Tag Archives: governance leaders

Always imagine change because security is an illusion.

The only blog that I subscribe to is that of Seth Godin. Wikipedia describes him as an American entrepreneur, author, and public speaker who has written fourteen bestselling books on topics including the post-industrial revolution, how ideas spread, marketing, quitting, leadership, and changing everything. Seth Godin introduced the concept of “permission marketing.”

What is Permission Marketing? We’re all familiar with traditional advertising on television, radio and now the internet. According to Seth, these are classified as “interruption marketing” which tries to grab the customer’s attention while they are doing something they prefer. The same goes for pop up ads on the internet. An example of Permission Marketing is asking someone if you can include them on your list for receiving your e-newsletters. It’s mostly used by online marketers as well as some who do direct marketing and send a catalog or brochure in response to a request. The point is engaging a customer by providing them something they are anticipating. The transaction becomes personal and relevant. With Permission Marketing, you’re going beyond having a transaction with your customer. Instead, you’re having a meaningful relationship with them.

Seth’s blog is perhaps the most popular in the world written by a single individual. His post on Saturday, Feb 2 talked about a paracosm which Seth defined as an ornate, richly detailed imaginary world. Growing up, I remember creating imaginary worlds with my brother and cousins. Our toys were stashed in my father’s office in the home of my childhood. It was the only room with enough storage for our stuff. We would drag the toys out into the living room and take over the entire first floor. There was a rock garden below the stairway, and this added another dimension of possibilities for our afternoons spent in the fairy kingdom, the village of the future or the lost city under the sea.

Seth also wrote in his post that “whether you’re a three-year old with imaginary playmates, or a passionate inventor imagining how your insight will change just about everything, a paracosm gives you the opportunity to hypothesize, to try out big ideas and see where they take you.” This is used widely by managers and teams at established organizations when they try to come up with new strategies to keep moving their organizations forward. However, more often than not, their behaviors reflect that of a rigid institution when challenged to envision the future without the key components that made them successful in the first place. They feel they have to remain loyal to what Seth calls “their founding precepts.”

Is it really about loyalty? Or is it about feeling insecure about abandoning what has always been perceived as the pillars of the organization? Could it be about fear of not having a safety net? Seth gives the example of the publishing industry. Imagine a world without books published on paper. To a major player in that industry ten or fifteen years ago, not having printed books was inconceivable. But as you all know, a new business model has since emerged which changed the entire world of books.

At this point, my question is — What does your paracosm look like? Who are the major players? What do they care about? What must you take away from your current reality? What can be added? What emotional responses ensue? Why is it important to imagine this world where new challenges and new opportunities converge?

My message has always been consistent. An organization must have a compelling story behind its mission to stay relevant and valuable to the community. What is also consistent throughout our lives is change. And in order to stay relevant to the lives of the people in our community — the people we serve, the volunteers, the board members, the advocates, the donors, the people who care about the work you do — in order for your organization to continue doing the work that matters to them, you must always anticipate change and imagine its impact on your organization and your community. Change must always be part of your story. If you’re able to re-invent your story and live it, you will be able to empower your organization to remain at the helm directing your future and the future of the community you serve.

Storytelling Jam Session: The Perfect Pitch

Today and every day until March 7, 2013, I will share with you an article on whatsyourread_bkgdstorytelling, a remarkable video or my own thoughts on the subject. I believe this will help us calibrate our minds toward the possibilities for creative expression. I’m also hoping it will get everyone excited about coming to What’s Your Read — Barkada Circle’s storytelling jam session.

So my first honest attempt to make that happen is by sharing with you this article from Andy Goodman’s Free-Range Thinking newsletter. It’s called The 5 Parts of the Perfect Pitch. In it, Goodman gives his assessment on the components that are common between winning pitches based on his observations of LA’s Social Innovation Fast Pitch Competition.

According to Goodman, your pitch must answer the following questions in order for your audience (or potential donor) to get the whole story:

  1. Who are you?
  2. What problem does your organization solve?
  3. What is distinctive about your solution?
  4. What evidence can you offer of impact and sustainability?
  5. What do you need now, and how will it help?

Click here to download the article’s pdf. Once you’ve got something going, we’d love to showcase your pitch at the March 7 Jam Session.

Grantmakers and the Nonprofit Ecosystem

Last week’s Breakin’ It Down Fundraising Program, featured a panel discussion about how nonprofits can create new ways to deliver on their mission in the midst of the economic recession and government cutbacks to services. Valerie S. Lies, President and CEO of the Donors Forum, moderated the panel which consisted of Karina Ayala Bermejo, General Counsel of Metropolitan Family Services, Jonathan Brereton, CEO of Accion Chicago, and Andrea T. Mills, Director of Fiscal Management Associates, LLC.

