Easy Exorcise: Fear of Public Speaking

Continue reading “Easy Exorcise: Fear of Public Speaking”

Charity Begins at Home. How is your Staff’s Home?

I’ve had this headache behind my left eye. I get this from time to time and periodically, it becomes more than an annoyance. It doesn’t literally or figuratively impact my vision but puts a physical boundary on how long I work, which I mostly appreciate. (If my Mom is reading this, she’s wondering if it’s a migraine. If my Dad is reading this, he’s thinking I need to go to the eye doctor.) Continue reading “Charity Begins at Home. How is your Staff’s Home?”

The pessimism in positivity, with or without donuts

Just recently, I was told that my positivity, is downright irritating. It wasn’t just one person who mentioned this to me, it was at least two and perhaps a third was nodding in agreement. If you are a fairly recent friend or colleague of mine, you may be nodding along. Also, you may be right.
Continue reading “The pessimism in positivity, with or without donuts”

The Quiet Transformers

I may be obsessed with examples of great leadership. Naturally, great leadership is defined differently depending on who you speak to and who you listen to. It’s kind of like the whole, self-proclaimed”expert” definition I also find myself rolling around with.

I have never considered myself to be particularly thoughtful over things that have nothing to do with me. I’ve noticed a major shift in the past few years and like Alka-Seltzer, “oh what a relief it is.”

For as long as I can remember, I have always loved the play, Cyrano de Bergerac. What I didn’t realize until much later in life, is that what I enjoy most, both personally and professionally, is behaving with a very similar intention that I perceive the Cyrano character to have. The rewards of virtual anonymity and a full outside view of the fruits of my labor, satisfy me more than anything I have ever experienced. Continue reading “The Quiet Transformers”

Nothing Could be Finer than to Honor Lynn Reiner

When anyone mentions ORT to Lynn Reiner, and people often do, they are likely (and lucky) to catch her infectious enthusiasm and passion for ORT and all things related to elevating education. Lynn’s unique presence leaves a profound and indescribable impact on the people, places and things she touches. This is certainly true for ORT on a global and national scale as well as here in the Metropolitan Chicago Region. She has been unwavering in her dedication to ORT for more than 36 years.

Continue reading “Nothing Could be Finer than to Honor Lynn Reiner”

Brad: A Walking Inspiration

Brad is the best example of WHY I love nonprofit work and philanthropy.

The following essay was written and submitted by my longtime friend, Brad Kolar. He is an inspiration to me and to so many others, I simply HAD to post it on my blog.

Enjoy.

Why I choose to be an “ORT man”

Written and submitted by Brad Kolar

My mom was an “ORT lady.” For those who didn’t grow up in an ORT household, that probably doesn’t mean a lot. However, for those of us who did, that was a big deal.

Continue reading “Brad: A Walking Inspiration”

West Side (Nonprofit) Story

For the love of driving a mission. PLAN. LISTEN. BREATHE. SING.

With an abundance of vim and vigor, I work in the nonprofit sector. As with much of my life, I tend to think in choreography, musical theatre and improv comedy sketches. No matter how long I’ve been out of the performing arts professionally, I still have an artist’s brain with an obsession for the implementation of logical and accessible systems. I am grateful for both sides of my brain.

I have known for more than a decade that the nonprofit sector is exactly where I belong. Whenever my Dad mentions, “Hey Honey, you can always go the corporate route again,” I smile, and sometimes, I even nod.

I thrived in the for profit sector for a few decades. I was so lucky to travel the world, earn a terrific living, engage with lovely people (mostly), and learn a great deal about a host of industries that have since changed dramatically. Growing up (hungry) in the performing arts for much of my life was helpful to my flourishing in the for profit sector. With a starving artist mentality, (because I wanted to be skinny, not because I didn’t have food), I showed up to each gig, grateful for the job, interested in learning, and excited to be around so much innovation. What sorely lacked for me while working in the corporate world, was the feeling that I wasn’t really doing enough to help humankind. The mere thought of collaborating with other like-minded people to move a nonprofit mission and organization forward, to make this world better, often led and STILL leads to thoughts of West Side Story and other musicals I’ve performed in and/or loved:

Something’s coming I don’t know what it is, but it is gonna be great!

