Highlights from the Ahead of the Curve Symposium Report on Risk Management: Defining, Assessing and Managing Risks at Nonprofits
Written by Keith Timko and Wendy Seligson
In 2016, the Support Center joined with other capacity building organizations under the banner, “Ahead of the Curve,” to host a symposium on risk management. The goal of the symposium was to “advance the collective knowledge of the discipline of risk management within the nonprofit sector” by learning from leaders in the sector.
On September 28, 2016, about 200 executives, board members, capacity building representatives, consultants and academics convened in a packed, interactive day to share their knowledge and experience. The full report, “Ahead of the Curve Symposium: Defining, Assessing and Managing Risks at Nonprofits” can be found here. The report was co-sponsored by the Support Center and SeaChange Capital.
In planning the symposium, John MacIntosh, partner at SeaChange, expressed the goal that, before long:
“nonprofit leaders would develop a knowledge and practice for risk management similar to the depth of knowledge and practice which exists for strategic planning.”
Speakers and participants alike emphasized the importance of embracing risk and proactively managing it, linking this approach to creating healthy sustainable organizations.
On Friday, January 27, 2017 the Support Center is sponsoring a workshop on risk management “Putting Risk Management to Work at Your Nonprofit” presented by Wendy Seligson, author of the symposium report. To register, click here.
A snapshot of the key insights and action steps from the Symposium follows:
Key insights from Symposium
- Risk is not all about the “negatives.” Positive risks provide opportunities for growth and change and risk management provides a path for achieving a healthy, sustainable organization.
- Nonprofits want support to expand and operationalize risk management. They don’t need to be convinced about its value. They want best practices, tools, networks, facilitation and consultants.
- The discipline of risk management needs to be built around collaboration and communication within the nonprofit organization and integrated into the nonprofit’s planning and operations.
- Financial and associated contract risks are a top issue, but not the only issue. Participants also identified other areas of major risk: governance/leadership, reputation, operational, compliance, quality of services, safety, growth, innovation and external risks.
Next Steps: Moving to Action
- Community Resource Exchange (CRE) is creating a risk assessment tool, with the goal of making it available to the nonprofit sector at no cost. It is known as the CREFT (Community Resource Exchange Fitness Tool).
- New York City capacity building organizations working together under the Ahead of the Curve banner have agreed to use the CREFT risk categories as the framework for risk management. These are: Leadership, Governance & Strategy; Personnel & Administration; Finance; Compliance & Legal; Programs & Services; and External Environment.
- A new Ahead of the Curve website is being created to make information, materials and resources about risk management accessible to the nonprofit sector in New York City.
- The Support Center and the other capacity building agencies in the Ahead of the Curve consortium are working collaboratively to raise awareness about risk management and connect nonprofits to resources and tools to integrate risk management into their operations.
For more information on the Support Center’s training and consulting services that support risk management and other change consulting practice areas, contact Carolyn Champ, Associate Executive Director, via email at [email protected] or 917-522-8302.
Laurel Molloy began teaching public workshops at the Support Center | Partnership in Philanthropy back in 2001. Since then, she has expanded her involvement to include a wide variety of customized on-site trainings and ongoing consulting engagements. She is Founder and CEO of Innovations Quantified (IQ), a consulting firm that has been helping organizations increase their impact since 1999. To learn more, please click, http://supportcenteronline.org/about/our-team/.
Written by Laurel Molloy
Picture this: you’re a passenger in a car humming down the highway. The driver turns to you and says, “I’m not sure where we’re going, but we’re making great time!”
Kind of hard to imagine the circumstances that would prompt this kind of statement, isn’t it? And yet, nonprofits that focus solely on the achievement of their own tasks, without a concrete idea of how they are making a difference in the lives of those they serve are essentially doing just that – heading down a path without a clear sense of where their efforts should be taking them.
This illustrative quote comes from Leap of Reason, an outcome measurement call to action that makes the case for clearly defining your organization’s intended outcomes (the changes and benefits you’re seeking to achieve), and then determining whether those changes have actually happened.
For almost 20 years, I’ve been helping organizations figure out how to do just that. And one thing I’ve noticed is that it’s not a lack of desire that keeps most from tackling this important issue. It’s a lack of understanding of where to start, and/or fear that missteps will result in wasted time and resources.
To address those very real concerns, I emphasize in both my training and consulting engagements that “M.M.O.M. is always right” – as in “Meaningful and Manageable Outcome Measurement.”
Many organizations believe more data is better, when in reality less is often more – especially at the outset. So I encourage organizations to ensure their process is both meaningful and manageable (and therefore sustainable) by: (1) prioritizing and collecting only a few key pieces of outcome data first, (2) leaving time to actually review and learn from those results, and (3) adding more data only as needed from there.
In my experience, using this approach is often the difference between success and frustration. So as you embark on your outcome measurement journey, remember: “M.M.O.M.’s always right.” And ask yourself, “Is this really something we can feasibly and consistently track and learn from?” If the answer is, “I’m not sure,” then find a way to pare it down. Because in the end, if you don’t actually review, discuss, use and share your outcomes data, you’re missing the whole point!
For more information on training and consulting services to support your organization’s outmode measurement efforts, contact Carolyn Champ, Associate Executive Director, via email at [email protected] or 917-522-8302.
The Support Center recently held the second New Jersey Impact Investment Gathering at the Livingston Campus of Rutgers Business School, building off the inaugural gathering held in May. At that first gathering, five social enterprises presented to the audience. At this November gathering, nine social enterprises (listed below) presented in three different categories – early stage nonprofits, scaling nonprofits, and early stage for-profits. The leaders of these organizations pitched their impact and business models, demonstrating how they can achieve social impact and financial sustainability or profitability at the same time. They appealed to the large audience of funders, investors, and lender for a range of investments – both in money (grants, equity, loans) and time (pro bono services, advisory support, networking). Participants gave feedback to the presenters and offered a great deal of advice and suggestions to help the social enterprises grow and get access to capital. The event was particularly successful in connecting like-minded people and fusing disparate networks together in support of the New Jersey impact economy.
Please check out these social enterprises and contact us if you’d like more information!
Build with Purpose
Talino EV Management Systems, Inc.
Forward Ever Sustainable Business Alliance
Just Peachy Salsa Program (Food Bank of South Jersey)
Bricks 4 Kidz
Grades 4 Life
Soups & Sweets Culinary Training Program (Jewish Family & Children’s Service of Southern NJ)
Camden Dream Center
We look forward to holding more gatherings in 2017 and continuing to grow this community and help social enterprises thrive!
Since 2014, the Support Center and Rutgers Business School joined the Office of Faith Based Initiatives in a collaborative effort to build a pipeline of capital for New Jersey social entrepreneurs. For more background on the initiative, please click here.
Weren’t able to make the New Jersey Impact Investment Gathering? We’ve got you covered! Check out this exclusive video and photo gallery from the event down below!
Subscribe to our Youtube channel, Support Center Media!
Katherine is a Partner at Growth for Good and has worked as a fundraising professional for more than 20 years. She has been involved with every aspect of fundraising and has developed special expertise in government appropriations and public competitive grant sources. She has led clients successfully through board development, strategic planning processes, capital campaigns and annual campaigns, and has vast experience in developing and managing public/private partnerships. To learn more, please click here.
Written by Katherine DeFoyd
What constitutes a healthy relationship between an executive director and a board of directors? How can organizations strike a healthy balance of power?
- agreed upon and clearly defined goals;
- time-bound and measurable objectives;
- realistic budgets;
- specific tasks; and
- well-defined roles and responsibilities.
Laurie Krauz has helped men and women from all over the world and all walks of life achieve their own personal and professional styles while developing their ability to offer dynamic, compelling presentations. Her seminars and lectures have been presented at law firms, corporations, financial institutions and universities. Krauz has been featured internationally on BBC Television, and in numerous publications throughout the U.S. To learn more, please visit: www.lauriekrauz.com.
Written by Laurie Krauz
There are many techniques that I use in my work with clients to help manage the fear experienced when giving presentations, speeches or interviews. Following is a list of what I like to call “Miscellaneous Factoids” – a short, random list of some of the helpful hints and facts I’ve accumulated over time that clients have found useful:
- Put pictures of your children, grandchildren, dog, etc., in your notes to help relax and ground you.
- Find the friendliest face in the audience early on and focus there whenever you need to feel more comfortable (this one is my personal favorite).
- Remember that nervousness doesn’t show nearly as much as one would think.
- Remember that the audience is filled with people more concerned with their own internal drama than yours!
- Know what you’re talking about! Practice, practice, practice. The positive impact on emotion of feeling prepared is enormous.
- You do not need to be perfect. In fact, that would be a turnoff. The audience will stay right with you if you joke and say something like, “hmm, senior moment, let me check my notes.” That could even be funny for a 25 year old. Studies show that audiences care much more that a speaker is genuine rather than perfect (or even funny!).
- The ability to retain the information you are providing is very limited. Years ago I was told that if I knew 2% more than my audience on the topic, it was all I needed because that was all they could retain. Just remind yourself that you know at least a teeny bit more than the audience and that’s all you need.
- Start your presentation in a way that makes you feel at ease. It could be with a question, a story, a joke (appropriate!). Whatever tricks you into thinking that they love you and therefore helps you relax. This is one of those things that you’ll have to experiment with over time.
- For some, it helps to dissipate anxiety if you meet and mingle somewhat before you begin (for others, this increases anxiety – experiment and find what works best for you).
