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How does your agency use goals?

Are your Actions Conflicting with your Goals?

By Dani Robbins
Re-published with permission from nonprofit evolution blog

dogI’m always fascinated by the number of things people do that are in direct conflict with their goals. My dog does a perfect illustration of this: He gets so excited when we have visitors that he acts inappropriately and gets put outside or crated, which prevents him from meeting his goal of being loved by our visitors. He is not alone. Leaders and organizations do the same thing!

This week, since it’s a new year and many people in my personal and professional lives have begun working on new goals, I’ve been thinking about the intent of those goals.

I love goals that are intended to get everyone on the same page and align the work of an organization.

I do not love goals that are intended to motivate people, and I’m not even clear why we would need to do that.

Employee goals intended to motivate don’t make any sense to me and, honestly, I don’t find them motivating. In fact, I find them de-motivating, and also slightly insulting.  High performers — a group I like to count myself among — will do their very best every day, aligned with the work they’ve been assigned and the expectations of their position, and not in any way because of the goals they’ve been assigned. They will do their best because it’s who they are and the work ethic they possess. It is our job as leaders to demonstrate our vision and hire, support, groom and develop high performers who can help us reach that vision.

goalsLet me be very clear, I absolutely and unequivocally believe that leaders must set expectations for staff and also evaluate those staff based on the expectations set. I also believe that the job of the exec is to implement the strategic plan which doubles as their goals. In the absence of a plan, it is the board’s job to work with the exec to set the expectations by which they will evaluate that exec’s performance at the year’s end. Those expectations (call them goals if you must) should not be set to motivate your exec. They should be set to align the work of the organization, ensure everyone is on the same page and provide a process for evaluation. If you have to set goals to motivate your exec, you have the wrong exec.

As leaders, we should all strive to have as many high performers as we can possibly attract and afford.  It begs the question: are the goals we are setting for high performers alienating those performers? I think they might be. I’m beginning to believe that employee goals that are intended to motivate people are lowering our standards, teaching to the middle, and working in direct conflict of our actual goals of meeting our missions and achieving our organizations’ visions.  You know, I believe that any action, process, policy or procedure that is in conflict with our goal is a bad action, process, policy or procedure. I am starting to believe that goals that are intended to motivate are just that.

Once, many years ago and before I really understood resource development and major donor cultivation, I was running an agency that attracted about $50,000 of contributions from individuals each year. My Board Chair wanted to set a goal for me of $1,000,000. One million dollars! Yes, your math is right and that would have been 20 times the annual giving received by that agency. He called it a stretch goal.

Rather than inspire me to reach that goal, it terrified me -– and not in a good way. How in the world — with no change in staffing, no change in process or a new program or project to announce — was I going to raise 20 times our current contributed income?  I wasn’t.

Thankfully, I was able to explain my position and get him to revise my goals. To his credit- and this may have been his intent all along — I ramped up my own knowledge and capacity for raising money and cultivating and retaining major donors giving major gifts.

I did raise that amount and more a few years later, but not because of a goal and not, by any stretch of the imagination, alone. I did it with a change in staffing, a more developed board, several changes in process and a huge project that addressed a significant gap in service that I was committed to rectify.

Wanting something doesn’t make it a good goal. If you set goals, set them to recognize, hire and retain high performers.  Set them to align the work of your agency. Set them to have some way to evaluate your executive. Make your goals doable, with systems to support them and a path to achieve them.

Don’t set goals to motivate people! We should not be using goals to motivate. We shouldn’t have to. The work we do and the communities we serve should motivate our team toward greatness.  If they don’t, we have built the wrong team and no amount of goal setting is going to rectify that.

What do you think about goals being used to motivate staff?  As always, I welcome your insight, feedback and experience. Please share your ideas or suggestions for blog topics and consider hitting the follow button to enter your email. A rising tide raises all boats.
dani sig

Social media sometimes means engaging in difficult discussions

User engagement isn’t always rainbows and unicorns

By Rose Reinert
Guest blogger

dialogGood morning! Last week we discussed chapter 14 of The Social Media Bible, which focused on  webinars and online radio. This week, I am veering from my normal review of Lon Safko’s book and sharing a bit about my recent experience with  Social Media – for better or worse.

