• Thursday, June 15, 2017 10:49 AM | Regina Pinney (Administrator)

    Regina Pinney

    Executive Director


    Evaluating the executive director is a basic responsibility of the board that needs to be carried out every year. It does not need to be a process that you dread, though. Below is our suggested process to evaluate your executive director in 7 steps.

    1) Gather perspectives from all Board Members.

    • It is recommended to use a survey tool with both rank/rating of critical hard and soft skills and open ended questions
    • You may also want to consider gathering perspectives from the staff

    2) Allow the Executive to evaluate him/herself on the same criteria as the board

    3) The Executive Committee (or Board Chair) should examine all of the data collected to explore similar themes. It is also important to understand and explore unique information.

    • Discussion questions when evaluating the data
    • Do you agree on what the strengths are? List several examples of how these strengths are illustrated.
    • Do you agree on what the challenges are? List several examples of how these challenges are illustrated.
    • Do you agree on what focus the goals should have? Agree on three clearly stated professional improvement goals.
    • Are the goals and expectations achievable and measureable? Determine how you will measure the success of these goals and maintain your appropriate role.
    • Have you considered all of the information to ensure your executive's compensation is fair and competetive? Consider who else needs to be included in this conversation (i. e. Finance Committee) and do research on how to be a competetive employer. MNA's 2016 Compensation and Benefits Report is a great resource to inform this conversation.

    4) The Executive Committee should share the results of the assessment with the full board – in a closed session of the board meeting - and seek understanding and consensus regarding the goals. Ensure the board will speak in “one voice” to the Executive Director regarding these expectations. 
    • How does full board expect to see changes or improvement based on these goals.
    • How will the Chair/Executive Committee report back to the full board about how things are going?
    • What input should the Executive Director have in creating their own goals?

    5) The Executive Committee and/or Board Chair should personally deliver the feedback to the Executive Director and allow for dialogue and discussion. The ED should have an opportunity to provide input on the goals and outcomes. Together, determine deadlines, check-ins and how the goals will be evaluated.

    6) Executive Committee and/or Board Chair will report on the results of the meeting with the Executive Director and share any amendments or changes to the goals, objectives and outcomes.

    7) Full board should evaluate the process and make appropriate notes and recommendations for improvement of future evaluations.

    Have questions about how to implement this process in your organization? Give us a call at 517-796-4750.

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  • Wednesday, June 07, 2017 11:01 AM | Tom Williams (Administrator)

    Tom Williams

    Capacity Builder


    Typically, I like to use this blog space to share eye-opening ideas and tools to build your organization’s capacity so that more good is done in your community. But today I am compelled to step away from that and reflect on the ugly side of nonprofit life that ties my stomach in knots: embezzlement. Please, let me be clear: I am driven to share this, not for any sense of sensationalism, but rather because if you are aware and informed, you will be better prepared to prevent, detect, and recover any losses in the event that your organization is victimized in an embezzlement scheme.

    It feels ugly to put it in writing, and feels so foreign because most of our energies in governing or operating nonprofits are spent on enhancements--on using charitable contributions appropriately and innovatively to impact positive progress on our mission. But there are three dangerous myths out there, and I want to address them today and offer some preventative measures to help dispel each myth.

    3 Dangerous Myths about Nonprofit Embezzlement

    1)  "It hardly ever happens to nonprofits."

    Anecdotally, I can share the horror stories of respected organizations losing funds from a greedy treasurer or an executive with a gambling problem, but while those stories are sad, they do not adequately capture the scale of the issue. The 2015 Michigan's Crime At A Glance report states that embezzlement was reported over 2,800 times in 2015. And while those were not all from nonprofit organizations, the 2013 Marquet International Report on Embezzlement illustrates that nonprofit organizations are the third (out of 15) most frequent industries to experience theft in this way.

    Preventative measures:

    • Actively seek ways to be more educated on the issue
    • Create awareness among your peer leaders and have the necessary critical conversations

    2)  "Everyone who works here is really a good person."

