Nonprofit Management

May 18, 2020

Keep learning

How about outlining a learning program for yourself? For other key staff? So much to learn. Let’s do it now.

Read SOFII, Showcase of Fundraising Innovation and Inspiration. Some of the great people of our sector…some dead…some still alive…and newbie greats, too.

Do you read The Agitator? Roger Craver is one of our greatest greats. The Agitator is daily, online, free. Read recent issues. But go back. Further back. Read years ago, too. Because there’s lots of stuff we should have already learned.

Do you read Mark Phillips? Across the water at Bluefrog?

Moceanic is an online learning program. From Sean Triner and Christiana Stergiou in Australia. And Jeff Brooks of Seattle is playing there lots and lots. Go there! Learn.

Check out the Veritus Group, Richard Perry and Jeff Schreifels. Read their Passionate Giving blog.

You do know how brilliant Canadian fundraisers are, don’t you? Check out the AFP Toronto Congress presenters…past and next up. Visit some of these greats:

  • Agents of Good: John Lepp and Jen Love. And make sure to read the StarWars series.
  • Blakely.
  • Provocateur Vitreo
May 11, 2020

Such a smart ED!!!!

During the corona virus of 2020, the ED of a client of mine decided to send a query to all his board members and staff. The ED was using some of his time to read – to learn more – to become the best ED he could be.

So he sent this email:

May I suggest a little exercise? Could you ponder the question below – and send me your answers? I will aggregate the responses and let you know what we collectively thoughts.

I believe this will shed some valuable light on what’s important – or should be – to us as we think strategically and as we nurture and expand relationships with our constituents. A future excercise would be to ask previous trustees…and gather a selected group of “other than us” to see what they think.

So here’s the question this so smart ED is sending out: “Let’s pretend our organization and its programs disappeared tonight. Tomorrow, we’re gone. What will the world / the community / individuals regret having lost?”

And where did this ED find this question? In Tom Ahern’s book What Your Donors Want. 

And what I, Simone might add? How about reframing your multi-year strategic planning — and your annual planning to start with Ahern’s question: “Let’s pretend……….”

April 20, 2020

Rich people&coronavirus…YouMe&philanthropy

This lengthy article is the result of reading an article by Andy Serwer with Max Zahn: “Why the rent is due for rich people in the time of the coronavirus.”  Read the Serwer/Zahn article first.

And now, watch out, I’m going to babble and even lecture a bit. You know me…the Simone Uncensored bitch…So here goes……………….

………….An Article in the time of the Coronavirus…from Simone Joyaux…………..   

Philanthropy….From the Greek, philanthropia. Love of humankind. But my favorite definition of philanthropy comes from John Gardner, voluntary action for the common good.

Doesn’t matter if it’s $10 or $25 million. Voluntarily taking action for the common good. Common good…community…Concept of civil society.

And, of course, philanthropy means giving money AND/OR!!!! time.

Of course I want the very rich to give lots of money. Especially as millions of people worldwide are losing their jobs, closing their businesses…

However, I must say that I’m really tired of the focus on big money and big news, e.g., disasters like a hurricane or coronavirus. Because shit happens every day and people have been starving for decades and living on the streets and guns keep killing kids and college is too expensive and there’s no universal healthcare. And in the USA, only 2% or so of GDP has gone to charity during the past 60 years. (I hope you read Giving USA, the annual report.)

Ah, the big money…Certainly the culture of the US of A. Money money money…The celebrity of wealth. Big money always seems to win. What a terrible culture.

One of my pet peeves is the phrase “major donor” and “major gift”… All that money that those wealthy people give/gave… I’m pretty damn sure it didn’t change their lives at all. I’d like everyone to think of the mother at the charter school (former client of mine) who gave 5 single dollar bills to the school where her child goes. And that money would have been spent on her family’s special holiday dessert. But she and her family gave the gift to the school instead.

Yes, I want those wealthy peeps to give and give more and give regularly. But I want every country and every person and everyone to respect the others who give time and money. Shall we call them the minor donors? Because if there are major donors, there must be minor donors. WTF!!

Here’s something I think about always…. Philanthropy…. VOLUNTARY action for the common goodSo I want everyone – especially those who have excess money – to choose to give.

And I suppose that I could say that since really wealthy people made their money from their communities … I’d like to think that those very wealthy people actually think that – on a pretty substantial level – that they actually “owe” care and voluntary action for the COMMON good.

