Archive for May, 2010
“If you want a guarantee, buy a toaster!” Clint Eastwood.
How Non-Profits are Learning the Wrong Lessons from Business, and Ignoring the Good Lessons
Bill Huddleston, The CFC Coach, BillHuddleston1@gmail.com
More and more non-profit blogs and consultants, as well as both government and foundation funders are becoming more and more insistent about the need for non-profits to evaluate their results. What’s often used as the model for this is some version of the mantra: “Non-profits need to be more like a business.”
What’s implied, and indeed often said, is that if the non-profit providing the service cannot show results that there won’t be any funding. At one level this sounds very basic, and what could be wrong with “demonstrating results” before funding? Well, actually a lot as it turns out.
Here’s a short list of projects that would have failed if the visionary leaders that made them happen had to demonstrate “proven results before funding:”
The electric light bulb (Thomas Edison)
The invention of the airplane (Wright Brothers)
The polio vaccine (Jonas Salk)
The battery (Benjamin Franklin)
This is obviously just a short list, and there are thousands of other examples, whether they are products or methods of dealing with a problem, e.g. “voluntary associations” to use Alexander de Tocqueville term.
Non-profits and funders are learning the wrong lesson when they insist upon results before funding, especially for a new non-profit, or one that is attempting a new way of dealing with a problem that may be thousands of years old (hunger, etc.) or one that is more recent (AIDS, etc).
“Demonstrate results and then we’ll fund you,” of course sounds seductively real to the non-profit seeking funds, and where the danger lies is that the non-profit will overpromise and under deliver. “Of course, we’ll solve X problem in the space of time your grant will cover, we have great people working on it, and it’s an issue that can be addressed by our unique approach.” Please make it a five year grant, but if you won’t do that, make it at least a 3 year one so we can actually solve this problem.
The second seductive phrase issued by the funder is often a variation of, “And once you’ve demonstrated these results, this will of course indicate scalability, and we’ll help you grow from being just a local community non-profit to one that’s working and recognized on a national or global scale.”
When a visionary entrepreneur starts a business, there is obviously hope and belief that it will succeed, but the reality is that most businesses fail, and that very few of them grow and become super successful. What’s often not realized that it may be the same person that fails at a particular business before he or she gets everything right – the Ford Motor Company was the third company founded by Henry Ford, the first two failed. Microsoft was not Bill Gates first company, (although granted he formed his first one while he was a teenager).
Non-profits are dealing with the toughest problems on the planet, including many that will never be solved by a “market solution.” If you’re funding a non-profit pick one that deals with an issue you care about, and support them in every way, but don’t demand results before action. If you do, you by definition are restricting the activities and approaches to the most conventional, and ignoring the possibility of a quantum leap of success.
Clint Eastwood has it right when he says, “If you want a guarantee, buy a toaster” and while he may have been talking about the movie industry, it also applies to the non-profit world. Let’s not have our brains and visions stifled by the limiting belief that “results must be demonstrated before funding.” If you don’t like the approach a particular non-profit is taking, choose to fund a different one, but don’t micromanage and limit their ability to succeed by insisting upon results first.
That’s acting like the little boy that planted a garden and went to complain to his mother two weeks later that “Mom, Nothing is growing in my garden.” “How do you know?” asked his mother, “Because I dug everything up to see what was happening!”
The CFC Coach
Nonprofit Leadership Development-Where is the best place to practice leadership skills?
By Bill Huddleston
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.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )