ONEplace

Building your team

Let’s face it. Many meetings are yawners: proposal presented followed by a bit of discussion followed by unanimous approval. Rinse & repeat.

Several years ago I found myself in a meeting that was much more fun: tensions were high, voices were raised, passions flared, people paced. In the end, good decisions were made.

What made it fun is that we were working together for a common goal. Each person in the room knew and trusted that there were no hidden agendas. We all wanted the same outcome. We just needed to hammer out the best way to get there.

I did myself a favor recently and re-read Patrick Lencioni’s The Advantage. In this book, he offers practical, sound analysis and guidance in developing a cohesive team. His entire approach puts vulnerability-based trust as the foundational layer. With a basis of trust, a team can grow through constructive conflict and clear commitment. Team members that trust one another hold each other accountable to deliver the results for which they – as a team – bear full responsibility.

A trusting team is a rare commodity yet critical for long-term success. I’m pleased that Pinky McPherson will be offering Building a Cohesive Team (Aug 27) as part of our ongoing Leadership Series. I hope you’ll be able to attend.

Best,

Thom


To the core

When I was in college I had a computer science professor who offered our class this advice:

If you want to succeed, don’t worry about creating the next big thing or being a stand-out performer, just do your job right.

I’ve found this to be true time and time again. Whether doing fundraising, communications, supervision, operations, or whatever, attending to the fundamental elements of the work carries 95% (or more) of the impact. When I meet with people as part of our direct assistance service, I often find that reminding them of the basics addresses the bulk of their concerns. 

You even see this at work with the stand out performers. They realistically assess their workload, get things done on time and to specification, and communicate clearly through the process. They’re honest and treat others with respect. They master the basics.

The fundamental elements of a job are like the trunk of a tree. Secure the core and you’ll branch out from there.

Best,

Thom


Meaning driven decision making

One of the books I’ve read this summer is Greg McKeown’s Essentialism. As the name implies, the book encourages people to focus only on those issues vital to the organization…in short, to become Essentialists.

Among the items you would expect to find (choice, clarity, saying “no,” setting boundaries, etc.) sits chapter six: Look – See What Really Matters. Here McKeown demonstrates the importance of discerning meaning from among all the data and the value of finding what really matters to people.

He suggests we take on the role of journalist: getting out in the field to see things firsthand; role playing differing perspectives to discover abnormal or unusual details, and taking time to clarify the core question as we hone in on the decision that really needs to be made.

What hooks me about the role of journalist is that the resulting story may bear little resemblance to stream of facts and figures. The journalist consumes the data not just to regurgitate it back in narrative form but to find the signal in the noise, to hear what’s not being said, and to uncover the essence of the story.

He reminds us that studies, interviews, and raw data of various sorts never drive our actions. Our decisions are guided by how we understand the information in light of our cause, our mission, and a myriad of other subjective filters. Our best decisions are meaning driven.

Best,

Thom

P.S. I recommend the book. The library has it in multiple forms. For a quick overview, see Michael Hyatt’s recent article.


Coffee with Janice Brown

This month we sat down with Janice Brown, now Trustee with The Kalamazoo Promise, as she discusses her career journey.

Tell us how you got to where you are today

My professional life has been a wonderful journey. From special education teacher to consultant, principal, central office administrator, superintendent and finally with The Kalamazoo Promise, these jobs have been so fabulous. Each and every one is a learning experience and helped to build the skill set for the next experience. The key to success is always being a learner, and enjoy the moment. I feel nothing but humility and gratefulness to have many experiences related to my professional career. Right now, I cannot pick out the “best” job I have had; each one was the best when I held it.

What do you most love about the Kalamazoo community? 

I love the people of this community and the generosity that has become engrained in each of us. Also, if you don’t know someone, you can just reach out and get to know them. Because education is universal to all walks of life, I have been fortunate to penetrate all cultures, neighborhoods and communities in my work. Each is special and has a significant gift to bring to this community.

What guides or principles do you rely most upon?

Each person must start their day with integrity and honesty and build from those principles, and those principles need to be contemplated each and every day. Most would tell you that my positive attitude, resiliency and commitment to education are what remind them the most about me.

Who was one of your mentors and what do you carry with you from that relationship?

Interestingly, I was not a well behaved child in school—often distracting the class and getting in trouble. My 4th grade teacher saw that energy and was clever enough to turn it around. She gave me “active” projects, kept me busy with productive work and overlooked my human frailties. The lesson I have learned from this is that it is pretty true of all human nature. We all have such goodness in us, but a dark side as well. If we are all about strengthening and highlighting that goodness, imagine what we could become!

What has been one of your biggest learning moments?

There have been so many “biggest” learning moments that the tale is too long to tell. Some examples include, we truly are interdependent, there are some things I do better than others, the more I learn the less I know and what you think of yourself and what others think of you often differ.

What’s an average day like for you at work?

It’s interesting that you ask this question because I am involved in a major life transition at the moment. The good news for me is that there have been many; the tough news is that this could be one of the most challenging. In June, I completed my administrative work with The Kalamazoo Promise and moved to being a trustee. In addition to this new role, I have many board/community responsibilities so it doesn’t feel quite as dramatic as one might think. I love to work and now need to find out what that will look like for me.

What are the types of challenges/opportunities that keep you up at night?

The relationship between poverty and education keeps me thinking day and night. As a community we must begin to talk about the impact of poverty, including the recent acts of violence in the community. We must also join as a community to have common goals and common accountabilities. Our fragmentation really gets in the way of our progress. We must lead, and we must follow. The challenges and difficulties of The Learning Network of Greater Kalamazoo reflect our inability to do so. WE are The Learning Network and responsible for its successes and failures. If we continue to reject a common community framework, we will continue to spin our wheels no matter how competent the individual organizations seem. Eradicating poverty and its impact on the community will take all of us…working together.

How do you stay up-to-date on latest trends in your field?

I continue to meet with folks in the community to get updates on their efforts. The latest education research is available at my fingertips, and I read books, articles and journals related to my field.

What advice do you have for those wishing to have a long lasting career in the nonprofit sector?

Enjoy the journey; never miss an opportunity to consider a new job or one that will enhance your learning. Be a good listener and a good learner. Build a team that compliments your skills and talents; and continue to do things that keep your passion for your work and life fresh and new.

What do you geek?

I geek outdoors and nature. There probably isn’t an outdoor sport or activity I don’t like. Some of my favorites include walking/hiking, swimming, camping, biking and golfing. If I’m not out doing that, you can probably find my nose behind my reader or a book.

Anything else?

I never miss an opportunity to say thank you to the donors of The Kalamazoo Promise.


Just ONEthing - August 2014

Traci Furman (Senior Services) offered a Voice from the Field workshop in mid-July. She emphasized that our unique relationships with volunteers requires unique care. Those gathered identified the important aspects of this relationship as: communication, respect, compassion, trust, enjoyability (fun), and caring.

Traci also pointed out that we probably come across to our volunteers as more critical than we think we do. She showed a video of Dan Mulhern discussing this topic and the proper balance of positive to negative comments (watch video).


The dele(ga)te key

 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.

Best,

Thom


The B Side

Do you remember the 45 rpm record? It was a vinyl recording, a bit larger than a CD, which had a big hole in the middle. The A side was generally the highly-promoted hit single, and the B side was…well…the other side. 

Sometimes the B side made a surprise showing on American Top 40 (especially if you were the Beatles or Elvis). Generally, however, the B side remained unknown, unmentioned, and undiscovered. This reminds me of a humbling truth: 

Every action and decision we undertake – even the best ones – have a B side. 

No matter how effective or laudable, our efforts to do good carry negative ramifications for someone somewhere. This is seen most clearly in basic tradeoffs. When we choose to serve one group, other groups remain unserved.  

More elusive are the multi-layered and interweaving systems of impact. As we select vendors, pursue donations and sponsorships, select board members, and implement employee policies we weave a web of actions and associations that includes unknown tradeoffs and unintended consequences. When catching glimpses of these, it’s common to ignore them or dismiss them as simply the cost of doing business. But, what’s being missed? 

Every B side presents an opportunity…when we listen. 

When we take time to explore the flipside of our decisions, activities, and policies, we discover connections and impact that could revolutionize our organizations. Inclusive hiring practices, socially responsible investing, family-friendly employee policies, LEED certification, and more all came about, in part, because someone took the time to identify the hidden consequences of our behaviors and listen to those impacted by them. 

“I’ll Be Around” (The Spinners), “Maggie May” (Rod Stewart), “Strawberry Fields” (The Beatles), “Single Ladies – Put a Ring On It” (Beyonce), “We Will Rock You” (Queen), and “Unchained Melody” (The Righteous Brothers) started as B sides. Give a listen to the B sides of your decisions, programs, and policies. You may improve someone’s life…and find your next hit! 

Best, 

Thom 

 


Questioning leadership

I recently stumbled upon Michael Hyatt’s podcast from May 28 where he says, “If you are going to be a successful leader, you have to get better at asking good questions.” It’s “even more important than having the right answers.”

Exercising healthy skepticism, I did an internet search on “questions more important than answers” and received dozens of supporting articles, blogs, and quotes. I did another search on “answers more important than questions” and got plenty of results but nothing – that is zero – to support this notion.

Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google, avidly supports asking questions as well. He said, “We run this company on questions, not answers.”

Schmidt, like Hyatt and others, realize that if you keep asking better questions you keep finding better answers.

And that’s the key – asking better questions. Tim Brown, CEO of Ideo, says, “The big trick to being successful is always making sure you’re asking the right questions and focusing on the right problems. If you’re focusing on the wrong questions, you’re not really providing the leadership you should.”

Next time you find yourself gathering to brainstorm solutions to a problem, begin by taking time to first brainstorm questions. Often how you frame the question makes all the difference. As Tim Brown says,

“If you don’t ask the right questions, then you’re never going to get the right solution.”

Best,

Thom


Just ONEthing - July 2014

Two events highlighted effective meeting practices from two national personalities.

On June 12, several from Kalamazoo ventured to Grand Rapids to hear fundraising researcher and author Penelope Burk (Donor-Centered Leadership). During the course of her workshop, she provided her thoughts on effective meeting practices. These include:

  • Meeting should be on a single topic
  • Invite only those who need to be at the meeting
  • Provide an agenda in advance so people can prepare

During our Effective Meetings workshop on June 17, these points were expanded upon from the writings of Patrick Lencioni (The Advantage). His Meetings Model makes an important distinction between the tactical staff meeting and a strategic topical meeting.

He warns against letting the staff meeting become “meeting stew” where everything gets thrown on to one agenda. The problem is that long-term strategic items usually get short-changed – given too little time and attention from too few people.

He advises calling a strategic topical meeting so the one or two strategic concerns can be thoroughly and thoughtfully addressed. Also, since strategic issues often cross departmental lines, calling a separate meeting allows us to make sure the right people are at the table.

In a nutshell, an effective meeting involves the right people focused on the right issues.


Coffee with Alice Kemerling

This month we sat down with Alice Kemerling, Assistant Director of the Gilmore International Keyboard Festival as she shares about her career and the people who inspire her.

Tell us how you got to where you are today

I came to Kalamazoo in 1976 to work in Admissions at Kalamazoo College. In the 1980s and early 90s I had the great privilege of staying home with our kids and did a lot of volunteering, including service on the KVCC Foundation Board. KVCC was just embarking on a $20 million campaign to build a new public museum when their Director of Development resigned. I was hired, and went feet-first into the frying pan. The campaign was intense and exhilarating, and I loved every minute of it (except for the agonizing process of ensuring that 11,000 donor names would appear correctly on the wall of the new museum). I continued with the KVCC Foundation for about 5 years after the end of the campaign, working with the KVCC Foundation Board to develop strategies for securing support for scholarships and college initiatives from individuals, corporations and foundations.

I worked for The Owen Group from 1998 – 2000, during which I consulted on capital campaigns for the Humane Society, Markin Glen Park, and Ministry with Community. I also helped with a feasibility study for the United Soccer Alliance. In late 2000, I was hired as Director of Development for the Gilmore Keyboard Festival. I did not know at the time that this would turn out to be my dream job, but it is that and more. I cannot believe that 14 years have gone by so quickly. The first 12 were spent building up the annual fund, corporate sponsorships, foundation support and starting an endowment, and since 2012 I have also helped manage the organization as Assistant Director.

What do you most love about the Kalamazoo community?

I love the friendliness, creativity and collaborative spirit of its residents and organizations.

What guides or principles do you rely most upon?

Be friendly, be compassionate, listen well, collaborate, and strive for the highest quality.

Who was one of your mentors and what do you carry with you from that relationship?

Blaine Lam, who taught me in 1992 that there are limitless opportunities if you seek help from others and don’t sweat the small stuff. I still quote him regularly when I or someone with whom I am working gets bogged down by details: “Don’t worry. It’s a speck on a moving horse.”

What has been one of your biggest learning moments?

I learn at every meeting with our Board of Trustees. They are amazing. I also learn every time I make a mistake. On a practical level, Penelope Burke’s seminars have been inspirational.

What’s an average day like for you at work?

My average day is exciting, challenging, rewarding, and occasionally tedious (think database and budgets).

What are the types of challenges/opportunities that keep you up at night?

I’m concerned about timely communication with donors and endowment building.

How do you stay up-to-date on latest trends in your field?

I am not so good at this, but our Development Officer is, so I rely on her advice and information. I also rely on e-news from Partnership for Philanthropic Planning, the Independent Sector and Artserve.

What advice do you have for those wishing to have a long lasting career in the nonprofit sector?

Work with people you admire and for causes you can represent proudly and passionately.

What do you geek (i.e., what hobby or outside interests do you really like)?

Volunteering, going to the farmers market and cooking.

Anything else?

We are so lucky to have ONEplace. My colleagues in other cities are amazed at all that is made available to Kalamazoo non-profits – free of charge. It is one more testimony to the community spirit that is ingrained in our local culture.

Note: Alice Kemerling and Alisa Carrel (Development Officer at The Gilmore) will present Securing Corporate Sponsorships at ONEplace on July 30


Retain for greater gain

The annual Giving Report from Indiana University’s Lilly Family School of Philanthropy is out. Once again, it shows that individual donations and bequests make up around 80% of total giving. It also shows that…

…giving was up 4.4% overall.

Recently, Gail Perry provided an overview of this report. (I hope you’re receiving her weekly email.) In her summary, she provides key data points and offers her insights. She notes that while giving is up overall, the increase was driven by major gifts from loyal donors. Her bottom line:

“Create a donor retention task force to ‘love on’ your current donors.”

Last week I referred to Penelope Burk’s research showing the startling impact of simply having board members make thank you calls. Place this basic activity within a strategic approach to donor retention and your program will take off.

You’ll also avoid what the Giving Report suggests may be a looming storm – a net loss of 12 donors for every 100 gained or retained since the Recession. How does your retention rate compare?

Why have I written on this topic for two weeks in a row? The cost difference between renewing donors and acquiring new donors is around one dollar for every dollar given. You read that right. According to data from the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP), renewal efforts cost around $0.20 for every dollar given while donor acquisition costs around $1.20 for every dollar given.

It may be time to evaluate your donor retention efforts. You can’t afford not to.

Best,

Thom


Coffee with Bill Rose

This month we sit down with Bill Rose, President and CEO of the Kalamazoo Nature Center, as he talks about how he developed his approach to leadership.

Tell us how you got to where you are today (positions held, career shifts, etc)

I went to graduate school to work on my Ph.D. so I could follow an academic career path at a university. While completing my degree, I began to realize that I had a deep passion for conservation and environmental action. A friend of mine told me about a job opening as a plant ecologist with The Nature Conservancy that she thought I should apply for. She was right. I got the job and that started me down a path of working for nature and environmental private nonprofit organizations. While working as a plant ecologist, I began to discover a latent interest that I had in administrative and fundraising work. I started raising money so I could hire more people to do more work. When a job opening came up in The Nature Conservancy for a Regional Director position, I jumped at the chance. This gave me the opportunity to further my interest in the business and leadership side of nonprofit work. After a number of years in this position, an executive search firm contacted me about working for the Kalamazoo Nature Center. It looked like a perfect fit that would allow me to combine all the things that I had a passion for: nonprofit leadership in the area of environment/nature; opportunity to continuing applying my scientific training/education; and, be active in an educational organization.

What do you most love about the Kalamazoo community?

I love Kalamazoo for many reasons. It is a progressive and philanthropic community that embraces change which leads to so many good things for all people in our community. The cultural and natural features of this community bring richness and depth that is not often found in a community of our size. The institutions of higher learner present us with the challenge to stay fresh in our ideas about how our community continues to stay relevant.

What guides or principles do you rely most upon?

  1. Follow your passion.
  2. Have fun.
  3. Be a leader, not just an administrator.
  4. Define what the culture of your organization should be and continuously work to build that culture.
  5. Strive to exceed the “customer’s” expectations.
  6. Work toward constant quality improvements in every area of your organization.
  7. Society is constantly changing so you need to change too or you begin to fall behind

Who was one of your mentors and what do you carry with you from that relationship?

Bob Tower (retired from Tower Pinkster), he taught me to be a good fundraiser and helped me begin to develop my network of contacts. I learned how important it is to be a good listener.

What has been one of your biggest learning moments?

I attended the week long program on leadership at the Center for Creative Leadership in North Carolina in the mid-1980s where I learned many of the fundamentals of “leadership.” Another big aha moment came in the early 1990s when I attended Disney University’s program on high quality customer service where I learned the significance of establishing a positive culture in your organization.

What’s an average day like for you at work?

I’m constantly juggling a thousand balls while remaining focused on a few key strategic items.

What are the types of challenges/opportunities that keep you up at night?

Not much. I am really comfortable knowing that the Nature Center is a successful organization that can always do more but satisfied that we are making a difference.

How do you stay up-to-date on latest trends in your field?

Being engaged with professional support organizations locally and nationally. This includes: Meeting with peers; Constant continuing education; Staying up with the news, and; Always looking for ways to network.

What advice do you have for those wishing to have a long lasting career in the nonprofit sector?

Follow your passion, have fun and strive for a balanced life.

What do you geek?

For me that has changed over time. Now that I have adult children and grandchildren, on opposite coasts, I love to engage with them in any way that I can. I love to play on the water at our cottage. 


Just ONEthing - June

Two workshops this past month emphasized the importance and value of planning ahead.

Audrey Randall (Paradigm Risk Management) and Adam Castle (American Red Cross) guided participants through emergency action planning. The key framework they outlined includes building a plan, periodic training and drills with staff, and clear communication protocols. The Red Cross has free online assessment tools and planning resources to guide you through your planning and preparation.

