Home Posts tagged Nonprofit Management
40 Under 40 Class of 2018

Youth Counselor and Operations Coordinator, CareerPoint; Age 25; Education: BSW, Westfield State University

Saul Caban

Saul Caban

Caban grew up in a tough section of Holyoke, and early on knew he wanted to be a role model for at-risk youth and others like himself. He is passionate about service and excited to be back working in the Youth Department at CareerPoint, where he continues to deliver intensive counseling to young people in his community, helping them gain awareness of their skills and interests and guiding them on a path to success in the workforce and beyond. The second youngest of six siblings in a first-generation family, Caban was the first to graduate high school, the first to graduate from college, and the first to be admitted to graduate school. He is now working on the completion of an MPA in nonprofit management at Westfield State University.

What did you want to be when you grew up? Growing up, I wanted to be a lawyer, but now I’m still working on my plan to pursue a leadership career in higher education and/or workforce development.

How do you define success? To me, success is when I am performing well and satisfied with my position. It is knowing that my work and efforts are adding value to my company, but also to my overall life and the lives of other people.

What three words best describe you? Outgoing, witty, efficient.

What do you like most about Western Massachusetts? I love the people.

Who has been your best mentor, and why? I’ve had several amazing mentors come into my life, including my current supervisor, Gladys Lebron-Martinez (pictured); Steve Leiblum, former director of the NEARI Jump Start after-school program; and Holyoke legend Steve Dubilo, who left his legacy behind, and I’m proud to have been his ‘son’ for many years before his death. These three have introduced me to amazing people and the resources that I need to be successful in an ever-evolving world.

What goal do you set for yourself at the start of each day? To bring out the best in someone, so that they, in turn, bring out the best in the next person.

What will work colleagues say at your funeral? Saul brought a lot of energy and positive spirit, and he could always be counted on.

What person, past or present, would you like to have lunch with, and why? My mom. Because I don’t get to see her as much as I want to.

40 Under 40 Class of 2018

Director, Annual Giving & Grants, Cooley Dickinson Health Care; Age 33; Education: BS, Westfield State University; UMass Dartmouth

Nathan Bazinet

Nathan Bazinet

Bazinet’s background includes work in healthcare philanthropy, nonprofit management, and small-business operations. He is an active volunteer for the Zoo in Forest Park and Education Center, where he served as interim executive director for the 2017 season, before transitioning into president of the Forest Park Zoological Society, the zoo’s managing board. He also serves as president of his condo association. In his free time, he enjoys spending time with Orion and Aurora (the Zoo’s timber wolves), road trips, running, and Neil Diamond concerts.

What did you want to be when you grew up? I wanted to own Jurassic Park, be a government agent (James Bond), and have a side job as an architect. The first two are still life goals.

Who has been your best mentor, and why? Diane Dukette has played the greatest role in helping to define and shape my career path. She is a patient teacher, a model for acting with integrity, and the definition of a strong support system — always reminding me to never change who I am, professionally or personally. Her support as a mentor, and the opportunity to work under her leadership at both Mercy Medical Center and Cooley Dickinson, has been critical to many of my career successes.

What are you passionate about? Giving back. The zoo is my current volunteer priority, and has been for several years. Having the chance to work with an amazing team and board to completely restructure and reinvigorate this Springfield icon was both challenging and incredibly fulfilling. Bonus: who wouldn’t love hanging out with timber wolves on the weekend?

Whom do you look up to, and why? My mom, for teaching me about life, and the importance of wearing sunglasses indoors; Christopher, for showing me safety, trust, and love (never give up); and my best friend, Peter. If I had to embarrass one of them with detail, it’s Peter. He’s a super-smart doctor, an author, and a world-renowned ethicist. More than that, as I’m an only child, he’s the closest I’ve had to a brother for longer than I can remember. Thanks for always having my back (and for putting up with my innumerable shenanigans).

What will work colleagues say at your funeral? Probably my mantra — “every day’s a great day!”

Opinion

Editorial

If you haven’t noticed yet (and you probably have, because that special section is where everyone turns first), BusinessWest has changed up the format when it comes to presenting its 40 Under Forty honorees.

In years past, there were short profiles written by staff members, who, by the way, considered that assignment among the most enjoyable within a given year. However, this year, we decided to switch things up and offer a questionnaire of sorts.

Indeed, we gave our honorees a series of questions and informed them they could answer as many as they wanted, so long as they kept to a word count. The questions ranged from what would be considered traditional — “How do you define success?” — to the decidedly not so traditional — “What will work colleagues say at your funeral?”

Almost everyone answered that first one, and very few took a stab at the latter, but that’s not important.

What is important is that this year, those of us at BusinessWest decided to let our honorees do more of the talking — and they certainly did. And by doing so, they’ve given all of us some things to think about.

We’ll get back to that in a minute. First, the class of 2018…

Like those that came before it, this class is diverse in every respect, meaning everything from gender to geography to the fields they’ve chosen. Indeed, virtually every sector is represented by these 40 individuals, including healthcare, financial services, education, nonprofit management, law, retail, and more. And many of them have chosen to work for themselves, not for someone else, something we’re seeing more of in recent years.

And, like most all of the 440 honorees who came before them, the members of the class of 2018 are involved in the community, supporting nonprofits and causes ranging from the Zoo at Forest Park to Link to Libraries to the United Way, and putting their many talents to a different, commendable use while doing so.

