Michael Chatman leads a team of 10 people who serve about 5,200 nonprofit charitable organizations by helping them build capacity in their organization.
The Community Foundation exists to achieve the philanthropic goals of its donors by customizing giving options and making them accessible, easy, and cost-effective while enriching the greater Southwest Florida by connecting needs with generous giving.
Its mission is to foster a healthy and dynamic community where individuals are inspired to support, strengthen and enrich quality of life through generosity and civic engagement.
Michael had previously been working with executive assistants who did not fit the culture of this organization.
“I needed to detox and decompress from people who came to me with a tremendous amount of skill and ability but did not fit the culture,” Michael admits. “I needed to create some separation, and so I said ‘You know what? Let me try a virtual assistant.’”
Enter BELAY Virtual Assistant Alison Aparo.
“And that’s worked out really well.”
“I think [the engagement] worked out right away because I treated it like being on a dating site,” Michael laughs. “[I made it clear] what I was looking for, and [my Client Success Consultant] was able to match me with that person.”
“Once we knew we could work well together, it was a matter of getting our rhythm down to see how we might be able to fit in all the things I would want to accomplish within a certain timeframe.”
During the first 30 days, Michael and Alison were able to have a trial and error period where they could make mistakes and apply changes and pivots before hitting a stride during the second month.
“We knew [then] that this was a good fit for both of us,” Michael says.
Michael added that determining what tasks Alison did for him in the beginning – and does for him now – came down to trust.
“[I was] really trying to assess the abilities of my VA in terms of what her capabilities are,” Michael adds. “I quickly discovered that she was capable of doing so much, and so I was able to trust her with more.”
Alison’s to-do’s range from social media, online research, event registration and blogs.
“Her responsiveness in getting back with me on things helped me to build trust,” Michael says. “We had already set the parameters of constant communication, which has [also] helped me build trust.”
Michael and Alison continue to meet weekly to establish needs and wants from each other.
“The weekly check-ins have really helped to create a bond between the two of us,” Michael notes. “I truly see her as a team member – not someone I can just assign a bunch of tasks to – but someone I can jump on a Zoom call, and we can dream together and create something from scratch.”
Having the right support in Alison has given Michael the confidence to work as a remote-first team.
“Even now, even though there’s 10 of us, I’m the only one in the office,” Michael says.
“Everyone works remotely. I never thought I would be in this place prior to my engagement with BELAY, but I’m at a point now [that] I can’t imagine going back because I’m really enjoying this remote culture.”
“It’s become a part of our brand and who we are. It’s really helping us to attract more team members because they want to be a part of a remote-first culture.”
While Michael originally intended to try a Virtual Assistant after reading about BELAY, he didn’t expect to have his mindset shift about working remotely as a whole.
“I had no experience working with a VA, let alone seeing ourselves as a remote-first company — and now we’re both,” Michael says. “I feel very comfortable working with my VA through BELAY, and I’m very proud to say that it has changed the total trajectory of our organization culturally.”
“I can work remotely now – and that’s something I never thought I could do because I’m so used to walking over in another office and asking an executive to assist me with something. But now I really feel like I could be global.”
“I could be anywhere and work with someone, and I feel very good about that.”
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