In episode 86 of Mission: Impact, Carol Hamilton joins with Danielle Marshall for another learning out loud episode where we do a deep dive into a topic. Today we focused on cultural competence or cultural humility and talked about ways for people to work on and enhance their cultural competence.
Danielle defines cultural competence as the ability to navigate interactions effectively across diverse cultures, emphasizing the importance of valuing differences and recognizing that no social identity is a monolith. While it is easy to think that finding the time to improve your cultural competence is too hard, Danielle offers a practical five-step approach:
- [00:07:16] Definition of Cultural Competence; Cultural Competence/Cultural Humility
- [00:17:16 Five Actionable Steps for Nonprofit Leaders in Building Cultural Competence
- [00:23:16] Cultural competence learning plan
- [00:33:16] Accountability partners and affinity groups
- [00:39:16] Continuous learning journey
Danielle is an inclusive leader focused on strengthening collaboration among teams, leaders, and stakeholders to foster problem-solving, create solutions, and improve culture. She finds her inspiration in leading systemic change work that promotes equity and inclusion.
Danielle founded Culture Principles in response to a persistent need to operationalize Racial Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion metrics, centering REDI goals and creating accountability systems. She supports clients through her Mapping Equity Framework focused on Unearthing Knowledge, Elevating Strategy, and Transforming Sustainability. She centers her work around organizational assessment, racial equity learning intensives, and the development of racial equity action plans. Understanding that each organization arrives at this work from different perspectives, she utilizes assessment in building a customized strategy for each unique partner. Previously Danielle served as a non-profit leader for 20+ years and today works on strategy development that enables nonprofits to achieve equitable mission-driven results. Danielle holds a Master's degree in Industrial-Organizational Psychology from Louisiana Tech University and draws on her background as an I/O psychologist in applying a racial equity lens to organizational policies, practices, and programs. She is a Certified Diversity Professional (CDP)/ Executive Coach (ACC).
During her playtime, you can find Danielle traveling, knitting, and kayaking in all 50 states.
Important Links and Resources:
Carol: Welcome, Danielle. Welcome to Mission Impact and welcome back to another Learning Out Loud episode.
Danielle: Thank you, Carol. Always a pleasure to join you. Looking forward to our conversation.
Carol: So we decided today to focus our conversation on cultural competence. It's a topic that's popped up a couple of times as we've been talking, but really wanted to do more of a deep dive. So I'm curious, let's just start with definitions. How, how do you use and, and see this word in, in your work or, or concept, if you will?
Danielle:I appreciate that we're starting there because it is something that I'm hearing a lot more people use in conversation and a definition certainly is going to be helpful. So when I think about cultural competence, it's really our ability to, to navigate and interact effectively with people across various cultures.
And so when you think about it, it's not just an understanding or an awareness of different cultural norms or practices. But it is an ability for one to learn in terms of practicing inclusivity, openness, even adaptability from what they understand about that culture. And so as we're thinking about that, this is really embodying your, your knowledge, your attitude and the practical skills you would bring to the table when you're navigating across different.
Carol:so I had often heard the term or been in circles where the term cultural competence was used at one organization was, was part of a group that was building an assessment for cultural competence for a particular field But I've also recently, or, in the last couple of years run into some other versions one being cultural humility, which I really appreciated because I always felt a little uncomfortable Saying I'm culturally competent, like, how do you get to that stage that certainly you can always become more culturally competent from my point of view, and there's always things to learn.
So the idea of bringing humility to it just felt like a wonderful place to start. But it's also interesting to me how diversity, equity and inclusion, especially coming out of the history of the United States versus other fields that have named it more intercultural competence that have been in the international context and, and really in some ways have, have almost been siloed from each other and, and not talking even though in many ways dealing with these core skills and, and approaches.
Danielle: Yes that, and that's a good distinction that you bring up when I, when I talk about cultural competence, I think I also am talking about intercultural competence. Though I can appreciate the distinction being made and the reason I say that is in this country, We may focus on how we interact across cultures here But like we are in a much smaller world than we ever have been before and so it's not Unusual to interact with someone who is not Homeborn, in the U.S. That you might be working, whether they've moved here or you're working across borders for me when I'm building cultural competence, I'm really thinking very much about how I interact across differences regardless, ? And how we can apply that skillfully. The other thing that you said that I appreciate is this.
Idea of cultural humility? Can we ever fully be confident? Probably not.I joke often because I have a 15 year old and she reminds me how incompetent I am within my own culture And I say that jokingly but part of the reason is because there are other intersectionalities that come in so like just the fact that we're different generations means her lens on the world is different from mine and so what I understand to be true may be evolving even within the culture that represents me I'm I'm A Gen X er who also happens to be an African American woman versus her Gen Z and we have very different approaches to the world and how we see things And so I'm always taking those things into consideration but when we talk about that humility I think it is the ability to really and how we can evaluate ourselves and how we've shown up in the moment and we self critique in order to be more confident As we're learning things how do you integrate those into your understanding of cultural groups and start to apply it as you learn more
Carol:And for me growing up outside of the United States internationally, I think I, when I thought of cultural competence. I thought of it often in that international context. And then to come back to the U. S. In late high school through college and, and since then and really over, those, those years and across generations as you're talking about as a Gen Xer all the nuance of our particular country, its history, experiment, honestly, that we're doing that really has never existed to try to have a multicultural society where, and we certainly have a long way to go, where it's not, and this is in the ideal, this is not where we are.
It's not that we are looking to have. Everyone simply assimilated to the dominant culture, which was, I think, the assumption and is the assumption in many cultures that any outsider will simply figure out how to fit in. But we're trying to do something different, or at least a segment of the country is now trying to do something different, which perhaps has never been done before, or maybe it has.
And I just, I don't know. There's, there's the history that I'm unaware of.
Danielle: I there's so much in what you just said when it comes to this country and I have thought about this quite bit I mean it feels like America was based on this idea of the melting pot And we talked about the melting pot frequently But what is missed in this understanding is it really was about assimilation So we we have all of these cultures and all of these people from different lands
We bring them together We Sort of mix everybody into the pot And what gets boiled down is dominant culture Like there there's a particular thing you have to blend yourself If you'll into this this stew that we're making or this soup and the reality is People were never going to fully give up themselves
We've seen a lot of pressure over the years for folks to assimilate And I think what we are seeing at this point is a major backlash against people having to give up their identity their cultural heritage So whether it be the native language you spoke how you wear your hair how you dress the activities that you do People are pulling closer back to their own cultures in terms of saying like I'm happy to be American I'm happy to be in this country and I also need you to respect the fact that there are some things that are culturally different that I want to keep
Carol:For sure. And, and certainly that assimilation was, is not and was not benign. There were many ways in which it was certainly weaponized and just in, in really horrific ways. And now with the and I feel like there are many folks who want to be able to be respectful across differences and, and acknowledge those and, and not expect everyone to just fit in, in a certain way. Which comes back to the notion of building those muscles around cultural competence.
Danielle: And I think one of the things that I would say is that it almost feels like we need to learn to value other So as I think about assimilation what ends up happening in my experience is Because assimilation has been pushed to the forefront and people are constantly using that as the yardstick by which we measure or wrong beauty standards language whatever it happens to be. When someone sits outside of your understanding of the world you have a problem. The differences are bad in their mind. And to me when I think of difference simply means different. It's not good, it's not bad. It is just a different way of looking at a particular thing. So whether that be speaking, acting, thinking and so if we can get to a place where we value the differences. And see them as opportunities to be stronger and smarter and build better together. Those are things that are going to matter in the longer term but it is something that I at least with some of the clients that I'm working with on a coaching level they've never stopped to even think about that.
Danielle: It's never occurred to them that this is something that we should be speaking about because we don't learn this in school.
Carol: And I think there's a pressure Or organizations are and individuals are feeling the pressure to how do we manage all the different things that we're wanting to do. And so time can become a barrier or sometimes an excuse for not dealing with this because of all of it. They're not easy things to learn. There's always more to learn. You're going to make mistakes. It's uncomfortable so just saying you don't have time for it can be an easy way out.
Danielle: That's something that again I'm encountering quite a bit. I just came back from a conference where equity was at the forefront and it was a wonderful conference. great sessions with amazing people. And yet I kept hearing throughout the day people say things like I'd love to lean more into this whether it's their DEI work or it's cultural competence sort of broader strokes. But where do I find the time? Like this is important to me so I do value it. So at least they were coming from the perspective of I can see the merit of this but they struggled with how this fits in. And so I was thinking about where we might start.
And so I wanted to offer some five steps that I think could be helpful for listeners and the first is just really assessing your starting point. So in saying that it is taking an opportunity to just gauge your level of cultural competence So if you want to be proactive in this do you have a baseline of understanding. And there are a number of tools out there that can be used to establish a baseline whether it be of your full cultural competencies of the tools you use. One of the resources I particularly like is called the Intercultural Development Inventory. It gives people an idea of how they are most likely to show up when it comes to dealing with people that are different from them. So from that standpoint like what are the tools that you actively reach for every day when you encounter someone who's culturally different. So I think there's a lot of opportunity there because it's giving you a sense of -- if I've never thought about my own culture -- How do I relate to that before I worry about relating to anyone else’s. Am I willing to face some truth about my own cultural competence? And to the point you made earlier like we all have room to grow. I would say even people that work in this space on a regular basis like and maybe more so we understand there's so much space for us to grow because we never fully understand every culture and also putting the caveat that cultures change over time. So if they're always evolving no one is going to ever be there so to speak there's always room for us to develop.
And the second step that I would say is this is about setting your goals So if you have a baseline understanding of where I'm starting from cultural competence here's what I need to learn. How do you articulate that vision? Turn that into short-term goals, long-term goals so that we can start thinking about what this might mean. So it may be that we want to learn more about language. It could be that I want to understand eye contact in certain cultures. There's so many places one could go with this. But the way that I always ask people to think about it they're like what are the specific cultural norms or values that I need to understand better.
And to make this more personal, how do you think about your own work? Are there groups that I need to be either to communicate better with or I need to be able to figure out how to work more effectively? And are norms and values around this work project not aligned? That's a really good place to start. Like I'm not saying learn everything about culture in one day but is there a particular group I have to understand better in order to be effective in my work? So those are the first two things.
And then the third thing that I would say is you want to create a learning schedule for yourself. So when we're thinking about a learning schedule like this daily? Is it weekly? When are you planning to incorporate time for learning? It could be even as small as 15 minutes a day. So you're reading an article. you're watching a video. I tell a lot of my clients now you and you want to make this fun for yourself too you could be watching Netflix, visiting a museum, festivals. There's so many ways that we can interact one on one conversations with people but what you want to really figure out is like how many hours within that week can I dedicate to enhancing my work. When we can set that time .We have a plan. We will begin a plan because at least I know I have an hour a day.. I have 15 minutes a day. This is how I'm gonna move forward.
Then step four is gonna be about resources. So we're thinking about the resources again. This comes back to what are the things I can tap into. So are there articles I want to read, or books, podcasts. We're doing a podcast now. Again Netflix and Amazon both have developed specific genres about cultural groups which I have found to be really interesting to hear the narration of stories fictional and or documentaries but in the voice of the people whose Story is being told. Like that is incredibly powerful. So when you think about what you enjoy those are the things that I would start surfacing. Like one person may not like to go to a museum. the next person's gonna thrive off of that. Find the things that make sense to you and really resonate with your own learning process.
Then I'll offer one more step for you and this is just monitoring and adjusting. So as we're building these steps out and we're working on our learning plan. We've already talked about cultural humility which means we have to be self-reflected and we have to evaluate our progress as you're moving along. Whether it's short-term goals or long-term goals Sometimes we need to recalibrate. The action plan that we set on day one might not be the thing that we need to focus on as much as we move along. I want to make sure that people have a way whether it is-- I'm gonna check in monthly with myself or quarterly. How are you assessing your progress towards these goals? And that's really important. I've told people on a number of occasions that it's knowing what to do. And then maybe not doing it. Like that's the problem. So can we assess that we are actually on track and do we have progress indicators?
Carol: I love your idea of a learning plan. I actually at the beginning of the pandemic and with the racial reckoning and uprisings I read an article about someone who had created she created Google sheet and created a learning plan for herself. And I said that is an incredible idea I'm going to do the same thing. So I started tracking what I was reading and ad like so I read many of the books that were on the bestseller list that jumped to the bestseller list that year if I hadn't read them already. But then also listening to podcasts I remember I was listening to an episode of Code Switch and they happened to have a conversation around okay we're in and this was 2020 so much was going on And it was a a let's do a point counterpoint on are you reading serious books at this point or are you reading lighter fare? And so one of the books that was shared was a series of romance novels written by POC authors. So I have had not read a lot of romance in a while but it became my genre of choice during the pandemic. And but I all almost all of the ones that I read were written by black indigenous people of color rather than defaulting to the to the white authors. I was reading what's a relatively it was you talked about making it fun And so I'm reading a fun book. There's a formula for how romance novels work but there was a different perspective. And there were the characters and then There was an insight into culture. I've always enjoyed reading I read a lot of fiction generally and looking for books that are written from many may different points of view.
Many different authors with different identities that to me each one of those is a window into a different experience. Obviously it's one person's experience but they're also describing their context and their things. So much of what I've learned has been through those kinds of versus the and I also had Caste on my list to read too. So but I mean that you can have a balance and so many different entry points. That's absorbing. And as a person who does represent the dominant culture in the U. S. doing a little bit of my remedial education that most of us who are white need to do but it was fun. And of course I've done lots of different things with that but it's been fun to think about all the different ways that we can increase our skill, my skill. I can increase my skill.
Danielle: I appreciate it but I appreciate you owning that too. Because that's a piece of it. We all can increase our skill. Some of us have had more experience in having to look at other people's cultures more intentionally than others but in terms of do we all know it all no absolutely not. There's so much more to learn and going back to what you just said about finding fun ways to do things. Like I think about This movie I had to happen to stumble upon. It was called The Farewell and it was about an Asian family.
Carol: was such a wonderful Yes
Danielle: was beautifully done. And so I'm watching the movie and it was maybe like a Saturday or some weekend day. I'm watching it and I don't want to give it away to people who haven't seen it but part of the theme of this movie is how different cultures deal with death. How they talk about that as a family unit.
Carol: And what it what it means to take care of the family member
Danielle: Yes absolutely, so how do we care for people in this process? And so what struck me really profoundly as I was watching this is I literally stopped for a second and I was like I know about what happens in my family and maybe some other cultural groups that are really close to me. I was like but I've never actually thought about this like what it means to care for a loved one who has an illness. What does it mean to prepare for the final passage for people? And it just really struck me. And so what I think is really interesting about the exploration of cultural competencies is you don't necessarily know where it's going to take you. Like, I might have said, Hey, I haven't watched a movie about this particular group in a while. Let me put that on only to find out as you're doing it. There are a host of other questions that start surfacing or, or interest and you just want to follow that thread. And so I really love that.
But in particular, I think that movie hit home so much though, because it opened up a space for me where I was like, I don't know a lot about this. That was like, and I'd like to learn. And I'm going to talk
Carol: I just read a book called Sitting Pretty. And it's written from the, it's a memoir by a woman who's been in a wheelchair since she was three because of an illness she had early on. And, she's also a professor of disability studies. She has her personal experience, but she has that wider context as well.
And I won't be able to read another book or see another movie that has a person with a disability with a character without hearing her voice in my head about all the tropes that she's so tired of seeing, which I, even with a, I have a brother who has a disability, but I, I didn't necessarily have that lens.
So It's so interesting what you will learn.
Danielle: In step five, we're talking about monitoring our cultural competence. And so, how are we actively thinking about, like, what the steps are that we've laid out so whether those, again, are short term or long term, and then how are we celebrating our actions?
And so, something that comes to mind is if I said to you, Carol, like me, my plan is to run a marathon, ? The Baltimore Marathon just happened here the other day. And I know in order to run this marathon, I need to make sure that I'm getting up early in the morning so that I can get out there and start running.
That I need to – whether it is I need to eat a certain diet, I am not a runner, but I will say this, I need to eat a certain diet in order to get in shape for this race, etc. And I know that there are certain steps that I must take. If you call me and you check back and you say, it's, you've been doing this for a couple of months, like, how's everything going?
How's your time? Is your personal record looking any better because this is something maybe I've said is really important to me. It's more than just wanting to run the marathon. Maybe I want to best myself. And so if I tell you, well, I've been meaning to get out there and I've been meaning to run, but well it's been raining the last couple of days or something came up, work got really busy.
The reality is. If that was my goal to be able to run this marathon and we're getting closer and closer to the date, but I haven't been training effectively, ? I could still involve myself in this race, but the likelihood that I'm going to beat my personal record in this case is pretty low. That wouldn't be a surprise to you.
And the reason I use an example in this case is I think about all the things that we say, we know what we need to do, but we don't necessarily follow through with those steps. And so when you're building a cultural competency plan, it's the same thing. Like, if I say I'm going to read 10 books on this topic, or I'm going to watch movies on Netflix, or I'm going to go to these museums or these classes, et cetera, and then I fail to do it, there really ought not be a surprise at the end where it's like, did you deepen your cultural competencies?
Well, partially, because you've done something, but maybe not to the extent that you were hoping to. And so in that way, I think it's really important to not only have a clear plan, but an opportunity to check in against your own progress. It's not somebody else telling you to do these things, but where do you stand?
Carol:And in describing my learning a plan, the things that I mentioned were all the things that I'm passively consuming, whether it's a reading a book or watching a movie or listening to a podcast, but the thing that you, the other thing that you just mentioned around checking in, you can check in with yourself on how you're doing, but it's often really helpful.
to have accountability partners that you're working with. And so I've joined white affinity groups so that we can challenge each other and work through different resources to really have conversations or reflect on what we're learning specifically for white women, because that's a particular identity that, especially in the nonprofit sector we need to dig into.
I don't know how familiar people are with affinity spaces, but many probably are, but certainly for that one so that we can, again, do that remedial education without burdening anybody else, burdeningI don't get across multicultural or multiracial groups. You, for example, would not need to hear us babble around and, and muck around and, and be messy, and we could maybe have a little more confidence the next time we showed up.
So, I think it's both and, and then also intentionally being in multi racial and cultural groups that had a structure. Had facilitation, had some boundaries and parameters to help people learn as well. All those different things. Those have all been helpful to me.
Danielle:I definitely appreciate the both points that you just made and, I think about. What it means is, one, you have a facilitated space, so that you're all gathered with the distinct purpose of, whether it is a white affinity group or a multicultural group, we want to learn about different things. And so I think that is certainly an avenue people can take, and I also wonder what it looks like for people who just simply say, I want to have friends that look different from me that come from different places that speak different languages that are different sexual orientations. name it How do we surround ourselves with the true diversity quite frankly of the world so that it's not that I simply have to go to a class or a zoom every week type of seminar. But how do we make sure that these folks are people that are in our lives every single day? I had someone say this to me once and it was a conversation stopper and they're like Danielle I. I want your perspective as a black woman.
Now. This is somebody I care about and we're good friends. They are not black. I will start by saying that but it was a conversation stopper in that moment, because I was like, you do realize everything that comes out of my mouth is my perspective as a Black woman. I don't have another perspective to offer you?
So like, ask me the question, as opposed to framing it in this really odd way of, I want your Black woman's perspective. I was like, I don't speak for all of us. I can speak for myself. And you hear that every time we get on the phone, or we go out to lunch, or whatever. And so it was just, I think it was eye opening for that individual, and it made me chuckle, but I'm like, how often do we do that?
What's your perspective on this, as a member of this group? And I'm like, talk to people, be, like, let's not make the conversation weird if you
Carol:And that assumes a monolith. One person can be representative of an entire group. So even in describing that, memoir, that was one person's memoir. Certainly, she was sharing. a lot from the wider field that she is an expert in through getting a PhD in it and she's describing her own lived experience.
So it's both, and certainly not representing every disabled person. Who exists ? And, and, just remember that.
Danielle: The way that I ask people to think about it is if I, whatever your social identity is, if I looked at you and we're having a conversation and I'm like, does every white woman every black, cisgender male think XYZ and you're a member of that group. Your answer is going to be undoubtedly like no, we don't think the same thing but yet we're so Willing to apply that thought process to groups that we do not belong to?
How they are. This is how they act when this happens and I’m like who are they in this case? Like and does that mean everyone, how can we slow the process down enough in our own cultural development to understand like I am experiencing something now. This is a dynamic with this individual or a specific group of people meaning like maybe two or three.
At this moment, it does not mean everyone.
Carol:And even to decipher, I'm thinking about a particular instance that I've been working through with some folks and just working styles. So, is this an aspect of cultural perspective? Is this a working preference or working style? Is this around cultural norms? Is this around an individual thing?
Thinking style, it's difficult to know exactly what it might be. I mean, as I say it all out loud, the obvious thing would be to talk to the person and have a conversation and come to some understanding versus just speculating, which we often do and making up our own stories.
Danielle: I think that's a big part of it. The other piece is I do want to have some knowledge as I'm walking into. you. A conversation? So if I'm dealing with someone or I'm working on a project with someone who is from a different cultural group for me, having some knowledge of who they are, what their norms and values are, is useful. Still I need to be prepared that this knowledge that I have at this moment may not apply to this group. So, and I'll give you an example here. Like if I walk into a meeting. And my goal was to gather feedback. And let's say I am meeting with some Asian colleagues. Like, I have understanding and knowledge of the culture that says that many of them are indirect communicators.
And so I may plan ahead of time that I am going to have to show up differently than I would as a very direct American type of communicator. But when I arrive there, if this group then turns out to be very direct in their approach, I need to be able to have the dexterity in that moment to switch.
Yes, I know this to be true, but I can't hold you to it at the moment if you show up differently. And why that's important is I think that's another way that the monolith plays out. Well, you, you're supposed to act this way because this is what I know about your people. And I'm like, but they're still individuals?
Like, they get freedom of choice and, how they show up, much the same as the rest of us do. And so we can't hold people to that. I think the next level of building confidence is being willing to pivot in the moment. Like, that's a feedback loop on its own. If you get there and you're doing something and people are like, you’re being really strange, Carol.
What's happening? Can you shift? What do I mean? Like, that's the thing. Can you shift in real time? And perhaps then go back later and say, I had believed that you were indirect communicators and so I came with this particular strategy. It didn't work.
Tell me a little bit more about what is going to be effective for you? So, like, to the point you were making, how do I gather feedback to be better at
Carol: Name what's going on, name the dynamic, name, but your curiosity, well, I made this assumption, clearly, it doesn't seem like it's holding, tell me more.
Danielle: But that's what you're doing is cultural humility. To be able to admit like hey, I misstepped in this moment And I do think that is something that holds a lot of people back. They're afraid of getting it wrong? But here's the reality like we all are gonna get it wrong.
If you open your mouth, you're gonna get it wrong. I got it wrong already today several times? Like this is what happens as human beings, but where we can grow. If we're okay to fail in that moment, gather the feedback so that the next time we encounter a similar situation, you actually are smarter.
You can approach it better. And so, like, if we were to tease this out and think about teams, like, aren't we trying to build, in many cases, a learning culture into our nonprofit? It's the same thing. If you set out on a project, we debrief everything. That's like the non profit way. We debrief every meeting, every fundraising event, etc.
What did we learn from it? What are the takeaways? And this is the same when it comes to cultural competency. What did I learn that I can now apply in the next interaction I have?
Carol: Absolutely. And we could go, we could go several more rounds on this, because there's always, as we, started with cultural humility, there's always more to learn. But I really appreciate what we were able to dig into today.
Danielle: Absolutely. Anytime you want to talk about this, we can definitely come back to this topic. It's my favorite.
Carol: All Well, thank you so much.
Danielle: Thank you, Carol. Take care.
In episode 85 of Mission: Impact, Carol Hamilton and Mala Nagarajan discuss organizational development, compensation structures, and critical discussions within nonprofit organizations. They explore the limitations of market-based compensation, the concept of a thriving wage, and the importance of aligning organizational values with employee compensation. Mala emphasizes the need for transparent and comprehensive approaches to compensation, touching on various factors such as areas of responsibility, risk assessment, and the significance of understanding one's relationship with money. In addition they explore how to integrate compensating for the emotional labor required in a role. They discuss the complexities of legal considerations and highlight the need for organizations to reevaluate traditional practices to foster a more equitable and holistic work environment.
02:27: Creating equitable compensation models for organizations
04:50: Principles underpinning the work
08:16: The importance of interdependence
13:08- Transparency in compensation
16:21 Emotional labor and compensation
26:00 - Recognizing individual strengths and aligning them with organizational roles beyond just financial incentives
32:00 - Biases and values embedded in market-based compensation structures
37:00 - Implementing a thriving wage, distinct from a living wage
45:00 - The "conditions for readiness" necessary for successful implementation
53:00 - Assessing risk tolerance
Mala Nagarajan is a senior HR consultant who works with nonprofit organizations rooted in racial and social justice values. She is driven by a vision of strong organizations working collaboratively toward a common purpose and approaches her HR work with a values-aligned, people-centered, and movement-oriented lens. Mala is a consultant with RoadMap, a national network of consultants who work with social justice organizations. She helped organize RoadMap’s HR/RJ (racial justice) working group. Mala has developed an innovative Compensation Equity Process and Calculator™ that reverse-engineers supremacy out and re-engineers equity in. It’s an evolving approach accompanied with a custom tool that organizations can use to shift from a market-based to an anti-racist compensation model that centers those living at the intersections of multiple marginalized communities.
