How to make culture your nonprofit advantage

Culture Eats Strategy for Lunch is about the fragile balance between two forces on your organization—rational and emotional. Both are necessary to create a culture at every level of your organization.

Culture Eats authors Coffman and Sorensen argue that our strategies and tactics can either take a bite out of our culture or ignite the passion within it. The authors claim that as leaders, managers and employees, we must actively own the cultures to which we belong to draw out the best climate that is conducive to our business imperatives.

The reality about culture

Every organization has a culture, whether you cultivate it or not. The question is will you nurture your culture so it becomes your competitive advantage or choose to ignore it and hope for the best? Many nonprofits hope their noble missions will have a halo effect on their cultures.

The reality is nonprofits may need culture management more than most due to workplace challenges such as fewer resources for programming budgets, perks and pay. Coffman and Sorensen argue that culture is the X Factor when it comes to pushing your competitive advantage, delivering on your brand and ensuring strategies are fulfilled. The advantage nonprofits do have is plenty of purpose, which the authors explain is a critical ingredient for building a strong culture.

Culture questions asked and answered

We asked Curt Coffman and Kathie Sorensen about their unique idea of a Cultural P&L and about how leaders can have an impact on MicroCulture:

CausePlanet: Curt and Kathie, thank you for writing this book that focuses on culture as a means to success and competitive advantage. How did you come up with the idea of Cultural P&L (Profit and Loss)? What exactly does it involve?

Coffman and Sorensen: Every effective business leader knows the value of the P&L. Without it, you would be “guessing” about the outcomes that are critical to your business. The idea of a Cultural P&L is to provide the same kind of attentiveness for what has historically been hard to assess–the culture itself. Rather than seeing culture or even employee engagement as a once-a-year “outcome,” we see culture as evolving throughout the year and requiring a relentless interest to manage it effectively.

The three levels of culture, MacroCulture, MicroCulture and Bridge, are all a part of the P&L and help us understand the power of attraction within the culture and the degree of productive energy and connections around our line-of-sight. While the P&L will take the shape of the organization, the vigilance practiced helps ensure that the culture aligns with the brand and creates competitive advantage.

CausePlanet: You discuss at great length how the individual, not the leadership, in the MicroCulture is responsible for the culture. How can leaders then steer the culture in the right direction and motivate individuals to create a positive culture?

Coffman and Sorensen: Leaders can’t mandate culture, but they can encourage it through their active interest in their people’s perspectives, talents, ideas and needs. What leaders pay attention to creates focus in the larger organization. Asking about collaboration, partnership and new ideas means that leaders can bring about more of those strengths.

Great leaders ask about the elements of culture they want to see more of. The leader controls three things in making culture a competitive advantage: 1) brand, 2) future and 3) strategy. But, leaders can take a scalpel to culture if their role isn’t well defined.

MicroCulture is the most local team that shares similar goals and focus. The onus of culture is really activated or squashed at this level. The role of the micro level is to activate and sustain productive energy in one another. This is where execution, quality and true productivity lie.

If you’re tired of looking at financials, give the Cultural P&L a try. Coffman and Sorensen assure you that a consistent focus on culture will soon become your best insurance for a solid future.

See also:

Culture Eats Strategy for Lunch: The Secret of Extraordinary Results Igniting the Passion Within

Fired Up or Burned Out: How to Reignite Your Team’s Passion, Creativity and Productivity

Liquid Leadership: From Woodstock to Wikipedia: Multigenerational Management Ideas That Are Changing the Way We Run Things

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Online volunteers: Nonprofit predictions and challenges

“The critical concept here is that no activity is inherently a volunteer or an employee role; it all depends on finding the most qualified person to do the task. … And if a task can be done by a volunteer, there is an excellent chance that at least some of it might be accomplished through online service,” say Jayne Cravens and Susan Ellis.

Cravens and Ellis have recently published The Last Virtual Volunteering Guidebook, which is written for nonprofit organizations and NGOs that engage virtual volunteers to meet a mission.

Schools, courts, parks and other government programs as well as grassroots and membership associations will find this book exceptionally useful. Even for-profit corporations supporting any of the above organizations will find this Guidebook helpful in designing and managing a virtual volunteering program.

Cravens and Ellis have focused their careers on volunteering, the advent of virtual service and the ultimate blending of the two strategies. The Guidebook covers the full spectrum of volunteering online: preparation, recruitment, assignment design, screening and selection, orientation and training, advanced techniques, evaluation and accessibility.

Predictions and challenges

In our Page to Practice™ book summary, we asked Cravens and Ellis about their predictions for online volunteering and the most common challenge among nonprofits that attempt to create these virtual programs.

CausePlanet: You have a great section in the back of the book that lists your predictions for online volunteering. Which among them do you feel most passionately?

Cravens and Ellis: Jayne is most excited about the prediction that there is going to be a greater diversity of volunteers because of the demand for virtual volunteering opportunities from many different types of organizations and because of the appeal to such a wide group of people for these types of tasks. “I don’t think it will happen overnight, but it will happen–it’s inevitable.” Susan loves the international nature of the Web and how volunteers who are working on a cause can find and interact with anyone else on the planet sharing that cause. So many issues are global—concern for the environment, the rights of women, ending diseases—and have no geographic borders. And volunteers are much more free to contact and collaborate with anyone, regardless of politics or funding restraints. So virtual volunteering has inherent power to change the world! We both also feel strongly the principles of volunteer management will remain valid and important, no matter whether applied onsite or online.

CausePlanet: What is the most common challenge among nonprofits that attempt to create a online volunteering program?

