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Your journey to change and transformation

May 30, 2013 1 comment

You are on a hero’s journey. I am writing for you and your passionate desire to learn how to harness disruption, innovate in completely new ways and most importantly, transform your nonprofit into a constituent focused machine. You are being introduced to new connected constituents. You are seeing how they progress through a dynamic journey. You are discovering how they respond and behave at each moment of truth about your mission. Generation C’ers are different than their traditional counterparts. You can’t reach them through direct mail. Their phone numbers (remember land lines) aren’t published. They may or may not subscribe to your eNewsletter. You can only reach them if they choose to be reached. They are in control of who they do (or don’t) connect with.

We are learning that our constituents are far more informed than we ever imagined. They are very, very sophisticated in their decision making. They are extremely savvy in their digital prowess. They have a capacity to multitask across multiple platforms and devices during the day and pick up right where they left off at night. We have to adapt to this new world.

We all want to improve the experience for our constituents. We know that experience right now it can be very disjointed. We yearn for our leadership to be innovative and visionary. We want it to be meaningful and not fanciful.

We have this sense that innovation starts with something perhaps simpler than transformation. We must go back to the basics of our mission and vision and align them with desirable outcomes and significant experiences. We may need to invest in programs and services that our constituents may not even know they need yet.

Here is a summary of some of the things we know:

  1. The new reality is the connected constituent that is opening up new touch points for our mission.
  2. How connected constituents are influenced and influence isn’t anything like our traditional constituents are.
  3. They expect something different. They are aligning with our missions for different reasons than we think. Think quality of experience. Think about how we treat our employees and constituents. Consider how sustainable the footprint you are leaving is visible. Obsess over engagement. This is what is important to our new constituents.
  4. The channels they use may never cross other channels. They can be fully contained from beginning to end on one device in one network. My children will sit in front of a very nice iMac searching for content on their smartphone.
  5. On the other hand, sometimes constituents will hop channels. They may look something up on the web and call you. What they expect is a seamless experience. It must be integrated. We have to bring these constituents with common goals together and intentionally design a seamless experience.
  6. Connected constituents value highly being valued. How can we find a new way express value and measure it?
  7. What does it take to connect with connected constituents?
    1. An understanding of how they behave and what they prefer.
    2. Some ability to read between the lines and innovate programs and services.
    3. Define the constituent experience and what it will look like across every channel and journey.
    4. A blueprint on how to change the philosophy, culture and technology to lead (champion) a new era of constituent experiences and engagement.

Simply saying we need to change probably isn’t the most helpful statement. We know that. Change takes, at a minimum, at least two things. First, you really have to want to. Desire and aspiration are essential. Second, it takes determination, stamina, fortitude and sheer will. It all however starts with a vision.

Most nonprofits are exploring new media, different technology, and alternative channels for better constituent engagement. To start with vision may sound trivial. Without vision, I would advocate, there probably won’t be any significant transformation. Transformation follows vision. Your next step may be to be the one to press pause. We can easily fall into the trap of chaotically rushing to the next big thing with understanding “Why are we doing this?” Be the leader to stop and ask why?

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Guest Blog: Deborah Kerr – Nonprofit Talent Management

Deborah L. Kerr, Ph.D. is a performance measurement expert and a co-founding partner of Affintus, a pre-employment assessment company based in Austin, Texas. Her work in performance measurement and management has been written Deborah Kerrabout in Financial World magazine and has been cited as “best practice” by SHRM. Her approach and success with organizational measurement were featured in Paul Niven’s 2002 book Balanced Scorecard Step by Step and Mohan Nair’s 2004 book Essentials of the Balanced Scorecard. Deborah led the development of the one of the nation’s first public sector balanced scorecards and in 2004, that measurement system was recognized as one of the world’s best when it was elected to the Balanced Scorecard Hall of Fame. She is on the graduate faculty of Texas A&M University where she teaches management, public policy theory, and organizational performance measurement. Her teaching has been recognized with the University’s 2008 Distinguished Achievement Award for Teaching (based on nomination and support from current and former graduate students) and with the 2009 Silver Star Award given by the Class of 2009 for outstanding service and dedication.

Nonprofit Talent Management

Employee costs generally make up more than 50 percent of a nonprofit’s budget so nonprofit talent management is critical to the health of every nonprofit’s “bottom line”.  This will be highlighted as the economy continues to grow and nonprofits face two major workforce trends:  the need to add staff to meet demand and the reality of losing experienced staff to retirement or “better” jobs.