Unlike those previous classes, though, these honorees got to tell us a little more about themselves. They had more opportunity to tell us what’s on their minds and about what’s important to them. And, again, they took full advantage of it.

Like when we asked them which actor or actress would portray them on the big screen. People gave nods to Sandra Bullock, Brad Pitt, Paul Rudd, and even Robert Redford. We think — we hope — he meant a much younger Robert Redford, but we digress.

Perhaps the most intriguing question, and the one that generated the most responses, was that one about success and how it is defined. We understand that there is certainly a politically correct way to answer this question, but we believe our honorees were quite sincere when they implied strongly (and we’re paraphrasing here) that success isn’t measured by the number on the paycheck — although that’s part of it.

Instead, our honorees noted, it’s measured by how happy and fulfilled someone is — not by the job they hold, but by the life they’re living.

One honoree actually summoned that old ‘I don’t live to work, I work to live’ line, but the others were saying essentially saying the same thing.

If you read all 40 responses (that will take time, but make some; it’s worth it), you’ll find that many of these individuals count their parents as their best role models and mentors, and consider it their unofficial mission in life to have someone write the same thing about them in 20 or 30 years.

Overall, it’s very refreshing and, as they say in this business, good reading.

If you haven’t done that yet, get to it next.

Company Notebook Departments

Bay Path MS Program in Nonprofit Management Named to Top-10 List

LONGMEADOW — Bay Path University’s master of science (MS) program in Nonprofit Management and Philanthropy has been named to the top 10 in the nation, as ranked by thebestschools.org. The university’s program has been recognized among the top online graduate nonprofit-management programs annually since 2014. This year, Bay Path ranked 10th on the list as one of just two New England colleges to make the cut. According to thebestschools.org, graduate-degree programs in nonprofit management were selected for the ranking based on academic excellence, types of courses offered, faculty strength, rankings, awards, and reputation, including the college’s reputation for effectively providing online degree programs. The MS in Nonprofit Management and Philanthropy at Bay Path University, open to men and women, is offered completely online or on campus, either full-time or part-time.

VVM Appoints Six Executives in Residence

SPRINGFIELD — Valley Venture Mentors (VVM) announced the addition of six new executives in residence (EIRs) who will serve as guest educators and leaders to the 36 startup companies in the 2018 VVM Startup Accelerator program. The program provides intensive training, a network of skilled mentors, and funding that enables startup founders to establish and grow their businesses at a fast pace. EIRs represent experienced industry leaders, creatives, and strategists, as well as social-impact entrepreneurs from around the country. This first-ever group of EIRs will join the VVM staff team in providing day-to-day instruction over the course of four intensive, boot-camp-style weekends from February through May. The program culminates in the 2018 VVM Accelerator Awards at the MassMutual Center on Thursday, May 24. The EIRs include Bethany Martin, principal of B Martin Studio, mentor at Pilotworks, and faculty member at the Pratt Institute; Gustavo Bottan, co-founder and CEO of Opt4America senior mentor at MIT – Sandbox and the MIT CCLP Leadership Program; Joe Bush, executive director for the Worcester CleanTech Incubator; Steven Bellofatto, co-founder of ION Design and former adjunct faculty member at New York University in Manhattan, Department of Design & Digital Arts; Tanya Menendez, co-founder of Maker’s Row, and named to the Forbes 30 Under 30 list, People en Espanol’s “Most Powerful Latinas,” Business Insider’s “Coolest People in Tech,” and PopMechanic’s “25 Makers Who Are Reinventing the American Dream”; and Zaza Kabayadondo, director at Smith College for the Design Thinking Initiative and former program advisor at Stanford University’s Learning, Design, and Technology masters’ program.

STCC Biotech Program Wins Gold Level Endorsement

SPRINGFIELD — Graduates of the biotechnology programs at Springfield Technical Community College are well-prepared for careers in the life sciences, according to a leading science-education organization. The Massachusetts Biotechnology Education Foundation (MassBioEd) endorsed STCC’s biotechnology associate degree and certificate programs at the Gold Level. MassBioEd concluded that graduates of the degree and certificate programs “are ready for the life-sciences workforce.” The STCC program met the core competencies defined by biotechnology industry and academic leaders who worked with MassBioEd, a nonprofit organization with a mission to build a life-sciences workforce in the region through educational programs that inspire students and engage teachers. Core competencies required for endorsement include following good laboratory practices, lab techniques, and exhibiting appropriate workplace behaviors, among other requirements.

Berkshire Hills Reports Q4 Operating Results

PITTSFIELD — Berkshire Hills Bancorp Inc. reported that fourth-quarter pre-tax income grew by 82% to $19.5 million in 2017 compared to $10.7 million in the prior year. This improvement was due to business development and the benefit of mergers, including Worcester-based Commerce Bancshares Corp. which was acquired on Oct. 13, 2017. Net income after tax was impacted by an $18 million non-core charge to income-tax expense resulting from federal tax reform enacted near year end. This reform is expected to benefit future earnings due to a lower statutory federal tax rate beginning in 2018. Net income after tax totaled $55 million in 2017 compared to $59 million in 2016. The tax charge noted above reduced fourth-quarter earnings per share by $0.40 and resulted in a fourth-quarter net loss of $0.06 per share in 2017, compared to a profit of $0.32 per share in 2016. Fourth-quarter core earnings per share improved by 4% to $0.58 in 2017, from $0.56 in 2016. The measure of core earnings excludes the above tax charge and also excludes other net non-core charges primarily related to merger costs. These costs in the fourth quarter of 2017 were mostly related to the Commerce acquisition, which increased assets by $1.8 billion, or 19%, to $11.6 billion at year end.

