Gone Fishin’

If you have looked around your office and realized that no one else is there – you are not alone! It is the time of the year when staff, board members, and volunteers take vacations, stay-cations, and even the occasional fishing trip. 

We went fishing this month too – to catch a glimpse of the local non-profit community and to see what trends are emerging.

Now, you should know that this wasn’t a big, complex research study. This quick little survey resulted in a 15% response rate where nearly 60% of respondents have operational budgets between $100,000 and $500,000. The results are not statistically relevant or accurate but they did confirm what many of us already believe – that there are complex funding challenges ahead, non-profit leaders remain resilient but are pulled in many directions, and that many organizations have significant milestones to celebrate in 2014.

Here’s what we learned from survey respondents:
40% reported a 10% or greater drop in revenues from fundraising events
26% experienced a more than 10% reduction or a 100% loss of Government Contracts for Services. One organization articulated the seriousness of their loss, “Our organization is on the brink of serious layoffs, termination of staff and program cuts due to decreases in government funding.”
20% report that it is likely or very likely that they will reduce paid staff. More than 48% are planning to increase wages
78% plan on recruiting student interns to help and 92% are looking for volunteers to help
25% report a 10% or greater reduction in grant funding and 33% report a 10% or greater reduction in corporate donations
60% of respondents report that it is likely or very likely that they will increase grant funding and 45% think it likely that they will increase cash sponsorships in the coming year
Municipal funding is shifting – 23% reported more than a 10% reduction and 23% reported a more than 10% increase in funding
11% reported 1st time funding from Gaming
85% of organizations with non government contracts for services expect revenues to stay the same
United Way funding was the only funding source where 100% of respondents reported no change in revenues 
46% reported that they earned more self-generated revenues. 70% report that it is likely or very likely that they will  increase self-generated revenues in the coming year
89% expect individual monthly giving to stay the same or increase
62% are actively trying to reduce expenses and 70% are looking for partners to share costs and leverage resources
90% are looking for new program partners
38% of agencies report that it is challenging or very challenging to meet their mission and strategic goals
80% shared reasons for celebration – many organizations are celebrating anniversaries in 2014 – one 50 year and eight 25, 30, and 40 year anniversaries –  other celebrations include increased client outcomes, new partnerships, funders, and services, increased client registration in programs, and dedicated staff and volunteers

Book Review: The Abundant Non Profit

Volunteering trends vary greatly across the world and what may be true for most other nations is not always true in Canada; like the idea that there is a shortage of volunteers. Canada has the 2nd largest voluntary sector in the world – after the Netherlands – and with more than 12 million volunteers across the country we do not have a shortage of willing participants.

Vantage Point (Vancouver’s Volunteer Centre) has long advocated for the fact that in this continued environment of resource scarcity non profits have to think and behave differently. They believe so strongly in the idea that non profits need to shift our primary focus from allocating financial assets to developing human assets that staff members Colleen Kelly and Lynda Gerty put pen to paper (sorry, fingers to the keyboard) to write their book “The Abundant Non Profit.”  

The book is scattered with wise words and good ideas but if reading non profit management books is not top of your summer ‘to-do’ list, then here are some of the paraphrased highlights.  

  • Non profits cannot always wait for funding to start or finish key projects. Vantage Point believes we must expand our circle of experienced volunteers who can help by breaking down projects into bite sized chunks and getting the work done.
  • While all volunteers are created equal in terms of their value to an organization, some volunteer work is valued at a higher rate of return than others. For example: the value difference between using volunteers to copy newsletters or to build a new website.
  • All volunteers need to have work that meets their learning and engagement needs. Create project options with varying levels of complexity.
  • Create an annual plan for volunteer led and managed projects (and connect them to your strategic goals.) 
  • Integrate volunteers into every level of the organization
  • Turn project and program managers into people managers. One manager can only complete a limited number of projects or program objectives, but a people manager with 40 to 60 volunteers can increase their productivity exponentially.

You can purchase “The Abundant Non Profit” directly through the Vantage Point website or member agencies can sign the book out of the Volunteer Victoria library.

Results of our Family Volunteering Survey

Over the past year we have identified an increasing level of community interest in family volunteering (adults and children together). This has come from families, employee groups, the media and others.

As one of VV’s roles is to identify emerging trends in volunteerism, we recently surveyed our 296 member agencies to learn more about family volunteering options.

We wanted to determine how many of our agencies currently engage families as volunteers, as well as identify agency capacity for engagement, perceived barriers, current practices / experience around family volunteering and interest in sharing learnings or learning more about family volunteering.

