Friday, August 29, 2008

Want to learn more?

As most readers know, there has been an explosion of programs in nonprofit management over the past twenty years, both here in the US and overseas. I'm often approached by participants after lectures who tell me that they used one or more of my books in their classes, and I ask them where they studied and they tell me..."The nonprofit management program at X University", and I had no idea that there even was a program there.

I also get calls and emails from people looking to further their education, or from undergrad students wanting to go to grad school and study nonprofit management. It's been a problem to find a good resource on this issue, until the Kellogg Foundation funded Dr. Roseanne Mirabella at Seton Hall University to do some research. That effort led to the first good, searchable listing of nonprofit educational opportunities both in the US and overseas, along with a great FAQ. You can search by undergrad, graduate, PhD, credit, continuing ed, and online courses.

Here's the site: NonProfit Management Education. Thanks, Dr. Mirabella!

There's also a listing on the Nonprofit Academic Centers Council site. The NACC's mission is:

" to support academic centers devoted to the study of the nonprofit/nongovernmental sector, philanthropy and voluntary action to advance education, research and practice that increases the nonprofit sector's ability to enhance civic engagement, democracy and human welfare. ",

and the board is full of prominent people in the field. You can see the member organizations/programs by clicking on the appropriate link.

So, if you are looking to go back to school, or if you have a staff member that you want to develop, here's a great place to look for a program.

Learn, learn, learn.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Good stewardship for technology

As technology wends (some would say worms) its way into more and more of our daily lives, we need to remember that owning a computer/printer/server is, as with any other machine, NOT a set-it-and-forget-it situation.

Think about your vehicle: Whether its a car, van, truck or motorcycle, you'd never let it go years without changing the oil, cleaning it, checking the tire pressure, renewing insurance and license stickers and all the other maintenance items that come with the ownership of this important machine.

Same with technology--and this is multiplied by the number of machines you have--the desktops, laptops, printers, servers, routers, wireless access points, PDA's, cell phones and, of course, software.

I only have four machines to worry about--a home desktop, my current laptop, an old laptop that I keep in reserve, and a cell phone. Still, I have to regularly update software, screen for viruses, renew security software licenses, etc. Much of this I automate, but I still have to pay attention to this task, and I couldn't do it for 20 computers: I have a regular job.

Oddly enough--so does your IT person, whether or not he/she is a full-time IT, or just the poor soul who got stuck with adding the IT work to their job description because they were dumb enough to let people know they knew the difference between RAM and ROM.

(If you like that RAM/ROM joke, and/or if you are in that situation or know someone who is, buy a copy of "The Accidental Techie", by Sue Bennet. The joke comes from there...and it's a terrific resource.)

At any rate, what to do to stay on top of all your technology's needs for update, maintenance, heck, simply to know what your organization actually owns? There's tech management software, and TechSoup has a great article on Managing Your Organization's Technology Assets that I highly recommend. Chris Peters discusses what you need and how to make the best decision.

Check it out and get organized!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Mission and Values case study

Last week, I had the pleasure of facilitating a strategy retreat for Nexus, a nonprofit that provides a variety of services, primarily residential, to troubled teens and their families.

As you might expect, Nexus is financially dependent on government revenue, and the staff and board are considering diversifying to other services, other geographic markets, etc.

The strategy session ran on Tuesday night and Wednesday through about 2:00PM and included 21 senior staff and 6 board members. We went through the usual discussion of organizational status, SWOTs, national trends, a decision tree, and key markets. We closed with a prioritization process that allowed everyone to contribute.

Sounds pretty normal, at least for those of you who are involved in planning, right?

Not at all.

From the get-go, these people were focused on a number of important things.

First their mission "To change lives through our cornerstone values" and those values: "Honesty, responsibility, courage, care and concern".

I asked the group who could recite their mission and the values, and not only did they tell me that pretty much all their staff could, but that in treatment sessions the consumers (again, troubled teens) would be asked every evening what they or someone else had done that emulated their values.

In the retreat discussions that followed, ideas that were floated often received pushback based on one value or another. This discussion was vigorous, and very much aimed at resolving conflict based on the mission/value framework.

Wow. This is exactly what I talk about ---living your mission, living your values, dealing with decisions based on those key items. In fact, this month's Mission-Based Management Newsletter is about Vision, Mission, Values, but Nexus puts my thoughts into action.

And, Nexus takes it a step further. They have strategic, long-standing Key Focus Areas (KFAs) that guide their planning (they show up in each treatment location's plan) as follows:

1. Raise the standards of clinical and educational competence.
2. Develop, recognize and invest in the potential of our staff.
3. Adapt, diversify and grow.
4. Promote Nexus and build external relationships.
5. Improve technical competence.
6. Provide respectful physical environments for consumers and staff.

These are great and not just words on paper. The organization really is focused on these, and tries their best to live them. The KFAs are not short term--they provide the over-arching strategic focus that so many organizations (for profit as well as nonprofit) are lacking.

Congrats to the Nexus leadership, both volunteer and paid, for being a role model for other organizations as they consider their next strategic steps. I'm impressed.

Friday, August 22, 2008 look good!

Whenever I'm doing a gig and someone wants to take a photo for their newsletter, I always ask them to use the filter that makes me look a: 10 years younger and b: 20 pounds lighter. Somehow they always seem to have left those particular filters home. Oh well.

But photos CAN make a big difference in making your organization look better. With digital cameras being so cheap, flexible and good quality, you probably have more photos than you want to sort through, but you also want to make any photo you use, either on the web or in your print materials look terrific. But how to do that simply and cheaply?

TechSoup has a great article on this subject here. It showed up in their weekly newsletter, By The Cup, which everyone who is concerned about nonprofit technology should subscribe to.

Happy snaps, as our friends from the UK would say!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Video, video, video to tell your story

I'm in Seattle (one of my three favorite American cities) doing a two day session on staff recruitment and retention. Much of our talk is about engaging employees in their work, hiring character first, and many of the things that regular readers know I believe in in workplaces.

Two key books to help you retain more staff:
The Three Signs of A Miserable Job, by Pat Lencioni
Now, Discover Your Strengths, by Marcus Buckingham

That said, much of the discussion has moved around the power of video on websites to tell the mission story, to show what a particular job is about to potential applicants, to focus on giving opportunities. Again, regular readers know I believe in video and that YouTube has lowered the bar on the need for the highest cost highest end video.

But you still need people who know what they are doing. You need talented videographers, and then to share their product. Here's a link to an article on TechSoup about just this issue.

Want to see some examples? Go to the 2008 DoGooderTV awards site. You'll see the power of this medium.

Who to use to help you? One good source is a company that is dedicated solely to nonprofits: GoodEye Video. You can check out their website...I'm impressed with their work.

The old adage that a picture is worth a thousand words is even more true for video....give it some thought, and see what may be the best use for your organization.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Credit Cards

As people who hear me speak know, I often point out that iF your nonprofit's website doesn't accept credit cards and PayPal, you've lost money. Period. The increasing number of people who are comfortable ordering online are less and less prone to want to write a check. In fact, fewer and fewer "checking account" customers, particularly under 30, EVER actually order checks from their bank.

Some older execs point out that credit cards cost a percentage of the revenue received (usually 4-6%), and I counter that 94% of something is better than 100% of nothing.

So what to do? TechSoup has the answers, of course. They always do on tech for nonprofits. Check out this article on the Techsoup website about credit card options and methods for your nonprofit. While you are there, make sure to check out TechSoup Stock, the donated (new) software available for nonprofits and libraries.

And, here's an article on selecting an online donation tool (software), also on the TechSoup site.

Happy fundraising!