness and just focus on my abilities and goals for the future of our association.

The adventure did not disappoint!

What were the highlights of your 3 day experience?

So many highlights…
Fellow leaders – There’s no better way to get to know some really fabulous people than to share a room, kitchen and dining table with them. Spending three days with Kara, Mary, Alisha, Julie, Carol, Jim, Leslie and all the others opened my eyes to new ways of thinking, and my heart to new friends. I now have a strong support group to call upon on those days when I just need someone to vent to who understands the world of non-profit leadership!

Rock Climbing – It still gives me goose bumps just thinking about this challenge! I came into the program expecting to take part in the ropes course on site at BOEC. I’ve done ropes courses before and was excited to try a new one. The day I learned we would be rock climbing, frankly, I cringed inside. Gravity loves this rather large backside of mine… how on earth was I going to haul it up a rock wall?!?! Needless to say, with much encouragement, a super support team around me, and a sound ‘I can do this’ attitude, I made it up the rock – twice! Repelling down was a bit more challenging: trusting the rope, my own strength, my support team and the universe; I made it off the blind drop and once again mastered the rock! The overwhelming feeling of accomplishment still inspires me to tackle big projects and challenges today. And I continue to hear my support team around me encouraging “just one more step, Stef.”

What are the most important things you have learned as a result of this opportunity?

#1 – I’m not alone. There are always folks around me to encourage, teach, and care for me; I need to seek out that encouragement, lesson and support from my peers, my Board, my friends and now my new Leadership Family.
#2 – Stop, breathe, pick a path and go… Just like when I was on the face of that (very high) rock, I need to take the time in my everyday life to stop and breathe, look at all of my options, then pick a path and go. No looking back. No procrastination. No ‘I can’t do this’ attitude. Pick a path and go.
#3 – Trust in myself, the team around me and the rope. Whether it’s balancing on a very (very) small ledge I was sure would not hold my big toe, let alone my entire body or choosing a path for our association’s future, I need to trust in myself that I’m making the best decisions I can make with the knowledge and information I have in front of me; trust that the team around me will support me; and hang on to that rope to stay firmly attached to that team and our collective goals.

What kind of impact will this experience have on you as a leader within your organization and community?

This was a very personal growth experience for me, stretching my mind (and body) beyond what I thought I could do. Having that new mindset, I’ve embarked on a few new challenges at the office already with a renewed sense of passion, confidence and willingness to ‘pick a new path and go’. I’ve been able to entrust duties to members/volunteers I once thought only I could do. I’ve employed the ‘stop and breathe’ method when projects have become overwhelming. I’ve called upon my new cohorts for advice, information and yes, just to invite them to come participate in a few of our fun events!

Would you recommend the Executive Challenge Course to other executive directors? Why or why not?

Only if they are willing to look at themselves in a new light, challenge their way of thinking and doing, enjoy making new friends and connections, have a love of adventure, appreciate good conversation over some really fabulous food, like to laugh, and yes, trust in rope!

Thank you for your interview Stephanie!CRC is accepting applications for the 2011 Colorado Nonprofit Leadership and Management Program. For more information click here or contact Carol Crawford at 303.623.1540 x13 or email

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Where in Colorado? August

Take a guess for a chance to win a copy of the Colorado Grants Guide.

Each month, we feature a photo taken during our travels around Colorado. Last month, we featured this photograph. Congratulations to Bob Mailander who was the first to correctly guess Gobbler's Knob, Prowers County in Southeast Colorado.

For this month's "Where in Colorado?" we are inviting guesses on a photo from a different part of Colorado.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Where in Colorado? July

Take a guess for a chance to win a copy of the Colorado Grants Guide.

Each month, we feature a photo taken during our travels around Colorado. Last month, we featured this photograph. Congratulations to Sean Perkins who was the first to correctly guess Castlewood Canyon.

For this month's "Where in Colorado?" we are inviting guesses on a photo from a different part of Colorado.

Learnings from RPD

Every four years, Rural Philanthropy Days (RPD) brings Front Range-based funders to rural Southwest Colorado to connect with nonprofits. The event culminates with the Funder Roundtables, where representatives from governmental agencies and private foundations sit at tables with 8 empty chairs. When the whistle blows - a train whistle in Southwest Colorado to celebrate our Narrow Gauge Railroad - over 200 nonprofit leaders dash to grab an empty chair next to a funder they want to meet. Each nonprofit has 2 minutes to make a pitch and gets immediate feedback about whether their program is a good fit for the funder. The Train Whistle blows, and the nonprofit directors elbow their way to their next table. It’s a mad scramble to make important connections that could lead to money for their needy nonprofit.

This June, I found myself at my second RPD, supporting the Violence Prevention Coalition in its quest for additional support to prevent domestic and sexual violence. I was also there to learn about successful rural philanthropy to highlight on my blog, Rooting Nonprofits. Here are the highlights of what I learned.

Lesson 1: RPD is Not All About the Funder Roundtables.

It’s easy for busy nonprofit directors to say, “I can’t be gone at RPD for 2 ½ days! I’ll go to the Funder Roundtables, and skip the rest.” This year, I watched how some of the best fundraisers in our community approached RPD. For them, the Funder Roundtables are a small part of a larger strategy. They know that the best ways to connect with funders are much more personal and part of an ongoing relationship. These folks join the RPD Planning Committee, serve on boards of statewide organizations, and build long-lasting connections over shared interests that appear to have little to do with the nonprofit they lead.

