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Cathy Rucci On How To Leave a Lasting Legacy With a Successful & Effective Nonprofit Organization

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Make sure you understand the community need and pay attention to changing needs. If you’re a food shelf that serves people only every 30 days, but people need help with food more than that, serve them every three weeks! Be open to adjusting “the way things have always been done”. Be open to removing as many barriers to your services as you can. Just be open to understanding the need. If you are meeting a community need, that will be your legacy.


For someone who wants to set aside money to establish a Philanthropic Foundation or Fund, what does it take to make sure your resources are being impactful and truly effective? In this interview series, called “How To Create Philanthropy That Leaves a Lasting Legacy” we are visiting with founders of Philanthropic Foundations, Charitable Organizations, and Non-Profit Organizations, to talk about the steps they took to create sustainable success.

As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Cathy Rucci.

Cathy Rucci began her career in the domestic Peace Corps as a VISTA Volunteer, where she discovered a passion to end poverty. She has been employed in nonprofits for almost thirty years, and holds a graduate-level Nonprofit Management Certificate from the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota and a Master of Liberal Studies with a focus on Public Affairs and Social Work. Cathy’s leadership at MORE, a nonprofit that serves refugees and immigrants in St. Paul, Minn., brings a healthy balance of the people-centered values of social work with the business-minded practices of management. Cathy lives in East St. Paul, Minn. with her husband and pets and loves spending time with family and friends, especially her nieces and nephews.


Thank you for making time to visit with us about a ‘top of mind’ topic. Our readers would like to get to know you a bit better. Can you please tell us about one or two life experiences that most shaped who you are today?

Growing up in poverty that was a direct result of language difficulties is the life experience that most shaped who I am. My dad was a factory worker with great social skills and a very hard worker. His bosses always really liked him. But when offered opportunities to become a supervisor himself and be better paid, he passed them up, time after time. I believe now that he was dyslexic and avoided roles where his difficulties reading and writing would be exposed. That was the foundation of our low socioeconomic status.

MORE, the organization I lead, helps newly arrived refugees and immigrants with everything they need to launch a life as Americans, and a big part of that is teaching them how to read, write, and speak English. We also serve as go-betweens, helping them understand, respond, and reach out in English to landlords, utilities, schools, healthcare providers, service agencies–we don’t want language to be the cause of missed opportunities. Because of my background, I can really relate to families where English reading and writing difficulties are a barrier to stability and success.

You are a successful leader. Which three-character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? We would love to hear a few stories or examples.

Empathy. I can relate to people. I don’t mean just our program participants, I mean staff, volunteers, board members, donors. It’s important to be able to step into people’s shoes and have some understanding about what’s happening in their lives.

Authenticity is also a trait I draw on. I’m an executive, but in my family, I am the first person to go to college, graduate, and continue on to get a master’s degree. I didn’t grow up in an environment where I was given a roadmap for success–my parents both dropped out of high school.

I’m totally open about my background. Many of the families who participate in our programs have a similar dynamic: the parents want a better life for their children, but as smart and hardworking as they are, they lack that extra cultural knowledge. I didn’t have it either. I didn’t think I was very smart. What I realize now, as an adult, was that it wasn’t about being smart or not, it was about language. I didn’t have the middle-class language that my teachers and college-bound friends were speaking. But I learned the language and the hidden rules. And now I help other people do it!

My final trait is that I’m an advocate. Our program participants have such great potential as individuals and as neighbors and community members–and need such comparatively little support to unlock it. Getting this message out to donors, partners, and agencies is a big part of our success.

What’s the most interesting discovery you’ve made since you started leading your organization?

I hadn’t worked with refugees and immigrants before I took this role ten years ago, and I was surprised how strongly I could relate to them. The universal experience of poverty is an equalizer. Having lived in public housing and been the kid explaining and answering letters for the rest of the family, I knew their struggles firsthand.

Can you please tell our readers more about how you or your organization intends to make a significant social impact?

For new Americans who show leadership potential, we are there to remove barriers and give them career-building opportunities. Like being on the board of directors. It’s important that the board and staff at all levels represent the experience of the people who are served by the organization. I tell young people to get on a board of directors — you’ll see the organization from a perspective that is important, and you’ll get valuable experience. And even within English speakers, the “language” used by entities like a board of directors is something an outsider needs help decoding.

Everything boils down to language. Our mission at MORE is helping people grow language: English, systems, body language–the language of your new country.

