“Working as an ESC consultant has reinforced the tremendous initiative people have taken to address issues in their own community or enhance the quality of life for others,” said John Woodard. John’s professional experience in labor and employment law may not seem like a natural segue to nonprofit consulting, but he said his expertise in collective bargaining, negotiating, and other sensitive processes has helped him to become the exceptional facilitator he is today. “As a lawyer, you learn to assimilate information about an organization and gather facts and be able to develop an overview of the situation,” he said. “You develop the ability to gather information and organize it in a way that can be useful.” This strength, and John’s interest in social impact work, was built through work with healthcare management unions, school committees and other community-based professional groups. His passion for community enrichment has also been utilized through a number of volunteer opportunities over the years in his hometown of Dedham, MA, and the greater Boston area. When it comes down to it, John knows that passion and the desire to do good are only as effective as the processes an organization uses to fulfill their missions. John has had endless success as an ESC consultant by applying hard questions like “How will certain actions impact the bottom line?” or “What is this development going to cost?”, and working with clients to facilitate understanding between staff, volunteers, donors and constituents, to conclude projects in a way that allows nonprofits he works with to produce the maximum social impact possible. John Woodard has served as an ESC consultant for over ten years. Being able to apply his expert skill in relationship management and conflict-resolution to such initiatives, he said, has and continues to be the sum of benefit of his work with ESC. As a testament to his commitment, John recently received the ESC of New England Ezra Merrill Founder’s Award, which annually recognizes one ESC consultant for exceptional contribution to both ESC and the nonprofit community at large.
In 2009, a group of retirees from Newburyport, MA, created an accidental nonprofit organization. The group had been meeting for years to discuss current events and hot topics in the community once a week when homelessness came to the table. The subject stayed strong in group members’ minds, and the next week, entirely out of character, homelessness was discussed again. They reviewed statistics on homelessness in the area with shock—who knew this financially sound community was home to families who had no place to call their own?
After weeks and months of continued discussion outside of the group’s weekly meetings, ROOF Over Head was born. Kerri Perry, ROOF’s current Co-President, joined the volunteer organization shortly thereafter in 2010.
“I can see how ESC’s services would be of value to an established organization that’s sort of set in its ways,” Kerri said, “but we were really malleable, and it grounded us.”
From the beginning, ROOF’s mission has been to provide temporary housing and a means for lasting financial independence. The program works to set qualified families up with a place to live—a roof over head—for up to two years, as well as a financial rehabilitation program conducted by a contracted independent social worker.
While the mission and intentions of the board were strong, Kerri said the 100% volunteer structure was becoming difficult for the organization to navigate as responsibilities and desires to do more increased.
Enter ESC Consultants Bob French and Louise Borke. The two came on as a team for a Strategic Planning consulting project in 2012 with the intention to focus ROOF’s efforts, and their success shocked the Co-President. Bob and Louise came in with different styles that worked perfectly together, according to Kerri. While Bob was more task-oriented, presenting and sticking to a plan right from the beginning, Louise would dig deep into the everyday operations of the organization to identify how best the Strategic Plan should be developed and implemented.
With ESC’s guidance, ROOF’s Strategic Planning project engaged a small group of volunteers who were assigned core areas of focus. Out of this came the creation of five committees, which the organization has continued to utilize, that cover all aspects of ROOF’s mission and the organization’s ability to meet its constituents’ needs.
Bob and Louise also made it clear that a volunteer organization cannot be top-heavy; in other words, work needed to be better distributed to volunteers other than those in executive positions. Once this was understood, ROOF was able to see more clearly how the established committees could be maximized, and recruitment efforts took off. Kerri said positions were filled by friends and neighbors that her organization hadn’t dreamed of before working with ESC.
“The outcome was unbelievable,” Kerri said. “It was unbelievable how much stronger, and sharper, and more efficient we became.”
ROOF’s board reviews the Strategic Plan annually, and Kerri cites the plan as the foundation of its continued success. The organization remains central to progress in Newburyport’s homelessness issues today.
ESC of New England offers a complimentary assessment visit to any nonprofit in eastern Massachusetts or Rhode Island seeking capacity building and management consulting. Please call or email Ulea Lago at 617-357-5550 or firstname.lastname@example.org today to make your appointment.
