Challenge From Under the French Fries

Sara Leonard Uncategorized

nspiration comes when you least expect it. While having dinner with my children at McDonalds, I was challenged by the verbiage on the tray liner. You know the tray liner – that piece of paper lining the tray that usually contains a special offer for an amusement park or a promotion of the latest McFood. But this time it was a statement about McDonalds’ corporate beliefs, starting with “We believe that when you say something people should be able to believe it.” They concluded with this statement: “To be the best company we can, we have to create the best opportunities. And we’d like to believe that some of the best ones around, are right here.”

So here’s the challenge to us in the nonprofit community: do we offer our employees the best opportunities around? Do we invest in their training and development? Do we let them try new things? Do we listen to their ideas?

Many – maybe even most – of our employees took their current positions because they believe in the mission of our organizations. Sure, they need the paycheck but there are plenty of places to get those. Do we capitalize on their commitment to our organization? By investing in their next step – through training and opportunities – we develop the next generation of nonprofit leaders.

Training and education
The nonprofit sector has a language all our own and some basic training will benefit employees at every level. Watch for web-based trainings, share interesting articles or visit our web site ( for offerings in the Tampa Bay area.

Find where their interests lie and let them work on a project, try out a skill or pitch in when things are exceptionally busy. Look for areas where your organization is lacking talent, social media for instance. Challenge an employee to become a specialist in that area by researching best practices in other organizations.

One of the most valuable things you can provide aspiring leaders in your organization is honest feedback on their performance. Find places they can improve and be proactive in providing the opportunities needed to make those improvements. Don’t wait for annual reviews, provide ongoing feedback so your team can be constantly improving.

Can the employees in the nonprofit sector agree with the statement on my McDonalds tray liner: “we have to create the best opportunities. And we’d like to believe that some of the best ones around, are right here”?

Measuring What We Can Control

Grace Armstrong Uncategorized

There are very few people I know who get excited about program evaluation. So many of us think of outcomes as something we have to consider when we are writing a grant and we worry about how we can track and prove to a funder that we have met our goals.

I think the world is changing. I know I have changed. I now get excited about having outcomes for our organization, about tracking them, and about talking about our results. The world is changing because more funders and investors are interested in impact. They want to invest their money in organizations that are making a difference and can prove it. There are many new writings about high performing organizations, impact, and how to measure impact.

For me the book that made the most difference in my attitude about outcomes and impact is Mark Friedman’s Trying Hard is Not Good Enough. What I learned from reading this book is that we should only be measuring what we control. One organization cannot reduce poverty in the United States; yet, we often feel that we are supposed to achieve these grand results because our mission statement says that is our goal. Each organization, regardless of its mission, has a piece of the process that leads to the grand outcome. So, what is your piece? What services do you provide over which you have control and which you can measure?

For example, at our organization, the Nonprofit Leadership Center of Tampa Bay, we teach board members and staff members of other nonprofits the skills to run an effective nonprofit business. We can teach skills and provide best practice education. We can provide the best teacher, with the most relevant information delivered in an engaging and interactive manner. We, however, cannot control what each nonprofit does with the information they receive once they leave our training center. We also cannot follow each nonprofit for months. Therefore, we measure each student’s perception of the quality of each program, whether they increased their skill or knowledge, and whether they perceived value for the time and money invested among other things. We use the student’s rating because that is what we have available. They are the only ones who can tell us whether knowledge and skill increased as a result of our work.

We are then able to use this data from every single student about every single training program and draw some conclusions that our work contributes to building a strong nonprofit sector.

It is very liberating to have clarity on what can be controlled and measured and to keep the proper perspective about the impact your work has on the overall problem you are trying to improve or change. With clarity it is easy to demonstrate to donors and funders that you are in control of your work and of your outcomes. It is easy to know where you need to improve and to show where you are doing well if you are measuring those outcomes over which you have control.

The most important thing is to determine clearly what it is that you control and how best to measure those things. The next most important thing is to use the data you obtain to improve your work and to make a great case for support.

An Ode to the Nonprofit Professional Uncategorized

You are a nonprofit professional. I’m sure you don’t pat yourself on the back everyday for the good you do, but you’re pretty special. You have dedicated your life to giving back; to helping the world’s disadvantaged, filling the gaps in social services, nurturing arts and culture, and saving the environment. You resisted pressure from your parents to become a lawyer or an accountant in order to serve more altruistic ends, often with little pay, long hours, and little recognition. This is an ode to you – the nonprofit professional. Borrowing from some of the greats, we hope to inspire you and remind you why what you do is so wonderful.

