Who You ARE Makes a Difference

Founder of Blue Ribbons Worldwide

Helise “Sparky” Bridges

Helice “Sparky” Bridges had it all – a big house on the Pacific Ocean, fancy cars, beautiful sons and an emotionally abusive husband – when she hit the wall. She fell to her knees and cried, “Stop the world I want to get off!” and a voice answered,” You can’t end your life because you are going to sing and dance and write.”Later on she also understood that she must also make a difference in the world. The fact that she couldn’t sing, had never danced a step or written much beyond a real estate contract didn’t stop her. She left home with a potted plant and some clothes and did those very things in spite of apparent shortcomings because of what she IS–outrageous.
Sparky realized that everyone just tries to be the best mom or dad or teacher, but what everyone really needs is to be recognized and loved, just like she did.  She created a symbolic hug in the Blue Ribbon ceremony in 1980, now called “Blue Ribbons Worldwide” with a goal of uniting humanity through the power of love and within three months 35,000 people were honored with it. Sparky’s goal is to reach one billion people by 2020. That’s one in seven people in the world, the mathematical tipping point for social change.

“Bing!” is the sound of making dreams come true.

With over 40 million people and counting, Blue Ribbons Worldwide is working hard on its goal to unite the world through the power of love. Sparky calls it the glue that’s missing from our lives. The blue ribbon she created says, “Who I Am Makes a Difference” and the ceremony requires seven steps, beginning with looking the person in the eye and honoring them for the qualities that make them special, asking permission to place the ribbon over their heart and for them to receive the honor, and finally “Bing!” to signify making their dreams come true. Each blue ribbon presented is followed by two more with a request for that person to pay it forward to two others.

Sparky tells her own story and the inspiring stories of how the Blue Ribbon Ceremony made a difference in people’s lives in her book, Who I am Makes a Difference: The Power of Acknowledgement, Stories that Connect People Heart-to-Heart and Ignite the Human Spirit. One story on how the blue ribbon prevented a teen suicide is also featured in Chicken Soup for the Soul. That is at the heart of Blue Ribbons Worldwide, to end teen suicide, heal the world by helping one person at a time understand how much she/he matters. Today more than 40 million people have been honored with blue ribbons, but 2020 is only a couple of years away.


Sparky says that people need to have personal connections and not be in such a “doing” world, but in a “being” world, where we can see each other’s hearts and the beauty in people. She is inviting others  to join her in becoming sponsors of a new initiative to train 40,000 middle and high school students to discover who they are, why they were born and the difference they make. The students will be honoring each other, honoring their parents and writing stories about it to unite the community in supporting everyone else’s dreams. Besides reducing teen suicides, bullying and the other epidemics that are infecting our teens, Sparky says that it will elevate education in America by developing social and emotional literacy. Instead of concentrating our efforts on conflict resolution, the Blue Ribbon Ceremony will focus on elevating our relationships to a higher bond of respect and love. To learn more about Blue Ribbons Worldwide, contact Sparky directly at her e-mail: sparky@blueribbons.org.
Listen to this conversation for more inspiring stories and to hear the 7-step Blue Ribbon Acknowledgement Ceremony from Sparky to Dr. Nancy. Check out Sparky’s website and ways Blue Ribbons Worldwide is uniting the world through sharing love with 40 million people and counting.Find out how you can help make it One Billion by 2020 at Blue Ribbons Worldwide.

Amplify Women’s Voices Around the World

Lauren Anderson

International Geopolitical Consultant Lauren Anderson is excited about the huge world-wide momentum that’s building of women reaching out to help one another across the boundaries of professions and countries  in the many organizations where she serves. Driven by the need to be of service to others and the benefits of justice and equality in our world, Lauren has journeyed through a 29-year distinguished career as an FBI executive, both in high-risk domestic and foreign service, overseeing anti-terrorism and FBI relations with 24 different countries to present-day global efforts on many fronts to empower and help women and girls become leaders in their chosen professions. Lauren serves on  numerous boards and in many capacities, including service as a public speaker and expert with the Women’s Media Center , as Global Ambassador with Vital Voices, Leadership Ambassador with Take the Lead, and  more.
While in the FBI, she saw an enormous amount of talent not being used. In fact, cultures in many countries actually held women back from contributing their skills and talents. While she saw the limitations, she couldn’t dream of all the possibilities. When she became a fellow with the International Women’s Forum, she says it exploded her world open. For the first time, she was in an environment with women from all sectors and many nations from around the world. She saw expertise, knowledge and sharing that could go beyond what she had considered with her background in law enforcement, intelligence and diplomacy.

Vital Voices Partners with Leading Women to Make Their Vision A Reality.

Founded in 1991 by Hillary Clinton and others, Vital Voices is made up of powerful bi-partisan women. Lauren says that Vital Voices identifies and works with women leaders around the world. They started where women had no capacity, in the Middle East, Africa and south Asia, regardless of their sector. Their programs range from something as basic as how to write a business plan to the global ambassador program that Lauren is part of. They select women who are at a tipping point in their profession and pair them with another successful woman. She says that the beauty of Vital Voices is they cross sectors and match people with their skill sets. For example, she currently is coaching a Somali obstetrician-gynecologist, a Filipino businesswoman and a woman in Beirut who makes cookies, though her own sector is much different.

Red Dot Foundation-Safe City Identifies Hot Spots to Protect Women.

