Thursday, December 20, 2012

Mission Statement Winners 2012... and More

It’s time to wrap up the Third Annual Great Mission Statement Competition. 

The winner of the Great Mission Statement prize for 2012 is Literacy Advance of Houston with a mission of “Transforming lives and communities through the doorway of literacy.” As discussed in the previous post, this statement captures the essence of the organization in nine vivid and memorable words. Moreover, a level of mission-based engagement is indicated in the comments submitted to the posting of finalists. All of our finalists, and semifinalists, as well as many others, have excellent and effective statements, but the third annual prize goes to Literacy Advance of Houston.

We’ve also selected ten of the entries to the Mission Statement Makeover category to see if we can help them to reshape their mission statements to make them vivid, compelling and memorable. We’ll be sharing the before and after statements in a future post.

For others looking to improve their statements, here are some potentially useful resources:

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Third Annual Mission Statement Competition Finalists

There was a big jump in the number of entries this year, both in the Great Mission Statement category and in the Mission Statement Makeover category. It will take us some time to work our way through the Makeover entries, so stay tuned for that.

To select the semifinalists, I invited three colleagues with nonprofit writing and editing expertise to join me. They were:

  • Claire Axelrad, Principal, Axelrad Social Benefit Consulting

  • Scott Bechtler-Levin, Vice President for Collective Impact, Good Done Great

  • Hillel Bromberg, Director of Grants Development and Administration, Families United in Educational Leadership

Early last week we sifted through a lot of mission statements from very diverse group of organizations that appear to be doing great work across the globe (see last Tuesday’s blog post), managed to pick six semi-finalists in the Great Statement category and presented them in our webinar What’s a Mission Statement Worth?

Help us to pick the winner

Please take a look at the finalists (below) and help us to select the best of the best. To weigh in, submit comments to this blog. You’re welcome to make a pitch for your organization’s mission statement, but no anonymous comments please. We will consider only attributed comments, and post only ones that make a case for why the statement meets either the criteria for excellence summarized below or your own.

During the webinar we described the role of a mission statement, noted its critical characteristics, and shared examples of different kinds of successful—and almost successful—ones.

Briefly summarized, a mission statement has external and internal functions.

  • Externally, a mission statement is a branding and positioning tool that gets and holds the attention of the public, and underpins the case for giving.
  • Internally, a mission statement should inspire stakeholders, provide clarity and focus for operations, fortify strategic thinking, structure planning, and point to metrics that will indicate successes.

Some mission statements are very close to taglines, primarily aimed at grabbing attention ; others are crafted more to differentiate one organization from others in the same field. Each nonprofit has its own set of issues, and somewhat different criteria for its mission statement. But in broad terms, a mission statement should articulate the essence of why your organization exists. It can encompass what you are, but should avoid explaining what you do and how. It should be accurate (specific, sufficiently broad, appropriately focused), accessible (concise, simply stated, jargon-free) and effective (differentiating, memorable, compelling).

For more detail on these points you can access the slides or a recording of the webinar and/or take a look at Critical Issues #7: On Mission.

We’ll announce the winner in mid-December.

The finalists:

Literacy Advance of Houston
Transforming lives and communities through the doorway of literacy.

This statement is succinct, compelling and memorable. The words are all well-chosen and vivid. It is very much a why statement, not a how. Scott said that he liked the word picture (’doorway of literacy’) and the focus on outcome. Claire thought the statement would make a great tagline. Hillel: “it’s evocative and inclusive, and implies the impact of literacy education. The wording offers a nice visual image.”

People for Parks, Los Angeles
People for Parks works for the day that all kids in Los Angeles are within walking distance of a safe park.

During the webinar I mentioned the overlap among mission statements, taglines and vision statements. Just as the previous statement could be a tagline, this statement could be a vision statement, but that does not make it any the less powerful as a mission statement. Claire: “Aspirational, simple, clear and direct. I can already picture the children being helped.” Scott “Their vision is compelling.”

