The end of this month is a busy time for nonprofits. The annual Community Works Conference kicks off on Monday, January 28, and is followed by the Tyco Nonprofit Leadership Conference, presented by the Princeton Regional Chamber of Commerce on Thursday, January 31, featuring a keynote speech on "Thinking Differently About Assessment: Leading Your Organization to Nonprofit Success" by David Grant, CEO of the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation. For more information call 609-924-1776..

Community Works’ annual gathering of volunteer and nonprofit organizations will present 20 workshops covering subjects ranging from basic time management to applying for grants. The event will be held on Monday, January 28, from 5:15 to 9 p.m., at the Frist Student Center of Princeton University. Cost: $29, which includes two workshops and a box supper. Register at www.princetoncommunityworks.org or call 609-924-8652 or 609-430-9740.

Community Works is designed to support the partnership between volunteers and nonprofit agencies through networking, training, and increasing awareness of community resources. Registrants can attend two of the twenty workshops, which are filled on a first come, first served basis.

"Networking: The emergence of the relationship economy" is one of the workshops being offered this year. It will be presented by Adam Kovitz, the Levittown-based founder of the National Networker newsletter. For Kovitz, the essence of growing your business, regardless of whether it is designed to turn a profit, is twofold – building relationship capital and keeping the "work" in networking.

"People aren’t irrelevant," he said in an October interview. "Financial capital is merely a reflection of relationship capital. You can’t measure wealth without measuring relationships."

Kovitz has put his money where his mouth is. The 1992 mechanical engineering graduate of Penn State University co-founded Mid-Atlantic Development in East Windsor, then in 2004 moved to Levittown, Pennsylvania, and shifted his focus from simply consulting to "connecting, educating, and inspiring" businesspeople and launched his newsletter. Today, the National Networker has grown from 900 initial subscribers based mostly in New Jersey to more than 36,000 subscribers worldwide.

Marge Smith, chair of Community Works, will also host a workshop, entitled, "Team Building: Communicate, Delegate, Motivate." The presenter of numerous workshops for non-profit boards and staff, Smith designed and teaches the certificate program in nonprofit management at Mercer County Community College. Her millieu is in teaching success through personal leadership, self-confidence, and assertiveness.

Other workshops include "The Art of the Ask," "Developing and Maintaining Win-Win Partnerships" by Calvin Thomas, president and principal partner of LodeStar Associates in Trenton. Thomas also is the New Jersey training coordinator for the Support Center for Nonprofit Management where he develops organizational systems and productive relationships among staffs and boards fo nonprofits. He is a certified master teacher trainer, lead trainer, and consultant with the Princeton Center for Leadership Training, where he also served as a program director from 1993-2000. He has worked with municipal, community, and educational leaders to create safety nets for youth and families in urban New Jersey and is a retired U.S. Navy combat systems officer, race relations specialist, recruiter, and career counselor.

"Effective Communication" features nonprofit professionals including Alex Magoun, executive director of the David Sarnoff Library, and Lisa Kasabach, executive director of CitySmiles.

"Time Management" by Lawrence Solow, president of 3-D Change consultants, offers the upside of delegating tasks and the benefits of saying no.

In "Using the Internet," Anne Pauker Kreitzberg attempts to demystify the web and offer tips for using Web 2.0 applications – blogs, wikis, podcasts, and social networks – to reach constituents in new ways.

Workshops on grant writing, leadership development, public speaking, building a donor base, cultural communications, marketing, and financial responsibilities are also offered.

Top Of PageMarge Smith Builds Better Teams

Are you a team player? Do you work well in a group? What about your ability to build and lead a team? What skills are necessary to put together a group of diverse people with a variety of skills and have them create a new program from scratch?

It takes time and effort to create a team that works well together, says Marge Smith, who leads a workshop, "Team Building: Communicate, Delegate, Motivate," as a part of Princeton Community Works, Monday, January 28, at 5 p.m. at the Frist Center on the campus of Princeton University. Cost: $29 for two workshop sessions. Register online at www.princetoncommunityworks.org.

