In the nonprofit world, salary is always a touchy subject. For a variety of reasons we all know too well, there are rarely enough resources to pay people on par with the for-profit world. We also see a very stark trade off between compensation and mission. All too often, I’ve seen nonprofit leaders weigh providing more or better service to families versus increasing compensation for their staff.
Contractors are everywhere in the nonprofit world. When I started working with nonprofit organizations in 1993, almost everyone was an employee, except for the all- too-rare consultants.
Now, it’s hard to find an organization of any size without contractors. They’re not only consultants, but also others who usually bring very specialized skills.
Years ago, I faced a thorny work issue involving a client, and I needed advice. So, I sought the counsel of two other CEOs leading similar organizations. At first, I asked their opinion separately; they both had good questions for me and pushed my thinking. They also had questions of their own—some of which I could help with, but others lay outside my bailiwick. I quickly realized that if the two of them could interact, I could get even better advice for my problem, and knowing their strengths, they could help each other with the problems they were facing as well.
We’ve all been there — you just finished the greatest strategic plan ever. You and your team invested your time and heart into crafting it. Your organization even brought in a consultant and did a big event to announce it. But then fast-forward two years later, and here you are: the plan still sits on the shelf, seemingly taunting you for your hard work and effort never realized because no one ever uses it or takes it off that shelf.
We hear a lot about intellectual property (affectionately called IP) in every sector. I almost wrote “except the nonprofit sector,” but that’s no longer the case. In the past two to three years, it’s beginning to pop up more and more—as a recognition of the valuable ideas, services, and concepts that mission-driven organizations are generating across the US and the world.
I remember my first big fundraising ask. I was an all-too-young Director of Development for a regional human services organization, Westcare. In just a few short months there, I had propelled their grant fundraising to new heights, allowing the organization to meet their goals for service that the leadership thought they would never reach.
It’s time we talked about one of the taboo topics of the nonprofit world: the topic of “profit.” One thing I have learned over my career is that if you’re going to have a viable organization, you’ll need to get used to the word. In fact, this is one of the most important concepts that everyone in the organization, regardless of their role, needs to consider in their decision-making process.
We can find it very easy to feel consumed by our jobs, especially as nonprofit leaders. If you’re like me, you’re extremely passionate about executing your mission, one you consider crucial in today’s world. Yet you may also feel there’s never enough time to do it all, and fires constantly popping up further increase your time demands. Your job’s pull can quickly take over all your time – both professional and personal.
Recently, a very wise person (our very own Alison LaRocca) stated, “Business models are the new strategic plan.” I agree—but even more than a strategic plan, a business model is how your whole enterprise will function now and in the future. It clearly encapsulates everything you do, from fund-raising to delivering services in your community.
All too common story ... I was recently working with the leader of a nonprofit organization who is talking about his latest dilemma: a mid-level manager who is exiting the organization, and both this manager and he were upset. He was disappointed that the manager was leaving but didn’t think she had lived up to her potential. On the flip side, the manager felt resentful, believing she was hired for a very different job than the one she was required to perform.
When the leader asked me for my advice on what to do next, I suggested the departure is probably mutually beneficial. In truth, both leader and manager would not be able to reconcile. The challenge wasn’t a typical human resources issue about compensation, communications, or relationships.