Blog

Lessons Learned from the Chicago Bulls, Jimmy Butler and Nonprofits

Photo:  Media.Philstar.com

I don’t pretend to be “up on sports”, but I think the manner in which the Bulls treated Jimmy Butler, and the fallout from his trade are instructive to leaders in general. It is very important to foster a culture of respect, open communication and honesty when dealing with team members and subordinates.

From what I’ve been able to glean from newspaper articles this was missing in the Bulls organization. The Front Office, apparently, was not up front with Jimmy Butler concerning their intentions of trading him. There seems to have been a whispering campaign with a bunch of unconfirmed rumors–some indicating that Butler would not be traded; some indicating that he would be traded. Butler never knew what was really happening until the day he was traded.

Sports show pundits speculated wildly as to what happened, and, for the most part, pinned the blame on Butler, calling him a failed leader, and so on and so forth. The Bulls are in perpetual damage control mode, which is pulling positive energy that could be used to develop forward momentum. The team is more divided than ever, and morale is low. When morale is low, it is very difficult for team members to be motivated to do their best. In fact, they may even consciously or subconsciously sabotage the team performance. There is plenty blame to go around, the least of which belongs to Jimmy Butler.

I have seen this type of scenario play out in a host of organizations over the years, and the end result is not pretty. Left unchecked, cultures of disrespect and lack of trust tend to cripple organizations, and sometimes, even tear them apart. Leaders are unable to get buy-in to their vision, goals and objectives; team members are unmotivated; the top performers leave and turnover is very high. The people who remain tend to lack vision or the political will to “right the ship.” In extreme cases, board meeting attendance drops off and there is no quorum to transact important business. When that happens, the organization is usually on life support.

I’m not saying the Bulls organization is on life support, but, they will never be able to be great again until the culture changes for the better. The first step in their rebuilding process should be re-establishing a culture of trust. It is very rare that anybody gives their all to a team of people they don’t trust. This is doubly true in the nonprofit arena, in which organizations rely heavily on volunteers. Unlike multi-million athletes, volunteers don’t have to show up.

UIC Certificate in Nonprofit Management Grant Writing Workshop: July 13, 2017

One-Day Grant Writing Workshop in Chicago: “Grant Writing for Beginners”

Aspiring grant writers! Join UIC’s grant writing experts for “Grant Writing for Beginners,” a one-day, interactive workshop developed and offered by the University of Illinois at Chicago and designed specifically for those with little or no experience writing grants.

What You Will Learn

In this highly participatory workshop, our expert UIC instructors will guide you through a comprehensive overview of the grant writing process, including:

  • Types of funding sources available to nonprofits today
  • How to research grant opportunities and assess the best fit for your funding needs
  • What your organization must have in place before writing a grant
  • The primary components of a grant proposal and how they fit together
  • How to communicate effectively with prospective funders

What You Will Leave With

Bring your energy, enthusiasm, and ideas, and leave with:

  • Confidence in your ability to prepare a foundation grant proposal
  • Practical knowledge you need to succeed in grant writing
  • Experience working on a team to prepare proposal pieces for a fictional organization
  • A workbook for planning, developing and writing successful proposals
  • A valuable network of connections with instructors and workshop participants (bring your business cards!)
  • A list of the top grant writing resources on the Web

Attention researchers: The curriculum for this course focuses on philanthropic foundation grants, not research grants.

Previous grant writing workshops have filled up quickly. We encourage you to register early.

Meet the Instructors

 

Noah Jenkins

Valerie Leonard

New! Funders Lunchtime Panel
Discover first-hand what funders look for in a winning grant proposal.

Alejandra L. Ibañez
Lead Program Officer
Woods Fund Chicago

Daniel Ash
Chief Marketing Officer
The Chicago Community Trust

Brandon Thorne
Senior Program Officer
WC Stone Foundation

 Register for the July 13, 2017 Grant Writing Workshop

Date: Thursday, July 13, 2017
Time: 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Instructors:
  • Noah Jenkins, MUPP – accomplished grant writer, management consultant, and UIC Certificate in Nonprofit Management instructor
  • Valerie Leonard, MM – accomplished executive, community development consultant, and UIC Certificate in Nonprofit Management instructor
Location: University of Illinois at Chicago, Student Center East, Tower Room 713
Fee: $330
Discount: $297 for University of Illinois alumni, employees or current degree-seeking students

Lunch plus morning/afternoon beverages will be provided.

Questions? Contact us. We look forward to seeing you July 13th!

Register-Now

 

 

 


 

One-Day On-Site Workshop or Six-Week Online Course: Which is Right for You?

