Monday, June 17, 2013

When the new head of a nonprofit meets stakeholders (Michael Hill of YFU USA)

There are a variety of different types of nonprofit organizations, but most of them have one thing in common. The nonprofit has a small paid staff, but also has a number of stakeholders that are interested in the doings on the nonprofit.

A church may have a paid pastor and perhaps a few other employees, but it also has a number of parishoners who are vitally interested in what the church does.

A theater group may similarly have a small paid staff, but they also have a number of stakeholders, including the people who act in the productions and the people who attend the performances.

A service organization has its paid staff, the people who receive the services, and probably a number of volunteers who help out.

Similarly, a professional organization has the paid staff who manage the organization, and the unpaid staff who participate in (and sometimes run) the organization.

Over the last few years, I have been a stakeholder in all four of these types of organizations, and two of them have undergone changes at the top during that period - one of which occurred two weeks ago.

Regardless of the organization type, the new leader has two important things that he or she must do when (or before) the new job begins. The new leader must establish relations with the paid staff, and the new leader must establish relations with the unpaid stakeholders.

I mentioned that an organization for whom I am a stakeholder recently underwent a leadership change. The organization is Youth for Understanding USA, and the new leader is Michael Hill.

YFU USA has a massive volunteer organization, with approximately 1,400 volunteers in this country. To meet the needs of this group, the paid staff arrange for periodic web meetings to allow volunteers to learn new things and ask questions.

One such meeting occurred last week. Although I usually don't participate in these calls, I decided to do so this time - because Michael Hill was going to introduce himself to the volunteers.

I won't get into the details of what Hill said, and I definitely won't get into the details of the conversations that ensued, but I will note that it definitely served to introduce Hill to the volunteers and for us to get to know him. And this was just one of Hill's efforts to get to know the stakeholders in the new organization.

Despite the varying purposes of nonprofits, they all do this. If a church gets a new pastor, he (or she; I suspect most of my readers are not LCMS or Roman Catholic) is introduced to the new congregation via a whirlwind of events and opportunities. Service organizations and others often plan transitions to introduce new leaders. This happens in for-profit businesses also; I participated in such a transition 3 1/2 years ago when I moved from product management back to proposals.

But how should the organizational stakehoders welcome a new leader? Brian McLaren has written Ten Commandements for Welcoming a New Pastor, but the second commandment can be used (with some adaptation) by stakeholders at any nonprofit.

Thou shalt not expect everything to stay the same when the new Pastor arrives. Nor shalt thou resist change, nor assume that change is bad, but thou shalt trust that the Lord thy God isn’t finished with your church yet and is bringing change for your good and the good of your mission.

And don't forget that even atheist organizations have a mission, even if they may refrain from using that particular term. "About" seems to be a safe term with no supernatural connotations.

By the way, here's the "about" statement for the aforementioned YFU USA:

Youth For Understanding (YFU) is a non-profit international educational organization with programs in 64 countries. One of the world's oldest, largest, and most respected exchange organizations, YFU has exemplified excellence in exchange worldwide since 1951.

YFU USA administers the Youth For Understanding programs in the United States and is committed to preparing young people for their responsibilities and opportunities in a changing, interdependent world. Working in partnership with governments, corporations, foundations, schools, and educators worldwide to create global learning opportunities, YFU promotes international understanding and world peace.

YFU international offices and partners have a long and successful track record. As of this year 250,000 students and their host families have benefited from YFU exchanges worldwide. Youth For Understanding is a worldwide coalition of committed organizations and individuals. These people are joined by the belief that full cultural immersion is the most effective means to acquire the skills needed to thrive in an increasingly multicultural, interconnected, and competitive global society.

Whether the impact of globalization will be for better or worse - whether it becomes a threat or an opportunity - depends on how the next generation responds to its challenges. Youth For Understanding is uniquely positioned to empower and prepare young people to rise to these challenges in the 21st century.

Thorough preparation and program support differentiate YFU from other student exchange organizations. Youth For Understanding has earned an excellent reputation for its comprehensive orientation programs for students and host families. YFU has partner offices around the world. The YFU USA National Office located in the Washington, DC metropolitan area with five district offices throughout the United States. A global network of YFU staff and volunteers, subscribing to a common set of quality program standards, helps our students every step of the way. That is why YFU offices have been selected to administer more government and corporate scholarships than any other high school exchange organization. And that is why thousands of parents across the globe trust YFU with their teenagers every year.

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