Special Events: One Step to Save Your Stomach Lining

One of my favorite nonprofits is in a pickle. And a common pickle it is indeed. A board member suggested a smallish event a few months ago. It is now crunch time. The staff didn’t get the invites out on time. The board has a bit of post-holiday malaise and bloat and the event chair is going ballistic. Where is all the support that was promised? Or was it?

 

Here is the most common scenario: A board member says, in best Judy Garland, Mickey Rooney fashion, let’s put on a golf tournament, skeet shoot, wine tasting, wild boor hunt, you fill in the blank. The board hears, “I will put on the event.” The board member thinks she is saying, “Together, WE will put on the event.” Everyone agrees to the event, a date is set, and then fast forward, its crunch time. The board is dismayed that the event chair expects the board member to bring 10 people. A few of the board members confide, “The truth is, This really isn’t my kind of thing, you know!.” This is the stuff of antacid commercials.

 

How to avoid this? If this is a small event and you are counting on the board rather than an outside committee to bring in the guests, take ten minutes, ask the board for a conservative count and ask them how many people they can deliver that night. Take names and write it down. If you want 150 to attend and the board can deliver 37, this might just be the wrong event, wrong evening, wrong committee. This one step will make all the difference.

Carol Weisman, MSW, CSP, not a fan of small events

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Innovative Take on an Old Technique

One of the great things about my work is learning from my clients. I was in Helena, Arkansas last week working for Main Street Arkansas and hear a unique take on an old technique. One of the women on the board used to live in an area that was known for its panhandlers. People were pretty sick on them. The board member and her friends got dressed up and make signs that said, “We aren’t vets, we aren’t homeless and we aren’t hungry. We just want your money to stop domestic violence.” Their local shelter benefited big time.

Carol Weisman, MSW, CSP enjoying being home for two days.

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What Nonprofit Leaders Say Behind the Backs of their For-Profit Mentors

 haven’t written for a while because I’ve been on 10 planes, in 4 cities through a tornado in Atlanta, a snow storm in Indiana and returning to an ice storm in St. Louis. Plus, I’ve had a frozen shoulder and have found it difficult to type.But enough whining. Here’s what I’ve been hearing from nonprofit leaders around the country: Many are fed up with the arrogance of the business community that they can “do it” better and are willing to come down from on high to give their more inept colleagues in this pathetic little branch of the world some real knowledge as to how to run an organization, “as a business.” Trust me, nothing makes a seasoned nonprofit leader cringe more than the insinuation that said leader is not businesslike.

This is obviously a gross generalization. Many nonprofits adore their for-profit volunteer consulting groups and individuals and treasure their thoughts, their expertise and their commitment. I get dragged into the corner of meetings by folks who are NOT in this group. Sometimes, I can barely get to the bathroom and have to bring them with me, always a challenge when the nonprofit leader is a guy.

If you are a business leader in the for-profit section and want to share your expertise, here are a few hints so that you will be effective in your work:

1. Learn about fundraising. Learn ALL about it. If you come into a nonprofit and say, “I want to help you have more money for your mission,” you will be welcome with open arms. Relate everything you do to the bottom line, which is money for mission. If you are an accountant and want to help organize processes, all you have to say is, “When you get your books in order and maintain them, you will be able to easily access information for grant applications, for major donor meetings and you will be much more effective.” 

2. Realize that corporate governance is very different from association and nonprofit governance. According to David Yermack at NYU, the ideal size of a corporate board is 9, BoardSource is still studying board size in the nonprofit world, however, the current assumption is that about 17 give or take a few works well. Association boards again, are quite different and tend to be more like nonprofit boards in size.

3. The laws and rules are different. You file different tax forms. The fundraising rules and ethics are different. For instance, while many for-profit businesses, people will work on a commission only basis, this is considered unethical by the Association for Fundraising Professionals, although not illegal. Also Sarbanes-Oxley has implications for the nonprofit sector, but does not currently have legislative mandates.

4. Don’t assume there is staff when you make suggestions. When you say, why don’t you take a poll, the better way to put it would be, “Do you have the staff or volunteers to take a poll, and would it justify the time?” No one works closer to the bone than a nonprofit!

