Archive for the ‘Leadership’ Category

marriageOn June 29, 2005, Spain became the fourth nation in the world to offer legal marriage to same-sex couples. The law states: “Matrimony shall have the same requirements and effects regardless of whether the persons involved are of the same or different sex.”

Before Parliament voted to approve this bill, Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero gave a stirring speech during the plenary session of Congress in support of the measure to ensure equality and freedom for all. The full text of this speech follows:

Freedom and Equality (La Libertad y La Igualdad):

Today, my government definitively submits for Senate approval the Bill, modifying Civil Law, which gives the right to form a marriage contract, a fulfillment of an electoral campaign promise.

We recognize today in Spain the rights of same-sex couples to enter in a marriage contract. Before Spain, they allowed this in Belgium, Holland, and, as of two days ago, Canada. We have not been the first, but I sure you that we will not be the last. After us, there will be many more countries motivated, honorable members, by two unstoppable forces: freedom and equality.

It is just a small change to the legal text, adding but a paragraph, in which we establish that marriage will have the same requisites, and the same rights, when the couple is either of different sexes, or the same sex. It is a small change in the letter of the law that creates an immense change in the lives of thousands of our fellow citizens.

We are not legislating, honorable members, for a far away and unknown people. We are extending the opportunity for happiness to our neighbors, co-workers, friends, and our families: at the same time, we are making a more decent society, because a decent society is one that does not humiliate its members.

In the poem “The family” our poet Luis Cernuda lamented:

“How does man live in denial, and how in vain by giving rules that prohibit and condemn.”

Today, Spanish society responds to a group of people that for years have been humiliated, whose rights have been ignored, whose dignity has been offended, and whose identity and freedom has been denied. Today, Spanish society grants them the respect they deserve, recognizes their rights, restores their dignity, affirms their identity, and restores their freedom.

It is true that they are only a minority, but their triumph is everyone’s triumph. It is also a triumph of those who oppose this law, even as they attempt to ignore it, because it is the triumph of freedom. This victory makes all of us a better society.

Honorable members, there is no damage to marriage or to the family in allowing two people of the same sex to get married. Rather, these citizens now have the ability to organize their lives according to marital and familial norms and demands. There is no threat to the institution of marriage, but precisely the opposite: this law recognizes and values marriage.

Aware that some people and institutions profoundly disagree with this legal change, I wish to say that like other reforms to the marriage code that preceded this one, this law will not generate bad results, that its only consequence will be to avoid senseless suffering of human beings. A society that avoids senseless suffering of its citizens is a better society.

In any case, I wish to express my deep respect to those people and institutions, and I also want to ask for the same respect for all of those who approve of this law. To the homosexuals that have personally tolerated the abuse and insults for many years, I ask that you add to the courage you have demonstrated in your struggle for civil rights, an example of generosity and joy with respect to all the beliefs.

With the approval of this Bill, our country takes another step in the path of freedom and tolerance that was started by the democratic Transition. Our children view us with incredulity when we tell them that many years ago, our mothers had less rights than our fathers, or we tell them that people had to stay married against their will, even though they were unable to share their lives. Today we can offer them a beautiful lesson: every obtained right, and liberty has been the result of the struggle and sacrifice of many people of whom we must recognize and be proud.

Today, we demonstrate with this Bill that societies can better themselves, and can cross barriers and create tolerance by putting a stop to humiliation and unhappiness. Today, for many, comes the day evoked by Kavafis a century ago:

“Later was said of the most perfect society, someone else made like me, certainly will come out and act freely.”

— bright futures all around.

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As the nonprofit sector grows, it faces perhaps its greatest challenge in its long history of service to America – an acute leadership shortage. According to a study by the Bridgespan Group, nonprofit organizations will need 640,000 new senior leaders over the next 10 years. That’s 2.4 times today’s number. And the study says that the demand for new leaders could be as high as 1.2 million.

Given the significant management challenges faced by nonprofits, “any kind of leader” will not due. According to Tom Tierney, chairman of the Bridgespan Group:

It’s harder to run a nonprofit than a private company, you have the extra layer of a board of directors – and you’re wearing a lot of different hats. Successful leadership will call for individuals who are value-driven, highly-skilled managers capable to lead, inspire and transform.

It’s apparent that the Ford Foundation understand this new reality. In the August 14th issue of The New York Times, Ford announced that it selected Luis A. Ubiñas, who has worked for the international consulting firm McKinsey & Company for 18 years, as its next leader. Mr. Ubiñas’s appointment has stunned the nonprofit world, which has been speculating about who in the field would succeed Susan V. Berresford, Ford’s influential leader who retires in January. Ford is the nation’s second-largest foundation, with $11 billion in assets.

Increasingly high-profile nonprofit jobs are going to people who have done well in the business world or politics, a reflection of the pressure on charities and foundations to become more accountable.

