News, comments, resources, and more for nonprofits.
Over the past two weeks, one lesson has presented itself to me in a variety of forms – the importance of clarity over and above certainty.
Without going into all the gory details, suffice it to say that processes have stalled waiting for every last fact to be gathered, people have adorned their arguments with extraneous and jargonistic detail to prove the absolute rightness of their point of view, and meetings have been endlessly prolonged while meaningless minutia was debated. It’s exhausting!
In his book, The Five Temptations of a CEO, Patrick Lencioni names “choosing certainty over clarity” as temptation number three. While he affirms the importance of working with good information, he argues that many of us (CEO or not) take pride in our analytical skills and keen insights. Consequently, we spend too much time honing even-more-finely-detailed analyses into conclusions that get a nod but don’t move our organizations forward. Further, the higher impact issues before the group are left to the final few minutes of an already-too-long meeting.
Clarity, in contrast, means that you take a stand, and people understand the argument being made. They know points on which they agree and, perhaps more important, points on which they disagree. To speak clearly, however, requires us to set aside our fear of being wrong (or, at least, not-completely-right) and willingly invite others to challenge and improve our arguments.
Also, clarity makes accountability possible. Clarity of mission and purpose as well as clarity on individual roles and responsibilities means everyone knows why we exist, where we’re headed and who’s doing what. Everyone knows what’s expected and each person participates in keeping the organization on track.
In the study, Fearless Journeys, the researchers describe how several orchestras took on innovative ideas to invigorate their organizations. In the closing, the writer observed that what made all the difference was NOT the choice each made, but the fact that they dared to choose.
Any decision is better than no decision.
The Five Temptations of a CEO
Recently, I heard Mario Morino of Venture Philanthropy Partners speak of the “…acute shortage of the kind of leaders that high-performing nonprofit and public agencies require.”
This comment tracks with what I’ve heard from business and nonprofit leaders for years: leaders are in short supply.
Mario also says, “Bluntly put, the number-one limiter on our ability to create meaningful, lasting change in our social and public sectors is an acute shortage of the ‘right people on the bus.’” The “right people” he refers to are leaders, i.e., “people with a professional, personal, and passionate commitment to solving a problem about which they possess a commanding and deep understanding.” To be truly effective, organizations need leaders not only in the top jobs but throughout the organization.
ONEplace@kpl has doubled its commitment to bring you leadership training. Our ONEplace Nonprofit Leadership Academy 2013 will begin in January and address every area involved with running a nonprofit. We also are looking to the character of a leader and offering an occasional series called, Take the Lead. The first session is November 27 and explores the importance of focused attention – committing to it, practicing it, and maintaining it.
Consider these opportunities as well as resources found on our Leadership ONEpage to help you develop your leadership skills.
A Mindful Nation
It’s easy for those of us in nonprofits to get so engaged in running our programs and organizations that we forget to tell the general public. We communicate with those close to us, but the wider community may not even know we exist.
Let’s change that!
Like most important endeavors, marketing and communications needs a plan, clear task assignments, and effective execution. In the weeks ahead, ONEplace offers help to jump start your efforts.
First, the Marketing & Communication Roundtable restarts on the third Tuesday of every month beginning September 18 at 11:30 a.m. Like all our roundtables, these are lunch and learn discussions with colleagues where you reflect on your efforts, articulate your successes and issues, and learn from each other’s experiences.
Second, ONEplace hosts four events targeted to your communications needs: “Facebook for Nonprofits” on October 10, “Measuring your Nonprofit Success” on October 17, “Managing your Editorial Calendar” on October 18, and “Three Stories Every Nonprofit Should Tell” on October 24. Visit our website for details and registration. These events are free of charge.
Make October the month you nail down your marketing and communications strategy. ONEplace can help via the resources above and providing direct assistance with your specific needs. Call me (269) 553-7899 or email ThomA@kpl.gov to find out more.
