Linking things up – Holiday edition!

Dec 10, 2012 by

Somehow, it’s December. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, since this has been the fastest year of my life. But somehow, here we are.

And, I’ve been slacking on the blog lately. Our new house is taking up an incredible amount of time and effort – but the ‘end’, at least in terms of unpacking, arranging, buying new furniture, re-arranging, etc. – is in sight! By the end of the year, we’re looking forward to really settling into the home and finally enjoying it, rather than viewing it as a source of work and occasionally, frustration.

I wanted to share some links for great posts from other blogs that I’ve been keeping up in my (limited) free time. Enjoy and stay tuned – I’ve got a lot in store for 2013!

  • Millennials Are Here: 5 Facts Nonprofits and Businesses Need to Know by Colleen Dilenschneider at Know Your Own Bone – As usual, Colleen has taken hard data and provided a clear, thoughtful analysis that even non-data nerds (like myself) can appreciate. In this post, she points out what should be obvious to us all, but apparently isn’t – millennials are the largest generation in history, they are already having a huge amount of influence over pop, intellectual and consumer culture and nonprofits ignore them at their own peril. If you work at a nonprofit, are a data nerd or just appreciate incisive writing, get over there now.
  • 4 Mistakes Employers Are Sure To Notice by Heather Huhman at Glassdoor Blog – Glassdoor’s posts are always concise, to the point and provide great advice for you job-seekers out there. This post is no different. Heather breaks down four mistakes that you need to avoid if you actually want to hired. Take it from Heather Huhman, an experienced hiring manager: you don’t want to get noticed for all the wrong reasons.
  • Foundations Must Get Serious About Multi-Year Grantmaking by Niki Jagpal & Kevin Laskowski at the Stanford Social Innovation Review – I don’t talk about fundraising or foundations much in this space, but it’s something that every nonprofit professional must pay attention to. In this excellent piece, Jagpal and Laskowski highlight the decline in multi-year grantmaking by foundations to nonprofits and the devastating effects it is having and will continue to have in the future. Without a consistent source of funding, nonprofits will continually struggle to make ends meet and will not be able to focus on the mission-based work that the foundations supposedly support. And on a more personal level, any nonprofit professional’s job could be on the line because of that lack of support.
  • Worst-case scenarios. You gotta love ‘em. by Danielle LaPorte on her blog – This elegantly simple post comes pretty close to summing up my philosophy to career risks. To wit: what’s the worst that could happen?
  • What You Pay in Time by Philip Brewer at Wisebread – This post kind of blew my mind. Wisebread’s tagline is “living large on a small budget” and they share all kind of posts about how to value your time, money and stuff appropriately – and how avoid over-valuing the same. This post breaks down, in fairly stark terms, one method of determining what you’re giving up and what you’re getting when you make different choices – in this case, in terms of time. While the focus is framed around time and money in general, it made me think specifically about my career and the growth of my business. How much time am I spending just trying to earn money…in order to spend more time making money. Read it – maybe it will blow you mind too.
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On Friday, I had intergenerational dialogue for breakfast

May 24, 2010 by

I headed to the YNPN DC 2010 conference early on Friday morning to learn and network with other nonprofit professionals. I also joined the social media team at the conference and live-tweeted the conference along with several other fabulous YNPs. In the next couple of days I’ll be sharing some of my notes and impressions from the meeting. If you want to check out the minute by minute commentary from Friday, check out the Twitter stream at #YNPNdc10.

The kick off session was an intergenerational dialogue breakfast facilitated by Rosetta Thurman and Alan Abramson. Below are some of my notes from the session.

Brad Sciber from National Geographic, who was a founding board member of YNPN DC, introduced the session and talked about how he had to teach his parents about nonprofits when he decided to join the sector. He explained that academia wasn’t a fit, business for business sake didn’t move him and he didn’t want to be a government worker; he wanted to do something that mattered and make the world a better place.

Brad now has a young son who has the option to do something that matters throughout his life; but how is Brad supposed to explain that to him? Here’s how he going to do it: by sharing the story “Stone Soup.” The synopsis: Some strangers come to town but no one in town wants to share the food with the strangers. So, the strangers decide to start a pot of soup boiling in the middle of town with 3 stones and they talk up how good it will be. They note that the soup would be better with an onion, but that even without it the soup will still be good. After hearing that, someone contributes an onion to the soup – after all, an onion isn’t a big deal. The strangers then say that the soup would be so much better with a carrot, so someone contributes a carrot. This continues on until eventually they have a delicious soup that everyone in the town has contributed to and can share. This is a great metaphor for the nonprofit sector: we all put in our little bit to make the ‘soup’ wonderful; and if we didn’t have that gathering pot of soup we’d all just be a bunch of people with random veggies.

This is how YNPN DC has grown in the past 6 years: more and more people have contributed and now there are many more events, more opportunities for professional development, far more members, and a stronger voice.

Rosetta kicked off the session by sharing some statistics and loose definitions of the various generations represented in the workplace, including the silent generation (born 1925-1945), baby boomers (1946-1964), Gen X (65 – 79), Gen Y (80-2000). (For more on the stats and reports that detail a generational shift in nonprofits, check out Ready to Lead: Next Generation Leaders Speak Out and YNPN’s report on leadership development and career progression in the nonprofit sector, Stepping Up or Stepping Out [PDF].)

