Nonprofit Radio for February 28, 2022: Founder Syndrome

Heidi Johnson: Founder Syndrome

It can severely hold back a nonprofit’s work when the organization becomes the founder. What are the symptoms and treatments? Heidi Johnson is a founder, took over leadership from a founder, and has been studying founders and their orgs for many years. She hosts the blog and podcast, Charity Matters.

 

 

Listen to the podcast

Get Nonprofit Radio insider alerts!

 

Apple Podcast button

 

 

 

I love our sponsor!

Turn Two Communications: PR and content for nonprofits. Your story is our mission.

 

We’re the #1 Podcast for Nonprofits, With 13,000+ Weekly Listeners

Board relations. Fundraising. Volunteer management. Prospect research. Legal compliance. Accounting. Finance. Investments. Donor relations. Public relations. Marketing. Technology. Social media.

Every nonprofit struggles with these issues. Big nonprofits hire experts. The other 95% listen to Tony Martignetti Nonprofit Radio. Trusted experts and leading thinkers join me each week to tackle the tough issues. If you have big dreams but a small budget, you have a home at Tony Martignetti Nonprofit Radio.
View Full Transcript

Transcript for 580_tony_martignetti_nonprofit_radio_20220228.mp3

Processed on: 2022-02-16T15:39:53.680Z
S3 bucket containing transcription results: transcript.results
Link to bucket: s3.console.aws.amazon.com/s3/buckets/transcript.results
Path to JSON: 2022…02…580_tony_martignetti_nonprofit_radio_20220228.mp3.538324882.json
Path to text: transcripts/2022/02/580_tony_martignetti_nonprofit_radio_20220228.txt

[00:00:10.24] spk_0:
Hello and welcome to

[00:01:43.04] spk_1:
tony-martignetti non profit radio Big nonprofit ideas for the other 95%. I’m your aptly named host of your favorite abdominal podcast. Oh, I’m glad you’re with me. I’d be hit with parallel alia if I had to speak the words you missed this week’s show founder syndrome, it can severely hold back a nonprofits work when the organization becomes the founder, what are the symptoms? What are the treatments? Heidi johnson is a founder, took over leadership from a founder and has been studying founders and their organs for many years. tony steak too. Spring is in the air. We’re sponsored by turn to communications. Pr and content for nonprofits. Your story is their mission turn hyphen two dot c o. It’s a pleasure to welcome for her debut on nonprofit radio Heidi johnson, she’s a co founder of Spiritual care guild, providing 24 7 chaplain support to Children’s hospital Los Angeles where she serves on the board of trustees. She’s the creator and founder of Charity Matters, a weekly blog and podcast that for over a decade has told the stories of nonprofit founders and their entrepreneurial journeys. It’s at charity hyphen Matters dot com and at charity matters Heidi johnson, Welcome to nonprofit radio

[00:01:48.34] spk_2:
Thank you, Tony. Thank you for having me. It’s a pleasure to be here.

[00:01:59.34] spk_1:
I’m glad. Thank you. My pleasure as well. So you’ve been a founder. You took over from a founder. I presume that in the organization that you founded, you didn’t leave things as bad as you found them when you took over from the founder?

[00:02:07.84] spk_2:
Well,

[00:02:09.33] spk_1:
well,

[00:02:10.24] spk_2:
I’ve gone through it all. I’ve been through it all. Let’s just put it that way. I’ve walked the walk, have walked the walk and I’m happy to share it. Let’s start

[00:02:26.34] spk_1:
the part of the journey with taking over from the founder. Uh, because that’s what we want to avoid folks having to deal with. You know, what, what did it look like? What did you have to go through? Tell us that, you know, it

[00:03:32.54] spk_2:
is, um, I refer to myself as the, the, the second life, the step mom. Um, everybody loves their mom and the step mom, you know, the person who comes in second is usually not as popular and um, and the founder is a beloved person. The founder is is so many great things and I have to say that I do think founders are some of the best humans on this planet. I mean they are, they are the charisma for the organization. They are the why they have the spark, they have the fire, they do beautiful things. The entrepreneurs like I, I have just the utmost respect for every founder I’ve ever talked to. I, I love these people. However, however, I think most founders don’t have a transition plan, a succession plan and I found myself in the predicament of having walked away from the nonprofit that I co founded with a group of people and inheriting one that was 32 years old at the time and had been founded by, um, a nun. So she was super beloved, Oh

[00:03:44.11] spk_1:
yeah,

[00:03:45.12] spk_2:
Oh yeah,

[00:03:46.64] spk_1:
nobody ever wants to cross, nobody wants to cross a nun. No, you can’t, they’re gonna get their knuckles

[00:03:51.33] spk_2:
slapped with the rules, you’re going to hell,

[00:03:52.98] spk_1:
right? I mean never crossing, it’s worse than crossing a priest.

