nonprofit boards

Are You Ready For Takeoff?

What makes a nonprofit willing and able to change and grow? Is there a “secret formula” to this readiness?

In her blog on Social Velocity, Nell Edgington identifies 5 traits that indicate an organization might be a good candidate for change or growth:

  • You have momentum among Board and staff: while not all of your key internal stakeholders need to agree, a significant number of them have to believe that the time for change is now

  • You have a clear idea what the definition of change is: you are utilizing opportunities to consider and discuss what change looks like for your organization and you can set some specific goals for change.

  • There is a belief that change can happen: the collective power of positive thinking creates momentum and enthusiasm.

  • You have the ability to have difficult conversations about potential challenges to growth: you have a group that is able to confront these issues and be honest about how to address them.

  • There is a strong commitment across the organization: everyone participates, everyone has a specific role and a way to be involved in making and facilitating change.

As Edgington says, you either have these traits, or you develop them. But without them, you won’t get too far.

Is your organization ready for takeoff? I can help!

It's All About Change

Back in December, I wrote about my theme for 2019, which is all about change and transition. My new gig as Interim CEO is going well, but not without its challenges for me personally and for the organization undergoing transition.

Thinking about change in your organization? There are many resources out there to guide organizations through the initial stages of succession planning and transition (yes, these two things are different- more on that in a future post). Here’s a good one: Graceful Exit: Succession Planning for High-Performing CEOs.

Please be in touch with questions about your organization’s future. I’m here to help!

Starting To Improve The World

"How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world."  Anne Frank

Today's Big Question: How are you helping to improve the world? Maybe not the WHOLE world, but your world, or the world of others?

I really want to know! 

What social causes do you support? Are you teaching tolerance or fighting intolerance? What acts of kindness or generosity do you perform on a regular basis? Which community events do you participate in? How do you nurture your employees? How do you nurture yourself? 

You really can start now- without waiting a single moment- to improve the world!

The Most Important Question

OK, here we go. It's almost the end of February and I've been asking some Big Questions. This week's is : What is the most important question you have ever asked yourself?

This is a tough one for me to answer. I ask myself a lot of questions, all the time. Most of them are rhetorical (Are you serious? What am I doing here?).  But one of the more common questions I ask myself is: What will I learn from this? Sometimes I ask this question before I decide whether or not to do something, and sometimes it's used as an evaluation tool. Success or failure, it's important for me to figure out what the experience has taught me.

How about you? What important questions do you ask yourself? I really want to know! 

 

Lessons Learned?

This week we have a double whammy for you: two Big Questions to ask yourself.

Question number 1: What was the most important lesson you learned in 2017?  For me, it was that I am a resilient person. I wrote a blog about this back in September. I'm looking forward to seeing where this new understanding can lead me.

Question number 2 is: By the end of this year, what do you hope to know more about?  In my professional life, I hope to learn more about my clients (and potential clients) and how I can best help them. In my personal life, I'd like to know more about what the important questions are for me, and possibly get on the path to answering them.

I want to hear what you think about these two questions! Please be in touch. 

What Do Nonprofits Need to Succeed?

Here’s some daunting news from a new survey of more than 3000 nonprofit leaders, staff, board members and donors:  Almost 80% of nonprofits struggle with leadership and management issues. Even worse, only 11% are prepared for growth and optimal impact.

William F. Meehan III and Kim Starkey Jonker conducted the study, “The Stanford Survey on Leadership and Management in the Nonprofit Sector,” to serve as the basis of their new book Engine of Impact: Essentials of Strategic Leadership in the Nonprofit Sector, which will be released this month. The survey was conducted in collaboration with the Center for Social Innovation at Stanford Graduate School of Business, the Stanford Center on Philanthropy and Civil SocietyStanford Social Innovation Review (SSIR), GuideStar, and BoardSource.

Meehan and Jonker’s research on successful organizations suggest that there are seven essential components of strategic leadership that are needed for maximum impact:

·        Mission – a focused, defined statement of purpose;

·        Strategy – a strategic framework based on mission;

·        Impact Evaluation – a way to measure impact;

·        Insight and Courage – a commitment to considered and fearless decisionmaking;

·        Organization and Talent – the right people to move the organization forward;

·        Funding – the ability to build diverse and sustainable revenue relationships with the right donors; and,

·        Board Governance – a strong and effective board to provide direction.

