Nothing Personal

“Is this personal or professional?” asked the executive director of a multi-million dollar nonprofit of his direct report as he questioned a check request for less than $100 for a multi-session professional development program she planned on attending.   The announcement of the series had been sent to  to executive directors who were asked to share it with appropriate staff, and was offered by a very well-recognized management support organization dedicated to improving the operations, management and governance of nonprofits so that those organizations  can become Read more

Get it in Writing

How do I love thee, nonprofit sector?  Let me count the ways.  Well, first:   Are we not a collegial sector;  one tempered by mutual respect? By the presumption that we are a team, working in partnership to achieve mutually defined and shared goals?

No, I am not naïve. I’ve worked and volunteered in this sector for decades.  I know the reality.  And I know that those who come into the sector truly understanding and valuing the presumption I outlined above, execute that presumption–fully.  Those who Read more

Idiot Says What?

It is time for a basic lesson in research and the creation of sound conclusions.  Too many people are publicly exposing their stupid sides because they simply don’t understand the basics of how to draw conclusions.

So, let me give you a primer.

NUMBER ONE:  We never, ever generalize our learning from one subject to the whole group into which that one subject might fall.  In other words, experiencing the inefficiencies of one nonprofit does not allow us to generalize and conclude that all nonprofits are inefficient.  Read more

Saving the Sector

This is a message for all executive directors, from one to another.  If you don’t stop right now and look at your own performance, you run the risk of not only scaring off and pushing away all of the emerging leaders in your organization but in the sector as well.

For several years, I’ve been spending a fair amount of time with and collecting data from emerging leaders from across the sector in terms of organizational mission, age, size, tenure of their executive director, etc. I Read more

Are Nonprofit Boards Antiquated?

Are nonprofit boards antiquated?  I’ve give a lot of thought to this topic.  There isn’t a nonprofit executive director in this country who, frustrated beyond her/his last straw, hasn’t asked that question.  Or, let me correct myself, hasn’t made that question a statement:  “!#$%^&*!  Boards are so antiquated.  Why do we even need them?”

The reality, however, is that the theory of nonprofit boards is not at all antiquated; it is the practice that that gets in the way. But, truth be told, when boards are Read more

Pass the Pepto Please

Those of you who know me, know that I love the nonprofit sector.  Some might even go so far as to say I’m a missionary for the sector.  But that would be inaccurate, as I am not out to “win” anyone over or convert them to my way of seeing things.  But I have knowingly volunteered and worked in this sector since what we then called junior high school.  In the many decades since then, I’ve held one and only one job in the for-profit Read more

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

Stressed ≠ Important


Before leaving on vacation, I foolishly allowed myself to agree to working with a client on my first evening back.  But the client was most solicitous and understanding, and upon arrival asked about my vacation, even wanting to see pictures.  She asked an interesting question:  what insights did you gain?


At the time I laughed, as I rarely thought of work, but the question kept gnawing at me.  My answer began to take shape over the course of the Read more

Stressed ≠ Important July 30th, 2009 0 Comment

A Tale of Two Boards


It wasn’t quite the best of boards nor the worst of them, either.  But it was a lesson in contrasts.  In the space of an hour, I got to shore up a newly minted board president struggling with a board that hadn’t yet listened to reason and also field the questions of a board that, once a table of bobble-heads, had morphed into a take charge board.  God, I love my job! Chapter I:  

a thoughtful, Read more

Heads in the Sand (Again)

Last week, we sent out an e-mail blast with the subject line:  Does your board want to be the best?  While we always receive responses, there was an immediate one that was unique in both content and brevity.  It read, simply:  “No!”

After I stopped laughing, my concern kicked in:   I stopped and thought:  oh, maybe the writer was being serious.  Maybe he, let me call him Bob, and the board had zero interest in doing things right.  As opposed to how I Read more