Monday, November 10, 2014

2014 Wishlist of Books for Nonprofit Folk and Giveaway

This is the sixth year I am writing the Wishlist of Books for Nonprofit Folk which has grown and grown since its inception. I am unabashedly proud of this diverse, curated list.  This year, for the second year in a row, the Terry McAdam Book Award winner will be the featured book and giveaway book on the list. 
Kivi Leroux Miller has graciously agreed to offer her award winning Content Marketing for Nonprofits: A Communications Map for Engaging Your Community, Becoming a Favorite Cause, and Raising More Money as a giveaway for the post.  

I also extend a huge thank you to the nonprofit thought leaders who contributed to this list.  They are Debra Beck, Kathleen Brennan, Heather Carpenter,  Linda Czipo, Pamela Grow, John Haydon, Beth Kanter and  Marc A. Pitman.  What a stellar list of contributors! I publish this list at this time of year because I think a book is the perfect holiday gift for that someone special in your nonprofit network.  Any of these books would be a very thoughtful gift.
To give some order to the list, I have arranged it loosely into three sections:
  • Marketing and Communication
  • Planning and Leadership
  • Fundraising

Marketing and Communication

First up is Content Marketing for Nonprofits: A Communications Map for Engaging Your Community, Becoming a Favorite Cause, and Raising More Money which is the giveaway this year compliments of the author, Kivi Le Roux Miller.

The way this list is put together is that I send an email to nonprofit sector leaders and changemakers and ask for their recommendations.  The very first reply I had was from John Haydon who recommended this book and said: “Content Marketing for Nonprofits by Kivi is a must. I love this book because it walks you through, step-by-step, the process for creating a comprehensive content marketing strategy. Each chapter is full of tactics that nonprofits can put into action right away.” 

It is the winner of the prestigious Terry McAdam Award which is annually awarded by the Alliance for Nonprofit Management to
the most inspirational and useful new book published which makes a substantial contribution to nonprofit management.  The Chair of the 2014 Committee, describes Kivi’s book as “a fun and insightful read that guides the management of nonprofit organizations to integrate marketing and communications with community engagement, fundraising and programmatic services. It provides the approach with both depth and practical application and examples.”  This is a must have in any nonprofit personal library.  Details to enter the giveaway are at the end of the post.  Visit Kivi’s website here.

​Also recommended by John Haydon – Nonprofit author, web creator, #1 Facebook maven

John says:  “For Nonprofit marketers who feel like they can't write, or feel overwhelmed with starting a blog or writing E-mail newsletters, this book provides tactics to help even the "non-writer" get started.​”

Your Perfect Presentation: Speak in Front of Any Audience Anytime Anywhere and Never Be Nervous Again by Bill Hoogterp
Recommended by Linda Czipo, Executive Director at NJ Center for Non-Profits

Linda says, “It offers a wide array of tips, techniques, exercises, etc., to strengthen public speaking skills in a variety of situations. Even if you only use a fraction of the information, it will improve your effectiveness as a speaker.

Thiagi's Interactive Lectures: Power Up Your Training With Interactive Games and Exercises by Sivasailam Thiagi Thiagarajan  
Recommended by Beth Kanter – Internationally recognized nonprofit social media guru, trainer and facilitator   Beth referred her blog post Nonprofit Technology Training for this list.  If you are involved in training and facilitation you must read this post and check out all of the resources.  I have included Interactive Lectures because I think it has broad application.  Beth’s comments:  “”Thiagi’s” tips will help you avoid being boring and make it more interactive.  This book has been on my shelf for almost 10 years and I’ve had the opportunity to test and play with almost all the techniques in the book - and it makes teaching so much more fun for both you and your students.”

Planning and Leadership

The Sustainability Mindset: Using the Matrix Map to Make Strategic Decisions by Steve Zimmerman and Jeanne Bell

Recommended by Heather Carpenter, PhD, Assistant Professor at Grand Valley School of Public, Nonprofit and Health Administration
This is a comprehensive resource which will give a nonprofit the framework they need to make decisions for sustainability and help leaders address the challenges inherent in balancing mission impact with financial viability.  This book is a successor to the authors’   Nonprofit Sustainability: Making Strategic Decisions for Financial Viability  which has been one of the most popular books on last year’s list.  (Yes, I know that.)  It is loaded with useful figures, tables and templates.

Recommended by Debra Beck, Nonprofit Board/Governance expert -author, blogger, educator
Deb has an excellent blog article on this topic which includes a video by Forrester.   Click here for “The Power of Intention in Nonprofit Governance: Building Reflective Leadership.”
Forrester makes a clear and compelling case for the value of reflection in organizational life. Embracing the role of pausing, reflecting, and digging deeper to address the underlying issues being considered increases the potential for both higher-quality board decisions and higher board member satisfaction and motivation.

