• Thrive Inc.

How to Turn Around Your Non-Profit with Barbara Gallen

Many non-profit organizations and small businesses are struggling to stay afloat after this year, and sadly, not all of them are going to make it. But there are also organizations whose trajectories have been changed forever, who have an abundance of opportunity to create something new. Today, we have a very special guest on the podcast and if you’re an executive director or staff member at a non-profit, you won't want to miss this episode!

Barbara Gallen is the Principle of Inspired Action Coaching & Consulting and is the magic-maker when it comes to non-profits. She’s spent more than 20 years leading, training, and advocating for non-profits and small businesses and she joins us today to talk all about the support she provides to non-profits to help them stabilize, get their finances in order and push forward.

Join us this week as we discuss how non-profit organizations have been affected by the pandemic and how they can plan to move forward in the future. Barbara shares the importance of funding and finance in non-profits and why it’s necessary to have a thriving, robust group of leaders versus a group of overworked, underpaid staff, for a non-profit to succeed.

If you want to make a difference for either yourself and your career, or your team and your organization, be sure to reach out to us and sign up for coaching! We can come and do a book club or simply visit with your team! Don’t worry about physical limitations – we work really well virtually, too!

If you enjoyed the show, please share the podcast with your family and friends, or post a five-star review on iTunes. Rating and reviewing the show helps spread the word, which means less friction and suffering for everyone, and who doesn’t want that?

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Learn More:

  • Some of the significant challenges faced by non-profits right now.

  • How the board and staff can work together more effectively.

  • Why non-profits need buy-in as well as money.

  • What double-headed management is and why it’s no good for a non-profit.

  • How to engage the people the non-profit serves.

  • Why non-profits need to invest in their staff.


Full Transcript:

CrisMarie: Welcome to The Beauty of Conflict, a podcast about how to deal with conflict at work, at home and everywhere else in your life. I am CrisMarie.

Susan: And I'm Susan.

CrisMarie: We run a company called Thrive Inc, and we specialize in conflict resolution, stress management coaching and building strong, thriving teams and relationships.

Susan: Now, we know, no one likes conflict, not even us and we’ve written two books on the topic. In our work over the last 20 plus years we’ve found most people avoid, manage or diffuse conflict. The problem is when you opt out of conflict in these ways you miss the creativity, the connection and the possibility that lies in conflict.

CrisMarie: We also know 2020 has been, well, let’s face it, a stressful year. And what Susan and I realized is all the tools that we’ve developed and utilized around conflict apply directly to uncertainty, which is what we’re living in now.

Susan: In this podcast we have tools; concept and interviews that will help you cope with the stress and uncertainty of conflict, of Covid, of social justice issues and, yes, even politics. We hope you’ll walk away from this episode with some fresh ideas that change your day, your week and even your life.

CrisMarie: Today we’re going to talk to a very special guest, Barbara Gallen. She’s been a client of mine, a peer of mine. And she is a magic maker when it comes to non-profits. She has spent a big part of her career helping non-profits turnaround and become profitable in the sense of helping their people and being stable, not profitable because it’s non-profit.

Susan: But the thing about her is she also recognizes. I think that’s one of the biggest challenges of a non-profit board is, yeah, it’s not about profit but you still are running a business.

CrisMarie: Without money there is no mission.

Susan: Exactly. And you have, so you know, this episode is really for that executive director who has the very tiny staff but is doing some huge mission. And is really maybe even dealing with burnout which is another podcast we’ll be doing soon, and struggling.

Or for board members who are sort of – they’re either wanting the free lunch or they’re there trying for their cause that’s part of the mission. But don’t realize, wait a minute, we’ve got this whole business we have to run. And these are, you know, non-profits are beautiful organizations but sometimes they can be painfully difficult on the inside because there is that balancing act.

CrisMarie: And the environment is changing now. So stay tuned. I think it’s a great show. Enjoy.

CrisMarie: Today we have a very special guest on the podcast, Barbara Gallen. And she is the Principal of Inspired Action Coaching and Consulting, a firm that works with individuals, leaders and teams, especially in non-profits, going through phases of transition and growth. She’s spent more than 20 years leading, and training, and advocating for non-profits and small businesses. She’s raised a lot of money and marched in Washington a few times. She’s a mother, a grandmother, a sister, a friend and a mentor.

She’s also a Martha Beck Institute trained life coach. In addition to coaching and consulting she’s served on the boards of numerous non-profit organizations. She’s also been the Chief Development Officer for numerous charitable and service organizations. A native of Philadelphia, she now lives in Lancaster, the garden spot of Pennsylvania. Welcome, Barbara.

Barbara: Thank you. Thank you, I’m excited to be with you.

CrisMarie: Did you want to say something, Susan?

Susan: No, you go right ahead.

CrisMarie: When we were chatting about the possibility of you being on our podcast I was just enamored with how much knowledge you have about non-profits and how much support you can give struggling non-profits to help them really stabilize, get the finances in order, get the team and the leadership moving forward. And so I thought it’s a must to have you on our podcast.

Barbara: Thank you. I’m really, really happy to be here, and especially at this time when things are changing. And it’s exciting and a little scary but still.

CrisMarie: Yes, absolutely. Well, go ahead.

Susan: Yeah. Tell us a little bit about what some of the significant challenges that are happening right now in non-profits, and in various probably, service organizations as well, so yeah, give us a…

CrisMarie: A lay of the land.

Susan: Yes.

Barbara: Well, it’s almost becoming cliché to say that the pandemic and other changes in the world in fact are creating this opportunity for the community benefit sector. And in different countries that’s different. In the US it’s largely non-profits and B corporations. That landscape has really changed I think, forever. And as those old patterns are swept away then we have an opportunity to create something new, and truly something more thriving and more sustainable for our citizens.

Susan: Can you kind of talk a little bit about what patterns you see changing and what, yeah, because, and you know?

CrisMarie: Because we’re not always…

Susan: [Crosstalk].

CrisMarie: Yeah, we’re not always in the non-profit world so you might have to be a little bit more specific so we can try.

Barbara: Yeah, exactly. For example I think non-profits sort of have their lean. Here’s what we do. Here’s who we do it for. Here’s our structure. We have a few founders, or heavy hitters, or people who have been in a leadership role rather narrow. Some non-profits have been hanging on by a thread. It’s almost a point of pride, how well we suffer. So early part of the year plans are in place and then the spring comes and we do our fundraisers, and the gala, and the golf tournament and the whatever.

And then over the summer we’re processing things for the year end and then the year end comes and we send out our letter. You see what I’m seeing, blah, blah, blah. We do the same things. We do them in the same ways. We have maybe a handful of people who help us execute this. Much of that has gone away and many organizations really are having trouble hanging on.

CrisMarie: Yeah. Well, they can’t even do their fundraisers like the golf tournament, or the auctions, yeah.

Barbara: Exactly. But what I saw during the pandemic when we were really pretty much locked down, different organizations, one was a housing provider, a provider that provides housing for folks with developmental disabilities and another organization that had a day program. And the day program couldn’t meet so they were giving lunches out in the parking lot to the people who would always come to their day program. It gave a little bit of socialization, and food, which people were relying on.

Well, the folks in the housing organization started to bring their people over in a bus, not that they needed food but it gave them a little social. Okay, new ways of thinking about things, new ways to think about collaboration. Who can we collaborate with and how can we do that collaboration? That’s one of the pillars I think that’s going to change.

Susan: I can imagine.

Barbara: The other pieces, leadership, well, we do a lot of talking about, board development and let’s involve our volunteers and our leadership volunteers. And maybe a little more lip service in that regard than actuality. But now it’s absolutely essential. You need a thriving robust group of leaders that are carrying the water, not just a handful of staff who are probably overworked and underpaid.

CrisMarie: You know, Barbara, just even that alone, I have a couple of friends who are in non-profits and that is a real – it seems like a typical thing is that it’s the staff, a little tiny staff that’s trying to do everything and they get burned out and blamed by the board because the board’s not really involved. I mean is that…

Barbara: Exactly. And the boards aren’t taking ownership generally, not always. Good healthy organizations that have, well, capacity, they have health, they have stability, the board is involved. But there has to be a clear partnership between the staff and the board. And it’s one of the things I try to help every organization I work with. I try to help them strengthen that because that is the secret source. That’s the secret, make that partnership work.

Susan: It seems like just from my own experience of being on a couple of non-profit boards that often the role in a non-profit board is primarily to either give money, or be the figurehead that shows up for a fundraiser, or make a fundraiser happen. And often not so much, as a matter of fact my experience, it was often that the people didn’t particularly like the board to be too staffed, and like the board to be too managing their way they do business. And I don’t know much different than say a for profit board where basically it’s a whole different design.

So I wonder about that, I would imagine that is significantly changing with the current landscape.

CrisMarie: Can you say answer that or talk about that, Barbara?

Barbara: If it doesn’t change, organizations aren’t going to make it. And they’re not all going to make it. I hate to be the grim reaper here but it’s changed for good. Would you really bring someone – on a corporate board you would never bring someone on a corporate board that had skills, and knowledge, and experience and not use that. I mean money, yes, we need, non-profits need money, it’s not all they need. They need buy in, they need advocacy. They need people who know them well and can talk about the organization to others.

Those pieces which have been maybe marginal in a lot of organizations, they can’t be marginal anymore.

CrisMarie: Can you talk about, because I think that secret source, because I know one friend of ours, her board is falling apart, maybe there is a few people and they’ve all got busy lives. And so there’s two staff and maybe three or four board. And how do you work with that secret source of the board and the staff to make it thriving as opposed to pulling teeth sort of thing?

Barbara: So one way in which I think the non-profit is different from – well, family businesses are ones I have more experience with. But smaller businesses, we have, there’s a couple of people on our ‘board’ who we have to have for legal reasons. And it’s very lean and there’s not too many people that fit into that structure. But I think that non-profit structures have to have circles of people who are committed to some part of this mission. Maybe it’s an organization, like the YWCA, they tend to have housing as a part of their mission.

So there’s a group that looks at the property, takes care of the property, advises on how – that circle can include people from the board as well as people from the community. Now you have more folks knowing what you’re doing and how you’re doing it. How do you handle communications, social media? Do you have teams of people who are plugged in, in a very specific way that you are feeding them info and they’re putting it out in their Instagram, and in their Facebook, and on Twitter, and LinkedIn? Now you are really covering the waterfront.

A single staff member and you’re lucky if you have a marketing director, could never do all of that. But that person can be the cheerleader for a team of volunteers and invested folks who can get the word out there. Or you could call them committees. That’s fine. But they really are circles of people who have bought in to not only giving money, that’s such an old model. I picture the ladies with pearls on, you go and visit. I’ve been doing this a long time, so people were still wearing pearls.

CrisMarie: They like wearing pearls.

Barbara: Visit, write you a check and thank you and that’s it, we send you a letter. No, younger folks, they want their hands on it. They’re not afraid to get their hands dirty. [inaudible] had to be dirty. But they’re willing to roll up their sleeves. And in fact when folks volunteer and are engaged and invested in some aspect of this work, they’re going to give a whole lot more, not only their time but their money.

CrisMarie: So I really like this idea of circles of people and really leveraging the board members to kind of – it sounds like the board members are leading those circles, engaging more volunteers and community. And then how do they funnel into the staff? How does…

Barbara: Exactly.

CrisMarie: Yeah. Well, can you talk about how those linkages are made between?

Barbara: Yes. So again here’s where the team comes in. So the executive director, or the CEO, whatever that position is called, sometimes they’re board members, sometimes they’re not. But they staff the board. They’re the link from the board to the other staff. Some key staff need to be at board meetings, they need to be – like the development director needs to work with the board member development committee chair and they’re a team.

And they’re helping this whole structure of I’m a part of the gala committee, and I’m a part of the golf committee, and I’m part of the major gifts committee. We go out and just talk with people about the major things we’re doing. That’s where the staff can plug in and be partners in a significant way with the board. If the staff is like they’re in another room, you end up with something I’ve heard described as double headed management. So the staff is over here and the board is over here. And it’s not a good formula for collaboration or integration.

CrisMarie: Right, I agree, yeah.

Susan: I was thinking I know, again, I’m just going to speak to a little bit of my own experience with this at different times. And one of the things that I found was a challenge sometimes being on a board was a non-profit usually exists because it has a service that is considered highly valued. It’s not necessarily a business model. And as a matter of fact sometimes there is some tension between what that non-profit needs to do to keep itself financially responsible, and also provide the service that usually the staff is very loyal to.

And it seems to be a tension point that can come up sometimes between board members, staff and volunteers even. I’m just thinking about when we worked with a humane…

CrisMarie: Humane Society.

Susan: Yes. And how do you support that type of situation? How can you help a group kind of navigate through that conflict? Because I think it is a conflict point.

Barbara: Yeah. It doesn’t have to be a conflict, although it can be and it often is. It can be a point of tension that’s a good tension, keeps it in balance.

Susan: You need to remember we think of conflict as actually a healthy thing.

Barbara: That’s right, you do. You do. And I love bringing your concept of that into these conversations. In fact I’ve started quo