Author Archive

Who cares if Central Texas has too many nonprofits?

By on April 10, 2013 under Change Management, Collaboration, Strategy & Planning

Back in 2009, when Greenlights released the “Does Central Texas Have Too Many Nonprofits?” report, many were surprised to learn that we counted 6,000+ nonprofits in our MSA, or more organizations per capita than any other city in the Southwest. Even before that report was produced, we at Greenlights had been talking about the pros and cons of having so many nonprofits in our community. Our board, leadership, and team often discuss whether it makes sense not only to ask nonprofits to consider alliances or mergers with others, but to actively encourage them to do so.

Four years later, much has changed in our nonprofit landscape, but much has stayed the same. Since 2009, we’ve all weathered an economic recession, seen cuts in government funding, watched social media become an essential part of communications, seen clear trends emerge in the nonprofit workforce, and witnessed several examples of nonprofit collaborations and even a few mergers. After all that, we want to know if the number of Central Texas nonprofits has changed since the 2009 report. So, we’re updating the data and releasing new numbers at our upcoming town hall event. (continue reading…)

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What really works in “leadership development”?

By on February 13, 2013 under Change Management, Leadership

I recently learned about the 70/20/10 approach to developing a person’s skills in a great Blue Avocado interview with Kirk Kramer of the Bridgespan Group. According to Kramer, research indicates that a person’s job development comes 70% from their job assignments, 20% through mentoring, and 10% through some kind of training or study.

As someone that has frequently advanced in her career as a result of simply offering to do new and different things at work, the 70/20/10 rule rings very true for me. Of course we all learn best by doing, and second best by getting our lessons from a trusted person that has been there before. Training and formal study are the least effective because they most often entail applying lessons learned apart from the time at which we are learning them. (continue reading…)

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#1 Tip for Nonprofit Leaders: Know Your Mission!

By on December 07, 2012 under Board Development, Leadership, Strategy & Planning

In our relatively experienced and savvy Austin nonprofit sector, we talk a lot about measuring impact, innovative fund development strategies, strategic alliances, and other exciting and important aspects of “advanced” nonprofit management. But none of these discussions will really make a difference if an organization’s mission statement isn’t known and clearly understood by everyone from staff and board members to volunteers and donors.

For many nonprofit managers and board members we meet who are eager to lead, but find themselves confused as to where to head next, it is often because they have differing or unclear views about the organization’s mission and what it means to fulfill it. (continue reading…)

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Three Simple Ways to Evaluate Board Effectiveness

By on July 10, 2012 under Board Development, Evaluation & Measurement, Leadership

One of the most striking, but rarely discussed, findings of Greenlights’ Central Texas Board Report is that only 24% of our local boards evaluate their own performance. In chairing a board myself, I know that even suggesting to fellow board members that the group engage in an annual self-evaluation can feel daunting. Many boards and EDs regularly communicate with each other and generally think they have a clear sense of what is working and what’s not. Many more are simply too busy getting through more pressing matters and stopping to put together a plan for evaluation is just not on the priority list.

Yet, our nonprofit leaders rarely report enjoying the benefits of a high functioning and highly effective board. Most think that they need new or different board members in order to become high functioning, instead of working to strengthen the team they’ve already got. Moreover, most board members report wanting to know how they can be more effective. They are eager to serve their organizations well, they just lack the feedback they need to know just how to do it!

To help your organization start evaluating, and then improving upon, your board’s performance, here are three simple ideas: (continue reading…)

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Board Strengthening Lessons from the Happily Married

By on May 22, 2012 under Board Development, Leadership

We often describe the process of bringing new people onto a board like dating and getting married. Beginning with finding someone that shares your interests and values, we encourage nonprofits leaders to be sure new board candidates are a good match for them before they “propose” and ask for a long term commitment to their organization.

The Starr Family, circa 1977 (that’s me on the right…don’t you love my bow?)

As in marriage (and other endeavors that require a high level of human interaction), being successful on a board requires a great deal of trust, excellent communications skills, and the ability to share leadership. And just like in marriage, maintaining a happy, healthy and strong nonprofit board is easier said than done!

Unless you’re my folks, that is.

Today – May 22 – my parents are celebrating their 47th wedding anniversary! In the same spirit that Matt Kouri presented his blog on Nonprofit Impact Lessons from Parenting, I proudly present a few keys to strengthening your board from the best example I know of the happily married: (continue reading…)

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