Many organizations are doing a great job. They know exactly how to engage their target audience, they know to deliver the service on the best way possible, well.. they also know to fundraise money from the local community.
However, they do often underestimate the tremendous power community relations have in order to help them scale and grow. Community relations is not just having someone to actively address and answer phone calls, and provide with information; it is about being proactive and initiative, let people know who you are and what you do. There are so many good organizations out there, why you and not others?!
Of course, you are special and unique, and you know it with all of your heart; nevertheless, you should let decision makers and community leaders know about you, your organization, and your achievements. I know you have, I know you did a lot. Now make this information accessible to everyone – let them read about you in the newspaper, let them watch you on a Facebook video, let them know good things about your activities. Never forget to crunch numbers, to provide accurate data, to show a real picture of your impact and change of community’s life.
You will be surprised to learn how many out there did not know your organization even exists! You will meet many prospect donors and clients who wish to donate their time or money to help you, and grow the social impact of what you are doing. Make sure to involve politicians, from all levels and parties, let them speak for you, bring your voice higher, assist you to achieve social goals. It is working to a great extent, but the first step is to DO IT.
I have not been in a writing mood for a while, and every time I was thinking of getting to write in my blog, I have decided that there was not a good enough story to share. I met only good managers, only ones who work hard to achieve organizational goals… (:
However, in the last days, the very simple yet extremely important idea of how to make decisions was striking me again and again, so here we go…
Every one of us, has been in a situation in which we were expected to make a decision, which will influence the future. Most of the time we do it without hesitation; however how many of us have had to make a critical decision that will impact the life of many? isn’t it the time when we start shaking, revisit, revise, analyze the data from a different aspect, consult again, and rethink if we are going to make the right decision?! I am not sure what about you, but I certainly was part of this group…
..and here is the important lesson I have learned… you make a decision, and THIS IS IT. Given that you already searched, researched, discussed the topic on management meetings, and you have a good understanding of what may happen in every option, you just need to jump the last step – DECIDE. EXECUTE. Do it.
The lesson above in very strong not only in terms of good and efficient management, but also in terms of our managerial ability to get improved. Once we learn to make decision efficiently, the organization can scale and grow; and our managerial skills are higher and better.
Nowadays I am involved in some very exciting projects, and would like to share with you some thoughts. By reflecting on the following issues, I have no intentions to convince you to adapt my view, and have no meaning to advocate for any system or line of operation; I rather wish to give you some food for thought. Something to reflect on when you have free time, some topics to discuss with colleagues, co-workers, directors, stakeholders, clients, etc. Ready To Think?! I hope you will also enjoy (:
Well, this is quite a sensitive issue, but since we all have some sort of relation to politics – I would like to raise the question: How much time do we invest in politics, and how much time is really required for making good out of it? By asking this question, think, and ponder on, I am trying to count, quantify, and evaluate the output of the time I invest into the issues such as:
* What belongs to whom, and why?
* Why X obeys to Y?
* Is a specific type of relationship between stakeholders really necessary?
* What structure brings the most powerful results?
* How much does crony capitalism (of any sort…) affect the organization?
The last question I ask myself is – what questions are relevant to my organization, and what is the benefit from discussing it?
2. Collaboration and collaborative action
This is another sensitive issue, but collaboration is a vital part of every organization, even if you do not realize it at first. You always want to leave doors open, you always want to collaborate, you can always share, and you do not have to always spy for sharks. They are out there, no doubt, but you can always find the benefit for the organization to grow from EVERY collaboration. Quit thinking in ego terms, and forget the matching part. Yes, do not forget if someone shuts the door on your face; BUT if they reopen it – go in and present yourself. Collaborate with similar organizations to learn and absorb; collaborate with complementary organizations to provide a better service to your clients; and collaborate with different organizations to amplify your impact and open your organizations to new directions. Forget, get read of competition terms, and find the benefit in collaborations. Believe me it works BIG time, even if not immediately.
The question is how and why do we invest on this connections, and how do we value them?
3. The board role
The fact that businessman basically manage the nonprofit world is pretty precise. But given this fact, there is a bunch of benefits and opportunities for every nonprofit organization. You can advocate for your organization and get support, you can learn some business methodologies, you can learn business terminology, you get to understand business way of thinking. Until here I counted what YOU can learn. But there is another side, not less exciting – you can teach new methods, you can advocate for compassion, you may teach some beneficial terminology, you may convince to think in a social profit terms, you can gain more support on your side. Yes you can. Use your board, and make them work for the organization.