What makes you feel passionate about this cause more than any other?

The people we serve. When you understand the experience of refugees and immigrants, the fact they can get up every single day, go to work in a new country, come to MORE to learn English as adults or whatever they need to do to make sure their family’s needs are met is so impressive. They’ve experienced traumas before they came here. Resettlement is traumatic. But they remain so motivated and driven to take advantage of every opportunity. It’s extremely inspiring.

Without naming names, could you share a story about an individual who benefitted from your initiatives?

When I first started working at MORE, my office was located right by the advocate we employ to help support our families — and we’d chat about problems people came to see her for. In summer, a woman came and asked if there was any way MORE could buy her family a fan. They were so hot, and they didn’t have anything to keep them cool. My staff member found out that they had been settled in America in the wintertime, so no one ever explained what their window air conditioner was, or how to use it. Sometimes, the solutions are so easy.

A different family got a cease and desist letter from their landlord. They were causing water damage in the apartment below them. We figured out what was happening — no one had told them that they take a bath in the bathtub. In the refugee camp they tossed a bucket of water over their bodies. They were filling the bathtub with water and then standing outside of it, throwing the water on themselves. Unless someone tells you, how would you know?

We all want to help and to live a life of purpose. What are three actions anyone could take to help address the root cause of the problem you’re trying to solve?

We want to help refugees and immigrants get everything they need to succeed. Anyone can help by donating money or household items, volunteering in-person, join a board of directors. Understand and acknowledge the value that refugees and immigrants bring to our community.

Based on your experience, what are the “5 Things You Need To Create A Successful & Effective Nonprofit That Leaves A Lasting Legacy?” Please share a story or example for each.

  1. Make sure you understand the community need and pay attention to changing needs. If you’re a food shelf that serves people only every 30 days, but people need help with food more than that, serve them every three weeks! Be open to adjusting “the way things have always been done”. Be open to removing as many barriers to your services as you can. Just be open to understanding the need. If you are meeting a community need, that will be your legacy.
  2. Have a board of directors that is not only engaged, but truly understands their role. I see time and again where orgs have a board of directors that doesn’t understand what they’re doing. That’s ineffective.
  3. When leading a nonprofit, there must be a balance between serving the people and managing the organization. You can’t sacrifice one for the other. Make sure you are serving within your means. If you don’t have the funding for a special project this year, then it can’t happen. It isn’t easy to tell people No but sometimes, it must be done for the organization to remain financially viable.
  4. Support the next generation of leaders. When managing staff, provide them with opportunities that aren’t always available in beginning level positions — it’s important to get people supervising someone else as soon as you can. In social services, you see amazing social workers get promoted, become supervisors, and they’re terrible at it, because no one told them how to do it. Offer not only opportunities, but training, too– so they can gain experience. I am constantly scanning for supervision opportunities for my staff. It doesn’t have to be hierarchical. But to create a legacy, it’s our responsibility to support this important life skill.
  5. Provide financial management basics to everyone within the organization. In my experience, most non-management level nonprofit employees don’t understand even the basics of nonprofit financial management. What I learned was, the people in the organization with the financial information were the people with the power. It is very important that that power should be distributed throughout the organization. When we do board recruitment, I tell everyone that I will teach them about nonprofit financial management. I want to empower them. It’s another way you balance the people with the organization and helps everyone buy in and make better decisions. Then staff feel like they have a part in it and can see the impact.

How has the pandemic changed your definition of success?

I feel like it’s a success when we are doing in-person programming and keeping everyone safe. Two years ago, that wasn’t even on our radar.

A win that happened through Covid — it’s important to us to offer our participants choice in everything they do, especially around our free food distribution every Friday. At the beginning of the pandemic, we could only hand them prepacked bags. We eventually figured out safety protocols, and this fall we got back to shopping. Everyone must wear masks and it takes a little longer for our participants, but we’re being safe and it’s so much better. Choice is so important. Especially when working with victims of trauma.

How do you get inspired after an inevitable setback?

I remind myself that MORE makes a tremendous impact when it’s needed, and there is still a need in the community.

