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Shifting the Collaboration Paradigm Between Funders and Nonprofits (guest blog for The Miles Foundation)

The Miles Foundation

The Miles Foundation

Below is a copy of my interview with the Miles Foundation, “Shifting the Collaboration Paradigm Between Funders and Nonprofits.” My sincere thanks to Sara Redington, the Director of Communications for the foundation, for her assistance with this post.

This interview was conducted in February 2015 shortly after I presented at the Dallas Contributors’ Network.

You can also download a PDF of the article here.


 

Shifting the Collaboration Paradigm Between Funders and Nonprofits

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Jeremy Gregg. Image via TEDxSMU.

Guest blog post from Jeremy Gregg

Jeremy Gregg is a three-time TEDx speaker, an award-winning communicator, and an experienced leader in both the entrepreneurial and nonprofit arenas. We heard him speak at a local funders’ luncheon earlier this year, and were captured by his frank characterization of the current “dysfunction” present in the philanthropic community. As so many funders (including us) work to collaborate more effectively with our nonprofit partners, we asked Jeremy to dig into this issue and give us tips for improving our partnership model. Below are Jeremy’s thoughts on how funders and nonprofits can better work together so that we can affect change and positively impact the communities we serve.

1.   What is wrong with the current foundation/nonprofit dynamic, in your opinion?

The current dynamic is too centered on “otherness” and overlooks the shared mission that should unite foundations and nonprofits. This does not foster much honest communication between the two, let alone a transparent conversation about common challenges and shared goals.

In a way, there is a systemic flaw in the nonprofit financial model: the source of capital (donors) is almost entirely disconnected from the use of capital (clients). Nonprofits become a link between the two, which creates a scenario in which a nonprofit’s financial stability depends far more on fundraising excellence than on programmatic excellence. As a result, a nonprofit’s long-term goals become more focused on financial sustainability than on systemic change… leaving grantmakers frustrated because many of their foundations were created in order to change broken systems.

So, as it turns out, philanthropists interested in systemic change might need to look first at changing the system of philanthropy itself.

2.     What are some real-world examples of this dysfunction?

The clearest example of this dysfunction is the fear with which nonprofits court foundations for grants. All of the power is on one side of the transaction. When nonprofits seek money from foundations, they often act like the freshman kid trying to ask the homecoming queen to the prom. It’s just silly how imbalanced the conversation is perceived to be.

As a result, nonprofits spend hours reviewing long lists of foundations whom they can solicit for money. They debate whether and how to contact them, afraid to merely pick up the phone and call the foundation lest they be added to “the black list.”

From the foundation side, there is also a powerful conflict at play. Foundations are concerned with sustaining their investments while simultaneously wanting to harness the power of those investments to transform society. As I recently shared with the Dallas Contributors’ Network, I see this dysfunction in several ways:

  • Foundations may not provide general operating grants to support overhead, yet they desire longitudinal outcomes. How can a nonprofit make the investment to measure such impact without unrestricted funding?
  • Foundations may not provide grants to expand fundraising programs, yet they desire for nonprofits to achieve scale. What business – nonprofit or for-profit – can achieve scale without money?
  • Foundations do not provide “risk capital” in the form of unrestricted grants, yet they demand innovation from nonprofits. The ability to innovate is intimately tied to the ability to fail; if nonprofits can only receive funding based on their “best practices,” there will be no innovation.
  • Foundations often do not provide ongoing funding year-after-year in order to avoid creating “dependency,” yet they demand a plan for financial sustainability. This creates a scenario in which nonprofits are almost punished for success; if they increase individual giving, for example, they might lose their foundation funding. A foundation’s decision to make a grant should focus more on what the nonprofit will do with their grant rather than worrying about whether someone else might be able to pay for it, instead.
  • Foundations rarely consider multi-year grants, yet they demand long-term planning from nonprofits. Considering that the average nonprofit has less than 60 days of cash on hand, long-term planning is impossible without some visibility into future cash flow.
  • Foundations often shy away from grant requests for advocacy…yet they desire to create systemic change.

3.     What would the ideal or improved collaboration model look like?

Nonprofits have almost no power to adjust this dynamic. Change can only come from the donor side, and it involves several significant adjustments in their approach to grant-making. However, the fundamental shift is from being a “funder” to being a real “partner.”

