Thursday, December 23, 2010
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
I don’t know how well people are responding to this proposition. While I think it’s extremely clever and I hope it’s successful, I’m sure a large number dismiss it, believing that the Gates and Buffets of the world can afford to give half their money away to charity and never even miss it. After all, Gates’ 2010 estimated net worth is $54 billion and most of us assume that one can still live pretty nicely on $27 billion. But for Main Street USA, where, according to the Federal Reserve Board’s 2010 survey, half of Americans have a net worth of less than $84,000, giving away a significant portion of your money to charity doesn’t seem very realistic.
Yet, three graduate students at Rutgers University think it’s doable. Philosophy majors Nick Beckstead, Tim Campbell and Mark Lee have made their own significant pledge to give away a set percentage of their annual income to causes that they feel will do the most good in the world – not just over the next few years, but for life.
The three say they were influenced by Australian applied ethics philosopher Peter Singer, who holds dual appointments as the Ira W. DeCamp Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University and Laureate Professor at the Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics at the University of Melbourne. In 1972 Singer published an essay entitled “Famine, Affluence and Morality,” in response to the mass starvation found in Bangladesh. In that article Singer argues that it is a moral imperative for persons of affluence to give more to humanitarian causes than they typically do: "People do not feel in any way ashamed or guilty about spending money on new clothes or a new car instead of giving it to famine relief. (Indeed, the alternative does not occur to them.) This way of looking at the matter cannot be justified. When we buy new clothes not to keep ourselves warm but to look 'well-dressed' we are not providing for any important need."
Few would classify graduate students as affluent and therefore individuals to be held to Singer’s standard. But in a December 11, 2010 Wall Street Journal article by Shelly Banjo, “Pledging to Give What They Can,” Beckstead says. "Someone who makes $25,000 is in the top 3% of the world's wage earners." Campbell adds, "It puts things into perspective and makes you realize you're on a much higher ladder than you think."
When I read the Wall Street Journal article I was incredibly impressed and began sharing the story with friends, family and colleagues. The responses I got all credited the three for pledging something so admirable. But, almost to a person added that they’d like to follow the three over the next 10 years as they graduate, start to have families and take on obligations for feeding, sheltering, educating and paying health care costs for those families – especially in America, where the costs for such basics are far more than in many other parts of the world.
The three have obviously been told this to their face. Beckstead is again quoted in the Wall Street Journal article as saying, "When people see us pledging to give away their income, some are critical and say this is an idealistic idea that they'll realize is unworkable in the real world. We think otherwise; this is a long-term decision."
I believe that a clear vision and commitment to that vision are the first steps in actually creating the world we all want to live in. Beckstead, Campbell and Lee have that vision and commitment. Whether or not they move away over the years from the level of financial commitment to which they’ve recently pledged,they will undoubtedly continue to give. And, right now they serve as extraordinary role models. Obviously, they are role models for other young people, who might be influenced to give more of their discretionary funds to charity or even join or start a chapter of Giving What We Can – an organization pioneered in Oxford, England that the three are bringing to Rutgers. But they, probably more than Gates and Buffet, are role models for the rest of us too. After all, if they can make this commitment on a 20-something’s salary, the rest of us should be able to pledge at least a bit more.
There is beautiful saying by Leo Burnett, “If you reach for the stars, you may not quite get one, but you won’t come up with a handful of mud either.” Keep reaching Nick Beckstead, Tim Campbell and Mark Lee.
Monday, December 20, 2010
Our November 2010 issue of Added Value focused on space solutions for nonprofit organizations. Many organizations expend a large portion of their income on rent, mortgage payments and space costs. After personnel, it’s usually the second largest expense. The article offers a broad list of options to explore your space needs—its likely that one of these will help you to spend less on space and more on mission, either now or in the years to come. If you have space challenges check it out. If you want to increase the resources your organization has for mission, study it and implement your best options.
The article starts with fifteen options. It will remain permanently under-construction. I will add to it as I encounter new ideas. To help, send me your space answers. If you wish, I’ll be glad to credit you for them.
Here is the first addition:
#16. Rent to Own
Consider if you have a relationship with someone with who can buy a space for you. If yes, work with them to purchase it and then enter into a rent-to-own agreement with them. Assuming the rent payment in similar to the one you now pay, over time you will move from being a renter to owner, without the need for capital campaign. One local organization recently found that this arrangement allowed them to house all their staff in one building (instead of scattered sites in two counties), pay the same rent and put down permanent roots.
Monday, December 13, 2010
A recent Wall Street Journal article, “A Different Kind of Broadway Twofer” provides an excellent stepping off point for nonprofits that seek to improve their relationships with potential donors and the community. Improved relationships lead to greater nonprofit income opportunities.
The article explores different techniques theaters have recently added to enhance patron’s experiences before and after the show. Designed to match the play’s content, they include things like singing for departing audiences, offering refreshments around the theme and creating a “football shrine” in the lobby.