Cravens and Ellis: Fear is the most common challenge: fear that this will create more work, fear that this will somehow put people and the organization in danger, and fear of failure. So often, when either of us write or talk about virtual volunteering, we’re addressing people’s fear of it. We’ve also found only organizations already capable of involving volunteers successfully in the real world are likely to be comfortable working with them online. So, as we’ve already mentioned, no organization should “create a virtual volunteering program”; it should examine its strategies for including any type of volunteer in its work and then recruit, deploy, and support volunteers whether onsite, in the field, or online.

If you share this fear or other anxieties about tapping virtual volunteers, consider some of the following ways to prepare from Cravens and Ellis:

–       Make sure volunteering opportunities are visible on your website.

–       Overcome resistance by giving the benefits listed above and emphasizing how it will increase everyone’s skill sets.

–       Look at the costs, which may include updating computers, software, online meeting tools, space for online forums and staff time.

–       Address tech-related issues such as IT assistance and the ability to update online forums, volunteer applications, etc.

–       Update policies and procedures, such as electronic signatures on documents, ways in which volunteers should represent the organization online (e.g., identifying their affiliation when they send an email), confidentiality protections, reporting procedures, reasons to terminate online volunteers, correspondence archives, protocol for sharing photos and names, etc.

–       Combine your recordkeeping system with the one you already have for tracking onsite volunteers, although it may be in a different format.

–       Discuss the use of asynchronous tools (people do not have to be online at the same time to communicate), such as e-mail, blogs, podcast recordings, Facebook, etc.; synchronous tools (people need to be online at the same time), such as chat rooms, instant messaging, live blogging, live webinars, etc.; online communities or forums for volunteers to share information that is found nowhere else and connect all volunteers to the organization; and cyber deputies, who are volunteers that help with your online communications in roles ranging from facilitating online forums to guiding volunteers through the application process to posting photos on the website.

–       Create a flowchart that shows all steps from the definition of a task to recruitment of the volunteer to the completion of the project so all people involved are clear how the communication works. For example, if a candidate calls to express interest, where does this information go? If a candidate emails to express interest, where does this email go? Who tracks all this information? When does the volunteer resources manager (VRM) become involved?

Then and now

At the time Benjamin Franklin invented the first volunteer firehouse in 1736, no one could predict more than 65 million Americans would volunteer today. Even more unlikely would be a prediction surrounding how technological advances would revolutionize how we can support our communities.

Volunteer service is no longer limited by work schedules, hours of operation or logistics. In this particular case, the accessibility of volunteers online also means additional systems must be implemented by the nonprofit to protect the volunteer and the organization. Remote volunteers necessitate the development of alternative recruitment and screening processes, work agreements and evaluation measures, online orientation training tools, virtual mentoring and coaching, and online recognition programs.


Learn more about other Page to Practice™ nonprofit book summaries related to this title:

Leveraging Good Will: Strengthening Nonprofits By Leveraging Businesses

Social Change Anytime Everywhere: How to Implement Online Multichannel Strategies to Spark Advocacy, Raise Money and Engage Your Community

Citizen Marketers: When People Are the Message

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Is your nonprofit team fired up or burned out? A case for connection

Connected organizations are more productive, more innovative and more profitable; conversely, a lack of connection will gradually burn employees out. Author Michael Lee Stallard makes the case for increasing connection at work and shows you how to build a “connection culture”—a culture that increases connection among people—by increasing the elements of a connected culture: vision, value and voice. Paying attention to these so-called “soft” aspects of the work environment will help increase employee engagement and, in the end, will make your organization more successful.

The case for connection

Research by the Gallup Organization shows that fewer than three in ten Americans are engaged in their jobs. Gallup also estimates the annual cost to the American economy from the approximately 22 million American workers who are extremely negative or “actively disengaged” to be $250 to $300 billion every year. Unless people in an organization feel a strong sense of connection to their work and colleagues, they will never reach their potential as individuals, and the organization will never reach its potential.

Conversely, employees in an organization with a high degree of connection are more engaged, more productive in their jobs, and less likely to leave the organization for a competitor. One trend in particular makes connection more important than ever: the increasing globalization of labor. As globalization makes it easier for companies to move work and jobs around the world, organizations that want to retain jobs in their home countries will need to boost the productivity of their people or lose business to competitors who reduce their costs by offshoring.

The connection formula

A “connection culture” is a culture that embraces the beliefs and behaviors that enhance connection among people and meet their basic human psychological needs for respect, recognition, belonging, autonomy, personal growth and meaning. There are three elements of a connection culture that meet these basic needs: vision, value and voice. Leaders who intentionally foster these three elements will reap the benefits of a connection culture.

Vision exists in an organization when everyone is\motivated by the organization’s mission;

united by its values; and

proud of its reputation.

Value exists in an organization when everyone

understands the basic psychological needs of people;

appreciates their positive, unique contributions; and

helps them achieve their potential.

Voice exists when everyone

seeks the ideas of others;

shares ideas and opinions honestly; and

safeguards relational connections.

A good way to remember these elements is to remember this formula: Vision + Value + Voice = Connection.

When all three elements are in place, it’s a win-win for individuals and organizations.

The evolution of organizations

Most organizations today focus on task excellence—or the quantitative and analytical aspects of business. However, according to Stallard, organizations that focus exclusively on task excellence will fail to meet the basic human psychological needs that maximize employees’ contributions to the organization.