O & P Labs Opens New Prosthetic Center

SPRINGFIELD — O & P Labs announced the grand opening of its Prosthetic Center at 3500 Main St. in Springfield. The local prosthetic company has been serving Western and Central Mass., Northern Conn., and Southern Vermont for more than 30 years. O & P Labs is best known for its local, state-or-the-art fabrication lab, which allows patients to receive fittings, repairs, and adjustments quickly. The 3D printer decreases production time, and digital scanning technology creates highly customized prosthetic sockets.

Main Street Hospitality Sells Elm Street Market

STOCKBRIDGE — Sarah Eustis, CEO of Main Street Hospitality, announced the sale of Elm Street Market to Verson Inc., headed by brothers Rajesh and Rajeev Verma from New Jersey. New management took over operation of the market immediately when the sale was completed last month. The Elm Street Market, previously owned and operated by Main Street Hospitality, has been a local favorite and community staple for more than 20 years. “We stopped at Elm Street Market on our way to visit my son at college and immediately fell in love with the restaurant and Stockbridge,” said Rajesh Verma. “The market is a strong community anchor, and we intend to keep it that way, building on its existing strength and evolving its local food offerings over time.” Verson Inc. is a family-owned business that owns and operates a group of deli and catering shops in New York City. Verma plans to keep the current staff while adding more prepared foods to the menu.

Community Foundation Joins Partnership to Boost Arts, Creativity

SPRINGFIELD — The Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts (CFWM) and the Barr Foundation, a private foundation based in Boston, announced the launch of Creative Commonwealth, a partnership between Barr, CFWM, and four other Massachusetts community foundations. This new initiative is rooted in the belief that investments in arts and creativity build thriving communities, and it aims to promote the vital leadership role community foundations can play to advance the arts. Creative Commonwealth will pave the way for community foundations to deepen and grow support for artists and cultural organizations. Along with CFWM, the community foundations partnering with Barr on this effort are the Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation, the Community Foundation of Southeastern Massachusetts, the Essex County Community Foundation, and the Greater Worcester Community Foundation. The Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts has been awarded $500,000 over 24 months to pilot ideas that emerged from a planning process the foundation undertook in 2017, with funding from Barr to identify opportunities, needs, and priorities. CFWM efforts will focus on testing innovative ideas to connect arts to other sectors, providing training to build the capacity of small organizations and assessing the need for a regional arts hub to advance collaborative opportunities.

River Valley Counseling Opens Easthampton Office

EASTHAMPTON — River Valley Counseling Center opened a new office location in Liberty Commons at 2 Mechanic St, Easthampton. The new office offers behavioral-health services for individuals and families. This new location follows five months after River Valley Counseling Center began offering school-based services within all of the Easthampton Schools. School-based therapy is outpatient therapy; however, these services are coordinated with the school to provide easy access to appointments for students and families and to assist with school-related problems as needed. Services available at the Easthampton location include individual, couples, family, and group psychotherapy for adults, adolescents, and children. Clinicians help the client, couple, or family identify the concerns or issues that will become the focus of treatment. Both the client and clinician work together to determine the most effective treatment needed. The frequency and duration of counseling sessions is determined based on individualized treatment plans. For additional information or to schedule an appointment with River Valley Counseling Center, call (413) 540-1234.

Monson Savings Announces Public’s Choices for Giving

MONSON — For the eighth year in a row, Monson Savings Bank asked the community to help plan the bank’s community giving activities by inviting people to vote for the organizations they would like the bank to support during 2018. The top vote getter was Boy Scouts of Western Massachusetts, followed, in order of votes, by Wilbraham United Players, Shriners Hospitals for Children, Scantic Valley YMCA, River East School-to-Career, Link to Libraries, Rick’s Place, Academy Hill School, Behavioral Health Network at Valley Human Resources, and Monson Free Library.

Daily News

LONGMEADOW — Bay Path University’s master of science (MS) program in Nonprofit Management and Philanthropy has been named to the top 10 in the nation, as ranked by thebestschools.org.

The university’s program has been recognized among the top online graduate nonprofit-management programs annually since 2014. This year, Bay Path ranked 10th on the list as one of just two New England colleges to make the cut. The program has also been rated as one of the top-10 most affordable online master’s degree programs in nonprofit management in the U.S., according to affordablecolleges.com.

“We are proud to be recognized among the leading national programs for nonprofit management — an honor that affirms feedback we’ve received from our students year after year praising its flexible, online format and personalized instruction,” said Sylvia de Haas-Phillips, the program’s director and assistant professor. “Our MS in Nonprofit Management and Philanthropy is focused on developing emerging leaders in the field. An approach that takes theory to practice, coupled with applied learning opportunities, continues to result in nonprofit professionals prepared for the challenges and opportunities present in today’s nonprofit sector.”

According to thebestschools.org, graduate-degree programs in nonprofit management were selected for the ranking based on academic excellence, types of courses offered, faculty strength, rankings, awards, and reputation, including the college’s reputation for effectively providing online degree programs.

The MS in Nonprofit Management and Philanthropy at Bay Path University, open to men and women, is offered completely online or on campus, either full-time or part-time.

