Archive for July, 2009
Open Letter to Colorado Spring’s Nonprofit Summit
Dear Attendees at the Colorado Springs Non-profit Summit:
The conveners have asked for input, so here are my top seven issues for your consideration, discussion and action:
1. Non-profits have done a spectacularly lousy job of explaining themselves to the American public.
Modern societies need three components to function: government, businesses, and non-profits. Non-profits are the glue that holds society together, and while in the USA we have a market economy, our society is bigger than the economy. Non-profits are inherently different than businesses. Governments are inherently different than businesses. Here is a diagram showing the fundamental difference between businesses and non-profits. It is astounding how many non-profit leaders (and political leaders) don’t do a better job of communicating to the American public about the value of all three components of society, all of which are critical.
Business Organization Non-profit Organization
The fundamental difference is that in the business example, the provider of the funds is also the direct recipient of the benefits of goods and/or services provided, e.g. customers. On its face, the diagram on the right is more complex than the one on the left, and this is what non-profit leaders have done a poor job of communicating to the American public.
Warren Buffet’s Gift to the Entire Non-profit Sector
When Warren Buffet pledged his $30 billion gift to the Gates Foundation, he also gave a gift to every non-profit in America, if they are smart enough to recognize it. Here is the world’s best known financial genius of the market based economy, saying that the non-profit sector is too complex for him to figure out the best use of his money – so he’s going to give it to his good friends Bill & Melinda Gates, so that they and the Gates Foundation professional staff can make sure the money does the most good! This is terrific, both for the Gates Foundation and for the entire non-profit sector, because it makes the case in way that no one else could, that the non-profit world is not simple, and it’s not easy to make sure that any donor’s money is used in the best way possible. I have yet to say any non-profit leader use this stunning example as an illustration of the fact that the non-profit world is complex, and it takes, brains, talent, dedication and plain hard work to for a non-profit to be successful.
2. The question: “Are there too many non-profits?” is a weak question, and answering it only produces thousands of pages of reports and no real change.
A better question is: “Have we solved all the problems that need solving?”
Until the answer to that question is yes, then the answer to “Are there too many profits” is: “ No, we don’t have enough of the right non-profits!”
This is similar to the question: Are there enough restaurants?
The answer to that depends where you live, and what you want to eat. In some places the answer is yes, some places no.
Even if you decide the answer is “Yes, there are too many non-profits” there is no mechanism to force a change, and just like the restaurant example, if a particular non-profit does not get enough traffic (e.g. donors and patrons), it will fail, regardless of how good the chef was.
3. Scalabity is a false idol.
Recognize the fact that we live in a complex world, and some non-profits need to be big in order to accomplish their mission. Other non-profits do not need to be big in order to be successful, and in fact, would fail if they were a different size.
Here’s one example, in Annandale, Virginia there is an award winning non-profit pre-school, which has been part of the community for 40 years. It is located in a church where it uses the Sunday school classrooms during the week (it is a secular school, completely separate from the church). This pre-school has an enrollment of about fifty 2-5 year olds, which with a little fluctuation is the size it will always be – the church is not going to build and additional wing, and after 3 years, the current students graduate. This school, as long as it is in existence, will have between 40 and 60 students, and it provides a great, award winning benefit to the community. The leaders there don’t spend one minute thinking “How can we scale up?” nor should they.
4. Stop the whining! There are way too many non-profit leaders and professionals saying ‘We don’t have a seat at the government table – why not, don’t they know we’re crucial?”
More than 150 years ago, Frederick Douglas got it right when he said:
“The struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, and it may be both moral and physical, but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”
In terms of gaining a rightful place at the governmental table, Richard Egger’s V3 campaign is one that tackles this issue head on. (www.V3campaign.org – Voice, Value, Votes). He realizes that the only thing that political leaders understand is power, and until the non-profit sector learns how to work together and exercise its collective influence (which is considerable) it will never get a place at the table. So stop whining, and start acting – see the V3 website on how to do this.
5. Don’t forget the power of ordinary individuals achieving extraordinary results.
The non-profit sector suffers from the same “star CEO mentality” that has captured the business world, and the articles that get promoted are about the star CEOs, or the Top 50 Donors, etc. As many of you know, my expertise is workplace giving, especially the Combined Federal Campaign (CFC). While the big donors are getting the attention, more than 1 million Federal public servants collectively donate millions of dollars each year, ($1 billion over the past five) and this money is unrestricted, reliable and predictable. Of this, more than half are never thanked for their contribution and the volunteers that do the actual solicitations for thousands of non-profits are almost never thanked.
One non-profit that does thank both their anonymous donors and the CFC campaign volunteers is Martha’s Table in Washington, D.C. If you want to see how to do this right, take a look at the workplace giving section of their website.
Ordinary people working together achieving extraordinary results is what America has always been about, and it’s time to realize that the myth of the “rugged individualist” is just that – a myth. Celebrate the actions of people working together to make a difference, even if they don’t get the headlines.
6. Trends in the non-profit sector – Baby Boomers aren’t going to go away.
The baby boom generation cohort has redefined our society at every age, from elementary school to Woodstock to today. They may change jobs, change careers, go to some mixture of independent consulting and “regular job” but they are not going to retire at 65 to go sit on a rocking chair and do nothing. Get used to having a very diverse workforce, including age diverse.
