It usually starts with big plans and a lot of anticipation. As we move further into it, schedules become crunched and other urgent matters crowd our To Do lists. Reality sets in – hard! – and we just need to get it done. Finally, we deliver the project, and it’s…well…good enough.
I’m tired of good enough.
Good enough finishes the job but doesn’t make an impact.
Good enough meets the need but doesn’t move the needle.
Good enough satisfies the stakeholders but doesn’t transform the system.
Good enough is another glass ceiling. We look up. We get a glimpse of what could be, of what’s beyond this glass ceiling. We’re drawn to it. Yet, stretched as we are, our efforts lack the momentum and sharp edge to break through.
An emerging goal at ONEplace is to not just help organizations build capacity but to also help them strengthen capacity. I believe that many of our area’s nonprofit organizations can break through the Good Enough Ceiling, and we want to offer some programmatic umph to support those efforts.
Do you share this concern? I look forward to talking with you over the next several weeks about this. I know that some of you have broken through, and I want to hear and share your stories.
Let’s do this!
Direct Assistance forms one of the cornerstones of ONEplace. Available to all nonprofit staff, board members and other volunteers, our Direct Assistance services help you get a grip on new or uncommon challenges and concerns.
Whether by phone, email or personal meeting, we’ll work directly with you to improve your situation, whatever it may be. These confidential conversations help pinpoint problem areas, identify underlying issues, and determine the best course(s) of action.
Should you desire someone to come alongside your organization to help for a period of time, we will provide recommendations from our endorsed consultant directory. These consultants bring high levels of expertise and considerable nonprofit experience to your organization, often at a discounted rate. Further, they come highly recommended from past clients.
Every month, ONEplace handles around 120 Direct Assistance requests and makes about 10 consultant recommendations. It’s a primary reason ONEplace was founded, and, like all ONEplace services, it’s provided to you free of charge. [learn more]
Our direct assistance services bring a myriad of issues and concerns through our door. While each appointment paints problems with its own palette of colors and textures, one common thread runs through almost every meeting.
Organizational concerns always involve the Board.
Every business, club, and organization takes its cue from the top. Boards, in partnership with the chief executive, set the tone for the nonprofit organization, affecting its climate, culture, and effectiveness.
Collecting and analyzing data since 1994, BoardSource’s biennial reports provide one of the deepest dives into the state of board leadership and trends. Their January 2015 report, Leading with Intent, surfaces three key findings:
- Getting the people right is fundamental – Boards that aren’t thoughtfully composed relating to skills sets, leadership styles, and diversity of thought and background are less likely to excel.
- Boards need to get outside their comfort zones – Boards generally do well at compliance and oversight functions, but strategic and external work challenge them.
- Investments in board development are worth the effort – Building and strengthening a board takes ongoing, intentional effort.
BoardSource, Leading with Intent: A National Index of Nonprofit Board Practices (Washington, D.C.: BoardSource, 2015).
Many executive directors find the amount of time they must spend on board matters surprising. Even though they function as the ED’s superior, boards pose a volunteer management challenge of the highest order.
ONEplace recognizes the need for intentional board development efforts. Our quarterly Board Membership 101 workshop not only provides basic board responsibility training but also serves as a regular reminder for organizations to attend to their own board development. We also stand ready to work with you to develop a focused board recruitment and development plan.
Board service offers individuals unique challenges. It also offers unique opportunities for personal growth and enjoyment. Intentional board development helps your organization strike this balance.
It’s not uncommon to be surprised by people and events. When you least expect it, a situation arises, a problem occurs, or a discussion ensues that throws you for a loop. It’s not something you’ve ever dealt with before, and you’re not sure what to make of it…what to do about it.
You’re not alone.
Everyone – even a seasoned executive – encounters a baffling challenge from time to time. Try as we might, we can’t seem to figure it out. We need to get some distance, some perspective on the matter.
That’s why ONEplace offers direct assistance services.
We’re prepared to listen, inquire, and help you come to grips with your new challenge or concern. Depending on the nature of the concern, we may have suggestions, resources, or recommendations of actions to take or people to consult.