Chris Dilley (People’s Food Co-op) shared his story and insights into nonprofit financial management. He cited a key to successful financial management as building a reserve, i.e., having sufficient cash in the bank to handle small crises and the variations of cash flow through the year. Building a reserve develops community trust and allows you to take advantage of unexpected opportunities. One workshop participant’s organization has an emergency fund in addition to the operating reserve. The emergency fund is protected by several policies and procedures to ensure that it’s used only in case of an emergency. That’s planning ahead!


What's in your grocery cart?

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.

Best,

Thom

P.S. Check out this detailed explanation of the Celery Test.


A time to remember

With Memorial Day fast approaching, we’ll hear much about times past and the benefits enjoyed today because of yesterday’s sacrifices. At times like these I remember a favorite maxim from a former professor: you can tell a lot about a movement by how it defines its history.

Do you know your organization’s story?

In our communications workshops, we often explore the power of stories. Generally, our focus is on transformative stories from patrons, clients, or volunteers and how their lives were improved. We use these stories to make our case and raise our funds.

But what about your organization’s story? How have you captured that story? In what ways do you tell it to the public?

Over the next week or two, find your organization’s story and spend some time with it. How does it inform what you’re doing today? In what ways are you contributing to its legacy?

A well-told organizational story melds with the community’s story, showing how we each play a role in making our home something worth telling others about.

Happy Memorial Day,

Thom 


Re-emerge...re-connect

With warmer weather I've been outside more - doing yard work, walking around our neighborhood. I've had several "good to see you again" conversations with neighbors as we emerge from our winter confines.

It feels good to reconnect with neighbors, and it's also very informative. I learn what's going on with them, and we share information impacting all of us - in our neighborhood, city, and region. It reminds me that no one of us has the complete picture. We all benefit from sharing what we know.

That's one of the main reasons we host Kalamazoo Nonprofit Connection - Live. By connecting, sharing information, and nurturing networks, we get outside of our bubbles. Taking an hour every quarter to catch up and learn what's going on around the area can have great benefits.

This will be our fifth gathering. At each of the previous events connections have been made leading to collaborative events and projects as well as resource sharing in communications and fundraising.

Sometimes the best resource to help you resolve your problem is the nonprofit that's already dealt with that problem.

We gather this Wednesday, May 14, 4:30-6 pm at Central Library. Don't miss it!

Best,

Thom

P.S. A recent Nonprofit Quarterly featured several articles on the power of networks. Check out their lead article, A Network Way of Working. 


Can we talk?

A couple of weeks ago I sent (i.e., postal mail) a card thanking Marcy for her program leadership. In subsequent email conversations with her, she thanked me for the thank you card – twice! – saying how much it meant to her. This, and other similar exchanges, makes me wonder:

With all the communications we churn out, are we really connecting with people?

Connecting is our goal. We can blah-blah-blah all we want, but if we’re not reaching people then our efforts are wasted…or, worse yet, alienating. With limited time and capacity, we must ensure that our communications are focused and effective.

May is Marketing & Communications Month at ONEplace. We have a handful of workshops and events to help you make valuable connections.

Spend some time this month evaluating your communications. Use the upcoming weeks to plan and experiment, so that, come fall, you’re ready to roll-out compelling and engaging communications.

Best,

Thom


Sustain This

It’s a question on most grant applications and it also gets raised from time to time in the board room. It’s not a question we avoid, but it’s one of those loaded questions – the kind that elicits a tremendous amount of discussion, varied opinions, and multiple proposed solutions. The question is this:

What’s your sustainability plan?

We know we need it, but it’s difficult to get our collective mind around it. We often get caught up in trying to figure out the future. What will the world look like in five years or ten years? How can we plan for that? There are simply too many unknowns.

But, what about today…how do you know if you’re a “sustainable organization” right now? Sustainability is not a goal to reach or something to check off the To Do List. It’s a state of being. It’s a path that you choose.

So, what does a sustainable organization look like? Here are some indicators that I’ve gleaned from several articles:

  • A single, clean, up-to-date patron/donor database – the life blood of the organization. This includes up-to-date policies & protocols governing its use and procedures that ensure the data stay up-to-date.
  • Fund development activity fully funds expenses, satisfies reserve needs, and reasonably projects revenue needs and strategies for meeting those needs for the next three years.
  • Communications activities reach their target audience(s) with appropriate frequency so that audiences feel welcomed, involved, connected, and inspired.
  • Clear program policies and procedures as well as the supervision to ensure they are followed.
  • Regular measures, assessments, and evaluation of program and administrative effectiveness.
  • Succession planning for key roles in the organization (staff & board) – both short-term for sudden departures and long-term for planned departures.

I’m sure the list above is not comprehensive, but it’s a good start. What else would you add as a key indicator of sustainability?

Best,

Thom


The Future is Now

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.


Just ONEthing - May

Kerri Karvetski (Company K Media) presented a webinar on advanced social media strategies that ONEplace hosted in April. She made the point that nonprofits have experimented long enough with social media. It’s now time for social media to carry its weight in fundraising campaigns…but they can’t go it alone.

Multi-channel campaigns, especially those pairing email and social media, consistently provide increased impressions and highly reinforced messaging. They allow supporters to take action in the channel of their choice (which often changes over time). Multi-channel campaigns result in stronger relationships and better donor retention.

In fact, according to Blackbaud’s Idea Lab, first year donor retention rates double with a multi-channel campaign.

  • Offline only donors retain 29% of first year donors
  • Online only donors retain 23% of first year donors
  • Multi-channel donors retain 58% of first year donors

If you would like to see this webinar, you may do so at ONEplace. Simply call (553-7899);or email to set an appointment.


Coffee with Donna Odom

This month we sit down with Donna Odom as she recalls the path and passion leading to her present post as Executive Director of the Southwest Michigan Black Heritage Society.

Tell us how you got to where you are today (positions held, career shifts, etc)

There were many shifts that led me to where I am today, but the primary shift was leaving Chicago and relocating to Kalamazoo.  In Chicago I began my career as a French and English teacher.  From there I transitioned to positions in career services and cooperative education.  My last position before leaving Chicago was teaching college English Composition and Research Writing.

After coming to Kalamazoo, I began part-time at Kalamazoo Valley Museum and remained there for 12 years in the Education and Programs area, where I coordinated science and history programs.  That was where my interest in regional African American history was sparked.  In 2003 I founded the Southwest Michigan Black Heritage Society, along with Dr. and Mrs. Romeo Phillips, Harold Bulger, and Horace Bulger.  I served as president of the Society through 2010.  After retiring from the Museum, I later transitioned to serving as Executive Director of the Society.

What do you most love about the Kalamazoo community? 

I love the openness and friendliness of the people in the community and their spirit of service.

What guides or principles do you rely most upon?

I like to maintain focus, to complete what I start, and to stay true to my word.

Who was one of your mentors and what do you carry with you from that relationship?

I can’t identify any one mentor.  I learn from everyone with whom I interact and let their best qualities serve as a guide to my own behavior. 

What has been one of your biggest learning moments?

My biggest learning moment was realizing that I do my best work when I’m following my passion.

What’s an average day like for you at work?

Because I’m primarily a volunteer at what I do and I don’t have set hours, my days are always different, which is the thing I like most. However, almost all of them involve at least one meeting.

What are the types of challenges/opportunities that keep you up at night?

When we are planning a specific project or program, I find myself getting my best ideas in the wee hours of the morning.

How do you stay up-to-date on latest trends in your field?

I serve on several boards of history-based organizations.

What advice do you have for those wishing to have a long lasting career in the nonprofit sector?

Make sure you are making the decision to enter the field because what you are going to do enables you to follow your passion or your life purpose, not because you think it will make you rich.

What do you geek (i.e., what hobby or outside interest do you really like)?

Believe it or not, I geek my work which allows me to do the things I enjoy most -  expressing myself through speaking and writing, planning and organizing, researching history, interacting with others.  The only other thing I do as much is read.  I also enjoy classical music, theater, dancing, and interior decorating. 


More with less

Recently I spent time outside Michigan with a room of nonprofit professionals. As we discussed tighter budgets and higher demands, a consensus grew around a perceived shared mandate. With a weary shake of the head, one person stated their common dilemma:

We must do more with less.

The statement was received both as an unavoidable reality as well as a virtual prison sentence. It meant doing more activities with fewer people and less money. "My board just won't have it any other way." "People are suffering and need our help." "It's impossible to say No."

The phrase "more with less" took me back to a 1970's Mennonite cookbook - the "More-with-Less Cookbook." I revisited the introduction which says, "the book demonstrates clearly how we may enjoy more while eating less. There is a way of wasting less, eating less, and spending less which gives us not less but more."

Here, more with less meant more quality with less stress.

I've seen this principle at work in many arenas. Organizations that focus on fewer programs and do  them well without over-stretching their staff or budgets serve more people over time...and serve them better. Those that won't say No and keep over-stretching themselves just fight the same battles year after year after year.

We can do more with less. We can add more quality to our services, more patrons to our rolls, and more funding to our mission. We can do this with less stress, less burnout, and less tension. One key is to focus on what we can do well, and say No to the rest. Like a great tree, build a solid core and then add a little ring every year.

More with less is a long-term recipe for success, not a short-term fix.

Best,

Thom


I never thought...

We’ve seen the interview dozens of times. The person-in-charge stands, gazes into the void, and with a shake of the head says, “I never thought this would happen.”

It could happen.

Regardless of the venue or situation, we must face the facts as they present themselves, and one clear, undeniable fact is that circumstances beyond your control could derail your operation. It’s not about being a doomsayer or copping a negative attitude or even painting a worst-case scenario. It’s about recognizing risks and taking steps to protect your organization and the people who rely upon it.

ONEplace welcomes back Audrey Randall (Paradigm Risk Management) to lead us in two sessions aimed at avoiding being caught by what could happen. First, Business Continuity Planning (April 24) examines how to keep your operation running when risks become reality.

Next, Your Emergency Action Plan (May 8) looks at how we can prepare now to respond quickly when time if of the essence. Developing plans of action and getting your staff and volunteers prepared may save your organization thousands of dollars. It could even save lives.

Business continuity and emergency action planning are easy things to put off. They are also our biggest regrets when we are caught without them. Don’t put it off any longer. Register today.

Best,

Thom


How long?

Once again, the Kalamazoo Promise put our community in a national spotlight. This time, Politico featured it as part of their year-long innovative ideas series. Julie Mack wrote about it last week on MLive. She summarized the Politico story and stated its conclusion: “…the jury is still out on true transformation, including the impact on economic development.”

I would add: “…and the jury will be out for several years.”

Things that matter take focused effort over a long period of time. Generally speaking, the bigger the impact desired, the more time required. For example, in the Politico article, when asked about the slight improvement in graduation rates, KPS Superintendent Michael Rice rightly said, “It takes 18 years to grow a high school graduate.”

True. And it takes decades to transform a community. The Promise is here in perpetuity and it just may take that long to see the scale of change that exists in our hopes and dreams.

But, long-term effort isn’t just for the big dreams. Even smaller changes take time. If a nonprofit wants to build a sustainable fundraising program, it generally takes three or four years of focused effort…and that assumes everyone (board and staff) is ready and eager to act. If they’re not ready, it will take longer.

But, we hate to wait. No matter what the effort – big or small – it only takes a few months before the question comes up: “How long? How long is this going to take?”

It’s going to take as long as it takes, and it’s well worth the effort. Things that matter take focused effort over a long period of time.

Best,

Thom


Coffee with Christine Zeigler

This month we sit down with Chris Zeigler as she recalls lessons and memories from her career, including her current position as Executive Director of MRC Industries.

Tell us how you got to where you are today (positions held, career shifts, etc)

I worked for 20 years for a company in the Central Michigan area called Mid-Michigan Industries. We worked in 7 different counties and provided primarily vocational training to individuals with developmental disabilities. I got the job quite by accident – I applied for a position there after seeing an ad in the newspaper. I had absolutely no experience. The way our Executive Director at the time tells it – it came down to a choice between a guy who had lots of experience in the field and me who had none but apparently they liked my interviews. When she asked the hiring supervisor to tell her a bit more about each candidate he told her that I had played golf in college. Finally, when they could not make a decision she said and I quote –“ oh heck, just hire the golfer.” I did not find out about this until about 3 years later when she was telling this to a group of people and I must say I was a bit miffed. Little did I know that as a result of that opportunity however, that I would find a career that I love and that has been fulfilling and rewarding to me and that I hope has made a difference to others.

After working in my first position there for a couple of years I then became a supervisor and started our Supported Employment program in Isabella County placing people with more severe disabilities into jobs and supervising our staff in this program. We then took over another rehabilitation facility in Gratiot County that was in crisis and I was promoted to Branch Director of that location and after a period of time was then promoted to the Branch Director position in Isabella County. I continued to work my way up through the company and when I left there to take the position at MRC Industries I was Vice-President of Operations. I was familiar with MRC and had visited here a couple of times throughout the years. When this position became open I decided to apply. It was a position of greater responsibility and my family all lives in Kalamazoo. It was an opportunity to be closer to them. I am thankful every day that I was given the opportunity to lead a fantastic organization.

What do you most love about the Kalamazoo community?

I had no idea when I moved here the depth and number of non-profit human service organizations – and also the philanthropy – that exists in our community. There are a lot of people that really care about making our community a fantastic place to live and that care about those less fortunate than we are. I have developed some terrific friendships here (I love that) and there is always something to do. I also can’t let this question go by without saying that I love the golf courses in this area. I am a member of the Moors Golf Club and also love playing at the many other fantastic courses in this area. Really, when I think about it I can’t think of anything I don’t like about Kalamazoo.

What guides or principles do you rely most upon?

The principle I rely on most and that I value above all others is integrity. I believe that if we conduct ourselves with that value in all of our interactions and responsibilities then things will always work out. Even when they don’t seem to work out, they do because you did the right thing. It’s as simple as that.

Who was one of your mentors and what do you carry with you from that relationship?

The person that had the most influence on me in my work career was my previous boss, Judy Garland – yes the one mentioned in question 1. She taught me a lot of things as I was growing up in this field but the one that I think is most important is that we treat the people we serve with dignity, respect and compassion – how we would want a family member or loved one to be treated if they were receiving services from us.

What has been one of your biggest learning moments?

One of my biggest learning moments came when I had started my new job here at MRC and we had the major flood in 2008. Our building on Bank Street had about 5 feet of water in it and most everything was ruined. We had to try and find a place to continue services, we had production and mailing customers that lost their product, staff who no longer had a desk, a computer or place to go, payroll that needed to be met etc. etc. I had about one minute to get over the initial shock and devastation and then had to move quickly.

I remember having all kinds of questions such as “what are we going to do, how are we ever going to recover from this, can we recover” etc. and then I said to myself “you are it.” In other words, it was my responsibility to figure out what we were going to do and my responsibility to go forward with the belief that we would recover from this. I remember thinking: nobody died, nobody was seriously injured and we will figure this out and come out stronger as a result. It was my job to make that happen. That is not to say that we did not get a lot of support from the community, our board of directors and our staff but ultimately I felt that I was responsible for the outcome we did or did not achieve. This weighed very heavily on me.

The other thing I learned from this was the tremendous support that we had in this community. It was very heartwarming and meaningful to learn that people really cared about MRC and therefore that people really cared about the individuals we serve and that they were considered an important and respected part of our community.

What are the types of challenges/opportunities that keep you up at night?

I have two things that keep me up at night. The first is that I worry about what if something happens to someone under our care. We have responsibility on any given day for around 450 individuals with disabilities. I am proud to say we have an excellent safety record but it only takes one mistake or one person not following a policy or procedure when something bad could happen so that responsibility is something that never leaves me. The other thing that keeps me up at night is worrying about money. Although MRC is a very financially stable organization, my job is to make sure it stays that way and when we have funding cuts that are outside of our control it makes me worry.

How do you stay up-to-date on latest trends in your field?

I do a lot of reading and talking to people in our field. I am on the Board of Directors of MARO, our state association and they provide a lot of good information to us. I am also on two other committees/work groups in Lansing that helps me keep abreast of current trends. I also would like to think we are not just following the latest trend but setting the trend!

What advice do you have for those wishing to have a long lasting career in the nonprofit sector?

The best advice I could give someone is to first make sure that you have a passion for the mission of your organization, the willingness to work hard as a result and to take the responsibility you are given seriously. Second, I would remind people that the funding we primarily get is tax payer money and we have a responsibility to assure that it is used wisely and in a way that most impacts the individuals we serve. Third, always maintain a sense of humor, be flexible and do what you can to make life a little easier for the individuals you serve. You will be rewarded many times over.

What do you geek (i.e., what hobby or outside interests do you really like)?

Golf is my number one hobby. When I am not at work you can usually find me on the golf course. I still love to compete. I love being outside and particularly love boats and being on the water. I even like to fish as long as I don’t have to touch the worms or the fish. I also love to read and am always in the middle of a good book.


The Madness of Winners & Losers

Our April NEWSletter arrives in the midst of March Madness. Those who attend to such things complete their brackets, contribute to the office pool and cheer on their team. And, while there may be several moral victories, the final result is one winner and several losers.

Sports competitions provide entertainment for most of us and build skills and character for those on the court or the fairway or the field. That spirit of competition also informs many approaches to business. However…

…competition is no way to run a nonprofit.

Successful nonprofits (as well as most successful businesses) thrive because they work cooperatively with other organizations. (BTW, this is confirmed by hundreds of studies dating from the late 1800’s through today.) They place their long-term vision and desire for impact above their own self-interest. And they increase their impact by embracing a network mind-set, giving knowledge and resources away to accomplish more than if they acted alone.

The funny thing is this: even though a network mind-set appears as generous and altruistic, it’s actually a function of enlightened self-interest. By focusing beyond your personal career and organizational success to the impact you wish to make, you increase your chances of being successful.

In their book, Forces for Good, Leslie Crutchfield and Heather Grant identify four tactics to implement this mind-set:

  1. Work to increase the resource pool for your cause more than grabbing for your share
  2. Share knowledge and expertise to gain more influence as a collective
  3. Develop leadership throughout the network
  4. Grow small networks into increasingly larger coalitions

Overall, it’s not about who gets the biggest grant or who gets the credit. It’s about getting that change.


Just ONEthing - April

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.


Data-driven...Purpose-driven

In these days of big data, organizations are encouraged to embrace data-driven decision-making. “Trust the data!” becomes the grease on the wheels of success.

And yet, when provided access to the same data, different people arrive at different conclusions. Business leaders, politicians, and others will take a variety of actions based upon the same data. Why?

