10 Questions or Less is a feature here on the Forum’s Forum in which we get to know regional association staff members a little better—their work, what drives them, and more. This week, Kristen Ruff, Member Services Manager at Philanthropy New York.
Member Services can encompass almost every task at an association. What are some of your day-to-day responsibilities?
That’s the fun thing about Member Services—you never get bored! My day-to-day work could include anything from planning programs for subsets of our membership (such as our CEO roundtables), to coordinating professional peer networks (like our Foundation Administrators Network), to working on new initiatives (i.e., our Young Leaders Breakfast Club), to managing and reporting on member information through the database.
What would you say is Philanthropy New York’s most popular member program?
We have close to 300 members so their interests really run the gamut. Our members love our core skill-building classes, such as our tax and financial analysis series, but they also turn out in large numbers for our Thought Leader programs, where we invite recognized pioneers, both within and outside the field of philanthropy, to discuss “big picture” topics and engage in dialogue with the audience.
How did the Documentary Film Series get started? I’m jealous every time I see those posted.
The idea for the film series started with two Board members, Vince Stehle and Orlando Bagwell—both of whom do a significant amount of work in film and new media. The goal of the series is to showcase documentaries as an alternative vehicle for furthering foundation missions and increasing the visibility of social issues. Each screening is preceded by a wine and cheese reception and followed by a discussion with the filmmakers. Although we originally limited attendance to members and their guests, we have found that by opening it up to students, nonprofits, and members, the events have taken on a new energy and the conversations with filmmakers are more robust. The credit for pulling off the events each month goes to my colleagues Roshni Melia and Marjorie Rutimann!
You’ve made a name for yourself among Forum members as an expert in the association management system used by the KM Partners, helping to solve tricky database questions. Do you recall one issue in particular that you really felt good about when you solved it? A personal best?
I find queries one of the hardest things to master in the database so anytime I learn how to put together a complex query, it feels like a personal best. Queries can provide us with rich data about member engagement and they can save us time compiling membership reports, but they can also be very frustrating! One exciting breakthrough was developing a statistical query that quantifies member engagement across our entire membership. It was a great “ah ha” moment. But there have been several “ah ha” moments because one of the many rewards of working with colleagues in the KM group is learning from each other and putting our brains together to solve a problem.
What’s one thing you do in your position that the Forum network can help with?
When I receive a request from a member, I appreciate being able to call on regional association colleagues who have expertise in that area to help me connect our member to the best resources. The collegial spirit of this network is pretty amazing.
Is there anything you’re working on now that is particularly exciting?
Yes! We just launched a new initiative that is a hybrid mentoring and peer-to-peer networking program: the Young Leaders Breakfast Club. The goal of this program is to give younger professionals the opportunity to strengthen their relationships with colleagues in the sector and learn from an experienced leader in the field. For this pilot program, groups of three younger Philanthropy New York members have been paired with a group mentor for six months. Each “breakfast club” will meet monthly—with their mentor joining them every other month. I cannot wait to see how the pilot goes.
Anything else we should know?
Born and raised in Philadelphia and very proud of it! Although I feel constant pressure to switch my allegiance from the Phillies to the Yankees, I won’t do it!