What does this look like?

  • Realize that funding is only one tool in your arsenal. You also have knowledge, relationships, influence…invest all of them in your nonprofit partners.
  • Make multi-year financial commitments of unrestricted capital. Or, better, commit to an amount of monthly funding that will not change. This provides the visibility into long-term cash flow that is critical for nonprofits to scale.
  • As a result of these two items above, you should limit your grant portfolio from dozens of grants to a handful of serious partners. Don’t be afraid to go deep instead of broad.
  • Encourage nonprofits to do all of the things that you want your for-profit investments to do: invest in technology, in staff training, in systems that create long-term ROI.
  • Remain focused on the broader goal of systemic change. Challenge and encourage your nonprofit partners to share their best practices with others, to develop meaningful collaborations with others, to advocate for the broader adoption of their solutions at the public level, etc.

Essentially, change the dynamic from one in which nonprofits are the fortunate recipients of your largesse to a system in which you are rolling up your sleeves alongside the nonprofits in order to drive systemic change in the areas that matter to both of you.

4.     What change does that require from both sides?

Both sides need to realize that neither can exist without the other: they are merely different sides of the philanthropic system.

In addition to the changes I mentioned earlier, foundation staff need to focus on becoming experts in the areas in which they want to deliver change. They are not in the weeds every day in their issue areas, which offers them a higher view of what is going on in the field. For example, if the foundation is focused on education, they can see many different approaches, learn what is working and what is not working. And they then need to share that knowledge with their grantees, including helping them to establish the partnerships and to develop the tools that they need to deliver the best results.

For nonprofits, they need to be bold and confident, not timid and apologetic. They don’t need to be rude, but they need to stop acting like the leper who was invited to the ball. They need to realize the tremendous value that they bring to the equation: without them, philanthropists cannot do their job. Nonprofits need to realize that they are worthy of the grants that they seek; indeed, they are doing philanthropists a favor by giving them opportunities to achieve their purpose. What a gift to be able to give someone!

On both sides, there needs to be much more boldness and much less fear. Philanthropists do not need to fear becoming too close to a nonprofit – that should be their ambition, to become so close that they seem like a part of the staff. And nonprofits do not need to fear sharing their honest struggles with their foundation partners.

5.     Where have you seen this model work (i.e., can you provide some examples)?

The best example that I ever saw was at CitySquare (formerly Central Dallas Ministries). The organization has a handful of foundations that make serious, long-term financial commitments to the growth of the organization. These commitments provide the base funding that allow the organization to not only focus on doing its work, but on developing bold plans that can drive systemic change.

But here is why it worked so well: as the model succeeded, the original donors did not step back…they leaned in. Their investments increased because they saw the exponential improvements in the organization’s impact that have come from their unrestricted support.

The organization has a very high-profile leader who serves as its face to the community. This is the case with almost all successful nonprofit organizations: they need that dynamic champion to represent the organization. Yet, behind the scenes, the sincere commitment of the agency’s board members and closest donors are driving much of its success. CitySquare is a very effective model for how philanthropists can partner with nonprofits to maximize long-term impact on the people whom they aim to support.

6.   How can funders and nonprofits take the first step towards building “mission-critical partnerships” together?

In a way, all they need is the ability to speak honestly with each other without the “elephant in the room” of funding.

Think of a human courtship. You begin dating, and you only reveal the best parts of yourself because you want the person to like you. And as you approach marriage, some of those guards begin to fall so that you can sense whether the connection is legitimate. And once the couple is married, hopefully, all of those guards are down…and they can really begin to focus on what they want to achieve together because they can take for granted that they will stay with each other.

That is what we need in the philanthropic world. We need a model for meaningful commitment that focuses on maximizing each side’s impact so that both are fulfilled.

In other words, the model needs to shift from “transactional” (i.e. grants in exchange for reports) to “relational.” Foundation directors need to get to know the heart of the nonprofit’s mission: not just show up for site visits, but really join in the daily effort of changing lives.


Written by Jeremy Gregg, managing director of Gregg Partners. Gregg Partners is a Texas-based fundraising consultancy that specializes in grantwriting for nonprofits.

