Sunday, November 17, 2013

Leading from the Core © Mary Vradelis, Sequoia Consulting Associates

Mary Vradelis of Sequoia Consulting Associates is currently leading a new series at the Center called Leading Teams to Victory: Your Role as Individual, Supervisor and Team Leader

Recently the New York Times featured a lengthy story about Silicon Valley’s quest for mindfulness (Mindfulness at Every Turn, by David Hochman, 11/3/13). This desire to be unplugged and become more present is now permeating the world of the rich, famous, and geeky.  From programmers to start-up superstars to celebrities, the attendance is growing at conventions like Wisdom 2.0 and a 7-week class held for Google employees called, “Search Inside Yourself.” 

Leading Teams to Victory Series participants led by Mary Vradelis design and don their individual leadership masks.
Meng Tan, the Google engineer and creator of “Search Inside Yourself" says, “This isn’t the old San Francisco hippie fluff.”  He describes the workshop as using peer-reviewed research and promises of financial gain to encourage attendees to change their behavior.  Benefits include health (lower blood pressure and curing psoriasis), business success (promotions), as well as a deeper sense of success and pleasure (balance, appreciation, and calm). 

As a consultant and coach for nonprofit leaders, it does my heart good to see a societal shift in what values we are seeking from our work and life.  However, I’m left wondering – where are nonprofits in this conversation?  It seems from the leaders and line-staff that I am talking to, work days are getting longer, professional development budgets are getting smaller, and there is less and less time to step back and ask ourselves.   If we do this work out of a sense of caring, shouldn’t we be first in line for a mindfulness practice?

“Leadership is lifting a person’s vision to higher sights, the raising of a person’s performance to a higher standard, the building of a personality beyond its normal limitations.”  Peter F. Drucker

So I ask you, when was the last time you gave yourself the time to think about what’s important?  What’s working well?  What would you like to do differently?  If we are asking our clients, colleagues, donors, and our co-workers to do what’s right?  How do we decide what’s right?  I think a great place to start is thinking about your values – not just what you think your values should be.  What are the actual core values that drive your decisions?  Are they different than the core values that you get the most of your investment of your two precious resources (time and money)?  Does that mean you need to change your values?  Or how you spend your time and money?

If you need a reason to invest your time in thinking about core values, how about this:  James Kouzes and Barry Posner in The Leadership Challenge  found that companies with shared values increase their revenue four times faster, job creation grew seven times higher, and their profit performance grew 750% higher than those organizations that weren’t value-based.  And for those who prefer to think about the quality of their workplace, you might like to know that organizations with shared values: foster feelings of pride and personal effectiveness, promote company loyalty, and facilitate consensus and teamwork.   If that seems like a valuable enough reason to walk away from your desk for an hour, or to turn off your phone,  then I encourage you this week to invest in your own mindfulness.  Take a workshop. Write in your journal. Go for a walk and think about the most important thing that you could do today.  Thich Naht Hahn says, “The most precious gift we can we can offer anyone is our attention.”  So, I encourage you – start by giving that gift to yourself. 

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Time is Running Out: Will You Celebrate A Change-maker This Year?

A doctor who performed eight, crucial surgical procedures for Marin’s vulnerable population probono. A high school sophomore who founded an eye clinic in the Canal District and collected 2,000+ pairs of glasses. A nonprofit who created 38 affordable properties in Marin that served 1,400 individuals. These are just some of the stories shared and celebrated at last years’ Heart of Marin Awards Ceremony and Luncheon. I encourage you to share a new story by submitting a nomination: help make our 21st year the most memorable and inspiring yet!

2012 Heart of Marin Attendees
If you have not attended Heart of Marin before, picture a room packed with 800+ leaders, volunteers, and innovators from the for-profit and nonprofit sectors. The sounds of laughter, applause, and tears punctuate the ceremony as the community is brought together through the inspirational work of Marin’s change-makers. As the largest recognition event in the county, Heart of Marin awards $35,000 to outstanding nonprofits and the committed individuals who serve them.

I urge you to take the opportunity to celebrate the work and achievements of an individual or agency that has positively impacted our community by nominating this year. The deadline to submit a nomination is fast approaching: this Friday November 8, 2013, 5pm. Click here to download and complete nomination form today.

