Ep 36: The Community Builder Who Became a Philanthropist (with Stu McLaren)

nonprofits are messy

How does a highly successful entrepreneur – one of the foremost experts in building online communities – end up devoting his time and energy to making sure thousands of children in Africa have a chance for a daily education?

What motivates this entrepreneur, who no longer feels guilty about making lots of money due to the nonprofit he co-founded?

What can he teach us about funding a tiny nonprofit (only 2 full time staff) so it can make an enormous impact?

And how has he used his deep knowledge of how to build a raving fan base online to benefit his charity?

We cover all of this and more in today’s episode of Nonprofits Are Messy.

About Stu McLaren

Stu McLaren is the co-founder of World Teacher Aid, a Canadian charity with the mission to improve education in the developing world. This philanthropy has become his passion and his “big why.”

As the former founder of the world’s #1 membership platform for WordPress, WishList Member, he had the chance to serve and support over 60,000+ online communities and membership sites. Through that experience, he gained a unique insight into the subtle membership nuances that produce massive results.

Today Stu uses that knowledge to help his clients launch and grow high-revenue membership sites. He also coaches and consults New York Times best-selling authors, top rated speakers, experts and niche celebrities on how to launch, grow and scale high-profit recurring revenue streams.

His goal is to give to his charity the bulk of the revenues that come into his business.

In this episode:

  • How a successful entrepreneur turned his eye to philanthropy
  • Why you shouldn’t feel guilty if you do make a lot of money
  • Why Stu chose to focus on Africa
  • Why working insane hours is exactly the wrong approach
  • How “touching the work” makes all the difference
  • The impact of Oprah’s “The Big Give”
  • How World Teacher Aid started (it’s kind of crazy…)
  • Getting the right people on the bus
  • How Stu approached fundraising
  • How to make donors feel like “members”
  • How to attract the people who want to get involved
  • The keys to building online communities

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Ep 35: Stop Asking Your Board to Fundraise! (With Gail Perry)

nonprofits are messy

So says my guest on today’s podcast, Gail Perry.

I think a lot of board members are going to be really happy to hear that!

Now, Gail’s not saying that the board should play no role in fundraising, but her point-of-view is certainly provocative and counterintuitive.

I’ll admit I was rather skeptical. But I will say that a) Gail is pretty convincing and b) she has an amazing track record of helping numerous nonprofits raise hundreds of millions of dollars.

So I was pretty excited to discuss board fundraising with her.

You won’t want to miss this.

About Gail Perry

Gail Perry, a long time fundraising expert and consultant, was recently named to Philanthropy Media’s list of America’s top fundraisers. She especially enjoys working with board members to help them become better fundraisers.

Her book, Fired Up Fundraising: Turn Board Passion Into Action, is the gold standard for developing successful fundraising boards.

Gail has also served on more than 22 (!!!) boards herself. If we were going to ask anyone the right way to help our boards become more involved in fundraising, Gail is our gal. Have a listen.

In this episode:

  • Why pushing your board to fundraise is the wrong approach
  • Where it does make sense for your board to engage in fundraising
  • Why successful fundraising is less about “the ask” and more about retention
  • How to improve donor retention
  • The worst possible way to raise money
  • How to make “thank-you” calls that increase your donations by 39%!!
  • The 4 steps to a major gift ask
  • The appropriate role for a development committee

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Ep 34: Leading a Small (But Mighty) Nonprofit (With Joan Garry)

nonprofits are messyThis episode is a little different than those that have come before.

We’ll get back to the regular “interview” format next time. But today I wanted to directly answer a few of the many, many questions I get on a daily basis from leaders at smaller nonprofits who simply don’t have the same kind of resources available to them as their counterparts at larger nonprofits.

While my consulting practice tends to focus on medium and large nonprofits, I am determined to find ways to help reduce the challenges that the leaders of “small but mighty” nonprofits face. I have some big ideas on this topic that I’ll announce soon, but in the meantime, this podcast episode is a small step towards just that.

Another upcoming opportunity that’s tailor made for smaller nonprofits (though larger nonprofits will benefit too) is a free online workshop I’m running starting on May 10. It’s called “How to Build a Thriving Nonprofit” and is designed for both staff and board leaders.

