Five Go-To’s for Community Connections for ChildrenCare Consultants, Inc.
Written By: Christy S. Renjilian
Have you ever stumbled across a tool or resource that changed the way you work or approach life? The impact that one piece of technology can have on you and your business can be monumental.
Time and energy saved. And money expanded — so often we are better able to serve our community and clients with these increased resources.
The nonprofit world feels this, too. And some of the challenges facing us as nonprofits have only grown since the pandemic. From budget cuts and stifled resources to ever-changing rules and guidelines, our toughest hurdles have only gotten more difficult to jump over.
And we lean on tools and resources now, more than ever. They help us to expand our workload, retain our exceptional employees, automate repetitive tasks, provide flexibility, improve visibility, and showcase our adaptability.
Just like in the business world.
You may be thinking. . . “Great, but you have no idea about our unique struggles. And how hard it’s been the past two years.”
Well, it may just surprise you how many nonprofits are facing hardships. According to the National Center for Charitable Statistics, about 30% of nonprofits will cease to exist after ten years.
The failure rate is high. And it’s growing.
And nonprofits’ reach in the United States is massive. Did you know there are 1.5 million nonprofit organizations in the United States? Or that nonprofits employ 10% of the US workforce?
Here in Pennsylvania, nonprofits employ over 15% of the workforce. For every seven people, one works in the nonprofit sector.
And the total nonprofit annual revenue in the United States is $2.62 trillion. [Source: Zippea]
We have to stick together, as an industry. . . and work together with corporate and business partners to grow our impact and live out our mission. Regardless of all of the struggles and hardships of being a nonprofit in 2022.
“The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new.”
Five Tools That Have Completely Changed the Way We Work:
In 2021, Community Connections for Children purchased a “Rocketbook” for each staff member.
Rocketbooks are reusable notebooks you use with special pens. You can write, chart, draw, plan, vision, etc. on a page in the book using the companion pen. Then you simply upload the document. It will automatically change your handwriting to text and add it to whatever folder or platform you prefer.
And when you’re ready to start a new project, you just wipe off the page and begin again.
It’s easy to customize, too, with shortcuts to various icons so that the app knows where you want the document to be uploaded (or you can indicate it each time).
The Rocketbooks have multiple benefits—they reduce costs associated with purchasing notebooks, steno pads, etc. for staff. They also enable a staff person to handwrite their notes (many of our team members prefer to do this) but still upload it into their files—Microsoft, OneDrive, Google Docs, etc.
If using OneDrive and/or Google Docs—the file can be accessed by others. This benefit alone has saved staff a LOT of time and made sharing personal handwritten notes very easy.
Rocketbooks come with a variety of page types—blank, lined, calendar, planning guides, task charts, ideas, and graph paper. You can even get special pages, such as music staff.
The Rocketbook Fusion is approximately $35, additional pens cost $12 for a pack of seven of various colors. There are training videos, email updates, and information on their website to help you use your Rocketbook.
You may find like we did, that some staff has already been using Rocketbooks in their personal lives. They may be able to step up and serve as guides, providing how-to tips and troubleshooting help for other staff.
Community Connections for Children utilizes BOARDnetWORK to manage our Board documents, meeting calendars and communication. The platform enables you to upload documents, including organization items such as articles of incorporation, IRS determination, audits, and 990s.
The meeting function allows you to create an agenda and embed the related documents (minutes, reports, action items) into the agenda. It will then create a notebook for the meeting combining all the documents into one. This cohesion helps board members easily follow along during the meeting.
The all-in-one notebook function works for each unique committee you have as well as the full Board meetings. There’s no need for Board members to hunt for emails (or for the staff to create them) to find the documents for a meeting.
The platform sends out meeting announcements and reminders, for both committee and Board meetings. All you have to do is enter their contact information, create your committees, and then it will automatically send the information to those on that committee.
This has been a huge help in organizing all the committee and Board documents into one searchable, always accessible place. It’s reduced the amount of time our staff spends creating and organizing materials for committee and Board meetings.
BOARDnetWORK is free if you have Nonprofits Insurance Alliance. The platform is very intuitive and easy to use. There are step-by-step guidelines and support to help you set up your system.
Like nearly everyone, CCC quickly had to learn how to use TEAMS and Zoom to be able to provide our services virtually to families, providers, and the community. Staff, particularly our STARS department, have become very skilled in the various OneDrive platforms which enable us to share documents, access documents remotely, and communicate with one another.
