[Podcast] Your best sustainability safety net: Create a culture of leadership development

When most nonprofits consider succession planning, they view the board working episodically when it senses a looming change on the horizon. Author Tom Adams argues that rather than experience abrupt changes in sustainability, organizations can, instead, create a culture of continuity through leadership development. What does that mean? Listen to his sound bites below and find out.

CausePlanet: The statistic that 75 percent of nonprofit leaders plan to leave their positions coupled with the statistic that 71 percent of nonprofits don’t have a succession plan in place is staggering. If you could push the rewind button for a nonprofit when its CEO resigns, what preparations would you recommend they make as they head toward this change of leadership hands?

Tom AdamsLook at sustainability – 4 dimensions

CausePlanet: What’s the biggest elephant in the room when broaching the subject of succession planning with the board and current CEO?

Tom Adams: What is the elephant in the room?

CausePlanet: What’s the most common barrier to or misconception about succession planning that prevents nonprofits from engaging in the steps to begin a plan?

Tom Adams: There is a normal fear of misunderstanding–the executive feeling forced out or the board feeling the executive is concerned about confidence in her/him. So, it is easy to put off. The second barrier is a narrow understanding of the benefits. Succession planning ought to be more than a check-the-box completion of some boilerplate documents. It is a strategic process that advances mission effectiveness and the leader development culture. When seen more broadly, it is still hard to find time. With the CEO and board champions, it happens and the value becomes clear.

In this last sound bite, Adams shares two organizations that grappled with the anticipation of succession planning and made some important discoveries: Two examples from the nonprofit sector.

Learn more about The Nonprofit Leadership Transition and Development Guide. 

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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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On the cusp of major change for nonprofits

generationgap2015

Special thanks to Thomas A. McLaughlin for this article. McLaughlin is the founder of the nonprofit-oriented consulting firm McLaughlin & Associates. He is the author of Streetsmart Financial Basics for Nonprofit Managers, 4th Edition (Wiley).  His email address is tamclaughlin@comcast.net. This article first appeared in The Nonprofit Times.

Lately when we have been facilitating a group at a conference we have made a point of asking the following two seemingly unrelated questions:

How old are you?

At what age do you expect to retire?

Before we move on, answer the two questions above for yourself (in an actual session, responders are asked not to print their names).  Think about the answers your parents’ and your grandparents’ generations would have given to the questions.  If we were able to go back in time it would be a virtual certainty that your answers would look very different from those of your parents and grandparents had they grown up in the United States.

While we do not yet have enough responses to claim a statistically valid group, the outcomes to date are worth examining.  Here are the averages of the responses we’ve received:

How old are you? 56

At what age do you expect to retire? 70

If these results remain consistent, it confirms that we are nearing the cusp of a major change in nonprofit organizations (not to mention the rest of the economy).   playbuzzIt won’t be business as usual as we near 2030, which seems to be the projected ‘average’ retirement year of our current 56 year olds.

Because the numbers of Baby Boomers born each year began to drop significantly in the early 60’s, the Gen X and Millennial generations will not come close to the Baby Boomers’ higher birth rates.   In fact, we are already hearing about an unusual level of shortages of management candidates, not to mention a shortage of qualified Gen Xer CEOs.  Even entry-level candidates seem scarcer now than ever before.

Nonprofit employee trends aren’t the only ones due for some changes. Nonprofit entities themselves are another area where long-time patterns seem to be changing.  The number of active nonprofit public charities steadily grew from the 80s until 2010, when the upward trajectory abruptly decreased to about 2003 levels.

The pattern is probably not arbitrary.  In all likelihood, the recession that began in 2008 right after the Wall Street crash of 2007 had a tempering effect on the numbers of new nonprofits each year.  Organization creators that had already finished the application process and turned in their request for IRS approval may well have lengthened their intense startup phase, while other potential post-recession applicants for nonprofit status may have deliberately slowed their process in order to begin providing services once the economic conditions improved.  The recession may also have caused some to give up altogether.  Fortunately the upward trend appears to have resumed, although perhaps with less velocity.

