Posts Tagged ‘Non-Profits’

Preventive Medicine for Non Profit Boards

Wednesday, February 19th, 2014

Commit to Annual Wellness Checks for Your Organization

By Joseph John

Whenever you read the news, you can’t avoid seeing the numerous health-related articles. Health news is everywhere, whether it’s The Affordable Care Act, wellness, insurance, healthy living, exercise,

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and so forth.

What isn’t news is the fact that we have always known that people should get annual wellness checks, one of the best procedures for preventative medicine. Yes, routine medical checkups instead of becoming a real life actor being wheeled into the emergency room and the professional staff beginning the complicated triage process, as the vital life signs are being analyzed.

Whew. Kind of depressing thought isn’t it? Well, let’s move the triage process, and the severity of the Emergency Room to the nonprofits. Yes, triage for nonprofits. How many nonprofits are consistently being admitted to the emergency room? Doesn’t it make a lot more sense for nonprofits to get annual wellness checkups before there are serious consequences to the health of the organization?

So, in this annual wellness checkup, what is the “doctor” looking for to ensure the health of the non profit organization? What has changed over the year? Any change in the “vital signs”? Any new “allergies?” Well, the non profit wellness checklist could include the following items (this is NOT all-inclusive) with each one followed by a checkmark under categories such as “excellent, good, fair, or poor” followed by “commentary,” “prognosis” and “prescription (if needed):”

1) Vision, Mission, and Values

2) Bylaws

3) Membership drives

4) Funding — short and long range including legacy programs

5) Organizational objectives and benchmarks (1-3-5 year plans)

6) Committee structures and board member participation

7) Board member assessments

8) Staff assessments

9) Current marketing & communications processes (communications audit)

10) Special projects

11) Community awareness

As you can see, the list is extensive, but not all-inclusive. However, it certainly is a good start to begin the annual checkup to check out the health of the organization. What must be on the list has to be an endless and thorough list of all the factors that contribute to the health and well-being of the non profit organization.

In other articles, I have referred to the Mediocrity-Good-Great continuum. In other words, the annual physical will help determine if your organization is “just getting by” or if your organization is in great shape and should keep up the good work of “healthy habits”.

Commit to Organizational Wellness — your organization’s primary New Year’s resolution, each-and-every year.

 

 

Non Profit Board Resolutions for 2014

Wednesday, January 8th, 2014

Is Your Non Profit Board Ready to Tackle 2014?

By Joseph John

Two years ago, I wrote an article about making and keeping non profit board resolutions. I thought it would be fair to dust off that document from 2012 and see what — if anything — has changed with your non profit’s organizational resolutions for the New Year.

The first question you need to ask is this: Were there ANY formalized resolutions for 2012 or 2013? Was there a board retreat (or at least a special meeting) to determine goals/resolutions for those years? Another question: Were there ANY personal commitments from board members to contribute to the organization’s growth, health, and well-being? And so here we are heading into 2014; what has your organization accomplished over the past two years? What do you hope to accomplish in 2014?

Non profit board resolutions are really no different than the personal resolutions individuals make. Oh yes, there are always great intentions behind those resolutions, but invariably, there are periods through the year that the resolutions tail-off into a nose-dive, one-by-one. What resolutions an organization needs are the same as an individual — manageable resolutions. Yes manageable resolutions that will encourage board commitment AND follow-through during the entire year.

You’ve probably seen dozens of resolutions before, but let’s reinforce some of the ones below that you and your board can and should make. These are resolutions that will ultimately make a difference to the community you serve.

First things first: Determine where your organization exists on the mediocrity-good-great continuum. What will move you and the organization from mediocrity to good. What will move you from good to great? [Note: see my article “Moving Beyond Mediocrity”]

Second: You may remember an article I wrote regarding “Organizational Milestones.” In that article, I stated that an historical timeline creates a better grasp for seeing trends over the almost thirteen years since the millennium to determine what the next one, three, or five years might look like. It’s a great planning tool. And yes, I’ve already tested this concept with a number of associations that I deal with — and they collectively say “OMG…that would be fantastic for all of us to review.”

