Better Than Most

The Business of Giving Visits the Offices of Mental Health America

Better Than Most is a regular feature of The Business of Giving examining the best places to work among social good businesses and nonprofit organizations. 

Denver: This evening, we’re going to take a trip down to 500 Montgomery Street in Alexandria, Virginia, and to the headquarters of Mental Health America. We’ll begin with their President and CEO, Paul Gionfriddo, followed by some of the members of the MHA staff.

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Paul: Mental Health America’s more than 100 years old but we’ve been functioning for the last several years like a start-up. We value highly our employees. I believe that some of the most creative enterprise, they can emerge from nonprofit, emerge from the brains of young and interested individuals who are working toward the betterment of society. For us, that’s people with mental health concerns and as a result to the work we’re doing, we think we’ve changed the way people think about mental health. From a public safety issue to a public health issue where we need to engage not at times of crisis but far before stage 4 to promote prevention, early identification and intervention, integrated health behavioral help and other services with recovery as the goal.

Valerie Sterns: What is the “wow” at MHA for me is flexibility: work-life balance. MHA affords you growth opportunities, support, even support when the outcome is not the desired outcome. MHA cares about not only my talent, but me as a whole person. We have a flexible work schedule. We can work two days from home. And that was incentive for me because I have a husband and two sons and it’s really hard for me to get time for myself. Across from the office is a wellness room, so if I need to take a nap and relax, take some time out for myself, I am afforded that opportunity. So certainly flexibility is certainly a great incentive to work at MHA.

B94DE93F-8C8F-45CD-9670-88771094EECCKelly Davis: One of my favorite parts about working at MHA is really the open style of communication and lack of really enforced kind of power roles that exist. I think especially, traditionally in the nonprofit sector and in kind of government work. Because here, we are always making jokes with each other. We share a lot of memes online. We have a lot of inside jokes. Our CEO made his own meme. And we can shoot jokes back and forth. I mean when you work in nonprofit especially, a lot of the problems you’re working on are really serious and it can be hard to keep up with that stamina of working in such intense work. But when you have an environment that’s so open and can keep the playfulness, it’s easier for passion to stay alive. I would also say that the openness and the lack of intense structure mean that everybody’s ideas are important. So I’ve been here for two years and I can just walk into our CEO’s office and say, “Hey, this is a thing I think it’s important. And this is why I think it’s important. Can I do something like this?” And he gives me feedback. I’m 24 and when I talk to other people my age, that’s really, really rare. So I love MHA.

Siobhan Carpenter: I went in there the week before the conference and said, “You know, Paul, I think my service dog could use some extra trainings and things I’d like to work on with him to help him support me better. Can I use my personal development budget for that?” He said, “Make sense to me.” And we started training so we are now in our fourth week and he’s being promoted to level 2 this week. So just really, really great things that I’m really, really grateful for.

B4133A33-18BB-495D-A540-4AAE57233378Michael: Everyone that comes to our office is always wowed to its appearance and its openness. We have windows. We’re on the 8th floor and we can even see the Washington Monument and the dome on the Jackson Memorial. We see the airplanes flying in over the Potomac River. On the other side, we can look over one of our four balconies that are wi-fi capable and fully-furnished. We can look over and see United Way building and the MGM Casino and Hotel. It’s just a fabulous place. I think Sacha mentioned that it’s like being at home. And when we moved in, a lot of staff took the liberty to stay after hours and enjoy the snacks that we provide. It is always well-stocked. One of my responsibilities is to make sure that all staff had everything that they need to do their job effectively and efficiently.

Jennifer: So coming in, I get really wound up and worked up about things that… most of them are out of my control. And I think one of the most important things that a lot of the people who have been here for a while have told me is “It can wait.” That was a huge thing that really changed a lot of the ways that I worked around here.

We have an instant messaging system in the office called Slack, so there’s general threads where the entire staff is in or just individual threads and in the general threads, we also recognize people for the things that they’ve done well. So I think that’s been a really great way to keep people positive because when you’re facing such a colossal issue especially in the nonprofit world, it can get really tiring and very hard really fast. I think it’s called burnout. Well, a lot of people talk about burnout professionally where they just work 60 hours or 80 hours a week and you just get tired, but I think in the nonprofit world a lot of that burnout comes from being frustrated with things that you feel like you can’t fix and things that you care so much about. And that just little positive things bring you back up.

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Sachin: One of the things I like about the way that we communicate now is that when we moved over to Slack, we were able to start looking at some of the statistics around how many fewer e-mail we ended up sending between each other and the office. I get a weekly rundown of how much we’re using Slack and it is frankly a little absurd how easy it’s made communication. Between the 24 of us, we send something around 3000 messages over Slack to each other every week. And on the other hand, our inter-office communication over e-mail has gone down by about 40% but what I really like about this is there are things that you just frankly send over a platform like that that you wouldn’t bother sending an email over.

Siobhan: There’s something about the culture of MHA and I’ve had a friend and we were doing lunch and she came by and I said, “Hold on, I need to finish up an email. You can just come walk around the office with me real quick. I’ll give you a quick tour before we go out to lunch.” She just walked around and she just was so amazed at how everything was just neat and organized, but open, inviting and modern. And the bell! She loved the bell — our Mental Health Bell — cast from the shackles of those who were in institutions, in psychiatric facilities years ago. And it just captures the essence I think of MHA and what we’re about. And the liberties that we have here.

Denver: I want to extend my thanks to those who participated in the segment – Valerie Sterns, Kelly Davis, Michael King, Jennifer Cheang, Sachin Doshi, and Siobhan Carpenter. If you want to hear this again, read the transcript, or see pictures of the participants and the offices of Mental Health America, all you need to do is go to denverfrederick.wordpress.com.

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The Business of Giving can be heard every Sunday evening between 6:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. Eastern on AM 970 The Answer in New York and on iHeartRadio. You can follow us @bizofgive on Twitter, @bizofgive on Instagram and at http://www.facebook.com/BusinessOfGiving

The Business of Giving Visits the Offices of GiveDirectly

Better Than Most is a regular feature of The Business of Giving examining the best places to work among social good businesses and nonprofit organizations. 

Denver: This evening, we’re headed over to Irving Place of Manhattan to visit the New York offices of GiveDirectly. GiveDirectly aims to reshape international giving by sending money directly to people living in extreme poverty. And when Fast Company recently named their 10 most innovative nonprofits, GiveDirectly popped up as number two on that list. So, I thought we would go over there to find out what makes them tick.

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Piali: At GiveDirectly, we are pretty ruthlessly focused on the execution and high-quality execution at that, and really creating clear accountability around the metrics that we think are going to shift the needle in terms of the changes that we want to affect in the sector. And so a lot of the times, what that really comes down to is  actual dollars put in the hands of poor households that we’re enrolling in our program and not KPIs that are incidental to that but really that core metric of getting money to very poor people.  We’re looking at ways to embed that more explicitly in terms of how we think about compensation and performance and bonuses for people so that we can really get everybody marching to that tune. I think that’s really a core part of how we think about success and good culture at GiveDirectly.

Max: Like in our world that prioritizes data, we have, for instance, internal dashboards via Segovia and Tableau and other software that basically shows how well we’re doing against various specific metrics and they’re like coded different colors and you can very clearly see how the team is performing against certain metrics. We also have this dashboard in our office, for instance, that shows how many recipients, how much money we’ve raised, what that converts to in terms of how many recipients we’ve served, and so these constant reminders of both performing against metrics and then also using data to determine whether or not we’re succeeding.

Matt: It’s been really interesting for me and my time here at GiveDirectly to employ a different set of values to my work and to think about a hypersensitivity to transparency and to complete respect for our recipients, so that really what I need to do here is just tell it like it is, tell the truth in as direct and simple of a way as possible at all times. There’s no spin, there’s no hyperbole, there’s no exaggeration of how exciting our programs are. We really have a deep cultural value of honesty and transparency and just telling people what the real story on the ground is.