Smith is the founder of Community Works, which is now in its 11th year. The one-day event is designed to "support the partnership between volunteers and nonprofit agencies through networking, training, and building resources," she explains. The effort is also an excellent example of team building, and she uses the skills she teaches in her workshop when she works with the Community Works committee.

Each year the program is run entirely by a group of volunteers who do everything from planning the overall theme and individual workshop topics to handling registration, publicity, ushering, and meals. The idea for Community Works "just popped into my head one day," says Smith, who has worked as a volunteer and a non-profit board member for over two decades. She graduated from Smith College with a degree in English, and received a master’s degree in education from Columbia University. She taught high school for a few years until her husband was sent to Vietnam, and she quit work to take care of her young children. Since then she’s been involved in a wide variety of programs and organizations. "I guess I have a low boredom threshold," she jokes.

For Smith, leadership in a team environment thrives in part on knowing how to direct team members. Often, she says, managers won’t ask for help or will not delegate tasks because they are threatened by others’ abilities. She may suggest those managers evaluate their own strengths as well as others’ and not be afraid to delegate.

She has more than 25 years experience in every facet of nonprofit work – volunteer, board president, executive director, independent consultant. She helped to develop the certificate program in nonprofit management at Mercer County Community College, which at the time was the first program of its kind in New Jersey. She continues to teach several courses in the program. She is president of the Child Care Connection Board and chair of the Princeton Human Services Commission. She serves on the Foundation Board of Thomas Edison State College and the board of Hands on Helpers.

One of the most important parts of Community Works, she says, is the opportunity to meet new people and widen your network and to help people interested in a wide variety of volunteer efforts to "get acquainted and establish ties." It is also an excellent way for people involved in a variety of nonprofit areas to increase their awareness of other resources in the community so that they can collaborate, make referrals, and avoid duplication of services.

Education, of course, is the final component of the program. Each participant can enroll in two workshops on a variety of topics, including fundraising, effective communication, and how to help your organization become more environmentally conscious.

It takes several months to put the program together. In October of each year the Community Works committee begins to organize the event, at first monthly, and as date approaches, weekly. "We have about 25 to 30 core members each year," says Smith, and while some of the members have been involved for many years, often many of the team are newcomers, who must learn about each other, the group, and its purpose.

Get to Know the Team. For a team to work well together, the members must know about each other’s skills and abilities, says Smith. Introducing new and old members and learning about each others’ strengths is an important part of making Community Works, or any team, successful. Smith often uses the technique of "cross introduction" to help the members of her team get to know each other. In a cross introduction, two people talk for a few minutes and learn about each other, then introduce each other to the group. The method is a great way to learn something new and different about other team members.

"It’s a deliberate effort to get to know other people on the team, and learn more about their skills and resources," says Smith. Another technique she likes to use is "skill set introductions," where each team member is asked to tell five things they like to do and three things that they don’t enjoy.

Let Your Team Work. A project as large as Community Works requires a wide variety of jobs, but no matter how large or small the project, it is important that each person know what their job is and what is expected, says Smith. Along with the core committee, Community Works also uses about 20 volunteer workshop leaders, 40 people who introduce each workshop, a registration team, and greeters and hosts. This group is scattered throughout the building on the night of the event to help people by answering a variety of questions from where to find handicapped access, to the location of seminar rooms, and where to pick up the box dinners that are included in the event registration fee.

While some of the volunteers work in several roles, many only arrive an hour before the event where they attend a quick orientation program. "You have to trust people to do their job. You put them in the right position, and make sure they understand what they are to do, and who is doing what," says Smith. "On the evening of Community Works no one comes to me to ask for direction. Everyone already knows what they are to do."

Make Your Team Feel Valued. Another important part of building a successful team is to make sure that every member feels welcomed, included, and valued, says Smith. One of the ways she accomplishes this with Community Works is to open the committee to everyone who is interested in participating. "I’m not the person who chooses who is on the committee. I make it clear that everyone who comes to the committee is welcome to bring another friend who is interested.