UIC’s Grant Writing for Beginners workshop is perfect if you are a beginning or aspiring grant writer looking for a one day, in-person overview of the grant writing process that covers the core components of a grant proposal.

UIC’s six-week course, Step by Step: How to Write a Winning Grant Proposal, one of fifteen courses offered through UIC’s Certificate in Nonprofit Management program, is an intensive, six-week online course that gives you the chance to work with experienced instructors to draft the key components of a grant proposal. Visit UIC’s Certificate in Nonprofit Management Web site to learn more about the Certificate in Nonprofit Management online program.

 

Attention researchers: The curriculum for this course focuses on philanthropic foundation grants, not research grants.

Can West Side Tourism Benefit from the Blues?

“Barrel House Bonni” McKeown and blues man Larry Taylor will be guests on the Nonprofit “U” radio blog talk show on Monday, June 19, 2017, from 2:00 pm to 3:00 pm CST.  Nonprofit “U” is an online forum where nonprofit stakeholders can discuss the latest developments in the sector and increase their capacity to serve their clients and build sustainable communities. Valerie F. Leonard, an expert in community and organizational development served as the host. The episode will stream live from BlogTalkRadio.com/nonprofit_u and listeners will have the opportunity to call in with questions and participate in live chats. The live call in number is (347) 884-8121. Nonprofit professionals, blues fans, community advocates, developers and other  community stakeholders are especially encouraged to call in and share their stories. The archived podcast will be available on BlogTalkRadio.com, Valeriefleonard.com/NonprofitU, iTunes Podcast Chart, Blubrry and Stitcher.

“Chicago area heritage musicians still play today, often in obscure holes-in-the-wall for very little money, competing for limited spots in downtown clubs, or exporting their skills overseas.  At home, blues is an undervalued cultural asset”, McKeown lamented not long after a recent discussion of strategies to use blues to jump start heritage tourism on Chicago’s West Side.

“Crain’s business magazine in January pointed out the city is losing money for failure to promote it. Chicago’s West Side has a deeply-rooted history of blues and soul music. What if we could promote it to help develop a local tourism industry?”, McKeown asked.

Building Organizations that Stand the Test of Time

 

Valerie F. Leonard (center) poses with some of the workshop attendees.

 

Valerie F. Leonard, a local expert in community and organizational development, recently partnered with Chicago State University, the Monroe Foundation and the Independent Bulletin Newspaper to host “Lasting Impact: Building Sustainable Organizations”. The information-packed workshop provided an overview of what organizational capacity building is; the current trends in capacity building in the Chicagoland area; the characteristics of sustainable organizations and how organizations can begin to assess their own capacity.

The audience was diverse in terms of backgrounds; they were engaged, and contributed significantly to the discussion.  Participants also had an opportunity to hear about an upcoming luncheon sponsored by Prudential Insurance, as well as an overview of the Inmates for Change program.

Most of the evaluation questions were scored on a scale of 1- 100, with 100 being the highest.  So far, the average response is in the 98 range. Judge Patrice Ball Reed indicated that she found the workshop to be “… concise, clear and informative. Valerie was respectful of our time and kept to the schedule.”

When asked his impression of the workshop, Jeffery Willis, an accountant with the Bobby E. Wright Behavioral Health Center  responded, “I have a knowledge of how to build the organization capacity to make a stronger impact to clients”.

Budder Jones, CEO, Inmates for Change  concurred. “This training session is so well thought-out and presented…, if anything else was done to it, it would be criminal!”

Leonard stated that it is her intent to partner with different organizations around the City of Chicago to have similar workshops. The next workshop will be in North Lawndale, in partnership with Pastors Marvin and Terri Hunter and the New Jerusalem CDC, on June 24, 2017, from 11:00 am to 12:30 pm. The organization is located on the corner of 15th and Kenneth.

“I’m also very cognizant of the fact that, as organizations build their internal capacity, they must also work with local residents of changing communities to build their capacity to take advantage of the opportunities the changes bring”, Leonard said.

There are a number of community planning processes going on throughout the City of Chicago, with varying levels of community engagement and capacity building for community residents.  Leonard indicated that in her role as Vice Chair of the Cook County Commission on Social Innovation’s Social Capital Committee, she gets to hear about innovative planning processes around the City of Chicago and Cook County, including the proposed redevelopment of the old United States Steel site on the South East Side of Chicago and Woodlawn’s comprehensive planning process.