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Caroline: Working at GiveDirectly basically over the last nine months have been quite an experience for me. This is something that has been quite uplifting for me because when you come into an organization as a staff, one thing that you look for is not too [keen], but a challenge that is worth your time, something that challenges your brain, something that challenges your career path and pushes you to work harder each day. It is exactly what I’ve got here at GiveDirectly.

Piali: We’ve made it kind of an explicit value and principle to not be the kind of culture that gets bogged down in excessive e-mails and meetings. I think we view those as purely instrumental tools to getting to good decisions and moving things forward. So we’re pretty strict and default to asking the question of “Do we need to gather these five people together or can we throw something in the Google Doc or exchange an email in way that can get through a decision much more quickly?” I think folks that have joined the team from bigger companies or from different environments are often kind of heartened initially to see that because of that, decisions get made quite quickly and I think that’s been critical to our ability to grow fast and iterate on the product in a way that we have.

Matt: For me, the biggest driver of our culture is actually our hiring strategy and it’s something that we spend a lot of time thinking about and iterating on. We have a general policy here to kind of skew more towards people with more of a generalist background, people who are highly intelligent, have proven that they can produce really strong work in a variety of different context throughout their career but don’t necessarily come from the nonprofit sector and don’t necessarily have a 10- or 20- or 30 years of deep domain expertise in the specific functional realm that we’re looking to hire for. We tend to hire people who are a little more generalist, who we then trust that they kind of figure it out.

Joe: It’s a sort of technical, analytical process of taking in all the data we take on recipients and saying “who should we follow up with again to make sure we got it right?” This was a real PowerPoint deck we’ve seen in a call recently and I just started sending it to candidates and saying “I want to talk about this when we have a chance to talk.” We’d go there and I’d of give a little bit of an explanation and we talk through does it make sense, how would you approach this problem, where do you think Well (the person who made the presentation) is making a mistake or not. And I found both of those to give you a good sense of how they approach problems and how they think.

Max: I think the culture is intellectual and casual and very open. In the way that Matt was describing like here are the types of people that generally GiveDirectly hires and that stay at GiveDirectly, that naturally produces this sort of generalist…everyone is interested in what other people are doing in like a probing, sort of curious way. I think that’s really cool. I think it’s very friendly. People are very supportive of other people.

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Joe: The other thing I’d add on culture is there’s a sort of intensity to it. We care a lot about quality in basically every facet of what we’re doing and the bar for a good email to donors or a good interaction with recipients or even a sort of a good decision on just about anything I think is really high that we value a certain level of strong reasoning, a certain level of quality in how we write about GiveDirectly or quality in what our finances look like, and I think that pervades every different part of the organization.

Denver: I want to thank Paul Niehaus, the President of GiveDirectly, for allowing us to visit their offices, and to those who participated – Max Chapnick, Matt Johnson, Caroline Teti, Piali Mukhopadhyay, and Joe Houston. Come to denverfrederick.wordpress.com to hear this again, and while you’re there, we’ll have a link to my full interview with the President of GiveDirectly, Paul Niehaus.

The Business of Giving can be heard every Sunday evening between 6:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. Eastern on AM 970 The Answer in New York and on iHeartRadio. You can follow us @bizofgive on Twitter, @bizofgive on Instagram and at http://www.facebook.com/BusinessOfGiving

The Business of Giving Visits the Offices of Devex

Better Than Most is a regular feature of The Business of Giving examining the best places to work among social businesses and nonprofit organizations. 

Denver: It was only a couple of months ago that Raj Kumar, the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Devex, came to the AM 970 Studios, so I thought I will return the favor and visit the offices of Devex, which I did on my last trip to Washington. We’ll start the segment with Raj telling us about Devex, and then we will hear from some of the members of the staff of what it is like to work there.

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Raj: We’re a lot like the Bloomberg of the global development field… meaning we’re this media platform; we’ve got all different ways that journalists and analysts around the world could get information about what’s going on in global development to the people who are actually doing that work. So our audience are people who work at the World Bank or the Gates Foundation or the UN System or lots of NGOs, charities– small and big– all over the world.

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Carine: The staff is really young in comparison to other development organizations, or other media companies even, and I think this is a place where ideas are really valued both by the staff and also by the senior management. So if you have an idea for something, whether it’s like totally bananas and crazy or actually just something to improve the way that we’re doing things, you can take that idea to anyone in the team and people are willing to help even make that come to life.

Margaret: And so what we did was we implemented this thing called “Small Improvements,” and we do reviews every two months and it makes it a lot easier. And instead of calling them reviews and thinking of them as these big reviews, we talk about it as coaching. And I think that’s really integral to Devex’s culture. It’s this idea that we’re all coaching each other, and the teams are coaching their team leads and the team leads are coaching their teams. Everyone is allowed to give feedback to whomever they want and the teams are specifically guided to give feedback to each other in a coaching way. And I think a really good way to think about our culture and one thing that makes us unique is that we’re a high-performing team.

IMG_1978Colleen: One of the “Wow” moments for me working at Devex–and a lot of us here have come from other companies–is related to these reviews. And even at the time when we were doing them semi-annually, one of the questions that always gets asked is “What do you want to do within your profile that’s outside of what your job description is?” And I think that it’s a unique and special thing to be asked what more do you want to do, maybe not necessarily specifically within your role, but what are you interested in.

 

Nina: We don’t make a practice of extending office to people we’re not 100% confident in. So in summation, it is definitely at the core of our hiring process to consider if someone is going to add to the Devex culture, especially as we’re growing.

Carine: Every Friday at Devex, you will find “Frine,” which is Friday plus wine put together. We created our own word called Frine. And I think that’s one of the pillars of Devex culture and being able to every Friday afternoon–for some of the different offices, it’s a little bit later–but we take time to  just kind of put our computers away.

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Allison: Another way we use Slack is by posting on our new business channel, so anytime someone has a new business win, you can share it with everyone and everyone reacts with emojis and it’s really exciting to sort of get that praise. And it also helps just with other teams so other teams can know what new business is going on across team. So I think that that’s another thing that I find really valuable because I’m a words-of-affirmation person. I need a lot of praise. It’s my love language. And so I think that I absolutely feel supported because I have that from my colleagues and I really value their opinion.

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Colleen: Another perk that I think is pretty unique to Devex, and it’s relatively new, but it’s something called the YAY! days. So twice a year–and you’re meant to use them in the first half of the year, and then your second one in the second half–you have a day where it’s not a sick day, it’s not a vacation day, it’s just a day where you take off and you do something really fun, and the only requirement is that you take a picture of yourself doing it and you post to everybody in Slack.

Nina: So that’s a big part of it, the Devexplain. I explain how we operate as a flat organization, what that means, how that will kind of come to bear in their time at Devex and how they can navigate certain situations. A lot of people are coming from organizations that are more bureaucratic, so telling them, “This how it’s different. These are the words we use.” We don’t use the word manager, we use team lead. We sway away from even the word company because we serve a sector that is about social impact, so we like to think of ourselves more of an organization or a social enterprise. So really imparting to them the language that we use, our values, our culture, and really spelling it out so that there’s just no ambiguity. They understand that this is the culture, and we’re really setting them up to succeed here and what that looks like.

IMG_1979Margaret: I will say that all the things that we’ve mentioned are because our leadership across the board thinks that it’s important to be constantly changing and evolving. And while the focus is always helping the people who are doing good work do it even better, we are constantly looking at ourselves and evaluating the data that we’re—we collect data on ourselves, on how people connect to the mission, on how people are feeling. We’re data driven. We really are. And so, when leadership looks at the data, when anyone looks at the data and says, “What about this idea? What if we add wellness walks because people are feeling like they don’t have enough—they’re not pushing themselves to work out? So what if we just all get out of the office?” or “What if we really try to focus on getting diversity in this area?” Anytime that people look at the data and have ideas, they’re taken seriously.

