The Importance of Building an Intentional Onboarding Process

Guest post by Kathy McDonald News, Stories

We’re thrilled to bring you the second installment in our 3-part series of guest blog posts by Kathy McDonald, offering a sneak peek of the scenarios and skills you’ll learn in our new Management series. For sessions titles and dates, see below. Some dates are completely sold out, so don’t dawdle if you’re interested in attending. Click on the date in question and register ASAP!

When Tracey* started her new job she was directed to her cubicle and given the paperwork human resources required to set up her benefits.  She looked around the empty cubicle for a pen, checking the drawers and cabinets to no avail.  Finally, she fished in her purse for a pen.  This false start gave her pause about the organization she just joined.

First Impressions:  Just as new hires are making a first impression, so is the organization.  Ensuring a new team member gets acclimated will shorten their ramp up to becoming an effective contributor.

Should I stay or should I go?  According to research done by the Aberdeen group, 86% of employees make the decision to stay or leave within the first 6 months with a new organization.  Of new hires that do go through a formal onboarding, 69% stay with their organization for 3 or more years.  This indicates an onboarding process improves the bottom line by increasing productivity and reducing turnover.

How long does it take new hires to get up to speed?  Many managers don’t have a good sense for what it takes to build the industry knowledge a new team member needs to be effective.  As Tracey found in an organization without an onboarding process, they were losing people at the one year mark.  It took the average new employee 6 months to get up to speed, meaning the organization only gained 6 months of true productivity from them before they left.  Adding in the costs of recruiting and related expenses, a one year turnover means most organizations are at best breaking even.

Onboarding considerations:  While this is not an exhaustive list, these questions should get you started thinking through how to make the most of those early days with your new hires:

  • How will you help new hires develop the industry knowledge they need to be successful?
  • What are the short-, medium-, and long-term goals you have for your new hire, so they know what they are working towards to become effective?
  • What are the peer relationships both inside and outside your organization that will be important for them to build?

Effective onboarding is more than just a welcome lunch on their first day.  Helping new hires get up to speed and feeling confident in their ability to contribute as quickly as possible will reassure them they made a great decision in joining the team.

* Names have been changed to protect identities.

For more management strategies that strengthen your team, join us in the training room for our 3-part training series:

  • Management 101: Moving from Doer to Leader on Nov 16 (SOLD OUT) or Nov 28

  • Management 201: Productivity Hacks & Team Recognition Strategies on Dec 11 (SOLD OUT) or Jan 10

  • Management 301: Hiring, Managing, and Succession Planning on Feb 22


Kathy McDonald is the assistant director for network partnerships for the Florida College Access Network. Kathy has helped individuals, leaders and teams find and leverage their strengths for the last 18 years. She is an experience workshop leader and speaker, developing adult professional development programs for numerous organizations including Accenture, PwC, the City of Chicago, and the Hillsborough Education Foundation.

She is co-author of CREATING YOUR LIFE COLLAGE: STRATEGIES FOR SOLVING THE WORK/LIFE DILEMMA (Three Rivers Press). Kathy holds an MBA from Northwestern University and is a certified leadership coach from the Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching. Happily married for 25 years, Kathy is the proud mother of two teenagers and currently 3 dogs (small, medium and large) and is an avid gardener, though she admits gardening in Florida is a contact sport.

Kathy’s training approach is to ensure participants walk away with actionable tools and resources while creating a space that encourages learning and growing together.


We LOVE learning!

Jen Dodd, Director of Education & Communications News, Stories

NLC is not only a place where nonprofit leaders and board members come for training and development; we’re a living, breathing learning culture. So you can imagine our excitement when Charles Imbergamo, President & CEO of Cristo Rey Tampa High School, approached us about the opportunity to take on two Corporate Work Study Program students.

Okay, we did have to weigh the program needs and guidelines: there’s a serious time commitment to deliver the coaching, mentoring, and supervision that any team member requires (and deserves), and Cristo Rey students are expected to engage in real-life, entry-level work production, to learn valuable and applicable business skills. They’re not here to count paper clips or reorganize the supply closet. Could we do it? Should we do it?

Once we discussed it as a team, outlining how the students could contribute in meaningful ways and what kinds of learning experiences and development we could provide, we were thrilled to sign up!