You cannot remove the human element.

Occasionally I stumble upon the quote, “Data is the seed…information is the crop…knowledge is the harvest.” How data becomes information and knowledge seems to make all the difference. In fact, I’ve seen self-proclaimed “data-driven organizations” intentionally take action directly counter to the data presented to and understood by them. They do this because they process the data through their purposes and priorities (and, perhaps, their politics) to arrive at meaningful information and knowledgeable action.

Big or small, data is an extremely valuable input, but it’s not the driver.

Purpose is the driver. Purpose drives it all – individuals, organizations, communities…everything.

Well-known living systems author Margaret Wheatley lays this out in her book, The Community of the Future. She observes that communities (i.e., organizations, neighborhoods, nations) driven by a common purpose support both an individual’s self-determination and their need for interpersonal relationships.

She suggests that an organization, community or any other entity achieves clarity of purpose and then lets each contribute to that purpose in his/her own way. This approach draws upon the energy created within the paradox of individual freedom and connected community, attracting people to the entity without asking them to shed their uniqueness.

While the human element may be messy at times, it brings the determination, vitality, and resilience required to develop effective, stable and sustainable entities. Plus it provides the security to reach out and collaborate with those around them.

So gather good data and give it your serious attention. But let your purpose be your driver.

Best,

Thom 


What's a board to do?

Faced with an ever-changing landscape and the annual coming and going of members, boards often scramble to keep up. Time and again, however, our research and experience show that keeping the basic responsibilities in front of the board provide the needed grounding and focus to maintain the board’s effectiveness.

What are these responsibilities? They may be described in various ways. Under the law, board members must meet certain standards of conduct in carrying out their responsibilities to the organization. These are usually described as:

  • Duty of care – exercising reasonable care in making decisions as a steward of the organization
  • Duty of loyalty – acting in the best interest of the organization and never using information obtained as a member for personal gain
  • Duty of obedience – being faithful to the organization’s mission and acting in ways consistent with the organization’s central goals

In our recent Leadership Academy class, Larry Hermen took the Ten Basic Responsibilities of a Board and categorized them as:

  • Mission – This includes establishing and evaluating mission & vision, engaging in strategic planning, overseeing programs, and helping the organization communicate effectively
  • Money – This includes overseeing the organization’s finances, fundraising, and ensuring sound risk management practices
  • Management – This includes managing the work of the board, member recruiting and orientation, and executive director hiring and supervision

In our recent Better Board Series, we reduced the Ten Basic Responsibilities to three foundational tasks:

  • Manage relationships – This sets the foundation for fundraising, board recruitment, executive director hiring and supervision, and enhancing the organization’s public standing
  • Set direction – This sets the foundation for establishing and evaluating the mission and vision, ensuring effective planning, and monitoring the effectiveness of programs and services
  • Ensure integrity – This sets the foundation for proper financial oversight, protecting assets, and ensuring legal compliance

I’m sure there are many other ways to slice and dice these core responsibilities.

The sum of all of these is that they encourage the board to:

  1. Keep focused attention on its mission as well as the larger cause that it serves
  2. Work together because no one person or ad hoc group may act on behalf of the board

Keeping these basic responsibilities in front of the board goes a long way to keeping the board engaged and the organization sustainable.

Best,

Thom


I'd like to thank...

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.

Best,

Thom


Direct Assistance for Unique Challenges

Many of you are aware that ONEplace offers direct assistance services, i.e., first line consultation on unique challenges and concerns faced by nonprofit staff and boards. We average about six contacts each day, attending to phone calls, emails, and personal appointments.

We value this work in large part because of the trust inherent in our conversations. You not only trust us to provide sound guidance and resources but also to hold your concerns in confidence. We honor this position and hold it as a cornerstone of our organization’s integrity.

Building upon this position, we have responded to specific needs by conducting limited on-site facilitation and training for organization staff and boards of directors. These tailored events not only address your specific challenges and concerns, they also provide a common experience upon which to build. Responses to this service so far have been very positive.

Another extension of our direct assistance services comes in recognizing that ONEplace doesn’t have all the answers. Sometimes your best solution resides within another organization that has faced a similar challenge in their recent past. So, from time to time, we facilitate introductions and connections between nonprofits to address the specific concern and to continue to strengthen the overall nonprofit sector.

We value your trust and hope you will extend it to your colleagues as we assist one another in building more effective organizations and a stronger community.


Coffee with Pat Taylor

This month we sit down with Pat Taylor, Executive Director of the Eastside Neighborhood Association. She shares her vast experience in working in the nonprofit sector and her creative approach to solving local issues.

Tell us how you got to where you are today

I began my career in the nonprofit world by volunteering, first at the defunct Civic Black Theatre (acting and technical theatre positions). My next volunteer opportunity came by assisting the Executive Director at that time, late Gayle Sydnor, at the Black Arts & Cultural Center. I really did not think of these positions as any sort of prep for a career move. I was a single parent with two teen-aged boys and I wanted to show them that mom was practicing what she preached: get out and do something positive that you enjoy just for the fun of it.

I enjoyed working in the nonprofit world enough to start thinking about making a career of it when the time (and resources) came that enabled me to go to college. While at WMU, I snagged an internship with Cass District Library working with residents and businesses. I was offered a position there but declined because I am NOT the commuting type!

After my internship with Cass I went into the AmeriCorps program and worked as a Housing Specialist at the Edison Neighborhood Association. After my tour of duty expired, the Executive Director offered me a permanent position working at Edison, which I took. After working for two years at Edison, the position at the Eastside Neighborhood Association came up. I applied for it, was hired, and here I am today!

What do you most love about the Kalamazoo community?

I love how, when faced with major challenges, the Kalamazoo Community usually looks to creative approaches to solve the issue.

What guides or principles do you rely most upon?

The Golden Rule

Who was one of your mentors and what do you carry with you from that relationship?

Of the many folks (mostly women) that come to mind, the late Gayle Sydnor was instrumental in reminding me that there are several approaches to a problem. If one thing does not work, keep looking – the solution just hasn’t been found yet! She taught me that challenges are tools to assist one to shift directions. She also helped me to see that failure is a learning curve, not a punishment.

What has been one of your biggest learning moments?

I think that my biggest learning moment came when, during my first years at the Eastside there were two “camps” (different views on how to make the neighborhood a better place). The more aggressive camp tended to push their agenda through, while the non-assertive camp – even though they did not totally agree with the agenda – stayed silent. This discovery caused me to shift from having to work for several bosses – trying to please everyone – to finding ways to make sure that everyone has a say in the decision-making process in an environment where each individual feels their concerns are heard. Through this situation I realized the importance of including EVERYONE in a conversation, making sure that everybody is really on board with the idea, and finding a venue for those who are not to have a say so the rest of the group knows. And all this must happen in a “safe” environment.

What’s an average day like for you at work?

My day-to-day work tends to be a mix of coaching volunteers, finding information to assist my board carry out their duties, bill paying , meetings, looking for resources to assist the organization and residents, and LOTS of report writing!

What are the types of challenges/opportunities that keep you up at night?

Trying to figure how to have enough time to do all the tasks I feel need to be accomplished to keep the organization moving forward. I feel that everyone involved in the organization should have a say and be empowered to assist with progress in our neighborhood and the association. Through the years my biggest challenge is finding ways that encourage residents and board members to feel comfortable enough to take the plunge. It is not a matter of “one size fits all.” Our residents are a very diverse lot. An approach that encourages one individual may very well repel another, so building relationships is key.

How do you stay up-to-date on latest trends in your field?

Modern technology has its perks! I have found several resources that help me stay up to date with trends related to my field. In addition to this, when I find that I have the time (and REALLY need to see the outside world), ONEplace is another good resource with the many workshops geared towards what local nonprofit folks are looking for.

What advice do you have for those wishing to have a long lasting career in the nonprofit sector?

Always remember that we cannot accomplish our goals of making our world a better place alone. Seek out other individuals who work in the field – not just those that are specific to your industry – who can be a wealth of ideas that one may be able to adapt to the organization you are doing your good work for. …And don’t forget to do what you love!

What do you geek (i.e., what hobby or outside interest do you really like)?

I geek so many things – Arts & Crafts, reading, theater arts, music, the outdoors, gardening, playing with stained glass, and my grandkids!


Who's your target?

Our ONEplace Nonprofit Collection has this great little book: The Five Most Important Questions You Will Ever Ask About Your Organization, by Peter Drucker and others. It’s a quick read that makes a lasting impression. Questions two & three grabbed me: Who is our customer? and What does the customer value? Specific, well-supported answers to these questions could turn your organization around.

Nonprofits have many customers. The authors distinguished between our primary customers (the persons who lives are changed through our work) and our supporting customers (volunteers, members, partners, funders, employees, and others who must be satisfied). Our business is not to casually please everyone but to deeply please our target customers. So, the first job is to clearly define our target customers in great detail. This definition affects everything.

Next, ask What does the customer value? This may be the most important – but least often asked – question. The authors suggest beginning with your assumptions of what you believe your customers value. Next, gather customer input and then compare your assumptions with what the customers actually are saying, find the differences, and go on to assess your results. Do this for both primary and supporting customers.

It takes time and hard work, but it’s worth it. The reward comes in a greater focus on your mission, money-saving operational efficiencies, and greater value delivered to all of your customers.

Best,

Thom


It comes down to this

Leadership.

We all take our cue from the top. A leader’s style determines about 70% of the organization’s culture which, in turn, drives up to 30% of performance (Firms of Endearment).

Of course, I don’t need to cite research. We all know it’s true. We see it every day: at works, at home, in schools, and in the community.

With few exceptions, when ONEplace staff meets with an organization to discuss concerns and challenges, dysfunctional leadership plays a debilitating role. The flipside is also true. When we work with healthy, effective organizations, we find that vital leadership sits at the hub of their progress and success.

Most often, the crux of the leadership challenge or success rests in the partnership between the executive director and the board. Like ripples in a pond, the actions of this crucial partnership radiate to every stakeholder, often having the greatest impact on those furthest out. This commonly means that those staff and volunteers on the front lines are motivated by impeccable clarity of mission and direction or left frustrated, arguing over ambiguous pronouncements.

So, what to do? Pointing fingers (be it blaming or idolizing) either exacerbate a problem or simplify a success. For now, I ask you to consider two things:

  1. Please share your successes. Leave a comment, post on our LinkedIn group, send me an email or otherwise share what you’re doing that works. Supporting one another in this way builds a stronger sector for us all.
  2. Please do not let a problem situation fester any longer. Problems often take months to develop, and they will take focused effort over time to resolve. Let’s work together to explore your particular situation and begin to take steps to repair your system.

It comes down to this: what’s your next move?

Best,

Thom


Looking ahead...planning ahead

How clear is your crystal ball? When we set forth plans of any stripe – strategic, budget, project, etc. – we are saying that this is how we plan for the organization to operate within a given timeframe. In other words, we’re predicting the future.

For the vast majority of us, our past teaches us that we cannot predict the future. We’ll get close, but things happen outside of our control that throw curveballs, plant bumps in the road, and knock us off-kilter.

The lesson is clear: we need to plan for things NOT to go as planned. We need to have back-up. So, how many of your organizations:

  • Build a surplus into your annual budget (e.g., 3-5%)?
  • Maintain an adequate reserve in the bank (e.g., 3-6 months of expenses)?
  • Have succession plans (quick exits and planned exits) for your key positions (both staff and volunteer)?

Building and maintaining an operational reserve means that your organization faces the fact that “stuff happens.” It demonstrates your ability to stay disciplined over the long-term, and it is one of the hallmarks of a sustainable organization. Further, it provides the financial capacity to resist the urge to cling to the familiar and adapt to changing times. It gives you choices!

Operational reserve can also apply to staff time and energy. According to BoardSource’s most recent Governance Index, 22% of nonprofits cut staff and 23% froze or reduced salaries in 2012. While these numbers are lower than the 2010 report, we often find that these cuts are NOT accompanied by commensurate changes in programs and services. In other words, staff must to do more with less.

This trend finds support in two other recent studies. Nonprofit Marketing Guide’s 2014 Trends survey reports that 57% of communicators say they are asked to do more than is possible within the given time. Further, CompassPoint’s 2013 “Underdeveloped” survey reports that the average length of vacancy after a development director leaves is six months. For organizations with operating budgets of $1 million or less, the average jumps to 12 months.

Cultivating a long-term approach to financial reserves AND staff time/energy reserves is critical to success. It develops a strong organizational core that withstands annual ups and downs and develops overall quality and quantity.

This is an area that we can assist one another. What have you done to successfully build your reserves? Leave a comment or send me an email (thoma@kpl.gov).

Best,

Thom

P.S. I posted a recent article on our LinkedIn group that has attracted some conversation. Check it out.


Where do I find...

When looking for an answer to a sticky question, it’s likely that another nonprofit has just what you need.

Call it relationship building, networking, cultivation, or connecting, the act of building enduring, mutually beneficial, professional relationships accelerates and sustains success for individuals and organizations. It’s time-tested, well-documented, and prescribed by every thought leader.

Does it take time and effort? Yes.

Will the return on this investment be huge? Yes.

Can you afford not to do it? No.

Need more? Among the benefits of strong professional relationships are:

  • Keeping you and your organization front of mind amidst all the noise and clutter
  • Creating a resource pool supporting mutual success
  • Building within-sector and cross-sector trust – the foundation of collective impact
  • Promoting sustainability and overall success

 At ONEplace, our goal is to operate as a catalyst of your success, to help you meet people to include in your network and expand your sphere of influence. We invite you to connect with new people, cultivate emerging relationships and leverage your network. To accomplish this, we offer:

  • Interactive discussion at every ONEplace workshop
  • Kalamazoo Nonprofit Connection (LinkedIn group)
  • Kalamazoo Nonprofit Connection – LIVE (quarterly networking event)

Our next quarterly gathering is Wednesday, February 12, 4:30 – 6pm (more info). I hope to see you there.

Best,

Thom


Peer-to-Peer Learning

We consistently hear from you that the discussion and interactive aspects of our workshops are highly valued. This makes sense. As we work together on new information, we challenge our assumptions, develop 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 surveyed literature from 2008-2013, surveyed 236 foundations, and included 20 interviews. One key result of this study was that peer-to-peer learning (or collaborative learning) surfaced as the best capacity building approach.

Since last summer, ONEplace has been piloting peer-to-peer learning groups. In addition, we’ve learned from persons who have benefitted from other collaborative learning groups. Now it’s time to move this effort to its next phase.

On March 6 we will hold a Peer-to-Peer Learning Forum that will include a short presentation plus opportunities to discuss and contribute to the next significant steps in this process. Your voice is a vital component, because our goal, as always, is to be a catalyst for your success.


Just ONEthing - Feb 2014

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 our Monthly Giving workshop. During the workshop, Daren Wendell (Executive Director of Active Water) described his three-year journey developing a monthly giving program. The ONEthing I pulled from his presentation is the need to do many little things – meticulously, consistently, and relentlessly. No one thing is difficult, but the discipline to persevere and stay on top of things poses perhaps the greatest challenge.

What does Daren do? Here’s a sampling:

  • Takes a long-term view (3-4 years) and expects to go slow at the beginning
  • Receipt automatically emailed to every online donor
  • Daren calls every donor who gives a one-time gift (i.e., not monthly program)
  • Daren calls every monthly donor once per quarter
  • Special monthly email newsletter to monthly givers (includes personal note from Daren)
  • High-level monthly givers receive an annual gift reflective of their mission
  • Monthly givers living locally are invited to visit the office to meet others and see pictures of programs
  • Board members gather to call & thank every donor at Thanksgiving time
  • Daren invests in and power-uses a quality donor management system – like having another staff member

Among the many benefits of a monthly giving program are consistent, predictable monthly income and the ability to set more accurate goals on other campaigns.


Coffee with Bob Littke

This month we sit down with Bob Littke as he recalls lessons and memories from his career, including 22 years as Executive Director of Senior Services.

Tell us how you got to where you are today

I worked for 12 years in Radio and Television broadcasting. My first job in broadcasting was working with radio legend Paul Harvey in Chicago on his daily national broadcast. After completing a Ph.D. in Psychology in 1985 I left broadcasting and took my first job in human services as the Director of the St. Joseph county Commission on Aging (Michigan) where I worked for six years as Executive Director before coming to Senior Services of Southwest Michigan where I have been President and CEO for the past 22 years.

What do you most love about the Kalamazoo community?

The giving spirit of the community is what most impresses me. This community has gained national attention for its generosity and willingness to share in countless ways. Nonprofits are particularly helped by the philanthropic sector as well as by the thousands of people who volunteer each year to help others in our community.

Who was one of your mentors and what do you carry with you from that relationship?

Joseph Dunnigan was my closest mentor and he helped me in countless ways. His long history and extensive background in the community were combined with a huge heart. I often think of him and the times we spent together.

What has been one of your biggest learning moments?

There are several that come to mind, but one in particular is relevant to this conversation. Shortly after coming to Senior Services I was asked by my board to conduct a $2 million fund raising campaign. After extensive research I developed the campaign strategy and rationale. My mentor, Joe Dunnigan, wanting to help me arranged a meeting with a major foundation professional who promptly shot my entire project full of holes. While this stung at first, I was able to step back and see the concerns he had identified. After addressing all the weaknesses of my original proposal I was able to develop a winning concept that resulted in a successful campaign that raised the entire $2 million goal.

What’s an average day like for you at work?

Luckily, I am surrounded by a great staff and leadership team who help accomplish even what seems impossible at times. I’ve never believed that long hours are an indicator of success but that leadership is best when accomplished strategically. Following a well-designed strategic plan that we all have agreed to allows for a structured calendar of events and minimizes the potential for crisis management and/or uneven workloads throughout the year.

What are the types of challenges/opportunities that keep you up at night?

Those things that are beyond our control are always potential sources of stress. With a background in Psychology I often remind myself that “worry is like a rocking chair…while it gives you something to do, it does not get you anywhere”.

How do you stay up-to-date on latest trends in your field?

Belonging to organizations that bring similar organizations together has always been one of the most beneficial tools I use to stay up-to-date. While there are unlimited amounts of facts and statistical information available on-line, I find nothing more valuable than getting together with other leaders around the State and Nation and learning about new and innovative ideas from these peers.

What advice do you have for those wishing to have a long lasting career in the nonprofit sector?

Be a leader, not a manager. Managers do great things and get the job done, but leaders help set the course, determine the direction and create the vision that others need.

What do you geek?

I really enjoy flying and have been a F.A.A. licensed pilot for over 30 years. I’m also very active in my church and assist as a part time staff member.