Denver: I want to thank Margaret Richardson for organizing this and to all those who participated: Margaret Richardson, Allison Punch, Colleen Casey, Nina Takahashi, and Carine Umuhumuza. Podcast, transcript, and pictures of the participants and the Devex offices can all be found at denverfrederick.wordpress.com.

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The Business of Giving can be heard every Sunday evening between 6:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. Eastern on AM 970 The Answer in New York and on iHeartRadio. You can follow us @bizofgive on Twitter, @bizofgive on Instagram and at http://www.facebook.com/BusinessOfGiving

The Business of Giving Visits the Offices of United Way Worldwide

Better Than Most is a regular feature of The Business of Giving examining the best places to work among social good businesses and nonprofit organizations. 

Denver: And for this evening’s Better Than Most, you will be going down to Alexandria, Virginia in the headquarters of United Way Worldwide. The United Way fights for the health, education and financial stability of every person in every community. The United Way is 130 years old and there are 1,800 local United Ways in 40 countries. And often older organizations and bigger organizations have more difficulty adapting to changing times. But as you’re about to hear, the United Way is more than meeting that challenge. 

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Lori: So we actually have four behaviors that represent our culture here at United Way: one is extend your reach and it’s about creating communities because we solve problems together with other people, not alone; Forge trust, again, in order to do the work that we do, we need to have trust which is about integrity, it’s about character and commitment; Find common ground, which is about inclusion and having representation for all different perspectives; and the last is believe because it is about the mission and what we do. So those are the four culture behaviors that represent United Way.

Donna: One of the things that I feel is a “wow!” about United Way are the people. I’ve been in the DC area for 11 years and I would say that everywhere I’ve worked, it’s always felt like people do not care about the people around them it was just about getting the work done. I’ve never worked somewhere where everywhere you go, people stop and they talk to you. They want to know more about you. They want to know your story. They want to know what brought you here. But also, everybody is just really in tune with the mission and they really care about what they do. I think that shows, too, with how long people stay here. Every other year, we actually host the 30 Year Awards.

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Jon: I want to talk about the avenues that employees have here to express our voice, to share ideas about how we improve the workplace as a whole. We have a great opportunity in our staff council. So our staff council is made up of staff from all levels, from all departments and it gives us a great chance to again express our ideas, what we want to see improve in the culture, and it’s a body that our executive management team recognizes and responds to.

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Jennifer: United Way Worldwide pays up to 75% health insurance for all employees and their dependents. We have 100% coverage for short-term disability up to a max of six months. It’s just an incredible benefits package that really stresses work-life balance. We don’t want people taking their vacation time being sick hence the short-term disability. I think every time I sit down with a new employee and while we’re going through the onboarding process, they really are amazed at what a good package it is and they haven’t had packages like that elsewhere. Being a nonprofit, it’s just mainly…Brian Gallagher has always stressed “don’t cut the benefits” and I think he realizes how important it is to employees and we really haven’t had to cut a lot and I think being able to continue these good benefits and stressing the work-life balance over the last years that I’ve been here, it shows when it’s important to the EMT, to our CEO, it really trickles down and I think the staff feels it as well.

Alex: One of the things that I thought was unique to our organization is all of the new employees besides getting announced at the next quarterly staff meeting and any celebration on their teams, things like that, is also the lunch with the executive management team. It’s not that their doors are closed or anything but it’s nice to take a moment in time and be intentional about creating that connection. So regardless of your staffing level, you’re sitting next to executive management team and the CEO and getting just to know each other on a personal level and the work that you do, and I thought that was really helpful back when I was a new employee. But then also a question is asked during that lunch whether you came because of employer of choice or a mission of choice, and when we did it almost everyone there was because of the mission. And that’s unique to United Way. The mission itself but also the fact that it just collects so many people to advance it.

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Marveen: The other thing I’ll say is that about two years ago, I had a very serious accident where I couldn’t walk for six months. And the outpouring of gifts, of cards, of coming over with casseroles and cookies and cleaning my kitchen…I even had someone that would come over and take my trash out once a week because I couldn’t get down the steps. It’s that kind of caring that is phenomenal. Recently, we had a team member that suffered a health crisis and it rocked our building because we care, and I’ll even use the world love, love this gentleman so much that we just needed to see his healing and we have done everything we can to make sure that he’s progressed and it’s good that he’ll be coming back real soon.

Jon: So one uniquely United Way thing that all of our staff should be familiar with is Rudy. So Rudy is a reindeer statue that makes an appearance every holiday and from what I understand, Rudy has been around actually for decades and this statue will appear on each floor for a week or two during the holidays. It’s bedazzled, it’s got Christmas lights on it, and it survived building renovations, it survived…it’s just been around for a long time. So we know during the holidays, Rudy the Reindeer is going to make an appearance.

Megan: I think one final thing that I would want everyone to know about United Way is that although we have a rich 130-year history, we are not sort of this old, soggy organization that I think we often get perceived as. We are innovating. We are moving fast. There is a lot of energy here. So we are breaking down silos in lots of different ways.

There’s a lot of disruption in our world today and United Way needs to and is adapting to that change and that’s exciting and it makes United Way an exciting place to work.

Lori: So we’re recognizing and our CEO recognize that it’s time for us to really transform our organization with the disruption that we’re seeing in the marketplace and the way that the world is becoming more digitized and globalized, and so that’s part of the goal, is to say let’s not lose any of the great things that are in our culture but let’s turn the light up and add some pieces that help us to transform and move quickly.

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Denver: I’d like to thank Southerlyn Reisig for organizing my visit and for all those who participated: Lori Malcom, Megan Walker, Jennifer Chavez, Alexander Fike, Donna Platon, Jon Swann and Marveen Hart. If you go to denverfrederick.wordpress.com, we will have this podcast, a transcript and pictures of the participants as well as the headquarter offices of United Way Worldwide. 

 


The Business of Giving can be heard every Sunday evening between 6:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. Eastern on AM 970 The Answer in New York and on iHeartRadio. You can follow us @bizofgive on Twitter, @bizofgive on Instagram and at http://www.facebook.com/BusinessOfGiving

 

 

The Business of Giving Visits the Offices of Bridgespan Group

Better Than Most is a regular feature of The Business of Giving examining the best places to work among social good businesses and nonprofit organizations. 

Denver: One of the very best nonprofit organizations in the world just so happens to have one of the very best corporate cultures. It is the Bridgespan Group which helps mission-driven organizations and philanthropists to advance their learning and accelerate their impact. Their Boston headquarters is in Copley Square and I visited there recently to hear from the staff about some of the unique and exceptional aspects of their work culture. 

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Derek: When we engage with our clients, we engage in what are called case teams. So there is typically a partner that will manage the main client, and then there’s a manager on the case, and then there are a number of consultants or associate consultants. And the case team will also be supported by operations teams and marketing and knowledge and different pieces as well. But in that core case team, really the essence is that you’re able to split up the work that you’re doing and give people ownership over different pieces of that work. And that case team will typically extend over the course of six or eight months of the engagement, and then you’ll go your separate ways and then maybe come back together when you’re on another case with another client.

Jen: I mean I really believe since day one that our leadership team walks the talk. You see it from the compassion and kindness and generosity even in terms of just giving people credit for the work that they do. So you’ll see at company meetings, Jeff or one of our leaders will stand up and talk about an important meeting that they were at and he’ll give credit to the junior person in the room if they’re there. Or when he comes back and he’s telling a story about the great work that someone perceived that Bridgespan did for them, he gives the credit to the team and he’ll name the people in the room. And I think that really sets a standard and I think people feel really good about that.