A big, important question asked by Salah Boukadoum

MLK a threat to justice

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” – MLK

My friend Salah Boukadoum is the founder of Soap Hope, an amazing company with an even more amazing mission. In brief, they sell all-natural, organic, high-quality products … and invest 100% of their profits in microloans to impoverished women. Their model — which Salah calls the Good Returns model (click for his TEDxGrandRapids talk on the topic) — can equip any company to generate a sustainable impact on the world at no direct cost to them other than a year of interest.

But that is not why I am writing about Salah. I am writing about him because I was shocked into a stupor by a very poignant question that he asked on Facebook. I post in its entirety below… and welcome your thoughts.

Why, when a skier is lost on the mountain, do we deploy a search party using helicopters and snowmobiles to see if it’s possible to find him and save his life, but we don’t deploy anything for the child whose life is in grave danger in a village in Africa? The skier consciously made the decision to take a dangerous path, but we don’t hold that against him and give up on his life. The child made no decisions, and was just born in a place of grave danger. If we abandoned the skier on the mountain, we would be accused of being heartless and inhuman. But we abandon the child every day.

The reason boils down to who we consider to be in our community. This is the same reason we celebrate when a plant moves from Mexico to Texas, and denounce a plant moving from Texas to Mexico – the job in our community is more important than the job in “their” community. It’s the same reason that a massacre in our country is worthy of a trillion dollar global mission, but a massacre in Syria is not worthy of any action at all. Because “they” are responsible for “their” problems, and “we” are responsible for “ours.” Who counts in the “we” and who in the “they”?

If we are going to express the full potential of humanity, we will need to expand our understanding of our community to include all people, in all places. Because determining the value of a human life on where you happen to be born, or where you happen to be at this moment, is the same as determining the value of human life by rolling dice.

Who will win the nonprofit sector’s 10 million votes?

More powerful updates from the inimitable Robert Egger, founder of the DC Central Kitchen, and the V3 Campaign … which has been reborn as the even more awesome, and far more powerful CForward (a PAC aimed at endorsing and supporting political candidates who have a strong platform for engaging the tenth of the economy known as the nonprofit sector):

The nonprofit sector employs around 10 million people.

The sector engages another 90 million people as volunteers.

Collectively, the sector controls about 10% of the GDP. In Texas, the nonprofit sector employs more people than the oil industry.

And yet  — none of the politicians asking for our vote have ANY plan for how to engage us, our creativity, our passion, our entrepreneurial spirit . . .

Not YET, at least.

Watch this video from CForward. Then join me in donating to support their work.

What dreams do we hold for our neighbors’ children?

NFTE Dallas

NFTE Dallas

NFTE Dallas

Among the many privileges of my career, I have the honor of working alongside some of the best nonprofits in town. This morning, I was invited to speak to the students of the Network For Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) at their 3rd annual Young Entrepreneurs Rally.

NFTE is a remarkable organization that is always on my short-list for year-end donations. They are a national nonprofit organization that partners with public school systems to offer a course on business basics and entrepreneurship to students (primarily focusing on children from low-income families). While they have created many entrepreneurs who have grown up to launch successful businesses, this is actually not their primary goal.

Their primary goal is to use the theory of entrepreneurship to build a bridge between the core academic curriculum in the public schools and the way to make money in the real world. It is very hard to get a teenager excited about algebra… but it is remarkably easy to get them excited about making money.

By building this bridge, NFTE is successfully increasing school attendance, grades, test results and — most importantly! — graduation among a group of children who are at the highest risk of dropping out.

Here is a shocking number: in 2008, Dallas had the nation’s worst dropout rate among cities with over 1 million people.

NFTE Dallas directly targets this problem by connecting one of these children’s primary desires — to make money! — with the necessity of making good grades and graduating. I think that this is a very elegant solution to the otherwise intractable problem of low academic achievement in public schools. When you combine this model with my deep respect for the organization’s board and staff (who will manage to engage over 2,000 kids in their program this year), you can see why I would be so happy to join them on a beautiful Saturday morning for a few hours.

