Monday, August 31, 2009

Summer Lovin' - Had Me a Blast

Summer is coming to a close and if you listen closely you can hear nonprofit organizations taking a huge breath as the fall is a very busy time for the sector. What do we anticipate seeing:
  • Academics will be back in the classroom and in their nooks finishing their writings for their publishers delights. I am sure more writings on how the nonprofit sector should be more like the business sector.
  • Managers and Executive Directors will be welcoming back staff who had the summer to think about new ideas for the organization or avenues to get out.
  • Foundations are preparing for the fall grant cycle and board meetings, where they will continue to pull back and make more difficult decisions.
  • Government funding, especially federal, will be going to those other than ourselves, or it will seem that way.
  • We all will be confused with nonprofit press outlets who say things are going down hill but things are looking up.
Just my sense on the above but know that September is a month that feels more like renewal than January does, so here a glass to the little break we got this summer and the intensity of the fall. Let me know how I can help!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Something To Laugh About

I was given this jokey one-pager (I am forgetting where I got it), but though it outlined various times in my working with non-profits, especially as of late, boards. Hope you find it funny as well:

"Dakota tribal wisdom says that when you discover you are riding a dead horse, the best strategy is to dismount. However in nonprofits/business we often try other strategies with dead horses, including the following:

  1. Buying a stronger whip.
  2. Changing riders.
  3. Saying things like, "this is the way we have ridden horse".
  4. Appointing a committee to study the horse.
  5. Arranging to visit another site to see how they ride horses.
  6. Appointing a tiger team to revive the dead horse.
  7. Creating a training session to increase the riding environment.
  8. Changing the requirements to specify that "Horses shall not die".
  9. Comparing the fate of horses in today's environment.
  10. Hiring contractors to ride the dead horse.
  11. Harnessing several dead horses together for increased speed.
  12. Declaring that "No dead horse is too dead to ride".
  13. Providing additional funding to increase the horses performance.
  14. Doing a study to see if the horse can be ridden cheaper if outsourced.
  15. Purchasing a product to revitalize the dead horse.
  16. Declaring the dead horse is "better, faster and cheaper".
  17. Forming a quality circle to find uses for dead horses.
  18. Revisiting the performance requirements for horses.
  19. Promoting the dead horse to a supervisory position.
How does this relate to your work?

Monday, August 3, 2009

My Mom Said I Was Good Lookin' So That Means I'm Good-Lookin'

This week I am performing my patriotic duty and reviewing grants for the federal government. Now, I do get paid a small sum but I view this as more a volunteer service than anything and since I have not ever been called to Jury Duty, this seems like a good way for me to serve.

As I read these applications, where hours and hours of time and energy are spent on crafting these things, I can say that there are couple of areas that jump out at me. They are as follows:
  1. No matter how many grant-makers panels I moderate or attend or see speakers from the federal agencies, I am amazed at how many do not follow the directions. I always brushed this off as something they had to say but it is true, people do not follow directions. Or read.
  2. Anyone, anywhere can set up an establishment somewhere, gain a little funding and look a certain way. Here is the formula: someone with some letters behind their name, a group that will house you but not keep tabs on you and a large title behind your establishment. I am now going to call my desk the National Center for of Wood and Steel Collaboration. Let the good times roll.
  3. Using math to tell a story is a very hard concept for most. I have trouble with it as well Budgeting is a mathematical example of telling a story. Not just listing numbers.
The biggest thing I see is how freely the word "model" is used. It made me think of a television story I once saw where a mother said to her son, "You are good looking". The son, not really a looker but feeling confident, soon thereafter went up to a pretty girl and asked her out, which she flatly rejected and commented on his looks, for which the response from the boy was "My mother said I was good looking". (Ok, the story is about me.....). Many groups I work with in some way say either they are a model or are working on a particular problem in a very unique way. I am not sure who is giving the credentialing of models out in most of these cases, but believe the term model is given out to those most close to them, within their "family sphere". Not neccessarily pomp and circumstance in most cases. Maybe it relates to the idea that we must all be special and everyone getting a gold medal but in this activity don't we miss something? It's the standard case of Franken's Law of "Good Enough and People Like Me" . GEPLE for short.

I think when I hear the word model, I am instantly off-put by it because I think innovation often sneaks up on true innovators and those that are innovating often don't know it. often because they just by pure luck ran into it. I also wonder why isn't it OK to just do good work. We all can't tackle Mount Everest but we all can tackle the nearest hill.