Mandy: I also have found it to be an incredible opportunity for personal growth. So I didn’t know much at all about the world of consulting before I entered it, and it just has turned out to be a great fit in terms of stretching me and pushing me to play different roles that I’ve played here at Bridgespan to interact with different organizations, different kinds of leaders; to be stretched but in a way that we’re being supported and coached, so I’m not being thrown out to dry by I am being pushed to see what I can do, to see what I can achieve.

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Sridhar: That change, that dynamism, I think, creates an organizational culture, where to some degree, there’s this sense of dissatisfaction with the way the world is and trying to do everything you can to change it. So the famous Robert Kennedy metaphor, “ripples of hope,” echoes around this place, that everyone sees their work as being those ripples of hope. And they want to see those ripples be bigger and bigger over time. And so there is this sense of dissatisfaction of continually pushing to the sense of how can we do this better, how can we make an even greater impact than what we did before? That is both challenging, that is dynamic, that is at times stressful, but also incredibly motivating, incredibly enabling and empowering, and ultimately is the reason why we do the work.

Rayshawn: I think another thing that really resonates for me is the mission of the work we do. I know that whether I am working however many hours in that week, it’s going to be for a client that I care about, it’s going to be with people that I care deeply about, and it’s going to be pushing towards a mission that I feel deeply aligns with my personal mission. As Mandy mentioned, being able to align with work that is really focused on breaking cycles of intergenerational poverty is really exciting and not something you get to do everywhere.

Mandy: One of the ways that we think about growth at Bridgespan is about the formal training we give. We also provide a lot of informal training on-the-job training in the context of our case teams, in the context of peer colleagues or mentors. But the formal training is something that is really unique in that we’ve been able to take, in my mind, the best of two worlds. So we are able to benefit from the excellent training that Bain & Company, which sort of incubated us in our early days and is still a very close partner. They enable us to send our staff to their trainings, their consultant trainings. So essentially, our staff are able to access sort of world-class training, very tailored to the consulting skill set and common challenges. And we have a complimentary suite of Bridgespan training, so the areas in which the tool kit is different or where we diverge from how Bain does their work, we’re able to provide that. But that combination is just an incredible value from my own personal experience, from seeing, at this point, hundreds of people over the years go through Bain training. It’s a real asset and one of the ways in which we help people grow.

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Rayshawn: We’ve also got a phenomenal annual review process where people are receiving input from their direct supervisors. People are also receiving input from their direct reports, and all of that comes together. I’m an associate consultant and what happens is all of the partners and managers actually get together in a big room, which is a fish bowl, so  you know when they’re all in there, and they talk about, “Here’s what this person is doing well. Here’s what this person needs to continue working on.” Then you’ve got a consensus reviewer who pulls all of that together and delivers the message to you. So, not only do you have a lot of people thinking about this really intently, but you’ve got somebody that’s able to say, “Here are the key messages you need to hear,” which makes it so much easier than focusing on “here’s what I need to do to improve.”

Jen: There’s a variety of ways of being involved at Bridgespan, and we have what we call Extra 10% Committees and you can join as many as you want. Generally, people join one or two. But it’s extra 10% because it’s really like you get your job done and then you come join this committee and pitch in to the culture. But I’m on one that’s called “The Way We Work,” and a lot of that has to do with how we work in this open design space and making sure that all seating is equally desirable and accessible, speaking into the whole non-hierarchical atmosphere we strive to have here.

Sridhar: And so I think we’ve made conscious organizational investments to increase the amount of communication, increase the amount of collaboration in part because our theory of the way the work happens is that it does not happen by an individual themselves. It happens with all of us as teams. It happens as an organization. And so that culturally is important to who we are. It’s culturally important. I think to folks who succeed here, succeed within that kind of construct. They’re able to be collaborative. They’re able to work well with their colleagues, to share, to learn. We’ve got about 30 whiteboards on wheels that get wheeled around left, right and center. Things get drawn and erased all the time. That sense of creating something through a collaborative environment is quite important.

Mandy: I’m proud of the way in which Bridgespan strives to be an inclusive organization. So over 50% of our partner group is women. That’s unusual to look at any senior partner group at a professional services entity and see that. We’ve scored 100 on the HRC corporate equality index since we’ve been participating, which is on the order of 10 years or so we’ve been doing that. We have well-established group has for folks who are part-time, who need to spend some time with family, need that flexibility at some point on an ongoing basis in their careers. And we’re deeply focused on building our diversity along racial and socio-economic lines, both in terms of certainly the demographics of our staff, bringing diversity of thought and experience, but also increasingly on how we think about that diversity in our work.

Rayshawn:  One of the things I’ve really appreciated about Bridgespan is that we have been completely transparent about the fact that we’re on a journey here. We don’t think that we are the best in the field when it comes to diversity, equity, and inclusion. But what we are willing to say is that we are working really hard at this and we’re willing to be uncomfortable with the fact that it’s going to be hard to get there. And being uncomfortable in that way is a hard thing to do and it takes not only folks raising their hand and saying, “I want to work on this,” but it also takes people in senior leadership actually modeling the way and being able to say, “This is something we care deeply about.

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Denver: I want to extend my thanks to Liz London who has been a real good friend of the show for organizing my visit and to those who participated, Jen Driggs, Derek Brine, Mandy Taft-Pearman, Rayshawn Whitford and Sridhar Prasad. You can listen to the podcast, read a copy of the transcript, and see pictures of the participants on the Bridgespan offices simply by going to denverfrederick.wordpress.com


The Business of Giving can be heard every Sunday evening between 6:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. Eastern on AM 970 The Answer in New York and on iHeartRadio. You can follow us @bizofgive on Twitter, @bizofgive on Instagram and at http://www.facebook.com/BusinessOfGiving

The Business of Giving Visits the Offices of Echoing Green

Better Than Most is a regular feature of The Business of Giving examining the best places to work among social businesses and nonprofit organizations.

Denver: One of my favorite guests on the Business of Giving is Cheryl Dorsey, the President of Echoing Green. So I was excited when she said, “Come on over and give us a look.” So I took off for 7th Avenue and 35th Street to speak to some of the members of the Echoing Green Team. We’ll start with Cheryl telling us about the organization.1FCFD89A-8C11-4944-BE5D-42618961EF11

Cheryl: We were founded in1987 by the senior leadership of a private equity firm called General Atlantic, who were true pioneers in the space of social entrepreneurship. And the mission of Echoing Green is simple and wonderful: It is to unleash next generation talent to solve the world’s greatest problems.

Stacy: Talking about the culture at Echoing Green — I am one of the newer members of the Echoing Green family — one of the things that stood out for me is the layout of our office. It was designed to resemble a beehive. And that was an amazing thing for me to think about and that bees, they come and they go and they interact with each other… And they’re all working towards a common goal and that’s very similar to what happens here. Even though we have our designated pods and sections in our office, it’s designed in such a way that we flow in and out of our conversations.

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We flow in and out of our daily work lives, so we learn about not only the work and things that we’re doing from day to day, but we learn about our personal lives: our families, situations that we may be going through and how we can support and help each other. And that’s one of the things that is very endearing to me in working at Echoing Green.

Lindsay: One of the things that I have kind of always been in pursuit of is the opportunity to be around people I can learn from and who are kind of eager to exchange ideas, exchange good places to go for lunch, a hug, what have you but kind of all in service of us working again towards… We have something in common. We are really excited about helping to support energetic talent who’s really committed for the long haul to achieving long-term social change. So, I think that’s like waking up everyday and working with people who are constantly thinking about how to do that better is really exciting.

