Archive for October, 2013

Board assessments: trash or treasure?

A family of treasure hunters from Sanford, Florida spent 13 years scouring the Florida coastline and finally discovered gold from a 300-year-old Spanish shipwreck worth $350,000. While most of the proceeds went to the state and the company that owns diving rights to the site, the parents say the greatest treasure was spending time with their son and daughter during the treasure hunt.

Board assessments are a lot like treasure hunts. Bear with me. I know one sounds like pulling teeth while the other sounds like fun in the sun. Successful discoveries in the ocean or on land are the result of working together as a team and using every tool you have. And much like treasure seekers, when board members engage in evaluation, know they’ll find incredible value if they’re willing to put in the time and enlist good resources. Unfortunately, most boards don’t have their eyes on the prize. Instead their eyes are on “checking the box” and moving on.

We’re featuring a game-changing book in our summary library about governance by Cathy Trower. When I asked her how The Practitioner’s Guide to Governance as Leadership genuinely adds to the body of resources we have on the topic, she answered with this:

Trower: In this book—a practice-based field guide if you will–readers come to better understand the theories that underlie the Governance as Leadership (GaL) model (e.g., critical thinking, individual behaviors and group dynamics, cognitive errors, teambuilding, leadership) but more importantly, they hear from actual board chairs and CEOs about what happened to them while putting the ideas into action. Readers learn how to get started, gain traction and actually sustain a new norm for board performance.

More to point of this blog, I also asked Trower to weigh in on board assessments:

CausePlanet: In chapter seven, you assert that board self-assessments alone do little to affect board performance. What advice do you have for boards that are guilty of using only this tool?

Trower: There are several important issues embedded in this question. First, a primary reason I assert board self-assessments do little to affect board performance is because too many boards see them as a “check-the-box” experience. Oh, yes, we did a self-assessment; we do one every year (or every other year). Yet, no one can really recall where the findings went or what happened as a result. Self-assessments can only drive higher performance if the board takes the time to discuss the findings as well as what needs to improve and describes a path to do so. Then, it re-evaluates and conducts another discussion, all moving toward continuous improvement.

Second, as your question asserts, this is only one tool; so even if used effectively where there is reflection and learning, a self-assessment can become stale and routine. Board members complete the form without real thought. Thus, boards are well-served to consider other forms of assessment, such as having an outsider observe board meetings and report on what he/she saw or assigning an “on-the-balcony” board member who not only is engaged in the board conversation at meetings but also reports after the meeting about what he/she observed (in terms of group dynamics and dialogue).

Third, it is important to have the staff members who regularly interact with the board assess the board’s performance (anonymously), not just board members. Staff members sometimes see the board’s effectiveness quite differently.

Fourth, some boards are utilizing 360 reviews where each member rates all others and him/herself against observable behaviors. This ups the ante for individual performance. The main point is that great governance requires self-awareness about performance as individuals and as a collective. Self-awareness increases with measurement, discussion, and learning about areas of strength and weakness, and board performance increases when there is deliberate attention paid to how to improve and concrete action to do so.

See also:

The Board Game

The Ultimate Board Member’s Book

The Nonprofit Leadership Team: Building the Board-Executive Director Parntership

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Which comes first: the partnership or the plan?

Our firm La Piana Consulting works with dozens of organizations each year on planning: strategic planning, business planning, succession planning—you name it. We also specialize in strategic restructuring: mergers and other forms of partnership between and among nonprofit organizations. All nonprofits engage in the former, many in the latter. Our belief is an organization should never tackle one without giving serious consideration to the other.

Every nonprofit does at least some of its work in collaboration with others. Most could go further, however. Joint programming, back office consolidation, joint venture, merger, collaborative scaling, networked action, collective impact—there are many ways to increase impact by working with others. How and when should an organization plan for this? What kind of planning is called for? What should an organization tackle first? To answer these questions, we consider planning from three angles.

