Tag Archives: organizational design

Nonprofit Radio for February 13, 2023: Inflection Points As Your Nonprofit Grows


Brooke Richie Babbach: Inflection Points As Your Nonprofit Grows

There’s a nonprofit life cycle with recognizable stages. At each point, you need to align your goals, plans and actions with the stage you’re in. Brooke Richie Babbage, CEO at Bending Arc, puts it all together.


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Transcript for 627_tony_martignetti_nonprofit_radio_20230213.mp3
[00:01:37.59] spk_0:
And welcome to tony-martignetti non profit radio big non profit ideas for the other 95%. I’m your aptly named host of your favorite abdominal podcast and oh I’m glad you’re with me, I’d be hit with Pyrex AEA if you made me hot with the idea that you missed this week’s show. Inflection points as your nonprofit grows, there’s a nonprofit lifecycle with recognizable stages. At each point you need to align your goals, plans and actions with the stage, you’re in Brooke richie Babbage Ceo at bending Arc puts it all together, Tony State to nonprofit Radio 50, it’s my pleasure to welcome for her first appearance on non profit radio Brooke Richie Babbage. She is an organizational design and social impact strategy advisor and coach. She hosts the nonprofit mastermind podcast and is the founder and ceo of bending arc through which she supports mission driven leaders across the country in launching and scaling high impact nonprofits over 23 years. She’s been a lawyer, leader and social entrepreneur at social change organizations throughout the US. She and her work are at Brooke richie Babbage dot com Brooke Welcome to nonprofit radio

[00:01:45.26] spk_1:
high tony I’m really excited to be here.

[00:01:48.07] spk_0:
It’s a pleasure to have you. Thank you. Thank you for being excited.

[00:01:51.16] spk_1:

[00:01:52.90] spk_0:
you’re in, you’re coming to us from Brooklyn new york, is that right

[00:01:57.43] spk_1:
Brooklyn Brooklyn new york. It’s where I Live and work with my family

[00:02:00.37] spk_0:
yeah Alright there’s some Tv show I used to uh watch we’re going back like seventies eighties uh oh no wait no no. Earlier than that it’s from the honeymooners, which was the fifties. But

[00:02:12.78] spk_1:
I actually loved that

[00:02:14.58] spk_0:
show. You love the honeymooners? I

[00:02:17.09] spk_1:

[00:02:31.52] spk_0:
I wasn’t watching here in the fifties, not quite that old, but there’s a, there’s a line Ed Norton says Brooklyn U. S. A garden spot of America or no. He says Brooklyn new york garden spot of America coming to you from. He’s somebody asked him where he lives or something and I think he says Brooklyn new york garden spot of America. So alright, you’re in the garden spot. Cool. Uh let’s, I wanna, I wanna get through something, just flush out something in your, the introduction that I read. What does an organizational design and social impact strategy advisor and coach? Do

[00:04:52.56] spk_1:
I love that you asked that question. Thank you. So most simply put I help nonprofit leaders figure out the best way to design their organizations. I think that when we talk about growing a nonprofit or leading a nonprofit, you know, doing nonprofit work, it tends to be really high level and we think, you know, leadership and management and fundraising and all of those are obviously really important. But really what makes the leadership and growth of a nonprofit most effective is when you think about the details of the design, Right? And I love that word, the intentional choices you make about who you hire for, which roles, which programs you offer in which communities, how often you meet with your board, what you do at board meetings? Those are all design decisions you’re sort of constructing or building something as you go. And I think it’s really fun right in the same way that I’m not an artist at all. So for any artist listening, this may not actually be the right sort of analogy, but I think of it like building, you know, a work of art, you sort of take different pieces of inspiration and you construct something from the ground up. I think designing an organization is very similar and I’ve also found that particularly for smaller nonprofits where the executive director or E. D. Like has their fingers on everything notching down and saying to them actually, you don’t have to think these big lofty thoughts about, you know, board growth or board development. Actually that’s just the everyday choices you make about picking up the phone to call your board chair or you know, having breakfast with a board meeting. Those are design choices and it can make them feel a little more in control of what their organization is becoming. So that’s what I do. I help leaders do that.

[00:05:24.57] spk_0:
And and so the organization is gonna develop over time, which goes right into the life cycle we’re gonna talk about. So unlike a sculpture. I mean the sculpture has to be done at some point otherwise. Well, I mean a true artist might say it’s never done, but that artist is gonna be starving for her lifetime because they’re never gonna sell anything because their art is never finished. So, so unlike a piece of art, it can be changed over time

[00:05:30.86] spk_1:
and should be

[00:05:37.11] spk_0:
intentionally designed actions, processes staff overtime.

[00:06:10.96] spk_1:
That’s right. And I think the key is, and the reason that I include organizational design and not just strategy and growth is that it can be easy, particularly as organizations are growing quickly and I work with organizations under $2 million 500,000 to their first million. And that’s a really fascinating time as you know, you and I have talked a little bit about in our first call, but it organizational leaders can look around and feel like their organization is happening to them or around them. Right. How did I wind up with this board? How did I wind up with this particular culture And so reminding them that they actually can make choices. They and their team, they and their board, other stakeholders can make intentional choices, gives them some power back and can feel empowering at a time of organizational growth that can really feel disempowering in a lot of ways.

[00:07:16.85] spk_0:
And you and I are gonna flush out what we talked about in our, in our preparation call today. So I don’t want listeners to feel like there’s something Brooke is holding back on nonprofit radio listeners. Absolutely, there’s nothing, there’s nothing that she and I talked about previously that we’re not gonna talk about today, We’re gonna in fact we’re gonna go into quite a bit more detail. So let’s do that. Um, do we have these recognizable benchmarks in the, in the life cycle? Uh, and I think it just makes sense to go through the six of them. Could you just preview them, you know, high level. So folks know what’s coming and then we’ll then we’ll take a step back and look at look at each one a little more in more detail. But if you just overview.

