Category Archives: Expert Opinions

Unpaid Interns May Be Too Expensive – NPQ Newswire

Summer interns: We love them and we hate them. But do we have to pay them? That is a question much debated. Most recently, that debate has been taken up by a federal judge in Manhattan, who ruled in June that Fox Searchlight had broken minimum wage laws using unpaid interns on the set of Black Swan. This ruling, which may or may not be overturned upon appeal, signals that the legal and financial risk of unpaid interns may be greater than previously considered.

Read my newswire to discover why: http://www.nonprofitquarterly.org/policysocial-context/22569-unpaid-interns-may-be-too-expensive.html

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3 Lessons from the Peace Corps

This week is National Peace Corps Week and many of the world’s Peace Corps Volunteers (PCVs) and returned volunteers (RPCVs) are sharing their stories. This past week was also a special week for my campus: USD hosted the international AshokaU conference for Changemakers. I had the opportunity to attend the TEDx event on Friday night where social entrepreneurs and education “futurists” shared their stories.  This woman sold chickens, killed and plucked on demand, out of her home.

In honor of both of these events, I thought I’d share the lessons I learned about changemaking from my time as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Dominican Republic. I spent 2002 – 2004 as a Community Economic Development Volunteer in a little town called Sabaneta in the state of Santiago Rodriguez. My primary project was to create a business education training program for women with microfinance loans. I also worked with a local nonprofit organization to open a community-based preschool for low-income children.

During this time, I learned:

1) Go where you’re wanted, not just where you’re needed. Peace Corps only goes into countries and communities where they have been invited. Volunteers are matched with host country organizations that have invited the volunteer to help. The volunteers are placed in communities where the local leadership has agreed to and extended a welcome to the PCV.  As a result, the projects I worked on had unilateral and I also was assured that law enforcement would be friendly. (This was not necessarily true when I crossed into Haiti, for example.)

This simple lesson is profound. It’s about respect. As an educated person from the United States, I have no right to impose my views or ideas on people in other countries. That imperialism has happened far to often in our history. However, when invited, we can dialogue and work together in ways that are generative for both parties. The same lesson is true when I work with vulnerable populations in the United States.

2) Start with a cup of coffee. Even after being officially “blessed” at every level, it was important to start by getting to know those who lived and worked around me. For me, that meant three to six months of visiting the homes and businesses of the women I would work with. I sat on their front step and drank coffee. I helped them sell goods out of their colmado (small store). I watched them kill and pluck chickens for customers as they waited. As I did this, I was able to gain trust and come to understand valuable parts of the culture I would otherwise have missed. (But don’t get me wrong, I’m sure I still missed or misunderstood huge parts of the culture. To some extent, that is to be expected.)

This investment of time paid tremendous dividends when it came to designing a project that worked and that was embraced by the community.

3) Look deeply. I hit many bumps along the road. My microfinance project partner wasn’t as gung-ho as I wanted him to be. The teachers in the preschool kept playing with the toys. As much as I wanted to mange these problems and make them go away, they could only be solved by looking. The first class of kids for the preschool program. They are playing in a small sandbox outside.

I had to look deeply at my project partner’s life. He spent 8 – 10 hours a day on a motorcycle driving up and down bumpy, dusty dirt roads. His kid was sick and he only had enough money for diapers for special occasions. Of course he didn’t want an additional thing (me!) added to his plate. Of course he was defensive at first. I needed to back off and give him a greater sense of ownership in the project.

I looked deeply at the teachers in the newly founded preschool. I saw that, like the children they served, they had never seen toys like this. They had never painted or drawn as freely as we encouraged. They had never dug through a sandbox. Of course they were more interested in playing than teaching. Of course they had trouble adjusting to a fixed schedule. These things were foreign to them and I needed to adjust.

These are just a few of the lessons I learned during my two years in the Dominican Republic. They’ve guided my career as I work today with nonprofits.

Sunday Musings on the Nonprofit Governance Conference

I had the opportunity on Friday and Saturday to speak at USD’s annual Nonprofit Governance Institute. This two-day conference – for those of you who might not live in San Diego – draws hundreds of board members and senior leadership staff members at nonprofits throughout Southern California together to talk about one thing: governance.