Lauren was just asked to be the board chair for Safe City in India. The program was started by Elsa DeSilva after the horrific rape, torture and ultimate death of the young Indian doctor in 2012. Compelled to do something about the violence and sexual harassment in the streets that women go through, she and a couple of friends created the The Red Dot Foundation–Safe City. Lauren says that when it was formed, it was the only crowd-sourced and crowd-funded platform where women could share their stories. Now, Safe City has collected 50,000 separate stories of women who have experienced everything from sexual harassment to rape. The analytics this collection is providing has helped the police identify hot spots within 4 cities in India where they can increase coverage to protect women.
The Safe City model is so successful that it has expanded into Kenya, Nepal, Trinidad,  Nigeria, Cameroon, and others are set up to come on board in the future.  The United States is also looking at ways this model can be used in work environments and on college campuses.

Taking Take the Lead to Global Ambassadorship

Now Lauren and Gloria Feldt are looking into taking Take the Lead’s Leadership Ambassador program world-wide. The Leadership Ambassador  program  applies Gloria’s “9 Power Tools” to help women transform their relationship with power so they can use it to accomplish their intentional goals. They partnered with the Leadership Foundation Fellows of the International Women’s Forum and delivered a partial version of “The 9 Power Tools” to a group of women from around the world. The Leadership Ambassador program expands  beyond Take the Lead, as each Ambassador teaches entire new groups of women, so the message and the method grow exponentially.
Listen to this interview to learn about more collaborative programs where women are reaching out to help other women around the world. Check out the links of the programs that offer these opportunities for more details about how you can become involved in the movement of women reaching out to help other women around the world, and visit Lauren on Linked-In, Twitter and Facebook.

Three Ways You Can Help Change the World

An estimated 4.5 million Americans, mostly female, made history when they joined the Women’s March the day after the 2017 presidential inauguration. Since then, many have taken up political activism for the first time. According to a recent article in the Chicago Tribune, women are rethinking how they allocate their time and energy. They are either engaging in political activities, joining grass-roots groups or finding new career paths, including running for office, to further causes they believe in. In fact, organizations that recruit and train women to run for office have reported unprecedented interest in their programs at every level nationwide.
The recent election has motivated women at all points on the political spectrum to get involved. Many people are recruiting women to become candidates, and overall volunteer numbers are on the rise. Many women realize that running for office isn’t the only way that they can advocate for a cause they’re passionate about; funneling energy into community activism can also make a difference.
It’s definitely an exciting, perhaps unprecedented time for activism. Actress Kerry Washington summed up the connectedness many women are feeling right now in Glamour, “That idea of holding each other’s hands at the Women’s March – it feels like we are being invited to do that every day. So many of us are feeling attacked, and feel the need to protect and defend our democracy. And the march toward the dream of being ‘We the people.’ So that’s exciting, scary, and frustrating. We’re awake. We are awake more than ever before, and we have to stay awake.”
The sense of activism that’s swept the country is undeniably powerful, and history has proven that women who are passionate about a specific cause can be highly effective. So, the question is, if political office isn’t in your immediate future, how can you best get involved? You should definitely volunteer. Here are three great ways you can get busy making a difference in your community today.
Support a candidate you believe in. Whether you’re canvassing neighborhoods, making phone calls, or helping organize special events, female candidates need women like us to support them and help them reach their goals. It is only by helping them get elected that they can be our voice and help bring about change. Women are underrepresented in politics at every level of government. Whether the candidate is running for school board, city council or a state or national elected office, she needs our help. A simple phone call to campaign headquarters can get you started.
Align with a cause to move women forward. Whether it is joining the fight for fair wages or women’s equality, there are plenty of established causes and new outlets popping up every day that can help you make your voice heard.  You can spend a few hours each week doing everything from making calls to Congress to helping get voters educated or registered. Look locally and nationally for causes or movements that resonate with you, and make the call to get involved.
Connect with what matters to you. Is it education? Animals? Parks? Literacy? Food assistance? What excites you? What pulls at your heartstrings? Volunteer for something that is meaningful to you. All non-profits love volunteers, and you can usually get started with a phone call and a few simple forms. If you don’t have a particular organization in mind, there are several online resources like VolunteerMatch.org that can help you choose just the right outlet.
Whether you have a few hours a month or a few days a week, getting out there and getting immersed in your local community is where change starts. By lending our time, treasure, and talent to the places that we call home, we can build a solid foundation for growth. We need to work together to make our voices heard, and celebrate the women who are out there paving the way. When women get involved to help other women, we all win! It is time to help one another and change the world for the better!

Five Ways to Make 2017 A Year for Women!

