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Before leaving Crisis Nursery, my job was announced.  The announcement was placed on Crisis Nursery’s website, two local job banks and promoted through Twitter.  Within a week and a half, over 90 people had applied to be the next Communications and Marketing Manager for Crisis Nursery.

The candidates ranged from new graduates, nonprofit professionals and individuals who had extensive experience managing large corporate communications or marketing departments. Obviously there is no shortage of qualified individuals.  My supervisor was impressed by the people who applied. Many people have the skill sets to do my job and some of the people have exceptional experience to do the job maybe even better than me.  There’s no doubt that people with skills are out there, but I believe that the three determining factors for the candidate who gets my job are these: 1) a basic understanding of Crisis Nursery and it’s mission; 2) a passion for working with vulnerable populations; and 3) a good fit for the department and organization. 

During these difficult economic times, people are looking for work and considering work in different industries.  I’m amazed at the amount people switching from corporate careers to nonprofit.  I can pretty much say that I am a nonprofit “lifer.”  I can’t imagine working anywhere, but nonprofit.  I’m not going to count out working in other industries, but I love knowing I belong to a career that makes a difference.  Additionally, nonprofit work is never mundane.  Whether it’s working with difficult issues or people or trying to figure out how to fundraise to keep the lights on and the doors open, it’s a challenge and I LOVE IT.

If you are considering a career in nonprofit out of necessity (you will take whatever pays money) or because it’s your heart’s desire, remember there’s more to it than a paycheck.  When you work for a nonprofit, you work for children, men, women and communities who need your services.  Your job is more than just about you. 

With that being said, if you want to truly consider working for a nonprofit, figure out what causes your passionate about and apply for positions at nonprofits whose missions aligns with your interest.  There are many nonprofits to choose from–arts, children, health, community, elderly, education, drug prevention, schools, universities, faith-based and the list goes on and on. 

In your cover letter state why you want to work for these nonprofits. If you have a short personal story of how the nonprofit impacted your life or the life of someone you know, share it.  Getting a job in nonprofit is not just having the skills to do the job.  It’s apparent there are many people out there with skills. But what will set you above the rest is to demonstrate your understanding of the nonprofit, why their work is important and why it’s important to you.

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If you are familiar with the term “urban exploration,” you know in most cases it’s illegal.  People who are urban explorers discover normally unseen or off-limits parts of urban areas like abandoned buildings or other unique places.  While interesting as it may be, this activity could be dangerous and some activities associated with urban exploration could be considered trespassing or violations of local or regional laws which include (but not limited to), invasion of privacy and certain broadly interpreted anti-terrorism laws.

While I find urban exploration fascinating, I’m not an advocate for breaking the law.  So I’ve developed my own  interpretation of urban exploration.  It’s completely legal and a great way to support your local community and economy.

Urban exploration, to me, is going out and exploring your urban surrounding.  If you are looking for something to do, this a great activity for a Saturday or Sunday.  Take a day and hop on public transportation.  Walk through different neighborhoods and get a sense of their community and culture.  Go to an area that you’ve never been to and check out a cafe, museum or boutique.  Pretend you are a tourist and check out the sights.  The idea is simple, but a great way to learn about the unique aspects of the local community.

Before you go out and do any kind of urban exploring, please do some research. While spontaneity is always fun, it’s best not to go into it blindly.  To make sure your day of exploring is fun, always keep in mind your safety. Don’t go to a neighborhood or part of town where your safety might be a concern.   

With that being said, here are some resources to help you with your research.

Yelp:  People just like you review local businesses and happenings around town.  Check it out and see what people have to say.  It can help map out your day of urban exploration.

Foursquare: Follow people who posts where they go.  This can help give you ideas of places you want to explore.  Once you find a new and unique place, check-in.  Share your location with others.

Brightkite:  A simple way to meet new people, keep up with friends and places and enjoy your neighborhoods. 

All three websites can connect to your Facebook and Twitter as well.  So take advantage of these online resources.  And don’t forget to share your adventures 🙂

I have the unique situation of being  both a volunteer and working for nonprofits who utilize volunteers. 

Volunteers are an essential resource for nonprofit organizations.  Volunteer opportunities are also a great way to engage the community and with their help, work to achieve the organization’s mission.  Additionally, when there’s a lack of resources, volunteers help to fill a need. 

