I received a request to read and review a book titled “The Abundant Not-for-Profit” written by Colleen Kelly and Lynda Gerty and the team at The Vantage Point. To be honest I agreed to give them my feedback on the book because I was intrigued by the title – what exactly is an abundant not-for-profit?
It didn’t take but the first page for me to be hooked by the premise of the book. If you’re like most not-for-profit leaders who are struggling to build a high-impact organizations under challenging budget constraints, this book was written for you.
Instead of just telling you what I thought of the book I’m going to share with you some of my favorite mind-bending quotes to give you small glimpse into what it means to be an abundant-not-for-profit. Once you’ve read the article, head over to The Vantage Point and pick up your copy. This is the resource development book you have been waiting for. I guarantee it.
The truth is few of us will ever have all the money we desire to do our good work. so, focusing on money first immediately limits what our organizations can accomplish.
The norm for leaders of organizations is to look at the budget and say “we have this much money so we can do this much mission.” Leaders with a people lens say, “we have big goals and we know many people with skills and talent. How can we achieve our goals by engaging all the right people?” they look first at the people available to do the work required to deliver the mission.
Becoming an abundant not-for-profit is about creating a new
organizational “people-lens” culture. A “people lens” is a term to define a specific way for not-for-profit organizations to attract, meaningfully engage and integrate all of the available and abundant talent in the community.
There is a huge – and widening – disconnect between what volunteers are seeking and what organizations are offering. Through stories, experiences and survey data, people have told us they look for these factors in their volunteer role:
• the mission of the organization must be compelling and important to them
• they want their role to impact the cause and make some difference
• they want to have a meaningful experience and use their skills, knowledge and expertise
• they want their role to have a clear start and end date
Many leaders find it challenging to imagine their organization as an abundant not-for-profit. They perceive abundance as requiring lots of money. When leaders instead focus on the abundance of talent, things change drastically. They then have the opportunity to determine what skills and contributions are required for success. They can consider how to attract and meaningfully engage people with those skills, whether salaried or not.
Abundant not-for-profits begin with:
• A culture that recognizes and values salaried employees, board members and volunteers as equal contributors, part of one integrated team
• A focus on planning for the future to ensure the roles of all salaried
employees and knowledge philanthropists are relevant and meaningful for mission delivery
• A board that understands its governance role and sees talent as a strategic imperative
• Processes for hiring and developing an integrated team of salaried
employees and knowledge philanthropists that are extensive, clear and owned by everyone in the organization
• A focus on leadership competencies and a commitment to hiring leaders who can connect with, convene and delegate to highly skilled individuals
All these aspects of a people lens culture are key to building energized, high performing, sustainable organizations that engage the passion and brains of many individuals with unique talent. In many instances, they enable organizations to attract the very best talent available, the kind of high-level talent they might never be able to afford. As a result, organizations with a people lens culture are able to deliver their mission more effectively.
I agree with the authors in that money is not an organization’s biggest problem…having the ability to engage the talents of the knowledge philanthropists (volunteers) in their community is. The answers you are looking for are (often literally) right under your nose. If you’re worried about how you can build a high-impact organization even if you don’t have all the money you need, this is the book will tell you how. Pick up your copy today!