Tagged: bad management

Innovation as a Culture…..

It all started with a statistic in 2006, repeated in 2011: Two thirds of all executive directors of US nonprofits intend to retire by 2016 (Cornelius, Moyers, & Bell, 2011).

That led to a thought: Filling those positions are Gen X and Y, who work so very differently and embrace a culture of Innovation

That led to a fear: Is our industry prepared?

That lead to a revelation: We need to focus hard on developing Innovative Cultures now, in order to weather the shift.

Innovate: Verb

1: to introduce as, or as if, new
2: to effect a change in 
Merriam-Webster Dictionary, 2012
 

Innovation is the creation of better or more effective products, processes, services, technologies, or ideas that are accepted by markets, governments, and society. Innovation builds on existing ideas. It is not to be confused with Invention. The Printing Press was Invented, the Kindle was Innovative.

If our Grandparents were Inventors, then Gen X/Y are Innovators. They may not own the market on Innovation, but lead the charge and drive the process. Their Innovative spirit causes them to see work differently, and for those working in the Nonprofit Sector, and stepping into the vacuum of leadership soon to be created, that could be a challenge.

The exiting generation of Boomers tend to believe work was for life and WAS life. After all, they created the ‘workaholic’ and ‘superwoman’ concepts. The Gen X/Y to come, view work and their work life much differently. They are traditionally seen as individualistic, self-reliant and skeptical of authority. They expect great workplace flexibility. They are tech savvy and seek diverse groups. The speed and ease of the Internet  and its subsequent vast knowledge base, has led the ‘Net Generation’ of Y and Xer’s to be flexible and changing in its consciousness and with how it is communicated. We can see how this is in great contrast to the current environment of the risk averse, staid and steady world of the nonprofit.

However, we have seen some break-outs in the industry, nonprofits that have jumped the fence to do things differently, and with great results. For these nonprofits, we see that Innovation provides bold, new approaches to the way they work; they have decidedly replicated and integrated what can be learned from other disciplines; and they have provided ideas and strategies to our industry on how organizations can better foster new ideas and solutions to challenges and mission need.

Which is just the type of culture required to manage through such a massive shift in leadership, that is pending in our industry in the coming years.

What is needed for your organization to jump the fence into a culture of Innovation and to stand apart and excel in the approaching change?

Here are some simple and manageable ideas to get started.

1) Create and/or Embrace Your Constraints:

An excellent line from Marnie Webb, CEO of TechSoup Global, reflects “Innovation happens when people work within constraints — in an environment of not enough — and they figure out how to do it anyway.”  (Webb, 2011).   Well, doesn’t that just describe the EVER PRESENT environment of most, if not all, nonprofit organizations? So lack of resources, lack of time, lack of experience is a benefit and not a detriment to your Innovation.

Inspire a spirit of can do in your team: Teach them to routinely say to the world, “I know you said we can’t do this, but we are  going to figure a way that we can.”  A fun way to do this is to challenge your staff each month with one new problem to solve. It can be simple or complex, but make sure there are no single ‘right’ answers expected, and that all respondents get an encouraging word about their creativity in designing a solution. Take a look at the monthly responses and find one or two things that can be implemented from each, to make this activity actionable and inspiring.

2) Data is fuel for Innovation:

Research has had its day recently in the public square of discussion among the nonprofit set. It wasn’t until this recent decade though, that many nonprofits began to wake up to the fact that data drives exceptional performance. Metrics on outcomes of service and mission performance, as required now by grantors; benchmarks on philanthropy, collected and aggregated to drive decisions on fundraising expenditures; demographics on constituency that support political advocacy and marketing investments – all data driven for enhanced results.

Data drives Innovation as well.  How many experiments do you have currently going in your organization? What are you currently testing? If the answer is nothing, the future may look bleak for you. Testing gives you all the raw data you need to begin to get creative and innovate existing projects and services. Without it, you’re shooting in the dark.

