There is a vast number of non-profits and start-up companies in the galaxy looking or searching for financial resources to enable them to do what they want to do.
Director A said: Well, we don't know what the government will do next, we just have to wait and see!
Director B said: We don't know what the government will do next, we will go ahead despite the uncertainty and forge a strong future so we can mitigate these vacillations.
Who do you think has a better fighting chance getting out of this stronger, better, and more successful?
All about mindset, my friend.
When every one is trying to defend their previous standing, those that are willing to invest in a longer term sustainability will have the likelihood of actually making it.
What is legacy and how do you leave a good, lasting legacy to your family, communities, workplaces, industry, and country?
Legacy for me is what you do right now- an accumulation of life long work, passions, happy memories, and great contributions. It is not about what you leave behind so that families and friends can remember you well but it is about who you are and what you do that gets the biggest impression on people. It is not the attempt at " leaving" but the attempt at "contributing" right now, when it matters the most.
Last week, I had the privilege of interviewing one of the best women leaders of Alberta, Lyn Radford, the Chair of the 2019 Canada Winter Games which the City of Red Deer proudly hosted. Talking about the successes and accomplishments of this community effort, Lyn noted that there were significant legacies of the Games.
First was the physical infrastructure that the City of Red Deer now owned as a result of the Games. Second was the legacy in volunteerism which was observed that the next generation stepped in and provided a strong leadership. And third but not the least, the historic moment for Red Deerians through collaboration with countless individuals and organizations to make it a community endeavor.
Truly, when people and communities come together, insurmountable problems can have enduring solutions. It was a memorable moment for Central Albertans and for the next generation to enjoy its legacies.
Lasting legacies are what we do on a daily basis. That is what our families and friends will remember about us by. Learn to be the best example of the virtues and values you want to live with and do not refrain from doing your best to serve others in need.
Mission-based organizations should think twice about creating more mission work without the full support and wisdom from a business sustainability standpoint.
Most of the time, they wrestle with the fact that since they have the work of helping, they should be able to marshal resources, support, and other important resources to fully realize their objectives. This is never automatic.
It takes a lot of courage and guts to realize that mission is not enough and will not be sufficient to carry the organization through its many stages of development.
If there is no evolution in management and business understanding, the mission becomes unproductive-"hence, give me because I give this back" will later on become subject to more critical and demanding requirements from society. This is painful to see as many organizations languish in near obsolescence without realizing their fullest potential.
There is only one way- to review their business model and ask the most important question: if this is not working for us, can we be flexible in getting to our objectives through an alternative model of doing and being?
Let's approach this with an open mind and an open heart.
I was on a phone call last week talking to a major trade association staff. I inquired about the program I thought was still running and getting a lot of engagement from their membership based from the website page I viewed.
It turned out that that program did not exist anymore. It was terminated in 2015 after a few years running it due to many reasons. I inquired about other programs that they may have.
The staff, very knowledgeable about their association told me that based on their strategy, they would like to provide thought leadership through resources, information, knowledge products they produced on a regular basis. Because of this, they cannot be doing something else that might distract them or be contrary to this organizational goal.
Very well said.
I wish that a lot of organizations have effectively articulated and communicated where their organization is going and how to get there to all the vital organs of the organization, including the staff, volunteers, and key clients/customers.
As I was told, then I become more aware of their work and the kind of business strategies they have to operate effectively in this challenging environment.
The best strategies do not stay on the shelf, gathering dust. It is lived and experienced and harnessed by all the people and stakeholders that take time to develop and nurture them to shepherd its successful implementation.
I am a customer that is now more informed.
A lot of organizations want to “wing” it all the time. Okay, for the first few years, it seems like the need to produce or demonstrate action is very important, but disorganized action leaves much to be desired. The disorganization becomes the bane of the organization. When things plateaued, then the conversation becomes “how can we make it better?”
There is a lot of romanticism regarding being ‘grounded up’ but what does it mean:
- Being participatory and democratic
- Being consultative and egalitarian
- Being able to pluck the low hanging fruit
- Being able to be flexible and nimble
- Being able to wing it!
While these are grand and noble things to pursue, they can be used as avoidance measures to accomplish the following, for example:
-Stretch the organization systems to focus on strategic rather than popular;
-Plan for long-term than short-term, including delaying short-term pleasures and gains for long-term stability and growth;
-Increase the commitment of Board, staff, or Steering Committee to aspire for the systems-wide thinking and deliberate attempt to take a stab on things, not just to wander from one initiative to another;
-Increase uncertainty but decrease the level of politics that is blocking any meaningful organizational change to happen;
-destabilize conservative views, offer new thinking, and increase executive leadership from that of being an administrative manager to a leader;
Innovation rarely occurs in the everyday problem-solving. Putting out fires increases your level of adrenalin but rarely gets you to your ultimate destination. Strategic focus is more needed when the times are tough, the money is low, friends have left, and there is a room for mistakes.
But I guess, it's not common sense.
Let me know what you think.
A few years ago, I learned about Open Book Management and its wonderful benefits to organizations no matter the size, industry, and complexity.