From the 78 agencies that responded to this survey we learned that:

46.6% (34 agencies) have volunteer opportunities that are open to families

Of those agencies that currently offer family volunteer opportunities, 26.3% (10 agencies) have no minimum age and close to 60% (22 agencies) have a minimum age of 10+ years.

Of those agencies that currently involve families as volunteers, 25% (10 agencies) have had 1 or less families volunteer over the past year, 37.5% (15 agencies) have had 2-5 families, 15% (6 agencies) have had 6 -10 families and 22.5% (9 agencies) have had more than 15 families.

34% (14 agencies) of the agencies who currently engage families are willing to share their experiences. For example, on a panel discussion around family volunteering.

66.7% (38 agencies) of those who do not currently engage volunteers would be interested in learning more about family volunteering.

63.8% (44 agencies) of those surveyed indicated that current volunteer positions might be adapted to provide opportunities for families.

The primary reasons that agencies gave for not including families as volunteers focused on timing – volunteer opportunities are on weekdays; nature of the agency’s work – vulnerable or at risk populations; safety, supervision and liability issues; and capacity – space, time investment and staff availability.

Some agencies, however, noted that they simply hadn’t thought of family volunteering.

Based on these findings, it appears there is both potential interest and available expertise to offer a panel session on family volunteering. We have also identified family volunteering as one of our target areas for volunteer engagement in the coming year. Stay tuned!

Our Training Initiatives

Each year Volunteer Victoria works with a wide variety of trainers to deliver workshops for our community participants.  As the Manager of Training and Outreach for Volunteer Victoria, I’m pleased that we are able to offer a good cross-section of learning opportunities for our member agencies and others in our community who need to develop knowledge and skills in nonprofit management.

Just since September last year our staff or contracted facilitators have taught workshops in: fund development, media relations, social media, volunteer management, networking skills, succession planning, communication skills, story-telling, governance, public speaking, creating public displays, and emerging leadership. And we’re not even done the training year yet!  I’d like to send out a big thank you to all of the trainers who continue to work graciously for the needs of our community by partnering with Volunteer Victoria in this vein.

On that note, I am starting to plan for the 2011/2012 training “season” which, for Volunteer Victoria, begins in September. I’m in the midst of reviewing what our member agencies’ knowledge needs are and will then create – as I do every year – a training plan of workshops designed to address those needs.

Do you have stellar teaching skills and a great knowledge base in a topic that could benefit nonprofits?  Do you know someone who does?  Individuals who wish to work with us as contracted facilitators are invited to contact me at any point throughout the year to discuss your ideas and skills.  In addition, agencies are always invited to suggest topic ideas for me to consider as well. The more you keep telling us what it is that you need, the better we’ll be able to do just that.

Overview of Volunteer Management Course Graduates, Class of 2010

Overview of Volunteer Management Course Graduates, Class of 2010

Your Case for Support – a critical first step

The following is a guest blog post written by Kari Frazer, facilitator of our recent “Planning for Fundraising Success” workshop.  Kari holds the international Certified Fund Raising Executive designation and has been practicing fundraising, marketing and media relations for 24 years.

In my recent Planning for Fundraising Success workshop for Volunteer Victoria I think the pivotal subject was creating the The Case for Support. Many of the 30 people in the room had an ‘aha’ moment when we went to some of their websites and looked for evidence of their priority needs. Many websites had a Canada Helps button that asked for a donation, but very few described a priority need and engaged us in a human story.

The first step we can all make is to describe our priority needs on our websites. Your website is your most important tool for identification, cultivation, solicitation and stewardship of your donors. The creation of all collateral, presentations, grant writing, direct mail and face to face asks can be duplicated from your website information. By sharing the stories and needs so accessibly and with such clarity, all volunteers and staff in the organization naturally become spokespeople and support your fundraising efforts.

Take a look at your website’s home page. Where is your story of an urgent need? Do you have ‘one click’ to a human story about a problem, the solution, the urgency and how the reader could be involved?

One exceptional site to model after is The Girl Effect. The website information and the series of videos cultivate us as well as encourage us to take action. The options to be involved include donating one-time, donating monthly, choosing what specifically to donate for, sharing the video/website with friends, volunteering, advocating, and finding out more information. This one site takes us through the entire The Fundraising Cycle from identifying ourselves and our friends to being cultivated, then solicited and thanked before being identified for another gift.

Our goal is for each priority need to have a human story that appeals to the reader’s heart, head and wallet. When your story describes the current problem or situation, what emotion does it stir? Pride? Fear? Inspiration? Hope? Grief?

You speak to the reader’s ‘head’ when you present a solution to the problem and a logic to why your organization has the history and resources to address the problem.

