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Michelle Shumate On How To Leave a Lasting Legacy With a Successful & Effective Nonprofit Organization

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…Your theory of change is one of the most important decisions you will make. Networks must make a more significant social impact than individual organizations can make by themselves to be worth all the effort.


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 Michelle Shumate. Michelle Shumate is the founding director of Network for Nonprofit and Social Impact at Northwestern University and author of “Networks for Social Impact”.


Thank you so much for doing this with us. Before we begin, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”?

I grew up in a small town in the panhandle of Florida. My parents were (and are) faith leaders. Our town was so small that there were hardly any human services available. My house was the domestic violence shelter, the food pantry, and where you might get help for your utility bill, if we had the money. I grew up knowing that a life of service was expected and something that I wanted to do.

Over time, that’s taken a lot of different forms in my life — including volunteer work. But I’m lucky that I’ve also been able to translate that passion into a career as a professor, researcher, and consultant. I’ve supported thousands of social impact leaders in the classroom and my consulting practice.

Can you tell us the story behind why you decided to focus on nonprofit and social impact networks?

Back in graduate school, I was volunteering in Hollywood while working on knowledge management research in a large Global 100 company. In balancing the two worlds, a striking thought came to me. I was helping the company create systems to share knowledge so that they didn’t duplicate their efforts on some of their most challenging problems. Nonprofits working within Hollywood faced the same problem — but on a bigger scale. Each nonprofit was solving complex problems without the benefit of a system that would allow them to share that knowledge with others. They needed networks to share information and resources across organizational boundaries as seamlessly as the Global 100 company shared information inside its organization. Within the week, I changed my research project for my dissertation, and I’ve been passionate about social impact networks ever since.

Can you describe how networks make a significant social impact? Can you share a story about how networks make a social impact?

There are so many to share — we have over 30 different stories in Networks for Social Impact. One story that I think is worth telling is of the AmericaServes networks, the first coordinated system of public, private, and nonprofit organizations working to serve veterans, transitioning service members, and their families. The 11 networks operate in New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, and the District of Columbia.

The key idea is that when a veteran or their family’s needs help, they shouldn’t have to figure out which organization offers the right programs or services that they will qualify for. Instead, the network, which includes about 100 service providers, says, “there is no wrong door. Come to any service provider or contact the main intake center. We’ll get you the help you need.”

They offer 21 different categories of services, including financial and income support, physical and mental health care, social and spiritual enrichment, employment assistance, and transportation. The median time from a veteran or military family making a request until a service provider contacts them to arrange services is less than a day. That’s the power of a network — the ability to do more than a single organization could do alone.

Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

I like this question because I think that the public doesn’t know a lot about how organizations make a social impact. First, I’d like them to know that it is possible to make real progress on some of the most critical social issues — whether that’s closing the education achievement gap, getting real commitments around carbon emissions from companies, or reducing poverty. Many leaders and community members think about these problems as too entrenched to address. But we have several examples of places where networks have made measurable progress. I think knowing that it can be done is essential.

Second, there is a difference between “doing good” and “social impact.” Lots of people, especially around the holidays, feel inspired to do good. But doing good is really about the intention of the giver or nonprofit rather than its impact. Many people have heard the saying, “If you give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day. If you teach a man to fish, and you’ll feed him for a lifetime.” The difference between doing good (giving a man a fish) and social impact (teaching a man to fish) is like that. Most often, doing good focuses on the short-term, feel-good actions a person or nonprofit can do. Social impact means identifying the actions that lead to longer-term, concrete benefits for communities and individuals. When you start to evaluate the outcomes in terms of whether they made a tangible difference in the problem, you approach it differently; you focus on the root cause of problems rather than the symptoms. And often, those root problems can’t be addressed by a single organization’s programs or services. They require organizations to work together — or form a network.

Concretely, knowing these two things makes a difference in how communities and politicians think about addressing some of the biggest challenges. I would like them to purposefully act when designing ways to address social problems — moving beyond the reflex to do something good to identify practices that make a social impact. And I’d like them to recognize that real social impact often takes a network — and the networks — not just the organizations that comprise them — need financial support.

How do you define NETWORK “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

Network leadership describes the attitudes and behaviors of leaders who bring organizations together to make a social impact. Effective network leadership allows the network to do more than the organizations would do alone. And it’s often more challenging than leading a single organization. Network leaders must manage organizations with different ideas about the nature of the social impact they want to make and that have unique missions. They often must manage big personalities, power differences, and conflict among organizations. And that’s in addition to their jobs gathering resources for the network and managing its activities.

We talk about several network leaders in Networks of Social Impact, including Anna Henderson of the Westside Infant-Family Network and Tracy Wirtanen of the Neurofibromatosis Collective. These great network leaders are tenacious in the face of network challenges and have an unwavering commitment to making a social impact — even when they don’t get credit for the work.

Based on your experience, what are the “5 things a person should know before they decide to start a nonprofit network” Please share a story or example for each.

When nonprofit leaders approach me for advice in starting a social impact network, I have a few questions that I ask them to consider before they begin.

1 . Consider the costs: Many nonprofit leaders think only about the potential impact that a network could make. They get excited about how much the community could do if nonprofits, schools, and government agencies could work together. However, they fail to consider the costs of building a network. Networks, because they lack a hierarchy, have lots of meetings to coordinate work. Often new network leaders are surprised by how many meetings it takes to get things done. And time spent in those meetings means less time is available to better individual organizations, including fundraising, program improvement, and evaluation.