Hey! Where're you headed?

When was the last time your board discussed the organization’s mission and vision? How much has changed – big shifts as well as incremental changes – since that time?

We find that evaluating the mission and vision is either a glossed over exercise – not much more than a quick reaffirmation of the mission statement – or a tediously-detailed (i.e., word-smithing) part of a large strategic planning effort. Neither produces helpful results.

Yet, a biannual mission and vision evaluation serves several needs of the board. First, it takes stock of the environment in which you live and work. What’s it like today? How do we expect it to change in the next two or three years? How does this impact our long-term direction?

Second, it faces everyone in the same specific direction. It’s no good to say something akin to, “We’re heading north” (a 90-degree chunk of the compass). Rather, we need to say, “Our heading is 012 degrees.” Specificity lets everyone know exactly who we’re serving and why.

Third, and perhaps most significantly, reconnecting with the mission and vision of the organization breeds ownership. Effective fundraising, ambassadorship, and board recruitment requires personal connection to the mission of the organization. This exercise allows each board member the opportunity to engage the mission on his/her own terms…to find that personal stake. It deepens each person’s commitment and motivates their informing and inviting others.

So, I encourage taking time to evaluate your organization’s mission and vision at least every other year. ONEplace can help with resources or in facilitating the conversation. It will strengthen your connections and your resolve.

Best,

Thom


Pages will turn

When reading a book, article or anything in hard copy, to find out what happens next you must turn the page. The act becomes a revealing – circumstances once hidden, now coming into plain sight.

Pages are turning in our area. Last week, Pretty Lake Camp announced that Michelle Karpinski would succeed Mitch Wilson as its new executive director. Michelle spent the past nine years as vice president for development at the Kalamazoo Nature Center.

Pages also are turning at other organizations in our area. Leadership changes, on staff as well as on the board, are inevitable. Many organizations, like the ones above, prepare for such inevitabilities. However, several others do not – an act akin to living in denial.

One mark of a “sustainable organization” is a succession plan. The plan should address the sudden departure as well as planned departure of key leadership positions – executive director, board chair, and any others where a vacancy would significantly impact the organization.

Also, the longer one has held a position, the more important this plan becomes. Often, the long-term leader holds so much knowledge, carries so many key relationships, and has become so efficient in their role that it takes more than one person to replace them. That’s an unexpected – and unwelcomed – kick in the budget.

How would you navigate a change in executive director…a change in development director? Serve your organizational well and ensure that succession plans are in place and up to date.

Best,

Thom

P.S. Read about Michelle (a 2012 ONEplace Leadership Academy grad) and her new role at Pretty Lake Camp


Think on your feet

Prepare all you want, but most situations include several unscripted moments. We need the ability to think on our feet.

In reviewing articles on this topic, I found that some suggest stall tactics such as having the person repeat the question, you repeating the question, or asking a clarifying question. These may buy time, but sooner or later you must respond. So, what do you do?

Many take their cue from those who regularly improvise. Citing jazz musicians, for example, one coach encourages clients to be fully in the moment – focused and engaged. Advisors among all articles advocate staying positive, actively listening, and taking risks.

Our upcoming workshop, (Manage by Improv – Jan 23), explores how we think on our feet. Using improvisation games, our leaders (Improv Effects) demonstrate how we can enrich our communication skills and increase our confidence. It’s a unique angle on engaged interaction, plus, it’s a lot of fun.

Whether you can make the workshop or not, prepare for unscripted moments. Here’s an article to help with that.

Best,

Thom

P.S. Improv Effects is featured in the current issue of Encore.


Unresolved

Tired of hearing about New Year’s resolutions? Me, too. So let’s have some fun with it.

Like many words, “resolution” has more than one meaning. For instance, resolution also refers to the sharpness of an image and the clarity of its detail. Resolution provides a measure of presentation quality, and higher resolution usually means better quality.

So, what if, instead of cramming more should’s, ought’s, or to do’s on ourselves via New Year’s resolutions, we create a high resolution New Year? We rid ourselves of the everything’s-a-priority, pixelated view of our efforts and sharpen our clarity on things that bring out the vibrant hues of our mission. That is, we bring our work into focus.

Daniel Goleman (Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence) writes daily on this topic. He identifies the myriad of distractions vying for our attention and identifies the importance of sustained, concentrated focus for insight and innovation. His suggestions include actions we can take in the workplace and beyond. For example:

When you find yourself checking your email when you should be working on something else instead, just telling yourself 'I'm distracted now' activates a brain circuit that makes it easier to drop what's irrelevant and get back to focusing on your work.

Few of us have time or energy for what’s irrelevant. So let’s make it a Hi-Res New Year.

Best,

Thom

P.S. The above example came from this brief Daniel Goleman article on Seven Ways to Sharpen Your Focus.


Coffee with Anne Wend Lipsey

This month we sit down with Anne Wend Lipsey, Executive Director of Kalamazoo Loaves and Fishes.

Tell us how you got to where you are today (positions held, career shifts, etc)

I graduated from Western Michigan University with a degree in secondary education, and then my husband and I moved to Ann Arbor. After studying Urban Planning at the University of Michigan, I worked for an organization doing home repair for senior citizens in Detroit. The community-based group did good work helping to keep people in their homes. We moved back to Kalamazoo, and I got involved with Ministry with Community as it was starting. I worked with their Center City Housing (precursor to Housing Resources, Inc) and with the beginning stages of Kalamazoo Loaves and Fishes (KLF). With KLF I helped facilitate conversations involving soup kitchens and the role of Ministry and KLF with prepared meals. After spending six months working at the Eastside Neighborhood Association, I applied to KLF and became their second office person. During this time (1984-91), KLF was very grassroots, so we did it all – from office to warehouse. I then worked for about seven years with United Way and about five years with the Kalamazoo Community Foundation. During these years I got a comprehensive view of the area’s nonprofit sector and the particular experience of observing nonprofit leaders. I returned to KLF in 2003 – still a grassroots effort – and took on the task of developing it into a more stable, long-term organization.

What do you most love about the Kalamazoo community?

Kalamazoo is my hometown. While I’ve lived other places, there’s just something special about Kalamazoo. People here care about the broader community. They’re willing to struggle with the big questions and take on the big issues. At the same time, there are pockets of really cool activity going on here. And it’s accessible. Kalamazoo is big enough to have Peace Jam host Nobel Peace Prize laureates and yet small enough to get from here to there without fighting traffic.

What guides or principles do you rely most upon?

I rely on groups: an incredible staff that consistently does great work, a dynamic board that asks the tough questions, and a volunteer corps that operates out of caring passion. The combination creates a great energy that’s bigger and different than any of them could do on their own.

Who was one of your mentors and what do you carry with you from that relationship?

Bob Rasmussen was pastor of North Presbyterian Church when Ministry with Community was starting. He’s a friend and set me on the right path. I worked with Ann Marston on allocations at United Way. She was a strong advocate of nonprofit organizations and knew their importance to the community. My husband, Sandy Lipsey, has the ability to listen deeply. He helps me get to the other side of the hysteria. And my parents: my dad taught at WMU and my mom worked with substance abuse prevention. I grew up during a wild and wonderful time when you needed to take sides, and my parents taught me to be on the side of social justice – the side of “we,” not “me.”

What’s an average day like for you at work?

First, there’s my rev-up time when I touch base across the organization on items of the day. There’s time spent interfacing with the board – as a whole, in committees, or in individual meetings – as we continue navigating the transition from grassroots to stable, dynamic organization. I spend time on fund development: writing newsletter articles or thank you notes, visiting donors, or talking to groups about KLF. Finally, there’s checking progress on items I’ve delegated to other staff.

What are the types of challenges/opportunities that keep you up at night?

The primary challenge: people are food insecure. We’re doing more advocacy than ever. We no longer talk about putting ourselves out of business, because the situation is not improving. For example, how do you stand up to cuts proposed in the Farm Bill? It’s the injustice of it all.

How do you stay up-to-date on latest trends in your field?

ONEplace provides incredible resources for the nuts and bolts of nonprofits. I also stay connected with national organizations – the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) and Feeding America – plus regional ones as well – the Food Bank Council of Michigan and the Food Bank Council of South Central Michigan. I’m more an observer now but did spend time on the board of the Food Bank of Michigan. I also keep in touch with others that provide emergency relief services in our area.

Advice for those wishing to have a long lasting career in the nonprofit sector?

Listen, listen, listen, listen. I’m centered in the belief that it is with others that we find wisdom, perseverance, and strength to carry on. The other piece is to have fun with each other – with staff, with volunteers, even with the board. We’re all a part of this community. We’re all in this together.

What do you geek (i.e., what hobby or outside interests do you really like)?

I’m a potter (I make weird pots). I also garden, read mystery novels, and spend time with my grandchildren.

Anything else?

Push out your timeframe. Find one place to naggle at the edge. What does it look like over a long period of time? Accomplish something today and then build upon that.


Building Connections

As the folks gathered for a recent ONEplace event, one participant told me of a collaboration he and another participant would be doing this spring. The collaboration came about, he said, because they met at ONEplace.

My response: “BOO-YAH!”

Connecting you with your nonprofit colleagues sits at the core of our operation. At every event, you’re invited to meet the other participants, talk with them, and discover how you can resource one another. Be it in small groups, workshop discussions, Kalamazoo Nonprofit Connection LIVE gatherings, or on LinkedIn, the connections you make will serve your career, strengthen your organization, and increase your community impact.

How do you connect with your colleagues – within your organization, within similar organizations, within the wider nonprofit community? How could you benefit from increasing the number or frequency of your connections?

Mark your calendars for our next Kalamazoo Nonprofit Connection LIVE gathering, Wednesday, February 12 at 4:30 pm. Arrange to meet someone there, plan to introduce yourself to someone. In other words, make it work for you.


Just ONEthing - Jan 2014

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 months’ insight comes from our Annual Reports People Actually Read webinar. During the webinar, Kivi Leroux Miller (Nonprofit Marketing Guide) presented the sobering fact that the vast majority of people receiving our annual reports will spend only 30-to-90 seconds with them before putting them in the recycle bin. Ouch!

This led into an excellent presentation and discussion on how to best use annual reports. Since there are no regulations or requirements governing nonprofit annual reports, they may focus on connecting with the target audience – commonly donors. Her two main guidelines: frame the report with one main thing to be remembered and keep the report short, personal, and timely.

More information may be found at Kivi’s webpage devoted to annual reports. Also, this webinar (like many that we present) may be viewed individually at the library. Simply call ONEplace to set an appointment (269-553-7910).


The Looonnnnggggg View

As we approach the end of the year, two things commonly happen – we rush through last minute holiday details and we pause to reflect on the past year. It’s a holiday twist on “hurry up and wait.

Of course, some last minute activities cannot be avoided. It seems that every event, project, and multi-faceted effort involves last minute details. We anticipate them, plan for them, and then crank ‘em out. These “hurry up” tasks simply cannot be done any earlier.

The “wait” tasks – often weightier, developmental activities that take time and long-term commitment – cannot be so quickly cranked out. These demand top priority, our first and best energy, and regular time on our calendar.

I’m talking about the kind of activities that populate Stephen Covey’s Important-Not Urgent quadrant. They bring vision and perspective. They develop balance, discipline, and self-control.

In summarizing these, Covey writes

What one thing could you do in your personal and professional life that, if you did on a regular basis, would make a tremendous positive difference in your life? Quadrant II activities have that kind of impact. Our effectiveness takes quantum leaps when we do them. (The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, pg. 154)

So, how would you answer Covey’s question? Or, in the spirit of the season, try this: instead of looking forward, first take a look back. What, during this past year or in previous years, have you done on a regular basis that made a tremendous positive difference in your life? Name your success, celebrate it, and learn from it. And then look ahead and see how you can build on it.

That’s taking the long view – small, consistent steps over a long period of time. It’s the key to great board development, great fundraising, great public relations, great programs…indeed, it’s the key to being great.

Best,

Thom


Up your rep

Every nonprofit desires a strong public reputation.

One recipe for increasing an organization’s civic stature is to: 

  1. identify your community’s long-term, well-funded priority, and then
  2. help it be successful while staying true to your mission.

The result is that the organization:

  • does what it does best
  • builds strong alliances with other organizations, businesses, and agencies
  • enjoys endorsements from community leaders as an example to be followed

In most communities this is a near-impossible task because there are no long-term, well-funded priorities. The priorities change with each new administration or budget cycle.

Not so in Kalamazoo County. We share a common vision – a sustainable culture of learning at home, in school, at work and throughout the community. Its pillars are the Kalamazoo Promise and The Learning Network of Greater Kalamazoo, but its active participants populate a very long list. And, make no mistake, the effort is well funded, and we’re in it for the long haul.

Recent recognition from the Lumina Foundation and Dan Cardinali, president of Communities in Schools, Inc., indicates that we’re moving in a good direction. Cardinali writes:

What's tremendously encouraging to me is the way that the entire community is coming together in support of the public schools. In Kalamazoo, public education is everyone's business. The silos that separate schools, businesses and civic organizations are coming down as everyone accepts a shared responsibility to prepare young people for a successful, productive life. In other words, Kalamazoo is re-forming its sense of community, not just reforming its schools. (read full post)

Are we on the right path? Yes…for now. But there’s a long way to go and the path twists and turns. And, it has no end. We just need to keep moving forward.

Will you and your organization be satisfied walking the sidelines or being an armchair quarterback to this adventure? I hope not. Get in the game! Claim the vision as your own, and offer your best. The least it will do is up your rep.

Best,

Thom

P.S. Kalamazoo is among 20 communities selected by the Lumina Foundation for project to boost college success (read article).


Just ONEthing - Dec 2013

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 months’ insight comes from Suprotik Stotz-Ghosh of the Kalamazoo Community Foundation and others who attended our community alignment workshop on November 6. During this time, Suprotik posed the question, What are the barriers to your operating at maximum potential? Among the responses came these insights:

  • We think we have to do it all vs. working smarter
  • Organizational tunnel vision – we don’t see the full picture
  • We work in silos and will collaborate only so far. We stop when we fear losing funding
  • We may use the same terms, but we have differing definitions of those terms - misunderstanding
  • We often reinvent the wheel, trying to solve issues by ourselves when someone already has the answer
  • Always done it this way vs. Willingness to change

Suprotik offered that what works best for any specific community is found in the intersection of Best Practices (success in many communities), Local Data (trends unique to our community), and Local Voices (from people nearest the issues).


Coffee with Mitch Wilson

This month we sit down with Mitch Wilson, Executive Director of Pretty Lake Camp.

Tell us how you got to where you are today (positions held, career shifts, etc)

I “grew up” in the corporate environment as an IT professional and manager most of my career. Most of my time was spent with Pfizer and its legacy companies (Pharmacia, Upjohn) along with being an independent consultant. In 2008, I was part of the “right sizing” effort locally, which opened up a number of new opportunities for me. I had two criteria in re-evaluating my career – I wanted to find an organization that I feel I could add value to and also have a passion for work every day. Pretty Lake Camp was looking for a new Executive Director at that time. They took a bit of a chance on me as I wasn’t a “typical” non-profit leader. I like to think it was a good move for both of us.

What do you most love about the Kalamazoo community?

I grew up in Kalamazoo and also have spent most of my adult life here. There is just so much opportunity here and the commitment to make the community thrive is fantastic. The Promise, WMU, Kalamazoo College – it is such a great learning community, and the revival of downtown has been awesome to watch. There is a lot of upside to our great community.

What guides or principles do you rely most upon?

It has to be the Golden Rule – especially since the summer staff this year presented me with the Golden Rule award. Treat others well, respect what others do, and in return, you will be treated well. Be honest and truthful. Every summer, I hand out “The Golden Rule in Practice” to our staff which is a list of phrases of how to personally conduct yourself. My two favorites are the last two on the list: “If it will brighten someone’s day, say it”, and “If you can help someone, do it.”

Who was one of your mentors and what do you carry with you from that relationship?

My parents and my wife Sarah. My parents taught me to be positive, help others when you can, and that the glass is always half full. Sarah taught me about passion for a career and helping children. She was a phenomenal educator as a middle school math teacher (now retired) – very creative, great sense of humor, yet held her students accountable. She inspired me to take my current role at Pretty Lake.

What are the types of challenges/opportunities that keep you up at night?

Where ever you work, whether it’s a for-profit or non-profit, it’s always about the people in the organization. It’s being able to understand not only how a person fits in the organization, but how their personal life impacts their work. It’s very satisfying to see people in your organization have success, but also very hard when a person doesn’t work out or doesn’t fit. Building a good, cohesive team takes time, energy, and patience, and the willingness to listen and coach people in your organization.

How do you stay up-to-date on latest trends in your field?

ONEplace and The Johnson Center in Grand Rapids are two of my favorite organizations. The education and training provided by each at a great price (free at ONEplace) are great resources for our community. I also just try to network with other leaders to find out what works – and doesn’t work for each of them. The Michigan Nonprofit Association and their annual conference is another great resource.

Advice for those wishing to have a long lasting career in the nonprofit sector?

Probably because of my background, I don’t like to differentiate between the “for profit” and “nonprofit” sectors. It’s true that the revenue sources are different, but at the end of the day, it’s about managing people, functions, and financials with your available resources. My advice is to think a little more out of the box and use good ideas from wherever they come from.

What do you geek?

As I have my whole life, I still play golf competitively and enjoy the challenges that it brings. Over the last couple of years, I have taken on triathlons as very much a beginner. I also really love to scuba dive.


Synergies

“Two heads are better than one” (as long as they’re not banging against one another).

Better answers don’t come simply by having more people in the room. To ensure the synergy of many minds or multiple efforts, you need a process or guide, something that facilitates the act of “working together.”

Synergy is a theme that runs through much of our December programming.

Small adjustments to activity or perspective often make big differences in how well we work together. Consider taking a closer look at how you can synergize your efforts.

Best,

Thom


Trust connections

In a video I recently viewed, Diana Chapman Walsh, president emerita of Wellesley College, offers her five attributes of trustworthy leadership: question ourselves, develop and attend to solid partnerships, avoid the use of force except as a last resort, value differences not only as a source of respect but as a source of creative information, and create a community.

Certainly, others may vary their own trustworthy leadership list, but I find that in leadership, as in many other areas, it all comes down to relationships. The connections we build over the course of our careers make all the difference in our individual success as well as our organization’s impact.

Our quarterly Kalamazoo Nonprofit Connection – LIVE events were created as a venue for you to make and strengthen connections with your nonprofit colleagues. Along with its sibling, the Kalamazoo Nonprofit Connection LinkedIn group, they provide opportunities to meet, discuss, ask questions, share resources, and support one another.

