Tuesday, December 24, 2013

My Wish for You in 2014…….. Be Heretical for Equality, Peace and Love

Dear Friends,

I wish all of you a joyous holiday season and a blessed New Year. Once a year I have the same post at both of my blogs Marion Conway – Nonprofit Consultant and The Grandma Chronicles. This is that joint post.

Every year, I take some quiet time to reflect on the year that is coming to a close and the one that is ahead.   This has been a good year for me personally and involved some planned change. I decided early in 2013 to slow down my business to have more time for family and retirement enjoyment and I am glad that I did.  Of course as soon as the world knows you have a little free time it is filled up quickly and mine did with a couple of major volunteer responsibilities that are still in progress.  I did more speaking, spent more time with my daughter, son-in-law and grandson and my son was married and so our family grew with a new daughter-in-law.  It was a busy year.
Cookie Baking Day with my daughter and grandson
My son and daughter-in-law on the altar at St. John's at their wedding
In 2014 my professional work will also change – it’s more of a fork in the road than a turn.  I don’t plan to actively pursue work with strategic planning any longer as it involves long term commitments on my part.  I will continue with board development and social media projects for nonprofits.  What will be new is that I plan to write and speak about philanthropy.  Philanthropy – not fundraising.  Stay tuned.

Each year this post usually includes my wish for you in the coming year.  This year will be different in that regard too.  I’d like to share some thoughts I heard in a recent sermon by the Reverend Barrington Bates, Interim Rector at St. John’s Episcopal Church, Montclair, NJ  (my parish church).

Barrie started his sermon discussing our Confirmation class’ curriculum about heretics.  The curriculum defines a heretic as someone who holds unorthodox opinion or doctrine as in religion, politics, philosophy or science.  Heretics can be shunned or even killed for their beliefs and they may or may not be right.  Sometimes it takes years or even centuries before their ideas are shown to be wise. 

The confirmands identified and discussed some people who started out as heretics with this definition.  Their discussion included Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, Joan of Arc, Steve Jobs, Nicholas Tesla, Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu and Jesus.  The other person who came immediately to my mind was Galileo.

Barrie added John the Baptist to the core of his Advent 3 sermon and ended with these words:  “ Let us all be heretics for equality.  Heretics for peace.  Heretics for love.”

People couldn’t stop talking about this sermon after the service.  It was powerful and resonated with our current times and so I decided to share this with you in this season of peace and love. 
My thoughts for connecting this to nonprofits and grandparents for 2014….
Barrie added equality to the traditional Christmas themes of peace and love – I think this will be an important issue for nonprofits in 2014.  We should think outside the dots and perhaps be heretical in our approach sometimes if we really want change.  I think 2014 will provide lots of opportunity for this and taking the less safe road. 

Now Grandparents…. If you are like me you have some ideas that are quite different than your kids about your grandkids.  Are they right?  Perhaps.  But perhaps rather than the standard advice that a grandparent should keep their mouths shut if they want to have good relationships… just perhaps there are times to speak up.  You may seem heretical or you may seem wise, and definitely think this through first.  You don’t need to be confrontational but silence isn’t always golden.

For myself I am planning for 2014 to be a thoughtful, deliberate and action filled year.  I’ve always been somewhat unorthodox but I’ve never thought of myself as a heretic.   Maybe, I’ll give it some consideration.

Wishing You a Joyous and Blessed Holiday Season,


Sunday, December 01, 2013

#GivingTuesday - Are You In? It's Not Too Late

First we had Black Friday for serious in the physical store shoppers.  Then came Cyber Monday for the new breed of online shoppers.  Up next is Shop Small Saturday to encourage shopping at small businesses.  But alas, something important was still missing.  After all,  post Thanksgiving and pre-Christmas there should be some giving – right?  And now we have  #GivingTuesday.  If you work in the nonprofit sector you may have heard of it but don’t know much about it.  Well that’s because it is pretty new.  Tuesday, December 3rd will be only the second annual #GivingTuesday.  So what it is all about?

