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 the first installment here.)