Diversity – What Kathy Griffin Teaches Us

Diversity – What Kathy Griffin Teaches Us

Lack of the right kind of diversity can be a killer.   Just ask Kathy Griffin.  She got into some scalding water for a staged photo of herself holding President Trump’s severed head. It is a disturbing pic. To start, I’m a fan of Griffin.  Her cutting and brassy wit enlivened many an appearance on Howard Stern. She comes out of a lineage of loud, brash, edgy female comics going back to Phyllis Diller.   The highlight of Kathy’s career was the 2009 celebrity roast of Joan Rivers: bitch meets bitch. The fascinating part of this decapitation story is that no one stepped in along the process to tell her the concept was a terrible, horrible, no-good move.   Off the top of my head, I’d guess the whole production had to include at a minimum:  her photographer, stylist, mannequin designer, publicist, and agent.  Toss in her creative team (advisors, friends), and we’re talking at least 12-15 people who at no time took Griffin aside to forcefully say, “This is an incredibly a bad idea”. In that circle, the decapitation photo was provocative but acceptable. The world swiftly stepped in to say they were badly mistaken.   Stupid People Moves I write extensively about how groups of really, really smart people can get together and make really, really disastrous decisions.   Choices which lead to bankruptcy, career suicide and even jail time.   In this case, I hope it doesn’t leave Kathy Griffin scrubbing toilets to make the rent. But I also hope it helps her, and the rest of us, think deeper about the idea of diversity. {AlSO READ: How in-group thinking almost...
Let’s Kill Our Fundraising Event

Let’s Kill Our Fundraising Event

The worst way to raise money is by holding a fundraising event.  The occasion should be about building our tribe, not our balance sheet. “But”, I hear you say, “events are going on in my town every day; golf tournaments, auctions, raffles.   They generate tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars. Are they all wrong?” No, they’re not all wrong, it’s just that we use fundraising galas for the wrong purpose.   It’s not about the money.  Not yet. Total Raised Does Not Equal Total Good Let’s get something out of the way to start.  We’re naturally envious to hear that ‘X’ organization raised $30,000 with their Golf Tournament. The reality is when they factor in the direct costs of green fees, food, beverage, facility, printing, mailing, etc.and/or) then that number drops to $15,000.  Now fold in the indirect costs of and volunteer time and they’re down to $5,000.    But they loudly trumpet the bejesus out of that $30,000 figure which is the gross revenue all the while remaining silent over the net revenue.   What’s worse is all the work that went getting their supporters to lay out $30,000 just to add $5,000 to their bottom line.  Even that paltry sum does not take into account the enormous opportunity costs which in any steely-eyed analysis means this event is a net loser.   Does this mean we should junk all such fundraising events?  No, it just means we need to adopt a more modest attitude about what these affairs are supposed to be about.  Our event should not sit on an island as an event.  Instead, it should be part of...
Strategic Planning Must Die – It’s Time To Go FAST

Strategic Planning Must Die – It’s Time To Go FAST

Ah, strategic planning.  In survey after survey, the majority of nonprofit board members express two strong sentiments:   1) strategic planning is a necessity and; 2) they hate the results they get from their strategic planning efforts. Strategy development is critical for us. It’s the key to envisioning a better future and taking mindful action to move in that direction. When thinking strategically we’re considering the world 5-10-15 years from now and not simply reacting to the marketplace on a daily basis. In today’s fast-paced economy, focused strategy helps us maintain our sanity while nurturing the organization we love. So while nonprofits believe strategy is necessary, we’re not getting the benefits hoped for from our investment. These poor experiences result in a cynicism about the strategy development process. What should be a dynamic exercise which has a big impact on our future becomes something that’s simply tolerated. And when our people feel as though they’re just sitting through yet another boring and predictable get-together, they’re not engaged, not creative, and not innovative. So what are some of the most common ways we kill nonprofit strategic development? Consider these three: Strategic Killer #1 – Failure To Understand What Strategy Is And What It Is Not. Far too often the “strategic plans” produced are crammed with initiatives summed up as: 1) Do what we’re already doing, just do more of it; 2) Do what everyone else is doing, but spend less money doing it; 3) Do something new because it looks like someone will pay for it. This is not strategy. It’s only an operational plan to grow our organization and its...
One Easy Way To Make Your Meeting Better

