Tag Archives: capacity-building

Capacity Assessment Tool for Mission-Based Organizations

This is AWESOME: a free NGO Capacity Assessment Tool. It can be used to identify an NGO’s or a nonprofit’s strengths and weaknesses and help to establish a unified, coherent vision of what a mission-based organization can be. The tool provides a step-by-step way to map where an organization is and can help those working with the agency or program, including consultants, board members, employees, volunteers, clients, and others, to decide which functional areas need to be strengthened and how to go about to strengthen them.

Sharing the results of using this tool in funding proposals and even on your web site can demonstrate to donors and potential donors the capabilities of your organization.

The tool was compiled by Europe Foundation (EPF) in the country of Georgia, and is based on various resources, including USAID – an NGO Capacity Assessment Supporting Tool from USAID (2000), the NGO Sustainability Index 2004-2008, the Civil Society Index (2009) from CIVICUS, and Peace Corps/Slovakia NGO Characteristics Assessment for Recommended Development (NGO CARD) 1996-1997.

EPF also hosts a clinic to support NGOs and the Georgian civil society sector, on the first Friday of the month from 3 to 5 p.m., and has a grants program for NGO initiatives in Georgia.

Also see:

University of Kentucky Duvall followup

logos for u of kentucky programsThe last week in October, I was the Fall 2015 Duvall Leader in Residence at the University of Kentucky’s Center for Leadership Development (CFLD), part of UK’s College of Agriculture,Food and Environment, in Lexington. CFLD supports leadership related activities within the UK College of Agriculture, the University of Kentucky campus, the local Lexington community and counties statewide. My visit was sponsored by the W. Norris Duvall Leadership Endowment Fund and the CFLD, and focused on leadership development and community development and engagement as both relate to the use of online media.

It was a fantastic experience! I just can’t say enough about how well the residency was put together, how well my time was utilized. My time and knowledge were fully exploited – exactly as it should be! Thanks, Lissa and Dakota!

Here is a list of topics for all the workshops and consultations I created and delivered for such:

I cover all of these topics throughout my web site and in The Last Virtual Volunteering Guidebook, but I will be blogging in detail about a few of the aforementioned individual topics in the coming weeks, because there’s more to say – particularly “Democratizing engagement: leading in a virtual world,” which proved to be a fascinating project and discussion. 

1028151154This consultancy got off to a rocky start, so I’m very glad it ended up working out so very well. My favorite part was getting to talk with the university students: they ask fantastic questions, they make me think, and they are so fearless when it comes to just about everything (except asking questions in class). AND THEY USE SOCIAL MEDIA: they were tweeting about what I was doing, replying to things I was posting, inviting people to later workshops – loved it! I want to give a shoutout to the University of Kentucky football team in particularly, as two of its players provided some key input in three of my classes that really helped move things along – and as one of those players went on to score a touchdown a few days later against Tennessee, perhaps I should be brought in to address the entire team?

They say that, to be a great at a sport, you have to “leave it all on the court” or “all on the field.” I tried to do the consultancy version of that in Kentucky last month. Proud of my work but, wow, I’m still exhausted!

Here are some more photos from this fantastic experience.

And I’ll say it again: oh how I dream to teach an entire university course (or two!)

Free online courses for relief & development workers

Last Mile Learning provides free, contextualized learning resources to professionals working in the development and relief sectors. Last Mile Learning is an initiative of LINGOs, a non-profit organization that promotes sustainable global development by building the capacity of the people delivering programs around the world. The Last Mile Learning facilitator resources are free and open source.

Each course in the Last Mile Learning includes a set of curricular materials that can be used by facilitators to lead face-to-face workshops or facilitated on-line training events (in both blended asynchronous or blended synchronous formats).

Courses relate to:

People Management
Project Management
Coaching Projects in the Development Sector
Harassment Prevention Project Identification and Design
Selection Interviewing Project Set Up
Delegation Project Planning
Performance Management Project Implentation
Managing through Meaningful Conversations Project Monitoring, Evaluation and Control
End of Project Transition

I’m quite excited about this initiative and these materials. I haven’t checked the materials out fully, but I’ve worked with LINGOS and know it’s a credible organization.

