Monday, November 27, 2006

Thankful and full

Back on the road today (after a terrific Thanksgiving visit with two of my three kids) for my last Kellogg class of the year (sniff!). Talking tonight on performance measurement, sharing the lecture time with Janet Froescher of United Way of Metropolitan Chicago, who is doing amazing things and, in my view, re-inventing the UW business/effectiveness model.

Then, I'm off to Connecticut to do three sessions for the annual conference of the Connecticut Association of Nonprofits in Hartford. Some on generation change, some on leadership and decision making.

Over the break, in addition to being thankful, I worked on my full day presentation on my new book (tentatively) titled Generations: The Challenge of A Lifetime for Nonprofits. It's due out in early March. I'll post about the book in more detail as the publication date gets closer.

And, four more pod casts go up online this week. More about that tomorrow or the next day.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Let's go prey on the weak....

The current Business Week has a horrifying story
called "Habitat for Hustlers".
It tells the story of mortgage hustlers who go to Habitat House owners (who usually carry 0% mortgages) and entice them to take equity out of their home and a new variable rate mortgage. Many have been trapped, and may even lose their homes.
Ugh on the lenders.

But....wait...Double ugh on Habitat for selling off its mortgages to a wide variety of lenders with no right of first refusal. To me this again highlights the need for organizations to not just chase the money. I know that selling off mortgages lets HFH build other houses, but they need to think through using a reputable equity firm, or having some long term control over the mortgages to make sure that all the good they do is not erased in a foreclosure three years down the road.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Philanthropy Day #1

This week, I speak at two National Philanthropy Day events. Yesterday I was in Bonita Springs, FL, between Fort Myers and Naples. Tomorrow, I'm in the central Pennsylvania town of Altoona.

I spoke to a very attentive and receptive group yesterday morning, and then went to the Philanthropy Day awards ceremony, where individuals and businesses were lauded for their philanthropic efforts. After the awards, particularly the one for a young man from Haiti, there was hardly a dry eye in the house.

Inspiring words from the ceremony:

Regarding one awardee who has given away millions over his lifetime: "He was once asked by a friend "how much we would have been worth if he hadn't given all that money away?" His answer: "I would have been worth nothing"

Quote from another awardee: "I never saw a hearse with a U-Haul behind it."

Great event. I hope it inspires others as much as it did me.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Stupid, stupid, stupid

I was reminded again last night how dumb it is for our sector to have "administrative costs" as its primary metric of goodness.

My class at Kellogg was on Organizational Development, and, of course, part of any good OD program is regular training for staff. But, as one student with experience as a nonprofit staff person said, "That adds to our admin costs...and that's the biggest no-no we have."

Another student chimed in...."You had us read on the need for better health care benefits, and I agree staff want them, but it adds to our admin percentage, and thus it will never pass our management council."

I kind of went off a bit, telling the students that grading a nonprofit based on its admin percentage is like grading a car based on its weight. Interesting, but meaningless.

Of course, the funders disagree with me, since admin is easy, sounds important, and seems to reduce non-mission spending. But there has never been a direct (mission) cost that didn't have an associated indirect (admin) cost associated with it. By hammering on admin, by setting silly percentage targets for the entire sector, we are hurting the sector in very real ways.

Whatever happened to "capacity building"--wasn't that all about building administrative (and mission) capacity?

One exception to this rant-measuring admin year over year at the same agency has some management value. But to say (as I have heard from foundation people) that an admin percentage higher than 12% is unacceptable is....idiotic. For starters, agencies vary widely. Second, I'll guarantee that the foundation's admin % is higher than that, third who picked 12%.? My guess--someone picked it out of the air.

Anybody think FedEx is well run? Nordstrom's? How about the "great"companies in "Good to Great"? I'll bet serious money that their admin percentages are way higher than 12%.....

Hmmm. That's a good task for my Kellogg students.....

Monday, November 13, 2006

Put your money where your mouth is....

I waited a few weeks to post this:, the online microlending site, got hammered, a good hammered, but hammered nonetheless with a huge volume of hits, after they were featured on "Frontline in a great piece. You can see it here.

I think that the Kiva folks are really on to something here. They take the best of p2p, and the best of micro-lending, add in a little social networking, and all of a sudden you have a terrific way to help an individual help themselves.

Check out Kiva...and tell your friends. You can even put together a group and all lend to the same small business person...

Great stuff.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

A vote for better donor management

I hope you voted.

On with life: donor management has become a larger issue as more nonprofits seek to keep a wide variety of donor profiles, gifts, preferences all in order. Of course, software has been developed, but which will work best for your nonprofit?

TechSoup to the rescue. Today's issue of "By the Cup" brought this link to an article that reviews and compares eight different software packages for donor management.

Take a look and see if this makes sense for you.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

A week to....remember, or forget?

This week: Been in O'Hare 5 times totaling about 9 hours, changed time zones 6 times, gone through security 5 times. All forgettable. Talked to great groups in Tahoe (trends in nonprofit management) and Hilton Head (ethics in nonprofit management); both wonderful groups with terrific questions. Best of all, rendezvoused with my wife at O'Hare (how romantic) and headed for Ann Arbor to see middle son for final parent's weekend--very memorable.

Stayed at a great place in A2 (that's Ann Arbor), for the fourth time. Highly recommend the Ann Arbor Bed and Breakfast. Terrific people, wonderful location, great food and conversation. Pat and Bob make you feel right at home. And, like any B&B you get into, or overhear, great conversations.

From this morning: Two couples (both about my age) who had just met while eating, were talking about certain relatives. Man1 (from couple one) "My nephew is about 36. Graduated from here (Michigan) with an engineering degree went to work for Qualcomm for 10 years, had a great job, then you know what he did? He quit, and is in the nonprofit management program "(he said this as if it were a disease) "at Notre Dame. Now why would you do that?"

Woman2 (From couple two) "Well, both our kids, one a physician and the other an attorney, have given up their jobs in the past two years to go work overseas for NGO's. Both are about the same age as your nephew."

Man1 "What's an NGO?"

Woman2 "A nongovernmental organization, kind of like a nonprofit here in the US."

Man1 "Why would people do that? I mean throw everything away? I mean....."

Woman2 "All I can tell you is that my children have never been happier."

Man1 as he got up to leave. "Well, I'm glad they're happy, but I don't get it...."

Man2 to his wife (sotto voce) "Obviously."

That conversation recharged my batteries.....