Category Archives: Effectiveness

National Commission on Voluntary Sector Capacity and Sustainability

A national dialogue is underway focused on changes ahead for the Public and Private Sectors; however, we have heard nothing about the Voluntary Sector.  Yet we know it will be affected by the types of changes being discussed for the governmental and business sectors. 

This Memorandum represents a call to recognize the importance of the “Quality of Life” Sector.  It suggests establishing a non-political, non-ideological, fact-based process that provides us with the data and understandings needed to make sound decisions on voluntary sector policy, education, professional development, work force readiness, and overall capacity by these organizations and their dedicated professionals and volunteers to meet growing human services needs.  Successfully doing so will help ensure the “greatness” of our future national Quality of Life. 

Tracy D. Connors, PhD

MEMORANDUM FOR COUNSELOR TO THE PRESIDENT STEPHEN BANNON

Subj:  National Commission on Voluntary Sector Capacity and Sustainability
Executive Summary

America’s Voluntary Sector of the economy – more than one million charitable, philanthropic organizations employing more than 10 million professionals – is a vital contributor to, even determiner of, any national strategy seeking to “make America great again.”

Recognizing the vital contributions made by the Voluntary Sector to America’s current and future “greatness” of our national quality of life, the new Administration is urged to consider a national initiative to better understand and define the role of the Voluntary Sector in America’s “greatness” and to identify what is needed to ensure the Voluntary Sector adds the capacities needed to sustain and improve America’s national Quality of Life.

The paper suggests the establishment of a National Commission on Voluntary Sector Capacity and Sustainability.

Answers would be sought by the nonpartisan, blue-ribbon Commission to three broad questions, including:

  • What is the current state of the “Quality of Life” sector?
  • What will the Voluntary Sector be expected to provide in the way of human services in coming years if it is to meet the growing needs, and to ensure continued improvement in national Quality of Life?
  • What will be required in the way of additional or expanded capacities for the Independent Sector to not only sustain overall quality human services delivery in the face of changing and challenging operating environments, but to improve overall excellence, organizational performance, and quality results?
Background

America’s economy is broadly organized into three “sectors,” including:

  • The Public (government) Sector: those portions of America’s economic system that are controlled by national, state or provincial, and local governments;
  • The Private Sector: businesses earning profits for owners; and,
  • The Voluntary Sector (also called “Third Sector,” “Independent Sector”: charitable, philanthropic, and nonprofit organizations whose purposes are to benefit and enrich society.

The Trump Administration’s emerging plans for the Public and Private Sectors reflect a vital strategic focus on results and outcomes that will “make America Great Again.”

To date, little is known or has been communicated regarding the role of the Voluntary Sector in making America great again.

However, America’s more than one million charitable/philanthropic organizations employ over 10 million professionals providing a myriad of human services that collectively provide the majority of America’s quality of life.

The Voluntary Sector is essential to any national strategy that seeks to make America great again.

Discussion
America’s overall quality of life depends on the collective human services provided by nearly one million charitable-philanthropic-nonprofit organizations.

The charitable-philanthropic/nonprofit sector is the most rapidly growing and changing economic and organizational domain in the world — a universe of voluntary associations and organizations representing civil society, philanthropy, and voluntary action.  The Voluntary Sector has more than doubled since publication in 1980 of the first handbook recognizing the new professional field of “nonprofit organization management” (Connors, 1980).  It has become a universe of voluntary associations and organizations representing civil society, philanthropy, and voluntary action.

America’s future quality of life will depend in large part on the ability of its more than one million charitable-philanthropic-nonprofit organizations to collectively provide a myriad of human services ranging from arts and education, to health, advocacy and social services.  Sustaining our national quality of life in the face of expanding needs and dwindling resources will require significant improvements by our voluntary organizations in mission fulfillment, performance, productivity, and human services delivery. These voluntary organizations must deliver a myriad of human services in the face of ever-changing operating environments, compounded by the ever-growing demands for social human services needed to sustain our nation’s overall quality of life, and further complicated by growing calls for improved Effectiveness, Efficiency, Transparency and Accountability.

Achieving improvements in overall effectiveness and efficiency resulting in substantially improved performance, results and outcomes will be among the most pressing challenges facing C-P/NP’s as transformational organizations.

Unanswered Questions

Regardless of one’s political views, all sides appreciate the significant contributions made to America’s quality of life by its voluntary action organizations–and the need to develop policies and guidelines that enhance cooperation, improve performance and results, and add capacities needed to ensure America’s future quality of life, without undermining the core values that make America’s nonprofits so important to its overall quality of life.

Improving performance and capacity while strengthening Voluntary Sector core values requires answers to the following broad questions, including:

  • What is the state of the “Quality of Life” Voluntary Sector?
  • What will the Voluntary Sector be expected to provide in the way of human services in coming years if it is to meet the growing needs, and to ensure continued improvement in national Quality of Life?
  • What will be required in the way of additional or expanded capacities for the Independent Sector to not only sustain overall quality human services delivery in the face of changing and challenging operating environments, but to improve overall excellence, organizational performance, and quality results?
Results and Outcomes

During an approximately one year charter for the National Commission on Voluntary Sector Capacity and Sustainability, the following results and outcomes would be sought, including:

