What Is Nonprofit ROI?

nonprofit ROI

What is nonprofit ROI? There is donor pressure on nonprofit organizations to adopt business practices, like calculating ROI.

This pressure makes sense. If you are going to ask a donor for money, and you are confident that you are spending that money for important results, you should be able to articulate strategies and measure results that prove it.

But as a nonprofit leader, don’t get trapped. While the need to be disciplined in forecasting results is the same, nonprofit ROI is very different than for profit ROI.

Here is my definition of nonprofit ROI: mission and margin.

I co-led a team that won a $5m contract with USAID to support sustainable tropical forest economies in the Maya Biosphere Reserve in northern Guatemala...

Speech Acts Are How You And I Shape Reality

The Declaration of Independence Was A Speech Act

Speech acts are how you and I shape reality. Phrases like these are called speech acts: “will you marry me?”, “I’m willing to help“ and “the defendant is sentenced to death by hanging”.  The US Declaration of Independence was also a speech act -- one with profound implications.

After a speech act, big or small, the world shifts. And, as a result, new possible futures emerge, or collapse. Indeed, the ability to create speech acts is what makes humans different from animals.  

Effective leaders recognize when a speech act has occurred. They know how to intentionally create speech acts. And, they quickly adapt to the implications of how the world has changed after a speech act...

Post Merger Integration: Can the Marriage Thrive?


Post merger integration -- can the marriage thrive?  This question should probably be asked before a deal is consummated.  Just like a smart couple assesses  compatibility before tying the knot, it is possible in my experience to assess compatibility between businesses, pre-deal. So, can better dating lead to a better match and therefore better outcomes? 

Most business leaders would, of course, say yes. But in reality, most leave culture alignment issues and questions "for later". But at what cost? What if there were an efficient technology to measure partnership fitness on this side of the altar? Would it even be utilized?

To hear him tell the story, my client would say he heard the alarms and should have paid attention, but instead he practiced selective listening and outright denial. After all, he needed the IT capabilities of this small technology company, and needed them fast. So he overcame objections, and powered through the negotiation.

It wasn’t until 18 painful and unproductive months later...

Creative Tension Is The Source Of Innovation In Teams


Creative tension is the source of innovation in teams. Creative tension is the natural tension created by the tug of war between managing current reality and moving towards a compelling vision of the future. In teams where conflict is not managed in an effective way, creative tension disappears and innovation stops.

In this post, I will share some data from a team and then explain:

  1. Not all innovation is risky.
  2. The source off all innovation is the same -  it is the naturally occurring creative tension between horizontal and vertical perspectives.
  3. Once you understand where innovation comes from you can intentionally design it into your team culture and organizational structure.

How Leadership Teams Successfully Create Aligned Business Strategy

conditions for creating business strategy

What is the most effective way for leadership teams to successfully create aligned business strategy?

I recently helped a 12-member team of an $110m biotech set priorities. In two hours, they narrowed their priorities down to about 7. The CFO later reported that the budgeting process was the easiest ever. There were no turf wars. Everybody knew the priorities.

I’ll share here an overview of the approach that made this possible...

The Law of the Lid

These wry and wise words are extracted from the terrific culture deck published by HubSpot three weeks ago. At 152 slides, it’s daunting, but it’s full of the plot twists and humor that make it a page-turner.

The slideshow is a rulebook on how to create or, more accurately, endlessly cook up a compelling team culture.

This matters to HubSpot. The company is adding 25 new people each month.

The deck got me thinking, and I came up with suggestions for new slides to fill a couple of holes.

hubspot culture code team culture   

Organizational Structure Change Is Required To Reach The Next Level

bigstock-Business-human-resources-manag-19572602As businesses grow, organizational structure change is required to reach the next performance level. Although these changes are predictable, they are rarely easy for top leaders and teams.

This post looks at some predictable organizational changes as businesses grow. And it describes why these changes can be so difficult for top leaders and teams.

Peer Feedback Around Assertiveness, Attentiveness, Authenticity, and Accountability Can Cohere Executive Teams

Feedback Can Stabilize Teams

Peer feedback around authenticity, attentiveness, assertiveness, and accountability can cohere executive teams. And, peer feedback can create the conditions required to clarify roles and align priorities.

My colleagues and I call these four ways-of-being the "four-As". This post is about how to apply the four-As to provide direct developmental feedback to others and to yourself.  

I was recently working with the senior leadership team at a very successful medical device company. Their business was going great. The problem was that the team atmosphere had gotten so bad that even the CEO didn't enjoy working with his team.

During an alignment workshop we had team members give each other direct peer feedback using three of the four-As. As a result, we were able to transform the working atmosphere of the team from de-energizing to energizing...

Merging Teams Faster

Cairo traffic

You are speeding along a highway and then it merges with another highway. What happens? Traffic slows until all of the cars can become integrated using the zipper method.

Merging team cultures and business models works the same way. The speed at which a business is able to develop, sell and deliver products and services to customers slows until the two teams and business models can become aligned and integrated. This post will describe a zipper method for integrating team cultures and business models.

I was recently advising the top leader of a consulting firm, which acquired another consulting firm...