Whether for career changers or emerging leaders, workplace giving can provide ideal “practice fields” for developing one’s leadership skills, which is just one of its benefits beyond just raising money.
7. The Philanthropist TV show should be supported.
This is an incredible opportunity and benefit to the entire non-profit sector. THERE IS A PRIME TIME TV SHOW DEALING WITH NON-PROFIT ISSUES! This is great! Don’t miss the forest for the trees, and I don’t care whether or not you think “it’s not an accurate portrayal of the difficulties that non-profit professionals face.” It is entertainment and it will generate interest and conversation about non-profits! Believe me; you don’t want to be hosting the panel 3 years from now “What could non-profits have done better to have kept The Philanthropist from being canceled.”
Here’s what you can do now, and have your supporters do the same:
Contact Angela Bromstad, President of NBC Primetime Entertainment, and tell her that you’re a fan and want the show picked up for next season. Then e-mail Tom Fontana, co-creator and writer at TomFontana@gmail.com and tell him that you’ve sent the message of support to NBC.
Huddleston Consulting Group
Nonprofit Leadership Development-Where is the best place to practice leadership skills?
by Bill Huddleston, The CFC Coach
Did you learn to swim by reading a book?
The answer of course is no, even if you did read about the different strokes, breathing methods and different types of kicks. Sooner or later, you actually had to get into the water.
In the realm of leadership development, the same principle applies. You can take very valuable and informative courses, you can read books, articles and blogs about the subject and talk to people as well as observe leaders in action. You can participate in valuable organizations that teach you and give you some experiential opportunities (such as Toastmasters International – which I highly recommend). To actually develop your leadership skills you have to lead people.
So where can you get practical experience in actually doing this? Eli Manning and Peyton Manning did not play their first football game in the Superbowl; Yo Yo Ma did not have his first concert at Carnegie Hall.
Even the best in the world find a good place to practice before the performance, and they devote the time and energy necessary to developing their skills before they go on stage whatever the specific type of stage is, including leadership in the non-profit sector.
Most leadership experts would agree that these skills are fundamental for all leaders:
• Interpersonal skills (including Team Building).
• Oral communication
• Written Communication
• Continual Learning
I would add that project management principles and skills are necessary for success in the 21st Century.
In the non-profit sector, whether you are an emerging leader eager to develop your own skills, or someone responsible for the leadership development program of your organization, there exists a unique opportunity to develop these skills, by participating in workplace giving campaigns, such as the Combined Federal Campaign (CFC), America’s Charities Campaigns, and United Way campaigns, etc.
Workplace giving is a unique method of fundraising within the non-profit sector, and many think of it only in terms of fundraising. But workplace giving campaigns have unique benefits – which I call “Hidden Treasures.” Briefly, in workplace giving, the actual solicitations are performed by the employees of the organization, during the workday, hence the name “workplace giving.”
Some of the other “Hidden Treasures” of workplace giving campaigns include conducting inexpensive market research, leverage of your development efforts, and exposure to a much wider audience than is possible on your own, plus developing multiple year revenue streams.
However, the focus of this article is leadership development, and in workplace giving campaigns there are campaign events known as “charity fairs.” In a charity fair, selected charities from the workplace giving catalog are invited to come to the organization’s offices, and staff a table with their representatives, give out their materials, and answer any questions that the potential donors might ask. One of the biggest “hidden treasures” of workplace giving campaigns is that they can be the ideal “practice field” for emerging non-profit leaders.
Charity fairs are one of the best leadership development opportunities that exist in the non-profit world. Non-profits that have learned how to integrate workplace giving campaigns into their overall leadership development efforts can use them to provide low risk, high value opportunities to their staff in a number of areas, including project management, public speaking, and team building. For example, the skills that can be developed and practiced through participation in charity fairs include:
Oral Communication – public speaking skills –you can practice your “elevator speech” dozens of times in the course of a campaign.
Team Building – the non-profit action officer can get practical experience in creating and leading a team, whether they are paid staff or volunteers.
Listening Skills – the non-profit team will have the opportunity to listen to hundreds of people in your community – what are they saying, what’s most important to them, etc. These are your potential donors and supporters – does your mission resonate with them, are they aware of your organization, etc.?
Written Communication – there are multiple opportunities to develop one’s writing ranging from simple memos to an analysis of the comments from the members of the community that were made at the charity fairs that is prepared for the executive and board leadership.
The paradox of workplace giving programs is that precisely because they are not a high risk or high cost program they can be an ideal “practice field or rehearsal hall” for leadership development. No one is going to “blow” a major gift solicitation at a charity fair, but the future leader can gain experience in “reading people.”
To learn more about the world’s largest workplace giving campaign, the Combined Federal Campaign (CFC), please go to the http://www.cfcfundraising website and request your copy of my free report about the CFC, which includes a brief description of how to apply for inclusion in America’s largest workplace giving campaign, the CFC.
P.S. Even Tiger Woods has a coach (several in fact)!Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 1 so far )
The Combined Federal Campaign just released the results from the 2008 non-profit fundraising campaign. The total amount pledged by Federal public servants to thousands of local, national and international non-profits was $275,898,756 which was a 1% increase over the 2007 total of $273,271,290.
The CFC is one of the few fundraising resources that did not report dramatic declines during the fall’s economic pressures.
Want to learn more about the world’s largest workplace giving campaign?
$1 billion of unrestricted funds over the past five years.