5 Tips To Keep Learning Without Spending A Dime

I’ve always loved the scene in Good Will Hunting where Matt Damon’s character tells a Harvard student he’s dropped over a hundred thousand dollars on an education he could have received at the library. I believe education is invaluable and encourage people to at least go for their BA, but not having money shouldn’t keep you from continuing your education.  If we want to keep learning, but don’t have the funds for grad school (and don’t want to keep piling on student loans!), we just have to be a little more creative about how we continue to learn. So here are five ways we can continue to learn about nonprofits without spending a dime (i.e. Good Will Hunting style).

  1. Free Webinars: You can find webinars on all sorts of subjects these days. For free nonprofit webinars, check out Wild Apricot’s blog.  They compile and post a list of free nonprofit webinars every month. Check out September’s list. You can also do a quick search online or keep an eye out on websites like www.philanthropy.com for live chats.
  2. Free Books/Ebooks: I don’t just mean the library. Lots of nonprofit rock stars have released e-books that can be downloaded for free. Again, you can find some just by doing a quick search online. I’ve also started compiling a list of them on my Books page.
  3. Community Events/Seminars: Keep an eye out for local events like seminars, symposiums, etc.  Sign up for e-newsletters, check up on websites (local colleges/universities, organizations that serve as community hubs, etc.) regularly. For those looking for events in South Florida, I’ve started compiling a list of events that I have heard about on my Local Events page.
  4. Volunteering: I’m still working on this myself, but finding an organization with volunteer opportunities in areas you’d like to grow can end up being a great win/win relationship.  If you’re looking for a volunteer opportunity check out  www.serve.gov , www.idealist.org , or www.volunteermatch.org
  5. Conversations: Talking to leaders within your organization, in your community, etc. can provide invaluable insight.  There’s really nothing like hearing directly from someone who currently has your dream job or who is a pro in your niche. Ask questions and remember to use your active listening skills.
  6. Social Media: I’m a bit late in the game here. I just really started realizing the potential in this area earlier this year, but when used correctly social media can provide you a plethora of valuable information. I absolutely love Twitter for this very reason. Follow the right people and organizations, and a lot of the opportunities mentioned above will show up in your stream.
Do you have any other ideas? Share them below in the comments section below! 🙂



A Day At The Miami Art Museum

“I wish for a turtle and world peace” – A wish printed on a ribbon for Rivane Neuenschwander’s I Wish Your Wish installation

On Saturday I visited the Miami Art Museum (MAM) exhibit “Focus Gallery: Joel Meyerowitz – Aftermath” as a way to remember those we lost on 9/11. I expected to see a touching (understatement) exhibit commemorating the 10 year anniversary of this event, but what I did not expect was to leave the museum so refreshed.

The exhibit features photography by Joel Meyerowitz. As the only photographer allowed on Ground Zero after 9/11, he chronicled the cleanup efforts for 9 months. The collection of photographs displayed at the MAM communicated what he intended:  “what it felt like to be in there as well as what it looked like: to show the pile’s incredible intricacy and visceral power”.  Looking at the photographs and reading the story behind some of them, was sobering. The photographs themselves were moving, but the exhibit seemed to take on a three-dimensional feel as I overheard a mother explain the exhibit to her little girl in a way she could understand.

While this exhibit is clearly extraordinary on its own, I think it was the opportunity to view Meyerowitz’s photographs AND Neuenschwander’s installation in the same day that made Saturday special. Ravine Neuenschwander’s I Wish Your Wish is an interactive installation that allows you to swap wishes with someone you have never met. Their wishes are printed on ribbons and hung on the wall for you to choose and then replace with your own. They range from the innocent “I wish for a turtle and world peace” to the chilling “I wish it was benign”. It is definitely a special and intimate experience to be able to read and adopt someone else’s wish as your own.

Together, these exhibits show us mankind’s resilience, hope, strength, vulnerability, tenderness, creativity and diversity. I thought I was going to leave the museum saddened by the memory of what happened 10 years ago, but instead I left both sobered and refreshed.  If you haven’t visited the MAM recently, I would encourage you to do so while both of these exhibits are being displayed. It’s definitely worth it.

PS – You can also participate in the Neushwander’s I Wish Your Wish installation online

Visit www.miamiartmuseum.org  for more info on how you can support the museum.



Soundtrack to Making A Difference

Because sometimes we just need a little inspiration. I know I’m missing tons, so if you know any add them to the list in the comments section! Enjoy! (I love them all, but my personal faves are in bold.)