San Diego Coastkeeper
San Diego Coastkeeper aims to protect and restore fishable, swimmable and drinkable waters in San Diego County.

The explanation submitted with this entry sums up my assessment: “In 17 words, San Diego Coastkeeper… provides the image of people actively fighting and protecting our waters for a better future…. Using descriptive words, it provides a picture of what we could have if we just work for it.”
Hillel: “The unusual usage of words grabs attention and makes their goals clear and memorable.” Scott: “I like that it humanizes the benefit of the work they do. Disclaimer: I live / work / surf / sail in San Diego County (but I have no direct relationship).”

Please comment below to help us select the winner.

The other semifinalists:

Can Do Canines
Can Do Canines is dedicated to enhancing the quality of life for people with disabilities by creating mutually beneficial partnerships with specially trained dogs.
HALO Trust
Getting mines out of the ground, now.
Humane Society of Flower Mound
The Humane Society of Flower Mound is dedicated to promoting a respectful, responsible, and compassionate relationship between animals and people.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Mission Statement Competiton Entries and Judging

The Mission Statement Competition for 2012 will culminate tomorrow with the webinar What’s a Mission Statement Worth? During the webinar we will present the six semi-finalists selected by our review panel and ask for input from participants.

This year's entries in the mission statement competition represent a diverse group of inspiring causes, in both the Great Mission Statement and the Mission Statement Makeover categories. They include organizations concerned with:

  • veterans
  • women and families
  • young women
  • young fathers
  • abused and neglected children
  • children from troubled families
  • youth on the Autism spectrum
  • individuals with Down syndrome
  • people with disabilities
  • struggling schools in Third World Countries
  • shoes for children in need
  • growing food for neighbors in need
  • rebuilding impoverished communities
  • providing food and crisis assistance
  • development of young musicians
  • protecting and restoring waters in San Diego County
  • conservation of soil, water
  • bridging the digital divide
  • bicycle riding
  • symphonic music
  • literacy
  • education
  • mentoring
  • volunteerism
  • affordable transitional housing
  • public safety
  • poverty
  • adoption
  • pet overpopulation
  • sexual health
  • homelessness
  • polymicrogyria.
  • childhood obesity
  • breast cancer
  • professional theatre Canada
  • Mexican culture in Edmonton
  • landmines in Vietnam
  • liberty in North Korea
  • Pan-African people and their communities
  • communities in Africa
  • positive interaction between African and Afro-American communities
  • Central Florida Arab Americans
  • poverty and economic justice in Vermont

On our review panel this year are:

Join us tomorrow and look for the list of finalists next week.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Third Annual What's Your Mission? Competition

The job of a mission statement is to articulate the essence of why the organization exists. If you don’t articulate it, then it’s very likely that there isn’t an essence at all, just a cloud of assumedly similar individual understandings. So when people advocate working on the mission statement, what they mean is, “Let’s sharpen what we say about our purpose so that we can work more effectively together to achieve it, and draw more people into our fold to support it.”

Externally, a mission statement is branding and positioning. It differentiates your organization from others that may do similar work. It captures most compellingly your case for support. It creates awareness for your cause, and it focuses that awareness on you. It unifies your communications so that when people hear about the organization from any source, the message is the same and reinforces what they heard before.

Internally, a mission statement is generative tool for clarity and focus. First, the work to create a mission statement itself will raise important questions of intention and priority. If the discussion is difficult, that may mean you need to resolve some differences of direction. If well orchestrated, the discussion will be neither interminable nor tedious, but contained, validating and invigorating.

Does your organization have a Great Mission Statement?

Or are you interested in getting some help with a Mission Statement Makeover?

Enter your nonprofit in the Third Annual What’s Your Mission? Competition. On the entry form you’ll find links to the winners and makeover comments from previous years.

Submit your entry by midnight on Thursday, October 25, 2012.