Features

Impact Hire

Jim Ayres

Jim Ayres

Jim Ayres, who took the helm at the United Way of Pioneer Valley this past spring, arrived knowing he would be leading the organization through a time of significant change and challenge. His elaborate to-do list includes efforts to increase efficiency, do a better job of telling the United Way’s story to the younger people who probably don’t know it, and continuing the work of building coalitions to take on the many issues confronting the region’s communities and families.

There’s an old map hanging on the wall just inside the door to Jim Ayres’ office within the United Way of Pioneer Valley’s suite at the TD Bank building.

One of many he owns, it depicts Hampden and Hampshire counties and the areas just outside them, which means it covers the territories served by his last two employers — the United Way of Hampshire County was the other.

There’s no visible date on the map, but there are plenty of clues as to how old it may be. For starters, Dana, one of four towns disincorporated in 1938 to make way for the Quabbin Reservoir, is on the map. (Greenwich, Prescott, and Enfield were the others). Also, Holyoke takes what’s known to some as its ‘old’ shape, meaning the one before the area in Northampton known as Smith’s Ferry (that finger-shaped sliver of land so recognizable on today’s maps) became part of the city in 1909.

The map drives home the point that changes to the region’s landscape came about slowly, over several decades.

And that is in sharp contrast, in most respects, to the changes in the landscape for the United Way as a whole, the two that serve the region on the map, and the one based in Springfield in particular.

Indeed, that suite of offices downtown is roughly half the size it was just a few years ago (the Springfield Symphony Orchestra now occupies the other half), and the group working there is also about half the size it was not long ago. And most importantly, its annual fund — the amount it puts to work in the communities it serves — is about half as big (roughly $2 million) as it was.

A decision by MassMutual to no longer run a traditional United Way campaign and instead contribute to groups serving the community through its own foundation played a huge role in those developments, but other factors have contributed as well.

These include everything from changes in the demographic breakdown of the region’s business community (there are far fewer large employers now) to changes in how businesses of all sizes give back to the community — there’s more direct giving now, and also a host of new vehicles such as Valley Gives Day and individual foundations like the one at MassMutual.

“United Ways are in a place where technology, giving practices, and general educational changes have all changed the work that we need to do,” Ayres explained. “And while for a long period of time United Way was a household name and people widely understood what United Ways did, a lot of that has changed.

“There are a lot of other options now for people to give to support organizations in their community,” he went on. “It really behooves our organization to make the case as clearly as possible about what we do and the benefits of giving through this particular option.”

All this adds up to a serious, complicated, even painful period of adjustment that is very much ongoing, said Ayres, who last spring took on the job of leading those efforts for the UWPV.

He did so for a number of reasons, including the fact that he isn’t daunted by stern challenges; in fact, he’s always embraced them. Also, though, he believes he possesses the proper skill set for the multi-faceted task at hand, including the ability to build coalitions, strong communication skills — both within an organization and externally as well — and even achieving success in a region dominated by small (make that very small) businesses, Hampshire County. He also has an MBA, one focused on nonprofit management, and another degree in international relations focused on migration issues.

There are a lot of other options now for people to give to support organizations in their community. It really behooves our organization to make the case as clearly as possible about what we do and the benefits of giving through this particular option.”

“My career in Western Mass. has been about bringing people together in communities to make communities a better place to live and a better place for kids to grow up,” he explained.

Ayres said this adjustment period for the UWPV involves a number of initiatives, from work to become leaner and more efficient to efforts to better tell the agency’s story and relate its still-substantial role in bettering life for residents of area communities, to initiatives that go well beyond merely writing checks.

For this issue, BusinessWest talked at length with Ayres about his new assignment with the United Way of Pioneer Valley, and also about the changing landscape for the United Way and philanthropy in general, and how organizations like the one he now leads must adjust to those changes.

Change Agent

As noted earlier, Ayres brings a diverse skill set to his current role, one amassed through nearly 30 years of work in education and nonprofit management, realms he says have more similarities than most would believe.

A graduate of Hampshire College, where he concentrated in “political and social issues in education,” he started his career in Boston’s Chinatown and surrounding neighborhoods as co-director and lead classroom teacher for the Boston Catholic Chinese Community Children’s Program.

After relocating to Western Mass., he went to work for the Springfield Public Schools, specifically as education summit coordinator and ‘community involvement coordinator.’ In that role, he said, he built effective coalitions between the school system and community stakeholder groups, including neighborhood associations, human-services providers, parent groups, communities of color, and private industry.

From there, he went to work for the Hampshire County Action Commission, serving as project director of the Hampshire County Family Network. In that role, he developed and administered a multi-agency collaborative that provided comprehensive services for families and children. Later, he became executive director of the Northampton-based Center for New Americans, a regional education, advocacy, and resource center for immigrants and refugees in Western Mass.

uw_4p_ful_pioneervalley_v3

His career with the United Way began in 2011, when he became CEO and executive director of the Hampshire County agency. During his tenure there, he was credited with energizing the organization and expanding the donor base, funding diversity, and overall revenue at a time when most United Ways were going in the other direction.

“I had worked in individual organizations, but had been very interested in addressing challenges from a strategic level and from a macro level,” he noted while explaining why he joined the national organization. “And United Ways are organizations very well-suited to do that; we have relationships with the nonprofit service community, and we have relationships throughout the business community and with individuals as well. And United Ways are uniquely positioned to pull those assets together to make a difference, so I was excited to join the United Way and do that work.”

His track record of success in Hampshire County certainly caught the attention of UWPV’s board as it went about the task of finding a successor to the retiring Dora Robinson, and Ayres came on board late last spring.