The reader is now ready to donate and knows that their contribution will make a difference because you have spoken to their ‘wallet’ by describing how each contribution – no matter if it is $25 or $2,500 – will make a difference. The reader is important to solving the problem. Through your organization and this particular project the reader can be a part of something bigger than themselves.

The reader has decided that this is an important need to donate to but what is the urgency? Why should we donate to your project when there are 1,100 charities in Greater Victoria inviting us to support them? Why you and why now? What is your call to action?

Evaluate your own website use the CharityChannels.ca evaluation form or  contact CharityChannels@gmail.com / www.CharityChannels.ca to show you the way.

Succession Planning – Is Your Organization Ready for the Future?

Today we’re pleased to feature a guest blog post by certified HR professional Ginger Brunner. Ginger is principal of Dynamic HR Solutions Inc and will be facilitating our upcoming “Succession Planning” workshop on February 17, 2011.

If the employees who currently hold key or critical positions within your organization were to leave tomorrow, would there be any qualified and/or experienced employees prepared to assume their role?

Many organizations are struggling to answer this question as the demographics of the workplace continue to shift. Succession planning is the process of identifying and developing internal employees with the potential to fill key or critical organizational positions. In the past, succession planning was something that only larger corporations did; it didn’t apply to smaller businesses or not-for-profit organizations … until now.

Consider this:

  • Forecasts show that by the year 2012, the first wave of baby boomers – individuals born between 1943 & 1965 and the largest generational demographic in today’s workforce – will start to retire.
  • In 2009, the rate of retirement in BC among senior managers was 42 retirements per 1,000 people in the labour force, compared to 23 out of 1,000 people in the labour force overall.
  • The highest retirement rates are in senior management positions and occupations requiring the greatest skill and experience. These occupations typically have an older labour force given the years of work experience and training required to fill the positions.
  • In 2009, the average age of senior managers in BC was 46.6, compared to 40.7 across all occupations.
  • Organizations that fail to prepare for the need to replace retiring employees could experience issues with productivity and product/service quality.
  • Unless organizations have programs and/or systems in place to ensure that corporate knowledge is not lost with departing employees, valuable time, energy and productivity will be wasted on re-learning processes and procedures.
If your organization is considering, or is in the process of implementing succession planning, here are a few key points to keep in mind:
  • In order to be fully effective, succession planning should be more than a stand-alone initiative. When developing succession planning strategies, they need to fit within the overall strategic direction of the organization. This helps strengthen the organization’s capacity for long term sustainability.
  • Succession planning is not just an HR initiative. Senior managers need to be responsible for identifying strong leaders within his or her organization and helping them develop in preparation for the next step in their career.
  • The “fear of being replaced” needs to be substituted by a “desire to be replaced”. Senior managers need to embrace the opportunity to mentor and prepare aspiring individuals to step into his or her position. Even if they are not retiring, this enables them to perhaps advance into another position in their own career path.
  • Succession planning may need to include looking outside of the organization. Although it is preferable to be able to develop individuals from within the organization, it is not always possible or realistic for a variety of reasons. In these cases, the organization may need to look outside of itself to recruit new talent.
  • Succession planning should be an ongoing process. Re-visit succession plans regularly to ensure that they are being followed, and make adjustments as required.
Whether or not organizations foresee a turnover of key leadership positions, implementing a proactive succession plan will help minimize the loss of corporate “memory”, increase employee engagement and, ultimately, strengthen the organization’s capacity for long term sustainability.

To reserve your space in the upcoming Succession Planning workshop offered by Volunteer Victoria, click here.

Nonprofit Marketing: As easy as 1, 2, 3

 A little birdie helped us out recently to learn more about nonprofit marketing.

The graphic birdie image pictured above sits in the “1, 2, 3 Marketing Tree”, developed by Mills Communications Group’s founder Erica Mills, who was in Victoria in mid-July to teach a workshop for Volunteer Victoria.  Erica delivered “Nonprofit Marketing: Make the Most of What You’ve Got!” to a collection of our member agencies – and the workshop was a fantastic success.


It can be common for nonprofit staff members to feel a bit frustrated and confused about marketing.  But having a workshop such as this was a great step in the direction of feeling more marketing savvy, especially when the workshop was led by a marketer who understands exactly where nonprofits are coming from.  You see, the “1, 2, 3 Marketing Tree” is a tool specifically developed for nonprofits.  It’s a physical poster-sized resource that helps your organization to define what marketing success would look like.  The tree encourages you to identify who you need to reach in order for your marketing efforts to be successful, and then it helps you plan how to reach those groups most effectively.


