By Ruby Maddox
Many nonprofit professionals are familiar with the term, Mission-based Management; a term made popular by Peter Brinkerhoff‘s publication bearing the same name. In it Brinkerhoff describes the cornerstone of Mission-based management in 3 core principles: 1)Nonprofits are businesses, 2)Funds donated to an organization carry an expectation of outcome/service, and 3) Nonprofits should not consider themselves restricted from making a profit, nor should they be cautioned from doing so by their environment. (Brinkerhoff, 2009) .
He then goes on to describe the 10 characteristics of effective nonprofit organizations.
1. A viable mission.
2. Ethical, accountable and transparent.
3. A businesslike board of directors.
4. A strong, well-educated staff.
5. Embracing technology for mission.
6. Social entrepreneurs.
7. A bias for marketing.
8. Financially empowered.
9. A vision for where they are going
10. A tight set of controls.
From an organizational sustainability context, this approach makes sense. An organization can not survive if there is no plan for the future or careful consideration on how the organization will sustain its work. And everyone knows you can’t start off your fiscal year at $0. While it’s true that community-based nonprofit managers must be diligent in their oversight to maximize resources, truly fulfilling the mission of the organization may run contrary to this “Return-on-investment-hyper-efficiency” philosophy; since an organization may prove to be less efficient but still very much effective.
People-based Management for Community-based Organizations
Whereas people-based management in business refers to an employee-centered viewpoint for greater and more long-term results, people-based management offers something more to community-based organizations. It represents an innovative philanthropic paradigm where steps are taken in separating the preservation of the mission from the preservation of the organization itself. It considers the perspective that an organization should NOT exist solely on the basis for it’s own survival.
People-based management in this sense, refers to the way in which an organization relates to it constituents, volunteers, and employees. It is the perspective that declares that each stakeholder is an activist in the organization’s shared endeavor, capable of applying their skills to advance the mission.
People-based management for community-based organizations considers several aspects :
• Community leadership training
• Opportunities for applied leadership
• Exchange of power dynamics
• Emphasis on relationship building and networking
• Prioritizing constituent agenda
• Meaningful & consequential systems of accountability
People-based management for CBOs believes in the capabilities of every person to be a leader in his or her own way. Because Leadership happens in various arenas (not just formal ones), people-based management taps into that capacity, develops it, and applies it. It addresses the inequity in access to power and considers the level of self-efficacy among stakeholders. There is an emphasis on relationship building not only as a means of networking but as a way of establishing trust and developing opportunities for further engagement to create a shared vision, based on that trust.
Many of the concepts of Mission-based Management are still quite valid however if adhered to in a vacuum especially in the matter of CBOs, there is a risk of the organization being conceived of as illegitimate, inauthentic, and ultimately irrelevant.
Part 2 of this series will discuss further what this concept looks like in practice.
Does your organization practice any form of People-Based Management?
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By Ruby Maddox
A few weeks ago I got a call to come down and check out a school garden at the Peck-Lawrence School in Holyoke, MA. Since my background in Urban Agriculture, it’s not uncommon to be contacted on topics related to urban gardens.
At first I thought it was a little odd to do a garden site visit in the middle of winter. Most school gardens in this area are pretty dormant during this time of year, but I went anyway. Boy, was I glad I did.
This is how I came to meet Gerardo Muñoz and his “El Yunque”.
El Yunque (named after an actual National Forest reserve in Puerto Rico) is the Tropical Garden project at Peck-Lawrence School run by, outreach worker, Gerardo Muñoz. Quite a few people pass through El Yunque, always commenting on the breathtaking view and the ambiance that Muñoz personally works to create. Upon entering the classroom space, the visitor is immediately transported into a tropical oasis filled with rare and distinct plants similar to that of the real El Yunque.
In addition to the trees and plants Muñoz displays different artifacts from Puerto Rican culture and refers to them throughout his presentation. Muñoz believes that by creating spaces like El Yunque youth and other community members are given the opportunity to learn about various aspects of Puerto Rican heritage and the role the plants play in that heritage.
