Category Archives: Managing
July 30, 2012, 4:57 pm
To tackle problems in a rapidly changing world, nonprofits need to adopt a new mind-set, one that emphasizes improvisation, ad hoc networks, and adaptation, says Andrew Zolli, executive director of PopTech, a New York charity focused on innovation, and co-author of a new book, Resilience: Why Things Bounce Back.
Because the world has entered a period of “extraordinary volatility” and the problems society faces are increasingly complex, he argues, figuring out why some individuals, organizations, and systems are resilient in the aftermath of a crisis while others are not is paramount.
“We’re all ballroom dancing in the minefield,” says Mr. Zolli. “In an environment like that, we have to be able to prepare our companies, our communities, our organizations to be able to deal with those disruptions. And that is a different agenda that we have had, even in the recent…
July 6, 2012, 10:27 am
Nonprofits need to get a lot better at asking clients what they think — and acting on the information they receive, says Peter York, director of research for TCC Group, a management-consulting company that advises charities.
Information from beneficiaries can help organizations improve their programs and spark new ideas for fighting tough problems. For real-world examples of charities using client feedback to strengthen their programs, read an opinion piece from The Chronicle’s current issue.
Too often, nonprofits are uncomfortable asking clients what they think about programs and fail to appreciate the value of their feedback, argues Mr. York. Instead, he says, charities prefer to ask employees for their comments and suggestions, and hire outside evaluators.
“Self-reporting has gotten such a bad rap,” says Mr. York, “and the entire private sector would just guffaw at…
June 1, 2012, 9:37 am
Several competitions that focus on innovation in nonprofit financing and programs are accepting applications:
• The Alliance for Global Good wants to encourage innovation in nonprofit financing to help top-performing organizations diversify their sources of revenue to become more sustainable and self-reliant.
The alliance is currently accepting grant applications for its Innovation Fund from charities that seek to fight poverty or focus on health, education, the environment, and global affairs. Applicants must be tax-exempt organizations in the United States that are at least 10 years old.
The deadline for applications is June 27. The alliance will host a conference call on June 11 to answer questions about the fund and the application process.
• Charities can apply for the 2012 Peter F. Drucker Award for Nonprofit Innovation. The first-place prize is $100,000, second…
March 19, 2012, 11:32 am
Something as simple as a map can help organizations make sure they’re reaching the people who most need services, says Holly Ross, executive director of the Nonprofit Technology Network. As an example, she tells a story she heard from an employee at a local Red Cross.
The organization’s education department had a map on the wall with pins that marked the schools where the charity had made fire-safety presentations. One day a disaster-response colleague came by and asked about the map. He looked puzzled for a moment, and then he started to mark the locations of recent house fires.
The pushpins marking the fire-safety presentations and the X’s marking the location of the house fires were in different parts of town. Seeing the discrepancy, the organization realized it needed to reach out to schools in neighborhoods with a high incidence of fires, instead of just responding to…
March 7, 2012, 2:36 pm
Charities that want to evaluate how well they’re carrying out their missions have a new tool at their disposal.
PerformWell, a Web site more than two years in the making, is designed to help social-service groups collect and analyze real-time data to help them improve programs and measure their impact. The site provides a detailed introduction to performance management and offers performance indicators, questionnaires, and other tools charities can use in their measurement efforts.
The site is a project of Child Trends, a nonprofit research organization; Social Solutions, a company that provides assessment software; and the Urban Institute’s Center on Nonprofits and Philanthropy
“When you think about the people who are providing programs for children, families, adults, they get up in the morning to help people,” says Kristin Anderson Moore, a senior scholar at Child Trends…
January 18, 2012, 5:06 pm
To help employees better understand how their colleagues think and make decisions, the Saint Louis Zoo uses a program that distills academic research on personality types into four easy-to-remember colors: blue, gold, green, and orange.
“When you understand the personalities, you have more of an understanding of why and how people make decisions,” says Wyndel E. Hill, a vice president at the zoo. “Even if it’s in opposition to what you would do, you’re more comfortable because you recognize the situation and you recognize the personality type.”
The program helps make disagreements less about a conflict between individuals and more a clash between the work styles that grow…
December 14, 2011, 12:11 pm
A New York nonprofit that helps arts organizations rethink how they operate and develop new ideas, has created a new site that it hopes will become a hub for arts and cultural groups to talk about innovation.
The site, ArtsFwd, was created by the group EmcArts. It features video profiles of arts groups that are experimenting with bold new approaches to their work. In one profile, officials from the Denver Center Theatre Company describe how they developed Off-Center @ The Jones, a nontraditional series designed to attract new and younger patrons with greater audience participation.
Before starting the series in earnest, the organization held three events to test some of its ideas. One of the events, a reading of a play called “An Extraordinary Demonstration of Nikola Tesla’s Most Recent Discoveries,” taught the organization the dangers of incorporating too many…
December 5, 2011, 3:45 pm
Nonprofits that are tackling big questions about their mission benefit greatly from seeking ideas from people outside their organization—including those who work in other fields, says Jeff Leitner. The former advertising executive has started a charity to help organizations do just that.
Insight Labs, in Chicago, brings business executives, scholars, government officials, and others together with a charity’s leaders for a three-hour strategy session to thrash out possible solutions to a tough issue the group faces.
“If you take a roomful of people who aren’t directly invested in the solution, that don’t have a connection to either the problem or the solution, you get pretty…