Archive for November, 2009

FountainBlue’s When She Speaks Event: Corporate Women on NonProfit Boards

November 17, 2009

FountainBlue’s November 13 When She Speaks, Women in Leadership Series event was on the topic of Corporate Women on Nonprofit Boards and featured:

• Facilitator Wendy Beecham, CEO, FWE&E
• Panelist Pamela E. Evans, Director, Executive Programs, NetApp
• Panelist Cecily Joseph, Director, Corporate Responsibility, Legal and Public Affairs, Symantec
• Panelist Marilyn Nagel, Chief Diversity Officer, Cisco
• Panelist Keren Pavese, Program Manager, Western Division Office of Sustainability, Community Outreach & Diversity Councils, EMC Corporation

Below are notes from our conversation.
Our panel emphasized that serving on nonprofit boards actually benefits them personally and professionally, provided that the board and 1) the cause is something they feel passionate about, 2) the people are people you enjoy serving with, 3) the projects are engaging, fulfilling, and require your support, and 4) the workload and expectations are manageable. Indeed, each panelist emphasized how serving on nonprofit boards helped them with enhance their professional knowledge and understand and even impact industry trends, with their community outreach goals, working in alignment with corporate objectives, and with their personal development, providing enriching experiences which stretches expertise and perspective.

If you’re considering joining a board, he key to a successful nonprofit board experience is to be strategic about which board is right for you. Start by understanding what you’re passionate about and where you might contribute. Think also about what you get back by serving, whether it’s connections or expertise or knowledge for example. Then, before making a board commitment, you may want to consider doing some volunteer work and getting to know the people involved. Remember that you are not just evaluating the leader or any individual, but the whole organization as a system, so things like how the staff and executive director and board members get along is a very important thing to consider.

Be also knowledgeable about responsibilities and expectations and terms, particularly when it comes to legal (do they have insurance for board members for example) and fiduciary and fundraising/development requirements (are their finances secure and transparent, are you required to contribute and fundraise and if so, how much) and terms of service (how long, how often). Treat the nonprofit board position evaluation like a job interview, and have both parties evaluate the fit before making a commitment.

If you are considering transferring from the corporate world to the nonprofit world, follow some of the strategies above, including identifying your skills and passion and getting to know the organization and its alignment with your objectives and your alignment to theirs. Although salaries are smaller, titles can be bigger, and the work may be more fulfilling in many ways.

Sometimes, board participation is in alignment with day-to-day work duties, and is part of your responsibilities in your role. Even when it’s not, board participation might be positive included in performance review meetings, particularly when direct results such as skills enhancement, partnership development, and other tangible results are outcomes from that participation.

If you DO decide to join a board, make sure that you do the ‘give/get’, know what you’re giving and what you’re getting, and know also when to ‘get out’, change your commitment if necessary to ensure that all parties continue to meet objectives. If you are unsatisfied with your participation on a board, consider also asking to change or enhance your role and contribution, or toning down time and task requirements before deciding to get out entirely. If you DO decide to leave, work with your nonprofit to recruit a replacement.

The panel concluded by reiterating how personally and professionally fulfilling it is to serve on nonprofit boards, and encourage others to evaluate for themselves whether this is also a good option for them.

Resources:
• Nonprofit Board Basics, from a workshop provided by Cisco, generously shared by Cisco: http://www.cisco.com/web/about/ac49/ac55/Nonprofit_Board_Basics_2009_11_10b.pdf
• If you’re seeking a board position, visit Boardnet USA http://www.boardnetusa.org/public/home.asp and search for a nonprofit match for someone with your skill set, education and interest.
• The Young, Nonprofit Professionals Network has a list of nonprofit resources which may be useful for those looking at going into the nonprofit sector. http://208.106.176.241/resources/ResourceLinks.asp
• CompassPoint in Milpitas which provides a range of services for nonprofit organizations http://www.compasspoint.org
• Foundation Center in San Francisco, which has a directory of foundations online http://www.foundationcenter.org
• Pamela Evans of NetApp has graciously offered to share information about board roles and board responsibilities. Please send an e-mail to info@whenshespeaks.com regarding why you need this information and I would be happy to share it with you.

For more information about our series, visit http://www.whenshespeaks.com.

Our notes are copyrighted by FountainBlue for 2006-2010. We welcome you to forward our notes to interested groups, provided that you copy us on your distribution, and that you provide acknowledgment to FountainBlue and our sponsors and speakers.

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FountainBlue’s Clean Energy Entrepreneurs’ Forum

November 5, 2009

FountainBlue’s November 2 Clean Energy Entrepreneurs’ Forum was on the topic of Financing Clean Energy Solutions and featured:

• Facilitator Ryan Murr, Partner, Goodwin Procter LLP
• Panelist Jessie Denver, San Jose Solar Program Coordinator, Environmental Services Department, City of San Jose
• Panelist Paul Detering, CEO, Tioga Energy
• Panelist Jeremy Panacheril, US Head Clean Tech and Renewable Energy, Strategic and Commercial Intelligence, KPMG
• Presenting Entrepreneur Lee Edward Colin, VP Business Development, Green Vehicles Inc.
• Presenting Entrepreneur Taber Smith, CEO, Focal Point Energy

Below are notes from our conversation.
An inordinate amount of energy and attention has been focused on clean energy investments and trends and potential. With the peaks and troughs of clean energy investment trends of VCs, policy-makers and others, it has been difficult to navigate the financing path and options, and difficult to develop and maintain the range of relationships – from investor to policy-maker to foundations – necessary to fund the development and deployment of clean energy solutions. Add to this mix the change in administration, both in terms of leaders and direction, and you have an unpredictable funding climate indeed.

