nonproft; consulting

Are You Working Too Hard?

This week's Big Question is brought to you by Dan Rockwell, the Leadership Freak, in his recent blog, The Effort Illusion: Hard Work is the Answer.  In it, he breaks down the Big Question into seemingly simple questions which are actually not all that simple.

In the work I do with CEOs, I find that I often ask these questions to help them clarify their role and responsibilities, and to keep them focused on moving forward. Almost always, the message is: More is not always better. As Dan asks, "How does the Effort Illusion hold you back?"

This summer, take a break, scale back, allow yourself to just think instead of do. See what happens.

Please be in touch if you want help with assessing this Big Question, or any of the questions I've been asking this year.


The Five Pillars of Personal Leadership

"The greatest source of transforming the world is in transforming yourself."

This great quote is from a great podcast I had the opportunity to listen to the other day, with Professor Hitendra Wadhwa of Columbia Business School.  The 17-minute podcast focuses on personal leadership, with an emphasis on the personal qualities needed to become a true leader.

The pillars that Dr. Wadhwa identifies are:

  • Purpose or Drive: what compels you to do what you do -there has to be something that propels you forward;
  • Wisdom or Mastery: what you contribute to the conversation in knowledge, skills, or experience;
  • Interface between you and the world:  the emotional quotient you bring to your work- kindness, empathy, compassion;
  • Self-realization: your core insights - you don't need others' approval because validation comes from within; and
  • Growth: your potential to learn and discover.

There's also a Q+A part of the podcast, where Dr. Wadhwa gets into how someone knows they are a true leader, and how leaders keep growing (hint: surround yourself with inspiration). 

A final insight: positive change in your self and your relationships creates a concurrent change in structures. So if you are looking to create a great organization, look inside first.

Enjoy listening to the podcast, and please be in touch if I can help you become a better leader!

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!


Building Your Leadership Team

Like a house, your organization needs a strong foundation to avoid collapse. That foundation is made up of PEOPLE.  And, most important, the people on your leadership team.

 What are the qualities of a strong leadership team?

-        A strong moral and ethical code

-        A passion for the cause and for the work involved in furthering the mission

-        An ability to put aside ego to build the culture of the organization

-        A great sense of humor

-        A fearless attitude toward change

-        An inquisitive mind

 If these are the qualities of your leadership team, congratulations! If not, use this as a goal for identifying and recruiting the best candidates for building your organization from the ground up.


Please contact me for more on building a great leadership team.

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.

Innovation: Find Your Own Path

"Do not go where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail"  Ralph Waldo Emerson Many of the organizations I work with are small and, to some degree, struggling to grow.  Their efforts to fundraise, gain visibility, and expand their reach often stretch them to exhaustion.  In that environment, it's often difficult to contemplate innovation, but that's exactly what they need to do.  Pushing themselves to do something different- create a new program, introduce themselves to a whole new constituent group,  raise money in a creative way- is challenging but can lead to a whole new world of results.

One of my clients has decided not to do the "same old, same old" type of program development and instead is moving toward embracing their social entrepreurial side by creating a new app.  The process of bringing the app to fruition has introduced them to new people (including venture capitalists with funding!) and expanded their visibility in an entirely new way.  Their efforts are bringing new enthusiasm to the Board, who are embracing the project and working toward its implementation. brave enough to innovate, and see if you can forge a new path for your organization!


How Do You Find Your Best Path?

As a nonprofit leader, when is it time for you to look for help in addressing the weaknesses in your organization?  If you are from the corporate world, how do you engage your company's resources in philanthropic ventures that align with your values and those of your employees?  How do you develop the relationships that can lead you along your best path, toward growth and visibility and success? It's a given that you will not always have all the answers you need to do your work.  Sometimes you need someone with an objective perspective to spark fresh thinking, or someone who has a deeper understanding of the issues you are facing and the possible solutions, or someone with an awareness of best practices that can help you make choices.   Who is that someone??

A consultant can play the role of advisor, analyst, diagnostician, teacher and problem solver, depending upon your needs.  They can help you identify and address key challenges, changes in organizational structure or direction, and questions about mission alignment. The right consultant can perform specific tasks such as conducting a search for a new CEO, providing a board development workshop, creating and implementing a strategic planning process, and helping to cultivate new relationships with corporate partners.

I like to think  that in my role as a consultant, I am the student to my client in some ways, and the instructor in others.  The dialogue that evolves from this dynamic is candid, objective, inquisitive and informed, and leads to workable goals, shared expectations, and long-term, sustainable success.

You can find the consultant who is the best fit for your needs by asking a few questions of yourself, your organization/company, and the potential consultant:

  • What AREN'T we capable of doing ourselves to foster growth or maximize our mission? Almost every organization faces this at some point: what needs to happen next that we just don't have the skill set to accomplish on our own?
  • What outcome(s) would we like to see?  You will need to have some idea of what you want a consultant to focus on.
  • What are the costs of hiring a consultant?   Especially for smaller organizations, it can be difficult to justify spending needed resources on something (or someone) outside of program or operations.  But sometimes you need to invest in the future, and there are many consultants who will work with you on their fees to fit with your budget.
  • What are the benefits of hiring a consultant? Aside from addresssing the specific needs you are hiring them for, a consultant can provide a different, objective perspective on various aspects of your business.
  • What is our timeline and what are the deliverables?  Being clear about this from the beginning, and having shared expectations, will enable you to have the best outcome.
  • Are we able to give sufficient time to a consultant to orient them and keep them on track?  This is something many clients don't realize is an important part of the consultant/client relationship. A consultant will need direction from you in order to do their job properly.
  • How do we vet the capabilities of potential consultants?  Ask questions about previous experience,  get references and request work samples.  If the consultant will be working with staff and/or Board members, have them participate in the vetting process.
  • What type of experience do we want in a consultant?  Someone whose capabilities and strengths are a good match for your needs.
  • What other attributes should we look for in a consultant?  Someone who will listen as well as speak.  Someone whose opinions come after careful consideration.  Someone who will be honest with you.  Someone you can trust to keep your confidentiality.

Good luck as you search for the best way to find your path!