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Corie: One of the things that jumps out for me about working at Echoing Green is this ritual or custom that we have called the Be Bold Award. And on a bi-weekly basis, the whole staff gets together in one of our conference rooms here for a staff meeting where we’re all reporting out on our work and discussing big topics for the organization and then at the end of each of those meetings, someone receives the Be Bold Award. Whoever receives it, passes it onto someone else at the next meeting and that award is really all about recognizing five core values that we’ve identified among our staff at the organization which are: Thinking Big, Community, Always Learning, Resourcefulness and Being Present. I just think that award is such a nice reminder every two weeks of sort of how we want to show up in the workplace and a great way to kind of recognize our co-workers whether we work closely with them or not for something that we’ve noticed.

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Cheryl:  And it was interesting to me probably always wearing my fellow hat first as a staff person trying to think about how do you think about the programming and the community that’s required to build this world class, this best in class fellowship program and what happens when you pay attention to that at the expense of your corporate culture and that I would say, that got us to be sort of leaders in the field but as an institution having to take pause and say, we’re not going to be around to serve anybody unless we really figure out who we are, the values we stand for and how do we invest in our people and our talent first. The women sitting around this table and the rest of my colleagues had really been instrumental in saying “If we’re going to move forward, we’ve got to think about that.” So I think the lesson to learn from people out there trying to build their own institution is really how valuable culture building is and it’s not a static activity

6F951139-D019-49E4-9972-33C25E300A1BLindsay: People start task forces that are meant to address a specific programmatic initiative and they have recognized that they need input from a variety of teams and rather than kind of do that in an ad hoc way kind of trying to formalize it either for a discrete period of time maybe it turns into kind of an ongoing effort. One of those is the Search and Selection Task Force of which I think for probably the last three years or so that has met formally and that is a way for people on the communications team and the fellowship team and the knowledge team to really get together with some regularity and think about not just the specifics of the process for this go-around, but even like what kinds of system changes we might wanna make for the future that can make all of our lives better.

Corie: We are seated one block away from Penn Station and because we’re often kind of the first funders of these fellows, they’re really early stage. Some of them don’t even have their own office space and if they do, are often looking for meeting rooms and things like that. So really any day of the week here, you might see an Echoing Green fellow walking in and out, getting a chance to catch up with them on what’s new on their work. And that’s really just kind of a constant source of inspiration and a constant sort of visual reminder of why we’re doing the work that we’re doing which is really fun.

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Stacy: Echoing Green not only encourages its fellows and its employees but we have an expansive community of both former employees and alumni fellows who are engaged with us. There are employees that have left Echoing Green but they still remain in contact not only with people that are still here but they still follow our community and participate very deeply in our community. And that is something that I think is very important and I think is also an acknowledgment of the work that Cheryl has done in keeping us all engaged, in keeping us all feeling like we’re part of the family like even if you leave, you can always come home. There’s always a cube for you. There’s always a seat for you here. And that’s something that really just speaks to who we are at Echoing Green.

Denver: I want to extend my thanks to those who participated in this piece. In addition to Cheryl, there was Stacy Lewis, Lindsay Booker, and Corie Lieberman. You can listen to this again, read the transcript, and see pictures of their beehive office and the participants by going to denverfrederick.wordpress.com and we’ll have a link there to my full interview with Cheryl Dorsey.

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The Business of Giving can be heard every Sunday evening between 6:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. Eastern on AM 970 The Answer in New York and on iHeartRadio. You can follow us @bizofgive on Twitter, @bizofgive on Instagram and at http://www.facebook.com/BusinessOfGiving

The Business of Giving Visits the Offices of the United Nations Foundation

Better Than Most is a regular feature of The Business of Giving examining the best places to work among social businesses and nonprofit organizations. 

Denver: I was recently down in Washington, D.C. and had the opportunity to visit the offices of the United Nations Foundation over at 1750 Pennsylvania Avenue. We’ll start with their President and CEO, Kathy Calvin, who will tell us about their work. And then you will hear from members of their engaged and motivated staff on why they find the UN Foundation to be a very special place indeed.

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Kathy: The UN Foundation was founded by entrepreneur and businessman, Ted Turner, nearly 20 years ago because he felt he should put his money where his mouth was. And that was in supporting the UN and the work it does around the world to handle, challenge and fix some of the biggest problems. And in the 20 years that we’ve been in business, we’ve seen enormous progress in global poverty going down, hunger going down, children staying in school, but there’s lots more to do so we look forward to the next 20 years.

Annie: Kathy mentioned the quote that Ted Turner who founded our organization said which is “Everyone can walk down the street and pick up a piece of paper.” And I think that idea of each employee and each person that we work with as being capable of doing smaller and large actions that are going to change the world is really emblematic both of the work that we do and of the work culture.

Emily: One of the previous deputy secretary generals at the UN said “No one can do everything, but everyone can do something.” And I think that is something that I take really true to my job day to day. And I think that the foundation feels like it’s a part of more broadly in supporting the UN.

A7F92624-687E-4546-A904-B8D31890E2BCSeema: And really at UNF, the support I got is you can be successful at home and be successful at work, which I’m really grateful for. It set the path for the rest of my work here and it’s why people stay here. And they continue to grow their families if they wish. It’s why they continue to stay for almost a decade like Emily has or why people start as interns and continue to come back because it’s just that kind of place. And as somebody who works professionally on gender equality and sexual and reproductive health and rights, being able to work at an organization that really goes above and beyond to live those values is not an easy task. We know that. We know the US is not like in the front runner of supporting these things and so, it just makes our work so much more clear in terms of why it is so important to make sure that everybody has that.

Emily:  I’ve really appreciated the opportunity that that’s provided for a completely flat structure and opportunity for anyone to speak up and ask any questions, raise any issues, and feel like they won’t be judged for it. I think that’s important. And then also I’ve really appreciated that Kathy Calvin, our president CEO, has done office hours sometimes where anyone — doesn’t matter what you’re job — can sit down with her for 15 minutes and talk about anything. Again it’s a safe space and I think some of those mechanisms the foundation has put in place have been helpful.

Wes: I think that there’s open floorplan that we’re really blessed with here in the DC office that really encourages us to not only work within our teams, but expand outside of it whether that’s working with additional campaigns like Shot at Life, Girl Up, Nothing But Nets, which our grassroots networks really appreciate because they want to diversify their own interest… Or mentoring our own interns and teaching them the ins and outs and how far they can really go to network and get to know different perspectives at the foundation; that’s really cool. But on top of that, I think that it gives us a chance to really coordinate with people who have such different perspectives and experience, whether that’s people who formerly work on campaigns and have a lot of a direct advocacy on the ground experience… Or whether that’s people who work on different forms of recruitment whether that’s donors or otherwise.

5035CC70-8847-4D90-8535-A61CC42CC099Annie: Sometimes I would do social media, so sometimes it’s just like: Okay, [this just feels] that I’ve been tweeting and Instagram posting a lot… like what does that do? And then all of the sudden the numbers start rolling in and 2000 journalists who’d been trained all over the world who now know how to talk about sustainable development goals. It’s 200 kids in Uganda who got to meet with a soccer star to learn about the sustainable goals and engage in sports and education.

It’s people around the world who are given these tools able to transform their communities and who come to our events leaving inspired and say, “Oh I’m going to reforest Ireland.” And are now working to teach kids about ecology and plant trees. It’s just incredible and sometimes it does get kind of — we all work very hard day to day and whenever I have that moment to take a step back and be like “Wow!” There is definitely a huge wow factor here.

