Ep 57: You Can Do Hard Things

nonprofits are messy

The TV icon and a personal hero of mine is Mr. Rogers. His mom once told him, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”

Whether you are a CEO of an international organization, or a helper who is just starting out, my aim has been to support all kinds of helpers across all sectors of the ideological spectrum.

This podcast delves into what it takes to make daunting tasks doable for nonprofit leaders and it showcases the efforts of a handful of passionate committed people who have done their part to change the world. Consider it a big dose of nonprofit inspiration.

Last year I created the Nonprofit Leadership Lab to support these efforts and in so doing realized the benefit has been mutual. Today, I’d like to share some of what I have learned over this past year from board and staff leaders of small-but-mighty nonprofits in the Nonprofit Leadership Lab who are committed to cause, community, and to being the voice of the voiceless.

After hearing their stories, I came up with the top five things they all have in common. Do you have these things in common too?

In this episode

  • What is the #1 challenge nonprofit leader’s face?
  • How long does it take to build a board?
  • Me, raise money?
  • How can I build an audience given everything else I have to do?
  • Is there a way to get help and support on a low budgetContinue Reading

Ep 56: Anatomy of a Crisis (with Emily Klehm)

nonprofits are messy

6am. The phone rings. Uh oh.

Emily Klehm, the Executive Director of South Suburban Humane Society in Chicago, sleepily picks it up.

A staff member tells Emily that he had found a dog tied to a stop sign. When he went to help, somebody held a gun to his head and the dog – Polly – was abducted.


And then it got a whole lot worse. While news crews came out to conduct interviews and film the location of the event — her staff member went missing. Vanished.

Amazingly, the story only got stranger and stranger as the day went on. I don’t want to give it away. You’ll have to listen to the episode.

But I will say this… Emily was a ROCKSTAR that day. She did every single thing right. And even more than hearing the full story, I want you to learn everything she did. You will learn so much from Emily’s story about what to do when things go drastically wrong.

As optimistic as nonprofit leaders tend to be, they need to think about the worst possible thing that could befall their nonprofits. Inevitably there will be a crisis. This podcast tells one story about how to tackle a crisis effectively and how the way you behave day by day prepares you for that.

About Emily Klehm

After graduating Augustana College with a degree in political science, Emily Klehm, CAWA, began working as a Community Organizer for Family Matters Chicago. Her work involved street-level outreach on issues such as affordable housing, education, and leadership development. She then took over the Development Director position  there where she worked for five more years. In 2006, she moved to Chicago Heights and began walking dogs at SSHS as a volunteer. Not long after, she was asked to join the Board of Directors where she served until applying for the newly created executive position at SSHS. She began there December 1, 2007.

In her tenure the organization established a thriving High Volume Low-Cost Spay/Neuter Clinic, partnered to open a Low-Cost Veterinary Services Clinic, and has transformed the shelter from a 50% live release rate to a 90% rate.  She lives with her three adopted children from SSHS: Bette, a sassy seven-year-old Cattle Dog mix, Charlie, a sassier 4-year-old King Charles Cavalier Spaniel/Papillon, and Doug, a darling 6-year-old Chihuahua.

In this episode

  • Exactly what to do when things seriously go south
  • How to be proactive and on-brand in a crisis
  • How my twin engine plane model can support you in times of crisis
  • How a background as a community organizer can prepare you to be an effective nonprofit leader in a time of crisis
  • How the Nonprofit Leadership Lab (my educational and community membership for leaders of smaller nonprofits) helped Emily navigate these difficult waters
  • Upholding a culture of transparency

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Ep 55: The Nonprofit Sector Has Serious Money Hangups (with Belinda Rosenblum)

nonprofits are messy

Do you get anxious asking people for donations?

How much salary is OK for an Executive Director to make?

How do you feel about wealthy people in general?

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Odds are you have strong feelings about questions like these. And if that’s case, guess what… it’s perfectly normal.

It just means you have some money hangups. Most people do. Especially in the nonprofit sector. The question is how do we recognize and understand them so we can make these feelings more productive.

My guest, Belinda Rosenblum, consultant, board member, author, CPA and wealth expert talks with me about all this and more.

Belinda teaches that there are pivotal money moments in our lives that create judgements, patterns, and beliefs that are often laden with stress. Working through the process and separating out the facts from our childhood perceptions, often can reframe the story and create a completely new relationship with money.

