Ep 96: The Telltale Signs of Founder Syndrome (Part 1) with Rachael Gibson

nonprofits are messy

An inability to share leadership. The tendency to hold information. Not knowing when to leave can all be telltale signs of founder syndrome.

How do you know when it’s time to go and who to call for help in guiding the thought process that ensues?

Rachael Gibson is a skilled change management consultant for nonprofit organizations and philanthropic institutions who specializes in founder transitions.

In part one of this fascinating two-part series, Rachael and I discuss the remarkable nature of founders, what exactly is founder syndrome, and how do you get a founder to leave.

About Rachael Gibson

Rachael serves as a practice leader and senior consultant for executive search, leadership transition planning and organizational strategy engagements. Rachael is a skilled change management consultant for nonprofit organizations and philanthropic institutions. Rachael has a particular expertise in working with organizations led by founders and long-tenured executives.

In prior roles, Rachael managed grant making programs and spearheaded numerous capacity building initiatives, including ones aimed at deepening the leadership development opportunities for nonprofit leaders, strengthening the back office systems for nonprofit organizations and evaluating the effectiveness of advocacy efforts. Rachael also developed a national coaching program for leaders of color and led multiple capacity building and evaluation projects for various government agencies. She has facilitated numerous collective action initiatives and led large program evaluation projects for grant making entities aimed at evaluating the effectiveness of their programs.

In addition to her management consulting expertise, Rachael has facilitated diversity and leadership development trainings, served on various nonprofit boards and task forces, and presented workshops at local and national conferences. She served on the board of the Alliance for Nonprofit Management. Rachael is also an Adjunct Professor at the Chicago School for Professional Psychology where she teaches Masters level students interested in the field of consulting and organizational development She received a Master’s Degree in Community and Urban Planning from the University of Maryland, College Park.

In this podcast

  • Transitioning from the personal perspective to the needs of the organization
  • How long should I stay? Have I stayed too long?
  • “What is this founder’s syndrome thing? AND DO I HAVE IT?”
  • When is it time to hire a leadership coach?
  • The bad choices made by boards
  • Should the outgoing ED/founder be involved in the search process?
  • Is there value in internal successions?Continue Reading

Ep 95: How Do We Ignite Our Volunteers? (with Tobi Johnson)

nonprofits are messy

Volunteerism is both noble and necessary in our polarized world, says Tobi Johnson, master trainer in volunteer engagement and President and Founder of Volunteer Pro.

Beyond that, she believes volunteerism is the key to challenging assumptions, becoming involved in new environments and finding partners that help make us a better version of ourselves. It may just be the key to saving our world.

Ok great, but what about the nuts and bolts? How do you recruit the right people to do good things, consistently and for free? Beyond that, how do nonprofit leaders ignite in others the joy and privilege of service? And, how do you keep them engaged over the long term?

Don’t fret because Tobi’s got answers.

Listen for everything you ever wanted to know about how to attract, retain and develop volunteers along with proven, practical tools that will help you along the way.

About Tobi Johnson

Tobi Johnson, MA, CVA is an internationally sought after expert, consultant, and master trainer in volunteer engagement. She is known for her modern thought leadership, highly practical evidence-based strategies, and innovative, “big hat” thinking around engaging, supporting, and acknowledging the work of volunteers.

She is the President of Tobi Johnson & Associates, a consulting firm whose mission is to help nonprofit organizations make connections with remarkable volunteers. In 2015, she founded VolunteerPro, an online training and networking community for leaders of volunteers.

Tobi has over 30 years direct experience in nonprofit management, program development, program coordination, training delivery and learning design in the social sector. She wrote Chapter 1 of Volunteer Engagement 2.0: Ideas and Insights for Transforming Volunteer Programs in a Changing World, published by Jossey-Bass in 2015.

In addition, Tobi is intimately knowledgeable about the professional development needs of today’s leaders of volunteers. She was the Chair for the Certified in Volunteer Administration (CVA) Job Analysis Task Force; responsible for updating the required the competencies for the fields only internationally recognized credential. Each year, she also conducts the Volunteer Management Progress Report, a global state-of-the-industry survey. In 2018, nearly 1,600 professionals from 16 countries participated.

A native of the Pacific Northwest, Tobi is a graduate of the University of Washington and has a Masters degree from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She now lives in East Tennessee with her husband and feline office assistant, Bailey.

