Posts Tagged ‘jeanne bell’

CausePlanet’s Choice Awards–Our Top Nonprofit Books for 2015

This is my favorite time of year for many reasons. One of them is our chance to look back at a great year of book choices for our readers.

It’s also the hardest time of the year because we choose books that stand out among the rest. Now, this may seem like an easy task but it isn’t. Choosing from titles that are already among our favorites is like choosing a favorite child. Thankfully, the challenging task is tempered by the fact that we know you love these awards. Thank you for the wonderful feedback when we launched this designation last year.

All our Choice Award titles are chosen based on the following criteria: original insights, inspirational content, well-organized and easy-to-follow format, voice, applicability, and strong evidence of case stories and/or exhibits.

Our Choice Awards for 2015 go to the following authors:

The Sustainability Mindset by Steve Zimmerman and Jeanne Bell
This book not only effectively argues the importance of having financial and programming discussions within the same conversation, but the authors also provide a proven framework designed to guide the process toward sound decision-making. Thanks to matrix mapping, your leaders can leave the guesswork out of strategic planning.

The Last Virtual Volunteering Guidebook by Jayne Cravens and Susan Ellis
Cravens and Ellis do a wonderful job of addressing how volunteering has changed so dramatically over the years that calling out the notion of virtual volunteering is no longer necessary because this form of giving has meshed with traditional volunteering. This thorough guidebook is the resource for anyone managing volunteers.

Global Fundraising: How the World Is Changing the Rules of Philanthropy edited by Penelope Cagney and Bernard Ross
Cagney and Ross create a rare and fascinating look at what types of fundraising are working all over the world. In a telescoping society that’s facilitated by technology, nonprofits’ reach is farther than ever before. This book helps you gather context for your fundraising efforts and consider what’s influencing your donors outside of traditional boundaries and borders.
On behalf of the CausePlanet team, we would like to thank these authors and the company of authors they share who’ve contributed so much to the sector in which we work. We hope our Page to Practice™ book summaries have inspired you to engage in deeper reading and make better book choices. Don’t forget—December is Read a New Book Month. Choose one of these titles or any of the great recommendations in our book summary library and work smarter in 2016.

See also:

The Sustainability Mindset: Using the Matrix Map to Make Strategic Decisions

The Last Virtual Volunteering Guidebook: Fully Integrating Online Service into Volunteer Involvement

Global Fundraising: How the World Is Changing the Rules of Philanthropy

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Nonprofit decisions: Complexity made clear with matrix mapping

According to a recent Nonprofit Finance Fund’s State of the Sector survey, “Forty-two percent of organizations reported that they do not currently have the right mix of financial resources to thrive over the next three years.”

This level of economic uncertainty requires the kind of adaptive leadership and system-wide reckoning that feels like a daunting task until now. Authors Steve Zimmerman and Jeanne Bell have introduced a proven method for change management called matrix mapping. The matrix map cultivates sound decision-making that embraces the entire organization’s capacity rather than one program or person.

Zimmerman and Bell have accumulated a deep understanding of how the matrix map tool is working for nonprofits thanks to five years in the field with their first book, Nonprofit Sustainability. Today, The Sustainability Mindset builds on the candid self-reflection and bold decision making created by the first title.

Introduction to the matrix map

Simply put, 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. To see a sample of the map, click here.

Zimmerman’s favorite example of the matrix map in action

We asked Steve Zimmerman to tell us about one of his favorite case stories where the matrix mapping process brought to light the critical observation of impact and profitability simultaneously.

CausePlanet: Would you tell us about your favorite case study that implements the matrix map?

Zimmerman: One of my favorite uses of the matrix map is to help organizations make decisions that have been put off for too long. An example of this comes from a 100-year-old social service agency that had offered mental health counseling for their constituents among several other programs including financial literacy, job training and a day care program.

Over the years, the counseling program had fallen on hard times, but because it was the founding program of the agency, they kept re-tooling it and bringing in new supervisors to improve the program. When the matrix map was completed, it showed counseling, financial literacy and job training operating at financial deficits. However, counseling also was considered a low-impact program.

Deeper analysis showed that while the program was important for the organization’s impact, there was a lot of competition for quality counselors and the organization couldn’t match competitors’ salaries. This led to poor outcomes. What is more, the job training program showed very high impact but was relatively small because the organization didn’t have enough resources to grow the program.