She then asked some questions of the group that we responded to at our individual tables.

  • What do you wish people knew about your generation?
  • From baby boomers – we have a sense that government can be a positive force and it has shaped our lives; the power of popular movements and public service to do good is hugely important; a lot of us had a sense of working hard, paying dues, and working your way up in the workplace that we were taught from an early age; some key cultural touchstones: men born after 1954 knew (and still know) their draft numbers by heart and in the workplace most people smoked all day everyday – those are thing that young people have never experienced.
  • From Gen X – AIDS was a huge economic and health impact on our lives; we feel like Gen Y doesn’t recognize the need to pay their dues; we as Gen X-ers are more willing to pay our dues and we empathize with the baby boomers in that respect
  • From Gen Y – even though the media wants to label the newest crop of college graduates the ‘lost’ generation due to a poor economy and a lack of jobs that keep us living at home, Gen Y-ers are actually very entrepreneurial, we are starting our own businesses and making things happen; we are more willing to take risks, but in a way that can allow great change to happen and new social norms to be created
  • How do we move the ‘next’ generation of leaders into the ‘now’ generation of leaders? What can we do on the individual, organization and regional (DC metro) level?
  • Individually
    • Start with trust in one another instead of waiting to earn that trust
    • Especially for Gen Y-ers: let your boss know that you will stay at an organization if you are cultivated and appreciated
    • Gen X can seek out and help develop younger leaders
    • Go to your supervisor and ask them what they know; this credits them for their knowledge and you also get professionally development
  • Organizationally
    • Be more transparent on salaries, benefits, etc. so that we understand where each other are coming from re: money and that pressure
    • Organizations should keep a list of professional development opportunities or maintain connections with other organizations that do have that information
    • Organizations should start and maintain a policy of supporting professional development in all employees
    • Sessions conducted by employees for other employees on different knowledge areas
  • Regionally
    • External mentoring with other organizations
    • Strengthen the nonprofit community in DC by participating in groups like YNPN

The session was a great chance for each of us to learn from other generations and start (or continue) a dialog that needs to happen in our workplaces, schools and homes. The workplace is ever changing and if we’re going to be successful within it, we need to be flexible and work together whether we’re moving up or moving out.

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The New Leadership Crisis

Mar 11, 2009 by

Flickr photo by Chris.Violette
Flickr photo by Chris.Violette

Over the last couple of years, I have done a fair amount of reading and researching about the so-called ‘leadership crisis’ in the nonprofit sector (check out some info here). Here’s the short and dirty: in the next several years, thousands of (older) nonprofit leaders are going to retire and there isn’t enough talent to take over the positions these leaders will vacate. Thomas Tierney, who authored a study through the Bridgespan Group predictably titled The Nonprofit Sector’s Leadership Deficit, [PDF] posits that “For the years spanning 2007 to 2016, [nonprofits] will need to attract and develop a total of 640,000 new senior managers – or the equivalent of 2.4 times the number currently employed.”* In other words: the sky is falling!

Except…it isn’t.

Of course, there is and always has been a great need for leadership in the nonprofit sector. Almost every American looks to or even depends on local nonprofits to provide basic services, build community and supply an avenue for advocacy. But to assume there aren’t leaders ready, willing and bursting at the seams to take the reins is asinine. There are thousands and thousands of mid-career nonprofit staffers (including yours truly) who are eager and willing to lead our organizations to success now and in the future. So where is this so-called leadership crisis?

The new crisis actually has to do with people staying instead of leaving. As the economy continues to get worse, baby boomer leaders who had planned to leave in the next few years are going to stay around. (Frankly, I don’t blame them. Nonprofits aren’t known for spectacular – or any – retirement plans and some people don’t have 40 more years to recoup their 30%+ 401k losses like I do.) We’re also going to get a lot of corporate types who decide they want to ‘do good’ and assume that coming to a nonprofit will be an easy way to make a living. And finally, we’ll have the young and emerging nonprofit leaders who want to advance in their career and keep moving on up in their organizations. With multiple generations, different work and life experiences and a very challenging fundraising and service-provision environment, things are going to get even more difficult.

This is where intergenerational dialogue comes in. Creating and/or expanding conversations between diverse people in your nonprofit is one of the only ways I can see to maintain a congenial work environment. Beyond the politeness factor though is the hard truth of trying to do more with less constantly. If the (older) leaders running our organizations don’t recognize and implement the new and innovative ideas coming up from their junior staff, they are going to lose out on many opportunities. By the same token, if younger and newer leaders refuse to learn from or respect the experience of established leaders, they are going to miss out on tremendous learning experiences.

They may not be pretty, but really difficult situations require a depth of knowledge, flexibility and courage that many people will never have the chance to develop. We all need to work together to make sure that we’re learning new things, using the resources and people in our organizations (and sector) and making ourselves stronger for the long haul. If we do this, we’ll be ready when the next ‘crisis’ comes around.

*If you want to avoid the PDF, you can read an article by Tierney in the Stanford Social Innovation Review about his report.

P.S. If you’re interested in learning how to facilitate intergenerational conversations in your organization, please check out this unique workbook  I recently co-authored: Work With Me: Intergenerational Conversations for Nonprofit Leadership. It is an easy-to-use, hands-on workbook designed to help nonprofits identify and leverage the expertise of all generations. Contact me if you have questions.


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