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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.

Nonprofit Management Career Field

Since the Filer Commission

In 1983, Independent Sector sponsored “Since the Filer Commission,” a research forum conducted in New York, ten years after the Commission on Private Philanthropy and Public Needs had concluded its two-year study into private philanthropic initiatives.  The Filer Commission had published its report, Giving in America: Toward a Stronger Voluntary Sector, in 1975.

Connors_IS_1983_Since the Filer Commission Cover_Page_01Sector leaders (including Kathleen D. McCarthy, Pablo Eisenberg, Russy Sumariwalla, Elizabeth T. Boris, Lester Salamon, Jon Van Til, Landrum R. Bolling, and Tracy D. Connors) were asked their opinions regarding: the accuracy of the original commission’s report: about research that had been expanded or continued since the commission had reported 10 years earlier: identification of new issues, new research, or lingering questions still unanswered; and, where did the sector go from that point.

Connors had published the first Nonprofit Organization Handbook in 1980.  The Nonprofit Organization Handbook established for the first time that regardless of the specific public service provided, not-for-profit organizations shared seven areas of management—from fund raising to volunteer administration.

The first and second editions of the Nonprofit Management Handbook compiled the fundamental management information needed by NPO leaders in one volume for the first time.

Nonprofit Organization Handbook, 1980
Nonprofit Organization Handbook, 1980

The NPOH pointed out for the first time that while not-for-profit organizations may differ greatly in the type and variety of the public services they provide—e.g. culture versus social services—nevertheless, they generally share seven important areas of management and operations.

As Connors pointed out in his IS presentation and published perspectives, nonprofit organizations, regardless of the type of public service they provide, shared basic management commonalities, e.g., leadership, management and control; human resources management; revenue and support generation; financial management; public relations, marketing and communication; organizational and corporate principles; and, legal and regulatory impacts.  While nonprofits exhibit major differences in terms of their public services, in management areas they share much more than they differ.

What was emerging he termed a “horizontal view” of management and the nonprofit sector based on a concurrence that nonprofits share at least these seven areas of management and that “mastery of at least these areas is critical for the success of both the professional and NPO manager, and the organization which he or she leads.”

The Nonprofit Manager

A new category of management professional had emerged, he pointed out – the “nonprofit manager” – a professional, paid or volunteer, who has mastered the management basics of voluntary action organizations. At long last the nonprofit sector had the ability “to generate a curriculum designed to train the nonprofit executive – undergraduate and graduate … Enabling us to provide specific professional training in NPO management so badly needed by our career managers.”

At long last the nonprofit sector had the ability “to generate a curriculum designed to train the nonprofit executive – undergraduate and graduate … Enabling us to provide specific professional training in NPO management so badly needed by our career managers.”

The early 1980’s introduced the first comprehensive handbooks for charitable-philanthropic organization management, and established the basic horizontal management model which exists to this day around which management education in this field is organized.  A new management professional had evolved to lead C-POs regardless of their public service: the nonprofit executive.

 

 

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

Transformational Organizations: Adaptable, Transitioning and Evolving

Transformational organizations, Effectiveness and Efficiency represent the three overarching management domains of the Self-Renewing Management Model.

Charitable-philanthropic organizations seeking to achieve sustainable mission fulfillment and operations need a structure, culture and internal operating environment with the ability to adapt to changing environmental conditions, to transition to new states – to evolve.

Achieving and sustaining a highly Effective charitable or philanthropic organization, one that is also Efficient in its use of available resources, requires the organization to have the ability to evolve and adapt to ever-changing external environmental conditions, even as it encourages all its members to achieve their full potentials. Change is often disruptive – and can be threatening to those involved. Therefore, the internal environment needed to cope with a constantly changing external environment is one that offers self-fulfillment options and a workplace where it is safe to change (transformational). Self-renewing organizations establish and maintain a transformational organizational environment within and through leadership and human resource development and management (Connors, 1997, 2001). Transformational organizations adapt themselves to changing environmental conditions, constantly transitioning to new states, turning as necessary, in new directions. In short, transformational organizations manage change effectively by reinventing themselves – they stay New.