It doesn’t matter where you start, as long as you start. Test something every week, every month and have a few tests going at the same time. Overall, testing does not significantly impact resources devoted to your project: You’re already completing the project with all the resources you have and need. Testing requires a simple tracking methodology.

A simple trial test, to get yourself and your staff acquainted with a culture of testing, is to develop a survey used with every donor/donation received. The survey can ask some common demographic questions, but also some quirky ones:  What color would you paint your car if you could paint it any color? What did you want to be when you grew up? What’s your favorite treat food?

The resulting data can be a rich playground for your team to get creative. What if more than 75% of your donors said Popcorn was their favorite treat food? How could you use this information to better your appeals, raise more money, sign up more volunteers, get more people to your programs? You could also take that quirky data, create an info-graphic and share with your constituency, giving them all an intimate look at the tribe they are part of in supporting your mission!

3) Free Access, Embrace Risk:

Let your staff play. Open up their access to the internet, create an environment of walking around to work, withhold judgement, encourage impossible dreams, create shared spaces for interaction. Let go of your organizational fear, and strict fence posts, and let your staff bloom! Additionally, inspire and ask you constituents and donor base to get involved. Create spaces for shared ideas, allow your donors to see their own giving histories, to watch projects unfold and to openly track progress of service delivery and program development.  Yes, even the warts and the odd parts.

Try this for one month: Using a cloud based program, like Dropbox or Google+, create a shared folder or a group for idea generation. Invite staff, board, donors, clients, to get involved. Post a problem or question of the month. Then encourage everyone to drop a comment. People love to give their feedback, so encourage that sharing on your real issues. Why not start with this question: What one thing would you change about us? Interact with the group, asking further questions, exploring responses, challenging perceptions.

4) Allow process, iteration, pivoting. Don’t kill the messenger or the message – massage it.

If you don’t give Innovation the time and attention it deserves, it will not produce and it will not gel as a culture. There are no bad ideas, only ideas which have not matured yet. Like a fine wine, an idea becomes innovative after taking some time to develop. Too often we rush to judgement on a solution, concept or strategy. Keep all ideas generative and don’t lose any along the way. Pop them open every so often, encourage follow through and push back on development on those that look promising or have some immediate potential application. Use data to tweak them along the way and send them out for more testing. Turn them over, look at them differently.  One of my favorite examples of this is asking the question: How is your_____________  like a ________? For instance, “How is your Nonprofit, like a Toaster?”.

5) Be sincere

Finally, don’t offer lip service on Innovation. It knows when you are lying and it knows when you are passionate about serving it well. Innovation is not a tactic, or a business management style. It is truly a culture, one which can only come from authentic, inspired and patient nurturing. Making it part of the spirit of your organization will yield powerful results.

SHIFT: Meeting Corporate Philanthropy Where It’s Headed- Influencers

THE INFLUENCE OF GOVERNANCE ON CORPORATE GIVING

In addition to the shifts and perspectives being discussed and implemented in the business academic world, we see advancement in environment surrounding business governance as well.

ISO 26000 was implemented September 14 2010. For those not familiar, The ISO –a network of the national standards institutes of some 160 countries that develops and coordinates standards of operations for business lines. The standards govern management of Quality, Risk Environmental and now Social Responsibility. Simply put, these standards are applied to a company’s business practices, who actively engage in pursuing compliance. When they do so, they are awarded an ISO brand of approval for achieving and maintaining these standards. These are highly coveted and companies who achieve them make them visible.

In the words of the ISO itself “The world demands social responsibility. ISO 26000, the first internationally approved standard to provide guidance on social responsibility, is a global response to this global challenge.”

The ISO 26000 is intended to outline for companies:

  • concepts, terms and definitions related to social responsibility;
  • the background, trends and characteristics of social responsibility;
  • principles and practices relating to social responsibility;
  • the core subjects and issues of social responsibility;
  • integrating, implementing and promoting socially responsible behavior throughout the organization and, through its policies and practices, within its sphere of influence;
  • identifying and engaging with stakeholders; and
  • communicating commitments, performance and other information related to social responsibility.