A mindset of scarcity and judgement in the nonprofit world may manifest in our beliefs about the salaries we deserve, or even a willingness to fundraise. This podcast will help you shed limiting beliefs and may even lead you to take bigger risks, think bigger, and hence better serve your organization and its mission. You may get instant loans if you visit one of our trusted lenders where you can rely your financial needs. Visit them now!

Bonus: You get to hear my personal money story…

About Belinda

Belinda Rosenblum is a CPA and Wealth Expert who helps you take the worry and fear out of money. Most people struggle to stay ahead of their monthly bills… and just never learned how to be great earners or money managers. Belinda and her company OwnYourMoney.com give you a 4-part plan that helps you make the most of your money now while providing for the future. She’ll bring her experience as a nonprofit consultant and Board member for over 10 years combined to help our audience of nonprofit leaders talk about money in their own organizations, especially when it comes to salary and fundraising.

Belinda is the creator of the Money Makers Academy and the coauthor of SELF-WORTH TO NET WORTH: 12 Keys to Creating Wealth Inside and Out, both offering a step-by-step approach to help you build your financial self-esteem and manage your own financial life. If she’s not talking about financial freedom, Belinda is likely enjoying the sunshine and chasing after her marathon-running husband, college bound step-daughter, and 2 spirited toddlers.

Discover exactly where you need to start to build your own money management and mindset skills with Belinda’s new quiz at: www.OwnYourMoney.com/joan.

In this episode

  • Identifying your “personal money stories”
  • What are your belief triggers?
  • How do these unconscious beliefs impact your results?
  • Transforming your views on money
  • Dealing with the dreaded “overhead myth”
  • Should those in the nonprofit sector make less money?

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Ep 54: The 15-Year-Old Nonprofit Superhero (with Kayla & Andrea Abramowitz)

nonprofits are messy

This episode is going to AMAZE you and CHARM you. Truly.

After all, what’s not amazing about an 11-year-old who sees a need, makes it happen (and then some) and, as a result, founds a successful 501c3 organization?

In this podcast we hear the story of Kayla Abramowitz, the founder of Kayla Cares 4 Kids who is now 15 years old. Her own medical challenges, and the amount of time she spent in hospitals, prompted her to create a nonprofit organization that in the last 4 years has served 453 medical facilities in all 50 states.

Kayla knew, from experience, that when children sit in medical facilities for hours or days on end with nothing to do it is not only tedious, but already feeling ill, that boredom is not conducive to improving health. Kayla identified a gap — the lack of entertainment options in medical facilities — and knew that once filled, it could make a positive difference in the lives of children.

Kayla then used her passion,  and the power that comes from family and community support, to help sick kids feel better one smile at a time. Her mother Andrea used her own 25 years of experience working in communications, as well as her nonprofit experience, to support her daughter’s endeavors.

In this podcast, mother and daughter share ideas for how to grapple with challenges associated with new CEOs and founders (who may not be fit to be board chairs), how networking is essential to success, how engaging community, local entities, volunteers and media will help ensure the success of a foundation, and what it’s like to be a founder as a kid.

About Kayla Abramowitz

Kayla Abramowitz, 15, is the Founder and Chief Kid Officer (CKO) of Kayla Cares 4 Kids, which collects and donates educational and entertainment items to children’s hospitals nationwide. Kayla Cares 4 Kids “helps sick kids feel better one smile at a time.”

Kayla came up with the idea at age 11, after noticing a limited DVD selection during many hospital visits due to Crohn’s Disease, Eosinophilic Colitis, and Juvenile Arthritis. The organization has donated more than 15,000 items to nearly 450 children’s hospitals and Ronald McDonald Houses in all 50 states. Kayla oversees Ambassadors across nine states—and hundreds of student volunteers locally and nationally—while also serving on her organization’s Board of Directors.

For her efforts, Kayla has won six national awards, including National Young Entrepreneur of the Year; Christopher Reeve Service Award; Diller Teen Award; and Prudential Spirit of Community Award. In 2017, she was featured in an “Inspiring America” segment of NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt.

About Andrea Abramowitz

Andrea Abramowitz is CEO of Kayla Cares 4 Kids. Andrea has more than 25 years of experience working in communications at entities such as ABC News, USA TODAY and local television, where she was a Telly Award winning news producer. She worked for The Palm Beach Post, where she covered health, business, lifestyle and even once, sports; and served as a Stringer for the Associated Press for five years.

Andrea and Kayla received a 2017 WEGO Health Award for Best Team Performance for Kayla Cares 4 Kids. Andrea is a board member of the Arthritis Foundation’s West Palm Beach office, and Florida’s Advocacy Co-Chair, as well as a member of the Family Advisory Council at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital.

In this episode

  • The biggest challenge running a startup nonprofit
  • How Kayla and Andrea built a board from scratch
  • How a 15 year old feels about being a board chair
  • How they motivate volunteers
  • Mixing business acumen and passion
  • Ways to secure media coverage
  • The unmistakable power of networking
  • Lessons learned
  • Advice for founders

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Ep 53: Asking for Money Isn’t Sexy… But Philanthropy Is (with Claire Axelrad)

nonprofits are messyNeuroscientists confirm that when somebody gives a donation, it lights up the same part of the brain as having sex or eating chocolate. So why does fundraising give so many adults the creeps?

Perhaps that is because the positive emotions associated with philanthropy, which comes from ancient Greek meaning “love of humankind”, are not the same as the negative ones that asking for money elicits. But isn’t that just semantics?

In this episode, I speak with Claire Axelrad, a fundraising expert, executive coach, and frontline leader helping raise millions of dollars for such organizations as San Francisco Food Bank, Jewish Family and Children’s Services, and the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. She also operates Clairification as her own mini online fundraising “school.”

Claire discusses how to create an environment in your company where you aren’t convincing people to raise funds, but where everyone, at any level, is comfortable with the fact that all roles in a nonprofit involve philanthropy. It’s all about building a “culture of philanthropy.”

About Claire Axelrad

After working briefly as an attorney, and then in legal publishing, she started a 30-year career as a frontline leader helping raise millions of dollars for various organizations. In 2011 she founded a fundraising training and coaching business to serve as a resource on philanthropy for organizations, a thought partner to executive directors and boards. Clairification is her online fundraising “school.”

Claire teaches a CFRE course that certifies professional fundraisers, and contributes regularly to online publishers NonprofitPro, Guidestar and Maximize Social Business. She is a featured expert for Bloomerang, Network for Good and TopNonprofits/ThirdSectorToday, among others. Her blog was named “Top Fundraising Blog” by Fundraising Success. She is a member of the California State Bar, alumna of The Fundraising School, Conrad Teitell Intensive Planned Giving Program and Lilly Family School of Philanthropy Executive Leadership Institute, and a graduate with honors from Princeton University. She currently resides in San Francisco, California.

In this episode

  • The components of philanthropy and who in the organization promotes it
  • Why marketing and fundraising staff can’t be both siloed and effective
  • Why some board (and even staff) can become embarrassed to fundraise
  • How field work can connect people to their missions and enact passion
  • The 7 attributes of a great fundraiser
  • How to align philanthropy across the entire organization in a way that is integrated and aligned with mission and values
  • Building strong donor relationships
  • Clarifying board and staff roles in a culture of philanthropy

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Ep 52: Personal Politics vs. Public Responsibilities (with Anne Wallestad)

nonprofits are messyEvery person who joins a board comes with opinions and points of view. But what happens when your responsibility to your organization as a board member conflicts with your personal politics? Should you keep it to yourself?

A recent controversy at the American Museum of Natural History in New York has brought these questions front and center, and I found the perfect guest to bring onto the podcast to discuss this topic – Anne Wallestad, the President and CEO of BoardSource.

BoardSource is all about nonprofit governance. They’re the go to resource for 115,000 nonprofit boards and leaders to help advance public good through a commitment to diversity, inclusion, and equity.

Together, we discuss the importance of strong values in leadership, and we get into how the personal views of board members (and that of its members) relate to the needs of the organization — with an important distinction between those who have a decision making role and those who do not.

We also discuss recruitment strategies and vetting processes for finding people with great leadership potential, focusing on values in the context of the organization’s mission.

About Anne Wallestad – President & CEO of BoardSource

Anne has 20 years of executive leadership experience in the nonprofit sector and was appointed President & CEO of BoardSource in 2013. BoardSource is an organization that trains and educates nonprofit leaders at the highest level – the board – providing tools, resources, and research data to increase board effectiveness and strengthen organizational impact. Under her leadership BoardSource has expanded its voice and built a scalable model of program delivery that has resulted in a more than 200 percent growth in the number of leaders served.

She played an instrumental role in the launch of several new leadership initiatives including the Stand for Your Mission campaign. Ann also has deep expertise in fundraising strategy and leveraging the board’s fundraising role.

Anne has been honored as one of The Nonprofit Times’ “Power & Influence Top 50.”