    While embezzlement is certainly not exclusive to nonprofits, the 2013 Marquet International Report on Embezzlement makes an interesting point about their data that ranks nonprofits as third out of 15 in embezzlement frequency: "This may not be an accurate reflection of the severity of this issue, since nonprofits have a reputation for not reporting fraud incidents in an effort to avoid negative publicity. The nonprofit sector, known for serving the public good, is more susceptible to fraud than many for-profit enterprises. This can be attributed to the unusual level of trust afforded to employees, founders, executive directors, or substantial contributors, along with weak financial controls.”

    Preventative measures:

    • Inform employees and volunteers about your policies so they know appropriate procedures, how to navigate the whistleblower process, and what the consequence are for theft.
    • Follow through: If caught, prosecute, civilly and criminally.

    3)  "We don't have enough staff to have financial controls." 

    According to the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, the median duration of a fraud (from beginning to detection) in 2016 was 18 months; and losses continued to grow as the duration of the scheme increased. In the cases when a scheme lasts five or more years, the median loss is $850,000. Think about the fact that there are nonprofits who are are currently victims of embezzlement as you read this but, but they won't know it for years. While embezzlement may cost an organization critical money, the real casualty lies in the damaged reputation. A single incident of fraud can impact your current support and future giving for years to come. If the public’s trust is broken, it’s a long uphill journey to restoration, and your reputation may never be repaired.

    Preventative measures:

    • If you are an organization with few or even zero employees be intentional on how you can incorporate volunteers into the separation of duties. 
    • Build the controls now to protect your reputation and assets--size of organization is relevant.
    • Implement measures to minimize risk and help you detect theft quickly.
    • Maintain adequate employee crime or dishonesty insurance to cover your losses.
    Note on financial controls within small organizations:  While some financial controls may be more challenging to implement for small organizations with few or even zero staff, the expectation of resources being safeguarded still very much applies.  Sharing the established financial control processes, their intent and separating key duties among several people (think: volunteers) will clearly communicate your intent to safeguard resources.

    Stumped on how to introduce such a challenging topic among your peers? It’s not easy. If it were, more nonprofits would have their money and reputations intact. Really stumped? Give me a call and we can talk it through.

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  • Thursday, May 18, 2017 4:08 PM | Regina Pinney (Administrator)

    Regina Pinney

    Executive Director


    One of the habits of highly effective people, according to Stephen Covey, is to begin with the end in mind. It is also one of the habits of highly effective organizations. Many would contend that the “end” of a nonprofit organization is accomplishing their mission and achieving their vision.

    It doesn’t matter what word you use: end, outcome, and intention, the concept is clear – know where you want to be and then work to arrive there. Notice beginning with the end is circular, not linear. Building a culture of planning within your organization will make you better for a multitude of reasons.  

    Here are the three strongest ones:

    1. You will be more adaptive.

    Knowing where you want to be, or what you want to be, is grounded in the ability to plan and predict. The power of a plan is not the plan, but rather in the planning – the power is in the middle. Highly effective organizations are not just working their missions or working towards the ends, they are working the middle. They are always in a state of planning – succession planning, board development planning, recruitment planning, financial planning, program planning. They continually identify where they are, where they want to go, and how they get there. This comprehensive approach allows organizations to avoid static conditions and adapt in real-time to maximize their effectiveness.

    2. You will be more resilient.

    Organizations in crisis often don’t see the connection between their lack of planning and their constant state of chaos. Being, or becoming, an organization with a culture of planning is a privilege. It means that an organization has protected the time necessary to plan, that resources are available to be planful, and that they have accommodated the brainspace required to think about their work beyond today. If an organization that is in a constant state of chaos (high board-turnover, high staff-turnover, financial stress, the real or perceived notion that there is no time to do or think about doing anything differently) does not intentionally build a culture that allows them to be planners, then they will always be unable to plan, predict, and identify cause and effect. But organizations that consider planning as nonnegotiable will see the chaos decrease – even in uncertain times.  Planning makes an organization resilient despite the circumstances.

    3. You will be more sustainable.

    When we enter this constant state of planning, we then enter a state of being that allows us to pivot and move in new directions when necessary. We must acknowledge that change is constant and necessary. Once we embrace that reality, we can protect the space necessary to respond to that change thoughtfully so that we can continue serving our mission. Planning allows us to act in spite of uncertainty. Planning allows us to be comfortable in not being able to plan for every possible situation and outcome. This ability to be prepared, aware, and responsive is what leads to sustainability. 

