Thursday, November 12, 2015

Effective communication

As a new parent, I could not wait for my son to say his word first.  As an adult, some days I do not want to hear his next. Though as I joke, we know that maintaining open lines of communication with not only children, but coworkers, customers, and members of the community, is an important piece of furthering the Community Action mission.

My friend Merriam defines communication as a process by which information is exchanged between individuals through a common system of symbols, signs, or behavior. I frequently hear leaders say, “We communicate all the time.” However, I also hear their peers say, “No one ever tells us anything.”  Communication must be delivered and received which may require multiple methods and approaches.  A six-page newsletter delivered twice a year may not be as effective as a one-page memo emailed once each month. Depending on what your audience needs and wants to receive, and the multiple audiences seeking a variety of information, tactics may need to vary. Listening to their spoken or unspoken feedback will help you determine the content and the best ways to deliver it.

Email, Facebook, blogs, or even inserts with paystubs (yes—most staff still look at their paychecks even with direct deposit) are excellent methods to communicate to staff and other publics where appropriate. Your board of directors may request a written report though a verbal summary of the report may help to go along with it. Other nonverbal communication is also just as important when building and maintaining relationships with staff, board, customers, or the community. Sharing smiles, a handshake, or even brief encouraging remarks are just as important as inviting someone to the next strategic planning meeting.

Take the time to walk out of your office and communicate—most importantly, listen. After all, Merriam says it is an exchange, a give and take; communication is interactive. And when done effectively, your audience, like a new mom, will look forward to that next exchange.

Julia Wise is the executive director of Highland County Community Action Organization (HCCAO). She has a master’s degree in Organizational Management and over twenty-five years of experience in Community Action. Julia also serves as an Internal Consultant with OACAA and Ohio Community Action Training Organization. Her specialized trainings include Bridges Out of Poverty, board training, customer services, Head Start Policy Council, Results Oriented Management and Accountability (ROMA) and strategic planning. 

Monday, October 5, 2015

HR / Fiscal Conference: What the heck happened?

Are you paying your exempt employees at least $50,440/year? Starting in 2016, you may have to in order to maintain their exempt status. And that’s not all…

In mid-September, OACAA hosted a one-day Human Resources / Fiscal Conference at the Crowne Plaza in Dublin for over sixty Community Action professionals across the state. Scott Warrick, who specializes in human resources and employment law and training, entertained a mix of Community Action management, human resources, and fiscal staff as he guided us through recent and upcoming changes to the employment laws. Just some of the morning topics included were: off-duty duties, 50-hour exempt agreement, various legal case reviews, and employees' rights to organize.

After lunch, Scott covered FMLA, ADA, and Workers Compensation similarities and differences, how they work and recent changes. Discussions included eligibility for FMLA, the importance of written essential functions in your job descriptions and much more.

Handouts were provided to attendees and can be made available to other OACAA members if requested. Please contact GregBollenbacher, Fiscal Director, for more information. Or, to learn more about the conference’s speaker, visit his website at, where you can find an abundance of resources on these and other topics.


Greg has over 25 year's of experience in fiscal management in the Community Action Network and has worked with OACAA, since 2007, to manage all accounting and fiscal reporting. His experience also includes over six years as an accountant for local for-profit corporations. Gregn earned his bachelor's degree in economics from Ohio Wesleyan University and his master's degree in business administration from Keller School of Business.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

The importance of program evaluations

Adapted from: Community Toolbox (nd). 
A Framework for Program Evaluation: A Gateway to Tools
How do you tell your story? Why is the work that you do relevant and worthy of funding? These are questions that all non-profits ask to be more sustainable and worthy of funding to provide programs and services to their community. By tracking and measuring data, each organization can have a better understanding of the populations they serve and how to serve them, as well as help to identify areas to improve their reach and the efficiency of their programs. We all do this through our mandated Community Needs Assessments to receive CSBG funding. But, many Community Action Agencies struggle with collecting data and defining what should be tracked. As the non-profit world adopts a more data-driven model, is your agency ready? What opportunities are you missing out on to improve your program activities? A strong evaluation can help you answer these questions and more.

To determine an appropriate evaluation model, it is important first to understand its purpose and definition. Program evaluation is the process of delineating, obtaining, and providing useful information to describe and understand a program. Evaluations also provide data to assist in making judgments and decisions related to its operation. Also, evaluations can help identify the underlying mechanism or causal processes by which the outcomes of the programs are achieved; that is, understanding the “why” of the outcomes. To ensure that an evaluation will yield useful information, evaluators should determine the nature of the required information in the planning stages including Utility, Feasibility, Propriety and Accuracy. Examples from the Community Toolbox can be found here.

In short, the program evaluation process decides what information is useful, gathers that information, and facilitates the distribution and use by key audiences and stakeholders. The evaluation data is also an extremely effective tool to tell your story that will enhance the likelihood that the information will be a useful resource for others. The evaluation serves as an important tool allowing you to better understand why the program works, why it doesn’t, in what circumstances might it be expected to perform better, and why adjustments may make it more effective.

