Articles

Enjoy our articles and tips for nonprofit leadership and growth – and reach out if you have questions.

Turn and Face the Strange

Unlike most of my articles for Nonprofit Notes, this one is not for my colleagues who are nonprofit professionals or experienced volunteers. This article is for you if your career has taken a different path, but you are wondering if a job in the nonprofit sector might...

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Staff Involvement in an Executive Director Search

If you’ve ever been on a nonprofit Board during an ED transition, one of the first questions you are likely to tackle is whether and how staff members should be involved in the search.  At Clover Search Works, we get asked about this a lot, and we do have a point of...

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Cultivating A Culture of Learning

Some of the most effective leaders I know make learning a priority: for themselves, for their teams, and for their organizations. Skillful leaders tend to be naturally curious about new ideas and different perspectives. They have vision and opinions, for sure, but...

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De-Mystifying Donor Engagement Strategies

One of the first questions I ask my non-profit clients who want to strengthen their major gift program is this: “Tell me about your current donor engagement strategies? What do you offer your donors in terms of meaningful experiences to inspire them to increase their...

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The Essential Development Dashboard

Throughout my time as a fundraising consultant, I’ve found that many nonprofit organizations only use the bottom line to measure their fundraising success. Whether you’re using a development revenue report, or simply the monthly financial statements, relying solely on...

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Please don’t ask me to fundraise from my friends

You’ve joined the Board of an organization you care deeply about that is addressing an issue, problem, or opportunity in a way that you think is absolutely vital. If only the development director wasn’t pestering you all the time to fundraise from your friends. You...

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Best Ever Ideas for Inspired Board Recruiting

New year, new board members – at least, we know many of you are hoping that is what the new year will bring! In light of that, this month Nonprofit Notes asked four of our contributing authors to share an idea to inspire better board recruiting. In the sections below...

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I am firm, you are obstinate, he is a pig-headed fool

In Collaborating with the Enemy, author and facilitator Adam Kahane shares a meaningful anecdote about the challenges of navigating conflict, especially where people have longstanding reasons for distrust and disagreement. In the early 1990’s, as South Africa started...

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The Power of Perspective

“If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change” – Wayne Dyer Many of us may be familiar with the parable of The Elephant. In the story four people are blindfolded and lead into a room with an elephant. When they come out they are asked...

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Navigating Founder Transitions

I was 29 when I co-founded Powerful Voices, and 40 when I left my post as Executive Director in 2006 – a formative 11 years for sure. I remember them fondly as the “blood, sweat and tears” years.  Prior to transitioning out, I spent about 9 months planning,...

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To Whom it May Concern

To whom it may concern: As a frequent recipient of innumerable cover letters, I feel certain that you will agree that I am the ideal candidate to author an article on how to write an excellent cover letter. In my vast experience . . . Are you bored yet?  I am! And...

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Unlimited Paid Time Off for Nonprofit Employees

Last year, when Zeno’s Executive Director Julie Marl asked me to circulate a job description for her, I wrote her back as soon as I read it. “Happy to circulate – but it says the benefits include ‘Unlimited Paid Time Off.’  Really!?!”  Honestly, I thought it had to be...

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Customer Service – The New Super Power!

I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. – Maya Angelou I admit it.  When it comes to customer service, I’m a stickler.  And when I experience poor customer...

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Best Ever Ideas to Improve Your Board Meeting

“Best Ever” is our new feature at Northwest Nonprofit Notes, an article with one favorite idea from several of our contributors all on the same topic.  This month we asked our consultants to share one of their “Best Ever” ideas for improving board meetings, creative...

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Building a Strong Board

Recently, a former board member of an environmental organization explained to me why he resigned: “When I joined the board, I sat through meetings for six months. We sat around and listened to reports. We never really made any meaningful decisions, nobody asked...

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The Art & Heart of the 3-Part Apology

Apologizing. Just the word itself can make us feel nervous. Why is that? For most of us, it’s because apologizing comes with the realization that we’ve done something wrong. We’ve made a mistake. We’ve hurt someone’s feelings. Or we’ve made a misstep that creates...

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Courage and Compassion

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what leadership means, and why it matters. We’re a couple of weeks into a new presidency. Each day seems to bring a wave of executive orders, nominations, hearings, and pronouncements that hearten some, horrify others and...

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Executive Onboarding

This article is about the poor cousin in the executive transition family: onboarding.  Often given short shrift, onboarding comes after hours and hours of time (and often thousands and thousands of dollars) have been spent preparing for, searching for, and hiring a...

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How NOT To Engage Someone

During the election, I was excited to get involved and I looked for ways to connect. But it wasn’t easy. Unfortunately, my party’s local website didn’t have a lot of information about how to get involved. For example, it lacked a list of upcoming events or an option...

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Including an Internal Candidate in a Search

Internal Candidate: they are two words that can strike fear in the heart of any nonprofit hiring committee.  It’s easy to understand why: small staff teams can feel like a family, and the fear of having to turn down a colleague or even just upset the team dynamic if...

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Back to School

I love this time of year. Crisp nights, turning leaves, and lively anticipation about what’s ahead. The back-to-school energy of fall is still in my bones. What will I learn this year? Who will be my teachers? And I have a steadfast fondness for the promise of new...

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Inviting Donors Into the Creative Process

This article is about the need to build more time into one’s work plan to make space for the creative muses to visit. Why?  Because creative processes are both an antidote to the to the world’s problems and a fresh, meaningful way to engage our donors. But I’ve had...

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Executive Director Evaluations Don’t Have to Be So Hard

We all know that one of the key roles and responsibilities of a nonprofit board is to hire, evaluate (and in worst case scenarios, fire) the chief executive. But back in 2011, a CompassPoint study found that slightly less than half of the executive directors they...

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How to Determine the Right Ask Amount for a Major Donor

As a major gift fundraising consultant, I often get asked the question, “How do you determine the right ask amount for a major donor?” Any good fundraiser wants to present a gift request that is both inspiring and in-line with what the donor can joyfully give. Before...

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Keeping it in the Family

When faced with a vacant leadership position and an interested internal candidate, many organizations seem to feel that doing a full, open search is the “gold standard” for hiring.  They put out a job announcement containing the ideal skill set for the position,...

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Beyond a Succession Plan

More often than not, when I hear boards and their executive teams discuss executive transitions, it’s almost always about one of three things: creating a document called a succession plan, hiring a new executive, or really hoping that an executive transition doesn’t...

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A “Real Life” Board Job Description

It’s easy enough to find a traditional job description for a nonprofit board member on the web. Sometimes they are structured around board members’ legal responsibilities (usually described as the “duty of care”, “duty of loyalty” and “duty of obedience” …...

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