Volunteers can be a great help, but they can also be a huge headache for an organizaton.  While many nonprofits appreciate people willing to give of their time, it doesn’t always mean they are always the right fit .  Throughout my nonprofit career, I’ve worked with volunteers who have been a great help, but I’ve also worked with volunteers who have run amok.  It’s critical for nonprofits to capitalize on utilizing volunteers, but people have to realize the relationship needs to be mutual. 

As a volunteer, I value when nonprofits recognize my work and truly listen to my feedback.  The expectation when I give feedback is that my opinions and comments are genuinely being heard.  BUT…they can choose to take my suggestions into consideration or leave it.  I understand that as a volunteer I’m there to help them with their needs.  Yes, I might have suggestions, but they are just that.  Volunteers have to realize that they don’t know the internal processes and why decisions are made.  Policies and processes have been put in place for a reason and as volunteers we need to respect that.

With that being said, I’ve worked with volunteers who do not feel the same way I do.  I think some volunteers feel that if they give of their time they are entitled to make decisions about the programs or nonprofits they volunteer for.  Some go a step further and take it upon themselves to break policies because they think their way is the right way.  Some organizations invest a lot of time and effort in training volunteers on how the organization provides care and services.  If you are going to volunteer, please follow the organization’s policies and procedures and utilize their methods.  It’s there for the protection of you and the people they work with.

Volunteers  are there to fill a need.  If you have a suggestion, feel free to express it, but don’t demand change.  If you feel your not being heard, don’t feel ashamed about leaving an organization.  You may not be a good fit for the organization and the organization may not be a good fit for you.  There’s nothing wrong with that.  But remember if you are going to leave, please provide feedback on why you are leaving. And nonprofits, don’t take offense to that feedback.  Learn from it.

Earlier this week, I was part of a panel who presented to the Phoenix Nonprofit Professionals Network.  This group meets the 1st Monday of every month to network, share industry best practices, and support each other in their professional growth and development.  The group chooses the topics for each meeting.  April’s topic was “Special Events:  The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. 

I, along with Dianne Rohkohl of Raw Cabbage Design and Robyn Broshears of Auction & Event Solutions, spoke about our experiences with special events.  We took full advantage of the 2 hours and our conversations continued even after the event ended.  For my portion of the presentation, I gave the group a handout of My Top Ten Tips for event planning. 

Special Event Planning
Ten Tips For You!

Special Events can be a great way to engage new supporters and donors; however, events can require a lot of time and planning.  Here are ten tips to help guide you as your plan your next special event.

1. Make sure you have the capacity to plan special events.

It’s important for a nonprofit to make sure they are ready to plan a special event.  Ask yourself some of these questions. 

a. Are special events part of your overall fundraising plan?

It is critical for nonprofits to plan all their fundraising strategies. Special events is just one strategy.  By looking at everything you do, you can determine (given your resources) if special events are a viable option for your organization.

b. Does your Board of Directors support your idea of a special event?

You may have the freedom to plan events; however, it maybe easier to plan your event with your board whole-heartedly supporting it.  Also, your board may help connect you to potential sponsors or underwriters.

c. Who will be involved in planning your event?

Having a ready and willing group will help you tremendously.  The key word is “willing” and communication is important as well.

d. Is special events part of your overall budget?

Funding set aside for your event is nice, but not essential.  It makes planning a lot easier.   

2. Always remember your mission when planning a special event.  

Incorporate your mission at every opportunity.  Some people plan events just for the “fun” factor.  Yes, an entertaining event is important, but remember you have a captive audience.  People are going to your event because they care about your mission.  Use the time you have with them to educate them on what you do and why your nonprofit is important.

3. With your committee, develop a written plan of action and delegate responsibilities.  Additional tip:  double-up on responsibilities.  Helps to keep people accountable and if someone is unable to follow through with their job, there’s back-up.

Your plan of action should include action items, deadlines, who is going to do what and budget.  Writing it down is important so your committee understands what needs to get done and by when so you can all stay on track.  Also, it’s good to have someone who is highly organized to remind people of deadlines. 

