I’m On a Podcast!

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I’m very excited to share that I was recently interviewed as a guest on a podcast about social entrepreneurship! Check out the recording here. I had a great time chatting with Nathan about fundraising, the nonprofit sector, and other career hacks on his show, Social Entrepreneur with Nathan A. Webster.

Being on the podcast was a wonderful experience because it allowed me to reflect on some of the key moments of my life that have led me to where I am today. I got to share about how my mom shaped my approach to helping others. I talked about my experience interning at San Diego Grantmakers when I was in college, which opened my eyes to the path of fundraising for nonprofits. And I got to share the importance of one on one networking for long term success – that’s been such a huge part of my journey!

In addition to chatting about my path, it was fun to share tips I’ve learned along the way (resources I tap into and how I achieve my goals), my tendency according to Gretchen Rubin (I’m an obliger!), and even my love of The Real Housewives.

Take a listen and please share with anyone you think might benefit from what we chat about!

-N.C.

Redefining Purpose-Oriented in the Nonprofit Sector

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I came across this fascinating post in The Chronicle of Philanthropy: Why Nonprofits Need to Give Workers a Sense of Purpose and thought, as many others likely did, what the heck? What’s more full of purpose than showing up to work and having every task, even the most menial, work toward a larger goal of helping others?

I read the piece and realized: this is a different kind of purpose. And I’m totally for it.

The author defines a purpose-oriented worker as the following:

“This group defines work as being about relationships, having a meaningful impact, and personal growth. They see work as a means to serve others and grow themselves. They need to get paid and be acknowledged, but that’s not what gets them out of bed each morning.”

Pay close attention to the inclusion of self-growth in this definition: that’s what is often missing in others, and that is what is a key takeaway here.

The author writes that 45% of all nonprofit workers land in this category, and they are exceptional. We should do all we can to encourage this attitude: one of personal growth and employee fulfillment. This is the way to attract and retain good employees, not just by giving raises across the board (although that helps too!). Investing in our people is the most important thing we can do as nonprofit leaders to ensure the success of the nonprofits of the future.

I encourage you to take a look at the piece – it’s a great read and a good reminder that no matter what sector we work in, taking care of ourselves is the most important thing.

-N.C.

Year Four of Nonprofit Chapin & Tough Conversations

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Today marks four years that I’ve had this blog and let me tell you, my third year was definitely my hardest so far. As you may remember, I received my Masters in Nonprofit Administration in December 2013, right before my blog turned three. I was inspired and ready to tackle some important issues about nonprofit sector effectiveness. And then… life happened. I got wrapped up in the day to day happenings of being a Donor Relations Manager at a very busy nonprofit and almost all of my thought about nonprofit efficiencies switched to wondering how I could stay sane at my job. Then… things clicked.

I realized that while I still had passion and interest in sector-wide issues, the issues I was dealing with on a daily basis weren’t as pretty, and were just as important (or even more important) to talk about. As nonprofit employees, we have a very unique set of challenges and issues to deal with. In years one and two of this blog, I focused more on posting about that. Year three, as I hoped to continue my journey into academia related to the nonprofit sector, unfortunately fell short. But I want to make a renewed commitment to come back to this blog and talk about the nitty gritty of handling yourself as a nonprofit employee. How can we all work hard, thrive, and still go home with some energy? I’m still learning myself, but I hope I can start some dialogue here to get us on the path to some shared ideas.

So, thanks for being patient with me. In year four I hope to tackle some important issues that we all deal with, and bring to light some not-so-pretty subjects. That’s the only way we’ll all get through this journey alive, and at the end of the day, we all hope we get out better than alive! We hope to get out thriving!

-N.C.

P.S. I updated my layout, headshot, About Me blurb, and About Me page – what do you think?

Three Years of Nonprofit Chapin

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Yesterday marked three years since I started blogging here at Nonprofit Chapin. As you may have read in About Nonprofit Chapin, I started this blog because I had heard that blogging would be good for my professional development. Three years later, I can definitely say that’s the case.

Blogging causes me to think critically about my work and the nonprofit sector and communicate these thoughts in a concise, easy-to-understand way. It has helped me put my work and myself into the larger context of the sector and even the world. It has connected me with other like-minded bloggers. And it has given me the confidence that my opinions about important issues are valid and appreciated.

In the next year, I would like to focus my blogging on issues that pertain to the nonprofit sector but also may cross into other sectors. I would like to help us understand the ways we are all changing the world, no matter which sector we work in. For we all have an important role in making lasting change.

I’m looking forward to another great year of sharing my love for nonprofit issues. Thank you for being a part of the Nonprofit Chapin community – I appreciate you!

-N.C.

Singing Praises for the 2014 Gates Annual Letter

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Bill and Melinda Gates published their 2014 Gates Annual Letter last month and it’s a great read. They dive deep into three myths they believe block progress for the poor – poor countries are doomed to stay poor, foreign aid is a big waste, and saving lives leads to overpopulation. I’ll let you read the letter on your own – it has some thought-provoking, insightful content – but the letter’s content isn’t what I want to focus on.