Gain Better Understandings regarding the:
  • Overall contributions by the voluntary sector to national quality of life.
  • Dynamic operating environments in which most voluntary organizations seek to survive and to fulfill their public purposes and missions.
  • Nature and depths of the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats facing voluntary organizations.
  • Current relationships and/or partnerships between government and voluntary sector organizations.
Provide fact-based knowledge needed to:
  • Ensure the ability of the voluntary sector to sustain current levels of human services delivery;
  • Understand the scope and depth of challenges to needed capacity by sector organizations;
  • Put into place the educational and professional development resources and opportunities needed to ensure improved organizational performance as measured by effectiveness, efficiency, and transformational organizational environments;
  • Establish a government-voluntary sector relationship that represents an effective balance between policies that protect public purposes and missions, and that support the traditional charitable ethos that characterizes and inspires voluntary constituencies.
Overall Milestones:

Broad milestones for the Commission would include:

  • Creation of a national survey designed to provide a robust data base from which to develop answers to the basic research questions.
  • Analysis of the survey to identify conditions, needs, trends, and understandings contributing to sound policy considerations.
  • Hearings to provide the forum for public participation and input to the process.
  • Compilation of the Commission’s Findings and Recommendations, followed by publication.

Views from a strategic mirror

mirror-image-titleBackground:

The NPO Strategic Mirror is a convenient tool for senior leaders of nonprofit organization to better understand how — or whether — the organization’s strategic planning and deployment are directly linked to outcomes and results that demonstrate improved mission and public purpose accomplishment.

This strategic directions profiling and self-assessment resource is based on the self-renewing management model (Connors, 1997, 2001, 2014), and was most recently used by Norwich University as a tool  to review and assess strategic planning by Vermont charitable-philanthopic-nonprofit organizations.

The answers sought on the questionnaire are related to and focused on those management actions, activities, and competencies that senior NPO leaders have identified as contributing to their successes and those of their organizations.

The NPO Strategic Mirror is a strategic directions profiling and self-assessment tool created by Dr. Tracy Connors based on the self-renewing management model (Connors, 1997/2001) and rankings provided by senior NPO practitioners during the Charitable-Philanthropic Organization Self-Renewing Management Model (C-POSRM) Study (Connors, 2014).

About the Strategic Mirror assessment

The actual assessment can be completed in a few minutes by those who are familiar with the organization’s strategic plan and/or related materials. The resulting data can become the focus for analysis, and serve as a form of agenda for any meetings focused on the subject.

The Strategic Mirror assessment and review process helped participating organizations to better understand their organization’s long-range vision, goals and objectives and how these are aligned with the operating environment.

The data collected and developed during the assessments used a combination of both qualitative and quantitative methodologies. It is designed to provide macro level insights into the strategic planning process and documentation, and to do so in the three overarching management domains that represent the organization’ operating environment.

The reviewer – external or internal to the organization – can make a determination about the presence of a management function or action, and the extent to which it seems to be effectively used within the planning process to improve effectiveness or efficiency. The reviewer then assigns their determination to a broad Likkert scale range to generate quantitative data that is then available for other useful purposes, e.g., basic statistical understandings.

The data collected can help provide a broad measure of understanding about the use of these management actions and activities within the organization’s planning processes, how that use compares with other nonprofits, and how the organization’s use of these potential tools within its strategic planning process may change over time.

Need to improve NPO capacities directly linked to improved mission fulfillment

The future of America’s quality of life, in many important ways, depends on the quality and quantity of human services provided by its more than 1 million charitable-philanthropic-nonprofit organizations. America’s C-P NPO’s are under continuing and growing pressure to improve their Effectiveness, Efficiency, Accountability, and Transparency (E/EAT). These pressures and proddings are increasing, a process some have called the “tides of reform.”

C-NPO’s must improve and increase their organizational capacities in ways that are directly linked to outcomes and results that demonstrate improved mission and public purpose accomplishment.

Strategic planning is one of the most critical competencies self-sustaining C-NPO’s attain and practice.  However, the results and outcomes achieved as a result of an organization’s strategic planning and deployment will depend on the extent to which the plans reflect and incorporate those management actions, activities, and results that research has identified as among the strongest contributors to organizational performance improvement and mission fulfillment.

Strategic Mirror aligns strategic planning with management actions contributing to performance improvement

“Views from a Strategic Mirror” is a research-based charitable-philanthropic organization self-assessment tool designed to help leaders, managers, and practitioners identify the extent to which strategic planning and related future-focused management processes reflect the incorporation of specific management actions and outcomes that are major contributors to overall organizational performance improvement in the three overarching management domains – Effectiveness, Efficiency, and Transformational Organization.

VSM helps C-NPO leaders conveniently and quickly review and compare their organization’s strategic plan and related documents.  The Q&A process provides a convenient reminder of the management actions and/or outcomes that have been strongly correlated to overall organizational performance and success by research and practice. The VSM provides the “mirror” that helps reflect the extent to which the planning process has included and focused on those management/leadership actions and outcomes that are closely associated with organizational performance improvement, and the extent to which the organization has incorporated those contributors to excellence and mission fulfillment into its plans and practices, and used them to define strategic results and outcomes.

