Stop Asking the Impossible

recently addressed a crowd of people affiliated with all-volunteer or
small-staffed organizations.  I asked a
few opening questions to get a handle on the good sized crowd.  First, I requested a show of hands of those
in the room representing all-volunteer organizations.  About 75% of the folks raised their
hands.  Next, I checked out how many in
the room were at organizations with one or two staff – there was a sizeable handful.  In what I thought was my last question, I
then asked how many had three or more staff. 
Confusingly, Read more

Measuring Greatness

You don’t have to be a basketball fan to be rocked by the news of Kobe Bryant’s sudden and untimely death.  I remember exactly where my son, his friend and I were standing when we saw Kobe, seated on the back of the convertible, in the parade celebrating his high school team winning the state championship.  Yes, he had then his wonderful smile, and it was emblazoned on his face.  And, yes, he shook things up in the community when he brought Brandy to his Read more

Failure to Thrive

While many parts of our sector are about responding to crises—food insecurity, homelessness, the opioid epidemic, global warming, etc. – our sector as a whole is potentially on the verge of its own crisis that threatens its survival. 

On the first night of the first class of the Nonprofit Leadership masters program, a student asked a question that I don’t usually get from students, especially this early on.  In fact, it is a question that I usually ask them at about the halfway point in Read more

Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing

Perhaps the most frequently asked question that I get is, ““X isn’t my job, is it?  It is the board’s, right?”  Or, the flip, “that’s the ED’s job, right? Not ours?”  Sometimes, the question is broader:  “What is the ED’s job and what is our job?” 

Those asking the question want a box with dark, thick lines clearly outlining the borders of the box over which no one should stray.  Anything inside those borders is “mine;” outside those borders is “yours.”  My box contains my Read more

In Search of the Unicorn

I sent Vu Le’s “welcome back” blog to all of the executive directors and board presidents in the various peer learning groups that I facilitate.  After I wrote last week about the importance of celebrations, his blog was a great follow up, while pointing out the mistake of failing to celebrate oneself. Yet I have to observe that for some, celebrating self may come too readily.

This fear was well fed this weekend, while my faith in the ability for our sector to continue to have Read more

January 10th, 2020 0 Comment


Driving to work, I was surprised by this teaser for an upcoming story:  the 100th anniversary of women’s right to vote.  Of course, if I had stopped to think about the fact that women only got the vote in 1920, I could easily have realized that this was the centennial year.  My reaction upon hearing of the pending story was, “just 100 years?”

I am repeatedly stunned when I think about how long women had to wait to be able to vote and that more Read more

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

Happy Donors

So many cultures and faiths teach the adage that it is better to give than receive.  While it is done to encourage selflessness while helping those less fortunate.  Research indicates, however, that giving isn’t quite the selfless act we think it is, in that is also beneficial to the giver.

Giving both time and money actually ratchet ups a giver’s oxytocin (the “compassion hormone”), as well as endorphins and dopamine, producing what some refer to as the “donor’s high” (akin to a runner’s high). 

People who Read more

Move the Damn Needle Already

the loss of a loved one, we must endure the year “firsts.”  The first birthday, first holiday, first
anniversary of the death and so many more. 
I have come to realize that there’s also a year of “lasts.” 

As I
contemplate the start of my last year as a full-time member of the workforce, I
am excited about what I still want and need to accomplish and thrilled by many
of the pending lasts (the various administrative tasks that I’m happy to be rid

I also
feel some dismay, stemming from my Read more

December 6th, 2019 0 Comment

The Future of Humanity

As I enter into in the final leg of my tenure in a leadership position in the nonprofit sector, I recognize that there is something vital to the sector that I simply do not know and no amount of research, thought or discussion will enlighten me:   what will the nonprofit sector look like in 10 years?

In a recent conversation with a colleague I was bemoaning my
inability to envision the future of our sector. Will it exist?  Will we be thrown to the curb?  Will our Read more