Monday, November 23, 2009

Today's Nonprofit Wonder - Be Thankful

The end of the year is quickly approaching. For some organizations, December offers some downtime before the new year begins fresh with projects. For others, this is the crunch time to get things done before the year is out. Whichever it is for you and your organization, take minute to sit back and savor a few quiet moments.

I know a lot of folks that have been doing the "What am I Thankful for Today?" exercise in preparation for Thanksgiving. Try this as it relates to your work...what are you thankful for when it comes to what your group has been able to accomplish this year? For me, the list is long but some of the top contenders include:

I'm thankful we were able to reach others.
I'm thankful we were able to lower the risk for our customers.
I'm thankful our budget balanced!
I'm thankful I work with such wonderful people.
And mostly,
I'm thankful that my organization made a difference in the lives of the people in our community.

What are you thankful for?

Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Today's Nonprofit Wonder - Commitment

What do we really mean when we commit?

It is a pledge, a trust put forth to accomplish an agreed upon goal. The commitment may be between two people or organizations. Or, it may be an agreement with one's self - a personal commitment.

In the nonprofit world, we talk about our commitment to the mission, to the vision, to the process. But we don't always walk the walk. It is easy to sit around a board table and get jazzed up about what we are committed to, what we will accomplish. But the meeting's over, we go our separate ways and later wonder why nothing really happened.

Commitment means jumping in. All the way in. Getting things done. Take a look your organization committed to doing what it needs to do to succeed? Are you personally committed? If not, it is time for some serious reflection - lack of committed action happens for a number of reasons.

Maybe you have too many irons in the fire - the nonprofit sector often overextends itself. Maybe this isn't what you bargained for - you don't always know what you're getting into up front. Or maybe you just need to step back, take a look around and decide if it's still right for you. And if it's not, move on - there's always another cause out there that could use you. Where you can truly feel your commitment and be successful.

And if you've still got that commitment? Spread it around, people, spread it around.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Today's Nonprofit Wonder - Be of Service

How can I be useful, of what service can I be? There is something inside me, what can it be?Vincent Van Gogh

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Today's Nonprofit Wonder - Development Days

Not to beat a dead horse, but the economy just isn't looking any brighter at the moment. In browsing through online job announcements, you can't help but notice the inordinate amount of jobs for development officers, development staff, development gurus. Even the Executive Director jobs require 95% of the duties to be fund development.

I think that's a good barometer for the current climate of our nonprofit bank accounts. You also see nonprofits merging - another option to stay afloat and maintain the community's services. And what do you know about development? Maybe you have your own niche area - you can write a great grant proposal. Or you launch really intense capital campaigns. Or you are the organizer of fabulous special events.

Now is the time to broaden your skill set. Move outside of your comfort zone and step into a new area. Afraid to make the Big Ask? Ask yourself why....because they might say no? Nonsense - even if they say no, at least now they know who you are. And they'll tell their friends, and they'll tell their friends, and so on and so on and so on.

Be your organization's cheerleader. Go out there and talk about the good you do. Tell the stories of community strength and resilience. Even if they say no thanks, they'll say it with a smile. And they won't forget you.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Today's Nonprofit Wonder - Tough Times are Tough

Well, could the current economy hit the nonprofit communities any harder? The resources out there were bleak enough the competition for those resources is even tougher. What's a nonprofit to do?

First off, your board needs to take a long hard look at what is going on - internally and externally. Are the programs and services you offer effective, efficient and necessary? Sometimes we hold on to our "faves" - those activities that, at one time, held a special place in the collective heart of the board members, staff and constituents. Over time, though, we may outgrow these activities and our community and consumers may not even need them anymore. A thorough evaluation of all program offerings may yield a few overpriced offerings that don't really need to be offered anymore.

Second, put on the front burner all those plans to get organized about fundraising. Now is the time - don't wait. Never had any luck with writing for a grant? Take a class. Not sure what an Annual Campaign is? Go get a book, google, talk to others in the field. Join your local chapter of the Society for Fundraising Executives. Find out who in private industry has a special affinity for your mission. Practice being your extrovert self in the mirror - then get out there, shake some hands, introduce yourself, your organization, your story. And ask for a contribution. Again. And again. And again.

Third. Make sure your staff feels the love. Times are tough. Give them a place where peace prevails and optimism shines through. Keep your people - you need them more than they need you.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Today's Nonprofit Wonder - Boards Get Their Hands Dirty

In today's economic climate, Boards of small nonprofit organizations need to be prepared. They need to roll up their sleeves, jump into the work and get their hands dirty!

Nonprofits ALWAYS have things that are left undone - usually because they are understaffed. Given the lean times we live in these days, that is happening more and more. Board members need to revisit their role in the organization's life and put some muscle into the effort. Doing with less staff doesn't make the work disappear. Creating working committees of the board can help to define specific tasks and enhance meeting goals. Associations should have Membership Committees to do outreach to prospective members - staff can keep current members happy. Nonprofits should have create Fundraising Committees - identify the givers and make the ask. Again, organizational staff can keep everyone happy once the donations are made.

Ultimately the board needs to ensure the fiscal and operational soundness of their nonprofit. Keeping a high profile, getting out there, doing the work - that type of action resonates loudly with your communities, your volunteers, your staff and your donors. Do it and have a great time!!!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Today's Nonprofit Wonder - Sustainability

What is sustainability? How do you continue your programs and projects year after year?

Getting more money to do your good work, right? Well, that is really just a small part of it.

Sustainability really focuses on a number of external and internal factors. Factors that are crucial to the support, growth and eventual integration of the programs and services you provide.

Does your organization have policies and partners that support your efforts? Have you established strong, collaborative relationships with them?

Does your organization provide leadership that is clearly committed to the program? Is staff on board with it as well? Do they support the efforts? Do they have the skill it takes to maintain this program within the organization?

The goal is to have the program synthesized into the organization - it becomes a seamless addition to your services. It becomes part of the mission and the culture. It gets to the point where you see the program and can't imagine it never have been there from the beginning.

So think sustainability. It will serve you and your community well.