PORTFOLIO
SEARCH
SHOP
  • Your Cart Is Empty!
Your address will show here +12 34 56 78
Taking part in an excellent seminar today at the Tyndale Centre for Leadership. Peter Dickens from The Iris Group is talking about strategic planning. He’s very good. We’ve spent some time talking about Core Values. Peter makes a strong case that values needs to be the starting point of developing vision. This is contrary to the traditional view that starts with the vision and then builds Mission and Values to fit. Peter is right. The challenge of Core Values is that they are inherent and rarely acknowledged. In the rare cases where they are posted they often don’t reflect reality. Values aren’t something we impose. They emerge over time. The way to find them is to observe, tell the stories, and sniff around. Every organization “smells” a certain way based on their real values, and it may take an outsider or newcomer to recognise the scent. Core value change is exceedingly difficult. A shower and a quick blast of body spray can’t cover up the fragrance (or stench) of what your behaviours prove is true. How do you and your team smell?
0

How can we connect our donors with our vision in a meaningful way? Every nonprofit leader I meet with wants more than just dollars from donors; they want a deeper connection. In a few cases it is possible to take the donors to see the projects and programs personally, but the costs of doing so (money, time, staff energy) are generally prohibitive for all but the largest donors. Today I saw something much simpler that I found inspiring. I ddon’t know much about Bulembu International (yet!) but I love this Letter to Donors in 2020. Read it, honour them for the idea, and then steal it for your organization. Or better yet, come up with your own creative way to connect with donors andd let others steal it from you.
1

One of the greatest challenges I see many organizations having is staying focussed on their core vision and competencies, particularly when the needs and opportunities are so diverse. This is amplified in organizations in which program staff work remotely and with great trust and independence from the main office. A recent conversation with Brady Wilson of Juice Inc. confirms this. Experienced with both corporate and nonprofit organizations, he commented on the need for the latter to identify and act on core, value-added activity. A lot of energy is squandered due to a diluted focus. I see this quite frequently and, for me, it raises concerns about the consistency and strength of the core leadership of the organization. Restoring focus is a demanding and unfailingly painful process. It requires the pruning of programs, efforts, and usually even staff and volunteers who are doing good work and are often respected and beloved. One organization with which I am familiar has taken on this challenge directly. A decade ago it had little common identity, functioning as a very loose and frequently combative assortment of independent entrepreneurial leaders who pursued their own sense of purpose with limited interest in accountability and cohesion. The result was an uneven movement with areas of great strength and achievement and others of confusion and conflict. The brand had no meaning apart from what was attributed to it at each grassroots location. It wasn’t disarray, but it was disorder. A new leader has taken on the task of reunifying the organization. To a great extent this has been successful. the “esprit de corps” is much improved, there is a growing recognition that the name and logo represent something similar in every region of the country, and new staff are comingg in without many of the old biasses and conflicts that were common in the past. There has been great cost however. Some outstanding and experienced leaders have left, some deeply hurt in the process. There seems to be less affection for the point leader than predecessors received. And some of the strongest grassroots efforts have undergone transitions that may feel like backward steps. It hasn’t been easy. Still, from my seat as an interested outsider I am both encouraged and excited about what is developing. Alignment has been costly, but it has created the potential for greater synergy and outcomes than could have been possible before. What is happening in your organization that is out of step with your core vision? When will you pay the price to fix it?
0

I really believe there are few things more beautiful in this world than adoption. The idea that someone would take in and include as family a child who is disadvantaged and has no claim on such treatment is one of the best examples I’ve ever seen of what humanity can become. Today I read the following from one of my favourite bloggers, Al Hsu (If you see this Al, my intent to buy you dinner if I’m ever in your town stands):
The Lie We Love” by E. J. Graff, from Foreign Policy – a heartbreaking article about international adoption. Many adopted children are not orphans. Many have been kidnapped, stolen or purchased from their birth families. Some excerpts:
As international adoptions have flourished, so has evidence that babies in many countries are being systematically bought, coerced, and stolen away from their birth families. Nearly half the 40 countries listed by the U.S. State Department as the top sources for international adoption over the past 15 years—places such as Belarus, Brazil, Ethiopia, Honduras, Peru, and Romania—have at least temporarily halted adoptions or been prevented from sending children to the United States because of serious concerns about corruption and kidnapping. In reality, there are very few young, healthy orphans available for adoption around the world. Orphans are rarely healthy babies; healthy babies are rarely orphaned. “It’s not really true,” says Alexandra Yuster, a senior advisor on child protection with UNICEF, “that there are large numbers of infants with no homes who either will be in institutions or who need intercountry adoption.” So, where had some of these adopted babies come from? Consider the case of Ana Escobar, a young Guatemalan woman who in March 2007 reported to police that armed men had locked her in a closet in her family’s shoe store and stolen her infant. After a 14-month search, Escobar found her daughter in pre-adoption foster care, just weeks before the girl was to be adopted by a couple from Indiana. DNA testing showed the toddler to be Escobar’s child. In a similar case from 2006, Raquel Par, another Guatemalan woman, reported being drugged while waiting for a bus in Guatemala City, waking to find her year-old baby missing. Three months later, Par learned her daughter had been adopted by an American couple. One American who adopted a little girl from Cambodia in 2002 wept as she spoke at an adoption ethics conference in October 2007 about such a discovery. “I was told she was an orphan,” she said. “One year after she came home, and she could speak English well enough, she told me about her mommy and daddy and her brothers and her sisters.”
That there are people who would exploit something so beautiful is one of the surest examples I’ve found that humanity remains deeply corrupted and in desperate need of Jesus.
0