Nonprofits close all the time- not every nonprofit is meant to be around for 100 years. MORE went through a financial crisis a few years ago when the people we serve who are newly arrived and in need of those services were targeted by policies. Our numbers for those programs started going way down. But participation in our basic needs program was going up. Unemployment numbers were very low, so people were working, but not making enough to meet basic needs. We have a two-pronged approach. Looking at the longer term, we provide English lessons and workforce readiness, but looking at this moment, maybe there’s no food at home. If we provide a bag of food, you can get through the weekend, you didn’t have to put your money towards food, and instead you put that money in your gas tank so you can get to work. That’s what made me fight for MORE — we make a big difference in people’s lives.

We are very blessed that very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world who you would like to talk to, to share the idea behind your non-profit? He, she, or they might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

Right now, that person would be Brene Brown. Continuing to build my leadership skills is a priority for me. A few years ago, I read Dare to Lead, and was so inspired by it. I recognized so much of myself and felt validated. My gut tells me to be myself, that I can’t go wrong if I am myself. For me, that’s being vulnerable — that’s at the basis of her work. She talks about vulnerability and leadership. I had heard my entire career that I was feeling things too much. That showing emotions is showing weakness. Brene Brown’s work has taught me otherwise. Good leaders show emotions and allow and support others to show their emotions as well. We all must get through this together!

You’re doing important work. How can our readers follow your progress online?

https://www.facebook.com/MOREMinnesota
https://www.linkedin.com/in/cathy-rucci/

Thank you for a meaningful conversation. We wish you continued success with your mission.

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Is Crypto Safe? What You Need to Know

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Is Crypto Safe? What You Need to Know

What You Need to Know About Crypto Security

The cryptocurrency market is booming with more new coins and startups than ever, but they’re not all created equal. Cryptocurrency is a trailblazing technology that could overhaul the financial systems of the future. However, it’s wise to do your homework before actively trading or investing in cryptocurrencies with price volatility and privacy concerns.

What Is A Cryptocurrency?

Digital money that makes use of cryptography to safeguard transactions and regulate the generation of new units is called Cryptocurrency. It’s called a cryptocurrency because it relies on cryptography’s encrypted form of data. Cryptography also provides anonymity for users by obscuring their identity and, indeed, all aspects of their transactions.

Cryptocurrencies can be mined, traded or used to purchase goods and services. A person would have to rely on already established relationships with merchants or banks to make purchases in the past. 

How Safe Is Cryptocurrency?

Cryptocurrency is more than an idea to create a digital form of currency at its core. Cybercriminals have learned that they can target these digital currencies because they are not regulated and not backed by any government. In theory, it’s tough to track down the source or the location of cryptocurrency transactions.

Cryptocurrencies are a prime target opening for cybercriminals since it’s difficult to trace transactions and identify the individuals involved.

How to Safeguard Your Cryptocurrencies

Cybersecurity in Cryptocurrency is a common issue and one that you should be aware of if considering an investment. Though the concerns are real, these problems can be mitigated mainly through a few simple security steps before trading or investing in Cryptocurrency.

Here are some basics steps to help secure your account from Cryptocurrency transactions:

Password Protection

Enable two-step authentication and password protect your computer when searching for cryptocurrency exchanges. This will prevent anyone from accessing your machines if they are stolen or hacked.

Use a Virtual Private Network

A virtual private network (VPN) is a computer network where you can hide your proper IP address. If a hacker were to try and break into your account, they would see an IP address from the VPN, so it would be impossible to gain access.

Backup Your Wallet

Backup information that includes public address and private keys. This will help you retrieve any lost currency or prevent others from transferring Cryptocurrency from your wallet.

Use Multiple Wallets

Using more than one Cryptocurrency wallet helps protect your investment from theft even if your account is compromised. If you have a cryptocurrency wallet on multiple devices and platforms, it’s easy to keep a backup of your information in case of an account breach.

What Are the Risks Associated with Cryptocurrency?

With all the blockchain talk about decentralization and anonymity, getting swept up in the hype is easy. Cryptocurrency has become a rapidly growing portion of the investing market, and many retail investors are looking to trade or invest in cryptocurrencies.

While the technology behind cryptocurrencies is impressive, risks are rushing, making trading and investing in Cryptocurrency risky for inexperienced traders. 

Phishing Scams

Phishing scams come in many forms, including emails and text messages. These scams can occur on an individual or a more general level, as most commonly happens. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) publishes information on detecting phishing scams. Still, it’s hard to tell the difference between a legitimate cryptocurrency exchange and an imposter because most large cryptocurrency exchanges do not have contact information listed for regulatory reasons.