Adding nonprofit staff has been a trend for the last three years.  Nonprofit HR Solutions’ 2013 survey of 588 nonprofits found that 40 percent added new staff in 2012 and 44 percent plan to create more new positions this year.  Turnover is expected to remain at 17 percent in 2013, the same as 2012, but voluntary turnover and retirement now account for 11 percent of total turnover.  This may grow as the economy’s recovery leads to more job options for good employees.

After hiring, retention of good employees is key to sustainability, but in the Nonprofit HR Solution study 90 percent of respondents reported they have no retention strategy even though they see it as a challenge.  Losing good employees is expensive.  Writing for http://www.philanthropy.com, Raymund Flandez found the average tenure of a fundraiser is only 16 months and the direct and indirect costs of replacing that fundraiser add up to a staggering $127,650!   For other employees hiring costs range from 25 percent to over 100 percent depending on the job and responsibilities.

Here are strategies that work to improve hiring decisions, reduce voluntary turnover, and improve workforce retention.

Hire the right person in the first place.

Most organizations have made at least one hiring mistake in the last 12 months and report spending thousands of dollars to fix it. Hiring mistakes are not only expensive, they negatively affect the morale of other employees and can damage donor relations.  Hiring the right person, on the other hand, results in 10 percent – 50 percent higher productivity and revenues.

Why is hiring so hard?  Most nonprofits base hiring decisions on resume reviews and interviews.  Yet over 50 percent of resumes contain erroneous information and applicants can be coached on interviewing tactics, so decision data may be flawed.  The best way to get objective, accurate talent data is to use pre-hire assessments – candidates can’t “fake” assessment responses as they can fake interview responses or experience on a resume.  Be sure to use an assessment validated for pre-hire use, one that matches job requirements with applicant preferences and strengths.

Pay attention to pay

In a 2012 study, Penelope Burke of Cygnus Applied Research surveyed 1700 fundraisers and 8000 nonprofit CEOs.  She found that good fundraisers begin to be recruited away after only three to six months in a position!  She reports that it would cost about $46,000 to keep a good fundraiser happy by providing better salaries and other benefits like more vacation… a bargain compared to $127,650!

The best pay strategy is to match the market rate for the job whenever possible.The closer pay is to the market rate, the less likely an employee will think about quitting.  When employees find the work interesting and feel valued, most will not look for a new job as long as the pay is competitive in their geographic area and the industry.

Pay is not the most important factor in most decisions to stay in a job or to quit, but it is one of the top reasons employees choose to stay when they are offered another job.  Fundraisers are an exception – most report that higher pay is the number one reason they leave current jobs.  Helping someone decide to stay rather than take a new job saves money every time.

Be flexible

Research has repeatedly found that a flexible work schedule is a key reason for staying with the current organization when an employee is offered employment by another organization.Flexible work schedules improve employee satisfaction and productivity while helping to reduce absenteeism.

Let managers to handle employee scheduling requests on a case-by-case basis or permit cross-trained employees to “trade” hours as needed to meet both business and personal demands on employees.  The key is to be as flexible as possible while meeting the needs of the business.

The bottom line?  Talent management is an increasingly important driver of nonprofit sustainability and every investment in hiring and retaining good talent goes straight to the bottom line.  With projections for increased service demand in 2013, nonprofits must continue to grow the workforce while trying to hire and retain high performers. Now is the time to review talent practices and make the changes needed to reduce costs and improve bottom line performance.

Can you BLUF?

May 20, 2013 4 comments

We all spend a lot time in meetings, sending and responding to emails and talking with others on the phone. More and more we need to cut through the clutter and get to the point quickly in meetings – and in messages.

Let’s take a lesson from the Navy. We could all take advantage of BLUF. That’s the acronym they use in the military for Bottom Line Up Front. In a military setting, BLUF communications allow people to grasp the essence of a situation immediately and seek details only as necessary. It’s like a Cliff Notes for every situation.

Here is another nifty list, also from the military. Always describe:

  • What’s what.
  • So what.
  • What next.

If you’re in a meeting that is focused on getting to the bottom of an important situation, these are great guides. Encourage people to cite their headlines from the start. It not only saves time, it ensures the communicator has a point in the first place.

Are we creating heartfelt experiences at our nonprofit or not? Is that experience stunning?

May 16, 2013 5 comments

There comes a time where we have to make a decision. What will we invest in? It is a serious question and not a budget exercise. If we are going to be intentional and proactive, we need to make an investment. At first that may be just time. Eventually it will be about people, our processes, our strategies and our technology. If we don’t become intentional in our approach to our digital constituent experiences we will continue to be haphazard in our approach; reacting, responding, solving toxic experiences in real time. This intention however must be about heartfelt experiences. It must create a passion for our mission.