Lesson 2: Funders are People, Not Piles of Money.

Connecting with funders can backfire when you focus more on your nonprofit than on building the relationship. I watched people angle to sit by a funder at lunch so they could have 15 minutes to talk about the amazing work of their nonprofit instead of just 2. It’s hard – all of us are passionate about the work we do. But funders are people, not piles of money. I observed how they appreciated a real conversation, the kindness of someone getting a chair for them at the cocktail reception, shared laughter. The most successful fundraisers connected as people first, nonprofit leaders second.

Lesson 3: Do Your Homework. Do It Early.

Like most folks, I was juggling other obligations in between sessions of RPD. Life doesn’t grind to a halt when RPD comes to town, and I was glad I’d done my homework early. The Making the Most of RPD Pre-Session was a great kick-start to develop my pitch to funders. While I’d wanted to ditch the session (I’ve got so much to do! I can work on this later!), I’m glad I stayed. It’s always awkward to practice the first chicken-scratch version of a pitch with someone else. My first pitch was pretty terrible – half-formed, way too long, and overly detailed. However, there were gems that came out of that process: a clear way to talk about the broad work of the coalition; positive feedback on how meaningful it is to work with youth to end the cycles of violence; a reminder to demonstrate with stories rather than description. I was thankful I practiced my terrible first pitch on a colleague, rather than a funder.

Lesson 4: Connect. Connect. Connect.

At the evening reception, a colleague said, “RPD is the one event that everyone shows up for.” She was right - RPD is pretty special for a rural community. The lure of funds for our cause means that everyone puts aside their grant applications, mandatory meetings, and life emergencies to make sure they can be there. While we come to meet funders, we also get to know each other better. We are extraordinarily fortunate in Southwest Colorado to have so many dedicated, passionate, caring, and fun people committed to philanthropy. While it can sometimes feel like everyone knows each other, there are always new connections to be made. I sat at one Funder Roundtable that finished a few minutes early. The table burst into a set of conversations. Two nonprofit leaders discussed their shared vision to expand programs with Southern Ute youth. I connected with a school administrator about looming changes in state fiscal policy. I was proud to be part of a community so committed to making connections, not only to funders but also to each other. Rural Philanthropy Days helped Southwest Colorado nonprofits sow our seeds widely, achieving its intention to “Grow Partnerships & Harvest Success.”


Dawn Haney is a community organizer, social justice activist, and nonprofit consultant. She’s currently working with a range of folks, from sexual violence advocates and circus freaks, to meditators and fiscal policy geeks. She brings playfulness and piercing analysis to every situation, seeking to reframe the problems we face into grand opportunities to bring about the change we wish to see in the world. Follow her on Twitter: @dawnmarissa and at her blog, Rooting Nonprofits.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Building Meaningful Relationships with Funders

Relationships are the building blocks that lay a strong foundation of any development plan. Funders have specific initiatives to be met and nonprofit organizations are guided by mission based programs.

Understanding the importance of creating a "mutually-beneficial" relationship is key. What can you give? What can you receive? Relationships take time to develop, so where do you start? First and foremost, know your product. Be able to clearly and concisely communicate the mission of your organization, the programs and services delivered, outcomes realized by constituencies, organizational accomplishments and challenges your organization faces moving forward. Ideally, your talking points are aligned with other staff and/or volunteers who are representing you to funders.

As you strategically manage funder relationships, it is critical to take the time to know who you are talking with. What are the priorities of the funder you are building a relationship with? How can your project benefit the funder in fulfilling their mission? Where is the nexus of a mutually beneficial relationship? Being able to research and give thought to these questions prior to communicating with a funder will give you the right framework for a compelling conversation and set the stage for a positive relationship moving forward.

This week in Mancos, Colorado, 350 people will convene for Rural Philanthro­py Days (RPD) to do just that, build positive relationships. RPD is the state's premiere opportunity for public agencies and nonprofit organizations to learn about the financial resources avail­able to them in their own state. Colorado grant­makers will have an opportunity to learn more about the unique needs of rural areas beyond the Front Range. Each RPD event generates millions of dol­lars in new grant support for local nonprofit organizations serving their communities.

Other opportunities exist for you to either begin developing new relationships with funders or to cultivate ongoing, long-term relationships. I invite you to join the Colorado Association of Funders, the Colorado Nonprofit Association and the Community Resource Center for the first annual C(3) Forum on July 21st at the University of Denver. This event has been coordinated by the three agencies to provide opportunities for Front Range nonprofit organizations to build relationships with local funders. Whether you are new to the sector or a long-term champion of your mission, this is an opportunity not to miss. Attendance is limited and nonprofits are limited to two people per agency. I look forward to seeing you there.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Where in CO? June

Take a guess for a chance to win The 2009-2010 Colorado Grants Guide. Each month, we feature a photo taken during our travels around Colorado. Last month, we featured this photograph in honor of Colorado Archaeology & Historic Preservation Month of the Rio Blanco County Courthouse, built 1935 in Meeker. No one was able to guess the location of the photo.

For this month's "Where in Colorado?" we are inviting guesses on a photo from a different part of Colorado.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Five Generational Leadership Trends Every Nonprofit Professional Should Know & Resources

Sarah Fischler and Lauren Price, Community Resource Center. Sarah is the Director of Consulting and Special Projects at CRC and Board President of the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network Denver , and Lauren is CRC’s Director of Rural Outreach. They can be found on Twitter: @sarahfischler, and @laurenelizab.

