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March 2010

Survey: 52 percent of adults 18­–64 use social media

According to a new report released by Pew Research Center, social media use is up 45 percent for adults 18–64 since February 2005. Millennials: A Portrait of Generation Next looks at the values, attitudes and experiences of the Millennial generation while also shedding light on the Boomer generation.

Pew Research Center’s survey of more than 2,000 adults shows that 30 percent of boomers use social networking sites, up from only five percent in 2005. In total, the report found that 41 percent of adults use social networking sites. (more…)

August 2016

Why systems are key to nonprofit succession planning—and your vacation!



By Janine Vanderburg, President/CEO, Joining Vision and Action

What is the most important element of your nonprofit succession plan?

Having good systems in place. Yup, that’s it. You can have developed leaders around you, left your board the password list and list of key donors, but without documented systems in place, the organization will flounder when you leave.

Throughout my years of work with nonprofit organizations and social enterprises, I’ve found that few have documented systems in place. Often “how we do things” is lodged in the head and heart of the executive director and/ or a key fundraiser.

Why that happens is understandable. People are focused on growth, fundraising and meeting client needs—so stopping to take the time to write down the processes and systems that make all that good work happen never seems to be a priority.

Failure to define and document systems, however, places organizations at significant risk. Work becomes person-dependent (meaning that one and only one person only knows how to do the work) or the workload keeps growing and every time a new person is added to the mix, he or she reinvents the wheel. Either way, you are failing to capture how you do what you do so that it can be replicated if successful or reviewed and modified if ineffective, wasting time and energy at the expense of your mission.

At JVA, we learned a lot about systems from participating in an E-myth coaching program. And we highly recommend the book: The E-Myth Revisited.

While written for entrepreneurs of small and midsize businesses, the book is a readable and helpful resource for any manager in any sector who is struggling to find enough time to do everything on his or her list. Among the themes discussed, the book focuses on systems, why they are critical and how they can benefit you and your organization in the long run.

Here are so basics of documenting your systems

The following key elements should be captured as part of your systemization efforts.

  1. The purpose of the system. What is it that is accomplished by the system? For example, the purpose of your payroll system is to make sure that your employees receive their paychecks on time and in the right amounts. The work of the system should be aligned toward achievement of the purpose.
  2. The flow of work in the system. What are the steps that need to take place within the system? Document the activities required, in order, with a level of detail that will ensure that someone unfamiliar with the system can read and understand how to operate it if required.
  3. The party or parties responsible for the system. Who is accountable for the system? Assign responsible positions to discrete steps within the system and for the system as a whole. Make sure that each individual involved understands the system and the components for which he or she is responsible. This process will lay the groundwork for effective staff and volunteer management by defining clear performance expectations and accountability.
  4. Periodic review of the system. Organizations are not stagnant; systems must evolve to meet changing needs of the organization and to reflect enhancements that can increase the agency’s efficacy and efficiency. By including a documented process for reviewing and updating systems, organizations can allow for innovation and flexibility while maintaining integrity, consistency and accountability.

 How to get started? Conduct a system inventory.

For a nonprofit with few documented systems, putting this process into place can feel overwhelming. Start slow, prioritize, delegate and tackle one thing at a time. Consider conducting a system inventory to create a master list of all the systems and processes either in place or needed to conduct the work of your organization. Keep adding to the list and documenting one system at a time.

Once systems are in place, develop a process to periodically review and reassess systems to make sure that they are still relevant, accurate and efficient in supporting the work of your agency. You’ll get there,  your agency will be stronger for it, and you’ll be ready for succession—or vacation!










July 2016

Planning your next nonprofit career move: Tips and three books to read

nonprofit and social enterprise succession planning

Are you thinking about leaving? Image via Hippie Bowman 

by Janine Vanderburg, President/CEO, Joining Vision and Action

About a decade ago in the pre-recession years, I was leading a workshop on succession planning for nonprofit sector leaders. After invoking the JVA Vegas[1] ground rule, I asked participants to introduce themselves and why they were in the workshop.

Responses ranged from:

“I’m planning to leave my nonprofit organization and want to leave it in a healthy and sustainable place so want to start thinking about succession planning now.”

To the more frequent responses:

“I have given notice [anywhere from a year to a month] and I want to know what I should do next.”

To this one…

“My last day was yesterday.”

While the nonprofit sector has been relatively stable post-recession, in the last two years, transition is up, 19% according to the most recent survey.

