Leadership Design

Often, people think leadership equals charisma… great public speaking… being out front… just as we think sales is about speaking and making a great case. But you and I know leadership and sales are about having the right strategic conversations, asking the right questions, “listening to understand, rather than to respond” as the late, great Peter Drucker said. Leaders set clear expectations, model the behavior they seek and measure results, impact and the value of the work.  Leadership design means being an intentional leader/manager. Understanding your strengths, weaknesses and blind spots – those things that tend to trip you up repeatedly. You have to know what type of leader you want to be, design it, work toward it and measure the results.

Only you can know what type of leader your organization needs and you want to become. But here are some things to think about as you design your leadership future.

Your attitude sets the tone.  Early in my management career, I learned a powerful lesson. After a very tough day in the office, I packed up my things and dragged myself to the parking lot. Head down, shoulders rounded, I felt and looked beaten down.  To my right, I heard the click of boots on the pavement. “Karen Osborne,” said a strong female voice, “If that’s how you feel, then there is no hope for the rest of us.”

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“T” kept right on walking, but her message hit home. No matter how bad things got, I never left my office again without my shoulders back, my head high and smile on my face. Leadership guru Doug Dickerson agrees. Our attitude affects everyone around us. If we are positive, can-do, empathetic, ethical and humble, if we focus on the right things, so will they.

Own and learn from your errors.  My Dad used to say, “I’ve never been wrong. Oh yeah, except for that one time, but then it turned out that was right.” Hmmm. Not the right message. You need your team to try new things and know you have the team’s back. We all have to learn from our errors. “Fail forward,” as David Bornstein calls the learning that comes from less-than-stellar experiences. Learn from the things that work as well.

To achieve fresh approaches and encourage learning something new every day, it starts with you. Ask yourself, “What did I learn from this mistake?” Share the mistake and the lessons with the team. “Here’s what I tried. Here’s what worked and here’s what didn’t.” “This is what I plan to do differently going forward.” If you can be vulnerable, so can they. And be sure to ask what Terry Jones, author of On Innovation calls the “quiet question” of your team members: “What did you learn?”  (Laura and Neesha recorded a podcast on this very topic:  Brilliant Failure.  Give it a listen.)

Ask questions and listen.  If fact, asking strategic questions, listening carefully, and unpacking meaning with follow-up questions is such a powerful skill, it drives success. Getting good at having strategic conversations should be part of your leadership design. If you’d like a list of strategic management questions to help you lead by design, click here.

Measure results.  Ever leadership design needs a set of clear objectives and the right metrics. Consider sending out an anonymous survey to test your leadership skills. Fill out our questionnaire, “Management & Leadership IQ” to see how you do. If you are going to create leadership by design, you have to start and end with the right information and the right data.

Fear and Fundraising

imagesFear and fundraising:  two words that, unfortunately, often go hand-in-hand.  Our volunteers and board members are afraid of approaching their friends and colleagues.  Our executive directors are afraid of their boards.  We are all afraid of not hitting our goals and causing program cuts, layoffs, etc.  But there is one fear that seems to bring down more fundraising programs and otherwise good gift officers more than any other.  And that is the fear that chief development officers have of their executive directors and their boards.

I recently had a chief development officer come to me and tell me that they were really worried the fundraising event the organization was planning would be a complete flop, take up incredible amounts of staff time and resources, and lead to very little money raised.

I asked my client, “Have you told your executive director and board this?  Have you forcefully stated that you think this fundraising event will be a disaster?”

“Well, I’ve metnioned my concerns”, my client said, “but the board really wants this event.”

When the event fails to meet expectations, fails to raise money, and other fundraising is negatively affected, is the board going to remember that the event was their idea?  Will they remember the chief development officer’s feeble protests?  Or will they take a hard look at the person responsible for fundraising: the chief development officer?

I think we all know the answer to this question and many of this have been in this position.  The business of fundraising is a highly quantifiable one.  You’re good if you raise money, you’re not if you don’t.  Period.  Yes, unfortunately it is just this simple.  Your board isn’t a good fundraising board?  Welcome to not-for-profits.  Your executive director came from the mission side and doesn’t really understand fundraising?  So what else is new?  Your department is under-resourced?  Show me one that isn’t.  As fundraisers its our job to succeed despite these challenges.

