Friday, September 27, 2013

The Mission: No wise fish would go anywhere without a porpoise

“No wise fish would go anywhere without a porpoise.” Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

For those of you who have been following my blog, you know that I have been a very strong advocate of the “NO MONEY NO MISSION” school of thought.  I have even gone so far as to argue (much to the chagrin of many of you) that the money must come before the mission.

Well, today I have a surprise for you.  I am going to devote this blog to, wait for it, THE MISSION, or, in the immortal words of Lewis Carroll, THE PORPOISE!  After all, you cannot raise any money without a solid and meaningful mission presented to the public in the form of the mission statement.  After all, it is the mission statement that is supposed to communicate your entire purpose.  And you want that to be done in one (OK, maybe two) clear sentences.

According to Peter Drucker, the guru of all things management, “a mission statement should fit on a T Shirt”.  According to Jane Stein, a mission statement should give you goose bumps as it communicates the purpose of your nonprofit agency.  And add to that the need to speak to the dreams for the future for the organization, the need to describe what the organization does and how it does it and for whom, the need to be your marketing and public relations rallying cry and you have the perfect mission statement.

I will bet that if you were to ask the board of your nonprofit organization at your very next board meeting to write the organization’s mission statement exactly, no more than 5% of the board would be able to do it without cheating.  I am also sure that no one, and I mean just about no one (even the CEO/Executive Director), can write down what should be the single most important set of words in the many, many, many words surrounding your organization.

So, what are you going to do about this?

Here are three suggestions:
  1. Hold a contest.  Engage not just the board but the full staff, clients, stakeholders in the community, in writing a new mission statement.  Find a great prize (donated, naturally). Get some good old fashioned public relations on the project (remembering that PR is free).  This project would serve several purposes as it could possibly be an opportunity for a local reporter to visit your organization and really see what is going on (all good stuff of course) and it will get the word out about your work in a new and different way.  Added benefit….more positive responses to your fundraising efforts!
  2. Have a board retreat. Begin the retreat by looking at exactly what it is that you do. I call this “filling in the mission wheel.  Do all of your retreat work.  Then end the retreat with the rewriting of the mission statement.
  3. Institute a “Mission Moment” at the very beginning or the very end of every board meeting. This is a three to five minute slot on the Agenda where either a client, a staff member or a volunteer (leadership volunteer or just one with a good story) shares that story with the whole Board.  The beauty of the “Mission Moment” is three-fold: it gives everyone a new elevator speech, it will, over time, be so special that Board members will arrive on time just to be sure not to miss the moment (or they will stay to the end of the meeting to not miss the moment…You get to use it to help the attendance issues of your organization by putting it first or last to fix those late-comers or early-leavers problem that you might be experiencing), and of course it will begin to point out to everyone just what the organization’s mission really is....thus helping that whole rewrite of the mission statement thing we have been taking about!

And so, you will begin to find yourselves swimming in a more solid direction?  Because, Lewis Carroll”s wisely grinning Cheshire Cat said it best: "If you don't know where you're going, it doesn't matter which way you go."  Your mission statement will take you exactly where you were meant to be going.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Networking in the Sukkah– a Dread or an Opportunity?

By Noa Peri-Jensch

As I was explaining my trainer at the gym today why I couldn't possibly keep a straight diet over the holidays and that Sukkut is knocking on the door, where I'm expected to wine and dine for seven days, not to mention eight days of Chanukah in just a few weeks and that one day of fast over Yom Kipur couldn’t possibly off set all these challenging days…He paused and smiled. He said "I am in such an awe of how the Jewish people imprinted deep down in their culture the importance of tradition, holidays and feasts. We (he is Catholic) have 1 day of Christmas and 1 day of Easter gatherings around food. You guys have months worth of occasions where you have big meals. But at the same time, I now understand how strong your community is as it provides such strong infrastructure for you to meet old friends and welcome new ones. The longer the occasions are, the deeper you network with one another and succeed."  This conversation made me think about the holidays and gathering from a completely new perspective…a networking perspective.

I am not suggesting walking into a sukkah and distributing business cards but it is a good time to walk in with a new mind set of getting to know new people and starting conversations framed around getting to know the needs and likes of others while looking at ways of meeting these needs. Isn’t what networking is all about?  I don’t think that Abraham had that in mind when he invited the 3 angels in disguise into his tent, but the end result was a win-win for both parties.  Networking comes naturally for some and is a huge dread for others. No one likes to be “sold” into a service or product, especially over the holidays. But true good networkers are successful at that no matter what is the occasion. Here are some tips that might work for you.

1. Arrive on time. Not only it is considered rude to be late, but it also helps you get situated and get comfortable with the environment and people. It is easier to find other people who don’t have conversation partners yet.

