Thursday, July 30, 2009

Calling All Mission-Driven Organizations: Send Questions

When giving a presentation or making a pitch, I'm at my best when responding to questions. It lends focus and allows for the audience to make a better judgement call about whether or not the information might help them move forward. Those on the receiving end have often heard me say that I can talk for hours on the topic at hand, but without their questions, it might all just be interesting talk rather than helpful insights they can leverage when they walk out the door. So, here's the thing... What are your questions related to:
  • organizational development
  • mission-driven leadership
  • nonprofit structure & governance
  • strategic planning
  • communications
  • ideology & identity
  • brand building
  • fundraising & development
  • nonprofit collaboration
  • stakeholder engagement
  • capacity building
Post them here as a comment, send them to, tweet them to @melanieschmidt ... Together, we can advance greater clarity in how to enhance mission-driven organizations and help the people connected to them engage more effectively.
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Monday, July 27, 2009

Avoid These Strategic Planning Missteps

Following are three easy-to-avoid missteps in strategic planning ...

1. Thinking strategic planning is a one-retreat sort of solution. Rather, strategic planning is a *process* from vision to strategy to planning through reality checks to implementation. Successful strategic planning integrates a way of thinking and a model of engagement into the organization's culture.

2. Not taking ownership for the planning, the process or the outcomes, instead connecting it (intentionally or otherwise) to the consultant. Outside perspective is vital when facilitating and crafting a framework for progress, yet it's long-term usability and success hinges on internal commitment to moving it forward.

3. Limiting the engagement to a small few. Greater success can be yours when your open some or all of the process to a larger majority of those affected by or influencing the ability to make progress.

Thanks to Roger Phelps for sparking this post.
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Thursday, July 23, 2009

How Tweets Affect Your Brand

Twitter can be captivating, fun and affirming. When framing the tone of your Twitter profile (which shows your listing of tweets), remember your reputation. When you're tweeting on behalf of an organization, stay true to your organization's voice, tone and intent. When tweeting for yourself, consider how you are presenting yourself. You never know who might be reading ... An interesting litmus test can be to review your profile through the eyes of someone who might hire you for job or a promotion. What do your postings say about you and your commitment or contribution?
Thanks to Peter Abraham for sparking this post.
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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

A Brief Break

My thanks to Jody Glynn Patrick of In Business for the challenge of taking a break to compose a 60-word story (title and all). It was a good exercise reminding me about point of view, storytelling, creative license and the fun of writing outside of work. My submission is below, you can read more at the IB Update site.

Gazes & Grills: In a moment, I lift my gaze and our eyes lock. He, clinging to the wire basket getting his evening’s fill of suet; me, striving for perfect grill marks on our evening’s protein. Stopped, we assess. Neither moves. Both seeing the short distance yet feeling a shared purpose. Each happy to allow the other’s pursuit of food.
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Monday, July 20, 2009

Making Change Actionable

When 'the ways things have always been done' is no longer working for you -- or your organization. Forge a new path. Get beyond business as usual and pave a new way toward greater success.

Refocus and recharge based on an honest assessment of what's desired, what's doable, what's in the gap, what needs to happen to get from now to next year, and how you'll know if you've achieved. Engage stakeholders by seeking and delivering clarity around expectations, curiosity about different ways to achieve success, commitment to a path of action and communication that connects those involved/affected with intention and action. Align people around the purpose and put the systems in place to support their success.

Don't overthink. Don't overdo. Keep it simple and keep it focused.
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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Engagement as a Brand Indicator

Depending on how you present yourself, respond to others and adapt to changing circumstances, it would seem quite likely that an organization's brand is based in its engagement model --- insomuch as that model reflects the core ideology and impression the organization intends to reinforce among stakeholders.

Effective brands deliver a consistency in tone, message, presentation and action across mediums and interactions. They are borne from engagement and they connect on a sensory level, providing an idea of what to expect. They have an intention about them that is clear, consistent and understood. Extraordinary brands take it to the next level. Reflecting the organization's ideology, they inform the actions taken by not only the organization but also those who become its stakeholders & advocates. Plus, they adapt to changing conditions while remaining recognizable within contemporary standards ... all the while making the necessary connections among what people sense, what people experience and what people share.

Thanks to Mark Herbert for sparking this post.
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Friday, July 10, 2009

Social Media Success Starts with Strategy

The most successful social media endeavors occur when the organization recognizes that social media is a distribution channel rather than the be-all-end-all communications solution. Social media success means integrating the various platforms into the rest of the outreach/communications plan and dedicating time/resources to keeping them fresh.

Social media can be a big distraction for many resource-strapped nonprofits (many of whom don't have dedicated communications or outreach staff). A few questions that can be helpful for the nonprofit in setting the stage:
  • How does the social media platform complement other efforts?
  • Does using social media allow the nonprofit to streamline other things it is doing?
  • How will you leverage the culture of each social media platform to reinforce your intent?
  • Do you have an effective Web site to reinforce your online presence and reinforce/validate the messaging you are sharing?
  • Do you have a messaging strategy to ensure focus of intent, purpose and desired outcome across platforms?
Experimentation is a great thing and social media is one of those areas where the field of experimentation is quite vast -- and fun! Nonprofits should be experimenting, trying different things, talking with stakeholders (donors, funders, clients, employees, etc) about how they are working ... but not at the expense of its strategic intentions for moving the organization (and the mission) forward.

Thanks to Chuck Zdrojowy for sparking this post.
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Wednesday, July 08, 2009

How Relevant is Your Strategic Plan(ning)?

Strategic plans can be incredibly beneficial in moving an organization forward. The process through which they are created can be enormously helpful in refocusing and recharging staff, Board, volunteers and other stakeholders --- particularly at times of transition, stress or challenge. So, I'm curious ...

Thanks, in advance, for taking the time to answer the quick survey. Stay tuned for what the results reveal...
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Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Excite Your Employees

What excites employees about their organization is the opportunity to get excited about their organization. For instance, employees can get excited when they see authentic leadership that fosters an environment which builds on individual strengths toward a shared goal, encourages tolerance & adaptability, and celebrates achievements in diverse ways. Employees seem to get excited when they have a clear idea about the direction of the organization, the freedom to be curious about different pathways to get there, commitment to sound & respectful decision-making and open communication toward those ends. I know that when I was someone else's employee, it was exciting to make the connection between what I was doing in my role with how the organization was moving forward and making strides toward what we wanted to accomplish.

Thanks to Manolo Santos for sparking this post.
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Friday, July 03, 2009

Overcome the Distraction of Uncertainty

Don't let uncertainly throw your organization into a downward spiral. Face the uncertaintly head on ... acknowledge it, then refocus and simplify.

Refocus on the organization's core purpose, the changing circumstances and the desired achievements. Build from strengths and be brutally honest in the discovery. Resist the urge to circle the wagons and limit the conversation to a few; rather, engage your stakeholders in the conversation. Make them part of the discovery and help them see themselves in the solution. Create a framework for progress that is simple: easy to understand, focused and short. Something on which people can build and within which there is the flexibility to adapt to changing circumstances. And, do it quickly. Make a commitment to recharging the organization and dedicate some time to make it so. You won't short-change the process by moving swiftly, though you might realize more success faster and more frequently by taking action!

Challenging times call for more clarity, curiosity, commitment and communication. Regain focus by accepting you may need to refocus and use uncertainty to your organization's advantage by letting it spark some curiosity about new ways to achieve success. The resulting conversations can yield necessary commitment that you can communicate clearly and consistently to your stakeholders, demonstrating progress along the way.

Thanks to Octavio Ballesta for sparking this post.
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