Beware “iceberg beliefs” that can sink your organization

“Ours has always been a hand-to-mouth existence,” the seminary president commented with a shrug and a sheepish smile. “I can’t imagine that thriving is in our future.” Neither can a lot of the other ministry heads and board members with whom I’ve worked. A wide swath of the nonprofit sector has been down so long […]

Don’t let size get you down

We North Americans are enamored with big, which likely explains the tendency of nonprofit folk to round-up just about everything. Clients served, students educated, meals dished out, lives changed. You name it and the accounting is probably exaggerated. The lengths CEOs and board members go to make their causes sound bigger and more impactful is […]

Surviving, thriving, and six degrees of separation

More than 10% of the nonprofits are technically insolvent (i.e., their liabilities exceed their assets), including 18% in health and human services (in terms of service volume, these non-profits account for 8% and 11%, respectively). Many of these organizations are limping from payroll to payroll with less than a month of cash, effectively borrowing from […]

Death to BHAGs and other over-blown organizational rhetoric

With all due respect to Jim Collins, enough with the BHAGs. Please. The idea of pushing ourselves in pursuit of a big hairy audacious goal sounds great on paper. But more often than not, over-sized aspirations hit small to mid-size nonprofits with a BHAM (big horrible awful mess). And substituting “holy” for “hairy,” as I’ve […]

Practicing the art of governance as evangelism

Stop the presses on the latest run of board member business cards. There’s a word to add to the title line, and this it is — “evangelist.” If the moniker strikes you as too preachy for a 21st century audience, think again. The suggestion is ripped from the pages of the May 2015 Harvard Business […]

My week with (a book about) Peter Drucker

Recently, I participated as a guest writer for my friend John Pearson’s year-long blogged journey through A Year with Peter Drucker: 52 Weeks of Coaching for Leadership Effectiveness by Joseph A. Maciariello. Each Monday, John features a Drucker fan and his or her favorite snippet from that week’s topic. I claimed Week 19 and the […]

Breaking ranks with consensus thinking about consensus

Many a boardroom discussion is prolonged in hope of achieving unanimity on an important decision. And nonprofit CEOs and board chairs are often chosen and evaluated on their skill as consensus builders. In fact, if there’s a Holy Grail of the nonprofit sector, it’s full consensus. But not so fast, cautions an article in the […]

A gentle evaluation turns away anger

In the coming months I will assist with two evaluation processes – one of a seminary president’s performance, the other, a board self-assessment. When approaching such assignments, my modus operandi is to accentuate the positive before broaching the negative. To paraphrase the author of Proverbs, I’ve found that a gentle evaluation turns away anger, while […]

Reviving theological schools (and other sagging nonprofits) the McDonald’s way

A Wall Street Journal article titled “How to Revive McDonald’s” is an unexpected source of wise words for leaders in theological education, but that’s what I found there. Okay, so having just spent two days with a seminary board likely influenced the way I read the piece. However, I think I would have picked up […]

Re-claiming a one-time commitment to fundraising as ministry

It’s been 15 years since the publication of Growing Givers’ Hearts: Treating Fundraising as Ministry and although I’ve tried to keep up with the organizations featured in the book, what I’ve heard has been mostly through the ministry grapevine. Until now, that is. A few days back, I was invited to assist the board of […]