Organizations that aspire to be high-impact need to develop strength in all seven of these areas, Meehan and Jonker said, and a deficiency in any one area can prevent an organization from achieving its goals.

According to the survey, the most common challenges for organizations are:

  • Over 50% struggle with fundraising and another 50% struggle with impact evaluation;
  • More than half struggle with weak board governance;
  • 27% demonstrate “weakness in strategic management,” such as, organization and talent, funding, or board governance, despite exhibiting strength in other areas

Further complications come from leadership and staff indicating that they don’t think their organization sets clear expectations for performance, rewards high performance appropriately, or provides consistent feedback on performance.

To read the complete study results, visit http://www.engineofimpact.org/survey

What Does the Board Member of Your Dreams Look Like?

No two boards are exactly alike, so their desired board members need to be different as well. Finding the right board members is a process that takes time, and needs to be closely related to your organization’s needs.

In a fundraising webinar I participated in this week, Darian Heyman talked about three kinds of boards:

In Name Only: Boards where people lend their name, often so an organization can get off the ground and start to become credible. These board members might show up, but they aren’t going to move the organization forward in a significant way.

Working: Board members take the place of staff in young, evolving organizations. You can work on “big vision” strategy with this type of board, but their primary role is in helping the organization survive.

Fundraising: Board members are active in helping the organization grow in a capacity-building way. These board members have the ability to transform an organization through their giving.

You can see that each of these boards requires different types of board members to be successful. However, all boards need to cultivate board members who play one or more of these roles:

- Ambassador: builds relationships that can be beneficial to the organization

- Advisor: provides guidance as the organization grows

- Advocate: serves as a cheerleader for the organization

- Asker: raises money

Board recruitment can’t be accomplished successfully until you have scripted the vision for your future. It’s important to involve current board members in this strategic process, and use the vision to help identify others who want to join you.

As your organizations matures and changes, your board member needs will also shift. Getting the right people on the bus, as Jim Collins says, is essential to your organization’s fulfilling its potential. Finding the right people isn’t always easy, but taking the time to find the right people is time well spent.

Please be in touch with me to talk about your ideal board member, and how we can build the board of your dreams together.

Board Size: Does It Matter?

A new report from BoardSource, "Leading With Intent: 2017 National Index of Nonprofit Board Practices" includes findings on board size, which has declined steadily over the past 20 years.

The size of a board affects how its work is conducted, and different sizes work for different organizations. However, BoardSource believes it's possible for a board to be either too small or too large.

In general, it recommends that there be at least 5 board members, regardless of what an organization's bylaws require. Otherwise, the organization may not have enough skills and expertise to draw upon when making decisions. In addition, a board that's too small may have difficulty supporting and overseeing the CEO. And, finally, a too-small board might not have enough reach to create a strong fundraising network.

A board that is too big may find it challenging to have fruitful conversations utilizing all of its members. In this situation, many important organizational issues may get shifted to the executive committee, which can create a disconnect. Board members can end up feeling as if their participation is not values, and- even worse-  the board's ability to govern may be adversely affected.

The bottom line from BoardSource is that every organization has its own particular needs for governance, so board size needs to be determined on a case-by-case basis. And of course, organizational needs change with growth, so board size needs to be a topic that gets discussed and planned for.

Please be in touch with me to discuss your board needs!

 

Cultivating Resilience

I have been thinking a lot about resilience this summer. In June, I found out that I had a large, benign tumor wrapped around my spinal cord and I had to have neurosurgery immediately to remove it. Thankfully, the surgery went well and I had no complications. But the recovery is long and requires a good deal of patience and physical therapy to get back to normal. I had a few bad days initially, feeling sorry for myself for not being able to do the things I had looked forward to doing during the summer (Shakespeare in the Park!), but overall, I was very positive about what had happened and I improved rapidly.

During this time, I started wondering how people handle adversity like major illness, disability, loss of a partner, job transitions, and other experiences that have significant emotional effects. Some people seem to bounce back relatively well, and others seem to get stuck and can’t move forward. What’s the difference?

