|February 24, 2015||Posted by M. P. under Interview Series, Management, Technology|
Name: Jan Kubiska
Jan is the Director of Information Technology for Pressley Ridge, a nonprofit that provides Education, Treatment Foster Care, Residential, and Community-based services to children and families in six states and internationally. In 2014, Jan was President of St. Lucy’s Auxiliary to the Blind, an organization she has volunteered with since 2007. During that time she served on several committees, including chairing the 2012 Medallion Ball, and as a Special Member on the board of Blind and Vision Rehabilitation Services of Pittsburgh (BVRS).
Years in the Pittsburgh area? I grew up in Pittsburgh. I went to Loyola College and then spent a summer working in London. After college I lived in Washington D.C. for 3 years. I came back to Pittsburgh in 2002 when I got married.
First job out of college? I was a technology consultant with a company called Xpedior in Washington D.C. It was 1999 – the dot com boom – and I was offered the job the fall of my senior year. It was definitely an interesting experience!
How were you drawn to nonprofit work? I can’t say it was done on purpose. When I had my first daughter in 2005 I was working for a small technology consulting company in Pittsburgh. While I liked my job, it was what I called “feast or famine,” depending on whether we had a project going or not. I loved the busy periods because I didn’t feel guilty being at work, but when it was quiet I regretted not being home with my daughter. I had Pressley Ridge on my radar prior to having my daughter, so when our conversations started up again it seemed like a good fit.
First thing you do each day? If my daughters wake up before me, they get into our bed and we talk. If I am up first, I’ll stay in bed reading emails, etc. and enjoy the silence.
What keeps you motivated? I always have goals – personally and professionally (and all self-imposed) – that keep me going. My parents are both very successful professionally and I have always looked up to them. My mom went back to school when she was pregnant with her 4th child and got her MBA, graduating at the top of her class. Looking at that…I can’t see anything as a barrier.
Share your favorite time-saving/productivity hack: I am a list queen, but I am not sure that really saves me time because I spend too much time making lists! I do love apps like Wunderlist and I think OneNote is a great program to use in meetings to keep notes, etc. I also love a clean inbox and sent items folder, and I file most emails. I recently learned about the “Clean Up” feature in Outlook that deletes older messages in a conversation history – it has saved time during my mission to keep those folders clear.
Best piece of advice you’ve been given? Don’t be afraid to ask questions and don’t apologize for it. I see a lot of egos in IT that want to prove they know everything – which is just impossible in this sector. I used to be hesitant to admit what I don’t know, but now I am the first person to ask questions, even if they are basic. There is no other way to keep up with the changes of this sector. It’s not possible to be an expert in everything. I have a group of colleagues and friends I turn to regularly to help answer my questions.
What are you reading right now? Currently I am reading Wild. I also read a lot of “Chick Lit” (Bridget Jones type books). Anything set in London I love and I can read them all as way to chill my brain out. I do more intellectual audio books for driving like The Power of Habit which I am listening to for the second time now.
What trend(s) do you see playing an important role in nonprofit technology in 2015? More organizations will take the leap into “the cloud.” That is such an overused term and means many different things; however there are cost savings, risk reduction and efficiencies to be gained by exploring what technologies are better served in “the cloud.” It also allows IT staff to focus more on improving the use of technology versus always being primarily focused on servers, etc.
What is one goal that you hope to accomplish in 2015? Professionally, we are implementing a new electronic health record system at Pressley Ridge. I want to see that project to a successful completion as well as explore the possibility of moving our data center and disaster recovery site off-site. Personally, I would like to get back into the running groove and complete another half-marathon.
Best thing about the nonprofit sector in Pittsburgh? There is an endless amount of amazing organizations in Pittsburgh, and when there is a need, Pittsburghers fill the void. My dad spent a month in the hospital 18 months ago and in the waiting room we were surrounded by families from out of town. We were so fortunate to have our home close by and took that for granted. Many of these families were staying at Family House facilities so they weren’t burdened by high hotel costs while they stayed in town to be with their family members.
|February 14, 2015||Posted by M. P. under Management, Research|
Would you give your board an A plus in performance? If yes, then you are in the minority according to Leading with Intent: A National Index of Nonprofit Board Practices, a report that indicates both nonprofit executives and board chairs consider their board performance only slightly above average, with an overall grade of B minus. Survey respondents from across the country rated their boards in various areas of responsibilities with average grades ranging from an A minus in mission to a C in fundraising.
