Having An Impact & Making A Difference For Community … Where Would We Be Without Our Nonprofits?

parciaOur Nonprofits play a critical role in the world we live in today. People in the community don’t realize how much they do and how that affects the quality of life for every one of us. They contribute so much.

Thus began this insightful and inspiring conversation with Porcia Chen Silverberg.

SVT: Where do you work and what do you do?

PCS: I am the Executive Director at Thrive – The Alliance of Nonprofits for San Mateo County

Thrive was established in 2000 by a group of leaders from the Nonprofits sector to help promote collaboration and support nonprofits, in order to strengthen the economic and social health of San Mateo County.

With a membership of nearly 200 members, Thrive is a “go-to hub” for people who want to make a difference for San Mateo County, as well as the Greater San Francisco Bay Area. We are a conduit for Government and Nonprofits. Instead of making 50 to 200 calls, they can make one call to me. I love to connect people and organizations.

For Thrive, I do pretty much everything that’s asked of a nonprofit leader – I am the chief Fundraiser, Evangelist, Member Relationships Director, Outreach Director and Ambassador. I am very fortunate to have an incredible co-worker, Cindy. Together, with the support of a handful of volunteers, we run all of Thrive’s programs. I am very proud of what we are able to accomplish.

I can’t get over the amount of information that comes out of Thrive – events, workshops, conferences, the latest issues in the community. In many ways, Thrive is like Google for me!”

- Deborah Pinsky,
CEO, Peninsula Jewish Community Center

SVT: Where did you grow up, go to school and what did you study?

PCS: I was born and raised in Taipei, Taiwan, until I was almost 14 when we moved to Denver, Colorado. I went on to study Communications at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

SVL: Who and what inspired you, or prepared you, to pursue this great work that you do?

PCS: I met so many amazing unsung heroes working for nonprofits in Denver while working for Rocky Mountain Public Broadcasting Network. Seeing the gap, the disconnect between needs and resources in the community inspired me to create a network to connect people. In 2001, I founded the National Center for Community Relations (NCCR), later named National Center for Community Collaborations (NCCC).

SVT: What do you love most about what you do?

PCS: That’s easy. I love what I see every day, that is how people can and do make such a difference in others’ lives.

I love advocating for and promoting great people and organizations, helping them work together to make the world a better place. I love being surrounded by passionate people. I love seeing our nonprofits leaders’ creativity and resourcefulness, discovering innovative solutions and truly being part of a community … something bigger than myself.

SVT: What are some accomplishments you are most proud of?

PCS: In my personal life, learning & mastering the English language and American culture. Being happily married for almost 27 years and being happily together for almost 32 years. Raising two amazing kids who are fantastic human beings also give me such joy.

I’m proud of having created many transforming connections during my leadership of the NCCR/NCCC and now at Thrive.

I feel fortunate to have transitioned and becoming rooted in the Bay Area so quickly. It’s all been a blessing.

I’m proud of our contribution to the Sobrato Center for Nonprofits project in San Mateo County. Thrive worked closely with the Sobrato Family Foundation to assist with needs assessments, gathering community input and promoting the Center to nonprofits.

In six years Thrive has grown from a membership of 77 to nearly 200, during an extremely difficult economic recession. Being able to attract cross-sector supporters – from Congresswoman Speier, Senator Hill, and Assemblymember Mullin and Supervisor Groom to small arts organizations and community leaders in Hillsborough – that’s been quite an accomplishment. Something we all take pride in.

SVT: What are some of the key issues that Nonprofits Organizations and Executive Directors face today?

Here are a few important issues facing all of us and our future as a community. These are not merely words or political topics on paper. We really need to improve on:

  • Maintaining and strengthening nonprofit capacity. Overcoming the “Overhead Myth”. Watch the Dan Pallotta TED talk.
  • Fundraising for non-sexy things that are much needed in the community while being pressured to be innovative.
  • Lack of affordable housing and the high cost of living are depleting the ranks of future nonprofit leaders and employee candidates. We need to build the pipeline.
  • Locally, a key issue is the urgent need to raise public awareness of community issues, and the nonprofits working to address them, despite the image of sparkling prosperity of Silicon Valley.
  • Fundraising for training to master the ever-changing evaluation requirements for nonprofits.
  • Developing leaders to succeed the upcoming Baby Boomer Executive Directors’ mass exodus from the workforce.

SVT: What is your definition of “Leadership”?

PCS: Leadership? I believe in “Servant Leadership”. A commitment to do what it takes to get the job done. There is something special about the way everyone is supportive of the team and of one another. Everyone can share their different viewpoints and ideas, but it’s the Leader who keeps everyone inspired, yet focused, on the goals to be achieved and what needs to be done to achieve them.

SVT: Do you have heroes and positive role models?

PCS: So many. Reading is my one addiction. I have read so many great books by and about amazing people. Whether I have met them, or not, I soak up inspiration from the great people I read about.

And there are so many who are not celebrities, or super stars; we don’t see them every day in the news … But in our nonprofit sector, there are so many unsung heroes who are working long and hard every day, many 12-14 hour days. They are working well below their corporate market value. The many volunteers, too, who give of themselves and their valued time, who give it their all to make a difference for us and our community. I see them where many or most don’t – so often, they are “behind the scenes”. They are our great heroes and positive role models.

SVT: If you could have a dinner party and could invite anyone (with us or not), who would you like to invite and what would you like to talk about?

PCS: Boy that’s a tough one; there are so many. I would have to say Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. I loved reading her autobiography, My Beloved World. Hers is truly an amazing story … and after what was such a humble beginning. It would be an inspiration to spend time with her … such a dinner would be forever cherished.

Porcia Chen Silverberg, Executive Director, Thrive –
The Alliance of Nonprofits for San Mateo County

Porcia brought over twenty years of experience in public relations, marketing, sales and social entrepreneurship to Thrive over 6 years ago. A collaborations advocate at heart, in 2001 Porcia founded the National Center for Community Collaboration (NCCC) based in Denver, while she was in charge of community relations for the Rocky Mountain Public Broadcasting Network. NCCC is dedicated to inspire community-based partnerships across public, private and nonprofits organizations through exchange of knowledge and resources.
Porcia is a Senior Fellow of the American Leadership Forum, Silicon Valley; graduate of the Redwood City/ San Mateo County Chamber Leadership Program and the San Mateo County Citizen’s Academy. She also serves on the Peninsula Partnership Leadership Council.
Porcia believes nonprofits play a critical role in the world we live in today. Through her role at Thrive, she is committed to strengthening cross-sector collaboration and promoting the values of the social sector to the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond.

Thrive – The Alliance of Nonprofits for San Mateo County
Sobrato Center for Nonprofits – Redwood Shores
330 Twin Dolphin Drive, Suite 155, Redwood City, CA 94065
Tel: (650) 654-7993
Email: porcia@thrivealliance.org
Website: www.thrivealliance.org

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