Monday, February 26, 2007

In between...

Home Friday, gone today....a good weekend. Got to make a significant donation to a local nonprofit over the weekend: a family chair that George Washington sat in when he visited one of my ancestors who fought with him in the Revolution...really.

Today, I'm off to San Francisco, to do book club calls tomorrow, and then a major presentation to what should be a very, very interesting group. The Bank of America Neighborhood Excellence Initiative(TM) has a Leadership Program that is intended to develop leaders in the best nonprofits in the country. Nonprofits compete for slots, and there are two training programs for each for emerging leaders one for CEO types. So, the leaders get to spend time with others like them and turbocharge their leadership skills. Great idea.

I'm fortunate to have been asked to speak to both groups on Nonprofit Stewardship. This week, it's the emerging leaders, and in April, I'll talk to the CEO/ED's. Lots of discussion, lots of interaction, etc. Should be fun and, I'm sure, more than a bit inspiring.

I'll let you know.....

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Be Graphic

A nice toolkit for nonprofit graphic design showed up in this week's By the Cup from Techsoup. I would definitely give it a look, particularly if you are in the process of re-working your website or other marketing materials.

I'm back on the road after a three week break. Today to Orlando to give a two day class on business development (there's a podcast on that subject here) for nonprofits and then next week in San Francisco to talk to a large group of award winning staff on Nonprofit Stewardship.

United Airlines is always glad to see's nice to be loved.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Who really cares?

I posted earlier about this book, and it took a long time to get to the top of my pile, but now that it has, I'm totally intrigued.

Who Really Cares? America's Charity Divide: Who Gives, Who Doesn't, and Why It Matters, by economist Arthur Brooks has really turned my head a bit. At this point, I'm about half-way through the text and then want to dive into the data, which makes up about a third of the book. Brooks makes some very, very interesting points, and so far at least, hasn't been strident or what I would consider too misleading about his data.

It's worth picking up, since I would imagine for most readers it challenges their pre-existing notions of who gives more: liberal or conservative, secular or religious, etc. I'll be interested to see if Brooks comes up with some solutions for the divide, or is just making a statistical case.

More on this in future posts.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Recruitment woes

Very interesting article on a survey of nonprofit recruitment efforts. It shows that while new positions will increase, recruitment budgets are not for nonprofits.

This again speaks to my concern about not just new positions, but filling the slots left by the exodus of boomers over the next 10 years.


Thursday, February 15, 2007

Dressing down/Aging Down

One of the themes of my new book on Generation Change is that we need to "age down" our organizations...not ignore the wisdom of the eldest, but understand that we need a lower mean age of board, staff, management, etc.

Age down, and dress down, too. Well, in some situations at least...and some that may surprise you.

Two examples: One from this past weekend, and one from the AP newswire.

First, real life. Chris and I went to a terrific Valentine's Pops Concert put on by our local symphony this past Saturday. Much fun.

Back in the day, Chris and I were season ticket holders at the symphony. It was our "date night"--8 evenings of dinner and a concert a year, and much anticipated by both of us. But, as time passed, first we needed to drive kids to their own Saturday night activities, and soon there was competition for cars as drivers licenses were earned; we drifted away from the symphony. Our concert nights were traded in for things that we could do with our kids as they got older: Broadway shows, visiting musical groups like Chanticleer, Wynton Marsalis, or Spyro Gyra.

All of which leads up to the story of Saturday night....I bet it's been a decade or more since we went to our local symphony. So, as we got ready to go, I looked at my collared shirt and khakis outfit and worried that I would be under dressed. I suggested to Chris that I wear a jacket and she said I'd be fine. I disagreed, since "everyone wore coats and ties to the symphony."

Her answer: "You're showing your age."

Chris was right. The audience was what you'd expect: we were on the youngish side of the mean age. Perhaps 1,000 people there and I saw....three ties, maybe four. No suits. Lots of cargo pants, khakis and sweaters; even jeans. My recollection of the dress "code" was a decade out of sync with reality. And, I was relieved. I HATE ties. (I think it comes from a boarding school background where we had to wear ties everywhere but the shower. But that's another story.)

As a nice follow-up, an article showed up in today's paper.(this copy is from another newspaper, but the story is the same one). It concerns a dress code fight in senior citizen retirement communities. And, its an excellent example of how nonprofits are going to need to adjust their services as generations change.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Go online, young....person.

TechSoup has a great discussion about online events calendar tools in this week's issue of By the Cup, their free newsletter. I like the suggestions, and if you don't have such a part of your website, take a look.

Of course, if you don't want most people under 30 to come to your events, or, for that matter, anyone that first goes online to find information, never mind.

The issue of getting everything online is a crucial part of making your organization more user friendly for the increasing number of people that rely (for better or worse) on the net for their news, information, movie schedules, user ratings, shopping, and communications.

