February 20th, 2006I just spent two days with my colleagues from across Michigan and Ohio. It is our opportunity to share good ideas, brag a bit, and revitalize ourselves with the resolve necessary to push on making a difference in our respective communities.
However, this year's session made me feel a bit empty. Why? Because it appears as if the quality of a community foundation is measured by the asset value of the foundation versus the impact it is making. And I thought we were beyond all that. How sad to be sure but not unlike many other sectors or businesses.
While I am immensely proud of the fact that the Grand Rapids Community Foundation has surpassed the $200 million mark by almost $3 million just recently and that we are edging up to the $100 million mark in grants distributed to our community, the value of this foundation is more about what impact we are making, the leadership we display and the mettle we have to stick with addressing tough issues including public education, planning for the future for our aging population, and lifting families and children out of poverty and horrific living conditions.
This field needs to change its view of success - I am certainly ready to measure our success by a variety of measures that may NOT include the asset level of the community foundation. We need to demonstrate bold leadership! Our community definitely deserves the best!
Principles of Greatness
February 2nd, 2006I strongly recommend reading the recently published monograph by Jim Collins, Good to Great and the Social Sectors. As Collins writes, the new material was intended to be a chapter in the future edition of his book, Good to Great. He was inspired by the response from the nonprofit sector to his original book. At the Grand Rapids Community Foundation, we recently used some of his Good to Great ideas and principles in shaping our vision and strategies for the future.
The refreshing and insightful ideas that emerge from his monograph are noteworthy for anyone connected to a nonprofit organization regardless of size: from a university to a large nonprofit health system to the storefront soup kitchen to a medium size human service agency to a church or other house of worship. The key area that we are focusing on is identifying those measures of "greatness" from the viewpoint of making an impact. As Collins tells us, the social sector's "greatness" is not the size - from assets, to a budget to staff size, but rather being able to demonstrate the difference it is making in a community.
So just you when think, believe or someone tells you that the nonprofit sector should be run like a business, read Jim Collins' monograph. He contends and I agree that, "business thinking is not the answer". But, nonprofits are not off the hook. In this era of transparency, it is critical that the nonprofit/social sector have the discipline and apply the rigor necessary to address the mission and key goals of the organization.
Jim Collins, Good to Great and the Social Sectors, published by Jim Collins, 2005. Website www.jimcollins.com