Selected Great Mission Statement entries will be publicized broadly and discussed in this blog. During our webinar What’s a Mission Statement Worth? on October 31, attendees will help to choose three finalists, followed by an open forum to help select a winner. The winner will receive extensive publicity and a free day of consulting on any aspect of nonprofit strategy, planning or organizational development.

Mission Statement Makeover finalists will receive assistance in creating a new draft mission statement. The winner will receive additional help to take it through internal approvals, and then publicity.

Tips? On Mission

Questions? Click here

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Nonprofit Webinars Season 12

With the passing of Labor Day 2012 we'll be ready to launch the fall season of our free weekly professional development webinars for staff and trustees of nonprofits.

This time we'll be joined not only by 6 new and 18 returning presenters, but also by a new sibling, IdeaEncore, the premier resource sharing site for nonprofits, which was adopted over the summer by our parent organization Good Done Great. Together we'll be developing synergies in knowledge sharing for the benefit of nonprofits worldwide.

In the first time slot each Wednesday we address issues of governance, management and organizational development. The second slot is devoted to all aspects of institutional advancement

For more information on the complete season and the archive of past webinars go to

To register for any of the webinars we've posted so far, click on a listing in the box in the right hand column.

September 5:
Top 10 Reactions to Performance Feedback (Jamie Resker, Employee Performance Solutions)
Video Event Checklist (Roberto Mighty, Celestial Media)

The rest of the fall:

Governance, Management & Organizational Development
Understanding Power Dynamics at Work (Claudette Rowley, Metavoice)
Nonprofit Boards and Effective Governance (Sam Frank, Synthesis Partnership)
Outputs vs. Outcomes: Measuring Progress (Natasha Golinsky, Next Level Nonprofits)
Financial Management for Mature Organizations (Anthony Reese, Olive Grove Consulting)
Adaptive Work Systems: The Power of Strength in Relationships (Bernard Mohr & Neil Samuels)
What's a Mission Statement Worth? (Sam Frank, Synthesis Partnership)
Facilitating Virtual Meetings (Rick Lent, Meeting for Results)
Empowered Conversations: From Debate to Dialogue (Gil Lazan, Amauta International)
Data-Driven Decision-Making (Rena Cheskis-Gold, Demographic Perspectives)
How to Read Nonprofit Financial Statements (Susan Hammond, scHammond Advisors)
Legal and Governance Issues for NGOs Worldwide (Jeff Hurwit, Hurwit & Associates)

Institutional Advancement
Auction Revenues for Nonprofits (Tom Weitbrecht, Strategic Auction Alliance)
Big Giving Results (Rod Miller, Rod Miller, ExecIAE)
Corporate Sponsorship (Lewis Flax, Flax Associates)
List Building (Kirsten M. Bullock, Growing Your Donors)
How to Get 100 New Donors in 90 Days (David Mersky, Mersky, Jaffe Associates)
Indie Publishing for the Nonprofit Leader (Dalya Massachi, Writing for Community Success)
Top Seven Fundraising Tips (Darian Heyman, Social Media for Nonprofits)
Guaranteed Simple Steps to Raise Planned Gifts (Viken Mikaelian,
Your 2013 Fundraising Plan (Tina Cincotti, Funding Change)
4 Simple Steps to Fundraising (Sandy Rees, GetFullyFunded)

Nonprofit Webinars is a pro bono service of Good Done Great and Synthesis Partnership. Since January 2010 we have offered free weekly professional development presentations for staff and trustees of nonprofits. Over that time we have had more than 35,000 registrations, including attendees from all 50 states and 6 continents. In their evaluations attendees frequently volunteer that the webinar was one of the best they have attended, free or not.