Putting the Baby Boom into context reveals some hard-to-see advantages.  The biggest one is that the Boomers were the healthiest generation to reach retirement age.  Most of the Boomers reached full employment age at just about the time that hard physical labor began to decline as a major part of most jobs.  As a result, the Baby Boomers were the first
generation that didn’t have to work largely in the factories.   By the time that the first Boomers were ready to find permanent work, the factories had already begun migrating overseas.

As a result, the Boomers were the first generation in history to be able to work in non-physically stressful environments.   Improvements in health care, communications, education, and widespread motorized travel all contributed to far less physical decline than at any time in the previous two hundred years.

Overall Impactresearchimpactnetwork

Nothing brings as much pressure on a nonprofit organization as the lack of staff.   At the moment we infer from economic reports – and the firsthand observations of CEO’s and others – that the Boomers’ exits are already being felt on both ends of the generational spectrum.   Naturally the first shortage is likely to be felt in the executive ranks as those individuals either reach their preferred retirement age, or move on, but there are also staff shortages in direct care.

Fortunately there are a few sources of labor (and optimism), many of which relate to immigration.  For example, the Pew Charitable Trusts report that the foreign-born U.S. population grew 109% between 1990 and 2012 (the overall impact of immigration varies significantly in different parts of the United States).   Moreover, the Pew Charitable Trusts quote Census Bureau projections that net international immigration will be the major driver behind US population growth between 2027 and 2038.

What Can be Done

If the shortage of available employees follows the predicted trend lines above, it could affect virtually all nonprofits in the country.  A major part of the pressure will come from the fact that the birthrates of bothdhmh-maryland-gov the latter part of the Gen Xers’ generation and all of the Millennials’ generation are half that of the Boomers’, so today’s status quo will eventually feel more like the status squeezed.

If we are right about our analysis, this situation will evolve relatively slowly over a period of time, which should make it easier to accommodate but harder to recognize.  Start your strategy planning now so that it fits the circumstances before you feel the squeeze.  Here are some suggestions:

Re-Work Your Staffing Patterns slantimage

If you are feeling the pressure at the bottom of your workforce as well as at the top, it’s time to re-think your staffing patterns.  While we have no way of proving this, it would not be a surprise if your underlying assumptions about direct care workers are still embedded in the 1980 to 2000 era.   And while you’re doing this, be sure to apply the same scrutiny to your assumptions about your senior-most executives.  Do you really need a CIO and his full staff now that you have that 24-hour technology company on call?

Re-Think Your Service Models seedshakers

If you don’t already know the year your nonprofit was founded, pull out your most recent IRS Form 990 and look exactly three inches below the word ‘income’ as in ‘Return of Organization Exempt  From Income Tax’.  You’ll find a box labeled ‘L’ and the words Year of Formation followed by the four digit year of your corporation’s founding.  If your organization was founded in the two or so decades since 1970 there is a chance that the organization is still at least partially grounded in that era.  That could mean that some of your service models are similarly aged.    

Consider a Merger

One way to accommodate the realities of the 21st century is to grow your scale.  The combination of declining birth rates (labor) and steady needs for service (aging clients with longer lifespans) will put pressure on many nonprofits.   Lately we have detected less instinctive opposition to mergers than had been true in the past, suggesting that this opposition might lessen.  The advantage of larger scale operations run correctly is that the resulting efficiencies – one ‘back room’, one Human Resources department, etc. – can strengthen the entire organization.

Today’s U.S. economy has never had aging baby boomers like we see today, nor a 50% drop in birthrates.   Navigating the next two or three decades will force many nonprofits to change their models and to try different approaches.   Being wanted will be just part of the terrain.

See book summaries related to this topic:

Nonprofit Mergers and Alliances by Thomas McLaughlin

Fundraising and the Next Generation: Tools for Engaging the Next Generation of Philanthropists

Working Across Generations: Defining the Future of Nonprofit Leadership

Cause for Change: The Why and How of Nonprofit Millennial Engagement

Image credits: researchimpactnetwork, dhmh.maryland.gov, slantimage, seedshakers, and playbuzz

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Making changes at the board level: Are you ready for reactions?

Where do most nonprofit boards struggle with engaging in the process of actual change?

Beth Gazley and Katha Kissman would say that often it is simply starting the conversation and committing to achieving intentional change.