“What we do may only be a drop in the ocean, but the ocean wouldn’t be the same without it,” Mother Teresa

“It takes a noble person to plant a seed and grow a tree that will one day provide shade to those whom one may never meet.” Dr. D. Elton Trueblood

“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” Winston Churchill

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world: indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Mead

” Be the change you wish to see in the world.” Mahatma Gandhi

“Remember, the final measure of your life won’t be how well you live, but how others live because of you.” Bill Gates

It’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of everyday, and lose sight of the bigger picture: the good that you have done and the impact that it has on the world, but you should step back every once in a while to see how great it is. A research study conducted by Michigan State University and published in the European Journal of Social Sciences in 2010 examined a simple act of altruism – the act of opening a door for someone – and the effect it had. The research found that when a door was held open for someone, that person was more likely to hold the door open for the next person. So, atruism begets altruism.

If the simple act of holding a door open can inspire others in such a way, you can imagine the wave of good that your service has had on the world. So, whenever you get frustrated because you haven’t quite met your goals, or your heart feels heavy thinking about those still in need, remember what you have done, and rest assured knowing that the good you do stretches far beyond what you can possibly see.

Financial Leadership

Lorraine Faithful Uncategorized

When I came across an article about financial leadership, I happened to be in a place in my nonprofit career where I was ready to transition from financial management to financial leadership, so the article came to me at the right time and at the right place, as things so often happen to do.

This timely article entitled, “An Executive Director’s Guide to Financial Leadership,” helped point me to a new exciting direction as well as articulating something I had been thinking about but didn’t fully understand how to explain. Let’s start with the difference between financial management and financial leadership: the former is the collecting of financial data, producing financial reports and finding solutions of near-term financial issues; the latter is guiding an organization to sustainability and sustained financial health. Financial management describes what I’ve been involved with for several years in the nonprofit sector; financial leadership is the leap I intend to make.

Written by Kate Barr and Jeanne Bell, and published last December by the Nonprofit Quarterly, the article provides eight key business principles that guide financial leadership practice. All eight principles represent best practices; some are familiar and others are not. They help organizational leaders to adapt to the demands of the changing environment and maintain the balance needed for mission impact and a healthier nonprofit. Although these principles are often delegated to a nonprofit’s top leadership, they are relevant to financial staff and board members as well as executive directors. Additionally, they will apply to small, mid-size or larger organizations.

If long-term viability is your nonprofit’s goal, this information is for you. To read the article, click here:

Don’t Neglect the Follow Up!

Ashley Pero Uncategorized

You’ve just spent two hours at a networking event and you’re finally home. You’re ready to take your shoes off and sink into your DVR’d shows. WAIT – the networking event was just the beginning!

We’re all guilty at times. We exchange business cards and then keep the stack on our desk for a few days and then they find their way maybe to our Outlook contacts, maybe to a drawer, or maybe to the trash can. If that is what happens then we really shouldn’t waste our time at the events to begin with – just go straight home to your DVR. But, if you want to make the most of your networking you need to reconnect after the event. Then you’ll be the one that stands out. Maybe nothing will come of it right away, but down the road you never know.

Here are a few steps to take in hopes that those short encounters eventually turn into something more meaningful:

1. Take 10 minutes right after the event to jot down something about the person on their business card. Maybe you both shared a love for baseball, your kids go to the same school or you know someone in common. Just write something down about that person on their card so you won’t forget by the morning.

2. Take 25 minutes the next morning to send each person a quick email (save a few templates that you can fill in the info and overtime this will be an easy step). It is important that you don’t put this step off – it is just like thank you cards, the longer you wait the more details you should include. This email shouldn’t be a hard sale. It should make the person feel like you really did enjoy meeting them. It should include:

a. The event that you met.
b. Something that you discussed (love of baseball, kids schools, someone you know in common).
c. A way to continue to conversation (coffee, lunch, phone call).
d. Include something (link, article, website) that would benefit the other person.
e. How nice it was to meet them.

3. Follow up periodically with articles or events that might interest them. This shows you aren’t just looking for the business. It shows you are helpful and thoughtful.

Do you have any networking follow up ideas that really work for you?

Striking the Right Balance for Your Nonprofit with Management Software

David Matthew Uncategorized

The media fury surrounding the business practices of Central Asia Insitute Executive Director Greg Mortenson shows exactly why passion and ideas alone are not enough to ensure success for a nonprofit. As is the case with for-profit organizations, nonprofits demand thoughtful management of resources and finances. Many organizations do what is necessary and follow a best practices approach to management, but there are still others that do not use all of the tools at their disposal for success. The wake of high-profile scandals like the Mortenson’s leave many constituents wondering exactly how and where their donations are being allocated, which is why accountability is more crucial than ever.

