Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Emotion leads to action

At today's annual Society for the Advancement of Consulting meeting, Alan Weiss repeated one of his practical aphorisms: Logic makes you think; emotion makes you act.

This underscores my scientifically proven approach to communications: first, connect with your listener's heart and establish personal relevance to the issue on which you want them to act. Then, and only then, provide the data and logic to support your issue, and your ask. Finally, don't forget to ask your listener to act, and to share in your offered solution!

This summarizes my Heart, Head & Hand (TM) approach to persuasive communications. You can download a document providing more detail at http://www.thalerpekar.com/tools.php.

Think about it: if we acted on fact alone, would you have had the same breakfast today? Might you have exercised more?

license to shop!

I've noticed that clients are experiencing unprecedented success with silent auctions, grossing more than previous auctions. I think people want to shop, but are reluctant due to the economy (either because they are cutting back on expenses, or because it appears crass to shop while others are financially suffering) - but silent auctions are a great excuse to indulge and spend money while supporting a good cause. It's all for charity, after all!

Monday, March 30, 2009

Transparency and What That Means in Nonprofits

I work with many non-profit organizations that develop certification programs for people (e.g. Certified Financial Planners, Certified Public Accountants). At a recent conference, my colleagues and I were discussing the recent election and how the new administration might influence certification. The new administration is aiming for an environment of transparency. According to the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition (2006) something is transparent if it is “easily seen through or detected or obvious: transparent lies.” Another meaning is “Free from guile; candid or open: transparent sincerity.”

There are at least 5 ways of increasing transparency in certification:
1. Provide basic information about the procedures used in the certification process on your web site or in publically available written documents
2. Increase the range of expertise and the number of participants in policy decisions on critical decisions – in certification this includes activities such as developing the content standards and test specifications and setting the cut score
3. Educate your constituents (consumers, regulators, test takers, professional association members) about the certification process and the importance of the process
4. Involve your certificants in the improvement of the program
5. Obtain third party accreditation against a certification standard

Increasing transparency has the advantage of making the certification process more open and understandable for those who participate. I believe it increases the fairness of the process and the tests and it helps the future test taker understand what is expected.

Is transparency important to other nonprofit organizations? Is the need for transparency increasing with this administration or in this economy? What are best practices in nonprofit organizations?

Cheryl L. Wild, Ph.D.
Wild & Associates, Inc.
Phone: 732-713-1953
e-mail: cheryl@wildandassociates.com

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Donors Must Buy Light Bulbs

Not-for-profit organizations often struggle to raise operating funds. It is easier to apply for and obtain funding to support programmatic work. Recently, I heard the necessity of operational funds explained in the most simple, and profound, way.

Joanna Krotz, author of the forthcoming book A Guide to Intelligent Giving: How You Can Make a Difference in the World (and in Your Own Life), was speaking to the New York Women's Foundation, and said, quite eloquently, "I'm a big believer in donors buying light bulbs. How is the work going to get done if the staff can't see the pages in front of them?"

Joanna then went on to say that it's good to donate food and clothing and other supplies to victims of disasters, but donors must also pay for the storage of these goods, the trucks to deliver the items, and heck, even the gas to get the trucks to the beneficiaries.

Quite the light bulb moment.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Don’t Let Anyone Look Down Upon You Because You Are…A Nonprofit

How often do you encounter people who believe that your organization is damaged because it is a nonprofit? How do you react to this irrational and illogical attitude?

Case One: A nonprofit organization does everything possible to get a grant project running in the proposed timeframe. Along the way, they encounter numerous delays including building completion challenges, staff departures and equipment failure. During a site visit, a staff member from a local granting agency is unsympathetic. She accuses the nonprofit of mission creep by applying for the funding. The Executive Director ignores the comment.

When the visitor leaves, the Executive Director addresses his staff. “While this project does lie at the edge our mission, the real challenge was the timing. Until someone walks in my shoes and runs a nonprofit and fights for every dollar to help people in need-- as we do—they haven’t earned the right to criticize us for seeking funds as we deem it appropriate.” In this case, this response was to avoid investing any effort to enlighten the grant agency staff, but instead to use the situation as opportunity to educate his staff.

Do you agree with this response? Would you have responded differently?

Case Two: In a report, a name brand foundation outlines how it, by design, includes requirements in their grant application for nonprofits to build capacity before funding. The report shares how they added requirements to their applications, not for items they need, but instead items that they believe will help the nonprofits.

While you, like most nonprofits leaders, want to improve your capacity; you probably don’t hanker to do so as part of a grant application with a deadline. You might respond to this situation by forgoing the opportunity. And seek only funds from donors willing to enter into partnerships with you and who refrain from dictating a “for your own good” to-do list. Another alternative involves telling the foundation about your needs and enlisting their help. In this case, you in your application you write, “Thank you for asking us to complete this capacity building step. Listed below are the three most critical capacity building this organization faces. The project budget includes funds to complete them. Once completed, the next capacity building step needed is the one you request. This will be completed before the end of the grant. Its costs are also included in the budget.”

Do you agree with either of these responses? Would you have responded differently?

What other cases of the damaged nonprofit worldview have you experienced? What response did you make? Is there a response, you wished you made?

In a New Testament letter, St. Paul admonishes Timothy, “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young.” Let’s rephrase it slightly: “Don’t let anyone look down upon you because you are a nonprofit.“

How might we live this out?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Now is the Time to Think Prosperity, Not Scarcity

Does your nonprofit hold a scarcity perspective – a fear that resources are limited and you won’t be able to sustain your work? Rather than throwing up your hands and crying ‘the sky is falling, woe is us’ during this current economic downturn, my colleagues Steve and Chutisa Bowman of Conscious Governance out of Australia argue there is a need to adopt an attitude of prosperity. Their belief is that there are plenty of opportunities through which nonprofits can thrive and that this is a perfect time to switch gears, think strategically and figure out where to focus energies to bring in needed resources to meet the requirements of one’s constituents.

It is true that in previous downturns only one or two sectors were floundering at a time. If it was real estate, we could turn to our donors in finance or manufacturing. With so many sectors in freefall right now – all around the world – it may seem like there are no avenues to which to turn. But, we cannot afford to take that position or to crawl into a fetal position and wish the world would stop spinning around us. Literally, the survival of our communities rests heavily on the shoulders of nonprofits. The philosophy of looking at the world through a lens of prosperity has never been more important.

Now is the time to do something even if that something turns out to be wrong. We can learn from mistakes, whereas there is no growth in merely maintaining the status quo. We must believe that there are solutions. Believing is the first step in creating a new reality. As Walt Disney said, “If you dream it, you can do it.” Use the intelligence and creativity represented on your boards to dream, to generate options and strategies, and ultimately to develop stronger communities.

You can hear more about the effects of thinking ‘prosperity’ versus ‘scarcity’ by listening to a short audio podcast. Visit http://www.corestrategies4nonprofits.com/audio_podcasts.html, scroll down to “12. How Boards Buy Into The Scarcity Paradigm. What You Can Do About It” and click on Listen Now.

Terrie Temkin, Ph.D.
Founding Principal
CoreStrategies for Nonprofits, Inc.
888-458-4351 Ext. 83