I would ask myself, over and over, what can I do more in order to engage relevant individuals in helping the organization out? How can I engage relevant individuals on pursuing some issues? Trust me, when you start interview and engage board members out of the board room, aiming to address a specific need or a topic, you get to discover a treasure of opportunities.
In summary, I wrote about three issues only, whereas there are hundreds of them. However, my goal is to suggest a different way of reflection and analysis to managerial issues in nonprofits, and I trust my reader to interpret it their own way (:
Last time I wrote about the possibilities collaborations may open your organization to, and I focused on the very fact that there are people who need a boost or encouragement in order to internalize this basic element of organization’s healthy life. I eventually summarized that most of the managers are luckily capable of this, and may collaborate with other organizations, at least for the sake of their own performances.
Today, I would like to focus on another essential fact of collaboration which is the benefit of the society. I would call it Synergy… when your organization collaborates with another organization, you create a new opportunity, which in turn benefits your organization, the other organization, and your and theirs clients.
However, the most important point, in my view, is that you have created a much larger benefit – you have made a new opportunity of positive influence and connection, that can lead the world to be a better place to live in. Think about it, you did not just “do good” to your own performance at work, and so not your collaborative partner, you did not just create a good service for your clients, you have also made the world a positive environment to be in.
So, next time when you are successful in collaborative efforts, bear in mind – you have just did something good for the whole society.
Yesterday we had good friends for coffee and laughing… and high conversation… and when I woke up I just knew it, I knew that I am going to post about the passion of doing what you love, nothing but what you love (:
All of us, at some point of our life, or should I say many times on our life… feel stuck. Stuck in what we do, who we are, who with share our life with, our career, our children, you name it… But since my blog is focusing on management – let’s focus on “problematic” points in management, such as employees who resist to change, organizational stress, impossible deadlines, large projects that go nowhere, and so on…
Well, I have noticed two types of coping with those feelings:
* Fight it, and change things the way YOU prefer
* Accept it, and wait for this to disappear, or stay, or whatever
In my opinion, there is no doubt. I choose the first. I choose it because this is the way a manager is going to succeed. You cannot just accept things because you feel weak or lazy at some point, if you do that – you miss good things, if you choose it as a routine, then you lost it all. Fight to get things done the way you view it.
* Face reality – describe the problem for yourself (pen and paper please)
* Focus on specific spots which cause the most of the mess
* Consult with relevant managers – always have another set of eyes, and someone who is willing to give a good advice
* Write a plan how to change route, fix cracks, etc. If you need to research it – then do it. It is much better to copy others’ successful ways of coping.
* Always have plan B and C. I usually find that three plans is a good number of alternatives.
* Do it, never give up. It will happen eventually.
Quite corny, but always ends as pure true. Doing good to others is doing good to yourself.
Got to confess, I did not hold this opinion for all of my life. I sometimes fall into the evil trap, I sometimes do not believe there is good; however, when I eventually go through challenges, I am a better person, and so you are.
You are a better person, because you did good – you helped someone. So in fact you improved a bad situation. Most of the good people do not even know they incredibly helped someone, watch St. Vincent and judge for yourself…
I am sure he did not plan to be that positively influential, but so you are when you are doing without planning. You never know how much and why you influence someone’s life.
So next time you are somewhere, try to do good to others intentionally, be aware of your unlimited opportunities to sprinkle good and positive around you. Help someone on the road (even when giving them the option to change a lane safely), on the supermarket (you may entertain a kid when his parent is trying to pack, push, put, pay, etc.), you may even consider raise your hand and ask why if you think your company will do harm to the environment.
Just do good, it pays. It pays because it makes you a better person; and when you do good intentionally, you will do it also unintentionally (-:
Future. A single word with crucial meaning. Futures is even more compelling, because its name reveals a secret… a tiny true… there are several futures; not just one, nothing is determined yet. You may plan the future, and if you do it wisely, you can positively change the future, and this is what we all want.
Let’s start with a short introduction, futures thinking is a systematic way to deal with wicked questions, face challenges, and also provide with a set of possible solutions, or suggested routes to take. The method is fascinating and out of ordinary, because it requires to adapt and adjust different practices of dealing with problems. Futures thinking is focusing on four types of futures: possible, probable, preferable, and “wildcards”. I tend to like two types and pursuing my analyses based on them – probable (70% probability that your foresight is correct – you may plan 15 years in advance, i.e. foresee 2030 today), and preferable (the one you create with your team). Whereas the first one does not require you to work in teams, the last will not work without involving a large scale of experts. As a consequence the foresight you do alone is the possible, but still shed light on the unknown; and give you a taste of what preferable futures thinking may result.
