November 4, 2017

Stories from my dorm room

Ah Cohort 27 (and your two Cohort 26 colleagues)….. You’ve been so fantastic in Emerging Issues for SMUMN’s Philanthropy and Development Program.

Hey out there in the world…What kind of emerging issues have you been observing, do you anticipate might become trends… (And absolutely do NOT NOT NOT say anything about Millennials or social media. I mean really…. Emerging? Not hardly!! Emerged. Past emerged. Life.)

So what were those 12 marvelous colleagues in PHDE 657 Emerging Issues writing about?

Things like:

  • Can we really afford to close our borders?
  • Building a new era of trust
  • Girls in the Boy Scouts
  • Trauma informed and feedback movement in the social sector
  • Change coming in our diocese – or can we be agents of change?
  • Apocalypse Soon: The need for standards
  • Valuable recruits are following emerging issues
  • Fundraising for the New NCAA (No one Can Abuse Athletes)
  • Emerging into my new
  • Instability and uncertainty in the development director role
  • Throwing away the rubber stamp: a board self-assessment to drive growth

And how about that NCAA thing? That’s collegiate sports for those of you not into sports (like me)!!! And how about taking the knee in NFL games? So we had all this great wonderful back and forth in the online classroom, talking about race and racism and athletes. So very very cool!!

And the author of the final project for the “new NCAA” emailed me with the new Sports Illustrated cover.  His email to me said, “This month’s cover of Sports Illustrated… The NCAA is Broken (but you knew that). Interesting stuff and sad the exploitation of young African American athletes.”



October 4, 2017

Planning for any future that could come along

Part of my consulting practice is strategic planning . . .

Today’s thought #1: Build the adaptive capacity of your organization. (See Carl Sussman’s great article about making change…. External focus. Network connectedness. Inquisitiveness. Innovation.)

#2 thought: Plan to the highest probability.

Thought #3: Choose “no regrets” moves.

#4 thought: Check out my notes about planning for any future that could come along — a series of vantage points / lenses in my Free Download Library.


April 11, 2016

Song lyrics and fundraising, philanthropy, NGOs, and life

I keep promising to use song lyrics to blog about fundraising and philanthropy and the nonprofit (NGO) sector. And, of course, life too. And I’ve done so a bit. So here are a couple bits…And I promise to do more and not such little bits.

AFP Western Massachusetts and we’re talking about change. I started out with Dylan’s The Times they are a changing…

And then I add this caveat, which I often say when I’m presenting or consulting:

“So you read all the blogs and books and go to the conferences. You learn and you change (improve a bit, dramatically reconcile, whatever) your fundraising. But even then — following best practice and applying body of knowledge and reading research and — even then…. Maybe you can raise enough money to create a sustainable organization. Maybe it just can’t be done. Maybe your  cause just isn’t important enough to enough people. Whatever.”

And the faces stare at me. And then I say: “Maybe you won’t get what you want. Are you prepared for that possibility?”

That’s what happened at AFP Western MA in March. Dylan times… + Simone’s Are you prepared to not get what you want? And those AFP Western MA peeps responded in Stones song: You can’t always get what you want.” Marvelous!

P.S. And maybe you won’t even get what you need.


May 4, 2015

Simone and Ted talking on the radio on May 5

Ted Hart and I are talking on his radio show on Tuesday, May 5. That’s 12 noon eastern U.S. time.

You can call in with questions or comments.

The Nonprofit Coach with Ted Hart

And you can listen to more than 150 podcasts, too!

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 27, 2015

I just can’t help it. You need to read these articles.

Remember, I’m a curator. That’s why I write so many blogs with resources and research.

A curator wanders around and collects good stuff and then shares it with others.

ARTICLE: Competitive Positioning in the Social Sector: Why Knowing Your Competition Is Essential to Social Impact Success  (I don’t like the term “competition.” I actually disrespect it. Maybe the article could use “marketplace positioning instead?)

Here’s what Wikipedia says about curators and curating and curation: First, the word “curator” comes from the Latin, “curare” – which means “take care.” Of course, we mostly think of curators for museums or galleries or libraries or archives.

Here are some descriptors that I really like: Content / subject specialist. Interpretor of the material. Responsible for acquisitions.

ARTICLE: Nonprofit Map of Police Killings Could Aid Action Planning (Maybe the NRA could read this article. Maybe U.S. elected officials could build up their guts to actually do something big about gun control.)

Historian Elaine Gurian says that museums should operate so that “visitors could comfortably search for answers to their own questions regardless of the importance placed on such questions by others.”  Gurian’s approach is about curators facilitating and assisting, not just teaching.

I see myself as a curator. I read a lot. I have a huge library – both print and electronic. I read outside of the NGO sector and outside of fundraising and governance and planning. I collect information – and apply it. Gosh…I can even apply thoughts from romance novels, spy novels, and science fiction fantasy to work in the NGO sector and to life itself.

ARTICLE: Do Hospitals’ Religious Affiliations Affect Quality of Care? (Please please please tell me that this doesn’t happen, wouldn’t happen.)

I love finding information and sharing it with you. I love reacting to information and sharing my reactions with you. I love learning together.

And all these articles come from the same place! The Nonprofit Quarterly – print and daily online. I love this publication!! I subscribe. I give a contribution every year. I write for no pay.

Why? Because NPQ is a thinking person’s magazine. Not just tips… Actual analysis. Exploration. Strategic thinking.

Why: Because NPQ challenges the status quo. Asks tough questions. Writes about difficult issues.

Why: Because NPQ regularly writes about social justice – and its dominant partner, injustice.

Why: Because NPQ makes me think and then I combine their stuff and my stuff and look at other stuff — and all my work is better.

So sure, I’ll keep curating for you. And if you subscribe, we can curate together.

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.

August 18, 2014

Change or irrelevancy?

Which one do you choose – change or irrelevancy?

I absolutely LOVE this statement; “If you don’t like change, you’re going to like irrelevance even less.” (General Shinseki)

Sometimes an organization can’t afford not to change. Because if the organization doesn’t change… then it becomes irrelevant. Instead of promoting change, try focusing on irrelevance.

By the way, irrelevance usually isn’t sudden. It’s more gradual. Your organization just pokes along. Maybe a bit (or a bunch) of benign neglect (see my 07-14-14 blog). A few dashes of change denial.

And gradually, you’re barely there. Then you notice (or maybe not!) that you’re pretty much irrelevant.

Maybe we need to stop promoting change and start proactively avoiding irrelevance. Actually, that’s what good strategic planning does. Good planning tests your relevance, helps you change – or helps you intentionally and gracefully go out of business.

January 9, 2014

Info to help with your planning

Strategic planning or fund development planning or…

The quality of information you examine affects the quality of the plan you produce. (And, the process you use — information + stakeholder input — affects the quality of the plan you produce.)

Check out these pieces of information. I’ll be using this with my clients.

Also read the newly-posted article about stinky nonprofits. Learn from 12 experts about how to improve your donor retention (or renewal or loyalty) in 2014. See tips from Pam Grow, Lisa Sargent, Chuck Longfield, Nancy Schwartz, Mark Pitman, me … and more!

Get non-profit resources in your inbox