Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Tips for Job Interviews

By Virgil R. Carter

How many of us remember the stress of a job interview?  Interviewing can be stressful from every side—whether one is the interviewee for an important new job or whether one is doing the interviewing for a critical position.  The solution to the stress, regardless of one’s role, is being properly prepared.
Here are eight tips, from a recent edition of the NonProfit Times Career Center, to help you be prepared and knowledgeable for that interview session:
·         Connect with the mission:  research the organization, understand its mission and be able to describe how you would be passionate about the organization’s mission.

·         Prepare questions:  Be sure to have a short list of important questions that demonstrate your interest in and homework about the organization.  And I’m not talking about a self-serving question such as, “what’s the salary and vacation schedule?”

·         Ask about the interview structure:  Ask ahead of time how the interview schedule will be organized, and who will be involved.  Knowing this helps preparation.

·         Dress professionally:  Safest course is to follow a professional dress code for the interview.  Much better to over-dress than under-dress.  Save your cutoffs and flip flops for the beach.

·         Bring important documents:  Bring at least two copies of your resume, cover letter and writing samples, if applicable.  Bring something that is a tangible demonstration of your positive knowledge and skill for the position.

·         Be confident:  Be sure to describe some of your positive contributions and accomplishments related to the new position and related to your maturity and good judgment.

·         Be flexible:  Being flexible is a great strength for any employment role.  Be prepared to clearly and succinctly highlight your experience reacting to unexpected situations, or your ability to wear different hats.
A final thought:  besides applicable technical qualifications and positive similar experience, every employer is looking for people with a sense of humor and the ability to work well with others.  Be sure to show your humor and positive human chemistry during the interview.

Monday, May 20, 2013

The Value of Diversification

By Virgil R. Carter

Looking ahead to a new year and the hope of better economic times, it may be time for CEOs, staff and volunteer leaders to do a quick check on the strength of their organizations.  Is your organization economically strong?  Do you have the protection and advantage of economic diversification?

A recent Strategy+Business article, “A Continuous Quest for Economic Balance”, by Richard Shediac, Chadi N. Moujaes and Mazen Ramsay Najjar, focuses on the important economic diversification of countries.  Much of what they write has useful application to the strength and well-being of many of our non-profit organizations.

For example, the authors write “Countries can be over-concentrated in any number of ways—for example, relying too heavily on large companies, exports, or foreign investment—and even countries that appear extremely diversified may still be vulnerable to unexpected events.”  How applicable is this to your organization?

Is yours an organization which puts most of its annual resources into only a few programs, products or services?  Is a substantial portion of your revenues derived from 1-2 activities?  Do a majority of your expenses take place in a single sector of your organization’s activities?

A quick check of your annual budget will reveal the sources of your revenues.  If your major source of revenue accounts for more than about 35% of total revenues, you may question whether or not there is sufficient diversification (and protection) for your organization’s well-being.  If a single source of revenue counts for the majority of your revenue flow (over 50%) your organization may be at severe risk in the event of disruption to the source of revenue.  Risk may be reduced and economic strength will be gained through economic diversification.

How to achieve strength through improved economic balance?  Certainly, continuing to support the elements that are at the center of an organization’s financial strength is obvious.  The answer for successful diversification is not simple.  And it is not achieved in a single step.  For most non-profit organizations, diversification is a continuous, never-ending journey.  Perhaps the most successful journey is one that looks to increase the return of other key existing revenue sources, while also looking for new opportunities that are consistent with the mission of the organization.  Innovation and entrepreneurial efforts are a key in this regard.

For many non-profit organizations, economic strength through diversification is not easy.  No organization can be successful, however, without economic strength.  And if a conscious effort for needed diversification isn’t made, economic strength will never be achieved.   Is your economic balance where you’d like it to be?

For the full Strategy+Business article:  http://www.strategy-business.com/article/00064?pg=0

Monday, May 13, 2013

Ten Tech Terms We Can Now Retire

By Virgil R. Carter

In our continuing effort to keep you current and up to date (and to prevent your endless embarrassment), we present the ten tech terms we can now retire and forever forget using again.
Actually, this list comes from ChiefExecutive.net and a recent article from our British friends at the Daily Telegraph.  The terms that the editors say are well past their useful life are:
Cyberspace:  What does it mean, anyway? It was first used in 1984 by Science fiction author William Gibson, who defined it as “a consensual hallucination experienced daily by billions of legitimate operators, in every nation, by children being taught mathematical concepts”. He later said described the term as “essentially meaningless”. Let that be an end to it.

