News, comments, resources, and more for nonprofits.
If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard the phrase, “stretched too thin,” I’d be neck-deep in nickels. Nonprofit or not, many staff feel the strain of too much to do and not enough time to do it. One executive director recently phrased the question this way:
How do we prioritize our work and then be willing to live with it?
Setting priorities, in part, means choosing what’s not going to get done. Everything can’t be a priority. Most things can’t be a priority. Only the few, essential, mission-critical things are priorities. The rest…well…I can hear it now.
“52 of my 57 tasks ARE mission-critical! It all MUST be done and done soon!”
Assuming the criteria of what is and is not mission-critical is sound, you’re left with two choices: delegate or delete. Both involve letting go.
Delegation means being willing to let go of control and trusting someone else to put their stamp on the result. However, there may be more options here than you first imagine. We may delegate to someone within our organization or work collaboratively with another organization. We may hire out certain tasks. We may be able to divide a task and only attend to the critical aspect of it. What other options can you think of?
Deleting critical tasks may mean facing the fact that capacity is truly being exceeded and then letting go of that which makes the task critical (e.g., paring programs or services). This is an extreme measure to be sure.
These are not easy decisions. The important ones rarely are. Yet, we must maintain the capacity to deliver on our commitments, and recognize that every “yes” that takes us beyond our capacity diminishes the quality of our programs and the integrity of our organization.
If you find yourself wresting on this particular mat, please contact ONEplace. We’ll work with you to sort things out.
Like many of you, ONEplace operates on a fiscal year, and our new year begins July 1. This coming Monday is New Year’s Eve – Woo-hoo!
We have no New Year’s Resolutions, however we can announce some new and developing capacity building efforts.
Our ONEplace Peer Learning program launched with a recent survey of interest. With 80 of you interested in participating, we’re looking forward to many rich, insightful discussions in the months ahead.
Before the summer’s out, we’ll also be unveiling ONEplace Essentials, a core selection of workshops in each of five key areas: management, leadership, governance, fundraising, and communications. These workshops will be scheduled months in advance so you can hold the dates and better plan your professional development activities.
Details of the next ONEplace Nonprofit Leadership Academy will be announced in September. Feedback from the previous three classes and discussions with leaders of similar programs in other communities are helping to refine our Academy each year.
Finally, we will continue to encourage you to connect with your nonprofit colleagues through our Kalamazoo Nonprofit Connection on LinkedIn and in LIVE quarterly gatherings (next is August 20). These networking opportunities expand your resource pool and often connect you to the solutions you need.
So ring in the New Year by taking time to consider your professional development needs and those of your staff and board. We’re happy to work with you to prepare your plan.
We consistently hear from you (including our recent survey results) that you value discussion and interaction with your peers. This makes sense. As we work together on new information, we challenge each other’s assumptions, uncover specific insights, and learn from one another.
A recent study supports your feedback. Last year, the Johnson Center for Philanthropy did a study for Wilberforce University on effective capacity building strategies. This exhaustive study examined literature from 2008-2013, surveyed 236 foundations, and included 20 interviews. One key result of this study was that peer learning surfaced as the most effective capacity building approach.
Over the past several months, ONEplace has been piloting peer learning groups. In addition, we’ve interviewed persons who have benefitted from other peer learning groups. Now it’s time to move this effort to its next phase.
Soon we will issue an invitation for our ONEplace Peer Learning program. Participants will be gathered in small groups. Here are some details:
- Groups will be approximately 8 persons
- Peer groups will be defined by common position held and similar level of experience
- Time commitment will be up to each group (suggestion is at least six monthly meetings)
- All groups will be facilitated by ONEplace
We look forward to this new venture, and we look forward to your participating and helping it to grow into an effective way to learn, connect, and grow in your career.
- You want your board to be more engaged…how do we get them to focus?
- You’ve been on a board for years…is this really what we should be doing?
- You’re elected to a nonprofit’s board…now what?
- You’re considering serving on a nonprofit board…what am I getting myself into?
This past year, ONEplace increased its assistance and training with nonprofit boards. One of the insights from working with almost 20 boards is that there often is confusion as to what is and is not the board’s role. We find this is true for experienced board members as well as newer members.