I hope you’ll stop by the upcoming LIVE gathering on Wednesday, November 20. We’re here from 4:30 – 6 pm.

Best,

Thom


Inter(active)dependence

I get jazzed when I'm part of a group that's getting deep in the hoo-ha on issues that matter. Last week (Nov 6), we had moments of that during our Community Alignment workshop.

During the discussion, Suprotik Stotz-Ghosh (Kalamazoo Community Foundation) offered three keen insights that brought this elusive topic into clearer view.

Community alignment is an act of our will
We choose to be aligned or not. There's no magic formula or moment when all falls into place. Alignment occurs when two or more organizations set their intentions to a common outcome and consent to common goals; when we choose to combine our power to do good and to do it well.

Community alignment is about a better way to connect us
Our work takes on greater meaning when it engages us in something bigger than ourselves or our organizations. When we choose to align around these larger goals, the connections we make are stronger and deeper. They withstand conflict and debate, and they surround us with the net of support required to pursue transformational change.

Community alignment begins by starting conversations with people we don't know
While we acknowledge the truth that "we're all in this together," we often don't recognize that "all" includes those voices not being heard. Aligning with those we know takes work. Seeking those we don't know - but need to know - requires curiosity as well as vulnerability. Let's keep asking, "Who's not at the table?" And then, offer them a chair.

We live in a dynamic community - a living system in constant flux. In such a place, community alignment is not something to be attained so much as to be pursued (like "the pursuit of happiness"). At best we'll achieve moments - moments when months of effort from many people results in lives being changed...improved...transformed. At the end of the day, that's something to celebrate!

Then, tomorrow, we do it all over again.

Best,

Thom


Executing Leaders

It’s Halloween! So I bow to the gruesome and gory and offer a gallowed twist to basic leadership practices.

Hang’em High – Put your clean & dirty laundry high on the line for all to see. Transparency is a must and leaders should be the first to admit mistakes and offer second chances.

Stake in the Heart – Plant your stake (i.e., take a stand) aligned with your passion. A misplaced stake will burn you out, and unplanted stakes mean you and your organization stand for nothing.

Firing Squad – Keep the right people on the bus in the right seats and fire those who shouldn’t be on the bus. Make the difficult decision and do it compassionately and appropriately – but do it. Not taking action frustrates the people you want to keep and it holds back the operation.

Off with their Heads – Big-headed egos must go! And, the bigger they are, the harder they’ll fall. It’s not about you (the leader), and it’s not even about your organization. It’s about your mission and the collective impact you can make aligned with others who share your vision.

Leaders who execute well not only know what to do, they have the fortitude to do it.


Coffee with Sid Ellis

This month, we sit down with Sid Ellis, Executive Director of the Black Arts & Cultural Center (BACC), and talk about his career path, his passion for theatre arts, and his love for Kalamazoo.

Tell us how you got to where you are today

I have been doing Community Theater for over 20 years: directing, acting and writing; and was a professional actor with a group called “The Mad Hatters.” I have performed professional storytelling and puppetry for 15 years. I also served as Video Director for Christian Life Center for 12 years and have been a producer at the Public Media Network for over 20 years. I received my BA in Business Management from Spring Arbor University in 2007. The BA degree and my experience in the community enabled me to get the position at BACC.

What do you most love about the Kalamazoo community?

First, it’s the opportunity in the arts and the showcasing of the variety of fine and performance arts in the community. I also love downtown Kalamazoo, especially in the spring & summer when it’s so alive with activity. Top it off with the events that happen at WMU and K College.

What guides or principles do you rely most upon?

I am a servant leader and I love working with people in the community who are making a difference whether it’s in the arts or for social reasons. I love helping people accomplish their goals, especially in the arts.

Who was one of your mentors and what do you carry with you from that relationship?

Pastor Joel Brooks, Jr. has been a great mentor for me and he strongly encouraged me to write my ideas and goals down. He said, it will not start happening in you if you don’t write it down, and he was right.

What are the types of challenges/opportunities that keep you up at night?

Developing youth programs for middle and high school age youth has been a challenge. Sometimes we are able to collaborate with other organizations, yet the students usually come on a drop-in basis and are not consistent enough to generate a solid program.

How do you stay up-to-date on latest trends in your field?

Since our events and programs are so diverse, it is hard to stay up-to-date. Plus, as the only paid staff member, I’m involved in all aspects of the organization including: grant writing, fund development, program development and implementation, and handling the day to day office responsibilities. So, I utilize ONEplace and its opportunities and information. I also try to review other organizations’ information on the internet. Facebook has been a big help in getting information.

What advice do you have for those wishing to have a long lasting career in the nonprofit sector?

Build relationships and collaborations. Make sure the collaborations are a win-win situation and not just you helping someone else; make sure your organization is going to gain something from it. Don’t try to reinvent the wheel but do improve on it. A lot of times there are organizations already doing what you are doing; find out how you can work together.

What do you geek?

Acting, directing, storytelling and puppetry.


Focus

Autofocus used to bug me. I’d take a picture of two people standing side-by-side, and invariably the camera would capture the detail of the plant centered behind them and blur their faces.

I eventually learned the trick of autofocus, but it still bothered me. The auto feature distracted me from my desired focus of attention.

Now, more than ever, distractions abound. Our attention gets pulled in several directions every minute. Yet, research and practical experience show time again that our ability to focus – to pay attention in the right way, at the right time – is critical for success.

Focus not only directs our attention, it also brings things into clear view. As the detail sharpens, we discern where to invest our time, our energy, even our very lives. Clarity draws us toward our center.

Our organizations have a center – it’s usually captured in the mission statement. Each of us also has something inside that knows when we’re in the center – when we’re on the beam or off the beam. In accepting that knowledge and pursuing that center, we find our passion, our bliss, our happiness.

Allowing ourselves this journey requires a self-acceptance that allows for the mistakes we’ll make along the way. It requires courage as we put ourselves out there and learn in public. And it requires a focus gained from self-reflection (i.e., set manually) rather than dictated from outside ourselves (i.e., autofocus).

Best,

Thom

P.S. Here’s a brief clip of Daniel Goleman speaking on focus – watch clip


It's a matter of trust

A few weeks ago during my regular LinkedIn perusal, I came across Marilyn Hewson’s (CEO Lockheed Martin) article on building trust. A quick look piqued my interest, but I wondered if her clearly numbered five principles would be yet another example of off-the-shelf leader hoo-ha. They had that look about them.

Upon reading the article, I saw that her principles were not steps or techniques to be learned & implemented but depths of character to be developed – values, vision, honesty, and gratitude. Building trust is not so much a matter of strategy or tactic but a matter of being trustworthy.

Think of someone you’ve learned to trust. Why did you come to trust this person?

In many cases, trust directly descends from integrity. For me, a person’s integrity stems from the fact that they live an integrated life – what you see if what you get…there are no masks or veneers. It’s what Nan Russell calls authentically showing up. [read her article on trust in the workplace]

In short, building trust is, for the most part, not something you do but a consequence of who you are. We’ll explore this more in an upcoming workshop, Build Trust – Manage Conflict, on October 30.

Best,

Thom


Emotional Courage

“It needed to be said.”

That one statement summed up the difference between another dance-around-the-issue meeting and a truly productive discussion. Persons willing to say what needed to be said.

Why does this seem such a rare occurrence? In his article, Why So Many Leadership Programs Ultimately Fail, Peter Bregman suggests that, for many, “the critical challenge of leadership is, mostly, the challenge of emotional courage.” Many just aren’t willing to experience the discomfort, risk, and uncertainty of saying what needs to be said.

This maxim not only applies to the one willing to break the ice – the rebel or outlier who may easily be ignored – but it also applies to the one willing to back the first one up. This first follower provides validity and serves to make the new issue a topic of discussion rather than a side comment.

Emotional courage, as Bregman says in his insightful article, is the difference between knowing and doing. All leaders know what to do. “What makes leadership hard isn’t the theoretical, it’s the practical.”

Developing emotional courage cannot be accomplished in a workshop or week away. It requires long-term development. How do you (or How would you like to…) develop your emotional courage?

Best,

Thom


Work it

I recall several years ago, closing my hotel room door and leaving the last of five regional conferences. Over the previous two years we had identified needs, set agendas, found venues, developed promotions, and guided registrations. Now it was done, and it felt great.

There's a time to plan and a time to do, and, for many, October is a doing time. This is the time that your plan comes alive, becoming a guiding light. It not only tells you what to do and when to do it, but also lets you see how the varieties of tasks relate to one another.

Keeping this valuable knowledge off the shelf and front of mind ensures that the small but often substantive decisions you make along the way furthers your mission.

Plan the work, and then work the plan. If your plan is incomplete, then take time now to complete it. It's important to know where you're headed.

Then enjoy the satisfaction of a job well done.

Best,

Thom


Coffee with Ann Rohrbaugh

In this inaugural installment of our Coffee series, it seems fitting that we sit down with Ann Rohrbaugh, Director of the Kalamazoo Public Library (KPL), and talk about her years at KPL. Having started as an aide in the bookmobile department while still at WMU, Ann held several positions and became director in 2005.

Tell us how you got to where you are today

I came to Western Michigan University (WMU) for graduate school in library science and expected I’d be here for a year! While at WMU, I had a part-time job in the reference department at KPL. When I graduated there happened to be an opening and I was offered a reference librarian position. From that position I became acting department head, then eventually to the library office in a variety of positions until I became director in 2005. Along the way, I returned to WMU and earned a masters in library administration, a degree program like library science that is no longer offered there.

Why do you most love about the Kalamazoo community?

I expected to be here a year but clearly I’m here for the long haul! It has been a wonderful community in which to settle in, raise a family. I love the size of the community, the wide variety of activities, and of course, the strong support for libraries and learning.

What guides or principles do you rely most upon?

I certainly reply upon professional standards for the library profession….open access; freedom to read, listen, and view; the library bill of rights. I’ve learned to trust my instincts too – I think that comes increasingly with experience and a sense for what will serve our community best.

Who was one of your mentors and what do you carry with you from that relationship?

Mentors early in my career certainly were staff at KPL, especially the Head of the Reference Department and later the library director. From both of them I learned how to operate within an organization, the importance of the long-range view, and appropriate risk taking.

What’s an average day like for you at the Kalamazoo Public Library?

Nine department heads report to me and I meet with each of them most every week, so most days I have one or two standing meetings. I’m usually preparing for some upcoming meeting or event, I often have an outside meeting AND I try to find time to sit at my desk and work….plan for our monthly board meeting, write my weekly blog, make progress on the ‘big-picture’ items. Some days email can be overwhelming – good and bad!

What are the types of challenges/opportunities that keep you up at night?

My overarching concern is the financial uncertainty facing public libraries in Michigan. On a shorter term basis, staff issues sometimes make me restless at night.

How do you stay up-to-date on latest trends in your field?

I read the standard library publications and listservs, attend state and local conferences, talk informally with colleagues. Equally important in the library field is staying current generally – technology, current events and trends, government development that could impact us, local news. That’s a challenge but I do read a lot both professionally and, of course, for pleasure.

What advice do you have for those wishing to have a long lasting career in the nonprofit sector?

I’d offer two pieces of advice: network with others both in your field and in related fields, both locally and at some distance. My small group of Michigan library directors of similar size public libraries has been invaluable both professionally and personally. We offer advice and support to each other. Second, live a balanced life. Nonprofit work can be all-consuming, don’t let it become so for you.

What do you geek?

I geek baking! I no longer select cookbooks for the library’s collection, but I still browse them frequently. I bake often, but now that our kids are grown and live elsewhere, I have to share it with others. Fortunately many baked items freeze well.

Anything else?

Enjoy what you do and if you don’t look for something else.


Just ONEthing - Sep 2013

Every month, we learn much from the participants and presenters we meet at ONEplace. In Just ONEthing… we will highlight an insight gained during the past month from our nonprofit community and its partners.

This months’ insight has to do with volunteers and volunteer management. At our supervisor training, Paul Knudstrup shared the rule of thirds related to volunteer management. 

  • One-third will do what you ask, high quality and on time 
  • One-third will do what you ask, but they need a few reminders 
  • One-third will not follow-through on your requests

Each year, you do what you do to thank all of your volunteers, and you invite the two-thirds who did what you asked to volunteer again next year. Then, you recruit new volunteers to fill out the roster.

Over time, you build a strong corps of loyal, trustworthy volunteers.


One step...one step...one step...

I love checking things off my list. I love it so much that I add quickly-done things to my list just so I can check them off. Feeling the rush of placing another Check Mark (oh yes, I capitalized it) on this week’s list, I briefly bask in a business buzz.

Now it’s Friday – the week’s end. I’m looking back at the past few days – what’s done, what’s yet to do. Admiring each Check Mark on the list, I pause and puzzle over how puny each accomplishment appears. No one task seemed to do anything of great substance; rather, each task simply moved an effort one little step forward.

Indeed, accomplishments of great substance – such as eating the proverbial pachyderm – are done one step at a time…and often by more than one person or one team or even one organization. Collective impact moves the big issues.

So, each day we move forward, one step by one step. We communicate, person by person. We ask, question by question. We explore, issue by issue – each conversation, each action, each insight contributing a thin layer of substance and understanding.

Eventually, the big issue falls. But it was the daily nudge that brought that issue to the edge.

As they say, the dollar’s in the details, life’s in the little things, and Check Marks ROCK! So, I think that I’ll go make my To Do List for next week.

Best,

Thom


Need a New Direction?

Are you squeezing every last cent out of every dollar, every year…and still running a deficit? Are you expanding your mission to chase after one more grant? Do your communications often (too often) say, “please save us, we’re worth it?”

If so, it’s time to admit that your organization’s business model is unsustainable. It’s not time to redouble efforts. It’s time for a new direction - time for a turnaround.

Turnarounds are not miracles. They result from good planning and determined implementation, and they require an unwavering focus on strong leadership, disciplined management, aggressive marketing, and right-sized fundraising.

Strong leadership delivers
* a single, unified vision
* a positive, forward-looking face to outside world
* courageous decision-making

Disciplined management delivers
* obsessive focus on the mission
* a feasible plan toward sustainability
* short-term needs handled with long-term perspective

Institutional marketing delivers
* A clear, mission-focused message that’s descriptive and inspiring
* One solid PR hit every quarter (monthly for larger orgs)
* One spokesperson who controls the media message

Right-sized fundraising delivers
* Gifts that make sense given your organization’s budget and profile
* Grants that support the current mission (vs. create new lines of programming)
* Increased revenue

Again, turnarounds are not miracles. They result from good planning and determined implementation. Further, they take place with energy and speed – no more than three years.

ONEplace@kpl can assist with your turnaround. Email or call today (269-553-7899).

Best,

Thom

Much of the above is drawn from Michael Kaiser’s excellent book, The Art of the Turnaround. He sets forth ten rules that are clear and practical, and he tells several stories of how he applied those rules to turn around various struggling organizations.


The Core Issue

Leadership resides at the core of our failure or our success. If incompetent, it ruins us. If ineffective, it holds us back. If satisfactory, it moves us forward. If exemplary, it takes us beyond our imagination.  

We need satisfactory leadership. 

One of my college professors offered our computer science class some excellent counsel when he said, “To succeed you don’t need to over-achieve at your job – just do it right.” We need leaders who just do it right.  

Lou Salza, Headmaster of Cleveland’s Lawrence School, defines leaders as 

 …people with a professional, personal, and passionate commitment to solving a problem about which they possess a commanding and deep understanding. “Professional” means they have studied the problem and have a sense of what works and doesn’t. “Personal” means that they are all in—and willing to burn out to succeed. “Passionate” means that it is not about them as people. It is about the mission—solving the problem. 

Satisfactory leaders embrace the first two of Lou’s three qualifications. They know their stuff, and they know how to deliver in a professional way. Further, they pour their lives into it – what Jim Collins describes as fanatic ambition for the cause. 

Leaders who take their fanatic ambition beyond themselves, their careers and even their organizations, and focus on the organization’s mission, become exemplary leaders. These rare individuals embody the paradox of Collins’ Level Five Leadership – fanatic professional ambition and extreme personal humility. They connect with others who share their vision, and, together, they deliver transformative community impact. They also care deeply for their people – staff, board, volunteers & supporters – knowing that “organizations” don’t succeed, people do. 

We value and are grateful for the leaders we have in our community, but our shared dilemma – here and throughout the country – is the need for more satisfactory leaders. While much time and money is spent on leadership development, we still find ourselves lacking.  

In her book, The End of Leadership, Harvard professor Barbara Kellerman offers her critique of the leadership industry and suggests that we need to recognize that leadership development is a long-term proposition (not the result of a brief series of workshops designed in a one-size-fits-all fashion), and, more pointedly, we need to stop ignoring and start addressing leadership that is ineffective or incompetent. 

As we look ahead, ONEplace commits to a three-year plan of establishing long-term leadership development beginning with a balance of workshops and various small group intensives. Further, we’re expanding our board of director services to help boards better develop themselves as well as their organizations.  

Leadership is our core issue. Let’s stay connected to build strong leadership over the years to come. 

Best, 

Thom 


Let's Get Together

Lunch…coffee…a meeting…a walk. When we get together we have a reason. The activity creates a context and sets a tone for the interaction.

On August 14, ONEplace holds its second Kalamazoo Nonprofit Connection – LIVE gathering. The context is nonprofit and the tone is mutual support.

Sure, there will be snacks, but best of all, your nonprofit colleagues will be there – those who value referral networks, desire a deeper community connection, and want to accelerate their organization’s impact.

We all seek stronger ties to our colleagues and community. But one evening alone won’t do it. According to “The Real Purpose of Networking,” the most common mistake that individuals make after attending a networking event is not following up. So, put some time on your Aug 15 calendar for follow up.

Stronger collaborative networks open communications, save time, and make us all more effective. But, like most things of value, they require little bits of attention over a long period of time. So, take an hour or so on August 14 to invest in your future…and have a good time doing it.

Best,

Thom


Stepping Out

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?  

Best,  

Thom  

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.” 

Book

Tell to Win 

9780307587954


Achieving Buy In

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?

Best,

Thom

Book

A Hidden Wholeness
9780787971007

Personal Learning Network

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.

Best,

Thom

Book

Inside Drucker’s Brain

9781591842224

 


Of Babies and Bathwater

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 Meetings on Wednesday, March 13. This session goes beyond agendas and timely minutes to getting the right people in the right place addressing the right issues.

Best,

Thom

Building Trust

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.