KennyAlso, just going back to culture and the way we’re set up organizationally, one of the wow factors is that you’re encouraged to talk to people like the CEO and the COO. I remember within the first week of me being here, I was in the meeting with my boss and our COO and the CEO of the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, they looked to me, and I wasn’t expecting to speak in this meeting… But they looked to me after being here for a week or so and we’re sitting there talking numbers and budgets and plans for the next year. At UNF, it is really encouraged. Our COO stops by my desk where he encourages everybody to just walk into the office and ask him a question if you want. It is not something you always see in other organizations. So I think that speaks volumes for the way our culture is set up at  UNF.D0AA89EF-6A2A-4E77-8574-649A315F8EFF

Tisha: There is such incredible talent here in this organization. But when we do pause and we are mindful of the impact that we’re making, I think it just actually recharges us to go out there and work even harder and stronger and be even more excited and more passionate. I look at all of us kind of like global ambassadors. It’s not just the pins that we wear. It really is the way that we talk about our work. There are many of us that go home saying, “Ugh, that place.” The only time I feel challenged or discouraged is when I haven’t figured out the solution. But actually what that motivates me to do is work with others to figure out the solution. Because at the end of the day, we get to get people like Steph Curry and Bill Gates talking about mosquitoes. I mean, if that’s not an example of being a global influencer, I don’t know what could be

Kathy: But we want talent, we want energy, we want enthusiasm but we also like nice people. It’s not worth working with jerks and so we prioritize people who are good team workers, able to take initiative, care about the value proposition that we stand for in our mission and also are willing to stretch and grow because almost nobody comes here knowing a lot about the UN. And they will leave here knowing a lot about the UN but even more about the world.6158442D-A1D8-4621-BC76-66D070FD9A06

SeemaOn a totally separate note, when I was thinking about what’s kind of really unique about UNF too on a day to day basis is when we moved from our old building to this building, one of the changes was that there were no microwaves on each floor, which I was very resistant to.

And the reason is they wanted to put all the microwaves and all the refrigerators on our top 12th floor so that it would force us all to go up there at the lunch hour to get our lunches, to warm it up or whatever. Again, I resisted and ate warm tuna sandwiches for quite some time but now that I do wanna bring my lunch and it’s a gift. It’s a gift that they made us go up to the 12th floor, enjoy the view… They’ve set it up so it’s very welcoming and that there’s not this expectation which being of a certain age too. There’s others’ expectation that you’re just at your desk all day which is sort of this old school expectation of corporate culture. You can work from anywhere as long as you’re getting your work done and that allows you to deal with everything you have to deal with in your life and still be productive at UNF. So, I now go to the 12th floor for my lunch.

Rocio: And if anything I was really surprised because I was expecting to go in there and them tell me like how I’ve been doing but in reality they wanted me to tell them how they can do a better job so I can improve on my job. So it was that critical feedback that I was like: I’ve never in that position where I’m telling you… Like this is how you can help me do my job. So I thought in those terms, it’s really awesome because it gives you agency of your job and it gives you that power to really do more than what you’re expected to do.

Denver: I want to thank Kathy Calvin for opening up the offices of the UN Foundation for all of us to visit and to the others who participated in this segment; Annie Rosenthal, Wes Rogerson, Kenny Pankey, Tisha Hyter, Emily Ross, Seema Jalan, and Rocio Ortega. Now, just go to denverfrederick.wordpress.com where you can hear this podcast again, read the transcript, and see pictures of the participants and the offices of the UN Foundation.

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The Business of Giving can be heard every Sunday evening between 6:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. Eastern on AM 970 The Answer in New York and on iHeartRadio. You can follow us @bizofgive on Twitter, @bizofgive on Instagram and at http://www.facebook.com/BusinessOfGiving

 

 

 

 

The Business of Giving Visits the Offices of Communities in Schools

Better Than Most is a regular feature of The Business of Giving examining the best places to work among social businesses and nonprofit organizations. 

Denver: And this evening, we’re going to take a trip down to Crystal Drive in Arlington, Virginia and visit the offices of Communities in Schools. We’ll begin with their President and CEO, Dale Erquiaga, and then we’ll get some wonderful insights from members of the CIS team.

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Dale: Communities in Schools is the nation’s largest and most effective dropout prevention program. We keep kids in school and on track to graduate by surrounding them with support. So for me, it’s a natural extension of that work that our own corporate culture reflects that same sense of support. People here genuinely love their work. They’re mission-driven and they reflect that same sense of mission in each other. These are folks who get along and they get to work every single day on a cause that matters most to our country and I think you see that in the people who work here. As the leader of this organization, I’m new to the organization so I inherited the culture. And I can tell you it’s the greatest inheritance that any CEO could ask for.

Kamila: And that is the fact that overworking is not celebrated. I think that we live in a culture where people want to be like the first person in and the last person out. And in the times where I have done that, I literally get called out by my manager, Steve, like, “What are you still doing here? What were you working on? It can wait! Why are you still here?” And so I think efficiency is celebrated here. I think finding simpler ways of doing things that don’t take as much time… There’s a culture of excellence where the product, I think, people put a lot of work into it to make sure that what they’re doing is a good representation of Communities in Schools. But just being here all the time and overworking and over-exceeding yourself is not celebrated. I think that’s what really encourages a good work-life balance because it’s not seen as a good thing if you’re always here.

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Alice: And in our last space, all of the senior offices were around the outside walls, so all the windows were blocked. It just happened to be the way that office was configured and so when we moved here, the senior management team said, “Let’s make all of the offices internal and have them be glassed, so everybody can enjoy all of the windows… And the best view in the whole place is our employee break room and our kitchen so that everybody can sit and see the river and just have as much as natural light as possible.” 

Tiffany: I can’t help but remember within the first few months that I started about four or five months into starting with Communities in Schools, my father passed away which is incredibly a trying time for anyone, but especially if you’re starting a new job and have an incredible amount of responsibility. And when I talk about how much Communities in Schools values their employees, I think about the support that I got from my boss and my colleagues when we had an incredible amount of work going on preparing for conferences and [hill days]. There were other folks in the office who weren’t at all responsible for leading this work who just automatically took over and helped produce everything so that by the time I came back, a lot of things were already in place. And I think that says a lot about the organizational culture.1D158BE3-55C7-4446-AFCF-49F0FD40D46D

Dawn: What I’ve been struck with in my time here is the significant degree of authenticity and transparency that exists particularly within our CEO and senior leadership team. Everything from being very open in the direction of where the organization is headed in the future to sharing personal stories and experiences with staff members demonstrating. There’s a real sense of vulnerability that the leadership team are willing to share and staff has responded very, very positively to that. You don’t see that with a lot of leaders. What struck me as a new employee here is that there is no ego that exists within this organization and having worked in HR for a long time, that’s very, very rare. We spend a lot of time identifying, thinking through our values and competencies as an organization and then providing ongoing training and development to ensure that everyone is on the same page and shares the same values. And I think that degree of transparency is really what has helped this organization get to where it is and will help it continue to be successful.

Crystal: Being able to have individuals work on what they enjoy most. Some people may be creative as far as planning events or maybe in the policy world, we allow different no matter the department we allow them to do that type of work. So when I’m recruiting and hiring, those are the types of perks and things that I explain to my candidates; that we offer an environment where it’s collaborative but in the same sense we allow you to do more of what you like and so that you’re not sticking to that one thing.01F1AEB6-75B8-4678-A552-7222873FF8A4

Meghan: When I first started, I came on as the Executive Assistant to our former CEO. And he announced that he was leaving about a month or two after I started, so it was kind of a weird introduction to CIS. And it made me really nervous because I wasn’t sure what would happen to me as he left. And I remember our Chief Strategy Officer sat down with me and had a conversation and she really took the time to make sure that I felt supported, and that I knew that I was going to have a home at CIS no matter what happened. And she really talked to me and found out what my interests were and that’s how I landed in Government Relations because she really identified where I would be a good fit and helped me [land]. So I think that that story just kind of really underscores exactly how much this effort to have a culture of supporting and empowering employees really comes from the people at the top.