Cristo Rey made the revelation of our student team members a lot of fun, too–inviting us to Draft Day, where we learned we’d be working with Taghiyana Wells and Alexis Maldonando!

Taghi (above, left) is a second year CWSP student, and this is Alexis’ (above, right) first year in the program. They actually joined us in early September so they’ve been working with us for bit, but we couldn’t resist introducing them to you. We did a quick Q&A with Taghi and Alexis to give you a sense of what they do here, in their own words, and what they’re like outside of school and work. (And we think they have wisdom beyond their years!


When I am at NLC:

Taghi: I use a warm smile to great every person that walks in and out of our doors. The Nonprofit Leadership Center teaches me day to day business skill priorities.

Alexis:  I’m an intern student learning business skills. You can find me at the front desk greeting clients with a smile and answering any questions. Also, you can hear my voice answering any phone calls.

When I am not at work or school:

Taghi: I sit back and take in my nature surroundings; enjoying the quietness of the outdoors. I also enjoy being with my friends and listening to music as I paint.

Alexis:  you can find me playing basketball or soccer. I like to hangout with family skateboarding around Downtown Tampa. Also, you can find me riding dirt bikes or four-wheelers on the tracks.

My mantra is:

Taghi: Never compare myself to others, so I won’t suffer the loss of my joy.

Alexis:  You only have one life so make it count!


My dream job is:

Taghi: I am going to have my own business in teaching art to all ages. In better words, having my own art studio. Teaching art really interests me because I do it myself. I just love seeing people’s reactions towards art, and I myself want to help recreate that same feeling. A way to accomplish this would be to continue learning all the different styles of art so I’m eligible to teach others. As well as helping them strengthen themselves artistically.

Alexis: I hope to be a Civil Engineer. I’m attracted to this job because I always thought it was cool and interesting to make buildings and design them. Also, I’m good at math. It’s a career that has two things that I’m interested in, construction and math. Qualifications I would need are a bachelor’s degree in engineering or Technology. An optional master degree would help me get a specific job such as a Bridge Master.

Find the Reverse Leaders in Your Midst

Guest post by Scott Edinger News, Stories

You’ve likely seen reverse leadership in action. It happens when someone not in a formal leadership role demonstrates great leadership ability: when a field service agent steps up with a solution to a persistent problem, for example; when a customer service rep inspires her colleagues through her exemplary customer-centric behavior. When someone on an account team improves dramatically after being constructively coached by a fellow team member.

Reverse leadership doesn’t replace regular leadership. Nor is it a sign that the official leaders in an organization are doing a bad job. Quite the contrary. Rarely does strong leadership ability show up at lower levels in the hierarchy if senior leaders aren’t very effective in their roles.

Some reverse leaders are people quite content to remain individual contributors, like the scientist who has no interest in managing a team but cares deeply about the company’s mission. Others are young employees just approaching or on the first rungs of the formal leadership track. Still others have some leadership abilities but lack some vital element of leadership, like the sales professional who excels in creating strategy but doesn’t yet have the skills needed to manage a sales team.

In my work with focus groups, interviews with leaders, and reviews of frontline employees’ performance appraisals, I’m seeing more and more of these reverse leaders. But I’m not seeing many organizations able to recognize them — or cultivate their talents to gain a competitive advantage. What are the characteristics you should be looking for to spot your reverse leaders?

  • They’re the ones with strong interpersonal skills born of self-awareness. Reverse leaders lead through influence, not authority, and they gain that influence by making strong interpersonal connections. To do that they must be self-aware enough to understand the effect their words and actions have on other people. As more and more knowledge work requires people to work effectively with peers, the example of the way these people treat their team members becomes increasingly important to organizational effectiveness for all leaders, formal and informal.
  • They focus more on results than on process. Anyone can follow the process, as the old saying goes, but it takes leadership to know when to break from it. Reverse leaders don’t break rules simply to be rebellious. They break them because they’re focused on the outcomes rather than the process for producing outcomes. In this regard, reverse leaders can be particularly helpful to savvy leaders in formal positions who are wise enough to encourage their reverse leaders to point out when means are being prioritized over ends — and then to listen to them when they suggest ways to address the issue.
  • They exhibit particularly high degrees of integrity. To lead by example requires integrity of character. People who have a choice would rather follow those who say the same thing up the chain as they do with their peers, those who are consistent in their approach in dealing with problems in different circumstances. While this is essential to reverse leaders, it’s an important model for all leaders, regardless of where their authority comes from.
  • They have deep professional expertise in at least one discipline vital to the organization. Whether that deep knowledge is in sales, products, finance, technology, or some area that creates important value for the organization, reverse leaders need to have a specialty. This expertise serves as a source for their authority, giving them the credibility to be taken seriously when they highlight unrecognized problems or propose unanticipated solutions.
  • They maintain an unswerving customer focus. Maintaining a focus on the customer is one way to lead by positive example, and an advantage reverse leaders may have over formal leaders, since they tend to be found further down the organization and by extension closer to the customer. Reverse leaders can be the exemplars of customer-focused behaviors in ways that leaders in formal roles — with their broader responsibilities — can’t. And such focus can have tremendous value to any organization, if properly recognized and encouraged.