We are always looking for compelling topics, excellent presenters, added exposure, …and sponsors to cover our modest costs. Contact me or go to for more information.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Working Together

In recent years there has been a lot of talk in the funding community about reducing overhead expenses of nonprofits by eliminating redundancies. Quite often this is intended to mean mergers. Setting aside the question in any given case of whether a merger really makes as much sense on close inspection as it does as an outside idea, there are at least two major hurdles for mergers: it is very difficult to get executive directors and boards interested in pursuing them (for all kinds of reasons), and if a merger were to be consummated, the operational, strategic and cultural integration is daunting (also for all kinds of reasons).

A much easier way to reduce wasted efforts and resources is some form or other of collaboration. Nonprofits can work together to extend their reach and increase their effectiveness in serving their mission at a number of different levels:

At the most basic level, separate organizations providing services for the same population may be able to serve their missions more effectively by coordination. This can be a matter of simply sharing calendars—soup kitchens serving meals on different days or times, independent schools consulting on snow days, organizations avoiding scheduling conflicts for fundraising events.

Beyond an arms-length scheduling relationship, organizations may be able to find common ground for cooperation. Performing arts groups or venues can jointly host a festival. Social service agencies have found it advantageous to discuss and agree on the array of services they provide—differentiating services, geographies or populations. Similar organizations gain valuable insights by pooling a wide variety of data in benchmarking consortia.

At the next level, nonprofits collaborate to achieve a goal that neither is capable of alone. Some advocacy organizations routinely form coalitions to integrate strategy in publicity, lobbying, or other action. Cultural organizations come together to create joint exhibitions and performances on a timely theme.

When a collaboration seems like a good long-term idea, organizations may enter into a more formal joint venture arrangement. This degree of integration shares some of the pitfalls of a merger, however, and should be examined very carefully before entering into contractual arrangements. One example from our work of a joint venture is Heritage Harbor Museum. Nineteen or so small organizations joined forces to form a collective museum. This was an inspiring idea that turned out to be much more difficult to realize than any of the participating organizations realized.

More on working together in a future post.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Good Tension

An informed consensus around mission and the strategic pursuit of it is essential to the effectiveness of a nonprofit. In some areas, however, an easy consensus is not a sign of health, at all, but rather of insufficient diversity of perspectives.

A dynamic tension between opposing perceptions is fundamental to healthy governance. A board that accepts recommendations with little discussion and then accepts them unanimously is doing no better service to its fiduciary responsibilities than one that is unable to agree at all to a course of action.

Some differences can’t—and shouldn’t—be resolved, they can only be managed. In many nonprofits some trustees serve out of deep commitment to a cause, but with little concern for the details of management or finance. Others may have been recruited specifically to bring financial, legal or other professional expertise to the board. These trustees are also devoted to the mission. Why else would they devote their time, energy and financial support to the organization?

When it comes time to discuss the budget, or to prioritize the strategic plan, or to distribute committee assignments, the board may find itself at an impasse. Those whose focus is financial sustainability or the importance of strengthening management resources may be unable to communicate effectively with those who see only the urgent need to apply all possible resources to programs and services. Those who see an urgent need to maintain or enhance facilities may be frustrated trying to discuss the budget with those for whom insufficient staff salaries and benefits, or financial aid, are the critical priorities.

In these situations, an exercise that allows all parties to see the virtues and drawbacks of their position along with the benefits of the opposing position can set up a much more productive discussion of issues.

A polarity exercise uses a matrix with columns for two opposing priorities and rows for positive and negative characteristics of each position in isolation. The matrix can be filled out in a group discussion, or subgroups can consider in turn each of the quadrants. If there are multiple polarities to consider, they can be addressed by separate breakout groups, but it is best if each participant has the opportunity to contribute to each quadrant of each polarity.

The result of this exercise is that reflexive conflict is diffused in favor of reflective discussions. By taking the issues out of their usual decision-making context and examining them dispassionately, all participants are enabled to see the necessity for balance.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012


Critical Issues #14: Managing Change will be out tomorrow. One important moment of change in a nonprofit is the transition of an organization from dominance by a founder (or other individually dominant leader) to a more mature organization with different needs and multiple roles.

