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269 posts categorized "Nonprofit Management"

An Organizational Structure That Works for Change

June 16, 2014

Headshot_thomas_somodiMany, if not most, people would argue that the capacity of a nonprofit organization to change is critical to its survival over the long term. To that end, the nonprofit literature is full of theories, methodologies, recommendations, and analyses with respect to how nonprofits should be structured and operated in order to maximize their ability to thrive and drive change.

Yet, even with all the guidance at their disposal, too many nonprofits fail to make an impact or achieve the desired change.

The reality is that if we want to see progress in this area, nonprofit organizations need to rethink their relationship to the dynamics of organizational change, and the best place to start is with the concepts found in Change Science.

Step One – Develop and Communicate a Proper Perspective of Change in the Organization

One of the first things Change Science tells us is that change is continuously occurring all around us. Every time an event is held, a donor is contacted, a donation is processed, a program is launched or altered, something in the organization's calculus has changed. It is critical that everyone in an organization, from the board of directors on down to individuals in frontline staff positions, understands that basic fact.

Step one, then, is for everyone to stop thinking of change as something that happens "out there" and to recognize that the organization already is dealing with a continuous stream of change at every level.

Step Two – Develop an Organization-Wide Understanding of Change-Related Responsibility

So how does an organization manage continuously occurring change? The answer is simple: delegation of responsibility. From the person responsible for reserving event space and inviting potential donors, to individual program managers, to the executive or executives tasked with setting and implementing the organization's strategic direction, responsibility for managing change has to be delegated.

Delegating responsibility for change carries an added benefit: employees who are given responsibility for managing some aspect of change are automatically empowered, and an empowered employee is an engaged and more effective employee. Indeed, what is often lacking in nonprofit organizations is a top-to-bottom recognition of the fact that not only is there a significant amount of change continuously occurring in and around the organization, but that through the delegation of responsibility, individuals within the organization already are managing that change.

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Taking Board Leadership From Good to Great

May 14, 2014

Headshot_kevin_monroeI'm a consultant who spends a lot of time working with nonprofit boards,
and as I ponder the experiences and effectiveness of many of those boards, I can't help but notice the gap that exists between their promise and actual performance. In fact, it brings an old song to mind...

You may say I'm a dreamer,
But I'm not the only one.
I hope someday you'll join us,
And the sector will grow as one.

Okay. I took some liberties with the lyrics. But since this is about board leadership, I thought you'd catch my drift and forgive me.

I'm in this line of work because, as the song goes, I'm a dreamer at heart and truly believe in optimal scenarios, especially as it relates to the millions of do-good organizations around the world and the people who lead them every day.

Imagine how different things would be in communities across the U.S. and around the world if every board member that served a nonprofit or NGO vowed to invest only their best into the organizations they lead and serve. They would read the financials and the body language of frustrated employees. They would hold executive leadership accountable in the boardroom – and in high regard outside it. They would balance criticism with encouragement. There would be fewer dictates and more discussion. Instead of being evaluative of goals, they would be evangelical about missions. What if breaking even and taking chances were equally rewarded? What would happen then?

Imagine.

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Weekend Link Roundup (November 9-10, 2013)

November 10, 2013

Colorful-autumn-leavesOur weekly roundup of new and noteworthy posts from and about the nonprofit sector....

Collaboration

Collaboration is hard, writes Third Foundation founder Jon Huggett on the Markets for Good blog. But your odds of success are greatly improved if you follow these six simple rules:

  1. Share hard goals, not values.
  2. Measure for improving, not proving.
  3. Choose the change, not who is in charge.
  4. Share credit for successful ideas, not put the "genius" on a pedestal.
  5. Spread ideas, not organizations.
  6. Embrace competition, don't discourage it.

Education

Created by the Great Schools Partnership, the Glossary of Education Reform defines and describes widely used school-improvement terms, concepts, and strategies. Useful -- and a sharp presentation.

Health/Healthcare

"Like so many freshly minted doctors, I thought I had all the answers," writes Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, on LinkedIn. But an indigent female patient, admitted "late on a winter night, homeless and helpless," taught her she didn't. "My medical training never taught me that how and where a patient lives, learns, works, and plays has more to do with his or her health than the treatments we were diligently learning. No one ever suggested that society is just as much our patient as that person waiting for us in the examining room. Our care ended at the front door of the hospital -- and that wasn’t far enough...."

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[Infographic] Executive Director Listening Project

November 02, 2013

In 2013, the D.C.-based Eugene and Agnes E. Meyer Foundation surveyed nearly one hundred executive directors of organizations it supports about the challenges that affect their personal and professional effectiveness. Some of what the foundation learned is illustrated in the handsome infographic below:

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Most Popular PhilanTopic Posts (October 2013)

November 01, 2013

A shutdown of the federal government that lasted sixteen days, the botched rollout of HealthCare.gov, a well-deserved (!) Red Sox win in the World Series -- October was nothing if not eventful. And now that it's history, it's time to look back at the most popular posts on PhilanTopic during the month:

What have you been reading/watching/listening to that PhilanTopic readers should know about? Share your favorites in the comments section....

[Review] 'The Cycle: A Practical Approach to Managing Arts Organizations'

October 28, 2013

Book-cover_The_CycleA spate of negative developments, including the decision of a bankrupt New York City Opera to shut its doors, the ongoing lockout of musicians at the Minnesota Orchestra, and surveys showing a decline in theatre attendance, would seem to spell trouble for nonprofit performing arts organizations.

Don't cue the fat lady just yet, suggests Michael M. Kaiser, president of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, in his new book, The Cycle: A Practical Approach to Managing Arts Organizations (Waltham, MA: Brandeis University Press, 2013). Yes, nonprofit arts organizations face significant challenges — including the aging of their traditional audiences, the impact of disruptive technologies, and the lingering effects of the Great Recession — but by following the principles laid out in his book, any arts organization, regardless of size, target audience, or location, can set in motion "an internal engine that powers consistent success."

Known in some circles as the "turnaround king" for his successful efforts to save or revive financially troubled organizations such as the Kansas City Ballet, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, American Ballet Theatre, and the Royal Opera House in London, Kaiser draws on his extensive experience to illustrate in The Cycle how "good art, well marketed" attracts loyal audiences, volunteers, board members, and donors whose support can be reinvested in developing even bolder, more exciting programming, eventually creating a positive feedback loop with a circular momentum of its own.

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A New Kind of Strategy for Nonprofits -- Convene, Reflect, and Take Time to Strategize

October 07, 2013

(Carla Goldstein, JD, is chief external affairs officer at the Omega Institute and co-founder of the Omega Women's Leadership Center.)

Headnote_carla_goldsteinThe top managers of the Legal Aid Society's Juvenile Rights Practice only get to meet once a month, if that. "We needed time away from our hectic court-based environment to think more clearly, without interruption, and in a supportive environment," says Ann Marie Scalia, attorney-in-charge of the Manhattan Juvenile Rights office. Theirs is not a unique story.

In Washington, D.C., GirlTrek, a national nonprofit focused on helping black women and girls improve their health by walking, was at a turning point. The group was growing exponentially but needed time to plan and figure out the most strategic way to scale and launch their big push to get one million black women "walking in our neighborhoods" by 2018.

In New York State's Orange County, the domestic violence prevention organization Safe Homes identified a need to improve their internal communications and supervisory structure and to incorporate self-care into their institutional culture. That might seem like a luxury, but given the high stress levels among staff in an extremely challenging environment, it was critical for Safe Homes.

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Weekend Link Roundup (September 21-22, 2013)

September 22, 2013

Four_seasonsOur weekly roundup of new and noteworthy posts from and about the nonprofit sector....

Corporate Philanthropy

Corporate support can be a key factor in securing your organization's future, but many of you may be lost when it comes to attracting and keeping such support. Not to worry. Guest blogging on Beth Kanter's blog, Simon Manwaring, CEO of We First, shares a seven-step plan designed to help you do just that.

Fundraising

Nonprofits want to be loved, and they especially want to be loved by their donors. How can they make that happen? Start by loving your donors back, writes Jeff Brooks on his Future Fundraising Now blog. "Focus on them. Obsess about them. Seek ways to understand, serve and please them."

Healthcare

On the Collective Impact blog, Christine Kendall, a senior consultant at FSG, argues that, like it or not, the Affordable Care Act, is going "to drastically change healthcare in America as it is rolled out over the next five years." And for organizations in the healthcare space, "[b]eing ahead of the healthcare reform curve means moving from symptoms, diseases, and working in isolation to thinking about health determinants, systems change, and collaboration."