How?  We are the experts and we need to act like the experts.  If you think that the event the board wants to do so badly will be a disaster, you need to forcefully say so, and back it with metrics and historical data, until they tell you to be quiet.  If you need more fundraisers on your board, then you need to push steadily for a board overhaul.  Are you worried you’ll get fired or in trouble for being to pushy?  What do you think will happen if you don’t hit goal?

Fundraising is a business of uncertainty and it’s a business of persuasion.  We can’t always get our way but we can always try and push for what is best for the organization.  Pushing doesn’t mean being obnoxious.  It means being persuasive, providing best practices and data, and it means being respectful.  But it also means not being afraid of exercising your expertise.  After all, that is why they hired you.

Often its a good idea to set expectations upfront.  In the last job I was at before I did full time consulting I sat down with the executive director and the board chair before I started the job and I said. “I’m aggressive.  I’m going to really push for an increase in board giving and some term limits.  I want to completely overhaul how we handle our communications.  Is that OK with you and do I have your support?  If not, you shouldn’t hire me.”

They told me that was exactly what they wanted and they were true to their word.  That doesn’t mean that we didn’t have conflict at times or rough patches.  But we raised a lot of money and generally got on very well because of that fact.

So, don’t be afraid to be the expert and don’t be afraid of your boss or your board.  In the end, pushing for what is needed in spite of having some uncomfortable moments is the only way to success.

Check out our podcast with Beth Herman for more coaching tips

What I Did On My Summer Vacation: Travels in Philanthropy

No, I did not go on a “philanthropy tour” of the U.S. this summer…  As I am sure you do too, I did take notice of the ways that the not-for-profit sector showed up in the community where we were visiting.  And what I found fascinated me and challenged my thinking about the “philanthropy revenue engine” available to different kinds of organizations.  Perhaps some of you saw the companion pieces that came out in the New York Times this week on this very topic?  (We try not to be New York-centric, but hey, most of us live here.)  First this piece on ThinkImpact… and then these thoughtful responses.

Let me tell you about the two wonderful organizations I encountered:

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Asticou Azalea Garden and Thuya Gardens are a meticulously maintained garden preserve in the very tony hamlet of Northeast Harbor, ME.  Planned by Charles Savage, owner of the Asticou Inn, and with the support of John D. Rockfeller, Jr., these two, interconnected gardens that bring together traditional Maine plantings with a Japanese aesthetic can safely be said to rest in the “luxury end” of the not-for-profit sector.

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Common Ground Soup Kitchen overlooks the Seawall in Manset, the last building just outside Acadia National Park, on the “quietside” of Mount Desert Island.  This community kitchen and meeting place serves the year-rounders, offering healthy food from local farmers, feeding those whose work happens seasonally and often have a hard time making it through the long, cold, off-season in Maine, and delivering meals (and companionship) to seniors who may be especially house-bound in the snowy, windy months.  Sounds like the kind of grassroots, “up by your bootstraps” kind of organization that every community has – and needs.

We had a wonderful experience both places:  a sunny, morning tour of the Asticou and Thuya Gardens that delivered on their promise to provide a “quiet and contemplative setting” away from the hustle and bustle of daily life… and a delicious breakfast of fresh popovers and local blueberry jam at Common Ground, with a mix of other vacationers and a smattering of talk about the success of the July 4th fireworks display from other local business owners.

Here is what is so interesting…  How would you assume that each organization supports their work?  What would you guess is the revenue engine of each?

You probably assume that Asticou and Thuya Gardens probably has a membership program and charge an admissions fee for visitors.  And you might assume that Common Ground gets by on fundraising events, gifts-in-kind from local businesses and some “cash in a can” donations from local and out-of-town passers-by.

These two defy expectations.

Though they could easily run as a “fee based” business, the Gardens ask very subtly and gently for a voluntary contribution from those who visit.  Sure, it helps that they have “big money” in their history, but like so many others, that may be more perception than reality today.  And like so many others, “big money” often spawns a well-financed, year-round fund development and membership program.