1. Planning as catalyst

Strategic planning is the most common approach to strategy formation. Organizations also form strategy in “real time.” The latter approach is a big focus of ours and the topic of one of our books, The Nonprofit Strategy Revolution: Real-Time Strategic Planning in a Rapid-Response World, which argues the environment is changing so rapidly, nonprofits need to be forming, evaluating, and updating strategy on an ongoing basis, not just every two, three, or four years, when the latest strategic plan expires.

Regardless of the model used, strategy formation involves careful consideration of internal factors (mission, vision, business model, big questions) and external realities (trends, competitive landscape, market position, competitive advantage, need/demand). A single organization may begin a strategy formation process without any specific intent to partner, but the simple act of addressing the question, “Is there anyway in which partnership could allow us to better advance our mission?” may open doors to previously unrecognized opportunities.

Succession planning is another opportunity to consider partnership. Succession planning is the ongoing process of defining the organizational roles and capacities needed for success and of identifying and developing personnel to prepare them to fill those roles as needed. It may also involve considering “out of the box” responses to future leadership transitions. For example, “Would sharing an Executive Director CFO/Director of Human Resources with another organization help us to be more efficient and effective as we go forward?” Here again the planning comes first, but when done well, includes consideration of future strategic restructuring options and opportunities.

2. Planning to inform negotiations

While a formal planning process may lead to a decision to explore options for strategic restructuring, opportunities for partnership can and do arise at anytime. Planning isn’t far behind, however, and is in fact an integral part of the negotiations process. Sometimes that planning is at a very high level: “What is the programmatic scope of the partnership? How will [our combined effort] be structured, governed, managed, staffed, and financed? What will we continue to do independently?” In many cases, agreement on “the basics” may be sufficient to secure agreement from all parties to move forward.

In other cases, a potential partnership may be sufficiently complex as to require a full business planning process prior to a decision to move forward, either because of the number of parties involved, the complexity of the proposed business model, or the nature of the questions posed by key stakeholders such as board members or funders. The deeper dive of business planning allows those involved to develop, define and consider the parameters of an economically and operationally successful undertaking—and then make an informed decision based on the result.

3. Planning for implementation

Once two or more organizations have agreed to work together, they must implement. In a straight forward partnership (a jointly developed education program for new parents, for example, or an agreement to share a CFO) an MOU and an action plan may be all that is needed. In a more complex or highly integrative partnership (a merger, perhaps, or newly-formed coalition of similarly-focused advocacy organizations) a full-fledged strategy formation process may be called for. Or, if the partnership is focused on starting or scaling something new, large, or high-risk, business planning may be appropriate. As with planning to inform negotiations, the opportunity for partnership may have arisen outside of a formal planning process, but a formal planning process will very often follow the decision to partner.

Have those leading your organization considered the possibility of partnership recently? If not, and you have a planning process coming up, consider including a discussion of how working with others could help you better advance your mission and achieve your vision. It is certainly an appropriate question at anytime an organization is considering its future. For those occasions when the partnership opportunity comes first, get ready to jump into planning—together—for a whole new level of success.

See also:

The Nonprofit Business Plan: A Leader’s Guide to Creating a Successful Business Model

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Public transit has a new plug thanks to social media

If there was ever a doubt about the ripple effect social media and technology would have in our daily lives, all you have to do is walk out your front door to find out. According to a recent article by The Wall Street Journal even a commute to work will suffice. The article reported that workers are enjoying their commutes to the office more because they can use their mobile devices, check email, listen to podcasts or read the news. In a study of 27,556 British rail passengers, those who found commuting a waste of time in 2004 dropped by a whopping 37 percent in 2010.

This study and many others underscore the meaning of Allyson Kapin and Amy Sample Ward’s new book Social Change Anytime Everywhere. In the book, the authors stress the importance of engaging your community via multi-channels consistently over time—not just when you need support or dollars.

“After so many examples of using multiple channels for advocacy and fundraising, it’s important to remember that you can’t build real community around your work and move the needle on your cause if you invest in doing so only during campaigns or fundraising drives. Community building has to be an anytime, everywhere goal too.”