2 It’s all about relationships. Never ever offer your services or products in such gatherings. People have gathered together to celebrate the holidays. Remember, networking is all about relationship building. Keep your exchange fun, light and informal –People are more incline to do business with – or partner with – people whose company is enjoyable.

3. Start a conversation. To get the conversation started, simply walk up to a person or a group, and say, "May I join you" or "how do you know our host?" Don't forget to listen intently to their replies. I always vote for doing listening than talking. There is so much you can learn about other people’s expressed and unexpressed wishes, If only you’d listen.

4. Share your passion. Attract people with your enthusiasm, not for your products or services, but for the outcome and impact they have over other people. Leave a lasting impression by telling a story about why you were inspired to get into your field or create your company. Talking about what you enjoy is inspiring and contagious. When you get other people to share their passion, it creates a two-way conversation.
5. It’s not about what people think about you…It’s about how you make people feel about themselves when they are around you. Best way to engage and be engaged is by really being in the present, totally fascinated with the people and conversations that you are part of. As soon as you glance sideways, looking at who has just arrived, or checking an incoming text on your phone, you have lost the connection.

6. Be Positive.  Attitude is contagious. You all know people who you feel energized to be around them and people who make you tired immediately. It is all about their attitude and appreciation for life. Do your best to avoid complaining, and other negative remarks. You might think that sarcasm is funny, but sarcasm, in the wrong dozes, gives you a reputation of being negative. Look people in the eye, use their name repeatedly, listen to what they have to say, and suggest topics that are easy to discuss. Don’t forget to smile. A real genuine smile invites others to come to you. You must have a good reason to be happy about.

7. When it’s appropriate make sure to follow up. If you have spotted a way that you may be of a help to someone, remember to ask what is the best way to follow up with, send a referral or just email a good article about that topic. Since it is all about relationship building and not selling, stay in touch with people. Let them know how they can contact you.


Thursday, September 12, 2013

A Day of Atonement, taken to heart

By Orit Ramler Szulik

I had already ironed my suit, the early dinner menu planned, my "Talit" ready. It was last
year, at 3:00am on the day we wake up to get ready for Yom Kippur. My Day of Atonement started with an unexpected sharp, loud cry assuring the skies were open to hear my pain and plea for relief. My whole world suddenly collapsed, my body certainly did, and the pain was worst than any pain I could ever imagine. To make a long story short, and after days of what felt like torture, I found out that I had two severely herniated disks in my upper back, and that surgery was needed. I wondered, “Can this really be happening to me? who will take care of my family? how will the world keep
going with me in bed? “ - The answers to these questions were not clear, but eventually I learned a lesson. A year later, I didn't just survive but I am definitely in a better place.

We were at the door steps of Yom Kippur, a time for introspection and there I was capable of doing just that, metaphorically and literally! Finding a meaning to whatever happens to us is a good practice, and for me that is what helped me make this experience a profound one, not just a painful one. It was a long month before I had my Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion surgery, followed by a few months of recovery. I was forced to learn much about myself and others. And here it goes:

We are vulnerable.  I never took the time to think about it before. Being confronted with my own vulnerability was very powerful; scary at first, and yet empowering and somehow beautiful when accepted. Vulnerability made me connect with what the core of life is all about and appreciate every day with a new lens, one that doesn’t take anything for granted and yet appreciates every feeling and experience with passion. Vulnerability made me become thankful -for the good and the challenging, but mainly for being able to deal with both.

Compassion is a practice.  I always thought I was compassionate, and somehow I was, but now I know better. There are friends and family who “carried me through” my ordeal, they taught me what compassion in action is. The friend who didn’t just guess but instead asked me “what do you need?”; the one who massaged my  numbed fingers for hours; the one who asked me “what do you want for lunch today?”- almost every day; the one who sat next to me while I was sleeping so my husband
could do some work; the one who organized a four-week schedule of visits and meals for my family; the ones who called every day; the one who baked chalah every Friday; the many who would sent flowers from around the world and from around the corner; the ones who came to visit; the ones who made sure I had everything I needed to be comfortable; the one who got me into all those TV series and kept me entertained; the many who cooked home made meals. I am eternally grateful for having them in my life, but also because they taught me all I need to learn about compassion, not because of
what they did, but because of how they did it.

There is a time for everything. “Can I stop everything in my life? what will happen with my clients? what will I miss for my kids? what if I can’t take my parents to an important doctor's appointment? how can I miss being there with my husband during the High Holidays?”... bottom line, “will the world continue functioning without me?”. I had no choice but to let go and eventually find out by myself. As you can imagine, the world kept going pretty smoothly. My clients are still there, my kids did well and actually gave me lots of care and love, my parents didn’t need a doctor but helped me heal, my husband was surrounded by the love of our community, and things didn’t stop or collapse because my body did. There is a time for healing and there is a time for all the rest. We have the permission to do what’s truly important for us some times.

