Non-profit leadership is the great equalizer

leadership2Last night I had the privilege of being invited to a non-profit organization’s year-end holiday party stewardship event. In attendance were board members, capital campaign volunteers, auxiliary members, and various other stakeholders. There was no solicitation presentations, but there were a few powerful testimonials from alumni and lots of gratitude. The energy in the room was palpable, and I was reminded me of the old expression that “hope floats“.  It was in this dynamic setting that I had an amazing conversation with someone about the power of leadership.
In the middle of the event, I got locked into a conversation with a former board member. He is an alumnus of the agency’s programs, and he did two different stints on the board of directors. So, the conversation naturally migrated to how much the organization has changed throughout the many decades he has been involved.
Right in the middle of the conversation about organizational change and capacity building, this gentleman paused, appeared to reflect genuinely about what he was going to say, and then said:

“It is all about leadership and who the board hires to lead the organization.”

While I like to think your organization’s formula for success is about a variety of ingredients, I can’t really argue with this wise alumni and former board member’s assessment. I’ve seen lots of organizations overcome large gaps in their formula for success just because they have the right leaders sitting around the boardroom table and sitting in the CEO’s seat.
This comment also got me thinking about a recent CEO job search process that I helped a client lead. There was lots of conversation around “what does the right person look like” and what skill sets and experiences does the right person need to possess.
leadership1The following is a list of competencies and skill sets the search committee reviewed during its search criteria conversations:
Communication skills

  • Informing
  • Listening
  • Presenting
  • Writing

Decision making skills

  • Analyzing
  • Fact Finding
  • Innovating
  • Judgment
  • Problem Solving
  • Systemic Thinking

Developing Organizational Talent

  • Coaching
  • Delegating
  • Performance Management
  • Providing Feedback
  • Staff Development

Leadership Skills

  • Developing Commitment
  • Empowering
  • Encouraging Innovation
  • Facilitation
  • Influencing
  • Leading By Example
  • Managing Change
  • Providing Recognition
  • Team Building

Personal Initiation Skills

  • Contributing to a Positive Work Environment
  • Organizational Awareness
  • Personal Development
  • Proactivity
  • Professional Development
  • Striving for Excellence

Planning Skills

  • Action Planning & Organizing
  • Business Planning
  • Monitoring
  • Project Management
  • Recruitment
  • Strategic Planning
  • Time Management

Quality Skills

  • Implementing Quality Improvements
  • Satisfying Customer Requirements
  • Using Meaningful Measurements

Relationship Skills

  • Conflict Management
  • Meeting Skills
  • Negotiating
  • Networking
  • Relationship Building
  • Teamwork

Safety, Health & Environment Skills

  • Fostering Organizational Wellness
  • Supporting a Safe Environment

Hmmmm? Leadership is the great equalizer, but it certainly starts looking complicated once you begin searching for it.    🙂
What skill sets have you looked for when trying to hire or recruit the right leaders into your non-profit organization? Please use the comment box below to share your thoughts and experiences.
Here’s to your health!
Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

Capping nonprofit CEOs salaries and bonuses?

For the last two days, I have blogged about the impact of government funding on non-profit organizations’ fundraising programs. All of this talk about Uncle Sam and the non-profit sector got me thinking about government funding and the for-profit sector (e.g. bank bailouts, farm subsidies, Occupy Wall Street, etc). So, it wasn’t a big leap in my head when I jumped from for-profit corporations taking public funds to limiting CEO compensation and then back to how this all relates to compensation of non-profit CEOs who accept public funds.

LOL … yes, my mind has been wandering a lot lately.  I blame the sugar rush from Halloween.  😉

You only need to go back a few years in the news cycle to recall that segments of the public were incensed by the federal government’s TARP program, which was our country’s bank re-liquidation and bailout program. Part of that public debate (and it is being rehashed by the Occupy Wall Street protesters) is that for-profit corporations that accept public funds subject themselves to a different level of accountability and regulation by “We The People”.

Well, if you buy into this argument, then don’t you need to logically do the same for non-profit organizations who accept government funding?

While the IRS is currently charged with monitoring 501(c)(3) non-profit organizations’ executive compensation to ensure it is in line with similar size agencies in similar sized communities through a provision called the “private inurement rule,” the question I pose goes a little bit further. The aforementioned question asks if local city councils, state legislatures and Congress can or should legislate concrete rules around non-profit executive compensation for those who accept public funding. For example, if “non-profit agency X” accepts a grant from their local city council, then that board of directors of “non-profit agency X” agrees to abide by a local ordinance that defines what the city council sees as reasonable and acceptable compensation.

This debate was well frame by two individuals who I saw commenting on a Charity Navigator blog post.

Here is how one side of the coin sounds:

“I would suggest that we put some of these salaries in context (just as you did with the American Red Cross).  Some of these CEO’s are managing organizations that are multi-million dollar “businesses.”  As such, their salary compensation is reflective of the size of the organization’s revenue and project stream.”

Here is how the other side of the coin sounds:

“Comparing these salaries to “for-profit” salaries is just ridiculous. These organizations exist out of the goodness of the people who contribute. We give under the impression that we are Helping others….NOT Helping CEOs to get rich.”

Of course, neither of these points-of-view deal with the issue of what to do with non-profit organizations who accept public sector funding like the for-profit banking sector did when they accepted TARP funds.

So, here is the deal . . . I sometimes write blog posts with a very specific point of view. Other times I’ll approach a subject without any idea of what my opinion is and organically let things unwind. I am approaching this subject with a very open-mind, and I’ll use tomorrow’s and Friday’s blog posts to focus on this subject.

What this means is that I would like a spirited discussion among the readership of this blog. Please use the comment box below to weigh-in with your thoughts. You are even encouraged to post questions if you’re as undecided as I am.

If you want to read more on non-profit compensation best practices, our friends at “Nonprofit Law Blog” did an outstanding job with their posts titled: “Compensation Strategies and Best Practices for Non-Profit Organizations” . . . click here for Part One and here for Part Two.

How does your agency currently ensure that its compensation is in-line with community standards and in compliance with IRS rules? Does the acceptance of public funding “change the math” in your head when you look at this issue? Do you see similarities or differences between the comparisons I draw between for-profit corporations accepting public funds and non-profit organizations doing the same? What role does the donor play in all of this? Should donors expect total transparency for the non-profit organizations they support?

Please take a few moments to weigh-in using the comment box below. It will only take a minute or two out of your day, and doing so will enrich the discussion tomorrow and Friday. Besides, as I always say, we can all learn from each other.

Here is to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847|