There is of course, a very real cost to reacting. Scrutinize your budget and you will see that most of our fixed expenses are reactionary. What if we invested in proactive and intentional experiences of the heart up front? Could we radically reduce our reactionary and bloated fixed expenses? In fact, my guess is the reactionary expenses vastly exceed proactive expenses. I know nonprofits that are ramping up their expenses in reactionary engagement and relationships. The good news is that they are succeeding in shifting the negative to neutral or even the positive.

So what is the outcome of taking a negative and balancing it with a positive? Is it engagement or damage control? So what is the cost and value of neutralizing the negative? Shouldn’t we start with the amazing? What is the return on that investment in the stunning? What is probably most concerning is that most nonprofits are not measuring much of this. And why are we struggling to raise more money? Now think about that question. Why is our revenue flat? Why are donors not engaged and renewing their contributions?

Is the experience we are creating wonderfully sharable? If not, what is our investment over the next 3 months going to be in changing that? We must invest in not only a positive experience but an experience that screams out for our members, volunteers and donors to share it with everyone they know. That encourages others to join in. It also offsets any negative experiences anyone else has shared. Think about it. We all read the ratings and comments. If there are 100 over the top ones we can ignore the one that is virally negative writing it off to a weirdo.

What is the biggest deal? Trying to offset the negative experiences or proactively creating amazing ones? Creating amazing ones is everything. That is not an exaggeration. You know, from your own experiences that it is true. The cost of reacting is always eclipsed by the upside of the stunning.

Think of what you want. You are a consumer. You are the constituent who wants something from your nonprofit. Are you looking for the ordinary? No, you are looking for an experience, no, the experience.

Any nonprofit that recognizes you, remembers you, and gives you an amazing service experience will win your heart. And it is all about your heart. You will be loyal to them no matter what. That is what we know as relevance. A passion of our heart that transcends anything else.

And so, that heartfelt experience is not just a so-so something. It is everything. That kind of vision is the father of innovation. Who needs the mother of invention in that kind of world?

Our nonprofit constituents are empowered and we can’t control that

May 15, 2013 2 comments

Consumers are absolutely empowered through technology now. That means our constituents are as well. It has happened and it is a fact. We can’t control that. Sorry to point that out but that is our starting reality.

Our constituents are empowered. They know it. Do we?

They know they have influence. Do we?

Our constituents know they have voice that is powerful. They know they have more power than ever before. Do we know that and act that way?

If you a member of the C-Suite or executive team, did you receive a report today alerting you to what your donors (members / volunteers, etc.) said about you on Facebook, your call center, Twitter, YouTube, Tumbler, Blogs, Pinterest, etc. (the list is ever evolving). Do you receive it every day? Do you get weekly, monthly, quarterly and annual summaries? Have you engaged with any of them personally yourself? If not, it is a reasonable why isn’t that important to you?

Even if we aren’t seeing it, other constituents (or potential constituents) are seeing what is going on. They are forming an opinion of us based on those comments. We can’t control what is being said. We can control how we will react in real time about it. We can control changing the experience in the future.

Say a constituent has a bad experience on your web site and they tweet about it. Do we think others have had the same experience and haven’t said anything? You bet they have. Do we think others will find the same thing and either say something or not in the future? Yes they will find it and yes they will say something or not. There is no hiding. If there is one horrible review out there, they will find it and not the 100 positive things others have said about us.

Nonprofits are beginning to listen to what is being said on social media and respond to it if they can. It does require a commitment of resources but it is not going away. More and more constituents (or potential constituents) are going to share the good, the bad and the ugly about their experience with us.

Have you started to shift resources into engaging on social platforms? How does that compare to your investment in your call center? Is your call center and social media center integrated in the approach you want your constituents to have? We have to manage our online reputation.

What are our constituents going to align with if we don’t first define the experience up front? What do we want them to be a part of? Now is the time to invest more in the experience rather than improve how the donation transaction occurs. Our future as nonprofits is in creating programs that scream out in splendor. It is about experiences that kindle meaningful and sincere interactions at every turn. At the center of our evolution (or is it a revolution) is the experience. The experience is everything now.

Are our nonprofit constituent experiences intentional?

May 14, 2013 4 comments

What does the future of your nonprofit look like? Is it focused on your mission AND design?

The premise of this manifesto is all about being intentional about the experiences our constituents are having.

How many programs, products and services do you have? How many channels (Web, Social, Mobile, Call Center, Direct Mail, etc.) are you focused on? Do they all have a unified design and experience?

Mission + Design = Intentional experiences.

We are clear about our mission. Are we clear about our design?