Gazley and Kissman, coauthors of Transformational Governance: How Boards Achieve Extraordinary Change, acknowledge that change agents also struggle with varying responses to change. The authors provide us with the “5 Cs Framework” that lists each of the responses to change you might experience. If you can anticipate different responses, you can better prepare for them when they happen.

We’ve taken the liberty of putting them into a visual for you:

 

board-change-is-tough-2

 

If your nonprofit board needs to make some changes, Transformational Governance takes a close look at how change happened as opposed to reviewing the end results. Additionally, rather than focusing on the behaviors and qualities of the individuals who serve, light is shed on the processes board members and staff use to transform their boards.

Armed with funded research, this book fills a void in governance literature by emphasizing diagnosis and problem solving. It also offers illustrative examples and interesting case stories from a wide range of nonprofits.

See book summaries related to nonprofit board governance:

Transformational Governance

Firing Lousy Board Members…And Helping the Others Succeed

Super Boards: How Inspired Governance Transforms Your Organization

The Invisible Yellow Line: Clarifying Nonprofit Board and Staff Roles

Practitioner’s Guide to Governance as Leadership: Building High-Performing Nonprofit Boards

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Nonprofits: Explore the heart of Latino leadership

latinoleadershipIf you’re like me, you’re involved with one, two or more boards that would love to share the table with a thriving minority in the U.S. In fact, minority won’t be an accurate description by the year 2060. Join me in getting acquainted with the first book that squarely focuses on describing the principles and practices of how Latinos lead in our communities. Bestselling author, Juana Bordas, has written The Power of Latino Leadership: Culture, Inclusion and Contribution. Bordas has also written Salsa, Soul and Spirit.

In Latino Leadership, author Juana Bordas takes us on a path to the very heart of Latino leadership. She explores 10 principles that illustrate how inclusive, people-oriented, socially responsible and life-affirming Latinos are in their grass roots efforts. This book will inform every one of us about the nuances of Latinos in the social sector.

You’ll find her answers to our interviews questions in our recent podcast very informative below. Thank you, Juana!

6) How can nonprofits help with the goal in this quotation: “So how do leaders motivate people to do the hard work of community building and commit to the long-term struggle of creating a more equitable society?”

Image credit: Berrett-Koehler Publishers

 

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When board members are lousy: Simone Joyaux has answers

FiringBookCoverAuthor Simone Joyaux asks these questions: “How many times have you sat in a boardroom and wished you were someplace else? How many times did your wish relate to others in the room? Maybe some particular person?”

Joyaux acknowledges we’ve all been there. Perhaps the feeling occurs only in passing but what do we do when our feeling about a board member arises more frequently in response to a pattern of legitimately bad behavior?

Unfortunately, the author explains that too often we do nothing about it for a variety of reasons:

1) We don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings.

2) We’re afraid of conflict or confrontation.

3) Volunteer work is supposed to be fun.

4) We’re all just volunteers so let’s avoid the challenging issues.

No matter the reason, Joyaux asserts we cannot compromise the organization’s quality due to a little discomfort or the loss of a bad board member’s donation. In short, it’s unacceptable.

Why? Because of the great costs to your cause in the areas of organizational integrity, delivery on mission impact and ability to retain good board members, to name only a few.

There are no quick fixes or silver bullets for turning around bad board member performance. The good news is there are answers.

Board versus board members

One of the strategies that I particularly liked in Joyaux’s Firing Lousy Board Members and Helping Others Succeed was her focus on the distinction between the individual and the group.

Joyaux emphasizes the critical importance of every board distinguishing between a collective board and its individual members. Each has a distinct role. The collective board makes the decisions, not necessarily unanimously, and presents a united front in supporting those decisions. It treats all board members equally, including the board chair, as no one board member is more important than another.

Joyaux provides a list of board responsibilities. A sampling of the list follows:

·      Establish charitable contributions goals.

·      Define board member performance expectations regarding fund development.

·      Define values, mission, vision and strategic direction.

·      Ensure financial sustainability by adopting a budget and fund development plan and monitoring performance.

·      Hire, appraise and fire the chief executive.

In contrast, the individual board members have different responsibilities. Some of their main responsibilities include:

·      Attend board meetings.

·      Engage in board conversation. (Silence is consent and is not acceptable.)

·      Give a financial contribution.

·      Help nurture relationships with donors and people interested in the cause.

