Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The Talent Development Platform - Putting People First in Social Change Organizations

The Talent Development Platform: Putting People First in Social Change Organizations (The Jossey-Bass Nonprofit Guidebook Series) is a new book which provides a framework and detailed methodology including templates that nonprofits, specifically, can use to develop talent. How important is that? Just recently, Robert Half Finance completed a study and asked Finance professionals "When evaluating a new job opportunity, how important is the ability to gain new skills in that role?" 81 % of entry level professionals and 55% of executive level respondents said very important. This is consistent with the findings of a survey of 1100 respondents to a Young Professional Network survey in 2011 cited in this book. In that study only 34% were committed to the nonprofit sector for the long haul, citing limited professional development opportunities as a key factor for leaving the sector.  If we want to attract and retain the best people we must offer them the opportunity to develop their skills and utilize their talents. The Talent Development Platform is the  resource to be able to do this effectively. There isn’t anything else like it on the market.

If I had to use one word to describe this book it would be comprehensive. If I had another it would be strategic. Overall this is a must have resource for Nonprofits that are interested in long term development and succession development of its employees. This topic gets a lot of lip service but often not much more than that in small and mid sized nonprofits.  I worked for a large corporation in my first career and there was formal career development that had many facets – formal training, special assignments, leadership opportunities. Besides the core job there was opportunity and expectation that people were in a continuous improvement motion.

Too often what I have seen in nonprofits, especially small ones, is that lower level employees are engaged 110% in executing their current duties and little attention is paid to the next step for them. The price for this approach is not small. It results in unused talent, undeveloped potential,  employee turnover and worst of all,  unpreparedness when top level positions do become available.

The Talent Development Platform is a comprehensive resource geared for all sizes of social change organizations. The tools are suitable for employees, volunteers and board members. I am particularly interested in this book because of the focus on small organizations. Too often, things that are recommended are not practical for small organizations. This book is chock full of tables, figures and exhibits.  Here is two of my favorite examples.

 The first step is to complete an organizational readiness assessment and a detailed questionnaire is provided to be able to assess you readiness to begin a meaningful talent development program.  Here is a summary of results example.

I particularly like this example of a format used to define organizational goals and objectives and then align them with an individual's development plan.  Note that the development plan has three components - learning on the job, mentoring and formal training.

This book is designed for serious results-driven talent development.  There is no fluff.  If you are serious about this subject, this is a must have book.   The subtitle of this book is “Putting People First in Social Change Organizations” and that is indeed the focus of this work.

It is available on Amazon.  Click below to find it on Amazon.


Wednesday, August 19, 2015

2015 Millennial Impact Report - Focus on Causes and the Workplace

We all know that the Millennial generation relates to everything in a different way than us older folks.  This is true for how they relate to nonprofits and their philanthropic spirit and approach.  Almost all of the nonprofit leadership, including fundraising professionals, fall into that “older folk” category.  So we have a lot to learn.  The Millennial Impact Report is the resource we should all be studying and taking to heart. 

Since 2009 they have been answering the question, “How does the Millennial generation connect with, get involved with and support causes?”  Each year the report has focused on a different aspect of Millennial giving.  I have written about this report each year –reporting the key findings and adding my commentary - especially ideas applicable to small nonprofits.  This article does the same for the 2015 report.

This year the report focuses on company cause work, the factors that influence engagement in the workplace and the relationship between Millennial employees and their managers.  This research is especially important to nonprofits that depend on volunteerism and need to adapt to its changing nature.

The key findings take-aways for designing employer based cause programs are:








Some of the key findings are true for us older folk too.  Asking makes a difference.  This fundamental rule of fundraising continues to be true with this generation.  46% said that they are more likely to give if a co-worker asks them to.   65% to 77% of all groups -  millennials and non-millennials – were most influenced to give by corporate matching gift plans.

