Should You Adopt Radical Transparency?

imgresThe idea of radical transparency has been a popular concept in the business world for around the last decade or so.  The term gets used quite a bit but in the context of the corporate world, it essentially refers to making decisions in public, being open about data, and generally being up front in areas where a corporation has traditionally tried to do the opposite.  The idea is that in the chaotic world of the internet the only way you can influence your own reputation is to be part of the conversation in an open way.  Increasingly, I’m beginning to see nonprofits adopt the same idea.  So, should you adopt radical transparency?

My friend Dora is involved with an organization called Razom.  The organization was formed a little over a year ago in response to the Maidan movement in Ukraine.  It’s been fascinating to watch the organization over that period of time.  First, the fundraising ROI is off the charts at less than $.01 expenses per dollar raised.  But more interesting to me is their philosophy of complete financial transparency.  For instance, their financial books are a publicly viewable google doc.  Sure, it’s in cyrillic but Google will helpfully translate it for you if you haven’t kept up with your Ukrainian.  For most nonprofits, having their finances down to every last expenditure displayed for all the world to see would send the CFO running away in horror.  Additionally, when Razom was first trying to get its books in order it decided to have a “financial hackathon”.  All members of Razom were invited to participate and help get the organization organized financially.  Now, when I say “members” I mean people who have joined their Facebook page, so more or less the general public.

I love that Razom has begun its organizational life with transparency as a core value.  While I am sure Razom faces its share of challenges just like any other nonprofit, I’m going to guess that trust between the organization and its donors is not one of them.  No need for donors to guess how their money is being spent; they can see it any day at any time.  Creating the Future, a social change research and development laboratory, conducts all of its board meetings via Google Hangout, open not only to viewing by the public, but participation by the public.  What a crazy, radical, wonderful idea.

Given how poorly the vast majority of nonprofits steward their donors, we could benefit from considering these and similar practices.  Most of those who are familiar with The Osborne Group know that we consider stewardship of paramount importance.  90% of the time we see a problem with an organization and its ability to fundraise, ad hoc stewardship or a lack of it all together features into the problem prominently.  As a sector, we are bad in this area and we need to get better.  Radical transparency might be the answer.  We are not saying that you have to conduct your board meetings in public; there is a lot of work that goes along with this.  But what if you video taped them and put them on the web?  Or maybe conducted one meeting a year open to the public?  What if you did make your P & L available on the web?  What’s the worst that could happen?

The problem, of course, is that the way philanthropy, especially institutional philanthropy from corporations and foundations, is perceived makes this concept pretty scary.  In essence, we are all terrified that if our funders saw all of our struggles that we risk losing funding.  In this day and age we are all so focused ROI and metrics that we believe deep down that if our donors know that we aren’t perfect they’ll just support some “better” or more “efficient” operation.

But what if the opposite turned out to be true?  What if the best way to show commitment to a strong ROI and social ROI was to have all of our struggles out in the open?  Wouldn’t that show and even greater commitment to being the best organization we can be?  Wouldn’t that build the most important of all bonds, trust?

Given how little most donors trust nonprofits, we would all do well to at least consider the idea.

 

Giving USA 2014 Spreecast

 

 

In this Spreecast, Laurel and Bob break down their first impressions of the new Giving USA statistics.  Giving levels are nearly back at pre-recession levels but what does it all mean?  Give Bob and Laurel a listen to find out!

It’s Not Too Late to End the Year Strong

It’s not too late to end the year strong with an increased surge in philanthropic investments. Kevin Daum, author of “Roar! Get Heard in the Sales and Marketing Jungle,” recommends tips that translate nicely for fundraisers.

“Go Lean and Mean,” is his first recommendation. Focus on the top three goals you can actually achieve in the next month. Frontline fundraiser might consider (1) Closing the gifts of loyal friends, especially those donors from whom you are seeking an upgrade. Call, pop by, email or write a personal note and then follow-up. Start at the top in terms of giving capacity and requested amount. Make it as personal as you are able. Quality matters with these top potential donors. (2) Maybe the next tier down and (3) everyone else who hasn’t been asked receiving a warm invitation to make a difference now!

For non-frontline fundraisers, Daum’s advice still works. “With only a little time left, every minute is valuable, so don’t waste them. Decide on two or three major goals that are important and achievable. Stretching is fine, but make sure the motivation is strong. The rest can be eliminated or go on the schedule for 2014. Then you’ll be mentally free and ready to focus hard and attack these important few goals.”

“Take Stock,” is his second recommendation. I don’t think that works well for December in the fundraising world no matter your position on the team. For example, donor relations professionals are buys getting thank you notes, holiday cards, and impact reports out the door, helping donors feel great about their investments and thinking about making another. Researchers are polishing lists and briefs for fundraisers trying to close, close, close. January, however, is the perfect month for taking stock and adjusting your plan for the remainder of your fiscal year if not on a calendar year or making a new plan for 2014.

“Much of what you anticipated would happen this year probably turned out to be different than you originally thought. Don’t try and execute an aggressive approach based upon information and expectations that are months old. Take a day or two to disconnect from the day-to-day craziness to assess, think and plan the coming months. You might consider a consultant to help you find your weaknesses.” The Osborne Group offers many diagnostic tools and services to help you maximize strategically taking stock.