The organization used the matrix map to engage in a robust discussion about the future of counseling and decided to close the program. Because it was still an important component of the organization’s overall impact, it partnered with another agency in the city to deliver those services to constituents. It then invested the money that had been utilized to subsidize counseling to expand the job training program. This included partnering with local corporations for job placement on a fee-for-service basis.

The opportunity cost of decision-making

This example demonstrates using the matrix map to highlight the opportunity cost of decisions. The leadership often thinks in terms of “Should we offer Program A or not?” when the correct question is, “Should we invest in Program A or Program B?” By investing in the high impact program, the organization was able to increase its impact and financial viability. It would not have had the resources or capacity to do so unless it focused its program offerings. By presenting the map in this way, even those leaders who strongly supported the counseling program came around to see the organization and its constituents were better off as a result of this decision.

If you’ve historically looked at your budget and your programs in isolation of one another, Zimmerman and Bell would argue that this kind of decision-making will only lead to poor sustainability for your nonprofit. Get a copy of The Sustainability Mindset and turn complexity into clarity.

See also:

Nonprofit Sustainability: Making Strategic Decisions for Financial Viability

The Nonprofit Leadership Transition and Development Guide

Building Nonprofit Capacity: A Guide to Managing Change Through Organizational Lifecycles

Image credits: julianreese.com, vbpm.org, wallbasehq.com

 

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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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Financial endurance: Does your funding strategy have it?

In Kimberley Sherwood’s blog last week at Co-Strategy, she talked about the importance of defining your funding strategy and went on to cite research by Bridgespan (featured at NPQ), which highlighted a handful of best practices for guiding your strategic financial growth.

One of the practices from Bridgespan surrounds the notion that “you must break the funding wall by committing to an evolving funding strategy over time. As you consider the next three to five years, how will your strategy need to evolve to ensure your long-term financial security to deliver sustained impact? Where do you take calculated risks?”

In Nonprofit Sustainability: Making Strategic Decisions for Financial Viability, authors Jeanne Bell, Jan Masaoka and Steve Zimmerman underscore Bridgespan’s research, encouraging nonprofit leaders to ensure financial endurance and sustained impact through an evolving revenue strategy. In my interview with the authors, I asked them about their view of sustainability as an orientation, not a destination. Steve’s response is fitting for this discussion:

One of the common comments that I receive from boards when we’re doing strategic planning is that they want a ‘sustainable business model.’ It is often said in a way that implies that sustainability is a destination-–once you get to the nirvana of a sustainable business model you don’t have to worry anymore and money will continue to come rolling in for perpetuity. We know the reality is that nothing is forever. Funding sources come and go and constituents’ needs evolve. So, what is sustainable today may not be sustainable tomorrow. As a result, sustainability is constantly evolving and requires an orientation of monitoring and decision making to make sure that your organization is sustainable at any given point and time.

Smart nonprofits today realize the board can’t bring in a consultant and have a “one-off” strategic planning session. They must commit to an evolving plan that’s responsive to the ever-changing environment. How relevant is your current plan and does it build your financial endurance?

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Model statement versus mission statement: Do you have both?

When engaged in decision making, nonprofit leaders typically look at financial sustainability and programmatic sustainability in isolation from one another. Because a blended approach is seldom used by boards and leaders, important decisions are made out of context, leaving the organization at greater risk for future viability.

In Nonprofit Sustainability, the authors demonstrate how to use an adaptable tool called the “Matrix Map,” which is extremely helpful in visualizing what programs merit nurturing, require dissolving or compel us to maximize them based on their profitability and impact. Matrix mapping can be used for simple decisions, complex collaborations, mergers, planning and fundraising feasibility. The authors claim that Matrix Maps foster discussion, facilitate strategic options and ensure that decision makers keep both aspects of sustainability front and center.

Nonprofit Sustainability uses three fictitious organizations to illustrate how to use the Matrix Mapping tool and introduce the concepts of business models, sustainability and financial viability in the nonprofit setting. According to the authors, financial sustainability is not only a legitimate goal, it is a necessary and intrinsic goal. Furthermore, most nonprofits are now employing hybrid revenue strategies where they combine donations, earned income, contracts, grants and other income types. Consequently, financial goals must be set and managed differently for each revenue stream.