Next: Reflections Before the Mirror

Suggested citation:

Connors, T. D. (2016, October 17). Views from a strategic mirror [A strategic directions profiling and self-assessment tool for charitable-philanthropic-nonprofit organizations created based on the self-renewing management model.]. In NPO crossroads: management domains and outcomes. Retrieved from BelleAire Press, LLC: http://www.npocrossroads.com/management/views-from-a-strategic-mirror/

© Copyright 2016 T.D. Connors

norwich-cert-prog-ad-01

Management degree

graduate-degree-imageA Graduate Certificate or Degree in Management…or Not

Should a graduate management degree or certificate be included in my plans to advance my career as a senior manager of a charitable-philanthropic-nonprofit organization?

This is a big question – and one with an expensive price tag. What factors should I consider?

The news media tell us that grad school brings benefits – those having earned advanced degrees tend to earn bigger paychecks and promotions than those who only have an undergraduate degree. For example, if I have a Master’s degree, on average I earn $200 more a week than someone with a bachelor’s degree (Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics), or about 15% higher overall income. This is a reflection of improved skill sets, job-related competencies, knowledge base, marketability, and earning potential based on the significantly improved value of the holder to the organization.

Over a lifetime, according to the US Census Bureau, a person with a Master’s degree may earn $400,000 more than one with only a bachelor’s degree.

However, while I am more likely to find a new job or a promotion, investments are required. For example, according to FinAid.org, the average cost of a Master’s degree is between $30,000 and $120,000.  [Note: the cost of an MPA Degree at Norwich University is about $30,000.  Of course, educational loan assistance is usually available.  One of the four Graduate Certificates in Nonprofit Organization Management is far less.]

Will a graduate degree help me get hired?

Attitudes about Master’s degrees have changed significantly since the 1970s when they were often considered simply a consolation prize for students not able to complete their doctoral degrees. Since then, the Master’s degree has evolved into an important professional credential highly valued by most employers.

According to Burning Glass Technologies, graduate degrees are required or preferred in more than 20% of the positions available in the US economy. Increasingly, the professional world values the growing number of managerial positions that require digital skills versus the ones that do not.

Demand for the Master’s Degree is up

The Education Advisory Board in their 2014 custom research brief, Development of Online Master’s Degree in Higher Education Programs, found that nationally, “demand for graduates with skills gained from a master’s degree in higher education increased 54 percent nationally from January 2010 to June 2013. This increase is noteworthy.  Additionally, the Board found that Metropolitan areas such as Boston-Cambridge-Quincy, MA and Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, CD-VA-MD-WV, reflected some of the highest demand for graduates with a master’s degree in higher education.

Connecting the dots strongly suggests that earning a graduate management degree prepares and positions the human services professional to stay competitive in the job market.

A recent national survey and study determined that most NPO senior executives have either a bachelor’s or master’s degree.

npo-exec-demographics-12oct2016_q6_600pxsHowever, few of the hundreds of respondents, all of whom were self-selected/reported as C-PO executives, held degrees in nonprofit organization management or even related fields.  Over 70% reported degrees from other fields. The next largest source was from the field of social/community services. This may reflect a pattern of internal promotion for social services agencies whose executives perhaps started as hands-on providers of client services.

npo-exec-demographics-12oct2016_534pxsLess than 5% reported earning degrees in either nonprofit organization management or public administration, respectively. The aggregated totals for all degrees focused on some aspect of management (e.g., business administration, human resource management, NPO management) totaled 18.2%. In short, fewer than one in five reported having any college level educational background in managing any type of organization; and, only approximately 1 in 20 had a degree in NPO management.

Professional credentials. The majority of the respondents (60.4%) had not earned professional credentials beyond their college Bachelor’s Degree programs. Those reporting credentials in the “other” category included holders of non-degree certificates in nonprofit management, certificates from various sources in other categories of management, certifications as facilitator/trainer, or other graduate degree programs.

When asked their preferences regarding additional professional resources, the great majority of the respondents (79%) chose charitable-nonprofit management credentialing programs. The strong response for credentialing suggests that managers and leaders of nonprofit organizations understand and validated the value of the NPM Graduate Certificate and graduate degree program.

The convergence of demands for more effectiveness and efficiency from nonprofit organizations, preferences for Master’s degree holders over those with lesser degrees, and the scarcity of senior managers of nonprofit organizations having any formal management education, argue strongly in favor of including the acquisition of a graduate management certificate and graduate degree in management as important professional development goals and objectives.

In short, Yes, you should consider a graduate degree or certification program.  Just make sure it will truly develop competencies you can use to help improve the organization’s results and outcomes.

© Copyright 2016 T. D. Connors

What’s In A Name: the future

Many of the words we use everyday have been used for hundreds, even thousands, of years by countless generations of our ancestors, most of whom spoke a language derived and descended from Indo-European – the prototype of the majority of the world’s languages spoken today.  Researchers at Reading University concluded that such words as “I”, “we”, “two” and “three” are words that have been used for tens of thousands of years, and are among the most ancient of words now in common use (BBC News, 2009).  Researchers determined the more often we use a word, the more slowly it changes over time.  Therefore, our most commonly used words tend to be our oldest words.  When we use a word with great frequency, it clearly has great value to us and communicates important information.

These findings would certainly apply to the word we use to identify, describe, or distinguish one thing from another.  When we designate something in a way that expressively classifies it according to some combination of distinguishing characteristics, we give it a “name.”  Since the term “nomen” appears in Indo-European and means “name,” we get a sense for the importance of the word “name,” and the role it plays in our language (Morris, 1981, p. 871).  A “name” can be a name, or it might be a designation, denomination, title, appellation, nickname, sobriquet, cognomen, or moniker.  What few can bear is the inexpressible, indescribable horror of being “nameless.”