According to the article, audience enrichment efforts help patrons to feel, “welcome and well-tended, and, in the process giving them a little something extra for their money.” Most are low-cost and employ a creative twist that makes them perfect in concept for nonprofits to adapt and adopt. Read and study the article. Consider what you can offer at public performances, special events or around counseling sessions with troubled teens. What can you offer that will make your guests, whether donors, customers or members of the community feel welcome, well-tended and give them a little something extra for their money or time?
For more about improving customer experiences, whether they are donors, customers or the community, listen to our newest podcast with retail expert, Doug Fleener.
Monday, December 6, 2010
What lies between you and income for your nonprofit? Here are eight key glass-shattering tools to use to break the glass between you and the income your organization needs:
Board Credibility. When you list your board members, do people nod and indicate their respect? Do you have a nominating committee looking at board member recruitment for this year and future years?
Ask. Does anyone ask anyone for money? Both passively (i.e., a written request) and in person, “Will you donate to the annual appeal this year?”
Realistic Ideas and Actions. You have neither too many fundraising ideas (they swarm around you like mosquitoes at dusk) or too few (the same old, tried, true—and boring). Instead, you have two or three that energize you, your board and staff. One stands out. It’s ripe. In ink, you schedule time to bring it to completion.
Work Quality. You produce results worthy of investment whether you call them outcomes, outputs or products. These change people’s lives. You offer donors the chance to participate in helping to make those changes.
No Secret. There is good word about you “on the street.” People talk about your efforts and create a positive buzz. This is no accident or byproduct. You intentionally let people know about your important work. You are never too busy to get the word out.
Strategy for Us. Your strategy embraces a community. In return, it invites that community to embrace you monetarily and with their esteem. A neighborhood school’s community is both the families it serves and the neighborhood. If you’re a parenting education program you’re “them” includes parents and all people in the your service area who care about children and families.
Sustainability. You have a long haul plan to thrive. Donors who invest in you today or include you in their estate plans recognize both as worthwhile investments.
Partnerships. While you might do it alone, you recognize that partners enhance resources, bring new dimensions to your work and provide your customers better outcomes. You help those who invest with you to understand that you provide a “match” to their gifts through partnerships. “If you give us $10 in cash, we turn that into $100 of service with our various partnerships.”
Use these glass-shattering tools to raise your organization to reach through he glass ceiling that keeps you away from earning the money you need to meet your mission. For more help regarding income, see our Money-tastic Audio Series at and sign-up for our Monthly Newsletter Added Value.
Monday, November 29, 2010
I saw the power of decay this month.
Our neighborhood is forty years old. It includes 80 homes that share a common water front-lot and entrance. Years ago the deed restrictions unraveled. The good news is that there are no neighborhood cops running around fining people for infringements. We all act as reasonable human beings with a vested interest in maintaining our curb value. If not, you get anonymous phone calls to take in your trashcans when you leave them out too long. Your neighbor will mow your lawn if it gets out of hand and let you know about it. Neighbors collect your papers and put them at your door, if you neglect to cancel them before a trip. Good community at work. Peer pressure at its best.
The bad news in that since dues are optional, recruiting board members for the neighborhood association is a struggle. People move in and are enthusiastic for about three to five years. After years of monthly meetings, the recruits tire and are ready to let someone else “do it.”
This exhaustion combined with steeply declining real estate value lead to the front entrance became an overgrown tangle. Yet, every day the residents saw it as they drove in. Seeing the entrance is a nasty condition lead to movement.
Last month, in one long-hour 30 people joined to rid our neighborhood of 3 years of Florida abundant growth. Seeing is believing. People had to see that their contribution was important. People had to see what lack of leadership meant before they were motivated to act. People needed to see the decay. At the event, Jim ran around collecting names and emails. He found a set of willing and enthusiastic board recruits.
One takeaway from this article is the excellent concept of creating a one-hour cleanup party at Sunday noon. Another is your thoughtful answer to this question: is there something you should intentionally let go of at your nonprofit to fire up your community to action?
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
I was not home more than a day before my business partner, Gail Meltzer, send me a YouTube video featuring Steven Johnson who wrote Where Good Ideas Come From. In it, Johnson suggests that true innovation comes from a series of “slow hunches” that build on one another and require time to truly incubate. Most often, he says, it is the collision of idea from others that makes the hunch lurking at the back of one person’s mind actually develop into something worthwhile. He states, therefore, that we must find spaces that will allow people with different ideas to come together and bounce those ideas off one another. He offers the analogy of the coffee houses and salons of the early 20th Century that resulted in such great art and literature.
If Crompton and Johnson are correct, then the leadership of organizations that focus internally – that is, determining how they can become better funded, attract the strongest board or gain a reputation as the ‘premier organization’ in their field – are actually working counter-productively to that end. Their organizations will never be recognized as exceptional if they don’t innovate. And, as long as they choose to avoid the interactions with the larger environment that lead to the cross-fertilization of ideas, they are doomed to merely doing more of the ‘same old, same old.’
In my mind this means that leaders must create opportunities to meet frequently with their counterparts in a wide variety of organizational entities to dialog about and to piggy-back off of ideas. The entities they choose to meet with must not only be those that are doing similar work, or that share similar visions for the future, but organizational entities that bring very different viewpoints to the table.
