[PODCAST] Getting to the heart of a great ask

Despite the immense amount of focus we place on understanding the art of asking for support, it continues to keep us treading water and occasionally dipping our heads below the surface.

We had the chance to speak with author Laura Fredricks recently about her book, The Ask: The Ask: How to Ask for Support for Your Nonprofit Cause, Creative Project or Business VentureI’m confident you’ll enjoy her insights in response to our questions.

CausePlanet: What trend(s) are you noticing in donor solicitations since you published this updated version of The Ask?

Fredricks: A real dedication to raising money from individuals–speaking with people before, during and after events–and board members eager to know, “How can I get this right?”

Listen here: Getting it right

CausePlanet: There is a surprising lack of literature about the importance of follow-up in donor solicitations. We’re delighted to see you’ve addressed it in your book. What are some important reminders for nonprofit leaders that might motivate them to place a priority on this area?

Fredricks: You are leaving $$$$ on the table because you do not have solid steps to close it. My BIGGEST tip: Donors leave clues and we miss every one of them. Pay attention to how they communicate and the frequency with which they communicate and follow up on their patterns.

Listen here: What are the clues we miss?

CausePlanet: In Dan Pink’s book, To Sell Is Human, he says all great sales people demonstrate buoyancy in the face of rejection. Have you observed any consistent characteristics among successful fundraisers? If so, what are they?

Fredricks: My mantra is “Every donor is a mini campaign” so devote special and individualized attention to every one. The same holds true for fundraisers: I coach them to have their own voice, enjoy the process and learn as much as they can. That equals success!

Listen here: More on buoyancy

CausePlanet: Tell us about your new book, The Ask for Philanthropy, Business and Every Day Living. 

Listen here: More about Fredricks’ new book

Most, if not all of us, are in the business of asking for something every day. That’s why we’re determined to identify the best way to go about persuading one another.

This topic has been widely developed within each sector, yet Fredricks has built a bridge across all sectors by explaining the Ask, using universal principles, making it easy, enjoyable, meaningful and rewarding.

Laura Fredricks not only addresses how to ask for support for a nonprofit, but also her advice extends well into the for-profit arena, offering guidance for those who are soliciting investments in business ventures or creative projects. Her book details how to make the most effective Ask in philanthropy, business and everyday life.

Learn more about this title and related book summaries:

The Ask: How to Ask for Support for Your Nonprofit Cause, Creative Project or Business Venture

Fundraising the SMART Way

The Influential Fundraiser

Creating Value in Business-Nonprofit Collaborations

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[PODCAST] Need to clarify roles between your nonprofit staff and board?

Board leadership is an area that demands much of our attention and effort due to its critical role in helping an organization “thrive or dive,” says Jean Block, author of The Invisible Yellow Line: Clarifying Nonprofit Board and Staff Roles.

Block decided the Invisible Yellow Line is a perfect metaphor for the working relationship between a board and staff in a nonprofit organization. If you’ve ever watched a football game on TV or your personal device, you have the benefit of a yellow line on the field that shows you how much yardage the team must gain in order to move down the field for a touchdown.

Even though the line is invisible to the players, it’s constantly moving and hotly debated at times. Board members and staff have cooperative roles and responsibilities that seem to be constantly moving depending on the “field position” or goal at hand.

In a recent author podcast with Block, we asked:

CausePlanet: What is the most common signal that tells you that your board and staff need a conversation about roles and responsibilities?

Listen to her answer hereJean Block on signals

CausePlanet: In chapter nine, you talk about the Invisible Yellow Line Test. Could you explain what some of those questions might be and how the test can help staff and board members move forward?

Listen to her answer hereJean Block on testing the clarity of your yellow line

If there was one universal nonprofit rule book that contained a set of guidelines defining the roles of the board and staff, we could avoid an incredible amount of miscommunication and angst over getting things done at the leadership level. The fact is it doesn’t exist because things change, asserts author Jean Block.

She adds that organizations and people evolve. Block has written The Invisible Yellow Line to provide a way for board and staff leaders to communicate about their roles and “reduce the trap of assumptions and defensiveness.”

Learn more about Jean Block and her services at www.jblockinc.com.

Learn more about this title and related book summaries at CausePlanet.org.

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[PODCAST] Get more done in your meetings (and your pitches!)

Meetings can be an expensive waste of time if they aren’t led properly. Authors Dick and Emily Axelrod have dedicated their careers to understanding and promoting what makes an impactful meeting in Let’s Stop Meeting Like This: Tools to Save Time and Get More Done.

The Axelrods explain step by step how to participate in highly effective meetings no matter your role: a leader, contributor or facilitator. The Meeting Canoe is an approach that helps readers understand the importance of order, shape and flow to your gatherings.

Join us for a recent podcast we recorded with the Axelrods about what’s useful, what’s challenging and why people accept bad meeting habits: 

CausePlanet: Thank you for adding the Meeting Canoe framework to the body of literature about effective meetings. It’s a terrific addition. Which part of the Meeting Canoe do most users find most transformational when implementing the approach?

Listen here for their answer or read below: What part of the “meeting canoe” is most helpful?

DA & EA: Welcome, Connect, and Attend to the End. Most meeting agendas call for a perfunctory welcome and do not spend time connecting people to each other and the task. The result is they fail to build a solid foundation to do the meeting’s work. Similarly, most meeting agendas ignore attending to the end. This results in people being unclear about what was decided during the meeting as well as next steps following the meeting.

Failure to spend time discussing how to make future meetings better leaves the group without a self-correcting mechanism. We learned from an architect colleague that how people enter a space and how they leave a space is as important as what happens in the space. We believe this is true for meetings as well. By paying attention to the Welcome, Connect, and Attend to the End parts of the Meeting Canoe™, meeting designers create a complete, productive meeting experience.

CausePlanet: Which part of the Meeting Canoe™ do most readers find challenging to implement?

Listen here for their answer or read below: What is the most challenging?

DA & EA: Attend to the End because they often don’t allocate enough time for it, or if they do allocate time, when pressed for time they skip it. A good ending has three parts:

1.     Review decisions and assignments.
2.     Identify next steps.
3.     Appraise what meeting improvements are needed.

CausePlanet: In your research or client experiences, did you discover why most people accept and perpetuate bad meeting habits?

Listen here for their answer or read below: The Axelrods on why people perpetuate bad meeting habits

DA & EA: The first is that when we asked meeting participants whom they thought was responsible for a meeting’s success, the most frequent response was “the leader.” This habit is an abdication of responsibility for what happens during the meeting, which allows meeting participants to sit idly by while a meeting goes downhill.

We believe another cause is that people have come to think about meetings as painful experiences that must be endured. They do not think of them as a place where productive work occurs. This becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. When you begin to think about meetings as a place where people do work, then you can design your meetings using the five proven work design principles:

– Autonomy: the power to influence the meeting’s direction
– Meaning: the meeting has importance or significance to participants
– Challenge: a call to engage in something that tests your knowledge, skill, or courage
– Learning: acquiring new skills or knowledge through experience, study or being taught
– Feedback: information that lets meeting participants know whether a meeting is making progress toward its objectives.

When you apply these design criteria to your meeting, you create the conditions for productive work to occur. 

Bonus answer: At the end of our podcast, Dick and Emily Axelrod shared this interesting anecdote with us about how the Meeting Canoe works in pitches as well: The Meeting Canoe works in pitches, too!

Learn more at  www.axelrodgroup.com and https://dickaxe.cayenne.io/

Learn more about this title and related book summaries at CausePlanet.org.

Image credits: ssninsider.com (2), crowdsurfwork.com

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[PODCAST] Tapping into your donor’s subconscious with Roger Dooley

Leading scientists who focus on brain activity say 95 percent of all thoughts, emotions and learning happen before we are aware of them. Author Roger Dooley says that unfortunately, most marketing efforts bypass the immense subconscious and instead target the rational conscious mind.

Dooley claims that if you want to promote your cause more effectively, it’s time to stop focusing on just five percent of your donor’s brain. Brainfluence: 100 Ways to Persuade and Convince Consumers with Neuromarketing is Roger Dooley’s homage to the value of applying brain and behavior research to better understand the decision patterns of those you seek to influence.

The book contains key strategies—100 to be exact—to target your constituency through face-to-face, online, print and other marketing channels. Dooley answers three of our questions below in a recent podcast.

CausePlanet: Would you please comment on why incorporating “sensory features” into your donor marketing is so important?

Listen to his podcast answer here or read his answer below: Roger Dooley on sensory features

Dooley: Whenever we can engage multiple senses, our marketing is more impactful and memorable. Often, these additional senses offer a direct pathway to the donor’s brain. A scent, for example, can evoke memories or emotions, even without the person consciously processing the scent or even being aware of it. In some media, like print, it’s hard to engage multiple senses. In these cases, sensory words can be used. For example, the word “rough” lights up an area of the brain associated with touching, even when the word is used as a metaphor, as in a “rough day.”

CausePlanet: At what stage do most nonprofit marketers fail when trying to apply neuromarketing strategies?

Listen to his podcast here or read his answer below: Roger Dooley on when marketers fail

Dooley: Marketers tend to focus on facts and figures, features and benefits, and other logical appeals that are intended to persuade the donor or customer to act. Appealing to non-conscious motivators should be part of the process from start to finish. Using brain-oriented strategies is particularly important for nonprofit marketers. Usually, we buy products because we need them. We don’t have tangible benefits when we make a donation or volunteer our time. If product marketing is half psychology, nonprofit marketing is 100 percent psychology. It’s essential to identify and use the right triggers to get donors and volunteers on board.

CausePlanet: What interesting developments have you’ve discovered since Brainfluence: 100 Ways to Persuade and Convince Consumers with Neuromarketing was published and that our nonprofit readers might find useful?

Listen to his podcast answer here. Roger Dooley on new developments

Want to learn more about how to apply Roger Dooley’s best practices to your donor communication? Follow him on Facebook, Twitter (@RogerDooley), subscribe to his newsletter, or listen to a podcast. You can also learn more about his latest book, The Persuasion Slide: A New Way to Market to Your Customer’s Conscious Needs and Unconscious Mind.

Learn more about this title and related book summaries.

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[PODCAST] Much of what we do in fundraising is counterproductive

Regrettably, history and results show we do a lot in fundraising that is counterproductive. We recorded a podcast with Ellen Bristol, author of Fundraising the SMART Way, which provides you with tactics from the classic disciplines of performance management.

The SMART Way is a methodology containing the guidelines, benchmarks, reporting methods, performance metrics, analytics and business intelligence needed to generate fundraising results. Highlights include improving time management through prospect-rating, managing move opportunities, and using root-cause analysis to optimize efficiency and connectivity to the mission.

Ellen Bristol’s Fundraising the SMART Way involves revolutionizing the way fundraising is managed versus the way fundraising is done. Bristol contends that if you apply her process management principles, you can greatly increase your productivity and sustainability.

According to Bristol, this process entails 1) identifying the results desired from the fundraising effort, 2) establishing performance targets and indicators, 3) developing methods of doing it that honor the organization’s values, and 4) holding the “do-ers” accountable.

We asked Ellen Bristol to talk about what exactly she means by characterizing many of our fundraising efforts as counterproductive: Ellen Bristol on counterproductive fundraising

We also asked Bristol to explain why the performing management approach is more effective for fundraisers, volunteers and leadership: Performance management and engagement

Learn more about Bristol’s Leaky Bucket Study and how the results apply to you. Find Ellen Bristol on Facebook and Twitter @BristolStrategyGroup or at BristolStrategyGroup.com.

Learn more about Fundraising the SMART Way and other related books and summaries.

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Why is failure your ally and how do you get better at it?

Screen Shot 2017-05-19 at 12.02.02 PMWe recently added Fail Better: Design Smart Mistakes and Succeed Sooner to our summary library because it addresses a critical gap in the body of work around failure. According to coauthor, Kara Penn, Fail Better explores HOW failure is a path to success. We asked Penn about how you can make failure your ally, and more importantly, how to get better at it.

Kara Penn: Failure is useful as tool for learning and improvement, if we are open to learning from missteps. But learning from failure is not guaranteed, so we have to work at it.