When I’m in a meeting with executive leadership, or with a colleague who needs to feel more valued, or with a disappointed donor, or when I choose to eat humble pie, because I KNOW it’s what’s best for the collective good, it always helps to recall and celebrate my musical theatre roots.

When I entered (head/heart first), into the nonprofit world, I was immediately inspired:

Do you hear the people sing? Singing the songs of angry men? It is the music of the people who will not be slaves again! When the beating of your heart echoes the beating of the drums, there is a life about to start When tomorrow comes.

Will you join in our crusade? Who will be strong and stand with me? Somewhere beyond the barricade, is there a world you long to see?

les-miz
Lis Miserables: GREAT show, HEINOUS film.

Truth be told, the music from Les Miserables often plays in my head. Much to my dismay, I never performed in that show, but I was called back a bunch of times for Broadway and the National Tour. My singing wasn’t good enough, and I always knew that. I think I might have had nine callbacks, so I guess I didn’t completely suck. P.S. I guarantee that my Mom, Lois Klier, absolutely knows the exact amount of callbacks and what I wore at each one.

So, while I was undeniably inspired by nonprofit work, I made a shocking discovery:

nonprofits sometimes forget that they’re a business.

In the nonprofits I’ve had the honor of working for, as staff, as a consultant, and as a member of the board of directors, I have noticed a trend:

  • So many meetings, and meetings that are usually not well-organized and that last way too long
  • Poor planning or no planning with reactive rather than proactive actions. Passion for a mission is not enough. Planning is key
  • Too much reliance on gadgets and gizmos to help learn more about the organization’s donors and donor prospects. The best prospect research tool I’ve ever located, is having a conversation with the prospect, and doing more listening than talking. The relationship evolves from there
  • Too much work on staff members’ plates, but in actuality, prioritization is usually out of whack because systems have never been put into place
  • Enormous dependence on fundraising events with no plan for donor retention, post event.
  • Weak marketing – lack of clarity or connective tissue between the organizational mission and its marketing and communications materials
  • Not spending enough time on strengthening the case for support
  • Not celebrating victories. Even small milestones are worthy of a two-minute party. The mission and workload will still be there when you’re done. Praise the collaborative effort, praise your colleagues and leadership.
  • Inserting too much pressure on the Board of Directors and lay leadership for fundraising – THIS is not great cultivation and stewardship if your donor is uncomfortable doing something. It’s the staff’s job to craft a fundraising strategy that works well for the organization. Where do gracious volunteers want to go? What excites them? Have them do that. Support them and develop leaders
  • More than all I have listed above, nearly all of the nonprofits I have been involved with attract the very best, kindest and most talented human beings on the face of the Earth. It serves a nonprofit very well to raise already extraordinary people up, so that the organization has the strength to do what it’s there to do. Elevating people is at the heart of every mission I have ever seen, pondered or worked to move forward

Today, I don’t have to tell you that there is a great deal of fear, worry, anger and shock that is practically suffocating us. While I am not immune to the current climate, I have forced myself to implement a system of boundaries that help keep me free to do what I must do in order to make this world better.

I do fear really well, I just choose not to.

While wallets may tighten and nonprofit tax benefits might change, it doesn’t alter the fact that important nonprofit missions have to be carried out. I would argue, NOW MORE THAN EVER BEFORE.

And while I’m a pragmatist, I might also be a secret optimist. I do believe:

There’s a place for us, A time and place for us. Hold my hand and we’re halfway there. Hold my hand and I’ll take you there Somehow, Some day, Somewhere!

west-side-story-jets-vs-sharks
West Side Story

While the Jets and the Sharks in West Side Story, hated and sought to harm each other, they never really knew each other in the first place. Heartbreaking tragedy struck and that’s what it took for communities to come together. Tony and Maria were more evolved than their peers because they led with love. I choose to lead with love, especially within a storm of chaos.