Today’s event was at my alma mater, University of Texas at Dallas. I love driving into the campus, which is markedly more beautiful than when I completed my MBA here in 2006 (thanks to the generosity of Mrs. Eugene McDermott). The tree-lined drive up to the Naveen Jindal School of Management provided a serene backdrop for me to prepare my remarks for the day.

After parking my car and walking up to the school, I finalized my idea for how to present on the topic that I was assigned: “Money Matters: How to Raise Funds for Your Business.”

  • Sources of Capital
  • Needs and Wants: Of the Business, and the Business Owner
  • How much debt can you afford?
  • Costs of Capital (i.e. basic lecture on the preposterously high rates charged by payday lenders and title loan shops)
  • Q&A
I only had about 30 minutes for the presentation, so this seemed like a lot of ground to cover — especially because I prefer conversations to lectures. When the students started walking into the classroom, I realized again how hard it can be to be a teenager … regardless of whether you are from a wealthy family or not.

This class of 18 was comprised of students from 4-6 different high schools. Most had never seen each other before. Needless to say, this group of aspiring entrepreneurs was not feeling incredibly talkative when the class began.So, of course, I did not make silence an option. We started by having them brainstorm possible sources of capital. While I have had this conversation many times before, today’s responses shocked me.The first response was “ask a wealthy person.” Then, silence.Finally a second response: “you could start a lemonade stand.”
Basically, the student’s idea was that to fund a larger/riskier venture, you should first start another, less lucrative one that has more of a guaranteed income. Other students agreed — with another idea coming to do a car wash.

I prodded some more. No one had any ideas. Finally, the student who had the lemonade stand idea said: “Maybe a bank?”

We wrote all of these down. And then I mentioned some others, including CDFIs (microlenders) like the PLAN Fund. I then told them that the most common way to fund a business is to raise capital from friends and family.

The response was mostly blank stares and a few eyes rolling. Here I was, a white guy in a suit-and-tie, talking to a predominantly black and Hispanic group of public school students about raising money from friends and family.

The facts are not foreign to me. Around 90% of students in the Dallas Independent School District are on the free- and reduced-price lunch (i.e. their families have incomes less than 185% of the federal poverty level).

Later, when we were talking about the students’ ideas for businesses, one soft-spoken girl in the back row raised her hand. She said that she had a business idea but that it would “not be something that people in my community could afford,” and she wanted to know how she could learn about building a business to serve the wealthier demographics of other communities.

It was a fair question. In many ways, it is no different than any other entrepreneur asking how to learn about accessing a new market where they have little knowledge or few relationships. But somehow, all of the lessons that I learned in this very same building about “expanding businesses into new markets and geographies” did not apply here.

Her question did not just arise from curiosity about opportunities in new areas.

It sprung forth from the same source that caused many of these students to roll their eyes at my proposal that they could raise initial funds from their family and friends:

It arose from these children’s basic self-definition as being outsiders. Being “low-income,” or — worse — “at-risk.”

Instantly, my thoughts turned to my own daughters. I could not imagine them ever self-identifying as “at-risk” for anything other than physical health problems handed to them by their genetic code.

Yet here was this girl — someone else’s child, the daughter of a stranger — who could not fathom her community providing her with the initial support to launch her dream . . . let alone the on-going support to sustain it.

As she spoke, heads nodded around the room. This was not just about this girl. This was about all of these children, and the thousands more who fill the classrooms of the DISD each day.

What dreams lie within their hearts, unspoken for fear of watching them die? How many amazing entrepreneurs, artists and leaders lie hidden even from themselves because of an inability to see a path for their talents to be utilized?

What dreams do we hold for our neighbors’ children? for those whom we will never meet, yet whose lives are so intimately tied to our own that we cannot truly separate our own dreams from theirs?

What Dallas do we imagine handing over to the next generation — one in which opportunity is allocated merely by selecting the right parents, or one in which the dreams of every child are provided rich soil in which to grow and mature if provided the right love and care by their owner?

I do not know. But I do know this — the work of NFTE, the PLAN Fund, and hundreds of other local nonprofits all give me hope that the answers to those questions will be better for the children of the children with whom I spoke today.

But that is not enough. We cannot write off entire generations of children under the banner of “slow and steady progress by the charitable and educational institutions” of our community.