One Easy Way To Make Your Meeting Better

The Secretary Of The Department Of Education called me to the state capitol for what was assuredly a crucial meeting at 2:00 pm.  Canceling a few other appointments while making the 2-hour drive, I nibbled the last of my convenience store hot dog in the parking garage before making my way past security.  A quick side trip to the bathroom and then laid my rear into the plush leather chair while admiring the sheen on the imposing faux-oak conference table.   It was 1:50 pm. Then I waited. And I waited. At 2:10 one of the Undersecretaries arrived and was about to apologize for her lateness until she saw I was the sole occupant of the room.  Over the next 5 minutes the rest wandered in and thus we sat until Madam Secretary graced us with her presence at 2:25. By this time I felt the need to pee once more. The meeting was supposed to finish by three o’clock.   We finally adjourned at 3:45. Thus was my experience with another crappy meeting. According to research, anywhere from one-third to one-half of time spent in business meetings is mostly unproductive.   This is critical because the time spent in meetings has almost doubled over the past three decades. So what kills productivity?    Research suggests that the #1 meeting killer is Starts Late and Runs Long. Your most effective team members know how to manage their time.  They will be there on the hour.   The less capable lose control of their calendar and will arrive late.   Therefore delaying the start of your punishes your most productive people to accommodate your least useful. Then there’s the...
What To Do About Zombie Nonprofit Organizations?

What To Do About Zombie Nonprofit Organizations?

In my work with nonprofits it can feel like I’m in the Land Of The Living Dead with all the zombie organizations I encounter.  At times it feels like the world is awash in nonprofits which lumber on with grossly underpaid employees and dysfunctional infrastructure. Our communities are chock full of organizations with caring but demoralized staff, outdated information systems, semi-functional Boards Of Directors. So why aren’t more leaders asking themselves about their own relevancy.  If a nonprofit cannot raise enough capital to pay employees adequately as well as maintain a functional infrastructure, then perhaps it is time for the Board to ask, ‘If we can’t be first class, is it time to get out of the business?” In the Age Of Austerity nonprofits must continually surround themselves with different kinds of talent and ultimately discuss if the community would be better served by either merging or else relocating programs and closing up shop. In the private sector, companies frequently reach the limits of growth in their current state and face the choice of either gradual decay or of selling the operation. They can’t, on their own, acquire the resources to take the enterprise to the next level of competitive excellence. Unless they find a partner or buyer, the company eventually employs round after round of cost cutting: gutting professional development, sticking with antiquated equipment, eliminating employee benefits, job consolidations, layoffs, etc. This continues until a fire sale or bankruptcy. Yet in the nonprofit sector this continual decay never seems to reach the terminal stage. Organizations are able of secure just enough contracts or donations to barely limp along in a...
Why Our Service Organizations Are Dying (and how to fix them)

Why Our Service Organizations Are Dying (and how to fix them)

Nothing more American than a service club.  Rotary, Lions, Kiwanis, IOOF, Altrusa, Shriners……   Frenchman Alexis de Tocqueville rode all over the United States in the 1830s and was struck by the influence of religious, fraternal and civic organizations, and secret societies, on American democracy and concluded that they made communities stronger, more interesting, and more engaged. But there are some reason for concern. All of these service clubs, once the backbone of community life in America, have been in significant decline over the past 2-3 decades.  It is not that our clubs have changed.  America has changed.  Thus the imperative is for us to reinvent for a new America. Declining Social Capital In his 2000 book, “Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community,” Robert Putnam documented that attending club meetings, such as those held by Rotary and Kiwanis groups, has declined by 58 percent in the period 1975-2000.  This trend continued and even accelerated in the 21st century.   Putnam notes it’s part of an overall trend by Americans who also have 43 percent fewer family dinners. Thirty-five percent fewer of us have friends who drop in to see us at our homes. Pick an organization and the numbers are telling.  In the past two decades Rotary down 20%, Jaycees down 64%, Masons down 76%.  Recalling de Tocqueville’s observation about the role our clubs play in a civil society, this decline represents a tangible loss to community. The question remains, ‘Where do we go from here?” Since most service club leaders are in office but for one year, they shoot for short term quick fixes such as a membership...