Executive Director ~ Regina@nonprofnetwork.org
It was one of those board meetings—the kind that makes you question if you are the right person for the job, if you have the stamina to continue, if anyone in the room has even been listening for the past 6 months to anything you’ve said and if working at a “for profit” is an option.
You know—one of the those meetings.
I think all Executive Directors experience one of these meetings. They have happened to me. And even though they don’t happen frequently, they do happen. And they create an indelible memory.
So what do you do the day after? How do you recover your momentum?
Here are five steps that can help get you back on track after a bad board meeting.
Step 1: Seek Perspective.
Reach out to a trusted peer. It helps to debrief with a mentor and friend. Feel free to do this over a glass of wine a craft beer or an ice cream sundae. Vent, but also listen for the root causes for this bad meeting. Sometimes, reflecting with a peer who can ask good questions will reveal something that could have been done to prevent it, other times not. Remind yourself of all the things you love about your job—decisions made in the heat of the moment are rarely the best.
Step 2: Go Back to Your Roots.
Consider all the things you do that have made you successful, all the best practices and pearls of wisdom that got you here. Often, when I am coaching a frustrated ED, I ask them what they have done in the past to ensure board meetings go well and they realize that they have forgotten good habits.
Step 3: Review with Eyewitnesses.
Reach out to your board members for support. They were there—they saw it happen. Start with your Board Chair. Review the events, ask for feedback, ask for suggestions. Make a plan.
Step 4: Acknowledge and Accept Roles
Have an honest, open conversation with the key players about your experience—and theirs. Be willing to accept responsibility and the role you played, but also be willing to be tactfully and compassionately honest about their role. This needs to be a healthy conversation—use all of your crucial conversation skills (use “I” statements instead of “you” statements that can feel accusatory, focus on information that is data-driven, presume positive intent of the other party, refrain from incendiary language, and provide solutions).
Step 5: Call Out the Elephant.
Don’t sweep it under the rug. At your next board meeting, start by saying, “We had a rough meeting last month. I’d like to re-frame the conversation, share the steps I and some of the board members have taken in the past month, and let you all know that where we are today.” Everyone experienced the same meeting on different levels—ignoring the reality that an uncomfortable or unproductive conversation has occurred breeds resentment and negative conflict. Addressing it directly can help the whole team be better and stronger.
Use the opportunity to illustrate how we recover from a bad day, that we all take ownership and that we can all forgive and be a better team.
Find yourself reeling from a tense meeting? We can coach you through the steps and help you equip yourself to navigate the conflict like a pro. Call today to set up a conversation with a member of our capacity building team.
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I came across a great blog post awhile back about global issues and potential solutions. The content was fascinating, but the title had me hooked before I even began reading: Empathy: The Missing Link to Solving the World’s Most Pressing Problems.
As community builders and problem solvers, I believe empathy is our most important skill.
Empathy is the link between self and others, because it is how we as individuals understand what others are experiencing as if we are feeling it ourselves. At its simplest, empathy is awareness of the feelings and emotions of other people. And empathy is keystone in the human-centered design concept.
Human-centered design is a creative approach to problem solving. It’s a process that starts with learning directly from the people you want to serve and designing a solution as you immerse yourself in their lives. That’s what Bridges Out of Poverty helps you do—it enables you to develop solutions to help people get out of poverty by understanding 1) the world from their eyes, and 2) the lessons they have learned about living in this world.
There is already so much data that counts the number of people who live in poverty, are unemployed, need food, need shelter— but data can only tell a small portion of the story. Bridges Out of Poverty provides a larger perspective and shares another side of the story to build that critical empathy between decision-makers and the communities they serve.
Nonprofits exist to accomplish community change. To do this, we need to influence behavior and we need to change the way that minds work. But how do we influence behavior and thought processes? Nonprofits collect all sorts of metrics that illustrate issues, problems, and solutions—but it is not enough to communicate in numbers. We need to communicate with humans by gathering stories. Testimonies are essential in our work to address social problems because testimonies embody the data that we collect. They also help to build empathy.
Let’s break this down the process of building empathy:
Currently, Nonprofit Network is conducting a series of focus groups with people who live in extreme poverty. The stories we gathered in these groups, on the behalf of a local community service, have the potential to make a measurable impact on the community agencies work. Decision-makers are using these testimonials and experiences to identify different training needs, improved methods of communication, and innovative solutions.
The issues in our communities are complex and thus require complex, multi-faceted solutions. It is when we build empathy and a better understanding of those whom we serve that we can begin to fully address the issues at hand. The first step is simply to listen.
