Search This Blog

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Let’s not and say we did- or why write a strategic plan if you’re not going to implement it.

There is a ton of information out there about strategic planning for anyone who spends five minutes on the internet. It’s all pretty good advice if your organization is intentional (my favorite word) about implementation. But if you know you are not intentional, then just forget it. Keep on keeping on.

But wait! How will you set priorities? Determine goals? Measure success? 

How will you successfully fundraise?

There are lots of helpful hints about moving from planning to implementation. Here are just a few that I have found to be helpful.
  •       Make the plan fit your resources. If you have a small board and limited staff then don’t try to solve the world’s problems. Fit the tasks to a reasonable expectation of success.
  •       Make the goals and objectives concise and understandable. No jargon, no language that is not easily explained to an outsider.
  •       Stick to your mission. All tasks and action steps should always advance your mission. That might mean capacity building, program initiatives and development activities but they should all relate to mission.
  •       Communicate clearly how the plan will lead to action; in fact, action steps are integral to achievable goals and objectives. Where do you want to go and how are you going to get there?
  •       Think about putting your strategic plan on your website and in a communication to donors. It goes a long way to building community confidence in your organization.
  •       Name names and set times. Who will be responsible for each step in each goal and when can you be reasonably assured of completion?
  •       Create a structured reporting system that includes regular updates to the Board.
  •       Don’t be afraid to revise. Some things you’d like to do may not be possible and should be delayed or scratched. It’s ok.
  •       Celebrate success. Publicize goals when they are achieved. And congratulate those who made it possible. Name names.

Hope these help. Let me know what has worked for you. Post your ideas in the comments section. Talk to me…..

You can't have too many cookbooks.

Recently I read a great article in the NYT about the value of old and used cookbooks. Some from TV cooks, some from restaurant chefs and the really good ones from Junior Leagues, churches, women’s auxiliaries to everything from hospitals to fire companies and just some hidden gems that are out there. The author stressed that she found the best ones had marginal notes next to recipes that were a treasure.

So, pick up a couple of great holiday gifts or search for some cookbooks you didn’t know you needed, and support a couple of great causes:  

Vintage cookbooks make great Christmas gifts and Kennett Square's Senior Center Bookstore has a great selection.  Located at 204 E. State Street in the heart of Kennett Square, the Senior Center Bookstore has some fabulous bargains and benefits the Senior Center.  While you are in Kennett, stop in at Philter, Kennett's newest spot for a great cup of coffee and take a few moments to enjoy your fabulous finds!

OR plan to attend the annual used book sale that benefits the Hockessin Library. Sponsored by The Friends of the Hockessin Library the 2014 event will be held January 23-26. The location is still to be announced. Check out the website and plan to attend with approximately 70,000 books available there is a great cookbook just waiting for you to take it home.

Monday, December 16, 2013


One of the most important jobs that a nonprofit Board has is recruiting and hiring the CEO/ED. If you have done that job well then the Board and Executive should be partners in the successful running of the organization.

But wait…... how many times have you seen the Board and Executive at loggerheads or worse yet, at each other’s throats? Word gets out and soon there is bad blood all around and worse yet, rumors abound about your agency’s dysfunction.  Try hiring someone or getting new Board members after word gets around. And trust me, word gets around!

So, let’s remember some basics. The board has two major responsibilities: governance and sustainability. The CEO/ED has a separate responsibility: management.

Here are a few steps that might make for a high functioning partnership:
  •      The CEO/Ed is the senior staff manager and de facto representative of the board-staff relationship.
  •      The board evaluates the CEO/ED; the CEO/Ed evaluates the staff.
  •      Normal communication from board to staff and vice versa is through the CEO/ED.
  •      Support and know your CEO/ED. What are the joys and frustrations of the job? What are the time commitments/ constraints? Regular and open discussion and feedback are key.
  •      Boards have overview responsibility. They need to know outcomes and impacts, not processes.
  •      If policy or strategy functions are not being followed adequately then one on one sessions between board chair and CEO/ED need to be held until an understanding is reached.
  •      No one does a perfect job all the time. Minor mistakes are normative for all concerned and tolerance is in order. Major or continued mistakes are handled differently. And be honest, if a mistake has continued over time how engaged has the board been with its oversight responsibility.
  •      Fundraising is a shared responsibility. In most cases the CEO/ED is the face of the organization and can add value to fundraising activities. Just remember, the board has ultimate sustainability responsibility.

Some of these ideas are my own and some adapted from Eugene Fram. He has written an insightful book “Policy vs. PaperClips: how using the corporate model makes a nonprofit board more effective and efficient”. It’s available from Amazon. Since nonprofits are really small businesses his suggestions are very helpful.