And from the very first show that bit me in the tush, I urge anyone, even in such challenging times, to think:

When hardship must be faced;Life obliges us with hardship, so the words of wisdom shouldn’t go to waste. To us and our good fortune, be happy be healthy, long life! And if our good fortune never comes, here’s to whatever comes, drink l’chaim, to life! To life, to life, l’chai-im,! L’chai-im, l’chai-im, to life! Life has a way of confusing us, blessing and bruising us, drink l’chaim, to life, to life, l’chaim! L’chaim, l’chaim, to life! A gift we seldom are wise enough, ever to prize enough, drink l’chaim, to life!

fiddler-on-the-roof-2
Fiddler on the Roof

And l’chaim to a nonprofit’s life, and its organizational sustainability. Breathe, listen, pay attention, and please plan the exact moves (ahead of time), on how you’re going to safely get down from the roof without breaking your fiddle, and when you get down, you must already know how you will implement a system of collaboration for the entire community of Anatevka. You are a matchmaker. Make matches for your donors and the organization you work for or serve.

I have faith in you, and in human beings all over the globe. Happy Valentine’s Day.

You’re my favorite work of art.

babes-in-arms
Babes in Arms

Prepare for MAJOR Rant & #MunificenceMonday. #MissionMonday?

WARNING: ENORMOUS rant up ahead. Proceed with caution.

get-off-my-lawn
Is this what almost 50 looks like?

Let me start with the fact that I am being a curmudgeon. While I am not remotely the “Get off my lawn!” type, each year for the past several years, (since #GivingTuesday’s worldwide launch), I have sometimes been less than ecstatic about this ONE particular day. I have my reasons and I’m so happy you inquired:

  1. Numerous nonprofit organizations put far too many resources into a day that much of the time has a nominal return on investment. (If any.)
  2. One day? Really? One day where the whole world collaborates to give? Don’t we need to set some higher standards here?
  3. How does #GivingTuesday impact the state of:
    1. our fractured world?
    2. our psyches?
    3. our collective consciousness?
    4. nonprofit organizations?
    5.  band-aids healing a major fracture?
      1. They do help minor cuts, so if a nonprofit does a decent #GivingTuesday SWOT analysis, and they’re trying to raise a goal that is accessible and won’t drain the organization, I’m fully on board with that and even enthusiastic.
  4. Why does this day follow #CyberMonday? So, let me get this straight… We might spend our money on a bunch of stuff we likely don’t need, just because the sales are so spectacular, and then, if we have a few shekels left, we throw a dime or two into #GivingTuesday? This kind of change, won’t really impact lasting change, will it? There, I said it.
  5. Did I mention I’m cranky?

Okay, okay. I’m breathing now.

Continue reading “Prepare for MAJOR Rant & #MunificenceMonday. #MissionMonday?”

I thought Tinder for Business was my INNOVATIVE Idea.

I also thought attractive winter gloves that successfully utilize mobile devices, (with real human hands actually inside of them), Starbuck’s delivery and eye make up magnifying glasses were also my original, great ideas.

I’m brilliant, I know.

Um, no.

People who may be smarter and more creative than I am had these ideas looooooooong before I had them. (Although, I don’t really think mobile device winter gloves are attractive, and I also think if you’re looking so silly wearing those eye make up magnifying glasses, who needs make up? But, these are simply an opinion from me, who at best, is a questionable fashion plate.)

Wait. There’s no question. I’m not a fashion plate. Continue reading “I thought Tinder for Business was my INNOVATIVE Idea.”

Labor Day & the Workaholic

DISCAIMER: This is a long ass post. I sure hope it’s worth the read. Writer (me), cannot be held responsible for winces, sighs, eye rolls or chocolate eating while reading said long ass post, unless reader (you), shares chocolate with writer (me.)

I can’t be 100% certain, but I don’t think I’ve actually written much, if anything, about my propensity toward workaholism. I am already loving the delicacy (slight touch o’bullshit) of this post, as I just mentioned having a “propensity” toward workaholism. Historically, it’s been far more than a propensity, slight leaning or minor tendency. It has been a…headfirst into any brick wall, full-speed ahead, balls out, whole mind, body and spirit, life-sucking activity. Continue reading “Labor Day & the Workaholic”

Jake Lawler

Writer | Director | Motivational Speaker | Storyteller

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