As part of my current role as a Community Outreach Liaison, I oversee the planning, posting and monitoring of my agency’s Facebook Page. The experience has been fun and challenging.

I have a secret to share. As I have walked you all through the The Social Media Bible, I too have learned so much on how to improve my posting and engagement for my agency. So, I have gotten creative, shared links and posted photos and videos to better engage and attract attention from our followers.

Well, this past week I experienced first hand what it means to embrace this communication tool for better or worse.

Over the weeks, I have written all about how social media is a tool that:

  • ensues two-way communication
  • provides an opportunity for open communication
  • builds trust

All sounds wonderful doesn’t it?

Well . . . sometimes . . . the truth hurts.

Recently, I received a clear and urgent email from my boss saying:

“There are negative comments on our Facebook page. Delete them and let me know when you do.”

Upon further investigation, I discovered some negative reviews, and these were not gentle notes of dissatisfaction. These posts were very detailed, passionate negative reviews from those who we had clearly failed. Despite my better judgment, I posted an apologetic response on each of the reviews, of which some were months old.

The following details are blurry, but let’s just say the untimely response threw gasoline on a fire.

Here is what I learned.  If you enter the Social Media realm:

  1. You must accept, for better or worse, feedback.
  2. Having a clear plan and strategy for responding to negative and positive reviews as well as run-of-the-mill comments is critical.
  3. Approach your job with an understand that you cannot please everyone.
  4. Despite the potential for negative feedback, the opportunity for enhanced engagement and communication through social media outweighs the risks

So, like any good life lesson, I pick-up, learn, and move on.

Misery loves company. Please share with me your teachable moments with your social media marketing.
rose draft sig

Do you have work-life balance in your non-profit job?

As many of you know, I am currently working out-of-state and living at my mother-in-law’s house in the DFW metroplex. I woke up this morning and my generous house host engaged me in a spirited discussion about the idea of work-life balance. I am not a dummy, and I presume my mother-in-law is telling me that she doesn’t think I’ve struck the right balance. Of course, all of this got me thinking about the idea of work-life balance and the non-profit sector.

My mother-in-law’s point of view

scales of justiceWork-Life balance is about dividing your time between work and life. Work stays there and your life is over here. The idea of balance looks like the scales of justice, and the two sides (representing work and life) are in perfect balance.

Her thinking is that those individuals who work 60, 70 and 80 hours a week cannot achieve work-life balance. Furthermore, she thinks those people are selfish because if work is that important to someone then they are cheating their spouses, families, and pets.

After digesting my mother-in-laws strong point of view, I think this is a very popular position. I think lots of people view work-life balance through this lens.

My point of view

self fulfillmentI used to look at work-life balance through the same lens as my mother-in-law, but a friend of mine helped me change the way I look at these competing  things in my life.

I don’t believe in the scales of justice analogy anymore. I now believe that the scales can be imbalanced, and the question is all focused on whether or not you’re happy and feel fulfilled.

Selfish? Perhaps! But it is where I am at right now.

The non-profit sector

stressed out workerAs I stewed about this morning’s conversation with my mother-in-law, I started thinking about all of my non-profit friends. I couldn’t think of anyone with perfectly balanced scales, but I could think of lots of non-profit friends who appear happy and fulfilled.

I also started thinking about the reality of non-profit work:

  • Under-funded agencies
  • Under-staffed workplaces
  • Long hours
  • Hard work

So, I decided to write this morning’s blog and seek your opinion about what work-life balance means to you AND how you achieve what you consider balance.

A few interesting articles

So, what do you think? Please use the comment box below to weigh-in with your thoughts and experiences regarding work-life balance and the non-profit work experience.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

Are your meetings attended by Everybody, Somebody, Anybody and Nobody?

nobodySometimes you just got nothing. It is late at night, and I have to catch a plane in the early morning. If there is going to be a Tuesday morning DonorDreams blog, then it has to happen right now. Sigh … sometimes you just got nothing! So, during times like this, I look for real experiences to share. So, I thought I’d share a conversation I had last week with a fundraising professional in New Mexico.

Let me set the stage . . .

We were talking after an annual campaign meeting about the importance of making meetings “actionable” and “how people have a tendency to hide in groups“. Going into a meeting without a plan can result in lots of great discussion and content being shared, but very little action and lots of wasted time.