  1. Matthew West – My Own Little World
  2. Brandon Heath – Give Me Your Eyes
  3. John Mayer – Waiting on the World to Change
  4. Michael Jackson – Man in the Mirror
  5. P.O.D. – Change the World
  6. Leeland – Follow You
  7. U2 – One
  8. India.Arie – There’s Hope
  9. Michael Jackson – Heal the World
  10. The Youngbloods – Get Together

3 Things We Can Learn About Poverty from The Moral Underground

In The Moral Underground: How Ordinary Americans Subvert an Unfair Economy author Lisa Dodson documents how the current economic situation is affecting those in poverty and those who work with, teach and heal them. I loved this book because it also discusses something that we hardly ever hear/talk about: the pressure poverty puts on those who are NOT in poverty, but see its effects and must make decisions on a daily basis on where to draw the line in regards to getting involved with helping those in need. Throughout the book we see stories of individuals who believe employers/supervisors should in no way get involved with employees who are in need, employers who help others within their legal limits, and those who are willing to do things that are illegal in order to help.

Whatever your position may be, there are at least three things we can all learn from the book.

1.  You can be impoverished without technically falling within the poverty guidelines or thresholds.  According to the 2011 HHS Poverty Guidelines (used to determine eligibility for some government programs) a family of four is considered to be in poverty if they earn $22,350. The truth is that even if a family makes $30,000, they will struggle to provide for their families. Not only that, even though they may be struggling to meet basic needs, their income may be too high to qualify for some assistance programs. The family may not technically fall within poverty guidelines, but they are still impoverished.

The poverty thresholds (different from the poverty guidelines), which are determined by the Census Bureau, are different but are not too far off – $22,113 for a family of four including two children. Note that the Census Bureau website states that the thresholds “are intended for use as a statistical yardstick, not as a complete description of what people and families need to live.”


2.  Poverty doesn’t just affect low-income families. An economy that marginalizes the working poor also affects those who work with the working poor. It forces supervisors, coworkers, teachers, nurses, doctors, etc. to make difficult decisions. If they decide to bend the rules or break the law to help those in need, they’ve now also affected the institution they work for; it creates a ripple effect.

3. People will always find a way to respond. Lisa Dodson describes this best in the introduction of the book. “History teaches us that whenever people are denied access to a society’s normative ways of self-protection and survival, they will compose alternatives.” – Lisa Dodson

I really enjoyed the book because it told a story we don’t often get to here and it helps one better understand poverty and its effects. With that being said, I will leave you with one last quote from the book:

“Deep change comes only when regular people start naming what is happening, talking to one another, and, inevitably,, some of them decide that they can’t accept such injustice. Occasionally they move a nation.” – The Moral Underground


10 Miami Nonprofit Blogs To Follow

I’ve been on a quest to find local nonprofit blogs. I thought I should share the list (along with each organizations mission statement) in case you were looking for some to follow. If you know of any others, please share in the comments section below.. enjoy!

  1. Casa Valentina: Casa Valentina’s mission is to help young women transition successfully from foster care to independent living.
  2. Art Studio Miami: The mission of Art Studio Inc, a 501c3 non-profit organization, is to empower young minds by providing a safe location where youth are inspired and guided by artists, teachers and professional mentors who support the student’s education and career development through the integration of creative holistic arts.
  3. Voices for Children Foundation: The mission of Voices For Children Foundation is to raise funds to ensure that every abused and neglected child in Miami-Dade County has a court-appointed Guardian ad Litem and that financial assistance and other resources are available for their accompanying health, educational, and social needs.
  4. Fairchild Tropical Botanical Gardens: Our mission is to save tropical plant diversity by exploring, explaining and conserving the world of tropical plants; fundamental to this task is inspiring a greater knowledge and love for plants and gardening so that all can enjoy the beauty and bounty of the tropical world.
  5. South Florida Red Cross: The American Red Cross, a humanitarian organization led by volunteers and guided by its Congressional Charter and the Fundamental Principles of the International Red Cross Movement, will provide relief to victims of disaster and help people prevent, prepare for, and respond to emergencies.
  6. MOCA: The Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) is dedicated to making contemporary art accessible to diverse audiences – especially underserved populations – through the collection, preservation and exhibition of the best of contemporary art and its art historical influences.
  7. Catalyst Miami: To develop and support individual leadership and strong organizations that work together to improve health, education and economic opportunity in all our communities.
  8. Knight Foundation: Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. We believe that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged.
  9. LegalArt Miami: Founded in 2003, LegalArt has dedicated itself to providing artists with affordable legal services, grants and educational opportunities. By empowering artists with access to legal and professional support, resources and information, LegalArt creates opportunities and protections for Miami’s art community; fostering a generation armed with the skills to legally protect their creations. All LegalArt programming helps artists by creating a community both dedicated to and invested in their success.
  10. Greater Miami Jewish Federation: The Mission of the Greater Miami Jewish Federation is to mobilize human and financial resources to care for those in need, strengthen Jewish life and advance the unity, values and shared purpose of the Jewish people in Miami, in Israel and around the world.