Flamiche or just plain Leek Pie.
Leeks are available everywhere right now. Mild, sweet and oniony,  who can resist? It may look like a lot of steps but really, once you’ve made it you never have to look at the directions again

-3 large leeks, about 1 ½ pounds, white and light green parts
-1 Tbls. Olive oil and 1 of butter
-1 garlic clove, minced
-2 egg yolks plus 1 whole egg
-¾ cup milk (or cream or crème fraiche if you want to be more French)
-¾ cup Gruyere cheese, tightly pack
-Any frozen or homemade pie crust
-salt and pepper to taste

-Heat oven to 350
-Beat together the eggs
-Set the tart pan on a cookie sheet. Spread the crust in and crimp up the sides of the pan. Lightly brush the pastry with a little of the beaten eggs and bake for 10 minutes.
-You know the drill with leeks. Slice lengthwise, run under cold water and remove sand. A crunchy leek tastes good, a sandy one does not. Cut into thin slices
-Heat oil and butter on stove top, add leeks and salt; stir until softened but not browned- then cover and cook maybe 10-15 min. over very low heat. Do not brown. Add a little whit e wine if they begin to stick. Add garlic in the last minute.
-Go back to the eggs, Add salt, pepper and milk/cream and whisk together.
-put leeks in the tart crust, spread the cheese over the leeks and add the eggy custard
-Bake for 30 minutes or until just set, allow to cool for 15 on a rack.

Don’t eat straight out of the pan, that’s bad manners. But temptin'.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Can S/He, Will S/He?

Years ago- but who’s counting- the team at the original Delaware Development Office participated in a management development series of workshops entitled Model-Netics. The program was composed of a series of mnemonic devices and ideograms. One that has stayed with me is “Can he, will he”. I’ve changed the title for political correctness but you get the idea.

The concept is about leadership. It asks the question about managers in terms of their ability to promote their team, their team’s work and through that, themselves. Some managers are in a position to influence outcomes; in other words, they can. The next part of the model then asks if they will.

Ask yourself: Are you, or are you working with, a manager who is in a position that he can make things happen?  But does he have the courage and self-confidence, in other words, does he have the will to make things happen.

Can he/will he is a delicate balance. Managers who secure promotions and raises for themselves and minimum advancement for their team become well known in any organization and soon lose loyalty and their team. Those who do stay will  expend minimal effort at “crunch times.”

Success usually comes down to the efforts of many. As a manager ask yourself if you can and will? If you can, and won’t, why not? What’s holding you back from recognizing and promoting others?

If you will, but you can’t, you need to convene your group and plot a path forward. Working toward a common goal, where everyone wins is a great motivator. Managers are only as good as their team and the team’s loyalty. 

Look at your manager if you aren’t one. If it’s a dead end, -he can but he won’t-find a way to leave gracefully. Don’t waste your time, energy and ideas. If your manager will, but can’t, then put that same energy, time and ideas to work and strengthen your team’s position.

Which kind of manager do you want? Which kind of manager are you?

Risk being a can he/ will he. Everybody wins.


I know you are able to make this dish, but will you? Risk it! it’s great as an appetizer or first course.

Sardine Rillettes
From Around My French Table by Dorie Greenspan
Ingredients: 2 cans (3 ½ oz. each) sardines, boned and  packed in oil, drained
                        2 ½ oz. cream cheese or Neufchatel cheese
                        2 shallots, minced
                        1 to 2 scallions, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
                           Juice of 2 limes or 1 lemon
                        2 to 3 Tbsp. minced fresh herbs: chives, parsley, cilantro and/or dill
                           Pinch of cayenne
                           Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  1.      Put the cheese in a medium bowl and using a rubber spatula, work until smooth. Add everything else except the sardines and mix, holding back a little of the lime or lemon until the rillettes are blended.
  2.      Add the sardines, switch to a fork and mash and stir the sardines into the mixture. Taste and add more juice, salt and pepper as you like.
  3.      Scrape into a bowl, cover with plastic pressed against the top surface and refrigerate for 2 hours minimum.
  4.      Add thin slices of cornichon or capers on the side.
  5.    . Serve in a bowl surrounded by country bread.
  6.      Bon Appetit!

p.s. makes a great stuffing in a  tomato too.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Data Do's and Don'ts

“We’ve made a little list…” and they’ll all of them be missed- if not included.
               - With apologies to Gilbert and Sullivan.
Okay, a serious subject: data base management.

Every nonprofit needs a good data base for several reasons:
  •         To tell your story and good news to people who care. 
  •         To expand your audience to those who should care.
  •         To direct the dreaded “ask” when necessary. 

How do you develop such a list and keep it current and growing?
FIRST, find someone with great attention to detail, strong computer skills and a commitment to your mission. If this is a paid position pay them well. If a volunteer, get them coffee or anything else to show your gratitude (a few little tokens of appreciation won’t hurt either.)

Now, some hints from the battlefield:
  •     We have found that an excel spreadsheet works well for this.
  •     Make columns for all contact info, source of name and sometimes giving history.Don’t worry about blanks; fill in as info becomes available.
  •     MAKE SURE YOU SPELL NAMES CORRECTLY!!!!!!! I throw out anything when my name is spelled Bonnie. In fact, I have been known to leave events for which I have registered when my name tag is misspelled.
Have a strategy for collecting names:
a.    Update and refine your own list first. Cull for known opt outs and those who are no longer around- for whatever reasons!
b.    Look at your lapsed givers list and add them.
c.    Check programs from events given by similar organizations. Add major givers, I leave the definition of “major “up to you.
d.    Heads of foundations, corporate giving officers, elected officials (state and local) etc.
e.    Local news outlets- magazines, newspaper, radio and TV reporters whose beats cover your mission.
f.     Look at the names of Board members for similar organizations and add them.
g.    Don’t buy a list; it is very seldom useful if you are local, small or midsized.
h.    Every quarter, or more frequently, ask your Board to bring 5 names to the next meeting.
i.      Collect business cards shamelessly. Board members and staff need to do this.
Well this should get you thinking. A good data base is invaluable and should be a priority. When you have a message to deliver who will hear it? The development of your audience is up to you.


Root vegetables are plentiful in the markets now and make a fabulous substitute for either roasted or mashed potatoes.  Try using any combination of the following: parsnips, turnips, rutabaga, carrots, kohlrabi, celery root or sweet potatoes.  

To roast:  Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Peel and cube vegetables to bite-sized pieces.  Toss with some good olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Roast for about 20 minutes until golden and caramelized, checking and stirring every 5 minutes or so.

To mash:  Steam cubed vegetables in a small amount of water until tender (about 10-15 minutes.)  Saute minced shallots and or sliced garlic until golden.  Add a couple tblsp. of half and half or cream and mash.  Season with salt and pepper and herbs if you wish.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Donors Have Changed, Have You?

We read all the time about changes in giving. Although the Chronicle of Philanthropy reports that total giving has diminished very little over the past 5-10 years, many nonprofits have seen their donations suffer a decline.

The recession began in 2008. We are in a recovery, slow but steady. Nonprofits cannot use the recession as the whipping boy for smaller and fewer contributions. Donors are more hesitant to give now. That is true. They are more careful with their money, they want value, they have less trust in nonprofits and they want to know what will happen and what difference it will make when they donate.

Change is inevitable. Are you being changed or part of the change? Smart fundraisers will lean forward.

Consider the following:
       Show donors the impact their money can make.
Try using numbers – real ones! “your gift of $500 will do WHAT?”, “ your investment of $1M will help raise $10M for WHAT?” You get the idea.

·      Similar to above: show how their gift is an investment in the future.
What can happen, continue and expand because of major donations. Nervous donors need to know that you will use their gifts widely.
    Show donors a clear return on their investment.
How much goes directly to programs. Don’t get caught in the myth of overhead, it’s a false diversion. Rather concentrate on mission, what these donations make happen; how do they create change in lives or the community. “I can make a difference” is important.

·      Don’t talk about process, talk about OUTCOMES.
It’s not how often you did something; it’s what happened because of your programs. Here is the place to how client or program success stories. The Salvation Army does a good job of this in that they talk about lives changed, hurt eased, children in a safe place etc.

·      Build credibility.
·          It’s okay to use charts and graphs to show where donations are used. Your Board names and positions should be on your website and letterhead. Show awards and recognitions you receive. Show your IRS 990 on your website. Add a “Your Gifts at Work “column to your newsletter and website.

·      Consider letting donors designate their gifts.
What are priority needs and what do they cost? Having a designation, maybe naming list of projects for donors to select if they so choose. Have a range of choices. I gave a road once that was subsequently named “Bonny Lane”. It was a big donation and a got a big smile from me, plus tears. I still make annual donations.
Make your annual appeal project focused.
Use numbers: Your donation of $x helps one person for how long?   Your donation of $x keeps us open longer after school for how long?

What ideas are you using to meet this challenge? Share with us what has worked for you. Do these ideas resonate at all?  Let’s talk.

Adapted from Gail Perry's “Fired Up Fundraising”.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

There’s Never Enough Time…. hints for being more productive.

Unless you are someone I have never met, and may not want to know, you never finish your “to do” list. The adage the faster I run, the behinder I get applies to most of us.
Here are some hints by Ilya Pozin, a columnist for Inc. and Forbes that I have found valuable and adapted for you.

·     1. Create a smaller to do list.
 Well, duh! Why didn’t I think of that?
      2. Take breaks.
Brain freezes occur when you concentrate too long. Take a break, talk to someone and walk around; make lunch plans with someone you need to see. Or check out the Food 52 blog.  Lots of yummy food for thought!