Scars happen.  At first I didn’t even care about it, I just wanted to make sure I will be able to walk. Then I started to wonder, and my son told me “it is cool, it will be another story to tell”, and I liked the idea. After the surgery, my scar looked as if someone tried to decapitate me, but it was ok. Then, I hated it because it reminded me about the pain. Later I forgot about it, and everyone would tell me “I can’t even notice your scar”, and I would think “yes you can, but you’re sweet”. A few weeks ago, I walked into a store and a guy tells me, “you belong to my club”, then he showed me his own scar...I loved it! No more words were needed, we were brothers. We shared everything about our common
experiences, and spoke the same language. Since then, my scar is officially noticeable, a story to share, and a reminder of vulnerability, compassion, friendships, love, belonging, introspection and strength.

We have no control. I knew it, but I didn’t, and some times I still forget. The bottom line is that I fear every situation where I’m not in control or command - such as roller coasters or airplanes. Going into the surgery, I had no control (thanks G-d) over what the surgeon would do, and the outcome of his work. The only thing I could control at times, was my fear and thoughts. And yes, I chose my surgeon. So, although we never have full control over absolutely anything in life, we can do our due diligence to get as close as we can to some peace of mind that we did our best. Peace of mind is my new goal, as opposed to control.

My husband is the best! I knew it the day I met him and I know it 27 years later. The way he was there for me, carrying me through, was a way that goes beyond anything I could imagine or describe. He gave me dignity and made me feel well with whatever was happening all along the way. What my husband taught me about him, myself and our relationship is a gift that can help rebuild any collapsed human being.

And the lessons go on and on. This Rosh Hashanah, I’m thankful to so many and for so much. Now the Day of Atonement is almost back, and I’m thanking G-d for the journey he took me through. This Yom Kippur I will stand tall, look deep inside, and I will know I have been strengthened by all the lessons I learned from the past year.I have my suit ironed, the early dinner menu planned, my "Tallit" ready, again. I also have a renewed wisdom to accept that I’m vulnerable and that’s part of being alive, that true compassion carry people through the most challenging times, that I can take time
off and the world will be just fine, that control is an illusion and peace of mind is the way, that scars have their beauty, that community and friendships are a blessing, and that my family is a gem.

I wish all of you a meaningful Holiday, where you can look deep inside, find the meaning to what’s important, think of the lessons learned and be open to keep learning, and be ready for new beginnings.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Life Outside the Box

by Jane Stein

Walking through the woods on a snowy day (with apologies to the good Mr. Frost)...well, actually walking through the city on a hot and humid day, my path as always took me by the little park.  I have described this park to you before.  It is the place where many of our town’s homeless congregate on bench’s to meet, chat, enjoy a bit of sun and safety.
But this day, something was different.  I saw a few folks tossing Frisbees for their puppies, a few folks power walking in the middle of the park.  But what I did not see was one single solitary homeless person.  And more shocking was the other thing I did not see….one single solitary park bench!  Our town fathers (and mothers) in their infinite wisdom decided to remove all of the park benches from the three pocket parks located across from the three large churches and synagogues that often serve lunch for the homeless.  No benches, No homeless.  No homeless, No “noisequarrelsshoutingpushing.  Hum.
My experiences walking by those little pocket parks two or three times a week have always been very pleasant.  No one has ever pushed, shoved or quarreled as I came by.  The most shouting I have ever heard is a “you go girl” or a “looking good today”.  Yes, I am not so naive as to believe that when the sun goes down it might not be quite so peaceful in these pocket parks  After all, these folks must jockey for the softest (really, is there such a thing?) bench to sleep on.  But SO WHAT!
As I continued my walk, without the cheering squad urging me on, I got this image in my mind of a safe, sound, neat, clean, cozy box.  This is the box that each and every one of us live in.  It is a box filled with privilege.  I am not talking about the “privilege” of great wealth.  I am talking about the privilege of living a life well above the bottom three rungs of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.  Of being able to live a life with our biological and physical needs met (food, shelter, warmth), our safety needs met, our belonging and love needs met.  Life inside the box is quite wonderful.
And so as we all approach the coming days of awe, I believe that we should each take a moment of our time to think about whether or not we are doing all we can to help more people live a life in the box.  Are we volunteering our time and donating a bit of our treasure to help those living outside the box in our own neighborhoods, towns, country, overseas?  Are we keeping our covenant to repair the lives of those living outside the box in this tired old world?  Are we doing our very best to make this world just a little bit better…to help more people to have some kind of a happily ever after?
I keep a copy of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs posted where I see it every single day to remind me that I am one of the truly luckiest women in the world.  As we approach the New Year of 5774 let’s all take a look at dear old Maslow and thank G-d once again for our lives inside the box.