Heart of Marin award recipients will receive a $5,000 award for their nonprofit, with the exception of youth volunteers who will each receive a $1,000 award. The awards categories are:
  1. Achievement in Nonprofit Excellence– Sponsored by Autodesk, this award is presented to an organization that has demonstrated exemplary service to its constituents. 
  2. Youth Volunteer of the Year – Perhaps the most moving award category of them all! Presented to five full-time middle or high school students serving a Marin nonprofit in the community, school, or faith environment, this award is sponsored by Bank of Marin. 
  3. Excellence in Board Leadership – This award is sponsored by Kaiser Permanente, San Rafael, and presented to an exceptional volunteer member of a Marin nonprofit board of directors. 
  4. Excellence in Leadership – Presented to an executive director who has demonstrated excellence and leadership within their organization and community, the award is sponsored by Marin Community Foundation. 
  5. Volunteer of the Year – Sponsored by Redwood Credit Union, the award is presented to an individual (other than a board member) who has provided exemplary volunteer service to a Marin nonprofit organization. 
  6. Excellence in Innovation – This award is presented to an individual, organization, or partnership that has developed new and creative strategies for meeting community needs and is sponsored by Bregante + Company LLP and Wells Fargo. 
  7. Corporate Community Service – Sponsored by College of Marin, this award is presented to a business that has fostered and encouraged volunteerism and philanthropy among its employees. 
Jan Wahl from KRON will once again serve as our mistress of ceremonies. For 9 years Jan has supported us as we recognize exceptional leaders in Marin, bringing her unique style of humor and authenticity to what has become the place to be for an afternoon of inspiration, encouragement and motivation.

Don’t miss the chance to say “thank you” to the people who are actively making change happen in Marin. Nominate today and join us between 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. on January 9, 2014, as we celebrate all of the nominees and announce the 2013 awardees. I expect that we will once again be moved and inspired by the stories that we can all use more of and never seem to get enough of.

For questions call 415-479-5710 x330 or email

2012 award winners- you could be next!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Ready to Ignite Your Inner Leader? Introducing the Center's revitalized Education and Training Department!

Welcome back, friends! We’re thrilled to kick off another fall season of Education & Training programs here at the Center for Volunteer and Nonprofit Leadership. We’re especially excited because nearly 200 of you responded to our recent training survey and we heard you loud and clear: leadership education is your #1 priority and participating in learning cohorts over time extends your educational progress.

To all nonprofit leaders – of staff, of boards, of volunteers, of teams – we invite you to explore our newest series developed in response to our survey findings. Leading Teams to Victory: Your Role as Individual, Supervisor, and Team Leader will help you explore leadership through multiple lenses and will be held on First Fridays from October through December.

To all aspiring leaders – inquisitive managers, new executive directors, recent sector-changers – we invite you to apply to be part of our highly reviewed and intensive Emerging Leaders Program. In four packed days in November and December, our expert faculty leads you through the nuts and bolts of nonprofit compliance and management and into the world of board, brand and fund development.

Not ready for a series just yet? Explore over 20 additional workshops scheduled from September through December – from Mission Minded’s Minute Message Model in October to Kim Klein’s Creating an Upgrading Team in December. Once again, we’ve followed through on your specific requests: just behind leadership were marketing/communications and fund development as the most requested training topics!

Act fast – we are offering a Back to School Registration Special for the months of August and September! And as you’ll see, there has never been a better time to renew or become a member – both to join our community and to save even more. But don’t go just yet – read ahead for even more Center developments that you’ll want to share with your board and staff – ways to find off-the-beaten-path grants; recruit new board members that might be your neighbors; and even build coalitions in unlikely places.

We look forward to seeing you at the Center this fall!

In Community,
Georgia Antonopoulos
Director of Education and Training

P.S. Remember – signing up this week and next month will guarantee you deep discounts on our most popular programs. And be sure to take advantage of our free informational workshops, too – Grantseeking, BoardMatch and Foundation Center! And finally, if you have any questions or would just like to introduce yourself (I'm a newbie from Boston), don’t hesitate to reach me directly at 415-448-0331 or at

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Four Steps to Setting a Path for Capital Improvement Projects

By Eve Nelson, Principal, mack5

Eve Nelson
For organizations whose programs and/or operations require permanent space that is tailored to their needs, it’s important to consider the following “setup” issues for capital improvement projects. Because a capital improvement project is a temporary endeavor to create a unique and lasting product or result, from the outset it is critical to set a path for accomplishing the ultimate goal.

      1. Establish a Total Project Budget

Budgeting for all costs associated with a capital improvement project (be it new construction or renovation) is essential to fundraising, so that sufficient funds can be raised, and donors are aware of the project’s full scope. Budgets not only need to account for the ”bricks and mortar,” but also for all “soft costs” such as architect/engineers; specialty consultants; entitlements; permitting; furniture, fixtures and equipment; data/telecom and IT; security and signage; audio visual, costs related to fundraising; contingencies; etc.

