The Ideaction Blog

Do you need a coach?

Posted by Kelly O'Brien on October 2, 2014

Free Coaching Opportunity for Advancing Professionals

I have to admit that I was a "coach skeptic." Being an executive coach or a life coach seems trendy these days, and I succumed to the perspective that coaching was too wishy-washy, and that I was just too stubborn to really change. But I was wrong. Working with coaches - and now I have many- have helped me become a better leader, a better dater, and a better person. I've actually changed a great deal. And Ideaction Corps has been exponentially assisted by experienced people offering to work with me.  

One of these people is Dale Primer. Dale's company, Primer Michaels is a member of Ideaction Corps. They have been helping senior leaders acheive their goals for nearly 30 years, working with leaders at Fortune 500 companies like Kraft and Motorola, UBS and Pfizer, as well as nonprofit leaders and emerging businesses. He’s an entrepreneur, business owner & leader. So when Dale approached me about offering his services free of charge to advancing professionals at the cusp of their career as he enters the last chapter of his, I was moved.  I am honored to share his gifts with others. 

Dale is offering a unique opportunity you do not want to miss: six months of free coaching.  He is offering to work with advancing professionals for six months without fees. Specifically, Dale is accepting applications from individuals 30-49 years old with income above 50,000 at the manager (or imminent) manager level.  

If you are interested, contact Dale directly. If you know someone who may be interested, please share this information.  

Kelly O'Brien is the President and Founder of Ideaction Corps, a full service social change agency whose clients include companies and causes doing good. She's passionate about helping people and organizations find the path to work with purpose, big ideas and infecting grace. She can be reached at @kellymobrien or @ideactioncorps on Twitter, or via the Ideaction Corps website.

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Congrats!  You’re Data-Driven.  Now Ask Yourself,  How Mission-Driven Is My Data?

Posted by by Jim Chesire & Andrew Rice on July 27, 2014

Non-profits that are able to adapt to the new social impact market while staying true to their missions – what we call new market leaders – will be able to reap great benefits in growth and sustainability, while those who aren’t will be on a path to go out of business.

One major currency in this new social impact market is your organization’s ability to manage, use and report on your data – your program performance management infrastructure.

The New Speed of Effectiveness

A fundamental characteristic of the new market is the wider availability of information to make better decisions and take more precise action, for both funders and providers.  In the old-market, monitor-and-evaluate days, a premium was placed on certainty of information over speed of action. The new market, still valuing classic program evaluation, relies more on real-time, data-informed continuous improvement much like businesses operating in the for-profit space.  However, the high complexity and high stakes unique to social service systems require fast, nimble and very high quality decisions. Our current state of technology finally allows program providers and program funders to move at that speed with greater clarity.

Old Challenges Remain

Non-profit organizations incur significant costs in time and funds to manage and braid together incredibly diverse portfolios of grants and gifts in order to stay afloat and effective. These costs leave little room for executives to prioritize operational innovation and strategic change management within an annual, much less quarterly, cycle.  Organized strategic decision-making is still typically done only when pro-bono consulting services can be secured, often on a 3-5 year time cycle.  

We have seen new market leaders find ways to innovate every day. They use their programmatic performance management data as a support to their human capital. Individual staff are enabled and empowered in their daily, weekly and monthly cycles of work to make increasingly innovative and strategic operational decisions that can collectively move the organization forward as a whole in very short cycles.  How do they do this?   

Window of Opportunity

To seize this window of opportunity presented by the changing market while accounting for the pressing realities most non-profit organizations face, we developed the program Performance Management Infrastructure (PMI) Assessment based on research and nearly a decade of working to build the organizational capacity of community based non-profits in Chicago.  Through our work, we’ve come to believe that there are five key elements of an organization’s PMI that must be present in order for programs to be data-informed and that data to be mission-driven:

  1. Research Base:  Organizations draw on research of their own or sufficiently similar program models to optimize program practices and PMI design.
  2. Theory of Change:  Organizations have a framework of accountability to accurately assess the quality of their practices and results.
  3. Management Information System (MIS):  Organizations align their data collection and assessment practices to their mission through technology.
  4. Data Quality:  Organizations have confidence that the goals they set and the actions they take are grounded in the day-to-day realities of their programs.
  5. Continuous Improvement & Data-Informed Culture:  Organizations have staff who are bought in to measure and assess their performance in the context of their daily experiences and using that information to continuously improve the quality of their work.