What is your organization doing to increase the skills of your leaders? Do you have a board committee specifically dedicated to leadership development? What percent of your operating budget are you setting aside for training?

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Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig was rejected by 121 agents, editors, and publishers (the author kept track). In 1974, a single editor at Morrow felt that the book may have some market appeal. Persig was paid an advance of $3,000 and his editor informed him that it was highly unlikely that his royalties would exceed the advance, so he shouldn’t expect any more checks. It has since gone on to sell over 4 million copies and remains in print more than a quarter of a century later. Persig continues to receive checks.

What makes the difference between those who finally succeed and those who endure? In a word, endurance. Not endurance in the Western sense of the word, but endurance from Eastern wisdom as represented by two pictures: a strong heart combined with a boat crossing between two shores — a specific goal and a strong heart. Perseverance furthers.

Time and again, we hear how inventors, authors, and social entrepreneurs among others faced a mountain of rejection. Everyone notices you after you have succeeded; that’s not the point. The point is not to quit before the magic happens. Success is often around the corner.

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Frances Hesselbein is the board chair of Leader to Leader, the successor to The Peter Drucker Institute. Leader to Leader is committed to strengthening the leadership of the social sector by providing leaders with essential wisdom, inspiration and resources to lead for innovation and to build vibrant social sector organizations.

Previously, Ms. Hesselbein was the national executive director of the Girls Scouts of America. Under her watch, the Girl Scouts dramatically reengineering itself to address the needs of a new generation of girls.

In an address to the Fuqua School of Business at Duke University on developing a people first culture, Ms. Hesselbein summarized the essential job of every successful nonprofit. In three phrases, she presents a powerful focus. Successful organizations are:

  1. Mission-focused
  2. Values-based
  3. Demographic-driven

Align your organization around these essential themes. Start the conversation. At your next staff meeting, begin to discuss these themes.

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In The Hungry Spirit, Charles Handy lists what he the seven cardinal principles of trust as it applies to organizations. Trust is the result of human interaction – it is a dynamic, changing feeling based on the day-to-day experience of living and working with others. And it is essential to a health, productive work environment.

Here’s the list:

  1. There’s no such thing as blind trust.
    You tend to trust those whom you know well. On the job, small work groups help people get to know each other.
  2. Trust requires boundaries.
    Knowing the extent and limits of their colleagues’ competence helps reassure employees that their trust is well placed.
  3. Trust calls for constant leaning.
    The ability to learn through growth and change is basic to trust. Fear stifles both leaning and trust.
  4. Trust is ruthless.
    Individuals who “cannot be relied upon to do what is needed” must usually leave because they require an organization to establish additional systems of support and control.
  5. Trust is not impersonal.
    It request bonding among individuals and “buy-in” to the core values of the organization.
  6. Trust and touch go hand-in-hand.
    Face-to-face interaction is very important, especially in virtual organizations or those heavily dependent on a fieldwork model of service delivery, which tend to isolate individuals.
  7. Trust is built the old-fashion way – you have to earn it.
    Positive experiences strengthen trust; negative ones weaken it.

What one small thing can you do in your organization, department, or group that would have a big impact on developing a more trusting workplace?

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To meet the needs of the current work environment characterized by ambiguity, change, and stress, research has shown that what people look for and respond to best is someone who:

  • Let’s me know what’s going on and isn’t afraid to say, “I don’t know.”
  • Is easy to “read” so I know where he or she is coming from.
  • Remains calm under fire.
  • Sets clear expectations, ones that are sure to change and will then be replaced with new clear expectations.
  • “Hears” me – is wiling to listen.
  • Is willing to change the plan when things aren’t working out.
  • Involves me and isn’t afraid to ask for help.
  • Is visible and available
  • Seems “together” in thought and action.

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capacityBy: Lilya Wagner, Ed.D., CFRE, 5/2/07

Capacity building seemed to be the “buzzword” of the early 21st century. Books and book chapters were written about this concept, workshops were requested and conducted, articles were published, and foundations were openly urged to do more for nonprofit capacity building.

The truth is, capacity building as a concept is neither new nor complicated. Nonprofit organizations have always had to be concerned, to some degree or another, about their capacity to carry out their work and do it well and also to improve their capacity

Capacity building is an organization’s ability to carry out its mission, using best practices, having financial and personnel resources to do so, and meeting the needs of clients. Mike Hudson, in Managing at the Leading Edge, provided this succinct definition: “Building organization capacity is about systematically investing in developing an organization’s internal systems (for example, its people, processes, and infrastructure) and its external relationships (for example, with funders, partners, and volunteers) so that it can better realize its mission and achieve greater impact” (Hudson, 2005, p. 1).

Another authority on this topic, the Amherst Wilder Foundation, defines capacity building as “the process of strengthening an organization in order to improve its performance and impact” (Amherst Wilder Foundation, 2002, p. 7).

