Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Volunteer talent management

Recruiting and retaining volunteers is a perpetual challenge for most of our nonprofits, a challenge that calls for fresh ways to think about how and why we engage others in our mission.

Two recent articles, published in two of the magazines I shared last week, offer interesting perspectives on managing and nurturing our volunteer talent. Both articles are available free, online.

The first, "Using the Whole Talent Pool," appears courtesy of Nonprofit Quarterly. The second, "The New Volunteer Workforce," is available online at Stanford Social Innovation Review. This one also is available as a PDF download, easy to share with your board and staff.

I'd love to generate some discussion here about both of these articles, particularly as you think about your organizations' volunteer management processes. What resonates? What challenges you? What excites you about the ideas presented in these pieces? How might we use them as starting points for thinking more broadly and creatively about building our volunteer resources -- including our boards -- in our community? Please share your thoughts via a comment on this post.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Nonprofit Quarterly infrastructure issue

Continuing the 'infrastructure' theme of my last post, I'd like to share another great resource on the topic, this one courtesy of our friends at Nonprofit Quarterly.

The NPQ editors continue to offer a pdf version of their special issue on "The Nonprofit Regulatory Landscape" on the magazine website. You do need to register (free) to access the file, but it is worth the minimal effort -- which will give you access to other online resources you'll find valuable.

Click here to access the link to the issue file. If you need to register first, you'll find a link to do that on the page as well.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Community nonprofit infrastructure

If you had the power to create infrastructure to support Laramie's nonprofit community, what kind of support would you include?

What would have the greatest potential to impact capacity to serve our city and enhance life here? What would build up our nonprofits as worthy, rich places to not just make a living but create a meaningful career? I often ask myself these questions. (It's a hazard of a multi-decade obsession with nonprofits and a multi-year focus on the sector's professional development needs during my doctoral work.) '

The marvelous Hildy Gottlieb, introduced to readers of this blog earlier this month, has offered one compelling vision at a national level. Click here to access her post at I found it quite easy to buy into her vision, and to grasp the potential of what she has proposed. As grand as it may seem, it also is entirely achievable. With help, of course.

I am even more energized personally to ponder what might be possible if we were to take Hildy's ideas to the local level. We may not feel the power to effect national-level change, but we certainly have the capacity to take charge of our community-level response -- and visioning for the future.

Certainly, nonprofits in our community understand what Hildy proposes. Definitely, there have been pockets of success, particularly in collaboration for common goals. Imagine, though, the power of truly community-level collaboration.

As an individual member of this community, I have an even more focused sense of where I might contribute. It should be no surprise to either regular readers of this blog or nonprofit friends who have been following my doctoral studies that two of Hildy's recommendations would resonate: creating systems for organizational education and creating systems to facilitate learning communities/communities of practice. Frankly, they have been the key drivers of the "what I want to be when I grow up" journey for the next phase of my professional life -- before Hildy articulated them so spectacularly.

I offer Hildy's vision as a starting point for what I hope can be a community-level discussion of what is possible here in Laramie. I invite you to help me begin the discussion here, by posting a comment and sharing your thoughts about what how we might go about building the capacity of our local nonprofit community. I'm particularly interested in your thoughts about how we might go about creating one or more learning communities -- serving nonprofit staff, nonprofit board members, whatever groups might benefit from regular opportunities to explore, reflect and ultimately learn together.

Friday, December 26, 2008

The board's sustainability role

Today's 'gift' comes in the form of a 2007 article published in the Nonprofit Quarterly, offered in online form here.

The article, an interview with Richard Brewster of the National Center for Nonprofit Enterprise, encourages boards to take a more proactive role in defining and building short- and long-term financial sustainability of their organizations.

Brewster gets straight to the point of a topic that may cause many boards to squirm. Your board may find it to be a good starting point for a discussion that members may be challenged to initiate on their own.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Three nonprofit magazines

Today's 'gifts' are not free, but these magazines are valuable resources that would benefit any nonprofit management team. If your agency budget doesn't allow for at least one affordable subscription, may I recommend a gift from a board member?

The first is my favorite, by far: Nonprofit Quarterly. The affordable subscription price doesn't hurt. What it most attractive, though, is the presentation of timely topics that encourage reflection on issues that matter to nonprofits. Writing style is accessible but respectful of our ability as adults to understand complex issues impacting our organizations.

The second encourages a slightly longer stretch on content, but the presentation is equally rich and accessible. It's also offered at a subscription rate that many nonprofits can manage. Stanford Social Innovation Review focuses content a bit more than NPQ, taking readers a bit further from more familiar management and leadership topics (though it does offer articles and other resources on such issues). But the stretches it fosters generally are in the direction of ideas where exploration and creative thinking would seldom be nonproductive. Another advantage: SSIR makes several of its articles available online for free. Subscription definitely is worthwhile, but the articles archive will give you a chance to test content before committing.

The third comes as a benefit of membership in the Society of Nonprofit Organizations. Nonprofit World presents material in a more basic format, but the topics are very germane to daily nonprofit life. If the magazine isn't attractive enough to commit to membership in the society, the other resources (including access to grant announcements) may be.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Better nonprofit leadership in 2009

Today's 'gift' comes from another Facebook friend, Rosetta Thurman, who shared a terrific post yesterday that we all should take to heart.

10 Ways to Become a Better Nonprofit Leader in 2009 offers something for everyone, whether you're a board member or a nonprofit staff member. I've bookmarked it myself and look forward to reflecting on her counsel in the days to come.

While you're there, be sure to check out her website. I always learn something from her and trust you will, too.

Monday, December 22, 2008

"Strongly Led, Under-Managed"

Today's 'gift' to readers of this blog is a thought piece from another one of my favorite nonprofit resources, the Bridgespan Group.

This article, Strongly Led, Under-Managed, offered a twist on the "leadership/management tensions" discussion: starting with the assumption that leadership is stronger within an organization than management practices. (Most articles I have encountered over the years that address the topic tend to assume that more nonprofits struggle more with leadership than day-to-day management.)

It is not, of course, an either/or proposition. Effective nonprofits gain strength from visionary leadership and sound management practices. I'm one who believes we can't hear and reflect on that often enough.

This article offers two key ideas that continue to resonate, each reinforcing the value and need for balanced attention. As a mission geek, I connected immediately to the authors' description of, and advocacy for, strategic clarity. But I also appreciated the way they addressed the need for managing change processes -- particularly processes that ultimately reflect the mission of the organization.

I'd encourage you to bookmark this article or, better yet, download a PDF version (link at the bottom) and share it with your board.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Good Governance Guide

Today's 'gift' to blog readers is a new favorite, the Good Governance Guide from Governance Matters.

It's a nifty little online toolbox offering resources on a range of topics, from "board effectiveness" to "board operations" to "funding stability" and "external relations." At the end of each section, you'll find one or more case studies, which offer a great, non-threatening (because you're talking about another organization) way to engage in discussions that encourage group exploration and reflection on issues of importance to governance effectiveness.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Nonprofit Law Podcast

Today's 'gift' has a multimedia twist. The Nonprofit Law Podcast is one of my favorite audio learning sources, because it offers accessible information on a topic that generally terrifies me.

This free podcast is available in iTunes, and accessing it is easy. Simply go to one of the search tools offered on the storefront, enter the podcast name, and click on the icon for the cast.

As with any iTunes podcast, you'll have three options: you can listen online to a specific session by clicking on the title, you can download sessions one by one, or you can subscribe (via the button next to the icon on the left) and download new casts automatically when they become available.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Free nonprofit management library

Many of the readers of this blog may already be familiar with today's "gift," but I thought I'd share it, anyway -- for those who have not yet encountered it and for those who might enjoy revisiting an old friend.

The Free Management Library offers foundational information on a vast range of nonprofit management topics. Included in that library is a board toolkit that addresses specific issues of governance. Click here, or use the link on the main site, to access those topics.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Community Driven Institute articles library

Today's gift to blog readers comes from a favorite resource -- and new Facebook friend -- Hildy Gottlieb.

