April 6, 2015

Engaging your past board members

“Are your former board members treated like the fine wine they are? Or….” That’s how Jay Love starts his Bloomerang blog. Read the whole thing. Very good.

And my NPQ column, “Don’t You Love Me Anymore?” also talks about past board members.

So how’s your organization doing? Do you engage them? Do they still add value.

P.S. And by the way, I agree with Jay: TERM LIMITS!!!!!!!!!!! YES!!!!!!!!!!!!


March 20, 2015

Resources. Research. Developing yourself and myself.

People regularly ask me what I read. So I tell them. And I’m telling you. Here’s some more stuff. Relatively recent.

Charles Green, Trusted Advisor Associates. Subscribe to his e-news. Read the book The Trusted Advisor by Maister, Green, and Galford.

Read these articles in the March 11, 2015 on-line feed from the Nonprofit Quarterly:

  • Inequality’s Dead End – And the Possibility of a New, Long-Term Direction
  • Millennials & Racial Bias: What the Research Tells Us Is Really the Case

Watch the 7 videos that can help you be a better fundraiser…from Jeff Brooks.

For more videos, check out Tom Belford’s favorites in the March 10, 2015 issue of The Agitator.

I’m a huge fan of StarTrek… The original TV series. The original movies. The new prequels. And I think Jeff Brooks is a huge fan, too. Just check out his blog of March 9, 2015…and the 4 game-changing lessons fundraisers can learn from Mr. Spock.

Read this article from the Harvard Business Review (on-line, February 17, 2015)… “Women Directors Change How Boards Work.”

March 2, 2015

Delicate mission-driven ears…

“Let’s face it, many boards don’t fire their board members simply because that word ‘fire’ sounds too harsh for their delicate mission-driven ears!”

So said Susan Schaefer in our email exchange.

Delicate mission-driven ears… I love love love that phrase!

What else won’t the board and its members NOT do because of their delicate ears? Ask cage-rattling questions that should be asked? Actually disagree at a board meeting with each – and even argue!!

Dysfunctional politeness…Avoiding tough conversations…Fleeing from the true questions that should be asked and probed and answered… All because of delicate mission-driven ears?

Always remember: Delicate mission-driven ears kill organizations…mostly gradually. And those delicate mission-driven ears, coupled with delicate eyes and tongues don’t even notice that you’re slowly going out of business.

Thank you, Susan!

P.S. Check out Susan’s books at CharityChannel Press. And speaking of boards – as this blog is – check out Nonprofit Board Service for the GENIUS by Susan Schaefer and Bob Wittig. Just published!

CharityChannel Press is a great publisher with great books and great authors. If you’re working or volunteering in the nonprofit sector, check out the “In the Trenches” series focused on fundraising and boards and and! And check out the “For the Genius” series for regular people like all of us… about caregiving and wine and online poker and joining a board and more!

February 10, 2015

Insulting phil, unconscious gender bias, and more…

You absolutely must read this series of blogs from Wild Woman Fundraising, Mazarine Trez. And I’ve added a few other tidbits.

Then talk about these blogs (and all the marvelous links to other articles). Talk with your work colleagues (and not just in the development office!) Talk with your board and your board’s development committee. And get your professional association to talk about some of this stuff.

In no particular order intention order…

Insulting philanthropy. A continuing (and growing?) growing trend!

But wait…there’s more! (Also, make sure you click through the links.)

Unconscious gender bias (Just the unconscious type…which is worse, I think.)

And more….

  • If you’d like to insult donors, read Eric Friedman’s Reinventing Philanthropy: A Framework for More Effective Giving.

So much good stuff out there. So many things we could share with our staff colleagues, donors, board members…And engage them in conversation.

February 6, 2015

I’m dancing and I have a question for you…

For several years, I’ve wanted to write a series about what music lyrics can teach us. (About fundraising… leadership… management… etc.)

It’s a variation on all the novel quotes I use in my writing.

And every time I listen to music…. (Just was dancing to Joe Cocker “Up Where We Belong.” And now it’s “American Pie.”

I NEED YOUR REACTION. Does this sound just too stupid to do? Or might it actually be somewhat amusing? Somewhat curious?

Please let me know. Thanks. 

January 28, 2015

Stacks of magazines! I’m so far behind…

I’m so far behind in my magazine reading. Ah Harvard Business Review… I love you and miss you. And there you are… all stacked up on the shelf. I’m so sorry I’m so far behind!

I have snow 2 feet deep in my yard. Generations of deer preceded us on this land where we live. The current 3 large adults are desperately foraging in the snow that’s swamping their bellies.