What’s in a name?

When any nonprofit organization is established, its founders give serious attention to its name.  Typically, the name provides a great deal of information about its mission and purpose.  Nonprofits work hard to earn public recognition and respect for the good works performed by their members, staff, and volunteers – all of which contributes to its name recognition, which in turn is a significant factor in its ability to sustain public support, solicit donations, and attract members and volunteers.

There are times in the lifecycle of a nonprofit organization when its leadership is faced with the need to consider changing its name – the subject of this posting focusing on major change efforts.

Volunteer Jacksonville to HandsOn Jacksonville: a mini-study

Volunteer Jacksonville, Inc.,  was incorporated as a nonprofit corporation in the state of Florida in 1973 (Corrick, Hannan & Fanning, 1973), and granted exempt status as a 501(c)(3) public charity by the IRS in 1976.  The organization’s original mission was that of serving as a clearinghouse for volunteers – a place where individuals could find opportunities through which they could serve their community, and where nonprofit organizations could obtain assistance and retaining volunteers for their programs.

By the 1980s, Volunteer Jacksonville, Inc. had grown into a management resource and support center for nonprofit organizations, as well as fulfilling the responsibilities as a volunteer center.  However, what we would now term as “mission creep” led to a flurry of organizational focus, coupled with significant revenue decreases from the organization’s primary funding source.  For many years there was a persistent sentiment, eventually substantiated by an externally prepared marketing study, to change the name.  By then, “Volunteer Jacksonville” did not accurately describe what the organization provided in the way of public services (Smith, 2006-2010).

In 1998, following extensive planning and development, the organizational model was changed and Volunteer Jacksonville refocused its mission and vision on a single primary customer, “the person whose life is changed because of work that is done–the volunteer” (HandsOn Jacksonville, 2010).  Since then, the organization has also made significant changes in its business model, integrating a direct project management model with the ongoing indirect clearinghouse/brokerage model, that enable it to increasingly focus on: the volunteer; preparing volunteer leaders and managers; conducting volunteer projects; and on what it terms “impact imperatives” in such areas as education, economy, environment, and emergency preparedness.  Impact imperatives projects have also enabled the organization to help restore schools as centers of the community, alleviate poverty, preserve the environment, and prepare the greater Jacksonville community for potential disasters.

In 2006, in a significant move that symbolized the organization’s refocused and revised vision, Volunteer Jacksonville, Inc. changed its name to HandsOn Jacksonville, Inc. – “to reflect our conviction to change the world by inspiring, equipping and mobilizing the people of our community to take action” (HandsOn Jacksonville, 2008).  Explained in the context outlined by Carlson and O’Neal-McElrath (2008), the process followed by the revitalized HandsOn Jacksonville, can be seen as both a structural and an engagement strategy.

The organization clearly re-examined its mission, realigned the organization more in line with the revised and refined mission, then adopted a revised mission, one better suited to the organization’s need to respond to rapidly changing conditions – and opportunities.  The change also enabled them to refocus the organization’s culture and to reengage all of their stakeholders in supporting the improve mission, services, and message.  Further, the name change provided an opportunity and a catalyst to engage with other nonprofits both local and national to establish supportive, collaborative, and cooperative initiatives improving funding support and organizational effectiveness.

For some nonprofits, including some aspects of the HoJ initiative, the process of changing the name is part of an overall organizational rebranding effort, that can include a new strategy, name, logo, color scheme, and website design (Hrywna, 2009).  A brand is not simply the organization’s name or logotype.  Rather, the brand represents, collectively, how that organization’s clients, customers, stakeholders, volunteers, staff, and the general public view the organization, i.e., its overall reputation and standing (allaboutbranding.com, 2011).

Brandraising

Durham (2010) applies the term “Brandraising,” as the name for the process of establishing a coherent, cohesive organizational identity, coupled with a comprehensive communications plan and system that supports these goals, thus making it easier to articulate the organization’s mission and purpose effectively and consistently.  A nonprofit organization’s strongest asset is its brand, and branding includes all of the processes involved in establishing a clear, consistent message about the organization – the goal being to create such a strong association between the organization’s logotype or name that when the public sees or hears them they will think of the organization’s mission and programs in terms defined by the organization (Nissim, 2004).

The objective when branding products, Strand (2010) says, is to establish an association between the product position and the consumer’s self image.  In the case of a nonprofit organization, the difference lies in the fact that the association is developed between the values of that organization and the corresponding values of that organization’s supporters.  For example: “We connect and engage people in service that addresses serious social issues… We make people aware of the issues that face our community, equipping them with hope and tools that empower them to create change” (HandsOn Jacksonville, 2009, p. 2)

What’s a name worth?

The nonprofit’s name and brand play an important role in the organization’s ability to generate future revenue and resources.  What the organization stands for should be uncompromising and absolutely clear to the public.  As reported in the Cone Nonprofit Power Brand 100, the top nonprofit brand in the United States is the YMCA, whose brand is worth $6.393.6 million.  Other top nonprofit brands in the United States include: the Salvation Army, United Way of America, American Red Cross, Goodwill Industries International, and Catholic Charities USA (CNBC, 2009).

