Archive for August, 2013

The decline phase: highly influential yet rarely discussed

“Organizational turnaround and the closing of an organization are the least written about areas of thought and research relating to the nonprofit lifecycle, even though they are the driving force behind what occurs in the other phases of the lifecycle,” say Nonprofit Capacity Building authors, Brothers and Sherman.

If you’ve landed on our home page this week, you know we’re featuring an important read about change management through the lens of nonprofit lifecycles. Why is it essential to know where you land on the nonprofit lifecycle continuum? The authors, Brothers and Sherman, argue that nonprofits can make better decisions and manage change more efficiently if it understands the implications of operating within a particular phase.

While we don’t know why the latter half of the lifecycle is the least common of areas debated in nonprofit lifecycle research, we do know no one wants to be in the middle of a turn-around or closing—they’re exhausting not to mention emotional for everyone involved. Perhaps that’s the reason why this passage from the mature phase to the decline phase captures so little attention.

So, in an effort to boost the minority opinion, I asked Brothers and Sherman about the “decline phase” of a nonprofit lifecycle as it relates to long-standing organizations and the economy.

Anne Sherman

JB & AS: Growth for growth’s sake is a common error, and an understandable one. In the for-profit sector, there is a principle that the company that isn’t growing is by definition declining. Too often this maxim is misapplied in the nonprofit sector, where competition and profit certainly have roles to play, but differently than in the private sector. We can never lose sight of the fact that achieving mission is our bottom line. In fairness, funding for nonprofits can be capricious, unpredictable and irrational. So there is some logic in pursuing funds opportunistically. But that’s not really a sustainable path. Mature or well-established organizations that grow without careful attention to strategy or desired impact increase their risk of decline.

John Brothers

JB & AS: We think most would agree the recession has exposed or exacerbated flaws in nonprofit business models. We hear a lot about how the greatest challenge nonprofits have faced is a decline in giving. Interestingly, the number of nonprofits that have gone “out of business” has been far smaller than what was predicted in 2008-2009. Just as it is really hard for nonprofits to find financial sustainability, it also appears to be really hard for the market to “weed out” less effective or weaker organizations entirely. The book discusses when organizations hit decline and the different ways they can enter it. This, if using lifecycle thought, can be discussed as the arc of the lifecycle.

Ask yourself if your nonprofit is on the path of growth for growth’s sake or attention to strategy and desired impact on your mission.

CausePlanet members: Don’t forget to register for our next live author interview with Kari Dunn Saratovsky, coauthor of Cause for Change. We’ll discuss how Millennial engagement should be at the forefront of your fundraising plans as well as a primary consideration for your organizational culture.  Bring your questions and join us on your computer or mobile device on Wednesday, September 25 at 11 a.m. CST.

See also:

Nonprofit Sustainability: Making Strategic Decisions for Financial Viability

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

Fundraising and the Next Generation

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Are your nonprofit decisions age-appropriate?

If you’ve ever cared for a child, you may have found yourself asking if something is age-appropriate. These days it feels like that question surfaces more often with how sophisticated caregiving has become. You no longer have your child join a club; your child has 25 different clubs for which s/he “can apply.” Your child simply can’t join the local team; your child has a dozen leagues with varying levels of competitiveness for which s/he can “try out.” You’re getting the idea and we haven’t even discussed entertainment, hobbies, summer camps, curriculum and schools yet. The list goes on and on. It’s just plain complicated sometimes.

Thankfully, I found the prospect of evaluating the maturity of nonprofits much easier thanks to John Brothers and Anne Sherman’s new book, Building Nonprofit Capacity: A Guide to Managing Change Through Organizational Lifecycles.

The decisions you make in all aspects of nonprofit management, including governance, planning, fundraising and marketing, are impacted by the maturity of your organization. Brothers and Sherman say the purpose of their book is to help nonprofits become stronger in their decision-making by using the organizational lifecycle continuum as a form of change management. The authors make a case for deliberately engaging in change management through understanding each phase of a nonprofit’s cycle so you can efficiently weather transitions.

One of the three models they refer to throughout the book is by Susan Kenny Stevens and builds upon the 1970s article written by Larry Greiner in the Harvard Business Review. Stevens wrote about lifecycles in the 1990s and then published a book on the topic in 2001, Nonprofit Lifecycles: Stage-Based Wisdom for Nonprofit Capacity.