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[Review] 'Cause for Change: The Why and How of Nonprofit Millennial Engagement'

September 19, 2013

Cause_for_changeKari Dunn Saratovsky and Derrick Feldmann, the authors of Cause for Change: The Why and How of Nonprofit Millennial Engagement, believe that nonprofit organizations must change the way they go about their business if they hope to connect with the rising millennial generation. But Gen-Xers, baby boomers, and older nonprofit leaders need not run for the hills. Anticipating a certain amount of generational skepticism and pushback, Saratovsky, former vice president of social innovation at the Case Foundation, and Feldmann, CEO of Achieve (and a frequent contributor to PND), do a lot of hand-holding as they guide the non-millennial reader through the process and practical steps needed to develop and implement a long-term engagement strategy for millennials.

According to Saratovsky and Feldmann, the "why" of millennial engagement is simple: nonprofits can't afford not to engage millennials on millennials' own terms if their organizations are to thrive. In part, that's because millennials boast $62.7 billion in discretionary spending power and, perhaps more importantly, are in line to inherit some $41 trillion in wealth from their parents and grandparents. What's more, Saratovsky and Feldmann argue, millennials insist on being actively engaged, as opposed to simply solicited, and are driven by personal relationships based on trust.

The "how" is more complicated. Saratovsky and Feldmann propose a "Millennial Engagement Platform" comprised of four "operational and cultural components" — "leadership inviting" (i.e., inviting and empowering millennials to connect with the organization’s decision makers); transparency; social connectivity; and a solution-inspired environment. To implement the platform effectively, however, an organization first needs to "BUILD" it:

  • Be unified as an organization about working with the millennial generation;
  • Understand the complexities of the technological and cultural environment in which millennials have grown up;
  • Identify those seeking to make a difference through calls to action and peer identification;
  • Lead through conversational and relationship-oriented engagement rather than focusing on event attendance figures; and
  • Determine and institutionalize how the organization wants millennials to be involved and to what end.

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After Overhead: Investing in Nonprofit Financial Fitness

September 03, 2013

(Rebecca Thomas is a vice president at the Nonprofit Finance Fund, where she has strategic responsibility for national arts initiatives, funder partnerships, and product development efforts that advance NFF's profitability, visibility and impact.)

Headshot_rebecca_thomasRecent efforts to end the overhead myth are to be applauded. But they don't go far enough. Funders also need to focus on nonprofit resiliency.

Increasingly, funders understand that "overhead" costs directly support an organization's ability to deliver results and that the overhead ratio shouldn't be used as a simplistic indicator of an organization’s ability to deliver on its mission. The bigger opportunity here, however, is to go beyond funding the full costs of delivering specific services to build an organization's financial strength through surpluses and savings.

After all, many nonprofit organizations that routinely fund their administrative and fundraising expenses often are operating perilously close to the financial brink. They lack the resources to develop innovative approaches to service delivery, take calculated operational risks, manage unexpected funding shortfalls, and cultivate new, more reliable streams of revenue. The loss of one big government contract, an unanticipated facility emergency, or a period of economic distress can be enough to push these agencies over the edge.

Nonprofit Finance Fund's 2013 State of the Sector survey showed that, three years after the official end of the recession, the majority of nonprofits are still unable to address the needs of people and communities they serve. While more than 70 percent funded overhead by bringing in enough revenue to cover their expenses, only 48 percent reported an ability to meet service demand, and 90 percent said the outlook for people they serve will be less certain or the same in the coming year.

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Most Popular PhilanTopic Posts (August 2013)

September 02, 2013

It's the start of a new month, which means it's time to look back at the most popular posts on PhilanTopic over the last thirty days:

What did you read/watch/listen to in August that PhilanTopic readers should know about? Share your favorites in the comments section....

Six Ways to Make Your Volunteer Board Members Feel Appreciated

August 13, 2013

(Allison Shirk is a freelance grantwriter based in the Northwest. In her last article, she offered some tips to help you spice up your grant proposals.)

Headshot_allison_shirkA new generation is making its presence felt, and its members are eager to give more than just their hard-earned money. They want to give their time and talent, to get down in the trenches and serve on boards. They want their ideas to be taken seriously, put into action, and reported back on with charts and graphs. Oh, and they want to be appreciated and recognized for their efforts and contributions to your cause or organization.

What's that? You're too busy to let your volunteer board members know their efforts are appreciated? You might want to rethink that. Before you start planning your next volunteer appreciation event, run through this checklist of things you can do to show you care.

Common courtesy. The easiest way to appreciate and recognize volunteer board members costs you nothing. It's giving them a proper greeting when they arrive for a meeting and letting them know how grateful you are for the time and effort they’ve expended to be there. It's small things like starting and ending the meeting on time. It's making sure everyone's voice is heard and that everyone has a chance to contribute to the discussions.