84% of Millennials made a donation in 2014 but only 22% were solicited at work.  Wow – What a potential growth opportunity for nonprofits.

Here is a surprising but noteworthy influencer for employer based giving.  43% of Millennials said they would be more likely to give if competition was involved but only 24% of managers felt this way.  I recently saw that at a local school a class that had 100% participation in a volunteer activity earned a pizza lunch.  Designing fundraising campaigns with a competition – something to think about.  It is easy enough to do and in many cases can be done without a cost.  Will an employer designate a parking space for the employee volunteer of the month? Name recognition and days off are mentioned in the study.

Most Millennial employees volunteer only 1 to 10 hours a year but 79% of them say they felt they made a difference.  65% of them said they were more likely to participate if their co-workers did and 44% said they were more likely if their manager volunteered.  These statistics represents a major opportunity for growth – especially for small locally based nonprofits.  Designing one day projects that an employee volunteer group can work on or even better – complete – can be a new and effective way of getting things done.  Even better,  Millennials like to volunteer using their skills and again like older folk are turned off if they feel their time was wasted.  Group volunteer projects can lay the relationship building foundation for future donors.  Other studies have shown that volunteering first is a key to giving for the younger generations.

Small companies usually do not have company giving plans but they can still encourage a culture of giving through peer solicitation and informal employee initiatives from setting up and managing a collection box for food/school supplies to selling girl scout cookies (my examples).

I highly recommend that you read to whole report.  There are lots of graphics and it is easy to digest.  Bottom line findings –

  • Company programming can successfully develop a workplace culture of giving and volunteering.   

  • To be successful, companies need to make two investments: in employee cause work and manager participation.
  •  Passion is the key to influencing participation in company-sponsored cause work.
If you are a small nonprofit, there is lots of data here that can help you convince local businesses to work with you on giving and volunteering.


Thursday, August 13, 2015

6 Tips for a Winning Nonprofit Executive Job Description

When there is an executive position open in a small or mid size nonprofit, it usually falls to a Search Committee to identify the top candidates that will be considered by the board to be the next Executive Director.  One of the first steps is writing the job description that will be used to advertise the position.  This description has the same responsibilities but is different than the one in the ED's desk drawer.

Building the job description requires understanding the job content, and the skills, credentials and experiences that will be needed to do the job well.  You really need to think thoughtfully about what you are looking for in an Executive Director.  If you want to get outstanding candidates and candidates that are the right fit to apply, a good job description is the key.   This description also is a sales pitch.  Here are some important ingredients to a good job description.

The Sales Pitch -  The description should include a profile of the organization including its mission, services and key accomplishments.  If you have a culture you are proud of make sure it is mentioned in your profile. Examples are that you have an inclusive profile, or  teamwork and collaboration are integral to your success.

Specifics are important – A good executive job description provides an accurate scope of the job.  It should include the annual budget, number of employees and direct reports, number of locations, overview of your major programs and any other details which will give candidates an accurate picture of the scope of the position.
Straightforward Honesty Rules – Potential candidates appreciate job descriptions that aren’t just buzzword packed and seem like you are looking for someone who walks on water.  I recommend that the job description list major responsibilities that the Executive Director will be expected to be personally involved in and which responsibilities will be delegated.  For example, the ED will have responsibility for program and budget development but program delivery and budget administration will be delegated.  If there are any unusual requirements you should make sure you list them.  Does this job have 40% travel?  Are you required to work on Thanksgiving?  These kind of things should be noted.
Salary Range Is Important – I always recommend that a salary range such as Mid 70s be included in the job description.  This will help attract appropriate candidates for your position.  Yes, you will still get people who have a couple of years at an entry level position and at least one person who made twice that in their last position, but by and large, you will attract appropriate candidates.  There are resources such as the Guidestar Nonprofit Compensation Report which can help you set the right salary range for your opening.
Benefits Can Be the Make or Break Item – Listing insurance, vacation, number of paid holidays, flexible hours, retirement plan and other benefits will attract applicants.  It is a big mistake not to list your benefits.  People make decisions about even applying for a position if the benefits are important to them.
Realistically What Is Required and What Is Desirable  - Break down the skills, experience and credentials into required and desirable.  And stay out of the “walk on water weeds.”  Do you really have to have 10 years experience or is five years plenty?  Is a Master’s Degree required or desirable?  Are there critical skills and experience (fundraising, financial management?) and are some desirable (Experience with an artistic community?).
Developing the job description is the first and most important task that the Search Committee needs to do.  It is important to take the time to do it right.