Some of these reverse leaders will move up the ladder and progress, as we would expect. Others will need to wait until they develop additional skills. And others will be content to contribute right where they are. But organizations that can recognize them, cultivate them, and learn from their example will be a step ahead of those competitors that don’t and instead squander the services of the unrecognized talent in their midst.

Shared with permission by Scott Edinger.  Originally published on  Scott Edinger is the founder of Edinger Consulting Group. He is an expert in helping organizations achieve measurable business results. Scott is a consultant, author, speaker and executive coach who has worked with some of the most prominent organizations in the world including AT&T, Harvard Business Publishing, Bank of America, Lenovo, Gannett and The Los Angeles Times.  Connect with Scott at

A Lesson About The Ask

Sara Leonard News, Stories

My ten year-old daughter asked to go to Barnes and Noble on a school night after we had gone out to eat. Her younger brother’s baseball game was the impetus for the dinner out so we were already behind schedule for homework, baths and bedtime. My answer was “no.” When I asked if she thought I’d say yes, she admitted she knew the answer would be “no” but asked anyway just to be sure.

Does that sound like something we may do with our donors sometimes? We are pretty sure it’s the wrong ask but we do it anyway. What makes it the wrong ask? It could be the wrong project, the wrong amount, the wrong time for the donor.  

So why do we go ahead with the wrong ask? Often it is the pressing needs of our organizations. We are doing good work. There are people to help, animals to save, diseases to fight. While all of this is very important, we can’t put it ahead of the donor.

By spending time on cultivation and creating the right proposal – we move closer to a yes. When we go ahead with the wrong ask, it will be a bad experience for the donor, for us and ultimately for our nonprofit’s mission.

Cultivation – by getting to know the prospective donor, we learn more about when the time will be right for them to make a gift. We learn where their passions lie and can work together to find the best fit for them in our organizations.

Creating the proposal – by carefully crafting a proposal, whether it’s formal or informal, we paint a picture of how this prospect can join us in making the world a better place.

My daughter knows that some nights I will happily go to Barnes & Noble.  It has coffee, books, we see friends. What’s not to love? That was the proposal and she knew it had a shot with me. But she also knows that on a school night, we have to get home and don’t have spare time for browsing through a bookstore sipping lattes. But she chose to ask when she knew the answer would be no because she put her needs as the top priority.  Since she is only ten, we can’t fully blame her. As development professionals we know better.

Search for the place where the prospect’s values and passion intersect with the mission of the organization. When you find that intersection, ask. You will get the answer you want – YES!

5 Alternatives to Starting a Nonprofit Organization

Lorraine Faithful, Operations Manager News, Stories

Creating a nonprofit organization is the same as creating a business, so you need to approach this decision with some serious thought and planning – and funding as well. If, after you decide that starting a nonprofit is a larger project than you are ready or able to tackle, but you still have the passion to do something constructive in and for your community, you may want to consider some alternatives such as:

  1. Study the nonprofits in your neighborhood and inquire about volunteer opportunities, internships or even employment opportunities. Hands-on experience with another nonprofit will benefit you greatly should you someday decide to start your own agency.
  2. Partner or collaborate. Meet with those nonprofits which have similar missions as your intended mission and explore creating a project or initiative or new program while negotiating your own involvement.
  3. Research and contact the national organizations in your mission area and find out if a local chapter may be needed in your own geographic area.
  4. Consider forming an unincorporated association or club with an annual budget under $25,000 which allows you to have meetings and activities but skip some of the reporting requirements.
  5. Raise awareness about a specific community need and/or your mission idea. Use your passion to write a book, teach, or speak in public. Become an expert in your mission topic.

