I recently skimmed You've Gotta Have Heart: achieving purpose beyond profit in the social
sector
by Cass Wheeler, former CEO of the American Heart Association
(1997-2008).  Wheeler's stated goal of writing the book:  "to increase
your organization's or your operation's effectiveness by 5 percent (or
better) over your current projections."

Here are some of the many helpful takeaways, supported in the book by real-life examples:

  • A mission statement is not the same as a true sense of mission.  Nonprofit organizations must have a pervasive sense of mission.  Without a cause that resonates with volunteers and donors, nonprofits will ultimately fail and die off.
  • Good intentions are no longer enough.  Nonprofit organizations must apply some businesslike, bottom-line mentalities to maintain their credibility with increasingly skeptical and results-oriented donors.
  • Determine core values and stick to them.  Your organization's core values are your ethical standards: what is important to your organization and how you will do business.
  • Every nonprofit needs a strategic driving force.  A driving force is "the primary determinant of the products and services an organization will and will not offer the the market … it will and will not serve."
  • Know your business model and change it if necessary.  … Your business model is the process by which you acquire financial resources and how (and by whom) those resources are expended.  Be aware of how it helps or hinders you in achieving your  mission.
  • Every nonprofit needs a breakthrough goal.  It provides accountability and allows you to make difficult decisions about the allocation of limited resources.  It provides excitement among your employees, volunteer, board members, donors, and the public.
  • A bold goal is meaningless without rock-solid execution.  … When you set a breakthrough goal, you have to be willing to hold your organization's feet to the fire.
  • Shout your goal from the rooftops.
  • Marketing is not a dirty word.  As long as a nonprofit organization's marketing is effective in boosting image, driving mission, extending reach, and increasing revenue, not only is it acceptable for a nonprofit, it is essential.
  • Any marketing effort must link to your organization's mission and strategic driving force.
  • Incorporate diversity into your efforts.  Your organization must reflect the diversity of your constituents to serve them most effectively.  Look to partnerships, local networking opportunities, supplier diversity, and affinity groups to learn about best practices and ensure equal service and opportunities for all."
  • Remember to declutter.  The only way to have room for innovation is to let go of programs, activities, and products that no longer produce a return on investment.
  • You must have a people strategy.  Developing your staff is not a program to implement; it is a way of being.
  • Make deposits in people's emotional trust accounts.  Think of positive acts of leadership and management as making deposits into an emotional account with each person on your team.  The more goodwill you have in your trust account, the better positioned you are if you ever need to make a withdrawal, such as asking for a favor or forgiveness for a mistake.
  • Implement best practices with your board.
  • Advocacy and lobbying should be considered by nonprofits large and small.  We have a responsibility to speak out on issues that affect our constituents and advocate for better public policies.
  • Develop a specific and realistic strategic alliance value proposition.  This is a simple statement that defines:  (1) what you bring to the table in a partnership and (2) what your organization expects to receive from partner organizations.
  • Personal alliances drive professional alliances.

Wheeler combines strong business acumen and integrity with an appreciation of nonprofit organizational cultures.  Moreover, You've Gotta Have Heart is accessible, insightful, and widely applicable.  It's a book that I'll sit down and read more thoroughly soon.

Comments

  1. Misha says:

    Thanks for this great summary of take-aways from what seems to be a great book! Regarding the first bullet, the sense of mission must be clear and resonant not only to volunteers and donors, but also and ESPECIALLY to the board and staff. Unfortunately, there are some nonprofit organizations whose board members and staff are not completely onboard with the mission and spirit of the organization. They do not reject the mission; rather, they do not fully grasp it. Communications, marketing and information-sharing are activities critical both for interfacing with externals and for ensuring understanding and productivity inside an organization.

  2. Gene Takagi says:

    Excellent point, Misha!