Whether it is purposeful or not, every nonprofit has a business model, say the authors. Even though every program is managed individually, each must operate within an overall strategy. The authors assert that leadership’s role is to develop and communicate that strategy so all the activities operate within one vision, which makes the business model viable.

CausePlanet: One of the most intriguing imperatives I read in this book was the importance behind describing what success will look like. So I asked Bell, Masaoka and Zimmerman “What is the best use of a business model statement as it relates to the mission statement?”

Zimmerman: “Mission statements discuss what the organization wants to accomplish typically in broad, inspirational terms. Business model statements are more specific and provide details not only on how the organization carries out its mission but also how it pays for it. So, for example, an early childhood education center’s mission statement might be:

“To support the intellectual, physical, spiritual and emotional development of children so they become self sufficient, contributing members of the community,”

but their business model statement might read:

“We provide early childhood education and daycare services for children ages three to five supported by government funding and subsidized through the generosity of individuals.”

The statement acts as a guide for the board in explaining the business model and helps focus them on the programs and revenue strategies that create a successful organization.

For more discussion about Nonprofit Sustainability, you can follow the authors: Jan Masaoka at Blue Avocado (www.blueavocado.org), which is an online magazine for nonprofits where the discussion on this topic and many others is continuing. Both Jeanne Bell and Steve Zimmerman contribute there and can also be reached via their respective organizations: Compasspoint (www.compasspoint.org) and Spectrum Nonprofit Services (www.spectrumnonprofit.com).

 

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Destination: Sustainability

For nonprofit leaders who are tired of their current decision making paradigm, the more nimble and actionable process of “matrix mapping” explained in the book, Nonprofit Sustainability: Making Strategic Decisions for Financial Viability, offers a fresh and immediately gratifying alternative.

This book will help you examine your current business model, identify areas for adjustments, consider income streams and ultimately assist with ongoing decision making. Nonprofit Sustainability by Jeanne Bell, Jan Masaoka and Steve Zimmerman is an essential tool for CEOs, EDs and management teams.

There was a quote from this book that especially resonated with me because I’ve heard versions of this so frequently during my years in the nonprofit sector. It goes as follows: “A new executive director was told by the board and the staff, ‘There’s a $300,000 hole in the budget that you have to fill.’ Not only is this a dishearteningly phrased directive, it’s an unproductive way to characterize a financially difficult situation. Behind this statement is the unspoken assumption that programs and their funding occupy two separate spheres rather than fitting into an overall business model for the organization.” (p. 109)

This excerpt compelled me to ask the authors, “What is the most common reason why nonprofit leaders look at programmatic sustainability and financial sustainability in isolation of one another?”

Steve Zimmerman responded by saying “It is difficult for board members and senior managers to look at both mission impact and financial profitability primarily because our systems aren’t designed to do so. Program evaluations rarely provide information about the full cost of the program and financial statements don’t reveal the impact that our programs are having. Likewise, in our board meetings we tend to discuss items down an agenda: programs then finances then fundraising. But all of these are deeply interconnected. The Matrix Map is a visual tool that integrates mission and money and allows leaders to make decisions while holding both programmatic and financial sustainability together.”

I also asked Zimmerman, Bell and Masaoka to explain their claim that “sustainability is an orientation, not a destination.” Zimmerman said, “One of the common comments that I receive from boards when we’re doing strategic planning is that they want a “sustainable business model.” It is often said in a way that implies that sustainability is a destination – once you get to the nirvana of a sustainable business model you don’t have to worry anymore and money will continue to come rolling in for perpetuity. We know the reality is that nothing is forever. Funding sources come and go and constituents’ needs evolve. So, what is sustainable today may not be sustainable tomorrow. As a result, sustainability is constantly evolving and requires an orientation of monitoring and decision making to make sure that your organization is sustainable at any given point and time.”

For more discussion about Nonprofit Sustainability, you can follow the authors: Jan Masaoka at Blue Avocado (www.blueavocado.org), which is an online magazine for nonprofits where the discussion on this topic and many others is continuing. Both Jeanne Bell and Steve Zimmerman contribute there and can also be reached via their respective organizations: Compasspoint (www.compasspoint.org) and Spectrum Nonprofit Services (www.spectrumnonprofit.com).

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