2. Establish a Total Project Schedule

Time is money so a well‐planned schedule helps ensure that a project is organized and completed as expeditiously as possible. Establishing a schedule is a must to manage the “inter‐dependent” activities of planning, fundraising, design and construction, and coordinate them with the organization’s ongoing activities. Project schedules need to incorporate all project phases and significant milestones from start to completion, including activities such as planning, programming, entitlements, permitting, design, outreach, fundraising, construction work and commissioning.

3Define Roles and Responsibilities

Often a client that is not familiar with the design and construction process needs to learn what different industry resources can bring to the table, and just as importantly, what is expected of their own organization and its board in order to successfully accomplish their project.

4. Select the Right Architect

An architect’s job is to express – in form – the program, mission and vision of an organization; so, it is critical to find the right architect: one that embraces those of the nonprofit organization.

A successful capital project delivers the organization’s programmatic requirements at best value: a sustainable facility that comes in on budget and schedule with satisfied users, and furthers the organization’s mission, vision and values. mack5 partners with nonprofit organizations to achieve their strategic goals through effective and successful planning/management of their capital improvement projects.


About Mack5: Mack5 is a project management, construction management and cost planning consulting firm that provides exceptional service. Since our inception in 2001, Mack5 has partnered with owners to address complex and costly project issues. For more information, visit

About Eve Nelson: Eve is an active member of the Center's Nonprofit Consultants Network. Since 2002, Eve has been responsible for business management; functional areas include marketing, business development support, business planning/budgeting, accounting/finance, IT, HR/benefits, legal, insurance and facilities at the firm. She also acts as financial advisor and consultant for client projects and assignments.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Six Steps to Making the Most of Your Annual Report

Sarah Moore of Mission Minded

Six Steps to Making the Most of Your Annual Report

by Sarah Moore

With a smart annual report, your organization can fundraise, sustain your audiences’ interest, and reconfirm the value of your work. It’s an important document that demands careful consideration of all the steps in the process, from selecting a release date to writing and gathering the content.

To help your organization create its best annual report yet, Mission Minded has developed “Your Annual Report is a Fundraising Tool,” a free guide that maps out the six vital steps to making your report a success. Download it here.

On May 2, we’ll be presenting this topic at the Executive Directors’ Roundtable, hosted by Center for Volunteer and Nonprofit Leadership. We hope to see you there!

Other Mission Minded resources on annual reports:

This blog was originally posted on by Sarah Moore and has been reposted with MissionMinded's permission.

Is Your Annual Report George Clooney or George Costanza?  
How to Create an Annual Report with Appeal
Thursday, May 2, 2013, 9:00 a.m.-10:30 a.m.,
Free for Members/$10 for Non-Members
with Jennie Winton & Sarah Moore
555 Northgate Drive, Suite 200, San Rafael, CA 94903

Monday, April 29, 2013

Does Your Board Committee Structure Need Some Spring Cleaning?

Does Your Board Committee Structure Need Some Spring Cleaning?
By David Livingston Styers, Director of Consulting/Senior Board Governance Consultant 

A committee has often been described as a cul-de-sac down which good ideas are lured...and then quietly strangled.

When it comes to board structure, there is certainly no one size fits all, but there are some specific trends that can help advance the mission between board meetings. All nonprofit governing boards have substantially more work to do than can ever be accomplished at monthly or quarterly meetings. Many boards try to solve the problem by creating committees to work on issues between meetings. But even with the best intentions, boards sometimes don't build their committee structures properly, creating even more work for board and staff members.

Each organization must develop its own unique model and structure for the board based on the organization's environment, history, set of personalities, and culture. Typically, there are no laws that regulate the structures of committees, as they do not make organizational decisions. Some state laws, including CA, address audit committee matters.

To avoid frequent changes to the bylaws, however, it is wise not to make them overly specific. For example, it is not necessary to include the board's committee structure in the bylaws beyond stating that the board may establish and lay down committees as needed; they should be described in the board's policies. The one committee to specify in the bylaws is an executive committee.

Standing committees are work groups that will always be needed as supports for the board no matter what is happening in the life of the organization. Very small boards may not have separate committees as the board functions as a committee of the whole. Remember: the functions are more important than the structure.

Join us on May 2nd to walk through the steps for building a solid committee structure to create a more effective and enjoyable board experience

Thursday, May 2, 5:30 p.m.-8:00 p.m., $40/$60,
with David Styers
555 Northgate Drive, Suite 200, San Rafael, CA 94903

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