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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.

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.

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