Guest blog post by ESC Consultant & Governance Expert Theresa Hamacher
If there’s an evergreen topic in the governance world, it’s comparing and contrasting nonprofit and corporate boards. Lengthy articles analyzing the similarities and differences appear at regular intervals in the nonprofit press.
Some of these pieces argue that the two types of boards are inherently the same, others tweeze out their differences. More than a few suggest that nonprofit boards could learn a thing or two from their corporate cousins. (For an example of this genre, there’s Policy vs. Paper Clips: How Using the Corporate Model Makes a Nonprofit Board More Efficient & Effective, now in its third edition.)
For a long time, I tried to join in the game, making lists of the strengths of nonprofit boards vs. corporate boards and vice versa – until I realized that the entire exercise was pointless, for two reasons.
First, there’s such incredible diversity just within each type of board that it’s impossible to address them all with one big generalization. Maybe it makes sense to compare Apple’s board to Harvard University’s board, but how can the Apple board’s experience be at all relevant to what happens on the board of my local nonprofit?
Even more importantly, there’s not much to be learned from comparing nonprofit and corporate boards because they do such different things. Nonprofit boards wear many different hats. They don’t just provide fiduciary oversight; they are also usually the organization’s biggest fundraisers, and the best ones are constantly recruiting for new members — and nonprofit directors are often pitching in to get the work done.
By contrast, corporate boards have a more limited role. Their primary purpose is providing that fiduciary oversight. Yes, they’re also involved in recruiting, though with a lower rate of turnover in their membership, it’s more intermittent project than at a nonprofit. Corporate boards generally don’t get involved in operations, and fundraising is irrelevant.
So if we were to narrow this bloated debate down to a single pertinent question, it might be, “Do Apple’s board and Harvard’s board handle fiduciary oversight any differently?” I think that the answer would be “no,” but where’s the fun in that?
Do you agree? What’s your experience of the differences and similarities between nonprofit and for-profit boards? Do you have a favorite article with a compare and contrast?
Adapted from 8 Habits of Great Nonprofit Boards: A Handbook for Smaller Nonprofits [forthcoming] and published with permission of the author. © 2014 Theresa Hamacher
ESC Consultant Mike Byrnes knows a thing or two about social media. You may have seen him speak at a past ESC engagement or at any one of his appearances around the globe—his company, Byrnes Consulting LLC, specializes in social media and online marketing, and he’s been an incredible resource for ESC nonprofit clients over the years. But did you know that Mike is particularly savvy about his LinkedIn use? In 2012, he was notified that his profile was one of the top 1% most viewed LinkedIn profiled of that year out of over 200 million members (LinkedIn recently exceeded 300 million members). We think we can trust in his advice on how to this platform to your nonprofit’s advantage.
In terms of nonprofit organizations and affiliated individuals, LinkedIn can be an incredible resource when used correctly. One of the features Mike points out in his ESC Social Media workshop is the Advanced Search tool. Through this, you can search for keywords, names, titles, companies, schools and locations; you can search for first connections, second connections or third; you can whittle those searches down to current or past company, industry, nonprofit interest; and if you have LinkedIn Premium, the options are even greater. This tool would be of particular interest to nonprofits searching for board members, volunteers, staff applicants and even new donors. Especially with the addition of volunteer experience to LinkedIn profiles, nonprofits are at an advantage to use this social networking tool.
While using the Advanced Search tool is incredibly beneficial to nonprofit organizations and individuals alike, nonprofit leaders should also be tuned into the benefit of LinkedIn’s “Recommendations” feature. This allows connections to write personal recommendations to you, which, as it is for any nonprofit management professional, reflects your organization.
Mike suggests that nonprofit professionals regularly thank their peers and associates by writing short recommendations so that you may get them in return—this can offer a huge boost to your nonprofit’s reputation directly through you, and what better way to give back to the cause you care most about? Five minutes of writing some positive words could mean five new clients for your organization or a five-thousand dollar donation from a previously unconnected donor.
