Monthly Archives: February 2010

Dreaming Bigger than Life

UniversalGiving was recently honored to be featured on WomenEntrepreneur.com, in an article titled “Philanthropy With a Business Model.”  I discussed how UniversalGiving’s service works, and the spirit behind it.  One of the best parts of an article like this is the opportunities it opens up for further dialogue.  We received a few comments to the article, one of which I’d like to answer here.

Here’s the comment from Martica:

I also love this article. It’s about someone actually doing what I aspire to do. It’s good to know that there are also people like you and me who have this passion. What is your ‘bigger than life dream’?

I offered this answer:

Dear Martica, thank you for your message. That’s a very good question, and I would like to know your answer, too!

My bigger than life dream is World Trust. What I mean by that, is that peace comes by relationships. Trusting relationships. Long-term relationships. And if UniversalGiving can connect people, one by one, in long-term trusting relationships, where people are mutually giving, then we can reach a new level of trust. Trust that grows across our world: “World Trust.”

I am not sure we can “create Peace.” We have to build relationships, and, it takes time. If connect personally, one by one, to each other, then we build increased understanding. We love each other for who we truly are. Stereotypes, race, ethnicitiy, gender, politics become secondary as we embrace the qualities such as honesty, integrity, joy, intellect, kindness which we admire in others. Building these trusting relationships, builds World Trust, which can then, lead to peace.

In any type of relationships, between donor and receiver, volunteer and nonprofit, parent and child, friend to friend, business collegue to advisor, the relationship is equally giving. We can all learn. We can all share and understand more thoroughly someone’s identity; values; culture; principles. From that comes growing admiration, respect, trust — and true enjoyment in the relationship. And from that, develops peace.

So that, Martica, is my bigger than life dream. 🙂 World Trust that leads to World Peace.

What’s yours?

Grateful for your question, Pamela

Tips for New Entrepreneurs

Halle Tecco recently posted an excellent article on Huffington Post, “10 Free Things Every Social Entrepreneur Should Have.”  A social entrepreneur herself, Halle brings great wisdom to the subject, offering excellent resources and ideas every new social entrepreneur should think about.  These include everything from board members to social media accounts to an exciting logo.  I recommend checking out the complete list, and I also wanted to share a few of my favorite “things every social entrepreneur should have.”

Accountants.  We need very sound accountants. We can’t overlook some of the ‘mundane’ but important in managment, especially if you are a hybrid.

Intern/Volunteer Team. We need a strong intern and/or volunteer team.   Interns can bring in amazing ideas and execution. They can also bring in such a positive influence in your culture!

Your Informal Board of Advisors. We all need outside, “not formal” advisors. Make sure you have your “informal” Board of Advisors that guides you, listens to you, helps you. This is really important on ethics and keeping yourself true to yourself, and consistently in line with integrity.

Moving from Entrepreneur to Social Entrepreneur

As you saw from my last story, and “Pam’s Place,”  I’d always been very entrepreneurial.   I loved to create little businesses.   But there is a time when we move from being an entrepreneur, to being a social entrepreneur.  Peter Samuelson, film director and founder of Starlight Children’s Foundation, encapsulated that pivotal moment for me.   I first met Peter through the Leadership Institute, started by management guru Warren Bennis at USC Business School.

The continuous thread in my life was about helping.  At the time, I was in graduate school, heading into broadcast journalism with the goal of changing the tenor of media news.  I wanted to see a world where we could emphasize positive developments in our world. It’s not that we ignore the tough situations; it’s just that any entrepreneur knows you focus on building towards a new vision of a better world. If you build towards it, you will realize it. You focus on solutions.  If you focus only on the negative, you’ll stay there.  Move into the new world you envision. 

But Peter got up and spoke about “entrepreneurial philanthropy” or “social entrepreneurship.”  “We need to make a difference in a strategic, business-like way, while serving our communities!” he proclaimed.  He essentially galvanized us with his relentless passion. I’ve never seen anyone speak like that.