References:

allaboutbranding.com. (2011). Whether Marketing a Corporate Brand or a Branded Product or Service, Success. Retrieved January 25, 2011, from allaboutbranding.com and DNA Designed Communications Ltd.: http://www.allaboutbranding.com/

BBC News. (2009, February 26). ‘Oldest English words’ identified [Some of the oldest words in the English and other Indo-European languages have been identified, scientists believe.]. In Science & environment. Retrieved April 20, 2011, from http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/7911645.stm

Carlson, M., & O’Neal-McElrath, T. (2008). Winning grants: Step by step. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass/Wiley.

CNBC. (2009, June 26). New report values America’s 100 leading nonprofit brands [As the nation copes with the economic crisis, the value of nonprofit brands are revealed for the first time”]. Retrieved January 25, 2011, from Intangible Business Brand Valuation: http://www.intangiblebusiness.us/Brand-Services/Marketing-Services/News/New-Report-Values-Americas-100-Leading-Nonprofit-Brands-~1179.html

Corrick, G. W., Hannan, P. I., & Fanning, D. S. (1973). Articles of incorporation [Volunteer Jacksonville, Inc.].

Durham, S. (2010). Brandraising. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass/Wiley.

HandsOn Jacksonville, I. (2008). VIRE Grant Application [Volunteer impact, retention and expansion (VIRA) grant].

HandsOn Jacksonville, I. (Author). (2009). HandsOn Jacksonville 2009 Report to the Community (J. A. M. Smith, Ed.).

HandsOn Network. (2010). Volunteer impact, retention and expansion grants: Grant application (Instructions and guidance). Retrieved from http://www.handsonnetwork.org/files/VIRE_APPLICATION_INSTRUCTIONS.pdf

Morris, W. (1981). The American heritage dictionary of the English language. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Company.

Nissim, B. (2004, October 1). Nonprofit branding: Unveiling the essentials. Retrieved January 25, 2011, from GuideStar: http://www2.guidestar.org/rxa/news/articles/2004/nonprofit-branding-unveiling-the-essentials.aspx

Smith, J. A. M. (2006-2010). HandsOn Jacksonville, Strategic Management Plan (Revised). Jacksonville, Florida.

Strand, R. (2010, November 6). Smashable nonprofit brands. In Branding. Retrieved January 25, 2011, from Ezine@articles: http://ezinearticles.com/?Smashable-Nonprofit-Brands&id=5336751

The Way Ahead for Charities: E/EAT-ing Towards Excellence

Recent discussions in national media, including the WSJ, have highlighted the undeniable need by our charitable organizations to significantly improve their effectiveness, efficiency, accountability and transparency (E/EAT). Some have framed the national dialogue for improved E/EAT as a choice or trade-off by charities between embracing societal values emphasizing more economical allocation and expenditure of public funds and charitable donations, versus compromising (by reduced or inferior human services delivery) more traditional charitable values (ethos) that place a higher value on public and human services missions. Choosing “more business-like” or “commercialism” over “charity,” is seen as dangerous by some sector leaders, threatening humanistic, traditional charitable core values.

Such polarity framing represents a false dilemma.

First, “business-like” as a metaphor for effectiveness and efficiency is contradicted daily in WSJ headlines. Second, the range of promising new business model options available for nonprofits is steadily growing. In fact, many nonprofits are developing and using new (hybrid) business models, adapted (not adopted) from both for-profit and public enterprises, offering improved E/EAT without abandoning traditional charitable values. Further, such models provide the additional flexibility needed to deal with the complexities of today’s VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) environments.

Clearly, E/EAT pressures will continue as “society” asserts primacy for the “economy” core value. In any values conflict between society and organizations such as public charities allowed to operate within its physical or economic borders, society will ultimately prevail.

America’s charities can wait to be forced into various modes of compliance based on external pressures, e.g., regulations or stipulations placed on resources; or, opt for self-directed, values-driven, internal compliance, e.g., adapting and using new business models improving E/EAT, while retaining essential organizational ethos. Such models will also reinforce another traditional charitable core value: excellence, sustained superior performance directed at public service mission fulfillment. Nonprofits can resolve potential conflict, fulfill their societal social contracts, and retain their essential ethos, by adapting and using those business models and strategies from all sectors that foster their continuing pursuit of excellence.

National media coverage of new emerging NPO business models leading to excellence represents its own significant contribution to improving charitable E/EAT, and our national quality of life.

Resolving False Dilemma by Achieving Excellence

The Way Ahead: Resolving False Dilemma by Achieving Excellence

by Dr. Tracy D. Connors

Journalists, commentators, and even some researchers, tend to view national pressures on charities to improve Effectiveness, Efficiency, Accountability and Transparency (E/EAT), through the perspective of “them” versus “us.” Instead, a better understanding of this artificial polarity can be achieved by viewing the growing national mandates as “game changing,” prioritized strengthenings of several traditional core values within North American society. Simply stated, the polarity of views contrasts societal values for highly economical (cost-effective) allocation and expenditures of public funds and charitable donations, with charitable values placing higher value on public and human services missions. Overlooking a broader, values-based perspective, one incorporating the many commonalities between sectors, has led to a false dilemma perception for many charities of being forced to choose between societal values (“bang for the buck”) versus traditional charitable values (caring and doing good).