It doesn’t matter how you ended 2016, I think we can all agree that it was a rough year. At the end of a particularly brutal – and for some heartbreaking – political cycle, many women felt a range of emotions from fear to desperation and hopelessness. As a result, the prospect of a new year didn’t feel promising, to say the least.
But others have rolled up their sleeves and dug in to re-energize their efforts to help empower other women. Our WomenConnect4Good team is ready to put our time and talent to work and make this the year for women.
The dynamics that come into play when women come together is profound. Doubt it? Look what a very committed group of women were able to accomplish in just 24 hours for Take the Lead Women! December 20-21, 2016, men and women joined in a Charidy.com crowdfunding event to help Take the Lead in their mission to propel women to parity in all sectors by 2025. They didn’t just meet the goal they beat the goal and raised $312,160. Helping other women along, and strengthening the communities we live in drives all women. It’s our nature to want to help others and doing so fulfills our sense of purpose in a real and authentic way.
Here are five great ways we can come together and change the status quo this year.
Volunteer with an organization that helps women. There is no shortage of organizations and causes that need our time, talent, or treasure. In fact, there are many, many organizations who could use your help today. From the work we do with Women Connect4Good, to Take the Lead Women, to Convoy of Hope, find and plug into an organization that fights to protect and advance women’s rights or ensure women are able to get the help and support they deserve.
Be a mentor. Mentors matter, and many women can attribute part of their success to lessons learned through a mentoring relationship. On one level, a mentor helps women become empowered, with more self-confidence and resolve. On another, mentors serve as a guide, role model and advisor. The benefits of mentoring go both ways. Both the mentor and the woman being mentored learn from each other during the mentoring process. Successful women are guiding others through the ranks and helping them with their own experience, and through mentoring relationships, we can help women to top management and beyond.
Support female politicians or run for office yourself. I recently read at Care2 Causes that one important way to make sure women’s rights are protected is by making sure women are equally represented in government, which currently, they’re not. As Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider recently told me, having only 19% women in the US Congress creates lopsidedness in legislation and a lack of diversity that hinders good governing. No one is leader by herself. Elected officials need a group and coalition to lead. It’s a two-way process of leadership and support with everyone working for the greater good.
Look at the global picture. Yes. Things are a mess at home, and your community and your country need your help, but things are also pretty scary for women and girls all over the world. There are so many worthy programs that can make a difference. For example, my Leading Women co-author, Rebecca Tinsley’s Network for Africa is doing amazing work. Convoy of Hope’s Women’s Empowerment Program is also having an impact through micro-loans, job training, and education – helping women and girls gain self-esteem and build self-confidence. In Ethiopia 1,000 women have attended the program since 2010. As a result, these women have experienced a 240% increase in income since joining the program. The Women’s Empowerment Program is proof that when women are given the opportunity to generate income, it not only impacts their families, it impacts their country’s economic standing.
Support other women. Find out what the women in your life need, and look for ways to help them. My Leading Women co-author Gloria Feldt works to inspire and propel women to reach parity in leadership across all sectors by 2025. Gloria has always supported other women, starting with providing birth control for teenage girls in a west Texas Planned Parenthood and rising to become President and CEO of Planned Parenthood’s national organization.  Gloria debunks the idea of a finite “you-win-I-lose” pie. The pie is actually infinite, she says.  “The more there is the more there is.” Her approach can be duplicated. We can reach out to women in the workplace and in the community to give them the tools they need to advance. That’s what the women-helping-women movement is all about, and when one woman wins, we all win.
Keep in mind as we go into the new year that mentoring, advocating, and volunteering provides you with opportunities to stretch yourself and step outside of your routine. It provides the opportunity to make a positive impact on the greater community.
Is there an organization in your community that resonates with you? A place where you can donate your time, treasure, or talent? You don’t have to donate a million dollars to make a difference. Instead, focus on what you can to do to improve the status of women and girls in today’s society. We are all sisters, and women need help all over the world. It’s our job to help them. When we do, we have an impact, not only on their lives, but on the lives of their children and future generations, entire countries, and indeed the world.

Adolescent Girls Hold Power To Create Global Change

Cheryl because I am a girlBy Cheryl Benton, “Because I am a Girl” Private Sector Development Committee
Here are some sobering facts about girls in the developing world:

  • 65 million girls are NOT in school
  • 41,000 girls are forced into early marriages EVERY DAY
  • Childbirth is the leading cause of deaths for girls between 15-19
  • Being young and female in many areas of the world means you are denied the most basic human rights and your very life can be in peril.

Research findings from Plan International reveal that violence against girls is frighteningly pervasive – girls expect to be victims of violence, and the levels of violence that they experience are seen as ‘normal.’ They seldom feel free from violence at home, in their communities, or at school. For example, 80 per cent of girls in one area of Ecuador, and 77 per cent of girls in an area of Bangladesh, said that they ‘never’ or ‘seldom’ feel safe in their community. In West Africa, 30 per cent of girls said that they never or seldom feel as safe as boys on their way to school.
We must change this, because we know that:

  • For every 10 percent increase in female literacy, the economy can grow by 0.3 percent.
  • For every additional year of education that a young woman has, child mortality decreases by 9.5 percent.
  • And we know that when we support girls to be strong, these soon-to-be women will be able to uplift their entire families and communities.

