Helping people. This is what working in a nonprofit organization is all about. In this column, I will share things I’ve learned that can help you in your role including best practices, industry news, resources to look at and even some fun tips and tricks.
July 8, 2020
As leaders, we are life-long learners whether we want to be or not. Some lessons are positive and expected, other lessons knock us on our … and are not so pleasant. We learn (hopefully) something from all of them.
July 5, 2020
I have always done my best to live by these words. As I watched my friends, neighbors, communities and fellow Americans in torment over the last few weeks, my belief was confirmed that as leaders we each need to stand up and lead the conversation on how we can do better. Then we need to lead the actions that make us better. Let's start.
June 26, 2020
All great dogs understand that one of the best ways to satisfy an itch is to roll around, and oh how much better that works when the roll is in the mud! Every day we’re dealing with workplace itches — questions, disputes, maybe even opportunities — that require scratching. We might have to do a little research, we might have to learn a little something new, but 9 times out of 10 we probably have to roll up our sleeves and just get into the mud!
May 20, 2020
For the last couple of months we have been treated to the advice: "Get ready for the New Normal". I can share that I'm not quite ready yet. I'm working on it, but just not there. At the same time, the days that we are currently living in no longer feel to me like a "New Normal." In fact, they feel just plain old normal. Here's what may happen in one of my days: Wake up, have breakfast, go to work, meet with people, discuss ideas and actions, think, eat some more, pick up some groceries or items from a store, work in my yard, go for a walk or bike ride, talk with family and friends, watch some TV, read a little, etc… Of course I don't do that all in one day but it's all there as I work through my week. If I think about it, it's all pretty much the same as what I did pre-COVID.
May 19, 2020
This is quite the operating environment for grant-funded organizations, with many looking back trying to determine how they made it to this moment.
May 18, 2020
For the past several weeks, we have been moving at a fast and furious pace to wrap our arms around COVID-19. Everyone was scrambling to understand the new legislative alphabet soup and its impact (e.g., FFCRA, CARES, SBA, PPP, PPE, PUC), to pivot to a predominantly remote workforces, to execute pandemic plans, to modify physical work environments of essential businesses and to manage the many and varied concerns of employees.
May 17, 2020
Remember to get more guest bathroom towels.
Remember to send the client the presentation they requested.
Remember to answer my team’s question about ….
May 12, 2020
Have you ever played the game telephone? One person tells another person a story until we get to laugh at what concocted story the last person in the chain puts together to tell the group. Besides being funny, there is a good life lesson in this game – everyone hears and then translates words differently.
May 6, 2020
Have you ever had a conversation and someone says, “I am a blue” or “I am a type A” or “I am a….”? You get the drift.
May 5, 2020
I am dusting off an old blog “You Are the Best Kept Secret – Now Stop It!” and giving it a new opportunity to shine!
May 4, 2020
How will this crisis we are all facing impact the culture of my organization? This is a question that leaders everywhere are asking themselves.
Culture can be a vital ingredient to the ultimate success, viability and sustainability of any nonprofit organization, particularly if it is constructive in nature.
May 4, 2020
Why do I feel like I have seen this movie (or should I say horror film) before? As an experienced human resources professional, I have come to expect that anytime there is a disruption in the economy (and the layoff of millions of people is a cataclysmic disruption), significant change will follow.
April 30, 2020
By Jeff Olejnik
We understand there is a lot going on right now. Adjusting to working from home, adapting schedules, sharing your new “office space” with your spouse and children and using new methods of communication is a challenge.
April 30, 2020
It's happening. I can feel it. Can you? My leadership spidey sense feels like it's kicking in to overdrive. It's time to make sure we are ready to reopen.
April 29, 2020
By Kate Atkins
Won’t it be great to have our next in-person, one-on-one meeting with a donor? Usually one of the hardest tasks for most folks is something we look forward to now. Real connection. In-person connection.