We have created a wide variety of TEAMS –by department, by job function, by committee, and throughout the entire organization. We utilize TEAMS not only for meetings, but also to have a quick “chat” or for a virtual group discussion. Staff can enter their questions and coworkers can respond.
It has decluttered email inboxes and provided an option for those “quick water cooler” type conversations. We also use TEAMs for staying connected and promoting our culture. We have TEAMS threads to share “kudos and thanks for being awesome” news. We have SharePoint folders for mental health resources and our various committees.
It saves us time and effort because we don’t have to email people documents (also reducing the number of documents on our server or the cloud). We can share documents with those outside the day-to-day of our organization, too—the Board, partners, etc., and they can access them and make revisions.
CCC staff have participated in training for the various aspects of OneDrive, and have then trained others.
We use OneNote, SharePoint, and other platforms to create and organize files, particularly those where multiple staff need access and enter data. It also increases security when accessing files as you can set up a two-part authentication process.
OneDrive is free with Microsoft 365.
The Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL) through the PA Key, graciously provided access to the Healthy Minds App to all CCC staff.
The app has both podcast-style lessons and mediations. It teaches how the brain works and helps you incorporate mindfulness practices into your daily life. Meditations can be done while seated or while active. The lessons and mediations average about 5 to 10 minutes which makes them easily incorporated into a busy hectic life. The app focuses on four pillars of the science of training the mind—awareness, connection, insight, and purpose.
It’s an easily accessible tool to begin implementing small mindfulness practices in your day-to-day life—even for those who have no experience in meditation or may be skeptical.
The tool also has check-in features that create a personalized report to measure your progress. CCC encouraged our staff to participate (although of course, it’s not mandatory) as we want to give tools that help address the stress and mental health issues that have increased over the past two years.
I have really enjoyed the app and have participated for the past 180 days (and counting!). The tool has inspired us to implement a “Mindful Monday Morning” practice. A great way to start the week, a “Mindful Monday Morning” is open to all staff and involves meditations and mindfulness activities led by a rotating cast of members of our staff.
We also are working with OCDEL to support the utilization of the app by early childhood educators and participate in the statewide committee.
The Healthy Minds App is free, although some of the workplace features have a cost.
- Wellness Tools, Like Standing Desks and Under-Desk Ellipticals
Ergonomics and wellness are important for the overall health of our team. Prior to COVID, CCC staff were able to request ball chairs, standing desk converts, and/or under-desk ellipticals. Staff was also able to request ergonomic keyboards, computer mice, etc. to ensure a comfortable, safe, and wellness-enhancing work environment.
And when we transitioned to working at home, staff were able to “sign out” their equipment for their home “office” space.
We believe in promoting wellness and understand that sitting for eight hours a day does not encourage a healthy body. We also know that people come in all shapes and sizes and need chairs and devices that work for them.
By accommodating these needs, we enable our team to function at the highest level possible. These items also help reduce back, wrist, and other pains or injuries. It’s a concrete way to show our staff that we value their well-being.
Costs vary depending on the particular item. Some of our favorite picks are:
A Culture of Wellness and Support
We want every single hour spent working—whether in the office or from home—to be comfortable and productive.
The work that our team does here at CCC is important. It allows families to be supported in their parenting journeys and early childhood educators to be supported as they shape the next generation.
And for our staff to continue to do that work, they need support themselves. We need to care for one another. Genuinely seeking out how our colleagues are doing, identifying their needs, and working hard to meet them.
Burnout is real. And we want to eradicate it. So together, we will continue to focus each day on wellness and taking care of one other.
“For a community to be whole and healthy, it must be based on people’s love and concern for each other.”
— Millard Fuller
About Community Connections for Children, Inc.
Community Connections for Children, Inc. (CCC) is a nonprofit centered in the heart of Pennsylvania. They serve childcare providers and low-income families ‒ the ones that have been impacted the most by the pandemic.
CCC helps keep childcare options open for your employees for you and your business, saving missed work hours and lowering on-the-job stress levels. They work with early childhood education programs and home-based providers to improve the quality of care, ensuring that all children enter school ready to be successful.
Christy Renjilian is its Executive Director.
To learn more, visit childcareconsultants.org.