The cycles include:

1)   Idea: “There is no organization, only an idea to form one.”

2)   Start-Up: “An organization that is in the beginning phase of operation.”

3)   Adolescent (or Growth): “An organization whose services are established in the marketplace but whose operations are not yet stabilized.”

4)   Mature: “An organization that is well established and operating smoothly.”

5)   Decline: “An organization that is operating smoothly but is beginning to lose market share.”

6)   Turnaround: “An organization that is losing money, is short of cash, and is in a state of crisis.”

7)   Terminal: “An organization that no longer has a reason to exist.”

 

In our CausePlanet interview, I asked the authors about the book’s relevance for new and seasoned nonprofits alike as well as about the value in revisiting certain stages.

CausePlanet: Will you revisit why this book is essential for start-ups, declining organizations and everyone in between?

Brothers

Brothers and Sherman: In this book, we tried to provide a framework that would offer something for any nonprofit, regardless of where it is in its lifecycle. The nonprofit sector in the U.S. is remarkably diverse, and of course there is no one-size-fits-all. However, there is a set of characteristics that applies to most, if not all, nonprofits: mission, vision, values and the imperative to maximize impact. Our goal in this book was to visit some of those core features at different lifecycle stages.

 

CausePlanet: Under what circumstances is it appropriate for seasoned organizations to go back to the basics (where mission, vision, values, etc. are formed)?

 

Sherman

Brothers and Sherman: One of the points we tried to make is that no organization should ever lose sight of the basics—mission, vision, values, program strategy. Just like it’s good to get your teeth cleaned or your car tuned up on a regular basis, nonprofit leaders are well-served by reviewing and assessing the core elements of their strategy. That said, sometimes a more intensive review or “step back” is warranted. Whenever there is reason to believe program effectiveness is at risk or there is a growing sense they are far removed from the comfort zone of their missions, a real look in the mirror is important. It’s often when that organization is assessing where it is that we find whether there will be positive forward momentum or it has not really confronted the image in the mirror and a decline begins.

Learn more about John Brothers at www.quidooconsulting.com, where he is the principal of his consulting firm, or Anne Sherman www.growthphilanthropy.org where she is the vice president of nonprofit strategy.

If you enjoyed this excerpt of our Page to Practice™ summary, find out more about our summary library and store or purchase the book.

Based on Stevens’ stages above, ask yourself in what phase your nonprofit exists and if you need to revisit the “start-up” phase.

CausePlanet members: Don’t forget to register for our live author interview with Tom Wolff on Thurs, August 22 to learn more about high-performance collaborations.

See other books about change management:

Buy-In: Saving Your Good Ideas From Getting Shot Down

Repeatability: Build Enduring Businesses for a World of Constant Change

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Give your staff a “second paycheck”

So many of us find ourselves explaining to others why we work in the nonprofit sector. There’s a higher purpose that gets us out of bed every morning and keeps us at the desk well after five. So you can imagine my curiosity when I read James Robbins’ chapter on giving your staff a “second paycheck” in his book, Nine Minutes on Monday: The Quick and Easy Way to Go from Manager to Leader.

Robbins’ model “is founded on nine key questions to ask yourself each Monday morning during your leadership planning time. Each question is tied to one of the nine drivers of employee engagement and will help you create small actionable goals that will inspire and motivate your staff.”

In my CausePlanet interview with Robbins, I asked him about “minute four” and the most important minute out of the total nine minutes he recommends each Monday.

CP: In minute four, you talk about giving your staff a “second paycheck” and the positive results of connecting people with purpose. Could you give our readers an example of connecting someone to purpose?

JR: I was recently doing a Nine Minutes workshop for a boutique men’s clothing store. I was asking them to brainstorm for a moment on the question, “Whom do we serve?” When I asked for their answers, one salesman said the word, “clients.” While this is true, there is no compelling purpose here. Then one of the salespeople told a story about how he had recently sold a new suit to a man who had to deliver a eulogy at his father’s funeral. The salesman made a follow-up call to see how the funeral had gone. The man responded by saying it went well and the new suit had made him feel confident and he was grateful for that. This is a great story because it gives the client a face and shows how selling a suit can help someone feel confident at his father’s funeral. There is power in this story but only if the rest of the staff hears this. I encouraged them to pass along stories like these to help employees connect purpose to pay. So stories are one of the most powerful ways to help people connect to purpose. Find great stories about how what you do makes a difference and then find appropriate ways to get them passed on to your staff.

