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The Chicago Cubs Convention through non-profit eyes: Part Three

cubs logoThis last weekend I attended the Chicago Cubs Convention with my family.  As we drifted from session to session, I couldn’t help but see all sorts of blog themes and things that non-profit organizations could learn from this major league franchise. Over the last few days I’ve shared a few of these observations and hopefully stimulated a few new ideas for you and your agency. In Tuesday’s post, we talked about stewardship. Yesterday, we discussed shared vision, values, and culture. Today, I am ending this series with a few words about statistics and predictive value.

On Sunday morning, the last session of the entire convention was titled “Stats Sunday,” and the session description read as follows:

“You know what a pitcher’s ERA means and how to calculate a hitter’s batting average, but do you know what WAR stands for or how to find someone’s OPS? Baseball is full of new-age statistics. Jim Deshaies, Len Kasper and WGN’s Bob Vorwald will help break it down for us in this special offseason edition of “Stats Sunday.”

Essentially, this session was all about the things you learned about baseball scouting in the Oscar award nominated movie and best-selling book “Moneyball.”

During the hour-long session on new baseball stats (e.g. BABIP, OPS, OPS+, UZRWAR, WHIP, etc), we talked about at least 10 new statistics that help baseball scouts determine one simple question: “Will this ball player be a good addition to our team and help win more games?”

As I am apt to do, my mind started wandering during this session, and I found myself wishing that non-profits would someday develop a set of predictive statistics to improve the art of board development.

I have sat in countless board development and nominating committee meetings, and they all feel like that scene in Moneyball where Brad Pitt is talking to his “old-school baseball scouts” about free agents and they start sharing anecdotal evidence about girlfriends and physical attributes. If you don’t know what I’ve talking about, you might want to check out this YouTube movie trailer that contains a portion of that scene in it.

You know what I mean . . . what do the discussions sound like around your board development table?  Here are some of the things I keep hearing:

  • Are they too busy?
  • Do they serve on another board?
  • Will they say ‘YES’ if asked?
  • Who is the best person we should send to ask?
  • Do they have money? Do they donate to us or others?

Too many agencies are essentially asking: a) do they have a pulse? b) is their wallet thick? and c) will they agree to do it?

ernie banksI dare to dream about the day when board volunteers have their own “baseball-type card” with statistics on the back that measure a board member on the following concepts:

  • How active and engaged is this person in your mission?
  • How effective is this person at securing resources for your cause?
  • How many people in this person’s network have been exposed to your agency because of this person? How many became volunteers? How many turned into donors?

As the days have passed since attending this session, I now realize that smart non-profit thought leaders are working on projects like this. Of course, the board development metrics out there aren’t as fancy as what baseball scouts use, but here are a few interesting websites and resources that you may want to check out if you are thirsty for board development change and want to shake up your board development committee:

baseball scorecardDo a little daydreaming with me today. What would the back of a non-profit board volunteer’s baseball card look like? What would you like to measure? What type of predictive statistics do you wish existed that could be used in a board development committee meeting to help evaluate your volunteer prospect list?

Come on . . . take a few minutes and do some dreaming. Who knows where it might led for you and your organization. Many years ago someone just like you in Major League Baseball did the same thing and it transformed an entire industry.  Uh-Huh . . . you could very well be the next big non-profit thought leader. Please scroll down and share some of your amazing thoughts, ideas and questions in the comment section below. You don’t need to do this alone.  😉

Here’s to your health!

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

The Chicago Cubs Convention through non-profit eyes: Part Two

cubs way3This last weekend I attended the Chicago Cubs Convention with my family.  As we drifted from session to session, I couldn’t help but see all sorts of blog themes and things that non-profit organizations could learn from this major league franchise. I will use the next few days to share a few of these observations and hopefully stimulate a few new ideas for you and your agency. In yesterday’s post, we talked about stewardship. Today, I thought we could talk about shared vision, values, and culture.

In many of the sessions, it wasn’t uncommon for someone to reference something called “The Cubs Way Guide“. They always described this guide as an organizational manual that describes what they believe and how they do things.  Here is how President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein described “The Cubs Way Guide” in February 2012 on the Cubs’ website:

“The Cubs’ way really boils down to the people — the players, obviously, but everyone, all the scouts and all the people in uniform in the Minor Leagues and the big leagues. For us to teach the game the right way, it’s more than words on the page. It comes down to how deep we dig to get connected to players to teach the game the right way, how much we care, how committed we are, how hard we work. There’s a lot that goes into this and building an organization.”

