• Friday, June 29, 2018 10:51 AM | Deleted user


    Sharon Castle
    Capacity Builder
    Sharon@nonprofnetwork.org



    “The fitting Board of Directors is less about physical strength, more about mental toughness, with fitting minds and fresh eyes.” ― Pearl ZhuDigitizing Boardroom: The Multifaceted Aspects of Digital Ready Boards

    With more than 30 years of nonprofit experience, board governance and development is part of my “muscle memory”, a term I encountered while learning the wonderful game of tennis (that’s another story for another blog post) but essentially it’s when you’ve done something repetitively, you do it without actually thinking about it.

    Teaching it, however, is another matter. My first assignment with Nonprofit Network was presenting a full-day "Accelerating Board Performance:  Better Conversations, Discussions, and Decisions” workshop at a state-wide organization’s annual conference.  Now to give you some background, the workshop had been scheduled prior to my joining NN and the outline/proposal submitted by a colleague.and needless to say, I was a bit nervous to present to nearly 100 nonprofit board members and executives on something as boring (my words!) as board development. 

    About thirty minutes into the session, with attendees asking questions, sharing challenges, solutions, and thoughts, I was quickly reminded of the extreme importance of good governance and what it means to maintain a healthy and vibrant nonprofit, regardless of where it is in its life cycle, who is serving on the board or the talents of its executive leadership.  

    In fact, to my delight, I became engaged and excited about the topic! 

    So, here are my takeaways and thoughts about why every board member and nonprofit executive should regularly brush up on good governance:

    1. No matter how many boards you have served or currently serve, each organization is at a different stage in its life cycle and you may not have experience in all stages. 
    2. Dedicating intentional time to attend a workshop or bringing in a consultant to facilitate a board governance session keeps best practices at the forefront of leadership
    3. Governance training provides an opportunity to have productive conversations at the board level and to identify organizational strengths and challenges, including board recruitment and orientation, working with the Executive Director, member’s individual and collective board responsibilities


    If you want to keep your board members’ minds fit and eyes fresh, check out these upcoming sessions: 

    July 17: Foundations of Board Governance

    July 27: Accelerating Board Performance: Better Conversations, Discussions, and Decisions.


  • Friday, June 22, 2018 12:00 PM | Deleted user




    Carrie Heider Grant

    Program Coordinator

    Carrie@nonprofnetwork.org




    The day has arrived!  As of right now, Nonprofit Network's website is officially under construction. We are completely overhauling the structure to make it a more useful and relevant tool for you. 


    The new site will be available to you in a couple weeks--we're looking at a mid-July launch date--but there is still plenty of content available to you while you wait. 


    Here are 5 things you can do while our site is under construction:


    1) Workshops 

    Our workshops are up and running!  We've got some great, brand new sessions coming up.  Looking for fund development? Grant Writing's Optimum Role in Your Organization (And Processes to Fully Realize This)  Leverage Your Story: Building a Case for Support, and Moving Your Organization from Fundraising to Philanthropy.


    Need a deep dive into governance? Accelerating Board Performance: Better Conversations, Discussions, and Decisions is the training for you!  


    Check out the full training calendar to make sure you get the training you need to fulfill your organization's mission.


    2) Bridges Out of Poverty

    We know that organizations who employ equitable policies and programs are more sustainable and successful. Bridges Out of Poverty is a powerful framework that can help you be more successful and effective as an employer and as a service provider.  Join us at the next Bridges Out of Poverty: Community Session.


    3) Blog

    Our team of nonprofit experts publishes content here every week and that will continue during this website construction phase. As a nonprofit professional and volunteer, we know that time is short and your to-do list is long.  This blog is one way we work to provide tools, insights, and perspectives that equip you to succeed.


    4) Membership

    Membership is not affected by the website renovation.  You can still login to receive workshop discounts and to manage your account.  Not a member but are interested in learning more?  Join today or contact Membership@nonprofnetwork.org to find out Nonprofit Network can build your resourcefulness and ability to fulfill your mission.


    5) Team of Experts

    Our staff of nonprofit experts is always available to answer your questions and explore solutions.  Each Capacity Building Consultant is certified in Adaptive Schools facilitation and familiar with all aspects of nonprofit governance and management.  Don't hesitate to reach out to us via phone or email.  We are here to serve you.