There are a zillion fundraising books out there but these books have been recommended by top fundraising experts.  I am so happy to see two of them aimed specifically at small nonprofits.

Kathleen Brennan – CEO, Emerson and Church Publishers and Pamela Grow – Fundraising Expert recommended the same two books:
Straight to the point, Pamela says, Fundraising really is everyone’s job. That’s why I loved Andrea Khilstedt and Andy Robinson’s new book.”  See Pamela’s review here.

Retention Fundraising: The New Art and Science of Keeping Your Donors for Life by Roger Carver
Pamela says, “Ask anyone what the biggest problem in nonprofit fundraising is and the statistics don’t lie: donor retention….should be on every fundraiser’s bookshelf. See Pamela’s review here.

Pamela and Amy Eisentein both recommend Amy’s new book:
Pamela says, “It guides readers, step by step through starting and growing their major gift fundraising.”

Pamela also provided a link to her post: Five Great Non-Fundraising Fundraising Books.  Click here to see Pamela’s list.

The Essential Fundraising Handbook for Small Nonprofits by Kirsten Bullock, Betsy Baker, Gayle L. Gifford, Pamela Grow, Lori L. Jacobwith, Marc A. Pitman, Sherry Truhlar, Sandy Rees

 Recommended by Marc A. Pitman  

Marc recommended a wonderful list of books, many of which have been on previous wishlists.  I’ve chosen this blockbuster from his list to be on the wishlist.  Look at the list of stellar fundraising experts who collaborated as authors for this book. Marc says, “8 of us launched The Essential Fundraising Handbook this year. WOW. It keeps selling well every month!” And I say,  “Wow! All fundraisers will want to have this on their bookshelf.”

Also by Marc and not on a previous wishlist…..

Nonprofit Social Media: A beginner's guide to nurturing relationships from your desk   

We all know that nurturing relationships is important to nonprofits but do you know how to do it on Social Media?  Here’s the how-to resource guide for you.

I am adding just one book to this diverse list of books:

Cause for Change: The Why and How of Nonprofit Millennial Engagement by Kari Dunn Saratovsky and Derrick Feldmann
Derrick and Kara are the premier researchers on what makes Millennials tick when it comes to nonprofits.  I have been writing about their reports and annual conference for the last few years and this book has been on the Wishlist for Nonprofit Folk Pinterest Board for quite some time. Millennials do things differently than older generations and if you want to connect with them as volunteers, supporters and donors you need to understand how they relate to nonprofits.  Here is a link to Beth Kanter’s excellent full review of this book.

My thanks to all of the thought leading contributors for sharing their recommendations with us and a special thank you to Kivi Leroux Miller for offering her highly acclaimed, award winning book as the giveway for this year’s post.

Giveaway Details
If you would like an opportunity to win a copy of Content Marketing for Nonprofits just leave a comment here about the list or add a book you would recommend.  Another way to enter is to visit the MarionConway – Nonprofit Consultant  facebook page and leave a comment on the post about this giveaway.  The winner will be chosen from comments made by midnight, November 28, 2014.

If you enter the giveaway, please email me your email address so that I can contact you if you are the winner.

All of these books are at Amazon.  Just click on the title below and you’ll be at Amazon.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Major Gifts – Treat Donors Like Grown-Ups

I am familiar with all the advice and steps that should be taken to develop relationships, multiple touches, involve Board members with connections, moves management, etc. You are too and some of them you actually do and others you are considering. The theme for this month’s Nonprofit Blog Carnival is Tricks or Treats – How Do You Get and Sustain Major Gifts? I wanted to participate in this informative and fun event but what tricks do I know beyond the basics? At first I couldn’t think of any and then I remembered one client in particular I worked with and this advice I gave to them. 

Major donors will understand the reality of your needs and “You should treat them like grown-ups.” That’s my advice – rather than like a fragile china doll – which is what some of the standard advice amounts to – treat them like grown-ups. 

Here are the facts in my real life case of an organization I worked with. They provided important services and had a super staff – so far typical. But they were stretched so thin and tried to do way too many things – still typical. However, they were off the charts in critical areas. Their staff had no benefits and were paid 30% below the local nonprofit market resulting in a high turnover rate and lack of stability and experience/leadership on the staff. They had been located for 20 years in a well located building with free rent and the free rent status was in jeopardy. There was no financial reserve and they survived on a month to month basis. Because of the lack of experienced staff, the Executive Director had to spend a significant amount of time on program and operations and there was no one on the staff with development as a responsibility. A volunteer Board member was developing a database and spent significant time every week organizing the fundraising effort and improving its materials. The organization had a solid reputation and a deep support network through churches of various denominations. There was a committed long term Board with varied skills and some fundraising potential. 

