Make sure that your fundraising plan fits your agency capacity
Make sure that your fundraising plan fits your agency capacity
NonProfit contracts from government have tiny amounts of cash for leadership. They are the Head, and the NonProfit is the Hands and Feet.
NonProfits hire for skills, but fire for values
Control Hidden Expenses - Leaders should worry when the contract covers the expense but the program doesn't use the equipment or staff
The good news is that coached changes in strategy, execution, and people turn agencies around.
An Outsider Executive Director is not aware of networks nor asked to join them.
When I started a nonprofit in 1996 in New York City, I was oblivious to relationships around me. The mission to help kids who don’t speak English at home was not a competitive service. Nobody was doing it so we charged for classes and had some easy years. The school fit my own nonprivileged background so it fulfilled my passion to see others succeed.
What is my background? That may help you understand my thoughts on outsider leadership. In 1918, my grandfather and his brother secured union jobs with Cloverdale Milk. The demise of home milk delivery in the 1960s was a life sentence of poverty for many in our family. My cousin and I were the first in the large Wilson-Knickerbocker family to attend college. We had no knowledge of the business and leadership networks in Binghamton. We were fenced out and didn’t know it!
With the new nonprofit, I didn’t try to meet other nonprofit leaders and had no government contracts. The school flourished until we served about 400 students. New York City moved into our space with public programs so we tried to maintain and grow with government contracts.
Mysterious fences appeared that defeated my efforts. Some contracts seemed to be assigned to an agency that was inside the fence and there was no public notice. Others gave us finalist status but never the gold prize. After blaming and shaming myself, I realized that I was an Outsider Director.
Outsider directors don’t know rich people who are trying to give away their estate. We didn’t graduate from a famous college. An Outsider Executive Director is an executive director whose birth, education, status, or family connections does not give them easy entrance to the fenced networks. Worse yet, our backgrounds do not even alert us that these networks exist! We are fenced out.
If this describes your background and societal barriers, you are the type of leader who will go far after you jump over two network fences built to keep you out.
How do network fences affect your leadership? There direct and indirect fences.
Direct Network Fences
Momentum of NonProfits of Privilege – If you’re an Outsider Executive Director, you can be closed out by the momentum of a larger provider. Consider the situation where my agency was offered a sudden contract with narrow turnaround time for 175 students. We knocked it out of the ball park and assumed that more contracts would follow. My source in NYC said, ‘Oh, no. Ron. We’re glad that you pinchhit but contracts are first offered to providers already nearby the new site. Since Manhattan is only two miles wide and subway service is everywhere, we’re not in Alaska or Texas. The government policy creates nonprofits of privilege, larger providers with momentum.
Capacity of NonProfits of Privilege – Most nonprofits have a complex capital structure. In the private world, you either make something, sell something, or do something. You have a simple capital structure. Nonprofits have several kinds of government contracts plus fee for service and charity. Each of these sources of revenue has it’s own compliance regime. As you grow, you hire more people to deal with all of this and create more institutional memory. When the next Upward Bound contract is offered, you have plenty of material already in place to respond within the limited time period between the announcement and due dates for proposals. Again, size will gives NonProfits of Privilege a direct network fence.
Indirect Network Fences
Unseen gates in fence – New York City has a beautiful alumni club for Harvard on 44th Street in Manhattan. You should stop in and see it sometime – unless you’re not a Harvard alumnus. New York City has several nonprofit consortiums such as the United Neighborhood Settlement Houses, And it has political clubs and alliances. These social groups were not established to get rid of outsider nonprofits but they have a indirect network fence. They hear rumors ahead of government announcements in their chats at meetings and texts. The recent mayor had a transition team that included leaders in some of these consortiums. Why do you think these leaders were on the uncompensated transition teams – merely for the public good? As a graduate of Binghamton, Buffalo, and SUNY Polytech New York State public universities, I have the Ph.D. and MBA but I was not in any clubs inside the fence. Check out 990 reports of New York City based nonprofits. If you didn’t go to Harvard or Columbia and sometimes NYU, you’re on the wrong side of the fence for most ED jobs.
Imposter Syndrome – We all go to trainings and sometimes government contracts require them. Trainings are good. However, some best practices often inspire feelings that some of us shouldn’t be in the room or at least sit at the back of it. Cyndi Suarez (2018) identifies seven methods of domination and you will experience three of them with best practice trainings –
What can you do to jump the fences?
Stop blaming yourself. Of course, there is some envy of all of the opportunities and privilege of others. But I take great comfort in the prophet Isaiah who talks about God taking a rough branch and stripping leaves and bark until there is a polished arrow. Your oppressions have given you competencies that privileged leaders will never understand or copy.
Let’s end where we started. If you are feeling that there are fences to keep out leaders like you, that’s more likely true than paranoia. Outsider Executive Directors are directors who have to jump fences built of societal barriers. We have discussed two fences of networks –Direct Network fences and Indirect Network fences.
You need not be a victim. Learn how to build outside the fences. Learn how to jump higher. And Cyndi Suarez mentions one more domination technique that will help you – Tolerance. NonProfits of Privilege always like to showcase one leader who jumps the fence to prove to themselves that there are no fences. 😊
Suarez, Cyndi The Power Manual
Oberholzer Gee, Felix – Better Simpler Strategy
Freire, Paulo – Pedagogy of the Oppressed
Young Dennis et al. Economics for NonProfit Managers and Social Entrepreneurs
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NonProfits rarely see the need to find a business partner. At best, they find a favorite auditor, attorney or supply vendor and essentially develop no-bid contracts with their favorites. Stuart Mendel and Jeffrey Brudney found that nonprofit and business partnerships were only 10% of partnerships.
Partnerships mean that both partners get something that they want from the relationship. Nonprofit CEOs are nervous about relationships that might make a business – more profitable. Actually, every time that you pay your auditor, I assume that they get richer! So there is nothing illegal or unethical about partnership with business.
What are bad partnerships with Business?
Brand Risk – The biggest risk is Brand risk. If you choose to partner with businesses that don’t match your values, mission, or values of your clients, you can seriously damage your brand. Partnerships with business should hire a coach to help you review partner proposals with your leadership team, board, and stakeholders before you proceed. For example, the company in New York that has done audits for Mr. Trump also pushes aggressively in the nonprofit space locally. Would it affect your nonprofit brand if you chose the same auditor? What questions would you raise before you made the decision? Your coach can help.
Kentucky Fried Chicken partnered to give money for breast cancer cure. They printed a month of pink buckets for chicken. Media quickly seized on the links between calories, obesity and breast cancer. There was nothing unethical with the business relationship but the nonprofit failed to consider key implications of their brand. Proceed slowly and use a coach!
Process Risk – A second risk is process risk. The processes and corporate cultures of all companies are far different. When any two groups develop a partnership, there needs to be a written charter that the coach helps you to carefully spell out details
Both Brand Risk and Process Risk can be managed. Leaders lean into the danger, use a coach, and do risk management! You can partner with business.
What’s a good reason to partner with Business? Mendel and Brudner list four reasons and I add two more!
Conclusion: Partnerships are critical in the growth of nonprofits and often welcomed by business. You will be treated as a co-equal partner by the right Business. Remember: