Q: Can you be in more than one nonprofit lifecycle stage at once?
A: No, there are key features, people, and processes involved in each stage. While you might be on a cusp, you’re not going to be in both whitewater (the stage of learning how to deliver consistency in complexity at the same time) and treadmill (the stage where systems and processes that we implemented to solve our complexity problems in getting out of whitewater are now choking our organization’s growth). We’ve had some smart clients plan for both the decline and growth side but your organizational DNA will determine the specific plan for your scalability.
Q: I’ve just been brought in to serve an operator, processor, or synergist role but others in the organization aren’t letting me do my job. Should I stay or should I go?
A: This is completely normal at first. A visionary, operator, processor triad is unstable. They each have an inherent nature that drives them to push back on the other roles. It’s hard to find visionaries that love process! That being said, there needs to be a clear valuation on the other roles, particularly from the most senior executive in the organization. It may take a little time to get there but if you’re not seeing this change, you’ll want to approach that person and have a conversation and/or have a team discussion. Often it’s helpful to have an outsider come in to say the same things out loud that everyone already knows and perhaps work through some strategies to get everyone on the same page. Ultimately, however, your decision to stay or go will have a lot more to do with a wide variety of factors that only you know the answer to.
Q: When the staff can tell themselves the truth and the executive team and board can’t… is this a lost cause? I’d imagine it’s hard to “manage up” in that case.
A: Yeah, I’ve seen this a lot. It’s hard and ultimately, it’s a question of whether the executive team and the board can get there with internal or external pressure. If both the board and your executive team don’t think anything is wrong and there are lots of excuses for data trending the wrong way, this is probably a big rut stage. Make sure you know where the exits are but don’t forget that the plane isn’t nose-diving, you can bide your time and make a graceful exit without anyone really noticing.
Q: Can you stay in Fun and be satisfied doing it well?
A: YES! Absolutely. Fun’s a great stage and it can also be pretty long term. The key to maximizing your time in fun is to manage complexity. It requires saying no to things that you know will bring in money. No, we won’t do that program or partnership. No, we won’t do another event. Tone at the top is also extremely important in Fun. Everyone has to be on the same page in Fun and if leadership is at your desk asking you why you’re not growing by double digit percentages in fundraising this year, that’s not fun.
Q: Where can we learn more about this, get more resources, and get help?
Les’s books are available anywhere great books are sold. I like the Audible version myself. Les also has a bunch of free courses and some paid courses you can do yourself or with your team. If you’d like more involved and personal attention, there are several of us who are licensed practitioners of Les’s program. I think I’m the only one of them that works in a nonprofit currently — my website is being built but you can reach out via social and I’ll get back to you ASAP. You can also book Les to work with you. While the content is the same for all of us, his Irish accent is priceless.
Q: How can we get access to the quizzes (VOPS and lifecycle)?
A: Here are the links to each quiz:
Take the quizzes and reach out if you have questions or concerns. Again, there are lots of free resources on the Predictable Success website for you to use!
Have more questions? Reach out to me directly! And watch Tuesday’s webinar here.
Cherian Koshy, a Network for Good Personal Fundraising Coach and host of our recent webinar on breaking the nonprofit growth deadlock, is a licensed practitioner of Predictable Success and works with nonprofits interested in scaling their impact. He can be reached via LinkedIn at Cherian Koshy or via Twitter at cherian_koshy