Artificial intelligence:  Applied broadly – for every clever new thing people teach computers to do – it becomes meaningless. Applied strictly – for when computers really can reason like humans – we are still a very long way off.

Surf the web:  When the internet was new, you could frivolously look around to see what silly things were there. Now that everything is online, what you can do while “surfing” ranges from the very silly to the very serious.

Webcam: Increasingly they are built into computers. Besides, the term was ruined for everyone in the UK by David Cameron’s appropriation for Webcameron.

Tape (verb):   It has been a long time since any tape was involved. But what else do you say? Sky+it, TiVo-it?

Hyperlink:  Should go the way of the omnibus, a link no longer needs to be hyper.

Smartphone:  As phones all become smart, soon or later we will have to drop the prefix, or think of a new term altogether.

Set-top box:  With the flatness of today’s television, not much can perch on the top.

Floppy disk:  Nobody uses them anymore, and they never were floppy anyway.

Search engine:  Nobody does use it in the real world; they use the name of whichever engine happens to be their favorite. If you want some examples, Bing it.
There, now—don’t you feel more informed?  No thanks are necessary.  But if you want to read the full article, go to:  http://chiefexecutive.net/ten-tech-terms-we-can-now-retire
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Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The Other Economy

By Neil W. Bohnert, FACHE, CAE

Almost lost in recent reports ranking the area’s major employers is a story that begs attention.  The list of the top ten employers in the area shows an impressive total of 23, 336 employees.[1]  But it is a tale of two economies.

  • Seven of the top ten employers are nonprofit organizations, together comprising three-quarters of the total employment for the top ten.[2]
  • The top two employers, both nonprofits, constitute nearly one-half of the total employment of the ten.[3]
Add to these major employers the churches, colleges, human services agencies, foundations, military and fraternal organizations, trade associations, and dozens of other nonprofit organizations and we come to the inescapable realization that nonprofit organizations are a major contributor to the economy of the Greater Lynchburg Area. These patterns are not unique to Lynchburg.  They are so typical of most cities in America.

So What?

The growth of nonprofits is often met with dismissal or even disdain as if these organizations do not “produce” anything and escape taxation.  While these organizations do not return profits to investors, they do, indeed, contribute to the economy.  In fact, private nonprofits number more than 1.8 million in the United States, not including government entities and certain religious organizations, and account for about 9% of the GDP.  Most are small, but the sector also includes some giants; AARP, National Geographic Society, American Red Cross, World Wildlife Fund, Goodwill, National Public Radio, Habitat for Humanity, and some very-well-endowed foundations.

Again, So What?

Two points are clear.  One, this segment contributes to the local economy in several significant ways.

  • Employment; 17,236 in just the top ten employers in the Greater Lynchburg Region.
  • Consumer spending; by these employees and the multiplier effect on the local market.
  • Payroll, property, and other taxes; not all nonprofits are tax-exempt
  • Purchases of goods and services.  Nonprofits use energy, supplies, professional services, and all the goods and services of a for-profit business.
  • And, unlike large companies owned by out-of-town investors, the income and any surpluses remain in the local community.
The second point is, we are all “investors” in this sector, including volunteer service on boards and in the work of the organizations and we should expect a good return.  Nonprofit management has changed markedly in recent years as a result of litigation and scandals and simply because the generations who are assuming leadership will not accept “the way it has always been.”  To borrow a popular phrase, “It’s not your father’s nonprofit.”  Volunteers and community leaders have choices in how they spend their time and talents and they’re not willing to squander either.  Continuing to act as we always have is not enough to sustain a vital segment of the economy.

Getting Ahead of the Competition

That’s right, nonprofits compete.  And if organizations are to attract the best volunteer leadership, they must be ahead of the competition. Who is the competition?  Other nonprofits.  Active citizens may be involved with many organizations  Perhaps a church, school, the Y’s, scouting and youth organizations, sporting and recreation organizations, foundations, service clubs, alumni and professional associations, and others, all vying for time and attention—not to mention financial support.  And often one questions if his or her time and expertise are being well spent?

