Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Can Nonprofit Leaders Consider Retirement Again?

Around this time two years ago, tens of thousands of nonprofit leaders across the country were mapping out timelines to their retirement or next adventure - including dozens, at least, in central Indiana. Many had not yet mentioned anything to their boards or other staff leaders. Then the financial crash hit, retirement savings plummeted, and unless a replacement was already hired most leaders put their plans on the shelf to wait for better times.

Staff leaders are thinking retirement again, based on the increase in calls I am getting from board leaders and executive directors to assist with succession planning or these leadership transitions over the next 1-2 years. What has caused the change? The stock market is still far from its 2007 highs but has improved since the scary Spring of 2009. A driven, or tired, leader can only put off their next career, writing their book, or moving to Australia for so long.  Add to that one of the toughest environments ever to run a nonprofit organization and it seemed inevitable that we would begin to see some ripples of that wave of retirements that has been forecasted for the past 5 years. Still, in the bigger picture, many questions remain unanswered about how long current executives will want to continue to work and what they will do next.

What is “Retirement”?

In our leadership survey a few years ago, we found a significant number of nonprofit leaders had pushed their thinking of retirement age toward 67 or even 70. What wasn’t as clear was whether they envisioned being in their current role or doing something else. When I started focusing on executive transition work 6-7 years ago, I perceived many of my clients were retiring to golf, friends, family, and perhaps some informal volunteer roles. The leaders I speak with today are more likely to be talking about pursuing one of their other passions or even continuing their life’s work in a new way – seldom does living in an RV or sipping marguerites on a sandy beach come up as more than a vacation.     

How Big a Deal Is It When a Long-term Leader Leaves?

The comparison that people seem to resonate with most is to a long-term pastor retiring. Though nonprofit executives haven’t done marriages and funerals, they have been visible, inspiring advocates for a cause or a neighborhood as leaders, mentors, coaches, friends, and very important fund raisers. They have been the face, the identity, and the heart of the organization in the community. There are emotional, operational, and relational components that must be addressed as the board steps back to assess where the organization is, where it is going, and what kind of leader will be needed next.  Among the most important is to reassure staff, funders, and donors that everything is on track and well-planned.    

Where I do interviews as part of the organizational reflection and assessment process, staff and board members are both anxious about their long-term leader departing and excited about the possibility of having a new leader with fresh vision, intense engagement, and new perspectives.     

Balancing the Best for the Organization with the Best for the Individual

On the other side of the discussion, leaders who stay too long can inhibit the ability of an organization to build strong staff and board leadership, adapt to the changing environment, and maximize their impact and contribution to the community. Ironically, the very leadership qualities and characteristics that enabled an organization to survive and grow to a certain point can be the same leadership qualities that limit that organization moving forward. Some people have labeled this common tendency as “Founders Syndrome”, applying to both long-term executives and founders.

Truly sharing leadership seems to be the best prescription to combat “Founder’s Syndrome”. A painful, but positive, leadership inflection point happens when the board asserts their role as co-leaders of the organization – insisting on being a real part of defining and quantifying what success means to their organization and holding all parties, including themselves, accountable for moving toward those agreed upon outcomes.

If you are a board or staff leader anticipating a transition, I would be happy to speak with you to discuss the types of support we might provide. Feel free to share this article and the process overview at this link with your leaders  http://www.notforprofitnews.com/images/One_Page_ETM_Intro.pdf . Watch for another Leadership Survey this fall as we keep you informed about what we are seeing.  

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

13 Steps to Driving Volunteer Recruitment, Engagement and Leadership

From the VolunteerMatch blog! Contributed by Nancy Schwartz of Getting Attention

When it comes to recruiting and motivating volunteers to ever higher and more effective levels of engagement, no organization has its work more cut out for it than New York Cares. As New York City's leading volunteer organization, New York Cares runs volunteer programs for 1,000 New York City nonprofits, city agencies and public schools, enabling more than 50,000 volunteers annually to contribute their time, expertise and energy to a wide array of organizations, addressing critical social needs citywide.

In order to ensure that its massive and complex operation runs smoothly, the staff at New York Cares has spent considerable time developing and refining their volunteer recruitment strategies, whose lynchpin, not surprisingly, is communication. I've spent some time talking with the folks at New York Cares recently and as you'll see below, their strategies can be put to work to boost your organization's volunteer recruitment, engagement and retention rates, no matter your size.

The Challenge In the recent past, New York Cares realized it faced three challenges that limited its ability to grow the base of volunteers serving its nonprofit partners.

1. They needed to raise "activation rates" of attendees who came to learn about New York Cares volunteer opportunities. Only 45% were immediately signing up for an assignment after their informational orientation.

2. They needed to increase the levels of volunteer engagement. The great thing about New York Cares is that it's a one-stop shop for want-to-be volunteers to learn about opportunities to help a broad range of nonprofits, and sign up for a project that has a commitment level of as little as just a few hours.

But New York Cares needed and wanted volunteers to come back again and again for more of the meaningful volunteer assignments they offered. "We needed to increase the average number of projects volunteers completed in order to grow the services we provide to nonprofit partners," says Colleen Farrell, senior director of marketing and communications at New York Cares.

Farrell notes that New York Cares also needs a volunteer team leader for every project they start.