The garden has been featured in many local publications including Mass Live. The entire project run and funded by Muñoz, who utilizes donations from various community resources, to keep El Yunque going. Donations of plant pots, soil, plants, garden decorations, and monetary contributions are always accepted.
If you’d like to contribute to El Yunque or if you’d like to arrange a visit contact email@example.com
By Ruby Maddox
Through study-abroad, peace corp, and global-service learning projects many students and professionals are taking advantage of expanding their horizons and increasing their skills through global-oriented opportunities. Their experiences are rich in cultural exchange, self-reflection, and renewed perspectives.
So what does this have to do with CBOs?
Since many of these opportunities often involve working with a foreign NGO/CBO, many of these participants look for ways in which their global experience might apply to working or volunteering at a local nonprofit. While the experience of going abroad is often fascinating in itself with little else to compare it to, there are ways in which skills and competencies gained abroad can be applied to working/volunteering in a community-based organization.
Says Kirk Lange, Director of International Experiential Learning for the McCulloch Center for Global Initiatives at Mount Holyoke College, “Perhaps even more important than skills and knowledge sets might be the insights students gain. Understanding their positionality (often their power and privilege) and understanding communities as communities (by being a member of them and their collective efforts for a while) brings cultural humility and the understanding that each context is unique.”
Having navigated themselves in an entirely new environment participants gain a new understanding of their sense of place in the world as a result.
Brandon Blache-Cohen, Executive Director at Amizade Global Service-Learning notes, “The most important skills that a person learns while serving abroad usually involve flexibility and cross-cultural communication. We find that many of our alums honor nuance and better understand that community challenges are not “fixed” easily”.
As Kirk adds, “Another insight that can be gained is that there are rarely phenomena/challenges/solutions that are just international (and only “out there”) but rather these things are in unique contexts everywhere…and that the international and the national/local together comprise the global. These insights are critical in being effective in community based work (in successfully entering communities that may not be your own, in asking the right questions and together finding appropriate approaches).”
Gabriella della Croce spent some time in Nicaragua both as an intern for The Working World and later as a communications coordinator of Sostenica. Currently Gabriella serves as the outreach and communications coordinator for Gardening the Community a local CBO. When I asked Gabriella what skills she felt transferred from her international experience to her local experience she emphasized her intangible skills.
“The main thing is that it muted me. I think I’m someone who can talk a lot, and it taught me to be quiet and listen hard. Because everything was new I had to learn how to observe and absorb. I had to re-frame and shift my perspective on what defines “development”. It was a humbling experience and involved fighting a lot of assumptions I held as a young college-educated person coming from a background with a lot of resources. Being in a new context, you recognize things in yourself.”
By Ruby Maddox
Many fundraising experts like Dr. Tempel agree, fundraising is about building relationships and engaging donors. Donors tend to give where the feel connected. Building that connection takes time, cultivation, and a show of commitment to the values of the organization.
While many CBOs have dedicated staff that do amazing work for the organization it’s important to find ways to share the organization’s story to provide donors (and potential donors) a way to connect with the essence of that work. So here are some ways you can tell that story
1. Social Media
This is absolutely a no-brainer. Most organizations already have, at minimum, a facebook and a twitter page, but what are you doing with it? If your audience is on social media use your account to post/tweet upcoming events, pictures from past events, articles related to your organization’s cause, and organizational successes and milestones. Since many CBOs may not have a dedicated communications person (let alone a social media manager) here are a few tips to get your org started.
- See if there’s a way to divvy up the responsibility among a group of staff members.
- Hold a mini-training session for staff and board members willing to be a part of the effort.
- Be strategic. Come up with a minimum number of posts/tweets per week.
- Rotate responsibility among staff members
- Have staff/board members submit content(pictures, articles,events, & updates) to a point person willing to post for others.
- Don’t forget to discuss with your team what’s NOT appropriate to post/tweet.
2. Annual Report
Annual reports are not only a good way to tell your organization’s story, they’re also a great way to show your organization’s profile and demonstrate transparency since they also include the org’s financial information. Annual reports can be a way for an organization to really highlight its successes over the past year and illustrate the need that the organization fulfills. Not sure where to begin? Here are few resources to help get you started.
- 10 Tips for Writing a Great Annual Report
- Getting Started with Annual Reports
- Nonprofit Annual Report Gallery (Examples of Annual Reports)
Tried and true, a newsletter can be an excellent way to share your organizations story in a predictable and creative way. Most can be done electronically and pretty inexpensively through services like Constant Contact, Mail Chimp, and Verticalresponse. These programs are simple to use and offer excellent templates.
Plus, going electronic with your newsletter (or mostly electronic unless otherwise requested) will save your organization money and allow your audience to keep up to date on the most recent events and stories happening in your organization. You can choose to do a monthly or quarterly newsletter, depending on your org’s capacity.
The opportunity to present the work of your organization doesn’t need to be one-sided. In other words, don’t wait to be asked. Put the invite out there. Offer to come and talk to classrooms, clubs/associations, church groups, events, etc. Put together a simple presentation that highlights the work of the organization and have it ready to go. If possible train several members of your organization to perform this task.
Your presentation shouldn’t be based around asking for money but building relationships. Bring materials from your organization to share and have a sign-up sheet for anyone interested in learning more about the org or joining the email list to receive the organization’s newsletters.
How does your organization tell its story?
By Ruby Maddox
I attended two events this past week both with the focus on Philanthropy and noted two similarities in the messages of these two events: Storytelling.
The first event was hosted by Bay Path’s College as part of their “Bold Thoughts in the New America”, Hot Topics Lecture Series. The speaker was Dr. Eugene Tempel, Indiana University’s Lilly Family School of Philanthropy founding dean, Nonprofit Times 2013 Influencer of the Year, and a top expert in the field of Philanthropy. Dr. Tempel shared a few statistics on the state of Philanthropy in America; including the decline in alumni giving in higher ed institutions and comparative research on giving among men and women. He also discussed what he saw as the many roles of philanthropy among others, the reduction of human suffering and enhancing of human potential.
When a local community-based organization asked what their organization could do to increase their number of donors Dr. Tempel noted that it was important for the organization to find a way to tell their story. “The most compelling thing one can do is tell stories about the success of your organization…and how you’re making a difference.”
“Fundraising from my perspective is the difficult work of engagement. It’s figuring out how you engage people”, noted Tempel.
The second event I attended was one of the Women in Philanthropy breakfast events entitled “Donors Share: A Panel Discussion”, moderated by Katie Allan Zobel, President of of the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts. The panel featured four local donors: Sally Griggs, Amy Jamrog, Ellen Lindsay and Sarah Buttenweiser, all of whom discussed what inspires them to give. While each donor discussed several things that had turned them off from an organization; not being in alignment with the organization’s values or receiving way too many glossy brochures, each panelists seem to agree that it’s a personal connection that drives their philanthropy.
As Amy Jamrog remarked, ” I love Facebook and I read annual reports. Love them! They tell the organization’s story.”
Sarah Buttenweiser, noted, “I give where I’m engaged. Social media is a great way to tell your story.”
Ellen Lindsey pointed out,”What motivates me to give is that personal touch from an organization.”
“What matters to me is transparency”, said Sally Griggs.
Next week I’ll discuss different ways your organization can tell its story.
As a philanthropist (of your time or money) What motivates you to give?
By Ruby Maddox
When we think of Urban Agriculture, most people tend to think of community gardens; vast networks of gardens and gardeners in places like Boston, New York, and DC. When we think of Urban Agriculture Organizations some folks might recall Urban Farmer and McArthur Genius award recipient, Will Allen and his Growing Power organization in Milwaukee or the People’s Grocery in Oakland CA.
