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Spring for a break

This week our county’s public schools enjoy spring break. While the phrase “spring break” conjures up a variety of thoughts and images, it also reminds me of the inherent, indisputable, scientifically-proven need for us to take breaks – to refresh, renew, and revive. So the question (or challenge) for you today is this:

How do you take breaks during your workday?

Whenever I ask that question, I usually get something akin to “I don’t have time to take a break” or “I can’t afford to take a break.” The truth is: you can’t afford NOT to take a break.

An article in The New York Times, a tome in Scientific American and even a post from Fast Company argue for the effectiveness of taking breaks. Support for taking breaks to boost productivity and quality of work is legion. But before you start searching for work-break-best-practices, let me offer this:

Find what works best for you.

Personally, I’m not one to take the 15-minute mid-morning coffee break or even the hour lunch break. What works best for me is a breaks-as-needed approach. I’ll take a minute to shut my eyes and take a few deep breaths. I look out the window and watch the clouds or marvel at the cloudless sky. I take a walk: if inside the library, I’ll take in the wonderful sights within our atrium; if outside, I’ll feel the warmth of the sun or the crispness of the air, and I’ll examine the status of the trees in Bronson Park (no buds yet).

My guiding principle on breaks is to take intentional moments of diverting attention to something other than my To Do list. They take my mind, body, and spirit to another space and I return refreshed.

So, employ healthy practices for yourself and model them for your colleagues. Spring for a break! You can afford it.

Best,

Thom


Doing that thing you do

Last week, several gathered at the Kalamazoo Community Foundation to hear Gloria Johnson-Cusack. She’s Executive Director of Leadership 18, an alliance of CEOs responsible for leading some of the country’s largest and most respected nonprofits. During her time with us, she asked each of us to respond to a rather provocative question:

Why do you do what you do?

It was a good question. It examined your deepest motivation, that thing that gets you up in the morning and drives you to take on the difficult tasks. It grounds you and guides you. It’s your still point, your North Star.

My answer? I’m on a quest. Three years ago, I revisited Jim Collins’ Level 5 Leadership (Good to Great), and since then I’ve wondered how ONEplace could structure a program to develop it.

Level 5 Leadership is defined as a paradoxical blend of intense professional will plus extreme personal humility. While passion often drives will, Collins (and others as well) comes up short as to what develops humility. His best advice is “to begin practicing the other good-to-great disciplines” and Level 5 will come about.

I’m convinced that “leadership development is ultimately personal development” (The Leadership Challenge). It involves building discipline, fortitude, compassion and resilience. It’s not found in a series of workshops, classes or books; rather, it’s a challenging path that travels through forests, rivers, mountains, deserts, and more.

Again, Collins says:

Our research exposed Level 5 as a key component inside the black box of what it takes to shift a company from good to great. Yet inside that black box is another black box – namely, the inner development of a person to Level 5.

Gloria wrapped up the exercise by asking if any of us were surprised by what we heard ourselves say. Personally, it was not so much a moment of surprise as it was a moment of clarity.

What about you: why do you do what you do?

Best,

Thom


Fund marketing

There it was again. Originally, it surprised me…even confused me. My background colored my perception. Today, I’ve seen it so often, it no longer surprises me. And now, I find a reputable post placing it plainly before me.

Fund Marketing strategically merges fundraising and marketing strategies.

Coming from arts marketing, I often experienced marketing as quite distinct from fundraising, focusing on event advertising, subscriptions and ticket sales. Over the past five years or so, I’ve come to see much more overlap in these two areas. So has Gail Perry.

In her recent blog on Fund Marketing, she points out that, thanks to recent marketing research, we know: how to increase response to our newsletters, what type of images work best, and how to shape a call to action. Successful fundraising centers on relationships, and it also includes “a working knowledge of messaging, copyrighting, good design and layout.”

