011 A place to run to work and walk home
Making a place that’s fun for all – staff, board, and donors
Julie Capaldi is the President of United Way of Pickens County.
In this episode of Concord Leaders, Julie talks about dealing with frequent turnover – at the worst possible times – and how she turned that culture around. Toward the end of this conversation, she shares a surprising way she gives herself energy for the work.
You can contact Julie at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Marc: Welcome to the Concord Leader’s podcast them Marc Pitman the CEO of the Concord Leadership Group. Today our guest is Julie Capaldi. She’s the president of United Way of Pickens County and she’s been at the United Way for 23 years. Julie, it is a thrill to have you on the show today.
Julie: Oh thank you very much for having me.
Marc: I’m honored. 23 years at the same organization! what was that like.
Julie: Well really to be honest with you Marc the first years were really awful and hard. And I thought many times of you know throwing in the towel but there was just something about you know the beauty of where we live. I didn’t want to move again. And I’m not a quitter. No. You know I just kept you know plugging away with it.
Marc: What do you enjoy most about eating or being in a leadership position.
Julie: Well I thought about that a lot when you posed that question to me yesterday and I think it’s because I’ve really worked for a lot of bad leaders.
And I I wanted to create an environment where people wanted to run to work and walk home. That’s really kind of been my ultimate goal and you can tell that I’ve been successful at that because people that come to work here. Stay forever. Quite a few of my colleagues have been with me 16 and 17 years and I believe with all my heart the mission of United Way of Pickens County. That’s why I like to lead it. I believe in the mission the work. It’s not like going to work every day. It’s like purpose my life’s purpose.
And then the people that I work with I love working with them.
Marc: I love the place “where people want to run to work and walk home.” What are some things that you’ve done to help create that kind of foster that kind of environment.
Julie: Well first of all Marc for a while I was having a little bit of turnover in some of my positions so I actually hired Mary Ray Conner from Greenville a Personnel Consultant and really embraced the whole DISC concept. I know you’re familiar with that because I have your book on your audio book that I listen to when I exercise.
And I know you believe in the DISC and so I really look at what the roles we had in our organization and what were the traits of the people that would be happiest in those roles. And so I started making good hires and also by understanding the people that work with me my colleagues.
I understand how they are about stress what I understand them and know them and they know me. And I think that you know that is one of the things that created the work environment and everyone at work here has.
I call it a shared responsibility model and that everyone’s really really invested in their job and in the outcomes that we’re trying to reach. That’s probably the most important thing.
Marc: I love thinking about, you know, often we take these assessments we think about our own selves in our own response by love that you’re also putting it into making sure that you’re making good hires. That’s really smart.
Julie: Well you know it was funny after the last bad hire and how I knew they were bad hires is because even though they were OK in their job and I like them as people I didn’t necessarily like working with them because they did not satisfy my need for that real team spirit.
They were kind of individual workers. They want to you know don’t bother me because I know what my job is. There’s the task. You know I’ll let you know if I need you type of people that didn’t make me happy Mark. And so I felt frustrated and they didn’t they weren’t happy with me either. So they didn’t stay very long. And turnover as you know is really costly in a small organization like this. And plus the fact that every time they would leave and they would leave the day after the campaign kickoff.
So I had a I had three in a row that basically laugh the day after the most important event. And so I ended up having to do it myself.
So I wanted I wanted to make sure that I knew and we laughed because I told Mary Ray I said you know it’s all about me now. This is all about me. You know I’m 60 years all I’ve been here a long time. I’m want it to be about me.
And even though we joke about that I have the perfect people now. That does make me happy. I want to run to work.
Marc: Well that’s the thing it seems like you’ve created a work environment of a place that you enjoy which also makes it or others enjoy. Because we’ve had the bad leaders – it’s all about them and they’re incredibly divisive in our system. But you’ve taken that I want to like where I work and been able to create a culture that other people because given their tenure, 16 plus years, that’s exciting when you think about it.
Julie: Marc think about it I mean you know really how much do you get to control in your life really. Well I can control the work environment and my life. And so therefore you know I want to be happy. I want a happy life and my work is important to me and so I want to be happy here.
Marc: That makes total sense. Now you mentioned we know from being leaders that leadership isn’t always great. Things don’t always go well. What was the time that you had to handle something that didn’t go well. How did you respond to it.
Julie: Well how many years do you want me to go.
Marc: Well it is a short podcasts…
Julie: Well the most recent…as you know we are very forward thinking in a way we are a community impact base United Way. We have embraced the model of United Way worldwide to really focus on our work. And there are people in our community that are good donors and in really great people that didn’t actually buy in to that whole model they wanted. They were used to the old model where the money came in and money went out. We had the lowest admin that you could possibly have. And so I brought that person in on the board thinking that they were educated.
But honestly they didn’t hear me. So I got on the board. I have this great great board that’s really vested and has done all this work and then brought this other person in. A very strong kind of person. And it really upset the apple cart in a big way. Everyone it upset the staff it upset other board members my board here said you know you asked for this so you need to deal with it. And so it it just really took a while. And I’m very fortunate in that I have an incredible board that have been you know ridiculously successfull in their careers and still are successful and they were able to kind of help me to deal with that. But it really set us back on things that were just going so fast forward, it took about six months for that person to buy it.
That’s the heart. That was the really hardest thing and that’s what I learned from that experience is that you just don’t you maybe because somebody is a wealthy person or married to a wealthy person that doesn’t make them a good board member. They need to be committed to the mission into the work.
Marc: So true.
Julie: And it helps that they have money.
MarcRight. Right. That’s definitely a reality too. I was expecting to hear that you parted ways with this person it sounds like you’re able to help them embrace the mission.
Julie: A $65000 a year donor. Yes. He embraces the mission.
Marc: That’s wonderful.
Julie: I know he embraces the mission. He’s like the biggest supporter that we ever had but it took a while for him to understand it.
And one of the things I learned from that Marc was that you know we have impact councils around each one of our impact areas and that’s really where the work is done.
The funding decisions are there where we’re going as an organization is there. But if I don’t have a board member that serves on each one of those councils they don’t understand that. So by putting a board member on each one of those councils has helped some but they can’t. Yeah they can advocate for that.
Marc: That’s excellent. Well I’m thrilled to hear that you’re able to take a bad situation and turn it to good without it being good of parting ways which is often good too in situations.
Julie: My life motto, Marc, is never burn a bridge.
That’s my life’s not the way I live by it.
It’s good because life is too short for that. So we’re already at the end segment of our conversation. I would love to hear, like if there were one thing listeners should do right now before they do anything else after this podcast What would you what would you recommend they do.
Julie: Well I think they need to find out what makes them happy. And one of the things that I personally do that makes me happy. I call donors and I call donors and I don’t I just call them and tell them how much I appreciate them. And it just gives me that fuel I guess to keep going. And it’s so easy and you know I had a few that are kind of skeptical like why do you want. Sometimes you just get what they really are so shocked and thrilled that you would call them.
Marc: Could you share the story that you just shared in the Nonprofit Storytelling Conference group.
Julie: Sure. I have a handful of people that gap between $100 and $500 – $600 a year. But they’re like 40 year givers So if I send a mailing like the next day I get money so I call those people and I call those lady and we talked she’d give in for 40 years and I knew that she had given for 23 because I’d always seen her but never had a conversation I called her. We talked for about 45 minutes. I learned about her she learned about me. We talked about the work. And I guess that was in September a couple like last week I just got this envelope from Edward Jones and it was a check for $8,000 from the woman and she’s a you know $500-p $600 a year donor. And she just just felt compelled to support the work. And so that calling donors really pays off.
Marc: It’s pays off anyway. But then it pays off. I mean there’s an emotional payoff but…
Julie: It feels so great to know that these are the people that are really funding the work and I don’t know if you give. I’m sure. You know Tom Ahern always told me to donate a lot of different charities and oh my God, Marc. They are so that I cannot even believe it.
And I think well you know he was right on the $100 here and $100 there. You know and I’m the kind of person – I want to feel appreciated. You know I don’t know if it’s ego or what but I want to feel appreciated and I want to feel valued and they’re not doing a very good job.
Marc: But as a leader you’re able to turn it around. I want to thank you so much for being a guest on this edition of Concord Leaders. I’m taking away so much I have a whole page of notes. I love the “Find out what makes you happy” and then also the you know turning it around to calling donors. I think that’s great. I love the “creating a place that people want to run to work and walk home.” That’s really that’s really awesome too.
If people want to follow up with you after this work could they find you.
Julie: Well my email is email@example.com. Or they can call me at 864- 850- 7094. My direct extension is 101. Anything I can do to help. Just feel free to reach out.
Marc: Wonderful thanks so much, Julie. I know people are going to want to listen to this over and over as well. This episode and all the episodes of Concord Leaders podcast can be found at https://concordleadershipgroup.com/podcast.
And until next time remember that healthy nonprofits start with healthy leaders