Let me ask you: Does your non profit organization have the organizational “guts”, that is, the commitment, to set the bar higher, and to venture into new markets that you haven’t approached before? Is your organizational “vision” aggressive enough to make reaching for new goals a real challenge?

The following resolutions, or goals, are not new. You’ve seen them before. However, it’s time to review each one and determine which of the following items your organization can achieve in order to reach higher and ultimately move from Mediocrity to Good to Greatness. Let’s recap:

Friend (member) raise. Remember the axiom: “Friend raising comes before fund raising.”

Open the box. Now seal it! Be different. Be unique. Make people say, “now that’s a unique and creative non profit organization.”

Raise communication awareness internally. Start talking to each other — board members and staff members. If you can’t communicate clearly among yourselves, then the next resolution is going to fall flat on its face.

Raise communication awareness in the community. Again, “open the box” and start thinking of unique ways that will generate POSITIVE communication throughout the community.

Raise your hand. That’s right! Don’t sit on your hands. When you start leaning towards delegation, then delegate to yourself first.

Raise the bar. Set some higher goals for friend raising, fund raising, and other initiatives that require going that “extra mile,” and beyond!

Dust off the bylaws, vision, mission, and values. Challenge, if need be. Change or modify them if necessary. DON’T wait. Mediocrity is mired in dusty old bylaws, vision, mission, and values.

Take ownership. “It’s Your Board.” Make yourself an owner of the organization and begin pushing for excellence, unity, and most importantly trust.

Sow the seeds of board recruitment. Recruit and groom new talent on the board and that means looking towards the “X” and “Y” generations so they can become the future leaders on your non profit board and great community spokespersons.

Try a fresh coat of paint. Determine if your organization’s image needs a fresh coat of paint to create a brand new, and vibrant, organization to the community.

Plan for the future. Focus on the here-and-now with an eye for keeping the pipeline of future funding open for your organization.

Say “thank you.” Two little words are two HUGE words. “Thank you” is one of the greatest ice-breakers, which leads right into friend-raising — and the cycle continues from friend raising to fund raising.

The previous twelve (12) resolutions were presented in 2012 and again in 2013. Has anything changed in your non profit organization since then? Go ahead and rank-order the ones that you and your fellow board members can work on immediately. Commit to excellence. Resolve to keep your resolutions for 2014. Remember that keeping your resolutions will result in benefits for you, your organization, and the communities you serve.

Non Profits: Reaching Across the Aisle

Monday, January 6th, 2014

And Reaching Across the Non Profit Boardroom Table

By Joseph John

My good friend and I were having coffee recently and discussing everything from sports to — gulppolitics. We both rolled our eyes at the fact that our leaders in Washington have become so combative, so alienated, so out-of-touch, that they have fallen deaf to the electorate. Unfortunately, they seem to be focused strictly on their personal agendas — not their constituents’ wishes. Republicans, Democrats, and whatever’s seem to forget that it’s the good of the country that should be their primary focus, and not a matter of W’s and L’s on their personal scorecard. Oh, yes, I can be naive. However, politics and the country’s direction can’t be construed as a game. Well, I could continue, but the focus of this article is not on the dysfunction in Washington D.C.

No. Unfortunately, dysfunction, personal agendas, and personal scorecards find their way into every strata of society, and that includes the non profit sector. “Oh, surely you jest, Mr. John. Isn’t “altruism” the rule of the day in the nonprofit sector?” Oh, PUHLEASE.

Think about how many people join a non profit board and immediately bring THEIR personal agenda to the table. Reflect on the number of boards you have joined and the lineup of folks who already are lobbying hard for their ideas to be implemented. I’m sure you have dealt with some people who tend to implement roughshod over other board members’ beliefs and values. It seems to take virtually no time at all for some board members to alienate others because, quite simply, their philosophy is this: My way or the highway.

Many of my articles have focused on individuals — the people who hold up their hands to join a non profit board. People joining a board are coming in from so many directions, mindsets and lifestyles.  With that in mind, my question(s) are always the same: Just WHY did you join the board? What’s in it for you? What is that you want to achieve and do for society? And just as important, did the membership/nominating committee perform due diligence in screening this person?

