Colleen Dilenschneider

When Art Museum Directors Talk Trash, Everybody Wins.

Directors at the Indianapolis Museum of Art (Max Anderson) and the New Orleans Museum of Art (John Bullard), after a series of playful trash-talking, have made public bets on who will win the Super Bowl this weekend… and they bet famous works of art.

"Ideal View of Tivoli", 1644, by Claude Lorrain, Which NOMA will loan to the IMA if the Colts win the Super Bowl.

JMW Turner's The Fifth Plague of Egypt, 1800, which the IMA will lend to NOMA if the Saints win the Super Bowl.

The wager: If the Colts win the Super Bowl, the New Orleans Museum of Art will lend Claude Lorrain’s, Ideal View of Tivoli, 1644, to the Indianapolis Museum of Art for three months. If the Saints win, on the other hand, the Indianapolis Museum of Art will lend out Turner’s The Fifth Plague of Egypt, 1800.

 

But it doesn’t matter who wins the Super Bowl this Sunday. Anderson and Bullard are winners in spreading their missions either way– just because they made the wager. Here’s why this bet is a step forward for museums in terms of mission and community engagement (and the reasons are cooler than you think):

 

1) The bet will build community and mix popular cultures.

Makes sense, right? Being a sports fan builds a sense of community; it’s something that a group of fans come together to care about. The art directors’ bet piggy-backs the art museum culture with the sport-watching culture, which is one of passion and identity. And why shouldn’t communities feel the same sense of ownership and connection with their city’s art museum as they feel with their city’s sport teams? Anderson and Bullard are demonstrating pride in their cities by making the wager, and aligning themselves directly with the members of the community- all of whom are also hoping for a win on Sunday. Anderson and Bullard are saying that the museum cares about a win just as much as the rest of Indianapolis and New Orleans do- and they’ll put their money where their mouth is. In turn, the community knows that folks representing the IMA and NOMA will be gasping, cheering, and shouting their lungs out along side them as they are watching the game; it’s a powerful thing. On the first day that the Lorrian is on display at NOMA (or Turner at IMA), a local will stand in front of it and say, “We won the bet!”

 

2) Scientifically speaking, the bet lights up the brains of art-lovers.

… but not in the way that you’re probably thinking. Many museums have missions to educate- and this public wager does just that. Of course, you learn a thing or two about art while looking over the give-and-take that led to the final wager (I certainly didn’t know that the Indianapolis Museum of Art owns a farm). Interestingly, a 2008 study from The University of Chicago finds that spectators’ brains light up when talking about sports, and their language skills are improved. According to the article, “the region of the brain usually associated with planning and controlling actions is activated when players and fans listen to conversations about their sport.” Most obviously, the bet encourages museum-fans to watch their city’s team (if only for hope of gaining a Turner or a Lorrain in their town) and art-lovers are exposed to this benefit. Or at least I will be, as I was neutral about the outcome of the Super Bowl until I realized that I will be in Indiana in the Summertime…

 

3) The bet makes art aficionados biologically happier.

To non-sports fans, the bet may seem silly– but sports fans are less prone to depression than those disinterested in sports. Gambling also increases dopamine levels in the brain, making fans– of the museum and the teams–happier. It’s a welcome change of pace, especially since human beings are hardwired to avoid conflict and we usually think of museums as on the same team. This is not to say that art museums should go betting works of art left and right, but it is to say that the friendly competition is an exciting and healthy change for museum lovers. After all, scientists credit social competition for human beings’ increasing brain-size. So thanks for keeping us happy, Anderson and Bullard– and for expanding our brains.

 

4) The bet has sass- and so do museums.

This wager makes Robert Smithson look silly for saying, “Museums are tombs, and it looks like everything is turning into a museum.” Well, at least the first part looks dumb. Case in point: check out these trash-talking (friendly) tweets. Anderson and Bullard challenge the notion that museums are cold, static, outdated, and lifeless places. These museums have attitude, and they are acting in regard  to current real-life situations. As for the last half of Smithson’s quote, it seems that everything is turning into a museum– or more accurately, museums are turning into places for everything… like friendly community-building wagers.

Posted on by Colleen Dilenschneider in Community Engagement, Digital Connectivity, Trends 5 Comments

Lessons from Haiti: Mobile Giving in 2010

This post is a prompt by the Nonprofit Millennial Bloggers Alliance to further increase awareness of the Haiti earthquake and its victims, and highlight take-aways for nonprofit organizations and their supporters.

A (made-up) business card with a call to action.