There are a number of steps that nonprofits should follow to increase their level of transparency. An easy starting place is identifying the criteria outlined by websites, which offer nonprofit report cards, such as Charity Navigator. Beyond best practices, however, organizations should be prepared to regularly take a hard-nosed look at their core processes and practices. This level of review can help nonprofits determine where they can improve, particularly in areas such as operational performance and financial management.

The area where organizations can really make the most progress is by streamlining their oprations wtih nonprofit management software. The 2010 survey from the Nonprofit Technology Network (NTEN) illustrates that when it comes to technology, many nonprofits fail to adequately plan or utilize the tools at their disposal. In the past, the high price tag of software, for example, might have been a reasonable deterrent to adoption. However, the amount of web-based solutions now available provide a viable, cost-effective alternative to on-premise software. These software-as-a-service applications are typically offered for a monthly fee, enabling organizations to better manage their technology spending. You can get a sense of what options are available by reading nonprofit software reviews.

When it comes to ongoing accountability, it’s important that nonprofits harness all of the tools at their disposal – best practices, strategic oversight, and technology utilization – to ensure they are transparent at every step along the way. With smart planning and good software implementation, nonprofits can create fulfilling relationships with both their financial backers as well as their communities.

You can find more about nonprofit management best practices and software at the Software Advice blog.

What Does a Nonprofit Leader Really Need to Know?

Grace Armstrong Uncategorized

At the Nonprofit Leadership Center we partner with the University of Tampa to offer a graduate credit Certificate in Nonprofit Management. This program was developed to prepare emerging leaders to step into the roles that our retiring leaders are vacating.

I am a perfect example of a nonprofit leader who stepped into the role of Executive Director without ever having worked in a nonprofit, without ever being exposed to an Executive Director at work, and with no training in leadership. I had supervised a staff team and I had managed contracts. As I write today, I think back and ask myself, in an ideal world, what would have been the perfect set of knowledge and skills that would have helped me at that point in my career, given me confidence, and saved me lots of time.

This is what I think.

I think nonprofit leaders need to know how to bring out the best in others. This includes their board, their staff, and their prospects for resource support. Not everyone is born with this talent, but I believe that consciousness can be raised about the importance of this skill and I believe the skill can be taught. This can be taught through assessments and developing an understanding of self and others, through learning about emotional intelligence, and through case studies and role playing. In addition, leaders need performance management skills. After bringing out the best in staff, managing behavior for maximum performance is key to an organization’s success and sustainability.

I think leaders of nonprofit organizations need to be taught presentation skills and public speaking skills. The leader is the main voice of the organization and must be good at sharing information and persuading others. These skills are easily taught and learned through practice and feedback.

I think leaders of nonprofit organizations need to be taught to how to network. We are all thrust into this mode and many of us avoid it or complain about it. We often find someone else to do it for us. A few simple techniques can be taught, practiced, and discussed.

I think leaders of nonprofit organizations need to be taught to think strategically. Thinking ahead and bringing people together to work towards common goals is a key skill. This can be taught through examples and case studies.

Leaders of nonprofit organizations need to learn how to be problem solvers. Again, teach this through examples and case studies.

I believe in practical, thoughtful, skill based leadership development. I wish all new leaders could have the benefit of training and support in their first year on the job and periodically throughout their careers. It is a lonely and important job that can affect our society for the great good.

A Book Review: Small Message, Big Impact

Lorraine Faithful Uncategorized

A book review of Small Message, Big Impact, written by Terri Sjodin

Have you worked hard on that short speech so you will be ready the next time you only have a few minutes to say what you want to when you run into that “very important person?” Are your thoughts developed and organized to take advantage of all opportunities that come your way? Have you perfected your communications skills so that your next sales pitch gets you exactly what you want (a longer appointment for instance?)

If not, there is help. Pick up this short but powerful book that gets you ready to achieve those goals. Small Message, Big Impact – How To Put the Power of the Elevator Speech Effect To Work For You, is a practical how-to guide on effectively communicating an important message in a short period of time and getting tangible results. An elevator speech is not your goal; rather it’s your means to an end. The end product of your elevator speech is to obtain a longer meeting which then provides you sufficient time to achieve your bigger goal (a sale, a new idea, concept or project, or a new donor or volunteer.)

Learn the simple details of the elevator speech: introduction, body, conclusion and close. Find out how to make your speech intriguing and inspirational. Put yourself in your listener’s shoes and ask yourself, “What does your message mean to them? Will you save them time or money? Will you preserve their mental sanity or can you offer them security? Will you make life more fun for them?”

Follow the easy steps of how to create a persuasive and compelling case. Learn the importance of speaking in your own authentic voice for maximum effectiveness.