At Saturday’s convention, here are some of the phrases I heard people use to describe this manual and organizational resource:

  • It is a document that is a few inches thick.
  • It is what we believe as an organization.
  • It embodied the organization’s philosophy and approach.
  • It spells out how to prepare players for the big leagues.
  • It lays out for coaches at every level of the minor league and major league how to teach players how to play the game. Instruction can get as detailed as which foot hits the bag when players make a turn on the bases.
  • It lays out a vision and plan.

I walked away from each of these sessions wondering the same thing: “I wonder what such a manual might look like for a non-profit organization?

cubs way1After a few days of day dreaming about this topic, here are a few of my thoughts on what your organizational guide might contain:

  • Shared values
  • Shared vision
  • Code of ethics
  • Conflict of interest policies
  • Protocol on how to recruit community volunteers and prepare/position them for joining the board some day. (e.g. getting them involved in a committee, working a few pledge cards, etc)
  • Procedures on how to identify, cultivate, recruit, orient, train, rotate, recognize, and evaluate board volunteers.
  • Steps on how to hire new staff.
  • Rules on how to conduct outreach/recruitment of clients.
  • Etiquette on how to prepare for board meetings and committee meetings (e.g. agendas sent out a certain number of days before the meeting, meeting notes and action item memos going out a certain number of days after a meeting, elements of a productive board meeting, etc)
  • Code of behavior regarding how to engage, solicit and communicate with donors (e.g. Donor Bill of rights)

I suspect that I could make this list go on and on and on if I wanted.

If you started thinking to yourself when reading my list that you already have some of this in place at your organization, I suspect you are probably on to something. Some of this might already be included in your strategic plan, board development plan, resource development plan, stewardship plan, etc.

However, the genius of “The Cubs Way Guide” is:

  • It is all in one place, not in a series of documents sitting on a number of different book shelves.
  • It creates a central focus. It becomes the heartbeat of your organizational culture.
  • It is easy to reference.
  • It is easy to create training opportunities around it.

cubs way2

What are your thoughts about creating an organizational “How To Manual” for your non-profit organization? What would you include? Who would you involve in this project? What elements already exist that you might fold into such a manual? How would you use it to transform your organizational culture? Please use the comment box below to share your thoughts because there is nothing new under the sun and we can all learn from each other.

Here’s to your health!

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

The Chicago Cubs Convention through non-profit eyes: Part One

cubs6This last weekend I attended the Chicago Cubs Convention with my family.  As we drifted from session to session, I couldn’t help but see all sorts of blog themes and things that non-profit organizations could learn from this major league franchise. I will use the next few days to share a few of these observations and hopefully stimulate a few new ideas for you and your agency. Today, I want to drill down on the idea of stewardship.

In one of the sessions that I attended, there sat Cubs General Manager Theo Epstein and the brain trust for the entire Chicago Cubs organization. There was a lot of talk about improving the stadium, improving the product of the field, and a lot of blah-blah-blah. I’ve attended a number of these conventions, and I always marvel at how I am paying them to market to me. I also can’t believe that the script never seems to change very much.

However, something struck me as very interesting this year. It was Theo’s second convention since being hired, and I heard him say this:

“The Cubs have a covenant with the fans.”

This isn’t the first time that I’ve heard him say this. I heard it at last year’s convention. I’ve heard it and read it in various media interviews. And this time it sparked the following questions and thoughts:

  • I wonder what he means by that?
  • He is emphasizing this point . . . this must be part of a larger narrative?!?!
  • This sounds and feels remarkably similar to non-profit stewardship efforts. Huh?

theoSo, I went back to the basics and looked up the word “covenant” and defines it as follows:

“cov·e·nant  (kuv’e-nent)  noun. 1. A binding agreement; a compact.”

Of course, every time I hear this word it takes me back to my childhood and confirmation classes. There are obvious Biblical connotations.

I believe that when Theo talks about this covenant with Cubs fans, he is referring to:

  • Transparency,
  • Accountability,
  • Reporting,
  • Recognition, and
  • essentially demonstrating that the team is doing what they say they’re doing.

Isn’t this exactly what non-profit organizations mean when they talk about stewardship?  I believe so.

If you agree, then this raises another  interesting question: “With whom does your agency have a covenant?

I believe that non-profit professionals and board volunteers form a covenant with many different stakeholders such as: donors, clients, collaborative partners, staff, funding partners and institutions (e.g. United Way and other foundations), and the at-large community. While there are common threads that run through each of those covenants, there are also some unique promises being made by your organization.

Have you ever thought through this part of your social contract? If not, then I suggest this might be an interesting “generative discussion” at an upcoming board meeting.