·      Help carry out fundraising activities.

·      Ask strategic questions.

Keep evaluation of the board and individual separateadaptivepath-com

By separating the individual trustee from the collective effort, it’s not only easier to establish accountability and volunteer job descriptions, the chair and executive director can fall back on each line that describes the discretionary effort of each person rather than dillute someone’s lack of effort in the overall board’s outcomes.

In Firing Lousy Board Members, Joyaux explains how it’s imperative that you move quickly with underperforming board members because your cause deserves better. While she acknowledges this task is not always easy, this guide will provide what Joyaux calls helpful “recipes.” What’s more, Joyaux has done everything she’s suggested in this book—not only as a staff member but also as a board member and chair.

See a book summary of this title and other relevant titles:

Firing Lousy Board Members…and Helping Others Succeed

Super Boards

The Ultimate Board Member’s Book

The Practitioner’s Guide to Governance as Leadership

Image credits: Charity Channel Press

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Get Smarter Give-Away: The Fundraising Habits of Supremely Successful Boards

downloadWe believe the best things in life are free. That’s why we’re giving you a chance to win a free copy of The Fundraising Habits of Supremely Successful Boards in our Get Smarter Give-Away.

Fundraising Habits author Jerold Panas has worked with more than 400 boards and raised billions of dollars. He’s written this book to help boards learn from his mistakes and wins along the way.

Jerry’s relatable stories will help your board members adopt the right habits with fundraising and they’ll appreciate a book that’s written specifically for them. If you have a board that’s hesitant about raising funds or simply needs a boost, enter our drawing and give your board a great tool.

 

How to enter the drawing:

Simply send us an email at info@causeplanet.org and write “free drawing” in the subject line.

See book summaries about board fundraising:

A Fundraising Guide for Nonprofit Board Members

Super Boards: How Inspired Governance Transforms Your Organization

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Put your own stories to work when winning others over

business2community-comPeople tell stories all the time and don’t realize it. “This book is actually designed to help you pay better attention to the stories you tell, so you can teach, build vision, share a process or introduce a new idea more effectively,” says storytelling thought leader Annette Simmons.

Influence, persuade, inspire

Simmons explains why storytelling that is used to influence others is more than a tool for the marketing professional or fundraiser. Whoever Tells the Best Story Wins is widely applied by leaders to influence, persuade and inspire. In Whoever Tells, you’ll learn how to build consensus, win others over to your point of view, and foster group decision making by using six kinds of stories.

These stories are often the reasons why donors give, why board members act, why stakeholders advocate or why people collaborate. Annette Simmons not only explains why this skill is so critical to everyone, but also how to learn and develop what many people mistakenly believe is a rare gift only a few of us enjoy.

Whoever Tells the Best Story Wins takes you step by step through the process of identifying and choosing stories from your own life, experience and knowledge, and then linking them, fully and authentically, to the themes, messages and goals of your workplace.designpm-com

You’ll gain skills in how to influence others, improve collective decision making and leverage the approval of ideas you’re presenting. Simmons helps you accomplish these goals by using six kinds of stories:

Six kinds of stories

1.     Who-I-Am Stories: People need to know who you are before they can trust you.

2.     Why-I-Am-Here Stories: People can be wary so you must disarm them by sharing your agenda.

3.     Teaching Stories: Some lessons are best learned from telling a story that creates a shared experience.

4.     Vision Stories: The idea of a worthy, exciting future can reframe difficulties and diminish obstacles.

5.     Values-In-Action Stories: Tell a story that illustrates the real-world manifestation of a value.

6.     I-Know-What-You-Are-Thinking Stories: These stories address possible suspicions and dispel them to build trust.

Working definition, how to identify good stories and Simmons’ approach

Simmons defines “story” as a “reimagined experience narrated with enough detail and feeling to cause your listeners’ imaginations to experience it as real.” There are many other definitions but this one is helpful because it keeps you focused on stories that influence and change perceptions.

She adds, “Stories replenish information with the food of human connection and reignite powerful motivations stimulated when we feel the sense of our shared humanity.”

According to the author, once you know how to find and tell stories that feel personal to you and your receivers, you have what you need to acknowledge, connect with and emotionally move others. The best storytellers understand how to use their own emotional responses as indicators of what will resonate with others.