Mission Statement of #Giving Tuesday
#GivingTuesday™ is a campaign to create a national day of giving at the start of the annual holiday season. It celebrates and encourages charitable activities that support nonprofit organizations.

Simple and straightforward.  And a great idea.  Started by the United Nations Foundation and the 92d Street Y, #GivingTuesday establishes a specific day to focus on giving and much like Black Friday and Cyber Monday have become huge, #GivingTuesday is off to a great start.

Let’s just take a look at its inaugural year in 2012. There were more than 2,500 recognized #GivingTuesday™ partners from all 50 states. The collective efforts of partners, donors and advocates helped fuel a remarkable increase in charitable giving .  There are some clear measurements available to prove it.  Blackbaud processed over $10 million in online donations on 11/27/12 – a 53% increase when compared to the Tuesday after Thanksgiving the previous year.  DonorPerfect recorded a 46% increase in online donations and the average gift increased 25%. 

This year there are over 8300 partners registered to participate.  The #givingtuesday website is chockfull of information and ideas of how you can get involved.  And you can do a sort by state to see who’s involved in your state.  I was so happy to see so many NJ nonprofits – including those who’ve attended my social media workshops – listed as partners.

It is not surprising that another great resource I found for getting involved with #givingtuesday is at Beth Kanter’s blog: http://www.bethkanter.org/givingtueday-tips/
Here are some ideas of how you can become involved even at the last minute:

Update the home page of your website today with a #givingtuesday message and extra link to your donation page.  You can download an official logo for free at the #givingtuesday website.  If your friends decide to check out your website on Tuesday they will see that you are on board.

Post #givingtuesday messages on facebook and your other social media sites on Tuesday.

Set up a #givingtuesday special page on your website with lost of ideas on how people can participate.

Remind people to take advantage of corporate matching gifts.

It's a good time to highlights other ways people can help on your website - advocacy, food, clothing, volunteering.

There are lots of ideas and resources at the #givingtuesday website.  Many require that you have planning for this event.  Check out #GivingTuesday activities and start to plan your involvement for next year.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

2013 Wishlist of Books for Nonprofit Folk and Blockbuster Giveaway !!!!!

Update: 12/4/13 - Nancy Iannone is the winner of Amy Sample Ward's Social Change Anytime Everywhere and Patty Manwaring is the winner of Measuring the Networked Nonprofit.  Congratulations to both of you.  And a big thank you to Beth Kanter and Amy Sample Ward for offering their books in this giveaway.

Giveaways - Measuring the Networked Nonprofit and Social Change Anytime Everywhere

This is the fifth year I am writing the Wishlist of Books for Nonprofit Folk which has grown and grown since its inception.  This year I am soooooo excited to be offering the Terry McAdam Book Award winner and finalist as giveaways as part of the post.  Can you believe it – I hardly can!  Beth Kanter is offering her Measuring the Networked Nonprofit and Amy Sample Ward is offering Social Change Anytime Everywhere.

This is a curated list with recommendations made by nonprofit thought leaders covering a wide range of topics including governance, finance, social media, board development, marketing, mergers and more. 

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 – whether they are on the board or staff.  Any of these books would be a very thoughtful gift.

First up are the two books that are being given away – compliments of the authors.  Details to enter the giveaway are at the end of the post.
Measuring the Networked Nonprofit: Using Data to Change the World
by Beth Kanter and KD Paine
JD Lasica was the first response to my request for recommendations saying that this is “The one I always recommend.”  Measuring the Networked Nonprofit is this year’s Terry McAdam Book Award winner. The Alliance for Nonprofit Management  confers  the Terry McAdam Book Award to the most inspirational and useful new book published which makes a substantial contribution to nonprofit management.  It is the most prestigious book award that a book for nonprofits can receive.  Well deserved by Beth and Allyson, this book should be on the bookshelf of every nonprofit executive.