Important Links and Resources:
Mala Nagarajan - https://www.linkedin.com/in/malanagarajan/
Vega Mala Consulting | www.vegamala.com
Marilyn Waring TED talk on what the GDP misses -- https://www.tedxchristchurch.com/marilyn-waring
The MIT Living Wage Calculator: https://livingwage.mit.edu/
Hidden Brain episodes on budgets: https://hiddenbrain.org/podcast/money-2-0-why-we-bust-our-budgets/
Learn more about Mala’s compensation work here: Fund the People: Compensation Philosophy, NPQ-Compensation Equity: A Values-Based Framework & Implementation Guide, Top Tips to Stop Widening the Wealth Gap, Why Radical Human Resources is Critical for Movement Organizations, Equitable Compensation is a Risk Worth Taking, Brave Questions: Recalculating Pay Equity, Don't Put Metal in the Microwave and other Compensation Myths, Transforming the Workplace: HR Innovations, Pay Scale Equity Process and Calculator.
HR resources: RoadMap Consulting: Human Resources and Justice: Addressing Racism and Sexism in the Workplace. Washington Nonprofits: Workers in Nonprofits. The Management Center: Making Compensation More Equitable.
Carol Hamilton: Well, welcome Mala. Welcome to Mission: Impact.
Mala Nagarajan: Thank you. Thanks for inviting me.
Carol: I always like to start each conversation with just asking each guest, what drew you to the work that you do? What would you say motivates you? Or what, how would you describe your why?
Mala: I think I've been drawn to HR since my first job, or at least improving the workplace. I can remember getting involved in for my first job in how to make the workplace more amenable for everybody and welcoming and, then I think that another piece that's been a driving force in my why is my mom, who never held a paid W two job, but was often was a volunteer at a local library. And the immense confidence it gave her to be able to do some work and put books in alphabetical order, or she'd come to one of my jobs and help Scan or copy newspapers and just people feeling valuable and valued in the workplace and how meaningful it is just is so core. If it just feels like we get so much meaning out of what we're doing, what we're, how we're able to support others.
Carol: One of the things that you do, I think probably the main thing that you do is help organizations create more equitable compensation models for their staff. And that's really the most tangible way in a lot of ways that organizations value people. So it goes to that core that you're talking about.
What would you say are some of the principles that undergird that work?
Mala: I think that some of the principles that undergird the specific framework and model that I'm working on starts with being values-based. I'm trying to create a structure, a compensation structure that is relational. Typically in the for-profit, capitalist structure our pay is very individualistic.
We negotiate and we don't know anybody else's pay. I'm trying to adopt as a more relational one we're with nonprofits, they only have a certain amount of budget. They may be able to grow their budget, they may not be able to, but how do we have our compensation be in relationship to each other so that it's not so that there's equity? It doesn't have to be the same, but people wanna have some transparency in what our salary looks like. It also tries to, the structure or the framework that I use tries to embody interdependence and the interdependence of our work itself. It's very customizable and organizations can customize what they're valuing specifically based on the type of work that they're doing, the communities that they're serving. And really link the communities and the impact they're trying to have all the way to their staff. So how do you really value the types of ways that staff are connected with the communities that you're serving?
Carol: You talk about it being relational. Can you give me an example of what that might look like?
Mala:. My work in this aspect really draws from some work that my colleagues at the Roadmap social justice consulting network created. And this is like my Lisa Weer, Margie Clark, Rita Sever, Bridgette Rouson. Margie in particular had created a wage survey that was a collaboration between Roadmap, the National Organizers Alliance and the Data Center. And they surveyed over 215 social justice nonprofits. And what they found was that there was a relationship between the lowest and the highest paid person in the organization. When you keep those in relationship, there's something about the highest salary can't go up until the lowest also goes up. And when you're in that type of relationship, whatever you're doing to your salary is also benefiting other people. The typical, typical ratio between the lowest salary and the highest salary was somewhere around 2.2 to three times where the highest salary was two to three times the lowest salary. There's other ways that it can be relational. I know one of the clients that I work with. If somebody does negotiate a higher salary, they apply that negotiation to everybody at the same level. So it really shows that we're all, we're impacting each other, not just ourselves.
Carol: So I guess that that goes to that interdependence that you were talking about, and you also used the word transparency, which I feel like people use all the time and about all the things. Can you say a little bit more about what that might look like in an instance like this?
Mala:. I talk about transparency in that most organizations just have a number that is the salary or, or a range that is a salary for a particular job class or type of position. And what I talk about is -- we don't really know what goes into that number and taking it apart, reverse engineering, that whole number and kind of. Taking it apart, looking at the pieces that are going into potential pieces, potential compensation factors, and say of these factors, what are the ones that are really meaningful to us that we really wanna recognize and lift up? How do we look at it from an equity lens? Which of these factors are embedded in them inequity. For example, I think education is a good example. Education is not accessible for everyone. And if someone can do the job without a particular level of education, why put that level of education as a barrier? That's probably one of the most common ones that people cite.
But then we, we let organizations really identify what are the ones that are, what are the compensation factors that are values aligned, and then let's re-engineer that into the salary so people know what it's made up of. So at the very least, it's about we know what's in the salary, we know what makes it, makes up. We know what makes up the salary. Second, we know what the process is to do for the different aspects of compensation and, in very clear or transparent organizations, everybody's salary is known. I
Carol: One of the things that struck me when I was reading about the framework that you work with was, those compensation factors that you're talking about. Some of the ones were, I think a lot of folks who work, do this work are familiar with in terms of, what are the skills that are needed, what are the competencies, what's the education as you were talking about, but you were also in, in the description recognizing other kinds of labor such as, physical labor, people might already recognize that, but, more in terms of emotional labor. And I don't think that's typically been valued, recognized and certainly not compensated for, in many ways.
How, just at first, how do you define emotional labor?
Mala:. That's a great question and it's really sticky for a lot of people 'cause it's like, how do you define it as just, people being emotional or allowing emotion to be part of our workspace so that we're actually more whole. It's not just logical and rational, but also emotional. We draw from the definition of the sociological definition of emotional labor, so labor that the position itself requires where the circumstances that the position a position is required to be in may bring up emotions that the person in the position needs to put aside and respond in a different way. This could be care work, it could be, it's often associated with customer service, but it could be care work where people are like dealing with logistics for a conference and they're basically serving people to make sure they can get and enjoy the conference in the fullest manner that they can.
It could be folks who are dealing with crises. I think the typical example given in the sociology books is a police officer dealing with a crisis, but it really, in a nonprofit organization, can be the vicarious trauma that people are dealing with as they're directly serving the community with crisis management.
Or if they're working on direct action, and they're on the streets and they're having to deal with police. Or they're having to deal with opposition. Folks in, the mix making sure that everybody's safe, There's lots of different ways that one's emotions in the position based on the role that you have to serve. Might elicit other emotions and stress and stuff like that, but that part of your job is actually to manage that.
Carol: It is interesting that your very first example is just dealing with the logistics of a conference, which is a situation I've been in a lot of times and I don't know that I ever thought of it as care work. I thought when I heard that care work, I thought of the people taking care of my disabled brother, the people who took care of my dad as his health was failing before he died, and childcare. Those are the kinds of things that I'm thinking about. But when you put it in that frame, there's like, there's so much more that is actually care work. Can you gimme other examples of what that might be?
Mala:. There's one of the organizations I worked with. They were the ones who actually defined this logistical role as care work because they really expect that person in that logistical role to make it, it the smoothest experience for the participant as possible. 'cause they're dealing with member organizations. Another way that they redefined or, or, or split that apart is actually emotional labor.
They also created one that was around conflict management. Your relationship to conflict. And because they're working with lots of grassroots organizations, all their, all the people on staff at default, they have to be able to recognize when there's conflict between member organizations or our member representatives, or so they need to be able to recognize and be aware of that conflict.
They may not be the ones to do it. To address it, but they have to flag it and, and run it up to the next person. And then the other next person assesses the conflict to see what, what level of conflict is it. And they had different levels of people addressing conflict. The very highest level was someone who was helping mediate the. Emotional density of the conflict itself and actually being a mediator, negotiator supporting both or many parties to come to resolution and.
What a great way to recognize the labor that people are doing and also see it across the organization, across all the different positions. And at the very least, one of the things that we include in our framework is a level zero, which is everybody's responsibility in every single area of responsibility that's or compensation factor that's identified. There's a Level zero, which is basically What are the basics that are required by everybody?
For conflict resolution, it's knowing what my own conflict style is or the tendency that I have. It's knowing what are the things that trigger me. It is knowing how to, what different kinds of conflict there are.
Like recognizing that disagreement does not equal abuse. And, and, conflict does not equal abuse. Like actually recognizing that different manifestations that sometimes get confused as conflict but are different things.
Carol: You talked about it being values aligned, relational, transparent, and interdependent. Are there other principles that go into the framework?
Mala: I wanna expand on the interdependent 'cause I feel like that's super important. We don't recognize how our work is interdependent. And this model tries to again, embody that. Let's say communications is an area of responsibility that the organization wants to recognize as a function, the functional aspect of communications. You can have program folks and fundraising folks all have scores and communication because the program folks are feeding the information to communications so that, and Crafting the story. Like really bringing the stories from the community that the communications folks will be then disseminating. The fundraising folks need to also intersect with the communications function of the organization to make sure that the fundraising aspects of the communication are identified and that there's opportunity put in. So we're really looking at how are people collaborating with each other or working together to actually see some aspect forward, and really understanding how the different components different people in different positions are interacting with communications or if you're a program person or you're a front desk person and someone comes into the office and you wanna make sure that they're in the database in the CRM, so that communications folks and fundraising folks can have access to that data, that's part of your contribution. So those are ways that we're really putting it into the compensation system rather than just isolating it in a job description as one person's task to do.
Carol: Well, and it's funny 'cause I feel like so often organizations are complaining about or struggling with feeling siloed. And so it sounds like through that process you're actually mapping a lot of the interdependence that they may not even be recognizing is there and the collaboration that is happening and making it visible in a way that might not have been.
Mala: It's a pretty beautiful process when people are seeing it and, and I think it really helps people step up and own their work.
Carol: Can you describe the process that you walk organizations through?
Mala: That's a really good question. We've been in constant Development of our process .So in the beginning, about three or four years ago, it was just me and the person who had the HR function. And what I was proposing was just an HR intervention.
Mala: We didn't really have staff involved. It wasn't like a collective process.
It was like, okay, let's map out how work is happening and what might be just to get folks started and the basic structure of the compensation or the basic components of this compensation structure are, there's a base salary, and the base salary is not position oriented. The base salary is actually everyone from the ED to the entry level person getting the exact same base salary. And then from that, the areas of responsibility that you're holding will get added to that base. and so we started that with the very first organization that we were working with. But over time in the last two years, we've really shifted to a more organizational change process. What we noticed even though there was a good response to the compensation structure when staff were engaging with it. There was still a sense of people moving in the system individually. How do I get to the next highest level pay versus what's my best strength or what are my dependable strengths? What are the things that I want to increase my level of competency in? And how does that map in the system and how can I move both if I have, I might have financial goals and monetary goals, and that's great. But it's not just about that. It's also about what are you strong at and how can the organization and you be in alignment so that you're able to use your aptitudes and your strengths and not just have to become a supervisor in order to get more money.
Because we know not everybody is made out to be a supervisor,
Carol: Very few people are made out to be of.
Mala:. And, we know, from the Gallup poll, your manager is the most important person in your workspace and contributes to your employee engagement. Let's not put someone who's not really doesn't have that skill set in that position just so that they can get a raise.
Carol: Or doesn't wanna develop it. doesn't have the interest in developing it.
'cause certainly there's a huge challenge with having people access management training in the sector.
Mala: Now we're doing more of an organizational change process and we're continuing to develop that. I think we're getting a little bit more nuanced about it. One of the things I'm looking forward to this next year is really helping people to get to those Critical discussions that we never have in the workplace. My colleague Rochelle Faithful is going to be completing a discussion guide for organizations where they can really interface based on this process that we use, and then have critical discussions about. Do we wanna follow the market? Do we want to compete with the market or do we want to make sure our internal salaries are equitable in relationship to each other? And it's not an either or question. 'cause we actually need to do both.
Carol: What are some other examples of those critical conversations that organizations need to have?
Mala:. Am I working for money? Oh. Am I, is it, is it a work to, am I working to live or living to work? Right? Like, what are the individual values that we're coming into the workplace with, and what are the values of the organization that are different from ours? And how do we actually navigate? Different people's value systems within a workplace. So I, I think the easiest example of this also is, what does a workplace mean to us is so different based on generational differences and how, what events and our. Our lifetime has affected attitudes around work, right? And so we're really encouraging folks to come up with an employer philosophy that sets down where we wanna walk the line in terms of our workplace. And so you might come from a different generation or a different culture where work means something different. And this is how we're bringing people together around work. And what it means to be an employee in this organization.
Carol: I feel like that question is definitely very alive right now. Been having conversations with lots of different people about them renegotiating their relationship to work and what it means in their life and and there's so many cultural assumptions that come with that. Certainly the ones that I inherited were: Work is very central to your life. I'm trying to disentangle a little bit from that. But I, I love the idea of as an organization being really clear about, and not just having it be, -- we're adopting these cultural assumptions about what it means to be a quote, good employee or to show up well here in this space.
Can you say a little bit more? I think most organizations are used to if they, if they do any work around compensation, think about it from a market-based point of view, what are some pitfalls that are embedded in that standard approach?
Mala: I think one of my collaborators Sharon Davis just introduced me recently to Marilyn Warring's work. She's a New Zealander used to be a New Zealand parliamentarian and some work of hers in, in the seventies. She really talked about how the GDP is not a good example of productivity because it is only looking at growth on growth, which we cannot sustain. I think it was Donna Meadows who talks about systems, systems dynamics and like you. But there's limits to growth, right? Like meaning that the market is constantly looking to grow. And, it's constantly embedded in the market system, our values. So why is it that domestic workers and janitors and non-unionized farmers, agriculture, why are those professions valued less? Why is it that managers are valued more than the people that work under them? Is that an assumption? We want to adopt without question or do we wanna actually question it and say what is the importance of different people's work and how do we actually lift up unseen and undervalued work in the marketplace?
And how do we, typically it's women's work and people of color's work, black, indigenous healing, the different ways that we can come into the workplace, the different ways we have access to knowledge and in our culture, the dominant way of knowing something is this like a logical scientific method.
And there are lots of different ways of knowing and how do we actually learn from each other and bring that to the best of our ability to help the nonprofit organization to execute its mission.
Carol: You said before that it's not an either or, so it's not entirely throwing out the market-based construct, but it's looking at it and saying -- there are definitely values embedded in this. It's not neutral, The rhetoric is that it is neutral. like algorithms are neutral. No, they're not. They're all built by people,
I feel like the pandemic, I mean with who are the essential workers? Well, the people who are paid the least, who are least valued. And I, my most cynical self often thinks, my goodness, we value in terms of money that people who do the most harm in the world.
I mean like the people who do good on a daily basis don't get paid much.
And the people who are wrecking things get paid a lot.
Mala: It's so true. That's so true. It feels like nonprofits, if any organization or any sector is gonna change those kinds of default value systems. It's the nonprofit sector or benefit corps or organizations with a more of a stakeholder approach rather than a shareholder approach.
Carol: And of course as you said at the beginning, nonprofits, or, well, any organization is constrained by budget, but particularly social justice nonprofits are constrained and so they may have aspirations that they can't fully. Live out because of those, those funding constraints and, and just the money that's coming in revenue.
What are some of the other critical, it's very hard to balance it all.
But I'm really appreciating that people are taking a stab at it in a way that I don't think was true when I first started where it was all about what was outside, what was the mission, and very little attention to what was inside the organization.
That disconnect between. Our mission for creating this change, empowering women in the workplace. I literally worked at an organization whose mission was to empower women in the workplace and they would hire women in order to pay them as little as possible. it's like this little bit of a disconnect there.
Mala: exactly. Exactly. If nothing else, we have to get the mission aligned pieces. We have to be able to accomplish them inside of our organizations if we have any expectation of accomplishing them outside.
If we can't do it internally in our organizations, what evidence can we bring to, to say that this is possible,
Carol: What are some of the other critical conversations that organizations need to have? You talked about having a shared understanding of what it means to be an employee here and how we're approaching work.
Mala: One of the things that there's a whole bunch of what we call polarities that are happening in the workplace. An example is, oh, we had this great conversation about geolocation as a compensation factor. Do you adjust the salary for where people live? And so there's two aspects and like for some people it's like, no, you don't adjust it because people, that's somebody's personal choice where they live. And then for other folks it's like, well, we can't hire people in particular, we can't hire the best employee. They happen to be from San Francisco, so we need to pay them at the market level. That San Francisco salaries are at compensation are at. So those are kinds of questions like, where are the boundaries?
Where are the and there's actually upsides to doing either one, right? Paying at the market level based on the geography, or not paying. And there's also downsides for both. So how do we actually, as an organization, come to a more collective understanding and perspective of where those lines are?
Where do we cross the value line and start moving from where we're seeing the upsides of one direction, and then we're going into the downsides because we've, we've overvalued it to the neglect of this other perspective. Polarity Partnerships is a great resource for that. Barry Johnson is the one who created the polarity mapping. It's a great tool to have those conversations.
Carol: I love working with polarities because I feel like oftentimes, so often people can really get caught up in advocating for one side or the other, I mean like a classic one is in the sector, is that we should be working at the systemic level. We've gotta solve these big systemic issues. Just working one-on-one is not enough, yes, you can help each person individually, but the system's still there. It's not either or, it's both. We've gotta be working at both levels. Maybe not everybody is working at both levels. But people definitely get caught up in those.
Yes, we gotta do it. Market, yes, we gotta do it. Geography or no. but what is that method of looking at what are the values, but what are the benefits of each side? And then what are the pitfalls? And then trying to maximize the benefit on both sides and be mindful of the pitfalls.
But so often in cultures. The classic one that people are talking about and you're talking about right in, in this model is. The US culture and western culture has tended to be so over-indexed on individualism that the relational piece is missing. And so how do we, and it's not that we completely go to the other side.
Carol: It's that we, how do we find some balance between the two, which is always the most challenging,
Mala: Always the most challenging, always the most challenging. And one of the things that comes back to the question of the process that we use, one of the last things we build out for organizations is a calculator that actually allows people to do some what if scenarios. We're encouraging people to pay people a thriving wage rather than just a minimum wage or a living wage. And so like how do you, you actually test that with your budget? We give a calculator where you can set your base number and set your different compensation factors, how much money you're giving to each factor. And that allows based on the way that we are doing our system with the levels and stuff, to try different forms, try different amounts to get within the budget that you have. And if you can't hit a thriving wage for everyone this go around. We're encouraging organizations not to lift the ceiling until they bring people up to a thriving wage.
Carol: Can you describe what's the difference between a living wage and a thriving wage?
Mala: I use the MIT living wage calculator as a base. There's other cost of living calculators, but the MIT living wage calculator is an alternative to poverty wage. It's saying, how much do you have to actually earn to live in this place? But they're only looking at the necessities.
if you're targeting your pay level. To what one individual no children are at in the MIT calculator. For a given geography, you're actually only getting them the bare necessities. And so if there's one car accident, one car repair or some major medical issue that is gonna put your employee in An avalanche of financial strain and thriving wages. We're using, I think it comes from Elizabeth Warren, but there's a 50, 30, 20% budgeting rule. And the budgeting rule is 50% towards your necessities. 30% towards your just discretionary needs, and then 20% towards savings and retirement. Well, if from the MIT living wage calculator that for some particular area, it's $16 to meet the necessities. You can plug that number into the 50% and then figure out what the thriving wage looks like, at least around to get an approximation, to get us above water, to get all the employees working with some financial breathing space.
Carol: That's so huge because when I was a single mom and not making a lot of money, those, one-time things. That pretty much happened every third month. Oh my goodness. They threw such a curve ball into everything every time. And so I actually have an item in our personal family budget that is one time items.
And so I've been tracking for years how much that is, how much you need to budget for those, unexpected quote unquote things that you can completely expect to happen.
Mala: I love
Mala: I love that. I love that. There is a great Hidden Brain episode on something like that around the money and You episodes where they talk about like budgeting for the not budgeting for the unexpected expenses, but then recognizing that actually that unexpected expenses happen every year or every,
Carol: You just don't know when they're gonna
Mala: You don't know when
Carol: I dunno when the heater's gonna break or the washing machine's gonna break, but it's gonna break at some point.
Mala: And also if you want your, so there's the expenditures that are really critical for your daily operation, just being able to operate in your life, But there's also the money that you might need for relationship building. Like you want to buy your kids some books or take them to the library or get a special gift for your 16th birthday. So that's why we're shooting for the two times living wage as an estimate to get to 1.5 to two point the living wage as a thriving wage number.
Carol: And that being your base wage.
Mala: It doesn't have to be. Because usually it's a little bit tricky.
I, I'm not gonna say it's a little
Carol: a hundred percent, but.
Mala: not a hundred percent, but the lowest wage in the organization should be above that. And assuming that everybody has responsibilities that get tracked on the differential part of the scale, then It would be a little bit more than base wage. .
Carol: You talked at one point about, and I'm imagining some chart. This sounds like it can get really nitty gritty in terms of you have a zero, you have all these skills, competencies. But you used a different word for those compensation factors, which was so beyond what is typical, right, of what I just named all those different things named and then defining a 0 1, 2, 3, 4, I don't know how many, how high you go for, for what the different levels are for those.
And I would imagine that gets really granular, but at the same time. just be really eye opening for folks to what it actually takes to do each job.
Mala: It is. I would say that skills and competencies are actually part of why sometimes organizations will lift it out specifically, but we don't embed it in.
I think one of the things in our system is like, they look at how many years of school you need in order to get a job, and then that means you get more pay. In this system we don't make any assumptions. Let folks decide where they wanna put value and why. And so that they come together with some reasoning. So it's
Carol: What might somebody put value to that wouldn't show, we wouldn't show up in a typical scenario or a typical compensation process.
Mala:. I would say the majority of the compensation factors that we end up using for organizations are areas of responsibility. It's like where are people holding the work that the organization has to do in order to meet its mission? And it's functional. It's not positional.
Every position gets scored on every single area of responsibility. Some of those areas of responsibility are functional areas, could be leadership. Project management supervision. It could be fundraising, finance, program communications and external relations. It could be the unseen undervalued labor, like emotional labor, relational labor, JEDI work.
The work that people are doing to increase equity and justice within the organization or externally apply it to the work, the programming work that they're doing. There's a lot of different categories that they could pick from. There's also working conditions. When you have to, some positions have to be on 24/7. They have to be on call or there might be a category sometimes we use called that's about the level of vulnerability that you have in your work. If you have to stay in the front desk and you have to stay seated the whole time that can cause physical harm to you. You're vulnerable in that sense.
Or you might be exposed to blood if you work in a hospital or a health clinic and you're drawing blood from folks. It could be that you're. Community is being targeted for violence, and you are out there and you're the face of the organization. There's different things that can go into it.
It is pretty super granular, so we don't encourage really small organizations to use it wholesale, draw from it what is most important but at the end of the day. It tends to be best for organizations between 15 and 50 people. We have a couple of larger organizations that are interested in implementing it, and we're excited about figuring out how to do that well. But ultimately it's really about being much more transparent about what we're valuing and being able to right size the value of things that are overvalued in the market.
Mala: increase the value of things that are undervalued in the market.
Carol:. What things that help organizations be successful in this process?
Mala:. We have a set of conditions that we call conditions for readiness. I think the first thing is make sure your job descriptions are up to date. 'cause that is really important.
Carol: And that can, that can be a hurdle for a lot of organizations.
Mala: It can be. It is. And,you hit it right on the spot. There the conditions for readiness cover logistical conditions that are like job descriptions, making sure that you actually have fiscal health. 'cause if you're struggling for fundraising or budgeting, this is not the time to work on equity in the compensation system in this way. And then there are socio psychological conditions, which are around, can you have a conversation around the grief and trauma about money, trauma of money. There's growing research that the financial trauma that our ancestors and can transfer intergenerationally and so How we grew up affects how we're actually making decisions in the organization. We need to separate that out. Like, understand what is our personal trauma versus, and our personal fear around money, and how are we bringing that into the workplace?
What is good for the organization, what is not good for the organization? And then I'm forgetting the, the, the second, there's three sets, and I'm forgetting this third set, I think it's on our website.
