The nonprofit sector is risky business. There are unique laws that apply just to us; we have our own sections of the tax code; and we also must follow employment law, building codes, licensing requirements, and more.
Of course, the press loves to go after charities gone wild and personal injury attorneys salivate at the thought of chasing an organization’s assets on the balance sheet.
This is why we asked Justine Cowan to chat with us today about mitigating and insuring against the risk that we face as nonprofit organizations, as board members, and as staff members.
Our conversation included (Time Stamps):
Justine Cowan’s Website: www.cowannonprofits.com
Episode 40: Finding Pro Bono Legal Counsel with Rachel Spears
About Successful Nonprofits Podcast Host Dolph Goldenburg
Dolph is recognized as a high performance leader in the nonprofit sector who served as a nonprofit CEO for a dozen years and a fundraiser for an additional ten years. Author of the book Successful Nonprofits Build Supercharged Boards, Goldenburg also founded a boutique consulting firm based in Atlanta.
His multi-state consulting practice provides interim executive transition, strategic planning, and organizational development services. The Goldenburg Group's clients have annual operating budgets ranging from $25,000 to over $25 million deployed in the areas of housing, education, civil rights, arts and culture, workforce development, health services, and community-based services.
Connect with Dolph:
This episode offers a featured conversation with Dr. Jeff Thompson, a pediatrician, author, sought-after speaker, and CEO Emeritus of Gundersen Health System in LaCrosse, Wisconsin. Dr. Thompson is author of the recently published book Lead True and his perspective shines throughout the book: when others are afraid of the risk, the timing, or the possible failure, true leaders step forward to meet a need.
As most listeners know, healthcare systems often represent the largest, most complex nonprofit organizations – perhaps second only to colleges and universities.
During his successful CEO tenure at Gundersen, Dr. Thompson not only improved health outcomes but also used hospital resources to serve as a catalyst for rebuilding the surrounding community, helped patients die with dignity (even though it wasn’t in the organization’s financial best interest), and become a green organization while dramatically curtailing the rising cost of providing healthcare.
And he did all this while protecting the financial well-being of hospital employees, patients, and the community. True to his ethos, Dr. Thompson is donating his proceeds from this book to the Gundersen Foundation Leadership Development Fund!
A few time-stamped highlights from our conversation included:
(4:11) The difference between respect for employees and reverence for employees
(6:10) How to maintain a sense of reverence when your organization’s financial position is weak and strained
(9:58) How to convince your board to support long-term growth strategies during crisis
(14:15) How to deal with staff who are going to war with each other instead of working together to achieve the mission
(17:03) The importance of quickly addressing behavior and performance issues with upper management.
(18:20) Using HR to stop be a people-buildter instead of a rules police.
(18:38) The importance of leaders being responsible for their team members’ success (and that being more important that simply holding people accountable)
(21:10) How to challenge the employee who’s performance is “just good enough” but is cruising along at 80% of their potential.
(24:20) Why leaders need “durability” in order to succeed
(28:03) How leaders can make better decisions during times of great difficulty
(31:20) A real life example of “making the right decision” even though it would decrease revenue
(42:09) Why your nonprofit organization should consider taking your fund balance out of savings to invest in green initiatives, local businesses, and partner nonprofits.
(48:43) The value of “learning journeys” to educate and build your board.
We’ve all encountered a schmuck at work, and I’d be willing to bet that we’ve all been the schmuck at least once or twice in our lives. Nonprofits can be messy workplaces with people like Miranda Priestly (Meryl Streep’s character from The Devil Wears Prada).
Of course, in the nonprofit sector, the schmuck might not be a staff member. The schmuck can also be a board member, a key volunteer, or an organizational partner. And a schmuck in any of these roles can dramatically derail your organization’s ability to meet its mission and suck the fun out of your relationship with the organizastion.