I personally recommend Amy’s book – it is both inspirational and practical.  Amy and Allyson advocate integrating multiple channels into your communications strategy and they use lots of excellent examples and case studies.  Social Change Anytime Everywhere was a Terry McAdam Book Award finalist  - recognized as one of the best nonprofit books of the year.  See all I had to say at this blog post:  Social Change Anytime Everywhere – Think MultichannelStrategy

Heather Carpenter, PhD, Assistant Professor, Grand Valley State University recommendations:

Heather is a young PhD already with a wealth of practical, academic and research experience in the nonprofit field.  Heather is using these books as texts in her courses this term and this is what she had to say about them:  “These books are practical and provide concrete help for successfully running a nonprofit… the research I've done shows that nonprofit managers still need the core financial management and fundraising skills to effectively run their organizations.”  Hey, Heather,  I completely agree and this is an excellent set of current books which address both basic and more advanced skills for nonprofit leaders.
Nonprofit Management 101: A Complete and Practical Guide for Leaders and Professionals
by Darian Rodriguez Heyman

Nonprofit Sustainability: Making Strategic Decisions for Financial Viability by  Jeanne Bell, Jan Masaoka and Steve Zimmerman

Fundraising for Social Change by Kim Klein

Budgeting and Financial Management for Nonprofit Organizations by Lynne A. Weikart and Greg G. Chen

Amy Sample Ward recommends....

Content Marketing for Nonprofits: A Communications Map for Engaging Your Community, Becoming a Favorite Cause, and Raising More Money (The Jossey-Bass Nonprofit Guidebook Series)by Kivi Leroux Miller

Another important fundamental for nonprofits is marketing and no one knows more about nonprofit marketing than Kivi Leroux Miller.  Amy Sample Ward called this book simply “Great.”  And that’s the word from the reviews at Amazon.  This is a must have for nonprofit marketing.

Moving onto Board and Governance Issues…..

You and Your Nonprofit Board: Advice and Practical Tips from the Field's Top Practitioners, Researchers, and Provocateurs edited by Terrie Temkin
I was so proud to be a contributor to this book.  Terrie Temkin and Debra Beck offered these comments:  Terrie:  This anthology is comprised of 38 strong, knowledgeable voices from around the world - each taking a different approach to deal with some critical aspect of governance. The reviews have been stellar. One reason is that the book speaks to governance as it exists today, not last year or even yesterday.”   Debra says of Terrie:  She picked the brains of some of the great governance writers and practitioners, offering from-the-field wisdom about what it takes to support and inspire nonprofit boards to perform to their highest potential (and their greatest aspirations). Advice is highly practical as well, and infinitely do-able. “  See my post for more on this volume:

You and Your Nonprofit Board – Just Published

Debra Beck recommends these two additional books with governance topics:

The Practitioner's Guide to Governance as Leadership: Building High-Performing Nonprofit Boards by Cathy Trower
Debra Beck comments: “Cathy provided the desperately needed follow-up to Chait, Ryan and Taylor's seminal "Governance as Leadership." She offers practical, grounded approaches for applying GAL in the field, based in large part on her own research and her work in the sector. Those of us who responded to Chait et al's work with, "Wow! Now what?" now have the "Now what…"

Nonprofit Governance: Innovative Perspectives and Approaches (Routledge Contemporary Corporate Governance) edited by Chris Cornforth and William A. Brown 
Debra is a contributor to this volume and she describes it as, “articulate, in practitioner-friendly ways, the best and latest research that has the potential to impact board practice. Each chapter explores a different study and a different aspect of what actually happens in nonprofit boardrooms. It offers insights into some of the more pressing "how" and "why" questions and research that attempts to address them.”

The Nonprofit Mergers Part I: The Leader's Guide to Considering, Negotiating, and Executing a Merger by David La Piana
David LaPiana says that this book on nonprofit mergers continues to be a strong seller and he recommends it for this list. If your Board is thinking about this subject, reading this book is the place to learn about everything to consider.