The study, conducted by BoardSource, found that boards excel at tasks of a technical nature, such as compliance and fiscal oversight, while lagging in community outreach and acting as an “ambassador” for the organization. Other areas of improvement noted:
- Diversity. Inclusiveness in board composition – not as a numbers issue but as a valid representation of people involved in the organization – is an area in need of attention with 35 percent of the CEOs surveyed giving their board a B or above in this area.
- Showing up. Board attendance is declining, with less than half (37 percent) of boards surveyed reporting 90 percent or better attendance in 2014.
- Raising money. While board giving is up, fundraising is a sensitive issue. Less than ¼ of boards reported even being comfortable with providing donor contact information, and just 12 percent were comfortable meeting donors face to face.
- Information and strategy. 35% of the boards received a C or below in the area of strategic planning.
This was a national study, but board report cards are also a great tool at the organizational level. These kind of self-evaluations help gauge board members’ perceptions of their own levels of knowledge and confidence, as well as measure overall board performance. This information assists the board in identifying and discussing areas of strengths and limitations and prioritizing governance actions for the upcoming year.
Report Citation: BoardSource, Leading with Intent: A National Index of Nonprofit Board Practices (Washington, D.C.: BoardSource, 2015)
|January 24, 2015||Posted by M. P. under Interview Series|
Throughout 2015 I will be posting interviews with nonprofit professionals from the Pittsburgh area. This is the first installment – an email question and answer session with Heidi Baldt Matthews. Heidi is Operations Director and Co-Founder of the Eclectic Laboratory Chamber Orchestra (E.L.C.O.), a volunteer post that is truly a labor of love as her co-founder is also her husband, David Matthews. She was the Programming Coordinator at Gateway to the Arts for 10 years and just started as the Marketing and Communications Coordinator at The Woodlands Foundation. Heidi was recently named to the board at Music on the Edge.
Name: Heidi Baldt Matthews
Years in the Pittsburgh area: About 12 years – wow! Where does time go?
First job out of college: Part Time Ticket Service Representative for ProArts Tickets
How were you drawn to nonprofit work?
I originally was looking to focus on the arts, not necessarily nonprofit. My first full-time job was with Gateway to the Arts in 2004 and I was really enthusiastic and excited to help out in any way that I could. There I learned more about the challenges and opportunities encountered by nonprofits and generally more about how they function. I also learned that there was SO MUCH MORE TO LEARN.
In 2009, I decided to pursue a master’s degree to supplement my “real world” learning. I considered a master’s in arts management, but found that Robert Morris University’s Bayer Center for Nonprofit Management program for M.S. in Nonprofit Management was a better fit for me. I found it incredibly beneficial to have classmates in different stages of their careers within the nonprofit sector. It was really interesting to gain the perspective of how people from nonprofits outside of the arts approached the same situations.
I continue to be drawn to the nonprofit sector because it’s important to me to feel good about what I do. When I have a bad day it helps so much to reflect upon the good that is capable of coming out of what can sometimes be frustrating and tiring work.
How did E.L.C.O. come to be?
Starting around 2007 my then fiancé, David, kept encouraging me to start a theatre company as it was good match with my experience in stage management and bachelor’s degree in theatre from Point Park. I didn’t want to start a theatre company just for the sake of starting a theatre company…and I didn’t yet have a distinctive idea that I liked. That conversation went on for about a year.
One day David enthusiastically handed me a proposal for an experimental chamber music ensemble. He wanted to present classical music alongside pop and rock music to reach new audiences that had never experienced orchestral music before. Without hesitation, I said, “Let’s do it.”
We placed an ad on Craigslist and put up fliers around town and at the universities with a call for auditions for volunteer experimental chamber musicians. We had folks auditioning in our tiny living room and David’s attic studio. It was nuts. The double bass player almost smacked the top of her instrument on our ceiling fan. The Brew House on the South Side helped us with performance space and support for our first concert in November 2008.
E.L.C.O. applied for and was granted nonprofit status at the end of 2013. It was a big decision for us. I’m firmly of the opinion that an organization should not become a nonprofit just because it can. The three directors of E.L.C.O. (David Matthews – Artistic Director, Alan Tormey – Associate Creative Director and I) take this status very seriously. We experimented with different business models and strategies, and with the help of Greater Pittsburgh Art Council’s Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts program, determined that becoming a nonprofit was the best course for the ensemble.
But the real answer to how E.L.C.O. came to be is through the hard work and dedication of a kick-ass group of adventurous, resilient, talented, and incredible young, professional artists who volunteer their time and skills to making interesting music. They’re the best! They blow my mind.
First thing you do each day?