What are you doing to capture stories of the people you serve?
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If the demographics of your donors, board members, staff and clients don’t reflect the average make up of your community, your recruiting, hiring and fundraising practices may not be geared to include everyone. Nonprofits can sometimes fall into a homogeneous trap. Board members look and think the same. Staff looks and thinks the same. Donors look and think the same. And sometimes – without intention – the design of our services exclude rather than include.
Being an inclusive organization that values diversity doesn’t “just happen”. Like every other best practice, organizations must be committed and diligent to have good habits. If you are intentionally an inclusive organization, you will naturally attract donations from a diverse population, your board will be diverse in skill set, education, race, income and culture and when you post positions, you will have a diverse set of applicants to interview. If you don’t attract diversity, I suggest you examine your practices for any that may be exclusive. Invest in and prioritize strategies and practices that address inequities. Embrace diversity and inclusion.
Nonprofit Network strives to be a model of inclusion. We believe that bringing diverse individuals together is essential to effectively address the issues that face current and prospective partners.
by Regina Pinney - Executive Director
Want to explore more on this topic? Check out our webinar: Diversity and Inclusion Around the Board Table
We have been teaching Bridges Out of Poverty for five years—this includes many organizations and over three thousand individuals—and the feedback is overwhelmingly positive. Participants leave with a fresh perspective and a series of concepts that they can readily implement in their daily work. After training the "front-line" is now equipped to build stronger relationships with the families they serve and improve the success of their programs by taking small steps. One participant's plan had been incredibly straightforward and doesn't cost a penny: "Develop relationships before approaching with paperwork/forms."
That's the thing that makes Bridges such a powerful program—the resulting "next steps" are simple and actionable, but have the potential to revolutionize your program's outcomes and success. Nonprofit Network is able to customize this program to meet the needs of any organization, ranging from country hospitals to city police departments to grassroots programs and organizations. Here is just a glimpse of the organizations we've trained in Bridges Out of Poverty in the past years:
If you'd like to learn more about the Bridges concepts, please join us for a FREE upcoming event in Jackson. We have two "Session One" introduction events to Bridges Out of Poverty upcoming in August & October and a "NEW" Session Two event; Strategies to Move This Work Forward In Your Organization on October 15th!
Bridges Out of Poverty FREE Community Sessions (generously sponsored by United Way of Jackson County) is a great way to "get your feet wet" in the Bridges material—your only regret will be that you didn't attend sooner!
In the meanwhile, please reach out with any questions you have about the value and the content of Bridges. We can also bring this training to you in a variety of ways and will customize it to meet your needs. Nonprofit Network exists to serve you.
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Dr. Katena Cain
Nonprofit Management Consultant
Nonprofits are in the business of making their communities healthier, stronger and more enriching for all of its members. Whether they are involved in health care, the arts, civil rights, religious activities, or any other worthwhile charitable cause, nonprofits influence the quality of life for people in the communities they serve. Organizations that value diversity – racial and ethnic diversity, as well as diversity in age, ability, thought, planning processes, and recruitment strategies – are stronger.
Research suggests that employees who view their organization as being supportive of diversity and inclusion also tend to have higher levels of engagement. Highly engaged employees are more likely to stay with the organization, be an advocate of the organization, its products and services, and contribute positively to the bottom line business success.
So, what does an organization look like when it has embraced diversity, inclusion and equity?
Building an Inclusive Team
Having a diverse candidate pool to hire from is primary and critical – you can’t become a diverse organization if you don’t have diverse applicants.
Posting your position in the same places will get you the same candidates. Positions should be posted and advertised in a wide variety of places, including community boards, cultural community groups, local ethnic and community newsletters, and associations and organizations that serve ethnic communities. Your efforts should extend beyond the standard. Also, does your front line position REALLY need someone with a Master’s Degree? Make sure that you are hiring for attitude and training for skill.
Changing your recruitment habits may improve the candidates you attract. Don’t forget to provide additional training around diversity and inclusion – retention is critical! If you haven’t been successful in retaining a diverse workforce, you may need to look at your inclusion policies and practices. How can I do that you're thinking? Contact me today!
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Distractions are everywhere…especially in an office setting. From the sounds of phones ringing, speakerphone conversations and copy machines printing to the sun shining brightly through your office window…sometimes it can be difficult to stay focused at work.
So what can you do to remain on task and avoid distractions?
Seven Tips to Stay Focused at Work:
1. Clean your desk. If your desk is cluttered, take a few minutes to put things away and organize it. This will give you the space to focus on the task at hand.