In this podcast

  • Volunteerism is growing, what can we do to keep this trend alive?
  • When it comes to financial contributions, do volunteers tend to give more or less?
  • What does the Volunteer Management Progress Report say are the top volunteer challenges?
  • What are the four fundamental ways to recruit volunteers?
  • How do you balance volunteer needs with those of the organization?
  • How can the volunteer functions inventory help you pinpoint motivations that keep volunteers coming back?Continue Reading

Ep 94: Tales From the Trenches (with Darian Rodriguez Heyman)

nonprofits are messy

From messes to remarkable victories, boards who step up to boards who are missing in action; from bad days to the days you save someone’s life… we all have tales.

My guest Darian Rodriguez Heyman collects these stories and spreads them, complete with practical advice and resources galore. His most recent adventure is the 2nd edition of Nonprofit 101: A Complete and Practical Guide for Leaders and Professionals that he edited along with his colleague Laila Brenner. I was honored to be one of the 55 voices he collected for the book.

Darian is deeply committed to helping the helpers and he has done so using consensus-based leadership and deep listening. Today’s wide-ranging discussion encompasses his experience as a social entrepreneur, author, editor, and fundraiser on the biggest challenges and opportunities nonprofit leaders face today.

Listen as he teases out resources on how to maximize impact in a tactical and practical way. Encapsulating disciplines of what needs to be done to run a successful nonprofit is Darian’s passion – he shares his insights on how leaders should face the changes in the political climate that affect resources, and partner with unlikely allies to reach across the aisle, effect change and send messages of hope.

About Darian Rodriguez Heyman

Darian Rodriguez Heyman is an accomplished facilitator, fundraiser, social entrepreneur, and best-selling author. His life’s work of “helping people help” started during his five-year tenure as Executive Director of Craigslist Foundation, after which he authored the best-selling Nonprofit Fundraising 101 and edited the best-selling Nonprofit Management 101 (Wiley & Sons). In addition to his active consulting, facilitation, and public speaking work, Heyman currently serves as a part-time Executive Director of Numi Foundation, Editor-in-Chief of the popular nonprofit online magazine Blue Avocado, and Co-Producer of the Gender-Smart Investing Summit

In this podcast

  • How to move social impact forward
  • How nonprofit 101 encapsulates all the disciplines of what you need to run a successful nonprofit
  • The importance of finding common points in a polarized world
  • How civic-minded millennials are filling the leadership vacuum
  • Finding the difference between what and so what
  • How does a polarized country with an angry society impact the sector?
  • Millennial culture shifts and how that affects nonprofits
  • What happens when you don’t trust your board members?
  • What’s the secret sauce that distinguishes a good leader from a great leader?Continue Reading

Ep 93: Why Even a Good Executive Director Needs a Coach

nonprofits are messy

Professional development for nonprofit leaders – luxury or necessity? In this podcast I talk about how maximizing impact requires an investment in support.

What are the myths about the role of a coach? Some of those myths may stop a high performer from asking for help and hence stand in the way of an Executive Director being the best they can be.

Funny how it’s a given that sports players need coaches, but what about the CEO of a teen suicide hotline who may have every instinct and attribute, who may oversee dozens of volunteers, respond to texts, answer phones and literally saves lives… How important is it for them to be supported, sharpen their skills, and maintain their A game?

In this podcast I bust some of the coaching myths out there and learn the various ways to explore opportunities to grow and develop leaders; recognizing it’s not only about how good you are but how good you can be.

In this podcast

  • How critical is professional development for those folks trying to repair our broken world?
  • Attributes of a good coach
  • Attributes of a good leader
  • Do rockstar leaders need coaches too?
  • How does a long tenure affect your need for professional development?
  • Is planning a transition a solo sport?
  • What if you can’t afford a coach?Continue Reading

Bonus Episode: Small But Mighty Nonprofits (with Laura Zielke)

nonprofits are messy

Most folks are utterly clueless about the size and scope of the nonprofit sector. In fact it’s not really thought of as a sector. The 2019 report by the Center for Civil Society Studies at Johns Hopkins University reports nonprofits account for roughly one in 10 jobs in the U.S.! 

Remember this includes churches, synagogues homeless shelters, community centers, organizations that advocate for those for whom the playing field is not level. 

Our guest today is Laura Zielke who knows quite a lot about small and mighty nonprofits. As Director of Member Experience for the Nonprofit Leadership Lab, Laura is daily supporting hundreds of founders, executive directors, board members, and senior staff of small to midsize nonprofits worldwide. She shares her perception of their superpowers and kryptonite.

