Thursday, September 16, 2010

Nonprofit or Profitable?

I have recently finished the development of my agencies next five-year strategic plan. Our 2 main goals were to become substantially more efficient in the way that we achieve our corporate mission and vision, and to become financially self sustaining in the next five-years. The plan’s success is going to require that the organization adopt a change in the way they normally operate and to redefine how they generate and develop funds. In other words, we have to challenge the status quo and defy gravity to achieve major success. That is why I have recently purchased, for my entire management team, a new book by Rebel Brown called “Defy Gravity.” Rebel, a published author, speaker, and business strategy expert has recently created a guide to finding and capturing opportunities for sustained growth. The book defies the status quo and provides practical advice to help corporate leaders avoid crash-and-burn strategies of yesterday. I highly recommend this book to all CEOs struggling with change; change in how to implement new and unique ways to take organizations to new heights. Rebel suggests that the way we’ve always done it may be limiting our success and I agree! You can get a copy of Rebel’s book through Amazon ( or to learn more about Rebel Brown you can go to her website,

Status quo in the nonprofit world is fund development. Traditional fund development is simply the acquisition of resources to advance the mission of an organization. It is the process by which an organization uses fundraising to build capacity and sustainability and it is part of the strategic marketing of a nonprofit organization. Fund development has two sides though; it is not only concerned with raising money, but also in developing reliable sources of income that will sustain the organization through the realization of its long-term mission and vision. Successful fund development requires a strategic plan that relates funding to the purpose and programs of the organization. However, I contend that in these tough economic times nonprofit organizations must radically change its view and take the concept of fund development to a whole new level. They must, as Rebel Brown teaches in her book, Defy Gravity… challenge the status quo!

It is my contention, in these tough economic times, that nonprofit organizations are becoming a burden on the business community. It seems that individual businesses are being hit over and over and over again by local nonprofit agencies for donations and memberships in mass numbers. Everyone from chambers of commerce to the humane society is asking for small business support. Now, these are all fantastic, mission driven organizations that are doing wonderful things to improve the quality of life in their respective communities, but unfortunately they rely heavily on donations from small business. As the economy weakens there is less and less of this money available by small business to support these groups and the competition for these dollars among all of the nonprofits in a community is at an all time high. There is simply not enough money to go around and I am afraid that you will see many nonprofits closing their doors over the next several years unless they make a fundamental change in the way they operate. Rebel agrees stating that “releasing stale corporate legends is the first step toward high-velocity growth.” I believe that nonprofits just can’t continue to operate using the same old model.

The solution to this problem, which I have adopted and I am encouraging other nonprofit CEOs to also consider, is how we look at social entrepreneurialism. Social entrepreneurialism needs to be looked at in a whole new way. Social entrepreneurialism is typically the use of traditional entrepreneurial techniques to address a social issue or cause. I want to challenge the status quo, defy gravity, by looking at social entrepreneurialism as a way for nonprofit organizations to develop new funding sources through for-profit means. I want social entrepreneurialism to be defined as a nonprofit organization creating and operating a separate for-profit venture to support their nonprofit mission. In other words, any profit from the new venture would go to support the long-term mission and vision of the nonprofit. Therefore, the nonprofit would require less money in private contributions. For example, the humane society can market and sell a private-label brand of dog food in grocery stores nationally. The YMCA could market and sell exercise videos in the United States. An economic development group could develop and sell commercial and residential real estate. In Defy Gravity, Rebel Brown teaches all of us that thinking differently about our business and its value, our markets and the opportunities they provide – and about the way we’ve always done it is truly the key to future success. So, you can see by the examples, by adopting a new way of operating, there would be the potential to generate millions of dollars in revenue for these groups that could go towards the long-term financial sustainability of the nonprofit.

The organization that I serve, serves the entire community through the creation of new jobs and investment in the region and the promotion of the area’s assets to attract tourists that spend money with local merchants. For the most part, we are considered a member-based organization. The funds that we raise come primarily from among the members themselves and are used for the purpose of sustaining the organization's needs. For example, the money required for our programs and operations is collected in the form of fees paid to belong to the organization, or in the form of donations. There is a high degree of correlation though between the economy and membership. Therefore, if the economy is bad, we can expect membership to be lower. Simply, the organization requires funding to maintain its service to the community year after year. So, there is no way that we can rely completely on membership dollars and still survive long into the future.