4. Utilize consultants when necessary, but remember you get what you pay for.

Consultants can be very helpful.  You can either pay for a consultant or they could volunteer.  Remember:  Volunteers come and go.  Life gets in the way and they have to tend to that.  If a consultant volunteers their time, be aware that they may not always follow through. 

Message to consultant who volunteer:  Treat pro-bono work like you are getting paid.  Follow through on what you say and if you have to leave a project, help to secure a back-up.  Remember your reputation is on the line and people are counting you.

5. Approach businesses and media as partners. 

Never ask for something without providing value in return. State specifically that you’re looking to partner with them.

6. If you are looking for media to help promote your event, plan to contact them 4-6 weeks prior to your event.

Most importantly, develop a PR schedule if you plan to contact the media.  The media can be very useful in promoting your event, but it requires you to plan who you are going to approach and how you do it.

7. Utilize your website and social media to help spread the word about your event.

Social media can be very helpful in promoting your event.  It’s a quick and free way to get the word out.  Post releases on your website and link it to your posts.  After the reader is done with the release they can peruse your website.

8. Don’t forget to say “Thank You”

Always, always, ALWAYS thank your underwriters, sponsors, partners and volunteers.  Thank you’s range from a simple card to a gift or an acknowledgement in a press release or ad in a local publication.

9. Check out other special events.  It’s a great way to pick up tips and potential sponsors for your events.

You can pick up great tips just from attending events.  Also, take a look at the sponsorship lists.  If you see a trend amongst companies who sponsor events, these might be good potential sponsors for your event.

10. Remember…Proper planning will alleviate any headaches and help you to enjoy and grow your special event. 

 

As my closest friends and family know, I’m not that “into” children. Don’t get me wrong. I love children and being around them.  But do I have that “mothering” instinct?  Honestly, I think it’s buried deep, deep, DEEP down inside of me.  

To everyone’s amazement, I’ve worked at Crisis Nursery for over 3 1/2 years.  My boyfriend early on in our relationship asked me, why do you work at a children’s organization when you don’t really like kids?  He said it somewhat joking because he knows I enjoy playing with kids and being around them, but  it did make me think. 

 What I love about Crisis Nursery is that in addition to working directly with children, they also work directly with their parents.  Providing parents with referrals to community resources, encouragement to be an active part of their children’s lives and most importantly support. When their family and friends have turned their back on them or even at times it feels like the community has turned their back on them, Crisis Nursery is there to help them.  Yes, these parents made mistakes, some really bad mistakes.   But at one point people realize they have to change.    They are facing their hard realities and owning up to their mistakes.  What takes real courage is turning to someone for help to make amends and to move forward not only for their sake but the sake of their children.

The people who seek help from Crisis Nursery feel they have no where else to turn to.  Maybe for some reason or another they burnt bridges with their friends and family due to substance abuse or untreated mental illness.  Some find themselves isolated because of domestic violence.  Or some people moved here away from family to seek a better life, but when they arrived here, they were laid off and struggle to put food on the table or a roof over their heads.  The reasons can go on and on, but what remains the same is that Crisis Nursery is there to help.

Many people think if a parent abuses or neglects their child, lock them up in prison and throw away the key.  Yes, I believe there should be consequences for their actions, but it doesn’t mean the memory of the abuse or neglect goes away.  You may see it as breaking news in the media, but when the hoopla dies down these children and their parents keep living.   Their children live with the knowledge of the abuse and the live with this knowledge as they grow up and become adults.  Parents have to live with their actions and live with it until they die.  In a magical world, it would be nice if the effects of child abuse and neglect would disappear once the verdict is made, but that’s not reality. 

Most parents do not intentionally want to abuse or neglect their child.  Abuse happens when stress levels are high.  Given our economy and the difficult times we are all facing, these are the times we are going to see abuse and neglect rates start to climb.  We as a community can prevent another child from being abused or neglected.  Support programs that helps and supports vulnerable families.  Donate and volunteer to organizations like Crisis Nursery.  Or the new organizations I’m working for…Central Arizona Shelter Services (CASS).  We work with men, women and children to empower them to end homelessness.   Advocate for programs that help children and families.  With the state trying to balance its budget, cuts have already been made to essential education and human services.  The State is looking to make more cuts to potentially reduce or dismantle these essential services.  Speak up and have your voices heard vulnerable children and families need your help.

