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Seeing the Forest for the Trees

3 Apr

Here’s the final installment from Chris Chavez, one of Catchafire’s newest team members. (See his first two posts below) These were his reflections at the end of a week of intensive training. That was three weeks ago, and incredibly, he has already welcomed four organizations to the Catchafire Team. Chris isn’t wet behind the ears, he’s on fire! Here are wise words from a (once-trainee) Catchafire Service Officer:

The Trees

My brain is heavier than it was in the morning! A lot goes into making Catchafire’s service as efficient and as helpful as it is. There are a lot of ingredients that ensure Catchafire members are satisfied with their experience: multiple stages of contact, clear communication between Catchafire teammates, consulting of organizations before they join our community and after, following the progress of projects, and keeping a healthy buzz around what we do – innovating pairing of hearts and minds with causes that need to build their capacity.

Open my Eyes

This morning I prepared myself to sustain a few dings and dents from some good ol’ fashion experiential learning… Well, the gods must have been listening because Thomas (aka Kathy) tripped me up a few times during my practice call. At the end of the day, I improved in some areas while regressing in others. Isn’t that always the case? I have a clearer sense of what I need to focus on in preparation for my first community calls next Wednesday.

The Forest

A final take-home from today’s training. Don’t take the power of algorithmic matching for granted. This a light bulb moment for me: we use algorithms every day to find information (on Google); to find relationships (on Facebook); to find special someones (on match.com); to find places to eat, drink, and be merry (on yelp).

Catchafire is predicated on the same logic of sites and digital locales that we may be starting to take for granted. The sheen behind this tech is no longer as brilliant and arresting to non-digital natives – my mom has a Facebook account, google is a verb and Google’s a company! Even so, we cannot forget that individual creativity, evaluation, and rigor is driving all of our searching and supporting all of these algorithms and online activities. Catchafire uses everything – the creativity, the passion, the statistical models, the commitment, and the skills – to help professionals and organizations take part in a community of activity. It’s exciting and inspiring to join the effort.

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Chris Chavez is a Service Officer at Catchafire. Prior to joining Catchafire, Chris worked with the Fiver Children’s Foundation supervising communications, development, and programming projects to inspire at-risk children to make positive life choices. Chris holds a degree in International Relations from Vesalius College at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel and an M.Litt in International Relations from the University of St Andrews.

Catchafire’s Secret Sauce

16 Mar

In Chris’s previous blog entry he let the cat out of the bag:

It’s one thing to learn about mission and vision and to buy into the purpose of it all. It’s quite another to learn about the secret sauce making it all happen in practice. Though, in this case, the sauce isn’t so secret – It’s available front and center for all to see on Catchafire.org.

In today’s post Chris proudly holds the cat up for all to see:

Friday

The time had come to pick up the phone, get on the horn, and do a couple of mock calls to promote Catchafire’s service. Armed with a Snicker’s bar and two days of intensive schooling from Thomas, I felt prepared. We’d spent many hours discussing Catchafire’s vision and mission, and discussing how to discuss it! It was time to have this conversation with another person engaged on the other end of the telephone.

Building Community

I’m still new to Catchafire’s culture, but already I feel incredibly comfortable communicating it to others. This is thanks to the training and interaction with my more experienced colleagues have enabled my smooth transition into the team. I know it’s not easy when a new team member causes minor interruptions to everyone’s routine but I have felt nothing but support in my first three days on the job. I’m eager to do well and start contributing. I know that all of the prep will pay off, though I’m excited to start learning by doing.

The first two practice calls went well. By “went well,” I mean that each call allowed me to solidify shaky points in my training, and helped me to learn where I could direct more focus so I could more clearly communicate the Catchafire value proposition to potential new members. Spending time with Catchafire literature and talking to colleagues has helped me form a clearer understanding of the simple power of Catchafire’s vision and how that vision is buttressed by current technological and social trends. We are social beings – constantly communicating and developing tools to communicate.  Technology is making our lives simpler by reducing the time it takes for us to communicate.  Catchafire has found a great way to leverage the power of communications technology; to help individuals to use their skills and talents; to connect organizations that need to build capacity to individual passions that are searching for a meaningful outlet.

 The Secret Sauce

It’s become so commonplace; we sometimes forget the source of power inherent in networked technologies: information and its sources have become transparent (especially when thinking back 20, 30, 40 years ago). We turn on our computers, log onto the Internet, visit Google’s homepage, enter some words and phrases, and are directed to information sources that will satisfy our curiosity or enhance our interests. Catchafire applies the same kind of algorithmic efficiency and power to helping nonprofit and social enterprises recruit passionate and talented to help their cause. This tool allows fewer people to do more. It also allows the increase in output to maintain a high quality. Instead of sacrificing quality for quantity, quantity actually supports quality, with an ever-growing community of professionals and organizations benefiting from its own collection of various skills, talents, and passions.

What’s ahead?

I am looking forward to my first full week of work! I begin to meet my first Catchafire community members this Wednesday and I can’t wait. Every nonprofit, and every social enterprise with an internet connection is a Catchafire community member, they just don’t know it yet! I like to think big, a quality I am eager to introduce to the team in the weeks and months ahead – I already know that I’m in an environment filled with big thinkers. Google’s goal is to make the world’s information available and useful to everyone. Catchafire’s goal is to make the world’s passions available and useful to everyone. That’s the thought that will motivate me in the next week ahead – and beyond.

