|March 23, 2015||Posted by M. P. under Education, Interview Series|
Zack Block, a life-long Pittsburgher, is the Director of Repair the World: Pittsburgh, a nonprofit that offers volunteer opportunities tailored to meet local needs. Zack is also Board Chair of the Hillel Jewish University Center, and sits on the advisory committee of the Neighborhood Learning Alliance and the board of The Documentary Works.
First job out of college?
My first job out of college was working for what was Mellon Financial which is now the Bank of New York Mellon. I was a Portfolio Administrator, which means that I assisted people who managed high net worth individuals’ money.
How were you drawn to nonprofit work?
I was a tax attorney for more than 8 years and in reality it was a combination of opportunity and inertia that led me to that role and kept me there. For a long time though I wasn’t happy and I looked at a few things that made me happy while trying to determine what to do next. The first was my family, which I love and they are so supportive of me. The second was my volunteering. I spent a lot of time volunteering in the community and it was incredibly fulfilling work. Those two things are what really drove me to look for work in the nonprofit world.
First thing you do each day?
I am lucky enough to help get my kids ready for school and have breakfast with them. In my old work that wasn’t the norm. After I usually take one of them to school and my wife takes the other one then I head to our workshop. I open up the space and make coffee and heat up water for tea for the fellows when we all get together to meet in the mornings at 9a.m. and really get started on the cohort’s day.
What keeps you motivated?
What really keeps me going is that I believe in the work that we’re doing. We work in both education and food justice and in bringing the Jewish community to this work. We believe that change can occur from either a top down or a bottom up perspective and the work that we do is much more geared to the bottom up perspective. So, for example, our fellows mentor in after school programs and then recruit others to mentor in these after school programs as well. This idea of building a partner’s capacity so that it can carry out its missions more efficiently and effectively also really keeps me going.
Best piece of advice you’ve been given?
Collaboration is the key to success. I don’t remember who shared that with me but I truly believe in collaboration. If you partner and collaborate with good people who are doing good things then only more good can come from it.
What are you reading?
I’m currently reading Robert Putnam’s latest book Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis. I’m reading it with my Repair the World counterparts in Philadelphia and Detroit. The book examines the growing inequality gap in the U.S.
What is one goal that you hope to accomplish in 2015?
I really want to work to start the process aimed at making Repair the World a sustainable program in Pittsburgh.
Best thing about the nonprofit sector in Pittsburgh?
It’s such a collaborative atmosphere. I love collaboration and working with and meeting so many people and individuals who are interested in what we’re doing and how we can and do work together. It’s amazing!
What does Repair the World have coming up this spring?
We have a litter program called Pitch In to Pitch In that we’re kicking off on Friday, March 27 with a dinner. We still have spots open for volunteers on Sunday, March 28.
|March 19, 2015||Posted by M. P. under Health, Research, Uncategorized|
Although the United States leads the world in obesity rates (don’t worry, the world is catching up) a recent study indicates that the majority of Americans do care about their health and put effort into improving or maintaining it. Data from a NPR/Robert Wood Johnson Foundation/Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health survey conducted last fall indicate that just over 60 percent of those polled were concerned with their health and 74 percent reported exercising or participating in vigorous activity at least a few times a week (29 percent reported exercising every day). However, just 16 percent were currently dieting to lose weight.
Also from the March 2015 brief What Shapes Health, approximately 50 percent of Americans feel they have control over their own health, but proportions vary by demographic characteristics. For example, respondents who made more than $50,000 a year were twice as likely to feel that they had control over their health than their peers earning less (28 percent compared to 13 percent). Far more respondents with a college degree (27 percent) reported having control over their health compared to those with a high school diploma or less (15 percent). Also, respondents in fair or poor health, or from a household making less than $25,000 a year, had the most concern for their own future health.
Respondents did not identify a single cause of American health problems, rather the responses clustered at the top included a lack of access to high quality care (42 percent), personal behavior (40 percent), and virus/bacteria (40 percent). The most popular responses regarding what could be done to improve health were also varied – increasing access to affordable, healthy food (57 percent), reducing illegal drug use (54 percent), reducing pollution and increasing access to high quality health care (both at 52 percent).
|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)