Category Archives: -By Author

Volunteering/Volunteer Recruitment Made Easy for Students and Nonprofits

Monica Horner
Monica Horner

Recently, our coaches learned about an exciting new student volunteer project and transcript service called VolunteerCrowd. CEO and Founder, Amy von Kaenel introduced her latest development designed to help middle school through college-age students find, schedule and track volunteer opportunities for FREE!

Students are able to uncover meaningful opportunities ranging from a few hours volunteering at a local shelter to a summer-long internship. The best part is students are able to match their interests and volunteer needs with a project in their community.

Volunteering is one of four critical factors when applying for admission to college. Recently, VolunteerCrowd looked at 79 Orange County public high schools and found there are approximately 54,000 students from schools who require volunteer hours in search of over 460,000 collective hours in a given year.  The need for volunteer projects is great. Each year, students find it more and more difficult to differentiate themselves when competing against students who have equally as high GPAs and perfect test scores. With the new app, VolunteerCrowd makes student volunteering easy and transparent.

Volunteering can make a unique contribution to college and career success that can’t be taught in the classroom.  Evidence supports that social-emotional education is falling short of preparing students for higher education and employment.  A 2018 Bloomberg Next Study reported that many graduates have deficient skills in emotional intelligence, complex reasoning and negotiation, and persuasion. VolunteerCrowd can deliver the relevant opportunities students need to learn and practice soft skills and positively impact college completion rates and workforce success.

On the flip side, nonprofits can take advantage of the ease and convenience of VolunteerCrowd’s recruitment process by sending projects to students@volunteercrowd.com, and later this year posting volunteer opportunities on VolunteerCrowd. Students are carefully matched with projects they are passionate about. VolunteerCrowd will notify students when a match is made. Project details will be shared with students and reminders will be automatically sent. Once a project is completed, nonprofits can verify hours.  Later this year, organizations will be able to acknowledge a job well done by providing strength and skill endorsements related to student performance thus providing individual assessments that colleges like to see.

Below are some of the many ways VolunteerCrowd assists nonprofits with volunteer engagement throughout the year and helps students meet their community service goals:

  • Find volunteer organizations of personal interest. Request an alert when new projects become available.
  • Search for/post volunteer projects by location and zip code.
  • Receive reminders, request projects and get alerts when new organizations post projects
  • Allow students to qualify for the President’s Volunteer Service Award.  VolunteerCrowd became a certifying organization in July.
  • Engage volunteers in meaningful experiences they can become passionate about.
  • Invite friends to join the cause and volunteer together.
  • Review your community service experiences and develop leadership skills through projects.
  • Let your performance stand out by requesting recommendations from organizations you serve.

Later this fall, VolunteerCrowd will unveil their volunteer transcript and portfolio service allowing students to create an individual portfolio showcasing total hours by cause, top organizations served, milestones and even recommendations.

To learn more, go to www.volunteercrowd.com or download the app at the App Store.

Author: Monica Horner, Executive Coaches of Orange County, www.ECofOC.org

Performance Review for the CEO/ED

Adrianne Geiger Dumond

A performance review of the CEO/ED (Executive Director) one time a year is recommended as good governance. Yet, when I have asked some of these leaders in the past, the answer often is “ Oh, I’ve never had one” … or “I had one several years ago.”

The questions are, How can a leader grow and reach new heights without support and feedback from the Board? How can a Board really support a mission without understanding the leader’s challenges and strengths?

There are assessment tools and even resources on the Internet about this process and protocol, but I believe the simplest of discussions with everyone notified and involved produces the healthiest and most satisfactory outcomes.

• The Board chair meets with the CEO/ED to state purpose, ask about a future date, and ask if there are any items he/she would like feedback on.

• The Board chair reports to the Board the findings and sets a future date, asking that all members please attend.

In the meeting there are two (2) simple questions to answer:

1. What did the leader accomplish this year, what about effective communication with the Board, with donor and community relationships, success with leadership initiatives, and meeting the strategic goals of the nonprofit? What are his/her strengths?

2. What would the Board like to have him/her consider doing differently?

These questions should be tackled separately. That is, question 1 should be discussed by the entire Board – if small, in one group. If the Board is more than 6, then in small groups, and then each small group reports to the others. There is knowledge and information shared in this process that makes the Board a stronger team.