Since the 7.0 magnitude earthquake in Haiti last week, American’s have been publicizing ways to give to those affected by the crisis– and we’ve raised well over 150 million dollars for the cause. 11 million dollars have come from a single donation method: texting. (and this is already outdated! Mashable was encouraging readers to donate in order to raise 20 million dollars by midnight last night through the Red Cross Text Message Campaign alone.)

Folks can donate $10 from their cell phone bill to Red Cross relief efforts by SMS texting “HAITI” to 90999, or donate $5 to Yele Haiti’s Earthquake relief efforts by SMS texting “YELE” to 501501. It’s the cool, new way to give. It’s easy and it adds up. Though this method of giving is not ideal for the Haiti crisis (as funds need to be delivered immediately and may be held up), the widespread popularity of this method of giving offers a new strategy for nonprofits’ to incorporate in their fundraising plans. There’s reason to believe that nonprofits who can work with organizations like the Mobile Giving Foundation to incorporate mobile giving will see, as evidenced through text-based giving to the Haiti crisis, an increase in donations and a new kind of donor. Here’s why:

 

It’s easy to give through text. The average American sends 14 text messages every day, and as a country, we send 4.1 billion text messages each day. Mobile phone use has continued to increase for years. In order to give, the donor doesn’t even need to get his or her credit card ready. He or she simply sends a text message and the donation is taken from the donor’s cell phone bill. The easier it is to do something, the more likely people are to do it. We all know how to text, so we all know how to give.

 

Mobile makes it cool to give. Cell phones are providing us with the newest and easiest ways to do everything. You can manage your bank account with your iphone or use it as a GPS. The ability to give via text message is another cool, new way for Americans to use a convenient tool that they already love. It combines technology and giving. There’s instant appeal.

 

Small donations add up. Donating $10 to Haiti via text message does not sound like a big donation– but American’s have collectively donated over 11 million via text (at the very least); that’s more than 1,100,000 people using their cell phones to donate to Haiti. Nonprofits could, over time, raise a lot of money for their cause. What if nonprofits add the call to action in their e-mail signature or on business cards? It’s an open door to easy giving that can lead to major funding.

 

Small donations build relationships. A downside to text-based donations is that it is one-way giving. Though it is up to the donor to follow-up and continue to build a relationship with the organization/make themselves known, the first step of the fundraising pyramid has taken place because the donor felt connected to the cause and contributed. Nonprofits should utilize text-based giving to strengthen their fundraising efforts– especially if they are active on Twitter, Facebook, or other types of social media where they have many fans, but are having troubles transforming them into donors.

Posted on by Colleen Dilenschneider in Trends 6 Comments

The Nonprofit Leadership Deficit Won’t be as Bad as We Think

The Bridgespan Group released a study in 2006 revealing that we’ll need a staggering 640,000 new nonprofit senior managers by 2016 (that’s 2.4 times the number currently employed) to fill the leadership gap left when baby-boomers retire. We talk about this all the time. Thomas Tierney has famously driven the subject home: we’ll have to recruit the equivalent of “more than 50% of every MBA graduating class, at every university across the country, every year for the next 10 years.” And, according to the study, we’ll need 78,000 new senior managers in 2016 alone. That’s a lot of people!

Though we rightfully take this study very seriously in the nonprofit world, the deficit will not be this bad. The study is only three years old, but it is already outdated because it assumes that the nonprofit sector will function in the exact same way in 2016 as it did in 2006. Though there will most likely be a gap when baby-boomers retire and it is in our best interest to mentor and train emerging leaders, here’s what we need to remember about the deficit prediction:

 

1. Nonprofits will always evolve to maximize their allocation of resources (or, the world keeps moving):

  • Public, private, and nonprofit sectors will need to defy the most basic rules of economics in order to hit the high numbers on this leadership deficit. For instance, according to the study, we’ll need an extra 2,000 more leaders than we do right now just because there will be more nonprofits- and nonprofit organizations have larger senior leadership teams than for-profit companies. Organizations will evolve based on their needs; that’s economics. They will learn how to appropriately allocate their resources. If there’s a leadership deficit, nonprofits will think long and hard about their existing capabilities before spending excessive hard-earned resources trying to attract an unnecessary and endangered nonprofit leader.
  • The study predicts a relatively steady increase in numbers of nonprofit organizations throughout the decade following the publication (2006-2016), but the recession took a toll on nonprofits in 2009 and 30% resorted to layoffs- which means that there are fewer nonprofit employees now than there were at the start of 2009. Tierney admitted in his 2006 article that things could happen to lessen the number of nonprofit organizations, but the fact remains that something has already changed the projected numbers.
  • 9,000 nonprofit leaders are predicted to transition out of the sector in the next decade, but the study does not take into account senior managers that might be transitioning into the sector. It’s not a no-entry zone; people will want to be coming in. At some points the nonprofit sector may be more or less popular, but let’s assume that over the decade 9,000 leaders (the same amount that transitioned out) will transition into the sector. Though those transitioning out should certainly be added to the number of leaders we’ll need in general, there’s no certain deficit here. It’s the way the world turns.