Stars, core employees and strugglers

Employees fall into three categories: stars, core employees and strugglers. Stars are the superior performers; they are either part of senior management or are on the management track. Core employees are valuable contributors but not stars. And strugglers perform poorly, either for temporary reasons or because they are not well suited to their position. Stars are the “favorites” of management and are treated as such—they may be paid more, listened to or included in social situations. This “caste” system within organizations makes most employees feel like second-class citizens and affects an organization’s economic, political and social aspects.

Core employees, however, are just as critical—and often more so—to an organization’s success as its stars. Core employees make up the majority of an organization’s employees and are often just as intelligent, talented and knowledgeable as stars. They differ from stars in three important ways:

They are less likely to call attention to themselves;

They are less likely to leave their current employer for a different organization or position; and

They are quietly dedicated to their work and to their colleagues.

Core employees are key

Organizations are at risk of losing their core employees if they do not foster a sense of connection in the workplace. The reason is simple: Core employees feel that their ideas and opinions aren’t heard and don’t matter, and that they are not respected or recognized for their contributions. Over time they become frustrated and feel underappreciated. This leads them to becoming disconnected and disengaged which, in turn, causes burn out. Leaders need to treat everyone with dignity and respect, and give core employees opportunities to shine as well as the stars. These so-called “soft” issues are essential to any organization that aspires to be the best.

Nonprofit implications

Much has been written about nonprofit “burnout” and the impending “leadership crisis” as Baby Boomers prepare for retirement. Disengagement, an aging population and globalization are converging to become the perfect storm that will make today’s leaders and organizations vulnerable. However, leaders can gain a performance advantage by intentionally creating a work environment that increases engagement and connection within the organization. Organizations that do this will attract and retain committed employees and, as a result, achieve high impact in the long run.

See also:

Fired Up or Burned Out free ebook

The Leadership Challenge (4th Ed)

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

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Employee feedback: the gift that keeps on giving

It happened again. The phone rang a few weeks ago on a Friday afternoon at 4:30. It was an executive director who was at her limit with an employee who had worked at the organization for more than two decades. The caller proceeded to tell me this employee had never performed very well and could she fire her? We talked for a bit. I asked the ED whether she had ever given feedback to this employee. Did the employee receive regular performance appraisals or just general information about job performance? The ED paused and said, “”No,” and agreed to have a conversation with this employee in which she would create job goals and give specific and concrete examples of what constitutes excellent performance.

I happened to see this ED two weeks ago and asked about her problem employee. The ED said that much to her surprise, the employee was doing great. When the ED asked the employee what accounted for the improved performance, the employee said she finally understood what was expected of her. The difference that good feedback makes cannot be overestimated.

Performance management is the process of giving feedback to help employees progress toward achieving predetermined goals in their job and for the organization. Usually performance management is a human resource system where individual employees receive a regularly scheduled performance appraisal from their supervisors. Often the performance appraisal is done on an annual basis.

Use it or lose it

Organizations spend a lot of time designing the perfect form. Yet, the most perfect form doesn’t do anything if it isn’t used. Supervisors and employees report that they don’t like the process generally. Supervisors complain about the time, the discomfort of giving feedback and the fact that in this day of tight budgets, pay increases don’t usually follow. Employees don’t like the process since feedback often comes too late to correct a negative problem and supervisors forget to recognize the good work employees generally do.

Good performance management, whether in the form of feedback or a formal performance appraisal, helps employees know they are valued, first. Second, they learn which behaviors they should continue and which they should stop. Some statistics suggest that when employees are terminated, almost 50% of the time, employees say they didn’t know what was expected of them. And, employees often report that they are motivated by appreciation for a job well done. Something a performance appraisal process can embed is what the manager does to clarify expectations and to give positive feedback.

What might a good evaluation form include?

Nonprofits frequently ask is there a “best” form? There is no one right form. A few considerations as to the form’s construction can include:

Does the form measure what is important to the organization?

Are the evaluation criteria job related?

Do the criteria reflect the highest priorities of the organization, department and job?

Do employees and supervisors regard the form as relevant?

Do supervisors and managers understand and buy into the purpose of the form?

Does it include:

Important identification information


Instructions for completion

Defined performance criteria

Performance levels/ratings

Specific performance examples supporting ratings for each criterion

Space for employee comments

Signatures with dates (employee, supervisor, higher level of manager and/or human resources)

Keep it simple so it’s easy to use

Most human resource books include sample forms as well as some websites. Wikipedia references a great, long publication from the Department of the Interior that serves as a guidebook and also includes a sample form. Again, the point of the form is to use it. Don’t make the form too long or too complicated with the calculations of the ratings. This will keep the most diligent supervisor from using it.

Once a form is designed that is appropriate for your organization, your culture and systems, the hard part of a good performance appraisal is your feedback session with the employee.

The most productive sessions will include the supervisor:

Providing a comfortable and uninterrupted setting, indicating how important these discussions are.

Being candid and truthful.

Describing the specific expectations and how the employee did or did not meet them.

Focusing on the job, not the person, by using specific examples of what leads the supervisor to give the particular feedback. Make sure the feedback describes job-specific behaviors to support comments.

Asking employee for his/her input or comments.

Being an active listener.

Regular evaluations prevent panic

In smaller organizations, conducting regular feedback sessions can be done without an elaborate form. In larger organizations, a unified approach with a consistent form is a good idea. When done on an ongoing basis, performance appraisals are much more than just another human resources’ “to do.” Evaluations can acknowledge good employees and help retain them as well as serve as a corrective tool to limit poor performance. In addition, performance appraisals are good documentation if the employee/employer relationship goes badly. And performance appraisals can help you not make those panicky calls late on Friday afternoons.