After there is closure to the first question, the second question is addressed in the same way.

The discussions and notes from these two sessions must be confidential and housed in the Board chair’s possession – never in the office. Feedback to the CEO/ED should convey support, appreciation, and should also touch on any development goals for the leader.

Author: Adrianne Geiger DuMond, Executive Coaches of Orange County, www.ECofOC.org

Does Your Organization Have Committed Owners or Disengaged Renters?

Namita Kutty

Does your non-profit have owners who view the business as their own and go over and beyond their job description or renters who just get by viewing the job as a regular 9-5 chore?

Who are your Owners, Renters and Vandals?

According to a recent Gallup poll, only 33% of workers in the United States are really engaged in their jobs which means they bring their full self to work and are Owners.

51% of employees are disengaged Renters and bring themselves and their skills to work but may not really put in their full heart into it.  Vital to your organization, but they are there for money and view it as a 9-5 job. A more concerning note is that 16% are actively disengaged and alarmingly a small portion of them might even end up as up as Vandals as per Cueinc*. Vandals are employees who don’t just not care about your organization but may also derail it and your other engaged team members with their negativity and personal agendas.

Does it matter if employees are engaged?
Here are some metrics from Gallup on the difference that engaged employees make :

Highly engaged business units:

  • Realize a 41% reduction in absenteeism and a 17% increase in productivity
  • Achieve a 10% increase in customer metrics and a 20% increase in sales.
  • Overall, it can result in 21% greater profitability

First, how do you identify a highly engaged employee ?

An engaged employee doesn’t just view it as a job or a gig. They will go over and beyond the job description to work towards the mission of the non-profit. She not just believes in the mission, but is an evangelist ! Example : An employee works in a hotel and as he is walking down the corridor, he spots an piece of paper on the floor. Will he pick it up and throw it in a bin, or kick it under the carpet or will he throw something else down and walk away?

Five quick tips on increasing engagement and having more owners :

1. Invest in what motivates individual employees :

Employees feel most engaged when they feel cared for. So, your first step is to identify what motivates an individual employee. And then cater to them by developing individual development plan & reward for each of them.

2. Help them grow:

Radical Candour by Kim Scott shares a great way to give feedback by caring personally but challenging directly. Which means giving direct feedback while also building a personal connect and rapport with the employee thereby giving guidance that’s kind and clear, specific and sincere.

3. Help your employees shine :

Employees are most engaged when they enjoy their jobs. An efficient way to do this, is to  play by their strengths. Identify what they are best at and ensure that they have opportunities to shine by they doing what comes naturally to them.

4. Freedom to make big changes :

A renter can change the drapes, but can’t break down walls can she? A owner can. Give your employees the freedom to make big calls and have them take the accountability for it.

5. Rewarding & Celebrating your owners :

Do the promotion and big increments only go to your renters who have been there forever or do you proactively identify your upcoming owners and reward them?

Wishing you all the very best in your quest to increase your business owners and weed out the vandals ! Au revior.

Source :

Community for Positive Employee Relations – http://www.cueinc.com/ Gallup – https://news.gallup.com/reports/199961/7.aspx                    
Radical Candour by Kim Scott   https://www.kimmalonescott.com/

Author: Namita Kutty, Executive Coaches of Orange County, www.ECofOC.org

Working Remotely

Robin Noah
Robin Noah
The option to work outside the office is a dream come true for employees who want better working options, however, managing remote employees can quickly become a boss’s worst nightmare. Remote working, telecommuting, flexible working – thanks to the wonders of technology, is increasingly finding new ways to get the job done. The ability to telecommute, whether full time or on occasion, has become an increasingly common workplace perk. In fact, according to one Gallup study 43.

It has been said that allowing people to work from home attracts and retains top talent in a competitive market, but there are factors to consider.

1. Eligibility: One of the first things any employer needs to consider when deciding on a remote work assignment is whether the employees’ attitudes, work ethics and personalities align with the company’s expectations of telecommuting. Managers should accommodate on a case-by-case basis keeping in mind what’s best for the company, its team members and the project at hand.  Sometimes looking at the employees profile will give the best clue when looking for candidates or responding to a request.

