Olympic athletes are so inspiring! While watching the competition is fun, it’s the individual athletes’ achievements that capture our admiration. Winning a gold medal raises everyone’s sights. We’re proud of our country’s athletes, and maybe even inspired to step out a little faster on our morning jog. Of course, advancing a nonprofit’s mission isn’t a race, but let’s face it, there is plenty of competition: for dollars, talent, and attention to a mission. Is your nonprofit in top condition? What will it take for your nonprofit to “win gold”?
In this edition’s first article, we share where to find guidance about “best practices” that can transform your nonprofit into a medal winner. One well-recognized best practice is to plan ahead for leadership succession. Less obvious, but equally important, is to continuously “deepen the bench” with leadership talent so your nonprofit will have the leadership it needs not only tomorrow, but also next year and the year after that. In the remaining articles, we share practical ideas for developing future staff and board leaders. Of note is the two-part series with tips for ensuring that as your organization grows future leaders it looks through a lens that values diversity and inclusion. Finally, with the last days of summer upon us, don’t miss our suggestions for summer reading at the bottom of the newsletter.
Whether your goal is a “gold medal,” or just attracting, developing, and retaining the most talented staff members possible, we hope this issue helps keep your organization at the top of its game. Now, go out there and go for gold!
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Looking for “best practices”?
Perhaps you’ve wondered, “What are the ‘best practices’ that effective nonprofits should strive for?” We’ve got answers. Think of the National Council of Nonprofits’ website resources as your workout partner. Our network of state associations of nonprofits stands beside you, promoting the “best practices” that will help your nonprofit not only get in shape, but also stay in shape. Your nonprofit and/or board can start with a self-assessment to identify which best practices it already applies, and which could make it stronger. For example, the West Virginia Nonprofit Association offers any nonprofit the opportunity to take a 20-minute assessment that will identify what your nonprofit is doing well, and create an action plan for addressing organizational challenges. There are many other state-specific checklists available as well, such as this checklist of recurring deadlines for charitable nonprofits in North Dakota and infrastructure checklists from the Arkansas Nonprofit Alliance and Maine Association of Nonprofits that point out “required” and “recommended” practices, policies, and state-specific regulations that your nonprofit should know about. But most importantly, your nonprofit shouldn’t have to wonder, “What’s the standard?” and no one should have to reinvent the wheel, since thoughtful experts and trusted resources already exist. Help your nonprofit get into top condition by finding out what well-recognized, legal, ethical, and accountable practices are expected of “gold medal” nonprofits.
Talent Development You Can Be Proud Of
It’s time to hire a new teammate and your goal is to find someone who will boost your organization’s profile as a diverse, inclusive place to work. But is that unintentionally backwards, like putting the cart before the horse? Yes, looking for the best talent from a pool that is as diverse and inclusive as possible is good, yet putting sole responsibility for projecting a diverse workplace on the individual hired is not. Instead, just like in the song, “My Favorite Things,” you’ve got to “start at the very beginning.” To become an authentically diverse and inclusive workforce, the first step is to intentionally adapt the culture to be inclusive. One way to do this is to strive for a talent development process that integrates the values of equity, diversity, inclusion, and cultural competency into all your nonprofit’s policies and practices, particularly those related to salary and benefits, recruitment, professional development, and performance assessments. We’re grateful for the North Carolina Center for Nonprofits for pointing out this excellent two-article series, A Toolkit for Equitable Talent Development, by Tera Qualls, in the Philanthropy Journal. Both articles are must reads!
As the North Carolina Center for Nonprofits points out: “The first piece focuses on setting the foundation and tackling barriers – specifically intentionally integrating your nonprofit’s values into all external and internal systems. The second piece focuses on developing systems that attack managerial inequities and the intricacies of making your surface values of equity, inclusion, diversity, cultural competency, and social justice real internal systems that drive the make-up and development of your team.”
Investing in Leadership
Being a world-class athlete takes talent, dedication, and year-round training. It’s similar to investing in a high-achieving team at your nonprofit. Growing future leaders is a concern not only for staff, but also for the board, as it looks to the future and considers its own leadership pipeline. Board self-assessments are one way to determine whether your nonprofit has the “right people on the bus” for the future. Another way is to make sure that implicit bias isn’t clouding your nonprofit’s vision about talent development. Did you know that brain science shows us that only 10 percent of discrimination can be explained by the conscious mind? We encourage every nonprofit leader to set an example by looking inwardly as well as outwardly. Understanding implicit bias: our own – and our organization’s – is a fundamental step to investing in your nonprofit’s future.
Our blog post explores what to look for in your own talent development process that, like implicit bias, may be unconsciously holding your nonprofit back from investing in its own leadership.
- Privilege is a blind spot that we need to recognize and confront to do philanthropy well (Grantmakers for Effective Organizations)
- Test your own implicit biases (Project Implicit)
- Leadership development: Five things all nonprofits should know (Stanford Social Innovation Review)
- Achieving diversity in the workplace (Third Sector New England)
- All about nonprofit endowments (National Council of Nonprofits)
- How to wind down a nonprofit (National Council of Nonprofits)
- Nonprofit jargon buster: Director vs. Trustees (CharityLawyer Blog)
- A graphic re-visioning of nonprofit overhead (Nonprofits Assistance Fund)
- (Mis)Understanding overhead (National Council of Nonprofits)