Symptoms can mask the real problem


How many times do you get a solution that doesn’t address the actual problem? Today we’re talking about a series of situations where communication has broken down. A skilled facilitator can get you a good solution that solves the  underlying problem.

Diversity Training Doesn’t Work – Peter Bregman – Harvard Business Review. The article suggests that communications training is a better idea, which is really what the skills are. Note that the article comments reflect the divisive nature of the conversation. The symptom is that there is legal action because someone “felt misunderstood, mistreated, or disrespected”. 

Last fall, the people who attended Connecting Coffee talked about how some of their volunteers didn’t understand how poverty manifests in the families the volunteers are trying to help. What does that mean? It means a lawyer doesn’t understand why his pro bono client’s  phone is working one day and turned off the next. It means an unemployed woman gets 10 suits from an office of caring people, but what she really needs are tokens to get to and from interviews and daycare for her kids.

We also call this “cultural competency”. Is it the same thing as diversity training? Well yes, sort of. The curriculum is different, but we’re trying to get people to walk in someone else’s shoes.

The other day I heard about an agency looking for sample policies that describe when staff can and cannot contact board members with complaints. Sounds to me like they need to figure out where the Executive Director is in this scenario and why the board and the staff are trying to build and burn communication paths around the Executive Director.

Just like in the Harvard Business review article, communication training can go a long way.

A facilitator will be an outsider who can look at the symptoms without emotional or reactionary response. This person will also recommend solutions for the problem — not just the symptom.


Supporter Survey Questions for Nonprofits


Supporter Survey Questions for Nonprofits.

More nonprofits should survey supporters, especially with so many free tools (see My favorite question from this article:

Surveys can also help you understand how your supporters perceive your organization and your work. One of my favorite questions to ask is, “If a friend asked why you support {your cause}, what would you tell them?”

I survey my Connecting Coffee participants. The question that gets the best results: What did you learn that you will use?

Take a break, feed your positivity


Positive Intelligence – Harvard Business Review. From the article, try this:

Choose one of five activities that correlate with positive change:

  • Jot down three things they were grateful for.
  • Write a positive message to someone in their social support network.
  • Meditate at their desk for two minutes.
  • Exercise for 10 minutes.
  • Take two minutes to describe in a journal the most meaningful experience of the past 24 hours.

The article says there was a significant increase in the life satisfaction scale after doing your one thing over four months.

Komen: A follow up


When I heard several weeks ago that Susan G. Komen for the Cure was going to stop funding community grants to Planned Parenthood across the country, my world was rocked. I was intimately involved in grantmaking for a Komen affiliate and I was shocked that they had changed their policy from a local decision to something that was nationwide. My phone didn’t stop ringing for two days.

For me, it wasn’t about Planned Parenthood. It was about being insulted. I had supported Komen with blood, sweat and tears — and money. They told us the decision wasn’t about Planned Parenthood’s business. And then they told us the decision was about funding mammograms and PP doesn’t provide mammograms.

Without getting into the complexity of the breast health system, my focus is on Komen insisting that I, one of their believers and supporters, didn’t understand the breast health system.

Several years ago I had the pleasure of meeting Bridget Spence at a Komen conference. She wrote about her reasons for continuing to support Komen eloquently and I share it with you here: My Big Girl Pants. Her reasons are all valid and true.

I don’t know if I’ll continue to support Komen. I do know that I will continue to support local organizations that I know are helping people who have been diagnosed with cancer (of all types). Gilda’s Club, in particular, is worthy of your support. (Full disclosure, I’m on the board of directors).

Infographics – As important as your data?


Visualizing Data Helps Charities Get Attention – Innovation – The Chronicle of Philanthropy- Connecting the nonprofit world with news, jobs, and ideas.

Truth: I love infographics. They appeal to the data geek in me. And they tell a story in a way reports can’t — quick facts presented in an interesting way.

And, the article linked above includes the name of an organization that does it for free.

Connecting people who care about foster care in Philadelphia




Every time I attend a Connecting Coffee I am blown away by the quality of the people in the room. Today we had people from 16 different agencies in Philadelphia, each of whom had a connection to foster care in Philadelphia. So many agencies are offering services that they know foster kids should have access to, but so often don’t.  This was a chance for 17 people to share their good work.

Michael Rice of Philadelphia’s Department of Human Services talked about their new initiative, Improving Outcomes for Children. For more information, there is an article in the most recent Philadelphia Social Innovation Journal here: Innovation at the Philadelphia Department of Human Services (DHS): Improving Outcomes for Children by Increasing Accountability and Strengthening Community Partnerships.

It is magical when you can see people learning new things. It’s like watching a beautiful lightening storm. It’s only a couple of hours after the meeting and already I’ve heard from attendees that they are in contact with some of the people they met this morning.

If you’d like to attend, sign up for the mailing list here. The next event in Philadelphia will be in May. Delaware will be launching soon.

You’re on the same team


I see a number of executive directors who struggle with the chair of the board of directors. As this article points out, much of what you’ll read says that you need to define your roles. But what you really need to know is that it’s all about trust.

Effective Board Chair-Executive Director Relationships: Not About Roles! – NPQ – Nonprofit Quarterly – Promoting an active an engaged democracy..