Carol: Well, we'll put links to a lot of those things that you have in your signature so that people have all those resources that you make, that you very generously make available. So on each episode, I like to close out by asking each guest what permission slip would you give nonprofit leaders, or what would you invite them to consider to avoid being a martyr to the cause and as they work to cultivate a healthy organizational culture.
So either a permission slip or an invitation or both to nonprofit leaders.
Mala: Two things. I think one is: Understand your position with risk, regard to risk and understand if you're risk averse or risk taking. And understand what that impact is. Do you need to scale back a little bit on the risk taking? Do you need to increase your risk taking and understand where you are and what the organization needs based on its lifecycle and stuff?
The second is not every law is equal and the ramifications of laws are not all equal. And so sometimes we don't take risks because we're worried about legal liability. But the legal liability is a probability. If this happens, this happens, this happens, this happens, and this happens. And if we do it in this way, this way, and this way. But if you're not doing it in this way, in this way, and it's not, all these conditions don't meet, then you can actually take a risk that is not gonna be as harmful to the organization. Now, as an HR professional, I can never tell someone to not follow the law.
I'm not saying break the law. What I'm saying is that some laws have greater risks. So as an organizational leader, they can decide how they wanna approach that risk in a different way.
Carol: I feel like for a lot of people, the fear of the unknown on all those HR issues, tends to mean that people wanna be more risk averse. And then, that fear of doing it wrong will mean that, well we can't change any of this 'cause, we're tied in by the law. But what you're saying is there's more flexibility there than they might think.
Carol: All right. Well thank you so much. This was, so I learned a lot and I'll be excited to put all those links in so that people can access all those resources that you have on this really innovative model that you're working with to help organizations think differently about how they structure their compensation for their staff, which is just so fundamental.
Mala:. Thank you Carol, for the opportunity to talk to your audience and to have a conversation with you. It was really nice. Thank you.
In episode 84 of Mission: Impact, Carol Hamilton and Heather Burright discuss:
how strategic planning, implementation and staff and volunteer skills development all fit together. We delve into the critical aspects of strategic planning and its effective implementation. I highlight the importance of aligning the implementation plan with the organization's regular processes and cycles, emphasizing the need for a shorter time frame for implementation, typically six months to a year. I also talk about the significance of continuous evaluation, tracking progress, and making necessary adjustments to ensure the successful execution of the plan.
The conversation underscores the pivotal role of understanding and addressing the skills gap within the organization. Heather discusses how to identify the skill gaps that will undermine the success of your strategic plan and then the essential elements of creating a training program, focusing on relevance, meaningfulness, and a touch of fun to engage employees effectively. She emphasizes the importance of custom competency models and the value of building cross-functional relationships and trust within the organization to facilitate successful change management.
(00:07:07) Strategies for Successful Strategic Planning Implementation Planning
(00:11:09) Integrating implementation into your regular practices
(00:12:36) Why training is a key piece to strategic plan implementation
(00:16:11) Maximizing Impact Through Whole Organization Involvement
(00:24:29) Listening to People: Key to Change Management
Leveraging 15 years of experience, Heather Burright, founder and CEO of Skill Masters Market, specializes in creating dynamic, people-centric solutions that drive business goals. With her comes expertise in strategies for diversity, equity, and inclusion; instructional design; and change management. She’s dedicated to identifying core competencies that are needed to see real results and to creating the learning strategies and solutions needed to develop those competencies.
Important Links and Resources:
Heather Burright: https://www.linkedin.com/in/heather-burright/
Skills Masters Market: https://www.skillmastersmarket.com/
Learning for Good podcast: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/learning-for-good-podcast-learning-and-development/id1621971310
Standards for Excellence Institute: https://standardsforexcellence.org/
My guest today on Mission Impact is Heather Burright. Heather and I talk about how strategic planning, implementation and staff and volunteer skills development all fit together. Implementation planning and support can often be the missing link to really make a strategic plan come to life and be useful and relevant to an organization. A plan gets done – but if those big goals and initiatives are not integrated into the regular work of the organization – then the plan can sit on the proverbial shelf. And when the organization doesn’t commit to integrating, reviewing and updating the plan on a regular basis and make it part of their regular practices, it can go by the wayside.
I appreciated Heather’s point about – looking at the plan – not just from the point of view of who is going to do what by when – or from the point of view of budget implications – but also what are the skills that those putting the plan into action are going to need to make it a reality. Then with those skills in mind – where do people know and where do we need them to be? I don’t think many organizations are taking the time to think about this piece. It is something I will certainly be bringing forward in the future when I have the chance to work with organizations on their strategic plan implementation planning.
Mission: Impact is the podcast for progressive nonprofit leaders who want to build a better world without becoming a martyr to the cause. I’m Carol Hamilton, your podcast host and nonprofit strategic planning consultant. On this podcast we explore how to make your organization more effective and innovative. We dig into how to build organizational cultures where your work in the world is aligned with how you work together as staff, board members and volunteers. All of this is for the purpose of creating greater mission impact.
Mission: Impact is brought to you by Grace Social Sector Consulting. Grace Social Sector brings you whole-brain strategy consulting for nonprofits and associations. We help you move your mission forward, engage all voices and have fun while we are doing that. We combine left-brain strategy and analysis with right-brain wisdom about human complexities for a proven, whole-brain, whole-organization process through which every stakeholder thrives. Reach out to us for support and facilitation of strategic planning, mapping your impact, auditing your services for mission alignment and getting an organizational assessment. We especially love working with staffed nonprofits and associations with human centered missions.
Today Heather and I are doing a little bit of an experiment with this episode. Our conversation is appearing on Mission: Impact – and on Heather’s podcast, Learning for Good. I am looking forward to listening to Heather’s version and hearing what she took from our conversation.
Heather, I'm curious what drew you to the work that you do? What would you say motivates you and what would you describe as your why?
I am motivated by a few core beliefs. I believe that people excel when they know what is expected of them and they can show up authentically at work. I believe people are worthy of investment, and I believe investing in your people makes them feel valued and gives them new skills and a new passion for their work. And I believe organizations are better when they empower their people to operate from their strongest capabilities. And so that's why I personally work relentlessly to create dynamic, people centric solutions for nonprofits and associations. I want the solutions to be both strategic, supporting the organization, but also compassionately human centered, supporting the people themselves. And I want nonprofits and associations at the end of the day to have exactly what they need to support their people and move their mission forward.
I love that combination between the strategic and the human centered. That's definitely something that I'm always aiming for as well, enabling people to do well. I don't know whether it's bringing your whole self to work, but bringing whatever part of yourself that you want to, to work and then being fully supported in what you're being asked to do.
Absolutely. But Carol, I'd love to hear a little bit about you too. Tell me a little bit about what I generally ask about people's career journey, but share a little bit about your journey to where you are, how you ended up here, and why you do what you do.
After college, I worked at an organization that helped people get on talk shows, but we did it for all comers. And so quickly after that, I decided I really wanted to if I was going to be doing something like that. And I wanted to do it for organizations that I supported the mission of and so shifted into the nonprofit sector and worked for a variety of organizations over the course of my career with those human centered missions. And I continue to really enjoy working with organizations that center education and helping people thrive in their human capacity, but over time just became more and more interested in really what helps organizations work more effectively so that we can really move that mission forward strategically. And so over the last several years, I've been consulting to nonprofits and associations, helping them with strategies, strategic planning, mapping their impact, doing audits of their services, and then also organizational assessments. And I really enjoy doing all of those things to, again, try to help the organization hone in on what's really their core competency so that they can be less stressed as they try to move their mission forward.
That's always a good thing, right? A little less stress. That never hurt anybody. So I love what you do. I think that what we do complements each other so well. You really help the organization set that strategy, be really clear about what they're trying to accomplish and do so, like you said, in a more effective way, hopefully a stress free or at least less stressful way.
Probably not stress free.
Right. At least less stressful. That's the goal. And so then I help organizations take that strategic plan, prepare their people to implement. And so we're so complementary in our work. And I love that. I know you mentioned that one of the things you do is the strategic planning process. What are some of the challenges that you see when it comes to actually implementing that strategic plan after it gets created?
I think those challenges are part of the reason that strategic planning gets a little bit of a bad rap. People are always, oh, we went through that whole process and then the plan just sat on the shelf for probably more appropriately now, sat in a Google Drive or sat in a Dropbox folder and never was referred to. And I think it's that moving from the process to then how are we putting this into practice? How are we actually going to? I think making that translation, taking the time to think about how we are going to bring this into our regular planning processes, into our regular meetings, what's the cadence that we're going to be doing? All of those kinds of things, asking those questions and having a plan to implement really supports an organization making the most of the time that they've spent together to identify what's really important for them to move their mission forward over the next couple of years.
That makes a lot of sense. You do all the work. A lot of the focus at the time is on the plan. If there's not a plan to then implement the plan, if it's not then integrated into your existing plans processes, then.
It makes that integration. I think integration is really the key thing. It's like, how are you integrating it into how you regularly work rather than thinking of it as something special?
That makes a lot of sense. And what do you recommend for nonprofits to overcome that or what have you seen them do in the past?
A couple of different things. I think the first is for that implementation plan being realistic about the time frame. So your bigger plan may be that medium term time frame of three to five years, but the implementation plan really needs to be a shorter time frame. It could be six months, it could be a year. Really depends on the organization and its cycles and what makes sense. And then for that plan, that's where I recommend that people get into the real nitty gritty of who does what by when and how. All of those kinds of things because that year one or first six months, you're getting into those details, planning that out, and then having a process to say, okay, we've come to the end of this time period. What did we actually manage to accomplish? What do we still need to do? What is less relevant or what might need some tweaking? What have we done that we didn't expect to do? And so asking those questions on a regular cadence and having a way to track and then do the next six months or the next year implementation plan where you get into that nitty gritty. Because I think one of the challenges is when organizations try to nail everything down for that entire period, and that's where it starts ending up feeling a little ridiculous. It's like we can't actually predict what's going to be happening three years from now. I say don't waste your time trying to nail that down in terms of the specifics that make sense.
When you put it into that detail of a plan, you have something that can help guide you as you're implementing. But like you said, it also allows you to go back and trust so that you can see, am I on the right track? Are there things I need to adjust? And doing that in those smaller increments makes a lot of sense. Have you found that nonprofits have a lot of success with that?
I think when they are able to make a regular practice of it, know what's expected at that check in, do that within their regular meetings, whether it's staff meeting or at a regular cadence at a board meeting, and or both. Knowing what part of the plan the board is responsible for, what part of the plan is staff driven, and then just having someone be the champion to make sure that they're doing that as well, all of those things really help. And then realizing that it's not just about checking off what you've done or doing. I've seen a lot of groups have that green light, yellow light, red light of where things are in terms of progress, but also having those questions in mind so that you are making those adjustments as needed.
That makes a lot of sense.
Part of going into implementation, sometimes there's a new initiative or something that really needs some extra support for an organization to really make it happen. You work with creating training for nonprofits and association members. How do you see training actually supporting the implementation of a strategic plan?
I typically look at a three pronged approach, and it does all go back to making it strategic and compassionately human centered. As I said in the beginning, it's very important to me. So the three pronged approach that I typically take is you want to make it relevant, you want to make it meaningful, and you want to make it fun.
And I'm going to define what I mean by those because some people probably just went for fun what? So I think it's important that we define each of those. So the first was to make it relevant. And that to me is where you really go back and you look at that strategic plan, you look at the things you've said you really need to accomplish and you look at other supporting documents in the organization. What is your mission, what is your vision, what is your DEI commitment? Those kinds of things that also impact the work that you do. Review all of those things and identify the skills that your people are going to need to be successful. Start with skills.
Skills are always the driver for any training if you want to see a behavior change. So identify the skills that are going to be needed to deliver on that strategic plan and continue on with your mission, vision and DEI commitment and then compare those skills to your learner's current skill set. So where are they now and where do you need them to be? And that change, that shift, that gap is what you want to focus on to make the training relevant.
The next piece was to make it meaningful. And so this again, it is a little bit more of that compassionately human centered piece. If it's relevant, it will already be meaningful, right? Because it's going to impact them in their role and their job. But you also want to take the time to build cross functional relationships, trust, psychological safety, all of those foundational things that need to exist in the organization for the change to be successful. And any sort of opportunity that you have to bring people together, whether virtually or in person, is an opportunity to build those cross functional relationships, to build that trust and to build that psychological safety. So yes, there are self paced training options out there but a lot of nonprofits and associations are running in person or virtual gatherings as their training option. And so there is a huge opportunity to build that trust during that time. And then the last is to make it fun.
And again, I use that word, I laugh every time I say it because sometimes people think about forced fun, which is not very fun. But what I mean by that is to do something unexpected within the experience, design that training so that there is something unexpected, so that they remember what they are learning. And you can do that in a variety of different ways. I've certainly used improv in a very light way. It can be intimidating for somebody who is not used to improv, right? But if you do it in a very light way, then it can be fun for people and it is memorable for people. You can use outside tools like Kahoot brings in a game experience.
Or you could use Mural or Miro where they're working together collaboratively in a different way. There are different things you can do, different elements you can bring in to make it unexpected, to make it just a little bit playful. And then they're going to remember what they're learning and be better able to actually change that behavior. Bring the skills that you need them to bring in order to execute on that strategic plan.
I love all the parallels between the actual planning process. I always want it to be for people to tell me that it was fun, that it was unexpected to them because they might have been dreading a strategic planning process. But what you described in terms of the relevance, meaningfulness and then fun, and that gap between, okay, what are the skills at the individual level? What are the skills that are needed for this initiative? And then at the individual level, for me, there's a lot of like when you look at that gap, essentially it's what the whole group has done as a cross functional group through the planning process.
When I'm working with groups, I really want them to not have it just be a top down process, but really have it be a whole organization process. And in some cases when the organization is really large, that might be a slice of the organization. People representing the various constituencies and levels and stakeholder groups. But then you are looking at what is the current state, where are we right now and where do we want to be and what's the gap in between? What do we need to do?
There's so many parallels and then with what you were describing in terms of training and how that can really support the plan moving forward and the actual planning process. One of the things that I always hear from clients is that by bringing people together, mixing them up into different groups, there's all sorts of other benefits that come out of the planning process because people get to know each other and understand their work better. But I really feel like thinking about what the skills that are going to be needed in a plan is probably a missing piece that very few organizations are actually looking at.
I would agree. I have seen strategic plans where there is a people component baked into it, which is amazing, so fun to see. But even if there's not, there's probably something in there that's going to require something different of your people. And if that's the case, there is always room for skill development.
Oftentimes the people piece is -- We want to have a thriving, healthy organizational culture. But really getting into what people need to be able to know how to do to make this a reality. Oftentimes another goal might be something around fundraising or working on board development and all of those things end up clarifying roles and responsibilities depending on what the stage of the organization is. where they are in the lifecycle of the nonprofit can all be different. But I love the piece about really honing in and probably because I came out of a learning background before I did this work, one of the things that I always have people do is make sure that we cannot have an action step without an action verb. It's like doing learning objectives.
Yes, absolutely, I agree there.
When have you seen organizations take that next step of doing that analysis of the skills and what are the competencies that we have now and what do we need to be able to move folks forward to be able to actually get this plan done?
I love it when an organization brings me in at that point in the process because it really does set you up for success. Like you said, they're coming out of a strategic planning process where they've been really collaborative, hopefully, and they've been hearing from people and they've been taking a different approach to their work in some cases and then coming right behind that and saying, now let's do the same thing for your people.
It's just a nice flow and it sets people up for success in the very beginning. So I have seen organizations do that and I love that. I think a lot of times it's a little bit later down the line when they realize they're ready to scale a program or a service or launch something new and they realize there's going to be a gap in their people being able to implement that thing. So it's a little bit later in the process, it's a little bit harder to go back and really capture that analysis and the energy that's already coming out of that strategic planning process. So I've seen it both ways. It's still doable the other way. If it's a little bit later in the process, definitely still doable. It just might feel a little bit like you're taking a couple of steps back before you can move forward.
And I feel like, for me, as I think about projects moving forward, as I help organizations map out that implementation plan, certainly coming out of this conversation, one of the things that I'll be adding is what are the skills that are needed to move this forward and help people even think start to think about it. Because I think it's not necessarily a top of mind conversation for most folks.
Absolutely. And one of the things we're talking about training today, but one of the things that I do is custom competency models. And that's a great time when you're getting ready to implement a new strategic plan. That's a great time to either create or revisit your existing competency model because you are able to say, okay, this is where we're headed and these are the skills that we need people to have in order to achieve that. And this is what that looks like. That one skill, right? One skill can look different to different people or in different roles. And so a competency model allows you to define what that skill is going to look like at various levels in the organization. And then you can build your entire learning strategy around that competency model, which is built around where you're headed as an organization.
And I've seen those on the association side built for the field, but I've rarely seen them built for the people inside the organization.
They work well in both scenarios.
And for smaller organizations, what are some ways that they could tackle this, that there's a level of sophistication and resources that you need to be able to do some of those things? Are there some smaller chunks that they could bite off to get started?
And this might be contrary to what other people would recommend, but I actually would recommend a competency model for a smaller, smaller organization as long as they have staff in place or a set of volunteers in place, because it does define the skills. You can always go and look for off the shelf training to help develop a particular skill. But if you don't know which skills you need, then buying a particular training isn't going to be all that helpful. So while a larger organization might say we want the custom competency model and we want the custom training because we're going to be training hundreds of staff over the next year or whatever, the case is a smaller organization. Taking the time to identify what those skills are that are going to be needed will allow them to be more particular, more strategic in what professional development they invest in in the future.
If you want to start without having to start with a blank page, what comes to mind for me is the Standards of Excellence for nonprofit organizations, where you have an entire comprehensive set of standards. A few organizations go through the full accreditation process. A lot of other organizations use it as an assessment of where they are and would help them pull out those competencies so that you're not having to figure it out. Especially for smaller organizations, there's very little that hasn't been done before, so don't feel like you have to go it alone or start from scratch.
What final words of advice for nonprofits creating training to support strategic planning implementation do you have?
I think the first, and we've talked about it a little bit already, is to listen to your people. If you're going to be creating training to support strategic plan implementation, you have to know where your people are and where they need to go. Talking to senior leaders, asking supervisors, holding focus groups with the staff that are going to be impacted by the change. And really listening is a great way to understand what the gap is that you're going to need to fill. And then the second piece is, remember the change component of this.
If you are doing anything different, there is a change and there's always something to fit in the strategic plan. Right. So tap into people's motivations. Why do they care? Why would they even want to make this change behavior, change, whatever it is, make sure they have the skills, which is where the training helps, and then surround them with the resources that they need to be successful.
There’s so many parallels to the actual planning process of not starting small, starting larger, where you're really listening and hearing from, mapping out that map of stakeholders and constituents that you have and then getting that input from them. Feel it, figuring out how to pull their voices together so that you can make some decisions about what you need to do moving forward.
I think people hesitate around change or at the top can feel like they've communicated enough times around the thing. And then I think there's a lot of it that can become a little bit of us and the people who want the thing, the people who are quote-unquote, resistors. And it goes back to listening to hearing really what is getting in their way, what hesitancies do they have so that that can be integrated into how you're supporting them with the resources that you were talking about?
Absolutely. Part of surrounding them with resources is absolutely removing barriers. So you have to understand what they're experiencing in order to really make those changes happen. But Carol, I'm curious, any words of advice from you? Any final words, I guess, of advice for nonprofits undergoing the strategic planning process?
I think starting with the whole organization and really thinking about how the whole organization is contributing to the planning process. And I think that also supports implementation because when people have been part of the process, they see themselves in it. They understand why decisions were made a certain way. They're more ready to roll up their sleeves and get ready to put the plan into action. And so while leaders might feel a little intimidated by, well, if it's just this huge cacophony of voices, how are we going to actually make decisions? But there are ways through a good facilitated process to ensure that you have a succinct plan at the end and folks know what they need to do.
Absolutely. And I definitely see that in the needs analysis side on competency models and training as well. So, like you said, there's just so much overlap in the way that we work the process that we use and then so many good complementary pieces to it as well. Starting with that strategic plan and then moving into what do our people need to be able to implement?
Carol, it's been so fun to have this conversation with you. Thank you.
Definitely and talk about change. You're going to be helping me tweak my practice in terms of working with organizations in that implementation planning phase.
I love it.
I appreciate that. Well, thank you.
Thank you for listening to this episode. I really appreciate the time you spend with me and my guests. You can find out how to connect with Heather, her full bio, the full transcript of our conversation, as well as any links and resources mentioned during the show in the show notes at missionimpactpodcast.com/shownotes. I want to thank Isabelle Strauss-Riggs for her support in editing and production as well as Cindy Rivera Grazer of 100 Ninjas for her production support. Mission: Impact is brought to you by Grace Social Sector Consulting. Grace Social Sector brings you whole-brain strategic planning, mapping for impact, & mission alignment audits for nonprofits and associations. We combine Left-brain strategy and analytics + right-brain wisdom about human complexities for a proven, whole-brain, whole-organization process through which every stakeholder thrives. Reach out to us for support and facilitation of strategic planning, mapping your impact, auditing your services and getting an organizational assessment.
We especially love working with staffed nonprofits and associations with human-centered missions.
Please take a minute to rate and review Mission Impact on Apple podcasts or wherever you listen to podcasts. It helps other people find the podcast. We appreciate it! And until next time, thank you for everything you do to contribute and make an impact.
In episode 83 of Mission: Impact, Carol Hamilton and Alexander Lapa delve into the benefits of using a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system like Salesforce for nonprofits. These include improved data management and streamlined processes. Alexander shares his expertise in setting up and optimizing CRM tools for nonprofits. He explains why having a consultant to guide organizations through the complexities of finding the right tool to meet where they are in their stage of development is helpful. The conversation also explores challenges in fully utilizing a CRM system and the need for training and support to empower users as well executive sponsorship. Integration, AI, and organizational culture in nonprofit CRMs are also discussed.
(00:08:30) Benefits and Challenges of Using a CRM
(00:13:36) Leveraging CRM for Effective Communication
(00:18:28) Integration and AI in Nonprofit CRMs
(00:23:40) Challenges with CRM Adoption
Alex is a Salesforce Architect & Advisor who helps nonprofits improve their social impact. He has 10 years of Salesforce and nonprofit experience and 20 years of CRM experience.
Aside from working on CRM projects, Alex is host of "Agents of Nonprofit". It's a weekly podcast that interviews guests about products and services which help nonprofits. It's often discusses the benefits of technology, and currently has nearly 70 published episodes.
Alex also shares his experience in a short daily email, helping junior Salesforce consultants level-up their knowledge, deal with challenging clients, and advocate for a digital nomadic lifestyle.
Welcome, Alex, welcome to mission impact.
Thank you. Thank you for having me.
So I'd like to start each conversation with just finding out a little bit more about what drew you to the work that you do. What would you describe as your why or your motivation?
Yeah, great question. I've been doing salesforce because I'm a salesforce architect, working not exclusively, but definitely specialized with nonprofits. And when I started working with salesforce, at the same time that I had some for profit clients, I also had a nonprofit client. This was about ten years ago now. And I just found over the years that my favorite moments, the ones that I look forward to, the meetings I look forward to, the projects I enjoyed working on most were the ones related to nonprofits. And I think it has something to do with the fact that nonprofits, the focus of nonprofits, are not about profits. It's not about profit, it's not about how much money you can make, how wealthy can we make their shareholders. It's how big of an impact we can make, how can we help our community? And that really drew me in. The people were less about their egos, more about the impact or the type of impact that it can have. And it just felt like that was my tribe. And I've been doing it now for quite a while. I would say maybe three years now I've been specialized with nonprofits, and it's a labor of love.
Yeah, whatever the mission, when I'm working with organizations, I just always appreciate the people who are drawn to this work. It definitely makes a huge difference.
We promote each other, we support each other. It definitely feels much more of a community than any other for profit. I mean, I've worked with some great for profit companies as well. I can't knock all of them, but it's a different mindset altogether. And the reward, I mean, I want to feel like I've accomplished something at some point during the day. I want to feel like I've contributed in some small way, and using my knowledge to help leverage and improve nonprofits seems to be working for me, at least at the moment.
So you said that you're a salesforce architect, so can you say a little bit more about what that means and what being an architect in that sense entails?
Certainly. So salesforce is a company and it's a platform. It's actually more than just a CRM these days, a client relationship management tool. It's a platform which basically means it gives you all the tools that you need to do all your CRM activities, but it's also very extensible. You can add your own functionality on top of the platform and it is pretty much the top of the food chain in terms of complexity for CRMs, especially for the nonprofit industry. But basically any industry I tend to see nonprofits focus more on them moving up the food chain from maybe pen and paper to Excel to maybe a basic CRM to maybe a more advanced CRM to salesforce. They work their way generally up that ladder. I don't see too many nonprofits moving away from salesforce and because it has all those features and functionalities and great things, but because it has all this stuff, there's a lot of complexity to it. So having an advisor or an architect that comes in and tells you look, this is what you should do. Here's how you should set up your programs, your services, your volunteering, your cases and so forth, as opposed to having someone who might be a bit technical but doesn't know the salesforce platform itself. mucking around and building this spaghetti of mess because it is very possible to do so and then have to have someone like me come in and rescue them from that situation. So having an architect, having a consultant come in and help you from the early phases will really pay you dividends toward the end and make sure that you're leveraging your entire investment from salesforce.