See also:

Winning with a Culture of Recognition

Nine Minutes on Monday: The Quick and Easy Way to Go from Manager to Leader

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A “people lens” is your answer to budget relief

Volunteerism has returned to its former prominence in the nonprofit sector, except the dynamics have changed, according to the coauthors of The Abundant Not-for-Profit.

Colleen Kelly and Lynda Gerty say our traditional assessment of volunteers’ capacity to add value no longer applies. They’ve coined the term “knowledge philanthropists” to define a new breed of volunteers. These are people who bring a vast set of skills and with those skills come higher expectations of the nonprofit.

What has also changed is the abundant nonprofit’s approach to talent management. If properly recruited, trained and managed under the abundance philosophy, skilled volunteers demonstrate an incredible return on investment. Nonprofits have much more to gain by looking at all positions within their operations as potential volunteer placements (what they call a “people lens”) versus always turning to budget machinations to fulfill the mission.

What does the abundant nonprofit approach look like? Abundant nonprofits:

dispel common myths about volunteers’ potential to contribute meaningfully.

begin with the CEO and board to embrace the abundance philosophy.

focus on human capital to deliver their missions.

transform the way they do business by applying a “people lens” to their leadership.

train salaried employees to lead and communicate with knowledge philanthropists in varying roles such as planners, advisors and facilitators.

enlist and support knowledge philanthropists with training, policies, expectations and key performance indicators.

lead salaried and volunteer talent alongside one another as one collective team.

Characteristics of leaders and organizations pursuing the abundance model

Organizations benefiting from this abundance leadership method are characterized by sound management practices, adaptive capacity and effective communications. Equally important, their leaders are confident people who exhibit an entrepreneurial spirit and are good delegators. We asked the authors Kelly and Gerty to describe organizations that may be poised for adopting this approach:

CausePlanet: In addition to the characteristics of CEOs and board members described in the book, what traits do organizations that are ready to successfully embrace this model all share (e.g., level of maturity, financial stability, size, tradition of innovation)?

Kelly and Gerty: As you’ve stated, the characteristics of the CEO remain a critical element. Those characteristics significantly affect the vision and culture of the organization and largely determine whether or not transformation can happen. An orientation toward abundance, learning, excellence and innovation is tremendously important. Beyond that, there are very few hard and fast rules. We’ve sometimes seen executive transitions catalyze the adoption of this model, as new CEOs are often interested in new approaches and motivated to do things differently. In some ways, small organizations that are going through a growth phase have an advantage, as they are often nimble and able to make change happen relatively quickly. It also can be easier in organizations with a certain cachet, as many talented individuals want to be associated with those organizations. However, we’ve seen many exceptions to those trends and look forward to seeing abundant not-for-profits spring up in all sub-sectors, stages and sizes.

The abundance rationale

The authors emphasize that instead of nonprofits looking through a budgetary lens, which highlights the need to raise more money, they need to look through a people lens, which encourages them to evaluate their talent needs in order to complete their missions. After a history of professionalizing the nonprofit sector, in which paid employees performed strategic tasks and volunteers completed repetitive tasks with their hands, a new day is dawning. The altruistic volunteer, who gave without expecting any return, is waning. Volunteers now expect meaningful experiences that use their skills.

Nonprofits, succumbing to budgetary concerns, have traditionally hired fewer people or people who are less qualified without considering other options. Many salaried nonprofit employees are overworked and underpaid as a result. The authors encourage nonprofits to discard this paradigm and move toward a completely new culture, one that listens to what volunteers want and what organizations need and matches them for a win-win situation. The authors dub this new type of volunteer a knowledge philanthropist because s/he brings knowledge in addition to hands.

The people lens method

An organization with a people lens first tries to develop a strong, well-functioning organization to draw talent. In order to create this strength, an organization needs to begin with the why (vision and mission), move to the what (three to five goals) and then focus on the how (define the time and skills already given by salaried employees and the talents needed and integrate volunteers across all functions in an organizational chart). Subsequently, an abundant nonprofit can create a culture that equalizes salaried and volunteer employees, a plan that includes knowledge philanthropists, a governance model that sees talent as a strategic imperative, processes to hire and develop knowledge philanthropists who will work under salaried managers, and leadership that supports this system.

The authors define a people lens culture in the following manner:

In a people lens culture, it is difficult to discern who is paid with money and who is paid with meaning. This fully integrated talent team challenges the traditional notion that some roles are for salaried employees and other roles are for volunteers. In a people lens culture, salaried employees no longer determine which roles are ‘okay’ for volunteers. Volunteer roles are fully integrated into each level, function and activity of the organization.

Join us next week when we’ll talk about why this management approach is a win-win as well as introduce a case study that dramatically impacted a health services organization.

See also:

Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard

The Six Secrets of Change

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Five staff responses to change you can’t afford to overlook

As a nonprofit leader, chances are at some point you’ve been involved in either instituting or supporting change in your organization. The question is, if the need for change is so obvious to you, why isn’t the rest of the organization jumping up and down with excitement?

Over the years, The Management Centre has carried out a significant body of research on, and change work with, a wide range of nonprofit organizations. And we’ve found that there are five core reactions to change that we call the 5 Cs. To be an effective change manager, you need to understand these five reactions in your colleagues so you can anticipate them and adopt appropriate strategies to deal with them.

