Friday, June 24, 2005

A great set of standards

I'm late in getting this to you. Last month, I was in Ann Arbor with the people from NEW, and was handed a copy of the new Principles and Practices for Nonprofit Excellence in Michigan. These were put together by the Michigan Nonprofit Association. I put them on my pile to read, and only got to them earlier this week. My bad.

The policies are really very good, and worth a look. The documents include a Basic Infrastructure checklist, as well as detailed information in the areas of Planning, Governance, HR, Financial Management, Transparency and Accountability, Fundraising, Public Policy and Advocacy, Information Technology, Strategic Alliances, and Evaluation.

For organizations trying to be the state of the art, this is an excellent place to start.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Two books worth your time

This month, my book clubs read two books, both of which were highly acclaimed by the managers who read them.

The first is The Four Obsessions of the Extraordinary Executive, by Patrick Lencioni. It's a fable about management, with a self-assessment and some how-to's at the end. The fable takes about an hour and a half to read, and is very instructive. Good for all levels in your organization.

The second book was Career Warfare, by David D'Allesandro The book is ostensibly about succeeding in your career, but is really about becoming a good leader, and improving your organization. It's funny, and full of good ideas and great stories.

Both books generated great discussions, and are worth a look for you.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Book writing again....

Ohhh, I really like writing, and I really like writing books. In the long period between the end of writing one and the beginning of writing the next, I almost forget how cool it is.

I got cut loose by my publisher, Fieldstone Alliance (the former Wilder Publishing) a few weeks ago to get to some serious work on my new book, and it's......intense fun.

Not all of it is great, particularly the proof reading, and proof reading, and proof reading. Someone asked me a few years ago what I thought when I read a book I had written after it came out. I told her that, first, I didn't. By the time I'm done proofing them 3 times, I am so sick of what I've written I never want to sit down and actually read it through again. Second, when I actually DO scan or look at parts, I regularly say to myself, "I wrote that? Huh." Which is part poor memory, and part so much writing, but weird nonetheless.

Oh, this book is about all the impact generation change is having and will have on nonprofits. If it sounds boring and not too important to you, just wait. I've been thinking about this issue for about three years and it is HUGE. Trust me-you'll see.

I'll be posting bits from the book now and then as I put it together. Should have it to Fieldstone in January, and thus you can expect to see it out about a year later.

You can see info about my most recent book; Nonprofit Stewardship here.

And here is a link to all my other books: Mission-Based Management, Mission-Based Marketing, Financial Empowerment, Social Entrepreneurship, Faith-Based Management, and my two workbooks.

And to all you other dads...happy father's day!

Sunday, June 12, 2005

I'll call ya back.....

Man, oh man, if my experience is typical.....and apparently it is....

OK, here's the background. My daughter, Caitlin, is 17 and just finished her junior year in high school. She's in the top 10% of her class, National Honor Society, class officer, student council officer, works with Best Buddies, directs student plays, and on and on. A typical over-achieving high schooler.

Last summer she hung around not "finding" jobs. Fool me once, as the saying goes. So, around Christmas time, I told her in no uncertain terms:

"Find a paying job of at least 20 hours a week by June 1 (3 days before the end of school) or I will find you a 30 hour a week volunteering job. No ifs ands or buts. You will be a contributing citizen this summer-for pay or for free."

Caitlin looked for work at Spring break and then pretty much steadily from May 15 on. Got a couple of interviews, and got one offer for a short term job for a period she was going to be out of town. Bottom line: she looked (perhaps not everywhere her parents wanted) and came up empty.

I saw this coming. So in April, I called a bunch of local nonprofits I know who use volunteers, from the hospitals to human service groups, to nursing homes, to arts groups. Told them my daughter was probably going to be available (cynical me, I know) for volunteering this summer. During that round of calls, I caught most people on a first call. People were nice, said there were opportunities, and to call back in June. I felt prepared. Note: Important point here--I didn't have to leave any messages to have people return my calls.

Then, June 1 comes and I start calling. And calling, and calling, and calling. With two exceptions, NO one called me back. Out of 12 organizations, all of whom professed a desire for teen volunteers in April, only two returned my call. One of the two orgs that responded I have a long term relationship with (having been on their board years ago). The other place is, of course, where Caitlin starts volunteering tomorrow, a faith-based retirement community.