Take some time  to cover all areas of remote working and create a job description that includes the nature of the position, how long a person has been at the position, past job performance and how frequently a staff member can telecommute, i.e., full time, once a week, etc.

2. Expectations:  For geographically dispersed teams, or in cases where remote work helps, accommodation for family schedules and obligations, official “business hours” may vary from person to person.  However, regardless of their work hours, employees also need to be held accountable for their assigned jobs. “It is important to provide very specific remote work guidelines and policies for employees to review and acknowledge in a telecommuting arrangement.

Workers who do not meet these expectations risk losing the trust of leadership and sidelining their team. Minimum considerations:

  • Clear expectations with employees
  • Adhering to company expectations
  • Available during office hours
  • Meet deadlines and complete projects with excellence
  • Maintain communication with their manager and co-workers.

Other concerns that may be addressed

  • Security of company owned equipment
  • Accountability and visibility
  • Security – both physical, and digital
  • Maintaining boundaries between work life and home life

3. Equipment and Cybersecurity

Enabling employees to work remotely opens up the likelihood that they’ll use their work devices to communicate via unsecured public networks. Password-protect all business devices; make sure that data going out from those devices is encrypted. Keep a current inventory of all devices and make sure each one has its GPS tracking turned on. Additionally, install technology to remotely wipe data from any device that has been lost or stolen.”

4. Communication methods: With the appropriate use of communications technology, companies can also ensure their culture remains intact, even with full-time telecommuters.  It’s wise to explicitly state that remote work is a privilege that can be revoked if it’s discovered that an employee is not meeting his or her expectations while working outside the office.

This article is informational. Please see a labor law attorney for any questions you may have.

Author: Robin Noah, Executive Coaches of Orange County, www.ECofOC.org

How Valuable Is Time To Your Employees?

Dave Blankenhorn

As our day to day lives have become busier and technology has eroded the line between work hours and personal time, many people are working longer hours than ever before. From cell phones to laptops people are now accessible at virtually any hour of the day. The result is that people feel stressed and lack more free time.

When it comes to work, it turns out that giving people more freedom can foster greater productivity and creativity among employees. This can include such things as more vacation time or short breaks within the workday. Companies such as Netflix have gone so far to introduce vacation policies allowing people to take off whatever time they need. Interestingly, these companies have found most do not abuse such freedom and tend to be happier and perhaps more loyal. At the least companies should encourage people to use all of their allotted vacation time.

Another way to give employees more time is to allow them some flexibility to run the occasional errand during the workday. Some find it hard to juggle everything they need to do on the weekends.

For people who run on “auto pilot” when it comes to repetitive tasks or routines mixing things up can have a big impact. It forces them to become more engaged in what else is around them.

In our rat race world finding ways to ease the stress on our staff can pay big dividends.

Author: Dave Blankenhorn, Executive Coaches of Orange County, www.ECofOC.org

Changing Pies

David Coffaro
Dave Coffaro

As nonprofit development professionals know, there are many factors that influence charitable donations. Emotional connection to an organization’s mission, commitment to creating a better community, giving back to a charity that made a difference in someone’s life or tax deductions can all be influencers. Add to these internal motivations the external reality of economic conditions and you have an ever-changing environment informing development strategies.

Strategy as a Process, not an Event

Successful leaders know that their ability to adapt strategy as environments change is fundamental to sustaining a thriving organization. Reading the environment, interpreting temporary and longer-term structural changes and proactively adjusting approach are critical determinants of success.

Today, nonprofit leaders face an environmental shift in terms of fundraising. New preliminary IRS information, reported by MarketWatch this week (https://www.marketwatch.com/story/americans-slashed-their-charitable-deductions-by-54-billion-after-trumps-tax-overhaul-2019-07-09) indicates that as a result of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, taxpayers have itemized $54 billion less in charitable contributions so far this tax season compared to the previous year. These numbers could change as the IRS receives more tax returns (the agency expects a record 14.6 million tax return extension requests this year), but the headline corroborates what many nonprofits have been feeling over the past year of fundraising.