[00:05:42.04] spk_2:
Exactly. So, so I, I come in and this organization has been a youth leadership organization where these, you know, 17,000 alumni have spent their summers with this woman who was like their mother and she is beloved by all and she was ill and not well and just said to the board, I’m gonna just close the organization and the board said, oh, no, no, no, no, you don’t just shut a nonprofit because you’re leaving. Um, that’s not how that works. And so it was, it was not a smooth exit strategy because there was no succession plan. Um, there was a lot of her feelings from obviously what I would call her kids are alumni who loved her and felt like she was sick and being shoved up by the board. It was, it was a big mess and I knew none of this when I was hired, right? I knew none of them. You didn’t know the history even, I knew that she was ill and was leaving. That’s what I was told. So of course I uncovered this pretty early on into my, yeah. And um, and it, it seriously, I, I’ve never been a second wife, I think, you know, knock on wood, but I felt that, um, that disconnect from our core base. Um, the board was supportive of me, but yet the board was still made up of people that were kind of on her team and wanted to talk about what we always do it this way. This is the way we do it because this is the way we do it, not because it’s the right way because this is what we do. And, and so just the battle started from the beginning. You know, it was just, that was just, that was like, you know, the first month

[00:05:57.34] spk_1:
was their staff to or was it just the executive?

[00:06:05.54] spk_2:
Yes. So they’re very small staff couple staff, a lot of volunteers. Um, some volunteers said just point blank, I won’t even speak to you. Like I don’t want to know you. I don’t want to work with you because that harsh.

[00:06:15.24] spk_1:
I don’t want, I don’t want, no, I don’t want

[00:06:35.74] spk_2:
to know you at all. And that was kind of my, um, and mind you, I had been interviewing nonprofit founders um, already for probably four years, three or four years at this point. So I’ve been interviewing nonprofit founders for charity matters. And um, and loving nonprofit founders and find myself in this situation. So it was so interesting having Ben a founder, having interviewed founders and now I am the second wife and I’m trying to navigate through this muddled transition. Um,

[00:07:00.44] spk_1:
very interesting. I thought I assumed that it was joining this organization that kicked off your interest in in talking to founders and your research. And yeah, you had already been doing it. And then unknowingly you find yourself as the, as the step wife the

[00:08:15.34] spk_2:
second, the second after starting a non profit as a volunteer with a group of friends I just became fascinated with. Who are these people that do this work? This work is incredibly Hard and and why would you do this work? I really, it was just fascinated with that. I knew that I had like a backstory and a catalyst and a moment that triggered me to want to do this work. But I was like, who are these other 1.6 million people and what’s their story? And by the way, why isn’t the world talking about them? And at that time, CNN Heroes wasn’t on People magazine Heroes amongst us. There was, there was nothing 10 years ago, there was really nothing about these people that truly are my heroes. So I just started my own personal quest. Um, as I walked away from spiritual care after running it for five years, I was like, who are these people? I need to find my, my people, my tribe. And I went in search of them and started charity matters, um, to start talking to founders. And so that so midway through my journey with charity matters, you know, this other nonprofit came to me and said, will you, will you take over what

[00:08:20.47] spk_1:
was the work of that nonprofit that you took over? Was it wasn’t the camp?

[00:08:33.54] spk_2:
So it’s yeah, so it’s called Task We are a youth leadership organization, a catholic youth leadership organization. And it used to just be a summer program to teach leadership um, in catholic schools. And um, we were serving 300 kids when I took over. Um, and now we’re serving 3000 and you know, we have a staff of were small, were small nonprofit organization. Again, task Ta CSC, it’s horrible acronym. Okay,

[00:08:54.14] spk_1:
all right. So were there people who, it doesn’t matter board members, volunteers may be among the small employee staff. Were there folks that recognized that the previous leader had been holding the organization back or was there just so much love for her that there was no, everybody was blind.