And, always remember, practice, practice, practice!
The Support Center provides workshops and customized training in Communication and Staff Development in the greater New York area. To find out more about the Support Center’s services visit our web site at http://supportcenteronline.org/.
Claudia Zeldin is a partner at Growth for Good and an accomplished professional consultant with 30 years
of marketing and management experience. Claudia completed the Support Center/Partnership in Philanthropy’s Interim Executive Leadership Training Course in 2009 and has served in various temporary management positions. To learn more, please visit: www.growthforgood.com.
Written by Claudia Zeldin
Every phase of the onboarding process with a new employee is important, from before they begin their job, through their first week, to the successful completion of their first year. In the first month, it is essential that new leaders have a strong understanding of his/her performance relative to the position and realistic expectations. Very often with new executive staff, it is assumed that they are experienced and will assume their responsibilities quickly, but success and retention will be strengthened with a first-year plan that enables new leaders to feel supported and able to take ownership. For new Executive Directors, it will be essential that a board member carefully lead this management transition process, so a strong partnership is formed – engaged and energized by a shared mission.
Click here to view and download a PDF checklist to onboard a new member of your nonprofit leadership team: Executive Director/CEO, Development Director, CFO, etc.
Pat Richter has been affiliated with the Support Center since 2002 in many capacities, including as a volunteer facilitator of workshops, affiliated consultant, C.O.O. interim, and most recently the Interim Director of Consulting. She consults (PRQuickhelp) nonprofits & foundations both large and small. To Learn more, please visit supportcenteronline.org.
Written by Pat Richter
Very few nonprofit leaders and Board members enjoy strategic planning, but thank goodness there are a few brave and creative people that are energized and excited by the process!
Strategic planning can be like going to the dentist; no one wants to go, in spite of feeling so much better afterwards.
Two or three year plans are the trend now because the environment in which nonprofits operate is changing so quickly. The Support Center for Nonprofit Management/Partnership in Philanthropy helps many nonprofits with strategic planning, with some investing months in the process and others dedicating a one day staff/Board retreat to banging out a plan. Either approach can work depending on the size and complexity of the organization.
Whether your organization is taking a long or short path to strategic planning, remember to think and discuss the following key areas to insure a well-rounded and practical plan:
- Check in with the mission, vision, and values of the organization. Are they all still relevant and inspiring?
- Review programs to insure they support the mission, are sustainable, and have impact.
- Assess the Board and its embrace of its roles and responsibilities. Refer to helpful materials from BoardSource and Independent Sector.
- Check in with infrastructure – does the staff have the facilities, equipment, and supplies that it needs? Are the staff organized in a way that makes sense? Is program space adequate? Do IT, finance, and HR functions serve the organization adequately?
- Most nonprofits can’t function without partners. Sometimes the biggest partner is government, or client referral sources, or schools, or in-kind service providers. Review how your organization selects and manages its partnerships.
- Assess financial sustainability. What has been the revenue history and what are the expected trends going forward? What should the Board and leadership focus on to insure financial health in the future?
A small arts organization embarked on strategic planning and prioritized locating street level office and program space in spite of this goal seeming impossible over its previous ten years. The timing seemed right, and by working with their partners, it came to fruition!
If your organization is interested in strategic planning, contact Carolyn Champ at [email protected].
Jason Hutchins, President (Managing Principle) founded Nonprofit Solutions Network
in 1998 to help nonprofits increase capacity, lower costs, and improve their overall operation through the use of technology. Learn more about them at www.nonprofitsolutions.net.
Written by Jason Hutchins
In many nonprofit organizations, hardware and software is only replaced when it becomes unresponsive, a funder requires a type of report the current system can’t produce, or employees use applications they’ve discovered off the IT department’s radar (often on a personal smartphone). Meanwhile, the technology landscape has changed. There have been major advances in cloud computing, the cost of bandwidth and data storage has fallen, nonprofit specific technology grants are on the rise, as are the availability of numerous apps for record keeping and reporting. At the same time, requirements for nonprofits have increased and become more complex, leaving many to feel they are ‘behind the times’ even when implementing new technology.
A simple way to make IT spending strategic rather than reactive and to select technology that works well for your staff is to have an internal technology committee. How can you possibly ask staff to participate in another meeting? Make it a working lunch or mid-morning coffee break meeting. There is someone motivated and interested in technology in every department who will want to be part of the conversation.
Meet regularly (bi-monthly or quarterly) to share observations about what’s working well and what’s not. During the first meeting, it is a good idea to create a shared central document that details the department/function areas that are represented, contains an inventory of which databases are in use for accounting, donors, programs, marketing, etc., and for how long (how long what?). Discuss staff satisfaction and make note of known performance issues. This will help identify the need for support and staff training, as well as be a jumping off point for brainstorming solutions and creating an action plan.