2. We are entering an era of social responsibility and a desire to make a difference (or, enter: Generation Y)

  • Will there be a smaller supply of people to fill the roles left vacant by several thousand baby-boomer retirees?  Yes. A shorter supply of leaders, though? Probably not. Generation Y is itching to make a difference, and they have the (nontraditional) skills to do it. With the onset of a new generation and a different kind of leader, it seems natural that trends assumed by the article will change– and even if they don’t, we’re looking at a generation who prefers to work for the social good. Tierney dedicates a portion of his article to the projected difficulties of recruitment during the deficit, saying that organizations will need to spend more to compete with for-profit businesses to recruit the best and brightest. In today’s world, though, many of the best and brightest are already dedicating themselves to social change.


3. If the need won’t go away, then neither will the support (or, as long as there is cancer, we will be fighting it.)

  • Entrepreneur magazine says “find a need and fill it” is the first basic step in building a successful company. It’s not a new idea. As long there’s a need– such as a need to fight cancer (1.4 million people die every year in North America) or a need to strengthen our education system (70% of eighth graders cannot read at grade level)– then there’s an opportunity to raise or make money to fill that need. Tierney describes the ultimate consequence of the deficit, “While the sector stumbles, the deepest suffering will be visited upon the millions of people who rely, directly and indirectly, on the services that nonprofits provide and the social value they create.” This is only true if our society is wholly unable to respond to the deficit in every sector. And even if this is so, some nonprofit missions simply will not be ignored in society. Nobody wants to stop fighting cancer.

Though there may be fewer leaders, they will evoke change if they are good ones. Weak nonprofits that are unable to find effective leaders will consolidate to strengthen heartier nonprofit organizations. Nonprofits will increasingly team up with businesses to get their word out– and if everyone knows that nonprofits are failing, then intersectoral partnerships will benefit both collaborators: there’s money for the nonprofit’s cause, and even greater corporate social responsibility attributed to businesses that strengthen them.

This is not to say that there won’t be a deficit at all. 18,000 leaders will be retiring out of leadership roles before 2016– but we must approach the problem with more than an eye to what nonprofits must do to cultivate new leaders. We must consider that this deficit will affect the way that the civic sector operates as a whole. If even the conservative findings of the Bridgespan Group’s study are true, then nonprofits will suffer. They will find ways, however, to evolve to operate most efficiently and they will shut their doors if they cannot survive due to mediocre leadership, which may decrease mission competition and ultimately strengthen society’s ability for social change.

Posted on by Colleen Dilenschneider in Trends 1 Comment

Survival of the Kindest

Photo by lmnop88a

According to a recent article, there’s scientific reason to believe that human beings may have evolved from the inherently selfish beings of the past (think philosophies of Darwin and Hobbes), into inherently caring and compassionate beings.  In fact, UC Berkeley psychologist, Dacher Keltner, pinpoints altruism as the precise reason why we are a successful species. The article even goes so far as to say:

This new science of altruism and the physiological underpinnings of compassion is finally catching up with Darwin’s observations nearly 130 years ago, that sympathy is our strongest instinct”

Some of our great-grandparents could have actually said, “back when competition was the most basic human instinct…”

Here are a few of the many basic points from the article from Science Daily.  Again, be sure to check it out for more in-depth information:

  • Our brain secretes oxytocin (“the cuddle hormone”) which promotes social interaction and compassion. “The tendency to be more empathetic may be influenced by a single gene,” the article reads.
  • In psychological games, studies have found that the more players gave to the “public good,” the more respect they received– and those who acted in their own self-interest during these studies were shunned.
  • Parents raising socially conscious kids (by teaching gratitude and generosity), find their children become more resilient (there’s an echo of the survival of the fittest).

This is more than just good news for nice guys who are sick of finishing last (and probably haven’t been finishing last for a long while). If we are physically evolving into more caring beings, then our way of life is and has been  evolving with us. I believe it’s hard to say how culturally different we would be if we were still producing low levels of oxytocin.

