News, comments, resources, and more for nonprofits.
When I hear the phrase, “once upon a time,” I immediately relax, settle into my chair, and focus my attention on what’s coming next. I’m about to hear a story.
Stories form the foundation of virtually all our entertainment and learning. All TV series, movies, and books (even most non-fiction) are stories. Songs, lectures, dances, and many paintings evoke stories. It’s how we convey information and instruction, and it’s how we turn information into meaning,
Communicating with donors and other stakeholders requires us to tell stories. Yet, many of us struggle with where to start, how to gather stories, and how best to tell them.
Over the next few weeks, ONEplace offers events targeted on this challenge. Great Stores = Connection (May 29) provides interview questions to draw out information and tips on how to engage staff in gathering good stories. Plus, we’ll look at several examples.
In Assess Your Qualitative Impact (May 30), Demarra Gardner shows us how to evaluate our organization’s programs and services, drawing out the information that paints a comprehensive picture of how we are fulfilling our mission.
ONEplace also explores two arenas for telling your story with How to Win Corporate Grants (May 21) and Asking for a Legacy Gift (June 6).
Our stories carry power – power to inspire, encourage and motivate. No other medium comes close. Make it work for you.
I recently met a person online (it’s not what you think). It was a local business relationship, but the first several interactions were on email…and it got off to a rocky start…I think.
You see, I wasn’t sure. It felt weird – like we weren’t connecting. But I didn’t know if the other person felt that way. Her emails generally came from a mobile device, so perhaps the shortness I sensed was due to her being busy or not-so-quick at thumb-typing.
I tried calling, but we only exchanged brief voicemails. I needed to connect with her, but did she want to? Was this going to work? Should I just let it go? Though unsettled, I ventured to the meeting ready to navigate what I assumed would be choppy relational waters.
We met. At first the discussion focused on the business matter at hand, and then things relaxed a bit. By the end of the meeting, we were fast friends. Two weeks later we had a follow-up meeting that was fun and productive.
Since then, despite all the emails, to do’s, and stacks waiting for me on my desk, I’ve put a higher priority on meeting people face-to-face. In this short time, both efficiency and effectiveness have increased as well as job satisfaction. This experience reinforces what I’ve always known: while relationships can be sustained electronically, they deepen through personal interaction.
But, I’m just one voice on the matter. What do you think?
P.S. Here’s a related quote from film producer and author Peter Guber: “Nothing replaces being in the same room, face-to-face, breathing the same air and reading and feeling each other's micro-expressions.”
Tell to Win
How do you achieve clarity on gnarly issues?
As highly-wired, multi-networked, resource-rich folks we likely turn to our various webs of family and friends as well as books and blogs. Yet, we may be overlooking the most powerful teacher of all – ourselves.
When my son was a preschooler, he simply would not act on a suggestion or direction from me until he had made it his own. His entire body revealed his process from “I’m not so sure” to “maybe” to “I have decided that I’ll do this.” It had to make sense to him and, in essence, become his idea.
As adults, I observe (in myself and others) that we’re little different. Simply being advised or directed toward a certain solution or course of action doesn’t mean we’ll blindly give our assent. It needs to make sense to us. Often, this is a quick bit of consideration. But on those complex, many-layered issues, we need more.
Many authors suggest steps we can take, and our Achieving Clarity ONEpage resource provides a brief digest of these. Yet, outside sources alone don’t motivate action. Until we take the time to individually consider, mull and reflect – listening to the guide within – we will not commit to serious action.
When we want to achieve “buy in” with an individual or group, the critical step is not telling, it’s listening. How do you best listen to your inner guide?
A Hidden Wholeness
Who is in your learning network?
Who do you learn from on a regular basis?
Who do you turn to for your own professional development?
These are the questions that educator Dr. Mark Wagner poses at the beginning of his seminars on personal learning networks. He finds that, with so many of us working as “lone rangers” in our given organizations, we best keep our edge by building our own networks of learning or growth.
While ONEplace can play an integral role in your professional development, each of us needs to build our own dynamic learning network. Fortunately, the online connections available to all of us make this less of a challenge. Indeed, the greatest challenge may be the overwhelming amount of available information and connections.
While Dr. Wagner offers us some clear direction to building our personal learning networks, it’s important to keep some guidelines in mind.
First, your network is for you. Don’t follow someone on Twitter because other people do or don’t give in to the temptation to grade yourself by the number of connections or comments or likes on Facebook or LinkedIn. This is your learning network, so make sure it is serving your learning needs.
Second, your needs change so let your network change, too. Follow a thought leader’s posts and blogs as long as they are helpful. Some writers keep rehashing their insights, so after a few weeks, you know their perspective and can move on. Sometimes, you may wish to simply get new voices into your learning mix, so shake up the roster. The point is to freely adjust the mix to meet your changing needs.
Third, keep your network manageable. There is only so much that any one person can digest, so keep the number of blogs, tweets, groups, etc. within reason. Make sure the ones you follow give you the highest quality information, best connections, and most insightful conversations.
Take these three guidelines and Dr. Wagner’s information with you by downloading our ONEpage resource, Personal Learning Network.
Inside Drucker’s Brain
The calendar says that spring has sprung, and my seasonal clock tells me it’s time to clean, organize, and plan ahead.
Years ago I learned that if you want to be ready for the fall, you better have it all in place by Memorial Day. Summer is its own thing, and, for some, there’s a mystical time-space leap from May to September. So, if you’re not on their radar before June, you’re scrambling in September.