    There is a saying that you should be careful what you say after the phrase, “I am...” because your brain will manifest the words. The beginning and the end are always connected. 

    Does your organization need help building and nurturing a culture of planning? Reach out to have a conversation with us.  And in the meanwhile, let your brain get to work manifesting this

    I am adaptive. I am resilient. I am sustainable. I am a planner.

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  • Wednesday, May 10, 2017 1:17 PM | Jessica Chipman (Administrator)

    Jessica Chipman

    Office Manager


    It happens pretty often. An employee is suddenly absent (either temporarily or permanently) while the rest of the staff scrambles to figure out processes that the absent employee used. Documenting those processes can seem like an overwhelming task, but it is important to take it one process at a time

    As I prepare to go on maternity leave, I have been documenting processes regularly used at Nonprofit Network to ensure a smooth transition while I'm gone.  I started by first making of list of all the processes that I carry out on a regular basis. Then I focused on recording the steps of one process per day. By working on a single process at a time, I can be thorough in detailing each step.

    5 Tips to Build a Process Anyone Can Use

    1)  Store processes in an accessible, easy to find spot. 

    Use a storage method that works best for your office. Consider using a wiki page or collaborative application, such as Office365, Google Docs, or Quip.

    2)  Use a standard format with each process. 

    Format the processes in a simple, easy-to-read manner. Title each process, use an easy-to-read font, and use headings where appropriate. Don’t write all processes on one long document. Separate each process on its own document.

    3)  Be concise, but clear. 

    Don’t write too much that it prevents someone from wanting to read the process. At the same time, provide enough information for one to understand the process. Include definitions, use bullet points, insert screenshots, and/or utilize flowcharts. The key is to make it as simple and clear as possible.

    4)  Make editing easier by keeping processes organized.

    Date and initial each process every time it is edited, and avoid using names of employees (use position titles instead), and build a table of contents.

    5)  Test your processes. 

    It’s possible something was left out or is unclear. Make sure someone proofreads or edits your processes. After a process has been tested once, continue to test it quarterly or yearly. Make changes if necessary.

    It can be difficult to figure out how to carry out another person’s job responsibilities without some type of documentation. It's one of the most important steps that anyone can do and everyone should do.  It's absolutely critical to succession planning. 

    Don’t be a scrambler – make sure office processes are well documented.

    Documenting office processes and procedures not only prevents others from having to reinventing the wheel, but it also promotes consistency and efficiency. As I have been documenting processes, I’ve noticed areas where improvements can be made. Documentation allows the opportunity to improve an organization and have it run more efficiently. 

    Give us a call at 517-796-4750 if you want to have a conversation about how you can manage this process

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  • Wednesday, April 19, 2017 10:57 AM | Tom Williams (Administrator)

    Tom Williams

    Capacity Builder


    The success of delegation rises and falls on the quality of how the task is delegated by you. Do it well, and you'll reap the harvest of a stronger team, increased organizational production and some extra hours for you. On the other hand, poorly-executed delegation can reduce organizational output, weaken the team and be a real time drag for everyone.  So how can you guarantee the success of delegation

    Here are 10 simple steps to get you there.

    10 Steps to Guarantee Successful Delegation

    1.   Define the task

    2.   Select the appropriate person

    3.   Explain the reasons for delegation

    4.   Assess person’s ability and training needs

    5.   State required results

    6.   Consider the resources required 

    7.   Outline boundaries and authority

    8.   Agree on deadlines

    9.   Support and communicate.

    10. Provide feedback on results


    If you avoid delegating due to the aggravation from past results, try again following these steps. The more self-aware you are and the more you practice delegating, the better you will become. Like many other leadership skills, it is a front-loaded activity, and the rewards increase as your proficiency improves and as the task-takers become better at receiving the delegated tasks.

    If you choose to skip a step, understand it may impact outcomes. Over time and as relationships deepen, you and the new task owner may be able to have clarity on these items without explicitly covering each one. But if the relationship is not yet that deep, or if past experience has not been satisfactory, I suggest you include each element.

    Successful delegation requires that you and your delegate have the same understanding of the end result that is being sought, but we tarnish good delegation when we attempt to tell the person how to do it. Further, if they are uncertain about the authority they have over the process, their performance can suffer. Empowering others on your team (think: other board members, other staff members) is accomplished by sharing expectations, clarifying needed results and extending trust. 