"People want to be given the opportunity to become a part of a meaningful team," she says. "Don’t be afraid to ask someone if they want to join your team. I often have people thank me for the opportunity to be a part of Community Works."

While Smith’s philosophy of team building has remained essentially the same over the years, one major change affected the way in which Community Works runs.

"The Internet has helped us to do things in a more cost effective way, and that is very important for a volunteer group with a tiny budget," says Smith. Today course descriptions and biographies for seminar leaders can be found online, eliminating many printing costs. Registrations are also handled online, making the process easier for both the committee and participants.

The biggest challenge the Community Works team faces in the future is the growing popularity of the program. The event was first held at the Woodrow Wilson School, but outgrew the space after a few years and moved to the Frist Center. While the center has a number of rooms designed to hold both small, intimate workshops and larger groups, the basement auditorium seats 400. This year they expect to have a sell-out crowd. But Smith says her team is up to the task. "It’s not bad to have the challenge of being successful."

-Karen Hodges Miller

#h#The Art of Asking#/h#

Raising money. Every non-profit organization must do it, or it just won’t survive because those mail-in requests asking for $10, $20, or $50 from individuals are not enough to finance a major fundraising campaign. If you are a volunteer, a board member, or on the staff of a non-profit, at some time you will be asked to help raise money, and that means going out and talking to potential donors about a major gift.

It is often uncomfortable. Most of us do not enjoy asking for money, even if it is for a good cause. So what are the magic words to say? How do you convince someone to open their pockets and give $5,000, $10,000, or more to your organization?

The key to bringing in a major contribution is not in the talking, says Ralph Serbe, executive vice president of the Princeton Area Community Foundation – it’s in the listening. Serbe will present "The Art of the Ask," part of the Princeton Community Works, on Monday, January 28, at 5 p.m. at the Frist Center at Princeton University. Cost: $29 for two workshops. Register online at www.princetoncommunityworks.org.

The Community Area Foundation promotes philanthropy in central New Jersey by working with individual and family donors to connect them with organizations that match their philanthropic interests. Serbe oversees the fundraising, marketing, and communications efforts for the organization.

He received his bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of New York at Fredonia in 1985. "The school placed a high value on volunteering and serving in the community, it was an important part of the school’s values," he says.

At Wells Fargo Bank in California he became a part of the corporation’s loaned executive program. The program allowed bank executives to work with a non-profit group for a six-month period while still on the Wells Fargo payroll.

Serbe was assigned to a small community center in San Jose, California. "At the end of six months, I asked for an extension, and it was granted, and at the end of my second six-month period, I knew that was where I needed to be, so I left Wells Fargo," he says. A few years later he met Nancy Kieling, president and executive director for Princeton Community Foundation, and in 2002, she asked him to work with the organization.

"Many times boards approach raising money like the `Li’l Rascals,’" says Serbe. "Hey, we’ve got a barn, so let’s give a show. Asking for major gifts must be done in a more organized fashion.

"Raising money isn’t that easy. Sure, you hear about the person who reads an article in the newspaper and sits down and writes a $10,000 check. But it doesn’t usually happen that way," says Serbe. A major gift is considered five times the amount of the giver’s usual annual gift. "You have to think about what is going to make someone open their pocket and give that kind of money to your organization. What are you doing that is worth five times more?"

Serbe suggests that before going out to ask someone for a donation, sit down and think about the questions that you would have about the group. Then make sure you know those answers.

"When board members start to think about raising money, they invariably come up with the same five names, no matter what their organization is about," says Serbe. "So when those people get a call asking, `Can I take you to lunch and talk about XYZ Group,’ they know how the conversation is going to end," he adds.

So how do you spark their interest and convince them to open their checkbook for your group? "When sitting down with a major donor, the greatest part of your time should be spent listening, not talking," says Serbe. "How well you listen plays an important role in whether or not you will be successful in obtaining a gift." People are interested in non-profits and community organizations for a wide variety of reasons.