Capacity building has been around for as long as nonprofits have had an identity as a sector, balancing government and business in the scheme of United States civil society. But the renewed attention came for a reason.

Nonprofits have tended to concentrate on delivery of programs and services, a state of being that was no doubt reinforced by some donors, mainly foundations, who focused their attention on the efficiency (keeping costs low) of their grantees and tended to fund programs, especially new ones for which they sometimes provided seed money. But this trend or expectation leaned toward some negative side effects.

How can excellent programs be developed and delivered without appropriate organizational capacity to do so? As one of the authors of a seminal book on capacity building stated, “Nonprofits have been doing more with less for so long that many now border on doing everything with nothing” (Light, 2004, p. 14). He also stated that the result of emphasis on programs has caused the public to have expectations of delivery without the attendant funding related to costs of capacity building, and the unfortunate outcome is increasing criticism of nonprofits as organizations that lack managerial and financial substance.

The lack of capacity building and the emphasis of program and service delivery caught up with the nonprofit world at least in the thinking of many leaders and practitioners if not in reality. Beginning late in the last century, there came a shift, even if slight, from expanding effective programs to building effective organizations that develop, house and improve the programs. Consequently, there is increased attention on not only what nonprofits do, but also how they do it, because stronger nonprofit organizations lead to greater program impact.

Building an organization’s capacity means deliberate efforts are undertaken to enhance an organization’s ability to achieve its mission. Capacity building is a significant part of the overall management of a nonprofit, one which overlaps with and is congruent with all other management functions, from programs to human resources, from fundraising to public relations.

Mike Hudson (2005) considers the elements of internal capacity to include the mission; the board; the staff, volunteers and other personnel; management skills; physical infrastructure; technology; and evaluation (2005, p. 9). The external key elements are relationships; identification of relevant high-value services; orchestration of creative campaigns for social change; and creativity in funding and income generation (Hudson, 2005, p. 9-10).

In “Capacity Building: A Primer,” the lead article in a volume devoted to nonprofit capacity building, the authors acknowledge that it may take many forms, sometimes depending on the type and size of the organization, but several steps or stages are always present:

1. Validate the mission

2. Reconsider the vision

3. Reaffirm the values 

4. Develop resources
5. Set strategies

6. Ensure productivity

They also acknowledge that organizations wishing to engage in capacity building will find many possible ways to achieving a high-performance organization and a single solution is not mandatory nor feasible.

The success of capacity building is dependent on first understanding that change is needed, and identifying the desired outcome. Money, time and human resources must be invested, with appropriate guidance for the efforts. Building capacity may include a wide range of approaches, such as peer-to-peer learning, training, research, assistance from consultants, academic study, and experiential learning. It means taking a careful look at an organization’s ability to achieve its mission, to do its job more effectively.

As explained by a volume produced by Venture Philanthropy Partners, the Capacity Framework defines nonprofit capacity in a pyramid of seven essential elements: three higher-level elements aspirations, strategy, and organizational skills three foundational elements systems and infrastructure, human resources, and organizational structure and a cultural element which serves to connect all the others (Venture Philanthropy Partners, Effective Capacity Building in Nonprofit Organizations, August 2001).

There is no mystery in capacity building, as is sometimes implied. Capacity building isn’t something that dawned recently. It has always involved an organization’s ability to balance programs against management; to be as effective as possible in fundraising, customer relations, financial management, and governance as in delivery of services to its clients; and to achieve positive change. What’s new is the renewed emphasis in the recent decade by funders and critics who understand that good programs need good organizations, and therefore good capacity somehow must be developed and maintained.

Capacity building is far more than a buzzword. Regardless of terminology, the capacity of an organization to carry out its mission and all activities based on its mission has been a critical element that delineates between organizations just getting by or perhaps even fading away, and those that are the backbone of the nonprofit sector.


Connolly, Paul and Carol Lukas. Strengthening Nonprofit Performance: A Funder’s Guide to Capacity Building. Saint Paul, MN: Amherst H. Wilder Foundation and with the Grantmakers for Effective Organizations, 2002.

Hudson, Mike. Managing at the Leading Edge. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, A Wiley Imprint, 2005.

Kinsey, David J., and J. Russell Raker III, “Capacity Building: A Primer,” in Capacity Building for Nonprofits, New Directions for Philanthropic Fundraising, No. 40, Summer 2003.

Light, Paul. Sustaining Nonprofit Performance: The Case for Capacity Building and the Evidence to Support it. Washington, DC: Brookings Institute Press, 2004.

McKinsey & Company, Effective Capacity Building in Nonprofit Organizations, Prepared for Venture Philanthropy Partners, 2001.

About the Author
Lilya Wagner is vice president for philanthropy at Counterpart International and was formerly with the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University.
You may contact the author at: lwagner@counterpart.orgl

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