Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Meeting Protocol

I’ve got a bone to pick today.
I get a call (or more often, an email) from someone asking me to meet with them.  The caller usually falls into one of four categories:
  1. Someone I know well.
  2. Someone I know, but not well.
  3. Someone referred by someone I know.
  4. Someone I don’t know and has not been referred by someone I know.
Now, if you know me, you know that I love to meet and talk to people.  Especially because these types of meetings are usually about giving advice – my favorite kind of meeting – I am always happy to set aside 30 minutes to do this.
Here’s the chicken bone stuck in my teeth (sorry for the visual):  Finding a date and time to meet drives me crazy!  Absolutely crazy.  The reason?  Because “Someone” needs to set and finalize the meeting – not me.
Here’s what happens:
Someone leaves me a voice mail or email:  “I’d like to meet with you.”
Me:  “Great.  Happy to do it.  When/where do you want to get together?”
Someone:  “Let me know what works for you.”
This pisses me off.  Someone is the one who wants/needs to meet with me.  Someone needs to offer up some meeting dates and times.
Me:  “OK, how about Friday at noon or Monday at 3:00, here at my office?”
Someone:  “Those don’t work for me.  And where is your office?”
My address is at the bottom of every email I send out.
Me:  “Why don’t you give me some that work for you then?”
Someone:  “Oh no, you’re so much busier than I am – you tell me when you have time.”
And the cycle continues.
Meeting protocol (at least in my tiny mind) says that whoever wants me to do them a favor (via a meeting) needs to start the day and time discussion and set the place (usually the place needs to be my office at Community Partners of Dallas and you need to figure out where it is and how long it will take you to get there, dammit).  I want you to give me some dates and times you can meet and then it is easy for me to look at my calendar and see which one works.
Yum.  That chicken was delicious.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


I just drove to Whole Foods to get some lunch for today’s nominating committee meeting for the CPD woman’s auxiliary (called The Partnership) – and was listening to the radio (Sirius Broadway Channel, of course).  I heard a funny old song from the show Finian’s Rainbow.  I wanted to write a little bit about it for the blog today, but I can’t – because I can’t find the info I need through my usual source, Wikipedia.
Wikipedia is blacked out because of the SOPA & PIPA protest.  Here is part of what they have posted about the protest:
Why is Wikipedia blacked-out?
Wikipedia is protesting against SOPA and PIPA by blacking out the English Wikipedia for 24 hours, beginning at midnight January 18, Eastern Time. Readers who come to English Wikipedia during the blackout will not be able to read the encyclopedia. Instead, you will see messages intended to raise awareness about SOPA and PIPA, encouraging you to share your views with your representatives, and with each other on social media.
What are SOPA and PIPA?
SOPA and PIPA represent two bills in the United States House of Representatives and the United States Senate respectively. SOPA is short for the "Stop Online Piracy Act," and PIPA is an acronym for the "Protect IP Act." ("IP" stands for "intellectual property.") In short, these bills are efforts to stop copyright infringement committed by foreign web sites, but, in our opinion, they do so in a way that actually infringes free expression while harming the Internet.

You guys know that I really don’t know too much about this stuff, but I do believe our representatives need to look at this more closely.  So I’m asking you to get involved too. 
Please write to your elected officials now – I just tweeted @petesessions to tell him we need free and open internet.  You can find out who your officials are through Wikipedia today:
Thanks for your help – and back to Finian’s Rainbow next week!   

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Birth, Life, & Death

Can you really ever put yourself in someone else’s shoes?
I am heading to a funeral for a friend’s mother today and I just can’t stop thinking about my friend.  I knew her mother too – our mothers have been friends for years – and of course, I am thinking about her as well.  But really, it is my friend who is most on my mind.  Her mother is in heaven and not even thinking a thing about all of us down here on earth.  How can she when she is in paradise?
I once took a Beth Moore Bible Study that likened dying, leaving the earth, and entering heaven to being an infant safe and secure in a mother’s womb.  When it is time for that baby to be born, he fights and cries to stay in – after all it is warm and secure and it is the world he knows.  But just think how much better and richer his life is once he is born.  Heaven is like that for us.  Too many wonders to imagine.
We fight so hard to hang on to this world because we think this place is it.
It’s not.
But that doesn’t mean that we don’t need to make it the best place we can make it while we’re here. 
We are working hard to help children at Community Partners of Dallas who really do need help.  Most of you know we finished our big Christmas Toy Drive in December and I want to share just one of the thank yous we received.  A fabulous Dallas County CPS caseworker named Cortney sent us a nice thank you card with a sweet message of thanks and she had many of the kids on her caseload sign it.  The note is sitting here on my desk.  Some of the older kids even wrote us a little something.  A boy named Hal wrote this:
I thank you for the gift cards you gave me today and I will always remember you guys.  Love you.
I can’t put myself in Hal’s shoes, but I sure am glad that I played a part in making him happy here on earth right now.  The best is yet to come, Hal.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

3 Tips for Non-Profit Board Members and CEOs/Executive Directors

Are you a board member for a non-profit agency?
If so, thank you!  You are doing what many people don’t have time to accomplish.  Some of you have been serving for many years, some for a few weeks, but whatever your term of service, we can all use a few tips to improve.  Here are a few tips for board members:
  1. Attend board meetings, committee or task force meetings, and events.  Many foundations look at this specifically to see if board members are really involved – or not – and base their funding decisions upon it.  Plus, if you are not attending the agency events and supporting them, you should roll off to allow others to serve.
  2. Call your Executive Director every once in awhile.  Take him to lunch.  Ask how the agency is doing.  Ask how you can help her.  You don’t know what a gift it is for me to hear from one of our board members.  Just a phone call often energizes and inspires me to think more strategically or even to just smile and feel good about what I’m doing.  Being a CEO of a non-profit agency can be difficult – your one-on-one support is vital to a healthy relationship.
  3. Give.  Give advice, ideas, money (You knew I would say that, didn’t you?  If I didn’t every ED in town would be after me!), and friends.  That is what we need you to do most.  Support us and ask your friends to do the same.  Use your areas of expertise and circles of friends to make that agency better financially and strategically.
Are you an Executive Director/CEO of a non-profit agency?
I’m not letting you off the hook either.  Here are my tips for you:
  1. Thank your board members.  Tell them you appreciate them.  Listen to their advice.  If you say that you will do something or look into something – do it – and let them know that you did it.  These are the people who are your eyes and ears in the community.  You need them to talk about your cause at the next cocktail party they attend, at their office, at their place of worship, and at their daughter’s school carnival.
  2. While the board members are your collective boss, you cannot allow an individual board member to direct the business of the agency.  A personal agenda from a single board member is not your mandate.  Know your bylaws and use them.
  3. Give your board members the tools they need to feel comfortable talking about your agency.  I think sometimes non-profits forget that their board members don’t live and breathe the agency every day.  You need to give them memorable stories of the need you fill.  One of the best things to do is to ask them why they care about your agency.  They may forget the exact number of kids you serve, but they will always remember why they care.
These are short lists, but I hope that they are helpful.  I’d love to hear what you think.