The most important thing for the person who is asking for a donation to do is to listen to why the person is interested in that particular agency. "Find out what piece of the organization they are interested in, what brought them to it in the first place," he says. He breaks down that interest into several major areas.

Personal Loyalty. A person may be interested in donating to a group because they are a fan of the executive director or other major staff member. "In a case like this it doesn’t matter if the non-profit is a soup kitchen or a community center, the potential donor believes in the director. They believe that if that director feels it is a good program, then it must be worthwhile," says Serbe. Once that is established, the fundraiser can direct the talk to the director and what he or she is doing for the program.

Social Networking. Another type of donor is interested in an organization because it is a part of their social network, it is a way for them to meet and get to know other people in their community.

"These people aren’t so much interested in what the organization does as the fact that they throw a pretty good party every year." Obviously, continuing to hold a variety of community events where the donor can network is an important part of obtaining this donation.

Interest in the Issues. A third type of donor may have little physical connection with the organization, but is still extremely interested in its work, says Serbe. "This type of donor may not know anyone on the staff or the board, may never show up for any event, and still be vitally interested in the work of the group." In this case, the fundraiser will do best by talking with the donor about the organization’s overall philosophy and its effect on the issues, rather than emphasizing other aspects of the agency.

Impressed by the Services. A final type of donor may have used the services of the organization and have been impressed by them. This, says Serbe, is often the case with donations for schools or hospitals. An alumnus might want to make sure that his or her donation will go to a particular program at the school, a former patient might want to contribute to a department where he received help, or someone who received emergency assistance from the Red Cross or other agency might be interested in making a donation. The key to these donors, says Serbe, is that they are interested in the continuation or expansion of services that particularly interest them.

"The difference between talking and listening is the difference between good fundraising and bad," Serbe says. "Good fundraising is donor-centered. It is making a connection between the donor’s interests and your organization."

-Karen Hodges Miller

#h#Filing Web Taxes for Free: New Web Portal: Corporate Angels#/h#

Taxpayers whose gross adjusted annual household income is less than $54,000 are eligible to file their taxes for free, directly through the IRS’ Free File system.

This year taxpayers can choose from 19 tax preparation software companies, available through www.irs.gov. The program is operated by the IRS and the Free File Alliance, a consortium of tax preparation software companies.

Each company sets its own criteria for who can use the service. Two are available in Spanish.

The only way taxpayers can access the authentic IRS Free File program is through the IRS website. That includes both new and repeat users.

Some Alliance members are offering online tax preparation and filing of state returns for free. All Alliance members’ websites display whether this service is available and the associated fees, if any.

For the first time, taxpayers can use Free File to prepare the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) Schedule and an application for extended filing time.

Forms for education credits, residential energy credits, child/dependent care expenses, or mortgage interest credits will not be eligible to file online until after Monday, February 11.

#h#New Web Portal For NJ Businesses#/h#

The state Office of Economic Growth has launched its enhanced business web portal, www.NewJerseyBusiness.gov, aimed at helping businesses looking to start, grow, or relocate in New Jersey.

First introduced in September, 2006, the site provides businesses with information on workforce training and development programs, financial incentives, loan assistance, site selection services and licensing and permitting requirements. The revamped site allows businesses to complete basic tax and employer returns in real-time and view tax histories online.

#h#Corporate Angels#/h#

Janssen, a Titusville-based division of Ortho-McNeil-Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc., provided $15,000 to the Capital Health System Foundation to help combat alcohol and drug abuse.

The grant provides for the purchase of media equipment, educational materials, and professional development training for foundation member Dario Rodriguez, a CHS counselor who wrote the grant, and other counselors at the CHS Fuld campus in Trenton.

Rodriguez earned a master’s degree in Counseling Arts at Rider University while working in the mental health inpatient unit at CHS. He identified the need in the inpatient unit and researched the applications for funding through the CHS Foundation. From there, he wrote the grant proposal following guidelines set forth by the CHS Foundation and Janssen and submitted the proposal.

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