I have lots of work to do. But I’m distracted by the stacks of magazines. So I’m skimming to see what to keep:

From AFP‘s Advancing Philanthropy, Fall 2014

  • “More than the sum of the parts…What makes a fundraiser?” Paul Lagasse.  Could be useful for my masterclass in Australia in a few weeks.
  • “The Development Committee Workbook: Managing Your Volunteers to Success,” Michele Berard, MBA, CFRE…from here in RI.
  • “Analytics, Schmanalytics – It’s More Than Just Data,” Gilman Sullivan. It’s staff’s job to translate data / information into trends and implications. Come on people. Let’s get it together!

From AFP‘s Advancing Philanthropy, Winter 2015

The whole issue focus on creating a culture of philanthropy. YIPPEE! I’m taking this on the plane to Australia ’cause it’s one of my favorite topics…organizational culture…philanthropic culture…

I first wrote about a culture of philanthropy back in 1996, in the first edition of my book Strategic Fund Development, published in 1997. The book is now in its 3rd edition — and that philanthropic culture (along with organizational culture) is still there. And there’s a handout in the Free Download Library on my website, too.

I’m taking this issue of Advancing Philanthropy on the plane to Australia. Articles by Karla Williams, MA, ACFRE and Andrea McManus, CFRE, great people in our field. Articles about the philanthropic culture affecting morale and boards and donors and fundraisers. This issue is a keeper in my library.

December 11, 2014

Racism in the U.S. … and that includes the nonprofit sector

Have you thought about that?

As you read and watch Ferguson and NYC and every next killing or unemployment or poor education or or …

Are you looking at your own nonprofit organization? Are you looking at student enrollment in your schools? Are you looking at the audiences for your arts and cultural activities?

And how about board composition? And how about staff composition?

Do you TALK ABOUT THIS REGULARLY in your organization? Do you say things like: “No more white people for our board? It’s time to reach out more and better!”

Do you TALK ABOUT THIS REGULARLY in your organization? And make sure that if you have lots of white people on staff – you make darn sure that future hires are African American and Latino and Asian and… Do you intentionally look for qualified staff that aren’t white?

Do you have a formal diversity program and leadership development program in your organization?

Do you regularly evaluate your diversity and define your diversity and explore how it feels to be diverse and marginalized? Do you talk about race/ethnicity and gender and generation and physical and mental challenges and socioeconomic status and class and sexual identity and sexual orientation and and and ….

Do you work desperately hard to ensure cultural competence in your organization? Do you work desperately hard to create a diverse, inclusive, welcoming community and work place and society and country and world?

If not, why not?

Thanks to the Nonprofit Quarterly for stimulating this particular blog – with their article: “The Nonprofit Sector Has a Ferguson Problem”. And if you’re an AFP member, check out all the recently-compiled diversity resources in the AFP Resource Center.


December 8, 2014

Your nightmare lives! Bad board members and what to do…

Do you dream about some bad board members?
Do you feel a flush of anger when you’re calling one more time to see if those board members did what they said they’d do?
Do you wish your governance committee would talk gracefully confront the bad performers?
So here’s the bad news: Look in the mirror first. The problem may be your leadership.
And here’s the good news: You can help fix this. Read my book Firing Lousy Board Members – And Helping the Others Succeed.
Read my book. Share it with your boss. Share it with your governance committee. Read it on the beach. Make it your New Year’s Resolution. It’s short. It’s a fast read (maybe 1 hour?!) It actually makes you laugh. And frown. And cheer!
Maybe your bad board members aren’t intentionally bad. Maybe they just don’t know what the job is. Maybe they don’t realize there is a difference between the board (the group that does governance) and the individual board member (that does the right stuff outside of board meetings).
  • Does your organization have a board-adopted policy that defines the role of the board and the performance expectations of board members?
  • Does your organization use a top-notch recruitment, screening, and evaluation process for board members?
  • And… Do you know enough to enable all this to happen?
  • Visit the Free Download Library on my website for samples.
On the other hand… Oh dear… Maybe you have a bad board member who is, actually, intentionally bad. The board member just doesn’t care what the expectations are. The board member is disruptive and doesn’t play well with others.
It’s a tough life. We all encounter people like this. So every organization needs a process to fire lousy board members.
Yes, there is a process. Yes, your organization can do this if it chooses to do so.
And you can help guide the process by knowing how to do it…and what to watch out for…
  • Start a conversation with your boss about the effectiveness of your organization’s board – and the importance of the board (and board member) effectiveness.
  • If you’re the boss, get your thoughts together and talk with the governance committee.
  • Adopt the board job description.
  • Adopt the performance expectations of board members.

