Introducing a secret Nonprofit Millennial Bloggers Alliance

I’ve only been exploring Twitter and the blogosphere as they related to Millennials and the nonprofit sector for only a few months now – Twitter in March and blogging in June. I’ve learned a LOT in that short time and can’t believe I didn’t start sooner. And I hope I’ve contributed as well. It’s a perfect space to network for my introverted self.

So I was thrilled to be ask to be a part of an alliance of bloggers who flutter around the topics related to Millennials and the nonprofit sector. A big thanks to Allison Jones for getting the ball rolling.

Of Mutual Benefit

I first heard about the idea of a blog alliance through Problogger’s vague exposé on a secret blog alliance. The idea intrigued me, and apparently others were too. The alliance in Darren’s article was a

A small group of bloggers who’ve committed to work together in secret for the mutual benefit of all members of the alliance.

The mutually beneficial activities listed in Darren’s posts include things like commenting on and linking each others blogs, social bookmarking and tweeting, guest posts, and networking. Ideally we benefit by increasing the conversation around nonprofits and the Millennial generation by increasing readership and commenting of our blogs, as well as increasing the pressure to write well!

Not-So-Secret

Well this alliance is not working in secret. Perhaps because we don’t blog for profit (on our personal blogs anyway). Maybe because of the open, sharing nature of those that work in the nonprofit sector. We haven’t really sorted out the fine details, but we’re all excited. I’m also thrilled to bring a Canadian perspective to the alliance.

Introducing the Alliance

A. Lauren Abele A. Lauren Abele (blog)
In New York, there is so much vibrancy, energy, passion, and access to the best the country has to offer. It’s the perfect landscape to work with entrepreneurs, meet people who are changing the world, and develop my passions for philanthropy, social entrepreneurship, and nonprofit management.
Elizabeth Clawson Nonprofit Periscope
Keeping an eye on news of the sector. Read one of Elizabeth’s favourite posts: No money? No problem—three free media relations tools for nonprofits (and others)
Colleen Dilenschneider Know Your Bone
My thing? Creative community engagement in nonprofit organizations.
James Elbaor Notes From the East Coast
His first passion is the not-for-profit sector. He cares deeply about social justice and the importance of community activism.
Kevin Gilnack (Nonprofits + Politics)2.0
Some areas of interest to me include nonprofit management, leadership development, workforce issues, public policy, civic engagement, business partnerships, innovation… for starters.
Trina Isakson (that’s me!) the good life | by Trina Isakson
Good articles on nonprofit capacity, community development, engaged citizenship and education. Life stories about travel, photography, music, and musings. Read one of my favourite posts: Social movements, institutions and the Millennial generation: synthesis or breakdown?
Allison Jones Entry Level Living
The personal and professional insights of a struggling college grad.Read one of Allison’s favourite posts: Are you joining a sector or joining a cause?
Elisa M. Ortiz Onward and Upward
Keeping an eye on the nonprofit sector, from the bottom up. Read one of Elisa’s favourite posts: The new leadership crisis.
Ben Sheldon island94.org: an internet backwater
Ben Sheldon is an author, thinker, facilitator, automator, mapper, artist, human and more.
Rosetta Thurman Rosetta Thurman (website)
Promoting next generation leadership for social change. Read one of Rosetta’s favourite posts: Why I Work in the Nonprofit Sector.
Tracey Webb Black Gives Back
A blog dedicated to Philanthropy in the Black Community.
Tera Wozniak Qualls Social Citizen
I am a nonprofit professional, social citizen, & community member. I blog to learn, express my interest & expertise in organizational development, expand my career, network, & discuss nonprofit leadership and community engagement.

Connection to mission: proposing a new org chart

Credit: Mike Rohde
Image Credit: Mike Rohde

One common piece of an orientation program for new staff or volunteers is a review of an org chart – a chart of the reporting structure of the organization so that everyone knows where they “fit” in the grand scheme of things.

I propose an alternative chart – or at least an additional one.