5. Be open to learning. Share frequently what you will be taking back to your job. A marvelous for-profit business leader who was much loved said, “I have learned so much from you on how to focus on the mission and reward outstanding behavior that I have made significant change in my company and it has already made a big difference in productivity and employee retention.

With so much to learn from one another, don’t be the person or organization that the nonprofit leader you are helping says, “I just don’t know that this interference is worth the paltry sum we are getting!”

Carol Weisman, MSW, CSP off to Norfolk, VA

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Business Volunteers in Nonprofits…What do The Nonprofits Say Behind Your Back

I haven’t written for a while because I’ve been on 10 planes, in 4 cities through a tornado in Atlanta, a snow storm in Indiana and returning to an ice storm in St. Louis. Plus, I’ve had a frozen shoulder and have found it difficult to type.

But enough whining. Here’s what I’ve been hearing from nonprofit leaders around the country: Many are fed up with the arrogance of the business community that they can “do it” better and are willing to come down from on high to give their more inept colleagues in this pathetic little branch of the world some real knowledge as to how to run an organization, “as a business.” Trust me, nothing makes a seasoned nonprofit leader cringe more than the insinuation that said leader is not businesslike.

This is obviously a gross generalization. Many nonprofits adore their for-profit volunteer consulting groups and individuals and treasure their thoughts, their expertise and their commitment. I get dragged into the corner of meetings by folks who are NOT in this group. Sometimes, I can barely get to the bathroom and have to bring them with me, always a challenge when the nonprofit leader is a guy.

If you are a business leader in the for-profit section and want to share your expertise, here are a few hints so that you will be effective in your work:

1. Learn about fundraising. Learn ALL about it. If you come into a nonprofit and say, “I want to help you have more money for your mission,” you will be welcome with open arms. Relate everything you do to the bottom line, which is money for mission. If you are an accountant and want to help organize processes, all you have to say is, “When you get your books in order and maintain them, you will be able to easily access information for grant applications, for major donor meetings and you will be much more effective.” 

2. Realize that corporate governance is very different from association and nonprofit governance. According to David Yermack at NYU, the ideal size of a corporate board is 9, BoardSource is still studying board size in the nonprofit world, however, the current assumption is that about 17 give or take a few works well. Association boards again, are quite different and tend to be more like nonprofit boards in size.

3. The laws and rules are different. You file different tax forms. The fundraising rules and ethics are different. For instance, while many for-profit businesses, people will work on a commission only basis, this is considered unethical by the Association for Fundraising Professionals, although not illegal. Also Sarbanes-Oxley has implications for the nonprofit sector, but does not currently have legislative mandates.

4. Don’t assume there is staff when you make suggestions. When you say, why don’t you take a poll, the better way to put it would be, “Do you have the staff or volunteers to take a poll, and would it justify the time?” No one works closer to the bone than a nonprofit!

5. Be open to learning. Share frequently what you will be taking back to your job. A marvelous for-profit business leader who was much loved said, “I have learned so much from you on how to focus on the mission and reward outstanding behavior that I have made significant change in my company and it has already made a big difference in productivity and employee retention.

With so much to learn from one another, don’t be the person or organization that the nonprofit leader you are helping says, “I just don’t know that this interference is worth the paltry sum we are getting!”

Carol Weisman, MSW, CSP off to Norfolk, VA

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A Return to Sheriff Smith’s Boxer Shorts

Marriage is built on trust. When I had only been married for 27 years, I returned from Tyler, Texas with a pair of white boxer shorts emblazoned with the name of Sheriff Smith on the backside. Sheriff Smith is a fellow member of the National Speaker’s Association. When he heard that a CSP, namely moi, was speaking in town, he arranged with the United Way committee that was sponsoring my visit, to be included in lunch. Of the 85,000 good citizens of Tyler, only Sheriff Smith probably knew what a CSP was. It means that I have completed at least 250 speeches in a 5 year period for not less than a total of $250,000, for at least a 100 different clients. Because of this, he wanted to meet me.