I applaud the Gates’ for not only the important work they are doing with their foundation, but for the way they present it. They are passionate about certain issues and they bring them to the forefront of their communication. And, the world is listening to them. Our society has deemed them as worthy for us to listen to, because of their background, money, or otherwise. The Gates’ have a platform to use to advance whatever they would like to (or not at all), and they have chosen the work they do with their foundation as the work to shout about.

Not only do I like the fact the Gates’ do great work and talk about their great work, I appreciate the way they talk about the issues they are working to solve and the cross-sector work they represent. They don’t put types of people (or types of sectors) in a box or category, siloed and helpless. They talk about the issues and tell everyone there is work to be done. Whether you’re a nonprofit, for profit, or government, there is poverty in the world and it must be eradicated.

I encourage you to take a look at the 2014 Gates Annual Letter. Don’t worry about reading the entire thing for content (unless of course you’re curious about it), but pay attention to the tone of the letter and the way they are communicating. We need many more public figures to talk about issues that we can, and should, all be working on. Whether or not they wanted it, they have immense responsibility to address important issues.

-N.C.

My Big Dream for 2013: The Nonprofit Version

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I’m participating in the Nonprofit Blog Carnival this month. The prompt is what’s your big dream for 2013?

My big dream is much bigger than something that can be accomplished in the next year, but it’s something I hold very dear to my heart, and something I hope to advance in a big way in 2013, the last year before I get my Masters in Nonprofit Administration. I hope to advance the presence of the nonprofit sector in the public eye, and improve its reputation in all ways.

As much as I wish to believe everyone knows and loves the nonprofit sector as much as I do, that’s simply not the case. The public has a very small and often skewed perspective of what the nonprofit sector is. If it isn’t bleeding heart activists or starving children on television, it’s scandalous organizations that do things like Kony 2012 or stop funding Planned Parenthood. Unfortunately, like most things, people only hear about nonprofits when something out of the ordinary happens.

And for most nonprofits, ordinary is beautiful. Ordinary means uplifting people out of poverty, teaching children, caring for the sick, spreading awareness about being environmentally friendly, finding animals homes, and the list goes on and on. Spectacular things are happening every day. But people just don’t know about it.

And we know that people would care to know, because we know that the vast marjority of people give donations. Often, they are giving with blind faith, without knowing fully what the nonprofit is doing for the community. If they knew more, perhaps their involvement would grow.

It’s no one’s fault that the public isn’t fully aware of the sector. It just means that those of us who are its biggest champions have some work to do. We have to talk about our job more at parties, have open conversations with our friends about the organizations we know about, and continue to blog and speak about the sector. It’s a big job, but I know we can do it.

My big dream for 2013 and beyond is that the nonprofit sector is admired as a wonderful, professional, passionate subsect of our society that is contributing invaluable services to our community.

-N.C.

Treading Water in a Sea of Smarties

This past Saturday I participated in NGen: Moving Nonprofit Leaders from Next to Now, the pre-conference session to the Independent Sector conference. The NGen program’s goal is to “enhance the visibility, leadership capacity and professional networks of emerging leaders under age 40.”

If you don’t know what Independent Sector is, I strongly encourage you to visit their website and learn more. It’s an amazing organization that’s working to bridge the conversations that nonprofit organizations and philanthropic entities are having. We must have a larger, more inclusive conversation about what’s going on in the charitable sector.

I signed up to go because the conference was in San Francisco this year and I’m interested in what Independent Sector is doing. What I didn’t expect was how many amazing, intelligent, insightful people I would meet there. There were nonprofit rockstars from around the country sitting at each table discussing sector wide issues, potential solutions, and having incredibly provocative conversations around these issues.

I have to admit I was caught off guard. I’ve always admired this high level thinking, and have thought about it once in a while, but to be able to work for an organization that is advancing these ideals has never been something that’s within my reach. And while I consider myself to be a relatively well versed nonprofit staffer, being surrounded by all these smarty pants was intimidating!

As I listened to what all of them had to say, I soaked up their knowledge and passion, and didn’t pressure myself to have the perfect response or even the need to keep the conversation going. I have much to learn in my time in this sector, and there’s no rush. I just feel fortunate I was able to be in the company of such inspiring people – and one day, I hope to become one of them.

-N.C.

Celebrating One Year of Blogging

I’m commemorating blogging for one year with a blog redesign! I’ve changed my photo, headline, About Me section, and design of the homepage! I’ve even changed my Twitter bio to go along with everything. Please let me know what you think!

What a good exercise this was. Now that it’s been a year, I understand better what I’m passionate about and what comes naturally when I’m thinking about blogging. It wasn’t until I put it into words that I’ve really understood what this blog has become.