[00:07:26.72] spk_1:
Absolutely, yeah. So should I start maybe by just saying what I mean by nonprofit life cycles? Like why that’s a framework that’s helpful and then talk about the

[00:07:36.14] spk_0:
Yeah, yeah,

[00:08:30.65] spk_1:
yeah. So basically, you know, as you were saying, organizations continue to grow, they continue to redesign and redesign themselves. And so I talked about, I did not make this concept up when I talk about non profit life cycles. It’s a concept that folks discuss. It’s really about the process by which organizations grow or depending on the organization decline through particular changes in their structure, systems and processes. So it’s a series of phases, recognizable phases along development and I really like I like framework. So I’m a big, I’m a Virgo total framework person. Um, so this is really helpful for my brain to say, okay, in the same way that you think about a child or person developing, We go through these phases. Right? And so you asked what the six R. And the six that I’m focusing on are the growth phase is there also? So for stagnation and decline phases that we won’t talk about today.

[00:08:35.49] spk_0:

[00:08:36.77] spk_1:
we don’t want to talk about

[00:08:37.38] spk_0:
this but

[00:09:55.71] spk_1:
so the six growth phases are similar to write the growth of a person or I use the growth of people as a way to help people remember them. So the first is birth and launch. The second is infancy right after birth and lunch. The next is childhood. The next one is teenage hood or early growth phase and then young adulthood or late growth phase. And in a lot of the literature organizations talk about sort of a growth stage organization or a growing organization and I actually think that early and late growth stage organizations are different and I’m sure we’ll talk about why. So I separate them out into two different stages of development and then you have maturity or the zone of maximization which is you know when organizations find their groove. And one thing that I’ll say is this isn’t necessarily properly linear. So it’s not necessarily that an organization is always and always going to be in this, we found our groove. Everything’s clicking zone of maximization. They may fluctuate. There may be aspects of their organization like their staffing or their board or their fundraising or their program design that is more or less developed. So these aren’t you know, you’re not sort of trying to get to like a sculpture, trying to get to and stay in one of the phases, you really just want to be aware of where you are. So you ask the right questions.

[00:10:07.20] spk_0:
Okay, So you, so you might be maturing in some respects

[00:10:11.50] spk_1:
and not in

[00:10:16.44] spk_0:
Others. one aspect of resource development, fundraising is in childhood, but you know, like staffing and programmatic,

[00:10:23.90] spk_1:

[00:10:37.18] spk_0:
board is clicking so it’s in early growth or teenage puberty, you know, I was hoping, I thought you might call teenage hood puberty, but you didn’t want to do puberty. I

[00:10:37.57] spk_1:
don’t want to wade into that.

[00:10:38.77] spk_0:
No. Yeah,

[00:10:41.85] spk_1:
nobody feels good about

[00:10:43.42] spk_0:
that word. That’s what’s happening. That’s right.

[00:10:48.62] spk_1:
At least some people look back on teenage hood and are like, well there are certain parts of teenage hood that were exciting, you

[00:10:53.75] spk_0:
know, it

[00:10:56.23] spk_1:
sucks for everybody.

[00:11:07.86] spk_0:
Exactly. Alright, so, so birth and launch now, let me, let me uh either you, I don’t see that you put like timeframes like, so it’s not time bound,

[00:11:10.61] spk_1:

[00:11:10.95] spk_0:
mean, I guess

[00:11:14.10] spk_1:

[00:11:14.60] spk_0:
birth and launch for like five years, which to me seems like an awfully long time to be in a birth phase, but your time bounding them, it’s based on where the organization is not

[00:11:26.34] spk_1:
how many years

[00:11:27.56] spk_0:
and months have elapsed.

[00:11:58.60] spk_1:
Absolutely. It’s not time bound and it’s not based on budget is the other thing that I’ll say, um, and I think that’s a really good point that you’re making because if you time bind it, then organizations start saying, okay, we’ve been around for a year and now it’s time to move past launch and we should be in infancy when in fact, I’ve worked with lots of organizations that have the characteristics of an organization in launch phase. Right? They don’t quite move out of that for years. And if they don’t recognize that, then it’s actually something that keeps them stuck. So it’s not time bound. And it’s not about how much money you have.

[00:12:07.74] spk_0:
All right. So let’s talk about the first one in birth. Birth launch. What do we look like? What like what should our goals be? What should you have in mind at this at this stage? Absolutely.

[00:12:51.67] spk_1:
So the first one is birth and launch. And it’s actually the simplest one. It’s the one that people sort of recognize the most. The key characteristic here is that you’ve identified a problem and you’re and you’re developing a solution. So usually these are founders. These are people that have no team, you know, maybe volunteers helping them tends to be sort of solitary work. And the the goal here is to clearly define the problem and your solution right to move out of this phase. What you want to do is make sure that you have a clear enough picture of what your theory of change is, right? You what you’re gonna do in response to this problem. That is how you move out of the launch phase. Okay.

[00:13:13.63] spk_0:
What’s your, your theory of change is what,

[00:13:17.79] spk_1:
So it’s basically the

[00:13:20.14] spk_0:
relationship. Yeah, absolutely.

[00:13:24.40] spk_1:
Know how you’re gonna change the world. So when I say theory of

[00:13:27.50] spk_0:
change, we

[00:13:28.86] spk_1:
talked about the changes like we have a mission and we have strategies. Why do we choose the strategies to address this mission?

[00:13:37.05] spk_0:
Yeah. Um, and so so funding, what, what is that? You know, I’m, yeah, I mean a lot of listeners have been through this stage.

[00:13:48.39] spk_1:

[00:13:54.03] spk_0:
might still some are still in, I’m guessing most are have advanced but respective irrespective of where they’re, where listeners are standing. What is what is funding look like here.

[00:14:26.26] spk_1:
So typically and obviously everything we talked about here, there are no right or wrong. There’s not nothing that’s gonna be true for everybody. But typically funding at this phase is almost entirely the founder and or people in the founders networks like my organization was just my friends. When I started my organization, I basically, you know, I was a poverty lawyer and I decided I was going to start this organization and most of my friends from law school had gone into law firms. And so I threw a big party and I basically said, you guys make more money than I do. Here’s the mission. Here’s a vision, here’s what I’m trying to do. Let’s do it together. Um, and that was, that was how I started, you know, and my parents, so between between those people. Yeah, so that’s usually the funding at this at this stage.

