The goal of this article is to give you the information necessary to initiate the process of building a financial system that will grow with your organization, AND promotes that good stewardship of the financial resources of your organization by sharing with you in some detail four building blocks that will serve you and your organization well.
Since you are the expert, your job is give others good information that will fix their problems. That’s your job. More than that, it’s why you chose this vocation. And, there are lots of people out there that need your help. And, you are good at it.
In celebration of ten years, in this installment of the Tot Ten, we share key takeaways from our experience.
Every organization has two stories. The one they get by default and the one they make happen.
Your first job is not to give information, but to get information.
You are the person with the credentials.
You are the one with the experience.
Fixing things and helping people is your passion.
You are good at a lot of things. Maybe you are even an expert in a field or two. You have credibility and people come to you to solve problems. Helping others gives you life. And you are well equipped to fix things and give help. Since you are the expert, your job is to give others good “information” that will, regardless of your customer or client’s emotional state, fix or ameliorate their problems. That’s your job. More than that, it’s why you chose this vocation. And, there are lots of people out there that need your help. And, you are good at it.
But, you are not the expert.
- Your clients are the only experts at living with their problem or incapacity.
When someone comes to you they have a need that they want to be filled. It’s their need, not yours. Their problems are not yours. The people you serve must live with their own circumstances and figure out how to make life work for them. As good as you are, as smart as you are, with all the experience you have, you will not go home with anyone you serve, you will not live their lives, you will not walk lockstep with them through their trials, tears, and joy. Your clients are the only experts at living with their issues, needs or incapacities. They are the experts at living their own lives and the sooner you understand that the more likely you are going to have a positive and long-lasting influence on the decisions they must make.
So, what is your role, because you do have the information they need? You can help them and, you want to. But know
- You don’t motivate, you influence.
First, act like you are not the smartest person in the room. Change your paradigm of communication and relationship by acting like your clients are the change makers, not you. Know that foundationally they won’t change, improve, or take your advice if they don’t want to. They get to choose. Get it in your head that you don’t motivate your clients or anyone for that matter. Your clients are either motivated or they are not. Contrary to the popular sports movies you’ve seen, you don’t create motivation. Instead, you serve the motivation they already have; you don’t create it by yelling and screaming at them exhausted in the rain to try harder for the 100th time. Everyone with whom you come into contact is motivated, or not. It’s the motivated ones who will tolerate the yelling and screaming and working out in pain in the rain because they want what you can help them achieve for themselves and their team.
Michael Smith is co-founder of DecisionGrid.
Here’s the essence of the argument. Not-For-Profits (NFPs) are in the “people” business and not about making a “profit”.
Every person is a leader. We all have influence with others.
But our leadership energy is finite. Current psychological studies tell us that we only have so much decision-making energy and once we use that up in any period of time, our energy tank for making decisions simply runs out. So how do we fill up our leadership fuel tank so our cup overflows?
Consider an ancient word of wisdom from Bernard of Clairvaux, a 12th century French abbot who worked as a reformer of the Cistercian order:
“The [one] who is wise, therefore, will see his life as more like a reservoir than a canal. The canal simultaneously pours out what it receives; the reservoir retains the water till it is filled, then discharges the overflow without loss to itself ... Today there are many...who act like canals, the reservoirs are far too rare ... You too must learnto await this fullness before pouring out your gifts, do not try to be more generous than God.”
You have a fiduciary responsibility to the people you serve to use your finite resources of leadership and influence for their highest and best use. How do you make sure your reservoir of good decision-making influence is constantly getting replenished?
Consider the practice of one of the most influential leaders of history:
But now, even more, the report about him went abroad, and great crowds gathered to hear him and to be healed of their infirmities. But he would withdraw to desolate places and pray. (Luke 5:15-16)
We must view our vocations like professional athletes who practice (fill their reservoirs) a lot more than actually perform on the field or court.
Michael Smith is a co-founder of DecisionGrid.
For a few moments let’s think of your organization in a little bit different way.
Why do people choose to interact with your organization? People come to you and your organization to have a want or need satisfied. If you and your team are successful in giving them what they need or want, let's call those your outputs, they are happy and will come back. If you don’t, they will go somewhere else.
Pretty straight forward.
Generally, the mission or purpose of organizations is to expediently and efficiently satisfy the needs of the people who choose to have a relationship with them. To accomplish that your organization has a set of scarce and precious resources, your inputs, that must be efficiently and effectively employed to make clients, congregation members, or customers happy.
The input resources your organization must work with include: money, time, equipment, specialized and general knowledge, among others. From whence do most, if not all, of the organization’s available resources come?
They are sourced from its people.
Your organization’s effectiveness is limited or extended by either the resources your people bring to your party, including and especially you, the leader, or are developed in them.
Your job as a leader then is to constantly know and develop the input resources in your organization necessary to supply the outputs that satisfy your customer's or client's need.
What that means is that your organization is fundamentally just a broker of resources.
Assuming you are a leader, your fundamental job is to recruit and develop your input resources, people, physical, and fiscal, and then efficiently and effectively apply them as outputs to satisfy clients, customers, or congregation members' needs making them happy.
The success of any and every leader is in direct proportion to:
- How well the needs of clients, customers or congregation members are clearly understood, which is not a one-time event.