What about an organizational chart that demonstrates how each person contributes to the mission?

Instead of the Board of Directors and CEO at the top, the mission statement is at the top. Some roles may have a direct link to the mission – those that deliver services to clients, for example. Others may have a role that support the mission down the line. Many roles would likely fit in more that one “reporting line” based on the variety of their duties.

I suspect (since I haven’t actually drawn one of these up before) the resulting chart would look very flipped in many places, articulating the importance of staff and volunteers that might usually show up on the very bottom of a traditional org chart.

No matter what the role, everyone in an organization should be contributing to the mission. Show them how.

Leading from the (outside): can kind-but-tough love strengthen our organizations?

A friend of mine recently updated her Facebook status:

(name withheld) is wondering why she is always disappointed by the non-profit organizations she becomes involved with. Drama, politics, and unprofessionalism abound. Should she stay away…or start her own?

This friend is a great person with solid, professional skills to offer with lots of passion for a variety of issues. Yet her support of the various causes continues in spite of the organizational leadership, not because of it.

I agree sometimes. It’s one of the main reasons that I am doing (almost done!) my MBA. Passion for the mission is definitely not lacking in the nonprofit sector. However, the knowledge of what it takes to lead and manage an organization to fulfill that mission is not spread as equally. I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s lacking, but it’s concentrated, leaving many organizations to frustrate the very people that want to help them further the cause.

One could definitely argue that this “drama, politics, and unprofessionalism” also exists, even runneth over, in the private and public sectors as well. But that doesn’t change the fact that nonprofit organizations are losing good volunteers (and good staff, too).

So what are the options?

Leave

Leaving can reduce your frustration in the short term, but how does this support the cause that you are passionate about?

Start your own

Takes work. And time. Other orgs are already doing it (however unprofessionally you may think). Thought starting your own may be the right answer, there are many reasons why not to start your own nonprofit.

A third option?

What about sticking with it? Is there a way to demonstrate (outside) leadership, provide constructive feedback, and keep our nonprofit relationships strong?

How might a conversation starter like this be taken by (inside) nonprofit leadership?

I really believe in the mission of your organization. I’m really passionate about this issue and want to contribute my time, skills and knowledge to help you further the cause. However, I have come to find myself frustrated with [X, Y or Z], and it’s leading me to question whether or not I will continue volunteering with [insert org name]. Is there something that can be done to improve [X, Y or Z] to help attract and retain volunteers like me?

Suggesting improvements alone may result in defensiveness, and not including the suggestion of leaving may make the issue seem less important than it is.

Is there a way to get this message across without coming off as an annoying “I’ve come to help professionalize you” type while actually positively impacting the professionalism of nonprofit leadership and managment?

Anyone want a strategic management report?

This summer I’ll be completing some of my last master’s courses to complete an MBA in Community Economic Development. One of the courses, Strategic Management, requires a final project that assesses a variety of characteristics of an organization. I’ve figured that rather doing a report for distant company or organization XYZ, I’d like to do one for a nonprofit that might find value in the results of the report.

The topics the report that I need to produce for this course include an overview and analysis of topics such as:

  • Organizational life cycle
  • Organizational and governance structures
  • External operating environment
  • Financial indicators
  • Operational strategies
  • Marketing, financial, and research & development strategies
  • Leadership
  • Alliances and partnerships
  • Performance measurement tools

The report will include suggestions for changes (if any) to strategy or structure that may enhance the success of the organization in fulfilling its mission, along with a time frame for these changes.

There is no limit to the type of organization, but the organization does have to be large enough to have a variety of programs/activities and possible partnerships. I also need to have access to financial statements.

Obviously this report is limited in the sense that I am expected to include pre-determined sections, whereas an interested organization may only want a few areas to be examined. I could provide a complete or abridged report if this is the case. Or perhaps an organization is willing to support a graduate student by providing information to help inform such a report without any interest in the actual report.

In any case, if this is of interest to you and/or your organization, be in touch by the beginning of July.