Hurwit & Associates (2011) pointed out that accountability and transparency are now expected by funding organizations and donors and that have what the authors term “savvier consumers.” Most public and private sector donors and revenue sources expect and demand more for their charitable dollar. Individual donors increasingly want more accountability, control, or even active participation in how their charitable dollars are put to use. Significantly, more funding agencies, e.g., foundations and corporations, are requiring detailed financial reports, and reports outlining program results and benefits.

We can expect to see more program evaluation, Carman (2007-2009) predicted, more performance measures, more outcomes and results assessments , and greater use of planning and evaluation approaches such as logic models. We can also expect to see more extensive external monitoring from government agencies, coupled with a greater focus on programs demonstrating results as defined by the funder. Consequently, many nonprofits will need to reevaluate the way they make operating and programming decisions, reflecting the influence of funding decisions made by donor and funder organizations that she suggests will tend to reward those organizations seen to be making better use of evaluation and performance information (continuous process improvement) in their efforts to improve human services delivery (Carman, 2007-2009).

Continued funding cuts, King (2010) suggests, put some nonprofit organizations in jeopardy of having to close down or merge with another. What King may overlook or fail to consider is the considerable contribution toward organizational sustainability and survival made by a balanced financial management strategy, one that adopts as a priority establishing – and sustaining – a robust, broad-based, and multifaceted, revenue generating program. Nonprofits that eschew the rigors of an ongoing and multifaceted resource development program may find their original missions compromised by pressures to adjust the organization’s focus (“mission creep”) to meet the demands or inducements of a grantor or funding organization. Further, should the funding source fail to deliver the needed revenue, the nonprofit may indeed be facing a highly problematic and uncertain future.

Nationwide, nearly 33,000 human services providers administered 200,000 government contracts and grants in 2009. Those funding sources are vital to human services needed by millions of Americans, and important to the nonprofits who provide those services based on those funds. A recent study by the Urban Institute – the National Study of Nonprofit-Government Contracting, State Profiles, illustrates the dangers for nonprofits of putting too many financial “eggs,” into the public funding basket. Key problems facing nonprofits were identified in this study, including: late payments, changes to contracts, complexity of application and reporting requirements, and insufficient payments. Whether large or small, well over half of all nonprofits experience problems with their publicly funded human services contracts and grants (Boris, de Leon, Roeger & Nikolova, 2010).

Clearly, E/EAT pressures are likely to continue over time as “society” continues to assert primacy for the “economy” core value. In any values conflict between society, and an organization such as a public charity allowed to operate within its physical or economic borders, society can be expected to ultimately prevail. There are fundamentally two courses of action open to America’s charities: wait to be forced into various modes of compliance based on external pressures, e.g., regulations guidelines or requirements; or, opt for self-directed, values-driven, internal compliance, i.e., identifying and prioritizing organizational humanistic values supporting E/EAT, while retaining essential organizational ethos. Fortunately, those charities opting for a pro-active, values-driven E/EAT strategy can also preserve their ethos, and add to their sustainability through improved financial and performance management.

Conclusions and Summary

Governance leaders of America’s charitable organizations face significant pressures to achieve greater effectiveness, efficiency, accountability, and transparency (E/EAT), much of it based on growing public perceptions and skepticism created by biased mass media coverage . Conflicting, confusing news and dialogue, typically polarized between calls for reform and innovation (controversy and conflict), versus alarmist threats to traditional charitable values, can best be understood as a values-driven debate characterized by Berger, Penna and Goldberg (2010) as the “battle for the soul of the nonprofit sector” (p. 1). Unbalanced, superficial news coverage of the nonprofit sector is also seen as cuing the public to support more regulation and law.

Growing pressures on nonprofits to be more “businesslike,” can be seen as pressures to strengthen several traditional national core values, e.g., economy. However, commercialism is seen as dangerous by such sector leaders as Pablo Eisenberg, threatening such traditional charitable core values. Others, such as Sanders (2008), suggest the dialogue should change from dialectic and oppositional (a false dichotomy), to embrace the benefits to charitable mission fulfillment and ethos offered by integrating both business models. New, hybrid business-nonprofit business models are steadily expanding the operational and resource generation options available to nonprofits, and do not necessarily require abandoning traditional charitable values.

Nonprofits that decide to pursue excellence can resolve potential conflict, fulfill their societal social contracts, and retain their essential ethos, by adapting and using those business models and strategies from both sectors that offer results achieving both economy and caring during the pursuit of sustained superior organizational performance. For most nonprofits, the way ahead should include adopting an individualized, values-focused strategy for excellence, one that also ensures sustained effectiveness, efficiency, public accountability, and operational transparency.

References:

Berger, K., Penna, R. M., & Goldberg, S. H. (2010, May 25). The battle for the soul of the nonprofit sector. In Philadelphia Social Innovations Journal (Issue 3) [Http://www.kenscommentary.org/2010/05/battle-for-soul-of-nonprofit-sector.html]. (Regional on-line journal.). Philadelphia Social Innovations Journal.
Boris, E. T., De Leon, E., Roeger, K. L., & Nikolova, M. (2010, October). National study of nonprofit-government contracting [Http://www.urban.org/uploadedpdf/412227-National-Study-of-Nonprofit-Government.pdf]. On-line report). Urban Institute.
Carman, J. G. (2007-2009, March). Evaluation practice among community-based organizations. American Journal of Evaluation, 28(1), 60-75. doi: 10.1177/1098214006296245
Hurwit & Associates. (2011). Nonprofit trends, tax exemption, lobbying, governance, liability [Web page]. In Nonprofit law resource library. Retrieved April 15, 2011, from Hurwit & Associates: http://www.hurwitassociates.com/l_21_trends.php
King, D. (2010, April 19). Three significant trends in nonprofit financial management [Web page]. Retrieved April 15, 2011, from Examiner.com (Corpus Christi, TX): http://www.examiner.com/nonprofit-business-in-corpus-christi/three-significant-trends-nonprofit-financial-management
Sanders, M. (2009). Business-like or charitable? communication and irrationality in a nonprofit organization. (Doctoral dissertation, University of Colorado at Boulder, 2008). DAI-A 69/07. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/230671126?accountid=27965