As always, the energy was high throughout the weekend and the conversations were stimulating. It’s such a joy to be around people who are trying to make the world a better place . . . and being smart about it!

I was privileged to speak at two different sessions.

The first was a panel on Nonprofits and Civil Society. I shared about a book I had recently read and reviewed for an academic publication. The book, Measuring the Networked Nonprofit, provides a wonderful roadmap to nonprofits looking to measure their impact on social media.  I highly recommend it.

The second topic I addressed was — drumroll here — social media policies. The session focused on tips for how to create policies that are generative rather than overly rigid or controlling. It’s not easy to do, trust me. What I loved about this session was the second half: small group discussions.

Use or Lose

The attendees gathered together in small groups to discuss sample policies. Each group had a different policy which I had selected from a online database.  They played a game I call “Use or Lose.” After each reading the policies separately, they had to decide what they could potentially “use” from that policy to write their own and what they would “lose.”

The key lessons from this exercise are:
1) Social media policies are NOT one-size-fits-all,
2) Virtually no company has a “perfect” policy,
2) We can learn from a wide variety of companies, including Nordstrom.

More than 50 people showed up to learn about social media policies and I’m thrilled. We’ve been talking about social media for a long time. Now it’s time to also talk about generative governance.

Cheers!

 

 

Learning to Listen

I am learning to listen.

This lesson is coming through many forms, most recently via a lecture I attended by Otto Scharmer of MIT entitled Leadership and Mindful Transformation of Capitalism: from Ego-System to Eco-System Economies.

Otto asked the audience two core questions:

  • Where do you experience a world that is ending/dying?
  • Where do you experience a world that is beginning/waiting to be born?

In thinking about these questions, only one answer came to my mind. The world that I experience to be ending/dying is the world that believes that problems are external.

In my work with nonprofits, I have come to learn that problems are—at their core—thinking problems. This means problems must be resolved internally first, then externally. What do I mean by this?

  • Problems with the environment are, at their core, a problem about how we conceptualize our relationship to the earth.
  • Problems with poverty are, at their core, problems about how we structure our economy and how we conceptualize our relationship to fellow man.

I did not always believe this. I used to think that “poor people” needed help. To that end, I spent many years in many countries in direct service. What I have learned is that direct service is powerful (there is tremendous power in any act of service to another human being), but it isn’t enough. If the core of the problem is a thinking problem, our work must also be on a different plane.

In thinking about this new work, I am compelled to listen more deeply. But how?

Otto described four levels of listening:

  • Downloading: is taking the information you receive and applying old opinions and judgments to that information.
  • Factual listening: is taking the information we received and acknowledging any data which disconfirms what we thought we knew.
  • Empathic listening: is seeing through another person’s eyes and thereby establishing an emotional connection.
  • Generative listening: is opening our awareness to that which exists and to that which might exist. We allow our attention to connect to an emerging future, waiting for that which wants to be born.

According to Otto, as we move towards generative listening, we let go of the voices of judgment, cynicism, and fear. Instead, we move to a position of openness, engagement, and, eventually, embodiment.

While all this sounds beautiful, I have not yet answered Otto’s second question. Where do I experience a world that is beginning/waiting to be born?

I don’t know, but I’m listening.

What do you think?

For more information about Otto Scharmer and his work on Theory U, visit: http://www.presencing.com/

Online Giving 2012: Your Best Year EVER

Did you know that 1/3 of online giving occurs in December and 22% occurs December 30th and 31st? However, don’t wait until December to think about online giving. . . Relationships need to be cultivated. This is true offline as well as online.

We must develop all web-based competencies – including enewsletters, social media, branding, and search engine optimization – in order to succeed in any online campaign and to truly maximize the December giving push.

I’ve created Online Giving 2011: Your Best Year Ever to help nonprofits harness the power of online philanthropy. Over the course of the year, you’ll master the core competencies needed for success.  Course materials and resources will be provided to help you make 2012 your best online fundraising year ever!

During this year-long web-based course you will:

  • Create your 2012 Online Giving Road Map
  • Develop an engaged social media community
  • Deliver an enewsletter donors wait for
  • Raise funds via a successful online giving campaign

This course is GUARANTEED to increase your online giving in 2012!

