Tagged: strategy

Capacity Building

Image: jscreationzs / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

If we ask any of our nonprofit prospects and clients, what is there biggest challenge besides fundraising, the answer is invariably “building capacity“.

Capacity building is a broad term that encompasses “actions that improve nonprofit effectiveness”. According to a journal released by the Foundation Center in 2003 entitled “Investing in Capacity Building: A Guide to High-Impact Approaches”, capacity building can take many forms, including:

  • Professional development for staff and board members
  • Opportunities for peer learning, networking or leadership development
  • Creating or re-examining organizational plans
  • Initiating collaboration with other nonprofits
  • Developing new sources for earned income
  • Utilizing pro bono support for high-impact projects

Many of the community foundations and professional associations for nonprofits with whom we work offer numerous opportunities for capacity building- from grants directly to the organizations to bring on talent, expand knowledge and build strategy; to offering workshops, seminars and conferences from which the nonprofits can learn.

Yet we are still talking about capacity building over a decade later. If we know these things mentioned prior can work, what isn’t working?

Our firm has studied this issue for two years. We have worked with over 1000 prospective clients in trying to establish a solution set that met their needs and their budget.  We’ve heard from each of them as to what they have tried to do on their own and with help from foundations, associations and in some cases universities. What we learned was that for each one, where the process of capacity building fell apart was in execution.

Good ideas, strategy, recommendations, action steps, all are excellent in theory but will fail the nonprofit if they feel unable to execute. Some obstacles to execution are time and resources, confidence and experience, and accountability.

Of the thousands of prospects and clients we spoke with, about 80% were deserving, viable nonprofits. They have neither the resources nor the time or support needed to truly benefit from a contract for private consulting support.

after our study of this issue, we built what we believe to be a game changing answer to the capacity building issue for these nonprofits.

BLOSSOM

When we realized the scope of this problem, we thought, what if we could create a learning lab, curating the best of educational videos, podcasts, journal articles, and books, in which nonprofit executives could reliably and affordably access these tools in an online workspace, at any time. And what if we supported each learner with a private coach, who would have complete access to their learning progress in the lab, evaluating and mentoring them through assignment completion and assessments, and meet with the learner by phone, skype or google hangout once a month for 90 minutes.

And then what if we could provide an upfront assessment for the learner and the coach and learner could identify one looming key performance issue in the organization that they want to create a long term project around, affecting real time change to the nonprofits outcomes.

And finally what if we assembled six learners in a team, where they could interact, share ideas and have rich discussions around topics relevant to the nonprofit industry, effecting their organizations?

Around these assumptions we built BLOSSOM: The Virtual Incubator for Nonprofit Executives.

The incubator is a twelve month program, covering fifteen different nonprofits business topics. Learners start with an assessment on their influence style and on their organizations health. From these assessments the coach will develop leadership learning opportunities and will define with the learner their long term project. The Learner receives an online workspace that has the best of curated educational materials, tools, and templates, along with a resource library of additional information and downloadables. Learners are assembled with five other executives, for teams of six, who meet once per month online to discuss general nonprofit topics of interest. They also hold each other accountable for the progress and completion of their long term projects. The program culminates with a review of real time outcomes acheived, completion of the long term project, and a new network of colleagues and support members to continue the growth and sustainability acheived.

Early feedback was overwhelmingly rejoiceful! Yes, rejoiceful, lol!  Brilliant was one word used, Something I can really rely on for change in my organization was another phrase heard often.

We would love to get your feedback. Request access to the Free Trial Module and tell us what you think!

Email us for acccess to your FREE TRIAL MODULE

roots@harvestdevelopmentgrp.com or call us at 888-586-1103 ex2 to get immediate entry to the trial.

Success Strategies for Engaging, Recruiting, and Maintaining Volunteers Morning Musing Workshop

Hosted by The Community Foundation of Middlesex County. Presented by Harvest Development Group, LLC. Client Engagement Director, Jeanne Boyer Roy.

If you want to go fast – go alone! If you want to go far – go together!

Nonprofit organizations rely on volunteers – their passion, their commitment, and their time. Volunteers help nonprofit organizations meet their mission, and in doing so, they are key ambassadors in the community.

Harvest Development Group provides tools and strategies to craft a plan for managing volunteers that will ultimately lead to increased participation in fund development.