This is the first time an organized set of standards has been produced and disseminated for companies to follow. Thought leaders believe this will be game changing for companies in strategizing and developing their social responsibility.

ISO 26000 is a response and a governance influence on corporations. IN part it may stem from the multitude of influencer’s outside the corporate circle. When JP Morgan Chase investors assemble to vote on a “Genocide Free” investing policy for the company, the pressure to conform and perform to standards is undeniable.  Loss of trust by the consumer, civil society activism and Institutional investor pressures, all bear significant influence on corporations today.

VIDEO: Highlights on ISO 26000 from inside sources            

Engaging your Board in Fundraising

Boards are complex and can be your best friend and worst enemy.     A frienemy.

We rely on our board for governance, engagement, advocacy, financial authority and leadership. We ask their input, seek their counsel and require their approval. They come to us from the community,  some as a requirement and some as a favor. They are the voice of the people.

From the people, it should therefore be easy for them to go back to the people to ask for support.

But it isn’t always so.

Most executive directors and nonprofit officers will tell you that getting their board to raise funds is one of,   if not THE,   biggest challenge they face.   Its often uncomfortable for the board and the ED to talk about the issue. Fundraising by the board is alluded to in the ED’s reports, it is referred to in the board documents, but it is not always the reality.

We will be presenting an important workshop on September 29th in Boston on just this subject.   Not to be missed!

Hosted by the Center for Nonprofit Success, we will be speaking on “Engaging your Board in Fundraising”:

Your board can be among your most powerful fundraising assets. That is, if you use it correctly. Too often, the board is not involved in fundraising or views fundraising as a daunting task. The result is that many board members neglect their responsibilities, which are then left to staff members who have too many other responsibilities already. To address this problem, your board members need to be reminded of the importance of their fundraising responsibilities, and learn concrete tools and techniques that make fundraising a rewarding task.

Topics we will cover include:

  • Why board members fear fundraising, and what you can do about it
  • What board members need to know to start fundraising
  • Steps for energizing your board even when you are not on the board
  • How to deal with board members who won’t fundraise even when they know they should
  • Building and maintaining the fundraising partnership between the board and  development staff

You will gain fresh ideas to energize your board members about fundraising. The session is designed for beginning to intermediate fundraisers.

Click here for more information on the conference and to register. As conferences go, this one is relatively inexpensive but the material and insight you’ll gain is incredibly rich.

We will see you there!!!

1 in Five Million Billion Trillion

I was twittered about a direct mail letter someone received from St Jude’s Hospital, asking them for a renewal donation. This mass produced letter had a return tear off, preprinted with three separate boxes, in which the recipient was to mark off which donation they would like to make. We all get them. Usually they say $25, $50,$100 or some such combination.

In this case, the tear off read $0, $0, $0. The twittee indicated the letter made the same mistake, asking for a $0 donation like last year.

What?!?!

Clearly this is a mass produced request. Nonprofits like St Judes are the Big Box Store of the nonprofit world. Processing and manufacturing donors in mass production. Quantity over quality. They have to, to feed their gianormous budgets for personnel and S+E costs.

We all use mass mailing companies. What was most objectionable, in this case, is when the twitee called St Judes and questioned the mistake, the hospital said yes it was an error, the mail house did right by them by rebating some money for the production, but the hospital had no intention to follow up with the donors who received the incorrect request, there were just too many.

I dont know about you, but I would NOT want to feel like I was one of so many that a phone call or follow up letter could not be sent. If my dollars are so small to be insignificant enough to justify correction, then I’m not giving to the right organization.

I would bet among those who received the incorrect letter, and were NOT contacted in follow up, were some who would have and could have been life long and major donors potentially sharing millions, if given the attention and respect a letter or phone call would have cost St Judes.

We have come too far from what npo’s were- local, personal, compassionate, respectful companies, helping people with money and intention connect with need.