Profile of a Transformational Organization

A charitable-philanthropic organization that has achieved a transformational internal operating environment, is one in which its senior leaders:

• are focused on improved organizational effectiveness,
• serve as role models for values, initiative, and commitment; and,
• are involved in organizational performance improvement initiatives.

Further, its leaders have put into place systems that foster performance, individual development, and organizational learning, including the identification of stakeholders who serve as a major focus for vision and mission fulfillment.

A transformational organization is one in which education and training are emphasized as a means to improve workforce capabilities and performance, even as the human resource focus supports and encourages staff and volunteers to achieve their full potentials.

Transformational organizations emphasize the importance of staff and volunteers realizing their full potential. They have put into place work and services delivery processes that support client/customer and performance objectives. Organizational and work unit performance is measured and evaluated, to improve efficiency and effectiveness, and as a basis to measure, evaluate and reward staff and volunteers.

Characteristics of a Transformational Organization

Transformational organizations are characterized by the following characteristics as ranked by senior NPO executives during a major research study (Connors, 2013):

• Leadership is focused on improved organizational effectiveness.
• Senior leaders serve as role models for values, initiative, and commitment.
• Senior leaders are involved in organizational performance improvement initiatives.
• Leadership system fosters performance, individual development, and organizational learning.
• Education and training are emphasized to improve workforce capabilities and performance.
• Human resource focus supports and encourages staff and volunteers toward their full potentials.
• Work processes support client/customer and performance objectives.
• Staff and volunteer performance is measured, evaluated, and rewarded.
• Stakeholders are identified and serve as focus for vision and mission fulfillment.
• Organizational and work unit performance is measured and evaluated.

Establishing and Sustaining a Transformative Organization

Philanthropic executives rank Leadership, focused on operationalizing the organization’s core values as effectively as possible, as among the strongest contributors to establishing and sustaining a transformational internal environment.

The Charitable-Philanthropic Organization Self-Renewing Management Model (C-POSRM) Study (Connors,2013) found that three essential elements were needed to achieve a transformational organization, including:

1. Leadership and governance volunteers who use organizational core values as the basis for their decisions which are focused on achieving and sustaining organizational effectiveness and efficiency.
2. Governance leaders establishing and maintaining an ethical internal environment – based on core values – in which all members of the workforce (staff, volunteers, and governance leaders) are meaningfully engaged in helping the organization to fulfill its societal responsibilities.
3. Leadership focused on effective volunteer resource management, including job design linked to strategic planning and mission fulfillment (purpose).

The list below includes the rankings of management actions/activities most contributory to creating and sustaining a transformational internal environment. The list and its rankings was created by the responses of over 350 senior executives of voluntary organizations, and were among the findings of the Charitable-Philanthropic Organization Self-Renewing Management Model (C-POSRM) Study (Connors, 2013). Leadership is the strongest characteristic of philanthropic organizations with what their executives characterize as optimal internal environments.

1. Leadership
2. Organizational Core Values
3. Senior Leadership Efficacy
4. Volunteer Resource Management
5. Societal responsibilities
6. Job design, including volunteer positions where applicable
7. Board Development
8. Governance
9. Workforce Engagement
10. Ethics and Ethical Behavior
11. Workforce Climate/Environment
12. Workforce Capability/Capacity/ Development
13. Workforce Focus
14. Member/Constituent Development
15. Committee Development
16. Workforce Recognition/Rewards
17. Risk Management
18. Human Resource Development
19. Human Resource Management
20. Diversity Awareness
21. Legal

Leadership in such organizations is focused on improving organizational effectiveness, and in improving the organization’s overall performance. Further, its senior leaders serve as role models for values, initiative, and commitment. Human resource development is highly valued as a means to improve professional skills, capabilities, and performance, even as it encourages all members of the organization to achieve their full potentials.

In descending, but closely ranked order, respondents strongly valued other management actions and activities, including: volunteer resource management; societal responsibilities; job design; board development and governance; and workforce engagement. Based on rankings of management actions and activities and their value in establishing a transformational internal environment, heavy focus and importance was given to those actions involving and affecting the organization’s workforce, including: engagement and ethical behavior, climate and environment, capability and capacity development, recognition and rewards, diversity awareness, and an overall priority for the workforce and its best interests.

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

 

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