Obviously, this requires a certain level of trust. Therefore, the convening groups will want some rules of engagement. The guidelines for brainstorming are appropriate here – e.g., to generate as many ideas as possible, to avoid judgment, to allow time for clarification, etc. The most important guideline, however, is adopting an attitude that, once thrown out, an idea belongs to the group as a whole. Any modifications of that idea are for the benefit of the community as a whole.
Just think what we could accomplish in our communities if we all took this approach!
Monday, November 22, 2010
- Miracles. People who give money and time to improve your community in ways that they see and ways they never see.
- Little Steps. Nonprofit leaders who improve their organizations and reach their missions every day by reaching out to one more donor and finding a way to serve one more person.
- Big Steps. To make them more responsive to changing market conditions, leaders undertaking major changes, i.e., switching from government to individual donor or earned revenue funding streams.
- Company. People forming new partnerships to improve their reach and offer more.
- Growth. Growing professionalism of staff, board members and supporters both inside and outside of nonprofit organizations and
- Changing Lives. In nonprofits changing live is an everyday opportunity.
Monday, November 15, 2010
The November issue of Added Value, our newsletter for nonprofit leaders, contains an article with fifteen tried and true space solutions for nonprofit organization. To read the article click here. These solutions will help you to solve many of your nonprofit space challenges.
However, you probably have used other solutions to solve space dilemmas. Everyday nonprofits creatively solve space needs. Help us to grow this solution list. Share your ideas here and we will update the article and credit you. Help nonprofits move from spaced out to spaced in.
Monday, November 8, 2010
Last week, we had the privilege of attending an event cosponsored by the Community Foundation of Sarasota County and the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science. The event shared the University of Miami’s work at Little Salt Spring, uncovering prehistoric remains in south Sarasota County. Attendees at the standing-room-only event were members of the Community Foundation’s Legacy Society and Rosenstiel alumni.
While I ate my plantain and bacon skewer, I identified these win-win outcomes for the event’s cosponsors.
For the Community Foundation of Sarasota:
- An interesting program about a local resource for Legacy members as a benefit for their continued relationship with the Foundation
- An opportunity to meet local University of Miami graduates and share with them the Foundation’s work
- Open the door to future partnerships with University’s’ advancement office and explore using the joint program model with other institutions
For the University of Miami:
- Offer an onsite program to the many University of Miami graduates in the greater Sarasota area
- Share an interesting project in need of funding for its next phase with alumni and Sarasota philanthropists
- Open the door to future partnerships with other community foundations across the state
- Enhanced name recognition in the Sarasota area for freshmen recruitment efforts
How can you use this model, or elements of it, in your nonprofit to grow and expand your relationships with people who potentially care about your mission? Consider these questions to help you identify potential partners and programs:
1. Which universities or colleges either local or outside your area have a large alumni presence in your community? Or if you are a college, where do you have a large alumni presence?
2. For any college or university you identify, does the college have a distinguished speaker or project in your field locally? For the college, what connections do you have with that community?
3. Can you offer an education program using their resources at your site to appeal to your donors/community and to their alumni?
4. If no, what other possibilities for interactions are there to create win-wins for future partnerships?
For more on partnerships see: Added Value February 2010
Monday, November 1, 2010
In your income development work-- what can you obtain besides money?
Consider . . .
- Enhanced branding
- Activities that induce future gifts
- Educated supporters
- An educated community that understand why contributions & support matter
- A smarter, more invested board
- Enhanced relationships with community leaders
Does your income development work create something more?
For more ideas, read 7 Lessons to Increase Fundraising Success
Monday, October 25, 2010
This study is already shaking up many who have traditionally turned to powerful men in the community for large financial commitments. However, it should also shake up those who are recruiting for boards of directors. According to the Urban Institute study, “Nonprofit Governance in the United States: Findings on performance and accountability from the first national representative study” by Francie Ostrower, while women make up almost half of all boards in the US (46 percent), they tend to be found on the boards of smaller organizations – typically organizations with budgets under $100,000. The percentage of women serving on the largest (budgets of $40 million plus), most prestigious boards is only 29 percent.
One reason for the above may be that, according to Ostrower’s findings, women often do not make the cut when organizations use financial skills and reputation in the community (“affluence and influence”) as recruiting criteria. If board members are expected to be among the biggest and most committed givers, the Women’s Philanthropy Institute’s study should cause us to question whether organizations are shooting themselves in the foot when they actively solicit more men than women.
Perhaps of even more import is the difference the study found in why people give. Will Brown’s work shows that belief in the mission is the most important factor related to board performance. Conversely, Candace Widmer, in a now classic study, found that joining a board because a friend asks is a temporary incentive and provides neither ongoing rewards nor participation. So, unless the organization is quickly able to provide these board members with other, more meaningful incentives, they will not stay involved. Does it not make more sense, therefore, to recruit those who are already motivated by what the organization is doing? We now know empirically, this means recruiting more women with a demonstrated interest in our organization’s mission.