Never, EVER let your size dictate your stewardship. Find a way or go local.

Report: Tour of Missouri needs fiscal policy guide – Kansas City Star

More stories hit the media on financial accountability and NPO’s. Is there an organization out there that can take this 600 pound gorilla on? A group needs to convene to research and make recommendations on what policies and oversight should and could be occurring to ensure donor rights and advocacy of respectful and honorable use of donated funds.

Report: Tour of Missouri needs fiscal policy guide – Kansas City Star

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The revolution in ‘fundraising’ EVENTS – how not to raise money

Nonprofit fundraising has become known to the common masses for its ‘fundraising’ events and its sale activities. Talk to any layperson about being in ‘fundraising’ and they respond “Oh, you must be good at planning events!” or “I was never good at selling cookies”.

Events are commonly misunderstood. Possibly the misunderstanding comes from the saturation affect: the daily arrival of invites, ads and press releases on what black tie gala, or hayride and cookout is being hosted for which group, how much they raised or plan to raise, and who attended. The misunderstanding is that events are hosted to raise funds.

Too often the reality is, the money raised is minimal compared to the expense, the attendees learn little about the organization as beneficiary, and the event is seen as a burden on the supporter- an obligation that must be born to show support and that most donors would just as happily support the nonprofit in other ways, ways more lucrative and efficient to the nonprofits mission.

Disagree? See, as evidence, the recent results of the cancellation of such ‘fundraising’ events due to economic stress. One nonprofit board member, Nancy Jarecki, speaking in an article in the Nonprofit Times, observes “It’s kind of strange, when people are almost not required or obligated to get that event invitation in the mail, that expectation that they feel like they’ve got to do it, they still write the check,” Jarecki said. “They tended to still give, but on their own. They didn’t have the pressure of buying a $1,000 ticket”

In the same article, Carol Kurzig executive Director of the Avon Foundation notes “In general, in our experience, individual donations are holding very well and have increased significantly this year”

And in a study conducted in 2007, the nonprofit watchdog group, Charity Navigator concluded “…special events are inefficient in comparison to overall fundraising activities” and “Many health charities would benefit from shifting their fundraising focus away from special events.” Most disturbingly, the report went on to discover “A large percent of charities are reporting their special events data incorrectly, with no recourse from state or federal regulators.” But that’s a topic for another post, I digress.

So, the question then becomes- Why? Why are nonprofit leaders across the nation continuing to perpetrate this crime on the donating public? Why do they continue to reel head long onto the path of wasted money and large headaches in pursuit of raising funds, if the results are poor return on investment, bad donor feelings and a weak economic model in a stressful economy?

1. Perception

Unlike our corporate sisters, nonprofits have been indoctrinated into believing that they must perform to the expectation of the masses, allowing the public to lead the development and performance of the NPO, rather than driving performance and perception from their core product line. Public opinion sways management more than outcomes when it comes to fundraising. Maybe it’s because many fundraisers come from the service delivery field, where public need and opinion rightly DOES drive program. Maybe it’s because our Board of Directors often do not have sufficient experience in philanthropy to be governing such decisions. Maybe we just don’t know how to stop.

2. It’s easy

Okay, hosting events is not really easy. They’re a heck of a lot of work- volunteer coordination, set up, break down, mailings, registration tracking, and more mailings. And all of those decisions. Hours and hours of time and resources, for months on end, to produce a three hour event. But what makes them easy and attractive is the group nature of the solicitation. No one is on the end of the limb. No one is in the spotlight asking for the gift. The ‘ask’ is not from a philanthropic place, it’s from a sales place. And a sale is an academic activity, it’s understandable, it’s American. I give you this, you give me that. It seems fair. But compared to cultivating and building a relationship with a real person – mano a mano – to ask them for money, well bring on the flower choices and dinner menus. Let’s have a party.

