Monday, December 22, 2008

So, what do you really do?

During a meeting today with Opportunity International, Lise Struthers (Governors Council Director)shared what she's told people who ask her what her job is. I love her response:
"Everyday I get out of bed and get to connect those who live in chronic poverty with those who live in chronic wealth".


A Preferred Future

Nonprofit guru Peter Brinckerhoff just posted his thoughts on what he hopes the future of nonprofits could hold. Here are a couple from him:

3. I want funders of all kinds (foundations, corporations, government, individuals) to accept the fact that when they fund nonprofits, they purchase services, they don't get to control the nonprofits in ways that don't benefit the mission. This means much less silly micromanagement.

4. I want everyone to be more transparent, both inside and outside their organizations. This means both nonprofits but also the funders.

5. I either want foundations and government to stop worrying about administrative percentages or start living by a 10-12% admin share themselves.

I haven't asked him, but I bet Mark Petersen would agree with these, even as he leads us in this direction through Bridgeway. Their commitment to transparency, like that of the gang at Maclellan in the US is exemplary.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Who's Eyes?

So much of the promotion work done by relief and development charities requires the viewer to get out of our cultural context and imagine life for those living in severe poverty half a world away. Most of us flip channels when Sally Struthers or some other spokesperson pops up in front of a mud hut surrounded by children.

Here's a much more intriguing approach:

I don't know enough about charity:water to endorse their work, but I love their creativity and vision to produce this piece.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Semantics of Partnership

I've always been something of a jargon junkie. When I enter a new subculture I quickly seek to understand and adopt the particular language that marks one as a member. That has also been true in Philanthropy.

The most difficult word to parse has been "Partner" as I blogged about months ago.

In our society the word is used to describe business arrangements, romantic relationships (same sex and straight), friendships, and numerous other aspects of human interaction with varying degrees of formality.

In philanthropy it seems to indicate the relationship between donor and charity, but this can have so many different aspects.

When we identify what we call Strategic Partners for Catalyst we intend that the relationship extend beyond the merely mechanical exchange of finances, but also incorporate something more involved. But it has been difficult to define what that involvement might be.

Here's a draft list of aspects that might become a part of a Strategic Partnership Agreement as we continue forward:
1. Site Visit by Catalyst staff or principals to field work of the organization.
2. Informal Consulting between organization’s leadership and Catalyst
3. Promotion of partner through Catalyst website, blog, newsletter, and other materials, as well as personal advocacy
4. Annual Leadership Event with other Catalyst contacts
5. Catalyst Bonus Awards applications available to reward superior performance by staff
6. Catalyst Mentoring Program made available for a small cohort of staff and/or volunteers at no cost
7. Board Consideration for Catalyst director or principals to join partner’s board of directors
8. Strive/CCCC/Catalyst board development teleseminars could be made available
9. Referrals through the developing Catalyst menu of leadership development opportunities
10. Volunteer Involvement by Catalyst at programs or events
11. Fund Raiser participation/promotion through Catalyst channels

What could you add to the list? Where are the landmines?

Friday, December 5, 2008

Seminars, or is that Seeming Hours??

In the last year I've spent more time in a variety of leadership workshops and training seminars than ever before, including the last two days. I like learning and leadership is a topic for which I have a large appetite. So why is it that in the vast majority of cases I am checking email and facebook frequently after about 2:30pm?

Maybe I'm lazy, but from looking around the rooms I'm far from alone.

Having bored more than a few audiences myself I have a few respectful suggestions:

- "A=C" (Attention equals Contrast) I'll never forget arriving for the first lecture of one of my university courses to find a message on the board inviting us outside to meet under a large apple tree. The buzz among the students was remarkable and the professor worked hard to maintain that variety throughout the term. He also taught this principle. If you want people to be alert, do something they aren't expecting.
Sitting in the same seat all day, looking in the same direction at the same person, doing the same basic talk and powerpoint presentation pretty much guarantees we're going to tune out. The time I spent with Eagle's Flight gave an excellent example of how to do this right.

- "Passion + Perspective" I expect that if you've been given responsibility for presenting you are not only knowledgeable about the subject, but that it is important to you. Show me that what we're talking about matters. However, please remember that while you may make a living speaking and writing about a specific topic, the rest of us don't. It a rare expert who understands that what they offer is a single piece of our lives, not a universal panacea for all the ills in the world. Gary Collins brought refreshing notes of reality to his presentation.

- "Include, don't Quiz" It has become standard practice to invite people to give input or offer insights during the course of a session. Two way communication is a very good thing. But if you really don't want my opinion don't request it. I still see professional trainers who are expert in their field and full of relevant material who ask for participation but are really playing "Guess what I'm thinking", basically just waiting for us to say the magic words that lead into their next point. Frankly, it's a little insulting. In most of the seminars I've been to this year there are people in the seats who have significant experience and expertise to offer. If you aren't going to sincerely draw on that insight, don't pretend.

A couple closing bits:
-In 2009 Catalyst will be hosting our first seminar. It's going to be invitation only so we can focus on what we want to accomplish; and after this post I guess I'm committed to making it a worthwhile day.
-For the most part I prefer seminars to conferences, but I'd much rather grab lunch with the presenter than listen to her for six hours.

What makes a seminar worth recommending to others for you?