I love mankind…it’s people I can’t stand
Charles Schultz bestowed those words on Linus Van Pelt in November 1959, and supervisors far and wide continue to quote him. Why? Because, like a siren’s call…
Beautifully constructed and multi-colored, the geometric artifices of management process leap from the page into our unfiltered imagination, and we bask in the glow of a well-ordered workplace. Suddenly, our idyllic vision explodes! “Real people” have entered the picture and our so-called process is mangled and shredded to bits. Men and women – full of their own “thoughts” and “opinions” – actually care and act upon their unsolicited thoughts and opinions. What’s a manger to do!?!
I trust that your supervisory task is not that bad. Even so, our clean, well-ordered supervisory systems get various degrees of messy once applied to real life. That’s why ONEplace@kpl is bringing back Paul Knudstrup’s Nonprofit Supervision and Management Series.
Based on his book, The 8 Essential Skills for Managers and Supervisors, this five-session series explores key issues and strategies in supervision and management:
• What do managers really do?
• What’s different about managing a nonprofit?
• How good communication helps create healthy relationships and a strong work environment
• Focusing on achieving the results needed by your organization
• Empowering your staff
• Taking responsibility for your ongoing growth and development
• And much more
While each session is independent, they build upon each other, so committing to the entire course will bring the greatest benefit. As an incentive, those who attend all five sessions receive a free copy of Paul’s book.
The sessions run Monday mornings Sep 10, 17, 24, Oct 1 and 15 (more info). Space is limited for this popular course, so sign up early.
The 8 Essential Skills for Managers and Supervisors
Are you squeezing every last cent out of every dollar, every year…and still running a deficit? Are you expanding your mission to chase after one more grant? Do your communications often (too often) say, “please save us, we’re worth it?”
If so, it’s time to admit that your organization’s business model is unsustainable. It’s not time to redouble efforts. It’s time for a turnaround.
Turnarounds are not miracles. They result from good planning and determined implementation, and they require an unwavering focus on strong leadership, disciplined management, aggressive marketing, and right-sized fundraising.
Strong leadership delivers
• A single, unified vision
• A positive, forward-looking face to outside world
• Courageous decision-making
Disciplined management delivers
• Obsessive focus on the mission
• A feasible plan toward sustainability
• Short-term needs handled with long-term perspective
Institutional marketing delivers
• A clear, mission-focused message that’s descriptive and inspiring
• One solid PR hit every quarter (monthly for larger orgs)
• One spokesperson who controls the media message
Right-sized fundraising delivers
• Gifts that make sense given your organization’s budget and profile
• Grants that support the current mission (vs. create new lines of programming)
• Increased revenue
Again, turnarounds are not miracles. They result from good planning and determined implementation. Further, they take place with energy and speed – no more than three years.
ONEplace@kpl can assist with your turnaround. Email or call today (269-553-7899).
Much of the above is drawn from Michael Kaiser’s excellent book, The Art of the Turnaround. He sets forth ten rules that are clear and practical, and he tells several stories of how he applied those rules to turn around various struggling organizations.
The Art of the Turnaround
Our ONEplace Nonprofit Collection has this great little book: The Five Most Important Questions You Will Ever Ask About Your Organization, by Peter Drucker and others. It’s a quick read that makes a lasting impression. Questions two & three grabbed me: Who is our customer? and What does the customer value? Specific, well-supported answers to these questions could turn your organization around.
Nonprofits have many customers. The authors distinguished between our primary customers (the persons who lives are changed through our work) and our supporting customers (volunteers, members, partners, funders, employees, and others who must be satisfied). Our business is not to casually please everyone but to deeply please our target customers. So, the first job is to clearly define our target customers in great detail. This definition affects everything.
Next, ask What does the customer value? This may be the most important – but least often asked – question. The authors suggest beginning with your assumptions of what you believe your customers value. Next, gather customer input and then compare your assumptions with what the customers actually are saying, find the differences, and go on to assess your results. Do this for both primary and supporting customers.