I imagine most of you can recall a situation in a work or personal environment when failure occurred. We all do it! And it’s memorable. And like touching a hot stove, we tend very much not to ever want it to happen again. But if we can craft and increase control over how we fail and in service of what, we are receptive to a very powerful tool.

The Fail Better Method offers three practical stages to our project work where we can plan for smart mistakes and prepare for greater successes:

 

Launch: At the outset of a project or initiative, think about setting the groundwork for both project success and learning—combat common failure modes like not having Screen Shot 2017-05-19 at 12.00.49 PMthe right resources or skills lined up for the project to succeed, not setting up a strong foundation of communication, or not building enough buy in to your efforts through key partners who can champion your work. In addition, this is a great time to think about how your plans and proposed action for moving forward in launching a program, service or idea tie to the actual outcomes you want to achieve. Logic models or Theories of Change are tools common in the nonprofit sector that can help organizations think through this. These tools allow you to see if you’re building your approach on sound or faulty assumptions and can be used as a diagnostic tool later when needed to see what went right and what was off track.

 

Iterate: Use implementation to test ideas, and be willing to have those efforts not be successful in service of learning. For example, in a fundraising campaign,Screen Shot 2017-05-19 at 12.00.58 PM many of nonprofits use an end of year appeal letter as a way of reaching out to donors. However, this is a perfect place for experimentation using a technique that many software developers use—A & B testing—try out two or three different versions of letters or even methods of engagement, and see which one gets the best results and brings in the most responsiveness and donations. Use this information to build a better approach for next time. It’s relatively low risk and low cost. And gives you a lot of valuable information. Piloting programs instead of launching them outright at full scale is another way of minimizing risk and learning along the way so mistakes or failures are captured early and addressed, while successes can be scaled up. And finally:

 

Embed: As efforts draw to a close, we often fail to reflect on our work, review the data we’ve collected and share out our Screen Shot 2017-05-19 at 12.01.06 PMfindings and insights with larger audiences. This lack of investment in learning at the end is VERY common, in nonprofits but all sectors. We are all busy, rushing into the next thing, but a lot is lost by not doing this and we prep ourselves to lose valuable insights—including pieces that were successful that we want to build on, and things that weren’t that we want to correct or improve for next time. Nonprofits can make time for this by employing a concept used by the U.S. military—an After Action Review—where teams involved in a project huddle up and document what went well, what went wrong, why, and what should be done differently next time. Documenting this information and creating some next steps to share and apply these insights can be a quick way for an organization to learn and improve.

Watch for future Q&A with Kara Penn about Fail Better when we talk about the circumstances when failure is at its best and how to create a culture that’s open to failure.

See more books and summaries related to this title:

Little Bets: How Breakthrough Ideas Emerge from Small Discoveries

Accelerate: Building Strategic Agility for a Faster-Moving World

Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die

Image credit: Harvard Business Press (cover image), FailBetterNow.com

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Inject soul into your use of technology

contentmarketingLeroux Miller’s comprehensive guide to curating content is the cornerstone to creating a climate of followers engaged in your organization’s fundraising and brandraising.

The author’s vast number of nonprofit examples and specific guidance on why it’s important to create your content identity, build a plan based on your constituents’ preferences, and map out a functional timeline are only a few of the passage highlights in this book.

You’ll have answers to some of the most popular questions like, “What are the benefits and drawbacks of each online channel?” “What three questions should my homepage answer?” and “How do I allow for content surprises in a pre-planned editorial calendar?”

The secret in Leroux Miller’s sauce is she practices what she prescribes. She has worked out the kinks in all the methods and tools she recommends and has done so single-handedly. So, if you’re wondering if your small or sophisticated shop can implement her approach, wonder no more.

We asked Leroux Miller about injecting soul into your use of technology and what’s around the corner for nonprofits:

CausePlanet: Hi, Kivi. Many thanks for the much-anticipated book about content management. What would you most like readers to know about how your book uniquely adds to the body of work on this topic?

Leroux Miller: Nonprofits are trying to change the world–and that’s hard! That’s why I believe content marketing in the nonprofit world is much harder than in the for-profit world but also potentially more powerful, too. It’s all about making strong connections with participants, supporters and influencers and showing how relevant your organization is to their lives so they’ll help you change the world. This book is for and about nonprofits and how they use content; it’s not just slapping business advice on to the nonprofit world.

