Seattle Works

A blog that documents all things Seattle Works…and much much more!

Talking Sustainability in LA February 28, 2013

Filed under: Grab bag — seattleworks @ 5:30 pm

HONRAM2When Karen Baker, California Secretary of Service and Volunteering, stepped up to the podium to address affiliates of the HandsOn Network about sustainability last week in Los Angeles, she’d just stepped off a plane after a day-long travel ordeal involving a lost ID, airport security and a broken plane. Seattle Works was in the crowd  as she explained how her exhausting day led to a revelation about how nonprofit organizations thrive in an increasingly competitive and underfunded world:

Always have your ID–and make sure you have working equipment.

But let’s back up a second–what brought a bunch of us to a hotel conference room in Los Angeles in the first place? Seattle Works is part of the HandsOn Network, a group of over 250 organizations worldwide that mobilize volunteers to create change in their communities. Twice a year, we have the chance to meet with other affiliates of the Network to talk hear about each others’ work and talk shop for a few days.

This time around, the theme was sustainability. Which brings us back to IDs and working equipment. What was Karen’s take on how our organizations can thrive in an increasingly strapped sector?

  • Bring your ID: be clear about who you are and what you offer–and make sure that it speaks to the community you serve. Build your reputation and don’t be afraid to show it off.
  • Make sure your equipment works: build relationships with the organizations in your community and the people you serve because they will give you access and legitimacy. Invest in the things and relationships that will make your organization work in the long-run.

As a network of organizations in the business of connecting, Karen also reminded us of the unique role we play, “We see the resources and see the challenges–and we are the matchmakers.”

At the end of the day, above all, she urged us to remember, “This should be fun!”



Five reasons to get excited about CommonWealth

Filed under: CommonWealth,Innovation Hub,Invest — seattleworks @ 4:46 pm

We just can’t hold it in any longer–we’re so excited to launch our newest program, CommonWealth next week! What are we so psyched about and why do we think you should sign up? Well, here’s our Top 5 list:

1. We’re bringing some great brains to the table. We’ve invited facilitators from Seattle Foundation, Pride Foundation and Social Venture Partners to lead our first two sessions–and in true Seattle Works style, we’ve handpicked a crew to steer our CommonWealth ship that knows it’s possible to make an impact and have fun.

2. You’re going to learn–a lot. Of course we’re packing our trainings full of information that will make you a smarter donor, but our sessions will also teach you a lot about you and your teammates–what do you care about most? How do your values influence your giving? How do 10 people make a big decision, together? It’ll be hands-on and driven by what matters to you.

3. And you’ll probably learn from each other. We’re bringing in great facilitators, yes, but CommonWealth is largely about starting conversations with each other. What happens when 10-15 20- and 30-somethings put their heads and wallets together? An experiment in teambuilding that will lead you to a new network of people who care about the things you love.

4. Interested in education and youth? Have we got the panel for you. We’re kicking off CommonWealth with a conversation with local experts working in the field–we’ve got panelists from SOAR, New Futures and Aki Kurose Middle School ready to talk with you about some of the biggest issues facing schools, students and youth in our hometown.

5. This is your chance to be a part of something BIG. We know $250 is a big ask–but we also know the payoff is even bigger. When else have you had a chance to have a say in where thousands of dollars end up in your community? We challenge you to make the commitment.

Do we have you convinced? Sign up today! Our first session is Wed March 6 from 6-9pm at the Seattle Works office.

Questions? Contact Katie Tiehen at

See you March 6!


“Board membership isn’t as scary as I thought!” February 27, 2013

Filed under: Bridge Partners,The Bridge — seattleworks @ 3:51 pm

Among all their busy-ness, some Microsoft employees took the day yesterday to learn about nonprofit board service in The Bridge. It was a jam-packed day of training, but the participants walked away with a better understanding of what is expected of board members. Jake Groshing, Founder & Executive Director of Balagan Theatre, lead the group through the overview of the nonprofit sector; followed by financial and legal responsibilities with Nathan Hartman, Partner at Peterson Sullivan LLP. Next we took a breather by having a quick board service Q&A panel. After lunch, Sergey Smirnov, Advancement Associate at Hamilin Robinson School, put the participants’ minds at ease when dealing with fundraising. And finally, Mike Quinn from Social Venture Partners provided some cultural differences between Microsoft and the nonprofit world.