A non profit board, unfortunately, is not insulated from the same negative human traits that we see on a daily basis in Washington or state capitals for that matter. It appears to me that there are too many people who believe that compromise is a weakness rather than a strength.  “I won’t give in. I won’t yield. My way is the correct way and the only way.”

Compromise is not a weakness — it is a strength. Compromise is strength because you have the organization’s best interest(s) at heart, not your personal agenda. You are willing to reach across the aisle/across the boardroom table because the good of the organization is more important than your personal agenda. A dear friend who was involved in contract negotiations prior to her retirement says that “compromise is a way for all sides to ‘win’ something. Unless it is a life threatening issue, compromise is always possible.”

Remember one of the most important questions the membership committee was supposed to ask the potential candidate: CAN you/WILL you learn to “play nice” and become a TEAM player with a group of people who also are contributing their free time to serve? Somewhere, in that interviewing process, questions have to be asked in such a way as to ensure the candidate understands the role of the individual in relation to the good of the non profit organization.

Melanie Lockwood Herman, Executive Director of the Nonprofit Risk Management Center, best captures the importance of compromise, ie, reaching across the table or aisle, with this comment:

Compromise is a basic instinct for non profit leaders. Discerning when compromise may impair mission fulfillment, however, is a skill we must learn and practice. Resisting the urge to compromise may not be easy, but it is necessary to protect the mission of your organization and your commitment to deliver on that mission each and every day.

Yes, in the ideal world, the nonprofit sector can be the prototype of collaboration and compromise for ALL sectors of society to work for the common good — it’s just a matter of reaching across the aisle.

Non Profits: Moving Beyond Mediocrity

Monday, November 4th, 2013

Non Profit Mediocrity Can Be Changed

By Joseph John

A month or so ago, as I was leaving a meeting, I overheard an associate mutter something under his breath. I caught up to him and asked him “Hey, [name], I didn’t quite catch what you just said.”

He looked at me and smiled — or was it a pained grimace? He said, “Good to Great.” And then he added “some people should read that book.” He shook his head, and again I saw the look on his face.

My associate’s look and his comment took me aback briefly because I realized that he was so right. He did not have to elaborate. The non profit organization to which he was referring: was it good and didn’t know how to get to great? Or worse, yet, was it just mediocre?

I thought about that statement and I realized that the organization he was referring to was truly mired in mediocrity. Yes, an organization that majored in and was mired in mediocrity. That organization has a long journey before it even gets to good, let alone great.

When I got home, I scoured my bookshelf for yet another well-written classic of organizational behaviors and mindsets: GOOD TO GREAT, Why Some Companies Make the Leap…and Others Don’t, by Jim Collins. Yes, that was what my associate was referring to.

Collins talks about the Nucor System which “…rejected the old adage that people are your most important asset. In a good-to-great transformation, people are not your most important asset. The right people are.” Do we say “Amen” or “Right On” to that statement?  How many organizations look for someone just to fill a seat on the board rather than perform due diligence to determine if that person is a good “fit’ for the board?

Yes, Collins’ research is geared to the for-profit arena; however, there are just too many salient points in his book that can be applied to the non profit sector as well. He states that “Good is the Enemy of Great.” YIKES! If that’s the case, is it safe to assume that Mediocrity is the enemy of Good? Visually, this is what the Mediocrity continuum looks like:

Mediocrity                      >                       Good                          >                           Great

Gee, does our non profit organization enjoy being all the way over to the left-hand side of Greatness?

Now, let me pose the next question about non profit organizational behavior: How many degrees are there between mediocrity and good?  Oh, I’m sure there might be degrees that can be measured as an organization moves along the continuum to being good. But, instead of degrees of separation from being good, I believe it’s really a matter of shaking off as many of the traits that comprise mediocrity and prohibit the movement towards good.

Some of those traits are: complacency, lack of vision, unwillingness to establish stretch goals, unwillingness to measure productivity and accountability, preaching the gospel of “we never did it that way before,” and the list goes on.