And the conversations that I’ve been having with friends in the sector lately seem to be somewhat of a déjà vu of that long ago workshop. Boomer-aged friends are thinking of “retiring” from current nonprofit executive director jobs, while still wanting to contribute their time, talent and life experience in some way. Other friends and colleagues are thinking more about “what’s next?” and how they can have an impact, have more impact, or better use their talents.

The key questions I encourage people to think through are:

  • Do you want to stay in the sector or leave it?
  • What do you love doing? Want to do more of?
  • What do you never want to do again?
  • Where can you add value?
  • What do you still want to learn?

There are two books that I’ve been recommending for some time, and one that I’ve just added to the list. Each is in its own way outstanding at helping you answer the “what’s next?” question.

Go Put Your Strengths to Work

This book by Marcus Buckingham is one of the series of StrengthsFinder books that we love at JVA. This is my favorite because of the detailed exercises. One of my favorites is the “Weakness Test” on page 170, where you evaluate specific tasks against statements like “I look for ways to avoid doing this type of activity,” and “I keep thinking of other people who can do this type of activity instead of me.” Yup. While intended to help readers better use their strengths on the job, and reinvent their jobs to focus more on their strengths, it’s also a great resource for helping you think through what an ideal next career would be.

Encore Career Handbook

I love this book (and not only because I’m quoted in it about the demand for jobs in fundraising—page 29). Geared to people looking for encores in the social sector in the second half of life, it’s a great read and guide for people of all ages who are looking for jobs that combine passion, purpose and paycheck. It’s filled with great resources, exercises and tips for everything from figuring out how much money you really need to networking to how to write the perfect email to ask for introductions.

Born for This

This latest addition to books I’m recommending to friends who are thinking about doing something different. The subtitle tells it all: How to find the work you were meant to do. It focuses on finding the intersection of what you love, what you’re good at and what you can make a living at—something author Chris Guillebeau calls the Joy-Money-Flow model, or “Winning the Career Lottery.” I read it in one sitting, and immediately started buying and recommending to others.


So why spend this time thinking this all through before you leave your current position?

A friend of mine who retired from his executive director job six months ago said it best: “You can only play so much golf.”


[1] JVA’s Vegas ground rule: We ask everyone to raise their hands and agree that “whatever happens in Vegas (the workshop), stays in Vegas!”


Tear Down This Wall: What are “True” Social Enterprises?

true social enterprises

By Rolfe Larson, Joining Vision and Action

What constitutes “true” social enterprises?

Thousands of nonprofits that use the marketplace to accomplish their social goals call themselves social enterprises (SEs). Thousands of for-profit companies with social goals also use that term. Yet these two groups barely talk with each other. Why is that?

Benefit corporations and B Corps

Benefit corporations can make decisions based on impact on the community, the environment and workers – not just shareholder value. B Corps, a certification program, evaluates for-profit companies that take social responsibility seriously. B Corps undergo a rigorous assessment in areas such as governance, social and environmental impact. and employee practices.

You’d think that with such common characteristics, these movements would work together and learn from one another, right? Not at all. They operate as if there were a tall wall between them.

We say, Tear Down This Wall!

“True” Social Enterprises

The general perception among many nonprofit social enterpriser leaders is that B Corps and benefit corporations are not “true” social enterprises since social impact is not their primary purpose.

For example, Kevin Lynch, co-author of Mission, Inc., The Practitioner’s Guide To Social Enterprise and collaborator on Joining Vision and Action’s Mission, Inc. Basecamp social enterprise training, is worried that “the idea of social enterprise is now more associated with benefit corporations and B Corps than with the selfless, unsexy nonprofit social enterprise model in which impact is part of the DNA.” He added his concern that “the work of true social enterprises, that put real impact first, will be overshadowed and ignored.” Source:

Similarly, leaders and participants in the fast-growing B Corps movement generally assume that all nonprofits are dependent on grants and contributions, and are therefore ill-equipped to function in the marketplace.

What’s going on here? We decided to crowd-source this problem to the npEnterprise Forum (npE), the 10,000+ circulation, non-commercial, moderated online forum for all things SE.

It’s About Impact

Several people pointed out that what matters is impact, not structure.

“We should encourage people to focus on what binds us together,” said Hannah Pechan, “to keep our eyes on maximizing positive impact. Like most of life, it takes all kinds.”

