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Showing posts from December, 2009

My Favorite Quotes About Planning (and what they mean to me)

WE'RE ON THE CUSP OF THE NEW YEAR, A TIME WHEN I try to use the next few days to do some reflection and personal mission review and goal setting. Sounds very serious, but I assure you that it's not so much that as it is reinvigorating. Taking a bit of reflective time puts me back in touch with some basic ideas that are foundational to my work and to my outlook on life. I thought I'd begin the process this time around by sharing some quotes with you that have particular meaning for me: Eleanor Roosevelt: It takes as much energy to wish as it does to plan. When I first came across this quote, I wrote it right down. It clicked with me, because I've worked with so many organizations whose dreams seemed to far exceed their capacities to fulfill them. Or one person has big, vocal dreams, while everybody else is either not yet in dream mode or is completely clueless. No matter whose dream or how big, without an articulated plan to achieve it, it almost certainly will …

Who Writes a Plan?

IT SEEMS TO ME THAT THE IDEAL PLANNING PROCESSincludes many voices along its way from inside and outside the organization. Casting as wide a net as possible for stakeholder opinion and insight can help the plan’s developers frame questions they might never have thought of asking, which can lead to the creation of important criteria by which to filter possible future scenarios.It’s also a way to gain broad buy-in to a final plan, because many people will have had an opportunity to put a point-of-view, an idea, or a warning on the planning table.Sounds good, doesn’t it?In practice, few organizations are able to take on as much opinion gathering as they or their consultants would like.If truth be told, all that surveying, benchmarking and focus-grouping is time-consuming work requiring as much (or more) coordination as the actual writing of a plan.But it can be so richly rewarding!Organizations that short-circuit this “research” phase of the process, however, go into planning with only i…

Organizational Resolutions

AS WE NEAR THE END OF ANOTHER YEAR, I offer up this post of organizational resolutions, which I wrote in 2008. As I re-read them, I think they hold up pretty well for the continuing financial uncertainties most cultural nonprofits face in 2010, although two are particularly salient right now: become financially literate and get comfortable with change.
Financial literacy is more than being able to read a monthly or quarterly statement, although that's a basic skill everyone should be taught. To me, financial literacy is being able to draw conclusions about how the numbers support mission and make an impact on the audiences you serve. That entails understanding how the numbers relate to each other, such as all annual income raised from individuals, as well as what among them are your organization's key financial and operational indicators. Every organization needs to have a handful of key indicators that will help boards and staffs track financial health. The recently rele…

V is for Value

"A COUPLE OF BOARD MEMBERS HAVE BEEN ASKING questions recently about the value of our organization. I realize I have to do more than become angry and come up with something that answers the question with a business-based answer."That was the substance of a recent email from a heritage organization board member.There are some things in professional life that continue to confound me – even pull me up short – despite the fact that I know they exist.For me, these “professional surprises” run the gamut from an organization’s unwillingness to ask for community input to the downright failure of some boards and staffs to recognize, or understand, that a nonprofit organization’s reason for being is the public benefit it provides. Knowing all that still didn’t prevent my heart from skipping a beat when I read that email.There it was, the “V-word” (not to be confused with the other problem “V-word” – vision).Articulating the "value" issue plagues many cultural organizations,…

Your Nonprofit as a Wind-up Toy

I SUPPOSE THIS POST MIGHT HAVE SOMETHING TO DO with the gift-giving time of year, or perhaps it's the phone conversation I just had that touched upon the phases of organizational growth. I don't know, but I'm going to put the two together for today's post and see what I can make of it.
I actually want to concentrate on the founding stage of a nonprofit -- those early, heady years of excitement and energy fueled by a gratifying sense that one is creating something important and needed. I got to thinking about organization founders: community activists, groups of friends, lone rangers -- passionate people, all. They have a vision and often the power to make that vision reality. They utilize their networks to accomplish their vision. And they may easily embrace others into their vision or they may not.
The most enlightened founders know that organizations are living, breathing, dynamic things, with changing leadership and funding needs. These founders understand that…

The Mission Statement Wrestling Match

A CLIENT OF MINE IS WRESTLING WITH REVISING ITS mission statement. And wrestling is a good word for it. Writing a deceptively simple, but truly meaningful, statement is not easy. So many mission statements are mired in the what's and how's of an organization's activities that they barely acknowledge an audience or rarely talk about the whys of their existence. (Hint: audience and the whys of existence are the two most important things.)
I've written (and spoken) a lot about this here. One of the connecting themes to all those posts is about digging deep to taste and savor meaning; to layer in texture and color; to make the statement connect on some emotional level with the people who read it. In fact, the mission statement is not so much about helping the folks within the organization decipher what the organization is, as it's about helping folks outside the organization discover your power and purpose.
Here are some of the words from the image above that cam…

"Key Questions" Post Receives Kudos

I'M REALLY PLEASED THAT MY POST, “Key Questions for Board and Senior Staff”, received some high praise from readers at AssociationJam.org.It was voted one of the best ten stories for Leadership in November 2009!AssociationJam.org is a website sponsored by WildApricot.com, a subscription-based blog “for volunteers, webmasters and administrators of associations and nonprofits. We discuss issues and trends in web technologies that help your organization do more with less.”