Late April was a busy time for Denver nonprofit professionals! Lauren and Sarah both had the opportunity to attend the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network National Leaders Conference, hosted by YNPN Denver. Sarah also attended parts of the Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy (EPIP) and Council on Foundations annual conferences, while Lauren followed these conferences on Twitter and webTV.

Sessions on the practical aspects of leadership development and the implications for the sector were prominently featured at all three conferences. The transfer of leadership from the Silent Generation (b. 1928 –1945) and Boomers (b. 1946-1964) to Gen Xers (b. 1965 – 1980) and Millennials (b. after 1980) is well underway. This transition has implications for the ways we communicate, strategize, fundraise and implement our programs. All relating back to the generational leadership shift, these five trends were echoed across the three conferences

1. “Next” Generation to “Now” Generation: Most of the dialogue about the young leaders characterizes challenges for the sector in terms of preparing next generation leaders and developing strategies to stem crisis. It is time to stop talking about young leaders as the next generation, and start talking about the now generation. As superstar blogger Rosetta Thurman explains in the Chronicle of Philanthropy, earlier this year, “I began using the term ‘now generation leaders’ because the reality is that young nonprofit leaders who are typically referenced as the next generation are not as young as people think. We're not all college kids anymore… Although we will certainly be the ones leading tomorrow, we're also the ones who are already leading today.”

More than ever before, it is possible to be a young professional with significant nonprofit leadership experience. Robert Egger, founder of the DC Central Kitchen and a prominent national nonprofit leader, championed this concept during his keynote address at the YNPN conference: “When YNPN first got started, the only accurate word in its name was ‘young’. Now, YNPN is a powerful network of seasoned pros.” Changing the language we use to describe our emerging leadership from “generation next” to “generation now” can help reframe the ways in which leaders from different generations see each other.

2. Shared Leadership: Much of the writing on the topic of the leadership “crisis” facing the nonprofit sector pits generations against one another – one group is leading, the other is waiting in the wings. This is the kind of language that talks about Gen Xers and Millennials and their role in nonprofits, rather than engaging us in a genuine dialogue. Language like this reflects a black and white view of a nuanced, complex situation, and it only polarizes the dialogue about current and future leadership challenges for nonprofits and philanthropy. Language like this contributes to an “us vs. them” thinking, which does nothing to address the real challenges of the sector. This got us thinking about a conversation we had a few weeks back: Lauren felt the language surrounding the Pew Research Center’s February report (“Millennials: A Portrait of Generation Next”) was particularly guilty of this kind of “us vs. them” approach. Perhaps it was due to the webcast forum of the panel introducing the report, but it felt a little bit like the presenters were excited biologists who had just discovered a new species – familiar, of course, but look how weird these Millennials are, and how different from us! Cool!

In a session entitled “Trading Power” at the Council on Foundations conference, the facilitators offered a new construct for thinking about these changing dynamics in sector leadership: identifying what the “next generation” has to offer in exchange for what seasoned leaders can provide. This strengths-based thinking can result in shared leadership – collaboration rather than a competition to prove one group or the other as better, more effective, or with the best ideas.

3. Access to Professional Development and Career Growth: Many young leaders participating in the YNPN Conference expressed significant frustration over their lack of access to basic professional development. If we hope to retain these young leaders, individual organizations and managers need to invest in the Gen X and Millennial leaders of the sector by helping them develop in their careers. As social entrepreneurs and traditional corporations integrate the ideas of a mission-based business, working for a nonprofit is no longer the only way to make a difference in society. We are saying a firm farewell to the days when young people could be expected to take a professionally and financially unrewarding job for the sake of impacting a particular mission. Consequently, the nonprofits that recruit and retain top young leaders will be those that put a high priority on professional development. In Denver, programs like YNPN Denver’s learning circles and Community Shares’ Executive Leadership Institute groups offer very affordable professional development for younger nonprofit employees. Even if your organization cannot pay for these types of activities, meet your employees halfway and provide paid time to pursue professional development and other opportunities for career growth.

Also, for a variety of factors nonprofit professionals are retiring later than they used to. Consequently, some young professionals find that senior leadership opportunities are not available – opportunities which would have once been vacated through retirement. This phenomenon occurs in the corporate sector as well: publications like Bloomberg Businessweek call it the “grey ceiling”. What are individual nonprofits doing to provide career growth opportunities for Gen Xers and Millennials, especially when senior leadership positions are still occupied by skilled, experienced and healthy Boomers and Silent Generation leaders?

4. Challenging Misperceptions around Generational Tendencies: During the intergenerational conversations about what younger staff can bring to an organization, the discussion nearly always turns to technology. Both young leaders and their colleagues need to challenge the misperception that the most important skill that young professionals bring to an organization is the ability to use social media proficiently. While tech savvy is a tremendous asset, young professionals and leaders bring so much more than their Facebook networks, and are eager for opportunities to demonstrate proficiency in these other areas as well. Are we thinking about generational ‘personalities’ as a starting point for actual workplace relationships, or are we pigeonholing each other into stereotypes? Not all Millennials are tuned into pop culture, for example, just as not all Boomers love committees.