Since this is the case with green behavior, can you also apply peer pressure to encourage support to your organizations? Anyone using placards in your conference room that state that the last five people who sat in the seat gave $1,000 to help bring children art? Are you using a monthly “peer pressure” chart that lets board member know how their giving stacks up compared to their fellow board members? Are you encouraging giving with your season ticket holders or members with peer pressure? On the reply card, do you state the percent of your season ticket holders that make additional donations of at least $10? How do you use good peer pressure to increase your income or other support to your organization? How might you?
Monday, October 18, 2010
Are your income expectations realistic? Yes, if you . . .
1. Base them on experience. You earned a similar amount in the past.
2. Establish them around industry standards. That is, someone in your sector regularly achieves this outcome with the same kind of inputs you plan. Your organization will struggle to make the funds it needs if it invests 5 percent of its budget to obtain foundation funding vs. the national standard of around 18 percent.
3. Support them with a solid strategy. Expenses less other income does not equal the amount of individuals’ donations you will raise. You can have all the pieces to make a ship model in a bottle, but without the instruction sheet, the strategy that gets you from here to there --the model will gather dust. For income, how exactly will you increase individual donations by 5 percent next year? What will you do today to work toward that goal?
4. Have access to the required resources. You can’t make spaghetti if you lack pasta and tomatoes. Do you have what you need to do the job? For your planned giving effort, do you have donors who have been giving consistently for seven years?
5. Own or invest to gain the necessary skills. You can have a bathing suit, plenty of grease and be at the shore, but this doesn’t mean you’re going to be successful swimming the English Channel. Do people in your organization feel comfortable asking for money?
6. Commit. You, your board and members may understand surviving requires different actions, but if all of you continue to embrace change halfheartedly, over time your expectations will become unrealistic.
7. Flex, as needed, in response to changing conditions. Groups who had the base, industry knowledge, skills, strategies, resources and commitment for a winning capital campaign, faced new challenges in the face of the Great Recession.
The more of these criteria you can say yes to the more realistic are your income expectations. For more about setting realistic expectations see Setting Realistic Expectations About Income. This article is the lead article in this month’s Added Value Newsletter, subscribe today.
Monday, October 11, 2010
Here are five key questions to ask and thoughtfully answer as you plan this step:
1. Who are you?
2. What services will you offer?
3. Why are you needed?
4. What value will you provide?
5. How will you relate to other efforts?
Your customers, potential donors and supporters will ask these questions, even if they use other words. Use your answers to structure your planning efforts.
Monday, October 4, 2010
In August in this blog, I shared the availability a podcast Laura Mikuska and I created about low-cost employee rewards. The podcast shares a dozen or so ideas. To the list of rewards let’s add, “Helping employees to identify what provides meaning for them and incorporate it into their routine.” For many, like Fran, creating meaning will be a chance to see the impact of their work first hand. For some this will mean mixing with the youth you serve. For others, it will be talking with customers after a performance. For some, it might be a chance to deliver meals for a week once a year. Your organization has many meaningful “touch points.”
The list of low cost employee rewards need to continue to expand. What ideas do you have? What works in your shop?
She explained that most non profits who hold events and charity auctions focus their energies on promoting the event itself, rather than the reason behind the event, which is, of course, to support the non profit's mission. While it's fun to attend a party, you need to pull at your attendees heartstrings by focusing all your remarks, stories and materials on your mission. She reminded us that events are just another vehicle to enhance your messaging, just like your newsletter or website.
Focus your energies on your mission at all times - you will achieve better results in the long run.
Fund development & event specialists
Monday, September 27, 2010
Partnerships always include unknowns. This summer, my husband and I vacationed in the Canadian Rockies. In Banff, because of grizzlies, Consolation Lake Trail was limited to groups of four or more. Day Three of the trip, we headed to the trailhead hoping it wouldn’t take long to double our party so we could use the highly recommended, but less frequently used path. As we approached it, we discussed that since we were Floridian flat-landers still getting our mountain legs, we didn’t want to hold up any eager young athletes. We needed older adults or a family for hiking partners.
At the trailhead, we found Walter and Granita, an older adult couple from Germany, waiting to hike to the destination. Delighted, we set off on the gorgeous, cool morning following their lead past the bear warning sign and over the boulders covering the trail. As we walked, we discussed travels, this trip and our respective homes. As we waked father we discussed-- us huffing-- that they loved to hike in the Alps and that they did so year-round. Walter and Granita, it turns out, were excellent, experienced hikers who attacked Consolation Trail with gusto. For three hours, we pushed to keep up with them.
Partnerships, even when you get exactly what you hope for, often turn differently than you expect. Nonetheless, they may have great value. The trip to Consolation Lake was a highlight. Even though arrived at the destination much faster than expected, our partnership with Walter and Granita, made the journey much more rewarding . . . and amusing.
To expand your thinking about partnerships review our September Added Value Newsletter (http://www.kedconsult.com/wp-content/themes/kedconsult/newsletters/sept-2010.php)
Thursday, September 23, 2010
There are reasons why non profits and donors alike should pay attention to news like this. An organization has to be accountable to its donors. If it is receiving only one quarter of the money raised in its name, it should be re-examining how it chooses to raise those funds. As a donor, I would be appalled to know that my chosen charity was not receiving maximum benefit from my donation.
