High-Tech for Non-Profits: Leslie Hoffman

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Published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on February 23, 2000. All rights

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Force Field Analysis: Marge Smith

To analyze a knotty problem, don’t start by letting

everybody voice their opinions on one side or the other. Instead,

require everyone to weigh in on both sides of the question. Ask those

on one side of the question — perhaps whether to merge with

another

division — to come up with justifications both pro and con for

that idea. Then do a force field analysis, suggests Marge Smith.

"Using the force field analysis technique depersonalizes the

issue,"

says Smith. "When everyone has to take both sides, and consider

the negatives on both sides, it creates cohesiveness. Everyone

participates,

and no one is tagged as being on one side or the other."

Smith gave a workshop in consensus building at last month’s big

volunteer

convocation, sponsored by the Princeton Rotary at the Woodrow Wilson

School. The former executive director of the Princeton YWCA is a

management

consultant who gives corporate training workshops and also provides

consulting services to nonprofits. She is responsible for a new series

of courses on nonprofit profit management at Mercer County College,

and those who take the series can earn a certificate.

The courses could be useful for staff, program administrators,

executive

directors, board members, philanthropists, volunteers, and those

seeking

jobs in nonprofit agencies. Fundamentals in Nonprofit Management,

a five-session course, costs $100 and starts Monday, February 28,

at 7:10 p.m. and is followed by Financial Management and Fundraising,

an $80 four-session course, on Monday, April 10. Other courses

scheduled

for the fall are in management skills, human resources development,

and public relations.

The first step in the force field analysis is to identify the problem,

then state the goal in the direction of change you desire, says Smith:

"Most problem situations can be understood in terms of the forces

which push toward improvement and the forces which resist

improvement."

If you want the group to accept merger with another division, ask

everyone to brainstorm about what the "driving forces" are,

and then cover the "restraining forces."

The brainstorming rules: Don’t censor any ideas. List them all. Do

not discuss any ideas. Do not judge. Repetition is fine.

Then review the lists and underline the forces that seem most

important.

Take the strongest negative force and brainstorm again, this time

about all the things you could do to diminish or demolish it.

"Part

of the commitment is the understanding that we would look at the

negative

forces and try to find solutions," says Smith.

How to choose which actions to take? At the workshop Smith distributed

sheets of colored dots. Take three of your dots, she instructed, and

choose your favorite solutions among the options listed. You can use

all three of your dots for one choice or distribute them.

All those present clustered around the easel to register their

"votes."

This method of voting, Smith points out, gives even the silent person

an excellent chance to participate. And seeing the pattern of dots

on the page gives everyone a good picture of what the group really

thinks about the choices.

— Barbara Fox

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High-Tech for Non-Profits: Leslie Hoffman

Non-profit organizations are hard-pressed for PCs and

basic software, and as a result, they are dreadfully behind the curve,

says Leslie Hoffman, executive director of Manhattan’s Earth

Pledge Foundation, an organization that has helped channel nearly

$100 million in new software to non-profits in the tri-state area.

"In general, the foundation world has not been very supportive

of technology purchases," she says. "They usually like

project-oriented

grants and not basic infrastructure, so technology has to come out

of general operating expenses. How non-profits raise this money is

always a tight game."

Hoffman will be one of the speakers at this year’s Non-profit and

Technology Conference on Tuesday, February 29, at the Somerset

Marriott,

which will help leaders in the non-profit arena discover avenues for

getting technology to using the Web. Workshop leaders include Ed

Madera of Self-help Clearinghouse, Barry Cranmer of Share

The Technology, Marilyn Gross of Bell Atlantic, and Pat

Tumulty

of the New Jersey Library Association. The conference is sponsored

by the Center for Non-Profit Corporations at 1501 Livingston Avenue

in North Brunswick. Cost $50. Call 732-227-0800.

In her former life, Hoffman was a carpenter and contractor in Maine.

She has a BA in architecture from Colorado College, Class of 1979,

and helped start Earth Pledge’s program to partner with big

corporations

to get technology, specifically software, in the hands of

technologically-crippled

non-profits. Microsoft is the organization’s principal technology

partner, and has given over $1 million in software already. "The

director of marketing at Microsoft immediately saw that it would be

beneficial," she says. "Being based in Seattle, they didn’t

have a high public profile in the New York/New Jersey community —

no one knew they were even here."

Since the program was launched in 1998, Earth Pledge has provided

technology, ranging in value from a couple hundred dollars to tens

of thousands of dollars, to over 150 organizations in the tri-state

area. The largest technology donation so far went to the New York

Botanical Garden, which received $80,000 worth of software from

Microsoft.

It effectively put 400 scientists all over the world on the same

network.

Earth Pledge is the brain-child of Theodore Kheel, the prominent

New York labor mediator who created the organization in 1991 to

promote

sustainable development. The organization’s pilot projects include

Workspace 2000, an environmental and communications showcase with

a computer training lab, conference facility, offices, and residential

area, and the Center for Sustainable Cuisine, which focuses on issues

that relate to the environment, health, and feeding a growing world

population.

The New Jersey State Aquarium is one of the beneficiaries of Earth

Pledge’s work on behalf of non-profits. Organizations can apply for

technology donations at www.showcasenynjct.org, or call 212-573-6968.

Once an organization receives the software, upgrades are free.


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