The process holds four elements: question, gathering of data, analysis, and interpretation (which leads to another question and so on). At a first glance it seems like any other problem solving process. However, the difference lies in the methodology, and the results are surprising.
In addition, you may want to choose a method to gather and interpret your data. I found the General System Theory as a very useful framework, especially for social issues (so take a look at the link, and learn the materials before you jump to the analysis).
In order to make your life easier I have collected several global trends, that you may use as the basic assumptions for every analysis:
According to Strauss and Howe’s generations theory, we are getting into the forth turning, when millennials are the societal focus;
The millennials are more connected to friends, less connected to institutions;
The millennials are worried of their uncertain future, unlike the boomers;
The millennials are highly educated, and hold various credentials, however their chances to get decent employment opportunities are lower;
Demography: the world population is getting older. Shrinking young population and more elderly. As a result, less young people are going to bear the burden for many elderly.
More migration, more urbanization.
Technology will continue to be developed, and influence life. Changes will occur often and rapidly.
When you done setting your basic global trends, you may start the second layer of assumptions – the local and industry specific ones. In order to retrieve these data, you can find the following sources useful: governmental sources, UN, local foundations, local universities, and any other information bodies, that may publish relevant data. Gather the data, and articulate the assumptions.
The third step is to look at the data, try to find connections to your questions, and interpret it WITH CAUTION.
I hope you find this content useful – feel free to contact me for commenting or any other request. If you would like to start a future thinking process in your business or organization – I will be happy to consult you with that.
Warning! this content is a very short introduction for futures thinking, and I suggest to use it as a tool for strategic thinking and planning. I do not suggest you to use it as a formal foresight, because you need an expert to help you in this process.
Well, how to phrase it? Got to know several managers, and cannot cease myself from writing about them, and today I focus only on good and successful managers, who you want to be or at least have them in your team. I think I will call them leaders (-:
* The Smart And Facilitator: this is my favorite type. I know very few managers who are very experienced, very sharp, very smart, and on the same time give credit to others, like professionals to be part of their teams, and promote the ones who are doing, not the ones who are talking. Want to be this type?
Learn your field and master it, collect a team of outcomes people, not input people, determine your goals and objectives often, let your team express their professional opinion, and lead the organization that way. Get rid of unnecessary.
From my experience, this type is very rare and very rich…
* The Entrepreneur And That’s It: I like these people, I actually love them. Their passion, their enthusiasm, their belief, and above all – their ability to make their dream come true. They have two major advantages: they know to dream and they know to find the right team to bring it to life. Want to be this type?
I think it is mainly a talent, they got a talent to dream and drive themselves and others to pursue it. However, I hope to encourage you – everyone of us is a little entrepreneur, why am I so sure?! show me one person on this planet who never had a successful idea, just one tiny thing they wanted to do and did.
I never considered myself as entrepreneur but my decision to start a blog got me loyal readership within couple of weeks! I still do not consider myself that type, because I am much more a person of consulting and managing existing bodies than starting-up, but it is nice to know that I can also start-up an idea (-; …
* The Innovative Out-Of-The-Box And Still Gentle: I have a soft spot in my heart for these people. They think differently than others, and this is why they bring huge organizational advantage with them everywhere they go. They will ever be successful. Those talented human beings are usually aware that the common man/woman will be terrified or at least completely disagree with their opinion, so they generously let everyone in their team a trial and error. The end is pretty clear – they are right, everyone else is wrong… Anyway, I am not trying to say that they know everything, they kinda took also some skills from the smart and facilitator, but their conclusions are somehow unexpected. Want to be this type?
I think you gotta be born special, if you see a kid who acts weirdly, but somehow ingeniously , that is probably the adult I am talking about. Yet, if you cannot be(at) them – join them – just try to find this type of person to be in your team.
In short: be smart, be cooperative, build your team, and respect knowledge.
Warning! the content may make some of you feel uncomfortable, and full of thoughts. I apologize in advance, and yet write about it.
Got to start with a short story… why? because this is the trigger for this very blast.
As you have already noticed, I do not write this blog for a long time, nevertheless I spent almost a decade (and counting) in management consulting in all its glory… and have a backlog of crazy stuff I want to share with you…
Once upon a time there was a large organization. Actually there were several of them, because it is going too sound you too familiar. The senior executives in this organization are the world’s smartest people, only God is smarter than them. The one and only wisdom is in their hands, and if they say so and so, you gotta say only one word: Yes.
