We’ve Got Answers….
Here are some of the questions we hear most frequently from those at our conferences, meetings and seminars. Remember, there are no dumb questions.
If your question doesn’t appear below, contact us, and we promise to do our best not to embarrass you when we answer it. Unless there actually ARE dumb questions. In that case, we make no promises.
Can Allison be our keynote speaker?
Sure thing. Allison speaks at about 150 public and private engagements each year, including nonprofit fundraisers, government conferences, leadership workshops, school meetings and auxiliary group functions. Prices vary by topic and duration. For qualifying organizations, some speaking engagements are free. Just call us, and we’ll work out the details.
Can our nonprofit be saved?
Probably. But we need to stop the bleeding. Now. Poor governance structure and mismanagement of resources are the biggest downfalls of most well-meaning nonprofits. Your group might need a total turnaround or strategic realignment, in addition to some basic Blackfish leadership Coaching, and we’ll be glad to facilitate any of these services to help rescue your organization. We’ve handled major turnarounds on a number of noteworthy organizations, and we’d love to help your nonprofit get back on track.
What’s the difference between a nonprofit and a program?
It’s more than the spelling. Sometimes the mission is bigger than your program. Many groups operating as nonprofit entities are actually programs in disguise, and belong under a bigger umbrella. If your program can find a good fit within a broader organization with greater available resources, we’ll help you do it. Remember, fish swim in schools for a reason. There’s safety in numbers, and swimming with the big fish can mean a bigger support network and greater financial means for reaching farther shores.
What is the best forum to promote my nonprofit?
That depends. Different organizations need different treatment. A quick phone call to the Blackfish might supply your answer; if not, we can delve a little deeper with our Coaching or Consulting programs.
Can anybody be a blackfish?
Yes, this is one of our fundamental beliefs. Good leadership isn’t natured, it’s nurtured. Being a blackfish, first and foremost, is about serving others. Sometimes good leadership means making unpopular decisions in the interest of greater good – you’ll need the tenacity of the blackfish to stand by those decisions. A blackfish leader inspires others, is an effective problem solver, and a good steward of resources. We have a variety of tools to help you along your path to being an effective leader. You might want to start with our leadership Coaching programs or one of our Community Education programs.
Do you work with any small, local nonprofit groups?
We sure do. In fact, working with the little fish is sometimes the most rewarding. We’ve consulted with some of the largest nonprofit groups out there and achieved amazing results (browse our Client List or read about our Success Stories), but we’re still down home folks from Alabama. We love helping those who help their neighbors.
Our organization is fragmented – can you put us back together?
It’s not a pretty thing, combining two objects into one space. Sometimes, however, it’s essential to the greater cause to merge resources under one umbrella. With careful, clearly outlined strategy, an organizational merge can be done well. But only by a Blackfish. Like swimming at open sea, this isn’t something you want to try alone.
We need to fire somebody… quick. Who goes first?
Of course, we never want it to come to that. You want to save every last man, but in the interest of greater good, sometimes that means letting one or two go – or just making better use of their abilities. Often an organization’s key board members are either underutilized or serving in positions not suited to their talents. As your consultants we will thoroughly evaluate your board, core business structure and overall leadership strategy. We’ll figure out who needs moving, and if it comes to it, who needs cutting. It’s a serious issue, but if the health of your organization depends on it, we’ll make it as painless and as possible.
Can you help us with one-on-one leadership training?
Absolutely. Our Coaching Program focuses on building up skills in the individual, both to lead and to serve others. Normally, it takes about six months to a year to complete the program.
Can Blackfish teach us to swim?
Um, no. Go to your local Y for swim lessons. We can, however, show you how to prevent your organization from sinking. We’ll teach you how to mobilize your assets, redefine your core business and stop wasting resources. Fragmented and ineffective leadership are common culprits in bringing nonprofits down, but our Coaching, Community Education, and Consulting series will blow those issues out of the water. No, we can’t teach you to swim, but we can teach you how to be a blackfish!
What are the keys of effective leadership?
Most importantly, good leadership is about serving others, and inspiring others to do the same. A blackfish leader is also an effective problem-solver, and a good steward of human and cash resources. And effective leadership motivates others by encouragement, and personal example. Psst, there’s more to it than this paragraph. Call us for more details.
Our board is clueless – can you turn this madness around?
Sometimes managing a nonprofit board is a little like herding cats. But to answer your question, yes, we can turn the madness around, realign your board and governance structure, motivate your volunteers, and mobilize your assets. We would recommend our Blackfish Coaching program, Board Retreat, or for more long-term assistance, our Consulting services.
I just wanted to volunteer – what am I doing on this board?
We’re firm believers in personally investing in causes you believe in. To be a real stakeholder in an organization, you need to give your time and your money, and that means serving in whatever capacity the group needs you the most. There’s nothing glamorous about serving a nonprofit, and some duties reflect this more than others. Just remember the grander purpose of your ministry – the people you’re helping by serving your organization. It might help put those late nights and long-winded board meetings into a brighter perspective.
Our fundraising strategy stinks – what do we do?
The love of money is the root of all evil. Turns out, it’s also a good chunk of the trouble plaguing many nonprofits. When it comes to fundraising, many organizations have teeth-pulling difficulty separating folks from their dinero, especially people who don’t have the heart (or payroll) for charitable giving. You need to inspire people to give, and then give them an easy way to do it. Remember, it’s hard enough for nonprofit boards to agree how to handle the money they’ve already got. If you need some help with general fundraising or conflict resolution on spending existing funds, we can help you tackle these challenges in a fun, energetic, and non-confrontational way.
Awkward moments: how do we fire a volunteer?
Great question, and more common than you realize. It’s hard enough to fire somebody you’re paying to be there, much less somebody who’s just trying to help out. But it’s easy to see whose heart is in it and who’s just there for the service hours. Keeping people around who aren’t invested in your mission or are pulling in the wrong direction is like hauling dead weight. It’s in your long-term best interest to let ‘em go. Gently. We’ll show you the best way to handle it.
Does Blackfish give free advice?
Sometimes, on a clear day, if you ask us nicely. Actually we’re more than happy to answer a question or two for the mission-minded soul. If your need goes beyond that, however, we’ll probably need a contract.
How do we recover from bad press?
You can recover, but it might be painful. Bouncing back will require effective cross-marketing and cross-communication. Your members will need to speak as one voice all across the board, and you’ll likely need some hand-holding and a shoulder to cry on. But don’t worry – worse has happened and will happen again. Blackfish leaders always rally back from adversity, and we can help you through the tender process.
Our leader is a crook – what do we do?
We have a saying at Blackfish. Good leadership doesn’t solve corruption issues. Prison does.
Your nonprofit practice and governance policy should be transparent, and if somebody on board is muddying the waters, this issue needs to be dealt with, and swiftly. We get up mighty early at Blackfish, and crooked leaders don’t get by us. We’ll run a thorough detail on your structure from top to bottom. If there are difficult situations to be handled, we don’t mind taking care of business. We don’t tolerate corruption in nonprofits, especially when it hurts the people who depend on the wonderful work your organization is doing.
What grants are we eligible for,
and how do we apply for them?
Unfortunately, there’s no way to tackle this question without bringing in some government paperwork. There are a variety of forms you might need in this application process. We have helpfully assembled the most-requested forms into our heavy-rotation, Sexy Documents page for easy download. But don’t get too comfortable: that’s about as easy as the process gets. Feel free to call on us when you get desperate for translation or need help sorting through carbon-free documentation. Relax, we speak government.