The tree itself is a great metaphor for marketing a nonprofit.  As Mills says,

What do a tree and marketing have in common?  Anyone can plant a tree and anyone can do marketing.  The trick in both cases is knowing how to make it grow and thrive.

In the case of nonprofits, marketing has to have a connection to fundraising.  Mills suggests first focusing your marketing efforts on your “believers.”  Get specific about who your supporters and donors are and try to keep them engaged.  Give them the opportunity to invest in your organization.  Don’t try to convert people (“atheists”) to believe in your mission that really can’t be converted.  In her words, “retention is so much less expensive than acquisition.”


Mills also encourages organizations to find their “benefit proposition.”  What is the one thing that you do that categorizes your organization?  What does your agency do, in a nutshell?  For example, at Volunteer Victoria we might say, “We connect volunteers to the organizations that need them.”  Volunteer Victoria does a bunch of other things, of course, but this sentence describes the essence of what we do. The more specific you can be about what your organization is all about and who it serves, the more effective your marketing efforts will eventually be to attract your supporters.  Mills suggests that you should actually create three to seven specific profiles that describe your typical donors or supporters and give them real names.  Then, create materials to reach those specific profiles.  It may sound strange, but it works!


The message that came across loud and clear at this workshop is that nonprofit marketing is all about planning.  It’s too easy to jump into using a marketing mechanism, especially “free” social media tools such as Twitter or Facebook (remember, they’re not free if they take staff time to run them), without having put the thought into why those tools would be essential to help you reach your target audience.  Thinking about the “what” and the “who” of your marketing plan before you get to the “how” is absolutely essential for a good end result.  If you incorporate all three of these elements, nonprofit marketing is as easy as 1, 2, 3!

Emerging Leaders Network: The first eight weeks

It’s only been eight weeks since we launched our Emerging Leaders Network but the group’s membership has already risen to 85 people and we’ve held several fantastic events so far.  This is an update on what has been happening with the Network since it began in late May, and is also a glimpse of the exciting events we’ve got planned for the next few months.

It didn’t take long after we announced the creation of the Network’s online community for younger nonprofit professionals in the Victoria area to start signing up in droves.  In fact, within a week 42 members had joined!  Two weeks after that, the membership had soared to 66 emerging leaders, and (as mentioned above) today the Network numbers almost 20 more.  It will continue to grow, I’m sure, as more individuals with an eye to leading a nonprofit organization in the future find out about this exciting new group.

As the Network’s project lead, I spent time in June and July getting together with Network members in five “Blue Sky Sessions.”  These brainstorming sessions (named after similar sessions at Disney) were casual get-togethers where all ideas about what the members would like the Network to look like were considered and discussed.  The ideas that came forward were incredible!  Emerging leaders proposed topics for workshops and meetings and suggested possible speakers, books, websites, and other resources that they felt were important to share with their colleagues.  Through these sessions I learned a lot about emerging leaders’ preferences, capabilities, worries, ambitions and needs – information that is going to help immensely with planning desirable activities for Network members this year.

On June 28 we held the first bi-monthly Emerging Leaders Network meeting which featured Volunteer Victoria’s Executive Director Val Green as the guest speaker and saw 34 emerging leaders attend to kick off the Network.  The buzz of excitement in the room was incredible as attendees started meeting their similar-age colleagues at other nonprofit organizations.  And Val, a true believer in the capabilities of emerging leaders, shared her leadership learnings from her more than 25 years of nonprofit experience and time as an Executive Director.  What a great start to the Network!  (Don’t worry, we audio-taped the session so new Network members can listen in, after they join, to all meetings.)

Next it was time to start connecting with current nonprofit leaders to see how they could get involved in the Network.  I already had information from the Blue Sky sessions about how emerging leaders would like to connect with current leaders, so I developed a checklist document to send to Executive Directors of local nonprofit organizations to gauge their level of interest in these connections.  The document was sent out to Volunteer Victoria’s Executive Director’s Network email list and soon the responses came flooding in.  It turns out that EDs are just as interested in connecting with emerging leaders to learn from them as the other way around – nice!  Now I’m organizing short coffee and lunch sessions to bring emerging leaders and current leaders together, have more ideas for future speakers for Network meetings and workshops, and will eventually be able to feature leader interviews in podcasts that will be made available to all Network members.  Speed networking events that will bring together emerging leaders and current leaders are also on the horizon.

What else have we been up to so far?  Well, we held our first casual mixer for emerging leaders only at a downtown pub in mid-July.  And, a sub-set of the Network membership is also helping me plan a five-day leadership course, to be offered over a five-month period from Fall 2010 to Spring 2011.  The program is intended to ground emerging leaders in the knowledge they need to have in order to lead nonprofit organizations.