Tuesday, June 09, 2015

A Few Tips for Intervewing with a Search Committee

When you are being considered for a position in the private sector you may first have a telephone interview with a Human Resources manager and then a hiring manager.  Sometimes there may be additional people you meet with, but generally there is one person that is most important in the hiring process.  If you are being considered for an executive director of a nonprofit the process can be much more arduous. If you make it past a screening telephone or in person interview, you will have to interview with a Search Committee.  And if you make it through that there is another group interview with the Board.  I have sat through many of these interviews as a consultant and I can tell you they are not easy for candidates.  All of us have opinions about what is important to us in a candidate.  You don’t have to put too many people together to have conflicting opinions.  What can a candidate do to prepare and cope with all of this?

Be Prepared
First of all be well prepared before you come into the interview.  Make sure you have read every bit of information about the organization on the internet.  Start with the website but don’t end there.  Follow them on social media and read what they have posted in the past.  Check out their followers and employees (LinkedIn) to see if you know people with connection to the organization.  If you know people, contact them and learn what you can about the organization.  The more you learn about the organization, their activities and what is important to them the more prepared you can be.

If you have gotten as far as an in person interview with the Search Committee they think there is relevance in your background for their organization.  It may be your fundraising experience or experience with the same types of program – even better, both!  Review the job description in detail to see what is important for the position and be prepared to describe how you are a good fit.  Be as specific as possible.  If you’ve done your homework about the organization, weave your connection to their priorities into your answers.

Be Honest
In a group interview, there will be different opinions about how situations should be handled and the kinds of experience that are most important.  Some questions may seem to contradict each other and it may seem like conflicting answers would be the “right” one.  My advice here is very simple – BE HONEST.  It is so easy to spot an answer that sounds like “This is what they want to hear.”  You don’t know the opinion of the other people on the committee and the answer that satisfies one person may be the one that sinks you with others.

Be Confident
Be confident in who you are.  I have seen some candidates begin to squirm and look flustered when interview questions seem scattered and contradictory.  A good candidate who is honest and believes in him/herself is much more effective. An Executive Director will have to deal with difficult situations.  Interviewers will appreciate your straightforward, honest answers even if it isn’t the answer they were looking for.

Be Thoughtful
In a group setting many interviewers will provide background information before their question.  It is perfectly okay to pause a moment to consider the question – either the questioner or someone else may jump in with additional information that helps. Give your answer by describing how you would approach the situation rather than saying exactly what you would do - sort of Supreme Court Justice candidate style.

Be prepared with you own questions.  The time frame and process remaining, board-ED relationship, and the organization’s finances and all fair game subjects.  I always have the salary discussion with the candidates in a one on one conversation before the Search Committee interview.  I will only recommend a candidate to a Search Committee if I think this won’t be problem issue.  So this usually doesn’t come up in a group interview.  I don't recommend bringing up salary with a group unless they do.  Best answer - honesty.

I strongly recommend that if you meet with a Search Committee you document the questions asked and conversation within 24 hours.  If you make it to an interview with the Board, you will want to have this for your preparation.  And don’t forget the thank you note – email is okay – with your main contacts.