Yeah, I'm laughing because I worked for an organization that used Salesforce, but I think we probably used this much of the capacity because we spent a lot of time trying to get a particular staff person trained in it. But there was such a learning curve that to really maximize its capacity, it didn't translate to the rest of us really being able to really leverage it. And it's funny that I feel like over the period that I've been doing this podcast, oftentimes when we're talking about change management or technology implementation, oftentimes the example that people end up using is around CRM or helping people. Move from that many Excel spreadsheets that everybody has their own and we don't have it up to date or common to some type of client management system. What are some of the benefits that you see of an organization actually taking the time to really make sure that a system like that is working for them?
Just to go back to the previous point for a second, we actually have a term in the salesforce ecosystem. We call them accidental admins because the term that we use for salesforce administrators are the ones building the platform. And if you are just thrown into that role, you become an accidental admin. So there's definitely a story that we could dive into for that. But to answer the question that you there is, like I said, salesforce is really the top of the food chain in my perspective. There are some smaller nonprofits that I've seen use Salesforce and there's some great benefits they can get out of it. But the key element is just using a CRM altogether. I would never recommend using pen and paper even if you were to start, just go to Excel as your entry starting point. And when you're a small nonprofit. If you're just starting off, that's a very viable CRM. You don't need anything fancy, any bells and whistles. As long as you're tracking things and you're not losing track of things. You're managing your donors, you're managing your constituents, your volunteers, whatever your organization is doing, that's great. The fact that it's digital gives you a leg up. Because when the time comes, as you're growing as a nonprofit, and when the time comes where you've outgrown the capacity of an excel program, for example, it's much easier to shift that or import that into a CRM of sorts, as opposed to pen and paper, which then it's harder to import. So the idea is to start using a CRM and pick a CRM that fits your needs at this point in time with a certain amount of understanding that there is going to be potentially growth in your future. And we all want growth, of course. So some CRMs, for example, not talking about salesforce, but some CRMs offer tiered programs where you start off with a free model of the platform, giving you basic functionality. But they do have a more advanced and a more enterprise level version that as your organization grows, you can grow into that to give you more capability, more functionality.
What are some of the signs that it's time for an organization to move to that next step?
Basically, it doesn't work for you anymore either. Things get lost along the way. You're not able to keep track of donors anymore. You're not able to do your day to day operations. There's a limiting factor, like Excel, for example. It's great for if you're one person, but the minute you become two or three, now you have versions that you're passing around. Maybe you're using SharePoint as a common area, but you'll naturally feel that there's a breaking point that you just can't scale. As your organization grows, you can't have 1020 people working in an Excel file. It just doesn't work. So making sure that reading the signs, basically saying that we're not able to grow, we're not able to scale, doesn't support all the users that we need to have as part of our organization. These would all be signs to say, maybe it's worth now investigating the next level up in terms of a CRM.
And once an organization has a CRM, I've seen instances where pretty large organizations have a pretty robust system, and yet staff are still defaulting back to those Excel spreadsheets by exporting some data, and then they're keeping that up to date versus always getting it back in the system. What are some ways that you help organizations actually get people to really use what the system can do for them?
It's actually a very common phenomenon, and it's basically a matter of control and comfort. If a user, if a person doesn't feel comfortable using the system, they won't know that a lot of people are much more comfortable with Excel than any other platform or any other program, so that they know that they can rely on it. It's usually a matter of training and of change management, of being able to feel supported, to feel like they can be empowered to use the CRM, and then they will use it, especially if they see that the more they put into it, the more they get out of it. The whole idea of using a CRM is every moment you spend putting in data to the CRM, you will get much more out of it. It's an ROI return on your investment. So it's making sure that people feel supported, that they have the necessary training as they're onboarded and keeping them going, making sure they can provide feedback in case there's ever a situation that they do have, whether it's a positive or a negative type of feedback, and just supporting them as they go, saying, don't worry. There is a benefit to using a CRM in the salesforce ecosystem. For example, we have this model. If it's not in salesforce, it doesn't exist. And the idea is that by having it in a centralized system like a CRM, everyone can benefit from it. So you can see, potentially, all the interactions you've had with a particular person outside, all the times you've made phone calls, every time you've done an outreach, an email, anytime they've done a donation or volunteered or applied for. A program or service so that when a new person comes to your organization, they can see that holistic view of that person and have better conversations, have more personalized conversations.
And I think for me, what was a stumbling block sometimes was that I wasn't using the system very often, and so I'd forget how to navigate. But what you're talking about is really everybody logging all those interactions, all those conversations means that right. A new person then has that history. But then also for organizations that are across different multiple departments, they have a sense of what's been the most recent communication with that person versus the volunteer person reaching out, and then the donor person reaching out the next day. And clashing and overwhelming folks because they're not coordinated.
And imagine a situation where a person does not want to be contacted, and there's no central point that says do not contact. And then that person keeps on getting contacted, gets frustrated every time they get a call or an email. It's like, listen, I don't want to be contacted. Thank you, but no thank you. You don't want to have that disturbance, let's call it. And having that central point, that source of truth is really, really important. And that's what a CRM can provide.
So you talk a lot about really leveraging those systems. What are some ways that you see organizations really getting the most out of that investment?
It's about empowering the people that are using the system. Again, as long as all your team members are using the CRM effectively, efficiently, then you'll see a great return on your investment. If people are resistant, if they don't want to use it, they're more comfortable using other tools. Then you either have to train them more and empower them more, or provide alternatives. Find maybe a person that can serve as an administrator to help digest and translate what they're doing into salesforce or into a CRM. Sorry if I use salesforce, I'm just so used to using that word for CRM. It doesn't matter if it's what CRM it is. The idea is that you want that central source of truth because the more you put into it again, the more you'll get out of it.
What are some of the things that organizations need to think through when they're choosing which system is going to work for them?
Yeah, it's a great question as well. So I mentioned the growth part, I think knowing that as you're getting into or as you're choosing your CRM, knowing that the CRM has various tiers that you can grow with, just so you don't want to change CRMs on a yearly basis because of the change management that's involved. So starting off with, well, starting off first of all, what are your business requirements? What do you hope to achieve with the CRM? How many users are going to be using it? What is your budget? There are hundreds, maybe thousands of CRMs now, a lot of which are, or at least a good portion of which are related to nonprofits focused on nonprofits. I mean, there are some fantastic ones if you're only doing fundraising, for example, there are some fantastic nonprofit fundraising CRMs that do that job really, really well, but it could be very, very narrow in terms of their scope. So make sure, that maybe today you're doing fundraising, but, within a few months from now, you might be volunteering. Making sure that the CRM that you choose or will plan to choose can do both is important. And then doing some because there are so many to choose from, the next question is, well, how do I choose? Ask for recommendations, make sure you have the requirements, and then try to shortlist it down to, let's say, three CRMs, and then have the vendor of those CRMs do a presentation to your organization. Do this proper assessment where you have various individuals at your organization evaluating whether this works for you on multiple criteria. I've seen a large organization do that not so long ago when they were choosing their CRM. And it was a wonderful exercise to validate and to prove to the organization that this was the right CRM for their needs.
Yeah, I would think that one of the steps would be thinking through who are all the people that either are going to be using it in terms of kind internally, but then also all the different kinds of categories of groups that you're working with, whether it's donors or volunteers. And sometimes a volunteer will become a donor. So they could be in multiple categories. The people that you're serving, people who are coming to programs and constituents, all of those different aspects. And so it can get pretty complex on what all those interactions are.
It can, and that's why there's a certain look ahead that you need to do. How far is your runway if you get into this CRM today? How long do you think it could last? And if it's longer or less than a year, then it's probably not a good fit. If it's something you think you can grow and scale with for a good measure of time, it's probably a better fit.
What are some of the challenges of that organization? We've talked about some of the challenges in terms of kind of. I think one of the ones that can be the hardest is just getting people to use it. What are some other things that come up as organizations try to really make the most of the CRM that they're using?
Usually CRMs are not in a silo, that is to say they need to connect with other systems, if only your email system. So making sure that for example, it connects to your Gmail or your Outlook, just to have that communication so you don't have to copy and paste emails from your email system to CRM. Maybe you can send emails from your Outlook or Gmail and that'll be captured in your CRM. So all that integration would be really important. Not just emails, but contacts, calendar events and so forth. Mobile support would be a consideration as well. Some CRMs offer a mobile, not necessarily for donors, but a good thing for volunteers to make sure you can have volunteers checking in, checking out, offering their availability and so forth. Sometimes SMS support could be really cool as a feature. Again more for alerts and stuff like that. And then of course the cool kid on the block these days is about AI and whether the CRM has any AI capabilities to help leverage your team even further.
So in terms of AI, what are some of the ways that that gets integrated into well, maybe I have seen it and I didn't even know it was happening, but I don't feel like I've necessarily seen that aspect. But obviously it's all the conversation right now.
How are you seeing it show up?
It's showing up everywhere. People are still trying to figure out how to make it work for them. And there is a bit of an exploratory phase for nonprofits, I would generally say. It's good to be curious, it's good to keep abreast of what's happening in the AI market. There is certainly the Chat GPT of course that tends to be the most popular ways that you can leverage it to write your grants, for example, or write first drafts of things. And I wouldn't recommend using it like that for sure. So you are comfortable using AI. But more than that, I think it's still too premature because we're still overall as an industry trying to figure out where it fits and how it fits and how well it fits. But the more you can use those kinds of the chat GPTs of the world to be able to write, let's say, first drafts of certain things, or give you ideas, that can be very useful because sometimes your ideas are just new ways. You could prompt, for example, to say, find me, or give me some common ways to reach out to people who have lapsed in donations. And that could give you a whole bunch of ideas so you don't have to think about it all yourself. It's a starting point. So those are common ways that I see AI working for nonprofits.
Yeah, and I appreciate that it's thinking about it as your first draft so you can shift from that blank piece of paper, blank screen to, okay, at least I've got something to work with. How are CRM providers integrating that into their systems?
How are you seeing? Yeah, I can't speak for all CRMs, of course. I know that they're trying to throw it in there as much as possible. I know Salesforce is doing that. They've had a version of an AI for a long time, which they called Einstein, and they're trying to integrate some of these AI more and more now into writing sales emails, for example, or analyzing data, especially if you have a lot of data prompting the AI to provide, for example, the list of top ten possible donors or donors or people who could be potential donors. These are all different ways of not having to leave your Salesforce instance and use your Salesforce data in order to be able to analyze it and get data from it. The AI though version, that's the one that everyone is talking about in terms of Einstein AI is still in a closed beta at the moment, which means only a select number of clients are able to use it in that salesforce ecosystem. But there's still the capability of not using your own data in your CRM and talking to an AI to help you get that through that writer's block, right?
Yeah, as a way to get yourself out of writer's block. I appreciate that. That's a good point. What are some other things that help as an organization is wanting to make that shift? They've gone through that requirements process. They've made a decision about which one they're moving forward with, what helps that project go smoothly in terms of implementation.
I'm hiring a consultant for an architect. The idea is that I tend to find a lot of nonprofits that don't have a lot of technical knowledge. So having someone, it depends, of course, on the complexity of the CRM, but having someone guide them through that process, handhold them through the process, someone who's been through that process multiple times and is now almost like a cookie cutter. They talk your talk, they know your language, they know your market, they know the CRM, they know what problems you tend to generally have and what pitfalls to avoid. It'll make the whole process significantly easier. And that would be for sure. That is a huge benefit and fantastic return on your investment. In addition to that, I would add making sure that training and documentation is very strong. Again, as I mentioned earlier, when your people are empowered to use the CRM, the more they are likely to use it. And if they don't remember what to do to your point earlier, having some documentation to go back to or training videos that they can reference will help raise their knowledge once more. We also know that a big part of or a big problem for nonprofits is churn as employees come and go. So having this training material and documentation will help new people on board more quickly so that they can get up and running more quickly.
Yeah, I was involved in a big CRM project when I was inside an organization. It's now multiple years ago, but I felt like the big piece that was an afterthought was that training and documentation and a lot of work got done ultimately to do that. But it never then was actually effectively shared with people. So that it ended up being a resource that got stuck on a shelf or lost in a computer file that people didn't know about, having it, doing it, but also making sure everybody knows how to access it.
Too, and making sure it stays up to date. Because if it gets outdated, it goes stale. Then there's no point having it. You have to remember, a CRM, like everything else, is just a tool, right? It's like a hammer. It's a very powerful hammer, but it's still a hammer. You can't use the hammer for anything in your renovation, in your work, but if you use it properly, it will be very good. And it's also about using it properly. So make sure you use it when you're supposed to use it and how to use it, as opposed to just trying to use it for everything. The expression once I have a hammer, everything becomes a nail. Using it properly and making sure you know how to use it properly, the training, the processes around it is half the equation. Technology tends to work itself out. Usually that's not the biggest issue. The biggest issue is change management and adoption. And so having all this in place really will help with that.
So you mentioned it's a tool, it's for a specific purpose. What are ways that you've seen people where they've actually tried to have it do more than it should be doing.
Yeah. I can only give you examples for Salesforce because Salesforce, like I said, is more than just a CRM. You can use it as an order management tool. You can use it as a lead management tool, you can do emailing with it. But like everything else, there are limits to what it can do. You can sometimes get past those limits by adding packages or add ons to it, but you can make it into a monster. It's like a Lego block. Imagine a Lego system where you have an infinite number of pieces. You can build some awesome things, but you can build a complete, utter mess. So no, you're not knowing what you should do, what you shouldn't do. There's a general rule 80% to 20% type stuff where you want to make sure that you are covering your needs without going too custom, without going too personal. In Salesforce, you can use code called Apex to really customize the platform. But the more you do that, the more you have to maintain it. It becomes less scalable or it has a tendency of becoming less scalable, less like, with great power, comes with great responsibility. You want to make sure that as you're using it, you're using it within its proper confines and you're not just trying to stretch that balloon to a point where it will just eventually break.
Yeah, that's definitely another thing that I've seen and probably 10-15 years ago where these systems weren't quite as powerful as they are today. And so organizations were really investing in doing a lot of that customization, but then when a new update rolled around, all of that got lost. And so in a way, the less you do of that, it could be where you're better off. Yeah. So what other things do people need to think about as they're trying to really move forward with one of these projects? Is there anything else that we didn't cover that you should have mentioned and need to be on the checklist of things to watch out for?
On the technical side, I think we've covered at least the major points. The rest is really about the executive sponsorship, for example, making sure that everyone in the team is aligned with where we're trying to go and really making sure that the outcomes are clear. You need to know your destination before you get into a car, otherwise you're going to be driving randomly. So knowing where your destinations are and building in a way that allows you to offer an MVP a minimal viable product, let's say as a first release. Just making sure people get comfortable using the tool before you build the Cadillac version or the fully enhanced, fully optimal version. Salesforce has another model called Crawl Walk Run, which basically means get the thing in their hands, get the feedback going, get the comfort higher and then you start adding more and more features, more functionality, more automation to get to that walk and then crawl phase. So I think that applies to any technology as well, that is to adopt slowly, keep on improving, keep on iterating to make these improvements. I don't think that the first version is going to be your last version, but make sure you know where you're going because otherwise you're going to get lost.
Yeah. And you mentioned executive sponsorship and I would imagine that just because of who's in what generation and generational comfort with technology and changes, that at least in my experience, it's been sometimes the people at the top of the organization who are the hardest to get to adopt a new system. What have you seen that's been helpful there?
Yeah. So the executive sponsor has to be open to the idea, right? And they have to make sure that they're well informed, that they understand the benefits of it at a high level. So going back to that architect consultant, that can be one person that can help indicate and show the benefits. Having certain project champions or CRM champions can be another measure where you have got people internally who maybe have used a CRM before in another organization that can rally the troops and get people excited about what's to come and what the possibilities can be would be another way to do it. And they can also whisper ears into the ear of the executive sponsor. So just making sure that, again, things are very tangible, things are very clear on where we're going, how to get there. Yeah, I would start from that.
Awesome. So on each episode, I like to ask each guest what permission slip would you give to nonprofit leaders? Or what would you invite them to consider as they avoid being a martyr to the cause, which is my tagline for the podcast trying not to be a martyr to the cause and how they can work towards cultivating a healthy organizational culture. What would be your invitation or permission slip?
I would say find balance. It can't be all work, no play. I know it's not very techie or very CRM, but from my perspective, it's finding balance as much as it is a labor of love. There is a certain labor element to it. So being able to balance that with some relaxation, some calmingness, some downtime, not feeling the challenge, especially when you have a CRM up and running, is the ability to always keep it up to date, to have this real time concept. So being able to acknowledge the fact that there are moments in your day that you just don't want to be accessible or you don't want to talk to a CRM or think about a CRM, and that's okay. You have to have some downtime to give. Yourself the energy to be better at when you're on your absolutely, absolutely.
So where can people find you? How can they be in touch?
Yeah, so the main way to reach me is through my website. It's Dryadconsulting.com Dryad Consulting.com. I also have a newsletter for salesforce consultants, and it's called thegoodenoughconsultant.com. And lastly, the podcast that I have, which is also related to nonprofits, it's called Agents of nonprofit, and that is Agentsofnonprofit.com.
And it's a great podcast. So yeah, check it out. All right, well, thank you so much. Thanks for coming on mission impact.
It's my pleasure, Carol. Thank you for having me.
In episode 81 of Mission: Impact, Danielle Marshall and Carol Hamilton have another ‘learning out loud’ conversation where we delve into the evolving landscape of nonprofit work, focusing on key themes:
🔥 Burnout and Beyond: We kickstart the discussion by addressing the prevalent issue of burnout, which has long haunted the sector. Discover how it has been exacerbated by recent events and how individuals and organizations are tackling it head-on.
🌟 Redefining Success: We dive deep into the changing definitions of success. It's no longer just about productivity and traditional measures. Learn how individuals are crafting new narratives and aligning their actions with their values.
💡 Deepening Impact: Explore the shift from relentless scaling to strategic deepening. We uncover innovative approaches to maximize impact, even with limited resources.
💼 Resource Reallocation: Get insights into how nonprofits are rethinking resource allocation. It's not just about budgets but also about investing time, human resources, and energy more intentionally.
🎯 Mission Focus: Discover the power of niche specialization. What are you doing to hone your focus to prevent mission drift and build confidence in your abilities? Do you have time built into your day or week for intentional and quiet reflection and strategic thinking?
🤝 Collaboration and Partnerships: We explore the art of collaboration and how nonprofits are building meaningful partnerships, passing tasks, and referrals, all while fostering trust and growth.
🌈 Well-Being and Productivity: Learn about the importance of individual and team well-being. How are you incorporating joy and playfulness into your life – inside and outside of work?
(00:03:47) Reevaluating values and redefining success during the pandemic
(00:07:37) Fostering Internal Cohesion for Organizational Success
(00:10:09) Redefining success through thoughtful resource allocation
(00:14:19) Narrowing focus for increased impact and success
(00:22:33) Creative thought organization with mind mapping
(00:36:59) Redefining emergencies and prioritizing strategic thinking
Danielle is an inclusive leader focused on strengthening collaboration among teams, leaders, and stakeholders to foster problem-solving, create solutions, and improve culture. She finds her inspiration in leading systemic change work that promotes equity and inclusion.
Danielle founded Culture Principles in response to a persistent need to operationalize Racial Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion metrics, centering REDI goals and creating accountability systems. She supports clients through her Mapping Equity Framework focused on Unearthing Knowledge, Elevating Strategy, and Transforming Sustainability. She centers her work around organizational assessment, racial equity learning intensives, and the development of racial equity action plans. Understanding that each organization arrives at this work from different perspectives, she utilizes assessment in building a customized strategy for each unique partner.
Previously Danielle served as a non-profit leader for 20+ years and today works on strategy development that enables nonprofits to achieve equitable mission-driven results. Danielle holds a Master's degree in Industrial-Organizational Psychology from Louisiana Tech University and draws on her background as an I/O psychologist in applying a racial equity lens to organizational policies, practices, and programs. She is a Certified Diversity Professional (CDP)/ Executive Coach (ACC).
During her playtime, you can find Danielle traveling, knitting, and kayaking in all 50 states.
Welcome, Danielle. Welcome to Mission Impact.
Thanks, Carol. Good to be back.
This is the second of and I'm borrowing this language from you, Danielle, the Learning Out Loud episode. Danielle came on on episode 75 to start. Just a series of conversations that we're going to have checking in every couple months or so on what we're seeing in terms of the nonprofit sector and our clients that we're working with and having a chance to go a level deeper than I typically do when I'm doing a one time interview. So really excited for the conversation.
One of the things that I've been talking about a lot with folks is just the prevalence of burnout in the sector. And also probably I feel like burnout predated the pandemic and then was exacerbated by the pandemic, like many things. But the thing that I see is different is the way in which people are really rethinking and renegotiating their relationship with work. And I'm just curious what you're seeing in the work that you're doing around that.
Sure. I think I'm having a similar experience in terms of the folks that I come into contact with. And again, I would agree with you that it predated, let's say, COVID. However, I think the period where people were able to be home, many people were either furloughed or laid off. It caused a global, quite frankly, opportunity for us to sit back and just reflect on what was important. And I think we would be remiss to not bring into the conversation all of what was happening. So, again, there was loss of life. There were people who found themselves who used to be doing quite well financially in dire straits at the moment. There's a lot of sickness going on. And I think it was a moment even beyond just thinking about work, like, what are my priorities? How do I want to live my life? And so I've definitely seen some carryover of that thought process, thankfully, quite frankly, into our work today.
Just a chance, well, being confronted across many fronts with the fact that we are finite beings. We don't go on forever. And so what does that mean? How am I living my life right now? Is that in alignment with my values? And maybe I just hate to say that it was slowing down because I think in many ways it wasn't, but there was a different way of time, space maybe, for people to be with their thoughts, think about what's important. And certainly for me, it also predated the pandemic, so I started to try to rethink that by moving into my well. If you turn 50, are you moving into your 6th decade? I guess so. I never quite get that one right, but hitting that half well, probably more than halfway mark and thinking, okay, what do I want to do with the rest of my time, whatever that time might be, and is how I'm spending my time, the way that I want to be doing it going forward. And part of that has just been for me trying to unpack how much I had internalized the Protestant work ethic and my worth being tied up in my productivity, the outcomes that I produce, all of that and really trying to untangle all of that.
I have a deep appreciation for that last piece that you mentioned in particular because I think what I saw many people, including myself, going through during this period was a redefining of success, right? So we've all been told on some level what success means. Much of it has been tied to Protestant work ethic, but even what it means to be successful in one's career, what it means to be successful in one's family life, like, are you married? Do you have children? Right? These are things that were set up as norms that people were expected to adhere to. And I think what I witnessed, and particularly as I add a racial lens to this as well, is it's almost like people got a collective memo at the same time that was like, we're taking a pause on the way we used to do things. And it's not to say that there was one particular way to move forward, but what we want to do is start asking a deeper question of is this meaningful to me? Who am I today? And we had a lot of time to think about that while we were home for two years. Plus, who am I today? Who do I want to be? Should I be telling this story to my kids, my grandkids, or any future person that would come across my life story? Did I lean into the values and ideals that I espouse? And so that feels really important to the conversation in terms of success, because what a lot of folks realize is I don't actually subscribe to the success that is normal. It's just a narrative we've been told.
And I think a lot of people are in the nonprofit sector because in some ways they're already stepping away from those typical measures of success. Very few people go into the nonprofit sector to make a lot of money. If you want to do that, you're going to go into something where you do make a lot of money. And at the same time, we're still in a capitalist society, we're still measured by a lot of those things, like how big is your budget as an organization? All of those different things factor into what people see as successful or not successful at the organizational level. So we still have those pressures even when as individuals, we may have at one point made an affirmative decision to say, that's not my life goal. And then, of course, there's the flip side of having made that decision, the extent to which that can be really weaponized against people 100%.
I think it speaks volumes to this idea of what it takes to disrupt systems. Right. So I may have changed my mind, or the next person may have changed their mind about what they want to sit in, how they're defining success. But it does not mean that my team members or the organization or the greater world or sector is following along with that. And I think what I've seen that's been particularly interesting is all the conversations that are happening with multiple stakeholder groups around Redefining that I think the first group I consciously remember, and some of this started even pre COVID, was with the foundations and the funders where people were saying, we believe in metrics. We think they're important, but there's more than just how many people were served, how many trees were planted that we need to actually think about in the grand scheme of things. And as I think about the metrics today, it's really interesting to hear how many companies are now talking about satisfaction rates among employees and engagement and retention, because they're understanding it isn't simply about coming to the job and making the widget. Right. There is something more about building a cohesive team that still works to uphold nonprofit missions. But we're part of that process. We're part of the mission because we have to be in a healthy space in order for us to leverage the best of our teams.