Read my book Firing Lousy Board Members – And Helping the Others Succeed.  Share this short, easy-to-read guide with your governance committee.

Let’s get it together. Lousy board members harm good organizations. Lousy board members make good board members leave. And none of this helps those you serve.
October 11, 2014

Do you hate your donors?

Because far too many nonprofits actually behave like they hate their donors…or at least dislike their donors…or mostly aren’t very aware of their donors…or mostly kinda ignore their donors…

Why do I say this? Because the behaviors displayed by so many nonprofit organizations DEMONSTRATE this behavior. Sure, it’s unconscious. But it’s pretty darn dumb. And being unconscious or ignorant isn’t an acceptable excuse.

I’m actually on vacation in France right now. Haven’t looked at email in 4 days. The house is quiet. No one is around. Just moi (me). So I’m trying to get through several hundred emails.

And here’s what I’ve read today so far:

— Self Destruction: Komen and the Pink Fracking Drill Head.……”Susan G. Komen has proven itself to be tone deaf where its constituency is concerned, and its new alliance may raise questions among even the most devoted.”

— Does your fundraising brand have anything worth saying? “Unless and until your culture is expressed clearly through your customer experience, you have nothing worth communicating.”

And these two items remind me of two other older items:

— Tom Ahern’s e-news about poverty porn. Like we should talk about our donors this way?

— Eric Friedman criticizes donors in his book Reinventing Philanthropy: A Framework for More Effective Giving… Why? Because donors don’t think adequately clearly and respond with their hearts. Let’s just keep the criticism happening…. (I’m being sarcastic! Check out my article.)

And now I’m annoyed enough that I’m going back to vacation!! Bye.

August 27, 2014

Is your organization like President Obama?

Warning! This is a pretty weird blog. But I just couldn’t stop thinking about it. So here goes.

First,  read Maureen Dowd’s op-ed piece “Alone Again, Naturally.” (August 19, 2014, New York Times) Her column forms the basis for this blog.

I’ve read the column several times now. Each time, I wonder if your organization or mine or the others behave like Dowd describes President Obama.

“Above the grubby political scene, unearthly and apart…” (Dowd wrote). Does your organization avoid public policy and advocacy work? Do you feed the hungry but avoid fighting for policy changes to reduce hunger? Do you only look at your own mission and forget about the rest of the community and its issues?

“Unlike L.B.J., who devoured problems…Obama’s main galvanizing impulse was to get himself elected. Almost everything else…seems like too much trouble.” Does your organization remain safely in the status quo, focused on mission without any attention to what affects your mission? Does your organization avoid all risks and steer clear of any potential conflicts?

“His circle keeps getting more inner.” How often does your organization go beyond its narrowest group of stakeholders? Do you reach beyond limiting borders to ask cage-rattling questions, engage in conversation, learn and change?

“The White House believes a presidential speech on a politically charged topic is as likely to make things worse as to make things better.” (Dowd quoting Ezra Klein in Vox.) Do your leaders avoid taking positions in subjects that affect your organization and those you serve? Do you remain silent because you don’t want to offend a donor or a prospective donor or that very powerful board member you have?

“For [Obama], eating his spinach is schmoozing with elected officials.” (Dowd quoting Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri). Is that the way your CEO behaves – staying at his desk and avoiding community events, lunch gatherings, etc.? Do your board members hang out with each other and friends at events? Do your board members – and staff, too – understand that there job is to mingle and schmooze, going up to strangers and engaging in conversation?

“Sure, the president has enemies…But as F.D.R. said of his moneyed foes, ‘I welcome their hatred.’ Why should the president neutralize himself?” Is your organization at the right tables in your community? And, if necessary, do you fight to be at those tables? Are your leaders known as the quiet folks who aren’t seen much? Does your organization communicate regularly with its donors? Do you remind your donors that they are the heroes, not your organization?

“The country needs its president to illuminate and lead, not sink into some petulant expression of his aloofness…” Does your organization lead? Do your leaders speak out? Remember… silence is consent.

Our President makes me sad. And organizations and people like our President make me sad. To what degree are you willing and able to take risks…you and your organization? To what degree does your organization welcome challenges, embrace cage-rattling questions,  intentionally reach out and engage? To what degree do you, your leaders, and your organization speak out.

The world needs a strong nonprofit/NGO sector. And the sector needs strong organizations and strong leaders.

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