If you do decide to start a nonprofit, consider the skills you will need to be successful. For free resources on the nonprofit startup process, visit the Nonprofit Start Up page of our online Resources Library and our Key Partners for the professional help you’ll need. 

Do Your Own Fundraising Research? You Bet!

Guest post by Jen Filla, Aspire Research Group News, Stories

One of the hot topics in the prospect research field is whether we researchers are going to be replaced by all of the great software products out there. With the click of your mouse you can search multiple public records databases and spit a profile out of your printer. Even data analytics has become more accessible with easy software interfaces. When it’s that easy, you’d be crazy not to do your own research! Right?

Well, nothing involving people and the parting of their money is ever that simple, is it? Yes, you can find raw information about your prospects and have it formatted into a printable document or have key items seamlessly imported into the donor database record. No, a software program can’t verify that information for accuracy or provide useful insights into donor motivation and wealth.

But there’s way more to the fundraising role of prospect research than donor profiling.

Prospect research is about managing information in a manner that leads prospects toward a gift. In that sense, everyone in an organization plays a prospect research role at some level. Program staff record accurate contact and participation information. Gift entry records the gifts. Frontline fundraisers record information about face-to-face contact.

The professional prospect researcher uses her skills in process and analysis to corral all the information and produce actionable insights, leading to solicitations and stewardship.

Are you confused? Let’s use an analogy.

Fundraisers expect everyone in an organization to participate in fundraising and they work to create a culture of philanthropy. From the janitor to the program staff, all the way up through leadership, everyone is responsible for representing the organization and giving people the opportunity to give in a meaningful way.

The fundraiser uses her skills to coordinate all those messages and contacts with donors and prospective donors, leading to solicitations and stewardship.

Fundraisers focus on messaging and people-to-people contact. Prospect researchers focus on information. They both work together make sure fundraising goals are met.

So, should you do your own research after all?

Of course! In this world we have to be constantly learning and using new tools. There are very few excuses anymore for not making use of software tools that provide you with critical information on your donors at the click of a mouse.

But a professional prospect researcher can take you way beyond prospect profiles and into a world where the power of your fundraising information is harnessed and used to drive your fundraising up to a whole new level of success.

With a prospect research professional your fundraising “shop” becomes a fundraising “machine” – persistently methodical, lean, and more productive.


Jen Filla is president of Aspire Research Group LLC where she works with organizations worried about finding their next big donor, concerned about what size gift to ask for, or frustrated that they aren’t meeting their major gift goals.


New Manager Mis-Steps

Guest post by Kathy McDonald News, Stories

Robert* was making Janice* crazy.  He hired her for her research skills but then delegated only menial tasks, and kept her out of the loop on the most strategic projects.  He invited her to join him for a conference presentation, but then expected her to watch him present rather than present with him.  Robert kept promising a pipeline of interesting projects that would keep her engaged, but then never made time to share what those projects were.

Becoming a new manager is an exciting time in career advancement.  It is also often accompanied by anxiety around how to do the job well.  Gallup research of employee engagement finds that 70% of team member disengagement is driven by the manager.  Clearly more managers could use support in management fundamentals to get the best out of their team.

From doer to delegator:  What Robert missed in becoming a new manager was that his role was changing.  He was still trying to do his old job, rather than growing from doer to delegator.  He needed help in learning what his new role entailed and how to divvy up the team’s work in a way that leveraged each team member’s strengths.

No longer the Lone Ranger:  Robert was also used to working independently so he didn’t consider how his tendency to put things off until the last minute would impact his team.  Calling on Janice to scramble at the last minute due to his lack of planning was creating resentment.

Creating a flight risk:  Feeling underutilized and at risk of having her skills atrophy, Janice began looking for another job.  Sensing Janice’s disengagement, a senior leader stepped in and put her on a strategic organizational project that gave her an opportunity to shine.  It gave Janice a reason to stay and see if things would improve.

