“You’re a strategic planning consultant? You must use Drucker’s Five Most Important Questions a lot.”
Sinking feeling. As I stood by the grill with a beer in my hand at a recent summer party, I couldn’t come up with even one of his apparently essential strategic questions
I mentioned some of the business thinkers we often draw on, like Jim Collins and Peter Block. My new friend nodded politely, but I was clearly speaking to a Drucker man. He told me how Drucker’s business frameworks had guided his successful career as a manager. How they were now helping him transform the effectiveness of the nonprofit board he served on.
I was eager to learn more when I got back to the office. Amazon is taking its sweet time delivering Drucker’s book, but in the meantime here are Drucker’s Five Most Important Questions You Will Ever Ask Your Nonprofit Organization:
What is your mission?
Who is your customer?
What does your customer value?
What are your results?
What is your plan?
These are all questions we ask and answer in the course of strategic planning with our clients, although not in Drucker’s specific terms.
For instance, the word “customer” was once a refreshing shock to nonprofit sensibilities, a challenge to those who automatically disdained commerce and marketing. Later on, calling donors and clients “customers” became a cliché. When a useful term becomes a buzzword, it shuts down the good thinking it once may have stimulated.
But it’s been a while since Drucker’s heyday and “customer” seems to have dropped out of frequent use in the nonprofit world. So, maybe it’s time to bring the “customer” back into our strategic discussions.
In any case, I’m glad to be challenged to learn more about the amazing Peter Drucker and I’m looking forward to learning more about his Five Questions.
Thomas Cahill’s marvelously humane history How the Irish Saved Civilization tells how a handful of inspired monks isolated at the far edge of a crumbling empire first preserved and then replanted the most precious seeds of ancient civilization – the ideas and knowledge contained in its greatest Hebrew, Greek, Roman and early Christian books.
Cahill’s concluding chapter reminds us that we cannot know the hour of our own civilization’s great catastrophe, but that we are more like the late Romans than we want to consider: technologically advanced, but living on the fruits of accelerating injustice, violence and corruption that leave more and more billions of people envious and destitute. Cahill foresees an inevitable crisis. “But we turn our back on such unpleasantness,” writes Cahill (in 1995), “and contemplate the happier prospects of our technological dreams.”
“What will be lost, and what saved, of our civilization probably lies beyond our powers to decide”, Cahill concludes. “No human group has ever figured out how to design its future. That future may be germinating today not in a boardroom in London or an office in Washington or a bank in Tokyo, but in some antic outpost or other – a kindly British orphanage in the grim foothills of Peru, a house for the dying run by a fiercely single-minded Albanian nun, and easygoing French medical team at the starving edge of the Sahel, a mission to Somalia by Irish social workers who remember their own Great Hunger, a nursery program to assist convict-mothers at a New York prison – in some unheralded corner where a great-hearted human being is committed to loving outcasts in an extraordinary way.”
“Perhaps history is always divided into Romans and Catholics – or better catholics. The Romans are the rich and powerful who run things their way and must always accrue more because they instinctively believe there will never be enough to go around; the catholics, as their implies, are universalists who instinctively believe that all humanity makes one family, that every human being is an equal child of God and that God will provide… If our civilization is to be saved… if we are to be saved, it will not be by Romans but by saints.”
I know I’m too much a Roman, too little a saint. Still it’s been my privilege to work with a few saints among my colleagues and clients during a career in philanthropy. Cahill reminds us that their dissent from selfishness is not eccentric or futile but essential to our fate. Thank you.
“Just because you work for a small nonprofit doesn’t mean you have to raise small dollars.” So many fundraising books focus on organizations with big budgets, leaving smaller nonprofits to figure out how to make those formulas work for them. In The Essential Fundraising Handbook for Small Nonprofits, you’ll learn from eight skilled fundraisers who have right-sized the best of fundraising for the small shop.
Each of us has many options to serve. For example, we might to choose to serve by: Serving meals each week at the community meal site. Wading in the muck to pull old tires out of the river. Bearing silent witness in a vigil line. Helping a neighbor in need.
Caring for a family member. Stepping into danger to prevent a greater harm. Giving blood.
And even serving on an organizational board.
If ever there was a book that could help improve strategic planning, it’s Decisive, How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work.
According to the book, our usual process looks like this:
- We encounter a choice.
- We analyze our options.
- We make a choice.
- Then we live with it.
This sounds logical and familiar. Most of us would pat ourselves on the back for being so rational.
The problem, as the Heath’s point out, is that there is a fatal flaw at each stage:
- Narrow framing makes us miss other options when we encounter a choice.
- Confirmation bias makes us gather self-serving information.
- Short term emotions often tempt us into making the wrong choice.
- We’re overconfident about how the future will unfold and stick to one path once we’ve made our choice.
Luckily, the Heath’s suggest four strategies to counteract your biases. They sum them up in the acronym, WRAP: Read more
Check out Gayle’s contribution to two new books recently published for the “In The Trenches” series of CharityChannel Press.
When You and Your Nonprofit Board, edited by Terrie Temkin, arrived in our mailbox, we had to read it from cover to cover. Gayle’s contribution, “You’re Not the Boss of Me: the Board Chair and CEO Relationship,” is one of 46 thoughtful essays by America’s leading writers on nonprofit governance. One reviewer says, You and Your Nonprofit Board reads like a conversation among friends, if all your friends were “brilliant and brimming with ideas.”
A monthly giving program: Turns one time annual givers into more regular and committed supporters. Makes it easy for your donors to give each month. Enables small donors to make bigger gifts than they would otherwise make.
I urge you to read The Permanent Disruption of Social Media, in the Winter 2013 edition of Stanford Social Innovation Review.
The authors’ premise is that in a world of social media, the old pyramid or ladder metaphor of donor engagement isn’t relevant any more. (If it ever worked at all.) But the old model implied a somewhat orderly process of communications and solicitations tied to giving frequency and levels. The bigger your gift, the more valuable you are, the more worthy of personalized attention.
The authors accuse this approach of being a one way street, from organization to donor, that ignores the new reality of influence.
I don’t want you just to sit down at the table.
I don’t want you just to eat, and be content.
I want you to walk out into the fields
where the water is shining, and the rice has risen.
I want you to stand there, far from the white tablecloth,
I want you to fill your hands with the mud, like a blessing.
— from “Rice,” by Mary Oliver