For help in developing your own program evaluation or revising a current evaluation method, contact OACAA or visit the Community Toolbox Website.


Anita Maldonado, Ph.D.

Anita Maldonado serves as an internal consultant (IC) for OACAA and is the chief operating officer for IMPACT Community Action in Franklin County. She also serves as an adjunct faculty at Kent State University and Franklin University. Anita has over nearly two decades of experience in social services field and working with nonprofit organizations managing budgets and programs in excess of $10million. She earned her master’s degree in public administration and holds a doctorate in higher education administration from Kent State University. Anita specializes in trainings including strategic planning, program assessment, research and evaluations, board training and Bridges Out of Poverty. 

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Building a strong bridge out of poverty

Jeffrey Diver presents Bridges Out of Poverty
Earlier this week I joined one of OCATO’s Internal Consultants (ICs) at a Bridges Out of Poverty training hosted by Ross CountyCommunity Action Commission for District Four. Jeffrey Diver, IC and executive director of Supports to Encourage Low-Income Families (SELF), delivered the training and challenged perceptions of poverty to break down stereotypes. By the end of the day, participants had gained a deeper understanding of the obstacles faced by those living in poverty.

Based on the book Bridges Out of Poverty by Ruby K. Payne, this nationally-known concept aims to remove barriers and build stronger and sustainable communities. Certified trainers introduce a framework that includes mental models and Hidden Rules of Class while also discussing key concepts of situational and generational poverty. Jeff facilitated discussions and showed video clips throughout the day to get us all looking through a different lens. The training served as a powerful reminder of what our customers struggle with every day. Each path to self-sufficiency is unique, and the Bridges Out of Poverty training is an excellent way to engage your staff, partners, and community.

Whether you’re a case manager, head start teacher, executive director, or any one of the over 6,000 professionals in the Ohio Community Action Network, this one-day training may be beneficial for you! Trainings are typically free for OACAA members. Visit our website or call us today to find out more.


Kathryn A. Clausen, OACAA Communications Director

Kathryn has over a decade of nonprofit experience with more than half of that time spent directly in the Community Action Network. She earned her bachelor’s degree in communication Summa Cum Laude from Franklin University, her associate’s degree from Ohio University and is currently pursuing her graduate degree from Kent State University. Kathryn manages the association’s public relations including regular communication federal and state lawmakers, media, OACAA members and the general public. She also supports CAs across the state as needed in their communication efforts.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Another successful event: Annual Summer Conference 2015

David Bradley, Co-founder and Executive director of National Community
Action Foundation
Last week, the Ohio Association of Community Action Agencies (OACAA) held the Annual Summer Conference, which was hosted by Community Action Commission of Erie, Huron, and Richland Counties. Together, we welcomed over 200 Community Action professionals from across the state to Sawmill Creek Resort in Huron, Ohio.

Breakout sessions kicked off the conference Wednesday morning and included four tracks: Leadership, Head Start, Fiscal/Human Resources, and Family Development/Special Populations. Presenters from CAPLAW and Head Start Region V discussed national and regional Community Action topics while Family Development speakers presented tools and ideas for working with special population groups such as Reentry, Migrant Farmers, and Veterans populations

Pictured (left to right): Larry Price,  Representative Alicia Reece, Philip E. Cole
Pictured (left to right): Larry Price, Representative Alicia Reece and Philip E. Cole
We were honored to have Ohio House Representative Alicia Reece take the stage during Wednesday’s lunch where she spoke about her legislative priorities in House District 33 Representative. Representative Reece discussed an Ohio voter bill of rights and the priorities of the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus. She also discussed the recommendations from the Ohio Community-Police Task Force on which she was appointed by Governor John Kasich last year and served alongside Philip Cole, executive director of OACAA. Later that afternoon, the Office of Community Assistance (OCA) presented an update to the network which was followed by district meetings. During the district meetings, three board of trustee representatives from each district were elected to serve two-year terms. On Wednesday evening, guests were invited to attend a relaxing networking event on Lake Erie.

Thursday continued with breakout sessions followed by lunch with guest speaker, educator, and author, Harvey Alston. A plenary session wrapped up the day with speakers Bo Chilton of OURS, Ron Reese of COAD, and Hugh Cathey of HealthSpot, Inc. The conference wrapped up on Friday morning with a membership meeting and guest speaker David Bradley, co-founder and executive director of National Community Action Foundation (NCAF).

OACAA would like to thank our sponsors, advertisers, and exhibitors this year. With their support, we were able to provide great snacks and beverages throughout the conference to recharge all of our guests. A special thank you goes out to our meal sponsors Applied Energy Products and Sales, InHealth Mutual, Wichert Insurance, and Selective Insurance.

Activity from throughout the conference can be viewed on Facebook and Twitter using #OACAASummer15 and photos are now available on Flickr. We have already received outstanding feedback from the network and we are glad those who attended found it informative, relevant, and fun! We are proud of the work the Ohio network does to help people and change lives and are happy to have completed another successful conference in support of your efforts throughout the state.

Stay in touch with OACAA by subscribing to our blog and following us on social media!