About Laura Zielke:

Laura Zielke is the Director of Member Experience for the Nonprofit Leadership Lab, a membership site specifically designed for Executive Directors, CEOs, Development Directors, Founders, Board Officers, and other senior staff of not-for-profit organizations worldwide. 

Laura is a successful entrepreneur and fierce advocate for small nonprofit organizations. Throughout her adult life, she has volunteered at a variety of nonprofits donating website design/administration, marketing strategy, and communications consultation. For more than 20 years, Laura has worked with for-profit and nonprofit leaders to clarify their message and spread the word about their businesses/organizations both in print and online. Although she has served on nonprofit boards, Laura’s true passion is supporting, encouraging, and caring for leaders of small (but mighty!) nonprofits on a daily basis in the Nonprofit Leadership Lab.

Laura works closely with Joan Garry, the Lab’s founder, to ensure members have regular access to experts in the sector and top-quality training resources—both of which are crucial for leading organizations from messy to thriving. She has privately coached a number of members through tense transitions, sticky situations, and unexpected challenges.

In this podcast

  • Jaw-dropping statistics about the nonprofit sector
  • What are the superpowers of small nonprofits?
  • How does proximity give smaller nonprofits an edge in crisis management?
  • Are close relationships in small nonprofits more of a superpower or kryptonite?
  • How does board member experience factor into the success of a nonprofit? 
  • What does it take to move the mission forward? 
  • What are the vulnerabilities of leaders of small nonprofits? 
  • What are some of the challenges that a smaller organization simply is not equipped to handle? 
  • How does learning what you don’t know and gaining the support of peers transform not only the leader but their organization? 
  • Finding community
  • What does nimbleness have to do with it? 
  • How burnout and loneliness can be kryptonite
  • Lack of money, need for control, misinformation and other stumbling blocks Continue Reading

Ep 92: The Lonely Nonprofit Leader (with Glennda Testone)

nonprofits are messy

You’ve probably heard of “Imposter Syndrome”. But have you heard of “Loneliness Syndrome”?

Today I tackle the case of the lonely nonprofit leader.

The stakes are high and so much rides on your shoulders. High stress and low resources plus the need to not share your vulnerabilities with certain audiences. Herein lies a perfect recipe for Loneliness Syndrome.

My guest, Glennda Testone, has found the cure. Glennda joined New York City’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center as its first female Executive Director in 2009. We discuss her experiences as a nonprofit leader, including empathy, trust, and the root cause of loneliness.

What kind of toll does loneliness take? How can we overcome it and find like-minded people that can really help? What’s the antidote?

Tune in to hear more.

About Glennda Testone:

Glennda Testone joined New York City’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center as its first female Executive Director in 2009. Since then, she has strengthened The Center’s programs for adults, youth and families, ensuring all LGBT New Yorkers have an opportunity to live happy, healthy lives. Testone recently helped launch a new Center brand and website, celebrated 30 years of service by the organization and completed a $9.2 million capital building renovation to transform the LGBT community’s home on W 13 Street. Testone also spearheaded the launch of innovative and groundbreaking programming at The Center for LGBT youth, transgender community members and LBT women.

Testone came to The Center from The Women’s Media Center (WMC) where she served as the Vice President for three years. Prior to the WMC, Testone was the Senior Director of Media Programs for the national Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD).

Testone has appeared on CNN, FOX News and MSNBC, and has been quoted in outlets including Vogue, The New York Times, The Chicago Tribune, Time Out and W Magazine.

She is a member of the Ending the Epidemic Task Force, which works to implement Governor Cuomo’s plan to end the AIDS epidemic in New York. Testone also sits on the CenterLink Board, the Executive Board of the City University of New York Institute for Health Equality and is a member of the Bronx Borough President’s LGBT Policy Task Force. In 2005, Testone won Syracuse University’s LGBT Foundation Award for Outstanding Alumni. In addition, she has served on the NYC Commission on LGBTQ Runaway and Homeless Youth and was a Tenenbaum Leadership Institute Fellow at Milano, The New School for Management & Urban Policy.

Originally from Syracuse, New York, Testone has a Bachelor’s degree in Broadcast Journalism and Philosophy from Syracuse University and a Master’s degree in Women’s Studies from The Ohio State University. She lives in Brooklyn, New York with her partner and two French bulldogs. Follow Testone on Twitter @Glennda_Testone.