All said, the first two months of the Emerging Leaders Network has been a whirlwind of activity and lots more is yet to come.

Speeches at Volunteer Victoria’s AGM: Mitchell Temkin

NOTE: This post is part of the Embracing the Future-Leading for Change post regarding our Annual General Meeting.

We’d like to thank Mitchell Temkin for delivering the following thought-provoking speech on community leadership at Volunteer Victoria’s Annual General Meeting on June 24, 2010.  Mitchell’s bio can be found at the end of this post.

Good morning.

Val asked me to speak a little about what is coming in the future for community leadership. I was foolish enough to say yes!

I am sure we can all agree that prognostication is a dangerous and iffy thing. It is so easy to be clever and look insightful, but ever so much easier to be absolutely and irremediably wrong.

In baseball, if you are batting .300, it means you are doing really well. It also means that you fail seven out of ten times you come to the plate. My guess is that the failure rate in prognostication is much, much higher and that if you are right even one time out of ten – that’s the equivalent of batting .100 in baseball, bad enough to get you left on the bench or sent down to the minors — you are ahead of the game.

So it is with a little trepidation that I launch into these comments. The future of community leadership is an important topic that requires more than cleverness, and we really do need to try to understand what to expect of our leaders in the future.

The good news is that in speaking of leadership we have a little help and we can do better than just guess. That’s because — as I believe — the practice of leadership is shaped by its context.

Military leadership, for example, is what it is because it is shaped by the nature of military organizations and military purpose. Business leadership is shaped by the nature of business organizations and market dynamics. Similarly in community leadership. So in speaking of the future of community leadership we have the emerging form of our communities to help us imagine our way forward. We are starting to have a pretty good sense of how our communities and the challenges they are facing are changing. From this, I think we can begin to understand what good community leadership will look like in the future.

In speaking of this, I would like to talk about five aspects of community leadership that I think will be important in the years to come. These are the leadership of collaboration, values based leadership, situational leadership, leadership from the middle, and leadership in times of increasing uncertainty.

These five aspects are all related. I will take them in turn, starting as above with collaboration.

Now there is nothing new in my noting the need for collaboration, which has received much attention in recent years. The concern for collaboration within the community sector and across the community, business, and government sectors is being driven by the scale of the problems that communities face — problems like homelessness or environmental degradation that no single organization and indeed no single sector can tackle on its own, as Judith Maxwell has pointed out. In my own work in strategic planning with boards, I find that there are very few that currently do not already list more effective collaboration, partnerships, and inter-organizational outreach as strategic priorities.

What is new is the recent urgency brought to collaboration for the community sector by the climate of fiscal restraint, which will seemingly be with us for years to come, or so it would be most prudent to assume. Especially in a smaller city like Victoria, community organizations are correspondingly small and many will not be able to maintain minimum sustainable scale as revenues decline. For these organizations, the stark choice often will be to collaborate or fail.

Whatever form that collaboration takes — cooperative projects, resource and service sharing, joint ventures, or even full-blown mergers, to take a few examples — collaboration does not happen by itself. It takes tremendous leadership to initiate, sustain, and guide it. Part of this is straightforwardly managerial. Innovative, entrepreneurial leadership will be needed to design and implement collaborative endeavors, from simple things like joint project task groups, to very complex things like shared governance and policy structures that work across sectoral and regulatory divisions.

But more important and perhaps more difficult than the practical elements of collaboration is the leadership required to simply get it started. It takes uncharacteristic courage and trust on the part of boards and management to enter collaborative enterprises, and even under financial duress they will not do so easily. Effective community leaders in the future will be those leaders than can inspire confidence and bring people to the table to open and sustain the “trusted dialogues” that make collaboration possible.

Above all, I suspect, it will be the initiators and leaders of collaboration who will be the most significant and impactful community leaders in the years to come.

Second, I am tending to think that community leadership in the future will be increasingly “values based.” By this I mean that leaders will only be effective when they can find a foundation of shared values to unite disparate groups in common purpose. Collaboration and values, we therefore see, are closely related.

The reason for this is that our communities are increasingly fragmented — by age, ethnic, religious, and gender divisions; by ever more narrow localisms; by increasing economic disparity; by increasingly rigid ideological and political divisions; by dispersed communities of shared interest that don’t relate to local issues; by new media tools that often isolate individuals even as they engage them.