If a consultant is your main contact and was present but not a questioner - at the Search Committee interview and you are making it to the next step with the Board definitely initiate a conversation with her/him.  They are unlikely to give you specific feedback but they may say something helpful.  For instance - "X is important to them and your answer on that was strong."  Good to know - it most likely will be important to the Board too.

The interview process on the road to becoming a nonprofit CEO is definitely arduous.  But nobody is perfect and the Board and Search Committee will be choosing someone who is the best fit - not someone who is perfect.  Be confident in yourself and honest and GOOD LUCK!

You may also be interest in:

Thursday, February 26, 2015

10 Important Steps to Take for Your LinkedIn Profile to Present As A Wow Executive Director Candidate

When you are seeking or hoping to be discovered for a Nonprofit Executive Director position, you need to pay attention to your online presence. Even if you have the most professional resume ever written, the person conducting the search will be checking you out online. Your facebook page may be private, but if it is public make sure it does not have anything that would be offensive to anyone on it. Same goes for Instagram, twitter, etc. But more important than what you don’t say is what you do say and the site that needs your attention is Linkedin.   Linkedin is being used more by nonprofits and many nonprofit executive level jobs are now posted on Linkedin. Here are 10 things to do to make your Linkedin Profile present you as a wow candidate for executive director positions.

1. Consistency between your LI Profile and Resume
You should give your Linkedin profile as much attention as you do your resume. But they are not written in exactly the same way. Resumes are essentially a paper document and a Linkedin profile is an online document. The LI profile should be crisp and use bullet points. It does not need to be complete with details on every job you ever had but it does need to be consistent with your resume. For instance, if a hiring manager looks at both and they have different dates with listed companies that would be a problem. This could easily happen if you have written your LI profile at a different time than you did your resume and didn’t check the details as you did later when you were completing a resume for a job search. Make sure they both are consistent.

2. Thoroughness 
 Your Linkedin profile should be as long and as complete as possible. Linkedin puts the most important sections first and someone can just stop scrolling whenever they want. However, Linkedin provides the opportunity to include things that may be helpful that would not be appropriate to include with a resume. Make sure you take advantage of all this extra information. Here are some possibilities that you should not overlook.

3. Volunteer Experience and Causes
Are you a regular volunteer or have you served on a Board. Make sure you include it in this section. There may be an ED opening in a field not related to your current job but related to a field you have volunteer and/or board experience with. This section of your LI profile can be the most important one you will ever fill out and it is often overlooked. It is especially important for people who are seeking a career change into the nonprofit sector to complete this section of the profile

4. Slideshare
Are you asked to give talks to groups? Is it something okay to share publicly? Consider posting your presentations on slideshare and linking them to Linkedin. EDs and CEOs has expected to be good speakers and are the voice and face of the nonprofit organization in many venues. It does not hurt for your LI profile to show that you are experienced at public speaking.

5. Skills and Endorsements
This is a very important section to complete BEFORE you send out invitations to join your network. List the skills you have – especially ones you think will be important in the type of job you are seeking. Look at the Linkedin Profile of people you know that have the kind of position you seek and see the skills listed high on their profile. When you complete this section of the profile make sure you check all of the boxes about endorsements.

6. Connections
The more legitimate connections you have on LinkedIn the better.  Stay away from people you don’t know who look like they will just be bothersome to you.  Linkedin makes it easy to grow your network. First they will connect with your email address book and invite all or selected people to join your network. When people accept your invitation they will also have the opportunity to endorse you for skills listed. You profile is improved by people endorsing you for skills you have. When people accept your invitation in most cases you will be able to see their connections. Scan through them and if there are people THAT YOU KNOW and would like to connect with invite them to join your network. They don’t have to be your BFF but they should be someone you know. How well do you have to know them? When I get someone’s business card at a conference, client meeting, etc I feel comfortable asking them to join my network. The sooner, the better – while they still recognize my name. You will want to grow your network of nonprofit connections as much as possible because you never know who will be an important connection later. I have seen this happen at the most unexpected times.