The 5 Cs: Responses to change and how to handle them

We tend to sell organizational benefits when planning change. But not everyone judges the impact of things through organizational perspectives. To be successful, it’s essential to reflect on how individuals in the organization will react or respond to your change announcement. Be prepared, and plan an approach for each of the 5 Cs:


Champions – perhaps 5 to 10 percent of the total – are those who are prepared to stick their necks out, run with an idea and own what happens. After announcing the change you propose, these are the people who’ll crowd around you smiling and shaking your hand.

Tempting as it is to embrace their enthusiasm, you need to treat champions cautiously. The advantage of their unstinting support for the change is balanced by some serious disadvantages. For one thing, champions generally champion everything – even painting the office in stripes. Their enthusiasm could give you a false impression of how everyone else is feeling. And champions won’t question you closely on the merits of your proposal. You need some challenge to ensure your idea has rigor.

Give champions something practical to do which absorbs their energy. Be careful about using them as advocates; they’re likely to be treated with skepticism by others.


Chasers – 15 to 20 percent of the total – don’t immediately respond positively to your proposal for change. At the end of a briefing, they look around to see who’s signed up. They want to discuss your idea with others before forming a judgment, and will generally look to a key opinion maker or “trigger” person for guidance.

The great advantage of chasers is they give you a more accurate view of how your proposal is going down. When they join, you’re making progress and, once committed, they’ll stay. And the disadvantages? Well, you’ll have to convince the right trigger person to convince the chasers. And that trigger person may well be someone who has social rather than organizational power in your organization. So, you can’t tell them to back your idea. And still, chasers won’t come on board immediately – they may have their own very specific concerns; for example, if you’re going to restructure, what will be the impact on their team?

Identify the trigger person at different levels in your organization and brief them in advance, so that they encourage the chasers to sign up to your project.


At 30 to 40 percent of the total, converts are the biggest single group in your change audience. They listen in silence to the proposed change and don’t ask questions. But don’t confuse their silence with negativity. Converts want solid evidence in favor of the change in order to come on board. They’ll also need reassurance about what impact the changes will have on them. Their passivity means you often have to ask questions on their behalf and then answer your own question – FAQs. They want the answer, but they’re not happy to ask the question.

Converts have two advantages: First, bringing them on board tips a sizable majority of people into the “mostly positive” camp and ensures your change proposal will be adopted. Second, although they can be slow to adopt a change, they are equally slow to let it go. Once they’re convinced, you have momentum.

The main disadvantage with converts is that they may take so long to come round that your initiative loses momentum.

Think about and try to address converts’ concerns before launching a change process. That way you’ll be able to bring them on board more quickly. Try producing a list of FAQs in advance – it shows you’re thinking about the individual as well as the organization.


Challengers – 15 to 20 percent of the total – ask difficult questions initially and then … continue to do so. Their approach is to confront and be awkward, because they have a strong stake in the outcome.

It’s a personality trait not a personal attack, so don’t treat it as an attack. Because challenging is a personality trait, it’s unlikely you can convince challengers that the change will be a good thing. What’s more important is that others will be watching how well you handle the challenger’s interventions.

Despite appearances, there are advantages to challengers: Their questions force you to be rigorous in your thinking. And, because they ask the questions others merely think, addressing their issues may enable you indirectly to reassure others.

The disadvantages are twofold: Challengers can carry on asking difficult questions beyond usefulness. They may also ask questions on areas not up for discussion.

Handle challengers’ queries fairly, however irritated you feel; others are watching. Be firm with them about what’s “off the agenda”; provide ground rules and stick to them.


Changephobics – 5 to 10 percent of the total – will not ever be convinced. They can slow down or even derail change. They cause dissent and are essentially immovable. Changephobics are tough. However, if you’re seen dealing with them honestly and fairly, you’ll gain brownie points from others for being evenhanded. And, however hard it is, keep in mind changephobics don’t oppose because they’re bad people, but because they feel you’re destroying something they hold dear.

Changephobic disadvantages are legion – doing their best to stop your initiative, providing unstinting opposition, significantly lowering morale.

The harsh reality is that you have to get rid of changephobics as quickly and effectively as you can, whether it’s to another department or out of the organization.

When you lead your change process, you will need to consider how you might deal with the 5 Cs. Think about all the different stakeholders in your organization – staff, volunteer, boards and even users. Which of the 5Cs would they fit into? What can you get the champions to do so they feel positive, but stay out of your way? Who do you need to convince to get the chasers on board? What questions do you need to answer for the converts? Who are the challengers? What flaws might they spot? Who are the changephobics? How can you get them to leave or help them go?

As we all know, implementing change is no walk in the park. Preparing for the individual responses to change will certainly help you leap ahead of some of the inevitable stress – if not all of it.

See also:

Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard

Accelerate: Building Strategic Agility for a Faster Moving World

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

A Sense of Urgency (How to Overcome Complacency In Your Organization)

The Six Secrets of Change

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A volunteer movement that genuinely impacts the bottom line

Volunteerism has changed dramatically over the years and Colleen Kelly took notice. She observed a disconnect between organizations’ desires for volunteers and talented volunteers who wanted to give their time.

Volunteers are no longer satisfied with rote tasks such as stuffing envelopes. They are looking for meaningful experiences in exchange for their expertise. Equally important, organizations need smarter ways to meet their missions without always turning to the budget. Nonprofits have the potential to both match human resource needs with volunteer talent while efficiently serving their causes.

Stepping up in this way requires a philosophical and tactical commitment from the top down—it requires a movement. Coauthors Colleen Kelly and Lynda Gerty are talking about a major organizational change that involves bold creativity and visionary leadership in their new book The Abundant Not-For-Profit: How Talent (Not Money) Will Transform Your Organization.