Don’t let a festering issue hold you back. We’re here to be at your service.
At ONEplace, this marks the midpoint of our three-year plan (July 2013 – June 2016). Leadership development is job ONE stands as one of three pillars of this plan. Here’s an update on this pillar’s progress to date and direction for the coming year.
This past fall, we arrived at our working definition of leadership: taking full responsibility and ownership of your role(s); listening and learning from others, and; teaching and sharing with others. We’re expanding our intensive experience offerings to facilitate development of this type of leadership.
The ONEplace Nonprofit Leadership Academy offers an intensive development experience for those in supervisory roles at medium to large organizations. Our Peer Learning Groups provide this experience for managers, supervisors, and directors of small to medium organizations. Later this winter/spring, we’ll introduce a retreat experience suitable for anyone wishing to explore their leadership capacity.
We’re also in the midst of pilot testing coaching services for new executive directors within their first year of service. Expect a formalized program to roll out later this year.
Also, expect things to change…hopefully for the better. This continues to be a work in progress for us as we seek to provide an array of events and experiences to meet your and your organization’s leadership development needs.
Allison Hammond (Arcadia Institute) offered a Voice from the Field workshop last month. She explored the various ways our organizations can welcome and support persons with disabilities as staff, participants, volunteers, and supporters.
At the Arcadia Institute, they work to make it possible for children and adults with disabilities to participate fully in all aspects of community life, as they choose. In supporting area organizations, they encourage working with staff to think through and plan ahead for how they may accommodate volunteers or participants with disabilities.
On the question of accommodation, Allison reminded us that we don’t want to go overboard. Trying to be over-accommodating may make everyone uncomfortable.
Instead, Allison suggested that we ask the person what they need. For example, “What can I do to help make your experience with us more enjoyable or more comfortable?” Or, if you see someone struggling (e.g., straining to read instructions or struggling to move about the area), we can ask how we might be of assistance.
Creating a culture of inclusion and hospitality will help your organization serve everyone better. Toward this end, Arcadia Institute hosts Building a Community of Belonging on March 26, 2015.
In the spirit of year-end reflections, we decided to share our Top Ten lists. Recognizing that people vote with their attendance and with their post-session evaluations, we did two lists. Therefore, based upon your evaluations and attendance, here are your top workshops from 2014 (notice ties in both lists).
1. Improve Your Short Writing (4/29/14) 99%
1. Improvising Management (Management Track – 10/30/14) 99%
1. Find Solutions – Solve Problems (Management Track – 11/4/14) 99%
4. How much should a Website Cost (3/6/14) 98%
5. How to Win Grants (4/17/14) 97%
6. Manage by Improvisation (1/24/14) 96%
6. Better Mail Appeals (3/26/14) 96%
6. Google Analytics (4/10/14) 96%
6. Grant Research Tools (6/10/14) 96%
6. Attaining Sustainability (8/26/14) 96%
6. Grant Writing Basics (12/2/14) 96%
6. Improve Your Decision Making (Management Track – 12/4/14) 96%
1. Community Alignment (Leadership Series – 10/16/14) 44
2. Communicating for Results (Supervision Series 2 – 9/22/14) 39
3. Job of a Manager (Supervision Series 1 – 9/15/14) 37
4. Building Relationships (Supervision Series 3 – 9/29/14) 36
4. Managing Change (Supervision Series 4 – 10/6/14) 36
6. Leading & Empowering (Supervision Series 5 – 10/13/14) 35
7. Building a Cohesive Team (8/27/14) 34
8. Grant Writing Basics (3/18/14) 32
9. Grant Writing Basics (9/11/14) 29
10. Donor Recognition (Fundraising Series 3 – 10/23/14) 28
Thank you for all you do to support, encourage and enrich our community. You’re amazing people doing amazing work.
All the best for 2015!