As many of you know, I’m a very social person.  I love meeting new people.  I love gatherings.  And I love organizing events.  So where did my social nature come from? 

Maybe it’s due to being  part of a large Filipino family and my social nature is in my blood.  As some of you know, I grew up in the Midwest with no immediate family around. So where does the large family part come in?  Okay, let me give you some background information and I’ll get to it in a round about way. My dad joined the Marines while the US had occupied the Philippines.  When he finished his tour, my parents came to America and ended up in South Carolina.  They decided that they wanted to be closer to family so they decided to drive to California where we had family.  At that time, my mom was pregnant with me.  They decided to stop in St. Louis to rest.  My mom was so tired of driving she asked (my dad said she more like whined)  if they could just stay in St. Louis.  Well, they never made it to California and still live in St. Louis (32 years to date to be exact).   When my parents came to St. Louis, they knew no one, but by nature my parents are social.  They created their own family of friends in St. Louis. My parents grew up in the Philippines with frequent large family gatherings.  They continued this tradition with their friends or what we called our “adopted” family.  Growing up, I remember every holiday or special event was celebrated with a party or potluck of friends.  Eat, drink and be merry was our philosophy and that’s what I continue on to this day. 

Maybe my social nature comes from being a Gemini.  This “airy” sign (keep airhead jokes to yourself) are known to be social butterflies.  Communication and interaction are fundamental to Geminis.  To learn the ins and outs of what makes a Gemini click, take a look at this synopsis at http://astrologyindepth.com/Gemini But bottom line, Geminis love people and interacting with them. 

Regardless of whether being social is in my genes or in my stars, it’s who I am.  And that’s why  I’ve been adept to organizing special events and love doing it.  Whether it’s organizing golf tournaments, CEUs programs for doctors, luncheon fundraisers attended by over 700 people, networking happy hours or an intimate cocktail party geared towards major donors, I enjoy it all.  Over the years, I’ve worked on many different types of special events and I’ve gained a lot of insight on how to plan successful special events.  On Monday, April 5th The Phoenix Nonprofit Professionals Meetup is allowing me to share some of my insights.  I will be joined by Dianne Rohkohl of Raw Cabbage Design and Robyn Broshears of Auction Events & Solutions to impart some helpful special event planning tips.   I’ve worked with both these ladies on different events for Crisis Nursery and I know you will leave the meeting with great nitty-gritty tips to apply to your special events.  The meeting is open to everyone, so please come out.

I am deeply concerned about Arizona’s future.  Last week, I learned that cuts to critical funding for early childhood programs and activities may lay in the hands of Arizona voters.  First Things First is an initiative that dedicates a tax on tobacco products to be used on expanding early learning and health programs for children birth through age five.  Arizona voters approved First Things First in 2006 by a landslide. This demonstrated that Arizonans value early childhood as the foundation of a child’s learning and are committed to investing in children to be more successful in school and in life.

In November, Arizona voters may be asked to vote to dismantle First Things First.  This will effectively wipe out Arizona’s investment over the last three years in early childhood education and health programs.  The elimination of First Things First will impact literally tens of thousands of children and their families throughout Arizona.  This will also effect hundreds of jobs supported by First Things First funds.

Arizona has traditionally ranked in the bottom 20% on almost all areas of child well-being.  Even in prosperous times, State funding for children’s services has not begun to meet identified needs.  Funding from First Things First has helped to keep essential human services intact.  If it is eliminated, I wonder where will vulnerable children and families in our community turn for help?  The State has eliminated or significantly cut funds to human services and education.  Nonprofits struggle to secure revenue to sustain their programs.  The loss of First Things First will only create a greater disparity.  Recognizing the current economic crisis Arizona faces, First Things First has offered an interest free loan to the State $3,000,000.  To date this potential win-win proposal has not been accepted. 

I encourage all of you who are concerned about the children and families to voice your concerns to our elected officials and at the ballot box in November. Our children, families and the future of our community are depending on all of you! 

 To learn more about First Things First, visit their website at azftf.gov.

I think I’ve kept everyone in suspense long enough. 

Drum Roll…PLEASE!