Abundant nonprofits:

dispel common myths about volunteers’ potential to contribute meaningfully.

begin with the CEO and board to embrace the abundance philosophy.

focus on human capital to deliver their missions.

transform the way they do business by applying a “people lens” to their leadership.

train salaried employees to lead and communicate with knowledge philanthropists in varying roles such as planners, advisors and facilitators.

enlist and support knowledge philanthropists with training, policies, expectations and key performance indicators.

lead salaried and volunteer talent alongside one another as one collective team.

If you build it, we promise they will come

A tall order for organizational change calls for a big commitment. So the authors make a promise: “If you build it, the talented people will come. And when they do, they will bring incredible joy to your work. They will exponentially increase your organization’s resources. They will generate ideas and suggest approaches you’ve never considered. Your organization—and our sector—will be transformed.”

Walking the talk

The authors tested their own model. In 1999, Volunteer Vancouver employed 14 full-time employees and a handful of part-time facilitators on a stable budget of approximately $500,000. Its 50 volunteers were restricted to stuffing envelopes or interviewing potential volunteers. Twelve years later, after changing its name to Vantage Point, the organization runs 100 percent of its programs by involving a new kind of volunteer, “knowledge philanthropists,” who performs everywhere in the organization: in governance, management and operations. They are planners, advisors, managers and facilitators. Vantage Point now pays half the number of staff at a higher rate. In 2012, Vantage Point had eight employees and 201 knowledge philanthropists in 265 unique roles.

The Abundance Movement: An interview about roles, challenges and surprises

In our CausePlanet interview, we asked Kelly and Gerty about who knowledge philanthropists are, what challenges surfaced when transitioning to a state of abundance and what surprises they encountered when testing the abundance model.

CausePlanet: Thank you for introducing the abundance movement. Can you describe the knowledge philanthropist? What is the profile? Retired, actively employed, between work or all of the above?

Colleen Kelly and Lynda Gerty: All of the above! The term knowledge philanthropist includes people with diverse backgrounds, life experiences and motivations. Some are retired, or approaching retirement, and motivated to stay engaged and share the knowledge they’ve gained over a lifetime of work. Others have recently moved to the area and want to put down roots and make connections. Some are incredibly busy–at the height of their careers and raising small children–and are seeking time-limited, high-impact opportunities to make a difference. Still others are exploring a career transition and looking to flex new skills, learn and develop their portfolio of work. What all these people have in common is a desire to make a meaningful difference by contributing what they know.

CausePlanet: What challenges do most organizations encounter when setting a course to become an abundant nonprofit and how do they overcome them?

Colleen Kelly and Lynda Gerty: Great question! The biggest challenge in our experience is organizations putting themselves in a starvation cycle by not investing the most they can into volunteers because they believe they don’t perform at a high level, are not accountable, and have a high likelihood of leaving. In fact, it is our low investment and limited belief in volunteers that makes all of this become a reality.

What we have learned is that the more we invest in volunteers, the higher they perform; the less likely they are to leave; and the more worthwhile it is to spend time recruiting, supporting and developing them. Investing means creating a robust recruitment process to ensure the right skills and cultural fit (and saying “no” when the fit isn’t there), providing sufficient orientation and knowledge transfer for volunteers to perform their role effectively, delegating clearly and providing ongoing feedback so volunteers know they are on the right track, and seeking opportunities to develop star performers so they can take on more significant roles.

The reality is that people will contribute to our organizations in equal measure to what we contribute to them. When organizations understand that, they begin to consider their volunteer practices to be as important as their salaried employee practices and reap great benefits as a result.

CausePlanet: When you first tested the abundance model in-house, what were some of the surprises you encountered when managing salaried and volunteer staff side by side?

Colleen Kelly and Lynda Gerty: The biggest surprise was how difficult it was for salaried employees to comprehend volunteers could play a different role than the roles they had always expected traditional volunteers would play. At Vantage Point, it took five or six years of effort before there were salaried employees in our organization who actually could “chunk up” their own job descriptions and begin to engage incredibly talented people to take some of those “chunks” and run with them.

When we investigated to understand what made the first salaried employee actually internalize this idea and implement it, her answer was, “You told me that was the way I was to do my job, and I did it. I love to work this way!” Others learned from her and eventually it became the norm. That process took us almost a decade. We hope The Abundant Not-for-Profit can save other organizations time and allow them to adopt this model much more quickly.

Good to Great author Jim Collins says, “The right people can often attract money, but money by itself can never attract the right people. Money is a commodity; talent is not. Time and talent can often compensate for lack of money, but money cannot ever compensate for lack of the right people.” This quotation is a fitting depiction of Vantage Point’s path to abundance.

The Abundant Not-For-Profit contains a thorough examination of the philosophy necessary to begin the transformation toward abundance and the process involved in getting there. If you lead an organization that is looking for new alternatives to meet your mission without increasing the bottom line, consider taking a closer look at the abundance movement.

See also:

Community: The Structure of Belonging

Wisdom of Crowds

Citizen Marketers: When People Are the Message

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Why employees leave: Retention strategies for nonprofits

I recently heard a story about an employee who received a very enthusiastic call from a headhunter trying to recruit him for a job. The employee said he wasn’t looking to leave the organization, to which the headhunter replied, “You are on my list of employees to be downsized, so you will be leaving the organization.”