An interesting piece from the Stratford Social Innovation Review today that relates to some leaders I know, including myself not too many years ago. Here’s a taste:
Let me tell you about this guy I know. He’s a young, energetic nonprofit leader in his field and in his extensive volunteer work as well. We are about the same age, but our leadership styles are so different. Not to say that my style of leadership is perfect, just that I get put off by the way he works. He acts like a Baby Boomer stuck in a Gen Y body, choosing to follow hierarchy versus letting the team decide. In meetings, he behaves like an older CEO of a large nonprofit who can’t be bothered with the opinions of people lower on the totem pole.
The article compares the leader above to Milli Vanilli and their Grammy scandal from a couple decades ago. The point is that many leaders are so busy trying to be what they think they’re supposed to be, that they aren’t true to their own character. There are some valid points, but I think the generational emphasis is misplaced. As our friends at Next Level Leadership do an excellent job of reminding us, leaders go through common stages of development as they mature. Those who learn to derive their power from deeper sources become able to be more sincere and authentic; whatever their age, and whatever their style. I’d love for the leader above to be walked through Janet Hagberg’s excellent book Real Power by someone with the maturity and insight to guide. If that was to happen, he might very well gain the confidence to sing his own songs.
0

How is the economic crisis impacting the world’s most vulnerable? Our partners at Opportunity International have something to tell us about that. Bottom line: More people are going to be desperate. With that despair comes a lot more potential for exploitation and evil, but those who are doing microfinance well are positioned to sustain and even increase the help they provide. If you are feeling the pinch of finances this year please remember that there are some who suffer far more and with far fewer supports. It doesn’t take much to make a difference. Give here.
0

I have read and passed on books by John Maxwell many times. It is no stretch to suggest that he is among the most influential figures in both Christian and corporate leadership over the last couple decades. Recently, John Maxwell was arrested for carrying a concealed handgun as he attempted to board a plane. You can read his own account of the incident on his blog. For me it prompts some thoughts: -Is this just a simple mistake that we can forgive and forget or is this error in judgment more significant? -I love how he addressed the matter immediately and publicly. Humility, regret, and humour all have a place in dealing with our mistakes. -If you want to spend 30 minutes on something not entirely productive read through the comments on his post. There are some people who are so glowing in their praise for Maxwell it seems they believe he should have absolutely no consequences for his crime. Others want him to be used as an example with the full force of the law against him. I wonder how the courts will handle this. Your thoughts…?
0

We are thrilled to add our congratulations to Mina Wahidi on her recognition as Burlington’s Citizen of the Year. Mina is the Founder and Director of Compassion Society, and part of the Catalyst mentoring program. Her dedication to those in need in her community, her care for volunteers, and her willingness to be bold in pursuing opportunities to expand the profile and service of her organization make her a worthy recipient. I am so pleased for her and proud to be a board member of Compassion Society. Read the Hamilton Spectator and Burlington Post coverage for more details.
1

We are very pleased to be launching our new website. In many ways it is long overdue and the degree of improvement is phenomenal. Take a look around, it’s pretty simple. We wanted a clean and professional look, easy functionality, and the ability to keep things up to date frequently. For us, Craig Fairley at Imagine Creative has been an outstanding resource. For those who have been readers of my blog at catalystfoundation.blogspot.com; welcome to our new home. From now on everything new will be posted here. You can find previous entries under the categories or archive on the right side of the page. The new format should allow a little more flexibility and use of content. If this is your first visit; we’re glad to have you drop in. We hope you can learn what you need to know about Catalyst. Let us know what you think about the site.
1