In addition to membership dollars, we must also rely on a small base of government support for specific tourism and heritage preservation programs. And, the fact of the matter is, that often we must raise funds from a variety of sources just to maintain our budget. That is why I feel it is so important and crucial to create a fund development strategy that allows the organization to generate new revenue through for-profit means. You can see how, as an organization, it would make sense for us to develop and sell commercial real estate as a way to generate new revenue. The more money we can generate on our own, the less money we will require from the community. This is a new and radical way to look at nonprofit fund development, as well as, social entrepreneurialism, and is definitely not the status quo, but is, none the less, necessary if the nonprofit wants to survive in this new economy. This is a way for the nonprofit to take their destiny into their own hands; to become less of a burden on society, and to gain long-term sustainability in tough economic times.

Rebel Brown states in her book, “Paint by numbers approaches don’t work. Why? Because today’s market isn’t the predictable, slow moving market we took for granted. Everything changes, continuously. That means that you have to create your strategy based on today’s reality – then evolve to soar the dynamic winds of market changes to sustain growth for tomorrow.” Thank you Rebel for confirming our strategy and giving us the tools we need to execute this plan and move our agency forward; far into the future!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Are You Chasing Accomplishment Without Enjoyment Or Are You Chasing Enjoyment Without Accomplishment? Find That Work-Life Balance!

Yesterday was Labor Day and as I sat there enjoying quality time with my family I realized that I love my life. I really love my life! I felt a sense of accomplishment and enjoyment like never before. I felt a real balance that I have not felt in a really long time. It made me realize how, as a CEO, it is extremely important to find that work-life balance. Do you have it in your life? As a CEO do you struggle with the work-life balance?

Work-life balance will change over time and what may seem like the right balance today will most certainly change tomorrow. The right balance for you when you were single will change for you when you are married and that balance will change again when you have children. There is no perfect, “off the shelf” balance that you can prescribe to. The best work-life balance will be the one that meets your priorities at different stages in your life. It will be the work-life balance that gives you that feeling of daily accomplishment and enjoyment; all at the same time. You see, because accomplishment and enjoyment go hand-in-hand. You can’t have one without the other! When CEOs try to live a life of accomplishment without enjoyment they are simply unfulfilled and unhappy. They are not balanced.

Work-life balance does not mean an equal balance in hours or time spent. Trying to schedule an equal number of hours for work, family, and personal activities is unrealistic. All you really need to do is find a balance between accomplishment and enjoyment. Without accomplishment and enjoyment it is tough to answer the really big questions in your life. Have you ever asked yourself these questions?

Why do I continue to work here?
Why do I get out of bed in the morning?
Why did I buy this new house?

If these are your questions, then chances are you are chasing accomplishment without enjoyment or you are chasing enjoyment without accomplishment. You must bring them together to find that true balance. When was the last time you felt both accomplishment and enjoyment at work, with family, with friends? Or just for you?

When you find that right balance for you of accomplishment and enjoyment you then become a truly balanced CEO. You become known as the CEO that gets things done and enjoys doing it. You will be the type of CEO that attracts people to you, people that want to be around you, people that want to be on your team!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

This past week I was both honored and humbled to be featured on a blog regarding my personal philosophy on success and failure (That blog post is below as it appeared on March 4, 2010). And, the fact that it was featured by Ky Ekinci, Co-Founder of Office Divvy makes it that much more special!

You see, Ky and his partners understand SUCCESS. In 2007, they created Office Divvy in Palm Coast, Florida. Office Divvy is a cost effective, comfortable, and professional work and meeting space for all profiles in the business community. They deliver a turnkey business operation, to work-from-home professionals; corporations; individuals or companies that are starting up or downsizing; allowing these companies to concentrate on their core business objectives instantly.

Ky and his partners are the true economic developers! Economic developers that are helping small business to grow and prosper. In addition, Ky and his partners have adopted social network tools such as Twitter to reach out to a larger audience and help small business and entrepreneurs to SUCCEED. And, they impart great wisdom to those that follow, unselfishly, one Tweet at a time!

You can check out Office Divvy at:

Or you can follow their blog at:

Or you can folllow Ky Ekinci on Twitter at:

Randy Seitz's Powerful Quotes on "Failure"
by Ky Ekinci
Office Divvy

I've noticed Randy Seitz on twitter early on, and we made an immediate connection. He is a terrific and experienced Economic Development Executive with a diverse background and an impressive track record.

A couple days ago, Randy was on twitter, skillfully engaging others while machine-gunning a bunch of powerful quotes on "failure."