But these studies and the possibility that we are evolving to the benefit of the public good make me excited (if only for this moment) about our growth. Though perhaps a stretch, I like to believe that the inclination for social change will continue to thrive and mature with my children and grandchildren.

Posted on by Colleen Dilenschneider in Miscellaneous 4 Comments

A Good Nonprofit Leader is Worth a Million Bucks

(or 5 reasons why you should care that Jeffrey Raikes doesn’t make 7 figures)

The debate over nonprofit CEO compensation seems a never-ending issue that has professionals weighing in on both sides of the argument. Some say that higher salaries promote and attract better leadership, while others argue that lower wages are appropriate as they allow more money to go back into the organization.

The unwavering example of a CEO with excessive compensation seems to be Jeffrey S. Raikes of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation who makes an annual salary of $990,000. Perhaps Raikes is the excessive-pay go-to example because he’s already sitting on a fortune from his past position as the president of the Business Software Division at Microsoft.  Or perhaps it’s because the former CEO of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Patricia Q. Stonesifer,  didn’t have a paycheck at all (and now serves  as the Chairwoman of the  Smithsonian Institution for no pay).  Whatever the reason, I’d like to present– for argument’s sake– five reasons why nonprofit leaders should care that Jeffery Raikes is not making seven figures.

 

1. The Gates Foundation has given away more money than the annual GDP of the entire country of Jordan– and their CEO makes less than Heidi Montag from The Hills.

The Gates Foundation gives out 3 billion dollars a year, and has made 21.08 billion dollars in grant commitments since its inception in 1994. Just one of their programs– The Global Alliance for Vaccinations and Immunizations— has saved over three million lives since 2000. The foundation has an undeniable impact and it’s called the largest transparently operated private foundation in the world. But it has to give large sums of money; charitable foundations are required to give away at least 5% of their assets each year in order to maintain tax exemption. This amounts to an annual giving of 1.5 billion US dollars each year from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which sits on 34.17 billion dollars in asset trust endowment. In other words, the foundation gives away the entire annual GDP of Belize each year in an effort to improve global health. And just think, the gentleman in charge of all of this (after Bill and Melinda Gates, of course) makes $10,000 less each year than the average joe can win on a game show.

 

2. Jeffrey Raikes is a personal philanthropist.

Though Jeffrey Raikes is making $990,000 each year, he’s giving a good portion of it back to the community. He has started his own foundation (with over 113 million dollars in assets) that provides support to teens and adolescents. He is a trustee at the University of Nebraska Foundation, and he is the designer of the University of Nebraska- Lincoln Jeffery S. Raikes School of Computer Science and Management. And when I looked up Heidi Montag and philanthropy, I discovered that she once served food at a Rescue Mission. This is honorable and certainly a contribution to society, but much different in scope and scale than Raikes efforts. In short, not all folks making more an a million dollars each year give back in the same way, and Raikes uses his six-figure salary to give back in a meaningful way even though he doesn’t have to because his job is already about making a difference. It seems that, to Jeffrey Raikes, philanthropy is more than a job; it’s a way of life.

 

3. Raikes isn’t the highest paid nonprofit CEO (In fact, some are paid double his salary)

According to Charity Navigator’s 2009 Compensation Study, that title belongs to the President of the University of Delaware who earns 2.37 million dollars per year, followed by the president of the Salk Institute for Biological Studies who makes 2.03 million dollars per year. In fact, CEOs in education, health, human services, and arts & culture make more money than CEOs in public benefit nonprofits such as foundations, according to Charity Navigator. This information is important because it means that Raikes does not represent a symbolic ceiling on nonprofit CEO salary. Folks in the private sector can make billions of dollars and the sky is the limit, but the most that a professional in the nonprofit sector can make is 2.37 million. Don’t get me wrong, that’s a massive chunk of change– and most nonprofit professionals don’t enter the sector because they think that is where they’ll make the most income– but the fact that there is a ceiling is hardly a good reason to keep an effective leader earning under seven figures.

 

4. Culture says: orchestrating a touchdown pass > saving millions from disease (x 4).

I don’t mean to pick on my new Trojan family, but Pete Carroll, the head football coach at the University of Southern California (a private nonprofit) makes 4.4 million dollars each year (which means I’d have to be enrolled in my grad program for 110 years in order for my tuition to pay for one year of Coach Carroll’s salary). He is also making two million dollars more per year than any nonprofit CEO in the nation.  In fact, his salary is four times larger than that of Jeffrey S. Raikes. There’s a cultural argument to be made here: football has its own set of rules in terms of what is considered competitive payment (need I remind readers of the recent buyout of Notre Dame’s Charlie Weis? Check out a bit of this letter from Notre Dame Professor, John O’Callaghan, for a peek at what this nonprofit-minded educator thinks of the buyout). Though this perspective has some cultural arguments against it, I think we should look at Raiker’s salary with this kind of information in mind.