Fernando Botelho indicated that “social problems or the damage being done to nature are indifferent to our intellectual limitations. If a small change in a large multinational prevents the dumping of 100 thousand tons of CO2, that is exactly as valuable as the same reduction being achieved by a specialized NGO dedicated entirely to that purpose.”

It’s About the People

Hildy Gottlieb says “it’s always about the people. When we start asking, ‘Who else cares about this?’ and begin engaging as people, we don’t have to work at the walls coming down. They come down on their own.”

Jerr Boschee took a philosophical approach to this question. “The philosopher Jacques Ellul once observed that we all get our hands dirty,” Boschee said. “the only question we should ask ourselves is just how dirty we want them to get.

“I’m willing to take the risk that some private sector social enterprises run off the rails in exchange for those that can scale more quickly and do more social good than they would if they were structured as nonprofits.”

In summary, we wonder if we should look more at the social impact each social enterprise has, rather than how “pure” they are at achieving it.

We say, Tear Down This Wall!

What do you think?

See how Joining Vision and Action’s social enterprise training and consulting services can help your business or nonprofit can tear down the wall.

The 10 books that should be in every nonprofit executive director’s library

Janine Vanderburg, President/CEO, Joining Vision and Action

What are the top books for nonprofit executive directors?

There are thousands of books out there on all aspects of nonprofit work. Over time, these are the ones we turn to again and again, and recommend to nonprofit executive directors attending JVA’s Executive Director Academy.

Top books for nonprofit executive directors

Are these in your library?

Books on Nonprofit Fundraising and Money

Asking: A 59-minute guide to everything board members, volunteers, and staff must know to secure the gift

This really delivers on what it promises: A simple, quick to digest guide with scripts on how to ask for money. Buy one for each of your board members; you won’t regret it.

Donor-Centered Fundraising

Pricey but worth it. Of course we love it—it’s based on solid research about what works! If you want to understand what donors are thinking and what they care about, read this.

All the Way to the Bank: Smart Nonprofit Money Management

I worked with author Susan Kenny Stevens on a capacity building project through Rose Community Foundation. And loved the way that she could so easily talk about money and how important it was for nonprofits to understand their business models. Her book is the easiest-to-read and understand book we’ve ever read on nonprofit money management and one that I’ve shared with many nonprofit executive directors.

Books on Change

Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard

We’re all in the social change business, trying to make our communities better. And have to manage change within our own environments as well. It can be daunting, but the Heath brothers lay out the science of doing this in a highly entertaining read.

Books on Strategic Planning

The Non-Profit Strategy Revolution: Real-time Strategic Planning in a Rapid-Response World

This book breaks down why traditional strategic planning no longer works, offers a fabulous alternative and comes with a CD of tools and checklists that you can use to get started.


The Best of Board Café: Hands-on Solutions for Nonprofit Boards

Is there an executive director anywhere that doesn’t have questions about his or her board? This gives you the 411 on almost every topic related to nonprofit boards in easy to read chunks.

Hiring for Attitude

We intuitively know that attitude trumps most everything else, but how do you hire for the right attitudes and cultural fit needed in your organization? This aptly named book is a very practical, how-to guide that will help you bring on the people you need to have impact. (Hint: The principles in this are also good for thinking about how you recruit board members and volunteers).

Strengths-based Leadership: Great leaders, teams, and why people follow

One of our core values is building on strengths. This book helps you develop your leadership style, based on your strengths. We’ve used it with boards as well, to help everyone leverage their strengths for more social impact.

It’s Okay To Be the Boss: The Step-By-Step Guide to Becoming the Manager Your Employees Need

Disregard the off-putting title. If you haven’t supervised before and find yourself responsible for staff and volunteers, this guide will help you develop your management skills. If you have supervised, and find that that you’re not getting the results you hoped for, this book will help as well.

Books on Getting It All Done

The 4 Disciplines of Execution: Achieving Your Wildly Important Goals

So many things to do: How do you do them all? Well, you don’t. You focus on the wildly important goals, and this book is terrific on laying out a process for getting the most important stuff done across your teams. A client in Grand Junction introduced me to this book two years ago, and we’ve turned to it again and again for JVA and for our clients.


Have a favorite we should add to our list of top books for nonprofit executive directors? Add it in the comments below.