In the month ahead, ONEplace assists your spring cleaning and planning in communications (Your Communications Calendar, April 9) and in fundraising (Long-Term Development Plan, April 23).
We’re also taking a new look at nonprofit uses for social media platforms (LinkedIn and Twitter Basics, April 2 and LinkedIn Groups for Nonprofits, April 10).
Finally, our annual surveys are hitting inboxes. Please let us know your thoughts and needs so we can best meet your needs this summer, fall, and beyond.
The nonprofit strategy revolution
Some things get undeserved bad raps. We get stymied or frustrated by something, so we cast it aside rather than fix, adjust or redirect.
Can you say, “strategic planning?” How about “performance appraisals”…or “meetings?”
Faulty leadership most often suffers not from a lack of know-how but from a lack of execution. We often know what to do, but, for various reasons, we simply do not follow through. So, we place the blame on the thing we won’t do and dismiss it.
This won’t do. Let’s throw a life preserver out to these water-treading children, pull them ashore, and do the work that needs to be done:
- Setting an intentional path toward increased community impact through strategic planning
- Nurturing our staff’s professional development through meaningful performance appraisals
- Taking the time to check-in, to resolve tactical issues, to make strategic decisions, and to grow together as a cohesive organization through effective meeting practices
Begin right away. You can start by reclaiming the importance of meetings by attending Effective Meetingson Wednesday, March 13. This session goes beyond agendas and timely minutes to getting the right people in the right place addressing the right issues.
We often hear phrases such as, “keep in touch,” “losing touch” or “stay in touch.” It’s about connecting with people and maintaining relationships.
A former colleague of mine frequently referred to a “touch” as any contact with a customer (i.e., client, patron, donor, funder, etc.). She recognized that the frequency and quality of our touches directly relates to the effectiveness of our organizations.
March at ONEplace is all about improving our touches. We will address issues of direct communication (Email Newsletters – Feb 26) and mass communication (MLive Update – Mar 14), donor recognition and formal gatherings (Effective Meetings – Mar 13).
Later in the month we continue with a look at connecting with Millenials (Mar 19), using LinkedIn & Twitter (Mar 27) and your overall communications personality (Mar 20).
Another phrase I often hear is: “It’s all about relationships.” Whether your focus is fundraising, communications, management, or leadership, developing and maintaining key relationships sits at the core of your effectiveness. So, plan now to take advantage of the above professional development opportunities.
Customer Once, Client Forever
Your leadership team – even if only two people – forms the core of your organization. Everyone and everything take their cues from this group. So, it is vital that this team be solid and completely transparent.
In his book, The Advantage, Patrick Lencioni outlines four disciplines leading to organizational health: build a cohesive team, create clarity, overcommunicate clarity and reinforce clarity. He suggests that the two bedrock principles of building a cohesive team are developing trust and managing conflict.
If you’re like me, you are vigorously nodding your head. A leader’s failure to execute most often centers on his/her failure to build trust in the first place. Without trust, debates on critical issues disintegrate to manipulation and even winning at all costs.
Our ONEplace Leadership Series addresses these issues in the upcoming Take the Lead: Influence workshop (Feb 13). I encourage you to participate or, if unavailable, let me know your top leadership challenges. We’ll find resources and events to address your most pressing needs.
Using groups to solve problems, make decisions, and set strategy generally leads to better outcomes. However, history recounts instance after horrible instance where businesses were ruined and lives were lost due to a phenomenon known as groupthink.
Groupthink occurs when a group of people make a disastrous decision due to a desire for harmony or conformity. It’s a controversial topic, and the subject continues to get attention. More than 20 major studies on aspects of groupthink have been published since 2009.
One of the earliest and most influential researchers in this area, Irving Janis (Yale University), devised ways of preventing groupthink. In reviewing these, I found these basic threads: use a process that maximizes objectivity, ensure all available information is gathered (facts & informed opinions), evaluate all reasonable alternatives, and assess risks before committing.
Our ONEplace Leadership Series offers management processes that help on many fronts – including the prevention of groupthink. The next offering in this series (Group Decision Makingon Jan 31) addresses this particular dynamic most directly. Coming next month, we will tackle Effective Meetings. Please consider attending these workshops.
One of my favorite authors is Jim Collins. His newest release, Great by Choice, addresses the question: why do some companies thrive in uncertainty, even chaos, and others do not?
Using a comparison study method as he did in Good to Great, Collins demonstrates the value of strong values, consistently applied and the importance of a long-term approach to mission-driven work. As he nears the close of the book, he reiterates one of the main lessons from his previous work: “Greatness is not a function of circumstance. Greatness is largely a matter of conscious choice and discipline.”
What conscious choice has your organization made – what is its mission? Do you know it? Does everyone on the staff and board know it? Is it engraved on their hearts?
What impact (or difference) does your organization make in the lives of your target audience(s)? How do you know that? Are all of your programs and activities contributing to this impact or could some be changed or abandoned?
To succeed in times such as these – indeed, at any time – tough questions need to be addressed. Clarity and focus on mission & purpose is the first step to a thriving organization.
Jim Collins provides a Good to Great Diagnostic Tool that you may use to assess where your organization is on its journey to being great. When there are differences between businesses and nonprofit (social sector) organizations, he points these out. Find the tool at http://www.jimcollins.com/tools/diagnostic-tool.pdf
Great by choice