I think that recognition of it's not just about the outside mission, it's not just about how many people we served, but how are we working with each other inside the organization, and is that also in alignment with the values that we espouse?
And that feels like oftentimes it's in misalignment, quite frankly, even to today, I'm seeing many more people care for the conversation overall, but it doesn't mean that it seems to be working for everyone. Right. They're aware that they need to have this conversation, but we've not been in a place, quite frankly, as a society where we have cared for our people in that way most of the time. We came from an industrial place where it was like, hey, I need you on the factory line making X amount of product, et cetera, in this many hours. And I think some of that mindset has very much carried over to even how we do our work in nonprofits. We're serving this many people because one of the things that's hard for me sometimes when I think about nonprofits is I understand that our ability to scale who we serve has a lot to do with the greater impact that we have. But if we're not providing quality for our staff, that translates into not providing the best quality for the communities that we say that we care about at this moment.
There's a definite ripple effect, and you're not setting up your staff for success in being able to deliver those programs if they're constantly being expected to just burn themselves out. Before we got on the call, I was thinking about this in terms of I feel like a lot of folks and certainly there's an extent to which this is outside of folks control, but in a lot of the conversations I hear, I feel like people put that more of it is outside of their control than actually is. That with the pressure to always be doing more, always being growing, that that's a have to versus we're choosing how we're going to expand or not expand. And even looking at, okay, if we were to just wonderful to have a growth strategy and plan and for how we're going to increase our resources. But if we were actually just to think about what our current resources are right now, what can we reasonably do with those.
and what could we do differently? I know the last time that we met we talked a little bit about language. And so even as I hear you say growing and growing, what does that mean for us? So if we have a budget, and it doesn't matter if your budget is 500,000, a million, 20 million, what could we be doing differently with the resources that we have available today? Because I think some of the challenges that we're experiencing are not just related to sort of this shift in culture that we're seeing, but it's also related to the fact that we want to continue to do business as we've always done business. And so if I'm only thinking about my resources in the way that we've created a budget for this million dollars, here's how we've always spent it. This is how much gets allocated to the community. This is how much is overhead. It doesn't leave a lot of flexibility for us to rethink what we might do if we move some of those things around. And I think that is part of. It’s an opportunity, I guess I would say, for us to both be thoughtful about the communities. Again, that is our mission, right? To serve the communities, but also to think about how we're allocating those resources to serve our staff in the process.
What are some ways that you've seen people start to rethink that versus always? Because I do feel like oftentimes the answer to what could be better is more staff, more volunteers. So instead if we flip it to thinking differently about what you do have.
I'm thinking about it as growing impact does not mean always scaling. So what would it mean to deepen the work that we did within the organization? So instead of an example that came up not too long ago for me was a nonprofit who was basically saying they knew what the community needed and they were providing these resources only to really over this COVID period realize, hey, there are probably some things we might be able to do differently. So taking the same exact budget that they had prior to the pandemic, it's like we're going to go back to the community, the stakeholders themselves, and ask them what that we are providing today is of value to you. Right. And what are the things that we may have been missing completely or what are the things that need to be tweaked. And so I still have the same amount of resources, but I am amplifying our ability to have this impact in this moment because I'm being more thoughtful and intentional about how we apply those resources. And so I think that's an example of where growth to me doesn't necessarily mean growing to reach more people, though there is the possibility that because they've made these shifts, they may actually impact more people's lives because they're providing the right tool. Right. So instead of saying we can't do this or it's not going to work for our organization, what are the possibilities that exist?
I appreciate not only redefining success but also redefining growth. That growth could be not necessarily increasing numbers always, but going deeper and working differently. So there's an evolution in that growth versus just a linear metric, moving the needle upward, if you will.
I just had a conversation with a colleague this morning and we were working on a presentation that we're doing together and she just said at one point, and I really appreciated this, she goes, I know we have limited time, but my preference is to go narrow and deeper as opposed to wider but shallow. And that just resonated so much with me because I think sometimes with what we consider limited resources or limited time, et cetera, we're like, well, how much can we squeeze in to maximize this? As opposed to pausing and saying with the resource, whether it's time, human, or financial, what do we want to do that's really going to deepen our impact at this moment?
I think narrowing can be just the hardest thing for organizations to do. And not just organizations, I've found that in my own practice, like making choices about who I'm going to be working with and what services am I going to work on. All of those things take time to hone in on and figure out what is going to make more impact. But I do really appreciate the idea of being able to focus in and go deeper versus always trying to be all things to all people. I think organizations, my experience is that they struggle with that just out of a sense of wanting to be helpful. But then, as you're saying, if you take that minute to think because the resources are always limited, no matter how abundant your resources, they are limited. So with that, what do you want to do?
What do we do? It's so interesting too, because so many nonprofits, and I've worked for many over the years. One of the first conversations that always comes up is we're talking about Mission Drift. How do we make sure we stay on target, we serve the clients we're expected to serve, that we're getting to the outcomes that we've outlined. And I think my experience has been where I've seen a lot more success is where people niche down and they say, even if it's three things, here are the three things we do. And if it is outside of those things that we do and we know that we do well, we'll recommend another partner. There's another agency that can support you. But when you know what it is you're supposed to be focusing on, that means all of your resources and time and energy really goes to deepening that.
Impact, getting better at it, increasing your competency around that. And then I think there's a confidence in being focused and centered in on that and having the confidence that you can pass things along, that people will be taken care of. It's not your entire job to do it all and that you would be aware of what else is going on around you. So that part of that might be, okay, we're going to stop doing this thing that we've done every once in a while. When it's popped up in our request box, we're going to hand it over to this other group, but we have to spend some time actually building that relationship so that that handoff goes well versus it feeling just like, well, ping, ping, ping. You're off to refer to yet another organization.
I also think that ties right back into where we started with Burnout, when we can niche down and be very clear about what we're doing, we're not spreading our staff thin. There's still going to be ample work to go around in the organization. But it feels very different to say I work on this one major project or initiative or these two things in the organization as opposed to where do you spend your time? I'm like, oh, I do 30 things right, and that's on a good day, that feels much more intentional. And if you think about your own life, and I don't know if you've had this experience, but when I am able to really focus on one thing and do it well, I'm not in the process of trying to multitask and move between these activities. I am focused. The quality of work that I'm able to produce is much higher than what happens when I'm like, oh, I have to take this call and I have to work on this report, and I have to do all of these things. And coming from the nonprofit sector, that feels like a big part of life. And so when you think about Burnout, well, of course people are burning out. They're exhausted, right? And then we're not caring for them when they go home to give them the space and the time they need to recharge themselves to come back to the office. And so it just feels like we could be certainly much more intentional than we have been to date.
I feel like it's almost a badge of honor. Like, I wear so many different hats and I have to do so many different things. I've just given up the notion of multitasking, but it's also taken me a long time and I'm probably still definitely a work in progress in terms of have I right sized my to do list for today of what's actually possible to get done?
Oh my gosh, I feel that so much. I have started to practice at MITS. So they call it MITS because it's your most important task. And the idea behind MIT is that it is something that is really important. So if you set your goals, let's say for the month, for the week, whatever, you're picking the one task that if you advance that, it's going to make everything easier for you. Okay? And so it's really significant to your overall goals. But the goal then, furthermore, would be to get it done before 10:00 A.m.. And this has been a game changer for me because after 10:00 A.m., it's like all bets are off. Anything could happen. You have a client, you have a funder, you have someone who is stepping in. They're like, oh, I need you to fix this problem. And if you have not focused on the things strategically that were going to advance your goals or the organizational goals at that moment, it may get lost. Right? So now we're looking at 05:00 and you're like, oh, I ran out of time today. I had meetings, I had all these things come up. And we're constantly behind. So what does that lead people to do? They go home from work, maybe they have dinner if they're lucky with their families, kiss their kids goodnight, and it's like, boom, off to the races, I'm back on email. When does that give you time to actually settle, to have some joy in your life? And so when I think about this, I'm like that's partially true, at least in my world, what I am seeing from people is they're like, I just can't work around the clock anymore.
I don't want to do this, don't want to. Of course, studies have also shown that when you're working like that, you're much less efficient. You're not bringing your best brain power. You're just too tired. You can't think well about any of those things. So with that MIT most important thing, what are some of the questions that you ask yourself to try to help you prioritize? What is going to be that most important thing for the day?
I'm a big goal person, right? So I will set my goals for the year, and then I set quarterly goals. And then I'm thinking about monthly, but even as I'm doing that, what helps me get to my monthly sort of or I should say weekly. Right? We take the big picture and then we whittle it down. What is it based on my quarterly plan that feels important for this month? And maybe I'll just choose one big topic that I'm working on. So it might be my own professional development. It could be if we're talking about nonprofits, it could be a fundraising objective, whatever it happens to be, I'm thinking about that. What are all of the steps that I need to take in order to make this big goal that I have for the month come to life? Right. And so if I were to think about that now in terms of the weeks and the month, what could I break this down to? Say weekly is the theme, and then under that if I only have five days because we don't work on weekends, if I only have five days, what are the things, the five big things that I'm going to do before 10:00 A.m.? I don't know that I have a particular question, but it's just generally thinking what is going to help me get to this thing? And the example I might use with some of my clients is if you, for instance, let's say you want to buy a house, right? And so everyone's thinking about this house, and the big thing that comes to mind for people is like, oh, I got to save all this money. Okay, great. You do need a down payment for a house, but there are so many other steps that one might take before you even get to the purchase of it. Do you know? Have you researched what neighborhood you want to live in? If you have kids? Do you think about the school systems? What is your savings plan? Have you run a credit report? Right. Like, there are all of these steps, and they don't need to be done on the same day. So to break them out over time allows you to scale. And even if you spent an hour a day on this one task, at the end of the week, you've done 5 hours, at the end of the month, you've done 20 hours. You are far more like, ahead of schedule in terms of working through your objectives than you were when you were just leaving it to the end of the day, hoping there would be time for you to get to it.
Having that bigger thing in mind and then breaking it down into the smallest steps. I'm starting a new project, and my favorite way of doing this at first is to do a mind map so the circle in the middle and then all the whatever comes to mind. Because I feel like if I write a list, it should be organized this way. I have no obligation to be organized in any way. One thing can spark another. And then I take that mess and I put it in. Okay, well, what would be some of the first steps to get me going? And I love that idea of taking an hour during the day before you know things are going to start pulling you away from your plan for the day and get that thing done.
And for people who are visual, because I use a mind map tool, it's like a favorite tool. Now. You could actually post it near your desk. Right? So I go a step further with my mind map and I actually apply numbers to it. So what's the first thing I think I should do? What's the second thing? And even within the spokes that come off of a mind map, there still may be multiple steps. Right. But if I'm thinking about it in terms of a process, what feels like I must do it first in order to enable me to do these next couple of things. And so it can be visual, it can be a list. But the thing is, do you have a system to be intentional?
One of the things that I started doing in graduate school and then after graduate school, I was very reluctant in graduate school where they're always like, okay, so we did the thing, you've written the paper, now write the reflection. I was like, oh my God, do I have to do that? But I built myself a tool so that I could integrate this and now I do it on a weekly basis. And so I have that. I have a chance every week to look at all those questions. Then I've got data over time, right, to be able to look at the big picture, what's going on. But it also the other way is important too, to go from the big, but really breaking it down into the small pieces and figuring out what is going to get you just one step further.
I wonder to some extent how what we're talking about now also relates back to burnout. Because one of the things that I've had to be intentional in my own world doing is I carve out the time to plan, right? So I have my quarterly retreats with myself. I'm taking some time to think about what I want my week to look like, my month, et cetera. But when I think about most people at work, they come in on Monday morning and it's like hitting the ground running. These ten problems came up over the weekend. We need you to address them. Where is the intentional carved out space for quiet thinking and reflection? So if you want me to be strategic in my approach, I need some time to think about strategy.
Certainly. It's been a lot easier in the same way for me, once I'm a little bit more not completely in control of my schedule, but a little bit more to be able to set some boundaries, take that Friday afternoon to do those kinds of things. But even inside organizations, I think I was always the person who was like, there are emergencies and then there are the emergencies that we create for ourselves, and we can build systems to deal with the second type so that we don't have to do this over and over again. Early in my career, I worked for a company that put a magazine out every two weeks and we acted like it was an emergency every two weeks. I was like, we do this every two weeks. We can figure out how to do it without it being a crisis. So trying to differentiate between those two and I think sometimes there's almost like a valorization of that chaoticness that we must be more important if we're this busy and we're spinning like this. It's like, no, it's just disorganized.
That's a mindset shift again around what it means to be successful.
I am not measuring my success on the amount of angst. I feel like that is not the measure that I want to bring forth. And I think it takes time. But I think the leadership team, additionally, really needs to be involved in this. I have one client right now, and they do something that when I first met them, I was like, wow, it's so simple in nature. And yet I was like, I don't hear of many groups doing this. On Fridays, they meet as a team. The entire team comes to these meetings and they just talk. They talk about an article, a podcast, a thought that they've been having, a client issue that they've been dealing with. And there's no agenda. It's just anybody bringing whatever they want to the table and they have a discussion. But what I experienced, because I sat in on a number of those calls, is the level of thoughtfulness and opportunity to play with what we considered sort of half baked ideas. Like, you don't have to have a fully fleshed out thought around this. It's just I was wondering, or I was thinking here's my initial thought. What do you think about this? Right. So in that space, and it was only an hour, it was working time with the group to challenge assumptions, to think differently, to bring new perspectives in. And they were able to then take those learnings and apply them to their everyday jobs. And I'm like, it was an hour and how innovative but transformative it was for the organization.
It was an hour. But it was a weekly practice too.
An investment. And probably, I would guess, that there was a real commitment for everyone to show up to it too, for it.
To work, that they want. . The word practice, I think is important because, again, very similar to the MITS, right? Like, if I do this four times a month, that's 4 hours off. Dedicated staff time that we have to really think beyond our current vision, if you will. Right. What could be? What are the possibilities, what are we missing? And I think what I also appreciated about that is there was no question that wasn't appropriate to ask in that space. We could go where our minds and our imaginations took us. So it could be thinking about a particular project or just maybe a worldwide issue here, something that we are dealing with, but it's having ramifications in our field and our work day to day. How do we tackle this, what is our position on this? And so when we're asking those big questions and bringing curiosity to the forefront, I think it sparks more curiosity in our everyday work. It was safe to do that and so therefore, I'm going to continue that practice.
Right. It's modeling, being able to talk in a first draft and ask those different questions and not just wait until they're doing strategic planning to think about the bigger issues that are going on around them. Once every three to five years we're going to do an environmental scan. No, it's every week we're bringing something in to ponder.
What really I think excited me about that opportunity is everyone on the team participated in it, including the CEO. And that's a big deal to have literally your leadership also commit to say, you know what, I'm not too busy that I can't be in a thinking.
Space with you all well, and to model thinking out loud.
You got it, right? That's it.
I mean, there are some organizations that are literally dealing with emergencies and I think there's a mindset that many more organizations believe they are than they are and so differentiating the two. And I'm trying to think of what would be some other ways that organizations could carve out some more time. I think another one comes to mind is having a certain day where you don't have meetings and it's okay to say no to client meetings or whatever it might be, just having some space so that people have time to do some deeper work.
I do that for myself. And I will say this, I am not always successful, but Wednesdays have been labeled my thinking day and it's on my calendar as thinking day. And so when I introduce this to people they're like, well, what do you think about for 8 hours? The thing is, I can think about whatever I want. If there is something that is happening in my industry, I can think about that. I might use the time to write because writing is also reflective of me. There's a lot that can be occurring or I might actually reach out to a colleague during my thinking day because I'm just the same as we're doing right now. As we're learning out loud and we're having this conversation, I'm like, oh, what nuggets can I pull from this that I might be able to apply. And so I don't know that we always need to think about this in terms of huge resources or all hands. Some of these things might be a team is focusing on it and some of it might just be allowing people to have space as an individual to reflect.
Another thing that you had brought up around the flip side of Burnout or maybe it's one way we've been talking about it is building in some practices, having some shared agreement that Friday is going to be no. Meetings. Or Wednesday is going to be no meetings and people have time to think. Or we're going to spend an hour as a team talking about something beyond the to-do list, but also bringing Joy back into the work. For me, it's always reconnecting to why do I do this? Help me. But there are lots of other ways.
I think it's joy in the work, but I think when we initially even started talking about joy, I wasn't even thinking about it connected to the workplace. And I think part of this is in the redefining of success and reevaluating who we want to be. It's also a reevaluation of how I want to spend my time right. Both inside of work and outside. So during the pandemic, a lot of people found new hobbies. Like, I remember how the news every day talked about you couldn't find baking supplies anywhere. Needs to be found. And we sort of laughed at it. But there was a reason, like people found something that they could literally make with their hands. I am finding pleasure in cooking for my family or knitting or running whatever it was that brought them joy. And I think when you are doing more of those things for yourself outside of a workspace, when you return to work, you are refreshed. You are sort of renewed at this moment. But the other thing is, and I don't know if you've had this experience, I'm a big crafter, so I knit a lot. I like fiber art. When I spend time doing that, my mind actually has a chance to just go, right. And I'm not thinking about anything other than what I'm doing at that moment. And it allows me to come back with clarity. Right. Because I wasn't sitting in this place, I have to fix this problem, I have to solve this for someone else. I literally just had time for me to sit with my own thoughts. And so there's a beauty in that because now when it is time to go back, wow, you're going to get a very different version of Danielle than you would have gotten if I had been on call 24/7 for the entire week.
Definitely. For me, a lot of it is getting up and taking a walk or swimming laps where I just remember my mother in law once she couldn't imagine swimming laps. It seemed incredibly boring to her. So she was like, what do you think about it? And I was like, the whole point is I don't think about anything.
That's exactly it, nothing.
But in that reexamination, one of the things that I started doing, and again, just for the pleasure of it, is learning how to draw, and it's not for any purpose. I don't want to call myself an artist. I'm not trying to display things or have anything come out of it. It's just for the fun of it. And I get into a state of flow, and I'm really focused. And the whole notion that people can have hobbies, I think, is having a comeback.
Years ago, I worked at a nonprofit, Kaboom, and one of the things that they had was boomerisms. And they said, we don't want to do routine things routinely. And I had a deep appreciation for that then, but it really feels true for me now. So even if we are to take this concept of joy and bring it back into the workspace, what are the things that we're doing that we're so in a routine with? It's just like, oh, I have to fill out my travel paperwork or I have to submit this reimbursement, and it feels like it's drudgery, or I have to go to this team meeting. Are there ways that we can begin to do things in non routine? Ways that allow for joy, that allow for some playfulness? Because that feels like that's missing when everything's mission critical constantly, that's hard. There are certainly organizations that are in the business of saving lives. Many of us are not. It doesn't mean our mission is not important.
But if we took a day off or we were somewhat playful in this process, it wouldn't do any damage. If anything, it helps us. It brings us alive. And I think about, what are the things that we call emergencies that we react to almost immediately that did not have to be emergencies if we had taken time, one, to plan for them, and two, to do things in a non routine way because we're shaking it up.
I think reevaluating what actually is an emergency is a big one, unfortunately. I feel like in our culture, there's a status in being able to create emergencies that is really unhelpful.
I want no part of that. I don't know. Just call me boring. I like, is where I want to be. Absolutely. Again, go ahead.
I was just going to say I love a good routine. I was in a workshop where they said, who are you the patron saint of? And I was like, I think I'm the patron saint of routine. So I'll have to think about, though, how I can be more playful with my routines.
My favorite thing to tell people when they call me, and they're like, what have you been up to, and I'm like, nothing. It's amazing. And you know that's not true. We all have things that are on our agenda, but honestly, a life that is drama free, where it's consistent in a lot of ways, that feels good. And I'm not saying that to shy away from risk or experimentation with things, but I want to be mindful in how we approach that so that the intentionality is there. We're going to try some new things out because it helps defer on creativity and innovation, but sometimes that routine means that slow and steady actually allows you to do more.
So as we wrap up from this conversation, what invitation would you give to nonprofit leaders? I don't know. As they think about their next quarter, let's say.
I think the first thing that I would be asking right now is, where are there opportunities for you to embed reflection time in both as a team and as individuals? And for those who push back immediately and say there isn't that, why is that? There's 24 hours in every day, and it's all about, for me, how we choose to use the time that we have allotted. So if we're at work for 8 hours out of the day, is it not a valuable use of your time to see where planning, even for an hour or two, just to get started, might yield greater benefits for you?
And what are the assumptions that are embedded in we can't .
That's a limiting belief.
And for me, I think it would be, how can you bring a little more playfulness into what you're doing inside and outside of work?
I'm going to go a little bit deeper on that one, too, because I like that. But what does joy mean for your staff? What does it mean for you? Right. So instead of mandating that we all go bowling this Thursday oh, God, no. Because we do that right. As nonprofit leaders. But instead of mandating fun, the beatings will continue until morale improves. What does it mean for the team to actually say, this is a valuable use of my time. I not only enjoyed it, but I got to know my colleagues better? It felt good to be in that space.
Because there's a lot of Band Aid approaches to that that don't actually achieve the goal at all.
All right. Appreciate it. All right. Well, thank you, Danielle.
This was so much fun. Talk about joy. It's a joy to talk to you. Absolutely.
In this podcast episode, Carol Hamilton and Mary Hiland discuss the challenges and strategies of nonprofit executive directors working with their boards. They explore the importance of leaving a legacy and sharing knowledge, and how it inspired Carol to start her podcast, Mission Impact. Mary's book, "Love Your Board," is also discussed, focusing on the primary sources of trouble for executive directors when working with their boards. The conversation delves into the dimensions of capacity, connection, and culture within a board. They highlight the significance of building trust in board relationships and challenging assumptions in board recruitment. Additionally, they emphasize the need for emotional connection and individual check-ins with board members.
(00:08:52) Dimensions of Board Challenges
(00:15:11) Building Trust in Board Relationships
(00:21:39) Challenging Assumptions in Board Recruitment
(00:27:55) Board Member Engagement
Mary Hiland Ph.D. is a nonprofit governance expert and leadership development consultant dedicated to helping nonprofit leaders lead effectively. Mary has over forty years’ experience in the nonprofit sector – both as an executive and as a board member. She has been consulting and coaching nonprofit leaders for 20 years. Mary is a speaker, published author, researcher, and a business professor at her local community college. She is author of the #1 international best-seller: Love Your Board! The Executive Directors’ Guide to Discovering the Sources of Nonprofit Board Troubles and What to Do About Them (2021) And Mary is a contributing author to four other nonprofit leadership books. Mary is the founder and host of the podcast: Inspired Nonprofit Leadership
Hiland Consulting: https://www.hilandconsulting.org/
Inspired Nonprofit Leadership: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/inspired-nonprofit-leadership/id1446218521
Talk with Mary: talkwithmary.com
Alliance for Nonprofit Management: https://allianceonlinecommunity.org/
Welcome, Mary. Welcome to Mission Impact.
Thank you very much, Carol. I'm delighted to be here.
what drew you to the work that you do, what motivates you, and what would you describe as your why? I know you came onto the podcast a little while ago. Maybe it was I don't even know, maybe even a year or two ago now. So I'm guessing that that's why it keeps evolving. I'm curious for you, what is it now as you're thinking about your career that really keeps you motivated to stay engaged?
It's a really good question. For now, I'm glad you asked me what's changed, because of course, we get into nonprofit work because we want to make a difference. And I started in the service profession, but then, now as a consultant, my reason is about helping nonprofit executive directors and other nonprofit leaders be effective and not burn out. But I would say more recently, as I'm getting older and older, as we all are, I've had more of the thought of leaving a legacy. I've been consulting now for 20 years, and I've just learned so much that I think I look at my work with the idea of how can I share what I've learned over all these years? Because I don't want to disappear and not have shared as much as I possibly can about what works, what you can do. So you're not reinventing the wheel, especially for new executive leaders. I think that I care about making a difference in that way.
It's so interesting that you say that, because in some ways, thinking about people's legacy was part of what inspired me to do this podcast. Because I was at a nonprofit consulting, the Alliance for Nonprofit Management Conference, and I went to a panel where there were a number of people who know at that stage in their career where they were thinking about what's next after consulting, but thinking about that legacy. And I was in the process of moving into consulting. And so I was talking to lots of folks who were ahead of me, already established. So I was doing those one on one conversations, and I thought, why don't I start recording them and sharing them so that people beyond just me get the benefit of all of that wisdom? And as the podcast has progressed, I've branched out much beyond folks just towards the end of their career. But being able to capture and share the insights that we all gain by working with multiple organizations versus being inside just one or one movement or one field of work, I think is really valuable.
