Controlling Our Own Narrative

We are entering the second month of the last quarter of the year, which means so much to the financial well-being of too many nonprofits. Thus, it is the time when powerful storytelling becomes our great ally. So why am I thinking about how we’re not telling our own stories. 

Where is our voice? Have we lost it, or perhaps, never even had it? Why have we allowed others to tell our story and control our narrative?

As I wrapped up another Masters class in Nonprofit Management, Read more

Best Practices are Calling

In a recent discussion on DEAI and fundraising, one participant made the point that using wealth as the primary determinant of fitness for a board is dangerous and simply wrong.  

As she was speaking, I kept thinking:  “This isn’t new; this isn’t an ‘ah ha’ moment of recognition arrived at by DEIA coming to the forefront of everyone’s mind. This has always been a best practice.” 

And while I  know the speaker understood this as well as I do, that wasn’t the point she wanted and Read more

October 23rd, 2020 0 Comment

Lights Out on the Charity Watchdog Beacon

I am not a fan of the rating systems on which many charity watchdog groups have built their reputations, which means I’m not a fan of those kinds of watchdog groups.  In 2014, the big three (Charity Navigator, BBB Wise Giving Alliance and Guidestar) published their joint letter to the “donors of America” decrying the “overhead myth” of using overhead costs as a measure of nonprofit effectiveness. However, they failed to acknowledge their role as a driving force behind popularizing overhead ratios as a measure Read more

Making Things Better

A recent headline in Forbes caught my attention:  “Looking for Disruptive Nonprofit Opportunities?“  It went on to promise 15 disruptive options. I was all in:  15 different ways to shake things up.   

My excitement was short lived, unfortunately, as I read suggestions such as:

-internalize the mission-embrace your core values-let go of underperforming projects--identify a current need you can fill.Seriously?  The only suggestion that sounded remotely like it could truly be a disruptive opportunity was to get out of your comfort zone. Either some editor did Read more

What’s Your Reputation Worth?

Call me crazy. Or desperate. Or both. But in reading John Harris’ recent “Altitude” commentary in Politico about the possibility that President Trump might actually have a very limited kind of “genius,” I found a lesson that nonprofits might want to learn.  

Here’s  what Harris had to say:  “Trump’s genius, as illuminated by the [NY] Times, isn’t simply for self-promotion, but for harnessing self-promotion to a coherent and comprehensive strategy for personal gain. Profit gets paid out in multiple ways: money, of course, but also Read more

Lightening and the Lightening Bug

I have always appreciated the power of language and words and therefore, the importance of always choosing the right word. That said, I am grateful that, as an American, I did not have to learn the 400 plus words for snow that every Scot has to learn, as that may be a precision beyond even my interest. But as we struggle to build a society that is inclusive and welcoming, we must pay attention to the language we use.

For some time, there has been a Read more

September 25th, 2020 0 Comment

Where Have All the Good Board Members Gone?

Picture this:  I’m about halfway through a virtual board training on the basic roles and responsibilities of a nonprofit board for one that desperately needs to learn what it is really supposed to be doing, instead of what the dissatisfied executive director allows it to do. 

I may have mentioned “passion” a few times and how important it is for board members to be passionate about the organization’s mission in order to be that really good board member. I had just asked a question of the Read more

Masquerading Nonprofits

I’ve never been a fan of Halloween, but I might have insider information on the hot costume for 2020. Since top costumes tend to mirror what is happening in society, your first thought might be a coronavirus costume. That might turn out to be true, but my idea of a hot costume is the nonprofit sector masquerading as itself.  

As you well know, there are two parts to our sector:  the public charities and the philanthropists. But neither of these parts is always as it seems, Read more

The Nonprofit Hippocratic Oath

A headline in a recent Kellogg Insight grabbed me, in part because of the many conversations I’ve had of late, and partly because it is a question that, in various forms, I am constantly trying to get nonprofit staff and boards to ask of themselves.  

The headline reads: “Why Well-Meaning NGOs Often Do More Harm Than Good.” The variations on this theme that I ask of staff and boards go something like this:  Should a nonprofit that does more harm than good continue to be Read more

How to Banish the Hate

I wasn’t long into my teaching career before I recognized certain things I should not take for granted. For example, I had thought that first year college students were old enough to  have learned about extrapolation and analogies and could use them in their thinking, problem-solving and in general, facing the rigors of daily life. Wrong. So I had to adjust my behavior.

Learning from that initial experience, I did not start my consulting career operating on the same assumption. I had however, hoped that by the time people Read more