    You can expect our new website to be live in mid-July.  In the meanwhile, know that we are still available to serve you and connect you with the resources and information you need.  Whether it's professional development, articles, coaching, or customized services---we have you covered.




  • Wednesday, June 13, 2018 12:27 PM | Tom Williams (Administrator)



    Tom Williams
    Capacity Builder
    Tom@nonprofnetwork.org


    Did you know that humans are hard-wired to relate to stories? Neuroscientists tell us that the brains of people listening to well-told stories fire on the same neuralpath as if they were experiencing the circumstance themselves. Likewise, if you and I are hearing the same story, our brains will fire in similar areas. There is quite a bit of science in people connecting with one another. Add to this that humankind has been sitting around ancient fires or watering holes relating guidance and requests verbally as stories for eons. (Interesting sources here and here.)

    Humans like stories.

    Stories have been ways to educate, inspire, and motivate for ages and today’s technological advances haven’t changed that one bit. In fact, we can now share stories so much faster with technology that our storytelling skills are needed more now than ever before. The great news is that storytelling is a skill that can be learned.

    I can think of many reasons a nonprofit organization would want to enhance its storytelling skills. A couple off the top of my head include:

    • Storytelling is about persuasion. Isn’t persuasion our reason for being? We want to persuade people to choose our cause. We want to persuade them that we are a priority for the use of their funds. We want to persuade them to invest their precious time being engaged with us.
    • Storytelling reinforces your data. Data about your cause can make your point and demonstrate you know what you are doing. Communicating that data in a story can assist you in connecting with the listener in ways that dumping raw facts on them just won’t
    • Storytelling fights burnout. A good story can be a shot in the arm to reinvigorate your staff, board or even donors that may be experiencing some fatigue in the cause. It’s another way of reminding us “why” we do this.
    • Stories are repeatable. This simple fact makes them gold to a nonprofit organization. A repeatable story about your cause, your successes, your needs or your vision for the community is the tool to engage those people you haven’t met yet.

    In our nonprofit world there are at least five different categories of stories every organization would benefit from adding to their pool of stories. Give some consideration to stories you may have about:

    1. Founding. How your organization got its start…what motivated that effort?
    2. Focus. Stories can serve as a great way to get across exactly the cause you address
    3. Impact. Stories about how you make a difference
    4. People. It's about sharing real people experiences that real people have
    5. Strength. Stories can be a cool and very sociably acceptable way to toot your own horn on successes.

    Tips to become a better storyteller:
    • Keep it short. Long stories lose the listener
    • Keep it simple. Ultra-complex stories cause listener to mentally check out
    • Highlight people, not programs
    • Consider your audience. It’s YOUR story, but it won’t get heard if you misread your audience.
    • When you get to the end of the story, STOP. Continuing past the end, buries the point you wanted to make with the listener.
    • Practice your story telling by writing “mini-sagas.” These are stories with a character in pursuit of a goal in the face of an obstacle, written in exactly 50 words.



    Want to talk more about how you can use your story to retain  and upgrade donors?  Attend Leverage Your Story: The Retention Power of the Thank You



    Learn more about this workshop


    Want more? Click here to sign up for our weekly e-newsletter and announcements.  Each week you'll get a link to the most recent blog post. We promise to respect your time and will not flood your inbox. We only send one or two e-mails each week.

  • Wednesday, May 30, 2018 9:30 AM | Deleted user


    Victoria Reese
    Capacity Builder
    Victoria@nonprofnetwork.org



    Businesses are essential in the fight against poverty. Not only are businesses consistently interacting with consumers who are living in poverty, some of their employees are facing the same dynamics. Good business sense calls on businesses to create internal policies that support employees and consumers living in poverty, as well as advocating to influence public policies that systemically have adverse effects on people in poverty.

    Acknowledging the benefits of tackling social issues appears to be a stretch for many businesses however. Communities riddled with high poverty rates impact their bottom-line. People in poverty have little or no discretionary income which impacts what products they purchase and from where. The business sector is often constrained by a shortage of skilled human capital and low-income communities offer a potentially valuable labor market. However, hiring low-income workers without considering the necessary supports that help them be successful is a disservice to them and the community. 