[00:09:54.94] spk_2:
There was, there was mixed, there was a mixed bag, I think our biggest donor, um, who had supported the organization for a long time and was also on the board, uh, realized that the organization to be more and, and he’s an incredible leader and visionary and he, he was really the one and because he had the deep pockets too, said we need to hire someone and, and our foundation will, will support this role and he kind of lead that, um, that task pun intended. um, that task to find a new executive director. And uh, and there was people that were very non supportive of that. But since she couldn’t run it, who was going to do it? And, and, and I think people don’t think about, they just think that these founders are gonna go on forever and it doesn’t work that way. It just doesn’t work that way.

[00:11:29.34] spk_1:
It’s time for a break. Turn to communications. Have you thought about thought leadership, would you like yourself or your nonprofit to be a thought leader around your work in your community? It takes time to achieve that kind of credibility, but turn to can get you there, get you to the point where your opinion is sought after, where people come to you for advice, where you’re the leader for your cause and in your community around your cause, turn to communications, your story is their mission turn hyphen two dot c o now back to founder syndrome. And and, and so the organization, right? So the organization was not sophisticated and here’s the biggest donor or one of the biggest donors saying, you know, my foundation will pay for it. You need to do this. So, you know, they’d be more apt to follow his lead than maybe a more sophisticated organization, but a more sophisticated organization would have had a succession plan and would have recognized years earlier that the organization was being held back, etcetera. So maybe, you know, in some respects, it helped the organization. Well, that he stepped forward and that they, well, it’s hard to say that helped them by not being more sophisticated because they could have been a lot further along than they were when you, when you joined. If

[00:11:43.24] spk_2:
you’re right. And I think just because you’re a small organization also doesn’t always mean you’re now, it’s fair to say that you’re probably not as sophisticated and you are correct in this situation. We were not that sophisticated.

[00:11:54.94] spk_1:
The try to be as light as possible. You

[00:11:57.46] spk_2:
know, the fact that the

[00:12:00.97] spk_1:
was thinking like stultifying of, you know, your fact that the founder had on the organization. That’s what I mean. I don’t mean very savvy. There are very savvy to person organizations

[00:12:17.54] spk_2:
100% well. And I think that what happens and we see this not just in nonprofits, we see this in small businesses is when the entrepreneur, which nonprofit founders at their core entrepreneurs, um, that they, they, they in the business become one, the brand becomes one and there is a blurred line. And I mean, you could use something, you know, as simple as Martha Stewart or Oprah magazine. I mean, obviously they are the brand, right? But in nonprofits, it happens. It’s the same thing happens. And where do you separate the person, the founder and the mission and it’s critical, I think for people to be aware of that in their own organizations.

[00:12:59.64] spk_1:
Yeah. So let’s talk a little more about, let’s flush out some of the symptoms sure of, you know, you’ve, you’ve mentioned, you know, the organization becomes the person, the person becomes the organization. But what does that, you know, a little more detail, what, what does that look like?

[00:14:53.44] spk_2:
Well, there’s, I think there’s a lot, a lot of things that can happen. I think, um, when 11 aboard starts, um, becoming just so dependent on the founder and so worried that the founder is everything that could be, you know, a little sign right there. I think when an organization becomes flat, I think when you don’t see a lot of growth, a lot of new work members coming, a lot of new, different people coming from different areas joining your, cause it’s kind of the same old, maybe cronies club. Um, or things get a little stagnant. There could be a sign there that we haven’t seen like new new people coming in. Oftentimes also, I think people rely on the founder as, because they bring the passion and they bring kind of the purpose and the, why people think of the founder as their, their best fundraiser. And, and it’s lots of cases they are. Um, and there the community builder, but it doesn’t mean that they’re the only person that can do that. And I think, um, it’s easy for people to kind of put all that on the founders shoulders because the founders innately exude that passion for their organization. And so I think that, that, that becomes a problem. Um, and I think that, that basically what happens is that people just start all of a sudden thinking that the founder and the organization is one and the same and they lose sight of the mission and the mission is whatever you’re setting out to do isn’t that person, you’re there as a community to serve that purpose, to serve people. And if it all becomes about that person, decisions are being made based mainly by that person, every decision has to go through that person. These are red flag warnings. Yeah,

[00:15:06.84] spk_1:
everything right. Everything has to go through them all the marketing, any language ng messaging, right, Right. Major decisions like the board is just rolling over all the time. You know, you’re not seeing ever robust discussions,

[00:15:34.64] spk_2:
right? I mean there and boards should always have, um, not healthy conflict, healthy conversation, healthy dialogue. You know, you always want that board member that kind of pushes back that kind of pushes back and says, Hey, what about this or why is this? I mean, we kind of love and hate that board member, but we need that board member, but it’s, it’s so important that you don’t become placated by just making sure everybody’s happy that that, that doesn’t make for a healthy organization necessarily.