- 4:45am – 5:00am: hit snooze on my alarm (set to Laurie Anderson’s “O Superman” as I find it motivating and not overly jarring as an alarm). Turn on podcast of choice.
- 5:00am – 5:05am: Floss and brush teeth.
- 5:05am – 5:10am: Turn on all the lights on the first floor of our home, then feed cat.
- 5:10am – 5:30am: Caffeine and get dressed while scrolling through social media, email and/or the Internet. I have a love/hate relationship with my smart phone.
- 5:30am-6:00am or 6:30am: Kickboxing DVD in my living room.
- Breakfast and shower post-kickboxing. I am now prepared to interact with my fellow humans. Woe be unto whomever interferes with my morning routine.
Between your work and your leadership role with E.L.C.O. – what keeps you motivated?
The kick-ass artists who have dedicated, volunteered, and invested their time, talent, and skills into E.L.C.O.! My brain sometimes likes to tell me that E.L.C.O. is too hard and that I can’t do it. When that happens, I remember those folks and I want to be as awesome as they are. I pick myself up and get I back to working on what I need to do.
Share a favorite time-saving or productivity hack:
Do one thing at a time. When I actually do this, it works like MAGIC.
Getting enough sleep and being appropriately – but not overly – caffeinated. Again – MAGIC.
Best piece of advice you’ve been given?
If you can think of anything else you want to do, do that instead, otherwise the arts are too hard. Work in the arts only because you can’t not do it.
What’s the best thing about the nonprofit sector in Pittsburgh?
The best thing is the sense of community and support that can be found here. All of the nonprofits I’ve approached regarding partnerships with E.L.C.O. have been so giving and filled with people that are a pleasure to work with. Also, I really love the Bayer Center for Nonprofit Management, Greater Pittsburgh Art Council’s Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts, and the Carnegie Library Foundation Center.
What are you listening to right now?
John Cage’s 4’33”. It’s the only way David and I can work.
What do you hope to accomplish in 2015?
We had a great 2014 – we tripled our typical performance schedule, with one performance being the largest we’d embarked upon to date, including an international guest artist who specialized on the Ondes Martenot – are rare electronic instrument. This year, we plan to revisit our more typical production schedule. We’re in the process of filing for our 501c3 status as well as planning a development strategy upon receipt of the new status.
We’re kicking off E.L.C.O.’s 2015 season with “Critical Band”, a concert of experimental orchestra music and ambient 90s shoegazer style stuff, on Sunday, March 15 – 2pm at the Charity Randall Theatre in Oakland. I would also love to invite everyone reading this to considering joining The Secret Society of the Eclectic Laboratory Chamber Orchestra at the end of 2015. Check E.L.C.O.’s Facebook page and website for clues leading up to the initiation ceremony.
|January 8, 2015||Posted by M. P. under Management, Program Model, Research|
Here’s your one word resolution for 2015 – collaborate. If you already are, do it strategically and more often. If you aren’t, you are missing out on a highly adaptable, relatively low-cost way to increase impact. A December 2014 study from the Bridgespan Group, in conjunction with The Lodestar Foundation, found that collaboration isn’t just a popular topic in the nonprofit sector – it’s actually happening and it’s working well for the majority of players.
Highlights from the study,
Collaboration is happening. The trend is real. Over 90 percent of the nonprofit leaders surveyed had participated in one of the forms of collaboration examined by the study (associations, joint programs, shared support functions, and mergers) within the last three years, with 54 percent participating in at least two forms. The majority (93 percent) of nonprofit executives expect to become involved in additional collaboration during 2015.
People in the sector like it. The majority (over 70 percent) of nonprofit executives described the collaborations they participated in as successful. Only a small percentage of each type of collaboration did not achieve their intended goals, according to respondent ratings.
People in the sector intend to do more of it. Both nonprofit executives and foundations reported their intention to do more collaboration in the future. Funders want to see more collaboration in the sector, specifically shared support functions (76 percent) and mergers (55 percent).
Additional findings, including the very real challenges facing quality collaboration, are included in the brief Making Sense of Nonprofit Collaborations by Alex Neuhoff, Katie Smith Milway, Reilly Kiernan, and Josh Grehan, available at the Bridgespan Group website.
One note of caution. Before you get the urge to start trimming programs also offered by peer organizations or make merger your “word for 2015″, check out the article Again, Nonprofit Mergers are no Cure All at Nonprofit Quarterly. Collaboration takes many forms and not all may be the best fit for your mission, constituency or bottom line. If collaboration is your resolution for 2015 then, as with all resolutions, start slowly, research what will work best for you, and keep at it.