[00:14:48.73] spk_0:
Um, anything else about birth launch,

[00:14:51.50] spk_1:
you know,

[00:14:53.04] spk_0:

[00:15:51.24] spk_1:
guess the one thing I would say about again moving out of birth launch and just back for a second, one of the most, one of the ways to use this whole framework is to try to recognize which phase you’re in, so that you ask the right questions, right? So that you are focused on doing the right thing at the right time. So it can be really exciting to say, you know, oh, this is my stage of development, right? I’m in a birth stage, great. We recognize it. But the way the framework becomes helpful is then to say, okay, therefore what’s the strategic objective of this phase, what does it look like? What do we need to focus on to move to the next phase in a healthy way? So for the startup phase, what it looks like to move to this next phase with the goal of this phase of moving through the next phase is clarity. Have you clearly defined your problem, Have you clearly defined what you are going to do in response to that problem? And once that’s clear, then you start to see organizations move into the more formal start up phase and or infant phase and I’ll also say a lot of organizations never, you know, we talked about sort of time boxing this, There are a lot of organizations that don’t actually move out of the launch phase.

[00:16:14.32] spk_0:
They, so they, what, what keeps them there, They don’t have a sophisticated view of the, of the problem and they’re gonna, they’re gonna

[00:16:36.63] spk_1:
usually one of three things happens. They can’t get that clarity either around the problem or their solution. It’s sort of stays fuzzy and they just can’t launch, they won’t, if you do have that clarity, you’re never going to get funding that isn’t just your friends and family, You’re not going to build a network of support. They can’t move beyond that face because they don’t have the clarity to sort of rally support. A second thing that happens is, and this happened a lot during covid you have people seeing real problems that had always existed. But there was this explosion in new

[00:17:01.99] spk_0:

[00:17:38.03] spk_1:
stage or launching nonprofits and mutual aid groups also. And what can sometimes happen, which I think is fantastic is organizations look and say, oh, we don’t actually need to be a separate nonprofit, right? There is a problem that we’re working towards. We do have an idea for the solution, but we don’t need to build a whole institution here. We’re gonna partner, we’re gonna become a program of another organization. We’re gonna collaborate or form a network. And so that’s another thing that happens. And then third. And I and fairly certain that there are people listening for whom this resonates growing an organization or launching organization can be really hard. It’s a lot of work. And so you just have some people who decide they don’t want to do that, right? That’s they will, they will work to fight the problem that they’ve recognized in some other way as a board member, you know, joining the staff of another nonprofit. So those are the folks that don’t move beyond launch.

[00:17:59.37] spk_0:
Yeah. So you could go from launch to decline.

[00:18:05.50] spk_1:
Exactly, yeah.

[00:18:07.33] spk_0:

[00:18:08.34] spk_1:
failure to launch, just never sort of really launch Absolutely.

[00:18:12.70] spk_0:
Um, you mentioned, you know, long standing problems that were brought to the, to the consciousness through the pandemic. I’m guessing you’re talking about racial disparities, income disparities, the wealth gap,

[00:18:27.29] spk_1:
health disparities in

[00:18:28.86] spk_0:
health education.

[00:18:31.52] spk_1:
These are schisms that have always been there. And so I hesitate to say, oh, people started to see problems, they’ve always been there, but I think they were laid bare in a very unique way.

[00:18:42.76] spk_0:
Yeah. There are certain groups that suffer worse in, in any and then then lots of others. And every time there’s a crisis it’s brought to our consciousness to the consciousness of people who aren’t paying a lot of attention.

[00:18:56.53] spk_1:
I was gonna say two more to the consciousness.

[00:19:03.37] spk_0:
Yeah, yeah. More right now, you mentioned something, this is um, I would take us down a little bit of a side road, but I always, I always come back. I’m usually able to, you mentioned mutual aid groups. I’ve just been reading about those. I did not know that they exist. They that they exist and that they really came uh, they really bounded in popularity and

[00:19:23.53] spk_1:
uh, around

[00:19:43.68] spk_0:
the pandemic where, you know, it was this form of giving and uniting and people helping others that I think, you know, statistics don’t capture in terms of giving, you know, giving numbers, whatever giving us a does, you know, I’m always skeptical of them anyway. But even more so down talk about these, these local grassroots organizations. Then there was a data base of hundreds of them that was mutual

[00:19:48.40] spk_1:
aid here in new york. Mutual aid N.Y.C. was just amazing.

[00:19:51.30] spk_0:
Yeah. Say, say a little more about what sprung up these mutual aid. I’m just, I’m just reading about it this week and now you just said it, I would like to make sure listeners know that these exist.

[00:21:01.18] spk_1:
Yeah, absolutely. So mutually groups loosely defined are sort of networks of people and groups that come together and organize to provide aid to provide support to people into communities where they see the need. And one of the distinctions between, say, a mutual aid group and a non profit is non profits are incorporated right there corporations, they file taxes and all of the things mutual aid groups are not, they are unincorporated, collaborative collectives of self organizing people. And so they, one of the things that I personally found really exciting and intriguing that emerged more so during covid around these mutual aid groups is that there’s always been this sort of idea if you want to do mission based work if you want to support your community, start a nonprofit or join a nonprofit. Right? So we had this sort of for profit government and nonprofit distinction

[00:21:04.18] spk_0:

[00:21:05.28] spk_1:
or pillars or, you

[00:21:06.36] spk_0:

[00:21:59.67] spk_1:
but the reality is that those are sort of false distinctions, Right? And there’s a lot of sort of history. I used to teach the history of nonprofit um, law. So I won’t bore folks with that, but the distinctions aren’t actually necessary. And what I loved about the rise of mutual aid support and and action networks of people, unincorporated networks and collaborations is that people basically said, no, we don’t have to get caught up in the institution building piece. We just want to do the work. We and so we’re going to find other ways. And what’s interesting even now at the tail end of Covid is that you’re starting to see even more of a redefinition of how social impact work is done. Different forms of nonprofits, hybrid nonprofits, mutual aid groups That are finding ways to get funded even though they aren’t 501 C3. So there’s been this really beautiful expansion of social impact work and I, my entree into it was through coming to understand mutual aid groups and mutual aid works here in New York.

