Monday, October 27, 2008

Kissing Babies: Nonprofit Leadership and Political Campaigning

I was recently at a luncheon with an Executive Director who leads a homeless organization in Las Vegas. Las Vegas is a state very much in flux, being that it is one of the fastest growing states in the union but also is suffering the most from the the recent economic downturn. In addition, the state is a highly visible ground battleground state in the presidential election. She began talking about the similarities between her work and that of a candidate, in which she rattled off like a 100 examples ranging from giving speeches to kissing babies. She stated that these examples often left her tired and overworked.

As I looked at her examples I noticed that all of them related to communication. From talking to a group of donors to visiting program participants, most of this work is in displaying and packaging the leader and therefore the organization. Political campaigns are similar and they are experts in kissing babies!

Finally on this point, if communication is one of the central foundations of nonprofit leadership, then why is so little time dedicated to it. I am not talking about the marketing of nonprofits (which a great deal of time is spent on) but I am talking about the communication coming from its leaders. Academia and other nonprofit training mostly miss this important area. If nonprofit leadership is similar to a political campaign as my colleague suggests then maybe more resources should be devoted to how leaders communicate.

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