An organization shouldn’t have to risk losing key talent to course correct.  Organizations need to help new managers build skills in unfamiliar areas including delegating, building team motivation and managing projects across a team.  They also need to help new managers understand how their role is changing so that they know what is expected to succeed.  In this case, sadly, without that support Robert went from feeling like a star as an individual contributor to an under-performer as a manager.  With the right support and direction, both he and Janice can thrive.

* Names have been changed to protect identities.

For more strategies on how to effectively transition into a supervisory role, join us in the Training Room for Management 101: Moving from Doer to Leader, a brand-new class where new nonprofit managers can learn the fundamentals so they can lead with confidence.  The first installment of this 3-part training series on November 16th will cover topics that include the biggest mistake new managers make and how to avoid it, setting clear expectations for team members so all know what success looks like and the top time-management tools. This training is ideal for those that are new to managing and those that would like to deepen their skills in effectively managing others.


Kathy McDonald is the assistant director for network partnerships for the Florida College Access Network. Kathy has helped individuals, leaders and teams find and leverage their strengths for the last 18 years. She is an experience workshop leader and speaker, developing adult professional development programs for numerous organizations including Accenture, PwC, the City of Chicago, and the Hillsborough Education Foundation.

She is co-author of CREATING YOUR LIFE COLLAGE: STRATEGIES FOR SOLVING THE WORK/LIFE DILEMMA (Three Rivers Press). Kathy holds an MBA from Northwestern University and is a certified leadership coach from the Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching. Happily married for 25 years, Kathy is the proud mother of two teenagers and currently 3 dogs (small, medium and large) and is an avid gardener, though she admits gardening in Florida is a contact sport.

Kathy’s training approach is to ensure participants walk away with actionable tools and resources while creating a space that encourages learning and growing together.

2018 SVP Tampa Bay Fast Pitch | 10/25/18

Jenn Dodd News

For non-profits and social enterprises who struggle with balancing the never-ending need to raise money, with improving their operational effectiveness, Social Venture Partners’ mentorship program and Fast Pitch competition provide a fun and collaborative environment for non-profits to become more financially sustainable.

Each year, in conjunction with local colleges and universities, Fast Pitch participants benefit from an expert-led, 6-week accelerator program designed to quickly boost their ability to achieve social enterprise revenue streams and become less dependent upon shrinking governmental and private grants.

Each year Fast Pitch awards $60,000 in cash awards. On top of cash awards, in 2018 $3,000 dollars were raised from event attendees. All participants benefit from the in-kind service value of the accelerator program, which currently exceeds $110,000.

Use code NONPROFITTB to secure discounted Tickets


Don’t Bury the Lead

Republished post by NLC trainer Sara Leonard Stories

I watched as several nonprofits were interviewed on TV recently. As I often do, I passionately expressed my frustration. This is also known as yelling at a TV that can’t hear me (at least that’s what my husband calls it). Why, you ask? I’ll explain.

A reporter started with the question, “what does your organization do?” There it is: the million dollar question, the one we’ve all been dying to answer on television. I experienced great disappointment as the nonprofit’s spokesperson told us how long they’ve been in existence, how many people they work with and that they are a 501(c)3. Finally, she got to the answer: they create jobs. She should have started with that! That’s what they do. That’s how they change the world.

How do you answer that question? You probably don’t have many opportunities to answer it on live TV but how do you answer it on any given day?

Here’s advice the advice I was shouting at my TV: don’t bury the lead! What is your lead? What is it that you really do to change the world? Do you save lives, rescue animals, teach kids to read? Start with that. Figure out how to say it in the most succinct and dramatic way.

Remember that most people aren’t inspired by how long you’ve been around, how many people you serve or the fact that the IRS granted you tax exempt status. What inspires them? How you are changing the world. Be sure that is the first thing you say. I strongly believe the best way to convey how you change the world is by a quick story that illustrates that in a real life.

“Bury the lead” is an expression from journalism. It applies in many situations: copywriting, social media. If you’d like to read more about that, check out this blog post from, “Keys to Copywriting: Don’t Bury the Lead.”

If you’re not sure if you are able to tell your story this way, practice on the next person who asks about what’s going on in your life. Tell them about the good work of your organization and see how they respond. Then ask them what they think. You’ll be amazed at what you learn.