In its simplest construct, the issue is one of succession. Succession planning is typically about identifying and developing people internally to be able to step up to leadership.

In a small to medium sized nonprofit there may not be staff candidates with the requisite executive skill set. Often the board's discussion focuses on how to identify an external candidate. This simply perpetuates the reliance on an individual rather than an institutional infrastructure. It may work, but it's not moving the organization to the next level.

A more meaningful change toward sustainability involves engaging stakeholders (board, volunteers, staff) in developing the organization more broadly, and clearly articulating its mission, values, and operations. The biggest components of this effort are usually board development and governance work, and strategic planning. Doing this work will

  • prepare the organization to guide its next CEO to build on accumulated experience and wisdom
  • serve to attract the best candidates for the position by assuring them that there is a solid base to work from
  • provide an initial trajectory for the new CEO to follow while getting to know the organization
I have been asked quite frequently whether a nonprofit facing the retirement of a long-term CEO should put off strategic planning until after the new person is hired, to give her the opportunity to shape the strategy to fit her vision.

The answer, for the three reasons bulleted above, is to do the planning —and governance work —now. The candidate you want to hire is one who will see any of this preparation as an asset, both in evaluating the opportunity and in starting the job. It's a better bet to have to redirect a moving ship than to wonder what it will take to get it moving at all. This is true for a founder transition, or for a later one.

Friday, June 22, 2012


The SWOT (Strengths Weaknesses Opportunities Threats) exercise is a stock feature of strategic planning processes. Over 100 comments in a recent LinkedIn group discussion testify to a wealth of opinion on the subject.

I have often used the technique with nonprofit clients, and have found that a few tweaks can make it much less confusing and more effective.

One challenge in a SWOT exercise is maintaining participant focus on the distinctions among the categories. Depending on how a suggestion is phrased, there can be ambiguity about which category it should go into. Either the facilitator stifles the energy by wielding too much control or one idea suggests another, and the discussion wanders around, losing coherence. Here are two tips for keeping focused:

In structuring the exercise, I start with external factors, outside of the organization’s control, the Opportunities and Threats. These are the easiest to isolate.

Once we go through external factors, I break the internal factors (Strengths and Weaknesses) down into three subcategories:

  • Inputs (eg. human resources, funding, facilities)
  • Processes (e.g. programs, operations, governance)
  • Outputs (e.g. quality and impact of programs and services)
By proceeding through the topics in that order, participants’ thinking is channeled more effectively. Of course, ideas come up outside of the specific category discussions, but much less so than would happen without this structure, and they can be plugged into the right areas along the way.

Another technique can help with SWOT exercises at a large retreat with the board, senior staff and others.

Starting with a blank slate in these settings is overrated. Trustees’ judgment is often best exercised with some prior framing of issues. I have had the staff go through their own SWOT exercise first. I then take the notes from that session and shape them into crisp entries in the appropriate categories. Posting the results of the staff SWOT as a starting point for the retreat saves the board from the frustration of rehashing basic issues from scratch, and allows them to apply their judgment to build on, and perhaps challenge, the preparatory work.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Learning from This Week's Webinars: Managing Change

Now that I'm thinking about change management for the next number of Critical Issues, I've begun to see a lot of good ideas through that lens.

In Wednesday's webinar on Managing Disruptive Employee Behaviors, Jamie Resker described patterns of substandard or disruptive performance and how to understand and address them. She was talking about normal times, but it was easy to see how the behaviors she described would not only be more of a problem during times of change, but would be exacerbated by the stress of change.

When expectations change (new elements in a job description, new metrics, new requirements for taking initiative, new management styles,… ) staff are likely to experience stress, which will bring out the best in some, but will elicit negative reactions, decreased productivity, and/or disruptive behaviors from others.

Kristen Bullock, talking about How to Get Out of the Muck and Back Into Your Mission, discussed the life cycle of an organization and the variety of psychological/emotional reactions to change. She talked about motivating others and ourselves to reconnect with the sense of purpose that inspired us initially.