Common Ground has found a for-profit-like niche that serves them (and served us!) well:  offer vacationers and campers hot coffee, wifi, fresh popovers and oatmeal and the voluntary donations will flow. (It helps that the donations “jar” was a big box with a glass top so we could see what others had given – and Marie, the popover delivery-person, was the friendliest, most assertive gift officer I have met in a long time.)  I know we ended up paying more for breakfast than we would have elsewhere, but did it with a joyful heart, inspired by the posters, pictures, and literature all around us – and by Marie’s persuasive powers – explaining what our popover purchase would support long after we had gone home.

We are challenged by our clients to think about how they can expand and diversify their revenue engine – and all of us in “third sector” work today must think about where our funding streams will come from, what is emerging in the future.  What a powerful reminder to challenge our assumptions of what our funding sources could or should be!  What is your organization best in the world at doing?  Is that something you could monetize?  Is that something you should?  Asticou has decided that quiet contemplation is not to be monetized… while serving those who serve the vacation travelers can be.  Fascinating!

“And” Not “Or”: The Heart of Generosity

When I think about inspired, joyful, generous investing in our world to make it a better place, I focus on “and”, not “or”.  Just as the funny commercial shows us – sweet or sour chicken, bed or breakfast –  “or” can be a bad idea, I find that “or” hurts our not-for-profits as well.  Generosity is all about AND.

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I invest my intellectual capital in the organizations that matter most to me. I prepare for board and volunteer meetings, think about the issues, offer ideas, pay attention. I’m present.

I share my connections. Invite people to my home and to events. Make introductions. Facilitate strategic conversations about the societal problems we are trying to solve.
I invest money with an open heart as generously as I am able.

When we talk about things like “give or get,” “time, talent or treasure,” “work, wealth or wisdom,” we are selling our missions short:

  • Give generously AND help bring in additional resources. You can sell tickets; inspire friends to support your walk; help a CEO meet a foundation leader or government official you know; use social media to connect friends and their friends to a treasured cause.
  • Give generously AND volunteer your time. You can mentor, share expertise, help build a house or dig well, give a talk, offer an internship, give blood, serve on a task force, stuff envelopes.

AND represents generosity. It doesn’t matter how little time you have to give or how little money. For those of us who can do and give more, we should. Sharing makes us all richer, happier.  We love Katya’s Non-Profit Marketing Blog – here’s a classic piece from her blog on the science behind generosity.

Sharing makes the world a better place.

Making The 3.5% Increase Good News: Responding to Giving USA

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Giving is up 3.5%.  Does that give you reason to feel promise?  Or is it cause for continued anxiety?  Either way you look at it, the 2013 Giving USA report reminds us of the fact that philanthropy continues to be an American value and one whose impact is felt globally.

So, as you find time to read through this report or focus on the highlights, here are three things you can do before the end of summer to make this report even more applicable in your work.

  1. Make the data relevant to philanthropy at your organization
  • Understand the percentage of giving from individuals, corporations, foundations, and bequests to your organization:  what does your portfolio look like?  (For our podcast on building a balanced portfolio, click here and find episode 23.)
  • Think about how your percentages compare to national trends:  If giving from individuals is low, you have a case to increase time and energy in building your individual giving program especially since individuals account for more than 83% of giving nationally (this number raises to more than 86% when you account for family foundations).

2.  Create your own Giving USA report focused on your organization

  • Leverage your existing annual report with even more stories – and photos! – of impact.
  • Take the time now to create brief impact statements to share with your donors now. Share stories of recent impact rather than only telling the story of things you accomplished more than a year ago.
  • Find five well-connected champions within your donor base to share your story and their involvement through their social media channels.  Increase this number as you refine this approach.

3. Share highlights from the report with your top donors, prospects and volunteers

  • Have conversations about philanthropy with your current and potential donors.  How does your organization compare to others within your sector?  Sharing that context can generate pride in your strength, deepen understanding of the challenges you face and create motivation to be a part of the solution in your organization.
  • Use this as an opportunity to celebrate philanthropy, not just at your organization but to other causes as well!
  • And use this conversation as a springboard to other specific questions about donor philanthropy.  Where is our organization on your list of philanthropic priorities? How can we move up your list? What type of impact would you like to have with your philanthropy to our organization? Do you feel you are having this type of impact now? Why or why not?

