Friday, August 29, 2014

Support Napa's Earthquake Recovery

Thank you to all who have reached out to support the Napa community, especially those who have offered to volunteer. Since expanding into Napa, CVNL has gotten to know the area, its residents, and the many people working hard in the nonprofit sector to strengthen their communities. Since the recent earthquake, we have been working with our Napa Manager, Jim Tomlinson, to field hundreds of phone calls from victims of the quake and volunteers looking to get involved. We are overwhelmed by the outpouring of support and the generosity of not only Napa residents, but from the Bay Area and beyond.

If you are a volunteer looking to help support recovery efforts, you will need to check in at theEmergency Volunteer Center (EVC) in Napa: 3765 Solano Avenue, Napa, 94558. The center is being run out of Grace Church. Please proceed to the back of the parking lot to the classrooms; our team will be there to register you and assign you based on the most immediate needs.

Natural disasters such as this force us to stop, reflect, and appreciate the many things we often take for granted. We extend our thoughts to everyone impacted by the earthquake, and will do everything we can to support the recovery process. To contact our Napa office, call 707-252-6222. To make a donation, consult the information below.

RED CROSS: Make donations at or text “Red Cross” to 90999 to donate $10. If you’d like to specifically designate the money for earthquake relief for Napa and Vallejo, send a check to the American Red Cross of Napa County at 1790 Third St., Napa, CA 94559, and write “Disaster Relief Napa and Vallejo” on the bottom of the check.

SALVATION ARMY: Cash donations or volunteer requests can be made at In addition, donations can be provided in person – designated checks, nonperishable food items, or water – at 630 Tuolumne St., Vallejo CA 94590 or 590 Franklin St., Napa, CA 94559.

SOLANO/NAPA HABITAT FOR HUMANITY: Donations by check designated toward earthquake relief in Napa and Vallejo can be sent to 5130 Fulton Drive, Suite R, Fairfield, CA 94534.

NAPA VALLEY FOOD BANK: Checks can be mailed to 1766 Industrial Way, Napa, CA 94558. Call (707) 253-6128 to make a credit card donation or go to

Monday, May 19, 2014

The Leadership Opportunity: You're Next!

The Leadership Opportunity: You’re Next!
By David Livingston Styers
Director, Consulting Services / Senior Board Governance Consultant
Center for Volunteer and Nonprofit Leadership

The great hockey player Wayne Gretzky, when asked what was the secret to his success, said:

A good hockey player plays where the puck is.

A great hockey player plays where the puck is going to be.



Which are you doing and going to do – are you just trying to find the puck or are you working to be prepared for the puck when it arrives?

 Anticipating tomorrow — constituent and stakeholder needs, shifts in funding streams, board composition, and on and on — is critical for leadership today. The nonprofit sector has been undergoing tremendous change in recent years from the downtown in the economy to the beginning generational shift of organizational leadership. And we will all have to learn to live in the new normal that has resulted in society, our communities, and our daily lives, and adapt accordingly. Take this quote:

Just as millions of U.S. citizens want to reduce the federal budget deficit, but not by giving up their tax dollars or benefits or jobs, so, too, managers may consider adaptive work a priority but have difficulty sacrificing their familiar ways of doing business. People need leadership to help them maintain their focus on the tough questions. Disciplined attention is the currency of leadership.

Sound familiar and indicative of today? Well, it was actually written more than 15 years ago by Harvard professors Ronald Heifetz and Donald Laurie in an article entitled “The Work of Leadership” about adaptive change and adaptive leadership to best cope with our rapidly changing environment. And their writing certainly seems prescient and as relevant today as then, doesn’t it? As much as things have changed, some things are still, maybe sadly, very much the same.

While the economic challenges we have faced since the fall of 2008, I presume, caught us all by surprise, we have known for a long time that the 77 million Baby Boomers born between 1946 and 1964 are nearing the traditional retirement age. Some of you may be excited about this, while others are a little wary. Regardless, we are entering a period of both transition and opportunity for Baby Boomers and the 100-plus million Generation Xers and Gen Yers born during or after 1965 that follow. Note that only 14% of board members are under the age of 40.

Many of you recognize the significance of this transition, but you may be challenged about how to address the impact and opportunities of this change. More and more, organizations are realizing that to be successful and recruit and retain the best leaders, both staff and board, they must value unique talents and include diverse voices. We must develop the skills and networks of leaders to not only help expand and improve the nonprofit talent pool but also help provide professional and personal development for leaders in general.