What’s Next?

Our goal is to create a research-validated, standardized framework for benchmarking how well structured an organization is to transform granted dollars, through its mission, into results achieved. However you do it, we strongly urge you to find a low-cost way to reliably assess your program performance management infrastructure together with assessments of your organization’s financial and administrative capacity.

For more information about implementing a Performance Management Infrastructure, a workshop for your team, or to share your success story, reach out to us.

Bolster Mission Consulting was founded by Jim Chesire and Andrew Rice in May 2013 to help quality not-for-profit organizations solve the most immediate challenges to the precision and scale of their community impact. Jim and Andrew have 25 years experience in local government, not-for-profits and human services, developing, managing, and evaluating large-scale, high impact projects.

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Want to change the world?

Posted by Keecia Broy on May 12, 2014

Consider these 4 steps before taking the leap to a social impact career

It’s easier than ever to find a social impact career, be it for a traditional nonprofit or a for-profit that gives back to the communities it serves or to causes its employees care about. Given the numerous choices and opportunities, it’s wise to be strategic about how you go about making your mark in this space. As someone who specializes in bringing talented people to the social impact sector, here’s my advice about how to pursue a highly rewarding social impact career.

1) Assess:  What are you passionate about? What are you good at professionally? It’s helpful to know the answers to both of these questions. The social impact space is teeming with individuals who are mission driven with a capital M. You have to deeply believe in the cause or at the very least, have an interest in it. So before you take the leap, think about the causes that excite you, be it education, the arts, youth development, the environment, or international development, among other possibilities. Identifying how you want to impact the world is a critical piece of the puzzle, because it allows you to align your passion with the work you choose to pursue.

In addition to assessing what most inspires you, also think about what you’re good at professionally. Many people that I talk to that are interested in making a career switch, don’t often see the parallels between what they currently do and the skills they can bring to the social impact sector. If you’re a great marketer for soda or lunch meat, you’re likely just as great at doing the messaging for an environmental or human services organization.  You may even find that you’re better at marketing in the social impact space because you have a stronger belief in what you’re selling. Ultimately, knowing your strengths will ease your transition.

2) Explore: There are many social impact organizations to choose from, so now is the time to drill down and get more specific.  If you’re interested in changing the word by improving education, you can do so in many ways – be it at a charter school, or a nonprofit that works directly with K12 schools, or a for-profit that supports a portfolio of education nonprofits, among a host of options. If the environment is your passion, you can choose a company that makes environmentally safe products and gives a percentage of profits in support of environmental causes, or a nonprofit that educates young people about the benefits of urban gardens by teaching them to build their own. Because there are so many options, educate yourself by doing further research through Google searches, social impact blogs and other media, and talking to people who are aware of the organizations that operate in the space of your interest. As you learn more, build a list of companies that you think align well with your passion.  Doing so will allow you to narrow your focus so that you can begin to talk to others and launch your job search.

3) Connect – It’s widely believed that the most constructive way to find a new job is through networking. People hire people, not resumes, so a savvy approach to finding your dream career is to start talking to others. LinkedIn is a valuable tool in this regard because it helps you figure out whom to talk to. By searching first and second connections to agencies or organizations that interest you, you will immediately identify individuals to reach out to.

Set up short 15- minute phone conversations (a warm intro is often helpful) with people who work in the social impact space. Through these conversations, learn more about these organizations -- their long-term goals and growth plans, for starters. Make sure to research the companies beforehand to ask questions that give you more insight than what’s already covered on their websites.

In addition to having in-depth conversations with people working in the social impact space, it’s also key to let friends, family members and close associates know about your goals  – you never know what connections or leads they might have access to that can benefit you in the long run.

4) Refresh: Although your resume is not the most important part of your social impact job search, it does help communicate who you are and what you’re looking for. Now that you know what you’re looking for and how you add value, give your resume another look and refresh it. As you network and build new contacts in the social impact space, ask a few of these individuals to review your resume and provide critical feedback.  

Also send out your new resume to friends, family, and former colleagues and let them know what you’re looking for. If you’re currently in a job, be cautious and send your resume to people who can keep your confidence and who will be on the look out for you as opportunities arise.

Now that you’ve laid the groundwork, the next step is to take the leap. So, jump. A rewarding career awaits.

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