    Nothing strengthens a team member like extending trust to them.

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  • Wednesday, April 05, 2017 9:39 AM | Regina Pinney (Administrator)

    Regina Pinney

    Executive Director


    Should you jump in or stay in the bleachers?

    I want to talk about how, when, and why the leadership of your nonprofit may choose to advocate in this contentious political climate.

    As an executive director myself, I have been thinking long and hard about how to lead and represent the organization I serve when it comes to navigating advocacy and taking stances on legislative and social issues. 

    During a strategic planning session last summer, Nonprofit Network's board had determined that in order to be sustainable, we must be relevant. Therefore, we actively seek to join tables where the conversation is about helping people, organizations, and communities to think differently about their infrastructure—to think differently about their systems and their processes. If we are that good—good enough to be invited to those tables—we will be a sustainable organization.

    Our ultimate goal is to influence community solutions through our programming and services using best practices and research.

    Your organization might have a similar goal, to influence the decisions of your clients and your community using your mission.

    Last summer, this goal had felt pretty safe. Yes, it is a big, hairy, audacious goal, but safe enough. Recent events at local, state, and national levels have caused our board to revisit this word: influence. We recently checked in with each other and asked “Did we really mean it – and if we did, what now?”

    Our official diversity and inclusion statement reads as follows: Nonprofit Network strives to be a model of inclusion. We engage all people with dignity and respect. We believe that bringing diverse individuals together is essential to effectively address the issues that face current and prospective partners.

    But in today’s divided and often cruel political climate, the work around diversity can create division, inclusion can create exclusion, and seeking equity for all somehow means someone else loses. Tensions are high, to say the least.

    Nonprofit Network strongly believes in the practice of having policies and procedures in place before you need them. So if we know that if we are going to be relevant and influence community solutions, we first need to make some decisions about when, why, and how we decide to speak up.

    We drafted a series of questions to guide that decision and I am sharing it with you here. Share this with your board and staff so you can discuss how to customize it to fit your organization.

    1)   Is there a need?

    • What is the scope and size of the issue? 
    • Are we advocating for those that cannot speak for themselves?
    • Are we speaking for those whose voices are not being heard?
    • Are we speaking for those that can’t “afford” to speak up?
    If the answer to the above is yes, then proceed to the next question.

    2)   Is it appropriate and relevant to the organization?

    • Does the topic fit our mission and values?
    • Is it appropriate for us to add our voice?
    • Are we opposing? Supporting? Educating?
    If the answer to the above is yes, then proceed to the next question.

    3)   What are the risks?

    • Can the organization be hurt by taking a public stance? 
    • If we can be hurt, can we sustain the risk?
    • Is any potential risk direct or indirect? (would we know if a donor stopped giving because we added our voice?)
    If the risks are minimal or can be sustained, then proceed to the next question.

    4)   How will we influence?

    • Programming, curriculum, best practices
    • Education
    • Leadership (modeling best practices, setting an example)
    • Getting involved
    • Blogging, using our social media
    • Contributing resources
    • Advocacy – taking a position and influencing those with power to take a direction
    • Ask our members/stakeholders/donors, staff, board and volunteers to act

    You might see Nonprofit Network jumping in the conversations that affect the nonprofit ecosystem. Know that when you see us at the table and hear our voice, we have run the decision through the questions above. These four questions will allow us to act with intention and proceed with a full understanding of our role and the potential results of our decision to influence.

    Remember! Advocacy is not political activity. 501(c)3 nonprofits cannot endorse political candidates or contribute to political campaigns. This rule is part of the Johnson Amendment, and it helps nonprofits maintain their integrity as nonpartisan entities. You can however, support legislative bills, mileages, and advocate for your mission.  

    On that note, I compel you to call your senator and urge them not to repeal the Johnson Amendment! Our friends at Michigan Nonprofit Association have recently commented on the why the Johnson Amendment is so important to the nonprofit sector, and I stand by their statement. Read it and call your representative today!

    Want to share this with your organization and build your own decision tree?  Email Info@nonprofnetwork.org to let us know and we'll send you an electronic copy of the four questions to share with your stakeholders. No strings attached.