[00:22:24.02] spk_0:
I don’t know where I was. I regret that I didn’t know. I mean maybe listeners know and I just, I’m just completely in the dark. I was about this during the pandemic. I mean I would have, I would have given them voice. I would have had, there’s a there’s a woman who compiled a national database or the state by state of the mutual aid groups that you’re talking about the new york new york Association of Mutual aid Societies. I wish I had known about them during the pandemic. I don’t know where the hell I was.

[00:23:32.52] spk_1:
I think a lot of it was the first thing I did. You know, I work with these nonprofits leaders through my programs and everything. And when Covid hit I just started getting emails and phone calls and texts from people in my network. What are we doing? Like how do we address these problems? And I started hosting these weekly strategy and action calls, These national calls on zoom where people executive director to just show up and talk to each other. Um and I was just listening to what was coming up in these calls. And so every week, sometimes multiple times a week there were dozens of executive directors, sometimes the same groups, sometimes not just showing up and saying, here’s what we’re seeing. You know, and a lot of these organizations were partnering with mutual aid groups. So that was how I came to understand the role they played in the ecosystem was just being on these calls every week listening to people and they kept coming up and then I sort of you know did a spiral deep dive research. You know

[00:23:46.13] spk_0:
Now it sounds like they were they sprung up, they were agile, they know the needs of the local community.

[00:23:53.15] spk_1:

[00:23:53.84] spk_0:
they’re defining community whether it’s state or county or even just town. You know, they know the needs, they know the levers of power

[00:24:01.96] spk_1:

[00:24:05.16] spk_0:
the community however that they defined, you know they can they can I mean within a week they could be serving people

[00:24:10.80] spk_1:

[00:24:11.08] spk_0:
their to submit their 10 23 and exactly the I. R. S. With board and you know eight months later, you know we’re halfway through the pandemic. You know within. Yeah it’s very exciting. Thank you thank you for flushing that out. And I don’t

[00:24:25.52] spk_1:
know I

[00:24:28.73] spk_0:
regret that. I didn’t know more. Well

[00:24:29.46] spk_1:
now you do

[00:24:30.74] spk_0:
pandemic. Yeah

[00:24:32.06] spk_1:
and they’re not gone. So actually

[00:24:36.72] spk_0:
you know that’s that’s right, you’re right. They’re not gone. We should be doing a show on mutual aid groups. That

[00:24:41.62] spk_1:
would be awesome.

[00:25:09.52] spk_0:
Yes. Alright, alright. It’s coming infancy. Let’s move on. We have uh at this stage we’re gonna be we’re gonna be 100 years old and we’re gonna be two hours into the show and the show is gonna die. But the show is going to die before the before we reach mature maximization. I no, no, it’s my fault because I digress. But let’s move to infancy. What do we look like here? What are we talking? What are capital look like? What are our goals?

[00:27:30.90] spk_1:
Yeah. So this phase is usually still mostly the founder and organizations that shift into the start up phase have some kind of legal status at this point. So they may be a 501C3. There are a lot of the corpse, right hybrids. But they have a structure that houses the work. And so this initial distinction between the founder and the work of the founder and the institution that needs to be built. It starts in the start up phase and I think that’s really important to highlight because as organizations grow and develop that distinction between the founder or the leader and the institution becomes more important. And so it really starts here, right? Funding isn’t for just the salary of the founder, the funding is, there’s overhead there maybe rent, right, there may be other team members, there maybe stipends for program participants etcetera. So the goal of and I always distinguish their sort of five considerations in each stage, like what’s the goal of this phase of development, What do we need to focus on? How are we designed? And then you you mentioned capital. Right, where’s the money coming from? What does funding look like, what our strategic objectives and what does our team look like? These are sort of the five dimensions of questions or considerations to ask yourself at each phase. And so for this phase, the goal is really proof of concept, right? How can we take this theory of change these strategies or the programs or the activities, the work that we’re doing and demonstrate to people other than our closest connections that there’s a there there, Right, that these strategies are actually going to help move us in the direction of the mission. That’s what I call proof of concept. And so there’s, you mentioned being agile and nimble, there’s a lot of program design experimentation. The design tends to be very organic and responsive. You have maybe a small team of people sort of out in their community or in the world doing work and iterating very quickly. So it’s, it’s a phase that’s marked by a lot of energy. Things are changing very quickly. Also really limited funding. So startup funding can be really tough. I happened to start my organization in new york where I actually think accessing startup funding was a little easier than some other communities. A lot of the organizations in my accelerator program are not in new york and the start up phase can be hard to get funded because most funders look for proof of concept, they want to see that, you know, what you’re doing is actually working. So the goal of this phase is really proof of concept in large part so you can get funding and stakeholders etcetera.

[00:27:58.00] spk_0:
I’m seeing big leadership challenges.

[00:28:00.43] spk_1:
Uh we’re only

[00:28:01.68] spk_0:
we’re only in the second

[00:28:02.43] spk_1:
stage, you

[00:28:13.00] spk_0:
know proof of concept, big changes, hiring staff rent, you know there’s as we progress there’s enormous challenges to leadership. Is

[00:28:16.13] spk_1:

[00:28:27.59] spk_0:
person. Do you see that much? I mean is one person capable of taking an organization as as ceo founder remaining ceo through maturity is that I

[00:28:56.18] spk_1:
have to tell you, we could do a whole other podcast conversation on that question there. Do I personally think one person should do it all? No I don’t. And this is coming from somebody who started and founded multiple organizations, all of which had one E. D. Or one Ceo. And that was me. I think that this institution building piece is massive and I think that the idea of one person holding the responsibility for the hiring, the strategic vision, the resource development, the co governance with the word it’s a lot. And the biggest challenge that the leaders that I work with have is the sense of overwhelm the sense of constantly juggling so many balls. It’s it’s a

[00:29:16.13] spk_0:

[00:30:04.07] spk_1:
Yeah and I think you’re right to highlight it starts here right once there is an institution, right? Once there’s this formal legal structure there is there’s an organism that must be supported and built and you know held by someone, there’s a really interesting movement towards different models of leadership of shared leadership that was not Common when I was coming up, you know, 20 some odd years ago you had an executive director and they were at the top and they were in charge and I think there’s been a really great conversations happening more and more and I think more funding for and support for models of shared leadership. Co leadership. One of the organizations that I worked with had this really interesting for person leadership team. So there was no one executive director, they each sort of had their sphere of influence and they made to sit. Now there’s management and leadership challenges inherent in that also. But people are really experimenting with this. How do we hold this work?