- Properly budget and fundraise for technology
- Find opportunities to cut expenses and receive technology grants
- Keep an eye out for advances in technology to improve operations
- Better define operational and capital costs
- Help your grants department make the case to funders and agencies to pay for technology and training
- Evaluate a potential technology’s benefits for your organization and the complexity and time to implement it?
- Create staff buy in for implementing new technology and business process changes
- Develop contingency plans for obstacles during implementation
- Identify IT related organizational risks and update IT personnel policies
A working technology committee fosters collaboration and is well worth the time. For more ideas on how to implement a technology committee or other organizational changesvisit the Support Center | Partnership in Philanthropy website or contact Carolyn Champ at [email protected].
There is growing interest in the nonprofit sector to learn about how organizations can diversify their revenue sources and generate more earned income. Recognizing this trend, the Support Center and Inspiring Capital are collaborating to conduct this survey about the current state of earned income strategies across their shared networks of nonprofits and funders. This survey will result in a landscape scan of how nonprofits are generating earned income and an understanding of what obstacles and needs exist in the sector. Whether you represent a nonprofit or a funding organization, consider this broad definition of earned income from Grantspace: “Earned income is revenue generated from the sale of goods, services rendered, or work performed.”
Click here if you’re a nonprofit organization.
Click here if you’re a funding organization.
Survey led in partnership with Inspiring Capital.
Judy Lindenberger is President of The Lindenberger Group,
an award-winning human resources firm.
Learn more about them at www.lindenbergergroup.com.
Written by Judy Lindenberger
Since 1986, the Support Center | Partnership in Philanthropy has been dedicated to improving our society by increasing the effectiveness of nonprofit leaders and their organizations. As a human resources consultant who helps nonprofit organizations, I have learned from research and experience that it is important to “get the right people on the bus.”
In the best-selling book, Good to Great, Jim Collins writes, “Those who build great companies understand that the ultimate throttle on growth for any great company is not markets, or technology, or competition, or products. It is one thing above all others: the ability to get and keep enough of the right people.”
To hire the right people, you must develop effective selection skills. Conducting a job interview looks easier than it is. According to studies based on the employment records of thousands of management and line employees, little or no correlation exists between the “positive reports” that emerge from the typical job interview and the job performance of the candidates who receive those glowing reports. However, this correlation goes up dramatically whenever interviewing becomes a structured, well-planned process—one that’s integrated into an organization’s overall staffing practices.
Over the years, I have conducted numerous interviews and trained managers on effective interviewing and selection techniques. Following are a few tips to help you get started.
BEFORE THE INTERVIEW
- Know what you need – Determine the key competencies required for the job before you interview a candidate. Write a job description and ask your team for feedback. Create a list of questions for the interview. For example, if you are hiring a CFO, create questions that will help you determine how the person keeps up with nonprofit accounting rules and how they manage confidential information.
- Advertise the position – Don’t just advertise in your local newspaper. Cast your net even further! Put the position on your website. Let your network know you are hiring. Use social media such as LinkedIn and Facebook.
- Look at what works – What personality traits make someone a good fit for your culture? Is your organization laid back or formal? Do people work 9 to 5 or around the clock? Ask questions that will help you determine whether the candidate will adapt well to your organization’s culture.
- Schedule multiple interviews – Conduct 15-minute telephone interviews to screen out inappropriate candidates. Schedule the staff members who will work one-on-one with the candidate to interview the top candidates. Ask for their feedback.
DURING THE INTERVIEW
- Ask the right questions – Dig deep to find out whether candidates have the key competencies required for the job and will be a fit with your culture. Create questions that will give you the answers you need. If time management skills are required for instance, you might want to ask: “What is your method for organizing your day?” or “Tell me about a time when you had tight deadlines. What did you do?” Compare what each candidate says to what you think is an A+ answer.
- Close your mouth and open your ears – Too often interviewers turn an interview into a “grocery list” of their wants and needs. Ask focused questions, and then listen carefully. Take notes.
- Go with your gut – If you did your homework—that is, determined the key job requirements and asked questions that would ascertain the skills required—the hiring decision should be a natural next step.
- Organize your notes – After conducting all the interviews, I recommend using a simple grid to help choose the best candidate. Simply put the names of each candidate horizontally and put the job requirements or key competencies vertically. Then make up a scale from 1 to 5, with 5 being the highest rating. Rate each candidate from 1 to 5 on each of the job requirements or competencies. The person with the highest ratings is probably your best choice.
Above all else – Consider input from each of the interviewers, and trust your collective judgment. Put aside any and all stereotypes, and select the best person for the job.
The Support Center | Partnership in Philanthropy offers change consulting services here in the greater New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut area. To find out more about the Support Center’s services visit our website or contact Carolyn Champ at [email protected].