5. Hunger for New Approaches to Solving Persistent Problems: Power dynamics between funders and nonprofits. The challenges of the nonprofit board governance model. Interest in social enterprise and the burgeoning L3C movement. Enthusiasm and interest in collaborative leadership models. What do all these thoughts and trends have in common? The participants in the YNPN and EPIP conferences have new, interesting ideas about how to address some of the persistent challenges and new opportunities associated with nonprofit work and the sector as a whole. Giving young leaders some room to try new ideas and engage in calculated risk now will pay off in helping build sustainability and increased effectiveness for the sector over time.

What are your thoughts on these five themes? Did we miss something? Ask us questions or comment on our blog below!

RESOURCES Want to read more about these topics, the happenings of these three conferences, or learn more about resources for young leaders? Check out these links:

Where in Colorado? May

Take a guess for a chance to win the 2009-2010 Colorado Grants Guide.

Each month, we feature a photo taken during our travels around Colorado. Last month, we featured this photograph of a snowman in Gunnison. Congratulations to Joan Sweere. She wins a copy of the Colorado Grants Guide. Thanks for participating!

For this month's "Where in Colorado?" and in honor of Colorado Archaeology & Historic Preservation Month, we are inviting guesses on a photo from a different part of Colorado.
What is Colorado Archaeology and Historic Preservation Month? Archaeology & Historic Preservation Month is a celebration of our state’s heritage. Help spread the word that preserving the past is important. Saving significant prehistoric and historic places ensures that future generations in Colorado will maintain a connection with our shared cultural legacy.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Lessons from the Field: Investing in Your Volunteer Program & The Reading List

Here at Metro Volunteers our mission is to mobilize and cultivate volunteers as a vital force in our community. For over 16 years, we’ve been helping connect organizations to potential volunteers and training nonprofits to maximize engagement of volunteers to build capacity and to use their volunteer assets strategically.

Like the rest of the community, the economic calamity in the fall of 2008 caused us to look closely at our bottom line as need for services increased while funding decreased. It led to difficult choices here at Metro Volunteers, including a staff reduction in January of 2009 when we went from 8 ½ fulltime employees to 3 ½. The need to fully engage volunteers became not only good strategy – but necessity. However, was our volunteer infrastructure ready? Aside from our board and committees, our volunteers were either in the field acting as project leaders for other organizations, or AmeriCorps volunteers supporting staff efforts. It was time to increase the responsibility of our current volunteers, increase our base of internal volunteers, and activate tools and processes to fully integrate volunteers in our work. In essence, to rebuild our staff – with both paid and volunteer positions. Over the past 15 months or so, we have taken our own advice and matured our volunteer program. We did this in several ways.

We created task teams and operations teams that raised the expectation and responsibility of volunteers. For example, our Volunteers with Impact and Purpose (VIP) program is a new program run by a volunteer operations team with minimal staff support. These volunteers developed the program, oversaw the pilot, and have now launched the first cohort.

We elevated the roles of our AmeriCorps members from program support to program oversight and delivery. Our Project Leadership Program is now managed by an AmeriCorps/VISTA member, under whose guidance it has flourished. For sustainability, we are building an Operations Team of volunteers to continue to deliver and grow the program once our national service member has completed her term of service.

We created significant new volunteer roles using our own best practices and tools. We conducted an assessment of our internal needs and identified tasks that could be owned by volunteers. Our new Client Services team fill a variety of roles in our organization: The front desk volunteers field inquiries, greet visitors, and provide program support; a database volunteer has organized and updated our records, and a membership specialist has grown our nonprofit membership by 40% in just six months.

Not all of our internal volunteers commit to regular hours. Most of our training courses are taught by skilled volunteers with specific expertise who serve a few times a year. Other volunteers come in for specific short-term projects, such as organizing the store room, planning an event or assisting with a marketing effort. We have found the best way to recruit and retain volunteers is to ask questions. The more you know, the more you can align the project to benefit all parties.

Of course, it hasn’t been easy or gone completely smoothly. In the course of one year, we’ve recruited, trained and placed five Client Services volunteers who left their positions in less than six months for various reasons. For some, who came to us because the economy made finding work difficult, a paid position came along. Although delighted for them, we were disappointed but don’t consider their departure a loss. We made valuable connections with community members who can now act as ambassadors for us, who understand our work, and who can connect others to our programs and services.

Investing in your volunteer program – staff, supplies, training – may seem to be a drain on resources. But with good planning, your return can be far greater than the costs.
Implementation of our expanded internal volunteer program has been a tremendous success. We have created capacity for our paid staff by putting volunteer staff in significant roles. We stay focused on maximizing our volunteer program, continuing to recruit, train, and recognize our volunteer staff. We understand their true value and are grateful for their support of our work and our mission.

There are many resources available to help you develop your volunteer program. At Metro Volunteers, we are experts in the field of building organizational capacity via volunteers. Now, using the tools, best practices and processes that we’ve offered other organizations over the years, we have created our own volunteer program that enables us to increase our scope and scale and better achieve our mission. Please review The Reading List for helpful online tools and articles.

The Reading List: Engaging Volunteers

HR Council for the Nonprofit Sector: Staff Volunteer Relations

The Huffington Post: Don’t Let Goodwill Slip Through The Cracks

Energize, Inc. Hot Topics from Susan J. Ellis

The Cost of a Volunteer - Recognizing that “Volunteers aren’t free,” the Grantmaker Forum on Community & National Service decided to explore the question: What does it cost to mount an effective and high quality volunteer program?