In my deepest hopeful world, I dream that all people look at themselves and wonder what they might do for the common good. 

  • Obligations like voting – civic duty – building a civil society. Read Mike Edwards’ books about civil society.
  • DEFINITELY read Mike’s book Small Change: Why Business Won’t Save the WorldTo me, this book is a must read for anyone who works in philanthropy. And I’m thinking a must read for all of us in society. Because for-profit business isn’t going to save any world…any community.

In my deepest soul, I dream that each of us and all of us look at others as human beings…with basic human rights…That we all fight for social justice…welcome inclusion…demand equity. And all that is built by a civil society…promoted through philanthropy…Voluntary action for the common good. That’s what I keep fighting for.

  • I respect the mother who gave those $5 to her children’s school.
  • I’m thankful that some really RICH people are giving money now…and I dream that they will give in the future as regular philanthropists.

I look at Tom and me…We aren’t Bezos or any of the other names in the article, “Why the rent is due for rich people in the time of coronavirus.” But we’ve worked hard for years and have no children and live life well — and we’re damn affluent!

Tom and I are so fortunate. We’ve saved enough to retire well, too. We have no children and no one who needs care from us. So 100% of our estate goes to charity. And every year we give approximately 20% of our income to charity. Why not? We have the money!

Philanthropy…Voluntary action for the common good. And there’s the challenge. I do believe that philanthropy is voluntary. In my dream world, everyone who can is philanthropic in some way. 

  • Giving time at the Food Bank or Planned Parenthood or that environmental org you love
  • Giving money to the charter school, to fight for women’s rights and against birth defects, to save the land and the water…to fight against the coronavirus…

Everyone gives for his/her/their own reasons … whether it’s businesses, foundations, individuals… You and your family, Tom and me.

  • Yes, some give charitable gifts to get their names broadcast around town and even around the world. Some give to get positive PR…to compensate for bad actions… for glory and fame…
  • Some give because they want to serve on the most famous/important board in the community.
  • Some give to fight homelessness – perhaps that person was once homeless or knew someone…
  • Others give because they love the land and water and worry about climate change and…

I’ve worked in the philanthropic sector for 45 years. It’s not my right to tell others where to give. It’s not my right to evaluate your choices.

I can hope that you give. I do hope you choose philanthropy – voluntary action for the common good – to be in your life. 

I have chosen philanthropy – even when I die…and am dead.

P.S. An interesting, perhaps, P.S. Based on their own missions, some charities won’t accept gifts if the proposed donor(s) have “tainted” money. Tobacco companies intentionally addicted people…so have some drug companies. Imagine the conversation that cancer and lung associations had and may still have, should we accept gifts from those businesses.

March 16, 2020

Why so many secrets?

[Another old Simone Uncensored… Before 2010…]

Who taught us to be secretive?

In business, we keep secrets from employees and customers. We keep secrets from donors and volunteers. Why?

Transparency is good. Honesty and truth build trust. Candor and communications nurture understanding and ownership.

Sure, you have to be conscientious and wise with transparency. You don’t violate the privacy of clients or employees. You probably don’t discuss litigation. You make judgments. But the default is, too often, “keep it private,” “don’t talk about it,” “there’s no need for them to know.”

Lack of transparency does a lot of damage, unnecessary damage when it’s so easy to be transparent.

Why not share your budget and financial report and financial situation with your donors, volunteers, and employees. Explain what’s happening and why. Explain what you are doing about the situation.

More transparency reduces the anxiety of not knowing. More transparency builds understanding and support. More transparency may generate useful insights and ideas – and more transparency with donors can certainly generate more gifts.

Maybe what I perceive as a lack of transparency could be lack of awareness and poor business practice on the part of nonprofits. Just the other day, I was trying to find the board members of a charity. But no list on the agency’s website. How silly. According to a recent study by GuideStar (“The State of Nonprofit Transparency, 2008: Voluntary Disclosure Practices”), only 73% of the studied charities post a board list online.

Another example: Your audited financial statement is a public document and should be readily available for anyone. Why make people ask? Just make it available, like on your website. But the GuideStar study said that only 13% of the studied charities post the audit online. And only 3% noted that the audit is available off line.

Transparency is good. Basic transparency about the fundamentals is essential; not to do so is just plain stupid. And more transparency is really really good and really builds trust, understanding, and ownership. And trust, understanding, and ownership bring many good things.

