Take a Board Member to Work Day

There are two constant complaints that I have been hearing from nonprofit staff members since my earliest days in the sector.  One:  Board members don’t understand what staff and the organization do.  Two: The board doesn’t do anything, which translates to, staff have no idea what, if anything, the board does.  Both complaints are sad commentaries.

I want to be quick to point out that the first complaint is
not simply jawing from some disgruntled staff. 
Decades of experiential evidence repeatedly shows me the staggering
number of board members Read more

December 20th, 2019 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

Forsaking our values

Earlier this week, I got an email from a friend who works at a small foundation.  Her message was simple:  “you are not going to believe what they did to me; my time here is going to be hellacious and depressing; they have gone so corporate.”  I didn’t have to ask; I knew exactly what she meant, as I’ve been hearing this too much lately, and no longer a phenomenon reserved for the mega nonprofits.

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What made this message more poignant was how Read more

November 6th, 2015 0 Comment

Hold the Applause

I recently received a question from a smart, young emerging leader for whom I see only great things.  Her question:  Do you think that the nonprofit and foundations community has gotten into a habit of congratulating itself at conferences, symposiums, and other events?   I was immediately reminded of a foundation’s advertisement that runs only at certain times of year.  The advertisement intentionally makes it sound as if the foundation is responsible for the accomplishments of the nonprofits it funds, and that it is directly helping the Read more

Having it All?

Debora Spar, the President of Barnard, recently wrote in Newsweek,  “…we seem stuck today in a purgatory of perfection—each of us trying so hard to be everything that inevitably, inherently, we fail.”  She was writing about the state of women in the 21st century and making reference to the media challenge to women started decades ago of “having it all” and being “super woman.”

I reread that phrase several times, not thinking about being a woman and having it all—I rejected that media hype immediately for Read more

November 2nd, 2012 0 Comment

Is Risk Aversion Killing Innovation?

There are many things that I like about the nonprofit sector.  One of them, however, is not the fact that, by and large, it is risk averse.  This must change if we want to survive and be the sector that people expect us to be—the sector that solves the problems of communities and individuals, that enriches all of our lives, and that, in so many ways, does the work that many don’t want to do.

If we continue simply to do the “same ole, same ole,” Read more

September 20th, 2012 1 Comment

Your Reputation Inventory

Anna Quindlen, in her new book, Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake, writes about what she sees in the mirror when she looks at herself, vs. what others see.  She describes herself as “not pretty.”  She goes on to note that a recently read biography of Mary Anne Evans, known to most people as George Elliot it was suggested that had Mary Anne been “more pleasing to look at,” she would not have written her seven novels, but would, rather have married, borne children and Read more

August 17th, 2012 0 Comment

Simple Questions

I am troubled by how little we learn from other people’s mistakes.  Perhaps it is arrogance that leads us as individuals and leaders of organizations to think that we are smarter than others, we could never…  But, truth is, the vast majority of us aren’t smarter than others, and we could do whatever.

There is no loss of stature or pride to say, “Oh, what a mistake that person/organization made.  Let’s just take stock to make sure I/we am/are not risking making that same mistake.”  The Read more

Red (or Pink) in the Face

None of us likes having egg on our face. Susan G. Komen for the Cure is currently wearing it big time. As they attempt to regroup from a series of recent blunders, we can look at the Komen example and learn from it.

First mistake:  think very, very, very carefully before hiring someone who has recently run for, and lost, political office.  Or, for that matter, someone who is stepping down from political office.  Politics have never been for the weak-willed or mild- mannered.  And while Read more

Red (or Pink) in the Face February 10th, 2012 0 Comment

The Mistake Bank

Sometime after Newsweek and The Daily Beast joined forces, the last page of each issue of Newsweek is now “My Favorite Mistake.”  Each issue some bigwig—from business, entertainment, even politics,  talks about his/her favorite mistake that s/he has made along the way.

Sometimes, they have been game-changers in that person’s life, such as Paula Deen reluctantly leaving her home town of Albany, Georgia; other times, it was just a hugely embarrassing moment, such as Jeremy Irons, fixated on finding out when it would be appropriate to Read more

The Mistake Bank January 26th, 2012 1 Comment