“Because I am a Girl” Gives Girls a Brighter Future
Earlier this year, I, along with four colleagues who have worked together in a voluntary role with global organizations that are helping women and girls, was introduced to Plan International USA and a program they launched four years ago, called “Because I am a Girl.”  We were so impressed we asked how we could get more involved and help support the program. The result: we are now Plan USA’s first ever-Private Sector Development Committee. Our (voluntary) role is to build awareness of Because I am a Girl and raise funds for their programs. Let me tell you why we got so excited about their work. We hope you will get excited too and will join us by becoming a “Champion of Change.”
Because I am a Girl is changing the future of some of most marginalized and at-risk girls in the world. The programs are helping girls to “Learn, Lead, Decide and Thrive.”  It’s one of the few programs that focuses on adolescent girls with programs that enable them to realize their own power as they transition into adulthood. It also has created gender awareness programs for boys, which is also critically important. Women cannot eliminate these inequities alone. The results are life-changing, not only for these girls but for their families and communities.
Here are highlights of a few of the programs:
Ethiopia: Girls’ Empowerment Through Education – Improving access to and the quality of education for 5,000 schoolgirls outside of Addis Ababa.
Egypt: Safer Cities for Girls – Educating and empowering girls through savings and loan groups, mentoring programs and leadership training.
Sierra Leone: Girl Power – Promoting Equal Rights and Opportunities for Girls – Protecting girls and young women from gender-based violence.
Nepal: Fighting Against Child Trafficking – Preventing the practice of child trafficking through educational programming and the creation of rehabilitation centers for trafficking survivors.
El Salvador: Girls Promoting Gender Violence Reduction – Prepared 1,800 girls and 180 boys to prevent and respond to gender-based violence in their communities.
The Impact of “Because I am a Girl”
Since the program was launched in 2012, it has changed the lives of 4 million girls directly through “Because I am a Girl Programs,” 40 million boys and girls through gender awareness programs, and 400 million girls through policy changes.
Become a Champion of Change
We invite you to join us. We are building a community of women who want to support this global movement for the rights of adolescent girls. I truly believe we have a moral imperative to help these girls. If not us, who?
With your support of “Because I am a Girl”, we can change their future.  For example, a gift of $1,000 can keep 5 girls in school, and education is key to lifting girls out of poverty. Please contact me if you would like to learn more. cbenton@thethreetomatoes.com
About Plan International
Plan International is a non-profit global development organization that has been lifting children out of poverty since 1937. Today it is a billion dollar organization, working in 50 countries, with top ratings from Charity Navigator. It is consistently ranked as one of the top 10 development groups in the world. Plan USA is one of 21 fundraising offices.

Women Helping Women Through Philanthropy

city-people-woman-streetWomen philanthropists are driving the ever-growing number of advocacy and charitable organizations seeking to advance the well-being of women and girls. The Women’s Philanthropy Institute (WPI) at Indiana University-Purdue University has found consistently that women and men give differently. In almost every income bracket, women give more than men: baby-boomer and older women gave 89% more to charity than men their age, and women in the top 25% of permanent income gave 156% more than men in that same category.
In trying to explain the gender giving differences, WIP has found that women tend to be more altruistic and empathetic than men, partly because of the way men and women are socialized regarding caring, self-sacrifice and the well-being of others. Men tend to give when an appeal frames the donation as being in the man’s self interest or as a way of maintaining the status quo, while women tend to give to promote social change or help those less fortunate, research suggests.
Women often focus on helping other women. For example, the Maverick Collective, founded by Kate Roberts and Melinda Gates, recruits high-net-worth female philanthropists to invest more than just their money to support women and girls around the globe. In addition to cash donations (starting at $1 million), the participating women also share their bright ideas and remain heavily involved as key leaders over time, even traveling to help evaluate the progress of a project.

Women Have a Long History of Helping

Women helping women and men is nothing new. In fact, women in America have always been agents of change – even when they had few officially recognized rights. In Colonial times, women tackled issues like moral reform, care of widows, children and the mentally ill, conditions for women prisoners, aid for soldiers, temperance, abolition of slavery, suffrage, libraries, the environment, culture, health issues, and more.
Women’s sense of their “place” changed dramatically in the 1800s, and they started to transition to a group of skilled fundraisers, passionate advocates, powerful leaders, dedicated volunteers, irresistible forces for social change, and tireless workers. Women of every ethnicity joined voluntary associations to raise money and especially to care for women and girls.
Women have done amazing things in terms of giving, and started Mount Holyoke Seminary, Smith College, Women’s Christian Temperance Union, American Red Cross, and YWCA to name a few. Women also established three-quarters of the public libraries in the United States, many before Andrew Carnegie became involved and later to raise the 10 percent match he required. Women in the Rockefeller and Vanderbilt families started the Museum of Modern Art and Whitney Museum of Art. Despite a slump in women’s philanthropic activities from the 1920s to the 1960s, women took an active role in the Civil Rights effort, feminism, and infiltration of the workforce. The 1970s saw formation of the Ms. Foundation, the first women’s fund in the United States.

Supreme Court Helps Women’s Efforts Expand

The philanthropy arena expanded for women in the 1980s when the Supreme Court ruled groups like Jaycees, Rotary, Lions and Kiwanis could no longer exclude women. It wasn’t long before women were serving as the officers running these philanthropic clubs. More recently women have organized to support equal rights for women, drunk driving laws, breast cancer research, economic development and employment opportunities for women, and many more.

Help Where You Can

Today more than 100 women’s funds around the globe belong to the Women’s Funding Network (WFN), representing a collective $465 million in working assets and invest over $60 million per year. WFN is is the largest philanthropic network in the world devoted to improving the lives of women and girls. All across the US, 131 United Ways have developed women’s leadership councils. Every year, more than 56,000 women volunteers in women’s leadership councils raise more than $155 million just from other women.
Giving isn’t limited to wealthy women. Small donations can yield big results. Is there an organization in your community that resonates with you? A place where you can donate your time, treasure, or talent? You don’t have to donate a million dollars to make a difference. Instead, focus on what you can to do to improve the status of women and girls in today’s society.
Seeing women find a better way of living proves our efforts are all worthwhile. We are all sisters, and women need help all over the world. It’s our job to help them. When we do, we have an impact, not only on their lives, but on the lives of their children and future generations, entire countries, indeed the world.
I am so honored to be a part of the work done by the many organizations Women Connect4Good supports. I urge each of you to find a way to reach out and help a sister somewhere in the world today. When women help women, we all win.

