Wednesday, September 14, 2016

The Happy Healthy Nonprofit - A Must Read

Everyone in the nonprofit sector who know Beth Kanter (That is everyone, right?) has anxiously awaited the arrival of her newest book, The Happy Healthy Nonprofit and I have been fortunate enough receive a final galley for review.  This weekend I began to read it with pen in hand to take notes for the review but soon I had to stop taking notes because I was writing so much. This book is written by Beth Kanter and Aliza Sherman but please excuse me if I just refer to Beth because I know Beth.  

This is a book that you will want to read and keep on your bookshelf to refer to over and over again.  It is a resource that all nonprofit leaders and Board leaders should read and take to heart.  It is destined to be a must have book for a long time to come.

I knew this would be a good book because it is an important topic and Beth has been taking personal action and writing about it for a long time.  But I was unprepared for what a page turner it would be. I even failed at one of their cardinal recommendations to get enough sleep by continuing to read it when I was in bed and my husband was sound asleep next to me.

The authors say that the goal of the book is to give you actionable ideas and advice along with research and data for making positive changes for a happy healthy life and nonprofit.  They deliver on this goal.  This is not touchy feely pie in the sky.  It is all practical and doable. The book is organized into two major sections: Revitalize Yourself and Revitalize Your Organization.  This makes sense – after all, you have to be the change you want to be and it has to start with yourself. The discussion starts with burnout and addresses the five spheres of healthy, Happy Living – Relationship to self, others, environment, work and Money and Tech.  The authors point out that  “A more relaxed mind can help you be more productive and more creative.”  We all know this to be true but ignore it way too often.  This book will help you develop simple practices for yourself and your nonprofit so that it becomes part of your DNA.

Part 2 is dedicated to revitalizing Your organization.  Key topics include organizational culture,  self-care to we-care, processes for well being in the workplace and strategy for getting there.  There is a quote by Peter Drucker that I just love, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”  As someone who worked for years with nonprofits on strategic planning I can say that this is TRUE.  All of your strategies will be hollow if the culture of the organization does not lift up your vision, mission, goals and action plans.  This section has an excellent set of questions to ask about your own organization’s culture to get started on assessing what changes are best for you.  And then practical advice for moving from self-care to we-care.  It doesn’t necessarily take a lot of hard work to make this transformation but it does take commitment  and participation from the top and employee engagement.

One of the things I like best about a book written by Beth Kanter is that it is so well researched.  This book is chock full of professional references and real life examples that cost little or nothing at all.  There is a long list of specific, easy to implement examples that real nonprofits are doing that even the smallest nonprofit can do. I am always interested in practices that are practical for small nonprofits and this book has oodles of them.

I have one small suggestion for the second edition.  Add a list of definitions at the end.  You have wonderful definitions of the terms we all know and I'd like to have an easy look-up of lots of new terms I saw in the book. 

I have been very negligent in my blogging this year and I can give you my list of reasons why.  But the truth is I just wasn’t motivated by topics that excited me.  Beth has motivated me and filled my mind and heart with lots of ideas to write about and I will be using this book and some of the resources she mentions to reactivate my writing.  Thanks Beth.  Thanks for this wonderful new book and all the energy you bring to the nonprofit world.

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Thursday, January 21, 2016

Finding the Best Candidates for Your Nonprofit Executive Position

You really can’t have a “If we build it, they will come” attitude about finding the best candidates for a Nonprofit Executive position. This is especially true for small and midsize organizations that are not well known.  This article is for you.  Too often some of the best ways of finding the best candidates are overlooked.  You need to actually recruit candidates – not expect that they will come to you without working at it. Volume isn’t the goal – quality and good fit are the goals.  Here is my list of actions to take to let the right people know about your executive director or other high level executive opening. 

When a small/midsize nonprofit executive leaves, the Board usually appoints a Search Committee to find and recommend the best candidates to fill the position. Once you have done the hard work of developing an accurate job description then the job of finding great candidates begins in earnest.  So what should you do?  The answer: LOTS OF THINGS!  Here’s a grocery list.

Advertise – In the Right Places
There are job boards specifically for Nonprofits.  They are low cost or free and visited by people specifically interested in Nonprofits.  Idealist and The Foundation Center list full job descriptions and yield excellent experienced candidates.  In NJ I always list a nonprofit opening at the Center for Nonprofits job board.  Your organization may belong to local professional groups that list nonprofit jobs and that can be an excellent resource. 

Your Website
I don’t understand why but some small organizations shy away from advertising an executive position on their own website.  They are afraid of getting too many inappropriate applications or having someone they really don’t want to apply.  Really?  Just discard the inappropriate applications and don’t consider seriously anyone you don’t want to.  As a consultant I have been asked to interview as a courtesy unqualified or underqualifed candidates for any number of reasons.  I conduct the same half hour introductory telephone interview with them as all the other candidates and provide honest feedback of the major criteria categories just like every other candidate.  I am an outsider and document the same information about each candidate.  The grading against the major requirements  and feedback from the telephone interview become the basis for which candidates are interviewed in person. Bottom Line: Don’t worry  about having too many candidates or one you rather not deal with.

Solicitation Letter
Send a letter to nonprofit leaders, foundation executives, funders and partners announcing the opening and asking them to pass the information on to potential candidates.  This can be the most effective step you take.  People who weren’t thinking about seeking another position, who are currently employed will consider applying  for the opening.  A funder may discuss the possibility with an individual they think is a good fit. A partner may pass it on to someone not in your network who is an excellent candidate.  Using this kind of networking can yield outstanding candidates.

Your Executive Search Consultant
Your executive search consultant should be able to identify potential candidates for you.  I always know people who are in a job search and I always reach out to people I know to recommend potential candidates.

Social Media
Linkedin and Facebook are excellent hunting ground for candidates if you already have a presence there.  LinkedIn has an excellent program for nonprofits and you should apply now and not wait until you need the service.  The premium membership (free for approved nonprofits) gives you search capabilities that are excellent for searching for Board members as well as potential job candidates.  LinkedIn has also become an excellent job board resource.  If you have an active facebook page –let your fans know that you have an opening.  You never know who may learn about your opening this way.

What other ways have you used to recruit candidates?  Please share them in the comments.


P.S.  My consulting practice is limited to executive search for small and midsize organizations.  If you would like more information about working with me please email me at