That said, it does cost money to raise money. The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) guidelines stipulate that expenditure to revenue ratios should be no more than 35 per cent. If you're spending more than that, you're not spending it on charitable activities, and you should have your charitable status questioned or even revoked.
One additional comment about the CBC's use of the term "professional fundraisers". Those of us who pride ourselves on being part of the profession of fundraisers take umbrage with the negative undertone of the use of the term. We agree to abide by the Ethical Standards set out by the Association of Fundraising Professionals. AFP works hard to inform both its members and the giving public that there are ethical ways to give and raise money. Those that choose to ignore these standards do so at their own peril.
Non profits should continue to use outside consultants if they lack internal expertise or are short on staff. Hiring an expert to guide you through a capital campaign or help plan an event makes good fiscal sense. Finally, it's the relationships you build with your constituents and donors that will increase your bottom line - not farming that job out to the lowly telemarketer on the other end of the phone line.
Fund development & event specialists
Plenty, it turns out.
The following condenses down five 8 x 11 pages of notes from today’s one-hour presentation with experts J. Clifford Curley, Jane Bennett, Rue Ann Porter, Carrie Rasmussen and Gayle Williams during the 2010 Nonprofit PR and Marketing Forum.
In your ads and marketing materials:
• J. Clifford Curley suggests we use donor centric communications or “people talk.”
• Jane Bennett gave four rules of thumb for preparing winning ads: attention (draw eye), interest (you have seconds), desire (I want to be involved) and action (call for response). Knowing your vision, mission, strategy, business goals, marketing plan, target audience, etc., comes before designing ads or other materials.
• Gayle Williams shares that social media is a game changer—yes, but it also not a game changer. Social media is another tool or tactic for your nonprofit but it needs to fit within your overall strategy (not a game changer). Yes, social media is a game changer. It provides platforms that allow you to speak directly to your audience.
• Rue Ann Porter reminds us that PR and paid ads can work very well together. She suggests you consider your key prospect in both quantitative and personal aspects. What is their age and demographics about them? But, also what is their day like?
• When you look for media partners, Carrie Rasmussen recommends that you know what you want and what you want to achieve. She encourages you to be aware of the benefits you offer to the community and to your media partner. Collaboration is a powerful tool to help you “stand out.”
Overall, how can you take advantage of limited advertising dollars? Much planning and some work. Find your content in a quality strategic plan. Develop a PR and Marketing plan that includes the messages you want to share in the next few months. Then, work the plan.
Monday, September 20, 2010
You care about the people who come to your sites. What simple gestures can you make to let them know this? Traditionally, banks offer children lollipops and waiting areas have magazines. Can you offer something distinctive—that people need but often forget—that communicates your care for them?
Friday, September 17, 2010
Monday, September 13, 2010
Yesterday one of my emails included this quote from Jean Monnet, “Nothing is possible without individuals; nothing is lasting without institutions.” The need for individuals and institutions and the potential conflict between them recapitulates one of the themes in The House That Love Built--the story of Millard and Linda Fuller and Habitat for Humanity.
Does it really take individuals? When Fuller was asked about how much money you needed to form a Habitat chapter, he said, “You have to have at least a dollar. It would be fiscally irresponsible to start a project with less than a dollar. But if you have dollar and you’ve got committed folks you can start and God will bless your meager resources…” Today worldwide Habitat for Humanity and The Fuller Center for Housing, which the Fuller’s began in 2005, have over 1,500 affiliates and partners—while it takes a more than a dollar to sustain them, single dollars created the initial foundations for over 350,000 homes these two organizations have built.
While the book is often a treatise in defense of Fullers, the book’s value for the nonprofit leader is the questions it raises about founders and the institutions they create. Might it have been possible for Habitat and Fuller to reach an accord without the public conflict that took place when the board fired Fuller? What might the Fuller have done differently? The Board? When might those efforts have started? How can an organization continue to benefit from the gifts of dynamic founders if and when they come into conflict with organization building? From this example, if you are a board member, what changes will you make at your organization? If you are a founder, how can you help your legacy to continue?
Monday, August 30, 2010
The History of the Schoenbaum Human Service Center of Sarasota
In my hunt for books that tell nonprofit stories, I found this booklet. Dr. Kay Glasser, who died early this year, tells about her magnificent obsession to create a human service center. At the Center she created, nonprofits receive “free rent” and those in need receive multiple services.
The booklet’s biggest lesson is to remind nonprofit leaders of the importance of creating by-laws that serve your organization. The Center’s first by-laws called for a board of directors composed solely of representatives of the agencies housed in the Center. This resulted in two challenges. First, board members had the natural tendency to vote in their own agencies interests. Second, according to Dr. Glasser, she had to do the fundraising without board help because they were busy fundraising for their own organizations. Would the Center have been better served by creating a board of influential citizens with agency representatives serving an advisory role?