Why you must tell stories from the inside out

Most storytelling advice instructs you to tell the story from the outside in. All stories have a beginning, middle and end. They have a plot, character, setting, conflict and resolution. These elements are all true but they don’t generate an emotional connection.

Conversely, telling personal stories teaches you storytelling from the inside out, which puts emotion and personal connection first. “Unless you bring a beating heart to your message, it is dead. But when you tell your own heartfelt stories about what is meaningful in your life and work, you get the hang of finding stories that frame life and work in emotionally meaningful ways for your listeners.”

Why you should take a closer look at Simmons’ book

If you find yourself in any situation where it is essential to engage a listener, audience, prospect, board or task force, you will find Whoever Tells exceptionally useful. Simmons’ well-researched and example-rich chapters help you build a foundation of stories that will become useful to you in a variety of settings. The book is well-written, clearly organized and an enjoyable read. In storytelling terms, there are no cliff hangers. Rather, Simmons provides you with heroic ideas and satisfying endings to each chapter.

See books and summaries for related titles:

Storytelling for Grantseekers: A Guide to Creative Nonprofit Fundraising

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

How to Write Fundraising Materials That Raise More Money

Image credits: designpm.com, business2community.com

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Burned out on board fundraising? Get inspired by a view from outside the box

“The big secret of philanthropy is now out. Philanthropy is fun. It is joyful. It is fulfilling. It will make your life feel worthwhile in ways that few other enterprises can.”

Author Ted Kort highlighted this quotation by James Wolfensohn in chapter two of his new book, Outside the Box Fundraising: The Way to Nonprofit Board Success. Kort must have felt the way I did when I read it for the first time: inspired by a positive perspective.

“Inspired by a positive perspective” is the phrase I would also use to describe Kort’s Outside the Box book. Kort’s refreshing, knowledgeable and enthusiastic approach to fundraising at the board level will remind you of the numerous ways you can engage people in a winning approach.

Kort’s Outside the Box reads like a “best of” book, highlighting all of the practices that worked for him over the years. He also provides plenty of examples that illustrate his efforts in the trenches while working on behalf of dozens of boards. Kort is quick to acknowledge the sources and books that helped him, including many authors we recommend at CausePlanet such as Tom Ahern and Ken Burnett.

Kort covers all the bases so I’ll give you a brief outline of his book:

Great relationships are the focus of chapter one. Kort uses the relationship rating system to determine how you are progressing with each prospect.

Philanthropy is the subject of chapter two. He stresses the importance of understanding your own personal views and how those views impact your donors.

Chapters three and four explore how to educate, motivate and activate board members. Once you have them on board, Kort explains how to run great board meetings.

Kort shares four easy ways to to ask without asking and how to leverage your core event in chapters five and six.

In chapters seven, eight and nine, Kort introduces how to use teamwork when forming your campaign plans and how to apply new ideas for phone and face-to-face solicitations.

The two most important words in fundraising, “thank you,” are the focus of chapter 10.

The book concludes with chapters 11 and 12, covering five important subjects such as the elevator speech, PR and goal setting. Chapter 12 ends—you guessed it—on a high note with how to energize your board immediately.

Kort provides helpful finishing touches in the form of appendices that include board expectations, recommended reading and my favorite: 77 Reasons Why People Give by Robert Hartsook. If you’re on a board or working with one, it’s a great time to get inspired again with Outside the Box Fundraising.

See also:

Asking Rights: Why Some Nonprofits Get Funded (and Some Don’t)

How to Write Fundraising Materials That Raise More Money

Relationship Fundraising: A Donor-Based Approach to the Business of Raising Money, 2nd Ed.

A Fundraising Guide for Nonprofit Board Members

Image credits: Outside the Box Fundraising

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Nonprofit planning: Mindset over matter

Last week I enjoyed a keynote address delivered by The Sustainability Mindset coauthor Steve Zimmerman in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. With smarts and wit, Steve enlightened a room of nonprofit executives about the advantages of looking at financial and programmatic sustainability in the same conversation. According to Steve, most nonprofits look at these critical elements in isolation of one another, which deprives them of accurate sustainability evaluation and productive planning.

What is the mindset?