This is not surprising. As the world around us changes, the governance challenges shift as well. Concerns with funding, long-term planning, and public perception lead us into a labyrinth of ideas as well as stories of past successes and failures. As one person put it, “It’s easy to get lost in the weeds.”
To address this fundamental concern, ONEplace will offer a Board Membership 101 workshop three times over the next year. During this 90-minute workshop, participants will:
- Learn the ten basic responsibilities of a board
- Examine proven practices in meeting these responsibilities
- Explore how these interface with your board
- Discover the benefits of serving on a board
The next Board Membership 101 is scheduled for Tuesday, June 24 at 4 pm. Others are slated for October and April. Consider having two or more of your board members attend the upcoming workshop to see how this event may integrate with your onboarding and continuous improvement processes.
ONEplace exists to help you do your job better. So, when you talk, we listen.
Last year, you said that you wanted more interactive workshops and fewer webinars. We cut the number of webinars in half and replaced them with 60-90’ workshops/discussions, often supplementing these with ONEpage or video pre-work.
You also said you liked small group roundtables but wanted the group to be bigger and more targeted. This past year we discontinued the open roundtables and replaced them with targeted, short-term small groups. Look for our next small group invitations coming soon.
Overall, you find ONEplace to be meeting your training needs, but you wanted more time for chatting and connecting with colleagues. In response, we started the Kalamazoo Nonprofit Connection (LinkedIn group) and our quarterly Kalamazoo Nonprofit Connection – LIVE networking event. Your participation makes these valuable tools to strengthen our nonprofit sector.
A few weeks ago, we sent our semi-annual Training Event Survey. “Thank You” to the 95 respondents who participated.
At ONEplace, we measure our impact with post-session evaluations and a bank of semi-annual surveys. In the recent Training Events survey, we measure success on these questions:
- Do you plan to return? If you find value, you’ll return for more.
- Do you recommend ONEplace to others? If you find value, you’ll recommend ONEplace to others.
- Do you see a benefit to your job, your organization, and yourself? You notice improvement.
- Do you expand your network by attending? You feel more connected to your nonprofit colleagues
Our benchmark is 85%. Here’s what you reported:
- 99% plan to attend future events at ONEplace
- 97% have recommended ONEplace to colleagues or others
- 99% agree or strongly agree that workshops benefitted their organizations
- 99% agree or strongly agree that workshops helped them do their jobs better
- 98% agree or strongly agree that workshops benefitted them personally
- 91% agree or strongly agree that workshops expanded their network
Your comments also help guide ONEplace programs and activities. Here’s a summary of your 45 separate comments.
- Twelve (27%) comments affirming current programming and approach
- Eight (18%) requested evening workshops
- Three (7%) suggested holding events at locations other than the library
- Three (7%) requesting more small group opportunities with like positions
- Two (4%) encourage more interaction & discussion time in workshops
In addition, there were several single comments sharing ideas for programs and improvements. Some we’ve already started on based upon comments gleaned from post-session evaluations. Others are still to be considered.
We know that ideas and concerns arise any time (not just at survey time), so please do not hesitate to send us your thoughts (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Mission, vision, values, strategic plans, purpose statements, case statements, and the list goes on. With so many ways to document our organization’s focus, it’s easy to be overwhelmed. Sometimes a good metaphor helps.
The Celery Test (from Simon Sinek’s Start with Why) puts organizational focus within a grocery metaphor. We ask for advice from outside experts and each offers their own ideas of what we should buy: Oreos, Celery, Rice Milk, and M&Ms. We go to the grocery and buy all these items. In the checkout line, our variety of items indicates nothing of consequence to onlookers. Furthermore, we know that some items will be more helpful than others.
However, if we were clear that our purpose was healthy eating, then what would we buy…celery and rice milk. At the checkout, someone may notice our healthy choices and strike up a conversation based upon our shared concern (a new supporter?). We know that our money was spent on items that will be helpful. Further, once I wrote that our purpose was healthy eating, you already knew what I would be buying. In other words, clarity of purpose provides organization-wide criteria for good decision-making.
It seems that I cannot visit LinkedIn, Twitter or the bookshelves without finding more and more evidence that having and articulating a clear understanding of your purpose, your cause, and the better world you envision is the single most unifying factor for your entire stakeholder universe (staff, board, volunteers, donors, community). It speaks louder than any talking points, advertising or appeal letter. It’s at the heart of organizational integrity.