I recently had occasion to take a long drive through the suburbs of Greater Vancouver, stopping to do errands along the way — from right downtown out along East Hastings and the downtown east side, out to south Vancouver, over to Burnaby, across the river to Delta, and endlessly east through Surrey to Langley, where I was making a presentation. I took the small roads, and despite the commercial sameness everywhere — itself erosive of any sense of place, and hence of community — the fragmentation was easy to sense, as the new jostled with the old, as different ethnic groups in old world dress mixed on the sidewalks, as the machinery of consumption dominated the design of new neighbourhoods, and as everywhere in these far suburbs wealth brushed up against poverty and the marginalized faded to invisibility.

Where does one find community in the big inclusive sense in all of this, I wondered. The answer, I think, lies in common values, which function as a kind of social DNA. Biologists tell us that different animal species share something like 99% (I can’t recall the actual number) of their DNA. For the most part we are not much different genetically than fruit flies! It is small genetic differences that make big differences in species biologically.

Similarly with values. Though we tend to focus endlessly on our differences, which loom large but often come down to small differences in values, the fact is that most of us, most of the time, hold many of our bedrock values in common, wherever we come from, however we live. This was illustrated for me a few weeks ago by a heartening story in the Globe&Mail about a joint Palestinian-Israeli hockey team, of all things — a group of players who overcame their potential divisiveness through a focus on the shared values of sport. Their coach, I’m thinking, must be an interesting sort of leader.

Sport often plays this role. But the values we hold in common reach beyond those connected with games and athleticism. Just as the coach of the hockey team was able to animate shared values to power shared athletic endeavour, I suspect that community leaders of the future will need to be skilled in identifying and articulating the shared foundational values — our social DNA, as it were — that can power common community purpose.  More and more, effective community leaders will be those who can inspire diverse groups to acknowledge their similarities and put shared values to work. This will be essential if fragmented communities are ever to be brought together.

It is within this context of values-based leadership that the third important feature of community leadership in the future will develop. And that is, or so I suspect, that future community leadership will often be situational rather than positional.

What does this mean? Well, right now, when we talk about community leaders, we often have in mind people durably ensconced in leadership positions in organizations. For many of these, their ability to exert leadership influence is as much a function of their positions within their organizations as it is of their abilities and inclinations. And for many one suspects leadership is more a duty, and an uncomfortable one at that, than a gift. Long-term, progressive engagement with leadership positions static organization provides the context for the old model of community leadership — though this is a rough generalization that certainly does not apply universally.

But that model of static leadership positions is already beginning to break down, most clearly among the young but not only among the young. It is doing so because the terms of individual engagement with community issues are starting to change under the influence of demographic pressures (the durable presence of the overly-populous boomers in positional leadership roles), changing attitudes and capabilities (shorter attention spans and reduced free time), changing expectations (community engagement not as civic duty but as a networking opportunity and resume builder), and changing tools (especially the huge facilitative role of online social networks and communication.)

I think we are also seeing here some of the influence of the pressure for collaboration. The less that issues fit neatly within the terms of reference of single organizations the less relevant positional leadership roles become and the greater the opportunity for situational leaders to play an important facilitating role.

Under this new way of engaging people are less inclined to develop long-term affinity with organizations and more inclined to develop short-term but intense engagement with projects and issues. Hit and run engagement we could call it. We see this most conspicuously in the ad hoc projects and initiatives that emerge suddenly through online social networks, but the pattern is evident wherever people volunteer — more and more people are inclined to engage situationally, for the short term, and not organizationally.

This may make problems for boards with an old-world mindset about how things should work, but it creates wonderful new opportunities for getting things done for those organizations that can learn to take advantage of the new attitudinal context.

Now, sometimes situational engagement occurs on projects within the confines of single organizations. But when it does not, we begin to see the influence of situational leaders – those leaders who emerge for a time to lead and inspire short-term initiatives and projects that cross static organizational and sectoral boundaries, but who do not assume formal leadership positions and often relinquish their leadership role when a project is complete, or move on to a different issue.

The more that community initiative requires collaboration, and the more that collaboration depends on establishing values-based coalitions of shared concern, the more we should expect, I think, that community leadership in the future will be situational rather than positional.

For our fourth idea — really two related ideas — about future leadership, I’d like to turn to an article written by famous McGill management professor Henry Mintzberg, which appeared in the Harvard Business Review in 2009.

Called “Rebuilding Companies as Communities,” the article focuses on re-establishing the lost sense of community in large corporations — a sense of community destroyed, says the professor, by the short-term, self-serving thinking of big-ego, flagship business leaders. With a lovely turn of phrase, Professor Mintzberg suggests that what companies need is not more big time leadership from the top, but rather “communityship” — intentional action to rebuild community from within.

Though he is concerned with large companies, in talking about how communityship gets re-established Professor Mintzberg develops two leadership notions that I think are directly relevant to community leadership in the future.