It takes time and hard work, but it’s worth it. The reward comes in a greater focus on your mission, money-saving operational efficiencies, and greater value delivered to all of your customers.
Peter Drucker’s legacy of leadership development merged with the Frances Hesselbein Leadership Institute. Their mission is to strengthen and inspire the leadership of the social sector. Online at HesselbeinInstitute.org.
The Five Most Important Questions You Will Ever Ask About Your Organization
It is my honor and pleasure to greet you from my new post as director of ONEplace@kpl.
As I begin my tenure, allow me to add my voice to the many that showered gratitude on Bobbe Luce over the past few weeks. Under her leadership, ONEplace@kpl became an indispensible asset to many who serve nonprofits. Supported by a network of consultants, trainers, and others, Bobbe developed an effective mix of classes, webinars, roundtables and other resources that continue to equip nonprofit staff and boards to flourish. So, once again, “Thank you, Bobbe!”
I’ve spent my entire 15 years in Kalamazoo working for nonprofits, most recently with the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra. I look forward to working with you in this new capacity. In my spare time, I enjoy reading nonprofit leadership & management books. One of my favorite authors is Jim Collins. His newest release, Great by Choice, addresses the question: why do some companies thrive in uncertainty, even chaos, and others do not?
Using a comparison study method as he did in Good to Great, Collins demonstrates the value of strong values, consistently applied and the importance of a long-term approach to mission-driven work. As he nears the close of the book, he reiterates one of the main lessons from his previous work: “Greatness is not a function of circumstance. Greatness is largely a matter of conscious choice and discipline.”
What conscious choice has your organization made – what is its mission? Do you know it? Does everyone on the staff and board know it? Is it engraved on their hearts?
To succeed in times such as these – indeed, at any time – clarity of mission is the first imperative.
Jim Collins provides a Good to Great Diagnostic Tool that you may use to assess where your organization is on its journey to being great. When there are differences between businesses and nonprofit (social sector) organizations, he points these out. Find the tool at http://www.jimcollins.com/tools/diagnostic-tool.pdf
Great by Choice
At ONEplace we're all about the value of volunteering...helping nonprofits connect with volunteers, and vice versa. However, as we all know, one of the challenges of relying on the talent and commitment of volunteers is that they don't always have as much time as we'd like, to help nonprofit organizations turn their visions into reality.
That is precisely the issue that led to the creation of The Extraordinaries, a web-based platform for micro-volunteering that launched about a year ago. According to the Stanford Social Innovation Review, a periodical we receive at ONEplace, "[t]he goal is to harness thousands of currently untapped hours by making volunteering fast, convenient, and bite-sized. While waiting for a bus or cooling your heels at the dentist's office, you could be using your smart phone to tag photos for the Smithsoinian, send a study tip to an at-risk student, or map your local parks. 'We want volunteering to be as fun and ubiquitous as playing a game,' explains Sundeep Ahuja, cofounder and president of the San Francisco-based business."
As soon as I read about The Extraordinaries, I went to the site, signed up, searched some of the more popular projects, and was soon busy tagging photographic images for the Library of Congress. And it did feel like I was playing a game, but I knew I was doing much more. I was really making a difference. I look forward to digging a little deeper into the site and searching for other projects, which are listed by categories such as climate, animals or education.
And of course, there is a social media angle to this effort as well. Participants can share their Extraordinaries activities with friends via Facebook, Twitter, and the like. This means that the brief volunteer contribution by one person could easily multiply, inspiring more to do the same. And all it takes is a few minutes. Ingenius!
The start of a new decade means it's time to prepare for another Census questionnaire. And we at ONEplace want to make sure that nonprofit organizations do everything they can to ensure that the people they serve are counted in 2010. Why? Because ten years ago, in the 2000 Census, it is estimated that Michigan was undercounted by about 70,000 people, resulting in a loss of millions of dollars in federal funding.