Empowered Women Make a Difference in People's Lives

Founder of Bravehearts Therapeutic Riding Center

Meggan Hill-McQueeny

Reaching out to help others is the life mission of Meggan Hill-McQueeney. When Meggan was very young, her father put her on a pony hoping to get her to wear and use her prosthetic arm. This early intervention enabled Meggan, who was born without a right arm, to become fully functional with her prosthesis. She went on to ride competitively throughout her youth.
After learning how horse therapy helped another child — a boy with Down’s Syndrome — Meggan realized how her father had pioneered therapeutic riding with her, years before it was recognized. This inspired her to pursue a career in horse therapy and join Bravehearts Therapeutic Riding Center in Illinois as their President and COO with a mission of “bringing hope, joy and unlimited possibilities through the healing power of the horse.”

How Bonding with Horses Helps Us Heal

In this interview, Dr. Nancy describes how her relationship with horses helped her heal in the last few years and the bond she feels with her horses. Meggan explains that developing a relationship with horses helps people adapt their own behavior to become more productive with other people. She elaborates about how horses pick up on anxiety and become restless. In their Wounded Warriors Program, therapists can use this to quiet a vet’s mind and create awareness of how to relate both to the horse and other people.

Difference between Hippotherapy and Therapeutic Riding

Meggan describes the difference between hippotherapy and therapeutic riding. Hippotherapy, based on the Greek word for horse, uses a horse to accomplish the goals of a licensed therapist, who may work in a variety of disciplines. The focus is to improve the person’s ability to function in their every day environment. The horse’s multi-dimensional movement helps them strengthen their core and control their body.
Therapeutic riding, in contrast, is done to help achieve competitive goals. Bravehearts hosts the Special Olympics. Equestrian teams with cognitive impairment come from all over to compete in front of large crowds. Meggan says they work hard all year to compete in this venue; they receive medals and are rewarded for their excellence.

Find Out More

Meggan says it takes 130 volunteers every week to run Bravehearts, which is a 501c3 corporation. Check out their website, www.braveheartsriding.org to see the opportunities and more about their programs. And be sure to listen to the wonderful stories about people who benefit from horse therapy in this amazing interview.

Related Articles

How Women Feel About Wealth

Margaret May DamenWomen and men have very different attitudes about money, according to Margaret May Damen. Women look at money as a means to an end, while men look at money as the end with the success and power it can buy. Margaret May is the founder and CEO of The Institute for Women and Wealth, an inspiring speaker and co-author of Women, Wealth and Giving: The Virtuous Legacy of the Boom Generation.
Margaret came to her passion and purpose of helping women discover how to create their legacies early in her career as a Senior Financial Advisor with American Express. She says that she asks women to tell their stories about who was a hero to them or what event changed their life. The answers they give help them decide what touches their heart in a way to create their personal legacy.
Dr. Nancy expresses her view that people who have money have a responsibility to do something with it to help others. She asks Margaret how to get the younger generation involved. Margaret says the old kitchen table values discussion is best. She remembers sitting around the kitchen table with the family talking about things that matter. She also suggests having children participate with a portion of their allowance or setting an example for them of giving at the Christmas kettle. She says that if the family is involved in a foundation, it’s a good idea to allow the children a portion of the money for a cause they want to support and let them do the research and make the decision of who they want to help.

Why Boomer Women Want to Make a Difference

Margaret is a Boomer and works with other Boomer women, which she says spans the ages of 49 to 67 right now. Boomer women no longer look for material things as a means to happiness. She notes the trend in simplicity and less is more lifestyle ideas that populate magazines and other popular media. Women look at money as what it will do, rather than what it will buy. We have moved from conspicuous consumption to conspicuous compassion. Increasingly women are finding that helping others through their passion and purpose makes them happier.
Dr. Nancy adds that once you get involved in helping your community, you find out all of the wonderful things your community is doing and you make friends with the other women who are helping too. In fact, she feels that she receives three-times more than she gives. The rewards are powerful. She also says that it’s a wonderful networking tool. Women refer other women and it’s fun to work with a powerful group who are truly making a difference in meaningful ways.
There’s much more great information about how to get younger women involved, and how the attitudes of scarcity have developed into mindset of abundance in recent years. Check out Margaret’s website www.margaret-may.com to learn about her workshops and more of her amazing work.

Why Leaders Struggle to Create Strong Chapters

Why do volunteer leaders struggle to create a strong chapter?

People Power Unlimited logoLazy Leader Guru Cynthia D’Amour  surveyed 650 volunteer leaders to learn their views about their leadership experiences and more.
She found three major themes.

1. ‘No Time’ is the cover-all smoke screen.

  • People don’t have time to join.
  • Members don’t have time to volunteer.
  • Volunteers don’t have time to do what they say they will.
  • No one has time to become a leader.

Cynthia says, “Good people just give up the ship when the no-time claim is raised. Few ask, ‘How can we make this so appealing people will make time?’”

2. Focusing on what you lack is the black mold of volunteer leaders.

The overwhelming majority of leaders surveyed focused on what they did not have. This poisons the chapter and makes it nearly impossible to get people involved. Instead, talk about what’s working, and what can be made better.