Yeah, that's a really good insight. The idea that you're exposed to more, you have new ways of thinking about things. Yes, I think that's definitely something. And, I have a podcast too, so that started off as not I don't think I was thinking so much about legacy, but I was thinking about sharing tips and strategies and bringing information. And so it's a great tool and it's lots of fun. And I've gotten to connect with lots of people like you, right?
I mean, it is so much fun to hear about different people's experiences and all the things that we have a chance to observe as we work with different organizations. And I think one of the things that's valuable from that is also being able to help organizations realize that oftentimes what they're experiencing is something that's pretty common, whether it's because of their stage of development as an organization. Where they are in the life cycle of organizations or the typical things that come up between executive directors and boards and being able to see those commonalities and be able to share with the group. What you're experiencing is totally normal. There's nothing particularly wrong with you. It just tends to happen when you're going through an XYZ transition or whatever it might be. And a couple of years ago, you wrote Love Your Board the Executive Director's Guide to Discovering the Sources of Nonprofit Board Troubles and What to Do About Them. And so I'm curious, from your point of view, what are some of the primary sources of trouble for executive directors when they're working with their boards?
Actually, the book talks about the three categories that all these troubles fall in. And I had been doing research and lots of experience, and it finally dawned on me that if you could pay attention to these three things, that you could figure out how to make a difference with whatever the challenges are you're having with your board. And the three things are capacity, connection and culture. And capacity is where my experiences, most executives start. I used to get these calls and I still do actually just come teach my board what their job is. They don't get their roles and responsibilities. This is something that all of us who are consulting in the sector hear. And even when I was an executive, I heard this all the time. So this is very common. This is, I think, the low hanging fruit. This is where people go first, thinking that there's something that people don't understand or they don't know. And in some cases that can be true. Capacity, all of these things have two dimensions. They have a process dimension and a people dimension. So maybe you don't have the right people on the board, or maybe the board's processes are just not good enough, or you don't have them at all. That can be a capacity issue. But then if that's not really making the difference for you, trying to intervene at that level, the next level is the connection level. And you don't have to start with capacity, but you need to think about connection. And connection is all about relationships. And we all know whenever you have a group coming together to do work in an organization together, whether it's a board or a work group, you have issues sometimes around the relationships. Are you an effective team coming together as a board, or are there issues there? Maybe it's not that you have conflict, but maybe you just don't have any connection. You're just not gelling as a group. You come together maybe every other month for a meeting, you take care of business and then you go home. That's not really a connection. So we know that effective boards are effective teams and there's a lot of implications about that in terms of the connection dimension of your board. And of course, then there's the culture dimension and this one is the hardest to change and shift, but it's really important to be aware of it. And I think a lot of people, when they have challenges with their board, they don't even go to the idea of, is this a cultural issue? Is this rooted in something we believe? Is it rooted in an assumption we're making as a group? Or are individual assumptions being proposed in such a way that they're dominating the conversation we're having? So those are the three things, and I use the metaphor of a tree with the capacity being the leaves and all of the different people and things and processes, and the connections being the branches and the trunk, and of course, the roots then being the culture of the board. So there are a lot of situations and examples, but I just found that there isn't a challenge that I hear that doesn't fit into one of those categories.
Yeah, and I love the visual of the tree and yeah, I've definitely been called in to organizations to try to deal with some of those things at the leafy level. Although there are some organizational theorists that say that oftentimes when something isn't going within a group, people will blame personalities will blame the individuals versus we're not clear about our goals, we're not clear about our roles. And so ensuring that the board understands what their role is, is certainly important, but not sufficient, as you're saying.
Right. Can you give me some? I mean, it can be early on, if you have a brand new board member and they just never got a good orientation. That's a real flaw in the sector, I think, is we don't have good board orientations, so we run into more problems right out the gate with that.
Right. So those orientations where it's an orientation not just to the organization, which I think people over index on, but it's also an orientation on what is the role, what are you stepping into, how do you need to be as a member of the board? And that can be a really preventative measure, so that instead of having to solve problems later, you're really making sure that people understand that. And it's probably not just a one time thing, right? It's continuing to remind people of the role of the board. What are some examples of those connections? What are some ways that executive directors can really help foster and cultivate those relationships between them and the board and then between the board members?
I think in the first case between them and the board, of course, this is really critical. And I think that you need to be having one on one conversations with each board member. You need to meet with each board member. Not just at the beginning when you're bringing them onto the board, but at least, and I think this is a minimum at least once a year, you and your board chair should be meeting with every board member, evaluating how it's going. What are you getting out of this, what you need?
There's so many things that you need to be asking and engaging people in to keep them engaged as a board member. So, I mean, your relationship with them is really critical in that regard. So meeting with the board chair can help that sort of evaluative experience. But the other thing then is I think you, as the executive on your own, should be meeting with each board member in person, one on one, maybe six months after you and the board chair have met for the same reason, to check in, to get to know them. And I would be on the phone with your board members every month. This is a relationship, and I think that executives, a couple of things, they don't know how much they can influence what the board is and what it becomes, and that it's okay to do it. And they also, I think, don't invest the time because they're busy. I mean, overwhelmingly busy. So if it's going okay, taking things for granted, those relationships can be a big risk. But I think people hold back. They aren't as intentional about building relationships with each and every board member as they could be. And there is a lot you can do as an executive to do that. What do you know personally about each board member?
What do they know about you? One thing I mentioned to executives is if this was the board that hired you, everybody on this board would know your resume, would know your background, would know about you. Right. Because they interviewed you, they read about you, they checked you out. As soon as that board starts to evolve and new board members come on, do they know anything about you the same way? Maybe a little bit. I don't think executives put their resumes in the board manuals. I don't think they bother to update because they don't think about it. And those are the kinds of things that are the meat of our relationships, getting to know each other anyway. I can go on and on and on about that, as you can see.
Yeah. I think there isn't enough attention paid even at the beginning of building that relationship. But it is too easy to think, especially if things seem to be going, to let it go, let it be on the back burner, but continuing to be in touch. I think in terms of employees, oftentimes folks are now talking about,, don't just do an exit interview, which is also a really useful thing to do with board members, but do a stay interview. you're having those conversations periodically all the way through the experience, so that you continue to get to know the person, continue to understand better how they want to contribute to the organization, help them understand your perspective and your background, all of those things. I think it is too easy with the crush of the to do list to let that slide. But then what ends up happening is that then there are problems that pop up, and you're having to solve a problem versus getting ahead of it and building that trust, which is ultimately what is needed.
And that takes a lot of work. And I think that even if there's no problems, you're not getting the best you can get. You're not getting the best performance. People are doing enough, maybe, to get by, but they're not as invested as they would be if the relationships were really close and important to them. You're going to spend time on what you value the most. And I think that executives, they need to put the board up there at a higher level in terms of what they value in the organization and not have it just be a must do or I've got to have this. You're going to get the benefit of it if you invest the time in it. I really believe that, and I see it. I see the difference for executives that have that.
Yeah. And you talk about meeting with people one on one. Obviously, that's been challenging. Or if you're serving a national organization where your board is, or an international organization where they're distributed by geography, oftentimes you can get the work done by doing it online via Zoom. But I think I was just recently working with a group, and their first meeting in person as a board after three years, and some of them had come onto the board and not met each other in person until this month. And what's missing, I think, for a volunteer is that part of the benefit of being part of a group like that is not only the discussions that happen in the formal meeting, but all those things that can happen in those informal times. Going out to dinner with your board members, having the coffee break that you don't get when it's all on zoom. And I mean, I'm a great proponent of working online because it can be very effective and efficient, and I think you need to make sure that you're integrating that social aspect as Much as you can.
Yes. You mentioned trust. And trust building is really a skill. It's something that years ago I took for granted until I did my doctoral research and I was interviewing board chairs and their executive directors and I was discovering what are the behaviors that people do to build trust in that relationship. And getting personal not inappropriately, but getting personal is really important to building trust in organizations. It's not that you've just got to keep everything professional and not talk about yourself or your interests or inquire about other people. Part of being intentional about building effective relationships is about being intentional about making time to get to know each other on a personal level. And that's a really critical thing to do to build trust. If you don't get into a relationship that involves some of that personal sharing and knowledge about each other and doing things based on that knowledge, you're not going to have as strong a trust as you could. It just isn't going to happen. And it makes a huge difference when it does.
Yeah, you're only getting part of that person, the one that's showing up with the virtual suit or whatever it might be.
That's a good way to put it. Yeah. That you're only getting part of them.
What are some of the things that those kinds of hidden things or you talked about beliefs or that really impact the culture of a board that executive directors can be more intentional about?
The ones I see most often have to do with, so there's the big one. One of the big ones which I know you're doing work around is the DEI issues, is what are the assumptions we make about each other based on the color of our skin, our backgrounds and those kinds of things. But beyond that, some that people may not think about as readily are assumptions about recruiting. I have people say we can't find the people we need and want and if they're trying to be diverse,, we just can't find people. These are assumptions.
And so when I've worked with people in the past and what I teach in my course about board recruitment success, how to get it is the very first thing you need to tackle is mindset and what you need to do. And I'm not sure everybody who takes the course or it's an online course actually does this work because it's a little woo woo and it really is not necessarily comfortable. But I'm just going to say that you have to do this and it isn't just about recruiting, it's about other things. And that is you've got to ask yourselves, what do I believe about this? What comes up for me when I think about recruiting new board members? What's coming up? How am I feeling? Am I comfortable? I mean, fundraising is a big one. I think we all know people aren't comfortable with that. But recruiting, it can be a little more subtle, where people say,, we've tried everybody, we just don't know anybody.
And this is one of the assumptions that really gets in the way, is that board members think they have to know people to recruit them, and that's not true. And so when you can just brainstorm and say, what are we all thinking? Put it up on an easel sheet on a board and then test it, look at it and say, is this true? Maybe it was true before, but is it true now? Is it always true? Where's the evidence? It's true. Take the time to go through and look at what you're thinking and see whether you could suspend it, just suspend it for a little while and say, what if it wasn't true? What would the other side of this statement be? What would the affirmation, if you will, say every day? And I tell them, you need to do this every day. Today I'm going to find the board members we need and want, or There are lots of people out there that would love to serve on our board, or we're going to find the person in this special community that's important to us because we want their perspective to change. The way you're thinking and the way you're talking about it, to yourselves, to each other, it makes a difference. I see it. It does. So I just have to take my word for it. I guess some people do.
Yeah. One of the things you said was people think that they have to know the person to be able to recruit them. Can you say a little bit more about that? And I think the flip side of that is that if they're relying completely on their own networks, it can become a very insular group. So I'm curious about absolutely the assertion that you can recruit people that aren't necessarily in your network yet.
You can. So the question to ask is, who would know? Who are the types of people or a profession, maybe that's related to your mission, an association, maybe even churches, who would know someone who cares about our mission? Where would we find people who care about our mission and be willing to go into those groups, call people, identify people, whether maybe there's some people who teach classes at a university that might know people who are related to the field of service you're in. It's about being willing to do the cold calling.
I even give clients scripts for this. If you don't know someone, you just introduce yourself and you talk about the mission because that's what you're looking for. You're looking for people who care about the mission, who might know someone who cares about the mission. And you ask them, and if they aren't the one, then you say, do you know someone? So it's that consistent networking being persistent, and it works. I tested this with ten nonprofits in the real world, not just people who took the online course. This was before I created the course. And every single one of those nonprofits found people that met the criteria. They were looking for it because they got past this fear of talking to people they didn't know, reaching out to people, and wanting to help. This isn't about you asking for something for yourself. This is about you asking for a cause in the community. And people are receptive to that. It's hard to get past it. It's not necessarily comfortable, but that's the challenge. And it can work. I know it works.
And I think being ready, willing to hear, no, not right now, but then not letting that be, oh, then this can't work. If I get one, no. Keep moving. You'll find the person. Yeah. I think another thing that I see organizations do because of that fear defaulting to is let's do a big blast email or notice. And if you ask everybody on your board, why did they get involved with this organization, chances are they were asked by somebody to step up.
That's right. And when you're talking about a mission, you're talking about an emotional connection. You want people on your board who are emotionally connected with your mission. Not intellectually connected. I mean, you can have both, but intellectual connection isn't going to have the stick to it-iveness that you need. Another issue I hear a lot about recently, because I'm asking about it, number one, is board member engagement. Executives are saying, I'm having trouble with board member engagement. And that's about the emotional glue.
And that goes back to what you were saying in terms of checking in with people one on one, not just having it be a group experience, getting to know what's going on with them. If they seem disengaged, what would they like to step into? Maybe they got asked to be on the wrong committee. I know in an organization that I've been a member of for a long time, people look at me and they're,, she's pretty organized. Let's ask her to organize this big event. Truth is, I hate organizing events. I am organized, but I hate organizing events. So let me use that skill somewhere else for some other cause. So really tapping into what people want to share. And then I think the other thing that just for volunteering in general, is to not assume that folks want to do whatever they do in their day job. They want to contribute to you.
I've been able to long before I was doing strategic planning consulting, I was on a committee in an organization that was doing the organization's strategic plan because I knew that was an interest. It wasn't something I was doing at work because of the point in my career, but I knew that I was interested in it and it gave me a way to start learning about that and develop that skill.
Right, yeah, I think that's really true. It is important for you to be aware of the skill sets you need and want on the board.
But for example, I have people say,, we need a CPA or we need an accountant because we need someone who can help oversee the finance part., number one, you don't need your accountant or your bookkeeper to be on your board. You may have staff with those skills. But the other thing is that people don't have to have that profession to be able to understand how to read a basic balance sheet or a financial statement. Maybe they can be a small business person or a moderate business person or there's a lot of people with those skills.
Just someone who's not afraid of numbers.
That's right. Because you don't have to have the person who's doing the work for your organization. You don't want them to be on your board. You just want someone who is knowledgeable in that area to be on your board. So you have a lot of options for what profession?
Actually, that can be really helpful. Because if you have that person who isn't in that profession, they might be able to actually do a better job of translating that important information to the rest of the board than someone who just has all that knowledge.
And has that curse of expertise.
Yeah. And they can go do a much deeper dive than the board as a whole needs in an area. Yeah.
So on each episode I ask the guest what permission slip would you give to nonprofit leaders? Or what would you invite them to consider to avoid being a martyr to the cause and as they work towards cultivating a healthier organizational culture? So what permission slip or invitation would you give?
Lately I've been thinking a lot about this. I think that I would give and I started this thinking when I was doing my book a couple of years ago. I think I would give executive directors permission to lead with their board more to think about being a co leader, to be a catalyst for the change they want to see on the board. I've built a consulting profession coming in and fulfilling that role. To some extent, the third party person can come in and be the catalyst for change and nudge the board. But I think executive directors can be that and I think that they often think,, the board's my boss. The board needs to have its own initiative and that would be ideal. But when that's not the case, or even when it is the case, it doesn't mean you can't step up and influence and be a catalyst for things to be different. So I would encourage executives to take permission to be more proactive with boards in what they need them to become and to help make that happen. And there are ways to do that without getting in trouble, right?
And really be in partnership. So where can people find you and be in touch?
Oh,, they can certainly find me at my website is highland consulting.org. That's Hiland Consulting.org. But you could email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I am on LinkedIn. People can connect with me that way. And, of course, you can also listen to my podcast. We have episodes with Carol inspired nonprofit leadership. But that's the best way, really, would be if you want to talk to me directly, is to email me, Mary@highlandconsulting.org. Or you can go to talkwithmarry.com, if that's easier to remember, and that takes you to my calendar, and you can set up a time to chat.
Awesome. Thank you., we'll put all those links in the show notes so you can find them. And, Mary, thanks so much for coming on Mission Impact.
Oh, you are welcome. It was great to have this conversation with you, Carol. Thanks so much for having me. Bye.
In episode 80 of Mission: Impact, Carol Hamilton goes solo to celebrate several of the nonprofits that support and enrich her life.
Nonprofit organizations play a crucial role in enriching our lives and communities in various ways. Carol discusses:
The Arc of Montgomery County: https://thearcmontgomerycounty.org/
By Their Side: https://www.bytheirside.org/
The Sibling Leadership Network: https://siblingleadership.org/
The Anacostia Watershed Society: https://www.anacostiaws.org/
The Anacostia Riverkeeper: https://www.anacostiariverkeeper.org/
Washington Area Bicyclist Association: https://waba.org/
Carol Hamilton: Nonprofits support so many aspects of our lives, yet the sector can be somewhat invisible to many. Most people could probably name the well known organizations, including Goodwill, the YMCA, Harvard University, and the Red Cross. Yet nonprofit organizations enrich our lives in many ways. In fact, there are 1.5 million nonprofits in the US. And with about 10 million around the world, the US has 15% of the world's nonprofits. Nonprofits represent 5.7 of the US economy.
Welcome to episode 80 of Mission Impact. Today I'm going to explore the nonprofits that enrich and support my life. Mission Impact is the podcast for nonprofit leaders who want to build a better world without becoming a martyr to the cause. I'm Carol Hamilton, your podcast host and nonprofit strategy consultant. On this podcast, we explore how to make your organization more effective and innovative. We dig into how to build organizational cultures where your work in the world is aligned with how you work together as staff, board members and volunteers. And all of this for the purpose of creating greater Mission Impact. Mission impact is brought to you by Grace Social Sector Consulting. Grace social sector consulting brings you whole brain. Strategy consulting for nonprofits and associations.
We help you move your mission forward, engage all voices and have fun while we're doing it. And we combine left Brain strategy and analysis with right brain wisdom about human complexities for a proven whole brain, whole organization process through which every stakeholder thrives. Reach out to us for support and facilitation of strategic planning, mapping your impact, auditing your services, and getting an organizational assessment. We especially love working with staff, nonprofits and associations with human-centered missions.
My older brother is profoundly deaf, autistic and developmentally disabled. His disabilities stem from an illness that he got when he was just seven months old. A number of the nonprofits that I'm involved in are because of my brother, and in fact, the work that I do is probably inspired by that experience growing up. The first I will highlight is the Arc of Montgomery County. The Arc is part of a national organization network of organizations of local and state organizations supporting people with developmental disabilities. Its mission is to connect people of all ages and abilities with their communities to build inclusive and fulfilling lives. My brother has been supported by the Arc since he was 21 years old and moved into his first group home.
The Arc also supports my brothers during the day. He is now retirement age and volunteers with a group at a local farm and goes swimming regularly. That is his favorite thing. Another nonprofit that helps in ensuring that my brother lives a fulfilling life is By Their Side. By Their Side's mission is to guide families and provide advocacy for Marylanders with an intellectual or developmental disability. And By Their Side believes that everyone deserves respect, choices and quality of life. And they support their mission by providing lifelong personal advocacy for those that they serve, protecting individuals’ legal rights, guiding individuals and families through the maze of the surface delivery system, and assisting families with transition planning. While my younger sister and I are my brother's co guardians, having a personal advocate assigned to Graham from by their side brings another important voice to the table to advocate on his behalf. By Their Side's advocates are experts in the disability system and help us navigate all of the ins and outs of the multitude of rules and regulations that are part of that system.
Being the sibling of a person with a disability is definitely a unique experience and brings its own joys and challenges. When parents are overwhelmed by caring for a person with extra needs, it can mean that the rest of the children have to grow up fast and take on responsibilities they may not be fully prepared for.
I certainly don't remember a time when I wasn't my brother's keeper. While in the past, most of the resources and organizations focused on people with disabilities centered the person and their parents, the Sibling Leadership Network filled a gap of overlooked group siblings and a group that I'm part of. The organization is a national network, and its mission is to provide siblings of individuals with disabilities the information, support and tools to advocate with their brothers and sisters and promote issues important to them and their entire families. I've participated in state and national level conferences sponsored by the Sibling Network and have found much commonality with other siblings who attend this organization. Its chapters around the country provide younger siblings with resources, including sip shops for them to connect with other siblings and talk about their unique experience and process their feelings about it.
This is an amazing opportunity that I wish I had when I was growing up. Having caretaking responsibilities for a person with a disability can impact major life decisions of siblings, and having people to talk about those with who get your situation is a real asset, and there's always so much to learn.
As an advocate, it's a great resource. I'm also involved in supporting a variety of organizations, and I don't have time to talk about all of them, but a couple that have enriched my summer are the Anacostia Watershed Society and Anacostia River Keeper. I live right next to the northeast branch of the Anacostia River. The Anacostia River, which flows through both Maryland and the District of Columbia, has faced significant pollution and environmental degradation due to urban development, industrial activity, stormwater runoff, and inadequate waste management. And if you remember the opening sequence of the TV show House of Cards, the river shows up briefly with a trash strewn bank prominently displayed. But since the 80s, groups have been coming together to clean up the river. The Anacostia Watershed Society was formed in 1989 and has been advocating for the river and working on education and restoration ever since.
Major improvements have happened in recent years because of significant investments in DC in upgrading their sewage system. All of this has made paddling on the river much more enjoyable. We frequently go kayaking from the Bladensburg Waterfront Park and head downstream. This summer, we saw lots of turtles sunning themselves while we were out on the water. We've also seen bald eagles, egrets, blue heron, cumarents and other birds when out paddling.
Sadly, we also see way too many plastic bottles floating in the water too. And one more shout out to a local organization that has enriched my life. I love to bike. When I worked in downtown DC. I was a regular bike commuter. In fact, I have been a proud bike commuter since the 90s, way before it was a popular way to get to work. And since then, the Washington Area Bicycle Association, or WABA, has advocated for increased bike infrastructure throughout the city. In those 30 years, there's been a massive transformation. There are now multiple protected bike lanes throughout the city and the suburbs, and multiple bike trails have been built. And soon a bike beltway will actually circle the entire city. These days, my biking is more local to the pool to swim during the summer or a nice loop in the morning before getting to work. But the trails and bike infrastructure make biking less stressful. So thanks to all the bike advocates who helped make that happen.
And thank you for listening to this episode. I really appreciate the time you spend with me. And you can find the full transcript of this episode and all the episodes, as well as the links to the organization I mentioned. Organizations that I mentioned during the show in the Show Notes at missionimpactpodcast.com/shownotes I'd like to thank Isabelle Strauss-Riggs for her support in editing and production, as well as Cindy Rivera Grazer of 100 Ninjas for her production support. Mission impact is brought to you by Grace Social Sector Consulting. Grace Social Sector Consulting brings you whole brain strategic planning, mapping and audits for nonprofits and associations. If you enjoyed this episode, I'd love it if you would share it on your favorite social media platform and tag me. We appreciate you helping us get the word out. And until next time, thank you for everything you do to contribute and make an impact.
In this podcast episode, Carol Hamilton and Susan Kahan discuss the importance of donor trust and nonprofit accountability. They challenge misconceptions about fundraising, such as the focus on overhead costs and the belief that it is a necessary evil. They argue for reframing negative attitudes towards fundraising in order to build confidence. The conversation also addresses the "overhead myth" in the nonprofit sector and emphasizes the need to invest in staff and create a healthy organizational culture. They discuss the challenges of asking for larger donations and stress the value of building relationships and learning from others in the field. They also highlight the importance of building a culture of philanthropy within nonprofit organizations and using donor feedback to improve programs. Overall, the conversation emphasizes the need for effective fundraising strategies and the importance of transparency and accountability.
(00:00:01) Donor Trust and Nonprofit Accountability
(00:06:05) The Overhead Myth
(00:12:19) Building Confidence in Fundraising
(00:18:07) Building Relationships in Fundraising
(00:24:13) Building a Culture of Philanthropy
(00:30:47) The Challenges of Nonprofit Fundraising
Carol Hamilton: Getting donors to see beyond supporting your direct services can be challenging. What is my money going to be used for? is the question that is driving this concern. Donors want organizations to steward their gifts well. The myth persists that the smaller the overhead percentage the better the nonprofit organization. Yet in reality an organization needs staff and a wide range of infrastructure from communications to finance to operations to run well. Skimping on these foundational elements – paying well trained staff fairly, ensuring they have what they need to do their job well, that systems are up to date and well integrated – does not actually achieve what donors want – a fully realized group of people working toward an important mission. The pressure to fit within an unrealistically slim overhead budget leads to many of the things that I frequently talk about on this podcast – not being able to support staff in a way that promotes a healthy organizational culture. Obsolete structures and processes and ultimately contributing to the burnout many are trying to recover from. Mission Impact is the podcast for nonprofit leaders who want to build a better world without becoming a martyr to the cause. I am Carol Hamilton, your podcast host and nonprofit strategy consultant.
My guest today on Mission Impact is Susan Kahan. We explore what the overhead myth is and why it is still getting in the way of organizations doing their best work. What it means to create a culture of philanthropy within your organization. As well as the power of practicing big asks and the importance of curiosity in fundraising. Mission: Impact is brought to you by Grace Social Sector Consulting. Grace Social Sector brings you whole-brain strategic planning, mapping, & audits for nonprofits and associations. We combine Left-brain strategy and analysis + right-brain wisdom about human complexities for a proven, whole-brain, whole-organization process through which every stakeholder thrives. Reach out to us for support and facilitation of strategic planning, mapping your impact, auditing your services and getting an organizational assessment. We especially love working with staffed nonprofits and associations with human centered missions.
