Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Why Strategic Planning is More Important than Ever for Non-Profits

A landmark national survey regarding successful practices in strategic planning for non-profit 501c3 organizations was conducted in March 2012 by the Association for Strategic Planning (ASP) and the University of Arkansas Department of Political Science. Initial findings of the 1000+ responses were reported during the May 2012 ASP Annual Conference. These findings included the following three items of significant interest to advocates for the strategic planning process in the nonprofit sector:

• The driver for strategic planning in high success organizations is “Routine periodic process in our organization.” Whereas in low success organizations, the driver for planning is “Driven by significant risks/challenges”

• Successful organizations report having successful plan implementation practices; low success organizations report that they do not have successful implementation practices. (Read that again – sounds like the cliché of “A good plan, well-implemented, beats a great plan that is not implemented” - Bryan)

• Highly successful organizations report that strategic planning has high impact on overall organizational success. Low success organizations do not report strategic planning as key to overall organizational success. (So, a strategic plan can strengthen a good organization but will probably not rescue an organization in trouble because their inability to execute is likely why they are struggling - Bryan)

The report highlights common approaches and factors for organizations who do planning themselves and those who use external consultants.

For additional details of initial findings presented at the ASP national conference please click here.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Q&A With Some Board Experts

Did you ever wish you could corner a board professional for a few minutes and get their input on a series of questions about how to improve your board? Guidestar recently conducted a webinar that had so many questions that they couldn't cover them all - so they put several into written form. Though I might have slightly different opinions on some of these, I thought they did a nice job in the short answer format they had to respond.

Q: -How do you keep the Executive Committee from becoming more powerful and/or more invested than the rest of the board?

Q: -There seems to be a disconnect on our board between their enthusiasm to embark on a project or program and their sense of accountability in funding it.

Q: -Can you go over some pros and cons to term limits?

Q: -Do you have any recommended education or strategies for promoting fundraising skills among board members?

Q: -Without term limits, how does one remove 1-2 board members gracefully?

Q: -100% of our board are members of our community. This gives us great community trust but we struggle with fundraising.

Q: -What (really) motivates truly busy people to be willing to join a board? I'm talking about the underlying agendas, motives that you should keep in mind in order to recruit?

Read all questions and answers.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Nonprofit Sustainability

It is great to see more and more research and writing around the topic of
financial sustainability. There are enough variables that the typical board,
and finance committee, needs to take the time to step back and examine them
in the context of their specific organization.

Beyond Sustainability: Identifying the Right Resource Mix for Growth - 
Woods Bowman

On the Upper West Side of Manhattan, across Central Park from the
Metropolitan Museum of Art (the Met), stands the New-York Historical
Society. It was founded in 1804 as both a museum and a library sixty-two
years before the Met and ninety-one years before the New York Public Library
(NYPL). The combined budgets of these much younger institutions are now
thirty times greater than the Historical Society's.

Sustainability is a necessary condition for long-term success, but it is not
sufficient to optimize the impact of an organization. The Society is over
two hundred years old, so obviously it is sustainable, but long ago it ceded
its preeminent role among New York's museums and libraries to younger
rivals. This article explains how an organization should manage its revenue
composition to go beyond sustainability and maximize its growth potential.

Read the entire article here.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Death of the Hull House: A Nonprofit Coroner's Inquest -Rick Cohen

(Another "must have" publication for nonprofit leaders - Subscribe at www.NonProfitQuarterly.org )

When Hull House, founded by legendary social activist Jane Addams, closed down early this year, the reverberations of the failure of the nation's most famous settlement house were somewhat muted. Was it that the modern era Hull House was so different from the Hull House Addams described in her autobiographical 20 Years at Hull-House that the place had lost its symbolic meaning for the nonprofit sector? Might there have been the presumption that the day of Hull House-and perhaps much of the settlement house movement that flourished around the turn of the century-had simply passed?

- How did this organization move from huge volunteer effort to 500 paid staff?
- How did this organization move from fighting government policies to being fully dependent on government funds?
- What happened to the culture of the organization after the founder was gone?
- What were the signs of trouble?
- What can we learn?

Read the extended article here.