    The Bridges Out Of Poverty workshop offered by Nonprofit Network positions businesses to think about their role in alleviating poverty, holds up examples of best practices, and provides strategies for out-of-the-box engagement with people in poverty.

    In the city of Jackson. 36.3% of its residents live in povertyover half of those living in poverty are children under the age of 18and 75% of the population have attained less than an associate’s degree.

    Nonprofit safety nets and government assistance are critical but insufficient alone in addressing the generational and systemic poverty that transcends the personal choices of people living in poverty. Harnessing the prowess of the business industry is necessary in alleviating the pain of historical legacies and eradicating discriminatory policies and practices that burden low-income families.

    Join us in the fight against poverty! The first step is attending a Bridges Out of Poverty workshop to gain better insight on the causes of poverty, explore solutions and begin planning for institutional change.




    Want more? Click here to sign up for our weekly e-newsletter and announcements.  Each week you'll get a link to the most recent blog post. We promise to respect your time and will not flood your inbox. We only send one or two e-mails each week.

  • Tuesday, May 08, 2018 4:25 PM | Deleted user



    Sharon Castle

    Capacity Builder

    Sharon@nonprofnetwork.org




    I’m not going to sugarcoat it; fundraising is tough. Been there, done that, and I continue to do it. Let’s face it, there’s a reason many of us describe fundraising as “the oldest profession.” It has been around a long time and not going to go away anytime soon.  I have great respect for Executive Directors, Development Directors, Board members, Staff and Volunteers who understand and actively engage in fundraising for their nonprofit organizations.


    Alas, each of us has a responsibility to play a role in philanthropy: acting as an ambassador and sharing positive aspects of how the community is benefiting from the organization’s activities with friends, relatives and coworkers; being part of a team of solicitors and participating in well developed “asks”; making the public feel welcome at events or when they making an on-site visit; or making a personal gift, something we all should be doing at least once annually. 


    We are all capable and responsible for supporting the development and sustainability of philanthropy within the organizations in which we choose to be involved.  


    Embracing John D. Rockefeller’s philosophy is an excellent start:


    “Never think you need to apologize for asking someone to give to a worthy objective, any more than as though you were giving him an opportunity to participate in high-grade investment. The duty of giving is as much his as the duty of asking yours. Whether or not he should give to that particular enterprise, and if so, how much, it is for him alone to decide.” – John D. Rockefeller



    Before you are able to execute Rockefeller’s advice to “ask”, you need to craft a well thought-out strategy. While each organization has unique strengths and challenges to overcome or draw upon, the fundamentals of fundraising remain consistent. 


    Your fund development plan should cover all the bases, including:

    1. Supports the overall organizational strategic plan
    2. Developing and knowing how to articulate a strong case for support
    3. Writing effective direct mail appeals
    4. Adding new prospective donors and stewarding current donors
    5. Capturing motivational stories to share about your organization’s impact (or feeding the soul as I like to say)
    6. Identifying priority donors
    7. Evaluating special events (are you fundraising, friend raising, or both)
    8. Involving program staff in the development process

    Indeed, these are all necessary parts in pieces of not only a strong development program, but a strong organization as well.  

    To that end, there are a multitude of opportunities and trainings to help you learn best practices and sharpen your tools when it comes to fundraising.  Take advantage of these activities to learn from folks who have been in the field. Use the time out of the office and among colleagues to stretch your mind by sharing and listening to others’ fundraising successes and failures - Yes, we’ve all had failures and, hopefully, we learn from our mistakes. And when you can, role play and practice solicitations regularly to stay on top of your game.



    Look for professional development that will truly make you and your organziation better?  Register for Moving Your Organization from Fundraising to Philanthropy.








    Want more? Click here to sign up for our weekly e-newsletter and announcements.  Each week you'll get a link to the most recent blog post. We promise to respect your time and will not flood your inbox. We only send one or two e-mails each week.



  • Wednesday, May 02, 2018 2:41 PM | Deleted user



    Katena Cain

    Nonprofit Management Consultant

    Katena@nonprofnetwork.org




    There is a growing body of research regarding the benefits of diverse teams in the areas of organizational performance and problem-solving. In addition, there are some powerful examples of leading nonprofit organizations which successfully utilized diversity to help generate innovative initiatives and services that delivered tangible benefits to their organizations, employees, and communities.