You might be asking what mindset means. The Sustainability Mindset is about financial sustainability: meeting the needs of the present without compromising the future. It’s also about programmatic sustainability: the ability to develop, grow and retire programs in sync with your constituencies. Because this is easier described than done, Steve Zimmerman and his coauthor Jeanne Bell provide experienced-based guidance and a specific framework to follow using their supremely helpful visuals and templates.

Introduction to the matrix map

The primary visual that facilitates the authors’ process is the matrix map. The matrix map allows organizations to view both their impact and profitability at the same time. Often, during a strategic planning meeting, organizations will look at the success of their programs in one conversation and then their budget in another. The map gives them a combined look so they can make better decisions. For example, if one program shows high impact but low income, the organization can turn to other sources of income that can cover the expenses.

How it works

This map can provoke strategic discussions on how to strengthen the model. For example, the organization can look at the upper left quadrant (see below) to decide if the Youth Services and Adult Education & Family Literacy are worth the expense for a high mission impact. If they are covered by other
bubbles and if they provide a necessary service that no one else provides in the community, they may be worth the expense.

Organizations can create these maps during strategic planning, annual budgeting and operational planning meetings, loss of funding, new opportunities, or changes in external environments.

Depending on the purpose, the map can either be a quick look or a more detailed vision of the organization’s status. Again, depending on the purpose, various people should be involved. For example, funders and constituents could be surveyed for a closer look at mission impact in a more detailed version. Otherwise, the senior leadership, staff and board can be involved in the input and can learn more about the organization through this process.

Ultimately, the map provides what is for many leaders the first time they’ve seen their nonprofit programs mapped according to their financial and programmatic viability in one single action.

What are the stages?

In the book, the authors cover these stages of the matrix map process: 1) introductory meeting, 2) articulating intended impact, 3) defining programs, 4) assessing mission impact, 5) determining profitability, 6) plotting your map, 7) analyzing your map, and making strategic decisions.

When looking at these stages, my editor and I were compelled to ask Steve and Jeanne about where most leaders experience challenges when applying the matrix map process and what is the most critical step within the process:

CausePlanet: At what point do nonprofits experience challenges when trying to apply the matrix map to their organizations and how do they overcome them?

Zimmerman: Senior management teams are often not used to having open, candid discussions about the contribution a program makes to the organization’s intended impact relative to other programs or about how the program is differentiated from other offerings in the community. As a result, assessing mission impact can be a challenge in the matrix map process. These conversations can be frightening, as participants often fear hurting a co-worker’s feelings or being vulnerable in front of a group. However, the leadership’s efforts in creating a safe environment where candid feedback and discussion is encouraged, appreciated and respected will ensure the success of the matrix map process. Everyone in the room is committed to the organization’s mission and with the appropriate lens of continuous improvement, the organization will have an opportunity to better understand the perception and reality of its programs’ impacts.

CausePlanet: What is the most critical step in the Sustainability Mindset process?

Zimmerman: Moving toward greater sustainability requires making hard decisions. It isn’t that the leadership doesn’t necessarily want to make decisions, but they’re fraught with implications. Constituents who depend on services may find them suddenly not available or the staff may find shifts in their jobs. These are difficult decisions. The leadership may feel it doesn’t have enough information or even worse, may have conflicting information about which decision to make. Like any strategic decision, the leadership is ultimately guessing at what the future may hold. The matrix map is a useful tool for engaging key stakeholders in a discussion about what the future should be. However, it is just a tool. It ultimately is up to the users to make a decision, learn from implementation, adjust and learn again. We say often that sustainability is the integration of financial viability and mission impact, but there is a third equally important component–leadership. The most critical step is the leadership ultimately making a decision to begin implementation and move toward greater sustainability.

If you and your fellow leaders on the board are in a place where you could benefit from taking a rigorous and candid look at the viability of your current programs, I encourage you to get a copy of the The Sustainability Mindset. You may never allow yourself to look at sustainability the same way again.

See also:

Nonprofit Sustainability: Making Strategic Decisions for Financial Viability

The Six Secrets of Change: What the Best Leaders Do to Help Their Organizations Survive and Thrive

The Necessary Revolution: Working Together to Create a Sustainable World

Image credits: pixabay.com, wiley.com, Steve Zimmerman and Jeanne Bell

 

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