This workshop is free to nonprofit organizations – space is limited and pre-registration is requested.

Register by e-mailing Jamie or calling 860.347.0025.

Date/Time
14 Oct 2014
9:00 am – 10:30 am
Location
Community Foundation of Middlesex County, 211 South Main Street, Middletown, Connecticut

 

It’s All About Principle and Method

Clients come to Harvest Development Group with a variety of challenges facing their nonprofit organizations, but the underlying reason they need our help boils down to two simple aspects of their operations —  Principle and Method.

Principle and Method are the key elements of our work. The principles and methods may differ from organization to organization, but both are required to reach successful outcomes. Let’s put this into simple terms and examine the principle and method for getting dressed in the morning.

A Principle is a fundamental truth or proposition that serves as the foundation for a system of belief or behavior or for a chain of reasoning. Principles are established through trial, error, and observation. There are some common principles in getting dressed: one has to believe and agree that being dressed is important. An article of clothing is required to be classified as being dressed. To be accessible, the garment needs a place to reside when it’s not on our body. The garment also needs to be the right size and shape to fit our body. Finally, we need to be trained to assemble and secure the garment, learning techniques like buttoning, zippering and tying.

A Method is a particular form of procedure for accomplishing or approaching something;  a simple or detailed organized plan, sufficient to achieve successful outcomes. Some methods are “proven” meaning they have a good track record of success. Others are groundbreaking and innovative. There are many methods one can apply to getting dressed, each one personalized to our desired outcome. I used to watch my children get dressed — one putting one leg at a time into his pants and the other putting both legs into the pants before pulling them up. Each served their own purpose and both reached the successful outcome of wearing their pants. Efficiency and personal preference seemed to drive their actions.

The same concept of Principles and Methods can be applied to the business operations of a nonprofit organization. There are established, researched, well defined principles in program development, board development, philanthropy, recruitment and staffing. There are individualized methods that have been proven to work, and others that are innovative, which are applied to each as well.

When nonprofits contact Harvest Development Group for help, we assess to gauge what is at the root of the problem. With this information in mind, we teach the organization to apply the principles that lend support to these problems, and develop and apply the methods necessary to deliver on the outcomes they desire. So, as you can see, it all boils down to two simple aspects of your operation — Principles and Methods.

What is new is not always relevant. What is relevant is not always new.

crowdfunding_special-300x182

Crowd Funding PBS Special

PBS has been blogging about crowdfunding – the practice of funding a project or venture by raising many small amounts of money from a large number of people, typically via the Internet   – and their latest post engages nonprofits in thinking about the significant opportunity for financial success in crowdfunding.

From PBS’s post:

“The need for alternative fundraising methods clearly varies a lot across organizations. But even comfortable non-profits accept that crowdfunding has the potential to deliver a deep engagement between fundraisers and backers. And, as emergent civic crowdfunding models suggest, it has the potential to produce new alliances”

The post goes on to highlight success stories in the the crowdfunding sphere:

“In April, the Chicago Parks Foundation raised $62,113 for the expansion of the city’s Windy City Hoops basketball social program on IndieGoGo.”

” The Long Now Foundation is using this model for its Salon campaign, which has raised just over half of its $495,000 target. “

The post ends with this note of validation for many nonprofit’s marketing savvy and the opportunity to leverage that expertise for crowdfunding success. “Many non-profits are established experts in these areas. Many of them have stronger and more-established brands than even the best-known crowdfunding platforms. The quality and scale of crowdfunding campaigns would undoubtedly increase if they decided to apply their expertise to the field.”

While I appreciate what these types of articles do for innovative thinking, when they are sent out into the npo-sphere such as this, with no context to the implementation or integration of such a strategy into a broad range of tactics, it sends most charities desperate for money on a wild – and often disappointing- goose chase for their tens of thousands of dollars from ‘the web’. At best this is a distraction and a waste of resources which could go toward raising real money. At worst, it could be the straw that crumbles an already ailing organization.

In reality, what is new is not always relevant. What is relevant is not always new. Basing revenue development on scholarly data and best practices is essential to helping our nonprofits prosper.

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

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One Third of Your Revenue Depends on the Next Six Weeks

holiday party mad men

Our friends at Network for Good have prepared this easy to digest guide to Year End Fundraising Essentials 2013 filled with things you can do right now to ensure you get your 30 percent.