Andrew Carnegie stated, “People who are unable to motivate themselves must be content with mediocrity, no matter how impressive their other talents.” Based on Carnegie’s quote, I believe it is safe to say that many nonprofit organizations don’t attempt to find (or can’t) the best-of-the-best to sit on the board of directors. And why? Simply because they have no concept of greatness or the potential for their board and the organization to be good and then great. They’re mired in a culture of mediocrity and fail to focus on the personality traits that need to be fixed to be able to move along the continuum.

Going through the motions, year-after-year is mediocrity. Not challenging each other to establish stretch goals is mediocrity. Not challenging and questioning the status quo is mediocrity. Not establishing a year-long friend and fundraising campaign is mediocrity. Not holding every board member accountable for results and positive growth is mediocrity. seo company usa Not electing visionary leaders and doers is mediocrity.

Yes, I think you can see that mediocrity is a negative trait. It’s a trait that creates a delusional sense of self-satisfaction when, in fact, the organization is underachieving and, in essence, failing.

As a good friend said, when I discussed this article with her, the response was “Is mediocrity the contentment with where you are, or the fear of reaching higher?  It just takes one step….” Yes, just one step: a commitment to change and change with the right people.

Non Profits and Social Media

Wednesday, April 10th, 2013

Does your non profit have a strategic social media plan and know how to measure it?

By Joseph John

Congratulations! Your organization is keeping current. You are doing everything necessary in order to keep up with social media trends — all the while promoting your non profit organization. So, what’s your media?

OH. You were one of the first non profits to create a website and blog. That’s fantastic. Do you recall when you last updated your website or freshened up the blog with some new information? Or, let’s look at some other social media that you may be utilizing:

  • Facebook? Check.
  • Twitter? Yep.
  • YouTube? Check.
  • LinkedIn? Uh huh.
  • Pinterest? Maybe.

And possibly other social media platforms of the day — social media dujour. Check!

Ah, yes. You’ve got it all. You’re just beaming and your monthly non profit board meetings are full of “high fives”. “Wow. We are ALL OVER the social media spectrum.”

OK. Like I said, “Congratulations.” Now, step back. Do you know WHY you’re on all (or some) of those sites? Is it because “Well, everyone else is doing it,” or to use an old phrase “We need to be keeping up with the Joneses.” And now the most

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important question: What’s your organization’s strategic plan for using social media? Huh? A strategic plan for social media?

Yes, a strategic plan. What committee was charged with writing the plan and determining what sites are best for YOUR organization?

Are you using social media sites for “friending” and building new followers in the community? Are you using the sites for fundraising? Are you promoting your brand on those sites? Are you using those sites to keep people informed of trends and events in your organization? Or, sadly, are you using the sites merely as a presence, while your site remains very static and hasn’t been updated in a long, long time.

Do you know how many “likes” you have received, or “followers?” Here’s the most important question, before we discuss “metrics” which will be covered in another article: WHO is keeping your social media sites up-to-date, keeping the information fresh, following up on people that are “touching,” “tweeting,” “following,” “liking,” and — the list goes on.

Two firms, Ventureneer and Caliber, joined forces several years ago to develop a survey of non profits’ social media usage. Their final document titled, “Nonprofits and Social Media: It Ain’t Optional,” related the results of the survey.

Let me just share a few of the “ten highly

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successful media habits for nonprofits” that comprised the introduction to their survey findings:*

1. Excel at social media by dedicating the time to it. There are no ifs, ands or buts about it: to do social media well, non profits have to allocate at least 25 staff hours per week.

2. Use social media for more purposes. The more time a non profit puts into social media, the more it gets out of social media. …those who are power users are using it to: boost a non profit’s visibility, drive traffic to websites, and build community.

3. Start slowly, build a foundation, and then add more media

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(and time) to the mix. The longer non profits use social media, the more kinds of media they use.

Here’s the bottom line for non profits engaged in (or wanting to use) social media: Develop a strategic plan so that you’ll know why you’re using social media, how you’re using social media, and how to keep the messages and the site fresh. Then, and only then, will you be able to use metrics to gauge your success and your organization’s visibility in the social media arena.