The smartest people sometimes hold two nice shiny letters prior to their first name, yes you guess correctly – DR. Sometimes it takes the shape “PhD” afterward their last name. In any case they absolutely completed their third degree. I do honour each one of them. I have not completed mine yet.
So the smartest people were sitting in the Board of Directors and before letting anyone say a word in regard to an impact evaluation, they refused it out of hand, case closed. Why? because they do not need to know more, they can design it – just 2-3 questions, what’s the big deal??
In a different occasion they just ignored some suggestions for improvements, why? because they are the ones to know, not anyone else.
The story is the introduction for my little lecture below… ready to think?! I start… (-:
Smart people are smart and knowledgeable, but they certainly do not know everything. Assuming that their PhD is in Physics, they must know better than others in this field. If their PhD is in Nonprofit Management, they must be knowledgeable about the sector, but they are surely not experts in methodology, or business management, unless they have additional experience and education.
…and now I get to the main point: only methodologists are methodologists. Yes, every other academic has conducted research to some degree in some point of their academic career. However! that does not make you an expert in research methods. If you are a good manager, I believe you have great skills, but please do not assume you know to write a survey or design measurement tools. Mmm… no, you do not! You do not know how to define your question, gather data properly, you do not know how to create metrics, you doubtfully know how to analyze data, and utterly do not know to interpret it. If you want to know how to do the above – gain a set of skills and earn some experience.
I may generalize and say that my message above is right for every field, from business management to mathematics, and the bottom line is – respect the knowledge – it may help you more than you imagine! You know a lot, but be careful and aware of your boundaries. If something does not fall under your expertise, you better ask for professional help, or at least respect the advice given by people who hold education and experience in that area.
I also suggest to look around, you may notice extremely successful organizations that use experts in many aspects, there must be a reason to do so… (-:
By the way, I was really searching a movie for this post, because I hate thinking of myself as someone who is just teasing and criticizing, and not giving something relaxing for a change (-:
So, three birds in one stone, “The Beautiful Mind” : I love Russell Crowe, I truly like the movie, and I also find it inspiring and conveying the message. What is the message in my opinion? Short and sweet: Keep calm and respect experts (even when you think they are nuts!)
My post that dealt with the lack of measurement in success terms has led some enlightening comments from my colleagues and past managers, so I have decided to dedicate my coming posts to research this field and dig a bit more. It should be noted that I have done some research in the past, and sort of consider myself as someone who gained some knowledge re SROI or other impact measurement efforts, however insufficient and this is why I find it imperative to research now.
Another note before we dive-in… I plan to write a series of posts in this topic. Firstly, I would like to cover some methodology, i.e. set some conditions for my research. Secondly – review existing solutions in respect to the methodology. Finally, I hope to come to conclusion with the most relevant tools or suggestions for the future.
Ready to think?! Let’s do it!
The first and above all is the question WHY do we need to measure impact in social projects? It is indeed a vital and important question, and… I have a very good answer in my pocket. A very smart senior executive and philanthropist, emailed me the following statement, based on his extensive experience with foundations: about 85% of the funding in social projects is going lost without achieving its goal. These are insane numbers my friends. A simple math will reveal a bare truth. In the US itself ~333.5 billion dollars were donated in 2013. However, based on the above, we can cut out about $300 billion. I stop here, because it hurts to think in global terms (not to mention the lovely governmental “match”). I am sure most of you already know that there is a critical issue with funding-impact ratio, and this statement is just the straw to break the camel’s back. It was for me, anyway, and as a consequence I have decided to write a wake-up and start thinking post.
Are you ready to think with me?! I suggest you to comment here or by email, and I promise to integrate your thoughts and credit you in my next posts. I honestly believe that we can work together in order to achieve this goal, as we all have one mission – to find a decent solution. But! we cannot accept every solution. I have developed several criteria in order to consider a route to be a solution, and you are welcome to add more or suggest adjustments:
1. Usefulness To what extent can we use the measures in day-to-day management? and by this I talk about the dual role of metrics. I hold this opinion for years, and every time I state it, people are looking at me if I had fallen from the moon. But I actually did not, as long as I recall I was born on earth (-:
So if I get back to the point – the dual role is enabling the use of metrics/measures by both sides, the foundation/funding body and the charity/organization alike. No more measurement for THEM, no more shortening of evaluation time and tools. You want it for your organization because YOU deserve to know what the hell is going on!