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Weekend Link Roundup (July 27-28, 2013)

July 28, 2013

Corn-on-the-cobOur weekly roundup of new and noteworthy posts from and about the nonprofit sector....

Community Development

The declaration of bankruptcy by the City of Detroit, though not unexpected, was a shock to those of us old enough to remember the heyday of Motown and the Motor City. In the most recent issue of the Cohen Report, NPQ's Rick Cohen argues that "the nation has to confront...persistent racial and social inequity and what it has done to this city. [The] nation was quick to come to the aid of the automakers," writes Cohen,

with past presidents and the current one promising not to let Detroit (read: Detroit business) slide into financial oblivion. The same commitment must now be made to the 700,000 people of Detroit, with the message that this nation cares about their future opportunities as much as it cares about GM's and Chrysler's. But the terms of the deal have to be different, and that’s where nonprofits and foundations have a crucial, inescapable role to play....

Higher Education

Seemingly overnight, digital disruption in the form of MOOCs (massive open online courses) has set its sights on higher ed, and many universities have felt obliged "to join the...revolution to avoid being guillotined by it," writes Matthew Bishop in the latest issue of the Economist. But is there a viable business model in MOOCs for existing institutions (many of which have been around for centuries), or are they a lose-lose proposition "in which cheap online providers radically reduce the cost of higher education and drive many traditional institutions to the wall"?

Nonprofits

On the GuideStar blog, Jacob Harold cites the parable of the three blind men and the elephant to argue that it's time for funders and nonprofits alike to move away from a sole focus on the overhead ratio and toward a more "holistic" view of nonprofit effectiveness.

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Weekend Link Roundup (July 20-21, 2013)

July 21, 2013

Man_on_the_moonOur weekly roundup of new and noteworthy posts from and about the nonprofit sector....

Data

This is the era of big data, and that's a good thing, argues Matthew Scharpnick, co-founder and chief strategy officer at Elefint Designs, in the Chronicle of Philanthropy. But, he adds, "for every new piece of valuable data, a much larger pile of useless data surrounds and obscures it. It's tough work to sift through it all to find the pieces that lead us to greater insights." Which is why,

Organizations need to understand what stories they want to tell with their data -- ideally before those data sets are even gathered. While it's important to let the data collections speak for themselves --being careful not to manipulate them to present stories that are not there -- it's equally important to gather the right kinds of data and to do so with a strategic understanding of how they can become insightful information tied to the larger narrative of the organization. When the right data are gathered in the right way and presented intelligently, that is where the magic of data begins to fulfill its promise...."

Diversity

Writing on the Center for Effective Philanthropy blog, Kelly Brown, director of the D5 Coalition, a five-year initiative to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion in philanthropy, reflects on the initiative's progress at midpoint and suggests that it's a bit of mixed bag. "Those who question whether the effective inclusion of diverse perspectives has a positive influence on smart decision-making should look closer at the evidence," she writes. But at the same time, recent events

make it clear that building philanthropy's capacity to fully include diverse perspectives must be as salient and pressing for foundations as dealing with the much-buzzed issues of "big data," managing "networked organizations," "scaling what works," or fostering "collective impact." None of these approaches will reach their fullest potential if they cannot effectively manifest in a diverse and complex world that is yearning for equity....

Higher Education

Responding to a special report in the Chronicle of Higher Education that examined the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's postsecondary education strategy and outisize influence on the postsecondary debate, Daniel Greenstein, director of the Postsecondary Success program at the foundation, writes that while he and his colleagues welcome a rigorous public conversation about the challenges facing our education system, the report "missed the big picture." Namely, "that nearly three out of four students aren't enrolled in full-time, four-year degree programs and that the current system doesn't work for adults who are juggling jobs, family and other priorities while they also work toward a degree."

Nonprofits

Looking to start a nonprofit or social enterprise to address a critical community need, one that will be more than just a flash in the pan? Ayesha Khanna, president of Civic Incubator, shares some practical tips to help you do just that:

  • Define your objectives and what you want to accomplish.
  • Develop a business model and test your assumptions.
  • Find seed funding to allow you to make little bets.
  • Develop diverse funding streams.
  • Enroll others in your mission and work.
  • Create a public relations strategy.

Has all the recent talk about overhead myths and ratios left you a bit confused? If it has, hop on over to the Charities review Council's Smart Giving Matters blog, where you'll find five surefire ways to get the full picture of a nonprofit's effectiveness.

