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Showing posts from September, 2011

The Intentionality of Building Relationships

WHEN I RECEIVED THE FOLLOWING RESPONSE TO my summer vacation posts (here and here), I just had to share it.  It shows how an organization can take a really good idea and adapt it, and it further proves the point that really good ideas are scalable if people have the imagination to run with it. 

Sally Roesch Wagner is the executive director of the Matilda Joslyn Gage Foundation in Fayetteville, NY.  Gage was a formidable force for equal rights and Wagner is the visionary scholar who has brought Gage's work to life and life to the public.  Here's Sally's approach to making stakeholder communication intentional:
I like the idea [of trustees porch conversations] so much that I'm going to propose we think about it as a strategy rather than an event -- that we (board, staff, volunteers, docents) all engage visitors at all of our events in a conversation about what they'd like to see us do, transparent talk about our finances, what we need, see what questions they have, etc…

What I Learned on My Summer Vacation, Part II: "I Serve"

THESE TWO WORDS GAINED EXPANDED meaning for me this summer.  While spending a week at Chautauqua Institution, my vacation companion and I attended a dizzying array of performances, lectures and conversations with authors and staff.  Each was introduced by the Institution's president or senior staffer, who began by introducing themselves to the audience.  In every case -- and I mean every case -- the staff welcomed the audience, said their names and added their titles by saying "I serve Chautauqua Institution as [insert job title here]."  It was my companion who pointed this turn of phrase out to me.  "Do you hear how they're introducing themselves?" she asked.  She'd picked up on right away.  The more I heard it, the more I was amazed by it -- not just the uniformity in which it was delivered, but by the powerful servant-driven idea behind it.  Obviously, the Institution's leadership made a conscious decision about emphasizing the service aspect of …

What I Learned on My Summer Vacation About Stakeholder Communication

There's a special place in western New York where life-long learning, spiritual and artistic exploration, and recreation meet.  This place is Chautauqua Institution, a nonprofit community now in its 138th year.  When I'm lucky, get to spend a snippet of the nine-week season there.  Each season is programmed with roughly 2,000 events ranging from lectures and classes to performances of all types, art shows, book readings, community events and everything in between.

Chautauqua Institution -- the nonprofit corporation -- is a $24+ million annual operation governed by a board of 24 trustees, employing more than 1,200 full-time and seasonal employees, with a physical plant numbering more than 80 buildings and a ton of recreational areas, and a balance sheet that totes up more than $60 million in assets.  Visitors to the grounds number in the tens of thousands over the course of the nine-week season (late June to late August).  Some of these folks own property on the grounds and the…