Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Get to Know our Summer Interns!

Brita Midness (left) and Kalle Byers (right)

Kalle Byers is the new Fund Development Intern at the Charities Review Council. She is looking forward to graduating in December of 2013 from the College of St. Benedict and St. John’s University. Kalle is majoring in Accounting with a Finance concentration and has a double minor in Psychology and Management. Kalle is very interested in the nonprofit sector’s impact on the community. 

1. What is the most important thing you have learned since starting at the Charities Review Council?
I have found networking and collaboration to be key tools for a successful nonprofit. The nonprofit sector is filled with many challenges, but with the insight and support of others, those challenges can become exciting opportunities.

2. What is your favorite nonprofit organization?
There are many good nonprofits, but my personal favorite is World Vision, a Christian humanitarian organization. They are “dedicated to working with children, families, and their communities worldwide to reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice”. I have also learned about many great local nonprofits on the Charities Review Council list of organizations Meeting Standards as well.

3. Have you seen nonprofits have an effect in your community?
Yes, I have worked closely with many nonprofits that have helped in a variety of areas. I have helped file tax returns for low-income families, participated in a mission trip to Ecuador, worked with Feed My Starving Children in collaboration with many organizations, and, most recently, enjoyed volunteering with World Vision for their poverty simulation.

4. Tell us about one of your hobbies.
I got my PADI License when I was thirteen and have enjoyed scuba diving in Minnesota, Hawaii and Florida. I really love the quiet peacefulness of being underwater and just casually swimming by hundreds of years of history and tiny ecosystems that grow in the ocean.

5. What do you like to read?
I am currently investigating my authentic leadership skills with the help of Bill George’s, True North. I also am strengthening my long-term planning skills by getting insights through Meg Jay’s book, The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter--And How to Make the Most of Them Now.

6. What cartoon character would you be?
I would be Perry the Platypus on Phineas and Ferb because he solves crimes and is always there when he is needed.

* * *

Brita Midness is the new Engagement and Marketing Intern at the Charities Review Council. Brita is a recent graduate of Colby College in Maine where she double majored in Global Studies and French Studies. In the fall of 2013, she will begin a Masters in Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of St Andrews in Scotland.

1. What attracted you to the Charities Review Council?
The collaborative approach to strengthening communities initially drew me to the Council. The opportunity to learn about how to help charities increase their effectiveness within communities and how to help donors make informed giving decisions is something that I have very much enjoyed being a part of thus far. I believe that community engagement is an integral component in fostering respect and positive change within our community. 

2. What is your favorite Accountability Standard?
One of my favorites is the Impact on the Community Standard. This standard encourages organizations to not lose sight of the importance of having a positive impact in the community. Furthermore, it provides a means of measuring that impact and thus a platform that can be built on for years to come.

3. Have you seen nonprofits have an effect in your community?
As a native of Minnesota, I have seen how our vibrant nonprofit community takes a lead role in encouraging positive change in a variety of areas. Minnesota provides an arena for the effective use of cross sector partnerships that facilitate sustained community engagement. After living and studying in the USA, Switzerland, and the UK, the prevalence of nonprofits in each of the communities that I have lived was very encouraging. Despite the different issues present in each community, the role of nonprofits is important no matter where you are in the world.

4. Tell us about one of your hobbies.
I am an avid reader and enjoy reading both fiction and nonfiction. After living in the US and Switzerland, I have developed a passion for languages and consequently, particularly enjoy reading literature in both French and English. Sitting down with a good book is one of my favorite ways to spend a rainy afternoon.

5. Do you have a favorite dessert?
I am a fan of all desserts, but above all I love mint chocolate chip ice cream.

6. What is your favorite sport?
My favorite sport is basketball and, being from Minnesota, I am a fan of both the Timberwolves and the Lynx.

By Kalle Byers and Brita Midness

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Annual Forum 2013: ‘Little Bets’ are a Means to Success

By Brita Midness
Engagement and Marketing Intern

The Charities Review Council’s Annual Forum took place on June 11, 2013. It was an event dedicated to strengthening our community by encouraging all organizations to work collectively in order to implement positive change. In keeping with this year’s theme: Dare to Fail on the Road to Discovery, attendees were encouraged to share their own experiences of risk-taking and failure. The importance of finding innovative approaches to improve our communities resonated in each speaker’s remarks and the conversations sparked among the attendees themselves.

The event opened with music by Youth Performance Company as the crowds gathered to network and enhance cross-sector partnerships within the community. The wide range of organizations in attendance at the Annual Forum reflects the Council’s commitment to engage with the many different communities that form the fabric of Minnesota.

 Sims described Minnesota as “the bread basket of philanthropy in the country.”

Peter Sims, the event’s keynote speaker, is a national best-selling author and his recent book, Little Bets: How Breakthrough Ideas Emerge from Small Discoveries, explores the important role of making ‘little bets’ to achieve successful outcomes. Sims believes that this practice of experimentation can be applied to any sector, including the nonprofit sector, where innovation allows organizations to enhance their collective impact by taking risks together.

Sims began by describing how the company Pixar came to be. While illustrating how this innovative company developed, he highlighted the role of small wins that led to momentous discoveries. Sims built on this story to develop a narrative that transcended beyond this one instance of success to find common ground in the experiences of those working in other sectors. In doing so, he emphasized the importance of learning from failures to build toward future successes.