[00:32:30.71] spk_0:
It’s time for Tony’s take two Non profit Radio 50, That is the coupon code that will get you 50% off planned. Giving accelerator. The course starts early March, we will be done together by Memorial Day, so it’s a three month course, You’ll spend an hour a week with me and your peers in the zoom meetings and they are meetings not webinars so everybody can talk to everybody else and you can interrupt me without having to put a question in the chat. It doesn’t work like that, just speak up and everybody helps each other. That the pure support is incredible. Um, it’s all about launching plan to giving at your nonprofit, that’s what we’re working on together. Making planned giving for you easy, accessible and affordable for small and midsize nonprofits. If this at all sounds interesting to you. You can check out the accelerator at planned giving accelerator dot com. You’ll see that the general public is getting 40% off the full tuition. You use non profit radio 50. No spaces maybe that’s obvious. I don’t know. No for a coupon it’s probably not obvious. non profit radio 50 with no spaces will get you 50% off the full tuition through february good through this month. So there you go. You’re entitled, it’s all at planned giving accelerator dot com. That is Tony’s take two. We’ve got boo koo but loads more time for inflection points as your nonprofit grows with Brooke richie Babbage. Let’s advance the childhood.

[00:34:58.48] spk_1:
So childhood is where just like a child? This is where the organization begins to walk and talk on its own. So there’s more meaning wholly separate from the founder or it should. Right. So this is an indication, have you moved into the child? Have you moved out of the startup phase? There’s more stability organizations are still figuring out what it means to be an institution and to separate the work from the founder, but this is where you might start to actually see a small staff. Right. That not just volunteers. Often there are some combination of independent contractors, maybe some part time people one, maybe two full time people. A lot of times. This is where the founder will start to pay themselves. It’s really interesting to me how many founders make it all the way through and you’re not? Yeah, you’re nodding all the way through the start phase and choose to divert funding to other things. But right around now you start to actually have salary lines, you know, in your budget, you’re also gonna have more regular fundraising. So the childhood phase often marks the beginning of meaningful external fundraising, meaning it can support salaries, there’s some separate program funding. And because your fundraising is, your resources are going up, your expenses are also going up. So you have more robust programming, you’re investing more in institution, you’ll start to see overhead, etcetera. And transitioning out of this phase, when we talked about sort of, what’s the strategic question to ask? To move beyond transitioning out of this phase really requires a focus or emphasis on intentionality. So, the hallmark of the childhood phase is, you know, you have this small child who can stand on their own two ft. They’re like, you know, wobbling a little bit, but they’re standing there, small team, a little bit of fundraising. The pieces are there. And so to transition to this next phase, you have to start to say which of these pieces? And this is the organ organizational design piece, which of these pillars that we started to, you know, our anchors, we started to put down are working which ones are the right ones do we have the right team? What should our work look like over the next year? This is when you’ll start to see organizations actually have a long term strategic plan, a three or five year plan as opposed to just sort of each year we’re doing this, you’ll have a strategic fundraising plan that’s not just throwing spaghetti against the wall. It’s oh, but wait, do we want to have one event or two campaigns? Right. They start to be more intentional about leaning into what’s working?

[00:35:11.80] spk_0:
How about the board? Where where’s the board at? In in childhood? To me that sounds, that sounds like the toddler toddler phase you said beginning to walk in childhood. So where,

[00:35:22.61] spk_1:

[00:35:30.65] spk_0:
where’s the board at? Maybe I’m, maybe I shouldn’t call the toddler state. I’m not trying to rename your, I mean, I’ll

[00:35:32.96] spk_1:
tell you, we, my youngest son just turned five and we still call him the baby. So you know, it’s all, you know, it’s all words, but

[00:35:40.43] spk_0:

[00:35:41.12] spk_1:
all relative.

[00:35:42.25] spk_0:

[00:36:06.97] spk_1:
So your board is still, it’s not a true what we call governance board. This is still gonna be a hands on working board. And most often what you see in this phase is most of the sort of authority and decision making will still actually sit with the executive director. You still have executive directors running or co running board meetings, rallying board members as troops. Even though boards are moving out of the start up phase, which is highly hands on. You’re still going to have a board that most often looks to the executive director for direction and doesn’t necessarily see themselves as holding any sort of co governance authority or autonomy.

[00:36:26.24] spk_0:
All right, there might be more hands on still in fall in small ways like the board will take on this event or something like that

[00:36:35.47] spk_1:

[00:36:35.91] spk_0:
help with the mailing. You know, it’s, it’s be more ministerial uh functional than than strategic and

[00:36:44.61] spk_1:
at strategic and forward looking. Absolutely,

[00:36:47.52] spk_0:

[00:37:01.04] spk_1:
right. And I think one of the ways that that often shows up is, you know, a startup board often are like staff, right? They do all of the things in a childhood board, they’re not staff anymore, but they’re still more responsive than they are proactive. They will show up when called as opposed to saying, hey, as board members, we will proactively take on this role, this responsibility that tends to come later.

[00:37:17.38] spk_0:
Now we’re moving into the puberty, puberty phase,

[00:37:21.49] spk_1:
you are going to insist on calling a puberty,

[00:37:24.24] spk_0:
I’m not insisting teenage hood, teenage hood, its early

[00:37:27.78] spk_1:

[00:37:29.02] spk_0:
the hormones are raging,

[00:37:30.93] spk_1:

[00:37:32.23] spk_0:
what’s happening to us now? Yeah,

[00:38:09.49] spk_1:
so the growth stage organizations are often lumped together, right? We talked about sort of growing organizations, but like I said, I think they’re actually two phases and when you actually pay attention to those five sort of questions that I talked about, you know, what are the goals, what is fundraising look like, et cetera. You start to see early growth phase teenagers where the organization is stable and walking. There’s some intentionality and they’re really focused on scale, right? You mentioned hormones, they are sort of full steam ahead. You know, I was just joking with my husband about being a teenager and learning to drive and getting my first car and I just, I would drive a half a block to the store, right? There’s just like this energy, there’s constant forward movement,

[00:38:22.22] spk_0:
which has changed a lot by the way.