If you need some assistance with a plan or executing your strategy, we can help.  A third of your years revenue could depend on the next 6 weeks.

Our programs and services offer professional guidance for all requirements and budgets. Wherever you find your challenges, we have the experience and talent to bring you to a more profitable outcome.

Contact us for a no obligation consultation about your organization

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Download PDF of
Year End Fundraising Essentials 2013

LinkedIn Board Connect

LinkedIn has brought forth another way to use their social media tool. This one is targeted specifically at nonprofit leaders seeking to strengthen and grow their board leadership.

LinkedIn’s new Board Connect, is a suite of tools, including talent finder and a LinkedIn group, that allows nonprofits to ‘advertise’ their organization, mission, vision and goals and to review prospective board members resumes. The hope is that, progressive, caring, thoughtful business leaders will be revealed through this process.

Now for the reality.

Despite many other innovative technological and social media partners considering and launching the same concept – a pool for nonprofits to jump into and peddle their wares- the ability to attract and retain high level leadership is no further advanced.

I commend LinkedIn for their effort. It does no harm, and that is the most that can be said about this endeavor. It feels good for LinkedIn and their leadership team to be doing something – anything – to help the NPO sector. It gives yet another venue for NPO’s to congregate to, in the hopes of landing those really incredible volunteers.

But like the other efforts, it offers only passive development, not active, and creates yet another large room, devoid of substance, but filled with clutter and noise, that can be overwhelming and uninviting to the audience: the prospective business leaders.

A better approach is to create a source for those business leaders interested in seeking a more vested role in the nonprofit sector, to post their interest, areas of interest(types of NPO’s, causes, role seeking) and to have that be presented in LinkedIn as a searchable database. NPO’s have clear guidelines and matrices they use in seeking out and vetting specific people to be on their board. Contrary to common belief (and the way this new LinkedIn resource is designed) it’s not a matter of any captain in the storm or any suitor interested . Board selection is a scientific, strategic process that is lead by a core objective- to secure the right person for the right need in the boards governance goals for the organization.

My hope -and I truly believe LinkedIn is intent on making this a more sophisticated, valuable tool – is that the next iteration leans more toward what the NPO needs in this manner.

 

Intellectual Capital -or- He who has the best brains wins.

Intellectual Capital

               “We have moved from an economy of hands to an economy of heads.”

How are you managing the ‘heads’ of your organization?

The growing power of ideas – as manifested in innovative programs, policies and processes – is the key differentiator for a successful nonprofit organization.

This means that the most important resource in your nonprofit is not your donor database, or your special event… it’s the heads that walk through your door every day. These heads make up the differentiator known as Intellectual Capital.

Building your organization’s Intellectual Capital has become a science that has been shown to propel programs, services and fundraising, to higher standards of success.

To raise Intellectual Capital in your nonprofit in today’s competitive environment, create a culture that encourages creativity, innovation – get that good stuff out of those heads- and one that keeps your best heads around.

What are some signs that you are not leveraging the Intellectual Capital of your organization? Thomas Stewart, early proponent of the concept of Intellectual Capital through knowledge management states “like Lyme disease, knowledge management problems have  symptoms that sometimes mimic other problems.” Each of these symptoms indicate that people in the organization are not finding knowledge, moving it around, keeping it refreshed  and up to date, sharing it, or using it. (Zurbuchen, 1998)

Here is what to look for to determine where your organization stands in nurturing Intellectual Capital:

  • Same Mistake – seventh time.
  • Duplicated effort
  • “Silos”
  • Someone is out, and work comes to a halt
  • Consistent loss of materials and information for routine projects and processes
  • Goals and Objectives consistently not met
  • Poor customer feedback on performance
  • High turnover of excellent performing staff
  • Declining values: Financial, Performance, Membership
  • Poor Employee Morale

This list is not exhaustive but you get the picture, it’s a great illustration of the environment experienced by nonprofits who have not yet placed knowledge management of Intellectual Capital as a core business function.

Growing and retaining Intellectual Capital requires strategy, plan and measurement.

Growing Intellectual Capital

Some steps to take in growing Intellectual Capital:

  1. Make sharing knowledge easy: Create an organizational Wiki, a place for staff to enter learned concepts and share information or ideas.
  2. Encourage online communication: Organizational bulletin boards where your brightest can test theories through communication
  3. Reward innovative thinking: Most organizations are risk averse. This translates into new processes and programs meeting significant pushback. Flip your model of operating around to encourage, embrace and reward new processes and programs.

