Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Don't Drink That: How The Habit of Tasting the Bad Milk Hurts Us All

I was on the board of the Loudoun County United Way for a short time when I lived in the Washington D.C. area. It was right after the famous scandal that rocked the United Way in that area. It was a rought time for local nonprofits in the region, even though the local economy was thriving. Groups spent much time and resources on positioning themselves to donors to obtain confidence. What I felt mostly is that at times nonprofits were equal to a glass of spoiled milk.

The article in the WSJ regarding the Bernie Madoff scandal hurts nonprofits, in a similiar way. Nonprofits had nothing to do with the Madoff scandal, yet again there is a bad milk smell that causes donors to hesitate. This is happening in the midst of a the current economic climate.

My assessment on all of this is that nonprofits are unfairly tarnished by some bad apples but also bad media. The stories often look for the opposite sides of the spectrum, either new milk or smelly milk. Madoff is a good case in point. Ponzi scheme for the wealthy that goes terribly wrong. How does that have anything to do with a great human service agency in Harlem. Nothing at all but that Harlem group's bottom line will suffer because of the rush to cover the bad milk.

Tough economic times call for us to watch our bottom line more closely, but I also think it should involve more work at showcasing the fresh milk. There is a lot of it.....

Monday, December 15, 2008

Do Successful Corporate Leaders Equal Successful Nonprofit Leaders

This weekend I read an article in the NY Times (www.nytimes.com/2008/12/13/business/13next.html?scp=7&sq=David%20Gergen&st=cse). The article is about a program at Harvard University that is training former corporate CEOs in a one year fellowship on being nonprofit CEOs. While I am for further education, three thoughts crossed my mind. They are as follows:

  1. I feel a little disrespected when people think that a one-year, once a week/month fellowship is enough for someone to be able to come in an run a nonprofit effectively. It makes me think that there is little regard for the sector.
  2. Why isn't there a similar program for corporate CEOs. I think the corporate sector could really gain from the leadership of a nonprofit CEO.
  3. While much has been stated in the nonprofit world about the impending leadership gap regarding the baby boomers retiring and not enough nonprofit leaders able to take over, I do not see this as the only reason to leap over to the help of the corporate sector. I am sorry, but every headline I read in a business periodical relates to an issue that can be directly tied to bad corporate leadership. And this is the pool that the nonprofit sector should be begging for.
Maybe I am over-reacting but I get a little angry when people immediately think that either corporate practice or leadership can swoop in for the lowly nonprofit sector. In my opinion, it should be the other way around. Maybe a bailout would not be needed if the corporate leader spent time on the ground floor of a nonprofit and worked their way up.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Nugget: Free Capacity Building Training from White House

The White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives and the United States Department of Labor Center for Faith-Based and Community Initiatives invites you to participate in a unique, three-part training to improve your organization's ability to measure, manage, and communicate results. Participants who complete the training will also receive free case management and outcomes tracking software.

This valuable Results-Based Management training is free and will be offered in three, 90-minute webinars on December 18, 2008, January 6, 2009, and January 13, 2009, from 2:00-3:30 p.m. (EST). This opportunity is open to faith-based and other community nonprofits engaged in addressing poverty, disease, and other critical human needs.

Results-Based Management training strengthens organizations' information management capabilities and services, spurs strategic thinking, and equips organizations to communicate more effectively about what funders care most about: real impact in the lives of people in need.

The first 90-minute training webinar on December 18, 2008, will teach the fundamentals of creating and applying an outcomes-focused, case management information system. At the conclusion of the first webinar, you will be asked to complete and submit a logic model (evaluation plan) for one program offered by your organization for evaluation by experts.

Prior to the second training webinar, experts will assess your logic model and provide feedback. The second 90-minute training webinar on January 6, 2009, will build on the first by fine tuning your organization's logic model with the help of experts and peers taking part in the webinar.

The third 90-minute training webinar on January 13, 2009, will teach you how to use case management and outcomes tracking software and customize it for your organization's specific program(s). If you or your colleagues participate in and complete all three training webinars, your organization will also receive a free, one-year license to use ResultsOnline2, a web-based case management and outcomes tracking software.

To register for this unique training opportunity, please click here and complete the online registration by Friday, December 12, 2008.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Chapter 11 for Nonprofits: Why This Idea Should Not Be A New One

I was reading the New York Nonprofit Press today and going over the article discussing the November 19th event hosted by the NYC United Way regarding the economic challenges facing the sector. Interesting synopsis and seems like every get together has the title "tough economic times". Paul Light expressed that "100,000 nonprofits will close their doors in the next 2 years". Many other displayed similiar catastophic sentiments and voiced the need for a fund to support nonprofits.

During this conference I was in Detroit visiting with national foundations. No where else in the country is the feeling of the economy felt like it is in Detroit. It is gray everywhere. A similiar statement was made to say that a relief fund (distressed nonprofit fund or DNF) should also be created for the nonprofit sector. A follow-up comment was made to say that the tough economic climate should support those agengies at-risk of closure and therefore at at-risk of not being able to provide adequate services to those most in need. While I agree that such a fund might be neccessary, I do not think that such a fund should exist because of what is being felt right now. This fund should have always existed.

I did not see when the economy was flush a move to support nonprofits approaching the same position on the cliff as I do now although there were many groups on the edge. General operating, the base of a nonprofit's lifeline, was still challenging to obtain then as is it now. Foundation giving is still focused, for the most part, on program giving with little flexibility on their giving to go outside of direct program expense. The need for the DNF should not only be created in this time, but should be a fund that is available at all times. I think it more dangerous to offer up such a fund sporadically rather than having ongoing.

The NYNP article stated that Gordon Campbell, my former professor and CEO of the UNited Way stating the Rahm Emanuel quote, "you never want a crisis to go to waste". I would voice the same thing instead I would say thay sometimes a crisis gives us the lense that we should of had all along. With the words of Chapter 11 being thrown around everyday as a safety net for struggling corporations, I say that an ongoing Chapter 11, or DNF Fund, solution for nonprofits is an idea that should be seriously explored.

Monday, December 1, 2008

More Please: Thanksgiving Nuggets

Here are a couple of leadership opportunities, or "nuggets" that might be of interest:

  • MTV and Ashoka GenV want to know what solutions you have and how you can help improve the environment. Submit your ideas and you can get up to US$1,000 to make your ideas a reality. Some of you might even be featured in a new MTV show in 2009! Also, the Lemelson Foundation will award five project leaders a trip to Boston, USA to take part in a roundtable discussion on climate change at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

  • The John W. Gardner Leadership Award was established in 1985 to honor outstanding Americans who exemplify the leadership and the ideals of John W. Gardner (1912-2002), American statesman and founding chair of Independent Sector. Independent Sector presents the Award each year to an individual whose leadership in or with the nonprofit community has been transformative and who has mobilized and unified people, institutions, or causes that improve people’s lives.

Hope you had a great Thanksgiving.....