At first blush, this news suggests that nonprofits must now compete for a smaller pie of charitable giving. However, when we dig a little deeper, it may be that there are other pies available to get a bigger slice. Here are three specific ideas to contemplate as your organization considers refining and adapting its’ strategy:

  • Market the mission – Step into the shoes of the donor and ask “why would I contribute to your organization”. Tax benefits are one reason, but for most of your donors, there is some kind of emotional connection to your mission. The work your organization does every day resonates with the donor at some level, or they wouldn’t be one of your donors. This is a perfect time to revisit your mission, how you articulate it, your organization’s value proposition and how you message all of this through every medium to make sure the story is communicated the way it needs to be delivered.
  • Increase focus on corporations and foundations – Concurrent with the 1/1% decline in the dollar amount of donations from individuals, funds from corporations and foundations actually  increased (+5.4% from corporations and +7.3% from foundations). Translation – there’s still a lot of pie available; you just may have to look in different places to get what your organization needs. This is where the role of leaders comes into play in terms of refining strategy based on a changing environment.
  • Explore non-financial gifts – Beyond the 2017 tax law changes, one theory suggests that equity market volatility over the past year may be playing a role in individual giving. This behavioral finance explanation suggests that when capital markets are volatile, investors feel less confident, therefore more cautious about donating from their investment portfolios to charities. As an alternative, developing or expanding your organization’s focus on non-financial gifts – real estate, automobiles, oil, gas or mineral rights, specialty assets or artwork may be a way to enable your donors to support the mission in a manner that is more comfortable in the current market cycle.

Effective nonprofit strategy is on ongoing, dynamic process that continually recalibrates to its environment. This is a perfect time to revisit your organization’s strategy to see how it aligns with current reality, and the pies that are available to you.

Author: David Coffaro, Executive Coaches of Orange County, www.ECofOC.org

Leadership Is About Coaching – Here’s How To Do It Well

Michael Kogutek, nonprofit management coach
Michael Kogutek

Michael Bungay Stanier is a Canadian coach. He is the author of “ The Coaching Habit.” He is one of my favorite people on coaching.

The following piece of his is terrific.” If you’re a leader or a manager, you probably wear a lot of hats. You’re a project manager, delegator, spokesperson, and most importantly, a coach.

But the problem is that no one ever tells you how to be an effective coach, or even what that means. Are you supposed to act like a sports coach? A therapist? Perform some bizarre (and arcane) HR ritual?

The answer is none of the above. In fact, it’s about making one tiny change to your behavior, one that will bring about significant impact. Being a coach is about being more curious, and being slow to give advice and take action.

But the truth is, most of us are advice-giving maniacs. We do not listen as much as we should. Being curious involves asking questions. The best question is What else?? It is based on the understanding that the first answer someone gives is never their only answer.

Coaching is an essential leadership behavior. Curiosity is the driving force in being more coach-like. Questions fuel curiosity. Remember as a leader and a manager, your job is not to have all of the answers-but to guide your employees to come up with the right ones.”

Author:  Michael Kogutek, Executive Coaches of Orange County, www.ECofOC.org

A Case For Risk Management

Robin Noah
Robin Noah

A case for risk management: You may have read about a case where a federal jury recently awarded Taco Bell workers approximately $496,000 in a class action case that alleged meal and rest period violations. Taco Bell ended up in court because of problems with its policy on meal breaks and rest periods.  A clear case of failure to comply with labor law.

For example Meal Periods: Employers must allow employees to take meal periods at the proper time. More than 134,000 employees claimed that Bell failed to properly provide meal breaks before the fifth hour of work as required by California law.   This case demonstrates the challenges California employers face in the ever-persistent litigation over meal and rest periods.

The workers did win on their claim that Taco Bell failed to properly pay them when a meal break was skipped. If an employer fails to provide an employee a meal period, the employer must pay the employee one additional hour of pay at the employee’s regular rate of compensation (Labor Code, sec. 226.7). This is often referred to as “premium pay.”

The Taco Bell workers claimed that the company paid them only 30 minutes of wages when a meal period was skipped, rather than the full hour of required premium pay. The jury agreed.