Here's the rule: If anyone asks a question about anything from now on, after you answer them, go put the answer on your website. Soon. Because someone else will ask the same question....soon.

Monday, February 12, 2007

A taste of the future...

My wife Chris has her MacBook home from school a lot, and last night I saw a bit more of the future.

I grew up being promised, like everyone in my generation, two iconic tools of the future...flying cars and video phones. I remember going to the 1964 Worlds Fair in New York and there were a pair of mock video phone booths five feet apart. My grandfather and I went into one, my parents went into the other, and we pretended to be on the phone even though we could actually hear my parents through the air better than through the speaker....

Well, last night, the future arrived. Chris and I used iChat on her laptop to talk/see/chat with Ben in Denver for nearly an hour. I've been at his new place, but Chris hasn't, so he walked around the house, and gave Chris a tour, using the built-in camera in his laptop. She, in turn, showed him some new art here in our place. The connection was perfect, not jumpy. The conversation flowed very freely, with just a few "what did you say?", although all three of us were talking simultaneously occasionally....Of course, it was also free, not that cell phones cost much, but free is free, and a live video feed is worth how much audio?

In its current version, iChat supports up to four people simultaneously and works with most IM services (we used AIM last night).

I see this as a key piece of the future of team communications for increasingly spread out nonprofit staff. Small team meetings, "face time" between ED and Board presidents, a benefit for those of your staff who have to travel to stay in touch with their families.

Dream realized......I gotta go outside and look for my flying car.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Save some unemployment tax money!

This came across my screen recently and looks like something you should check out if your nonprofit has employees, and you want to save some money. Does that sound like you?

The organization is called the 501(c) Agencies Trust, and it works to reduce the expense of unemployment insurance for nonprofits. A nonprofit itself, the Trust is governed by a board of trustees representing large nonprofits from throughout the nation.

From the website:

"Unemployment Program for Nonprofit Organizations

Nonprofits have saved millions of dollars over the years by participating in the 501(c) Agencies Trust. Last year alone, members saved nearly $30 million, money that was available for valuable service programs instead of paying unemployment costs.

A 1972 federal law gives nonprofit employers the option of reimbursing the state for actual unemployment claims rather then participating in the State Unemployment Insurance (SUI) program.

The 501(c) Agencies Trust has been helping nonprofits exercise this option with a secure, cost-effective alternative since 1982."

I'd give this a look!

Saturday, February 10, 2007


Got to check something off my life list this to see someone declare his candidacy for President. Barack Obama.

How could Chris and I not go? Here, in Lincoln's hometown (who Obama referred to as "another tall, gangly Springfield lawyer"), how could you sit by when history was being made right down the street?

Besides, I really like the guy.

How was it? Cool....actually it was really, really, REALLY cold. Wind chill was below zero when we got there to stand for about an hour before Obama spoke. But the crowd was excited, friendly, and it must have been a few degrees warmer all packed in together.

Within hearing range, there were people from Arizona, Indiana, lots from Chicago, St. Louis, Maryland. All who made the trek to stand out on a freezing winter day to hear a man who gives them hope.

That's what's so great about democracy. Even at my age, with a lifetime of cynicism and disappointment in candidates resting on my bones, a new campaign can still bring hope.

Back to the nonprofit world in the next post.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Give your Treasurer a break

It happened again. An email from a nonprofit board treasurer asking how she could graciously get out of her job...."I've been on three nonprofit boards in the past 15 years, and because I'm a CPA everyone ASSUMES that I want to be treasurer. I understand their assumption, but I'm sick of it. Been there; done that...three times! Is this a problem on every nonprofit board?"

Sadly yes, and for many its worse than that. Sometime you're like the Pope-you have the job for life. Why? Because it takes a few years to really figure out what the organization's finances are all about, and the board counts on the treasurer to be the trusted interpreter. So, once you invest the time, they want you to stay.

They could give you help. And this is what I told my email the link to see the full answer. As you'll see, it doesn't help her much, but it can help your organization. I also told her to simply give a year's notice....and find a deputy treasurer ASAP.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Here's a resource....and its free

Here's a resource you may not have seen:

Free Nonprofit Management Tools, from the Fieldstone Alliance. The collection includes all kinds of good things in such areas as Boards, Collaboration, Lobbying and Advocacy, Finance, Community Building, Marketing, Management and Trends.

You can find some assessments, and subscribe to their free newsletter "Tools You Can Use."

Great stuff. Check it out.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Generation change and...

My current newsletter is out, and the topic is Generation Change and Your Staff.
This is the first in a number of issues this year that will deal with Generation Change in different contexts. I'll look at: Generation Change and the People You Serve (May), Generation Change and Technology (September), and Generation Change and Marketing (November).