If you complete a course:

  • blog about it
  • share that you did so on your CV and LinkedIn profile
  • share it on your social networks (Twitter, Facebook, etc.)
  • make sure your employer knows, if you think they would want to know that you are engaged in professional development activities

Talking to Reps from NGOs & other orgs from all over the world

Last week, I had the pleasure of presenting to a “class” of the US Department of State’s International Visitor Leadership Program. This was the third time I’ve presented to such a group since the mid 1990s – and this time, I got to spend more time with them than ever before!

These visitors represent NGOs and government agencies from all over the world, and are invited to the USA by arrangement of the Institute of International Education (IIE). The focus of the visit this year was how different organizations in the USA engage with volunteers, and I joined colleagues here in Portland to do a workshop on using social media to recruit and engage with volunteers (a very shortened version of the webinar for TechSoup, which is still available online). I was joined by Erin Barnhart and Martin Cowling (who just happened to be visiting from Australia!).

As you can see from this photo, I was thrilled to find an Afghan amid the group – Mr. Khir Mohammad Pazhwok of Ghori, the Program Officer with Integrity Watch Afghanistan. He seemed happy to meet someone who has been to his country (he was impressed that I still knew the Dari words for “Right”, “Left,” “Forward,” “Why not?” and “Thank you!”).

I presented to the 2010 group last year, leading an all-to-brief 30-minute panel of Portland agencies to talk about different models of volunteer engagement (long-term, episodic, diversity-focused, etc.). I presented to the group for the first time back in the 1990s in Austin, Texas – another all-too-brief talk about online volunteering (got into some trouble at that one when I started talking about Austin’s famous live music scene, which the group realized their State Department hosts would not be showing to them at all during the visit).

These representatives are highly focused on gathering as much knowledge as possible to take back to their respective countries. And they ask some of the best questions of any group I present to. What I love about presenting to this group is that they are ready to experiment – they do not fear new practices. They also never say what I hear too often by audiences in North America, Europe and even Australia: that’s not how we do things; I’m not sure we can change. If they hear a good idea, they are going to run with it!

I’m ready to do a workshop for YOU. I can also do workshops online. My schedule fills up quickly, so contact me soon with your idea!

Knowledge transfer – it’s more than a buzz phrase

Every organization – every nonprofit, charity, non-governmental organization (NGO), civil society organization, government agency, for-profit business – large or small, anywhere in the world, has subject matter experts (SME), each with a deep knowledge and understanding of business-critical information. At nonprofits, some of these SMEs are paid staff, but many are volunteers.

You often find out who these SMEs are when they go on vacation and you suddenly realize you don’t know how to update text on the home page of your web site, or you don’t know how to direct a person who calls who wants to volunteer, or you are going through the list she left of everything to do Monday morning and, at the end of Tuesday, you aren’t even half way through the list.

Most organizations hire paid staff and recruit volunteers specifically because of the paid staff or volunteers’ particular area of expertise, expertise that the staff person has spent years cultivating in university academic studies and/or professional and volunteering experiences. You could never expect such a person to transfer all of his knowledge to a co-worker, a new hire, or a partner organization. However, there are business-critical functions at your organization that various staff members are doing — probably every staff member, including volunteers — that must be documented. Looking at a mission-based organization (a non-profit or an NGO, for instance), these critical functions could include how to:

  • update/change text on the web site
  • use the 5-10 most common functions on your phone system
  • direct phone calls and emails appropriately, for the entire organization or just within one department or program
  • direct inquiries from potential volunteers
  • direct inquiries from the media
  • retrieve data from a computer system backup
  • start a computer system backup, or how to ensure an automated backup took place
  • moderate your online discussion group
  • coordinate the logistics for any kind of meeting your organization has regularly, on site or online

This knowledge often needs to be conveyed to people with a lower level of technical expertise than the person in charge of these tasks – even if the person in charge of a task is an individual contributor with no staff to supervise — like the receptionist — while the person who needs to know is a senior manager.