Since then, he’s been focused on what he called “structural changes,” a broad term used to describe efforts to enable the agency to operate as efficiently as possible while still carrying out its multi-dimensional mission, shore up relationships with existing businesses, and develop ways to recover the donations lost from MassMutual’s decision.

At the same time, he and the agency continue to proactively adjust to that changing landscape described earlier, he said, adding that both assignments obviously constitute work in progress.

As he talked about the assignment he’s assumed — and the situation facing all United Ways across the country — Ayers said the challenges come on many levels, including one that Baby Boomers probably couldn’t fathom — name recognition and awareness.

Indeed, while those who grew up decades ago are well-versed when it comes to the United Way name, mission, and even some of the controversies that have enveloped the agency over the years, Millennials are far less familiar with the organization — and the concept.

“We’re finding more and more young people we approach either in the workplace or in the community who are very open to the idea to the idea of supporting the United Way, but haven’t necessarily heard of it before,” he said. “Or, if they have heard of it, they aren’t necessarily familiar with what it is that the United Way was created to do. So introducing ourselves, or re-introducing ourselves, is very important.”

And in that respect, the United Way has dropped the ball, or at least taken its eye off it, he went on, adding that, in many ways, it failed to realize these generational differences.

“A lot of United Ways didn’t recognize the degree to which generational changes were going to impact our work and have wound up playing catch-up,” he explained, adding that this was a challenge to most all United Ways, including the UWPV.

Forward Progress

Another challenge, obviously, is to maintain the ability to stand out amid the many other ways that individuals and businesses can contribute to nonprofits and causes.

“The history of United Way, and a piece of where we see our impact, is allowing people to give easily through payroll deduction — giving where they work,” he told BusinessWest. “And giving with the trust to know that the dollars they give will have a long and lasting impact. Part of the power of United Ways come from our ability to aggregate those gifts; so, even though roughly 40% of the gifts we receive are from people giving between $1 and $4 per paycheck, we’re able to aggregate those into significant-size grants that really change the capacity of the organizations we work with.”

A lot of United Ways didn’t recognize the degree to which generational changes were going to impact our work and have wound up playing catch-up.”

Overall, the United Way and individual chapters like the UWPV have to do a better job of telling their story, said Ayres, adding that this is just one of the subjects discussed at the regular gatherings of United Way officials.

Part of this ‘telling the story better’ involves making it clear the many ways in which this is still your father’s, or your mother’s, United Way, but one that nonetheless has changed with the times. And these discussions focus on everything from a more results-driven approach to the agency’s giving to the ways it goes beyond awarding grants, to its ongoing ability to bring groups together to tackle larger problems that require such coalition-building efforts.

And Ayres had specific thoughts on all of the above, starting with the coalition-building work, which, he said, is essentially the essence of the United Way.

“This organization is based on the idea that, to create a meaningful and lasting impact in our community, very few of us have the resources, the time, or the volunteer hours to do that on our own,” he said. “But if our businesses, our employees, and our neighbors are able to come together and work on challenging problems together, we’re able to have a much stronger impact than we would alone.”

And this operating philosophy is being put to work, and to the test, with efforts to assist those who have left hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico for communities in Western Mass.

“Many of the funders in Hampden County have been asking the question, ‘what can we do to support those individuals, and what can we do help the organizations that are going to helping those displaced people coming in, and what can we do to shore up the core functions that those organizations already provide so they don’t have to pivot away from their core services?’” he said. “So United Way convened a core group of eight or nine foundations and funding organizations to look at how we can use our dollars collaboratively.”

A fund has been established by the United Way to provide grants to the welcome centers that are assisting those displaced by the hurricane, he went on, adding that this is just one example of the agency’s coalition-building powers, and also an example of how it can and does go well beyond the traditional payroll-deduction method of raising funds for specific causes.

“This was a case of philanthropic organizations putting our heads together and saying, ‘how can we be stronger?’” he went on, adding that, moving forward, the United Way will playing even more of a convening role, as he called it, because this is one of its greatest strengths.

Mapping Out a Course

Getting back to that map on Ayres’ wall, it does a good job of driving home the point that time doesn’t stand still.

Dana, Prescott, Greenwich, and Enfield were erased from the map almost 70 years ago. And the Smith’s Ferry area has played a huge role in Holyoke’s history.

Time doesn’t stand still for the United Way, either. Thus, it is incumbent upon the organization to change with those times in order to be relevant and continue to carry out its important work.

It doesn’t say as much on Ayres’ job description, but that’s essentially what he was hired to do.

And he believes he’s in the right place at the right time.

George O’Brien can be reached at [email protected]

Education Sections

A New Chapter

Laurie Flynn says her new role with Link to Libraries enables her to make her passions — reading and children’s literature — her profession.

Laurie Flynn says her new role with Link to Libraries enables her to make her passions — reading and children’s literature — her profession.

Laurie Flynn says it’s not often that one gets to make their passion their profession.

And it was the opportunity to do just that which prompted her to put aside a budding marketing business she co-founded a few years ago and become president and CEO of Link to Libraries (LTL), the decade-old nonprofit that, as the name suggests, puts books on the shelves of school libraries and other agencies and promotes childhood literacy on many levels.

“It just seemed like this serendipitous, perfect opportunity to bring together what I’ve learned professionally and my personal passion for children’s literature, and also for reading and writing,” said Flynn, who has made LTL only the latest example of making her passion her work.