3. Successful leaders know how to generate excitement and fun!

Bring energy to your chapter by acting like a marketer and “selling” the fun and meaningful involvement your chapter offers. More people will be willing to join, to step up to volunteer,  and to lead your chapter into the future.

What are you going to do with what you learned from the leadership experience survey?

Dr. Nancy D. O’Reilly Interviews Volunteer Expert Cynthia D’Amour

Learn from association expert Cynthia D’Amour how to succeed as a lazy leader.

  • Invite others in
  • Make it fun
  • Accept new ideas
  • Don’t try to do it all yourself
  • Dump the martyr tiara
  • Toot horn for others

N: We are fortunate indeed when our careers intertwine with our passion and our purpose and our need to make this a better world. I’ve been a volunteer all of my life and I’m very proud of that. I come from a family who volunteered in the church. As a young girl, then as a teenager and as a woman, I’ve continued to do a lot of volunteer work. I love that women are changing the world through volunteer efforts. They are showing up in what I call social profit organizations.
I recently spoke with Cynthia D’Amour. Cynthia is a leadership strategist and president of People Power Unlimited. She is an advocate for developing leaders and building community. Cynthia works with both national leaders and chapter leaders who are committed to making a difference.  And Cynthia is committed to helping them do just that.
She has written seven books. She’s a busy woman.

  • The Lazy Leader’s Guide to Outrageous Results and
  • How to Turn Generation Me into Active Members of  Your Association.

Cynthia has served more than 67 combined years on boards and recruited more than 250 members.
She has served on the ASAE’s research committee and founded the Chapter Leaders Playground, an online community for volunteer leaders from different organizations.
If you want to create more success in your organization, you have to figure out how to get more people involved in making a difference. With so many budget cuts going on within organizations, volunteers become even more important to help the bottom line.

Volunteering runs in the family

Cynthia, Why do you do what you do? I know you talk about your parents and they were important in your life.
C: Actually I’m a fourth generation volunteer leader. My parents, my grandparents and my great-grandparents were all volunteers. I had no choice. It’s in my DNA. My dad was president of everything he touched. So I started volunteering when I was in diapers. And it just kept going until I was eventually a leader myself. What’s interesting is my dad was also a marketer. He did international marketing for Ford Tractor. So I grew up and he was teaching me how to write marketing letters. So I grew up as a kid learning how to write letters to companies competing with my dad to see who could get the biggest response from people. And I thought that was normal. Did you write letters like that with your dad?
N: Sure—well, my mother taught me what she called the “gift of gab.” Learning how you talk to people and keep the conversation going.
C: Well, my mom taught me to talk and my dad taught me to be persuasive with that marketing background and my mom was a teacher. So between the two, I’m right in the sweet spot where genetics I guess is going to send me teaching people to be more savvy about what they do. I was great at marketing and the equivalent of a master’s degree in teaching and an MBA as well.
N: Your business background and marketing expertise and of course your people skills. Mine started in the church. My dad was a Gideon and a Mason and we actually helped start a church. So as a kid, I was always doing something, taking care of the nursery. So…my grandfather was a Methodist minister and he taught us to help those who need help by giving of our time freely. Since I was a kid it’s been part of my nature that if I didn’t have what was needed, I’d make a connection with someone who does.
this Lazy Leader stuff, is common sense. It’s respecting people, and having people use their skills in a way that everybody wins. That’s especially important to women who volunteer.

Women don’t have to do it all

C: I could say just one thing to women it would be that we don’t have to do it all, because so many of us have been raised to just take care. We care until it hurts, but we still care and we keep caring. And in the volunteer world, a lot of us have got hooked into this we’ve got to do it all, because we love the group. The whole Lazy Leader idea is to bring people with you and allow them to play with you, so they get that value and you can take that mission even further and have a bigger impact.
N: Again, I’ve worked with women for over 25 years. When you use the term “martyr” I think of all the women who have the superwoman t-shirt on underneath. They not only have to do it all, they have to do it extremely well. 30-something women are so anxious today, because there’s so many things that they are expected to do. They are supposed to be great at work, at home and with their husbands, their family, their friends. And of course you’ve got to look good doing it. You’ve got to stay thin, beautiful and attractive doing it, no matter what it is. My goal is to help women find whatever they need to live fully and to live happily and to really have a great relationship with themselves.
N: Cynthia has created a community of partners who want the same thing, who end up getting the result, which is a win-win for everybody. Power and control in our society seems to be such an important thing not only in the workplace, but also in the world of volunteerism.
C: Well, and you know a lot of us haven’t been trained to work with power and control. Instead we return to our familial experience where we become mom to our volunteers. We haven’t learned how to manage ourselves as leaders so we can be more effective.
N: Absolutely. I was recently consulting with a woman who was educated and affluent, and she was talking about how she was going to “get them” to do certain things and get what she wanted from them. She talked about it in such a harsh, crusty way that I thought to myself, “You’re not going to get that done.” You’re going to intimidate people and alienate people and get fear from people. That was my first impression. I think people would say, “I’m not going to trust her. She’s not going to do it well, but I know I can.”
C: So often long-time volunteers think – At last, it’s my year. I’ve been working for this for years and now I have the tiara. I’ll make all the rules.
N: Yeah. I’ve worked hard for this position. I’m now the board president. This is my role. I’m going to clean this place up and I’m going to make it run like a fine tuned machine.
N: I know some women can be kind of bitchy, but I know the women I work with and volunteer my time with are delightful.

