Author Archive

6 Elements of an Effective Nonprofit

By on July 14, 2015 under Board Development, Evaluation & Measurement, Strategy & Planning

credit: whitewall buick / photo from Flickr

credit: whitewall buick / photo from Flickr

Earlier this year, Greenlights published On the Verge, an assessment of the Central Texas nonprofit sector. We detailed the various staff and board sizes, budget ranges and mission areas of our region’s nonprofit organizations, along with some calls to action for individual organizations and the sector as a whole. As part of that research, we investigated nonprofit frameworks and built out a structure that organizations of any size or mission could use to understand its capacity and prioritize needs to become more effective in its work.

We recognize that every nonprofit is (and should be) different from its peers in a host of ways. Yet, in the same way that all houses begin with the basic elements: a strong foundation, thoughtful framing, a blueprint for the layout of rooms and wiring, and the goal of housing a family, an effective nonprofit also needs a basic framework around which to live out its mission.

Thus, we have developed an effectiveness framework to call out the specific structural elements that all nonprofits need to have in place, regardless of mission or scope: (continue reading…)

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Football, Second Acts, and Interim Executive Directors

By on June 12, 2014 under Miscellaneous

Two unconnected stories hit my newsfeed on Monday:

1) A story about the ripple effect of Mack Brown’s resignation on college and professional athletics’ positions on ESPN’s website.

2) A story about an uptick in nonprofit CEO departures nationally and the readiness of retired leaders to fill the gaps in the NonProfit Times.

Though they are unconnected, they are certainly not unrelated.

The Mack Brown Ripple Effect (from

The Mack Brown Ripple Effect (from

These articles are part of the continuing story of executive leadership and succession that I geek out about. As we noted in Greenlights’ report on the New Nonprofit Workforce last year on Central Texas career trends:

Succession planning is the process of identifying and developing internal staff with the potential to fill key leadership positions in the organization. According to our survey, 52% of nonprofit employees do not have or do not know if they have a succession plan for their executive directors, while 47% of executives know they do not have one. These are especially worrisome numbers given the fact that over half of executive directors plan to leave their jobs in the next four years.

(continue reading…)

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Tips from Fezzik on Running a Good Meeting

By on May 08, 2014 under Culture

RugenWhen I read “The Chokehold of Calendars” the other day, its opening parry that “All calendars suck” made me laugh and wince simultaneously. On one hand, I love scheduling and planning to ensure I manage my time the way I need to and to get work done well. Then again, they also are a record of how little time I have to get things done. Meetings are a way of nonprofit life, but are we doing it right?

The author describes others scheduling meetings on your calendar as “violent” and “invasive.” You might think that sounds dramatic, but he makes a fair point: you have a certain amount of time allocated to get your work done, and suddenly someone is taking a portion of it. Your work load doesn’t change, but your time available to accomplish it does. When the author observes, “’I’m adding a meeting’ should really be ‘I’m subtracting an hour from your life,’” I suddenly heard Count Rugen in The Princess Bride saying, “I just sucked one day of your life away. So, tell me how you feel?” (continue reading…)

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Turning lemons into lemon sorbet with interim leadership

By on April 02, 2014 under Leadership


Image from

I sat in the office of a board chair this week discussing her parting Executive Director, she shared her frustration that the already-identified successor couldn’t start for another 6 months. In our conversation, I shared my perspective that this was actually a great opportunity for the organization to make ultimate use of an Interim Executive Director.

At Greenlights, we embrace the Prepare-Pivot-Thrive framework for executive transitions. This guides an organization in clarifying its trajectory before bringing a new leader on board and highlights the importance of change management between the outgoing and incoming executive as a time for the organization to both “detox” from the prior leader and set the new leader up for success. (continue reading…)

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An essential ingredient for strategic planning success

By on February 18, 2014 under Leadership, Strategy & Planning

According to Socrates, an unexamined life is not worth living. According to nonprofit best practices, an unexamined mission is not worth planning (Hmmm…writing it in parallel makes that message too awkward.) What I mean is, a thorough examination of your mission, services, and structure is an essential element of a nonprofit strategic planning process. In fact, we think that taking time to take stock and learn about your work and how you are perceived is so important, that we won’t do a strategic planning project without it.

When I read “Secret Ingredient for Success” in the New York Times a few weeks ago, I took satisfaction in the awareness that this self-awareness isn’t just for nonprofits. The authors write: (continue reading…)

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