Nonprofit Chapin is not just about my experience working in the nonprofit sector. It’s framing my experience in the context of stress management and other important things to incorporate into your life as a nonprofit staffer. It’s about creating personal and professional vision. It’s about getting your needs met, whether that be in the professional or personal sense. It’s about putting you first – something I’m working on as we go! These are the things I’ve felt compelled to write about, and this is what the blog has become.

When I started this blog, I wanted to make sure to write everything from my personal perspective. I didn’t want to pretend to be an expert in the nonprofit sector, in Gen-Y, in anything. I wanted to write from my heart and see what happens. And the product has been something beautiful: writing about the aspects of personal success that aren’t necessarily so prevalent in the workforce – happiness, peace, and love, for yourself and others. These are the things I’m working on for myself, so I’m happy to have you alongside with me.

Thanks for stopping by, and I hope you are continuing to enjoy this journey as much as I am!

-N.C.

Happy Hour Questions (And 2-3 Sentence Answers) to Your Nonprofit Job

Boy are there plenty of misconceptions out there about working for a nonprofit! And since I’ve been doing so full time for almost six years, I’ve heard my share of them. But if you try to explain the intricacies of the sector to someone over a cocktail, nine times out of ten their eyes will glaze over and they’ll be wandering back to the bar before you know it. Here are my three favorite questions, and suggested responses, to the statement: I do fundraising and marketing for a nonprofit.

  • I hate asking for money. How do you do that all day? Fundraising does not equal sales. When people think of fundraising, they think sales: pressure situations, aggression, general impersonal interaction. Fundraising for a nonprofit is probably the opposite of that. The basic premise of fundraising is relationship building, cultivating, and being sensitive to donor wants and needs. My suggested response: It can be difficult. But when you have a good cause to raise money for, it’s really not so bad! In fact, it’s very satisfying to help donors support something they feel passionate about!
  • If you work for a nonprofit, how do you get paid? This one doesn’t always happen, but when it does, I know I’m dealing with a real newbie. Nonprofit does not mean you don’t make a profit, it simply means you are dealing with dual missions: both the cause you are working for and staying financially sound. It’s a better practice to come out in the black, just as it is in the for profit sector. My suggested response: I do get paid – nonprofits are just like businesses, only with a different goal: ours is to help people. We still generate revenue for operations and salaries – in fact, that’s what I do.
  • What is your long term goal? As if working the nonprofit sector is just a stepping stone to your next career. I actually get this question more now that I’m doing my Masters in Nonprofit Administration, because people are perplexed that a program like that even exists. Professionalism in the sector is just picking up steam, and we’re moving in the right direction. My suggested response: I haven’t completely figured it out, but I’m interested in capacity building for nonprofits. So whether that’s strategic planning, doing leadership development, or other consulting, that’s where I’d like to be. But one thing’s for sure: I’m staying in the nonprofit sector.

This is not to knock my for profit counterparts – of course, with the relatively low awareness of nonprofit operations, it’s only inevitable that there are misconceptions. This post is for my nonprofit peers, who suffer with articulating what they do over a martini. Trust me, it’s not as easy as it looks!!

-N.C.

Why You Should’ve Paid Attention in History

If I could identify one theme that I’ve see a lot of in the past two weeks, it’s been the importance of history. At my new job, I’m constantly learning how things have been done historically in my position and in the agency. At school, we’re reading about the history of the nonprofit sector. I’ve never really thought of history’s importance too much until I realized I was being bombarded with it. There are a few key reasons understanding history is important.

  • To get where you’re going you have to know where you came from. I’m not going to lie – my predecessor at work did things much differently than the way I plan to do them in the future. From my perspective, much of his tasks were time intensive, inefficient, and ill-advised. But – I took the time to understand why he did things. I asked questions, and I’m continuing to ask questions of my other colleagues, about reasoning and rationale. Even if I’m hoping to do things differently, it’s good to understand the whole story, so that I can pick and choose my battles.
  • It makes you appreciate how good we have things now. It’s easy to complain that the nonprofit sector has it worse than the other sectors – we get paid less, we don’t get taken seriously, and so on. But in my reading of what the nonprofit sector used to look like – even 50 years ago – I’m jumping for joy about how official the sector is today. It wasn’t that long ago that we weren’t even considered a sector, that donations weren’t tax deductible, and that getting a nonprofit status was impossible. I’m definitely grateful that the sector has exploded the way it has and that I can be a part of it now.
  • Knowing history ensures you have all your tools in your tool belt. Moving forward, knowing the history of something can really help you in shaping goals for the future. Knowing the original goals and understanding why they were in place is essential for continuing a project. Working without this knowledge is like starting from scratch, which is very difficult.

Some might say there’s value to not knowing the history of something – it allows you to shape your own opinions and ideas, free of restriction. I disagree. I think knowing the history but keeping an open mind about the future is a much better balance.

Too bad I didn’t pay closer attention in high school.

-N.C.