We need business leaders to volunteer with NFTE to walk into these classrooms and inspire these young people to believe in themselves. We need them to mentor these kids — not just throw canned goods at them through food pantries and keep them locked in free after-school programs during the hours when we don’t want them out on the streets.

We need to dream not just of our own future, or of the futures of our own children, but of all children. We need to collectively will our community into achieving its own potential, which can only be the case when there is no child whose greatest barrier to their own success is their inability to believe in themselves.

The Future of Marketing: Predictions For 2012 on Social Media Marketing

The Future of MarketingBusiness 2 Community is an “independent online community focused on sharing the latest news surrounding Social Media, Marketing, Branding, Public Relations & Much More.”

The site recently included me as one of its “46 experts on marketing” in the article, The Future of Marketing: 46 Experts Share Their Predictions For 2012. Here was my contribution:

The future of marketing will be turning your customers into your salesforce. The initial foray into this area has begun with retailers offering discounts to customers who can prove that they “checked in” to their store on Facebook, Foursquare, etc. We are also seeing more and more campaigns that provide incentives for connecting to a company’s social media presence.

This trend will continue, and possibly extend into the “rewards card” programs; customers could be rewarded over a long-term basis by attracting
other customers who use these cards; many grocers have been doing this for years with their nonprofit partners (i.e. donating 1% of purchases to a charity whose donors register their rewards cards with that charity’s number).

Webinars as an educational and marketing platform saw a huge rise in popularity in 2011, and will continue to grow in popularity in 2012.

Read the whole article here:
http://www.business2community.com/marketing/the-future-of-marketing-46-experts-share-their-predictions-for-2012-088529

Is Starbucks “Create Jobs for USA” about microloans… or marketing?

busting up a starbucks

“The only one that’s ever felt this is you / The force that’s forcing you / To feel like busting up a Starbucks.”

I admit it: my family probably spends more money at Starbucks than at the grocery store. So, I was grateful to hear the news that our daily addiction might actually fund something useful in the world:

Starbucks and Opportunity Finance Network® (OFN) are working together to create and sustain jobs in underserved communities… The Starbucks Foundation is donating the first $5 million. And starting November 1, you can give, too, and we’ll direct 100% of your donation to OFN. When you give $5 it can help provide $35 worth of financing for community businesses. As a thank you for your donation, you’ll get a wristband to wear proudly as a symbol of your support.

The partnership is being called “Create Jobs for USA.”

This is pretty impressive — not just from a charitable impact basis, but from a marketing angle. After all, this economy has hit everyone’s Starbucks budget pretty hard. When you’re unemployed, it’s hard to justify $4+ for a cup of hot, dirty water.

(And with an angle like this… you can probably serve a lot more coffee to the swarming hordes of protestors in the Occupy movement who might have otherwise been against supporting a “chain coffee store.”)

So, kudos to Howard Schultz and his team for giving their company an innovative fit within the hottest P.R. issue facing our country — the persistent unemployment crisis.

And let’s be honest. This is not about charity. This is a marketing program: although they are taking shareholders’ dollars and giving them away to charity, they are doing so in a way that will generate an even greater return for their company.

In fact, it’s better than marketing. It’s tax-deductible P.R.

So far, they have a pretty good return building. Check out these sweet-as-a-caramel-latte articles that they received…. for free …. in response to their initial $5,000,000 investment:

Click here to show the list of articles >>

(And this doesn’t even include any of the articles about Starbucks launching a lighter “blond” line of coffee that also mentioned the “Create Jobs for US” program… and which may not have made it to press without this additional angle)

Nothing against basic human relief, but a $5 million donation to the nation’s largest network of food banks, Feeding America, never would have generated this kind of positive press.

And not just positive press, but positive press that has been read by millions of customers and potential customers. Positive press that is not about doing good, but being good. Big difference there.

Better yet, a number of the smaller blogs that I did not cite above even said something along the lines of: “Now, I am not a Starbucks fan, but this is pretty cool.”

You just can’t buy that kind of goodwill with $5 million of advertising, especially from key influencers among your brand’s detractors.