In this podcast

  • How loneliness is affected by the level of trust you have with your peers
  • How can a nonprofit leader overcome Loneliness Syndrome?
  • When you’re small, how do you find peers groups? Where can you build connections? How can peer groups help you test out ideas?
  • What is an E.D. group?
  • How to avert difficult transitions
  • How to handle confidentiality
  • The role and value of coachingContinue Reading

Ep 91: The Diversity Problem in Our Sector (with Diahann Billings-Burford)

nonprofits are messyNonprofits have a diversity problem. Big time.

One reason for this is that we’re not doing a good enough job developing a diverse leadership pipeline, especially when it comes to leaders of color (and in particular, women of color).

The Building Movement Project’s Race to Lead Study says people of color in the ED/CEO role have remained under 20% for the last 15 years. Another survey says unwelcoming racial environments account for 30% of attrition. The list goes on.

Eliminating racial discrimination, championing social justice and improving race relations is part of the role of the nonprofit CEO of RISE, Diahann Billings-Burford.

Diahann characterizes the challenges associated with women being raised to be humble in a society that has implicit biases. What is the trajectory that often leads women of color to an early exit from their leadership positions? What can we do to change that? And how can an organization make and embrace change?

I believe this is one of the most important issues facing the nonprofit sector today.

Tune in.

About Diahann Billings-Burford:

Diahann Billings-Burford, who has spent her career working in and lifting up diverse communities, is CEO of the Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality (RISE). Billings-Burford most recently worked at Time Warner, as executive director, cultural investments, vice president of the Time Warner Foundation and for Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg as the city’s chief service officer, where she headed NYC Service, a division of the mayor’s office, engaging more than 1.3 million New Yorkers in a range of volunteer activities.

She serves on the National Board of Directors for buildOn, as well as on the boards of Philanthropy New York and the Robert Sterling Clark Foundation. Billings-Burford earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Yale University and a law degree from Columbia University School of Law and is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.

In this podcast

  • What does it take to be taken seriously as a leader?
  • The trajectory for women of color who secure nonprofit leadership positions
  • Start your journey with listening and assessing. Once you’ve found the ways you could improve what challenges arise?
  • Speaking truth to power
  • Being introspective and recognizing the value of making decisions that may feel painful 
  • How an overarching vision and plan work toward managing changeContinue Reading

Ep 90: Why People Don’t Donate (and What You Can Do About It) (with Phil Buchanan)

nonprofits are messyThere are so many people out there who want to make a difference in the world. Your nonprofit is a vehicle for them to do just that.

So why can it be so hard to get people (or foundations) to open their checkbooks?

One reason comes down to a simple word… trust. If they give you their hard earned money, how can they trust it will do the most good? How can you show potential donors why your organization is the perfect vehicle to satisfy their desire for impact?

Is it simply about providing more data? Showing a graph of donations spent on programs versus overhead? (Hint… it’s not).

Phil Buchanan, founding chief executive of the Center for Effective Philanthropy (CEP) tells us that defining high performance within nonprofits has a bit of a template.

In this podcast hear more about strategic giving and why you don’t necessarily need to be business savvy. Learn how you can achieve long term flexible commitments in an organization and communicate effectively so donors are confident they will see their dollars go farther.

Whether it’s data systems to track outcomes or finding ways to be in close touch with your mission, the importance of benefiting from knowledge that is widely available and educating your donors will help you execute your organization’s philanthropic goals.

About Phil Buchanan:

Phil Buchanan is founding chief executive of the Center for Effective Philanthropy (CEP), a nonprofit that conducts research and advises the largest foundations in the country, including Ford, Hewlett, Packard, MacArthur, and Rockefeller. He is a columnist for the Chronicle of Philanthropy, and his writing has appeared in the New York Times and the Financial Times. He lives in Lexington, Massachusetts.

In this podcast

  • How can your dollars have the most impact?
  • Philanthropic performance measurement in different fields cannot be compared apples to apples.
  • The issue of competition in a sector and why this is not a zero sum game.
  • How the desire for credit and attribution can trip you up.
  • Why focusing on overhead undermines efficacy in pursuit of goals.
  • What are the seven pillars of effective philanthropy.Continue Reading

Ep 89: Nonprofit Partnerships, Mergers, and Acquisitions (with Wendy Foster)

nonprofits are messyFor more than 100 years, Big Brothers and Big Sisters has created a massive “army” of champions and advocates at the ready (“bigs”) to support an equally massive army of kids (“littles”) for whom these adults are a lifeline.