[00:38:24.67] spk_1:
Oh yeah, I’m

[00:38:25.91] spk_0:
hearing about teenage kids who don’t really don’t care about their driver’s license anymore.

[00:38:29.26] spk_1:
Oh no, I was, that was like the biggest,

[00:38:35.59] spk_0:
no, no for me too, I couldn’t wait to get my, my learner’s permit driver’s license, but today’s today’s teenagers. It’s not, it’s not that big a deal and I’m not talking about urban, I’m talking about stories from friends, I don’t have Children. So I don’t, I don’t know from this is the guy with no kids pontificating about Children, so take it for what it’s worth, which is probably nothing. But what I hear from my friends who do have Children is the driver’s license, like the permitting and licensing, it’s not that big a deal anymore

[00:39:02.42] spk_1:
fascinating. I can’t can’t tap into that because that was such a big deal for me and all of my friends

[00:39:10.33] spk_0:
are not there yet,

[00:39:11.27] spk_1:
not even close, I have an eight year old and a five year old

[00:39:14.22] spk_0:
and the new york

[00:39:15.05] spk_1:
kids so that there’s also just a different relationship to driving I think in new york

[00:39:21.14] spk_0:
city like new york. Yeah, I

[00:39:22.23] spk_1:
was a midwestern kid. So everybody, you know

[00:39:24.77] spk_0:
suburban suburban Jersey, I mean that was that was the freedom, that was

[00:39:30.00] spk_1:

[00:39:50.18] spk_0:
first time I could go out without a chaperone or something or the first time I was allowed to babysit, you know it was huge. It was huge. I couldn’t wait right on the birthday independence. Alright, I don’t think it’s that way and from what I hear it’s not that way anymore. Alright anyway, I’m sorry. Aggressed into the driving but your, let’s take it, let’s take it from the traditional way that you are starting your, you got your learner’s permit,

[00:41:36.43] spk_1:
that’s right. And so you’re like really excited to move forward. So the early growth phase is just growth, its scale and it’s a real fraught time. So this is often and I know I said there is no sort of budget assigned but a lot of the organizations that I work with like I said are you know late six figures and are in this, we want to grow, there is a need in our community, there is a need around our issue and we aren’t meeting it fast enough, we want to hire more people, we need to grow our board, we need to do more and this intentionality that they built during the childhood phase, the systems that they started to build their like we want to stress test them, right? So we are adding more programs. We are adding more people to our programs. We are growing, there’s more robust fundraising. So we’re bringing in more money and this juggling act can get really chaotic during this early growth phase because the addition of new team members, you know, one of the biggest conversations that I have with folks is they’ll come into my accelerator program. They’re saying I have the money to grow, right? So we raised this money to expand in this way. Who do I hire to do? What? I’ve never had to think about a staffing structure. I’ve never had to think about salaries in any way that was equitable. I just sort of paid people what we had and now I actually have to have some kind of you know, policy around it. I’ve never, my board has never had to review an audit and now they do, right. So this phase is marked by tremendous growth and increase, increased impact, increased staff and an attempt. You talked about leadership challenges an attempt by

[00:41:46.57] spk_0:
Leaders and bring this organization further or you’re not the right one.

[00:42:53.27] spk_1:
That’s right. And so one of the really important strategic growth focuses here, right to nail this phase and be ready for the next one is really actually around leadership, right? If in childhood it was around systems and stability intentionality here, it’s very often that the executive director has to begin to change their style of leadership, their definition of leadership and their own skill level, whereas before being an effective leader and again I’m generalizing here, but in the childhood phase it’s we’re hands on, I meet with my team all the time, we have a small but mighty group, we make our decisions together, sort of all hands on deck. That’s a really different leadership style and set of skills than more differentiated staff where maybe you have a leadership team and people that report to them, not directly to you, where you have board members that are now starting to join that are calling you and saying, hey

[00:43:01.72] spk_0:

[00:43:08.96] spk_1:
happening with the audit, what’s happening with the strategic plan where you start to have these other this other way that you need to show up as a leader and that is often a big challenge. That we talked about. This inflection point, that’s one of these, you know, I have a training that is what got you here, won’t get you there. This early growth phase is where I came up. Like why I say that

[00:43:32.05] spk_0:
what what what got you here won’t get you there. It sounds like the passion is not gonna be sufficient anymore,

[00:43:36.74] spk_1:
nope, not at all.

[00:43:37.75] spk_0:
Passion might have gotten you through childhood, but it’s not going to get you through teenage hood and into young adulthood.

[00:44:55.31] spk_1:
That’s right, it’s not going to get you into young adulthood and I like that we were talking about driving because this idea of, you know, you could crash, but you could go so quickly and not actually master, not master build your skills around things like you know, paying attention to financials, this is a big one that comes up during this phase, that up until now the nature of funding was sufficient that you know, I have E. D. S that are just like I look at our bank account once or twice a week and I have a good sense of our money, so that’s not actually financial management and that’s okay if you have $200,000 and one staff person and it’s all programming, but once you have different, funders multiple salary, lines some overhead. maybe some restricted funds, you actually have to pay attention to your financial infrastructure. Just as an example, that’s a different skill set, that’s a different allocation of your time in the week and making that shift, if you don’t, just like a teenager can run themselves into the ground, the organization can run itself into the ground. And so you definitely see organizations at this phase, not, not make it out of the early growth phase, they just get stuck in this sort of overwhelming chaos.

[00:45:04.05] spk_0:
It’s perfect, let’s move on.