Using Volunteers Effectively: Turning Short Term Volunteers Into Long Term Resources by Christina Jones

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

A Great Volunteer Relationship Creates an Exponential Effect

Everyone wins, the volunteer, the organization, the community and those being served.

I am both fortunate and exhilarated to have a great volunteering relationship with the Community Resource Center (CRC). I selfishly began volunteering at CRC as a way to feel useful, to connect with others and keep my skills honed during a period of unemployment. What I have received is more than I could have imagined.

While volunteering at CRC, I have felt useful, connected to people and have used my skills in service to the organization. By virtue of CRC’s mission of providing a continuum of services to nonprofits throughout Colorado, I have connected with so many amazing individuals with incredible dedication, heart and smarts, all willing to give, share and contribute. I am now fortunate to have many professional peer relationships both within and outside the organization.

In addition, CRC provided the opportunity for me to contribute in a way that is fulfilling and meaningful, through their Statewide Coaching Initiative, Onsite Trainings, Executive Leadership Program and Volunteer Engagement. I have coached executives; developed and conducted public trainings; assisted, trained and coached aspiring leaders, and recruited additional volunteers. At a broader level, my volunteering has assisted CRC in meeting their organizational goals and objectives. I’m fortunate that I am able to immediately see the fruits of my labor.

Volunteering with CRC has been a labor of love. I am both blessed and grateful.

Cindy Sorensen

Midwestern Colorado Mental Health Center

By Will Paterson

The Midwestern Colorado Mental Health Center (MCMHC) is the only community mental health care provider in six counties of the Western Slope region: Delta, Gunnison, Hinsdale, Montrose, Ouray, and San Miguel. And because of this, the MCMHC accepts referrals from primary care doctors from all over the region. On the surface this has been an effective solution. The MCMHC has the resources and the experience to handle mental health disorders that primary care physicians do not. The MCMHC also has the funding to help Medicaid, low income, and indigent patients, so they can accept nearly everyone. But until recently there has been an important flaw in the system. Adolescent patients were missing their appointments in large numbers. When they studied the problem, they realized 94 percent of patients, ages 11-18, never made it to their appointments. Looking at it a little further, it was easy to see why. These are rural counties, traversed by winding mountain roads that can turn a 20 minute summer drive into an hour long adventure in winter. And perhaps more importantly, there is a stigma attached to mental health centers that stretches back to the days of asylums.

The lack of adolescent mental health care is made more critical when considering the effects of going without treatment. “National statistics will tell you that half of all lifetime cases of mental illness are diagnosed by age 14. And if children aren’t diagnosed early, it’s usually ten years from onset to diagnosis and treatment”, said Janey Sorensen, the marketing director for the Mental Health Center. A lot can happen in those ten years, and adolescence is already difficult enough without mental health challenges such as untreated depression, bipolar disorder, or even schizophrenia.

However, because of Rural Philanthropy Days the MCMHC has been able to begin assessing and treating many of the adolescent patients who used to go without treatment. In June of 2009 Janey Sorensen attended Rural Philanthropy Days in Crested Butte as a representative of MCMHC. She enjoyed seminars, workshops, and dinners with funders and other nonprofits from around the Western Slope. She met representatives from the Colorado Health Foundation at the Roundtable discussions, where she was able to share stories from her time at the hospital and begin talking about a funding partnership to correct this unmet need. The relationship developed quickly through email and phone calls, and within a month the MCMHC was applying for funding from The Colorado Health Foundation. Less than six months after Rural Philanthropy Days, The Colorado Health Foundation had awarded the MCMHC two grants totaling $259,561 to begin the Pediatric Integration Project and to update all their electronic health records.

Among other things, that money has allowed the MCMHC to place a behavioral health therapist onsite at the pediatric clinics in Montrose and Delta. Now, pediatricians can walk patients and their parent(s) straight to a therapist in the clinic, and the patient can be seen and treated in a familiar environment in conjunction with his or her pediatrician, avoiding many of the previous obstacles to treatment. Of the 1050 adolescents who come into the clinics for Well Child Checkups every year, the MCMHC predicts 350 will screen for a mental health disorder. More important than the numbers though, because of Rural Philanthropy Days and the partnership between the MCMHC and the Colorado Health Foundation, “these children will be more successful in school; they will have better friendships, better relationships with their families, and therefore they will have more successful lives,” this according to Janey Sorensen.

The partnership that developed through a conversation at Rural Philanthropy Days has produced tangible outcomes for the communities served by MCMHC: locally accessible services that bring balance and wellness to the lives of young people. To learn more about Rural Philanthropy Days, please visit

Where in Colorado? April

Take a guess for a chance to win The 2009-2010 Colorado Grants Guide.

Each month, we feature a photo taken during our travels around Colorado. Last month, we featured this photograph of Rocky Ford. Congratulations to Cliff. He wins a copy of Collaboration and Strategic Alliances: Essential Strategies for Success During an Economic Downturn. Thanks for participating!

For this month's "Where in Colorado?" we are inviting guesses on a photo from a different part of Colorado.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Where in Colorado? March

Take a guess for a chance to win CRC's toolkit, Collaboration and Strategic Alliances: Essential Strategies for Success During an Economic Downturn.