[00:16:07.14] spk_1:
So we ought to have a succession plan. All right. So let’s let’s, let’s talk a little bit about the value of a succession plan and then, you know, what, what to do if you don’t have one. Uh, and you’re, you know, and you feel like you’re in this stultifying era with your organization and a founder, you know, how, what, what can you do? But let’s, let’s talk about the value of a succession plan. You know, what some motivation for for spending the time and money to, to create one.

[00:16:54.54] spk_2:
Absolutely. Well, I mean, every healthy organization should have a succession plan. And um, I kind of like my marriage to an entrepreneur and he says to me and his, his words are wise. He said everything you enter, but a marriage should have an exit strategy, Everything, but a marriage should have an exit strategy. So every time he starts a business or goes into business, he knows when he’s going to leave, before he starts, he knows when he’s going to leave and, and he is a consummate entrepreneur. And, and I think that that’s really sage advice now for many of these founders, it’s a little too late for that. They’re too far down the path there listening to this saying, oh my gosh, wow, I should have, I should have thought about that, but we may have boarded, but

[00:17:02.34] spk_1:
we have board members listeners to who may say, you know, we, we ought to have a succession plan because you could get ill

[00:17:52.84] spk_2:
can happen. Yeah, yeah. Anything can happen, right. Anything can happen. So every healthy organization should have a succession plan. And it minimum. I think that if people are starting to, even in the organization bring someone up underneath them, someone that they can, you know, train from within that they could promote that is even there in case of emergency that you have at least a net a person that’s a slight net underneath you in your org chart. It’s critical. It’s critical that you have that at minimum in addition to a formal succession plan, obviously. But I think that people get short sighted and founders especially get so busy wearing all the hats and doing all their things. But the last thing you’re thinking about is their own succession plan. That’s like looking at your own mortality, right? And and that’s and that’s why so many of them don’t have them because they don’t want to face the fact that there’s going to be a moment that they’re going to have to separate themselves from something that they don’t know how to separate from.

[00:18:41.94] spk_1:
Alright, what if someone is a board member or maybe even a a senior part of a staff and that, you know, there isn’t a succession plan. I mean, ideally there should be succession plans, not only for the Ceo, but for all the sea level now, you know, now we’re envisioning a bigger organization, but let’s just start with a, you know, a small, small organization, we’re talking about a succession plan for the ceo. They’re a founder. We’re a board member or a staff member. How do we raise this with? We have to start with the founder. Do we start there? Do we, do we have a coup and go to a board member,

[00:19:40.54] spk_2:
which is really not the way to? Well, I think it really, I think it really depends. I think, I think it’s always nice for, I think it’s there’s a combo between the coup and the conversation with the founder and it depends on the dynamics of your board, an organization. I think if you have a board member that has a close relationship with the founder, it’s really great to kind of tap them on the shoulder and say, hey, we talked to so and so, you know, Freddy founder about their their retirement or their plans for the future. Have they ever expressed to you how long they want to be here and start kind of getting those little seeds planted? I think that would be a really smart, delicate, healthy way to navigate and begin that conversation. Meanwhile, I think it’s important that board members on the side are saying we need our responsibility, Our responsibility as a board member is, is for the success of this organization. We have taken, you know, in lots of cases signed a legal document saying that we are going to support this organization and, and well,

[00:19:59.04] spk_1:
and even if they, even if they haven’t signed a document under under state law, they’re fiduciaries to the organization duties of loyalty.

[00:20:01.24] spk_2:
Absolutely

[00:20:02.38] spk_1:
loyalty obedience, which sounds bad, but it’s not

[00:20:06.35] spk_2:
Bad, but 100% there and all of our jobs,

[00:20:10.49] spk_1:
the loyalty of the organization, not to the person,

[00:20:29.14] spk_2:
it is all about the organization, is all about the organization and getting your board to row in the same direction and realize that it is all about the organization going in the same way in the same path is critical. So that might mean a a cool conversation and whatever you want to call it, a healthy dialogue with, with board members about talking about if they see these symptoms, even if they don’t see them, they should have that plan ready to go. They should have that plan at all times ready. And what does that look like? And, and and how do we do that?

[00:21:20.94] spk_1:
All right. And, and with the, with the understanding that this applies really to all organizations, whether whether you’re you’re still have the you have the founder and the ceo or not, a succession plan is worth the time that it takes. Um, it can be empowering to the folks who now know that they’re part of a leadership succession plan. So you’re more likely to retain your good talent because they know that that there is a plan for them to advance in the organization. So that’s empowering and reassuring to to people in your organization. Um, and it’s just, you know, part of the duty of care and loyalty to the organization. The organization’s future.

[00:21:34.64] spk_2:
And, and, and the irony of the whole thing is that as a founder, you know, because there is ego that is tied with it and I speak as a founder as well. I know that there’s a little piece of ego. You do want your legacy to go on. You think about your nonprofit as your child and you want that to go on and on without you. So part of you is saying, this has to go on and this is what I’m leaving behind. This is my good work on this planet that I have left behind and I have, I have started something beautiful that helps people. And then the other part of you is like, wait a minute who’s taking my child? Who am I giving my child to? That’s my child. And and so there’s, it’s, it’s complex, right? It just is complex. There’s, there’s two sides of this and you want the best for your child, but you don’t want to let your child go.

[00:25:35.94] spk_1:
It’s time for Tony’s take two. Ah Spring. The days are getting longer. In just a couple of weeks, Sunday, March 13. The days are going to get even longer. We turn the clocks forward A week from that on March 20 is the first day of spring. It’s looking like after three years, we’re going to be emerging to something pretty normal. That’s the way it looks today. The last day of february when I’m releasing this, That’s the way it looks so on the most basic and practical level. Or maybe even base level. Think about your summer. There’s gonna be a lot of, a lot of people getting out this summer that have not been able to for three years. Make your plans, get yourself sink, tup, get your reservations. It may already. It’s kind of late, I think. But you certainly got to do it now, if you haven’t already for your for your summer plans, A lot of people are gonna be out spring for me. It means more time outside. Of course, more time on the beach. I found a poem. I’m gonna try this. May I favor you with this code? It’s Emily Dickinson a light exists in spring. A light exists in spring, not present on the year at any other period when marches scarcely here, a color stands abroad on solitary fields that science cannot overtake. But human nature feels it waits upon the lawn. It shows the furthest tree upon the furthest slope. You know, it almost speaks to you then as Horizons Step or Nunes report away without the formula of sound, it passes and we stay a quality of loss affecting our content as trade had suddenly encroached upon a sacrament. I hope that’s OK. Emily Dickinson a light exists in spring. Ah spring, rejoice go out enjoy. It’s nearly here. That is Tony’s take two. We’ve got boo koo but loads more time for founder syndrome with Heidi johnson from the loftiness of Emily Dickinson to the baseness of cheap alliteration, boo koo. But loads. My goodness. So let’s shift a little. Now now we’re were in your situation at at task. You know, how do you start to win over some folks? I don’t know. Do you leverage your couple of allies or your one ally or you know, what’s what’s your advice for starting the movement beyond the sweet nun? I can’t imagine. I can’t imagine about.

[00:27:07.04] spk_2:
She’s lovely. She’s wonderful. She’s wonderful. She there’s nothing, there’s nothing bad about our founder except that she left, right? And she abandoned her Children, right? And she got sick. She there’s no she’s a wonderful woman. Um but the but how you start that transition when you come in as a second wife. Um and and mom is left and you have, you know, kids that are missing mom and don’t really know who you are. Uh for me it was the board, the board was was made up of um a group of alumni that um that in a way really. I’m the mother of three sons. Um and there were some of these board um members gentlemen who who are fantastic. But as a group, they were like a pack of of kids. They had they were alumni. They’d been to camp together. They were a little gang and they behaved like a little gang and as a mother of sons. Um, my first board meeting was a call before zoom and I listened to them beating up on this one person and I was, I was just a board member of each board member beating up verbally on one. They all picked on one board member. And I couldn’t believe what I was listening to and I remember

[00:27:11.85] spk_1:
was that board member

[00:27:57.54] spk_2:
present on the call? Yeah, everyone was still the call. And I listened to the victim was on the call, I was on the call and I um got off that call and I called each board member and said, you know and I also sit on a number of boards myself. So I do know how bored when you should be run not to mention that we teach that at task and we teach kids how to run a meeting. And um and I called each board member and I said, I don’t know what that was but that behavior is completely unacceptable. And I am not going to be part of any organization that treats its members like this. So if you don’t call that that person that you picked on in that meeting right now and apologize, I won’t be back. This is just unacceptable. And I called, oh I called for men and I told them all the same thing and they all called this person and um, and I was like, oh my gosh, I can’t even believe I had to do this. I felt like I was holding my Children right? And then, and then