 

5. Talent costs money (but if it doesn’t, then let’s not make CEO positions exclusive to those with private means).

“Talent costs money” is a popular warrant in business articles all over the internet, in all different sectors it seems. But Felix Salmon, in his article on the CEO’s salary, doubts that there’s a correlation between payment and talent, and thinks this is a silly excuse in the argument to pay Raikes seven figures.  To pay nonprofit CEOs little money because of their sector (and the effort to preserve funding for programs) is one thing, but I think the folks at Philanthrocapitalism make a good point when they argue that being a CEO for a nonprofit should not be exclusive to those with private means. As lines between public, nonprofit, and private sectors become blurry, CEO payment may start to change. In the meantime, let’s look at the broader picture before we get too upset about the salary of the CEO of the Gates Foundation. There are greater battles to be fought, and the $990,000 salary that many folks see as a travesty could also be seen as rightful, hard-earned, and important in the evolution of nonprofits as a whole.

Posted on by Colleen Dilenschneider in Trends 1 Comment

Weighing Outputs: Measuring Social Impact in Museums and Nonprofits

Photo from hollis333.wordpress.com

Since writing my last post, I’ve done a bit more thinking about our most recent prompt within the Nonprofit Millennial Bloggers Alliance: How do you measure social impact? Check out some of the responses so far. Don’t forget to follow us on twitter and add your 2 cents by using the tag #NMBA.

Evidence-based policy is not the only thing compelling museums and community centers to come up with some sort of accurate measure of social impact. Donors want to know where their money is going. How is the museum elevating the community? What is the impact of museum programs and exhibits?

…But how do you measure the unmeasurable? Perhaps a certain interactive exhibit at a science center inspired the spark that will fuel a young girl to become a paleoanthropologist in 15 years. How do we measure that– and how do we even know if that spark took place at all?

It makes sense that we have a tendency to focus primarily on outputs (clients served or number of programs performed) rather than outcomes (desired goals) in museum environments. According to Hill and Lynn in Public Management: a Three-Dimentional Approach,

“Outputs may be the only type of measure available, as outcomes may not be available until well after management decisions have been made. The question, then, is to what extent output measures actually correspond to outcome measures?”

Measuring solely outputs in museum environments (especially in regard to community engagement), provides an immediate advantage and a long-term disadvantage in attracting donors. Let’s examine, for example, the fact that the typical output measurement tends to be how many people participate in a program or community engagement event (let’s say that’s 50 people). Our desired outcome is a sparked interest in a certain subject matter (let’s say that 10 years after their visit, 5 people still remember the program and have taken classes in the subject matter, engaged friends in the subject, or passed along the lessons they learned during the program to their children).

Output reporting advantage: The museum may report to donors that 50 people participated in the program. That is 50 potential sparks. The amount reported here is not the amount of people who retained the lessons learned in the program (which we won’t know until years later), but rather the maximum amount of people who could have been sparked by the subject matter during the program.

Output reporting disadvantage: While reporting the output (50 people) may look impressive to higher-level management and potential donors at the time of an annual report, the knowledge of the true outcome of the program (that it altered the lives of 5 individuals in a positive way) is more impressive than the fact that 50 people merely participated. Moreover, the outcome could grow past the amount of original participants if those sparked share their knowledge and with others.

Though output reporting provides an immediate advantage that often proves inaccurate several years down the road (for better or worse), we often have no other choice but to measure outputs because outcomes are not available to us immediately. As more and more museums, nonprofits, and community centers are encouraged to measure social impact through outputs, the old saying still rings true: quality is greater than quantity. It’s possible that outcomes may far exceed (even impressive) outputs.

Posted on by Colleen Dilenschneider in Trends 5 Comments

Does Writing a Check to a Nonprofit Equal Social Change?

WritingCheck-main_Full

photo from ehow.com

I was listening to Rosetta Thurman’s blogtalk radio program on full-blast while preparing to head to campus on Wednesday morning, when a question arose on the program that stopped me dead in my  mid-mascara application tracks: Does writing a check equal social change?

Rosetta featured a roundtable discussion with Allison Jones and Elisa Ortiz, two fellow members of the Nonprofit Millennial Bloggers Alliance.  During a portion of the program, these bloggers discussed how different sectors engage in social change in different ways. “Being able to write a check for $10,000 for a juvenile prevention program is very different from sitting in a room everyday with those kids in that program,” Allison said. She stated that we do a big disservice to social change if we pretend that these two players [donor and administrator] don’t play very important– but also very different– roles.

Rosetta concluded that the action of writing a check should not be lumped under the umbrella of social change, and she brought up an interesting and eloquent perspective in her response (at 15:50 or so). She said,

Philanthropy by itself, in the writing of a check example, is not social change to me because the money has to then do something. It has to cause some type of action or activity that actually does change a community. You don’t know that right away when you write a check. It’s what happens afterwards.”

It is then that social change—and what constitutes social change– begs to be defined. And Rosetta may be right about the lumping; the term “social change” is popping up everywhere. There are 241 blogs on the List of Change and they cover everything from fundraising, to cause-related marketing, to mentoring and teaching.

So what is social change? According to Wikipedia, social change is any event or action that affects a group of individuals who have shared values or characteristics, or acts of advocacy for the cause of changing society in a way subjectively perceived as normatively desirable. Unfortunately, I don’t think this definition helps tighten up the term. Perhaps it really is as vast as our many ways of classifying it.

In my opinion, there’s a gap in our language– the way that we talk about “doing good”– that the term social change is filling. Why might a person give a monetary gift to a homeless shelter? Why might the Entertainment Industry Foundation launch the iParticipate initiative? Albeit overused, I think, “to aid in social change” may be a logical and appropriate answer to these questions.

Perhaps writing a check is to social change as putting a ‘hire me’ tab on your blog is to establishing yourself as a worthy job candidate. They are baby-steps. They are mini-means to an end… but it is difficult to be hired if you do not take that first step to sell yourself, just as it is difficult to initiate social change without capital.

The donor supplies the financial means for social change. I agree that social change cannot be measured immediately upon the presentation of a check to an organization. Perhaps the funds won’t successfully further social change at all– but the intent of the donor to further social change still stands, and it’s still important.

While I agree that the term social change is widening, I think  it’s important that we allow it to widen if it allows people to connect to causes. If a donor aligning his or herself with social change encourages more giving, then bring it on, I say.

But Rosetta’s perspective poses an interesting question: how will we adapt our language to clarify the roles that sectors, individuals, donors, and administrators play in supporting social change?

How lovely that we discuss charity, social change, and philanthropy so frequently that we need even more words to define our roles in the endeavor!

Posted on by Colleen Dilenschneider in Trends 14 Comments

Social Change is Sector Agnostic- and Gen-Yers Know It

agnostic

photo from http://glenkirk.blogspot.com

Consider this situation: an elderly family member asks for your help in choosing between two nursing homes. Both appear to be equal in quality and service, but one is for-profit and the other is nonprofit. Which nursing home do you pick?

You may draw on a few assumptions based on what you know about corporations and organizations, and weigh them with your priorities. For instance, maybe you’d choose the for-profit home because it may go the extra mile to make residents happy to keep a competitive edge in the market. On the other hand, maybe you’ll consider the nonprofit home, concluding that better care will be provided by front-line individuals choosing to work in the nonprofit sector. But can you really be sure of any of these sector-based assumptions?

Professor James Ferris posed this question during a recent Nonprofit Policy and Management class within the University of Southern California’s School of Policy, Planning, and Development, and our class reached the inevitable conclusion:

Sometimes our choices are sector agnostic; we just want to go with the corporation or organization that can best get the job done.

87% of Americans between the ages of 18-39 believe that one person can help change the world- and these folks (mostly Gen Y-ers) sense the artificial divide between sectors. According to the New Sector Alliance—which was founded in 2002 to create solutions to community challenges through cross-sector partnerships–  the rise of sector agnostic methods places new demands on institutions across sectors to modify their strategies. Why? Because the next generation of leaders themselves are increasingly sector agnostic.

501(c)(3) status is not required in order to instigate social change, and as social enterprises and social entrepreneurship increase, the values and practices of public, private, and nonprofit sectors meld together, strengthening alliances and just plain getting the job done.

The American Dream has been highly connected to the successes in the private sector and so has entrpreneurship, but a 1999 survey shows that where Gen X college seniors dreamed of working for Microsoft and Cisco, Gen Y college seniors prefer work within the State Department, Teach for America, and the Peace Corps. Is this a problem for a country built on the entrepreneurial spirit? Apparently not. Increasing numbers of Gen Yers are going for social change with fresh ideas, proving that a preference toward big government does not mean less entrepreneurship.