3. They needed to create new leaders. "We wanted and needed a higher percent of our volunteer base to step into leadership roles. Taking a leadership role is the ultimate form of engagement and is critical to our expansion," says Farrell.

What follows is a group of 13 key principles for volunteer communication strategies I've gleaned from my observations of New York Cares' work. I want to thank executive director Gary Bagley and Colleen Farrell for volunteering their time and insights on how they've achieved their success. Where credit is due for brilliant insights and ideas, it is theirs alone; for anything less, I take responsibility. More

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Donor Centered Fundraising

Recently, Guidestar shared an interesting article about the findings from fundraising pioneer Penelope Burk. She found that having board members call donors to thank them for their gift can increase your gifting up to 39%. Penelope Burk shared the following statistics from her book Donor Centered Fundraising.

Donors who received a thank you phone call from a board member within 24 hours of receiving the gift - the next time they were solicited, they gave 39% more than the other donors who did not receive a call.

After 14 months, those called were giving 42% more.

She offers this simple strategy - the next time you send out an appeal, employ your standard thank you processes—letters, personal notes, etc.   But select out a random group of donors for a special thank you treatment: 

Organize your board members to make thank you phone calls to these donors within 24 hours of the gift's receipt. It's really important that they make the call within 24 hours of when your organization receives the gift.

Have your board members talk to a real person if at all possible.

After several tries, they can just leave a message that simply thanks the donor.

The phone calls are NOT about asking for another gift. They are for stewardship only.

Burk also suggests if your board members are adventurous, they can ask the donor why he/she chose to make this gift. This will give them the opportunity to hear the donor's story—and the donor will be even more pleased and honored. When you send your next solicitation out to all your donors you can conduct your own research by comparing the ones who received the extra thank you phone call and those who just received your regular thank yous. When the repeat gifts come in, compare the results of both groups. You'll find, when all other things are equal, that the donors who received a prompt, personal thank you from a board member within 24 hours of a gift being received will give up to 39 percent more than the other group.

Sometimes a simple and inexpensive strategy can provide amazing results.


We Need Your Input to The Salary Survey this Week!

This is the last week for the first Central Indiana Nonprofit Salary Survey and WE NEED YOUR PARTICIPATION. We are encouraging all 501c3 nonprofits from Marion and surrounding counties to go to www.CINSS.org and take about 15 minutes to complete the short survey of benefits and management level salaries (Excluding hospitals, universities, and schools this cycle).

We are well over 100 responses but far short of our goal of 200. You will be asked to identify your nonprofit organization in one of eight primary categories, as noted below with the number of responses to date. Whether you fit into one of the eight primary categories or not, your information will be tabulated and published for all nonprofits. There are not enough organizations right now to do breakout reporting on three categories – Recreation, Animal-Related, and Environmental but those organizations will have useful information to compare with organizations of similar staff and budget size.

Arts, Culture, and Humanities (16)
Human Services (35)
Health, Disease, Disorders (22)
Recreation, Sports, Leisure, Athletics (3)
Community Development (11)
Animal- related (1)
Environmental (4)
Membership Organizations (11)
Other (17)

As a reminder, we will be coordinating our data with the recent survey from the United Way of Central Indiana to publish combined results at the end of the summer or early fall. The United Way data will substantially expand our data set in Human Services plus add a few organizations to some of the other categories.


Thursday, July 1, 2010

Why does a Nonprofit Salary Survey Matter?

Last week, we launched the first Central Indiana Nonprofit Salary Survey. We are encouraging all 501c3 nonprofits from Marion and surrounding counties to go to www.CINSS.org and take about 15 minutes to complete the short survey of benefits and management level salaries (Excluding hospitals, universities, and schools this cycle).

We have been surprised by the wide range of feedback we have received. Many people are as excited as we are about this project while others see it as a lot of work to get enough organizations participating. Still others aren’t familiar with why a salary survey would be of value or interest.

One reason salary and benefits surveys may not be of common knowledge in the nonprofit sector is because more than 90% of nonprofits are not large enough to have staff dedicated to the Human Resources function. HR staff members are commonly the people who research salary information, buy salary data from national surveys, and help in developing compensation and benefits frameworks that make an organization competitive for talent.

While few nonprofits can offer truly “generous” compensation packages, it is critical to remain competitive in the marketplace in order to keep strong leaders and attract more strong leaders. Survey data like this helps the organization walk the line between competitive compensation for good staff and appropriate stewardship of donor funds.

For those organizations that do not have HR professionals, establishing compensation levels is often informal and viewed as an occasional “project” of a staff or board leader or committee. Sadly, many nonprofits get into a routine of paying what fits in their budgets and avoids a staff exodus. We hope easier access to this information will allow more organizations to set goals of working toward raising their overall compensation levels.

I would be the first to tell you that you have to look really hard to find a nonprofit leader who is overpaid, but the IRS has taken a few abusive situations and put rules in place that require every nonprofit board to objectively justify the compensation package they provide to top leaders. A survey like this will go a long way toward meeting that requirement.

We are pleased that more than 60 nonprofit organizations have already responded to the on-line survey at www.CINSS.org since it opened last Tuesday. We encourage you not to wait until the deadline of July 8 to complete it for your organization. We have set a goal of 200 nonprofits to provide worthwhile data for the eight nonprofit areas we have identified.

As a reminder, we will be coordinating our data with the recent survey from the United Way of Central Indiana to publish combined results at the end of the summer or early fall.