Today, I formally submitted my resignation as Communications and Marketing Manager at Crisis Nursery, Inc.  My last day will be April 14th.  On April 19th, I will start a new venture in my life and I’ve accepted the new Director of Fund Development  position for Central Arizona Shelter Services.

Crisis Nursery has been a big part of my life since I’ve moved to Arizona over four years ago.  I consider my co-workers as my family away from home and I appreciate each and every one of them.  It’s hard to leave them, but I know this is an opportunity I can’t pass up.  I am very excited for this new opportunity and I’m ready for this challenge.

I’m sad to leave my co-workers and friends at Crisis Nursery, but I will keep in touch (whether I like it or not).  My supervisor has locked into a 12 top table for their 7th Annual Breaking the Cycle Luncheon.  So if anyone is interested in attending the luncheon, please let me know.  I have space available at my table.  Seriously! The 7th Annual Breaking the Cycle Luncheon, is on October 19th, Camelback Inn at noon, RSVP with me 🙂

You can expect more blogs about my new endeavors; however, now it’s time to celebrate.  In the next couple of weeks there will be series of Happy Hours.  I’ll keep you posted. So please come out and help me celebrate. 

Woohoo!!

Tonight I had the opportunity to network with a wonderful group of female attorneys from Snell & Wilmer and their clients.  Every year, this prestigious law firm hosts a Women’s Networking Event.  Last year, they hosted a fabulous evening at the Phoenix Botanical Gardens with free admission to see the Chihuly Exhibit.  Tonight the event was at the Phoenix Art Museum and it featured the Ansel Adams collection.

Many believe networking is for people in sales or for those who love to be social; however, there so many benefits that are not always apparent to the nonprofit professional.  Yes, it can be fun.  And yes it can be exhausting at times, but it’s well worth the effort.  I’ve grown both professionally and personally through the people I’ve met because I’ve actively gone out and networked.  For me, networking is essential to my success. 

As a nonprofit professional, it’s difficult to strictly find networking events geared towards nonprofit.  Networking amongst nonprofit professionals normally happens at conferences and seminars.  Luckily a lot of nonprofit events in the Valley allow time for people to network.   ASU Lodestar Center for Philanthropy & Nonprofit Innovation and The Phoenix Business Journal through their Nonprofit Business Summit are great opportunities to meet nonprofit professionals at different stages in their careers. A nonprofit professional can also choose to join associations or networks.  Two that I belong to are YNPN Phoenix (Young Nonprofit Professionals Network) and the Nonprofit Professionals Meet-Up.

Even though I’m in nonprofit, I do not limit my networking opportunities to strictly nonprofit events and associations.  Networkingphx.com has a great calendar of events.  If you chose to, you could go to an event (or multiple events) every day of the week. Sometimes just looking at the calendar can be overwhelming, but it is also nice to see that there are so many opportunities to networking.  Over the years, I’ve developed an eye for great networking opportunities throughout the Valley.

Snell & Wilmer Women’s Networking Event is tops on my list.  I love the idea of having events at arts and cultural venues.  I’ve wanted to go to the Phoenix Art Museum for a long time.  I saw this as a perfect opportunity to go. This also gave me the opportunity to talk to this group of women about my work with children at risk of abuse and neglect.  This is a great group for potential supporters and donors.

The Phoenix Business Journal also has great events.  Their monthly BizMix events are always popular and some of them even include giving back to the community.  Another event of the Phoenix Business Journal that I always look forward to is their Book of Lists Party.  The venue for this event is always unique.  Last year, it was held at the Fifth Avenue & Madison Event Center.  For the most part, it looks like an empty warehouse, but it’s a great location to host an elegant event.  The Phoenix Business Journal did an awesome job converting it to their “Route 66” Theme. 

For many of these events, people who attend are professionals from different industries, but for the most part, its geared towards the business community.  As a fundraiser, I find these events perfect opportunities to meet supporters and potential donors.  Many times I’m the only nonprofit professional attending the event.  Bottomline:  If you are a nonprofit who needs funding, go to where there’s money :).