March 8, 2020

Learning and change…An old Simone Uncensored…2009

I just got off the telephone with a colleague who was bemoaning the fact that we just don’t change. We don’t change the way we do fund development.

Sure, people go to conferences. People listen to speakers and read books and even read research. But change doesn’t seem to be the result.

I agree with her. Hey, that’s what Keep Your Donors talks about a lot. Questioning and learning. Learning and change. And how individuals and organizations don’t do this enough.

In fact, asking why and questioning and learning and changing are the framework for the book. Just read Intermezzo #1 Why and Chapter 2 The Red Pants Factor and Intermezzo # 5 You and Your Organization Sprinting into the Future.

One of my favorite quotes says: “The capacity to learn is a gift; the ability to learn is a skill; the willingness to learn is a choice.” (From Dune: House Harkonnen, by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson. Brian Herbert is Frank Herbert’s son. Dad Frank wrote Dune, one of those seminal books, a seminal sci fi book. I’m a big fan – of science fiction, especially science fiction fantasy.)

Anyway, back to questioning and learning and changing…

Asking why is more important than asking how. We ask “how” far too much. We learn a bunch of hows and combine a bunch of hows. And often just make a big mess. Without understanding “why,” knowing how just doesn’t help that much.

The French have a phrase, the folie du pourquoi. It means the craziness of asking why.

Just think about it. Anywhere anytime in the world some child asks, “Why?” And the adult gives an answer and the child asks, “Why?” Question. Answer. Question. Answer.

We’re great little probers as kids. It’s a way to navigate the strange world.

But by the teen years, we’re purged. Yup. That’s what research says. By the early teens, people are trained to no longer ask why.

School tests teach a right answer. Domineering teachers discourage questioning. Boards embrace dysfunctional politeness and treat questioning as disloyal. Someone sometime told you and me that disagreeing and arguing wasn’t nice.

How sad. And how problemmatic.

Because asking questions is how we learn and change. Asking questions is how we stimulate deep conversations. It’s the questions that matter most.

We need better questions. Questions that rattle cages and challenge assumptions. Questions that stimulate thinking and deep conversation. That’s how we learn.

Reactivate your childhood folie du pourquoi. Stop assuming there are answers. Relentlessly ask questions – especially why. (Avoid how for a while!)

And please, learn from questioning and learn from conversation. Learn when you read and when you attend conferences.

Then change. Change now. Things are rather a mess now. So let’s change. Now.

“You sure get a lot of questions in the world, without exactly getting the same number of answers. In fact, there was a huge gap between the two numbers.” (From Ysabel, by Guy Gaviel Kay, one of my favorite sci fi fantasy authors.)

February 10, 2020

Part 1. Part 2. Pretty darn sad.

February 2, I woke up to this. From Tom Ahern’s blog. I agree. Makes me hugely sad and angry.

Are most charities unwittingly in the “go-away” business?You have to wonder.

         I don’t really expect all that much from any charity I support. I’m not looking for rides to the airport or artisanal cheese plates. As our household’s income grew over the decades, Simone and I made donations to more and more good causes. Hey, we didn’t have kids (which fully explains that second home in France). We also had a reassuring retirement fund socked away (so we wouldn’t end up homeless, as a friend or two had finished up). And so — yeah, sure; why not — we could afford occasional gifts to charities that made us feel better because they were fighting the very things we wanted to fight.

So now we give to 30 or so charities a year.

I quickly saw that most nonprofits were lousy at prolonging my pleasure, though.

“Here’s all I want from you,” I finally wrote in a book. “Tell me I’m a reasonably good person. Don’t go crazy. But just tell me that my help matters.” Even so: most of “our” charities remain hesitant, self-absorbed, indifferent, narcissistic, negligent, uncouth, dumb, rude, demanding, stiff, formal, and/or cold.

Poor lovers get replaced quickly. Just saying.

Examine your own dating past if this surprises you.

==============

The very next thing I read is Seth Godin’s blog Again and again and again

Ruts don’t dig themselves.

Most of the time, we’re in a rut because that’s precisely where we put ourselves.

Actions become habits, and habits get repeated because they feel safe.

The easiest way to make things more interesting is to simply stop repeating your habitual behavior.

And that often comes from reacting to triggers. Remove the triggers and you can alter the habits.

Tiny changes. Different ways to keep score.

Tomorrow comes daily. But we don’t have to take the same route to get there.

==============

It’s as if Tom and Seth were sharing one brain while writing.

