WHO IS STEFANIE EPPE?
A former professional dancer, Stefanie Eppe is an experienced senior nonprofit leader and educator. With a strong track record in nonprofit leadership and strategy, Stefanie holds a Ph.D. in Psychology from the University of Southern California, and has served as a senior staff member for the National Youth Employment Coalition in Washington, D.C. and at Para Los Niños in Los Angeles, California, leading programming, strategic planning, evaluation, and quality assurance efforts.
She is a member of the Board of Directors for Everybody Dance Now!, where earlier this year she also led the organization as interim Executive Director. Through her work during the past 20 years, she has advocated for children, youth and families living in poverty, and those searching for access to better resources and opportunities. Stefanie now lives in Costa Rica with her husband, her 1-year-old son, and their two dogs, where she works as a non-profit management consultant, and as a private psychologist.
You can connect with Stefanie here:
IN TOR 032 YOU’LL LEARN ABOUT:
- Jackie Rodman, who at 15 years of age founded Everybody Dance Now, an initiative that spreaded community organization through the power of dance across the
U.S., and for whose board of directors Stefanie is a member.
- A brief lesson on what being, selecting and managing a board entails, including best practices and differences between boards from NGOs and for profit corporations.
- Stefanie’s passion for measuring success and quality assurance, the sophisticated systems that split measures by degrees, polling tools and tradeoffs of quality versus resources.
- Stefanie’s unusual road from a PhD professor to high community involvement through dancing- one of her childhood passions.
OUR CONVERSATION INCLUDES THE FOLLOWING:
- Everybody Dance Now
- University of Costa Rica
- University of Southern California (USC)
- Dance and performing arts
- Board of directors at nonprofit organizations
- Board management and best practice
- Community involvement and organization
- Young leadership
- Quality Assurance
- Risk management
- People management
- Community impact studies
- Escazú, Costa Rica
- Los Angeles, CA
EPISODE CRIB NOTES
NGO board member
Interested in joining as staff, now board member.
Definition of board member depends on the organization, and its size.
She has to ensure program quality, management if executing is expected, that strategy is being implemented.
Passion is there, difference is being made. Beyond lip service.
Board member in development is honorary, unlike corporate.
A good board member is representative of the people being served, their interests, areas. “You want a diverse board, and one that is ready to take action.“
Good board members give funding, help building programs and roles, promote and advocate for the organization, speak on its behalf, introduce to potential donors.
For EDN, people whose career involved dancing, but also completely different people.
As NGO boards evolve, a best practice is to have them. 1, 2 years.
Board development must take place in the term.
Members with specific duties like board chair, finance, c-suites, need enough time to complete their governance programs. Then switching is healthy.
A person remained on the board for too long, it leads to power struggles and creates dependency both internally and externally, if donors rely on that person instead of the organization as a whole.
Board settings are highly strategic decisions and affect leadership immensely.
Ghost members are the bane of a board.
Stefanie dance now
Youth-founded and youth-led. Stefanie’s position is meant as interim to leave room for young management.
’05 Jackie Rodman founded it at 15, high school student. Wanted to perform and give space to performers and community members in general.
Jackie had a breakthrough involving the power of dance in communities. Her work replicated across the nation with several chapters, eventually incorporated.
Chapter leaders are high schoolers acting voluntarily. Coaches and instructors are paid.
Jackie looked for people she trusted to build a board, including her father. There’s issues when members are relatives or close to one another.
Then when the board grows, the high management questions come up. Best practices. Her father resigned for the sake of diversity and conflict of interests.
For new members, they reached out to community members, connected to the field, not afraid to challenge management.
A personal passion of Stefanie, and one of the main reasons Jackie asked her to join.
The basics: enrollment, turnover, number of events, attendance.
Starting to dive into more personal inquiries, of involvement in violence, self esteem, through questionnaires.
Evaluation against a strategic plan, using specialized software, program by program “that requires qualified staff, and a lot of money.“
An NGO funded mostly by small donations has some special liberties, for instance to have unique answers to “what is the impact we want to achieve in young people.“
Large donors tend to impose their view, their agenda. “They have a list of what they want to hear at the end of the year.” This can take some away from missionary activities.
Leadership and management faces ethical problems from every direction.
Stefanie is passionate about “continuous quality improvement,” using real data that the whole team can work on.
The first goal of quality control is to inform the organization at large, and change. Satisfying external benchmarks can be damaging to an organization.
“Data should be useful to you,” the teachers, coaches, therapists. Anything else is irresponsible.
Filing information must be done carefully, it involves personal information on children and families. Risk management measures are set up to look at trends and track history of errors to specific staff.
There were a lot of problems with the information on the files for mental health practitioners. Auditors review them, meaning organizations can face fines, be on probation, even lose existing contracts. But this means professionals need to spend a lot of time reviewing paperwork.
Best practices regarding people
Stefanie the dancer, performer, wonders about “making QA sexy and fun.“
It has to be relevant, they have to be invested, “not seen as an additional burden.“
Paperwork is thus seen as important, crucial part of success.
Lots of extrinsic rewards, prizes and recognitions.
Individual motivations to quality then need to be connected with the larger scope of the organization.
Dancer in the development
“The nonprofit world is where I belong. But it wasn’t always crystal clear.“
Had a million hobbies, always very active. Stuck with dancing for a long time.
In Costa Rica, bad at math and good at languages. Because of home life, she already spoke three.
Talked to people, could argue for everything, everyone asked for her advice, she made anyone feel well.
Graduated, went to U. of Costa Rica, into academia but still with no path but a lot of activity.
A friend connects her, she earns a six month scholarship in a dance studio in LA. Telling her parents she’d leave to dance did not sit well.
She got into the University Southern California. Became interested in psychology, then got a scholarship for her PhD, stayed in research, impact studies, evaluation tools towards local Latino communities.
There she found the balance, involving research on dancing. A colleague pushed her to go to the community, meets EDN, rest is history.
After a long career, she’s dedicated to her recently born child. “I’m testing my theories on child development on him, seeing how much is due to nurture.“
Stays in Costa Rica, moves less, learn more about local challenges as a consultant and volunteer.
Returned to behavioral consulting, capacity building for schools, parents and teachers.
From basic child raising questions to special problems like autism, which require closer attention.
“Don’t be scared. Keep going, step into the doors“
“Don’t be afraid of affecting change or following a leader who does.“
“If you have the opportunity to lead, make sure you lead with your heart.“
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