Lies began the session by describing the current state of affairs as indicated in the Donors Forum’s Economic Outlook 2011: Signs of Recovery but Challenges Persist. What struck me from this report as potentially having the most impact on nonprofits and the people they serve is the suggestion from grantmakers for consolidation of the sector to increase long-term sustainability.

In my view, mergers and any kind of restructuring will not only change how the organization operates in its resulting form; they will also affect how sector leaders can effectively promote innovation. Real outcomes don’t come from one-size-fits-all solutions. Real social impact springs from having made choices that are relevant and specific for a person in a particular situation.

The most serious change will be on the nonprofit’s social fabric in which their mission is deeply rooted. They would have to unravel what brought them together as a community. With their identity dissolving and their voice fading, what’s left is the hope that people will keep their mission alive and continue to tell their story. On the other hand, the entire sector still has a collective narrative we need to tell. What kind of story will evolve from a culture of consolidation?

The Economic Outlook summary does end on a brighter note – one that promotes collaboration:

“…the general preference is to focus on improving the capacities of individual organizations, influencing the sector through “modeling” of “best practices,” and collaborative relationships between grantmakers and nonprofits.”

Yes, there is limited funding available. Therefore, grantmakers can make the most bang for the buck by investing strategically to change the ecosystem and make it more supportive for organizations to deliver on their mission. This is an essential role to play in the collective narrative. Only then can we begin to tell a story about real sustainability.

Next week: Part 2 with highlights of the panel discussion.

Take advantage of our Special Offer
Reduced rate on our last workshop for the year.
$45 per person and $30 for each guest you bring.
(regular rate $75)

Write Your Story for Video
Let’s face it: The media landscape has been forever changed by the internet. Aside from social media, video is a major component in engaging your audience. Today, Youtube is the second largest search engine next to Google. When used effectively, video can not only help you rank in searches but can also compel viewers to ‘share’ your story across the web and give you and your organization the potential to reach hundreds to even millions of people interested in your cause or service. This workshop focuses on the best approach to creating content for your video campaign.
Key take-aways: (1) What aspect of your organization’s story can be best communicated through video, and (2) how do we streamline the message into a brief but memorable narrative.
Teaching Artist: Jessica Christopher
Tuesday, November 13, 2012 – REGISTER

Leadership and Designing Change

I recently volunteered at the 2012 BoardSource Leadership Forum where more than 800 nonprofit leaders from across the United States had the opportunity to network, exchange ideas and participate in thought-provoking sessions. The name of the event was Designing Change: Commit. Connect. Collaborate.

My biggest takeaway was that in order to develop true innovation in governance, leaders need to move away from their comfort zones and dare to do something they’ve never done before. From personal experience, I know I’ve made the shift when my heart beats ten times faster, palms sweat and I simply couldn’t wipe the smile off my face. It’s a combined feeling of anxiety and triumph knowing in your gut that something great is about to happen. You just have to stay the course.

We also must not lose sight of the other important part of the equation–having the right partners in your journey. We’ve heard it before and it was repeated many times during the two-day forum: Collaboration is key. Work with individuals and groups who share your mission and can easily align with your efforts. No one organization should go it alone.

During the closing plenary, Linda C. Crompton, President & CEO of BoardSource, highlighted a three-part vision that started with the question “WHAT IF?” Following is an excerpt of Crompton’s remarks.

WHAT IF: We looked at our board recruitment in a whole new way?

Getting the right people, and the right mix of people, is both an art and a science. It means going outside your comfort zone and thinking about new ways to find board members.

The Commitment:

  • Analyze your board’s skill sets and expertise and identify gaps.
  • Be open to board candidates outside of your existing network.
  • Prevent the composition of your board from becoming static by using term limits.

WHAT IF: Every board lived a culture of inclusion?

Living a culture of inclusion means bringing together a diverse group of people, then ensuring that every member’s voice is heard and valued.

The Commitment:

  • Have an honest conversation about whether or not your board is inclusive.
  • Commit to a written plan of action on how your board might need to change.
  • Seek support if training or other resources are needed.

WHAT IF: Collaborative leadership took hold in the boardroom?

In the best boards, members share leadership. Boards that share leadership and responsibility discover new sources of strength and intellect they never knew existed.

The Commitment:

  • Assess and discuss how well your board is sharing leadership.
  • Provide meaningful leadership opportunities for all board members and rotate officer positions.
  • Ensure that your executive committee is not marginalizing the rest of your board.

Crompton’s What IF’s can be summarized in what I believe to be an essential step to advance your cause with real impact: In order for change to happen, you first must change your story.