Well, welcome Susan. Welcome to Mission Impact.
Susan Kahan: Thanks, Carol. It's great to be here.
Carol: So I'd like to start each conversation with what drew you to the work that you do? What would you say motivates you, or what would you describe as your why?
Susan:Well, again, thank you so much for having me. I'm really honored to speak to you today. And I would say, what drew me to my work is that I really love helping people and I love connecting people to the right thing that they care about. So, in fundraising, I'm a fundraising consultant. In fundraising, it's all about finding people who care about something and giving them the opportunity to do something about it. And there's no greater thing that you can do, in my opinion, than donating to a cause. So to be able to help nonprofits find those people, to help the people who care about those causes and give and do something is really something that draws me in. And the final thing I'll just say is that there's this Hebrew proverb that has always meant a lot to me, which is that if you save one life, you save the world. And so to me, that's why I care so much about philanthropy is that if you can just save one life, you're, you're my you're, you're doing so much. And so I think that that's what compels a lot of people who work in nonprofits and in philanthropy. And that's definitely why.
Carol:, a couple different things come to mind.
As you were talking I often, love to quote Mr. Rogers and it's like, look for the helpers. I was talking to one of my sisters, and she said, I read the paper and she's a diligent newspaper reader. And she was like, I get so depressed, and I wish at the end of each article they're like, okay, here's all the depressing reality, but here's three simple things you could do.
Yes. To address that issue, right? Yes. So you're not feeling so helpless. And I love the idea that even if you may not have time to volunteer, you may not be able to fit that into your schedule right now. You may not be able to be an activist. Yes. But, you probably can donate to an organization in some way.
Yes. And, what, what's the thing that really connects to what's important to you? And then how can you find organizations that match that? And I'm curious, there's a lot of, I think when people think about donating to organizations, there's a lot of fear around, how will my money be used and mm-hmm.
So what do you say to donors? In terms of them? I, I, if they're not familiar with an organization, ways to, to look for an organization that will meet what they're trying to achieve, but then also to have some kind of. Sense of this organization is doing good work?,
Susan: That's a great question and I think it's becoming more and more important.
I think we're seeing just nationally, not just for nonprofits, but, for the government , different things that people in general in the United States have less trust in institutions. So I think that that is a big hurdle that our sector has to overcome. Think about it, because you're right that there're, I think, more questions than 20 years ago, definitely 50 years ago.
, and how is this nonprofit using my money and, and I want more of a say in it. So I do think that that's something that we all need to think about in a way that. Probably wasn't considered or as valued as much. So I think from the donor side, you should be looking for, do they, are they on Candid and GuideStar?
Do they share their finances? Do they have a board of directors that's clearly listed? Do they, do you see their staff even listed or. At least some of their staff because, putting up faces to who are the people behind this, I think that shows some credibility. I think you can, hopefully the nonprofit on their website or when you talk to someone they share, their past accomplishments.
We hear a lot about impact. So what does that look like? And again, that shouldn't be something too specific because we wanna make sure that nonprofits have the opportunity to run and, and develop programs. I do think that they should be able to share updates, regular updates on what they're doing, who they're helping, who they're serving.
So those are the types of things as a donor to look for. And again, it's about, okay, I care about this cause what is this nonprofit doing about it? So let's say I care about climate change. Well, That can mean a lot of different things. So, there, and there are a lot of nonprofits that are working on the issue of climate change.
So what specifically does this nonprofit do on this topic of climate change? From the nonprofit standpoint, I'll also just say that I think you need to have a conversation with your donors and you also have to explain to them, unless it's a restricted gift, and that's a whole other conversation, but you do need to let them in and.
See what you're doing. Give them opportunities to be involved and trust that they can understand how things work, and have a conversation with the donor about that. And donors, I think it's important that they understand that, their $5, their a hundred dollars, Not all of that will go directly out.
It might be used towards the dreaded overhead, which I think is a huge myth that we need to debunk that overhead is a bad thing. Our staff deserve to be paid well. They deserve to work in nice places, they need technology. Technology has costs, all those things. And so I think it's, it's, it's a conversation that needs to be had between the donors and nonprofits.
Carol: Say more about that overhead myth because what, when I was thinking about you, me, you mentioned Candid and that's a website where you can look up every nonprofit in the United States and Right. See their, their tax form that they're required to, to publish and make public as long as they have a budget of a certain size.
Right. And all sorts of information is available there. But then candid and then organizations have. Layered on that, all sorts of more ways to enhance their transparency. And so organizations can earn, I don't know, I think, what it is, up to the platinum level of their transparency. They're,.
And, and it's just all the different information that they're sharing. But there are other, good, good housekeeping seal of approval websites. Yes. For nonprofits, yes. But some of them to my mind, are, are, are feeding into that. Overhead myth of, saying basically this is a good nonprofit because they only spend X percentage on overhead and everything else goes to quote programs or the people that they're serving.
Right. Can you explain to folks why that isn't necessarily a great idea?
Susan: Oh my goodness. I could, I could talk for days on this topic. It really, it riles me up because I think, donors feel, I want my money going to the cause and Sure, I agree. I get it. But let's, again, I'll take an example of an organization.
Let's say you have a shelter that helps people who have been affected by homelessness. Okay? And so you're saying, I care about this issue. I see it in my community. I wanna do something about it. I'm gonna donate to this shelter. Okay, well not all that money is gonna go into housing. Some of the money's going to go to paying for marketing the services to get people to go there.
And what does that mean? That needs to go to paying for the salaries if you don't have the people to operate and then the people to run the place. If you don't have the people paid to be there. Then you don't have a shelter. You could talk about utilities, electric bills need to be paid. How do those get paid through donations?
You could talk about having a website. Websites cost money. You need to pay for these things. You need a database to track your information, to track your donors. These. All have our expenses. And, I think those who work in the nonprofit get frustrated cuz we hear about, well, what's the percent that's going to quote unquote overhead?
And it's like, who cares? I mean, I don't understand why this is a number that becomes a priority because especially I'll say from the outside, someone who's not involved in the decision making of the budget, you tell me what's the right percent, should it only be 10%? Okay. Should it be 25, should it be 30?
Should it be five? Like, how are you coming up with these numbers to say this is what makes sense for this specific organization, if you think about your house household, for example, you, you earn a certain dollar living, you maybe have income in various streams. Maybe you have investments, whatever it is.
But let's say you have a monthly budget, however, that gets determined. How would you feel if someone who had no idea your circumstances were to say you're spending too much on groceries? I mean, it's none of their business, so I, I feel very personally affected by this, cuz I think it's hard to judge someone else's budget when you're not really involved in the decision making.
Now I will say, I don't think we wanna go, We, we, we, we don't wanna go too far and, and not have a lot of the money go towards quote unquote programs or, the people served. But I also think it's important that our staff are paid well because staff turnover costs a ton to nonprofits every year.
And we want our, most people don't go into nonprofits because of the salaries. So, I, I don't think we're overpaying our staff. I don't think that's a problem we should worry about.
Carol:, we talk a lot on this podcast when I'm, I'm talking to other guests around how we can make the whole process of working in an organization feel healthier.
, like the more that you cultivate an inclusive and healthy organizational culture, the more you're gonna be able to do in terms of pursuing your mission. And the less. You're worried about the chair that's broken. Yes. And the computer that's too slow. And so ,It's finding that sweet spot.
But I think the emphasis has been way too much on, we're gonna, we're gonna slim all those things. And it, and it, and over time, of course there's another extreme where we need to also have all those. Systems in place so that you're paying attention to any financial malfeasance and the fiduciary responsibility of the board.
Exactly. But the reality for 99% of organizations is that they're feeling squeezed to make due and. That actually can get in the way of them being more effective in pursuing those programs and providing the best services that they can and, and, really taking a holistic approach. So, I'm there, I'm there with you on the whole it's, it's just a.
I can understand why people grabbed onto it as a metric. Mm-hmm. But it can really screw things up in some weird ways as well.When people try to, like, make their budget look like that, and it's like, well, no, you wanna invest in the people who are gonna, who are, who are. Essentially make the nonprofit.
Susan: So,Well, and I also think that, I don't even know what the benchmark is because I, I find it silly personally, but, there's these benchmarks. So you should have your overhead only, I don't know, 15% of your total budget or whatever the number is. And I'm not recommending that number at all, BEC, but I think, an organization that's a national organization with.
10 different offices across the country and 200 staff is gonna have very different needs than a one office, 10 person staff and, or someone that, again, they have a physical, a facility where people come to, to do, whatever versus, like the. To compare how budgets should be made.
I mean, again, there's so many variables. There's so many variables. So to just say, well, here's a number that we can compare, app, apples to apples. Well, does that actually make this apple better? I, I, I think it's, I think it's sort of,
Carol: We wanna be in the, let's make the apple better business.
Susan: make the apple better.There's nothing I could take away. Make the apple better. Don't worry about comparing apples.
Carol:. That's funny. So when you're working with people inside organizations on helping them get more comfortable with fundraising what would you say? What are some things that help people step towards that?
Cuz I think I've, I've said before that very few people get into the nonprofit sector in order to raise money and raising money is necessary.
Susan: Yes, yes. So true. I, again, it's sometimes I've seen in organizations where fundraising is seen as sort of the. Dirty, evil, like, like the ne or necessary evil, and it's like, what about this is evil?
I think first of all, we need to change that mentality, talk about overhead is a problem. Also saying that fundraising is a necessary evil. Of course we have funds, of course, things cost money. Of course, you need to find ways to get the money. I, I don't know why. I mean, it's like a company. Of course you need sales, you need to operate.
So again, I think some of these, the way we talk about it needs to change. But in terms of confidence building, I think that that is a really important part because if you are more confident, you'll be better at most things that you do. And so much of fundraising is about relationship building and getting to know people.
And if you come across as. Not confident or insecure or unsure of it. Talk about lack of trust in a mission. I mean, if I were to say, well, I guess we need the money and will you donate? And I mean our organization is okay. I mean that no one will give. But if you say, look, we are solving this problem and we are really having an impact on this work, and I know this is something you care about and I want you to come along and help us make a bigger impact.
I mean the difference of what that can do to connect with your Don, and notice I didn't talk anything about dollars, that is what is so important. So, confidence, confidence, confidence. And to get there, I think there are two main things. One is practice. I didn't just get to these words and know these things on my first day, but just like anything else, you need to practice.
You need to observe how other people do it. I speak in a very specific way and that serves me and it's authentic and it's true to me. And Carol, you have your own speaking style and you speak your way, and someone else would speak some other way. It's important that you practice and learn your speech.
Speaking style. And then the second thing, it's about communication, persuasion, listening and developing those skills really well. To get to know your donors, to get to know how to talk about your organization because it's not just about a mission, it's not just about talking about the programs, but it's about sharing stories and connecting those stories in a way that someone can say, I wanna be part of this.
I wanna do something. Cuz you're getting them to. Do something. And I think that those skills can be learned. Another skill I would say is perseverance as a fundraiser. I was just on a call earlier today and we were talking about how hard it is to hear rejection. And it is, it's really hard to hear rejection and it, it, it.
It can really dampen your confidence, but you've gotta persevere. There are other people, other companies, other foundations, other institutions out there that do wanna support us. Our mission matters. I just need to keep going.
Carol: What do you, what are some things that you would say help people kind of
build that confidence? So you've talked about that practice and I'm wondering What are, I mean, what are some things that people can start practicing to help them?, so get more comfortable with their, their elevator pitch or their talking points, or that it sounds more natural and isn't just like, okay, I'm reading my script to you.
Susan: Well, the first thing is to speak out loud. That's the first practice. Whether it's o, you record yourself. On Zoom, I do this. All the time where I will record a pitch or something to myself, and then I watch it back and you say, oh, is that what I sound like? Or do I do this weird thing with my eye?
Like you, you'll be amazed, recording yourself speaking. You just, there are things you've never noticed, so that, or even talk to yourself in the mirror, like literally saying these words, prac and practice saying, if you're gonna ask for a gift, maybe you've never asked for a gift over a certain amount.
Say in the mirror to yourself. Carol, thank you so much for your past support. Will you give a gift this year of a hundred thousand dollars? And just practice saying that because just by saying, being comfortable with using big numbers. Cuz sometimes you, you're gonna make a big, hopefully you're making a big ass.
I think that there's just, there's nothing like that. I think observing others is also a great tool. Learning what to say. I think writing stories, knowing your story, why are you connected to the mission? Knowing the different success stories of the organization and I think being prepared with great questions.
Again, this is about building relationships. So what types of questions can you ask your donor when you meet with them? How can you be a curious and interested person? I think curiosity is really important. So those are some of the things I would think about when it comes to practicing.
Carol:, it's funny that you talk about, recording yourself and then listening. Mm-hmm. On, on, I guess I should have anticipated this, but doing this podcast, I know, before the episode gets released, when I'm working with my audio engineer, I'll listen to a, to a version, the first draft of the episode, and I am now aware of that.
Apparently I have a slight stutter. Apparently a lot of people do. Yes, or I'll say or, or so, or all the filler words that you say, you, you start to become aware of your patterns of speech that you would not be aware of at all. Yes. And it certainly has. By hearing myself over and over, I still say those words.
They'll, they'll be in this episode too. Sure. But, I also, I feel like I've been able to become a little more fluid and just by having these conversations I. Get more comfortable in expressing those thoughts, following with the conversation, being a better listener. All of those things have been unexpected benefits of doing this.
And so I loved your point around curiosity and following the conversation and, and cuz people, most people think of fundraising, they think of that big ask. Like, that's all they think about when they, for those of us who don't do it, Uhhuh. And that's why I'm like, okay, I don't wanna do it Uh Huh, but all the other things go into building that relationship.
So what are some things that you feel like help people step into that? And you talked about observation too, for an organization where this. Person might be the first person that's doing fundraising for them. What are some other ways that they can have that chance to observe if there isn't somebody already D in the organization doing the work?
Susan:, that's a great question, and I think it's pretty common actually, where there's maybe only one quote unquote fundraiser official person in a development role. I would encourage them to think about, Can they network with someone and see a, a director of development or some, someone like that at a similar type of organization?
I, I would, I'll say most people wanna help other people. I have a couple of things. I, I say a lot and one of those donors wanna be generous when they can and people wanna help people when they can. And so, it's true. If, like Carol, if I, I was an, I am a newer consultant in nonprofits, then I know you are, Carol, I know you've been doing this a little while longer, and if I had reached out to you over LinkedIn, we didn't know each other at all, but I had found you and I had said, Hey Carol, I'm new to consulting.
Could I, could we take it? 15 minutes. I'd really love to talk to you about your experience. I'm sure you would say yes. I think you did say yes, I'm sure we had that conversation at some point and I think it's absolutely the same thing within the fundraising world, and I think, you can try to get sort of an unofficial mentor to have someone to talk to.
They've been through it, I would, again, I would look for an organization that's similar. So that's one thing I would consider. The second thing is Community foundations can be really helpful in finding resources for you. So they also, again, wanna help their local community. So again, I would go to your local fund community foundation but sometimes they can connect you with someone.
Great. And then there's also AFP chapters, which again are, there's national, there's local, and AFP has had, its. Ups and downs. But overall I've found AFP to be a great resource. Again, great networking to find other fundraisers and I think it's really important to, to have your crew have your people who know what you're going through, who you could say, Hey, I'm having trouble writing this fundraising appeal for giving Tuesday.
Can, what's worked for you in the past? And I bet most people who work in fundraising will have an answer to that. So I think sort of finding your, your people and, and. Again, and I'll also say it's really important as a fundraiser to be able to reach out to someone you don't know. And I think that if you're not comfortable with doing that to a potential donor, then the number one thing you should work on is reaching out to someone you don't know and starting a conversation with them.
And this might be a great way to practice that cuz they're not a donor, they're someone in the field.
Carol:, I love that point of Building that network of peers and, and people who are just a little bit further ahead of you, or maybe even a lot further. Further Yes. Ahead of you in terms of your learning and your network and using that as a way to practice reaching out to people.
Mm-hmm. And it's so funny you're talking about informational interviews when you first get. Started, and in a way that was part of the genesis of this podcast because mm-hmm. I was starting out as a consultant and so wanted to connect with consultants. I was having lots of conversations and, and I thought at one point, well, I should be recording these and I should be sharing them with other people.
Now we're not talking about the business of consulting. Right. But. It, it has just provided a great way to connect and, and build a network. And, and, 99% of the time people say yes, they wanna have the conversation. And, and. They're also, and you mentioned AFP, can you mm-hmm. Can you say what the acronyms stand for?
Susan: I'm sorry. A FP is Association for Fundraising Professionals. Okay. And they have chapters locally around the United States and Canada. And they have, whether it's. Meetups in person or webinars or affinity groups. I'm based in Chicago and they have a really robust chapter here.
But I know they do in other parts of the country as well. They're quite a large organization
Carol: and I think they have chapters we'll look, we'll look it up to see whether they're beyond the United States as well,
Susan: I know they're in Canada for sure. I don't know beyond Canada as well, but they do have chapters all over.
Carol: And of course with the internet, a lot of things are now online and people can access them from anywhere. So geography isn't exactly as much of a barrier as it might have been in the past. Absolutely. So beyond the individual, let's say, you're, you're newer, but you're now, you're, you're a couple years in, you're getting more confident in your personal approach to fundraising. Within the whole organization, what, what are some things that really c create conditions of success for an organization to, really build their, their fundraising approach?, I
Susan: Think about a few things. One is donor stewardship is so, so important. And I think, we talk about the culture of philanthropy sometimes, and, and what does that mean? That means where the entire nonprofit values supports accelerates the role of donors within the organization, sometimes it's like, oh, It just, the development team works with the donors. We, we don't have to, we're in finance, we don't have to work with them, but really, everyone should be thinking about your donors as investors, your donors as your clients, maybe your, your buyers, your purchasers, also stakeholders, you don't want, I. To be completely reliant in terms of decision making on your donors. That is not their role, but you do wanna make sure that they feel valued and appreciated. So I think one thing in terms of donor stewardship is how can you get people from throughout the organization to a. Be aware of fundraising. So talking about big goals are met, or if there's a big fundraising campaign, make sure everyone knows about it. Make sure that they hear the successes, the challenges, the feedback, if, let's say multiple donors reach out. They're like, we're really having, we heard about this new program and we're really, it doesn't sound great, or whatever the feedback is. You hear things once, okay, like, that's one person's opinion on a program. But if you hear something repeatedly in, in a lot of donor calls, then that's something to really take to the team and say, this is what we're hearing. For better or for worse, I think, again, sharing that feedback is really important. And I think the other thing, another way to get people involved throughout the organization is to do what you could either do like a phone-a-thon. So having everyone call donors to ask for a gift, which can get people to understand, even asking someone who's already given before to ask them to renew their $25 gift can actually be really hard. Or you could do something like a thankathon as well, where everyone gets, again, everyone in the organization from top to bottom is responsible for calling, they get their list of donors and they are calling just to say thank you and you can do that too. And that can be a great way to get everyone involved in the process. That's something you can also do with your board. But in terms of other things, I think it's thinking about how we can thank our donors in other ways at events and newsletters and, just wherever there's opportunities to say thank you. Cuz as a reminder, donors do not have to give, even if they've been giving for 10 years at significant levels, they do not have to give again. And it's all voluntary. And so I think that reminding everyone about that is really important.
Carol: It's interesting that you talk about the culture of philanthropy because I, I think when I was working inside organizations and I was not on the fundraising side, it did feel like it was kind of, oh, that's those folks' job, ?
Right. So I love the idea of the thankathon. I mean, that seems like a really. Fun and uhhuh, nice way to give people a baby step into Yes. The process and get everyone involved and get them knowing donors, and it's also just really interesting that I, I heard someone describe this as the three-legged stool that nonprofits have an interest in.
Business model is that a for-profit organization has something they're selling and they have. People who buy it, and it's a very direct relationship. Yes. And in nonprofits most of the time, there's some purpose. Oftentimes, if it's about direct service, then a group of people that the organization is helping who can not, the whole reason that they're, that the organization exists is that those folks cannot, pay for those services.
And so then you need third parties to be. Supporting and, and providing revenue, whether it's individuals or, institutional fund of right funders, corporate, all, all, absolutely. Government, all those. And so you, it ends up with this odd relationship between who's giving the money and, and who is, Working on behalf of the organization Right.
And who's being impacted by the mission. And so it can get a little goofy in terms of who's making decisions about what and who's paying attention to who, but mm-hmm. But it's, it's important for people to remember that because, Especially if they come from the for-profit sector where they're used to that more direct relationship.
Mm-hmm. It takes a little while to figure out how does this all go
Susan: together? Right, right. And, I think just having an understanding of the money doesn't just come. The money, even if you've been a strong, large organization. Every year. I'm gonna guess that's because you have a strong, large development team that's making sure those gifts keep coming in.
It does not just happen and you cannot lie. Right? It doesn't happen by magic. It is, you cannot rely on past success for future donations. So I think it's like the,
Carol: the warnings on the stock market, right?
Susan: Oh my goodness. Yes. So I think, the other thing, if I could just, for people who aren't in fundraising to, to think about, when you donate to something you're donating because you're trying to help something in the future, you, that there's a continued need moving forward.
You don't donate because of some past success. So maybe you had an incredible year, an incredible success. Successful whatever campaign, whatever it is that your organization did last year, that does not make a donor give again. They have to know, well, what are you doing now?, what are you doing for me lately?
It's like that. So you have to keep thinking about as you're communicating, as you're marketing, as you're, Giving feedback on what you wanna tell people what you've done. That's how you build trust, which is the question from the start. But as you move forward, you need to think about how you can tell them where we are headed and how you can be a part of that.
And that's why you should donate.
Carol: And so that's where I come in, where I help the group figure out where they're headed and, and why they wanna move forward in that. That's right. In that way, in terms of strategic planning. So exactly on, on each episode, I ask each guest, what permission slip would they give to nonprofit leaders or I.
What would they invite them to consider to not be a martyr to the cause, like I like to say, and as they work to cultivate a healthier organizational culture. So either a permission slip or an invitation and what might that be from your point of view.
Susan:Well, I think that is such a good question. I love that permission slip.
And so what I would say is to remember that, again, at the beginning we talked about overhead and how chances are you're squeezed for cash and squeezed for resources. I'm, again, not every nonprofit, but a lot are. And so remember, and if you're not squeezed financially, maybe you're squeezed with your time.
That, again, I'm gonna assume a lot of that is true for a lot of your listeners. I would say you can't do it all. And so to just acknowledge you cannot do it all. Like, if you can't, say like, and again, something I said in the beginning, you can't save every life, but you can save one life. What one thing can you do?
What one place can you start with? And so I always say start with what you're great at. Start with your strengths. Start with what's easy for you, and build on that and give yourself some grace for the things that you can't get to. That's okay. There's always tomorrow. There's always another way of thinking about it, but you can't do it all and start with what you're great at.
Carol:I appreciate that. I feel like that's become the mantra of this year's series of podcast interviews. Okay, good. It's all like, what, what are you focused on? What can you, what do you, what do you do really well? What are the, what's the one, two, or three things that you're really gonna move forward and, and time to let the rest of it go.
. So where can people find you? How can they be in touch?
Susan: Great. So again, my name is Susan Kahn and I am the founder and principal of Sapphire Fundraising Specialists. And so you can find email@example.com or on LinkedIn. And my last name is spelled k a h a N.
Carol: All right. Well, thank you so much, Susan.
Thanks for coming on the podcast. Thank you,
Susan: Carol. It was great to talk to you.
Carol: Thank you for listening to this episode. I really appreciate the time you spend with me and my guests. You can find out how to connect with Susan, the full transcript of our conversation, as well as any links and resources mentioned during the show in the show notes at missionimpactpodcast.com/shownotes.
I want to thank Isabelle Strauss-Riggs for her support in editing and production as well as Cindy Rivera Grazer of 100 Ninjas for her production support. We want to hear from you! Take a minute to give us feedback or ask a question at missionimpactpodcast.com/feedback. And until next time, thank you for everything you do to contribute and make an impact.
In episode 78 of Mission: Impact, Carol Hamilton celebrates Mission: Impact’s 3rd anniversary and goes solo to talk about:
Carol Hamilton: When I work with a client on strategic planning, one of the steps that I take the group through is a brainstorm on the wider trends that are impacting their organization and the field that they work within. I sometimes get the question of – why did we bother doing this if the results do not get into the final product – and sometimes what is lifted up in that wider environmental scan is reflected in the final product and sometimes it is not. Yet I still think it is important for a group to think out beyond their organization and consider what is going on more broadly that could impact their future.
Welcome to the three year podiversary of Mission: Impact. I released the first few episodes of the podcast in August of 2020 and a lot has happened in the wider world during that period. On this 3 year pod-iversary episode, I will explore a couple big trends I am observing in the sector.