Reaching your community anytime everywhere requires understanding them and knowing where to find them, even if it’s on their mobile device while riding public transportation. I asked Allyson and Amy about getting to this answer through collecting data in our Page to Practice™ interview:

CausePlanet: One of the social media hurdles you acknowledge is accurately collecting data about your online community while facing the complications imposed by intermediary platforms. How should our readers go about proactively tackling this issue?

Allyson Kapin: While it’s important for organizations to communicate with their community on what channels they prefer, it’s important to have a plan to move these people up the ladder of engagement. Capturing data such as their contact information, including emails, their mobile phone numbers, etc., gives your organization an opportunity to reach these stakeholders wherever they are on more urgent campaigns in case they did not see your tweet on Twitter or post on Facebook. Once you have this information you can also survey them to learn more what their specific interests are, conduct A/B testing to find out which messages resonate with them, etc.

See also:

Cause for Change

Measuring the Networked Nonprofit

Managing Technology to Meet Your Mission

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Big data is not required for big insights

You’ve probably heard a lot about Big Data. Big Data is going to change the world. Big Data is going to change how organizations are run. Big Data is going to clean our garage and walk our dog.

Big Data vs. Small/Medium Data

And maybe Big Data will do that–for big organizations. If you’re Coke or the Fermilab or the National Security Agency, your products or services or spying naturally produce a lot of data. Tapping into and harvesting massive streams of continuously created data, which is the hallmark of Big Data, is a natural thing to do.

But for many of us who work at small and medium organizations, Big Data is an abstraction at best. We simply don’t have massive, ongoing data streams that we can dive into to learn about our markets, our products or services, our clients, or our organization. We’re not big enough to have Big Data. But that doesn’t mean we can’t learn from the principles behind this phenomenon and use them to our advantage.

The hype around Big Data is the data itself: massive, previously unattainable and unimaginable rivers of data pouring through your world. But the philosophy behind Big Data is actually more important.  t’s about looking around to identify where those data flows are in your own environment and then tapping into them to gain insight. You don’t need Big Data to do that. It works just as well with Medium Data or Small Data, especially if you’re a medium or small organization. We too can tap into and harvest data; it just flows in smaller quantities at our scale.

Three sources from which to harvest data

So how can we start this harvesting? What can we collect? There are three main sources to consider, though we’ll concentrate mostly on the third one.

First, you can harvest data that already exists outside your organization and is updated regularly. For example, there are lots of federal surveys and data collection efforts out there, and they’re very cost-effective to retrieve if you know about them. The right ones can help you understand your environment.

Second, you can create data via ongoing special efforts, such as conducting a regular survey or instituting a special data collection effort that is not part of your daily operations. This is a bit of a different concept from harvesting data, but still falls within the realm of a streaming source of data you can use for analysis.

But the third concept is the core of where Small Data can help you. It’s the implementation of a system to collect and harvest on an ongoing basis the data that we produce in our daily operations. Or more precisely, it’s data that we do or could produce easily in our daily operations.

Focus on the third

Thinking about that third concept, we all have opportunities to gather data on a daily basis. Most likely, we already do to some extent, even if it’s as simple as our client names or time sheets. So we’re already in the habit of creating data. But how are we using that data? As examples, I’m always surprised by the number of organizations that record their clients’ ZIP codes but then never use that data to examine their clients’ demographic and geographic makeup I’m also surprised by the number of nonprofits that don’t do research on their donor databases to identify their demographic sweet spots. These data are often collected but not often analyzed and leveraged to their full extent.

Beyond harvesting data that already exists, is there other data that we can efficiently build into our routines that can add value, either in understanding our clients, serving our clients, or improving our internal operations and efficiency? My company, for example, began tracking the origins of our consulting engagements a few years ago, and it has been very effective both in identifying inefficient means of marketing and effective ones. Our minor investment in that effort has paid itself back many times over.