The issue of usefulness hit me like crazy back in 2007, when I was working with senior managers in social services, whom their project was founded by a very large north-American federation. They did not want to measure, nor to learn – they already knew the true, thanks, but no need to measure at all. I asked them why they despise it so much, and they simply said – it is too much work for our overloaded staff, we have no spare time for collecting useless data… they added that they already know the ins and outs so well, so no evaluation or measurement will enlighten anything.
It hit me again when I read Jed Emerson’s post last week, especially here: “I recall a breakout session presentation by one of the world’s best known impact investment organizations—one that appears on everyone’s list of favorite impact funds—listening to a nuanced and well-considered presentation by their head of impact performance. Following the formal PowerPoint show that included impressive definitions, charts and data, the presenter was asked, “How do these impact metrics inform your work?” to which the presenter responded, “Oh—we don’t actually use these metrics in our work. We just need them to give our funders!” After everyone had a good laugh, he said, “No, no—I’m serious—we don’t use them at all!” Peals of continued laughter echoed…”
Things are about to get worse, my dear readers, not a long ago I met a very senior level manager who works for a wealthy foundation. It happened to be with some connection to one of the projects in which I have been involved in the past, so I was more than curious to learn how they used the data and metrics we sent then for review. Sorry to disappoint you – they did not. They donated the money and forgot about it, and the real hell is yet to come – they never use metrics for themselves, as a foundation… and you know what?! they are absolutely not alone. The same shock made me shake, back in 2011 when I realized that a billion dollar foundation NEVER measures impact, never tried to develop something useful, and moreover when I was trying to educate them I got the same feeling of Mars and Venus, Earth and Moon, whatever you name it, I bet you understand me.
If so, I conclude: we need something useful – something that people will want to use, need to use, and feel it’s helpful. And please twice, one for the giving side, one for the taking one. I would say that in this aspect we have to talk business, and learn from business cases how to measure ONCE and EFFICIENTLY for more than one stakeholder.
To what extent normative managers can use the measures in day-to-day management? and by this I talk about managers who do not have extensive research background.
It reminds me one of my nonprofit job interviews (-: funny story actually, especially if you consider my very limited knowledge about this sector back then, and specifically the funding issue. The position was highly customer-faced, and dealt with measurement and evaluation in education and social services. The interviewers, there were two of them, asked me if I think that every social service manager or every school principal should use SPSS (yes, the statistical package). I was sure they are kidding, but they did not, so I answered “of course NOT, they can use Excel which is much easy to adapt, use and learn”, and got the job.
I tell you this story, because I will never agree that managers need to be researchers. They certainly do not! they need to do their job, to manage! and metrics is just another great tool to facilitate decision making and performance measurement. Yes, it is an essential tool, one to be top prioritize for every manager in the nonprofit sector. Yet, I wonder how this vital tool will become friendly and suit every normative manager? I think we can again keep an eye on good business practices. We also may bear in mind that we want something simple, Excel based, and easy to collect data and interpret.
I have to warn you, I got together with enough organization that invested tons of money in IT solutions for their database, and sadly I can barely count the organizations that really USE this information. They often tend to forget about it, and when they tried to retrieve some data, it was always such a burden, and poor quality.
I would also like to add one more thing, I believe in short things. What do I mean? I never like the idea of tons of questions or gathering endless information, we are not conducting an academic study (NO we are not!), we have a mission to measure the impact. In order to do that we have to keep in mind that there are busy people who realistically cannot dedicate themselves to information gathering as their life mission, and therefore it has to be short and useful, not just short, not just useful. BOTH.
If I summarize my impressions and thoughts in this respect, and would say that there is a vital need for a FRIENDLY and RELEVANT tool to measure nonprofits performance. I do not want to sound as criticizing some existing measures, but I feel they are too complicated, and may not be a good answer to address the friendliness need.
3. Standardization: to what extent we can expect to use the same measurement for a wide range of projects? I will leave this measure open for your comments, because I already, kind of, formatted this so firmly in my mind, and I feel too strict…
Hope you enjoyed the reading. Please comment, share and subscribe to my newsletter, I promise to make you think (-:
P.S. – A super-talented friend of mine who works in the industry and does a great job with impact an so on, read this post before published, and was quite amazed that I still insist to make efforts to spread these ideas. He said: “You have got to forget SROI and this, no one wants to learn, no one wants to know, they know everything. Even when I try to spoon feed them they won’t listen”. Well, I dedicate couple of songs to you, keep calm and continue doing your great job. Good times are just about to come (-:
Click here if you want to listen the songs. None of them fully expresses my purpose, but absolutely set the tone.