June 2016

Strategic Partnership Development: Applied Best Practices

strategic partnership development

By Jennifer Wolf, MPH, Joining Vision andAction Director of Business and Partnership Development

Why is strategic partnership development so important?

Here at Joining Vision and Action, we are firm believers in implementation science, or taking scientific concepts and making them usable. In the nonprofit world, this idea of research and best practices can be applied to strategic partnership development. What can the “egghead researchers” teach us about this concept that will help to build stronger existing partnerships and create new relationships that benefit our organizations and communities?

First of all, let’s define partnership. It is “a collaborative relationship between entities to work toward shared objectives through a mutually agreed division of labor.”[1]

Next, figure out who are your existing and potential strategic partners: 

  • Your partners may do similar work to your organization but serve different populations.
  • OR they may serve similar populations but do different work.

Each type of partner presents opportunities for collaboration to ensure that gaps in services, resources and programs are being addressed. By forming coalitions and alliances, partner organizations accomplish the following:

  • Create a symbiotic relationship to better serve communities
  • Share best practices
  • Collaborate for cross referrals
  • Partner for funding opportunities such as co-applicants for grants. Funders may see that they are broadening their reach and deepening their impact.
  • Increase access to knowledge-based resources and improve the relevance and effectiveness of programs and services[2]
  • Co-sponsor events for community outreach, for example a community health fair

While there are obvious benefits to attracting like-minded partners, it is also important to get out of the echo chamber. To achieve certain outcomes, gathering diverse voices may be a more effective strategy. For example, when official governmental agencies partner with grassroots organizations to gather community input. However, just as we consider cultural competency when dealing with our clients, we must also consider the factors that affect the perspectives of our partners. [3]

Is it time for your organization to get a fresh perspective? Contact us if you’re looking for a strategic partner for a grant or program opportunity. We can provide the framework to help you build lasting and productive relationships.

[1] National Resource Center in 2010. Partnership Frameworks for Working Together.

[2] hase2.pdf


May 2016

Social Enterprise Team

The JVA Social Enterprise Team

Our social enterprise team has decades of real-world experience in developing their own social enterprises AND applying best practices to helping other social enterprises succeed. We have partnered with hundreds of clients to maximize their impact – and we want to partner with YOU.

Adam Brock
Adam Brock
Director of Social Enterprise

As a key member of the social enterprise team, Adam Brock brings his expertise as a social entrepreneur and facilitator. He is co-founder of The GrowHaus and the Denver Permaculture Guild, and has won numerous awards for his work on local food and social justice including Zagat’s “30 Under 30” and Denver Post’s “Colorado’s Top Thinkers”. Adam is also the author of the forthcoming book Social Permaculture.

He leads Mission, Inc. Basecamp and provides one-on-one coaching with social entrepreneurs.

Rolfe Larson
Rolfe Larson
Social Enterprise Adviser

Rolfe Larson brings more than 25 years as an experienced social enterprise manager, professor, consultant and author to Joining Vision and Action’s social enterprise team. His expertise and passion is working with mission-driven organizations to expand their reach and impact by successfully bringing products and services to the commercial marketplace. He has been involved in the research, development and implementation of dozens of market and feasibility studies as well as strategic, business, marketing and fund development plans. Rolfe is also the author of Venture Forth! Recently, Rolfe completed a business planning process with the Greyston Foundation in Yonkers NY, which provides training and employment to disadvantaged individuals in a distressed area. Greyston’s most well know product is all of the chocolate in Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream products. Rolfe’s consulting role involved exploring development of a second social enterprise for the Greyston Foundation, which included ideation, market testing and business planning.

Jennifer Wolf
Jennifer Wolf
Director of Business Development and Partnerships

Jennifer brings extensive experience both creating and managing a successful social enterprise to the JVA social enterprise team. She is the founder of the recently sold Native Wisdom, an herbal skincare business, which has retailers in 24 states and several countries. During her time as a social entrepreneur, Jennifer learned how to balance ethics with profitability and can bring this knowledge to others who are looking to start social enterprises.

Jill Iman
Jill Iman
Director of Implementation Science

Jill brings her background in research, policy and advocacy, along with a strong desire to help make the world a better place, to her role at Joining Vision and Action. Having worked on diverse projects from feasibility studies, strategic communication plans, and program evaluations, Jill ensures our social enterprise clients have research and data to support every decision.