The One Skill All Leaders Should Work On

Guest post by Scott Edinger News, Stories

Republished with permission  

If I had to pick one skill for the majority of leaders I work with to improve, it would be assertiveness. Not because being assertive is such a wonderful trait in and of itself. Rather, because of its power to magnify so many other leadership strengths.

Assertiveness gets a bad rap when people equate it with being pushy and annoying. But that shouldn’t stop you from learning to apply it productively (that is — in service to your strengths). More harm is done when people aren’t assertive enough than by being too assertive. At least you know what pushy people think, but those who don’t assert themselves can be keeping vital ideas hidden and useless when they don’t speak up or speak too softly. So I’d assert that when you are able to balance this critical skill with your other leadership abilities, you greatly amplify your power and impact.

Here are some specific ways in which assertiveness complements a wide range of the critical leadership skills you may already have:

  • Creating a culture of innovation: A couple of years ago I conducted a study to determine the characteristics of the most innovative leaders in one of the largest companies in the world. One of their most powerful traits, their peers and direct reports told me, was their ability to push back on the hierarchy. These leaders were by no means rebels; rather, they were perceived to be fearless. Coupling assertiveness with their ability to foster innovation enabled them to take on difficult issues — to fight for resources for new projects or openly disagree with more senior managers about policy changes that could have severe unintended consequences. Being challenged required people to think more deeply to justify a course of action, which frequently produced much better ideas.
  • Being customer focused: We typically think of service or business development professionals as being good at, and focused on, building relationships. But the most successful sales professionals, as Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson point out in their blog and their book, The Challenger Sale, are not the ones who build relationships. They’re the ones who push back, challenging their clients to see problems they hadn’t anticipated. Essentially, Dixon and Adamson’s research finds, assertiveness creates more value for clients than conciliatory relationship building does.
  • Fostering teamwork and collaboration: It might seem like assertiveness has little to do with the skills you need to be a team player. But teams thrive when their members are able to express their not-always-popular points of view. Excellent team players (who generally are already inclusive and able to defer to others) would improve considerably by learning when to assert such views. And team leaders who are assertive in creating a safe environment for less-popular opinions will make their teams all the stronger by increasing all team members’ ability to participate fully.
  • Leading change: Constructive change rarely happens passively. Change requires the leaders to challenge the status quo and find new ways of doing things to further organizational goals. It’s nearly impossible to lead change without some measure of assertiveness because in most cases, even when change is generally viewed as positive, some kind of resistance still needs to be addressed.
  • Acting with integrity: There are plenty of highly principled people who are too timid to speak up in meetings — to question a decision that appears to violate a corporate value or is otherwise not in the best interests of the organization. Assertiveness doesn’t cause honesty or vice-versa, but when the two operate together they give people the courage not only to know what is right but to stand up for it as well.
  • Creating a safe environment: This might seem self-evident — there are times when it’s vital to speak up in the face of danger. And yet there are so many times when people don’t, even in cases of life and death. The National Transportation Safety Board, for instance, has traced the cause of some plane crashes to co-pilots who were so deferential to their pilot in an emergency that they made suggestions too subtly. While most of us are not faced with life or death decisions each day, plenty of leaders are responsible for the safety of those they lead.
  • Communicating effectively: Assertiveness adds power and conviction to a message and enables a leader’s voice to be heard. You can clearly tell the difference between a message communicated with passion and vigor as a leader asserts his or her point of view and one that lacks the energy of conviction. Assertive leaders also tend to communicate more often, as their passion leads them to capitalize on every opportunity they can find to deliver a message.

Many leaders (though certainly not all) struggle with being assertive enough, whether through self-doubt, a lack of confidence, a fear of not being liked, or a host of other reasons. Most people who know me personally would probably say that I possess a reasonably strong level of assertiveness. Yet there are times (like when I’m with people whom I admire or whose opinion is particularly important to me) that I become relatively timid and less likely to assert my point of view. Ironically, when I review those situations, I recognize that they may be some of the most important times for me to speak up.​

Scott Edinger is the founder of Edinger Consulting Group. He is an expert in helping organizations achieve measurable business results. Scott is a consultant, author, speaker and executive coach who has worked with some of the most prominent organizations in the world including AT&T, Harvard Business Publishing, Bank of America, Lenovo, Gannett and The Los Angeles Times.  Connect with Scott at