According to Sam Singh, census consultant for the Michigan Nonprofit Association, "Census data is used to determine political representation; where to build new roads, schools, and businesses; where services for the elderly and the homeless are necessary; and where job and job programs are needed." And when people are missed in the total count, often the services that have been created to help those very people end up suffering.
"The nonprofit community is uniquely positioned to dramatically strengthen and improve this year's census participation because you often directly serve these hard-to-count populations. Michigan's historically undercounted residents - immigrants, people of color, low-income families, and those who are highly mobile and live in complex households" are the people who, every day, walk in and out of the door of nonprofits. What better way to directly impact the funding those agencies receive than to take advantage of every opportunity to talk with services recipients about the Census, explain the benefits of a complete count, and actively promote their participation.
To help nonprofits reach their constituents, the Nonprofits Count! in Michigan campaign has an online Census Toolkit. Available in English and Spanish, the materials in this toolkit include, among other things, more details about the Census questionnaire, which is now a simple 10-question survey; as well as more information about the confidentiality of Census responses.
Please take a minute to look at these materials and make use of as many of them as possible at your site. The end result will benefit not only your organization but our entire community and the state of Michigan.
2010 Census: Nonprofits Count
At a recent New ED Network discussion centered on board composition and how to move from having ‘warm bodies’ or ‘social friends’ of current board members to purposefully composing a balanced, engaged, effective board.
First, board members must believe in the mission and work of the organization, serve the best interests of the organization and not personal agendas, and actively contribute their skills and funds to assure current and long-term sustainability. In addition, a balance of skills and demographic characteristics are essential in developing true capacity-building boards.
While different skills are needed at different stages of a nonprofit’s lifecycle (moving from hands-on in start-ups to policy making with little hands-on in maturity), the following skills need to be present on all boards.
- Financial expertise / Investment experience
- Fundraising experience
- Legal expertise: knowledge of legal issues and requirements for nonprofits
- Property and facility management and construction (depending on facilities and capital planning)
- Marketing and Communication
- Small business experience/ entrepreneurship
- Personnel / HR practices
- Nonprofit management; systems
- Governance: policy development; roles and responsibilities of board; strategic thinking
- *Program/service knowledge
Demographics should reflect the community you serve and/or want to serve. Take some time as a board and ED to determine the demographics needed to bring a balance of perspectives to the table when strategically governing the organization. Some demographic characteristics include: hands-on or policy focused; business/community leaders; racial/ethnic diversity; age, education, wealth diversity; English/foreign languages; educational levels; for-profit, nonprofit, faith-based; male/female/LGBT; community connections; personal networks. Boards should not be made up of people just because they ‘like’ each other; this is important (volunteer) governance work, not social engagement.
A grid can be made with these skills and desired balance of demographic characteristics across the top and names of current board members and their term ending dates down the side. *Program/service knowledge is helpful, especially in the early start-up stage; once established, the staff will be more important in this area than board members. Other skills may be needed depending on your particular situation.
Check all the skills and demographics each person brings to the board. Then, look for holes and recruit only people with the needed skills or demographic (hopefully contributing in both skills and demographics) profiles.
Give it a try. It’s quite revealing and powerful in helping you think strategically about recruiting new board members or replacing term-limited positions.
Finding people to fill specific positions can be challenging and will take outreach and active listening by the board members and executive director on an ongoing basis to gather names of potential recruits without ‘inviting’ them to join the board.
The process of formally recruiting is the role of the board nominating committee. Prior to the annual meeting and elections, they convene to assess the current grid and potential recruits that fit needed profiles, prioritize people to approach for each position, and develop a plan for who will do the asking of each person and in what order. The process includes sharing information about the mission and constituents, programs and services, board service requirements, and realistic expectations of time, activities, and financial contributions.
A proactive, systematic process and formal procedures for identifying, recruiting, and educating potential board members will help enlist people who will truly help advance your mission and secure the organization’s future.
A balanced, engaged, effective board.