Well, apparently the difference is resilience. What is resilience and how can you get some? It’s like a muscle- an emotional muscle- that can be strengthened if it’s weak. There have been many books and articles on resilience, but the latest to address it in a really accessible way is Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant’s Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience and Finding Joy.  In fact, they have a whole website devoted to it and you should check it out.

Here’s a few suggestions on how to build up your resilience muscle:

Practice being optimistic: there are people who are born negative thinkers and those who are born to think more positively. Regardless, you can train yourself to think more positive thoughts. I’m more of a positivist, but in my darker times, I pushed myself to think about the fact that I would be able go back to my yoga practice pain-free soon.

Rewrite your story: reframing your struggles into experiences that taught you something important and enabled you to empathize with or help others is part of developing resilience. I now understand better how pain affects people’s lives and can appreciate how hard that can be.

De-personalize things: try not to blame yourself for your situation. Things happen. Mistakes get made. Now let’s move forward. As President Bartlett used to say on The West Wing, “What’s next?”

Support others: look outside yourself for others who need help, and get involved in helping someone else.

Be inspired: look at how other people have overcome their adverse events and succeeded. I channeled the experiences of the many friends I have who have survived (and thrived) their cancers, and it really made a difference for me.

Speaking of friends, be grateful for the support and encouragement of your friends and family. Mine were instrumental in my recovery. Even reading their messages on social media was so important.

I wish you the best as you learn how to be a resilient person!

Tell Me A Story

 

One of the most important aspects of an organization’s success is the quality of the stories it tells. Your narrative, told in a straightforward way, stating your mission in a concise way, and providing insight into your impact is the best way to build your community of dedicated staff, board, volunteers, donors, and stakeholders.

Your narrative should be reflected in everything you do- internally as well as externally- to communicate with your community. Your website, donor mailings, newsletters, social media posts, and public speaking messages should all be presented in a way that tells a story and draws more people in to tell their stories as well.

In order to do this successfully, your narrative needs to be clear, consistent, and strong. You and everyone in your organization (and I mean EVERYONE) need to be able to tell your story to everyone and anyone, with the conviction that it has the potential to build a community, expand your reach, and change lives.

Building your narrative should be a strategic part of your growth plan. Starting with developing an “elevator pitch” and then honing it into a comprehensive “brand” is the ultimate goal. Once you have your narrative, make sure everyone knows it. Make sure everyone feels comfortable telling the story in their own authentic way. Adapt the narrative to be appropriate and targeted to your various audiences.

If you want to learn more about how to build your narrative, let’s talk.

How to Think

“Follow effective action with quiet reflection. From the quiet reflection will come even more effective action.”  Peter Drucker

My last blog post about the “Schultz Hour” got me thinking even more about the subject of introspection. Research shows that people who practice self-reflection perform better, are more productive, and are happier than those who don’t.

Giving yourself a chance to invest in conscious thoughts can even make you a better leader. So how do you do it?

There are many ways to train yourself to detach and just THINK. Try this: First, schedule a time to do this regularly- at least weekly. Sit in a quiet place with no distractions. Turn off your phone. Start to clear your mind. Try some deep breaths. Then ask yourself some questions: How am I handling (or not handling) a difficult situation or relationship? How could I have been more effective in that meeting the other day? Am I ignoring things that I shouldn’t? How do I help my team achieve their goals?

If you enjoy writing, try journaling your thoughts. If you think better when outdoors, go for a walk.

Focus on one question at a time. See what comes up. Trust your gut- if you let it, it will lead you in a direction that can help clarify your thoughts.

If you feel stuck or frustrated trying to practice self-reflection, ask for help. Use a friend or colleague whose judgement you trust to talk things out with. Then try it one your own again.

Good luck! Contact me for more on how you can become a better leader.

What Do Great Board Members Bring to the Table?

How do you know when you have the right board members sitting at the table? Hopefully, you have members who already have these qualities. If not, you can use this as part of your cultivation and development process.

Enthusiasm: They demonstrate a passion for the cause, a willingness to act as an ambassador for their organization, and an ability to inspire excitement in others.

Education or Experience: They possess knowledge and skills that can help your organization succeed.

Expectations: They present with the attitude that their skills and abilities will be respected and utilized appropriately, that they will be encouraged in their efforts to contribute to the growth and advancement of the organization, and that they will behave ethically and professionally.