Last Summer I posted a short blog entry on "Success and Failure" based on a video interview of another Randy -- the Entrepreneur and Venture Capitalist, Randy Komisar. Mr. Komisar was arguing that it is the tolerance for failure that leads to innovation, and hence a solopreneur, a small business owner, a startup are more likely to be innovative (because they can tolerate failure) vis a vis a large corporation. That blog post, and the video interview can be found here: Biggest Success Breeds from Failure

There has been much said, and there is much to say about Success, Failure, and Innovation, but I will not say more. I will instead leave you with some of Randy Seitz's quotes through his wonderful tweets:

" What you call failure... I call practice! "

" I didn't fail... I was preparing for greatness! "

" Failure makes perfect! "

" I am one more failure away from greatness! "

...and when I made a comment to Randy about him being on a roll with his great quotes on failure, he responded with yet another gem:
" ...breaking past the fear of failure is where you will find true success! "

If you are on twitter, you can connect with Randy: @RPSeitz

Monday, November 30, 2009

Don't fail to plan... Follow the process!

This is an incredible time right now for my agency. I am leading my team through a strategic planning process. I always include senior management in this process because executive leadership sets the tone for the entire corporation and I want this tone to be one of excitement and enthusiasm about increasing the prosperity of the Oil Region.

We have begun our strategic planning process with a strategic vision or a description of what will be when we have achieved our goals and objectives. The vision is communicated in our strategic plan through our mission and vision statements. It is extremely important to me that the staff clearly understand and believe in our mission and can see the vision. This can only happen if it is communicated and modeled by the senior staff. A highly desirable characteristic of any successful CEO is their ability to clearly see the strategic vision along with an incredible passion for the agency and the ability to excite and influence those around them to dare to believe too!

The next few steps have included sharing of an overall corporate plan and asking our business units – economic development, tourism, heritage preservation, and finance and administration to propose strategic plans for themselves that fit into the overall corporate plan. This includes a complete SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) analysis of each unit. They must carefully look at the internal strengths and weaknesses of the unit to achieve the overall corporate mission and vision and external opportunities and threats for job creation and investment, tourist spending, and heritage preservation.

This is a long and time consuming process because it is the CEO’s responsibility alone to evaluate the unit plans and provide the appropriate feedback. Each unit must justify its proposed objectives, strategies, and programs in terms of how well they satisfy the agency’s overall objectives in light of the available resources. Please share with me your unique experience in strategic planning for your agency!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Is your agency having closed door meetings? Well, they should!

This week I want to discuss the concept of “executive sessions.” Executive sessions are not to be confused with executive committee meetings. An executive committee meeting is a standing committee of the board and an executive session is an exclusive meeting of the whole board behind closed doors. That’s right. It is an exclusive meeting behind closed doors. That means – no staff, no guests, and often no CEO.

Chief executives sometimes feel threatened by closed meetings from which they are excluded. There is no meeting that can create more anxiety, suspicion, and overall sense of secrecy than the executive session! But, every board should use executive sessions. Often, there arises, certain situations where the presence of staff, including the CEO may hinder open deliberations. Every board has the right to meet without outsiders in the room to discuss confidential matters that must be handled in privacy. And, that should not worry, offend, or cause anxiety with anyone, especially not the CEO.

Now, there are very specific rules for how a board should use executive sessions and the organizational by-laws and policies will determine how to proceed. The chair is usually responsible for calling these sessions, but any board member can request one. Executive sessions should always be scheduled appropriately. Executive sessions should not be used for any of the following reasons: to avoid discussing tough issues in an open meeting; to dodge responsibility; to restrict any board member’s access to information or to purposefully create a secret society like atmosphere. The agenda should clearly state the purpose of the session and a regular meeting should always be scheduled immediately following an executive session. The minutes of the regular board meeting should indicate that the board went into executive session; the time they went in and the time they came out. There should also be a record of who was present, and a description of any action that was taken.

Executive sessions should NOT be a source of anxiety for the CEO. Executive sessions are a necessary tool for board governance and should be embraced by the chief executive. A wonderful way to eliminate fear and anxiety is for the chair to meet with the CEO prior to and after an executive session to get professional advice from the CEO about what is going to be discussed and why certain action is going to be taken. This allows the chief executive to be involved without actually attending the meeting. Please share with me your experience with executive sessions and how they made you feel?

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Is Your Boardroom Civil?