Indeed, Flynn, who returned to college (Simmons College in Boston, to be more specific) in 2011 to earn a master’s degree in writing for children, has long been a children’s book reviewer for Kirkus Reviews, handling middle-grade and young-adult books across all genres. And for nearly two years, she was the Western Mass. regional coordinator for Reach Out and Read, a nonprofit that works to incorporate books into pediatric care and encourage families to read aloud together.

Desiring to take her work with literacy and children’s literature to a still-higher level, Flynn assumes many of the responsibilities carried out by Susan Jaye-Kaplan, co-founder of LTL, as it’s called, along with Janet Crimmons, in 2007. Jaye-Kaplan told BusinessWest she will remain quite active with the organization, as a board member, fund-raiser, and volunteer, among other roles, but acknowledged that, as LTL continues to grow, geographically and otherwise, it was time for the nonprofit to hire a paid, full-time president.

LTL’s warehouse at Rediker Software is crammed with books bound for area schools and nonprofits.

LTL’s warehouse at Rediker Software is crammed with books bound for area schools and nonprofits.

“This was a very necessary step to continue growing Link to Libraries and broadening its impact,” she said of the decision to hire a director. “We were at a crossroads, growth-wise, and this was the direction we needed to take.”

Flynn, who moved into LTL’s donated office space at Rediker Software in Hampden in late September, told BusinessWest that her first few months will be spent “learning the territory,” a phrase with multiple meanings.

First, there is the actual physical territory, meaning the dozens of schools and nonprofits across Western Mass. and Northern Conn. that LTL serves; she’s already visited several, and more trips are scheduled. There is also LTL’s operating structure, complete with a network of hundreds of volunteers handing assignments ranging from reading in the classroom to packing books bound for area schools.

And there’s still more to that word ‘territory,’ including everything from the art and science of selecting the books that will be distributed to soliciting new sponsors for LTL’s hugely successful Business Book Link program, which recruits businesses large and small to sponsor individual schools.

Actually, Flynn was already familiar with much of this territory through her work reviewing books, with Reach Out Read, and also work as an LTL volunteer. Indeed, she was, and would like to go on being, a volunteer reader at Homer Street School in Springfield.

But she acknowledges that she has much to learn, and is eager to get on with doing so.

For this issue and its focus on education, BusinessWest talked with Flynn about her new role and her decision to turn her passion for books and childhood literacy into her new business card.

Turning the Page

Flynn brings an intriguing résumé to her role with LTL, one that includes time working in both Parliament and the U.S. Capitol.

The former was a relatively short stint — an internship undertaken while she was enrolled at the London School of Economics in 1993. The latter was much more involved, covering the first half-dozen years of her professional career.

A Washington, D.C. native, Flynn started working as deputy press secretary for U.S. Sen. Judd Gregg (R-New Hampshire) in January 1995, and a year later became his press secretary, serving in that role until 1998, when she became communications manager in the office of the Secretary of the Senate.

In that role, and also as a staff assistant handling special projects and communications in the office of the Clerk of the House, she was heavily involved with press inquiries and other aspects of construction of the $621 million U.S. Capitol Visitor Center (CVC), a large underground addition to the Capitol complex that opened in 2008.

After relocating to Western Mass., she became an independent communications consultant, specializing in event planning and execution, product launches, and writing of documents related to corporate marketing and mission.

And after spending two years with Reach Out and Read, she co-founded Red Mantel Communications (her partner had a red mantel in her home, where the two would often brainstorm), which specialized in media and public relations, event planning, and other communications-related work.

“I was fortunate enough, since it was our own company, to focus on communications work I really wanted to do,” she explained. “Much of it had to do with nonprofits and with helping corporations focus their philanthropic giving as a way to generate good press for not only the business, but also the organization; we really tried to focus on local agencies when we could to help raise their visibility.”

Among her clients was Balise Motor Sales, which had already forged a unique relationship with Homer Street School — the late Mike Balise, a principal with the company, purchased winter coats for students there — and took it to a higher level by adopting the school through LTL’s Business Book Link program.

Flynn, who read to fourth-graders at Homer Street, said she was content in her work with Red Mantel, but when she heard that LTL was going to commence a search for its first full-time paid director, she became intrigued.

But first, she needed convincing that Jaye-Kaplan, the energetic face of the nonprofit, was really going to take at least a small step back in her role as leader of the agency.

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“I couldn’t imagine her actually stepping away — I thought she would change her mind, which would have been fine,” Flynn said. “But she was firm — she was going to step back.”

The position attracted a number of applicants, most of them with backgrounds in education, nonprofit management, or both, and Flynn eventually prevailed in a search process that ended in early September.

Looking ahead, Flynn said her informal job description is to build on LTL’s solid foundation and advance its work to not only put books on library shelves and in students’ hands, but to encourage young people to read and impress upon them the importance of doing so to attain jobs and careers.

“I just have a deep love and appreciation for the importance of reading in kids’ lives,” she told BusinessWest, adding that the Business Book Link program is an important part of this mission.

And not simply because the businesses donate money to purchase books for the schools they’re sponsoring. A perhaps even bigger component is how those businesses become involved with the schools — by reading to students, but also funding field trips and other initiatives — and having their employees visit the classrooms and become role models of sorts.

“That community involvement, and getting representatives of the business world to come into the classroom and take the time to sit down with those kids … that’s just so important and so unique,” Flynn explained.

Overall, she said would like to see the organization broaden its work and its mission in some important ways, but without ever straying from its reason for being.

