Better Than Most is a regular feature of The Business of Giving, examining the best places to work among social good businesses and nonprofit organizations.
Denver: One of the best nonprofit organizations headquartered in Philadelphia is Springboard Collaborative. What they do is close the literacy gap by closing the gap between home and school. And the team there truly enjoys and is fulfilled by what they do as you will hear starting with their President, Aubrey White.
Aubrey White: I wanted to talk about communication and Asana. I love communicating with the team in Asana because at the end of the day, I honestly cannot remember if we had a spoken conversation or if we were corresponding via the comments in our project management software in Asana because it’s so fluid and it’s so seamless that my brain literally records it as if it was a face-to-face conversation. And I love that! And I love if I’d had a really busy day full of meetings, at the end of the day, I can sit down and I can read that, and it’s like I was right there in the conversation that others were having and it makes me feel really connected to the team. So that’s really important to me.
Alexander Stone: And when we go there we say, “Hey, I’m from Springboard Collaborative.” People are like, “Oh, welcome. We’ve heard such wonderful things about you.” So that’s one of the things that makes me most proud to work here is that no matter where we go, we’re always welcome.
Alanna DiGioia: One of my favorite things about working at Springboard is the buddy system that we have. So when you begin working here, you are assigned a buddy. That person isn’t necessarily somebody that you work very closely with, it’s just somebody who is good at talking and supporting somebody. My buddy is really wonderful. We meet every single week for about 30 minutes, and it’s just an opportunity to wind down from a busy week or rant about something…not usually, don’t worry.
Keo Chea-Young: But I do feel that there’s plenty of opportunities to collaborate with one another, not just in person. Many of us work remotely and we’re able to use tools and systems that really promote the collaboration. So that we’re not just working in silos in a document but that we’re really interacting around the same document.
Kendall LaParo: The one thing I would say that makes working at Springboard unique is that everyone who works here has a thirst for feedback that I’ve never seen before in any other organization. I would say that it’s something that is very much modeled by our leadership.
You have the opportunity once a month or so to list two things you’re doing well and two things you could improve and then also two things your manager’s doing well and two things your manager could improve, and then the manager does the same thing for you. You get this very formal opportunity to give critical and constructive feedback.
Jana Norris Oliver: We have a book club. Within a couple of weeks, maybe even less than that — I’m one of the newer ones — I was already expected to contribute to make a choice for a book club book. So that was different. I’ve been in the workforce for a long time. That was different from anywhere that I’ve ever worked, I think. Just that sense of, “Yeah. You’re in this now.” There’s not a lot of sitting and waiting and wading. There’s not a lot of sitting in the kiddie end of the pool. You just jump right in there, but in a good way.
Alexander Stone: I think silos are important. I think it’s a place where things are stored. I think it’s imperative that we know where we can go, and it’s transparent. Do they exist? Yes, they do. But we don’t break them down; we use them to build ourselves up.
Alanna DiGioia: Half of my job is just thinking about things. I think that’s also a really important part of our culture. Everybody is very purposeful and intentional in their work. There’s never a project that is just being done because everything has a really important purpose. I think that it’s really great that it feels like we’re always on the same page about what our mission is.
Lila Karosic: I think when you’re checking in with your supervisor or your supervisor is checking in with you, you’re able to read the pulse of the organization a little more and more frequently. It’s just something that is honored very well here. We’ve made it a priority between us to make sure we have those check-ins, and that, overall, meetings so far that I have seen have been honored and showed up to, and that’s important.
Rukiya Ross: We’re giving people much more time to learn and grow. We’ve also implemented more chances to check in, so we can get that feedback from them earlier on. We have the buddy checks-in, weekly I think it is. HR checks in every two weeks. We’ve got all these processes in place now, so that we can make sure that when we’re bringing in new people, they are equipped to do their jobs.
The formal onboarding process is 10 days. It’s the first two weeks of their employment. We continue going back to that because we think onboarding takes much longer.
Keo Chea-Young: What’s interesting to me has always been the qualitative pieces of feedback. When I am able to carve out times in my own work to talk to people, that’s when I feel really connected to the mission. It’s not like we come here during national team meeting every week and we chant some sort of mantra. We don’t do that. That’s not effective, right? But when we are intentional about reaching out to people in the field who’s being impacted by the work, that’s when I feel most connected to the mission.
Aubrey White: You asked about conflict and part of our onboarding is that every team member, we purchase for them the book Crucial Conversations, and part of the onboarding is familiarizing yourself with those principles. Alejandro and I try to take that really seriously. Alejandro and I try to take that really seriously. When he and I have conflict, I will even pull out the book, and I will script out what I’m going to say to him based on that, and it’s always wonderful.
Jana Norris Oliver: I’m pretty sure if I didn’t cry, I almost cried when I learned that there’s really no such thing as sick time. If you’re sick, you’re sick. There’s no sick day bank. Coming from teaching where when you’re a teacher, the guilt involved in taking just one day, half-a-day off, it’s overwhelming. It’s quite a relief. It just speaks to the value that Springboard places on the human. We are all human. We all get sick.
Alexander Stone: The idea is to coach you up and not coach you out. So you’re given the opportunity to learn what you need to do better and then you’re given the support, not just by the individuals that have given you the feedback but by the entire team.
Aubrey White: All around the office, we have candy and slinkies. The slinkies are great for fidgeting and the candy is great anytime.
Kendall LaParo: We have a very strong children’s book culture here, which is obvious because of the work that we do, but we also have a Harry Potter subculture, that we have proportionally more Harry Potter fans that I’ve ever seen in any one room in my life. We could beat anyone at Harry Potter trivia as a group.
Denver: I want to thank all those who participated in this segment: Alexander Stone, Alanna DiGoia, Lila Karosic, Rukiya Ross, Keo Chea-Young, Kendall LaParo, Jana Norris Oliver, and Aubrey White. If you’d like to hear this again, read the transcript and see pictures of the participants in the Springboard Collaborative offices, just come visit denver-frederick.com and they’ll be there waiting for you.
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