If you google it, Wikipedia will say that the basis of open-book management is that the information received by employees should not only help them do their jobs effectively, but help them understand how the company is doing as a whole.
According to Case, "a company performs best when its people see themselves as partners in the business rather than as hired hands" (Case,1998 as cited in Pascarella, 1998). The technique is to give employees all relevant financial information about the company so they can make better decisions as workers. This information includes, but is not limited to, revenue, profit, cost of goods, cash flow and expenses.
In July, I had the pleasure of interviewing Shawn Plummer, the President/CEO of Food for the Hungry Canada based out of the Fraser Valley in British Columbia. FH Canada is one of the rare nonprofits that had tried and successfully benefited from the open book approach. It drove accountability, clarity, strategic focus, and innovation into their organization.
The transcript below is from Shawn’s own words describing their journey.
About FH Canada
FH Canada is a part of the global organization where the Canadian office is one of the affiliates. FH Canada operates in 8 countries: Cambodia, Bangladesh, Haiti, Guatemala, Ethiopia, Uganda, Burundi, and Rwanda.
FH Canada aims to graduate communities out of poverty one community at a time. We operate with an asset-based management approach, exploring what assets exist in the community and together, with local community leaders and families, determine where the gaps are. 95% are national staff with very few expats.
As for our strategy, community-owned development plans are set by local leaders. As for our exit strategy, within 10 years, if we collectively feel that the vision and targets have been reached and a sustainable plan is in place, we will exit from the community and celebrate together at the time of “graduation”. There is a commitment to mutual transformation between the communities being served and the Canadian partners (whether churches, investors, business partners, and other supporting partners).
I was hired in 2010 to work on partnership development, for 8 years in fundraising, donor relations, and child sponsor acquisition. I became the President/CEO in late 2017.
There were some issues in the organization back in 2010 that needed to be addressed.
We lacked a strong brand so the whole practice of evaluating who we are, who is our audience, who is our market in Canada was stemming from that weakness. Ben Hoogendorn, the former President thought of hiring an executive coach to help our senior leadership team implement the Rockefeller Habits and then his successor, Bernie Willock, initiated the open book management process. This was sold to the Board and then changes slowly happened.
Origins of Open Book Management for FH Canada
Before, our strategic plan was for 3 years and 15 pages long that no one read. The coach guided us through a process that proved to be beneficial. There were two books that provided the inspiration: 1) Scaling up: practicing the Rockefeller Habits by Vernie Harnish, and 2) The Great Game of Business by Jack Stack. Scaling Up provided the 4 strategic elements: people, strategy, execution, and cash.
The result was a one-page Strategic Plan. It has driven clarity, focus and being able to say No! to a lot of things that do not align with the plan.
Bernie took on and implemented the open data management process because he had been doing that in his company before joining FH Canada. Before, only a few people were looking at the numbers. The rest of our leadership team weren’t always clear as to our annual targets, how to effectively monitor/track them, and that included cash management.
Our meeting rhythms have changed too. At the start of each month we set monthly projections for revenue and expenses. Each member of our team has a budget and expense line to watch. We analyze our Profit & Loss (P&L) weekly so we have a good idea where our cash is at when we look at our month end actuals.
The cultural shift was having a staff name beside each revenue and expense line and adding a layer of accountability. Being responsible for monitoring the numbers and knowing why those numbers rise or fall is another thing so we look at trends. Now, staff have a voice at the table and can challenge the expenses or challenge the return on investment when we’re considering new opportunities.
We started having fun keeping score and we’ve made huge progress as a team over the past 3 years.!
Results /impact in the field and your partners/stakeholders
the results are clear: One of our big goals is to always increase the % that we can get to the field in the 8 countries that we partner with.
There is a huge improvement in knowing where our cash is going and watching the number closely, anticipating needs and planning for contingencies.
This involves greater clarity, focus, and has improved our communication and service to our partners. Our partners are very involved in the process. There are more frank discussions about monitoring and evaluation because we know where we are at.
I thought we could roll out open book management much quicker than we did but we needed training in the beginning and it took us over a year to get things integrated.
It was a big cultural shift-having your name with a revenue target + expense line and it was daunting in the beginning. First, it felt like a competition but later one, it drove us to be better teammates. It made us look to where the growth opportunities are.
FH Canada have brought more partnerships-more accountability, greater clarity and focus and a clear BHAG (Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal) of graduating 150 communities out of poverty by 2029.
How can you encourage other nonprofits to be more open and accountable?
I would encourage them to read the two books that influenced our current business practices.
Consider using an executive coach to help build a strategic plan for your organization.
They need to operate as a business - people, strategy, execution, cash. There is reason enough to do this because of the distrust between nonprofits and business.
It was painful in the beginning but it reaped many dividends. Once employees understood, they can make predictions and they can bring questions and answers to the management team. Other nonprofits can see this as an investment worth their time and energy.
Nonprofits have to have a motivated CEO and management team plus a supportive board that encourages this type of intentional strategic planning. There has to be a deep desire for change within the organization and a willingness to do the hard work to get to a place of sustainability.