Volatility

Cryptocurrency is a very volatile market that can swing wildly in either direction in almost no time at all. All cryptocurrencies are responsive to news, which can cause price changes within minutes or hours. There are also several different types of currencies, so you may have a hard time getting used to the volatility of each type. If you see only one digital currency (e.g., Bitcoin), it’s easy to assume stability when it’s still highly volatile.

Online Payments

While using crypto for online payments is a convenient method to pay for products and services, there are significant hazards involved with such transactions. When you pay for anything using bitcoin, you have no way of knowing the seller’s identity or having your payment details validated by a third party. You’re on your own if there’s an issue with the transaction.

With online purchases, you don’t have access to a complaint process, and there is no recourse if something goes wrong. This all results in anonymous transactions that pose risks online. As long as Cryptocurrency continues its rapid growth, this will be an iCryptocurrencyilers and sellers will need to solve.

Conclusion

Cryptocurrency is a highly sought-after currency for investors due to its untraceable nature and ability to exchange value without interference from a third party, such as a bank. However, this feature also makes it an appealing target for cybercriminals.

If you’re considering investing or trading in Cryptocurrency, educate yourself on the processes used to make transactions and invest your money safely and securely with reliable services that vet every transaction before letting it go through. Before diving in headfirst, make sure you research the different types of Cryptocurrency available and what risks are associated with each one. For more information on Cryptocurrency and its different types, visit our blog now!

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Where did the Zero Go?

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For as long as I can remember, I always looked around me, mainly at other boys, to get a sense of where I stood, of who I was.

It’s as if I had drawn a horizontal line with pluses on one side and minuses on the other and my position was the zero. There was that really cool kid, he was a plus, there was the dorky boy, he was a minus… At times being in the presence of pluses was inspiring but it was mostly threatening, because at that moment, it didn’t matter how many minuses existed or whether my “zero’ was pretty high up there, all I could see was a plus, and that made me the minus.

This applied to everything; from being good at sports to drawing or reading or the way I looked or how smart I was or how popular or cool I felt at any given moment. It wasn’t really about how I was feeling though, I could feel like a million bucks but if a plus walked in along any of the possible categories that I valued, my insecurities would immediately trigger.

I became really good at growing and repositioning my zero, or my reference point, and became a master at gauging others, categorizing and comparing. I didn’t just compare myself with the world, I was also comparing myself to different versions of myself…where was I at any given moment, compared to where I had been before, or where I could be, or even worse… where I should be.

As some of the things I valued started to loose importance, new ones came online. Having the coolest Star-wars set got traded for being liked by the most girls, having academic success got traded for being regarded as witty and successful, being the coolest got replaced by getting to be the kindest…and so it went.

Spiritual Ego

Then entered spirituality, the fix for all my struggles, or so I thought. It didn’t actually stop the comparison, because I turned it into the new playing field; The new standard where I got to measure and prove how special I was. There was a new flag to catch, and that was enlightenment.

I got really good at sustaining a very high level of consciousness, at being present, not judging people, being happy and all the things that came with paying close attention to my thoughts and emotions. I became particularly good at showing people how spiritual I was.

What a perfect solution… no more pluses to encounter because spirituality now trumped all. Someone could be successful and good looking and everything else that would make me feel less, but odds were they weren’t more spiritual than me; my spiritual zero was really up there. It felt like I had figured things out.

My sense of self was so invested in this new spiritual identity that I defended it with all I had. Seeing my attachment to it, was truly humbling.

Game Over

I realized taking the next step required the willingness to let go of my spiritual crutch. I had to come to terms with my addiction. My fix was the next high, amazing insight or awakening experience. In essence, not much different from looking for the next toy or business deal and believing it was going to make me happy. Accepting this, meant recognizing the fate of the game I was playing: no matter how meaningful it seemed at the time, no success had ever been enough, no amount of recognition or validation had ever ended my need for it, no spiritual high had ever quenched that thirst; I was an addict and it was never going to be enough.

As if just having been defeated for the millionth time at a video game and throwing the game controller on the floor, I felt the air sucked out of me and the engines behind that drive snuffing out. It wasn’t the bells and whistles of winning; it was the blinking “game-over“ sign on the screen.

A New Energy

Life started to take on a different flavor from that point on. The old energy of attaining comes and visits but it’s seen as an old friend that used to be so familiar and I’ve grown apart from. The zero seems to bubble up but it’s now seen as just a thought looking for friction and contrast to find its bearings.

