For organizations and individuals, the end of the calendar year is the traditional planning period – the time used for self-assessment, strategizing and putting in place “game plan” for improvement and growth for the 12 months to come.
For many nonprofits, June 30th is the end of the fiscal and planning year. Yet the blueprint also offers the same opportunities to focus on improvement and growth. But in today’s volatile, hyper-competitive and uncertain environment, this once-a-year exercise isn’t enough. It just isn’t. Especially for nonprofits. And their boards of directors.
Here’s the good news: The year’s midpoint – upon us now – is a great point for an interim review. It’s a good time to review your game plan. Develop a vision goes beyond reviewing current budget projections against actuals and other compliance requirements.
I have identified five areas of focus – the last being a kind of “action plan” you can use to implement what’s of interest. Adopting just one of the many suggestions can yield a substantial return on investment. They are:
- Your Leadership
- Your Talent Pool
- Your Fundraising
- Your Impact Data
- Your “Fix-It” Points
A Good Place to Start
Board members for a nonprofit wants to make sure the nonprofit has the right kind of CEO for the current turbulent environment. And in this milieu, the organization needs a true leader – and not what I refer to as a “Mind-the-Store-CEO.”
The definition: A CEO with a nice personality who achieves modest growth each year – and not much else. He or she manages the finances, balances the budget each year, and manifests a “steady-as-she-goes” mindset. Unfortunately, this “comfortable” demeanor is accompanied by minimal creativity and an inherent lack of risk-taking. Nonprofits can go along for years with a CEO of this type – it’s an easy trap for boards to fall into: It’s quite a comfortable situation. Trouble is, the nonprofit is probably not “all it can be” in terms of service to clients.
Mid-Year-Review Objective: Determine whether or not the nonprofit is employing a “Mind-the-Store CEO.” If so, see what can be done to change his/her attitudes to become less risk-averse and more creative. This might involve more-aggressive goals and objectives, training or education or – in the most egregious of cases – a leadership change.
Creating and Keeping a Winning Culture
Leaders lead but it’s the “talent” below – the staff – who must then execute. Pay greater attention to recruiting, training, nurturing and retaining the very best talent. With unemployment at a 50-year low – and predicted to drop even more – I’m talking about a “seller’s market” for talent. Job-seekers can call the shots. And that means nonprofits are competing for talent with businesses and the most-affluent nonprofits. That’s especially true of the current demand for such abilities like accounting, data analysis, social work and folks with an IT expertise.
Nonprofits can try to level the playing field by creating the proverbial “great-place-to-work” employee environments. Some of those moves include:
- Creating a “Gen Z Culture” – We’re talking here about creating a workplace that’s inviting to the Gen Z crowd (those born after 1995). These are employees who have been technologically current since birth, but who have been impacted by the 2008-09 recession. For this group, “saving the world” may not be as great a synonym for “career success” as it was for the Millennials.
- Be Alluring by Being Flexible – A great salary is, well, great. But today’s employees also value flexibility – which includes the ability to work at the times, on days and in places that they desire. That may mean letting some employees work at home, or in off hours, or on weekends to get their time in and get their tasks done in order to balance time with family or other personal obligations.
- Creating a Clear “Professional Development Track” – Create an internal-management structure that leads to multiple career paths for employees. For those who wish to be managers or even leaders, create internal advancement experiences. Offer access to workshops and seminars, and help with those who wish to take additional classes, advanced degrees or even executive MBA programs. Do the same for employees who wish to develop a specialization.
- Develop Future Leaders – Need to employ executive directors (EDs) and other senior executives who are capable managers and who can work in an organization whose vision is to achieve a mission, often within a set of altruistic values. That’s the big difference between a for-profit company and a charitable nonprofit organization.
Mid-Year-Review Objective: Do an overview of the nonprofit’s internal culture, looking at employment policies, career tracks, and leadership qualities. Develop future leadership.