Hildy is doing some amazing work at Help 4 Nonprofits/The Community Driven Institute. One of the more accessible and valuable parts of the institute's website is a terrific library of nonprofit articles. Click here to access the library page. I'd particularly like to point out her offerings on boards.

I became acquainted with Hildy's work, and appreciative of her expertise, while reading her posts on a listserv to which we both belonged. She has a knack for getting right to the point and offering pragmatic approaches to addressing the topic at hand.

Monday, December 15, 2008


Today's gift comes from the Nonprofit SOS blog. In a word: templates!

This post shares a variety of financial management templates, including samples of budgets, audit documents, and fiscal sponsorship agreements. On Friday, the authors shared templates for newsletters, annual reports, and other promotional materials.

Also shared during "samples week" were this post on evaluation, a post on fund-raising, and one that you know caught my eye immediately, offering templates related to board work.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Board Cafe/Blue Avocado

Today's gift is a two-fer: CompassPoint Nonprofit Services' Board Cafe electronic newsletter and its successor, Blue Avocado.

I subscribed to, and enjoyed, Board Cafe for years. You won't find significant depth on any subject, but the writers cover a lot of different board-related topics in a pragmatic way. Click on the "Past Issues" link to access the Board Cafe archives.

Blue Avocado builds on what its predecessor began: providing a wealth of information about topics that are (or should be) of tremendous interest to nonprofit boards. On the Blue Avocado page, you will find two options if you're thinking that you'd like to receive this resource on a regular basis: via e-mail or RSS subscription. Whatever vehicle you choose for subscribing, I'd encourage taking that step. It's a great little resource.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Five questions to ask

Today's "gift" to blog readers is a food-for-thought piece, "Five Questions Every Board Should Ask," by Sam Pettway. It is available on the BoardWalk Consulting website.

Click here to access a PDF copy of the article. If that doesn't work in your browser, go to BoardWalk's templates page (also bookmark-worthy!) and click on the link for the article by that name. Currently, it is the fifth link down.

I'm a big fan of this kind of resource, because it's designed to spark reflection on purpose that is absolutely essential to board work. These conversations offer opportunities to focus attention on governance priorities and bolster motivation that sometimes lags in the hard work of governance.

Unfortunately, most boards are so busy scrambling to meet the routine demands (and occasional fires that pop up) that they have little time or energy left for the group-level introspection that would benefit them in the end. Been there, done that too many times myself in a board setting. In the end, though, having these kinds of conversations is a good investment of board time and energy.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Emily Davis: Young nonprofit leader (and resource)

Today's "gift" to readers of this blog comes in the form of my new Internet acquaintance and Facebook friend, Emily Davis.

I became familiar with Emily's work and perspectives on nonprofit life via her blog. I became appreciative of her knowledge and role as a resource when I requested more information about research she's conducted on young nonprofit professionals. The interchange that resulted from that request, and the resources she so willingly shared along the way, has made me a true fan of Emily and her work.

Click here to access Emily's website. Be sure to check out her links on emerging leaders, paying close attention to the links to the research I mentioned. There is a link to both an executive summary and the full report on that page. Also, take a few moments to follow some of the links that she provides there -- many great resources on critical topics! The board geek in me has also enjoyed visiting her resources on board development. Some of the links there led me to familiar friends and sources. Others were new and soon added to my social bookmarks.

Speaking of bookmarks...

I think you'll find a lot on Emily's site that will leave you wanting to not only bookmark it but return often to learn from her.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Nonprofit economic vitality resource

In the spirit of the season, I'll be sharing a few of my favorite nonprofit things in the coming days: resources focusing on various aspects of capacity building.

Many nonprofits are undoubtedly feeling the pressure of the nation's current economic challenges -- or anticipating difficulties to come. The National Council of Nonprofits has set up an online portal dedicated to helping organizations ride the rocky tide ahead: the Nonprofit Economic Vitality Center.

This is a resource in progress; but early on, the NCN is making available a variety of tools that your board and management may find valuable. It offers resources in three focus areas:
This is a site definitely worth visiting now, and bookmarking as a help down the road.