ONEplace Blog

News, comments, resources, and more for nonprofits.

Time for a Turnaround?

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

Delivering Value

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


The Five Most Important Questions You Will Ever Ask About Your Organization

Succeeding in Volatile Times

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


Great by Choice