Philanthropy

In a new paper ("Beauty and the Beast: Can Money Ever Foster Social Transformation?") written for Hivos, a foundation in the Netherlands, Michael Edwards, one of our favorite contrarians, argues that instead of its current fixation on market-based revenue generation for social change, philanthropy should be directing more support to what he calls "democratic" and "transformational" funding models. (Back in 2012, we published a terrific series of posts by Edwards on more or less the same topic.)

In a similar vein, Josh Mailman, founder of the progressive Threshold Foundation, argues in a video on Bridgepsan's GiveSmart site that philanthropy is missing a great opportunity to "advance business accountability and business responsibility." Mailman, who was among the first investors in yogurt maker Stonyfield Farms, the Utne Reader, and household products maker Seventh Generation, believes that movements drive social change, and that "getting wealthy people involved in building movements is a really good idea, because movements are mostly people that don't have money."

"Orthodoxies are those [assumptions] we are so accustomed to that we barely think about them, let alone question them," writes Lucy Bernholz on her Philanthropy 2173 blog. In the social sector, they include things like the inviolability of property tax exemptions and the charitable deduction, intellectual property rights, and the right to privacy in the digital sphere. The problem with that approach, Bernholz adds, "is in thinking that the rules that have worked for the last century will stay the same, will work the same, will still be useful or needed for the next century. Some might. Some won't. Some shouldn't...."

In a post on the GrantCraft blog, Lisa Suchet, CEO at the UK-based Nationwide Foundation, shares some interesting learnings from the foundation's Money Matters, Homes Matter and Families Matter initiative, which awarded three-year grants to nine charities working with disadvantaged groups to address housing and homeless issues n the foundation's service area.

Writing on their Philanthropy Potluck blog, the folks at the Minnesota Council on Foundations share some findings from a new Council on Foundations report that looks at staff demographics and compensation levels at foundations around the country. Among the findings:

  • The graying of foundation staff has accelerated significantly.
  • There is still a large gender gap at the top of large foundations.
  • Twenty-nine percent of private foundations reported that they employ people of color, while only 19 percent of community foundations said the same. 

Social Good

Trevor Neilson, president of the Global Philanthropy Group, advises readers of the Huffington Post Impact blog to ignore those who disparage Millennials as "lazy, entitled and narcissistic." Not true, says Neilson, who suggests, to the contrary, "that Millennials have more power than any generation in modern history to drastically improve our world for the better...."

Transparency

Last but note least, kudos to the Blue Shield of California Foundation, which earlier in the week posted a downloadable version of its 2012 Grantee Perception Report -- along with a frank assessment of the dimensions in which it has improved since 2010, as well as areas where improvement is still needed.

That's it for now. What did we miss? Drop us a line at mfn@foundationcenter.org. And stay cool!

--The Editors

Silence Isn’t Golden

July 09, 2013

(Mark Rosenman is an emeritus professor at the Union Institute & University and directs Caring to Change, an initiative that seeks to improve how foundations serve the public. In his last post, he urged PhilanTopic readers to assess how they value the things they value.)

Rosenman_headshotConfronted by headlines about truly questionable practices at a few dozen charities, the response of too many nonprofit leaders has been to bury their heads in the sand and try to pull the hole in after them. What these leaders fail to appreciate is that silence in response to scandalous behavior is neither golden nor in their best interests.

By now, most of you have seen the carefully researched list compiled by the Center for Investigative Reporting, in partnership with the Tampa Bay Times and CNN, of "America's 50 worst charities" -- tax-exempt organizations that "channel most of the money they raise to professional solicitors, mimic other charities' names, deceive donors on telemarketing calls, divert money and contracts to people with ties to their organizations, and use accounting tricks to inflate the amount they report spending on their missions."

Yet, despite overwhelming evidence of self-dealing by these groups and their closely associated entities, key leadership organizations in the sector, including Independent Sector, have responded to requests for comment from the press by declaring that they didn't have enough information to make a judgment, while others have defended outrageous fundraising percentages diverted to what the California Association of Nonprofits' Jan Masaoka labels the "philanthropic-consultant industrial complex."

When it comes to nonprofits, these kinds of abuses are nothing new, and neither is the timidity of nonprofit leaders in condemning them. Their silence in the past has greeted media coverage of huge salaries paid to charity officials, outlandish benefits, self-dealing within boards, tax gimmicks for donors, and malfeasance in program operations. Unfortunately, the cost of that silence is something we all bear.

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