There is value in data. We all know that. The key, of course, is to manage the process so you’re gathering valuable data in an efficient manner and then actually using it to your benefit. If you think about evaluating a program, a general rule of thumb is that 5 to 15 percent of the budget should be invested in evaluation, depending on the size of program. If you would make that investment in a program, why not follow the same rule for your organization as a whole? It may pay off handsomely.

See also:

Level Best: How Small and Grassroots Nonprofits Can Tackle Evaluation and Talk Results

Leap of Reason: Managing to Outcomes in an Era of Scarcity

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Social change everywhere: From Russia with gov

“Weekly paychecks and free food!” was an excerpt from an ad that ran on Russian social media networks this summer offering full-time work for about $800 a month (the average Russian wage). Reporter Alexandra Garmazhapova of the Novaya Gazeta, a Moscow-based independent newspaper, was curious so she went undercover to investigate.

Signs reading “Administration of Bloggers and Commentators” and “Rapid Reaction Department” hung over the offices within an enormous mansion in St. Petersburg. Employees are told to comment on articles or posts “praising Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin and President Vladamir Putin, abusing opposition leader Alexei Navalny and America, and defending Syria.”

If you ever doubted the power of social media, I’m sure a conversation with the Russian activists on the government payroll in this pro-Putin operation would set the record straight. While many of us wish we had an office bursting at the door jams with people working in our own Rapid Reaction Department, the reality is that we do more with less in the nonprofit sector.

Fortunately, we have experts on our side like coauthors Allyson Kapin and Amy Sample Ward who just released Social Change Anytime Everywhere: How to implement online multichannel strategies to spark advocacy, raise money and engage your community.

Kapin and Sample Ward establish beyond a doubt and with great specificity just how much the online world is changing the way we live, work and engage with our communities. Nonprofits that raise more and leverage new heights in advocacy relate with their constituents through a variety of online channels in tandem, meeting each group where it already is: on the Internet.

In the U.S., 78 percent of the population uses the Internet, according to the ITU (International Telecommunication Union or the United Nations agency for information and communication). Nonprofit leaders must embrace not just one or two online channels but launch a coordinated effort that incorporates simultaneous online platforms, mobile devices and offline efforts.

In their book, Kapin and Sample Ward encourage readers to adopt a start-up mentality when launching a multichannel effort. We asked the authors in our interview, “What are some of the behaviors you admire about startups that nonprofits should consider?” Kapin answered:

Startups prefer to fail fast and iterate. This gives them an opportunity to experiment with new ideas that they think have potential. Plus there is a lot to be learned from failing: It can lead to much better products, programs and initiatives. But in order for nonprofits to adapt this mindset, they must stop being so risk-averse and develop a plan to communicate with their funders, donors and board about learning from failure. One of the organizations we work with–Ask Big Questions at Hillel International–lists specific questions they are asking themselves about their programs, which they share with their funders. They talk about what they have learned and the exciting journey ahead of them.

See also:

Twitter for Good

The Networked Nonprofit

Cause for Change

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Four things you need to know before pitching a corporate partner

This post first appeared on Katya Andresen’s site,

When a company contributes to your cause, how does it affect how people feel about the company? If you’re a nonprofit, it’s important to be able to answer this question. Why? Because most companies have twin agendas when they support a cause: doing good and doing well. The longest-standing partnerships are those that not only provide value to the nonprofit but also to the company’s philanthropic AND business agendas. If you want to engage corporate partners, it’s important to understand both.

So, I’m going to share some interesting new research on how corporate social responsibility (CSR) and cause marketing can do that. Consider it useful fodder for your corporate partnership pitches.

First, let me share the basics that are well known in research. CSR can create a brand halo for a company. It makes consumers more likely to view the company as likeable and trustworthy. It might inspire brand loyalty. And if price and quality are considered comparable, a consumer might be more likely to choose a socially responsible company’s product over the competition. All good reasons for a company to support your cause.