Each year this list features books that are not nonprofit specific but that are recommended by contributors for us nonprofit folk.  There is always something that I would not otherwise have known about that turns out to be a great read.  This year there are two recommendations:

Youtility: Why Smart Marketing Is about Help Not Hype by Jay Baer

John Haydon recommends it (so you have to read it, right.)  John says that Jay Bear “talks about how content marketers shouldn't focus on being awesome, they should focus on being useful. The book covers many examples, mostly for-profit, but the ideas in the book can easily be translated to a nonprofit. Finally, it's a quick read and is organized like a guidebook on the topic.”  Sounds to me like it is for the grown-up crowd.

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain

Nell Edgington writes that Susan Cain helps you appreciate that you must understand and tap into your unique skills and abilities (whatever they may be) in order to make real change happen.  Nell says “the quiet wisdom of this book – it really makes you think, which introverts often encourage us to do.”

So there you have it – a wide range of books running the gamut on topics from the practical to more research driven works.  Whether you are making a wishlist for your own library of thinking of a perfect gift to give, there is probably a gem on this list.

My thanks to all of the thought leading contributors for sharing their recommendations with us and a special thank you to Beth Kanter and Amy Sample Ward for offering their highly acclaimed books as giveways for this annual post.

Giveaway Details

If you would like an opportunity to win a copy of Measuring the Networked Nonprofit by Beth Kanter and KD Paine or Social Change Anytime Anywhere by Allyson Kapin and Amy Sample Ward  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 using random.org from all comments made by midnight, December 2, 2013.

If you enter the giveaway, please email me your email address and preferred book if you win – marionconway@gmail.com.  I will not use your email address for anything other than to contact you if you are a winner.

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


Friday, October 25, 2013

In the Interim - Appreciate and Use that Time Between Leaders

Over the last few years one of my favorite assignments is working with small nonprofits in their search for a new executive director.  I have developed a process that is very effective in identifying and coming to mutual agreement with outstanding ED candidates.  But frankly, I haven’t thought much about the transitional phase nonprofits go through in the time between permanent EDs… until now.  I currently chair the Search Committee for a new pastor for my church congregation.  This is a huge and humbling responsibility and fortunately I am part of an extremely capable Search Committee.  The Church’s governing body has hired an interim pastor and he is not involved in nor can be a candidate for our next permanent pastor according to our church rules.  However, reconciling the past and preparing for the future are part of what is in his contract.  I have read his contract over and over and I am impressed with some of the listed responsibilities.  Here are some highlights:

The interim period is seen as prime time for renewal, re-energizing the parish in its life and mission.
Specific tasks include: 
1)      Coming to terms with the history of the congregation and its relationships with previous clergy.
2)      Discovering the congregation's special identity, what it dreams of being and doing apart from previous clergy leadership.
3)      Dealing with shifts in leadership roles that naturally evolve in times of transition, allowing new leaders to come to the fore constructively.
4)      Renewing and reworking relationships with the Diocese, so that each may be a more effective resource and support to the other.
5)      Building commitment to the leadership of the new rector in order to be prepared to move into the future with openness to new possibilities.

Wow!  That’s a pretty big order.  But guess what, if done right it lays a lot of groundwork for the future success of our new pastor who will be called to lead our congregation.  

All of this has made me think of how important this transition phase is to nonprofits – especially small and mid size organizations.  This is a time of uncertainty and it can me marked by anxiety, impulsive change by temporary leaders, reduced fundraising, etc., etc..  Or it can be a time of understanding who you have been, who you are now, and what are your dreams of becoming.  It should be a time of “renewing and reworking” your relationships with major funders and key supporters.  And it should be a time of preparation for willingness to adapt to a new leader with a new approach, personality, style and goals.

I have seen transitions to new executive directors both as a Board member and as a consultant. They can be smooth, rocky,  invigorating or ineffective.  This process I am going through now is helping me to understand that the transition time is an important one that can provide the setup for success.  It should be appreciated in its own right and fully taken advantage of.

Each transition to a new Executive Director is unique and therefore the plan for each must also be unique.  You may be hiring a first executive director or replacing a founder who ran the place “his way” for the last 25 years.  The ED may have quit after a short tenure even though the Board thought she was perfect for the job or may have left under less than ideal circumstances.  The ED may have just left for a better paying job closer to home.  No matter what the circumstances, make sure you aren’t reactionary and the transition for the new person is as valuable as possible. 
Here are just a few thoughts on this matter for boards to help with the transition.