I hope you’ll join me in the workshop and you can register at www.thrivingnonprofit.org.

In this episode:

  • Who should handle which tasks at a small nonprofit?
  • Should a small nonprofit be run more like a business?
  • What can the board do when a founding ED leaves things a mess and trains the new ED to run things the same way… poorly?
  • How do you fix a “rubber stamp” board?
  • Should an ED ever be in charge of running board meetings?
  • What should a new, first-time ED ask the outgoing ED?
  • Everyone is working insane hours and money is tight. How do you decide when it’s time to hire a new person to help lighten the load?
  • What resources are available to help leaders of small nonprofits, both on the staff and board sides?

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Ep 33: Successful Nonprofit Collaborations (With Geri Mannion)

nonprofits are messy

During my time at GLAAD, a funder convened a bunch of LGBT movement leaders. The funder wanted each nonprofit to share its 3-year strategic direction with the rest of the group. Many were unwilling to share.

Why? Was it that these leaders were fearful that somebody would “steal” good ideas? That a better funded organization would stomp on their missions? Yes, plus other reasons as well. How disappointing.

Nonprofit collaborations – the good and the bad – was a big topic at a recent conference I keynoted. I ran a breakout session and everyone laughed when the words “collaboration” and “hostility” appeared next to each other.

But I believe it takes a village to run a nonprofit. Today’s guest has spent her career giving away money. As a funder, she knows about the value of teamwork and will tell us a thing or two about the success that comes with nonprofit collaborations – and the potential hazards.

About Geri Mannion

As director of Carnegie Corporation’s U.S. Democracy Program, Geri Mannion brings a wealth of experience about the role of philanthropy in challenging, improving and deepening the civic dialogue. She has directed the division since 1998, after staffing the Corporation’s program of Special Projects for almost ten years.

Active in professional organizations that work to advance and strengthen the philanthropic and nonprofit world, Geri co-chairs the board of Grantmakers Concerned with Immigrants and Refugees, a national affinity group of funders active in supporting programs that impact immigrants.

In 2009, Geri, together with her colleague Taryn Higashi, received the Robert W. Scrivner Award for Creative Grantmaking, one of philanthropy’s highest honors, for founding the Four Freedoms Fund, a funder collaborative. In 2010, she was named as one of the nonprofit sector’s top fifty leaders by the Non-Profit Times.

Geri claims never to have had a bad day on the job… I needed to hear about that!

In this episode:

  • What gets in the way of nonprofit collaborations
  • How to figure out where your organization can be complementary with others and how to avoid overlap
  • What happens when the funders themselves collaborate
  • What is at the root of all successful alliances
  • How to build nonprofit collaborations between organizations at the state and national levels
  • How to tap into the huge energy that has come out of the last election cycle – getting people out of the stands and onto the field
  • Why it makes sense to view social media as program work rather than simply as communications or marketing

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Ep 32: Even Roger Federer Has a Coach (With Michael Bungay Stanier)

nonprofits are messy

The word “coach” can mean a lot of things, but for business and nonprofit leaders, an executive coach can make all the difference.

But coaching – rather than simply supervising – is also the best approach for leaders to work with their employees.

The importance of coaching – whether in the culture of your organization’s approach to leadership or explicitly with an executive coach – is the topic of today’s episode.

Maybe you think of coaching as an unaffordable luxury. After you listen to this episode, you just might change your mind.

About Michael Bungay Stanier

My guest today is Michael Bungay Stanier, senior partner at Box of Crayons, an organization that helps organizations do less good work and more GREAT work. Box of Crayons is known for its coaching programs that help managers coach successfully in just 10 minutes.

Michael was a Rhodes Scholar, has lived all over the world, and has written two books: The Coaching Habit and Do More Great Work. He is a sought-after speaker who regularly speaks to businesses and organizations and has delivered keynotes at conferences around the world. He was recognized in 2016 as the #2 coaching guru in the world.

Sufficed to say, Michael KNOWS coaching. And, today, he will share that knowledge with us.

