Let’s Play the New Year’s Eve Game!

favorite posts 2016

It’s nearly time to light a menorah, decorate a Christmas tree, do both or neither. You’ll spend time with family or with your chosen family. You will be nearly forced to stop working because the whole world slows down in the last week or two of each year.

At some point in these next few weeks you’ll have time to reflect – to consider who you were and what you accomplished in 2019.

I know. I know. You’ll say, “I can’t believe it. Wasn’t it just Valentine’s Day?” You might utter a few sentences that start with, “If only I…..” And, of course, given the political climate, there will be some jaw dropping and eye rolling.

Perhaps you will use my favorite phrase of 2019. “I can’t even.”

That came in pretty handy every time I read the news.

But I’d like to suggest that you play The New Year’s Eve Game at some point. It’s a very simple look back on the year. You need a way to capture a list of no more than 10 things.

List the 10 biggest things you did this year that make you really really proud to be a nonprofit leader.

That’s it. Just ten things. The biggest things to you – they don’t have to be earth shattering – they can be a small thing that is actually a really big thing. Review them closely, own them. Maybe when they feel right, write an email to your staff and board with your reflections about the list and thank them for the role they played in making that list possible. Let them all know how grateful you are that their passion and determination found its way to your organization. And that their fingerprints are all over each item on the list.

That email will mean the world to them.

Speaking of lists, I have one too. It’s a list of the blog posts I wrote in 2019 that my readers – people like you – seemed to like the most.

It’s not the same kind of list but it does give me pause to reflect on how lucky I am. Over 1 million views of my posts this year supported your work. And in this very crazy and kinda ugly world, I saw thousands of nonprofit leaders – board and staff – working to create a sense of fairness and beauty in a world that often feels painfully lacking in both.  And that makes me feel lucky indeed.

So holiday reflections, a few words of advice, and a list of posts folks found most useful this year. If you missed some of them, it’s a good time to catch up. I hope they help you.

Happy Holidays from a not-so-secret admirer.Continue Reading

Holiday Gifts for Nonprofit Readers

holiday gifts

Nonprofit leaders impress the heck out of me. Not gonna lie.

I call them superheroes for a reason. They raise money, recruit and engage board members, design programs, manage staff, and there are dozens of other important responsibilities they juggle.

But there is one thing that nonprofit leaders make time for that truly surprises me.

Wanna guess?

OK, time’s up.

The answer: THEY READ.

Nonprofit leaders are readers. They look for and consume books for the express purpose of thinking about their work in a smarter way, managing their time, and understanding what leadership is really about. They strive to be really really good at their jobs.

For this reason, we run quarterly book clubs in the Nonprofit Leadership Lab (my online membership program). Members are hungry for resources and always on the hunt for the “thing” that will solve a problem or improve performance.

So is there someone on your gift list this year who works for a nonprofit or is a dedicated board member or volunteer? Need some help finding holiday gifts?

Look no more. Any or all of the following books would be perfect to place adjacent to a box of Chanukah candles or under the glow of the family Christmas tree.Continue Reading

How My Recent Vacation Changed Me

vacation

I just had a real honest-to-goodness vacation. I’m still pinching myself.

Not one week. Not even two weeks. Three and a half weeks. Away. Not checking email. Not writing this blog.

And it wasn’t just the length of time that was remarkable. We traveled halfway around the world. The trip of a lifetime to Australia and New Zealand.

I learned a few things during my vacation. More than a few. Really important things that I need to share with you. They are kinda “Dorothy wearing the ruby slipper things” and I believe they will mean something to you. So, stay with me.

But I’ll start with a few basics.

There are five sheep for every one person in New Zealand. The genius behind the Sydney Opera House actually never saw it completed. Snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef is just as thrilling as you might imagine (and they should call it something more than ‘great.’ That’s SO not a big enough word.)

The whole kangaroo with the joey in the pouch – it gives you goosebumps. And yes, everything in New Zealand looks like a set from Lord of the Rings (actually, I believe every nook and cranny of New Zealand was a set element from Lord of the Rings).

And lastly, Jupiter has moons and Saturn has rings. I saw them with my very own eyes.

But I need to tell you the biggest lesson I learned. And it does not require a trip halfway around the world.Continue Reading

The Dirtiest Word in Nonprofits

prioritize

It was somewhere around day 60 of my tenure as the Executive Director of GLAAD when I figured out the dirtiest word in nonprofits.

Want a hint? I’ll give you two.

  1. It’s not usually a dirty word outside of the nonprofit sector.
  2. And no, it’s not “fundraise” or “committee” or “grant application” or anything like that.

And yes, I realize that last one was two words anyway.

No, it’s something much more problematic for many many nonprofit leaders. In fact, most people I know who are drawn to be an Executive Director don’t handle this word very well. They kind of suck at it.

Want to guess what it is…?

I ask this question when folks sign up for my free online mini-series that premieres this week called High Impact, No Burnout. The idea behind the mini-series is to show you the 3 keys to building a thriving nonprofit without burning out. Which isn’t so easy.

Interested? It starts on Thursday, April 23rd. It’s free. And it very much focuses on how to overcome this dirtiest of words.

You can sign up here, and I encourage you to do so.