    While many of the documented examples of diversity initiatives focus on race and gender, the concept of diversity is broader and encompasses factors including age, culture, personality, skill, training, educational background and life experience. The influence of a variety of perspectives and viewpoints can contribute to flexibility and creativity within organizations, which can help it thrive.


    This is where the Nonprofit Diversity, Inclusion and Equity Assessment comes into play.


    Nonprofit Network has collaborated with Michigan Nonprofit Association and NEW: Solutions for Nonprofits designed a survey instrument to gauge the perspectives of board and key leadership staff regarding the best practices for diversity, inclusion and equity that the organization has implemented.


    Nonprofit Diversity, Inclusion and Equity Assessment is designed to help nonprofit organizations assess their capacity and progress in demonstrating best practices in diversity, inclusion and equity. The underlying assumption of this assessment is that all organizations will move back and forth along a continuum of effectively implementing best practices. Best practices, organizational capacity, diversity, inclusion and equity are complex concepts sensitive to local conditions and subject to multiple interpretations.


    The assessment is in two forms: one for board members and one for executives and staff.


    The assessment may be used by nonprofit managers, staff, board members, external capacity builders and funders in the following ways:
    • To identify those areas of capacity relative to diversity, inclusion and equity that are strongest and those that need further advancement, which could inform the development of a diversity and inclusion action plan for organizational improvement in this area.
    • To measure changes in an organization's progress towards effectively building and sustaining diversity, cultivating inclusive environments and creating social equity. 
    • To serve as a starting point for discussions among those in the organization by drawing out different views regarding diversity, inclusion and equity. Different responses to the grid among staff, board members and funders, for example, can be a valuable discussion-starter within an organization.

    The discussion around Diversity, equity and inclusion is complex, which is why Nonprofit Network is available to facilitate conversations for your board and staff. 



    Are you interested in taking the next step? 






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  • Monday, April 23, 2018 10:04 AM | Deleted user



    Tom Williams

    Capacity Builder

    Tom@nonprofnetwork.org




    Mediocre performers are busy with the best intentions, but the wrong conversations. To separate your organization from the crowd of mediocre performers you must make the best decisions possible. Great decisions only occur in a culture that creates space and time for crucial conversations, and these conversations cannot take place in “unsafe” environments. A room doesn’t have to hostile to be unsafe. In fact, most unsafe conversations are not hostile--they're often the result of an error of omission. Those in the “room” or meeting have not intentionally created and maintained an environment that nurtures free exchange of genuine opinions.


    Two things need to be present in order for a conversation to be safe, and if you can establish these elements, then you've created the space for those conversations that will take your board from mediocrity to excellence:  1) Mutual Purpose and 2) Mutual Respect.


    Mutual purpose is all about being clear about the intent of the conversation. We often dive headfirst into meetings without pausing at the very beginning to clarify the purpose of what we hope to accomplish with the discussion. How many conversations have you been in where you're asking, "what is the point?" 


    People who are unclear about the conversation's purpose (is it to inform, decide, criticize, change, congratulate?) will very often sit on the sidelines and may even check out entirely. Being intentional about speaking the purpose of the conversation puts all of the parties, whether that's 2 people or 29 people, on the same page. The more people in the room, the more  divergent the focus will be when the purpose is left to the audience to figure out.


    Mutual respect involves having a trusting environment. Leaders probably don’t verbalize enough the respect they already have for their staff. Likewise, the front line staff don’t provide feedback on the respect they hold for their leaders. Creating an environment where mutual respect can be openly affirmed goes a long way to assuring all parties. If the mutual respect is lacking, some serious work needs to be done. Its hard work (see mention of crucial conversations above). However take note that this trusting environment leading to mutual respect is possible to build.


    Ask yourself these two questions to get this process underway : Am I viewed as a person of integrity? Am I viewed as a person that is highly competent in my role?


    Making it safe


    We’ve heard it before. “I didn’t feel safe saying that” or “I would have brought that up with him, but the room wasn’t safe”. Is being “safe” a cop out for not having the courage to speak up? Is it some undefinable excuse to cast the blame for poor communication onto others?


    No. It’s actually a real thing. And it’s your job to make it happen.


