Sunday, July 9, 2017

The Fulfillment of Noble Pursuit

THE IDEA: When we water down our dreams we limit our performance and actually insult our own integrity.

Deep in your heart you want something – in a big way. You have a vision of the ideal you want, and you are passionate about it. Yet, many of us hesitate to say it out loud. Rather than boldly saying what we really want, we will instead settle for something smaller.

Instead of “no one homeless in our county,” it becomes “fewer homeless.”

Instead of “market leader,” it becomes “improved market share.” 

Instead of “best place to work,” it becomes “better place to work.”

We are susceptible to watering down our dreams because we don’t want to disappoint ourselves if we do not fully attain what we want. 

If you find yourself doing this, then remind yourself that true fulfillment comes from pursuing our deepest passions – even if we never fully achieve them. When we lower our goals we are essentially lying to ourselves about what we really want. Let’s not do that!

Countless research studies show that setting higher goals leads to higher performance even if you do not fully achieve the goal; see here.

We need to revel in the pursuit of something we truly care about and want, all the while knowing that we might not make it all the way. It is more fulfilling to know that we pursued our dream with vigor!

Impact leaders DREAM BIG!


For more ideas on how you can lead breakthroughs in your organization, follow this blog and check out my web site at www.SheehanNonprofitConsulting.com   You will find free resources you can download, including a Breakthrough Strategy Workbook that you can download at no cost.  You can also check out my book, Mission Impact:  Breakthrough Strategies for Nonprofits, and buy it if you are interested.  And you can follow Sheehan Nonprofit Consulting on Facebook.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Stretch Goals, Boards, & Banks

One of the difficulties in setting Almost Impossible Goals is trying to figure out how to communicate them to people who just don’t get it.  I encourage you to share this article on The Power of Goals with those who have not been exposed.  But, let’s face it, even after that – some people just don’t understand.

If that is your situation, then I suggest you not push the matter too far – depending on the audience.  For example, my experience is that some Boards do not really want to know what your “goals” are, they want a “promise” from you regarding the results you are going to produce.  In other words, they want a “forecast” – not a goal.  They don’t want your aspirations or dreams, they want to know what they can count on.  I suggest – give them what they want.

You can do this with complete integrity and still keep your Stretch Goal. Let’s say that you raised $100,000 in your annual fund last year and your team set a Stretch Goal for $140,000 for the coming year – a big stretch!  Now, it would be IDEAL if your Board understood the stretch philosophy and got excited about assisting with this big, bold goal.  

But, if they are not bought in, then I suggest keeping the Stretch Goal quiet and giving them a reasonable forecast – maybe a 5% increase up to $105,000.  Then add “Of course, we are always working on ways we can do even better.”  Now you have an accurate forecast – which is what they want.  And you have a bold goal for your team – which is what you want.

By the way, if you have a loan or a line of credit with a bank – they don’t want to see bold goals.  Show them something conservative when you share your budget and make sure you do even better every year.  That will keep your loan intact.

Almost Impossible Goals can do amazing things for your organization.  But until we have everyone converted to the philosophy you need to be careful how you share them.  This will let you make even more of a Mission Impact – and keep your job (which is nice).


For more ideas on how you can lead breakthroughs in your organization, follow this blog and check out my web site at www.SheehanNonprofitConsulting.com   You will find free resources you can download, including a Breakthrough Strategy Workbook that you can download at no cost.  You can also check out my book, Mission Impact:  Breakthrough Strategies for Nonprofits, and buy it if you are interested.  And you can follow Sheehan Nonprofit Consulting on Facebook.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Integrating Staff & Strategy

You know you have a brilliant strategy – but it is not working.  What’s up?

There are a myriad of reasons why excellent strategies are not implemented effectively.  Here are two basic pitfalls that you can avoid.

#1.  Undercommunicating the Strategy.  John Kotter, in his classic book, Leading Change, says that leaders very often do not communicate their vision and strategy for the future nearly as often as they should.  The strategy and vision are so clear to them that they don’t think they need to talk about it more.  As a leader, you should take frequent opportunities to remind everyone in the organization of your future and how you plan to get there.

#2.  The Strategy is too Complex.   You need to be able to communicate your strategy simply – not in a five inch thick binder.  D.J. Collins and M. G. Rukstad discovered this problem when they researched a wide variety of companies, which was reported in Harvard Business Review a number of years ago*:

“Leaders of firms are mystified when what they thought was a beautifully crafted strategy is never implemented. . . .  They fail to appreciate the necessity of having a simple, clear, succinct strategy statement that everyone can internalize and use as a guiding light for making difficult choices.”