April 24, 2020
Do we continue the strategies that we have built, or do we throw them out the window? In the current environment, both seem like reasonable options. And in fact, both should be considered. Times of crisis often bring a plethora of uncertainty, and nothing could be truer in the current circumstance.
April 23, 2020
Yes, I am smack in the middle of the Baby Boom generation (1946 to 1964) having been born in 1954. At age 66 and having spanned a work history that started when I was 16, I’ve been in the world of work for 50 years. Talk about “been there done that” – “earned the t-shirt”! Each generation has social and political events that impacts its generational personality. Baby Boomers have witnessed and lived through a lot of change in the business world, as well as events on a world scale.
April 15, 2020
I can only suspect how you're feeling but for me, I'm starting to feel like day 10,000 of this crisis. Everyone I talk to is tired and ready for what's next. At the same time, I continue to be incredibly energized and proud of the flexibility and results coming from the organizations we serve and from my associates servicing them. What a time…
April 15, 2020
I know, I know – really positives? Right now can’t we just all be miserable as we ride this out?!?!
Please hear me out. I was in a pretty nasty motorcycle accident and hospitalized for five days, then I had to re-learn to walk. It was hard. Not just physically, but mentally too. It was hard not to feel sorry for myself – which I am convinced would have slowed down my healing process. So, on one of my particularly horrible days, I MADE myself find 10 things about the accident that were positive. And you know what – I was able to do it. And it helped.
April 10, 2020
Millennials have long been labeled as self-centered and accused of ruining some big traditions: Marriage, brick and mortar stores, face-to-face interaction (seems a bit ironic now), and the list goes on.
April 9, 2020
It is amazing to see how many trusted resources are stepping up and sharing good information during a not so good time.
April 8, 2020
We have never seen such a sudden shift in our work and in our world, and our most vulnerable populations often suffer most — which is why the work you’re doing is more important than ever. You have always prided yourself on your knowledge and connection with the individuals, children and families in your community.
April 2, 2020
When I first began working on this blog, we weren’t all immersed in learning a new language: coronavirus, social distancing, sheltering in place and all the other new words and phrases we are learning and interpreting hour by hour and day by day as it is all moving and changing so quickly. None of this was on my radar, and today it reflects what is top of mind for me and what our clients are sharing.
The employee experience is probably more important today than it was yesterday, and it will be more important tomorrow than it is today. The employee experience today demonstrates our values, our culture, our ability to come together as an organization and as communities to overcome and to carry on — both today when we are in the thick of it and in the near future when we consider what awaits us on the backside.
April 2, 2020
Saying thank you, especially when the emotions and stakes are high, is important. Thank you to suppliers, vendors, volunteers, leadership teams and especially staff — all of them deserve a thank you.
As leaders, you absorb a lot of information (or noise), emotions (personal and professional) and responsibility (the good and the bad).
March 31, 2020
Leadership in a crisis is really, really hard. Like all of you, I am working from home. My days are spent on the phone checking in on family, friends, coworkers and clients. When I’m not on the phone, I spend time thinking and planning for the way forward. And of course, I’ve found some time to stream a few shows and movies. These are busy days.
March 24, 2020
This week, Steve's blog is via video. Watch the video below.
March 19, 2020
When a challenge (or even a crisis) arrives our first human instinct may be to panic. Our reptilian brain kicks in and it is fight, flight
, or freeze. As a leader, it’s critical that we do not give into that instinct for several reasons:
February 28, 2020
There is a rumor that the “next generation” will only stay in their jobs for a year or so and then leave. And that the generation before them will stay for only three years, and the one before that five years, etc.
But you can change that trend and keep great talent for decades if you have an open mind and an open process.
February 21, 2020
If you have been in the working world long enough, you have had a colleague leave. Since I have left and come back to the same company, I have been on all sides of this adventure.
February 10, 2020
New decade, new tech. The 20s are when nonprofits as a whole are going to use technology in unique and interesting ways. Many have already started to, which means there’s a lot trending this year.