 Sheriff Smith, a fellow speaker, was running for office. He brought me a pair of his signature campaign boxer shorts. When Frank saw them come out of my suitcase, he thought I owed him an explanation. Imagine that. He calmed down when I gave him the handy-dandy hand-cuff keyring I also scored from the good Sheriff.

 When I got the call from Kyle Penney from the East Texas Communities Foundation asking me to come back to Tyler to speak about Raising Charitable Children, one of my first questions was, “How is Sheriff Smith” Well, it turns out, he is running for office again. It is in my contract that Kyle is going to try to score me another pair of boxer shorts.

When I grow up, I want to have the marketing chops that Sheriff Smith does.

Carol Weisman, MSW, CSP Wearing my own undies

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The Joy Of Aging

Over the weekend I had my 59th birthday. My ever-sentimental husband of 31 years gave me a most remarkable present. He had recently been to the dentist, and gifted me with his used gold crown. He shared with me that 1. I could have it made into a piece of jewelry. 2. gold is now $900 an once. I offered to sell it back to him.

Since collecting fabulous birthday swag does not seem to be my lot, I realized that the real joy of aging occurred two weeks ago when I worked with the Hemophilia Foundation of Oregon. I started out as a hemophilia social worker at Children’s Hospital National Medical Center in 1977.

 We had a drug rep who was in his early thirties. He had one knee that he could barely bend and not only did he have a major gait abnormality, but he had to delicately lower and raise himself in and out of chairs. This was a painful process to watch because one of his elbows stuck out at a bizarrely unnatural angle. Everyone in the clinic, including the clerks, knew that his guy had hemophilic induced joint disease.

One day, this drug rep asked to see me in private. We closed the door of my office and he said, “I want your word that you won’t share this information with anyone.” I agreed and he said, “I have hemophilia.” I looked at him and said, “And I will share something very personal with you about myself. I’m fat.” He looked a little stunned. I continued and said, “We all know you have hemophilia because of your joint disease. What can I help you with?” It’s not only the Emporor who has no clothes. Well, he wanted me to get his nephews into summer camp. Easily done.

Fast forward 35 years. Every child I worked with from those days has died of AIDS. And now there is a new generation of young men and boys with hemophilia.  At the retreat in Portland, there were 4 young men on the board of the Hemophilia Foundation of Oregan. They were all born in the last 32 years. Two had hemophilia and two didn’t. I couldn’t tell who was who. They were all self-assured, living normal lives, volunteering, studying, working, one raising a family. That is the joy of perspective. Real progress. And worth a trip to the bathroom for a bit of a cry.

And perhaps next year, Frank will lose another crown and I’ll have earrings. However, I’m not sure this will signify progress.

Carol Weisman, MSW, CSP 59 and loving it.

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Special Events and The Board, Forgetting The One Crutial Step

One of my favorite nonprofits is in a pickle. And a common pickle it is indeed. A board member suggested a smallish event a few months ago, it is now crunch time. The staff didn’t get the invites out on time. The board has a bit of post-holiday malaise and bloat and the event chair is going ballistic. Where is all the support that was promised? Or was it?

Here is the most common scenario: A board member says, in best Judy Garland, Mickey Rooney fashion, let’s put on a golf tournament, skeet shoot, wine tasting, wild boor hunt, you fill in the blank. The board hears, “I will put on the event.” The board member thinks she is saying, “Together, WE will put on the event.” Everyone agrees to the event, a date is set, and then fast forward, its crunch time. The board is dismayed that the event chair expects the board member to bring 10 people. A few of the board members confide, “The truth is, This really is my kind of thing, you know!.” This is the stuff of antacid commercials.

How to avoid this? If this is a small event and you are counting on the board rather than a committee to bring in the guests, take ten minutes, ask the board for a conservative count and ask them how many people they can deliver that night. Take names and write it down. If you want 150 to attend and the board can  deliver 37, this might just be the wrong event, wrong evening, wrong committee. This one step will make all the difference.

Carol Weisman, MSW, CSP, not a fan of small events

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