2. Dress professionally. Dressing in professional attire may help you stick to business. Here’s an interesting article from Forbes that explains how alertness is affected by what you wear.
3. Plan ahead. Map out your next day before you leave work at the end of your shift. When you arrive at work the following day, you will know exactly what you need to do and when you need to do it.
5. Put your cell phone away. Move your cell phone to a place that is out of sight. This will prevent you from checking it every two minutes. Only check your phone during your breaks or lunch hour.
7. Reward yourself. After achieving an important goal, reward yourself with a cup of coffee or five minutes of browsing the Internet. Rewarding yourself may give you the motivation to get a jump start on your next project.
It’s no secret that workplace distractions can hinder your productivity. By using these tips, hopefully you can stay a little more focused and accomplish great achievements. Tell us what some of your methods are you use to remain focused at work?
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Decision making is the core role of a board of directors. So why do so many boards spend more time sharing information that could’ve been an emailed report instead of having high level, crucial conversations that lead to strong decisions?
You might be amazed at how many board meetings I have been a part of in the past at which zero decisions were reached. Or maybe you’ve experienced this also. Are your board meetings consumed with verbal reports on the status of this issue or that project or how this person performed during the last 30 days? Informing—while incredibly necessary—is not a good use of your short time together as a full board. Spending board hours giving verbal reports is, at best, barely beneficial and, at worst, a danger to your mission.
Instead,share data with board members before the meeting via the board packet. Provide those would-be verbal reports as written reports and give your board multiple days to read them and come to the meeting prepared..
Empowered board members assemble to make decisions. However, empowerment requires the members to come already informed. Prior access to data not only makes decisions easier to settle, but also more likely to stay made as well. Board decisions made without solid data have a tendency to make the deciders less confident that their conclusions are correct and will ultimately bring the issue back in front of the board to wrestle again in the not-so-distant future. Examining the issue once and reaching a solid decision that stays made is the best process to build momentum in the organization.
Board members are recruited from the community not for their ability to be updated, but rather so they can use their life skills to reach the best decisions that benefit the organization. It is a misuse of this valuable human resource to assemble simply to hear a report. The misuse is even more egregious if the entire meeting time is about reporting out data. Leaders view their roles differently when they associate board time with reaching solid decisions; one effect of transitioning to a decision-centric board agenda is better attendance.
Imagine a board meeting at which every member is in attendance and already fully informed as to the status of programs, finances, staff and committee efforts—they are empowered by the most relevant data and with full participation of all voices around the table. That is the scene where the mission of your organization is about to be moved forward. Conversely, assembling all these valuable human resources so that they are merely more informed than they had been 90 minutes ago does not advance the mission any further and sets the stage for people to see their board participation as less relevant, or maybe even optional.
Do you know where your board is on the Decision-Informing continuum? Here’s an exercise for you to conduct that will gather data to confirm your assumption:
Review the board minutes from your most recent three board meetings. Take note of time spent informing and time when decisions were discussed and conclusions reached.
Then, at your next board meeting, record how much of your time is spent informing members as to status of finances, staff efforts, program progress, or committee activities, and compare that number with how much time is spent discussing issues and data to reach decisions.
The closer your results are to mostly decision making, the more movement you will see towards mission fulfillment.
Continue this process each month, refining your agenda and practices until the majority of your regular board meetings is spent discussing and making decisions. Make the meeting entirely about decision making and that mission fulfillment will be even more observable.
The transition to conduct decision-centric meeting begins by deciding to change. Then you follow up that decision with new processes and a transition to a meeting agenda that reflects your new direction.
Want to discuss this transition in more detail?
Give Tom a call at 517-796-4750 or click the button below.
Nonprofit leadership requires courage. Without a doubt, the decisions and actions necessary to successfully lead your organization are hard work. I say it requires courage because best practices are rarely achieved by going with the flow. In fact, taking the path of least resistance can sometimes reduce our impact and zap our passion for the work. The iconic actor, John Wayne, probably clarified it best for me, when he defined it this way: “Courage is being scared to death and saddling up anyway.”
It takes courage to have the hard conversations with key people in our organization. It takes courage to hold ourselves accountable to the path we planned out and all agreed upon. And yes, courage is often the missing component of our funding goal shortfalls. One-on-one coaching is sometimes a means to uncover the courage needed. Other times, having an unbiased, third party come in to facilitate a group discussion about hard topics can be the way forward.