“I’d like to see Link to Libraries grow as a resource — a source of literacy information and a way to connect teachers with books,” she explained. “I’d love to see us expand that way and create a new niche, as a children’s literacy resource.”

Meanwhile, she would like to use books and reading as a way to help young people “find their own voice.”

“By sharing a love of reading and stories,” she told BusinessWest, maybe we can inspire kids to write their own.”

As she contemplates how to do that, Flynn said the region’s many noted children’s authors, including Jane Yolin, Holly Black, Richard Michelson, and others, could play a role in such work.

“These authors could become a resource for teachers and educators in our community, offering them new and interesting ways to approach reading to kids to make it interesting and relevant.”

Book Smart

As LTL celebrates 10 years of carrying out its unique mission, this is an appropriate time to pause and reflect, said Flynn, adding that the milestone, and her arrival as the first paid director, are turning points for the organization.

Together, they symbolize the beginning of a new chapter in the history of the agency. And while the specific plotline of this chapter isn’t known yet, the story is likely to be one of continued growth and deeper impact within the community.

As for Flynn, she is excited to be helping to script this chapter. That’s to be expected when your passion becomes your life’s work.

—George O’Brien

Daily News

LONGMEADOW — Bay Path University, partnering with the Human Service Forum, will host a free conference and workshop, “Hot Topics: Meeting Your Mission Through Integrated Communications Strategies,” for area nonprofit management and leadership on
Friday, June 9.

The session is being presented by Bay Path’s MS in Nonprofit Management and Philanthropy and MS in Strategic Fundraising programs and will begin at 7:30 a.m. at the Blake Student Center, where Amy Sample Ward, CEO of the Oregon-based Nonprofit Technology Network (NTEN), will present to attendees.

The morning session and presentation by Ward will be followed by a hands-on workshop at Wright Hall that will provide building blocks for area nonprofit professionals. The program, “Community-Driven Communications,” will outline community-driven communication strategies, including the use of social media, and provide templates and plans attendees can complete and implement with their organizations.

According to Sylvia de Haas-Phillips, director and assistant professor of the MS in Nonprofit Management and Philanthropy and MS in Strategic Fundraising programs, the event will help nonprofits more effectively use digital, social, and mobile technologies in engaging supporters and in collaborating with other community organizations.

Full participation in the breakfast presentation and afternoon workshop earns CFRE points towards certification or recertification. Those interested can register by clicking here.

Ward is a speaker and author; her latest book is Social Change Anytime Everywhere: How to Implement Online Multichannel Strategies to Spark Advocacy, Raise Money, and Engage Your Community. In addition to serving as CEO of NTEN, she is dedicated to educating and supporting organizations nationwide in using integrated communications strategies to create meaningful engagement, helping nonprofits make lasting change in their communities.

The Human Service Forum is an association of nonprofit and public agencies in the Pioneer Valley providing trainings, roundtable networking opportunities, and advocacy for its members.
An economic-impact report published by the Human Service Forum indicated that more than 50,000 people are employed at more than 1,000 nonprofits in the Pioneer Valley.

According to de Haas-Phillips, “nonprofits in the region represent a significant sector both economically and in terms of the services they provide to improve the quality of living in the Pioneer Valley. Providing a no-cost forum to nonprofits to help their managers better utilize traditional, social, and other communication strategies in realizing their missions is an important community service for Bay Path.”

Bay Path inaugurated the Nonprofit Management program in 2007 in response to the growth of the nonprofit sector in the local economy.

“The pace of change in the digital world and in the nonprofit sector today has created an environment where many nonprofit staff are overwhelmed with options and often choose not to adopt new tools or test new strategies,” Ward said. “This conference is designed to help nonprofit professionals understand better the role technology already does play in their work and identify opportunities that are right for their organization.”

Briefcase Departments

Leadership Pioneer Valley Campaign Kicks Off

SPRINGFIELD — Leadership Pioneer Valley’s leadership campaign committee gathered last week to announce outreach efforts for LPV’s class of 2018. The committee includes emerging leaders in education, banking, insurance, healthcare, local government, and nonprofit management. In small teams, they plan to connect with employers, community leaders, and prospective class participants throughout the region. They’ll work through June to identify the most promising applicants. Only 40 spots are available for the class of 2018, which begins in September. LPV’s 10-month regional leadership-development program engages the Pioneer Valley’s up-and-coming emerging leaders through learning and exploration. Participants are trained in leadership skills by experts in a classroom setting. They also attend in-depth field experiences across the region, where they meet with local leaders and explore the region’s economy and culture. Applied leadership experience is developed through work on projects for local nonprofits and government agencies. To date, more than 200 individuals representing more than 90 companies, organizations, and municipalities have participated. “Leadership Pioneer Valley made me a better collaborator, and it’s exciting to revisit that skill in partnership with other alums as we seek out new LPV participants who can help the Pioneer Valley succeed,” said Pat Gagnon of Baystate Health and LPV’s class of 2015. The campaign committee will seek out individuals in all sectors and focus on recruiting those committed to growing their personal, professional, and civic leadership. Applicants will be considered in a competitive application process that prioritizes diversity by employment sector, geography, race, gender, and sexual orientation. Emerging leaders, mid-career professionals with leadership potential, and those looking to better the Pioneer Valley should consider applying. Now entering its seventh class cycle, LPV alumni are leading in many ways throughout the region. Graduates are receiving promotions, growing businesses, running for elected office, and governing nonprofit boards. Together, the group represents a regionally unique leadership network reaching into every community. The deadline for LPV class of 2018 applications is July 3. Applications and further information can be found at www.leadershippv.org.