Suggested Citation:

Connors, T. D. (2016, February 22). Resolving False Dilemma by Achieving Excellence [Overlooking a broader, values-based perspective, one incorporating the many commonalities between sectors, has led to a false dilemma perception for many charities of being forced to choose between societal values (“bang for the buck”) versus traditional charitable values (caring and doing good).]. Retrieved from NPO Crossroads: http://www.npocrossroads.com/effectiveness/resolving-false-dilemma-by-achieving-excellence/

Effective Organizations: Purposeful and Mission-focused

Effective Organizations

Effectiveness is one of the three overarching management domains that define and characterize self-renewing organizations, the others including Efficiency and Transformational Organization. An effective organization, regardless of the sector in which it operates, has a valid purpose that is continually adjusted to its surroundings and context as it focuses on how to accomplish its public service, customer-focused mission.

Effective philanthropic-charitable organizations share three broad leadership and management characteristics, including:
• Valid purposes that that serve and satisfy clients, customers, and stakeholders, and that are continually adjusted to and aligned with the organization’s surroundings, context and operating environment. Effective C-P/NP organizations know they are needed—and they know why. They know their public purpose is valid, and they continually adjust it, tune it to environmental conditions to achieve business results (Connors, 1997)
• Business results and mission fulfillment outcomes are the focus for program planning, process and process improvement activities, implementation and evaluation efforts directed at accomplishing its public service purpose through client-driven quality and operational performance excellence.
• Governance leaders are focused on performance excellence, adaptability to the organization’s operating environment, and sustainable mission accomplishment.

The Charitable-Philanthropic Organization Self-Renewing Management Model (C-POSRM) Study (Connors, 2013) reported that Effective charitable organizations:

Know that they serve valid public purposes (Mission and Vision); know they are needed (Community Outreach, Operating Environment); and, they

Know why (Customer/Client-Focused Outcomes, Satisfaction, and Engagement).

Further, effective charitable-philanthropic organizations monitor their operating environment (Operations Focus; Public Relations), and stand ready to adjust their purpose or operations (Strategic Planning, Development, Deployment; Business Results; Leadership and Governance Outcomes; Decision-Making Methods) to ensure they are in tune with ever-changing operational environmental conditions (Assessment and Evaluation Methods; Marketing). Collectively, these actions and activities result in a strategy to achieve better performance and results (Program Implementation, Planning, Evaluation; Business Service/Process, and Workforce-Focused Outcomes; Services, Product and Process Outcomes; Financial and Market Outcomes).

Leadership and Management Practices Fostering Effectiveness

Effective voluntary organizations understand the value of the following leadership and management practices and emphasize their contributions to improved and sustained organization performance and results.

• Customer Focus and Satisfaction as the foundation for setting priorities and focusing improvement activities. Results and trends in this area offer a means to determine the appropriate direction for improvement activities and initiatives. Effective organizations listen to and learn from their customers on a continuous basis, then use that intelligence to determine their current and near-term requirements and expectations.

• Strategic planning is used to define and accomplish their customer-focused mission. Strategic planning to strengthen their customer-related, operational, and financial performance, to improve customer satisfaction. Planning is essential to help organization leaders use customer and operational requirements as inputs to setting strategic directions. Strategic planning guides ongoing decision-making, resource allocation, and organization-wide management.

• Business Results as the focus for all processes and process improvement activities to assess its progress towards superior value of its offerings as viewed by customers and the marketplace, and towards superior organization performance reflected in productivity and effectiveness.

Executives Report Most Valuable Management Actions and Activities
C-PO executives reported the management actions and activities most valuable to them in achieving Effectiveness include such essential elements needed to achieve Effectiveness as:
• Fulfilling the purpose of the organization;
• Proactively serving and satisfying clients and customers;
• Highly focused program planning, implementation and evaluation; and,
• Governance leaders who understand the organization’s operational environment and what must be done to establish and maintain sustainability within that environment – and do so.

Several survey respondents also suggested that an effective C-PO would also have “strong ethics and accountability processes,” “vision and purpose,” “outcome measurement processes,” and, “…a sense of pride.” Another respondent added “funder requirements are really what we have to follow, regardless of our own (or community) ideas of what is effective. Unfortunately, the funders often have an incomplete or even warped idea of what is really effective.”

One Size Does Not Fit All: Effectiveness

C-PO executives rank various management actions and activities differently in their perceived ability to contribute to organizational effectiveness depending on such variables as the size and type of the organization, or the experience of the responding executive. For example, community-based charities, those with the fewest staff members and available resources for management support, ranked as their top five effectiveness components: mission and vision, community outreach, customer engagement, customer satisfaction, and customer-focused outcomes.