In addition, networks are like a new nonprofit organization. They require money to run, and if not carefully designed, they can compete with their nonprofit members. Networks funding requires what is known as overhead costs, meaning that those funds are not used on programs directly. Overhead costs are the most challenging category of costs to raise funds to support. So, network leaders will need to make a substantial effort to garner resources to operate.

2. Determine the role you want to have in the final network. If after a network leader considers the cost, they still want to move forward. Then I encourage them to think about the role they want to play in starting it. I once worked with a local United Way that wanted to start a collective impact network focused on educational outcomes. I worked with them to convene the school districts in the area, local early childhood providers, and youth and family serving nonprofits in the area. We worked for six months to establish a common agenda. And then, the network went nowhere. Why? Because the United Way was disgruntled. They set all the meetings and would need to dedicate staff time to run the network — and they had other priorities. They thought everyone would get excited, and new leadership would emerge. In short, they didn’t consider the role that they wanted to have in the network moving forward.

In general, network instigators can have three roles in setting up a network:

  • Network hosts want serendipitous relationships to form between organizations. They set up meetings, lunches, workshops, and co-working spaces to make those relationships happen. Although this role has the least amount of work (and it’s still a lot), they are the least likely to make a social impact.
  • Opinion leaders recognize that they aren’t the right person or organization to start the network but are still well regarded by potential network members. They birth networks by getting other influential leaders to become the new networks champions and transition the leadership of the networks these leaders. Nancy Zimpher, the former chancellor of the State University of New York, was the opinion leader that helped start ROC the Future in Rochester, New York. She was not from Rochester, but her influential position encouraged Monroe Community college to step up and become the first network convener.
  • Like the United Way that I worked with, network conveners identify potential network members and bring everyone to the table. They are often, but not always, funders of the member organizations, and network conveners are almost always the eventual network leader going forward.

3. Who you recruit as members will determine your social impact. Determining who will become network members is one of the most critical choices that a network leader will make. “Missing” organizations often have unique expertise and reach that will help organizations make a social impact. For example, in my team’s research with education networks across the country, one of the key challenges was whether the local school district was an active participant in the network. Some nonprofit leaders were determined to improve educational outcomes. But, without the school district, they were missing an essential organization. Similarly, in a network we call Education for All, that my team studied for three years — the network wanted to improve educational outcomes for Black and Hispanic youth. However, they rarely had members of organizations from those communities attend meetings. Without these leaders and community members, their efforts didn’t address the community-identified concerns.

4. Your theory of change is one of the most important decisions you will make. Networks must make a more significant social impact than individual organizations can make by themselves to be worth all the effort. There are five ways that networks can make such a social impact:

  • Project-based theories of change focus on creating and delivering a new program or product from the networks’ joint activity. For example, Ready, Set, Parent!, a collaborative including Every Person Influences Children (EIC), Backer Victory Services, and Catholic Health, partnered to create a new program to support parents who had recently given birth to a baby. The social impact of their network depended on the quality of the program.
  • Learning-based theories of change focus on improving the quality of services that organizations already employ. Communities that Care coalitions use this approach. They train network members on evidence-based practices to reduce risky youth behavior, including substance abuse. Their social impact depends on the degree to which member organizations learn and adopt those evidence-based practices.
  • Policy-based theories of change depend on government legislative and regulatory change. Social impact only happens when the network is successful in its advocacy. For instance, the Dutch Climate Action Accord presented its recommendation to the Dutch Government. Because the Dutch Government accepted those recommendations, it made a social impact.
  • Catalyst-based theories of change operate when networks try to scale an effective practice. The Graduate! Network uses this theory of change. They encourage communities to adopt its Graduate! model to help individuals who began postsecondary education complete their degree. They call these individuals comebackers. Through their catalyst efforts, they have reached over 80,000 comebackers.
  • Systems-alignment theories of change coordinate the joint services of member organizations and explore service gaps. They make a social impact when programs work together to improve outcomes. For example, Summit Education Initiative in Akron, Ohio, uses this approach. This network of over 300 organizations works to improve educational outcomes for Akron youth. They use a robust data system and coordinate efforts. For example, their preschool program works with both early childhood providers and the public schools to ensure that kindergarteners start school ready to learn and that parents are engaged early.

One of the things that network leaders must figure out early is which of these theories of change they will use in their network. Networks that make a social impact are designed around their theory of change. An unclear theory of change may lead network members to wonder why they need to participate in the network.

5. Social impact will take time. One of the biggest surprises for network leaders is how long it takes to set up a network. In my experience facilitating networks, the process takes between six months to eighteen months. Research suggests that networks typically don’t make a social impact until at least three years after they begin. Networks move at the speed of trust. Social impact leaders who make all the right decisions and successfully garner resources for their network won’t see a social impact, on average, for four years.

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 nonprofit? They might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

Olivia Leland of the Rockefeller Foundation and Co-Impact.

Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson” Quote? How is that relevant to you in your life?

“If you think you’re too small to have an impact, try going to bed with a mosquito in the room” by Anita Roddick. I like this quote when thinking about networks for social impact. I’ve seen tiny nonprofits have a massive impact by convening and managing networks.

How can our readers follow you online?

My most recent writing is highlighted on our lab website: https://nnsi.northwestern.edu. You can learn more about my consulting practice at https://socialimpactnet.com. And I’m active on Twitter (@ProfShumate) and LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/michelleshumate/.

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success in 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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