In fact, it’s not even that easy to do it with $5 million of philanthropy. For example, run a Google news search for articles on Chase Bank’s recent $5 million gift to microlender Accion Texas-Louisiana; you mostly get a bunch of local news sites and PR wires… not national headlines and swarms of editorials and blogs. Why didn’t this other gift create the firestorm of coverage that Starbucks has created with its campaign?

Starbucks will be selling these 'Indivisible' bracelets in nearly 7,000 cafes across the country.

Starbucks will be selling these ‘Indivisible’ bracelets in nearly 7,000 cafes across the country.

Because Starbucks has adopted a brilliant approach to not only making a cash gift, but leveraging their nearly 7,000 storefronts in a way that will engage their millions of customers in supporting their campaign.

Even while this intentionally focuses the campaign within the context of a Starbucks, it manages to make the campaign stand for far more than just the company. Even their beneficiary — the Opportunity Finance Network — is not a single entity like Accion, but a network of the best microlenders in the country. Starbucks’ gift will be leveraged by these best-in-class organizations to maximize its impact across the country.

In fact, this leverage is the real brilliance of their donation … as pointed out by The New York Times… this money will be leveraged to the hilt, creating an even more exponential return for Starbucks:

“Here is the most beautiful part about the whole arrangement. The donations to Create Jobs for USA will not be loaned to the CDFIs (Community Development Financial Institutions). They will be turned into capital — equity that can be leveraged. Pinsky and others told me that that equity can be leveraged 7 to 1, meaning that if 10 million Starbucks customers donate $5, that will support $350 million worth of lending. That’s real money.”

And this article, like many others, ends with effusive praise for Starbucks:

“(Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz) is hoping that Starbucks customers will flock to it in droves. So am I.”

And honestly, so am I. We need this to work.

At the recent Microfinance USA conference in New York (one of the world’s largest annual gatherings of such organizations), the organizers launched the event with the profound statement that: “if 1 in 3 of our country’s small businesses created a single job, that would create enough jobs to eliminate unemployment.

The combined microloan pool for every CDFI in the country stands at around $250 million. This one Starbucks campaign could more than double that.

So, this gift will do great things for the microfinance sector and for the small businesses that we support.

And yet, the point of this blog is that the “Create Jobs for US” campaign will also do great things for Starbucks itself. And it should.

If it does, it will cause more companies to look at how they can leverage their brands and customer relationships to make a positive impact on the larger world and on their bottom line.

That’s worth getting an upgrade to a Venti.

SLIGHTLY RELATED: Mike Doughty‘s “Busting Up a Starbucks” is worth getting.

Thoughts on the Closing of The Demeter Project

My second office. Image via Eater Dallas.

A tiny crack appeared in my heart when I first heard the rumor that one of Dallas’ preeminent social enterprises, The Demeter Project, would be closing along with their “It’s a Grind” coffee shop in Deep Ellum.

For the past three years, this company has endeavored to provide a living wage with benefits, vacation and flexible hours to employees who could not traditionally access them. Then, today, I received emails from Serena Connelly confirming that the venture was closing its doors.

But then, an amazing thing happened. Rain did not pour through that little crack that had appeared in my heart — instead, sunlight burst forth from it.

This is not a day of mourning, I realized. This is a day of celebrationalbeit a different celebration than we’d like. After all, for three years, Serena Connelly reshaped the discussion around poverty in our community. She focused many of these conversations on the issue of “living wage,” a concept that is radically different from minimum wage and that changes the dynamic of the employer-employee battle for prosperity.

I say that this is a victory because the ripple effect of her work has “bent the arc of the moral universe towards justice,” as MLK might say.

Yes, this one business is closing. Part of the problem is that her commitment to social justice was expensive, right at a time when the economy was taking a huge dip — and a $4 cup of coffee suddenly became much more of a luxury than it was before.

But look at what she has done:

  • Provided a living wage, benefits, flexible hours…. and dignity to a workforce that might otherwise find it hard to secure employment, let alone the self-respect that comes with being able to provide for your family. Here her talk about it on KERA’s “Think” show here.
  • Secured significant media coverage for their venture, exposing thousands of people to their ideas. Like here and here and here. Oh, and here. And the podcast on the bullet above.
  • Bolstered the hopes of countless other social entrepreneurs. I know that Soap Hope, Chooze Shoes, Banner Theory and many others were inspired by her work… and much of their future success will be paved down trails that Serena and the Demeter Project team all blazed for them.

