30 Days of Gratitude at JVA Consulting

by Janine Vanderburg

Since Oprah introduced the idea that expressing gratitude could result in positive effects, I’ve been interested in the notion of writing down things and experiences for which I am grateful. That there is science behind it makes it even more interesting.

Groups have emerged promoting 30 Days of Gratitude, both on the web and on Facebook. The general idea is to write something that you are grateful for, each day for 30 days. But in the midst of a hectic year of burning through tons of work and daily task lists (yes, something to be grateful for), it’s hard to find time to reflect on the terrific opportunities we have and the amazing people we get to work with.

Thanksgiving gives us time to do that, and here is my (maybe 30 days worth or not, and not necessarily in any order) list of what I’m grateful for in 2011 related to JVA Consulting:

1. Getting to work behind the scenes with leaders on the ground on so many vital community issues, including in the last year, hunger, homelessness, education reform, early childhood education, health care and jobs creation.

Women's Affinity Group at Social Enterprise Summit

Women in Social Enterprise Affinity Group

2. The vision of people like La Clinica Tepeyac’s Jim Garcia and the Center for Working Families’ David Jackson, who embody Robert Kennedy’s famous phrase: I dream things that never were and say why not.

3. Watching two long-time projects take flight.

  • The successful launch of Boomers Leading Change in Health, the culmination of our work with Rose Community Foundation doing a community assessment, community facilitation, business planning and grantwriting to secure seed funding.
  • The opening of the Justo Gonzales Center at Asbury Seminary in October, the culmination of JVA’s work with the Association for the Education of Hispanic Theologians board to reinvent the organization through a comprehensive business planning process.

4. Our amazing interns this year. Thank you Heather Sedbrook, Jesse Page Adams and Regina Pallacio.

5. Winning the Civic Ventures Launch Pad award for my idea to train retired and unemployed boomers with sales backgrounds as nonprofit fundraisers.

6. Living in Colorado. I did multiple business trips during the year, especially this fall and the fact that I only use my umbrella when I’m headed out of town reminds me how fortunate I am to live in a state with 300 days of sunshine.

7. Having clients in interesting and fun places. Business travel is fun when you are going to Aspen, Telluride, San Francisco, Marin County, Chicago, etc.

8. Nancy Zuercher’s return from maternity leave. We missed her terribly.

9. The increasing number of clients who are embracing the idea that a 2-3 page strategic framework that gets everyone in their organization aligned is better than the old style 50 page, 5-year strategic plan with goals and objectives

10. The view from our office. We’re across the street from Denver’s Sloan Lake, with a terrific view of the downtown Denver skyline. The view of the sun rising over downtown and sparkling over the lake is simply stunning. And we can walk around Sloan’s Lake when we need a break.

11. Clients who are also friends, mentors and mentees. You know who you are 🙂

12. The new additions in 2011 to JVA’s amazing team:

  • Katie McCune, Associate specializing in qualitative research, who has tackled just about everything successfully in her first year at JVA, including writing a federal grant that brought significant funding to Denver’s native community for a health insurance enrollment project.
  • Stella Carrasco, our Administrative/Training Coordinator, whose perpetual positivity brings joy to our staff and clients. There isn’t a day that goes by at JVA when someone doesn’t ask: What did we do before Stella was here? Thank you, Jay Grimm, for sending Stella in our direction!
  • Amber Alarid, our Marketing/Communications Coordinator. The former editor of Regis University’s student paper, Amber joined us as an intern in her last semester of school. Her creativity has already generated a lot of new ideas, including the Ask Amber column, featuring job advice for young professionals just joining the labor market.
  • Robert Jakubowski, who brings a terrific blend of quantitative smarts and passion for helping our clients understand data and how data can help increase your connection to your members, volunteers, donors and the larger community.
  • Sarah Hidey, whose enthusiasm and “can-do” attitude is infectious. Whether it’s the major grants she works on, or social enterprise, Sarah always makes those around her feel that they can in fact change the world.
  • Christy Bergman, who had to fill apparently unfillable shoes, and has brought her quiet polish and grace as well as her deep understanding of starting and scaling nonprofits to her role as JVA’s Business Development Manager.

13. Wendy Silveira-Steinway, our Recruitment and HR manager, whose incredible gift and talent is to be given a list (by me or by our clients) of attributes desired, and to oversee a recruiting process that produces just the right candidate. Thank you, Wendy! Our amazing team is here because of your efforts.

