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The World Is Your Oyster - Ask For It

by Virginia Brown
follow me on Twitter: @3manypuppies 

Getting what you want was the theme at this month’s packed Emerging Leaders Network lunch. A crowded room meant two things: 1) Lots of people aren’t sure how to ask for– and get–what they want, and 2) I had to sit on a counter because they were out of chairs.

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The Café is Open: The value of receiving peer feedback

main.jpgEvery sector is unique. Each has its own set of insider lingo and modus operandi that may seem mysterious to an outsider. The nonprofit sector is no different, which is why networking in a room of new people that have little to no familiarity with the sector can often times turn into a cemetery of lost opportunities.

Here’s the usual scenario: I strike up a conversation with someone and run through the normal course of getting-to-know you questions. And somewhere in the midst of the interrogation comes the “So, what do you do” question. I test the waters by casually responding that I work for a local nonprofit. At which point—about 85% of the time—I can see my potential peer and network slowly begin to lose interest. One last Minnesota nice rescue attempt is made with the typical follow-up, “What do you do at your nonprofit?” And by the time I get to the word “and” in Office Manager and Membership Coordinator, they’ve lost all interest. And I’ve lost my chance to potentially bounce ideas and get advice on job-related issues.

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Who’s got the power? You do.

by Adaobi Okolue
follow me on Twitter: aokolue

Power. When we think of it, we often associate it with individuals who have the ability to exert it over others: Executive directors, presidents, board of directors, etc. We seldom believe that we—in the early-mid or even infancy stages of our careers—have the ability to turn the wheels of an organization with the same might as an executive director.

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So that's how it's done? | 9 Tips for Building Your Network

main.jpgThe thought of networking intimidates many people, myself included. It requires you to put yourself out there, and that can be awkward. Having to go to an event  to furiously pass out my business card and provide my very best sales pitch for why you should add me as your contact on Linkedin makes me want a drink. Unfortunately, I’ve found that effective networking is essential to building a career. Fortunately, not all networking is intimidating and you often get to meet a lot of interesting people.

Last Friday’s room at the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits was overflowing with folks who came to hear Trista Harris—executive director of Headwaters Foundation for Social Justice and founder of the New Voices of Philanthropy blog—for our monthly Emerging Leaders Network LunchHow to Build Your Network (from scratch!).

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My board of directors does what again?

main.jpgHow many board members should an organization have? It seems like an easy enough question, but when discussing a nonprofit board of directors one thing becomes clear, there is no one size fits all model for governance. At last Fridays Emerging Leaders Network Lunch, we dove into the topic “Nonprofit Board of Directors: Who are they?” And while we found that most answers to the questions raised didn’t have a clear cut answer, there are still some things everyone should know about the board of director.

One of the most important things to understand about any board of directors is that directors are required to carry out their duties and responsibilities under certain standards of care and attention. Board Source describes the three legal standards that have been established as:

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Money Matters: Understanding your organization's financial situation

By Catherine Beltmann

Nothing seems to intimidate or inspire fear in more nonprofit employees than the thought of having to read their organization’s financial statements–well except for those of us who actually know how to make those numbers make sense. At last week’s Emerging Leaders Network Lunch, we—with the help of Michael Anderson from Nonprofit Assistance Fund (NAF)—turned fiscal fear into projected growth.

I started working for the Citizens League in 2008, and only a month after being hired I found out—along with the rest of our staff—that an audit done by our new accounting firm had uncovered a deficit. It showed our expenses for the year would exceed projected income. How did we stray from the shallow end to deep financial waters? As it turns out, we’d done a really good job of raising restricted funds, but had not raised enough unrestricted funds to help cover general expenses. Our new firm determined that the financial statements we were using didn’t allow us to appropriately track our restricted and unrestricted balances.

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The World Cafe Model | A forum for gathering collective knowledge

main.jpgMy name is Catherine, and I'm an eventoholic. I LOVE events! Mention the possibility of attending an event, planning an event, or hosting an event, and I’m all over it. But this post isn't about me (or the potential events anonymous group I probably need to attend). This is about an exciting event trend I was first introduced to at a Torch event, and have continued to see at subsequent events: The World Café model.

What is it exactly? The World Café website explains this model as “an innovative yet simple methodology for hosting conversations about questions that matter. These conversations link and build on each other as people move between groups, cross-pollinate ideas, and discover new insights into the questions or issues that are most important in their life, work, or community.” So in other words, peer advice on anabolic steroids.

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A few good mentors

Emerging into your professional self is a lot of work. The through line isn’t apparent, and in that moment, it appears as if you’re just muddling along. But, you don’t have to muddle alone.

At the June Emerging Leaders Network Lunch  on mentoring, a friend who was in my cohort at the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits Leadership Institute identified me as one of her mentors. (I would have self-identified her as a peer with a certain skill-set.) Throughout our conversation about mentors and mentoring, it was clear that many of us simultaneously occupy both roles. 

In our jobs and as volunteers, we are often called on to help others. But at the same time we are also finding our way, developing and honing skills, and building our networks. This dynamic is one reason I find mentors and peer networks so appealing.

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