* Management Track and Series designations were introduced in September
According to Building the Governance Partnership, “Board members often don’t know what they don’t know.” As the seat of authority in most nonprofits, it’s critical that board members clearly understand what’s expected of them and how to fulfill those expectations.
At ONEplace, our goal is to make sure we’re focusing our limited time and energy on areas of highest impact. Since embarking on basic board training, we’re finding this to be one of those high impact areas.
Initially, we simply responded to what was requested. This usually included a basic overview of board responsibilities with a little extra time spent on one or two items (e.g., fundraising or being a good ambassador). Having now met with over 30 organizations and conducted 16 onsite training events, we’ve developed a broader-based approach.
Every quarter we offer Board Membership 101. This late afternoon workshop provides board members and prospective board members with an overview of board responsibilities. It also serves as an encouragement to nonprofits to supplement this experience with their own, more specific, training and orientation.
Onsite training events (commonly at a board meeting) tailor the content to the needs of the specific board. These events are also much more participative. Providing your board with a common training experience greatly increases retention and application as reminders pop up at almost every subsequent meeting.
The program rounds out with two additional services. First, we continue to provide a place where board and staff may discuss new concerns and challenges and gather helpful resources. And second, we provide facilitation services to help boards discuss difficult or sensitive issues.
For more information, please contact us: email@example.com or 269-553-7910.
Are you staying on track? Perhaps you’re getting on track. You may even be off track, sidetracked, or more akin to General Halftrack. In any event, it’s good to know where you are and where you are headed.
What’s dodgy about our work is that it often moves in cycles. As one friend of mine will say, “I’m doing what I always do in December.” Just as we cycle in and out of seasons and improve the appointed tasks with each go around, we also can revisit basic management skills and improve them.
This is why ONEplace offers Management Track workshops. These events address skills and processes fundamental to nonprofit management. They also provide opportunities to develop, hone, and refine our skills and offer teams opportunities to learn skills together (which improves application and retention).
Upcoming Management Track workshops include:
Decision Making (12/4) – a decision making process for individuals and teams that focuses on good data and clearly documents process and results
Design, Funding & Constructing Facilities that Fit (1/15) – if you are considering a renovation or building project, this will help you navigate the details
Project Management (1/22) – a time-tested approach to projects that facilitates focused definition, detailed planning, and well-managed implementation
Emergency Action Planning (2/25) – emergencies will happen and this workshop ensures that you know how to plan, prepare, and care for the unexpected
Good leaders continually learn new things as well as refine and deepen that which is already known. They travel a track that doesn’t go in circles; rather, it spirals to ever-deeper understanding.
One of the joys of working at ONEplace is the opportunity to meet and talk with a variety of people: from long-term nonprofit leaders to those incubating start-ups; from seasoned board members to neighborhood advisory councils; from funders sitting on millions of dollars to social entrepreneurs sitting on a single idea. From all these discussions and more, I’ve realized one undeniable fact:
Each person brings a critically important contribution to the discussion.
This is not about asking “Who’s not at the table?” or making sure the discussion includes “representative voices.” This is about recognizing that every discussion is ill-informed because voices will always be missing. It’s also about making the effort to go beyond representative voices and seek out, invite, and create an environment safe enough for each critically important perspective to be raised.
We’re doing this on a few fronts, at ONEplace and in community centers. It takes time – sometimes years – to get acquainted and develop readiness, and then more time to build trust. But, as they say, “In five years it will be 2019 either way, so we might as well start.”
Posing open, honest questions that draw out the diversity of perspectives brings new light to the matter at hand. Just as light from one angle illuminates only part of a structure and casts shadows on other parts, light from many angles removes the shadows and illuminates the whole.
And, when I catch a glimpse of the whole, I realize the specious nature of the phase, “people in need.”
Rather, I desire to participate in the diverse circle which hosts people we need. In this circle, there is no teacher or student, no grantor or grantee, no provider or client. In this circle, each person claims, “There are eyes that see things I don’t see, ears that hear sounds I don’t hear, and hearts that bear burdens I don’t bear.”
Until every light shines, unencumbered, we’re all left in the dark.