We asked participants to tell us what their most significant takeaway was from The Bridge, check out what they told us:

  • I need to do my homework and find the right fit of an organization.
  • The connections made in the classroom.
  • Better context and understanding for opportunities to serve as board member for a nonprofit.
  • Board membership isn’t as scary as I thought!
  • End to end overview of what it means/takes to be an effective board member. Thanks!
  • There are a lot of people who want to do more in their community.
  • Demystified the process, reasons, research to be done before getting involved and while serving on a board.
  • Really liked hearing from the panel about their experiences. Also found the Microsoft in the Nonprofit World helpful in explaining what to expect and how to prepare.
  • Look before you leap – make sure the nonprofit is healthy and a good fit.

If you’d like to find out how to get The Bridge to come to your company, contact


Sarah McCrum Voelzke loves a good microbrew February 25, 2013

Filed under: 10 Question Profile — seattleworks @ 7:00 am

1. Name: Sarah McCrum Voelzke

    Neighborhood: Queen Anne

    Years in Seattle: 17

    Occupation: Banking for Nonprofits

2. Where is your favorite place to go in Seattle?

Discovery Park 

3. Your first interaction with Seattle Works was…?

My boss suggested I take the Bridge Program. A year later, I volunteered to teach [as a Bridge faculty member].

4. What’s the best meal you’ve eaten in the Seattle area?

Not quite a meal, but I love a good microbrew.

5. Are you involved with any other Seattle nonprofit organizations?

I’m on the board with Springwire (formerly Community Voice Mail) and am an active member of the Junior League of Seattle.  When time allows, I volunteer with Operation Nightwatch.

6. Which coffee shop do you most frequent?

I’m pretty good about making a pot at home. Starbucks is my number two…it’s so easy with the silly gold card!

7. What three words best describe your experience with Seattle Works?

Educational, Collaborative, Fun

8. Mariners, Sounders, or Seahawks?

Since my husband has season tickets to the M’s, it’s the Mariners.

9.  What is your most (or first) memorable volunteer experience?

 When I was 12 years old my dad took me to Nicaragua for a 2 week optometic medical mission.  For the first time I felt what hard but incredibly rewarding volunteer work felt like.  18 years later, my dad and I led a trip to Ecuador and saw 1000 people in 3 days. Amazing!

10. What makes someone a Seattleite?

 Someone is truly a Seattleite when they look forward to gray rainy days and when they find a cause they are passionate about.



This weekly 10 question profile is Seattle Works way of highlighting and saying THANK YOU to all that our volunteers, leaders, community partners, board members, committee members, etc do for our community! We’re asking the same 10 questions to various Seattle Works participants as a fun way to feature the different ways to be involved with Seattle Works and in Seattle.

Want to be profiled? Fill out this survey: and send a photo to yourself to Bevin at

P.S. In case you’re interested, the inspiration behind these interviews comes from NY Mag’s weekly blog post.


Michelle Rhee talks education reform February 23, 2013

Filed under: Grab bag — seattleworks @ 11:14 am

Michelle Rhee came to Seattle on the 19th for a conversation led by Blair Taylor, Chief Community Officer for Starbucks. The event was sponsored by the great folks at City Club, the Seattle Public Library Foundation, and Elliot Bay Book Company. Michelle Rhee runs Student First and is very well known from her time as Chancellor of the DC school district and has recently come out with a new book.

At Seattle Works we’re passionate about education- in fact the first round of CommonWealth is focused on education. Rhee is a controversial figure and we enjoy hearing all sides of the conversation- so off to town hall I went. A crowd of protestors was also in attendance and the hall was completely packed.

Rhee started by talking about her background- as a teacher in inner-city Baltimore she said “literally the experience I had there changed my entire career trajectory”. Rhee was a member of Teach For America and then went on to get her Masters in Public Policy from Harvard. But soon the excellent moderator Mr. Taylor asked the question “Some people say Michelle is anti-teacher. How do you respond?” and the conversation really got started.

Rhee pointed to her accomplishments in taking teachers in the DC area from some of the lowest paid in the region to the highest and said “I have an extraordinary amount of faith in the powers teachers have.” She agreed they needed job protection but argued that “bad teachers should not be protected.”

She also argued that our focus on making children feel good instead of making them good is damaging and cited contrasting attitudes at the school she attended in South Korea. Several times she strongly emphasized that regardless of a child’s background they can succeed depending on the teacher and that high expectations needed to be set all around.