    Leaders of meetings will find that when these elements are present, participation is increased and the quality of conversation is enriched. While the meeting leader is not solely responsible for these two elements being present, in their position of authority they can be a significant influence as well as motivator the other participants to keep the room safe. A key leadership practice is to model the way. Teams that operate in safe environments are much more impactful than those who spend their time navigating landmines.


    I've written previously about the required skills to conduct crucial conversations. Mastering them can be a real game changer for organizations that have not been hitting the marks they desire. Leaders who master the skill of facilitating these hard conversations will see a difference in the performance of their board and the organization. I guarantee it.



    I have a lot of respect for the work you are doing in your community. If you want to have a conversation about getting better at creating a safe room, give me a call. 


    If you want some hands-on training, consider attending Accelerating Board Performance: Better Conversations, Discussions, and Decisions on June 20th. 





    Want more? Click here to sign up for our weekly e-newsletter and announcements.  Each week you'll get a link to the most recent blog post. We promise to respect your time and will not flood your inbox. We only send one or two e-mails each week.



  • Tuesday, April 10, 2018 12:41 PM | Deleted user



     Carrie Heider Grant
    Program Coordinator
    Carrie@nonprofnetwork.org


    April 10th is Equal Pay Day, which symbolizes how far into the year (on average) a woman has to work to be paid the same amount as a male counterpart in the prior year.

    Imagine what you could do with 20% more income than you are currently paid. It’s not hard for me to answer: That money would go to student loans, health-care, long-term savings, and charitable contributions. And of course I'd seek out some lesser services like doggy day-carethe luxury of sparing my home the daily trauma of these two anxious doggos would be worth every penny. 


     Good, anxious doggos.

    My point is that 20% is a huge amount of money. 

    And that gap is even wider when you break it down by race: Black women are paid 38% less than white men, while Latinas are paid 46% less. 




    Source: www.leanin.org 


    Those numbers are staggering.

    Meanwhile, in the nonprofit sector, we’re working on making sure the elderly have safe housing, that children are fed, that rivers are clean, and so much more—how can we possibly take on another issue with no apparent solution? 

    I’ve got good news and bad news.

    Bad news: this is already a nonprofit issue. Michigan Nonprofit Association’s 2017-2018 Compensation and Benefit Report illustrates the average salary for a full-time executive director of a Michigan nonprofit—

    Men: $123,648

    Women: $88,727

    That’s a whopping 28% average decrease in pay for Michigan women!

    Feeling a little less smitten with the mitten state? 

    Here’s the good news: the nonprofit sector is a powerful force that drives the nation’s economy. In Michigan alone, nonprofits are responsible for employing 11% of the working population (Source: MNA). We have the potential to impact our communities in meaningful, lasting ways.

    Think the gender pay gap doesn’t exist at your organization? Back that up with data by conducting an audit on your hiring and promotion practices. Compare compensation, qualifications/experience, and gender. That audit is the first step for anyone who genuinely seeks to achieve their nonprofit mission—we cannot address poverty and its effects if we are actively contributing to poverty by sustaining inequitable wage practices.

    Let’s roll up our sleeves, and seek solutions with humility—we all have to do better if we want our communities to be better.

    Here are some great resources if you’re looking for more information and data:



    Want to talk about where to start?



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  • Monday, March 19, 2018 11:15 AM | Deleted user




    Tom Williams

    Capacity Builder

    Tom@nonprofnetwork




    Recently, I’ve been having a lot of conversations with leaders about self-care. Today, I'm specifically thinking about professional development.


    When I contemplate professional development, I immediately think of the saying largely attributed to our 16th president, Abraham Lincoln, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the ax.” 


    You will note his advice is deliberatebefore the work starts, he spends a significant amount of time preparing himself completely.  Two-thirds of the allotted time is spent developing a tool that will be ready for the task. 


    Prioritizing preparation does not have to cause you to miss your deadline. In fact, investing more than half of your allotted time to equip yourself can be a recipe for success.  


    From my perspective, this proverb is a resounding endorsement of professional development.  


    Which leads me to two questions: 



    1) Why are we jumping straight into the work? 


    I suspect our rush to start the work directly in front of us may be due to our addiction to urgency. Being compelled to put out all the “urgencies” (checklists, emails, social media, and unscheduled visitors) provides many of us with a sense of accomplishment. This is actually a physical reaction from your brain firing adrenaline and other feel-good chemicals. However, this comes at the cost of not addressing items that are most important. Self-care is made possible when we spend time working the “important” items instead of the most “urgent” ones that are right in front of us.



