Author Archives: Mark Haas
August 21, 2012, 12:57 pm
Complex problems may require complex solutions. But no matter how complicated the issue, nonprofit consultants need to find a way to discuss both the problems and the solutions in simple, concise language. Good communication means making sure your message is accurately received, not just that you sent it.
It’s far too easy to hide behind jargon or consultant-speak or to expound on management theories that clients aren’t familiar with. We use jargon because it’s easy. It’s a shortcut. It’s much harder to explain something in a way you know people will understand—not just the words but also their implications—and to do it using as few words as possible. If that’s too much of a challenge, it might be a sign you don’t fully grasp the issue yourself.
Albert Einstein once said that if you can’t explain something simply, you don’t understand it well enough.
July 11, 2012, 1:40 pm
Nonprofits expect their consultants to work miracles by helping them do more with less. However, with the most recent “Giving USA” report that fundraising grew just 1.1 percent last year after inflation—and predictions of very little growth in 2012—it could be a long time before charities are raising funds at the rate they did prior to the recession. What’s a consultant to do?
Logic and experience lead us to traditional responses in hard times: Grow revenue or cut expenses. But restricting our response to these strategies is flawed.
The first response to a tough economy is often to work harder on raising revenue. “Development Director” seems to top the wish list of every nonprofit that doesn’t already have one. A quick look at these job descriptions reveals a demand for people who have previously brought in large gifts, have managed aggressive campaigns, and are…
June 22, 2012, 9:22 pm
A nonprofit consultant is rarely a charity’s only source of advice. Usually other consultants—lawyers, accountants, vendors, etc.—are working for the same client. Occasionally, one of those advisers will say something unprofessional about another or withhold information that would be helpful to that person’s work. This is both a practical and an ethical problem.
Let me share something a nonprofit executive told me about just such a situation. The client said that in her experience, consultants often seem to think they are somehow floating through the company without anyone really knowing what they are doing and with no obligations to other advisers. In reality, she is keenly aware of how consultants interact with each other. And the quality of this interaction and mutual support are key elements of her consultant evaluation.
If one consultant is being unprofessional toward …
January 23, 2012, 4:23 pm
Managing a nonprofit is hard, and it is about to get harder. But rather than figuring out what’s wrong with old ways, too many nonprofit leaders and consultants who advise them instinctively look for new tools and approaches.
When times are difficult, it’s logical and natural to seek new ideas. It makes sense that staff members think they need a new approach, and, by good fortune, whenever your clients start thinking this way, some new article or book appears detailing how someone has already solved their very problem. Just think, you could be a hero (or make your client a hero) by bringing the solution to your client.
However, just as likely, your client will ask your opinion about some new approach. They will be excited about it, and so may you. After all, it provides an entirely new way to look at a persistent problem. It rests on the latest research. It has been tried at…
September 28, 2011, 10:34 am
Nonprofits value consultants for their expertise but also for their independence and objectivity. In no process are these characteristics more critical than in helping an organization outline its values.
Values are what a nonprofit stands for, the principles that an organization would defend and follow no matter what the consequences.
But it is not an easy process, and many nonprofits fail to achieve the following when spelling out their values:
Authenticity. Many groups state the values they aspire to, not the ones that are part of everyday practice. This disconnect is usually obvious to employees and others. You must find ways to ask your client to list the values that everyone would say describe the group today.
Usefulness. Often nonprofits make lists of values to share with employees and the public, but they don’t include anything that really counts as a value.