Monday, November 29, 2010

Let Someone Else Take Care of the Hood

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

All the More Reason for Nonprofits to Collaborate…

I recently returned from the BoardSource Leadership Forum in San Francisco. BoardSource President and CEO Linda Crompton opened the convening. One of her comments was that innovation is not necessarily an event or a singular killer idea. It tends to be emergent – the result of group interaction.

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


Its that time of year. What is on your list of items for which you are grateful? This week, as you are thankful for parents, children and siblings, the turkey, the stuffing, the cranberry sauce and friends near and far, remember to be thankful for the opportunity to work in the nonprofit field. Where you experience--
  • 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

Space Solutions

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

Little Salt Spring: A Model to Explore Your Possibilities

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

Do Your Fundraising Efforts Raise More Than Money?

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
Which of these besides money do your fundraising efforts create? What might you create with a little tweaking in your income development effort? Can you obtain all of them? Is there something else that you can add to the list that obtain or would like to obtain?

Does your income development work create something more?
For more ideas, read 7 Lessons to Increase Fundraising Success