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  • Wednesday, March 29, 2017 12:55 PM | Jessica Chipman (Administrator)

    Jessica Chipman

    Office Manager

    Many people can relate to sitting in an unproductive meeting.  However, meetings do not have to be a waste of time. If accurate minutes are kept and clear-cut action steps are identified, then hours spent in a meeting can lead to a productive outcome. 

    Taking quality minutes at a meeting is very important. High-quality minutes are powerful tools that you can leverage to do the following

    • Help refresh memories from the last meeting
    • Offer background information for those that could not attend the meeting
    • Summarize decisions made
    • Identify goals and point out clear action steps
    • Provide organization and structure
    • Act as a historical record and may offer legal protection

    Minutes play a crucial part of a meeting. Here are key components that should always be part of your minutes:

    1)  Agenda

    Before the meeting, an agenda should be sent to all those involved in the meeting.  Having an agenda before the meeting not only helps keep the meeting on track, but also makes it easier for the note taker to follow along and take accurate minutes. The best part is that meeting minutes can be taken right into the agenda.

    2)  Type of Meeting, Date, Start and End Time

    The heading of the minutes should indicate the type of meeting being held (for example:  Board Meeting, Finance Committee Meeting, etc.). The minutes should also contain the date the meeting took place, the time the meeting started, and the time the meeting ended.

    3)  Attendees/Excused

    Everyone that attended the meeting and those that were excused/absent should be listed in the minutes.

    4)  Key Discussion Points

    Important parts of the conversation during the meeting should be well documented.

    5)  Action Items

    To-dos or outcomes from the conversation should be clearly outlined.

    6)  Motions/Approvals

    When voting takes place, it is important to keep a record of who motioned, seconded the motion, and if the vote was approved or not approved by the group. 

    7)  Time/Date/Location of Next Meeting (if reoccurring or if decided during the meeting)

    This allows everyone to know when the next meeting will take place.

    After meeting minutes are proofread and finalized, the note-taker should make sure the minutes are signed by the appropriate person (such as the secretary of the board) if necessary. Once finalized, the minutes should be sent to everyone that attended the meeting as soon as possible.

    Well-documented meeting minutes can help turn discussion into decisions, and decisions into results. At your next meeting, make sure quality meeting minutes are keptensure that hours spent in discussion can lead to a positive outcome.  

    Do you want to see a sample of meeting minutes that demonstrate the suggestions above?  Email Info@nonprofnetwork.org to let us know you're interested and we'll share a resource with you! No strings attached.

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  • Tuesday, March 21, 2017 11:46 AM | Tom Williams (Administrator)

    Tom Williams

    Capacity Builder


    This is the second installment of a two-part series.  Read Part 1 here.

    I ended last week's blog post with the suggestion that if the meeting room is “safe” enough, the conversation can be about almost any topic.  As you may recall, we had been addressing our human reaction to go silent on the key conversations that can advance our organizations.  In these crucial conversations, you'll often find that stakes are high, emotions are strong, and opinions conflict.  Examples include staff performance issues, board member interactions and even charting a course for the organization to follow.

    To enjoy the benefits of a safe space, one must be aware of two conditions that must be maintained throughout the conversation: Mutual Purpose and Mutual Respect.  A safe room or meeting is one in which it is clearly confirmed that those in the room have a mutual purpose and that we all seek to maintain a mutual respect during the conversation.  

    In the event that one of these conditions is put at risk, a technique the authors of Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes are High (Patterson et al) shares is to step out of the current discussion content and directly address the condition that is at risk.  Instead of forging ahead on the conversation (despite high stakes, opposing opinions, and strong emotions) the authors suggest transitioning back to the change that took place in either Mutual Purpose or Mutual Respect. Bringing the conversation back to our Mutual Purpose or reminding participants that we want to maintain a Mutual Respect during this conversation is key to a successful conversation.  

    Once that condition is clarified, it is possible to step back into the crucial conversation.  

    As you and your group’s skills in this area improve, your ability to read the room for an infringement on these two conditions will also improve.  Identifying the risk sooner rather than later is preferred.  An inappropriate comment or even a misunderstanding of the intent of a comment can significantly reduce the perceived safety of a conversation.  Catching a conversation before it becomes unsafe can assist you in maintaining the environment where productive discussions take place.