Two excellent presentations that happened to build very nicely on each other.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Learning from This Week's Webinars: Building Teams and Managing Change

Bob Greene's webinar on today in the Nonprofit Webinars Wednesday series on Building Real Teams touched on some ideas that I've been mulling over about managing change.

Bob talked about how groups become teams, and how an organization can support—or undermine—the process. As Bob described it, team success requires shared intentions, shared effort, clear communication, and leadership. Organizational leaders need to ensure that the environment supports team performance and that expectations are clear, and they need to model the behavior they are trying to foster. He talked about systems thinking and used the metaphor of ecology.

This is what I consider the essence of successfully managing change, most particularly in the strategy development and implementation phases (see previous post).

Of course there are major differences between a small, focused work team and the aggregate staff and disparate functions of a large or even mid-sized nonprofit. But the characteristics of effectiveness are not so different. It's just that much more difficult to shape strategy and implement new behaviors at a larger scale.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Managing Change

I describe my consulting practice as advising nonprofit organizations “facing or creating change.” This phrase captures some of the compelling reasons for strategic planning (Critical Issues #1: Why Plan?), but it doesn’t really address the usual outcome of it, the need to manage change.

Organizational development is a primary characteristic of a good strategic planning process—by way of engagement, transparency and learning—and this is a good start to managing the change that emerges from it.

But whether or not change emerges from strategic planning, its arrival is disruptive. Change management is the art of helping people to adapt to change—a founder who needs to be repositioned, a board that needs to take on a different role, managers who need to develop different styles of leadership, staff who need to accept changes in their responsibilities.

In all of these cases, successful management of change requires five things:

  1. Identify (or recognize) the need for change
  2. Define the change that’s needed
  3. Develop a strategy for change
  4. Implement the change
  5. Assess effectiveness
Details and examples to follow.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012


Currently I am advising a client on how to do a strategic plan internally, with only the most minimal involvement from me, the external consultant. It’s an approach that I greatly enjoy, because it is an especially good way to transfer of knowledge and experience, leaving the client in a much better position to work strategically on their own in the future. Yesterday we got to the point of discussing how to develop measurable action items for the plan. Here's the overview of my response:

Once you have agreed on Mission-Based Goals and Supporting Objectives, it’s time to develop measurable action items.

Since you want the implementation of the plan to be the work of everyone in the organization, the best way to assemble a preliminary list of action items is to ask everyone working within in the organization to participate in identifying what need to be done. This involves the people who actually know what is and isn’t being done already, and what might be most effective. Beyond this purely operational dimension, an inclusive process also focuses everyone’s attention on the strategic goals and objectives. Getting people’s attention is the first step in breaking old habits and thinking strategically about new possibilities.

All staff groups and board committees (and other volunteer categories, if they exist) should be asked to come up with action items not only for the objectives that are clearly theirs, but for all of the objectives they think they can contribute to. By ignoring narrow definitions of direct responsibility, this approach strengthens both the plan and the organization directly with a sense of common purpose.

There are different ways to handle this request for action items from staff. Each department could get together and brainstorm, or the manager responsible could start a list and ask for elaboration, or cross-departmental discussion groups could be assembled so that staff can stimulate, encourage and challenge each other.

Of course, the planning committee and/or senior staff, and perhaps the board (for their own action items, not the staff’s), need to review and edit the action items for relevance and effectiveness. They will also likely have to add in some action items; confirm the timing, assign responsibility and project resource requirements; and prioritize them to reflect affordability and achievability.

Whatever method is used to gather ideas from staff, it is important to convey to the participants that they shouldn’t worry that anything they mention will simply be added to their responsibilities. At the end of the process, once the action items are finalized, job descriptions should be reviewed to make sure that they reflect strategic priorities, both by including new tasks and by eliminating less important things. In most nonprofits staff is already working to capacity. The idea is to work smarter, not harder.