[Tahir]: So the organizational took the effort itself to see that diversity, equity, and inclusion as the topic of our times and we were like, “Okay, we need to also look at this and how we’re related to this larger national conversation.” And we took the effort to look in within our network on how we serve our students, how our affiliates run themselves, and how also the national office run themselves, and I think what’s really interesting about it that the whole initiative is employee-led so people volunteer for this committees and they have genuine serious conversation about what are these issues that exist and how do we best approach them and solve them in a way that includes everyone in the conversation.

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Patti: Denver: I want to thank all those who participated in this segment; Dale Erquiagua, Meghan Lustig, Kamila Thigpen, Alice Butler, Tiffany Miller, [Tahir Ahmad], Dawn Godaire, and Crystal Gonzalez. If you should want to hear this again, read the transcript and see pictures of the participants and the offices of Communities in Schools. They’re all there waiting for you at denverfrederick.wordpress.com.

Dawn: I would say the bottom line is what really makes the CIS culture so unique is its people. It’s what everybody said here. I mean it’s the fact that the people are friendly and smart and committed to the work that we do. And as an organization, we will continue to be strong if we remain very diligent and understanding what our culture is and making sure we bring in the right talents that embodies those values, and I think so far that we have done that well, but I think it’s really important for other non-profits to understand. It is the people that will make you successful, the rest of it you can teach or develop.

Denver: I want to thank all those who participated in this segment; Dale Erquiaga, Meghan Lustig, Kamila Thigpen, Alice Butler, Tiffany Miller, [Tahir Ahmad], Dawn Godaire, and Crystal Gonzalez. If you should want to hear this again, read the transcript and see pictures of the participants and the offices of Communities in Schools. They’re all there waiting for you at denverfrederick.wordpress.com.

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The Business of Giving can be heard every Sunday evening between 6:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. Eastern on AM 970 The Answer in New York and on iHeartRadio. You can follow us @bizofgive on Twitter, @bizofgive on Instagram and at http://www.facebook.com/BusinessOfGiving

The Business of Giving Visits the Offices of the Partnership for Public Service

Better Than Most is a regular feature of The Business of Giving examining the best places to work among social good businesses and nonprofit organizations. 

Denver: There is a nonprofit organization based in Washington DC called the Partnership for Public Service whose mission is to see that the federal government works better for all of us. They’re also one of the very best places to work and we’ll find out why starting with their President and CEO, Max Stier and then hear from some of the members of the Partnership team.

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Max: I remember working for a prior boss myself at HUD and there was a conversation around public housing and concerns about how people believe that people in public housing were not taking care of it well. My boss then spoke up and said, “How many of you here has stayed in a hotel and left all the towels on the floor? How many of you have rented a car and treated it in a way that you would never treat your own car?” His basic point to all of us was when you own something, you treat it better. And that is true for organizations as well. And so I believe that one of the things I want to see fostered here is that sense of ownership. When people own the place, they will treat it better, they will enjoy it better and we will all win.

Georgia: For example, that’s things like a public speaking workshop where interns can volunteer to come and present to the rest of the group and then get really, really spot-on feedback from one of our most seasoned VPs who’s there leading the exercise, not only giving general pointers but really listening to people’s style and helping them understand what they can play up than what maybe they need to refine a little bit. And again as an intern, that’s something that’s so thrilling to get that kind of feedback from that level because if you get buy-in from somebody like that, you’re ready to take on the world.

B6076B91-9EBF-4795-A40C-E4081EEE7BB9Amiko: There are things like that that we certainly look for and it is going to be the right fit for somebody but I also want to highlight it from a cultural fit, there’s also this willingness and acknowledgement that we want people to enhance their culture. So it’s not just the people who fit in a particular mold but who will help us improve what we do and have this willingness to bring different ideas and help us grow and sometimes that’s asking tough questions and helping us to think about how we might do something differently or better.

Ella: This is the first place where my supervisor has ever asked me, “What can I be doing for you? What are you really interested in learning in? What do you really wanna be doing?” And also seeing those opportunities and also had my supervisor email me really excited saying, “Hey! There’s this great project I heard about, you are the first person that come to mind. Not just by me, but by several people at this organization. So let’s get started on it. I think it be a really great opportunity.” And knowing that both my direct supervisor here as well as just other folks at the organization having my best interest in mind –again, not just to succeed but to get different experiences that I want — really make an enjoyable place to work.

Brandon LardyWe get it from the values awards every month or every quarter now that we do them where we go through and we recognize people for the really good work that they’re doing and how they are embodying the values of the Partnership. So I really think that we get it constantly everyday we’re hearing about what matters to the organization. We’re hearing how we fit in the organization. And how the values really transcend through all of our work.

Laura: I think this is the only place where I’ve ever seen an intern giving a presentation at a big round table event that he sort of helped plan and also the CEO doing kitchen duty. I think that Partnership lets you actually have an influence in their reputation. So right off the bat, I was put in projects where I was interacting with some of our corporate partners or the transition teams. And I think it’s pretty surprising that someone in an entry-level job is given so much trust in the Partnership’s reputation. And I think the flatness of the organization really helps make it a very productive place to work. No one is saying what they think their superiors want to hear in a meeting. No one’s afraid to raise ideas; it’s really I think what allows for the most conducive work environment.

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BrittneyAnd on my very first day, our Vice President of Leadership and Evaluation sat me down and talked to me about our team and what my role would look like. And he said something that really struck with me and that I thought kind of embodies the Partnership culture and there was something really different than the experiences that I’d had at other organizations. He said that, “If there was ever a time and when there is the time, when you’re ready to do something different to take another step, whether that is something here at the Partnership or elsewhere, that I’m going to be here to support you.” For someone on my first day to be talking about what I might be doing later on or potentially leaving, I thought that that really showed that he was invested in me and my success beyond just what I was able to contribute to the team.

Andrew: I see leadership here having a very powerful cascading effect across the organization. A few examples, one; Max is always asking for feedback. Open book; he wants to know what he can do better, wants to know what’s going on, not trying to hide behind anything or pretend things are going well when maybe they could go better. And that happens across the organization. My boss, who’s one of the vice presidents here, he asked me for feedback personally. We’ll go out to lunch at quarterly reviews and yes, it’s about my experience and my review. It’s also how can he do better and he has very specific questions that he’ll ask me then I go ask my direct reports. And so we’re having these exchange rather than this kind of top-down we’ll-tell-you-what-to-do. It’s how can we all continue to make this place better. It’s sort of to the point of ownership too, I think.

Ella: We really talked about how the Partnership emphasizes bringing your authentic self to work. And not just who you are in a work environment but everything that makes you you and bringing that to the table. We are not an organization where to be successful, to do good work, to be able to interact with different customers or external stakeholders or internal stakeholders, you must meet this cookie cutter image that sometimes other organizations strive to get employees to fit in. We really value everyone bringing that authentic self to the table. And part of the way that I think our culture are really enables us to do that is by really having an emphasis that belonging matters; that making sure that every part of you, what is important to you

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Brandon: I remember at one point our VP turn to me and said, “What do you think about at the time we were talking about our cornerstone project: Best Places to Work.” I just looked at her like: You really care what I have to say? I’ve been here for probably two weeks at that point. I think it’s really refreshing. It really helps you feel like what you have to say matters and leadership really does want to hear what you have to say. And that does, at the end of the day, help you feel included, helps you feel like you’re actually contributing to the organization. It helps you feel like what you’re doing actually matters and it really makes it a joy to get up everyday and go in to work.

Max: The sense of culture to me is so important and baked into everybody here. So I’m learning from everybody. Everyone is adding to our culture and keeping track of our culture and helping that culture grow. Again, it’s sort of the shark that allegedly drowns if it doesn’t keep moving forward. We have to continue to get better. But I think, again, that sense of being proud of everything that is happening around us whether or not we directly contributed to it or not. In fact, when we haven’t, to be able to see something amazing occur is even better.