3. It draws daily attention

Show me the society page that has picture upon picture of Mrs. Jenna Moneybags and the Executive Director of the We Need Your Help nonprofit organization with the head line “Years of Cultivation and Stewardship Pays Off: Large ask gifts WNYH organization with $100,000 for their children’s ward.” Valuable philanthropy just doesn’t get that kind of everyday publicity or pictures and smiles. It doesn’t market.

4. It feels good

Volunteers want to help. Planning events gives them something to do.

All of which, while being valid and understandable, still doesn’t answer the question why do we continue.

I propose we place a moratorium on all new ‘fundraising’ events, all expansion of  ‘fundraising’ events, or even, the continuation of dying ‘fundraising’ events. The economy seems to be helping us do just that.

I next propose we educate our boards in a way that helps them become more effective in governing philanthropic decision. Let’s start with the wasteful nature of events as fundraisers.

In tandem, we need to provide academic educational opportunities and tracks of learning and growth for fundraising professionals. More academics on developing relationships, cultivating constituents, stewarding donors and less of the ‘how to host an event’ training is needed. And it needs to be qualified in a tiered way that allows the development of professionals along lines of experience, from entry level to experienced professional.

Finally, let’s develop a mental picture of what events can actually do for us: engage volunteers, bring awareness, and satisfy public perception. But they don’t raise money and so therefore are not ‘Fund Raisers’. If we build our events using these three core beliefs, I reason that waste will be reduced, donor market share will increase and philanthropic profits will rise.

Ken Grimsley on Workplace Stress

job surveyFrom Ken Grimsley:

Working in diverse corporate cultures with the Fortune 100, small businesses and nonprofits as consultant and staff member, I’ve seen some vivid examples of stress.

Other than the impending terror of losing a job with a bloated mortgage and work overload beyond reason, here’s my Top Five (can you add more?):

1. Gossip. Triangulation and back-biting is only slightly less brutal than a dog fight. Several women executives have told me that it’s far worse with women employees, but I’ve also seen it with men. Managers, Directors, VPs, and yes, eve in the C-suite. This insidious practice snowballs in and between departments faster than an Obama Tweet announcing tax refunds.
2. Process. Inefficient coordination that wastes time kills spirit. Result: stress from spending two hours to do a half-hour of work, or from revising work that was done improperly. This includes processes that are too dependent on a “rock star” leader (the latest unfortunate exercise of ego), or too dependent on an ill-defined group without a coherent process with accountable metrics.

3. Communication. It’s not just that this is an expertise of mine, it’s a real stress beast in large and small organizations. Poor communication from the C-suite, from team leaders, and among team members spells disaster. Issues become nightmares, objectives become barriers, and anxiety swells bigger than credit default swap debt. Having a workload without clear communication strategy is like having the latest Mac Pro notebook without the use of the screen, or having an iTouch you can’t touch. Effective communication strategy and tactics are indispensable weapons for battling the stress beast.

4. Leadership. Lack of a clear mission and an inspiring vision will start a Tsunami of doubt that will crash into a flood of stress. People will drown in ambivalence, lack of motivation, lack of hope, and lack of confidence that their position or company has meaning or a future. Leadership doesn’t come from the hubris of certain Wall Street CEOs gaming to profit from the loss of others (charging taxpayers a high price for the “free” market philosophy); genuine leadership proves itself through innovation and vision which inspire others to do their best. This leads me to…

5. Engagement. Without an engaged workforce that believes in its mission and understands the value of its contribution, stress from any number of sources will grow like weeds in a foreclosed Vegas suburb.

Other stress catalysts, my Top Ten:

1. Bad coffee. And too much of it.
2. A new manager with something to prove.
3. A supervisor who dates your former spouse.
4. A CFO who keeps getting calls from Treasury Secretary Geithner.
5. No windows combined with small cubicles that have too many plants.
6. Keyboards sticky with sledge from other users.
7. An “updated brand campaign” every other month.
8. Internal news bulletin that “a new change initiative will save time”.
9. Meetings. Any meeting. Ever.
10. Company parties that involve Karaoke.

Ken Grimsley