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Archive for August, 2010

Who’s Running the Show?

One of the threads that runs through nonprofit success is the leadership tension between the executive director and the board of directors. Nonprofit advisers like me have our radar up and working when we first meet nonprofit leaders: how is the fit between the staff leader and the volunteer leader? Are they clear on their roles? Is there some tension there?
It’s unusual to find everything hunky-dory. And if it seems “copacetic,” that’s good! I like “copacetic”! But it’s weird if it’s like that all the time.
It’s also important to recognize that some creative or leadership tension is a good thing. A little push back-and-forth can help push accomplishments up a notch. Not a bad thing.
Most folks get the notion that in the world of nonprofit management, we look to staff for management. Staff operate the deal. They get a budget and accompanying work plan approved by the board, and check in on progress as agreed.
The board is responsible for fiduciary oversight. They set the strategic direction. They need to know that what’s happening aligns with the direction they agreed to. And the board relies on staff to keep their eyes on the horizon for changes in trends, and to bring information like this back so they know when the marketplace their nonprofit is working in is undergoing change.
No relationship is perfect.
But all parties need to start with the premise that we need to work from a “give-and-take” position if we’re going to make our nonprofit work well. Yes, we have a fine mission. Yes, our primary customers are pleased with the service we’re providing. But.
Why are a couple of staff members carping to board members about the executive?
Why is the executive doing so much talking at board meetings?
Why do some board members stay away from our meetings?
Nonprofit board leaders and staff leaders committed to a process of “continuous improvement” (remember that old TQM term?) can find ways to overcome bumps in the road that need to be addressed.
Nonprofit boards committed to their periodic self-assessment and training give themselves the best chance to work effectively on their roles.
Nonprofit CEO’s who get a sound performance review each year based on agreed-to objective criteria know what’s expected…what they need to deliver to keep the board on board.
People of good faith committed to advancing the nonprofit mission, and working collaboratively to get the job done, have the best chance of success and feeling good about the relationships within the organization.
There are sound practices that can make this work well.
If the caution light comes on, and folks worry over “who’s running the show?” it’s time to address the concerns and get roles and responsibilities clarified so toes don’t get stepped on. Or crushed. Or steam-rollered.
If It’s The Results can help you to get at clarity on matters such as these, and get back to a collaborative atmosphere, let us know at s.p.99smith@gmail.com or 781-334-4915.

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Third Shot of Red Bull: The Fundraising Board

We discussed shaking up the board meetings in a March, 2010 post: tapping energy by breaking the routine. We discussed energizing board members in a June post about urgency of the mission. This time we focus on getting board members comfortable asking for donations for the nonprofit they are committed to.
What is it about the “Fear of Fundraising”?
Members of the board have lots of reasons why they’re uncomfortable, unwilling to ask another person for a gift.
We need to hear the objection and work to overcome it.
I use Jerold Panas’ easy-to-digest book, Asking: A 59-Minute Guide to Everything Board Members Must Know to Secure the Gift. In Chapter 19, Mr. Panas talks about Obstacles as “what you see when you take your eyes off the objective.”
Those of us comfortable with asking need to explore the apprehensiveness, discomfort, acid indigestion of the wavering board colleague.
In my view, there’s nothing like setting an example to help the reluctant ones overcome their concerns. So, start with the folks who are comfortable.
And for those not quite ready yet to “ask,” let’s get them a “thanking” experience. Call or meet with a donor who needs a nice thank you for a generous gift. And let’s hear what’s behind this generosity. We should work to have the uneasy ones get experience hearing from donors, hearing from board members who are comfortable as askers, then nudging them to accompany an experienced asker on a call to get the gift. See what it’s like.
What does this mean for you? It means getting a shot of energy…some Red Bull for the soul. An elixer like a good story about how a staff member or a volunteer brought the mission of this nonprofit into reality for an individual or a family.
There’s nothing like helping a connection happen to get a person moving on the right track. The Aha moment that spurs the person to Action by Asking.
Want to talk about putting these thoughts into action? I’m just an e-mail (s.p.99smith@gmail.com) or phone call (781-334-4915) away.