After a little more thinking, I started identifying ways the Chicago Cubs try to hold up their end of this covenant. For example:

  • The annual convention is in part an accountability exercise where ownership, management and players open themselves up to answering questions (e.g. ticket pricing, player acquisition, organizational development philosophy, etc).
  • The Cubs talked a lot about investing time and resources last year in fan surveys and focus groups.
  • The Cubs publish a magazine called “Vine Line” in an effort to keep fans informed.

How is this any different that what some non-profit organizations do with newsletters, annual meetings, and donor communications.

As I always say . . . “We can all learn from each other.” And I do mean ALL because the Chicago Cubs Convention proves to me that there is more commonality between for-profits and non-profits than we care to admit.

What is your non-profit agency doing to fulfill its covenant? With whom do you think you have a covenant? What tactics are you using? Where do you find your inspiration and new ideas? Who do you see doing a good job with this?

Here’s to your health!

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

Non-profits can learn a lot from the Chicago Cubs

I attended the Chicago Cubs Convention this last weekend with my partner, father, brother and nephew. This is the 27th annual convention, and I think this is the fourth or fifth time I’ve attended with my family. As many of you know, I look for signs of philanthropy everywhere I go in life. It is one of my quirky charms.  🙂

It would’ve been easy to write about the $4 million that the Chicago Cubs have raised for charities with the proceeds from this convention, but I decided to look a little deeper this year. Not surprisingly, I found three things that the Cubs organization does at its annual convention that non-profit and fundraising professionals can take away from the experience.

A Sense of Accountability
Everyone in America knows the Chicago Cubs haven’t won a World Series in more than 100 years. This is the equivalent of a non-profit organization being unable to demonstrate community impact or program outcomes to its donors. To some people, it is surprising that the Cubs have any fans remaining with such an amazing inability to produce any return on investment (ROI).

However, the convention does something interesting for the Cubs organization. It gives fans the sensation they can hold the team “accountable”. There are sessions with ownership , management, coaches, and players. During those sessions, fans are permitted to ask questions and make comments from the floor.

While it is important for non-profit agencies to demonstrate ROI and impact, it looks like letting donors “hold you accountable” can go a long way when your ability to generate outcomes might still be a few years off.

It is all about the upgrade
It shouldn’t surprise you that the cost for last weekend was high (e.g. convention passes, hotel, and food). Tack onto this pricetag the cost of attending a few Cubs games throughout the summer, and it becomes apparent that being a Cubs fan isn’t cheap. However, this didn’t stop the Cubs from gently trying to up-sell me at every turn.

Have I considered attending spring training with the team in Arizona? What about signing up for a tour of Wrigley Field? Will I give some thoughtful consideration to upgrading from a fan who just attends a few games every year to a 9-Game Pack ticket holder?

I’ve met too many non-profit organizations who are afraid of asking their donors for more. The excuse usually given is that they’re afraid of “offending” those donors. Well, I can honestly say that I was never once offended by the Chicago Cubs and their vendors. I highly doubt most donors would either. However, I suspect that the key to not offending anyone is in how you go about doing it. In each of the previous up-sell examples, the Cubs had a very well-defined “case for support” (aka sales pitch).

If non-profit organizations invested more time in crafting solid case statements focused on why special event donors should also become annual campaign donors, I suspect a lot more money would be raised.

Becoming part of the family
At one point during the weekend, I had to giggle to myself because I paid the Cubs a lot of money for the right to be their captive all weekend and permitted them to market to me. While this realization should make me feel stupid (because they should be paying me for that privilege and not vice versa), I really don’t feel that way. As a matter of fact, I feel lucky and a little privileged to have been part of the experience.

The Cubs made every one of their guests feel special and a part of their family. Everyone likes to “belong” to something (e.g. church, alumni associations, service organizations, etc), and the Cubs have created an experience that nurtures this feeling, which in the end helps them make a lot of money.

Non-profit organizations who put their minds to it can turn their marketing materials and donor recognition societies into a similar kind of experience for their donors. I suspect that those who do so will see their donor loyalty rates skyrocket.

In closing
As a lifelong Cubs fan, all I have to say is that I believe a World Series title is waiting for us right around the corner in spite of the fact that the Cubs have embarked on a major “team re-building project” this year.  I guess hope does spring eternal, which is a good thing for some non-profit organizations.

Please use the comment box below to weigh-in with your thoughts. What opportunities do your donors have to hold your agency accountable? What are you doing to instill a sense of family among your donors? What are you doing to upgrade donors gifts and giving opportunities?

Here’s to your health!

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

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