“What I like about these processes is the fact that they have created mechanisms to authentically engage rank and file residents, institutions, public agencies, churches and organizations while actively building local resident leadership capacity to stay in the community as it changes. Rather than hoping and waiting for manufacturers to select their communities and bring jobs, these communities are actively building manufacturing plants and providing specific job training to ensure local hiring.”

Leonard also noted that Alderman Sue Garza of the 10th Ward is working collaboratively  with a coalition of community groups to negotiate a comprehensive community benefits agreement with the developer. At the same time, community organizers are developing strategies around a number of issues, including public safety, public education, the environment, housing, and health and wellness.

“The level of self-determination from residents of Woodlawn and the South East Side of Chicago will make the difference in whether residents are displaced, or whether they can stay in their respective communities as they go through the next phases of development”, Leonard said.  “At this point, it looks like those residents are creating win-win strategies for themselves and the developer.”

Signs of Organizations in Decline

We’ve all heard stories about frogs being dumped in boiling water, and jumping right out and saving themselves, while frogs dumped in lukewarm water that is turned up slowly don’t notice the change in temperature until it’s too late. By the time they realize they’re in boiling water, they are too weak to jump out, and they cook to death. Whether this is true or an urban legend, this is a great analogy for a number of organizations that started off strong, but somehow lost their footing, going headlong into a state of decline. The sad part is, if you talk to the organizational leaders, they may not even realize they are in a state of decline until significant damage is done.   They often mistake “busyness” and activity for momentum and impact. Sometimes they recover, and sometimes they don’t.

There are many reasons organizations lose momentum along the way, including lack of a shared vision, lack of capacity, and the list goes on. Regardless of the reasons, all roads lead to leadership challenges. Outlined below is a list of some common symptoms of organizations in decline.

Deviation from core values.

We’ve all been a part of organizations that have a set of core values on display in their offices, on their websites, etcetera. That is wonderful. However, core values are only as good as the willingness of the organization to adhere to them.

People in organizations in which leaders fail to adhere to their own stated core values soon become disillusioned, and lose motivation to contribute to the organization’s growth. They do the bare minimum to keep from being fired or asked to resign from a volunteer position. Rank and file members get a sense that the leaders lack sincerity, and begin to lose confidence. Once leaders lose confidence of rank and file members, it is very difficult to regain it. People who were attracted to the stated core values often leave organizations when they see that the organization’s culture is one of “do as I say”, but the leaders don’t “walk the walk.”

Lack of Transparency

Decision-making in organizations in decline is usually less transparent than in organizations with forward momentum. Generally speaking, leaders of organizations in decline do not engage in shared decision-making beyond a very small group. Leaders tend to report the decisions that have been made after the decisions have been made, without soliciting authentic input and engagement from the rank and file. Members on the periphery are left to wonder how the decisions have been made and why. Although the leaders may have the best of intentions for the organization, people who are left out of the decision loop tend to feel left out and de-valued. People who feel de-valued don’t stay with organizations very long.

Insular Thinking

Groups on the decline tend to have leaders who come from the same background, “circle” of friends and colleagues etc. Leadership groups that are homogeneous in nature tend to foster similar thinking, maintain the status quo, and engage in “group think.” Group members tend to go along with decisions they don’t agree with, just to get along, even when the decisions are less than optimal for the organization, unethical or unfair. When leaders are not open to new ideas or input from others, they repel innovative thinkers and the ideas and resources they bring. Organizations cannot evolve and go to the next level if the leadership is not open to change.

Failure to Attract New Resources

Declining organizations fail to attract new resources. This includes new blood in terms of new employees and volunteers; new funding sources and new in-kind donations. Sometimes having a constant flow of resources can give a false sense of security. As anyone in the nonprofit arena knows, funders can be fickle, and it is wise to diversify funding sources as well as income generation strategies. The inability to attract new volunteers, funding sources, highly skilled employees and board members is a very strong sign that the organization is in trouble. In fact, it is not unusual for organizations in decline to consistently run financial deficits and experience high turnover in employees, leadership and board members.

Failure to Change With the Environment

Declining organizations sometimes get so caught up in their missions that they confuse the mission with the strategies for achieving the mission. They continue to fulfill their missions using outdated programs and strategies that are no longer relevant. Or, they may continue with the same mission when it has become apparent that their current mission is obsolete, rendering their organizations irrelevant in the current environment.

Mission Creep

While it is dangerous to not adapt to the current environment, it is equally dangerous for organizations to “go any way the wind blows.” Declining organizations are tempted more than most, to “follow the money”, and adapt their programs and services to fit the funders’ priorities, rather than developing their own priorities and finding funders with whom they have shared values and goals. Over time, if the organizations are not careful, they will have drifted from their original mission and intent.

