The Promise of Delayed Gratification

If you’ve never watched a video of someone doing Walter Mischel’s marshmallow experiment, now would be a great time.  If nothing else, watching children with marshmallows would be a welcome break from the all-consuming pandemic coverage.

On the serious side, though, Mischel’s experiment taught us about the relationship between delaying gratification – doing some hard work now to reap a reward down the road.  

In 2008, many nonprofits chased any dollars they could, often diverting them far from their mission, for the immediate gratification of Read more

Be the Zoom Where it Happens

Week four of isolation and we are no more certain of what our future is than we were on day one.  We’ve moved from announcements coming in two-week intervals to monthly, and for many schools, regardless of the ages of their students, semesters at a time.  News of future events are listed as tentative, future presentation modes as “either face-to-face or virtual,” and caveats stating that the organizer has the right to change it all.  

In other words, life right now, and for some time Read more

April 9th, 2020 0 Comment

Reflections from my sofa

Like all of us, as we ponder the future of our organizations, our families, ourselves, my mind is a whirling dervish, full of random thoughts, taking me from one subject to the next, with no discernable logic.  I share with you those that I think could be useful for the times in which we currently find ourselves.   

Break down your silos.  Don’t say you don’t have them, as that is not very likely.   While there are likely silos in your service offerings, if you provide multiple Read more

Controlling Our Futures

As I have listened this week to painful reports from executive directors and board presidents on layoffs, furloughs, skeletal staff, and mothballing organizations for unknown periods of time, much of my limited energy has gone to shaking my head in dismay.  My dismay is two-fold.  I am beyond sad that too many people are losing their livelihoods, as well as the source of their professional passion, and I am disheartened by how few learned the lessons from “the last time.” 

Yes, I am uncomfortable at this Read more

March 27th, 2020 0 Comment

Stimulate Your Brain

There is a part of the brain that we who work in the nonprofit sector should understand: the right temporoparietal junction, or rTPJ. This part of the brain, which sits a bit above and back from the top of the right ear, controls a number of things important to nonprofit work — empathy, morality, selflessness, and self-control.  Scientists have been studying this part of the brain years and here are some of what we know about it?

Those with a bigger rTPJ make people behave more altruistically; If electric Read more

Learning from Others’ Mistakes

It is often said that we don’t learn from the mistakes of others; we must make their own mistakes.  Yet, it is also often said that the importance of studying history is so that we don’t repeat the mistakes (that others made) of history.  So, which is it?

Increasingly, I
think it is the former, that people don’t learn from the mistakes of others. Is
it that they don’t pay attention? That they think they are smarter; that it
won’t happen to them?  They can’t/don’t
see themselves in those “others?”

Whatever Read more

Cultivate, Solicit and Appreciate. Repeat

The news has dominated by the coronavirus and what to do about it.  Allow me to offer up a spin on this global crisis, unique to nonprofits. My message isn’t one of hopelessness, but rather pertains to best practices that should be followed at all times, especially in times of uncertainly like we are currently experiencing. 

It is a message of preparedness, something too few
nonprofits do as they tend to be reactive rather than proactive.  To the extent any organization can be
proactive, it will be Read more

March 6th, 2020 0 Comment

Pondering Boards

often wonder why people who clearly aren’t interested in hearing advice
continue to invite me into their organizations and solicit my opinion – which they
subsequently dismiss. 

Seriously, why pay for expertise that you’re going to ignore?  Our business model isn’t to offer advice and recommendations about needed changes only to be called back to fix the damage resulting from ignoring these cautions.  I have no shortage of examples of this pattern.

at least five years, as an organization planned the departure of its
long-serving, and much beloved, executive Read more

February 28th, 2020 0 Comment

The Gift of Shared Purpose

Over the course of decades of studying and observing leadership, one of the questions that has nagged at me is why the military produces a disproportionate number of great leaders who leave the military and go on to successful careers in other walks of life, while the nonprofit sector does not.  It is one of the questions I always pose in both my nonprofit professional development leadership and graduate classes.

Early on, I was puzzled by the fact that while both sets of leaders Read more

February 21st, 2020 0 Comment

Funders Get Real

Having worked for decades in the industry that so many derisively refer to as the “ivory tower,” I’d like to share that pejorative with funders.  While I don’t really want to heap more criticism on donors than they already get, it is really time that donors get smarter, step out of their sanctuaries, and be real.

A recent set of google alert headlines from around the country told the story perfectly:  25% of the headlines were about nonprofits that failed, all the while being supported Read more

February 18th, 2020 0 Comment