Management by Wishful Thinking

As a country, we are going soft, and the nonprofit sector is contributing.

Recently, a friend new to academics told me of one of his students who came to him on the morning that a major assignment was due and told him that she did not have it.  The previous Friday had been so gorgeous, she actually told him, she just had to go down the shore (as you Philadelphians say) for the weekend.

I’ve had this story rolling around in my head for almost a month, Read more

August 26th, 2016 0 Comment

Nonprofit Institutional Memory

It is amazing how few organizations—and individuals—understand institutional memory—what it is, its value-add and how to use it.  So, instead of using it well and wisely, they allow it to be misused to the detriment of the organization.

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Perhaps it is easiest to start with what institutional memory is not.

It is not a person—ever, not even the longest-serving person on your board or staff; it isn’t even a founder
It is not “We’ve tried that before
It is not “But that is not Read more

March 3rd, 2016 0 Comment

Value Learning in your Nonprofit

Whenever I talk to groups about core values—those principles for how you do the work of the mission, and their importance in a nonprofit, I always use an example of one particular The Nonprofit Center’s core value.  I always choose it to really hit home on a particular point that Jim Collins’ makes about core values:  they are not restatements of what’s in your mission; they are independent of your mission.

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In fact, they are so independent that one of the questions Collins Read more

What’s at Your Core?

If you know me, you know that I am a huge fan of Jim Collins and identification of an organization’s core ideology: core purpose + core values=core ideology. Students of Collins know that it is the presence of and adherence to an organization’s core ideology that differentiates the successful from the not. As he and his colleague in research, Jerry Porras, wrote in a Harvard Business Review article almost 20 years ago, “Companies that enjoy enduring success have core values and a core purpose that Read more

Et tu, Nonprofit?

Sadly, I seem to be on a tear against my own sector.  This is disturbing.  But, then, so is that which I am railing against!

It would be preposterous to say that at this point in my life, I am naïve, or not well rooted in reality.    I’ve always classified myself as a realist, rather than either optimist or pessimist.  But now I’m beginning to wonder if my view of reality needs to change or if the nonprofit sector needs to return to its roots and Read more

June 26th, 2013 1 Comment

We Rock…Pass it on

Last month’s “communiqué” (their word, not mine) from the Listening Post (Lester Salamon at Johns Hopkins’ Institute for Policy Studies) provides some great fodder for a new year discussion by boards and staffs alike—if not together.  The communiqué reports on results of the Institute’s research into the question of whether there are agreed upon and mutually shared values of the nonprofit sector.  In other words, do those of us in the nonprofit sector believe that there is a set of values—unique or not—that nonprofits as Read more

January 11th, 2013 0 Comment

The Rude Sector

When I started blogging, I was told it was ok to be provocative and controversial and I was prepared for flak and feedback. But I am not going for controversy or provocation here; here, I’m venting. Numerous recent experiences have led me to conclude that the nonprofit sector that I truly love has become down-right rude. I’ve got a collection of experiences to whine about, but I’ll share two recent ones with you that painfully contrast our sector with the for-profit world.

I was Read more

Have you lost your compass?

Announcement:  there will not be, now, tomorrow or ever, a $700 billion or even an $85 billion bailout for the nonprofit sector.  So, when we say we are businesses, don’t get too carried away with that thought.  Remember, we are businesses that must be beholden to our mission, balancing our bottom line with how well we are delivering on the promises of our mission.  Like so many other examples of the past, we are facing another perfect example of the fact that “we must run like Read more


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