Few areas change as often, or as quickly, as marketing. So as we prepare for our annual Marketing & Communications Series (April 29, May 6 & 13), we’re pulling together the most recent research, practices, and tools to help you with your marketing challenges.

Keeping a sharp, focused, relevant message helps you cut through the noise and clutter to be heard and to motivate response…and, to raise more money!

Best,

Thom


Just ONEthing - Mar 2015

Earlier this month, we explored Donor Retention with Michelle Karpinski (Pretty Lake Camp). During this workshop, we learned about donor-centered recognition.

According to research by Penelope Burk, the essential components of donor-centered recognition include:

  • Prompt, meaningful gift acknowledgement
  • Ability to designate the gift to a program, service or project more narrow in scope than the charity’s overall mandate
  • Measureable results report on the last gift before being asked for another gift

If all three of these essentials are present, donors report that

  • 93% would give again
  • 64% would make larger gifts
  • 74% would continue indefinitely if the essentials continued 

The bottom line was to not over-think the effort but to keep the donor relationship front-and-center while doing the essentials well: timely, genuine, and accurate.


Leading with Intent

Our direct assistance services bring a myriad of issues and concerns through our door. While each appointment paints problems with its own palette of colors and textures, one common thread runs through almost every meeting.

Organizational concerns always involve the Board.

Every business, club, and organization takes its cue from the top. Boards, in partnership with the chief executive, set the tone for the nonprofit organization, affecting its climate, culture, and effectiveness.

Collecting and analyzing data since 1994, BoardSource’s biennial reports provide one of the deepest dives into the state of board leadership and trends. Their January 2015 report, Leading with Intent, surfaces three key findings:

 

  • Getting the people right is fundamental – Boards that aren’t thoughtfully composed relating to skills sets, leadership styles, and diversity of thought and background are less likely to excel.
  • Boards need to get outside their comfort zones – Boards generally do well at compliance and oversight functions, but strategic and external work challenge them.
  • Investments in board development are worth the effort – Building and strengthening a board takes ongoing, intentional effort.

BoardSource, Leading with Intent: A National Index of Nonprofit Board Practices (Washington, D.C.: BoardSource, 2015).

Many executive directors find the amount of time they must spend on board matters surprising. Even though they function as the ED’s superior, boards pose a volunteer management challenge of the highest order.

ONEplace recognizes the need for intentional board development efforts. Our quarterly Board Membership 101 workshop not only provides basic board responsibility training but also serves as a regular reminder for organizations to attend to their own board development. We also stand ready to work with you to develop a focused board recruitment and development plan.

Board service offers individuals unique challenges. It also offers unique opportunities for personal growth and enjoyment. Intentional board development helps your organization strike this balance.

Best,

Thom


Twitter Time at ONEplace

In the spirit of practice what you teach, we’ve taken a deliberate, strategic approach to Twitter. We carefully considered several questions, including:

 

  • What are the benefits of using Twitter relative to other social media platforms?
  • What presence do we want to establish?
  • What’s the best balance of original tweets, retweets, and promotional tweets?
  • Who do we want to follow…and why?

 

Over the past several weeks, we’ve documented our experience online as well as off, and examined how to use Twitter as a metric for larger program goals, and how adding this effort affects our workload and schedules.

We’ve learned a lot. Lolita has been driving the effort and she presents her research, cases from local organizations, experience, and insights in Twitter Time for Kzoo Nonprofits on February 10.

We invite you to attend to learn, share, and see how Twitter may fit into your personal or organizational communications efforts.


Just ONEthing - Feb 2015

In January, several viewed a video by Kerri Karvetsky (Company K Media) on how to Find Your Audience on Social Media

Focusing primarily on Facebook and Twitter, Kerri identified various ways to locate and analyze followers as well as several tools (many free) to help get the most from your social media presence.

She presented several points from the recent Pew Research Internet Project report. Again, focusing on Facebook and Twitter, she highlighted a few important trends.