Giving USA is a great resource we have to better understand the pulse of philanthropy on an annual basis. It provides great insight and detail on the type of philanthropy happening around the country and it’s up to us to have that same level of insight into giving at our own organizations. It’s a worthwhile quest and one that deepens our relationships with our donors and the investment they have in impacting our mission. Stay tuned for more perspectives on Giving USA from The Osborne Group.

Hello. Now What?: Smart Staff Orientation

You thought through the skills, experiences and competencies you need in your next hire. You wrote a great job description and crafted probing questions and scenarios that will help you identify the strongest candidate possible. Your ad is spot-on or you hired an outstanding firm to bring you the best pool of folks. Now you’ve chosen, made an offer and the your new staff person starts in 30 days.

For too many of us, that final decision marks the end of our hiring strategy. We either send the candidate to Human Resources to partake in the standard orientation or we plan a one day initiation – the office tour, donor files, and expectations. Sometimes, we sign the person up for a conference and use that as their orientation.

Then we wonder why things aren’t going as well as we hoped.  There is a better way to create a staff orientation focused on outcomes:

1. No candidate is perfect. We need to have a plan for shoring up whatever is missing. Start by making a list (or take the list you already created for the interview process) of all of the competencies, skills and experiences you sought. Indicate how many the new hire possesses, how many are there but not as strong as you’d like, and how many are missing. Try these guidelines for your staff orientation program. For example:

Slide1You hired this person for their strong competencies and needed experiences but there are gaps. Your plan must address the gaps.

2. Think about staff orientation as a year-long process. Twelve months from now, the new hire should know, have completed, and contributed what? Concretely identify these things. You might arrange them like this:

  • Knowledge about the institution or organization
  • Knowledge about the office – how you do things, how to use the system, knows their colleagues and internal customers and partners
  • Knowledge about the donor pool, met their top 50 and understands their philanthropic profile, relationship with the organization, motivations and so forth
  • Increased skills in (those things you wanted them to learn)
  • Increased experiences in (those experiences they didn’t have)
  • Plan for their work in the second year
  • Plans for their top 100 donors (or plans for building a qualified pool or some other identified need)

Some use a six-month approach.  The suggestions here from the Harvard Business Review are worth incorporating.

3. Now you can design the orientation program. You have your end-points laid out. How will you help your new hire get there? What does she need to do to ensure success? Who else needs to be involved?  We recommend thinking about orientation in stages.

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By month three, you know whether he is going to work out or not…  From this point, have a plan or revise your plan for moving forward, or decide that it is time to part ways and search for a new employee.  If you move forward, at month six:  conduct a formal check-in and make adjustments based on results.  Seek input on your management as well as delivering feedback!  Then at the year anniversary, ask for a self-evaluation and provide a written one.

To help you build a strong relationship with new employees, click here for a list of “Getting to Know Your New Hire Strategic Questions”.

Why Not More Peer Learning at Conferences?

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Last week I spent the last leg of a two week European business trip “presenting” at the International Fundraising Festival in Prague. I put presenting in quotes because so much of the value of this conference comes from the participants learning from each other. The festival, held every two years by the Czech Fundraising Center over three days at the Villa Gröbe, spends the entire second day in “open” sessions where the participants decide which topics they would like to discuss and facilitate the sessions themsleves with us presenters and experts participating and providing tips and guidance where we can.

At The Osborne Group we are privledged to work with many different types and sizes of NGOs including some very large organizations with affiliate structures that hold their own large scale conferences, both national and international. Interestingly, when surveyed, they all very consistently say that while they get lots out of the more formal sessions, they get equal value out of the conversations that develop in the hall between sessions, at dinner, at the bar, and around the coffee dispenser. Anyone who has attend a conference understands the basic truth in this. The IFF has very successfully created a conference that duplicates this informal experience formally, a conference in the spaces and gaps of a typical conference.

photoSo while I did present on Crowdfunding and Fundraising and Activism during the first and last days of the conference, I think the bulk of the real learning took place during the open sessions where topics were as myriad as dealing with stress in fundraising, running a social enterprise, the nature of and limits of corporate social responsibility, and many others. Overall, at least 16 different topics were discussed.

