Nonprofit stakeholders

Nonprofits in Limbo: Preparing for the Unexpected

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Nonprofits in Limbo: Preparing for the Unexpected

By: Eugene Fram

As the nation is reeling from the jolt of the 2016 election results, I happened to read a recent report from Deliotte Consulting suggesting ways that for-profit organizations can improve their performance in uncertain times. The report centers on key drivers of board effectiveness that, in my opinion, resonate with similar nonprofit situations. Most nonprofit boards typically live with uncertainty and are perennially “on the edge.” Here are some ideas from the Deloitte * report that, when adapted early, can bolster their operation in times of disruption.

  • Bold, decisive leadership: Nonprofit boards are responsible for donor and charitable types of revenues that place directors in a public trust position. In addition board members typically will only be active for a median tenure period of four to six years. As a result they often become overly conservative in their strategic views and may accept CEOs that “mind-the-store” with modest incremental growth annually.

To prevent the organizational boat from capsizing in the perpetual seas of uncertain times, the board needs rely on  the best forward looking information about strategy, culture, people and clients. All of this must be in solid  alignment with a substantial mission, or a modified one if the external environment requires it. This allows the  nonprofit to cut through the cultural barriers that impede strategy development. As Peter Drucker has noted, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast every morning.”

  • Opportunity mind-set: Even when the organization is prospering, the board has a responsibility to press for innovations and to support small-scale experiments as called for in a “Lean Management” structure. Within this structure, the staff can test the waters via experiments to move more boldly, as long as the experiments yield positive results. **
  • Stakeholders: Nonprofits have a multitude of stakeholders, complicated by the fact that often those who receive the service are not the ones who support or pay for it.   This requires management to balance the needs of the various groups and that can call for heart-breaking decisions. For example, should revenues be allocated to marketing or used for needed client programs? To solve the dilemmas Deliotte suggests, “Building valuable, open relationships across multiple stakeholder groups is key to building trust and organizational resilience”
  • Match fit: Boards have a responsibility to motivate the nonprofit to realistically evaluate the tensions between new models and existing ones. Two examples show contrasting results. Easter Seals boards perceived the market changes involved with polio vaccines and modified their missions.   Nonprofit counseling agencies failed to assess the positive impacts of new pharmaceuticals and the need for face-to face counseling declined. To develop a fit, Deliotte suggests, “the board and the organization need to be agile and open.”
  • Culture, culture, and culture: Nonprofit boards’ cultures play a key role in determining the level of risk the board is willing to take. With key drivers, nonprofit boards have to take reasonable risks to survive and even encourage management to take it. Small scale, yet bold, experimentations that are jointly reviewed by board and management provide a “Lean Management” approach that has been used by venture supported business firms.
  • Cracking the diversity Code: Instead of recruiting new board members and maximizing the best they have to offer, nonprofit boards try to orient new board members to the current culture. A new member with a financial planning background, for example, will be asked to work with the CFO on accounting related problems. Instead, he/s should be asked to develop a long term-term financial plan.   Board background (such as strategic planning abilities, critical thinking) diversity, as well as demographic (such as gender, ethnicity) ones, must be carefully crafted and utilized as well as demographics.
  • Curiosity is Key: Deliotte Consulting concludes, “Directors should get out of the ‘same old’ board room, and should even look across borders to learn from approaches in (different nonprofits) and companies… . Developing news skills and insights are essential for innovation and should be sought to create the questioning and challenging environment needed to imagine, inspire and deliver better outcomes (and impacts). Complacency (in uncertain times) can be a killer.”

*https://www.google.com/search?q=Sevn+ways+to+im%5Bprove+board+effectivness+in+uncertgain+times&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8#q=Seven+ways+to+improve+board+effectiveness+in+uncertain+times

**https://www.snpo.org/publications/sendpdf.php?id=2014

 

 

 

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How Do Nonprofit Boards Keep Stakeholders Engaged?

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How Do Nonprofit Boards Keep Stakeholders Engaged?

By: Eugene Fram                       Free Digital Photo

Viewer Favorite        Revised and Updated

First, exactly who are the “stakeholders” in the nonprofit environment? Most directors would readily define the term as clients and board members. But what about other participants such as external auditors and significant vendors? Surely a charity that depends on a vendor to supply groceries can be hobbled if the food is not delivered properly. And, last but not least, the backbone of the organization — the volunteers! Many cogs in the wheel make the nonprofit world go around and need consistent and careful attention. Following are some guidelines for engaging all types of stakeholders:

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Nonprofit Board And Internal Working Environments—No Pieces of Cake!

Nonprofit Board And Internal Working Environments—No Pieces of Cake!

By: Eugene Fram

People who work in the business community sometimes view nonprofit organizations as “cushy” places to work. The truth is that today’s nonprofits have challenges that are very different from those of the corporate world–and typically struggle to accommodate parameters such as restricted finances, increasing wage costs that must aligned with ever expanding client needs. In addition, board members must be concerned about personal liabilities under special legislations such as completing the IRS Form 990 and The Intermediate Sanctions Act. * Not easy!

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal discusses the hypothetical release from “grind” pressures a business executive might experience when moving employment to a nonprofit. ** Following are some of the specific advantages cited by the article (in bold) followed, by some of my real world observations.

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Dysfunction in the Nonprofit Sector—Reality or Myth?

Dysfunction in the Nonprofit Sector—Reality or Myth?

By: Eugene Fram

Judging from the vast literature on dysfunctional nonprofit boards and organizations (my own posts included!) one might conclude that the majority of nonprofits are struggling, incompetent and/or in crisis. I argue that this is not the case. Decades of experience lead me to believe that nonprofits have the same functional variables as profit making organizations—dysfunctional at times like Target or GM; efficient like Apple or Whole Foods; adaptable like Del Monte and Cisco. Everybody doesn’t get it right all the time. (more…)