I guess I’m about to give away the answer, so keep reading… 🙂Continue Reading

What’s The Single Best Sign of a Healthy Nonprofit?

I'm a kind blogger. Here's a clue to the answer to today's question.

I’m a kind blogger. Here’s a clue to the answer.

So riddle me this batmen and women.

Tell me the ONE thing that tells you a nonprofit is thriving.

You can pick just one.

No fair you say? Well it’s MY blog so my rules. But let me help you get your creative juices flowing.

Let’s start with the wrong answers. It has nothing to do with:

  • A strong mission
  • A cash reserve
  • The diversity of your revenue streams or meeting your annual revenue goals
  • Your staff turnover %
  • The size of your board

Yes, these things are really important, but the charge here is to pick ONE. And these aren’t it.

OK, give up?

Read on and I’ll give you the right answer.

Continue Reading

Stop Feeling Guilty For Wanting to Work Less

A nonprofit executive director client of mine is headed out for vacation next week.

Re-read that sentence if you don’t mind. Note that the word “executive director” and “vacation” appear in the same sentence. Without the word cancel.

So we are headed in the right direction. Then I ask the key question. “Will you be checking your email while you are out of the country?”

The answer is pretty typical: “Maybe just a few times a day, but that’s all. I’ll definitely work less.”

Like I was supposed to offer a round of applause. Like “that’s all” is evidence of a remarkable commitment to self care.

She received no applause from me.  

“That’s all.” Let’s tease that out, shall we?  

  • That’s all… Because I don’t trust anyone else to take care of things?
  • That’s all… Because I have to demonstrate that I work really hard all the time?
  • That’s all… Because I’m a “pleaser” who has trouble saying “no”?
  • That’s all… Because just the thought of focusing on my own well-being makes me feel tremendous guilt?

I’m going to dive into this issue – this sense of guilt so many nonprofit leaders have about any kind of self-investment. It’s time for some tough love from Joan.

Continue Reading

Should You Ever Cover Board Member Expenses?

board member expenses

When my wife ran The Food Network, she often got 911 calls during Thanksgiving week.

“Eileen, do you brine your turkey?”  

“What’s your favorite stuffing recipe?”  

It was actually hilarious. Eileen is a very good cook mind you but she would respond to all callers the same way. “I am not a chef; I make TV shows.”

As for me, I get more than my fair share of 911 calls. Some folks expect me to be an accountant, a human resources professional and oh my, lots of folks ask me for legal counsel I can’t and have no business providing.

But a former client called 1-800-JOANHELPME (not a real number, don’t actually call that) last week and asked me a really good question.

I thought many of you might have this same question and would benefit from knowing my point of view.

Ready? It’s this.

What board member expenses should nonprofits pay for?

GREAT question! Here’s my answer…Continue Reading

How to Get Your Board to Approve a Give and Get Policy

approve give and get

Don’t you just love when an episode of your favorite TV show comes in two parts? Complete with cliffhanger?

This week I’ve got one for you. It’s no “Who Killed J.R.” on Dallas or “Is Jon Snow really dead” on Game of Thrones. But it’s the best I’ve got.

When last we left our nonprofit heroes, I made the case for why a board should have a give and get policy. Why it’s so critically important.

Board members are leaders and ambassadors for your organization and simply cannot be 100% credible messengers without 100% giving. If your role as a board member is to invite folks to be a part of the organization as a donor, the two most important words you will utter?

Join me!

I hope ‘Part 1’ persuaded you that this policy is a must have. Now comes the harder part – getting the policy approved by your board.

I heard you. You tried to cover the laugh over with an awkward cough. Stay with me. I cannot guarantee my advice will work but I can tell you that without some of these strategies, you don’t stand a chance.

Ready…?Continue Reading

5 Reasons Your Board Would Benefit from a Give and Get Policy

give and get

A give and get policy can mean slightly different things to different organizations.

But essentially it means that every board member must ‘give’ a donation of a certain amount AND help to procure financial resources.

It is typically something that the board votes on so that it becomes part of what candidates are told when they are being vetted for board services.

Please note that it is not a give OR get policy. Every single board member must give. There are many reasons for this, but my favorite? Because the two most powerful words a fundraiser utters?  

“Join me!”  

But all too often, boards push back. They don’t want to be on the hook for this. And it’s not just board members who push back – executive directors and development directors do too.

Today my goal is simple. To introduce you to the benefits. Staff leaders can be dogs with bones about this (not helpful) and just pound their fists that it’s the board’s JOB.

This is not the path to success.

Why not try framing the conversation differently? The list of ‘why nots’ is clear (and long). And if they’re not, I’ll write more about them below.

Let’s focus on the benefits instead, shall we?

Here are five benefits for a give and get policy. I bet you will find that at least one of them will offer you an ‘AHA’ moment.Continue Reading

5 Questions to Ask Before You Join a Board

Join a board. Please. Nonprofits everywhere are desperate for people like you.

There are great reasons to join a board.

But as much as I want you to raise your hand and jump onto the playing field, and I really want you to do just that, I also have to recognize that sometimes people have bad board experiences.

And we certainly want to avoid that.

So before you join a board, how can you know what you’re getting yourself into? Are there questions you can ask that will help you figure it out before you say yes? You bet there are!

Here are five really good ones.Continue Reading