If this resonates with you, I strongly suggest attending our Executive Director Academy. If you'd like to talk through it and discuss it further. Feel free to contact our office at 517-796-4750 or email us at Info@Nonprofnetwork.org and we'll get right back to you!
It’ been over two years since I blogged on embezzlement and regrettably, I’m feeling compelled to revisit this dark topic. The recent situation that sparked this writing is my learning of a familiar organization experiencing a valued staffer that embezzled a six figure amount of the money donated to their mission. As I shared in my previously blog, this sickens me professionally and saddens me for the work of all the great people that raised hundreds of thousands of dollars now being for naught. Disgustingly this action succeeds when we drop our complete nonstop attention to safeguards.
While I certainly encourage you to dig through our Nonprofit Network blog library and read “3 Dangerous Myths About Nonprofit Embezzlement”, today I want to share a different insight that may generate conversations within your organization.
Did you know that 93% of people who embezzled funds NEVER had a criminal record before? This fact from Marquette Report on Embezzlement is one that deserves some sincere reflection. Ponder the implications of this data about the 3,000+ embezzlers the Michigan State Police see annually (for profit and nonprofit). This means that all our safeguards are not to stop criminals from taking our organization’s hard earned money. Our safeguards are actually intended to eliminate an opportunity for a “trusted” person to take advantage of our negligence and take their first step over to the dark side.
Embezzlement is legally categorized as “fraud” and many of you are familiar with the “fraud triangle”. This helpful triangular diagram helps us clarify that fraud happens when: 1) There is a perceived OPPORTUNITY to commit fraud, 2) This OPPORTUNITY is experienced by a person experiencing a perceived pressure in their lives and 3) That person rationalizes the action they are about to take.
This person who rationalizes their integrity away can’t fully complete their action of becoming a criminal if we make it extremely difficult for them. The element of reducing OPPORTUNITY is the key portion of the fraud triangle our organization has control over. However, having our antenna up to monitor the other two elements will also prove beneficial. In nonprofit terms, this is often called “oversight”.
I don’t want to naively suggest we can entirely eliminate the crime of embezzlement (or any crime really), but since we as leaders of nonprofits are expected to provide “oversight” and be solid stewards of other people’s resources, employing best practices to fulfill our responsibilities can truly be impact-full. While a phone call to me or one of my colleague consultants can assist you in this conversation, I also want to strongly encourage your organization to participate in our financial workshops that delve into internal controls and appropriate policies to establish solid safeguards against embezzlement. I do want to suggest that this small time and dollar commitment can safeguard your organization against one of the most gut wrenching experiences a nonprofit leader will ever experience.
If you promise to harden your financial safeguards, I promise my next blog will be more uplifting…deal?
Nonprofit Network Executive Director
Census 101: What You Need to Know
The 2020 Census is closer than you think. Here’s a quick refresher of what it is and why it’s essential that everyone is counted.
Nonprofits will play a crucial role in the 2020 Census to make sure the communities you serve are properly represented in the Census, especially in communities that are hard to count or traditionally under-counted like those experiencing homelessness, LGBTQ+, racial minorities and many more. Now is the time to get informed and make a plan.
The census counts every person living in the U.S. once, only once, and in the right place. If you don’t complete the census – you don’t get counted. And for the next ten years, you lose your opportunity to be seen when decisions are made about road funding, funding for programs like food assistance and schools, and when redistricting happens.
It’s about fair representation
Every 10 years the results of the census are used to reapportion the House of Representatives, determining how many seats each state gets and where those lines are drawn. Historically, people of color, people who live in poverty and many other marginalized and disenfranchised populations don’t complete the census which means they get misrepresented in these conversations.
It’s in the constitution
The U.S. Constitution mandates that everyone in the country be counted every 10 years. The first census was in 1790. Census information is confidential. This is the first year that the census will be conducted primarily through the internet bringing the Census into the age of technology. This saves the taxpayer money and will decrease the cost of the Census.
It’s about $675 billion
The distribution of more than $675 billion in federal funds, grants and support to states, counties and communities are based on census data. That Money is spent on schools, hospitals, roads, public works and other vital programs. It’s important for nonprofits because Census data is used for grant making, design of where programs should be created and where populations who might need additional services are located.
It’s about redistricting
After each decade’s census, state officials redraw the boundaries of the congressional and state legislative districts in their states to account for population shifts. An accurate count is essential for fair representation.
Taking part is your civic duty
Completing the census is mandatory: it’s a way to participate in our democracy and say “I COUNT!”
Learn more HERE
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