 

  • Facebook is leveling while other platforms are still growing.
  • Facebook is still highest use, and it’s graying – fastest growing group is 65+ while 30-49 group use is declining
  • Twitter is growing in all age groups, especially in ages 18-29 and 30-49
  • Overall Twitter tends to skews younger and more urban

 

For more information from the report, visit the Pew Research Internet Project website.


Hitting Pause

With New Year’s Eve just hours away, I again find myself at an intersection. In addition to being the calendar year end, it’s also the second quarter close of our fiscal year. And, as a holiday week, it’s a time of less (or different) activity.

I like these times. It’s an opportunity to look back and look forward, to evaluate and adjust, to celebrate and to anticipate.

In his book, Traction, Gino Wickman draws upon the work of Patrick Lencioni and others and recommends that top management gather off-site every 90 days to review the previous quarter and finalize priorities for the coming quarter. Why every 90 days? He says, “The 90-day idea stems from a natural phenomenon – that human beings stumble, get off track, and lose focus roughly every 90 days.”

Wickman cites examples of this phenomenon at work, and I could add a few examples of my own. While it’s easy to casually nod in agreement, I shudder at his observation that human beings “lose focus roughly every 90 days,” because…

…we cannot afford to lose focus.

Lost focus wastes time and energy, dilutes the purpose of the organization, confuses funders and donors, frustrates staff and volunteers, and eventually leads to all sorts of crises. As leaders of our teams, departments, and organizations, maintaining focus is at the top of our list of responsibilities.

So, take some time – a half- or full-day – every quarter to hit the Pause button and keep yourself and your team on track. It will save you time, increase your service quality, and promote job satisfaction.

Best,

Thom


Just ONEthing - Dec 2014

Last month, we hosted a Chronicle of Philanthropy video titled, Building Long-term Ties with Young Donors. It discussed data from the Millennial Alumni Report and how it related to nurturing the loyalty of young donors. The video noted the strong philanthropic tendency of Millennials in volunteering (86% would volunteer) as well as donating (75% donate).

Enjoyable experiences with the organization, an opportunity to give back, and the ability to designate donations to a specific program motivate Millennial philanthropy. Millennials also want to see results. 

Social media (especially Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn) is tops in providing Millennials with stories, behind the scenes info, and successes. To maximize reach, the presenters suggest creating an Online Ambassador Program. The program engages volunteers in generating Shares and Retweets, and it’s considered a “must” for any online campaign.

Email continues to be the primary communication channel for calls to action and appeals. Emails should be very short with bold highlights and a soft ask (e.g., donate button).

The bottom line for Millennials (as for older donors) is to ask. Many reported that they didn’t give simply because they hadn’t been asked.


The human economy

In a recent Harvard Business Review article, Dov Seidman observes that we’re moving into a human economy. Having once been an agrarian economy and then an industrial economy, followed by an information economy, we now are transitioning into a human economy where successful employees leverage their creativity, passion, character, and collaborative spirit.

Seidman quotes Peter Drucker (Effective Executive, 1967) in support for committing to values and connecting with purpose in the workplace. He describes Drucker as being ahead of his time. I think he was simply more attuned to his people than the flavor of his time.

Successful leaders throughout the 20th century valued the human element. Look at Jim Collins’ list of top CEO’s and you’ll find several who built long-lasting organizations that valued their people more than their profit.

What they recognized is that – be it agrarian, industrial, information or human – each was an economy, i.e., “a system of interaction and exchange.” Regardless of what commodity is being traded, it’s people that perform the interactions and exchanges. It’s people that make any economy tick.

Seidman also points out that the systems are changing. Business and organizational policies and practices are valuing the human element more, and business schools are also attending more to developing so-called “soft skills.”

More and more, institutions are recognizing what many business writers keep claiming: it’s all about relationships. It’s true now, and it has been true for decades. Perhaps mainstream leadership thought is catching up with this.

Best,

Thom