Best,

Thom

Book

The Advantage

9780470941522


Groupthink

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 Making on Jan 31) addresses this particular dynamic most directly. Coming next month, we will tackle Effective Meetings. Please consider attending these workshops.

Best,

Thom

Do You Trust Me?

In Disney’s Aladdin, our hero’s disguise is betrayed when he asks Jasmine, “Do you trust me?” This is a bottom-line question. It sets the bar of any relationship, and gets down to the naked truth of where you stand and who you are.

Trust makes an impression.

Whether in a family or business relationship, trust means more than just doing what you say you’re going to do. It means that you can speak freely and openly with those you trust. You’re comfortable being totally honest and transparent with them. You’re willing to place your reputation in their hands.

In the workplace, trust’s impact goes beyond individual relationships. It affects the key organizational matters of maximizing performance and achieving desired outcomes. Without trust, we question our colleagues’ intentions and judge their personalities. Productivity disintegrates in the acidic pool of office politics.

So, how can we begin the process of building trust? A first step, as suggested by Patrick Lencioni, is the
Personal Histories Exercise – a low-risk, 20-minute activity to help team members understand one another as people. By having each person state where they grew up, how many siblings they have, and an interesting or unique challenge from their childhood, team members connect at a personal level and begin to see each other as trustworthy human beings.

Lencioni offers other exercises and models on
his website. The foundation of it all, however, is trust; and it is up to the organization’s leader to make the first move and model the desired behavior – not a bad New Year’s resolution!

Best,

Thom

Achieving Clarity

Over the past two weeks, one lesson has presented itself to me in a variety of forms – the importance of clarity over and above certainty.

Without going into all the gory details, suffice it to say that processes have stalled waiting for every last fact to be gathered, people have adorned their arguments with extraneous and jargonistic detail to prove the absolute rightness of their point of view, and meetings have been endlessly prolonged while meaningless minutia was debated. It’s exhausting!

In his book, The Five Temptations of a CEO, Patrick Lencioni names “choosing certainty over clarity” as temptation number three. While he affirms the importance of working with good information, he argues that many of us (CEO or not) take pride in our analytical skills and keen insights. Consequently, we spend too much time honing even-more-finely-detailed analyses into conclusions that get a nod but don’t move our organizations forward. Further, the higher impact issues before the group are left to the final few minutes of an already-too-long meeting.

Clarity, in contrast, means that you take a stand, and people understand the argument being made. They know points on which they agree and, perhaps more important, points on which they disagree. To speak clearly, however, requires us to set aside our fear of being wrong (or, at least, not-completely-right) and willingly invite others to challenge and improve our arguments.

Also, clarity makes accountability possible. Clarity of mission and purpose as well as clarity on individual roles and responsibilities means everyone knows why we exist, where we’re headed and who’s doing what. Everyone knows what’s expected and each person participates in keeping the organization on track.

In the study, Fearless Journeys, the researchers describe how several orchestras took on innovative ideas to invigorate their organizations. In the closing, the writer observed that what made all the difference was NOT the choice each made, but the fact that they dared to choose.

Any decision is better than no decision.

Best,

Thom

Book

The Five Temptations of a CEO
9780787944339

Lead the Way

Recently, I heard Mario Morino of Venture Philanthropy Partners speak of the “…acute shortage of the kind of leaders that high-performing nonprofit and public agencies require.”

This comment tracks with what I’ve heard from business and nonprofit leaders for years: leaders are in short supply.

Mario also says, “Bluntly put, the number-one limiter on our ability to create meaningful, lasting change in our social and public sectors is an acute shortage of the ‘right people on the bus.’” The “right people” he refers to are leaders, i.e., “people with a professional, personal, and passionate commitment to solving a problem about which they possess a commanding and deep understanding.” To be truly effective, organizations need leaders not only in the top jobs but throughout the organization.

ONEplace@kpl has doubled its commitment to bring you leadership training. Our ONEplace Nonprofit Leadership Academy 2013 will begin in January and address every area involved with running a nonprofit. We also are looking to the character of a leader and offering an occasional series called, Take the Lead. The first session is November 27 and explores the importance of focused attention – committing to it, practicing it, and maintaining it.

Consider these opportunities as well as resources found on our Leadership ONEpage to help you develop your leadership skills.

Best,

Thom

Book

A Mindful Nation
9781401939298

Time for a Turnaround?

Are you squeezing every last cent out of every dollar, every year…and still running a deficit? Are you expanding your mission to chase after one more grant? Do your communications often (too often) say, “please save us, we’re worth it?”

If so, it’s time to admit that your organization’s business model is unsustainable. It’s not time to redouble efforts. It’s time for a turnaround.

Turnarounds are not miracles. They result from good planning and determined implementation, and they require an unwavering focus on strong leadership, disciplined management, aggressive marketing, and right-sized fundraising.

Strong leadership delivers
• A single, unified vision
• A positive, forward-looking face to outside world
• Courageous decision-making

Disciplined management delivers
• Obsessive focus on the mission
• A feasible plan toward sustainability
• Short-term needs handled with long-term perspective

Institutional marketing delivers
• A clear, mission-focused message that’s descriptive and inspiring
• One solid PR hit every quarter (monthly for larger orgs)
• One spokesperson who controls the media message

Right-sized fundraising delivers
• Gifts that make sense given your organization’s budget and profile
• Grants that support the current mission (vs. create new lines of programming)
• Increased revenue

Again, turnarounds are not miracles. They result from good planning and determined implementation. Further, they take place with energy and speed – no more than three years.

ONEplace@kpl can assist with your turnaround. Email or call today (269-553-7899).

Best,

Thom

Much of the above is drawn from Michael Kaiser’s excellent book, The Art of the Turnaround. He sets forth ten rules that are clear and practical, and he tells several stories of how he applied those rules to turn around various struggling organizations.

Book

The Art of the Turnaround
9781584657354

Delivering Value

Our ONEplace Nonprofit Collection has this great little book: The Five Most Important Questions You Will Ever Ask About Your Organization, by Peter Drucker and others. It’s a quick read that makes a lasting impression. Questions two & three grabbed me: Who is our customer? and What does the customer value? Specific, well-supported answers to these questions could turn your organization around.

Nonprofits have many customers. The authors distinguished between our primary customers (the persons who lives are changed through our work) and our supporting customers (volunteers, members, partners, funders, employees, and others who must be satisfied). Our business is not to casually please everyone but to deeply please our target customers. So, the first job is to clearly define our target customers in great detail. This definition affects everything.

Next, ask What does the customer value? This may be the most important – but least often asked – question. The authors suggest beginning with your assumptions of what you believe your customers value. Next, gather customer input and then compare your assumptions with what the customers actually are saying, find the differences, and go on to assess your results. Do this for both primary and supporting customers.

It takes time and hard work, but it’s worth it. The reward comes in a greater focus on your mission, money-saving operational efficiencies, and greater value delivered to all of your customers.

Best,

Thom

Peter Drucker’s legacy of leadership development merged with the Frances Hesselbein Leadership Institute. Their mission is to strengthen and inspire the leadership of the social sector. Online at HesselbeinInstitute.org.

Book

The Five Most Important Questions You Will Ever Ask About Your Organization
9780470227565

Succeeding in Volatile Times

It is my honor and pleasure to greet you from my new post as director of ONEplace@kpl.

As I begin my tenure, allow me to add my voice to the many that showered gratitude on Bobbe Luce over the past few weeks. Under her leadership, ONEplace@kpl became an indispensible asset to many who serve nonprofits. Supported by a network of consultants, trainers, and others, Bobbe developed an effective mix of classes, webinars, roundtables and other resources that continue to equip nonprofit staff and boards to flourish. So, once again, “Thank you, Bobbe!”

I’ve spent my entire 15 years in Kalamazoo working for nonprofits, most recently with the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra. I look forward to working with you in this new capacity. In my spare time, I enjoy reading nonprofit leadership & management books. 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?

To succeed in times such as these – indeed, at any time – clarity of mission is the first imperative.

Best,

Thom

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

Book

Great by Choice

0062120999


Is Your Nonprofit’s Website Media Friendly?

Is Your Nonprofit’s Website Media Friendly?” An interesting blog by this name dropped into my email box this week from NonprofitPR.org. They point out the need for nonprofits to help media staff: find you; learn about you; and believe in your credibility—FAST. They are always on a deadline, so the more you can help them, the better.

Especially in our changing media environment—with newspapers morphing to online publications, local radio and television sources moving to more ‘canned’ programming—nonprofits must help the remaining journalists any way we can. Websites are the perfect way, since they are available 24/7.

Answer these questions to learn if your website is ‘media-friendly’:

  • Is your website easy to find? Or, do you have an obscure name or one that is too long or clever?
  • Are your designated media contacts ‘front and center,’ with direct phone/email addresses?
  • Is the content on your site current—regularly updated—and ‘real’ news-worthy news?
  • Do you have a section showing previous media coverage you’ve had?
  • Do you have experts on your staff or board who media can trust on topics the media may be researching or seeking when ‘news hits’? Include short bios of your experts.

By helping media find you, learn about you, and reach out to you when they need to, your nonprofit will gain excellent PR and be seen as a community authority and resource far beyond the media.

The NonprofitPR.org blog is produced by Shoestring Creative Group, a source of free samples, ideas, blogs, and more. Check them out.

Book

Is Your Nonprofit’s Website Media Friendly?
media-friendly-website-160
http://nonprofitpr.org/?p=362

Communication Clarity = Cash

Mark Grimm recently presented an AFP webinar on the financial impacts of compelling messages. He says your communication has to show impact in less than 15 seconds! The way to do that is through simple, clear, precise language. He suggests achieving clear messages by ‘peeling the onion,’ over and over, until the focus is on core benefits to the reader (potential donor). The focus has to be on the reader, not the writer and his/her perspective from within the organization.

“You are proving to the donor you are making the change in the world the donor wants to pay for.” ~~Robbe Healy, Farr Healy Consulting

Clarity is the Issue

  • Simplicity: uncluttered; no jargon
  • Precise: no extra words; only what is important
  • Benefits, not services/programs: what the organization really delivers to everyday people
  • Prove it: select data that ‘tell the benefit story’
  • Emotion and reason: use testimonials related to the top three impact areas
  • Human face: connect with the reader with eye-catching visuals

By writing with clarity, (potential) donors are more easily drawn into your message, mission, and impact—and, more likely to find what they want to pay for. Once donors invest in your organization, thank them and ask why they gave a gift. Simple, yet so seldom done. Their answers will help build relationships and further clarify your next message.

Book

Mark Grimm
mark-grimm-160
/ONEplace/

Want to ‘Get Fully Funded’?

ONEplace presented an Association of Fundraising Professionals webinar this week, in which Sandy Rees, CFRE, provided a system for sustainable fundraising that can be implemented at nonprofits of all sizes and lifecycle stages.

Her system includes seven basic steps and several planning tools to assure a structured, balanced approach.

Step 1: Make fundraising a priority.

Step 2: Understand why people give.

Step 3: Identify the best donor prospect.

Step 4: Tell your story.

Step 5: Plan how and when will you ask for a gift.

Step 6: Acknowledge the gift and build relationships.

Step 7: Evaluate success.

Sounds a lot like other fundraising advice, right? Sandy’s model spells out what each of the steps means, and how to put each into action in a methodical, approachable way using a number of planning charts. Detailed, written planning is the difference in her model.

Her website has a wealth of practical resources and tips, including: a free CD for beginning fundraisers, videos, an eNews, books and CD sets, and blogs.

Hope you find some helpful information to set you on the path to ‘getting fully funded.’

Book

Get Fully Funded
sandy-rees-160
http://getfullyfunded.com/

Five X Three Leadership Tips for 2012

New Year blogs from four respected leadership authors/consultants came into my email box last week. Each addresses five items (why five?) related to leadership they recommend for action in 2012.

While these authors write primarily for business audiences, their advice is just as appropriate to nonprofit staff and volunteers.

Follow the links for their complete comments.

Five Things You Should Stop Doing in 2012

Dorie Clark covers her “going to stop cold turkey” list:

  • Responding like a trained monkey
  • Mindless traditions
  • Reading annoying things
  • Work that’s not worth it
  • Making things more complicated than they should be

Five Leadership Tips for 2012

Mike Myatt shares his personal priorities for the year, and he includes a bonus item (#6).

  • Family: if you are struggling with work/life balance, choose family
  • White space: clearing your mind to be and act only in the present
  • Listen: stop talking and listen
  • Unlearn: be willing to learn and change opinions and actions
  • Engage: it’s not about you, it’s about the people you serve and lead
  • (Bonus) Read: few things impact your thought life more than reading

Five Resolutions for Aspiring Leaders

John Coleman and Bill George recommend actions for aspiring Gen X and Millennial professionals to prepare for challenges of leadership roles:

  • Find a trustworthy mentor
  • Form a leadership development group
  • Volunteer in a civic or service organization
  • Work in or travel to one new country
  • Ask more questions than you answer

Book

Leadership Tips for 2012
five-x-three-160
/ONEplace/

Donors & Nonprofits: Do you know the current IRS tax-deductibility rules?

As we near the end of 2011, many of us will be making what we believe to be ‘tax-deductible donations’ to charitable causes. Before making a donation and listing it on your tax return, please review the following current regulations, including how to document electronic gifts. As our law makers search for ways to resolve state and national economic challenges, regulations will continue to change, so staying current is in everyone’s best interest.

In addition, during this past year, over 275,000 organizations, nationwide, were dropped from tax-exempt status, so checking the status of organizations is more important than ever. Publication 78 lists current eligible organizations.

Here is a summary of IRS rules, direct from their website, with links to publications they refer to at the end:

IRS Tax Tip 2011-57, March 22, 2011 (http://www.irs.gov/newsroom/article/0,,id=106990,00.html)

Charitable contributions made to qualified organizations may help lower your tax bill. The IRS has put together the following eight tips to help ensure your contributions pay off on your tax return.

  1. If your goal is a legitimate tax deduction, then you must be giving to a qualified organization. Also, you cannot deduct contributions made to specific individuals, political organizations and candidates. See IRS Publication 526, Charitable Contributions, for rules on what constitutes a qualified organization.
  2. To deduct a charitable contribution, you must file Form 1040 and itemize deductions on Schedule A.
  3. If you receive a benefit because of your contribution such as merchandise, tickets to a ball game or other goods and services, then you can deduct only the amount that exceeds the fair market value of the benefit received.
  4. Donations of stock or other non-cash property are usually valued at the fair market value of the property. Clothing and household items must generally be in good used condition or better to be deductible. Special rules apply to vehicle donations.
  5. Fair market value is generally the price at which property would change hands between a willing buyer and a willing seller, neither having to buy or sell, and both having reasonable knowledge of all the relevant facts.
  6. Regardless of the amount, to deduct a contribution of cash, check, or other monetary gift, you must maintain a bank record, payroll deduction records or a written communication from the organization containing the name of the organization, the date of the contribution and amount of the contribution. For text message donations, a telephone bill will meet the record-keeping requirement if it shows the name of the receiving organization, the date of the contribution, and the amount given.
  7. To claim a deduction for contributions of cash or property equaling $250 or more you must have a bank record, payroll deduction records or a written acknowledgment from the qualified organization showing the amount of the cash and a description of any property contributed, and whether the organization provided any goods or services in exchange for the gift. One document may satisfy both the written communication requirement for monetary gifts and the written acknowledgement requirement for all contributions of $250 or more. If your total deduction for all noncash contributions for the year is over $500, you must complete and attach IRS Form 8283, Noncash Charitable Contributions, to your return.
  8. Taxpayers donating an item or a group of similar items valued at more than $5,000 must also complete Section B of Form 8283, which generally requires an appraisal by a qualified appraiser.

For more information on charitable contributions, refer to Form 8283 and its instructions, as well as Publication 526, Charitable Contributions. For information on determining value, refer to Publication 561, Determining the Value of Donated Property. These forms and publications are available at http://www.irs.gov or by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).

Links:

Book

IRS Tax Tip 2011-57
irs-tax-deductions-160
http://www.irs.gov/newsroom/article/0,,id=106990,00.html 

Lobbying, Can Nonprofits Do That?

After attending the Michigan Nonprofit Association’s Nonprofit Day 2011, I found out that, yes nonprofits can lobby. According to the IRS, 501(c)(3) corporations are allowed to lobby as long as they follow their rules and fill out the proper forms. The IRS defines lobbying as attempting to influence legislation by contacting, or encouraging the public to contact, members of a legislative body for purposes of supporting/opposing/proposing legislation. The major rule is that nonprofits cannot spend a “substantial amount” of their budget on lobbying. For a clearer explanation of what the IRS considers to be a “substantial amount,” check out Measuring Lobbying Activity: Expenditure Test. Charity Lawyers Blog post titled, Lobbying-Yes You Can! clarifies in layman’s, terms what is and is not lobbying, as well as explaining the 501(h) election.

According to the IRS, qualifying organizations may file a special election under 501(h) of the Code, or Election/Revocation of Election by an Eligible Section 501(c)(3) Organization To Make Expenditures To Influence Legislation (501(H) Election), to allow them to spend up to a specified dollar amount for lobbying without fear of adverse tax consequence from such activities. The IRS and Michigan Nonprofit Association advise nonprofits to file the 501(h) election if they are planning on doing any lobbying, as well as tracking all expenditures. ‘Direct’ and ‘Grassroots’ lobbying must be tracked separately as they have separate expenditure limits.

IRS Resources on Lobbying and expenditure limits:

IRS Definition of Direct & Grassroots Lobbying

IRS Schedule C Political Campaign and Lobbying Activities

IRS General Instructions for Filing Schedule C for Lobbying Activity

Excessive lobbying activities over a four-year period may cause a nonprofit to lose its tax-exempt status, making all of its income for that period subject to tax.

For questions on how to use communication channels such as your website, email, and social media channels for lobbying, Alliance for Justice is offering a free downloadable copy of Influencing Public Policy In The Digital Age: The Law of Online Lobbying and Election-related Activities. The guide is intended to inform 501(c)(3) and (c)(4) organizations on how to stay within the law and encourage participation in the nation’s democratic process using technology.

Consult your attorney and the IRS Charities/Nonprofits webpage for more information on how nonprofits can lobby for their cause. Other helpful resources are the IRS eNews: Exempt Organization Update and Center for Lobbying in the Public Interest website. ONEplace will be hosting a webinar November 15 titled Lobbying Rules for Nonprofits presented by Alliance for Justice. Register online soon as we anticipate seats will go fast!

Please share your thoughts about nonprofit lobbying by commenting on my blog!