I was amazed, saddened frustrated; so I moaned about this to my friends, most of whom are in the business world. They looked at me like I was on drugs.

"You were surprised? Nonprofits never call back. It's their culture - crisis management" said one woman. "I can't get them to call back when I want to donate things, offer to help, offer them money. It's ridiculous. I've stopped trying. The money I used to give all over the community, I just give to my church, or online to international relief agencies. Of course, all I get is an automated email response. But at least I get something!"

A male friend talked about calling Habitat for Humanity in three different communities (he's in the military) over 10 years when his sons were teens, because he wanted to work with his sons on a Habitat house. "In every case, I called, left messages, told them about our carpentry skills (this guy built a retirement home with his own hands) and offered to help. In every case I called 3-4 times. In every case, I never heard back."

Another friend said that his daughter, another National Honor Society (NHS) student, has had calls from only 1 of 20 places she called to volunteer (NHS kids are required to volunteer a certain number of hours per month). Were these cold calls? NO! These were to agencies on the approved NHS list--and the only way you get on the list is by asking to be put on!

After 25 years of supposedly improving management skills, we can't get this simple, common courtesy right? Do organizations realize how hideous a reputation they build when they can't get the little things done?

Advice for you: Check your own organization. Find out how quickly your organization gets calls back. And just don't ask your staff. Test this. Have some friends, neighbors, relatives (people your staff doesn't know) call the organization at off hours, and leave messages. See how long it takes to get return calls. And, don't accept the excuse from staff that "I've been busy", or "I was at a meeting out of town" or, "I was on vacation." People should be setting up systems to acknowledge the call and respond.

The caller (donor, volunteer, citizen in need) doesn't care where you are, or how busy you are. He or she expects the common courtesy of a reaction, a call, a contact of some sort.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Volunteer resource

Need volunteers? Want to volunteer? Have people who call wanting to volunteer but don't have a place to suggest that they look?

All three of these problems are helped by this link:

With over 33,000 nonprofits listed, and 34,000 volunteer opportunities in their database, this is a great place to match up with potential volunteers.

Take a look!

Monday, June 06, 2005

Confessions of a tech addict....

OK, the tech addiction reared its ugly head again.

Last night, getting ready to head to Albany this morning, my cell phone failed. Got the nasty "Sim card inoperative" message on my screen, and I could actually feel the stress going up the back of my neck. God, what a junkie.

Understand that, on most trips, I use my phone to check messages at my office (of which there are very few in this era of constant emails) and to touch in with, and be available to, my family and my sister's group home staff. That's it. I am most certainly not one of the guys (in increasingly, women) that you see in airports with three phones, two pagers, and a PDA all going at once.

And yet, the thought of having to leave town for two days with no instant, immediate, in my pocket connectivity really got to me. I mean, I might have to use a pay phone (remember those?) or an actual hotel phone. Gads, what has my world come to.

How sad.

After about 15 minutes of walking around the house like a chicken, and checking my now dead phone about 5 times to see if the message had changed---silly me---my wife just said..."Calm DOWN, just take my phone with are welcome to it if it will chill you out."

Of course, she was right. This was most certainly NOT something to angst out over, and yet I did, even though I don't angst out over about 95% of what most other people do.

Is there a TA (techies anonymous) out there I can get help from?

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Congrats for a great book's awards

Over the past few weeks, the wonderful book Benchmarking for Nonprofits: How to Measure, Manage, and Improve Performance by Jason Saul has won two well-deserved awards.

The book first was awarded first place in the Business/Professional category from the Midwest Independent Publisher's Association book achievement awards about three weeks ago. Then on June 1, Benchmarking, also was awarded the Ben Franklin Award in the business category from the Independent Publisher's association national committee.

The awards were no surprise, at least to me. The book is terrific, and deals with so much more than traditional texts on outcome measurement. Definitely worth a read.

Jason is also the founder of B2P Nonprofit Business Solutions, who provide great software tools for performance measurement. Check them out!