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Tribute & Memorial Gifts to Nonprofit Organizations

When Margie’s Mom passed away recently, she had an obituary in mind. And that obituary included a request: in lieu of flowers, please make donations to the Alzheimer’s Association. Margie has many friends, and I’m sure the Association will receive many contributions in memory of Lillian, Margie’s Mom.
This is a very common practice. As people deal with the death of a parent and have to make the necessary arrangements, there is a certain feeling among many people to have something good come from a personally sad situation. Maybe these hundreds or thousands of dollars will help a researcher find an answer that will help further forestall the ravages of Alzheimer’s.
Nonprofit organizations, particularly those with a mission related to health and fighting disease, should all have a program in place that makes it easy for the bereaved to honor the deceased’s memory with a tribute.
In addition to memorial gifts, many nonprofit organizations have a tribute or honor program so friends, users of the service, people who subscribe to your environmental newsletter, subscribers who buy tickets to your theater’s or performing art troupe’s events would like to use the celebration of a birthday or anniversary or graduation to pay tribute to a person you feel close to, don’t know what to buy as a gift, but know they are members of the Sierra Club, the Somerville Homeless Coalition, the American Repertory Theater, the Blue Ocean Society and would like to receive such a tribute.
These are good fundraising opportunities that can be used in a thoughtful, tasteful way that engender good feeling and bring in dollars to help you advance your mission.
If It’s The Results can be of help in initiating such a program, please be in touch.

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Time to Add a New Special Event?

When nonprofit organizations hit the wall, and revenue goes into decline or remains flat for more than a year, the pressure begins to build. The first thing most boards of directors want to see is adjustments to spending so expenses line up with revenue. This is a good remedy for a short-term problem. But longer term, ongoing expense cuts can undermine the nonprofit’s capacity to deliver the mission.
So. What’s a smart, well-run nonprofit to do in times of lethargic revenue?
First, I recommend that the board have an open discussion about the issue, and if opportunities to raise more $$ haven’t been explored in a strategic way, now’s the time to get busy.
Convene the development committee to assess (re-assess?) the revenue picture. Is there a window in the calendar for a new special event?
And if there isn’t a development committee, the chair works with the executive and fundraising staff (if any) to form an ad hoc group to examine the waterfront and look for an opportunity.
Is there an event that’s generating less than $10,000 a year that has potential for growth? If this event is running out of juice, it’s time to phase it out and replace it with stronger earning potential.
What will the event be? Focus on possibilities that draw on existing expertise of staff, or connections of one or more members of the board. A golf tournament? And if the region you’re in is already super-saturated with golf, what other options can work?
There are lots of walks, runs, bicycle events. If you’re going in this direction, first order of business is to create a calendar with all the existing events in your territory. Is there a natural slot for something new that could generate significant $$ for you?
There used to be loads of celebrity waiter luncheons. Not so much any more. Maybe it’s a good time to bring this back for a few years, if there are potential corporate sponsors for you who will underwrite expenses.
So the answer to the question, “Time to Add a New Special Event?” cannot be properly answered off the top of one or two board members’ heads. It needs to be approached strategically. Apply some good critical thinking skills, assess the terrain, and if conditions look good, go for it!
It’s The Results is here to help you strategize: contact info right on the website. We’re ready to help.

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Time to Add a New Special Event?

When nonprofit organizations hit the wall, and revenue goes into decline or remains flat for more than a year, the pressure begins to build. The first thing most boards of directors want to see is adjustments to spending so expenses line up with revenue. This is a good remedy for a short-term problem. But longer term, ongoing expense cuts can undermine the nonprofit’s capacity to deliver the mission.
So. What’s a smart, well-run nonprofit to do in times of lethargic revenue?
First, I recommend that the board have an open discussion about the issue, and if opportunities to raise more $$ haven’t been explored in a strategic way, now’s the time to get busy.
Convene the development committee to assess (re-assess?) the revenue picture. Is there a window in the calendar for a new special event?
And if there isn’t a development committee, the chair works with the executive and fundraising staff (if any) to form an ad hoc group to examine the waterfront and look for an opportunity.
Is there an event that’s generating less than $10,000 a year that has potential for growth? If this event is running out of juice, it’s time to phase it out and replace it with stronger earning potential.
What will the event be? Focus on possibilities that draw on existing expertise of staff, or connections of one or more members of the board. A golf tournament? And if the region you’re in is already super-saturated with golf, what other options can work?
There are lots of walks, runs, bicycle events. If you’re going in this direction, first order of business is to create a calendar with all the existing events in your territory. Is there a natural slot for something new that could generate significant $$ for you?
There used to be loads of celebrity waiter luncheons. Not so much any more. Maybe it’s a good time to bring this back for a few years, if there are potential corporate sponsors for you who will underwrite expenses.
So the answer to the question, “Time to Add a New Special Event?” cannot be properly answered off the top of one or two board members’ heads. It needs to be approached strategically. Apply some good critical thinking skills, assess the terrain, and if conditions look good, go for it!
It’s The Results is here to help you strategize: contact info right on the website. We’re ready to help.

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