Each month, we feature a photo taken during our travels around Colorado. Last month, we featured
this photograph of Red Mountain Pass between Ouray and Silverton. Congratulations to Blog manager and Laura. Both win a copy of Collaboration and Strategic Alliances: Essential Strategies for Success During an Economic Downturn. Thanks for participating!

For this month's "Where in Colorado?" we are inviting guesses on a photo from a different part of Colorado.

Using Twitter as a Professional Development Tool

Written by Sarah Fischler, Director of Consulting and Special Projects
Follow Sarah on Twitter: http://twitter.com/SarahFischler

During a recent meeting with one of my consulting clients, we started discussing how the organization could use social media to advance its mission. I brought up Twitter and the executive director’s response was, “I don’t care if someone ate Cheerios for breakfast.” Her response demonstrates a common misperception about Twitter. Yes, there is a tremendous amount of useless noise on the internet and a lot of it is developed through Twitter, through which the ten billionth Tweet flowed this week. If you are not familiar with Twitter, check out this introduction before reading the rest of this article.

Over the last year, I have been doing a lot of training on how nonprofits can use social media to leverage resources and advance their mission. Until recently, I gave Twitter a cursory review, showed a few examples, and moved onto other tools that I have personally find to be more useful. While some nonprofits have found success in connecting to their constituencies through Twitter, my perception had been in line with my clients’ opinion that Twitter communicates nothing but noise.

In December, I decided to give Twitter a try. In a few short months, I have become a convert but for different reasons than I anticipated. For me, the biggest surprise in using Twitter has been that it is a tremendous professional development tool. For free, I have access to a personalized nonprofit news service, through which a self-designed list of contributors feed information to me through their Twitter streams. How else could I have instant access to the latest thinking from the thought leaders in my field, get a current pulse on trends in the nonprofit sector, and follow the things that interest me – all in the same place and for free? Only through Twitter.

Even though I subscribe to traditional publications in my field like the Chronicle of Philanthropy, follow a lot of nonprofit blogs, and subscribe to many listservs, I have found that the most relevant and interesting information comes through Twitter. My perception that Twitter is full of noise has also been completely debunked through my personal experience. Because I am very selective in choosing to follow people, I would estimate that 90 percent of the Tweets that come through my Twitter stream are highly relevant and interesting. The other 10 percent, even if it a casual mention of someone’s other hobbies or interests, still add depth and personality to postings.

For me, the biggest advantage to using Twitter has been coming across tools, articles, and resources on a daily basis that can help me do my job better. Additionally, I am exposed to interesting ideas on a daily basis and see links to articles that I would not otherwise see. In this time of non-existent professional development budgets, Twitter has helped me stay in tune with ideas from the leading edge of my field. Twitter is also an excellent research tool, as I can stay up-to-date on what similar organizations are doing to advance their mission, raise money, or communicate to their constituencies.

The only drawback that I have experienced is that of information overload. I could spend all day following up on ideas I see mentioned on Twitter or reading the interesting articles that come across my Twitter stream. For me, setting the boundary of spending no more than 15 to 20 minutes a day reading things that come through Twitter has been working. I also use a service called TweetDeck that helps me mark items as favorites so I can follow-up later.

If you are interested in exploring how you can use Twitter as a professional development tool, here are some tips on getting started:

  • Sign up for Twitter. Choose a professional username if you plan to actively use Twitter to communicate your own ideas (remember, what you post on the web can haunt you forever). Or, you can choose to be completely anonymous if you want to maintain your privacy.
  • Decide on why you are using Twitter. If you just want to follow people to see what they are saying, all you need to do is set up an account and find people to follow. The easiest way to find people to follow is to find a person you want to follow and then look through the list of people they are following.
  • If you plan to actively use Twitter to promote you or your organization, you will need to be more thoughtful about getting started. For me, I decided to start two separate accounts, one to follow people in the nonprofit sector and one to follow people engaged in my main hobby, landscape photography. If you want people to follow you, a longer-term goal for me, you will need to make yourself relevant. I will not be relevant if I post things about nonprofit governance models to people who are interested in my photography, just as most of you reading this could care less about my new 10-stop ND filter, which I tweeted about through my other account. To learn more about using Twitter to advance your career or your organization, check out our reading list below.
  • If you are actively tweeting, be thoughtful about what you write and share. David DuChemin, writing about Twitter for photographers, says, “Be yourself. But be a carefully edited version of yourself.” I think this is very good advice.
  • Finally, consider using a tool like TweetDeck to manage Twitter. I find the Twitter interface to be clumsy and difficult to use. Through TweetDeck, I am able to manage both of my Twitter accounts, along with my Facebook and Linked-In account, all in one place. TweetDeck is a free service and can be used on any computer (I use it on my iPhone, too). Since I am using Twitter for professional development, I often come across things that I know I will want to access in the future. TweetDeck has a very friendly “favorites” interface that allows you to tag things for future reference.
If you have been using Twitter for professional development, please let us know how it is working for you and who you are following. Or, if you would like to learn more, check out the reading list below or contact Sarah with basic questions. If you are in northeast Colorado, sign up for Sarah’s class on using online communications for nonprofit organizations.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Organizational Culture and Successful Collaboration

With tighter budgets and fewer resources, more nonprofits are looking towards collaboration as a strategy to help leverage resources and increase organizational effectiveness. Collaboration can often result in greater mission impact or better leveraging of resources. However, if they are not well-conceived and properly managed from the beginning, such “collaborative” relationships can also be a drain on organizational resources. There are two critical pieces to setting up collaborative relationships for success: ensuring that each involved organization has an organizational culture that supports shared work, and having deliberate discussions in advance around any areas where a shared approach or values may not inherently exist.

