Monday, March 24, 2008

The Downfalls of being Mission Driven

I received a newsletter from a charity that I have supported for many years which sends books and supplies to aid workers in the emerging world. They are closing...they state no reason. There are many things that went through my head when I received this letter, one of which the founder is very old and most likely wants to retire, however the organization doesn't appear to have a succession plan. In addition, the organization sends 100% of the funds overseas and takes none out for overhead. Organizations like this one are applauded everyday and highlighted in the news.

But I can't help but think, could this been avoided--the organization going out of business? Now they won't be able to help anyone else. What if the organization had saved 15% of every dollar earned and set that money aside for a salary so they could put a succession plan in place and continue the work of the founder and help thousands of more aid workers.

The reality people don't want to hear is the nonprofit sector is becoming more and more professionalized, and the organizations that help the most number of people, have high overhead and are competitive. This is a job and a career--charity staff workers shouldn't have to take a vow of poverty to do good work!!

I was inspired to write this post due to NP2020's recent post Nonprofit Leadership: Everyone wants it, but who wants to pay for it?

Operations Management Isn't Sexy

My husband is pursuing his MBA and he happens to be taking an Operations Management course this semester. He was reading a chapter in his text book yesterday and he told me, "hey honey, this chapter says why people don't prioritize operations--it isn't sexy like sales or advertising."

Wow, that is so true. I've known for quite some time that my profession isn't sexy, but it sure is important to the success of the organization. I've seen organizations get so busy they forget to renew their insurance or reorder checks which causes extra time and hassle.

I'm teaching another seminar on Saturday titled Nonprofit Operations: Strategies & Steps for Successful Mission Achievement

I describe the seminar by stating, "Do you focus so strongly on achieving the mission of your organization that certain operational areas get overlooked?" For four short hours, I help nonprofit managers focus on the un-sexy stuff and think about their operations as well as show them ways that smooth operations leads to successful mission achievement.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Reasons why you should start a nonprofit

Many academics and practitioners alike do not want people to start new nonprofits. I disagree, here's why. People are complaining about the low pay in the sector, lack of mentorship opportunities, and the charity scandals are happening each week. We need new nonprofits to revitalize and grow the sector.

Many of the new nonprofits starting up today will put other ineffective nonprofits out of business. These new nonprofits will come up with new and innovative ideas to solve old problems and they will do it in a more cost effective way while paying their employees a decent wage. Sector switching boomers and the younger generations are starting their own nonprofits. We don't tell people they shouldn't start small businesses so we certainly shouldn't say don't start a new nonprofit especially if the person who is starting the nonprofit will do a better job at running their nonprofit than the majority of nonprofits that are already out there.

So, if you are thinking of starting a it! And while you are at it, do it better than what has been done before!!

And if you are in the Bay Area, take my seminar this Saturday 3/15 at John F. Kennedy University--Jumpstart Your Passion: How to Successfully Start and Run Your Own Nonprofit Organization.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Report from the Next Generation of Leaders

I recently read CompassPoint's latest report, "Ready to Lead? Next Generation Leaders Speak Out" and I have to admit I'm a bit of a skeptic now that I have immersed myself in the world of academia.

They state,
  • "One in three (32%) respondents aspires to be an executive director someday"
  • "The nonprofit sector is viewed as a desirable place to work and to seek future employment by people interested in social change"
  • "However the long hours and compromised personal lives associated with executive leadership are significant deterrents to pursuing top positions"
  • "And, lack of mentorship and support from incumbent executives in helping to pave a career path are serious frustrations for many next generation leaders."
I'm not surprised at all with the results, in fact when I read the report, I was thinking, tell me something I don't know? This research report provides simple solutions to a systemic problem. I believe the problem here isn't the boomers or the X or Y generations, the staff and board in nonprofit organizations, its a problem with the nonprofit sector as a system. I worked in my share of nonprofits all with budgets with less than 1mil and I believe they have systemic issues they are dealing with which leads to the challenges or problems that are stated in CompassPoint's report. In order to prove my theory of the system of the nonprofit sector being the problem, I'd really like to do a cross comparison study of nonprofits and small businesses of the same budget size. Do they (small businesses) have the same operational and leadership issues that we do? I just don't know. I want to compare apples to apples like the local Pizza Parlor to the local homeless shelter the not oranges to applies like the Homeless Shelter to IBM.

And until I find out the answer. I'm won't be playing the blame game anymore. We've got to give our ED's credit, they are passionate individuals who have build wonderful organizations. Yes, many of them run operationally challenged organizations and struggle to pay their staff adequate salaries, however can we truly say that the family run grocery store or the small business with the same budget size is any better? Its truly hard to generalize the entire sector, I would have liked to find out what size organization the survey respondents work in.

One more thing, all this research is reporting on people's opinions about what they plan to do or want to do in the future. So, is the case, let's follow up with these folks in a couple of year and see, did they really leave the sector, what job did they end up taking? Did they find mentorship opportunities through other methods, did they end up getting the pay they needed? What size organization do they work in?