- Experience – All our volunteer consultants come to us with deep expertise from the business sector, problem-solving skills and non-profit experience (on boards, staff positions, volunteer roles, etc.)
- References – Many references are right on our website – take a look under “The Reviews Are In”
- Work samples – Just ask us – we are proud to show off (as long as the client we did the work for approves, of course)
- Good work ethic – Our values say it all: Do the right thing; Bring expertise and passion; Honor relationships; Strengthen clients
- Flexibility – We will present on a topic to your board, or review challenges and recommend solutions in a consulting role. You tell us what works best for you. We have worked with many clients in a variety of ways. Our success is based on meeting your unique needs
- Fair price – We charge affordable fees but what you'll remember is that the value we provide far outweighs the minimal cost of our services
An article in the Huffington Post in March was titled “Hire Nonprofit Consultants with these 6 Qualities”. They recommend the following (and by the way, we meet their criteria!):
The name of our organization is Business Consultants for Non-Profits. We are a non-profit and we work with other non-profits (in southeast Michigan). Non-profit is the term, or label of choice these days. Non-profits used to be called charities. Today they are most often referred to as non-profit, but the descriptor “social enterprise” is also entering our vocabulary.
When I googled the term “non-profit” I found synonyms – “producing no profit or gain”, as “unsuccessful” and “worthless”. Then I looked up the word “charity” and it was more encouraging. Words such as “kindness”, “compassion” and “gift” appear. And yet, neither term and none of the synonyms quite do justice to what we do, what non-profit organizations do.
When I looked up the word “purpose” it gets much closer to what we do and why we do it. The closest synonym is “reason”. Additional words I found were “drive” and “determination”, then “commitment”. This place feels much better, much more relevant.
What I decided was there’s a bit of truth in all the names because
To quote a wise soul I know personally, “Purpose is reason with passion.”
What do you think? What label would you choose? What fits for you? For your organization?
Leave a legacy. That sounds heavy. Serious. Only for important people. Or wealthy people.
But it doesn’t have to be. The definitions vary, but essentially, the idea of a legacy is leaving something for the future (specifically, the future you are connected to).
Most of us think about our legacy at some point in life. For some of us it is intentional and early in life and well-thought-out. For others, it’s casual or accidental. For some it’s shared with others, and for some it’s held close and private.
Those of us who are committed to the nonprofit world, as volunteers, board members, or staff, should think about the legacy we’ll leave. We probably don’t think about our service as “leaving a legacy.” But we should. Our commitment leaves a mark on the agency as we devote our time, talent, and treasure, and the results of our good work also leaves a mark on us. It’s a wonderful two-way legacy.
If we want those legacies to be strong and powerful, it is important for us to think about what happens to all our good works when we’re no longer there. Who will take over where we leave off? What will that person do with (and to!) all our good work? Will what we leave behind survive long after we’re gone? Or will it disappear as soon as we leave?
So, whether you’re a volunteer or a board member or a staff member – and especially if you’re an executive director/CEO, it’s imperative that you help with succession planning. Clarify what happens after you’re gone before you’re gone, by engaging in the planning necessary to make certain that the good work you’ve done continues and that your legacy lives on.
I hope you’ll be intentional about what you leave. That will serve you more fully and serve those you leave your legacy to purposefully.
We recently embarked on the documentation of BCNP’s core values. We followed a 10-step process laid out by Tony Hsieh in his book Delivering Happiness. His steps encourage securing input across the organization, significant vetting and reality-based examination. We also were guided by the writings of Wendy Maynard, specifically in How to Write Remarkable Company Core Values. She describes how core values can be “Living Breathing Values” if you follow these rules:
1.Do the right thing
We increasingly work in a virtual world. BCNP has no brick & mortar and few physical assets. We work well this way. It enables us to be nimble and operate with limited funding. And wonderful things can be accomplished through phones, email, texting, Dropbox, LinkedIn, etc.
Currently, BCNP is operating "in the cloud", in libraries, in coffee shops, at client sites and in borrowed + available corporate conference rooms. We will do this until we can't do it any more. Why wouldn't we? Why add the burden of long-term expenses when we don't have to? Why tie ourselves to a city when we serve all of southeastern MI? Our consultants come from all over the metro-Detroit area. Our clients operate all over the metro-Detroit area.
We will come to you.
Because in some situations there is still nothing like face-to-face. We just completed work with a client in which the difficult conversations would not have yielded their desired without the face-to-face discussions and the clear demonstration of passion by all. We will come to you.
Special thanks goes to Linda's co-author, Carla Barrows-Wiggins, BCNP's Board Chair.