[00:28:10.55] spk_1:
you have to apologize to, you

[00:30:02.14] spk_2:
have to apologize, but, but you know, you know, privately shamed publicly praised, right? So I then called um a priest who was a friend of mine who had been their principle of all of their high schools and I served on his board and I called him and I said, you know, so Father Bill, I need a little bit of help. I said, payback is a bit much. And uh, and I’ve, you know, coach here at your board for five years and I need you on my mind right now because I need to open a can of pass on this board and I need someone who’s, who’s gonna scare them and you’re the only guy I can think of that’s gonna really scare them. And so he joined the board, Principal, 50 year old boys, but principal right, put them right back in their place. And yeah, right back in their place. And then his first call, which was my second board meeting, he said, oh, Heidi, you have your work cut out for you. I said, why do you think you’re here? And so little by little, it was also try turning over the board and there was no board. Um, they had, there was no, no timeline on board commitments. We board members have been there for 12 years. Like what? So I had to create term limits bylaws had to be updated. Term limits had to be created turning over the board and getting, so the first thing I would tell a new E. D. Or who’s taking over from a founder is create a board that supports you. And at least if nothing else bringing a couple champions on your in your corner, you can’t, you can’t start that battle alone. You’ll never, you’ll never make it. Yeah,

[00:30:03.83] spk_1:
I have to ask, how do you get board members to vote for their own term limits?

[00:30:09.24] spk_2:
Well, we had the violence

[00:30:11.26] spk_1:
brand new. This is a brand new concept to them. What someday we have to leave the board.

[00:30:16.45] spk_2:
You’re, you’re, you’re

[00:30:18.57] spk_1:
as radical as, as

[00:30:27.34] spk_2:
everybody said. Yeah. Let me tell you a troublemaker. As we thought you were, there was some very unhappy people. There were some very unhappy people, but the people that had sat on other boards and that had a lot of board experience. Um, you know, I woke up and said, this is the right thing for the organization. Father Bill.

[00:30:42.36] spk_1:
Alright. Allies. You gotta, you have to have some allies.

[00:31:05.04] spk_2:
You have to have allies. You absolutely have to and anyone who does a nonprofit work. It’s all about your team and a community, right? And that’s what we do is we build community and build connection. And if you can’t do that and build that then you’re not supposed to be in this line of work. Right, That’s okay. So that’s I think that’s I think that’s number one, that would be my first.

[00:31:12.54] spk_1:
Alright. And how long did that process take in uh in sort of evolving these folks off the board. I mean did they have to remain for their term

[00:32:55.74] spk_2:
limits? So they took a little minute, it took a little minute I would say we are board was our board was functioning in a and and I do I do like healthy conflict but it was functioning within a year. Um it was not a well oiled machine. I also said to my board um early on I set really clear goals. You know, there’s there’s a lot of great books on turning organizations over and every, most of them will say it takes about five years to you know, turn an organization around two to flip an organization to get it running. And so I kind of said to the board, don’t Rome was not built in a day and I need you to know this is going to take time and you know I inherited a database with 17,000 handwritten three by five recipe cards. That was my database really, you can’t make this up index cards and beautiful non penmanship gorgeous. But yeah, her penmanship was exquisite. Beautiful, 34,000 still have them in the storage unit. Uh huh. So, so Rome was not built in a day and I inherited a heart without a skeleton without structure, a huge beating heart with people passionate for this work. Um with zero structure. And so I just said, you know, it’s going to take, it’s going to take five years and like roll up your sleeves and this is going to be, This is gonna be hard, it’s gonna be bumpy, but we’re gonna do this and um, and you know, we’re now eight years, I’m eight years in and we’re celebrating our 40th anniversary, um, this year. And, and we have just had a border treat last weekend, phenomenal, the most amazing group of people, fantastic. And, and all of our board members who sit on a lot of other boards are like, this is the best run meetings, the best run board. Like it’s just, you know, makes me feel really excited when I look back and I have these conversations with you remember where we were and, and, and where we are. So there is hope for anyone listening.