Old dynamics still sometimes play themselves out, emotions still surface and I sometimes find myself reacting in the ways I used to. Now however, they seem to happen within a larger context and they are recognized as just temporary experiences not as things that define an “me” or a zero.

When these thoughts or emotions are happening in the absence of a reference point, there’s no separation between the experience and the experiencer. All that’s left, is a deep intimacy with life that moves through the world with an open heart and mind.

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Food Is Medicine And What We Eat Is Important

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Your mental state is a critical component of your physical health. And when you’re under a lot of stress, you might not be eating the healthy food that provides nutrients for fighting anxiety and depression. So when we examine what we’ve been eating, most of us discover that the decisions we’ve been making in the name of simplicity, convenience, or saving time have been damaging to our total health – body, mind, and spirit.

A person’s diet is a direct reflection of their health. When a person does not eat the right foods, their body breaks down. This can lead to an overall decrease in quality of life and many other diseases linked to improper nutrition. In North America, our current diet mainly consists of an excess of grain, sugar, fried and fatty foods. As a result, disorders including hypertension, diabetes, obesity, Alzheimer’s, and certain malignancies are becoming increasingly widespread.

The science of food has always been discussed; however, with recent technological innovations in food processing and agriculture, people have enjoyed more convenient foods that are less expensive than ever before. Unfortunately, with every convenience comes a trade-off. Smart foods are often packed with sugar, salt, and calories, leading to poor health in some individuals. 

To understand what a person is putting into their body, it’s essential to realize that the small molecules in food are responsible for allowing our bodies to function. These small molecules are called nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, and enzymes. A nutrient is not a value unless absorbed by the body through a specific pathway. For example, if you absorb calcium without vitamin D, your body will not use that calcium. 

Eating a balanced diet keeps you healthy, but it helps reduce your stress. For example, eat foods rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants because they help augment your immune response and prevent toxins from damaging your cells. Vitamins A, C, and E serve as antioxidants that fight off free radicals in the body. Free radicals are toxic products of metabolism that cause damage to your cells. Experts claim that they are responsible for the aging process. Good sources of these vitamins are deeply-colored vegetables- green leafy, yellow, and orange vegetables, such as squash, broccoli, kale, spinach, and carrots.

Iron is one of the most abundant minerals in the body, and it mainly functions to deliver oxygen to your cells. Hence, an iron deficiency, medically termed Iron-deficiency anemia, is associated with weakness, easy fatigability, and pale skin. Tea, coffee, red wine, grapes, and berries are rich in antioxidants that function the same as your vitamins A, C, and E. 
You need a diet that’s healthy and balanced – and one that can fit comfortably into your busy lifestyle.

Here are some of the recommended dietary guidelines.

Eat a diet high in fresh vegetables, vitamins, and minerals. 

Exercise every other day to release endorphins, feel good, get the blood flowing, and reduce stress levels. 

Eat salt only when you need it, but not too much as your body does not need it. Many people with anxiety are hypothyroid or have low magnesium. When your body needs more sodium, it can indicate that you are not producing enough cortisol or are dehydrated. If you experience chronic anxiety, I recommend working with a physician to run tests on cortisol levels and then take salt supplements as needed. Use spices like turmeric, ginger, curry, and aromatic herbs like parsley, rosemary, sage, and basil.
Eat low-fat meals because they will cause a minor spike in blood sugar levels: think lean meats, eggs, vegetables, and nuts; avoid dairy if it makes you feel anxious. 

Drink lots of water — keep hydrated all day — ideally at least half a gallon if possible — your brain needs water to function optimally! 

Avoid foods that you know will make you feel bad, such as dairy, even with low-fat content. You can cut out dairy and not worry about it! 

Avoid sugar, caffeine, processed foods, alcohol, and any other substance that makes you feel bad or increases anxiety levels. Also, avoid coffee — drinking more than one cup a day can cause anxiety in some people. Coffee is also dehydrating and inhibits the absorption of minerals from food/water/supplements — try caffeinated water as a substitute for coffee if you like the caffeine kick. 

Find a natural health professional that you can talk to or work with to quickly get the results you want. 

Healthy foods and nutrition can help you stay fit, but they can also assist you in treating disease. When you nurture your body physically with these nutrient-dense foods, your mental capacities improve, as does your spiritual welfare. Moreover, because your spiritual health is at its best, it will radiate to the exterior world, causing others to notice you’re happier and more relaxed, and your stress levels have decreased dramatically.

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