Posts Tagged ‘Peter Brinckerhoff’

Ten characteristics of great nonprofits and the four critical skills that empower them

Author, writer and consultant Peter Brinckerhoff claims it’s an exciting time to be in the nonprofit world. He asserts, “There are more challenges, more opportunities and more ways to respond to the increasing needs in a community.”

Three guiding principles are at the core of high-impact nonprofits

The third edition of Mission-Based Management bestows on the reader a comprehensive look at what today’s nonprofit managers should prioritize in order to model the best high-impact nonprofits. The premise of the book, is based on three philosophies that have informed Brinckerhoff’s entire career of 30 plus years: “Nonprofits are businesses.” “No one gives you a dime.” “Nonprofit does not mean no profit.”

He convincingly demonstrates the truth in each of these points throughout the book and in each of the management competencies he explores—from leadership, governance, and finances to marketing, mission, ethics, and more.

Dangerous assumptions, four critical skills and 10 characteristics of great charities

Brinckerhoff also broaches the dangerous assumptions that have surfaced in our sector over the years, such as foundations controlling nonprofits after giving them money and nonprofits needing to take a “vow of poverty.” He gives four essential skills for mission-based managers and introduces the 10 characteristics of successful nonprofits.

The four skills include the ability to:

1)     balance the needs of the community with the organization’s available resources;

2)     innovate as a social entrepreneur, taking reasonable risks on behalf of the organization’s beneficiaries;

3)     lead the organization by example and motivate the staff, board and community; and

4)     communicate effectively the mission to the staff, board, public and stakeholders.

Brinckerhoff then covers the 10 characteristics of a successful nonprofit in the rest of Mission-Based Management, each chapter tackling one characteristic.

The section below lists each characteristic he discusses in depth:

1)     A viable mission: The mission is why your organization exists so utilizing it to the fullest extent is your first priority. The author recommends reviewing your mission statement at least every three years when you write your strategic plan in order to make sure it is accurate.

2)     Ethics, accountability and transparency: “There is nothing more important to your mission success than [ethics, accountability and transparency]. Nothing.” Mission comes first and values follow.

3)     A businesslike board of directors: Brinckerhoff provides a list of desirable characteristics in a board, a list of items that prevent effectiveness and a list of responsibilities surrounding the three general functions of a board—preserving the trust, setting policy and supporting the charity.

4)     Leading your people: People usually work for a nonprofit for the mission and respect, not for the money. Brinckerhoff uses the inverted pyramid of management to illustrate how best to value and keep your people.

5)     Embracing technology for mission: Technology serves some important purposes for nonprofits, namely for education, volunteers, new employees, transparency and development.

6)     Creating a social entrepreneur: Brinckerhoff emphasizes the need for nonprofits to return to their start-up, entrepreneurial phases in terms of increased flexibility, willingness to embrace and shape change, and inclination to take risks.

7)     Developing a bias for marketing: “Of all the business skills you can put to work for your mission, marketing is the most applicable in the most areas.” The author emphasizes this slogan, “Everything that everyone here does every day is marketing.”

8)     Financial empowerment: Using financial skills and concepts from the business world can help you achieve your mission without always having to comply with the restrictions traditional funders place on you.

9)     A vision for the future: Strategic planning is essential to have purpose, coordinate all other planning (budgets, staffing, fundraising), delegate more effectively, be flexible, and exhibit good business and stewardship.

10)  The controls that set you free: For a leader to delegate (an important skill for a leader in order to free up time to be a visionary), controls must be in place in areas such as bylaws, conflict of interest, financial, human resource, media, volunteers, disaster, program and quality assurance policies.

Brinckerhoff establishes in the introduction of his book that much has changed since he wrote the first edition of Mission-Based Management in 1994. His effort to keep pace with change in our sector is a bellwether for nonprofit leaders to match his ongoing pursuit of what defines a successful mission-based nonprofit. Brinckerhoff challenges you to embrace the good business practices that can be adapted for mission-based management. He tempts you to strive for a profit because that margin will empower you to be financially viable and sustainable. He invites you to recognize that donors are paying for service—you earn everything you get.