In this episode

  • Are diversity of thought, independent mindedness, and a culture of inquiry assets or liabilities on a board?
  • What a dynamic mission statement looks like and how it can help you when you are a champion of the mission but disagree with the organization’s strategy.
  • The specific difference it makes when there is clarity around decision-making power within an organization.
  • How signing up for a board makes members vocal and visible champions of the mission of the organization.
  • The board’s role in leadership, strategy, oversight, planning and prioritizing for impact
  • Should a political litmus test be something you weigh up against a donor’s contributions?
  • What is the difference between policy response and responding to a specific situation when under fire.

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Ep 51: A Symphony of Shared Leadership (with Jim Roe and Bernard Labadie)

nonprofits are messy

One of my fundamental beliefs about nonprofits is that when done right, power is shared between two co-pilots – the Executive Director and the board chair.

But there are exceptions. For example, how should power be shared at an arts organization where there is a creative director who is, perhaps, the most important leader of all?

Today, I invited Jim Roe and Bernard Labadie onto the podcast. Jim is the President and Executive Director and Bernard the Artistic Director of the Orchestra of St. Luke’s. And they have a very successful shared leadership model.

The most common model at arts organizations like the Orchestra of St. Luke’s is that the staff reports to the CEO and the principal conductor has a whole lot of power through artistic leadership. However, the vision of these two co-pilots may or may not be aligned.

So, who’s in charge anyway?

My guests discuss the realities around their roles and the intersection of strategy and artistic vision. They explain where their energies should be focused, and how the synergy results in a model for shared leadership that not only really works for them, but ultimately results in a beautiful symphony.

About James Roe and Bernard Labadie

JAMES ROE, President and Executive Director

James Roe’s career spans three-decades in classical music. He joined Orchestra of St. Luke’s as President & Executive Director in November 2015, having previously served as President & CEO of the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra. Roe enjoyed a performance career that included roles with NJSO, Zéphyros Winds, American Symphony Orchestra, American Composers Orchestra, and Orchestra of St. Luke’s. From 1996 until 2013, Roe served as Executive and Artistic Director of the Helicon Foundation.

BERNARD LABADIE, Artistic Director

Bernard Labadie joined Orchestra of St. Luke’s as Artistic Director in 2017. He has established himself worldwide as a leading conductor of Baroque and Classical repertoire, a reputation closely tied to his work as Founding Conductor of Les Violons du Roy and La Chapelle de Québec. In 2016, Bernard Labadie received the Samuel de Champlain award in Paris. He was honored with a 2005 appointment as Officer of the Order of Canada and his home province named him a Chevalier de l’Ordre National du Québec in 2006.

In this episode

  • Maintaining balance when the conductor creates art and the CEO manages the organization
  • How does an arts organization address and share strategic leadership?
  • How does the reporting structure affect governance?
  • What should the dynamic of this relationship look like at its best?
  • Who is on the board?
  • Who gets to be involved in official policy?
  • What happens when you bring in outsiders and the different energies clash?

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Ep 50: Why Bartenders Make Great Leaders (with Helen Rothberg)

nonprofits are messy

What can a bartender teach us about leadership?

Well, my guest today isn’t just a bartender, but also an acclaimed author, professor, consultant, and leadership trainer. Busy woman!

Using a leadership model conveyed around the acronym ADVICE, Dr. Helen Rothberg, Professor, Marist School of Management and Author of The Perfect Mix: Everything I Know About Leadership I Learned as a Bartender teaches us how leaders can inspire others (hint: it starts by looking inward.)

Based on the lessons she learned from working as a bartender while pursuing degrees in business and behavioral science, Dr. Rothberg identifies leaders by a cocktail of choices they make. We discuss the difference between being a manager and being a leader.

Some of those choices also happen behind a bar; such as how to approach obstacles, the tone set in ones work environment, facilitating groups and connections, managing conflict, adapting to current realities, and much, much more.

I found our conversation helped me look at leadership in a brand new way.

About Helen Rothberg

Helen bartended in New York City throughout her academic career and her unique brand of training is rooted in that experience. Today, she is a leadership trainer at Fortune 500 companies, small technology start-ups, and nonprofit organizations.

Dr. Rothberg has a dual-degree in business and behavioral science, and is professor of strategy at the School of Management at Marist College, senior faculty at the Academy of Competitive Intelligence, and president of consulting firm HNR Associates.

She lives in Orange County, NY, with her husband, dog, cat, and several part-time goats. She still makes a mean cocktail. Not coincidentally, she is the author of The Perfect Mix: Everything I Learned About Leadership I Learned As A Bartender.