All of this is because the huge issue of generation change is on my mind for good reason: My newest book is coming out in about a month. It's called Generations: The Challenge of A Lifetime for Your Nonprofit, and will be published by Fieldstone Alliance. You can see more about the book at pre-order if you are interested at the Fieldstone site.

When I talk to a room full of CEO's and board members and mention generation change, all the heads nod. They all know this is an issue, but my experience is that they see it through one lens, not the huge gumbo of competing stresses, changes and opportunities that the changing of the generations offers. For example, lots of the audience will be thinking: "Oh, he means Executive Transition." Others will be thinking "Yeah, I'm having so much conflict with my 20-something staff." And still others will be considering generation change as a fund-raising opportunity.

You know, the old story about the blind men and the elephant.

And, truth be told, I thought the issue was pretty simple until about five years ago, when people began to come up to me at training sessions and say: "I love what you say about our nonprofit being a mission-based business. I came to this organization two years ago after 25 years at GE (or in the military) and I love what we do, but I still can't talk to these people!"
Then, someone else would come up and talk to me about inter-generational conflict, or how old their board was, or how "all our volunteers are dying off", and my warning sensors began to go off.

A few months later I was speaking at a convention of CFO's and one of the workshops was on paying for retirement for Boomer managers. Ahh, crap. There's a financial side to this, too. That did it.

I dove into the subject and started reading and studying, and right after Nonprofit Stewardship came out in 2004, I started working on my editor, explaining that generation change would be a really, really important topic, and we needed to get going. He agreed, but wanted to wait for a while. I was not happy, but it turns out he was completely right.

I don't think our timing could be better. There is a regular "Boomer Files" section of Newsweek, discussion of boomer retirement on CNN, articles on generational conflict in the workplace (I found 12 titles on the subject on Amazon when I started my research, I'm sure there are more now. This issue has gotten on to the radar of foundations, United Ways, and university nonprofit programs.

I hope the book is a help to the sector. We'll see

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Doing the Right Thing...

I have told my clients and my kids for years and years and years what my grandfather and father always told me.
"Do the right thing. First, it's the right thing. Second, it's the smart thing, too."

I've tried my best to follow their good advice, and knowing the right thing is a whole lot easier sometimes than actually doing it. Like everyone else, I've had vexing choices and have fallen back on their words more times than I can remember.

Well, today in my in box from the New York Times comes a case study from Colorado Springs of a guy who not only did the right thing (after a severe, in-your-face wake up call) but has done it for years, and discovered that the right thing is also the smart thing.
is the article, and if you are not a registered NYTimes user, you have to (at NO cost) create an account. It's worth it, trust me.

A shout out to Steven T. Bigari. Good for you, good for your employees, and good for your community.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Ya gotta know the territory

In this week's Chronicle of Philanthropy, there's an interesting story on tech uses gone...well, not awry, but let's say not as successful as hoped.

It's about nonprofits who are trying to use Myspace, Facebook, and texting to raise both awareness and money.

Read the story, and you'll see what I mean when I say--you HAVE to know the territory when you move into it. The successful nonprofits on MySpace, for example, have engaged college students to make sure that what they are posting does, in fact, engage people and does not just look like a clueless parent at a frat party.

Really, this all boils down to another application of the classic marketing cycle. Whether its a new service, a marketing blurb, an online application, it's all the same: figure out who your market is, ask/research what they want and give it to them to the extent you can. And, there is also a bit of ignorance here of the needs versus wants rule: We all have needs, we all seek wants.

The online world is no different.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Pre-book buzz...

With my new book on generation change coming out next month, I've been speaking on the subject and have been asked about best practices in the area. Interestingly, there really aren't a lot.

My consulting on this issue has led me to develop some metrics of my own about retirement plans, benefits, board and staff age diversity, websites, marketing materials, technology use, planning, etc., etc., etc.

Really, everything on the manager's plate now needs to be viewed generationally, and my problem as a consultant has been to view it ONLY that way, and not get into the my other 25 years of experience....and add things on and on and on to my recommendations that have to do with general good management and stewardship practices rather than just limit myself to just the generation specific stuff. Yet, if I see a problem and don't bring it up, I feel like I'm committing malpractice....hmmm.

I'm also pretty excited about the reaction to the book so far. A TON of pre-publication orders are in...more than with my other books by far. And everyone seems to get this issue.

Funny, too. I've been perseverating over the cover. Fieldstone has been nice enough to let me have significant input into the decision making process, as they did for the paper marketing piece. Today a friend pointed out that in the book I say this....

"What about that expensive brochure you just wasted your money on-because the teens you need to reach are too busy with MySpace and text-messaging to read your glossy money pit?"

My response was that the paper marketing piece is for boomer execs who still control all the money!

And, two different people told me today that they are giving speeches on generational issues.

Seems this is on everyone's mind.

As it should be. It's a huge, huge issue for the sector.