[00:33:46.24] spk_1:
So you want to die, I guess some, some advice to would be, you know, keep that, keep that goal in sight as you’re, as you’re going through these five transitional years. Absolutely. You know, I mean, you know, it’s easy for us to talk about, but you know, you lived it day after day through the board transition. There were probably employee there, there had to be an employee changes. Yeah. You know, that’s a that’s a tough haul for five years. You have to get, you gotta keep your goal in mind. And

[00:34:53.74] spk_2:
and I think setting that timeline for for me and the board, it was it me, it kept me in the race to write, because I said, I’m going to do this in five years and take five years to get this, you know, completely just, you know, running at full speed. And it’s exactly what it was exactly about, right. I mean, certainly things got better and better and better, but um, but I didn’t I think it would be easy to also quit as a new e. D. You know, if I hadn’t said that goal for myself as well, because I said to them, if this is what it’s gonna take. And I knew like, you know, and at five years I got to say, I thought, should I just put a ribbon on, it should put a big bow. But but I’ve just, you know, I I’ve loved it, but I’ve been very, very cognizant, very cognizant. And I almost, um, I don’t want to say I’m aloof um, with my with the kids, but I’m very clear that their job is to love this organization. And and it is not to love me, they it is about loving each other and this work that we do teaching leadership. Um it is not about me, it is not about me, it’s all about the organization.

[00:35:35.84] spk_1:
Alright. Um, the founders, I guess we’re taking a little step back. You know, you talked about founders having a spark, you know, or passion, just make it explicit how spark and passion aren’t sufficient, they’re necessary, but not sufficient for launching a successful company. I mean, a successful business. It’s a nonprofit corporation, but it runs like a business. It’s

[00:36:49.83] spk_2:
a business, it’s a business, why is passion? It’s a business with a horrible business models. We all know, right. A business model that relies on the kindness of others is a hard business model. It’s not the easiest business model, but it works for, You know, 1.6 million of us, we make it work every day, we get up and we do this work. So, um, so it works. I think that, um, what’s fascinating about the hundreds of nonprofit founders I’ve interviewed with charity matters in the past 10 years, is that not one of them, not one of them woke up as a child or said, I’m going to be a nonprofit founder. Not one of them intended for this work to happen. Every single one of them had a moment and something happened. They were on a very different course, every single one of them and something happened. Something dramatic, a catalyst. A really big moment happened to them or someone they loved that forever changed the trajectory of their life and, and in such a big way that they had to stop their career or whatever they were doing and knew they had to do this. And I think that that’s so um admirable and, and so, and that’s where that passion comes from because something happened to

[00:36:55.03] spk_1:
these people would give up their jobs,

[00:38:07.22] spk_2:
give up their job, give up their life, their income, everything. I mean these people are extraordinary. And when you think about it like that, just think about everyone right now as their job, they’re working, they’re paying their bills, they’re feeding their Children and something happens to someone you love something horrible or to you. And and you say, I got to walk away from everything because I need to dedicate my life to this. I mean that’s, that’s pretty remarkable when you think about it. And so to me that’s what makes these people so special and, and and their spark and passion comes from that because almost all of them um are determined if they just help one person who doesn’t have to go through what they went through. If one person doesn’t get breast cancer. If one person isn’t raped, If one person isn’t hungry, if one person isn’t homeless, they all start out with a very pure intention, they just want to make sure that they’re helping one person and before they know it, they have an organization and they’re driving and there’s a lot that goes into being an entrepreneur that a lot of them weren’t prepared for. It didn’t have the skill set and they didn’t and, and they have passion and as you say, that isn’t always enough.

[00:38:18.02] spk_1:
So there’s a big spiking activity, maybe the first six months or year, right? You get family involved, you get friends involved

[00:38:21.36] spk_2:
and

[00:38:26.42] spk_1:
you know, now where do we go? You know, I’ve exhausted my friends and my family, you know, how do I grow this business? And

[00:39:07.42] spk_2:
exactly, and there’s that and there’s usually, if it’s something that happened to someone in their family, their community, the community usually knows about whatever this moment was in the community wants to help, right? Which is the best thing about our country. And as americans, we, we are innate helpers and we always want to help our neighbor. So everyone’s rattling around in those early days because they’re like, I’ll do whatever I can to help. But as that, as that memory lingers, as that moment is behind people, as the passion lingers in the reality of, oh my God, I’ve quit my job and I started this business and I don’t even know what to do. So it’s in, it becomes, It becomes a lot more challenging for these small nonprofit founders. 100%.