I want to yell and scream and rant and rave. I want to weep with deep sadness.

Oh… I already do so regularly… In the privacy of my office. With my clients. While presenting.

Tom and Seth just said it better. Thank you.

November 18, 2019

Starting the new year … with better governance …

I’m pretty much always thinking about governance. That thing that boards do.

Board = collective. Board member = individual. These 2 terms are NOT NOT not NOT never interchangeable.

And here’s what Colleen, SMUMN Cohort 28 wrote in summer 2019….governance….management….

“The thing that struck me most about my time spent [in the governance course at SMUMN] thinking, reading and acting out all things governance, was the balance of giving the best of me and willingly receiving the best of others. I wrote about it a little in my final project: how people come together to lead.

“I view leadership of a nonprofit as a separation of powers, not too dissimilar to our American governmental system in theory. I like the idea that people can come together, challenge and be challenged so that the result is the strengthening of an organization. I walk away with a much better sense of the importance of a strong CEO and how that person interacts with the governing board. Really, I have a greater intellectual respect for staff I think. In the back of my mind, I think I gave boards too much responsibility. I thought they needed to have all the answers, Not so.”

So how’s your governance going? And your management?

November 11, 2019

Ranting about governance…

Did you read my special blog posted by Vitreo in its blog, The Provocateur?

 

October 22, 2019

Governance…your board…your board members…tips to help you!!

I so enjoyed teaching governance twice at SMUMN this past summer. I’ve shared comments from Cohort 27 in previous “Notes from my dorm room”.

Now I’m sharing comments from Cohort 28. I hope these comments challenge you to examine governance in your organization…question your approach and level of knowledge…learn and make change!!

Mackenzie said: “I am extremely nervous about the amount of work it will take to make great governance. [But], I’m looking forward to the challenge.”

Greg gives us something to laugh about: “Good governance. How do you make it happen? I wish it was as easy as getting fatter. Or mandatory, like aging.” And more seriously, he says: “The CEO and board chair/board members don’t have to agree, but they have to learn how to disagree with respect, using facts and data to support constructive discussion…. [T]hey have to be able to say uncomfortable things. They don’t argue to win; they argue to resolve.”

Rachel reminds us: “CEOs ned to be a governance expert.”  And…”The board is a collective.”

Nate reminds us that “we need to do a better job of bringing strategic questions and topics to our board in order to have more strategic conversations.”

Luke said: “I discovered the difference between management and governance. This, to me, is the most important part. The board and board members must understand thei roles. If they do not, it is a MESS.”

Lisa commented: “I love the fact that power – for lack of a better word – is distributed. There are checks and balances, and that there are people ideally together working on your mission and there to help. But it’s not a perfect system. If it was, it would be incredible. But not everyone is on board. People don’t know the rules, and people don’t want training. So it is up to the ones of us who know what’s going on to step up and help others understand.”

Samantha notes: “The relationship between boards and staff is often unbalanced.”

Colleen’s insight: “The CEO needs to be the most knowledgeable person in the room about board governance (in addition to the organization’s operations.) Previously, I’d really thought that was up to the Board Chair.”

What’s happening in your organization? How will you learn and lead change?

October 7, 2019

More notes from my dorm room…

It’s fall. But I still have memories from my time at Saint Mary’s. This year I taught governance to 2 different cohorts…Cohort 27 and Cohort 28. And here are some more great insights from Cohort 27. Insights that you can use to stimulate your thinking, encourage you to learn more, and challenge the assumptions you might already have regarding governance.

Aaron said: “Governance is such tricky business for the untrained…But in reality, it is a set of guidelines to make the most use of everyone’s time as well as serve the organization to achieve its mission. [Governance] is not some mythical land where good organizations live and bad are denied. It is common sense coupled with good behavior.”

Brandon said: “The dialogue we had in class helped me see that it’s sometimes important to just acknowledge an issue. A board may not be able to command an end to racism, but the board can have a meaningful conversation about building a policy on diverseity. Smaller steps in part of a larger journey.”

Tyler said: “We can start by influencing what we have learned at our organizations. We can expand that by serving on a board ourselves and implement changes that we know to right in getting those organizations to do good governance.”

So what will you do with these insights? Most boards are mediocre at best…Darn few are really good. If you want governance to be better at your place, learn more!

Simone Joyaux, ACFRE, Adv Dip, FAFP, is an internationally recognized expert in fund development, board and organizational development, strategic planning, and management.

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