To avoid this, we talked about all sorts of ideas, tools, and strategies such as:

  • Recruiting the right volunteer chairperson (heck … recruiting the right kind of committee volunteers)
  • Collaboratively developing agendas
  • Using meeting notes and action items memos
  • Developing dashboards and scorecards
  • Using goals to create urgency
  • Not doing something in a group (e.g. recruiting a volunteer or asking for money) that is best done individually

As the conversation wound down, this fundraising professional said: “It sounds like the story about Everybody, Somebody, Anybody and Nobody.”

I had no idea what she was talking about … so, she sent me an email with this short, cute little story by which every non-profit professional should live his/her life.

I have no idea to whom attribute this story. If you or someone you know is the author, please let me know and I am happy to attribute it. Here it is:

Here is a story about four people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody and Nobody.

A job had to be done and Everybody was sure Somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it, Nobody did it.  Somebody got mad about that, because it was Everybody’s job.  Everybody thought Anybody could do it and that Somebody would do it.

Nobody realized that Everybody thought Somebody would do it.

It ended up that Everybody blamed somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have done.

How do you live your life according to the moral of this story? What tips or tricks can you share with you fellow non-profit professionals on how to keep meetings action-oriented and productive? Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comment box below.

Please excuse me, but I need to run off and catch a plane soon. I hope this short post inspired you to think twice before asking for anything from a group or going into a meeting without a strategy on how to keep things actionable.  😉

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

How to appreciate your agency’s executive director

appreciationI can’t prove it, but I suspect that executive directors for non-profit organizations are the most under-appreciated bunch of people on the planet. Working for a group of people (e.g. board of directors) compared to one person is difficult, and I think this contributes to my observations pertaining to appreciation. Simply stated I think group dynamics are such that every person thinks someone else is doing the appreciating and recognizing.

Turnover is an expensive proposition for non-profit organizations. Here are some of the obvious and not-so-obvious costs associated with losing your executive director:

  • costs associated with executive search process
  • lost institutional knowledge
  • orientation and training expenses
  • lost organizational momentum associated with implementation of strategic plan, fundraising plan, etc
  • impact on donor confidence in your agency

Usually when having this conversation with board members, I get asked what are a few ways to better appreciate your executive director. The following sections represent just a few thoughts and ideas.

Annual performance evaluation

I cannot tell you how many times an executive director has confided in me that their board does not evaluate them.

Not only is a year-end performance evaluation a best practice that will keep you out of legal trouble down the road, but it is the logical place for a board to express appreciation.

Annual performance plan

No one likes to “make it up as you are going along“.

So, development of a written and measurable annual performance plan is a recognition tool of sorts. It provides the executive director with a clear road map on what they need to do in order to receive kudos.

Mid-year check-up

For all of the same reasons why a year-end performance appraisal makes sense, so does a mid-year check-up visit.

This meeting allows the board an opportunity to recognize successes. It also provides for course correction on other performance objectives, which sends a clear message that you care about the executive director’s success.

Year-end token of appreciation

During the holiday season, many executive directors are organizing holiday office parties and finding ways to show their staff they are appreciated. A good board makes sure that someone is looking out for the executive director.

It doesn’t need to be an actual gift (e.g. gift card to the exec’s favorite restaurant), even though that is always a nice gesture.

It could be as simple as every board member adding the executive director to their holiday card mailing list and writing something poignant about what they appreciate about their number one employee.

When I facilitate board engagement trainings, one of the nine volunteer engagement principles I talk about is “recognition/appreciation“. In reality, the same holds true for employees. If you want to get the most out of your executive director and keep them around for a while, then you need to find ways to appreciate them.

What are some ways your agency’s board of directors demonstrates its appreciation for its executive director? Please use the comment box below to share your favorite examples.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

At DonorDreams, we are thankful for . . .

thanksgiving2013Many of you probably didn’t notice yesterday that we didn’t publish a blog post at DonorDreams. Yes, it was Thanksgiving, but that wasn’t the reason why we missed a day. The truth of the matter is that I was being treated to a Dallas Cowboys Thanksgiving football game at AT&T stadium.

To remedy this grievous error, I decided to treat you to a double dose today.

In a few hours, I’m heading over to my sister-in-law’s house for the turkey dinner with all the trimmings that we passed on in favor of a Thanksgiving football experience.