[00:39:13.02] spk_1:
And that’s what you hear from the hundreds of people you’ve interviewed

[00:39:16.44] spk_2:
that all of them

[00:39:17.21] spk_1:
are, they are a lot of them in sort of stagnating organizations leading, leading stagnating organizations?

[00:40:19.81] spk_2:
Well, I think I always ask the question I ask every single person I talked to was, you know, what is your biggest challenge? And, and I would say, you know, 85 90% of them would say fundraising, right? Which I know, you know from this is what you talk about every day with, with your guests. Um, but but they don’t have the, they don’t have the skills. They they’re just, they don’t come in with any of this, right? And so it’s, it’s the learning curve is steep. And then there’s just so many control pieces because they’re trying to do everything as all entrepreneurs do try to do everything. They’re wearing too many hats. Um, you know, you think about it there, there’s, they have so many things stacked against them. And the fact that um, that they persevere is, is remarkable because they’re the toughest group. They are not giving up, they’re not gonna give up. They are, they are going to push on, they are going to push on.

[00:40:23.91] spk_1:
Let’s talk some about the service as a leader, a leader in service to the organization.

[00:42:41.50] spk_2:
Well, I think for me, you know, uh, running a leadership organization, which is, which is what I do. We teach. We teach our kids and I think it’s important for all nonprofits to think about this as leaders and every human to think about this as a leader, we teach our kids for things um, that are important in order for you to lead. one. If you’re gonna lead, you have to have a plan and a goal. We talked about that earlier, like mine was that five year goal, you have to have a plan and a goal. You have to be able to communicate that plan on that goal. You know, what’s your mission? What’s your message? How do you communicate to donors to people to friends and neighbors to get them involved? You have to be a mentor. You have to be a lifelong mentor. And I think in nonprofit, bringing your volunteers along, bringing potentially someone in a succession plan that you’re mentoring and underneath you, being a lifelong mentor is critical in leadership because real leaders grow more leaders. Real leaders definitely grow more leaders. So mentoring is a huge part of leadership and a huge part of success for your non profit as well. And then the most important thing we teach our kids and I think that it’s a reminder for all of us is you cannot lead unless you serve and why did we get into this work in the first place? We got into this work in the first place to serve to help people, Something happened. And we wanted to help them, you know, in my case of spiritual care, we had one chaplain for 300,000 Children at Children’s Hospital, Los Angeles and we wanted to provide more chaplains and we were there to serve to make that happen. And that was our mission to provide chaplains of all faiths to this hospital and, and every single day, that’s what we did. And I get up every day knowing that I’m serving thousands of kids that have potential to be the next generation of leaders and and that’s something that I carry on my back every day. I don’t go to bed thinking I didn’t make enough pencils, I go to bed thinking I have thousands of kids and I have a lot of kids that have been, you know, locked up with mask and homeschooled and you know, alienated and disconnected and suffering for mental health and they need to be connected and they need to be connected and learn to lead these kids are going to lead our future. And I go to bed at night thinking about the kids that that need to be able to have this experience. So when we’re running a nonprofit, we need to think about those that were serving every single day because that’s why we do this work, it’s not about us as the founder, it’s not about us and our ego and our brand and our name, it is about the people that we serve. That is why we do this.

[00:43:17.70] spk_1:
Howdy johnson, she’s the creator and founder of Charity Matters, the weekly blog and podcast, which is that talking about founders and their entrepreneurial journeys. It’s at charity hyphen Matters dot com and at charity underscore matters Heidi. Thank you very much. What a pleasure. Thanks for sharing. Thank

[00:43:20.77] spk_2:
you. tony

[00:43:21.47] spk_1:
especially for sharing your own story. Thank you.

[00:43:24.24] spk_2:
You are so welcome

[00:43:48.00] spk_1:
next week. Get off the recruitment merry go round. If you missed any part of this week’s show, I Beseech you find it at tony-martignetti dot com. We’re sponsored by turn to communications pr and content for nonprofits. Your story is their mission turn hyphen two dot c o Our creative producer is Claire

[00:44:05.00] spk_0:
Meyerhoff shows social media is by Susan Chavez. Marc Silverman is our web guy and this music is by scott Stein. Thank you for that. Affirmation scotty, you’re with me next week for nonprofit radio big nonprofit ideas for the The other 95

[00:44:07.47] spk_1:
go out and be great.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.