So, why don’t we consultants and conference organizers employ this technique more? I think we tend to find it hard to loosen the reins when we feel that more basic and fundamental areas need to be addressed. In other words, there’s no way I’m going to let these affiliates decide to talk about the ins and outs of crowd funding when none of them have a table of gifts or can even tell me their year to year donor retention rates! I get it and there is merit to this. The fundamentals must be taught but I also think these fundamentals can come out in a more organic way when suggested and organized by the participants themselves. I had a great session where when ended up talking about many fundamentals including metrics, A/B testing, and discussing impact over just reporting news. The original topic centered around how the an organization might do better prospecting.

Many of us presenters use case studies and audience exercise in our workshops. This is admirable but I would like to take this further and again let participants really have more of a hand in the topics that get covered. This can be done in the format that IFF has done it but it would be fine I think if there was just time and space reserved at a conference for participants to organize themselves and talk about topics of their own choosing. So often at conferences there is almost no unstructured time between the formal workshops, dinner, and other “official” “must attend” events. Let’s build in some time for informal learning.

Moreover, when a group takes reponsibility for its own learning and participation (as opposed to just listening) is understood to be part of the format, participants are much more likely to ensure that their own questions get answered, that they will take practical and implementable advice back to their office with them, and that they’ll actually remember what they’ve learned for a much longer period of time.

We “experts” need to do more to promote this type of learning. I’m hopeful that the next time I encounter peer learning won’t be at the IFF 2015.

Three Steps and Three Tools to Jumpstart Your SEO

Guest Blogger:  Ashley Dortch, Co-Founder, Meridian Interactive

Last week, I had the opportunity to podcast with Neesha Rahim.  We had a great discussion on how nonprofits might use the SEO process to build strategic major donor relationships.  I hope you got to listen!  Neesha said many of you have put incredible effort into building a website.  Some of you have perhaps even installed your Google Analytics and figured out the basic way to use it.  But search-engine-optimizationincreasingly, we hear that some of you are finding that — gulp! —  only a few people were actually visiting those great sites.  Whether you see yourself in those words or not, if you’ve launched a website and have started to look at analytics on how visitors interact with that site, this post is for you.  It’s time to start thinking about increasing traffic and upping your game. There are options out there that can be expensive, like purchasing advertising. However, another option that all website owners should take advantage of is SEO, or Search Engine Optimization.

Search Engine Optimization, by definition, is the process of increasing traffic to your website organically, or within the free (non-paid) results on the search engines. Understanding the process of SEO and educating your organization on what search engines consider when ranking websites will provide the measurable benefits of increased traffic at minimal cost AND this process presents you with an opportunity to build out your major donor relationships.  (More on how exactly how to do that in this podcast…)

Here I want to provide you with three detailed, simple steps utilizing three free tools that I referred to in that podcast on taking your SEO game-plan to the next level:

1) Decipher the Competition and See Where They Stand using “PR Checker”
Understanding your competition and where other organizations in your niche rank is important to your SEO strategy.  Think of search terms that donors, philanthropists, and other potentially interested parties may be looking for – for a youth development organization, say: “Giving to Children’s Education”. Type “Giving to Children’s Education” into Google and make a list of who appears in the search results. These are the players you want to be mindful of, analyze, and eventually appear next to (if you already don’t).  Using the PR Checker, you can see what Google thinks of your competitors as well. This gives a nice gauge as to where they stand and what you should strive for. Google ranks sites on a 0 to 10 basis.
2) Competitive Keyword Research using the “SEO Book Page Analyzer”
Once you decipher the top competitors and high-rankers in your industry, it’s time to see what keywords they are using. Find the exact page that is showing up in the results (for example, www.yourcompetition.com/the-exact-page, as opposed to www.yourcompetition.com).  Next, plug the page into the SEO Book Page Analyzer. This will show you the top keyword strings that appear on that page. Pay more attention to the two and three keyword strings, as opposed to the single-word keywords, as longer strings may produce more exact results. Once you have this list of keywords, start blogging, producing articles, and creating content using these keywords. Putting content out there on the web that is relevant to what your competitors are writing about is a great way to be found amongst them in search results.
3) Link Building using BackLinkWatch
Relevant inbound links from high ranking sites are key for improving your search rank for SEO. Think of it as the credit game.  A teenager starts out with no credit, and her parent decides to help her build credit by adding them to their credit card (with a $250 limit, of course!). Google and the other search engines rank your site in the same way. The goal is to know your page rank, and get sites with higher page ranks to link to you, therefore boosting your ranking.
So how do we go about this? Using your list of competitors (those organizations you admire who are doing work like yours), drop their websites into the BacklinkWatch tool. Now, see who is linking to them, and find creative ways to get those other sites to link to you too! Remember to be mindful of the rank for these sites (use the PR Checker tool above).  If the site who is linking to your competitor has a #1 rank, and you have a #3, it may not be worth your effort.
But why will they link to you? Because you are offering them something of value… Ask to contribute to their articles, see if they will allow you to introduce yourself to their audience, if they have a directory, see what it takes to get listed… it’s that simple. This not only increases your website rank, but it gets you in front of interested eyes and relevant readers. Syndication across the web is key… Think of the web as your “keyword highway” and you want to be on every billboard along the way.
If you would like to reach our guest blogger, Ashley, you can do so at Meridian Interactive (http://www.meridianinteractive.com) Email: info@meridianinteractive.com Phone: (347)268-4089