You could sum up their situation as "provides lifeline and life changing services, inefficient, not sustainable, has untapped fundraising potential." This organization needed a path to sustainability. Is it doable? Yes. It can be hard to raise funds to keep on doing what you are doing but be able to do it better. But that really is what they wanted. 

What will be the goals for the major gift campaign? 
• Increase staff pay over five years to be comparable with local nonprofits 
• Introduce a shared cost medical benefit for employees 
• Hire a Development Director 
• Develop a reserve that will put the organization in a position to pay rent or meet emergencies 

Can you really tell donors that what you want to do is raise staff pay, hire a development director and save some money in a reserve? Let’s hope so if that is what you need. How do you do that? 

First of all you have faith that you can treat your potential major donors like they are grown-ups. They understand these issues and deal with them in their own businesses. They are willing to support your organization not only on an emotional level – yes, you need those people too – but to respond to the practical reality of where you are right now. 

The plan was straightforward – Identify 100 people willing to commit $1000 a year for five years. Let’s be frank. If people get used to giving your organization $1000 a year for five years and you do a good job of keeping them posted on your progress and results and say thank you regularly – now we are back to the basics – won’t some of them continue at this level? This, my friends, is the Treat and there is no Trick. 

Treat your potential major donors like grown-ups and be Treated.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Emergent Strategic Philanthropy? A Philanthropy Approach Adaptable for Any Size Nonprofit

The philosophy behind strategic philanthropy is that by implementing important core principles - commit to clear goals, data-driven strategies, heightened accountability, and rigorous evaluations –there will be more successful outcomes.  Sounds good.  This is the approach that has been adopted by many foundations and individual philanthropists who have been advised on how to approach philanthropy.
But new ideas emerge…….

A new article on this subject in the Stanford Social Innovation Review recognizes that this is a complex world and a more-nuanced strategic model is needed.  The article distinguishes between straightforward projects such as building a hospital or running an after school program and projects meant to get at the root cause of a problem.  The latter being considered complex.
This is where I parted company with the authors of this article.  In my opinion, all problems that are intertwined with the human condition are complex.  The issues dealt with in after school problems can frequently be complex.  Or sometimes getting to a simple root cause like a child needing glasses can make a big difference.  The concepts of this emergent strategy model can apply to a wide range of situations and that foundations and private philanthropists should be more flexible in the parameters they set for nonprofits.

This model can work for many nonprofit programs. And there is no need to throw the baby out with the bath water.  The current strategic model is the base that it is built on.  Nonprofits start out with goals and develop strategies and programs to achieve those goals.  Through assessments and evaluations they frequently learn that they need to make adjustments.  This should not be seen as failure to meet goals but rather “unrealized strategies” exiting and “emergent strategies” entering.  This happens every day.  Rather than the linear model often purported by logic models this more flexible approach is more akin to the model used in business and industry for years – it is the model of continuous improvement.  That’s all it is – it doesn’t have to be sophisticated, complex, philosophical or whatever big word you like.  It is simple and used every day in business and industry.

I love this line in the SSIR article – “Emergence is where rigor and flexibility meet.”  The article goes on to say, “ Emergent strategy still requires that a clear strategic intent guide the funder’s actions, but it acknowledges that specific outcomes cannot be predicted. Emergent strategic philanthropists will continually strive to react to changing circumstances, so flexible and textured frameworks such as system maps must replace the linear and one-dimensional logic model as the primary means of clarifying strategy. 

I’m sure some of you are thinking so “system maps” will replace logic models.  Yes, no matter what the model, accountability is here to stay.  And there needs to be a framework for accountability.  System maps it will be.

John Cawley at the McConnell Family Foundation (Canada) describes this as having a compass rather than a map.   “A map assumes that you’re going over terrain that somebody has been over before. A compass, on the other hand, keeps one oriented toward the ultimate goal regardless of the unanticipated obstacles and detours that may appear during the journey.

Reference:  Strategic Philanthropy for a Complex World” by John Kania, Mark Kramer, & Patty Russell   Stanford Social Innovation Review, Summer 2014

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Search for a New Executive Director in a Small Nonprofit

Whether an organization is large, medium or small, it is a very big deal when an Executive Director leaves. But when it happens in a small nonprofit there are usually limited resources available to keep things afloat AND conduct a search for a replacement.  This is an area that I am working in specifically – executive search for small nonprofits.