Don’t forget: everyone needs an elevator speech as we are all selling something at some time. Whether you are in the for-profit or the not-for profit world, you will often find yourself in circumstances that require the need to generate immediate results. In most cases, telling your story well is critical and sharing your message effectively is essential.

Take advantage of the easy-to-learn skills outlined in this book so that you’ll deliver the perfect elevator speech and never waste another moment on lost opportunities.

Purchase this book by clicking here.

Taking a Leap of Faith

Tyler Hood Uncategorized

My best friend and roommate in college recently returned from a three-month trip to Guatemala. After graduating with a degree in landscape architecture Lance decided he wanted to learn Spanish. He applied to a school in Guatemala that would provide three months of Spanish training, shelter, and two meals a day. After putting his career on hold and saying goodbye to his family Lance was off to Central America. He had a bag of clothes, some money, a calling card, and a stomach full of American cupcakes. What he didn’t have, was a clue as to what kind of opportunities and life changes this trip would entail.

Sometimes it takes a leap of faith like this to realize our potential. Confidence usually plays a big part of the decision and often takes on the inhibitor role. An easy way to get past one’s inhibitions about a certain decision is to weigh the options. Taking a leap of faith is a big decision and should not be taken lightly. Make a pros and cons list for the decision. Think about the outcomes and consult your loved ones and mentors. Plan ahead, but not too much. In other words be prepared but expect the unexpected. I know that is a contradiction in itself. What I mean is have a good idea of what you expect the results to be, but be open to that changing. Most of the time when we reflect on the past decisions we have made they have not gone exactly to plan. Having an open mind will make the entire process easier. Some people do not deal well with change and will always struggle when it comes to taking leaps of faith. It is a lack of faith in themselves that prevents them from experiencing change. This is why the planning stage is so important. What if there is limited time to make that decision? Sometimes there is no time to plan and talk through the decision at hand. In these situations I try to just listen to my heart and intuition and go from there.

Now you’re probably wondering what happened to Lance (the landscape architect/Traveler)? Within the first week of his Spanish schooling he was asked by an administrator if he would mind filling in for the English teacher at the nearby elementary school the next day. Lance agreed and taught his very first English class the next day. Afterwards he went to the administrator and asked how much longer he would be needed and when the actual English teacher would be returning. The administrator looked him in the eye and said “You are the English teacher”! After three months of teaching the children Lance returned home. But he did not return as the traveling landscape architect. He returned with a heavy heart for Spanish speaking children who wanted to learn English. He was now a teacher! In six months Lance plans on departing for Costa Rica where he will teach English in poverty stricken communities.

Sometimes in order to spark change we need to take a leap of faith. Whether it takes a nudge or a shove be open to new possibilities and opportunities. Have an idea of what you expect, but be open to change. Next time you are faced with a tough decision or opportunity, bite the bullet and take a leap of faith!

What Do People Think When You Walk in the Room?

Ashley Pero Uncategorized

I enjoy arriving to meetings early. This isn’t just because I am extremely punctual, I also love to people watch. (You do too, don’t you? It’s okay, I won’t tell!) I often find myself wondering what people think when they are people watching me. I will be honest, some days I shouldn’t receive a glowing review. You cannot be “on” every day and no one expects you to be, but that doesn’t stop people from forming their opinions about you and your level of competence.

I recently had the pleasure of sitting in on a new program we are offering at the Nonprofit Leadership Center, Take Control of Your Professional Presence. The program is taught by a wonderful consultant, Margarita Sarmiento. (I highly recommend that you join us next time it is offered.) Margarita explained not only the importance of your professional presence, but also how to improve your presence and control the image that you portray to the world. Below I have shared a few tips that everyone can incorporate to improve their image in and out of the office.

  • Smile! Not everyone is a natural smiler, but you can make an effort to smile at people. This simple act makes you seem more open and approachable.
  • Make eye contact. Eye contact shows that you care enough to pay attention to the other person. Even if that just means stopping what you are doing to ask if you can continue the conversation later when you can give it the appropriate attention.
  • Lead by example. Make sure your actions are demonstrating what you expect of others. People mimic the actions they see most often.
  • Always make sure your outfit meets the 4 P’s: polished, professional, pulled together and people friendly.
  • Make your comments worthwhile and memorable. This will sometimes require you to stop and think about what to say, but it is worth the extra time.
  • Always ask yourself, “What message am I sending right now?” and adjust if needed.

We all want to make a great impression, first or otherwise, but sometimes forget that people are always observing. It only a takes a little more thought and a minute at the most to act on any of the tips above, but the benefit to your image is invaluable.

What other tips do you live by to improve or maintain your image?