Typically a strategic plan is thought of as having a three- to five-year life span. That should be true of the goals and objectives; in fact many of them may endure much longer than that. The action items, however, need to be reviewed every year, as part of annual planning. Once a full year of actions has been accomplished, the situation and needs of the organizations may have changed. The remaining actions may no longer be the top priority. A clear process of renewal through annual planning should be articulated as part of the implementation plan.

Finally, it is often valuable to assemble a plan in two versions, one with the action items, for internal use; the other with just descriptions of the goals and objectives, for public consumption. An extra benefit of this approach is that each version can be refined with reference to the other. Are the action items necessary and sufficient to accomplish the objective as described? Does the description of the objective correspond to the action items identified? This can be a very effective check on the completeness plan.

Monday, March 19, 2012

NonprofitWebinars: Season 10

The spring 2012 season of Wednesday Webinars will launch this week. Since January 2010 we have offered free weekly professional development presentations for staff and trustees of nonprofits. Over that time we have had more than 30,000 registrations, including attendees from all 50 states and 6 continents. In their evaluations attendees frequently volunteer that the webinar was one of the best they have attended, free or not.

Webinars are offered every Wednesday at 1:00 Eastern / 10:00 Pacific & 3:00 Eastern / noon Pacific. For more information or to register for any of the webinars, go to

This season we have an even split between new presenters and veterans (about a dozen of each), and a lot of new topics, especially in the area of organizational development. While we are still finalizing a few of the late May sessions, here’s what we have to date:

March 21
So You Want To Be A Social Entrepreneur? (Darian Rodriguez Heyman, Social Media for Nonprofits)
Collaborating with Partners on Joint Grants (Dalya F. Massachi, Writing for Community Success)

March 28
Recognizing and Cultivating Trust in Networks (Kate Pugh, AlignConsulting)
Everything You Wanted to Know about Face-to-Face Solicitation but Were Afraid to Ask (David Mersky, Mersky, Jaffe Associates)

A Business Paradigm for Social Impact (Jon Firger, Newton Community Service Center)
Before You Hire an Architect—& Then How to Do It (Sam Frank, Synthesis Partnership)
Appreciative Governance: Engagement and Innovation Throughout The Organization (Bernard Mohr, Innovation Partners International & Neil Samuels, Profound Conversations)
After the Gift: Build A Satisfied, Loyal Donor Base (Tina Cincotti, Funding Change)
Nonprofit Advocacy: Lobbying & Election-Related Activities for 501(c)(3)s (Emily Chan & Gene Takagi, NEO Law Group)
Social Media Fundraising: Past Present and Future (Ehren Foss, HelpAttack!)
Structuring Meetings to Get Work Done (Rick Lent, Meeting for Results)
Generating Corporate Support (Lewis Flax, Flax Associates)

Building Real Teams: A Leadership Perspective (Bob Greene, Bob Greene Coaching and Consulting)
Video: YouTube & Facebook (Roberto Mighty, Celestial Media)
Managing Disruptive Employee Behaviors (Jamie Resker, Employee Performance Solutions)
How to Get Out of the Muck & Back Into Your Mission (Kirsten M. Bullock, Bullock Consulting Inc.)
Building Your Marketing Communications Team (Michele Levy, Brand Strategy Consultant)
Mediation Skills for Managers (Claudette Rowley, Metavoice)
Grant Writing 102 (Hillel Bromberg, FUEL)

Managing Stress (Gil Lazan, Amauta International)
Cultural Competency (Judy Freiwirth, Nonprofit Solutions)
Liars, Cheats, & Thieves: Practical Internal Control Solutions for Nonprofits (Susan Hammond, scHammond Advisors)
Engaging Every Generation (Emily Davis, EDA Consulting)

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Learning From This Week's Webinars: Collaboration

In more than two years of directing the NonprofitWebinars free professional development webinar series, I’ve had the pleasure of hosting something on the order of 170 webinars on topics ranging from advancement to governance and management to organizational development and planning.

