Creating Sustainable Change Begins With One Question: Why?

“Why?” is a small, but powerful question we often forget to ask. However, it can make the difference between addressing a symptom vs the cause. That difference is the key to creating sustainable change.

Addressing symptoms will only result in temporary change. However, when we find out why those symptoms are showing up in the first place, we can begin to create a thoughtful and strategic plan that will determine how we can improve. This will set us up for success and help create that sustainable change we strive for.

My favorite thing about asking “Why?” is that it can be used to either fix a problem or even take your organization from good to great. If there is something you think your organization does amazingly well, ask yourself “Why?” again. You can use that information to build on or you can share the knowledge and become a leader in your field.  Try asking this question throughout your organization and see where it leads you.

Here are a few examples and some follow-up questions to get the conversation going.

Program Management: Why is your organization launching that new program?

  • Is there a demonstrated need?
  • Is there a gap in services?
  • Has the program proven to be successful elsewhere?
  • Have you considered partnering with other community organizations?

Fundraising: Why are you going after certain donors?

  • Does your prospective donor have the wealth/capacity to give?
  • Have they shown an interest in your cause or something similar?
  • Do you have a connection to them?

Board Members: Why is/isn’t your board giving?

  • Have they been engaged in a way that is meaningful to them as individuals?
  • Are they well-educated about the organizations programs and impact?
  • Are they trained to fund raise on your behalf?
  • Do they have everything they need to do their job successfully?

Organizational Leadership: Why is/isn’t your team more engaged/productive?

  • Have you set clear goals and expectations for both teams and individuals?
  • Are you challenging your team?
  • Are you showing your team appreciation?
  • Are you giving team members the opportunity to use their skills to make a meaningful contribution?

Catalyst Miami: Strengthening South Florida’s Nonprofit Community

I wanted to highlight Catalyst Miami (formerly the Human Services Coalition) in a blog post because I think they are a great resource for local nonprofits and do-gooders. I first learned about Catalyst Miami last year while searching for an organization to get involved with. I was automatically drawn to their emphasis on empowering both individuals and nonprofits to make South Florida a better place.

For nonprofits in particular, they have developed the Nonprofit Leadership Training Institute (NLTI) to help strengthen the organizational capacity of local nonprofits. Earlier this month I attended their first NLTI session – Development with a Dose of Reality. Local fundraising consultant Glenn Kaufhold of GKollaborative led the session, giving local organizations advice on how to create a development plan. It was a great opportunity for local organizations (especially startups) to get insight from an experienced professional and ask questions.  If you are interested in learning more about the sessions, they will be sending out information via their e-newsletter (you can sign up on their website).

Future NLTI sessions include:

  • Individual and Major Giving Plans
  • Nonprofit Sales Pitch 101
  • The Written Message
  • Social Media for Nonprofits
  • Unique Challenges of Managing Nonprofit Employees
  • Creating a Dynamic and Engaged Workplace – SPEC
  • Nonprofits in the World of Profit – Business Strategies and Management
  • Stakeholder Engagement – Partnerships and Alliances for Community Success
  • Tell Your Story – Use Data to Show Impact
  • Tools for Internal Change – Managing Internal Roles and Assessments
  • Advocacy and Storytelling – Building a Movement
  • Applying an Asset-Based Approach to Your Development Projects
  • Organizational Leadership
  • Positive Change Through Media Arts
  • Make Government Your Ally

I hope you find this post helpful and can make use of this neat resource. :) If you know of any other great resources for our local nonprofits, please share them either in the comments below or send me an email at jessi.diaz@yahoo.com. I’d love to highlight them also!

Catalyst Miami // www.catalystmiami.org

Creative video explanation of what they do: Catalyst Miami

Mission: To develop and support individual leadership and strong organizations that work together to improve health, education and economic opportunity in all our communities.

Celebrating Random Acts of Kindness Week!

In a world full of crazy, it’s so refreshing to see there is actually one week that has been designated to celebrate and encourage kindness. Because that is absolutely awesome, this blog post is dedicated to Random Acts of Kindness Week. There’s an unlimited number of ways to get involved, but here are just a few ideas to get you started. Remember, be kind, have fun, and find ways to celebrate all year long!

PS – Be sure to visit the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation website for a bunch of great resources.

Who: Everyone … and Random Acts of Kindness Foundation // Mission: The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation inspires people to practice kindness and to pass it on to others. We provide free educational and community ideas, guidance and other resources to kindness participants through our website

What: Random Acts of Kindness Week

When: February 13 – 19, 2012

Where: Everywhere!

