Tag Archives: nonprofit organizations

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

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

Transformational Leaders or Paragon Leaders?

Is the “paragon leader” construct what we will need in order to grow voluntary sector capacity and improved organizational performance to the levels it will take to sustain our nation’s quality of life as the future becomes the present?

Transformational leadership is a construct proposed nearly 40 years ago that identified characteristics associated with successful leaders. The transformational leader construct has remained a mainstream issue and a highly popular subject for nearly 4 decades. The original construct has evolved into at least eight major categories of leadership theories, with the “great man” theory being the most frequently used.

While most leadership theories focus on personal leadership dimensions and attributes, far fewer directly consider the organizational environment in which the change is expected to occur, and none currently address factors relating to the purpose of leadership – the change that drives the activity and the behavior. Some of the theories overlap or are parallel.

Leading involves changing, and that always has consequences, some or even many of which are not always positive unless the change process is prudently undertaken after due diligence.

In trying to find the most effective theory and model for change leadership adequate for demanding times, laudatory traits and characteristics have been steadily added. The idealized construct now represents a paragon of exemplary behavior based on fully develop sets of impeccable core values that represent the most humanistic principles ever gathered. As the list of “saintly” attributes that are supposedly required by “real leaders” has grown, it has become a more daunting for mere mortals to achieve and practice but now appear to be saintly qualities successful leaders are said to have or be needed for success.

But is this “paragon leader code of conduct” what we will need in order to grow the capacity and improve organizational performance to the levels it will take to sustain our nation’s quality of life as a future becomes the present?

Next: Transforming Leadership, Advancing to higher levels of motivation

Suggested citation:

Connors, T. D. (2015, July 31). Transformational leaders or paragon leaders? In Transformational organizations: NPO crossroads. Retrieved from BelleAire Press, LLC: http://www.npocrossroads.com/management/transformational-leaders-or-paragon-leaders/

© Copyright 2015 BelleAire Press, LLC

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.

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.

Efficient Voluntary Organizations

Efficient Voluntary Organizations: economical with reduced waste of time, energy, and materials

Overall, Efficient charitable organizations operate economically, with reduced waste of time, energy, and materials (at least in comparison with their competition). Increasingly, they use a variety of tools to improve business processes, including:

• Information and analysis techniques and systems analysis approaches to minimize waste, streamline their operations, and to make economical use of all resources (Connors, 1997, 2001).
• Processes, products, and services reassessment to optimize resource investments (money, time, and personnel) to achieve improved customer service and satisfaction levels.
• Economic performance and resource conservation emphasis by reducing wasted time, energy, and materials.
• Applicable process improvement and management information/data collection and analysis techniques to design and improve its customer/client services and service delivery systems; and,
• Process performance systems maintenance and operation to ensure they are performing according to their design.

Senior executives of charitable organizations understand and highly value the management benefits of using process improvement and management techniques to design and improve customer/client services and service delivery systems. They also value approaches that reduce wasted time, energy, and materials. Finally, C-P/NP executives strongly support and recommend maintaining process monitoring systems to ensure they are performing according to their design and the value of using information and analysis techniques and approaches to reduce waste (Connors, 2013).

Defining Efficient Voluntary Organizations

Charitable executives identified and ranked the following as characteristics they would include in any definition of organizational efficiency, including:
• Uses process improvement and management techniques to design and improve its customer/client services and service delivery systems.
• Emphasizes reducing wasted time, energy and materials.
• Maintains process performance systems to ensure they are performing according to their design.
• Uses information and analysis techniques and approaches to reduce waste.
• Emphasizes economic performance.

Next: Secrets to Achieving Voluntary Organization Efficiency

Suggested citation:

Connors, T. D. (2015, July 31). Efficient voluntary organizations: Economical with reduced waste of time, energy, and materials. In Efficient voluntary organizations: NPO crossroads. Retrieved from BelleAire Press, LLC: http://www.npocrossroads.com/category/efficiency/efficient-organizations/

 

© Copyright 2015 BelleAire Press, LLC

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.

SRVO_SR Org Characteristics_750pxs

 

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

 

Choosing how we E/EAT

Recent discussions in some national media 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 the headlines of our nation’s press. 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.

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.

© Copyright 2015 Tracy D. Connors