    Take note: Mutual Purpose is not a technique. You truly need to find that purpose and persuade the others it is important to you.

    Mutual Respect is a condition of continued conversation.  When one of the group perceives disrespect, step out of the crucial conversation and address it.  The entire area of respect is one of which you should be keenly aware.  While the content of the conversation may be the culprit that caused disrespect, more likely it was the perceived intent of the comment that caused disrespect.  Keep your radar at attention for misunderstood intent.  Once a person feels disrespected, it is common for them to respond in-kind.  Then the entire conversation can reduce to all parties fighting for respect.  As a leader, you must break the cycle of fighting for respect and re-establish true Mutual Respect in the room in order for that crucial conversation to take place.

    Undoubtedly, learning to create safe meetings for really important conversations takes a significant amount of effort.  However, the results of those conversations are what "unstick" organizations, allowing them to reach their full potential.  

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  • Wednesday, March 15, 2017 9:52 AM | Tom Williams (Administrator)

    Tom Williams

    Capacity Builder


    If you're feeling “stuck" and wondering why your organization isn't progressing as well as you'd like, the cause is likely the absence of a hard conversation that has not taken place.

    When I speak of hard conversations, I am talking about those in which stakes are high, emotions are strong, and opinions conflict. When we are faced with these difficult or crucial conversations (as suggested by Kerry Patterson and colleagues in their book Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When the Stakes are High), our typical human response is either silence or violence. Said another way, we avoid the conversation all together or we get into an argument. The authors make a sound case for our limited options when these hard conversations arise. We can continue to avoid them (with all the consequences), address them poorly (with all the consequences) or learn the skills to have beneficial hard conversations. Learning to have crucial conversations in a beneficial manner moves barriers out of the way, both personally and organizationally, and sets a tone for growth opportunities.

    Some samples of crucial conversations that meet all three of the above characteristics include

    • Staff performance evaluations
    • Executive director evaluations
    • Board interactions
    • Budget discussions
    • Initiating program changes
    • Charting a course for the organization to follow. 
    Avoiding these issues (you know you do sometimes) eventually leads to complications. Resorting to “violence” or even public crankiness in these issues creates more division and stalled actions. Which is probably why we so often just avoid the topics altogether.

    But addressing these situations skillfully results in clear communication, improved performance among board and staff, and stronger relationshipsall of which clear the way for tackling the mission we all signed on to address in the first place. In fact, we can actually schedule on our board calendar the date on which we will have a crucial conversation. Scheduling crucial conversations like staff evaluations, budgetary discussions, or organizational direction is a tool to assist us in keeping ourselves accountable.

    Mastering crucial conversations starts with the person we have the most control over: our self. 

    Let's go into these conversations being mindful of our intent and remaining self-aware of one another's behaviorsboth of these awareness pieces are key to avoiding missteps.

    In our personal and professional careers, we all can identify topics we avoid or shy away from, but creating a safe meeting empowers us to address all pertinent issues, regardless of the topic. According to Patterson and Colleagues, a totally safe room permits conversations on almost any topic. So you're ready to take that first step and have a crucial conversation?  Then the task at hand is creating a safe room. We’ll explore this topic in more detail in part two of this blog post next week.

    If you can’t wait till then, give me a call at 517-796-4750. 

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  • Friday, February 10, 2017 9:51 AM | Katena Cain (Administrator)

    Katena Cain

    Nonprofit Management Consultant


    There has been increasing buzz about “equity” and “racial equity” in the nonprofit and philanthropic sectors and among cross-sector collective impact efforts. This is a good thing, and our nation’s persistent and rising racial and economic disparities demand it. 

    Many groups are applying an “equity lens” to look outward at social problems and solutions, disaggregating data and seeking to differentiate opportunities and services to reduce disparities. 

    But our organizations and collective efforts must begin by looking inward, using an “equity mirror” to examine our own composition, culture, and policies that reinforce and perpetuate societal disparities.

    To do equity, we must also be equity.

    This is a great article from Council of Nonprofits about moving beyond conversation to meaningful action. Take a look and see if your organization is implementing any of the suggested steps here.  

    Want to have a conversation about how to make progress?  Reach out and we can make a plan.

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