Would your nonprofit benefit from a social media consulting project? Contact Ulea Lago, ESCNE Director of Consulting, at email@example.com or call 617-357-5550 to find out how a consulting project with ESC of New England could help your eastern Massachusetts or Rhode Island nonprofit.
In nonprofit marketing, it is essential for leaders to define the target audience they hope to reach and make aware of their organization.
In their Messaging workshop, ESC Consultants Marjorie Bauer and Debra Yanofsky teach that targeting is the first step in a market positioning process, which consists of:
1.) Defining the target audience
2.) Selecting a category, or frame of reference, for your organization to fall under
3.) Differentiating your organization from competitors, and
4.) Creating a reason for potential clients to believe in your nonprofit.
Since the first step creates a foundation for your nonprofit marketing project, it is essential to think critically about the individuals and organizations you hope to connect with, whether they be constituents, volunteers, donors or board members.
In Principles of Marketing, Philip Kotler & Gary Armstrong define a target market as “a set of constituents sharing common needs, values or characteristics that an organization decides to serve.” What does this mean to your nonprofit? It may be helpful to look to the mission to define your target audience—does your nonprofit serve families? Public schools? A local park? As you can see, while looking to the mission can be helpful you often must go several steps deeper to define the target audience. For example, if your organization’s mission is to protect a local park, you’ll have to identify the people that protecting the park serves: children who can safely play, active adults who run their animals through down manicured paths, and individuals or corporations whose businesses benefit from the park, like property management professionals who profit from their real estate’s proximity to clean, safe recreation space. You should dig as deep as you can to define the targets, perhaps through a short brainstorming session or two among staff or board members.
Most nonprofits have multiple targets since they must cater to donors, clients, funders and volunteers all at once, yet any strong marketing campaign must have a key audience, a primary audience in this case. Debra and Marjorie visualize this in ven diagram style. The Primary audience is defined first and foremost, and all other audiences, which are relatively standard within the nonprofit community, branch off of this primary target audience. The branches do not overlap—they only stem from that defined primary audience—but a robust nonprofit marketing campaign should speak to all parts of an organization’s audience clearly.
Throughout your nonprofit’s marketing project, it is important to remember that positioning works to define what people actually think of your organization rather than what you hope or intend them to think. The complexity of the process often calls for a marketing consulting project, and through such services your organization can, over time, influence your audience more effectively.
If your organization is in need of marketing assistance, an ESC consulting project may be right for you. We offer consulting in marketing, branding, and a variety of other capacity building and management areas to nonprofits in eastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Please contact Ulea Lago, ESCNE Director of Consulting, at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 617-357-5550 today for more information.
Every nonprofit management process needs tools to help organizations maximize their impact. Outcomes measurement is no exception. ESC Consultant Barry Seltser offers the idea of a Logic Model Ladder to help nonprofit leaders better organize their efforts during an outcomes measurement consulting project or everyday meeting.
Outcomes are important to three main components of any nonprofit’s practices: the funders, the organization in general, and you—the nonprofit management professional. Since this idea touches all key aspects of nonprofit organizations, it’s important to understand it. That’s where the Logic Model Ladder comes in. This tool is an excellent way for each individual and operation team tied to your organization to visually comprehend the impact of outcomes. Barry suggests breaking down each program under your organization’s umbrella with the Logic Model Ladder so that all may see four things: the goal of the program (why it exists), inputs and resources (who and what is being invested), activities (what each program is actually doing), and outputs (what is being produced, what services are provides, and what products are offered or delivered).
On the most basic level, the Logic Model Ladder provides a visual of how your organization starts with one set of staff members, funding, knowledge and other concrete entities, and ends with, ideally, increased client knowledge, improved living conditions, an increased capacity to find a job, or a number of other positive outcomes grounded in your organization’s mission.
While the Logic Model Ladder is an incredibly helpful tool to nonprofit organizations, its effectiveness may not be apparent if your organization’s goals and potential outcomes are not defined. If your nonprofit organization could benefit from an Outcomes Measurement consulting project, please contact Ulea Lago, ESCNE Director of Consulting, at email@example.com or call 617-357-5550 to find out how we can help. ESC of New England offers a 2-hour complimentary assessment visit to all interested nonprofits in eastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island.