I hear stories like this on a regular basis. Many employers badly betray the loyalty of good employees, yet developing employee loyalty and holding onto good employees will be crucial for all employers in the next ten years. The number of people born between 1960 and 1980 who are in the workforce is half the size of those born between 1940 and 1960, as well as of those born between 1980 and 2000. This shift from having enough employees to too few will hit nonprofits especially hard, as they struggle to compete against the private sector that can pay more for the best employees.

The good news is that retaining employees isn’t expensive or complex. And, in the nonprofit sector, most employees work to support the vision and mission of the organization, not for extrinsic rewards. The main reason employees leave an organization is bad relationships. Employees will stay when the quality of their supervision is good, and they will leave when they feel mistreated by their immediate supervisor. Symptoms of a poor supervisor include high turnover in the supervisor’s area, complaints of mistreatment to Human Resources, or more absenteeism in that supervisor’s area. Supervisors are often promoted because they were good at their last job, not necessarily because they make good managers. If a supervisor isn’t strong, find other work for that person that takes advantage of his or her skills. Or, spend time developing the supervisor’s management skills.

Employees in all sectors report higher retention rates when their employer values and rewards them for who they are rather than for what they do. Employers can show that they value who an employee is by providing training, opportunity for advancement, work/life flexibility, feedback and communication. Does your organization set individual goals with employees and then provide the support and training needed to meet those goals? Once the employee begins to achieve those goals, is there opportunity for advancement? This can mean a promotion as well as the opportunity to take on other, more meaningful work—which is often rated as a high motivational factor for employees. These practices are neither revolutionary or expensive, but they are proven to hold onto employees. Here are a few suggestions for developing some of them:


Organizations can’t communicate too often. Employees want to feel that they are “in the loop.” An employee should never hear about a layoff from a headhunter or the local media. Instead, use whatever internal mechanisms you have—email, voice mail, the employee newsletter, bulletin boards and meetings—to tell employees what is happening. This doesn’t mean you divulge information that is sensitive. Determine what you can tell—and then tell, tell, tell.


Employees crave positive feedback, and most don’t get much. Studies report that for every four items of “corrective feedback” employees get, they only receive one pat on the back. While employees deserve to know when they are missing the mark, one rule of thumb is to turn those numbers around and praise an employee four times for every one piece of corrective feedback. You will be amazed at what a difference in morale this creates.


Be as flexible as you can. Can you have employees work a flex schedule, where some employees report to work early and others stay later? Can you have some employees work at home one day a week, or can you pay for one extra holiday a year? Employees report higher retention rates at organizations where employers help them balance their work and personal lives.

Quality relationships

Employees also report that the quality of their co-worker relationship is an important consideration for staying with an employer. There is often a correlation between high productivity and cohesive work groups. Make sure you have a well-established problem resolution process. If you see a work group floundering, consider using an internal or external facilitator to help the group move beyond what is keeping them stuck.

Retaining employees reduces turnover costs and allows you to hold on to the talent that makes your organization unique. Retention strategies don’t need to be expensive; they just need to be implemented and supported.

See also:

Winning with a Culture of Recognition

Nine Minutes on Monday: The Quick and Easy Way to Go from Manager to Leader

Fired Up or Burned Out: How to Reignite Your Team’s Passion, Creativity and Productivity

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Is pay for performance right for your organization?

Today’s nonprofits face several challenges that are forcing them to operate more and more like their business counterparts. Competition for dollars coupled with demands for accountability has caused nonprofits to reevaluate the way they do business. As nonprofits struggle to pay their executive directors more, one of the business practices they are being asked to consider is a pay-for-performance program.

Simply put, a pay-for-performance program—also known as merit pay— is one in which an employee’s pay is based on work performance and demonstrated results. Employees who contribute more receive a higher salary or “merit” increase. This system assumes that job performance can be observed and measured accurately.

The theory behind pay-for-performance is that rewards and bonuses motivate employees to do their jobs better. While there are several advantages to pay-for-performance systems–including acknowledging, with dollars, exceptional employees—there are also many pitfalls.

In theory, the idea sounds perfect: Employees will work harder and more efficiently if they are given more money or other rewards for hitting certain goals. Employees also like the idea of being able to demonstrate their abilities and reach, if not surpass, their goals. In practice, however, the process of connecting pay to performance is trickier than it seems.

Leading writer on the subject of money as a motivator, Alfie Kohn’s Punished by Rewards (Houghton Mifflin) says that rewards may actually damage quality and productivity and cause employees to lose interest in their jobs. Why? Among other reasons, Kohn says, rewards create competitiveness among
employees and undermine collaboration and teamwork. In addition, rewards reduce risk taking, creativity and innovation, because employees will be less likely to think outside the box if doing so jeopardizes their chances for a reward.

If you are considering a pay-for–performance system, here are some questions to consider:

What is your compensation philosophy?

What does your organization value in terms of what and how it wants to pay employees? Your philosophy should support and be compatible with the organization’s specific pay objectives, long-term strategy and overall mission.

Many nonprofits pay below market wages, meaning that an employee performing the same tasks and with the same amount of experience could potentially earn more in the same job in the for-profit sector. Nonprofits usually balance this with more generous leave packages and the chance to work in a mission-rich environment. In some nonprofits, linking certain performance objectives and pay increases to such measurables as the number of constituents served or to the financial health of the organization may give a boost to the executive director’s base salary level, thus equalizing his or her pay to the market.

What message do you want to send?

Pay-for-performance programs usually reward individual performance. However, the organization of many nonprofits is an open, collaborative environment where work gets done through a group effort. Instituting a system that rewards individuals rather than the whole may be a hard sell—and may work against the organizational spirit. If you link pay to performance, make sure that individual job duties are assessed with pay linked to those tasks.