Let’s dive into 2020’s five biggest tech trends for nonprofits.
January 15, 2020
"Change is hard at first, messy in the middle and so gorgeous at the end.”
- Robin Sharma, Canadian writer
If you’ve ever gone through some big organizational change, you can probably relate. At every stage in the project, you need people to roll up their sleeves and do the hard work. Whether you’re envisioning a new future, mapping out timetables or shifting behaviors, change takes effort from everyone in the organization.
December 18, 2019
My mom used to have a great saying about time: Careful, don’t wish it away. That advice was given to me when I was turning 16 and wanted to be an adult overnight. I took it to heart. Now as a decade ends and another one begins, that quote has been rolling around in my mind.
December 5, 2019
New board members need training and guidance to provide meaningful support. Running a meeting and reading financial reports, for example, are learned skills. And knowing how to offer suggestions, without micromanaging, is also an area where many board professionals could grow.
November 12, 2019
Nonprofits, how efficient is your intake process? Do clients who call in have to give the same information to multiple people? Are they referred to all the programs applicable to their situation? Is the process consistent from person to person and program to program?
November 4, 2019
As a leader, you’re constantly juggling competing demands for your dollars. Where should you invest to keep your organization efficient and on track for growth? Spend on talent or programming? Advertising or web development? Facilities or software?
October 28, 2019
Have you ever noticed how much time we spend on emails?
I decided to do the math one day. If on average you get 80 emails a day and you spend three minutes reading and responding (which we know is low), that’s 240 minutes. That’s four hours. That’s half a workday.
That is a lot of time spent reacting to someone else’s prompt. As leaders, how are you addressing this in your teams?
October 7, 2019
I figure there is no better time to write a blog than while under the influence of cold medicine. I also know that as soon as I finish, I get to take a nap. (Sometimes it's good to give yourself a reward.)
September 30, 2019
“Busy” seems to be the standard answer these days to the question, “How are you?”
Busy is defined online as “having a great deal to do — or keep occupied.”
August 13, 2019
We get requests to offer training and consulting on multiple generations working together in the workplace. Those requests cover the gamut from high-level communication to one-on-one consulting on helping a manager be a better coach. It seems to be increasing, and my guess is that with the transition of baby boomers retiring (or reducing hours) and Generation Z (now about 20 years old) entering the workplace, this trend will continue.
August 6, 2019
Ever work with a hero? You know who I’m talking about. This person works harder than anyone else, produces more than anyone else, creates better outcomes than anyone else and talks about how they do this more than anyone else. They’ll tell anyone who will listen. They always say they need help. However, the help accepted is really on their terms and good as long as they remain in control (the hero).
August 1, 2019
We have all been there: You’re at a conference with a similar group of professionals and you see people juggling work on phones or computers instead of listening to the presenter.
June 18, 2019
I was chatting with one of my co-workers the other day. We were going through the usual discussion topics — what's new and exciting, catching up on the weekend, etc. You know, the typical conversation.
June 12, 2019
Every year, Sage Intacct’s leaders hit the road, traveling across the country meeting with current & potential customers to discuss the latest features, provide insight on what’s upcoming, and most importantly, share some best practices on how to make the most of Sage Intacct.
May 22, 2019
Nonprofit organizations are under increasing pressure, pushed to meet the demands of those in need as well as those of their donors. They must ensure dollars are spent according to funder stipulations, and in order to do that, they need responsive, modern financial systems.
May 19, 2019
A confession: I’m in the last year of my 50s. Next year is the big 6-0. Sigh — it even writes old! Okay, not old, but it’s certainly one of those signals that it’s time again to assess and plan. I strongly believe that every leader needs to take their time at certain mileposts to see where they are and get ready for what’s next. Those mileposts can be the completion of a big effort, the achievement of a role, a mistake or, in this case, a milestone.
May 16, 2019
Leaders, it’s time to stop all the problem-solving and sit back and watch what happens.
