As we talked last week about how passionate you are about your nonprofit’s mission, vision, values, did you find yourself reenergized about your organization’s potential? If you are a leader in your organization, it’s very easy to share your story with others with similar interests and values. I find this may be the easiest piece for the serving leader to accomplish. We’ll talk in later blogs about how to share your story better. Discussions on marketing, public relations, and storytelling will be a large part of our postings here over the next several months.
One of the major success factors for your nonprofit is your people. In Jim Collin’s book, “Good to Great,” he spends significant time on your people. In his booklet, “Good to Great and the Social Sectors,” he calls them resources. I’ll share what I’ve uncovered over the years of working with successful organizations around the world. Some of my clients are social sector businesses and some are not. The greatest commonality I can find among all the great organizations is that they get that people part of process.
People provide you the greatest joy and the great challenge when it comes to building a breakthrough organization. Now, how do you get the right people doing the right things at the right time? This sounds simple, right? The first key element is to assess your current team. Look at what they currently do and in what they should be investing their time. During this process, you must understand what you want your people to do. They must be clear on what is expected of them, and how it fits into the overall success of the organization. Now the challenging part is they must not only have the capability to do what’s needed, but they must also become excellent at it. Nonprofits today are trying to leverage their resources to the greatest extent possible. In the case of nonprofits, this also includes volunteers, part time professional help, and partner organizations. All these people must clearly understand what is expected of them and how they are part of a larger organization. I’m often surprised how often these critical elements of your team are left out of major conversations. For many of us, they may be the only person our patrons and members interact with on a normal basis. I’m sure you’ve had the experience of having visitors onsite and the only person available to talk with them is one of your non-customer facing volunteers. There is an uncomfortable silence while the visitors wait for the help that never comes.
Having the people in the right place is critical to your organization’s success. It also means creating opportunities for people to use their own strengths and life experiences to make their time with your organization an enjoyable experience. We want our teams to love their work and we want them to be good at it. Clearly defined roles allow people to get good at what they do, incorporating their strengths into their role can help make them great. As leaders, we’re responsible for developing our team’s capabilities. We can create greater interest in working with nonprofits by providing ongoing training and mentoring for employees and volunteers. The time you invest in people will pay off in both better performance and in providing significant capabilities to your team.
I will share my thinking next week talking about hiring, developing, and retaining great team members. This is a critical element in helping to take your organization to the next level. I’ve interviewed over 16,000 senior leaders across the globe and have some great tips and ideas to make sure you make your next hire a great one. See you next week.
In the last blog we talked about the market forces that are impacting your nonprofit organization today. Serving Leaders face challenges today that were not even thought about five years ago. The rate of change has accelerated and it doesn’t look like it’s going to slow down in the foreseeable future. We need to create an organization able to engage our patrons and members to create stronger communities and bring in the best partners. If we do this, we are guaranteed an opportunity to grow and prosper. Talk about tough! You can do all the right things for your community and you may be given a chance to continue being part of your members’ lives.
Because of this, I think it’s critical that as leaders we remind ourselves why we do what we do. For many of you, this is a reminder of what you’re currently doing. The problem I’ve seen is that many serving leaders are so challenged on a daily basis they have limited time to create a lasting organization.
I use Jim Collin’s Good to Great Framework to put a common foundation under all of our discussions. There are many leadership models available for us to use but I find the simpler the better. I believe this is one of the reasons Jim’s book sales have exceeded several million copies. The other thought I’d share is if you haven’t read Good to Great, go out and pick up a copy. It’s a great investment and provides you with significantly more information on how to do the things we talk about here on the blog. I was exposed to the Jim’s thinking over a decade ago and it shapes the way I see organizations.
My favorite Jim Collins quote is, “Greatness in not a function of circumstance.” Greatness, it turns out is largely a conscious choice, and discipline. Today that message is more critical than ever before. We are overwhelmed by situations, character challenges and being over communicated to on a regular basis. Leaders who want to provide value to their communities must continue to provide direction while engaging in willful, decisive leadership. The only thing worse than an organization that fails because of lack of courage is one that fails because of lack of purposeful action. Not that I feel strongly about this.
What are you deeply passionate about? As a man with many different passions, I can understand how easy it is to get sidetracked on a regular basis. Many of my better clients have more passions than I do. In the past that may have been okay but today, too many passions lead to diffused messages in the marketplace. When you think about you passions, in what direction to you want to lead your organization? For many new leaders, it’s the first question that must be asked if you hope to lead your team to become a breakthrough organization.
Passions come in many forms but to be an extraordinary organization you must choose what you want to be known for. It must be an active choice and must represent what you and your organization believe because you might need to share it with others who want to join your cause. People are not moved by whispers but by a message that moves them to their soul. In our social media driven world people receive over 30,000 messages every day. Because of all this competition for our attention we have learned to tune out messages without passion and can self select what messages we hear on a conscious level.
We have always put a high level of weight on social proof but today we can find out anything on just about anybody within five minutes using a simple Google search. Your choices on what you share and like tell us how we should approach you, where you are, and connect with you on a personal level. Little things take on significant meaning when you are overwhelmed by others barrage of low cost messaging systems. You must be able to share your passions in a concise manner and in a way that allows others with similar passions to find you. Shared passions play a larger and larger role in your organization’s success. Give me a small band of men and women with passion and I can change the world. In later blogs, we are going to share more how to do this, but for now just remember to start with your passions and purpose in mind.
Our next blog will help you identify your organization’s strengths and how to leverage them to build a great organization. See you next week.
I know your nonprofit faces changes from every direction in this economic environment. Are you facing some of these challenges?
• Doing more with less money
• Decreasing donations for increasing needs
• Aging donor base
• Next generation stakeholders who want a different relationship with nonprofits
• Global competition for donations
• Uncertain tax legislation slowing or freezing corporate and large gift patrons
• Competing with large nonprofits with sophisticated and automated giving programs
• Increasing costs for developing and printing marketing and collateral materials to support your mission, vision, and values.
• Increasing noise and exposure to a wide variety of fundraising messages through social media and traditional marketing channels
All these factors have contributed to the decline of nonprofits. For many leaders, these environmental changes have accelerated the decline and ultimate death of their organizations. So how are you dealing with these fundraising challenges? One of our core principles is that fundraising is dead. We believe that you’ll need a plan for marketing and communications to continue to be successful.
With all these challenges, it’s no wonder you feel overwhelmed. I’ve discovered several key success factors that successful nonprofit organizations share. If you have these key elements in place it will make it easier to share your organization’s message. Without these elements, your message could get lost in the crowd. These elements come from Jim Collin’s book Good to Great and the Social Sectors.
If you’re not familiar with this monograph, you might want to grab a copy of it. For less than $10.00 at Amazon or Barnes and Noble online, you can get a great overview on how to apply the Good to Great lessons to your organization. I’ll be sharing several key concepts from the book in my next blog here at Developing Serving Leaders. I’ve used both the book and monograph Good to Great to help many of my more successful clients take their efforts to the next level. I’ve found if you don’t have a solid foundation in place, no level of marketing and communications strategy can help you build an outstanding organization.
In my experience, many organizations have several of the key elements in place but have been unsuccessful in getting the synergies they need to take their organizations to the next level. Counterintuitively the more elements they have in place the less likely they will become great organizations. So, come back and keeping reading my blog to learn the strategies you need to take your organization from Good to Great.