How To Celebrate:

Companies

  • Visit the At Your Workplace page on the Random Acts of Kindness website for lots of easy ways to make your team smile
  • Organize a volunteer day for your team and visit a local organization
  • Hold a drive (food, toys, clothes, etc)
  • Give a portion of sales to your favorite cause during this week
  • Challenge team members and customers to match a donation made to a local organization in honor of Random Acts of Kindness Week
  • Host a lunch for your team and invite an organization to talk about their cause

Nonprofits

  • Honor your donors and volunteers! Feature them and their acts of kindness on a newsletter or blog post and thank them for all they do
  • Make it easy for your supporters to get involved – create a list of quick and easy ways they can get involved (i.e. make a text donation, donate a tweet, etc.) and share it on your website
  • Make a thank you video to share with supporters
  • Write a recommendation letter for one of your stellar volunteers
  • Nominate a supporter for a local community award
  • Thank your team for doing what they do!

Individuals

  • Visit the In Your Community page on the Random Acts of Kindness website for tons of ideas
  • Tell people about Random Acts of Kindness Week
  • Be extra nice (and not just to people you like!)
  • Use social media to support a cause you care about
  • Make a donation to your favorite organization
  • Treat someone to lunch
  • Visit a grandparent
  • Use the hashtag #dokindness on Twitter to share how you’ve participated
  • Thank people for THEIR random acts of kindness
Have a great idea you’d like to share? Use the comment section below to let everyone how you will celebrate :)

 

 

Think before you serve.

The Poor Will Be Glad: Joining the Revolution to Lift the World Out of Poverty is a great book.  Written from a Christian perspective, it serves as a guide to understand microfinance and gives churches practical advice on how to get involved.

However, what I loved most about the book was that it highlighted how important it is to think before we serve. It’s easy to get excited about doing something to help others, but there’s some behind the scenes work that must be done if we plan on making a real difference and creating sustainable change.

We need to keep in mind that even if we have good intentions, actions without thoughtful planning can have an adverse effect. When considering a new project, remember to research the problem, communicate with those who will be served, communicate with organizations successfully serving the area/cause you will be involved in, plan carefully, and evaluate your efforts. Remember, planning properly will only empower you to make an even greater difference.

The Poor Will Be Glad uses examples of both kinds of projects, those that lack planning and those backed by research and a solid plan, to illustrate the importance of this idea. It may not be a brand new concept, but it’s definitely one worth revisiting.

Quotes from The Poor Will Be Glad

“If we don’t understand the problem, how can we choose an appropriate solution?”

“Misguided giving can actually rob the poor – not of their physical resources, but of their dignity, responsibility, and self-worth”

“It is important to take a serious look at successes and failures and honestly evaluate if our efforts leave communities better off than before our ‘service’.”

“Each of us has something to give and some responsibility to use our resources and skills to serve”

20 Links To Get Your Nonprofit Started With Social Media

I think I’m a bit of a late bloomer when it comes to social media. I’ve had a personal Facebook page for a while, but I started blogging and tweeting just 7 months ago. While I am still learning, I can tell you the benefits became apparent early on. It’s helped build some relationships, has allowed me to develop my personal brand, and has even become a learning tool in itself.  It does, however, require you to invest something invaluable … time.

If your organization has just decided to jump in as well, this post is for you.  I’ve put together this list of resources to help you make the best of the time you have for social media. The list includes links to information on getting started, creating social media policies for your organization, measuring success and some other things I thought might be useful for someone who is just jumping in. I hope you find it helpful!

Research: Nonprofits & Social Media

Getting Started

  • Tutorials On Social Media (This list from Socialbrite is absolutely awesome and it’s separated by category (i.e. Twitter, Facebook, etc.)

Strategy

Social Media Policy

Measuring Success

Monitoring Tools

A Few More Ideas

Volunteering with Catalyst Miami

This week was pretty great for several different reasons. One was the opportunity to visit Catalyst Miami. I met with their Executive Director, Daniella Levine, and Communications Coordinator, Mathias Oma. Both are absolutely wonderful people who are truly passionate about South Florida’s nonprofit community. Their enthusiasm is contagious!

We talked about how we can collaborate and came up with a couple of ideas. Blogging will definitely be involved. I will be contributing to their blog, which Mathias manages. If you are not already following it, take a moment to check it out. They have insightful posts with great information.

What drew me to the organization was the fact that they encourage civic leadership, nonprofit capacity building and economic development, among other things. These are all things that I am passion about and want to learn more about.

They were so welcoming and encouraging, it was really an energizing and refreshing meeting. I am really excited about working with them and look forward to learning more about how they are strengthening our community.

I will hopefully be blogging about this relationship some more soon. :)

To learn more about Catalyst Miami visit their website or blog.

Catalyst Miami Mission: To develop and support individual leadership and strong organizations that work together to improve health, education and economic opportunity in all our communities.