- How well all the available people, physical, and fiscal resources of the organization are identified and grasped, which is not a one-time event.
- How well the organization can apply the scarce and precious resources available to satisfy the person who has a need or want.
Pretty straight forward.
Michael Smith is co-founder of DecisionGrid.
My business partner, Tammy, came across this inspiring posting right after Christmas and I think it will encourage you no matter your vocation. Enjoy.
...from Nonprofit With Balls
Exploring the fun and frustrations of nonprofit work
A day may come when the courage of the nonprofit sector fails. Today is not that day!
Colleagues of the nonprofit sector. My sisters and brothers. I see in your twitching eyes the dread of returning to work today. Scarcely a moon ago we looked forward to a time of relaxation. A few days where we could binge on some episodes of Black Mirror without guilt. An innocent, optimistic time where we resolved to clear out our fridge or otherwise take care of some household projects that we had been neglecting. A period of time that seemed so boundless, but that is now no more.
The dread you feel is pervasive, hanging over all of us, over me as well. It takes this heart of mine and squishes it in its calloused hand. Like you, I stand before the writhing tentacles of my to-do list, staring into the bottomless abyss of my email inbox, shuddering and cowering and clawing at my face in despair.
But we stand firm.
A day may come when the courage of our sector fails, when we break all bonds of our missions and forsake our community, but it is not this day. An hour of trolls and shattered faith in humanity, when the age of compassion and unity comes crashing down, but it is not this day! A day may come when Injustice snarls and bares its teeth and we go “meh,” but it is not this day!
This day we work! This day we run programs—deliver hot meals, advocate, provide counseling, help people fill out forms, facilitate workshops, rescue animals! This day we write grant proposals and little cute thank-you notes! This day we update our work plans, edit collaterals, contact volunteers, de-dup the database, analyze financials, design some surveys, prepare for a presentation, conduct interviews, orient a new staff, order supplies, clean the bathroom! This day we take out the trash and compost, which somehow we always neglect to do before break!
Above all, this day we remember our sacred duties to build a strong and just community. Colleagues of the Sector: Wielders of Light, Bringers of Balance, Sexy Jedi Unicorns of Justice, and unpaid models of Ross Dress for Less. Though our task is daunting, fraught with turmoil; though time and stress turn our faces to leather; though it feels on days like today that our actions are too little and our resources too few to hold back the forces of Inequity amassing on the horizon, cast all doubts from your hearts. ‘Tis true, you may not live to see your work bear fruit. As Gandalf said:
“It is not our part to master all the tides of the world, but to do what is in us for the succour of those years wherein we are set, uprooting the evil in the fields that we know, so that those who live after may have clean earth to till.”
Your work matters. You matter. Every action you take, no matter how small it may be, leads to the kind of world we wish to see. The vast waves of change cannot happen without the ripples you make. The ripples you are.
I know there is heaviness among many of us today. It does not help that some of us are probably freezing in our office, huddled over a space heater while waiting for the heat to be fixed or something. It bears down on me as well. My soul feels the way my fridge looks. Let us allow ourselves some time to feel like crap. And then, as always, we rally.
A day may come when the strength and integrity of our sector fail, and we give in to the hopelessness and despair. But it is not this day. A day when our spirit is broken and we abandon our duties and our colleagues to take up wedding photography like we’ve daydreamed about during some meetings. But it is not this day! A day may come when we say “F Equity and Social Justice!” But it is not this day!
This day we do what we live, what we breathe, what we are! This day we fight injustice and strengthen community! This day we make our world better! By all that you hold dear, I bid you roll up the sleeves of your Ross shirt, fellow brilliant and highly attractive nonprofit unicorns!
The inbox awaits!!!
Y’all go on ahead. I’ll catch up after I finish my cup of Maker’s Mar…I mean, coffee…
Michael Smith is co-founder of DecisionGrid.
Most of us want to do good things with our lives. We want to spend our time doing things that are beneficial and worthwhile. How do we then decide what we need to be doing when we live in a world that floods us with a million different beneficial opportunities on an almost daily basis?
By creating a dynamic budget, you are putting in place a critical tool that significantly improves the likelihood of your organization achieving the goals you have set.
Success will be determined by how well you allocate scarce and precious resources for their highest and best use in making your mission happen. Budgets can serve as guardrails to prevent your organization from falling off the path to success.
If you are facing burnout, it’s probably because you are not a good “intentional” decision-maker. You haven’t figured out what is important to say yes to and what it is good to say no to.
I enjoy working with nonprofits. I want to see them thrive and their missions advance. Here are a few common but avoidable pitfalls I have seen as I’ve worked with nonprofits over the years.
I have been fortunate in the amount of success I have had in making organizations work. While some of that was due to being in the right place at the right time, here are three gifts of 20/20 hindsight.
As the executive pastor of operations at Frontline Church in Oklahoma City, Rex Barrett was tasked with putting a solution in place for managing the church’s finances when it experienced rapid growth. He said they were able to be generous with their three church plants because they had a good sense of where they stood financially after working with DecisionGrid.
Running an organization follows many of the same rules as playing a great game. Through interactive exercises, develop your own leadership playbook.
Two years in, Hope Is Alive was growing steadily in its budget, staff, supporters, and clients. Lance knew he needed help.