Book

Lobbying-Yes You Can!
lobbyist-160
http://charitylawyerblog.com/2010/02/24/lobbying-yes-you-can/

Tough Years Ahead for Fundraisers—What Can You Do?

Several fundraising and philanthropy organizations and journals, web-based experts, and sector associations are predicting ‘tough years ahead’ for all types of fundraising. Holly Hall’s article in the Chronicle of Philanthropy (June 2011) cites a Giving USA report indicating giving has fallen more since 2008 than in the past 50 years.

An article in the August 24th Chronicle cites a new report by Dunham+Company that shows two-thirds of donors surveyed plan to cut back on giving this fall—and, 10% plan to stop giving altogether!

The slow recovery and current threat of a double-dip recession, along with continued unemployment, suggest ‘it could be as long as 2016 before donations return to’ pre-recession levels.

Adding to the economic issues, the national deficit reduction talks and policy conversations may lead to additional challenges for nonprofits relying on donations to keep their doors open and serve their constituents.

What can nonprofits do? Take steps, today, to increase your skills and relationships!

The annual, year-end fundraising season is fast approaching! What can organizations do, now, to connect with their donors in more meaningful ways, and find new people to support their mission, in this environment?

  • Learn all you can about your donors and why they support your organization. What is ‘in it for them’ rather than what’s in it for the organization?
  • Gather stories (and photos) of real people benefitting from your programs and services to ‘show and tell’ what you do and what difference it makes.
  • Attend workshops and webinars at ONEplace and elsewhere to learn all you can about fundraising, donor relations, and communication.
  • Seek online resources, such as the Chronicle; blogs by fundraising experts across the country, like Tom Ahern or Donor Power; or, voices of experience on Monday Movies, Fundraising and Awareness Movies for Nonprofits; and, many more.

What can donors do? Take steps to know what your gifts do in the community/world and give** generously to those you believe in.

As donors, the choice is yours to invest in a nonprofit or not.

  • Why do you support the organizations you do and not others? How and when did you start giving to them? Are you involved in any other way? How much do you really know about them?
  • Have you stopped donating to some nonprofits? Why? Would you consider renewing gifts to them? Why?
  • Are you sure nonprofits you want to donate to are still tax-exempt? Check the new IRS rules.
  • Study online resources for donors that will help your decision making: TakeAction@GuideStar; Questions to Ask; and the Donor Bill of Rights from the Association of Fundraising Professionals
  • **Invest in the nonprofits you believe in and trust, generously, with your gifts of money, time, expertise, and ambassadorship. You will help make our community and world a better place during this challenging time, and always. Thank you!

Book

ONEplace @ KPL
fundraising-in-tough-times-160
/ONEplace/

Conquering the Blank Page

Do you cringe at the idea of facing a blank page? Does the task of blogging and writing newsletter articles make you nauseous? You are not alone; there is help available to you. Here are some useful resources you can access with helpful advice from those working in the nonprofit communication field.

Blogs:

Katya’s Nonprofit Marketing Blog is written specifically for nonprofit professionals and offers a wealth of knowledge on different topics pertaining to communication and fundraising.

Kivi’s Nonprofit Communications Blog focuses mainly on writing appeal letters, websites, and social media content. Kivi also offers webinars and podcasts.

Articles:

6 Tips for Writing Nonprofit Marketing Copy That Works written by Nancy E. Schwartz constructs the foundation for all nonprofit writing.

Books:

(all can be found at Kalamazoo Public Library)

Writing for a Good Cause by Joseph Barbato and Danielle S. Furlich

The Complete Guide to Writing Successful Fundraising Letters by Charlotte Rains Dixon

Storytelling for Grant Seekers by Cheryl A. Clarke

How to Write Successful Fundraising Letters by Mal Warwick

Writing for a nonprofit organization goes beyond your basic introduction, body, and conclusion. We as nonprofit professionals are challenged to create interest, meaning, and sometimes action surrounding our organizations. What inspires your writing? Do you have some words of wisdom to share that help you conquer the blank page?

Book

Writing for a Good Cause
0684857405

Rules of Engagement With Foundations

Nonprofits often seek grants from foundations for new projects or ongoing financial support. During an informative webinar, presented today by John Hicks, CFRE, for the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP), he discussed ways to build positive relationships with foundations.

His ‘elements of a good relationship’ include: trust, communication, shared values, honesty, and respect…as he noted, the elements of any good relationship. Learning about a foundation’s mission, values, culture, philanthropic philosophies, and practices, is critical to assessing a good match and possible funding opportunity. If mission and values clearly aren’t in alignment, he urges grant seekers to not waste their own or the foundation’s time in pursuing a relationship.

His ‘six rules of engagement’ build on those elements. Nonprofits need to know:

  • The landscape--the type of foundation: mega, competitive or community, family
  • The people you are dealing with--program officer/staff, board members, or family foundation donor; learn through direct conversations and through your networks
  • Their considerations—what they are dealing with that has nothing to do with you, or ‘their environment’
  • What they value—outcomes that relate to their vision, working with people who have authority and responsibility for funding and outcomes, and people who follow their protocol
  • How to give them what they want, how they want it—by learning their culture, personalities, and information processing practices, without shortcuts. Never to under estimate the importance of the gatekeeper—the person who opens and is the first to review your correspondence, requests, and reports for process (rules) and information
  • Minimize risk—their risk through failed projects or misuse of funds; grantee risk through unrealistic expectations or mission drift

Stating that, like other types of fundraising, people give to people the trust, he encourages nonprofits to keep foundations informed about their work and outcomes before and while seeking funding from them. The relationship is a professional one, not a personal one, that needs to be treated much like working with an attorney to prepare a case: the grant-seeker preparing a case to the foundation and the foundation professional preparing a case to his/her board, grants panel, or the donor, directly.

These and many other grant-seeker/grant-maker resources are available at ONEplace and through the AFP website. If you have tips for developing positive relationships with foundations, please comment on this blog.

Book

Association of Fundraising Professionals
afp-logo-160
http://www.afpnet.org/

Google+ Will It Be Worth Your Time?

The big buzz in the social media world right now is Google+. But what is it and why should nonprofits care? Google+ is a new social media venture created by Google to, “bring the nuance and richness of real-life sharing to software” according to Vic Gundotra, Senior Vice President, Engineering at Google. It offers many of the same communication features social media users of Facebook and Twitter are familiar with such as messaging, pictures, and games, along with some valuable extras.

The big difference between Google+ and other established social media sites is Google+ organizes contacts into different “circles” or groups. This allows the user to communicate specifically with targeted groups. For example, a user can send out a targeted post to their planned giving circle, and a different post to their professional circle. Other features include Instant Upload, Hangouts, Sparks, and Huddle.

To learn more about Google+, visit:

Keep in mind that Google+ has not been rolled out to the general public, it is by invitation only.

What is your opinion of Google+? Are you one of the lucky few to receive the Google+ golden ticket? Please share your comments by posting to this blog.

Book

Google+
google-plus-icon-160
http://plus.google.com/

Is There Discontent In Your Organization?

 Do you know if there is? Do you know how much it affects your organization’s ability to do your mission-driven work now or in the future?

During our First Wednesday Risk Management Series webinar, presenter Carlye Christianson of the Nonprofit Risk Management Center pointed out several critical outcomes from having ‘unhappy stakeholders’ (staff, volunteer, board members) in your midst. Common to all stakeholder groups: discontent diminishes commitment to mission; and, costs of replacing people are high. She recommends studying retention in departments and stakeholder groups at least annually so problems can be addressed quickly. Below are some key points she made about why people leave organizations and how to proactively address discontent-causing practices:

Employees

  • Only 12% leave an organization for reasons related to compensation
  • 88% leave for other reasons, including: organizational culture; management style or a specific supervisor; lack of opportunities for advancement or professional development; or, the organization’s lack of commitment to quality or mission
  • One in three employees is thinking of leaving at any one time; for discontented staff that rises to 50%
  • Discontented workers often increase: tardiness, mistakes, detachment, poor attitude
  • To proactively address potential discontent: listen to employees; conduct a ‘stay interview’ (what will keep you here/what will send you away); offer opportunities for new assignments, training, and leadership development; provide options for work/life balance, encourage ‘a voice’ in how the organization runs and how the mission is served

Volunteers

  • Leave organizations for the same reasons staff do plus lack of: orientation, interpersonal relationships, good skill/assignment match, commitment to mission
  • To get and keep volunteers: develop a volunteer management program with a policy and procedure manual; review and update recruiting practices (only recruit people and skills you really need); develop job descriptions; provide orientation, ongoing training, and recognition; assure meaningful integration into the organization; and, conduct stay/exit interviews

Board Members

  • Leave organizations because of: low productivity in the board room (low expectations; poor attendance, preparation, or engagement; lack of meeting management); crisis mentality; factions and impasses; poor ED-CEO / board relationships;
  • To get and keep board members: recruit and orient purposefully and appropriately; create an intentional culture of candor, inclusiveness, foresight, and reflection; evaluate and change board structure, operations, and ‘work’ (clearly define board / ED roles; move from hands-on to policy focus, etc); engage in strategic discussions and issues; and, conduct stay/exit interviews

Continually assessing all areas (ED, board, staff, volunteers), individually and collectively, and implementing a culture of continuous engagement and improvement will go a long way to stemming and/or reversing discontent in all stakeholder groups. The costs for your organization and, especially the constituents you serve, are too high to do otherwise.

For more information on this and many other risk management topics, visit the Nonprofit Center for Risk Management. ONEplace presents their First Wednesday Webinar Series and Third Thursday HR Webinar Series. Check our website calendar for more information and registration.

Book

Nonprofit Center for Risk Management (symbol: Chinese for angry, annoyed, unhappy)
angry-annoyed-unhappy-160
http://www.nonprofitrisk.org/

IRS: 275,000 Groups Lose Tax-Exempt Status

The IRS changed the filing requirements so that every tax-exempt organization has to file an annual 990, no matter how small their budget. They promised to drop organizations that didn’t file for three consecutive years. They notified nonprofits and the public over and over, again. They extended the deadline to get 990 filings up-to-date.

Now, the list of nonprofits that have lost tax-exempt status for failing to file has been published—and, it numbers 275,000 (about 14% of all nonprofits in this country)! In Michigan, almost 9,000 charities are on the list.

What does this mean to your organization or you, as a donor? An article in The Chronicle of Philanthropy (6/8/11) summarizes the ramifications of a nonprofit being dropped, affects on tax-deductibility of donations to dropped groups, and how to seek reinstatement. It also provides a link to the list.

Additional information is available on the IRS website for exempt organizations. 

Do you know the current status of the organizations you are involved with as a staff or board member, volunteer, or donor?

Book

IRS: 275,000 Groups Lose Tax-Exempt Status
irs-990-whats-new-160
http://philanthropy.com/article/275000-Groups-Lose-Charity/127854/?sid=pt&utm_source=pt&utm_medium=en

Summer Interns: Are They Volunteers or Employees?

Summer is around the corner and teens and college students, or recent graduates, are seeking summer internships to gain knowledge and job experience in an area of interest or study.

At the same time, many nonprofits are hoping to engage interns to accomplish projects, often in areas staff don’t have skills in, while offering the intern a chance to experience the nonprofit’s day-to-day operations and mission-driven activities.

So, it’s a win-win, right? It certainly can be as long as employment laws are followed. When deciding the scope of intern engagement, whether and/or how to pay them, and whether or not they are added to your employee ranks, consider the Department of Labor (DOL) guidelines for interns, or as they call them, ‘trainees.’

The intern or ‘trainee’ must meet these six criteria (all of them) to be an intern and not an employee:

  1. The training the intern receives ‘is similar to what would be offered in a vocational school’
  2. The ‘primary benefit of the training/internship is to the intern’
  3. The ‘trainees don’t displace regular employees but work under close supervision’
  4. The ‘nonprofit employer derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the interns, and on occasion, its operations may actually be impeded’
  5. The ‘intern is not guaranteed a permanent job at the end of the program’
  6. The ‘nonprofit employer and intern understand that the intern isn’t entitled to wages for the time spent in the internship’

All criteria are important, but number 4 is a key area the DOL looks at in determining if the ‘intern’ is, indeed, an employee. Employees must be paid at least minimum wage, on the regular payroll schedule, with all required employee taxes withheld and deposited.

To qualify as interns, their engagement needs to: be primarily related to their own benefit through mentoring and/or training; include credit for a course or major with required reports to the sponsoring educational institution; not include work done by regular employees; not guarantee future employment.

To learn more about this important topic, read the entire article from which this information was taken. Classifying interns mistakenly can lead to penalties as well as having to pay back wages and employment taxes. Classifying them correctly benefits everyone.

The Nonprofit Risk Management Center offers a range of resources for nonprofits, including webinars on general risks and human resources risks. ONEplace offers them regularly throughout the year. Check our calendar for upcoming topics and dates.

Book

Department of Labor guidelines for interns
intern-mug-160
http://www.dol.gov/elaws/esa/flsa/docs/trainees.asp

Keep Your Donors From Defecting

The Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) and the Center on Nonprofits and Philanthropy sponsor the Fundraising Effectiveness Project (FEP), which provides nonprofits with tools for tracking and evaluating their annual growth or decline in giving. The FEP focuses on “effectiveness” (maximizing growth in giving) rather than “efficiency” (minimizing costs). It conducts an annual survey and publishes gain (loss) statistics in a yearly report.

The 2010 Report (pdf) is enlightening. The Project looks at “donor lifetime value: the total net contribution that a donor generates during his/her lifetime on a [nonprofit’s].” It also looks at donor defection rates, or the rate of declining donations following a first gift. For cash gifts, it’s 50% in the first year and 30% each year after that! In addition, 30% of ‘regular or sustainer givers’ are lost from year to year.

With these ongoing trends, and the time and money needed to attract new donors--over and over again--learning how to attract and keep donors with the greatest potential lifetime value is critical for nonprofit sustainability.

During a recent AFP webinar, several ‘drivers of lifetime value’ were discussed, starting with reasons donors defect. Simply: lack of customer satisfaction with their donating experience, led by the lack of responsiveness by the nonprofit staff. Donors who were surveyed said they were ignored, lied to, meetings were delayed, staff were ‘uncivil,’ and the nonprofit/staff ‘failed to deliver on promises.’

On the other hand, a high level of donor satisfaction with the customer service they receive from a charity’s staff drives donation levels and repeat gifts. The higher the satisfaction, the more likely the donor is to give again and again.

Donors want:

  • To know what makes the nonprofit qualified and competent to utilize their money to best advantage
  • To know what is done with their money; who is served and to what outcomes
  • To build a relationship with the organization beyond giving money
  • To express their own identify through their gifts

Regular, sustained giving is based on trust, commitment, satisfaction, and identification. Basing your donor-relations activities on excellent customer service, getting to know what is important to your donors, and learning how they want to engage with your organization will reduce defections and build greater lifetime value for your organization.

A win-win for all!!

Book

Effective Fundraising for Nonprofits
9781413312539

Fundraising Ethics: How Do You Guard Your Donors’ Privacy?

WealthEngine, the Association of Fundraising Professionals, and APRA (a fundraising research organization) presented a webinar recently called ‘Fundraising Intelligence.’ They discussed the legal and ethical practices we, as nonprofits, must comply with and honor as we work with donors’ personal information. Each organization has privacy standards, ethical standards, and a Donor Bill of Rights.

With all of the public information about donors and potential donors, what makes their profile at your organization confidential is that it IS a ‘profile’...a custom, formatted profile IS highly confidential.

The rise of the internet has made it more important than ever to verify information and have policies and procedures covering who, why, when, and what is shared internally (staff and board) and with volunteer fundraisers. Here are ‘best practices’ cited in the webinar:

  • Recognize everyone in fund development is responsible for collecting and securing donor/prospect information;
  • Set parameters for collecting and using data and information
  • Make sure sources are reliable; confirm data/information from multiple sources
  • Set policies that define what information is confidential or ‘privileged’ in donor/prospect profiles; review policies often, especially as any new person is permitted access
  • Define who has access to donor/prospect profiles; have everyone with access sign a confidentiality statement; do not disclose confidential information to unauthorized parties
  • Be sure donor/prospect profiles and confidential information are under lock and key; electronic files are password protected; and, old/unused documents are shredded
  • Be sure privileged information isn’t shared in casual conversations or where unauthorized individuals can overhear it
  • Don’t transmit any documents as Word files (use PDFs), or by fax or email
  • Recognize all donor/prospect information is the property of the organization creating the profile and not to be shared with any other outside person or organization
  • Include information in profiles that the donor/prospect will enhance your relationship; donors/prospects have the right to access to their file upon request so don’t include information they wouldn’t want to see there

It’s all about relationships with our donors and prospects. “Respect the privacy of prospects/donors: use information gathered through cultivation in a way that only enhances the relationship with the prospect/donor and your organization.”

Book

ONEplace Resources
privacy-guard-160
/ONEplace/resources.aspx

Copyright is the Law

In this day of open access to all types of information on the Internet, wikileaks, etc, the subject of copyright protection is often misunderstood, ignored, or forgotten. However, copyright laws are ‘alive and well’ and actively protecting published and unpublished original works of many kinds.

This issue came to the forefront recently when we learned that ONEplace workshop participants re-created a copyright protected document received as an educational handout. Even though not required, the document was clearly marked with © notations which were overlooked when it was re-designed to improve its appearance. They were asked to immediately destroy the illegal documents.

There are legal, ‘fair use’ provisions in the law that allow certain specific, non-commercial uses of copyrighted materials: “the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright.”

In seeking the best, most current, resources for ONEplace workshops, copyright-protected materials are often used as part of the curriculum for “teaching, scholarship, or research” purposes. We are now reminding participants when materials are © protected and how they may legally be used, along with advising appropriate use of all copyright-protected materials.

Read the Complete version of the U.S. Copyright Law(copyright.gov)

Download the Copyright Basics guidePDF

Book

U.S. Copyright Law
copyright-symbol-160
http://www.copyright.gov/title17/

Plan to Communicate in 2011

Have you created a communication plan for the coming year? If not, now is a good time. According to a report done by the Nonprofit Marketing Guide on 2011 Nonprofit Communication Trends, only 34% of nonprofits have a written and board approved 2011 communication plan in place. Creating a communication plan opens up opportunities and creates synergies between your organizational marketing, fundraising, and promotional efforts. Creating a clear purpose and direction for communicating with stakeholders will allow your organization to speak with one voice and strengthen your image to the public and to your constituents.

Tackling a communication plan is a process similar to strategic planning, it is done in phases. Here are four online resources specifically designed to walk nonprofits through the communication planning process.