This month’s panel provided the following advice on how to finance early-stage clean energy solutions:
• In today’s funding climate, be creative and resourceful and collaborative in getting as far as possible on minimal funds. Building a working prototype and proof of concept with a great team will position you and your company for financing.
• Collaborate with partners who can help you remove barriers to R&D and manufacturing, whether the barriers are with permitting, with the utilities, with development, with production, etc.
• Visionary local, state, national and international leaders want to work with entrepreneurs to remove barriers and build the industry. These policy-makers will impact whether a clean energy company gets financing, so understand who they are, what their motivations and objectives are, and build relationships with them at the local, state and federal level.
• Get creative about financing options working in collaboration with investors, policy-makers, intrapreneurs, grant-makers, and other potential funders.
• When working with policy-makers to secure financing, consider some of their ‘hot buttons’: job creation, advancing the industry overall, solutions providing public benefit, etc.

There was a separate question about how customers of clean energy solutions can fund these purchases, and the following advice was given on that front:

• If you’ve created enough of a robust solution where customers want it, and need help paying for it, it’s a good problem to have! But remember that you must partner with your customers so that they can pay for the solution in order to build traction for your company.
• The biggest barrier to adoption of clean energy solutions is the cost, and entrepreneurs must work with their customers so that they can assume that cost, particularly if it’s not a need-to-have solution, and if it costs more than the existing solution in the short term.
• Consider federal and local grant programs which would help homeowners fund clean energy solutions, particularly when grants and loans and subsidies are involved. However, don’t build your business plan relying on these types of programs, as your product or service must be sustainable on its own merits for the long term.
• Partners who can help with performance guarantees can incentivize customers to make a purchasing decision.
• Long-term loans, perhaps tied to property taxes which may transfer to new owners, may motivate customers to take the plunge and invest in your company’s product or service.

The panel added the following advice to entrepreneurs:
• The clean energy industry is garnering international attention, and stakeholders from around the world are motivated to drive the industry forward. The market potential is huge as the stakes are high, the demand keeps growing, and collaboration between stakeholders becomes key.
• Although you must factor in incentives and how they will impact your short-term revenue goals, be as market-driven as possible and create a sustainable business to your customers, and be as flexible and nimble as possible in responding to the changing needs of customers and markets.
• Drive to grid parity, where your clean energy product or service costs about the same as more traditional energy options including coal and oil and electricity, but until you get there, leverage subsidies, partnerships and incentives to help customers make a purchase decision in your direction.
• When working with policy-makers either financing your own company or helping customers to finance your solution, remember that each local, state and federal entity is different, with different policies, requirements, and standards for different reasons.
• Take a systemic view of the industry, rather than focusing on any single element. For example, look not at where we are limited in a natural resource such as lithium, but instead focus on how the lithium supply chain can be streamlined so that we can cost-efficiently deliver attractive grid-parity battery options for everything from automobiles to electronics.
• The clean energy industry is a feel-good industry – people want to make a difference and select clean green products and services. Leverage this inherent advantage as part of your strategy for securing funding for your company and financing options for your customers.
o Note that because it’s a feel-good industry, sometimes emotions can overly taint the perspective of entrepreneurs, policy-makers and investors alike, and bad business decisions may result.

The panel concluded by remarking on the overall size of the industry – and the huge market potential in so many clean energy sub-industries. With such a huge market, and so many stakeholders working at collaborating to advance the industry, there will be a lot of winners in each sub-category. It is the resourceful, collaborative, persistent entrepreneurs who will reap the benefits for this booming industry, and their customers who will also benefit from the product and service offerings.

Resources:
• For more information about incentives and policies for renewables and efficiency within the state of California, visit http://www.dsireusa.org/incentives/index.cfm?re=1&ee=1&spv=0&st=0&srp=1&state=CA.
• For more information about the Property Assessed Clean Energy PACE Bonds: Innovative Funding to Accelerate the Retrofitting of America’s Buildings for Energy Independence, visit http://www.pacenow.org.
• For more information about the City of San Jose’s green vision goals, visit http://www.sanjoseca.gov/mayor/goals/environment/GreenVision/GreenVision.asp.
• For more information about Focal Point Energy, visit http://focalpointenergy.com.
• For more information about Goodwin Procter’s clean energy publications and reports, visit http://www.goodwinprocter.com/Practices/Tech-Companies-and-Life-Sciences/Clean-Tech.aspx?tab=publications&pa={BD7EEF90-E784-440C-BD51-EF900B57AC6D}.
• For more information about Green Vehicles, visit http://www.greenvehicles.com.
• For more information about KPMG’s Living Green Annual Report, visit http://www.kpmgcampus.com/gonotes/2008livinggreen_annual_report.pdf.
• For more information about Tioga Energy, visit http://www.tiogaenergy.com.

Stimulating Conversation, Building Community, Nurturing Industry
At FountainBlue, we support transformative leadership, one conversation, one leader, one organization at a time. We hope that these particular notes stimulate conversation on a topic of common interest, build a community of connected stakeholders, and in general, advance business opportunities in this area.

Our notes are copyrighted by FountainBlue for 2006-2010. We welcome you to forward our notes to interested groups, provided that you copy us on your distribution, and that you provide acknowledgment to FountainBlue and our sponsors and speakers.