My heart dropped. Tears filled my eyes. At that point I was going through my mid-life crisis at age 25 —  4 jobs in three years. And in an inkling, I knew what I wanted to do.  I wanted to be a social entrepreneur.   Peter brought my vision of how I wanted to serve – with compassion and business principles  – to life.

The relief, the joy, the glory…to know… that I was made to be a social entrepreneur.

I left the Leadership Conference and ran to a payphone (yes, a payphone) and called my Dad, “Dad, Dad, I know what I want to do!” I excitedly explained. He listened with joy and support as he always does.  “That’s great, honey!  And… how do you get paid?”

That was another journey…

Philanthropy Girl: “Now That’s a Pencil!”

An Early Start on Entrepreneurship

At age 10 I set up a store called  “Pam’s Place” in my room.  I had this Dutch half door in my room.  I put up a colorful sign for my new business, unlocked the top portion of the door, and swung it open.  I was open for business!

Pam’s Place ‘featured’ pencils, bookmarks and magnets.  I would decorate them and then try to sell them to my family. One day I tried to sell my Dad a pencil.  He said to me, “Now why would I buy this pencil? You need to show me how this is special. Because I can go to Walgreen’s and buy a similar pencil.”

I scurried back to my room. I decorated it with glitter, sparkles, and felt. I came back with my ‘special’ pencil. I was breathing hard for my little body, and anticipating what my father might say….

He took the pencil in his hands and turned it carefully, looking at it, with all the goopy colorful stars smeared on it.  His eyes and face lit up: “Now that’s a pencil!”  he said. And he bought it for 10 cents.  It was my first sale.  🙂  With his support and encouragement, I kept delving into more and different entrepreneurial ventures.

My Dad taught me about value. And so much more: The value not only of a product, but also values in general.  How you treat people, how you work with them, how you care for them during challenges.  To this day when I face a challenge he says, ” I don’t want you to stress about this. Let me walk with you. Let me be by your side.  Let me be your partner. We will solve this.”   His investment of intellect, love, care are endless and make me the social entrepreneur I am today.

It started with a pencil.  Make it sparkle.

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A Customized Workforce: Honoring the Individual

Developing a strong workforce with customized schedules is both simple and complex.  It revolves around simple concepts, such as creating defined work agreements that play to the organization’s needs and to the individual’s strengths.  However, varying schedules can be challenging to implement.  But it’s worth it.  Keep in mind the respect has to go both ways, respecting both the organization’s needs and the individual’s needs.  The organizational goals, and the individual’s goals.  Therefore, we have a variety of team members; some people work part-time; some are full-time; some are volunteers; some are consultants, interns, and paid interns.  The most important element emphasized at UniversalGiving is trust and longterm relationships, not whether someone fits into a perfect mold.

How do you go about creating an efficient, effective and customized workplan for your team?    One might think it’s just easier to have a uniform policy and apply it across the board.   And sometimes, that does work best. It’s hard to manage people coming in at different times of days, different days, according to different hours.  The consequence is that it can also be equally hard if you don’t listen to your employees’ preferences and how they work best.

Here’s a shot at what we do, in process, when working with our team. Keep in mind that this type of customization is changing. Stay on the pulse!

Honor Service and Team Work

First, we do have a baseline principles in service. We  have operating hours from 9 a.m. until  5 p.m.  We have a commitment of client service that we need to maintain for our public users, corporate clients, NGOs, donors and volunteers.   Our rule is that we have coverage  to maintain this communication, accessibility, and commitment to excellence in our relationships.  So we might not have everyone here from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., but we most certainly have different people providing coverage during that time.  It’s a key difference.

Additionally, it also has to do with effective teamwork.  We need to discuss and collaborate across business units.  Unexpected issues can surmount during the day. For UniversalGiving, a new natural disaster or crisis will necessitate immediate collaboration across our NGO and Marketing teams. This is often easier done in person, with discussions in person, especially when it involves multiple people and cross-department collaboration.