Today, Wendy Foster, CEO of BBBS of Massachusetts Bay tells us about her work with nonprofit mergers, acquisitions, and partnerships.

Successful change management requires a vision of the end-result. In this podcast we discuss the ways in which the power of the mission and donor relationships work together to affect sustainable change, how to structure an equitable leadership after a transition, and how to merge different organizational cultures.

Find out how corporate partnerships can succeed and when they might fail. Learn the origin story of the successful partnership between Uber and Big Brothers and Big Sisters.

If you partner with any other organization in any way, shape, or form, this is a podcast you don’t want to miss.

About Wendy Foster:

Wendy Foster is CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Massachusetts Bay, the largest Big Brothers Big Sisters affiliate in New England with a 70-year history of helping under-resourced children thrive through transformational one-to-one relationships with adult mentors. Since becoming CEO in 2009, she has led the agency to significantly increase revenue and the number of children served, with plans to double service in the next phase of growth. Foster is nationally recognized for her leadership and expertise within the Big Brothers Big Sisters nationwide network and has more than three decades of executive leadership in the for-profit and non-profit sectors. Before transitioning to the non-profit sector in 2005, Foster served as a senior executive with America Online (AOL) and held management roles at a division of Time-Warner. She is an active leader in a number of community organizations, a member of the Massachusetts Women’s Forum and a Big Sister to Little Sister Shanell.

In this podcast

  • Transitioning from corporate to nonprofit.
  • Lessons learned in nonprofit mergers.
  • Being at the center of the wheel and how a collective effort is pivotal to execute on a great strategy.
  • Lessons learned on mitigating cultural differences between organizations.
  • How identifying what is needed from leadership in a local community contributes to success in leadership structure and balance.
  • Should the larger of two entities ultimately be in control?
  • How to make sure both parties are strengthened by a corporate partnership.
  • ERGs – The value of affinity groups in building relationships with corporations and make organizations stronger and more diverse.Continue Reading

Ep 88: Everything You Wanted to Know About Planned Giving (with Judi O’Kelley)

nonprofits are messyPlanned giving, which involves a major gift made either during the lifetime or at the death of the donor, can empower people to make larger charitable gifts than they could from regular income. This can be a fantastic way for nonprofits to raise significant funds and can greatly benefit both the organization and the donor.

Our guest, Judi O’Kelly, Chief Program Officer for the National LGBT Bar, teaches us the three things necessary for a donor to decide to participate in planned giving. She also tells us how to budget, who is involved, and what needs to happen for you to develop a strong planned giving initiative.

Learn who is most likely to engage in planned giving and who on your staff should be involved.

About Judi O’Kelley:

Judi O’Kelley is the Chief Program Officer for the National LGBT Bar. Judi joined the Bar’s team in 2017, and works on a broad range of programmatic initiatives including building the Bar’s law school affiliate program and supporting the work of the Family Law Institute (a joint initiative with NCLR). Judi brings nearly 25 years of legal and political experience working for equality within the LGBT community. While in law school, she worked against anti-gay ballot initiatives in Oregon; after graduating and entering private practice, she moved to Georgia and worked on behalf of local and national LGBT groups as a pro bono attorney, drafting and lobbying for successful non-discrimination protections and domestic partnership benefit programs for several Georgia municipalities, including Atlanta and Athens. In 2004, she served as President and Campaign Chair for the campaign for the Athens, Georgia area in opposition to Georgia’s constitutional amendment banning same-sex unions, and continued grass-roots organizing and local political work after the campaign. Judi also was the lead plaintiff from 2004-2006 in the case of O’Kelley v. Perdue, in which Lambda Legal, the Georgia ACLU, and the law firm of Alston & Bird sought to strike down Georgia’s anti-marriage amendment. Judi then spent over eleven years on the staff and in senior management of Lambda Legal in roles ranging from Southern Regional Director, to Director of Life Planning & Planned Giving, to Deputy Director of Development, to Director of Leadership. Along the way she moved to Seattle, Washington, where she is involved with a number of local LGBT groups as the Bar’s West Coast outpost.

In this podcast

  • How the Executive Director and board chair must work together
  • How do you inspire skeptics?
  • Are you aware of organizational barriers and if so are you addressing them?
  • Must you have a planned giving officer? Can you afford one? What’s the ROI there?
  • Does the whole team need to be involved?
  • Does an organization have to be a certain size or age to be ready?
  • What questions might you ask your donors to help develop a lead base?
  • What giving levels are truly transformational for your organization and how do you reward and recognize at that level?Continue Reading