Training can help women avoid martyr syndrome

C: I think the problems stem from a lack of training. You know we are doing the best that we can do and a lot of us are doing it the way we were raised and we didn’t learn how to be a leader, how to get people…allow them to have different opinions than ours, how to create this greater good.
N: Many women who seem to be the really good leaders, whether in the workplace, their careers or even in the world of volunteerism have some background in team sports, and often they’ve gone to a women’s college. Somewhere in their backgrounds they learned relationship building, team building and an appreciation and respect for one another. And they are also great communicators.
C: Well, you know I would tell my folks that if I had it all to do all over again and I could go back to being a kid, I would be in a team sport for exactly the reason you’re saying. I’ve learned a lot of those skills, but it’s been a harder route, a lot of it in the volunteer world. Women need to be okay with being challenged by each other. In sports you might win, you might lose, but you don’t have to get bitchy. You can work through the bitchiness.
N: A loss is not personal. We learn from our mistakes, so instead of being upset and teed off, you look at the situation and try to figure out why instead of finding someone to blame and saying, “I told you so. I told you it wouldn’t work.” We need to learn another way of communicating and problem solving. And you talk about that in your book.
C: I’m in the Junior League here in Ann Arbor and the Speakers Bureau, and we did a project on, Relational Aggression in Girls and we spoke to the parents of middle-schoolers about how to deal with it, when the queen bee is picking on them. (N: In boys we call it bullying is what we’re talking about now.) We need to support our daughters and help them learn to solve their problems, instead of going back to our childhood and bringing our stuff up.

Join forces with others to improve group’s success

N: I have three daughters and seven granddaughters, so I’ve got to have a sense of humor, because I was a tomboy. I usually played with boys, because they were a lot more fun, they could compete honestly, and they weren’t bitchy. But working with women is really a great opportunity. When you truly find other women who understand the importance of gaining strength and joining forces with other kindred souls, the power is absolutely amazing.
C: That’s something I see men do more than women do. But when you do see that happen, it’s like magic.
N: Men also can be better at combining fun with business. Playing golf with customers, going to dinner, taking them out to a show or involving something fun. They’re developing relationships.
C: In the volunteer world, when I can get women leaders to embrace the lazy leaders skills and bring people with them, they’re not only building relationships with other members, but they’re getting the skill training that they can go use at work. They’re getting promotions and advancing because they’re using the non-profit arena as their laboratory for skill development.
N: You say people want to know why they should join your organization. Beyond “What is your mission?” and “What is your purpose?” you have to be able to answer, “What am I going to get out of this?” You need to be able to tell people: “You’ll probably get a lot more than you think you’re going to get, but here’s what we think you’re going to get.” When recruiting for Female Leaders in Philanthropy, we say: “You’re going to meet other smart amazing women just like you. You’re going to meet women who have passion and purpose and drive, just like you. They have time, talent and treasures, just like you. And that’s why we’re asking you to be a part of this.” That’s why we have some comradery and most of all we always have fun.

Be the party — make it fun

C: I’m a big advocate of fun as well. I was speaking at a conference and going through the whole Lazy Leader stuff and this guy came up to me at the end and said, “Cynthia, I like what you said and you are quite fun, but we’re a professional group and we don’t believe in having fun.” And I asked him, “Well, how’s that working for you?” And he said, “We’re down to five or six members who are holding it up.” Hello. It’s a sign that what you’re doing is not working.
N: I think the best part is to surprise people.
C: Totally. I have bright red hair, which you’ve seen in my photo. It’s cut asymmetrically, so it’s a rather non-establishment cut. And I went to this group the other day and the national president judged me by my look and she turns to this other person who hired me and she said, “I don’t know if we can bring her on. Look at how she looks.” So she makes the driest introduction I’ve ever had, ending with, “I’m sure she’ll at least say something fun.” And I got up there and did my program and I got a double standing ovation at the end. And she got up and hugged me even though she’d had this idea that because my hair is cut crooked, I wouldn’t know what I was talking about.
C: Experience is the game these days. It’s all about the party. We can create this really cool thing. Even though we’ve got these different opinions, we’re coming together to do something really big. Wow!
N: You know you put five smart amazing women in a room and first of all, they’re gonna plan it, they’re gonna put the budget together, and they’re gonna do it in one day. They don’t understand the word no. Not only can women multi-task, but they can put together details and they can really communicate. That’s the fun part. Everybody’s got a vision. Everybody’s had a dream at some point in their life. Volunteerism gives people a chance to do something for the true love of using your time, treasures and talent to make a difference in the world. That’s the exciting part of working in the role of a leader of volunteers.
C: We can embrace that and get over “it’s my year.” We can allow people not just to report on their committee, but to actually take part in strategic conversations. That’s how leaders, when they embrace the creativity and skills of others, can get the weight of the world off their shoulders by allowing other people to play.
N: I am currently leading the Female Leaders in Philanthropy, which is a women’s initiative of United Way, a fantastic group of women that come from all walks of life. It’s really exciting when people say, “These are my skills.” Well she has marketing skills and somebody else has banking skills…or whatever it is and the fun and excitement of bringing everyone together. And the learning that happens when we bring everyone together is invaluable.