Of course at the end of the night both the protestors and Michelle Rhee want a bright educational future for our nation’s children – they just see different ways of getting to that goal. As my companion remarked to me on the walk home, we can’t agree on a metric to see what a high performing teacher is. I immediately thought back to Beth Kanter’s recent event and the importance of data and transparency in order to be effective.

What are ways you think are effective to measure teachers? Where do you think the balance is between protecting the jobs of teachers and only having high performing teachers in schools?


New Round of Team Works Comes with Awesome New Stories February 22, 2013

Filed under: Team Works,Volunteer — seattleworks @ 12:11 pm

The first project of the Feb-May Team Works round was Sat 2/9 10am-2pm. 16 teams, 16 organizations and over 160 volunteers later – we get to hear the awesome stories!

Now, I’m always excited to hear how hard the teams worked and how much fun they had – but I love stories even more when there are pictures involved. Woo-hoo to the teams who take a few minutes to snap a few photos!

I checked in with Team Captains, and here’s the awesome things I heard:

– “The event [at Nature Consortium] went well – we lucked out on the weather and, although not sunny, it didn’t rain. Everyone who came had a great time!” Team The Do Somethings

– “Overall, the project [at United Indians Youth Home] went well – there was plenty of work to do, they provided all the materials necessary, etc.  I would definitely do another project there given the opportunity.” Team Oh So Dirty 30s

– “Operation Nightwatch went very well! This organization is really organized and the coordinator Christine was just outstanding. She was really dedicated to helping the tenants and took a lot of time to tell us about the impact of our work. I would definitely recommend working with this organization.” Team In Living Color

– “ROOTS was the perfect first project because Leah had us working on newsletters the whole time which involved us all sitting together at tables while we worked. It made it really easy to chat and get to know each other. And after a brief lunch break, we scrambled the tables. Couldn’t be happier with it so far!” Team Sporty Smart-Asses

– “The event [at Pickering Barn Learning Garden] went really well. The team was able to lay a whole path of gravel and do some pruning. Everyone seemed to have a really good time. The team is trying to hang out prior to the next project – we are all enjoying getting to know everyone.” Team The Do-Gooders

Team Beer View Mirrors started the round at the Rainier Valley Cultural Center. They blogged about their great experience: “Located in the center of Columbia City, just south of Seattle, the Rainier Valley Cultural Center serves the community by providing a space for theatre, music, workshops and other events throughout the year. Rich and Francisca are stewards of the old and historical building, and help bring the community together. We had the chance to work with them this month by helping the place get ready for Spring!”

Keep up the great work, teams! Till next month.


Networking Among Volunteer Leaders February 19, 2013

We pride ourselves on training Seattle’s next generation of community leaders. We do this through several different programs, including The Bridge and HandsOn Leadership. Each year, Seattle Works trains over 200 people to be volunteer leaders in the community – and now we’re taking it to the next level.

We are excited to announce our new alumni network: 


Why are we doing this?

Past Seattle Works participants are valuable assets to our organization and can serve as a helpful resource to one another for those currently participating in our training programs. Seattle Works will cultivate these relationships and facilitate mentorship opportunities.

How will it work?

As participants go through our training programs, or lead through Team Works or Hot Projects there will be more focus on creating a cohort of leaders. Each cohort then will become their own circle within LeadNOW. Our hope is that each circle will then stay in touch with each other, help each other with issues they are facing in their leadership development and serve as resources to one another. We’ll also have a few circles in place that will be interest area focused for members to join; this could include fundraising, finances or transition to executive committee.

What will LeadNOW offer?

Under LeadNOW, we will host several events throughout the year:

  • LeaderSip – monthly happy hour events featuring different discussion topics
  • Pop-up leadership forums & workshops
  • Online forums through LinkedIn
  • Lecture series focusing on nonprofit leadership, governance and volunteerism
  • And much more…

What do I have to do to be a member?

LeadNOW membership is simple:

  • Be a graduate of The Bridge or HandsOn Leadership; or,
  • Be a past or present Team Captain or Project Coordinator; and
  • Yearly membership fee of only $50

What are the benefits of membership? 

  • Access to exclusive online forums & resources
  • Invitations to all LeadNOW events; plus one event for free!
  • Access to a wide network of individuals who are making an impact in their community
  • Make new friends and connections
  • A community to go to for growth & development
  • Opportunities to join different circles within the network

Stay tuned for more information about when we will have the first LeaderSip!

To learn more or ask any questions, email