CompassPoint Nonprofit Services in California and the Meyer Foundation here in Washington have released a follow-up study report as part of their “Daring to Lead” series.
This report raises some serious issues – issues that still amaze me that we continue to talk about them. More than 3,000 nonprofit executives participated in the survey from which the report was developed, and it is absolutely worth your time and attention.
Their big findings are some critical takeaways. Basically they are:
- Executive turnover is going to remain steady if not increase, and board are basically NOT prepared for that reality.
- The tried-and-true financial models for running a nonprofit are just not sustainable anymore, and that’s leading to serious frustration and anxiety.
- Even with all of these big problems out there, executives are staying resolved and energized!
Download this report. Read it. Share it with your board. Share it with your colleagues. Share it with your top funders. Start a conversation about what implications these findings have for your nonprofit.
Visit the new website www.daringtolead.org to learn more and to join in a broader conversation about leadership and its role in the nonprofit sector.
Feel free to share your thoughts here as well.
This morning I received the latest issue of Leadership Guide, the email newsletter from TransitionGuides in Silver Spring, MD. Their areas of expertise are succession planning and leadership transitions for nonprofits. The newsletter featured profiles of three nonprofit executives who had successfully navigated the complex and often emotion-laden process of moving on from a beloved organization…especially when they are the founder!
I was especially struck by a consistent point found in two of the stories – the concept of “getting out of the way.” Both leaders suggested that founders must make a special and focused effort to move on and, in effect, step out of the way of the organization’s progress and evolution. Whether they’re hampered by a sense of guilt imposed on them by board and other staff members, or by their own sense that the organization could simply never make it without them, founders can actually be doing harm to their nonprofit by staying too long and not moving on. It’s a challenging process to be sure, but it is essential to keep the best needs of the organization at heart and to keep looking forward.
Among the many resources offered by TransitionGuides is their popular Next Steps Workshop. Their next event Next Steps Workshop: Succession and Sustainability Planning will be held in Washington, DC September 13-14, 2010.
I have many times seen how critical it can be for an organization to have a solid succession plan in place.
As a member of the selection committee for the Washington Post Awards for Excellence in Nonprofit Management, I have many times seen how critical it can be for an organization to have a solid succession plan in place. Organizations that have done well over the years with this award process have all exhibited an openness to explore the challenges and opportunities inherent in leadership transition. They give their chief executives time and permission to take advantage of resources like the Next Steps workshop. And from my viewpoint, it’s made them all much stronger and better able to sustain strong leadership across the entire organization.
The February 2010 edition of SmartCEO includes in its 10 Things column a list of ways one can build a superior company. Called the “Excellence Challenge,” the list contains suggestions from organizational psychologists Ken Wexley and Doug Strouse. These recommendations offer a useful list that can work for any nonprofit Executive Director/CEO:
- Be Receptive to New Ideas
- Focus on the Big Picture
- Foster Mentoring
- Show Interest in Others
- Empower Others
- Take Appropriate Risk
- Inspire Trust
- Become a Servant Leader
- Exhibit Optimism
It is remarkable to note how many of these suggestions are focused not on what we might refer to as technical business skills, but rather on person-to-person interaction – communication, mentoring, empowerment, showing interest, etc. Over the years, as I have participated in the selection process of the Washington Post Awards for Excellence in Nonprofit Management, I have found that this emphasis on people management is absolutely critical. Those organizations whose leaders create an atmosphere that celebrates and recognizes the contributions and importance of the people who make their work possible are often the organizations that excel. It is a real success factor for organizations that want to take themselves to the highest levels of achievement. Leaders that use these 10 ways to advance their organizations will also find that many potential donors and partners will want to join them in being part of such a successful organization. It’s a great recipe for development.
I urge you to take a look at this list. You can find the entire article – including a more detailed description of the 10 suggestions – online at SmartCEO’s digital magazine site.
Yesterday I gave a presentation in Arlington County on this topic. We had a great mixture of development professionals and program staff from organizations in DC and Virginia. The goal of the program was to address how all staff members should embrace the roles they play in a successful fundraising effort.
Site visits are a great way to get the whole staff involved. Lots of people play a part, from the receptionist to the program staff to management. It’s important to take the time to carefully plan out the various elements of an upcoming site visit. Staff members need to be briefed and understand what’s at stake.
Key preparation items include being clear about the visit’s schedule, the message you hope to get across to the visitor and what follow-up tactics you plan to employ. It’s also a great time to clean up the office – nothing makes a visitor feel more welcome than when you’ve taken the time to show pride in your organization.
As part of our session yesterday, I had participants design a “Brown Bag Luncheon” on development. The set-up was the executive director had asked each department to lead a presentation so that everyone could better understand the work of their colleagues. One of the suggested topics was preparing for a site visit, and the group came up with some excellent ideas. Here’s their outline for a 30-minute lunch-time presentation:
- Explain why you’re having the site visit; discuss who is coming (donor, media, government representatives, etc.). Explain what the visitors are going to want to see.
- Talk about why the staff is so important to the site visit – Staff members are the ones who do the work; they are the closest to the organization’s programs.
- Discuss how to handle the site visit – Be friendly; think in advance about what you’re going to say; involve the visitor in a conversation, thank them for coming, etc. Reinforce that staff members will get some help in doing this, such as training or scripts.
- Address the follow-up steps – How will you thank the visitor for coming. Thank you correspondence can refer back to a meaningful exchange they might have had with a member of the staff.
Other ideas raised by program participants when I presented this session back in the summer included:
- Talk about the “spiel” or “elevator speech” that staff members can use, it’s part of helping them to be prepared.
- Try some role-playing exercises. What will you say when the visitor stops by your cubicle?
- Talk about the “Don’ts” not just the “Dos” for example, they don’t have to ask for a gift, and they don’t need to overdo it.
- Discuss how you might involve volunteers and past program participants in the visit.
- At the end, describe how this discussion of site visit preparation is in fact a “microcosm” of the way that staff members can support all of fundraising throughout the year.
Do you have a story of a good site visit? If your organization addresses a particularly sensitive subject or if client confidentiality is a big issue for you, how have you creatively approached this topic?