In today’s episode, we’ll talk with psychiatrists Dr. Jody Foster and Dr. Michelle Joy about their new book “The Schmuck In My Office: How to deal effectively with difficult people at work”.
During this episode, you’ll gain insight and ideas for dealing with the schmuck at your nonprofit.
Link: The Schmuck In My Office
Each time I tell a nonprofit that every board member should fundraise, a well-meaning person will say,
“But Dolph, we have two former clients on the board, and they don’t know anyone with deep pockets who can give. We need them on the board because of the important perspective they offer, and one of our government funders even requires their board membership”.
I always look this well-meaning board member in the eye and say the the following. . . . (you'll have to listen to find out).
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At some point during its life cycle, every nonprofit has a need for legal counsel. Often times this occurs when the organization is about to sign its first lease – and realizes that an attorney should review the document. Other times, they may be contacted by an attorney representing a disgruntled client, employee, partner, or in some bizarre cases just people walking in front of their building who tripped.
Since every organization needs to speak with an attorney at some point, I asked Rachel Spears to join us on the show today. She is the Executive Director of Pro Bono Partnership Atlanta, which connects volunteer attorneys with Georgia nonprofits in need of pro bono legal services.
As part of our conversation, we discussed:
Links mentioned in the episode:
It took me almost 20 years in the nonprofit sector to realize there are four predictors of board performance. If I can see just these four data points, I can predict the board’s overall performance with relative accuracy.
When the realization hit me, it seemed as simple and obvious as the law of gravity. If you release a ball in the air, it will drop to the ground. If your board doesn’t perform well in these predictors of board performance, they will also fall.
Listen to this Bonus Break to learn the four predictors of board performance and determine who well your board is performing!
After the hit featured conversation with Ellen Bristol about her book The Leaky Bucket on Episode 20 of the Successful Nonprofits Podcast, I knew we would have her on to discuss her next book: Fundraising the SMART WayTM. In this book she brings the principles of Total Quality Management to identification, qualification, cultivation, and solicitation of donors.
Some of the highlights from our conversation include:
About Successful Nonprofits Podcast Host Dolph Ward Goldenburg
Today’s episode explores a unique path that one nonprofit took to transition from steady, incremental growth to a dramatic program expansion and impact. : buying a for profit company.
We spoke with David Shaffer, CEO of First Step Staffing. In 2015, First Step Staffing was a $2 million nonprofit organization providing employment opportunities for low-income, hard to employ people (including those who are homeless and citizens returning from incarceration). The nonprofit took a bold step by purchasing a for profit staffing firm with annual revenues of about $20 million!
One year after the purchase, First Step staffing was using the combined infrastructure to have a much larger impact on the community. They provided employment to over 2,100 of Atlanta’s homeless, and 86% of those working over 180 days were able to rent their own residence!
This unique conversation explored:
Late last week the White House released Donald Trump’s “budget blueprint” that outlines his spending priorities and cuts for the upcoming fiscal year. Knowing that this budget blueprint could have broad implications for nonprofits across the nation, we read the 62 page document, researched the agencies to be impacted, and summarized changes that nonprofits should anticipate if the budget resembles this blueprint.
The budget blue print calls for the elimination of 9 programs, and we analyze the impact their termination will have on both grant funding for nonprofits, as well as likely increased demand from consumers who used to access programs funded by these agencies.
Not being content with eliminating the 9 agencies that form the core of our nation's nonprofit infrastructure, "the cuts keep coming". For this reason, we researched every cut listed in the budget blueprint - which goes beyond just the cuts to meals on wheels we've already heard so much about. We outline the elimination of some funding sources (including some block grants that fund many organizations), as well as the sharp reduction of others.
About Successful Nonprofits Host Dolph Ward Goldenburg
Without a doubt, the best time to engage board members is when they first join the board, and orientation should play a critical role in the process. This Bonus Break will help you restructure your board orientation and have a more effective board.
You can download the sample board checklist below:
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