Again, critical to this adaptive work will be the establishment of both trust and diversity at all levels and in all aspects of leadership. Mutual respect and tapping into the perspectives and expertise of different backgrounds will help ensure our organizations are making the best decisions possible.

 There has never been a better time to engage in the vital work that nonprofits are doing in your communities. Thus, this truly is the great opportunity of our day, though it will not be without its challenges. But when we work together on innovative forms of engagement and new ways of doing business, everyone benefits.

Ultimately, you need to feel and know that you can make a difference to the nonprofit organizations and people they serve. Organizations are like an oyster — without friction, an oyster cannot produce a pearl. Board members can be just what a nonprofit needs — that tiny spec of friction — to form a beautiful pearl — the pearls of active citizens, effective institutions, and vibrant communities.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Earth Day Volunteering: What’s In It for You?
Written by Lauren Dunford, Program Coordinator, Volunteer Engagement, 
Center for Volunteer and Nonprofit Leadership

While traipsing through neck-high shrubs, diligently surveying the land for pieces of litter during a recent volunteer project at McInnis Park, a 6-year-old volunteer looked up at her mother and declared with confidence, “It’s my destiny. I have to save the Earth.” Adorable and profound, this young volunteer’s epiphany is what I live for as a volunteer coordinator. I’m intensely interested in what motivates people to give. Traffic tickets and school assignments are easy enough to understand, and I’ve seen each of these compel people to rise at dawn, plant vegetables in pouring rain, and sort canned goods for hours on end. It’s the intrinsic motivators that I’m most intrigued by. Why do volunteers give so much, of their own volition, and ask for nothing in return?

As Earth Day approaches, I’m reminded of Marin’s unique concern for the environment. The hub for community service projects in Marin County, Center for Volunteer and Nonprofit Leadership (CVNL) strives to respond to community needs and volunteer interests by providing meaningful opportunities for individuals to be instruments of positive change. Throughout the years, we’ve partnered with local environmental organizations to offer recurring service projects at parks, open space preserves, community gardens, and more. These projects not only help keep Marin clean, healthy, and thriving but they also cater to the community’s intrinsic desire to make a difference. Volunteerism in general and environmental service projects in particular come along with a few other added benefits as well. A little exercise, a productive morning outdoors, an opportunity to make a new friend – all are motivators and sometimes unexpected rewards that come along with community service.

This Earth Day, there are a wide variety of opportunities for new and veteran volunteers to join in the fun. You’ll find me and a group of volunteers at Pickleweed Park, one of the most visited parks in all of Marin. Its proximity to the San Francisco Bay wetlands makes it a prime source of waste – if litter from sports games and other park use is not properly discarded, it runs straight into the Bay, sullying the habitat and endangering the wildlife that reside there. Volunteers will spend the morning walking along the John and Jean Starkweather Shoreline path removing litter.

Meanwhile in Tiburon, a second group of volunteers will assemble at Old St. Hilary’s Preserve. The native plants of this beautiful piece of open space are struggling to survive due to an overgrowth of invasive, non-native French Broom. The Earth Day volunteer crew will remove broom plants, plant natives, and offer general upkeep to the area.

Venture North to Homeward Bound, Marin County’s chief provider of shelter and residential services for the homeless, and you’ll run into volunteers in the garden. The food cultivated from this chemical-free, organic, garden will feed the residents of the New Beginnings Center in Novato and support the Fresh Starts Culinary Academy, Homeward Bound’s job training program. Volunteers will plant, water, and harvest vegetables, pull weeds and lay mulch so that this garden “where the homeless feed the hungry” can continue to flourish.

A fourth group of volunteers will round out Earth Day weekend in Marin City at the community garden and orchard. This new and cherished gathering place promotes healthy, sustainable living for Marin City residents by providing space to cultivate fresh and local food. Volunteers prepare garden plots for community members to claim, tend plots on behalf of seniors and other residents in need of assistance, and complete general maintenance and beautification projects for the space as a whole.

CVNL along with the My Earth Day Marin Coalition will celebrate Earth Day Saturday, April 26 – Sunday, April 27. Maybe you’re an environmental activist and Earth Day speaks to your own personal mission. Maybe you’re free most weekend mornings and want to catch a little extra sun. Perhaps, like my co-worker’s 6-year-old daughter, saving the Earth is your destiny! Whatever your motivation, I hope you’ll join us this Earth Day and make a difference in your local community. Visit or to find an Earth Day service project near you.

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.

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