Dr. Glasser also shares the many other hurdles she overcame in the eight years or so it took to move from concept to grand opening and serving 15+ agencies. Here you can read stories of trying and trying again and finding people willing to help, especially in banks and in city government. Besides the by-laws lesson, the nonprofit leader, in this short read, will be reminded about the value of perseverance, asking for help and asking for money . . .from people who have it.
Thursday, August 26, 2010
She and I went back and forth with our arguments. She felt that the executive director is the constant – the one who will be there after the entire board turns over. I reasoned that there is no guarantee that the executive director will be there tomorrow, let alone years down the road. I know too many organizations that make that position a revolving door. But even in the most stable organizations, a lot of long-time executive directors are reaching the point where retirement is starting to look pretty good. We’re also starting to see a number of less fortunate dying with their boots on.
Carol asked me to honestly examine how many boards step up to the plate and take on this responsibility. While I concede that the job often defaults to the executive director, by accepting that role, the executive director makes it that much easier for the board to abdicate its responsibility in the future. It is the board that benefits most from learning what it could/should be doing differently to maximize, or at least improve, its directors’ experiences. The interviewer should be taking notes that can be kept in a board book for easy referral by future boards. Carol argued that future boards won’t bother to look back. I of the “you get what you expect school” retorted that debriefing should be an expected part of the job. After heating up cyber-space for a couple of days, we agreed to disagree.
However, I was like the store clerk who gets in an argument with a customer. Long after the customer leaves, the clerk is whining about that customer to everyone else she comes in contact with that day. I ran the arguments by another colleague, Jane Garthson. Jane said definitively that it was the board’s job to conduct exit interviews. However – sneaky devil! – she said she understood if an executive director wanted to conduct his or her own exit interview to learn what he or she might do differently in the future. So, this brings me to the question of the day. What, if any, are the arguments that we are all missing? If you even agree that exit interviews for departing board members are valuable, who do you want to see facilitating them? Why?
Monday, August 23, 2010
Monday, August 16, 2010
Amongst the many items in the storage unit from my parent’s house was a letter from 1945 from the Buffalo Evening News. It thanked my mother for helping to raise $506.43 for the “News Smoke Fund.” The letter went on to thank her and her friends for their efforts to “keep ‘em smoking”. It offered thanks on behalf of “every solider, sailor, marine, coast guardsman and others from Buffalo and Western New York.”
My mother never smoked. She was careful to provide an ongoing education to make sure her four children never smoked. Yet in 1945 before any of us existed, she helped to raise funds for cigarettes to support the war effort and those in the service during World War II.
Why is this a cautionary tale? It reminds us that:
1. Missions need to be reexamined to make sure they are current.
2. Missions need to go deep. Over sixty-five years, “Let them know we care about them” would have served better than “keep ‘em smoking”. The latter has not aged well—in fact its rather horrifying. Missions built on core values will age better.
3. Mission activities need careful planning. What else might the people of Western New York done besides “keep ‘em smoking”? Likewise, what else might you do besides your current programs?
For a related article on writing mission statements see How to Develop a Great Mission Statement.
Monday, August 9, 2010
Finding all of the doors and identifying where they lead is critical to future planning. Finding all the doors in advance helps you to find all the great possibilities. Finding all doors allows you to compare and to contrast different futures—before you follow them. You don’t do this alone. You ask others for their help. Finding all the doors invites others to bring you ideas that may intrigue and entice you.
Finding all of your possible doors the first step of future planning for nonprofit organizations, the “D” in the four-step DOOR process. Read more about D.O.O.R. in this month’s Added Value.
Monday, August 2, 2010
Cheryl Pollock recommended this book at a collaboration presentation sponsored by the Nonprofit Leadership Center of Tampa Bay late last year. In the presentation, Pollock shared the success of the Y’s Community Learning Center program at Sulfur Springs Elementary School. Before starting the program, after a year of research, the Y selected the Harlem Children's Zone, discussed in this book, as a model for the Sulfur Springs program. The Harlem Children's Zone is a community-based program that serves 17,000 children in a 100-block area of Harlem in New York City.
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
Muhammad Yunus’ book traces the start of the now international Grameen (village) micro-lending program in Bangladesh. It has three vital lessons for nonprofit leaders.
For other reading suggestions see Recommended Reading.
Monday, July 26, 2010
Such an expectation would do several things. It would communicate to the world that the organization believes an educated board is important. It would provide necessary dollars for such board education, without cutting into dollars dedicated to programming. And, it would help board members value the education the organization provides, because research affirms that people ascribe more value to something for which they pay rather than get for free.
There are some issues to consider. When my colleagues and I were talking, someone arbitrarily threw out $500 as the portion of each board member’s contribution that would go into this board education fund. While a substantial amount, with an average-sized board of 16, that only puts $8000 into the education coffer. True, $8000 is more than most boards currently devote to board education. But, $8000 won’t go far if the money is to be used for a true retreat, conference expenses or coaching, for instance. Asking for a number larger than $500 might be a non-starter for most boards – at least at this stage in the game. And, what happens in those organizations that ask for a personally meaningful gift from each board member instead of a contribution of a specific dollar amount? Yes, the leadership could opt to allot the entire board member contribution to its education fund, or designate a percentage, but how can any organization create an education budget if the ultimate total is an unknown? Perhaps the answer is that the board would still have to assign to the board education line a dollar amount from its general operating funds and use the contributions just to enhance its educational opportunities.