[00:46:17.70] spk_1:
Yeah, so if they write, if they make it through the early growth phase, into the late growth phase, what’s happened is they have gotten comfortable with scale the organization. So the key characteristics here the organization is growing. It has figured out how to calibrate staffing or capacity with funding the right the right size to their programs. They feel like they’re growing in a way that that can be held and sustained. And now the question for late growth stages, how do we make sure that this growth that we’re experiencing is still anchored in our values and mission. So sometimes in order to grow, you have organizations that take on funding and they look up and they’re like, huh? So we have all this funding for this program that looks great. I can’t remember why we started that program. Right. Or we have 13 programs and everything feel scattered and I don’t really know that they’re all rooted and like why we started to do this to begin with. And so the goal here is learn to stay stable amidst growth. Right? How do we make sure that we’re anchored in our

[00:46:21.22] spk_0:
growth in

[00:46:39.54] spk_1:
the mission and the values? Absolutely, Absolutely. And so for the executive director, the leader, the strategic focus here is to fully transition into this mature organization. Right, full adulthood. How do I work on the organization? Not just in the organization? How do I get out of the weeds? How do I actually delegate to and rely on a leadership team or whatever the structure is, How do I rely on the systems we’ve set up so that my role is bringing in new resources, forming new partnerships. It’s visioning, its generative, it’s strategic.

[00:47:04.68] spk_0:
What does the board look like here in growth?

[00:48:04.78] spk_1:
So ideally at this point, the board functions more as thought partners, ambassadors and cheerleaders, they are being leveraged as resources out in the world. Right? So if you contrast this with the start up phase or the or the childhood phase where the board was still looking really inward, right hands on working board, what you start to see here in a healthy growing mature governance board or governance body, there are a lot of organizations now that are moving away from a traditional governance board and they have a governance team or a governance body. But the group of people that play that role is they are ambassadors, they are taking what they’re getting from inside the organization, the mission, the work, the passion and understanding of what the organization does and they’re going out into the world as cheerleaders as strategic advisors and bringing resources back into the organization. So there’s a shift to facing outwards and ideally you have board members that are proactive in that facing outwards, you know, they’re leveraging their resources, their networks etcetera. So you start to see that shift right around here

[00:48:15.58] spk_0:
explain the distinction you made between a governing board and a governance

[00:48:19.94] spk_1:

[00:48:21.47] spk_0:
It’s not really

[00:49:43.42] spk_1:
Yeah, it’s not a hard distinction. It’s their similarly to some of the conversations that folks are having around leadership, shared leadership, different models of co leadership. I’m seeing a lot of similar conversations around non traditional governance and so whereas in a traditional structure, you have, you know, these organizations and it has a board of governance board, board of directors, there are a lot of organizations that are rethinking what that body is called and how it works and what its relationship is to the organization. So one example is an organization that I’m working with now is thinking about, they’ve had a traditional board for about 11 years and they are thinking of actually separating fundraising and resource generation from community accountability and active governance. So reviewing the financials, making sure the audits, okay, there’s some core governance responsibilities that the board has, but one of the concerns they felt they were seeing or they have is that they’re bored. Their traditional board felt really separate from the community that they serve and are working in. So there was this like hierarchy that had been created and so they’re playing around with a governance team, which is going to be a larger, less structured, so no officers, no committees, no standing committees,

[00:49:50.69] spk_0:

[00:50:02.86] spk_1:
collective of people who play different roles. Primary among which is creating a feedback loop of accountability to the community that the organization serves. So they’re just, they’re not calling it a board. I am very early in my learning about this, but I do think they’re really, really cool conversations, there’s an organization change elemental that on their blog they actually underwent a complete overhaul of their governance board. They now have a governance team and they mapped the process on their blog. It’s a really great read, I highly recommend it.

[00:50:27.61] spk_0:
And what’s that organization again, it’s

[00:50:30.06] spk_1:
called? Change, elemental change,

[00:50:32.40] spk_0:

[00:50:36.48] spk_1:
Yeah, so that’s, that’s like growth phase, maturity,

[00:50:40.32] spk_0:

[00:53:04.53] spk_1:
is a stable organization, It has good systems, it has good bones, its mission aligned. Right? So this routing in the values and mission is solid and it’s having a good impact. I think the best way to think about this sort of mature zone of maximization is we’ve hit our stride, we have the right people in the right roles, we have the right systems, people understand their jobs, our boards functioning obviously right, the nuts and bolts are gonna be messier but largely speaking when you look around and the right pieces are working the right way. You’ve hit the zone of maximization and you made a point earlier that there may be aspects of your organization that hit maturity while others don’t, you may look and say our board is nailing it, they are thought partners, they are active, they are engaged, they are ambassadors, we, this is really great but the team, the staff, I’m still, I feel like we don’t have, you know role clarity, we’re not really nailing it there, that’s okay. Right, so there’s a sort of maturity in one area and perhaps teenage hood or still growth phase in another. And being able to recognize that means that as a leader as a team, you can pinpoint where to focus your not sort of looking globally and saying, oh our organization still needs to go, No, actually it’s the team that you want to focus on or it’s the fundraising that you need to focus on. So that’s this phase, it’s um, it’s really stable. And what’s exciting about this phase is that the goal becomes deepening of impact, that the institution is solid. And so now you’re thinking, how do we do better? Right. How do we meet the needs of more or in a deeper way. This is when you start to see organizational leaders think about things like thought leadership, right? Which is like jargon a way of saying how do we build, take this point of view or expertise that we have as an organization doing good work and help other people see this point of view, understand like how do we leverage our expertise for the benefit of other people who care about this work? So that’s essentially thought leadership, you’ll see executive directors more external to the organization, out building partnerships etcetera. And so they can do that at this phase because the institution is stable because they have a team holding top as, as a friend of mine calls it, right, doing solid, strategic and vision work, they have the systems etcetera. So they can be out in the world especially bringing more people in to an institution that is really good and

[00:53:19.42] spk_0:
also sharing with

[00:53:20.87] spk_1:
with exactly

[00:53:21.91] spk_0:
the world with their learnings have been

[00:53:29.51] spk_1:
what we’re learning. Exactly. It’s a really exciting, exciting time. Yeah, yeah, so that’s that’s sort of that final stage stage.