If your organization needs to recapture its purpose or simply check-in on it, ONEplace can help. Do not hesitate to call (269-553-7910) or email (ONEplace@kpl.gov) – that’s why we’re here.
P.S. Check out this detailed explanation of the Celery Test.
Eight years ago, the Stanford Social Innovation Review published an article warning of a nonprofit leadership deficit “during the next 10 years” due in large part to a wave of Baby Boomer retirements. As we see nonprofit leaders retiring in our community, we recognize that their predicted future is upon us.
In anticipation of this situation, ONEplace developed the ONEplace Nonprofit Leadership Academy (ONLA). In 2011, former ONEplace Director, Bobbe Luce, worked with Paul Knudstrup and others in the Consultant and Trainer’s Network to develop an intensive course offering a comprehensive overview of running a nonprofit organization. Supplemented with readings and a mentor relationship, ONLA provided a strong foundation for up-and-coming leaders.
The third ONLA class will come to completion in mid-May. Three participants from the previous two classes have already moved into executive director positions. While ONLA may not have played a pivotal role in their careers, it certainly played a preparatory one.
The ONEplace Nonprofit Leadership Academy will be highlighted at the next Kalamazoo Nonprofit Connection LIVE gathering on May 14. Information about next year’s Academy will also be available.
“Try this – it worked last time.”
“Larry had a problem like that. How did he fix it?”
“Just smack it!”
How often do we take a trial and error approach to fixing problems? It’s good to draw on our expertise and past experience, but every attempted fix costs time and money. So, we can’t afford to just wing it.
In these situations, a rational, step-by-step process provides great assistance. Throughout my career I’ve used a problem solving process individually or with groups to address assess problems and identify root causes. I’ve also taught this process several times to various management teams.
On Thursday, April 3, I’m offering a Solve Problems for Good workshop at ONEplace. This 90-minute session explores how to fully describe a problem, identify possible causes, evaluate those causes and confirm the true cause. The process helps us gather solid data, avoid common pitfalls, and document the process for effective communication.
Processes like these are helpful management tools and set a thoughtful, logical tone to addressing challenges of all sorts.
Every month, we learn much from the participants and presenters we meet at ONEplace. In Just ONEthing… we highlight an insight gained during the past month from our nonprofit community and its partners.
This month’s insight comes from Mary Jo Asmus, President of Aspire Collaborative Services. In her recent workshop, Coaching for Breakthrough Performance, Mary Jo taught and demonstrated the power of focused attention.
Spending as little as ten minutes being focused on the other person and asking them open questions, allows the individual to peel back layers of understanding and discover more effective courses of action.
Unlike feedback which offers evaluation of previous acts or consulting which offers specific direction, coaching opens individuals to the insights and possibilities within themselves.
More specifically, coaching:
- Helps an individual visualize the current situation and desired future situation
- Restates and builds on an individual’s own insights to co-discover possible options
- Explores necessary tasks to remove barriers and achieve desired ends
- Ensures commitment of the individual to take action and be accountable
Find out more about Mary Jo, including her informative blog at aspire-cs.com.
I don't go to many movies but I always watch the Oscars. This year was no different.
Every year, without fail, the one thing you can count on is that every acceptance speech will include a long list of names – usually too long to name everyone. These lists include close colleagues, family, and long-time supporters; people to thank and to share in the award. Why? The point is clear:
No one achieves great things alone.
I see the same thing happen at any awards program from the national stage to the local community center. Working together is the only way we can move the needle, change the conversation, create collective impact or fulfill our vision. So, a key question for each one of us is this:
With whom do I need to connect?
I recently talked with a board president who told me that their board created a list of key influencers - people who would support their cause and were in a position to advance their cause. After refining the list, they divided it up, each person taking responsibility for connecting with the people on their list. In this way, the board engaged efforts towards building public support and laid the foundation for sustainability.
What’s your vision for a better tomorrow, and who shares that vision? Who can help address the cause your organization is working so hard to advance? These and similar questions may stimulate discussion at your next management or board meeting. If you’re not sure how to proceed, contact ONEplace and we’ll work on a strategy together.