Initiating a collaboration can sometimes feel like a first date. Each organization wants to present its best face, its strengths and opportunities. This dynamic can sometimes lead to glossing over important cultural issues that will impact the long-term success of a collaborative relationship. Bringing up difficult conversations early on might mean there would not be a “second date” and the organizations involved do not want to risk that kind of potential rejection. This dynamic often results in organizations holding back information or preferences because they fear that discussing such things could derail progress. Identifying what is important to each organization is a critical, but often forgotten, step in ensuring successful outcomes through collaboration.

When CRC works with organizations in developing collaborative relationships, we often start by identifying what we call an organization’s “collaborative culture index.” Using this tool, we are able to get a sense of how well an organization’s culture will support collaborative efforts. Depending on the results, we can help identify some areas for deliberate conversations and negotiations with partners before a collaborative relationship starts.

As part of developing a collaborative cultural index for an organization, CRC assesses the areas described below. We consider the level of agreement with these statements to be an indicator that an organization’s culture will generally support successful collaborative relationships. Areas of less agreement can also help identify places for deliberate discussions and negotiations prior to initiating formally or informally shared work. How well do these statements describe your organization and staff members?

  • As an organization, we like to learn about new approaches to doing our work.
  • As an organization, we are comfortable with change.
  • “We do things our way and our way only” does not characterize our approach to our work.
  • We are not typically driven or motivated by competitiveness or by the desire to outdo organizations for the sake of “winning” or looking better.
  • We make decisions in a collaborative manner within our organization (for example, staff members are consulted on all major decisions and their ideas are taken into consideration).
  • We are comfortable sharing the spotlight and not being out front on everything we do.
  • We are comfortable with giving up some control over projects in order to gain the benefits of working together with other organizations and groups.
  • I can think of at least three examples of successful collaborations that we have been part of in the recent past.
  • If you asked our partners in previous collaborations, the vast majority would agree that our projects have ended well and accomplished our shared goals.
  • Staff members have personality traits that promote good working relationships, especially with those outside of our organization. These traits include effective communication skills, the ability to proactively communicate expectations, a willingness to be flexible in terms of approach, the ability to establish and maintain trust, and general friendliness.
  • We have a history of seeing projects through over time.

Generally, organizational cultures that are more collaborative in nature are more effective in collaborative relationships with other organizations. These cultures tend to have diffused decision-making structures, history of working well with other organizations, and see added value from working with others. If you find that most of these statements reflect your organization and its practices, there is a strong likelihood that your organization’s culture supports effective collaboration. However, if these traits do not describe your organization, formal collaborative relationships may not be a good immediate strategy for your organization or may require some significant preparatory steps for your organization to be a good partner. This kind of organizational self-reflection is very important to ensure that collaboration is a good strategy for you, and that you will make a good collaborative partner.

If your organization is in the process of developing a collaborative relationship, we encourage you to consider these tools as part of designing your collaboration. If you need more help, please check out the resources below or contact Sarah Fischler at CRC to see how we can help your organization successfully use collaboration to increase your mission impact and to more effectively leverage resources.

Where in Colorado? February

Take a guess for a chance to win CRC's toolkit, Collaboration and Strategic Alliances: Essential Strategies for Success During an Economic Downturn.

Each month, we feature a photo taken during our travels around Colorado. Last month, we featured this photograph of Cottonwood Pass. Congratulations to Rio de la Vista and Meg. Both win a copy of Fundraising: Essential Strategies for Fundraising Success During an Economic Downturn. Thanks for participating!

For this month's "Where in Colorado?" we are inviting guesses on a photo from a different part of Colorado.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Where in Colorado? January

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 of Plum Creek Cellars, Palisade. Congratulations to Louella, KB, Info, Michael, and Anne. All win a free copy of CRC's fundraising toolkit. Thanks for participating!

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

Team Up With a Professional Coach To Gain a Real Advantage in 2010!

We've all had an experience some time in our lives with someone who could see more in us than we could see in ourselves at that moment. It might have been a teacher, the soccer coach, a friend, or a grandparent. They seemed to know just what to say or do at just the right time to spur us on. They helped us feel good about ourselves regardless of our own beliefs. They wanted a better experience or life for us. That is what coaching is all about. It is intentionally and systematically having someone to assist you in finding the way to a better more fulfilling life.

People hire a coach because they want more, they want to grow, and they want forward movement. Cheryl Richardson, author of the best-selling books, Life Makeovers and Stand Up for Your Life, says, "The goal is for people to improve their quality of life. Some coaches primarily help with one's personal life; others focus on one's professional life. Many do both. Coaches get to know the clients' needs. They support them to find what they want to do with their lives and help define how to make it happen. The primary goal is to keep people in action."

Coaches are trained to listen intently - what's being said and what's not being said, noticing, observing, and then customizing their approach to the individual client. They seek to elicit solutions and strategies from the client. The client is the expert on their life. The coach's job is to provide support to enhance the skills, resources, and creativity that the client already possesses.