The first of these is “leadership from the middle” — by which he means initiative from small groups of middle managers who bond together to lead and drive change from the inside out. Now, the community at large does not have “small groups of middle managers,” but the manifold relevance of the idea of leadership from the middle to community leadership to me seems quite striking. To my mind, leadership from the middle in organizations seems a lot like situational leadership in communities, in the sense that both are ad hoc and unrelated to formal leadership roles. My guess is that it is situational leadership from the middle, involving volunteers and middle managers from different organizations, which will ultimately make community collaborations successful.

Professor Mintzberg goes on to ask what will facilitate the growth of leadership from the middle. And here he comes up with a really striking and beautiful idea. Playing off the notion of “just in time delivery” as it is used in operations management, he suggest that what is needed is “just enough leadership”  — by which he means leadership from the top whose primary role is to facilitate leadership from the middle, and then fade to the background. Just enough leaders are, more than anything else, catalysts whose primary role is to bring out the leadership capacity in others, and not just to dominate things themselves.
I find it hard to imagine an idea more useful to our exploration of what community leadership might be. Just enough leaders are implicitly situational leaders of collaborative endeavour based on values held in common, and they are absolutely what will be needed in abundance if the collaborative community enterprise of the future is to succeed.

Finally, I want to speak for a moment about leadership in times of uncertainty.

One thing that many of us feel for certain about communities in the future, is that their identity, security, prosperity and sustainability will become increasingly uncertain. Times, it seems, will be more and more fraught.

Now, one way of looking at leadership in general is to reflect that leaders are simply people who — whether or not they are working in a leadership team of some sort — accept individual accountability for decisions and actions made under uncertainty. Think about it, work it through for yourself: where there is no uncertainty there really is no need or role for leadership.

As a species we are evidently extremely uncomfortable with uncertainty — as evidenced by the elaborate belief systems we adopt to mitigate our discomfort and our repeated, relieved, enthusiastic, collective abandonment of skepticism in the face of the plausible, no matter how odd.

All of this is perhaps a bit more gloomy philosophy than one really needs over coffee and muffins first thing in the morning, but I bring it up because it is directly relevant to the quality of community leadership we want for ourselves.

Leadership is ethically neutral. Though we have a tendency to think of it as a good in and of itself, the key question always is “Leadership for what? To what end?” Reflect that many of the most evil figures from history have been highly effective leaders by today’s standards and definitions. I’m sure I don’t have to come up with examples for you. 

As we look forward to more uncertain times, therefore, we look forward to times in which strong leadership, while increasingly needed and important, is also increasingly risky. Just because someone is an effective leader does not mean that he or she necessarily gets things right or holds benign intent. And when strong leaders get things really wrong, or are working with hidden agendas, the results can be ugly, even disastrous.

So as uncertainty grows, what is needed for community leadership in the future is a strong counter weight of accountability. This comes down to all of us, because the less formal and positional leadership becomes, the less accountability can be exerted through traditional structures. What is imperative is that we never abandon our skepticism, and collectively as communities hold our leaders to continuous account. Accountability, like leadership itself, will need to come from the middle, and unless we exert ourselves to demand it we will neither get nor deserve the leadership we need.

And on that cheerful note I conclude! We will see if even ten percent of all this is right. Thank you.

Mitchell Temkin is the principal of Associatus Consulting, providing strategy, business development, and board development services to purpose-driven organizations. His focus is strategic planning for public good. He has more than 25 years experience as a consultant and as a senior manager in both business and the not-for-profit sector. Mitchell is currently on the board of Leadership Victoria and volunteers with the Victoria Foundation as a Community Advisor. He has served on the boards of the Ontario Field Ornithologists and the Federation of Ontario Naturalists, as well as on the Communications Advisory Committee of the Canadian Centre for Philanthropy. He has an undergraduate degree in philosophy from the University of Toronto and an MBA from the University of Western Ontario. He is qualified as a Certified Management Consultant.

Speeches at Volunteer Victoria’s AGM: Sandra Richardson

NOTE: This post is part of the Embracing the Future-Leading for Change post regarding our Annual General Meeting.

We would like to thank Sandra Richardson for the following very informative speech she gave at Volunteer Victoria’s Annual General Meeting on June 24, 2010.  Sandra’s bio can be found at the end of this post.

We are all too familiar with the riveting impact on non-profits from the economic crisis.   We are all asking what next? I feel the sector is now at an inflection point that will reshape it long after the economic crisis.  Non-profits will find themselves in a new reality – not just economically, but demographically, technologically and socially.