[00:53:44.30] spk_0:
So now your work becomes a lot clearer I think because you you can work with organizations and leadership to, you know, not necessarily like pinpoint your at this stage, your board is over here and your funding is up there, but leaders that want to advance or feel stuck,

[00:53:57.40] spk_1:

[00:53:57.66] spk_0:
know, you can you can help them look strategically introspectively.

[00:54:02.08] spk_1:

[00:54:03.01] spk_0:
where where the institution is and where it wants to be and

[00:54:07.92] spk_1:

[00:54:09.01] spk_0:
bridge that

[00:56:33.86] spk_1:
gap. Absolutely. I think one of the words that I hear most frequently from organizational leaders. So I work with leaders of two programs, one focuses on launching, launching an early and and birth and childhood and the other, most of my work is with the early and late growth stage organizations. So organizations that are trying intentionally to scale and usually from six figures to early seven figures and the word overwhelm comes up in every conversation. It’s just overwhelming. There’s, I don’t know how to prioritize, I don’t know what to do. First of all of the things that I have to do. And so most of what I do is as a thought partner and also not emotionally connected. So it’s easier for me to see the chessboard is help them figure out the right thing to focus on at the right time. Right? What is your stage of development? What should your goal be? And what is the, the strategic objective that you want to to achieve so that you’re ready to move on to the next phase? And I always say to people, it doesn’t make sense to be focusing on the strategic objectives of being a teenage organization if you are a child, right? Or you know, or if you’re an infant like that, that it’s gonna frustrate you, it’s going to be overwhelming if you have a hands on board made up entirely or almost entirely of your friends and family and you are trying to get them to be a proactive, highly skilled governance board that leap skips a bunch of phases. And so a lot of the challenges that the leaders that I work with are navigating is that they look around at other organizations again at their budget size or maybe that organization is also seven years old and they try to reverse engineer or sort of pace themselves against these other organizations. And when we start to work together, one of the things that happens most commonly at the beginning is they realize, oh, we’re not there yet, Right? So I, I shouldn’t be trying to raise $1 million dollars from individual donors yet. I don’t have any major donors there’s some phases that you’re missing. And so that clarity can sometimes help bring on some calm, right? You don’t have to worry about the million dollar major donor yet. You’re not there. How about we build your major donor base? How about we clarify who your donors are and develop a system for getting in front of them and then that will move you to the next phase, in the next phase, etcetera. So that’s most of what I, that’s the organizational design that I help with.

[00:57:03.31] spk_0:
Your work reminds me of something that a friend of mine who’s a consultant often says his Lawrence Lawrence Bignone, I wish he pronounced his name, but he doesn’t pronounces it tony that we should, we should all sort of personally and professionally be aspiring to a better set of problems.

[00:57:25.24] spk_1:
Oh, I love that.

[00:57:26.68] spk_0:
Yeah, yeah. So you know, we’re always gonna have headaches and problems, but they become, they become more sophisticated, more refined,

[00:57:36.10] spk_1:
right? He

[00:57:45.08] spk_0:
says, you know, a better set of problems to solve. I like that too. Uh, seems to capture the, these, these different stages.

[00:57:46.86] spk_1:

[00:57:48.71] spk_0:

[00:57:50.57] spk_1:
And I think we don’t beat ourselves up as leaders. If, you know, if we define being a successful leader as solving all the problems, we’re not having any problems. Well then that job’s gonna suck because

[00:58:05.82] spk_0:
it’s never, but

[00:58:06.55] spk_1:
instead I really like this, right? If if the goal is what’s the next best set of problems that I’m aiming for, um, it gives us honestly permission to fail forward, which I think is really important.

[00:58:22.19] spk_0:
All right Brooke, I, I feel like uh,

[00:58:24.61] spk_1:
I feel like we covered it all. This was great.

[00:58:29.54] spk_0:
Well, okay. Um, yeah, now you know, not to be frustrated with where you

[00:58:32.12] spk_1:

[00:58:33.42] spk_0:
but to be introspective about where, where the problems are and what it takes to get you.

[01:00:13.76] spk_1:
Absolutely. I um, I posted on linkedin last week that if I had a tag line, it would be growth with intention and I think that both in life and definitely as a nonprofit leader, this idea that growth can be fraught. It is fraught. There are always challenges their growth edges. There’s relearning, there’s unlearning, there’s a lot that goes into growth itself and I think a lot of the overwhelmed the burnout, the fear, the insecurity and uncertainty, all of the things that nonprofit leaders all experience. And I’ve been there. So I know those can be reduced if we just lean into intentionality. Right? If we, if we say, hey, what’s happening, what do we like that we’re doing? What don’t we like that we’re doing? What questions should we be asking, right? That that intentionality can help us drown out the noise, right? The things we don’t actually need to be focusing on the things that we, we don’t need to be comparing ourselves to. So I think that that can be really helpful and that’s I think why I like doing organizational design and strategy work because I find that that comes fairly easily to me the sort of seeing the, the order, the through line and when I’m able to help other leaders gain some of that clarity, there’s there’s really a calm right? There’s a there’s like a deep breath that people are able to take and I remember some of the toughest days as an executive director and having people help me with that so that I could take a deep breath was really transformative. So that’s what I try to do for folks

[01:00:29.74] spk_0:
growth with intentionality.

[01:00:31.37] spk_1:

[01:00:32.28] spk_0:
Brooke richie Babbage, you’ll find Brooke and her work at Brooke richie Babbage dot com Brooke thank you so much. Really insightful, valuable thank you.

[01:00:43.03] spk_1:
This was a great conversation, thank you for having me, tony

[01:01:29.46] spk_0:
my pleasure, I’m glad you loved it next week. Leadership development with two folks from the bridge span group seems to parallel very, very well with what Brooke and I just talked about leadership development. If you missed any part of this week’s show, I beseech you find it at tony-martignetti dot com. Our creative producer is Claire Meyerhoff shows social media is by Susan Chavez Mark Silverman is our web guy and this music is by scott stein of Brooklyn, Thank you for that information Scotty B with me next week for nonprofit radio big nonprofit ideas for the other 95%,, Go out and be great.