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executive director

It’s Time For A New Kind of Nonprofit Leader

FDRLast week I spoke to a group of nonprofit leaders about 5 Nonprofits Trends to Watch in 2013 and a woman stood up and said “These trends are all well and good, but we need to talk about the fact that the money just isn’t there anymore. We are having to compete with more organizations for much less available funding. We need solutions to that.”

Agreed — fewer resources and more competition for those shrinking resources is the reality we are facing. But it’s not going to change anytime soon. So it is up to nonprofit leaders to embrace and adapt to that new reality. Instead of beating our heads against the wall of change, let’s adapt to meet it.

In fact, it is time for a new kind of nonprofit leader, one who has the confidence, ability, foresight, energy, and strength of will to really lead the nonprofit sector forward.

This new nonprofit leader:

Moves to Impact. She realizes that it is no longer enough to just “do good work.” Nonprofits must create a theory of change and then find a way to measure and articulate the outcomes and impact they hope they are achieving.

Finances the Work. He works toward completely integrating money into the mission his nonprofit is trying to achieve, understanding that big plans are not enough, he also must finance them. And beyond just recognizing his lack of infrastructure, he puts together a plan for raising capacity capital and convinces donors to start investing in a stronger, more effective organization behind the work.

Refuses to Play Nice.  She overcomes the nonprofit norm of politeness at all costs and gets real with funders, board members, or staff who are standing in the way of the mission and impact of the organization.

Looks Outside. He understands that a nonprofit can no longer exist in a vacuum. He and his board and staff must constantly monitor the external marketplace of changing client needs, demographic and economic trends, funder interests in order make sure their nonprofit continues to create community value.

Gets SocialShe embraces the idea of a networked nonprofit and is willing and able to open her organization and let the world in as fully engaged partners in the work her nonprofit is doing.

Asks Hard Questions. He constantly forces himself, and his high-performing team of board, staff, funders and volunteers to ask hard questions (like these and these) in order to make sure they are pushing themselves harder, making the best use of resources and delivering more results.

This new nonprofit leader is confident, engaged, and savvy. She will, I have no doubt, lead this great nonprofit sector to new heights.

If you need help figuring out how to adapt to this new reality, let me know.

Photo Credit: John Morton

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Financing Not Fundraising: The Critical Alliance Between Executive & Development Directors

In this month’s post in the on-going Financing Not Fundraising blog series I’m talking about creating a productive partnership between a nonprofit’s leader (the Executive Director or CEO) and a nonprofit’s chief revenue generator (typically the Development Director).  If your nonprofit is going to start financing instead of fundraising, you must work to forge an effective Executive Director and Development Director relationship.  If you are fully integrating money and mission, then your ED and DD should be planning, talking about, debating, and integrating their work on a daily basis. If that’s happening, the organization has a much better chance for long-term financial sustainability.

If you are new to the Financing Not Fundraising blog series, the series is about how nonprofits must break out of the FUNDRAISING (individual donor appeals, events, foundation grants) box and instead create a broader, more strategic approach to securing the overall FINANCING necessary to create social change. You can read the entire series here.

If a nonprofit’s Executive Director can fully embrace, support and promote the work of the Development Director, the organization can become much more financially sustainable. There are several clues that a productive partnership between a nonprofit’s Executive Director and Development Director exists:

  • The Executive Director charges the Development Director with leading all revenue activities that the organization pursues (public, private and earned income) instead of limiting the Development Director’s role to just private income streams (individual, foundation, corporate).

  • The Executive Director asks the Development Director to create an ambitious, comprehensive annual financing plan in conjunction with the organization’s overall strategic plan and then to  monitor that plan to successful implementation.

  • The Executive Director creates the organization’s revenue budget through an open and honest negotiation with the Development Director and based on the Development Director’s annual revenue plan, as opposed to simply telling the Development Director how much to raise.

  • The Executive Director continually works to educate the entire board and staff about how critical money is to the work of the organization and how each member of the board and staff has a role to play, as opposed to leaving all revenue-generating efforts up to the Development Director.

  • The Executive Director makes a constant and conscious effort to encourage the Program and Development Directors to work together, understand each other’s viewpoint, support each other’s goals and empathize with each other’s roadblocks. The Executive Director treats both positions, and both departments, as equally critical to the success of the organization.

  • The Executive Director works closely with the board chair to make sure every board member is meeting their give/get requirement and doesn’t leave the Development Director to try to strong arm board members to contribute.

  • The Executive Director encourages and helps secure funding for the Development Director’s requests for the additional infrastructure (donor database, staffing, materials, technology) required to deliver on the ambitious goals of their revenue plan.

  • As with each member of their staff, the Executive Director evaluates the Development Director’s performance on an annual basis and sets performance goals for the Development Director for the coming year based on the overall strategic plan of the organization.

As the leader of a nonprofit organization it is up to the Executive Director to forge an effective partnership with their chief fundraiser. An ED that buries their head in the sand and leaves money up to their Development Director will eventually find their Development Director gone, their funding diminishing and their long-term financial outlook bleak.

If you want to learn more about applying the concepts of Financing Not Fundraising to your nonprofit, check out our Financing Not Fundraising Webinar Series, or download the 27-page Financing Not Fundraising e-book.

Photo Credit: USAJFKSWCS

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10 Great Social Innovation Reads: January 2012

I can’t believe that January is already over, it was a complete blur. Nonetheless there was lots to read and ponder in the past month in the world of social innovation. Below are my ten picks of the best reads, but as always, please add what I missed in the comments. And if you want to see other things that caught my eye, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or Pinterest (I’m starting to really love this new one!).

  1. Socialbrite has created a mega calendar of 2012 nonprofit & social good conferences. Perfect for planning your year ahead.