Who just had full-blown heart palpitations while reading that sentence? It’s time to look in the mirror and decide whether we are helping or hindering with our leadership style.
April 25, 2019
When it comes to making investments in technology, nonprofits have a lot to lose if the implementation fails. You’re working with limited resources to make an enterprise-level change, while worrying about other issues such as the succession of key leaders, hiring talent and whether you should move toward shared services and resources. But you know that you need the latest technology in order to better serve your mission. Attracting and keeping donors, expanding and increasing the efficiency of your programs and improving the productivity of your employees — it all takes the right technology.
April 24, 2019
It's time I shared this problem. Many of you know that I am passionate about my photography hobby. I love creating photographs. However, as part of this hobby, I've acquired GAS. Okay, not the GAS. you might be thinking of. This GAS is Gear Acquisition Syndrome. Let me be honest, I'm bloated with gear.
April 23, 2019
Who was/is the mentor who made the most impact on your career? There was probably more than one. And as a side thought, have you ever thanked this person for it? (And yes, this includes those who taught you what not to do!)
March 27, 2019
Nonprofit finance professionals face an ongoing barrage of challenges. Small budgets meet high expectations and even higher regulatory scrutiny. Added to this the ongoing competition that exists for donors and grants, achieving your mission is often harder than you would expect. Your days are often long and your technology is likely outdated, but the work is rewarding.
March 21, 2019
There we were, 9,000 feet up on Haleakala (Maui), waiting for the sunset, when the most amazing thing jumped through the clouds! Wow! You can see how amazed we are in the picture. I posted this on Facebook, thinking I'd get some good chuckles, and I did. But I also got some "that's amazing!" comments. I have to admit, I didn't know what to do with the "amazing" comments. After all, I believe it's highly unlikely for a whale to leap 9,000 feet out of the water through the clouds. Yet I said it did.
March 10, 2019
By Ryan Peasley
While donations and grants, outcomes and missions are the name of the game for many nonprofits, the challenges often span far beyond that. Limited by tight budgets and small teams, nonprofits often struggle to find the right technology or even find the right support they need when working towards their mission.
March 5, 2019
Greetings! It’s been awhile. I took a blogging break (a creative respite?), and now I am ready to go again. As a leader, sometimes it’s important to rework priorities and step away to focus on some other things. The beauty is, you get to come back to what you love with a little more love and some fresh ideas. Are you ready to step into it?
February 21, 2019
By Brent Neitz
The role of the business manager at an independent school is often one that presents a wide range of challenges. Parents and donors have high expectations for how your school spends funds and payments, handles student records and tracks programs — and you have to manage all of this in order to deliver the high-quality education promised.
February 20, 2019
We often hear, see and react to the bad news. How about we share the good news? Not just react to negative things with a positive attitude, but actually share good news! Did you:
- Receive a new grant, with administration dollars?
- Hire a great new team member who has the passion for taking the agency into the future?
- Decide what legacy you plan to leave as you give notice about your retirement date?
- Help a family meet an outcome that puts them on the path to stability?
- Check one thing off your to-do list?
February 11, 2019
From cryptocurrency to stock transaction settlements, you’ve heard how blockchain is being invested in and used by the financial institutions industry. But when you consider how the average person’s day-to-day life will change because of blockchain, the role of blockchain in tracking and measuring the social impact of nonprofits and governments, could be even bigger than its business applications.
February 7, 2019
By Kate Atkins
Thanking donors is one of the most important parts of our job as nonprofit professionals. But what makes a great thank-you letter? It’s all about your JOY! What about a simple yet very important note of thanks? “I was finishing up my lunch when I saw that you sent us a new donation. My heart jumped — you made my day!"
February 6, 2019
What a great question to ask during the week of Valentine’s Day, right? In this instance, I am talking about empathy:
- Would you notice if an employee were disengaged? Or were disengaging to others? H
- Have you been caught by surprise that an employee was “suddenly” leaving? What signs did you miss?