Smaller charities, those operating with 10-50 employees, ranked as their top five effectiveness components: mission and vision, customer satisfaction, customer engagement, program implementation, and program planning.

Larger charities, those with more than 50 employees, ranked as their top five effectiveness components: customer-focused outcomes as the strongest component of effectiveness. This was followed by program implementation, mission and vision, program evaluation, and assessment and evaluation methods.

Regardless of their experience, charitable executives concurred that a focus on the organization’s mission and vision was the most important contributor to organizational effectiveness.

Note: Adapted in part and with permission from:
Connors, T. D. (1997). The self-renewing organization. In T. D. Connors (Ed.), The nonprofit handbook: Management (2nd ed.) (pp. 2-29). New York: John Wiley & Sons.
Connors, T. D. (2001). The self-renewing organization. In J. M. Greenfield (Ed.), The nonprofit handbook: Fund raising (3rd ed.) (pp. 1113-1140). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.
Connors, T. D. (2001). The self-renewing organization. In T. D. Connors (Ed.), The nonprofit handbook: Management (3rd edition) (pp. 3-45). New York: John Wiley & Sons.
Connors, T. D. (May 2013). Towards a theory of self-renewed excellence for charitable-philanthropic organizations, Public Service Leadership, Capella University. DAI-A 74/11(E), p. 276. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com//docview/1427359144

© Copyright 2015 Tracy D. Connors

 

Quo Vadis Voluntary Sector: Nurturing the capacity and developing the change leaders needed to sustain America’s Quality of Life

Quo Vadis Voluntary Sector:
Nurturing the capacity and developing the change leaders needed to sustain America’s Quality of Life

The growing importance of:

Self-renewing models that align mission and purpose within ever-changing operating environments.
Capacity-building focused on mission readiness and public purpose fulfillment.
Change Leadership reflecting Purpose, Environment and Person (PEP).
Competency-focused workforce professional preparation, development and training.

America’s future quality of life will depend in large part on the ability of its more than one million charitable-philanthropic-nonprofit organizations to collectively provide a myriad of human services ranging from arts and education, to health, advocacy and social services.

Sustaining our national quality of life in the face of expanding needs and dwindling resources will require significant improvements by our voluntary organizations in mission fulfillment, performance, productivity, and human services delivery. These voluntary organizations must deliver a vast range of human services in the face of ever-changing operating environments, compounded by growing demands for the social services needed to sustain our nation’s overall quality of life, and further complicated by growing calls for improved Effectiveness, Efficiency, Transparency and Accountability.

Achieving improvements in overall effectiveness and efficiency resulting in substantially improved performance, results and outcomes will be among the most pressing challenges facing C-P/NP’s as transformational organizations.  America’s voluntary sector faces numerous challenges, but when considering the future, they can be seen broadly as including:

New self-renewing models and methods.
Embracing change that aligns them with their operating environments and fulfills their expanding public service missions – is a key to achieving and sustaining Effectiveness, Efficiency and Transformed Organizations.

Capacity-building resulting mission readiness and public purpose fulfillment.
Linking capacity-building to improved mission and public purpose fulfillment.

Change Leadership with PEP.
Broadening the change leadership construct and model from its current focus on the Person, to include consideration of Purpose and Environment (PEP). Change leadership should be based on a variable mix of actions and traits needed by successful leaders such as Personal attributes and behaviors, but also on two other major factors, including: the nature of the Change (dimensions and complexities needed to advance the organization toward mission fulfillment), and the Environment/Situation (the organizational setting, environment and circumstances).

Workforce Professional Preparation, Development and Training.
Greatly expanded management education and training opportunities are needed for the voluntary sector workforce. Moreover, these opportunities should be framed and focused on professional education, training and development that helps practitioners acquire those competencies identified as most useful and contributory to achieving – and sustaining – results and performance improvements reflecting gains in Effectiveness, Efficiency and Transformation – all of which will be required in ever greater measure to meet emerging national Quality of Life needs.

Mission & Vision

The Self-Renewing Management Model identifies the three management domains that determine – and reflect – an organization’s ability to achieve its mission and to sustain its ability to do so in the face of ever-evolving operating environments.

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Staying “new” can be understood in terms of condition and surroundings or ambient: In Accord With Mission and Context). For example, an organization’s status or “condition” can be seen as its readiness to fulfill the mission(s) for which it exists. If an organization lacks purpose, or is not meeting its public purpose, it is tottering on the lowest state of mission-readiness. However, an organization that is customer focused and driven, and is meeting its public purposes, is fulfilling its Mission.

Mission

The term “mission” refers to the overall function of an organization. The mission answers the question, “What is this organization attempting to accomplish?” The mission might define customers or markets served, distinctive or core competencies, or technologies used. ” “Mission creep”—the random accumulation of new goals and tasks as the organization follows funding (rather than its mission)—or to “mission shear”—direct and consistent pressure that pushes the organization systematically away from its mission and toward other interests.

Vision

The term “vision” refers to the desired future state of your organization. The vision describes where the organization is headed, what it intends to be, or how it wishes to be perceived in the future.

Suggested citation:

Connors, T. D. (2015, July 31). Mission & vision: Organizational purpose and future state. In Effective organizations: purposeful and results focused: NPO crossroads. Retrieved from BelleAire Press, LLC: http://www.npocrossroads.com/category/effectiveness/mission-and-vision/

© Copyright 2015 BelleAire Press, LLC