(I have a firmly-held belief that the receptionist of an organization is often the most knowledgeable about what’s happening at the organization, and he or she is always one of the first persons I talk to if I’m consulting with an organization regarding its communications or volunteer engagement practices – but I digress…)

Content management systems (CMS), like a simple Intranet, that allows staff to upload and read each other’s information, and to share what they are working on, greatly assist in effective knowledge transfer and staff cross-training, but only if everyone has access to such, is encouraged to contribute to such, and is evaluated per their contributions to such. It’s about establishing a culture of internal transparency and rewards for sharing as much as it’s about creating a CMS. By contrast, partitioning information so that only certain people have access to it (knowledge hoarding), limiting it to folders in the file cabinets next to our desks, leads to inefficiency, duplication of effort, confused messages and errors.

This free document by Keith De La Rue details how to build a knowledge transfer toolkit. It’s a highly technical, jargon-filled document, and sometimes you will want to yell “Why don’t you just use plain English?!” Still, you will find it helpful if you want to ensure that business-critical information and practices at your organization are identified and documented. “This toolkit includes a range of individual elements, comprising content management, communications, learning and multimedia elements, coordinated as a managed program. Approaches to maintaining the currency and accuracy of content, dealing with knowledge hoarding and the relevance of social media principles will also be addressed.” Here’s more about Keith De La Rue.


Me in Mexico City April 2 – 9

I will be in Mexico City April 2 – 9. If your organization in Mexico City or Puebla asks for such, I could possibly squeeze in a consultation or short workshop while there. However, my Spanish is not as good as it was a few years ago, so I would need a translator if the group did not speak English. Contact me ASAP for more info. See more information on my web site about my workshops and consultations.

Estaré en México D.F.  2 – 9 de abrill. Si su organización en México o Puebla me solicita, podría presentar un taller o la consulta cortos durante mi visita. Sin embargo, mi español no es bueno ahora. ¡Perdóneme! Necesitaré a un traductor si el grupo no habla inglés. Contácteme inmediatamente para más información. Mas información sobre mis talleres y consultas.


Nonprofits: Use the Car Mechanic Business Model

I’m in Budapest, Hungary where, yesterday, I presented an all-day intensive onsite workshop for education advising centers throughout Eastern and Western Europe affiliated with EducationUSA, a global network supported by the U.S. Department of State. My workshop was regarding business planning and creating revenue streams/fee-based services. I’ve certainly done business planning and managed fee-based services at nonprofits, and I’ve consulted on this subject before with nonprofits, but I have never trained on it.

It was a fascinating challenge for me to develop a hands-on workshop that would be relevant to an audience representing so many different countries, and, therefore, very different rules, different cultures, etc. (countries included Azerbaijan, Cyprus, Georgia, Lithuania, Russia, Portugal, Ukraine, the UK, Germany, Slovenia and Spain). To get everyone on the same page regarding what I meant by business planning, fees, customer service, and financial sustainability, I used a car mechanic as a model — a car mechanic, it seems to me, is a rather universal concept, someone we are all familiar with, even if we don’t have a car.

To be provocative, I ofcourse used an image of a FEMALE car mechanic.

And then I talked about what makes a car mechanic successful:

  • Her prices are reasonable (at least understandable – why she charges for what for a particular task or material).
  • She helps you to understand what she will do.
  • She can give you an immediate, realistic estimate for how long a job will take and when she can do that job.
  • She does the job she says she will do, on time.
  • She exudes quality.

In short, her customers TRUST her, because of the above activities and approach.

And then we related that back to nonprofit businesses – how, really, we have to do all those same things regarding our organizations, even if we have just one funder who gives us a mega-grant to pay everything.

I think it worked really well at setting the stage for all the rest of the workshop, if I do say so myself. I’m sure that most car mechanics don’t use the forms and exercises I used with these centers, like a SWOT analysis, to develop their business plans. But the car mechanic approach seemed to help my oh-so-multi-cultural group understand how to use those tools.

One of the biggest takeaways that attendees seemed to really seize on: clients who are expected to pay for something anticipate gaining significantly more from an organization than those who get the service for free. That slide got referred back to again and again.

And, finally, I have to thank Michael Keizer for posting the infographic shouldiworkforfree.com in the comments section of a recent previous blog of mine – I ended up using it in the workshop, after being reminded of it by my colleague Ann Merrill, and the group not only laughed, they said it actually helped them in thinking about what to charge for!

More about my consulting services and my training services.