14. The rest of the JVA team, whose daily commitment and passion for our clients and changing the world manifests itself in so many ways. Thank you Ashley, Nancy, Julia, Dee, Lisa, Marshall, Lydia, Lorna, Collin, Brett, Katy for all that you do every day. A special thanks to Julia for taking over the evaluation team while Nancy was out and for your leadership on the City of Denver contract.

15. Everyone on the JVA team for demonstrating without a doubt this year that large grants could be awarded in Colorado, despite a federal propensity for making awards to large urban areas on the east coast. Lisa’s grant of $17 million for Colorado’s community colleges topped the list.

16. Appreciation that many of our JVA alumni have gone on to do amazing things, all still connected to changing the world. It was great to spend time with both Cori Underhill (JVA’s first employee) and Christine Marquez-Hudson (who led JVA’s capacity building initiatives for years) this fall. And thank you to former JVAer Guadalupe Torres, who became executive director of the Colorado Ovarian Cancer Alliance within the last year and continues to share her wisdom with all of us and our executive directors.

17. Getting to work with my husband every day. Yes, really.

18. Increased funder/grantor interest in outcomes and evaluation. We facilitated sessions on this topic for our friends at Aspen Community Foundation and Telluride Foundation, and The Children’s Hospital and the Colorado Department of Transportation engaged us to provide intensive evaluation training for specific groups of program grantees.

19. Increased client appreciation of the fact that we can do a better job for them—and sometimes demonstrate that they save money—if we have meetings to jointly design projects instead of simply responding to RFPs.

20. The successful launch of Executive Director Breakfast Club.

21. The comments that clients share in our client satisfaction surveys. I love the fact that we have clients who cared enough to tell us in the last year that we needed more vegetarian options in our lunches for daylong trainings, for example.

22. Presenting at, and participating in, the 2011 Social Enterprise Summit. The over 70 people in the Navigating into Social Enterprise session that I facilitated. The women I met who formed a Women in Social Enterprise Affinity group. The simple inspiration of an intensive 5 days spent with over 500 people who live and breathe the same stuff I do.

23. The increased sophistication of social enterprise and its products. Now you can buy social enterprise products online and you don’t have to apologize for giving them as gifts. The product quality, packaging and distribution is as much a part of the value proposition as is the mission of the organization.

24. That efforts like Occupy Wall Street are forcing public attention on what those of us on Nonprofit Street are seeing every day: That there are structural and systemic impediments to the American Dream.

25. The inspiration that we gain from working with nonprofit clients like Hunger Free Colorado, who refuse to see systemic impediments as insurmountable barriers.

26. The terrific feeling that results when work that we are doing as JVA Consulting (e.g., writing grant proposals for Denver Public Schools) directly benefits the kids in my community (e.g., the award of a GEAR UP grant which will help over 1,000 kids who attend schools in my northwest Denver neighborhood get on the track to college).

27. The interesting people I meet every day who are inventing new business models for institutions that are vital to our democracy like newspapers, public education and public libraries.

28. As part of my work, essentially getting paid to read books I would read anyway on issues, policies, new ways of doing things.

29. The bloggers who inspire me and help me help our clients every day with their interesting ideas and concepts. While I follow many, my never misses are: Digital Tonto, Innovation Excellence, and Nonprofit Marketing Guide.

30. Getting to live out our company tag line every day: You still believe one person can change the world. So does JVA. And we can help you do it.

Happy Thanksgiving to ALL OF YOU!

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5 Responses to 30 Days of Gratitude at JVA Consulting

  1. Beautiful! Thanks for allowing me to appreciate your process. Happy Thanksgiving!

  2. Thanks, Annie! We’re inspired by your work.

  3. Osei May says:

    Very inspiring! Thank you Janine for sharing your reflections of a year’s worth of thankfulness and satisfaction through your work experiences.

  4. jvaconsulting says:

    Osei, thanks! We have a great team and great clients doing important work—it’s a lot to be thankful for.

  5. Guadalupe Torres says:

    Thank you Janine for your thoughtful note sharing your gratitude. I love the work that JVA does — it was an honor to work with such an amazing team and for such wonderful clients! – I am grateful and appreciative of your mentorship and support!

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