Energy: They show the stamina to fulfill their obligations and responsibilities and can energize others.

Good luck! I can help you create a board that works for you. Please be in touch with me, ewoolfe@intuitionconsult.com.

It's Time for Your Yearly Physical

It's Spring! And it's time for your checkup. Your organizational checkup. Time for a peek under the hood to assess how healthy it is. Here we go...

First, do you have a good CEO/Board Chair relationship? Joan Garry believes that this is the single most important sign of organizational health. Do you both understand your roles? Are you partners in your strategic analysis of the organization?

Does your organization have a strong strategic plan? It doesn't have to be a written plan. It doesn't have to be "fancy." But strategy does need to be a vital part of what the Board develops and oversees.

Is there a culture of philanthropy? Does everyone in the organization- Board, staff, volunteers, stakeholders- participate in supporting the organization through fundraising and telling the story of your organization's impact?

Speaking of storytelling, does everyone in the organization know how to articulate the mission, vision and values? By doing this, they can communicate your  organization's impact in transformative ways.

Is your staff motivated and engaged? Are they working well as a team and as individuals? Are they happy?

Finally, do you have sustainability and succession plans in place? Creating a sustainable future involves setting both short and long-term goals and diversification of resources. It also includes leadership cultivation, which is why a succession plan is essential.

Asking yourself these questions, and being honest about where you might need some improvement, is the key to your organizational health. Start now!

Please be in touch with me at ewoolfe@intuitionconsult.com for help with making your organization the healthiest it can be!

What Do Great Leaders Need?

No one is born knowing everything there is to know about leadership. Much of what makes a great leader has to be learned. There's a difference between leadership skills (what you know) and leadership attributes (who you are). A great leader needs both. Let's focus on leadership attributes - those qualities that seem to be inborn in many great leaders:

  • Passionate: about mission, about strategic decisions, about life
  • Authentic: building trust; being honest, genuine and forthcoming
  • Curious: engaging people by asking questions and listening to the answers
  • Humorous: laughter at self and situations
  • Fearless: trying new solutions and thinking creatively about things
  • Joyous: expressing happiness

 

There are most certainly more of these attributes. If you have an attribute to contribute to this discussion, please reach out to me at ewoolfe@intuitionconsult.com

 

How To Hire a Great Consultant

Need help growing your organization? Want your board or staff to function more effectively? Thinking of hiring a consultant? Do you know how to find the right person for your team? A great consultant:

  • Has self-confidence: they should approach their work with a high degree of certainty about the direction that work should take
  • Has a good understanding of the business: they have a grounding in both practical and theoretical knowledge
  • Has skills that are adaptable: they can apply their skills across many different situations and can deliver innovative ideas and strategies
  • Has the ability to explain and simplify: they can make complex problems and issues understandable, without jargon
  • Can think on their feet: they can come up with more than one solution to a problem, and can improvise when challenged
  • Has good listening skills: they ask questions and listen carefully to the responses, in order to fully understand their client's needs
  • Gains the client's trust: they work at developing a real relationship with the client and the organization
  • Remembers who comes first: THE CLIENT ALWAYS COMES FIRST!

 

If you are thinking of engaging a consultant to help you and your organization find the best path, please be in touch with me at ewoolfe@intuitionconsult.com

Aspiration as Intention

"Far away there in the sunshine are my highest aspirations. I may not reach them, but I can look up and see their beauty, believe in them, and try to follow where they lead."    ~ Louisa May Alcott Welcome to the unveiling of my 2017 intention! I know you have all been waiting patiently while I figured out what it would be. I was waiting patiently too, for the inspiration. Last night I came across this quote, and it just clicked.

So this year's intention is : ASPIRE. I hope to be able to:

Acknowledge my aspirations

Share my aspirations with others

Pursue a purposeful path in following my aspirations

Inspire others to aspire

Respect others' aspirations

Eliminate ego from my aspirations

I will be sharing my aspirations in future posts and writing about how this intention is being fulfilled as we travel through the year.  Here we go....

Be Present

"The most important person is the one you are with in this moment."               ~Leo Tolstoy How many times have you been sitting at the table or desk, trying to have a conversation about something, only to have the other person scrolling through their phone and not paying close (or any) attention to what you're saying? Or - even worse - how many times have you been the one not listening?