·     3. Use the 80/20 rule.
20% of what you do produces 80% of your results. Pare down your tasks to get to the 20%. Delegate or eliminate. Lots may be important but you don’t have to do it all; delegating builds team competencies. And some things just don’t matter.
      4. Start the day by focusing on yourself.
      Well, I like this one. But it really means don’t let your e-mails dictate your daily accomplishments. Eat a good breakfast, just like we tell children, it really matters. Read the news and catch up on your world. Then consult your to do list. I wish this included spa treatments but it doesn’t.
      5. Do harder tasks first.
Another common sense idea. Your brain is fresher and you are rested, I hope. Save busy work until the afternoon.
      6. Pick up the phone.
Multiple emails create noise when you use them just to clear your inbox. If your email chain goes beyond two replies, call, don’t write. Schedule the call if necessary. You’d be surprised how much more effective talking to someone is than emailing them. Personal contact is important, subtleties are revealed and confusions can be avoided.
      7. Create a system.
Try to have a daily schedule that gives you time for e-mails, meeting with staff, open door hours, research and writing and meeting with clients. During the week you should have a system that covers important functions. Be selective, everything doesn’t have to happen every day. Keep in mind there will always be fires that need putting out- you can’t plan for them but they don’t have to be flummoxed by them.
      8.  Don’t confuse productivity with laziness.
Are you majoring in minors? Does busy work look like hard work? Place your focus on things that matter most to your mission.

These ideas can all help us be more productive. We aren’t robots, yet. So pick and choose those that work best for you. Add a few at a time to your efforts to improve your own productivity.  

If you have better ideas, share them. What works best for you? 

Let’s learn from each other.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Amuse Bouche

According to Wikipedia, "aamuse-bouche [aˌmyzˈbuʃ] is a single, bite-sized hors d’œuvre.[1] Amuse-bouches are different from appetizers in that they are not ordered from a menu by patrons, but, when served, are done so free and according to the chef's selection alone. These, often accompanied by a complementing wine, are served both to prepare the guest for the meal and to offer a glimpse into the chef's approach to the art of cuisine."

If you are reading this, then welcome to the amuse-bouche of my first “blog,” Food for Thought...Nourishing Ideas for Nonprofit Leaders.  While I have no complementary wine to offer at present, I hope this blog will provide a nourishing "meal" of ideas for people who are passionate about making a difference.

I call the blog “Food for Thought” for a couple of reasons.

Most people who know me know that I am not shy about sharing my opinions and I usually have something to say about almost anything.   I collect facts, ideas and experiences like a magpie. Also, I love to cook and eat. In fact when someone tells me about a trip they have taken my first question after “where did you go?” is “what did you eat?”

These two home truths came together in a most unusual way when I served as a Salvation Army first responder in the wake of Hurricane Rita. Stationed in Lake Charles, LA, I cooked 1200 meals a day on a two burner propane stove. It was exhausting (no one would use a photo of me at the end of the day as a recruitment poster) and a significant life changer.  I have spoken and written about this experience many times to spread the word about the Salvation Army as well as about service.  It brought me closer to what we do as volunteers, consultants  and professionals in the nonprofit community and why we do it.

This blog is a way to merge my passions in a manner that lets me share with you while inviting you to share with me.

Nonprofit consulting and cooking actually have several things in common:

    They involve taking a variety of ingredients and creating something that is more than the sum of its parts;
    They make you aware of others needs and tastes;
    They allow you to give of yourself;
    They may surprise you with the results.

Recognizing how important it is to feed our minds, bodies and souls, I’ve launched Food for Thought with the goal of helping to nourish all three. I’ll be sharing information about ways to better serve your nonprofit mission and fuel the passion for your work and hope you'll share your challenges, experiences and insights, as well.  And we'll serve it up with some tasty recipes and kitchen tips and a dash of southern wit to keep things fun.

So please check in regularly- I’ll be faithful in posting and encourage you to bookmark the website and use and share the resources.  Just let others know where you found all this good information and advice, please.

Right now I am especially excited about our Fall Workshops and the new CSA and Farmer’s markets flourishing this summer and fall. Our first workshop on September 17 is called Inspire Me! and it is all about creating compelling communications. Information about the workshops can be found on the website's workshop page, 

Our area has an abundance of both farmer's markets and CSAs- Community Supported Agriculture sites.  Both are a fantastic source for local seasonal produce.  Right now corn, tomatoes and peaches are at their peak. Freshly husked corn is ready 6 minutes after you pop it on the grill or drop it into boiling water.  Slice up a couple of tomatoes and some peaches.  Can you imagine an easier or more delicious meal? 

Send me the name and location of your favorite farmer's market or CSA.  Or check out the 2013 listing of Delaware Farmer’s Markets and Buy Local Chester County, PA Guide. 

Thanks for reading and let’s talk.