Unemployment Up in February

BOSTON — Local unemployment rates increased in 22 labor-market areas, remained the same in one area, and dropped in one area in the state during the month of February, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development reported. Compared to February 2016, the rates were down in 23 areas and remained the same in one area. Six of the 15 areas for which job estimates are published recorded seasonal job gains in February. Gains occurred in the Boston-Cambridge-Newton, Springfield, Worcester, Peabody-Salem-Beverly, Brockton-Bridgewater-Easton, and New Bedford areas. From February 2016 to February 2017, 13 of the 15 areas added jobs, with the largest percentage gains in the New Bedford, Barnstable, Boston-Cambridge-Newton, Taunton-Middleborough-Norton, and Lowell-Billerica-Chelmsford areas. In order to compare the statewide rate to local unemployment rates, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates the statewide unadjusted unemployment rate for February was 4.2%. Last week, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development reported the statewide seasonally adjusted unemployment rate increased to 3.4% in the month of February. The statewide seasonally adjusted jobs estimate showed a 10,100-job gain in February, and an over-the-year gain of 57,700 jobs.

Speaker Sisterhood Adds Two Public-speaking Clubs

NORTHAMPTON — The Speaker Sisterhood, a network of public-speaking clubs for women with clubs in Springfield, Amherst, Northampton, and South Hadley, is adding two new clubs, one in Greenfield and a second Northampton club, for women who want to become more confident speakers. Both new clubs scheduled open houses. The Northampton open house was held on April 6 at Click Workspace at 9 1/2 Market St., and was be led by Cathy McNally, a corporate communication trainer with a background in stand-up and improv comedy. The Greenfield open house will take place on Tuesday, April 18 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at 170 Main St., and will be led by documentarian and communication coach Carlyn Saltman, innovator of the coaching method known as Video Mirror Feedback. Angela Lussier, CEO of Speaker Sisterhood, says that the mission of the clubs is to provide a community for “women who want to increase confidence, boost public-speaking skills, have fun, and maybe even change the world.” Lussier, a well-known public speaker and author of three books, added that “each Speaker Sisterhood club is more than just a place to practice speaking in front of a group. It’s a tribe of women who are supporting and empowering each other to follow their dreams by building confidence in their voice.” According to McNally, who is also the Speaker Sisterhood program development director, the program uses interactive activities, humor, and other tools that engage women at all skill levels. “We draw on fun exercises from the comedy world to make sure women have a blast at our meetings. At our open houses, guests can get a sense right away of the lively and supportive atmosphere we create together.” According to Saltman, women can attend two club meetings for free before deciding to join. “We want to give every woman who visits a chance to see if the club is a good match for them.” Saltman said the group covers the topics that meet the needs of most public speakers: storytelling, persuasion, humor, body language, and thinking on one’s feet. “Women are a powerful force in our world, and we want to bring them together to help them better articulate their ideas, stories, and views. We believe that is exactly what the world needs right now,” said Lussier of the Speaker Sisterhood, which formed in 2016, has several clubs in Western Mass., and is expected to expand nationwide in 2017.

Single-family Home Sales Down in February

SPRINGFIELD — Single-family home sales were down 23.3% in the Pioneer Valley in February compared to the same time last year, while the median price was up 3.2% to $180,000, according to the Realtor Assoc. of Pioneer Valley. In Franklin County, sales were down 31.3%, while the median price fell 25.4% from a year earlier. In Hampden County, sales were down 21.9%, while the median price was up 3.8%. And in Hampshire County, sales fell 13.0% from February 2016, while the median price was down 4.7%.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Leadership Pioneer Valley’s leadership campaign committee gathered last week to announce outreach efforts for LPV’s class of 2018. The committee includes emerging leaders in education, banking, insurance, healthcare, local government, and nonprofit management. In small teams, they plan to connect with employers, community leaders, and prospective class participants throughout the region. They’ll work through June to identify the most promising applicants. Only 40 spots are available for the class of 2018, which begins in September.

LPV’s 10-month regional leadership-development program engages the Pioneer Valley’s up-and-coming emerging leaders through learning and exploration. Participants are trained in leadership skills by experts in a classroom setting. They also attend in-depth field experiences across the region, where they meet with local leaders and explore the region’s economy and culture. Applied leadership experience is developed through work on projects for local nonprofits and government agencies. To date, more than 200 individuals representing more than 90 companies, organizations, and municipalities have participated.

“Leadership Pioneer Valley made me a better collaborator, and it’s exciting to revisit that skill in partnership with other alums as we seek out new LPV participants who can help the Pioneer Valley succeed,” said Pat Gagnon of Baystate Health and LPV’s class of 2015.

The campaign committee will seek out individuals in all sectors and focus on recruiting those committed to growing their personal, professional, and civic leadership. Applicants will be considered in a competitive application process that prioritizes diversity by employment sector, geography, race, gender, and sexual orientation. Emerging leaders, mid-career professionals with leadership potential, and those looking to better the Pioneer Valley should consider applying.

Now entering its seventh class cycle, LPV alumni are leading in many ways throughout the region. Graduates are receiving promotions, growing businesses, running for elected office, and governing nonprofit boards. Together, the group represents a regionally unique leadership network reaching into every community.

The deadline for LPV class of 2018 applications is July 3. Applications and further information can be found at www.leadershippv.org.