If not, we aren’t ready to be the digital nonprofit of the future. If we aren’t ready to be a digital nonprofit, we aren’t ready for the future. If we aren’t ready for the future, will we be in business 5 to 10 years from now? Tough questions I know but worth considering.

So here are a couple more of intriguing questions:

  • How do we ensure that our constituents are having an amazing experience?
  • Why make constituents cope with the ordinary?
  • Why aren’t constituents more engaged with both our mission and revenue opportunities?

Our focus and day to day work should be about creating “constituent experiences” in this new age of consumerism. What is going on in the rest of the “for profit” world isn’t lost on our constituents. They are judging us based on those experiences. We can bury our head in the sand. That will only get us left behind.

Consumers expect more from business (and hence nonprofits) than ever before. So our mission programs, products and services have a level of expectation that our nonprofit may not be aware of. The support of our contributors, members and volunteers have is not necessarily drive by our mission. It is driven by their experience at any company, for profit or nonprofit. How do we compare to USAA for example? Do we know?

Here is the harsh reality. They not only expect better experiences, they believe they are absolutely entitled to them. Will we be intentional in delivering on those expectations? Are we ready to get left behind with stagnant growth if we don’t deliver those constituent experiences?

There is a unique opportunity to create amazing and positive experiences at our events, on the web, at our call center (if you have one), on smart phones and in our direct mail pieces. Are all of those unified? Is the experience amazing?

That amazing or ordinary (or perhaps even bad) experience will be how our nonprofit is measured in terms of satisfaction or even our fundraising success. Do we know how our constituents feel about the experience they are having with us? If not, why not? Are we being intentional about that experience they just had at our event? Is it consistent with the experience they want on our web site?

Why is your nonprofit struggling to bring money in the door?

The majority of nonprofits struggle to bring money in the door. And they often don’t know why. When you are on the inside of an organization that is used to doing things a certain way it can be nearly impossible to see new opportunities, to understand what you could do differently. There can be many reasons why a nonprofit doesn’t bring enough money in the door.

Here are several things to think about:

Too Many Programs Drain Money From Your Organization. It sounds like a truism — you struggle with money because your programs cost money. But the reality is that few nonprofits analyze their programs to determine each one’s individual impact on the bottom line. Often they will add a new program because it has an impact on the mission (or because a single funder wants the program), without understanding how the new program fits into the organization’s overall financial picture. The end result is an organization that is stretched to the breaking point. Nonprofits must analyze all of their programs to understand their impact not just on mission, but also on finances, then they can make decisions about where to more sustainably focus resources.

You’re Leaving Money Up to One Person. The financial engine of a nonprofit must be a team effort. Yes, it is important, if you are large enough, to have a staff member whose sole job is to think about money, but you cannot leave it all up to her. The entire organization, from the front line program staff all the way up to the chair of the board must understand the critical importance of money and what role they individually play in securing it. Although program staff won’t actively solicit donors, they can still share client stories with donors, write blog or newsletter articles, participate in program tours with donors, and even suggest new ideas for tying money to their programs. And there are countless ways for board members to bring money in the door, but you have to make sure they are aware of and doing their part.

You’re Not Effectively Telling Your Story. It is so common for nonprofit staff and board members, who believe so passionately in their cause, to think that it’s obvious to outsiders why they should get involved. But it isn’t. And in an increasingly crowded social change marketplace it is more important than ever that nonprofits be able to articulate, in a compelling way, what value they are providing a community.

You’re Doing What Everyone Else Does. If you are struggling financially and witness another nonprofit’s fundraising activity and try to replicate that perceived success, without analyzing if it makes sense, will it work for you? Just because it looks like a recent gala or a new thrift store rakes in the money doesn’t mean a) that it did actually make a profit for the nonprofit and b) that it would make a similar profit for your nonprofit. The key is to make the best use of your specific assets as an organization. Think about what value you have to offer and who might be interested in paying for that value. For example, a homeless shelter could financially partner with local businesses to move people away from storefronts and into more stable and life-changing accommodations. You have to analyze what you have to offer and who specifically would be willing to pay for that value.

You’re Not Investing In Your Money Raising Function. If you don’t have enough or the right kind of staff in place to raise money it is little wonder that you struggle. And if you’re not giving them effective tools they will be at a loss. Think about your financial engine and the various revenue streams you employ. Do you have the technology, staffing, systems, materials, space you need to raise money well in those ways? For example, if you want to raise money from individuals you need an effective database system that tracks contact information, interactions, history, interests. Whatever ways you bring money in the door, you need to ensure you have enough and the right kind of tools to do it well.

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