Scot Kersgaard
Scot Kersgaard
Senior Associate

Scot has done marketing and communications for JVA and its nonprofit and social enterprise clients since 2013. He has been a journalist, press secretary to a US senator and director of public relations at a Fortune 400 company.

Contact Us

Ready to start your social enterprise?

Joining Vision and Action knows that starting and running a social enterprise requires an accomplished and committed group of people. That’s why we’ve assembled a team of experts in every area you need to make your social enterprise a huge success! Need funding? A business plan? Market research? We’ve got you covered.
Contact Us

Ready, Set, GOAL!!: How to set and achieve goals

Target goal mediumSMALLIt’s 5:00 p.m. and you realize that you have no idea what you accomplished today. You feel exhausted so you must have done something… answered emails, attended meetings, assisted staff… and while all of those things are important and have their role in your day, what did you really do to get you and your organization closer to where you want to be?

Remember those big dreams? The ones where you’re “moving the needle” on poverty, early childhood education, homelessness, animal rights, clean energy, resource equity, etc? You’re already making a difference, no doubt … but what if you could do more? What if you could increase your impact by increasing your intention and not your workload?

Let’s turn “what if’s” into “what’s next.”

We at JVA are big fans of something we call “implementation science.” This means our team of experts is ready to help you challenge long-time assumptions and introduce more effective and imaginative tools into your work, helping you realize even greater community impact.

Our research, led by our IS expert, Jill Iman, PhD, has directed us to some great science-backed strategies to help people identify and achieve their goals. Upping the ante, we took that research and built an informed curriculum designed to help you achieve your goals.

Still remember those big dreams? Good. Bring them with you to this training and walk out knowing that once you start, you’ll be leaving work knowing exactly what you accomplished and how it’s moving you forward.

Building a Compelling LinkedIn Profile

Encore talent

JVA in collaboration with Boomers Leading Change in Health invites you to Building a Compelling LinkedIn Profile.

Did you know employers Google every job applicant and that over 90% of recruiters check your LinkedIn profile? What will they find when they check yours? 

Optimizing your LinkedIn profile allows you to control what is discovered about your experience, strengths, and accomplishments. LinkedIn has morphed from just being a digital resume database to THE place to build your personal brand and ensure you’re connected to the who’s who of every industry out there.

This training, designed specifically for those considering encore careers, will help you confidently upgrade your LinkedIn profile to position your online self as an expert in your field or the field you want to move into.

Make sure to bring your laptop and enthusiasm!

Blue Star Recyclers: A Gold Star Encore Career

Social enterprise encore career

Making social enterprise your encore career.

To hear him tell it, Bill Morris has made every mistake in the book on the road to creating his encore career—CEO and co-founder of Blue Star Recyclers, a nonprofit social enterprise which employs more than 35 people (25 with disabilities) to recycle electronic components in three states.

He spent about 25 years in the corporate telecom sector where he led several teams of salespeople before co-founding Blue Star Recyclers in 2009. “As for an encore career,” he says, “mine came as the direct result of essentially failing in my initial career… not because I did so great!” After finding himself obsolete in his field, Morris was forced to search for a new line of work in an unfamiliar landscape—which led him accidentally to his encore career. It was “an industry I had no experience in, and that might have been my greatest asset.” He says nonprofits–especially those seeking to create or grow an earned-income enterprise–desperately need people with business experience. The good news is those with business experience desperately want more purpose to their daily work. It’s truly a symbiotic relationship. He says for the most part, corporate America doesn’t want people in their 50s and 60s and that the feeling is often mutual. “People that age are done with that [corporate] culture, they’ve put in their time and now they want to do something more meaningful with their lives.”

Blue Star has successful social venture locations in Colorado Springs and Denver. The social enterprise returns triple-bottom line results by:

  • Over 38 local jobs for people with disabilities in four Colorado communities
  • Over $2 million in new local revenue and $1 million in taxpayer savings
  • Over 6.8 million pounds of electronics ethically recycled

Coming out of retirement to create social good, Bill found his finest team at Blue Star Recyclers. He credits finding his encore career as a social entrepreneur with giving him the opportunity to apply those successful business principles not embraced by the corporate sector to his social enterprise. These were “things like treating people like adults, holding them accountable, not micro-managing them, building relationships…that add value to their personal lives, defining success on a daily basis and celebrating ALL wins.”

If you’re considering making the switch from the corporate world into nonprofit or social enterprise, join us for the Colorado Encore Network Meetup and learn how to successfully make the jump!