The National Council of Nonprofits (www.councilofnonprofits.org) states that “nonprofits that are serious about their own sustainability will also be serious about planning for smooth and thoughtful transitions of leadership.” Planning for leadership transitions is certainly critical to long-term organizational success, but it sounds like a “nice-to-do” activity instead of a necessity when leadership is doing well and has no overt plans to leave.
Contingency planning, or bench building, on the other hand is an effort that nonprofits should undertake regardless of the state of their leadership tenure. It can be viewed as a precursor to succession planning. It can also be conducted as a smart capacity building strategy. A large human-services nonprofit in metro-Detroit found themselves inadequately prepared when a senior staffer left the agency for another job. They committed to a thorough bench-building effort which involved a review of many key positions in the organization – job tasks as formally documented and face-to-face interviews revealing job coverage across departments and across the organization.
1. Consider the Big Picture
Contingency planning is often a more feasible option for busy nonprofit professionals. First, begin the planning process by posing the hypothetical question “what would we do if our leader(s) won the lottery (and subsequently left our organization)?” This type of planning can be done informally and without the disruptions that suggesting the possibility of imminent organizational change (to staff or to donors) can foster.
2.Ask the Right Questions
Second, in order to formulate a cohesive response to the won-the-lottery scenario, you should ask a series of questions that are based on a “big picture” perspective of the organization. These questions commonly fall into the following categories:
3.Dig Deep into Your Organization
Finally, use the answers to these questions as a starting point to dig deeper into the organization. You are likely to find that when you analyze the relationships and job tasks for your leadership and management staff, you will get a clearer picture of the strengths and weaknesses at every level within the organization.
Business Consultants for Non-Profits assisted the aforementioned nonprofit with their bench building efforts – from design of protocol through implementation and recommendations for change. Contact Linda Braun at Linda_Braun@BCNP-MI.org for more information, assistance or advice with your own contingency planning. And now – go buy that lottery ticket!
When we think of people we think of life stages – infancy, childhood, adulthood, old age. Did you know that boards of nonprofit organizations have similar life stages? Grassroots, operational and institutional (sometimes called governance).
Early in a nonprofit organization’s existence, the board is in the grassroots stage. These boards are small, homogenous, informal, very hands-on – generally board members actually provide the services of the organization, and, typically, without staff. As the organization grows and new demands are placed on the organization, the board has to make a transition to the next stage.
An operational board is larger, with a more diverse membership – gathering directors from many skills and occupations that support the organization’s mission. Committees are formed and much of the board’s “work” is delegated to those committees. Staff is hired and the board is responsible for policy and monitoring services and finances, but, because the staff is generally stretched too thin, board members still provide some essential services to the organization.
As the organization continues to grow and mature, the institutional/governance board becomes increasingly professionalized, staff has expanded to allow the “work” of the organization to be done by staff (rather than board members), and the financial needs of the organization dominate the board’s agenda. Fundraising needs demand that board recruitment focus on wealthy and influential people and serving on the board is prestigious. Committees – especially the Executive Committee – are strong and do most of the work formerly done by the board at large.
As you look for board members, you should recruit members who will fit with your board’s life stage. Asking folks who want to be very hands-on in providing services to join an institutional board, or asking the rich and famous to serve on a grassroots board, as examples, will guarantee frustration for board, staff, clients, and stakeholders. All boards need time, talent and treasure, but the most important need varies with your life stage. Grassroots boards ask for the most time. Operational boards ask for the most talent. And institutional boards ask for the most treasure.
Special thanks to BCNP consultant Diane Henderson for her insight on board growth and development.
Achoo. Bless you.
Usually, when I hear someone sneeze, I hope they have covered their face as to not spread germs, and then I offer the sneezer a blessing or wish for good health. ”God bless you.” “Gesundheit.” Most cultures have a like custom.
Could spreading sneeze “germs” ever be considered a good thing? Could the blessing take on a new meaning?
Seth Godin thinks so. He wrote about a concept of being a “social media sneezer” in his book, “Ideavirus”. He describes the power of social media in the hands of influential people - spreading ideas virally through social media.
This is exactly what nonprofit board members should do - spread the story of their organization’s good works like a sneeze… a benevolent sneeze. If board members spread their passion to everyone they influence, there could be an outbreak of good work accomplished, enhanced commitment and increased resources dedicated to the cause.
Then, the wishes of good health will transform into thank yous for sneeezing!
Linda Braun, BCNP's President, is an executive with expertise in performance improvement and organizational development. Here you'll find her musings on serving the nonprofit community.