Frequently asked questions

Meeting conducted by Barbara Wyckoff

One of the final meetings of the six-month leadership training program Barbara conducted with the National Network of Forest Practitioners.

Q: I am new at this Executive Director thing. I’ve never managed a staff like this or a budget this big. Sometimes I feel so on my own. Do you offer any kind of support?

A: I have over 15 years experience working with small, community-based organizations, mostly in rural areas. I come from a rural background and have a first-hand understanding of the challenges and opportunities you face. I am a certified coach/mentor able to guide and support you as you manage your organization and grow, both professionally and personally. I have a talent for seeing your strengths and under-developed skills and will help you develop these as you move from strong to superb. I will tell you the hard truth.

Q: As Executive Director, I can see that our community needs help in so many areas. We are getting pulled in so many directions; it is difficult to know whether we are doing the “right” things. How do I know we are on the right course?

A: I understand the realities of being part of a community—and perhaps the only local organization working on these issues—and the need to focus your work to have the greatest impact, while being responsive to community needs. I know how to develop a strategic plan for an entrepreneurial organization such as yours. You need a strategic plan that sets the parameters for your response to a mixture of opportunities and challenges, many of which you can’t foresee. Your plan will clearly outline the lens through which all opportunities must be assessed. It creates the possibility for your organization to engage demands—even setbacks and mistakes—from the perspective of how they can serve the organization and its priorities and transforms every encounter into fuel for advancing the organization’s agenda. Your plan will also outline the actions you will need to take and the resources you’ll need to get there.

Q: We can’t do it all! As an overstretched nonprofit that is addressing complex problems, we need to partner with others—government agencies, businesses, and nonprofits—to get the job done. We need someone to work with our partnership that is neutral and brings in an outside perspective. We need help structuring our partnership and establishing procedures, finding common ground and planning for the long and short-term, and learning from our experiences and appreciating our differences.

A: I have spent most of my professional life brokering the space between different cultures and ways of doing things: whether in Africa, Asia or the United States, among European, African-American and Indigenous peoples, between rural and urban environments. I have worked with the private sector, federal and state agencies, rural communities, native peoples, and a number of collaboratives and partnerships. I can broker the space where all of these interests come together—and can identify where they don’t. I know the “how” of getting somewhere together: the structures, procedures, and the plans. But I also know what it takes to let go of old ways of thinking, to grasp new ones, and to know what to hold onto and cherish. I can facilitate the “Future Search” meeting technology. Working together, you will get the products you want in the timeframe you have set.

Supporting materials for workshop conducted by Barbara WyckoffQ: We’ve grown so fast, the old ways of doing things just aren’t enough. We need a way to figure out what we have, what is missing, and what to do next. What do we need to do?

A: I can hold the big picture of the organization and can see how all the pieces fit together. I will work with all of the organization so you can get a handle on where you are and where you want to go, so you manage the growth process, rather than it managing you. I have a gift for getting staff to let down their guard and ensuring all viewpoints are heard and respected. I have developed and used a self-assessment tool, “Benchmarking Your Organization’s Change.” You will walk away with a clear sense of next steps and what to do first.

Q: We need to work better as a team to accomplish the work. As a rural organization, we have worked hard to identify and engage the best resources in our community: our staff. We know we have the right people, but we don’t know if everyone is doing the “right” work. We want to make sure we are using everyone’s interests and skills to the fullest and provide professional and personal development opportunities.

A: I use a tool, “Aligning the Stars,” to match the work to the person, rather than the person to the work, or pre-set job description. This is essential for rural organizations which don’t have access to an endless pool of qualified individuals. I quickly connect to each individual and identify and nurture their strengths. I draw on my understanding of Myers-Briggs Personality Type to help build team work, strengthen internal communications, and appreciate differences. I am an expert at building bridges for people of different cultures. Working together, you and your staff will change the way you work, so that everyone is building on their strengths and their hearts.

Q: The board members and I aren’t sure where they end and where I begin. We need help to clarify our roles and responsibilities. We also need help in identifying and thinking through the big decisions that will lay a foundation and guide this organization well into the future. Do you do Board trainings?

A: I have worked with and trained Board members and Executive Directors from over 40 organizations just like yours. When I work with you, I bring not only my experience, but also the experience and solutions from all of those individuals. I offer a number of tried and true tools, many of which you can pursue on your own after I have finished.

Flipchart from workshopQ: We are pouring our heart and soul into this work, not to mention our community’s time and dollars. We need a way to know if we are having the impacts we want to achieve. We need to know how our work is going as we do it so we can make mid-course adjustments as necessary. Can you help us monitor and evaluate our programs?

A: I have worked with grassroots groups with limited resources to design and implement monitoring programs using community indicators of success and easily accessible data. I design and facilitate learning meetings using appreciative inquiry that focus on mid-course adjustments. I have completed program impact evaluations using focus groups, individual interviews and case studies.

Q: As a foundation Program Officer, I want to make grants to the rural sector, but don’t know how. I don’t have experience working with this constituency and I don’t come from a rural background. Logistical issues and distances make it difficult, time consuming, and costly for me to oversee my grants. As far as I can see, rural organizations lack the capacity needed to implement the grants I make.

A: I can effectively negotiate the space between foundations and their rural grantees. I have an understanding of both worlds. I can easily establish working relationships and build trust with grantees and am able to “translate” the foundation’s points of view and requirements. For the foundation, I have an intimate knowledge of the grantee and am able to share information that might jeopardize the foundation’s program, without jeopardizing confidentiality or the relationship with the grantee. I offer training and support needed to build the capacity of rural grantees in a way that meets their needs and makes sense to them.

Q: As a foundation Program Officer, I need help understanding the issues, needs, and organizations of the sustainable economies sector. I know I want to invest, but don’t know where or how. I want help managing my portfolio so all of my grants add up to more than the sum of the parts.

A: I use a systems approach to understanding and promoting sustainable rural economies, including focus on the triple bottom line: social, economic, and ecological. I engage and build bridges across diverse sectors, engaging new organizations and constituencies who previously didn’t see their connection. I use focus groups and case studies to tell the story and make recommendations for investments. I hold the big picture of the whole grant portfolio and can draw out lessons learned from across sites. I wrote a book on the lessons learned by the Ford Foundation on community-based forestry.

Barbara Wyckoff leading workshop at CAP meeting

  • “Barbara gave our staff the skills to identify their strengths, fit the task to the person, and honor each other. She gave our board the freedom to dream and the guidance to create a strategy to realize their vision of health for our community and forestlands.”

    Lynn Jungwirth, Executive Director, Watershed Research and Training Center

  • Top two photos
    © Pradeep Edussuriya,
    People + Land Media