In this episode:

  • The value (and risk) of hiring a coach from outside your organization
  • Finding the right “fit” in a coach
  • Why coaching should not be seen as a sign of weakness (and how to address it with those who see it that way)
  • Why adaptive change is more important than technical change (and what that means)
  • Three ways coaching can happen in your organization, even without an outside coach
  • How to build a “coaching habit” in 10 minutes or less

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Ep 31: Givers and Takers at Nonprofits (With Adam Grant)

nonprofits are messy

Once in awhile you read a book that really sticks with you and changes the way you think. For me, one of those was Give and Take by Adam Grant. It made me think about the kind of person I want to be in the world.

What is a giver? A taker? And how do those roles play out in a nonprofit organization…or in your life?

I had the great privilege to have New York Times bestselling author Adam Grant on the podcast to discuss these topics and more. I feel so lucky that I can share some of his insights with you through this episode.

About Adam Grant

Recognized as one of the world’s 25 most influential management thinkers and a member of Fortune’s “40 Under 40,” Adam Grant is the author of two New York Times bestselling books. Originals explores how individuals champion new ideas and leaders fight groupthink. Give and Take examines why helping others drives our success, and was named one of the best books of 2013. His third book, Option B, with Sheryl Sandberg, is on the topic of resilience and is due out in April.

Adam is the Saul P. Steinberg Professor of Management at Wharton School of Business and a professor of psychology. He has been Wharton’s top-rated professor for five straight years. Adam is a leading expert on how we can find motivation and meaning and how to live more generous and creative lives.

In this episode:

  • What does a successful “giver” look like, especially at a nonprofit?
  • How can givers avoid burnout?
  • How can givers avoid becoming a doormat?
  • How to weed out the “takers”
  • Why “matchers” are supremely critical in an organization
  • Why writing a book is rarely about the money
  • Adam’s book recommendations for the social sector
  • The importance of asking for help and the Reciprocity Ring

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Ep 30: Nonprofits Are Messy… So What? (with Tim Harford)

nonprofits are messy

I like to say that nonprofits are messy; so much so that I made it the title of this podcast series as well as the subtitle of my upcoming book.

But not everybody agrees. In fact, a few people have even reached out to me to argue that by calling nonprofits “messy,” I’m doing them a disservice.

But here’s what I think they miss. I believe that within the mess comes opportunity. Rather than fight the chaos, we can embrace it and recognize that good things can rise out of it.

Apparently, the late David Bowie agreed with me 100%, as I learned from today’s guest Tim Harford, author of the terrific book, Messy: The Power of Disorder to Transform Our Lives.

I sought Tim out as a kindred spirit who believes, as I do, in the opportunity that exists in the passion that is messiness. He and I had a fascinating conversation about how organizations view the world versus how it actually is and how to embrace chaos to your advantage. I absolutely loved our conversation and I think you will too.

About Tim Harford

Tim is an economist, a journalist, a broadcaster, and the author of four books on economics. He writes a long-running column for the Financial Times, The Undercover Economist, which reveals the economic ideas behind everyday experiences. His new column, Since You Asked, offers a skeptical look at the news of the week.

But I was most intrigued by his book Messy: The Power of Disorder to Transform Our Lives. He is here today to talk with me about our shared belief in the potential of messiness and how to harness its power.

In this episode:

  • The importance of messiness, why we resist it, and why we should embrace it.
  • The world tends to value order and rules. So how can an organization shoot for messy instead?
  • Is a tidy desk a good sign of an organized person?
  • The operational case for diversity.
  • Given that so many nonprofit leaders feel like so much is at stake and they therefore cannot tolerate much risk, how can they still embrace messiness?
  • How to build your improvisational “muscle” and use it in your work.
  • The specific connection between messiness and the nonprofit sector: how to take advantage of it and not have it take advantage of you.

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Ep 29: Leadership Transitions: How to Avoid the Mess (with Don Tebbe)

nonprofits are messy

Every organization changes leadership at some point.

Perhaps somebody retires (lots of baby boomers have nonprofit leadership positions) or finds a new job elsewhere or terms off the board…

No matter what the circumstances, your organization will, at some point (maybe sooner than you think) go through a leadership transition.

A thriving nonprofit always has a transition plan in mind, no matter how strong the current leadership seems. But how exactly do you do this well? How do you keep your organization running smoothly through those transitional times?