But how does a company’s social responsibility affect how consumers actually view its products? Do consumers think the products are better if the company is invested in good causes? This has been a question with frustratingly few answers over the years. Some past research has suggested that the more active a company is in social responsibility, the more consumers might question product performance. For example: is that chemical-free counter cleaner from that tree-hugging corporation really going to work? Consumers may think not.

So it’s exciting that a new set of studies from Alexander Chernev and Sean Blair of the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University tackle the specific issue of how CSR influences the way products are perceived. Their paper, “Doing Well by Doing Good: The Benevolent Halo of Social Goodwill” describes several studies that led to four conclusions by the researchers.

1) To consumers, good company = good product

The first big finding is that when consumers think a company is socially responsible, they are more inclined to view the product as better than others. The study described in the Chernev and Blair paper describes a winery that donated a portion of proceeds to charity. People who knew this act of good perceived the wine as superior. So CSR can enhance perceived product performance! But read on–it’s critical that it is the COMPANY, not necessarily the product, that be viewed as socially “good.”

2) Consumer mindset dictates when “good” matters

In research with a hypothetical running shoe, consumers were more likely to feel the product was better because of the company’s CSR if they were in an abstract rather than concrete mindset. The researchers got consumers to think abstractly by asking why they exercised. They got a separate group of people to think concretely by focusing them on how they exercise. When people were focused on the “why,” they were more influenced by the social good of the company. This finding is in line with fundraising research, which shows people are more generous when in an emotional mindset.

3) A socially responsible company trumps socially responsible product

Here’s the most surprising finding: a socially responsible company may drive more business than a socially responsible product. People feel better about a product that is created by a company that donates to green causes than a company that created a product with environmentally friendly technology. The researchers tested sunscreen, bug spray, laundry detergent and air conditioner refrigerant that had attributes such as being chemical-free and tested that against a company that made one of those products and donated 10%of sales to charity. What was interesting was consumers tended to favor the latter–maybe because they worried “social good” meant a less effective product. When “social good” was decoupled from the product and assigned to the company as a whole, people felt the best about the product. They believed it meant higher performance.

4) Consumers smell self-interest a mile away

People like companies that do social good, but that warm feeling can be attenuated when they sense crass corporate self-interest behind those good works. For me, this finding echoes the truth equation from Charles Green, which says trust is the sum of credibility, reliability and security DIVIDED by the self-orientation of the company (or person). Self-orientation is self-interest and refers to how much an organization is perceived as focusing on itself vs. others. The more a company seems focused on its own needs, the bigger the denominator in the trust equation and the lower the level of trust. This seems to hold true in CSR too. A study with a pretend company named eco-Inks showed that its self-interested advertising about the product’s petroleum-free attribute was far less effective than putting that messaging in its CSR outreach–or having a nonprofit speak to the merits of the company.

See also:

Katya Andresen’s site:

Cause Marketing for Nonprofits: Partner for Purpose, Passion and Profits

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Maloney stresses systems in your nonprofit (Audio)

We are interviewing authors of intriguing leadership and nonprofit texts to showcase more recommendations and best practices. Join us for our second installment of an interview with Deirdre Maloney, author of “The Mission Myth.” She talks about how essential implementing systems is to your nonprofit.

In the interview, Maloney discusses her comprehensive book about “building nonprofit momentum through better business.” Maloney is now the founder and president of Momentum, a consulting firm, after serving a seven-year term as Executive Director of the Colorado AIDS Project. This book compiles advice from her experience as an executive director.

The four Ms

She covers the most important aspects of running a nonprofit organization through her four M’s (management, money, marketing and measurement) while supplying tips and pitfalls for the seasoned executive. She stresses the importance of building systems to run organizations effectively because if these systems are neglected while passionately following the mission, then we cannot “do good well.” Maloney tries to support this tough leadership position and is honest about how she learns from her mistakes. “Mild audacity” describes her style. Listen to Deirdre Maloney’s own words in her second installment and see more on “The Mission Myth.” Below you’ll find a transcribed excerpt of the Q and A.

CausePlanet: Would you please explain why you emphasize nonprofits need to focus more on systems and business practices based on your experience, particularly as ED of the Colorado AIDS Project? Just talk about that more and give some examples.

Maloney: When I first became the executive director, I had come up from within. We were a tremendous organization and Colorado AIDS Project still is. At the time, it was a $3.5 million plus organization that was really still running business-wise as though it was running out of the basement of a church at the grassroots level. What I mean by that is our programs were solid, we had good government grants, we were doing good work, but we didn’t have any policies or procedures in place. Different people, depending on the day, were fixing the copy machine, were putting together the agenda for the board meetings, were locking the door, were picking up the mail. Our supervising was inconsistent. Things were not consistent and they weren’t strategically aimed toward excellence. It was kind of about how that day happened to go, what the day looked like, and who was there filling the seats as to how the experience of our clients might be or how the experience of our staff might be when working with a manager.

What I really believed was when we got those policies and procedures in place, we could strategically say, here are the goals we’re aiming for. We’re aiming toward excellence and we’re going to do it consistently every day by making sure these are the rules we have. These are the different practices we’re going to make sure we’re following in these ways and here are the people in charge of these different tasks. If I’m walking into–and this happened to me one day– the office after a meeting as executive director and I’m spending the next few hours fixing the copy machine, calling the plumber and trying to work out a delivery for our food bank, that’s not the right use of my time or the resources for the organization. So we really needed to make sure what I call, “We were getting the legs underneath the table.” Meaning, we had the programs going pretty well, but we did not have the stability or the policies and procedures or systems in place to make sure we were being excellent and consistent every day.

See also:

Nonprofit Sustainability: Making Strategic Decisions for Financial Viability

The Nonprofit Business Plan: The Leader’s Guide to Creating a Successful Business Model

The Ultimate Board Member’s Book

(See the first installment here.)

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Multichannel efforts: Your path to social change

“Social media is a tool, not the tool with Gen X and Millennials,” said Fundraising and the Next Generation author and consultant, Emily Davis. I hosted Davis at a live author interview for the Colorado Nonprofit Association’s fall conference yesterday and whenever we discuss fundraising with younger generations, social media inevitably comes up. Other questions that always surface are about what platforms to use, what social media preferences these generations have and so on. In short, there’s still a lot of uncertainty about the best use of our time online with our nonprofit communities. On the heels of this session with nonprofit leaders, I’m pleased we can offer our latest book Page to Practice™ feature about creating change through multichannel efforts.

The authors of Social Change Anytime Everywhere challenge those of us who are setting up one or two online profiles and calling it good. Social networks such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter are among the top five ranked websites for traffic in the U.S. More than 5.2 billion people have mobile accounts, which means there are five times as many mobile phone subscriptions as there are personal computers or landline phones.

With jaw-dropping statistics like these and many more, coauthors Allyson Kapin and Amy Sample Ward establish that online multichannel efforts are a necessary bridge between you and the bright future for your cause. With literally dozens of illustrative examples, case stories and specific guidance, the authors describe how you can boost fundraising, spark advocacy and build community with a multi-pronged approach. They explain how you can earn the collective support of everyone in your organization—even the critics—as well as actualize your online plans.

Kapin and Sample Ward

I asked Allyson Kapin about how the book adds to the discussion about social media efforts:

CausePlanet: With a wealth of rhetoric and written material about social media, what do you want readers to know about how your book uniquely adds to the discussion?

Kapin: Social media is not a silver bullet for fundraising. It’s also not a replacement for your website, email or direct mail list. It’s one of multiple channels that organizations should be using to engage their communities. It’s important that organizations integrate these channels into their communications and outreach efforts. They should not be siloed.

Join us next week when we’ll highlight why Allyson Kapin and her coauthor, Amy Sample Ward explain why nonprofits should adopt a start-up mentality when trying to instigate social change.