Books written about communication plans are rich resources offering more details and breadth on the subject. Recommended books include:

If your nonprofit doesn’t have internal skill to write a plan, hiring a consultant is an option. The ONEplace Consultant & Trainer Directory includes consultants who specialize in communication, marketing, and branding.

If you have experience writing your own communication plan, or working with a consultant, please share your experience along with any helpful tips and/or advice.

Book

Consultants and Trainers Directory
communication-160
http://www.kpl.gov/ONEplace/consultants-directory.aspx

Significant COSA Changes Coming Soon

Michigan's Charitable Solicitations Act (COSA) was substantially amended in December, 2010. The amendments take effect on March 31, 2011.

The changes effect nonprofits of all sizes. Please learn integrate them into your operation by the effective date. Penalties for violations are steep.

Some of the significant changes made by the amendments are:

1. A charitable organization will be exempt from registering under the Act if all of its fundraising will be conducted by volunteers and it expects to receive less than $25,000 per year in contributions through their efforts. This is an increase from the current level of $8,000 per year. An organization will still have to register if it will use paid staff or a professional fundraiser to raise any amount of donations.

2. Nonprofits will now "register" with the Michigan Attorney General to solicit donations, instead of being licensed by the Attorney General to solicit donations. The registration will be good for a period of 19 months, instead of the current 12 months.

3. The law lists a number of activities that are prohibited. Many of these are targeted against misrepresentations. However, one prohibits a person from soliciting a contribution on behalf of a charitable organization that is not registered. A violation of any of these prohibitions could result in a civil fine of up to $10,000 for each violation.

4. The amendments also list certain actions that are punishable as crimes as either a misdemeanor or a felony. Misdemeanors are subject to up to 6 months in prison or a fine of up to $5,000, while felonies are punishable by imprisonment of up to 5 years and a fine of not more than $20,000. It is a misdemeanor if a person knowingly solicits or operates as a charitable organization in Michigan and the charitable organization is not registered with the Attorney General.

5. The amendments allow local County prosecutors to prosecute persons who have committed acts that are misdemeanors or felonies. This takes the burden off the Attorney General to prosecute these cases. This might result in greater enforcement of the Act and criminal prosecution of smaller infractions.

A few sections of the Act were not amended and these do not appear in the bill that was passed in December. To understand the entire Act, you will need to look at both the current law(pdf) and the amendments and insert the amendments into the current law, where applicable.

Our thanks to Leo Goddeyne, attorney with Miller Canfield, for this summary of important changes effecting nonprofit fundraising in Michigan.

Book

CHARITABLE ORGANIZATIONS AND SOLICITATIONS ACT Act 169 of 1975
michigan-map-160
http://legislature.mi.gov/doc.aspx?mcl-act-169-of-1975 

Nonprofit Sector Grows in Michigan

The late November issues of MiBiz includes a supplement on the nonprofit sector in Michigan featuring comments by Kyle Caldwell, president of the Michigan Nonprofit Association, and Bobbe A. Luce, director of ONEplace@kpl. Their article on the growth in nonprofit employment (1.3% per year) during the recession highlights ways the sector is helping turn the economy around and build the capacities of nonprofit professionals and organizations to function more efficiently and effectively.

The supplement also includes articles on MRC Industries’ job programs for individuals with disabilities; increasing collaborations among nonprofits; the importance and power of philanthropy; young nonprofit professionals; the growth of ‘junior boards’ to prepare young adults for future board positions; and building organizations that inspire others to act. To read the articles, go to MiBiz.com and look for articles by title.

Book

MiBiz
mibiz-logo-160
http://www.mibiz.com/

Survey Shows Slight Increase in Giving to Nonprofits

A survey of 2,350 organizations was recently conducted by six leading nonprofit organizations (Foundation Center, GuideStar, Association of Fundraising Professionals, Blackbaud, the Urban Institute’s National Center for Charitable Statistics, and the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University).

The survey indicates a slight increase in giving to nonprofits this year over last:

  • 36% saw donations increase in the first nine months of 2010, compared to only 23% in the same period in 2009
  • 37% saw a drop in giving; down from 51% last year
  • Foundation granting remains lower or flat and cautious
  • Drops were mainly the result of ‘fewer and smaller individual donations’

The survey also shows a large increase in demand for services:

  • 78% increase for human service organizations
  • 68% increase for nonprofits in general

Other key findings:

  • In four of eight subsectors, the share of organizations reporting an increase in contributions was about the same as the share reporting a decrease: arts, education, environment/animals, and human services
  • International organizations were the most likely to report an increase in contributions, reflecting donations made for disaster relief
  • In three subsectors — health, public-society benefit, and religion — a larger share of the organizations reported declines than reported increases
  • The larger an organization's annual expenditures, the more likely it reported an increase in charitable receipts in the first nine months of 2010 compared with the same period in 2009
  • Most organizations were guardedly optimistic about 2011: 47% plan budget increases; 33% expect to maintain their current level of expenditures; 20% anticipate a lower budget for 2011

“For the first time in two years, there is cause for cautious optimism about the nonprofit sector in this economy,” according to GuideStar’s Ottenhoff.

How are donations and demands comparing at your nonprofit? What do you see and hear in the greater Kalamazoo area this year compared to a year and two years ago? Let us know.

Download the entire survey results PDF

Book

Nonprofit survey
donations-up-2-160
http://www.foundationcenter.org/gainknowledge/research/pdf/nrc_survey2010.pdf

How Can We Get Our Board To Be More Engaged?

This question is one of the most often asked ones at ONEplace—by executive directors and board leaders, alike. The angst comes through various sub-questions such as: How can we get our Board members to show up to meetings? Show up prepared? Donate to the Annual Campaign? Help raise funds? Take leadership roles? These and other engagement issues…or lack of engagement issues…affect the functioning and outcomes of many organizations.

A new article by Gail Perry, MBA, CFRE, arrived via GuideStar that speaks directly to one of the underlying causes of disengagement: board members often don’t know ‘what your organization is trying to accomplish and what their role is in making that happen.’

“Engagement is inspiring passion in someone so they will want to take action.”
(J. Asker, A. Smith in The Dragonfly Effect)

To inspire passion and, therefore, action: clearly define annual goals for the organization and expectations for board members’ actions toward those goals. A plan gives board members something to get their hands around and strive for.

Perry offers a four-part plan with specific, quantifiable sub-steps:

  1. Be sure your board members know what you are aiming to accomplish this year.
  2. Be sure they know what the impact will be if you can make your plan happen.
  3. Be sure every board member knows what his or her job is to make the plan happen.
  4. Keep in close touch with your board members each week or month, letting them know of your success.

Read Gail Perry’s entire article and try these strategies to get your board engaged and fired-up!

Book

Keeping Your Board Engaged for Your Cause
board-of-directors-graphic-160
http://www2.guidestar.org/rxa/news/articles/2010/keeping-your-board-engaged-for-your-cause.aspx?hq_e=el&hq_m=796051&hq_l=3&hq_v=bfbd9da023

Nonprofit Social Network Benchmark Report

Social networking questions and frustrations come into ONEplace often. “Should we be on Facebook?” or “Is social media really worth all the time and effort?” are a couple of the questions we hear. An April, 2010 report by NTen, Common Knowledge, and the Port titled The 2010 Nonprofit Social Network Benchmark Report offers some insight.

The report includes benchmarks for nonprofits to learn how others in the sector are using commercial social network tools such as Facebook or Twitter, or house social networks, and the value they attach to each. Some of the percentages may surprise you.

  • 90% Answered yes to having a commercial social network
  • 92% Said the purpose of their commercial social network community is marketing
  • 60% Have not used commercial social networks to fundraise

Facebook and Twitter are the preferred social network sites, each witnessing large growth in users and community sizes (Facebook 16%, Twitter 38%). Linked In and You Tube have remained steady. My Space is declining in users and community sizes. (45%)

  • 40% Received donations from Facebook
  • 78% Of these organizations raised $1,000 or less in the last 12 months
  • Only 3.5% of the 40% fell into the successful fundraiser category by raising $10,000 or more in the last 12 months

Due to the economy and the large upfront investment for software and build-out required to start a house network, nonprofits are taking a serious look at ROI concerning for this form of social networking.

  • 22% Reported operating one or more house networks in 2010 (28% decrease from 2009)
  • 75% Valued their house networks
  • 74% Reported that they are very or somewhat satisfied with their investment
  • 57% Used their house social network primarily for marketing

Although many nonprofits see social media as a free way to market their organizations, is it really ‘free.’ Time is money and quality takes time.

  • Nonprofits that committed two or more full-time employees to the management of their commercial social networking communities experienced the highest level of satisfaction.
  • 50% Indicated they will increase staffing related to commercial social networks in the coming 12 months
  • 67% Allocated less than half of a full-time employee’s time to commercial social networks
  • 57% Allocated less than half of a full-time employee’s time to house social networks

For more information on this report, visit Nonprofit Social Network Benchmark Report, Allison Fine’s Blog, or The Networked Nonprofit by Allison Fine and Beth Kanter.

Book

Nonprofit Social Network Benchmark Report
social-network-benchmark-report-160
http://www.commonknow.com/html/white-papers/NonprofitSocialNetworkSurveyReport.pdf

Nonprofit Voting and Elections

Now that the primaries are behind us and the midterm elections loom large, nonprofits often wonder if—or how—to engage with their constituents around election issues and voting. Staying within legal parameters set forth by the IRS and Michigan state government is key to protecting your 501c3 tax-exempt status. The Nonprofit Voting & Elections website has a wealth of information, including a guide to engagement.

“501(c)(3) nonprofits can play an important role in helping their communities vote and participate in the democratic process. There is one basic rule: 501(c)(3)s may not support or oppose any candidate for public office. This means 501(c)(3)s may not endorse candidates, rate candidates, contribute to candidates, or provide special resources to one candidate that are not offered to everyone in the race.”

“There are many nonpartisan activities that a 501(c)(3) can legally do to help their communities participate and vote. 501(c)(3)s may educate voters or candidates on the issues, provide opportunities for voters to hear the candidates’ positions, encourage citizens to register to vote, help new voters navigate the voting process and get people to go to the polls on Election Day.”

“The guide discusses many possible activities and ways that nonprofits can make sure they remain nonpartisan.”

The guide is not a guide about lobbying. It is about voting and elections. Lobbying rules differ from rules about voting and elections. Nonprofits have limits on how much lobbying they can do. There are no similar limits on voter and election activity. A nonprofit can spend as much as it wants on voter education and encouraging people to vote so long as it remains “nonpartisan” and does not support or oppose a candidate for elective office.”

You may also want to review the facts sheet called ‘Election Year Activities and the Prohibition on Political Campaign Intervention for Section 501(c)(3) Organizations’ put out by the IRS.

As you will see, the answer is HOW, not IF your nonprofit can legally engage in the voting and education on issues process in the months between now and November.

Bobbe A. Luce, director of ONEplace@kpl

Book

Nonprofit Voting & Elections
vote-check
http://www.nonprofitvote.org/nve-cover.html

ONEplace: ONEyear!

At the meeting of the Kalamazoo Public Library Board of Trustees on July 26, I presented a summary of the results received through our ONEplace ONEyear Survey, conducted in early March, 2010. It is a snapshot of the start-up and growth of Kalamazoo County’s new nonprofit management support organization (MSO) from the Grand Opening in March, 2009, through one full year in operation. While we continue to grow and improve programs and services, and increase service contacts, capturing the impact of the first year has proven valuable and informative.

Executive Summary of ONEplace ONEyear Survey

ONEplace is a management support organization, operated by the Kalamazoo Public Library and funded by the Irving S. Gilmore and Kalamazoo Community Foundations, that focuses on building personnel (staff and volunteers) skills and organizational capacities of nonprofits in Kalamazoo, Michigan.

First Year Activity Levels

In its first year of operation, ONEplace was operated by one full-time and two 10/hr/wk staff (approx 9 mos/each pt position). Over 200 requests per month (2400/yr) for technical assistance from nonprofit staff, board members, volunteers, or people seeking to start a nonprofit were addressed in-person, by phone, or email---surpassing its goal of 75/mo during the first year. Over 100 workshops and webinars were provided, with more than 1,400 people attending. Services and programs far outpaced original expectations.

As the first anniversary approached we took the opportunity to systematically gather data to better assess ONEplace’s efforts and local nonprofit needs for future planning.

Working with an evaluator from the WMU Evaluations Center, the ONEplace ONEyear Survey was sent to 1,100 people to gather feedback on the services ONEplace offers. In total, 229 people completed the short survey, for a response rate of 20.8 percent. Most respondents were from organizations more than 16 years old. They represented a wide range of roles, with the most common respondents holding paid staff positions.

Findings

Most Frequently Used Services: ONEplace’s website, workshops, and one-on-one, in-person technical assistance.

Least Frequently Used Services: webinars and ONEplace’s nonprofit collection.

Overall Rating: Satisfaction with ONEplace’s services, programs, resources, and staff was very high; the value to the community was repeatedly cited in question responses and comments.

Regardless of respondent’s personal participation in ONEplace offerings, their faith in its role in Kalamazoo was strong. Many of the comments read similarly to this one: “Really, I cannot think of anything [to improve]. This is such a wonderful resource for our community. I hope there is a plan to duplicate the model and spread it across the country. ONEplace is a true ally of the nonprofit. Thank you!”

Suggestions for the Future:

  • Provide a more complete schedule further ahead of time for adequate planning
  • Archive materials from webinars and workshops for digital access
  • Respondents asked for specific additional training topics
  • Advanced training for mature organizations
  • Professional development or orientation for board members
  • Offer services outside of normal business hours

The results mirrored the perceptions of ONEplace staff from feedback throughout the year. Even prior to this survey, advanced training, board development, enhanced calendar, and greater focus on the collection were folded into the plans for year two. Archiving presenter materials is currently done in hardcopy and under consideration for web access. Some possible actions, such as expanding service hours, are unlikely given the limited staffing of ONEplace. Thus, the focus will be on utilizing technology to more efficiently address client needs for access to information whenever they need it.

Summary of Statistics:

  • Respondents included: paid staff (60.7%); volunteers (10.5%); board members (17%); consultants (8.3%); unaffiliated community members (3.5%)
  • Organizational age: less than a year (2.6%); 1-5 yrs (17.5%); 6-10 yrs (11.8%); 11-15 yrs (6.1%); more than 16 yrs (58.5%)
  • One-on-one assistance (in person): 1-5 times (35.7%); 6 or more (1%); never (63.3%)
  • One-on-one assistance (phone/email): 1-5 times (33.2%); 6 or more (2.9%); never (61.1%)
  • Role-specific network attendance: 1-5 times (27.3%); 6 or more (6.2%); never (63.6%)
  • Workshop attendance: 1-5 times (66.2%); 6 or more (10.3%); never (23.5%)
  • Webinar attendance: 1-5 (32.2%); never (64.4%)
  • Website visits: 1-5 times (48.8%); 6 or more (40.8%); never (10.3%)
  • Frequency of checking out a book from the collection: 1- 10 times (30%); never (66.7%)
  • Referred colleagues to ONEplace: 1-5 (51.2%); 6 or more (27.4%); none (19.1%)
  • Increase in professional skills because of participation in ONEplace programs/services: on a scale of 1-10 (10 high) 70% rated their skill increase at 5 or greater; 2 or greater (84.5%); none (15.5% [may not have participated])
  • Increase in organizational capacity: on a scale of 1-10 (10 high) 57.5% rated their capacity increase at 5 or greater; 2 or greater (78%); none (22% [may not have participated])

A Few Comments and Specific Requests to the Question “What One Thing Would Make ONEplace More Useful to You?:

  • I can’t think of a thing to change
  • I just need to find time to pursue your many resources
  • Don’t forget ‘all volunteer’ organizations
  • More varied workshop times
  • Archive workshop materials online
  • Send out regular emails of upcoming events
  • I think it’s fantastic and moving in the right direction. It has been very useful.
  • Do MORE of what you are doing!
  • Offer more grant seeking labs
  • Start a blog
  • More in-depth workshops; skill building tools
  • Education about how to network with other organizations

If you have questions or comments about this information or ONEplace, in general, please contact us.

Bobbe A. Luce, director of ONEplace@kpl

Book

ONEplace @ KPL
one-place-newspaper-160
/ONEplace/

Your Tax-Exempt Status May Be in Jeopardy Very Soon: Take Action Now!

May 15 is a very important date, especially for new or small tax-exempt nonprofits that haven’t been filing a 990 annually. Prior to the Pension Protection Act of 2006, nonprofits with budgets under $25,000 were exempt from filing a 990, but no more.

In separate articles over the past week, the Chronicle of Philanthropy, the New York Times, and Guidestar covered this issue and its potential impact on the nonprofit sector very soon.

“As many as one-fourth of all nonprofits could lose tax-exemption” by failing to file an annual 990 since the filing became mandatory for all tax-exempt nonprofits in 2006,” according to an article in the Chronicle of Philanthropy on April 22, 2010. GuideStar estimates that 350,000 to 400,000 nonprofits are in danger of losing their exemptions.

“The IRS will begin revoking exemptions on May 16, 2010, but will wait until 2011 to send revocation notices. The IRS is essentially giving delinquent nonprofits a six-month grace period in which to file their annual returns,” Bob Ottenhoff, president and CEO of GuideStar explained. “We hope the organizations in danger of losing their exemptions will take advantage of this opportunity. Ultimately, the revocation process will benefit the nonprofit sector by weeding out defunct organizations and nonprofits that are not meeting their reporting responsibilities. In the short run, however, it will cause hardship for some organizations.”

Grantors and suppliers will need to confirm, annually, that all the charities they give money or in-kind products or services to are currently eligible to receive them. Donors will, also annually, need to confirm eligibility of organizations in order to secure a tax-exemption for their gifts.

Not ‘Off the Hook’

Why the requirement for every charity to file a 990 annually? “Congress is not going to let the IRS off the hook for its job of regulating the [nonprofit] sector and ensuring that the sector is not only equipped to do the deeds that it sets out to do but also that the federal tax subsidy is used correctly” according to Sarah Hall Ingram, top nonprofit regulator for the IRS. (Chronicle)

Ms. Ingram said she views good governance practices “as being all about risk management,” both for charities and for the IRS.

So, the time to check your filing status is now! If your organization hasn’t been submitting 990s since 2006 because you didn’t think you needed to, go to the IRS website for all the information, instructions, and forms you will need to assure you file before May 15, 2010.

Book

IRS
may-15-160
http://www.irs.gov/charities/