*Source: http://ventureneer.com/sites/default/files/nonprofits-and-social-media-it-aint-optional_0.pdf

 

“Lincoln on Leadership”

Tuesday, March 5th, 2013

Noteworthy Ideas for Non Profit Boards

By Joseph John

Recently, there has been a lot of excitement about the movie “Lincoln” — and rightfully so. Excellent directing, acting, cinematography, and the list of kudos continue for this brilliant film. I saw the movie and was impressed. Not only impressed, but on the way home I got my “ah-hah!” — it was a flash. That movie prompted me to go back to my bookshelves and search for a book that I had read and used many times at my prior company — oh, just a few years ago.

Aha! There it was. I found it high up on the bookshelves: Lincoln on Leadership, Executive Strategies for Tough Times, by Donald T. Phillips (find it on Amazon). I wiped a few years’ worth of dust off the jacket (now I know why they call it a “dust cover”) and opened it up. Wow! Some concepts never change. I asked myself, “Joe, why haven’t you used this book in your nonprofit presentations?” No need to answer that question. I realized at that moment that every concept Donald Phillips notes in his well-researched book is easily transferable to the nonprofit sector. The book, and its content, is very much in tune and up-to-date with all issues facing board members and the entire board in the nonprofit sector. It’s an incredible resource and will always be relevant.

I turned to the table of contents and reviewed the “Parts” (categories) Phillips employs, to categorize his chapters: 1) People, 2) Character, 3) Endeavor, and 4) Communication. I realized at that point, just by looking at the table of contents, that this book, and everything Lincoln practiced, is the “stuff” nonprofit boards need to practice.

Allow me to highlight each Part with the resulting chapter. Also, I challenge you to reflect with me on the following thought: Isn’t every Part & Chapter the basis for Board success? Aren’t these principles the very basis for what all board members and boards should be practicing?

PEOPLE: (1) Get out of the Office and Circulate Among the Troops; (2) Build Strong Alliances; (3) Persuade Rather Than Coerce.

CHARACTER: (4) Honesty and Integrity are the Best Policies; (5) Never Act Out of Vengeance or Spite; (6) Have the Courage to Handle Unjust Criticism; (7) Be a Master

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of Paradox.

Now, can you see why I got excited about the many lessons that are loaded in this exceptional book? But there are more —two more parts and eight more chapters (or lessons).

ENDEAVOR: (8) Exercise a Strong Hand — Be Decisive; (9) Lead by Being Led; (10) Set Goals and Be Result-Oriented; (11) Keep Searching Until You Find Your “Grant”; (12) Encourage Innovation.

And the final Part:

COMMUNICATION: (13) Master the Art of Public Speaking; (14) Influence People Through Conversation and Storytelling; (15) Preach a Vision and Continually Reaffirm It.

Following every chapter is a set of “Lincoln Principles,” principles such as “unite your followers with a ‘corporate mission’”; “delegate responsibility and authority by empowering people to act on their own;” “provide a clear, concise statement of the direction of your organization, and justify the actions you take;” and “prepare yourself thoroughly for your public speaking engagements.”

Phillips lists at least eight principles at the conclusion of each chapter. The principles provide further “step-back-and-reflect” moments from one of the greatest leaders in American history. You’ll see that every principle that Phillips notes in his chapters is easily transferrable to the nonprofit board of directors — principles that can and should be implemented.

I hope you will read this book. It could provide a great theme for a board retreat. However, even if you don’t purchase or borrow this book, I urge you to review the titles of the Parts and the Chapters that I just listed. Review the titles and then ask yourself, “Isn’t this what our organization and our nonprofit leadership should be achieving?”

Believe me, I’m not going to allow dust to cover this book again. I’m ready to share it with a lot of board members. Yes, even in 2013, Lincoln’s principles are still relevant!

Loaned Executives Reap Non Profit Benefits

Thursday, January 3rd, 2013

Proven pipeline for quality non profit board members and future donors!

By Joseph John

In one of my previous articles, I asked the following questions: What is your non profit organization’s game plan for recruiting and retaining new board members? Who in the community are you approaching to fill the pipeline for a steady stream of quality board members — and future donors?