The biggest issue may be that some people will resent this set-aside, either out of principle or the belief that they do not need education – perhaps they’ve sat on many boards over the years and believe they have the job down pat. My guess is, though, this reality may be off-set by those that clamor to join a board that devotes so much attention to its board members and provides leadership training that they can then take back to their jobs or on to other organizations.
As someone who firmly believes in ongoing board education at every meeting, I love what this concept could “buy.” But I recognize it would require a major culture shift in most organizations. What do you see as the pros and cons? Is this an idea with sufficient value to push?
Monday, July 19, 2010
Although they did not start out as a nonprofit, Mike Feinberg and Dave Levin’s work resulted in one: the Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP) Foundation. In 1994, Feinberg and Levin, Teach for America graduates, started an inner-city school program for middle school students. Today, 82 schools in 19 states and the District of Columbia are KIPP programs. KIPP serves 21,000 mostly middle school age children. While many KIPP students begin fifth grade at least one or more grades behind their peers in math and reading, after four years at KIPP, 100 percent of eighth grade classes outperformed their district averages in mathematics and reading based on state tests. Word Hard. Be Nice. tells the story of the early years of KIPP.
What can a nonprofit leader learn from this book? The value of partnerships and perseverance. While the relationships were not always rosy, in fact they were often difficult and challenging, KIPP had to work with local schools and school boards to succeed. If you are faced with a partnership you must make work, Work Hard. Be Nice. will give you insights about how to survive, grow and thrive in this environment and how to hold on to your vision in tough times.
Thursday, July 15, 2010
In the United States, our honorary boards could be considered the closest equivalent to the patron system of Singapore. Some organizations here are able to engage major players, such as the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation which counts among its trustees James Baker, Dick Cheney, Alan Greenspan, Henry Kissinger and Donald Rumsfeld. But the number of organizations with the capability of attracting names of this caliber are far and few between. Would it be easier for nonprofits to attract a single patron? Would a patron help nonprofits that feel they lack sufficient access to affluence and influence?
I do believe that it would be easier to find a single patron than an honorary board. However, I do not believe that it would necessarily be easy. Think of all the nonprofits that have tried unsuccessfully to find a celebrity spokesperson. And, we certainly know how quickly a good name can become a liability. Tiger Woods, anyone? Singapore has experienced this with the patron system as well. The patron of their National Kidney Foundation, the wife of Goh Chok Tong, former Prime Minister of Singapore and current Chairman of the Central Bank, was forced to step down after defending the pay of the CEO, saying that his $600,000 (S) salary was “peanuts.” At least with an honorary board, one would hope there will be others whose reputations remain sterling, even if one of the names on that board turns bad.
As to whether having a patron would be helpful to organizations lacking affluence and influence...I'm not so sure. Singapore is a very small country. People tend to know one another and a patron's name alone carries clout. Here, the individual would have to be willing to actively use his/her influence on behalf of the organization to bring others along. Research done by Herman and Renz suggests that this does not happen as often as nonprofits hope. Besides, the reach of a single individual versus a larger group is necessarily limited, especially in a country the size of the United States.
So, even though I believe nonprofits in the United States can learn much from their counterparts in other countries, I'm not so sure I'd suggest our turning to a patron system here. But, I’m curious as to what others think. Is such a system an answer for us, especially in these difficult times?
Monday, July 12, 2010
Nonprofit leaders would like to have access to a money tree—a big healthy one.
In truth, they do. Healthy nonprofits grow groves of money trees composed of six* main species. They include these species of trees and yield, on average, these fruits.
1. Earned income: 28- 40 percent
2. Individuals gifts including bequests: 16-29 percent
3. Government: 21- 30 percent
4. Other income, like interest and entrepreneurial income: 10-16 percent
5. Foundations: 2-3 percent
6. Business/Corporate: 1-2 percent
Money trees start, as all trees do, either as a seed like an acorn or a planted seedling. Then nonprofit leaders tend, water and protect them. If you take care of your groves and continue to plant new trees, you will harvest fruit for years.
Which trees have you planted in your nonprofit? Which of your groves need tending? Which new trees are you learning to grow?
For more information about nonprofit income sources see:
* A seventh species is the In-Kind Tree, where groups receive resources in lieu of cash.
Wednesday, June 30, 2010
When an organization’s leadership turns to consultants it is typically because that leadership has determined that it requires help with a discrete task such as facilitating a fund raising campaign or a board retreat. The leadership does its due diligence and brings in a person or firm that the group feels has the expertise to move it forward in this arena. The only problem with this is that fund raising, for instance – successful fund raising – cannot occur in a vacuum. It relies on the existence of an infrastructure with policies and procedures, on a board that understands how it can contribute to the fund development process, on the integration of a PR/marketing plan, on research, and so on. The same concept holds true regardless of the identified task. Trying to take one element alone and move the organization forward by committing time and money to just that one element is almost always less than optimal.