In essence, coaching is forward focused and action oriented. You'll identify and acknowledge barriers that keep you from moving forward. A coach will help you identify the motivators and values for you to get into action to produce results, hold you accountable for what you do, and then celebrate your successes.

The Community Resource Center has taken all the guess work out of finding, vetting and negotiating just the right professional coach for you. The Colorado Capacity Coaching Initiative is offered to any non-profit executive, program director, staff or board member at rates below the market average from coaches who exceed industry expectation. Want more information? Please contact Carol Crawford at crawford@crcamerica.org or 303.623.1540 x13.

4 Fundraising Resolutions for the New Year

By Sarah Fischler, CRC Consultant

As part of the Weathering the Storm project, the Community Resource Center and the Colorado Nonprofit Association sponsored trainings on fundraising, financial management, and collaboration to help nonprofit organizations enhance their sustainability during these challenging economic times. As part of this project over the last nine months, I have taught 15 trainings on fundraising during difficult times for nonprofit organizations of all sizes and types across Colorado and have seen the same opportunities for growth come up again and again.

Because the ability to generate revenue is at the core of nonprofit sustainability, we are suggesting these four fundraising resolutions to improve your organization’s fundraising effectiveness for 2010. Check out CRC’s reading list for more information and some ideas to get started on each of these resolutions.

Commit to Greater Diversification

Unfortunately, 2009 was a difficult year for many nonprofit organizations. A lack of diversified revenue sources has continued to be the source of vulnerability for many organizations. If a major funder pulls out or a type of funding declines across the board, a nonprofit can be forced to make difficult decisions like cutting or reducing programs, or in the most extreme cases, closing the doors.

Help your organization improve its prospects for long-term sustainability by diversifying your fundraising base during 2010, both in terms of number and types of donors. Has your organization been planning to start an individual donor campaign or investigate foundation funding for the last five years, but has never found the time? Make it a priority for 2010, even if it is only starting with a small goal, like recruiting 25 new individual donors or submitting a small grant application to a local funder. Setting some small goals for increased diversification and then achieving them can help put your organization on the path to greater sustainability.

Devote Time to Data Management

I am consistently surprised when I encounter an organization with a mid-sized budget and a spreadsheet full of donor information. With donor management packages now accessible to even the smallest organizations, 2010 is the year to commit to getting your donor information into a database, especially if you rely on individual donors for revenue. Better data management can help you make better fundraising decisions and possibly increase the outcomes of your fundraising activities if used strategically. In a spreadsheet, you only see donors as single lines of information. Donor databases can instead help you see donors in terms of their level of engagement with your organization. This can help your organization in better targeting and customizing your donor solicitation activities, activities that will likely result in better outcomes over time. A good, intuitive, and affordable solution for small nonprofits is GiftWorks. (And, if you need some help in transitioning your information, CRC offers classes and consulting in GiftWorks.)

Learn to Love Strategy

Being more strategic and deliberate in fundraising can almost immediately improve fundraising outcomes for any organization. Scattered fundraising is ineffective, frustrating, and leads to burnout because it feels like an endless treadmill of marginally successful activities. If your organization’s fundraising is scattered, simply outlining a few key fundraising activities, setting measurable goals, and then assessing your organization’s progress can significantly help your organization in being more strategic in its fundraising. Even if it is very simple, creating a written plan of action for your 2010 fundraising can help you move from scattered to strategic, resulting in better fundraising outcomes for your organization.

Being more strategic also includes having a better sense of what works and what doesn’t work. Start 2010 by doing some analysis on your previous fundraising activities to get a sense of what is effective and what is not. For example, how much does it actually cost your organization, including staff and volunteer time, to run an event or raise money through your other fundraising campaigns? Through this kind of simple analysis, you can get a sense of whether or not you could be getting a bigger bang for your buck through other fundraising activities. With this sort of information available, you can make a plan that helps prioritize your organization’s activities and leads to more strategic fundraising.

Embrace and Leverage Technology

One of my favorite nonprofit organizations, Community Shares of Colorado, is building an exciting new program on the idea of incremental giving. Through their My Colorado Project (www.mycoloradoproject.org), Community Shares is enabling donors to quickly and easily donate to their member organizations on a monthly, quarterly, or yearly basis – all automatic once someone is signed up. Community Shares adds on the concept of giving circles, in which people use online tools to engage their networks to get others involved in supporting their favorite organizations. We should all learn something from this model, as converting people who send a $100 check each year to regular, monthly donors can result in increased revenues and greater engagement without having to dedicate resources to recruiting new donors. This kind of program would be a huge drain on resources for most nonprofits without technology to automate the process. Using a service like Acceptiva, your organization can implement a similar program to transition your occasional donors into incremental donors using technology and possibly reap the benefits of higher donations and engagement in your mission.

Incremental giving is one example of how using technology allows a nonprofit to leverage its resources like never before for increased fundraising effectiveness. Web-based technology, like WordPress, has made it possible for small nonprofits to develop professional informational websites for just the cost of a website domain and web hosting (as little as $10 per month) with very little technological expertise. Constant Contact, the popular e-newsletter service, makes sending out an e-newsletter easy and cost-effective. If your organization is not currently using these tools, we encourage you to learn more about how they could help your organization leverage its resources during 2010 for increased fundraising success.

While all of these solutions are not right for all organizations, we encourage you take at least one of these and implement it within your organization during 2010. Doing so will help, in at least a small way, increase your organization’s sustainability for 2010 and beyond.