This week I want to talk about UNDERSTANDING and ACCEPTANCE of others’ opinions. I am not suggesting that you abandon your point of view, but rather that you understand, accept, and respect that other people have their own unique perspective too. In fact, I want to encourage you to adopt the philosophy that differing opinions are something to be treasured, valued, and encouraged.

I know that this can often be hard when you are passionate about your point of view, but you must try to let your peers express their opinions, no matter how different they may seem from yours. I can relate to this personally because I am so passionate about the work that I do that I often allow my emotions to take over and block out others’ opinions which are also equally very important to the mission of the agency.

Spirited debate is healthy because it is a way to ensure that decisions are being made through the evaluation of ALL the information available to help make that decision. However, it becomes unhealthy for an organization when the emotions are directed at a person rather than an issue. This type of private wrangling can divert the focus away from the mission. The chair should be very careful to look for signs that the discussion may be getting out of hand and take the proper steps to regain control. Improper language and verbal insults should be stopped immediately. Disagreeing with someone’s comments is perfectly normal, but inappropriate behavior should not be accepted.

Lastly, I have never experienced this, but racist and other comments, intolerance of others’ personal convictions, and impugning the motives of others is also unacceptable. Whether the comments are intentional or out of ignorance they should be addressed immediately and the board, at this point, may want to consider diversity training.

Here are some suggested tips on keeping the meetings civil:
1. Arrive on time
2. Come prepared
3. Know the ground rules of the meeting
4. Don’t be judgmental
5. Talk about issues, not people
6. Allow other people to speak too
7. Ask questions
8. Talk about issues at the meeting not in the parking lot after
9. Disclose any conflict of interest

Remember these tips and be respectful of others and you will become a valuable resource for a nonprofit organization in need of your expertise. Please share with me your thoughts on boardroom civility?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Are you making your volunteer board work too hard?

This week’s blog is a salute to the superstar volunteers of the board that serve as committee members or members of a special task force.

The real work of the board is done through committees and/or through special task forces. Committees and task forces are made up of talented people that collect, analyze, and study data and information on issues and opportunities and then report their findings along with their recommendations to the board for a specific action. This process could be quite detailed and rather daunting and time consuming. But, without committees and task forces board meetings would take many hours and volunteers would be severely overworked. The truth of the matter is that every board meeting needs to be carefully conducted to where every minute is spent on the approval of actions that advance the mission of the organization and if committee work had to be done in the board room no action would ever be taken!

Therefore, do your board a favor and help them govern better by empowering committees and task forces to perform all of the legwork required for a board to be truly effective. Your board meetings will be more productive because more decisions will be made and less time will be spent sitting at the board table because the committees and task forces will have done the homework and provided the board with all of the necessary information to make the right decisions.

So, how do you get started? First, it is important to know the difference between a committee and a task force. So, here they are:

• Committees, sometimes called standing committees, are a permanent part of the board structure and generally are stipulated and formed through the authority of the agency’s bylaws (i.e. Executive Committee, Budget & Finance Committee, etc.).

• A task force is usually temporary and is only formed on an as-needed basis often to research a particular issue for later recommendation and possible debate by the board. This allows greater flexibility in the work that the board must do to govern.

Just like full board meetings, committees and task force groups work best if the chair or facilitator is experienced. There are no legal requirements to determine how a committee or task force should function so the chair will often decide how formal these meetings need to be. Obviously the chair should be well trained and experienced enough to ensure that there is enough involvement by all members so that they can produce positive results. In addition, these meetings don’t necessarily require that any formal minutes be taken but at the very least someone should make note of the agenda topics and important group decisions made along the way.

The main goal and objective of a committee or task force is to research, analyze, and study a topic or issue with the intent to make a full recommendation to the board of directors. This process should be taken seriously and the committee or task force should be given adequate time to come to a conclusion. This may require the use of professionals or other organizations specially trained to help. Once complete, the committee or task force will provide the board, normally through a written or oral report, enough relevant information to make an intelligent decision and to take action that will bind the agency. The board must, therefore, trust that the committee or task force has studied all of the necessary details and their report is a comprehensive account of the results.

So, to all of you volunteer committee and task force members out there… Thank you for all of your hard work and dedication to the mission of the nonprofit agency you so faithfully serve. It is your hard work and due diligence that allows the agency, through its board of directors to make the necessary decisions that help them to govern so well.

Are you using your committees and task forces? Or, are you overworking your board? Please share with me your experience with committee and task force work and how you use them to advance your mission?