Of great interest is that Taco Bell faced litigation because its employee handbook policy did not meet California’s strict meal and rest break requirements. Evidence submitted at trial alleged that Taco Bell used a meal period “matrix,” which reflected a policy of providing the meal after five hours of work, instead of before.

Though there are many laws requiring employers to notify employees of certain workplace rights, there are actually no federal or state laws specifically requiring an employer to have an employee handbook. However, for a number of reasons, creating and maintaining an employee handbook is a good idea and a best practice.

Moreover, an employee handbook is a useful tool for providing employees with that information that, by law, must already be delivered in writing (e.g., equal employment opportunity (EEO) statements).

Rather than provide employees with a haphazard pile of mandatory written notices—and then attempt to document that those notices were received—it makes sense to collect them into an organized, easy-to-use handbook or similar document.

Consider managing the risk by making clear what appropriate activity is by enacting a company-wide program that will educate everyone on what is acceptable and unacceptable workplace behavior.

Please see a Labor Law attorney for employee handbook issues.

Author:  Robin Noah, Executive Coaches of Orange County, www.ECofOC.org

Good Leaders are Confident…But OOPS! Overconfident?

Adrianne Geiger Dumond

Good leaders are confident. Their confidence inspires trust and a sense of fulfillment for the mission. But there can be a fine line between confidence and overconfidence. The Wall Street Journal recently published an excellent article about this conundrum.[1] I will address the four questions, which are very explanatory, then add the characteristics that show up in leaders who are arrogant (overconfident?).

Four questions to ask yourself: The author of the article, Sydney Finkelstein, notes four questions that allow a leader to do a self-evaluation. They are:

            • How much time do I really spend listening?

            • Do I originate most of the ideas?

            • Do I often feel like I am the smartest person in the room?

            • Do I think of myself as indispensable to my business’s success?

The article includes some findings from a random survey of workers across the US, done online, that distinguishes characteristics of ‘bad’ managers called “The Impact of Arrogance”. Many relate to being overconfident. They are:

            • Doesn’t show concern for my career and personal development.

            • Isn’t open or interested in feedback.

            • Wants to prove himself/herself right.

            • Isn’t self-aware.

            • Betrays trust.

            • Plays favorites.

            • Doesn’t listen.

Believing in yourself makes for better outcomes. But as the author says, “in management as with everything else, you really can have too much of a good thing”.

Author:  Adrianne Geiger DuMond, Executive Coaches of Orange County, www.ECofOC.org



[1]Confident or Overconfident? Four questions to Ask Yourself” by Dr. Sydney  Finkelstein (Dartmouth College), the Wall Street Journal {C-Suite Strategies), February 25, 2019.

What We Can Learn From Baseball

Dave Blankenhorn

A recent article, authored by Dave Blankenhorn (my son), in The Zweig Letter uses an interesting baseball story to illustrate the importance of “top down” and “ bottom up” communication in any organization.

There was much controversy in the last World Series when Dave Roberts, the Dodger manager, removed pitcher Rich Hill in the seventh inning who had at that point held the Sox to only one hit. The result was a Dodger loss which led to their eventual defeat.

What happened?

Following the game, it was revealed that the decision to remove Hill stemmed from a quick statement Hill had made in the dugout at the end of the sixth inning expressing concern to Roberts that he might not be able to hold up much longer. Roberts did not reply. So after walking the lead off hitter in the seventh Roberts walked to the mound to simply check in on Hill. He did not raise his hand signaling for a reliever. It was just a check-in. However, Hill assumed he was coming to remove him. Without a word he handed the ball to Roberts and walked off the mound. This lack of communication changed the trajectory of the game and in the end the World Series. Both said later that had either of them followed up with a question to clarify the intent of the other then Hill would have stayed in the game and the World Series would possibly have ended in a different way.

This story highlights the importance of complete and clear communication in any organization. Leadership needs to set a clear vision on the culture and strategy and let the staff know where to focus their energy. In turn staff needs to listen to staff to gain that input on how to be more effective. Any explicit or implicit message should be clarified to avoid a “7th inning” moment that could do great harm to your organization.

Author: Dave Blankenhorn, Executive Coaches of Orange County, www.ECofOC.org