See also:

12: The Elements of Great Managing

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

Do More Than Give: The Six Practices of Donors Who Change the World

Image credits: patheos.com, muppetwikia.com, ultimateclassicrock.com, wiley.com

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Kick these tires before you embark on challenging roads ahead

Last week, we introduced Mission-Based Management by Peter Brinckerhoff and his three philosophies that informed his 30-plus years in the successful business of guiding causes. They are:

“Nonprofits are businesses.”

“No one gives you a dime.”

“Nonprofit does not mean no profit.”

He convincingly demonstrates the truth in each of these points throughout the book and in each of the management competencies he explores—from leadership, governance, and finances to marketing, mission, ethics, and more.

But what exactly do these philosophies mean?

It’s worth asking and answering because these “Brincker-isms” are not a passing phase. Brinckerhoff has written three editions of Mission-Based Management—much to the appreciation of the sector. In other words, the nonprofit sector has kicked the tires and liked the journey in this book. So let’s take a closer look at what informed so many other readers’ decisions after reading it:

Nonprofits are businesses. “Your organization is a mission-based business, in the business of doing mission,” claims the author. He adds we don’t have license to be sloppy or ignore a good idea simply because it was originally designed for the business sector. “Using good business skills as a mission-based manager does not, I repeat, not mean dropping services simply because they lose money, nor does it mean turning people away because they cannot pay. But it does mean paying attention to the bottom line, having a strategic vision, and negotiating in good faith and from a position of strength—in short, being businesslike in pursuit of your mission,” explains Brinckerhoff.

No one gives you a dime. Brinckerhoff explains that nonprofits don’t get gifts. If a donor writes you a check for $100 to your social services organization, she isn’t making a donation. Rather, she is purchasing services for someone or some family she will never meet. Brinckerhoff says the business community calls this giving money in exchange for an expectation of outcome. When you purchase concert tickets, you have an expectation of entertainment. When you purchase an airline ticket, you have an expectation of transportation. When you send money to a nonprofit, you have an expectation of service. In other words, “you earn all the money you get,” asserts Brinckerhoff. An interesting paradigm shift.

Nonprofit does not mean no profit. Brinckerhoff encourages you to consider this point. Making money in a nonprofit is legal. Nowhere in the state or federal law does it say nonprofits cannot make a profit. He asks, “If you cannot make a profit, why do you need a tax exemption?” Profit is essential and a key tool for financial empowerment, a subject the Brinckerhoff covers at length later in the book.

As you move forward with your organization, ask yourself if anyone on your team subscribes to the thinking Brinckerhoff tries to overcome in these three philosophies. If so, how is he affecting your decision-making and outcomes? I know, it’s challenging to turn the corner on new thinking but well worth the effort.

Challenging terrain ahead

While I have you thinking about challenges, I’ll add one more. We asked consultant Raylene Decatur what she thought was most challenging about being a mission-based manager today:

CausePlanet: Where do nonprofit managers most commonly find challenges with leading a mission-based organization in your experience?

Decatur: Discipline is the number one challenge. The manager may be a disciplined individual but leading a disciplined department, division or organization is challenging. In a corporation, the bottom-line (profit and loss) creates discipline. Mission-based organizations have multifaceted impacts, which lack the quantified clarity of financial results. The board members, staff and volunteers may each love that mission differently and each be pulling the organization in slightly (or profoundly) different directions. It is the manager’s job to harness that energy and achieve the organization’s stated outcomes, year in and year out.

If you find yourself looking for a comprehensive analysis of how high-impact nonprofits lead their causes, consider Mission-Based Management; it’s grounded in Brinckerhoff’s road-tested philosophies and you’ll benefit from years of wisdom gained from many journeys.

See also:

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

Do More Than Give: The Six Practices of Donors Who Change the World

Forces for Good: Six Practices of High Impact Nonprofits

Image credits: Brinckerhoff, sikhchick.com, seriouswheeels.com

 

 

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Checking in on 10-year predictions for the New Year

Kicking off a New Year seems like a perfect time to recommend our upcoming addition to the CausePlanet summary library. Frankly, any time is the ideal time to pick up this book. Peter Brinckerhoff has written not one, not two, but three editions of Mission-Based Management, which should give you a sense of its value to nonprofit readers.