His next recommendation is also excellent for January. “Add Structure,” – a path to success. You need a plan with clear metrics and accountability. Use January to assess what worked, what didn’t, why, and what shall we do differently going forward.

“Make a Deal,” number four suggestion and I like it a lot. What motives you to excel, to pick up the phone, to get out the door, to exceed your own and your supervisor’s expectations, to make your donors say, “Wow?” Identify that motivator, promise to reward your excellent behavior, and then go do amazing work these last few weeks always keeping in mind it is not too late to end the year strong!

His last recommendation is essential. “Enlist Partners.” We know that volunteers can and should be force multipliers. Here’s a quick piece that may inspire your volunteers this holiday season.  Enrolling and engaging your best volunteers to help you with both stewardship (calling, visiting to thank, share impact, and wish the best for the New Year) and to ask and close (Please join me) is a winning formula.

As you focus on what to do during these last few weeks, keep in mind the good advice of Jess Lee, “Keep things as simple as possible, edit out the extraneous, and focus on polishing the details.”

Top 20 Clues that Your Workplace May Have Work/Life Balance Issues

We break here for a moment of levity from a friend of the firm who composed this list of all-too-familiar work/life balance issues faced, particularly, by remote and out-based workers.  Hope you find comfort in the company…

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Work life balanceYour workplace may have work/life balance issues …

20. When you feel like you should turn on your “Out Of Office” if you aren’t going to work on a Saturday.

19. When a vendor says he shouldn’t schedule a meeting for noon Eastern because a lot of his staff go to lunch and you laugh loudly and then you realize he’s serious.

18. When you discover it’s quicker to tally the hours you work each day by simply subtracting your sleep hours from 24.

17. When you tally the hours spent “clearing a few projects” the weekend before your vacation week, hours spent “just responding to essential emails” during your vacation week, and “just putting my game plan together for next week” during the weekend after your vacation week, subtract them from 40 and get a negative number.  And then feel like you are cheating for turning in zero vacation hours to HR for your vacation week because seriously, 40 hours is not a work week.

16. When you fantasize about taking vacation time to get some project work done.

15. When you look forward to holidays because it means you can get some work done without all those co-worker distractions.

14. When your son can’t seem to remember whether Sunday is a regular work day for you or not.

13. When you apologize to one of your staff  for not being able to talk at that moment because you are supposed to be in another meeting. And it is Sunday.

12. When you eschew the two-ingredient baby green salad for lunch in favor of your usual handful of tortilla chips and spoonful of peanut butter because rinsing the salad bowl afterwards would make you late for your next meeting.

11. When a co-worker asks you if you can attend a meeting at 9:00 and you have to ask AM or PM.

10. When you schedule your mom in for a 30 minute slot two weeks from now so you can chat.

9. When you prepare an agenda for that call.

8. When you’ve heard yourself say this more than five times: “I have to hop off this call now because I just got to my therapist’s office.”

7. When one of your staff emails you to let you know he won’t be working tonight because he is going to the grocery store.

6. When you see a plastic bin at IKEA and note to yourself that it would make an excellent bus tub for your office.

5. When you regularly fantasize during conference calls about vacuuming the house.

4. When “make dentist appointment” has been on your to-do list for more than two years.

3. When your new extended-life laptop battery arrives and you get excited because you it means you can work ALL THE TIME EVERYWHERE FOREVER NO MATTER WHAT.

2. When you stop drinking water during the day because of all the wasted bathroom time.

1. When you divide your work day into two sections: “Before Alcohol” and “During Alcohol.”

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You can get a grip on this.  Check out this post from Yolanda on first steps to take and go to our website for some of our Most Requested Tools in time management.

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

Managing Your Time, Energy, and Work and Still Have a Life

Managing time is not easy.  It’s a life’s work, in fact.  For those of us in the nonprofit world, and especially resource development and institutional advancement, it feels even harder.  We have a passion for the mission; we are often understaffed; and with success comes more work, not less.

How to make it all work?

  • Start with clarity of your big priorities.  What are your top three to five “buckets” of work? As a consultant mine are clear. What are yours?
    1. Respond to current clients’ needs
    2. Get my invoices in, or the team can’t get paid
    3. Stay current
    4. Market
    5. Support the work of the rest of the team
  • Check with your supervisor.  What percentage of time should you spend, ideally, on each of your big buckets?
  • Determine reality.  How much time are you spending and what is getting in the way?
  • Have a conversation about fixing the imbalance.
  • Stephen M. Covey left us all a terrific tool. Identify those daily activities that land in each of the boxes and then find ways to eliminate all of those activities in boxes C and D. Emails come to mind.  Too many meetings. Other people’s urgencies. Use the time to fit in more activities from boxes A and B

 

  • Learn how and when to say “no.” This is liberating and does not have to be career-limiting.  “That sounds like a good idea.  I could devote 30 minutes to it tomorrow, but today I have to take care of (fill in the agreed upon priorities).  Should we take a few minutes and brainstorm together some other ways to take care of this?”

No one has time.  We could work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and never, ever be finished.  Our responsibility, therefore, is to pick the right things to do, and the right things to let go.

follow me at @kareneosborne