This article has some great statistics on Gen Y’s entrepreneurial spirit:

  • Half of all new college graduates now believe that self-employment is more secure than a full-time job.
  • Today, 80% of the colleges and universities in the U.S. now offer courses on entrepreneurship.
  • 60% of Gen Y business owners consider themselves to be serial entrepreneurs, according to Inc. magazine.
  • 18- to 24-year-olds are starting companies at a faster rate than 35- to 44-year-olds.
  • And 70% of today’s high schoolers intend start their own companies, according to a Gallup poll.

These statistics, combined with Gen Y’s perceived altruism and their desire to develop a sense of where they fit within a global context, outline their interest- also- in the public sector.   The combination of Gen Y’s key traits, which connect strongly and equally to both the public and private sector, possibly point toward a growing sector agnosticism.

Gen Yers interested in social change may become leaders who opt for solutions that represent a mix in for-profit and nonprofit practices, such as social entrepreneurship, instigating nonprofit commercial activity, and creating social enterprises. One thing’s for sure: the focus will be on getting the job done- regardless of sector.

Posted on by Colleen Dilenschneider in Community Engagement, Sector Evolution, Trends 2 Comments

The Rise of the Starry-Eyed Nonprofit Entrepreneur

star

I’ve called generation Y an entire generation of entrepreneurs, and I was relieved to read recently that the Gen Y entrepreneurial mentality has finally seeped into the nonprofit sector- and it’s about time! After reading so many articles about the struggles of connecting Gen Y to Baby Boomers in nonprofit organizations and the alleged increasing disengagement that Millennials feel toward nonprofit organizations due to long hours and low pay, it’s downright refreshing to see a spike in interest in the nonprofit sector.

Recently, Kristin Ivie wrote a thought-provoking post on the Social Citizens blog encouraging members of Generation Y to “think again” before they start their own nonprofit organizations. The article features five heartbreakingly practical reasons why starting your own nonprofit may be a bad idea. She writes, “I googled “how to start a nonprofit” and got 44 million returns. You people have to stop.”

I disagree. Please, please do not stop.

I’m not saying it’s a good idea to start up nonprofit organizations left and right without having a good idea of what you’re getting yourself into (and Kristin’s article makes many excellent points that interested folks should fully take into account). I am glad, though, that the excitement and innovation of the entrepreneurial spirit is now finally linking up with nonprofit organizations after it has been long aligned with newly-founded corporations. Just as many young corporate entrepreneurs fail when they don’t carefully weigh the situation they are getting themselves into, nonprofit entrepreneurs will also fail when they don’t adequately consider the environment of the nonprofit sector before gaining their 501(c)(3) status.

If it is a trend for members of generation Y (or any folks) to start up their own nonprofit organizations as the article suggests, then there’s at least one outstanding reason for my fellow nonprofiteers to celebrate: this trend could be grooming the next generation of leaders through incredible hands-on experience in the face of the forecasted leadership deficit.

I’ve mentioned this study before, but I think it’s a powerful one: according to a 2006 study by The Bridgespan Group, the nonprofit industry will need to attract and develop an estimated 640,000 new senior managers over the next decade in order to fill the upcoming leadership deficit in nonprofit organizations. Though many of the folks who attempt to start their own nonprofit organization will fail, the experience that they gain will be substantial and it will help them to become better nonprofit leaders in the long-run.

How is that not a good thing?!

Let them try, I argue. Lets be supportive of these new nonprofits and their starry-eyed leaders. They just may be onto something; and, if this trend continues (if it is a trend), then it may be the start of something interesting and perhaps great.

If you are considering starting a nonprofit organization, please think about these five, very sensible and useful, questions that Kristin poses:

  1. Is another organization already doing something like this?
  2. If there are others doing something similar, and there almost always are, how would you do it differently?
  3. What can you do to support existing organizations?
  4. Do you have a real sense of how hard this is going to be?
  5. Why do you want to do this?

You might think by reading these five points that the glass is permanently half-empty when it comes to nonprofit organizations. That is– though they are important– these questions aren’t worded in a way that is particularly encouraging. But what is to become of the nonprofit sector if (we) nonprofiteers shoot down the dreams of budding nonprofit entrepreneurs whose experiments may be ultimately strengthening our workforce? Yes, starting a nonprofit is (very) hard, but starting your own company is hard, too, and members of generation Y continue to fight that battle.