To help us figure this out, I’ve asked Don Tebbe, an expert at planning successful leadership transitions, to join me today to give us all some great advice on how to navigate the waters of change.

About Don Tebbe

Don Tebbe literally wrote the book on this topic – several, in fact. He has led workshops for thousands of nonprofit executives facing retirement. Don co-founded an executive search firm that became a leader in executive transitions and succession. He has worked with thousands of nonprofits to find, interview and hire new leaders and knows this topic inside and out.

If you are going through a transition in your organization now, or think you might in the future (hint: that’s EVERYONE), you’ll get a lot of good information out of this podcast.

In this episode:

  • Recent trends in leadership transitions in the nonprofit sector
  • How to create a WRITTEN succession plan (and why it’s critical)
  • The single biggest mistake boards make in succession planning
  • The three things a board needs to do when confronted with a transition
  • Pros and cons of hiring internal candidates
  • What to do if you think you made the wrong hire

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Ep 28: Difficult Conversations in Uncertain Times (with Parisa Parsa)

nonprofits are messy

This week marks a major transition in the U.S. – a new president.

Whenever this happens, some people are thrilled and others are upset, anxious, worried. This is true even when a president is re-elected.

This year does feel different in some ways. Emotions are running higher than normal. So is skepticism. The country has become more polarized than it has been in a long time.

All too often, we’ve stopped listening to each other.

For my nonprofit clients who are feeling distressed, I remind you that the nonprofit world was created to help fill in the gaps where the government cannot – and perhaps should not – be involved. Whether those gaps will get bigger with the new administration, only time will tell.

But this does mean is that nonprofits are needed now more than ever. That strong leadership is needed more than ever. And that we have to start doing a better job of listening to each other.

It is with all of that in mind that I was anxious to have Parisa Parsa on the podcast. Paris is an expert in bringing people together and in this episode, Parisa will help us sort out how to have difficult conversations and find the opportunities in this challenging environment.

About Parisa Parsa

Parisa is the Executive Director of an organization called Essential Partners, a nonprofit that has worked for more than 25 years to facilitate difficult conversations. Parisa brings to us years of leadership experience, focused on training and cultivating others as leaders to build strong, healthy organizations.

Prior to joining Essential Partners, Parisa served as the Director of Congregational Development for the New England Unitarian Universalist Association, strengthening leaders and congregations through leadership development, and change management. An ordained minister, she has served in leadership roles for faith-based and social service organizations across the country.

She has fascinating insights into what is going on in our country and in nonprofits today.

In this episode:

  • Ways to stay grounded in times of chaos
  • Lessons from the Karate Kid
  • The keys to making a difficult conversation productive
  • How to use the Reflective Structure Dialogue (RSD) method to help facilitate better conversations
  • Advice for leaders moving into uncharted waters

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Ep 27: Confessions of a Terrible Board Member (with Eileen Opatut)

nonprofits are messy

What if a prospective board member looks great “on paper” but doesn’t pan out as the five-star board member you’d expected?

Is it their fault? Yours?

Is it possible to anticipate when it just won’t work?

Eileen Opatut has been an unsuccessful member of several boards and can help shed light on the experience from the board member’s perspective.

Today, Eileen and I try to answer some of these questions and tease out the subtle (and not so subtle) things that you can do to nurture and develop a board member with potential. We also discuss how to recognize when it was never going to work in the first place.

About Eileen Opatut

Eileen Opatut is a TV programming executive turned realtor/developer. She spent 8 years at the helm of The Food Network. Eileen is deeply passionate about a variety of causes and has served on several nonprofit boards. She’s smart, strategic, generous, and takes initiative.

Sounds like the perfect board member, right? And yet, Eileen has never once had a positive board experience.

In this episode:

  • Why being intentional is so critical for finding and bringing on prospective board members.
  • How a good orientation process can make a huge difference.
  • How much board communication is too much? Too little?
  • Characteristics that help somebody be successful at work but are detrimental to board service.
  • What a failed board member thinks you should look for in prospective board members.
  • The value of having non-board members on your board committees.
  • Advice on what to consider if you are approached to be on a board.
  • The importance of interviewing — for both the board prospect and the organization.

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