Catchafire’s Living Breathing Product

12 Mar

Read on for the second installment in a week long blog series from Chris Chevaz, one of Catchafire’s newest Service Officers. After each day of intensive training, Chris unravels this thoughts and share’s his insights. After his second day in training, Chris brought our product to life…

Day 2

Today we delved into the meat and potatoes of Catchafire’s platform, value, and culture. It’s one thing to learn about mission and vision and to buy into the purpose of it all. It’s quite another to learn about the secret sauce making it all happen in practice. Though, in this case, the sauce isn’t so secret – It’s available front and center for all to see on Catchafire.org.

Project Menu

This is the center of it all – the so called secret sauce. With over 40+ projects on offer, it can be an overwhelming resource to communicate and to digest. Like a guest with good table manners, however, Catchafire breaks up each project into bite size pieces, making the incredible value of the Catchafire service easy to process, and easy to articulate.

The menu is a resource explaining how Catchafire pro-bono professionals can direct their passions in a laser like focus to help organizations and illustrates to members the kind of systematic approach that will ensure a project is delivered with timely passion.

To have access to this menu, Catchafire asks organizations to make a membership investment.  This small investment helps to promote accountability among our members and ensures that a strong sincerity of purpose is communicated to our pro bono professionals. This ensures that Catchafire makes a high quality match between organizations and pro-bono professionals. In addition, it rewards organizations that are willing to think strategically about the scarce resources they have to invest. In the end, the Catchafire culture is not only about setting goals but also about accomplishing goals. This is crucial to transforming a mission in the service of a cause into an executable plan of action.

Catchafire Consultants

As part of day two in training, I sat in on a session explaining Catchafire account management. New members benefit greatly from the work put in by the accounts staff whose number one priority is to steward successful matches and provide feedback to member organizations and their pro bono pros.

I left the hour-long session with two major take-aways: The first was to “keep it real” – a saying that grounds what I do to a commitment to maintain the quality and integrity of the Catchafire community.  We only want to work with organizations and pro-bono professionals who are committed to the social good sector.  The second take-away was an emphasis on being proactive. Why wait? The Catchafire culture is one that seeks to shed light on circumstances; to be curious; to probe and always learn; and use the entire range of resources available at any given time.

I know I will continue to learn loads and will have fun in the process. I feel challenged by my new role and look forward to getting to it.

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Chris Chavez is a Service Officer at Catchafire. Prior to joining Catchafire, Chris worked with the Fiver Children’s Foundation supervising communications, development, and programming projects to inspire at-risk children to make positive life choices. Chris holds a degree in International Relations from Vesalius College at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel and an M.Litt in International Relations from the University of St Andrews.

A Fresh Perspective on Catchafire and its Social Mission

6 Mar

We’re pleased to welcome Chris Chavez as the newest member of our team. Chris joined Catchafire last week and is busy training as a Service Officer. He took the initiative and poured his thoughts out in an email to the team after his first day. Realizing the value of his insights – to everyone in the Catchafire community – Chris goes home each evening to ponder the day and share some of his take aways. Here’s Day One’s Reflections:

Day One

What a day!  After an incredible first day at Catchafire, I had a great night explaining my role to members of the YNPN-NYC (Young Non-Profit Professionals of New York City) board over dinner. It was the perfect way to reflect on the day’s training points. Teaching – or in this case explaining – definitely works to crystallize knowledge gained. One board member is at an organization benefiting from a Catchafire membership. She spoke so enthusiastically and positively. It was the icing on the cake of my first day!

The Catchafire Culture

I love the collaborative and iterative style of Catchafire’s culture. I work best when I am empowered to make bold decisions and think big. Today’s training really connected me to Catchafire vision and mission – the history lesson of Catchafire’s origins was incredibly informative and will serve me well in my role as a Service Officer communicating Catchafire’s value to organizations. Paraphrasing something that Rachael and Thomas both touched on: the value in Catchafire’s service is that our organization builds on three pillars: commitment, quality, and the follow-through of a match with a talented pro bono professional. In conversation with Thomas, I also liked what I heard about the Catchafire community and the importance of providing for the needs of nonprofit organizations. To a potential new member, “Our goal to help your organization build capacity but, as a member of the Catchafire community, you have the opportunity to build lasting, meaningful relationships with like-minded orgs and individuals.”

Brainstorming and Finding my Bearings

The meta-conversations about vision, mission, personality, and pitch are solidifying my understanding of a Service Officer’s role. In addition to providing sound advice and a quality product, it’s important to communicate Catchafire’s mission – to provide a rising tide that will lift all social good boats… a way to improve and supercharge the social good sector by making volunteerism something that is normal, enjoyable, effective, impactful, infectious.

I’m ready to start failing… and more importantly to start succeeding at everything I’ve learned thus far. I’m also bursting with ideas to share with team. It’s going to be fantastically fun.

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Chris Chavez is a Service Officer at Catchafire. Prior to joining Catchafire, Chris worked with the Fiver Children’s Foundation supervising communications, development, and programming projects to inspire at-risk children to make positive life choices. Chris holds a degree in International Relations from Vesalius College at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel and an M.Litt in International Relations from the University of St Andrews.  

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