 

Build the Better Budget: Non-Profit Budget Tools from Consultant-Land…and Reality.

An old friend and I were catching up the other day and she observed, “Your approach to philanthropy has really changed since you joined a board, hasn’t it?”  While I’m not sure that it’s been a change in only one direction, I do know that leading a board has made me a better consultant, more cognizant of the tough realities of non-profit management and tied into the calendar.  And that means it’s budget planning time…  I’ve been diving through the waves and waves of non-profit budget planning tools available, both to make sure we’re doing the best possible job as a board, and to take a look at what’s out there, as I wear my “consultant” hat.  But first, a few thoughts on the budget process before the tools are needed…

It may be cold comfort for those who recognize themselves in these situations, but here are the budget and goal-setting processes we hear too often:

  • The budget is set as a mandate from on high and the goal is delivered, Moses-like on tablets carried from the top the mountain.Buried-in-Paperwork-300x200..
  • The year’s impact goals are never really set and the budget is forced to fit the fund development projections…
  • …and that projected goal is developed with a shrug of the shoulders – “Who knows what we can raise next year?  We’ll know when we do it…”
  • …or the budget and goals for the coming year are dictated by donor interest, “We’ll do what our donors support.  How should I know what our budget should be until our donors tell us what they want?”

Being a responsive organization that can build visionary plans and achievable goals does not involve carrying stone tablets, delivering divine proclamations.  And being a donor-centric organization stops considerably short of doing whatever “The Donor” – whoever that mythical being is – wants accomplished.

On to the ideal!, says the consultant side of me.

Ideally, the organization’s leadership will begin with an annual review of the strategic plan:  where has progress been made?  What progress is next?  Which strategic goals need adjustment?  Which have been accomplished?  And from this review of the agreed upon, multi-year strategic plan, the year’s tactical goals for creating impact and outcomes should emerge.  Then the team asks themselves:  what is needed?  What investment of time, equipment, or resources is needed to achieve this goal?  Is it new staff?  New phone system?  And a first pass at the budget is developed from the strategic goals to the impact goals sought in the next fiscal year.

Simultaneously, the fund development team is building their goal from their gifts received and name-by-name projections (you are doing name-by-name projections on your table of gifts, right?!).  The projected goal is hand-built and movement toward key thresholds like reaching 20% of the philanthropy goal from board giving is established. This name-by-name projection is added to the projections for the broader channels of funding, based on program tweaks or overhauls (and the budget costs for those factored on too!) to arrive at an achievable goal.

THEN, these two are compared and any gap is discussed calmly, with a spirit of “Can Do!” give and take.  Cuts are made or more cost-efficient ways to do things are uncovered and the goal grows with innovative ways to increase giving and other revenue sources.

Isn’t that exactly the way it happens every year?  Riiiight.  Perhaps in consultant-land…  Back here in reality, it is seldom that tidy.  But that doesn’t mean we can’t strive for it.