When I get a call from a Board President about conducting a search s/he is often at one end of the spectrum of possibilities.  There is the person who feels that the organization is in crisis and worried about how they will continue to operate in the interim and wants somebody “really fast” before the whole place falls apart.  The other scenario is a Board and Board President that are clueless about how the Executive Director handled a zillion things concurrently and really kept the place together.  They are sometimes all too happy to have a breather from the expense of an Executive Director and have a chance to do some things their way.

No matter where on this spectrum an organization’s leaders are, it is a big deal when an Executive Director leaves.  Don’t panic and don’t be oblivious about the impact of a departing ED either.  First step – read my article In the Interim - Appreciate and Use that Time Between Leaders.

Although each search is unique, here is the outline of the process I use.

Step One: Make Sure You Know What You Want and What You Can Afford
When I first meet with a Board President and search committee I do a lot of listening.  I try to find out what are the most important skills their ED must have, what are their expectations and what kind of relationship an ED can expect to have with the Board.  I gather background information about the organization and write a draft job description so that we have a starting point to describe the job. 

I ask about salary and benefits and advise them about its reasonableness.   This can be an interesting discussion.  If you want someone with advanced skills and experience and demonstrated results it will cost you.  If you are willing to hire someone in their first ED position you will pay less.  These candidates can bring energy and new ideas to the position but you will have to give them some breathing space to grow into the job.  The job description draft is then finalized.  Benefits are also important.  If all the other employees are part time or hourly the small nonprofit is sometimes unprepared to deal with the expectations for medical and 401K and perhaps tuition reimbursement benefits.

Step Two: Finding Qualified Candidates
I always post a full job description at and the Foundation Center and for a New Jersey client the Center for Nonprofits website.  I always recommend that the job be posted on the organization’s website and that it is emailed to funders and other nonprofit leaders. Depending on the mission of the organization there may be some other key places to post the opening.  One important rule – always list when applications must be received by.

Although I am a consultant, I have the organization set up an email for me usually entitled

Step Three: Assessing Candidates and Reducing the Number Considered
Here are two alternatives I have used to identify the candidates who will be considered for the position:

I set up a folder on the google G drive so that the search committee members can see all the applications and when the application date closes, I provide a spreadsheet with candidate name, my assessment based on the key skills/experience required  - very qualified, qualified, not qualified and a brief description of their skills.

As an alternative, I meet with the Search Committee and depending on the number of resumes, have a variety of ways of identifying the candidates to be considered further.  All of the resumes are reviewed – sometimes by sub-groups and then narrowed by exchanging resumes with another sub-group.

In either case, the Search Committee chooses candidates that I will conduct telephone interviews with.  Based on these preliminary telephone interviews I recommend candidates for in person interviews.  Typically I conduct 6-10 telephone interviews and the Search Committee interviews 3-5 candidates.

At this point the Search Committee needs to impress the candidate as much as they are trying to impress you. You need to put your best foot forward.  Smaller organizations sometimes need some extra coaching about details at this point in the process and having professional help can make a difference.  We discuss where the interview will be held and make sure that this space and the ED’s office hasn’t been turned into a storage area if it will be shown during the interview. These things are usually not issues in larger organizations but unfortunately can be awkward for small nonprofits.

We discuss the interview format and what is appropriate and legal to ask. Often I am asked to meet and introduce the candidate and kickoff the interview. I also play the role of putting the candidate at ease.  I am the timekeeper, make sure the candidate has an opportunity to ask questions too and wrap it up in a timely manner –especially if someone else is expected.  I then notify candidates who are not selected and provide individualized feedback to them if requested.

Step Four: Final Interview and Closing the Deal
In most cases, there is one more interview for one or two of the remaining candidates.  This interview is with the whole Board.   Again Boards of small organizations may need some coaching before the interview.  Board members who are not in the workforce or do not have management experience need to have some guidance about what is appropriate and not appropriate to ask candidates.  If the board has a lawyer or human resources professional they can provide this guidance and if not, I meet with the Board to prepare them for the interview.  The candidate may have some tough questions for the Board also – such as questions about the financial strength of the organization, its fundraising capacity and the expected board and staff relationship.

Once the Board has selected a candidate, I will ask for references, contact them and make a reference report.  The Chair or other member makes the contact directly with the candidate and makes the offer. Once an offer is accepted, I let any remaining candidates know that they have not been selected.

General Advice
One of the biggest issues I have when working with a Search Committee is usually the committee members all are busy people.  You need to remember that once you begin to advertise the position you are dealing with candidates that are on a parallel path of being on a job search.  It is important to keep the process moving so that your best candidates don’t drop out as they receive other job offers.

This is a straightforward process and if you are experienced, it is not intimidating.  If you find yourself in the position of being a Board Member in need of a new Executive Director – even if you are a small nonprofit – consider hiring a consultant to manage the process for you.  It will be an excellent investment.