In this episode:

  • The “cocktail of leadership”
  • Helen uses the acronym ADVICE to easily remember the key attributes of a great leader. We discuss what that means and how to use it.
  • The ways a bartender’s “barback” is a lot like a nonprofit leadership support staff
  • How the best way to lead others is to first learn how to lead yourself

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Ep 49: How To Make 2018 a Whole Lot Better

nonprofits are messy

Good riddance, 2017!

For many of us, this past year was challenging. I myself faced personal and professional challenges that I would have never seen coming including, but not limited to, my wife’s emergency plastic surgery at Dilworth Facial Plastic Surgery center.

But now it’s time to think ahead to 2018. What can we do to make this year a whole lot better? What is within our control (and what do we need to relinquish control of) to become more well rounded people, more effective and empathetic leaders who empower others to also be their best selves.

This podcast is about resolving to bounce back – victories and challenges notwithstanding. It’s about living in a world of unease while keeping your passion and desire to improve it — alive and well.

In this episode, I share, not resolutions but, “15 things worth a shot in 2018”. These non-resolutions have three things in common. They are doable, universal, and meaningful.

In this episode:

  • Why you should listen to people you disagree with
  • A great way to get more buy-in
  • Are you guilty of lateral violence?
  • How can you use data to guide your decisions?
  • Why Elsa, the princess in Frozen, had it right
  • Why I just can’t get enough of Kermit the Frog

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Ep 48: Building a Culture of Gratitude

nonprofits are messy

Expressing gratitude is something that many people only do at certain times a year (if it gets done at all.)

A strong leader builds an organizational culture of gratitude. But how? And when?

In this episode, six Executive Directors – each of them leaders of small-to-midsize organizations and members of the Nonprofit Leadership Lab – highlight the importance of expressing appreciation year round and offer examples of how to do just that.

About My Guests

Debra Porta is Executive Director of Pride Northwest in Portland, Oregon.  Their mission is to encourage and celebrate the positive diversity of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans communities, and to assist in the education of all people through the development of activities that showcase the history, accomplishments, and talents of these communities.

Hermione Malone (PRONOUNCED: her-me-on) serves as Executive Director for Good Work Network, a New Orleans-based small business development and technical assistance provider with a mission of serving as a catalyst for women- and minority-owned business success. Hermione has also worked as a professional journalist for numerous U.S.-based newspapers. The mission of Good Work Network is to serve as a catalyst for minority- and women-owned business success. They help entrepreneurs start, grow and succeed.

Laurie Rovin is Executive Director of A Child’s Haven in Greenville, South Carolina. She was born and raised in Maryland and relocated to Greenville SC in 1992. A Child’s Haven’s mission is to provide treatment to children with developmental delays and behavioral challenges AND support to their families.  

Mary Jacob is Executive Director of Families Helping Families of Jefferson is located in Harahan, Louisiana. Families Helping Families of Jefferson is a family directed resource center connecting and educating parents of children with disabilities and adults with disabilities.  Free of charge, they  teach parents and adults with disabilities how to advocate, navigate support systems, and find joy, hope, and success in spite of challenges.

Kevin Gibbons is the Executive Director and Cofounder of Health Access Connect. He is a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (Philippines, 2004-07). Health Access Connect links Ugandans in remote areas with healthcare. They use micro-financed motorcycle taxis to set up monthly one-day clinics in remote villages. It’s their way of providing healthcare while also helping someone to start a small business.

Laura Jaworski is Executive Director of the House of Hope Community Development Corporation in Warwick, Rhode Island. In November 2016, Laura was appointed the second-ever executive director. House of Hope Community Development Corporation  is a non-profit affordable housing and homeless services provider. Founded in 1989 in Warwick, Rhode Island, their mission is to end the personal and social trauma of homelessness.

In this episode:

  • Creating a culture of celebration, communication, gratitude, and appreciation
  • Building non-transactional relationships with donors
  • Acknowledging volunteers by being genuine and prompt
  • Providing tools for colleagues to visibly and pictorially show recognition to each other on a daily basis
  • Providing time off when monetary compensation is limited
  • Sending handwritten notes in addition to electronic thank yous
  • Sharing data with donors to express how meaningful their contributions are
  • Meeting with big donors and staff personally whenever possible
  • Using social media not only to raise funds but to show gratitude and share stories
  • Asking for advice as a means to show gratitude
  • Showing appreciation by being prepared, honest and present
  • Saying something appreciative to each person directly

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