The audience, comprised of members of nonprofits, local businesses, government, and community leaders, found common ground in his words. Sims described Minnesota as “the bread basket of philanthropy in the country.” By encouraging nonprofit accountability and informed charitable giving, the greater Minnesota community can continue developing innovative approaches to community improvement. Sims cited passion, vision and a willingness to make ‘little bets’ as important paving stones on the path to positive change, an idea that can be applied to strengthening community initiatives. Sims also acknowledged that setbacks will likely occur along the way, however, these setbacks should be treated as learning opportunities rather than permanent roadblocks. In addition, by reframing our concept of failure, these perceived instances of failure can be transformed into moments of discovery on the quest for innovative solutions in order to more effectively address issue areas in communities.

The idea of making ‘little bets’ to achieve positive change deeply resonated in the room, as audience members took turns standing up to share both their own ‘little bets’ as well as their questions prompted by Sims' research. The audience of over 300 people actively participated in the conversation surrounding making ‘little bets’ by taking to Twitter to share their own experiences as well as reflect upon what they had learned at the Annual Forum. Each tweet was displayed on large screens at each end of the room: a vibrant representation of the commitment of the members of our Minnesota community to encouraging positive change.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Risk Taking: A Road to New Opportunities #AnnualForum13

This year’s Annual Forum, taking place next Tuesday, June 11, is focused on how we can Dare to Fail on the Road to Discovery. Rich Cowles, former Executive Director of the Charities Review Council, took a moment to share his thoughts on risks and failure. His experiences highlight how a perceived failure in one instance can open the door to new opportunities. With the Annual Forum just around the corner, Rich’s words show that taking a risk can lead individuals and communities down new paths to success.

Tell us about a time you took a risk and it didn’t work out. What did you learn in the process? 

Many years ago I tried to become a syndicated columnist writing stories of family life. It was a risk because it took a lot of energy and effort to make connections in the newspaper syndication world and to market myself. I didn’t want to slight my busy job and frenetic family life (4 kids, coaching soccer, etc.) And I risked failing—the odds of succeeding were poor. And, sure enough, other than getting a few individual pieces syndicated, my results were zippo. 

I never regretted it and learned a lot in the process, such as:
  • You always find time to pursue a dream, no matter how busy you are.
  • The only failure would have been not to follow the dream.
  • It gave me even more energy for the rest of my life.
  • I needed to find a way to instill that kind of passion in my job. I found that by moving to the nonprofit sector. 

What is a little bet you’ve recently made in your life that helped you accomplish a goal? 

 I retired from the Charities Review Council a year ago. No question that was a bet: Could I find meaning in life without all the professional relationships and work-related intellectual challenges that had dominated my life? Could I buck the stereotype that retirement is tantamount to being put out to pasture? As with many bets, I gained self-understanding, made a few adjustments, and fully appreciate my new, enriched lifestyle. I do miss the Council and all the wonderful people I worked with, but my new lifestyle affords me more time to pursue what I value most at this juncture in life—deepening relationships with family and friends.

Why do you think it’s important to take risks?

If you think of life as an ongoing educational process, it’s absolutely essential—because of all the vital learning and gained insight that goes with taking little bets—especially when you fail.

This year’s Annual Forum provides an opportunity to actively engage in life’s continual cycle of education, particularly by learning from the experiences of others working in the nonprofit, governmental, and philanthropic sectors. Failure isn’t an end; it’s the means to a new beginning. Come learn about taking risks and daring to fail in order to achieve positive change in communities at the Annual Forum.

The last day to register for the event is TOMORROW! Visit annualforum13.eventbrite.com or call 651-224-7030.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Annual Forum 2013: Risks Are the Way We Grow

In keeping with the theme of this year’s Annual Forum, Dare to Fail on the Road to Discovery, our brave Board Chair, Anita Patel, who is Vice President of Racial Justice & Public Policy at the YWCA of Minneapolis, took the time to answer a few questions about taking risks. With the Annual Forum just one week away, Anita’s insight offers a vivid portrayal of the benefits of taking a leap to achieve positive and sustainable change in our community.

Tell us about a time you took a risk and it didn’t work out. What did you learn in the process? 

I took a risk by taking on a program designed to increase representation of women and people of color on boards of directors. We created the program based on demonstrated need, but neglected to take into account the desire of the marketplace to pay for the program. While it was a great program calculated on what our community needs to truly become inclusive, we eventually transferred it to another organization that had the capacity to keep the program running based on its mission and funding capacity. I learned that it is important to leap—to develop programs and to set goals, which look to what needs to be built, and one must understand the real appetite in the marketplace. In addition, it is important to recognize when partnerships and mergers are in the best interest of the ultimate goal.

What is a little bet you’ve recently made in your life that helped you accomplish a goal?

There was a particular detailed policy issue this session that deeply and negatively affected children, families and businesses in our community. Bringing together a coalition to get the policy issue fixed was automatic, what was new was getting the children involved. On the day the final decision on this policy was being made, we brought children and their families to the capitol to thank legislators for their effort and for making the right decision, before the decision had been made. In the end, the policy was fixed and we introduced a new group of children and families to the capitol. We already have some of the kids telling us they want to work there one day and I believe they will!

Why do you think it’s important to take risks?

Risks are the way we grow. I truly believe that the status quo does a disservice to what can be. If we are to reach our potential as individuals, organizations and communities, we must encourage one another to take risks.

This year’s Annual Forum will bring together a diverse group of leaders from nonprofit, government, and philanthropic organizations. Partnerships across sectors increases our ability to approach and tackle issues, while also providing a network of people taking leaps for the benefit of the whole community. The opportunity to learn from others like Anita, who have taken a risk and seen their efforts grow to impact the lives of others in a positive light, is certainly something that you won’t want to miss.

The last day to register for the Annual Forum is this Thursday, June 6! Visit annualforum13.eventbrite.com or call 651-224-7030.