    2) Why are we swinging a tool that's not up to the task? 


    Regrettably, we often defer professional development to "when we get the time" or "when we get the money." Sound time management practices tell us that these things don't happen on their own. We have to deliberately make the time and budget the funding. Sharpening the ax is all about working smarter, not harder. If you're a board member, make sure you're protecting a line-item for professional development for everyone—that's staff, your executive director, and yourselves.  Seek out grants and funding that will cover the costs of professional development. This is soundly in your control. Own it. Take control and be intentional. Which, by the way, is the best approach for self-care. 



    What’s your ax? Is it a new hard skill? How about all the soft skills that are so important in our nonprofit sector? Becoming better at our profession accomplishes many things. It obviously impacts the quality of our outcomes, but also has a significant impact on our self-care.


    Work that falls within your skill set also is done more quickly (sooner diagnosis of issue, less trial-and-error) and is done under less stress (because of your increased confidence). Working within your skill set is also a major contributor to job satisfaction. So identify an area of your work that needs to be refined or built. If you add sound time management and increased proficiency at your work, you are well on your way to the work/life balance we crave.


    Be intentional.



    In response to the need for intentional and deliberate professional development, Nonprofit Network is offering something different to all new executive directors: 


    Nonprofit Network Executive Director Academy 


    The Academy is a 7-month cohort of 10 (or fewer) ED's who have been in their job for under 5 years.  The cohort will meet monthly for training sessions, and will apply the information in real-time between each session.




    If you're interested in a cohort for EDs who have been in the field for more than 5 years (or if you're a new ED but are not free for this season's cohort dates), let us know! We'll add you to the waitlist for the next relevant cohort!




    Want more? Click here to sign up for our weekly e-newsletter and announcements.  Each week you'll get a link to the most recent blog post. We promise to respect your time and will not flood your inbox. We only send one or two e-mails each week.

  • Monday, March 12, 2018 1:10 PM | Deleted user



    Victoria Reese

    Capacity Builder

    Victoria@nonprofnetwork.org




    When I think about Bridges Out of Poverty I am reminded of an insight from Shelly L. Francis's The Courage Way: Leading and Living with Integrity:


    “The inner work of leadership depends on the strongest muscle in the human body the heart.”  


    Bridges Out of Poverty allows leaders to connect head and heart to bring about viable institutional and community change.


    The Bridges Out of Poverty framework uses research on economic classes to provide concrete tools and strategies for a community to alleviate poverty. I truly believe that the solution to a community 's problem will be found in the community itself. After all, problem-solving is a core competency of most businesses and institutions. So those who serve people who live in deep poverty, or those whose employees live in deep poverty are natural stakeholders in this work. 


    Bridges uses a triple lens approach to address the dynamics that cause poverty from an individual to a systemic level:


    The Triple Lens of Bridges Out of Poverty:

    1. Individual 
    2. Institution/Organizational
    3. Community

    This structure helps you to thoroughly assess and process poverty as you seek to build solutions. Often times, we view poverty and other social ills only through the individual lens—we focus on what the unique choices and circumstances of an individual.


    But if we do not change our perspective, we miss a majority of the picture.  We must also consider the lens of the institution and the community. Looking at poverty through an individual lens does not provide the depth of understanding that comes from viewing it through all 3 lenses. 

     

    This framework offers powerful tools for change that can help to—

    • Can help organizations and companies with retention rates
    • Reduce turnover costs
    • Improve employee performance and productivity
    • Create a positive workplace environment
    • Reduce barriers to employment
    • Build resources
    • Empower individuals
    • Move individuals from poverty to self-sufficiency
    • Create sustainable communities

    This is some of the most important work that Nonprofit Network does.  I hope you'll consider joining us June 14th for a Bridges Out of Poverty workshop that is open to the community.





    Nonprofit Network is able to present Bridges Out of Poverty in several ways to meet your specific needs.  We can provide as little as a brief preview of why Bridges Out of Poverty matters to multi-day workshops encompassing key points, solutions, strategies, action steps, and a plan for institutional change.  If you’re tired of doing the same thing and expecting different results, give us a call.  We can help.



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Phone: (517) 796-4750


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