Benefits of volunteering brighten career too

C: I’ve gotten more ideas that have helped my business by volunteering. Just instructing myself in different ways or serving on different committees, like what you’re talking about, or learning from each other. There’s a gold mine out there.
N: The networking is invaluable, and we’re very upfront about it. They have businesses and here is a great opportunity to let people know what you do outside of this committee or this project. And once you develop those relationships, you begin to have referrals. And we know that five people tell five more people how great you do what you do, not only in the world of volunteerism, because you’re a caring, giving individual, but in your business…that you have that same character…those same characteristics…those pieces to your character, so people say that’s the kind of person I want to spend time with. I can trust them. I can believe in them and I feel a great comfort in their presence.
C: You raise a great point, because a lot of times what I see is a disassociation between what they do professionally or in their business and what they do in the volunteer world. And that’s a big wake-up call, because people do look at you and what you do in the volunteer world and it can reflect on you positively or not so positively. You know, your business, your career, your place in your profession. And when you know that, you can just shine.
N: I call it social profit. I think the term not-for-profit is very negative. So any time I talk about 501C3, I talk about the social profit and how everyone can benefit and not only that, but everyone is responsible. But it is an opportunity, because I can watch you in a volunteer role and see how you work with others. I can watch you with your communication skills and problem solving skills and when I’m looking for someone in my workplace or I know of someone who is looking, you’re going to come up in my mind. Or you can come to me and say, “You know, Nancy, I’m looking for this. Do you know of anything?” So it really becomes a wonderful referral resource, not just because of the social networking, but the opportunity to really grow as a person and become part of a much larger community.
C: Absolutely. And I like when people take charge of their lives. And rather than let life happen to them, they really step into it and they go with thought and with conviction and with commitment and with goals when they go into this stuff and they make things happen, because they know where they’re going and why they’re going and the neat places they can achieve.
N: Well, you know you’re right on target. It doesn’t have to be painful. It doesn’t have to hurt. It doesn’t have to exhaust you.
C: And it shouldn’t have to exhaust you if you’re doin’ it.
N: Or nail yourself to the cross and show everybody the marks on your hands and feet and say, “This is what I did for this organization.”  You see those people burn out. And you don’t want to burn out your volunteers, because they’re too valuable.
C: Absolutely. And you don’t want to burn out yourself either.
N: I felt better after reading the book, because I am a laisez faire leader. When I tell people who I am, I usually tell about other people. And you can tell the people that are very good about working with others, because when their name is mentioned, they mention four or five other people that it’s about. Or they’re talking about what this is all for. We know in this women’s initiative that we’re helping the women and children in our community. So the credit goes to what we’re actually able to accomplish with our fundraising and our membership and everything we’re doing to create a message to our community to make it a better place to live.

Doesn’t matter who gets the credit

C: Well I had an interesting conversation with a woman who I mentor. She was worried that if she didn’t claim it, nobody would know she did it. And I kept explaining to her that when you promote the mission, when you promote the people who are working with you, you become an even bigger leader than you hoped you could be.
N: Absolutely. Well people are going to get on board with the mission. It’s not about you, because…you know, we laugh, we’ve been with it since the beginning. And we say, “One day we’ll disappear and no one will know we’re gone.” You know that’s what it’s really about. Whether you’re there or not there, the mission goes on growing and there’s more lifeblood going into that organization. Too many people think, “If I leave, who knows what will happen.” Well, if you leave and something happens to the organization, then it was wrong in the first place.
C: I had my wake-up call 10 years ago when I was real involved with a lot of different groups locally. We had a fire and my husband and I almost died that night — I lost everything except my husband. When the fire detective told me that I should have died twice that night, I thought, “Oh my gosh, I had been sucked into the martyr mode in these groups. And if I had died that night, it was all in MY head and I would have hurt these groups that I loved so much. It was a wake-up call for me personally to re-commit to the lazy leader approach and teach other people how to do it. We have to consciously think, “Who can I bring with me? How can I share this? How can I invite others?
N: We recently had a pretty large event and it was wonderful to watch the people that came up through the ranks. A lot of these women were younger and the energy just flows with these people and it just grows and grows and grows. So what If you had a small piece of it, not all the pieces belong to you, nor will they ever belong to you.
Well, your book is great. Tell us about your organization, The Power of People, and your website. How do people learn about you, your organization, your books and your speaking?
C: A great resource is the Chapter Leaders Playground. And that’s an online community that we created for leaders from across organizations and we really want people to learn the skills they need to learn to help them create a surplus of volunteers for their organizations. So that’s at www.chapterleadersplayground.org. And the cool thing is it’s free to join and once you join, we do 30 webinars a year—skill-based webinars and they’re all free for members. So that’s a really great resource, tons of articles there. Your listeners can also pick up my book there. It’s the Lazy Leader’s Guide to Outrageous Results. I have seven books, but that’s the one that we’ve been talking about today. And because I really admire what you’re doing, Dr. Nancy and all of the good that you’re giving, we set up a special discount code for all your listeners today. If they put in the discount code: Nancy, they get a 25% discount through the end of September.
N: Thank you. As I said, our goal is to link and make sure people can go in there and find the playground and the resources. It’s a pleasure to talk to someone who truly does get it. Women Connect 4 Good Foundation is about connecting with women like you throughout our country and the world. I hope we can continue that relationship as well. I’m really looking forward to it.
Recorded 8/30/11

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