CausePlanet: Content management is constantly evolving in light of the channels that seem to emerge every day and the tools with which we can better communicate. If you added new content to your book, what might the topic be?

Leroux Miller: I think it would be an expansion of chapter sixteen on the technology of content marketing. In just a few short years, the technology the corporate world uses now to customize your experience on some of your favorite websites will be available and affordable to even small nonprofits, too. That will change everything.

Learn more about this book and our summary.

Check out Kivi Leroux Miller’s slide deck.

Questions? Email us at Support@CausePlanet.org.

Image credit: TheNerdyNonprofit.com

 

 

 

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Content marketing for nonprofits: Don’t forget to rinse and repeat

rinseandrepeatThe number of tools and the amount of noise around us grow by the day. With choice comes complexity, and our environment changes constantly, due to technological, generational and marketing shifts.

Redefine your audience for today’s current climate with the help of author Kivi Leroux Miller. Content Marketing for Nonprofits: A Communications Map for Engaging Your Community, Becoming a Favorite Cause, and Raising More Money delivers on the title and much more.

Without the benefit of a multichannel communications plan like Leroux Miller’s, your organization pushes out mass-messaging in a variety of unplanned channels and hopes that a few calls to action land in receptive hands.

But with Leroux Miller’s guidance, you will develop a solid marketing plan and implement a dynamic content strategy, step by step, that will attract generous donors.

In our Page to Practice book summary of Content Marketing for Nonprofits, we asked Leroux Miller about repurposing content. Here are some great reminders and tips:

CausePlanet: We love your passage on repurposing content–it’s liberating to know you support this strategy. What’s one of the best examples you’ve observed or you personally use that you would recommend to our readers?

Kivi Leroux Miller: I rarely create anything new without knowing how I will use it in at least three ways. Sometimes it’s just an inkling, but everything gets reincarnated at some point. I am always expanding or reworking things I did earlier. It’s a way of life for creative professionals, including marketers! 

CausePlanet: In your book, you discuss one of many content strategies, including “Foraging and Filtering: Curating Content Created by Others.” What are some of the online tools you prefer to use when organizing thoughts and ideas within the same subject area?

Kivi Leroux Miller: The specific tool you use is less important than the tagging or labeling system you use. You have to know how to identify things you find so that you can find them again later! But since you asked, we use Diigo and Evernote regularly.

Learn more about this book and our summary: http://www.causeplanet.org/pagetopracticelibrary/detail.php?id=121

More titles and their summaries on this topic:

The Money-Raising Nonprofit Brand

Brandraising: How Nonprofits Raise Visibility and Money Through Smart Communications

How to Write Fundraising Materials That Raise More Money

Mobile for Good: A How-To Fundraising Guide for Nonprofits

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Avoid the 2-year website relaunch cycle: Look at ROI and mission

screen-shot-2016-09-23-at-4-00-39-pmIf you’re looking to improve your website, you’re not alone. According to Captivate and Engage coauthors, Jay Wilkinson and Randy Hawthorne, nonprofits relaunch their websites about every two years. This is due to several factors.

Are “go-to geeks” the answer?

Primarily, nonprofits hire website designers whom the authors affectionately call “go-to-geeks.” These professionals are tech-savvy but the authors argue that a great site is more about mission, vision and cause more than about technology. “No programmer can manufacture those components,” explain Wilkinson and Hawthorne.

The doing-more-with-less fallacy

Another reason why nonprofits find themselves in a constant state of website revision is the “fallacy of doing more with less.” This is based on the idea that you should make decisions based on cost rather than value. “Get as much as you can for as little as possible.” Unfortunately, this philosophy contributes to a very short shelf life for your website.

Look at ROI and mission before you leap

When we asked Jay and Randy about preliminary considerations before you launch a website, they had the following answer that touched more on the fallacy mentioned above. We also asked about one of their primary recommendations: connecting the website to the mission. Read on.

CausePlanet: What is your advice for nonprofits that want to make the initial investment to build a website the right way? What are the preliminary considerations?