Finally, it’s critical to build and maintain a solid team.  It’s simply pleasant to build practical, strong communications, as well as solid, long-term relationships, in office, where you can. So many people talk about the importance of building a good team. This is true.  But what we don’t note is that we also have to “practice” being a team. It’s like any other sports team: you have to practice. And we “practice” by weakening or strengthening each of our communications on a daily basis. This type of communication is often, but not always, best in person.

Meet the Individual’s Needs

Therefore, having operating hours, establishing effective teamwork and building a successfully communicating team are essential.

So we’ve covered the above organizational goals and needs.  Then, critically important, we address the needs of each team member. We listen to our team members and then assess what would be the most productive work environment, hours and schedule for them and for us.  For example, one very strong and committed team member, Cheryl,  works 2 hours away from the office in Sacramento.  She works from home, and comes in twice per month for team meetings.

Because of the commute, she can only work about six hours on the days she’s in the office. She requested to work fewer hours on those days as she values her balance, and she works extremely hard every other hour of the week. A ten hour day doesn’t fit with her goals.  We discussed options, and that was her choice: Outside of her paid position at UniversalGiving, she’s an aspiring novelist, and needs to focus on writing at night.  We try to honor this goal and respect her time.

Cheryl is indeed special. She’s proven her work ethic.  Her volume of work accomplished is laudable. In fact, she’s more productive staying focused at home. She’s our premier writer, so we want her focused at the computer and not distracted. She’s a very good communicator and extremely responsive via email.   So she contributes to our team in an important,  but different, manner.   She has an extremely effective and engaging way of communicating on email, so you feel it almost is in person; therefore she is a strong contributor to our culture.  Most importantly, she’s top notch ethical. We trust her and love having her on the team for the so many valuable qualities mentioned above.

Sofia was a stellar in-office volunteer with us, with whom we have wonderful values alignment. She then got a job, but wanted to continue working with us. So we created a special role for her:  She interviews and screens all of our potential interns; reviews writing samples; and holds phone interviews. She can do this evenings and weekends.   She’s an extremely important ‘first line’ for us, ensuring we have new team members and is also a protection to our positive culture.

Listening also goes up the scale of the organization.  Our COO moved to Spain to be with her family.  We like to honor that commitment.  Family is critical to who we are; the health of the individual.  We don’t want to get in the way of family or relationships; however, it must be said, that that person must be trusted, have a long-term track-record, and their duties must be able to be accomplished wherever they are.  We assess each person, each case, situationally.

Now we can lead into some special case scenarios.  One of the most relevant examples I can think of of truly listening to your employees is Maternity Leave.

Maternity Leave: Don’t Tell the CEO  When You Are Coming Back

As CEO, I actually don’t want to know when you’re coming back.

Don’t tell me.

Because in all honesty? You don’t know. At this time, you probably don’t know what is best for you, and best for your family. And what is best for you, will most positively effect UniversalGiving as well.

When you do come back, I want you excited and refreshed to come back.  Not due to a forced timeline. You most likely will feel differently than you thought!   Have your baby, nurture your family, and when it is right, we look forward to and welcome you back warmly.  Our COO expected to be back from maternity leave in June, but is only just coming back now in January.  There should be a naturalness when people return.

Having given successful examples, I can tell you that there are times when this is not optimal.  In large part, this has to do with the lack of integrity from the individual in not working, not achieving their goals, and not communicating.  There most certainly has to be mutual respect, a consistent work ethic, a fine track record, and a long-term relationship to make customized work schedules….actually work.

Honor Each Other

I hope we can all encourage each other to be fresh and energized–whether that’s a question of coming back from maternity leave, or of getting away from work in the evening and weekends.  We need to be renewed.  We need to feel honored as whole, functioning people with families, outside interests, balanced lives as well as our commitment to achieving the goals and vision of the organizations for whom we work. When people feel their work lifestyle ‘fits’ them, and that you honor them fully as an individual, then they will be even more inspired to help with the vision. It’s truly not about work. It’s about honoring each other’s life purpose.

Listen. Customize.  Create and maintain a happier, productive team. In so doing, your organizational goals will be honored, as well as the goals of each team member.