CP: If there could be only one minute on Monday dedicated to this topic, which one would you choose as most important for managers?

JR: That’s a tough question. If I could only pick one, it would be minute nine: the need for a model to follow. Our examples as leaders do more to dictate our success than anything else. If we truly want people to follow us, engage their talents and work with all their heart, then we have to be exemplary leaders. I’m not talking about management ability here either. This goes beyond the role and extends to who you are as a person: how you treat people, how hard you work, whether or not you take responsibility for your mistakes, humility and courage. Like it or not, there is a certain morality attached to leadership and we have to be that part. A leader’s example always has been and always will be paramount when it comes to him/her cultivating a following. The next most important minute is number one: caring for your people.

Consider minute nine, are you creating a model to follow? How do you demonstrate humility, responsibility, a strong work ethic?

CausePlanet members: Don’t forget to register for our next live author interview with Tom Wolff, who trains and consults in collaborative solutions. We’ll discuss the essential principles he explores in his book The Power of Collaborative Solutions: Six Principles and Effective Tools for Building Healthy Communities on Thursday, August 22 at 11 a.m. CST.

See also:

The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology that Fuel Success and Performance at Work

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Does your staff recognition come from the outside or inside?

“Picking up a management book that does not include a chapter on recognition and appreciation is like picking up Mother Teresa’s diary and not finding the word ‘prayer,’” says author James Robbins.

I’m sure there was a time during your childhood when you may have received a piece of candy in recognition for a job well done or reward for good behavior. Once you had eaten the candy, the feeling of accomplishment was quickly forgotten.

In contrast, I’m confident you can remember a time when a parent, coach or teacher told you something positive or specific about how you completed a project, acted like a team player or performed in class. The same holds true for us as adults in the workplace. James Robbins discusses these two types of recognition in his book, and we asked him about it in our interview, highlighting Nine Minutes on Monday: The Quick and Easy Way to Go from Manager to Leader.

Robbins’ model “is founded on nine key questions to ask yourself each Monday morning during your leadership planning time. Each question is tied to one of the nine drivers of employee engagement and will help you create small actionable goals that will inspire and motivate your staff.”

CP: You discuss the difference between recognition and reward and why the latter isn’t as effective. Could you talk a little about the philosophy behind this fact?

JR: There has been some fascinating research in the last few decades about the power of intrinsic motivation versus motivation that is extrinsic or comes from the outside. When people are intrinsically motivated they are more engaged in what they are doing. They will also be more creative and persist longer with a problem. But when rewards are introduced from the outside, especially in the form of cash or prizes, they can almost have a dampening effect on the future motivation with the same task. Not only that, they set up a dangerous cycle of people expecting more of the same. Recognition, on the other hand, is more about helping people feel valued, and one of the best ways to do that is through simple words. In the book I cover an easy formula called The Recognition Codes to help people string together simple recognition statements that can be used with their employees, which literally take a few seconds.

CP: If there could be only one minute on Monday dedicated to this topic, which one would you choose as most important for managers?

JR: That’s a tough question. If I could only pick one, it would be minute nine: the need for a model to follow. Our examples as leaders do more to dictate our success than anything else. If we truly want people to follow us, engage their talents and work with all their heart, then we have to be exemplary leaders. I’m not talking about management ability here either. This goes beyond the role and extends to who you are as a person: how you treat people, how hard you work, whether or not you take responsibility for your mistakes, humility and courage. Like it or not, there is a certain morality attached to leadership and we have to be that part. A leader’s example always has been and always will be paramount when it comes to him/her cultivating a following. The next most important minute is number one: caring for your people.

Are you rewarding your staff with specific comments that demonstrate how much you value them? Furthermore, do you model leadership for your staff? Consider Robbins’ second answer in this interview and how he describes good modeling behavior.

CausePlanet members: Don’t forget to register for our next live author interview with Tom Wolff, who trains and consults in collaborative solutions. We’ll discuss the essential principles he explores in his book The Power of Collaborative Solutions: Six Principles and Effective Tools for Building Healthy Communities on Thursday, August 22 at 11 a.m. CST.

See also:

The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology that Fuel Success and Performance at Work

Leave a reply

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