*UPDATE 8.5.11

Adding another great organization to the list!

  11. KidSafe Foundation: KidSafe Foundation is a 501c3 nonprofit whose mission is to empower children, teachers  and  parents with personal safety education life skills to make safer and smarter choices. It is our goal to decrease the incidents of child abuse, bullying, peer pressure, abduction and internet safety issues to create confident skilled children who can be the first line of defense in their own safety. KidSafe Foundation offers prevention education programs for children ages 4-15 and their parents. This consists of providing adult seminars, teacher workshops and in classroom lessons with the children.  Prevention Education Life Skills are taught through a 4, 6 or 8 week program.  The lessons are  fun, developmentally appropriate  and include activities such as song, art, role-playing, games, and discussion. This empowering program allows the children and parents to open communication regarding sensitive topics in a safe environment.

Jack of all trades, master of none?

This is where I’m at. At least that’s what it feels like at the moment. I’m sure I’m not the first or the last person in the nonprofit sector to have found themselves here. Working at a nonprofit, especially in this economy, you will inevitably have to wear several different hats. You will go from working on a grant to copy tech to program coordinator faster than you can say “That’s not in my job description” (Side note: I’m not a fan of that phrase ). I certainly don’t think that being a jack of all trades is a bad thing. You will definitely gain a lot of knowledge about the organization, learn about different departments, gain invaluable experience, and get a much better understanding of how organizations work. This is especially valuable for those aspiring to be ED’s.

While being a jack of all trades has benefits and can probably be found in the fine print of many nonprofit job descriptions, I have found that it has also left me a bit bleary eyed and in need of some focus. So, what do we do if we kinda like being a jack of all trades, but want to become a master of at least one? Here are three ideas that I will be working on applying in my own life:

  1. Prioritize. A nice conversation with my sister helped bring some perspective here. I’ve noticed that the one area I’d like to grow in right now is also the one that is regularly put in the back burner in order to take care of more urgent items. While it is necessary to take care of the urgent, we should be sure to make time to work on those projects that will allow us to focus on the skill sets we’d like to develop. I know time is invaluable and there’s not much to spare, but how else will we begin to grow if we don’t make it a priority?
  2. Volunteer. If you know what skill you’d like to sharpen or become a master of, find a volunteer opportunity that will allow you to grow in that area.
  3. Take classes. Find classes that will help you gain the skills you need in the area you’d like to master. Knowledge is power!

What are your thoughts? Are you a jack of all trades? Are you a master of one (or more)? Share your thoughts below!

Comic relief in the nonprofit sector

Comic relief: relief from tension caused by the introduction or occurrence of a comic element. http://www.dictionary.com

A couple of months ago I read a wonderful post by blogger Akhila Kolisetty titled Activism and alienation; the gift and curse of empathy. In it, she describes how the gift of empathy can quickly overwhelm and incapacitate one. However, she ends the post on a positive note with this beautiful line: “But the path to social justice lies not in allowing empathy to overtake me, but in channeling this gift of emotion for the moments I need it – imbuing my work with the love and strength it deserves.”

Working for a nonprofit is no joke. You are faced with heart breaking stories and limited resources on a regular basis. However, this is exactly why I think that laughter in the nonprofit sector is especially important. I have found that laughter plays an important role in keeping the gift/curse of empathy from becoming overwhelming. I think allowing for moments of comic relief will not only help bring some balance, but will also make us better nonprofit employees. Why?

  • You can relieve some stress, allowing you to get a better grip of the projects at hand
  • Being in a better mood can help you work more effectively with your team
  • Laughing with your team can help increase team morale
  • It can also help avoid getting burned out

Most importantly though, if you’re in a better mood you’ll be able to provide your clients much better service!

Whatever you do, don’t allow yourself to get so consumed in your cause that you never have time to laugh. Take a mental break, step away from the cause for a moment and find something to laugh about. Share a funny story with a coworker, read Planet 501(c)3 (a comic strip about the nonprofit sector), or flip to Comedy Central. Whatever your preference is, just make sure that while you’re out there changing the world, you make time for a good laugh. Remember, your also making the world a better place by sharing a smile/laugh 🙂

Not convinced? Check out the Mayo Clinic’s article Stress relief from laughter? Yes, no joke.