7. Recommendations
People can endorse you simply by checking a box next to your name and this will be shown in tabular form on your profile. More important are actual written recommendations. People ask for recommendations through LI. Sometimes someone will write one for you and you should consider writing one on their profile if appropriate. Don’t feel shy about asking people to write recommendations for you. If you see a profile with many recommendations I can guarantee that an email was sent to connections asking for recommendations.

8. Projects
The LI Profile has a special section for “Projects.” If you have been part of or led a major project or inter-agency project, this is a good place to highlight it.

9. Other
There are a bunch of other sections and they are not all appropriate for everyone. But some of them are right for you and add value to your profile.

10. Be vigilant, Appreciative and Current
Update your Linkedin profile in real time. Received an honor last night? This morning is a good time to add it to your profile. Be sure to check off skills you know about for people in your network and thank people when they write a recommendation for you. If appropriate always write a recommendation for people who have recommended you. Like your connections updates. In brief, use LI as the networking tool it is meant to be. Of course all of this should be done in moderation. You don’t want to spend an excessive amount of time on LI, but you do want to make good use of it – especially if you are interested in advancement.

You can check out my profile on LinkedIn here.  And please feel free to ask to connect with me.


Monday, February 02, 2015

How Does Your Nonprofit Board Stack Up? New BoardSource Report Gives You the Tools

Boardsource  just released the report on its latest  study on Board performance. They asked over 1000 CEOs/EDs  and Board Chairs to complete a detailed survey and in these days when “big data” is king – here it is - all nicely analyzed and tabulated for you. “Leading with Intent – A National Index of Nonprofit Board Practices”  provides important insight into board practices. It is a treasure trove of information enabling you to see how your Board stacks up against similar Boards. 

I recommend that you read the whole report.  You can download it here 

The report is divided into three categories – People, Work and Culture. 

Leading with Intent - BoardSource Report Structure

There is too much data to cover in one blog post so this one just features the results in the “work” category. 

Leading with Intent - CEO and Board Chair Grades for Board Responsibilities

Boardsource asked CEOs and Board Chairs to rate their Boards in the 10 basic areas of responsibility for Boards.  This chart shows that there are some important areas that need improvement: Fundraising and community relations are on every list of desired improvement in Boards.  But equally important are these areas in the middle that are too often neglected: I believe that nonprofits can be much more effective if Boards  took their responsibilities for strategic planning, CEO evaluation and monitoring programs more seriously.  These areas are much more tied to fundraising and community relations that we give them credit for. One of the most important results from strategic planning that I have seen is a dramatic increase in awareness and involvement by Board members with the organization.  Being excited about the strategic direction of an organization equips a Board member with the tools to be involved in fundraising and community relations.  In essence it gives them the belief and the storybook to go with it – the ingredients so often missing to enable board members to be effective ambassadors.

Next lets take a look at this chart:

An interesting question:  In your opinion what are the three most important areas the Board should address to improve performance? 
The predictable:  The Board Chairs and CEO agree that “Strengthening fundraising” is the most important by far.  There is also 100% agreement at 41% that “Strengthen Outreach efforts and act as ambassadors for the organization” is important. 

More interesting:  While 28% of Chairs said “strengthen the approach to strategic planning was one of the most important areas needing improvement, only 17% of CEOs did.  Conversely, while 22% of CEOs thought that Boards should be more accountable, only 12% of Board Chairs saw this as a priority.  Hmmmm.  I quick survey and conversation on these questions would make an excellent board development exercise and a board meeting or retreat.

None of us – individuals or organizations - are perfect.  However, you can use this data for benchmarking your own Board performance and see how you stack up compared to similar organizations. There is data presented in this report by size and type of organization so that you can compare yourself to your peers.

If you are interested in working with me on board development using this report data, please let me know.  I can’t wait to delve in even further.


A popular resource all year long:

2014 Wishlist of Books for Nonprofit Folk