We began with a broad focus on basics such as Effective Marketing Communications on a Shoestring, Creating a Fundraising Plan, Financial Management Basics, and Effective Nonprofit Internet Strategy (all recorded and available for viewing).

Recently we’ve focused on more advanced topics, such as Knowledge Networks, Conflict Resolution, Stewardship as Revenue Enhancer, and, just yesterday, The Power of Collaborative Solutions, presented by Tom Wolff.

Tom offered a fascinating look at how we think about collaboration, especially in addressing the needs of our communities. In just an hour, he outlined a large body of knowledge, noted the barriers that typically prevent effective collaboration, and offered both conceptual structures and specific tools for embarking on successful collaborations.

I was especially struck by his definition of an agency-based vs. a community-based approach. An agency-based approach focuses on what services can be provided to address specific needs, and is thus invested in an infrastructure of problems and solutions. A community-based approach looks at strengths, assets, and aspirations, emphasizing the role of all involved—individuals, institutions and funders—in collaborative explorations and action. Instead of providers trying to market their solutions to a community, an approach based in inclusive, participatory collaboration engages the community in defining issues, identifying problems, making decisions, and controlling and owning the process.

This distinction reflects my own approach to planning within an organization. Engaging all stakeholders in a strategic planning process, or all professional staff in a program planning process, unleashes enormous enthusiasm, energy, and resources in the pursuit of mission.

This, after all, is the nonprofit sector at its best: people coming together to make the world a better place. This is the essence of our webinar series as well.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012


We’re getting ready for today’s webinar on Nonprofit Boards and Effective Governance. Here are some links to other thoughts on governance, in earlier blog posts (on the board manual, the individual service plan, and board self-assessment) and in Critical Issues # 4, On Boards.

I was reminded of another post this morning as I reviewed the results of a board self-assessment, If It Ain’t Broke …. A significant number of trustees responded with less than strong agreement to the question “I voice my concerns about (or vote against) proposals or policies with which I do not agree.” While it is not uncommon for trustees to hold back and defer to the judgment of board leaders or management, it is quite disturbing nonetheless. The whole point of the fiduciary role of a nonprofit trustee is to apply individual judgment and evaluate issues that come before the board. If as a trustee, you don’t do that, how do you understand your role?

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Announcing the Third Year of Nonprofit Webinars

During our eight seasons of nonprofit professional development webinars, 62 presenters have offered 158 free webinars to over 10,000 unique attendees (total registrations: 27,360) from all 50 states and six continents. In their evaluations attendees frequently volunteer that the webinar was one of the best they have attended, regardless of cost.

For this winter we have another great line-up of topics from both veteran and new presenters (all on Wednesdays at 1:00 and 3:00 Eastern Time) :

  • January 11
    Recruiting Board Members with LinkedIn
    Getting Things Done with Groups
  • January 18
    Earned Income for Nonprofits
    Leadership Engagement: The Key to Capacity Building
  • January 25
    Nonprofit Boards & Effective Governance
    Collaborating with Partners on Joint Grants
  • February
    Sales Tax Exemptions for Nonprofits
    The Power of Collaborative Solutions
    Advisory Boards: Engaging Donors & Developing Leaders
    Taking the Mystery out of Metrics
    Why an Outreach Plan Is Crucial
    Advancement Best Practices: Advanced Cases Discussion
    Conducting a Social Media Audit
    Tools for Social Media Management
    Fundraising & the Next Generation
  • March (partial)
    Conflict Resolution Success Stories
    Creating a Practical Marketing Roadmap
    Unemployment Funding Options
Registration is open for the January webinars (click on the title in the box to the right), and will be soon for the rest of the schedule. Find the full schedule and archive at .

NonprofitWebinars is a pro bono service of Good Done Great and Synthesis Partnership. We are always looking for compelling topics, excellent presenters, added exposure, … and sponsors to cover our modest costs. Contact or go to for more information.