There are many other reasons why your great strategy may not be implemented well, but avoid these two common errors and you will stand a much better chance at making a significant Mission Impact.

*D. J. Collins & M. G. Rukstad, “Can You Say What Your Strategy Is,” Harvard Business Review, April 2008.


For more ideas on how you can lead breakthroughs in your organization, follow this blog and check out my web site at www.SheehanNonprofitConsulting.com   You will find free resources you can download, including a Breakthrough Strategy Workbook that you can download at no cost.  You can also check out my book, Mission Impact:  Breakthrough Strategies for Nonprofits, and buy it if you are interested.  And you can follow Sheehan Nonprofit Consulting on Facebook.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Fun Improves Persistence

Recent research* suggests that when working on long term goals, it is helpful to find enjoyment in the pursuit of those goals in the short run.  For example when people find the process of working out enjoyable, they tend to persist longer.  They found the same thing for those who experienced enjoyment with studying.

We really don’t need a research study to tell us that we tend to work on goals we enjoy rather than on goals we do not enjoy as much.  But what does this tell us that we can apply to the workplace?

It appears to emphasize the social context of work, i.e., making work enjoyable – even fun!  Some “old schoolers” (and I count myself as one) might bristle at this.  “It’s not supposed to be fun – that’s why they call it work!”

But this research tells us that if we can find ways to inject some enjoyment into the work day this can help us persist in our goals.

A simple way to do this is to encourage those we work with who are natural “fun-seekers” to let their “fun flag fly.”  These folks are often told to “get serious.”  Maybe we need to encourage one another to “lighten up” more.  I am fortunate that I’m on a “work hard, play hard” team.  We recently hosted a very successful regional conference and you can check out some fun we had at the final event with our University of Maryland mascot, Testudo, here.

Maybe your office needs a social committee or a fun committee? 

Or maybe this will all happen more organically as more millennials enter the work place – I think they will insist on a little more fun included with work.

Certainly we want to encourage one another by focusing on the long term vision of what we are doing – especially for those of us working in very challenging human services capacities.  But doing the best we can to add some joy to the daily work will help us all persist and make even more of a Mission Impact.

*Woolley, K. & Fishbach, A.  Personality & Social Psychology Bulletin, “Immediate Rewards Predict Adherence to Long Term Goals,” pp. 1-12, 2016.



For more ideas on how you can lead breakthroughs in your organization, follow this blog and check out my web site at www.SheehanNonprofitConsulting.com   You will find free resources you can download, including a Breakthrough Strategy Workbook that you can download at no cost.  You can also check out my book, Mission Impact:  Breakthrough Strategies for Nonprofits, and buy it if you are interested.  And you can follow Sheehan Nonprofit Consulting on Facebook.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Invest More in Fundraising!

The end of the semester is upon us at the University of Maryland, where I am co-teaching a graduate course on Nonprofit Fundraising with my colleague, Dr. Bob Grimm.  Part of the course involves student teams going out into the community to visit with nonprofit organizations and do a full evaluation of their fundraising program.  I have been reading the final reports and one main theme jumps out.  Nonprofits need to:

Invest More in Fundraising!

The theme of our course is “No Money, No Mission” – and I know we all agree with this.  But our student teams are finding that most of the nonprofits they have evaluated can do MUCH more to raise more money for mission if they devote more resources to fundraising.

More Staff.  There seems to be a reluctance to hire more staff and devote their efforts to fundraising.  Perhaps this is due to concerns for overhead.  If so, organizations should check out The Overhead Myth web site for ideas on making the case for this.  More time spent – especially on major gifts – can be a big payoff for most nonprofits.

More Board Involvement.  Based on the small sample of nonprofits, Boards can be much more involved in giving and asking for gifts – especially making personal asks.  Training, of course, will be needed for this.  But, we need Board members going out to the community to represent the cause and ask for support.

We are not going to make significant increases in the funding that nonprofits desperately need without investing the resources needed.  We simply cannot make more of a Mission Impact without the funding.


For more ideas on how you can lead breakthroughs in your organization, follow this blog and check out my web site at www.SheehanNonprofitConsulting.com   You will find free resources you can download, including a Breakthrough Strategy Workbook that you can download at no cost.  You can also check out my book, Mission Impact:  Breakthrough Strategies for Nonprofits, and buy it if you are interested.  And you can follow Sheehan Nonprofit Consulting on Facebook.