Many consultants understand this and try to help the organization see the light. Fine. The only problem with this is if they try to pass themselves off as a Jack-of-all-trades. Such Jacks are often the master of none. Today, as never before, consultants cannot rely on offering up bromides. They really have to understand the trends and nuances of the area(s) in which they consult in order to be of real use to their clients.
This probably means the organization must work with a number of specialists in order to move forward. But, actual damage can occur when the leadership identifies multiple needs and hires an array of different consultants to help the organization achieve its various goals. Why? Too often, while each of the consultants hired may be the best in their individual fields, each is taking direction and offering solutions in a vacuum. The result is that the organization can be pulled in different, if not opposing, directions.
Nonprofits would do well to take lessons from the field of medicine. In the last 15 years it has become the gold standard to go to a Mayo or Cleveland Clinic where the doctors, nurses, therapists, pharmacists, etc. act as a coordinated team, discussing as a team each patient’s needs, treatment plans and physical and mental reactions to the plan. Our sector must start demanding that the specialists they hire work together, creating intervention and accountability plans that are integrated.
Today’s technology, with its ability to promote and enhance communication between far-flung parties, certainly makes this feasible. But, it makes the job of hiring consultants that much more difficult because the organization’s leadership has to ensure that the consultants understand that coming into the organization, doing one’s thing and leaving is no longer sufficient or acceptable. The leadership has to ensure that everyone it hires is committed to the team approach. It has to determine that the chemistry is not only right between the leadership team and the consultants, but among the various consultants as well.
Unless the organization can hire a consulting firm that has the appropriate talent and is built around these principles, the task is daunting. But, it is not impossible. And, the potential for positive impact is huge.
Tuesday, June 29, 2010
Imagine using Dialoogle and Picture Your Legacy with non-profit and philanthropic leaders, helping them to articulate their passion for the organizations for which they work or volunteer, and uncovering stories that could be shared when soliciting donations and other forms of organizational support. Imagine using the cards and iPhone app to commence group discussions, and to move into collaborative problem solving.
Monday, June 28, 2010
In recent weeks, we’ve all heard hundreds of news reports about BP’s response to the Gulf Crisis. One set of reports has particular interest to nonprofit organizations. These contain information about how BP created The Hive as its “Apollo 13 Brain Center”. Do you have a challenge you want to tackle? What if you created a Hive to collect the best thinking about your nonprofit and your challenge? Here is how to build one based on the reports.
- Set aside a creative, thinking space. The Hive is a repurposed research center and “houses a dozen video screens…” You need space where a group can work undisturbed. Make it large enough so everyone can be seated comfortably and see each other. Add computers with Internet access so information can be gathered and checked on the spot. Include space for ideas to be captured, posted and viewed by all with easel pads or white boards.
- Best minds. Gather the best minds to talk about what your organization might do to respond to the challenge. Who might you invite to your Hive? Consider board members, former board members, staff of local foundations and civic leaders.
Hundreds of engineers from universities, rival oil companies and the federal government immediately went back to work, in shifts lasting 13 hours or more.
- Dream team. Okay, you drafted a list of the best minds. Now, imagine who would be on your dream team. How about leaders in the community known for their creative approaches, even if they now do little in the nonprofit world? Academics? How about a leader from a foundation that specializes in your work from across the county? These team members may not be available, but unless you ask them, you will never know.
Then came the "dream team" that President Barack Obama had ordered his Nobel-winning energy secretary, Steven Chu, to assemble: out-of-the-box thinkers including a nuclear physicist, a pioneer on Mars drilling techniques, an MIT professor whose research interests include "going faster on my snowboard," an expert on the hydrogen bomb, and a controversial astrophysicist…
As a Gulf resident agonizing over the oil spill despoiling our beautiful gulf, I remain hopeful that soon the leak will be plugged so that full recovery can begin. One good thing to come of out this disaster is that nonprofits can also learn how to build hives to call forth and capture great thinking to solve their challenges.
Monday, June 21, 2010
In summer, many nonprofits leaders have more flexibility in their schedule. One nonprofit takes the whole month of August to learn and plan. If you would like things to be less hectic this fall, consider investing time this summer the same way. We have a beach bag full of new resources to help you improve your time management and strategy planning. They include:
• Mission Brilliant Podcasts
• Added Value Newsletters
• Time Management Workshop (in conjunction with the Nonprofit Leadership Center of Tampa Bay)
• Raising the Bar on Strategic Planning in Your Organization Teleconference
• Time Management for Nonprofit Leaders Booklet
To start you off, here is one tip:
27. Block Islands. For large tasks, set aside a two-hour block of time. Repeat over several days or weeks, as needed, to make progress on key activities. Prioritize these time islands just like you would appointments with key donors.
As you learn and plan this summer, you will be able to breathe even more deeply knowing that you and your organization will be in a stronger and better place this fall.