I am not overly outgoing and sometimes I don’t break out of my shyness until I have at least a glass of wine, but I know that networking is important in my ability to do my job and to be successful at it.  Personally, networking has opened many doors for me and I know it can be beneficial for others.  You may not need it for your job, but you never know who you will meet.  You may meet the person who might be your ticket to your next job or can connect you to your next professional endeavor.  So my advice, put yourself out there and network.  There are many opportunities and you won’t regret it 🙂

P.S.:  I need one more day to unveil my announcement.  Please check in tomorrow.  The suspense is killing you…right??

Is Arizona a Lost Cause?

About four years ago, I moved to Arizona.  And I won’t lie, I moved here from Missouri for a guy. Even though the relationship didn’t last and he moved back to Missouri.  I continue to live here.   I love Arizona; from the weather (ok not the summer but the other seasons) to the hiking to the great nightlife and restaurants.  What’s not to love about this state?

While there’s a lot of glitz and glam, I believe this facade only hides some big issues this state faces.  Everyone hopes that the recession will pass, Arizona will get out of this economic slump and become a thriving and bustling state.  But this seems like a “pie in the sky dream” when Arizona is considered one of the worst states in the nation suffering right now.

While politicians debate about how to balance a nearly $2 billion deficit through exploring budget cuts and increasing taxes, real children and families are hurting.  As I work to help raise awareness and funding for a children’s welfare organization, I constantly question the measures taking place to balance the budget.  Is it in the best interest of ALL who live in Arizona?

I would like to think that the state and community I live in cares about the most vulnerable children and families in our community, but I’m consistently disappointed by decisions made by lawmakers.  Today Gov. Janet Brewer signed a package to cut $300 million in state spending to reduce the budget deficit.  Through this package, DES is facing yet another significant cut.  This time it’s $155 million dollars.  Education is facing another cut of $144 million.  My concern lies within how our state continues to operate essential human and educational services after imposing more budget cuts.  Also, is cutting programs that help children and families the only way to balance the budget ?

When the government makes cuts, it’s not a gradual process.  It’s quick and swift, and action takes place immediately. It takes a lot of time for programs and services to recover from these hits.  Time human services and education in Arizona has not been afforded.  While some would say that the current human services and educational system lack skilled workers, proper management and leadership, one has to wonder can programs be adequately operated and maintained when resources and funding continues to be cut?  Just because budgets are cut and programs and services are reduced or eliminated, that doesn’t mean these issues and/or people go away.  It just adds to the growing problems and increasing number of struggling children and families in our community.

Many people feel that in order to resolve all the problems Arizona faces, we need to stimulate the state’s economy.  While I agree that’s part of the resolution I don’t think it’s the end all be all to save Arizona from total despair.  We all want  businesses to move and remain in Arizona.  Economic packages are being created to try and stimulate our economy. But is that enough of an incentive to move or live in this state?

Great economic package helps to bring business here, but who actually moves to this state?  People.  Would you want to move to a state that actively does not support families?  The actions taken by the state makes it evident to me they don’t support families.   If I had kids, I would not want to send them to schools in this state, especially with the current budget cuts.  Unemployment, loss of housing, substance abuse, untreated mental health, substance abuse, domestic violence will continue to run rampant with an inadequate human services system.  And at this point, can we truly rely on nonprofits to totally pick up the slack.  They too are suffering with losses in government funding and flat and waning charitable giving. 

As a fundraiser, I constantly think about the future.  My organization has been hit by cuts in government funding.  We struggle day to day on how we are going to make up these losses and it’s been a real challenge to fundraise.  While I and my co-workers hope the economy will turn around and our government will rebuild the educational and human services system, some of  more experienced co-workers I know seem to think it won’t make a difference.  The tell me, “Look at what happened to education.  This is a issue that hits everyone.  They rallied, signed letters and talked to politicians, yet they cut education even more.  If they are willing to do that to education, they won’t think twice about cutting human services.  They just don’t care.”

It’s unacceptable to me that Arizona is ranked 40th (out of 50 states) for overall children’s well-being (Kidscount 2009).  We have some of the highest teen pregnancy, dropout birth and death rates in the nation.  The list of very disappointing statistics for Arizona children and families goes on and on.  Despite these dismal facts and statistics,  I don’t agree with my co-workers.  I believe there is hope and if we work together as a community we can change these outcomes.  Call me an optimist, but I belive something can be done.  I’m ready and willing to work for a healthy, strong and thriving Arizona.  Are you?