Conduct and Exit Interview
There are basic HR functions that should occur with an exit process but in addition at least two Board members should interview an exiting ED in order to gain insight that will be helpful with the next ED.  You should ask about any key concerns that the person has with the organization and Board and what they see as the organizational priorities. 

What Needs to be Accomplished in the Interim
Based on the unique issues facing your organization, develop a clear list of responsibilities and goals for the Interim ED.  Make it more than just “keeping the ship afloat.”

If there are currents of unhappiness with the leaving of the last ED, try to have communication that can bring closure.  This can be difficult if there were personnel, ethical or legal issues involved but communicating about the Board’s commitment to the mission and the future should be addressed.  Share the process and hoped for timeline for a new ED to be in place with staff, funders, volunteers and supporters.  Encourage contact with the interim leadership.

This is a good time to hold meetings with your various constituents to see how they view the issues and priorities for the organization.  This information can be helpful as you get further into your search process and what you are looking for in a new ED takes on more clarity.

The Right Welcome
The Board needs to take a leadership role in welcoming the new ED.  Make sure it is announced with fanfare – press release, email blast and reception.  Board members should accompany the new ED on a first visit to funders and major donors.

I am considering developing a model for a “Transition Retreat for Boards and Other Constituents.  What do you think?  What do you suggest I include in such a model?

Friday, September 13, 2013

What the BoardSource Governance Index Says About Small vs. Large Nonprofits

In November 2012 BoardSource issued its most recent Nonprofit Governance Index and I wrote two blog articles about the report as I have done in the past.  My articles on this topic are always popular – and enduring long after they are published.  This year's report included 1341 responses and is quite extensive.  

Download the whole 2012 Nonprofit Governance Report at BoardSource.org - Click Here

Today I am discussing the comparison data of small, medium and large nonprofits. BoardSource calls this "Comparative Board Intelligence."  Sounds intelligent - doesn't it? Well it has lots of data which can definitely be used intelligently so I think it is a good title for the information.  On the very last
page of this report there is a comparison of key variables by size of organizational budget.  The groups are:
                                                        Annual Budget Size                       Sample Size
Small                                                    Under $1M                                       416
Medium                                               $1m - $9.9M                                    647
Large                                                     $10M or More                                 277

Some variables are pretty much the same across the board and there is a great variance with others.  Here are some of the highlights that caught my attention:

Large boards have more members than smaller ones (14 versus 19)

Small boards have better gender diversity  but a more complicated racial diversity profile
   Female Board members:     51% -small, 45%-medium, 37%-large
   Non-white Board members:    82% - 83% across the board
   All white Boards:    36% for small organizations versus 28% for large ones.  (I found both of these figures astonishing.  Really?  In 2012? )
The age profile difference was the biggest surprise.  Most board members are 40 - 64 years old for all size boards, but take a look at this difference at either end:

Small nonprofits literally have twice the percent Board members under 40 (18%) as large ones (9%).  This is one area that small organization boards are way ahead of larger ones.

Let's take a look at where Boards are committing their time on committees.  Some interesting differences here too....

 Large organization Boards are much more committed to audit and finance responsibilities as Board members than small organization Boards.  A big surprise to me me is that a small nonprofit board is more likely to have a fundraising committee.  But I think this is due to frequently having small or no dedicated staff for fundraising at the under $1 Million budget.

Small organizations are improving dramatically with having accountability policies for conflict of interest, whistle blower and document retention hovering near 80% versus over 90% for large organizations.  The requirement to report  this information on the 990 has clearly influenced nonprofit Boards to adopt accountability policies.

The BoardSource Index is an excellent resource for nonprofits to measure  how they are doing in key areas versus their peers.  This is hard data and if you are far behind in certain areas you may identify some basic things that you want to work on.  The report can provide a springboard to action.

My November 2012 Article on the 2012 BoardSource Governance Index