- Would you inquire whether there seems to be something “off” with an employee or just let it go?
January 22, 2019
Challenges come from all sides at nonprofit organizations. From regulatory compliance to recruitment and retention to revenue growth, leaders at nonprofit organizations face a high-stress environment. However, you got into this field because you care about the mission — it’s the reason your nonprofit exists, and it’s among the reasons you stick around.
January 2, 2019
Yep, that’s correct, I am suggesting that you say no to New Year’s resolutions. Instead, say yes to being resolved to impact the new year.
December 12, 2018
Growing your nonprofit, meeting the expectations of donors and grantors and giving back to the community are all atop your list of goals in 2019, but with growth comes a common challenge: managing your people. Too many organizations face the growing pains of trying to lead a change without increasing budgets for back-office tasks and relying on unfocused or entry-level accounting software to manage the complexities and pitfalls of a growing nonprofit.
December 4, 2018
Have you heard of the acronym SALY? It stands for Same As Last Year. It’s often referred to in auditing terms as a joke. But as leaders, we can’t afford to be SALY.
November 8, 2018
If you run a Head Start (HS), Early Head Start (EHS) or EHS-Child Care Partnership (CCP), you know that parent involvement is at the foundation of what makes the program successful. After all, those who care for the children you serve are their first teachers, their mentors, their life.
October 29, 2018
I schedule time to show appreciation. I know, I know — that could come across as totally not genuine, but let me explain. My brain “squirrels” so many times throughout my day. In the past, I would have great intentions of calling someone or sending a note of thanks — but alas, weeks later nothing had happened.
October 15, 2018
There are time management books, videos, seminars, trainings — you get the picture. Some of them are great and have super-helpful suggestions. Some of them are “meh” and not too helpful. There really isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach because everyone is different.
October 2, 2018
Once every year or so, my team members are asked to share how they want to receive appreciation — specifically non-compensation. They often have varied answers. And over the years it’s been great information to share with other team members and other leaders to really personalize the “thank you” for them.
September 24, 2018
If you run a Head Start, Early Head Start (EHS) or EHS-Child Care Partnership (CCP), you have heard of in-kind. It’s the community’s share of the program. Whether it is through donated space, supplies or time, it is about having the community involved to help make the program as impactful as possible.
September 5, 2018
Leaders get tired. Leaders have long to-do lists. Leaders put out “fires.” Side note: My husband is a fire fighter, an advanced emergency medical technician and a police officer, and he often reminds me that what I call an emergency in the office may not be a true emergency.
July 24, 2018
How do you handle it when someone asks to learn how to do your job? Or when someone tells you that you need to teach others to do your job? This is what leadership means — leveraging the talent of others to do what you do now to allow you time to lead in the future. But it can be hard to let go. After all, you have done your job so well. You have been rewarded for it in raises and promotions. It’s comfortable. It’s a part of you.
July 16, 2018
I recently presented a full-day in-kind planning session at the Region IV Head Start Conference in Atlanta, Georgia. The session focused on ways for the audience to break down in-kind into actionable items when they got back home.
February 27, 2018
A group of up-and-coming leaders asked if someone can really love their job.
I asked them a question back: Do you always love your family, friends, significant other…even your dog (think about a middle-of-the-night trip to the bathroom only to step in something squishy)?
January 29, 2018
I am not into new year’s resolutions, unless it is to continue to eat cupcakes—because I can make that one happen!
What I like about a new year is that you can take the time to regroup. You can look at your written goals (see that subliminal suggestion there—“written”) and decide how you are doing on them by asking yourself some questions.
December 13, 2017
I often offer preconference presentations, as well as breakout sessions, through the National Head Start Association’s annual conferences. This past week I presented at the parent conference. Because the Policy Council and parent involvement have been an important part of the program since the 1970s, this conference focuses on helping parents and community members learn the rules, regulations, and requirements of the Head Start/Early Head Start program—and there are A LOT!