It's not just the pull of the smartphone that distracts us. There are too many opportunities for our focus to be drawn away from our colleagues and companions. I know I'm not alone in feeling disappointed and sometimes really irritated when it happens to me, and I regret the times I've made others feel that way with my behavior.

So this week, the post is about BEING PRESENT: giving others your undivided attention, listening, looking them in the eye and responding, and communicating directly with them.

A couple of suggestions on how to accomplish this:

  • At work, encourage a "no devices" policy at meetings, except if needed for a presentation or note-taking.
  • At home, reserve meals for conversation, without technology.
  • When out with friends, try playing the game where the first person to reach for their phone during the meal pays for everyone.
  • If you're the one trying to get someone's full attention, ask for it in an assertive way: "I have something I want to talk with you about. Can you put your phone away for a few minutes while we have this conversation?"

 

Now put down your phone and talk to someone! Good luck with being present!

 

Self Improvement

"There's only one corner of the universe you can be certain of improving - your own self."        ~Aldous Huxley What does "self improvement" mean to you? What are you thinking about doing in 2017 to improve yourself?

For me, I will be spending a (scheduled in advance, ideally) percentage of my time reading, participating in webinars, watching TED Talks and other videos, and connecting with my colleagues to widen my world.

I'll be learning new things from my clients, who always manage to teach me how to be a better person through my work.

I hope to travel to new places to expand my view of the world, meeting new people along the way.

And I'm looking forward to applying all that I see, do and learn to making my personal and professional life richer and more meaningful.

How about you?

Let me know what your plan is, at ewoolfe@intuitionconsult.com. I'd love to join you!

'Tis the Season for Board Giving

The title of this post is not entirely correct: it is ALWAYS the season for board giving! However, since many organizations are running their year-end campaigns, board giving is often included at this time. Board chairs and leaders have been known to complain that they can't get their boards to give. It's considered integral to the "culture of philanthropy" to have board members contribute to the support of their organizations. If they don't do it, how can we expect others to do it? The board should set an example for staff, volunteers, and other stakeholders.

How can 100% board giving be accomplished?

What seems to work best is for there to be a clearly articulated policy for board giving that is encouraged and enforced throughout the year. Yes, there can be a "give-get" policy or a sliding scale contribution, but it's most important for whatever policy there is to be documented and monitored regularly, and for all incoming board members to be aware of the policy, ideally as part of their job description. It is the board chair's responsibility to communicate with each board member about their responsibility, and to offer opportunities for training that support their efforts.

For more information on how to work with boards in creating a culture of philanthropy, please be in touch with me at ewoolfe@intuitionconsult.com.

Good luck!

 

 

 

The Happy Healthy Nonprofit, Part Two

Last year, I wrote about a presentation at the Alliance for Nonprofit Management conference by Beth Kanter, where she talked about a book she was working on with Aliza Sherman, another nonprofit guru. That book, The Happy Healthy Nonprofit: Strategies for Impact Without Burnout, is now out and highly recommended. The premise of the book is that while nonprofits are mission-driven, they will only be at their most productive if their employees are happy and healthy. So often, self-care is the first thing to be crossed off the list when there are deadlines, details, and stress to deal with. On both an individual and an organizational level, many nonprofits have a long way to go in creating nurturing environments for themselves.

Sometimes, this "overdrive ethic" is valued and rewarded. Who stayed all night to finish the grant application? Who worked all weekend? Who hasn't seen the inside of a gym all year (or ever)? In addition, many nonprofit employees are doing emotionally draining work and need to nourish themselves even more, but don't allow themselves the time because their organizational culture does not allow for it. As one of the employees interviewed for the book said, "We are going to kill ourselves trying to change the world."

There are success stories in the book that help create a road map for other groups looking to do better.  The authors outline a few steps that every organization can follow to improve their culture and support their employees in a healthier lifestyle, beginning with raising awareness of the issue and educating employees about self-care. From that point, everyone can develop their own personalized self-care plan that can have measurable and trackable results, and share some of their activities with the group, fostering positive relationships within the organization that can help transform the culture.

I encourage you to read the book and let me know your thoughts at ewoolfe@intuitionconsult.com. Happy and healthy reading!