  2. In their Fast Company article, It’s Time To Start Judging Nonprofits Like For-Profits, Alexa Clay and Jon Camfield tell donors “Do not be turned off by high overheads. They’re healthy. They mean the organization has a longer-term view on its role in making change.” Amen to that!

  3. Crowd-sourcing meets behavioral economics meets iPhone apps. A new approach to getting people to eat better. Love it.

  4. FastCompany profiles the business pioneers who really understand and embrace the new chaos in which we all now operate. This should be required reading for any leader (for-profit or nonprofit).

  5. I love it when we can use history to understand current trends. Phil Buchanan, CEO of the Center for Effective Philanthropy, reviews historian Oliver Zunz’s new book, Philanthropy in America. In so doing, Buchanan describes 7 “new” philanthropic concepts that really aren’t so new.

  6. Jason Cohen from A Smart Bear always has a way of finding hope in the entrepreneurial process. Although this post is focused on “traditional” entrepreneurs, I think it holds for social entrepreneurs as well: Entrepreneurship is a torturous chaos, until it isn’t.

  7. I have always said that in order to be a truly effective social change leader, you must be able to fully wield the financial sword. Kate Barr from the Nonprofit Assistance Fund in Minnesota breaks it down in the Executive Director’s Guide to Financial Leadership

  8. January saw a pretty impressive mobilization of people via social media to protest against SOPA (the Stop Online Piracy Act) and PIPA (Protect Intellectual Property Act). Dowser helps us understand what it means for online protest more broadly.

  9. In an increasingly competitive and resource-strapped environment it is even more critical that nonprofits be able to demonstrate the impact of their work. Here is a great example of how a Michigan arts collaboration demonstrates the economic impact of the arts in their community.

  10. Hull House, one of the oldest and most impressive American nonprofit organizations closed its doors in January. The Bridgespan Group explains the implications.

Photo Credit: ilovememphis

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Financing Not Fundraising: Jump Start Your Board

In part 12 of our on-going Financing Not Fundraising blog series we’re talking about activating an often under-used nonprofit financing resource: the board of directors. The words “fundraising” and “board” can sometimes seem so incongruous that it results in  a lot of eye-rolling on the part of an executive director. As a general (and probably optimistic) rule, nonprofit boards of directors are not very helpful at bringing money in the door. It is often a chicken or the egg scenario that leaves many nonprofits at an impasse. But I believe it is up to the executive director to get tough and strategic about getting her board to take action.

If you are new to our Financing Not Fundraising blog series, the series is about how nonprofits must break out of the narrow view that traditional FUNDRAISING (individual donor appeals, events, foundation grants) will completely fund all of their activities.  Instead, they must create a broader, more strategic approach to securing the overall FINANCING necessary to create social change. You can read the entire series here.

If you want to learn more about how to apply the concepts of Financing Not Fundraising to your nonprofit, check out our Financing Not Fundraising Webinar Series.

Here are some ways to get your board to bring more money in the door:

  • Make Them Strategic. Involve them in strategic planning. No one wants,  or is able, to raise money without a bigger plan. If you don’t currently have a strategic plan, put one together, but make sure to get the board involved in the whole process. It must be their strategic plan if they are going to help finance it. If you already have a strategic plan, make sure that you are updating the board, and more importantly, asking for their help on implementing it at every board meeting. It’s not enough to create a strategic plan, you must keep the board engaged in making it come to fruition.

  • Force Them to Give. Once your board is excited about the strategic plan and the future direction of the organization, get them to invest. It is unconscionable to me that there are still nonprofit board members who don’t make a financial contribution to their organization. Make it abundantly clear that a contribution (at a level significant to them) is a requirement of service. No one can convincingly ask someone else for money if they aren’t giving themselves. End of story.

  • Focus Their Fundraising. The highest and best fundraising use of a board member is major donor recruitment. Stop asking board members to be involved in any and all aspects of fundraising (event planning, direct mail letter creation, grant writing). Instead have them focus on tapping into their networks to bring people to the organization. And no matter how “connected” you may or may not think your board members are, believe me, their networks are vast. They include their friends, family, neighbors, co-workers, social media fans/followers, church congregants, fellow alumni and on and on. Ask each board member to come up with 5 people in their network that they think have the capacity to give at your major donor level. Then have the board member spend the year focusing on getting those people in the door.

  • Integrate Money into Every Conversation. A lot of boards don’t like to talk about money: either raising it, or how it is spent. Boards often have limited financial management conversations, skimpy or non-existent finance committees, and a general preference for discussing mission over money. But you can’t let them get away with that. It is absolutely critical that money be fully integrated into any conversation the board has. They must understand what the financial model of the organization is and be continually monitoring the ability of that model to deliver on mission.

  • Don’t Sugar Coat Anything. The tendency in the sector is to treat a board as the organization’s most important donors and from which you hide the truths about your organization. But you need to move beyond that and start helping the board to understand the harsh realities of your work. The next time your board asks you to raise more money without additional staff, or add programs without new funding, or go down a rabbit hole for no reason, tell them “No.” Give them your honest appraisal of what the organization should or shouldn’t do. And make sure they listen.

Boards need to step up. There is no doubt. But it is up to the executive director to make sure that they do. By getting your board to be strategic, focused, invested, integrated and aware they can start helping to finance your work.

If you want help jump starting your board, download the “10 Traits of a Groundbreaking Board” e-book.

If you want to learn more about applying the concepts of Financing Not Fundraising to your nonprofit, check out our Financing Not Fundraising Webinar Series, or download the 27-page Financing Not Fundraising e-book.

Photo Credit: Intercontinental Hong Kong

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