Author, writer and consultant Peter Brinckerhoff claims it’s an exciting time to be in the nonprofit world. He asserts, “There are more challenges, more opportunities and more ways to respond to the increasing needs in a community.”

The third edition of Mission-Based Management bestows on the reader a comprehensive look at what today’s nonprofit managers should prioritize in order to model the best high-impact nonprofits.

The premise?

The book is based on three philosophies that have informed Brinckerhoff’s entire career of 30 plus years:

  1. “Nonprofits are businesses.”
  2. “No one gives you a dime.”
  3. “Nonprofit does not mean no profit.”

He convincingly demonstrates the truth in each of these points throughout the book and in each of the management competencies he explores—from leadership, governance and finances to marketing, mission, ethics and more.

We invited Raylene Decatur of Decatur & Company to participate in our guest interview about the book. Since 2004, her firm has provided strategy and leadership transition services for nonprofit organizations ranging from start-ups to complex, mature organizations.

CausePlanet: What do you think about Brinckerhoff’s ten-year predictions? Are there any you would modify, emphasize or add?

Raylene Decatur: Brinckerhoff was brave to present his ten-year predictions and prescient regarding the future. From our vantage point in 2015, I would emphasize the following of his predictions:

Role of Government: Brinckerhoff was very accurate in his assessment of the diminished resources that local, state and federal governments would be investing in programs implemented by the nonprofit sector. For many nonprofits, especially in the health and human services sector, diversification of funding streams and reinvention of their business models will continue as trends for the foreseeable future. (Read more in our Page to Practice™ summary of Super Boards: How Inspired Governance Will Transform Your Organization)

The Impact of Generational Change: The baby boomers continue to age and have maintained greater longevity on boards and as organizational leaders than might have been anticipated five years ago. The generational change is much more complex and multifaceted than the compelling math of aging and its impact on the transfer of power. The values of a new generation of leaders and funders are raising questions regarding all aspects of nonprofit sector operations and outcomes. The recession stimulated change, and the generational transfer impact will create new and perhaps more challenging dynamics for the examination of sector practices. (Read more in our Page to Practice™ summary of Cause for Change: The Why and How of Nonprofit Millennial Engagement)

Cost of Services: Brinckerhoff notes the increased cost of providing services to a population of clients who have greater and more complex needs. More competition from both nonprofit and for-profit companies in an environment where it is more expensive to serve will accelerate as a challenge for the sector over the next decade.

Impact of Technology: As Brinckerhoff observes, the nonprofit sector must make the investments necessary to fully utilize technology to accelerate progress on mission. The transformation of client, donor and stakeholder expectations has evolved even more quickly than could be anticipated five years ago. Today, many nonprofits are facing almost insurmountable challenges related to reporting outcomes and results because their investments in systems and technology have failed to keep pace with these new norms. (Read more in our Page to Practice™ summary of Managing Technology to Meet Your Mission)

CausePlanet: If you could consult on a fourth edition of this book, what topics(s) might you envision adding?

Raylene Decatur: Talent is one of the greatest challenges facing the nonprofit sector today and in the foreseeable future. How will the sector transform its capacity to attract, retain, train and reward the people who are essential to achieving mission outcomes? This is not a new topic, but there is urgency in reimagining our assumptions regarding both paid and unpaid staff.  (Read more in our Page to Practice™ summary of The Abundant Not-for-Profit: How Talent (Not Money) Will Transform Your Organization)

In the spirit of Raylene’s final answer about resources—specifically talent—I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotations from Brinckerhoff: “A charity views its resources as a combination of four things: people, money, buildings, and equipment. … A mission-based business also has the same combination of four resources: people, money, buildings, and equipment. But it looks beyond just those four and also considers business tools in performing mission.”

See also:

12: The Elements of Great Managing

Leaders Make the Future: Ten New Leadership Skills for an Uncertain World

Nonprofit Sustainability: Making Strategic Decisions for Financial Viability

Image credits: thegraphicshouse.biz, en.wikipedia.org, nabswgreaterboston.org. Peter Brinckerhoff, enamabusinesssolutions.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

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