As I mentioned, Kristin does have some excellent points– especially under questions three and four so check them out. It is true that the nonprofit sector would be stronger if talent were to join and strengthen existing nonprofits rather than create several, unstable and competing organizations of their own.

In sum, yes- for your own benefit and for the benefit of your family members who will make the initial contributions to your perhaps-transient newly-created nonprofit organization- please be aware of what you are getting yourself into. But also please keep generally supporting the missions of nonprofit organizations, and keep thinking of ways to be innovative and contribute to the sector.

…Keep thinking you can change the world (you can!), and please keep writing about it so it shows up on google. Keep summoning friends to support socially conscious causes and keep pursuing larger-than-life goals. I may be a starry-eyed nonprofit optimist myself, but hey–  that’s just how we entrepreneurial Gen Yers are wired, right?

Posted on by Colleen Dilenschneider in Millennials, Trends 5 Comments

Got a Minute? 3 Exercises to Make You a Better Leader

leadership

image from www.b2binternational.com

The single most frequently discussed concept in my graduate courses thus far is the concept of leadership– positive and effective public leadership, to be (only slightly more) specific. The lessons I’m learning, however, apply to all leaders- regardless of sector.

Good leadership is one of those concepts that, I’ll admit, seems a bit fuzzy. Who doesn’t have ideas about what makes a good leader? Trust, respect, confidence, ethics… The truth is, the concept runs much deeper, and it’s easier to recognize a good leader than it is to describe how to be one– especially in a public management role in which leaders must effectively be both creatures and creators of their work environments.

In an effort spread the wealth and celebrate individual leadership, I’d like to share three incredibly useful exercises that I’ve learned in my first three weeks in graduate school. All three exercises helped me to identify my goals and values so that I may serve as an effective lifelong leader.

 

1. Write a Personal Mission Statement

This is not a new exercise, but it’s an important one. Writing a personal mission statement requires thinking about your personal goals and desires. This is very different from an elevator speech; a personal mission statement is about you and your own values as they relate to your desired long-term career (not necessarily the job you’re currently in). Though I’ve found it particularly beneficial to have this articulation of my interest in achieving my career goals, personal mission statements are for the creator alone. They don’t need to be professional, and you don’t need to share your personal mission statement if you wouldn’t like to do so. Writing a personal mission statement will help you to focus on your goals and priorities.

  • Exercise: Mission statements generally describe the purpose of an institution or, in our case, an individual. Get out a scratch piece of paper and start drafting your own personal mission statement. Here are a few great questions to ask yourself before writing your mission statement. Having trouble getting started? Check out this website.

 

2. Identify your Core Values

Professor Richard F. Callahan introduced this exercise at a recent Graduate Policy Administration Committee Strategic Planning Meeting. It’s a simple exercise with a big personal impact. Since completing this short task, I’ve reflected on my core values daily and I am much more aware of my decisions to adhere to them.

  • Exercise: Make a list of all of the core values that you can imagine. These are usually one-word values such as respect, integrity, loyalty, commitment, service, contribution, generosity, etc. You may be well acquainted with the concept of core values, as many organizations and corporations are very straightforward with their core values and often frame the words in conference rooms or list them at the top of meeting agendas. Once you’ve come up with a nice, long list of core values, pick three (and only three) that you feel illustrate your own personal core values.

 

3. Understand your Unenforceables

I was lucky enough to attend a talk presented by the incredible Bob Stone earlier this week within USC’s School of Policy, Planning and Development, and it proved to be the best lesson on leadership that I’ve had the opportunity to come across. This great civil servant was bursting with personal anecdotes and life lessons. Among them was the lesson to understand your own unenforceables. What are those, you ask? In 1924, John Fletcher Moulton identified three realms of human behavior: (1) Free will. (2) Obedience to the enforceable. (3) Obedience to the unenforceable. Obedience to the enforceable is synonymous with obedience to the law. Obedience to the unenforceable is obedience to our own personal values and the ethics which shape our decisions as leaders.

  • Exercise: Identify 10 of your own unspoken “laws” to which you adhere for your own reasons. Perhaps they are based on life experiences or values that were instilled within you by your parents. Some examples of personal unenforceables might be “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” or “play by the rules.” Others may be, “speak knowledge to power,” “a friend in need is a friend, indeed,” or “it’s what’s inside that counts.” No matter what your governing principles are, write them down. Getting your own framework of values out on paper will give you insight into your own leadership style. We have a good sense of governmental laws, but it’s even more important to have a sense of your own unspoken laws by which you live your life and make decisions.
Posted on by Colleen Dilenschneider in Miscellaneous, Nonprofit Marketing 3 Comments