Wilkinson and Hawthorne: First and foremost, don’t fall into the “we have to do more with less” trap by focusing entirely on the cost of the website. Way more important than cost is the return onscreen-shot-2016-10-27-at-3-09-13-pm investment, or ROI. A nonprofit could spend $50,000 on a website and double its money by increasing contributions or spend $500 and get nothing in return except for a bland site with a few photos and its mission statement.

Which one “costs” more for the nonprofit? Fortunately for everyone, great nonprofit websites with gargantuan ROIs don’t have to cost $50,000. We recommend finding a provider that specializes specifically in working with nonprofits. It has probably already built the functionality that you’ll need—meaning it’s not starting from scratch. Then, know what you want. Take the time to seek out other nonprofit websites to cite as examples. It’s the single best way for a developer to know how best to please you.

CausePlanet: You stress the importance of getting in touch with your mission, vision and values before engaging in the business of enlisting technological help. Have you seen any of your clients do this successfully and what did that look like?

Wilkinson and Hawthorne: Yes. We see it all the time. Every web developer worth her salt will tell you that when the leadership team for the nonprofit is involved in providing direction for the website, the product always comes out better. The closer someone is to the heart of the organization, the more insight and guidance she can give. 

A great example of this is the Groundwater Foundation at Groundwater.org. The President, Jane Griffin, is involved in every aspect of the website. As a result, the purpose and mission of the organization is deeply embedded into the site’s DNA. You can’t visit the website without gaining a sense of its mission.

See book summaries related to this topic:

Captivate and Engage: The Definitive Guide for Nonprofit Websites

Content Marketing for Nonprofits: A Communications Map for Engaging Your Community, Becoming a Favorite Cause, and Raising More Money

Brandraising: How Nonprofits Raise Visibility and Money Through Smart Communications

Image credits: Groundwater.org, NonprofitHub Press

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We asked “The Ethics Guy” about his favorite interview question

ethics2Bruce Weinstein presents ten qualities that clarify what it means to be a high-character employee in his latest book, The Good Ones: Ten Crucial Qualities of High-Character Employees.

Stories from employers and employees illustrate how these traits are critical to the long-term success of your nonprofit and to the employees who exhibit them. This book contains advice for the employer, the interviewee and employee in search of a character fit.

We asked author Weinstein about his favorite interview question. 

CausePlanet: What is your favorite job interview question that reveals character and why?

BW: “Have you ever cheated, and if so, what did you learn from it?”

Several of the leaders I spoke with in doing research for The Good Ones told me, “You’d be surprised how often people will just come out and tell you about the dishonest things they’ve done.” I agree.

From time to time I interview high school students who are applying to the college I attended, Swarthmore. A few years ago, I mentioned to Rob, the young man I was interviewing, that I’d written a book called Is It Still Cheating If I Don’t Get Caught? I told him how dismayed I was by the stories of cheating in high schools and colleges and asked him point-blank if he had ever misrepresented himself.

“Yes,” he said. “My friends and I have done it more than once. School is so competitive now, you have to cheat to get good grades.”

Rob got a “Do not admit” recommendation from me on the college evaluation form.dishonesty

There are two downsides to asking a job candidate a direct question about dishonesty. First, it immediately strikes fear in the candidate’s heart, even if the candidate is an honest person. I don’t like the idea of making people squirm.

The second downside is that the question seems to present a no-win situation. The candidate may reason that if she admits to having cheated, she won’t get the job, but if she lies, she’ll get caught in a fib.

But the savvy interviewer will not reject candidates simply because they have admitted to cheating. What bothered me about Rob wasn’t so much his academic dishonesty but the fact that he exhibited no remorse for having cheated and even attempted to justify it.

The honest person has a strong emotional commitment to the truth, and leaders who evaluate for character as well as competence serve their employers—and themselves–well.

I’m happy to help readers of CausePlanet any way I can.  If you have any questions about this material, please call me any time at 646.649.4501 (U.S.).

See also:

The Good Ones: Ten Crucial Qualities of High Character Employees

Match: A Systematic, Sane Process for Hiring the Right Person Every Time

Mission-Based Management: Leading Your Not-for-Profit in the 21st Century, 3rd Ed.

Image credit: carnegiecouncil.org, skiprichard.com

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