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.
The October 7 edition of the Chronicle of Philanthropy reports on a new study on how organizations are working hard to make sure their special events and galas measure up to donor expectations while still accomplishing their overall goal – raising needed funds. Organizations are going out of their way to create a memorable and – hopefully – special experience that will set their event apart from the numerous events being held this time of year. This is especially challenging here in Washington or in other large cities such as New York, Chicago, Houston or Los Angeles, where there are wall-to-wall events, galas and benefits.
The Chronicle article focused on a study conducted by CharityHappenings.org, an organization that sells tickets to charity events. They asked 850 event attendees across the country about what they thought when it came to event logistics, format, ticket prices, venues, menus and invitations. It gave gala-goers a chance to weigh in on how they view their own experiences with these types of events. One lesson: Be careful not to try to do too much, or you will wear out all of those good feelings your guests might be having…even with those glasses of champagne. This usually starts to happen when the presentations and speeches begin. Your annual gala might be your first, best or only opportunity to get your organization’s message in front of so many people, but you’ve got to think about your audience and their experience. To use the words of CharityHappenings chief Justin Baer says, “Like every great sales pitch, it should be fast, lean and targeted.”
You can get a free copy of the 2010 Charity Event Market Research report at the CharityHappenings website.
Some interesting – but in some cases not surprising – findings:
- The biggest complaint about events and galas – long speeches!
- The amount of the ticket price that most respondents felt should be going to the organization – 75%
- The time during which most people buy their tickets – 1 to 2 weeks in advance
- One of the least motivating factors in why they attended an event – celebrity appearances
- Percentage of event attendees who say they prefer galas to have some sort of “theme” – 66% (2 out of 3)
- The most popular nosh – sushi (no more scallops wrapped in bacon…)
So take some time and think about your upcoming gala, auction or benefit. Consider carefully the experience you’re providing to your attendees. Use the CharityHappenings survey to fine tune your approach. Yours might just be the event everyone said, “Were you there?? You should have been!!”
Our newest “News You Can Use” email is focusing on ways to take a “fresh approach” to familiar topics in fundraising, board development and nonprofit management. Ideas raised included enhanced ways to do role playing, helping your donors to tell your story and enabling board members to stay busy while not asking. For more information, or to get onto our mailing list, visit www.capdevstrat.com.
Now, it’s your turn.
Tell us what’s you’re doing that’s fresh, original, innovative or creative! Use the comments section to share some of your ideas for how a new approach, a different tactic or a wild idea has made an impact on your fundraising and your nonprofit. Are you doing something interesting with your fall appeal letters this year? Are your major donor events taking on a special looking in the coming months? Have you found a way to engage your board members that’s fun and memorable? If so, share it with your peers.
Let’s recognize and celebrate your successes! Tell us what’s fresh today.
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.
I know we are all very busy, but it’s important to take the time to read some of the really good research and commentary that’s out there. Organizations and individuals are putting out useful information and perspectives that can help us in our daily work, in our interactions with funders and donors, and in thinking strategically about our organizations.
Last week I read an amazing article in the Standford Social Innovation Review, “The Nonprofit Starvation Cycle.” I cannot recommend this enough, and it goes right to the heart of a critical issue nonprofits are facing today. Written by Ann Gregory and Don Howard from Bridgespan, it lays out the details of the vicious cycle that’s leaving nonprofits of all sizes starved for critical operating funds. This ongoing cycle of deprivation erodes organizations’ ability to function as well as to accomplish their mission. To break it down, here are the three components of this cycle:
- Nonprofits neglect infrastructure and misrepresent data (about expenditures)
- Funders have unrealistic expectations (regarding what it costs to run a nonprofit)
- Nonprofits feel pressure to conform (to the funders’ paradigm)
It is a chronic problem, and it is resulting in poorly performing organizations, burnt out staff and frustrated donors. It is also resulting in beneficiaries’ not getting the services that they deserve and need.
The solution lies equally with both nonprofits as well as with the funders. Nonprofits need to be courageous and tell their donors and funders what it really takes to accomplish their mission effectively. Nonprofits also need to resist the urge to “hide” fundraising and other administrative expenses. Funders, for their part, need to increase their interaction with their grantees. They need to work more closely with these organizations and increase their understanding of the real-life challenges (and expenses) of running an effective nonprofit. Funders need to challenge their old assumptions. Both funders and organizations need to collaborate more closely if the cycle is ever to be broken.
Check this article out. Use it to start a lively discussion at your next board meeting or staff meeting. Ask your donors how they evaluate these issues. Learn from this conversation.
It’s time to stop starving.