Personally, I also know that this coffee shop provided an amazing venue for conversations about these issues and a great environment for the local nonprofiteers, social entrepreneurs and do-gooders to gather. Indeed, for the first few months after I left the Center for Nonprofit Management to start Executives in Action, I was virtually officing out of their coffee shop!

I often joked that “Norm had Cheers, and I have It’s a Grind.” So, I will confess, it will be harder to enjoy my morning coffee without It’s a Grind’s amazing employees there to provide it for me. I will no longer have a “go-to” meeting place for my gatherings with my fellow nonprofiteers.

And yet today, my heart is full of joy and gratitude for this amazing venture and all that it added to my life and to our community over the past three years. Thank you to Serena and everyone at the Demeter Project for throwing such a large rock into the pond of economic justice — may the ripples of your work create a wave that raises the tide for all boats!

(UPDATE:  Serena passed away in April, 2020. See Salah’s beautiful goodbye letter here. See her obituary here.)

Management Advice from Patrick Esquerre

Hannibal the Great

Hannibal the Great

I recently had the chance to enjoy a lunch with Patrick Esquerre, the founder of La Madeleine Country French Café. Over a delightful meal of mussels and lamb at the impeccable Salum, we discussed Patrick’s career as an entrepreneur and philanthropist.

Patrick offered an interesting analysis of the three types of people involved in any successful venture:

  • Steppers: The majority of the workforce, which is capable of doing exceptional work but requires strong management to help them see which steps to take next. Their backs are strong but their necks are bent to look at the ground in front of them, not the road ahead.
  • Bridgers: Those who can see the opportunities ahead, but who tend to be head in the clouds. They are more focused on the future … without necessarily how to take the steps to get there.
  • Bridger-Steppers: Those rare leaders who can both see the future as well as the steps that it takes to get there.

On the latter, he cited examples such as the brilliant military commander, Hannibal the Great, who not only envisioned a way to beat the Romans by leading his war elephants over the Alps, but had the capacity to motivate his armies to do so.

In the world of social enterprise and nonprofit management, we need more “bridger-steppers” who are capable of balancing the relentless pressure of today with the focus on improving the situation tomorrow.

This is no small feat. While our peers in the private sector can rely on executive leadership, we generally must rely on legislative leadership (as discussed eloquently by Jim Collins in his brief but wonderful volume, Good to Great for the Social Sectors). This is quite a challenge, particularly when most nonprofits are saddled with the burden of a constantly rotating volunteer governing board whose members are largely uninvolved in the organization’s daily operations (particularly fundraising). Worse, they are largely unaffected by their own poor performance compared to their peers on for-profit boards (whose incomes will be affected if their company under-performs).

Add to this the pressure of under-resourced staff teams and the chronic impoverishment of the philanthropic “annual recapitalization” financial model, and you can see why most leaders capable of being “bridger-leaders” either go into the corporate sector … or, increasingly, just start their own private venture. Entrepreneurship is a noble pursuit with its own immense challenges, but what our world needs is for more of these talents to be harnessed by the social sector. Only then will we see large-scale progress against poverty, illiteracy, disease and a faltering sense of genuine community among people at all levels of wealth.

Or, as Collins might say, we need the great to focus on the good.

Interstate Batteries’ 5 Requirements and 1 Standard

interstate batteriesCarlos Sepulveda, President and CEO of Interstate Batteries, delivered the following “Five Requirements and One Standard” at this morning’s Core24 event hosted at Jones Lang LaSalle.

Five Requirements
1. Deliver Value
2. Develop People
3. Deposit Positive Net Cash (“the more you take, the more you should bring back”)
4. Demonstrate Area Expertise (“Are you a thermometer or a thermostat?”)
5. Display Commitment to Enterprise Success (“care as much about the success of the organization as your personal success within it”)

One Standard
Collaboratively demonstrate the above requirements consistent with:
– Our mission statement
– Our philosophy statement
– Biblical principles
– Common Sense
– Sound business practices

Thank you to Sunny Morris (@sunnymorris) for organizing!

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