Here are the TWO things (just 2!) we can’t cut corners on:

  1. You must create impact goals tied to the revenue needed to achieve them.  We are doomed to bad business planning and low sights when we don’t know what it costs to deliver the change we seek to make.
  2. You must hand-build that philanthropy goal from the ground up, person by person at the top of your table of gifts and campaign by campaign

If you find yourself applying a flat percentage increase to your fundraising goals or to build your new budget number:

STOP RIGHT NOW. 

TURN AROUND AND GO IN ANOTHER DIRECTION. 

Success in impact and in fund development requires that your goals must be tied to reality.  If you’re having trouble writing a persuasive case for support or convincing donors to give, it’s probably because you don’t have a great answer to this question.

So, to those tools to get this done:

I mentioned in an earlier blog piece, the embarrassment of riches that the wonderful folks at the Wallace Foundation have provided through their new Financial Planning Toolkit.

  • For those going through the budget planning process – especially board leaders – here’s a practical, step-by-step guide for leading this in your organization:  Five Step Guide to Budget Development from the FMA.  This readable .pdf is suitable for sharing with the whole board.

I was also happy to find a thoughtful piece on when to run a surplus budget, break-even budget, or deficit budget from Blue Avocado written by Jeanne Bell called “Nonprofit Budgets Have to Balance: False!”. Did you know you had a choice?  You do.

Need even more?  The National Council of Non-Profits has an extensive toolkit specifically on the budget building process.

A final thought:  my board experience has also taught me that it is just as important that your fund development committee (and fund development staff!) be conversant about your 990 – the ultimate reflection of this entire process – as your finance committee.  Donors deserve to know how your budgeting and spending choices will carry out their giving wishes – that’s the best stewardship and the right way to be donor-centric.

Lean In or Lean Over? Leading with Balance

No one has time.  Everyone is super busy.  In fact, in today’s world that seems to be a badge of honor.  Think Angie’s List ad:  “I’m busy, busy, busy,” says the spokesperson.  “Ask anyone.  Well, I’m super busy, but I guess that’s good, better than the opposite.” Making time and finding time for the RIGHT tasks and meetings are requirements for leading.

Consider this: we could work 24/7 and never be finished. To add to this problem the fact that success breeds more work.  With the new book by Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg, Lean In putting women’s leadership and balancing act all over the news, we are once again reminded, in our female-dominated profession, that making time for what is “urgent and important and just plain important,” (as Stephen R. Covey taught us) is critical toTime1 our success.  As male and female leaders, this is not only essential to getting our work successfully completed, but also to modeling what we expect from our teams.

Elizabeth Grace Saunders, author of The 3 Secrets to Effective Time Investment, recently told the Harvard Business Review (and reported in CASE Advancement Weekly, March 11, 2013) that “many managers feel guilty that they are in so many meetings, and so they try to compensate by having an open-door policy for their staff.”  But leaving the door open is a bad solution to a real problem.

Here are some tips for making time and finding time to lead.

  1. Get a handle on what is important and what is devouring your time that isn’t important. Fill in the grid! imagesMost of us handle pretty well those activities that are either “Urgent and Important” or “Not Urgent and Not Important”.  We get into trouble by ignoring or giving short shrift to important items that are not urgent like: thinking, strategizing, writing contact reports, planning, donor strategy development, and staying current.  And spending too much time on “Urgent but Not Important” activities like some emails, meetings, phone calls, and other people’s urgent priorities can cause additional problems.  Identify what’s not working and make a plan.
  2. Perfect balance isn’t achievable.  Balance tends to be uneven and messy.  Balance3Sometimes, life needs more of our attention; sometimes having the door closed all day is the right thing to do.  Leadership requires us to figure out and set clear priorities for ourselves and for our team so we are making time and finding time for the RIGHT things.
  3. Learn how to say, “No.”  This is a tough one but probably this most important. We tend to be “Can Do!”, people pleasers.  “Yes, I can do that.” “Sure, I’ll make it happen.”  We over-promise which can lead to burn-out and/or under-delivering, both of which lead to a work-life balance so out of whack we become ill, or drop a “glass ball” that breaks.  “No” isn’t a bad word.  Saying no to other peoples’ urgent but not important activities, to meetings that will be too long or not productive, to a 30- minute conversation with, “I’d love to speak with you.  I have ten minutes.  How can I help?”  That allows you to say yes to you, yes to making time and finding time to what really matters.

By Karen Osborne