Declining Influence

Organizations in decline will also experience a decline in influence, as evidenced by reduction in attendance levels at community events, public meetings and fundraisers. They will probably be not be viewed as thought leaders or “go to” organizations when it comes to shaping public policy, developing news stories or championing new initiatives pushed by elected officials and foundations.

Declining Engagement of Board Members and Advisory Committee Members

Organizations on the decline experience lower engagement of board members and advisory committee members.  This includes erratic attendance at board meetings and committee meetings.  In the worst cases, attendance is so low that there is no quorum, and business can not be transacted.  This is particularly dangerous when the business at hand involves financial and/or legal matters.

Organizations on the decline often have board members who do not make donations to the organization or participate in fundraisers or other organizational activities and events.  Essentially, they are members in name only, which is a disservice to the organization and themselves. Dis-engaged board members repel funders.

Lack of Self-Determination

Organizations on the decline tend to be unduly influenced by outside forces, including funders, elected officials or other stakeholders with power. I call these “shadow board members.”  It is not unusual for shadow board members to exercise more power than the board members, who are ultimately legally responsible for the organization. A healthy organization will have engaged board members who understand their roles and responsibilities, and will make sure the organization remains focused. They will take advice from external stakeholders, but will not let them control the organization.

What Are Your Thoughts?

These are some of the signs of organizations on the decline that I have observed over the years. I’d be interested in hearing some of your experiences as well. Feel free to comment below.

About the Author

Valerie F. Leonard is an expert in community and organizational development with a mission of strengthening the capacity of organizations to make a positive impact on the communities they serve through technical assistance, specialized workshops, resource and organizational development and project management. She is the host of Nonprofit “U” blog radio talk show and teaches online courses in nonprofit management with the University of Illinois Certificate in Nonprofit Management Program. Valerie has a bachelor of arts degree in economics from Spelman College, and a master of management degree in finance and marketing from the Kellogg Graduate School of Management.

Tip of the Day: Know Your Fiscal Agent’s Fiscal Status

If your organization has a fiscal agent, you should be getting regular accounting of your organization’s financial reports. You should also be privy to your fiscal agent’s financial statements showing your organization’s activities within the context of your fiscal agent’s finances (usually presented as a line item or program.) If you are a member of a board or organization with a fiscal agent and you have never seen your fiscal agent’s 990’s or recent financial statement, you are not exercising your fiduciary responsibility, and neither is your fiscal agent. The only bad questions are those that are not asked, and those that are asked too late.

About the Author

Valerie F. Leonard is an expert in community and organizational development with a mission of strengthening the capacity of organizations to make a positive impact on the communities they serve through technical assistance, specialized workshops, resource and organizational development and project management. She is the host of Nonprofit “U” blog radio talk show and teaches online courses in nonprofit management with the University of Illinois Certificate in Nonprofit Management Program. Valerie has a bachelor of arts degree in economics from Spelman College, and a master of management degree in finance and marketing from the Kellogg Graduate School of Management.

Recap of Saturday’s Workshop

I thank Chicago State University Office of Civic and Community Engagement; Wanda Wright, Director of Community Relations; Otis Monroe, President and CEO of the Monroe Foundation; Hurley Green, III, Publisher, the Independent Bulletin, Zina Simmons, MSN; Margaret Davis, MSN; David Pendleton, Executive Director, Door of Hope Rescue Mission, for their sponsorship, partnership, marketing support and prayers and words of wisdom.

A special thanks to “Val’s Gals”, Stephanie Michelle “Cover Girl” Sanchez-Muñoz,Laurie “London Lavish” Tolbert, and Jourdan “MS AKA” Facen.  They were gracious hostesses and technicians, and set a wonderful tone for the learning atmosphere.

Workshop Recap

Lasting Impact: Building Sustainable Organizations, the first of several capacity workshops I plan to do around the City of Chicago, was held on Saturday, June 10, 2017 at Chicago State University.  I shared an overview of what organizational capacity building is; the current trends in capacity building in the Chicagoland area; the characteristics of sustainable organizations and how organizations can begin to assess their own capacity.

The audience was diverse in terms of backgrounds; they were engaged, and contributed to the discussion.  We also had an opportunity to hear about an upcoming luncheon sponsored by Prudential Insurance, as well as an overview of the Inmates for Change program.  Prudential will be providing a lunchtime overview of retirement planning for nonprofits and displaced corporate employees on Tuesday, June 13th, and Thursday, June 15th at Dixie Kitchen in Lansing, Illinois.  If you’re interested in attending contact me at consulting@valeriefleonard.com, and I will forward your information.