As is customary for most Americans on Thanksgiving, they share with family and friends for what they are thankful before digging into those mashed potatoes and turkey. So, it only seems right to do this with the DonorDreams blog community.

We are thankful for …

  1. The thousands and thousands of non-profit employees across the country who report to work everyday with a sense of mission-focus and determination.
  2. The  319 subscribers and the 1,789 readers of this blog of which there have been 46,307 page views and 1,250 comments since we started this adventure approximately two-and-one-half years ago.
  3. Those of you who are committed to building your non-profit agency’s organizational capacity and not coast on that which was built by those who preceded you.
  4. Those of you who recognize that donors are not ATMs and diligently work at showing donors how their investment is being used and the results it is accomplishing.
  5. Those of you who strive for a higher functioning board of directors and recognize that the path to organizational greatness runs through the boardroom.

I could go on and on, but I’m curious about what you were most thankful for this Thanksgiving season. Please use the comment box below. You know what to do!

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

Top 3 strategies for successful collaboration

relationshipsGreetings from Reno, Nevada! I am currently at Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s (BGCA) Pacific Leadership Conference. Today, I helped organize and facilitate a day long training track for executive directors and their local school superintendents focused on the idea of collaboration.

It is truly awe-inspiring when a group of dedicated non-profit professionals and their collaborative partners take a day out of their busy schedules to talk about how to collaborate at a higher level.

I’ll keep today’s blog post very short.

One of the facilitated exercises engaged participants in the following simple question: “What are the most important strategies for developing collaborative relationships?”

Here are just a few of the answers provided by participants:

  1. Focus on a common goal
  2. Create continuous open dialog
  3. Clearly establish and understand roles & responsibilities
  4. Persistence
  5. You must seek to understand your prospective partner’s needs before you expect them to understand yours
  6. Always keep in mind that you must earn trust and respect (all the time)
  7. Build a shared vision
  8. Actively create opportunities to engage and remember that food at those meetings is very important

I’m sure that none of this is new to many of you; however, when is the last time you actually practiced these principles?

I don’t know about you, but I can recite lots of best practices just like a third grader can recite their newly memorized multiplication tables. Sometimes when I put myself on autopilot, there is a disconnect between KNOWING and DOING.

As you review this list of strategies, do you think anything is missing from the list? If so, then what would you add? Do you have any special tricks to keep yourself from sometimes cutting corners and forgetting about best practices like these?

Please scroll down and use the comment box below to share your thoughts and experiences. We can all learn from each other.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

Don’t worry about being awful at the beginning. Go climb that pole!

two pathsWelcome to O.D. Fridays at DonorDreams blog. Every Friday for the foreseeable future we will be looking at posts from John Greco’s blog called “johnponders ~ about life at work, mostly” and applying his organizational development messages to the non-profit community.

I’m going to do something a little different this week for “O.D. Fridays” at DonorDreams blog.

Yesterday, I opened an email from one of my favorite social media blogs — Social Media Examiner. The post was titled “3 Unique Ways to Get Started With Business Podcasting,” and it was written by John Lee Dumas. It is a great post. If you have a little time, it is worth the click.

In the middle of the article, the author solicits tips from the three podcasters he interviewed. Two of the interviewees said the same thing, which jumped out at me and changed the direction of today’s post. Here are those inspirational tips:

“Don’t worry about being awful at the beginning. Everybody is. Every master was once a disaster.” — Michael O’Neal

“You’ll cringe at your earlier work, but that’s okay, because it’s a necessary step along the way to putting into the world that thing that’s in your head and doing it on the level your capable of.” — Jonathan Fields

I thought it would be fun to use this “O.D. Fridays” post to go back to the beginning of the DonorDreams blog as well as johnponders ~ about life at work, mostly

When I went back to my first few blog posts, I found Jonathan Fields words “You’ll cringe . . .” ringing in my ears. Ahhh, those early days were tough and painful, but in hindsight I wouldn’t trade them for anything. Those experiences are gold.

Then I went back to the very first johnponders blog. I indeed cringed but not for the reasons you think.

getting startedJohn’s first post ever was titled “Don’t Climb That Pole.” It was a classic John Greco type of post about the power of organizational culture. It set the stage for everything he has done since that time with regard to organization development and change leadership.

