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.
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
Our world has changed dramatically. The morning of election day, the New York Times predicted Hillary Clinton had a 90% chance of winning, but Donald Trump won the Presidential election at the end of the night.
Many of us woke up the morning after the election to an unexpected outcome and wondered, “How will this impact my family, my city, and my state”. For those of us leading and advising nonprofit organizations, we undoubtedly also wondered “what will this mean for my organization”?
For this reason, I reached out to my alma mater: the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies at Georgia State University, which is known for bringing the lenses of public policy, social work, criminology and economics into focus. Since they have the premiere public policy program in the region, I knew they could offer an expert to help us make sense of the new realities nonprofits might face.
Within hours, the Dean had connected me with Associate Professor Janelle Kerlin. Her research focuses on the politics and policies related to nonprofit development and operation. Dr. Kerlin holds a Ph.D. in Political Science from the Maxwell School at Syracuse University, a graduate social work degree from Columbia, and was a Research Associate at the Urban Institute.
Our interview covers the following:
Grateful thanks to the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies at Georgia State University for arranging this interview.
Book: A Voice for Nonprofits by Jeffery Berry
This episode includes a featured conversation with nationally nationally renowned HR expert Gary Wheeler.
Many people would rather be doused by a bucket of ice water than talk about HR regulations, but there’s an upcoming change to the overtime rules that will impact many nonprofit organizations. In today's episode, Gary shares information about upcoming changes to overtime rules and how they may impact nonprofits across the country.
• Virtual HR Director:
• Gary Wheeler’s Contact Information:
Article of the Week
The New Yorker magazine opinion piece titled “Philanthropic Fads” by James Surowiecki does a great job of assessing the long-term impact of the Ice Bucket Challenge.
Do you remember when the ice bucket challenge went viral back in 2014? According to the ALS Association, over 17 million people uploaded their ice bucket challenge videos. You probably recall seeing new videos appear in your facebook feed every day. From your old high school friends, your organization’s CEO, and Hollywood’s biggest stars. You may have even taken the challenge yourself.
In just a six-week period, that first challenge unexpectedly flooded the ALS Association with over $115 million in donations. At the time the organization’s annual budget was only about $20 million, so this was a huge boost.
When the challenge went viral, many nonprofit leaders found fault with it. This great article addresses many of the criticisms by describing what actually happened in the two years since the Ice Bucket Challenge went viral.
• Philanthropic Fads in The New Yorker
• ALS Ice Bucket Challenge infographic:
• Dolph’s favorite ALS Ice Bucket Challenge with Patrick Stewart:
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Featured Conversation With Clarence Patton
Many nonprofits are seeking opportunities to create more inclusive and diverse boards and staff, and Clarence Patton is an expert in this area. He serves as the Director of the LGBT Pipeline Project and its Pipeline Consulting affiliate program.
You can find more information about Clarence Patton & LGBT Pipeline Project:
Article of the Week With Leanne Rubenstein
Leanne Rubenstein, Executive Director of Compassionate Atlanta and a Consultant with The Goldenburg Group, presents the article of the week: A Day in the Life of an Executive Director by Joan Garry.
We discussed how this article accurately depicted life as an executive director: starting your day early, ending it late, having lots of meetings, and experiencing both emotional highs and lows. The article also drives home the importance of self-care for executive directors, as well as a commitment to continued growth and change.
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