For many urban communities, urban agriculture offers sense of hope for what is possible in neighborhoods with high rates of poverty, divestment, and health disparities. Urban Ag has become a tool for activism. It brings together communities to address issues of food justice , racism, and unequal access to goods and services. Rohit Kunar’s article, How Urban Agriculture Is Revitalizing Local Economies, cited the many ways in which urban agriculture is working to improve urban communities and our economy.
Getting youth involved in changing our food system is key to achieving Food Justice and creating healthier urban communities. Across the country urban communities are coming together reclaiming open spaces and using them to grow food for the community and encourage youth leadership. Below are just 3 organizations you should know about.
Poughkeepsie Farm Project
(From their Website) The Poughkeepsie Farm Project is a non-profit organization that works toward a just and sustainable food system in the Mid-Hudson Valley by operating a member-supported farm, providing education about food and farming, and improving access to healthy locally-grown food.
Poughkeepsie Farm Project runs a program called City Seeds is an intensive educational program that trains future farmers; provides youth from urban areas with hands-on farming, gardening and cooking experiences; and produces and distributes regionally-adapted and open-pollinated seeds while sharing knowledge about seed saving. Through City Seeds, young people have opportunities to engage in meaningful, skill-building work while learning to:grow food,save seeds make a difference in their communities and the food system.
Acta Non Verba
Located Oakland, California and started by Executive Director Kelly Carlisle, Acta Non Verba teaches youth how to grow and sell vegetables inside the city. All funds generated from the sale of the produce is then invested into bank accounts for the participating youth.
Gardening the Community
And of course, Gardening the Community(GtC). GtC is a food justice organization in Springfield, Massachusetts engaged in youth development, urban agriculture, and sustainable living to build healthy and equitable communities. Not only an organization, GtC is a community within a community reaching across a diverse demographic of Pioneer Valley residents to an urban oasis.
Tell Me about a Youth Urban Agriculture Program in your Neighborhood
By Ruby Maddox
My last post discussed what donors and volunteers could do to help their favorite community-based organization(CBO). This post is about what CBO staff can do to help their organization. With the end of the year right around the corner, it’s usually time to review budgets, push out final reports. For many orgs it’s a time for reflecting on the work of the previous year and figuring how the organization will best meet its mission in the coming year.
While it’s too late to start any new initiatives, here’s one great way to give your CBO a great head start in the new year.
Organize A Year-Long Communication Plan
Your organization should be in contact with donors and other stakeholders throughout the year (not just during the giving season). Creating a year-long communication plan is a major part of creating a donor stewardship plan, since effective and consistent communication builds relationships with current donors and cultivates new ones. Here are a few things you should add to your calendar.
- Donor Recognition/Volunteer Appreciation events. These events are a way to say thank you as well as build relationships and foster engagement.
- Volunteer Events. Identify ways in which your donors and other stakeholders can contribute to the organization through an activity. Maybe you already have annual volunteer events. Think about how you can make them fun and festive. This type of engagement will allow volunteers to feel more connected to the organization while assisting the organization in its goals. By strategically setting these dates ahead of time you’ll get the word out sooner and be able to organize other communication plans accordingly.
- Newsletter outreach dates. An organization’s newsletter can be useful in keeping in contact with the CBO’s environment. It’s an opportunity to keep folks aware of the organization’s activities and achievements. Newsletters can tie a CBO’s communication plan together since, if planned in advance for the year, it can be used to recognize donors, advertise volunteer events, and share the org’s success stories all throughout the year.
If your CBO is too under resourced for a monthly newsletter try quarterly. Your newsletter can be done on actual paper or electronically emailed to your CBO’s mailing list through services like constant contact or mailchimp.
- Thank you card distribution. Be sure to thank donors and volunteers in a timely fashion. I cannot stress this enough. After the volunteer events and fundraisers make a plan to thank your donors right away. If the event is scheduled on a Saturday be sure to place on the calendar the date for drafting and distributing thank you notes.