In fact, “Don’t Climb That Pole” is one of my top five favorite johnponders posts if not my very favorite.

I really wanted today’s “O.D. Fridays” post to be about organizational culture; however, it organically turned into a post about change and more specifically the power of taking that first step. This idea is best summed up and translated into “non-profit speak” by Anne Frank:

“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”

In most of my visits with non-profit professionals, our conversations typically turn to what is stopping them from doing something. It almost always has to do with one or more of the following reasons:

  • Time
  • Money
  • People
  • Not believing that you know where to start or having the knowledge on how to start

If you currently find yourself in this position at your agency, you can find answers on how to move forward in both of the blog posts I’ve referenced today.

John Lee Dumas’ interviewees point to the power of just getting started and not worrying about what it looks like in the beginning.

John Greco points to the power of looking at things through the eyes of a newbie who hasn’t been conditioned to think and behave in ways influenced by your organization culture. Oh yeah, I guess John also would say we need to like bananas and cold showers. (If you’re like ‘huh … what does that mean? Then I guess you just need to click-through and read one of my favorite johnponders posts.)  😉

Are there things that you know need to happen at your agency, but you’re just not moving forward yet? Have you ever been paralyzed and found a way forward just by taking that first step? Have you clicked through and read either of the posts I mentioned earlier? Please use the comment box below to share your thoughts or experiences. We can all learn from each other.

Here’s to your health! Now go get started on that thing you know needs to happen.

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

Charlie Brown would’ve been a great non-profit executive director

charlie brownAs many of you know, I spent last week in California visiting friends and a whole lot of wineries in Sonoma County. During my adventures, we stopped at the Charles M. Schultz museum in Santa Rose, CA. It was one of the highlights of my trip. Not only did I get to walk down memory lane (because Snoopy and his friends were a big part of my childhood), but I was reminded of why I loved this cartoon/comic strip so much.

As I passed through one of the many exhibits on Charles Schultz’ amazing career, I was reminded of this very famous quotation by William Hickson:

“If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”

How many times as a child did you see Lucy pull that football away from Charlie Brown as he flew through the air and crash to the ground?

It is an image burned in my head as I am sure it is for countless numbers of people around the world.


Charles Schultz drew this image over and over and over again because he wanted kids to understand:

  • Failure is part of life.
  • It is OK to fail.
  • When you fail, you simply pick yourself off the ground.
  • You never stop trying.

What an incredibly important lesson to learn!

On my first day back from vacation, I had the privilege of having lunch with a friend who is the executive director of a non-profit organization. While breaking bread and catching up on things, my friend reflected on his career path as a non-profit professional and he said something that made me think of Charlie Brown. He said people who strive to be an executive director need to understand that they will fail, and they will do a lot of it.

Wise words from a very wise man.

The following is just a short list of failures that I’ve seen in my years from executive directors and fundraising professionals:

  • Recruiting the wrong volunteer to do the wrong job.
  • Pairing the wrong fundraising volunteer to solicit the wrong donor.
  • Pursuing the wrong strategies at the wrong time.
  • Not adhering to best practices when they are so desperately called for.
  • Cutting corners and thinking the ends justify the means.

We’ve all been there. We’ve all failed. And we’ve all picked ourselves off the ground and pushed forward.

Do you have the soul of Charlie Brown? Do you look for this quality in the people you hire? What about in the people you recruit as volunteers? Please scroll down and share a story in the comment box about a time you missed the football and how it made you a better non-profit professional.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

Do you know about the Non-Profit Blog Carnival?

carnivalI’ll keep today’s post short by asking you one simple question: “Do you know about the Non-Profit Blog Carnival?” In a nutshell, it is a monthly collection of blog posts focused on a singular topic. Click here for a more in-depth explanation from Joanne Fritz at

This month Marc Pitman, The Fundraising Coach, is hosting the carnival and the question being asked and answered is: “How do you keep your donors engaged for a second gift?

Click here to visit the carnival where you will find links to 16 different bloggers offering free advice on donor retention.

I am privileged to be hosting the Nonprofit Blog Carnival in May, but I haven’t developed a question or theme yet. So, I thought it would be kind of neat to ask DonorDreams readers to offer suggestions.

Please scroll down and use the comment box to offer a question or theme. Your input is greatly appreciated.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

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