Most of the evaluation questions were scored on a scale of 1- 100, with 100 being the highest.  So far, the average response is in the 98 range.  Here are a couple of the comments that have come out of the workshop.

“It was concise, clear and informative. You were respectful of our time and kept to the schedule.” –Judge Patricia Ball-Reed

“I have a knowledge of how to build the organization capacity to make a stronger impact to clients”–Jeffrey Willis, Accountant, Bobby E Wright Behavioral Health Center

“This training session is so well thought-out and presented…, if anything else was done to it, it would be criminal!”–Budder Jones, CEO, Inmates for Change

Workshop Photos

 

Download Your Copy of the Workshop E-Book Today

In lieu of handouts, I provided a link to my e-book, Lasting Impact: Building Sustainable Organizations.  The book includes

  • slides from the presentation
  •  worksheets to guide you through developing your organization’s theory of change
  • an organizational assessment tool you can use to reflect upon your organization’s capacity in 7 key areas that funders and nonprofits alike find to be of most interest
  • an action planning worksheet to help you outline the next steps in your capacity building process
  • an outline of future professional development opportunities.

Developing your organization’s theory of change lays the groundwork for such activities as writing your case for funding, strategic planning and program development and improvement.  Assessing your organization’s capacity helps you lay the groundwork for organizational growth and sustainability.  Download your e-book for $15.00 here.

In Case You Missed Us

Some of you were not able to join us Saturday due to last minute schedule changes.  There will be two more capacity building workshops in upcoming weeks as follows.

Register here for the June 24th workshop.

 

Register here for the July 22nd Workshop.

 

Lasting Impact

Valerie F. Leonard, a local expert in community and organizational development, is partnering with Chicago State University to host “Lasting Impact: Building Sustainable Organizations”. The information-packed workshop promises to show participants how to build nonprofit organizations that stand the test of time. The free workshop will be held on Saturday, June 10, 2017, from 11:00 am until 12:30 pm, at the Chicago State University New Academic Library Auditorium, on the 4th Floor. Chicago State University is located at 9501 South Dr. Martin Luther King Drive in Chicago.

Participants will learn: 1) characteristics of sustainable organizations; 2) how to create sustainable community and organizational change; 3) how to build their organization’s capacity to make a stronger impact to clients and communities. Visit http://valeriefleonard.com to register.

“Nonprofits should have a well-documented track record in developing programs that have a meaningful impact upon the community and the clients served”, Leonard said.  “This includes the ability to exercise good stewardship over financial and human resources; the ability to manage relationships among various community constituencies; and the ability to respond to change.”    Leonard also noted that those organizations that make the investment in building organizational capacity are more likely to be in a position to sustain themselves over the long term.

Valerie F. Leonard is a community development consultant with a mission of strengthening the capacity of organizations to make a positive impact on the communities they serve through technical assistance, specialized workshops, resource and organizational development and project management.

Chicago State University (CSU) is a public, comprehensive university that provides access to higher education for students of diverse backgrounds and educational needs. The university fosters the intellectual development and success of its student population through a rigorous, positive, and transformative educational experience. CSU is committed to teaching, research, service and community development including social justice, leadership and entrepreneurship.

Capacity Building Workshop

Register here.

Quick Questions on Leadership Transition

I read Joshua 1-3 today. One of the things that grabbed me, among other lessons learned, was the orderly transition of leadership after Moses died. If you are a leader, are you grooming your successor? (regardless of whether you intend to leave your position any time soon) If you are looking for a leadership position, are you faithful and loyal to the organization as well as to the person who brought you along? Does your organization have the right mechanisms in place for an orderly transition? What is your succession plan?

Throwing Bad Money After Good Causes

As you and your organization raise funds, remember, “Not all money is good money”. Consider the source; what their stated goals and objectives are; their mission, core values and culture. If they don’t mesh with those of your organization and what you’re trying to achieve, it’s best to turn the money down.

Remember, “He who pays the piper calls the tune”. You don’t want to find yourself in a position where you’re straying away from the original intent of your organization, mission creep or a rocky relationship with funders and/or the community.

I remember times in my own career where the organization I was running opted to not renew certain grants or go after certain funds because the cost of the money was a much higher price than we were willing to pay. Peace of mind, and singular focus on mission, in the long run are much more important than instant gratification of receiving money for programs that don’t fit your core mission, or being tied to a funder that doesn’t share your core values.

Can you remember a time when your organization had to wrestle with accepting a gift from a funder? If so, I’d be very interested in reading your comments below.