Laura: I’ll just talk about the one thing that I think makes the Partnership very unique and that’s the nature of our work relationships. I don’t think of my colleagues as colleagues. I think of them as friends that I happen to work with. And that just goes to say that my work friends are my best friends. A whole bunch of us started at Kickball League and hang out at that and I always see them outside of work maybe more than inside of work when I’m like focused in my cubicle working. I think that what that really does is energize you and that’s coming from someone who’s an introvert, it still very much energizes me and makes me want to come in to work, enjoy work and be my most productive self.

Denver: I want to thank all those who were good enough to participate in this segment: Max Stier, Andrew Marshall, Brittney Vevaina, Ella Holman, Brandon Lardy, Georgia Haddad, Laura Pietrantoni, and Amiko Matsumoto. The podcast of this piece along with the transcript as well as pictures of the participants and the offices of the Partnership for Public Service can all be found at denverfrederick.wordpress.com

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The Business of Giving can be heard every Sunday evening between 6:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. Eastern on AM 970 The Answer in New York and on iHeartRadio. You can follow us @bizofgive on Twitter, @bizofgive on Instagram and at http://www.facebook.com/BusinessOfGiving

 

The Business of Giving Visits the Offices of The Center for Effective Philanthropy (CEP)

Better Than Most is a regular feature of The Business of Giving examining the best places to work among social good businesses and nonprofit organizations. 


Denver: For this edition of Better Than Most, we’re going to head up to Cambridge, Massachusetts in the shadows of Harvard University and to the offices of The Center for Effective Philanthropy or CEP. We’ll start with their President and CEO, Phil Buchanan who will tell you about the organization and then hear from members of their staff. 

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Phil: We were created about 15 years ago and our focus is to help foundations get better. We do that through the purchase of data and insight, through research on issues like foundation strategy, foundation performance assessment and then through assessment including feedback loops. Because if you are a foundation, you live in a bubble of positivity. Everybody tells you what they think you want to hear and one of the roles that The Center for Effective Philanthropy plays is to help provide candid comparative feedback that will allow foundations to understand how they’re really being experienced by grantees and others with whom they work.

Grace: When I first joined CEP, one of the things that I noticed was this ritual that we have before staff meetings which is called Shout Outs and now we called it Thank Yous and it’s basically five minutes where it’s an open time and people can say, “You know I just want to shout out to my colleague, Ethan. Ethan I really needed help with something this week and you really stepped in and I couldn’t have done it without you. So, thank you!” And everybody kind of cheers and claps and you know there’s nothing cynical about it. It’s very genuine and just a super encouraging time and I love that about CEP. I’m so glad that that’s been a part of our culture and continues to be. Another thing that I really loved about CEP is we’re really thoughtful about a focus on the employee. I’ve felt this deep sense of being really cared for since joining.

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Charis: I really appreciate how CEP strives to glorify hard work but not overwork and I see work life balance being emphasized at all levels of the organization. About a year ago at staff retreat, so our President said, “You know, if one of your colleagues can leave the office at 5 PM, you should high-five them on the way out.” And that image stuck with me during my time here at CEP. So, whenever I feel that I finish my work and can leave early, I feel I’m contributing to CEP’s culture.

Alyse: We’ve also done a lot to make sure that we are not accidentally bringing extra bias into our process. So, things to remove implicit bias throughout the process include masking pieces of resumes, making sure that people are able to complete assessments before our folks meet them, so we can understand skill level without allowing bias of interview to creep in and things of that nature. So, I think that has helped us to be a stronger organization and make sure that we’re bringing on folks from a variety of backgrounds that would be good contributors to our organization.

Grace: The other piece that I think we don’t talk about a lot but I think is actually very unique to CEP’s that we each do have a professional development budget of $1,000 a year to use and I think that is a really special. I think that it really speaks volumes to how committed the organization is to each of our individual development and I’ve had many really helpful conversations with my supervisor about how I can grow both here at CEP and to reach my sort of broader career goal as well.

Ethan: So, you’re paired with someone who’s your mentor, who is on a different team from you, so it’s someone that you may not be interacting with in your work every single day and someone who has a different perspective on the work that CEP does perhaps than your colleagues directly on your team do and it’s a time where you can go out to get lunch or coffee twice a month for your first six months and it’s a time where you can really talk about anything.

Charis: I think what says a lot about an organization’s culture is what people do when things go awry and the senior management here at CEP are very transparent. They try to be as transparent as possible about the decisions that are made but they’re also transparent when there is a personal difficulty for example, about what they cannot be transparent about and I really appreciated being on the receiving end of that transparency because it removes any unnecessary fear that I have about my job and my role and expectations.

Chloe:  But, here at CEP we actually have a culture document that dictates how we think and talk culture both internally and externally including in our hiring process and the way that that was developed was not sort of unilateral from leadership saying here is the culture that we have but it was across organizational task course that defined all of the different sort of metrics by which we judged whether we have the culture that we want or the culture that we sort of aspired towards, so that includes everything from sort of how mission-driven are we to work life balance as others have mentioned to how transparent we are in our communications. So, we’re very clear about sort of what we’re hoping to get out of our culture, so we’re not just talking about sort of interpersonal relationships when they think about what makes CEP special.

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Ethan: Something, again I didn’t fully realize until I entered the working world is that you spent a lot of time with the people you work with, more so than your roommates, than your family. So, it’s really such an important thing that you enjoy each others company, you care for each other, you respect each other and you have fun together and I think that really comes through at CEP.

Charis: The first is the way that window cubes at CEP get allotted. There’s a row of cubes along that have the best window view and whenever one becomes vacant, we run something like a lottery for who gets to sit there and instead of defaulting to tenures saying the most senior person gets to have the cube, what we do instead balances both tenure and also allows a lucky newcomer to have a wonderful cube experience. We put one ballot for every year that you’ve worked at CEP, so the longer that you’ve worked at CEP, the higher chances you have of winning the lottery. It opens up the opportunity for someone who just joined to also have the experience. So, that’s one quirky story that gets add the balance that we strive to have at this organization.

Chloe: So, not only am I giving feedback on people I’ve managed on a project but there are allowed to get feedback on me and that’s actually encouraged and I found that having that sort of critical mass of feedback from people I’ve worked with in different capacities has been so valuable to my own personal growth because everyone has different perspectives on where I could improve, what my strengths are, what my opportunities for improvement are and I think that that’s been so crucial in something I didn’t realize was so important until I was sort of enmeshed in their culture.

Kris: I think what’s pretty rare in my work experience and it’s going to happen this week I think, so the President of the organization will ask us to actually watch him to give his presentation and provide feedback and critique and takes those things to heart and my change what the presentation entails and I just think that’s very rare to have that type of not only top to bottom but bottom to top feedback and I think that’s a great thing that we have here at CEP.

Alyse: For example, there was a staff meeting once where Phil, who’s our President and another employee came in to start the staff meeting by juggling and singing Oh Canada because they’re all from Canada which was an unusual way to start a meeting or when one point, we were doing a staff retreat and said, “Does anyone here have any special talents they can share?” And one of the staff people said, “I can read palms.” “Great! You can read palms.”, doing that to break time, so things like that. You’re just sort of free to be yourself and to be silly in the workplace at the same time that you’re not doing important work.

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Denver: I want to extend a special thanks to Alyse D’Amico who organized all of this and to the others who participated as well: Grace Nicolette, Ethan McCoy, Charis Loh, Chloe Wittenberg, and Kris Sanda. Now if you go to denverfrederick.wordpress.com, we’ll have the podcast and transcript there, pictures of the participants and the CEP offices as well as my full interview with their President and CEO, Phil Buchanan.


The Business of Giving can be heard every Sunday evening between 6:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. Eastern on AM 970 The Answer in New York and on iHeartRadio. You can follow us @bizofgive on Twitter, @bizofgive on Instagram and at http://www.facebook.com/BusinessOfGiving