Friday, October 28, 2011

What happens if we face 10-20 years of sluggish growth?

Washington and Wall Street are coming around to the idea that the economic future we’re stumbling towards will be far less generous from the normality we long for. The New Normal — a disarmingly benign term coined by Mohamed El-Erian, co-chief investment officer of the big California investment firm Pimco — envisions a future of sluggish growth, international discord, increased uncertainty and minuscule returns on capital. Government revenues shrink while spending remains high.

Here's the scary part:  government promises are locked in...pensions, Social Security, Medicare...what happens to society when those three items take up 50-60-70% of the budget and there'as not much left for roads, police, fire, teachers, etc,

Think about it....

Monday, October 24, 2011

10 exhausted phrases used by nonprofits

Words can appear dynamic and forward thinking or dull and impotent.  Reading 100s of annual reports, fundraising appeals and newsletters over the past year, I propose that in 2012 we vow to kill the following worn-out phrases in our language
  1. Changing lives...
  2. Making a difference
  3. Helping Hands
  4. Strengthening community
  5. Working families
  6. The voice of...
  7. Standing up for...
  8. Building bridges
  9. Bringing hope to...
  10. Celebrating diversity
Which others would you add?

Our children are grossly unprepared...

President Obama calls for more kids going to college.  While education is a great thing, perhaps we should put more energy into replacing our K-12 system.  With 1/3rd of our kids needing remedial work when they ge tot college, no sense pushing more into higher education.

The truly sad part is that over half the kids in college needing at least one remedial class wind up never getting a they have the worst of both worlds: lots of student loan debt to be paid off with high school level wages.

College Readiness Today

Created by Knewton and Column Five Media

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Pennsyllvania's "Pension Bomb" threatens future of public education

The Pension Bomb issue is a hot one....and it threatens to drag down the Pennsylvania budget over the next five years. Illinois, which has a much smaller pension problem than us, is trying to solve that by issuing Pension Bonds, essentially kicking the problem down the road. However, the bond market is punishing Illinois for this non-solution solution. It will severely limit how much the state can invest in real infrastructure projects that drive economic growth. As I repeatedly alert Illinois 2011 and you see a picture of Pennsylvania 2014

Saturday, October 22, 2011

The administrative burden of governmnet contracts....and we do mean Burden

New research from the Urban Institute reveals nearly three quarters of nonprofits providing contracted services consider the reporting requirements a 'major administrative burden'

This is important for two separate reasons...1) every dollar spent administering services is one less dollar delivering services and 2)  excessive administrative procedures are a morale killer.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Getting the volunteer equation right....

You can't please everybody. Legions of articles and books detail both the triumphal and disastrous experiences with volunteers. But overlooked are the potential great volunteers we lose because our internal management systems are not set up to treat volunteers as a rich resource. This piece from Blue Avocado highlights the frustrations some volunteers face when trying to give of themselves to organizations that are ill equipped to deal with people in a professional manner.

As Boomers retire nonprofit managers are going to have a giant pool of volunteer brainpower available.  The organizations which effectively use these experienced people are the ones most likely to thrive in the next 20 years.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

They'll pay you $100k to move to Pittsburgh and follow your dreams

We're getting used to contests in order to promote products, events, organizations comes one promoting a whole city.

So for the over 45 crowd who made some compromises in their youth and now have nagging thoughts about that dream you did not pursue, it's worth thinking about Pittsburgh.

Funded in part by Benedum, Buhl, Jewish Healthcare, Pittsburgh, and R.K. Mellon Foundations, the Heinz Endowments, Allegheny County, the City of Pittsburgh, and Leadership Pittsburgh.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

New Video: Why is change so hard?

Snippet from Nonprofit Day in Erie, PA  October 12, 2011

Consider this when training staff.....

To initiate using critical thinking, consider these 10 general guidelines as they apply to your training. These guidelines are particularly helpful for novice trainers.

. Thinking should be conducted by the staff not by you.
2. Opportunities to think must be facilitated in safe, welcoming environments where staff contributions are encouraged and respected.
3. Staff must be allowed time to think.
4. Staff respond best when given reasons to think in ways that are authentic.
5. Thinking should be infused into all instruction in ways that are holistic, not just added onto the lesson.
6. Staff must explore concepts and practices in myriad ways that are natural and fun.
7. Thinking must be connected to a variety of contexts.
8. Staff must be provided a multitude of resources and encouraged to generate and pursue their own resources.
9. Staff must be allowed to interact with peers throughout the instruction and to share outcomes.
10. Thinking should inspire more thinking.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

17 million Americans overqualified for their jobs

Over 30% of flight attendants have college degrees....although no advanced education is needed for the position. More information on the American workforce from the New America Foundation.

This is bad for the obvious reasons....1) people have invested in education that was not needed  and 2) many of these same people are carrying student loan debt which they now have to pay off with a job paying high school level wages.

Firing The Executive much do you tell the public?

Being volunteers, it is hard when a Board of Directors has to make the decision to fire an Executive Director.  But the real tricky part is how you explain it to the public.  Because most people don't like airing their dirty laundry in public, most cases are handled privately, with either 'no comment' or 'they left to spend more time with the family' type reasons provided.  This I believe to be extraordinarily misguided strategy.  If you are to keep the trust of donors, media and collaborators then transparency and openness is required.....even if it requires you to share exceedingly bad and embarrassing details about your nonprofit.

A case I've been following out of my old stomping grounds in Bozeman, Montana illustrates this point.  Following the abrupt 'resignation' of the Executive Director, the Board chose a policy to not discussing the issue in public.  Information vacuums are generally filled by innuendo, rumor and suspicon....which is what happened in this case.  "I can't believe I had to call and beg you to answer ourquestions," shouted one volunteer at a subsequnet meeting Board members held with their donors.  A fiasco ensued when the Board remained tight lipped and provided nothing but sterile bureacratic answers.

It will take years for Heart of The Valley Animal Shelter to well as leave lingering clouds over the career of former Executive Director Traci Weller.  Openness and transparency would have prevented this...

Finding a New Business Model

In many eyes they might not rank in importance with food banks, health clinics and other nonprofits, but symphony orchestras (many free standing nonprofits, others are quasi private/public partnerships) have been hemorrhaging money for decades as audiences get older. Some have been eating into their endowments every year in the past decade which leads managers looking to find a new business model. Top of that list would be restructuring the salaries of players, which has led to a series of strikes This story does have relevance as many smaller nonprofits have to find a new business model in order to survive the coming shake-out.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

No such thing as a 'stable job' anymore

This could be great news for America.  One of our ongoing advantages over the rest of the world is our entrepreneurial spirit.  The recession, as bad as it is, could be a catalyst to get more people to stop searching for ways to work for someone else and instead take their talents into their own hands.  The only stable job is to work for yourself....and on the whole this could be a great way for America to unlock some of that talent which is wasting away inside moribund organizations.

Sometimes it takes someone from outside America to remind us of that.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Coaching versus Training

If we're going to make quantum improvements in nonprofiit management, we need to spend less $$$ on training and more $$$ on coachiing.  In other fields, thinkers like   and practioners like  Sal Khan are helping show us the new path.

Most nonprofit leaders I know are not lacking the information about what to do...their deficiency is the time and focus to master the material and apply it to their day-to-day operations.  This is why coaching matters.  Change your thinking about 'professional development' and shift resources away from formal training an into long-term consistent coaching.   Watch your career grow,