Mission: Impact is the podcast for progressive nonprofit leaders who want to build a better world without becoming a martyr to the cause. I’m Carol Hamilton, your podcast host and nonprofit strategy consultant. Mission: Impact is brought to you by Grace Social Sector Consulting. On this podcast we explore how to make your organization more effective and innovative. We dig into how to build organizational cultures where your work in the world is aligned with how you work together as staff, board members and volunteers. All of this is for the purpose of creating greater mission impact.
Mission: Impact is brought to you by Grace Social Sector Consulting. Grace Social Sector brings you whole-brain strategy consulting for nonprofits and associations. We help you move your mission forward, engage all voices and have fun while we are doing that. We combine left-brain strategy and analysis with right-brain wisdom about human complexities for a proven, whole-brain, whole-organization process through which every stakeholder thrives. Reach out to us for support and facilitation of strategic planning, mapping your impact, auditing your services and getting an organizational assessment. We especially love working with staffed nonprofits and associations with human centered missions.
I have been thinking a lot recently about the shifts that I have observed over the course of my career. One of the big trends that I am noticing and experiencing myself – is the reconsideration of the role of work in our lives. Over the course of my career starting in the late 80s/early 90s, the idea of finding your dream job that fully matched your skills, talents and interests became more and more pronounced. I remember my older sister recommending the book What Color is Your Parachute, early on in my career. I dutifully did all the exercises to hone in on what was going to be more fulfilling in work. Countless other career related books with the general theme of – love your job and you will never work a day in your life – came out over the years – and I read way too many of them. With each job change, I was looking for greater optimization. More of this, less of that. Luckily I did always keep in mind – that as one boss had told me along the way – there is a reason they call it work – and there is a reason you are paid. There are always aspects of every job that are not fun.
As we have been encouraged to follow our passions and center that as we think about our careers – more recently people are examining the dark side of that pursuit. How jobs that are about your passion are ripe for exploitation. For example, When there are many people waiting for their chance to get into a career, it is easy for employers to pay very little because the people in the coveted roles are just “lucky to be there” – in fields such as publishing or the arts.
In the nonprofit sector, we have wages of fulfillment of feeling like we are contributing to the greater social good or fighting for a good cause. And hopefully we are – and that is one aspect that has certainly been a motivating factor for me over the years in the sector. And yet there is a downside to this.
It can also lead to workers being used and abused. With the notion that if you are doing nonprofit work, you should be ok with lower wages and a broken desk chair and that slow computer and outdated software. I have talked before on this podcast about the concept of “vocational awe”, a term coined by Fobazi Michelle Ettarh which really crystallized it for me.
As Ettarh, a librarian by profession, writes – vocational awe ”is the idea that libraries as institutions are inherently good. It assumes that some or all core aspects of the profession are beyond critique, and it, in turn, underpins many librarians’ sense of identity and emotional investment in the profession.”
This concept does not just apply to librarians – it applies to much of nonprofit work – most helping professions. If you love your job and you fully identify with the job, you don’t really need to be paid well or have healthy work conditions – you should feel lucky to always be asked to go above and beyond.
And then we wonder why the sector is afflicted with a huge case of burn out. Burn out is certainly showing up all over our economy – and the conditions in our sector make it even more likely – where the need so often outstripping demand for our services, the constant struggle for funding and support and rarely being fully staffed – make burn out rife.
And more broadly, it is not really surprising given how our economic life has been consistently unraveled over the last 40+ years. Several books I have read over the past couple years have helped me understand how we got here. One was “Your job will not love you back” by Sarah Jaffee. It examines how a labor of love – in a variety of contexts including the nonprofit sector – can lead to that exploitation that I have been talking about
One that I read more recently was the Good Enough Job by Simone Stolzoff. It really looks how wrapped up our identities have become in what we do – and how that “love what you do” has meant that people are looking for their careers to fulfill way more than is really possible in our lives. Somewhat in the same way that our romantic relationships – looking for “the one” has created expectations of one person fulfilling all our needs in a way that is really not possible.
One of his remedies is cultivating a hobby. Finding flow and fulfillment is doing something outside of work – and not with the idea that you are pursuing it to create a side hustle. Just doing the thing for the thing.
Two more books that put these trends in context for me include The Sum of Us: How Racism Hurts Everyone by Heather McGhee and Can't Even: How Millennials Became the Burnout Generation By Anne Helen Petersen.
Both examine the historical, economic and sociological background of how we got to where we are today. And together they helped me understand the trends I have experienced since starting to work in the Reagan era.
McGhee’s book explains why we can’t have nice things in the US – the example she opens with is very illustrative. Apparently public pools were common in the early 20th century in the US. But when there was a push to integrate pools – white people decided to close them and pave them over rather than share them with people of color. Instead private swimming clubs popped up all over the suburbs. This dynamic has played out over and over and undermined many attempts to bring the type of social safety net that many European countries enjoy – white people in the US would apparently rather go without – without affordable housing, universal health care, decent wages supported by unionization – than share these public goods with people of color.
In Can’t Even – which really in some ways has a misleading title – Petersen examines the historical, economic and sociological trends that led to the high level of economic precarity that our increasingly gig based economy brings. She argues that the anxiety that that brings, drives a lot of the behavior that we observe within our work and broader lives today. One interesting thread that she describes is how the workaholic ethic of the tech, finance, consulting and legal professions with staying at the office late into the evening, has spread throughout the economy – and become so commonplace that actually working 9-5 is now called quiet quitting.
For me, this has been part of my attempt to dismantle my internalized protestant work ethic and disentangle my sense of worth being derived from my productivity. It is an ongoing and emerging pursuit and I can still feel guilty when I prioritize rest over work.
What does any of this mean for you as you work in the sector? I would invite you to consider what assumptions and “givens” you have accepted as ‘just the way it is’ over your career in terms of how your work is structured and what you are expected to give the organization you work for or support? To what extent is your identity wrapped up in what you do and who you do it for? How might you begin or expand pursuits that you do just for the sake and pleasure of doing them?
How might your organization better focus its attention and initiatives so that it works well within its constraints instead of just pretending they don’t exist? What guardrails can the organization agree to, to prioritize worker well being – such as striking the phrase “fast paced environment” from job descriptions (that is one that I read as code for we are all workaholics here or our workplace is chaotic and disorganized!), or considering the possibility of a 4 day work week – or closing the office for a period of time, not just at the winter holidays, to give everyone a break.
And how can the structures that support organizations help make all these things possible? By funding general support, streamlining reporting requirements and for government grants – fully funding the true cost of providing services?
I invite you to consider how we could create a sector together where everyone thrives and no one has to be a martyr to the cause.
Thank you for listening to this episode. I really appreciate the time you spend with me. thank you for helping me celebrate this three year milestone for the podcast. You can find the full transcript of the episode, as well as links to the books I mentioned during the show in the show notes at missionimpactpodcast.com/shownotes. I want to thank Isabelle Strauss-Riggs for her support in editing and production as well as Cindy Rivera Grazer of 100 Ninjas for her production support.
Mission: Impact is brought to you by Grace Social Sector Consulting. Grace Social Sector brings you whole-brain strategic planning, mapping, & audits for nonprofits and associations. I hope you enjoyed the episode. Please take a minute to share it with a colleague or friend. We appreciate you helping us get the word out. And until next time, thank you for everything you do to contribute and make an impact.
In episode 76 of Mission: Impact, Carol Hamilton and Devon Lawrence discuss
Devon Lawrence is the Founder and Principal of Clark Lawrence Consulting, Inc. For 10+ years she has worked with non-profits of all sizes, both domestic and international, to advance their capabilities around development operations, fundraising events, project management and leadership. Her clients have praised her ability to be well attuned to the needs, opportunities, and challenges of non-profit organizations and her reliability as a source of guidance on fundraising and organizational development. Devon currently serves on the boards of the Bowery Residents' Committee (BRC) and Association of Nonprofit Specialists. She lives in New York City with her husband and two-year old son.
Important Links and Resources:
Carol Hamilton: My guest today on Mission Impact is Devon Lawrence. Personally I love to step back and see the big picture, look at the wider trends that are happening in the world and help groups think about what the implications of those trends are for their future. To help them envision their future and then come to agreement about what are the big 3-5 things that are really going to help them move the needle on their mission over the next 3-5 years. I love helping them map out the elements of their organization and programs and get clear on why they do what they do and how they can demonstrate their impact.
AND just thinking of the big picture isn’t enough. Without a clear plan for implementation and action all the strategy in the world won’t actually get moved forward. So rather than thinking of strategy as a once in a three year event that includes planning sessions and retreats, thinking of it as practice is really the key. How are we integrating what we decided in our planning sessions into our more day to day work. That is what I talk with Devon about. She focuses on fundraising – and a lot of fundraising consultants also focus on the bigger picture – the fundraising strategy – but Devon does something different – she helps organizations create systems and implement systems that really make their fundraising work.
Mission Impact is the podcast for progressive nonprofit leaders who want to build a better world without becoming a martyr to the cause. I am Carol Hamilton, your podcast host and nonprofit strategic planning consultant.
Devon and I talk about what metrics and other aspects are important to track and monitor for successful fundraising, why that thank you note you been procrastinating about writing is REALLY important, and some of the differences across cultures in attitudes about nonprofits and philanthropy.
Welcome, Devin. Welcome to Mission Impact.
Devon: Thank you. It's great to be here.
Carol: So I always like to start out by asking the question around what drew you to the work that you do? What would you say motivates you, or what would you describe as your why?
Devon: Well my career started in non-profits. So my background was already there and then it was.
When I was introduced to consulting and being able to, to support nonprofits in a different way, that was what was exciting, being able to help more organizations and people out there than I was already through just, working in a full-time role. So it was the ability to, to share my skills and expertise with as many organizations as possible.
Carol: And you really focus on development and fundraising operations and project management. When you're working with clients, can you just say a little bit more about what that looks like?
Devon: Sure. So development operations, I like to say, is really the behind the scenes work. It's the systems, the processes, the structure that needs to be in place in order for an organization to be successful.
So, whether that's, working with. Development directors or executive directors on just, prospecting strategies as well as thinking about, tracking the, the data behind solicitations, cultivation, stewardship, coming up with the right processes for, acknowledgement letters, matching gifts, et cetera.
It's all of those pieces that are part of the puzzle to learn, I mean, to do. Go towards sustainability for an organization.
Carol: And it's funny cuz I, I feel like in a lot of cases consultants err on the side of being the bigger picture strategy piece. And, and that's where I am and .That's all great and you need that, but then, How do you actually make it work?. What are all the 99 steps that you have to think about and keep, keeping track of and making sure that you're maintaining all the things?. What are some of the things that we, you would say are common stumbling blocks for organizations as they're trying to set up those systems?
Devon: That's a great question and a lot of people just don't have it. The bandwidth or capacity. A lot of organizations, you're so focused on the fundraising itself and bringing in the money and reaching your goals, that it's, remembering to track and monitor all of your communication so that you can go back and say to this donor, yes, they made a gift of X amount.
On, a year ago, and we need to get back to them. But what were all those touchpoints in between so that we know, like what is their interest? What is it about our organization that gets them excited? What was the last meeting that they had? What board members do they know? It's all of those pieces that people forget about, but it's really important to come up with the right strategy and continue to engage with donors.
Carol: What are some of those things that you think are really important for organizations to track along the way?.
Devon: Communications. Absolutely. So when you think about a lot of people, a lot of organizations think of communications as not being a part of development. They might even be different departments.
But they really do go hand in hand because, every time that a prospect or donor is reading about. Or seeing something about the organization, that's something that works towards the cycle of engagement. And so communication is definitely one, like understanding what the different touchpoints are that they receive throughout the year.
And in many cases it is also tiered communication. So, donors at certain levels might be only getting newsletters or, just. A quarterly email, whereas donors at a higher level might be, might be receiving invitations to an intimate event or getting a preview of some project or program that's happening that maybe the larger audience might not be.
So keeping track of communications absolutely. Number one is, Following up as quickly as possible when someone makes a gift. So thanking them for their gifts, acknowledgement letters is a huge one. I've worked with clients that, and this happens to everyone at many organizations, is that you, it, it falls to the back burner and donors notice those things.
So, even if it takes 48 hours or two weeks. That's acceptable. But when it takes, six months, nine months, sometimes even a year, donors really do notice. And that can affect the relationship you have with them. So I would say those are some top, must, must haves, make sure that all organizations are tracking.
Carol: Yeah, and it's, it's interesting. I'm, I'm. I work with a group where we've been working together for a couple years, and this isn't a nonprofit, that's not the point of it, but there's some similar things that if we had set up some of those systems at the beginning to be capturing all this information and tracking.
We wouldn't be doing the cleanup that we're gonna. In the middle of trying to do it now. Like, oh yeah, wow. Let's have one spreadsheet where we keep everybody's email and who the primary contact was and are we getting their home address so that we can send them a thank you card. Absolutely.
All those kinds of things that it's easy to think about. After the fact. And then, to think about, well, where would it be easiest for us to ask for this information in the process when, like at a, at an initial gift asking for example, for that address or whatnot. Yes. So that you're not asking for it.
Like, oh, I wanna send you a thank you letter now, could you please send me your
Devon: address? Yes, yes. Definitely, and that's a good point because, I was thinking even bigger picture, but those are the small things that make a huge difference is the address, emails, phone numbers, being able to stay on top of where people are, even annually following up sometimes to just confirm with donors what their, what their contact information is, if anything has changed.
Those are all very important things to consider.
Carol: And it's interesting thinking about like, you're talking about those different tiers and. My husband and I donate to a variety of different organizations. One here locally and we recently got invited to an event.
Now we don't donate a huge amount of money, but we've been consistent. We've donated, yes, probably now for the last. Seven years or something, I bought some of their merchandise. I don't know whether we've gone to any events. I'm trying to even think maybe once. So I was a little bit surprised that we got invited to this event, but it made a big impression.
My husband ended up going. It was really experiential, very close to, really being able to get closer to their mission. So it is interesting to think about kind of, there could be lots of differences. Criteria that would push people into that next tier. What are some of the things Absolutely that organizations might be thinking about?
The obvious one is the amount of money. But are there other things that they should be thinking about, to be able to notice who their, their. I don't know, next level
Devon: givers are. Yeah. And it sounds like the organization you give to has they, they have everything in order that they're able to, to reach out to you.
And with that invitation, because that's actually a really good example is that even if your giving has been the same over a long period of time those, the donors that have been giving for. For long periods, they're as important as someone that comes in at a very high level for the first time and is giving to you.
Sometimes they're even more important because, I know a story from another colleague where she had a client that they had a campaign and the donor had been giving at a. Let's just, for the purpose of this podcast, just say $10,000 for a long period. And at the campaign, the person might have capacity to give more, but the organization was nervous to ask for anything, six figures or higher.
But the consultant said, well, why don't we just ask? And no one has ever asked before, she's, this donor's been giving for. many, many years and they asked for a million and she said, well, no one's ever asked me. And yes, I will. So, wow. It is, IM, it is very important to not forget about those who have been giving to you for a long time because, that just shows that they clearly have a passion and care about the work that you're doing.
And really, if you don't ask for more, you're never gonna know if they'll be willing to, to, to give it a higher level.
Carol: Right. What are some other things that get in the way of organizations really managing their, the, those backend systems?.
Devon: Hmm. The event is a big one. Getting sucked into like those big moments in the year.
Everyone has a gala. A lot of organizations rely on their gala as their main income for revenue and that can blind people from remembering that there's more to fundraising than just the gala and events and that. It's a lot of what happens outside of those, those big moments that are important.
And when you just focus on events which is, it can be great for some organizations to bring in a lot of their revenue for the year. But there's so much more potential if you utilize that, those opportunities outside of those moments. And engaging with donors and keeping track of all the information and the behind the scenes and the proc, like following the proper processes and systems really does make a difference to help you reach those goals.
Carol: And you mentioned events, galas and a lot of organizations have traditionally relied on those. What are you seeing with the impact of, covid having to go virtual? Are those events coming back?. Are organizations decided to pivot away from those?
Devon:. I've definitely seen them come back at least, here in New York and. I have actually had clients in other areas as well. But yes, in person is coming back, but virtual is still there. So it's maybe no longer that the main gala, the main fundraising event for the year, is virtual, but their other virtual opportunities and events throughout the year, because it's a great way to, to expand your, your network and your reach by having the virtual events.
But with galas, I'm definitely seeing in person and people are excited to, to be back in person again and to really like, feel the, Importance of the organization that they're supporting by being in that room with other people and seeing, being able to watch the, the videos and hear from people on stage.
Carol: So you've also worked with organizations internationally. Can you tell me a little bit about that experience? Yes.
Devon: So I worked with a couple of organizations in Singapore. And it was a time when I, we had moved there for my husband's work and I had recently started consulting and I wasn't sure really what was gonna happen.
I still had some clients back here in the US but luckily just through connections, I was introduced to a few organizations that needed support. And it was very interesting because, The support that they needed was different from what I'm used to here in the us. The first thing that stood out was, nonprofits in the US and charities are thought of as two different things.
And usually, nonprofits are used in the broader, broader sense. And it was the opposite in Singapore. So they first think of organizations as charities, which not necessarily lessens them, but there's less of a responsibility that the community has towards supporting those organizations.
Most of the philanthropy was. Through church or so, religion or through medicine. So healthcare. And then outside of that, because Singapore as a country provides a lot of support to the nonprofits, the community really felt like it was the government's responsibility to provide them with support.
So when it came to fundraising for these organizations, they found it really hard. To get through to people to even understand why they should be giving. So that was very interesting to encounter. That was different from what I was used to.
Carol: Yeah. I mean, here in the States it's probably flipped, right?
Devon: Yes. We're
Carol: we're overly reliant on the nonprofit sector to Yes. Deliver services, government overly reliant. That's my own editorial, Editorializing, right?. And even, a lot of organizations get supported by the government, but not to the same degree that that .
There might be expectations in other countries. What other differences did you notice?.
Devon: Being that it was specifically Singapore was heavily expat. It was more so that the expats, the expat community were the ones that were supporting the nonprofits. Because again, just community-wise and culture that, specifically in Singapore, that. They didn't come from the background where, giving to nonprofits was was, was, was almost an expectation.
So I think that the expat community and the level of volunteerism that came from that as well, because many. In xFi communities it's usually because one of the spouses is going for work and then the other spouse, either, if they're lucky, then they are able to work. But sometimes getting those work visas is not as easy for the spouses.
So they put so much of their time and energy into the nonprofits there that was, I wanna say, Not so much more, but I was very impressed and blown away by the level of time and commitment that they all give to the organizations. I mean, the couple that I worked with, the couple organizations that I worked with were fully run and managed by volunteers.
Which we don't see as much over in the us. We have full-time staff, part-time staff at the minimum who are working for nonprofits, but it was almost fully run by, by the, the expats.
Carol: Yeah, so it might also almost be like, we turned the clock back 60 years and, and who was running nonprofits at that time here in the United States might have been more similar.
. And, and you also described them. Are described or seen as charities versus nonprofits, And, sometimes I think here in the US folks may think of that word charity in almost any, some kind of, has some negative overtones. What, what, what did you see?, what, how, how did people experience that in that context and in that culture?
Devon:. I wouldn't say there were negative undertones there, there was still a need for them. There's always a need for them. But people did, they, they would respect charities versus nonprofits and, and, they, they would give, but just the word nonprofit almost wasn't in the vocabulary.
It was very much a charity. And so just like you were saying, being from the US we, if you call a non-profit charity, they might be offended where, so that's what I was used to and I had to, teach myself to switch, to switch that vocabulary. But it was just more than SEMA semantics and being.
The language that they use around the organizations, but they were still respected. It was just that culturally, the, because the government provides so much support, it was less of an expectation of the community having to support them as well.
Carol: Yeah. Yeah, yeah. It's always interesting to explore those, those cultural differences and .
, just how words are used and. And attitudes and perspectives, all of that. I always, I always find that super fascinating. So we had talked before about some of the challenges that organizations have when they're trying to implement or maybe, build out processes.
Maybe improve their processes? What are some things that you see helping them really succeed in that, and make things work well?.
Devon: I am a big believer in CRMs and
Carol: say what a CRM is just quickly.
Devon: It is a, you can either, some say constituents, some say client, but it's a relationship management platform.
So there's. A ton of different ones out there. Razor's Edge, Salesforce, Bloomerang, Asana. There's so many now, but just a big, big believer in the importance of having a database, a system that is capturing and tracking all of your information in one central place. And being able to then, as I was talking about Using that information to help you with your donor engagement and cultivation, solicitation, all of your activities, to then be able to have a dashboard that shows you, how far you are towards your goals and how many, and that could be both, in revenue goals, but also in setting goals for, you want to, you wanna reach out to 10 people this week, you wanna make sure that you have communicated with a certain number of donors.
, helping you to set those goals so you can stay on track for your week, for your month, whatever it is reminding you when you send an email to someone or an invitation you haven't heard back that is a huge that is a huge benefit to like, to lead to, to success for staying organized and just staying on top of everything.
Carol: Now you used the phrase the CRM captures, but actually the, I think one of the biggest challenges that I've noticed with organizations really fully getting all the benefit of a system like that is. When the people don't do, don't take the time to make sure that everything's linked up and that email gets captured or .
Going back in and saying, okay, here are a couple notes from this phone conversation I just had. Yes. That habit forming can be really challenging.
Devon:. And it's also important to find the best CRM for your organization because they are not all equal in any way. for some, Salesforce might be best for some, something through Microsoft because that's already what you're using could be best.
But it's definitely finding what works for you. And also, some are better for events. Some are better for emailing, so it definitely is important to take the time and come up with the best, the best platform for the organization.
Carol: What are some of the things that organizations need to be looking at so that they can know, okay, this one is gonna be a good fit for us.
Devon:. I'm actually doing this right now with other clients, so I can think about just the process we're taking. So first it's Understanding what your vision is. So if you were to have a crm, how would that change the work of your organization? And it could be that it's only for fundraising purposes.
It could be that you also need to track your program information events, like I mentioned. It, whatever else there is. First thinking, big picture, like what is it that. You would need it for, for the organization, all the different ways that it would function. And then it's looking at the data you have and understanding what, like, from there, what your needs are.
It could be that you just wanna track contact information and email addresses the most important and of course, giving information. For others it might be that you need a platform that is connected or has connectability to A search engine. So to be able to search for different capacity levels and give you that research for the different donors to be able to have it within your system.
And then from there it's who is going to be managing it? Is every staff member going to have a hand in it? Is it one individual? Cuz all those things together just. Really make a difference in understanding what the best needs are for the best c r m for you.
Carol: So as we come to the end here at the end of each episode, I ask each guest what permission slip they would give to nonprofit leaders or what they would invite them to consider as they work to not be a martyr to the cause and they work to cultivate a, a healthier and more productive organizational culture.
What, what would your invitation or permission slip be for nonprofit leaders?
Devon: First of all, I love that question. And my answer would be to give your, to give yourself permission to take a break. That it's really important, everyone, especially leaders of org, of nonprofits and organizations, can get so caught up in everything, from your goal for fundraising events, communicating with donors.
But sometimes it's important to just take a break, take a step back and breathe and just take a look at everything around you within your organization and just remind yourself both of the great work you're doing and what you're, your mission and what, who you're working for and the people you're serving.
But also remind yourself of what your priorities are for that moment. Like, remind yourself of, whether it's monthly or quarterly, but just. What those priorities are, are you, are the projects that you're working on, line up with those priorities, but the only way to focus on that is to take a break.
Carol: I feel like so many consultants that I talk to want to give that, to organ to, To leaders. Let's, let's take everybody, take, give them that permission to, to take a break and take a step back and. Think about those priorities. So how can people find you? How can they be in touch?
My website is definitely www.clarklawrenceconsulting.com. And you can find more information about me, about what I do. There is a form to, to reach out to me on, on my website. So yes, all are welcome to check it out.
Carol: And we'll definitely have that link in the, in the show notes. So thank you.
Can find Devin there. Alright, well thank you so much. Thank you for coming on the podcast.
Devon: Absolutely. Thank you for having me.
Carol: Thank you for listening to this episode. I really appreciate the time you spend with me and my guests. You can find out how to connect with Devon, the full transcript of our conversation, as well as any links and resources mentioned during the show in the show notes at missionimpactpodcast.com/shownotes.
I want to thank Isabelle Strauss-Riggs for her support in editing and production as well as Cindy Rivera Grazer of 100 Ninjas for her production support.
Mission: Impact is brought to you by Grace Social Sector Consulting. Grace Social Sector brings you whole-brain strategic planning, mapping, & audits for nonprofits and associations. We combine left-brain strategy and analysis + right-brain wisdom about human complexities for a proven, whole-brain, whole-organization process through which every stakeholder thrives. Reach out to us for support and facilitation of strategic planning, mapping your impact, auditing your services and getting an organizational assessment. We especially love working with staffed nonprofits and associations with human centered missions.
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I am Carol Hamilton, nonprofit consultant and podcast host. My passion is helping organizations cultivate healthy, inclusive cultures that live their values, fostering learning, creativity and results. Find me at Grace Social Sector Consulting and download free resources.
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