A number of key trends are hastening the emergence of a new sector.  What are some of the trends?
• Demographic shifts that redefine participation
• Technological advances abound
• Networks enable work to be organized in new ways
• Interest in Civic Engagement and Volunteerism is rising
• Sector boundaries are blurring

We are moving at the speed of change.  Five years ago who would have dreamed of Twitter? Five years from now the sector will not simply have returned to its previous pre-crisis state. The non-profit sector is being tested as generational and other demographic shifts change the face of the donor base and workforce.  Technology demands greater responsiveness and transparency, and the blending of the public, private and non-profit sectors create new competitive and collaborative opportunities while simultaneously calling into question just what it means to be a non-profit organization.

This is just the beginning – the most significant changes are likely not on our radar yet.  We can say that change is nothing new to us in this sector, but the highly accelerated pace at which social, technological and economic shifts are now occurring and affecting one another, presents radical challenges and demands increasingly adaptive responses.  The traditional approaches of non profits, funders and capacity-builders will fall short and the old rules may no longer apply. 

So, how will non profits survive and thrive?  We must become futurists – not predicting the future, but being attuned to rapid and continued shifts in the environment, continually evaluating and interpreting how organizations can best adapt.  It means experimenting with new responses and approaches.  Being a futurist will require both individual and institutional curiosity, and a willingness to take risks.  We cannot afford to rest on our laurels, assuming that the old ways of doing business will continue to serve us in this dramatically new and ever-changing environment to map the road ahead for us – it is our responsibility to envision and shape the future for ourselves, our organizations and thus, our community.

The non-profit sector has always featured an inter-generational workplace, with older workers in leadership positions and younger colleagues in front line or support positions. However, the future will require non-profits to understand how to share leadership across generations.  This shift could be fraught with assumptions on all sides, and complicated by real differences in the world view of “experience”. 

There are significant distinctions in how the younger generations value, approach and leverage engagement, transparency, technology, professional development and work-life balance.  The differences will need to be negotiated!  Just as futurist non-profits will need to learn to share leadership, so too will they need to be inclusive in a wider variety of cultural perspectives and the diversity of leadership styles.  These players adopt new technologies and tools such as social media and other capabilities. These technologies influence people’s values, including a desire to participate in real time, a demand for measureable results and expectations of openness and transparency.  So the interplay between human and technology driven forces create new norms and structures, along with opportunities to solve problems in ways that blur traditional boundaries.

Networking is not new, however the advent of new technologies and new norms for working collaboratively means the impact of networks is increasing. Technology allows for a deeper and more meaningful collaboration than previously possible.  It is now just as easy to learn and collaborate with an individual across the globe as with an organization across town. Networks can be formed and bring access to new and different networks. The future will mean looking at entrepreneurs, programs, organizations and networks of organizations and less focused on our own organization as the central unit of how we get our work done. As futurists we experiment with new structures and ways of working.

The rise in opportunities for direct activism and virtual volunteering puts non-profits in a precarious position demanding that meet rising expectations and prove their added value.  We will see an increase in the number of active retirees – looking for a new definition of success in the second half of their lives.  We will also see young professionals who were raised with community service as part of their everyday life that will add to this broad pool of volunteers. Virtual volunteering, where tasks are undertaken at least partially online is increasing in popularity regardless of geography. It’s giving back in one’s spare time, reducing transportation costs and travel time.  This will be a tremendous opportunity for the sector if we learn to engage them, or risk seeing this pool turn their attention elsewhere.

This shifting environment creates numerous opportunities for non-profits to partner in new ways. Being able to recognize when to collaborate and when to compete, and having the capacity to move with confidence between the two will be key to non profits’ ability to survive and thrive.  Non-profits will have to know the value they bring to the table and understand the dynamics of “co-opetition”, where an organization they are competing with, they must also cooperate with to understand joint ventures and acquisition activities.

The non-profit sector has historically had a monopoly on doing good.  Now non-profits must consider public agencies, for profit corporations, networks and informal collections of individuals among their competitors and partners.  Investment managers, financial institutions now compete with United Way and community foundations for donor directed funds and a growing emphasis on corporate social responsibility means the social virtue is no longer perceived as exclusive to the non-profit brand. Meanwhile donors want more accountability and evidence of impact placing pressure on the sector to perform in a new way. These elements challenge the sector to maintain their hold on identity as a sector and not just become competition in a new blended economy. The blurring of these boundaries creates opportunities for a growing number of public-private, corporate and non-profit collaborations to share learning and innovation.

Take heart and welcome change, share your experiences.

Sandra has been the CEO of the Victoria Foundation, the second oldest community foundation in Canada, for the last eight years. The Victoria Foundation funds a broad scope of charitable organizations to help reach their mandates and improve the lives of as many people as possible within our community.

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