Retaining Intellectual Capital

Findings from the 2012 national Nonprofit Employment Trends Survey conducted by Nonprofit HR Solutions indicate that three-quarters of nonprofits do not have any formal strategy for retaining staff. That’s money out the door.

What are the key factors in retaining your Intellectual Capital investment? Surprisingly, in repeated studies of the nonprofit sector, rate of pay is not as important to retention as you may think. Here is what is important:

  1. An environment that encourages and rewards autonomy. That means self-direction, flexible work hours and environment (work from home, café, beach) and a results only measurement model. Innovative people like innovative work styles.
  2. Frequent, positive and meaningful feedback on work results. Especially with our newer generation of rising stars, Millennials thrive on feedback. This is a generation that, for good or bad, had helicopter parents, teachers and coaches, giving direction, encouragement and correction at every step.
  3. A role that requires diversity of talents, skills and functions. Many of the most successful people I know, have an entrepreneurial attitude about their work, even if they don’t own the company. Unlike multi-tasking (doing many things at once), multi-talenting is using a variety of talents, learned experiences and ideas in the execution of your work.
  4. Collaborative work. As a society, we have gained an addiction to tribal-ness: the desire to be affiliated and interrelated in our communication, experiences and work efforts. Collaboration also has the benefit of growing your Intellectual Capital through knowledge management. It needs to be encouraged.
  5. Work that is meaningful. Your creatives, innovators and those who are bringing the most Intellectual Capital to your organization, want to know that the results they are accomplishing actually are feeding into higher levels of success. Show them the corollary in an authentic and factual way.

Intellectual Capital is a key driver for competitive advantage in today’s environment for the nonprofit sector. He who grows the brightest and holds them, wins. Therefore, Intellectual Capital is an important, if not THE important, resource that nonprofits need to develop in order to gain sustained strategic advantage increasing their effectiveness in serving their constituency  and funding their mission.

12 Useful, Well-Designed, Worth-Downloading iPhone Apps Created by Nonprofits

12 Useful, Well-Designed, Worth-Downloading iPhone Apps Created by Nonprofits.

I love what she does.

However with this post, I have a problem.

Not with the post itself, per se, but the idea that iPhone Apps for nonprofits are a valuable use of resources.

I own an iPod, and an iPad.   I can tell you, desktop is prime territory and my GB’s like gold.    I only download apps that I know I will use frequently and will rely on for regular (read daily) access.    And yes, maybe a few fun ones too, that I go to in my downtime periodically.

I don’t think I am that much different from other iTech users.

And so, the thought of downloading an app from a nonprofit doesn’t fit with how I dole out my space and memory.    I just wouldn’t find the function of clicking the app for updates that appealing.  Even the ones listed in Heather’s blog above, while they have the sex appeal, are not pragmatically useful- how many times will I need to know what the bird in front of me sounds like?   Or have an overwhelming urge to find out where in this very moment are animals being abused?   Cool to access once, twice, maybe three times, but not GB worthy.    I could simply bookmark these sites  in Safari and get the same result, maybe more, since apps tend to have a more limited function than a full site.

I guess I could see if I were a board member or staff member of a not for profit organization, I might consider an app a cool tool and something desirable in a way.    But really, for the NPO, why spend thousands on developing an app for a handful to access.    Even a couple hundred, if you are a national or international NPO, doesn’t seem like a good use of resources.

Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.  My recommendation: Spend your money making your website mobile optimized.

I’ve been following the nonprofit sector and their discovery of technology for quite a while.    I’ve also lived the experience for over 20 years, from networked databases, to a ‘flashy’ (no pun intended) new website, to internet access for staff- all the various areas of fumbling, bumbling and discovery along the way.   In full disclosure, I am also a partner in a tech start up – Donorfull– for the nonprofit sector.   I believe Nonprofit Apps are one of those “sounded.like.a.good.idea,.cause.everyone.is.doing.it,aren’t.we.hip,but.it.really.is.limited” kind of moments.    Unless someone can come up with an exciting and convincing argument for me as to what possible benefit, goal or stimulating outcome could come of it, I’ll continue to direct and discourage my clients from wandering into this forest.

We’ll all be less ‘appy’ but ‘appy-er’ for it.

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.