Just as businesses need to stay ahead of the productivity curve, so, too, do nonprofits.  But running a successful business is not the same as running a successful nonprofit. Nonprofits are unique and they require unique leadership skills.  Leaders need the understanding and tools that can be applied to advancing the nonprofit’s mission. 

Two Questions

We need to ask ourselves two questions.  Are we investing in the “other economy” with the same vigor we commit to building our business sector?  Are we getting the best return on our investment in our local nonprofits?  What we answer and what we do with the answers, is vital to a robust local economy.

[1]Sources: Region 2000; City of Lynchburg Office of Economic Development; Employers.
[2] Total  number of employees of nonprofits; 17,236, including about 4,300 in three school systems.
[3] CentraHealth and Liberty University; combined, 10,462

Monday, May 6, 2013

Learning from the Marines

By Virgil R. Carter

Is it possible that your non-profit organization may learn to be a more effective and successful organization?  If so, where might one look for lessons learned?  Try the U. S. Marines!  A basic philosophy of the Marines is “every Marine is a rifleman”.  At boot camp, every Marine receives training in marksmanship, hand-to-hand combat and teamwork.  Regardless of where s/he winds up in the Corps—as a mechanic, lawyer, clerk, pilot, dentist or tanker—every Marine is prepared and expected to apply their combat training whenever it’s required. 
Non-profit organizations may benefit from creating a culture similar to the Marines; training all employees with basic marketing and sales skills that can help the non-profit to grow and succeed with its members and customers.  “Every Employee a Sales Rep” may be a culture that would be beneficial to be engrained throughout a non-profit’s work force, from reception desk to the corner office.
In a recent article entitled “What the U.S. Marines Can Teach Your B2B Firm about Marketing & Sales, by Gordon G. Andrew, published in ChiefExecutive.net, Andrew says, “Regardless of their title, job description or capacity to work the room at a social event, every executive and staff member should be given training, tools and ongoing support that empowers them to do the following:”

·         Manage Their Personal Brand –Individuals join nonprofits and/or become customers often through a personal contact or reliable referral.  Thus, every employee should be encouraged to participate in activities unrelated to the non-profit organization, whether that’s membership in a local organization, their daughter’s soccer team or a fly fishing club.

·         Articulate the Firm’s Value Proposition – Many employees, even at the senior level, do not have a clear understanding of what makes their organization different from the competition, and are at a loss to provide a compelling reason why someone should participate with them. Like a good marine, every employee should know their organization’s “elevator pitch,” and be prepared to recite it whenever someone asks, “So…who do you work for?”
·         Nurture Their Professional Network – Every staff member has a network of current and former members, associates in other disciplines, friends, relatives, neighbors and individuals they’ve met at conferences or social events.  Maintaining direct and regular contact with their personal network may often lead to future referrals for organizational membership, goods and services.
·         Drive Top-of-Mind Awareness – The marketing challenge for most non-profits is finding new members and customers, as well as retaining existing ones. To increase their odds of success, non-profits must constantly sow seeds with members, customers, prospects and referral sources, driving top-of-mind awareness regarding the firm’s value-added capabilities and credentials.  It’s difficult to be convincing if communication is limited to only when renewal time rolls around.

·         Sell Intrinsically – Because an organization’s staff embody the firm’s intellectual capital and deliver its services and solutions, they are best prepared to demonstrate to prospects and customers the organization’s capacity to add value, which is its most powerful sales tactic.

·         Seek Cross-Selling Opportunities –Organizational staff are in the strongest position to recommend new services or an expansion of existing work, based on their communications and contacts with members and customers.

·         Ask for Referrals and Suggestions – This is a tough task for most non-profit staff. However, if they’ve nurtured their network, gained confidence by learning how to cross-sell to existing members and customers, and have rehearsed the referral request process, then staff can make this a painless routine.

With commitment, training and tools it’s possible to achieve “Every Employee a Sales Rep” and to create an effective organization-wide culture in support of your non-profit organization.  You can thank the Marines!