Can you really do this?

An organization contemplating moving to a pay-for-performance system should think through a couple of issues.

First and foremost is the organization’s ability to pay. In general, eight to 10 percent of the budget salary line should be set aside for merit increases. Can your organization afford to do this?

Next, your organization must identify those job duties that can be observed and measured and which are of enough value to build into the merit increase. Measurables can include such goals as increasing dues-paying clients or services and products offered, or reducing customer complaints and errors. Harder to measure is how passionate employees are about the organization or how much they live the organization’s vision and mission. Finally, look at the structure of your organization—pay-for-performance systems work well in hierarchical organizations where each role builds to the job above it.

What rewards do you offer besides money?

There are other ways to reward those employees whose work you value besides giving them more money. Good compensation packages include superior leave options, including vacation and sick leave, as well as health and medical coverage that is as generous as the budget allows. Incentives can also include resources to support the executive director to attend professional conferences or to sit on national boards. And a bonus at the end of a financially successful year is always a strong motivator.

No matter what choice is made on how to pay employees, especially the executive director, make sure that those doing their jobs know what is expected of them. Clearly state job expectations and set realistic performance goals to accomplish those tasks. If an employee isn’t performing as expected, give feedback and give it immediately. If an employee is performing, celebrate that employee’s success.

See also:

Fired Up or Burned Out

Nine Minutes on Monday

Zilch: The Power of Zero in Business

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Today’s leaders must adopt better habits to achieve work-life balance

As an executive director, consultant, board member, wife, friend or sister, I often felt there was never enough time in the day. When I felt pressed for time, the small voice in my head would spew negative self-talk about “not being organized enough, strategic enough or committed enough.” More recently, I learned a different perspective on time management and the lofty goal of feeling truly engaged in life and work, minus the exhaustion. I learned the issue is not really about time. We all have the same amount: 8,760 hours per year. No one has any more or less. It’s about our conscious or unconscious decisions, moment by moment, that determine the quality of life we have.

Experts tell us to get eight hours of sleep a day – that equals 2,920 hours per year – a full one-third of all time available. I know some nonprofit colleagues of mine would say it’s a waste of time to sleep that much. Yet when we lack enough sleep, our immune system suffers and we learn that pushing our physical limits isn’t sustainable. Sleeping less may seem like it creates more time, but in the end, it doesn’t.

This message isn’t about guilting you to get more sleep. It’s about you as a leader in your organization, your family or your community being as effective and joyful as possible. You have to make choices about how to spend those precious hours. Thoughtful investment of your time and energy is more important than ever because:

There are fewer resources available to do the work, and “doing more with less” requires you to be smart and strategic.

New research demonstrates how multitasking and overextending yourself negatively impacts your productivity and health.

Generational trends show that today’s emerging leaders expect a greater work/life balance.

But rather than focus on managing time, Tony Schwartz from The Energy Project identifies four core needs every leader should consider. When these four needs are met, you are fueled and inspired to bring more of yourself to life. These needs include:

1.       Physical Health – achieved through nutrition, sleep, daytime renewal and exercise.

2.    Emotional well-being – grows out of feeling appreciated and valued.

3.      Mental clarity – ability to focus intensely, prioritize and think creatively.

4.       Spiritual significance – comes from the feeling of serving a mission.

Considering these core needs, what practices or rituals can you adopt that will help you feel more energized, focused, productive and peaceful? Here are some examples of simple habits you can adopt throughout the day:


Upon waking, instead of thinking about your to do list, stretch your body, wiggling your toes, and think about what you are grateful for in your work and life.


Get up from your desk and emails and go talk to a staff person with whom you don’t interact often. I developed this practice regularly as an executive director, but the first few times, my staff wasn’t quite sure why I just wanted to “chat.” Making those personal connections outside of task delegation helped build the bonds we needed for all the work coming down the road. I was sincere in wanting to know more about my staff and their work. It energized me to hear what they were doing on the ground with our clients.


Take yourself out to lunch once a week. Get some fresh air, take a book or magazine that has great leadership or management information and give your mind a chance to think creatively.


In parts of Europe, Latin America and other regions, a resting time is a normal cultural practice. Maybe a power nap of 10-15 minutes in a quiet place is just what you need to go into your Board meeting refreshed and focused.

End of day

Jot down three key results that make you proud of your accomplishments for the day. Maybe it is completing a report or following through on a difficult conversation with a peer. And before you forget, write down what the most important thing you need to do the next day is. It’s fresh in your mind now and you can focus on it first thing in the morning. Writing it down at the end of your day allows your mind to relax for a good night’s sleep.

Find whatever motivates you to be conscious about how you spend your precious 8,760 hours. For me, it was being diagnosed with cancer and realizing that I had to make better choices about how I spent my time. Ask anyone who has endured a life-threatening illness or event how his/her experience has changed his/her perspective. Then ask what lessons you could apply to your own life.

Our society, more than ever, needs everyone to function in that energized state, contributing and renewing him/herself. You can be a more effective leader and serve your mission and your clients when you consider a commitment to daily practices that reenergize you, bring you peace of mind and inspire a joie de vivre.

See also:

The Charismatic Organization: 8 Ways to Grow a Nonrpofit that Builds Buzz, Delights Donors, and Energizes Employees

Fired Up or Burned Out: How to Reignite Your Team’s Passion, Creativity and Productivity

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


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This article was originally posted at CausePlanet on 5/23/11.

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