Where are the X and Y generations? How can organizations expect to keep boards dynamic and growing if they don’t “seed” the boards with the future leaders — and those future leaders, and in many cases, current leaders in the community, are X and Y gens.

Well, I believe I can provide one method for “filling the pipeline” — and it will pay dividends.

I have always been impressed with several Non Profit Loaned Executive Programs. Unfortunately, many non profit organizations do not have the same local, national, and economic exposure (and clout) that some of the larger organizations possess that employ the Loaned Executive program. However, and let me add another “HOWEVER”, I recently introduced a modified loaned executive concept to a local non profit board. Modifying a template from several non profit agencies in the area, the program was restructured and then positioned in the following manner:

[Please note: I have eliminated the name of the organization and use “organization” generically]

The approach to a local corporation in your community begins with a teaser statement:

Does your company pride itself on being a part of the community? Are your employees not only engaged in their work but also in their passions? Do you see the benefit in broadening their skills through hands on experience with local nonprofit organizations?

We then continue with an explanation of the program:

The purpose of the [Organization Name] Loaned Executive initiative is to tap the expertise of an individual, usually a middle management employee, for a set period of time each week. This person will be asked to assist us in expanding our organization, communicating our vision and mission, as well as providing leadership skills to our board of directors. We are looking for fresh ideas, creativity, and the willingness to network throughout the local and international communities.

And, of course, being the sales people we need to be in ANY non profit organization, we continue with the BENEFITS:

We believe that this position creates a winning situation for everyone: your loaned executive works hand-in-hand with a nonprofit board of directors to hone his/her skills in communication, negotiation and networking with both local and international groups.

In turn, your company is not only directly engaged in the community and enhancing its corporate image, but it offers a unique opportunity to its employees, allowing them to develop skills which can be used in the workplace and to contribute to an organization that provides an array of benefits within our society. And, service work of this nature will be a positive for the employee’s resume.

And then we talk about the joint venture between the organization and the company:

This is not a full-time position and does not require the employee’s relocation or moving from his/her job. It does require a small time commitment from both the candidate and the company to be “loaned” to

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our organization for Board Meetings, special events, fund raising campaigns, presentations, and leadership programs.

This is a high visibility position in the community. Loaned Executives are non-voting board members and will assist the organization in planning and implementing fundraising strategies that aid in furthering the mission of our organization.

Being a Loaned Executive is an excellent opportunity to develop as a leader, network professionally, build relationships with local companies and organizations — locally and world-wide.

And finally, some of the job requirements (not all inclusive) with a call-to-action to submit an application:

  • Motivated, self-starter, enthusiastic, and creative
  • Possessing a true team player attitude
  • Excellent communicator with good presentation skills
  • Computer skills including most common social media programs
  • Adept at fundraising (or the willingness to learn)
  • A persuasive and honest presentation-style for small and large group presentations

The preceding job requirement list is, of course, adaptable to meet the specific needs of a non profit organization.

Finally, don’t forget the all-important final piece of initiating a program of this nature — an additional source of funding from a local company:

A donation from your organization and/or membership fee is required to help

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continue this valuable program that will benefit you and your selected employees

The minimal cost to the company is typically just the corporate membership/sponsorship fee for the organization — many organizations have levels such as a “silver,” “gold,” or “platinum” corporate level. I am sure this program, modified for other non profits, can be a “win-win-win-win” for all parties concerned:

  • A “win” for the company that supports the program and encourages its employees to “give back” to the community — thus becoming good corporate citizens.
  • A “win” for the employee, who gains valuable experience (and lends valuable experience) to the non profit sector.
  • A “win” for the organization that is the recipient of new talent and new ideas. A “win” by always having an ongoing source of positive energy to keep the organization forward-thinking.

And the final “win”

  • A “win” for the community(ies) the organization serves, because it is receiving support that goes beyond the servicing organization.

Employ a modified “loaned executive” program for your non profit organization and you will see new vitality and growth in your organization, an increased pipeline of membership, and of course, future donors.