Monthly Course Webinars include:*
Jan: Online Giving ~ Are you Ready? (30 min – free)
Feb: Creating Your Roadmap for Online Giving
Mar: Leaving Your Mark ~ Branding, Blogging, & the Web
April: You’ve Got My Ear ~ Donors and Enewsletters
May: Online Cultivation ~ Donors and Social Media
June: The Anatomy of an Ask ~ Designing Your Online Fundraising Campaign
July: Testing the Waters ~ Warming Your Audience with Small Online Asks
Aug: Bonus Class ~ Participants vote on the topic
Sept: PowerHour ~ Review and provide feedback on classmates’ campaigns
Oct: It’s You, Online ~ Using Your Personal Brand to Maximize Fundraising Nov: Final Push ~ Harnessing the best fundraising month of the year
Dec: Bonus Class ~ Participants vote on the topic

*Each webinar is one hour long. Dates are scheduled 2-4 weeks in advance. Don’t worry if you cannot make the date. All webinars will be recorded and emailed to course registrants to review. You won’t miss a thing!

Save $225! Purchase the yearlong series for $275 by January 31st and save $225! That is a $75 savings off of the full price of the year ($350) plus two FREE 30 minute coaching sessions valued at $150.  What a deal!

Click here to register and save $225!

Want more information? The January webinar is free! This webinar will articulate the core competencies needed for a successful online giving campaign. It will lay out the road map for the course and show you exactly what you can do to make 2012 your best year ever.

Click here Register for the January webinar

Class materials: (You won’t find these anywhere else!)

  • Online Giving Roadmap Template
  • Enewsletter Rescue Plan
  • Social Media Strategy Guide
  • Social Media Policy eBook
  • Resources for online giving, enewsletters, social media, and more
  • Access to recorded versions of the webinars
  • And more!

My Guarantee: If you attend every webinar, create and follow your road map for online giving, and you still find that online giving to your nonprofit doesn’t increase by at least 10% in 2012 as compared to 2011, you can choose between 100% of your money back or 3 hours of free coaching.

The Photos that Betray Us: GPS technology, mobile phones, & nonprofits

By next year, all mobile phones in North America will use GPS to capture locations.  Many already do. This information is extremely useful in the case of emergencies. It will help us to find missing persons and to respond to disaster victims.

There is a downside. A huge downside.

Mobile phones have cameras. Many newer phones automatically tag photos with your name, location, date, time, etc. This information helps the phone to organize your photos.  If those photos are shared online, the information stored in the photos is also shared.

This is called Geotagging. According to Socialbrite.org’s Social Media Glossary:

“Geotagging is the process of adding location-based metadata to media such as photos, video or online maps. Geotagging can help users find a wide variety of businesses and services based on location.”

Why might it be unwise to automatically share this information? If you takea photo at home and then post it online, a thief or predator can learn your address. If you take a photo at a domestic violence shelter, an abuser can use the address to find his/her former partner. This is true even of the photos we take of staff or facilities at domestic violence shelters.

I spoke recently with Deacon Johnson, creator of pixelguard, an application which allows users to decide what information is stored in their photos. He designed the app shortly after becoming a father. He realized the danger of social sharing and wanted to protect his child.

In talking with Deacon, I realized how important it is to be savvy about the information in our photos. By removing the data stored in photos, we are protecting clients, donors, and staff.

Nonprofits have been quick to adopt social media. In fact, more than 97% of nonprofits are using social media of some type. However, few have explicit social media policies. Even fewer are dealing directly with issues of privacy and security posed by social media.

This is definitely an issue nonprofits will want to look into. As a Nonprofit Nerd, I can think of many causes that should be thinking about these issues:

  • Domesticviolence safe houses
  • Organizations working with abused children
  • Health care organizations
  • After school programs
  • Drug and alcohol treatment centers
  • And many, many more.

By removing the information in our photos, we reduce the risks associated with publishing photos online. We don’t eliminate risks but they are reduced somewhat.

Consistent with Deacon’s mission to protect children, the pixelguard app is free for public schools.

This post is a part of our “Stay Tuned” blog series where I interview experts on a variety of topics. If you have a topic you’d like to see covered, please add it in the comments below.