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A closer look at nonprofit lifecycles

As consultants, one of the major considerations when working with clients is understanding their lifecycle stage – both their current stage and where they are headed – and what this all means for your project. For the fifth session of the Consultant Leadership Forum, Leslie Allen and Ann Goldman of Front Range Source facilitated a lively discussion on this topic and what it means for our work (Thank you, Leslie and Ann!). In response to some of the topics brought up during the session, we have complied some additional resources that may be of interest to CLF members, along with a few highlights from the discussion.

During the group discussions, participants made the following observations (not a full summary, just a few highlights):

When using the lifecycle model, we need to remind clients that moving through the stages is not a linear process and not all organizations will experience each stage. Some organizations will cycle through stages while others may stay within a single stage for long periods of time, based on their evolution as an organization.

Some participants commented that while this kind of model can be helpful, these models miss they dynamic nature of the environment in which organizations operate. A long-standing, well-regarded organization can go from established to decline in a shockingly fast amount of time, just like an innovative start-up can attract attention and grow quite quickly. For some types of organizations, these models do not capture the fluid and fast-moving environments in which some organizations are operating.

The ability to innovate and adapt is becoming an essential organizational capacity for organizations at all stages along the lifecycle continuum. As a consultant, teaching adaptive capacity can be a very important role, especially for projects like strategic planning or fund development.

Some declines cannot be turned around, for both individual organizations and entire niches of organizations (symphony orchestras were mentioned as a type of organization that needs to operate in a radically different way to be viable in the future). Also, as consultants, we can be a good partner in supporting an organization through decline and closure.

To be an effective consultant, it can be important to know where your skills, expertise, and personality best fit among the lifecycles.  Engaging in this kind of analysis and positioning your practice among the organizations that are a good fit for you can increase your success, effectiveness, and happiness in working with clients.

Building Nonprofit Capacity, the book that we used as the basis for the session’s discussion, references two other books on nonprofit lifecycles (both easily available online):

Nonprofit Lifecycles: Stage-Based Wisdom for Nonprofit Capacity by Susan Kenny-Stevens

Navigating the Organizational Lifecycle: A Capacity-Building Guide for Nonprofit Leaders, published by BoardSource

We handed out a copy of the TCC Group’s nonprofit lifecycle model at the session. If you would like this for future use, you can access a clean copy of the diagram in one of their PowerPoint presentations available online, which you can download here.

During the discussion, the idea of adaptability and adaptive capacity came up multiple times, with a few group members making the important point that being adaptable is essential since nonprofits are operating in increasingly fast-moving contexts. With the lifecycle phases shortened for many organizations, continual reinvention and adaptability can foster greater sustainability and success.  For those of you interested in learning more about adaptive capacity, the TCC Group offers two other good resources (links to PDF articles):

Everyday Leaders: Building the Adaptive Capacity of Nonprofit Organizations: TCC Group Adaptive Capacity

The Sustainability Formula:  TCC Group Sustainability Formula

We know that many of you use these ideas in your practice on a daily basis, so please add information or links to other great references in the comments.

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Trista Harris on “How to Become a Nonprofit Rockstar” (Audio)

A few weeks ago we featured an article by Trista Harris on how to build your nonprofit network. We also wanted to interview her as part of our book preview series that showcases intriguing leadership and nonprofit texts and their authors. Her book, coauthored with Rosetta Thurman, is aptly titled How to Become a Nonprofit Rockstar. It focuses on how to accelerate your nonprofit career and find your dream nonprofit job. She delves deeper into her wealth of helpful suggestions in this interview. Listen to her interview here.

Here’s a taste of the interview:

Trista Harris:

In our book, it has all the sort of things they don’t teach you when you’re in school about nonprofits: how to brand yourself, how to develop a career path, how to network and how to really strengthen your career. Rosetta and I decided to write the book because it was all the advice we wish we had when we first started our jobs. It feels like sometimes in nonprofits you don’t have that clear career path that you sometimes have in the for-profit sector. It feels like there are secrets on how to move forward and what it takes to be successful. We just wanted those things to be really clear so that people both stayed in the sector and really thrived when they were there.

Listen to more…

See also:

Trista Harris’ article, “Build your nonprofit network”

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

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