November 8, 2017
I have a rant. A soap box. A super-sized concern. And I need your help. I often travel to clients to offer internal training or consulting, and I have seen a trend that needs attention. I will go into a gas station, store, or restaurant and mention that I am working with the local Head Star/Early Head Start and…wait for it…wait for it…they have no idea what I am talking about.
October 26, 2017
What do you mean I have to coach all the time?!?!
I am a leader. And for me leadership means so much. I lead as a
new partner in a CPA and consulting firm. I lead people, projects, and lasting impacts for the legacy of the firm. I lead me. I lead those who are more tenured than I am as they transition into retirement. And I lead the next generation of leaders, who will not lead the same way the generations before them have led. That’s a lot of leading—right?!?!
October 24, 2017
I just finished a client engagement on which we (their leadership team, my colleagues, and I) spent three days digging into the Head Start Program Performance Standards. We went through the regulations, then they discussed their current monitoring approaches, with the goal of meeting the new Monitoring Protocol standards of less “check it off the list” type of monitoring.
October 23, 2017
I did it. I took a vacation and mostly disconnected. I handled two ASAP requests. I kept my email under 100 by checking/responding/cleaning it out every few days. But mostly I ate, slept, read, indulged in an adult beverage (or a few), and had a great vacation in the sun for my annual girls’ trip.
August 24, 2017
I had the opportunity to work in a Head Start program back in the early 1990s. At the time, the hot (and by hot, I mean what the monitors were focusing on) topic was in-kind. And decades later, it’s still the hot topic! We are asked all the time, “What is allowable in-kind?”
August 21, 2017
When should a leader be intolerant? Let's talk…
A few years ago I had the opportunity to spend a few days in Munich. I struggled with going and could hear my parents’ voices stating how they could never set foot in that land (although my father was there as an American soldier in World War II). As I walked the streets feeling incredibly secure and welcomed, my mind often wandered back to what this would've been like 70 years prior. I would have been wearing a yellow star, marking me as someone not to be tolerated. I would not have been welcomed in shops or in public. I could have been beaten or arrested only for the reason of me being who I am. And worse, the people who warmly greeted me during my trip were most likely raised by people who were part of the intolerant folks of 70 years prior.
May 1, 2017
Things change. People agree and disagree. Ideas happen and fail. And we have a choice. We can hang on to our successes and our failures, continuing to relive them (becoming a prisoner of our past behaviors like those who were in Alcatraz). Or we can let go.
October 6, 2016
…it's just different! I had this nugget of knowledge shared with me the other day. Actually, it's brilliant. What would happen if we all just looked at change from this perspective?
June 22, 2016
Today is a big word day, and today's big word is prognostication. Webster's says that prognostication is "a statement about what is going to happen in the future." Leaders are prognosticators! So I dare you to start your next discussion with this statement: "Have I got a prognostication for you!" Then, of course, you need to accurately predict the future.
May 10, 2016
I spend a lot of time reading leadership books and articles. Every author has a great idea on how leadership style affects leadership effectiveness. For me, the bottom line always comes down to one thing: My behavior as a leader has consequences, both good and bad. And it's consequences I'm talking about, not results.
April 5, 2016
Last night was opening day for my beloved Chicago Cubs. They started the season on a winning note, defeating the Angels 9-0. But that's not what this blog is about. It's really about the culture around an organization and how that culture can drive your outcomes.
March 9, 2016
Today's topic is responsibility. Yes, the “R” word. You know it. You may have even felt it. So here's my question: Do you live it?
January 28, 2016
If you saw the movie “Bridge of Spies,” you probably heard this dialogue repeated several times by two of the main characters:
James Donovan: “Aren't you worried?”
Rudolf Abel: “Would it help?”
January 5, 2016
In my last blog, I wrote about the need to think. This generated some interesting discussion on the differences between thinking and reflecting. I hadn't really thought about this, and I want to thank those (especially Denny) who prodded me to think about the differences.